There's science to do!
by Te
July 24, 2010

Disclaimers: No one and nothing here is mine.

Spoilers/Timeline: Lots and lots for older storylines. AU-ized. Sometimes. As for the timeline... oh, Christ, just don't even ask.

Summary: "I always change. It's -- who I am." Alternately: We do what we must because we can.

Ratings Note/Warnings: Sexual content which does and doesn't dovetail with the content some readers may find disturbing.

Additional warning: Don't do the math. Or the physics.

Author's Note: Yet another from the boarding school universe. Specifically, from fork *three*. So, if you want to have a *prayer* of knowing what's going on, please try reading 
A way so familiar and The glory as I dreamed. The whole universe is available here.

Acknowledgments: Much love to Mildred, Jack, and Pixie, audiences extraordinaire. Jack also helped me figure out what the plot should be once I was halfway through.


Mapping the human genome was the first step.

When Lex asked himself what it was the first step *to*, he hadn't been able to give any answers beyond the nebulous. A cure for cancer, yes. Vaccinations for all sorts of other diseases, fine. Yet another attempt to distract Bruce from the ridiculous and *idiotic* things he does night after night after *night* --

Well. Everyone has dreams.

He and Bruce even *share* one, and so Lex utterly failed to surprise himself with *which* human's DNA he mapped *first* -- once all the kinks were worked out of the process, and they'd actually discovered a few useful things about where the various genes for the various traits were located. The following things were learned:

Tom Wayne would never have gotten any taller than five-feet-nine-inches. Probably.

Tom Wayne carried no particularly nasty genetic disorders.

Tom Wayne... was a lying bastard who wasn't related to *Bruce*, at all. Fuck being his brother -- he *couldn't* have been even Bruce's distant cousin. This -- with a certain amount of time factored in to talk Bruce down off the proverbial ledge --

("But *why* would he have lied to me? About -- about something so *fundamental* --")

And this took some doing --

("What if. What if he never loved me, at all?")

And, really, at least 'Tom' had said the words to *him* --

("I'm sorry. I'm -- I shouldn't *whine* --")

Lex had pushed, and prodded, and, finally gripped Bruce by those massive shoulders and *shook*.

("This changes... everything, Lex.")

Not quite, but it *had* done some useful things -- like opening up the multiversal search for anyone -- and everyone -- connected to the Waynes in any way. 'Tom' had known too much, too *well* to not be connected *somehow*... right?

Of course, there were myriad other things to do. Periodically, Lex's father tries to have Bruce (or Lucius, or Clark, or -- et cetera) brutally murdered, and Lex has to devote a certain amount of time to being security-conscious.

Electronic *and* standard fences around the Wayne grounds.

Tracers on -- and *in* -- all principal players.

Bulletproof windows and a limited number of public appearances announced only to the bare minimum number of people.

Mercy Graves.

Hope Terrell.

Currently, Mercy and Hope are watching the entrances and sightlines to this lab while the three squads of mercenaries Lex has here at Wayne Tower at all times are doing their sweeps.

Currently, the Machine is powering up, slowly and surely -- Lex will *not* risk a power surge -- while Bruce massages Lex's shoulders with a kind of expert restlessness. Both of their minds are... elsewhere right now.


Mapping the genome was the first step.

Discovering the truth about 'Tom' was the second step.

The third step --

("Ah... you know I wouldn't say anything derogatory about your love, Lex --"

"I know, Clark."

"And -- ah. I've tried and failed to broach this subject with Bruce...")

Bruce had been Clark's primary confidant from the beginning. That there was *anything* they couldn't discuss was... telling. For all that Lex had heard it before, seen it in the hard light in Bruce's eyes, the *loss* of hope there -- just as if what they'd learned hadn't proven 'Tom's' resourcefulness, brilliance, worthiness --

("Tell me."

"It's only... ah. Hm."

"*Clark*, so help me --"

"It's only -- people who lie about *one* thing often lie about many, many others.")

And, yes, Clark *had* been worried: it was emotional compromise of the worst sort, considering how many of their -- and the world's -- enemies managed to prove themselves at least *initially*... palatable --

It must have been almost frightening for Clark to watch his friends -- his *companions* as he liked to put it, sometimes -- continue to obsess about someone they *knew* was a con-man, to at least some extent --

Yes, well.

He'd told Bruce to remember Tom's eyes, and the difficulty they'd *both* had learning how to fake what was in their own at any given moment. Tom had been a teenager, and while he'd clearly learned -- and learned *well* -- how to be deceptive --

While he wasn't what he'd *seemed* --

("Lex, I believe you're taking more on faith than *I* am.")

Lex hadn't punched Bruce in the throat for that, but it had been a near thing --

("Hm. My apologies.")

It had been good to laugh.

Currently, Bruce's hands are *shaking* on Lex's shoulders --

"It's all *right*, Bruce --"

"Is it? I don't -- I honestly don't know how I'm going to react to seeing... him."

"Neither do I. We'll figure it out as it happens --"

"You're not usually so willing to *improvise*, Lex --"

And the only possible way to answer that is to reach up and cover Bruce's hands with his own. The Machine doesn't need constant input at this point -- he'd checked over the programming a dozen different times before setting it to do what it will do --

What it *must* do --

Bruce sighs and squeezes his shoulders. "I know I'm being... fluttery."

The image of Bruce flouncing about in frills, a whalebone corset, petticoats --

Maybe carrying a *fan* --

Lex takes one of his hands back and uses it to pinch the bridge of his nose --

Bruce hums. "Yes, I suppose that was a terrible image."

"I already know you live to wound me, Bruce. You don't have to prove it *every* day."

"Lex," Bruce says, and there's a smile in his voice, and warmth, and a love neither of them have ever figured out precisely what to *do* with --

"Bruce," Lex says in return, and thinks about Clark --

Clark who isn't *here* right now, but -- should be.


("I... there's a novel I read, Lex."

"Just the one?")

There are times when Clark becomes angry at Lex for being the ass that he often can't *stop* himself from being.

There are times when Clark becomes amused, and finds way to stab at Lex's arrogance until such time as they're staring at each other in a roil of *useless* emotion, and really, what *if* they did something about that? What could happen?

And then there are the times when Clark pulls on years and experience he has no right to (*Super*man! Of all *fucking* things --) and looks *down* on Lex from his bare few inches of extra height --

("It was a novel about time-travel, Lex."

"That's impossible --")

At those times, Clark can raise an eyebrow as devastating as anything he *or* Bruce can offer --

("Fine, *many* things are possible which have no right to be so. *Why* are you bringing it up -- oh."


"That's not -- he couldn't --"

"Couldn't he?"

"That so-called *doctor* Fate never mentioned --"

"Lex. Did you *ask*?")

And so they asked.

And were told.

And, three years of truly *obsessive* work later --

Thirteen physicists carefully broken of spirit later --

Bruce *hates* when he does that, but it gets so *much* in the way of good results, and, really, he can't let Hope and Mercy become *bored* --

Here they are.

Here --

Lex does not chew on his thumb. It's a terrible habit and he doesn't have it, and -- "Clark should be here."

Bruce grunts noncommittally.

"Without Clark, we never would've asked the right *questions* --"

"True," Bruce says, but there's something there --

Something he's not saying. "Bruce, what is it?"

"Clark doesn't want to be here."

Lex blinks.

Considers --

Takes a moment to eye all the tell-tales and remind himself of the various procedures which will need to be enacted should something go wrong --

Blinks *again* --

And Bruce takes the chair beside Lex's own, crosses his legs, and gives him the *patient* look --

"All right, all *right*. He's never been especially thrilled with our mutual obsession, but --"

"That's not the problem."

Lex narrows his eyes and thinks about it --

Tries to think about anything but the rising hum of the Machine's various components, the resonance of the strange, clearly alien-in-origin 'metal' in the carefully dehumidified air --

They're so *close* -- and he can focus. "Clark doesn't like the idea of us pulling him out of his own time."

Bruce folds his hands on his abdomen, and, in *that* suit and *that* pose, he's the picture of the reluctant executive. Young, handsome, wry with just a hint of entitled laziness --

He tends to use that pose when he wants to annoy Lex into focusing on the moment at hand, as opposed to on all of the *interesting* things -- right. "Are you suggesting we *stop*? *Now*?"

Bruce drops his chin and raises *both* eyebrows --

"Oh, stop it --"

Bruce sighs a laugh. "Lex... I feel as though I'm... elsewhere? Broken? Staked over some horrifically metaphorical anthill? I don't know. We -- you've done so much of this without me --"

"Do you. Want. To stop."

"Would you? If I said I wanted you to."

Lex narrows his eyes --

And Bruce raises his hands in surrender, ruefulness --

There are *lines* at the corners of his eyes now, and they speak volumes about what he's done with his life, how far he's come from the lovesick teenager who first entered into this -- this *pact* of theirs --

And Lex has his own lines. "I won't stop. I -- I would fight you, Bruce." And *lose*, even *with* Hope and Mercy --

"You won't have to. I promise you," Bruce says, and his voice is low and rough --

The sort of rough which means they ought to be *touching* each other -- Lex reaches out half-blindly --

And Bruce twines his fingers with Lex's own. "I do see Clark's point."

"Clark *always* has a point --"

"And we ignore him about Tom as much as we can. Or -- I do. Do you?"

Lex looks over the tell-tales again --

It won't be long now. It won't be long, and then --

"I pretend to be more -- belligerent than I actually am. More blinkered, more focused..." Lex sighs and squeezes Bruce's hand before turning to face him again. "After a while... he leaves me alone."

"After feeding you the tools you need to find -- " Bruce hisses a breath between his teeth and shakes his head once. "I never would've thought of testing his DNA. I never would've thought of questioning his... story. I -- it all seemed so *real*, Lex."

"It did. And it was."

"Lex --"

"It *was*, Bruce! I've built my *life* on this --"

"And our friendship," Bruce says, and there's a warning in his voice, dark and aimed far more at himself than at Lex, but.

But. Lex smiles ruefully. "He's ours, Bruce. We -- we've let him run free for far too long."

"And if we're taking him away from happiness?"

Then -- Lex closes his eyes. "Then we send him back. *After* he tells us the *truth*," and Lex focuses on Bruce again, tries to will him to *share* this moment --

This near *victory* -- 

Bruce squeezes Lex's hand firmly. "Do you know what you'll do --"

"No. I don't. And -- that all comes later, anyway. It's not --"

"Lex --"

"B-L Inc. will *always* need a firm hand. A *present* hand -- unlike yours --"

Bruce nods for the usual rebuke --

"There are any number of projects that are interesting me at present -- including several which will undoubtedly save your life at some point. I -- I won't fall into a spiral of depression and boredom without *this* project, Bruce. I promise," Lex says, and tries a smile --

"Promise that you'll let us be there for you, no matter... no matter what happens."

"You honestly believe that this will all go pear-shaped. That you and 'Tom' *won't* gaze into each other's eyes and fall into a vortex of longing and need and apologies and -- all of the crap that will *eventually* cause him to leave your bed and come running to *me* for *relief* --"


"You've given *up* --"

"Never. I -- I am not capable of that," Bruce says, and squeezes Lex's hand *hard*. "Think, Lex. Just -- think for a moment about how this *must* go."

Lex snarls and yanks his hand back --

Stands and begins to pace --

Three paces from the Machine's business end, his eyebrows begin to prickle and rise.

Soon. It will be *soon* --

"Lex. It's only that I don't want you hurt --"

"Which you believe I *will* be, because you're incapable of dealing with the fact that lies -- even huge, *world*-shifting lies -- don't automatically negate. Love. Yes, I know --"

"I must -- it's only --" Bruce sighs and stares at his hands. "Everything I've seen. Everything I've learned --"

"He pushed you."

"Yes, that, and -- I don't know if this is --"

"You don't know if you can take knowing it was all for nothing, Bruce...?"

Bruce has one of the most intimidating glares on the planet. He just -- does. However.

Lex crosses his arms over his chest. "You already know it wasn't all for nothing."

"What if we take him out of his time and he *isn't* an operative? What if he's -- some sort of supervillain?"

"Mother of *pearl*, I hate --"

"The naming culture, yes, Lex, I *know*. *Still* --"

"He'll be a teenager, Bruce. I *programmed* for that. He'll be -- he'll be *our* Tom -- or whatever his name will turn out to be --"

"A liar. A time traveler of some power. Someone with secrets -- and the capacity to learn still *more* secrets --"

"*I* fell for him *knowing* he was a lying bastard --"

"Yes, Lex, *you* saw clearly --" Bruce pushes back from the console, stands and growls, turns his *back* --

Hell. "We could really, really use Clark here," Lex offers, as carefully as he can --

Bruce's shoulders tense visibly for a long moment before he slumps. "You're usually more honest about your distaste when you're sending me to Clark."

"I'm not -- I never find you *distasteful*, Bruce --"

Bruce turns enough to smile at Lex from over his shoulder --

"All right, fine, you have -- just -- *ridiculous* flights of emotional *bullshit* --"

"Like now."

"Yes, like *now* -- I. Bruce. If *nothing* else? We both need the truth."

Bruce closes his eyes and breathes deep. "Yes. So that we can... move forward."

Lex clenches his hands into fists -- and forcibly relaxes them. It's simply one of the more horribly annoying facts of his existence that it *hurts* to have Bruce be so damned fatalistic. By rights, he should be encouraging it in the man, building a wedge between him and his emotions so that he'll be driven to keep 'Tom' at arm's length.

So that Lex can have -- finally *have* -- the mendacious runt for himself. For --

Lex hasn't been celibate by a long road. He's worked his way through any number of women publicly and men -- and boys when it was still remotely appropriate -- privately. The caliber of the women was much improved once B-L, Inc. became a reality, and thus made Lex feel infinitely better about the heterosexual side of his preferences.

The males --

Hadn't done all that much for him. Where to even *find* males who were brilliant, funny, honest, charming, dedicated, attractive, *and* attracted to him? There'd been a handful with *some* of those qualities, but, overall, there was Bruce and his *memories* of the boy whose real name Lex would desperately love to already know.

Clark --

Clark really isn't *for* him.

Mercy is in a category all her own --

Hope -- as stunning as she is -- is someone his cock has never been entirely sure about in one direction or another --

Lex knows what he wants -- knows what he'll *have* mere moments from now. He's old and wise enough to know that the boy *isn't* everything he wants from life, but he's *also* old and wise enough to know the desire -- the *need* -- will never go away.

One night and part of a morning.

One night and a glimpse of a world where possibility wasn't *constrained*, where things like optimism, hope, justice, faith --

A place where such things could live and reward their devotees with happiness that doesn't seem to go anywhere, at all --

It had been instantly addictive, and Lex has no regrets whatsoever... even though feeding on it for the last nine years has left him utterly incapable of doing sensible things like undercutting his rival.

His lover.

His friend.


"I'm listening, Lex."

He always is. "Don't give up on your happiness until you have to. Don't... become someone you're not."

Bruce smiles ruefully, warmly, openly, *devastatingly* --

And then blinks and looks past Lex's shoulder. He --

Lex's flesh is suddenly covered in goose bumps. It's happening --

Lex turns --

A mist is forming between the well-spaced prongs -- sometimes, it pulls things out of midair, and Lex has no intention of *impaling* his darling liar -- of the Machine. The mist is a kind of pastel orange and --

"Lex. How long --"

"Imminently, Bruce. It --"



*Fire* -- and Bruce is in motion even before Lex himself is. This particular laboratory has been well-stocked with every safety precaution Lex could think of --

Where the hell is the fire coming from?

Are they going to have to rebuild --

No, focus on stopping the fire, keeping the misty area clear --

"Lex, should we shut the process --"

"Not *yet*," and Lex drops to his knees and slides under the flaming console, spraying foam as he goes --

"Are you *sure* --"

"*Yes*, damn it," and Lex is -- all right, so he's doing a bit of rewiring on the fly, but this is what he'd built those redundancies for -- "*Fuck* --"

"Lex --"

"I'm *all right*, I just burned myself *mildly*," and Lex keeps changing the connections, keeps working --

The wires are fucking *melting* while he works --

The air pressure changes fast and brutally enough to make Lex grunt as his ears pop --


"Bruce? Bruce, what --"

Bruce *groans* and Lex is moving --

He can't have possibly gotten injured --

He's fucking *Batman* --

"Oh. Ah. Hm. Mr. Wayne? Your pants seem to be on fire," Tom says. Tom. Says --

Eleven years but that voice is just the fucking *same* --

Lex pushes out from under the console, hitting it with one last spray of foam -- yes, Bruce is on fire. And standing there staring. Lex hits *him* with the foam --

Bruce shudders --

Lex *breathes* --

And then he looks. And he --

The boy --

He *is* a boy, and he appears to have dumped enough styling gel in his hair to choke something large and not especially inclined toward consuming styling gel, and --

"You... Mr. Luthor? Would you tell me -- ah. Perhaps you could tell me where I am? And why it's on fire?"

At which point every piece of equipment in the lab drops into the floor and -- presumably, he's never tested it before -- gets vacuum-sealed to wait for the lab to be properly cleared of flames, smoke, and other unauthorized debris.

The boy's eyes are wide and wondering --

And Bruce is walking toward him on autopilot. He's clenching and unclenching his fists, his breathing is *audible* --

The last time Lex had seen Bruce like this, the man had been thirty seconds away from pinning Lex to the mats and proceeding to all but *ravish* --

And the boy is backing away with his hands up and his eyes even wider --

"Tom. Don't --" Bruce growls and shakes his head, continuing to *advance* --

"I -- my name isn't Tom, Mr. Wayne --ah. I think you have me confused with someone else?"

"Please stay still and let me --" Bruce shudders and *tugs* --

And that's how Lex discovers that he'd actually gripped Bruce's shoulder. Now he has to *do* something about that --

"Lex. Please. You... you were right. Seeing him is -- it's so much --"

"Yes, *that*, but -- it's not him." He thinks. Maybe. How good a liar can he *be*?

Bruce frowns. "I -- his voice. His hands. The shape of his throat --"

"He's shorter." And what the hell did he do to his *hair*?

Bruce frowns more deeply -- and blinks. "Yes. I... I was distracted by his hairstyle --"

"Ah. Not to interrupt, but..."

And, when Lex turns, the boy is standing there with one *hand* raised. Like --

Like --

"What's your name and how old are you?"

The boy blinks at him --

Recovers with a smooth and calculating grace so *familiar* --

Lex squeezes Bruce's shoulder hard enough to make the man grunt.

"Yes, Lex. You see --"

"Of *course* I see, you --" Lex growls and -- stops. "Boy. Answer the questions now."

The boy narrows his eyes -- "My name is Tim Drake, and I'm fifteen years old. You -- both of you appear to be significantly younger than you should be. Who are you?"

It *worked* --

And the boy -- Tim -- *does* know them. Or --

"Tim," Lex says, and can't quite stop himself from shaping the name in his mouth --

Bruce turns enough to take Lex in with his peripheral vision --

And, no, neither of them are precisely trustworthy in this moment. So. "*How* do you know who we are?"

Tim blinks. "You're both public figures. Or -- look, one or both of you really needs to answer at least one of *my* questions --"

And Bruce shrugs Lex off effortlessly, moving at that *preternatural* speed he'd developed sometime in the years Lex had spent getting to *this* moment while also working with Lucius to fend off his damned father --

And Tim isn't quick enough to keep Bruce from getting his hands on his shoulders. He looks --

"*Bruce*. He's *frightened* of you --"

"No. He's never been --"

"Yes! Definitely -- definitely frightened. Though, technically, I'm frightened of *both* of you," Tim says, and seems to be making a *point* of looking for an escape route -- hm.

Lex moves to flank Tim *slowly* -- "Ease off, Bruce. He *is* frightened. Less so than he could be, though."

"I don't --" Bruce deliberately loosens his grip --

Tim takes the moment's reprieve to stand straight --

"I'm sorry, both of you, but I don't understand what's happening," Bruce says, and *strokes* Tim's shoulders with his thumbs --

And Tim shivers just as if *some* part of him knows how intimate Bruce had *wanted* that gesture to be --

"Lex... he doesn't know us."

"Um. I already said --"

"You should know us a great deal better than you do, Tim," Lex says, and crosses his arms over his chest to keep from reaching out. The boy is --

Fifteen, not sixteen.

He looks young enough --

Could he have lied about his age, *too*? There's something almost *soft* about this boy, this -- Tim. Something...

Could it be a question of how deep the frown line on his forehead *isn't*? It --

No. Lex *grips* his biceps to keep from reaching out --

And Tim's eyes widen with shock and *worry* -- in the moments before he blinks the emotions away and replaces them with something very much like professional *coolness*.

Tom had never treated him that way --

Bruce grunts in what sounds like *pain* --

And, if anything, Tim retreats behind his own eyes even *more*. "I -- look. I believe it's clear to both of you that I'm not the... person you were looking for, so -- ah. Perhaps you could tell me where I am and how I can go about getting back *home*?"


Bruce looks like he's about five seconds from shaking Tim like a rag doll and about ten seconds away from dropping to his knees and cradling Tim in his arms -- so.

"The year is nineteen-eighty-seven --"


"The year," Lex says again, and raises his eyebrow, "is nineteen-eighty-seven. We're twenty-seven years old... and you were supposed to be sixteen. Obviously, there's been a miscalculation somewhere --"

"Wait, wait -- you *planned* to yank me out of my own time?"

"Yes," Bruce says, and his voice has that heavy rumble it gets when he'd rather be doing almost anything else -- so long as 'almost anything' involved rather fewer clothes and rather more physical contact.

It's not necessarily sexual --

But it's clear that Tim can't tell that for sure. He's not *flinching*, but --

"Bruce, let him go."

Bruce looks *pained* --

"Ah -- please, Mr. Wayne, I'm not -- obviously, I can't get *away* --"

"Tim. Do you... do you have a brother?"

Tim looks at Bruce like he's *insane* -- "No. No, I don't. I'm -- an only child. Look, both of you, what do you *need* before you can send me back to my own time?"

"A great deal," and Bruce drops his hands and steps back. "You're trained in karate and judo...?"

Tim blinks rapidly, shutters his eyes *lightly* --

And Lex knows -- *knows* -- that that means he's about to be extremely cautious with the truth. The next thing he says won't *necessarily* be a lie --

"Tim. Please... you need not lie to us," and Bruce reaches out -- and doesn't touch.

"I wasn't --" Tim cuts himself off --

Shudders --

Stills himself with a *vicious* sort of control -- "Look, I -- could you both at least tell me *why* you did this? I mean -- everyone knows that B-L, Inc. has always been on the cutting edge of technological advancement, but the development of time travel --" Tim shakes his head and smiles wryly at both of them. "Surely the two of you could have come up with something to do with this technology other than bringing me back to an era before -- ah. Never mind."

Lex raises an eyebrow and *knows* Bruce is raising his own --

"That -- is deeply intimidating -- um."

"You shouldn't be intimidated... Tim," Bruce says, and drops into a crouch. He spreads his hands --

And Lex realizes that he's about to give Tim the Batman persona which is designed *specifically* for children. That --

It makes Tim eye Bruce in *consternation* --

"You must understand, Tim. We -- you've come back in time before. Excuse me, you *will* travel back in time when you're sixteen -- hm. The grammar for this is --"

"Terrible, yes," Lex says, and *keeps* his arms crossed against the need to do *something* to Tim's hair --

Could that possibly be the *fashion*?

Lex shakes it off -- "Tim, sometime in the next year, you're going to learn a great deal about Bruce and his family -- assuming you haven't already learned it...?"

Tim... blushes.

Lex fights back a smile that wouldn't reassure *anyone* --

He can see Bruce narrowing his eyes in his peripheral vision --

"Ah -- well. As I've said, you're both public figures. And... ah. My mother -- my parents insist that I stay... apprised of the various people in direct and indirect competition with our company."

That... was honest, but --

"Drake... Drake *Industries*?"

Tim's smile is quick, small, and utterly professional --

Bruce winces --

And Lex gives up and cups Tim's shoulder. "Your parents are Janet and Jackson Drake?"

"Well... yes. Ah. I'm back to thinking that you have the wrong teenaged boy...?"

"No," Bruce says, and the hard light in his eyes suggests that he's getting *something* of his self back --

Tim searches him quickly and *starts* to step back again --

And Lex realizes that he's stopping Tim from doing just that too late to actually do anything about it. Damn --

And Tim is staring at Lex's hand.

"It's you, Tim," and Bruce stands, takes the half-step closer which leaves him *looming* over Tim -- "Your parents have... spies."

"Yes? I mean -- yes, they do. Just -- for the business. Surely you have your own?"

Bruce's winces tend to look more like rage than anything else --

And, yes, Tim is trying to step back again.

Lex squeezes Tim's shoulder. "It's all right. We never considered that we could find you so... close."

"Look, Mr. Luthor, Mr. Wayne, I'm just a teenager. All I know about *either* of you -- save for a few rumors about just what precipitated your break from LuthorCorp and why the two of you teamed up in the first place -- has been printed in Business Day," Tim says, and --

"That was a lie," Bruce says, and clenches his hands into fists.

"No, I --"

"It really was, Tim," Lex says, and smiles. "Try again."

"I'm not -- I've never done anything to *either* of you --"

"What do you know, Tim."

That was *close* to the damned Bat voice -- "Tim, you're making Bruce lose his question marks. Consider being honest with us *now* --"

Tim flares his nostrils and shows rage, terror, confusion --

And then he blinks away all of the above. "All right. Both of you. It's *past* time for you to tell me what the *hell* you want from me --"

"The truth," Bruce says, implacable as stone --

"I'm *telling* you the truth --"

"Not about how much you know, Tim. We... hn." Lex smiles at Tim the way he's wanted to -- well. "We've both put a *great* deal of time into learning how to read --"

"Minds? I'm not *lying* --"

"You know me," and Bruce's voice is so *hard* --

*Can* Tim hear the hurt?

"Of course, I -- you're Bruce *Wayne* --"

Bruce shakes his head once. "You know me... and me," the motherfucking *Batman* says --

Lex holds in the tension the voice always gives him as best as he can --

But Tim still gives him a *sharp* look before turning back to Bruce. "I... I think... someone hurt you. And that's -- well, it's entirely possible that he *looked* like --"

"*Tim*," and Bruce is using the *command* voice --

Tim stiffens and stands practically at attention --

And Bruce nods once. "You know me. You know who I am."

"Look, I -- I know -- it's not that you haven't been very, very good at -- ah. Keeping secrets. You -- I'm not --"

"*Tim* --"

"*Hell* -- all right. All right. I know you're the Batman, okay? And I know Mr. Luthor has B-L, Inc. do -- a great number of things which *support* you and your --" Tim hisses in a breath, clicks his teeth together --

And Lex doesn't have to look at Bruce to know the man is narrowing his eyes as much as he is. "I support Bruce and who *else*?"

Tim looks down and clenches his jaw, clearly ready to face all sorts of nasty interrogation techniques in order to protect --

Bruce *gasps*. That --

"I haven't heard you do that --"

"Lex. He knows who my partners will be."

Lex blinks -- and turns to look at Tim, who's blushing again and still staring at the floor. Now, though, he looks less ready to face questioning than ready to be swallowed *up*. "Tim, look *up* --"

"I'd rather not."

Bruce hums.

Lex narrows his eyes. "We won't -- we have no interest whatsoever in hurting you."

"I -- don't doubt that," Tim says, and seems to be blushing harder.

"Tim... please. You... you mean a great deal to both of us," Bruce says, and reaches out again. This time, he touches Tim just beneath his chin --

Tim shivers and *tries* to step back --

"It's all *right*, Tim, you -- you just have to tell us *how* you know all of these things. You don't know how long we've been trying to figure it *out* --"

And that gets Tim to look up at him. "And -- if I tell you, you'll send me back where I belong?"

"*Yes*," Lex says -- and winces. "Though I don't know how long it will take to do the necessary repairs. Every other test we've done has gone off flawlessly."

Tim frowns and nods slowly, thoughtfully --

"Please," Bruce says, and turns Tim to face him. "Tell me... you told me, more than once, that I wouldn't have to be alone."

Tim's frown gets deeper -- and Lex resists the urge to stroke at the line on his forehead with his thumb. Just --

Control. He has it, and he's going to use it, and --

And the Tim he'd known would have --

Tom would've been able to read Lex's lie about sending Tim back.

A Bruce who wasn't focused beyond *words* on the boy who looks so much like the love of his life would've *also* been able to read the lie -- but. It's entirely possible that Bruce was *counting* on the lie. There are times when Bruce's ruthlessness matches his own, after all --

And times when it goes above and beyond, as well -- like when love is in the offing. Lex will be careful --

"You -- you mean that the older me who somehow traveled further back in time told you that?"

Bruce nods slowly.

Tim licks his lips. "Well... I. Ah. Obviously -- obviously, I have to protect the timeline."

Bruce's hand twitches on Tim's chin. "You won't give me their names."

Tim reaches up -- but doesn't quite touch Bruce's hand. "I -- you must understand why I can't --"

"He does," Lex says, and squeezes Tim's shoulder -- not as firmly as he wants to. "We both do. After all, we wouldn't want to... to destroy your chance to go back to the past --"

"Lex. How *much* time have you put into the question of whether or not we're... interfering with the space-time continuum?"


"Lex --"

"*Enough*, Bruce. I -- look. You don't feel your past dissolving into nothing, do you? The world is still the same as it was before --"

"We don't know that --"

"*Now* you're quibbling? *Now*?"

Bruce's grunt is pained. "It's only..." He strokes Tim's chin with his thumb --

"I -- you. Should probably stop doing that --"

And Bruce's hand is fisted at his side just that quickly. The only question --

Yes, Tim is attempting to tug himself away from Lex's grip.

Lex grinds his teeth and lets go, turning to Bruce. "It's only *what*?"

"In this moment -- a moment I never imagined would be like *this* -- I am torn between my desire to closet myself with Tim until all questions are answered -- or at least discarded with conscious will -- and my desire to protect the *stability* of everything *else* we've built our lives on, Lex."

Yes, that. All of it -- including all of those times when he's lain next to Bruce and panted his way through plans for the present, plans for the future, dreams and wishes and rock-solid *will* -- "We're stronger than -- than many, many other things, Bruce. I -- and I will curse your *entire* ancestry if you ever repeat this -- have *faith*. In us as in *nothing* else. This will not break us."

"And if it breaks the world? Ah... just to... all right, now you're both *staring* at me again, and I don't think either of you have any appreciation for how *unnerving* that is --"

"You told me, more than once, that no one stared the way I did," Bruce says, and seems to almost be *willing* Tim to remember, to desire --

Tim is searching Bruce *worriedly* again --

And it feels like the most noble thing he's ever done -- or is ever likely *to* do -- to rest a hand on Bruce's shoulder instead of reaching out to touch Tim again, to feel, to fucking *claim* --

Bruce breathes deeply and turns to face Lex again. "Have we done something irrevocable?"

"Not yet! I'm sure. I mean -- if you could just *start* the repairs -- oh. God, again with the staring? Really? What the hell did I *do* to both of you? Or -- what *will* I do? Who *am* I to you?"

Bruce's laugh is the helpless one, breathy and low.

The smile on Lex's face feels almost *manic* --

And it isn't really the *best* sign that dawning realization leads to dawning *horror*, but --

Every great romance starts somewhere, right?

"I'm not -- I don't --" Tim backs up the last step --

Hits the wall --

*Meeps* --

"It's all right, Tim. We will never pressure you."

They won't? Is he *sure*? Wait, no, *teenager*, and -- hm. "Tim... *have* you had any lovers?"

"That's none of your --" Tim blushes and presses his palms to the wall --

*Claws* at the wall --

Stops, stands straight, pats his arms oddly --

And Lex is abruptly positive -- *absolutely* positive -- that Tim is looking for cuffs to shoot, despite the fact that he seems comfortable *enough* in his jeans and t-shirt. Still -- "You haven't."

"*No*, and I -- look, I assure you that I find it very *interesting* that you're both -- ah. That way *inclined*, but --"

"Tim. You were the one who taught me there was nothing wrong with it."

Tim -- blanches. "I. What. How *old* were you?"

"Sixteen," Bruce says, and smiles wryly. "Perhaps you need more time to come to that conclusion yourself? I had hoped that the future would be more... free."

"Well. It is! It -- it's definitely -- ah. No *reputable* psychiatrists believe it's a disease anymore, certainly, and -- ah. Mr. Wayne --"

"Please. Please call me Bruce."

"And call *me* Lex."

*Tim* looks pained -- but he nods. "All right. Bruce. Lex. Ah." Tim closes his eyes, takes a breath, and when he opens them again he has his professional face on.

"Please, Tim."

A flash of a *hunted* look -- and Lex will never, ever forget how well that word works on Tim. Well, then --

"Yes, Tim. *Please*."

Tim moans, swallows convulsively -- "I'm not -- I'm not the boy you both *remember*. I can't possibly -- you *know* I'm not, and I'm beginning to have serious doubts -- can either of you *prove* what you're saying?"

"I know where your scars are, Tim. All of them," Bruce says, and, when Lex checks -- yes, his knuckles are showing white.

Lex squeezes Bruce's shoulder again. "At least some of them are missing, Bruce."

Bruce blinks -- and takes a step back of his own.

Tim searches Bruce and exhales shakily. "There. That's -- you see, now. I'm not --"

"Lex," Bruce says, and his voice is hard again, "the Tim we knew had far too many scars for the life he told us he'd lived."

"Well, *yes*, Bruce, but --"

"He was already an operative. *He* was my partner. Or --" Bruce frowns. "One of them."

Tim's eyes are wide again, but this time he looks less like he'd been caught in a lie than... other things. Hm.

"You don't think that's possible, do you, Tim."

Tim's laugh is high, cracked --

And Lex remembers the stunned look Tim would get when he stared at Lex's mouth --

The *covetous* look he'd get when staring at any *other* part of Lex's body --

Bruce shakes his head. "He's *trained*, Lex --"

"But is he as well-trained as he *was*?"

Bruce frowns. "He... could learn a great deal in a year. He only showed *me* his judo and karate skills."

"He showed me that he could counter aikido."

"I -- I've never *studied* aikido. And -- I learned karate and judo in local dojos, Bruce, not from -- ah. You. If that's what you're implying --"

"*You* taught me the beginnings of those disciplines, Tim."

"Oh, God. I. Ah. It's not *me*. It's some -- some *doppelganger* with the same basic features and a lot more --" Tim shakes his head. "You're both acting as though I *seduced* you."

"My love... we seduced each other," Bruce says, and seems only moments away from touching Tim again --

And Tim looks to him. Well.

Lex smiles. "You convinced me -- in various ways -- that my faith in my own heterosexuality was *wildly* misplaced."

Tim looks *stricken* --

"It's all right, darling. In the end, you tried to talk me out of it right up until I kissed you... and said please in just the right way."

"I wouldn't -- I'd never take *advantage* --"

"You told me it was love. Need. And a desire for the Bruce you knew in your own time that had had no outlet."

"You told *me*... rather less than that," Lex says, and smiles a little more widely. "Actions spoke just as loudly as words, though."

Tim swallows again, looking back and forth between them -- "I. Of course... of course, you're both very attractive men. And... I suppose. I suppose it would've made sense if we were all around the same age... ah. I believe you both understand what I'm saying?"

Well --

Bruce frowns. "If you believe we're too old for you... Tim. I've been waiting for so long to hear your *voice* --"

"There's nothing -- there's nothing special about my *voice*, Bruce! And -- you, Lex, you're not -- in my era, you have... any number of lovers --"

"None of whom are you, yes, you've made that clear. How do you know about them, then?"

"The rumors. The -- my mother's spies --"

"Tim. You've never told us how you knew I was Batman," Bruce says, and this time he *does* reach out --

Tim knocks Bruce's hand aside with a creditable strike and -- pushes his way around them and into the more open areas of the lab, gaining confidence and losing tension with every step of distance. At eight paces, he turns to face them again, crossing his arms over his chest and raising an eyebrow.

Really. Lex licks his teeth. "We're listening, Tim."

"I certainly hope so --"

"Tim. Please don't... don't tease us."

Tim shivers just as if he *can* hear Bruce's heart in his words, and Lex doesn't know whether to root for more of that --

Or for more of the way Tim turns to him for what must seem like a very calm and *cool* comfort, empty of Bruce's undertow-like passions --

Oh, Tim. You'll learn. For now -- "Tell us."

"I can't. That's -- it's inextricably tied to the question of -- of who Bruce's partners will be," Tim says, blushing *and* holding Lex's gaze --

"I'm not sure if that was a lie or not," Bruce says, thoughtful and rueful at once.

Lex brings his hand to his chin and considers --

"It wasn't a *lie* --"

"It wasn't the whole truth, either," Lex tries --

And, yes, Tim stiffens. Very, very slightly.

Bruce nods and starts to advance on Tim again --

"*Please*! Please stay -- over *there* --"

"Then tell us --" Bruce stops and grits his teeth. "Tim. Please don't make me *bargain* with you for *proximity* --"

"I'm not your *love*, Bruce! I'm just -- all right, look, I -- I have an interest in Batman. I've always --" Tim licks his lips and shakes his head. "One of my earliest clear memories is of Batman... saving someone in front of me. I... followed him -- you -- as much as I could. One day, something one of your partners did caused me to learn your identity --"

"Because my partner will be connected to Bruce Wayne as much as he -- or she -- is connected to Batman?"

Tim winces --

And Bruce nods in acknowledgment. "That... makes me happy. Thank you."

"I. You're welcome. You just -- you can't live your life on this knowledge. You have to do everything you'd normally do --"

"And if we've already changed the future, Tim...?" Lex makes his smile as gentle as he can, though he knows that isn't saying much. Tom Wayne couldn't have existed in this time-stream -- even as a pretty lie. The scar that had been on his throat needed more than a year to age -- not to mention the scars on his arms. So be it. "Wouldn't it be better to bring him -- or her -- into the fold as soon as possible? If only to keep him or her safe --"

"That's not -- I don't *know* what you want, Lex, but that isn't it."

Oh... darling.

Bruce hums. "I believe he's hoping -- quietly and with a great deal of internal conflict -- that there will be someone I love as much as I love you. When I was sixteen, I monopolized your time as much as I could."

The consternation is back. "You're not sixteen anymore --"

"No. I'm a man grown, and I have many freedoms available to me. If you ever wished..." Bruce smiles ruefully. "We could sleep together now, Tim. *Only* sleep, with our arms around each other until the sun rises."

Tim lifts his arms in a curious -- and unfinished -- gesture before dropping them and clenching his hands into small but competent-looking fists. "I've told you what you want to know. Now tell *me* how to help you fix these -- machines."



"Not yet, Tim, please," Bruce says, and he can hear the desperation in his own voice, the plea which exists absent of reason and everything resembling *sense* --

This boy is not Tom, and it has nothing to do with the different name. There is no aging and frightening scar on his throat. His legs are slightly shorter, as is his torso. His eyes --

His eyes don't *open* for him -- or haven't, yet. Bruce has no difficulty whatsoever seeing that *this* boy doesn't love him, and yet --

The base is the same. The fundamental *truths* are the same -- aren't they?

*Could* Tim possibly know about the Bat?

There is only one way to find out, and while that way *doesn't* necessarily include as much touch as Bruce wants --

He must see Tim's *body*, must *learn* the differences so that he can rewrite, become anew, *have* --

And Tim is tensing again, glancing cautiously toward Lex -- who desires as Bruce does, himself. Lex has always been far more capable of being *subtle* about such things, and, yes, Bruce can understand how comforting that must be right now --

"I won't pressure you," and Bruce looks within himself for meaning, hope --

He finds nothing but a restless flood and roil of --

"It's only... you taught me so much, Tim."

"It --" Tim squeezes his eyes shut and begins the breathing exercise he'd taught Bruce nearly eleven years ago -- he opens his eyes, and the gaze he offers is both stern and steady. "We've established that I'm not the one either of you remember. That -- you don't even know if I would've grown *into* that person, and, really, it seems as though I *wouldn't* have --"

"There's no way to know that, either, Tim," Lex says, and he... he's enjoying himself.

He's not *happy* -- he gains an entirely different quality of wild and febrile grace when that's the case -- but he *is* satisfied on some level. His plans have come *close* to fruition -- close enough that he's begun making new ones. Whether or not he'll share those plans --

*When* he'll share them --

Bruce doesn't know. For this, perhaps, he *can't* know -- and he certainly has no right to blame Lex for it. He'd left the lion's share of the search *to* Lex, after all -- not to mention the emotional fortitude needed to continue it until this point. This moment --

Tim -- and the name is both strange and wonderfully *close* -- isn't looking at him, so...

Bruce brings his hands to his face and breathes deep. The scent bring back ghosts of memory he'd thought entirely lost, but of course all the studies had *said* that scent was tied to memory --

Warmth in the dark --

Possibility when he'd believed there'd be no such *thing* --

"Oh... God. Ah. You're sniffing me."

Of course, no Tim would be able to keep his attention off a potential danger for long. Bruce smiles at Tim from over his hands. "Technically, I'm sniffing a combination of our scents."

Tim's expression seems almost reflexively sour, and Bruce can't help but wonder if *this* boy had ever built a detailed fantasy of fellatio --

He'd wanted his *own* Bruce -- or so he'd said --

"Bruce," Lex says, and his voice is sharply amused --

Which, when taken with Tim's wide eyes, certainly suggests that Bruce had been moving closer again. "I'm sorry," Bruce says, and uses the gesture Tim had taught him for 'it's okay' and 'stand down.'

Tim blinks --

"He certainly recognizes *that*."

"I -- I said. I followed Batman --"

"And, presumably, his partners," Lex says, and rubs at his chin with one finger. "Where were you that we didn't see you, Tim? Drake Industries is small, but it's still Gotham-based."

"Ah... not. My mother decided to... move us. When I was eleven. Please forget that as soon as possible --"

"Where," Bruce says, and knows that he's losing his question marks again -- "Where did she take you."

"Keystone, all right? Look, it's just -- I haven't seen either of you at a party since --"

"Since puppy-fat was still an issue, presumably," Lex says, and laughs softly. "We neglected to pay attention to *children*, Bruce."

Yes, they had. But -- "I think that was -- will *be* -- for the best, Lex. Considering."

Lex laughs harder. "Yes, I *do* now have the image of you trailing after toddlers and *sniffing* indelibly burned on my brain --"

"You have only yourself to blame. Darling."

Lex coughs, looks around -- seemingly for something to *throw* at Bruce -- but he stops and focuses on Tim once more, narrowing his eyes in the pleasured calculation which has meant a very *particular* sort of sexual encounter for the past nine years --

"Lex... please. Please send me back to my own time. There's nothing else I *can* tell you without hurting the timeline, and I don't want to know if I've *already* hurt it --"

"But you'll have to know, sooner or later. No, we're not sending you back until we can be sure of what we're sending you *into*," Lex says, managing to sound honest, clear, reasonable --

And the frown on Tim's face says that he's just as suspicious of that as he should be.

Lex's laugh is quietly delighted, and the light behind his eyes dances with hectic pleasure. "The more doubt in your eyes when you look at me... well. Watch," Lex says, and pushes his watchband aside to press gently on one of his subcutaneous implants.

Tim narrows his eyes --

And jumps when the doors open and Hope strides in with six of Lex's armed mercenaries in her wake. She takes in Tim's presence with one thorough rake of a glance, ignores Bruce utterly, stands at attention before Lex --

"Get Drs. Mills and Hartman in to direct the clean-up and repair efforts here, Hope. Inform them that they're to begin project Tau Digamma immediately."

"Yes, Lex," Hope says, and moves out of earshot to make the coded calls. Knowing their efficiency, the physicists will be here within the hour, and will be making calls of their own within ninety minutes. The lab will be repaired at *speed*, and then... what?

Bruce turns to raise an eyebrow at Lex --

"Wait, wait, what is Tau Digamma? Because somehow, right now, I'm doubting that it has anything to do with sending me back home," Tim says, and his expression is a blend of anger and worry --

And, still, it's not time to pull him close. Bruce's palms are indented with Bruce's own nails --

"On the contrary, Tim -- the project was always planned as a next step to getting you here. Once it's complete, we'll be able to look in on your time, and you'll be able to tell us what -- if anything -- has changed."

"And you'll use whatever changes I see as an excuse to keep me here?"

"We will not pressure you," Bruce says, knowing that he's repeating himself, knowing that he isn't the slightest bit *believable* --

"I really don't think those words mean what you think they mean, Bruce, so -- please. Stop using them."

Bruce squeezes his fists tighter and nods.

"Oh... Tim. I used to fantasize about you shutting Bruce down like that, but I have to say that it's a great deal less pleasurable than I imagined it would be," and Lex is still smiling, but it's hard, *wounding* --

And Tim rears back slightly, flushes -- and turns away. Too much. Too --

"It's all right, Tim," Bruce says, and moves until he can be in Tim's line of sight again. "You were always quite clear about my tendencies toward emotional excess."

"Emotional --" Tim bites his lip and hugs himself.

Oh, no. Not --

Lex doesn't stop Bruce from moving close this time -- almost certainly because he, too, understands that there are some things their love should never do. Bruce tugs Tim's arms away from himself as gently as he can and then takes the small, hard, sweaty hands in his own --

"Oh, God. Bruce, I --"

"Please, Tim. Be easy. We... we won't hurt you, or... or push you --"

"You will. You *are* -- oh."

That sound. Perhaps for the feel of Bruce's thumbs pressed to his palms? Gentle, yes, but also firm --

("A rougher touch.")

It takes something very much like everything Bruce has -- everything he *is* -- not to shift his touch so that he can press his thumbnails to Tim's flesh --

His arms are bare. He could be touched *there* --

No. No, he can wait. He *will* wait --


"Yes, Tim."

Tim looks up, searches Bruce's eyes --

The worry in Tim's eyes is so *powerful* --

"Promise me that you'll send me home."

You *are* home --

Let me come *with* you --

Bruce tightens his grip against the shake in his hands --

Tim gasps softly and starts to tug his hands away --

"I promise," Bruce blurts, and looks for a way out, a way *around* --

Lex would've found just that in moments --

"Give me -- give us this time, Tim. And... consider seeking out the Bruce and Lex in your own time."

Tim's expression suggests a distinct lack of faith in Bruce's sanity --

And Lex is laughing again. "Tim. Are you worried that the Bruce and Lex of your time will be even crazier than we are?"

"The thought had *occurred*, yes --"

"They might not be looking for you, at all, though. They could have... hm. Moved forward."

"That would be ideal," Tim says, but his voice --

Bruce turns to Lex -- and Lex's eyebrow is up. There wasn't much in the way of conviction... hm. "You want to be your Bruce's partner. Don't you?"

A blush for that --

Bruce smiles helplessly --

And Lex's smile is that of a predator who wishes to play with his food -- "Why wait?"

Tim starts, steps back -- but doesn't twist his hands free. "You -- both of you --"

"We're unwell, Tim. Crazy. *Lovesick* --"

"You have to *know* someone before you love them, and I -- I'm not -- look, it takes *time* to develop scars and all of those other things. I'm *not* trained. I'm *not* an operative --"

"I would teach you every day," Bruce says, and squeezes Tim's hands firmly when they begin to shake.

Lex leans back against the wall and crosses his arms over his chest again -- "There are some few things I could teach you, as well. You may not have dreamed of it, but the thought of you as *my* partner... well. It occurred more than once."

"We know some of what you're capable of, Tim," and Bruce tries to make his smile as gentle and welcoming as possible. "We believe in you."

The blush grows deeper.

Tim's temples shine with sweat -- and Bruce remembers that Tim's hair will not curl even for that, that the fine and simple straightness has its own kind of implacability --

"You're serious. You're both -- serious."

Lex nods.

"Yes, Tim."

Tim looks -- 'pained' is too minor a term for the storm that takes his features, his beautiful eyes --

Bruce pulls him *close* --

But Tim starts trying to shove himself back immediately, starts making distressed noises --

His body's lean hardness is so *much* the same --

"Bruce," Lex says, and there's forgiveness in his voice and so *much* understanding --

Bruce groans and lets go, forcing himself to only watch as Tim staggers back, away --

As Tim covers his face with both hands --

He doesn't sob. He shudders, he rocks on his feet, he *begins* to claw at himself -- and then he drops his hands and eyes them both with a steady, clear gaze. "I don't suppose there's somewhere I can... think? About... things?"

Wayne Tower is bugged from the spire to the third sub-basement -- but. "I find rooftops... restful," Bruce says --

And Tim's smile is a rueful and quiet thing, a smile Bruce had learned meant that *Tom* was thinking about something from his own -- world.

His own time. Bruce nods to himself. "You've already spent a great deal of time on them."

"Ah... yes. So I could take pictures of you, Bruce. And your... partners."

Lex hums. "A dangerous hobby. For any number of people, really."

Tim blushes again. "I... hide them. Well, I think. They have randomized file names and are kept behind six separate layers of security."

That -- "Are you... speaking of some sort of vault?"

"No, just -- oh, God. Personal computers aren't really... ah. Yet. I see. Ignore that, please."

"Oh, Tim. You *do* know the way to my heart," Lex says, and his smile is sunny, warm --

"*Lex*. You can't -- you can't *change* how you were going to invest --"

Lex holds up a hand. "Think about how the lab looked before it shut itself down, Tim. I've been dabbling in computing since I graduated from high school. Eventually, B-L *will* be networked *effectively*. And you just told me that it won't take as long as I thought. That said... I wouldn't mind *not* having to trip and trick you into sharing useful information."

"Don't you *care* about the future? What -- there are so many things which could be damaged and *lost* ---"

"All the more reason for you to help us make sure they're not. To... hm. Firm things, perhaps?" And Lex is being... seductive. Inviting Tim's passion as much as anything else --

And when Tim colors this time, there's anger, stubbornness --

Lex parts his lips --

"You -- both of you are far too -- too *glib*. And *flip*. There's too much at *stake* for you to be --"

"Blithe, Tim?" Lex stands straight and walks closer, letting his arms swing at his sides --

Tim looks him over for threats --

And for pleasure?

There's so much about Tim's desire for Lex that Bruce has never known, has never been able *to* know --

Dr. Fate and that strange and beautiful young man had pulled Tim away before he could explain anything -- but no, Bruce can't blame any of them. Tim had *tried* to speak to him about Lex, tried to offer his truths, his theories...

That last *night* --

And Lex has stopped a full pace away, but it hasn't stopped Tim's pulse from speeding in his exposed throat --

"I think. I think you *are* blithe. I think you've accepted -- no. I think you *counted* on changing the future, Lex."

Lex looks Tim over -- "It took an embarrassingly long time for me to discover that I was in love with you. I frankly worry about the sorts of things I might've gotten up to if I'd taken any longer... well."

"I would've been there for you, Lex," Bruce says, and does his best to stare Lex down with the *force* of his faith --

Lex scowls, which --

It tends to mean that Bruce has made his point. Bruce smiles and raises his eyebrows --

"Oh, fuck *off*, darling, Tim and I are having a *moment* --"

"No, we're *not*!"

Lex grins at Tim --

Tim *growls* --

Oh. It's *not* the time to move close once more -- Bruce knows that in his *bones* -- but it should be. It *should* be, and there must be room for this sort of pleasure, this sort of *truth* --

(Only I will never leave --)

A simple matter to fill his mind with screams -- and it's a pleasure to hear the defiance in them again. It's been so *long* -- no, it's time to focus --

Specifically, on the way Tim and Lex are staring at him. Lex's stare is knowing and sympathetic, while Tim's is curious and worried --

And that tells Bruce what he needs to know about what Tim does and *doesn't* know. Of course, Tim would've had to have gotten close to him to learn that, would've had to *be* Bruce's lover -- or something close to that.

A partner.

"I'm all right," Bruce says, and tries the reassuring smile Lex had taught him --

It makes Tim raise an eyebrow -- oh --

"You know that wasn't a true smile."

"I wouldn't be a very good businessman if I didn't, Bruce --"

"You'd be surprised," Lex says, and strokes the air just beyond Tim's cheekbones. "We *try* to only hire people with functioning bullshit meters, but... well. As for the subject at hand... I suppose you could call me blithe."

Bruce blinks. "Lex?"

Lex smiles at him ruefully. "This was always going to change *something*, Bruce. I went over and over the matter with our pet physicists --"

"I really do wish you'd stop calling them that --"

"They come to heel so *nicely* when we jerk their chains --"

"Lex. You're still not allowed to use chains," Bruce says in his most stern and solemn voice --

And Lex snorts and seems to be *considering* the use of a particular obscene gesture...

("No, it doesn't work, Bruce. It's either straighten up or have Lucius *look* at me all the time. I'm just going to have to surrender much of my casual vulgarity until the man goes senile or something."

"I'd rather you not rush him."

"Hmm. No promises.")

Lex glitters at him now the way he had glittered then, and, while it's possible that Bruce shouldn't take such looks as proof of all the good they make between them, it doesn't seem probable, at all. No --

"Lex is never blithe, Tim."

Tim frowns at both of them, but --

"I'm being neither romantic nor foolish. Lex considers -- habitually -- *every* angle to every situation. He's incapable of not doing that, even when those angles are painful to look at."

Lex turns away, and -- yes. Bruce knows that there's a *slight* blush showing in his eyes if not his cheeks.

Tim narrows his eyes at Lex --

"Show him, Lex."

"I'd rather -- hn. Not. But." Lex turns back and offers his rueful amusement, his calm, his personal *force* --

And Tim swallows for it, searching Lex and seeing... what?

Possibility, perhaps?

Tim turns to look at the space midway between Lex's shoulders and Bruce's own. "I'm still not hearing why I should trust either of you with space-time."

"I'm not a mad scientist in a tower on a lonely promontory, Tim. I'm a businessman, and businessmen believe in *insurance*."

Tim frowns again. "I -- what precisely does that mean?"

"Superman is Bruce's other lover. Dr. Fate and the rest of the JSA are on the equivalent of speed-dial. If all else fails? Bruce has managed to obtain the favor of a being calling herself a *god* -- and she certainly has the appropriately ridiculous powers. So... relax? All right, no, I know you can't do that, yet. But... trust us not to be complete pie-eyed imbeciles, perhaps. We may be in the past, but we're not grunting cavemen... though you've made me feel that way more than once."

Another blush -- and Tim turns to look at Bruce again. "I'd like. I'd like to have privacy now. The roof sounds -- wait, what time of *year* is it?"

"Spring," Bruce says, and says nothing of his fantasies about laying Tim out on the grass --

Stroking him with the petals from the dogwood he'd photographed four separate times --

"I've been assured that it's a beautiful day," Lex says, and smiles. "If you stay out too long, you may want a jacket... but we have that covered."

"You. You bought *clothes* for me?"

Lex's shrug is an elegant lie. "We knew you wouldn't be able to bring clothes with you. So."

Tim snaps his hands into fists again -- relaxes them and breathes. "All right. I'm not -- going to think about that right now."

Bruce steps forward --

"Hope will lead you to the roof, Tim. Try -- very hard -- not to leap to your death."

Tim's mouth is a hard, sour line. "Why, Lex. Don't you *want* the opportunity to see if you can build a resurrection machine?"

Lex -- that's almost a beam, and, as such, Bruce can't help but smile to see it, for all that *he'd* wanted to lead Tim to the roof --

And Tim makes a disgusted noise. "All right, fine. I --" He turns to Hope, who had moved near-silently to stand just within Tim's peripheral vision. "I'm afraid I'm not sure how to address you --"

"Lex insists on first names," she says, tone as cool and calm as ever. She is, like Mercy, an incredibly beautiful woman, aesthetically perfect on any number of levels.

There is little in the way of life or light behind her eyes, and, when Bruce had taken the time to look into her past --

When he'd realized that he would only ever scratch the surface of the horrific abuse she'd suffered --

The abuse which had been allowed to continue seemingly out of a sense of *privacy* --

Lex had come down to the Cave when Bruce hadn't been able to bring himself to go upstairs. He'd taken one look at the police reports about Hope's 'missing' brother and sighed.

("Look not through keyholes, darling."

"What do you intend to *do* with her?"

"Keep her. Use her to protect our sorry hides. And, perhaps... save her.")

And Lex hadn't faced him for a long moment after saying those words -- he never does when he offers words like those -- but...


He'd done wonders with Mercy. For all that she still can't seem to stand *Bruce*, she gets along well enough with Alfred. They both appreciate the *meaning* of devoted service --

And the consternation is back on Tim's face. "I... see. I don't suppose an exception can be made --"

"You are *every* exception I've made, darling. Hope, tell Tim your last name."


"Tim, tell Hope your last name."

"Ah... Drake."

"Use them at will," Lex says, and makes an airy gesture which seems to take in not just the whole of the lab, but the whole of the city. "Oh, and Hope? Bring Tim for dinner no later than five. We'll all head back to the manor then."

"Yes, Lex. Please, follow me, Mr. Drake."

"Thank you, Ms. Terrell."

"I would appreciate your using the honorific 'Miss.' I feel that it suits me," Hope says as she leads Tim to the doors.

"Ah -- of course. You have my apologies."

"They are not required."

Once the door is closed behind them, Bruce can hear no more. It doesn't stop him from straining --

Lex sighs. "I've given us three hours to reach a point where our cocks will allow us to think."

Bruce hums a laugh. "Perhaps we should've done something about them beforehand."

"Darling, you're still not allowed to use chastity devices."

Bruce raises an eyebrow and pulls his expression into the most innocent one he can manage --

Lex snorts and flaps a hand at him. "To the Bat-bedroom, Bruce. We need to make a better showing for ourselves."

"I thought you did quite well --"

"Yes, but *only* because I had to keep you from throwing him to the floor and licking him until he squeaked."

"You assume a squeak would've stopped me?"

"I was speaking of the squeaking noise his damp flesh would've made against the *tile*, Bruce."

"Ah, of course," Bruce says, and gestures to the other exit -- which is on the other side of the mercenaries currently doing janitorial duty with their assault rifles flipped over their shoulders.

Lex never allows any of them to go armed with thirty-eights, which is... what it is.

And Bruce will never forget *any* of the occasions when they've been the only thing which stood between their thousands of employees and certain death at the hands of one supervillain or another. One day *someone* will be able to get the kind of evidence against Lionel Luthor that will stick. Until then...

Bruce has learned how to live in well-appointed armed camps.

Just beyond the lab, there is something of a dormitory for whenever the scientists wish to stay overnight for one reason or another.

Beyond the dormitory is the bedroom Lex had designed to his specifications. It's soundproofed, sleek, and two of its walls are windows looking out on Gotham.

As ever, Lex frowns at the vista, even though they're more than high enough that Gotham's stony grey *grimness* is more hint than fact --

"Tell me I can use one of shoulder-mounted missile launchers to take out those gargoyles, Bruce."

Bruce strips out of his jacket and unbuttons his shirt. "The grotesques I refused to allow you to paint purple?"


"The grotesques I refused to allow you to douse with glitter?"


"The grotesques --"

"Bruce," Lex says, and looks at him from under his lightly-colored lashes.

"Lex... you're stunning."

Lex blinks... and smiles wryly while unbuttoning his shirt. "You're drunk... on emotion."

"Almost certainly. But... the cut of your features, the *power* behind your eyes, the sensuality of your mouth --"

Lex purses his lips thoughtfully.

Bruce raises an eyebrow and opens his belt. "Yes?"

"How *many* sketches do you have of me making love to Tim?"

Well... hm. "Several."

Lex raises an eyebrow and opens his own belt. "More than five?"

"Lex --"

"More than ten?"

"You could consider posing for some of my other sketches."

Lex shows his teeth and wraps the buckle of his belt around his fist. "More than fifteen?"

"I... most of them aren't really... representational --"

"I see. Assume the position."

Bruce grunts and cups himself, squeezes and tries to remember -- ah, yes, Lex always appreciates some degree of resistance. This time -- "I believe you've slipped beneath his armor, Lex."

Lex narrows his eyes. "Why."

"The way he studied you. The way his pulse sped. He... I believe he's fantasized about you in the past."

Lex licks his lips. "We have to seduce him all over again."

"Yes. I -- I don't know how --"

"You'll be yourself."

"Lex --"

"You. Will be. Yourself. Meaning that you'll show him your intellect and determination on *top* of your squishy, bleeding heart."

Hm. "Squishy?"

Lex makes the belt crack in the air and points to the footboard.

What would Tim think if he saw this? He'd always thought he'd known what *Tom* would think, how he'd grow both aroused and troubled, how he'd need to take the belt for himself --

How he'd need Bruce to *use* the belt on *him* --

His perfect scarred *flesh* --

Bruce strips out of his boxer shorts and lets himself grunt for the swing and bob of his erection --

For the way he can feel Lex studying it as avidly as he does every time -- as if he's still not quite sure what he's going to *do* with it, but knows it will be *something* --


Lex, whose patience is always thin, and whose focus is always singular, powerful, all-consuming --


"Yes, Lex," Bruce says, moving at speed to grip the footboard --

The footboard Lex had *personally* sawed off and refinished when he'd decided he didn't like the angle it gave Bruce's back when he bent --

The first strike is always so -- "*Lex* --"

"I want him to call my name like that," he says, and drags the edge of the belt over the first welt --

"Yes. Please, yes --"

"Do you want to watch?"

"Or -- *hnh* -- or listen," and Bruce resists the urge to shift on his feet, but not the one to tilt his head back and pant, smell himself and Lex --

Lex sleeps in this bedroom *often* --

"Please. Please --"

"Oh, Bruce. I don't trust myself," Lex says, and lashes Bruce's back, his buttocks and thighs --

Bruce feels himself leaking pre-ejaculate, clenching for the *memory* of Lex's thick penis -- "I -- tell me. Tell me what that means --"

"I want to *claim* him."

"Yes. Yes, to show him -- show him what must be -- *hnh* -- *Lex* --"

"You always react so wonderfully to having your sac lashed." Lex sighs. "You didn't have faith."

"*Punish* me for it --"

"This isn't punishment, though," Lex says, and lashes Bruce's thighs --

His hips --

His back and his buttocks and thighs --

"*Please*, Lex, please I -- I *need* you --"

"You needed Tim and you tried to deny it," and there's disappointment in Lex's voice, worry --

Bruce groans. "You've always had the wisdom, the -- the *focus* --"

"Would you have given up, Bruce...?" And the quiet of that question --

It's a warning. A warning to be honest and to be *wary* of his own honesty --

Bruce can feel himself sweating, feel himself straining with the need to *writhe* --

"I --"

"No *hesitation*," and Lex lets the tip of the belt graze Bruce's scrotum once --

Twice -- "*Lex* -- I didn't know what to believe --"

Three times -- "Would you have given *up*?"

Bruce feels himself shaking, shuddering all over -- "Ah, *God*, Lex, I couldn't. For any chance, for any -- any moment -- I *can't* let him go, but I can speak as if I will --"

"Because I allow it."

"*Yes* --"

"No more, Bruce," Lex says, and grips Bruce's hair --

He never lets Bruce cut it too *short*. "Lex, I --"

"No *more*. Because if you *ever* let me think that you'll walk away -- that you *can* walk away --" Lex growls and lets go, throwing himself into the whipping with all the power he can bring to bear, all the passion and rage --

And Bruce understands. He --

He could never *not* understand, because what would *he* do if he thought Lex capable of moving on from this love?

*Their* love. They cannot allow themselves that --

That *weakness* --

"*Stronger*, Lex --"

"*Say* it --"

"We're *stronger* than this --"

"Than *everything*, damn you. The three of us --"

Bruce laughs, breathless and lost, so lost --

He shouts when Lex wraps the belt around his penis --

Yells wordless and *harsh* when Lex begins to stroke him with it --

"*With* me, Bruce --"

"*Always* -- *ah* --"

Teeth low on his throat --

Lex's callused thumb on the head of his penis --

And the viciously animal growl that will always, always be a demand. *That* demand --

Oh, yes --

And Bruce's knees buckle with the force of his orgasm, Bruce's vision greys out before flaring white, blinding --

And Bruce is aware of the fact that he's groaning like an animal, that Lex has reduced him to this *again* --

The footboard is creaking under his attentions --

He comes back to himself to a *lick* of the belt across his buttocks --

And he gasps a laugh. "Lex. I will always be quite fond of your habit of blending uncomfortably necessary discussions with sexuality."

Lex's smile is tight and sharp. "A spoonful of sugar, darling."

"I can think of other, equally desirable... spoonfuls."

"Can you?"

"How do you want to be positioned when I swallow your penis into my throat?"

Lex narrows his eyes, grinds his teeth together *lightly* -- and then sits on the side of the bed with his legs spread. "I've decided that I *don't* want to fall down today."

Bruce hums and slides to his knees between Lex's legs. "Is the magic gone?"

"*Someday*. If I can finally remake the world the way it's supposed to *be* --"

"Lex. There's a *place* for magic. Magic has saved our *lives* --"

Lex growls at him. "Even *Clark* doesn't like magic."

Bruce opens Lex's trousers and smiles, knowing --

"You're not allowed to use that smile when I'm about to have more sex with you!"

Bruce hums --

"*Bruce* --"

"Forgive me," Bruce says, and presses his mouth against the wet spot on Lex's boxers before humming once more --

Lex growls and *grips* Bruce's hair -- "What are you being *smug* about?"

Bruce *sucks* at the wet spot --

But Lex has more than enough control to pull Bruce back. "*Talk*."

Bruce licks his lips. "I was thinking... Clark has had rather fewer lectures from you about the necessity of accepting the world as it stands as a prerequisite for changing it."

Lex bares his teeth --

"Darling," Bruce says, and licks his lips. "I'll always prefer the magic you build in my heart."

Lex blinks --

Snorts --

Frees himself with a flick of his wrist -- "*Swallow* my *cock*."

"As you -- *mm* -- mmm..."

A moment to enjoy the taste, to remind himself anew of how much subtler Lex's scents and flavors are compared to those with even a modest amount of hair --

A moment to meet Lex's eyes once more --

And then Lex pulls Bruce down and down until swallowing is necessary, vital --

To be *filled* like this --

Clark had denied this to them for the better part of two years -- until his control was both rigid and unshakeable -- but Lex never has. He'd spoken only once of his sole night with Tim, of how this act had broken him down to nothing and made him need, crave, *urge* --

And Bruce remembers Tim's mouth. The softness of his lips, the heat and the pleasure *he* took in being filled and taken, the fantasies --

So many *fantasies* --

And Lex had become many of them, seemingly by sheer force of will. Bruce hasn't been able to imagine being without this since the first night *they* had. An overly soft and frilly bed in Smallville, Kansas --

The *holes* their love had left in them --

Bruce sucks hard --

"Ah, *fuck* --" Lex growls and works Bruce's head -- gently enough that Bruce can't help but wonder whose mouth he's imagining in this moment. This Tim has not yet been Tom.

This Tim would *need* some degree of care before --

Bruce groans in his chest and tries to urge Lex to take him faster, *force* him faster. This --

He has to get this *out* of himself at least for the time being. He has to be able to *look* at Tim and not lose himself the way he had too many times in the past couple of hours. He has to --

Be used.

To that end, he looks up at Lex from under his lashes --

"Oh -- Bruce."

He *pleads* --

Lex snarls --

He lets himself shiver for the feel of salty sweat tracking over one of his welts --

"Fuck -- *fuck* --" And Lex is standing, knocking Bruce back with his knees, holding Bruce's head *still* -- "Fucking *hold* me, Bruce --"

Bruce grips Lex's hips --

Lex moans and squeezes his eyes shut --

And the thrusts come hard and fast, rhythmic for only a minute before degenerating into vicious pumps and *slams*. Lex's hips are oiled with sweat, Lex's scent is high in Bruce's nose --

"*Bruce*, I -- I need --"

Bruce rubs Lex's hips as soothingly as he can while still gripping them hard --

"I need -- *both* of you -- fucking *damn* it -- *hah* --"

And Lex begins to ejaculate before his last thrust makes it all the way in, coating Bruce's tongue with heat, salt --

The raw humanity of his *second* love -- so close *temporally* to his third --

And, truly, he's *learned* not to laugh through Lex's orgasms, but it's a lesson which bears repeating from time to time, because Lex is still groaning and shaking when Bruce has to pull him out of his throat to gasp and cough --

"Oh -- you -- you *ass* --"

Bruce hums around the head of Lex's penis --

Lex's knees buckle, but Bruce won't relax his hold. They stay that way until Lex's hands flex on Bruce's head, at which point Bruce takes the message for what it is and pulls off completely.

He licks his lips. "I'll make it up to you."

Lex sits down heavily and lets himself fall back on the bed. "Yes, you will."

Bruce licks his lips a second time and moves to sit beside Lex on the bed. "I'd love to hear your ideas about *how* I will, of course."

Lex's smile is lazy and broad. "One way," he says, and holds up a finger.

Bruce strokes the finger. "Just one?"

"Yes. Are you ready?"

Lex... never asks that question. "I'll admit to some degree of... trepidation."

"Fuck. I'd forgotten that you'd learned some of *his* speech patterns."

Bruce smiles down at Lex. "Desire outpaces sense, from time to time."

"You don't say."

"I *do* say. Darling."

Lex snorts. "One thing. Are you *ready*."

No -- but. "You plan on delaying the repairs as much as humanly possible in order to give us time to seduce him into staying with us."

Lex opens his mouth -- and sighs. "We have to."

"I -- we shouldn't."

Lex turns to face him with one eyebrow raised. "Does that mean you'll try to get me to rush?"

"I... should."


(Only I will never leave you.)

"*Does* it work to box your ears when that *thing* is talking to you? Because --"

"It works. For certain values of same," Bruce says, and smiles ruefully. "It has nothing substantive to say, Lex. It appears to have given up on that sort of thing for the most part."

"I *hate* you for giving me the urge to knock on something wooden."

Bruce laughs softly and rests his hand on Lex's chest --

Lex sits up on his elbows. "Bruce --"

"I won't fight. I'm not sure how well I'll be able to deceive Tim, though."

"Then *channel* the little bastard. Learn to look him in the eye and tell him that we're doing everything possible to get him home. And don't let him get too far from the manor or the tower."

Bruce frowns. "I... I don't want to keep him prisoner."

"He's the love of our lives, and he *will* call for backup if we don't behave the way he thinks we should. If all goes according to plan -- and, for the last time, I have *faith* in us -- then, eventually, he'll *help* us tell the lie so that he can have one more moment with you, one more second with *me*... et cetera."

Please, Bruce thinks and closes his eyes.

Lex covers Bruce's hand with his own. "We can do this. More to the point? We *will* do this."


Lex sighs. "Yes, *together*. You overgrown Benchmark card."



The voice -- a sharp and obviously well-educated tenor -- is utterly unfamiliar to Clark. While he hasn't yet heard every voice in the world -- and certainly hasn't *memorized* even a small fraction of them -- he was quite frankly positive that he was familiar with every voice which could reasonably be used in a conversation with *Hope*.

He's not yet close enough to make out individual words, but he will be in minutes. The mystery will be solved, and --

And he can find out what happened today. He can --

Clark swallows and deliberately flies through a cloud for the icy-damp shiver that always distracts him from things he doesn't want to think about --

It doesn't work.

It --

The fact of the matter is that, while he hadn't *asked* Lex what he'd been working on which required moving thirteen of the world's most brilliant physicists to Gotham at great cost, he really hadn't *had* to. Lex is capable of great passion about any number of subjects -- and the discoveries he's spearheaded over the past decade have done wonders for the world -- but there is only *one* subject which keeps Lex up at night.

One *person* --

One *confidence* man. Or boy, as the case may be, and -- why wouldn't he have lied about his age, too? There are all sorts of men and women who can't let go of their high school glory days, who travel all over the world just for the chance to pretend to be sixteen again --

All right, this would've been the first time someone had traveled to an entirely different *era* to do it, but doesn't that just prove that he -- *whatever* his name was -- had dangerous levels of obsessiveness and *power*?

Who *knows* what he could've done to alter the past?

Why -- if Lex had thrown even a *fraction* of the focus he expended on his ex on new inventions and innovations --

All right, now he's making himself angry, and he'd promised not to do that. Lex and Bruce have both told him -- in their own ways -- that there's nothing he can do to sway them from the course they're on, and so he has to accept it, but --

*Any* good friend would advise their loved ones against a course like this one. Never mind the potential damage to the time-stream -- and there simply *isn't* anyone, scientist or magic-user, who could offer concrete answers on that topic -- they're both throwing themselves at someone they *know* had lied to them with practically every *word*.

Anyone who spent five solid minutes with Bruce would know that there was nothing he desired more than a family, and so there was this -- this *liar* to give him just that. As for Lex --

Well, he'd needed a *friend* more than anything else, because his father and Clark himself -- accidentally, but still -- had denied him that. And there was the lying little -- *person* to give *him* that. To *appear* to give him that. And really, Lex can talk about how he'd known from the beginning that the boy hadn't been telling the whole truth, but Clark had *been* there when the DNA test results came in.

The scent of hurt had been *high* in the air, and not just from Bruce. Some part of Lex had *wanted* to believe in the myth of Tom Wayne, junior, and the truth had stolen a *dream*.

Could any crime be greater?

One of the education modules the AI had provided for him was very clear about the -- myriad -- acceptable punishments for proven confidence men and women, and while Clark finds many things about old Kryptonian culture deeply strange when not actively barbaric --

There are some things which they'd gotten exactly right. Lex and Bruce *are* Clark's companions, and while his relationship with Bruce is often rather stickier than what would have been approved of, while his relationship with Lex is far more *chaste* than the standard --

They *do* stand beside each other.

They *do* work together to advance society.

They *are* martial allies.

They *do* raise high each other's hopes and dreams, and -- so many other things. *All* of the other things, really, and therefore Clark should be doing *everything* in his power to protect them from their -- their personal *incubus*.

By rights, he *should've* been there this morning, there to take whatever-his-name-is to *task* --

And to be rejected utterly by two of the people he loves most in the *world*. The other two are his *parents* --

Clark hears himself make a terrible noise and immediately flies up and up at speed. He doesn't quite make it to the exosphere before he feels more controlled. More... himself.

(And aren't there questions about that, too?)

Here, the solar radiation is almost a weight -- if the weight could press on every part of his body at once. He's warm, of course, but he also feels *bright*, somehow, light and --

And pure --

He feels like Kal-El up here, and, frankly, he's beginning to think that he could use a bit more of Kal-El down *there*.

The man his biological parents had wanted him to be is dominant, sure, strong, knowledgeable --


Kal-El feels he has a *right* to his powers, and uses them with a will.

*Kal-El's* companions could never be victimized.

Kal-El... probably wouldn't procrastinate in the thermosphere.

Clark smiles ruefully to himself and takes himself back down into the high troposphere, using the altitude to speed his way to Gotham safely.

Bruce had rejected Clark with a gentleness so perfect it *ached* when he'd tried to get him to look beyond an affair which had only lasted a bare few weeks. Lex had used every carefully-worded question about the boy's lying nature as paths to get him closer to --


The boy is here. The boy is standing on the roof of Wayne Tower, firmly within the shadow of the spire --

And he's talking to Hope.

Or, rather --

" -- believe you understand me, Mr. Drake. Lex is... everything."

"Ah. Miss Terrell. He's a *man* --"

"He is the only man worth... anything."

The boy's expression twists in distaste --

Clark really can't --

Well, he'd spent a great deal of time trying to learn the ins and outs of BDSM relationships as quickly and thoroughly as possible after *that* conversation with Lex --

After the visit to Wayne Manor when he'd seen *ligature* marks on Bruce's wrists and ankles --

Clark had only been sixteen then, and the amount of information available -- even with Bruce's help searching -- had been minuscule. It isn't *much* better now, and --

("In the end, Clark, I must trust what feels right and correct.")

Lex, for his part, had taken Clark to certain bars and clubs --

Bars and clubs *he'd* visited when he was Clark's age, but that almost universally barred Clark from entering. Some of them wouldn't let Lex in with Clark even after being offered *bribes*, and, yes, that was embarrassing, but Clark had had to admit that it wasn't any *more* embarrassing than the conversations he'd had inside those clubs.

It isn't that he doesn't understand the appeal of sexualized pain -- Bruce had taught him *thoroughly* about that, often using carefully hoarded stories of the *boy* --

There was a time when Clark had wanted to *thank* the boy for bringing Bruce and Lex together and, inadvertently, bringing them both to Smallville --

Not now.

Not --

" -- consider yourself his... property?"

"Yes," Hope says, and Clark watches her scan the skies. He's too high up for her to see, but she can definitely sense his presence. There's a guilt for that -- he doesn't want her to become *tense* -- but --

He's not yet ready to deal with the boy.

("He told me he belonged to me... and I believed him even after he began to fall for Lex. He *made* me believe him.")

And Lex --

("He taught me... mm. Bruce allows your passions room to fly free, as it were. You never feel that you're too perverse for him, too... outré solely by being who you are...?"

"Yes, of course, but --"

"He enjoyed me, Clark. All -- even the parts of me he *strenuously* objected to.")

Anyone *would*, and --

All right, sometimes Lex is deeply *mean*, and even cruel, but his heart is *always* in the right place, and it's abundantly clear that he builds walls to protect an ultimately *vulnerable* soul --

He can hear Lex *staring* at him -- not laughing. He'd be far too *incredulous* to actually laugh.

Clark sighs -- mostly at himself --

"Is there something... coming?"

"Perhaps," Hope says, and turns to stare at Tim. "Lex desires you greatly."

"I... picked that up --"

"Bruce Wayne desires you, as well, though this is less important."

The boy laughs. "I take it that you *don't* belong to him."

"No, I do not. If one has more than one owner, conflict is almost inevitable. I dislike conflict."

The boy's expression is skeptical as he studies Hope's twin holsters and, perhaps, the obvious skill in her currently only *moderately* belligerent stance.

"Do you have something you wish to say."

The boy winces -- and Clark knows, now, that he's intelligent enough to have noticed Hope's increasing unhappiness.

He would *have* to be intelligent enough to read people's emotions, their needs and fears --

Clark feels the heat building behind his eyes and deliberately looks up, lancing the skies with a burst of heat vision which is thankfully brief. Bruce had comforted Clark in his fear of this power. Lex had tested Clark until exhaustion had left Clark grainy-eyed and *empty* -- and Lex himself slumped unconscious onto his lab table.

It wasn't the first time Clark had carried Lex to bed, and it wouldn't be the last --

"I'm sorry. I don't mean to be... disrespectful."


"Was... that a question?"


"Ah, yes, your -- your eyebrows. I see," the boy says, and swallows -- and then laughs quietly. "I do apologize. I'm... well. I'm not at my best. That's still no reason to treat you badly."

"What would be."

"Um. What? Oh. A reason to treat you badly. Ah... hm. Well... just as an example? Ripping a hole in space-time and yanking me through it -- away from everything I know and love -- and then attempting to seduce me with wild stories of things I couldn't have done... well. That's a reason. In my estimation."

That -- what?

Clark flies down at the highest speed which is still safe for humans -- and Wayne Tower itself --

"Oh my God. Ah. Hello. Superman."

"What's your name, boy."

The boy flinches, steps back -- flares his nostrils and recovers. "My name is Tim Drake, Superman. I take it that you're *not* here to rescue me?"

Rescue -- Clark scowls and crosses his arms over his chest. "I'm here to keep you from victimizing people I care about."

"Victimizing -- all right, just --" Drake growls and glares at nothing for a long moment before turning the glare on Clark. "I think it's *past* time for you people -- *all* of you people -- to deal with the fact that I'm not the boy who did all of these *things* eleven years ago. I'm fifteen. I lead a quiet life of learning how to be a successful businessman with my parents and friends. I play Elfquest. I study the martial arts for personal improvement --"

"It's a very, very bad mistake to lie to me, Drake."

Drake narrows his eyes. "Really. How about I just call you 'alien' and have done with it? I've done *nothing* to earn your enmity --"

"Technically," Hope says, and shows her teeth -- "You lied to him."

Another growl and Drake clenches his hands into fists -- and relaxes them. "All right. Fine. I studied the martial arts because I was obsessed with superheroes -- specifically, the ones from Gotham -- and dreamed about being one of them someday. I sincerely doubt those dreams will bubble up out of my id again anytime soon."

Bruce dreams of having a partner --

In part *because* of things Drake had told him in the past --

Not this Drake? He *hadn't* lied about being fifteen, and while there are relatively *few* differences between the boy standing in front of him and the few low-quality photographs of the boy from nineteen seventy-six... there are some.

Clark scans Drake at speed and finds almost no serious scars, at all -- which is very, very different from the few sketches Bruce had shown him. Clark narrows his eyes --

"Oh -- *what*? What is it now?"

"How is it..." Clark frowns and shakes his head. "You have no idea why you're here instead of the 'Tom Wayne' they were looking for."

"They were babbling about scars I don't have. I -- presumably? I should've had at least some of those scars by now. And I *don't*. More to the point, I *won't*."

Oh. This...

Could something have happened that altered the timeline *after* 'Tom' had gone back to his future?

Could there have been some sort of split? Something that negated 'Tom's' existence?

Clark doesn't shudder -- it would be what the boy *deserved* -- but...

And Hope has cocked her head at him -- she knows he's thinking.

Drake is still only glaring --


Drake -- *Tim* narrows his eyes. "What."

"Tell me -- you wouldn't have taken advantage of my friends."

"I don't take advantage of *anyone*, Superman! I'm -- I try to be a *good* person. I look *up* to heroes and --" Tim shakes his head and grips his own elbows --

Looks panicked --

Drops his arms and begins to pace --

And Hope watches Tim's every move -- and the various access points the roof has, both likely and not. Once Tim is several paces away --

"Are -- is Lex all right?"

"He is... excited. And agitated. And... hungry."

"Do you have any thoughts about Bruce?"

Her expression is a -- mild -- moue. "He has been... grasping."

Hm. "But Lex hasn't been?"

"Lex is never --"

"Not even for the boy?"

Hope looks at him, as blankly intimidating as any android could wish -- no, no, Hope is human, and he has to remember that.

Clark raises his hands in surrender. "Thank you for the information."

Hope inclines her head and turns back to Tim, who is standing at the northwest corner of the rooftop and staring into the distance. Now that Clark considers it, the boy actually has a mild Keystone accent --

Instead of the equally mild but *present* Gotham accent he should -- 'should' -- have.

Clark flies to join him, landing softly at his side. "I'm sorry."

Tim raises an eyebrow at him -- and then shudders. "You had reason to believe that I was the same person who hurt your friends. I... can understand your reactions."

"It's only... the individual you could've been had such a *powerful* effect on them after only a few weeks..." Clark sighs and folds his hands in front of him. "I'm sure Lex and Bruce are working to get you home --"

"Really." Tim's laugh is humorless. "I'm not sure of that in the slightest."

Clark winces. "They -- they must know --"

"Oh, they absolutely know that I'm not the boy who seduced them. They just appear to have decided that I'm close *enough*."

No. That's --

Clark looks down through the Tower until he can find Bruce and Lex -- and they're laughing and joking together in their joint office. Calm, serene --

They're nowhere near the *lab* --

They're happy, and both of them periodically pause to look up toward the roof. Toward *Tim*.

"That's... obscene," Clark says, and feels himself blushing for his companions' sake --

Tim hums and crosses his arms over his chest. "I don't suppose you'll tell *them* that?"

"I will --"

"Will they listen?"

("He has... oh, let's call it a *gift* for asking ridiculously uncomfortable questions, Clark. For asking... and for making the *askee* twist on them. And yes, I know that doesn't sound like the best possible ingredient to add to a love *stew*, but... but.")

"I see," Tim says, and turns back to the Gotham day. Even at this height it seems grey and close compared to other cities --

And Clark knows that it isn't that which is making Tim uncomfortable right now. "I -- they have to send you back, Tim --"

"They both promised they would... and I'm reasonably sure they were both lying. Though I'm not sure if Bruce *knew* he was lying," and Tim's expression turns thoughtful, distant --

"They -- they're both good men," Clark blurts --

Tim laughs quietly. "Yesterday, I didn't doubt that in the slightest."

"You knew who they were."

"My parents own Drake Industries. It was expected that I stay apprised of all other large companies. Additionally, I had come to discover Batman's identity -- no, I won't tell you how --"

"You have to protect the timeline, I know."

Tim turns to face him, studies him openly, warily --

Clark smiles ruefully. "I wasn't in favor of bringing you back to this time."

Tim nods slowly -- and frowns again. "How did they even *find* me?"

"DNA was extracted from the follicles on the hair you left in brushes in the mid-seventies and analyzed to create a biological 'signature' for you. Lex spent the past three years creating a machine which could search the time-stream *for* that particular signature... and retrieve you when you were found."

"I -- how did they not 'retrieve' me as an infant? An octogenarian? *Something* else?"

"I'm afraid I don't know..." Clark closes his eyes for a moment. "I didn't often allow Lex to speak to me about such things."

"Because you disapproved."


Tim nods once. "I... they've offered me... things," he says, and turns away.

Their love, almost certainly -- but. "Like?"

"The opportunity to be Bruce's partner... or Lex's. I don't. It's something I've dreamed --" Tim cuts himself off with a hiss. "I'm sorry, that was --" He shakes his head once. "The important thing is to get me back to my own time before something happens which destroys that time-stream altogether."

"Yes, I agree." I'm just not always sure about my reasons -- no. Clark rests a hand on Tim's shoulder and feels daring, reaching -- something.

Especially when Tim stares at Clark's hand and then looks up at Clark to smile ruefully -- oh.

"Have they -- they've touched you a great deal."

"They really don't seem to be coping all that well with the concept that *I've* never been their lover," Tim says, and blushes, turns away again --

Clark squeezes Tim's shoulder. "You mustn't -- I'll talk to them."

"Tonight? I -- no, I know that I can't really rush *Superman* --"

"My name is Clark," and he cups Tim's other shoulder, as well. "I -- I'm very sorry for the predicament you're in, and for my earlier behavior --"

"I -- you're forgiven," Tim says, and frowns again. "Clark. I'm. I'm very troubled."

"That's understandable --"

"No, I mean -- I can't quite imagine myself --" Tim stops himself with a grunt. "That was almost a lie. I *can* imagine myself doing the things Lex and Bruce discussed, and I don't like those thoughts, at all. I don't -- I don't want to think of myself that way --"

"It is always a mistake to avoid studying the depths of yourself," Hope says, and strokes the butts of her guns with her thumbs. Clark had heard her moving close, but Tim jumps --

Scowls --

And twists his expression into something rather more blandly unreadable. "I suppose Bruce could teach me to move that silently --"


"And, presumably, how to tell when someone is moving that silently *around* me --"

"I have never been able to surprise him," Hope says, and seems to be willing Tim to look at her.

Tim flushes, the back of his neck turning pink and losing warmth in the cool and windy air -- and when he *does* look at Hope, his eyes are hard.

Hope tilts her head to the side. "You're about to say something insulting. Why."

Tim blinks rapidly, steps back, flushes more deeply -- "I -- I'm not sure. I apologize --"

"You did not actually insult me."

"I apologize for the impulse. It's... unworthy."

Hope nods once. "Lex struggles with unworthiness in that respect. Perhaps it is one of the ways he connected with the boy you could have been."

"That's -- a giant maybe. Because I'm not him. And I'm going to go home --"

"You don't want to."

Tim bares his teeth --

"I am only... reading you. What you've said and how you've said it. Perhaps if you had more control over yourself you could be as private as you seem to wish to be."

Tim clenches his hands into fists... and slips into the breathing exercise which was the first thing Bruce had taught Clark in terms of how he could control his powers.

And the first thing 'Tom' had taught *him* --

"Miss Terrell... I would like to ask you a hypothetical question."

"Go ahead."

"How would you feel if you'd been kidnapped away from everything and everyone you knew and cared for -- kidnapped away from your *time* -- only to find yourself the focus of romantic attention for two men who had never known *you*?"

Hope blinks once. "Needed."

"Well -- all right, but --"


Tim frowns --

"I would feel... as though I'd found a home. Even more so than I already do."

Tim winces. "I... you believe I'm disdaining a gift."

"Yes, Mr. Drake, I do."

The wince becomes deeper and Tim nods. "Then I will stop trying to get you to see my point of view, since every effort must seem as insulting as a deliberate slap."

"Lex has taught me to allow excuses for the ignorant."

The wince takes Tim's whole *face* -- and then he laughs and pushes a hand back through his hair again. "Noted, Miss Terrell. I'll keep everything you've said under advisement," and Tim meets her eyes --

Hope narrows them slightly and cocks her head to the side again. "You cannot dismiss me."

"Ah... no? Well -- all right, yes, I can see how that would be Lex's responsibility alone, but... I don't want to risk insulting you again."

"And you believe you would do so if we continued to converse. I see," Hope says, and turns to face Clark with slow, measured grace. "You sympathize with Mr. Drake."

"Yes, Hope, I do. I -- if nothing else, Lex and Bruce are asking for a great deal from someone with no reason to provide it. He... I don't believe Tim has the same --" Issues -- no. Just no. "I believe Tim is, overall, less invested in being... of service," Clark tries --

But Hope narrows her eyes again --

And Tim blushes. That --

"Ah... I know you believe that everyone should be invested in being... useful... ah." 

Tim *starts* to hug himself --

And then walks to the northeast corner of the roof and breathes deeply and roughly --

"He is... soft. Emotionally."

"Perhaps, Hope. It's just as likely -- more so, perhaps -- that he's overwhelmed at present."

Hope strokes her gun-butts again. "He is lying to himself. That's... unacceptable."

"I don't believe he wishes for you to --"

Hope cuts him off with a sharp gesture. "Not me. Not Lex. Not Bruce. That leaves you and Mercy, and Mercy will not want anything to do with him."

Do *you*? Truly? "Ah -- I have to focus on helping him get home --"

This time, her narrowed eyes come complete with a combative stance --

"*Hope* --"

"You will not stand against Lex."

"He -- of course I won't. He's my *companion*. I'm just going to *convince* him --"

"You won't."

"Hope, what they've done is -- is *wrong*!"

"He is... answering his needs. And Mr. Drake's own, once he admits to them."

"It's *kidnapping*, Hope --"

"It's necessary. Lex has been waiting for much too long --"

"*Hope*, I -- can we agree to disagree? Please?"

Hope slips further into a ready-stance --

"I don't want to *hurt* you --"

"You will not --"

"*Hope*," Tim says, sharp and hard --

"You will not interfere, Mr. Drake --"

"Call me Tim," and the laugh is brief, harsh -- "Call me Tim... and, please, leave Clark to his own devices."

"Impossible --"

"*Clark* -- Clark will keep his own counsel with Lex. Won't you, Clark?"

Clark frowns. "Tim, I -- they need to understand --"

"I'll fight my own battles, thank you," and Tim's mouth has a wry twist, his eyes a twisted light in their blue-grey depths. He turns to Hope. "You have no objection to that, I trust?"

Hope stands straight, breathes deeply, and nods. "Lex enjoys your company even when you're being... combative."

Tim's expression grows even more wry. "Lucky, lucky... well. I'd rather not leave chaos in my wake --"

"Then submit to Lex's needs. And to being needed," Hope says, and her command voice is iron softened with the same terrible *blank* seduction which is always there.

Lex desires her -- that much would be clear to any reasonably observant person familiar with human sexuality -- but the desire confuses and frightens him. As, perhaps, it would any reasonably *healthy* man.

Tim frowns for it, taps his foot and shakes his head. "It's not that simple --"

"Yes --"

"It's not that simple for *me*, Hope. Surely you've happened across other people who simply don't work the way you do?"

Hope firms her mouth into a hard line. "I see that you're incapable of speaking to me without lies, as well."

"I -- what --oh. You. You think I'm like you. I see --"

"It's almost time to return to the manor for dinner. Are you ready, Mr. Drake?"

It shouldn't be *possible* for Hope to sound more professional and cold than she normally does... but she does.

Tim appears to be both frustrated and regretful --

Clark cups and squeezes his shoulder again. "If you'd like, Tim, I could take you somewhere rather more quiet for dinner."

Hope... Hope is thinking about kryptonite. That much is clear by the faint line between her perfectly plucked eyebrows.

"Quiet. Yes. Because... Wayne Manor will be something far *less* than quiet --"

"*Please*," Bruce says, through the *comm* --

"I -- excuse me for a moment, please," Clark says, and flies up out of earshot. "I take it that Hope found a way to warn Lex, Bruce?"

"They'd worked out codes weeks before. Clark -- we gave him time. We gave him *privacy* --"

"Hope has been busily working to destroy his sense of *self*, Bruce --"

"We'll only converse with him. We'll ask him about his interests, talk to him about our projects... we need the time to get to *know* him."

"*He* needs time --"

"Hope is telling Lex that he already wants to stay. Is that true?"

"I. His reactions --" Clark shakes his head. "Bruce, how could you even consider --"

"My friend. What would you do if you had to spend over a decade without me? If a chance arose for you to have me *again*?"

"That's -- it's not the *same* --"

"It is --"

"He's *not* Tom Wayne!"

Bruce laughs softly. "You *started* to speak of his reactions... well. It's already there, Clark. That which made him *ours*."

Clark looks down --

Tim is standing alone near the exact center of the roof, deep in the spire's shadows. He's tense and small and *alone*, because Hope is far toward the edge --

And because sometimes Clark is absolutely sure that being with Hope is the same *thing* as being alone --

Like now. Like --

"He needs my help, Bruce."

"Clark --"

"He needs *your* help, too, but you won't give it!"

Bruce hisses between his teeth --

And, when Clark looks, he can see Bruce pacing the double office, rubbing fitfully at his temple --

"Oh, Bruce... I know you're still in love with the boy Tim Drake could've become in some other universe... I. Perhaps that's what you should be doing? Perhaps -- you could focus on looking for him in other universes --"

"Don't, Clark. We both know you only *barely* tolerated us doing this with our *own* universe --"

"It's an abuse of *power*. Think what could happen if the technology got out --"

"Lex and I have discussed destroying the machine. The entire laboratory."

Clark blinks. "Well. That's -- oh. You plan to destroy it before sending Tim *back*?"

"He *wants* what we can give  --"

"He hasn't come to *terms* with that --"

"And so we should send him to an uncertain future? A future where Lex and I came tantalizingly close to having what we wanted and then pushed it away? What would we *become*, Clark?"

He doesn't want to *think* about -- "You -- I would never let either of you *fall* --"

<<Beloved companion, this is not in your power.>>

Clark gasps -- tries to regroup --

<<We have known love, and the scent of home rides high within us. We have a need.>>

"*Bruce* -- just -- it's only *dinner* --"

"Too much. Too far -- and too much of a lie."

Clark feels himself flinching internally. "You don't trust me. You --" <<You would place limits on our companionship?>>

Bruce stops in his pacing --

His heartbeat speeds -- <<Bruce Wayne, I *beg* -->>

Bruce drops into a crouch and clenches his hands together between his knees -- hard enough that two of his knuckles pop --

"Bruce --"

"You -- you don't trust *me*, Clark."

"Not with --" Clark bites his lip. "I know fear, beloved companion."

Bruce exhales, shaky and long, and, in a coincidence Clark doesn't know what to do with, Tim does, too, at nearly the exact same time.

Tim also tilts his head back and closes his eyes. He seems to be preparing himself, or -- gathering himself? It's familiar --

And Clark realizes that he'd seen Tim in just that pose as sketched by Bruce. His legs and torso were slightly longer, his hair wasn't gelled to incomprehensibility, and his muscle tone was more spare and *roped*, but --

But he wants to tell Bruce about this moment, and he wants to be able to show Lex --

Here he is. Your love. He's *human*.

He's just a *boy* --

"I will never injure him," Bruce says, and his voice is as low and rough as it was the night he took his Oath. "I will keep him -- I will love him, always and only love --"

"Sometimes -- sometimes *true* love means letting *go* --"

"You read that somewhere."

Clark laughs helplessly. "*Yes*, Bruce. But I also heard it from my *parents*. Who gave me very *useful* advice about how to deal with always being second best -- if that -- to the men I loved --"

"*Clark* --"

"*No*, Bruce. Not -- not now. It's only... he's just a boy."

"He's --"

"He's *just* a *boy*. It -- it all happened differently for him, and I don't want his lack of scars to *be* a metaphor --"

"But you feel that it is," Bruce says, standing and looking up at the ceiling --

At the sky -- at Clark, himself.

"The potential within him --"

"Is the same as the potential within *any* fifteen-year-old boy. He --"


"*Bruce* --"

"No, Clark. I..." Bruce shakes his head and smiles ruefully. "Please."

Lex looks up, as well -- "Hope says that he asked to fight his own battles."

"He did -- you shouldn't *be* a battle for him, Lex --"

"We can give him happiness, Clark --"

"Yes, precisely --"

"He *left* you both to get *back* to his own time! What -- that should *tell* you something! He *left* --"

And nothing cuts Clark off but the sound of silence. The *ache* of silence, because Bruce and Lex aren't looking up for him --

They're not even looking at each *other* --

Oh --

"Bruce, Lex, I'm sorry. I didn't --"

"Mean it, Clark...?" The smile on Lex's face is cruel, old and *cruel* --

"Oh -- please, Lex --"

"One more chance, Clark. That's all we're asking. One chance to see if we *can* convince him to stay."

Bruce looks up again, and his eyes are *hollow* -- "Please," he says, and he sounds *defeated* --

"*Both* of you --"

"One chance, Clark," Lex says. "Without it -- hn. I've built my life in large part on this moment."

It's true. It's --

Lex used to believe he could grow up to be like his *father*, and of course that wasn't true, but who knows what he might have done in an attempt to prove the point?

Lex and Bruce have rich, full lives full of love, interest, and *hope* -- but they'd never had a conversation before --

When Clark focuses on the roof once more, Tim has his eyes closed and his body held loosely. On Hope and Mercy -- and, to some extent, Lex and Bruce -- that pose means violence is in the offing. On Tim...

Clark doesn't know.

But he knows that Lex and Bruce would give much to figure it out. *How* much is a question Clark never wants the answer to.

Whether or not he needs it.

"All right," Clark says --

"Thank --"

"No, Bruce. Don't -- I will not let you thank me for this. Superman out," Clark says, and toggles the comm to passive receive only. He floats back down to the roof --

And Tim smiles without opening his eyes when Clark touches down. "They convinced you."

"It -- no. They didn't."

Tim raises an eyebrow and only *then* opens his eyes. "So I won't be hustled off to Wayne Manor imminently?"

Clark winces --

A part of the lips which have not yet kissed either of Clark's lovers -- "I see. They... did they, perhaps, give you parameters? A timeline for when you can expect them to set me free? Something?"

Clark -- he doesn't look *away* --"I'll be watching. I -- and I'll visit --"

"The hothouse, yes. Well. I'll just have to convince them both that I'm anything but a flower," Tim says, and raises an eyebrow.

"I -- yes, Tim?"

"I was hoping that was funny."

Clark winces. "I'm afraid --" Of many things. "I'm afraid I don't quite feel like laughing at the moment."

Tim cocks his head to the side. "Because you're disappointed in your good friends?"

"Yes. And -- they're more than my friends. Much more. They -- they all but helped *raise* me --"

Tim holds up a hand. "I understand. In your position, I would be deeply torn. Especially if the 'victim' were as obviously conflicted as I am. It's all right."

"I'm sorry, Tim --"

"Don't be," Tim says, and his smile ages him greatly for all that he has almost nothing in the way of smile *lines*. "I've decided that I'm going to view the next little while as an opportunity to interrogate two vastly interesting men who just happen to have every reason to want to get on my good side. Undoubtedly I'll learn much."

"Is -- please call me, Tim. If there's anything you -- if, perhaps, you want to *speak* to me --"

Tim reaches up and doesn't quite touch the shield on Clark's chest. "Oh. You're quite warm."

"Ah -- yes."

Tim narrows his eyes and strokes the air just beyond the fabric of Clark's uniform, seeming to almost catalogue the heat -- "In my time -- no. If I call to you, will you be able to hear me?"

"If I'm not too far away, yes. I... if I'm *not* there within several minutes of you calling my name, please try again."

Tim nods thoughtfully and moves his hand back to his side. "All right, then. Somehow, I'm quite sure I'll need you sooner rather than later. If only to be able to look at someone who doesn't either want to have sex with me or change my fundamental make-up. Or both, I suppose," and Tim smiles ruefully. "Good evening, Clark. It was -- eventually -- a pleasure to meet you," and Tim offers his hand.

Clark takes it in both of his own and squeezes gently. "I promise you'll be in my thoughts."

"And you in mine," Tim says, taking his hand back and turning on his heel.

Hope already has the roof access door open --

Clark watches Tim walk inside --

He flies.

There's always something else to do.


Tim takes in every part of Wayne Manor with an eye for detail and -- almost certainly -- escape. It's in the loose and ready way he carries himself...

And in the tension in Mercy's shoulders whenever she looks at him.

Mercy had spent the day directing the Blackhawk Engineer Corps in the creation of various traps and redoubts on the manor grounds. Or, rather, in the creation of those things in ways which won't make the grounds *look* as cripplingly dangerous as they will be.

Alfred isn't happy about it, but Alfred had wound up with a dislocated shoulder and a concussion when the Parasite had -- somehow -- decided that Bruce Wayne would be an excellent target.

They'd nearly lost control of the *secret* that day, and only Clark flying *in* several members of the JSA at *speed* had saved them all.

Now Clark has the world's most *severe* 'haz-mat' suit for those times when the threat of the moment can't even be *touched*, Alfred sets off metal detectors in airports, and Wayne Manor will never be an easy target again.

It is the *absolute* least Lex can do --

Mercy tenses again --

Ah, Tim's gaze had just swept over the world's prettiest bulletproof windows.

Lex presses a hand to the small of Mercy's back. "Stand down, darling. I need you relaxed for tonight," Lex says quietly --

But the way Tim's ears color *strongly* suggests he'd heard it, anyway. What will he *think* --

"Yes, Lex," Mercy says. "Will it be the corset tonight?"

Still more color in Tim's ears. Well. He'll be thinking *that*, which is... exactly right. Lex leans over and bites *Mercy's* ear. "We'll see. Dismissed."

"Yes, Lex."

Mercy leaves at a fast walk --

Tim stops in his tracks -- and turns to look at Lex from over his shoulder with one eyebrow raised.

"Yes, Tim?"

"Will you be giving me the actual tour now?"

Oh... bitchy. Lovely. "Did you *need* to have the various rooms captioned for your convenience, darling?"

"It would be nice to know which ones I'm allowed to visit --"

"All of them."

"Hm. Meaning the windows -- and doors -- are just as alarmed as they seem to be."

"Oh... more so," Lex says, and slips his hands into his pants pockets, exaggerating a casual pose to the absolute limit possible --

And perhaps beyond that limit, judging by Tim's sour expression.

That -- "I was never able to hide from you for very long."

"Then why are you *trying*?"

"Because, Tim, I'd very much like to entertain you."

"I -- ah."

"Yes. 'Ah.' Tell me about your life."

"I... finish the tour?"

Protecting his secrets? Difficult to tell, which... is absolutely what it is. Lex nods and gestures Tim to keep going down the hall.

They pass Lex's official bedroom when he stays here -- which has been modernized as much as the manor could stand, but is still a bit too *grim* for Lex's tastes -- and the master suite which Alfred had bullied Bruce into with Lex's help --

Appearances *matter*, even though no one outside of their little family will ever be allowed to see it -- hm.

"Would you like to see your doppelganger, Tim?"

Tim blinks -- and shakes himself like a dog. "Pictures, you mean."

Lex smiles. "Yes. Poke into the master suite for a moment."

Tim hesitates --

But gives Lex no time to say *anything* about getting him closer to a bed before he's walking in.

The walls are papered with Bruce's sketches -- and more finished works done with colored pencils.

Across from the bed is a tableau which had never actually occurred: Him, Bruce, 'Tom,' and Harvey, all seated at one end of one of the cafeteria tables at Exeter, talking and laughing.

It captures Tim's attention immediately, though Lex can't be sure if he *is* looking at himself --

At a boy a solid inch and a half taller, with longer and less irritating hair, subtly leaner features -- and absolutely everything *this* boy has in the way of potential. Lex folds his arms behind his back. "It never happened."

"I... no?"

"Harvey -- that's the gentleman --"

"I. I know who he is," Tim says, and tenses -- releases the tension. Hm.

"You know something."

"He was always Bruce's friend. Ah... the media always suggested something of a good-natured rivalry?"

*Yes*, but you know something else, don't you? Something -- no, Lex will let it lie for now. *Just* for now. "It's good-natured now, yes. But Harvey and I couldn't stand each other when we were teenagers. I reveled in making him angry. *He* reveled in cutting me dead. It was all excessively juvenile."

Tim nods slowly. "Bruce... cares for him deeply."

"He fell for Harvey before he knew you existed... but didn't realize that about himself until after you introduced him --"

"You -- just call him by whatever name -- he's not me." And Tim is flushing again.

"All right. He told Bruce he was Tom Wayne -- Bruce's fraternal twin --"

"And Bruce *believed* him?"

"He had a *vast* wealth of knowledge about Bruce's family -- including details never told to anyone other than Bruce, Alfred, and Leslie Thompkins."

Tim frowns. "Leslie was Thomas Wayne's closest friend -- oh. The fact that I know that... and other things --" Tim *blushes* deeply.

"You're beginning to see how it could've happened, yes?"

"Yes and no. I can see how I deceived Bruce and Alfred, but I don't understand *why*. I mean -- I could've just taken my story to the JSA or someone like that..." Tim frowns more seriously and shakes his head. "He looks like my mother. Our mother, I suppose."

"Janet Drake... who just happens to bear a more than slight resemblance to Martha Wayne. But you don't believe you look like her...?"

Tim's smile is humorless and sharp. "I'm choosing to hold on to an illusion or two. I think I've seen enough of this room."

Lex nods and leads Tim out and upstairs to the attics.

Tim scans them as thoroughly as he'd scanned every other room -- "I believe at least some small part of me knew that there would be this little dust."

"Alfred," Lex says, and strokes a -- clean -- line over one of the bookshelves which *used* to be in his room, "is inhuman."

"Yes, well. You know a lot about that with Clark."

"How *did* you get him to give you his name? He's really rather deeply in hate with -- Tom Wayne."

"Thank you," Tim says, and peels back the sheet covering the bust of Martha Wayne which Bruce periodically brings downstairs for a week before bringing it back here again. "And I managed to convince him that I wasn't the boy who had hurt both you and Bruce so badly."

"The hurt is meaningless --"

"Bullshit, Lex. I mean, really. If it *were* meaningless? You'd actually be able to look at me like a person as opposed to a personal *triumph*."

"Darling --"

"No, thank you."

Lex hums and moves behind Tim, reaching out to stroke Martha's marble cheekbone --

Tim shivers --

"I always looked at you this way... once I accepted that I desired you at least as much as you desired me --"

"*Tom* --"

"My apologies," Lex says, and steps back. "Every moment you fence with me is another moment of my past -- and present -- validated. I could never have had you and my father's company."

"Well -- he's still *alive*."

"*That*... wasn't in my plan for the future."

Tim starts and spins to face him. "You -- you planned to." Tim swallows and stares.

Lex smiles wryly. "Good to see that I hold on to my resolve -- at least in the public eye -- for another several years."

Tim winces --

And Lex -- he cups Tim's face for a *moment*, strokes his sharp cheekbone -- "This isn't a game you're capable of winning, Tim. Your entire existence --"

"Is on the *cusp*. I -- what the hell do you plan to do when Janet Drake gives *birth*?"

"It seems entirely likely that she won't, with you here --"

"God, *Lex* --"

"Or that she'll give birth to someone else entirely. Something tells me that you *have* always wanted a brother --"

Tim steps back, turns, and walks out of the attic.

Lex follows --

"I wouldn't -- I wouldn't *create* one out of whole cloth --"

"And if you *had* been Bruce's partner?"

Tim stops, clenches his hands into fists -- relaxes them, and speaks in a clear, even tone. "Then it would be all the more important to me to return things to a status quo that changed as few things about the past as possible. I -- I wouldn't want to risk *not* becoming his partner, Lex." The end of that was... almost a plea.

"You care for him."

"He's important to the safety of the city -- the *world* --"

"Tim. That wasn't what I asked."

"I don't know him, therefore --"

"*Therefore*, you care about the image of him. Hero, philanthropist, businessman... he's all of those things, Tim."

"Yes, he's also a kidnapper. And so are *you*. So. More of the tour?"

"Anything you say -- darling."

Tim snarls at him -- and bites it back beautifully.

Lex suspects he has another triumphant smile on his face, but Tim isn't looking at him, anymore -- so.

Lex shows him Bruce's greenhouse.

Lex gives Tim gloves and a rebreather and shows him *Batman's* greenhouse.

Lex shows him the pool he finds ways to make Bruce enjoy at least twice a month --

"I... note that you haven't pointed out any particular bedrooms for me to use."

"You get to choose -- Alfred would like for you to do that as soon as possible. There are also guest bedrooms in the Wayne Tower penthouse."

Tim's mouth is a hard line -- but he nods. "That's... reassuring."

"Neither of us are rapists."

"No, I --" Tim breathes deeply and pinches the bridge of his nose. "I'm willing to trust you on that. It's just... the way Bruce spoke about sleeping with me."

"He would give a great deal to spend the night with you, since that's one of the things Tom wasn't able to give him."

Tim frowns at the perfectly placid pool -- "Why not?"

Well... "They believed they had to do their best to keep their sexual relationship out of Alfred's face --"


Lex smiles and spreads his hands. "He's Alfred. *One* of the ways he's inhuman is that it's never entirely clear how he feels about any given situation. According to Harvey in one of his less straitlaced moments, it looked like Bruce was growing into someone *just* like that --"

"Ah. I find that difficult to -- oh. You're about to tell me Tom changed that about him."

"You always did catch on *quickly*."

"*Lex* --"

"Was that a lie? Think about it."

Tim -- colors. It's impossible to tell whether it's a flush or a blush, and it makes Lex want to see if Tim will squeak on *these* tiles --

And Mercy buzzes him with the code for 'non-urgent gathering requested,' which -- "Come with me. Dinner is ready."

Tim nods. "I -- what did you have to do in order to get the opportunity to give me this tour?"

"Nothing. Bruce and I are working together in this, and, yes, you should probably find that as intimidating as possible."

Tim snorts --

"Oh, I've *missed* that sound --"

"Your tragedy makes me weep bitter tears, Lex."

Lex uses hard-won speed to move around in front of Tim -- "Let me kiss you."


"Let me touch your mouth."

"*No* --"

"Do I -- look strange to you?" And it's a matter of will not to show *anything* for that question --

And a matter of even stronger will to show absolutely everything.

Tim -- gasps. Lex nods. "You weren't expecting honesty for that question. Give me yours."

"You -- I've always --I already said I found you attractive --"

"But do you find me *strange*?"

"Why --" Tim *starts* to rub his hands on his jeans -- and stops himself. "He didn't find you strange."

"He said he'd seen far, far stranger things than me. Going with the idea that he *had* been Bruce's partner... well, that makes a great deal more sense. You haven't had anything like that sort of... crucible. How do you feel?"

"Like you *kidnapped* me! That -- it *automatically* makes you odd and threatening and *dangerous* --"

"I'll never hurt you --"

"No. You'll just do everything in your power to break the fucking -- do you have any *idea* how often I *don't* curse?"

Lex smiles. He *has* to -- "It suits you. As do your growls, snarls, and other animalistic tendencies."

"*What* tendencies?"

"What will you give me for an answer?"

"A kick to the *groin* --"

"Let me kiss you --"

"Still. *No*."

Lex begins walking backwards toward the small dining room. "'Still' implies --"

"That the answer remains the same. *Nothing* else."

"Come to the office with me tomorrow --"

"Do I have a choice?"

Lex smiles. "You could stay here. Bruce is dying to show you the cave. He, of course, refers to it as The Cave, but it would be lovely if you could restrain yourself from that."

"Lovely. You --" Tim narrows his eyes at him. "What exactly will you do if, say, I wind up having sex with Bruce and *not* you?"

Oh, darling, you used to stab me *mostly* by accident --

Time passes for everyone -- and perhaps it took being with Bruce to teach you how to be gentle.

Darling -- "I'll hurt. I'll rage. I'll smash things -- in the tower, not here, because Alfred is more than capable of poisoning my food. I'll throw myself into my other lovers. I'll -- eventually -- move on. And wish you both all of my best."

Tim frowns just as if he's looking for the lie in that statement --

He'd figured out all of Lex's *other* lies -- "Also? People don't have sex with Bruce. People make *love* with Bruce. There's simply no other way to go about it, and fuck only knows how much I *tried*."

"But --"

"I didn't want to have Bruce as my lover, Tim. I wanted *you*, and it was only Bruce's dogged, terrifying dedication that gave me the ability to look beyond the ghost in our machines."

Tim looks down -- "He's Batman."

"Among many other things, but, yes, I rather dislike thinking about the number of times he's saved his own life by dint of simply being more hardheaded than everyone else in the known *universe* -- and here we are," Lex says, and moves to the small and beautiful *square* table Alfred had produced when neither of them had managed to come up with a solution to the problem of the larger table's head.

Mercy is standing at attention by the windows, and will stay there until they retire to another room with windows.

Lex gestures Tim to sit --

And the floods come on outside for the setting of the sun. He'd chosen the warmest lights possible, but he knows Bruce still finds them upsetting from time to time. They'd compromised on it as they'd compromised on dozens of other things -- there's a half-acre of forest surrounded by mostly flat and clear terrain. The flat terrain is a well-lit killing ground; the forest is as black and thick as anyone could wish.

Tim takes the chair which leaves his back to the wall, and -- hm.

"How much security did your parents tend to use?"

"Ah... less than you. Still, with all the attempts on your and Bruce's lives, basically every high-level executive made contract with some security firm or another. I paid close attention to the lessons our security people chose to teach," and Tim lays his napkin out on his lap.

Lex circles the table thoughtfully --

Strokes the back of Tim's chair --

"Please sit down, Lex."

Lex pauses just within Tim's peripheral vision. "I'm making you nervous."

"You're an intelligent man. I believe you can deduce why."

Lex smiles and sits across from Tim. "Tell me about your father."

Tim narrows his eyes at him again -- "Tell me about yours."

"A tyrant. A murderer. A thief. A con-man. An abuser. A recruiter of supervillains. A *supporter* of supervillains. A curiously mammalian lizard, when not a weasel... you get the gist."

"Why *haven't* you been able to get him arrested?"

Damn. "You've just depressed me terribly, you know."

"I -- no! It -- nothing I said implied *anything* about whether or not he's incarcerated in my time!"

Lex looks at Tim.

Tim groans quietly. "I -- *damn* it --"

"Look on the bright side --"

"There *isn't* one. You -- you're just going to try *harder* to get him put away, and that means you'll devote less time to all of the important projects you would otherwise be focusing on, and the world will lose -- a great deal."

"Or," and Lex raises a finger, "we'll actually succeed at removing that bastard from the proverbial board, and thus be *able* to focus on things other than our security."

Tim frowns, clearly searching for loopholes and other problems with Lex's argument.

Lex waits --

Tim sighs. "All right. I -- all right. There are two sides to anything. Or more. I suppose."

"Indeed. As a further example, I believe Tom destroyed his own timeline during his visit to the past."

"Well, *yes*. Otherwise I'd *be* him."

"Just so -- well. Assuming he wasn't a time *and* multiverse traveler."

Tim snorts again. "We wouldn't want to make too many assumptions."

"No, no, definitely not. Still, if we call it a 'working hypothesis' rather than an assumption, we should be in good shape."

"I --"

"Lex. How many times have I told you that there is to be no marketing at the dinner table?" And Bruce is smiling as he walks in --

He'd probably wanted Tom at a table just like this one --

"Tim. Are you comfortable?"

Tim smiles wryly. "About as much as can be expected, Bruce. Please, sit -- Lex is about to tell me the *good* side of 'Tom Wayne' having destroyed his own timeline."

Bruce blinks. "I... have to say that I look forward to hearing that," and he sits down between Lex and Tim and turns to fill Tim's glass with ice water. "I'm very happy to have you here, Tim."

"Yes, well, I'd assumed that would be the case when I realized that I didn't have any choice in the matter, Bruce."

Bruce winces -- "I thought. If you'd insisted, Clark would've taken you away."

*Tim* blinks. "I... see. And why, precisely, did you think I would know that?"

"It seemed..." Bruce closes his eyes for a long moment, blinks them open, and then does his level best to penetrate Tim with his gaze. Lovingly. "A part of me has had you at his side from the very first day we met --"

"Not. *Me*."

Lex covers Bruce's hand with his own. "Tim has asked us to refer to... the other as Tom."

Bruce nods. "All right. You have my apologies --"

Tim waves a hand. "I believe I'll wait to accept those until such time as you're sending me back. But you were saying?"

"I've imagined endless conversations with... Tom over the years. And many of those conversations were about Clark. I always knew you'd approve of him. And trust him."

"At the moment, I'm more inclined toward thinking of him as your and Lex's best friend than thinking of him as the World's Greatest Hero -- and friend to little boys lost."

Lex sighs. "That *will* wound him --"

"And it's entirely our own fault," Bruce says, and shakes his head once. "As ever, we owe him much."

Lex jabs the table. "At the moment, we owe him our *vow* to make the most of the time he's given us --"

"To seduce me, yes?"

"Yes," Bruce says, solid and implacable and distressing enough to make Tim's eyes go wide and his pulse beat faster in his throat.

Arousing enough? When *Lex* was fifteen...

But Tom at sixteen had the sort of self-control which could choke a man -- certainly it had done a damned good job of choking *him*.

"Just... checking," Tim says, and shakes himself like a dog before turning back to Lex. "Please. Give me the *good* side of things, if you can."

"A dare?"

"A plea," Tim says, and the honesty is raw, shocking --

Lex kicks Bruce under the table and *then* looks -- yes, he'd been starting to get up. "Baby steps, Bruce."

Bruce hums and stares at his own hands -- "As you say."

Tim is managing to look annoyed, worried, *and* curious --

Lex tries to *will* the boy into letting that curiosity *loose* -- no joy. He straightens his silverware minutely and turns to Lex with an expectant look.

"All right. You already have the basics. Bruce and I never would've come together in any meaningful way if we hadn't been *struck* by both Tom's presence and his absence. If he'd stayed long enough, there's no doubt in my mind that he *would* have tried to heal the rift between us -- in truth, he'd already begun making efforts toward that end. His loss slowed things down immensely as we stewed in jealousy, grief, and might-have-beens, but I finally broke down enough to invite Bruce to join me for the last Spring Break of our high school careers..."

"And I broke enough to accept. Granted, I might not have, had Harvey been less focused on his future career and staying politically *clean* enough *for* that career -- and Tom had little enough to do with that -- but he did. I needed Tom desperately by then, and Lex had pieces of him I'd never seen."

"The same, of course, was true in reverse. As something between a peace offering and several different weapons aimed at myself, I brought Bruce to Smallville, Kansas -- the place where being caught in a meteor shower had caused me to lose all of my hair, and the ability to grow hair anywhere save for my eyebrows and eyelashes." Lex pauses then and raises an eyebrow --

But Tim shows only polite patience. Well enough.

"I couldn't quite use it as a bid to gain sympathy, but it was my intention to use it as something... hmm. Something which would allow Bruce to see me as a person."

"As opposed to as the smirking, mincing caricature of overblown and feminized cruelty which was the persona Lex presented at school," Bruce says, and smiles ruefully. "It was Tom who first pointed out to me that it *was* an act. All I could think was that his eyes were too hard, too... off-putting. It was really remarkably easy to ignore them in favor of all the *other* off-putting things," Bruce says, and sips his water.

"For my part... until the day when I took the blinders off and realized that the boy Tom was keeping secret from me could only *be* Bruce, I thought of Bruce as only the hulking yet awkward, child-like yet robotic, creepy yet *pathetic* piece of blue-blooded failure that had washed up on my personal shore. I'd assumed that Harvey -- Bruce's *only* friend -- only agreed to that label out of a blend of pity and misplaced opportunism, and that the *hollowness* in his eyes was proof that were was something fundamentally *absent*."

"And so there was."

Lex smiles at Bruce --

And Bruce covers Lex's hand with his own. "Companion."

Lex raises an eyebrow. "Already working out *how* you'll apologize to Clark?"

"Soonest begun... is soonest begun," Bruce says, and turns to Tim. "Without Lex -- and without Clark, who we *met* on that trip --"

"Oh! I -- I see. Ah. Go on?"

Bruce, predictably, seizes somewhat on Tim's surprise and curiosity. Lex himself is made of... exactly the same sort of stuff.

Lex sighs. "At that point, Bruce was only two months away from embarking on his world tour of obsession. It had *been* his plan to leave then Wayne Enterprises in Lucius Fox's more than capable hands. Instead, he agreed to split control of the company among the three of us... and I began working to, among other things, find ways to *protect* Bruce's lunatic ass, and also to help Clark become who he needed to be. Bruce helped with that, too, of course -- Clark was in no way averse to running across oceans to be with the man who'd become his first lover."

Bruce smiles. "I would appreciate the opportunity to talk to you about Clark, Tim. I... if you ever wish --"

"Ah. I'll let you know," Tim says, and licks his lips. "So what you're saying is that Tom brought you -- all of you -- together in ways which wouldn't have been possible without him?"

Lex inclines his head. "I'd planned out my life starting with the murder of my father."

Bruce squeezes Lex's hand. "I'd planned out my life starting with the belief that I would never again know anything resembling companionship... until such time as I managed to find... Tom again."

Tim narrows his eyes. "And so... you're saying that even though both of you *did* still focus on getting Tom back, you still..." Tim licks his lips and stares down at the table. "You consider it... worth it. You --" Tim laughs quietly and without humor. "It is worth it. More than -- possibly -- anything else. If Tom was anything like me... he would've considered it worth it, too."

"No," Bruce says. "There is nothing *worth* the loss of a life. We don't consider his life *to* be lost."

"I'm not him, Bruce," Tim says, and his voice is quiet, *tired* --

"You've already begun training yourself to be --"

"*Nothing*. I --" Tim looks up and glares at both of them. "I was planning to give *up* martial arts. I -- my mother was bringing me into the business, teaching me *her* way of doing things --"

"Darling --"

"*No* --"

"Tim," Lex says, and lets his voice be as challenging as it wants to be --

Yes, he has Tim's attention. His *wary* curiosity --

Good enough. Lex nods once. "Are you honestly saying that you would've turned yourself into -- what's the phrase Lucius uses?"

"'Corporate leeches,'" Bruce says, and smiles wryly. "The last one he was forced to meet with... well, I believe he came very near to stabbing her with a pen."

Tim coughs a *reluctant* laugh --

"Yes, *that*, Tim," Lex says and leans in. "*Whatever* your mother wanted from you, *you* knew what our business model was all about, and you planned to emulate it."

"I wouldn't have been able to. My mother -- my parents' control would've been absolute --"

"Not forever. Or didn't you ever consider striking out on your own?"

Tim frowns and stares down at the table -- no.

Lex lifts Tim's chin --

"I didn't give you permission to do that."

"You have my apologies --"

"They're meaningless with you still *touching* me --"

"You're beautiful --"

Tim growls and *knocks* Lex's hand aside, glaring -- and then visibly controlling himself. "It -- none of it -- was that simple. The universe lost an operative due to said operative's *meddling* in the past. In return, it gained an overly cautious cipher of a teenager with a *lack* of self-control --"

"No," Bruce says, and cups Tim's shoulder. "You will not speak about yourself that way --"

"What do you plan to do about it? Kiss me whenever I look like I'm thinking thoughts you don't approve of?"

Bruce smiles ruefully. "The thought has some appeal."

"It does *not* -- to me. I -- look, all I'm saying is that it wasn't an even trade. Or. I... I don't know. I don't know what sort of universe Tom came from, or --"

"He told Alfred and me that the Lex he knew was, for all intents and purposes, a fascist."

Tim's jaw drops -- slightly. Then he closes his mouth and shakes his head --

Lex strokes a line over Tim's knuckles. "He could've been lying, of course... but. He was vastly surprised by me. Surprised enough that *both* Bruce and I noticed it -- which is saying something, considering what a *consummate* liar Tom was. He nearly tripped over his own feet when I mentioned an abiding care for the fates of the innocent, and he made more than one effort to get me to admit to the more negative sorts of megalomania."

"You believe he was trying to make you into someone he could understand."

"From the very first day at school..." Bruce smiles and shakes his head. "He was agitated and driven the way he wasn't when it was just the two of us and Alfred here. He was even suspicious of *Harv*."

And Tim tenses. That --

"That's two, darling. What aren't you telling us about Harvey?"

"I'm not -- I won't interfere --" Tim shakes his head and pulls back from both of them. Hell, from the *world*. He's made himself into a contained little being of outward nothingness --

*Blankness* --

And Bruce's expression is dark. "Tim. You must tell us --"

"Ah -- no. No, I don't."

What could it be? Tom hadn't told *him* anything about Harvey --

Bruce curls his hands into fist. "Tim. I... I'm begging you. Harvey is so important. He -- he's sacrificed so much --"

"He gave *Bruce* up just so he would be free to be the first *non*-corrupt DA Gotham has had since the nineteenth fucking century, Tim. *If* then."

"He..." Bruce swallows. "He's been kidnapped. Tortured. Shot at. Stabbed -- please. Will someone succeed in killing him? You -- Gotham *needs* him --"

"I *can't* tell you, Bruce! You -- there's so much that can change --"

"Would it really be for the worse, Tim? Do you have any *idea* how much good Harvey has done --"

"*Everyone* knows. It's all over --" Tim's teeth click together and shakes his head --

"Something public," Bruce says, and looks thoughtful. "Something which will resonate even years later --"

"I didn't say --"

"You did," and Bruce's tone is absent and dark. "You're too agitated for whatever it is to be something which won't happen for years. It's soon."

Tim blushes. Yes.

"What did Tom say about Harvey, Bruce? What *hints* did he give?"

"Very few. He..." Bruce seems even more absent for a moment. "He was worried about the secret coming out. He believed -- strongly -- that it was dangerous for Harvey to know too much about our plans for the future, or even about our love for each other."

"And so he clearly believed that it was *possible* for Harvey to turn against you."

Bruce nods slowly. "He was... terrified. Nearly hysterical. I thought it was jealousy. I still *do* believe that jealousy played a role... but." Bruce nods again. "Tom wouldn't have allowed himself to lose control that much for simple jealousy. He was far too practical."

Lex hums and leans back enough to cross his legs. "How *much* control did he lose? You never specified."

"He threw me against the door when I tried to hold him. And took off his jacket in preparation for *beating* me when I refused to move from that place."

Lex blinks. "Violence. Actual -- hm." He turns to Tim. "Any of this sounding familiar?"

Tim folds his hands in his lap and stares at them. He's tense, but no more or less so than before --

"Tim. Look at us."


"Darling --"

"You can call me anything you like, but --"

"Is his *life* in danger?"

And Lex can just see Tim squeezing his eyes shut -- hm. "Are *other* people's lives in danger?"

For just a moment, Tim's knuckles show white --

And Alfred is there with the tray holding their dinner. Bruce starts to hold up a finger, but Lex grips his arm and shakes his head. They're going to have to surprise it out of Tim.



The food is tasteless in Bruce's mouth. He'd known it would be -- that he'd be giving the lion's share of attention to Tim -- but he hadn't guessed it would be for *this* reason. And that --

That is precisely the sort of foolishness he's invited on himself. The fact that he and Lex would apparently survive at least relatively unscathed far into the future did *not* mean their friends and loved ones would have the same luck.

There's so much Lionel Luthor *alone* could do -- and the man never *worked* alone if he could help it. There was always a patsy, a fall-guy, a *front* of some sort. Some of them were metahumans with frightening powers; *all* of them were individuals who feared Lionel Luthor's wrath far more than they feared the criminal justice system -- no matter *how* much money and care B-L had funneled to the various metahuman -- and otherwise -- prisons over the years. 

More than once, Bruce has wondered what the world would be like if the man had a stroke, or a particularly debilitating heart attack. He *isn't* especially old -- he's barely out of his prime -- but --

But it's always been far too easy to imagine one of Lex's *cold* rages getting the best of him. Lex had told him about his former plans -- *confessed*, in that belligerently shameless way he has -- one night in Bangkok. Lex had flown out with plans for an expansion he refused to discuss over the phone, and his skin had a sheen of sweat that had left Bruce's groin feeling heavy -- and left the rest of him feeling *needy*.

He'd consumed frightening amounts of Mekhong liquor --

His face and bared chest had been flushed --

And, after Lex had finished speaking, Bruce had had to face himself with the knowledge that he was no less aroused by him than he'd been *before* the speech. He --

("*Give* it to me, Bruce. Show me -- show me approbation, loathing --"


"Bruce --"

"I. I *can't*, Lex --"

"Oh. You. Did you fall in love again, Bruce?")

The feverish cant to his words, the slow and drunken grace of his body as he moved to cup Bruce's face --

("I can't let you *do* that --"

"It's too late --"

"You don't understand. You don't -- I have to *protect* you, Bruce. You're so --"

"Stay with me tonight --"

"Yes, of course, but this isn't --")

He hadn't let Lex finish speaking then, and, after, he didn't try to pick up the same thread.

They both knew he hadn't *forgotten* -- just as they both know that Lex will *always* work to protect... in his own ways.

Harvey had pushed Bruce away with dozens of gentle refusals, countless occasions when he'd chosen to spend the *whole* of a night with Bruce in some public place or another...

Lex had protected him from that, as well. He'd made himself available for Bruce's need to mourn Harvey's loss, and he'd made a point of putting his rivalry with Harvey aside so that Bruce would never have to choose between them. For his part, Harvey had shaken Lex's hand at graduation and given him that sort of manfully *even* look that other men have always managed to find *meaningful*.

Bruce has always needed rather more than that, though he'd managed to keep a proper *edge* on himself whenever the Batman has needed to speak to Gotham's D.A. Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent are friends. The Batman and the District Attorney are close allies in a war which is fought in the darkness, and --

If Harvey knows that Bruce and the Batman are the same man -- and he *must* -- then he's never shown that in any way. Even at his worst -- and *both* Bruce and the Batman have noticed the hollow spaces in his gaze, the tender and seemingly *bruised* flesh beneath his eyes --

Lately, he's been so *exhausted*, but --

Even at his worst, he doesn't *slip*, he doesn't show --

He's always been so *conscious* of himself, so invested in his own definition of perfection. Slipping in one respect would mean -- to him -- that he'd failed in *every* respect, and, even though the Batman has only been working officially for a year, Bruce has already faced any number of people with that sort of mental *hobbling* ---

People who beat *themselves* as much as -- or more than -- the Batman beats *them* --

Bruce pauses and frowns --

And Lex and Tim note it immediately. Tim looks frightened, Lex seems *avid* --

He can't think of Harvey that way. Can he?

Should he?

"Bruce, what is it?"

"I..." Bruce sets his fork down and looks into Lex's eyes, knowing his own are showing far too much --

"Fuck. What did you *think* of? I can't think of anything --"

"He's going to break, Lex."

"You -- what?"

Out of the corner of his eye, Bruce can see Tim's grip tighten on the fork. Just that. *Only* that.

It's enough. "The tension in him is too great. The pressures on him... he has no *outlet* --"

"His wife is a perfectly wonderful woman --"

"He doesn't *show* her everything, Lex," Bruce says, and knows he looks wild, desperate --

And Lex's gaze goes distant. He's looking deep within himself for answers, memory -- "You're treating him like one of the Batman's enemies. You're thinking of him that way, I mean."


"And -- you don't think that's dangerous? What if we try to have him put away and that only leaves him vulnerable to an assassin's bullet?"

Bruce fights back a groan -- breathes and grips the table. "He doesn't -- if he *did* talk to Gilda --"

"But he doesn't. No, I know. I thought he was going to use that police-issue forty-five to perforate me when I accidentally let slip to her about the latest round of death threats from Thorne's people... damn. He doesn't have a confidant."

"I should have tried harder to stay close to him --"

"It's *not* too late," Lex says, and jabs at the table next to his mostly-empty plate. Had he tasted his own food?

"I don't know -- he may feel that he *has* to keep me at a distance because of the Batman --"

"He doesn't get to *have* that luxury. Just -- what the *fuck* would this city do with another hyper-political *hack* in that office?"

Bruce turns to look at Tim.

Lex does the same --

And Tim has his hands folded in his lap again --

"Bruce. He hasn't warned us away from sending you after him with a vengeance."

"No, he hasn't." Bruce narrows his eyes and considers -- "He believes it won't be enough."

"Yes, I -- hm. I could -- fuck, no, I couldn't. He'd shut me down so damned fast --"

"We could try *together*, Lex --"

"Yes, but -- this can't be something we *try*. This -- we may be looking at a one-chance situation."

Bruce grips the table again -- stops. "I'm inviting him over tonight."

Lex raises an eyebrow at him. "You're planning on giving Batman the night off?"

"Yes. I... we can't do this in his office or his home."

"No, you're right, he has to be on at least mildly unfamiliar ground..." Lex rubs at his chin with his finger and leans back. "We could bring Tim into this."

Tim looks up and stares at both of them in shock, *fright* --

Bruce presses his hands to the table to keep them from shaking obviously --

Lex sees them *anyway* --

And so does Tim. He swallows and closes his eyes for a moment, opens them and shows nothing but *plea*. "You can't -- you can't risk this technology getting *out* --"

"We could always say you're from an alternate universe," Lex says, and runs a finger around the rim of his water glass. "Leave the time travel aspects completely out of it --"

"He -- you can't --" Tim growls and beats the table with his fist *twice*. "I don't know why I'm even bothering --"

"Because it's important to you," Bruce says, and tries to keep his voice as soothing as possible --

"You know, if you're going to insist on treating me like a child, then it's going to be *really* disturbing when you finally do touch me in some *wildly* inappropriate way," and Tim pinches the bridge of his nose, letting his head hang --

Nothing could ever *be* inappropriate --

But it had taken Bruce time to convince Tom of that, to --

No. That conversation in the photo booth. Tom had *tried* to tell Bruce something like the truth, tried to explain himself without doing anything of the kind --

Had he known regret that he managed to hide even from Bruce? He'd said he found it impossible to resist Bruce anymore, and he'd begged, pleaded, *shared* --

"It -- it should be important to *you*, Bruce! To *both* of you --"

"Darling, it's *immensely* difficult to feel loyal toward a future in which Harvey Dent is in danger and *you're* located somewhere in fucking *Keystone*."

Tim flares his nostrils, and the heat behind his eyes brings Bruce back to Exeter, back to a Cave which was never empty enough, back to an overfull bedroom --

"Listen to me. Neither of you have the *right* to play games with the time-stream. Who are you to say what should and shouldn't *happen*?"

"With our friends and loved ones? I daresay we're the most important people other than the friends and loved ones themselves."

"You arrogant *prick* --"

"That's me all right," Lex says, and smiles brightly. "Now ask yourself -- are you really upset with us for wanting to fix things before they break? Or are you upset with yourself for being forced into taking a position you'd never *want* to take?"

Tim blanches, becoming pale save for two spots of color high on his cheeks. His eyes are wide and almost too *caught* to be beautiful, and his Adam's apple bobs twice.

Lex inclines his head. "You have nothing to be ashamed of, Tim --"

"Fuck you. All right? *Fuck* you," Tim says, standing up with a sudden gracelessness and throwing his napkin down on the table --

"Tim --"

"Do what you want, Bruce. Destroy my world for the sake of your own -- selfish *hungers*. I don't care anymore --"

"That's *not* true --"

"It doesn't *matter* whether I care or *not*," and Tim is jabbing his finger at the air, flushing once more --

Bruce stands --

"Stay *back* --"

"I won't move from this spot, Tim, but please, stay and talk with us --"

"Nothing I say makes any *difference*. You -- I should've known the two of you would be like this. Only the most obsessively *entitled* men in the world could ever -- ever --" Tim claps his hands over his face and shudders --

And Lex is moving close, slowly and silently --

"I can *feel* you coming --"

"It's all that presence I have. It works *wonders* on the shareholders, darling --"

"Please, Lex. Please -- I don't even know what I want to *ask* you for," and Tim drops his hands and stares at Lex. He's tensed enough --

He grunts when Lex starts to massage his facial muscles with expert care, shudders and sways --

And Bruce proves himself a liar by moving close enough to hold Tim still, steady, *upright* --

"You want to ask me for something I might actually give. You want..." Lex sighs and strokes the corners of Tim's mouth with his thumb. "We don't want to destroy your world, Tim. We just want to change it, *remake* it into something better, brighter, more *hopeful* -- and not just for the two of us."

Tim shudders again --

And Bruce starts to massage Tim's shoulders. "We need you, Tim, and I believe that it is selfish and... the Master of Students at Exeter would use the word 'unbecoming.' I believe that's an intensely shallow way of saying *wrong*. I..." Bruce squeezes his eyes shut and lowers his head, breathes deep -- "Your hair smells like chemically adulterated fruit."

Lex coughs.

Tim stiffens and turns enough to stare at him.

"I... hm. I apologize for the non sequitur."

Tim blinks at him.

Bruce massages the back of Tim's neck with slow, gentle care until Tim's eyelids seem to become too heavy for him. "Tim..."

"You won't. You won't seduce me into -- *anything* --"

"Tim," Lex says, and presses his thumbs to Tim's cheekbones, turns him -- "Let us be who we are."

"I can't *stop* you from doing that --"

"Accept us."

"Nothing *happens* --"

Bruce squeezes the back of Tim's neck firmly --

"*Fuck*. I -- I --"

"It's all right, Tim. We'll give you everything. You'll never want for anything --"

Tim laughs and systematically removes Lex's and Bruce's hands from his face and body.

"Darling --"

"Parents. How about those, guys? Yes? No?" Tim laughs again, and it's a sour thing, harsh and full of something like *hate* -- though Bruce can't be sure who it's aimed at. "It seems to me that *parents* are something the two of you can't do a thing to improve on --"

Lex steps back --

And that's when Bruce realizes that he'd done the same thing.

Tim flares his nostrils again and nods, jerking his t-shirt back down over his hips. "All right, then. I'll remember this," he says, then turns and walks out of the room.

"Hope has him in view," Mercy says, quiet and matter-of-fact.

"Thank you, Mercy. I..." Lex laughs quietly and seems to be *considering* rubbing a hand back over his scalp. He doesn't do it. "Call Harv, Bruce."

"We hurt him."

"Tim? Yes. Though it was mainly my fault for pointing out that he was playing Devil's Advocate."

Bruce nods once. "He's not ready to think about that. Which calls into question his attempt to bring the issue of parents to the fore."

"It sure as fuck worked on *us*. As he meant it to."

"He already wants to stay here, Lex."

"Yes, he does."

"Therefore... his parents must not be especially... caring? Perhaps."

"They *could* be actively abusive. As of yet, we have no way to no for sure."

"Clark would've mentioned those sorts of injuries --"

"If the abuse was physical, Bruce. I... yes. We'll let him believe he got one over on us *completely* -- as opposed to partially -- and deal with the Harvey issue."

"Yes," Bruce says and heads for the drawing room. "I don't suppose we can look into the Drakes."

"I'd like to. I'd like to *extremely* much -- but."

"There's no way to be sure if what they're like now is the same as what they will be like --"

"Assuming we haven't already changed the future," Lex says, and smiles brightly.

"I believe we should feel guilty about this... urge."

"We should absolutely feel guilty about the urge to seduce a fifteen-year-old boy --"

"Until he squeaks, yes. But not for the urge to rewrite the timeline?"

Lex turns his smile on Bruce, and it's sharp enough that Bruce can't help but remember the feel of those teeth on his throat -- "I submit that the two of us -- the *three* of us -- were born to change the world."

"That sounds very much like hubris, Lex."

"Hubris wouldn't piss off the gods so much if it wasn't so often *true*."

"It often isn't --"

Lex waves a hand. "History's written by the winners -- not by the spiders with beautiful webs. Besides -- *long* before you met Tom, you'd decided that you were going to change the world. As had I."

Bruce nods thoughtfully. "Clark... I want Clark to help us. To be a part of as much of this as possible."

"Agreed, and I'm reasonably sure that it isn't just my conscience talking. Of course, it *would* be wonderful to share the blame around, but it would be even better to have him here to offer his thoughts, ideas, random alien historical perspective, et cetera."

"We'll have to get Tim to forgive him first."

"And us, yes. Hm. You can start by inviting him to the cave after we chat with Harvey."

Bruce frowns. "He needs rest."

"So do you, more often than not. But it's past time for us to... hmm... accentuate the positive?"

Bruce laughs somewhat helplessly. "When do you find the *time* for musical theater?"

There's an actual *spring* in Lex's step -- "The truth?"

"No, Lex. Tell me a lie. Please."

Lex *snickers* -- coughs and hums. "Well. You know about those eight televisions in the office."

"The ones always tuned to general and business news reports, yes."

"Not always."

Bruce pauses to stare at Lex.

Lex grins at him. "I have Marisa bring me one musical a week to watch on multiple screens while I'm 'answering important phone calls.' And while you're out of the office 'doing research.'"

Bruce blinks.

"Yes, darling?"

"You could've invited me to watch *with* you --"

"No, Bruce."

"But --"

"No. Because you -- being you -- would gripe and grouse and *nitpick* about the lack of realism inherent to people walking down the street and suddenly bursting into song."

"That's perfectly realistic. When some sort of toxin has been released."

Lex coughs and pats Bruce's chest. "The musicals will be *just* for me, since I'm reasonably sure that Tim shares your terrible prejudice."

Terrible -- hm. Bruce shakes his head and continues into the drawing room --

"Master Bruce. Master Lex. Your speed suggests that the two of you and young Master... Tim found the repast inexorably delectable."

Alfred --

Alfred undoubtedly knows perfectly well that none of them had finished their dinner, and that Bruce himself has no idea what he'd actually consumed. All of that -- and much, much more -- is visible in Alfred's raised eyebrow, and in the somehow *visibly* irritated way he's resting one gloved hand on the towel hanging over his other arm.

Lex winces. "You have our apologies, Alfred. We got caught up in a rather fraught discussion while we were eating."

"Indeed, sir? Politesse suggests the keeping of such topics away from the dinner table."

Bruce bites the inside of his cheek --

Alfred focuses on the movement just as if it *was* visible -- no, Alfred had seen Bruce's desire *to* do it.

Bruce sighs. "It became clear that Tim knew something... negative he wasn't telling about Harvey, Alfred."

Alfred raises his eyebrow higher for a moment -- and then nods. "I confess that I have feared for his health and wellbeing recently... though I found myself at a loss as to how either of the two of *you* could raise the suggestion of getting more rest."

Lex coughs again -- "Ah, yes. There's that. Yes. We actually plan to call him over --"

"And browbeat him about his work ethic, sir?"

Alfred only interrupts when he *definitely* has something to say --

And Lex obviously knows that, because he's blinking and raising both of his eyebrows. "That *was* the plan, yes, Alfred. We would love to hear any ideas you felt moved to share, however."

Alfred hums and drums his fingers against the towel. Once. He's never been especially fond of the way Lex changes his speech patterns to suit different conversational partners --

And Lex has never been especially capable of *not* doing just that.

Alfred nods once. "Very well. Remind Master Harvey that friendship is now and will always be available to him. Remind him *gently* that no good can come from self-isolation, and that the time when he had to limit his association with the two of you for the sake of his political ambitions has passed. He will always be needed as the Gotham City District Attorney, and he will always do what is needed."

Lex nods once. "That seems like a perfectly reasonable plan, Alfred. I don't suppose we could convince you to offer your viewpoint directly *to* Harvey? He's always respected you a great deal."

("Okay, so I *used* to think that it was fucking *beyond* weird that you were raised by your valet -- and parts of me still *do* -- but I gotta admit that he did a damned good job with you, big guy. I'm proud of you. I know, I know, it's just graduation and the real world is waiting to chew us up and spit us *out* -- but I still am, okay?"

"I love you, Harv."

"Aw -- Christ. Uh. Yeah. Back at ya.")

And then Harvey had made a *show* of looking around to see if anyone had overheard --

And then he'd pulled Bruce into his arms for a hug that made Bruce feel warm, held --

("Always, big guy. *Always*.")

And it's not a surprise that Alfred and Lex are staring at him. "I'm sorry. I was thinking of Harv."

Lex smiles ruefully --

And the light behind Alfred's eyes turns ruefully *fond*. Of the four major relationships Bruce has had, Alfred approved the most of the ones with Harvey and Clark. Though --

"Alfred... are you angry with us for bringing Tim to this time?"

Alfred blinks at him. "Sir... I believe it would be more apt to say that my feelings are fatalistic in nature. Neither of you have ever been *firm* within yourselves when that young man -- and the young man he could have been -- was the topic at hand. I trust you both to comport yourselves fittingly... and to take care to remember that you have most of his life's worth of memory and experience which he himself lacks."

"Yes, Alfred. We will," Bruce promises --

"Yes," Lex says, and smiles again. "It would do neither of us any good to force Tim into anything at all, and we are fully aware of that fact."

Alfred nods once. "Very well. Miss Mercy and I have a matter of landscaping to discuss at present, but I will return in an hour to add my thoughts to your own once Master Harvey has joined us."

Alfred leaves them then, and Bruce makes the call. There is *some* guilt for phrasing it as an emergency, but the exhaustion and *roughness* in Harvey's voice is enough to make the guilt meaningless.

It's then a matter of waiting -- but not long, because Mercy brings them their unfinished dinners -- it turns out to be chicken marsala -- and stands over them with a particularly soulless expression in her eyes while they eat.

When Lex is done, he calls her to the couch he's sitting on, opens her trousers, and presses his nose against her pubis through her panties. He breathes deeply four times -- until Mercy is shuddering and squeezing her eyes shut -- and then refastens her clothes and sends her away with a hard slap to the buttocks.

Once, Bruce had asked her how she felt about her sexuality being as *public* as Lex makes it. He'd expected an answer about the power of shame to compel and arouse -- certainly, that's how *Bruce* sometimes felt about the occasional impossible-to-hide ligature mark or whip scar -- but, instead, Mercy had pointed out that Lex makes it obvious that she is desirable enough -- perfect enough -- to have been chosen by one of the world's most powerful men.

("Pride is my favorite sin, Bruce.")

And the smile on her face had been broad, wet -- close to outright laughter --

And Bruce had tried pride on for himself.

He sets his plate aside and shifts on the chair, moving his buttocks near the edge and leaning back, steepling his fingers and making himself look a bit sleepy-eyed...


Bruce licks his lips. Slowly.

Lex crosses his legs and rests one arm along the back of the couch. "I'm never telling you that you're attractive again."

"I believe the word you used was 'beautiful.'"

Lex raises an eyebrow. "And you're quite sure you aren't misremembering...?"

Bruce parts his lips and breathes audibly --

And Lex snarls. "You're not even *horny*, so stop that."

"Lex... I've been thinking of Harvey. And of you and Mercy."

"I -- fine. You're horny. *When* are you planning to get a woman for yourself? I *promise* they're exciting, sometimes."

"I'm not quite sure I can acquire a woman for myself in the same manner you've acquired yours."

"Of course you can't. You're not *me*. Still. You do have a certain base, animal charm --"

Bruce coughs --

And Lex smiles. "All that *hair*, darling. Every time I suck you off I wind up feeling like I'm going to cough up a hairball --"

"Whoa! Maybe I should just come back five minutes from now?"

Harvey --

"Wait, we're talking about Bruce. I'll make it two," and Harvey ducks his head in and smiles at both of them. It's --


He's lost at least fifteen pounds -- possibly closer to twenty, judging by the gauntness of his face.

His eyes are hollow. He --

"*Fuck*, Harvey, I can see your *skull*," Lex says, pushing to his feet and striding toward the door --

Harvey sighs and walks in. His pace is still easy and graceful, but his suit is hanging on him -- "I knew you guys would look at me like this. Take it easy, hunh? Between the Maroni case and a stomach flu like you wouldn't *believe* --"

"You're right, Harv. I *wouldn't* believe it," Bruce says, and directs Lex to block the door before standing up himself --

And Harvey narrows his eyes. With the dark circles beneath them, he looks almost *masked* -- "All right. Let me lay it on the line here, guys -- I'm too tired for games right now. This case is driving me up a fuckin' wall and I'm just --" Harvey squeezes his eyes shut and blows out a breath -- "No, I'm trying this again. What's the emergency?" And he looks back and forth between the two of them.

"You are," Lex says, and crosses his arms over his chest. "We've come across some pretty disturbing information about you --"

"What -- what are you talking about?" But Harvey has a *facial* tic on the left side --

It stops as soon as he shoves his left hand in his pocket. He seems to be *gripping* something --

He's *snarling* --

"Harv," and Bruce tries using his gentlest voice --

"Talk like *yourself*, Bruce!"

"I'm sorry --"

"No, no, this is bullshit. I don't know what the fuck you two want from me --"

"How about for you to get a good night's sleep for once? I --" Lex shakes his head. "Look, just -- we don't want to fuck with you. We don't -- this is not about raking you over the coals or anything like that, okay?"

Harvey glares at both of them for a long moment -- and then pushes a hand back through his hair, mussing it and accentuating the thick wave. He laughs -- "You know, Lex -- a part of me is *never* getting over the fact that you and Bruce are a we. Heh. I've always been a little slow --"

"No, Harv. Not that," Bruce says, and moves close enough to cup Harvey's shoulders, squeeze and massage. "We didn't -- we were shocked by your appearance."

"I know I'm a fucking mess right now, but I *swear* it's just the flu," Harvey says, but there's a kind of haunted *rage* in his eyes that makes Bruce want to step *back* --

And it's gone in an instant, replaced with something blank --

"Harv. Tell us what's wrong."

"I just *did* --"

"You just *lied*," Lex says, and moves close enough that Harvey won't have to turn to see him. "And, judging by the horrified look on Bruce's face, it was a whopper."

The blankness fades under an assault of something cold, something *calculating* --

Lex laughs, loud and shocked --


"Fuck, Harvey, I never thought I'd ever see you looking like my *father*, but I guess there's a first time for everything? Seriously, Harvey -- we have information that things are about to get bad for you, and, by extension, *everyone* you care about."

"I'd never hurt --" Harvey growls and steps back, losing his grace for a moment --

He doesn't fall, but the stagger is shocking enough --

He doesn't stagger like that when he's *intoxicated* -- and Bruce hopes that's enough of a reason for him to be holding Harvey like this, using a sizeable fraction of what he's learned to keep Harvey functionally immobile until he can --

Harvey slumps --

Shudders all *over* --

"Let go."

"Harv --"

"Bruce. I won't fall. I won't fight. I won't -- I just need to not be touched right now. Not by you."

He has to ignore the hurt for that. He lets go --

And Harvey's punch is sloppy with exhaustion, but the power behind it is unmistakable, beautiful, always --

Bruce holds Harvey's fist firmly and *gently*. "Harv. I've done nothing to harm you. You... please tell us what's wrong."

Harvey snarls and whirls to face Lex --

Lex hasn't moved. "Oh, me? I've learned to trust Bruce to take care of himself. Sometimes."

Harvey squeezes his eyes shut. "Let me go."

"Harv --"

"Let me *leave*. I'm not. I can't." Harvey's laugh is a broken breath -- "Look, I knew that punch wouldn't land. I know *you*, big guy," and he looks up to smile at Bruce --

That smile will *always* call to something in Bruce. Just -- his eyes are *clear* -- "Harv. You've always known me --"

"Not. Not always. Never knew you would -- but that's old news. Old, old, outta there. Like me. You gotta let me go --"

"Not until we talk a *few* things out, Harvey --"

"God fucking *damn* it, Lex. When *are* you planning to grow out of --" Harvey laughs again, leans against Bruce's shoulder -- "You. You're not gonna grow outta you, though. No one does. Not me. Definitely not me..."

Bruce frowns. He can *hear* the importance --

"Is this... your childhood is coming back to haunt you. Isn't it?"

Harvey laughs *again* -- "A whole lot of things never really *leave*, Lexie. You should know that pretty well for yourself by now."

Lex snorts. "*Two* references to my father in one night. If we make it to three he's contractually obligated to sic another so-called supervillain on us."

Harvey coughs and twists his hand free before pushing his arms under Bruce's own --

"Oh. Harv..."

"Just me, big guy. And sometimes... sometimes I miss you like crazy. Like *air*," Harvey says, and nuzzles Bruce's throat --


"'member when we slept together in your big old bed, Bruce?"

Bruce strokes Harvey's back and looks to Lex --

Lex shrugs --

"Yes, of course, I remember. I always loved having you there with me --"

"I loved it, too. And I hated it. It made me so happy I thought I was gonna die. It pissed me off so much I dreamed of choking you. Good thing I knew how to be quiet about my nightmares by then, hunh? Gilda sure appreciates it, I'll tell you that --" And Harvey kisses Bruce's throat, his jaw, his cheek --

"Harv, wait --"

"You wanted me that day, Bruce. Specifically, my *wedding* day. I saw that look in your eyes -- that old, *familiar* look -- when I took my ring from you..."

"You were beautiful --"

"And I'm not anymore?" Harvey leans back, staggers again --

Bruce *catches* him, holds him -- "Harvey, there's never -- I've always wanted to be desired by you --"

"I jerk off thinkin' about you sometimes. How's that?"

Bruce swallows, searches him --

"Yeah, it's the truth. Sometimes I even take good, long looks at Gilda and try to figure out how to *phrase* it. How to... slip it right in along with the talk about the bills, the house, the car, whether or when we should have kids -- that kinda thing. Just, 'hey, sweetness, what's say we get a little freaky with my old friend? You know, the one who's richer than God and has been screwing that guy you *hate* since we were all teenagers --'"

"Wait, Gilda hates me?"

Harvey snickers and leans back further, rolling his head on his neck until he can grin at Lex. "She wants to stomp on your sac a little."

"I -- what did I *do*?"

"She doesn't like the way you treat Mercy, Lexie. I *tried* to explain --"

Lex snorts. "Oh, *very* hard, I'm sure."

"Hand to God, Lex. I went to the *mat* for you and your freaky sex life with the Amazing Murderous Supermodel."

"She hasn't killed *anyone* -- in Gotham - "

"*Yet*. And don't even look at me like it's not a yet. I --"

And never mind Lex's beliefs -- and his own, in the cold, clear light of day -- there *is* a place for damnation, a space set aside in the human heart for all those times --

For *this* time, because Bruce could have stopped this kiss from happening --

This close, Bruce can *feel* all the weight Harvey's lost --

His mouth tastes like coffee and something much more acidic, much more dangerous --

As addictive as the first time --

As *wounding* as the last before this moment --

("You know I'll always -- always love you, big guy --"

"*Please* --"

"One last time. One for the road. One -- ah, God, your *mouth* --")

Cupping Harvey's face is necessary, shudder-inducing --

His broad, Native American cheekbones are so *prominent* --

And then Harvey is humming, teasing Bruce's tongue with his own, *urging* --

("See, you gotta -- you gotta give a little more, show me what you want -- *oof* --"

"Like this."

"Well... yeah. But you also gotta let me *breathe*, big guy --")

Not yet, not --

Bruce *sucks* Harvey's tongue, tries to will him to thrust with it, tease and *promise* with it -- no. No, he can't --

Harvey is trying to *distract* --

And Lex's hand on his shoulder makes him grunt --

Makes Harvey *growl* --

Bruce pulls back while he has the wherewithal to *do* it. "Harv. This isn't what you want."

"Are you tryin' to *tell* me what I want, big guy?" The warning in his voice is as thick as the Gotham accent -- "My name's *not* Mercy."

"No, Harv, it's only --"

"And you, Lexie -- you tryin' ta tell me you're jealous or somethin'? Nobody else can touch your property?"

"*Harv* --"

"Relax, Bruce, it's all right. And no, Harvey, I'm not jealous. But I'm never going to let Bruce have sex with someone who only wants to *use* him."

Harvey jerks back -- "You take that back --"


"You *fucking* take that *back* --"

"*No*," Lex says, and squeezes both their shoulders. "And I'm nowhere near as fast as Bruce, so you probably *can* hit me, but -- even *that* isn't what you really want to do."

"Yeah, hunh? You know all that much? What *do* I want to do?"

Bruce turns Harvey to face him. "You want to distract us from the pain you're in. You want to hide in sex, or violence, or both, because those are the only drives which aren't *terribly* emotionally painful at the moment. You want. You want to burn your bridges."

"*Jesus*, Bruce --"

"You want to destroy your ties until there's no one *around* you to be hurt -- oh, Harv. Where's Gilda right now?"

Harvey rips himself away and stumbles --

Gets his grace back --

He moves to the fireplace and digs the heels of his palms in against his eyes.

"Harvey --"

"Shut the *fuck* up, Lex. I'm not hearing from you right now," Harvey says, and there's more control in his voice than there was a moment ago -- but not much.

"Harv. Talk to *me*, then --"

"She's -- she's at her mom's. Up in West Haven."

Lex winces.

Bruce -- nods. "She has... no idea why you've started being cruel. Crude."

"I've always been *crude*. She *likes* it when I get a little nasty -- and so do *you* --"

"But you did it differently this time, didn't you, Harv?"

Harvey drops his hands and stares at the rack of fireplace tools --


"Always. Always gotta do it with love. Everything goes down with love, real love -- can't. I can't have her around me, Bruce."

Bruce takes as deep a breath as he can. "Has... has it gotten away from you yet, Harv?"

Harvey laughs. "'It?' Is that all you got, big guy? 'cause I'm thinking if it *is* --"

"Harvey --"

"Lex, if you don't shut the fuck up *right* now --"

Lex raises his hands. "I only want to help."

Harvey scowls darkly at Lex -- and then laughs again. "Where's Tom when you need 'im, hey? Can't believe he actually hooked up with a *woman* down in the Amazon. Heh. Maybe she's even skinnier than he is."

Bruce and Lex stare at each other --

Bruce can *feel* Lex's helplessness and his own almost seeming to *build* on themselves --

"What? What the fuck did I just say?"

He never -- he never wants to *lie* to Harvey -- Bruce takes a centering breath and turns to Harvey again. "It -- it's about Tom. He --"

"He's dead," Tim says, and walks into the library with Alfred behind him. "More specifically, he never actually existed."

Harvey staggers back against the mantelpiece. "What the *fuck*. Who --"

"My name is Tim Drake. The person you knew of as Tom Wayne was actually a slightly older *me*. He got ripped into the past by a mechanism none of us are sure about and decided to masquerade as Bruce's... relative. Presumably because... well, no, I still don't know that. I'm coming to terms with the fact that I never will."

Harvey frowns and shakes his head. "I don't -- I feel like I'm lookin' at a fucking *ghost*. Bruce, what the *hell* --"

"We tested DNA Tom had left behind when Dr. Fate pulled him away through a hole in the world --"


"The story about traveling the Amazon was just to get people to stop asking about his sudden disappearance, Harv. I... he told me that he was my brother from another universe. In truth, he was from over twenty years in the future, and the reason why he knew so much about me and my family was that..." Bruce pauses and touches his tongue to his upper lip. "There's something we've never spoken about, Harv. Something... something I *know* that you know --"

"The goddamned Batman. You -- what? You think Tom was your... I don't even *know* what --"

"He was almost certainly Bruce's partner, Mr. Dent. Bruce... in my future, I'm not Bruce's partner, at all, but the partners he's had have both been younger men with black hair and blue eyes."

Oh. That --

But why would he limit himself? Was it just some strange coincidence?

Or had he seen signs of his lost love in those other boys? Would he be so... so *obsessed* -- all right, that's an *incredibly* laughable question.

Harvey is blinking and staring at all of them, one at a time. He keeps going back to Tim, who *must* seem too strange to be borne --

And then Harvey sucks in a breath and stands straight. "That's the information you have, isn't it? This -- this fucking -- *kid* who says he's from the future --"

"He is, Harvey," and Lex smiles ruefully. "We brought him from there ourselves."

"You -- *that's* what you've been working on? *Seriously*? He was *that* good a fuck?"

Tim coughs --

"*Really*, Master Harvey. There's an impressionable young man present --"

"No. No way, Alfred. I'm sorry, but if that guy is *anything* like 'Tom?' Then he's ice cold to the bone. Aren't you, kid?"

"Please, call me Tim. And, thus far, my attempts at retaining icy calm have been well and truly assaulted by Bruce and Lex. Mr. Dent... not very long from now you're going to have a psychotic break. It will be triggered by an assault from a criminal, but, in truth, that will just be the proverbial straw on the camel's back. The real problem will be the years of physical and emotional abuse that you endured from your father --"

"*Bruce*. What the fuck did you *tell* him about me?"

"I --"

"He told me nothing, Mr. Dent. In my time, the particular make-up of your psychosis is fodder for all sorts of armchair psychologists, as you've made it a habit to periodically break out of Arkham and kill all sorts of innocent people --"

"No. *No* --"

"You choose who to kill -- and how brutal to make the death -- by flipping a coin, Mr. Dent. Do you have a coin on you now? Perhaps in your left pocket?"

The color drains from Harvey's face --

And Tim nods. "It has two faces, doesn't it? A good face and a scarred face, yes?"

Harvey swallows and narrows his eyes. "You say you're from the future. You. What happens? To Gilda? All my other friends?"

"Your wife divorces you, and is hounded by both the police and the media whenever you break out. One of the tabloids paid off her pharmacist in order to get a list of all the psychiatric prescriptions --"


Tim firms his mouth into a hard line and nods.

Harvey --

Harvey tears open his shirt and rips off the necklace --

Oh, the yin and *yang* --

Bruce reaches to take it, and immediately feels the scars all over the dark half. "Harvey?"

"I dunno when I did it. Heh. Heh. Probably -- oh, one of those blackouts I have these days. Where I wake up in the middle of nowhere with scabbed up knuckles and -- heh. Not in a while, though. See, I learned to *tape* my knuckles somewhere along the way. Isn't that clever?" And Harvey turns to the mantelpiece and rests his forehead against the marble. "Can I. Can you guys leave me alone with Bruce for a while? I promise I won't --"

"It's all right, Harv," Bruce says, and moves to cup Harvey's shoulders again. "I'll stay here, and the others can --"

"We'll just... go elsewhere," Lex says. "We know you won't... and I'm shutting up now."

Harvey laughs again --

Shudders again --

And Bruce waits until he hears the door close before pulling Harvey into his arms again. "Will you speak to me now?"

"Oh... oh, yeah, big guy. Always. You always were a great listener."

Bruce kisses Harvey's cheek.

And guides them to the couch.


Clark spends more time hovering in the sky above Wayne Manor than he really likes to think about.

In truth, he spends more time doing that than *anyone* probably wants to think about, but --

Lionel Luthor seems to believe -- Clark doesn't think he can ever be entirely *confident* about the man -- that Bruce had taken Lex away from him. There have been any number of *attacks* on Bruce over the years -- assassination attempts which Clark has been forced to *mostly* let Lex handle, since Superman can't be seen to favor any particular person lest there be even *more* attacks --

Clark watches, and he keeps a weather eye on the other heroes in the area as much as possible -- *Batman* can't be seen to favor any particular person *either* --

Well. It's done wonders for their relationships with the JSA, though Alan Scott doesn't seem to approve of Lex all that much.

("He's approximately eight thousand years old, Clark. He doesn't approve of *anything*.")

Which --

It's true that he doesn't take the inevitable jokes about wood very well, or the jokes about his age, or the comments about his -- perfectly lovely, in Clark's opinion -- uniform -- hm.

Perhaps he's just naturally cranky.

Still, he's a consummate professional, and Clark feels honored for all the times he's fought at the man's side -- and desperately grateful for all the times he and his friends have stepped up to protect Bruce and Lex in the *public* ways none of them are allowed.

Jay Garrick had mentioned an abiding desire to take Lionel Luthor 'to the woodshed' after the Parasite business, and Clark can't help but fantasize about him -- and his teammates -- doing just that. While the JSA have constant enemies of their own, they've never faced a human they couldn't have convicted of a crime even *once*.

It all makes Clark feel rather inadequate and *ashamed* of himself -- which is another reason to fantasize about horrible things happening to Lionel Luthor. Lois has been working on investigative pieces about the man and the various terrible things he does -- or allows to *be* done -- for as long as Clark has known her. She's even managed to connect him -- tenuously, unfortunately -- to a few projects which were then scrapped summarily with Lionel Luthor forced to apologize -- for his underlings, of course.

Clark Kent will probably never have the *time* to develop the kind of sources Lois has, but Superman can be there to *help* more. More than simply saving her life as discreetly as possible when she winds up antagonizing the wrong person --

As she nearly *always* does, and really, *how* she manages to keep amenable sources is one of the mysteries of the universe --

(Other than her beauty, her intellect, her sense of humor, her charm, her grace --)

Clark flies in a circle two miles above the manor and thinks of the scent of expensive perfume and Pell Mell cigarettes, of foundation and nail polish --

The whisper of silk stockings against waxed flesh --

The click of Italian heels --

And the last time Clark had asked her out, she had raised an eyebrow at him and stared until Clark had adjusted his tie right off his body and demurred... but she had *smelled* intrigued. Not *very* intrigued, but certainly enough that he'll try again someday.

Perhaps Lex will have a better idea of what sort of gifts to give her, since Clark has to admit that flowers and chocolate are terribly clichéd choices. He could always ask her out *as* Superman -- she always smells *thrilled* when Superman does things like fly her to rooftops for interviews, or melt all the guns aimed at her to slag -- but that would be just as limiting as the other.

Nearly everyone on the JSA has a civilian lover or spouse -- someone who knows the truth about who they are and what they do --but Clark frankly isn't sure how they *do* it.

Bruce has Lex, of course, but Clark can't actually *think* of Lex as being a civilian. He's too much a part of their lives. He's done so much *for* their lives -- up to and including *dressing* the Batman. Clark could always *ask* the various JSA members how they do it, but it seems like it would be tantamount to asking them to -- continue to -- view him as a dangerously powerful child.

It may be childish to *let* that keep him from asking the question --

And the truth is that, right now, he's looking down at a home he's been invited into countless times --

At a home he's been invited to *share*, and Alfred even keeps a bedroom for him not far from Bruce's and Lex's own --

Right now, Lex and Tim are in the study. They aren't discussing anything -- not even the rather explosive events of five minutes ago. They aren't even *looking* at each other. Just the same, there is an intimacy Clark can't avoid seeing -- and that, in truth, is what he was trying to do.

They're sitting on the couch facing the clock -- *the* clock -- and Tim is sitting with his legs crossed and his head in his hands.

Lex is carefully keeping his attention elsewhere, but the way they look --

This *tableau* --

Clark knows that *they* both know that Lex is available to give comfort at a moment's notice. *Less*.

Clark knows that Tim *will* find a way to ask, something which, perhaps, allows him to save face --

And then the struggle will be, for all intents and purposes, over. Tim will stay forever, and Bruce and Lex will turn away from Clark for good and all --

All right, no, not that. It's just that their attentions will be divided even more than usual --

Is he selfish? No, that's the wrong question. The *correct* question, at this juncture, is *how* selfish is he. Will it be enough to color his interaction with Bruce and Lex?

Will he be as obvious as he was this afternoon? He had *used* the fact that Tom left *against* them. One of the more painful moments of their lives --

Lex hadn't even been able to say *goodbye* --

And, of course, it's Bruce and Lex. They had *scented* Clark's jealousy in that comment, and in the other he'd made about being second best. He hadn't *let* Bruce deny the second one even though it's what he wants to hear *most* --

"Clark," Tim says. "I... perhaps you could -- hell."

Clark stills enough that the clouds begin to form around him again. Not close -- he's too warm for that -- but not especially far, either. The very thinnest surface of his flesh is cool, his uniform is damp, and Tim is still covering his face.

Lex is looking at Tim curiously, and, as ever, on him it looks more like suspicion and anger than anything else --

Though it hadn't taken long for Bruce to be able to recognize it for what it is --


"You. You. I can't actually talk to you right now, Lex."

Lex's expression hardens, seems to *set* itself in disappointment and frustration -- and then he smiles ruefully. "I appreciate what you did in there. I don't think... I'm not sure I can tell you how much."

Tim bends over his own legs without moving his hands from his face --

"Are you nauseous?"

"Getting there."

"Then --"

"It's spiritual, not physical, Lex," Tim says, and there's a laugh in his voice --

"I'm not sure if they *make* Mepto-Bismuth in ethereal form, but I'm willing to check...?"

"Ethereal -- heh, no, I'm not doing this with you. Please leave me alone now."

"I'm not sure you should *be* --"

"Clark's going to come visit. He's not going to be even a little bit in love with me -- or the memory of a me who no longer exists. He's not going to ask to kiss me, or to touch my mouth, or -- any of that. He probably won't even give me a backrub."

"He's really very good at those --"

"And that? Is something I don't actually need to know," Tim says, and turns to look at Lex without unfolding himself. "Please go."

"Will you talk to Bruce or me about this in the future?"

Tim's smile is soft and ancient -- "Maybe. Goodnight."

"May I --"


"-- sing you a song?"

And Clark realizes that he's close enough to hear Tim's blink as distinct from every other small, non-speech sound --

He shuffles and teases apart the input until he can hear Bruce and Harvey -- no, Harvey is weeping with steady, harsh *force*. Clark gives them their privacy --

"-- time you make me laugh, Lex, it hurts. It's a betrayal, you see."

Lex winces. "No, Tim. It's a *sign* --"

"Of what, though? No, don't answer that question now. Leave me alone."

Lex searches Tim with rapid *hunger* --

And then he rises smoothly to his feet and leaves the room. He pauses in the hall with Mercy -- and then they both begin walking toward the stairs leading up to the bedrooms.

"So. Clark. In case that wasn't clear, earlier, I would -- like to see you just where you are," Tim says, and there is wonder in his eyes. It doesn't make it to his *voice*, but -- but.

Clark takes off his cape and lets Tim see him fold it -- and then he uses his speed to change into one of the pairs of jeans and an undershirt he keeps here --

"Oh. Oh -- Superman."

"Not in these clothes, Tim. Please," Clark says, and crouches in front of Tim.

He's still folded in on himself just as if he's feeling intense gastrointestinal distress --

And he smells like unshed tears.

"Tim. I was listening --"

"To how much?"

Clark carefully takes Tim's hands in his own and squeezes, giving Tim his warmth --

Tim shivers --

"To be honest, I've stayed as close as I could since leaving Wayne Tower earlier. I was worried about you."

Tim raises an eyebrow at him, and that -- is deserved.

Clark squeezes again. "I know I have no right to your trust, Tim, but I hope to earn it, just the same. Even... even with the choice I made."

"I have the decidedly *interesting* image of you shaking a finger at Bruce or Lex the next time they move to molest me."

"Ah -- hm. Well. I would probably simply move them... if they didn't respond to you attempting to move them yourself."

A wry smile -- "Yes, I *did* fail at doing that... several times. There is room, I think, in my convictions for the enjoyment of warmth, touch..." The smile becomes a frown and Tim looks down and away --

"Would you tell me more about your convictions?"

"I think I... felt something. A few minutes ago."

"When you bent at the waist?"

"There was a moment in my mind when there were... two sets of memories. I. There's only one now."

Oh, no. Oh -- "Tim --"

Tim smiles at him sharply, *cuttingly* -- "There's only one... despite the fact that I can remember the *need* to inform Bruce, Lex, and Mr. Dent about Mr. Dent's future as a *supervillain*... but that isn't going to happen. It didn't happen for me or anyone else living in my time. It -- I don't think I've ever hated grammar as much as I do right now."

Clark pushes closer --

"If you *never* laugh at my jokes, Clark, my self-esteem won't be in very good shape --"

"You could always -- ah. Listen to Bruce and Lex on the matter?"

Tim laughs, sits up, and twists his hands free so that he can rub his temples. His fingers are long for the size of his hands, deft and graceful in appearance --

"Tim... do you still feel... um --"

"Like myself?"

"Yes. I..." Clark strokes Tim's knees, cups them for a moment and then searches for points of cold, discomfort -- no, Tim doesn't want to be touched more thoroughly right now. Clark kneels instead of crouching and rests his hands on his thighs.

Tim studies him for a moment, expression dark -- and then merely wry again. "I don't know. I feel like Tim Drake. I'm not sure if there's anything about me that's different from what had come before. What had..." Tim frowns thoughtfully. "There's something, though, I think. Yes, there's something which -- Keystone. Oh."

"I'm sorry? I don't -- " But he does. "Your parents didn't move you to Keystone."

"No, I. This time it was Star City. Did you -- well, of course you know that Oliver Queen is Green Arrow, and that Connor Hawke is his --" Tim sucks in a breath and bites his lip. "You don't know anything of the kind. You -- ignore --"

"Of course," Clark says, but he can feel himself filing the information away -- "Your accent --"

"People in Star City hardly *have* a region-specific accent. And... hn. I wanted to stay as close to my Gotham roots as possible. Batman and -- Batman and his partners are very important to me," Tim says, and the laugh in his voice could draw *blood* --

"Tell me what I must do to ease your pain, Tim."

"You." Tim frowns. "You're doing it. You're responding appropriately to horrifying things, you're not trying to seduce me... keep it up? Or -- I'm sure you have things to do --"

"I'm monitoring several... situations which may or may not need my assistance. Tim... it can end here --"

"No. You can't make me that promise, Clark --"

"There's a place. There -- the Fortress of Solitude. Neither Bruce nor Lex can *get* there without my help, and --"

"And there would be nothing to force them to work faster on sending me back to my time. There..." Tim shakes his head. "Somehow, I can't see them doing the right thing solely for the opportunity to say goodbye to me. Nor can I see them failing to... work on you."

Clark winces. "I -- they won't always be able to --"

"You love them."

"I don't -- I won't always be so *susceptible*. They've changed the future dramatically, changed *you* --"

"Have they? I *don't* feel different. I *know* different -- things. I --" Tim laughs again and pushes back on the couch, crossing his legs at the knee --

Clark moves to sit beside him -- well. He *hovers* beside Tim, moving just enough that it will be easy for Tim to keep meeting his eyes --

"I'm making excuses, Clark."

Oh... "Tim..."

"A part of me wants to see how far they'll go. How far they'll make *me* go, because... oh, it's not like I was ever all that *attached* to who I am. Was. Will be --" This laugh is a snicker, breathless and uncontrolled --

"Tim, please --"

"It's all *right*, Clark. It's -- I'm going to do this, I think. I'm not going to just *throw* myself at them -- that would be *deeply* idiotic --"

"I -- why?"

Tim looks at him with his eyebrow raised --

It's an almost *perfect* replica of expressions Bruce and Lex have used on him in the past -- "Please, I don't understand. If you've decided to allow them -- *what* have you decided to allow them?"

"Access. Time. The opportunity to make a brighter world, because, to be honest, the world I was living in *did* need the improvement."

Clark bites his lip -- stops. "And... the rest?"

"'The rest' would be... foolish. They're not in love with me. They're in love with a much better liar in much better physical condition. They're in love with someone capable of being 'ice cold.' More, they're in love with someone -- someone with the capacity to *leave* them without so much as a backwards *glance*. That's not me."

"You've come to care for them."

Tim smiles and closes his eyes. "My entire childhood, Clark. The Dark Knight vigilante, the White Knight businessman/philanthropist. Gotham's *saviors*, and *I* knew their secrets, knew that they cared for each other and for the people they surrounded themselves with... God, Clark, I wanted *them* for my family."

"What... what of your own --"

Tim waves a hand. "There was no abuse, no... neglect of any sort of... anyway," Tim says, opening his eyes and smiling far more brightly. "Many people have more than *one* family."

Clark nods and rests his hand on Tim's knee again. "Is this all right?"

"Hm? Oh, yes, that's fine. And -- of course, there was *you*, Clark."

"I was part of your... fantasies?"

"Discovering that Bruce was Batman made all the sightings of Superman in the Gotham area make that much more sense. I knew in my heart that you *must* have been a friend to Bruce and Lex, and I wondered about you... oh, extensively."

That feels... it -- "You're welcome to ask any question you might wish --"

"Are you in love with them? More than you simply -- 'simply' -- love them, I mean."

"Yes. I -- both of them. Always. Nearly from the first moment."

Tim nods thoughtfully. "But only Bruce is your lover. Your *physical* lover --"

"Yes. I've never been Lex's type. Physically *or* emotionally. I... he was gentle about letting me know."

Tim covers Clark's hand on his knee. "He's not always gentle."

"No. He can be..." Clark licks his lips. "Sometimes, the only way I can speak with him is to pull on either Superman or Kal-El, both of whom are much better equipped for dealing with... sharper-edged people."

Tim rubs Clark's hand. "You should -- you should tell him to leave you alone when he can't behave himself. It often takes him time to listen --"

"I never want to be left alone, Tim. I... before I met Bruce and Lex, my only true confidants were my parents. They're *still* the only people who know all of me."

"But --" Tim closes his mouth.

"Something from the future?"

A rueful smile --

Clark nods once. "I will not ask. Though I will hope that I have more confidants in the future."

"You might... ah. I mean... Queen Hippolyta is on the JSA."

"Yes, Tim?"

Tim bites his lip -- "She has a daughter."

"Yes, Diana is acting as regent on Themyscira. Tim, do you mean to say --"

But Tim jerks once --

Twice --

His eyes roll back in his head -- and then he's laughing and rubbing his temples.

"You -- it happened again."

"Mm-hm," and Tim laughs again, hiccoughs -- "Goodness, I think that's *vertigo*."

"What -- what changed for you?"

"Well. My mother really liked the idea of moving us to D.C. near Embassy Row -- the connections, you see -- but the sheer number of masonry-crumbling attacks from supervillains... well, these things happen," Tim says, and his accent --

"They moved you back to Keystone?"

Tim frowns. "Back to...? Oh, yes, I see. That other me -- that other future -- thing." Tim laughs again and shakes himself like a dog. "I feel like I just jumped off a roof and landed in an unexpected banana cream pie."

Clark blinks. "Instead of an... expected banana cream pie?"

"Oh, yes, it's --" Tim licks his lips and turns to smile at him. "It's an entirely different sort of thing. One is... well. One is different from the other."

"Tim, you seem... ah..."

"Different? Yes, I imagine I do. I... it really was *exhilarating* to meet the Flash --"

"But he lives in Central City --"

"What? Oh -- ah... hm." And Tim looks at him from under his lashes.

His eyes really are very -- "Yes, Tim?"

"Forget... everything?" And this time Tim's laugh is broken by a *painful*-sounding snort -- "Oh, God. Really, I -- don't forget everything. Because then I'll change *again*, and -- I don't want to. At all. Not again. This is fine," Tim says, and rocks back and forth --

"May I hold you?"

"Ah... still?"

Clark touches his tongue to his upper lip. "It would be -- I would try to be soothing."

"I imagine you're very good at -- well, of course I don't *have* to imagine," Tim says, laughing breathlessly and opening his arms --

Clark pulls Tim most of the way onto his lap and wraps his arms around him. Tim has knowledge --

Tim *had* knowledge that Clark would find some sort of common ground with Diana of Themyscira, and the act of sharing that knowledge --

The *fact* that Clark will now actively try to seek her out --

But what is the business about embassies? Meeting the Flash? Had -- *will* Jay move? Or will there be another Flash entirely?

Will that Flash -- Clark hums and cups the back of Tim's head --

"That feels very nice."

"Thank you. Your body is wonderful against my own, Tim."

"You -- ah?"

Clark blinks and pauses while stroking Tim's back. "Ah -- it's only -- it's nothing to concern you."

"Oh, God."

"Tim --"

"Oh -- *God*," and Tim pulls back and laughs somewhat *hysterically*. "You're attracted to me."

"Just -- um. You... can always tell yourself that the attraction is definitely to *you*, as opposed to --"

"The person I was five minutes ago? Three?" And Tim raises both eyebrows and smiles *brightly*. It makes him look significantly younger -- his smile lines are so *shallow* -- but it also --

"You're not... upset?"

Tim works his arms up from between them and cups Clark's face --

"Oh... Tim."

Tim blinks and moves his hands. "I didn't mean to -- um. Well. Suffice it to say that, no, I'm not upset with you. I've always -- I've always wanted to *know* you. And all of the other heroes, of course, but you -- the way Flash *speaks* about you --"

"*Jay*? I -- no, no, I'm not asking!"

Tim smiles fondly, openly -- "That's probably for the best. And -- I know I already mentioned how important it was to me to realize that you and Bruce and Lex were *all* close, but you have to see how much *better* it all was..." Tim shakes his head. "I feel -- I know there's something different, Clark. I know I changed something *fundamental* this time, but if I try to get your help in figuring out *how* connecting you to Diana sooner than you actually would have done it -- that was what I did, right?"

Clark swallows and pats Tim as soothingly -- "Yes, I -- I believe that's what you did, yes --"

"It's fading. The separate timeline, that is. There are still... pieces. *Important* pieces, I believe, but they're going to. And it makes me feel... very light."

"Tim, I -- I need to know --"

"Anything for you, Clark."

Clark smiles helplessly and hugs Tim, holds him while he giggles and hums --

"I'll *remember* that -- oh, that's. Hm. I appear to have -- I said that about a *mean* thing --"

"You were upset at Bruce and Lex. And that's -- entirely comprehensible --"

Tim pulls back and frowns thoughtfully once more, eyes tracking fast --

"Yes, Tim?"

"I was... significantly more bitter not especially long ago."

"That... certainly seemed to be the case --"

"And now... now, I'm left with Bruce's and Lex's fundamental irresponsibility with the fabric of space-time... as well as proof that I'll be *just* that irresponsible, too. When it suits me."

Clark closes his eyes for a *subjective* three seconds --

Opens them and uses the time he has left before a response is needed to think --

To study and think and note the way Tim's eyes are more grey in this light, his throat pale and long, his weight as negligible as any human's, his *size* desperately --

Intriguingly --

And Tim is still frowning. Clark cups Tim's hands in his own. "Tim, you were only trying to help. First Harvey, then me --"

"Yes, I -- it's so easy to *do* that sort of thing. To just -- play merry *hell* with *everything* for the sake of one's own peace of mind --"

"It hurt you that Bruce and Lex would be hurt --"

"And -- all of those other *people* --"

"And... you were worried about me, Tim. About... my loneliness?"

Tim frowns more deeply and strokes Clark's shoulders, squeezes them -- "Oh. There's -- there *wasn't* any give, but --"

"I paralyzed my muscles to make them seem... ah. More human?"

"You don't -- please don't do that for me. There's nothing wrong with you being an alien. You're -- incredibly special. To the whole *world* --"

"I've always -- I've always wished to be special for one person."

"Yes, I could see that, and --" Tim licks his lips and rubs Clark's shoulders again. "No one like you should be lonely."

"Are...." Clark sighs and cups Tim's waist gently, carefully -- "Are you ever lonely?"

"Of course. I had... a few friends in Gotham, but I haven't done very well at making new ones. Some girls try to... well, *hit* on me, but I have no interest -- anyway. I probably should be more outgoing."

"You seem... you have hobbies?"

Tim smiles, and it's smaller than his other smile, but somehow brighter. "Martial arts, of course. Computers. I... well. I'm a Flash-spotter, too, when I can get the time. I used to follow Bruce and his partners around... well, it's much easier -- and safer -- to do that with Flash. I don't get bored."

Clark nods and squeezes Tim's waist --

"Oh -- I like the way that feels. Um --"

Clark squeezes more firmly --

"I think -- I might like that too much," Tim says, blushing and laughing -- and moving to sit beside Clark once more.

"You don't have to --"

"I do. Really. I'm... ah. I think it's fair to say that I'm rather *intoxicated* from the events of the evening, and I'd prefer to have a clear head for... some things," and Tim looks away --

His pulse is --

"Oh -- your. Fingers. Ah. They're very smooth. And on my neck. They -- shouldn't be there --"

"You're sensitive."

"Please, Clark," and Tim's voice is... very clear. Very --

Oh, no -- Clark moves his hand to his own knee. "I'm sorry, Tim. I didn't mean to act like --"

"The loves of your life?" Tim turns and smiles *sharply*, eyes narrow with pleasure, good humor -- "A bit of cross-pollination is only to be expected, I think."

"I'd rather not -- pressure you. Damn. Those words are meaningless to you, now, aren't they?"

"Mm-hm. But sometimes... it's the thought that counts?" And Tim laughs again --

"I would like to make you laugh like that often, Tim."

"Well. Well." Tim hums and rubs his palms on his jeans. "I think that can be arranged."

"Oh... yes?"

Tim looks at him from under his lashes again --

And Clark doesn't ask if he may kiss him, and he doesn't fly to the other end of the manor just to kick Lex for ruining the line -- such as it is -- for everyone else. Instead, he cups Tim's face *gently* --

Tim blinks rapidly --

Stops --

And his smile, this time, is a rueful one. "Ah... noted."

"I didn't say anything --"

"You didn't have to," Tim says, and moves Clark's hand away from his face... and down to his knee.

"This is all right?"

"I have no -- hm. My knee isn't -- hm." Tim snorts *gently* this time and shakes his head. "My knee is fine."

Clark smiles and squeezes Tim there.

"Would you tell me more about your first meeting with Bruce and Lex?"

"Of course. Lex is one of the people who were hurt by the meteor shower which accompanied my ship, and so I was... well, *morbidly* fascinated by the prospect of meeting him. I went back and forth between a desperate need to see him up close -- and to be sure that he'd *only* lost his hair, and not anything else -- and an equally desperate need to crawl into my storm cellar for the week and never come out. I had no opinion whatsoever about Bruce... until we all -- my parents were there, as well -- met at Mama's Restaurant in downtown Smallville. I was... to say I was *struck* by Bruce's beauty is an understatement. I think a part of me was *destroyed* by it, and I've never gotten it back. I... do you find him beautiful?"

"Very much. I... his hands... um. Well, both of them, really. And there's always so much in their *eyes*. So -- it's irritatingly easy to get lost in staring at one or both of them. Suddenly, they're right there *touching* me and I'm still lost in their eyes."

Clark sighs and smiles. "They've practiced that, you know."

Tim blinks. "*Looking* at -- ah. Hypnosis."

"Of the casual as well as the serious sort. They both find a great deal of necessity in being... hm... alpha males? They've even taught me how to do it, to some extent."

"I -- would you show me?"

"Of course," Clark says, and takes a deep breath, remembering --

("I -- of course this isn't working. All right, Clark, stop and think of your most confident moments -- no, your most *successful* moments."

"Like... when I've helped someone?"

"Hm... we can try that, yes, but I was thinking more of those times when you've *bested* someone, whether it was matter of will, intellect, physical strength -- anything."

"Oh... hm. Give me a moment, Lex --"

"Do it *now*!")

And he'd turned to Lex just like this --

And Lex had reared back just like *that*. Tim's eyes are wide and full, almost frightened --

But the scent of him has the same sweet *edge* of thrill he's grown addicted to from Lois --

And his heart is beating faster.

"Your -- your eyes. I -- are they glowing?"

"Somewhat less than what a human can perceive *consciously*, but yes."

"Wait, perception -- *vision* -- has different levels of consciousness?"

"Ah... everything does? Well, many things," Clark says, and pats Tim's knee. "Do you mind if I stop? Holding this expression for any length of time always makes me want to set fire to things."

Tim blinks rapidly --

And Clark winks. "I'm kidding, of course. I *always* want to set fire to things."

Tim chokes and *flushes* with the force of his laugh, which is delighted and high --

And sometimes -- just sometimes -- Clark pulls on that expression while hovering exactly two and a half feet above the floor in Lex's blind spot. Clark changes nothing else about his voice or demeanor, and Lex invariably continues what he's doing -- and even the conversation -- but slowly Lex becomes more and more *tense*.

Clark had gotten very, very good at holding the pose until mere moments before Lex spins around in an attempt to catch him. One day, Clark managed it four times. He'd considered going for a fifth, but, by then, the vein above Lex's right eyebrow had begun pulsating ominously.



"It's not fair to use your powers to fuck with people."

"Oh, yes, you're absolutely right, Lex. I agree wholeheartedly.")

And he'll stop *just* as soon as Lex manages to speak to him for a solid hour without saying something mean about *someone*.


Here, now, Tim is catching his breath and searching Clark with bright, avid eyes. They still seem quite grey in this light, but it's easier to see that there *will* be blue in other kinds of light. Clark keeps his hand on Tim's knee.

Just his knee. "It took me longer to fall for Lex. Minutes and hours to grow accustomed to his more *feverish* qualities and realize how passionate he was, how brilliant and terrible -- in a good way."

"How... regal, perhaps?"

Clark considers it -- "Yes, I think so. In another age, I could imagine both of them as royalty. If merit were at least as important a consideration as blood."

"But not yourself?"

Clark laughs ruefully. "Every kingdom needs someone to muck out the stables, Tim."

Tim raises an eyebrow at him. A *pointed* eyebrow --

And Clark doesn't kiss his hand. "I'm not being self-deprecating. I don't spend nearly as much time thinking about changing the world as Lex and Bruce. Repairing what's broken, helping people find safety and warmth, removing hazards... *that's* what I do, Tim. I tend to think... hm. A lot of talk about changing the world almost inevitably leads to talk -- and much, much more -- about taking *over* the world. I believe one of the reasons why Bruce and Lex need me is that they know I'll always be there to guide them away from thoughts like that."

If anything, Tim's gaze grows more hooded, more dark --


"You... never consider taking over the world? At all?"

Kal does.

"I mean..." Tim licks his lips. "There's a lot you could do. Someone with your powers, I mean. And those powers, I know, are increasing every moment you spend exposed to yellow solar radiation."

Kal thinks about that *often* --

"Not that the world *needs* a dictator -- ah." Tim blushes.

Oh... a moment, then, to stroke the air just beyond Tim's cheeks, to feel the *heat* -- "At least some of the time, you believe just the opposite."

Tim smiles wryly. "Yes. And I'm not --" Tim shakes his head. "No one could do a better job. You, Bruce, and Lex... no one could stand *against* you, even. Not that I'm advocating that! At all! The last thing the world needs is for power to corrupt the three of you the way it would for -- God, anyone *else* --"

Clark squeezes Tim's knee again. "We are only men, Tim. Susceptible to the same passions and drives..." Clark smiles ruefully and shoves Kal down as best as he can. "You know that better than anyone, I think."

Tim laughs softly. "Yes. Yes, I suppose I do," he says, and looks up with a smile. "It's still a beautiful dream."

You *stole* dreams from my loves -- but he didn't. He couldn't have... and he wouldn't. "I believe the world would be a happier place if more of us had beautiful dreams to believe in."

"You don't think there'd be more hurt? When people tried and failed to make their dreams reality, I mean."

Well... "My parents were always very clear about the differences between dreams which needed to be made real and dreams which belonged in the privacy of my own mind."

Tim covers Clark's hand again, squeezes it --

Clark lets his hand be as hard and alien as it is --

And Tim shivers and swallows. He --

<<Fine one, your desire builds an ache within me -->> No, not that --

Tim blinks and frowns. "Was that... Kryptonian?"

"Ah... yes. It was... I was struck, for a moment, by a thought about dreams which translated well *into* Kryptonian," Clark says, and lets the Kal in him take over enough that the lie seems true to human senses --

"Oh? Tell me?"

Well. "There is a part of me which is, perhaps, more alien than the rest. Or... more human in very specific ways. It's the part of me which came to life -- and told me it had been *buried* -- when the Fortress' AI began immersing me in the Kryptonian education modules. There... well. Ambition -- and even ambitious *thoughts* -- were heavily curtailed at various points in the history of the Kryptonian people. Well, in the history available to me. Much was redacted, including the stretch of time before the planet became -- mostly -- a monocultural one."

"Mono- oh. I. I always *mocked* the science fiction that used that trope, Clark."

Clark smiles and turns his hand so that he can hold Tim's own. "It happens. The Justice Society has happened across multiple planets where the same was true -- though those have all tended to be cultures where what we think of as standard civil rights were strictly frowned-upon."

Tim winces. "And... the same was true to at least some extent on Krypton."

"To some extent, yes. What was allowed in the privacy of one's own home -- what was *expected* in the privacy of one's home -- contains much that would shock a modern American, but publicly... they tended to wear those long, flowing robes for a reason."

Tim hums. "I see. And... dreams?"

Do you dream of being taken over, fine one? Dominated and... pushed? "My Kryptonian parents would've agreed with my human parents about there being times and places for the expression of dreams, but they would've taken it *several* steps further. Someone who tried to implement dreams of power and control who *wasn't* of one of the ruling families could expect to be stripped of whatever rights and property she or he *did* have. Repeated attempts would invite nullification of the person's entire *line* -- to reduce the risk of spiritual contagion. More petty crimes could result in one being held in a kind of stasis for years at a time while the world moved on without them. There... hm. Wasn't much in the way of middle ground. I suppose what I'm trying to say is that *every* part of me rejects those people who try to work their will on the world in evil ways, or even just in *thoughtless* ways."

Tim twines his fingers with Clark's own. "You were hurt by Bruce's and Lex's actions."

"Yes, Tim. Though... jealousy played as much of a role as moral disappointment in that particular calculus."

"You -- I. Yes, I suppose it does make sense --" Tim shakes himself all over and laughs again. "I would never stand between you and your loves, Clark."

"Even to have them for yourself?"

"It." Tim blushes and laughs more. "The images are... staggering."

Yes. "All of us." He can't make it a question --

And Tim rocks himself back and forth -- stops. And looks at Clark from under his lashes --

Fine one -- no. Clark squeezes Tim's hand again. "I'll be thinking about this, Tim."

"Yes. Ah. So will I. And -- if I ever do anything that seems to -- to *block* you from being with Bruce or Lex --"

"I know you wouldn't do it on purpose, Tim. You..." Clark licks his lips and offers his own rueful smile. "You must always do what you think best, Tim."

Tim narrows his eyes. "There was a 'but' there."

"Yes. A reluctant one. I... some dreams must always remain fantasies. Others... others deserve far more freedom. And, while it's abundantly clear *much* of the time which are which..."

"You don't think --" Tim licks his own lips. "You're saying that it's not always clear."

"I'm saying that, sometimes, none of us are worthy to judge --"

"Love, Clark?"

Clark doesn't bring Tim's hand to his mouth -- "It's the most beautiful dream of all, I think. Because it can be *shared*."

"Not. Not always without -- damage. Loss. Pain. *Change* --"

"Not always, no. But sometimes, I think..." And Clark can feel the heat building behind his eyes, the need for more -- "Sometimes it's all worth it. Every last thing."

Tim frowns and starts to pull back --

Tim squeezes Clark's hand and starts to pull back *again* --

Tim moans quietly and twists his hand free. "I think. I need a shower. Um. Thank you for coming to see me, Clark --"

"Tim --"

"I need to go now," Tim says, and his smile is quick and small, rueful and *hurt* --

"Will you call to me again?"

Tim reaches out -- but not very far before he drops his hand again. "Yes. I will. And -- you'll come to see Bruce and Lex --"

"I need more time without them. At least... for this little while."

"Oh. Oh. I --"

"Tim... if I can, I will come when you call. Do you understand." Kal in the loss of his questions, in the glow Clark knows is visible when Tim's eyes widen dramatically --

"I understand, yes," Tim says, standing straight and offering a calmer -- and somewhat less honest -- smile. "Thank you for tonight."

Let me *kiss* you -- "You're welcome, Tim."

Tim nods once and turns to go, walking with a *slight* spring in his step *and* tension in his shoulders and neck.

Even his *scent* is conflicted -- a mingle of fresh and aging arousal, worry, curiosity, good cheer, irritation -- hm. "Tim."

Tim pauses at the door and looks back over his shoulder. "Yes, Clark?"

"Why are you irritated?"

Tim blinks, smiles privately -- "Because a part of me is rather profoundly sick of the rest's adherence to... temporal morality."

"Metaphysical conservatism?"

"I *am*," Tim intones, "the Savonarola of space-time."

Clark coughs and beams -- "That was wonderfully geeky."

Time turns enough to bow from the waist -- "Goodnight, Clark."

"And to you."

Clark stays in the study for another two minutes, heating the air around the place on the couch where Tim had sat until his scent is high and a little strange -- Clark is reasonably sure that the gel Tim uses in his hair doesn't exist at this point in time, and this is something that pleases him immensely -- and then he sits in that place himself.

He breathes deeply and thinks of the glimpses he'd given himself of Tim's body, of his lean and economical fitness --

He thinks of Tim's fingers around his penis, Tim's small, soft mouth pressed to his own --

He thinks of pressing his tongue *firmly* against Tim's pulse-point --

And what *would* Bruce and Lex say if Clark seduced Tim out from under them? If he were to --


It's Bruce's soft, steady tread, and of course he's coming to this room -- he *will* want to go down to the Cave for at least a little while. Clark listens carefully, scans the manor --

Harvey is fast asleep in Bruce's bed, and the sodden quality to his snores suggests that Alfred had had a hand in that. Clark nods in helpless approval --

And so he's still sitting right there when Bruce pushes into the room --

When Bruce smiles at him as if it's been weeks instead of hours --

Bruce *always* smiles at him like --

Clark stands and shakes his head once --

"You're not staying."

"No, Bruce."

"I wish... do you know when you'll wish to speak to me again? If... you'll still keep a room here, won't you?"

Clark blinks, breathes deep reflexively -- and the scent of Bruce's worry is thicker and more blunt than Tim's own, but the familiarity is there --

"My love. Taste my honesty, please."

What -- <<You would make your honesty a gift to me?>>

Bruce closes his eyes and smiles. <<May gifts be given with every moment?>>

Happiness in Bruce's scent -- happiness for him. For being *with* him -- <<I cannot -->> "I can't. Ask the question."

A frown, and Bruce opens his eyes once more, searches Clark -- "The question of how much I love you?"

"Don't. Please."

Bruce frowns more deeply and comes closer, cups Clark's face, leans in --

Clark allows everything but the kiss --

"Please. Let me --"

"I can't. I can't take a lie, right now."

Bruce's hands tighten on Clark's face, Bruce's expression is stricken, *hurt* -- "Never, my love. I will *never* lie to you --"

"You've lied to yourself. About -- about Tom. Tim. Both of them --"

"I am... I am weak in many ways, Clark, but I promise I'm growing stronger. And I stopped questioning my love for you the first time we kissed."

Clark sighs, knowing that he's too tense, too obvious --

He's asking too *much* --

He can't be the *needy* one -- not any more than he's already *been* --

<<I beg, my companion. I beg -->>

"*No*. I can't -- right now. Please. Not right now. All right?"

Bruce frowns and searches him again, strokes Clark's cheeks -- "Do you believe that I love you?"

How *much* -- "Yes."

"Do you believe that it will stay with me forever?"

"You never -- yes, I believe."

Bruce strokes down to Clark's shoulders and squeezes with all of his strength. "It's not enough."

"Not -- at the moment."

"Because of what Lex and I did."

"Yes, and --"

"What we asked of you."

"The -- the unforgivable. Tim has *changed* himself for you, for your needs --"

Bruce blinks and steps back. "His memory changed? With what he did for Harvey?"

"And again for me when he... when he sussed my loneliness."

"Brother..." Bruce clenches his hands into fists and stares down at the carpet -- "I believed... I allowed myself to believe that the changes to the timeline would leave him clear. Free."

"Did you believe? Or did you *want* to believe?"

Bruce squeezes his eyes shut -- "It was both, Clark. It -- you must take him --"


"Clark --"

"I'm *compromised*, Bruce!"

Bruce sucks in a sharp breath and blinks at him -- "You've come to desire him."

"*Yes*. He -- he's so warm."

Bruce's eyes are wide, excited -- "He's forgiven you."

"He -- he *changed*. There -- he's fantasized about all of us. In his mind, the three of us are *equals*."

"We *are* --"

"I'll always be the young one. Soft, ignorant, inexperienced, needy --"

"Brilliant, warm, wise, loving, *needful* --"

"Your *consolation* prize --"

"Clark, please don't make me want to *hit* you," Bruce says, and stares at his fists with incredulous *need* --

Clark laughs quietly, and --

Bruce has always been so --

"I -- I'm sorry, Bruce. My feelings are... messy, at the moment --"

"We've taken you for granted."

"No --"

"Lex and I... we became so focused on the possibility of finally having Tom *back* --"

"You -- you still invited me to the lab --"

"But Lex did not. And you... we've spoken about him incessantly. Compared you to him. Used his memory as a canvas on which to paint all future relationships," Bruce says, and nods slowly. "We would not have you without him --"

"I *know* that." And Clark clenches his own hands into fists. "I -- so many times, Bruce. So many times I've just *railed* at him in my mind. He walked through your lives like some -- some arrogant *deity*. Giving this, taking that, changing this about you, changing *that* about Lex, throwing me the *bone* of your companionship as a parting *shot* --"

"We -- he was told that he *had* to leave. That it was his only chance --"

"Yes, I *know*, Bruce. I know *all* of it."

Bruce's teeth click shut -- and he nods. "Of course. It's only... you've never allowed us this argument, Clark. You... I believe you've been having the argument with straw-men who could never -- would never -- give answers beyond those you *feared*."

You're not doing that much *better* -- except. That isn't true. It --

Clark floats up a few feet and breathes in, breathes out --

Allows himself to shudder and shake --

Allows himself room to look down on Bruce. Icy eyes which are sharp even when they're full like this. Classic features. A thin mouth Bruce does everything to *compensate* for --

("Let me --"

"I can't, Bruce, I can't --"

"It's all right. You've learned so *much* of control --"

"It can't ever be *enough* -- I can't *hurt* you --"

"Clark. *Give* yourself to me at last."

"Oh -- oh, Bruce --"

"My love. I *ache*.")

And the first time Bruce had swallowed him, Clark hadn't lasted long enough to cry *out* --

But Bruce didn't pull off until after Clark had come twice more --

Bruce *trusted* him --

And Bruce desired and loved him even more than that. More --

Clark floats down slowly --

Bruce opens his arms --

They hold each other right there, and --


"Anything, my love --"

"All. All of us are in your home --"

Bruce laughs softly and presses a kiss to Clark's ear. "This isn't the first time I've thought that my home was far too large... but it's certainly the most arousal-oriented."

Clark filters, listens -- "Harvey is still fast asleep."

"Alfred says he will be for at least six hours. I trust his use of... hm. Applied biochemistry?"

Clark squeezes Bruce tighter. "Lex is... ordering Mercy to... ah. Strut."

"So it is the corset tonight?"

"I'd rather not look --"

"Understandable," Bruce says, and drags his stubbled cheek against Clark's own. "She's always made you uncomfortable."

"There are times when I've wondered if making me uncomfortable was part of Lex's *rationale* for choosing her and Hope."

Another laugh. "I think... he told me once that, with both of them, one look into their eyes was enough to remind him of everything he'd left behind when he chose to join with us. He feels he needs the reminder... and the reminder isn't always unpleasant for him."

"You find them attractive. Both of them."

"Disturbingly so. I can't help thinking of what a force for good the two of them could be if they decided to become vigilantes. If they were at all *inclined* toward becoming vigilantes. Clark... talk to me."

How *much* -- Clark tucks his head against Bruce's throat. "I love you."

"Always --"

"You -- I've already said it --"

"You could never be worth *less* to me than someone else. You..." Bruce pulls back and tilts Clark's chin up so that they can meet each other's eyes. "I can't help but think that at least part of this problem wouldn't *exist* if you would just spend more *time* with both of us --"

"I *can't* --"

"You can't *operate* here, but there's more to life --"

"I would. I wouldn't be able to stop myself from operating here, Bruce," Clark says, and shakes his head. "You don't know how much I force myself to *ignore* every time I'm near. It -- it's painful."

Bruce closes his eyes for a moment and nods. "But... if you *were* here... have we ignored you?"


"Clark --"

"You *haven't*. I've -- absented myself. What I was going to try to do tonight. I -- I'm so afraid, Bruce."

"Of losing us."

"You -- the two of you are everything --"

"Not everything --"

"I can't be *honest* with my parents, anymore. Not completely --"

"And Tim? You must have had a reasonably substantive conversation --"

"Yes. I -- yes," Clark says, and steps back, flies up, paces the edges of the room from a foot above the carpet -- "I believe he -- I know he desires me."

Bruce's heart speeds --

His eyes are -- hungry.

"Oh -- Bruce, he told me -- this room is wired, you'll be able to see for yourself. He wants both you and Lex, as well. The Dark Knight. The White Knight."

"And you, my love?"

"I -- hm. I believe he tried to convince me to take over the world."

"You could do *that* from Gotham."


Bruce smiles, brilliant and so *warm* --

Clark flies back into his arms. "I'm always a *boy* with you."

"You're one of the men I love most in the world."


"I know what you're saying. I..." Bruce sighs and tests his teeth against Clark's jaw --

"Don't --"

"Do you not want me to? Or are you worried that I'll hurt myself?"

"I can hear your teeth *creak* when you do that, Bruce."

Bruce blinks. "They... creak?"

"Like... aging *planks*."

"Clark, are you saying that I have *scurvy*?"

Clark laughs helplessly. "No, it's only -- you bite down too hard every time. I have the horrible image of you *breaking* your teeth."

Bruce bites more gently -- and raises an eyebrow.

Clark smiles and laughs again -- "You always make me feel so *open*, Bruce."

"The feeling is entirely mutual. I..." Bruce smiles. "One more story of Tom?"

"You never -- I never want you to *censor* yourself --"

"And I never want you to *endure*. The more you endure, the less you *wish* to spend time in my presence. Yes?"

Clark frowns --

"There's such a thing as tabling a discussion for a better time, Clark," and Bruce raises his eyebrow *high* --

"Tell me. Please tell me everything, anything --"

"Kiss me --"

Clark does, cupping Bruce's face and tilting his head back, making the kiss deep, *hard* --

("*Take* me."

"Oh, *Bruce* --"

"It's what we both desire... and I have waited too long.")

Bruce groans and grips Clark's t-shirt --

Bruce rips it into two *pieces* --

And being aroused stops being a possibility and starts being -- imperative. Present. Needful --

Clark moans and kisses Bruce harder, and now he's urging, *trying* --

Bruce always knows how to --

Sweep him off his feet. *Literally*, because he's on the carpet on his back, reaching for the fly of his jeans --

Bruce drops to his knees with perfect grace, knocks Clark's hands away, and opens the jeans with quick, deft care which feels tortuous, deadly --

"*Please*, Bruce --"

"I thought Tom had taught me how to be a man," Bruce says, and slips Clark free of his briefs, squeezes him hard --

"Oh --

"He taught me... mm. He validated the boy in me. He raised the boy high and taught him how to scrabble for power, how to revel in greed and pleasure, how to make such things a *virtue*. Do you understand?"

"I don't -- I -- please, Bruce --"

"The boy in me thrills to the boy in you, Clark. My love." <<My companion. Tell me your pleasure.>>

Clark groans and arches, tries to *think* --


"Your *mouth*. Your -- oh -- *ohn* --"

And it's the same *fight* it always is: the need to melt into nothing but pleasure versus the need to *take* Bruce's mouth --

Tight human *heat* --

Bruce hums *loudly* and Clark has to sit up, stare --

Bruce is looking into his eyes as he sucks on the head, as he licks and *purposefully* drools --

Clark whines and pets Bruce's hair gently, cups the back of his head, the back of his neck --

Bruce's expression is a *request*, and Clark knows what he's asking for -- what he *always* asks for --

"I imagined his *hand*, Bruce," Clark says, and *wills* Bruce to understand --

Bruce's eyes go wide, *hungry* -- he wants more.

"His. His lips against mine. He has such a *small* mouth... but I already know it can be generous --"

Bruce nods slowly, sucks harder --

Takes Clark *deeper* --

Licks so -- so --

"Oh, you always make me -- make me feel *big* --"

Bruce raises an *eyebrow* --

Clark laughs and strokes his own chest, pinches his own nipples and lets the feeling *make* him thrust --

Bruce's gulp is so *shameless*, so --

"His mouth. His -- I touched his throat -- oh, *Bruce* --"

*Teeth*, and that -- that's always so wonderful, so harsh and --

"Human, I want --" <<This one would be base-alien-mammal for you -->>

Bruce chokes a laugh --

*Ruthlessly* swallows around Clark again --

Again --

Oh, everything in him is for Bruce's mouth, every part of his body *craves* --

But he must --

He must give Bruce what *he* wants, too --

"I was... wallowing in his *scent* when you came in. He --" Clark looks up, struggles to *focus* his x-ray vision -- there. "His body is *sleek*, Bruce. He -- he still has some softness --I know you'll take it *away* --"

Bruce shakes his head *violently* --

"To make him your *partner*, Bruce -- he -- but right now there are no scars on his flesh. He is --" Clark licks his lips and *grips* Bruce's hair -- "I *need* you!"

Bruce grunts around him, groans and *scrapes* Clark with his teeth --

"Please, *please* --"

And then Bruce begins to work his head, showing Clark the rhythm he wants, needs --

"Yes -- yes, Bruce, I *see*," and Clark takes over, moving Bruce's head into each and every one of his thrusts -- "Oh, *love* --"

Bruce shows his own loss of focus to Clark, spreads his legs --

The scent of *his* arousal is a sudden *thick* wash, driving and demanding --

"Bruce -- Bruce, he's naked right now, wet in -- in the shower -- no, Bruce, like *this*," and Clark firms his grip when Bruce tries to slow down, tries to *hide* how much this is arousing him -- "I love you, I love you and I *understand* --"

Bruce stares at him again, focus back in -- in less than a *heartbeat* --

"I -- oh, *Bruce* -- I told him -- I tried to tell him --"

Bruce bares his teeth again --

*Keeps* them bared --

And Clark loses his rhythm just that quickly, loses --

He clamps down *hard* on himself, separating himself from the sensations just enough that he can take in every one, examine and *note* the way Bruce's tongue makes him filthy and beautiful --

The way Bruce's teeth are *designed* to drive him to the edge of extremis --

The way Bruce himself *knows* that Clark has pulled back and so is --

Taking --

Taking *more* of him, holding him --

*Speeding* around him --

"*Bruce* --!"

And then Bruce cups Clark's hip with one hand and Clark's scrotum with the other --

Bruce squeezes and scratches, scratches and squeezes *hard* --

There was something Clark was going to --

Say --

*Oh* --

And like this, in the moment of his pleasure, Bruce's aura is the brightest thing in the world, actinic and crackling as he holds Clark ruthlessly *in* the moment. Clark can hear himself begging, feel himself on the *verge* of ejaculating for a subjective *lifetime* --

And then he's simply shouting and trying not to *break* anything, trying to last until the trigger-moment when his body tells him that it's all right, that he *won't* let go too far --

*There* --

White light and noise --

Heat and pressure *released* --

And, somehow, subjectivity fails to take him very far beyond humanity, because it still seems *far* too short a time before he's falling back into himself and panting, shuddering for Bruce's pleased *hum* --

"Oh -- I love you --"

Bruce hums once more and squeezes *both* of Clark's hips --

"You -- pull off --"

Bruce does and *licks* his way up Clark's body, lingering at Clark's sparse abdominal hair, biting the fingers Clark still has on his nipple --

Clark blushes --

And Bruce straddles him, leaning in enough to cup Clark's face but not farther. "My love."

"I always -- always *need* you --"

"You'll always have me."

"He --" Clark blushes and licks his lips. "He told me that he's thought about all of us. Together."

Bruce gasps -- and closes his eyes and smiles before letting go of Clark's face and lifting one of Clark's hands to his mouth. "The thought arouses you, as well."

"Yes. Yes, I -- Bruce, I told him to let go."

Bruce opens his eyes. "Clark..."

"I told him --" Clark laughs softly. "I think a part of me just wanted to make sure you and Lex got a *chance* to prove you wouldn't forget about me."

Bruce frowns. "Clark... tell me how I may *ease* you."

"Time, Bruce. I... I don't regret not leaving earlier, but I was still right that I needed time. I -- please."

Bruce nods and kisses the palm of Clark's hand. "Then simply tell me when I must stop touching you."

Oh -- "You -- you always make my *heart* beat faster, Bruce."

"That sounded like an accusation --"

"It *was*. I --" Clark laughs again. "How do *you* want to come?"

"With someone who desires me more than they desire... solitude."

"Bruce --"

"Clark," Bruce says, letting go of Clark's hand and tracing Clark's features. "Look at me and tell me that you wouldn't feel *conflicted* about the two of us continuing to make love."

"You -- I *wasn't* conflicted when you were making love to me with your mouth --"

"But the thoughts have returned. The darkness..." Bruce presses his index finger below Clark's right eye and his middle finger below the left. "I should have recognized it long before now."

"I. I love you."

Bruce nods once. "Never, ever choose fairness over... natural inclination."

Clark winces. "Every *moment* with you is natural --"

"And you need never seduce," Bruce says, and stands, offering Clark his hand.

Clark stands as well, fastening his jeans --

And Bruce pulls them into another upright hug. It's impossible to *not* be aware of Bruce's arousal -- the scent *surrounds* them -- but that arousal is fading by the moment.

Bruce had taught Clark nearly everything Clark knows about self-control. Bruce had taught him so *much*, *given* so much --

Clark squeezes Bruce tight and buries his face against his neck. "I want to believe you."

"But you can't. Yet?"

Clark nods and breathes Bruce in, teasing at the wall of scent until he can *only* smell Bruce's sweat and cologne. Lex always picks colognes which *disguise* his scent too much, but Bruce picks ones which are complementary --

From the very first touch which went beyond a handshake --

And, right now, Clark thinks he's close to shaking himself stupid, insane --

Close to *begging* Bruce to forget everyone save for him and Lex --

And, in his mind, Tim is looking at him from under his lashes, and the look is more of a *challenge* than a reminder. Clark laughs and bangs his head against Bruce's shoulder lightly, repeatedly --

Bruce rumbles his pleased amusement. "You always tempt me to direct you to... hmm. Mountains. Non-vulnerable cliff-sides."

"You're more than monumental enough for me, Bruce."


Clark looks up and smiles ruefully. "Perhaps... you and Lex haven't been to the Fortress in a couple of weeks... ah."

Bruce steps back enough to press his thumb to Clark's mouth. "Yes. We'll come soon."

"And -- you'll bring Tim?"

"If he desires -- but you already believe that he will."

"He..." Clark licks his lips and Bruce's thumb. "Superman's little tricks excited him."

Bruce parts his lips and breathes through his mouth, searching Clark and the depths of his own mind and desires at once -- "He is... younger. Tom always seemed far, far older."

"Time passes, Bruce."

"So much..." Bruce shakes his head and strokes Clark's mouth. "I am... attracted to his youth. Which is a surprise... though perhaps it shouldn't be."

Clark kisses Bruce's thumb. "I was a *young* fifteen in many ways... and you were a much, much older eighteen. You *called* me a boy."

"Not very many times --"

"Not very many times *aloud*."

Bruce smiles lazily and raises an eyebrow. "Have you begun reading minds?"

Clark smiles back. "Sometimes."

"You aren't... bothered by my feelings for Tim? In that way, I mean --"

"I know what you mean, Bruce. I..." Clark sighs and smiles ruefully. "I believe you'll give him... incalculable pleasure. The same pleasure you give everyone you make love with."

"Is that enough?"

"It's enough to make anyone crave more. I -- let me go?"

Bruce presses his thumb against Clark's lip. "I don't want to."

"I know. I... a part of me will always be on my knees --"

"Is that what you want," and Bruce's voice is low, nearly as rough as *Batman's* --

But Bruce is nowhere near as aroused as he was, and Clark knows that Bruce is *mostly* hoping to keep Clark close for as long as it will take to convince Clark that nothing is wrong, that he's loved and needed -- "You're incredibly manipulative in some of the best possible ways, Bruce, *but*."

Bruce offers his own rueful smile, drops his hand, and steps back.

Clark -- breathes.

"I'm sorry, Clark --"

"No, Bruce. You have --"

"*Don't* say I have nothing to apologize for."

Clark -- blushes. Just --

At least once *every* time he's with Bruce --

"Fine. Never -- never apologize for wanting me *with* you."

Bruce lifts his chin, flares his nostrils -- "As you say."

Clark nods and keeps nodding like an idiot -- no. "Good night, Bruce."

Bruce smiles and raises his hand --

And Clark kisses the palm before he flies.


"Now this rhythm," Lex says, and drums on the bedside table with his palm. The rhythm in question is from the Whiznee musical Princess and the Hobo, and the song extols the virtues of hobo-love.

In an entirely child-friendly sort of way, of course.

Mercy picks up the rhythm first with her right foot --

Then her perfectly manicured hands --

And then her perfect, perfect body.

Mercy is only two and a half inches shorter than he is, and thus meets him eye-to-eye when she's wearing any of the many, many pairs of heels which Lex has purchased for her.

It *wasn't* his idea that she do the lion's share of her martial arts training with her feet all but hobbled, but he has to admit that the results appeal to the needy, unenlightened, and grunting beast within him.

If there's a task which Mercy is capable of performing -- and there are an *endless* number of those -- then she is *fucking* well capable of doing it on her toes. Currently, the task in question involves Mercy walking from one end of this bedroom to the other.

And back.


*Again* --


"Yes, Lex?" And she turns on her heel to walk -- strut -- toward the bed as a cartoon Cocker spaniel sings the blues in his mind.

Mercy's hair is much more lustrous than the spaniel's fur. She eats better. She -- Lex sighs and smiles. "Tell me how much you hate the corset."

Mercy shows her teeth -- and drags her nails up her own sides. "It's leather. I approve."

"Yes, and?"

"It's not shiny. That's good."

"Shiny detracts from your complexion, which, of course, remains perfect."

Mercy swivels her hips.

"Good girl. What else?"

"It creaks... nicely."

Lex makes the hurry-up gesture --

"It's a motherfucking *corset*, Lex. You -- it's beneath you."

Lex bites his tongue lightly. "Elaborate."

Mercy glares at him from under her lashes.

Lex stretches out his legs on top of the duvet and crosses them at the ankle. After a moment's thought, he folds his hands behind his head.

Mercy narrows her eyes in an expression that tends to make most men's testicles try to retract. It's not *just* her eyes, really. It's the shoulders which are beautifully -- and significantly -- too broad for women's fashion, the biceps which have a vastly attractive layer of fat to *thicken* them even further than they normally would be, the thighs which speak of *years* of weight-training --

And they both take a moment to watch Lex's cock rise even further. *Just* a moment, though. "Now, Mercy."

Flared nostrils, a fist on a gently curving hip, an eyebrow raised in purest, flattering imitation of his own --

Lex smiles -- making a point to show the canines which *will* come into play soon enough.

"You -- " Mercy growls and shakes herself all over --

*Nobody* exclaims 'what a *dog*' --

"It's -- common. *Any* man could get hard for this."

And the last time they'd done this, she'd said much the same... but. "More."

"You might as well give me one of those -- those pony-girl butt plugs, Lex!"

Lex considers it --

*Is* there a musical version of Black Beauty? Wait, no, that's entirely the wrong color-scheme.

Mr. Ted? No, no, and no. Bouncy, though --

Mercy growls again --

"You do realize what it would feel like if I whipped you *while* you were wearing something like that plug, yes?"

"*Yes*, but -- you're no... no *fetishist*."

Lex raises both eyebrows, and, really, it's a pearl beyond *price* to be nine years into a sexual relationship and still be able to learn something *new* about one's partner. "That didn't come up last time."

Another glare --

"Adjust your expression -- you're wrinkling a little too much on the right side of your forehead."

Mercy blanks herself entirely -- and there's the usual vertigo, the sense of the ground -- or the bed, as the case may be -- shifting beneath his body, changing and becoming something entirely else --

There's no *life* ---

And then Mercy is glaring again, and the wrinkling is almost perfectly even.

"Excellent work. Remember that configuration."

"Yes, Lex."

"Tell me more of your dislike for fetishists."

Mercy curls her lip --

"Excuse me; your intense *loathing* for fetishists."

She nods once, tosses her long, auburn hair -- "They're weak."

"Because they're ruled by their kinks?"

"*Not* kinks," Mercy says, jabbing a finger at him. "Kinks are good. Kinks are exciting. Kinks are... like a pet with no irritating *selfhood*."

Sweet Hominy Cricket, he loves this woman. "Fetishes are something else entirely...?"

"*Yes*. Fuck, Lex, fetishists -- they're *owned*. And not even in any *respectable* way. They're *useless* to self-respecting masters and *near*-useless to self-respecting slaves."

Lex considers *that* -- "You're absolutely right."

Mercy nods once.

"That said, you look even more incredible in corsets than you do out of them, so, we have to pick a few that work for you. Suggestions?"

Mercy hooks her thumbs in the bottom side-laces of the corset and chews the inside of her cheek.

Lex thinks about making Hope shoot at her while she does that -- no, Mercy will want to save that for her birthday. He files the thought away --

"White lace."

Lex blinks. "Yes?"

"Something -- cheap and scratchy. I'll snarl the whole time I'm wearing it. You like that."

He really does. Lex nods. "Matching panties?"

"Only if you're going to whip me. Or use knives."

Interesting. He raises his eyebrows again.

"I'll want to stain them horribly."

Lex sighs happily. "Noted. Assume the position."

Mercy does, gripping the footboard nearly as hard as Bruce had gripped the one in his bedroom at Wayne Tower earlier.

He has a type.

He is... entirely all right with that. Lex moves off the bed and strips Mercy with slow, loving care until her growl is as steady and ominous as a Rottweiler's. The saw-tooth clamps on her nipples cut the growl off nicely.

The carefully balanced weights hanging from her labial piercings gives him a whimper -- just one.

The long, flat, leather-wrapped paddle --

Applied vigorously to her creamy, heart-shaped ass --


"If you don't come between strikes twenty and twenty-three, I go down on you."

"Oh -- God, please, *no* --"

"You know it's coming, Mercy."

"Please -- *please*, Lex --"

"I could smell you tonight. Even before I opened your pants," Lex says, and strikes twice --

Three times --

"You know not to taunt me like that, Mercy."

Mercy moans and hangs her head, shudders -- "Please, Lex. I'm *sorry*, Lex --"

"Then do what's necessary," Lex says, and strikes three more times --

He's up to eleven --

"Oh -- oh, please -- "


"I'm *sorry*! I'm sorry I'm -- so -- so *dirty* --"

Fuck, fuck -- Lex lets himself grunt for that --

Watches Mercy stiffen --

Watches Mercy *know* him --

And she starts to wiggle her ass in tight little --

It's the same rhythm --

Sixteen strikes now, and he needs her, needs --

"You -- you can make me *clean*, Lex --"


"Oh -- I'll be good for you, Lex, I'll be -- um. Um. You can shave me like I'm your dirty little girl --"


Eighteen --

"Spread. Your. Legs."

Mercy grunts and shudders, obeys and bends further, pushing up on her powerful toes --

And he *can't* use his hand for this -- not after *starting* with the paddle -- but she --

He needs her. He *needs* her, and so he counts off her wriggles and twists --

Strikes *carefully* for nineteen --

She howls --

Twenty --


"*Say* it."

"I'm *sorry* -- I'm so -- so --"

Twenty-one --

And she's rigid and screaming --

She's pumping at the air and tossing her hair --

"My turn," Lex says, grabbing her hip --

She stills so *perfectly* --

And he sinks himself deep in her cunt, feeling himself slick, warm, practically --

Practically fucking *cradled* --

"Lex, I'm *sorry* --"

"Not yet, you aren't," and really, a woman who puts up with *this* is a pearl beyond price, because they'd learned *years* ago that Lex wasn't actually capable of fucking her cunt hard enough to *really* make her happy --

They'd cursed the uselessness of his conscience together, and it was neither the first time nor the last time for *that* --

"You feel -- fucking *squeeze* me, you bitch --"

Mercy grunts and starts milking him with expert skill, expert --

It's still the same fucking *rhythm*, and laughing would kill the mood, but he loves --

He has nearly everything he wants and he *loves* --

And so it's necessary to wrap her hair around the fist not on her hip, yank her head back, study those ludicrously perfect Nordic features in the moment before he bites her ear --

"Lex, *please* -- "

Her throat hard enough to draw blood -- and oh, they'd *rejoiced* together when all her blood tests came back clean for the third and final time --

Finally --

He sucks hard --

Shoves her down hard enough that she has to brace her hands on the mattress --

"Reach back and *spread* --"

"Yes, Lex, I'm *sorry*, Lex, *please*, Lex --"

And leaving her cunt is like leaving home, leaving --

It's like growing the fuck *up*, because women have needs, and perfect women have *perfect* needs --

And the tight, brown pucker of her ass isn't even a little bit slick when he starts to push in --

When she throws her head back and howls again --

When he gets the head in *just* deep enough that he can let go and *fuck* his way in --

("Nobody gets my ass who isn't worth it.")

A gauntlet thrown down, and Lex has never asked how many men tried and *failed* to pick it up -- because if she *hadn't* been an anal virgin the first time he'd fucked her, she'd damned well been *close* to it. She --

Oh, *she* --

Her grunt turns into a whine --

She clenches around him *viciously* --

And *he's* using the damned rhythm he'd set, and it will be his fault and his fault alone if he gets hard the next time he watches the movie.

He'll bring Mercy to his office that day just in *case* --

"*Hnh* -- *Lex* --"

"Say it *again* --"

"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, Lex, I won't -- I won't do it again --"

"You *will* --"

"I -- I can't *help* it --"

"Dirty. So --" Lex grunts and *forces* himself to a different rhythm, grips her hips to hold her still --

She shouts and clenches again --

He growls and *slams* in, because this is what's best, what --

So tight and *hot* --

"Fuck me, oh fuck me, *ohn* --"

Wanted --

He'd wanted *Tom* to say those words. He'll do something *horrible* to get *Tim* to say those words, to beg with that pretty, prissy mouth --

"Lex, so -- so *sorry* --"

"Not *good* enough, not -- taste you on the fucking *air* --"

Mercy sobs and Lex flexes, grunts and fucks her *faster* --

"For *you* --"

"Yes, Lex, *please* -- oh, please, I'm *close* --"

"Fuck, you -- sound like a little *girl* --"

And Mercy *cackles* in the brief moments before he twists the clamp on her right nipple --

In the moments before she *screams* for him and starts milking his cock once more, clench after flex after *clench*, and Lex has never asked her about the *ratio* of pleasure to pain for moments like this, never --

Fuck, he never *will* --

"Love -- love the *mystery* --"

A questioning sound --

A gasp --

And then she's shuddering and beating at the bed with her fist, biting her lip --

Letting loose and screaming once --

*Again* --

Panting as Lex shoves in and in and --

"You *like* 'em young," she says, and bears down on him so hard he has to *slam* in --

And that's all he can take, all --

Somewhere in the ether, Tom is laughing at him. Somewhere in the *manor*, Tim damned well should be, because this heat --

This ratcheting, *grinding* pleasure --

No, that's the fuck --

And he's grunting his way through shooting off the way he always does when it's Mercy's ass --

Or Bruce's --

He's clawing at her *back* --

And he locks his knees to keep from falling over, because -- he doesn't want to pull out *just* yet. "*What* did you say to me?"

Mercy -- snickers.

Lex narrows his eyes.

"By the way, Lex, what exactly was I apologizing *for*?"

"I have no fucking clue, you dirty bitch -- oh, wait, it was that."

Mercy hums and wiggles her ass temptingly, beautifully, *excruciatingly*, considering --

"Stop that."

Mercy sighs. "Yes, Lex."

"I like them *young*?"

"If Tim's eaten even *one* dick, I'll let you go down on me and even speak to you the next day."

Lex licks his lips --

Wishes, fleetingly, for Tim to prove himself non-virginal --

And sighs. "Sadly, the sheer number of dicks Tim hasn't eaten is legion."

Mercy looks back at Lex from over her shoulder -- "You're getting off on that. On the fact that you'll be teaching him."

Lex traces a line down her spine, gathering sweat until he pops it into his mouth. He gives himself a moment to savor --

Another to procrastinate --

And something about the *quality* of open curiosity on Mercy's face suggests a threat of *imminent* clenching. So. "He taught me, once. Or his other did."

Mercy snorts. "How much did you need to *be* taught?"

Lex claws down her sides to her hips. "He was the first male of the species I was even the slightest bit attracted to. My attraction to Bruce came much, much later... well. I'd done a lot of *shallow* study about homosexuality to perfect the role I was playing at school, but there was a great deal I knew *nothing* about. More to the point, I was convinced that I'd never *need* to know."

Mercy narrows her eyes thoughtfully and nods --

Raises her eyebrows --

"Go on," Lex says, and braces himself for the feeling of loss as she crawls forward with slow and careful grace. She reaches back to spread herself again --

And gives Lex the sight of his come leaking from her spasming hole. He only ever rims her *before* the fuck -- she enjoys it far more than cunnilingus, but that's just not *saying* much -- and so he gestures her towards the bathroom.

"Yes, Lex."

He follows, and waits for her to adjust the water to the right temperature, for her to wet her body but *not* her hair *yet* --

And then he slips in behind her. This is the *peak* of what she allows in terms of gentleness and care when she *isn't* about to be fucked blind. She'd told him once that she considered it necessary maintenance -- and he will never ask her whom she believes the maintenance is for.

He washes her slowly and carefully, gently mapping out new welts from the paddle, quickly fading ones from the clamps and weights -- all water-safe, of course. He catalogs her skin, the scent of her mingled with the scent of water --

And he smiles to himself at the many, many memories he has of Bruce treating him *just* this way.

Bruce is incapable of making it feel like anything but worship -- especially since it often comes with the kind of rubdown which can only be described as *decadent* -- and Lex doesn't think he makes any better a showing.

It was Bruce who'd taught him this kink, after all.

She's slipping into the quiet and pliant state she finds when she's been satisfied *enough*, and --

It's not what Lex wants. He washes her hair quickly and efficiently, dries her roughly enough that her flesh pinks --

"Yes, Lex."

Lex smiles at her perfectly-done toenail polish. "Ask for the same nail technician next time."

"Yes, Lex."

"Tell me..." Lex stands out of his crouch and crosses his arms over his chest --

She looks him over with possessive pride -- and meets his eyes with the challenge that had seduced him in an *instant* when Lex was eighteen and she was twenty-one.

Lex shows his teeth. "Tell me your objections to Tim."

"He's soft."


"He resists too much."

"I find it attractive in him... up to a point."

Mercy sneers -- not *quite* at him.

Lex snorts and twists her nipple viciously hard --

She pushes up on her toes and cries out *softly* -- "I'm sorry, Lex."

"No, you're not, but I like you brazen -- sometimes. Go kneel by the side of the bed."

"Yes, Lex."

He watches her walk, of course. Less of a *natural* sway than Hope, but she compensates for the lack flawlessly, flexing her calves just so, offering the *suggestion* of softness for the curve of waist to hip --


Once she's down, Lex slips into bed beside her and begins the slow process of winding himself down enough for sleep. To say that it had been an *exciting* day --


Lex pulls out the comb and brush he keeps in the bedside table. "Braid your hair. *One* braid tonight."

"Yes, Lex."

He closes his eyes while she does it, breathing in the scent of the soap they'd used -- the *one* formulation he approves of for both Mercy's skin and his own --

"Hope thinks he needs to be trained, Lex."

"Mm, she would. She could be right."

"But you don't want him that way."

Lex smiles at the image of Tim kneeling beside the head, collared and waiting...

Bruce would smack himself with his own *cock* -- and then be deeply disturbed. He has needs, too.

"He needs to be bent, not broken, Mercy."

"*Bruce* needs him to be bent rather than broken."

Lex sighs. "And?"

"You need Bruce," she says. Mutters, really.

"You're adorable sometimes. Spread your legs and spank your mound with the back of the brush."

Mercy grunts --

The sound of it is curiously *minor* -- hm. "Kneel up and spank your lips."

A *deeper* grunt -- "Yes, Lex, thank you, Lex --"


Mercy groans... and begins spanking herself in *that* rhythm.

"You recognized the song, didn't you."

"Hnh -- you hummed it for the whole -- whole week after you watched the movie. Lex."

Lex laughs quietly. "Noted. Go back to your hair."

"Yes, Lex. How do *you* want him?"

"I... differently than from how I thought it would. I love his bitchiness -- it's familiar and delightful -- but I find that I'm also enjoying his *idealism* to a certain extent. And, once he lets me dress him, my aesthetic enjoyment of him will be complete."

She hums -- "Bruce will scar him."

"I was disgustingly hard for him when he looked like he'd been through a *meat* grinder, Mercy."

Another hum -- "More knife-play."

"Absolutely. Once you wear the pony-plug."

Mercy growls, and --

The atmosphere thickens enough that Lex knows she's glaring at him. Mm. "Come up here and straddle me."

She does so, and, once she's situated, Lex opens his eyes once more. The braid is resting thick over her *left* shoulder -- just the way he likes it -- her teeth are bared, and her eyes are *hot*.

"Now what, pray tell, may I do for *you*, Mercy?"

"You liked his scars --"

"I like yours."

"I don't have *enough* --"

"You have plenty," Lex says, and shoves his thumb in her navel -- "And you'll have even more."

She studies him warily, openly -- "Whipping?"

"Of course."


"Only if you can make yourself smell both appealing and entirely unlike barbecue."

She snarls at him.

Lex sits up and backhands her hard enough to rock her on her knees -- "Hm. This is probably why Gilda hates me, you know."

Mercy kneels up again and licks her lips, eyes bright and dancing. "*I* love you."

Lex raises an eyebrow while resting on his elbows --

And she laughs like a child. "I have *feelings* for you, Lex. Big, messy, squishy *feelings*. That -- they make me heat up inside. Like a sexy little oven."

Lex rakes his gaze over her body, lingering at the perfectly smooth curve of her abdomen that he'd had to whip her bloody *twice* in order to get her to agree to allowing over her formerly *aggressive* abs -- "Not *very* little."

Mercy growls -- and then visibly jumps a little for the feel of her skin pulling along the path of what will be a perfectly distressing bruise. "Lex."

"Yes, liebchen?"

She sticks her tongue out at him.

Lex sighs and laughs happily. "Tuck me in, turn off the lamp, then kneel there motionless and stare at me for ten minutes."

She frowns. "You're worried about not getting enough sleep."

"Slightly. No need for scotch *yet*."

"All right, Lex," she says, and covers him with obsessive care. It's the opposite of comforting, and so, paradoxically, it's soothing. His lizard brain is now *utterly* convinced that he has to be still and go to la-la land lest the scary lady continue *looking* at him --

The way she's doing *right* now --

Lex smiles into the blackness and lets himself drift.

He wakes to the weak -- downright *mealy-mouthed* -- morning sunshine that makes his bedroom here get as close to bright as it ever actually does.

Which is not very.

Lex sighs to himself and makes a note to have Hope go stare at the scientists he has working on light bulbs which give off natural-seeming light. Just until they whimper.

Not necessarily until they cry.

Meanwhile... yes, his body is telling him that it's only five-thirty -- a full hour before he'd *planned* to wake up. Hope had night-watch, though, so... yes.

He summons her with the wrist-implant, fluffs his single pillow, and arranges himself like he's in a coffin. It's a position he's found distressingly comfortable since trying it after his mother's wake, but the simple fact of the matter is that he wants his body to be as rested as possible, because --

In case --


Hope slips in mostly silently, takes one look at Lex -- and slips off her shoes and crawls on beside him. He makes sure the pillow on that side of the bed is as soft as possible, so as to not dent Hope's wildly unfashionable 'natural.' Lex can stand neither the smell nor the texture of chemically relaxed hair, and Hope doesn't mind. Well.

Hope doesn't give a flying fuck at a rolling *doughnut* about her appearance, so long as she's allowed to dress practically -- and attractively to Lex.

"Why are you not asleep."

"I'm agitated. Excited. Nervous. Jittery."

Hope nods once. "Tim. Let me bring him here."

"No, not yet. I want him to walk into my bedroom -- any one of my bedrooms -- by choice."

"He could choose not to be carried."

Lex laughs quietly and looks -- yes, there's a hard light in her eyes. It doesn't look the slightest bit *amused*, but there's definitely feeling in there. "Mercy's been working with your sense of humor."

"Yes. You find her very amusing. I would like to be very amusing to you."

Lex hums and twines their hands together. "Laughter is one of the myriad first steps to -- potentially -- love."

"I would like to be loved by you."


"Not yet. I am... regretful. Disappointed in myself --"

"No," Lex says, and squeezes her hand. "As I've told you, it's not a requirement that you be my lover."

"That... is not the problem."

"No? Tell me."

"You are willing to expend a great deal of effort for Tim. This implies great value."

Hm. "Well, yes, but that doesn't mean I don't also value you and Mercy and greatly."

"And Bruce."

"*Has* Bruce been irritating you and Mercy in some way beyond the usual?"

"No," she says, but she doesn't sound especially *sure*, so -- ah.

"He's been very emotional lately."

Hope shows her teeth -- stops. "Yes."

"It's... disconcerting?"

"I get... an image in my mind."


"A garage. Cement. There are cars in every parking space. All of them are idling."

"Oh... hm. Well, yes, I suppose he can be... oppressive."


"I *believe* he'll calm down to at least a certain extent once Tim agrees to stay with us."

"And you will also calm down."

Lex sighs and crosses his legs at the ankle. "That is, in fact, my plan."

"Then I must do what I can to make Tim understand what is necessary."

Lex squeezes her hand. "I don't believe that will work, Hope, but I appreciate the thought."

"You often send me to be... convincing to others. Is my approach too frightening."

"Yes, I believe so. Tim is somewhat skittish at the moment, though if Clark was anything *like* on his game, much of that will have passed."

"A softer touch."

"Occasionally necessary, much though I would prefer otherwise."

"Mercy says you don't want him broken."

"I don't," Lex says, and turns to better breathe in her perfume, and the musk of her having been awake and working for the better part of a day. "Still, I'd prefer it if I could solve all of my personal -- and personnel -- problems with the two of you."

She blinks once, and the hard light is back in her eyes. She looks as though she's straining for something --

*Being* strained *by* something --

"I believe that pleases me."

"I hope it does," and Lex turns enough to stroke her cheek, her jaw, her shoulder -- broader even than Mercy's -- "You're pleasing me right now."


"And emotionally. I called you, in part, because I knew I would find your company... restful."

Hope searches him quickly, thoroughly -- she nods. "I require clothes less sensitive to wrinkling. With them, I will be able to be pleasing while also being cuddled."

"Would you like something in a kevlar-nomex blend? You'd *look* like a vigilante, but you wouldn't have to be one. Additionally, you'd be armored well-enough to withstand most assaults."

Another blink. "You are worried that I am not trained enough."

"No, not even remotely. I find that I wish all of my loved ones to be... better protected than they are."

"Will you allow us to remove your father yet."

Lex sighs. "No. However, Bruce may someday agree that it's for the best."

"Will he do it before one of us is badly damaged or killed."

Lex smiles and taps Hope's nose. "If he does agree, then he'll do it soon. He won't want to risk Tim for anything."

"There is again the sense that he is of greater value."

"Only in the sense that he's a commodity we've gone without since we were teenagers. Keep in mind that Bruce chose to take up with Harvey even though he knew that it hurt Tom's feelings. And made him jealous enough to become violent."

When Hope hums, it's a single note drawn out over something blankly horrifying. She uses it to indicate deep thought, though, and so Lex settles onto his back again and continues holding her hand.

Bruce is in the habit of staying in the manor most mornings -- if not necessarily sleeping in the way he honestly *should* -- and this morning, at least, he'll want to spend time with Harvey. If they keep him here --

No, Harvey won't want to stay. Bruce had said he'd agreed to take an extended leave of absence *and* to start looking for some intensive therapy -- possibly inpatient if the program looked good enough -- but there are some things Harvey just won't do, and one of those things is almost certainly going to be "lean on them any more than strictly necessary."

Lex frowns.

"What can I do."

"Continue thinking about what you were thinking about. I'm considering the Harvey question."

"Does he really have the capacity to be a killer."

Lex laughs quietly. "Hope, sometimes I'm absolutely positive that each and every person born in this benighted city has that capacity."

"You are missing Metropolis again."

Lex turns to the window --

("But *where* is the sunlight, Bruce?"

"You're standing in it."

"It's pale! And *grey*!"

"And painfully bright."

"Fuck me *sideways*, I won't even *burn* in this!"

"We could cut down the tree --"

"The tree isn't even *blocking where I'm standing*!"

"Lex. It's never sunny in Gotham."

"Fuck *you* sideways, Bruce! Astronomy is *on my side*!"


Lex laughs and considers -- not for the first time -- haunting rooftops by *day*. He has the morbid suspicion that that would make Gotham's cloud cover permanent. "I do miss it, Hope. There's nothing to be done --"


"You will not kill that man... today."

"Yes, Lex. May we return to the question of Tim."

"Of course," Lex says, and turns back to face her with his eyebrow raised.

"What did you do that would hurt your relationship with Tim. Was there anything at all."

"I pretended I wasn't in love with him, and that I was willing to let his secrets slide. Boys like that... need a singular focus. They need to be *forced* to believe."

Hope blinks once. "And this does not involve breaking."

Well... Lex smiles and strokes Hope's cheek with his knuckles. "You'll spar with me today if there's time. *After* you've slept for at least eight hours."

"Yes, Lex."

"And... there is a sort of breaking unique to the emotions which make up the *thing* humans mean when they refer to being 'in love.' It's a treaty of surrender one makes with oneself. An end to hostilities -- specifically those hostilities which kept you from faith in your partner, optimism about your relationship's chances, giving in to *all* lustful urges... that sort of thing. The fascinating thing about it is that there's no *loss* to one's sense of self, as opposed to losses to one's sense of *armor*."

"Is that wise."

"It is, quite frankly, *one* of the major differences between living a life and merely surviving it. The rush is... titanic. And it can rise again and again."

"I would like to experiment with love. More so than before."

Hm. "Have you been intoxicated since you were forced to be so by your brother?"

"No, Lex. Many people enjoy it, however, and so I would like to find a way to do the same which will not interfere with my duties."

The recreational drug market is... wide open. Especially if one can make the drug do something *other* than give someone a happy. LuthorCorp had managed it brilliantly with their hair-regrowth drug... until *actual* tests were done and it was proven that the thing caused substantial and sometimes fatal birth defects in the fetuses of the women who even *breathed* near it.

Lionel had gotten out of *that* one by blaming the lab, and the only people who could testify *against* that story had suffered absolutely *terrible* cases of suicide and terminal disappearance. The fact that LuthorCorp *can* still subcontract with various companies is proof that money can buy absolutely anything... for a certain depressingly large subset of the population. Still --

"We'll find ways to get you pleasantly high, I promise."

"Yes, Lex. Thank you, Lex. It is more reasonable than love for me."

And that -- will always make something inside him seize painfully. Lex squeezes her hand for an exact three count. "There will be love for you, as well."

"All right, Lex."

And there is, actually, no way to tell how much *belief* there was in that statement, but there is, as ever, room for hope in this world. "Do you have other questions?"

"Not at the moment, Lex."

Lex nods. "Then stay here and hold hands with me while I meditate. Start designing your kevlar-nomex outfits. You'll need at least ten different ones."

"Yes, Lex."

And Lex closes his eyes and sinks deep.


Bruce wakes to the sound of grunts of effort. Specifically, *Harvey's* grunts of effort.

Bruce sits up and looks over the side of the bed -- and Harvey is doing push-ups in nothing but the too-short pair of Lex's pajama bottoms. They're still reassuringly tight on Harvey's form --

Harvey is *trembling* with effort, and --

"How many have you done, Harv?"

"Don't -- don't even *ask*."

"But --"

"Pathetic. Completely -- fucking pathetic," Harvey says, and shudders so much in the middle of a push-up that he locks his elbows --

Bruce moves off the bed at speed, rolling Harvey onto his back and -- he doesn't straddle him --

"*Bruce* --"

"You weren't the one who taught me about the dangers of locking up, Harv, but you *could've* been."

Harvey blinks, frowns -- "Hell. I *locked*?"

Oh -- "You don't remember."

"I --" A moment's fear -- near *terror* -- quickly banked and hidden --

"Harv --"

"Hey, I'm half-asleep, big guy. These things happen."

Bruce frowns and strokes Harvey's cheek with his fingertips, giving himself the sound and feel of stubble -- significantly less thick than his own -- to go with sight of it -- "Please don't lie to me."

Harvey turns away and squeezes his eyes shut, pants -- "Ah -- fuck. This isn't. This isn't *easy*, big guy."

"I know. I --" Bruce shakes his head and pulls Harvey up and into his arms. Bruce is kneeling and Harvey is sitting, and Harvey feels fever-hot and too thin. So *much* too thin --

Alfred had prepared several sandwiches for Harvey last night, but he'd only managed to eat two before Alfred's tea had kicked in. Bruce knows that Harvey had known the tea was drugged, but he hadn't resisted drinking it, at all --

Certainly not the way he's resisting this hug. "Harv?"

"You gotta -- it's time to shower. Get things done. I *know* you know how that works, yeah?" And Harvey leans back and smiles at him. The flesh beneath his eyes is *less* discolored, but he still looks like a grim wraith of himself --

How had Bruce gone so long without seeing him? Over a *month*, and even then -

"Oh, c'mon, big guy, you gotta at least gimme some credit for the *real* smiles."

Oh -- true. Bruce smiles ruefully and massages what he can reach of Harvey's back --

"Oh... Jesus, that's good. I -- heh. Distracting me again?"

"Only... only relieving tension. And I'm sorry -- I was just thinking of how long it had been since we spent a significant amount of time together."

Harvey frowns. "You're not feeling guilty, are you?"

"I..." Bruce smiles ruefully. "I can't help but think you wouldn't have gotten so exhausted --"

"If you'd yoinked Tom -- *Tim* back from the future a few weeks ago?"

"I -- hm."

"Heh," and Harvey pats Bruce's shoulders before standing up and offering a hand. He looks steady *enough*, but Bruce still doesn't allow him much of his weight -- "*Bruce* --"

"Simple precautions only, Harv. I'm quite frankly not sure I can be trusted if we wind up on the floor again."

Harvey gives him a very loud *look*.

Bruce gives *him* the same quality of bland innocence --

"Augh! You use that on *Lex*!"

Bruce coughs into his fist and raises his eyebrows. "It's very effective."

"For *what*?"

"For getting Lex to focus on... other things."

Harvey looks rather horrified for a long moment -- and then he laughs, breathless and quiet. "Okay, okay, fine, I asked for that. In *spades*, even," he says, and yawns hugely. "Wow, I -- no, shower. *Stat*. I can *smell* that you didn't run me through one last night," and Harvey starts walking toward the bathroom.

"I didn't want to risk --"

"The drugs not *keeping* me out cold?" And Harvey grins at Bruce from over his shoulder.

"Well... yes, actually. When did you wake up?

"An *embarrassingly* short time before you did, big guy," and Harvey steps into the bathroom and turns on the water in the tub.

Hm. Bruce follows -- "Would you like a bath?"

"Hey, that's -- wait. That's totally your way of asking me if I want you to *give* me a bath, isn't it?"

Harvey knows him, and Bruce doesn't want that to ever *change*. Bruce smiles ruefully.

"Uh, huh. *Another* time. I --" Harvey blushes and looks down. "Last night --"

"Please don't apologize --"

"I have to, Bruce. I -- I did my *damnedest* to wind you up --"

"You were hurt, afraid, and worried. Additionally, I'd brought you here under false pretenses --"

"I don't -- you don't do that shit to a friend. And that's exactly what you are to me. More," Harvey says, and his eyes are hard, darkly determined --

So much of his *beauty* is in his eyes -- but Bruce can focus. "You -- you're already forgiven, Harv. You've asked nothing of our friendship but that it be there --"

"That's more than *enough* --"

"There's a passion *satisfied* for being able to give you something, Harv. *Anything*."

"You --" Harvey snorts and shakes his head. "All right. You win. You *always* win this game," and Harvey slips out of the pajama bottoms.

Bruce is more than fast enough to take Harvey *in* --

He does it, because he wants to remember this thin-ness, this quality of *loss*.

He'll never let Harvey reach this point again, and -- "It's never a game for me, Harv."

Harvey steps into the tub and raises his eyebrows at Bruce. "Do I wanna know how serious it is?"

Bruce offers another rueful smile. "You already do."

"Ah, big guy --" Harvey sighs and closes his eyes, reaching blindly and expertly for the soap even though he hasn't been in this shower for years -- "If I could live like you, love like you... I don't know. It scares the crap outta me when I try to think about it too hard. You, my friend, are *always* hungry."

"The world is a feast --"

"Feasts are supposed to *satisfy*, Bruce."

Bruce frowns. "I'm not *unsatisfied*, Harv."

Harvey opens his eyes solely to give Bruce another *look*.

"Hm. I... Clark and Lex give me a great deal --"

"And you and Mercy give *Lex* a great deal. Didn't stop you from dragging Tom out of his own damned *time*. *Tim*, I mean. Damn, that's gonna take some getting used to." He raises his eyebrows. "Or maybe it won't? You *are* sending him back, right?"

"He... telling us what he did... changed the future. And changed him."

Harvey blinks and stops washing himself, standing still in the spray for a long moment.

"He's all right --"

"But. Different? Like his memories?"

Bruce winces and nods. "He discussed the matter with Clark --"

"The matter. The fucking *matter*? Bruce, do you have any idea what you're *playing* with?"

"Time. Space. Destiny -- and I've never thought destiny should exist --"

"And you're allowed to make that call? For a kid's entire *life*? For the future and fate of the whole damned *world*?"

"Harv. I couldn't let you fall."

Harvey steps back and hisses a breath in through his teeth --

"You're too important --"

"But it's not just me. It's the kid's life, and you're --" Harvey shakes his head and goes back to washing himself. "See, this is what I mean about you bein' hungry all the time, big guy. Nothing *does* satisfy you, 'cause I'm thinkin' that even if you'd *had* me these last few years, you still would've gone for Tim."

"I never would've 'had' you without him, Harv."

Harvey takes a deep breath and turns into the spray, sluicing off --

"If... I could wash your back --"

Harvey laughs softly and hands the soap back.

Bruce resists the urge to strip himself naked and climb in with him. Harvey is a married and monogamous man, and that will not change. Bruce searches himself, and...

He sighs internally. A part of him *does* hope that Gilda gives up on Harvey forever, but that part is dwarfed by and buried under the rest of him, which will always remember the bright *joy* in Harvey's eyes when he'd pulled Gilda's veil back. He doesn't know if he *could* have ever given Harvey that feeling...

Perhaps in a freer world?

Bruce uses the loofah roughly on Harvey's back --

And Harvey sighs out tension the way he always does for such harsh treatment. Like this --

With Harvey this close and smelling of nothing but himself and water --

Bruce feels himself hardening in his pajama pants and ignores it as best as he can... but gives himself leave to enjoy the flush in Harvey's skin, the leaner but still perfect curve of his buttocks --

"Bruce --"

"Only this," Bruce says, scrubbing down and down until he's working on the backs of Harvey's thighs --

"Christ, that feels good..."

"Good," and Bruce doesn't breathe any deeper than he normally would, and he doesn't stare at the way Harvey's dark-furred scrotum swings when he spreads his legs wider --

When he allows Bruce room to *work* --

"Your foot, Harv."

"Bruce --"

"You're too tired to give it the attention I would," Bruce says, and uses the Bat within him --

The cold stone *emptiness* of it --

"I promise it's all right, Harv."

Harvey smiles down at him ruefully. "Okay, big guy, go to town. But I'm not standing still for a pedicure."

"Perhaps next time." Bruce says, and considers winking --

Harvey laughs even without it.

Bruce uses the smaller loofah on and between Harvey's toes, using a firm touch to avoid tickling. His feet show no signs of the *wasting* which had hit him nearly everywhere else, and Bruce is helplessly drawn back to the first time he'd done this --

("You -- what?"

"It's... I've thought about it. It's only -- it's not sexual."

"Are you *sure*?")

He hadn't been -- at all -- but Harvey had been intoxicated enough on the rum he loves beyond all other spirits not to notice Bruce's blush --

Or perhaps he'd simply been that forgiving.

("Ah, Christ, big guy, I gotta be able to *walk* outta this bathroom --"

"I'll help --"

"You -- heh. You're gonna help in a whole *lotta* ways tonight, I'm thinkin'.")

And Bruce had rushed the foot massage then, but he'd gone back to it after -- with the taste of Harvey in his mouth and the *ache* of him in his rectum --

("Feel -- you make me feel like some kinda pasha. Sheik. Whatever. *You* know what I mean --"

"Your wish is my command, Al-Harv."

"My *God*, you spend too much time with Lex. Wait, I'm not complaining about it right *now* --")

Here, now, Harvey has turned to face Bruce and is leaning against the wall. Bruce is supporting the foot he has raised --

Bruce isn't *looking* at Harvey's half-risen erection, his closed eyes, the pleasure visible in the soft slackness of his mouth --

The pleasure in his *moan* as Bruce loosens tension in the arch --

And Bruce calls on the Bat until he feels rooted to the spot, or like an oddly-positioned part of the manor's foundations.

The steamy heat of the bathroom doesn't touch him.

The patter and spray of water doesn't touch him.

The sound of Harvey's *gasp* --

"Bruce, what are you *doing*?"

What -- had he done something inappropriate? No, his hands are only on Harvey's foot --

"Big guy --"

"What. What is --" No, not *Batman's* voice --

And Harvey takes his foot back and drops into a crouch, studies him -- "You -- you can't stay with me as Bruce right now?"

Of course he -- Bruce squeezes his eyes shut just for a moment.

When he opens them, Harvey is wincing -- "Now I'm really sorry for winding you up. I -- fuck, Bruce, I *knew* it was better with me acting like I didn't want you anymore --"

"*No* -- it. It wasn't better," Bruce says, and that's almost his own voice again --

"Bruce, you..." Harvey searches him, shakes his head -- "You didn't have to be the big, bad Bat with me before. You didn't have to -- fucking rip yourself *up*."

That -- "Harv, your voice is -- "

"Back to normal, yeah? Well, mostly. I haven't felt this relaxed in... let's just say 'a real long time.' I -- let's get outta here and get dressed, hunh?" Harvey squeezes Bruce's shoulders. "Please?"

Anything -- but that hasn't ever been entirely true. Bruce nods and stands --

Harvey stands as well, looks at Bruce's groin -- and winces and reaches --

"It's all right, Harv. It won't take me very long to... will that away."

Harvey looks at him as if he's dangerously insane.

Bruce laughs. "Many of the senseis I studied under had rather brutal methods for dealing with students who became... distracted."

Harvey looks *horrified* --

And Bruce had learned the humor of such things from both Tom and Lex. Laughing helps, even though he'd rather be laughing through a kiss. "Alfred sent for some of your clothes, Harvey. They --"

"I saw them, I saw them. You -- are you gonna be okay?"

Bruce smiles wryly. "Will you?"

"Big guy. *Work* with me, here."

"Always, Harv. And I will be fine for as long as you are."

Harvey smiles again -- but this time it's troubled. *Worried* -- "It -- it's gonna take more than one's night's sleep. Even if that sleep is drugged so hard I can't even tell that I'm snuggling up to someone who's got at least fifty pounds on me."

Oh. "We were... close?"

"You always get so far down into your dreams. I --" Harvey shakes his head, though his smile is a lot better. "I was spooned right up to your back. Snoring *in your ear*. Possibly drooling there, too."

"I wish I hadn't missed it."

"Yeah, well, you and your mad scientist boyfriend can clone a couple of me from all my drool, and whenever you want a nap? Bam, instant cuddle-slut."

Hm. Bruce raises an eyebrow. "You don't think there'd be something of a *convergence* on West Haven?"

Harvey coughs a laugh and steps out of the tub. "Christ, a bunch of smart-assed lawyers peeping in the window -- I gotta say, Gilda's mother would have the boiling oil out in a heartbeat, and I, for one, would *not* blame her."

"Are you still having trouble with her?"

"'Trouble.' Uh. You mean like calling her a worthless, mean-spirited, money-grubbing, weasel-minded hag kind of trouble?"

Bruce winces --

Harvey laughs again and claps Bruce's shoulder. "I'm pretty sure she only caught about half of that before she hung up on me? Maybe? God, I wish Gilda was staying with some of our friends, instead..." Harvey sighs -- then shakes himself like a dog. "Okay, here's what's gonna happen. Are you ready?"

"I'm listening, Harv --"

"Do you know -- that woman actually tried fixing Gilda up with some oily little real-estate baron type? While I was in the damned *bathroom*?"

Bruce blinks. "I -- she... that's *terrible*, Harv. Are you --"

"I'm all right, I'm -- okay, I'm *not* all right, but --" Harvey takes a deep breath. "How is it that you beat the crap out of people night after *night* and still get *surprised* by things like this?"

Well -- Bruce smiles ruefully. "Lex seems to think I'm dangerously stunted."

"*I'll* give Lex stunted. He's just jealous that we'll both always be taller than he is. And hairier, too."


"Ah, Bruce -- you gotta give me a little, here. Seeing T-*Tim* was like jumping in a wayback machine. Only kinda horrible."

Harvey had *shown* him that cartoon -- Bruce laughs softly and pushes a lock of Harvey's hair behind his ear. "I'll take my shower --"

"And then you'll shave and brush and all that good stuff I'll be doing in *just* a minute. We go downstairs. We start working on finding me a decent head-shrinker, someone who can *definitely* keep their mouth shut --"

"Of course --"

"And then I eat something, because by then Alfred will have dosed me with something to keep my stomach from knotting up. And then... and then I'm thinking I'll crawl under one of these great, big beds and sleep until it's time for an appointment. It doesn't count as taking drugs if an old British guy slips 'em to you in tea. How's that sound?"

"Wonderful -- or. Well, not --"

Harvey pulls Bruce in for a tight, *hard* hug. "I know what you mean, big guy. I know."

"Harv... please remember that you're welcome here for as long as you wish to stay."

Harvey sighs. "I -- I do know that. I'm just hoping that Gilda will come back once I tell her that I'm getting help."

"Will you tell me what happened between you?"

Harvey rests his forehead on Bruce's shoulder and shudders. "I -- it was a blackout. When I came back to myself, I was buried deep inside her... she said it wasn't rape. But that was all she *could* say, and I. I can't. I'm not gonna try to talk to her -- she *told* me to give her a few days --" And Harvey clutches Bruce's biceps. "I was grateful to have her gone. Not just because it meant I couldn't hurt her."

Bruce swallows and strokes Harvey's back. "Because it meant you would be... free."

"Yeah. Yeah. How fucked-up is *that*?" Harvey leans back to stare, to search --

"All I can think of are the conversations I've had with Mercy and Hope about freedom. They... ah. They don't like it."

Harvey snorts. "Well, at least Lex keeps them on *pretty* leashes, I guess? Ah, who am I kidding? If I felt any freer than I do right now, I'd be screaming my head off out *loud* instead of. Instead of just inside, a little. C'mon, hurry up and jump in the shower, Bruce. I need this day to... happen. To have already happened, maybe."

Bruce nods and squeezes Harvey one more time before removing his clothes and getting in the shower. Cold water does nothing for his ability to meditate -- save when he's doing his best to pull on the Bat --

(Only I --)

Hot water brings him Harvey's scent just a little more than he'd had it before, and the ability to remind himself of how full his home is, how safe and *secure* it is thanks to Lex's efforts and the handful of suggestions he himself has made --

He sinks within himself and the warmth until calm is in reach. By then, Harvey is out of the bathroom and Bruce is *mostly* clean -- and finally calm enough to be able to soap his genitals without needing to masturbate vigorously.

Harvey would forgive him -- Harvey would, perhaps, prefer that Bruce handle the matter that way rather than making it a test of will -- but.

The more practice he has at finding peace without needing to call on the Bat, the happier Clark and Lex are. The Bat has a place in his life; it need not be any larger.

Once Bruce is clean, he dries off quickly, dresses in workout clothes, and goes downstairs --

To find Harvey at the far end of the larger dining room table with a phone, a pen, and a notepad. He *also* has a decidedly large mug of what certainly smells like the brew Alfred uses for unsettled stomachs. Bruce starts to go to him --

Harvey holds up the hand with the pen, mouths 'Leslie' and shoos him toward the sideboard, where Alfred has provided enough food to feed... the large number of people currently staying in this house.

Bruce smiles for the warmth of *that*, and begins filling his plate -- though he does it relatively modestly. He never feels like eating quite as much on mornings after nights when he *hasn't* patrolled. That is, of course, no reason not to enjoy what he has.

Today -- almost certainly to appeal to Harvey's palate -- there are a large number of pork products, poached eggs, cheddar-scrambled eggs, rye toast, sourdough toast --

("You don't understand, big guy -- one goes with *one* kind of egg. The other? Can *only* be used with the other kind.")

Bruce hums and deliberately makes his plate exactly like the one Harvey had arranged for him after having given the specifications to Alfred. It was the *first* week he'd spent in the manor, and his eyes had been bright and clear, and Bruce had done his best to make sure that the taste of him was never far from his senses.

He looks up when he's done arranging --

And Harvey points him to the smaller table. All right, that will be much cozier -- once Harvey is off the phone. Though it's possible that he won't want to *smell* the food until --

Movement --

And, this time when Bruce looks up, it's Tim in the doorway. His hair is flattened with moisture -- and a lack of styling product -- and he's wearing a dove grey suit which *would* be tailored perfectly -- were he most of an inch taller. As it is, he looks almost rumpled, though he is, of course, nothing of the kind. He --

He slips his hands into his pockets and smiles wryly at Bruce --

Bruce closes his eyes and thinks of the darkness Tom had forever banished, the feel of hard, competent hands on his face --


Bruce blinks his eyes open and smiles ruefully. "I'm sorry. You... reminded me."

The smile gets sharper. "I was both looking directly at you and inviting scrutiny with something of an edge. I expected I would."

"Are you... please. Don't pretend --"

Tim holds up a hand. "There's a difference between pretense and... hm. Open-mindedness? It was an expression and pose I *would* use... just not necessarily with one of the men who kidnapped me."

"Will you -- have you thought of anything I could do --"

"Other than sending me home to be -- let's face it -- horrifically lonely and full of regrets? No. But we can have breakfast together. Later, I'll go into B-L with Lex and whichever of his terrifying bodyguards will be driving. Later than that... well. I'd like to see the Cave."

"You. Clark spoke of... change."

Tim inclines his head. "Yes. It's... hm. I'm still not letting either you or Lex push me into bed -- I'm *not* Tom -- but... I'm also not going to act like the two of you *aren't* the people I've dreamed about in various ways since I was a child."

"I would like to give you new dreams."

Tim's lips part -- and then he smiles and narrows his eyes. "Get to know me."

"Please --"

"*Me*, Bruce. Not -- your ghost. Your demon?" Tim cocks his head to the side and raises his eyebrows.

"I could never... I've met demons, Tim."

"Oh... well. I'd love to hear about that...?"

Bruce smiles helplessly. "Please, eat something."

"Mm, yes. Alfred was very clear about how he would treat me if I wasted another meal."

"He would never hurt you --"

Tim waves a hand. "Leave it, please, I'm... still finding my feet."

"It's difficult to imagine you without your aplomb."

"*Me*, Bruce --"

"Yes, you. Even though I've seen you..." Bruce shakes his head. "Tell me about your memories."

Tim narrows his eyes -- then nods and goes to collect a plate to fill. "There *is* only one set of memories within my mind. I remember discovering your secret, stalking you as carefully as possible -- where 'careful' is something which includes room for *reckless* romanticism -- curling into a ball on my bed when I realized there was nothing I could do to keep my parents from moving us to D.C., or from there to Keystone... et cetera. I just also remember *talking* about a different set of memories altogether. A different life -- which had to have been real *enough*... I don't know. My plan, such as it is, is to remember how strange and *unsettling* it feels to have lived another life whenever I find myself moved to, say, make a difference of some sort."

"I want to offer an apology, but I know that it will be... unworthy. Small."

Tim smiles back at him from over his shoulder, narrow and warm. "I'll take it as read."

He's different. He --

It's noticeable. Tom was adaptable, but not -- not like this.

Bruce presses his palms flat to the table --

And Tim stiffens. He'd noticed --

"It's all right, Tim --"

"You... you're having actual regrets. Aren't you?"

"I never would've changed you."

"You wanted -- you *still* want me to be Tom --"

"No," Bruce says, standing up and moving to be near to Tim, to feel his warmth and know that it's real --

He's so *small*, and it's obvious when they're this close to each other and Tim must crane to meet his eyes --

"I had begun growing accustomed to... the you who was lost."

"I -- oh. I don't suppose --" Tim frowns and turns away --

"Will you let me get to know you?"

Tim swallows --

Bruce -- doesn't touch Tim's throat, which must still be as sensitive, which will make him curse --

He touches Tim's shoulder, cups and squeezes it -- "Please. Allow me to come to know you."

Tim shivers and smiles -- at the floor.

"Please --"

"Stop -- ah. Stop," Tim says, stepping away and *then* turning to face Bruce again. This time his smile is rueful. "Apparently, a part of me had already gotten accustomed to you starting to like me."

"There are... aspects. Moments of familiarity --" Bruce shakes his head. "I'm sorry. You were not so warm yesterday."

"And was Tom?"

"Yes... but, most of the time, it was warmth from behind a wall of the lies he told. The lies he felt must be told... and the lies at least a part of him enjoyed."

Tim nods thoughtfully, picks up his plate, and brings it to the small table -- the seat he'd chosen last night.

Bruce sits down beside him --

"Do you want me to --" Tim firms his mouth into a hard line -- "Ignore that."

"All right."

Tim looks at him from under his lashes --

And Bruce wonders if Tom was ever that kind of flirtatious with Lex, since he never truly was with him. There is shyness there, and a sort of innocence, but there's also challenge, warmth, daring --

"Ah... Bruce?"

Bruce blinks -- and realizes that he'd been holding a bite of egg for long enough that the flow of the yolk is causing it to --

Bruce brings his fork closer to the plate quickly to keep the fall from being one which will spatter yolk all over his clothes and the table --

And Tim hums. "Do I want to know what you were thinking about?"

"Flirtation," Bruce says, and tries to actually consume food.

Tim does the same -- though he's blushing and focusing only on his plate. This --

It suggests -- powerfully -- that at least some part of Tim was entirely aware that he *was* flirting, but hoped that it would go unnoticed -- no. Tim would not expect Bruce to miss that sort of thing. He was hoping it would go unremarked upon.

Lex would curse at this point --

Though it's entirely possible that Lex wouldn't have allowed himself to *reach* this point.

Bruce checks on Harvey, and he has one hand covering his eyes as he speaks quietly into the phone. Periodically, he sips from the mug of tea and shudders away the rapid, repeating build-up of tension --

"Should you... ah. Did he ask you not to join him?"

"Yes," Bruce says, and frowns. "I know most therapy is undertaken in a one-on-one environment, but his tension, his difficulty -- but you remember nothing of what you spoke about last night?"

Tim smiles ruefully. "I remember everything I said... and it's making me boggle when held against my actual -- what I feel to be my actual -- memories of who Harvey Dent is."

"And... then you felt moved to give Clark hope about future companionship?"

Tim smile is distantly bright -- "I'd do it again. Both things, of course, but -- he needs more than either of you can give him. That fills me with *both* incredulity and understanding."

"A part of you believes we can give you everything you need."

"The question of what I need..." Tim shakes his head and sips his coffee. "I'm afraid I haven't spent much time considering it."

Bruce blinks -- and considers. And nods. "You've spent a significant amount of time considering the needs of others."

Tim looks at him from under his lashes again. "I'm not an altruist."

"Have you thought about what your parents need?"

"Yes --"

"Your friends at school?"

"I don't -- but yes --"


"That -- that's fannishness --"


"I -- stop. I get your point. I just don't think many people my age *do* put much thought into what they themselves need, since those needs are generally provided for without much in the way of difficulty. Certainly, my needs --"

"For touch?"

Tim narrows his eyes and purses his lips --

Bruce leans back and presses his palms flat to the table. "I'm sorry."

"I --" Tim looks at Bruce's hands and laughs quietly. "You said you knew where all of his scars were located."


"You... studied them."

"Extensively. I wanted... he was marked everywhere. He told me that most of his scars were due to the Bruce from his 'universe,' and I realize now that it was the truth. The work scarred him, as it has scarred me."

Tim studies him again -- and laughs again. "Of course I can't see it --"

"I'll show you --"

"Ah -- later."

Bruce closes his eyes for a moment and laughs at himself. "I'm sorry. I fear that I'm eager for you to grow accustomed to my body. To, hopefully, come to desire my touch."

"Bruce. You were *disturbed* by me not ten minutes ago!"

"Lex has always believed quite strongly that I have problematic relationships with that which disturbs me."

Tim covers his mouth -- giggles and blushes --


"I -- gah. Sorry about that --"

"You have nothing to apologize for --"

"I'm *quite* sure that you don't want to think of me as a ten-year-old."

Bruce smiles ruefully. "I... certainly hope that I don't. I'm choosing not to examine the matter too closely. Perhaps... when you said that my partners were both young men --"

"Ah -- not that young."

Bruce breathes deeply and nods. "Thank you. I can't quite imagine how I'd come to believe someone very young... no. I suppose... there would be no months-long waits for chances to learn at this or that sensei's feet..." Bruce frowns and considers more deeply. "If they lived with me, only the necessity of sending them to school would keep them from training. They could have the teen years I wish I'd gotten to have with Tom."

Tim smiles. "Yes, that... that was the impression most everyone seemed to have of them. And they... surpassed. Of course."

In his mind, Tom is moving through a kata -- what Bruce will always think of as the *first* kata -- at a speed which had blinded Bruce, thrilled and amazed...

He can match that speed now.

He can teach Tim to match it. It -- "I already know much of what your body is capable of --"

"Oh -- for all you know, I could've fallen out of a tree when I was four. I could have old breaks --"

"Like me."

"Ligament damage --"

"Like me."

"Internal -- scarring?"

Bruce offers another smile. "I allow only one doctor to examine me, Tim."

Tim's smile is tight and sharp. "Dr. Leslie Thompkins."

"Yes. She was --"

"Your father's best friend. And confidante. She's rumored to be connected romantically to Alfred...?"

Bruce smiles ruefully -- as, internally, he finds himself in the midst of a battle between fear of broken security and need to *reward* -- "Both Alfred and Leslie have informed me that the two of them are very good friends, with the unspoken addendum that demanding any more detail would be... beneath me, at best."

Tim laughs quietly. "That -- all right, I'll keep that in mind."

"How do you find your information?"

"Ah... certain things are right there. Available at a touch... for someone wealthy, dedicated, and a certain kind of geeky. More than that, I can't tell you."

"But... it will be easier to research people in the public eye in the future?"

"Desperately so," Tim says, and takes another sip of coffee. "A whole industry will crop up which bills itself as a source of 'identity protection.' A -- somewhat -- logical next step from P.R. consultants."

Bruce makes something of a face --

"Ah... it always seemed as though Lex handled those aspects of corporate life?"

Well... Bruce sighs. "I lean on him and Lucius unconscionably much."

"Well, but -- being a businessman is hardly *your* raison d'être, yes?"

"Do you often find that your responsibilities complement your personality?"

"Hm, all right, you have a point, but --"

"I would be... happier if I leaned on them less --"

"Nonsense, Bruce," Lex says, and walks in looking as though he hasn't had quite enough sleep -- "You'd be significantly *less* happy, because you'd be spending significant amounts of time doing things you hate with people you *loathe*. And good morning to all of you," and he moves to the sideboard. "I see it's Harvey Day chez Wayne. Won't anyone have a care for my arteries?"

"Lex, you're one of the healthiest people I know --"

"But not *the* healthiest, Bruce, and that kind of slacking will *not* be tolerated."

Tim hums --

And Lex pauses, all over, and turns to take him in.

Tim, for his part, meets Lex's eyes with one eyebrow raised --


"Do you have something *against* my name?"

And Lex... lights. All over. The sense of fatigue is gone, and what takes it place is the pure, raw energy which makes Lex who he is -- and as compelling as he is.

Tim *doesn't* shrink back, but for a moment it seems as though he wishes to -- and then there is nothing of that, at all, because he lifts his chin and raises his eyebrow higher --

"I... have already ordered more clothes for you."

"Will they all be as flamboyant as your other choices?"

"You're a star --"

"I'm a teenaged boy, Lex. A *shy* teenaged boy."

Lex purses his lips with pleasure, anticipation -- "You're giving us a chance."


Lex closes the distance between himself and Tim and drops into a crouch. "This is because of the changes I slipped into the command room to watch. Yes?"

"There's something to be said for the idea that it would've happened on its own eventually, but... yes."

Lex nods slowly, thoughtfully -- "You'll spend the day with us."

"The morning with you, the afternoon with Bruce."

"Not... all of us together?"

Tim blushes, then, but doesn't look away. "I'm not ready for that."

Lex touches his tongue to his upper lip. "You think you will be."

"Where better to live a fantasy?"

"Let me kiss you --"

"No," Tim says, crossing his legs and drumming the fingers of one hand on the table --

And Lex smiles. "All right. Bruce?"

"He has offered us the chance to get to know him -- and no one else," Bruce says, and considers covering Tim's hand with his own, twining his fingers with Tim's own -- there.

A *slight* tremor in Tim's hand --

And Bruce doesn't need to look up to know that Lex is staring at it as much as he is --

"Lex," Tim says, and drums his shaking fingers again -- "Eat. Bruce and I are nearly finished --"

"And artery plaque probably doesn't build on its own."

"Lex. A few sausages --"

"And slices of ham --"

"And bacon won't kill you."

Lex scowls at Bruce playfully. "Just for that? You get to *join* Hope in pummeling me for the sake of my health and beauty today."

Mm. "Spar."

Lex flashes his teeth like the knives Bruce had taught him how to use -- at his request -- "Spar."

Bruce hums his pleasure and isn't surprised that it comes out as more of a rumble than anything else. Clark vastly dislikes it when he and Lex spar, but that's only because *they* don't have subjective time to keep themselves from the -- mostly -- minor injuries a spar demands as its due. For the rest --

The last time Clark had joined them in the room for a spar, his moans had been an excellent counterpoint -- as had the ozone-rich scent of his arousal whenever Bruce fought Lex *close* to Clark's vantage point.

By that point, it had been a matter of trying to focus on *one* scent of arousal rather than all at once --

A blend --

After Bruce had pinned Lex for the third time, Lex had demanded a kiss --

A grind --

Bruce's *mouth* -- he has always, always allowed Clark to watch what he would --

After Lex had come, he'd allowed Clark to massage away muscle strains and fatigue at speed, and then he'd left Bruce and Clark to their own devices.

Two hours of *that*... had left Bruce *almost* too relaxed to patrol. Almost. Bruce smiles at his mostly-empty plate and takes another bite --

"Was that thought... ah. Sexual?"

Bruce tries and fails to remember what he's swallowing -- cheddar scramble. All right. "Yes."

Tim blushes and licks his lips -- "It -- involved sparring?"

"Yes. Clark watching Lex and me... work." And Bruce nods without knowing precisely why -- no.

Tim is nodding, too. His skin is flushed --

And Lex is there and not *quite* touching Tim's cheek. "Share the happy thought...?"

Tim blinks rapidly and turns to look at Lex's hand. To *stare* at it, really, and not in a way that suggests he wants Lex to move it *away* --

"Tim," and Lex's voice is low, promising --

"Oh, God --"

"It's all right, Tim, we --"

"No. No, it's not --" And then Tim *heaves* and covers his mouth, eyes going wide --

Eyes rolling back in his *head* --

Bruce stands and lifts Tim into his arms --

"What *is* it, Bruce? What's wrong --"

"He --" But he can't speak. He can't -- Tim's body is *changing*, shrinking in on itself as he loses -- existence? Is this --

Bruce clutches Tim to his body and holds on, begs internally, doesn't *breathe* --

And the changing stops. It --

Tim is still in his arms, silent -- but breathing. His heart is beating. He --

"Bruce, what *happened*?"

"He --"

"Hn. I changed. Again," Tim says, and pushes back --

Bruce can't bring himself to let go --

"Bruce. *Now*," Tim says, and that -- was a command voice. Did he realize he'd used such a thing?

Could he have?

"*Batman*. *Focus*!"

Bruce jerks internally and eases his grip --

And Tim leaps down lightly, landing on his toes and rolling his head on his neck. There are --

There's a scar on his throat.

There are many more on his hands --

And Tim is scanning the room as though it's full of *threats* --

"Tim, tell us --" Bruce swallows, stares --

"Tell us what happened," Lex says, and he's using his soothing voice --

Tim uses the gesture for 'quiet' and walks -- stalks -- toward Harvey. "Hang up the phone, Mr. Dent."

Harvey jerks his attention away from his notepad, frowns -- "Hey, I got a phone appointment with this --"

"The man you're speaking with is named Hugo Strange, yes?"

"Yes --" Harvey frowns. "You -- you're not supposed to --"

"Know that. But I do. Consider what that means," Tim says, and crosses his arms over his chest. "I'll wait."

Harvey looks Tim over, obviously noting the scars, the differences -- "Dr. Strange? Uh -- I think I need to find someone else to work with."

Bruce can *just* hear a voice raised in protest --

"Did I say I needed to find someone else? I *meant* that I needed to find someone else right the fuck *now*," Harvey says, and hangs up. "What *happened*?"

"Give me a moment," Tim says, cocking his head to the side --

"You're... trying to see if anything else is about to go haywire, Tim?"

"Yes. Though... hn. It's an interesting question, don't you think? My entire *life* is about to be flushed away entirely, and, somehow, that's the *correct* thing," and Tim turns back to face Bruce and Lex. "I'm all right, you know. I haven't changed my plans for the day."

Bruce moves cautiously in range -- "You're my partner."

"I was. I will be. I *won't* be... hn. It's one of those things, Bruce. After the death of your second partner at Harvey's hand --"

"*Christ* --"

"No. No, Tim --"

"Well, it's still true at the *moment*, but I imagine we can do something about that," and Tim turns back to Harvey. "Mr. Dent --"

"God, call me *Harvey* --"

"No, thank you. In my life, you're one of the greatest killers this country has ever *seen* --"

"What -- *no* --"

"And it's *not* all thanks to the mind-*rape* you get from Hugo Strange. There are still your issues to contend with -- issues that, even now, are making you consider making the man your therapist," and Tim shifts to move closer to the window --

No. He's moving to *flank* Harvey, as if he's the worst possible threat --

"Jesus, kid, I'm *not* going to do it. I can find -- someone, someone else --"

"What did he promise you, Harvey?" And now Lex is moving closer with measured care -- "What... was it efficiency of some sort?"

Harvey narrows his eyes. "He said -- he said that a lot of traditional therapy was a lot of sitting around talking *around* the shit that's bothering you --"

"Harv --"

"And Leslie didn't fucking *deny* that, Bruce! I -- hell. I can't afford to drag this out for ten years, and Strange says that he *only* works with the hardest cases --"

"He's a deranged child with a hammer," Tim says, and shrugs out of his jacket, tossing it with expert grace to drape over the back of a chair before rolling up the sleeves of his shirt.

His arms are crisscrossed with scars, his hands are hard-knuckled and lean, his musculature is almost *roped* --

"I note that none of you are asking me what that means. Hn." Tim steps out of his shoes, flexes his toes in his socks -- and nods in satisfaction before moving into a ready stance. "Mr. Dent. He's fascinated with broken psyches. He likes nothing better than inserting wedges in emotional fault lines and then, well, *hammering* them home. Consider what that might mean for someone with your emotional difficulties."

Harvey looks Tim over and his expression is -- so dark.

"Harv --"

"I'm just wonderin', kid. You plannin' to beat the crazy outta me?"

Harvey's *voice* --

"Judging by that stance and your own physical condition, Harvey? He could probably do it," Lex says, and starts moving to --

"Don't come any closer, Lex," Tim says, and begins to shift his weight in *exactly* the same way Bruce's capoeira sensei had taught him --

The way *Bruce* must have taught *Tim* --

"Tim, you really can't --"

"What I *can't* do is *protect* you if you choose to come any closer. Darling."

Lex blinks, coughs -- "I -- wasn't expecting that --"

Tim shows his teeth in a smile more sharp than amused. "No one ever expects... me." He focuses once more on Harvey, who has one hand *loosely* fisted -- "I saw you pick up that pen, Mr. Dent. Very jailhouse chic. One day, you're going to escape from Arkham with *just* a ballpoint pen and a conveniently long hand towel. Two deaths, one coma. And that, of course, is all before you make it back to Gotham."

"Shut up --"

"No. It seems so strange that my parents could've ever left Gotham in those other time-streams, considering what fantastic deals they've gotten on industrial and commercial properties you've demolished for one reason or another. When *did* you pick up that interest in plastique?"

Harvey growls and tightens his grip on --

On the *pen*, but --

"*Harv* --"

"Shut *up*, Bruce," and Harvey's voice is a rough, *cruel* growl, empty of warmth, empty of *life* --

Movement --

And Hope and Mercy are there with their guns out. Hope is wearing pajamas and the head scarf she likes to sleep in, but they both look utterly deadly --

"Stand down, Tim, we've got this," Mercy says --

"I think not," Tim says, and moves to block their shot. "You're both civilians -- and trigger-happy civilians, at that --"

Harvey leaps --

Tim side-steps smoothly, strikes for the back of Harvey's neck --

The base of his spine --

Harvey grunts and jerks on the floor --

Tim moves to stomp on Harvey's hand --

And Bruce moves him aside quickly and straddles Harvey's waist --

"No -- *no*, Bruce --"

"Just this, Harvey," Bruce says, and strikes carefully for that spot between jaw and ear --

And Harvey grunts and loses consciousness.

"Hn. You haven't taught me *that* one, yet. Partner."

Bruce shivers and strokes Harvey's neck --

He stops and stands --

"It's not. It's not safe. It takes a great deal --"

"One wrong move to those nerves and you wind up giving someone facial paralysis, yes, I know," Tim says, and pushes a hand back through his hair before making a face. "Tell me you have styling gel *somewhere* in this house. Lie if you must."

"I --" Bruce swallows and picks Harvey up gently and carefully. "I have to take care of him now."

"He always was more important to you than... well," Tim says, and steps back into his shoes. "You -- neither of you -- told me anything about how I was due to be jerked back in time. More to the point, neither of you did anything to try to trip me into bed for over two *years*. Were you just waiting for the moment? Protecting the time-stream? Or --" Tim grunts and sits down hard on the floor.

Bruce *can't* put Harvey down --

But Lex is right there to take care of Tim and he --

"I believe that Master Harvey will rest most comfortably in the Cave, sir," Alfred says --

Where had Alfred *come* from -- "Alfred, no, there are beds --"

"None of the beds *upstairs* are equipped with soft, comfortable, and mostly inescapable restraints, Master Bruce."

Bruce winces and turns back to Tim --

"Oh, it's still me. Interesting little jolt out of nowhere, though. That bears thought," Tim says, and allows Lex to help him up. "Take him to the Cave, Bruce. I'll see you later and we can begin destroying my existence in earnest," Tim says -- and winks.

Bruce groans helplessly -- and lets Alfred lead him away.


Clark spent much of the early morning in the North Pacific, helping ships through summer storms and exploring for the sake of doing it. Clark likes to choose beautiful and remote areas to visit, to bring people he cares about to, to -- have them, in a way.

He already has several places chosen in Alaska, but he feels he hasn't given British Columbia enough of a --

"You're saying that I'm more like him than the others were. More like Tom, that is."

Lex laughs ruefully. "Darling, ever since you dropped Harvey on the dining room carpet over the course of three *seconds* --"

"And what if I told you I was showing off for company...?"

"You -- *what*?"

"I *could've* done that faster than *your* eyes could've tracked it. Darling."

That's -- Tim and not Tim. He'd changed again?

Clark leaves off stroking a doe who'd been enjoying Clark's collection of rose petals, and flies. Just --

They can't possibly --

Of course, it's Tim's *choice* who to help, what to do --

Clark flies *faster* --

"I am, at all times, five seconds away from putting eyeliner on both of us, darling."

"Hn. I only do that for the Mission."

The -- that's what *Bruce* calls it --

"Fuck, you even *capitalize* it the way he does -- all right. What's your code name?"

"Sorry, can't actually share that. It's -- hn. A spoiler."

Lex snorts. "Oh, yes, we wouldn't want another one of those. Tell me something, Tim."

"If I can."

"When you *do* manage to put Harvey on the right track --"

"And wipe myself away like a drawing of a penis on a dry-erase board..."

"A *what*?"

*Tim* snorts -- "Ah. Never mind. Go on."

Silence --

No, of course there isn't silence, but at this speed sound is dopplered, difficult to translate --

So *much* could be said and done with a... swishing sound? A brush? Something more purely sibilant --

"Do you like them, Lex?"

Like *what* --

"Your body is... mm. You know how attractive you are. Don't you?"

Another *inconclusive* sound, and he's near the Mississippi --

He probably *shouldn't* be using his top speed just for *this* --

"Oh. Lex."

"You smell precisely the same -- no, I'm sorry --"

"It's all right if you compare me physically. I don't mind --"

"But will you mind when you change?"

"Hn. That's the chance you'll have to take. Daddy."

Lex snorts again --

"Yes? No? I was tempted to try that one on Bruce, but..."

"You value his sanity?"

"I value not waking up every morning to find myself sitting on his lap being fed from a bottle."

"We could have Clark bring the *good* milk."

"Are you sure Clark wouldn't bring me breast milk...?"

"And what, pray tell, would be wrong with that, darling?"

"I -- nnh. You. I've wanted you to spread my legs like that --"

"For how long."

"Since -- there was a party I attended. I was nine."

"Fuck --"

"It took two years for me to figure out *why* I wanted you to spread me that way, but the revelation... bore fruit."

Lex inhales roughly, shakily -- "Tell me --"

"I --" Tim moans -- "Oh -- God, Lex --"

"You do realize I'm an atheist, don't you?"

"The gods are right -- except for how they're not. Ah -- never mind. Hell --"

"Are you changing? Don't -- yet --"

Tim laughs -- snickers really --

And Clark lands on the roof of Wayne Tower and looks down through the myriad offices, labs, apartments --

Tim is sprawled on Lex's desk, legs spread, feet dangling, tie loosened and collar *opened* --

And his laughter sounds almost *cruelly* happy --

He's not the same. He -- of course, he's not the same but --

"Looks like I'm still me, Lex," Tim says, and throws a leg over Lex's shoulder. "You must be one -- hell -- of an atheist."

"Oh, darling. I *am* the greatest. Tell me about... fruit."

"Hn. You and Flavius Flint?"

"Float like a butterfly, sting like a... hm. I don't seem to have a *stinger*, per se --"

"Are you sure...?"

And Tim folds himself up -- the flexibility is amazing, beautiful --

He reaches to *cup* Lex through his pants --

"Oh, Lex, you. You want me."

"More by the second. Fruit?"

"I'm -- stretched enough for you."

"Now, how -- how do you know that?"

Tim throws his head back, baring his throat --

His *scarred* throat --


"I've showered with you, Lex. And I happen to have a *great* fondness for... toys."

"You magnificent bitch. *Why* aren't I fucking you in the future?"

Tim licks his lips, squeezes *hard* --

Lex grunts and moves Tim's leg off his shoulder, spreads Tim wider --

He --

They --

Dare he interrupt? *Should* he?

*This* Tim *wants* Lex's attentions, had made himself *ready* --

"You -- protecting the timeline? Making sure I'm *good* and virginal for your past self? Grieving for Bruce's second partner --"

"Not the first?"

A wet sound and Clark refocuses enough -- to see Tim licking his lips.

"Not the first."

"And -- Harvey murdered --"

"He said a lot of *mean* things first. It was -- all of it -- caught on camera."

Lex hisses and pulls back --

Tim sits up and hugs one of his own knees. "I thought that would kill the mood."

"Do *not* take it as a slight to your beauty and seductiveness, darling," Lex says, and begins to pace --

"Perhaps you should be *helping* Bruce convince Harvey --"

"To make you -- *you* -- disappear. Change into something -- someone who hadn't stretched themselves *for* me --"

"And, to be fair, for Bruce."


"God -- and I use that word judiciously -- yes."

Lex snorts again and glares. "I will throw a *stapler* at you if you *ever* again imply that Clark is anything but --"


"All right --"


"Mor-- you mean he's *not*?"

Clark winces --

Lex stares up -- and the expression on his face is so narrow that Clark can't help but think that Lex can *see* him. That -- of course, it's impossible --

Except that Lex turns on the closed-circuit television slaved to the cameras *on* this roof --

Clark sighs, lets himself in the roof access door, and flies quickly and carefully to Bruce's and Lex's office.


"I -- I was going to tell you, Lex. Both of you -- really. Um."

Lex crosses his arms over his chest --

He shouldn't be *able* to look that intimidating considering how *hard* he is --

And there are many, many fantasies which want to inform Clark what an *idiotic* thought that was. Still. Clark flies to Tim. "Are you all right?"

Tim raises an eyebrow --

The scent of his arousal is --

Is --

*This* Tim desires him, as well --

And Tim narrows his eyes speculatively before reaching out to touch the flesh at the corner of Clark's eye. "In my time, you've learned to wrinkle the flesh there dramatically when you smile. To throw off suspicion, I believe."

Clark swallows. "I... does your Clark know... much? About his mortality?"

Tim strokes Clark's cheek with his fingertips -- pulls back and smiles. "Tell Lex what you *do* know. And then I get to decide if I want to say any more than that."

Clark winces -- "Yes, of course, that makes more sense. Ah."

Lex clears his *throat* --

"All *right*, Lex. It -- you have to admit that it's not the easiest topic to *bring up*."

Lex squeezes his eyes shut, blows out a breath through his nostrils, *flares* his nostrils -- "Why do you smell like roses?"

"I -- ah. There was a deer -- anyway. It really is all theoretical --"

"*What* is theoretical?"

"It's just --" Clark wrings his hands -- stops. He sighs. "My systems -- *all* of my systems -- age at a normal rate... but only up to a certain point before they renew themselves. There's been neither slowing nor acceleration for the past three years."

"You've known this for three *years*?"

You were *busy* -- no. "The AI only saw fit to inform me *two* years ago, and I -- well, I've been having it run tests --"

"Clark, *I* can run tests --"

"Neither as fast nor as efficiently as the AI can, Lex. I *am* a Kryptonian."

Lex glares at him -- stops and pinches the bridge of his nose. "How do you know that overgrown bucket of -- of *circuitry* is even asking the right *questions*?"

Well... Clark crosses his arms over his chest. "Because I told it to treat the problem the way *you* would."

Lex opens his mouth -- and closes it again.

Clark nods once --

"It can still only *simulate* --"

"Lex. It has your entire personality engram."

"Personality -- you didn't tell me it could do that!"

"It didn't come up!"

"Clark you giant, odd -- I don't even have an *insult* to hand! Do you realize what this could mean for the future?"

"I -- no?"

"Neither do I! But I will. I -- hm," and Lex paces a circle around Clark, moves to the desk and pushes a hand into Tim's hair --

"Hello, Lex."

"Darling. I've missed you with so much of myself --" Lex growls, shakes his head, and kisses Tim hard, bending him back until he can cradle him in his arms --

Tim moans and shivers --

And, when Clark focuses, he can see that Lex is taking Tim's mouth with his tongue, filling him --

Oh, Tim is deliberately holding his mouth *tight* --

And this isn't the first time that being around Lex has made him reconsider the question of whether or not he should wear some sort of jock, and it almost certainly won't be the last.

Bruce is the *only* man Clark had ever seen Lex kiss like that, but this is --

Lex shifts until he has one arm around Tim's back and the other cupping his face --

Tim is moaning continuously, shifting --

Pulling his *knee* back --

"Lex, you -- I'll go --"

Lex pulls back and lays Tim down gently. "You're not mortal," he says, though he doesn't look away from Tim's eyes, which are wide and dazed, wondering and somehow *soft* --

Lex strokes Tim's cheek and pants --

Lex cups Tim's throat --

Tim moans and squeezes his eyes shut, pushes his throat against Lex's hand --

"Clark," Lex says, and *pets* Tim's throat -- "Clark." Lex shakes his head. "What... this is one of the things which drives you, isn't it?"

Clark glances at Tim -- his eyes are still closed and he's panting and cupping himself -- "I. I'm not sure what you mean."

"Would it help if Tim didn't look quite like -- mm. Ah. That?"

Tim's smile shows... a great *many* teeth --

"Um. Well. Ah. Hm."

"Take your time, Clark. I can wait."

"I'm deeply insulted," Tim says, and *licks* his teeth --

"Blame my withered and aging body, darling --"

Tim snorts -- and flips off the desk backwards and onto his feet, standing lightly and moving to unknot Lex's tie --

"Motivation in the young is so -- so ---" Lex licks his lips and turns back to Clark. "It drives you. Knowing that you're due to live an exceedingly long life."

He'll be alone -- Clark turns away. "I -- I'll go. I'd like to know -- to have an update --"

Lex catches Tim's wrists -- just as Tim stops working open Lex's buttons. They *both* turn to stare at him, narrow and *unhappy* --

"Please. You -- neither of you --"

"You -- you won't *have* to be lonely, Clark... Kal," Tim says, twisting his wrists free and closing the distance between them. Perhaps the *most* impressive thing about him in this moment is how gracefully *predatory* his movements are despite arousal that's visibly --

Clark looks *up* --

And Tim rests his hands to either side of the shield on Clark's chest. "Kal..." <<You will find companionship with many. This I vow.>>

Clark grunts --

And perhaps --

Perhaps it's Kal who lifts Tim into his arms --

<<Fine one, I would *know* you -->>

<<Would you be my beautiful one? You-who-are-most-high -->>

It shocks a laugh out of him. Just -- *Superman* --

Tim smiles smugly, happily --

"Wait, wait, were you fucking Clark in your time?"

"Only," Tim says, and leans in to lick Clark's lower lip, "in my dreams."

Clark moans and -- he remembers to restrain himself, to kiss Tim much lighter than he usually kisses Bruce --

"Please," Tim slurs, sucks Clark's tongue --

Oh, yes --

Necessary to crush Tim's body against his own --

*Vital* to spread Tim's legs around his waist --

And this kiss isn't exactly what he gives Bruce -- he tends to want Bruce to take *him* -- but still --

Tim hums and *squeezes* him with his thighs, his long and lean --

Clark can *touch* --

And that's Lex's hand gripping his own. Lex --

Lex had waited for this for so *long* --

Clark blushes and pulls back --

"Not that, Clark. Not unless you wanted to...?"

Tim licks his lips. "I hope not."

"I'm -- intruding --"

"Clark. What did we say when this came up with Bruce?"

"That I wasn't. But --"

"Tim wants you. I want what Tim wants," Lex says, and smiles like -- like some sort of *devil* -- "And I've been thinking about you fucking Tim into a better mood since last night."

Tim snorts. "I'd say I'm in an excellent mood --"

"No, you're not."

Tim raises an eyebrow at Lex.

"Darling, you're positively... grim."


"You are -- dolorous. Yes, that's the word I'd use."

"I see. And is there an antidote to my... vicissitudes of the spirit?"

"Vi- Tim. I'm going to fuck you so hard your children scream my name."

Tim grunts and *slams* against Clark's abdomen --

"Oh, don't -- don't hurt yourself --"

"I'm reasonably sure that should be one of your jobs. Both of yours, perhaps," Tim says, and *glitters* at Lex --

At Clark himself --

"Wait, we were talking about something important," Lex says, and rests his free hand on Tim's back --

"You're about to tell Clark that you'll do everything in your power to make sure he's never alone," Tim says, leaning back enough that he can unbutton his shirt the rest of the way --

"Oh, that's not --"

"Funnily enough," Lex says, and *tears* Tim's shirt open --

"Oh, fuck, *Lex* --"

"Tim's absolutely right. There are -- I already have *thoughts*, and they're not possible yet, but --" Lex turns to Clark. "Never hold *back* from us, Clark!"

"Lex, I --"

"*Promise*," Lex says, tapping Tim's shoulder twice --

Tim blinks and *flips* down --

And then Lex is walking him back to the wall, one jab of his finger at a time -- "The three of us *must* stay together, Clark --"

"I know, of course, but -- "

"No *buts*!"

"There'll come a day --"

"When... when -- " And Lex hums through his *teeth* and sketches a stylized bat on Clark's chest with his fingertips. "You will *never* be alone."

"Lex, I --"

"Come *here*," Lex says, and his hands are in Clark's hair, and time is moving slowly, so slowly --

Lex is breathing through his nose, snarling --

His arousal has always been a *violent* thing, passion held in check too long --

His hands are in Clark's *hair* --

"*Clark* --"

"I'm *sorry*," Clark says and kisses Lex gently, carefully, *needily* --

Lex grunts and *shoves* his tongue in Clark's mouth --

Clark's *knees* buckle --

Lex catches him by the *groin* --

"Oh -- oh, please, *Lex* --"

"*Ours*, Clark."

"Yes -- yes, Lex --"

"*Say* it."

"Yours, I'm yours --"

"We will never be *apart*," Lex says, and darts in to bite Clark's lip --

Grinds his *teeth* --

Clark moans and thrusts against Lex's palm --

"The *heat* of you --" And Lex groans and squeezes Clark's penis through his trunks and tights -- "Are you with me?"

"Always, Lex, I -- I've *wanted* --"

"This is going to piss off Hope and Mercy *so* much..." And Lex grins at him, *winks* at him --

"I'd like to point out that I'm willing to do what I can to help you avoid angering your mother figures," Tim says, and when Clark looks up, Tim has stripped down entirely. He is shameless, proud, lean and scarred and --

Wait. "Mother figures?" Clark looks at Lex --

Lex looks stricken --

"Hn. I take it you haven't had that thought consciously yet," and Tim walks backwards until he's at the desk --

He sits down and crosses his legs --

And Lex snaps back to himself. "Don't do that. Never do that around me unless you're punishing me for something, Tim," and Lex proceeds to drag Clark toward Tim by the *penis* --

"Well. Since you ask so nicely..." And Tim spreads his legs wide, pushes toward the edge of the desk -- and then leans back and reaches into Lex's desk drawer to pull out the tube of lubricant.

"Excellent thought, but -- not yet."

"Lex. My children are dangerously low on screams."

"And we'll *fix* that. But first, Clark is going to taste what all the fuss is about."

Tim's penis twitches, beads with pre-ejaculate --

Clark breathes deep and feels his eyes start to glow. <<Fine one, I would taste of you.>>

"I. I -- ah --" Tim blushes hard and scoots even closer to the edge of the desk. <<Most-high, I am made ready for your touch.>>

Lex snorts. "I'd like to tell one of you not to *encourage* the other, but I recognize a lost cause when I hear one. Clark. On your *knees*."

Clark's penis *spasms* -- and he drops, feeling heavy and clumsy, awkward and young --

But Tim is the same age *he* was when he'd lost his virginity to Bruce. Tim --

"*Suck* him, Clark... but don't make him come, yet. I need that --"

"Yours. Yours, it's -- Lex, you must --" Clark turns and kisses Lex's palms, one then the other. "Thank you. Thank you for every moment of this, even if --"

"Shh, I -- it's yours. It always -- my fucking *pride* --" Lex growls again -- "*Suck* him, Clark --"

"Yes, Lex," Clark says, feeling daring, feeling *hot* --

He can do *nothing* about the way he's sweating --

But he can make the first touch of his mouth --

Tim *shouts* -- "Oh -- *oh*, so -- *hot* -- *hnh* --"

"To see your eyes this wide... this *shocked*..." Lex sighs hungrily and *grips* Clark's head by the hair. "*Warn* us when you're close, Tim."

"Unh -- you. I -- oh, fuck, I --"

"Are you close *now*?"

"I've never had my penis in someone's mouth before!"

Lex snickers and shifts --

And the sounds of kissing force Clark to leave off his singular concentration to look up, to see Lex *teasing* Tim's mouth, darting in for a bite, a lick, a *brief* suck --

"Oh -- *please*, Lex --"


"Please, I --" <<I beg, I beg -->>

"Save that for *Kal*, darling. What do you have for me?"

Tim groans and *pumps* -- "Oh my fucking -- I can't -- I need --"

Clark cups Tim's hips and urges him to thrust --

<<This one -- no, I have-am-me -->> And Tim groans and begins to *take* Clark, thrusting in and in --

The taste of him so salt and *young* --

Clark hums --

Tim *shouts* again -- "Close! *Close*!"

Lex *yanks* Clark back, and there's a moment when Clark doesn't know if he *wants* to obey --

But then his mind *fills* with images of everything Lex could do to him --

Oh, please, *yes* --

Clark pulls off and flies back --

Lex replaces him in a heartbeat --

"Ohn -- oh, *please*, Lex, make me -- give me --" And then Tim shudders violently, punches the desk --

His eyes roll back --

He *jerks* --

He *blurs*, as if the space where he's sitting is somehow --

Oh. Oh, dear --

Lex makes an interrogative sound around Tim's penis --

And then reality seems to snap, leaving Tim as he was -- no, his *scars* are different. He --

There's nothing on his throat --

"I -- what -- where? Oh my God, you're -- because I was --" And Tim moans long and low, shaking normally -- "Oh, Lex, you --" Tim groans and bites his lip, claws at the desk --

Lex *grips* Tim's hips and pulls him in, crushing his face against Tim's groin --

Swallowing convulsively and groaning deep in his chest --

"Lex -- Lex -- *Lex* --!"

Lex bares his teeth --

Tim screams and kicks the desk once --

Twice --

"*Daddy* --!"

Lex coughs -- and then keeps coughing throughout Tim's orgasm --

"Oh -- God, I'm sorry, I'm really -- *ooh*, oh, yes, you --"

Lex is more than experienced enough to cough *while* he sucks --

And Tim croons for the better part of a minute while swaying, blinking --

Lex pulls off and *licks* his way up Tim's body --

"Daddy -- I mean -- I don't mean -- oh, God, Daddy, it's *good* to see you," Tim says, smiling brightly and wrapping his arms around Lex's neck.

Lex frowns thoughtfully. "You... missed me?"

Tim hums a laugh, warm and light. "I think it would be more accurate to say that I've missed *me*. Ah. Even though that makes no sense whatsoever. I... mm. I would *very* much like a kiss."

Lex presses his finger to Tim's mouth. "You were a virgin when I wrapped my mouth around your cock."

"Yes, well --" Tim licks the finger until Lex moves it. "I'm not now? I mean, obviously. But also -- ah. The virginity in question was thoroughly removed by my... middle brother."

Clark blinks -- "You have *brothers*, Tim?"

"I -- heh. Bruce's other partners, to be specific. Hm, I. Now that I'm thinking *somewhat* straight... it seems entirely likely that Bruce has managed to be convincing with Harvey."

Lex raises an eyebrow. "You call him Harvey now."

"Well, I was tempted toward calling him *Uncle* Harvey, but everyone in the family seems to think that's creepy. Well, creepy beyond the limits they've set for me."


"Yes, Daddy -- oh, I. Should I stop calling you that?"

Lex seems to be in a state of deep consternation. "Do you *always* call me that?"

"When at least one of us is naked for non-shower-related reasons? Yes. And yes." And Tim hums another laugh. "Spankies?"

Lex scowls. "I refuse to believe that I countenance that -- that *gibberish*."

Another hum. "You don't, but... I had to try," Tim says, and turns to Clark. <<I would have my companion... free.>> And Tim raises *both* eyebrows, looks Clark up and down --

Oh. <<*Bare*, fine one -->>

<<And you are never constrained in that attire...?>> Tim smiles and kicks out, pointing his toes --

He can't quite get close enough -- and Clark moves forward enough that those toes brush his abdomen --

*Lower* --

Tim drags his toes along the *seam* of Clark's trunks --

"Darling. If you give him new and unfortunate fetishes, I *won't* fuck you --"

"So hard my children scream your name?" Tim's laugh is both breathless and quiet -- "I'd *miss* that, Daddy, but -- mm," and he presses his toes against Clark, drums them --

Clark grips Tim's foot and -- presses himself --

Tim gasps --


"Oh -- dear. Yes, Lex?"

Lex smiles sharply and nods to where Clark is -- gently -- thrusting against the bottom of Tim's foot.

"Ah. No?"

"No," Lex says, moving close and tugging Tim's foot out of Clark's hands --

Tim sighs *sadly* and bends his leg again, scooting back on the desk until he seems more comfortable, more --

"You want him again," and Lex starts *massaging* Clark through his trunks --

"Yes! Oh -- I. But I also --"

"Want me?"

Clark bites his lip and tries to push into Lex's palm, Lex's strong, square -- "Please, Lex. I've always -- you're so *strong* --"

"That's *Bruce*, Clark --"

"Different --" Clark shakes his head. "You're very different, and -- the kinds of strength --"

"Will, Clark?"

Clark closes his eyes but can't keep himself from looking through his eyelids. Lex is studying him with a smile on his face, Tim seems both patient and *avid* --

"Clark. Let me see you."

Clark moans -- "Yes, Lex," and he's pushing into --

He's *trying* to push into Lex's hand, but somehow Lex is managing to keep changing the configuration, the positioning --

Clark feels himself blushing -- "I would -- I wish -- please, Lex, I'd like to be naked."

"That was *almost* Kryptonian, wasn't it..."

"Yes. Yes, I -- I'm very aroused --"

"You feel like hot *stone*..."

"Stone has more... is more --" Clark licks his lips and shakes his head. "Please, Lex --" But then Clark is groaning for the *loss* of Lex's hand --

"Strip. Now."

Yes --

Oh, yes --

And he's naked in Bruce's and Lex's *office*. Even knowing that no one would just walk in --

Even knowing that he's *wanted* this way --

"Thoughts, Tim?"

"Ah... perfection? Beauty? Thrill? Religious conversion imminent?"

"Conversion. *You're* religious?" And Lex turns to Tim --

Who is idly kicking his -- no, he's stretching. One leg at a time, briefly and dynamically -- he licks his lips *at* Clark -- "I'm very much inclined toward faith in some god who enjoys being appreciated for good sex, called on for strength in the face of the frightening or just disturbing, acknowledged in moments of passion... that sort of thing."

"And which 'god' *is* that?"

"Well..." Tim looks Clark up and *down* --

"Clark. Deny your godhead right now."

"Ah... Tim, I'm not a god."

Tim -- purrs. "The reluctant ones are always the best."

"Darling. Spank your scrotum."

"Oh, *Daddy* --"

"Do it now," Lex says, and moves back to Clark's side -- "Hands behind your back, Clark."

"Yes, Lex --"

"Oh -- *oh* --" And Tim's teeth shut with a click --

His stretching has *become* kicks --

And he's not being gentle to himself, at all. He --

The flesh is already *reddening* --

And that's when Clark notices that, while Tim seems to have the normal amount of hair on his groin, his scrotum has been shaved clean. Bare --

And then Clark is bucking and *shuddering*, because Lex is scratching Clark's penis, clawing at it with his short nails --

Clark gasps and floats --


Clark drops and tries not to get lost in all the fantasies, all --

They'd always allowed him to stay, to watch and --

And Lex gets so *flushed* when he's close, and the mingling of his musk with the colognes he wears --

Clark groans and squeezes his eyes shut --

Lex *backhands* Clark's penis --

"I'm *sorry*, Lex, I -- oh, my eyes --"

"Yes. *Open*."

"I'm sorry, yes, I -- yes, Lex," Clark says, opening his eyes and trying not to focus on the skyscrapers three blocks away, the two jets coming in for a landing at Fiorello Airport --

"With *me*."

Clark looks down at Lex, meets his eyes -- "It's always so *hard* --"

"This?" And Lex claws him again --

"Oh -- *please* --"

"Daddy -- Daddy, oh, it *hurts* --"

"You shameless *whore*," Lex says, and turns to look at Tim from over his shoulder. "Squeeze that sac for me. Rhythmically."

"Which -- which rhythm?"

"I'll show you," Lex says, and turns back to Clark, searches his eyes --

"Your eyes -- oh, Lex, there's so much --"

"Going on in them? Yes, usually. You all keep me so very *stimulated*," and Lex wraps his fist around Clark's penis -- "Are you ready?"

Clark moans, nods -- no, not that -- "Yes, Lex. Yes, I -- anything --"

"I've changed my mind. Hands above your head."

And Lex will never know how the brief hesitation between sentences sounded, how it *felt* in subjective time --

Clark is whimpering and *jerking* his arms up --

"Please, Lex. Please just -- don't stop?"

Lex smiles and pushes close to Clark's side, cupping Clark's buttock with his free hand and licking his teeth --

Clark moans *again* --

"I won't stop until you've come for me, Clark. And it's what you've wanted, isn't it? To come for me?"

"Dozens -- hundreds of times --"

Lex hums and begins to jerk Clark in -- in the same rhythm he uses for *himself* --


"So you *have* watched. Bad boy."

"Listened! Mostly --"


"*Yes*, Daddy..."

"*This* rhythm."

Tim moans and grunts, and when Clark looks over he can see Tim working himself, *pumping* himself. His penis is twitching *violently* every few squeezes --

He's spattering the blotter with pre-ejaculate --

"What do you want to do to him, Clark?"

"Taste. More. I mean -- everything! Anything both of you want --"

"And if it's only me that wants it...?" And Lex's eyes are sharp, his gaze *teases* --

Clark whimpers, focuses -- "It's -- *unlikely* --"

"I could want you to *hurt* him, Clark --"

Tim grunts, cries out -- "Close! Very -- *very* close --"

Lex snorts. "All right, wrong tack," Lex says, and pulls something out of his pocket before tossing it to Tim. It's --

"Oh, *Daddy*. I'd be *honored* if you'd put this ring on *for* me."

"I assure you, darling -- *that* ring will be platinum and *engraved*. For now, we'll just have to deal with leather. Snap it *tight*."

Tim giggles breathlessly and does it -- and then unbuckles it to pull the skin of his scrotum tight. The overall look is both neat and *tortured* --

The flesh is so *red* --

And then Tim moves his hands away from himself -- an act of will Clark doesn't think he could *match* -- spreads his legs wider and scoots forward on the desk, leaving his toes pointed and his body *displayed* --

"*Now* you can do anything you want to him, Clark. Anything *I* want."

"Oh. Oh, I --"

<<This one would also know honor at your most minor -- or most extreme -- touch, Kal-El.>>

The -- the construction of a willing *slave* -- "Tim, no --"

"Shh, Clark. He knows what he wants," Lex says, and his eyes are glittering, sharp and wild -- "*Tell* us what you want, Tim."

"To serve you, Daddy. In *every* possible way," Tim says, and begins to claw at the desktop rhythmically, steadily --

In the same rhythm Lex is using --

Clark is so *hard* now, and he can hold himself apart --

He *is* holding himself apart, but that --

It won't last. It -- "Your hand. It's your *hand* --"

"My calluses. My skin."

"Human. So -- perfect --"

"Fewer scars than Bruce."

"You -- you can feel *me* more --"

"Oh, Clark..." Lex licks a stripe over Clark's shoulder, *squeezes* Clark's buttock. "I'd feel you from a distance, in a thunderstorm..." Lex shakes his head and lets go --

"Oh -- *please* --"

"Shh. Tim. Get on top of the desk. On your hands and knees, facing away from us."

Tim *croons* -- "Yes, Daddy."

"Taste his *hole*, Clark."

Clark grunts and *locks* his knees -- "Yes -- *yes* --"

"While you do that? I'm going to finger you."

Clark hears himself whimper and *knows* that he's looking at Lex with nothing but plea in his eyes, nothing but the rawest possible *need*.

It -- or something else? Lex's eyes flare with heat, passion --

He's licking his teeth again --

He grips himself through his pants and *squeezes*, and Clark has to breathe him in, taste the tang of him on the air, his arousal and his *lust*. They're two different things, somehow, but Clark knows that he would have to be much, much wiser to describe the difference more clearly than just 'a question of gentleness.'

"Go, Clark."

"Yes, Lex. Thank you, Lex."

Lex grins, searches him -- and the grin becomes a snarl so vicious Clark's penis *spits* pre-ejaculate --

"Oh -- Lex --"

"Impressive. Go *now*."

Clark flies -- stops. "Lex, may I move my --"

"Yes. Spread that ass *wide*, Clark."

So -- so *crude*, and he's blushing --

Is Tim?

*Would* he?

Clark resolves to ask the question as soon as they've all had a number of orgasms and spreads Tim gently, carefully --

"*Wider*, Clark."

Clark moans -- "Yes, Lex --"

And with Tim spread like this --

With the flesh of his perineum seeming both tight and *swollen* --

Clark groans and licks him there, and he's drooling before Tim finishes his moan, lapping before Tim finishes his shiver --

Licking around and *around* the pucker --

He's not very tight, at *all* --

Clark *sucks* there --

Tim *barks* a cry and Clark can feel his temperature rise incrementally, taste *freshening* sweat --

And then *he's* crying out, because Lex is --

"Oh -- oh, *Lex* --"

"I changed my mind, Clark. You... mm. You *need* my cock, don't you?"

"*Yes* --" And that was shouted into Tim's hole --

Tim cries out and tries to push himself back, tries to get more stimulation --

Clark is doing the same *thing*, because Lex is dragging the head of his penis over and *over* Clark's anus, in circles and up and down, right and left -- "*Please*, Lex --"

"That's -- nnh. That's just right, Clark. Beg."

"Please *take* me --"

"Stick your tongue in Tim's hole and *then* beg."

Tim shudders and tries to spread his legs wider --

Clark blushes and does the same thing --


Clark pushes in --

"Ah! Oh -- oh, *Clark* --"

"Hnn. Deeper, Clark. Then beg."

Clark pushes as deep as he can, groaning and *leaking* for the clench and spasm of Tim's anus --

Whimpering and clenching for the drag of Lex's penis --

He's already lubricated it --

"Should I take my cock away...?"

"Nuh!" And even knowing that his voice would be slurred and unintelligible --

But perhaps this --

No, Lex *is* testing him, seeing how far he'll go, how deep? How --

Clark *begs*, and he treats his flush --

He treats his *blush*, his shaking knees, and his *sweat* as proof that he's doing it right, that he's being as shameless and -- and *willing* --

Lex presses himself against Clark's back, grips Clark's left hip with his free hand. "That's perfect, Clark. That's..." Lex *licks* Clark's back, bites at his shoulder blades -- "I'm going to fuck you, very, very hard."

Clark begs *more* --

"Shh. Fuck Tim with your tongue, now. No, the important thing..." Lex bites him again, again --

Tim grunts for every thrust of Clark's tongue, grinds himself *back* --

"The important thing is that *you* can't make me come."

Clark groans and tries to push back against Lex, tries --

"Shh, it's all right. We *will* remedy that situation with Bruce --"

Clark grunts and thrusts at air --

"Oh, yes. *Just* like that. Can you keep yourself from clenching too much and still come for me?"

Clark nods frantically -- no, he says yes into Tim's anus, spells it and drags it and *thrusts* it --

"Good. Good boy," Lex says, panting and pulling back -- "Reach back and spread a little more -- oh, such a *pretty* hole. You always bounce back a little from Bruce, don't you?"

"Eth -- "

"No, don't stop fucking Tim for anything now. Don't -- not even when he cries."

"Ahn -- *Daddy* --"

"You already know I want that, don't you, darling? That I love it?"

"It's -- ohn -- ohn, Clark --"

"It's *what*, Tim," and Lex is *pushing* at Clark's anus now --

No, dragging again, *leaking*, and the differences between the lubricant and Lex's pre-ejaculate are minor but special, important, beautiful --

"*Hard*, I -- you know -- I was never -- never *supposed* to cry --"

"Whose little boy are you?"

"Ah -- *fuck* --"


"*Yours*, Daddy, *please*, Daddy --"

Lex laughs softly, breathlessly -- "*I* think you belong to your brother... but that's all right. You'll still cry for me. For *us*."

Tim croons and drops onto his elbows --

His penis bounces, but it's constrained --

He won't have an orgasm until Lex decides he can, and so the pleasure that Clark is giving him will seem *endless*. Lex has found a way to make Clark offer *torture*, and the thought makes Clark sweat more, moan like a dying calf while Tim shakes and grunts and *moves* for --

And then Clark is crying out because Lex is pushing --

*Shoving* --

"Fuck *me* -- hnh -- well. Not. Not *today*, but. The concept remains -- Clark, you're a *furnace*."

But do you like it? Please *like* it --

"You -- feel. No. I *will* have my control, no matter how fantastic you feel. Mm. It's good to have me buried in you, isn't it."

No question. Absolute *confidence* -- Clark nods and reaches up to hold Tim's hips still. Just --

He's fast enough to *follow* Tim, but it's better to hold him --

"Oh, *please*, Clark --"

But --

"No, don't waver, Clark. *Hold* the little slut. He's asked for just this."

"Oh -- *God*, Daddy, he -- he won't *stop* --"

"No, he won't. He'll do anything I say. Won't you, Clark?"

Oh, but he doesn't --

He can't *hurt*, but --

"Clark." And Lex starts to pull *out* --

"Nuh -- *nuh* --"

"Then give me what I want."

"*Ennehing* --"

"You're *my* boy, Clark. Bruce's, too, of course, but right now...?"

"*Orrs* --"

"*Fuck* him. Hard, fast, and *relentless*."

And that's what he does. That's the only thing he *can* do. When he's this aroused his tongue *wants* to be harder, thicker, wants to flex like every other muscle --

Tim's cries are *spiraling* now, high and sharp --

He's beating at the desk again --

Lex grunts -- "Fuck -- you. Yes, *now*," he says, and the feeling of loss as Lex pulls most of the way out --

The harsh *wonder* of the head dragging across Clark's prostate --

Clark groans -- and it becomes a *bellow* when Lex shoves back in --

When he pulls out and shoves --

Pounds --

"Make. As much. Noise. As you. *Want* --"

He's going to cry before Tim does. He --

Lex's passion is his at *last* --

He'd never thought --

He'd dreamed so *much*. Every time Lex had made a particularly powerful sweeping gesture. Every time Lex had snarled at Bruce in a way that made Bruce's knees start to buckle. Every time Lex had *casually* ordered them to do this, or that --

And now he's *taking* Clark, and every shove comes with an effortful grunt, with the knowledge that Lex is *working* to take him --

To use him and *take* him --

And so Clark's breaths become sobs, the fuck of his tongue becomes jagged and as rough as it can be --

And Tim's cries are so high they're hard to *focus* on. They --

Clark stops spreading himself to catch Tim with both hands once more, to *grip* --

Tim *screams* and shudders --

"Oh, good *form*, Clark. Good -- mm. *Stroke* him."

"N-no -- oh, please, Daddy, it's too *much* --"

Lex thrusts in *hard*, forcing Clark up on his toes -- "You heard me, Clark."

Clark nods -- and knows Tim can feel him doing it when he wails, loud and *high* --

He does it for every stroke of his penis --

And then he simply does it over and over again with no rhythm or *reason*. He --

Clark is *torturing* him, making him --

Lex has turned Clark into someone who could -- oh --

He'll never be the *same* from this, he'll never -- there can *be* no recovery, no way to back away from this *knowledge* of himself --


And that's when he realizes that Lex had stopped. That Lex --

He's just *buried* in Clark, and that --

Clark shudders in anticipation, whimpers into Tim's flexing, spasming anus --

He strokes *faster* --

Lex sighs, and even that's hungry, pleased, *entitled* -- "Would you like to fuck him while I fuck you...?"

Tim screams again and he's shaking constantly, tossing his head --

And sobbing.

Sobbing, like --

Lex -- that was almost a *purr* -- "You think about it for a minute," Lex says. "I have work to do," and he begins to *grind* into Clark, swiveling his hips with expert control, *force* --

And Clark nods for it, tries -- tries to *affirm* it with the way he's kissing Tim's anus, making love to it as he strokes Tim in the rhythm Bruce likes best --

And then in the rhythm Bruce had taught him *Tom* liked.

There are no more words from Tim, but the noise is constant, the scent of his arousal and the lizard-brain *ache* of his tension is blinding, needful --

And Clark realizes that he's begun to speed his tongue beyond what a human could parse, that he's working Tim's penis the way he would work *Bruce's* --

That *he's* groaning constantly, stuttering inside for the *ache* Lex's penis brings, the feeling beyond pleasure and *next* to pain --

The feeling which always brings him so *close* --

"Well, Clark?"

He -- oh, he --

"The little slut has -- nnh. He's taken you *before* --"

His penis spits pre-ejaculate again. He --

How young could Tim have *been*?

"You. Mm. You wouldn't hurt him any more than you're hurting him now. Maybe -- nnh. Oh, your sweet little *hole* -- maybe *less* --"

And the imagery that comes is instant, incredible. He'd hold Tim *up*, bend his legs back to his chest, pull him on --

On and on and *on* --

"You want it."

He wants -- but -- Clark shakes his head as much as he can without losing the rhythm of his tongue --

"Clark. Don't lie to me --"

"Nuh -- *nuh*. *Orrs*."

"I *know* you're mine --" Lex gasps then, shoves in hard and *stops* --

Clark squeezes his eyes shut and isn't surprised to feel a tear sliding down his cheek --

"He's mine. That's what you're saying. *I* should have his ass first."

Clark nods frantically and pushes back against Lex, tries to get him to start *again*. With him stopped, Clark can only throb, only need as his body *screams* at him to clench -- and to do it much too *hard* --

Please, oh, *please* --

"Oh, Clark, you..." Lex grunts and strokes Clark's sides, *scratches* Clark's sides, cups his hips --

His hands are so *different* from Bruce's --

"I can't -- hnh. Fuck, I need you --"

Clark groans and starts to work his hips --

"Be *still*."

Clark whimpers --

Tim gasps for the *change* in rhythm, then jerks and spasms, starts to fall *over* --

Clark holds him upright --

"Oh -- *good* boy, good -- mm. I can't decide whether. Whether I want to have done this nine years ago or *not*."

And Clark *has* to whimper for that, because even having had all the fantasies --

Even having known an ache that lasted years with no *outlet* --

He doesn't know, either. He --

"I --" Lex growls and bites a line across the back of Clark's neck -- "I could've *changed* you --"

Clark nods --

"I'm changing you *now*."

Clark breathes deep and --

Clark squeezes his eyes shut and his vision flashes on two hawks perched on a grotesque two blocks north -- no, here, he must stay *here* --

"Clark, I -- I've never been -- a good *man* --"

*No* -- Clark shakes his head violently, holds Tim up with one hand and reaches back to grip Lex's hip, to plead *that* way --

"No, Clark, you -- touch Tim. Make him *feel* us."

Lex --

"It's all *right*," Lex growls -- and then laughs breathlessly *through* a groan. "My boy. Remember to let Bruce -- let him *heal* -- ah, *fuck* --" And Lex starts fucking him again, angling himself to hit --

To brush-touch-rub-*strike* --

There. Right *there*, and he wishes he *were* taking Tim, if only to be able to do the same to him right now, to force him to feel this hot, this lost, this *needy* --

"You'll come for me, Clark."

Oh --

He'll be *allowed* --

Clark nods and takes Tim with his tongue *faster* --

Tim's cries are becoming hoarse, and Clark is the only thing keeping him *upright* --

Loose and so -- so *pliant* --

"You -- *Clark*. Surrender your *control* enough to come."

But then he'll clench, he'll *milk* Lex, and he doesn't want --

"Do it *now*," Lex growls, and reaches up to claw Clark's *throat* --

And so the first feeling when he lets go --

When he turns up his personal *volume* --

Bright sharpness and the need to swallow, push, *choke* himself --

But Lex still has *that* angle, and he can't --

He's having *trouble* taking Tim with his tongue, and it's just --

He has to moan, cry out, *shudder* with the need to *move* --

"Keep. *Still* --"

"*Yes* -- oh -- I'm *sorry*, Lex --"

"Too late," Lex says, and *rakes* Clark's penis with his nails --

Clark *shouts* --

Realizes he's squeezing Tim's hip hard enough to *bruise* by the way Tim whimpers almost *piteously* --

Oh, fine one, his sweet --

And Lex claps the lubricant down closer to Clark's hand. "*Finger* him --"

Clark watches Tim clench in need, scents his high, *sharp* musk on the air and knows that Tim is filled with both desire and *dread* --

"Lex -- Lex, will you take him --"

"I'm going to *fuck* him. *Harder* than I'm fucking you. But first? You'll *come*," Lex says, and starts grunting as he --

Oh, it *isn't* the rhythm he normally uses, not with Bruce and not with Mercy. Such *control* --

But he can't admire it lest he wind up using too much of his own. No, he has to sink into this, lose himself to the way Lex is forcing him *open* with his penis, to the way Tim takes two fingers *easily*, exhaling on a groan as he tries to bend over again --

"*No*, Tim, *up* --"

Tim sobs again -- "Yes, Daddy, sorry Daddy, so -- I'm so --"

"Hungry? Desperate? Needy?"

"*Please*, Daddy, I need you so *much* --"

"You -- *nnh*. You need the *pain*."

"I *do*, I need to be taken, to be *fucked* -- need to always -- so *empty* before I knew you, so -- there was *nothing* --"

Lex grunts again, *speeds* his thrusts -- "You. You'll elaborate on *that*."

"Daddy, *please*, don't -- don't make me go -- oh. Oh, *Clark* --"

Necessary to manipulate his prostate to --

Yes, *vibration*, because Tim must take everything, because Lex *wants* Tim to take everything --

He's doing what Lex *wants*. He *is* what Lex wants --

Tim's cries rise in pitch, become vibrato --

Lex groans and bites the back of Clark's neck again -- "Just. Just like that. What do you need to come?"

Lex has never watched *him* -- and that hurts, but it's still. It means more, too. Means that he's saved himself the way Clark has, or --

He doesn't *know*, but it's important that he focus, that he do more than hold Tim up on his knees and *take* --


"Please. Please -- my penis --"

"Does Bruce touch your penis?"

"He -- harder. He gives his. All --"

"And I can't do that *this* time, yes, I -- *nnh* -- I *see*. Stop holding him up and guide my stroke. Tim -- elbows and knees --"

Tim cries out and it *almost* sounds like words -- he drops and shakes --

Clark lets go and covers Lex's hand on his penis, feels himself flush even *deeper* --

Somehow *this* is making him --

Oh, but it's the *first* fantasy about Lex: Moving close enough to smile, to look at Lex from under his lashes the way Bruce likes him to do, to *ask* --

And then Lex would smile, bright and sharp and *wild* --

And then Lex would *touch*, just touch, and measure him and find him good, find him *enough* --

Lex's growl sounds *only* pleasured as he squeezes. "And this is why Bruce yells for you so -- so *nicely* --"

Clark blushes *more* -- "Please. Please, Lex --"

"Tim -- mm. Tim's prepared enough for *my* needs. Get your free hand on your sac."

Clark floats helplessly --

"*Down* --"

"Yes, Lex, sorry, Lex --"

"On your *sac*."

Clark squeezes himself with both hands and cries out, shakes and feels his knees *want* to give out --

If he could float it wouldn't *matter* --

And Clark knows, with all of himself, that that's *why* Lex won't let him float. It's knowledge that makes him blush more --

"Show me. Show me the *stroke*," Lex says, and *scrapes* his teeth over Clark's shoulder --

"This -- this, Lex --"

Lex *purrs* --

And starts --

Starts taking him in the exact opposite rhythm --

Clark locks his knees and cries out, trying to do it just for the thrusts --

No, the strokes --

The squeezes which have no rhythm at all --

He's helpless -- he --

If someone attacked, he'd only be able to *look* at them, slack-jawed and open, needy, so *needy* --

And Tim hasn't *moved*. He's on his elbows and knees --

He's waiting his *turn*, because it's Clark's turn, now, because Lex won't stop until Clark has --

Oh, but he doesn't *want* Lex to stop, he --

It would be so *easy* to pull his control back, to take himself away from this -- no. No, it would be *terrible*. It would go against Lex's wishes, and maybe -- maybe disappoint --

He wouldn't want to do it *again* --

And it's fear making Clark cry out as much as it's pleasure. His heart is hammering in his chest and he can't catch a breath. The scents of their mingled sweat and other fluids is *clouding* the air --

He is obvious and needy and he could never deceive Lex about that. If he doesn't come soon --


Clark jumps and *spasms*, and will fear take him to this point? Need and *dark* hunger, hunger unfulfilled --

Tim's scrotum looks tighter than Clark's *feels*, Tim's hole --

His beautiful fine one --


"*Yes* -- yes, Lex, please, please *harder* --"


Clark shouts and *blanks* --

Just -- to --

A moment of white nothingness, *shocked* pleasure and aching --

And when he comes back to himself with a grunt, he realizes he's working his scrotum *brutally* hard, doing it the way he only ever does when he needs to *drive* Bruce to touch him more roughly, move him and drop him and *take* --

"There. There you are. Are you ready to *submit*?"

Tim jerks --

And Clark can only tremble, gasp and try and *fail* to use language, *any* language --

And then he's shouting again, because Lex has curled his nails in against Clark's penis and is stroking him *that* way --

"Are. You. *Ready*."

"*Yes* -- oh -- *please* --"

Lex *growls* a laugh. "My boy, now."

"Yes, Lex --"

"You'll do what I say."

"*Anything*, Lex --"


Clark groans and tries to keep his knees from -- from *creaking* for all the force he's using to keep himself upright --


"*Everything* --"

"Tim. Turn around and face Clark."

Tim whimpers, whispers "yes, Lex," and does it. His eyes are dazed, glazed over with lust and *pained* lust. His lips are swollen from being bitten, parted --

He's trembling, *too* --

"Clark," Lex says, and his breathing is rough, heavy against Clark's ear as he thrusts --

Over and over, so even, so controlled --

Opposite to every vicious *stroke* --

"Please -- *please*, Lex --"

"Come on Tim's face."

Clark spasms and clenches --

Lex hisses --

Clark can smell pain, pleasure, need, lust like *rage*, and he's still clenching, still --

Tim looks so open, so accepting --

He's taken so much --

Lex *squeezes* Clark's penis and Clark groans again, grunts and shakes his head --

"*Now*, Clark."

"So -- so fine, I --"

And Tim smiles and opens his mouth, and that --

The white light is back, only this time it's brought the tightest possible chains for the base of Clark's spine, the roughest possible hands for his *skin* --

"Give it *up*."

Tim licks his lips slowly --

Or is it slowly? Is -- subjective -- he can't --

Trigger --

Clark detaches himself enough to hold on to the parts of his body which would clench too hard, buck too *forcefully* --

And the rest is the moment of loss and *completion*, power and -- and the beauty of thousands of voices raised in pleasure, every Gothamite who's finding pleasure --

His own is so --

But the sight of his semen splashing on Tim's face just makes him spasm more, *spill* more, no -- this is -- he feels himself a *weapon* of pleasure, and isn't that what --

What Lex had *made* --

Clark shouts one last time, and by the end of it he's hearing nothing but what he wishes to, which is everything in *this* room --

Tim's thudding heartbeat and Lex's own --

The sound of his own panting as he -- floats. Oh, dear. He drops -- "I'm sorry, Lex --"

Lex laughs at him quietly. "You didn't take my cock with you to the *ceiling*, so I'm only going to punish you a little: You *can't* lick Tim's face."

Clark grunts and realizes he'd wanted that almost more than anything *else* --

Lex laughs at him again. "That's my come, now, darling. Loosen yourself for me."

"Yes, Lex --"

Lex sighs as he pulls out. "Oh, that was.... mm. Yes, we'll be doing that repeatedly. Now pick a good vantage point to watch, Clark.

Clark does just that.


There's something eminently tension-inducing about having a superpowered alien floating behind, above, and to one's left -- but having just dominated, fucked, and corrupted said superpowered alien does have an alleviating affect.

It's entirely possible that he's *high* on this, because --



He *can't* say he'd never known, but... he'd never known. Not to that *extent*. There's a difference between knowing someone wants you and knowing how far that someone will go to *get* what he wants. And Clark had offered him no limits, at all.

Anything --

Everything --

Lex wipes himself off and tilts Tim's face up, licking and feeling heat that really *should* have dissipated by now, tasting minerals, citrus, *male* --

People like that deserve the absolute best of him. Not that Lex holds it against people when they don't submit to his wills and whims instantly and utterly -- Mercy and Bruce *always* have *something* to say -- but there's something to be said for being loved the way people are supposed to love their so-called gods.

It's a feeling *Bruce* has had for years, but who knows how much the man appreciated it?

He loves Clark, needs him in some of the same ways Lex does, as well as in several other ways, but he actually encourages Clark to top *him* from time to time. That --

It seems like such a *waste*. You can't let a good sub lie *fallow* --

And now Tim is whimpering and trying to catch Lex's mouth for a kiss, a deeper touch than the swipes of Lex's tongue --

Lex bites Tim's jaw hard enough to leave a mark --

"Oh, *Daddy* --"

Lex shoves his tongue in Tim's mouth, his hand in Tim's hair --

He tilts Tim's head back until his throat seems stretched for something far more ominous than sex. *Lex* would never use a knife there, and in this particular Tim's past no one else did, either -- but, in all sorts of universes, *someone* had. Someone who'd gotten close enough and still wanted to *injure*, somehow...

Well, Bruce does have a habit of making deeply *insane* enemies.

For now, Lex moves out of the kiss and bites Tim most of a collar before pushing him back, back down to his elbows and knees --

And Lex realizes that his reprieve from his own body's needs won't last. That, even now, just *looking* at what he wants --

What he'll *have* --


"Yes, Lex," and Clark's voice is -- still breathless. Hm.

Lex listens more carefully, grips the back of Tim's neck, and looks back -- to see Clark jerking himself off at a speed that moves beyond attractively ridiculous to intimidating. The breathless quality of Clark's voice -- "You're panting too fast for the sounds to register normally."

"Yes -- yes, *please*, Lex --"

"Who's fucking you in your fantasy?"

"You --- and Bruce --"

"Which of us has your mouth?"

Clark's moan has too many notes too fast to *catch* -- "I'm sorry -- I'm sorry -- it's just. You switch *off* --"

Lex hums and thinks of some of Bruce's athletic equipment --

Some of his *own* athletic equipment --

Clark has always been *fascinated* by the amount of work he and Bruce put into staying fit. Though Bruce's physical condition... it's rather laughable to call him 'fit' -- as opposed to 'machine-like.'

Lex smiles to himself and strokes Tim's back, his sides --

He cups Tim's ass and Tim immediately raises it higher, pushes back with it --

"Are you asking for something, darling?"

"Your -- I need your *penis*, Daddy --"

"You're willing to call me 'Daddy' but not to use colloquialisms?"

"It's -- ah. Mm, oh your *hand* -- it's part of my *charm* --"

Lex snorts and taps Tim's hip. "Toes on the floor, legs spread, head hung low."

Tim -- purrs. That's really the only possible --

Lex is smiling far too *much* --

But then, that's been the case since he took *up* with Bruce and Clark --

And before then, of course, with Tom.

Lex sighs because he can, crouches to spread Tim's legs *that* much farther apart --

And now Tim's panting quickly, rising *higher* on his toes --

"No. I'd rather have you in a more sustainable position."

Tim moans, drops -- "Yes, Lex."

Lex strokes up the backs of Tim's legs, noting that the hair is somewhat shorter -- hm. "You shave often."

"For -- for you. And for Bruce."

"Not your brothers?" Lex spreads Tim's ass and stares as loudly as he can --

And the flexes begin immediately. They're impressive things, *hungry* things --

"My -- my -- uhm. My eldest brother thinks shaving is practical. None of us think he's sane --"

"*No* vigilante is sane. That's the point. What about your middle brother. The one who fucked you *first*."

Another impressive clench -- "He's -- he's very invested in me only doing things I want to do. He -- ah. He worries about the shaving, Daddy --"

"Because you don't like it?"


Lex *doesn't* jerk -- but to hear that laugh from *this * Tim -- "Tim, are you still --"

A giggle. "Sorry. Sometimes that laugh just -- happens. Ah. I like it *because* you and Bruce like it," he says, and switches his hips. "I can be your girl, Daddy. Your *little* girl."

Lex doesn't *grunt* -- but it's a very near thing. "That's filthy."

"*Especially* the way you do it, Daddy."

"And how is that?"

"You -- mm. You seduce me. *Every* time. You reward me for *not* putting out... have you spent much time thinking about your gender issues, yet?"

Gender -- Lex bites Tim's cheeks several times to avoid thinking clearly. There is -- slightly -- more fat on this Tim than there was on the last one, which bodes well for Bruce's *potential* to keep teenaged boys healthy with enough devoted assistance and care. "Have I in the future?"

"You've -- mm. Accepted them. Less a Madonna-whore complex than a mother-princess -- oh, that's -- oh, *Daddy* --"

"Just for breathing on you, darling?"

"It's -- really -- *fuck* me, Daddy, *please*!"

*Right* to his cock, and never mind a future apparently spent with *terrible* issues -- but. "How long did it take me to fuck you in your timeline?"

"*Too* -- you. I felt you *looking* at me. *Wanting* me. You and Bruce -- and Bruce was already with J-- my middle brother -- um."

Lex tightens his grip on Tim's ass. There's no sense of loss or blurring -- "Still with me?"

"Yes, Daddy, please, I --"

"You want to go back to your own time."

"I want -- I want my time to exist, but -- it could be better. There are still. There are things I'd *change* --"

"Shh, don't tell me, yet," Lex says, and kisses his way up Tim's spine, licking at fresh sweat --

Detouring to bite Tim's left shoulder blade --

And Clark moans. He --

"For *that*, Clark?"

"I can feel -- I've imagined you biting *me* there, Lex," Clark says, and -- yes. He's just a *little* bit closer.

Lex smiles and stands straight. "Come here and I'll do it right now."

Clark groans -- and then he just *is* in front of Lex, hovering *just* high enough to make it easy for Lex to lean in --

Breathe as hot as he *can*, and wonder if it makes a difference --

And, when Lex looks, Clark's hand on his cock is blur. "Slow down for a moment."

"Oh -- oh, *please*," Clark says, and does just that, jerking himself at a speed a human penis would find tortuous -- eventually.

Lex swipes some of the pre-come from the head --

"*Lex* --"

Lex smears it over Clark's shoulder-blade --

And Clark shudders all over, practically *vibrates* --

"Be *still*."

Clark obeys so *perfectly* --

Lex leans in and licks and nibbles Clark clean before biting down as hard as he can --

Clark grunts and squeezes himself terribly hard. Lex considers --

"While I'm fucking Tim, I want you in a position where you'll be well within my peripheral vision."

"Yes, Lex --"

"And don't jerk yourself off any faster than that. I want to see *every* movement."

Clark grunts again and flies up to the ceiling -- and then moves to a position where he should be able to see *nearly* everything -- no, he's *Clark*. He can look *through* Lex's hands and hips -- "Is. Is this all right, Lex?"

Lex makes a point of looking Clark over slowly and carefully --

Clark shivers --

"Perfect," Lex says, and smiles at Clark --

Who leans in -- before standing straight again. Good boy. Lex turns his attention back to Tim, checking for signs of fatigue -- he *has* been up on his toes this whole time -- there are none.

Lex leans in and slips his tongue in Tim's ear --

"*Mm* -- oh, Daddy, I -- I wish I'd shaved for you --"

"You had no idea when you were going to be yanked into the past. Or did you?"

"Have you -- have you considered the idea that you might be taking your Tims from alternate universes?"

"I -- what?"

"Well, you -- ah. You *tried* to create only a temporal anomaly, but -- things went wrong, yes? And continued to go wrong."

Lex feels his stomach try to relocate itself --

"Just a thought. Which you should stop thinking about. It's probably not --"


"Yes, Daddy?"

"How often do I gag you?"

Another giggle. "Never, Daddy. But you *talk* about doing it all the time."

Yes, he *would* want to hear every distressingly arousing thing this Tim would say, will say, *can* say -- "You're very... free."

"I'm always free with you, Daddy," and Tim switches his hips *again* -- hm.

Lex *cups* Tim's hips, searches out Clark's bruises and presses --

Tim moans and pushes higher up on his toes --


Tim grunts and obeys. "Yes, Daddy --"

"Do you *want* to be female?"

Tim shudders -- "Um. Can we... ah. I don't... um."

Conflict, hesitation -- all right. "Lower your head."

"Yes, Daddy -- *oh* -- *ohn* --"

Mercy had informed him that there was nothing -- *nothing* -- he could do to make her feel more like cheerful prey than closing his teeth at the apex of her spine. Tim seems to feel the very same...

"Oh -- God, Daddy, please, *please* --"

"Who do you belong to?"

"*Everyone*. I -- I'm the family *bicycle*, Daddy --"

"It suits you. Slut."

Tim whimpers and scratches at Lex's blotter. His hands are covered with scars from cuts, slashes, burns -- hm.

"Turn around."

"Daddy, I want --"


Tim gasps and does it, and his cock is dark with blood, his sac is so --

Lex drops into a crouch and sucks Tim's sac, nibbles --

Clark groans and speed-babbles... something --

"Nnh -- nnh -- I --" <<Most-high. I -- this one pleases?>>

Clark cries out and speed-babbles more -- <<-- must give. Lex Luthor is your father-lover, the one-who-holds. You must *give*.>>

Father-lover. That --

Perhaps he'd misunderstood. The Kryptonian language isn't really -- like that. He hopes. He hopes a *lot*. Lex swallows back a laugh and sucks harder, sucks kisses up the underside of Tim's cock --

Tim wails and pumps at air --

"Be *still*."

"Daddy --!"

"Shh, it's all right," and Lex goes back to nibbling on Tim's sac, trying for --

There. A sob. A --

His little *girl*?

Mercy allows -- and occasionally *demands* -- that liberty, but --

Is it something he should really allow *himself*? He's going to have children of his *own* someday -- isn't he?

Can he ask in anything *like* good conscience? Lex massages Tim's calves, his thighs --

Lex stands up and kisses Tim deeply, unsurprised to see that he knows Lex's favorite sorts of kisses --

And lost, utterly, when Tim kisses him like Tom, with that same *pure* affection and pleasure, confidence in his own abilities, *desire* --

Lex groans and grabs Tim's wrists, squeezing them hard --

And Tim hums something which might as well be another giggle -- Tim knows precisely what this kiss does to him. Right.

Lex pulls back. "And if I kissed you the way your middle brother did the first time?"

"I -- mm. All right, you have a point --"

"And that was your *first* kiss, wasn't it?" And Lex pushes close, *grinds* against Tim --

"Oh -- I can *feel* -- "

"*Tell* me."

"*Yes*, Lex, I -- I had never --"

"Tell me about his mouth."

"Soft. Broad -- broader than yours --"


"Yes, Daddy --"

"No, call me Lex."

Tim's whimper is -- interrogative.

Lex smiles. "You did it before."

"I -- I -- you're my *Daddy* --"

"I'm your lover. Your friend. Your --"

"I'm not *Tom*," Tim says, narrowing his eyes and *visibly* preparing himself for violence. *Really*? No, no, it makes sense. But --

"I'm not the Lex from all those years in the future, Tim."

"I." Tim licks his lips, shakes himself like a dog --

"Too hard to think?"

"Need you. Need --"

"Your Daddy. But I'm too young for that --"

"You're *not*. You -- in this era you already have Hope, Mercy, *and* Bruce. And now you have Clark, too -- oh, Lex, *please* --"

"Tom was my equal," Lex says, and nuzzles Tim's throat. "My -- I wanted him for my partner. He rose to every challenge."

"You have *Bruce* for that. And -- Clark, too --"

<<Fine one, there is pleasure in submission *always*. Your father-lover would have you submit to being *more*.>>

Tim shivers, arches --

Lex rewards him with a bite and another grind --

"I -- I --" And Tim whimpers and starts thrusting and rubbing against Lex, throwing his head back and moaning, begging with all of himself --

"Then consider it for another time," Lex says, and pushes Tim down on his back on the desk --

Lifts Tim's legs and spreads them wide --

"Spread your ass for me, darling. It's time for your ride."

Tim makes a choked noise -- something between a laugh and a gasp -- and obeys, pointing his toes and offering --

Beautiful. *Experienced* -- enough that it *wouldn't* be completely untoward to use only the lubricant Clark had already slicked Tim with --

If Lex *didn't* want to save some -- as it were -- for Bruce. So. Lex slicks himself thoroughly, leaves some extra around Tim's hole --


"*Please*, Daddy, please -- I mean Lex --"

"It's all right, darling. I can be a *good* boy's Daddy."

Tim moans and spreads himself wider, sits up to expose the *incredible* definition of his abs --

"Shall I come in you? Or on you?"

"Anything --"

"What do you *want*," Lex says, adding a bit of a snap, a snarl --

Tim's cock twitches *impressively* --

And Tim cries out. His arousal has become *painful* enough that he can't prepare himself for the twitches -- "*Answer* me."

Another twitch --

Another --

Tim shouts and it *becomes* a loud gurgle as he tilts his head back further -- "*In* me, *in* me, Daddy, *make* me your boy --"

"You always have to belong, don't you? To *someone*."

"God, *yes* -- *ahn* --"

In, one thrust. One thrust which had made Lex feel both impossibly long and laughably *short*. He has to catch his *breath* --

"Daddy -- *Daddy* --"


"*Fuck*," Tim says, but he does it immediately, using every muscle a *dedicated* family had *taught* him to use --

"Good. Good boy. I --" Oh, yes. "Clark. Kneel on the desk and hold Tim's upper body in your lap -- no, against your chest."

"Oh -- oh, Lex --" And Clark is right there, cradling Tim --

"You make him look even younger than he is."

"Does it please you, Lex?"

Lex smiles and moves Tim's hands from his ass, pushing them up high until Clark grips Tim's wrists in one hand, wrapping the other arm around Tim's chest --

Tim clenches again --

"Did I tell you to do that, darling?"

Tim whimpers and *shakes* -- "Please -- please, I need to *feel* you --"

"You think you won't?"

"*Now* -- *please*, Daddy --"

"Clark. Shove your thumb in his mouth."

Clark grunts and thrusts against Tim's back -- shoving Tim against Lex --

"Mm. And do *that*, too."

"Please -- *mmph* --"

"*Suck*, Tim. And remember -- every time you stop sucking? I hurt you."

Tim's eyes are wide, full -- and then calculating as he opens his mouth around Clark's thumb.

Of course he'd want to know. Well --

"Here," Lex says, and pinches the head of Tim's cock --

Tim *screams* around Clark's thumb -- and starts sucking immediately. There's an apology in his eyes, and --

Perhaps it's more excruciating with the cock ring on? A question for later. Lex eases the pressure and gathers pre-come -- and paints Clark's lips with it.

"Oh, *Lex* --"

"Smell it. Don't lick it away just yet."

Clark moans and nods. "May I -- you *do* want me to thrust?"

"I want you to come against his back -- when I tell you to."

Clark moans *again*  -- "Yes. Yes, Lex."

Lex focuses on Tim -- and realizes that he's being studied by Tim, that Tim had somehow managed to do that *subtly* --

Or, perhaps, Lex's cock has finally taken over. It's *due* --

"Suck hard enough to hollow your cheeks, darling."

Tim hums and does just that --

His eyelashes are wet --

Lex grunts and leans in to lick the tears away, to taste salt and *human* -- and then to detour and bite Clark's thumb-knuckle --

"*Oh* --"

And this time Clark's thrust is --

It moves Tim *on* him --

"Do that again, Clark. Do it *hard*," Lex says, standing and bracing himself --

And Clark's thrusts manage an evenness, an *aim* that's wonderfully impressive --

Terribly fucking -- *correct* --

And no, Lex can't keep from thrusting anymore. He -- "Match me, Clark. We thrust *simultaneously*."

"*Yes*, Lex, I --" And Clark *starts* to lick his lips, pauses, stares openly -- "I'm ready."

And that's when Lex realizes that he's holding up a finger *while* fucking Tim --

Why on earth would he want Clark to *wait*? What possible --

But looking into Tim's eyes is answer enough. Those eyes, that swollen mouth --

The sounds which are coming out *despite* him sucking on Clark's thumb, and Lex needs --

Lex narrows his eyes and *forces* himself to pause. "Take your thumb out. Work his nipples, instead."

"Oh, yes, Lex. Please. Please, may we begin?"

Timing is everything.

Timing is -- is *control* --

Tim gasps for the feel of Clark pinching his right nipple --

"*Now*," Lex says, and begins a rhythm that's more hard than fast, more --

He'd *promised* --

And Tim screams for it immediately, using the air from that gasp to *wonderful* effect -- no, he has to make sure --

"Beautiful, darling. Keep. Keep it *up*."

Tim nods, crying out for every --

Oh, they're *crushing* Tim between them, and the only *detailed* thought in Lex's mind is the fact that he knows -- *knows* -- that Tim would've pictured this at least once with Bruce in Lex's place.

*All* Tims appreciate a certain consistency of tone, he's betting, a certain --

A certain sort of *symmetry* to their lives. So even, so relentlessly -- anal.

And no one has to *know* that this *particular* rapacious grin is due more to a terrible -- and terribly obvious -- pun than something more sophisticated, rarefied --

Could anything *be* more rarefied than the scent of *this* alien's sweat and pre-ejaculate blended with that of a boy who technically doesn't *exist* in this era?

Why, after this --

Could there be anything which could surpass? Is that even possible?

Probably *not* -- though imagining taking up sex with animals believed extinct while driving around in a Bucker is allowing him to keep --

A *certain*, again --


"Beg me to hurt you, darling."

And this time, Tim's grunt is more reminiscent of the sounds Lex has made when taking a punch to the *spine* than it is of sexuality --

All Tims have far too much violence in their souls, as well. "Do I have to stop, Tim...?"

"No! *Please*! Hurt me! Hurt me -- badly, please, make me cry again, make me scream for you, make me -- "

"Clark. Twist his nipples *viciously*."

Tim shouts before it happens --

Clark *vibrates*, moving all of them at *once* --

"*Now*, Clark."

"*Yes*, Lex, oh, I can --" <<Fine one, you *must* give in to all with *speed*.>> And the twist makes Tim slam his head back against Clark --

Makes him gasp once, twice --

And the scream is impressive enough to make Lex wonder about his soundproofing -- if never about Tim's lung capacity. Bruce *would* make sure it was the best --

The *most* perfect it could be in such a small boy, such --

It's not even close to a surprise that Lex is gripping Tim by the hair as he shoves in and *in* --

As he stares into that face, beloved face --

"*Darling* --"

Tim opens his eyes and gasps again, pleads -- "You *love* me --"

"All. *All* of you. And I'll make all of you *mine*," Lex says, and watches Tim twist, jerk, struggle off-rhythm to Lex's and Clark's thrusts --

But it's a struggle for freedom, and that can't ever be allowed.

Not anymore. "*Submit*."

Tim *barks* a cry, stills all over --

"Clark, hold his legs to his chest."

"*Yes*, Lex --"

Faster than a blink, more terrifying --

*Bruce* had had Tom in this position, but Lex never --

And he has to give in to this feeling, doesn't he? He has to allow himself *room* to be the teenager he used to be, the *denied* teenager, the *left* --

"You *broke* me --"

"I'm *sorry*, Lex --"

"You -- I've bled for you --"

"Yes, Lex, *please*, Lex --"

"Tim..." Lex moves his hands to Tim's cheeks, cupping and stroking as he holds his rhythm --

Somehow holds his *rhythm* --

"This -- is my first time inside you, Tim."

Tim's gasp is --

Tim's *clench* is --

And Clark matches the *stutter* in Lex's rhythm -- he'd perceived it before *Lex* had --

"*Clark*. Fuck his *cleft* --"

"I -- I'll touch you --"

Lex smiles at Clark as *hard* as he can --

Clark groans and *vibrates* them again --

And Tim cries out sharply, repeatedly --

And Lex realizes he's started a new and *faster* rhythm -- no, it has to be harder, *too* --

"*Lex* --"

"*Take* it, slut --"

"*Yes*, Daddy, *please* Daddy --"

"I -- *hnh* --" And his words are gone. Just --

Clark's cock is a hot *bar* against Lex's sac, nudging and pushing gently, but --

Too hot, too --

He'd had that in his *hand*, but that's --

Clearly he has fewer *calluses* --

His laugh is another kind of stutter, another *rush*, and his hands are back in Tim's hair , his own cock is something out of his *control* -- no.

Not that.

Never --

But it doesn't actually *help* anything to kiss Tim --

That's a lie.

It's the kiss Lex has wanted to give Tom when they were children together, when he still believed -- sometimes -- that he would find a way to make things work well *enough* with --

No, he won't have his useless, awful, *orc* of a father in this room, or this kiss. Just the taste of Tim in his mouth, the feel of his mouth trembling against Lex's own as he whimpers, as he whines and gasps --

Sobs --

Yes, *now*, and Lex breaks the kiss to lick his eyes once more, to *bite* his cheeks, his lower lip --

"D-Daddy --"


"You *always* make me -- feel --"

"Just me. First *time*."

"*Daddy* --"

"You're such a beautiful little boy, you -- hn. Scream for me," Lex says, and gives himself permission --

These thrusts may as well be *strikes*, and Tim is hot inside, sleek inside, *soft* inside --

He never wants to *damage*, but he's *always* wanted to *hurt* --

And Tim's screams have no rhythm to speak of, for all that he and Clark -- "*Opposite* to me, Clark --"

"*Yes*, Lex --"

"Ah -- ah, *fuck* --" It's a playground ride, a joke, a tease --

No, it's too fucking *hot* to be a tease, and why the *hell* has he never shared someone with another man before?

For every thrust in, Clark is dragging his cock *away* from Lex's. For every time he pulls out --

Fuck --

*Fuck* --

And the only thing he can do to keep from *yelling* is to kiss Tim again, crush his mouth, fuck his mouth, shout into his mouth --

No, control --

His spine feels like --

His sac is so *tight* and Clark keeps *nudging* it and --

He's not going to get his control back.

He damned well knows how to make it not matter.

He unsnaps the ring with the *meanest* jerk he can bring himself to use --

And Tim's screams are wild things, frightened and frightening things --

He's *crying*, not just sobbing --

"Open your *eyes*, darling --"

He does, and it's like looking down into the multiverse, like falling into a world -- a *life* -- where moments like this reverberate --

He's been fucking Bruce too much.

And laughing this time makes him sound this close to hysterical --

Clark is speed-babbling fuck only knows what --

And Tim sounds like a tortured cat -- or possibly just one getting fucked *just* the right way.

Lex knows his smile is terrible --

Lex knows he's --

Close. But.

"Tim. *Come*."

Tim jerks --

Freezes --

And it would be the *worst* kind of bad grace to wonder who had taught *this* Tim how to come on command -- so he won't. He'll just pant and grunt and *rut* for the feel of human-hot come splashing on his chest --

His fucking *chin* --

"*Good* boy -- you. *Clark*."

"*Yes*, Lex --"

"*Your* turn."

Clark groans and digs his fingers in against the backs of Tim's thighs --

More bruises for him to go home with, and how will he explain them? Could his family possibly keep --

Keep *track* --


"One -- must --"

"*Do* it, Clark," and Lex can make it easier on Clark and harder on himself -- he fucks Tim faster, feeling his control crumble like --

Something --

The friction. The *heat* --

Bruce is going to *hurt* this Tim with every thrust --

And *if* Lex manages not to get hard for *that* --

Oh, fuck, everything's so -- so *beautifully* tight --

"*Clark* --"

Speed-babble --

And splash after splash of *frighteningly* hot come on his sac, his thighs --

Bukkake was never *appealing* before --

Lex bites the laugh in against Tim's jaw --

Gives himself Clark's half-coherent whispers and moans --

Tim's wordless whimpers and cries --

Considers -- nothing at all, because Tim clenches around him hard enough --

*Sustained* enough --

"Nnh -- Tim --"

"Lex, I -- please come in me, please fill me up, please --"

"*Tim* --"

"*Please* --"

Need. Need *answers* --

But Lex still has to knock Clark's hands away from Tim's thighs --

Has to force those thighs back -- back *more* --

"*Lex* --"

That *voice* -- "*All*," Lex says, and hopes he knows what he means *later*, because --

Light --

Heat --

Pressure and pleasure and so much --

It feels like someone is trying to rip his spine out *while* fucking his cock, and that --

Suggests strongly --


*Flashes* of Tim, of Clark --

His own broken *shouts* --

He's going to -- *not* fall, because Clark stands up and holds Tim with one arm and Lex with the other.

Good thing he's so --


Lex groans and deals with the fact that he'd nearly fallen on his ass by coping *now*. He spreads his feet until they're shoulder-width apart. He shifts Tim until his legs are around Lex's waist --

And Tim throws his arms around Lex's neck, clings with arms and legs -- and bites his lip.

Lex can't actually *say* anything yet, but he can work concern and curiosity into his expression --

"I -- I. The Lex in my time never -- he never makes it seem as though I should belong to him. More than I do."

Lex pants a little more and nods, strokes Tim's cheekbone -- "One moment," he says, and turns to Clark. "Come here and kiss me."

Clark smiles and does just that, licking into Lex's mouth shallowly --

Fuck, he still smells like Tim's pre-come -- well. He can do something about that. He gathers the come on his abdomen and wipes *that* on Clark's lips --

"Oh. Oh, Lex --"

"Kiss me *again*."

And yes, there's a very *satisfying* degree of hopeless mess to all of this, though Lex remains secure in the knowledge that he still doesn't want anyone to come on his scalp.

No matter how prettily Bruce begs.

He pulls back, licks his lips just a *bit* lingeringly -- hm. "Would you like privacy to speak to me about this, Tim?"

Tim -- blushes.

He honestly hadn't been sure this Tim was *capable* of that. Certainly, it would've been reasonable for it to have been fucked out of him. Maybe his brothers are gentle with him. "Tell me."

"I -- think so, yes."

Lex nods once and turns to Clark. "We'll meet you at home tonight?"

Clark smiles brilliantly, beautifully -- and drops to his knees to kiss the backs of Lex's hands. "Yes, Lex. Is there any time in particular you'd like me to arrive?"

Oh... yes. It's not even close to lunchtime, yet, but... "Dinner is at seven-thirty. Do try to have your world-saving done before then."

"Yes, Lex. Thank you, Lex," Clark says, and his smile is so --

Perhaps Clark will always be a boy.

There are worse things.

He watches Clark fly -- or, rather, notes the place where the blur had *been* -- and then carries Tim into the executivest of executive bathrooms.

Once he and Bruce had impressed their will on the right people enough to get the shareholders to shut up and toe the line, it was time to make a splash. Bruce was dubious about the whole thing, but Lex had pointed out that they did, in fact, have to walk a line between looking like responsible businessmen and philanthropists and looking like corporate drones who could never, *would* never be involved in vigilantism.


The bathroom is a study in Carrera marble with modern accents like a phone, a fax, an intercom -- by the Jacuzzi...

Lex makes Bruce *use* the Jacuzzi at least once a month with him -- more if he catches the man not-wincing for some strain or pulled muscle.

And it hadn't taken Bruce long to appreciate the bidet once Lex had started fucking him in the office.

For this, though, Lex brings Tim to the relatively simple shower and bath, adjusts the water to something warm enough to put a blush in Tim's lovely, marked skin -- hm.

"Which member of your family forces moisturizer and scar-fading cream on you?"

"I -- Bruce. For you. Though I'd use the moisturizer anyway."

Tom was one of the few boys at Exeter with lotion for reasons other than masturbation.

Tom was *also* one of the few boys at Exeter with K-Y, though he'd kept it in Bruce's room to hide it from -- Lex's -- prying eyes.

"You love your scars."

"They mean my life has been worth something -- I know you don't like them."

Lex closes his eyes and sets Tim down in the tub before joining him. He opens his eyes again. "They're yours, and, to be honest, you looked strange to me without them."

"Not like Tom."

"Not like... you," Lex says, smiling ruefully and sluicing off quickly before turning his attentions to Tim. "Talk to me."

"I don't -- I." Another blush.

"It's all right, Tim."

The blush gets *deeper* --

And Lex cups Tim's chin and forces him to look up -- "Daddy wants you to *talk*... and to remember that you're loved."

Tim leans in, eyes slipping half-closed --

Lex kisses him gently and *firmly*, knocking him back just enough to make his point, tasting him and needing, *having* --

And Tim's hands shake on Lex's shoulders in the moments before he clutches.

Lex bites Tim's lower lip enough to hurt --

Tim's hands *spasm* --

And then Tim is pressed to him, using speed he'd learned from Bruce, or -- some other sensei?

Where do all the Tims *fit* -- no, the answer is the same as it's ever been: Here. *Right* here.

Lex strokes Tim's hair, moves them further into the admirably firm yet *broad* spray --

It had been Bruce who played the louche for that particular contractor, and, as usual for those occasions, he'd made it as traumatic as possible. Lex will never forget Bruce waltzing the contractor around the dusty, sheeted, unfinished bathroom -- he knows because he's tried.

"Tell me, Tim."

"They'll all -- all of us will know. Every Tim will *know*, Lex, and that -- it *has* to change the future."

Oh... that. "For us, darling?"

"The Tims who never had you won't take no for an answer. The Tims who -- who *ignored* you in favor of their brothers won't be able to anymore. You *and* Bruce --" And Tim pushes back and stares up into Lex's eyes. "Daddy, I'm *sorry* --"

"Shh. You -- *Tom* told me that what made him -- what broke him in the *first* place -- was the fact that his parents... left him alone. That was still true, wasn't it?"

"I can't -- I won't *blame* the *dead*, Lex --"

Dead? "It's not about blame, darling," Lex says, and strokes Tim's cheekbones with his thumb. "You're doubting me already, but -- it's not about blame. It's about the fact that all Tims were built in a *specific* way --"

"You're saying that I was going to cling to -- to the first person who showed an *interest*?"

Well. That did sound exactly like -- Lex lets a *fraction* of the wince show --

Tim steps back --

"Not that, Tim. Not --" Lex shakes his head and puts a little force into his grip. "Stay with me."

"I -- of course, but --"

"But nothing. You -- like everyone else -- have needs. It's not your fault that neither Bruce nor I tried to fill your needs before your brother could."

Tim looks down. "I never -- I wouldn't let myself pay attention. To the way you and Bruce looked at me, sometimes."

"Because your brother was so compelling...?" Who *is* he, and will Tim love him more?

Will *all* Tims love him more?

"Tim --"

"I --" Tim swallows audibly and looks up again, smiling ruefully. "It was... difficult to credit? I..." Tim shakes his head. "It's not like either you or Bruce spent much time at all -- all of those *parties*. And it's not like you had any reason to look at the *children* there. So... I mean it was J-- it was my brother who brought me to your and Bruce's *attention*."

And there's something -- something not quite *right* about that --

"I -- he's so beautiful, Daddy. He -- he always wanted a younger sibling. *Both* of them did, but -- the eldest *had* the... other -- I wish I could use *names* --"

"Wait," Lex says, and gives himself permission to start washing Tim down, to *use* it as meditation --

"I -- all right. I'm used to Bruce doing -- never mind," Tim says, and Lex is aware that Tim is troubled and possibly hurting, but there's *something* --

Something he can't be *allowed* to forget --



They'd already *known* that they were remiss in not watching for children at those parties.

They -- he, at least, had planned to *start* Drake-hunting. Hell, pulling them into the B-L fold, keeping them close --


Lex pauses in soaping Tim's legs and looks up into Tim's eyes.


"You're definitely not from this universe."

"Ah... hm. You're --"

"Positive, yes," Lex says, and pushes Tim's hair back from his forehead. "The question becomes whether or not the other ones --"

"Well, no, Lex. You came to the conclusion *because* you hadn't sought me out, yes?"

And that...

He must never forget that the first attraction to Tim was *always* to his intellect.

Lex rests his forehead against Tim's abdomen for a moment, another --

Tim cups the back of Lex's head --

"It's all right, Tim --"

"You're wondering why the changes you're making in this universe are bringing you... hm. Appropriate Tims?"

"To be fair, I'm mostly wondering how to keep my mind from leaking out of -- no. Hm. This is more than just my broken machine," Lex says, grits his teeth --

Wait, no, he'd grown out of that habit. He --

"Turn around, Tim," and, once Tim does, Lex begins washing his back, his ass, his legs --

His ass *again* --

It's right *there* --

"I'm not averse to using the bidet, Lex --"

"Of course you're not. But I have no idea which Tim I'll be faced with in the next five minutes, so --"

"What --" Tim looks back over his shoulder. "What did you mean that it was more than just your machine? Do you think there was some fundamental malfunction?"

"Nothing that could bring me you -- any of you and all of you -- could ever be a malfunction, darling --"

Tim blushes *again* --

Lex smiles. "We have, I believe, caught the attention of some *power* or another. Someone with an interest in space-time, some sort of... something or other. It doesn't matter."

"Ah... no?"

"No," Lex says, and pulls Tim into the spray --

Licks Tim from his navel to his suprasternal notch --

Bites his *throat* --

"Oh, *Daddy* --"

"I'm going to find the player in question. And I'm going to choke him or her in un-fun ways until we get the Tim who *will* stay with us."

"I --"

Lex covers Tim's mouth. "You have brothers to return to."

Consternation, frustration --

Lex raises an eyebrow and moves his hand --

"Those -- those brothers will always *be* there. In *every* -- all right, no, that's -- that's really just asking for it. Um." Tim frowns, eyes tracking back and forth -- "I would never... deny you."

And that -- "Change the subject," Lex says, and begins washing himself quickly --

"Lex --"

"Change. The subject."

"*No*, Lex --"

"Darling. The Tim who'll stay here? Is the one who needs us for we are -- and not for how much we need him. I have no pressing need to teach you resentment."

"Teach -- I already *know* what resentment --"

"Not like this, you don't," Lex says, and smiles ruefully. "Are you even ready to be the older sibling, darling?"

"I -- ah --"

"Are you ready to risk changing things enough that your siblings never appear?"

And Tim looks precisely as pale and queasy as he should. 

Lex nods to himself and finishes washing, knowing that the soap is precisely mild enough that he'll still smell a bit like sex throughout the afternoon --

He'd chosen it for *just* that purpose --


"I'm listening."

"What if. What if you never get the Tim from your universe?"

Then we... no. "The only 'never' I'm considering is this: We are *never* going to stop trying, Tim."

Tim searches him, lips parted and eyes wide --

"I think, perhaps, that Tom would've had that look on his face if he ever spent *time* considering how much we loved him, how much we *needed* him... well." And Lex presses his thumb to the point of Tim's chin, lifts his face --

Breathes against his swollen lips, his beautiful --

Lex kisses Tim, making it slow and hard, making it something every Tim who comes *through* this universe will remember --

Consider --

But who could be playing with this? It's a benign *enough* game -- save for the *tease* inherent to the Tims who had no interest in playing --


Lex focuses on fucking Tim's mouth with his tongue, on periodically pulling back to lick Gotham's curiously -- and occasionally disturbingly -- sweet water from his cheeks, his forehead --

Lex cups Tim's face and shoves him against the tile --

And takes it as something of a sign from an *impatient* multiverse that neither of them twitch for it.

Another time.

Another Tim?

Lex kisses Tim's forehead. "Tell me something you want to change, darling."

"I. Are you sick of me?"

Lex laughs because he *has* to -- "No. Do you often have moments of decidedly low self-esteem?"

That's more of a flush than a blush -- "Ah... no. Actually. I believe I'm at... something of a loss."

"That's perfectly reasonable. Considering," Lex says, stepping out of the shower and unfolding the bath sheet. "Sluice off a little more."

Tim raises an eyebrow. "I'm a dirty, dirty boy?"

"You're a boy I've never seen in the rain," Lex says, and raises *both* eyebrows.

"That --" Tim giggles and shakes his head --

And then proceeds to vamp to a certain extent.

And then significantly more than that.

Spread legs, crotch-shots, ass-shots, Mashdance-shots -- "Hm."

"Yes, Lex?"

"More hair-tossing."


"Shh, Mercy might hear you," Lex says, and uses the phone to call her in her office --

"I've already sent for more of the boy's clothes," she says by way of greeting --

"Excellent, thank you."

She hums. "You're welcome. Daddy."

Lex snorts. "*Someone* doesn't want me to use the buck-knife."

She *growls* -- "Noted, Lex."

"Better. Anything I should know?"

"Make sure he knows he hasn't failed you. You don't want to fuck things up for that other Lex."

Lex pauses to look Tim over -- he's feeling himself up in the spray and pretending not to be curious about the phone call --

He's doing a very *good* job of that, actually --

"Noted, Mercy. Buzz me when the clothes have arrived."

"Yes, Lex."

Lex hangs up and opens the bath-sheet toward Tim.

Tim smiles and switches his hips --


"Mm," and Tim turns the water off and walks into Lex's arms.

Lex begins the process of drying Tim gently and thoroughly --

"Is there a reason why you didn't just use the intercom?"

"A habit of privacy," Lex says, and bites Tim's ear. "I want to know what you'd change because I need to start understanding what's *moving* this other power, what we're being led to by the rings in our sacs -- that sort of thing."

"Oh, then I'll tell --"

"No. There are other ways."

"Lex --"

"Who treated you like someone who *could* be tossed aside?"

Tim winces. "It's not really -- like that."

"No? You're not high on life anymore. With you, that's... noticeable."

Tim closes his eyes for a long moment -- and hugs Lex. "This -- I've been taught that this is generally okay."

"It is. It -- more than --"

"Mm. You're still not used to it --"

"Not from people who look like you, no."

Tim laughs quietly and nuzzles Lex's shoulder --

And Lex cups the back of his head. "You... do you think I've given up on you?"

"Um -- you have."

That -- is a reasonable belief to have. Lex smiles ruefully and pulls back. "I could never give up on any of you. Not really."

"Lex --"

"You're not mine. That... is not a tragedy in and of itself. I've grown up enough for that, I think."

Tim frowns. "Does that mean that you think the Lex from my universe-slash-timeline has... grown out of me?"

"Who are his lovers?"

"Bruce. And Mercy. And --" Tim stops, frowns --

"You can't tell me without compromising the future?"

"No, I. Ah. Clark isn't his lover. As -- well, not as far as I can tell. I'd been assuming... I don't know what I'd been assuming. Actually." And Tim's frown is deeper, more serious --

Lex doesn't try to brush it away, as opposed to learning the lines of it with the pad of his thumb. "We *have* been distracted."

"Too distracted -- er. I can't believe I just said that."

Lex snorts. "You wouldn't be yourself without an iron-clad streak of practicality. Darling."

"I -- did you miss it? Earlier, I mean --"

"Stop," Lex says, and puts pressure on several painful spots on Tim's face --

"I'm listening. *Like* Mercy would listen, presumably --"

"You're not going to change yourself for me -- and I'm *quite* sure that if you tried to do it for *your* Lex --"

"He's *not* mine. That -- that's the point. The relationship has been *shallow* --"

"And do you think your Lex is incapable of pressing his own case?"

"*Yes*, Lex. Especially -- especially if he spent time thinking that I could *only* belong to -- my brother. That -- it was better, somehow. Or -- I don't know. How *are* you thinking about this?"

"I'm thinking... that I'm glad I don't know your brother. That I'm glad that I *won't* know for certain whether whatever boys Bruce winds up attracting will be *that* one --"

"You *love* me --"

"And you're very, very young, darling. It doesn't matter how much I love you --"

"Only how much *I* love *you*? Really, Lex? Think about it for a second. What if you *didn't* love me but I kept throwing myself at you because of how much --"

"But it's not like that. I -- Tim --" And Mercy buzzes him -- the simple confirmation code agreed on years before -- "Your clothes are here. Come on."

"Daddy --"

"And that would be another thing," Lex says, turning around and walking backwards to keep Tim in view --

And *that* line on his forehead speaks more of frustration than anything else -- "You *are* giving up on me. You -- you spoke about how I was built. *One* of the ways I was built is all about how I can't actually *take* that --"

"And so you'll make yourself faster, stronger, sexier... better?"

Tim stops and narrows his eyes at Lex.

Lex stops, too. "I'm not mocking you."


"No. I'm pointing out that I have no desire for you to change. You haven't -- failed me."

That gaze is even *narrower* --

Lex smiles ruefully. "I hesitated to use the word Mercy would. That's all."

"Lex --"

"You're not my child, Tim. And, even if you were... I wouldn't want to have *that* much of a hand in shaping you."

Tim crosses his arms over his chest, looks down --

"Tim --"

"And if I want you to? If... if I've always wanted *someone* to --"

"Takes the place of your *actual* parents?"

When Tim looks up, his smile is old, sharp, *tired* -- "What place would that be, Lex?"

Lex takes a deep breath. "That bad."

Tim shrugs. "My brother gets a certain excessively violent look on his face whenever something or other makes me speak about them. I still don't want to blame the dead."

*How* did they die -- no.

No, he's never going to ask that question -- if only because Bruce would find a way to get it out of him and want to *save* them --

And that can't ever be allowed. That --

*His* father --


Lex laughs and pinches the bridge of his nose. "A moment of *confused* conscience, darling. Don't worry about it."

"You --" Tim blinks rapidly. "You haven't asked about how my parents died. Or spent any time wondering how they stayed alive in those other universes."

Lex lets his smile be as pained as it wants to be. "No, I haven't. And I won't."

Tim licks his lips, and the pound of his pulse is visible in his throat. Rapid and -- obvious.

"Tim --"

"I --" Tim's laugh this time is the offspring of a giggle and a strangled scream.

"Fuck, *Tim* --"

"No. I... no. Because you're right. Because I'm happier than those other Tims. Because *other* people are happier... because I'm happy? Is that -- could it be that simple?"

Fuck, fuck -- "You know it is. Or -- you knew it when you came here."

Tim's smile is -- awful. Just --

"Tim, I -- tell me. Tell me how --"

"No, Lex. I won't -- I won't tell you that. *That* brings us closer, doesn't it? After all, you've wanted *your* father dead for years. A decade *already*, right?"

Lex -- breathes --

And Tim nods. "Longer than that. All right." Tim takes his own deep breath and then moves to the suit bag, unzipping it and humming with approval. "I've always loved your style -- Lex."

"You -- don't have to change the way --"

And Lex is stopped by this smile. It's bright, fond -- and old. "Daddy, then. I always change. It's -- who I am."

"I'm now imagining a lifetime of walking on eggshells --"

"Don't. Don't change *anything*, Daddy," Tim says, and pulls on the -- indigo -- boxers before switching his hips again -- and humming his approval once more. "Or change everything. Keep us -- hn. Coming?"

"Your brother will miss your giggle --"

Tim waves a hand. "For him, it will always be there. He made it his business to give me a childhood. A *sticky* childhood, mind you, but a childhood just the same." He sits on the desk to pull on socks.

"You make him sound terrifyingly well-adjusted for *this* family, Tim."

Tim smiles again, and it manages to be both dreamy and tight --

"Will you smile simply again?"

"Daddy. The more I smile like *this* --"

"The more you make me think I should be doing everything in my power to get you back to your own universe as soon as *possible*."

Tim rears back, blinks -- and smiles ruefully. "Sorry, Daddy. I -- um. I'm doing a lot of internal processing."

"Too much --"

"You *wanted* a Tim. So -- ah. Deal with the consequences?" And Tim raises his eyebrows at him.

Lex sighs and nods, moving to the larger suit bag for his own fresh clothes.

"Anyway... anyway. He has no right to be as well-adjusted he is, given who *he* grew up with and what he was doing -- anyway. He speaks of his sanity like it's a defense mechanism."


Could he be someone *else* at the parties?

How much *older* is he than Tim -- "Is it? A defense mechanism, I mean."

"No. He's... wiser. Better. Better at being human, maybe? I've yet to figure out how to put it into words."

"Better the way Clark is?"

"Ah -- yes and no? Lex, what are you going to -- I mean. Um. *When* are you going to use what you know about Clark to start helping the rest of the world?"

Lex blinks and turns to face Tim, buttoning his shirt as he does it. "Did I take too long? Miss an opportunity? *What* about Clark --"

"Oh -- sorry, Lex. I'm sorry. I have to start fixing things and you wouldn't *let* me --"

*Fuck* -- "You're changing."

Tim giggles and grips the desk, eyes rolling --

No, he's *blurring* --

Changing --

Until the Tim staring at him from across the room --

The Tim wearing nothing but boxers, socks, and a button-down --

The Tim *staring* --

Lex hears himself swallow with a *click*. "Who. Are you."

The woman --

The *girl* covers herself --

Her *breasts* --

The eyes are the same.

There are no *scars* --

No, there are scars on her hands, an appendix scar on her abdomen --

The shirt is *gapping* --

Lex moves closer --

She shrinks back against the desk --

She flares her nostrils --

She stands straight and *glares* at him. "Mr. Luthor. As you can no *doubt* tell, I'm not the child of Janet and Jackson Drake you *were* conversing with a moment ago --"

"Your memories are still -- you remember --"

"You playing merry hell with the space-time continuum? Why, yes, I *do* remember that," she says, and tucks her hair -- it goes down to the middle of her back -- behind her ears. "It is *intensely* disturbing that only the roots of my hair and a few inches beyond are wet --" She shakes her head, firms her jaw -- "Send me home."

"Tell me your name," Lex says, and has a moment to be proud of himself for getting that *out* --

"*Jessica* Drake. Send. Me. *Home*."

"What -- your parents are alive."

"*Yes* --"

"Where did they move you?"

Tim -- Jessica doesn't roll her eyes. The expression in them gains a staggering degree of heat --

*Force* -- "Please," and Lex takes another step closer --

"I'm *not* who you want, Mr. Luthor, and I'll thank you to remember that."

"Is this what you get from her? This... primness? Pseudo-Victoriana?"

Jessica blushes --

And far, far too many old fantasies come burbling up within him -- "You're beautiful."

She shows her *teeth* --

"Strike that -- you're incredible."

"Oh -- get out and let me get *dressed* --"

"You need better clothes. I'll get them for you."

A suspicious look --

And Lex raises his hands. "I will not touch you without your permission."

"My *memories* are being very clear about the fact that that was --"

"The truth. The last couple of yous were very clear about the fact that I have gender issues... Jessica. Move to Bruce's desk."

She narrows her eyes again -- and then does just that, walking with a kind of *stiffened* grace --

The sway of her hips is so *subtle* --

Her legs are shaved. Lex licks his lips and manages to pull on a look of bland innocence by the time she turns around --

She growls at him.

Dear sweet -- "All right. I'll be honest with you, as well. *Tom* knew that I'd fantasized him being a woman countless times. You... surpass."

"Get me *clothes*. Please."

"Do you know your measurements?"

She blushes again -- and rattles them off.

Lex nods and gives them to Mercy -- he can *hear* her eyebrows meeting her hairline -- and then he goes to finish dressing himself. "If you'd like, you could wrap one of the bath-sheets around yourself while we wait?"

"I -- yes, that would be... suitable," she says, and moves *quickly* into the bathroom, closing the door behind her --

And Lex takes a moment to wish *desperately* for Clark's sense of *smell*. He knows what that soap does for Mercy's and Hope's scents, but this --

Her --


Lex sits down behind his desk.

Lex squeezes himself viciously -- no, he can't manage quellingly.

Jessica walks out of the bathroom a minute later, having managed a very good toga configuration.

With *two* bath sheets.

Lex gestures to the smaller chair in front of his desk.

She glares at him -- but takes it. Her shoulder is pale, sloping --

He meets her eyes.

"You -- you're worse than a pervert."

"I'm an ephebophile, yes. Bruce and I spent a great deal of time staring daggers at our own ids once we worked out that we *would* still pounce on Tim -- *Tom* -- even if he hadn't aged with us."

"I *meant* that you're a kidnapper... but that works, as well."

Haven't they moved beyond that? Please?

Not with the *female* Tims apparently --

Jessica. "Jessica."

"Why aren't you working on the machine? You could've ordered your crews to pick up the pace while I was in the bathroom --"

"I mean to know you," Lex says, leaning forward and folding his hands together.

Jessica stares at her hands, firms her mouth, then glares at him again.

"Tell me exactly why you're angry."

Blush -- meaning it has nothing to do with the multiversal kidnapping. A-ha.

Lex nods once and smiles --

She shows her teeth again --

Crosses her legs --

Taps her bare toes at the *air* --

"You're making me wonder if there are any Tims liable to lash their tails at me should they wind up in this particular situation."

"Oh, *very* nice. I can't possibly be *justifiably* angry, therefore I'm some sort of animal? Perhaps in need of being *contained* by some -- some big, *strong*, man?"

Lex entertains a moment's fantasy of dancing Jessica through some conveniently street-emptying rainstorm --

No, it's Gotham. You need riot police and tear gas to clear *any* street -- even at three in the morning.

Lex sighs. "I assure you, Jessica -- I'm quite comfortable taking the role of the beastly, grunting male. If you'll excuse the lack of fur."

"You're --" Jessica shakes her head again and stares down at her knees --

Starts --

And looks up to glare at him again. "Make the call."

"Who rules you, Jessica? Who do you seek most to emulate? Who do you admire?"

A *deeper* blush -- "Make -- make the *call* --"

"We both know that if you *truly* didn't want to be here, you could just tell me what it was we did to make you be born female in your universe. I would make sure that didn't happen here --"

"*Would* you?"

"Darling --"


Lex licks his teeth. "All right. Jessica. It's more than enough for me to know that *some* Lex *somewhere* has the chance to bury himself balls-deep in your doubtless-gorgeous little pussy --"

The stapler could've taken his eye, but Bruce had taught him a great deal about how to dodge. And she's holding the lavender ceramic pen-holder in one hand -- and three uncapped pens in the other. "Try. That. Again."

"Did you want honesty or politesse?"


"Darling --"

The pens are now buried in his blotter -- where his hands had been a moment before.

"You won't let me get away with *anything*?"

"You're *monstrous*! You're planning to let my parents *die*!"

"Are they that much better for you when you have a double-x chromosome? Do they take you with them on vacations? Do they talk to you about their plans? Do they make you feel loved? Wanted? Cherished?"

She sets the pen-holder down --

Recrosses her legs --

Crosses her arms under her breasts --


"Just because your father is a murderous *stain* --"

"So those rumors did make it to you?"

"Everyone -- many people know what Lionel Luthor is... like." Jessica shakes her head, breathes, and sets her hands down flat on the table. "I have no desire to rewrite the past. Or the future. I have no desire to force some *other* Jessica -- or Tim, I suppose -- into your and Bruce's *clutches*."

"And if those other Jessicas and Tims would enjoy being here?"


"What do you dream of, Jessica? Where does your... hm. Where does your heart live?"

"Because you can give it to me? Is *that* what you're working yourself up to saying?"

"How many schools of martial arts have you studied? Did your mother approve of anything which had a chance of making you more like her?"

Jessica's eyes don't widen -- she'd seen something *like* that coming -- but there's an air of... something.

Something both hungry and frightened --


Lex plucks the pens out of the blotter, puts them in the pen-holder, and folds his hands on the scarred place once more.

She winces --

Lex nods. "You belong with us."

"You don't *know* me --"

"You're violent, lonely, idealistic, and gorgeous. If you tell me that *isn't* how we've been picking family members in your universe and timeline --"

"You're -- not supposed to be *shallow*. I mean -- ah --" Blush.

Well. "So you *do* know how incredible you are."

"People -- hit on me fairly often. It's meaningless."

"No, it's your eyes. Very expressive. *Temptingly* expressive. Don't get me wrong -- those Bs on your chest and the curves of your hips and ass are wonderfully eye-catching, but you could inspire an anime artist."

Jessica blinks -- stops. "I... never imagined you watching anime."

How did you imagine me? "I like to keep a hand in popular culture. And it gives me things to discuss with my bodyguards. To... come to know them better than I do."

Jessica touches her tongue to her upper lip --

It's no different from the Tims', *but*.

The effect of it when taken with her features --

Sharp has become vulpine.

Feminine has become lush.

Lovely has become... a different sort of lovely, entirely.

"You... you've never stinted at using women for physical tasks."

Lex raises an eyebrow. "Should I have? If there's something attacking me that Mercy, Hope, and the mercenary company Hope helps to train for me can't counter, then a Y chromosome won't make much of a difference."

*Blush* --

"Jessica. You belong with us. You..." Lex tilts his head to the side. "Let me guess: You live in a universe where the *only* female vigilantes are metahumans or something equally ridiculous."

"It's not --" Jessica blushes more deeply. "It's not that."

"No? Then what?"

"There's already... already a woman. In my time. Working with Bruce."

Lex blinks. *Who*?

"So you see --"

"No, Jessica. There isn't only room for one woman in our family. There -- tokenism is disgusting --"

"I'm not talking about tokenism! I just -- it's only --" Jessica stands up --

Adjusts her bath sheets with grace and care --

And begins to pace. "You can't give me what I want," she says, and doesn't turn to look at him --

Lex stands --

"*Stay* there."

Oh -- darling. "All right. Look at me."

Jessica clenches her hands into fists --

She wears clear polish on her fingernails and toenails --

She turns, and her expression is actually *mournful*. Just --


"You can't -- I don't even -- I don't have good reasons. For wanting."

"What counts as a *good* reason for wanting to dress up in tights and swing around crumbling buildings on a piece of string?"

Glare -- and, this time, she blanks her expression so perfectly --

"Doing that makes you look like some horrifying *doll*, Jessica --"

"Then perhaps I'll just... stay this way," she says, and even her voice affect-less, artificial --

"We already *have* someone to record hold messages for us, Jessica --"

That -- was something like *half* of a snort. "You. Sometimes. I like it when people call me Jess."

Oh -- "Then I will. Jess."

She touches her tongue to her upper lip again, *half* turns away --

Her skin brings to mind *milk* baths and hours in spas -- "Jess. What makes you hungry."

"Oh. Any number of things."


"Yes. I -- of course --"


"More. Than I want it to."


Jessica crosses her arms under her breasts again.

Lex nods. "The thought of intimacy."

"I'm not -- I'm hardly starved."

"That would make you fundamentally different from any number of other Tims --"

"Yes, well, maybe males are just *needier*," she says, and glares at him again -- though this time it seems more reflexive than anything else.

Lex lets himself laugh quietly --

Drinks *in* the next suspicious look --

"Come sit down again."

"You -- I won't let you give me orders. Lex." Blush.

"Thank you for using my name," Lex says, and lets precisely as much feeling in as wants to be there --

Yes, the blush gets deeper. "Still -- you. We're not getting past your -- your *intentions* about my parents --"

"Divorce them."

"Are you -- what's *wrong* with you?"

Lex looks Jessica -- *Jess* -- up and down slowly enough to let it be his answer --

She looks around for something else to *throw* --

"In the manor, there are any number of knick-knacks and objets d'art which could be made into projectiles."

She growls -- stops. And moves to sit down again --

"Thank you --"

"Don't thank me. There are more *weapons* over here."

Lex sits down opposite her. "What weapons do you like the best...?"

"Whatever is *handy*."

"Bruce will want to... test that."

This time, the flush spreads to the wings of her collarbone -- and, presumably, beyond.

Lex nods. "I imagine you generally test very well, indeed."

"I think I'll stay in the lab here. It might make you spend more time there yourself --"

"There's more to this than just the Machine, darling --"

And the pen isn't *balanced* to fly, which is probably why it doesn't do more than puncture Lex's perfectly innocent suit jacket.

Over his heart. Hm. "Would you tell me why you object --"

"I'm *not* your darling."

"You are who you are, Jess," Lex says, and plucks the pen free --

And rolls his chair back up to the desk. Good to see that his reflexes are still top-notch --

"In any event -- you've yet to show me anything that doesn't strongly suggest that we could be lovers with you in this... configuration."

"It's more than a -- stop guiding us away from the issue of my *parents*!"

Unlikely. Still -- "They don't deserve you."

"They don't deserve -- I don't even know *how* --"

"You don't remember. You -- Jess. It might not happen in your universe. It was almost certainly already *due* to happen. You are fifteen, yes? We still have no details --"

"Reassurance... would work a lot better from someone other than *you*."

"Bruce will always try to save people. He is... a better man."

"I know -- I have memories --" Jess frowns and looks down at the desk once more.

"Did you know us?"

"No. No, I. You didn't -- see me."

A child. A *female* child -- but would Tom have even visited? No, for he and Bruce and Clark to all come together the way they had, Tom would've had to come. But if Lex had focused on doing *things* with what he knew about Clark...

That Bruce and Lex could've written Tom out of existence.


Lex looks up -- and finds himself being studied. There is suspicion, but there's also curiosity, worry -- "You saw us."

"What -- yes."

"I was thinking..." Lex smiles ruefully. "I was wondering what it was about who Tom was as a person that he could bring so much good to the world while effortlessly writing himself out of the picture."

"He -- maybe it wasn't effortless. Maybe -- maybe it was all he could do with what he was given."

"Two teenaged boys competing with each other for uselessness and angst. Both virginal with other males of the species. Both convinced that that would *always* be so -- though in different ways. Both *ignorant*. Do you think we really *could've* been so attractive to someone like you?"

"I'm not --"

"I'm asking," Lex says, and makes what he hopes is a soothing gesture. "Consider it a thought exercise while we wait for appropriate clothes for you."

Jess' expression is sour -- but perhaps more game than she wants to admit. After a moment, she nods. "He knew what you would become."

"By any measure -- assuming he wasn't lying *every* minute of every day, which is something we choose to believe for the sake of our sanity -- the Bruce and Lex he knew *weren't* us."

"Not even who you'll become after another several years without him, Lex? Some of my memories suggest a certain... coldness."

That's... a truth he doesn't want to think about. Which means he has to.

Years of trial and error. Years of *failure*, and the proof -- increasing steadily -- that the love they'd based their lives on was a house of cards. Less. *Worse*.

There's only so much *relief* Lex would've been able to take at the confirmation that Tom Wayne was a beautiful fiction woven out of several even *more* beautiful fictions. At a certain point - with nothing resembling progress -- wouldn't he have to start becoming embittered?

Had he sent those other Tims back to universes where they'd be rejected?

*Is* he capable...?

He asks himself the question again, meeting Jess' eyes while he does it. They really are beautiful, and full, and -- worried.

Because some part of her *does* want to please him --

Because some part of her needs him just as much as he's ever needed her.

And he will not -- *cannot* -- accept the idea of a Lex who had somehow grown out of *taking* what he needed.

He doesn't touch her face. "No."

She blinks. "Ah... no?"

"The coldness was for other reasons -- perhaps mourning the death of Bruce's second partner, perhaps drifting apart, perhaps rank chagrin in the face of the boy they'd always wanted and never managed to *get*. Beyond that... it doesn't work."

Jess raises an eyebrow and crosses her legs. "If you're sure."

"And that gesture means... what? That you think I'm a fool?"

A purse of those soft lips -- "The thought had occurred," she says, and tugs lightly at the bath sheet over her knee.

"In my experience -- which, I'll grant you, *could* be more broad -- no one ever successfully divests themselves of love of this sort. I was seventeen the last time he so much as met my eyes... and I've forgotten nothing."

"Have you *tried*?"

Lex laughs and lets himself grin. "Yes. But, no, not as much as I could have. Have you fallen out of love so easily...?"

Blush. "We were speaking of -- ah. Effort."

"So we were. I disagree that he knew what we would become. I -- well, no, it's entirely reasonable that he knew what *Bruce* would make of himself, and that that fed into the attraction... but."

"What about you."

Lex lets the grin become wider. "Indeed. He only *barely* worked to get Bruce and me together -- even though he tried *repeatedly* to ease the war between *Harvey* and me. No, I think *his* timeline was a thing of massive differences, unknowable horror and tragedy -- the whole nine yards."

She narrows her eyes again. "Perhaps you should've aimed for dystopias."

"The *thought*, such as it is, had occurred. Approximately three hours ago, when the Tim before last was behaving like a Tom who needed us, oh... more than anything."

"And that's all that you'll accept? A need that *matches* yours?"

And are you already thinking about what *you* can give...? "I think I've successfully proven that it needn't be anything like that, at all, Jess," and Lex raises an eyebrow and waits --

Not long for the renewed blush. Not long, at all. "I -- anyway. It's entirely plausible, then, that you and Bruce were different enough from what he'd known --"

"Idealistic, vulnerable, violent, lonely, and... beautiful?"

"You added -- ah. Well." She looks down and tugs at her bath sheet again. "It would be... nice. Not to be the one at a loss, I mean."

"You don't have to be."

"I rather think --"

"Put that aside and look at me," Lex says, leaning forward and doing his level best --

There. The look pins her. The truth of being pinned... makes her square her shoulders, toss her hair -- lightly -- and glare.

"Beautiful. Treat me like anyone else who wants to make love to you and keep you close --"

"At your age? I would've already called the police. Assuming my efforts to physically dissuade you had come to naught. Which they have... so."

Lex smiles and tugs the phone out of reach.

Jess raises a -- subtly shaped -- eyebrow at him.

"You're stunning."

"You're delusional."

"You're attracted to me."

"You're missing the point --"

"Darling --" Lex catches the pen and jabs it down into the blotter. "Better?"

Another purse of the lips --

"I'm afraid I don't have the kink to stab myself --"

"Just your lovers?"

"Are you worried that I'll mar your beautiful skin?"

Jess snorts --

"Or are you worried that I won't?"

Blush -- but, this time, Jess lets anger take her beyond embarrassment. "You're a kidnapper who wants to *suborn* me into a life of criminal enterprise. You're not above pimping me to your friends. You're a threat to my *family* --"

"And yet, I'm still the man you wanted to see you."

"Bruce was," she says, and blushes again. "You're -- strange."

Ouch -- but. "How old were you?"

She frowns -- but doesn't look away.

"Am I still strange to you?"

"I suppose you weren't at all -- it's not your hair. Your lack of hair."

Lex doesn't let himself even think of reaching for the eyebrow pencil in his drawer. He hadn't washed thoroughly enough to get rid of this morning's application, and -- "Then?"

"You -- what did Tom say?"

"That he had seen far, far stranger things than a hairless teenaged boy."

"That -- the world. It's going to change," she says, and tugs at the bath sheet again --

Again --

"You have me at a loss again," and it's more an expression of weariness than accusation. Too much.

"Don't worry about my ego. I'm fully aware that I'm... a catch," Lex says, and offers one of his more gentle smiles.

"You are. You shouldn't be -- when I think of all the things you could've been doing with your mind that *didn't* involve chasing a -- a temporal *phantom* --"

"I loved him."

"He's *gone* --"

"And you're here, instead. Tell me what you want from Bruce."

"I -- no."

"Other than the chance to help him change the world on a smaller scale, I mean. I won't let you deny that."

"How much freedom do I really *have* with you, Lex?"

More and more -- the more you say my name. "Test your boundaries."

"I wanted to work for you."

"Not your --"

"Don't mention them," she blurts -- stops. "That's not what I meant."

"It's all right. We can talk about any number of things -- including them -- whenever you like."

"You -- you already know --" Jess frowns and *starts* to pluck at the bath sheet --

She folds her hands together and gives him a *quelling* look.

"And that look is for?"

"I'm sure you'll think of something."

"Are you a virgin?"

"Yes," she says without a pause, raising an eyebrow --

No, darling, that *wasn't* my best shot. "Who are you saving yourself for?"

"Someone worth my time."

"How about someone who can and will *shape* time to know you?"

She snorts again, rolls her foot on her ankle -- "How long will it take clothes to arrive?"

"There are none set aside for you in particular, but Mercy knows my tastes well enough. More to the point? The boutiques know *her*, as I don't have the time to shop for her as much as I would like to."

"You -- it's something you enjoy. Not just a power trip."

"You're no more forbidding when you refuse yourself question marks, you know."

"It ages me comfortably. Answer the question or don't."

Comfortably. Comfortably... "I love it. I have four tailors on-call at any given time, and they, in turn, have artists ready, willing, and able to implement my designs."

"You -- designs."

"Is this your mother?"

"Yes," she says, and offers a smile that would probably give Lex's father an erection. Or a heart attack.

Tom --

Tom fought that look off his face, but it had been there *sometimes* --

Lex shakes his head --

"I think I'll use this persona exclusively --"

"You don't really want to see my father, in return."

"Retaliation games. How... mature. It's a part of *me*, as well. Darling."

Lex leans back in his chair and thinks --

("I always change. It's -- who I am.")

And then Lex fixes Jess with another look.

In return, she lets her eyes slip half-closed and parts her lips in a sexualized threat she's not even *close* to being able to back up --

And it's just as arousing as it should be. "Jess... this isn't who you want to be."

She laughs and twirls a lock of hair around her index finger. "You don't think so...? I *do* have a future to uphold."

"And a family name, and a certain amount of tradition, yes, I know," Lex says, and makes the gesture for 'scatter.' "It's meaningless."

"To you, perhaps --"

"And to you. Nothing you actually *want* out of life can be achieved through... that."

"Your distaste is noted, Lex, but --"



Lex smiles. "I haven't given your mother permission to use my name."

She narrows her eyes in a way Janet Drake *probably* never would --

How often *does* that woman throw sharp objects at her husband?

"Bruce is going to give you any number of things to throw."

"I like him better already."

And really --

Bruce had taught him how to unsheathe his ankle knife with brutal efficiency. Lex does it slightly more showily, then flips the blade until he can offer Jessica the hilt.

She blushes --

Scowls --

And takes the knife with a grip which is careful, but anything but hesitant. It's not sized for her hand, but she manages to get it into a truly belligerent hold in moments -- "It's beautiful."

Lex inclines his head. "It was chosen -- in part -- for just that reason."

"You've always -- had style," she says, frowning and blinking --

Flipping the knife over her fingers with a grace which *will* only improve -- "Would you like one of your own?"

"I have --" Jess licks her lips and puts the knife down between them. "One of my senseis had a set made for me as a graduation gift."

"You impressed him."

"Her -- ah. Yes," she says, and strokes the hilt one last time before folding her hands in her lap again.

"When do you practice with them?"

"When I'm alone," and Jess' eyes are no more shadowed than they should be for that admission. "You have to give me room to be... safe."

"There is no safety in this world, Jess. There is, however, warmth. Companionship. Love --"

"It's amusing how much you talk about that emotion, considering what you want to do to my parents."

"I have no interest in having them killed. That's not what I do. However, I have every interest in removing their influence from your life --"

"And in sitting back and having that influence forcibly removed by someone else?"

Lex smiles as gently as he can while still being honest. "I want to thank them for helping you become so fascinating -- and so fascinatingly *lonely*. Beyond that... you belong with us."

She stares at nothing, eyes tracking rapidly --

She squeezes her eyes *shut* --

And Mercy buzzes him.

"Your clothes are here. Would you like to change out here or in the bathroom?"

She blinks rapidly -- "Ah. The bathroom, please," she says, and stands.

Lex does the same and sends Mercy the signal for 'enter.'

Mercy walks in with three large -- and full -- shopping bags, sets them down on the floor between the desks, looks Jess over --

Looks *pointedly* at the knife --

And offers the smile which is simply too *cheerfully* mean to get much play outside the bedroom.

"Yes, Mercy?"

"How jealous should I be...?"

Lex snorts. "Not enough to irritate me."

Mercy hums and sets the cap she'd chosen for the day at a -- slightly -- jauntier angle. "I've informed Hope that she should gather toiletries at the manor for... her."

"Wonderful. Make sure the conditioner she sets aside is from Bruce's supply, though. Jessica's hair is even finer than his own."

"Yes, Lex," she says, and turns to examine Jess once more --

And Jess, for her part, turns to offer Mercy a professional smile. "Thank you for everything, Ms. Graves."

"Not one of the ones who made it into the family...? Well. That will change soon enough," and Mercy's tone is absolute -- and, again, *cheerful* -- threat. "Please. Call me Mercy."

Jess lifts her chin. "All right. Mercy."

Another hum -- and Mercy turns back to Lex with her eyebrows up.

"You still see Tim when you look at her."

"Oh... all sorts of Tims, Lex."

Lex laughs quietly. "Noted. Get the car ready for us -- we're heading back to the manor just as soon as Jessica has picked an outfit."

"Yes, Lex."

"Dismissed." He watches Mercy go, picks up the bags, and nods toward the bathroom.

"I -- yes, of course," Jess says, reaching abortively for the bags, shaking her head -- "Ah. *Why* did she want to hurt me? *Is* it jealousy? I'm not even --"

"It's far, far more likely that -- as she said -- she sees the male of the species you could've been. And have been. Though it's true that not just anyone gets to play with my knife."

"You -- you should sheathe it again."

"Right now?"

A blush -- she powers through it. "It does you no good whatsoever on the desk."

"Do you ever go armed?"

"When I -- sometimes," she says, and goes to pick the knife up --

"When you're alone?"

She doesn't say anything.

"When you're following Bruce at night?"

Her hand doesn't quite *shake*, but -- yes.

Lex nods and sets one of the bags down so he can take the knife from her fingers. Slowly.

"*Lex* -- "

"You're not alone when you're following him. Are you."

"No, I. I mean -- of course I am --"

"You're... in step. And sometimes that's better than being in company. Isn't it, Jess?"

Jess smoothes her hands down over her hips --

Growls and stares *at* her hands --

"Bathroom," she says, and *stalks* in that direction.

Lex sniffs the hilt of the knife, gets tantalizing hints of some unfamiliar moisturizer --

He follows Jess into the bathroom and leaves the bags near the door. He chooses not to say anything about how she's staring at herself in the mirror -- finding yourself is, in Lex's experience, always at least somewhat traumatic -- and instead moves to stand behind her.

He lets his hands hover over her shoulders, knowing that she's feeling his warmth even more than she would if he were touching her --

Illusory intensity --

And her eyes are very, very wide as they focus on his own in the mirror.

Lex raises an eyebrow and strokes the air above her shoulders. "Am I still strange?"

"You're -- difficult. Any pleasant feelings I have about you are automatically questionable. More than that. Worse than that --"

"Let me touch you."

They watch the flush take her together --

"A minor touch, only. A matter of me lowering my hands --"

"Let -- leave me alone."

"Jess. You belong with us."

She blinks rapidly --

And glares at him in the mirror. "Leave, Lex."

Lex steps back, inclines his head, and walks out into the office proper -- closing the bathroom door behind him.

There are, in fact, cameras in there. In the years since they were planted, Lex has had no reason to check the feeds -- as opposed to leaving them to Mercy's perusal, as she had planted the cameras in the first place.

Mercy knows more about Jess' body than Lex does. That --

The fact that Mercy would tell him --

The fact that Mercy would *show* him -- *happily* show him --

No, she'd be the wrong sort of happy. It wouldn't do to let her start thinking of Lex as someone with only an ineffectual relationship with his desires. Best to retain a certain air of mystery around the question of whether Jess is on his schedule or he is on Jess' own --

Certainly, it's best for *him* to retain that sense of mystery for himself -- if only to keep his confidence in good trim. A good master never inflicts his self-doubt on his slaves -- whether or not said slaves already *know* about it.

Or -- something like that.

Lex smiles to himself and strokes the scarred places on the blotter.



*Bad*. All right, she hadn't voiced that thought aloud, but... it's there. The question is what sort of people the Drakes are in her universe --

No, that's not much of a question, at all. Even Tom had given Lex pieces to that puzzle. All of that time *alone* --

All of the fundamental issues remain, as near as he can tell, leaving Jess nothing in the way of 'extra,' save for the ability -- granted magnanimously by their culture -- to *behave* like her mother.

Certainly, it's *a* way to feel closer to someone.

What did Janet Drake see when Jess did that in front of her?

Something satisfying? Something frightening? Something with room for improvement?

He fingers the hole in his jacket, considers --

Hope has the smallest hands of any of them, but they're still much larger than Jess'. Still --

He calls down to the car phone to inform Mercy to contact Hope about making her least favorite throwing weapons available for company. It's easier than sending a coded message to Hope at the manor, especially since the codes Hope and Mercy have worked up between themselves are far more complicated than the ones *he's* memorized.

And then he waits.

And waits.

And --

Jess steps out of the bathroom wearing an off-the-shoulder grey dress over thick burgundy tights. Her hair is freshly brushed, her shoes are far more practical than anything Lex would choose for her, and, overall --

"A bit conservative for the era we live in, but... it works."

Her expression is sour. "Glad you approve. Really."

Hm. "*Was* that the most conservative combination?"

Jess laughs quietly. "As you said, Mercy knows your tastes. I... take me to the lab."


A nod. "I had to try," she says, and her expression is distant and a little *sad* --

"What are you mourning for?"

"Mostly... my conscience."

"You fear it's in danger with me?"

"Lex. I *know* it's in danger with you," she says, slipping back into the bathroom and carrying out the bags. "Let's go."

She hadn't brought them out before. She -- "You wanted my approval of your choices."

"I want... a lot of things. Very few of them are relevant, and even fewer of them are relevant to *you*."

"I disagree --"

"With which part?"

Lex grins and moves close. "The first, of course. Desire is always relevant."


Lex hums and strokes the backs of his fingers over the air just *beyond* Jess' hair --

"Lex --"

"If we don't examine our desires -- interrogate and *study* them -- then they gain power over us --"

"That -- is profoundly rich. Coming from you."

Lex strokes the air beyond those perfect cheekbones --

She wrinkles her *nose* -- but she doesn't step back.


"Than *what*?"

"Fatalism -- which suits you not at *all*, Jess. You... you were made for hope."

Blush --

"Why no makeup? Do you normally eschew it?"

The blush gets deeper --

She tightens her grip on *one* of the bags --


"Did Mercy get something with the incorrect shades? Your complexion *is* slightly different --"

"I didn't -- I'll put on makeup," she says, and isn't *looking* at him -- no.

"Darling --"


"*Darling*," Lex says, and moves smoothly to block her path to the bathroom. "You don't need it. I assumed you'd feel more comfortable with it, though. Most women in your class tend to."

"I'm -- I'm a geek."

"And an athlete."

"Just -- martial arts --"

"And you wear your war paint for *war*, specifically high school and those business functions your parents drag you to...?"

"I -- yes," she says, and frowns -- at Lex's shoulder.

"Your mother wears makeup all the time, yes?"

"Yes. It's terrible for her skin."

"There are ways to combat the damage --"

"Ah -- no. Even in my era, there's only so much which can be done with cold cream and exfoliants."

"Vain little thing."

She raises an eyebrow and cocks her head to the side --

"You shouldn't bare your throat --"

"You're neither a vampire nor a werewolf, Lex. More to the point, we *will* not get into a situation where it becomes some variety of my 'fault' that you... escalate."

Lex smiles and breathes deep. "Have you ever wanted to be dominated sexually, darling...?"

"You don't have permission for that pet name -- and yes."

"I apologize," Lex says, and inclines his head. "And thank you."

Her nostrils flare --

She searches him --

"Take me to the manor."

"With pleasure."

The drive over is uneventful, save that Mercy chooses to hit several more potholes -- in Gotham, they're truly more reminiscent of sinkholes and *craters* -- than she normally would.

After Lex steadies Jess once, she straps her seatbelt on tightly and silently dares him to touch her again.

Lex smiles and buckles his own seatbelt.

They pull into the garage, Mercy opens their doors, and Lex guides Jess to the study, letting his hand hover near the small of her back.

As he opens the clock, he says, "Bruce has never made love to a woman."

Jess coughs. "Ah -- um. Not -- ah."

"Not ever. We've discussed the matter extensively -- he *does* find women attractive, and even sexually attractive, but, thus far..."

"Not. Not enough. I see --"

"Do you?" Lex lets her precede him down the excessively dramatic stairs. "I'm not sure you do."

"You're -- warning me. I appreciate that --"

"I would've given *that* sort of warning much, much sooner, Jess. No, *this* warning... well. You're going to change what he believes his orientation to be."

"Is that an order?"

"It's a promise. Look how tense he is in that chair."

"He -- he does seem -- um."

"He hears your voice -- the acoustics down here are *exactly* exciting enough for that -- and he is... wondering."

"Because -- I sound like Tim."

"Softer. More musical. Less... strident."

"At the *moment* --"

"Very true. I wouldn't be surprised if he were afraid to face you right away."

And Bruce stiffens *more* --


And Lex knows --

Lex *must* know that that will make it even more difficult to face the *girl* who had taken Tom's place --

And even more necessary.

Bruce scans the report he'd been writing -- really more of a preliminary list of questions he'd like to have answered about Hugo Strange sooner rather than later --

The questions are in English.

The sentences seem to be grammatically correct.

A *girl* --!

Something Lex had *joked* about with him, but it had never truly *been* a joke for him. Lex --

Lex is convinced that Bruce *is* bisexual, but Lex was also convinced that they could somehow pull Tom back to their time without a hitch, and --

What will he do if he doesn't desire this... Jessica? Who will he know himself to be?

"-- Bruce, and so, of course, he's considering any number of vastly important things while it *looks* like he's only preparing his body for a run through a brick *wall* --"

And... Jessica laughs, breathy and at least seemingly unwilling --

Bruce stands and turns --

Bruce moves *close*, using some of the speed he'd learned, some --

Her hair is so *long* --

Her eyes are wide, and --

And Tom had looked at him just that way in the moments before several of their first kisses. There is that same sense of shock, of *openness* -- and openness to *him* --

Her cheekbones. She --

She has *breasts*, and --

Her hips are curved --

When she swallows, there's no bob, no -- scar.

When she shutters her eyes and turns away --

"No. Please," Bruce says, and reaches out to touch, to stroke her smooth cheek and turn her toward him --

"Perhaps," Lex says, "I shouldn't have waited for permission to touch."

Oh -- that. Bruce pulls his hand back. "I'm sorry. I'm... sorry. Please, give me your gaze."

Jessica blinks rapidly, takes a breath -- and turns a false smile on him. "Mr. Wayne --"

"No. No, please, not that. Please don't smile unless you wish to."

"I *wished* to smile in a way that would release some of this -- tension," Jessica says, blushing and showing humor within her eyes.

"I can understand that particular drive. There are... personae I present around Lex when things are tense between us."

She frowns. "That seems... ah. Is that really... helpful?"

Lex laughs quietly. "An act may *be* a lie, but sometimes it can... hmm... present a deeper truth?"

"Yes," and Bruce wonders if he's supposed to stand straight and force Jessica to crane or if this loom is somehow less awful than it seems -- "This works especially well when the truth which needs to be expressed is that we're capable of laughing together."

"And laughing together at *ourselves*."

Bruce smiles. "Yes. Perhaps you've noticed that we're utterly ridiculous when it comes to emotion."

"I -- hm. I'm not sure if 'ridiculous' is the word I would choose for space-time-wrecking *kidnappers*," she says, but the humor in her eyes remains...

Bruce looks to Lex --

"I've been working to convince her that she belongs with us... whether or not she remains in the past."

Jessica blushes, but she doesn't look away from Bruce. She --

"Perhaps. Perhaps you'll sit with us? Alfred will be bringing lunch very soon."

"And... that would be Alfred Pennyworth. Um. I. I've always wanted to try his cooking," she says, and seems to be offering both honesty and politesse --

"I'm a stranger to you."

"Yes, I -- I mean. I know... who you are. You've met my parents -- ah. Except that you haven't. Except that that doesn't *matter* to you --" Jessica cuts herself off and firms her mouth into a hard line. "Yes. You -- you're both strangers to me."

Bruce frowns. "You have to know how terribly wrong that seems to us."

"Yes, Lex has been... making his case. Extensively. I -- I'll sit with you," she says, and so Bruce stands and guides her toward the conference table --

Although... "Would you like a tour?"

She stiffens -- and exhales shakily. "I. I'd rather not... see."

"Young people who deny themselves *all* temptation grow up to be serial murderers, Jess."


"*Most* of them do, anyway, Bruce. Look at the people you beat to a bloody pulp every night."

"I've only happened across *three* serial murderers in the past year, Lex --"

Jessica coughs and stops. "Ah... only?"

Lex gestures to Jessica with his eyebrows up.

"Hm. It's true that their childhoods were universally terrible things --"

"Full of repression?"

"If, by repression, you include such things as being locked in cramped, rat-infested cellars in the dark, yes. I'm quite sure that refusing to take a tour is in a rather different category, Lex."

Lex gives him the exasperated look which is never more than *half* real.

Bruce smiles ruefully in return. "We don't want to make her uncomfortable, Lex."

"I wasn't suggesting we tour our *bedrooms* --"

"Ah. I believe Mr. Pennyworth is waiting for... you."

Bruce turns -- and Alfred had somehow gotten down here *and* past both him and Lex to the table --

He is Alfred, and may he always be so.

Bruce moves to his usual place at the table.

Lex takes his usual place opposite Bruce. "Alfred, this is Jessica Drake. Jess, this is Alfred Pennyworth."

"It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, young miss. Please, sit where you will be most comfortable."

"Ah -- thank you, Mr. Pennyworth --"

"Alfred, please."

Jessica touches the back of the chair which will put her an equal distance away from both of them. "As you say. Is there anything I can do to be of assistance to you?"

Alfred looks at her with the sort of humor in his eyes which generally involves emotional pain for Bruce, Lex, or both of them --

Bruce tenses and *knows* Lex is doing the same --

Jessica takes a step back --

And Alfred hums. "There is nothing of the sort at this time, young miss. I assure you, however, that I will be considering the matter quite deeply."

Jessica blinks. "Um. I mean -- all right? All right." She turns the chair away from the table, sits, and allows the simple mechanism to turn her back to face the table -- and the tray on it. She seems more worried than she'd been a moment ago, but that could be a function of Alfred choosing now to be mysterious -- which is always a rather intimidating thing for him to do.

Alfred lifts the cover to reveal moussaka -- the one dish Tom had requested specifically while he was living in the manor.

Jessica smiles. "Moussaka, yes? I haven't had that in quite some time."

The desire to point out that it's a favorite --

That she should *know* that Alfred knows it's a favorite --

Bruce moves his hands beneath the table and grips his knees. He *must* at least try to take Lex's lead in this --

"Ah... as you've no doubt surmised, Jess wasn't a part of our family in her time-line. Or universe."

Bruce blinks. "She's from a different universe?"

"That's the working theory," Lex says, and serves Jessica first. "There are discrepancies which make no objective sense, Bruce -- like the fact that there are Tims who *we didn't find*. Despite having his name, his parents' names, and his presence at some of *our* parties."

Bruce nods slowly. "It would be far more reasonable for the Tims -- and Jessicas -- who join us to be people whom we've discovered if they were from our universe. This begs the question, however --"

"Of where *our* Tim is. I really don't think he's going to turn out to be a Tom. I..." Lex shakes his head. "The other working theory is that some *power* is working either with us, against us, or simply parallel to us. Nothing *I* built should have reached... laterally. As it were. Not yet, anyway."

Alfred hums again and straightens the towel over his arm. "Perhaps the two of you will consider contacting someone with rather more experience with this sort of... thing."

Lex scowls darkly.

"It would make sense to discuss it with Dr. Fate, Lex. If only..." Bruce smiles ruefully at Jessica, who is blushing as she stares at him. "I would like to have the chance to speak with a Tim -- or a Jessica -- who wishes to speak with me."

Her blush grows deeper --

Alfred sniffs quietly. "Be that as it may, I trust that all of you know how to summon me should I be needed."

"Yes, Alfred," he and Lex say together.

"Ah... I'm sure I'll learn. In the time that I'm here," Jessica says, and her smile for Alfred is shy.

"Indeed, Miss Jessica, I feel quite sure that you *will*," and Alfred imbues that with a threat to *both* him and Lex before inclining his head and walking toward the stairs.

"Alfred," Lex says, "becomes *cross* when his food isn't consumed while warm," and Lex smiles at Jessica.

"Yes, well, I -- I do have some memories. I've mostly been trying to... avoid the spaces they take in my mind. Like pesthouses."

Bruce frowns. "I'm afraid I'm confused, Jessica -- oh. I'm sorry. I never asked if I could call you that --"

"Ah. Um. You can. You... and I'll call you Bruce."

"Please do."

"You... you're confused?"

"By nearly everything about you, I fear. Oh -- no, that came out very wrong. You mustn't think there's anything wrong with you --"

Jessica holds up a hand. "I -- believe I can hold on to my self-esteem."

"I'm overjoyed to hear *that*, Jess. Not that anyone could feel unappreciated around Bruce."


"Oh, don't *Lex* me, Bruce," and Lex takes a small bite of his moussaka -- "I'm absolutely right. You appreciate people so hard that *both* Mercy and Hope dread being around you."

Bruce frowns. "I... I'm not sure -- I believe one of us might be doing something wrong, then. And I'm reasonably sure it's *me*."

Lex waves his fork in counterpoint to his head-shake. "No, no, no. You're doing brilliantly. It's just that they don't *like* being validated without working for it."

"I... suppose I could give them small tasks...?"

"No, they'd stab you in your sleep for that, and then I'd have to find some horrific way to punish them. Just keep doing what you're doing -- the dread they feel around you makes *me* look that much more attractive."

Bruce suspects the expression on his face is pained --

And knows it to be so when Jessica smiles at him gently. "It's -- ah. I believe it's all right, Bruce. Lex made absolutely sure that I'd be aware that he and the people he cares about -- other than you -- all have rather painful senses of humor. And... painful everything else."

She is... reassuring him. Tom would --

She's *not* Tom, of course, but --

But Bruce finds himself searching her just the same, looking for the differences, the similarities, the --

Everything --

"Uhm. Bruce?"


Lex laughs again. "Darling, you're looming. Which is, as ever, impressive when you're sitting down at a *distance*."

Bruce winces.

"It's all right --"

"Jess. Do you think I'm being... rough with Bruce?"

Jessica narrows her eyes. "I *think* you're rough with *everyone*."

Lex slices free another bite of eggplant, lifts it on his fork, and studies it for a moment before turning to Jessica with one of his softer smiles --

The smiles that always make Bruce *need* to be closer, if only to make sure it's *safe* for Lex to smile that way --

And Jessica is studying him warily, suspiciously --

"Jessica," Bruce says, and rests his hand near her own. "Lex can be one of the most unfailingly gentle people I've ever known."

Jessica snorts and sits back, *away* --

Lex stares at his fork and doesn't -- doesn't defend himself --

And, truly, Bruce had known he wouldn't. "May I cover your hand with my own, Jessica?"

"I... I. Ah. All right?"

Bruce nods and does so, squeezing her small hand gently and forcing himself not to catalogue the scars he can feel, the *strength* he can feel -- "There are times when careful words are more painful than anything else. There are times when light touches are... terrible things. There are times when excessive care is just that, and when being treated with kid gloves just means that you are unworthy of being touched -- caressed -- by a bare hand. I..." Bruce frowns. "I'm not sure that makes sense to you, Jessica. I know little about the life you've led."

She's searching him again, licking her lips --

She turns to Lex and blushes --

And she sits back again, tugging her hand away from Bruce's own and staring at her plate.

Bruce winces again. "I've upset you --"

"No! No. I've. Upset myself. I think."

"Are your memories of Lex the ones you wish to avoid, Jessica?"

Lex is holding himself *away* from his emotions -- that much is clear by the mild frown on his face and the mechanical way he's eating Alfred's perfectly delicious food --

And Jessica's smile is a brittle one. "The last two Tims both... made love with Lex. I. Their memories aren't mine, and that. It's. It's invasive."

A part of Bruce only wants to ask what it was like, and that's irritating, but Bruce likes that part of him rather more than he likes the parts which want to fly into a jealous rage.

Tim's body --

Tim's *skin* --

*Years* without anything of the kind, and Tom had told him it was love, that they were brothers, *partners* --

"Bruce... I'm sorry," Lex says, and when Bruce looks up, there is *honest* regret on Lex's face -- and that's even worse.

That -- "No. No, Lex, I won't let you --"

"I'm *not* sorry for making love to the boy I've been in love with for nearly half my life. I *am* sorry for not making sure you could be a part of it."

Oh, Lex...

And of course he'd spent the morning with Harvey, working out strategies to make his course of therapy as efficient as possible until Harvey had grown weary enough to sleep again -- *upstairs*, this time --

"The Tim who fought Harvey this morning... he changed when Harvey changed his mind."

"I -- yes, Bruce."

"And... the other after that?"

"He was your partner, as well. And our lover -- though the lion's share of his attentions and affections were for his brother -- your second partner -- who had brought him to our attention and thus into the family. He... took rather a lot of pleasure from calling me Daddy --"

"Until you stopped letting him think of you that way," Jessica says, and it's something of an *accusation* -- "Oh -- never mind me," and she turns back to her plate.

"That's entirely unlikely, Jess. I... " Lex strokes the air near her cheek --

And Jessica shivers. She desires Lex to at least some extent --

Everyone *should* --

"That Tim... wanted to make more changes. Something he said to me while we were dressing changed the future dramatically enough to bring Jessica here -- as that Tim had intended to at least a certain extent. The universe she's from is presumably one where I made the choice Tim's words -- no, I'm not ready to risk losing you, Jess. I won't think about it."

Bruce frowns. "You don't think that's rather like not thinking about the flying pink elephant?"

"It is, a bit, but there's nothing stopping me from making the elephant, say, chartreuse."

Bruce smiles at Lex rather helplessly. "You've always been a master at compromise."

Lex inclines his head and gestures with his fork. "Eat more, and we'll do the same. Yes, Jess?"

Jess smiles ruefully and gestures with her own fork before spinning it back down into her grip.

Tom, fencing with Harvey at Exeter --

Bruce forces himself to eat a bite, and another, and another after that --

"Oh -- God. Bruce," Jessica says, and *sounds* pained. "You're... ah. Looming? Again."

"He has more natural presence than your average Shakespearean actor," Lex says, and grins at him. "Which makes perfect sense, considering the fact --"

"That Alfred was just that. At one point. Yes, I... um."

Bruce feels something loosen in him even as something else *needs* -- "You studied us."

"Yes. Yes, I did. From a distance, of course."

"Your accent remains elusive. Will you tell me where your parents took you after you left Gotham?"

Jessica frowns again. "I'm sorry, but I can't. I... I believe I would wind up saying too much about that particular city. We came back to Gotham soon enough."

Oh... "Do you want to stay with us?"

"No, I. I mean. I'm sure it could be... pleasant --"

"You would never want for anything, Jessica," Bruce says, and is and isn't shocked to find himself excited, hungry, *wanting* --

Her *eyes* --

Her eyes are the same as Tom's when she turns to look at him. They're filled with the same pain for him, regret and apology *and* hunger --

"Please, Jessica. I -- we are not ignorant boys any longer. What we couldn't give you before -- what we didn't know you could ever *need* before --" Bruce licks his lips and shakes his head. "It's different now."

"*Everything* is -- ah. You have to -- *both* of you have to understand my point of *view*. You don't -- you never wanted *me*."

"We discussed this, Jess --"

"*No*, Lex. You wanted Tom to be a woman. You *didn't* want me. And you, Bruce -- before this moment you've never even considered making love -- not that it would only ever be about making love, or -- I." Jessica laughs, and it's both quiet and *hurt*. "I'm not actually strong enough for this. So. I think. I think I'll just tell you why I'm female --"

"*Don't*," Lex says, squeezing Jessica's wrist --

"Oh, that -- I suppose you *would* have to have superior. Strength." Jessica shakes her head. "Please let go."

"Promise you won't take yourself away from us. Just -- give us a little longer. Please."

Jessica pants twice, turns to Bruce --

"Yes. Please."

"You -- so I can give one or both of you my virginity? So I can give myself a -- a *taste* for --"

"*Find* us," Lex says. "Walk into B-L, Inc. Say your name. Say you have information about Tom. Say *something*."

"Yes, Jessica. I... it would only take one look," and Bruce smiles ruefully again. "I believe. I believe you *belong* with us --"

Jessica moans, twisting and *yanking* her wrist free -- but she doesn't stand. She covers her face with her hands and breathes roughly, raggedly. "It's just --" She moves her hands and smiles wryly at both of them. "It's just that I've always wanted -- you. No one is ever *supposed* to get what they want, what they think they want --"

"I disagree."

"You already know how *I* feel about it --"

"Yes. Yes, I *do*. And -- you expect me to give up --"

"Unhappiness. Loneliness. And the sense that you *have* to have either of those things," Lex says, and smiles. "You can tell your parents that you've successfully gotten next to the two most powerful men in Gotham. That's the sort of information they'd like, isn't it...?"

"It's -- reasonable to want your offspring to succeed in *useful* ways," she says, but the brittle thing is still in her voice --

The *losing* thing, because this --

"Tom," Bruce says, and rests his hand on hers again. "Tom tried to be useful above all things. He tried to make *me* useful --"

"You *are* --"

"I wasn't always. And... I believe it drove him in painful ways. I believe he felt he didn't deserve to have what he wanted."

Lex laughs quietly again. "And I believe that it was just that habitual repression which helped to drive him into my arms. I know I was his rebellion as much as I was anything else --"

"Then how could you work so *hard* to have someone like that back?"

"Because he was my rebellion, too, Jess. He... and there is, of course, the 'anything else.' When I started this project, it was my intention to *convince* Tom that we could be much more than that if we were together. I still believe that -- more now than I did before."

Jessica licks her soft lips. "Because... of the last two Tims."

"And the others, as well. And you. You never have to touch me, Jess. But you *must* take what you *want*," Lex says, and his voice is hard at the end, demanding and *sharp* --

It makes Jessica's eyes widen, makes her lean closer to Lex --

Lex blows out a breath and looks to Bruce, and it's a request for permission, a plea for understanding -- and an invitation Bruce has no power to refuse.

Bruce stands and pushes Jessica's mostly-empty plate aside --

"Oh. Oh, I." Jessica turns to face Bruce, and her gaze lingers at Bruce's groin. It --

Bruce has never *resented* his jock before --

Lex stands -- "Here," he says, and lifts one of Jessica's hands to Bruce's left thigh --

"*Oh*." She strokes him there, jerks her hand away --

Lex puts it *back* --

"Lex, don't -- don't pressure --"

"*No*," Jessica says, "I -- " She licks her lips again. "This -- if I just -- it only has to be *once* --"

Lex lifts Jessica to her feet, brushes her hair aside. "Please never say that again," he says, and bites the sensitive flesh between her ear and throat --

"Oh -- oh, *God* --"

"I... I have to agree," Bruce says, and strokes her cheekbones, her forehead, her soft and perfect mouth -- "Let us believe that you will seek us out in your universe and time. Let us believe that you will give them this beauty, this touch -- oh."

A kiss for his thumb and she blushes.

A *lick* for his thumb and she swallows, shakes for the feel of Lex sucking her throat --

For the taste of Bruce's salt?

Lex groans and pulls back, panting and visibly aroused from just that touch --

But Bruce has had even less. He --

"Jess. Would you like Bruce to kiss you?"

Jessica's eyes become even wider before she turns, lifts her chin, lowers her eyelids --

"Beautiful. Beautiful girl, I --" Bruce shakes his head and lifts her carefully --

She shouldn't have to struggle, she --

Tom had *loved* his strength, even though it was hardly developed, at all --

And Jessica is moaning as if she does, too, staring into his eyes --

"It's all right," Bruce says, and he doesn't know what he means, he --

He kisses her, and her mouth brings back so *many* memories. The taste of her *breath* --

Bruce groans and forces himself not to crush her to his body. She has to be able to move, to express --

She strokes his chest with her small hands, her *hard* hands, and the touch is hesitant but firm, *wanting* --

Bruce kisses her harder, licks her tongue and tries to encourage, to show --

Her breasts are so soft --

He's *seen* Lex touching Mercy's breasts, of course, but his caresses are always so proprietary -- even when they're not rough, at all. He wouldn't want Jessica to think --

She moans into his mouth and shivers, *relaxes* --

And Bruce knows that he's moving. He --

That sound --

That *sensation* --

"Here, Bruce," Lex says, and it's instinct to follow that voice, to listen and *give* even as he takes Jessica's mouth --

She moans again and *again* --


Yes. Yes. Bruce drops to his knees and pauses to arrange Jessica on him, against him --

It feels like *breaking* to spread her legs over his thighs --

She cries out even before Bruce presses their groins together --

She jerks and squeezes her eyes shut, moving with uneasy grace against him --

"Oh. Jessica, would you... would you like to feel me?"

She gasps and opens her eyes, stares uncomprehending --

She's a virgin. She --

She has even less experience with this sort of thing than Bruce does, and that's *frightening* --

"Bruce," Lex says, and drops into a crouch beside him. "She needs more of your touch."

Jessica blushes, but doesn't deny it, or even shake her head --

"She... she's wanted you for a very long time."

Bruce licks his lips and strokes Jessica's face, her swelling mouth, her throat --

Just where the scar would be. Just --

He presses firmly and gently --

She whimpers and *bucks* against him -- "Please. Please?"

Bruce nods, wanting to be soothing, wanting to be *sure* --

"Bruce. Tell her what *you* want."

"I -- I'm not --"

"One step at a time, darling. She needs to know."

And Jessica nods for that, eyes wide as she leans in --

Bruce kisses her again, taking the small sound she makes for himself, licking deep into her mouth as she presses closer -- no. There's something strange about the way she's moving her hips. She --

Bruce can't bring himself to stop *kissing*, but he can stroke down to her hip, study the way she's moving --

A press closer --

A grind --

And then she jerks back and shakes.

She repeats the motions twice more before pulling back and panting, lowering her head as she *trembles* --

"Jessica, I..." Bruce nuzzles her cheek until she lifts her head and stares at him again. "I want to feel your body against my own. I want... it was one of the things I enjoyed doing with Tom, of course, but it would be so different with you --"

"Frottage. Um. Um. It's just. I can't."

Bruce frowns. "You... can't? I don't understand."

"Your. You have. You asked if I wanted to. Feel you. I -- please? Please let me start... getting used to you?"

"There's nothing -- we need do nothing you don't desire --"

She moans and shivers again -- "Please. Please, Bruce --"

"Jessica --"

"Bruce," Lex says, and squeezes the back of Bruce's neck. "Get your jock out of the way. It's what she wants."

Jessica's blush is deep and seems almost painful --

"It's what you want?"

Jessica bites her lip and nods -- and then reaches down, seemingly trying to find the edges of the armored jock --

"Oh. Oh -- press. Press firmly, Jessica --"

"*Oh* --" Jessica does it, and Bruce can't help arching up into the touch, into the *promising* pain of arousal and unforgiving plastic -- "Like. This?"

Bruce sighs and smiles --

Jessica smiles back and *cups* Bruce, squeezing hard --

Bruce *grunts* -- "Jessica."

She moans -- "Too. Too much?"

"Exactly enough... to make me even more aroused than I was before. Please, let me take it off."

Jessica moans again and nods, shuffling back until she's no longer spread over his thighs --

"I miss your warmth already," Bruce says, standing and tugging the jock out of the way before reaching for the waistband of his shorts -- he pauses. "Would you have me naked, Jessica?"

"Oh. Oh, Bruce. I --" She shakes her head -- "I'm -- I'm sorry --"

"It's all right," and Bruce smiles again. "I've designed these to be easily removable," and he tugs the jock out through the leg of his shorts. His penis immediately rises and tries to *fill* his normally perfectly comfortable shorts, and so he arranges it so that it presses against the front seam.

Jessica's gaze is focused, *hungry* --

Hungry enough that Bruce is positive that she wouldn't mind his nudity, but. He looks to Lex.

After a moment, he stops studying Jessica and smiles up at Bruce. "Kneel down again, Bruce. Put Jessica in the same position she was in before."

And it was what he intended, but *hearing* it like that -- "Yes, Lex."

Lex inclines his head in acknowledgment and points down at the mats.

Bruce drops and reaches to hold Jessica by the waist.

His fingers almost touch, and that --

"Oh. Bruce, your hands are shaking," she says, and her eyes are wide and wondering again --

"It's only... I'm very aroused, Jessica. May I move you now?"

Jessica turns to Lex --

"It's all right, Jess. This..." And Bruce hears the unmistakable sound of Lex licking his lips -- "This is yours."

She shudders again, but nods and turns back to Bruce. "Please. Please move me."

Bruce does so, meaning to be gentle, meaning to be *careful* -- but Jessica presses her body against Bruce's own, clings to him with her thighs --

"You. Oh, Bruce, I. Warm. You're." She shakes her head and pants -- 

Yes. Yes. "I. I can feel the same," Bruce says, and tightens his grip on her waist --

She grunts and bucks --

She gasps and does it again --

He -- he *can't* tighten his grip any more without hurting her -

He *won't* hurt her --

"Please. Please, Bruce, I --" She's *shaking*. It's a constant thing, it --

It almost seems as though she's *wracked* -- "You. Am I holding you too hard --"

"*No*. Please -- *please* --"

"Bruce. Grip her hips."

"I -- "

"The way you would Tom's."

Jessica whimpers and buries her face against Bruce's throat. He wants to stroke her, to pet her and --

"She's not made of glass, Bruce," and there's a laugh in Lex's voice, but it's breathless and *hot*. "She needs... she needs to feel how much you want her. How much you *need* her."

Jessica moans for that and tries to press closer still --

"I must. I must not *hurt* --"

Jessica *sobs* -- and bites Bruce's throat. She --

Oh, that -- that *bright* pain, and it's something Tom almost never did -- he was so *concerned* for appearances --

"Bruce. *Do* it."

Bruce grunts and slides his hands to her hips, cups them and marvels at the way the curve seems almost to *fit* his palm --

Jessica cries out and begins to *pump* her hips, driving herself against --

Driving her *sex* against ---

Bruce groans and squeezes experimentally --

She cries out again, *struggles* --

"*Don't* let go, Bruce."

"But --"

"*Please*! Oh, please, Bruce, *hold* -- I --" She buries her face against his throat again, and her breath comes out in hot, quick pants.

Tom loved his *strength*, and perhaps that's what he should focus on, hold *on* to as he grips her hard, *stills* her --

A *pealing* cry --

"Now, Bruce. *Move* her. Show her..." Lex's exhale is shaky as it hits a low note -- "Show her what you want."

He doesn't *know* what he wants -- but that's a lie, and, after this long, he doesn't actually *need* Lex to tell him that.

The motions are --

She has a *vagina*, she could *take* him -- perhaps even without much in the way of pain if her obviously athletic lifestyle had taken her hymen --

But oh, she *sounds* hurt as Bruce thrusts, as Bruce drives himself against her and tries to find her shapes, her surfaces --

"I want to *see* you, Jessica --"

"*Ohn* -- Bruce, you -- oh, you *can* --"

And he must kiss her then, release one of her hips and drive his hand into her hair, her long and *fine* hair --

She cries out into his mouth, struggles to work *with* him as he pulls her against him --

"Fuck. Her. Mouth."

She seizes and works herself faster, *harder* --

And Bruce thrusts in with his tongue in the way which had always made Tom at least *start* to lose his control: slow and hard, *deep* and hard --

She's shuddering hard enough that he *has* to tighten his grip, has to --

Oh, but he *must* be thrusting too hard now, he --

She's *grunting* into his mouth --

She's still *trying* to work herself even though Bruce is holding her still --

She *yells* --

She turns her face away from the kiss and yells again --

Again --

She's shuddering even more violently --

"*Don't* stop, Bruce."

"I won't. I -- I *can't* --"

And her yell becomes a *sharp* cry as she throws her head back --

Flushes all the way down beneath her dress --

And it is and *isn't* like one of Tom's orgasms. The violence and *power* of it is the same, but this is *lasting*, this --

It must be wringing her *out*, and she shouts for every thrust, every *knock* of Bruce's penis against her --

"I want to *see* you," Bruce says again, and he knows she's not listening, that she *can't* hear --

No, she's struggling again, pushing at Bruce's arms as she whines under her breath --

"Jessica? Do you. Do you need me to let go?"

"Please *please* --"

Bruce releases her with a groan, and can't keep himself from reaching for his groin, from squeezing himself hard --

She stares at his hand in something that looks like pain, like needy *anguish* --

"Jessica. Anything. You -- you may have *anything* --"

"You. But you want to --" Jessica shakes her head and begins pulling at her clothes. Her --

Oh. He'll see.

He'll *see* --

And Lex covers Bruce's working hand with his own. "Save that for her."

Bruce gasps -- "Lex --"

"Shh, it's all right. You're both doing wonderfully."

"But -- your own *needs*, Lex --"

"Are being fulfilled as we speak," Lex says, and nuzzles Bruce's cheek. "She's glorious in your arms."

She's blushing while she strips herself in jerky motions, while she pants --

Bruce reaches out with the hand Lex isn't covering --

She stares at it and pants more rapidly. She's down to a pale lavender brassiere with lace on the cups and matching panties. They look terribly impractical. They look *fragile* --

"Jess. Are you very wet?"

She starts and moans -- and then takes deep, even breaths until she can look at both of them. "I. I'm not sure if I've ever been this wet before. Um."

Bruce narrows his eyes and tries not to --

He's reaching again --

"I'm not -- I have to finish taking. Everything off --"

"It's all right --"

"Do you -- not want to see?"

"*No*, I -- I only. I must have you comfortable, Jessica. I..." Bruce licks his lips. "The feel of you taking your pleasure in my arms was exquisite. The *scent* of you is..." Bruce shakes his head. "I'm at a loss."

Jessica laughs softly and strokes her own hips. "I... um. I know the feeling," she says, and turns to Lex. "Lex, I... I don't know what to say."

Lex smiles. "Are you enjoying yourself?"

She laughs again -- "I -- yes. Very much."

"Do you want more?"

She nods and licks her lips.

"Say it, Jess."

She moans and cups her breasts, lifting them in the brassiere -- "I -- oh. I'm not sure --"


"I want more. Lex. I... Will you tell me what *you* want?"

Lex's smile becomes wider. "Yes. But not yet."

Jessica narrows her eyes, lifts her chin --

"Jess. Watch," and Lex pushes down Bruce's shorts and slips his penis and scrotum out from behind the elastic.

The feel of Lex's hand --

The feel of the always-cool air of the Cave --

The feel of Jessica's *gaze*, so hot and focused --

"I. I see. Um. I've never -- I mean. I've seen pornography --"

"How much?"

Jessica blushes and lets go of her breasts --

"No, don't do that."

Jessica pants and closes her eyes -- and cups her breasts again.

"Good girl."

"Oh -- God. I. Lex, please," she says, opening her eyes again --

"What are you begging for?"

"For you. To." Jessica shifts on her feet --

And Bruce belatedly notices that her legs are shaved smooth. Bare and pale --

"It's all right, Jess. Tell me what you need."

"Please, I. I want to touch. I want -- to know that this is okay?" Her laugh is brittle again, unsure --

"Is it what you want?"

"*Yes*, but --"

"It's what I want, too. And Bruce."

Jessica licks her lips and searches them both, looking for... a lie, perhaps?

"Jessica, it's true. I... you can see my arousal for you --"

"And -- and Lex --"

"Yes. Would you. I would like to sniff you."

She cries out softly and looks to Lex --

Who waves a hand. "I'll tell you if there's anything I don't want you to do, Jess. And your desire for that sort of domination is far, far more than simply okay."

"Oh... Lex, I. It's confusing."

"Only because this is your first time, Jess. Your body -- and your mind -- know what's needed."

"Needed. I. It." She shifts on her feet again --

"Jess. Go to Bruce now."

Another cry --

She blushes so *deeply* --

And then she closes the distance between them, stopping with her toes just touching Bruce's knees. "Is this. Is this right?"


"She -- please come closer, Jessica. Perhaps... perhaps if you straddled my thighs?"

She whimpers and does it, jumping when her ankle brushes *Lex's* thigh --

"It's all right," Lex says again. "Thrust your hips forward."

"At. At Bruce's *face*?"


Another whimper, but she does as Lex commands until her pubis is pressed to Bruce's nose. Bruce breathes deep --

Bruce groans and grips her *hips* again, because it's Tom, it's *Tom*, but it's a woman, too, with a woman's thickness and tang --

Bruce nuzzles and groans again --

Pulls her against his face and sniffs like an *animal* --

"Ah -- ah -- oh, Bruce, I -- *oh* --"

That for the sound of his growl? For the vibration? For the feel of him tugging at her panties with his teeth?

"Bruce. Nuzzle *between*."

Jessica stiffens -- but she doesn't try to pull away. She's aroused by Lex, by Lex's perfect *dominance* --


"Yes, Lex," Bruce slurs, and nuzzles between. Here the fabric is cool with dampness. Here, the taste of her is --

Is --

Bruce sucks at her *through* her panties --

And she begins to growl and moan even as she grinds against him --

"No, Jessica. Continue cupping your breasts."

"Oh -- *please*, Lex --"

"The begging is sweet, but the view is... better," Lex says, letting go of Bruce's penis and moving away --

No, Bruce can feel Lex standing behind him, carding through and tugging on Bruce's hair --

"Is this what you want to do, Jess?"

"Hard -- harder. I --"

"Do you want to punish him for pleasuring you?"

"Pleasuring --" Jessica moans again and begins to grind faster -- "No, no, I don't --"

"Are you sure?" And Lex *yanks* Bruce's hair, and the instinct to suck harder for that --

Jessica shouts and shudders, knees buckling --

Bruce grips her hips more firmly, pulls back --

"Oh -- *no* --"

"He wants your panties off. And... so do I," Lex says, and goes back to petting Bruce's hair.

Bruce leans into the touch and pushes Jessica back enough that he can look up into her eyes. "Please, Jessica. I've never done this before, but Lex can guide me. I've always enjoyed giving pleasure with my mouth."

Jessica nods slowly, narrowing her eyes and licking her lips. "I. We can. Yes," she says, and starts to step back.

Bruce grips her --

"*Oh*. Oh, Bruce, that feels -- that *always* feels. Very good."

Bruce grunts for the needy twitch of his penis --

And Jessica's eyes are wide once more.

"It's only... I wanted to know if there was anything you wished to do *more* than have me perform cunnilingus."

"No," Lex says, and tugs on Bruce's hair again. "She knows that *I* want to see you going down on her, Bruce. Don't you, Jess?"

She *squeezes* her breasts -- "Yes. Yes, Lex --"

"You'll spread your legs wide once you're down on the mats, Jess. As wide as you can."

Jessica pants and nods -- stops -- "Yes, Lex, I. Please let go of me now, Bruce."

Bruce squeezes one more time --

Jessica shivers and licks her lips *twice* --

And when Bruce lets go, she steps back and immediately pushes her panties down, stepping out of them --

"Jess... have you ever fantasized about a dom forcing you to put your panties in your mouth?"

Jessica jerks herself upright -- "N-no, Lex. I. Do I make too much noise?"

"*No* --"

Lex yanks Bruce's hair. "What Bruce said. It was -- mostly -- an idle thought. Lie down on your back."

"Yes. I -- should I -- is it something you do with Mercy?"

"Only when she needs it," Lex says, and that --

The emotion for that, the sense of it as something --

There are so many things he needs that Lex gives him -- and this is one of them. He'd never imagined he *could* need the sight of *Jessica* Drake on her back with her legs spread wide. Not for anything like this.

To examine, yes. To memorize the placement and severity -- is that even the right word? -- of her folds --

And Bruce realizes that he's crawling to her, that Lex's hand is still in his hair, that Jessica is watching every moment of his advance with her eyes so very wide --

"Leave your hands flat to the mats, Jess."

Jessica moans --

Clenches *visibly* --

And Lex convulsively tightens his grip on Bruce's hair to something painful as he takes a shaky breath -- "You're beautiful, Jess."

"I -- I... thank you --"

"You're welcome. Bruce. You're going to lick her juices away. You're going... to do a thorough job," Lex says, and lets go of Bruce's hair.

Bruce grunts -- "Yes, Lex," and he drops down onto his stomach and presses the lengths of his index fingers to Jessica's labia majora, spreading them wide --

Jessica whimpers and arches --

"Stay still for now, Jess. Bruce has to learn you."

"It's -- very difficult."

"You can feel him studying you."

"It's like a *touch*. *Several* touches --"

"Only much more frustrating...?"

Jessica scratches at the mats -- stops. "I'm sorry --"

"No, that's allowed," and Lex crouches next to her. "I'm going to put my hand on your abdomen. It will help you focus and remain calm while Bruce is discovering what touches you enjoy the most."

Jessica clenches again and Bruce grunts to see it, to *smell* it as her scent grows stronger for a moment --

"Lex. I. Please."

"Just a moment longer, Bruce," and Lex rests his hand on her abdomen. At this angle, it's easy to see the colorless hairs riding the slight curve --


"He needs you, Jess. The scent of you is driving him. He wants to taste you -- perhaps even more than he wants to pleasure you this way. Do you understand?"

Jessica shakes, and it feels like instinct to change the placement of his hands until he's holding her spread with his thumbs and digging his fingers into the lean muscle of her thighs.

"In *this* moment, you have a choice."

"I -- please, Lex, I don't think I understand."

"It's all right," he says, and presses on her abdomen. "Bruce's need for you is bald right now. Raw and sharp. You will never be an object to him -- Bruce is incapable of truly objectifying a lover, even if precisely that is dearly wished -- but your *needs* have lost a fraction of their relevance. Is that more clear?"

"Yes. Yes. I -- my choice?"

"Bruce, shove your tongue in her cunt."

Bruce blushes for the vulgarity --

Jessica clenches --

Bruce follows Lex's order -- and immediately groans for both the sense of *forcing* his tongue inside and for the taste, so thick and *bright*, somehow --

She opens around him and shouts --

She clenches much *harder* --

"The choice you have is whether or not you'll decide to be too disturbed by Bruce's singular focus to continue."

"I -- I *can't* stop, he -- oh, he's *inside* --"

"And I'm an incredibly manipulative bastard, because I strongly suspected that you would be overcome by that sensation. Jess. Beg."

"*Please*, oh -- I'm not *sure* what I want --"


"Yes, oh, please, *yes* --"

"Bruce, pull out and begin doing *only* what you want -- save for reentering her with your tongue."

Jessica whines high --

Clenches *repeatedly* around Bruce's tongue --

Bruce thrusts in twice quickly --

"Gih -- oh, *Bruce* --"

Bruce pulls out and begins licking Jessica some variety of clean. He doesn't feel anything like a mother cat. He feels like something --

He's holding her *open*, forcing her to feel his attentions --

The aperture of her urethra is so *firm* compared to what's around it --

No, he has to know what this sort of attention on her clitoris will --

She wails --

"Oh, let's see what *that* was for," Lex says, and Bruce can feel him looming, so he repeats the motions of his tongue --

Resists the urge to *suck* --

"Interesting. Lick her more forcefully there."

Bruce slurs his agreement and then begins to *shove* his tongue against the meaty softness of her clitoris --

And he can hear her begin to claw at the mats again. She's shaking, tensed --

Bruce wants to soothe her, to --

But it wouldn't be soothing right now. He knows that.

Lex sighs. "Go back to getting her clean at your own pace, darling."

Bruce thanks Lex and sucks --

"*Hnh* -- Bruce -- *Lex* --"

"Would you like to come again, Jess?"

Her moan is high and long, *deep* somehow. It makes something ache inside Bruce, something --

He still needs to *ease* her --

But she's leaking more now, and he has a task --

And the *texture* of her labia minora is fascinating, sleek and thin and encouraging of *play* --

"Answer the question."

"Yes -- yes -- yes, Lex --"


Jessica sobs --

Lex *grunts* --

And Bruce can't stop himself from spreading her wider, from --

No, he *can't* shove back into her vagina, no matter how much it clenches, begs --

He knows what sobs *mean* when it's -- Tom. Not Jessica. Not -- is this too much for her? He pulls back --

"*Beg*, Jess."

"*Please*. Please let me come, please let me -- I don't know *how* --"


"Please let Bruce push *in* me again, Lex, please, that would feel so good --"

"Do you deserve that?"

Jessica gasps and tenses hard --

And Lex presses down on her abdomen. "Focus, Jess. You're here with us. You know -- some of -- what we want. And we have at least as much of an idea of what you want as you do. It's all right."

"Lex -- please, Lex, it's so --"

"It's your first time, and it's very, very intense. It's all right. You don't have to worry about my last question."

"But --"

"No, Jess. That was a question for a far more advanced sub. I... lost myself, and I apologize."

Jessica shivers and claws at the mats more -- "Please, it's all right, Lex, it's -- you're. I can see that you're aroused --"

"I'm aching for you, Jess. For your mouth, your ass, your cunt..." Lex laughs quietly. "Begin fucking her cunt again, Bruce. Start... getting her ready."

Bruce thrusts against the mats, grits his teeth -- "Lex. I. I'll need more soon."

"I know, darling. You'll have it. We both will."

Bruce *pants* -- "Yes, Lex." And he shoves in against the force of her clenches, the power and needy *hunger*.

Does she clench whenever she's aroused? Is it something she trains herself to do to make herself stronger, more ready?

More *desirable*, and Bruce is aware that he's growling --

Aware that he's *taking* her the way he wants to do with his penis, the way *Lex* wants to do --

"Do you feel that, Jess?"

"Yes -- oh, *yes* --"

"That's my cock. I'm teasing you with it. Forcing you to think about how much of you is still... empty."

Another sob --

She *arches* --

"*Down*, Jess."

"Y-yes, Lex, please, Lex -- I'm *sorry* --"

"For denying me?"

"*Please* -- I mean -- I mean *yes* --"

Lex laughs again. "You think you are, but you're not, yet. You won't be until one of us is buried deep inside you, giving you *that* feeling... have there been toys?"

"Ahn -- no, no -- I mean! I used... a highlighter --"

"A thick one?"

"*Yes* -- oh -- ohn -- Bruce is going. So fast --"

"I told you; that's my cock."

"*Please* --"

"Are you close?"

"Yes! I think -- it's so *different*, Lex, I'm sorry, oh -- please don't make Bruce *stop* --"

"But I have to. You need other things," Lex says, and strokes Bruce's hair. "Lick up over her clit... and push in with one finger."

He licks --

Jessica shouts and *bucks* --

"Be still, Jess. You can do it."

She moans again --

"Oh, Bruce. She's tossing her head. She's flushed down over the tops of her breasts. Her nipples are hard and obvious. She's bitten her lips swollen --"

Bruce groans and *sucks* her clitoris --

"Oh, *good* idea, darling. Keep that up while you're pushing in."

Bruce nods and shifts, trying to ignore the ache in his penis, the ache in his *hands* --

He needs to *touch* her more --

And now he will, but -- it's too intimate, too... clinical? No, he doesn't feel much like a gynecologist, either, but to do *this* --

He doesn't even have any lubricant -- he doesn't need any. She's wet. She's *ready* --

She's calling out 'please' again and again --

His fingertip catches against her labia minora, folds them *in* slightly --

She's tensed and *straining* to stay still --

"*Now*, Bruce," Lex says, and Bruce pushes in slowly, carefully --

Jessica *wails* --

She -- she isn't as tight as it had seemed she'd have to be -- a function of her arousal? Bruce moves his finger around, searching for resistance and trembling internally for the *textures*.

Here, Jessica is almost *plush*. Back here, her cervix is spongy yet firm; here, there's swelling and another firmness --

Anatomy would suggest that the root of her clitoris is beyond this wall, so Bruce presses hard --

Sucks her clitoris harder still --

Jessica screams and drums her *feet*, shakes and screams *more* --

"Oh, Jess. *Pump* your hips."

And she does just that, crying out for the loss of Bruce's mouth from her clitoris, or perhaps just for the force of her orgasm. He --

He's making love to a *woman*, and it feels so right, so natural, so --

It's *not* clinical to touch a woman in a way which gives her pleasure like this, it could never be --

She --


Bruce slips out and kisses her all over her vulva, nuzzles her pubis --

Jessica is whimpering and shaking. She's still *arched* --

"Lex, I need --"

"Hold her in your arms, Bruce."

"Yes, Lex. Thank you, Lex."

Lex smiles at him with a dreamy sort of laziness --

Bruce lifts Jessica into his arms and cradles her. "Lex, you look as though you had an orgasm yourself."

"Didn't I...?" He laughs again. "One day, darling, we'll find a way for you to fuck a Tim -- or a Jessica, or whatever the multiverse will throw at us as reward for our *very* good behavior -- with my cock. And then I'll probably achieve nirvana."

Bruce hums and kisses Jessica's forehead while she pants and whimpers --

He kisses her softly and wonders if the smell of herself on his breath is soothing, maddening, or something else entirely. He turns and moves her into a straddle of his thighs --

And sighs for the feel of her pressing close, hugging Bruce's erection between them, nuzzling his *shoulder* --

She's trying very hard to regulate her breathing, and doing a good job of it. Certainly, it's as good as Bruce would do after two orgasms that -- hm.

"Were you very pleasured, Jessica?"

She moans and *bites* his shoulder -- briefly. "Um. I... yes, Bruce. That was... powerful. And I know -- I need to -- ah. Return the favor?" And she pulls back to smile at him, shy and bright and wondering --

Bruce smiles back, then leans in to kiss her temple. "Would you tell me... what would you like to do with Lex?"

"Not. Not with you? Um."

"I want to wait until after I've seen Lex have his pleasure. I want... it arouses me very much when Lex is aroused."

"You... the two of you have been lovers for a long time," Jessica says, and she's blushing --

There's a question, perhaps, that she isn't asking --

"We were eighteen and *exceedingly* callow, Jess," and Lex stands up and begins removing his suit.

Bruce turns them so that Jessica can watch Lex revealing himself --

"Now. What aren't you saying?"

"Ah. Um. I've never really imagined... sharing my fantasies. With anyone."

Lex pauses with his fingers at his collar. "Not even a lover of long standing?"

"I never... I never imagined that."

Bruce strokes Jessica's sides. "I know that loneliness well."

"I never said --" Jessica laughs softly. "Of course, I didn't *have* to say it. Ah... yes. It's embarrassing? I think."

"It's another sort of nudity," Lex says, and continues to unbutton his shirt.

"You're so. I never. I didn't expect you to be so... fit," Jessica says, and licks her lips.

Lex laughs and lets his shirt fall to the mats. "My closest friends -- and now my lovers -- are Batman and Superman. One does what one must to keep up appearances."

Bruce hums. "Clark came here just after you sent him away, Lex. He was... bursting with the need to share his news."

Lex removes his belt with slow, eye-catching care --

Jessica's breathing hitches twice --

Lex narrows his eyes at her. "Not today, Jess."

Jessica pants and digs her fingers in against Bruce's shoulders. "No, I. I wasn't asking --"

"I know. But your body was," Lex says, and hands Jessica the belt. "Touch it. Stroke yourself with it. Know that I want to give it to you."

Jessica moans and grips the belt with shaking hands. "I. A whipping? Do you... I mean. Is it something you do often?"

"Fairly. I enjoy it a great deal... as do Bruce and Mercy."

Jessica turns back to face him with shock in her eyes, wonder once more --

Bruce smiles. "It's... one of the purest forms of freedom I've ever known. And the pleasure inherent to the pain -- the *directed* and *focused* pain -- is deeply intense. Perhaps too intense for today?"

Jessica opens her mouth --

"Far too intense," Lex says, and Jessica turns back to face him. "It's something else for the advanced course, Jess."

Jessica looks... determined. Hm.

"In any event, Bruce, I'm surprised that he didn't tell you about the Tims then," and Lex toes off his shoes.

"Knowing Clark, he wanted you to be the one to tell me," and Bruce cups Jessica's hips again, squeezing gently enough that she only narrows her eyes, as opposed to changing her focus from Lex's belt.

Lex sighs. "It's true that he's always been *correct* about our need for Tom. To a fault, even."

"We neglected him far too much."

"We made him jealous."

"Yes," and Bruce leans in to breathe in the scents of the belt and Jessica's hands. "Never again."

"Agreed. Never again," and Lex makes it an order for both of them --

Bruce looks up and smiles. "Yes, Lex."

"Jess. Look at me."

She bites the belt lightly and does so, eyes widening as she takes in Lex's body, focusing on his groin...

"Oh... beautiful. Bruce. Take the belt from her and stroke her with it everywhere you can comfortably reach."

Jessica's jaw tightens and her eyes become wide once more --

"Yes, Lex," Bruce says, and tugs the belt free with gentle care.

She licks her lips and turns to look at Bruce, then slowly leans back and lifts her arms above her head, offering her body to his -- and the belt's -- touch.

Bruce swallows. <<Your beauty moves.>>

Jessica blinks curiously --

Lex laughs again. "He just told you -- in Kryptonian -- that you're lovely enough to inspire a great deal of artistic -- and possibly religious -- expression."

Jessica giggles and blushes -- "Ah. All right?"

"Stroke her now -- no. Teach yourself how to remove her bra, Bruce."

"Yes, Lex."

"Jess... look at me again."

"I -- yes, Lex," she says, turning and tilting her chin up --

Bruce strokes her throat with the belt --

She shivers and jumps, and Bruce nods to himself. There was a satisfaction to that which he has no words for, and that... perhaps he'll ask Lex about it. He reaches around her to learn the mechanism of the brassiere's catches --

"Tell me about the pornography you've seen, Jess."

"I... um. It was all terrible? That wasn't supposed to be a question."

Lex laughs softly and strokes himself to either side of his penis. He's holding himself only *mostly* erect -- a trick Bruce has never been able to learn, as opposed to learning how not to ejaculate pathetically quickly -- but his penis is already darkly pink with blood. "Terrible, how?"

"I... ah. The heterosexual ones were very... I mean. I spent a great deal of time wondering what sort of family problems were... extant in the childhood homes of the actresses. The lesbian ones... weren't. Though I found interesting things with BDSM in them. The homosexual ones were often fascinating, but ultimately frustrating --"

"You were exposed to that much of it?"

Jessica blushes --

Bruce tries the catch, and it's as simple as it had appeared, though he wonders about the comfort of something which must be tightened beyond the perfect fit in order to be opened.

Perhaps he'll ask Jessica about other designs.

Lex walks closer and cups Jessica's chin. "Answer the question."

"I'm. I'm trying to do so in a way. Ah. It's about the future."

Bruce blinks. "Pornography is more easily accessible to children in the future?"

"Well... yes. Actually. Please don't -- I don't want to say why," Jessica says, blushing again and looking down --

And Lex presses his thumb against her chin and lifts her head. "You can understand, I believe, why the two of us wouldn't feel there was anything problematic about you wishing to stay with us."

Jessica pants -- "Yes, I. Yes. It's still --" Jessica shakes her head --

Bruce squeezes Jessica's hips. "It's all right. I can understand, I believe, the conflict. The difficulty."

A rueful smile. "I... anyway. There -- I studied the BDSM pornography, because even when I hated everything else about whatever I was watching -- or reading. Ah. Anyway?"

Lex smiles. "Even in the midst of dreck, there was always something which... appealed. Yes, I can understand that. In any case, there is little strange about our naked bodies. Correct?"

Jessica narrows her eyes at Lex's groin --

Blinks and blushes --

"Yes, Lex. I mean -- no, there's nothing -- I'm. Quickly losing my intellect again."

"I've learned to consider that proof of a job well done," Bruce says, and kisses Jessica's cheek, her ear --

"Or well begun. Now. Answer Bruce's question for us. Tell us what you want with *me*."

Jessica stares down at Lex's penis again --

And Bruce tugs her brassiere up and off --

"*Oh*. Oh. I. I want to... I *almost* want to cover my breasts --"

"You can't," Lex says, calm and matter-of-fact. "Stroke her now."

"Yes, Lex," and there's no real need to cup and lift her breast in order to stroke it with the belt, but, at the same time, it feels as though there's *every* need.

He uses the leather of the belt on the softest parts of her breast and the buckle on her nipples. He straightens the belt with a snap --

"*Ah* --"

He wraps the belt around her back and uses it to pull her closer to him again --

"I want -- I want to *touch*," she says, and starts to move her arms --

"Stay still, Jess. Tell me how you'd like to touch."

"I. With my fingers. And... my wrists --"

"They're sensitive?"

"Yes, Lex -- *oh* --"

Bruce looks -- and Lex is gripping her wrists with one hand, *hauling* her up until her buttocks are no longer on Bruce's thighs -- "Please, Lex --"

"You'll have her back. I promise. Do you like this, Jess?"

"*Yes*. You're so -- you're strong, and I. Am apparently very shallow."

Lex laughs quietly again --

Bruce hums. "Neither of us know anything at all about... shallowness."

Lex sighs. "You should've seen Clark when he was your age. He didn't gangle even a little."

"He was remarkably beautiful -- in an entirely different way than he is now."

"He was... ah. I imagine he was... smaller."

Bruce wraps Lex's belt around Jessica's waist and pulls it taut --

"*Oh* --"

"You like that, too. Fascinating." Lex *jerks* on her wrists, forcing her to bounce --

"Your breasts are... mesmerizing."

"I -- what?" She giggles again and tosses her hair, *helps* Lex bounce her -- "You don't find this... juvenile?"

Lex smiles sharply. Wetly. "Jess. Think of what you'll look like when you're riding my cock."

Jessica's mouth seems to almost *fall* open --

She tries to bring her thighs together --

Bruce unwinds the belt and *grips* her thighs, holding them spread --

And the sound Jessica makes is high, animal-*heavy* --

"What else do you want, Jess? Be... specific."

Jessica pants, blushing hard and shaking her head --

"Jess. Please don't make me punish you."

Another animal sound -- "Oh -- *oh* -- but. I think. I'd like --"

"No. *My* punishments are designed to be difficult for the sub in question. We all know you at least want to *try* being whipped, so I'd never punish you that way. Similarly, you wouldn't be tied, or thrust into... do you understand?"

Jessica's blush gets deeper. "Yes. Yes, I. This is what I mean about terrible pornography."

"Perhaps we'll make some of our own."

Jessica's thighs *flex* --

"Lex --"

"I saw that, Bruce, but thank you. Would you ever want to watch the videos I've made with Mercy? Bruce edits the footage beautifully."

Jessica *squeaks* -- and stares at Bruce.

"They're often educational... as well as being deeply arousing."

Jessica licks her lips. "Then. Then, yes, I'd like to see. And. I. It's not like... ah. I'm confident that making a video with you won't lead to it being made public at some... inopportune moment of my career --"

"You belong with us, Jess. Your career will be whatever you wish it to be. Now tell me what you *want*."

"I. I. I'll just. Say it -- ohn *fuck* --"

"Perhaps that wasn't the best time for me to play with her labial folds using the belt."

Lex *snorts* -- and then visibly controls himself. "No, Bruce. No, it was not. Still -- inspiring reaction, Jess."

"You. I. *Leather* --"

"You were saying?"

"Fuck me, please, I -- one of you -- *both* of you --"

"And Clark, too?"

She cries out and flexes her thighs, tosses her hair -- "It doesn't -- it's not *attractive* when a woman is... stretched. Ah."


Lex licks his lips.

Jessica *bites* her lip --

And Lex pulls her lip free and shoves his thumb in her mouth --


"Suck as hard as you can."

Jessica lets her eyes slip most of the way closed and hollows her cheeks --

Bruce wraps the belt around her right thigh and pulls it taut once more. He wonders if he's giving himself new kinks he won't know what to do with when and if they lose Jessica --

But every sexual encounter Bruce has ever had where Lex played even a *small* role has had moments like that. With Tom...

With Tom, every moment had been something to hoard against inevitable loss. It's not the first time he's wondered if he'd warped himself hopelessly with his first affair, but he also thinks it must be part of a larger truth: Lovers -- true lovers -- will change you.

Bruce tightens the belt slightly more -- just until her flesh indents -- and then pulls Jessica closer with his other hand on her buttocks.

She's *small* --

But Tom had been small, as well, and Jessica feels correct, feels *right* --

Bruce buries his face against her throat and sucks gentle kisses there until she begins to hum and shift, almost *wriggle* --

"Harder, Bruce. *Mark* her."

She whimpers --

Bruce *bites* --

She cries out around Lex's thumb --


"Yes, Lex -- *mm* --"

"And listen as carefully as you can, Jess. There are objective differences between genitals which find themselves the playground of dozens of well-endowed men over the course of years, and genitals which find themselves the playground of a *few* well-endowed men. Though I imagine Clark could make up for ten or eleven men per sexual encounter... well. He can restrain himself. And I will never do anything to take away from your beauty... or your ability to please me."

Jessica groans, swallows convulsively --

Bruce licks his way to the other side of her throat and sucks hard over the pulse point --

"*Mmm* --"

"You know, Jess... Bruce can be terrifyingly oral if you give him a chance. There have been times when he's left bite marks all over my body --"

"Not *enough*," Bruce slurs, and licks his way to Jessica's ear, plunges deep amidst the faint bitterness, the warmth that *suggests* --

Lex laughs and begins to thrust into Jessica's mouth with his thumb. "I'm going to ask you a question in a moment. If you don't answer it as soon as I remove my thumb from your mouth, neither of us will touch you until I decide otherwise --"

Jessica grunts and shivers --

"Yes, I see that you can understand. Are you ready? Nod if you are."

Jessica pants through her nose and pushes closer still to Bruce --

Bruce's penis twitches hard. She wants his *comfort* --! Bruce pushes his hands into her hair and kisses the side of her mouth, nuzzles Lex's moving thumb --

"Give her a chance to answer me, Bruce --"

Bruce groans. "I'm sorry, Lex. I --" Bruce pulls back and licks his lips. "You must... there is always incredible pleasure in submitting yourself to Lex, Jessica. You can trust him, even if you cannot trust me."

Jessica whimpers, arms straining --

"She's trying to reach for you, Bruce. She wants you to know that she does trust you."

"Oh... beautiful girl..." Bruce smiles and turns her to face Lex. "You have nothing to fear. You have nothing to be ashamed of. You... you *belong* with us, Jessica."

Jessica closes her eyes, but only for a moment before she opens them again and nods at Lex.

"All right, Jess. Here's the question: Which of us do you want in your cunt first?"

Jessica swallows a cry and sucks Lex's thumb hard --

"Don't worry. You have thirty seconds to think about your answer."

She flushes deeply, beautifully --

Bruce reaches up and wraps the belt around her wrists, and the sight of it there --

Everything it could mean --


Lex lets go. "Hnn. Do it, Bruce."

Bruce licks his lips and punches a new hole in the belt before slipping the tongue through the buckle and locking it tight --

"Lead her to the gurney, Bruce. And me by extension, of course," Lex says, and the smile on his face is bright and sharp, but far less so than the one in his eyes.

Jessica looks drugged as he lifts her to her feet, and her grace is languid, almost liquid as Bruce tugs her after him by the belt --

"Five seconds, Jessica."

She whimpers and nods --

And they're still ten yards from the gurney when Lex pulls his thumb out with a wet pop --

"*Bruce*," she says, and sounds mournful enough that Bruce has to turn, has to see the way she's pleading with Lex with her eyes, her voice --

"Did you think that would upset me, Jess? It's all right -- I haven't been your fantasy for... how many years?"

"I... I. Six."

"Since you learned the secret. Were you even pubescent then?"

"Ah... um. No. It was... the fantasies were... basic," Jessica says, turning to face Bruce with even more of a plea in her eyes --

And Bruce wonders what he would've done with someone that young, someone who looked at him and wanted him and *pleaded* with him --

It's a fear he doesn't know how to *face* --

And he knows she sees that in his eyes when she stops and tugs against the belt.

"Oh, no, Jessica, please don't struggle --"

"You don't -- you don't *want* --"

"*No*, I --" He hands the end of the belt to Lex and finally finishes stripping himself down, exposing himself and his *hunger* -- "Please *look* at me, Jessica."

She bites her lip and doesn't look *up* --

"Jess. Do what Bruce says."

Jessica gasps -- it's almost a *sob* -- and Bruce can't. He closes the distance between them and *forces* her to look up --

"Open your *eyes*, Jessica --"

"I don't want to --"

"You *must*," Bruce says, and it's a growl, a command --

Jessica moans and snaps her eyes open, searches him --

"Yes, yes, *see* me. See what I want, what I need from you -- oh. It's only that I feared what I would've done had I known you when you were only a child. Please *understand* --"

Jessica gasps again then, blinks rapidly --

And Lex jerks the belt lightly.

They both turn to face him --

"It was a casual decision to try to pull a 'Tom' who was sixteen from the future -- that's how old he was when he first brought us to our knees, after all -- but, in truth, I didn't want to think about what either of us would do with a younger -- and presumably more *tractable* -- boy. There are obscenities in this world, and I strongly believe that would've been one of them."

Jessica swallows. "I. It looks different from... my end. You know that, don't you?"

"You see only the pleasure you would've taken with us," Bruce says, and cups Jessica's shoulders. "That is both warming and terrible to consider."

She nods and breathes deeply three times, focusing on something beyond either of them, beyond the *Cave* --

(You must not *waver* --!)

He will not. Not ever from this. He strokes Jessica's cheek with his fingertips --

She darts to kiss them twice, to *lick* them twice -- "Lex... may I... make a request?"

Lex smiles. "So long as you understand that I may deny it."

"Yes. Yes, I understand. I... it's just... I've had fantasies about being bent over a bed. And... fucked. That way."

Lex's nostrils flare.

Bruce feels himself leak more pre-ejaculate --

Bruce *strokes* himself, because the image of what she would look like --

He hasn't *seen* her bent, but perhaps her breasts would swing --

"Permission granted," Lex says, and tugs more firmly on the belt, leading Jessica unerringly to the gurney --

"Lower it to a comfortable height, Bruce. I want her standing and able to brace on her elbows."

"Yes, Lex," and Bruce does the simple math before moving quickly to lower the bed just enough that her breasts *will* be able to swing --

"Stand there, Jess -- no, I've changed my mind. Walk forward until your hips are touching the mattress."

"I... oh. This already feels -- ah."

Lex steps around to the other side of the gurney and reaches down to grip Jessica by the hair -- he stops. "Bruce, wind her hair around your fist. Just for a moment."

Bruce hears himself *rumble* -- but it has to be understandable, doesn't it? The *feel* of Jessica's hair, exactly like Tom's but longer, so much --

Bruce licks his lips and does it, holding himself away from her body --

Her posterior is a somehow *precise* 'heart,' dimpled and obviously firm. Her thighs shine with her fluids --

Jessica shivers. "I... is Bruce -- are you... staring, Bruce?"


"I. Oh. Do you -- um."

"May I --" Bruce swallows. "I'm going to sketch you. I can't... I won't be able to stop myself. I'm sorry." Bruce tugs on her hair experimentally --

Jessica moans and pushes up on her toes --

Lex sighs. "That's gorgeous. The question is whether I want to see that or more of Bruce holding you by the hips."

Jessica moans *again* --

"Perhaps both. Jess. Spread your legs."

She whimpers and nods, spreading --

*Exposing* --

Her fluids are visibly thinner than they were before, coating her slick and translucent -- "Lex..."

"You're going to hurt her, Bruce."

Bruce grunts and strokes her labia minora lightly, *carefully* -- "I... I can be *gentle*, Lex --"

"You can and you will. However, you're still going to cause her some degree of pain... hm. You didn't mention a hymen. Jess?"

"Ah -- ah -- I. My mother had mine removed when I was a toddler."

Bruce blinks.

Lex coughs. "I can honestly say that those were some of the last words I expected you to utter. Is that sort of thing... common?"

"Hn. No. But neither is my mother."

Bruce supposes there might have been some sort of problem with...

But Jessica would've mentioned it if there was --

Well, her mother might not have wanted to tell her --

It seems like such a strange thing --

Lex laughs and pinches the bridge of his nose. "Jess, Bruce is having a bit of a conflict in his mind. Is there anything else you can tell us about your hymenectomy?"

"Um. Just that my mother said that she wished she'd had one of her own? Um." Jessica looks back over her shoulder. "Is it all right, Bruce? Did you *want* me to have a hymen?"

"I... have no *idea*," Bruce says, and strokes Jessica's back and sides with his free hand. He's not sure which of them he's trying to soothe, but it feels wonderful -- hm. Bruce lets go of her hair and drops to his knees behind Jessica and spreads her --

"*Oh* --"

"You don't seem to be *missing* anything to me. I... the truth is that I've never imagined penetrative sex with a female virgin, Jessica. You... anything which makes it less painful for you is thus a wonderful thing."

"Oh -- um --"

"Agreed," Lex says. "While it may turn out that you appreciate a viciously painful fuck, it's better to *start* with something... lighter. For example: Bruce, lick her ass."

Bruce groans. "I -- may I --"

"Yes, go *deep*."

"Oh my -- *God* -- Bruce -- *Bruce* --"

Here, the taste is unfamiliar... but almost certainly because he'd never done this with Tom --

He would've *wanted* to if Tom had ever expressed a desire --

Tom was too careful of Bruce's adolescent squeamishness by half. This... *this* act --

Clark had been the first, and the memory of holding him against the wall in the showers down here --

Lex still refused to *use* these showers back then, but Clark had joined him happily, willingly, and watching him wash himself down had been too much, too beautiful. Washing his back for him became something else entirely --

And the taste of soap had overpowered everything but Clark's shocked, needy cries --

Jessica sounds the *same*, somehow, even though their voices are completely different.

Clark had tensed just like this --

Clark had *shaken* just like this --

"Ahn -- ahn -- *Bruce*, *please* --"

"Don't stop, Bruce."

He *won't* --

"*Lex*, he's -- he feels --"

"You've never fantasized this."

"It didn't -- mm -- *nnh* -- it -- there was so much *spitting* in the gay porn --"

Bruce makes a questioning sound --

"*Oh* --"

Lex laughs. "I -- all right, I respect your desire to keep from inadvertently changing the future by telling me how you acquired your *incredibly* catholic stash of pornography, but you must know that I'm *deadly* curious."

"Unh -- noted. Oh, Lex -- he --"

"You like this."

"*Yes* -- I'm -- glad I showered -- *ooh* --"

That for pulling out to lick *around* her anus --

The *gently* pink pucker of it --

Bruce scrapes it with his teeth --

Jessica *shouts* and pushes up on her toes again --

"*Down*, Jess."

"*Lex*! I mean -- I mean *yes* --" And she drops and shudders all over --

"One of my kinks is to hear my name shouted *just* that way. Please, feel free to do it often and *loudly*."

Jessica giggles --

Gasps --

Works her hips --

"Bruce. Hold her hips still."

"Lex, *please* --"

"Shh, don't worry. You'll enjoy it."

"I know -- I -- I don't want to *come* -- *hnh* -- oh, Bruce, your *hands* --"

("Bruce -- oh, Bruce, will you take me like *this*?")

Yes, over and over again --

*Yes*, and it feels so good to simply *thrust*, to push as deep as he can, to hold Jessica open for every touch --

She wails --

"You're that close."

"*Yes*, Lex, *please*, Lex --"

"You'd like to wait until Bruce is inside you?"

"It's -- *fantasy* --"

Lex hums. "You've sold me. Bruce, *stop*."

Bruce groans -- slurs a plea --

"There'll be other chances *if* we play our cards right. Now *stop*."

Bruce yanks himself back and pants, licks his lips, watches Jessica's anus flex and *clench* --

He's groaning *more* --

But Jessica is whimpering and panting, breath coming so rapidly --

Bruce forces himself to release her buttocks and stands, bending enough to rest his ear against her back --

"Her heart is pounding?"

Bruce grunts and squeezes his penis hard. "Yes. Yes, Lex. Jessica, tell me I may pleasure you *more*."

"You -- *inside* me -- please fuck me, please --"

That *voice* --

That --


Lex smiles at him. His eyes are more wild than they'd been before Bruce started making love to Jessica's anus, and his penis is more erect --


Lex holds up a finger, then uses it to tilt Jessica's chin up.

"Mm... mm... yes?"

"Good answer, always. However... I need to know how much practice you have at attempting to deep-throat objects."

"I -- um. I managed it with... one of my highlighters. Briefly. *Painfully*. I'm hoping... it's better when it's real."

"It is. Though it may not be better for you."

"I always..." Jessica licks her lips and pants -- "Every fantasy. Every -- there's always a little. Fellatio."

Lex's lips part and he searches her deeply, *rapidly* --

"Oh -- please, Lex. Please teach me how to suck you?"

Lex's penis twitches --

He narrows his eyes -- "*While* Bruce is fucking your cunt?"

Jessica groans, low and *sweet* somehow --

"Answer *quickly* --"

"I don't! I'm not sure. I'm. Maybe -- " Jessica flushes and shakes her head. "Please tell me. Please -- make me?"

"Yes. Bruce, guide yourself inside her. Remember that she wants the pain. Remember that, right now, she's as ready for you as she can possibly be. Remember that that's *enough*," Lex says, without looking *away* from Jessica's eyes.

"Lex --"

"Don't disobey me, Bruce. Not in this."

"No, I -- I'm not sure how long I can last."

Lex's nostrils flare again as he looks at Bruce, as he looks Bruce *over* -- "Yes, I see. Yank on your sac."

Bruce grunts -- and grunts again as the pain spikes and seems almost to *spark* -- "I did this. I did this the night I took Tom."

"So you could last longer."

"I needed -- I needed him," Bruce says, and strokes down to Jessica's hips. "The way I need you, Jessica. I want --" *Sister* -- "I want more."

"*Please*. Take -- make me *take* you --"

"You. You want me to be... forceful."

She pushes up on her toes -- "I -- please, yes -- I mean. Lex?"

"He's going to enter you slowly and gently. As you grow accustomed to the sensations... as you *both* grow accustomed to the sensations, you may feel free to beg for a harder touch."

Jessica moans and spreads her legs wider -- "I want -- I want to be fucked so *hard* --"

"And if you still want it once Bruce has that glorious monster *inside* you... that's exactly what you'll get. And it's possible that you'll get it even if you're not sure you do want it."

Jessica gasps --

"Yes, Jess. He's on the edge now. You can *just* hear it in his voice if you concentrate. The sound of his breathing. The *roughness* --"

"Want -- want so *much* --"

"Bruce. *Now*."

Bruce blows out the breath he hadn't realized he was holding and spreads her lips with one finger. Like this, she seems both small and *dark*. Mysterious, deep and strange --

But he's tasted her.

He's given her pleasure.

And now he's giving her himself. "You... I believe you must *breathe*, Jessica --"

She whimpers and nods frantically, regulating her breathing with ruthless force and *attentiveness*, somehow --

And she's so *slick* on the head of Bruce's penis, so --

Bruce *slips*, nudging her clitoris --

"Oh, *Bruce* --"

"Lex -- Lex, I -- my hands are shaking too much --"

"It's all right," Lex says, laughing breathlessly as he walks around the gurney. "You -- God, I wanted this *anyway*," and he wraps his strong hand, his wonderful hand --

He *holds* Bruce's penis, squeezes and strokes it --

"*Lex* --!"

Lex pants. "Soon -- no. Now," he says, and guides Bruce --

"So *wet* --"

"It gets better," Lex says, and *pulls* Bruce in --

Bruce hadn't realized he was standing still -- "*Lex*, she -- so *soft* inside..."

"Beautiful. Perfect, both of you --" Lex shakes his head. "Keep pushing in. I'll just..."

And Jessica's moan is *vibrato* --


"I'm... vibrating my finger on her clitoris. A little trick... Mercy usually winds up threatening my life and the lives of my descendants -- ah, *fuck*, Bruce, I --" And Lex wraps his other arm around Bruce's back and bites Bruce's shoulder *hard* --

"Oh, *Lex*, yes, I feel, I *know* --"

"Yes. You *do*. And so will I," Lex says, and wraps Jessica's hair around his fist. "How does it feel, Jess?"

"So -- *big* --"

"Yes, he is. He's... mm. You can feel him against your cervix, can't you."

Jessica nods frantically, breathing choppy and --

"Oh, Jessica, please, am I *hurting* you?"

"*Bruce* --" And she *clenches* around him --

"*Jessica* --"

"I'm sorry, I'm -- oh, God, please, please don't stop, please don't --"

"Answer him, Jess."

"It *hurts* -- don't -- don't pull *out* --"

Bruce grips her hips because he has to. He -- "Tom. Tom liked the pain. I. Do *you*?"

"*Yes*! Please, Lex, please tell him he can thrust --"

"Yes. Let me see that, Bruce. Remember -- slowly at first."

"Yes. Yes, Lex --"

And there's less of a *grip* when he pulls out halfway, less of a sense of physical imperative, of *force* --

She *wants* force --

No, slowly, carefully --

And she whines for it --

Or for Lex moving his hand?


"Please, please *faster* --"

"*Carefully*, Bruce --"

She groans -- "It -- *torture* --"

"Then take it for me," Lex says. "Spread her, Bruce."

"*Yes* --"

"And take this, too," and he slides his finger around her anus --

She *squeaks* again --

"Shh..." And when Lex pushes in, she tenses, *clenches* -- "How's that, Jess?"

"You -- oh -- *ohhhn* --"

"I'll take that as a 'more, please.' Bruce. Give her the same rhythm you gave Clark the first time. Well. For the first minute or two of the first time."

Bruce grunts and nods, not trusting himself with speech, not --

So slick. So soft and *strong* when she clenches --

Clark hadn't clenched, at all, at first --

Clark had muttered, begged, shouted, *shook* --

And Jessica is no less compelling.

His body knows what to do. His body has, perhaps, been *waiting* for Bruce to give himself this, to *take* this --

He can't stop squeezing her *hips* --

And her sounds --

Her whines are almost *plaintive*, high and -- and *tender* as he and Lex take her --

As he works his hips, slapping her labia with his scrotum --

She's making him so *slick* --

Her whines are getting *louder*, more full somehow --

"The pain is starting to ease, isn't it, Jess?"

"Nnh -- please -- yes --"

"Faster, Bruce."

She cries out and clenches, *holding* him -- but she can't, she's not -- not strong *enough* --

Lex pushes in deeper and she flexes *open* --

And his body finds the faster rhythm easily, *flows* into it as if it needs nothing else, as if it *won't* demand more --

But it will. She has to be ready. They have to *make* her ready --

"Lex, I -- what else. I *need*."

Jessica croons and pushes up on her toes again, tries to *match* the rhythm they're giving her --

No, tries to urge them faster *still* --

"*Lex* --"

Lex grunts and squeezes his eyes shut. "I am... stunned. Breathless. Ah -- follow your instincts, Bruce. Because *I* need more," he says and pulls out slowly --

"Oh, *no* --"

Lex grunts *again* -- "Shh. Shh, just -- I'm coming. I'll give us both what we need," Lex says, and it's clear that he's *rigidly* controlling his voice, that *he's* on the edge --

And that makes so *much* of him need to reach out, to perform, to *provide* --

And he knows Lex can see that on his face when he smiles wryly at him from the other side of the gurney. "You're giving me everything already, Bruce. You... I promise I'll try to explain --"

Bruce's penis flexes --

Jessica grunts and bangs her bound wrists against the mattress --

"Later. Much. Much later. Nnh. Jess. Are you ready for my cock?"

"*Everything* -- oh, I -- oh, Bruce *yes* --"

He couldn't -- he needs to --

The sound of his scrotum is so loud, so -- almost *damning* --

"Fuck, but you're both -- *Jess*."

"*Yes*, Lex, please, oh, *please* --"


The sound she makes is almost a *caw*, and she's up on her toes again, *reaching* for Lex with her body --

It's all Bruce can do not to pull her *back* -- no, he can cover her --

No, he can't let go of her beautiful *hips* --

It's a weak compromise to crowd her and loom, but it's all he can do, all he can *stand* to do, because distance would be impossible, loss --

"So -- Jessica, you feel -- you're making me *feel* --"

Jessica nods frantically -- until Lex grips her hair again --

"*Take*," he says, and pushes in *slowly*, inch after inch -- "Jess. *Suck* --"

"*Mm* --" And she shudders all over --

Clenches and shudders more --

"I know that *taste*, Jessica. He -- it's everything, sometimes --"

"Mm -- *mmm* --" And she starts working herself back and forth *between* them, rocking and *taking* them --

The sight of it --

The *feel* --

Lex blows out a breath and winds her hair *tighter* --

Jessica whines and clenches again, losing her rhythm --

She makes a *mournful* noise, and Bruce can't --

He lets go of one of her hips and grips her shoulder, instead --

Lex grips her *other* shoulder ---

And they *give* her the rhythm, pushing and pulling, taking --

So *much* --

Jessica *screams* around Lex's penis --

"*Come*. I -- hn. I *promise* we won't stop for an instant --"

Jessica chokes --

Gurgles --

"Oh, oh, you -- *swallow* me, then. *Gulp* me in and --" Lex *growls*, momentarily losing the rhythm -- "Ah, fuck *me* -- Bruce. *Harder*."

And there's no thought, no pause within himself, no ability *to* pause --

He's *pumping* into her, thrust after thrust --

She's groaning in her *chest* --

Her breasts are almost *undulating*, though the waveform calls to mind music more than physics, more --

He realizes that he wants to do this in the missionary position, that to have the chance to do that would be pleasure, sweetness, *wonder* --

And Lex is grunting like a beast, grinding into Jessica's throat and almost *snarling* --

She's so *flushed*, and suddenly it's not enough. He needs *more* than what he's getting, and he thinks it's because they've lost much of her sounds --

Knowing doesn't ease the ache of it. He needs. He *needs*, and so he reaches down past himself and tries to be something other than clumsily *desperate* as he touches her clitoris --

Jessica goes *rigid*, clenching hard enough to make Bruce's *mind* stop, leaving him in hot silence for a moment --

Another --

Hot and *grinding* silence, slapping and *shoving* silence --

"Oh, *yes*," Lex says, pulling out --

She gasps --

She *screams* --

And Lex grabs the end of the belt and walks around to Bruce's side again, yanking the belt high until Jessica is *upright* as she screams --

Oh, again and *again* --

Bruce grips her hips again to hold her *steady* --

Lex pulls the belt over Bruce's shoulder, hauling Jessica's wrists back until they're resting on his trapezius -- "Darling. You're going to come for us."

"*Lex* --"

"Women *swell* after an orgasm, Bruce. Even if there's been a minimal amount of friction. Soon you'll be hurting her more than I want you to."

Bruce groans and nods frantically, tries to --

He can't slow *down* --


"Her cries -- they *pierce* --"

Lex shudders against him. "You don't want to stop."

"Never -- oh, *Lex* --"

"I need her now, Bruce. I need her tight-swollen cunt wrapped around my cock. I need her screams. I need her *sweetness*."

And this is the sound sex always drives him to, this -- this *bellow* of a cry, the desperation of a *dying* animal --

"*More*, Bruce."

"*Please*, I've never -- it's so -- please, Lex, your *fingers* --"

"*Hnh* -- then *scream*," Lex says, and *forces* two fingers into him --

The burn is *immense* --

He's taking Jessica *harder* --

Her cries --

His *own* -- "*Lex* --"

"*Now*, Bruce," and Lex crooks his fingers brutally hard --

Lex *bites* Bruce's trapezius --

And everything is blasted away, wiped clean and so bright, so --

He can't hear Jessica over his own *noise* --

He's *jerking* into her, back into Lex's fingers --

He must -- must not *injure*, but he can't let go of her *hips* --

Can't --

So much *pleasure* --

And then Lex *twists* his fingers and black explodes in Bruce's vision, weakness and *alarm* as his body tries to betray --

"I've *got* you," Lex says, and Bruce shakes in Lex's arms --

Flexes and *twitches* inside Jessica's beautiful *vagina* --

He breathes.

After a moment, he's capable of understanding again, and he balances on his own feet --

Flexes again and *groans* for Jessica's clench --

She's crooning, now. Low and hungry and *shocked* noises which make Bruce need to wrap his arms around her and rock them both.

When Lex taps his hip, Bruce nods and breathes as deeply and smoothly as he can until Lex pulls out --

And then he gives himself back over to the pants which fill him with the scent of semen, the faintly flowery shampoo in Jessica's hair, the way that scent is overcome by the scent of her *sweat* --

A long moment after that, Lex wraps his arms around both of them and squeezes. He's still hard, hard and *hot* --

And, periodically, he shudders.

Bruce strokes Jessica's cheek. "Jessica... we need more from you."

"Nnh. Nnh. Lex. Lex needs me --"

"Yes, I do."

She croons again, shivers and clenches --

Cries out -- "*Lex* -- *oh*. Every. Every one of your thrusts will *hurt* me."

Lex licks his lips. "Yes. Can you take ---"

"*Yes*. I -- I'm still so *aroused* --"

And Bruce and Lex groan together --

Bruce twitches and groans *again* --

"Ooh. Oh. I -- Bruce, pull *out*," she says, wriggling *testingly* --

Bruce twitches again, clutches -- but no, they both need him to pull out now. They *need*, and that's enough to allow him to move, to step back and *lift* Jessica off his penis --

The sound she makes is high-pitched, sharp and *willing* as she settles herself on her toes again, spreads her legs and offers --

Bruce's semen is so *white* against her swollen labia minora --

And Lex pushes Bruce aside with *gentle* implacability.

Bruce moans and shakes his head. "Lex, I'm sorry --"

"We -- mm. We'll find something for you to apologize for later. At the moment..." Lex drops into a crouch. "Jess. I'm going to make this easier on both of us. A little *more* arousal will help you feel less pain --"

"Anything, oh *anything* -- *ow* --"

The bite mark on her left buttock will fade quickly, but Bruce knows that the pain will linger as a *reminder* --

"Never. Never *interrupt* me when we're making love, Jess."

"*Please* -- I mean. I'm sorry, I'll be -- good. I -- I *will* --"

"Shh." And Lex smiles and breathes deep. "How do you like the feel of Bruce's come spilling out of your cunt?"

She jerks, cries out -- "Um. Um. I like it. It -- I feel. Very *clear* --"


A moan -- "Yes. Yes, Lex --"


"So -- it's so *good* --"

"Sweets for the sweet," Lex says, leaning in and spreading her --

"Oh, *Lex* --"

"Here," and Lex begins licking at her labia minora, periodically catching one or the other between his lips and sucking --

Bruce wishes he'd *thought* of that --

"Nnh -- nuh -- *Lex* --"


"*Unh* --! Lex, oh -- oh -- *oh* --"

Lex hums again --

Jessica grunts and *kicks* --

Lex pulls back. "You feel empty again, correct?"

"Yes. Yes, Lex --"

"The swelling is going down because your body is powerfully aroused again --" Lex cuts himself off with a hum and looks thoughtful -- "Assuming we *do* lose you, Jess, make *sure* your Lex and Bruce -- and Clark -- know *precisely* how multiorgasmic you are."

She makes a questioning noise, plaintive and high --

Bruce moves to stroke her hair back from her forehead, to card through it gently and hopefully soothingly --

"You wouldn't want any of them to get the idea that you were *easily* satisfied --"

"I -- I'm *difficult*?"

Lex kisses her vulva -- Bruce can't be sure *where* -- and hums --

"Nnh -- *nnh* -- *please*, Lex --"

"Shh, I misspoke. You don't want your lovers to *ever* think they can simply give you one orgasm and then take you for granted. While there is a time and place for 'quickies,' *proper* attention must be paid to a girl like you," Lex says, standing and massaging Jessica's back with quick and expert care. "*All* of us -- *across* the multiverse -- would be *grief-stricken* if we discovered that we'd been neglecting you."

"Not -- it --" Jessica shakes her head --

Bruce strokes her cheeks, her forehead -- "It's true, Jessica. It would be tempting to... restrain you, somehow. To make sure you couldn't leave before we pleased you thoroughly."

The noise Jessica makes is a quirked thing: It's similar to her earlier squeaks, but there's also a hint of affronted querulousness --

"Oh... that sound. Yes, I believe I --" And Lex grunts as he takes himself in hand --

Lets go and lifts Jessica onto the gurney, setting her on her back --

"*Lex* --"

"But I have to see your face, Jess. You -- hn. *This* is several different fantasies at once," he says, and spreads Jessica's legs to either side of the gurney before climbing on, kneeling, and lifting her posterior onto his thighs. "Feel free to clutch me with your legs once I'm inside you."

"You -- too much *control* --"

"In some ways, I've been practicing for *this* moment --" Lex licks his lips and shakes his head. "It won't last past the first push. Are you *ready*."

Jessica bites her lip, reaches up with her still bound wrists --

"Do you want touch? Or freedom?"

"*Touch* -- oh, I. I didn't expect that -- answer. Ah. Please fuck me, Lex --"

"Absolutely. But first," and Lex leans in so that she can touch his face.

Her touches start light and almost hesitant, but he looks into her eyes, *pins* her the way he can so easily --

And she strokes more firmly, catching the sweat rolling down from his temples and sucking it into her mouth --

Moaning and arching her hips --

"How do I taste to you, Jess?"

"I -- I -- *male*. Salty and strong and -- " Jessica shakes her head and rears up to *lick* Lex's face --

He *hates* that --

But he closes his eyes for it, lets it continue for nearly a *minute* --

And then he kisses her back down to the mattress, eyes open and so --

It's far too easy to imagine himself in Jessica's position, to imagine himself with that look of *wild* hunger in his eyes --

Bruce pets her shoulder. "It seems as though it won't ever go away. This desire, I mean."

Jessica whimpers and nods -- but not enough to dislodge Lex's kiss.

"Lex does that to me all the time. I promise you, though -- you will become used to the emotions, if never to the intensity of them or the sensations."

She whimpers again and shifts oddly -- no, she's petting Lex's chest with her bound hands, stroking and *knowing* his sleek skin --

Lex pulls back with a grunt. "Are you *ready*."


"Every second of your touch makes me want to throw you down in my bed and find increasingly perverse ways to keep you there."

Jessica's eyes widen -- and then she narrows them and *deliberately* strokes Lex's right pectoral, pinches his nipple --

Lex *grins*. "Noted. Let go."

Jessica bites her lip and does it - and then raises her arms above her head --

Lex pants -- "Hold her."

"Yes, Lex --"

"*Now*," Lex says, pulling back enough that he can guide himself in --

Only he strokes the head of his penis over and over her vulva. He *must* be stroking her lips, her clitoris --

Jessica makes a gurgling sound and struggles against Bruce's grip --

"Please stay still, Jessica. You... I love the feel of you like this, but I don't want you to be hurt --"

She whimpers and strains more -- "*Please*, I -- don't let go --"

"I won't --"

"He's *teasing* me, Bruce!"

"Oh, I..." Bruce holds her wrists in one hand and strokes the length of her slim, strong arms with the other. "Do you like it?"

"*Yes*. I mean -- oh -- he's making me -- he's making me *throb*."

Bruce grunts -- "I'd like to feel that --"

"Not just yet, darling. But you'll give us more chances, won't you?"

Jessica licks her lips and nods -- "I mean. I mean *yes* --"

*Sister* --

And Lex looks down at his own penis and laughs softly. "Now *that* is a creamy-looking blend. If I had *any* patience left I'd let you both lick it off. Perhaps later," he says, and guides himself *in* --

"*Ohn* --"

"Jess. Jess..." Lex pants and blinks, licks his lips and pants more. "Beautiful. Perfect -- *hnh*, yes, *clench*. Don't stop for anything, Jess. *Give* it to me," and Lex shifts until he's looming over Jessica, until he can grind his hips in hard circles --

It's impossible not to watch him, not to study the interplay of all the *lean* muscle, the way the fluorescents catch on his sleek, sweaty skin --

"Lex -- *Lex* --"

"I'm right here, Jess. I -- you can't get rid of me now --"

"I don't *want* to, I never wanted --"

"Shh, I know, I know. Lovely girl. You -- mm. You're who I *want* --"

"Right -- right now --"

"I'd keep you even if we got Tom back. I'd keep you *forever*. I -- hnh. Say you *understand* --"

Jessica gasps --

Strains against Bruce's hold again --

"*Jess* --"

"Please, I -- I'll be your darling, your -- anything, please anything --"

Lex grunts and starts working his hips faster --

"Oh, don't *stop* --!"

"Don't. *Worry*. Bruce. Bruce -- reach between and play with her nipples --"

Jessica cries out --

And at the first brush of Bruce's fingers on her nipple, she wraps her legs around Lex's chest --

"Oh -- oh, *fuck*, Lex --"

"You weren't. Ready for the change in angle. Hn. Neither was I," and now Lex isn't grinding so much as he's *riding* her, thrusting in and *in* --

"I -- I *understand* --"

"Good girl --"

"I understand *everything*," she says, smiling and gasping, moaning --

Crying out when Bruce pinches her nipple carefully --

"Sensitive. There -- oh, Bruce --"

"I'll always touch you here. I'm sorry I didn't do it before --"

"No! I -- no *apologies* --"

"All right --"

"I will *never* apologize for this," Lex says, and his eyes are wild, his teeth are gritted -- "You're *going* to come for me, Jess."

"*Yes*! Oh, please, I -- I wish I knew how to tell you to -- to *touch* me --"

"We'll learn together. We -- mm. I've changed my mind. I -- Bruce. Reach between us and play with her clit --"

"*Ohn* -- oh, *Lex* --"

"This will allow *both* of us to -- mm. Watch your tits bounce. We are cavemen at heart," Lex says, and laughs at Jessica's seemingly *reflexive* scowl -- "*Beautiful* --"

"I -- oh -- I want to touch. I want to *touch* --"

"You will. *Later*."

"*Please* --"

"No," Lex says, and *looks* at Bruce --

He was supposed to let *go* of her breasts, her beautiful -- "I'm sorry, Lex --"

"I do understand... distraction. Mm. Come *here*."

"Yes, Lex." And Bruce does just that, pressing close to Lex's and Jessica's sides, working his hand between --

Warmth --

Movement --

*Sweat* --

And other fluids entirely once Bruce slips beyond Jessica's mound. Pre-ejaculate and ejaculate, from all of them --

Bruce groans and switches hands to allow himself to *taste* --

Lex's smile is triumphant, *hungry* --

Jessica grunts --

Lex *gasps* -- "Ah. I see that you've been holding *back* with your clenches. Don't do that any. Anymore --"

"Yes, Lex, *sorry*, Lex -- oh, Bruce, please -- please *rub* --"

Bruce shudders and realizes that he'd merely been pressing, and -- yes, she needs more. She must *have* more, and so he tries a rubbing stroke which works the nub along the midline of her vulva --

"*Ahn* -- *fuck* -- "

Lex grunts and starts thrusting faster -- "You. You have your *orders*, Bruce --"

"Yes. Yes, I *see*," but Bruce is almost regretful -- he can't possibly move his hand to get more of the taste now --

Soon, though.

Jessica is flushed to beneath her breasts. Lex is panting for every thrust and grunting for most, staring down into Jessica's dazed eyes --

Searching, perhaps, for every *moment* of her pleasure --

"Harder, Jess?"

She cries out and *starts* to reach for Lex --


She whimpers and slams her hands back down over her head -- and the tension seems to flow from her shoulders to her hips as she starts trying to meet Lex's rhythm -- and then to exceed it --

"Yes, that *does* count as. As an *answer*. Here," Lex says, and takes her wrists in hand, squeezing hard enough that his knuckles pale --

He must not *injure*, and Bruce starts to reach out to touch, *remind* --

But Jess loses her rhythm and begins to *buck*, forcing Bruce to *concentrate* in order to keep rubbing the right way --

And Tom's moments of heedlessness had been vanishingly few -- save when he had the chance to be hurt in certain ways during sex. Bruce nods slowly and gives in to the opportunity to watch, to smell --

To *taste* when the sweat on Lex's shoulder is too tempting --

"*Bruce*, you -- nnh. Grab my *sac*."

"Happily," Bruce says, and smiles for Lex's breathless laugh, for the focus lost as he takes Jessica harder --

As Jessica's eyes roll back in her head --

And the feel of Lex's scrotum always makes Bruce *want* to blush. The taboo smoothness, the perfectly normal weight that still *feels* heavier than expected *every* time --

Lex groans and shudders --

Bruce *squeezes* --

"Hnh -- *hnh* -- *fuck*, Bruce, this -- "

"Perfection --"

"*Yes*," and it sounds as though Lex is speaking more, but he's burying it in Jessica's mouth, muffling their cries save for when the kiss loses *seal* --

There almost seems to be a *pattern*, but Bruce knows that that's his mind's way of urging him to focus, to lose himself to sound as opposed to everything else --

Bruce squeezes again and Lex *shouts*, *ruts* --

Jessica's scream is compelling even when Lex *swallows* it --

And then Jessica tenses, stops moving entirely --

Shakes *violently* --

Lex pulls back --

And Jessica's screams fill the air as she shudders, as she struggles against the hold Lex has on her wrists --

Bruce moans -- "I don't want this to end --"

"All. All good things --" Lex gasps a laugh and licks Jessica's mouth, her cheeks -- "Sweet. So. *Pump* me --"

Bruce does it, using the kind of force on Lex that Tom had taught him to use on himself --

"Give -- oh. Fuck, Bruce, *fuck* -- give me your *hand*."

Jessica is limp, panting for air and shuddering periodically --

Bruce slips his hand away from her vulva as gently as he can and then pushes his fingers between Lex's lips --

Lex grunts and flexes --

Drops to his elbows --

And the thrusts are the rhythm-less *shoves* that always mean --

"*Yes* -- I --" And he shouts into Jessica's mouth --

He does it again and her eyes fly open --

Again and her eyes roll *up* --

Lex collapses --

And Bruce forces himself to wait. To --

To somehow --

He waits, and he stares, and he's only half-erect, but he needs them with him now, he needs them to see him, know him like this --

Lex groans again and kisses Jessica all over her face while undoing the belt with shaking hands. "Jess. Are you with me?"

She whimpers and blinks rapidly, tenses and very obviously tries to *pull* herself back --

And then she opens her eyes. Her lashes are matted and there's moisture --

Tears. She --

And Bruce is leaning in to kiss the corners of her eyes before he can think about it --

Lex laughs softly, fondly -- "Bruce."

"I -- yes," Bruce says, and kisses her swollen mouth, sucking gently on each of her lips before pulling back --

And Jessica smiles at him warmly, *happily* --

Bruce smiles back before resting a hand on Lex's shoulder --

"Yes, I believe I *do* know what you want. And what all of us sincerely need. Do you know how to flex your internal muscles and push, Jess?"

Jessica blinks. "I -- I haven't -- um. I'll try --"

"Not quite that. Get your abdominal muscles -- there. That's the sensation of your *delightful* cunt loosening up enough for me to do *this* --" Lex pulls out --

Jessica squeaks again --

"With a *minimal* amount of pain. But you're going to be much too sore to play with that for at least a day."

"I. Um. May I touch now?"

Lex smiles. "Extensively -- in just a moment," he says, and moves off the gurney.

Jessica sits up --

"Bruce, do the honors."

"With pleasure," Bruce says, and lifts Jessica into his arms, carrying her to the bed Lex had insisted be added to the Cave.

Alfred had been unhappy about it -- he thought it would encourage Bruce to spend too much time down here -- but the truth is that thinking about the bed usually led to Bruce thinking about the beds upstairs, and how often they could be made warm and full with Lex's or Clark's presence.

Perhaps both of them, now.


Jessica has her arms wrapped around Bruce's neck and her head resting on his shoulder. She feels loose and warm --

She looks comfortable and happy -- and happier still when Lex cups her ankle and squeezes --

It's almost too much to hope for, almost --

No, he will quiet himself as best as he can. If nothing else, they need to get a fix on Jessica's multiversal signature in case she gets pulled away from them before she wishes to be --

And Bruce can't keep himself from tightening his grip on her for a moment before he lays her down on the bed.

Lex had even insisted it be placed in the shadow of the stairs --

He almost wants to go upstairs *now* --

But Harvey is asleep in Bruce's bed, and Bruce has to admit that he wants Jessica's scent in at least *one* of the beds Bruce calls his own. He is selfish.

He takes her right side and Lex takes her left --

And Jessica laughs. "I don't know which way to turn."

"Then stay *precisely* where you are," Lex says, and kisses her between her breasts --

"Yes, please. Unless... is there something I could bring you?"

"Ah -- um. More... skin? More of yours, I mean -- oh. So much *hair* --"

"Martha Wayne was actually a were-fox," and Lex kisses a path down her abdomen --


"You're right, I'm sorry. She was a were-*bear*."

Bruce laughs, helpless to the image of his mother mauling a paparazzo --

And Lex smiles at him from the top of Jessica's pubis. "I remember when mentioning *anything* about parents sent you into a tailspin of maudlin angst-humping."

"Angst -- Lex."

"Angst-wrestling? Angst-slow-dancing?"

Bruce hums and turns to Jessica, who is watching both of them. "As you can see, making love tends to put Lex in an... interesting mood."

Jessica smiles sharply. "Isn't he *always* in an interesting mood?"

Lex licks a stripe to Jessica's navel. "It wouldn't do to have you bored... darling."

She blushes and looks at Lex from under her lashes. "Then I suppose you and Bruce will be doing everything in your power to keep me... stimulated."

Bruce cups Jessica's breast and kisses the dusky rose areola -- "Yes."

She shivers. "Then -- I. I have another fantasy."

Lex nips the soft flesh around Jessica's navel. "Tell us."

"Just -- it's not. It's... well, it's *this*. Only I've never managed to *people* the fantasy for more than a few moments before... ah. Before the sense of unreality took over."

"Nothing seemed entirely real or true before I met Tom," Bruce says. "Do you mean it that way?"

"Ah... yes and no? I just. I want to talk to both of you. And -- touch," and Jessica cups Bruce's shoulder and tugs cautiously --

"Yes," and Bruce covers her carefully, leaving her other side for Lex --

"Spread her legs with your own, Bruce. *Pin* her leg."

"Oh --"

"Like this?"


Jessica blushes more deeply -- but her smile is broad. "I -- yes. Please. And you, Lex --"

"There are *some* benefits to this being a chill, dank hole in the ground. Chief among them is the enduring -- one might even say everlasting -- invitation to cuddle."

Bruce hums. "There's also training."

"Jess, stab him with something. I'm sure you could store something appropriate in your hair."

Jessica giggles. "I... I would like to watch you train, Bruce."

"I would be honored if you joined me. Perhaps you could show me some of the things you've learned."

Jessica's smile is a soft thing, a pleased thing --

Lex sighs with exaggerated bad humor. "Fine. *Be* that way. You *do* have other skills at your disposal --"

Jessica shows her teeth.

"Oh... yes, darling?"

She wriggles enough that she can fold her arm between her body and Lex's own, enough that she can pet... "There are any number of skills *both* of you can teach me."

Lex's nostrils flare. "Is *that* a kink?"

"I... hn. I'd ask why that was so strange... but everything you've both told me about him suggests that Tom had done most of the teaching...?"

"Oh, we were useless as teenagers. I could occasionally divert him with my conversation, Bruce was capable of being Bruce *at* him for hours at a time, but really..." Lex smiles and shakes his head. "We really were *braced* to have to seduce."

Jessica frowns. "It's not -- it was a never a failing in *you* that you had to seduce me -- mm. Mm?"

Lex presses gently on her lips with a finger. "I must here, at this juncture, remind you about my objections to your parents getting to have you for one moment longer. I was callous about that, and I apologize," Lex says, and smiles ruefully. "Even I have twinges of regret about my relationship with my father from time to time."

And Bruce -- has to. He reaches across Jessica to cup Lex's hip, to squeeze and try to *force* his condolences and apologies and *need* to help into him --

Lex sighs and squeezes Bruce's hand for a moment. "As you can see, Bruce-being-Bruce includes moments of perfect, *unassailable* sympathy for your troubles. In this, he will always be my superior."

"Really, Lex?" Bruce turns to Jessica. "As you can see, Lex-being-Lex includes moments of perfect generosity and an unstinting sense of justice --"

"Oh, please --"

"Are you going to argue that with me, Lex? Is that really what you're going to do?"

"*Yes*, you ass, I'm not a generous *man*."

Bruce hums. "He refused to let me change the name of the Wayne Foundation, despite the fact that he does the lion's share of the day-to-day business of the charity --"

"I know what you *want* for it --"

"Even when I don't, yes, Lex, you do. But that's not the only reason."

Lex glares at him.

Bruce raises an eyebrow.

Lex narrows his eyes --

And Jessica laughs, soft and bright and *happy*. Bruce can't help smiling at her --

And Lex strokes her face. "He's the one always thinking friendly, happy, world-improving thoughts all the time --"


"*My* world-improving thoughts are *rarely* friendly or happy, Bruce."

"By some definitions --"

"Mine are the only definitions that count," Lex says, pulling on his haughtiest voice and lifting his nose in the air --

Bruce coughs a laugh. "Lex."

Lex grins at him, brief and fierce, and turns to Jessica again. "As you can see, Bruce is an absolute pushover. Make him buy you *pretty* knives."

"I'll -- ah. Keep that in mind?"

"Hmm. So I wasn't wrong about what the way you moved said about your training with knives."

"It -- my training was unofficial. My sensei was unsatisfied with what I was doing with my martial arts training alone, and would keep me back after class to teach me weapons. Mostly knives."

Bruce frowns. "Do you know why she was unsatisfied with your unarmed combat?"

Jessica smiles ruefully. "She said I had technical proficiency down, but that I was far too hesitant to go as far as I should've been able to go --

Lex strikes *lightly* for Jessica's face --

Jessica blocks and dodges well despite being halfway pinned -- but doesn't immediately press an attack.

Bruce and Lex nod together.

Jessica sighs. "So that was... obvious. I'm betting Tom never paused like that, did he?"

Lex frowns lightly. "Tom was always -- always -- ready for a fight. *Possibly* always ready to fight for his *life*."

Bruce nods. "He had difficulty hiding the readiness from others. Even I noticed it after only a couple of days in his company, and I had only ever seen one martial arts film at the time."

"It was almost as if... hm. Jess, when's the last time you felt threatened?"

She raises an eyebrow. "We were in your *office*, Lex."

Lex laughs quietly. "So we were. Your instincts were top-notch, then."

"I -- I'd rather not live my life feeling *threatened*."

"Yes, I can understand that," Bruce says, and frowns. "Our theory is that Tom had, at some point in the future, been my partner. That the things he saw and did on a nightly basis left him naturally... tense."

Jessica bites her lip -- stops. "That... that does make sense."

Lex strokes Jessica's cheek again. "But you don't want to think about it that way. You still harbor some degree of romantic fantasy about the things Bruce does."

Jessica blushes. "I -- I'm working on it."

Bruce strokes her other cheek. "There are times when I believe -- when I'm *sure* -- that Tom enjoyed the Mission more than I do. That he took honest pleasure even from the darkest things he'd seen... and that he found both guilt and fortitude in just that."

"I... that also makes sense. Um. You're making me want to do... many, many push-ups. At the moment."

"Then this conversation needs to stop immediately," Lex says, and finally pins Jessica's other side.

"Lex. You're more obsessive about self-improvement than nearly everyone I know."

"Horseshoes and hand grenades, darling. Now cuddle this delightful young woman until she starts being reasonable again."

Jessica snorts and wriggles -- but doesn't try to get free. "If you want to *keep* me, you *have* to let me improve myself."

The practicality is, perhaps, a constant - something which must be reckoned with no matter which universe is breached --

(Your path will be a lonely --)

No, Bruce thinks, and leans in to kiss Jessica's forehead. "I will teach you everything I know, Jessica. And I will learn from you whenever you feel moved to teach... and sometimes when you don't feel moved, as well."

Jessica shivers. "I meant -- I didn't mean that I would --"

"It's all right, darling. Give us this time."

"I -- it only -- a part of me wants to let you both know that I'm going against *inclination*," Jessica says, and looks back and forth between them --

"But you aren't."

Jessica smiles ruefully and sighs. "No, I'm not. I -- let's. Let's think about other things? Please."

"Of course," Lex says, and strokes Jessica's shin with his foot. "*Do* tell us what else Mercy purchased for you."

Jessica coughs a laugh. "Lex."

"We have to begin broadening your wardrobe. And, of course, we'll have to find something suitable for you to fight crime in."

"I -- you -- um."

"Lex was a great help when I was designing my uniform, Jessica. It's much more dramatic than I would've chosen, but it does tend to keep criminals distracted."

"Can you believe Bruce was actually going to go out there with only a three-quarter length cape? It's all very well and good to have your upper body's shape and size disguised, but if your *legs* are sticking out at the bottom -- " Lex sighs disgustedly. "Well. We fixed that. And we'll fix something for you, too."

Jessica's expression... quirks. "I don't know why it didn't occur to me that you would have a hand in designing the uniforms, Lex. In retrospect, it seems... obvious. Chillingly obvious, actually."

"The uniforms are fabulous, aren't they?"

"Yes, but --"

"And practical? With all sorts of roomy bits for all sorts of useful gadgets?"

"Well -- yes, but --"

"And all the other vigilantes are jealous and get infinitely less good press?"

Jessica scowls at Lex -- and then snorts and laughs helplessly. "No *heels*."

"Not even when you're on a date with me, darling?"

"I --" Jessica blushes. "Well. We'll negotiate."

"That's all I can ask," Lex says, and brings her hand to his mouth for a kiss. "Bruce, turn on that bedside lamp."

Bruce does --

"There, *now* we're warm and cozy. The outfits?"

Jessica sighs and smiles wryly --

And begins to tell them all about them.