1. Lyra is the best.
2. She's still the best.
3. Lyra remains the best.
I heart my beta. *Hugs* *Hugs* *Hugs*
So you know that Clexian AU I posted a tease from the other day? Here's a first chapter. It's set the summer after Clark's freshman year at Met U. So...enjoy!
Keys jingled in his hands as Clark took a deep breath. “I am not,” he said for the tenth time, “a secretary!” He glared at Pete, and unlocked his door, feeling a little thrill at the idea of ‘his door,’ – the door that led into ‘his apartment,’ with ‘his refrigerator,’ ‘his bedroom,’ and ‘his Playstation 2.’
Pete laughed and set his box down with a shrug. “All I’m sayin’, man, is that you’re spending your summer in an office taking phone calls, filing things, and scheduling appointments. Do you prefer the term ‘receptionist’ or ‘office assistant’?”
“Neither! I’m working as a paid intern, okay? And besides, when you’re poor next November and asking me to spot you some cash, ‘intern’ will be looking pretty sweet to you.” Clark just barely resisted the urge to stick his tongue out and say ‘so there.’
Pete opened his mouth to say something, but Clark rolled his eyes. “I thought we agreed earlier today that we were above the Monica Lewinsky jokes.”
“Hey! I didn’t say anything!”
Clark grinned. “But you were going to.”
“Kent, sometimes you’re just spooky,” Pete told him, collapsing on a faded green couch and staring up at the ceiling. “There’s something funky up there,” he informed Clark. “A stain kinda shaped like a cactus. It’s weird.”
“Yeah, but it’s *my* cactus shaped stain,” Clark said, moving a box to sit next to him. “On *my* ceiling. God, I can’t believe this. I have an *apartment*, Pete. And a job. And I’m going to go buy my own food later and then cook it and probably burn it. Whoa. That’s so cool.”
Pete laughed, and hit his shoulder. “Don’t worry about being all grown up just yet. So, Chloe’s just about foaming at the mouth at the idea that she’s not the one who’s getting to spend all summer hovering over Lex Luthor’s shoulder.”
“I bet,” Clark responded with a quick grin, looking up at the water stain on his ceiling. “But I’m *not* going to interrogate or interview him, or anything like that. He signs my paychecks, so I don’t really want to get on his bad side. I kind of get the feeling that the questions Chloe would want me to ask would lead to one of those awkward silences. You know, the kind that could end up getting me fired.”
“I hear that,” Pete agreed, squinting upward. “Doesn’t really look that much like a cactus, does it?”
“Not really,” Clark said easily. “I was trying to see the resemblance, but there kinda isn’t one.”
There was a pause and Pete sighed heavily. “We’re going to miss you this summer, Kent.”
“I’ll miss you guys, too, but this gives you more of a chance to try and get Chloe naked,” Clark teased.
Pete snorted. “I think I’d probably have a better chance if you were in the room. Seriously, man, you could still come home. You know, maybe being around Lana again’ll get those old feelings going and things’ll work themselves out, or something.”
“They wouldn’t, Pete,” he said firmly, eyes closing briefly. “And that’s probably for the best. The only reason I’m staying this summer is the apartment. If I’m going to live anywhere next year, this apartment’s going to kind of be key, you know? I’d like to be able to afford it.”
“Good ol’ Met U,” Pete snickered. “Gotta love the ‘no guaranteed housing,’ thing.”
Clark shrugged. “Yeah, but if I’d gotten a dorm for next year I’d be packing up boxes and taking them back to Smallville, and then taking them back to Metropolis. It’s like musical rooms or something. At least this way I get to stay put, and, y’know…behold! My own private apartment!”
He grinned at Pete, who raised an eyebrow and looked around skeptically. It was a one-bedroom apartment with a cramped kitchen and an even more cramped living room. Clark could stand in the middle of any room and extend both arms and almost lay his palms flat against the walls. The sink in the bathroom was dripping, and there was the matter of the stain on the ceiling. But there was a television that got cable, and the refrigerator was big enough to fit quite a few six packs and at least two pizzas, so maybe it wasn’t all bad.
“Yeah. Your own private apartment,” Pete said, starting to grin back as an idea occurred to him. “Off campus. Where we can throw parties without worrying about campus security shutting us down.”
Clark’s own smile faltered. “Pete, I’m not sure that’s a good idea. No campus security, but…you know…cops?”
Pete just grinned wider. “It could be a fiesta…we could get paper cactuses to go with your stain. Man, this’ll be awesome!”
“I thought we agreed it didn’t look like cactus,” Clark muttered, looking up at the ceiling again. “Maybe more like a…fork. Or someone flipping me the bird, but not a cactus.”
“Details, my man, details,” Pete said, waving the inaccuracy away breezily.
Clark frowned. “C’mon, Pete. No parties here. I don’t want to lose the lease.”
Pete shook his head. “You have *got* to loosen up and learn how to have a good time. You could learn a little something from your new boss-to-be, Mr. Intern. How’d you land a job in Lex Luthor’s private office anyway?”
“Chloe’s dad pulled some strings for me. He’s been managing the plant in Smallville for years and years, and LexCorp owns it. I’m lucky to have gotten it, I guess…it’s a pretty cushy job.”
“Yeah, but I bet your dad’s giving you a rough time over it.”
Clark sighed, shaking his head. “You don’t even know the half of it. Even after I pointed out that I’m mostly going to be filing for Mr. Luthor’s *administrative assistant*, he was acting like I was taking over the plant in Smallville or something. Mom had to work her mojo on him before he even agreed that it was the best pay I could hope for.”
“Just filing for the other secretary, huh? So that makes you, what? An under-secretary?” Pete asked, eyes twinkling with devilment.
“I am not a secretary! I am an intern! In. Tern.” Clark said, probably louder than necessary because Pete shook his head, a hand clapped over his ear.
“Whatever, man. Anyway, from what Chloe says, Lex Luthor’s a man who likes to have a good time, and you my man, are in desperate need of that knowledge. Maybe he’ll teach you how to party or something, because the man’s a party animal. Or he used to be, anyway.”
“How would Chloe know?” Clark’s eyes narrowed with confusion as he turned to Pete. “Have they met or something?”
“Nah, nothing like that,” Pete said with a shrug. “But she’s been reading The Inquisitor overtime. Lex Luthor seems to make it every week. She was gonna cut all of the stories out and send them to you, but she got distracted by some kind of Bat Boy thing going on in Gotham. But Luthor’s always in the hippest clubs and stuff…maybe he could get you and some of your friends in, too?” Pete turned hopeful eyes toward Clark.
Clark shook his head. “Pete, man, I seriously doubt I will be spending any time with Lex Luthor that doesn’t involve him telling me how much sugar to put in his coffee or when he wants to schedule meetings, if that.”
“Told ya you were a secretary,” Pete said, grin back in place.
Pete was right, Clark reflected, pressing the heels of his hands against his eyes. He was a secretary.
And a very bad one at that.
In the past three days he had not only managed to break the coffee machine in the staff kitchen, spill water on not one, but *two* different important files, give out wrong information and freeze his computer at least twice daily, but he’d also put Lionel Luthor through to the plant in Smallville instead patching him to his son. Ten minutes ago.
After realizing what he’d just done, Clark had quietly flipped out at his desk for a full three minutes before deciding that he’d probably be better off if he left the scene of the crime. He’d briefly toyed with the idea of running off to a cave in Fiji and living off the land for the rest of his natural life, but had decided on going to the men’s room instead. Seven minutes later, he was still in the men’s room, hiding.
“You,” he said to his reflection in the mirror, “are such a twelve year old girl. You’re hiding in the bathroom, Clark! The bathroom! Nobody hides in the bathroom unless they’ve got a double ‘x’ chromosome!
“So what if you suck at your job and you’re going to get fired?” Clark continued, pointing at his image. “You should at least go out there and take it like a man. No more of this bathroom bullshit, and Fiji is out too. Sure, the cave sounds like a good idea now, but wait until the monsoon season when you get flooded. Then you’ll *really* miss the apartment you aren’t going to be able to afford when Lex Luthor fires your sorry ass for putting his dad through to the crap factory….”
Clark shook his head at himself. “And could you be any lamer? Now you’re standing here in the bathroom, talking to yourself. Yeah, you’ve completely lost it, Kent. So you’re going to go out there, and you’re going to sit at that desk, and you’re going to…I don’t know. But you’re going to go back out there. And that’s all there is to it.”
“Pretty rudimentary plan,” a smooth, amused voice commented. “Me, I’d pick Fiji any day.”
Clark whirled quickly, almost *too* quickly, and mentally chalked that slip up to yet another way in which he’d messed up today. Lex Luthor stood by the door, arms crossed and a smile tugging at his lips. He didn’t look pissed off. Or maybe he did. Clark couldn’t tell.
Either way, Clark’s desire to leave the bathroom had just escalated to *need*. He could feel the wash of crimson rising over his throat, up into his cheeks and did he really *have* to blush so noticeably? “Mr. Luthor, I didn’t know you were here, I…I’m just going to, uhm –”
“Go back out to your desk,” Lex finished, giving into the impulse to smile. “And then I’m supposed to go out there, and fire you, am I right?”
“Uhm…I…that’s up to you, sir,” he said, drawing himself up straighter.
Lex nodded, leaning against the sink with his hands in his pockets, and thought for a moment. “Should I humiliate you when I fire you?”
His teeth were very white. They looked sharp. Clark wasn’t sure how to answer the question. “I would prefer it if you didn’t?” he managed.
“Fair enough,” Lex replied. “Now, tell me, Clark Kent…why am I firing you?”
Because I’m incompetent? Clark thought, but wisely bit the words back. “The…incident. With your father. On the phone. With the…fertilizer plant.”
“Ahh, yes. You put him through to the plant in Smallville.” Lex looked down at his shoes.
Clark held his breath, readying himself for some kind of stinging set down. He’d heard that Lex Luthor could cut someone to bits with a well-worded sentence, and Clark was sure he was about to experience it first hand. That is, he was sure until he noticed Lex’s shoulders shaking.
“You put him through to the plant…‘the crap factory’…” Lex repeated, and Clark realized he was laughing. Rather hard, actually. And Clark began to breathe again.
“God,” Lex threw his head back, laughing out loud. “I’m going to start insisting that every time the old bastard calls to yank my chain he’s connected to the ‘crap factory.’”
“Mr. Luthor?” Clark asked, hesitant.
“Please, you’re the first person in weeks who’s made me laugh this hard. Call me Lex.” His cool blue eyes danced with merriment as he studied Clark. “Don’t worry, Clark, I’m not going to fire you. You make life interesting.”
Clark could feel his eyes widening and his jaw beginning to drop. He managed to stop it before it dropped all the way open, because that would be very uncool. “Thank you, sir…Lex, I mean. Thanks, Lex.”
“Don’t mention it,” Lex said, opening the door to the bathroom, before pausing and turning back to Clark. “I hope you don’t run off to Fiji any time soon. Or if you do, let me know. Fiji’s fun this time of year.”
“I met Lex Luthor today,” Clark told Chloe over the phone, as he fanned smoke out the kitchen window, grimacing.
“Really?” He could practically hear her leaning forward and raising an eyebrow. “What’s he like?”
“He’s, uhm, very…” Clark frowned as he thought. “He’s very…smooth.”
Chloe was rolling her eyes. He just knew it. “Smooth?”
He nodded, and took a bite of his blackened grilled cheese. “Yeah, smooth. I mean, like…slick. He really is bald, you know. But it’s not like, weird, or anything. It’s kinda cool actually. It looks pretty good on him.”
“Really, Clark?” Chloe said dryly, but her tone was lost on him.
“Yeah. It’s probably because of the whole confidence thing. It’s not like he comes off as arrogant or anything, but, he’s definitely got a *presence*, you know?” Clark paused for a second, swallowing. “He’s funny, too. Lex is just a really cool guy, not at all like you’d think he’d be.”
“Geez, sounds like you’re ready to ask him out on a date.” Chloe snickered. “And since when were you on a first name basis with Lex Luthor?”
“Since today,” Clark answered, defensively. “And I’m not going to ask him out on a date.”
“All right, all right, so how did you meet Lex, the really cool guy?”
“See, that’s an interesting story,” he began.
“An interesting story?” Chloe asked, voice sharpening. “What happened, Kent?”
Clark winced, and haltingly, told Chloe everything. From the coffee machine, to Lionel and the crap factory, to Fiji. By the end, she was giggling almost hysterically and Clark was blushing furiously.
“Shut up, Chloe,” he muttered, looking out the window at the fire escape.
“Man, Clark, sounds like Lex wants to ask you out, too,” Chloe said, still giggling. “A match made in heaven. ‘Smallville Boy Strikes Gold; Clark Kent Becomes Billionaire’s Boy Toy.’”
He blushed harder, and was glad she couldn’t see him. “What? No! He didn’t mean it like that at all.”
“I knew you were in for trouble when you told me you were becoming an intern. Maybe I’ll let Pete send you that blue dress after all,” Chloe teased.
“So, about Pete…” Clark said, jumping at the chance to change the subject. “How are things going? You guys having fun?”
“Yeah, we’re having a great time,” she responded, too quickly.
“Oh really? A great time? Or a really great time?” he pressed, letting his voice carry the hint of a leer.
She sighed. “We’re having a great time, Clark. Really.”
“Chloe, what’s wrong?” Clark asked, voice softening with concern.
“Nothing, Clark,” she told him, sounding tired. “Nothing’s wrong. Listen, I’m going to go. I’ll catch you later, okay? Have fun with *Lex*.”
“I will, Chlo,” he said quietly. “And hey? I’m here. You know, if you need me.”
“Yeah, I know,” she responded after a beat. “Bye.”
Clark barely waited for the dial tone to sound before he called Pete. “What’s going on with Chloe?” he demanded without preamble.
“Clark, man, how am I supposed to know what’s going on with her?” Pete responded irritably. “The only person that knows what goes on in the mind of Chloe Sullivan is Chloe Sullivan, and she’s not about to share that information with mere mortals like us.”
“Pete, are you two fighting or something?”
“No,” Pete answered shortly. “Listen, I’m really busy. I’ll call you back later, okay? Oh, and I saw Lana yesterday. She says hi.”
“Oh,” Clark said, looking down. “I...tell her I said hi back,” he told Pete, voice carefully neutral. He recognized the deflection for what it was easily, but still felt a kind of stilted sadness at the mention of Lana’s name.
“Yeah, I will. Catch you later,” Pete said and hung up.
Clark frowned at the phone. For the first time since they’d broken up, he wished he could call Lana, just to ask about Chloe and Pete, but Clark knew better than that. Any phone call between the two of them would be…polite and as awkward as was humanly possible.
He didn’t miss her as much as he’d expected to, and Clark wasn’t sure if that was good, or if it was bad, or if it just was. He was leaning toward the ‘just was’ option. Time and distance conspired to heal all wounds, right?
If time could get him through breaking up with Lana Lang, time would be able to fix whatever was up with Chloe and Pete. He was sure of it.
Chewing on the last of his grilled cheese, Clark stared up at his ceiling. The stain, he decided, looked more like some kind of post-modern Pegasus, rearing up on one leg. He thought about that for a moment, and then shook his head. He’d definitely gone to one too many art shows with Lana. Post-modern Pegasus? That was ridiculous. About as ridiculous as Chloe’s ‘Lex wants to date Clark’ theory.
Because, after all, in all of the tabloids that Clark had ever read, Lex Luthor was always linked with a woman. Usually a very attractive woman who had some kind of scandal up her sleeve, but still, it was always very much someone female. And Clark was most definitely not female, and therefore was not someone with whom Lex would want to flirt. End of story, QED.
Satisfied that the stain on his ceiling was *not* a cactus and that Lex Luthor had no sexual interest in him *whatsoever* and that Chloe and Pete would figure out… whatever needed figuring out, Clark turned on the television, and kicked his feet up.
He channel surfed for a bit before falling asleep to the sound of an infomercial, safe in the knowledge that all was right and sane in his world.
Clark woke hours later to the far off sound of a woman screaming. She sounded terrified, and before it registered that he was making the decision, Clark was out the door, and running toward the screams at top speed. It was late, so there weren’t many people out, but he blurred past everyone in his path – nothing more than a breath of wind against their skins.
It was an alley, and it was dark and crowded. The woman wasn’t screaming anymore because her mouth had been covered by a black-gloved hand. Three men were crowded around her, and the air was thick -- filled with violence.
Clark could see the woman’s eyes. They were wide, and brown, and filled with tears. Her beige skirt was pushed up to her waist, and one of them was trying to wrench her thighs apart. She whimpered, and Clark stepped into the alley.
“Let her go,” he ordered, and was surprised by the calm, confidence of his voice. It didn’t betray any of the rage that had his hands shaking slightly. “Let her go now.”
One man stepped forward and laughed. It wasn’t a pleasant sound, and moonlight glinted off his knife as he jumped Clark. The fight was over quickly, leaving no one in the alleyway conscious but Clark and the woman he’d saved. He tied the men up before turning to her, careful to keep to the shadows.
“Th-thank you,” she stammered, rubbing her arms. “I…wh-who are you?” She stepped toward him, trying to make out his features in the dark, and Clark was suddenly afraid of being seen. His father’s voice pounded through his head with a million warnings, and he shrank back.
“No one,” he whispered gruffly. “Just go home. You’re safe.”
She watched as he breezed past her. When he was near home he called in an anonymous tip to the police.
He didn’t sleep again that night, but lay in his bed, eyes open and staring as he listened to the sounds of Metropolis in the night – the motors of cars, the voices of people walking down the street, music from the night club two buildings down. The usual sounds of a city at night, and he was relieved to hear them.
Clark had thought that the last of his powers had manifested when he was eighteen and had learned how to fly when he was awake, but for the past few months his hearing had been phasing in and out of normal levels. Sometimes he could hear just like anyone else – any human – but sometimes, sometimes his hearing was so sensitive that he could hear whispered conversations blocks away.
Usually his hearing wasn’t sensitive unless something terrible was happening, and a part of Clark was pissed off that it couldn’t be sensitive when someone was saying something good about him. Like that he had a cute butt, or something. But no, Clark, the luckiest alien this side of Marvin the Martian, got to hear catastrophes in the distance.
And he could stop them all, easily. Or if not easily, he could at least still *try* to stop these things from happening. So didn’t that mean that he had to? That’s what his father had always said, back in Smallville.
But his father had also told him to hide his abilities, to keep from drawing attention to himself. In Smallville that’d been hard enough, if only because Chloe’s eyes were always stubbornly wide-open. Lana’s, too, for that matter, even if she didn’t make a show of it, like Chloe did. But back in Smallville, people had a way of looking past the big, obvious bouts of weirdness.
In Metropolis, that didn’t happen. Clark couldn’t rely on one of his stock “adrenaline” answers and blow off something like lifting a car with one hand to save a frightened little girl. People would want to know how he’d been able to do it, and that would lead to all kinds of problems.
Problems like labs, and dissections, and cages. And Clark really wanted to avoid those problems because those were the problems that gave him nightmares.
And so he’d let a woman get beaten, badly, by her husband and he let an old man’s leg get broken when he wandered into the wrong part of town and was mugged. The old man lost four hundred dollars and his fifty-year-old wedding ring, and the woman had lost feeling in her left hand.
He wasn’t sure that he would have saved the woman tonight if he’d stopped to think about it, and that made him feel sick. If he hadn’t shown up in time…he didn’t want that on his conscience. No more than he wanted the old man and beaten wife, and Clark wished like hell that he could go back and save them, because he had these gifts, and he could help these people and he wanted to, wanted to *so much*.
She’d seen him, tonight. Seen him moving faster than any human could have, and maybe she’d seen his face, too. He wondered if she’d recognize him if they ever ran into one another, and if anyone would believe her if she told them what had happened.
Clark blinked, and looked out the window. He tried very hard not to think about cages, or meteor rocks, noticing instead the way orange light from the street lamps landed on the windows of the skyscraper down the street. It wasn’t comforting, but it wasn’t threatening either, and Clark was willing to accept the ease that gave him without asking for more.
The sun came up slowly, light slipping into the apartment in stages. Clark did sit-ups in the living room, because he was tired of staring out the window and he didn’t want to watch the news. By the time he’d reached fifty, it was seven o’clock and his phone was ringing.
“So what did you do last night?” Chloe asked him by way of greeting.
Clark ran a hand through his hair. “Uhm…watched t.v.?” he offered, frowning.
“Did you know that the Daily Planet gets delivered to my house every day? I get it around six in the morning. It’s kind of a cool system.”
“That’s cool,” Clark said, confused.
“I read this article in it this morning. I thought it was pretty interesting.”
He frowned harder, started pacing. “Yeah?”
“Yeah.” Chloe cleared her throat, and adopted an instructive tone of voice. “‘I called for help, not because I expected it, but because it’s what people do when they’re afraid. This time, though, it came. He appeared out of the shadows and saved my life,’” she read before pausing, and he could just see her eyebrow raising. “Sounds like something that could have happened in Smallville when we were in high school.”
“Really? What do you mean?” He did his best to sound confused and tired and interested, really he did, but he couldn’t quite stop an edge of hysteria from creeping into his voice.
“Lois Lane, the newest star reporter in the Daily Planet’s orbit, got assaulted last night. She says she would have been raped if mystery man hadn’t shown up out of nowhere and saved her life. Look at the editorial section of today’s newspaper. The article’s called, ‘The Masked Samaritan’. You should check it out, Clark.”
“I will, Chloe,” he said evenly. “But I still don’t see what this has to do with me.”
She sighed heavily. “It’s got you written all over it, Kent. This mystery guy was at the right place, at the right time. Much like a certain farm boy we both know and love tended to be.”
“Chloe, Metropolis is a very big city. I have no idea why you would assume that this masked Samaritan or whatever is me. I watched adult swim on the Cartoon Network, and fell asleep last night.” Clark pinched the bridge of his nose, feeling the beginnings of a headache of epic proportions.
“Call it a hunch, or woman’s intuition, or whatever you want,” Chloe told him, pausing for a moment. “It’s…it’s more than just you being in the ‘right place at the right time,’ or whatever that means. You help people, Clark, it’s what you do. I mean, it’s like a law of nature. Birds fly south in the winter, and you’re there when people need helping.”
He glared at the wall, trying to shake off her observations. “No, Chloe, what I do is file. I file and I make phone calls and I get to work on time, which is why I’m going to hang up now, okay? Because I have to get dressed and get out the door in the next half hour, and I really think that the ‘crackpot theory’ portion of my morning needs to be over.”
“I’m not saying it’s a bad thing! I’m just saying that it’s part of who you are,” Chloe protested.
“Who I am is a man who needs to get off the phone now,” Clark said, doing his best not to growl.
“Fine. But I’m not letting this go,” she warned him.
“Chloe, why don’t you go talk to Pete instead of obsessing over the Daily Planet, okay?” he snapped back.
There was a hurt pause. “Fine, Clark. Go to work.”
“Damn, Chloe, I –” he started, running a hand through his hair again. The headache pounded at the back of his head, as if trying to gain access.
“Just go, okay? I’ll talk to you later.” She took an audible breath, and he could picture the brave but pissed off smile on her face. “Flirt with Lex Luthor for me, okay?”
“I don’t flirt with boys, Chloe,” Clark said, relieved by her teasing tone. If she was teasing him already, he hadn’t messed up too badly.
Chloe laughed. “Clark, Lex Luthor isn’t a boy.”
“Oh? What is he then? A mandroid?”
“Lex Luthor is neither boy nor mandroid,” she informed him. “Lex Luthor is a man.”
When he’d lived at home, Clark had always found his father’s negative attitude toward machines to be rather backward. He’d tried to convince his father technology was good, and should be used more often around the farm, and failing that, he’d made fun of his father for being a luddite, although he hadn’t known the word until he’d started studying for his SATs. But when he’d learned it, he’d used it, and frequently.
And now, he was beginning to regret all of that mocking. Because his father really did have a point.
Technology was bad. Machines were bad. Especially if they were photocopiers.
Because photocopiers, Clark was finding, were just plain evil. Eating kittens and killing babies type evil.
“It starts,” he muttered, glaring at the photocopier that simply refused to work. “At first you and your kind just toy with us mortals, making our lives more difficult by crashing and taunting us instead of performing your function. Next thing you know, the T-1000 is herding humans into small rooms for extinction. I know what you’re up to. I’m a sci-fi geek. This is the first step in the classic ‘machines try to rule world’ gambit. But it won’t work, do you hear me?”
He glared at it, but no copies were made. “You and your kind will never rule the earth. Not while I can still smash you.”
“You seem to have a habit of talking to yourself,” Lex observed from the doorway.
Clark jumped, and looked over his shoulder. “And you have a habit of sneaking up on me,” he shot back, before realizing that he was talking to his *boss*. Really, his boss’ boss, but in the end, his money came from Lex Luthor, and he’d just snapped at Lex without thinking about it.
Lex didn’t seem to mind though. He just shrugged and smiled. “Well, your back seems to always be turned to the door. I don’t seem to have many options. May I ask that you don’t smash the Xerox machine?”
“Uhm, I wasn’t really going to,” Clark said, flushing, and looking down. “Just, you know…aggravated.”
“And you thought threatening the machine would make it function properly?” Lex asked, brow quirking upward and eyes gleaming with humor. “Interesting theory. I’ll use it on my laptop next time it decides not to work.”
Clark shrugged, looking at the still non-functional photocopier. “Yeah, well, it hasn’t made much of a difference here. I’m starting to think about transcribing twenty copies of this by hand. It would probably get done faster.”
“Use black ink,” Lex advised solemnly.
“Will do,” Clark promised. “Is there anything I can help you with?”
“No, no.” Lex waved him away, turning to look through the piles of newspapers stacked on a desk pushed against the far wall of the small room. He shot Clark a look over his shoulder. “Would you believe me if I said I was trying to hide?”
“From what?” Clark asked, pushing a new set of keys on the photocopier and hoping for a different outcome. The machine remained inert.
“The huge piles of paperwork on my desk and the conference call I’m supposed to make in about ten minutes?” Lex shrugged, one shoulder moving quickly up and down in a fluid gesture, and then grinned – all white teeth, and arching eyebrows as he leaned in toward Clark. “Or maybe I’m just looking for today’s Daily Planet.”
Clark studied his eyes for a moment. They were a cool blue, but somehow not…cold, like chips of glass in the sun. “Which one is it?”
Lex’s grin widened. “I don’t really know.”
He reached past Clark to the photocopier, his cheek almost brushing against Clark’s as he pressed some buttons on the keypad, seemingly at random. Lex smelled like something expensive. Maybe it was aftershave, maybe it was body wash, but Clark could tell just by the scent that there was no way he’d ever be able to afford it.
A strange noise issued from the photocopier. Something between a whine and a creak, and it started to finally make copies. “How did you do that?” Clark demanded, eyes wide.
“Haven’t you heard?” Lex asked, smirking. “I’m a genius.”
“Must be,” Clark said, smiling back. The hum of the photocopier filled the room. After a long moment, Lex picked up the newspaper, and left with a small wave. As Clark waited for all of his copies to print, he wondered if he’d just flirted with Lex.
He wasn’t able to come up with an answer.
This was something Clark could do, he realized toward the end of the week. He wasn’t in love with waking up early in the morning, and his telephone voice needed work. But, for the most part, working in Lex’s office was…fun?
No, that was very much so the wrong word. It wasn’t fun, but it was okay. Better than okay. Fun-ish?
While he was getting a hang of the filing system, although his computer remained possessed by some unholy demon that was bent on making his life hell, but Clark could live with that. Mostly, he liked the people he worked with. The PR people were friendly, Lex’s receptionist fussed over Clark and his boss was a nice guy, if a bit anal-retentive. Lex’s body guards were…well, a little creepy, but he got the feeling that if they warmed up to him, they’d be okay. Maybe.
Lex, though, was definitely the coolest person in the office. Having lived an entire life under the impression that all things Luthor were most likely tainted by corruption, if not out and out E-vil, Clark had expected…horns?
Probably not actually horns, but at least some kind of bitchiness or something. Possibly temper tantrums and knife throwing. But Lex was…friendly. In a snarky, funny kind of way.
Clark liked him. Really liked him.
Lex made a point of coming by to see how Clark was doing every day, and even though he usually managed to show up when Clark was doing something wrong, Clark looked forward to it. Even *if* Lex was just trying to make Clark feel more comfortable on his first week of work, which was probably the case.
And besides the whole ‘Lex kind of rocks’ issue, it was neat to just shoot the breeze with *the* Lex Luthor.
The weekend passed by relatively uneventfully, despite Chloe’s continued, desperately annoying, attempt to pry something out of him about the Lois Lane rescue. He kept deflecting her, and she kept on poking at him. But that’s the way Chloe always was, and Clark was used to it, so he just hunkered down, and waited for it to blow over.
Monday morning was too bright, too early, and too lacking in coffee, Clark decided as he sat at his desk. His eyelids felt heavy with exhaustion, and kept falling closed every so often. He entered information into his computer mechanically, acting on autopilot more than any kind of meaningful cerebral functions, and the morning slid by.
“Dreaming about Fiji?” Lex asked from behind him, startling Clark. His eyes drifted to the clock, which read 12:30 p.m.
“Yeah, I was thinking about the pet Komodo dragon I’m going to have when I finally move there,” Clark joked, turning. “What can I do for you?”
Lex sat on the corner of his desk, arms crossed and a small smile on his face. The ice blue of his eyes warmed as the smile widened. “A dragon, Clark? Does this dragon have a name?”
“I was thinking about ‘Puff’ but I decided that wasn’t too original. So I guess I’ll settle for Dale.”
Lex laughed. “Why Dale?”
“Why not? I like the name Dale.”
“Fair enough. Dale,” he repeated to himself with a small shake of his head. “Well, it’s your pet. So, you hungry, Clark?”
Clark grinned. “I could eat a horse.”
“I was planning on eating at the deli on the corner, and I’m not sure that horse is on the menu, but you’re welcome to join me anyway,” Lex invited.
Clark nodded, and stood, following Lex out of the office, and wondered what Chloe would say if she were there.
“So you’re from Smallville?” Lex asked as they left the building, although it was really more of a statement of fact masquerading as a question. At his nod, Lex continued. “You like it there?”
“It’s home,” Clark told him with a shrug. “You know, it’s…pretty claustrophobic and boring, and kind of weird – in that small-town way,” he hastened to add, “but, it’s where I grew up, so…yeah, I guess I like it.”
Lex slanted him a glance. “Then why didn’t you go home for the summer? Not that aren’t glad to have you at LexCorp.”
Clark snorted. “Yeah, ‘cause I do so much for LexCorp.”
Lex shrugged. “You’re the most interesting person in the office by far.”
Clark flushed, and smiled bashfully before stopping himself when he realized he was half a heartbeat away from saying ‘Aw, shucks.’
“So why stay in Metropolis, Clark?” Lex asked again as they neared the deli.
“My own apartment, a strong desire not to live with my parents again, a messy break up with a girl from back home…pick a reason,” Clark said without thinking. He blinked, and looked over at Lex. “Whoa, that was probably way more information than you really wanted.”
Lex’s teeth were even whiter than his skin when he smiled. “Clark,” he promised, “so far as I’m concerned, there’s no such thing as too much information.”
He opened the door to the deli and ushered Clark through.
“No such thing?” Clark challenged, raising an eyebrow.
“Exactly,” Lex confirmed, lips twitching. “And I really do mean it.”
“We’ll see about that.”
Lex’s lips twitched again. “Try me.”
Clark looked around the deli, focusing on the man working on the cash register for a long moment, before turning back to Lex. “What if I told you that guy was wearing some kind of strappy lingerie underneath his work clothes?”
“I’d tell you that he probably couldn’t have gotten it at Frederick’s of Hollywood because they don’t make anything in his size,” Lex dead panned, and Clark snickered.
“Okay, what if I said that there was dog in their bratwurst?”
Lex shrugged fluidly. “I’d say that dog must taste even better than I always assumed it would.”
“Are you serious?” Clark asked, turning to face Lex. “That would really be your reaction to eating dog? Without knowing it?”
“Most likely, yes,” Lex returned. “I’ve wanted to try dog.”
“You’re weird,” Clark said fervently. “Like, really weird.”
“I’ve heard that before,” he said, turning blue-grey eyes toward Clark again. They ran over his face for a long moment, and Clark found it oddly hard to breathe. He decided that he would also not examine what Chloe would say about this particular moment in time.
“Hey, Lex, why did you ask me to lunch?” Clark asked again, eyes locked with Lex’s. The blue in his eyes flared again, and Lex raised both brows.
“I told you, Clark. You’re the most interesting one in the office. Besides,” he added slyly, “I like you. Eating with someone you like or at least tolerate really does help digestion.”
Both of Clark’s brows lifted. “So I’m here as preemptive Pepto Bismol?”
Lex laughed. “No, you’re here because you can say things like that with a straight face. Like I said, you make life interesting.” His eyes locked with Clark’s again. “I like life to be interesting.”
It only occurred to Clark later that it might have been a bit strange for Lex’s voice to make him shiver, but at the time it seemed perfectly normal. “Thanks,” he said, voice lower than usual.
He only got a smile in response as Lex checked his watch. “We’ve only got about a half hour. I have a meeting with my father across the street.” Lex grimaced. “I may want to invest in some actual Pepto Bismol. Extended periods of time in the company of Lionel Luthor give me heartburn.”
Clark laughed helplessly. “But…he’s your *dad*!”
“Yes, he is,” Lex said, tone of voice conveying his confusion clearly. “And your point?”
“You’re like this new species or something that I totally don’t understand.” Clark shook his head. “I mean, you’re having lunch with your intern and taking Pepto Bismol to get through a meeting with your dad. You’re just…weird.”
“You said that already,” Lex pointed out. “And I’m not the one who was threatening a Xerox machine with certain death.”
“Oh. Yeah.” Clark flushed. “Maybe I am the weird one.”
“Interesting, Clark,” he corrected with a sideways smile, before turning to Clark. His eyes sought out Clark’s and seemed to warm even further as the corner of his lips turned up into a small smile. “Go with interesting instead of weird. It suits you better.”