His Girl Friday by suzvoy
Lois only called him Smallville when she wanted to annoy him - which was, admittedly, most of the time.
Case in point:
"You done yet, Smallville? *You* may not care about working at the Planet forever, but some of us do."
Standing by the counter in Starbucks, Clark let the implied insult brush off of him. He'd worked too long with Lois to be offended by anything she said. It was just who she was - and the person she was cared far more about him than she'd ever admit.
Not that he'd ever risk saying anything even implying that. He'd likely be served his balls up on a silver platter, superpowers notwithstanding. Still, it'd been her suggestion to stop for coffee on the way back to the office and it was hardly his fault they'd messed up his order.
A few minutes later they were out on the sidewalk, Lois practically inhaling her coffee. Clark still felt a little surprised even now when she stopped short of actually licking out the cup.
Although, wow, that was an interesting mental image.
A few blocks later they were in the Daily Planet and riding the elevator to the second floor, and a few moments after *that* they were both sinking down into their respective chairs.
Moving his mouse around, Clark started typing in his password and managed to get as far as 'FOR' before Lois interrupted.
"Hey, Kent," she hissed from her desk, "he hasn't said anything yet. You think maybe I got away with-?"
Closing her eyes, Lois slumped her shoulders. "Maybe not." Standing up, she turned towards the familiar bellow. "Coming, Chief!" Then scooting around the edge of her desk and leaning over Clark's, she reached out. "Quick, peace offering."
Holding out the second coffee he'd bought in Starbucks, Clark waited until she'd taken it before finishing his password: 'TRESS01'.
When the screen was unlocked he sipped at his coffee - nutmeg always reminded him of The Beanery - and pulled his notepad out.
There was definitely something satisfying about typing at normal human speed - for some reason it felt like he'd put more effort in and he relished the opportunity to feel accomplished in a way that had nothing to do with his powers.
Tuning out the sounds of the office - ringing phones, voices talking, typing, the coffee machines (which produced appalling bad coffee and inspired their stop earlier on the way back), the Chief's voice reaming Lois out from inside the office - Clark concentrated on typing up his notes. They'd just returned from meeting with a contact who always insisted on a face to face and Clark wanted to get his notes down properly so he could get into the story.
Sometime later, a heavy sigh brought Clark's attention to the fact that Lois was back.
Slumping into her chair, she glared at him. "How come he never bitches you out?"
Trying not to smile, Clark won the battle when he examined his coffee cup and realised it was nearly empty. Sigh. "Maybe because I don't hurl myself into trouble at every opportunity?"
"Oh please," she snorted, rooting around in her purse for something, "you have to be rescued by Superman just as often as I do."
It was too good an opportunity. He had to. "The difference being that I don't enjoy it."
Yanking something - ah, her Dictaphone - out of the purse, Lois rolled her eyes at him. "I'll never know why you developed this bizarre theory that I have a crush on Superman."
Clark could have told her about biological reactions that only he could notice, but that would have ruined the whole secret thing. Plus, he tried not to see how someone's body was reacting unless it was a life-saving thing - it felt too much like invading their privacy. He'd only done it to Lois the once, and only because he *had* to know. It was nice knowing that someone kinda had a crush on kinda him, even if it was Lois. His dork status had somehow managed to follow him all the way to Metropolis and he hadn't had a date in months.
Actually, now that he thought about it...over a year.
Still, he didn't particularly feel like he was missing out on anything. He liked life. He loved his family and friends, he felt good when he could help people with his powers, and his career was about to become a lot more challenging. Not that working with Lois wasn't challenging...he smiled to himself, privately.
"Oh," Lois said absently, as if she'd forgotten something, and then she hooked a thumb towards the office. "He wants to see you."
Nodding, Clark hit save, locked his screen, and ran through a mental list in his head as he walked, coming to the conclusion that he probably wasn't about to get his ass kicked, and therefore had no idea why he'd been summoned.
Pausing by the open door, he knocked on the glass carefully with the knuckle of his index finger. "Chief?"
Looking up from whatever he was reading, Luthor smiled. "Kent. Close the door, would you?"
Complying, Clark shut the door behind him, and turned back to see the Chief gesturing towards Lois' attempt at an apology, resting near the edge of his desk.
"Thanks for the coffee." He smirked when he said it, a movement that didn't happen much outside of his office.
Clark didn't ask how the Chief knew about the coffee. Some days it seemed like he knew everything. "It was no trouble, really. We were stopping off anyway..."
"...and you let Lois take the credit because you thought it would make me be nicer to her."
Rolling his eyes, Clark sat in the chair opposite Luthor's. "It was just a cup of coffee."
The Chief smirked again. "You're a good partner, Kent. She takes far too many chances - as evidenced yet again by last night's needed rescue by Superman - but you actually have a calming effect on her."
Clark grinned and faked a shocked expression. "If this is calm I really don't want to see her when she's excited."
"It's a sight to behold," Luthor agreed, matching his grin. "But I'm serious. You know I'm behind you all the way on this - it'll be great for your career - but I'd appreciate it if you'd keep your eyes open. If you think of anyone who'd be a good partner for Lois, someone like you, let me know."
Clark nodded. "Sure."
Nodding too, Luthor leant back in his chair. "Good. Anyone been giving you a hard time?"
"Not really," Clark shrugged. "Some teasing, but it's all good-natured. Frankly I expected more."
"Well, you may be moving over to the enemy," Luthor's lips twitched, "but people like you. I knew those country manners would be good for something."
It wasn't something Chief had ever teased him about before - that was usually Lois' territory. But then Chief didn't really tease anyone at all which was weird, because every now and then Clark suspected that Chief had a good sense of humour. "Well, we have to work on something when we're not cleaning up cow crap."
"Yes," Luthor casually reached forward and picked up his coffee, "I'm sure those non-manure moments must be scintillating."
There was something about Luthor. They weren't particularly close, had rarely seen each other outside the Planet at anything that wasn't work-related, but nonetheless Clark had always felt like he could be snarky with him. Sarcastic. In a way he wasn't with anyone else. Clark suspected he got away with it because it wasn't meant maliciously, and it also showed that he didn't take the Chief too seriously.
Clark respected him tremendously, especially considering the man who'd raised him. The Chief had accomplished so much already. Youngest ever editor of the Daily Planet. Subscriptions up by 20% in the last year. Giving LuthorCorp up to do what he actually wanted. Getting his own father put away for the murder of his Grandparents.
Clark hadn't been around for that; he'd started working at the Planet about two months after the conviction came in, but he realised now that the Chief had been walking around in a daze for months. Working here had helped him, Clark was sure of it, and he was incredibly glad that Luthor had had something to help him keep going. Now, he...well, he didn't exactly smile much - except inside his office - but he was definitely more relaxed, despite the stress working in this job provided.
If Clark could do anything, anything at all to make sure the Chief stayed that way, he would. "Hey, just wait until you seen the Corn Queen Pageant; you'll be demanding to know why Cat isn't covering it."
Luthor lowered his drink. "I think I can safely say that you're the only interesting thing to come out of Smallville, Kansas."
Clark only half-recognised the compliment. "Hey, you never know. You might like it there. There's cows and farms and...mud."
Clark realised, then, that it really must have been well over a year since his last date because he was *flirting with his boss*. Shit. Smart move, Kent.
Chief was an attractive enough guy (and it was weird thinking of his boss in those terms), but he didn't exactly hit Clark's buttons. Clark was just...horny.
God. Horny and dorky. He might as well be sixteen again.
Chief, apparently, seemed completely unaware of Clark's internal self-bitching, his free hand coming up to rub slowly over his bald head as he focused on something far away. "To be honest, Kent, I doubt I'll ever have much of a fondness for Smallville."
Clark excused himself not long after, feeling like making an apology for something he didn't fully understand.
As fate had it, exactly five seconds after Clark hit the shut down button on his computer, the skies opened up and a veritable flood fell to Earth.
Still at her desk, Lois caught her lower lips with her teeth. "You gotta love autumn."
Clark didn't. Clark didn't care much for autumn at all, especially as it inched closer and closer to winter. If his powers really were derived from the sun like he suspected he supposed it made sense that he?d prefer the brighter months. Still, it wasn't as if rain could hurt him, or that he even needed a coat but...appearances.
One thorough check of the coat rack later, Clark returned empty-handed. "Lois, have you seen my trench coat?"
She didn't look away from her screen. "Didn't you have to hand it back when you gave up your career as an international spy?"
Nothing was ever simple with her. "Come on, I'm meeting Chloe tonight. You know how she is about being kept waiting."
"Chloe, huh?" Grinning, she still didn't look up at him. "When are you two going to admit that you're dating?"
"I mean it's kind of cute, really. Small town boy and girl find each other again in the big city."
"Friendship is rekindled. Romance blossoms. Hell, you're even moving jobs for her."
Lois knew damn well that he and Chloe were just friends. "That is-"
Someone else interrupted.
"I don't recall seeing your copy arrive on my desk yet, Lane."
Lex Luthor was possibly the only person on the entire planet who could make Lois look afraid.
Apart from Clark's mom.
"Uh, yes, Chief. I'm just finishing up now." She suddenly seemed fascinated with her keyboard as she typed enthusiastically.
"Glad to hear it." Turning his attention to Clark, he held something out. Clark stared dumbly for a moment before Luthor had to prompt him. "Umbrella? Rain? I heard you talking about your missing coat."
"Yes." Yes, right. Of course. He needed some kind of cover. "That's really nice of you Chief," Clark still hadn't taken it, "but what about you?"
"I'll be here for a few more hours," Luthor explained, "it'll probably stop by then. Besides, it's not as if I have to worry about my hair getting wet." He smiled tightly. "Seriously, I insist. You never want to keep a lady waiting."
"*Lady*?" Lois snorted. "Obviously you've never met Chloe."
"Lois," Clark warned with a sharp edge to his voice, finally reaching out to take the umbrella. Lois and Chloe loved each other, but that didn't stop either of them from being competitive. "And uh, thanks, Chief." He smiled at the editor. "Really."
"No problem." With a nod to both of them, Luthor turned away and smoothly walked back towards his office.
Watching him go, Clark placed the umbrella on his desk as he started buttoning up his suit jacket. With a goodbye to Lois, he picked the umbrella back up and left the building.
Not that he was actually going to *use* the umbrella - he moved fast enough that he'd barely get wet, and in under thirty seconds he dropped into normal speed a block away from the diner. The diner in question was the same one they always went to; the place they'd been going to ever since they'd got back in touch. There'd been no argument - they'd gone to different colleges and simply ended up drifting apart. When he'd heard that Chloe was moving to Metropolis to work at the Star he'd contacted her. Their friendship had picked up as if it'd never stopped and now they were closer than ever.
Not bothering to put the umbrella up, Clark jogged the block to the diner, weaving in out and out of the crowd of people.
Stepping inside he saw he was the first one to make it, so after shaking himself off a little he slid into their usual booth.
Almost immediately the waitress appeared, holding a mug in one hand and a pot of coffee in the other. "What'll you have, hon'? The usual?"
"Please," he nodded. "Thanks, Nadine."
She smiled as she finished pouring his drink. "Sure thing."
When she was gone he took the opportunity to wipe a few drops of rain from his glasses - without taking them off. After that he wrapped a hand around his mug of coffee and looked out through the water-stained window.
Clark always felt vaguely guilty about meeting up with Chloe when he was still working at the Planet. Not that either of them would ever betray their papers or the people they worked with, but it still felt a little like cheating. Chloe worked where he was going to work in a few weeks, but he wasn't there yet and-
"I can see the headline now," her familiar voice declared, "'Eating with the Enemy!'"
Unable to help himself - and not wanting to, really - Clark grinned as a rather damp Chloe cheerfully plopped herself down on the other side of the booth.
"Did you really have to inherit some of your cousin's more annoying habits?"
Pulling off her coat, Chloe thanked Nadine for the coffee she was pouring and ordered her food before turning back to him. "She giving you a hard time, huh?"
Not really. "No more than usual. How did you know what I was thinking when you arrived, anyway?"
"Oh come on, Clark," she paused to sip appreciatively at her coffee, "you wear that same guilt-ridden expression every time we've met ever since you found out you got the job. Not to mention I'm used to seeing it from Smallville, where you accepted *all* responsibility for something that wasn't even your fault." Quirking her mouth up, she lifted her eyebrows at him.
God, he was so glad she knew he was Superman. "Is this where you tell me about my over-developed sense of responsibility again?"
"Nah," she gulped down more coffee. "I'm too hungry to waste the calories on that right now. But oh!" Lowering her mug, she leant further over the table. "I *have* to tell you what I heard from Uncle Sam last night."
It always confused him for a few moments whenever she referred to Lois' dad like that, but then he realised that Sam Lane being Lois' dad meant Dirt On Lois.
Clark grinned. "Tell me *everything*."
Clark was in a much better mood by the time he made it to his apartment. Humming to himself as he put away the groceries he'd picked up on the way home, he paused at a knock at the door. Closing the refrigerator, a quick glance with his x-ray vision showed it was his super.
Grabbing an apple from the bowl on the side, Clark jogged to the apartment door and swung it open. "Hey, Mr Fernandez."
Fernandez ? likeable, but had the strange habit of referring to all of his tenants by their apartment numbers ? nodded. "Two thirteen. Some unfortunate news, I'm afraid ? the building needs to be fumigated."
Clark frowned, surprised. He'd never noticed any kind of infestation, but then Chloe was always saying he had his head in the clouds ? in more ways than one. "Is it bad?"
"Bad enough that the building has to be fumigated," he smirked briefly. "I'll give you more details when I can, but I wanted to let you know ASAP so you could make arrangements."
"Thanks," Clark nodded. "When's it happening?"
"Thursday morning. According to the bug guys the building'll be uninhabitable for three days."
Thursday? That was the day after tomorrow, which was pretty short notice. But then it was a health risk and it obviously had to be done. "Thanks for letting me know. Guess I'd better start calling my friends."
"Lucky you," Fernandez grimaced, "I may have to stay with the ex."
Clark matched his expression. "Uh...sorry. That sucks."
Nodding somberly, Fernandez sloped away. "That it does. Later, two thirteen."
Closing the door thoughtfully, Clark bit into his apple and decided he'd think over his options tomorrow. Tonight he just wanted to change into his sweats, flop down in front of the TV, and watch reality programs until his brain dribbled out of his ears.
And then his hearing kicked in.
He was into his uniform and out of the window before the apple even hit the floor.
"Honey, you know you could always stay with us."
Smiling at the familiar warmth in Mom's voice, Clark loosened his grip on the phone. "I know Mom, thanks, but if someone asks me where I'm staying..." He let the implication linger.
"And you're still not particularly good at lying," she teased, clearly understanding.
"I blame you guys for that."
"Oh yes," she said, "heaven forbid we should want to raise a son who'd be honest. Or as honest as you can afford to be, anyway." She chuckled. "What about Lois?"
No. Way. "I am *not* staying with..." Realising that the woman in question was eyeing him curiously, Clark swivelled away, scrunched down in his seat, and lowered his voice. "I'm not saying at Lois'. She'd let me, but then she'd hold it over me for the next five years. I love her, Mom, but I'd end up killing her with a fork by the time we sat down for dinner." Mom was laughing again. Clark decided to ignore her. "Chloe doesn't have enough room to swing a cat, let alone me, and Jimmy's already sharing with ten people." A slight exaggeration, but Clark had met most of Jimmy's 'roommates' and he swore that all of them had at least two personalities each. "I guess I'll just have to..." There was a bald head next to him that hadn't been there a few moments ago. "Actually, I better go. Talk to you later." Personal calls were allowed as long as you didn't take advantage, but it didn't feel like the smart thing to do when your boss was right *there*.
"Sure, honey, take care. I love you."
"Love you, too," Clark said, sitting up as he ended the call. "Hey, Chief."
"Kent," he nodded. "You got the Mayor all riled up with that piece yesterday. Good work."
He would *not* blush. Luthor always gave praise when he thought it was deserved. "Thanks."
"Everything all right?" Chief asked, gesturing to the phone.
"Oh," Clark shrugged, "nothing big. My apartment building's being fumigated from tomorrow. My friends either have space issues or," he glanced deliberately towards Lois, "sanity issues. I think I'll have to start looking into hotels or something."
"That's hardly fair," Luthor frowned heavily. "It's not your fault this happened. There's no reason you should have to pay for a hotel."
"Well, I don't know what the deal is with my super yet," Clark replied, honestly having no idea. He'd never been in this situation before. "Maybe I'll get a reduction on my rent next-"
"You can stay with me."
Clark was pretty sure that, just a few moments ago, he'd been capable of verbalising words. Had Chief really just invited him to stay over? "I...uh...um..." Words. Right. "That's *really* nice of you, Chief, but I don't want to impose at-"
"You won't be," Luthor interrupted. "Really. My house is very...large." He almost seemed embarrassed. "You'll have plenty of room to yourself. We probably won't even see each other most of the time when we're there." He paused. "I might as well make good use of the space for once."
What could he say? He had no excuse at all. "Uh...okay. Thank you. Really."
"Not a problem," Chief nodded tightly. "Bring whatever you need in with you tomorrow and we'll figure it out from there."
"Okay," Clark said dumbly, even as his boss - who'd just said he could stay over - walked away.
"Oh my God!" Lois suddenly exclaimed as - still in her chair - she wheeled herself around the desks until she was sitting next to him. "Did that just really happen? Did Lex Luthor seriously invite you over?"
Clark was actually thinking the same thing, but tried to play it down. "Come on, Lois, he's just helping me out. I'm sure he'd do the same for you."
Lois didn't seem to be hearing much of anything. "This is *huge*, Clark." She really must have been shocked to use his actual name. "I mean he's like...the Metropolis version of Howard Hughes."
Okay, that was just a lame comparison. "You mean apart from the fact that he's not in hiding and we know what he looks like? Or that pretty much everyone knows everything about his family? Or that he's not obsessive compulsive about-"
"What I *mean*," Lois interrupted with a glare - about 7.8 on the Lois Scale, "is that no one knows anything about his personal life. He never goes out unless it's for something that'll benefit the paper; no one knows if he's dating. Hell, no one even knows if he lives alone. He never talks about himself. You can't tell me you haven't noticed that."
Well, Clark had noticed that part at least. The Chief never really talked about anything that wasn't related to the Planet, but that didn't make him someone who hid from the world - just private. "I'm surprised you haven't dug around to find out." Usually when she was this interested in something not even Superman could hold her back ? just turn up in time to make sure she didn't end up as dog food on the sidewalk.
"Please, Kent," she huffed indignantly, "he's my boss. I respect him as much as I respect anyone." Pausing, she squirmed in her chair. "Besides, it's impossible to see into his house even with a telephoto lens."
They were out of their chairs and facing the editor's office instantly.
"Just heard that the Police Commissioner is due to make an announcement at City Hall in half an hour," Luthor continued. "Cover it. Take Olsen."
Clark was already slipping his jacket on. "On it, Chief."
Lois moved off, no doubt in search of Jimmy. "Hey, Olsen!"
By the time they walked out of the building together, Lois was smiling. "So tell me, Jimmy ? is that camera of yours any good at taking pictures through windows?"
That was it. The next time Lois found herself being flung from the top of a skyscraper, he so wasn't catching her.
Okay, so he was. But after he caught her he was making some comment about her weight.
Clark decided he really liked that plan.
Thursday dawned with a bizarre sense of dread. Staring at the bag he'd packed, Clark fully admitted that he was being a little anal about the whole thing. He didn't want to take any chances.
As well as various changes of clothes and underwear, he'd packed his own towel, facecloth, toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, shampoo and conditioner (why would Chief have any?) and was seriously considering bringing his own pillow until he decided that if Chief had wanted him to bring his own pillow, he would have mentioned it.
Maybe it wasn't such a big surprise that his dork persona had followed him to Metropolis after all.
Eventually realising that he'd spent too long pondering whether to bring his own food or not - God, he was such a nerd - Clark defiantly zipped his bag up. No more nerdy Clark would be allowed today.
He'd bagged or double-bagged the food that needed protecting according to the list Mr Fernandez had given him, and after grabbing the belongings he was taking with him Clark headed off to work.
As it turned out, it wasn't a particularly newsworthy day - but then most days were like that. The huge breaking stories only came along every so often, and part of their job was to make the not-so-interesting news interesting - without glorifying them the way some of the tabloids did.
So, Clark completed a few small news stories, but mostly he stared at The Big One. The one that would be His Last Story Ever at the Planet.
The one whose blinking cursor was currently mocking him.
Sighing, Clark leant forward and rested his head in his hands, until the smell of almost fresh coffee reached his nose and he lifted his face back up to see Lois leaning against his desk.
"You know your problem, Smallville?"
Carefully picking up the mug before she changed her mind and snatched it back, he looked up at her. "No, but I know you're about to tell me."
"You think too much," she declared wisely. "Usually it's a good thing - that's what makes you so good at writing those human interest pieces. But at other times..."
Suddenly he remembered why he liked Lois so much. "It's a pain in the ass."
"Much like you!" she replied, leaning forward to squeeze his face cheeks. "Don't worry, Smallville, you'll figure out your last great story. Just...stop thinking. Go with the flow."
Sighing, Clark contorted his mouth as she walked away. Lois gave really good advice sometimes - he was just really bad at taking it. It never really felt like it applied to him, because he wasn't like anyone else at all. He'd always be different. Plus, he'd never been good at going with *any* flow.
Many mopey hours later, the office started to clear out. Their evening edition had been put to bed and soon there was only Clark, Chief and a handful of others left.
"Well," Chief began when he paused by Clark's desk - at what had to be earlier than his normal leaving time. "You ready to go?"
"Whenever you are!" Clark replied enthusiastically, badly overcompensating. What was with him, anyway? He had no idea why he was freaking out, although Lois asking him to memorise the layout of Luthor's home probably hadn't helped.
"Remember," she'd told him, "no one that we know of has ever had this opportunity. Use it wisely."
He was definitely making a comment about her weight.
"Good," Chief said. "Then grab your things and let's head out."
Right. Shutting down his computer, Clark shrugged his jacket on and pulled the bag out from under his desk. "Okay."
Having been holding his own jacket while he waited, Chief put it on as they made their way to the elevator. Pressing the call button, he led the way inside and soon the two of them were standing silently in the confined space.
Should it be this awkward? Maybe he was making too big a deal out of it. If their positions were reversed, he would have made the same offer. Watching the floor indicator change - evidently they were going all the way down to the parking garage, which made sense - Clark forced himself to get over it.
"So thank you again for doing this," he said, not a bad beginning. "Really. It's really nice of you."
The corners of Chief's eyes crinkled. "It's no problem at all. Besides, my motives aren't entirely altruistic."
Was someone sucking all the oxygen out of the elevator? And even if they were, why the hell was it affecting him? He was *Superman*. "Oh? Why's that?"
"You're one of my best reporters," he replied matter-of-factly. "I have to keep you happy as long as you're here - otherwise you might turn around and write a disparaging article about me when you go to work for the Star."
Stepping out into the executive parking lot as the doors opened, Clark objected. "I would never..." Ah, okay. Luthor was smirking. He was being teased. "You know, I could always write something about the way you..."
They'd stopped walking, apparently having reached their ride home. Clark had seen Luthor driving a few times in a couple of different cars, but he'd never seen this one before.
It was red. And a Ferrari.
A red Ferrari.
The noise came out.
Actually laughing - Clark couldn't remember hearing that sound from him before - Luthor quirked his lips up. "You like it?"
Nodding enthusiastically, Clark all but licked his lips. "I think eighteen years of nothing but farm trucks turned me into a car whore." And he couldn't believe he'd just said that.
Chief laughed again, holding out the keys. "You can drive, if you like."
Oh, wow. That was...that was...his gaze kept flicking between the car and the keys. Clark really wanted to, but he'd asked so much of his boss already... "Maybe another time? I should probably get used to just sitting in the thing first."
"If you're sure," Luthor shrugged.
After Clark's bag was safely secured in the trunk, they opened the doors and slid inside. It was all so...soft, Clark thought, as Chief started the engine - wow, that sounded good - and made his way out of the underground garage.
Practically purring onto the streets of Metropolis - him, or the car, or maybe both - Clark snuggled further down into the passenger seat. "This is a really nice car." And it was. Clark didn't even want to know how much it cost.
It was rare, actually, that Chief ever showed off just how much money he had, despite the fact that everyone knew he was a Luthor and all the history and money that came with that.
He'd done a hell of a job making the name his own, instead of letting the unpleasantness of his father's legacy (that was putting it mildly) overshadow him. While Lionel Luthor would probably never be forgotten, Lex Luthor was at least doing his family name some good.
"It's my favourite," Chief admitted, smoothly changing gears, swinging wildly around the traffic and apparently suffering from some kind of death wish. "I don't drive it very often."
Clark tried not to freak at the driving, telling himself that if anything did happen he'd probably be fast enough to save Chief. Closing his eyes, he decided he was going to relax and just...go with the flow. He exhaled heavily. Go with the flow.
"What are you doing?"
He was flowing all over the passenger seat. "I'm going with the flow."
"I see." He didn't ask anything else.
Clark felt compelled to explain. "Lois suggested I should try it."
"You're seriously taking advice on how to relax from Lois?"
Still keeping his eyes closed, Clark smirked. "Lois is so relaxed, I'm sure that some day they'll name a Yoga position after her."
"Okay, now I *know* you're not serious."
Chuckling this time, Clark opened his eyes to see Chief grinning broadly at him and-
That thing about Chief not really hitting his buttons?
So. Completely. Wrong.
Thankfully - for Clark's sanity and the cars' safety - Luthor turned his attention back to the road. "I admire Lois a great deal, but part of me thinks she gets into as much trouble as she does just to get Superman's attention, whether she's aware of it or not."
Personally, Clark had been thinking the same thing for a while, and desperately trying to ignore the realisation that he was seriously attracted to his boss, he eagerly latched onto the conversation. "I doubt it'll ever work, though. She'll never get Superman's attention *that* way." Okay, that was a really stupid thing to say.
"What makes you say that?" Chief asked, frowning slightly but still amused. "Lois is very attractive - and determined. He doesn't look much like a eunuch. Or," he grinned wickedly, which was a really good look, "maybe our paragon of virtue is virtuous for a reason."
Clark stared at him dumbly, hardly believing they were having this conversation. "Reason?"
"He's an alien, Kent," Luthor explained, "maybe his equipment doesn't work the same way."
Clark couldn't believe Luthor was joking about Superman's - *his* - dick. He also couldn't believe that he'd referred to it as 'equipment'. This had to be some weird alternate reality where this Lex Luthor was a lot racier than the man he'd been standing uneasily in an elevator with five minutes ago. "You're not like this at work," Clark blurted out, hating himself as he watched Chief's smile vanish and his expression close up. Dammit.
"We're not at work," Chief pointed out tersely, jaw clenching as he focused back on the road.
Clark had ruined it. Chief had been opening up, downright friendly, and Clark had promptly shoved his foot in his mouth.
Tipping his head to the side the window was on, Clark glared at his reflection all the way home.
Chief's house was big, though nowhere near as huge as Clark had anticipated. Unsurprisingly it was in one of Metropolis' classier districts, and Clark was sure they'd driven past more than one movie star's home on the way there.
It was weird. Clark was perfectly aware of Chief's money and status, but he'd never really considered him as some kind of celebrity before - yet in some ways that was exactly what he was.
It was something Clark could understand - Superman giving him a glimpse - and he didn't envy Luthor at all as he waved to the security guards on his property. A necessary precaution when you had that kind of money.
Once inside the house Clark had little time to gawk before Chief showed him to the guest room (or one of many, Clark suspected). It was spacious but not overwhelming, and tastefully decorated considering what billions of dollars could buy.
He made a point of assuring Chief several times that the room was great, especially when he saw the en suite bathroom.
"Ah, but that's not all," Chief declared, moving towards what looked like French doors on the far side of the room. "If you feel the need for some air later..." He pulled open the doors dramatically, revealing a beautifully designed balcony. "Pretty nice view, too," he continued, slipping his hands into the pockets of his pants.
Clark could only agree as he stepped out. The garden fit the house - big but carefully maintained, and definitely not showy. Mom would love it. "It's beautiful."
Obviously pleased at the words, Chief seemed to be regaining his earlier good mood. "Come on. I'll show you the rest of the house."
'The rest' was just as nice as Clark's room, if not better. He had quick tours of Chief's room, the lounge, the study and various other rooms of no specific purpose Clark could figure out, but he was happy to see them just the same.
Eventually they came to another room, though didn't go inside. Chief's reaction was definitely interesting.
Clark's reporter?s instinct was piqued, and he stopped walking. "Can I see inside?"
Having gone on a few steps further, Chief had to turn and walk back towards him. "Uh...it's just..."
Clark had never seen Chief discomforted by anything that wasn't a story, and instantly felt bad for asking.
"It doesn't matter," he insisted quickly, meaning it. "I was just curious. Don't you have a kitchen or something around here you can show me? I don't think you've been introduced to my ability to eat for twenty four consecutive hours yet."
Not seeming to recognise the words - either that or ignoring them completely - Luthor carefully stepped closer to the door, his left hand wrapping around the handle. "I'll show you. Just don't..."
Clark frowned. Just don't what? It was disturbing how uncertain, how almost *scared* Chief looked. "Seriously, if this is freaking you out-"
The door was pushed open.
It was dark inside, almost pitch black, but within a matter of moments Chief had moved in and flicked several switches. As the lights came up, Clark stared in awe as he realised what he was seeing. There was so much...the level of sheer dedication...
Moving to the closest glass cabinet, it was all Clark could do to keep his fingerprints off the glass. If he actually had fingerprints. This was so *cool*. "You collect comic books?" And not just comic books, from the look of things. Models, figurines, trading cards - all kinds of collectables that you could only get with certain editions. Then there were the comics themselves; carefully preserved inside glass cases and, from the look of things, Chief probably had every single edition of Warrior Angel.
"I suppose you could say it's my obsession," Luthor replied from behind, making Clark turn around where he could see him still standing near the door. "Ever since this," Chief's hand went up to his head, "I needed something positive. Someone...good."
Thinking of Ryan, Clark understood, and he quickly let himself be enthralled with the collection again. Spying Special #14 two cases over, he rushed over to it. "Oh my God, I love this one. When Devilicus loses his memory and thinks he's good-"
"You've read these?"
Man, Luthor could move fast, standing right next to him now. And silently. Clark hadn't even heard him. "Are you kidding me?" Clark asked. "I don't have quite the extensive collection you seem to have," he grinned, "but I've tracked down nearly every issue. Of course mine are just in little plastic folders and..." The Chief's pleased expression was rapidly transforming into something else. "Uh...you okay?"
"Clark," Chief said carefully, "please tell me that you didn't leave your comic books in your apartment while it's being fumigated. *Please*."
Now would not be a good time to laugh at how completely serious Luthor was being. "Don't worry - they're back home in Smallville."
Closing his eyes in an obvious "Thank God," movement, Chief opened them again to smile widely. "I can't believe you're a Warrior Angel fan. That's...good. That's really, really good."
"It was a friend of mine, Ryan, who got me hooked back in Smallville." Glancing away, Clark frowned as he remembered. "He was...special. I didn't know him for that long, really, but he believed in superheroes long before Superman ever showed up." The familiar ache that appeared whenever he seriously thought about his friend tugged at Clark's chest.
"He's..." Lex paused, studying him closely. "He's not here anymore, is he?"
"Brain tumour," Clark explained. "He was twelve."
A warm hand pressed against Clark's arm. It didn't feel strange. "I'm sorry, Clark. That's far too young."
Straightening up, Clark pulled away and forced himself to chuckle. "He would have loved it in here. I know I do. I mean, not only is it a really cool collection," he stopped by a case holding a life-size version of Devilicus' truth ray - God, that'd been sad when he'd used it on Warrior Angel - and studied it enviously, "but it's also proof that Lex Luthor is a mahusive geek." He kept his tone upbeat, teasing; there was no way it could be taken badly.
Lex was nearby again, weaving in and out between cases, looking unconcerned. "I think your editor needs to do something about your writing skills if you seriously believe that 'mahusive' is an actual word."
"Well," Clark sighed dramatically, "considering the fact that you've been my editor for the last three years, I guess you'd better have a word with yourself, huh?" And...yes. He wasn't just teasing. He was *seriously* teasing, but it felt like the right thing to do after talking about Ryan.
"I'll make an appointment with myself tomorrow," Lex quipped. "Now, how about some spaghetti? Maybe some food will help cheer you up."
"God, you don't know me at all, do you?" Clark grinned as he was lead out of the room, throwing one last look over his shoulder. "Food always cheers me up."
Blinking, Clark was more than a little surprised when Lex got the saucepan out himself and filled it with water. By the time the water was heating on the stove and the fresh pasta had been pulled out of the fridge, Clark's eyes were probably...well...mahusive.
"What is it?" Lex asked, as he straightened up the chopping board and went to work on the cheese. Evidently he liked grating his own parmesan.
"Well...uh, this may sound really dumb," and yeah, it totally did already, "but don't you have staff or something? A chef?"
"Well," Lex said thoughtfully, "there *is* the man who licks my shoes clean every morning."
He grinned. "No, not really. I have people who come in to keep the garden in order, and a few times a week a cleaner comes in to keep up with the dusting. I don't really spend enough time here to be able to clean regularly. But that's about it. I like doing things for myself," he explained. "I don't see why I should have to have 'staff' just because I have money."
Okay, that was completely fair and understandable and actually made Clark like him even more. "Anything you want me to help with?" he asked, gesturing towards the stove.
"You could set the plates," Lex suggested.
"Sure," Clark agreed, getting the plates out of the cupboard Lex nodded towards. "Where do you want me to put them?" They'd gone through the dining room on their way here, so that'd probably be where-
"Just there's good," Lex said, pointing to the counter Clark had been leaning against earlier. Like everything else in this place the kitchen was big, and there was more than enough room to eat. Telling himself that he *had* to stop jumping to conclusions about his boss, Clark pushed aside a decorative bowl and put the plates down.
By the time Clark had hunted down the cutlery, the pasta was simmering happily away in the saucepan. "What about something to drink?"
"Think I'm in the mood for wine tonight," Lex said, grunting as he twisted the lid off of a jar of pasta sauce. "Anything from the rack over there will be fine." Clark was a beer drinker by nature, but as he selected a wine from the rack he decided he'd try a touch of red tonight.
A couple of glasses and a corkscrew later - although Clark didn't open the wine, leaving that for Lex - Clark watched as Lex tested the pasta. A few minutes later he declared it done and expertly drained the pasta before dishing it onto their plates. A sprinkle of parmesan on top, and they were ready to eat.
"There," Lex said, obviously satisfied with the end result, "pull up a stool."
Doing so, Clark waited until Lex had opened the wine and poured them both a drink before picking up his fork. Even then, he waited until Lex had started eating before he dug in. "It's good," he said honestly.
Sipping at his wine, Lex eyed him. "You'd say that even if it wasn't."
Well...okay. "Well. Yes. I would. But I am actually telling the truth." He smiled brightly.
Snickering, Lex resumed eating.
They fell into conversation about work - Lois came up a lot, accompanying affectionately disparaging words - their mouths loosening as they ate and drank more. By the time they'd finished eating, they were sniggering almost constantly.
"So what were you going to say before?" Lex asked curiously, smiling. "In the car. About Lois not getting Superman's attention that way."
Ohhh, crap. Well, he had said that, hadn't he? And his head was pleasantly fuzzy, so he decided to goooo with the floooow. Clark had never been able to get drunk, but tonight he felt as if he could get dangerously close. "Well...you can't breathe this to another living soul," he started.
"Cross my heart," Lex promised, actually crossing his heart, and Clark wondered just how drunk he was.
"I have it on very good authority," Clark explained, actually being Superman himself and therefore knowing, "that Superman's gay."
Not seeming at all surprised, Lex instead looked thoughtful for a while. "Superman's gay? I can't really say I'm shocked."
"Why not?" Clark almost pouted, not sure if he should be offended or not.
"The outfit, Clark," Lex explained, "I don't think you could get any more gay than that. He might as well fly around with a big G on his chest."
Lex couldn't have understood why Clark found it so funny, why he started laughing and didn't stop for a long, long time, but that didn't seem to matter.
Lex laughed too.
Lex had made it clear that Clark could shower as often as he liked, so after waking up Clark stumbled gratefully into the bathroom.
The water pressure was gloriously strong and as Clark let the warm water pound onto his body with a great deal of appreciation, he thought over the previous evening. The only conclusion he could reach was that it'd gone well. Very well. In fact so well that Clark had had very interesting dreams last night about wine and spaghetti stained lips.
The only negative aspect of the evening had been after they'd parted company to go to bed. Clark had just settled into sleep when he'd heard the sirens ? those French doors turned out to be pretty convenient for Superman's purposes.
Rinsing the last of the shampoo out of his hair, Clark regretfully turned off the water, stepped out of the shower and started drying off. When he'd dried and changed into his work clothes, he folded the towel and hung it over the top of the shower door to dry.
A quick brush of his teeth later and he headed towards the smell of fresh coffee, not surprised when he ended up in the kitchen. Lex was already there, sipping his coffee by the counter they'd eaten at last night.
"Morning," Clark greeted warmly, making him look up. Lex looked good, which was surprising all things considered. "How you feeling? I'd have expected you to have a hangover this morning." In the end they'd shared more than one bottle of wine.
"Good morning to you too," Lex replied, smiling briefly, "and I'm fine. I don't get hangovers."
"No," he shook his head. "Doesn't matter how much I've drunk ? and believe me, I've tried. I'm never hung over the next morning."
That was freaky, because... "Me neither."
"Really?" Lex asked, eyebrows arching up. "Small world." He asked Clark what he wanted for breakfast then, and Clark was happy with anything at all.
"Just cereal would be great, thanks. I'm very low maintenance."
"In that case," Lex swallowed a mouthful of coffee, "there are some cereal boxes in the cupboard over there." He nodded towards it. "Help yourself."
Enjoying Lex's humour, Clark opened the cupboard in question and delved through the contents. Bran flakes, oatmeal...he paused. Stared.
Pulling that box out without comment, he located a bowl and spoon, found the milk in the fridge, and set himself down across from Lex.
He ate in silence for a while, the only sounds being their eating and drinking. Lex kept looking from him to the cereal and back again, as if waiting nervously for a reaction.
Clark knew, right then, that Lex had never once had Froot Loops as a kid.
"You know," Clark said simply, "I really like Froot Loops."
Lex failed to hide his smile behind the mug of coffee. "Me too."
Lois didn't jump him for information the moment he and Lex entered the newsroom. She was actually dedicated to her job and was very good at it when she wasn't accidentally attempting self-annihilation every other week. She ended up staying on the phone for a couple of hours, trying to get quotes out of various sources for her latest article. She usually succeeded. There weren't that many people she couldn't eventually sweet talk/intimidate.
Clark, for his part, slouched over his desk, absently doodling as he tried not to think about his boss and subsequently almost jumped out of his seat when Lois peered over his shoulder.
"Hey, isn't that Superman's crest?" She asked, indicating his drawing. "Why is there a G in the middle?"
Great. "No reason!" He coughed, tearing the sheet of paper off and rolling it into a ball before throwing it into the trash can. "I was just doodling."
Standing back, Lois folded her arms across her chest and squinted at him. "You are a strange one, Smallville."
She had no idea. "So you've said before."
"Sooooo..." Snagging a chair from somewhere, she abandoned all pretense and practically bounced into the chair as she sat next to him. "Come on, what was it like?"
"Umm...well...it was very...nice."
"Nice." She sounded distinctly disappointed.
"Yeah. Nice." He paused, considering. "Lex has really good taste."
"Whoa, back up there, farmboy." She held a hand up. "Lex? When did he stop being Chief?"
She actually had a point. At some point Chief had become Lex without Clark even realising it. "I'm staying with the guy, Lois," Clark offered, figuring it sounded reasonable. "In his home. Just seems kinda weird to stick to the whole Chief thing when I'm brushing my teeth over his sink, you know?"
Lois 'hmmed' loudly. "Well, okay. But that still doesn't give me any details." She grabbed his arm. "Everything's purple, right? I mean you've seen those shirts he always wears..."
Clark knew Lois pretty well, but even she never got quite this ridiculous. So he played along. He wasn't entirely sure why they were playing, but hopefully it'd get him some answers about what she was up to. "Purple walls," he said knowingly, "and floors. Not to mention the toilet seat. It's actually kinda disturbing."
"And I bet he has those bottles of water all over the place."
"Oh yeah," Clark retorted, actually only remembering seeing a couple in the fridge, "they're all over the place. On every surface. If there's ever a drought in Metropolis, Lex Luthor's the man to go to."
Nodding slowly and studying him closely, Lois eventually smiled. "Good. I'm glad he's helping you out, Smallville. It's..." She tipped her head to one side, serious. "It's really nice."
Having the feeling Lois had just had an entire conversation without him, Clark frowned. "Lois?"
"Gotta get back to work!" She declared suddenly, jumping out of the chair she'd hijacked and before Clark had any more time to frown over whether Lois had been thinking what he thought she'd been thinking, his phone rang.
Yanking it up from the receiver, Clark absently watched Lois strut back to her desk. "Clark Kent, Daily Planet."
"The crow flies at midnight."
Chloe, evidently in a playful mood. But then when wasn't she? Clark, thankfully, had learned to reciprocate. "You know, Lois thinks I used to be an international spy."
She didn't even pause. "The trench coat?"
"Yeah," he picked up his pen, realised he was about to start doodling again, and put it back down. "Hey, you haven't seen it lately, have you?"
"Sure, Clark," her voice was full of humour, "I'm so taken with you that I stashed it in my closet."
Chloe on caffeine was *way* too much like Lois. "Did you call for any other reason that to mock me?"
"Fun as that is all by itself," she said, "I was thinking about dinner tonight. You free?"
"Sure," he replied automatically, "I don't see why that should be a ..." His gaze fixed on Lex's office. "...problem."
"Great!" She replied. "Same place, same time."
It was a tradition of theirs, but now Clark was looking *through* Lex's office and had to remind himself what to say. "I'll try not to start any fires on the way there." Chloe had been *so* amused when she'd discovered that Clark's heat vision had been triggered by being horny.
If he ever did tell Lois the truth, he so wasn't sharing that part.
The call already disconnected, Clark hung up and got to his feet. Making his way towards the office, he knocked and waited by the open door.
The always open door.
Lex was on the phone, but he waved for Clark to come inside. As he waited Clark look around the office he'd been in hundreds of times before, only now it seemed different, not like Lex at all. There should be Warrior Angel memorabilia on the walls and a picture of Lex's mom on the desk.
The man who inhabited this room wasn't Lex Luthor at all.
Ah, right. The call had ended.
Turning to face Lex, Clark didn't sit down. "Le...Chief." Probably best to separate work from Not Work. "One of my friends wants to meet up for dinner tonight."
"I see," Lex's expression didn't change. "That shouldn't be a problem. You remember how to get to the house?" Clark nodded. "Fine. Just make your way there whenever you're done - security knows who you are. They'll let you in."
Great. Wonderful. Fantastic. "I...thanks."
Nodding, Lex focused on his PC monitor. "Later, Kent."
Turning to leave, Clark paused. God, it was ridiculous that he felt like apologising. It wasn't as if he and Lex were even...and there was definitely nothing going on with him and Chloe, they were just friends...but...
"You have to actually walk through the doorway to leave the office."
"Right." Right. Dork. "I'm a huge dork!"
It was at times like this that he really wished he could kill himself.
Between the two of them, Chloe and Lois knew absolutely everything.
"So," Chloe greeted as she slid into the booth, "I hear that you're a huge dork. Not that this is exactly breaking news."
Clark really wanted to bang his head on the table, but he'd probably end up breaking it. "I hate you."
Ordering before focusing back on him, she grinned. "No, you don't. Now come on. Spill. Tell Auntie Chloe everything."
At least he knew she'd never tell Lois. And he *really* needed to talk to someone about this, and his parents really weren't the right kind of material. "You know how I'm staying with my boss?" Chloe nodded. Clark licked his lips. "I think I'm developing a thing for him." Which wasn't exactly true, because Clark knew now he already had and that the 'developing' had been going on for a while.
Tipping her head to one side in an eerie imitation of her cousin, Chloe smiled kindly. "This isn't exactly breaking news either, Clark."
Clark stared. "You knew?"
She shrugged. "You don't talk about him."
Chloe was making absolutely no sense whatsoever. "Wait, wait. I don't talk about him, so that means I'm falling for him?" What kind of logic was that?
"Clark," she sighed, "it's not that you don't talk about him. It's that you *never* mention him. Ever. Even in passing. I mean he's your editor, your boss - you work with the guy every day, but you talk about the Planet's janitor more than you talk about Lex Luthor."
"Hey!" Clark objected. "Enrique's a great guy!"
"I'm sure he is!" she shot back. "But, Clark, listen," she smiled a little, "you hide so much of yourself. I don't think even me or your parents see everything. Don't you think it's time that someone did?"
God, that sounded good. Really, really good. But...Lex was his boss. And for all that Clark knew, not interested in guys at all.
"He's not your boss for much longer," Chloe said, making him realise he'd spoken out loud, "and as Lois tells me, you're the only one we know about that he's ever invited into his home. Something tells me you have nothing to worry about."
"You and Lois talk about me?" That was a disturbing thought.
"Stop avoiding," she reprimanded, knowing him far too well. "And be honest - do you think it could work?"
He honestly didn't know. Clark'd never had a long term relationship with anyone and he did know, at least, that was what he wanted with Lex. "I don't know," he said absently, frowning down at the cup of coffee he hadn't touched. "I mean, when I think too much or there are other people around us I get all jittery, but..." He thought of seeing Lex's collection, of the meal on the counter. "When it's just the two of us together? It's *good*, you know? Even just talking. It's never really been like that before." When he looked back up, Chloe was smiling with too many teeth.
"Well," she breathed, "that sounds like a resounding yes."
"Oh, geez," he grabbed desperately at the napkin holder sitting at the edge of the table closest to the window, "I'm sorry."
"No, no, it's okay," she replied, dabbing at her eyes with a tissue she'd produced from somewhere, and Clark gave up on the napkin holder altogether. "You know how this stuff gets to me."
Clark was pretty much the only one who knew what a sentimental romantic Chloe was. "I know."
"Right!" she announced, determined, giving her nose a quick blow. "Enough of Operation: Emotional Overreaction and on to our next plan of attack - Operation: Sex With Lex."
Clark had a feeling it was going to be a long meal.
Having flown most of the way to Lex's place - stopping a robbery on the way - Clark heard the shouting even before he passed onto Lex's property. About to launch into superspeed, he stopped only when he realised Lex was on the phone and in no immediate danger.
Aside from popping a blood vessel.
Passing security he waved in what he hoped was a not at all dorky way. When he reached the front door he didn't even have to knock - it opened as soon as he approached. Thanking the woman who'd opened the door - tall, blonde, quite possibly capable of breaking even him in half - Clark followed the shouting.
Eventually finding himself by the study, Clark unobtrusively crept inside. Lex was ranting on the phone - not an unfamiliar sight from work - but it seemed much more passionate than usual.
"I don't care what he's offering!" Lex yelled, standing behind the desk with his eyes closed, fingers gripping tightly onto the phone. Seeming to contain his anger after a moment, his voice lowered, tightened, but was no less deadly. "I've told you before and I will *keep* telling you - I want nothing more to do with him." Hanging up firmly he promptly fell to his seat: elbows resting on the desk, hands cradling his head. "Jesus."
Clark didn't know if he'd made a noise - shifted his weight, maybe, or breathed too heavily - but suddenly Lex's head was snapping up, the anger on his face dissipating when he realised who it was.
"Clark. How long have...?" He sighed. "Never mind." He gestured towards the phone. "My father's minions are extremely...trying."
Edging further across the room, Clark spoke carefully. "Are you all right?"
Lex didn't answer. "Really, if someone was in prison for a double homicide you'd think that would stop them from bothering you, wouldn't it?" Rubbing a hand over his head, he stood and started towards a decanter at the side of the room. "I need a drink."
Moving faster than was entirely necessary to get there before him, Clark grabbed Lex's hand just as he reached for the decanter and he paused, realising it was probably the first time they'd touched, skin to skin, since their initial handshake three years ago.
"Don't," Clark didn't let go, meeting Lex's gaze. "Let's watch a movie or something. Together. We can eat as much junk food as you want, just...no alcohol." Not like this. "Please?"
Not pulling away, Lex frowned at him for a very long time. "All right," he agreed eventually, stance shifting a little, "but I get to pick the movie."
Smiling, Clark finally let go, definitely missing it when he did. "Deal."
Half an hour later, Lex still didn't seem to be enjoying himself. Sitting next to Clark on a sofa in the entertainment room, his body was tense, rigid, and Clark wondered what the hell he could do to make him relax.
Of course *that* thought suddenly created some very interesting mental images, and Clark could only pray Lex was too focused on the movie to notice the heavy blush.
"How was dinner?" Lex asked out of nowhere.
Clark blinked, turning his head as Wolverine woke in a lab. "It was great." He decided against sharing that Chloe was trying to get them together just now. "Chloe's a good friend."
Nodding slowly, Lex held out his right hand and studied his fingers as if they were particularly fascinating. And...well, quite honestly for Clark they were fascinating, but he couldn't imagine Lex feeling the same way about his own fingers.
"Sullivan, isn't it?" Lex asked. "Lane's cousin?"
"Right," Clark nodded, trying to keep the conversation relaxed. "She's been giving me tips about what to expect when I..." Leave. Join the Metropolis Star. Leave the Daily Planet. His mouth clicked shut, head turning back towards the TV.
Hugh Jackman was really hot.
He wondered what Lex would think if he said that out loud. But then Hugh Jackman's character was really quite hairy, and with Lex being the distinct opposite maybe saying he liked hairy guys wasn't the way to-
"How long have you two known each other?"
Clark very, very nearly asked if Lex was talking about Hugh Jackman before realising what he meant. "Since we were kids. Eighth grade," he clarified. "She and her dad moved to Smallville not long after her mom left. The second time we met," he paused, remembering, "she kissed me, saying it was best to get it out of the way first so we wouldn't have it hanging over us." He shook his head fondly. "Chloe was something, even back then. Of course, then I met Lois..." Mom had come up with a good analogy for Lois a few months ago: Chloe on kryptonite.
If Lois had spent any of her childhood in Smallville at all, Clark would have considered it a strong possibility.
Turning his head again, Clark realised that Lex was regarding him oddly. Mentally playing back everything he'd just said, seeing how it could be misunderstood and hoping that was the reason Lex was looking at him like that, Clark continued. "We're just friends," Clark said. "Really good friends, but just friends." Maybe he should point out that Chloe was the one who'd told him he was gay.
Lex didn't react, simply talking about something else instead. "How's your final story coming?"
Sighing, Clark thumped his head back against the sofa. "To be perfectly honest? It's not happening." Which was not the kind of thing you wanted to tell your editor, but at least it was the truth. "I come into work and I write my other stories, but that one...I keep thinking and thinking and nothing's coming out."
Seeming much more relaxed, Lex turned his body further around. "Maybe you think too much."
Familiar words. "Lois says that." Clark matched his pose.
Lex was so much hotter than Hugh Jackman.
"Well, then," he grinned, "it must be true, because Lois is never-"
Clark kissed him. The mouth against his was surprised at first, but after a few moments it pressed back, moving.
When Clark pulled back, Lex was frowning at him - not exactly the reaction he'd been going for.
The frown only deepened the longer Lex looked at him. "Did you do that because I was upset earlier?"
"No," Clark answered automatically, knowing by the way Lex's eyelids flickered that he didn't believe him. "Only partly?" he offered. The truth was he did want to make Lex feel better, but that wasn't the only reason. "I like you. I want you to feel good." There was a lot to be said for this not-thinking thing.
"Well," Lex said after a while, a smile growing to overtake his features, "keep doing that kissing thing and you'll probably get your wish."
Given permission - wow, to kiss Lex Luthor - Clark shuffled further towards him. Lex didn't move at all, apparently waiting to see what he was going to do, so Clark leaned in and kissed him again. It was a little longer with actual touching, this time, and Lex was most definitely a willing participant.
Clark kissed him again and again and again, hands brushing over expensive clothes and what pale skin they could find. Lex sighed, then groaned into the kisses, his tongue coming out to meet Clark's and knocking the temperature up a few degrees.
Gasping, Clark felt everything as Lex, no longer passive at all, gave him a kiss that scorched the top of his head off (and being alien, who knew? Maybe it actually had).
Breaking apart, panting for breath, Clark decided Lex looked best of all with kiss-bruised lips - especially when said lips had been bruised by him. "God, you're hot."
Laughing kindly, Lex reached out to touch the edge of Clark's glasses. "I think you underestimate your own appeal." Plucking the glasses from Clark's face, he met his gaze firmly. "You don't need these anymore. Not with me."
Some part of Clark's brain was aware that there was a movie still playing, that he was still trying to catch his breath - something that only happened with kryptonite and sex - but most of his brain was focused on the fact that Lex *knew*. It was unmistakable, even to him. Lex's steady, knowing gaze said everything.
Clark wasn't entirely sure what he was feeling, or what he was supposed to be feeling. He just sat there, trying to comprehend, Lex nearly sprawling across his lap.
Apparently taking his stunned silence as a bad sign, Lex leant forward and grabbed Clark's face between both hands. "Listen to me: it doesn't matter. It doesn't make any difference. I'm not interested in you because you're him - this isn't some hero worship thing." A brief pause, and Lex brushed a kiss against his lips. "I like you because you give Lois coffee to give to me. I like you because you force me to laugh at myself and treat me like a human being. I like you because - as you proved at the last three Christmas parties - despite the fact that you can fly, you are spectacularly uncoordinated." He grinned, teasing. "I *love* the fact that you're undeniably fuckable."
The last words broke through the shock. He really should have been used to that kind of thing by now. God knew the outfit didn't leave much to the imagination, and certain members of the public definitely weren't shy about sharing their opinion of it. Eyeing Lex, he wondered if there were reasons why those kinds of comments had never turned up in the Planet, even on the letters page.
"It's just..." This was going to sound really silly, because even he knew how bad his 'disguise' really was. "No one's ever figured it out before. I mean my parents know, obviously, and I told Chloe a while ago but...no one ever just figured it out before." Did this mean other people were going to figure it out? Or maybe they already had but unlike Lex they were waiting for an opportunity to use it against him and...wow. He really wasn't freaking out about *Lex* knowing at all.
"Come on," Lex said suddenly, crawling off of Clark and the sofa, grabbing his hand. "There's something I want to show you."
Too busy still trying to process everything, Clark let himself be led out of the room, and a few twists and turns later Lex was opening the door to his Warrior Angel collection.
Flicking on the lights, Lex kept hold of Clark's hand as he led him confidently between various display cases until they reached the back of the room.
Standing facing a wall, Clark frowned. "Uh, Lex?" Lex knew the truth. Could they just kiss now?
Smiling, Lex met his gaze. "Keep looking."
Getting the obvious hint Clark used his x-ray vision, eyes widening in surprise. "There's a door there." It was very well hidden, the edges blending in to the design on the walls ? he never would have known it was there without his abilities.
Looking pleased ? *really* pleased ? Lex leant forward and did something to the wall with his free hand. A moment later the door hissed open and, moving entirely on instinct, Clark placed himself between Lex and the door.
Throat rumbling with laughter, Lex pushed by him gently and stepped inside. "I own this place, Clark."
Determined not to feel embarrassed, Clark was tugged inside. "Right." That was the last word he said for a while as he stepped into the room and realised what was there.
It was...him. Pictures, computer models of enemies and buildings he'd fought in. Newspaper headlines. What looked like broken pieces of masonry and a car he suspected he'd stopped from going over the edge of a bridge a few weeks ago.
There was row upon row of filing cabinets, containing what looked like every article that had ever been written about Superman. But, as he used his x-ray vision and speed read through them, he realised they were all about Superman's battles, not about the man himself.
He should have been freaked out. He really, really should have been freaked out.
"Lex, what..." No. He knew what this was. "Why is this here?"
Facing him, Lex looked unbelievably optimistic. Hopeful. "You're a good man, Clark. You help people, and I know you'd help them even if you didn't have superpowers. But..." Pausing, he seemed to consider his words more carefully. "...you can be careless when it comes to helping yourself."
Stepping towards him, Clark shook his head. "I don't understand."
Lex smiled. "You can barely cover your own ass, Clark. You're terrible at lying. For someone so good at writing, you're unbelievably bad at thinking up reasons for suddenly having to leave." The smile deepened. "Do you know how many times I've had to tell Lois I sent you on an errand when you had to fly off to some emergency?"
Lex had been *helping* him? God, for how long? And actually, that explained some of the weird comments he got from Lois sometimes about being Lex's lapdog. "A lot, I'm thinking." Wow, he was...really really glad Lex wasn't a bad guy.
"I've also been trying to figure out just how strong you are," Lex continued, "or how much damage you can take. You're Superman, but I still want to make sure you don't go up against anything that can kill you."
And Clark got it. Everything that was happening, it was almost too much to take in right now, but *that* part he understood. He finally understood. He couldn't imagine what Lex's childhood must have been like, the scars he'd gained from putting his own father in prison ? though one day he hoped Lex would tell him everything about him ? but this was just how Lex was. How he worked.
When he loved.
It was obvious, really.
"How long have you been in love with me?"
Smile fading, Lex's expression drooped and he looked away. "I, uh..."
No! Not now, dammit!
Obviously noticing Clark's change in expression, Lex stepped towards him. "Clark?"
"I have to go," he explained, gesturing towards his ears, "I swear, I'm not trying to avoid this or-"
"It's okay, it's okay," Lex promised, flapping his hands about urgently in a way that Clark would have appreciated more if he hadn't been in a hurry. "Just go."
Nodding firmly, Clark took a deep breath and changed into the outfit at superspeed, right there in front of Lex. He barely took in Lex's stunned gaze, but as he ran out of the room he did manage to hear Lex whisper, "God, I'm in love with a superhero."
By the time Clark had stopped the attempted kidnapping and handed the criminals over to the authorities, he'd heard about a mudslide in Mexico. When he eventually landed on the balcony at Lex's place, he wanted nothing more than to collapse into bed.
Instead he stripped out of his mud-streaked uniform and rubbed the dirt from his body under the shower. Watching the discoloured water drain away, he tried not to see the bodies he'd found, the families he'd been too late to save. Just the water, just the water, just the water, and he was mumbling those words when he found himself standing next to Lex's bed.
The lump beneath the covers stirred, Lex's head appearing as he squinted at him in the dark. "Clark? You're all wet, are you...?" He paused. "What happened?"
"Mudslide," Clark managed, voice dangerously close to breaking. He never talked to anyone about this stuff. Never. "I was..." How could anyone ever understand? "There were so many bodies. I couldn't..."
There was a warm voice next to his ear, and even warmer hands guiding him into the bed. The covers were pulled over them and Lex pulled him close despite the water that still clung to his body.
Crying silently for a while, Lex's hand running soothingly over his back, Clark eventually pulled back enough to speak. "I don't talk about this," he murmured. "I never have." He knew it would be too much for his parents to bear.
"It's okay," Lex shushed him again, brushing a kiss to his forehead. "You're not alone. You have me now."
For the first time in his life, Clark started to believe it.
The Planet only ran from Monday to Friday, so unless a big story broke Clark usually had the weekends off. He also knew that, typically, Lex went in on the weekends - he viewed the paper as his baby, after all.
It was Saturday morning and Lex showed no sign of moving. In fact he looked very happy to stay where he was for the time being - snuggled up to Clark, his head resting against Clark's shoulder.
Not wanting to risk waking him - not only did Lex look adorable, but Clark had a feeling he didn't sleep soundly very often - Clark shifted his body as much as he dared so he could turn his head to study Lex.
This whole situation was beyond weird. Lex knowing, Lex helping him all this time - and now here he was, lying in Lex's bed. It wasn't something he ever would have expected a week ago, but there was no way he was complaining. It was strange and surprising, but that just meant it fell perfectly in line with the rest of his life so far.
Suddenly overwhelmed by a rush of feeling - happiness, he realised - Clark was now far too giddy to just lie there and do nothing. Breaking his silent vow not to wake him up, Clark prodded Lex in the side. "Hey, Lex."
Mumbling, Lex merely snuggled closer.
"Lex." Another poke.
This time Lex just growled.
Actually kind of amused that Lex Luthor - son of Lionel Luthor, editor of the Daily Planet, capable of scaring Lois Lane at twenty paces - was snuggling in bed, Clark decided on another course of action.
Gently pushing Lex onto his back, Clark leant down and kissed him. He could have done without the morning breath, but the point he was trying to make was more important anyway.
Stirring beneath him, Lex started kissing back and that was when Clark pulled away.
Lex looked disappointed, his brow furrowing slightly, but Clark had had plenty of time to think since waking up. There were too many variables, coincidences, and he only believed in destiny so much.
So he asked the question.
"My apartment building didn't need to be fumigated, did it?"
Embarrassment flicked across Lex's face before he could hide it. "Well we don't actually know that isn't true," Lex hedged, tongue flicking over his lips, obviously nervous. "It could have been a pre-emptive measure."
God, Lex was *worried* sometimes. Clark wanted to hurt Lionel Luthor. Badly. "I'm not angry," he assured Lex, leaning in for another kiss. "Though I don't think I should tell the other tenants exactly why they had to relocate for a few days." It made perfect sense, really; as much as anything in his life did. The alien from another planet being pursued by someone who had no idea how to have a normal relationship.
Which made them pretty much even.
"You were leaving," Lex offered as if that explained everything.
Maybe it did.
Clark thought he understood. Rather than say something like anyone else would have, Lex had plotted and planned and been generally sneaky. "Lex," he murmured, "not everything is a battle to be won. You don't have to do amazing things to win me." Leaning down until his forehead touched Lex's, Clark grinned. "You kind of already have."
The almost shy smile that appeared on Lex's face quickly turned wicked, and Clark's pulse sped up. "So I've won you already?"
"Oh yeah." Nodding enthusiastically, Clark kissed and licked his way down the pale, smooth body beneath him.
"Does that mean," Lex's voice was breathy, almost not there at all, "I get a prize?"
"Depends," his words were mumbled against firm skin, mouth pulling back to nip gently. "You didn't answer my question before." A long lick, stopping only when pajama bottoms got in the way. Clark started tugging them down. "How long have you been in love with me?" Looking up, he held Lex's gaze as he bent down and thrust his tongue into the belly button.
"Jesus!" Lex gasped, arching up off the bed. "You don't play fair."
Laughing, Clark held Lex's hips down as he thrust with his tongue again, repeatedly. "I'm...a...report...er..." Judging by the way Lex's cock was reacting, he really liked that.
Squirming beneath him, Lex was obviously ready to go off *really* soon. Clark had never felt prouder.
"You should never," shuddering, Lex tried to rock against him, "trust what anyone says," his left hand wound into Clark's hair, "in the throes of-"
Suddenly abandoning the stomach and scrambling up Lex's body, Clark kissed him deeply before pulling back and meeting his gaze. "I'd believe you." It seemed very important to say this. "I would. I think..." He'd never felt this, never had this *connection* before. "I think I need you." It sounded insane, desperate.
Stilling beneath him, Lex's hand slipped up into his hair as he frowned. "You're still leaving, aren't you?"
"Just the paper," Clark replied, realising Lex needed the reassurance. "Not you."
The hand in his hair tightened. "I can't protect you as well if you leave."
"Lex," sighing, Clark brushed a kiss against the tip of his nose, "I'll be in your bed every single night. I think that's the safest place I'll ever be."
It was, Clark discovered ? as Lex's eyes darkened and he yanked Clark down towards him ? absolutely the best thing he ever could have said.
Waking to the sound of the shower running, Clark turned and burrowed into the covers. He was a little disappointed that he hadn't woken up with Lex next to him, but given that he'd had sex with the guy in question numerous times just a few hours ago, he decided not to complain.
In fact the idea of showering with Lex sounded *really* appealing, but his stomach was rumbling. Regretfully pushing out of the bed ? God, he loved the smell of sex there ? he headed for Lex's disturbingly large closet, searching for a robe in case he came across security during his dash to the kitchen.
Flicking on the light inside the closet, Clark shook his head as row upon row of perfectly pressed shirts and pants were revealed. He wondered if Lex did his own laundry.
His eyes followed along the racks, searching for something that wasn't black or purple, coming to a sudden stop when they saw something beige.
A really *familiar* beige.
A few seconds later Clark was inside the closet, grinning, as he held on to his missing trench coat.
"I've gotta admit, Smallville," Lois declared, "it's a great article. Not your best ever and certainly not award winning, but you definitely put an interesting spin on the old 'mad collectors' story."
Clark knew it wouldn't do any good even before he said the words. "They're not mad, Lois."
She stared at him. "Clark," She put a hand on his shoulder. "One of them collected tooth picks. Tooth. *Picks*."
He stared back. "Dental hygiene is very important."
Releasing his shoulder, she threw her hand up in the air. "You a such a-"
"Lost cause, I know," he replied, twisting a little in his chair. It wasn't anything he hadn't heard before. "Though you're never going to stop trying to make me 'cool'."
Shaking her head sadly, Lois sighed heavily. "Smallville, you made speech marks when you said that. I think we have to resign ourselves to the fact that you are *never* going to be cool."
Clark couldn't really deny it.
"That said..." She continued, looking down at the article again. "I like what this anonymous, *rich* collector said."
He very carefully didn't blush and thanked God that Lex was in his office and nowhere near. Lex being nearby would have so given him away. "Oh? Which part?"
Catching his gaze, she grinned. "That 'obsession' has become a dirty word."
Trust Lois to use the word dirty. "I think you mean the part where he said obsessions don't have to be a bad thing. That, like everything else, they have their positive aspects."
"That's just what I said," she argued. "In any case, I think being someone's obsession - as long as they're not, like, a psycho stalker or anything - could be pretty cool."
Her gaze wasn't speculative as she looked at him. It wasn't questioning or accusing. Instead her expression was all but screaming, "I know!"
Swallowing heavily, Clark wondered exactly what it was she knew. "Being cool isn't what matters."
"No." She pursed her lips together. "As you've proven time and time again." Suddenly folding the paper up and throwing it onto his desk, she turned away. "I have work to do."
Exhaling heavily, Clark slumped against his desk. His desk that'd been covered with crappy but wonderful home made "Good luck!" decorations by someone. There were balloons tied to the back of his chair, and the small cabin built out of cigarettes had to have been made by Lois (there was a note next to it that demanded the cigarettes back later).
In three hours and twenty seven minutes, he officially stopped working for the Daily Planet. In three hours, twenty seven minutes and ten seconds he was walking into Lex's office, locking the door and closing the blinds because he wouldn't be working there anymore and Lex wouldn't be able to keep up that stupid "No nookie with colleagues at work" rule (Clark had laughed for ages at Lex actually using the word 'nookie').
The phone on his desk rang. Debating whether or not to answer it - it was his last day, after all - Clark eventually picked it up. "Clark Kent, Daily Planet."
Wow. It was probably the last time he was ever going to say that.
"You know," Lois' voice said over the line, and he turned in his chair to see her peering over at him, "if you were anyone else in the world I would have written the story about you two."
Closing his eyes, Clark smiled and lowered his head. "I know." Chloe had said the same thing. Right after she'd stopped screaming.
"Does he love you?"
The smile deepened. For a few seconds it was actually difficult to breathe. "Yeah. Yeah, he does." Opening his eyes, he lifted his head and looked towards the office.
"And he's good in bed, right?"
Laughing, she hung up the phone.
Clark glared at her, then his desk, and with quick use of his heat vision sent the cigarette cabin up in flames.
The moment the sprinklers went off, he realised he probably should have done that outside.