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Quality Time

by P L Nunn

 

Chapter six

 

For someone who functioned perfectly well on a fraction of the rest human beings required to survive, Clark took a great deal of pleasure from the act of sleep. He could fall into slumber at the drop of a hat, and stay that way, happily devoid of disturbing dreams, for hours.

Lex, who physically needed the sleep, who felt the lack of in his bones or that space behind his eyes, often found it as elusive as that fabled streak of perfect luck.

He lay for a long while in the curve of Clark's body, while Clark's breathing slowed and Clark's limbs relaxed around him. Long, hard muscle, perfect body, incalculable, casual strength that Clark was always so very, very careful of. So very careful of Lex. Like he was breakable and valuable in ways that Lex never considered himself to be.

He could stay there forever, in that warm embrace, protected - - cherished - - and it had been such a long time since he'd felt either, before Clark, that it was hard to imagine the permanency of this. Hard not to, when Clark talked about forever's. Hard not to sometimes think that maybe, just maybe, Clark wasn't the naïve one.

And other times, when Lex was morose, and feeling masochistic, he doubted it could last, because eventually Clark would come to his senses. Then he'd fall into darker musings and consider ways of assuring as much permanency as he could. Less than honest ways.

He'd dislike himself after. Hate how easy it was to fall into mental patterns that he'd tried hard to escape. But sometimes it was just so simple to walk the line or consider bending - - shattering - - the rules altogether when something precious was at stake. Because Lex never had learned to surrender to inevitability. And once he'd laid a claim, he never gave it up.

And what the fuck was Lana Lang hoping to accomplish? She was in for a rude awakening if she thought Clark was in any way still an option for rebound comfort. Lex ground his teeth and wallowed a little in the comfortable knowledge that yes, he was jealous and that no, he wouldn't hesitate in the least at ruining her if she tread on his territory.

Of course, his righteous indignation over the whole ridiculous situation would have been better served if Lana actually had a clue she was trespassing. He couldn't entirely fault her for approaching Clark when she thought he was a free agent. And he couldn't fault Clark for not telling, when there was so much at risk if the fact that he was sleeping with Lex, became public knowledge

Clark's reputation mattered to him. The security of Clark's secret did. So maybe Lex didn't mind Clark not telling her.

And maybe there were more reasons than the obvious ones. Maybe he was okay with the secrecy because this mattered more than all the affairs that had littered the society pages and the gossip rags and if it became known, if it was out there, this concrete acknowledged thing, and then it went away, it would be all the more devastating.

He shook himself out of it. Lana Lang, if not the least of his problems, was considerably less volatile than the other headache inducing complications he was presently dealing with.

He slipped out from under Clark's arm, and Clark stirred a little, dragged a pillow close and settled again. Lex let the edge of a smile grace his mouth. It faded as soon as he left the bed. He grabbed a light robe and padded through the darkened apartment to the living room.

The phone had been off since he and Clark had come back from Little Bohemia. He'd heard all he needed to at the Hawthorn building and feared Clark overhearing any follow up reports.

Eight dead at the outskirts of Austin. Three of them his people, one meta-human and four innocents, caught in the backlash of something that simply shouldn't have happened. Something that should have been safely confined under strict supervision.

They'd retaken three of the escapees alive. The one in Austin hadn't been so lucky. He hadn't given them the choice. A bullet to the brain had efficiently stopped the rampage, when tranqs and other containment measures had not.

Lex turned on his cell and checked for messages. Listened to the reports that the Austin authorities had found the four civilian bodies and were combing the scene for evidence. They wouldn't find any. His people were good. Those deaths would end up unsolved, families never knowing the why or the how, or the fact that the killer had met justice the quick, high caliber way.

It made him feel cold again. And dirty. The anger was a given. To a certain degree, the mutants couldn't help themselves. Extreme cases of Kryptonite mutation almost inevitably fucked with the mind. The sons of bitches that had let them go - - Them he could blame. He could lay those deaths on their shoulders because they sure as hell weren't on his.

Clark's friends. Who Clark wouldn't tell him the names of, but who Clark insisted were trying to do good - - were trying to protect people who couldn't protect themselves. As if locking up undeniably dangerous meta-human threat wasn't protecting the masses.

But then again, Clark was in a bad position and Lex knew it. Clark was on the outskirts of their little clique, at best. Clark didn't feed them information on Lex's activities any more than he shared their secrets with Lex. And Lex trusted that if Clark did have problems he'd come to him first and give him the chance to explain. They'd come a long way in that respect.

Clark actually listened and Lex went out of his way not to engage in things that Clark would find unforgivable. It was a fair trade. And honestly, Lex would have given so much more to keep Clark happy.

And it might come to the point where he had to explain this little fiasco to Clark, but not if he could help it. Iquique had been designed as a containment facility, but that hadn't been its sole purpose and Clark wouldn't understand and he wouldn't condone the things that had happened there before Lex had started overhauling certain prime directives. He might not understand the measures it took sometimes to keep control of a woman who could bend the minds of the people around her, or a man that could absorb the properties of any substance he touched.

Lex moved to the windows looking out over the broad terrace, and the silhouettes of the sleeping city beyond. There was nothing to obscure the view, no building as tall as LuthorCorp East save for its twin that stood rooted one block west. If he went out on the balcony, and leaned over the rail, he could see the lights of traffic that never seemed to completely dry up in the city. Crawling below like bugs in a maze.

He rested his forehead against the glass, recognizing the fact that the way his thoughts were circling tonight, sleep wouldn't come easy. A drink or four might help, but he didn't want to go back to bed smelling of alcohal when he hadn't started out the night that way. Clark's obtuseness never seemed to work at the times that most benefited Lex. He didn't want to have to concoct another excuse - - he hated traveling that path. It was so easy for excuses and half-truths to bloom into full-fledged lies and they'd had too many of them between them in the past.

He went back to the bedroom. Shed the robe and slid under the sheet next to Clark. Lay for a long time, listening to the steady sound of Clark's breathing, soaking up the absolute peaceful stillness of his body at rest, until finally - - finally, it began to catch.

Light had long since started coloring the horizon by the time he drifted to sleep.

And came awake what seemed mere minutes later as the bed dipped, and something wet and soft tickled the immediate area of his ear. He growled in annoyance and instinctively reached for a pillow to protect against the irritation.

The warm wet something traveled down his chest, lazy and slow leaving little tingling prickles in its wake.

Lex drifted closer to unwelcome awareness. But the warmth wasn't entirely unpleasant, most certainly when it drifted lower still. The heat compressed, a lethargic brand of pleasure that eased up under his skin, until it reached his lashes. He lifted the edge of the pillow and pried his eyes open enough to focus fuzzily on the dark head presently bent over his hips.

As ways to wake up went, this held an unparalleled place at the top of the list - - but God, hadn't he just gotten to sleep? And really, Clark's mouth was undeniably the hottest part of him and his ability to deep throat without the hint of a gag reflex was an enviable and treasured skill. It was enough to unerringly wake certain parts of Lex, even if his head wasn't quite up to full operating capacity.

"What time is it?"

Asking questions - - blatantly unrelated to oral sex questions - - proved not to be the sharpest of tactics, since it led to Clark lifting his head and grinning up at him, that big, beautiful, Cheshire cat smile of his that showed off the sharp points of his fangs. Lex felt cold and bereft at the departure of mouth from cock.

"Eight-thirty. I'm starved."

Which was certainly no unusual state for Clark to wake up in, in every sense of the word. Clark generally awoke horny and hungry and eager to embark on the satiation of both. And early. Did he mention early? Because God knew if Lex were left to his rathers, Sunday mornings would have seen him comfortably ensconced in bed till considerably closer to noon.

Lex made an unhappy sound and Clark's pink tongue slid out to lick at his lips, before he bent back down. Wet lips sucking in the head of Lex's cock, big hands on his hips and - - oh, God.

Lex lost focus, and it had nothing to do with sleep-hazed minds this time. Everything to do with Clark's perfect, perfect mouth.

Clark pulled away again, sucked at Lex's hip and worked his way southward, worming his way up to lie full length atop Lex, the hard length of his erection pressing against Lex's abandoned cock. Clark weighed a ton, but when he shifted his hips hard stomach grinding against Lex's erection, easy breathing became a secondary concern.

"Its Sunday," Lex gasped, not one to let go of a righteous complaint, even if he were seeing stars. "You know, day of rest?"

"You don't believe in rest," Clark said, nibbling at the tip of Lex's chin. "And I don't think they meant sleeping in till noon with that whole 'day of rest' thing."

Or getting up before nine and fucking the morning hours away - - but then, semantics.

Lex shifted, getting his legs out from under Clark, which let Clark settle more comfortably between them and lined them up oh, so nicely. He arched up, not dislodging Clark in the least - - because Clark wasn't going to be dislodged until Clark was good and ready, but it did send a sweet little buzz of sensation through his lower regions.

Clark made a breathy sound, apparently getting some of that too, and blew out a breath against Lex's neck. He nuzzled Lex's ear and soft hair brushed his cheek. He still smelled of the shampoo he'd used last night and Lex shut his eyes and inhaled. Splayed his fingers out over the landscape of muscle on Clark's back and enjoyed the scent and the weight and the slick feel of Clark's cock pressed up tight against his own.

Perfect fit. Perfect body. Perfect honesty when they lay like this, skin to skin.

His. Just - - his.

Clark's lips moved down his neck, big hand traveling down his hip, curling under Lex's thigh and sliding leisurely back to his knee. Lex obligingly spread his thighs wider, encouraging that line of thought.

A sharp nip at his collarbone, and Clark was rocking against him. Lex heard himself make a sound, needy and low - - the little stab of pain and the grind of warm pleasure a heady mix. Clark came back up and met his mouth, warm thrust of tongue in tandom to the grind of his body, fingers sliding around Lex's wrists, pinning him down as he moved. Urgent slide of bodies and it was too early in the morning to prolong it - - it only took a few hard thrusts and Clark was shuddering, coming, gasping Lex's name like a new religion. The squirt of heat on his stomach, the press of Clark's hands on his wrists and Lex was tumbling right after him.

A long, dark fall into bliss. Mind pleasantly blank. Body reeling. If he lay there long enough, drifting in post-sex lethargy, he might very well be able to fall back asleep.

But with a kiss, Clark rolled off and without body heat to warm it, the sticky wetness on his stomach turned rapidly cool and uncomfortable. Lex forced a breath through his teeth, cracked his lids and watched Clark stride naked to the bathroom. It was a fantastic view.

"So I was thinking," Clark said through the door. "CrackerJack's for breakfast. Its scrapple Sunday."

Lex shut his eyes again and groaned. The only thing conceivably worse than an all you could eat buffet and the horrifying array of germs contaminating it from the varied hands that passed its public food troughs, was the thought of chopped bits of discarded meat product packed together, formed into a loaf and consumed.

"Or, we could have something sent up? As much fried pork as you want." Lex suggested hopefully.

"Oh, come on," Clark said, sounding happily undeterred. "You know how hard it is to find scrapple in the city? And there was asparagus with lunch yesterday. Asparagus. So you owe me."

He heard the sound of the shower and the slice of Clark he'd been able to see disappeared inside the stall.

"I don't owe you enough to pick up Ebola from a buffet," Lex muttered.

"That's a myth," Clark yelled in over the sound of the water, having apparently picked up the complaint. "And you couldn't get it anyways and you can order off the menu."

Other than flat out refusing to go, he wasn't budging Clark from his quest for scrapple with simple logic or cautionary tales of culinary - - and he used the term liberally in this case - - disaster.

Lex could surrender gracefully, if he had to. And there were perks to be had from capitulation.

He slipped into the shower with Clark and collected a few.

Dressed down afterwards - - a good deal afterwards - - for breakfast. Summer silk shirt and jeans, because half the places Clark loved to eat, tended to be on the lower rent side of town and Armani and Rolex were just invitations to bad service and attempted robbery.

Besides which, the jeans were guaranteed to distract Clark, who apparently had a thing for denim that went beyond its practicality for farm work. Or maybe it was just the rarity of Lex in soft pre-faded blue that agitated him. Clark liked to touch and Lex spent most of the ride down from penthouse to garage against the elevator wall with Clark's tongue in his mouth and Clark's hands stroking his thighs.

It was a wonder either one of them could walk straight when the elevator doors opened on the private garage and the always grim face of the permanent security stationed there.

"The black 911, Jerry." Lex headed towards the Porsche with Clark on his heels.

The attendant returned with the keys from the security station.

"Will there be anything else, Mr. Luthor?" The man's eyes flicked behind him, to Clark, and the faint disapproval had nothing to do with the fact that Clark was sleeping with him and everything to do with the fact that Lex insisted on leaving proper security behind when the two of them were together. It was the only reason Lex let him get away with it.

"That'll be all."

The man nodded, too professional to let his frustration at not being able to properly carry out his job function show.

Lex tossed Clark the keys. "You know the way. You drive."

The keys were snatched out of the air with a wide, white grin.

"We need to make a quick stop by my place. I've been wearing these clothes for two days now. But it's on the way." Clark said, as if Lex might be concerned at the delay in reaching the scrapple buffet.

Lex idly checked messages while Clark drove. There were no updates on the mutant manhunt front. A few business related calls that he saved to listen to later. He put the phone in the compartment behind the gearshift, adjusted his sunglasses and relaxed back into the seat while Clark drove.

They got onto the subject of Clark actually buying a car, if for nothing more than appearances sake, when they passed a beat up old ford mustang, with panels from at least two other different cars on the passenger side, with a for sale sign in the window. It immediately appealed to Clark's inner redneck.

Since the probability of him being able to convince Clark to accept a gift vehicle on any terms were astronomically low, Lex didn't even bother to tweak his frustration levels and attempt it. Instead they launched into a debate over domestic vs. foreign, practicality vs. aesthetics and the all-important issue of budget. Clark was barely managing his bills now on the salary of a first year reporter. Anything he could remotely afford was going to be a piece of crap. With no credit history to his name getting a loan would also be difficult.

"Get your mother to co-sign," Lex suggested. "You'll get better rates with a secure loan. It's what most kids do, with that first big purchase."

"I wouldn't want to ask her. We've had some credit problems with the farm and some of dad's old hospital bills and - - well, it would be really embarrassing for her if there were a problem."

Lex rolled his eyes behind his glasses because these conversations where Clark moaned about money and absolutely refused to take a cent of his, were entirely annoying. "Then get me to co-sign. No credit problems. Promise."

Clark cast him a speculative look. "You know, I have this picture in my head, of you coming in with me to co-sign for some three grand clunker and the loan officer just falling down in a dead faint."

Lex returned the look over the rims of his glasses. "If you're going to use your imagination - - splurge. Five grand clunker at the very least. Do it. Let's go get something today." There was no shopping like car shopping, even if it were for something he wouldn't be caught dead in.

"Lex, I can't just go buy a car spur of the moment. I've got to figure out my budget and shop around - - maybe do some research."

"You sound like your mother. Where's your sense of adventure?"

Clark snorted, grinning.

There was a little green Honda in the driveway of Clark's brownstone when they pulled up, so Clark had to park down the block on the side of the street. It was a prime spot though, under the shade of a big elm that had been there long enough that the sidewalk had buckled up under the bulk of its roots. Most of the sidewalk was speckled with shade from trees planted at intervals down its length.

They climbed the back stairs and Clark unlocked the door. Lex was close enough on his heels that when Clark came to an abrupt stop, he came close to colliding with his back. He stepped back, to see what had brought Clark to a standstill and saw Lana Lang slipping down from the barstool at the kitchen counter, an embarrassed little smile on her face.

She was good at it, too, looking genuinely abashed. Soft hair falling artlessly about her shoulders, flawless skin, big innocent eyes that could snare even the coldest heart. Vague images of her falling headfirst down the back stairs, thin limbs flailing, flittered across his mind.

He shut down that line of thought and pasted a coolly pleasant expression on his face while Clark stumbled over himself trying to adjust to the shock of her presence. Or maybe her presence combined with Lex's presence was what had him stammering out her name.

"L - - Lana - - hey. Ah - - what are you - ?"

"Doing here?" She bit her lip, casting her eyes down in a faultless moment of shame. She held up a thin gold chain and smiled. "Sorry. I realized I'd left this - - and I told that nice Mrs. McClusky I was an old friend and she was sweet enough to let me in."

Of course the old bitch had. It was only Lex she hated with a passion.

"Yes, what's a little breaking and entering among old friends?" Lex asked smoothly, leaning against the doorframe.

Lana started a little, as if she'd been trying to ignore the fact that he was standing right there, and her eyes flicked to him sharply, some of the softness she'd held for Clark getting a hard edge when she looked at him. "Like you've never bypassed things like personal privacy and gone where you weren't wanted?"

She asked it so softly it was almost as if there were no bitterness at all in the statement/question. Clark might have missed it entirely, never quite having shed those Lana sized blinders he'd worn most of his life.

And oh, yes, she remembered quite vividly, it seemed, the less than pleasant set of circumstances surrounding her breakup with Lex. After which, if one wanted to be accurate in the account of personal histories, and Lex did like his historical accuracies, she'd run right back to Clark.

The discomfort Clark was emitting was so strong, Lex could practically feel it. He did not look back at Lex. Lex thought he was probably afraid to. Good.

"So, I thought you were hanging out with Chloe?" Clark managed to find his voice.

"I was," Lana turned her eyes back to Clark and stood there with her little hands curled around each other, nervous and uncertain. It set Lex's teeth on edge. "But she had to meet with a source, so I thought I'd come over here and see if you were back from your assignment."

"Uh - - yeah. I got back this morning and um - - ran into Lex." He glanced back at Lex and a half blind fool could have picked up on the blatant way his eyes screamed lies. Lana was a lot of things, but she wasn't a fool.

Lex lifted a brow dryly and refused to help with the alibi. Let Clark dig his own grave with inept fabrications. He was good at it.

"Oh," Lex could see her trying to work out the mechanics of that in her head, how he and Clark were on really friendly terms again after that last summer in Smallville when they'd been at each other's throats. He idly considered strolling up behind Clark, maybe running a possessive hand up his chest, and letting her do that math.

"Did you guys have something planned?" With the wistful tone of an orphan deprived of the simple warmth of human comfort.

"Just breakfast," Clark said hastily and just - - no - - Hell, no. "You're welcome to tag along. It's scrapple Sunday."

Lana's smile bloomed, this graceful, grateful thing that Clark couldn't help but smile back at. "I love scrapple."

Lex hadn't actively hated her before - - not really. He was feeling it now.

Clark turned to look at Lex, this pleading look in his eyes that just begged 'be good.' "That okay, with you?"

"Why would you think I'd have a problem with that?" Lex didn't let his expression falter. Not one iota.

"I just need to get a clean shirt - -" Clark started, then canted his head a few seconds before Lex heard something clomping up the back steps that sounded vaguely like some hoofed beast on the run.

It turned out to be Chloe in clogs, flushed faced and patently shocked when she skidded to a stop on the patio and took in the three of them. Wonderful. Lex supposed he'd have to deal with Chloe at breakfast now as well, since most of Clark's women seemed to be converging. Lois Lane showing up would make the morning complete.

"Hey, You're home." Chloe stated the obvious and edged past Lex through the doorway. She gave him a quick little look on the way that was more venomous than usual.

"We're all going to breakfast. You haven't eaten yet have you?" Lana smiled at her and the furrow between Chloe's brows deepened as if she too, realized what a disastrous notion that was.

"Uh. No. Um, Clark, can I talk to you a minute? Work stuff." She made a grab for Clark's arm and obviously wanted the talk in private, because she was hauling him towards the patio. Clark obligingly let her drag him, and Lex stepped into the kitchen to let them pass.

Chloe pulled the door shut behind her, and Lana stood in the spot she'd been rooted in, staring warily at Lex. She'd made herself a cup of coffee. There was still half a pot on the warmer. How quant that she was making herself at home.

"Don't you have a coffee shop to run?" He strolled to the counter, trailing around the edge, making her turn to follow his movement.

"I have competent people running it."

"Really?" He lifted a brow. "Last time I checked, you were on the books as general manager. If you're not going to take the Talon seriously, I just might have to reevaluate that whole parking garage concept."

"You can't do that," She said icily, not flinching, for which he had to give her a little credit for. "I'm half owner."

"No," he corrected. "You're forty-nine percent owner. That one percent is always the killer."

Her chin went up, eyes big and angry and she really was beautiful when her ire was up. "You're a bastard, Lex."

He shrugged, trailing fingers along the counter top until he came to where she stood. "Why don't you go back home, make nice with your boyfriend and leave Clark alone. Don't you think he deserves a little better than being your personal rebound toy? The game's a little old now, isn't it?"

"You don't know what you're talking about," she said, that little waver in her soft voice that gave away her agitation. "If anyone's using Clark, its you. I don't know what you did to get back in his good graces, but sooner or later, he'll see through it and he'll see through you."

He felt a cold wash of real anger, the dangerous kind that usually left someone regretting getting on his bad side.

"What's your new boyfriend do - - owns a nursery outside Smallville? If you lost the Talon and he lost his business - - wouldn't that be a streak of bad luck?"

She opened her mouth - - shut it, eyes wide, picking up maybe that Lex didn't level empty threats. "Don't you - - Steve has nothing to do with this."

"What is this, Lana? Did he get too close? Scare you off with offers of permanency? So you run to Clark, who's always there for you, but who you know, deep down, isn't the one?"

"Shut up," she whispered. "Just - - shut up."

"Go home, Lana. Go stay with Chloe. Your Aunt Nell. I really don't give a fuck. But you keep using Clark as that convenient shoulder and you won't have anything to go home to. Am I making myself clear enough for you?"

"Lex!"

Lana blinked, staring beyond him, eyes glistening with unshed tears that might have been resentment as much as fear. The look in Clark's eyes, though, when Lex turned, could most certainly be classified as anger.

Lex pressed his lips and returned an icy glare of his own, annoyed to be caught in the act. Annoyed even more when Clark stalked over caught him by the arm and pulled him away from Lana - - who'd managed to actually spill a tear down one rounded cheek.

"Are you okay?" Clark asked her and she nodded, chin trembling, fighting back a sniffle. Clark's fingers tightened on his arm enough to actually hurt. Manipulative little bitch.

"Lana, just stay here a minute, all right?" Clark said, and started for the backdoor, jerking Lex with him. They passed Chloe, who'd edged into the kitchen and stood there glowering at Lex as they passed. Lex endured it, the manhandling, because there would be more indignity involved in struggling and most certainly failing to free himself than just allowing himself to be dragged along in Clark's wake.

How much of that had Clark heard, to be this pissed? Fuck him, anyway, if he thought he was going to get away with chastising Lex for correcting a situation that Clark had let get out of hand to begin with.

"Get your fucking hand off me," Lex growled, as soon as they'd hit the patio. Which Clark didn't do, until they'd tromped down the stairs and out into the narrow strip of back yard.

"I can't believe you just threatened her." Clark jerked his hand off Lex's arm and stalked a few feet out onto the grass.

"I can't believe you're still acting like a fifteen year old with his first crush." Lex snarled back. He would not rub at the ache in his arm. Absolutely would not.

Clark turned and glared at him, eyes fever bright, cheeks flushed red in agitation. There was something in his eyes that went beyond annoyed at Lex leveling threats to ex-girlfriends. Something hurt - - something that hinted at betrayal.

"Damnit, Lex - - you told me you'd shut down all the 33.1 facilities."

Fuck. Just - - fuck.

Chloe. It had to be Chloe and her dubious contacts, that had broken the news. He wished a little of the ill will that had gathered towards Lana in her direction.

"Technically, I have," He had to be very careful here. Flat out lies would ruin him. Half-truths were equally likely to wreak havoc.

"Oh, the hell," Clark yelled, no voice control whatsoever when his emotions were on a roll. "You told me no more experiments."

"Your sources are mistaken," he said levelly. "There is no experimenting, Clark. There's only containment."

"You were keeping people prisoner and now people are dead."

"Get your fucking facts straight before you come at me with accusations." Cool slipped away, driven back by a surge of indignation. "There was no risk until your friends created it by opening fucking Pandora's box. They were neutralized, the worst of the worst, until those vigilantes demolished the containment facility."

"That's what you were doing in Chile," Clark said, jaw so tight it was a wonder he could get words past. "Damage control. That's what you've been so uptight about. You lied to me."

"I didn't." And he hadn't. Just a careful avoidance of the truth.

Clark narrowed his eyes, not believing that. The expression on his face one of the old familiar ones - - disappointment and scorn.

It came to a head - - day's worth of frustration, lack of proper sleep, of irritation and maybe not so ridiculous moments of insecurity - - damned if he would tolerate Clark looking at him like that when he'd goddamned well been doing the right thing.

"Fuck you. Just. Fuck. You." He snarled, shoved Clark away, and Clark was actually surprised enough to take a backwards step. Lex gave him his back, stalking for the driveway gate. So goddamned angry that his vision tunneled, black on the sides, focused on putting distance between himself and Clark and those vipers waiting in Clark's apartment.

Fucking bitch - - and he wasn't even sure which one he meant. Could have been either, Chloe sticking her nose in where it didn't belong or Lana treading on his territory. He'd make a call and level the Talon outright. Hell, historical Smallville Main Street had needed an overhaul for years. Maybe he'd buy out the whole district, and all those quaint little shops with their ignorant little country proprietors just might find themselves the home of a new set of office complexes.

He reached the car and stopped, stood at the door reaching for keys that weren't in his pocket. Clark had the keys. Son. Of. A. bitch.

He'd walk before he went back and asked for the keys. Or find a cab.

"Nice car."

Lex narrowed his eyes and glanced down the line of parked cars. A man was strolling up, hands in the pockets of a grey hoodie. If he was looking for a car jacking, he was out of luck. If he wasn't - - well, Lex wasn't feeling generous enough to exchange pleasantries.

There was another one, on the sidewalk, coming from the same direction. A boy, thin, pale, who leaned a hand against the big elm.

Something struck a chord of recognition. Something cold knotted in Lex's gut. He turned to look at the man on his side of the car. Broad face within the confines of the hoodie. A wide, flat mouth curved into a humorless smile. Sharp, black eyes. He'd seen them over a chasm in Chile. He'd seen them in a lab, with this man strapped down spitting ineffectual threats at him through safety glass.

God. He started to lunge away, but the asphalt buckled a little under his feet, throwing him off balance. A big hand caught his elbow, swung him around, against the car. A body pressed in behind him, something sharp prodding his side. Garrison Rule, if he remembered correctly, was fond of knife work.

Lex stared at the boy across the roof of the Porsche, and the boy stared back, heart shaped face and dead, dead eyes. His name was James Gordon Elliot, a sociopath that had only just started his path of destruction, where as Rule had been at his games long before the meteors had altered his body.

"I told you," Rule pressed the tip of the blade into Lex's side, in the soft flesh above the edge of his jeans. "That I'd be seeing you."

"What do you want?" He felt a little trickle of blood emanating from the sting of the blade, warm against his skin, soaking into the denim. If he screamed for Clark, would Clark hear? Clark tuned things out most of the time from necessity and Clark would be distracted now, with Lana and Chloe and his own turmoil.

"Get in the car."

Lex took a breath, turning over possibilities. If they didn't want him dead on the street - - if they wanted him alive long enough to change locations - - "I don't have the keys."

The hand on his elbow tightened, became heavier, harder and Lex had to stifle a cry as the pressure increased. He glanced down saw the fingers, no longer flesh colored but speckled grey, like the asphalt under their feet. The hand ran down his side, patted his pockets looking for confirmation. Slid around to his stomach, under the loose edge of the shirt and scraped across the skin, rough and hot like the summer hot surface of the road.

"Okay," Rule said, voice gone low and gravelly and too close to Lex's ear. He pulled Lex back, arm this unyielding weight around his waist, and smashed his free hand through the driver's side window. "C'mon, Gordy."

The boy trotted around, reached in and unlocked the door, then slid into the compact back seat. Rule pushed Lex into the driver's seat, handed the boy the knife, a long switchblade. The boy leaned forward, against the back of the driver's seat and laid the edge of the blade against the side of Lex's throat.

Lex stared straight-ahead, unmoving, fear coiling in his gut. Neither one would hesitate slitting his throat, but Rule at least might postpone it to feed ulterior motives. This boy had no such compunctions.

Rule slide into the passenger side, reached over with his asphalt grey hand and twisted the ignition right off the steering column. He pulled out another smaller pocketknife and stuck it in the exposed ignition, bringing the car to life.

"All right, Lex," Rule leaned close, that sickening grin still on his face and the way he said his name - - it was like a perversion. "Drive."

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