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by P L Nunn


Chapter Four


Lex was ticked. People did not just walk out on Lex Luthor without a 'thank you so very much, it was the best sex of my life. I'll be waiting by the phone at the off chance you might want to do it again, so please, please call.' Which, granted, he normally didn't and was generally specific in his dismissals, having been burned in the past by casual bed partners with delusions of permanency.

He actually had called Clark. With an astounding lack of ulterior motive, other than the jolt of electricity that had gone straight from brain to crotch when he'd seen him across the street from the private drive. He'd let Clark rip up his clothes, leave bruises on his skin - - fuck him, and Clark had cut out on him like he was fleeing an alleyway experience with a 40-dollar whore. Twice.

Lex had a good mind to - - what? That thought stalled on him and he scowled at the shadows on the high ceiling trying to get a grip on emotional ambivalences that were fucking with his higher brain functions. Clark wasn't that good a lay.

He sprawled on sweat-dampened sheets and tried to convince himself of that fiction. He wasn't sure if the sex had been as good as it had because of any latent skill on Clark's part, or simply because it had been Clark. Maybe that was one of Clark's alien abilities, some sort of phenomenal aphrodisiac that went straight past the neocortex to the hypothalamus. God knew Lex had wanted him from the first moment he'd laid eyes on him.

He thought about that for a while and dismissed it. If Clark had powers of sexual persuasion, he wouldn't have spent years mooning over Lana Lang in abject abstinence.

While he was showering, washing off the sweat and the semen and the smell of Clark, he questioned his motives, his calm acceptance of liberating truth. Of course he'd known for years - - he just hadn't known, so it wasn't like he hadn't been prepared. The reasonable thing to do - - the responsible thing to do was pin Clark down and ferret out the answers. But he remembered the look in Clark's eyes, the hollow fear when he'd spoken of himself as an abomination in his office and understood the underlying terror of being taken away into a small cold room and studied. He understood why Clark hated the labs so much, and Lex's obsession with the meteor infected.

The responsible thing would be to call in the researchers and maybe even the military, even though Lex had little faith in them after the fiasco in West Virginia - - but he knew he wouldn't, even if he didn't know why.

Which meant he'd have to deal with burrowing out the truths that Clark didn't easily want to part with, himself. He knew how now, because he knew what Clark wanted. And now Clark knew, too.

And though Lex might have hesitated to push when Clark had been sixteen, there was no restraint now. He'd press his advantage, his experience, because that's what he was good at and no matter what else Clark Kent was, he was still small town naïve.

There was a function in Chicago that Lex was obligated to attend. The open house of the newly completed LuthorCorp Chicago. 80 stories of premium real estate in the heart of downtown along the Chicago River. It was one of the projects that his father had started before the Federal justice system and Lex had conspired to wrench control of LuthorCorp away from him. Lionel had always had a thing for real estate.

Sunday night was black-tie and elite. A gathering of 200 or so potential investors. The cream of Chicago aristocracy. The strains of Serenata notturna in the capable hands of the Chicago Symphonia sweetened the air and Lex fell into the familiar dance of charm and influence. He smiled and spoke words he didn't mean with the sincerity of a career politician, subtly tested waters with men who might be competitors and might be investors or acquisitions, flirted with women who's names he'd never remember and lost himself for a while in the game.

It was Lionel's project and everyone here knew it and Lex fended no few inquiries veiled in politeness regarding his father's absence. Lex had a half dozen various answers prepared, none of which entirely covered the truth. That he and Lionel weren't exactly on speaking terms. That putting an ocean between them had seemed the best method of avoiding violence on more than the corporate level.

He hated the fact that he was still trapped in the mammoth shadow of his father. He hated that the old money, the established powers still looked down on him as the trust fund brat that had displaced his father from his seat of power. He knew what they talked about behind his back.

They smiled and congratulated him on the completion and brilliant success of Luthor Chicago and he smiled and pretended he believed them. He'd been dealing with lies all his life.

He wondered what Clark was doing a thousand miles away. Whether he was at home, keeping farmer's hours or in the city with his friends. He'd told himself he wouldn't dwell, because dwelling would only make him weak. The way to play the game, now that he had the hook out, was to wait for Clark to come to him. And Clark would, because Clark was twenty-two and they'd had memorable sex, and that generally trumped common sense. And Clark wasn't the type to run out and hit the clubs, exploring the boundaries of his newfound sexual proclivity. He wasn't Lex. Lex hoped.

Lex frowned into his champagne, hearing one word out of five from the overstuffed Wall Street mogul that was boring him with the latest grain future exchange predictions.

It was quarter past ten and Lex had made more than the required effort. He was distracted and maybe a little drunk, but champagne dulled the tedium. He excused himself from the one-sided conversation, deposited his empty glass on the trey of a passing waiter and left the soft symposium, now onto one of Bach's orchestral suites and the purr of cultured conversation behind.

Luthor Chicago sat flanking the river. A broad pedestrian avenue ran between water and the skyscrapers that bordered it. The lights of the city were elongated, flickering flames on black liquid and if you didn't look at the lights of the city behind you to see the harsh reality of origin, it was almost ethereal.

Lex loosened his tie and walked down the avenue. Restaurants and bars sat perched over the water on stone piers. The nightlife was rich and in this section of the city, not tainted by the homeless or the aimless or the unwashed masses. It was why his father had chosen the location. It didn't matter where in the world Lionel Luthor went, he liked to distance himself from poverty, as if he feared in some deep, dark corner of his heart, that it might pull him back in.

He found a spot overlooking the water, and leaned against the rail, watching the lights of a ferryboat pass below. Something trendy and upbeat was playing in the patio of the bar down the way.

"Felt the need to escape, too, huh?" A young woman drifted over from the patio, a mostly finished glass of what might be bourbon and coke in her manicured hand. She was curvy and dressed in low-cut black evening ware. He had a vague memory of meeting her at the premier, the daughter of this tycoon or that. He might have even flirted with her.

"There's only so much you can take," he smiled at her.

"I thought I was going to die." She grinned at him, and what had been bored plastic-perfect debutante turned mischievous. "But I'd think you'd have reason to tough it out. It being your building and all."

"You would think," he agreed.

Her eyes tracked him up and down, an obvious appraisal. Her smile grew warmer, and she leaned in, showing a good deal of cleavage.

"So you want to get a drink?"

He looked down at the glass in her hand. "You seem to be ahead of me on that one."

"I meant, somewhere - - quieter."

She was bold, which he didn't particularly mind. She probably got whatever she wanted, when she wanted, which was all right, because he was the same way. He looked at the deep valley between her breasts, the swell of her hips, and couldn't keep his mind on the game. All he could think about was broad shoulders and hard, rippled abs.

He thought about Clark being hit on by a woman like this, sultry and confident. He thought about Clark being hit on by someone like him and hissed through his teeth, annoyed.

"So?" She was pressing him, her hip touching his.

"No," he said flatly and defied his own agenda to reach for his cell.

He left her behind and called the number.

Three rings, four, six and before it could go to voice mail. "What?"

"Your phone manners are terrible. What if it had been your mother?"

"My mother's not unlisted. What do you want? I'm busy."

"At 10 o'clock on a Sunday night? With what?"

There was an irritated sigh on the other end. The sound of voices in the background, of multiple TV's. He wondered if Clark was at the Planet this late on night he didn't work. Better that assumption than at a club.

"Lex, what do you care? We're not friends."

It was testament to Lex's failings as a true Luthor that that stung a little each time Clark reminded him. But, Luthor-like he rallied and ignored it.

"We could be."

A longer sigh, and a pause and he could imagine Clark struggling with that. Then, "You've slept with half of Metropolis."

Dating habits aside, it wasn't what Lex had expected to hear. Past duplicity, fringe labs, ethically challenged experiments and meteor - - Kryptonite - - enhanced weapons projects would have been what he would have expected to be at the top of the recrimination list. It was charming actually, that bit of jealousy.

"Dating is not the same as sleeping."

"Doesn't dating mean going out with the same person more than once?"

Lex laughed. "You've been following my exploits in the gossip sheets. I don't know whether to be flattered or offended, but I promise you, I don't have the stamina that they give me credit for."

"I have not. And I don't care."

"You brought it up."

Someone in the background was calling Clark's name. A male voice that sounded urgent. Lex thought he heard Chloe's name mentioned and Clark muttered a curse under his breath and snapped.

"I have to go." And the connection severed.

Hung up on again. It was getting to be a habit. Of course so was calling Clark like a love struck teenager, so really, he didn't have a lot of room to complain. He put the phone back in his pocket, amused, despite himself.

Lex was back in Metropolis early Monday morning, with a few meetings on his agenda and a tour of a facility on the outskirts of the city that he was considering as a LexCorp subsidiary. It was a light day. He slept in till nine, and was across the street at Luthor West by 10 for his first appointment. By 3 he had collected an acquisitions lawyer and two of his R&D specialists and was ready to ride out and tour the industrial wing of Creighton Biotech Resources.

The limo pulled up under the colonnaded drive on time with Lex's exit through the revolving glass doors. One of the young valets ran to open the back door while the two R&D techs were stalled in the doorway, arguing quietly behind Lex about functional genomics verses structural genomics. It promised to be a long drive.

He was a dozen steps away from the car, turning his wrist up to check the time when the world exploded.

He didn't even see the source of ignition, just felt the concussive release of pressure shock wave that flung him backwards like the hand of God. His back hit high impact glass with enough force to shatter, or maybe that was residual shock wave from the explosion as well.

He kept thinking about the time - - about the watch face he hadn't had the chance to look at. It was hard to focus on the flaming mess of the limo thirty feet away or the scrambling blur of bodies, faces stretched in mute panic, arms waving, glass falling, bits of charred flesh on the marble paving.

Someone crouched next to him, black suited security with a scratch on his face, mouth working rapidly but no sound issuing forth. There was pain, but it was far away, like the awareness of a drill bit past the Novocain.

He needed to know what time it was. There was an appointment to keep. He saw the elusive watch face in his mind's eye and it followed him down into darkness like a shark plunging into the depths after wounded prey.




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