A Date With The President
"Mr. Luthor!" "Mr. Luth-" "Mr. L-" "Mr. Luthor!" "Mr. Lut-" "Mr-" "Mr. Luthor!" "Mr. Lu-"
Kellett McBride, the Press Secretary, pointed at a reporter in the fourth row of the LuthorCorp Towers, Metropolis, press room.
"Jenna Moore, MET-TV," the brunette TV-correspondent identified herself as she rose from her seat. "Mr. Luthor, you are the youngest President-elect in U.S. History. Do you think you have enough life experience to undertake the role of Leader of the Free World?"
Along the edges of the room, television cameras adjusted focus. Flash photographers randomly clicked pictures. Lex Luthor stood at the podium at the front of the room, confident in stance and comfortable speaking to the press.
"I think that anyone who lived through the Quake and evacuation of No Man's Land has more experience than anybody should have in several lifetimes," Lex said. "As you know, I was in downtown Gotham three years ago when the man-made earthquake hit and was one of the fortunate survivors. Evacuation of No Man's Land took months and any able-bodied person pitched in to help. I saw more death and destruction than anyone should have to see, and I promised myself that I would do everything in my power to make sure nothing like that ever happened again. As President, I intend to keep that promise."
Lex nodded Kellett as the room erupted in calls of his name. The mustachioed African American pointed to another reporter.
"Robert Hayes, Oklahoma City Tribune. Mr. Luthor, when you take office at the end of January, what will be your first priority?"
Lex smiled slyly. "Finding a date for the Inaugural Ball."
Laughter. Kellett chose another correspondent to ask a question. "Zeta Flowers, QNBC. Speaking of dating, do you think that being the President will have a positive or negative effect on your being a single male?"
In the sixth row, a bespectacled journalist jotted a question on his pocket notepad. Lois Lane read what he wrote, leaned closer, and whispered, "Good question, Clark. Ask it."
Clark Kent glanced at his new partner, at Lex, and returned his eyes to his notepad. The question was a leading one, opening an avenue for further investigation on the answer. "I don't think I can. You ask it."
"Kent," Lois sighed exasperatedly. "This is an easy first assignment for you. Don't blow it, or you'll end up writing obits for the Daily Planet until you're fifty."
Clark cringed. He didn't want that to happen. He knew he was lucky to be hired as an investigative reporter for the Planet, when he was so young and held just an Associates degree in journalism. Perry White, the Editor-In-Chief of the Metropolis newspaper, had hired Clark based on his freelance coverage of the events in Gotham beginning three years ago. After the Quake, Clark had gone to No Man's Land to help, using his special gifts while hiding beneath an eye-mask. It was therapeutic for him to write at the end of the day. He sold his articles to the highest bidders and donated the money to the Gotham victims' fund.
Now, as a reporter for the Planet, it was Clark's job to ask questions. But why did his first assignment have to be covering Lex Luthor's first press conference after being elected President? Clark hadn't seen Lex in at least five years. Nothing bad had happened between them with their friendship, they had just... parted ways. Clark went off to Junior College and Lex had returned to Metropolis, where he worked ruthlessly to gain control of over half of his father's company. Now, Lex was President-elect of the United States and Clark Kent was his old friend from Smallville. Clark didn't want to use that fact to his own advantage. It wouldn't be right.
Lois didn't know, and probably wouldn't care, about Clark's inner-debate. When the next round of hand-waving came, she grabbed him intimately high on his leg.
Clark yelped in surprise and jumped up. The press room quieted as all eyes shot to him.
Clark felt his infernal blush heating his cheeks. He poked the nosepiece of the thick black glasses frames, cleared his throat, and winced at the squeak in his voice when he spoke Lex's name. "Mr. Luthor, um, Clark Kent with the Daily Planet."
Clark dared a glance at Lex. The bald man had gone completely still. A myriad of emotions crossed his face almost unnoticed, before disappearing behind a polite mask.
"Uh, if-if you could do one thing over again, what would it be?" Clark asked, cursing his nervous stutter.
Lex paused in replying, staring intently at Clark. As the press in the room started to shift, their interest peaking, Lex finally answered. "I would have taken the chance with the person I cared most about." He smiled suddenly. "Thus, breaking the hearts of many by not being the Most Eligible Bachelor in the World."
Clark sat and scrunched down in his seat as the Press Secretary moved the press conference along. Lois leaned over, her dark hair brushing Clark's shoulder, and said, "There's a story in that response, but neither of us do puff pieces."
Lex lightly slapped the edges of the podium. "That's all the time I have today. Mr. McBride will entertain any more questions."
Clark raised his head. His eyes briefly met Lex's again before Lex strode from the conference room, with the press calling after him.
"Mr. Luthor!" "Mr. Luth-" "Mr. L-" "Mr. Luthor!" "Mr. Lut-"
"Wow, Kent. This is Pulitzer Prize-winning stuff." Clark sighed, hit the backspace key, and watched as the words disappeared from his computer monitor. He was batting zero for three today.
Around him, the bullpen was hopping. The reporters' newsroom was always loud, no matter what time of the day it was. Computer keyboards clacked. Telephones trilled. The AP-Bulletin beeped steadily. Reporters cursed, yelled, begged, and threatened sources. They made bets, played games, cheered and booed the winners. Pages and interns scurried between the haphazard rows of metal desks, stacks of papers, folders, and research material in their arms.
Clark's desk was in the corner, half under the stairs leading to the Senior Editors' offices as well as the office of the Editor-In-Chief, Perry White. While the corner gave Clark a hint of privacy, the pounding of feet on the stairs was a huge annoyance.
Clark shoved his chair sideways and he rolled out from under the stairs. Looking up at the silver-haired man standing at the balustrade, he answered Perry's bellow. "Yeah, Chief?"
"Where's the piece on the First National Bank job?"
"Printing, sir," Clark lied, his blank computer screen taunting him.
"Good. Bring it up when it's done." Perry chomped on his ever-present cigar and stalked away.
"Okay, sir!" Clark called after him. Dragging a hand through his shaggy, dark locks, Clark rolled back to his desk. The cursor on the monitor blinked maliciously at him.
Despite his total lack of production today, in the three months he'd been at the Daily Planet his byline had appeared on over half of the front page news stories. He'd been in several articles, as well. Or rather, 'Superman' had.
Clark had to give Lois credit for writing serious stories about a guy who flew around in a shocking blue bodysuit. Her articles had all been positive, detailing his actions without making the real heroes -- the police, the fire department, and the EMTs -- seem trivial. Superman couldn't be everywhere or do everything, and he wasn't psychic. Clark had had a long conversation with his parents about publicly using his gifts and they had agreed that he should limit his heroics to major catastrophes. While even a single life was precious, Clark would burn out in mere days if he tried to save everyone, and he'd lose his sense of self beneath the mantle of responsibility.
The costume was one of the ways Clark separated himself from his role as Superman, just like a comic book superhero. The blindingly bright colors and garish design were purposeful. Human memory was a fickle thing; those who saw him would remember the costume and not his face. He wore bulky fake glasses, now, too, when he was himself, rather than Superman, to provide an additional shield. It was amazing how unobservant people really were, even top-notch investigative reporters, like Lois Lane.
Clark removed his glasses, threw them on his cluttered desk, and rubbed his eyes. "Think. Think. Think. First National Bank. The hold-up was a cover-up for an electronic theft. You know the information, now tell the world."
Clark stuck a piece of gum in his mouth, tossed the end of his tie over his shoulder, and glanced around as he cracked his knuckles. Assured that no one was paying attention to the geek under the stairs, Clark let his fingers fly over the keyboard. Less than a minute later, he was proofreading his 1,000-word article, glasses back in place, and calling for one of the pages. "Molly!"
Molly Albright's blond, bubbly teenaged-self scurried over to Clark. "Yes, Mr. Kent?"
Mr. Kent. Clark mentally grinned. He would never get used to people calling him that. "Take this up to the Chief, Molls." Clark handed her his story as soon as it finished printing. "Let him know I have a line on a connection between the teller and a similar robbery five years ago. I'm just waiting for confirmation."
Her footfalls were on the stairs a moment later, causing the calendar Clark had pinned to the underside of the steps to vibrate. Taped beside the calendar was a car air freshener, a menu for Beijing Chinese Take-Out, a matchbook from the Bunny Hut Adult Bar with one of his sources' home address and phone number on it, and a condom wrapper decorated in purple magic marker with a date and a smiley-face.
Muffled trilling came from somewhere around Clark's desk, and he began shifting through food wrappers, empty coffee cups, colorful flyers, coupons, scraps of notes, memos, old red-marked stories, and highlighted clippings from rival newspapers. He found a broken comb, a half-used tube of toothpaste, a line of unused condoms, and his press badge from the Delinquents concert, with the lead singer's hotel room number written on it in purple magic maker.
Clark grinned widely, took the gum from his mouth, stuck it to the back of the badge, and tacked the badge next to the condom wrapper on the underside of the stairs.
The phone continued to ring. Clark found it in his wastepaper basket, the receiver rubber-banded to the desk set. The rubber-band became a necessity after he found himself missing important calls because he'd knocked the phone off the hook.
"Hello, Clark. Lex Luthor. I was about to give up on you."
The familiar sound of Clark's old friend's voice wrapped around him like his favorite worn flannel. Clark stilled his reach for the pen in his shirt pocket, pressing the phone receiver closer to his ear. "Lex?"
"I take it you remember me," Lex said dryly.
"Of course I do!" Clark said quickly. "I didn't expect... it's been... except it hasn't... Lex!"
Lex's warm laughter rolled over the line. "And to think, you're a reporter. I guess your skills with the English language are confined to writing."
"You surprised me, that's all."
"I thought investigative reporters for the Daily Planet didn't get surprised."
"Har-har," Clark said. He frowned. "Wait, how did you know I worked for the Planet?"
"You announced it at my press conference back in December," Lex said. He mimicked Clark. "'Mr. Luthor, uh, Clark Kent with the Daily Planet.'"
"Oh. Right." Clark blushed, feeling like an idiot. He shoved at the glasses on his nose. "So. Uh, hi."
Another deep chuckle. "Hello, yourself."
"I sound like a mega-dweeb, don't I?" Clark grimaced. "Sorry. I just really wasn't expecting to hear from you. Plus, it's been weeks since I saw you at the press con-..." he trailed off, eyes falling on the calendar. It was February.
"Lex," Clark said tentatively. "Where are you calling from?"
"My new office," Lex replied. "Did you know, it's actually more circular than oval-shaped."
Clark dropped the phone.
He tried to catch the receiver before it hit the floor, bobbled it, lost it, snared the curled cord and yanked back. The receiver swung up and clocked him in the mouth. "Dang it!" The receiver hit the arm of his desk chair on the downswing, before Clark managed to wrap his fingers around it.
"You're at the, uh, White House?"
"Which means you're--," Clark gulped, "--officially the President?"
Clark popped up his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose in mortification. He was on the telephone with the President of the United States and acting like an utter boob. "M-Mr. President, my apologies for being so informal--"
"Clark," Lex cut him off, "it's 'Lex' calling, not the President."
"Same difference, sir."
Lex sighed. "Fine. But right now you're talking to the same Lex Luthor you've seen naked."
"That... actually makes it worse."
"Thanks a lot."
"Well, what do you want me to say?" Clark asked. "You're the most powerful man in the world and I shouldn't be uncomfortable because I've seen your fanny?"
"Clark, tell me you just didn't use the word 'fanny.'"
Clark groaned in embarrassment. "I should probably hang up now and save myself from further humiliation."
"Don't you want to know why I called?" Lex questioned with a chuckle.
"To prove that I'm still a bumbling farm hick and not a savvy metropolitan reporter?"
"Depends. Are you wearing flannel?"
Out of the corner of his eye, Clark saw Lois making a beeline for him. Her navy pants-suit was streaked with oil and grime and she had a smudge along the side of her aquiline nose. Her dark hair had partially escaped from its chignon and her full lips were pursed in anger. "Ut-oh."
"My partner is about to castrate me, I think." Clark turned his back to the approaching woman. "I'd better say goodbye."
"Not until you agree to be my guest at the Inaugural Ball," Lex said.
Clark blinked. "What?"
"The Inaugural Ball. It's this Saturday night. Black tie," Lex said. "I know it's last minute, but I can fly you from Metropolis to DC in under two hours. Say yes."
"You want me to come to DC, to attend the Presidential Inaugural Ball?"
"Wow. Oh, wow." Clark couldn't believe it. The press was never invited to these things! "I'd be honored to attend."
"Good," Lex said. "My Social Secretary will be in touch with you tomorrow sometime."
"Okay. I can be better reached by my cell phone, though." Clark could feel Lois's eyes boring into the back of his skull. He cupped his hand over the mouthpiece and rattled off the phone number.
"Got it," Lex said. "It's been nice talking to you, Clark. I'll see you Saturday."
"Bye," Clark said. "And thank you."
He hung up the phone, rubber-banded the receiver to the cradle, and placed the desk set on top of his computer monitor. Unbelievable. The President invited Clark Kent, cub reporter, to report on the Inaugural Ball.
Behind him, Lois impatiently cleared her throat. Clark spun around and jumped out his seat. "Not now, Lois," he said, heading quickly for the stairs. "I have to talk to Perry."
"Clark!" Lois squawked, rushing after him. "You stop this instant and explain why I have oil on my $500.00 suit!"
"Flat tire?" Clark guessed, stopping at the Editor-In-Chief's door. He knocked and pushed the door open at Perry's "Come!"
Perry was seated behind his large oak desk, chomping on the nub of his cigar. An overflowing ashtray full of butts rested near his elbow, and a haze of smoke hung in the air. Hard and fit, wearing a permanent scowl, he waved the papers in his hand. "Great story, Kent. Molly says you've found a connection to a past incident?"
"It should be verified by tonight, sir," Clark said, ignoring Lois, who stormed into Perry's office behind him.
"Good. Good." Perry dropped the pages on his desk. "Now, what do you want?"
"I'm going to Washington, DC, this weekend." Clark puffed up importantly. "I've been requested to cover the Presidential Inaugural Ball."
Lois snorted in an unladylike manner. "You? I don't believe it."
"I'm serious," Clark glowered at her. "I just got off the phone with the President."
"Of Fantasyland, perhaps."
"And you're delusional."
"At least I don't look like I've been wrestling a garage mechanic."
"Ooh. You are so paying for a new suit."
"Shut up, the both of you!" Perry snapped. "You're both over thirty, act like it."
"Uh, actually, Chief, I'm only twenty--," Clark began.
"Buttoning it, sir." Lois snickered. Clark glared at her.
"Kent," Perry said. "DC-- is this true?"
"Then, I want no puff pieces," Perry stated. "I don't give a crap about who wore what, who danced with who, or even which intern is spreading her legs this year." He thumped the desk with his hand. "What I want to know is, who's making under the table deals and which votes are being bought."
"Lois!" Perry's sharp eyes pinned on her. "Where's my story on the refinery?"
"It had a flat tire, Chief," Lois said with a dirty look at Clark.
Perry growled. "Lois..."
"I need Clark's help, sir," Lois said. She wrapped her blunt, unpolished claws around Clark's arm. "That's why you assigned us as partners, right?"
Perry grunted and waved them away. "Then, get to work. I have an evening edition to put out."
Lois yanked Clark out of the office and rounded on him in the hall. "You are dead meat, buster." She poked him in the chest. "Dead. Meat."
Clark looked down at the tiny spitfire that was his partner. "Is there a problem, Lois?"
Lois waved her fist under his nose. "Be glad that I wouldn't hit a man wearing glasses." She grabbed his tie and began dragging him downstairs, towards the elevators. "I overheard that Heitz was meeting with Fletcher at the BE-3 offices. I need you to distract the viper at the front desk while I sneak past."
"Okay, but I'm driving," Clark said, pulling his tie from her grip and straightening the knot.
"I want to get there before the meeting, Clark."
"Are you saying that I drive too slow for Her Royal Pain-In-The-Ass-ness?
"Jimmy chooses lenses for his camera faster than you drive."
"Ouch. That one hurt."
"Enough to give me the keys?"
Clark smiled at her as they stepped into the elevator, hitting the button for the parking garage. "Not a chance, Maria Andretti."
Lois folded her arms and huffed. The elevator doors closed on Clark's laughter.
Clark gaped like a large mouth bass caught on a line, as the limousine pulled up the drive. He was at the White House. He was really at the White House, the workplace and home of the President of the United States. The President. Who was Lex Luthor, suave, sophisticated businessman and prior best friend of Dork Kent, Supergeek of Smallville. Clark once had a spray-can Cheez-Whiz fight with the elected leader of the country. He had taught the Chief Executive of the US how to floor skate in his socks, down the long, newly polished hardwood halls of the castle. Clark had seen the most powerful man in the world naked, as Lex had oh-so-helpfully pointed out over the phone, when playing nursemaid for a month after a more serious Smallville mutant attack on him.
It felt surreal. Clark stepped out of the limo and climbed the stairs to the front doors of the White House. A uniformed man immediately took his winter coat, giving him a numbered coin in return. Another uniformed man with a leather portfolio requested his name before he walked through security.
Clark tried not to look like a tourist, but... wow. He was inside the White House!
His eyes were huge behind his hornrims as he gawked at the opulent decor. Everything gleamed: the marble floor, the dark wood furnishings, and the gold fixtures. The artwork on the walls was undoubtedbly original. The chandelier hanging above cast sparkles that were nearly blinding. The men and women, too, looked lavish in their tuxes and evening gowns. None of them seemed uncomfortable or out of place -- or stared like a kid in a candy store -- as they walked arm-in-arm towards the ballroom.
"Mr. Kent?" Clark turned at his name and found himself eye-to-eye with a woman who put supermodels to shame. She was tall and curvaceous, with smooth cafe-au-lait skin set off by a stunning emerald gown. Her multi-braided hair was twisted in a perfect knot on the crown of her head. She had onyx-colored eyes, high cheekbones, a perfect nose, and full lips painted a deep shiny mauve. She was simply beautiful. Exquisite. Clark could be tempted to go straight, just for her.
"Hi. I'm, uh... uh... me." Clark felt his cheeks heat up. He poked at the bridge of his glasses. "I mean, I'm Clark Kent."
"I'm Charlene Glass, the President's Personal Secretary," Charlene said, her voice like liquid silk. "If you'll follow me, the President has requested your presence in his private quarters."
"O-Okay," Clark stammered, flushed and flustered. He again tried not to stare as he followed Charlene, but the way the lights caught the sequins of her dress was like a beacon guiding his eyes to her posterior.
Clark's gaze shot up quickly, but his guilt was pushed aside immediately at the sight of his old friend. "Lex!"
Lex Luthor, dressed in a black tuxedo and crisp white shirt, met Clark halfway across the anteroom. Clark was about to embrace the slightly shorter man, when he caught sight of a Secret Service Agent out of the corner of his eye.
"I won't get shot if I hug you, will I?" he asked warily.
"I'll shoot you myself if you don't hug me, Kent." Lex took the initiative and embraced Clark briefly. "It's good to see you."
"Same here," Clark said. He smiled mischievously. "This is a great place you have. A definite step up from that drafty old castle in the corn."
"I almost didn't take it," Lex said. "One of the caveats on the lease was that I had to give up my cars."
Clark gasped dramatically. "All of them?"
"Every single one."
"Including the Lamborghini?"
Lex sighed forlornly. "Even her."
"Harsh." Clark paused, then asked causally, "Can I have her?"
A corner of Lex's mouth curved up. "Your father doesn't allow me to give you vehicles as gifts, remember?"
"Ah, but I don't live with my folks any more." Clark grinned and held out his hand. "Gimme."
Lex laughed without restraint. "Damn, I've missed you."
"Enough to give me the Lamborghini?"
"Not that much."
Lex snickered, clapped Clark on the shoulder, and guided him towards Charlene. "Clark, this is the most powerful woman on Earth, my Personal Secretary, Charlene. Without her, I'd be just a bald guy in a big white house."
"We've met, briefly," Clark said, shaking her hand. He ducked his head and grinned sheepishly. "I'm sorry if I, um, drooled on your shoes."
Charlene flashed him a smile. "Don't worry, they're water-proofed."
"Clark Kent, you were flirting," Lex said, guiding Clark towards the Secret Service Agent standing beside an open door.
"I'm a reporter now, Lex. It comes with the job," Clark said.
"Does it get you anywhere?"
Clark winked. "The women seem to like bumbling geeks."
Lex shook his head. He gestured to the trim, stony-faced man as they passed him. "Tom Hershel, Clark Kent. Tom is the head of my Secret Service detail. I go nowhere without him."
"Must be heck on dates," Clark said.
"I'll let you know."
Clark glanced at Lex, curious about the comment. "Does that mean you plan to keep in touch after the Inaugural Ball?"
"If only to check on my Lamborghini," Lex joked.
They entered a richly paneled study. Dark cherry furnishing decorated the room, with two armchairs situated at angles in front of a fireplace. A bookcase filled one wall entirely. A wet bar stood in one corner. Lex went directly for it and uncapped a crystal decanter.
"Drink?" he asked Clark.
"A short one," Clark replied. He sat in one of the armchairs and accepted the glass of amber liquid with a murmur of thanks.
"So, five years." Lex sat in the other chair, looking regal in his tux. "What have you been doing with yourself?"
"Writing, mainly," Clark replied. He held out his hand. "I now have newspaper ink running through my veins."
"I take it you enjoy being a journalist," Lex said dryly.
"It's the best," Clark said. "In a world full of secrets, I'm exposing the truth, whether it's bad or good news."
It seemed hypocritical. Clark worked at revealing secrets and he had the biggest one of all. It was one of the reasons Superman granted Lois an interview. He presented his alienness to the world because people deserved to know the truth.
But if he told the world the full truth, that he, Clark Kent, was the alien, he would cease to be. Clark Kent would vanish. Instead, he would just be "the alien," and at minimum, he would be discriminated against. At the worst, he would be locked up, or expelled from every populated country, or even killed.
Clark always kept that in mind when reporting and it was why his sources were strictly confidential. He would never print a story that would lead to someone's death, and had quashed one such story at the Planet so far. He simply gave the information to a trusted Metropolis Police Detective, instead.
"Well, you certainly are a good journalist, from what I've read of your work," Lex said, sipping his drink. "Your articles on No Man's Land are especially powerful writing."
"Thanks," Clark said. He frowned in confusion. "I thought you didn't know that I was a reporter until the press conference."
"I didn't. The FBI investigated you when I decided to ask you to the ball. I just read the file." Lex smirked. "You've received a lot of parking tickets, you bad boy."
"A story waits for no parking meter," Clark quipped. He was uncomfortable, however, with having been investigated. The possibility of linking him with Superman was extremely slim, but there was always the chance if he was under scrutiny.
"I am curious, though," Lex said casually. "Except for those articles appearing in various papers, you didn't seem to exist for a few years, between college and your taking the job with the Daily Planet."
Clark adjusted his glasses, his shield from Superman's world. "That's because I lived out of a backpack in No Man's Land during that time. Where do you think I got the information for the stories?"
"Mr. President," Charlene addressed from the doorway. "It's time, sir."
"Thank you, Charlene." Lex rose, took Clark's empty drink, and set both glasses on the bar. "Clark, I have to do a Pomp and Circumstanceentrance. Charlene will take you down to the ballroom. I'll see you shortly."
"Okay." Clark followed Charlene back the way they'd came to the residential quarters. He adjusted his tuxedo jacket, straightened his bow tie, and combed his fingers through his unruly mop of hair. He was about to hobnob with Congressmen, Supreme Court Justices, and visiting dignitaries. Hopefully, he wouldn't embarrass himself, or Lex.
The Grand Ballroom was huge. A hundred tables, seating eight each, were spread throughout the gilded room, leaving the wood dance floor empty in the center. A small string orchestra played quietly from a raised dias. Multiple chandeliers cast a soft glow over the ballroom and the lavishly dressed couples seated at the tables.
The tables were covered in ivory linens. The place settings were bone china and silver servingware. Tuxedoed escorts with silver lapel pins seated the guests at their pre-assigned tables. Secret Service Agents, also in tuxedos with gold lapel pins, stood unobtrusively around the perimeter of the room. Wait staff in crisp white uniforms served drinks to those already seated.
Charlene escorted Clark to his seat, then disappeared with a nod of goodbye, leaving him alone with a table full of strangers, who stared at him with unabashed curiosity. Clark pushed up his glasses and sat down between a California blonde playboy-type gentleman and an empty seat.
"You must be Mr. Kent." The blonde extended his hand. "Brad Winters, the President's Chief of Staff. This is my wife, Veranda."
Clark shook Brad's hand as the picture-perfect brunette woman beside him uttered a welcome. Brad continued the introductions around the table. "Across from me is Mr. Vice President James Johnson and his wife, Susan. And across from you is Chief Justice Gordon Levy and his wife, Lucy."
"Hello," Clark greeted with a subdued smile.
There was no time for further conversation, as the orchestra began playing "Hail to the Chief." Everyone stood and turned their attention to the main doors of the ballroom.
Uniformed Marines entered first with the American flag. The flag was posted beside the door. The Marine Honor Guard pivoted and stood at attention. The most decorated one stepped forward and announced, "The President of the United States!"
Applause started immediately as Lex strode into the ballroom. His smile was pure show. He shook guests' hands as he passed by tables. He raised his hand in greeting to others. He was in his element, cool, confident, and collected in the presence of world leaders. He also looked dang sexy in a tux, in Clark's opinion. Running a country, however, took more than the cut of one's clothing. It also required schmoozing the population, and Lex could do that in spades.
"Thank you," Lex said into the microphone set up temporarily in the center of the dance floor. The applause died down. "Welcome, everyone, to the White House and my Inaugural Ball. I wanted to start off my tenure in office on the right foot."
The orchestra began to play the "Hokey-Pokey." Big smile from Lex as laughter filled the ballroom.
Lex held up his hands and people quieted. "Really, though, I do want to thank you all for coming and, whether you voted for me or not, be assured that I plan to take my job seriously. Tonight, however, I am going to eat, drink, and dance, and I hope everyone will join me in doing the same. Enjoy."
The wait staff immediately came out with the first course, as Lex took his seat beside Clark. Tom, the Secret Service Agent, moved unobtrusively into position behind Lex's table, near the wall.
"Mr. Vice President, Your Honor, Brad, ladies," Lex greeted politely. "I assume introductions have been made?"
"Yes, Mr. President," Brad replied.
"Though nothing beyond that," Chief Justice Levy said. He looked across the table at Clark. "Tell me, Mr. Kent, as I seem to be the only one surprised to see you at this table, what is it that you do?"
"I'm an investigative reporter with the Daily Planet in Metropolis, Kansas, sir," Clark said, picking up his fork after a salad was placed before him.
"Clark and I are old friends, Your Honor," Lex said. "We both lived in Smallville, Kansas. I was the dashing rake in the vast castle and Clark was my delivery boy."
"You make it sound so lewd," Clark commented. "Besides, I was more than just the delivery boy."
Lex flashed a grin. "Now who sounds lewd?"
Clark's face heated. "That's not what I meant."
"I know it wasn't," Lex said, briefly laying his hand on Clark's forearm. "Clark was my closest friend in Smallville," he explained to the others at the table. "I helped him to become an adult, and he helped me to relax." He smiled softly at Clark. "We had a lot of good times together."
"They're some of my best memories," Clark agreed quietly, caught up in Lex's smile, which reached his eyes. Those smiles, Clark remembered, were rare to see in public, but Clark had received them often when they were alone, and most were associated with his fondest memories.
Clark had earned one of those smiles when he showed up for a fencing lesson wearing a red bandana on his head and a saran-wrapped whole uncooked chicken tied to his shoulder. Once Lex had stopped laughing, Dread Pirate Kent had stormed the castle and had a long, manor-wide swordfight with King Luthor, up and down the stairs, out on the balcony, through the cavernous halls with their epees ringing, until Clark's dramatic demise on the front steps. Lex had collapsed beside Clark on the stairs, gave thanks for making him play, and smiled with such fondness it made Clark's heart squish. Then, they ate the chicken for dinner.
Clark was on the receiving end of Lex's contented smile once, when they had been lazing around the manor's study. Clark had been on the floor in front of the fire, with Lex on the couch, his bare feet propped on Clark's stomach. They had been talking about nothing and Clark had started to rub Lex's feet, until Lex made a sound that could only be classified as a purr and that smile curled his lips.
Another time, Lex had appeared at the high school Clark's senior year, the day he'd gotten his Lamborghini. He had been leaning on the cherry red vehicle, other students circling the pricy car and gawking, when Clark had exited the school. Clark had gaped in amazement like everyone else and only his lightning reflexes had allowed him to catch the keys when Lex pitched them to him. Then, Lex had smiled happily at Clark and climbed into the passenger seat without saying a word. Clark didn't hesitate, and neither did Lex when he paid $1,050 for Clark driving 150 miles-per-hour in a 45 miles-per-hour zone.
The conversation moved on from Clark and Lex's past relationship as dinner continued. The food was delicious, much better than Clark's usual fare of Chinese take-out, pizza, and the occasional deli sandwich.
The orchestra began playing again after the meal, and Lex opened the dancing with the Chief Justice's wife. The Vice President and his wife joined shortly afterwards, followed by other guests.
Clark noticed that Veranda looked longingly at the dancing couples, but Brad seemed disinclined to ask his wife to dance. Clark stood, rounded the table, and held out his hand to her. "Would you like to dance?"
"I'd love to," Veranda said, placing her hand in his. Clark glanced at Brad and Brad tilted his glass in acceptance.
Clark led Veranda onto the dance floor. Veranda was tall in her heels, almost as tall as Lex, and fit near-perfectly in Clark's hold. She followed Clark's lead without trouble and they joined the slow circle around the floor.
"You dance well," Veranda commented during the second song.
"Thanks to Lex, I do," Clark said. "He taught me all the dances he'd learned while at boarding school, even the Latin steps." A grin played on Clark's lips. "He'd get really silly whenever we tangoed, fluttering his lashes and acting like a senorita."
Veranda shook her head. "I've known Lex Luthor for four years now, and I can't picture him doing anything remotely silly. Brad and I consider him a friend, but the most relaxed I've seen him is by not wearing a tie when he'd come over for dinner."
"Well, it could be because I was only in high school back then and that effected his behavior," Clark guessed.
"You were in high school?" Veranda looked stricken, glanced around quickly, and lowered her voice. "Do not tell anyone that you were only a minor when you and Lex were dating, unless you want to see Lex impeached."
"Dating?" Clark sputtered in laughter. "Me and Lex? Not a chance. We've never dated."
"Oh." Veranda frowned. "From the way Lex has been talking about you for the past few months, both Brad and I had assumed you two were an ex-couple."
"No, we were just really good friends," Clark said. "Besides, Lex is straight as a ruler."
Veranda laughed this time. "Yes, if the ruler is a carpenter's square."
The dance ended, and Clark was tapped out by Brad before he could question Veranda. "I think I would like to dance with my wife now, if you don't mind," Brad said as the next song started.
Clark gave up his partner, made his way off the dance floor, picked up a glass of champagne from the table, and began circulating. Perry would throttle him if he didn't return with a story. He could figure out what Veranda had meant later.
The ball went on into morning, the last guests leaving in their limousines a little after 3:30 AM. Only Clark remained, invited to join Lex for a nightcap in the residence.
"Did you enjoy yourself?" Lex asked when they were alone, once again in the study.
"Immensely." Clark accepted the decaffeinated coffee the night housekeeper had brought for them. "I have enough information for about six stories, if I can dig up proof and verification."
"I take it that you're one of those reporters who's always working," Lex said, pulling off his bow tie and unbuttoning his collar. "Doesn't that upset potential girlfriends?"
Clark raised his brows. "The FBI didn't report that I'm gay?"
Lex went still, mid-reach for his coffee. He looked at Clark for a moment, before a slow, predatory smile crossed his face. "No, the FBI did not," he said. "They only reported that you were single and currently unattached."
"You're not upset or anything, are you?" Clark asked, concerned. He'd hate to lose Lex's friendship now that he found it again.
"Not at all," Lex drawled slowly. "Especially since you're over twenty-one."
Clark frowned. "What does my age have to do with it?"
"Only everything, Clark." Lex picked up his coffee, leaned back in his chair, and smiled mysteriously. "Now, tell me about the six stories you could write from the information gleaned at the ball. I want to know if I should be investigating, too."
"Good morning, everyone." Lex Luthor strode into the Oval Office, wearing his trademark lavender and black, and was greeted by the four most important members of his staff, next to Charlene. "I hope you all had a good time at the ball. If not, lie to me."
"I think it's safe to say we had a wonderful evening," Marshall Brooks, the Senior Domestic Policy Advisor, replied. The staff was seated on the two ivory-colored couches in the center of the office, a low maple coffee table between them. Matching empty brocade chairs, placed opposite each other, completed the circle.
"Kel, report that," Lex told his Press Secretary.
"I will, Mr. President," Kellett McBride said. He made a notation in his portfolio. "What should I say about your date?"
"As little as possible," Wendy Thaler answered before the President spoke. The Director of Communications looked at Lex as he took his chair at the head of the semi-circle. "You were elected into office by a very narrow margin, Mr. President. We don't want to rock the boat too early."
"Why not?" Lex asked. "Half of the country is expecting me to do something radical, and the other half is hoping I will."
"Veranda thinks Mr. Kent is handsome, in a slightly nerdish way," Brad Winters added his two cents. "His record is so clean, it squeaks. He's already made a strong name for himself in Metropolis, in the few months he's been writing for the Daily Planet. He also is an almost direct link to Superman, who the country is currently fanatic about."
"Marshall, how many days until the next Congress convenes?" Lex inquired.
The older, heavyset gentleman slipped his half-glasses on his nose, opened his portfolio, and calculated quickly. "Seventy-six days, Mr. President."
"Seventy-six days," Lex repeated. He rubbed his lower lip thoughtfully. "I have two newly drafted bills I want passed at the first session, the ones we talked about last week. Marshall?"
"Any sort of relationship with Mr. Kent would cause a highly negative impact on the vote," Marshall replied, anticipating the question. "The two bills will be hard enough to push through. If Congress thinks you have a personal stake in the outcome, they'll be less likely to take the issues seriously and dismiss them out of hand."
"Congress is wary of anything to do with sex," Wendy pointed out. "So is the public."
"All right. Kel, if asked, say that I couldn't get a date. Joke it up a bit. If the jackals press for who accompanied me, tell them an old friend without naming names," Lex instructed. "Marshall, I want to know what the Republicans and Democrats want in exchange for passing my bills."
Kellett and Marshall both nodded and made notations. Wendy began to speak, but Lex preempted her.
"Three public opinion polls, Wendy," he said. "One on each bill and the third on what the country thinks about my dating, gender unspecified."
"Yes, sir," Wendy said.
"Anything else for this morning?" Lex asked. He received negative responses. "Then, meeting adjourned."
Wendy, Kellett, and Marshall left the Oval Office. Brad stayed behind, comfortable in his seat on the couch. Lex moved behind his desk and leafed through the pink message slips accumulated from the weekend. "Spit it out, Brad."
"Nobody asked how you felt about your ex-farmboy friend," Brad said conversationally.
"It's no one's business."
"Mr. President," Brad began, "I've been your assistant for four years, and your friend, and not once have you dated another male, even in the loosest definition of the word."
"That's because I was too busy working," Lex said.
"What about all the women you saw?" Brad said pointedly.
"Business," Lex replied.
"Business," Brad echoed skeptically.
Lex exhaled in irritation, tossing the memos on his desk. "I'm homosexual, Brad, and have been and always will be. I sleep with women for business, whether it's for PR, they have access to something I want, or to get my father off my back."
"I see." Brad looked thoughtful. "It also explains your vehement desire to have the bills passed, basically legalizing homosexuality."
"It should have been done years ago." Lex paced to the French doors and looked out the window. "This country is founded on the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness... but only if you don't like to take it up the ass."
"So, your plan is to get the bills passed into national law, then pursue a relationship with Clark Kent."
"I don't believe in signs or omens," Lex turned towards Brad, "but the fact that Clark is legal, single, gay, and pops up in my life after I'm elected into a position where I can do something about the antiquated laws on homosexuality, is hard to swallow as merely coincidence."
Brad clapped his hands on his legs and stood. "Well, at least now I know why you never let me set you up with Veranda's sister."
Lex snorted. "No offense, but Veranda's sister is a dog."
Brad chuckled and headed for the door. "I'll see you at ten."
"Send Charlene in on your way past."
Brad paused at the door and looked back at Lex. "Hey, Lex, how do you feel about Clark Kent?"
Lex's mouth twisted in a self-deprecating smile. "I've been in love with him for many, many years, and am still counting."
Clark stared in disbelief at the AP Bulletin at the Daily Planet. He removed his glasses, rubbed his eyes, and looked at the monochrome screen again. The information didn't change, it was still printed there in yellow and green.
Public Law No: 112-15. Sexual relations between two consenting adults, that is, persons aged 18 years and older, regardless of gender, race, or nationality, permissible by law in the privacy of residence, temporary, rental, or permanent, to wit: house, apartment, trailer, hotel, recreational vehicle, cabin, tent.... 112th Congress, H.R. 751, S. 152
Public Law No: 112-16. Marriage, to wit: a legal and binding union between two consenting adults, that is, person aged 18 years and older, regardless of gender, race, or nationality, permissible by law in every state.... 112th Congress, H.R. 752, S. 153
Clark was astounded. He'd be able to publicly date whomever he wanted, without the stigma that he was allegedly breaking the Kansas sodomy law. He'd be able to marry the man he fell in love with like a normal person, and his mom could help plan a wedding like she'd hoped to do before Clark had come out to his parents after college. It was amazing. The big, geeky gay alien could possibly have a Happily Ever After, after all.
Still gawking at the Bulletin monitor, it took Clark a few moments to realize his trousers were vibrating. He pulled the slimline cell phone from his pocket and answered the call, while re-reading the information on the screen once again with disbelief. "Clark Kent."
"Oh, hi, Lex," Clark said dazedly into the phone. "Is it Sunday already?"
They had a standing arrangement to talk on the phone on Sunday nights, whether it was for fifteen minutes or five hours. They talked about everything and nothing, just like they used to back in Smallville, and both men enjoyed themselves immensely.
Lex's chuckle rolled over the line. "No, it's only Thursday. Have you been working non-stop again?"
Another chuckle. "Earth to spaceboy. What's got you so distracted?"
Clark blinked several times, his stunned amazement melting into giddy excitement. "I'm a happy fag."
Several nearby reporters stopped what they were doing at his declaration and stared at him. He blushed in humiliation.
Lex's sputtered laughter sounded in his ear. "That's good to know, Clark."
Beneath the AP Bulletin, the Metropolis Police monitor flashed.
10-55. 10-60. Fire at the Metro-Wexler building, 321 West State Street.
Clark was already rushing for the fire stairwell door. "Lex, I have to go. I'll call you later."
"You have the number," Lex said with amusement and understanding.
"Bye." Clark terminated the call, checked the stairs for people and, seeing no one, zipped up the steps and out onto the roof with superspeed. His outer clothes were hidden away in an air vent, his cape was unfurled, and he was flying towards the Met-Wex within nanoseconds.
Superman touched down on the cordoned-off street outside the fifty-story skyscraper. The fire trucks had just arrived. The yellow-coated firemen leapt from the barely stopped vehicles and hurriedly unraveled their hoses. Police officers were leading those who had evacuated the building, while several others kept the gapers at bay.
The second and third floors of the Met-Wex had orange flames spewing from broken windows. Black char stained the outside of the steel structure on the floors above. The fourth floor windows bowed outwards from the rising heat.
From the fifth floor, a chair came sailing through a window. Shattered glass rained down on the street. The chair bounced once against the hood of a police cruiser, denting the vehicle, before clattering to the ground. A white shirt soon fluttered in the broken window, indicating the need for help.
Superman used his X-ray vision to scan the building. The first through fourth floors were empty, however, the fifth, sixth, and seventh floors were packed with people. The emergency stairs were blocked by the fire.
Even carrying two at a time and at superspeed, Clark knew he wouldn't be able to clear the building fast enough before the fire spread. He quickly found the Fire Chief to coordinate their efforts.
"There are a few hundred employees still in the building," Superman told the Chief. "We need to get the emergency stairwell open. I'll start carrying people to the ground, but if you can find a safe spot to raise the ladder, too, use it."
The Chief nodded in understanding and shouted instructions to his people over their headsets. Clark took off, heading for the broken window with the white shirt dangling from it. Yells of "Superman!" assaulted his ears as he hovered outside the window, quickly, but carefully, clearing the frame of the jagged glass shards.
"Clear a spot by the window," Superman instructed, his voice strong and calm. "If there is anyone needing immediate medical attention, they go first."
About a dozen men and women had taken fairly good control of the situation, and they helped Clark immensely. Panicked humans could be hard to handle at times, especially when their lives were seriously endangered.
Hours later, with soot-blackened face, hands, and costume, Superman left the scene in the capable hands of the fire department. The fire was extinguished, the building's employees evacuated with little injury, and the neighboring buildings were safe from danger.
Clark picked up his clothing at the Planet rooftop and flew home. The screenless bedroom window of his apartment was always unlocked and, at superspeed, no one would ever see him enter. He landed lightly on the threadbare carpet, dropped his clothes to the floor, and scrubbed a weary hand over his face. Superman didn't get tired from hard physical work, but the fear that he wouldn't be able to save everyone took its toll on him.
Carelessly stepping on the clothing strewn throughout his bedroom -- the dry cleaner had a field day with the state of his laundry when he brought it in -- Clark shed his costume as he headed for the bathroom across the short hall. His apartment was tiny, a single bedroom flat on the fourth floor of a six-story apartment complex bordering Suicide Slum. (He always left his car parked at the Daily Planet garage.) The permanently tobacco-stained walls were paper-thin, but he'd lucked out on obtaining a corner apartment, so only his living room/kitchen wall was shared with his neighbor. He had two windows, one in the living room and one in the bedroom, both with beautiful views of the neighboring buildings and alleyways. The water was always cold and the electricity sporadic, but Clark had lived for years in Quake-damaged, gutted buildings and abandoned cars and the apartment seemed luxurious in comparison.
After showering, Clark pulled on a pair of shorts, dug his cell phone from his discarded suit pants pocket, and wandered into the kitchen. The chipped linoleum floor cracked under foot as he crossed to the refrigerator. The yellowish glow from the fridge light caused several roaches to scurry from sight. Clark made a mental note to buy more roach motels, or start charging the bugs rent.
The fridge held the standard bachelor's supplies of take-out containers, soda -- Clark really didn't like alcohol -- and Tupperware containers from mom. He chose the pizza box crammed on the lower shelf, grabbed a soda, and shut the refrigerator door with his hip.
Somewhat blindly, he meandered through the still-packed boxes from Smallville, the unpacked stacks of books, music, and miscellaneous junk he hadn't gotten around to putting away, and random flotsam and jetsam he'd accumulated during the six months he'd been living there, into the living room. He turned on the lamp as he passed, shoved the stray clothing to one side of the ratty green couch, and sat down with a sigh. The pizza and drink were placed on a convenient group of boxes arranged as a coffee table, the moisture from the can and grease from the underside of the pizza box immediately staining the piles of papers, clippings, and research material strewn on the makeshift table.
Clark glanced at the battery-operated clock hanging on the otherwise bare wall. It was rather late, or early in the morning, but he knew Lex would still be expecting a return call. He hit speed-dial on his cell phone and unearthed his laptop from under the couch while he waited for the call to go through.
"This is Clark Kent." It was all Clark needed to say to the operator. He was put through almost immediately.
"So?" Lex said without preamble, his voice groggy.
"Met-Wex had an accelerant-caused fire on the second floor," Clark said, presuming the question. He booted up his laptop. "Arson is a definite. The fire started in a storage room. My instincts are saying it was caused by a disgruntled employee from Stoneburner."
"Your instincts are seldom wrong."
"Hmm," Clark hummed in absent agreement. Phone tucked against his shoulder, he began rapidly typing one-handed -- one of the bonuses of having alien super abilities -- as he reached for a slice of cold pizza with the other.
"You're working again, aren't you." It wasn't a question.
"Sowee." Clark swallowed the bite of food in his mouth. "If I can get this article to Night Copy before 3:00 AM, it can be in the morning edition."
Lex sighed good-naturedly. "You work more than I do and I run the country."
"The news never sleeps."
"Apparently, neither do you."
"I sleep," Clark said. He felt sort of strange writing about Superman's assistance in the Met-Wex fire, but he couldn't exclude it. "I sleep between the time the morning edition deadline has passed and Alyssa."
"You watch Alyssa?"
"I'm in her book club, too."
"You need help."
Clark laughed. "Probably."
"All right, oddball," Lex said, laughing. "Mark your calendar for May 1st. We're having a State dinner and I want you as my guest."
"Who's the dinner for?" Clark chomped down on another slice of pizza.
"Some high-ranking Chinese muckity-muck."
"Clark, don't speak with your mouth full."
"Sowee." Clark could hear Lex roll his eyes.
"Anyway," Lex said, "Charlene will give me a dossier on who it is when I need to know. So, should I put you down as a yes?"
"I'll have to clear it with Perry, but I'm sure there'll be no problem," Clark replied. "He liked my exposés so much last time, he asked me who I slept with to get the information."
"Who'd you say?"
Clark grinned. "You, of course."
A hitched breath was the only sound over the now-silent line.
Clark's smile faded. "It was a joke, Lex."
"Yeah, uh, I- I'm not really awake here. Normal people are asleep at... ugh, 4:40 in the morning."
"Then I'd better stop bugging you," Clark said. "We wouldn't want a cranky President. You might blow up a country because someone annoyed you."
"Funny," Lex said. "I'll see you on the first. And bring an overnight bag. I'd like to spend Sunday with you."
Clark's smile returned. "I can't wait."
"Me, neither," Lex responded with soft fondness. "Goodnight, Clark."
"Mr. President, are you certain?"
Lex stood with his hands clasped behind his back, watching out the window as the last guests arrived for the State dinner. The men were clad in tuxedos and the women in subdued evening dresses, and none of them were Clark Kent. In the window's reflection, Lex could see Kellett's concerned face.
"I'm certain, Kel," Lex replied. "My laws have passed, we're both over the age of 21, and currently have no other romantic entanglements."
"The press will be brutal," Kellett warned.
"The press is always brutal."
"The public won't like it, either," Kellett said, reminding the President of the poll results about his dating.
"Then, they can elect a new President." Lex looked over his shoulder and smirked. "In four years."
Kellett pressed his lips together and nodded. "Very well. I'll prepare for Monday morning. You'd best warn Mr. Kent, however. He's the one who will be under serious scrutiny."
Kellett left, and Lex returned to watching out the window. It was a pretty spring night in DC. He could see the Washington Monument, like a magnificent spire rising from the earth. He could make out the edges of the Lincoln Memorial, too, lit up in reverence to one of the country's leaders.
A self-deprecating smile tugged at a corner of Lex's mouth. The Lex Luthor Memorial would most likely be a rainbow, especially if the evening went as hoped.
Clark Kent. Lex's father was going to have a fit. He had strongly disapproved of their friendship when Lex lived in Smallville and now Lex planned to publicly date the former farmboy. That was, if Clark consented. And if he ever arrived.
Lex crossed to the phone and dialed Clark's cell phone number by memory. When he received the voice mail, he hung up with a displeased frown. Aside from the office phone at the Daily Planet, Clark only had the cellular and he claimed it was always with him. If he was in DC and on his way to the White House, he should have answered.
Lex rubbed a hand over his scalp, then ran his finger along the edge of his collarless white tuxedo shirt. He hoped Clark was all right. Clark had a dangerous job, exposing secrets that people would do anything to keep quiet. He would have been safer as a private investigator, as he commented once on choosing as an alternative career, chasing after cheating spouses and insurance frauds.
"Mr. President," Charlene appeared in the doorway, "it's time."
Lex tugged at the hem of his tuxedo jacket and followed her out of the room. "Clark hasn't arrived yet, has he?"
"No, sir," Charlene replied. "Do you wish to wait?"
"No. No." Punctuality was extremely important to Lex, and it was politically discourteous to keep the Chinese Prime Minister waiting.
There were fewer people invited to the State dinner than there had been at the Inaugural Ball back in February. The formal dining room had been set with ten smaller tables, seating six each. The table linens were red for the occasion. Lex was seated with the Prime Minister and his Chief Aide, and Brad and Veranda. Clark's seat was noticeably empty.
But not for long.
The Associated Press members scattered throughout the room took notes and flash-less photographs as Clark strode into the room. He walked directly over to the Presidential table, as if he belonged there. Gossip flew, questioning who was the nerdy-looking guy with the proud shoulders and gorgeous smile.
Clark laid his hand on Lex's shoulder, preventing him from rising, as he joined the table. "Hello," the tuxedo-clad Clark said, apple-cheeked and ducking his head in apology. "Sorry I'm late. The flight from Kansas was delayed because of the weather."
"It's all right, Clark," Lex said. A wide, purely happy smile creased his face. He turned to the Prime Minister. "Mr. Prime Minister, please meet Clark Kent, my date for the evening."
Clark's hand tightened briefly on Lex's shoulder. Lex glanced up and saw surprise flicker across Clark's face before a polite welcoming smile was directed at the Chinese Prime Minister. He began speaking fluently in Mandarin without pause or hesitation, as if it was his native language.
The Prime Minister laughed and replied in Mandarin. Clark laughed, too, as he sat down beside Lex. Brad and Veranda looked impressed, as did the Prime Minister's Aide.
"I didn't know you spoke Chinese, Clark," Lex said, equally as impressed as everyone. "Where did you learn the language?"
"Beijing," Clark replied.
"You've been to Beijing?" Veranda said.
"I go at least four times a week," Clark said, a mischievous grin appearing. "Beijing Chinese Take-Out is my favorite restaurant in Metropolis."
The gales of laughter from their table drew stares. The gossip flew wilder, even more so when the newcomer leaned intimately close to the President to whisper in his ear.
"Date, Lex?" Clark questioned quietly as dinner started around them.
"Yes," Lex answered, turning his head to look Clark in the eyes, their faces scant inches apart. "Unless you don't want it to be."
Lex was taking a serious risk, one that could lead to a loss of a friendship recently re-found. But having Clark reappear in his life under almost perfect conditions was as if someone was daring him to take a chance at having everything -- money, power, and love.
Through the dorky glasses, Clark's vibrant eyes glittered with emotions too numerous to identify. "Gee, I don't know, Lex. Do I want to have a date with the Sexiest President in decades?"
"You're making fun of me."
"A perk of dating."
Lex arched a brow. "So... we're dating?"
Clark ducked his head, cheeks flushing slightly, and peered at Lex through his lashes. "I'd like that."
Lex's heart flip-flopped and a lazy smile crossed his lips. "Yeah. I'd like that, too."
Clark flashed one of his brilliant grins, straightened in his chair, and began eating his dinner.
Lex started to eat his own meal and caught sight of Brad and Veranda both watching him unabashedly. He gave them a questioning look. Veranda giggled behind her hand as Brad gave Lex a thumbs up sign.
The Prime Minister, his Aide, and Clark chattered away in Mandarin off and on throughout dinner. Clark wasn't doing it to show off, but rather to make the Prime Minister feel more comfortable. The Prime Minister seemed inordinately pleased, as well.
When the meal ended, tables broke apart and guests mingled. Lex did his duty and introduced the Prime Minister around. Clark wandered off to mingle on his own, undoubtedly sniffing out story leads.
By 10:30 PM, Lex was politicked-out. The Prime Minister had already left, along with his Aide. The guests were lingering over drinks, coffee, and second dessert, or dancing to the string quartet. The Associated Press gathered information on who spoke or danced with who, what they were wearing, and the identity of the mystery man who had boldly joined the President's table.
Lex was tired. He'd spoken with the guests he needed to and many of those he didn't. He'd let Clark's name slip to the appropriate higher-ups, to put them 'in the know' before the newspapers reported on Lex's date. He'd complimented the wives on their dresses, asked after their families, and smiled until his cheeks hurt. He'd fulfilled his Presidential duties for the evening. Now, he wanted ice cream.
"Cover for me," he instructed Brad as he passed by his Chief of Staff. "I won't be returning."
Clark was unobtrusively hovering near a knot of Senators, listening in on their conversation. Lex latched onto his elbow and led him away. "You'd better not be working on our date, Kent."
"But they were talking about the Sunny Anti-Trust Act..."
Lex studiously ignored the pout that formed on Clark's lips as he signaled to his Secret Service Agent, Tom, that they were leaving. Clark followed docilely as they slipped out of the dining room and headed to the residential wing of the White House, with Tom right behind them.
"Tom," Lex addressed the stone-faced man. "We're leaving the grounds."
"We are?" Clark said, surprised.
Lex stopped by a phone sitting on a table in the ornate hall. He picked up the receiver, pressed a button, and spoke to the person who answered the line. "This is the President. Bring the sedan to the south-east entrance."
Hanging up, he answered Clark with a quirky grin. "I'm in the mood for some double chocolate chunk ice cream. How about you?"
Tom was not happy. Lex could tell by the evil scowls cast his direction every so often by the agent. Too bad, so sad. At least a half-dozen agents had followed the bullet-proof sedan in a separate vehicle when they'd left the White House and more had descended upon their location when they'd stopped at The Mall. The agents were spread out over the area, keeping the vagrants away and protecting the President and his date, who were sitting at the edge of the Reflecting Pool, tuxedo trousers hiked up to their knees, legs dangling in the cold water, as they ate their double-scoop cones.
"It sure isn't clear like the Kansas night sky," Lex commented, looking up at the stars. The Mall lights were so bright, they distorted the view.
"Do you miss home?" Clark asked, licking a drip of strawberry ice cream from his hand.
"I miss my cars," Lex said with a dramatic sigh. "I miss just getting into my Porsche, or Ferrari, or BMW, or Astin Martin, or Mercedes--"
"I get the point, Lex."
"--or Lamborghini," Lex continued with a devilish curl to his lips, "and going for a drive, my veins throbbing to the music, the feel of leather gloves on my hands, the vibration of the car as she eats up the highway at deliciously naughty speeds."
"Oh, man, that sounds wonderful." Clark smiled prettily. "Can I have your Lamborghini so I can go for a drive like that?"
Lex chuckled. "Not a chance."
"I can be your proxy driver," Clark coaxed. "You can enjoy your car vicariously through me."
"Forget it," Lex stated with mock severity.
"Not even if I beg?"
"Not even then," Lex said. "Begging has never changed my mind once it's made up."
"Darn." Clark sighed forlornly. "And here I was hoping to sink into the leather seat behind the wheel of the Lamborghini and feel her enclosing me in her slick embrace, to slide my key into her ignition, bringing her purring to life." His voice slipped a seductive notch. "Coaxing her to move for me, pumping her clutch as I shift into higher gear. Steering around the curves with a smooth caress by my hands. Listening to her sweet sounds, her body trembling around me, as I take her for a long, hard ride."
Lex swallowed thickly, ice cream forgotten. "If I was a woman, I'd be all over you right now."
Clark's gaze dropped to Lex's mouth. "Are you gay?"
"That's close enough."
Their lips met in a chocolate and strawberry kiss. Clark was not awkward, tentative, or virginally innocent, as Lex had imagined, but that made it all the more real. His mouth moved over Lex's, strawberry tongue lapping at chocolate lips. Lex's shiver was not caused by the leftover cold from the ice cream.
Clark hummed softly in the back of his throat as he angled his head, deepening the kiss. Lex's fingers threaded into Clark's midnight hair, opening beneath the onslaught of sensations. It didn't matter that his ice cream was melting all over his other hand and undoubtedly on his tuxedo. For too many years, he'd been waiting for this very moment, and it far exceeded every wish and fevered dream.
"Lex," Clark begged sultrily, pulling slightly away, breath hot against Lex's lips, "can I have your Lamborghini?"
"Yes. Bastard. Anything," Lex growled. "Just kiss me again."
Clark laughed softly and complied. Slanting his mouth over Lex's, he initiated another deep kiss.
Fire sparked low in Lex's belly, flames of want spreading rapidly throughout his body. He greedily drank from Clark's sinful mouth, tasting desire and lingering hints of strawberry ice cream. He hungered for Clark, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Need made him hard and throbbing.
Clark's glasses suddenly scratched Lex and he broke away abruptly. Both men panted heavily, Clark staring hotly at Lex over the tops of his fogged hornrims, which had slid to the end of his nose.
"Anything?" he asked breathily.
Lex nodded, doubting his ability to form a coherent syllable.
Clark's tongue moistened his already wet, shiny lips. "Then, I want you."
Lex's heart hitched. He swallowed audibly and whispered, "Oh, god."
Inelegantly, he scrambled to his feet, losing the remaining ice cream cone. It would be a treat for the raccoons. He grabbed his socks and shoes in one hand, Clark's arm with the other, and dragged Clark to the car. Clark's laughter was husky, desirous.
The ride back to the White House was never-ending torture, even though it was only a five minute drive. Tom's blackened scowl and the chauffeur's knowing smirk were ignored completely, as were the other curious looks from the night Secret Service Agents in the residential wing.
Lex barely paused to lock the bedroom door before attacking Clark. Their mouths came together with little finesse, passion overriding technique. Sticky hands pawed at studs, buttons, and cufflinks. Clark's glasses were tossed negligently over a shoulder. They made a stumbling trail to the queen-sized bed, clothing discarded without care for cost.
The blankets on the bed were shoved down with impatient disregard, the cool white sheets more accepting. The two men tumbled upon the mattress, bare-skinned and hard, bathed in the glow from the outside lighting, shining through the filmy white drapery covering the windows.
"Clark," Lex's raspy whisper was barely heard over the heavy breathing and pounding hearts. He thrust helplessly against Clark, the springy black curls at Clark's groin tickling sensually, as he dove in for another voracious kiss.
Clark was all planes and thick muscle, with broad shoulders, narrow hips, and a long masculine frame. There were no curves or softness. He was undeniably male.
Large palms cupped Lex's ass. Clark ground their pelvises together with just the right amount of roughness. A pleasured moan rose from them both, mouths parting.
Clark looked up at Lex with heavy-lidded eyes. His fingers stroked intimately down the cleft of Lex's buttocks. "Where are your condoms, Lex?"
"Drawer," Lex answered, hissing and bucking when the tip of a dry finger entered him. "Oh fuck."
Clark's lips curled into a grin. "Pick A, B, or C."
"What?" Lex focused lust-dazed eyes on Clark.
"A, B, or C?"
"Then, the response is: 'that's the plan.'"
Lex pushed himself up fully on his hands and stared down at the man lying under him. "Pretend we're in the middle of having sex and my brain has turned to mush, and explain what the hell you're talking about."
"First, this isn't the middle of sex, it's just the beginning," Clark corrected with a glittering gleam in his eyes. Lex shuddered. "Secondly, you said 'oh fuck,' and response A is: 'that's the plan.'"
Lex stared some more. "Clark, you're weird."
Clark snickered. "I'm also naked, horny, and in bed with the President of the United States, who is equally naked and horny."
Hurt like he hadn't felt in a long time cut Lex, followed by anger. He moved off Clark and turned on the nightstand light. He squinted in the sudden brightness, but kept his embittered eyes on Clark. "If you're here only because I'm the President, then get the hell out."
Clark sat up quickly, wearing a stunned expression on his face. "Lex, how can you even think that?"
"You'd be surprised at how many offer because of my title," Lex said flatly. "The number is even more than when I was just the Luthor heir."
"Well, don't count me in that number. I want you because you're sex personified and I'm easy." Clark colored after he spoke, reminding Lex that this was Clark Kent, who would never use Lex like that.
Lex's tensed shoulders slumped in relief and apology. He rubbed the back of his head self-consciously. "Sorry."
"Lex, don't be sorry. It's a valid concern."
"One that doesn't apply to you," Lex forced a joke, "because you're just an easy lay."
Clark blushed again and looked sheepish. "Yeah, I am. Unlike you, the offers are sparse, so I take it when I can get it."
A corner of Lex's mouth turned up. "That confirms my belief that all people are inherently blind and stupid."
"Flattery--" Clark began, getting to his knees. He braced his hands on the headboard on either side of Lex's head and leaned in close. "--will get you kissed."
"You're gorgeous," Lex baited, shaking off the lingering broodiness. "Beautiful. Sexy. Exqui--"
Clark swallowed his words in a ferocious kiss, pressing him back against the headboard. Clark's lips moved over Lex's with bruising passion, tongue stabbing into his open mouth. Lex's desire was re-ignited instantaneously, his groin tightening. He moaned deeply, sliding his hands along Clark's muscular arms.
Clark shifted his weight, one hand lowering to grasp Lex's dick in a firm fist. He pumped with teasing slowness, until Lex tore his mouth from Clark's with a curse and a groan. "Clark..."
"You are so hot," Clark murmured, eyes raking over Lex's body. He lowered his chin and focused on his stroking hand. "Why didn't we do this before now?"
Lex banged his skull against the headboard several times, accompanied by a throaty whimper. "Too young. You were too young."
"You thought about it, though?"
"Every. Fucking. Day."
Clark's voice dropped to a low rumble. "Me, too."
Lex clawed at Clark's chest, eyes wild with lust. "Now. I want you now. Top, bottom, just now."
"Yesss," Clark hissed, swooping in for another fierce kiss. Teeth clacked together, scraping and biting rapture-bruised lips. Tongues dueled in a vicious dance of passion.
Clark reached blindly for the nightstand, almost toppling out of bed. He broke the kiss, growling, and with unbelievable dexterity, leaned far over, pulled out the entire drawer from the nightstand, and straightened again.
He abruptly smirked. "Found your porn."
"Claaarrk," Lex drew out exasperatedly. He sat up and grabbed the condom box and bottle of lubricant from the drawer. "Can we get on with it, please?"
The drawer landed on the floor with a thud, beside the bed. Clark snatched the condoms from Lex's hand and looked at the box. "It's not open." He glanced at the bottle in Lex's hand, which still had the safety seal around it. "Neither is the lube."
"That's because I haven't gotten laid in a very, very long time," Lex admitted. "So, if you wouldn't mind hurrying along, it would be greatly appreciated."
Clark laughed and, thankfully, hurried along. Lex gritted his teeth as a condom was rolled onto him. He fumbled with the safety seal on the lubricant until it was taken away from him.
Clark opened the bottle with ease, poured some on his fingers, and handed the bottle back. Lex had expected the slick substance to be spread on himself. Instead, he watched, open-mouthed at the carnal image, as Clark braced against the headboard, reached back, and stretched himself.
At Clark's self-satisfied moan, Lex pinched the base of his cock to keep from coming already. "Clark, please," he begged hoarsely.
Clark nodded and moved. He folded his forearms on the pillows beside Lex and bent over, legs spread and ass raised. Lex was behind him within seconds.
"Oh, god. Oh, Clark." Lex sank to the hilt in one long thrust, hands scrambling for purchase on Clark's lean hips. Clark rocked back against him and he garbled incoherently.
"Jesus, Lex," Clark breathed. "Just... Lex."
"This is going to be short," Lex rasped between clenched teeth as he began to move. After six strokes, he was on the cusp of orgasm. He grabbed his balls, tugging hard in hopes of prolonging his climax. It was no use. It had been too long, Clark was so hot and tight, and it wasClark.
Lex stiffened and cried out. His orgasm was ripped viciously from him, bringing the world to a shuddering stop. White stars danced wildly behind tightly closed eyelids. He couldn't breathe. His heart hammered in his chest, bursting to escape.
He felt Clark moving. His ears picked up the slick sound of a hand on flesh. He pried open his eyes and saw Clark's elbow at an angle to his body, his arm jerking back and forth rapidly.
Lex pulled out, replacing his spent cock with his fingers. Clark practically howled when Lex found his prostate. He came with Lex's name on his lips, spilling onto the white sheets beneath him.
Clark fell bonelessly onto his side, panting and grinning like a loon. "Awesome sex and I get the Lamborghini, too. This date rocks!"
Lex sputtered in laughter. "Clark!"
Clark and Lex's picture from the State dinner was splashed across the Sunday newspapers throughout the nation, causing an immediate uproar. There was no mistaking that the two were intimate, even though at the time Clark had been just accepting the date.
Clark's voice mail had close to fifty messages within an hour of the news hitting print, most of them from Lois. He spoke with no one but his parents. He advised them to use their own judgement when the reporters contacted them for information on both him and Lex. The phone call had been a joy he could have lived without. Clark loved them dearly, but they still had a prejudice against Lex, even after all these years.
They were definitely more than friends now, though, and Clark was very much the happy homo. On Sunday, he and Lex had sex repeatedly throughout the day, until body parts hurt. In between bouts of fornicating, they read the newspapers -- Lex had four delivered daily -- and explored the White House. Even though Lex had lived there for three full months, he hadn't been anywhere other than his bedroom and the study in the residential wing. When they had found a billiards table, Lex looked as though he wanted to squeal in delight.
Clark hadn't wanted to leave on Sunday night, but eventually he did with the promise of more phone contact and a return trip to DC in June. He also had promised monogamy, which wasn't a problem since his social calendar had been dismally empty since January, anyway.
No one was camped outside of Clark's apartment, thankfully, when he returned home. His address was unlisted, he used a P.O. Box for his mail, and the Daily Planet payroll department was fairly loyal to its employees and wouldn't give out his address without a sizable bribe, but that didn't guarantee his privacy, especially when there were reporters involved. He'd have to be exceptionally careful over the next few weeks, until he and Lex faded from the limelight.
Monday dawned and Clark made himself get up early to listen to the morning news on the radio. He and Lex were the last news story before sports and weather and a connection was made between the President dating a man and the newly passed Public Law Nos. 112-15 and 16. Clark hadn't thought about the perfect timing of the new laws, but now he recognized Lex's machinations in order to obtain what he wanted. In this case, he wanted Clark Kent, which made Clark's heart flip.
Clark remained in a good mood, even through the wholly embarrassing whistles, catcalls, and standing ovation he received when he arrived at the Daily Planet. His work area had been desecrated by the other reporters: multiple copies of the photograph from the paper were tacked up, along with condom balloons, crude signs and banners. Jimmy Olson gleefully snapped pictures of the pink-faced Clark in front of his work area until Clark threatened to shove the camera where the redhead didn't freckle.
"All right, you pervs, leave Kent alone," Lois ordered the bullpen reporters as she came down the stairs from the senior offices. "His candy-ass is mine."
"Ut-oh," Jimmy said. He gave Clark a sympathetic pat on the shoulder. "I don't envy you, CK."
He hurried away as Lois stalked up to Clark and poked him hard in the chest. "You are dead meat, buster. Why didn't you tell me you were dating the President? I'm your partner, I should know these things!"
"Don't you mean: you're my partner and should exploit these things?" Clark said pointedly.
"Of course not," Lois protested. At Clark's look, she added, "Not much, anyway. C'mon, Clark, we're talking about you boning the President of the United States."
"Oh, nice language, Lois." Clark turned his back to her and began restoring order to his desk.
"I'm just reading the sign on the wall, Clark." Lois flicked one of the crude papers taped to the stairwell. "Besides, you're glowing like a well-laid virgin, so fess up."
Clark once again became red, but sighed exasperatedly, dropping the condom balloons in the wastebasket. "You're not going away, are you?"
"Fine," Clark gave in. "Off the record, I didn't even know Saturday was a date until after I got there."
"But you're happy that it was a date?" Lois inquired, comfortably crossing her arms and leaning a shoulder against the side of the stairs.
A thousand-watt smile bloomed on Clark's face. "Oh, yeah."
"That smile has me itching to go on the record, Clark."
Clark tapped a found box of Presidential brand condoms on the edge of the desk. "Tell you what, I'll give you exclusivity as long as I can edit all final articles about me and Lex."
Lois's predatory expression gave Clark goosebumps. "You're on," she said. She paused thoughtfully before asking, "Does that include your parents? Friends?"
"No." Clark shook his head. "My parents and friends will make their own choices on who they'll talk to."
"Fair enough," Lois agreed. She straightened. "Leave that crap and let's get started. I'll let you spring for coffee."
Spring warmed into summer, cooled into fall and early winter, and Clark and Lex were still dating. It had been difficult at first -- the press-hounds and public backlash had been vicious -- but they'd survived. Now, occasional blurbs appeared in the newspapers about them, but like all fantastical stories, theirs faded from the spotlight and was relegated to tabloid fodder. Superman, however, continued to avoid reporters and photographers as much as possible.
As the days continued to pass, Clark and Lex's relationship grew more comfortable, though they remained hundreds of miles apart. They were both workaholics, so distance didn't matter much. They kept their standing Sunday night telephone dates and called each other on really bad days. Clark tried to visit Lex at least once a month, whether there was a special Presidential event to attend or not. The sex also continued to be incredible, more so because of the length of time they were apart between visits.
Clark shifted in his seat, refocusing his attention outside the car. Thinking about sex while on a stake-out was a Very Bad Thing, especially with Jimmy sitting beside him in the passenger seat.
Jimmy had his feet propped on the dash, reading a paperback thriller by penlight. Jimmy was only a year younger than Clark, but he looked like a teenager and acted the same most of the time. He was an excellent photographer, though, and as insane as Lois when going after pictures for a story.
Jimmy glanced out the window as he turned the page, then went back to his reading. The stake-out was, as most stake-outs, boring as heck. Clark had received information from an ex-lover that a local low-level drug dealer was meeting with one of the established drug lords of Metropolis. The meeting itself wasn't worthy of DEA or police investigation, but Clark wanted to know who the players were, as Ricky had provided no names. Jimmy was with Clark to document the meeting, because Clark always ended up taking pictures of his thumb.
The cell phone in his breast pocket vibrated. "Kent," Clark answered, keeping his voice lowered so as not to bother Jimmy.
"Are you busy?"
A smile broke out on Clark's face, his heart leaping at the sound of Lex's voice. "Not entirely. Jimmy and I are on a stake-out... which would be so much more comfortable if we were in my Lamborghini."
"Sorry, still haven't found the keys," Lex responded automatically to the on-going joke.
"Uh-huh. A likely story." Clark switched the phone to his other ear, propped his elbow on the window edge of the door, and leaned his cheek against his fist. Outside, all was still quiet. "So, to what do I owe the pleasure of your call?"
Jimmy snorted from beside him.
"I spoke with my father today," Lex said, sounding frustrated and tired. "He wants to have Thanksgiving with me."
Clark was surprised. "In Metropolis?"
Short bark of laughter. "Yeah, right," Lex said sarcastically. "No, he wants me to have Thanksgiving here, at the White House, and invite a few dozen close, personal friends of his."
"Your dad is a real piece of work," Clark said. "What did you tell him?"
Lex was quiet for a long minute before admitting with a resigned sigh, "I said I'd get back to him."
Clark sympathized with Lex. Lionel may be a jerk, but he was still Lex's father. "Tell him yes."
"Tell him you'll do it and that you'll send out the invitations," Clark said. "Then, only invite him and his date of the week, my parents, Brad and Veranda, me, Lois--" Jimmy cleared his throat. "--and Jimmy. We'll sic Lois on him, while the rest of us have a pleasant Thanksgiving dinner."
"That's a great idea, Clark," Lex said with a chuckle. "Why didn't I think of it?"
"You're the President," Clark replied. "You aren't supposed to be devious."
The driver's side window exploded without warning and Clark felt the stinging slap of bullets hitting the side of his face and the back of his fist. Jimmy yelled in surprise, jerking fully upright in the passenger seat.
Clark dropped the cell phone, grabbed Jimmy's shoulder, and forced him to bend over. "Get down!"
Two bullets came through the passenger's side window right where Jimmy's head had been. One embedded itself in the headrest. The other hit Clark in the ear and bounced harmlessly to the seat.
"Hang on!" Clark jerked the key in the ignition and the car roared to life. Someone sprinted in front of the vehicle, spraying the windshield with a hail of bullets from an Uzi.
"CK! You're shot!" Jimmy shouted, panicked, eyes fixed on the tears in Clark's clothes.
"Keep down!" Clark slammed the gearshift into drive, jammed his foot on the accelerator, and the car leapt forward with a shriek of the tires. More bullets clinked against the rear of the vehicle as they tore down the street.
Clark didn't let up his speed until they neared downtown Metropolis. He looked over at Jimmy. "Are you hurt?"
"No," Jimmy replied shakily, sitting up. "You are, though."
Clark glanced down at his marred clothing. "Uh, no, I'm okay. Must've been the glass."
"How can you sound so calm?"
"It's an act," Clark lied, "to hide the fact that I crapped my pants."
Jimmy laughed a bit hysterically, rocking in his seat. His hand knocked Clark's cell phone onto the floor. It bounced and settled under Clark's feet.
"Oh, crud, Lex!" Clark reached for the phone, glanced at the display, and put it to his ear. "Lex?"
"Clark!" Lex exclaimed over the line, rushing over his words. "Oh, thank God. Are you okay? I heard Jimmy say you were shot. Are you shot? What happened? Are you hurt? You--"
"Lex-- Lex--," Clark spoke over him. "I'm not hurt. I'm okay. Deep breaths. Calm down."
Lex cursed, his voice shaky. "I need a drink. Many of them."
"Lex, I'm going to take Jimmy home, then I'll call you back, okay?" Clark said, glancing at the pale-faced photographer beside him.
"Okay," Lex agreed, though it didn't sound all right with him. "But if you don't call back within the hour, I'm sending out the National Guard."
The newsroom came stuttering to a halt as Lex Luthor stepped out of the elevator at the Daily Planet. Secret Service Agents fanned out as Lex approached the nearest person, a perky-looking blond wearing a colorful fisherman's hat. "Can you tell me where Clark Kent is?"
Molly juggled the items in her arms, lifted a hand, and pointed towards the stairs to the Senior Editors' offices. "He- he's under the stairs, Mr.- Mr. President," she stuttered.
"Thanks," he said. "Nice hat."
Molly giggled bashfully.
Lex wound his way through the unorganized clutter of desks towards the steps. It was 2:30 PM on a Thursday afternoon and very few desks were unoccupied. The reporters, pages, and interns stared in surprised curiosity or awe.
Lex was a bit surprised at himself, too. He never expected he would tell Charlene to cancel his afternoon, get on Air Force One, and fly to Metropolis without there being an emergency. However, after spending the morning fretting over what Clark had told him on the phone about what had happened the night before, Lex had given up the pretense of working, put love over duty, and now he was in Metropolis to see with his own eyes that Clark was all right.
"Oui. Oui. Il est quelque chose que..." Lex came to a stop beside Clark's work area and his brows climbed at the flow of perfect French coming from Clark. Clark was on his hands and knees under the desk and all that was visible were his legs and backside. Lex didn't hesitate in admiring the view.
A hand emerged and groped for something on the extremely messy surface of the desk. Thick fingers closed around a small Phillips screwdriver and disappeared beneath the desk again. The French continued.
The other reporters in the newsroom returned partially to work, keeping one eye on Lex. Tom, Lex's personal Secret Service Agent, gave Lex an irritated, pointed look. The building became less and less secure the longer Lex was at the Daily Planet, though the reporters wouldn't spread the word that he was there. He would, however, undoubtedly be the subject of a Daily Planet exclusive news story.
Lex lightly kicked Clark's leg, avoiding the temptation to pinch the wiggling, taut ass. Clark jumped, startled, the desk echoing when he smacked his head. He emerged wearing a scowl, cell phone in one hand and screwdriver in the other, his glasses at the very end of his nose. When he saw Lex, his face lit up immediately. "Lex!"
The overenthusiastic, gushing exclamation of Lex's name made him feel like the king of the world. His Presidential facade was washed away by pure happiness and love for Clark.
"Jean-Claude, je dois aller," Clark said into the phone, grinning like a giddy fool at Lex. He laughed at something Jean-Claude said. "Oui, I will. Au revoir." He terminated the call and tossed the phone and the screwdriver on his desk as he climbed to his feet.
"Hi!" Clark bubbled like a puppy, shoving his glasses back up his nose. "This is a surprise! What are you doing here?"
"I wanted to make sure you were really okay," Lex admitted without pause. He started to reach out to touch Clark, but reminded himself that they were in a newspaper office and dropped his hand again.
Clark's expression softened. "I'm fine, Lex."
Abruptly, his head whipped to the right and his scowl returned. "Jimmy!"
Across the sea of desks, Jimmy Olson lowered his camera. He smiled cockily and took off at a fast clip out of the bullpen.
Clark groaned, rubbing his forehead. "We're front page news for sure, with Jimmy's pictures."
"Can we get out of here, then? Your place would be fine." Lex's brows furrowed slightly. "You know, we've been dating for six months and I have no idea where in Metropolis you live."
"Um..." Clark scratched his ear. "It's not a very good neighborhood. I wouldn't advise us taking your limo or whatever car you came in. Maybe we should just go to your old place."
"No. Now you have me curious. I definitely want to see where you live," Lex stated unbudgingly.
"Okay," Clark shrugged. He slid on his overcoat and picked up his cell phone. "I guess we'll take my car. It's pretty much tanked now, anyway. If it gets stripped, it doesn't really matter."
Clark's cell phone began vibrating and he answered the call as they headed for the elevator. Tom and two other agents joined Lex in the building's lift. While Clark continued talking on the phone to Lois Lane, an argument ensued between Lex and Tom on the way to the parking garage. In the end, Lex was the boss, and he was going to Clark's house in Clark's car, and that was that.
Or that was that, until Lex saw Clark's car. He sucked in a sharp breath, staring at the bullet holes peppering the rear of the blue four-door sedan.
"It might be a little windy," Clark warned, opening the car door without needing to unlock it. Layers of Saran-wrap were taped over the driver's side window. "Lex, you should probably sit in the back."
Lex slowly rounded the vehicle, his eyes growing even wider when he saw the two bullet holes in the passenger side window. The spray of cracked holes decorating the windshield made him pale in horror. "Clark..."
"Hey, I'm all right," Clark reassured, quickly circling the vehicle to Lex's side. He slid a hand around the back of Lex's neck and touched their foreheads together. The Secret Service Agents were, as usual, ignored.
"How did you..." Lex couldn't finish his question, but Clark answered anyway.
"I ducked. They missed. End of story."
Lex swallowed around the knot of emotion choking him. "How far is it to your place?"
"Let's go," Lex said thickly. "Now."
The drive was made in tense silence. Tom sat in front with Clark, while the other two agents sat in the backseat on either side of Lex. Lex couldn't stop staring at the bullet holes in the windshield, his stomach churning in nausea. From the way Clark made it sound on the phone, Lex had though perhaps one or two shots had been fired, not this.
"We're here." Clark parked the car on a block with rundown buildings. Lex didn't recognize the neighborhood from the glimpse he saw as he was rushed into one of the six-story complexes.
The smell of stale cigarettes, mold, and garbage immediately hit Lex. Clark led the way up four flights of barely illuminated stairs and down a disgustingly stained hallway. There were eight apartments per floor, and televisions and shouting could be heard coming from behind each of the closed multi-locked doors.
Clark stopped before the last door on the left and unlocked it. He hesitated a moment, a flash of worry crossing his face, before opening the door. "Well, this is it," he said, entering the apartment, followed by Tom and Lex. He bent and quickly picked up some brightly colored clothing off the floor.
Tom pushed past Clark, ignoring his protest, and began a search of the living room. The other two agents positioned themselves outside the door. One of them called the President's driver, informed him of their location, and instructed him to drive around the area.
Clark ducked down a short hall and into the bedroom on the right. He emerged a few seconds later, sans bright clothing and overcoat. He crossed to the bathroom on the left side of the hall. Tom went to search the bedroom.
Lex stood in the front doorway, just inside the apartment. He was supposed to wait for Tom's "all clear" before venturing further inside, but he wasn't sure if he wanted to fully enter.
Clark Kent lived in a pigsty. There was junk everywhere. Lex couldn't see any visible grime or garbage, but the sheer amount of stuff in the tiny apartment, as far as Lex could see, was unreal. Boxes were piled on top of one another, some open and spilling out their contents. Clothing was strewn all over. Books and papers were balanced precariously in towering piles. Cleaning supplies, thankfully obviously used, were shoved in a corner just inside the open kitchen entryway. What looked to be a diorama of a disco club with a roach motel in the center was on the kitchen floor across from the refrigerator.
Tom returned, indicating Lex could enter. He positioned himself in the kitchen after conferring with the two other agents and closing the front door. Lex stepped carefully into the living room as Clark rejoined him.
"Sorry about the mess," Clark apologized, cleaning off the ratty green couch. "I rarely have company and I'm almost never here, except to sleep. I'm too busy working."
Lex sat warily on the edge of the sofa. He glanced around and grimaced. "Clark, just admit it, you're a slob."
Lopsided grin. "Well, maybe," Clark said, sitting beside Lex. He pushed up his glasses. "Though, I really am a workaholic."
"And that almost got you killed."
"I wasn't--" Clark was cut off by Lex's mouth covering his. Lex fisted a hand in Clark's hair, his lips moving over Clark's without finesse, fueled by raw emotion. He poured his anxiety, fear, and relief that Clark was truly unharmed into the kiss.
He was breathing heavily when he broke away. Eyes closed, he rested his forehead against Clark's, fingers stroking through the back of Clark's hair. "I love you, Clark, and I don't want to lose you," he said gruffly. "Promise me you'll be more careful."
"I am. I will." Clark's hands ran up and down Lex's sides, under his black coat. "And I l--"
"Mr. Kent." Tom's abrupt interruption startled both men and they jerked apart. "There's a Ricky Marino here to see you."
In the years Lex had known Clark, he rarely saw Clark get angry. It unnerved Lex to watch the black emotion wash over Clark's face and he felt very glad it wasn't directed at him.
Clark was off the couch and out the door in a flash. Lex leaned over the arm of the sofa to see Clark pin an olive-skinned, long-maned model-type man high against the hallway wall, gripping him by the front of his shirt. Clark's voice was loud and furious, and undoubtedly heard throughout the apartment complex.
"Ricky, sei uno stronzo! Mi volevi fare ammazzare!"
"Dai, amore-- " Ricky began. Clark cut him off.
"L'hai vista la macchina parcheggiata qua davanti che pare del formaggio svizzero? Io e Jimmy erevano nella macchina quando e' successo! Per poco ci ammazzavano a tutte e due!"
It took Lex a moment to figure out that Clark was speaking Italian. Fluently. How many languages did he know?
"Dimmi perche' non dovrei buttarti dalla finestra, Ricky?" Clark snarled.
"Perche' mi ami?"
"Sbagliato." Clark lowered Ricky to the ground, only to put him in a headlock and drag him into the apartment and over to the living room window. Clark slid the window open. Ricky squawked.
Tom positioned himself behind Lex, one hand on his holster. Lex continued to watch, fascinated by the change in Clark, even though he slightly understood what was going on.
"Gioa, no!" Ricky cried. "Non ho fatto niente! Ti ho detto quello che mi ha detto Antonio, ne piu' ne meno!!!"
"Si, Antonio, il mio amante. Ex-amante. Muove la droga per Illiana."
Clark abruptly released Ricky, who staggered and coughed. "You'd better not be lying."
Clark snorted and closed the window. Ricky smoothed back his long, dark hair. He suddenly noticed Lex and Tom, and his black eyes widened. "Excuse me, I did not see you before, sir."
Clark swatted Ricky across the back of the head as he passed. He settled on the couch beside Lex, laying a hand on Lex's leg. "Ricky, I believe you know the President."
"I have seen pictures, yes," Ricky replied. He looked down, brushing off his shirt, and added under his breath, "Non e' tanto bono di persona."
Clark heard him. "I can still throw you out the window."
Ricky's gaze shot to Clark and he held up his hands. "Scusa. Scusa."
"What are you doing here, anyway?"
"I came for payment," Ricky replied. When Clark made a threatening move to rise, he added hastily, "Which I do not deserve, as my information was bad."
The pieces fell into place. "This is the person who almost got you killed," Lex said, his own anger swiftly mounting. "Tom-- shoot him."
Ricky squeaked. Clark chuckled darkly. "As much as that would entertain me, I need him alive. He's going to take me to see Antonio."
"Wait a minute," Lex said to Clark. "My Italian may be rusty, but isn't Antonio the one who fed information to this guy?" He jerked a thumb at Ricky. "The same information that gave you center seats to the bullet ballet?"
"Yeah?" Clark replied questioningly.
"You don't think that's a very stupid idea?"
"It's my job, Lex," Clark said, sounding miffed.
"No, it's not your job," Lex stated hotly. "The police should be arresting Ricky and this Antonio for attempted murder."
Ricky began inching towards the front door. Tom blocked his path.
"It's not worth MPD's time to investigate, especially since no one was hurt," Clark said. "Besides, I want to know why Illiana set me up, and the way to Illiana is through Antonio."
"Don't you even care that these people tried to kill you last night?" Lex asked incredulously.
"Yes, and that's why Ricky's taking me to Antonio."
"Unbelievable." Lex stood abruptly, hands clenching. "I just told you that I don't want to lose you and you're purposely going to put yourself in danger."
"I'll be careful, Lex," Clark said, trying to speak calmly. "But it's my job--"
Clark blinked, rising to his feet. "You don't mean that. You know I love being a reporter."
"Obviously more than you love your life," Lex said tightly. "And obviously more than you care for me."
"I'm not going to give you an ultimatum, though I very much want to," Lex stared hard at Clark, "but if you die chasing a story, I will hate you forever."
Without letting Clark reply, he turned on his heel and stalked around the couch towards the door. "Let's go, Tom."
Tom gave Ricky and Clark a withering glare and followed the President. The door shook on its hinges as it slammed shut.
Clark didn't run after Lex, though he wanted to use his superspeed to reach Lex before he even left the building. Logic, however, reared its ugly head, pointing out Ricky's presence, along with the presence of the Secret Service Agents surrounding Lex. By the time Clark made it onto the street, apartment door locked and Ricky in tow, the President's black sedan was almost out of sight.
"You will take me to Antonio when I get back," Clark told Ricky, before hopping into his car and speeding after Lex.
He caught up and followed Lex's vehicle to LuthorCorp Towers. Luckily, Clark's car was easily recognizable with the bullet holes, or he doubted he would have been able to tail Lex.
The expression on Lex's face warned Clark not to cause a scene -- not that he would -- as they made their way from the underground parking garage to Lex's apartment.
The luxury apartment was on the twenty-second floor of the high-rise, taking up one half of the floor level. Lex tolerated heights, but he preferred to avoid them if possible. The tewenty-second floor was the first level of residences in the Metropolis skyscraper.
Tom searched the apartment before allowing Lex and Clark inside. Clark indicated with a look that he wanted privacy and Lex led the way to the master bedroom. Clark closed the door behind them.
The master bedroom was starkly beige and modern, resembling a boardroom with a king-sized bed instead of a table. A line of sliding windows ran the length of the room, doubtfully ever opened in the climate-controlled apartment.
Lex tossed his black overcoat onto the bed, walked over to the single chest of drawers, and poured a drink from an array of bottles on the dresser.
Clark removed his glasses, tucked them in the breast pocket of his suit coat, crossed his arms, and leaned back against the closed bedroom door. "Can we skip the romance novel cliché where we don't talk for weeks and avoid each other, until we run into one another someplace and realize how stupid we've been?"
"You read romances?" Lex snorted derisively.
"Kind of hard to skip the cliché, then."
Clark growled an obscenity, pushed off the door, and crossed to Lex. He plucked the glass from Lex's hand, set it on the dresser, grabbed him by the shoulders, and forced him to sit on the edge of the bed.
"Now, the truth," Clark said, ignoring Lex's annoyed glare. "Does my job really bother you that much?"
Lex's lips compressed in a thin line. It took him close to a minute to answer. "Yes."
"Why?" Clark asked, gingerly squeezing Lex's shoulders. "Your position puts your life in danger on a daily basis."
"But I don't go seeking danger," Lex said pointedly, a hint of fear for Clark reflecting in his eyes.
Clark lowered himself to his knees, sliding his hands down Lex's arms. He grasped Lex's hands, looking up at him with devotion. "Lex, I love you, and I want to spend my lifetime loving you."
Astonishment crept across Lex's features. "Are you... proposing to me?"
"No," Clark said, frowning slightly. "Well, maybe, but that part doesn't come yet. First, I have something important to tell you."
Concern and confusion appeared in Lex's eyes and Clark lowered his gaze. He focused on the pale hands trapped between his own. "There are three people on Earth who know this, Lex: my parents and myself. And I planned on telling only one more person: the person I committed myself to," he began.
"Clark," Lex uttered his name, squeezing Clark's hands, voice thick with emotion.
"You could destroy me, Lex," Clark said, raising his head, eyes conveying every fear. "Clark Kent would no longer exist and my parents' lives would be in constant jeopardy."
"If you're trying to tell me you've been infected by the meteors in Smallville, I won't be surprised, Clark," Lex said gently.
Clark shook his head. "It's a little bigger than that. I--"
A sharp rap on the bedroom door startled them both. The door was opened slightly and Tom spoke through the crack. "Mr. President, you have a Code One Priority call on the sat-phone."
Lex cursed. Immediately, Clark moved, and Lex left the bedroom quickly.
Rising to his feet, Clark dragged a hand through his dark locks and blew out a puff of air. He hadn't expected to confess his origins today. It felt almost like a knee-jerk reaction to their argument, which perhaps it was, but obviously Lex feared for Clark's life in association with his job, though Lex wouldn't force him to quit. Clark loved him all the more for that.
There wasn't any particular eureka moment when Clark realized he was in love with Lex Luthor. It just sort of happened gradually and now Clark couldn't imagine his life without Lex in it. He never thought to say, "Oh, yeah, by the way, Lex, I love you," but that could be attributed to being a male. He assumed Lex knew by his deeds and actions, just like he knew Lex loved him the same way.
Clark had thought about telling Lex that he was an alien; a Kryptonian, in fact, which he discovered over the summer after his first year of Junior College. Clark had decoded the tablet that had arrived with him on Earth and spent the summer at his new Fortress of Solitude in the Arctic, learning about his origins. He even had a different name, Kal-El, but that didn't sit right with him. He had grown up as Clark Kent and he would remain Clark Kent, unless Lex used his secret against him.
Clark was willing to take the chance that Lex would not hurt him, but he would have liked to talk with his parents first since they were also at risk. Although, he knew what they would say: his father would have been against it simply because of Lex's last name and his mom would be the voice of reason.
"Clark," Lex strode back into the room, his expression grim, "I need you to call Lois and find out if she knows how to get in touch with Superman."
Clark blinked slowly. An ironic smile twisted his lips. "That won't be necessary."
"You can summon him?" Lex asked with hope.
"I don't have to. As I was about to tell you, he's standing right in front of you."
Pause. "You're Superman."
Lex appeared confused and disbelieving. "I don't--"
Clark's outer clothes were gone in a flash. He stood before Lex in full costume, cape fluttering as it settled around him, and asked in a no-nonsense tone, "What's the emergency?"
Wide-eyed, Lex replied with stupefaction, "A NASA shuttle bounced re-entry and they're now on a direct collision course with Charleston, South Carolina."
Lex glanced at his watch. "Six minutes."
Clark nodded decisively. A split second later, he opened the window, popped out the screen, and was flying at superspeed to meet the shuttle.
Lex sat on the edge of the bed, holding his sat-phone, staring blankly at the open window across from him. After telling those he needed to that Superman was on his way, he had retreated to the bedroom again, to try and fathom what he'd just learned.
Clark Kent was Superman.
Clark -- his Clark -- the geeky, sometimes bumbling ex-farmboy, who thought Chinese take-out was a delicacy and sang TV theme songs off-key in the shower, was Superman, the cool, composed, and confident savior of Earth. Lex Luthor was in love with an alien.
A stray giggle escaped. It was like a tabloid headline come true. "President dates Kryptonian," or, better yet, "President in love triangle with Superman and Clark Kent."
Well, at least there was one benefit: Lex didn't have to worry anymore about Clark getting hurt on the job.
Another giggle, bordering on hysteric. Clark's secret was a teensy bit larger than being a Smallville meteor mutant, like Lex had suspected for years. Superman was Clark Kent. Clark Kent was not human. Lex had been lied to all these years, every time he asked for the truth. So, what was he going to do?
"Marry him," Lex whispered to himself. "I'm going to marry him."
After all, that's why he had the law changed. He wanted to commit himself, legally and publicly, to the boy he'd loved for more than a decade. In a nation of divorce, he wanted to be one of those couples who made it to Happily Ever After, and he couldn't picture being with anyone else but Clark, even if he sprouted antennae and began quacking like a duck.
"I'm a romantic fool," Lex sighed effusively. He dialed Kellett's direct number on the sat-phone.
"Kel, this is the President. How are you at writing engagement announcements?"
A light knock on the window preceded a rosy-cheeked Superman sticking his head into the bedroom. "Am I still welcome?" he asked nervously, quite uncharacteristic for the Man of Steel, but very much Clark.
Lex's smile answered better than words. He partially covered the phone receiver. "You're just in time, Clark. What do you think our marriage banns should say?"
Clark fully entered the room, closing the window behind him. He walked over to the bedroom door, closed and locked it, leaned back against it, apparently casual, and asked, "Are you proposing to me?"
"If the answer is yes, then I am." Lex propped a leg on the bed, turning so he could see Clark. He uncovered the receiver. "Kel, I'll call you later." He disconnected, tossed the sat-phone on the bed beside him, and looked expectantly at Clark. "Well?"
Clark was suddenly in front of him, cape snapping, wearing a smile so bright it could rival the sun. "Yes... but only if I get the keys to the Lamborghini."
Lex leaned past Clark, opened the nightstand drawer, pushed aside a few adult magazines, and removed a set of car keys. He dangled them enticingly. "You mean these keys?"
Clark's brows arched. "You keep your car keys in the same drawer as your porn?"
"They're for the Lamborghini, Clark, of course they're kept with the porn."
"Right. Silly me." Clark snatched they keys, cupped the back of Lex's skull with his other hand, and kissed him long and hard.
"We need... to talk...," Lex panted when Clark broke the kiss, arching his neck as Clark sucked and nibbled along his jaw.
"Abow wa?" Clark mumbled against Lex's skin.
"You, me... Superman." Lex tugged at the collar of Clark's costume as Clark latched on to Lex's earlobe. "This god-awful costume."
Clark leaned back. "I like my costume."
"Clark, it's..." Lex fumbled for a descriptive, eyeing the extra-bright uniform. "Faggy."
Clark chortled. "If the cape fits..."
Lex shoved playfully at him. Snickering, Clark moved to where his discarded slacks lay and put the Lamborghini keys in the pocket. He went still abruptly, trousers dangling from his fingers, and whispered in wonder, "I'm going to be the First Husband."
"Yes, you are." Lex had to smile at that. "Although, it's going to create all sorts of problems, what with you being Queen of the Sky."
Clark dropped the slacks without regard, a puzzled frown furrowing his brows. "You don't seem too concerned that I'm--"
"--not human," Clark finished, giving him a non-humored look.
Lex shrugged. "I already thought you were a meteor mutant and that you were afraid to tell me. Alien isn't too hard for me to wrap my mind around."
"So, you still... love me?"
"I gave you the keys to the Lamborghini, didn't I?"
Clark didn't laugh at the joke. "You gave me a truck when I saved your life."
"Clark, it's a Lamborghini," Lex said. "She's worth much more than my life." He held up his hands when Clark went to speak, answering his protest before it was voiced. "No, I'm not trying to buy your love. Love is something to be given and received freely." Lex smiled fondly. "You taught me that."
Clark sat down beside him on the edge of the bed and sighed. "I'm making this into a bigger deal than it is, aren't I?"
"No, it is a big deal," Lex said, laying his hand on Clark's thigh. "But as an alien, you out-human the humans. And I've been in love with you for a very long time."
"How long is very long?" Clark asked curiously.
A corner of Lex's mouth curled up in self-deprecation. "Since your senior year in high school."
"Pretty sad, huh?"
"No." Clark curved his hand around the back of Lex's head, moving in for a kiss. "It's pretty amazing, pretty wonderful, and pretty dang special."
Clark covered Lex's mouth with his and Lex vanished in the kiss. He opened under Clark's tender assault, feeling the emotions conveyed down to his toes. The slow, tangled dance of their tongues, however, was not long in igniting their passions. They fumbled with each other's clothes until Lex got frustrated and Clark took matters at his own speed. Lex felt motion sick, but then Clark was doing things between his bare thighs, and it was all good.
Curled together afterwards, sated and warm beneath the sheets, Lex murmured a question that had been nagging him. "How many languages do you speak?"
Lex yawned and snuggled closer. "I guess I'll never need an interpreter at functions."
Clark chuckled, kissed the top of Lex's head, and began telling Lex about his former home in the stars, until they both succumbed to sleep.
Both men wore white tuxedos, after months of mock-arguing over who got to be the bride. Brad was the Best Man and Veranda was the Matron of Honor. Lionel Luthor sat alone in the front row, opposite Jonathan and Martha Kent. Hundreds of reporters flocked around the White House, but the only three invited to the ceremony were Lois, Jimmy, and Perry White. Ricky Marino, invited both because of his invaluable assistance in bringing down Illiana and because he begged to come until Clark gave in, sobbed loudly the entire time.
The Wedding of the Century, as it had been dubbed by the press, went off with only a minor glitch with the music. Before family, friends, and political dignitaries from all over the world, Clark Kent and Lex Luthor promised to love, honor, and cherish each other throughout the lifetime ahead, and were united in marriage under the eyes of the law.
The reception was held outdoors, under white canopy tents on the back lawn of the White House, on the beautiful early summer day. Guests laughed, ate, danced, and enjoyed the celebration of love. At one point, Lionel gave a toast that had Lex choked up, squeezing Clark's hand tightly under the table.
"To my son, who I'm surprisingly proud of," Lionel said, looking directly at Lex and holding his champagne glass aloft. "You knew what you wanted and made it happen, proving that you really are worthy to bear the Luthor name, after all."
After a honeymoon at Camp David, Lex returned to the White House, Clark went back to Metropolis, and the two workaholics continued to work as they had before they married. Superman, however, made a lot of nighttime visits to DC.
Years later, after two terms in office, Lex took full control of LuthorCorp International when his father retired, the perfect post-political job. Clark continued to work at the Daily Planet, winning several Pulitzer Prizes, and enjoyed having a spouse to go home to, who also paid extra to have the housekeeper pick up after him. Superman was still the superhero of the nation, even when he disappeared for three years at one point in time.
And Lena Ghini Kent-Luthor was born into the world, one bright Arctic morning, after a long, frightening, alien technology-induced pregnancy, squalling her head off and making both parents cry.
One day, she'd learn her middle name was an abbreviation for her comparable worth, and she'd think her two dads were strange for naming her after a car.
They would never tell her that it was also a reminder of where she'd been conceived.