Family, Friendship, and Love



Part Nine

 

 

Behind the modern coal-black desk with a chest-high divider, guarding Lex's office like a dragon guards its treasure, sat an intelligent-looking young woman in an expertly tailored suit. Smart frames perched on her slightly upturned nose, magnifying dark brown eyes. Her black hair was pulled back in a bun, held by a subdued silver clip. Her full lips were painted a deep mauve color, complimenting her dark cocoa complexion.

She smiled when the glass door leading from the hall opened and stood as Lex and Sam walked into the outer office. "Good morning, Mr. Luthor."

"Good morning, Laura," Lex said, carrying a briefcase and leading Sam by the hand. "I have someone I'd like you to meet."

Laura came out from behind her desk and Lex made introductions. "Laura, this is Sam Kent."

"Hello, Sam," Laura said.

Sam extended his hand. "Hello, Miss Laura. Mr. Lex said you're a super secretary and that he was gonna give you another raise."

Laura shook Sam's hand, even as she smirked at Lex. "That's nice of him."

Lex groaned silently. Laura was already pulling a higher salary than some of the highest paid doctors in the country. She'd proven time and again that she was worth it, though, and her loyalty to Lex was unquestionable.

"Clark is at an interview, so Sam is going to help me work until Clark's done," Lex told her instead of responding to the raise. "Make reservations at Pisello's for lunch and send Clark in when he arrives."

Hopefully, lunch would be a job celebration, although Clark didn't need to find employment immediately. He and Sam had been living with Lex for just under two weeks, and so far things had gone smoothly. The Kents had settled in with far more ease than Lex could have hoped. The apartment looked as though someone actually lived there now and Lex thoroughly enjoyed the feeling of having someone to go home to, who welcomed him in return.

Laura moved to her desk, picking up and passing him his phone messages. "You need to return Mr. Han's call directly, the remainder can wait until this afternoon. I'll need an answer on whether you'll be attending the Neiderman's dinner party before lunch. Also, this came for you." She passed him a large manila envelope, pre-opened and previewed by her. "Anonymous sender and drop-off, left at the desk downstairs. Security level one."

Lex studied the plain envelope with his name and the building's address printed in block letters on it. Security level one meant there was little risk to the subject matter inside the envelope. He pulled the contents out. There was a single eight-by-ten color photograph and a typewritten note.

The photograph was of him, Clark, and Sam laughing together at a stadium. Lex was wholly surprised at how relaxed and happy he looked. He was also surprised at how close Clark was sitting in the picture. Lex didn't really like anyone touching him — Sam didn't count — and Clark was practically draped over Lex in the picture.

Now that he thought about it, Clark touched Lex all the time. Little touches: a friendly hand on his arm or shoulder, a brief hug here and there, or infuriating fingers tickling him. Clark was a tactile person, relatively open with his feelings, to Lex at least, caused by the way he grew up. Funnily enough, for as prickly as Lex knew he was, he didn't mind Clark's displays of friendship.

Lex read the note that came with the photograph. Blackmail was not an issue, thankfully. It was just an amateur photographer being nice and sending along the picture he'd snapped at the Metropolis Mudhens baseball game back in October. Laura's security level one assessment was spot on. The picture would have been in the tabloids months ago if not.

"Can I see?" Sam asked, standing on his toes and tugging at Lex's arm.

Lex crouched, wrapping an arm around Sam, and showed him the picture. "What do you think?"

"It's nice," Sam replied with polite disinterest, now that he'd seen what Lex was holding.

"I agree." Lex straightened. "Laura, do we have a frame?"

"Yes, Mr. Luthor." Laura produced a chrome picture frame from nowhere, obviously having anticipated his request, like the exceptional secretary she was.

Lex knew he shouldn't display the photograph, but it brought color to the otherwise monochrome executive office. He put it on the corner of his desk, angling it precisely.

After hanging up their winter coats, Sam explored the office while Lex placed a return call to Mr. Han. When he finished, Sam climbed onto his lap without hesitation or waiting for permission — not that Lex would ever deny him — and asked, "Mr. Lex, who's Mr. Han?"

Lex tucked his dark tie between the buttons on his white shirt to keep Sam from accidentally choking him. "Mr. Han owns a company that I want to buy, HanKun Industries," he told Sam, adjusting Sam's sweater.

"Where are you going to put it?" Sam said.

Lex smiled, bemused. "I'm going to leave it where it is, here in Metropolis."

"What does the company make?"

"Robots," Lex replied. "Machines that build other machines."

Sam craned his head around to look at Lex with huge eyes. "Really?"

"Yes."

"Wow." Sam sounded awed. "Can I see the robots?"

"May I," Lex corrected, "and I think that can be arranged. We can go after lunch—"

"Yeah!"

"—only," Lex emphasized, "if I finish my work this morning, while you're here. That means you have to be quiet. Do you think you can do that?"

Sam nodded enthusiastically, pretending to zip his lips. Lex chuckled. "Okay. Here's your book." Lex passed Sam the physics textbook that he'd removed from his briefcase while on the phone. Sam settled back against Lex's chest, opening the text to the book-marked page. Lex had expected Sam to go sit on the couch or at the conference table, but the fact that he wanted to stay on Lex's lap caused Lex's heart to swell with joy and affection, a feeling that was becoming more and more familiar. He truly loved Sam Kent.

It wasn't too awkward to stretch around Sam to work on the computer. The proposal to purchase HanKun Industries was in its final stages, so most of Lex's work was re-reading. The company was one that he wanted for LexCorp, so he was doubly careful in his editing.

The morning was quiet. Laura fielded Lex's phone calls, none of which were deemed important enough to be put through. Sam was engrossed in his textbook, learning the mechanics of propulsion, barely moving on Lex's lap save for a bathroom break mid-morning.

The warning buzzer startled them both. "What's that?" Sam asked.

"Laura's telling me that my dad is here." Lex deleted the jumble of letters that appeared in the document, quickly saved his work, and changed screens, just as Lionel Luthor waltzed into Lex's office. Lex gave him a bland smile. "Hello, Dad."

"Lex," Lionel greeted. His brows shot upwards when he saw Sam. "And who have we here?"

"This is Sam Kent, Dad," Lex said. "You've met him once before."

"Oh, yes. I remember," Lionel said, looming on the far side of Lex's desk. "Your friend's little boy." Lex's hackles rose at the way Lionel sneered the word ‘friend.'

"I know you," Sam piped up. "You wouldn't teach me how to calculate sales tax."

"That's right, son," Lionel said. "Have you learned to calculate it yet?"

"That's kids stuff," Sam replied snottily.

Lionel smiled flatly and addressed Lex. "What is he doing here?"

"Clark's at an interview and we haven't hired a nanny yet," Lex answered, putting a protective arm around Sam.

"‘We'?" Lionel mocked. "Did you get married and fail to invite me to the wedding? I'm offended."

Lex was the one becoming seriously offended. "Was there something that you wanted, or did you just come to annoy me?"

"Really, Lex, is that any way to speak to your father in front of an impressionable youth?" Lionel chided derisively.

Lex's ire grew, hating the fact that Lionel was correct. He most certainly wouldn't like it if Sam spoke to him or Clark the way he spoke to Lionel. Swallowing his pride, he asked fairly evenly, "Is there something I can help you with, Dad?"

"That's better," Lionel said smugly. He removed a tri-folded piece of paper from his pocket and passed it to Lex. "I want this company by Friday."

Lex glanced at the write up, tilting it for Sam when he indicated he wanted to see it. Lex was glad it was not a company he was interested in for LexCorp, but he'd be hard-pressed to complete all the work required to buy the company by Friday, considering it was Tuesday already and Houston Biotechonologies was located in Texas.

"Does this company make robots, too?" Sam inquired curiously.

"No. This one is a biotech firm," Lex explained. "They try and make food better."

"Robots?" Lionel questioned.

Sam spoke up before Lex could reply. "Yeah! Mr. Lex is going to take me to see Mr. Han's robots after lunch."

Lionel directed his speculative gaze at Lex. "Is he now?"

"You'll have your company by Friday, don't worry," Lex said, hoping Lionel wouldn't follow up on the mention of Mr. Han. It was probably a futile hope. As LexCorp climbed the corporate ladder, Lionel's tolerance of Lex's "side-projects" went down. Which meant Lex needed to get the purchase papers signed very soon before Lionel went after Mr. Han himself. Which also meant Lex needed to finish drafting the papers on top of drafting the biotech firm's proposal and papers, on top of researching Houston Biotechnologies in order to give a fair offer that benefited LuthorCorp. Lex was getting a headache already.

And then Clark arrived, wearing a suit and an expression of concern when he saw Lionel, and Lex's headache disappeared before it really began.

"Hi, Dad!" Sam chirped.

"Clark, hi." Lex smiled genuinely at his friend. "How was the interview?"

"It was okay," Clark replied. He started to loosen his tie, but aborted the action with another glance at Lionel. "They said they'd let me know."

Lionel made a sound of derision and Lex glared at him. "Friday, Lex," Lionel reminded. He gave Clark a once-over and smiled mockingly. "Good luck with the job-hunt, Clark."

After Lionel left, Clark scowled in his general direction. "Your dad grates on my nerves."

"He grates on everyone's nerves," Lex said. Sam wiggled off his lap and hurried over to Clark, as Clark dropped into the chair opposite Lex's desk.

"Dad, guess what?" Sam said excitedly, climbing onto Clark's lap. "Mr. Lex is gonna take me to see robots!"

Lex leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. He had less than four days to complete two buyouts, which normally took four weeks to do. Each.

"Robots, huh?" Clark said. "That sounds exciting."

"Yeah. Mr. Lex said we can go after lunch. Right, Mr. Lex?"

Lex opened his eyes and gave a small smile to Sam. "That's right, Sam," he said as he pressed the intercom button on the phone.

"Yes, Mr. Luthor?" Laura's disembodied voice answered the page.

"Come in here, please."

Laura entered the office after a short knock, a notepad and pen in her hand. She took a position behind the second client chair beside Clark. "Yes, sir?"

"Make note: my father's an as—" Lex flicked a glance at Sam and fixed his vocabulary. "—big meanie." Laura's lips twitched. Clark snickered. "What time is our reservation for lunch?"

"Eleven-thirty," Laura replied.

Lex looked at his watch. "Call legal and tell them I want the Han paperwork by 5:00 PM, leaving the dollar amount blank. Then, I need them to draw up papers to purchase Houston Biotechnologies, dollar amount and special conditions to be determined. I need that first thing Friday morning."

He passed the company biography to Laura. "Call research and tell them I want the usual on Houston and its CEO, Jack Millar, before 6:00 PM tonight. Clear my calendar as best you can for the rest of the week. If they can't be canceled, find out if the meeting can be by phone. If not, they have to be set tonight, tomorrow, or late Thursday. Forward me the standard buyout templates with the correct name changes and plan to stay late tomorrow to help me put together a final proposal. I'll also need you to make a lunch or early dinner appointment with Millar for Thursday at his favorite restaurant. Let him know that LuthorCorp is interested in his company."

"Yes, Mr. Luthor." Laura continued making notes. Clark and Sam stayed politely quiet.

"Put the pilots on standby, flight plans to and from Houston, Texas, on both Thursday and Friday, and make the standard transportation arrangements in Houston," Lex went on. "Send my regrets to the Neidermans and put them first on the invitation list for my next dinner party. Finally, call Mr. Han and inform him that I'll be at the plant at 1:00 PM with the proposal. Let him know we'd like a tour and to have a scientist available to explain how their robots work. Oh, and I'll need you to help me assemble Mr. Han's proposal before lunch, too." He tapped his fingers on the glass desktop. "I think that's it, for now."

Laura nodded. "I'll get started right away, sir," she said, and left.

Clark gaped at Lex the moment the door closed. "Geez, Lex."

"I know." Lex gave him a self-deprecating smile. "Why don't you take Sam to the observation deck? We'll leave for lunch in twenty-five minutes."

"Are you sure you don't just want Sam and I to go home?" Clark said. He covered Sam's ears. "We can see the—" he mouthed the word ‘robots,' "—another time."

Lex waved him off. "I promised Sam, and I need to meet with Mr. Han anyway."

"Okay, if you're sure." Clark stood, setting Sam on his feet. "C'mon, Sam. Let's take a tour."

"We're still going to see the robots, right?" Sam asked hopefully.

"That's right," Clark answered as he led Sam out of the office.

Lex slumped in his chair after they left, knowing that he really needed the time that the tour and Sam's questions would take to work on the Houston buyout. But that was neither here nor there, because he wouldn't change his mind about taking Sam to see the robots.

The bright picture on the corner of his desk caught Lex's eyes and an involuntary smile spread across his face. Feeling better suddenly, he straightened in his chair, opened the correct computer screen, and got down to work.

*****

Whoever coined the phrase "idle rich" never met Lex Luthor. Clark was astonished by how hard Lex worked. He left for the office before 7:00 AM and normally didn't return home until 7:00 PM, unless he had a dinner party or charity event to attend, then he didn't get home until well after midnight. He worked on weekends, too. If it wasn't for Laura, Clark suspected Lex would never leave the office or do anything fun.

Clark sent her flowers on a monthly basis as a thank you.

Despite his workaholic nature, however, Lex always stopped whatever he was doing whenever Sam or Clark visited the office or called. On the rare occasion when he was working at home, he put everything aside to help Sam with his designs and inventions. (Since the tour of Mr. Han's plant, Sam had started building his own robotic machines, which impressed and amused the house staff and occasionally frightened guests.)

Sometimes, Clark was selfish and he left Sam with the live-in nanny before hunting down Lex for a bit of chess and conversation. His co-workers in the mailroom at the Daily Planet were around his age and nice to talk to, but they weren't Lex. Lex always seemed glad to see Clark, too, even if he was tired or stressed.

All of Lex's hard work paid off, though, both literally and figuratively. While he did what he was told for LuthorCorp, most of his time and energy was spent expanding LexCorp and the three-year-old company was worth close to three-quarters of a billion dollars. When LexCorp broke the top one hundred of the Fortune-500 list, Lex hooted and hollered like a ten-year-old, gave Laura a year's salary as a bonus, and decided to take an entire weekend off as a reward. He, Clark, and Sam were going to the zoo. Later in the month, he'd have a dinner party as an ‘official' celebration.

Lex confided he'd rather go to the zoo than have a party. The animals at the zoo were much more tame than his business associates.

*****

The weather was unseasonably warm for spring, but it was perfect for a trip to the Metropolis Zoo. Many families thought the same thing and, despite the zoo having just opened for the day, the parking lot was close to full.

The Metropolis Zoo boasted having the largest number of different species of animals in replicas of their natural habitats in the state. Spread out over ten city blocks, the zoo was also the biggest in the area and was associated with Metropolis University programs of animal study, such as animal husbandry, zoology, and veterinary medicine. The zoo was also one of the cleanest, with no garbage, gum, or cigarette butts littering the walkways or food areas, and restrooms that were cleaned four times daily. Private funding made it all possible, though for once it wasn't attached to the Luthor name.

Inside the front entrance near the family restrooms, Sam stood on the end of a bench in his overalls and long-sleeved shirt, while Clark slathered his neck and face with sunblock. Lex, his light blue shirtsleeves rolled up, held the unfolded map of the zoo, standing beside the bench so Sam could see. They were deciding how they were going to attack the zoo. A battle plan was needed, Lex knew, in order to see everything before closing. Sam had a stopwatch hanging around his neck and was calculating the amount of time they could spend at each animal exhibit.

"What about lunch?" Clark brought up, looking at the excess sunblock on his hands and the cuffs of his faded red rugby shirt. "Bathroom breaks? Souvenir shopping? Don't forget to add time for those."

"Forget souvenir shopping," Lex said, giving Sam the map. "Do you know how inflated the gift store prices are?"

Clark smiled bemusedly at Lex and attacked his face and ears with the extra sunblock. "You get miserly over the strangest things."

Around them, families passed on their way to and from the restrooms, staring, pointing, and whispering when they saw Lex Luthor being sun-screened like a child. The smell of animals was strong in the air. The zoo's overly loud speakers announced special attractions of the day, static crackling under the words. Children screamed and cried, parents yelled, and a drink vendor was already hawking his wares nearby. Sam dictated loudly the route they would take around the zoo. Clark was still smiling, absently agreeing with Sam and rubbing sunblock onto Lex's face. And Lex...

Lex was the happiest he'd ever been in his life.

Suddenly, Lex grinned hugely, stupidly, and probably scared some people walking by. It couldn't be helped. He was happy. The sun was shining, the weather was nice, his health was good, his company was flourishing, he was spending the day with his two favorite people and there was no work in sight.

His chest felt like it was going to burst. Clark's eyebrows rose questioningly. Lex tried to force the smile away, but it refused to go. Every breath he took was shaky from the rush of emotion filling him.

"Care to share?" Clark asked, sliding his thumb along the side of Lex's nose. Sam was absorbed with reading the information about the zoo on the back of the map.

"It's... a really good day," Lex replied.

"We just got here," Clark said, laughter in his eyes. "We haven't done anything yet."

Lex shrugged, still grinning like an idiot. "I'm with you and Sam, and that's all that matters."

A bright, wobbly smile bloomed on Clark's face and he blinked several times as his eyes misted. "You- that's- I—. " He gave up trying to speak and engulfed Lex in a hug instead.

Lex wasn't one for public displays of affection, but he was in such a good mood he'd let it slide. Besides, it was Clark.

"Can we go already?" Sam's complaint broke up the embrace. Lex pretended not to see Clark wipe his eyes.

"Yes, we can go already," Lex told Sam, helping him off the bench. Lex accepted the map and refolded it for easier carrying. Removing his sunglasses from his pocket, he slipped them on his nose, glanced at Clark, and addressed Sam again. "You're the leader, Sam. Lead on."

Visiting the zoo with a three-and-a-half year old genius was an experience. Sam knew almost as much about the animals as the zoo, including the proper pronunciation of the Latin classification terms. There was a moment of tantrum when Sam realized he couldn't read every information placard and still keep to his timed schedule, but Clark solved it by telling Sam they could always return to the zoo another day. The stopwatch disappeared into Clark's pocket, the battle plan was disregarded, and they wandered slowly through the animal habitats with minimal references to the map.

The animals were boring. Most of them slept the day away. Those that were awake did little but stare back at the zoo's guests. The primates, sea mammals, and penguin houses were the only interesting exhibits at the zoo, in Lex's opinion. Sam seemed to like all the animals, however, and that was the important thing.

Lex and Clark didn't pay much attention to the animals anyway, other than a cursory initial look. They instead spent the day enjoying each others company, keeping one eye on Sam while debating animals rights, advancement in animal cloning, and the believability of being able to morph into an animal, like in stories.

By the time they got home, loaded down with tacky souvenirs bought over Lex's protests, Lex was hoarse, smelly, tired, a little sunburned, in dire need of an antacid, and desperate to sit down and take off his shoes. He didn't think he would ever have a better day than today.

Sam had fallen asleep on the car ride home and had to be carried into the apartment. Lex led the way to Sam's bedroom. Clark followed, carrying the sleeping boy. Together, using the light from the hallway, they undressed Sam and redressed him in his nighttime training pants and pajamas, and tucked him into bed.

Lex brushed his hand over Sam's hair in affection and went to turn on the nightlight. He started out of the bedroom, but paused in the doorway to wait for Clark.

The gentle illumination of the nightlight cast a glow on Clark as he dropped a kiss on Sam's forehead. The smile Lex had been wearing all day softened, and he was filled with a tender-sort of happiness that no amount of power or money in the world could invoke.

Clark turned from Sam and gave Lex a quiet smile as he crossed towards the door. Lex didn't move from the doorway. Clark came to a stop in front of Lex, curiosity reflected on his handsome face.

Lex didn't plan to do it, but he didn't hesitate either, as he closed the short distance between them and pressed his lips to Clark's in a soft kiss.

Clark didn't look disgusted or take a swing at Lex when he stepped back again, out of the doorway. In fact, he only looked more curious. Lex shrugged sheepishly and answered the unasked question. "It was a really good day."

Clark laughed quietly. "Yeah, it was."

Lex let Clark pass and watched him walk down the hallway before turning in the opposite direction and heading to his own bedroom, to contemplate the realization that he was in love with his best friend.



Continued