As often as Clark wanted turned out to be almost daily, and it wasn’t simply in order to practice billiards. Clark was drawn to Lex and not just physically, though Lex was certainly hot for a ghost. It was Lex’s mind and his personality that fascinated Clark. Clark’s desire to be around him all the time was stronger than anything he’d ever felt, and he’d date Lex given the chance, ghost or not. But Lex would declare it futile and ridiculous, and remind Clark that he would be fading once he was done with Lucas, so Clark didn’t do anything.
The sun came through the leaded glass window in the weapons room of the castle, shining on the uncovered miniature Battle of Troy. Clark blew the dust from the surface, grinning when he saw Lex frown at the conga line of soldiers.
“This must’ve been fun to play with,” Clark said, righting a few miniatures he’d knocked over.
“It wasn’t a toy, it was an educational tool,” Lex said. “My father didn’t believe in unstructured play.”
”What were you supposed to learn from this? ‘Beware Greeks bearing gifts’?” Clark pushed the miniature Trojan Horse with his finger through the open model gates.
“More like ‘beware your own ego,’” Lex said. He picked up the Trojan Horse, his hands solidifying as his arms faded. “The Trojans were too self-aggrandized, thinking that since no one had succeeded in breaching their walls before, it would remain that way. Their heads swelled with their victory in the first skirmishes against the Greeks during the siege on Troy. When the Greeks appeared to have fled, they let down their guard.”
Lex put down the Trojan Horse inside the model city walls. “King Priam and his generals brought the Horse into his city, not because it was a religious offering to Poseidon, but because it was a symbol of victory. It bolstered their egos… and led to the fall of Troy.”
“I was wondering why they did such a dumb thing, instead of burning the Horse on the beach,” Clark said. He began setting up Red Rover lines with the Greeks. “I guess it’s a good lesson to have learned, not to be overconfident.”
Lex smirked self-deprecatingly. “Who says I learned it?”
Clark chuckled. “Ah, so I might be victorious yet in our chess games.”
Lex’s grin turned mischievous. “Don’t bet your horse on it.”
“‘Don’t bet my horse on it’?” Clark groaned. “Punning should be against the law.”
“I don’t know about punning, but breaking and entering and trespassing certainly are.”
Clark turned sharply, surprised by the intruder. Leaning casually against the door jamb, a dark-haired, thick-browed twenty-something dressed in jeans and a muscle shirt raked his gaze over Clark. His full lips curved in a smirk. “But I’m sure there’s some way to resolve things without my calling the police.”
Clark tried not to roll his eyes at the smarmy pick-up line. From the corner of his eye, he saw Lex’s mouth twist in disgust and… was that anger?
“Lucas,” Lex said flatly, even though Lucas couldn’t hear him.
Clark sized up Lucas, the half-brother that Lex had been awaiting. He looked more like a careless thug than a businessman or a rich playboy. He was also obviously the type that fucked you in the men’s room without even buying you a drink first. Clark immediately recognized a part of himself in Lucas. The months he’d spent high on red kryptonite taught him about himself and his sexuality, and he knew how to handle people like Lucas.
Clark leaned a hip against the model table and crossed his arms, in a similar pose to Lucas. “I’m not the only one trespassing here,” he said, pretending he didn’t know who Lucas was.
“I own this place and everything—” Lucas gave Clark another slow once-over, “—in it.”
Lex took a step forward, his nostrils flaring. “Stop slobbering. You’ll ruin the carpet.”
“You’re a Luthor?” Clark filed away his surprise at Lex’s attitude towards Lucas.
“By sperm-donor,” Lucas said derisively. He straightened and strutted into the room. “Lucas Dunleavy is my name, even though Papa Luthor wants me to change it.”
“Clark Kent,” Clark said. He remained unaffected as Lucas invaded his personal space and picked up a miniature soldier. “Sorry about being here, but I was cleaning up after last night’s visitors.”
“A party? And I wasn’t invited?”
“No, only the usual run of kids daring to spend the night at the haunted castle,” Clark said. He was only partially lying as he explained, “I usually come through during the afternoon, recover the furniture, and make sure nothing was broken or stolen.”
“This old pile of rocks is haunted, huh?” Lucas snorted. “Figures. It’s probably ghosts of all the people dad’s had killed.”
Clark couldn’t tell if it was a flippant remark or if Lucas meant it literally. “It sounds as though you’re not too fond of your father.”
“I couldn’t care about him one way or another,” Lucas said. He angled his body closer to Clark’s and there was no mistaking the double meaning dripping from his slick words. “You, on the other hand, I’m growing quite fond of.” He obscenely caressed the soldier he held.
Clark didn’t have the chance to respond positively or negatively to the unsubtle offer. Lex strode through the table and wedged himself between Clark and Lucas. Clark could feel the cool tingling under his skin, as part of Lex’s body vanished into him.
Lex snatched the soldier from Lucas and slapped it onto the table. “That’s enough.”
Lucas couldn’t hear or see Lex, but he did witness the soldier flying from his hand to slam on the table. “Fuck.”
“I told you the place was haunted,” Clark said. Lex was being protective, Clark realized. Lucas was coming on awfully strong, but he couldn’t tell Lex not to worry about it with Lucas in the room.
“Do things like this happen often?” Lucas was no longer so cocksure.
“Yeah.” Clark’s fingers passed through Lex’s hand. He took the soldier and righted it.
“Great,” Lucas muttered. “Thanks a lot, Dad.”
“I’d better get going,” Clark said. “Are you moving in?”
“Unfortunately,” Lucas replied. He shot Clark a sly smile tinted with wariness. “But hopefully, I’ll be seeing more of you around.”
Clark refrained from rolling his eyes again. He passed through Lex with a spine-tingling shiver and left the room.
“Who is this tall, dorky-looking creature?” Chloe Sullivan said over the rim of her coffee cup.
“Don’t know,” Pete said. “He looks kinda like Clark, but since we haven’t seen Clark in a while…”
“I haven’t seen you two knocking at my door, either,” Clark said, dropping into a chair in the Torch office. He rested his head on the back of the chair and closed his eyes. He hated the first day back to school and classes hadn’t even started yet.
“We thought we’d run into you at the Talon,” Pete said. “We’ve been living there the last few weeks.”
“But nope, no Clark,” Chloe tacked on. “Did you get yourself a boyfriend and not tell us about it?”
“Sadly, no,” Clark said. “I’ve been busy.” Hanging out with Lex, he added silently. “Oh hey, I did meet someone new. Lucas Dunleavy is moving into the castle.”
“Who?” Pete and Chloe said in stereo.
“Lionel Luthor’s son, Lucas.”
Chloe brightened with interest and Pete made a face. “A Luthor? Tell me that’s not who you’ve been hanging with.”
“I just met him yesterday, Pete. Don’t worry, I haven’t slept with him…yet.”
Pete held his hands up, as if warding off Clark’s words. “Too much information I don’t want to hear.”
Clark shrugged. “You asked.”
“I take it Lucas is hot?” Chloe said with a frightening gleam in her eye.
“Hot, but cocky. Shut up, Pete.” Clark glared without heat at his mock-gagging friend. “I’d watch out, Chloe. Lucas is the one-night stand type.”
“I’m more interested in his business than his body,” Chloe said. She began typing on her computer. “I wonder why he’s here.”
“To take over the LuthorCorp Plant, is my guess,” Clark said, conveying what Lex had predicted.
“And you’d be right,” Chloe said. She read from her computer monitor. “‘Lucas Dunleavy, son of billionaire industrialist Lionel Luthor, is slated to take the reins of LuthorCorp Plant Number Three, in Smallville, Kansas. “I have full confidence that Lucas will do well with Plant Number Three,” Lionel Luthor said in a press release issued by LuthorCorp International. LuthorCorp Plant Number Three manufactures fertilizer…’ blah, blah, blah. The rest we already know.”
“Does this mean he’s going to be your dad’s boss?” Pete said.
“Looks that way.” Chloe clicked a few more links. “I want to get an interview with Lucas as soon as possible. Clark, set it up.”
“I just met the guy yesterday, remember?” Clark said.
“An in is an in,” Chloe said. “Besides, everyone loves you the moment they meet you.”
“They do not.”
Pete shook his head apologetically. “Sorry, man, but she’s right. You have a way with people that gets them eating out of the palm of your hand.”
“It’s called being polite,” Clark said.
“More like your pretty face and boyish charm,” Chloe said. “They all want into your pants.”
“Too bad you’re gay. You could get any girl you wanted.” Pete paused. “On second thought, go gay! More ladies for me.”
“More ladies to reject you, you mean,” Clark joked, earning a rude gesture. The warning bell rang, signaling that first period class would begin in five minutes.
“I want that interview, Clark,” Chloe said, logging off the computer.
“I’ll ask if I see Lucas again, but I’m not promising anything,” Clark said.
“Great! I’ll save space on the front page of the next issue.”
Clark looked through the closed iron gate at Luthor Manor. Service vans and delivery trucks crowded in the driveway. People in uniforms mowed the yard, trimmed the landscaping, and cleaned the outsides of the stained glass windows. Others carried tools, boxes, and crates in and out of the front doors or around the side of the castle.
Clark had come to the castle directly after school, as he had been doing for weeks. He had been surprised by the activity, but then remembered Lucas was moving in. Stupidly, Clark hadn’t anticipated any difficulty in visiting Lex as usual. It wasn’t as if he could go to the door and ask to hang out with the resident ghost.
Acute disappointment and unhappiness slumped Clark’s shoulders. He shuffled home, depressed. He wished he’d thought to invite Lex over before leaving the castle yesterday. It might not even matter, Clark realized. Lex could have faded already, now that Lucas had arrived.
That thought depressed Clark even more, and he bypassed the house and went directly to the barn, to his Fortress of Solitude.
And found the ghost of Lex Luthor sitting in the sunlight on the couch.
“Lex!” Clark bounded up the last few steps. “You’re still here!”
Lex looked as though he wanted to fight his responding smile, but couldn’t. “Normally, people can’t wait for me to leave.”
Clark realized how dorky he’d sounded and ducked his head. “I thought you might have faded already.”
“As you can see, I haven’t.”
“I’m glad.” Clark grinned shyly at Lex from under his lashes, feeling bashful suddenly. “I would have missed you.”
Admitting that was the best thing he could’ve said. Lex appeared briefly surprised and then brightened as if he’d received the greatest present ever. “I’d miss you, too, Clark. That is, if ghosts are capable of missing people once they’re gone.”
Clark’s face heated in pleasure. Awkward now, he made a big production of hanging his book bag from the desk chair. “So, um, how did you know where I lived?”
“Oh. Duh.” Clark shook his head at his own idiocy.
“Your ‘Fortress of Solitude’ is exactly like you described,” Lex said, glancing around the barn loft. “I can see why you spend all of your time up here.”
“Yeah. I like it.” Clark joined Lex on the couch. “How are things with Lucas?”
Lex made a derisive sound. “He’s definitely a Luthor.”
“Is that a bad thing?” Clark said.
“Depends on the situation,” Lex said. “I’m sorry that he behaved inappropriately towards you.”
Clark frowned, confused. “What do you mean?”
“Just… keep your distance from him, if you can,” Lex said. “If he comes on too strongly, tell me.”
“Oh, you’re talking about his hitting on me.” Clark’s lips curved bemusedly. “Lucas did come on like a horndog. If I didn’t need to help you, I would’ve taken him up on the offer.”
Lex’s jaw tightened and his cheek twitched. “Lucas isn’t the right kind of guy for you.”
Clark studied Lex curiously. They’d had conversations about guys before and Lex had never been negative towards anyone. It almost sounded like Lex was jealous. “There’s no need to worry. I can handle men like your brother.”
“Half-brother,” Lex said, unappeased. He stood and walked over to the open hay bale window. The late August sunlight shone directly on Lex, making him appear almost of flesh, hazy only on the outline of his body. Clark wanted to reach out and touch him, to feel the solid strength of Lex’s shoulders, to embrace his amazing new friend.
Clark couldn’t do any of that, though, so instead he offered what he could. “Now that Lucas is here, will you let me help you?”
“I don’t think you can.” Lex tucked his hands in his pockets, continuing to look out the window. “Mainly, I need to observe Lucas and see if he’s my father’s drone or his own person.”
“Which are you hoping for?”
Lex turned and leaned back against the half-high wall. “Do you know what I was like before I died?”
“You were a partier, right?” Clark said, thinking back on some of their conversations.
“To put it mildly,” Lex said. “Dad got tired of it finally and told me I was a waste of sperm.”
Clark’s features darkened. “You dad’s a real jerk.”
“He had reason to be,” Lex said. “He also had a point. I was twenty-one years old and failing out of my master’s degree program because I just didn’t care.”
“About anything.” Lex’s lips curved in self-deprecation. “I’m surprised I didn’t die long before I drove off that bridge.”
“That still doesn’t excuse your dad,” Clark said. “You are not a waste.”
“You think that because you know me now, after I figured out that the only way to stop hating myself would be to get out from under my father’s thumb.” Lex grinned with macabre amusement. “Of course, dying wasn’t the way I wanted to accomplish that, but you have to admit it worked just as well.”
“Death isn’t funny, Lex,” Clark said. “I would much rather have known you while you were alive.”
“But would you have really known me, like you do now?”
“I would like to think so. I can’t imagine not being friends with you in any incarnation.”
Lex appeared skeptical, but Clark could also see the pleasure he tried to hide from the response. “I wasn’t a very nice person.”
“Neither am I,” Clark said. Lex made a noise that sounded suspiciously like a snort. Clark grinned. “Okay, so mainly I am, but because of that, I would’ve tried to help you get away from your father. Now, I’ll help you with Lucas, instead.”
“You don’t give up, do you?” Lex asked with amusement.
“Not really,” Clark said. “It’s best to surrender before I pull out my secret weapon.”
Lex’s brows rose. “Secret
Clark stood, crossed to Lex, and stopped right in front of him. He then tucked his thumbs in his back pockets, dropped his chin, and gave Lex puppy-dog eyes beneath the fringe of his bangs. “Is there anything I can do?”
Lex’s adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed audibly. The air felt charged. “That’s a potent secret weapon.”
A strong frisson of desire struck Clark and he froze in the moment, staring into Lex’s intense, pale eyes.
The kickback bang of the tractor engine turning over startled them both. Lex turned swiftly. Clark retreated to the far side of the hay bale window and they both looked outside with strict concentration.
“I should be going,” Lex said after an uncomfortable moment.
“You’ll come back, though, right?” Clark winced internally at the neediness of his question. “I mean, since we can’t meet anymore at the castle, you’ll have to come here.”
Lex’s lips curved. “Do you have a chess set?”
Clark affected a scandalized pose. “Of course.”
“Of course,” Lex repeated, smile spreading wider. “How could I think otherwise?”
“Up for a match right now?” Clark asked casually, not wanting to cut short his time with Lex in spite of the prior awkwardness.
Lex’s eyes danced in light of the challenge, apparently feeling the same way. “You’re on.”
The Talon, Smallville’s only coffeeshop-cum-flowership-cum-classic movie theater, was the local hangout for the nerdish high school crowd. Clark, Chloe and Pete had a ‘reserved’ table, by unspoken agreement, near the front window. Half-heartedly working on homework, the three friends primarily spent their time people-watching out the window – Chloe looking for stories, Clark looking to help, and Pete looking at girls.
“There goes Sheriff Ethan,” Chloe commented, as the
brown Sheriff’s car drove past. “He’s
been patrolling out by the Chandler’s Field a lot.
I haven’t been able to find out what he’s looking for.
Do either of you have any idea?”
“Nope,” Pete said.
Clark shook his head. “I’ll go with you later if you want to check it out.”
“I’ll pick you up around eight,” Chloe said.
“Check out that crotchrocket.” Pete drew Clark and Chloe’s attention. Outside, a t-shirt and jean-clad biker parked a red Yamaha racing motorcycle in front of the Talon.
Clark recognized the rider immediately. “That’s Lucas.”
“Luthor?” Pete said with disdain. Clark glared at his friend.
“You were right, Clark, he is hot,” Chloe commented. She tracked Lucas through the window to the Talon’s door. As Lucas came inside, Chloe’s head whipped around to focus on Clark. “Where’s my interview? It’s been days since I asked you to get it.”
“This is the first time I’ve seen Lucas,” Clark said, watching as Lucas swaggered through the Talon to the serving bar, drawing stares and knowing it. Clark indulged in a few dirty thoughts involving taking Lucas down a peg or two. Nakedly.
Chloe snapped her fingers in front of Clark’s face. “Stop drooling and go get me that interview.”
“Yes, ma’am!” Clark saluted. Chloe saluted in return with her middle finger.
Chuckling, Clark rose and walked casually over to the bar. Lucas was chatting up a girl as Clark stopped beside him. “Hey, Mrs. Potter, can we get refills?” Clark asked the woman behind the serving bar.
“Coming right up,” Mrs. Potter said.
“Clark Kent,” Lucas drawled lazily, turning his back on the girl beside him. He hooked his sunglasses on his shirt collar and raked his gaze blatantly over Clark. “Break into any castles lately?”
“Why, were you hoping I would?” Clark flirted openly, leaning an elbow on the counter. Lucas really was hot, so there was no shame in what Clark was doing.
Lucas smiled slyly. “The door might be unlocked for you.”
“I’ll have to try it and find out,” Clark said. “Maybe mix a little business with pleasure.”
“Business?” Lucas’s bushy brow lifted.
“See that perky blonde sitting by the window?” Clark indicated Chloe.
Lucas looked and hummed appreciatively. “She’s doable.”
“She’s a friend of mine. She’s also a reporter who wants an interview…” Clark let his sentence dangle like bait.
Lucas bit the hook. “Bribery. I like that.” He stared at Chloe with hungry eyes and a shark-like smile. “Friday night, my place, anytime after nine.”
Lucas was obviously going to try and make it a threesome. That wouldn’t happen, much to Clark’s cock’s dismay, because friendship and casual sex didn’t mix.
But Lucas didn’t know that and Clark wasn’t going to tell him. “See you then,” Clark acknowledged, and ambled back to the table.
He sank into his seat across from Chloe. “Well?” Chloe said anxiously.
“Friday night,” Clark told her with a smug look.
“Yes!” Chloe pumped a surreptitious fist. “This is great. I’ll be able to expose him as an incompetent playboy.”
Clark’s smug looked turned into a frown. “I doubt Lucas is that bad at his new job.”
“According to my dad, he is,” Chloe said. “Lucas Dunleavy-slash-Luthor has no clue what he’s doing.”
“Just what this town needs, another Luthor messing things up,” Pete said. “Only this time, the plant will probably end up closing.”
“Do you really think a week is long enough to judge someone’s work ability?” Clark said.
“It is, when the boss doesn’t seem to care,” Chloe replied.
Clark tapped his forefinger on the table. “I guess we’ll find out for sure on Friday.”
“How’s Lucas Watch?”
Lex nearly sputtered in laughter. “Lucas what?”
“Lucas Watch,” Clark repeated with a grin. He moved his black bishop on the board. “He’s been living at the castle almost a week now.”
The Friday afternoon sunlight streamed through the hay bale window, creating a halo effect around Lex. Lex sat on one side of the couch, half-turned toward Clark, the chessboard sitting on the firm cushion between them.
“Lucas is fine,” Lex said.
“Uh-huh.” Clark prodded for more. “What do you think of him?”
Lex studied the chessboard. “He’s rude, obnoxious, narcissistic, and a slob. He’s already fucked half the manor staff and is also working his way through the employee roster at the plant. I’m disgusted to be related to him.”
“Don’t hold anything back,” Clark joked. “Tell me how you really feel.”
“I like him.” Lex grinned maliciously. “He must drive my father insane.”
Clark laughed. “At least you have your priorities straight.”
Lex shrugged and moved his knight. “It’s gratifying to know that the spare is as bad as I was, and not a perfect sycophant that dad was proud of.”
“The heir and the spare. It’s a common practice with royalty to have a back up son in case the firstborn dies or is otherwise indisposed.”
“Your father thinks he’s royalty?”
“In certain circles, he is,” Lex said. He looked thoughtful. “Lucas was probably not a surprise, though he remained illegitimate until Dad was in need of him.”
“Why didn’t your mom and dad have more children of their own?” Clark said.
Old pain swept across Lex’s features. “They did. I had a brother named Julian. My mother smothered him to death with a pillow.”
Clark stared in shock. “Why did she do that?”
Lex smiled thinly. “There are fates worse than death. Being raised by Lionel Luthor is one of them, according to my mother.”
The unspoken assertion that Lex had been raised by Lionel weighed heavily in the loft. Clark played with the captured pieces on the side of the board.
“I want to give Lucas an escape,” Lex said finally.
“Unless he isn’t looking for one.”
“According to Chloe, Lucas doesn’t seem to care about the plant,” Clark said. “I can find out more tonight.”
“Chloe’s interviewing him and I’m tagging along,” Clark said. He turned his attention back to the chess game. “If you’re there, try not to talk or stand where I can see you.”
There was a long pause, which caused Clark to look up as Lex agreed, “All right.”
Lex might have thought he had a stoic countenance, but his emotions were plainly visible in his eyes. He was hurt. Clark went over what he’d said and realized how it had sounded.
“You’re distracting, Lex.” Clark winced at how bad that sounded, too. “I mean, you’re impossible to ignore. You’re not a just a ghost to me. You’re my friend. Heck, half the time I forget you’re not alive. I don’t want to accidentally talk to you in front of Chloe and Lucas.”
“Clark, I understand,” Lex said. “I won’t disrupt the interview.”
He tried to brush off Clark’s reassurance, but Clark could tell it had been a soothing balm to his hurt. Clark felt a flip in his stomach. He dropped his eyes to the chessboard and made a move. “Check.”
“The word ‘checkmate’ came from the Persian word ‘shah mat,’ meaning ‘the king is astonished,” Lex said conversationally, studying the chessboard. “It later was mistranslated into the Arabic ‘shah mat’ which meant ‘the king died.’ From there, it became the Old French ‘eschecmat,’ then entered the English language in the Fourteenth Century as ‘chekmat,’ and eventually became the word ‘checkmate.’”
Lex glanced up at Clark with a rotten grin after moving his Queen. “Shah mat.”
Clark moaned. “You cheat.”
Lex laughed unreservedly. Clark felt that flip again. It was disconcerting. He distracted himself by clearing the board. “Rematch?”
Clark had folded into Chloe’s red VW Bug at ten minutes to nine at night. He always felt like he was in a clown car when he rode with Chloe.
“Lucas is going to try and get us into bed,” Clark was telling Chloe. They drove at a speedy clip along the Elbow River on the way to Luthor Manor.
“Together? At the same time?” Chloe sounded interested.
That intrigued Clark, but the no casual sex with friends rule held firm. Besides which, Chloe was a girl and breasts did nothing for him. “I’m not looking to get laid here.”
“I thought gay men never turned down sex.”
“I’m not that desperate. Lucas is a story and it would unethical, anyway.”
Chloe snorted indelicately. “You’re so full of it.”
“Maybe.” Clark’s grin gleamed in the dark vehicle. “I need you to be my excuse though.”
“I don’t dare go home without a big, strong man to protect me,” Chloe said in a vapid tone.
Luthor Manor at night looked different with lights blazing in the windows and hanging on the garden posts throughout the cultivated grounds. The gate was open and Chloe parked the car near the front door. A suit-clad security guard let them into the castle and led them to the library.
The library was where Clark and Lex had always met first, when Clark would visit. Clark glanced up at the balcony automatically and a pang of disappointment resonated in his chest when he didn’t see Lex standing there, waiting. Clark reminded himself that he was the one who’d told Lex to stay out of sight.
Clark tore his eyes away from the empty balcony and looked around. The dustsheets had been removed and the room cleaned. The bar was stocked with crystal decanters of alcohol. A new flat-screen television stood across from the leather sofa. The balls were racked and ready to play on the billiards table.
Chloe snooped, rifling through folders on the glass-topped desk. “This place isn’t so scary,” she said.
“That’s because someone’s living here now,” Clark said. He looked towards the open doorway as he heard footsteps approaching out in the hall. “Someone’s coming.”
Chloe was around the desk and standing beside Clark so quickly, he wondered if she had a bit of superspeed in her, too. She plastered a wide, not-so-innocent smile on her face, tugged at her shirt, exposing more cleavage, and plumped her breasts.
“Chloe,” Clark hissed, moderately scandalized.
“What? You said he was interested,” Chloe said. “He’ll spill easier if he thinks he’s going to score.”
Clark couldn’t protest, because he knew it was the truth. He shook his head and turned to the door as Lucas strode into the library. He wore tight faded jeans and a mostly unbuttoned black dress shirt. Clark eyed him appreciatively.
“Kent,” Lucas greeted with a slick smile. His gaze zeroed in on Chloe’s ample cleavage before skimming up to her face. “And you must be my interviewer. Lucas Dunleavy. Call me Lucas.”
“Chloe Sullivan.” Chloe took the hand offered. Lucas raised her hand to his lips, grabbing another eyeful of her breasts as he kissed her knuckles.
Clark rolled his eyes.
“Chloe,” Chloe corrected.
Lucas continued smoothly, leading her to the couch. “Chloe, what’s your pleasure?”
“To drink,” Lucas said, with false innocence, as if he hadn’t meant anything else. “May I get you something?”
“No thanks,” Chloe said.
“Kent, how about you?” Lucas went over to the bar and
disappeared behind it. “I have
“Sure, I’ll take one.” Clark sat on the couch beside Chloe, leaving Lucas to either sit next to him or on the easy chair opposite them.
Lucas wasn’t put out by the seating arrangements. He handed Clark a cold, opened longneck and chose the chair. Propping a foot on his opposite knee, Lucas swigged his beer before addressing Chloe. “How might I service you this evening?”
Chloe took out a notepad and pen from her shoulder bag. “Let’s see… how about telling me what you plan to do with LuthorCorp Plant Number Three?”
Chloe tilted her head slightly. “Nothing, as in you don’t plan to change the day-to-day operations?”
“Nothing as in nothing,” Lucas said. “I could care less about the plant.”
Clark and Chloe were stunned by his forthrightness. “You do know I’m a reporter, right?” Chloe said.
“If you wanted a positive piece, you would’ve called the PR Department,” Lucas said. “You came to me for the dirt.”
“So why don’t you care?” Chloe said, slightly wary.
“Dear old dad sent me here to be the patsy,” Lucas answered bluntly.
“How do you mean?”
“It’s simple. No matter what I do, Dad’s going to shut down the plant by the end of the fiscal year. I’m just here to be blamed for the plant’s closing, so that Lionel Luthor’s name remains squeaky clean.”
“Wow.” Chloe scribbled on her notepad. “There are twenty-five hundred people who work at the plant.”
“And they’ll all be out of a job come next July.”
“What if the plant is making a profit?” Clark said, horrified by what the number of layoffs would mean for Smallville.
Lucas shrugged. “Doesn’t matter. Dad’s been wanting the close the plant for years, but he didn’t have the appropriate whipping boy in place to do so.”
“You’re not going to do anything to try and save the plant?” Chloe said.
“Why bother? It’s not like there’s anything I could do,” Lucas said.
“What if there was?” Clark said, knowing there had to be some way to prevent the shut down. “Would you help?”
“I’m telling you, it’s futile.” Lucas grinned suddenly. “But if there was a way, I’d help just to piss off Dad.”
“Sounds like there’s no love lost between you and Lionel Luthor,” Chloe said.
“Off the record…” Lucas waited for Chloe’s nod. “If it wasn’t for the money, I’d have nothing to do with the greasy bastard.”
“Very selfish of you,” Chloe said blithely.
“Hey, I grew up bouncing from one rattrap foster home to another in Edge City. When a rich guy pops up claiming to be your daddy and not wanting sex in return, you bet your sweet ass I wasn’t going to tell him to take a hike.”
Clark saw where Lucas was heading. He set his half-empty beer on the table between them. “But nothing in life is free. What did Lionel want in return?”
“Me, to play scapegoat, since the original goat kicked it,” Lucas said. “He doesn’t know, or maybe he doesn’t care, that I’m onto his game. I do know that, as long as I somewhat play the dutiful son, all this—” he gestured with his beer bottle around the library, “—is mine.”
“How is it living in a haunted house?” Chloe asked, moving on with the interview.
“I have no complaints,” Lucas said.
“Really?” Chloe said. “According to the locals, this place is pretty creepy. Everyone who’s tried to spend the night has gotten scared off.”
“Maybe the ghost likes me, or perhaps it knows I’m not a trespasser.” Lucas shot a sly look at Clark. “Although some trespassers are more than welcome to be here.”
Clark smirked back.
“So you’ve seen no poltergeist activity? Heard no spooky noises?” Chloe pressed.
Lucas shrugged. “I’ve found books out of place and occasionally hear someone playing billiards, but that’s about it.”
“So the haunting hasn’t stopped, it’s just not directed towards you.” Chloe looked intrigued. “I wonder if your ghost is a relative.”
Clark held his tongue.
“You’re welcome to stay and find out,” Lucas said, his voice laden with sexual invitation.
“As fun as that sounds, sorry, can’t.” Chloe moved the interview along, though the plant had been the main reason behind their visit.
Eventually, Chloe snapped her notepad shut, glanced at her watch and stood, pulling Clark up with her. “I have to be getting home. Dad’s waiting for me and Clark’s my ride.”
Lucas rose and gave Clark a pointed, questioning look. Clark faked helplessness with a shrug. “Sorry.”
“It was nice meeting you.”
“I assure you, the pleasure was mine,” Lucas said, taking Chloe’s hand to kiss her knuckles again. He eyed her cleavage and glanced up at her. “Are you certain you won’t stay?”
“Maybe next time.” Chloe said, extracting her hand and rubbing her knuckles blatantly across the tops of her breasts. Clark wondered when his best friend had become such a hussy.
“I’ll look forward to it.”
Chloe smiled and then practically dragged Clark with her as they left the library.
“Chloe, slow down. What’s the rush?” Clark said, keeping his voice to a whisper.
“The interview was over, and you’re the one who wanted to keep your virtue intact.” Chloe glanced over her shoulder and added in a murmur, “Besides, any longer and I would’ve jumped him myself. That man positively oozes sex.”
Clark looked back, too, and was delighted to see Lex standing in the corridor near Lucas, in the library doorway.
“Are you sure you don’t want to stay?” Chloe asked, as they rounded a corner, taking Lex and Lucas from sight. “You’re lit up like a Christmas tree from catching him watching us leave.”
“I am not,” Clark said.
“I think you’ve got more than a passing hard on for him.” Chloe fanned her eyelashes exaggeratedly. “Do I smell romance in the air?”
Clark choked in laughter. “No.” Chloe was way off base. He hadn’t even been looking at Lucas, anyway.
Chloe smirked. “If you say so. Come on, lover boy, and pretend to take me home.”
Clark perched on the hay bale window in the loft, staring broodily up at the clear summer night sky. He’d warned Chloe not to print the interview when she’d dropped him off at home.
“First of all, we only have Lucas’s word that the plant will close. We also don’t want to cause a panic and end up with the plant shutting down because the employees fled to new jobs,” Clark had told her. “There still might be a way to keep the plant open, too, no matter what Lucas says.”
Clark wasn’t sure how they could succeed in keeping the plant open, especially if Lionel Luthor had planned to close it all along. He’d seen a lot of towns become depressed after their major factories closed. There had to be a way to stop it from happening in Smallville.
“Hey, Clark.” The quiet greeting drew Clark’s attention from the sky and he smiled in welcome. Lex’s body was faint in the dim loft, translucent and insubstantial, reminding Clark that he was a ghost. “Hey. I saw you at the castle.”
“You were leaving,” Lex said, an explanation vague enough to be an apology and an excuse. He joined Clark, his ghostly fingers curling over the window’s edge.
Clark studied Lex’s profile. “Did you hear the interview?”
Lex’s lips thinned. “I heard. I wouldn’t put it past my father to be doing exactly what Lucas says.”
“That’s not good,” Clark sighed. He looked out the window towards the lights of downtown Smallville. How long before they were another poor Kansas town, where existence was found only at the bottom of a bottle?
“Dad sent me out here to fail,” Lex said abruptly and angrily.
Clark glanced sideways at him, as Lex went on. “I was going to prove that I wasn’t a waste and that I didn’t need him. Instead, I would’ve worked hard for nothing, except to be reviled when the plant closed and forced even more under my father’s control because of my ‘failure’. No one wants to do business with a person who single-handedly put twenty-five hundred employees out of work.”
Bitterness coated Lex’s words. It pained Clark to see Lex hurt visibly due to Lionel’s machinations. He wanted to wrap Lex in his embrace and never let go.
“It’s good that Lucas could care less about his name,” Lex muttered rancorously. “I think I’m glad I’m dead.”
“Don’t say that,” Clark protested. “You can’t change being dead, but life is too precious to be thrown casually away.”
One side of Lex’s mouth curled in a lightly mocking way. “You sound like a Hallmark card.”
“Actually, I sound like my dad,” Clark said, bemused.
Lex’s features darkened. “Better than sounding like mine.”
“Lex…” Clark didn’t know what to say that would comfort. “Forget about him.”
“Hard to, when he’s the reason I’m still around.”
“What do you want to do, then?” Clark said.
“Take away his toys,” Lex said, as if declaring war. He turned to Clark, chin tilted in defiance. “But I can’t do it alone.”
Clark’s reply was immediate and unhesitant. “Tell me how I can help.”
Lex wrote the letter to “an old, dear, selfish friend” at Clark’s, backdated a few days before he’d died. “I’ll put this where the staff can find and hopefully mail it out.”
“Don’t put a stamp on it,” Clark said, leaning against the edge of the desk. “If the staff remember doing it, the believability that it’s an old letter accidentally found is better.”
“Smart boy,” Lex said, signing his name with a flourish. He picked up the letter and read it over. “This should work.”
Clark watched as Lex sealed the letter in an envelope and addressed it. He put a return address in the corner without a name. “Now tomorrow comes your part,” Lex said.
“Questioning Lucas about the possibility of some other company buying the plant,” Clark said. It was such a simple solution that Clark should’ve thought of before, when he was brooding over the closure.
Lex nodded. “Then, by the time Victoria arrives, wondering about being summoned by the dead, enough days will have passed that he won’t connect you with the contents of the letter suggesting Hardwick Industries buy out the plant.”
“The buyout idea will sound familiar, though, so he should be amenable to it,” Clark continued reciting the plan.
“The power of suggestion.” Lex tapped his translucent fingers on the envelope. “The human mind is susceptible to repetitive information. That’s why advertisement is such a large field.”
“What if neither of them goes for it?”
“I’ll try to think of something else. I won’t let my father win,” Lex stated. His brow furrowed. “I may be able to forge the documents giving Lucas my LuthorCorp shares and change it to you.”
Clark was puzzled. “I thought your shares rolled back to Lionel with your death?”
“The ones in my name, yes,” Lex said. “But I also bought into LuthorCorp using a dummy company. I named Lucas as my beneficiary. The certificates are hidden at the castle. Since the company doesn’t exist, no attorney has brought the information forward.”
“That’s why you stuck around,” Clark said, a light bulb going on over his head. “To give Lucas the shares.”
“If he wanted to break away from our father,” Lex clarified. “Had he turned out to be dad’s drone, the shares would have remained hidden indefinitely.”
“You’re leaning towards giving Lucas the shares,” Clark said.
“Yes.” Lex smiled slightly. “Lucas only wants to be a Luthor for the money. If I give him enough of his own, maybe he’ll tell dad to shove it and take off.”
“But not until we save the plant,” Clark said.
“No, not until then.” Lex picked up the envelope. “Let’s see how it plays out with Victoria.”
The basketball dropped into the hoop with a swish. Clark fetched the ball as it bounced beneath the net, catching sight of a motorcycle pulling up the Kent driveway. He waited until the rider shut off the engine to say hello. “Hey, Lucas.”
“Kent,” Lucas said, as he joined Clark. His mirrored sunglasses hid his eyes, but Clark knew he was getting the once-over.
“What brings you by?” Clark asked, not minding the perusal.
“You,” Lucas said. “You and the hot Miss Sullivan disappeared so fast last night, I didn’t have a chance to properly say thank you.”
“I think we’re the ones who should have said thanks,” Clark said with a dollop of innuendo.
Lucas smirked. “Feel free to do so anytime.”
“I might.” Clark grinned wickedly. “You’ll have to pursue Chloe on your own, though.”
“I’m a betting man. What are the odds?”
“Very favorable, especially with the scoop you gave her.”
Lucas’s predatory thrill was palpable. Clark would have worried for Chloe if she weren’t such a ball-breaker.
“When’s the article coming out?” Lucas took the basketball from Clark and made a shot.
“We’re not printing one.” Clark moved to catch the rebound and took his own shot.
Lucas looked surprised. He grabbed the ball from under the net. “Why not?”
“Too many consequences,” Clark replied. He jumped to block Lucas’s shot, drawing Lucas into a pickup game.
“Why? People should be happy they’ll have time to find other jobs.”
“Unless there’s a way to keep the plant open.” Clark smoothly led the conversation where he needed it, as planned.
Lucas made a derisive sound and stole the ball. “Like that’ll happen.”
“It could.” Clark caught the rebound and dribbled. “Maybe another company will buy out the plant.”
“Who’d want a failing shit factory?”
Clark weaved, Lucas blocked, and Clark dodged. “I don't know. Chloe could probably hunt down someone who’d be interested.” The ball sank into the net. “If she did, would you help the sale go through?”
“Sure,” Lucas said with a shrug. “Maybe I can make a few extra bucks under the table with the deal.”
Mission accomplished, Clark thought, raising his arms as Lucas ran the ball. He got serious about the pickup game. Lucas did, as well, and soon they were both coated with sweat under the warm September sun. The game was rough, and Clark had to supernaturally dodge a few elbows so as not to injure Lucas.
“Last shot,” Lucas crowed. Despite having alien powers, Clark was losing badly.
Lucas faked right and ran left. Clark failed to block, leaving Lucas in the clear. The ball rolled off the tips of Lucas’s fingers in a jump shot. The ball hit the rim, circled once, and fell into the basket.
Clark groaned as Lucas whooped. “Too bad I didn’t bet on the game,” Lucas said, slapping Clark on the shoulder.
“I’m broke, anyway,” Clark said. He raised the hem of his shirt to wipe his face. He found Lucas staring closely when he released his shirt.
The air charged. Lucas had removed his sunglasses and his eyes were focused on Clark’s mouth. “I still won,” he said suggestively. “I think I deserve a prize.”
Clark licked his lips, jeans tightening as his cock swelled. He tilted his head for Lucas to follow and led the way up to the loft. He kissed Lucas the moment they cleared the steps. The kiss was hot, hungry, and hard. Lucas grabbed Clark by the back of the neck, holding him captive. Devouring one another, they blindly found the couch and Clark shoved Lucas onto it.
Lucas framed his crotch crudely with his hands. “On your knees.”
Clark’s knees thumped on the wooden floor. No cajoling or finesse like with a woman, just straight out casual sex, one of the best parts of being homosexual, something good he had learned while high on red kryptonite. He had to repress enough of himself as it was; he wasn’t about to refrain from participating in something normal as often as he could.
Clark unbuttoned Lucas’s jeans and freed another best part of being gay: cock. Keeping an ear out for his parents, he wrapped his hand around the base of Lucas’s hard prick and sucked him down without hesitation.
Lucas hissed and thrust reflexively. Clark pinned him down with a hand on his hip. Clark set a quick rhythm, sucking and stroking, his lips stretched tightly around Lucas’s shaft. Lucas’s hands went into Clark’s hair, grasping and tugging as Clark’s head bobbed.
Clark had spent months on a red kryptonite high perfecting his technique. Lucas certainly appreciated it, if his muttered curses were any indication. Clark’s tongue worked the underside of the stiff cock, licking the frenulum with powerful strokes.
“I’m close,” Lucas warned, but Clark didn’t pull off. He kept the tempo and soon felt the shaft swell in his mouth. Lucas grunted as he shot down Clark’s throat, fingers digging into Clark’s scalp.
Clark sucked Lucas dry, released the spit-shined, softening cock, and sank back on his heels. With a flick of his wrist, he freed his heavy erection, wrapped a fist around it, and stroked slowly. Lucas watched with hooded eyes.
“I think the loser deserves a consolation prize, don’t you?” Clark said.
Lucas licked his lips and smiled.
Neither noticed the ghost standing by the stairs.