He felt, rather than heard, himself humming a Christmas carol and quickly stopped. It was bad enough that Lex Luthor’s penthouse had been decorated by his own two well-manicured hands--plus two toner-stained ones which knew nothing about balance and aesthetics--but Lex Luthor humming a carol was inconceivable and perhaps, slightly pre-apocalyptic.
"Deck the halls with boughs--"
Lex shook his head in disgust. First humming, now singing. It was all Clark’s fault. "You better get your ass home soon, Anniversary Boy, before I completely lose it," Lex muttered as he adjusted the drape of the holly adorning the mantle above the fireplace. Not only was it Christmas Eve, but it was also his and Clark’s anniversary. On this night five years ago, they became lovers in a imported castle in Smallville. Now they lived together in Metropolis where Lex was carefully cultivating LexCorp into the behemoth it would eventually become and Clark was a rookie reporter at the Daily Planet, having just graduated the past spring from Met U’s School of Journalism.
Five years. Six months of hiding their relationship--blown by Clark’s enthusiastic kiss following Smallville High’s graduation, followed by three years of "going steady" while Clark lived in the dorms of Met U, and finally over a year of "domestic bliss" after Clark finally said to hell with dorm life, crammed the penthouse’s storeroom full of boxes, and told Lex the left side of the bed was his.
Surprisingly there had been little opposition. Jonathan Kent had been more put out about secrets shared than bodily fluids spilled. Martha had nodded and said they were good boys waiting until Clark was eighteen. Lionel had just rolled his eyes and muttered something about Lex being too old for teenage rebellion. Clark’s friends had been discombobulated, the whole Lana-slash-Chloe "which will he choose" dilemma still fresh in their minds. The girls had eventually fallen in love with the romance of the unconventional relationship and given their support. It’d taken Pete Ross a while to accept it, but even he now called the penthouse and asked for Clark easily. Lex’s business associates soon learned that they either accepted Clark’s position in Lex’s life or else. The "or else" wasn’t as vicious as it would have been without Clark’s calming influence, but life overall was just more manageable if one treated Clark as just another CEO’s spouse.
Life was good.
Satisfied that the holly was as artistically placed as it was going to get, Lex headed into the kitchen. The champagne was chilling, and Mrs. Showmar had left a feast of Clark’s favorite foods to get him through her two-day vacation.
"You have a week’s vacation, Mrs. Showmar."
"A week? But Mr. Clark will starve in a week. And you, you don’t eat enough as is."
"We’re spending Christmas Day in Smallville. I’m sure between Martha’s leftovers and the things you’ve thoughtfully packaged for us in the freezer, we’ll be fine."
"I’ll be back on the twenty-seventh, Mr. Lex. In time to cook breakfast."
Lex sighed. His father would probably cringe at the wuss his son had become. But he was a wuss who was in love and was loved in return.
Wussdom was worth it.
So, the anniversary celebration was ready, and all he needed now was someone to celebrate it with. But a sudden freak ice storm had slammed into Metropolis and Clark had donned the ridiculous blue and red outfit his "spaceship" had designed and flew off to rescue the fearless and brainless. Blue and red. A clear reason why no one should wear anything designed by a machine.
Lex frowned, then grinned. So Clark had lost another keycard. Security was going to be pissed. The Superman suit really needed a better pocket.
"You’re going to be the one calling Security this time," he said as he opened the door.
And found not Clark, but two old friends.
"Someone needs to, considering we didn’t run into any Security on the way up," one of them said dryly.
"Probably didn’t think anyone was stupid enough to be out in this weather," Lex retorted. "But Gotham natives aren’t exactly known for their brain power. Except for your lovely companion, of course. Selina, as usual, it’s a pleasure to see you." Lex shoved Bruce Wayne out of the way and leaned forward to kiss Selina Kyle’s cheek. "Don’t tell me you’re still hanging around this reprobate?"
"With you off the market, Lex, dear, a girl’s options are severely limited," Selina purred.
"Too true. But even if I can’t offer you my body, I can offer you hospitality. Come in, and tell me what brings you to my fair city." He draped an arm around her shoulder and guided her inside. "You can come in, too, Bruce," he called without looking back.
"Your hospitality is exactly what we’re looking for," Selina explained, settling onto Lex’s lap when he folded into one of the plush seats. "The airport is closed and even all of Bruce’s money can’t seem to find us a hotel room."
"We only tried one hotel," Bruce mumbled, taking the chair opposite them. "We were in town on business," he explained in a normal tone.
"The Norton deal," Lex said with a nod.
"What do you know about it, Luthor?" Bruce asked warily.
"Metropolis is my town, Bruce. Don’t even pretend you don’t know everything that happens in Gotham."
"Before you two settle into your usual billionaire’s pissing contest, can we stay here tonight, Lex?" Selina asked.
"The staff is off for the holidays, but if you don’t mind roughing it, mi casa es su casa."
"I think we can do without room service for a night, don’t you, Bruce?"
Lex chuckled. "I don’t know about that, Selina. Has Bruce ever gone a night without Alfred tucking him in?"
Bruce growled, but Selina just laughed. "I plan on doing the tucking tonight." She flashed Bruce a sultry glance, then rubbed her cheek against Lex’s. "Want to join us for old time’s sake?"
"In heat tonight, my darling?" Lex whispered against her ear, knowing she didn’t want Bruce to know her secret.
"Knew you would understand. Mrowr." A pink tongue flicked across Lex’s lips.
"Sorry, kitten, but Clark doesn’t like to share. And I know for a fact that in a cat fight, he’d win hands down."
"Pity." Selina sat up but didn’t leave Lex’s lap. "Where is your scrumptious dark-haired cutie tonight anyway?" she asked, raising her voice.
"Working. New kid, lower rung, etc."
"Surprised you haven’t bought him a newspaper of his own," Bruce commented. He held out a hand and Selina slinked from one lap to another.
Lex gave an exaggerated pout. "He won’t let me."
"He’s too good for you."
"I know, Bruce. My only saving grace is that he doesn’t agree." Lex smirked and stood. "I’m being a terrible host. What can I get for you? Brandy? Wine?"
"If you could show me where I could freshen up?" Selina asked, uncurling herself from Bruce’s lap.
"Of course. Your suite is the third door on the right. The bath is fully stocked, and you will find essentials in both the closet and the drawers."
"I thought you said we’d be roughing it," she said as she swept by Lex.
"Call it ‘roughing it Luthor-style.’"
"Been there, done that, and enjoyed it very much," she said as she disappeared through the door.
"Hope you took your vitamins before you left Gotham," Lex said, lifting his eyebrow in amusement.
"I think the storm is making Selina feel a bit restless."
"And what about you, Bruce? Sonar going a little crazy?"
"Very funny, Lex."
"You’re trying to tell me you’re not on edge? Come on, man. You’re jumpier than a bat in a wig factory," Lex snickered.
Bruce shook his head. "What was I thinking when I let you discover my secret?"
Lex sobered. "You were thinking you wanted to live, and I was the only who could help you. And before you get on your self-righteous, moral high horse, I want you to remember how long I’ve known, how many people I haven’t told, and how many times I haven’t used it against you," he said angrily. Fuck it. "Who’s on whose doorstep asking for fucking shelter in a storm?"
"Down, Lex. I didn’t mean anything by the comment. Damn, who’s on edge now?" Bruce said quickly.
Lex took a calming, deep breath. "Sorry, you know how I am when I think I’m being compared to my father. And you’re right about being on edge; just before you arrived, I was telling myself Clark needs to get home before I lose it."
"You two have a fight?"
"It’s our fifth anniversary."
"He’s put up with you for five years? He’s a fucking saint."
"Seven years, actually. Can you believe I actually restrained myself from touching him for twenty-nine months?"
Bruce squinted in his direction. "Hmm. There may be a halo hanging over your head, but it’s rather crooked and needs a hell of a polishing."
Lex laughed. "Fuck you, Bruce."
The Dark Knight shook his head. "I’ve seen Clark pissed; I don’t want any part of that."
"Not even while wearing your super-duper utility bat belt?"
Bruce groaned. "You really are getting quite giddy."
Lex nodded. "Sad, isn’t it? Well, just because it looks like I’m not going to be getting any anytime soon, you shouldn’t have to wait. Go on and join Selina in the suite. And, by the way, every room is soundproofed," he added with a leer.
Bruce grinned. "Selina was right--this is better than a hotel. Thanks, Lex, and…Merry Christmas."
"Same to you. Oh, and here--" He left the room, returning a second later with champagne and flutes. "Have fun."
Lex watched the door close, then settled back in his chair. He rolled his eyes as he thought about his guests. Why did it seem all his close friends played dress up in the dark hours of the night? Next thing anyone knew, he’d be donning purple and black tights, maybe a fringed cape… Yeah, he could be Lizardman or something--craftier than a chameleon, slipperier than an eel, more able than an anaconda at pinching a penny.
"Thank God," he mumbled, glad for the interruption of his thoughts. Probably Security wanting to check that everything was okay since Bruce and Selina had surely shown up when they reviewed the tapes.
Still, just to be on the safe side, he hit the viewscreen next to the door. Clark’s parents? The door was opened quickly. "Martha, Jonathan, come in. Is something wrong?"
Martha laid a hand on his arm. "We’re fine, Lex. Jonathan and I were in town visiting my father and were surprised by the storm."
Lex nodded. He and Clark had been trying to negotiate a peace between Clark’s grandfather and father for the past several months. Mr. Clark had no qualms about his grandson’s choice of partner; it was kind of nice to beat Jonathan at something. "He didn’t offer to put you up?"
Martha smiled tightly. "He and Jonathan actually talked, but I didn’t want to push it. Besides, Jonathan’s the one who said we were coming here."
"Excellent. You’re always welcome here, of course. Clark’s out, but you expected that, didn’t you?"
Jonathan nodded. "Lots of stranded motorists out there. And he’s going to try to save every one of them."
Lex smiled. "That’s our Clark. By the way, did you have any trouble with Security?" he asked casually.
"No one stopped us," Martha answered. "Were they supposed to?"
Fuck. "Just wondering how they’re handling the weather," he said dismissively. "Please, make yourselves comfortable. Is there anything I can get you? A drink? Food?"
Jonathan cleared his throat. "You wouldn’t happen to have any real food, would you?"
Lex, puzzled, turned to Martha for clarification.
"Dad served hors d’oeuvres."
"Crackers…with stuff on them," Jonathan clarified even more.
"Oh. Not a problem, Jonathan. This is Clark’s home as well as mine. There’s fried chicken--not as good as yours, Martha--stuffing, sauteed vegetables."
"Stop," Jonathan ordered. "Unless you want me drooling all over your carpet."
Lex laughed and motioned for them to follow him. "Mrs. Showmar has a crush on Clark. There’s plenty of everything."
"Maybe I should have a talk with her," Martha said. "Instead of stuffing my son, she should be trying to fatten you up."
"She’s tried, Martha. My metabolism wins every time."
Lex and Jonathan shared a look of amusement. After a quick microwave session, they sat around the small table in the corner of the kitchen and made small talk while Jonathan ate. After a while, Lex noticed Jonathan yawning and realized the farmers were up way past their bedtime.
"I can’t offer you your usual accommodations, but the suite beside it is very nice."
"You have other visitors?" Martha inquired. "Clark didn’t say anything about you having guests for the holidays. We don’t want to mess up your plans."
"Friends stranded by the storm, and trust me, there aren’t any plans other than going to Smallville tomorrow. If the weather clears, we can ride there together. I’ll have someone drive the truck back later. The weight of the limo provides excellent traction."
"Thanks, Lex. And for dinner, too," Jonathan said.
"My pleasure. If you need anything, just ask."
After seeing his in-laws to their suite, Lex wandered back into the main room. Well, he’d given away the champagne and the food. If Clark didn’t hurry home, there might not be--
Lex’s eyes widened. When had his penthouse been labeled Metropolis Grand Central and why the hell hadn’t he been told? He stomped toward the door and smacked the viewscreen. A very pregnant woman came into view. She moved slightly and he saw her husband behind her. Okay, this night was getting way bizarre.
"Lana, Pete. Please, come in," he said graciously, holding the door for the couple. "Let me guess: storm, stranded, can’t find a hotel room."
"Or a bathroom," Lana said plaintively.
"Fourth do--Oh, forget it." He quickly led her to the correct room.
Pete smiled sheepishly at him when he returned. "Sorry about that, but when Lana has to go…"
"Ah, the joys of pregnancy--or the reason why we’re thankful we’re men," Lex joked. "Seriously, do you need somewhere to stay? You’re welcome to take one of guest suites here."
"Guest suites? Man, this isn’t your average apartment, is it?"
"I think it suits Clark and me."
"Where is ol’ CK, anyway?"
"Where do you think?"
Pete rolled his eyes. "Oh, right. Out rescuing the masses. You haven’t broken him of that yet, Luthor?"
"That string twisted around Clark's little finger? That’s me. Brandy?"
Pete nodded. "Guess I won’t be going anywhere for several hours. Even if we could make it home, I don’t think Lana has it in her to sit in the car for another three hours."
"You’ve been driving for a while?"
"Yeah. There was this huge Baby Fair outside Kansas City that Lana just had to go to. And you know when they give you one of those looks…."
"You cave like a sinkhole in the rainy season."
"God, you and Clark are married, aren’t you?"
"In the eyes of everyone but Kansas law. Going to work on that, though."
"Good for you. If you need help, let me know."
"Liking law school that much, are you?"
"Yeah, Mom was right; I do enjoy it."
"I’m glad. It’s good for a man to enjoy his work--one of the reasons I didn’t knock Clark going into journalism."
"Still, it’s not what you want him doing, is it?"
Lex shrugged. "He needs to be in a job where he can be on top of what’s happening, but being a reporter is highly visible. I’d prefer he be on the sidelines--where no one notices when he disappears."
"He’ll be okay, Lex. Even Lana doesn’t recognize him in his Superman outfit."
"Which makes perfectly good sense in a Smallvillian sort of way, doesn’t it?"
Pete raised his brandy snifter. "Here’s to Smallville, the Land of the Three Monkeys."
"See No Evil, Hear No Evil, and Speak No Evil," Lex finished, tapping his glass against Pete’s.
"No fair making toasts when a pregnant lady is present," Lana said, wobbling into the room.
"I have cider," Lex offered.
"Unless it comes with painkillers, no thank you."
"Your back again, honey?" Pete asked solicitously.
"I have just the thing." Lex stood and disappeared into his and Clark’s room. He returned a second later with a body of massage oil. "Works wonders on tired feet, too."
"Bless you, Lex. Sure you weren’t pregnant in a past life?" Lana teased.
"Stranger things have probably happened," Lex replied easily. "Let me show you to your room so you can get comfortable. If you need anything, I’m here, Clark will eventually be here, and Martha and Jonathan are just across the hall."
Pete laughed. "And I bet you thought you’d left Smallville behind."
"If it means having Clark at my side, Smallville will never be behind me."
"That’s so sweet," Lana gushed. "Why don’t you ever say nice things like that about me, Pete?"
"I do, Lana, honey. You’re just never there to hear them."
"Oh. Well, you can tell me what you say while you rub my feet. Goodnight, Lex. And thank you."
"Goodnight, Lana, Pete."
Lex chuckled as he thought about how hard Pete was going to have to fight to get out of the hole Lex had dug for him. Merry Christmas, Pete.
Okay. This was getting to be annoying. Why wasn’t Security stopping these people? And who the hell was it this time? Chloe? Perhaps in search of the missing Smallville residents--film at eleven? Whoever had convinced the reporter to switch from print to broadcast journalism should be forced to live in Smallville during mutant season.
But the viewscreen didn’t reveal the intrepid reporter. Instead….
"Power’s out at the mansion. Get my bag, please."
Obediently, Lex grabbed the small leather satchel from the hallway. "Um, Dad, I’m sorry to hear about your problem," Lex began, feeling a twinge of pity for the power company execs who would lose their jobs in the morning, "But we’re bursting at the seams here. All the guests rooms are in use."
"I’ll take your room. Goodnight, son."
Didn’t even ask if Clark was in there nude or anything, Lex fussed silently as he dumped the bag inside the door and left. Clark, if you don’t get your ass home soon, we’re going to be celebrating our anniversary in the hallway.
"You’re too late, whoever you are," he growled, stabbing the viewscreen button. Two large, gun-toting men fidgeted in front of the door. Mob goons, he quickly concluded. Clark and Lois’ damn mob expose. Shit. Well, that probably explained the lack of security. Bastards! And why the hell had a rookie reporter been paired with that over-achieving, conspiracy-hunting harridan? Clark should be writing about kittens up in trees, or transcribing A.P. reports. Instead he was stepping all over the toes of mobsters. That was Superman’s job, not Clark’s!
Lifting up a bust of Malthus, Lex picked up two stun guns. Going through the kitchen, he went out the servants’ entrance, past the service elevator, and into the main hall. The two idiots were still waiting for him to open the door. Using the stealth he’d learned while a then-blind Lionel recuperated at the Smallville manor, he slipped behind the men and used his patented double-stun technique which he’d perfected after the Smallville Bingo Club ended up with contaminated dabbers that compelled them to dab his smooth white skin.
Gunfire reverberated through the hallway.
Clark’s jacket was draped over his arm as he exited the elevator, his tie undone and hanging unevenly around his neck. He wasn’t physically tired, but all the rescues--the fuel tanker that hung precariously off the side of the bridge crossing Metropolis’ main water supply, the countless people extracted from crashed and stalled vehicles, the near miss between a snapped power line and a broken gas main--had drained him mentally. What he wanted--what he needed--was several hours curled up in the arms of one Lex Luthor. The A.I. provided by his spaceship said it was Earth’s yellow sun that gave him his energy and strength. But he would be nothing without the regeneration of his soul, a feat which only Lex could accomplish.
As he headed toward his special energy source, the first indication that something was wrong was the acrid smell of gunpowder. The second was the presence of bullet holes in the door to the penthouse. Fear flooded not only Clark Kent but Superman. But whereas Clark Kent wanted to burst through the door, Superman stepped back and adjusted his vision until he could see through the walls. As naturally and quickly as water seeking its own level, Superman found Lex. The man reclined on the sofa, respiration normal, heartbeat steady. He was…asleep.
Letting out a breath of relief, Superman continued scanning the residence. Two unknown persons next to the fireplace. In restraints. He let the shredded remains of his tie slip to the carpet as he searched for other intruders. There. In one of the guest suites.
Pete and Lana?
And in another suite…
Mom and Dad?
Bruce Wayne and…an amazingly limber woman?
Lionel Luthor sleeping in MY bed?
Certain that there was no imminent danger, Clark Kent stepped into the penthouse. Sparing only a stingy glance at the pair near the fireplace, he walked quietly to the sofa. He stared at the peaceful figure with a look of wonder. Mine.
"Are you waiting for permission to touch me? If you are, the word is given."
Clark smiled. It would be a cold day in hell--not Metropolis--when someone would sneak up on a sleeping Lex. He brushed a thumb across an ivory cheek as he knelt beside the sofa. "Hey."
"Hey. How’s the Planet?" Lex asked with a smirk. He always enjoyed word games.
"Fine." Clark rested a hand on Lex’s chest, soothed by the gentle lub-dub of his heartbeat. "For some reason, I’m thinking I missed the biggest story of the night."
"Really? What gives you that idea?"
"There are bullet holes in the door."
Lex shrugged. "When I stunned the mob guys, their guns accidentally went off. Nothing harmed but the woodwork, babe."
"Yeah. I guess Lane and Kent’s front page story didn’t go over well with the ‘ends in a vowel’ club."
Clark rocked back on his heels. "Shit. How did they make it all the way to the penthouse before Security stopped them?" Lex didn’t answer. "Wait a minute. You said you stunned them. Where the hell was Security?"
"Tied up in their office. I freed them after I secured the bad guys. I used the Lexicuffs. Impossible to get out of without a Lex-Release. The law enforcement officials are going to be impressed. Lexicuffs don’t leave abrasions or bruises."
Clark gave a weak laugh. Leave it to Lex to turn a near-tragedy into an advertisement for LexCorp products. "Speaking of law enforcement, why are the goons still roasting their chestnuts by our open fire?"
"The cops have their hands full with weather related emergencies. I told them we could hold onto them for a few hours. Isn’t that right, boys?"
Clark looked at them closer. "Duct tape?"
"Lexigags haven’t gone into production yet."
Clark shook his head. "Gags, cuffs…Something I should know about you, Lex?"
Lex smiled and reached for Clark. "Nothing that you don’t know already."
Clark went into Lex’s arms, kissing him, then snuggling against his neck with a shudder. "I can’t do this unless I know you’re safe, Lex. None of it--the reporting, the other..."
"I know. That’s why I hired the Security firm, and I’ll hire more if that’ll ease your mind. But I’m not helpless, Clark. Security or not, I’ll do my best to survive until you can save me. You know that, don’t you?"
Clark stroked the smooth scalp. "I won’t survive without you."
"Then you’ll never be without me." Lex sealed the promise with a deep kiss.
Clark shifted uncomfortably. "I want you. But there’s no room in the inn."
"Yeah. I hitch up with you and suddenly I’m the one people run to when there’s trouble."
Clark shook his head. "I have nothing to do with it. I always ran to you, Lex. I always will. Even if it is the night before Christmas and the rats are stirring." He glanced at the intruders.
"Clark, after all these years, you still haven’t learned to appreciate a good literary reference. No room in the inn has nothing to do with Clement Moore’s overblown rhyme."
Clark smiled. Lex in lecture-mode was a sexy Lex. "No?"
"No. It has everything to do with Mary and Joseph…"
Clark thought for a moment. "Ah. Lana--being great with child."
"And an angel and shepherd."
"Dad has cows, not sheep." Lex raised an eyebrow. "Okay. Livestock is livestock. And Mom’s definitely an angel."
"And barn animals."
That was a hard one. Lex was obviously alluding to Bruce Wayne and the lady--who was doing things that could make a ferret jealous…"I’m not sure I get that one."
Lex grinned. "Oh, I’m sure you’ll figure it out one day."
"O--kay. And where does your father figure into this metaphor?"
"King Herod, of course."
"Of course. I get that the others are refugees--caught in the storm?" Lex nodded. "What about Lionel?"
"Power’s off on the Hill. Heads will roll with the morning light. And we’re not through with the metaphor yet."
"Who’s left? Except you, the besieged and beleaguered innkeeper?"
"Who, by the way, is a lot more gracious than the original. I gave up my room."
"You’re such a good boy," Clark crooned, noisily kissing Lex’s forehead.
"Who we forgot was the star of the show--the lead attraction with the messiah complex." Clark frowned. "Such a good boy," Lex mocked with his own kiss.
"But I thought the hero got a reward in the end?" Clark pouted.
"You mean, other than a crucifixion before a SRO crowd?"
"Um, if we could avoid that, I’d appreciate it."
"I just bet you would. And once again, you’re forgetting the reference text."
Hours later, Clark stretched against the pliant leather of the limo, his arm cradling Lex’s nude body steady against him. "Nice stable, Lex. Leather, lube, champagne…all the comforts of home."
Lex absently tweaked a nipple, and Clark moaned appropriately. "Can I help it that all my horses live under well-polished hoods?"
Clark snickered. "You’re such a city boy."
"When we get back to the penthouse you can give me all your copies of keys to my cars."
"I thought they were our cars now?"
"I’ll buy you a tractor, farm boy."
"No back seat, Lex."
"Not like you’re going to get any anytime soon."
Clark brushed a long stroke down Lex’s back, feeling the shudder than ran through the lithe body. "You sure about that?"
"You better be glad I love you."
"Oh, I am." Clark kissed the bald head so warm against his cheek. "Lex?"
"Think there’s a star shining down on us?"
"You are my star, Clark."
"You’re sleepy. You get all shmoopy when you’re sleepy."
"Fuck you, Kent. Oh, wait. I just did that, didn’t I?"
"And it was a stupendous performance, as usual."
"Why, thank you."
"No. Thank you." He reached down, grabbed the blanket that had fallen to the floor of the limo, and draped it over Lex. In a minute he’d get up and run the engine to warm up the car, but for now he was content to just lay there with the man that he loved.
Clark sighed and cuddled closer. "Merry Christmas, Lex."
"Happy Anniversary, love."