Okay, anyway. Um. I HAD recs and LJ erased them when I sort of went offline while uploading, SO....
Getting those again after I've thrown a fit and caught up on my friends list, so as to cool my temper. *sighs*
Anyway. Human!Clark or Somewhere I Have Never Travelled.
For reference, because I kind of forgot LJ can be hard to follow.
So here we are. This is getting awfully long. Huh.
The first thing Clark sees on his desk is the dozen roses--red, long-stem, no thorns, and he grins as he spots the dark purple ribbon wrapped around the crystal vase. A card's attached this time, and he sits down, carefully pulling it free of the roses, glancing at the neat script, a florist's handwriting, but maybe she was channeling Lex when she wrote the strong LL on the back because it's very similar.
Lex, apparently, is done with anything even vaguely resembling discretion.
"Have a good night?" A coffee and cinnamon roll slide in front of him, still steaming. Lois remembers he forgets breakfast a *lot* when he's distracted.
Clark blinks, looking up as she shifts the vase over, seating herself on the edge of the desk. Today, an elegant fawn pantsuit, minimal jewelry, nails in beige rose. The dark hair is twisted up and back in a simple chignon, more for convenience that style.
"I thought you'd be at the airport."
"My plane doesn’t leave until nine. You didn't answer your cell phone, so I figured I'd come down here on my way to the airport." A folder lands just north of the cinnamon roll.. "Some information about Rhinestadt. Three guesses on his special passion."
Looking at the folder, Clark tries thinks, wishing half-heartedly for X-ray.
"Clever boy." Tapping the folder with one lacquered nail, she looks at his computer monitor. "Got it in one. Now tell me what kind of ET he's been studying for the last, oh, two years."
If he's into extraterrestrials, that's easy. "Superman."
Lois laughs. "You're on a roll, Smallville. Let's see if you can go three for three. Who has been financing his little extracurricular activities in extraterrestrials."
Clark glances at the roses and grins. "LexCorp."
"Half right. Cadmus, Inc. Heard of it?"
Frowning, Clark flips the file open, looking at the first page of printed information. "Vaguely." One of the very few LexCorp owned openly. "Lex ran it in Smallville for awhile. It's resurfaced occasionally for some genetic research, but it's the most public of his labs. Why wouldn't he use one of the secret ones?" Lex is more subtle than that, and far too good a businessman to let himself be linked so easily. "This is too easy."
"That's what I thought." Leaning over, Lois flips through the pages, surrounding Clark with a mist of Chanel No 22. Clark's shocked to feel his nose begin to itch. "He's not hiding it at all--in black and white for anyone to see or any government agency to ask questions about. It's all aboveboard."
"No meteorite research, then." The sneeze is swallowed with some difficulty before Lois withdraws.
"Not even a whiff, other than what directly relates to Superman." Finding the page, a finger slams down, marking something bolded. "Rhinestadt draws a very large salary for a theoretical astrophysicist who works paper only. Even for one hired by LexCorp."
Five hundred thousand a year. Jesus. Makes his NASA job look like a sinecure.
"Okay, you got me. What did you figure out?"
Leaning back, Lois kicks a heel into the desk, frowning. "Nothing. The EPA checks the lab like clockwork, there hasn't been a violation on record for as far as I could trace back, and they submit reports to the government regularly." Shaking her head, she smoothes down the line of her skirt. "Now ask me why this bothers me, because we both know Luthor's got half the inspectors on payroll."
"Why does it bother you?"
"Because the inspectors he's been allowing in aren't on his payroll."
Whoa. Leaning back, Clark glances at the folder again, trying to think of something to make *that* make sense. That's not very Lex at all.
"How far did you go back?"
"Two years. Shit." Lois pauses, checking a nail quickly, apparently noticing a flaw in her nailpolish. Picking at it briefly, she gives up and looks back down at the folder. "Anyway. Cadmus is sharing information with the government and doing it so openly that it makes my back itch. That's not Luthor."
"No," Clark answers slowly. "It's not. What kind of information?"
"Everything on Superman you ever wanted to know except three things. Identity, location of his planet of origin, and, wait for it--"
God, she does drama well.
Meteorite reactions in all their various incarnations, covered. Superman's abilities and weaknesses, covered.
"They got the physiological profile?" Clark asks, flipping through the pages. There's a vaguely queasy feeling in his stomach just from reading the scraps here and there. For almost pure speculation, it's not bad at all.
"Yes, but it's guesswork and not entirely accurate, though your reaction to a yellow sun is pretty much covered. I've been trying to track down someone who can get me access to internal memos, or at least someone that's seen them, but--" Lois stops short, giving him a strange look. He'd say compassion, but this is a story and Lois doesn't have much of that in this mode. "If I were the suspicious and paranoid kind, and if I were an alien on earth, reading that, I *might* think that Cadmus labs is trying to tell the government how to kill me. And I might think, maybe, that the government asked."
Clark feels the folder slip from suddenly numb fingers.
"Why?" Even to himself, his voice sounds hoarse. "What have I--I mean--" Years ago--God, it had to have been that huge thing in Columbia with Lex and that drug kingpin, Lex had thrown that at him. He can't remember the words--frankly, he doesn't want to remember them--but it was something along those lines. How Clark fought for a people who would kill and dissect him at the first opportunity. Something.
Years. It's been *years* and countless lives saved and countless bad guys taken in and neutralized, and *now* the government decides he might be a threat?
"Lois--" He stops, swallowing. "But no identity." For some reason, that bothers him most of all. Lex wouldn't share important tactical information about his greatest enemy--but he had. Except the three things that actually made the information at all useful. Right now, at best, everything they had was theoretical or observational--though Rhinestadt's a genius, so if anyone besides Lex could work without all the facts and still come to the right conclusion, he could. "I need to talk to Lex."
"Great idea. And maybe tell him why you want the information? Because really, we don't need *fewer* roadblocks in our investigation, do we?" Looking up, Lois shakes her head with a little grin. "See why I don't date?"
Okay, that's *weird*.
"Lois, you're being really weird now. I thought you'd want me to ask. Or at least try and find out--"
"Clark, you suck at undercover work and we both know it." Holding his gaze, she leans over and flips the folder closed. "Whatever they're doing, it's not a threat to you anymore as long as Luthor keeps his mouth shut. Do the rocks still affect you?"
No. Clark had tested that the third day. A pretty green stone now, and it made him queasy to *look* at it, but in a purely human, revolted sort of way. Not a 'please-let-me-die-because-this-fucking-
Shaking his head, he watches Lois' expression clear.
"Okay, then. Read this over and see if you can find a former employee to harass or something. Most are still LexCorp employees, but a few have moved to different jobs. You might find out something."
"Yeah," Clark answers slowly. "What are we trying to find out again?"
Lois' grin is brilliant. "What Rhinestadt's not telling about that coming meteor shower. From what's here--I'd almost say they're worried it's more Kryptonite to screw around with the ecology, but I'd like that confirmed." Shaking her head, she slides off his desk, straightening the line of her jacket, then gives him a mischievous grin. "How'd your date go?"
Apparently, the automatic blushing wasn't just a alien thing.
"Good." Very good, actually, and Clark had been meaning to take about an hour or so and just brood on it. The slide backward into comfortable companionship had been so easy, so effortless, it was like no time had passed at all between their last argument and their first date. "Dinner. That's all, so don't look like that. We're, um, meeting for lunch. Today."
Picking up her purse, Lois snickers. "To think you actually have a social life. The world must be coming to an end." Stretching, she does a quick check of her suit, then sighs. "All right. Wish me luck."
"You don't need it. Can I borrow your car?"
Rolling her eyes, Lois leans over to sniff a rose, keys jangling as she drops them on the desk. "Figured as much. I left it in the garage, Smallville. Don't break it. I'll try and call tonight if anything interesting comes up. Be home tomorrow night when I get back. And have something interesting to tell me, 'kay? With details."
Waving at the folder, Clark sighs. "Not all of us are as good as you are at rooting out conspiracies in under twenty-four hours."
"Funny," Lois answers, tilting her head, mouth pursed slightly as she looks him up and down. "Did I say it had to be about work?" With a little smile and a flick of her purse, she saunters off, and Clark hears his own choked laugh. "Give your boyfriend my best, Kent." The elevator opens on command--like anything would disobey Lois when she feels playful--and she disappears inside, winking at him as the door shut.
The ring of the phone distracts him from the lights on the elevator as she goes down, and Clark picks it up absently. "The Daily Planet, Kent speaking."
"And here I was trying to get pizza." The low voice makes Clark shiver, smile fading at the memory of that voice last night at dinner. God, if Lex could use that voice for crowds, he'd be president before his thirty-fifth birthday. "You're early."
"So are you. I thought big time CEO's slept in."
"I might with sufficient incentive."
Leaning back in his chair, Clark shuts his eyes. God. "I'll keep that in mind. Pretty roses, by the way. I see you're giving up even the pretense of subtlety."
"It's easier to be blunt. Less chance of miscommunication." Clark can hear someone's voice speaking to Lex, though he can't quite make out the words. "More coffee, yes, and reschedule my twelve o'clock meeting."
"We can meet later."
"It's LexCorp's board. One of the few perks of my job is that I *can* reschedule when I want to." A little sigh, and Clark can hear Lex's chair shifting, the soft sounds of expensive wool on leather. "What are you doing?"
"Right now?" Clark glances around the room. Only a few people are in at this hour. Picking up his coffee, he takes a sip. Not enough sugar. "Getting ready to track down some stuff for Lois."
Clark glances down at the folder. "Are you asking about what I'm working on?"
The little pause speaks volumes, and Clark wonders what Lex is thinking about. "No. Work is work. Just don't expect me to leave business secrets and my passwords lying around the penthouse when you're here."
Clark feels himself grin. "'*When*' I'm there?"
"When. Come over for dinner tonight."
Wow. Lex isn't wasting any time at all. "You know, I don't put out on the second date."
The low laugh raises every hair on Clark's body and there's a twitch below the belt that makes him shift uncomfortably. "Maybe I can change your mind."
All it would take is a look. God, he's easy. Shaking his head, Clark kicks a foot up on the desk, trying to ease the sudden tightness of once-loose pants. "Maybe."
"My divorce went through yesterday." Lex's voice is impossibly dark, like velvet sliding over Clark's skin. Shivering, Clark tries to think of something that isn't sexy, or he's going to have a *really* long day ahead of him. Nothing comes to mind.
Divorce. Right, *divorce*. Sitting straight, Clark glances at his monitor, then at the flowers. Initialed. "Oh. So we're going from not-subtle to public?"
Lex, thinking again loudly enough for Clark to hear it over fiberoptic cables. "Maybe. Do you have a problem with that?"
Oh, well, no. Mom and Dad might, and Chloe *will*, and God alone knows what Pete will think, and is it getting hot in here? "No." Clark winces at the phone calls he'll be getting come tomorrow. "I just--didn't expect you to. Um. Well. Lex? This isn't like you."
It really, really isn't.
"Even I can't keep *The Inquisitor* silent forever. I bought time until my divorce was final, but that was all I could get."
Yeah, Clark really hadn't thought of that, but wow, this thing with Lex could have seriously screwed with the final details of that.
"I don't want this to be secret." There's something in Lex's voice that Clark can't quite figure out. Determined, yeah, but also-- "I don't want to hide."
"Okay." Pushing aside everything else--and dammit, Lois *would* go out of town the one time he really, really needs her here--Clark nods into the phone. Lex can't see him, but he feels better doing it. "I don't mind. I--I'm sort of tired of secrets, too." How--how weird. This can be public. There's only Clark now--it doesn't matter who knows what he does.
Wow. He can *date*. He can go on a date and anyone can see him do it. He doesn't have to explain why he has to leave in the middle of dinner to help with an earthquake, or cancel five seconds before someone arrives or, God, miss it altogether and try to explain the next morning. He doesn't have to avoid inviting people to his apartment because he might have to leave suddenly. He doesn’t' have to pretend *anything* anymore.
"Clark?" Lex sounds worried.
Lightheadedly, Clark laughs. "Really, fine. It's just--I just realized that I can. Do anything I want."
"Now you figure it out." The amused indulgence makes Clark laugh harder. "Jesus, Clark, compose yourself. Where do you want to go for lunch?"
"I only have an hour. Fast food okay?" Choking back another laugh, Clark suddenly sees the keys on the edge of his desk. "I'll pick you up in front of LexCorp Plaza."
"Be out front at twelve on the dot. Bye." He can almost see Lex's expression and, leaning his head onto his desk, almost laughs himself sick. His coworkers probably think he's crazy. He doesn't care.
Okay, NOW shall catch up on things.