HAPPY BIRTHDAY dammitcarl!!!!!!!!
*hugs* Many, many happy returns!
*hugs hugs hugs* to thete1. I hope you feel better soon. *more hugs*
New Years Resolutions: I do not make them. Setting myself up for failure is NOT something I enjoy so much that I'll actively seek it. So in RL, no way in hell, except I will eat more chocolate and variate coffee with blackberry tea more to keep my caffeine levels below lethal.
But fannish? Hmm.
I an thinking, though, especially after the meme yesterday on what I've done in the year, especially risk-wise. There really hasn't been enough of it, actually. I get rutted so easily, and since SV is still addicting me (this still surprises me)....
1.) As a writer, I'll take at least three very stupid risks, either in narrative structure, style, plotline, etc over the next year. Really stupid. The kind of thing that gets you laughed off posting boards and mailing lists.
2.) I will write a pairing I loathe with all my being. And I will do it sympathetically and perhaps with a happy ending. Or at least, with some kind of ending that doesn't make me wonder why they're not hanging themselves from the ceiling by the time the story is over.
3.) I will answer feedback in a timely fashion. Timely meaning, sometime in the same week someone sends it. I actually can do this. I CAN.
4.) If I see a story I like, I will feedback it. Even if I only have time for one line, I will SEND FEEDBACK.
5.) I will finish Human!Clark if it requires prying the words from my slowly cooling, dying brain, because this is Discipline and is good for me, like asparagus, plus, I get to write lots of sex and with any kinds of luck, someone will eventually get violent. What more could a girl ask for?
6.) I will take three random challenges for fic and actually finish them, not bewail because I think I can't do it. So there, lazy-girl.
Right. I'm done.
Now to keep number five accurate.
Again, earlier parts can be found at Somewhere I Have Never Travelled.
He wonders if he looks different.
The airport's not too crowded, but enough for Clark to get jostled, and his body protests every time it happens. Security keeps eyeing him suspiciously, but he can't help twitching when he stands too long in any one position.
The plane would, of course, be late.
His cellphone's off--he'd checked his messages on the way to the airport, and the number waiting frankly scared him. The caller log wasn't comforting--Chloe, Pete, Mom and Dad, Daniel (oh fuck), a few college friends, and his next door neighbor Mrs. Dickson, who reads the tabloids like a religion.
He hasn't even looked at the Inquisitor yet. Frankly, he doesn't want to even think about it.
Jerking his gaze up, Clark watches Lois appear from the door--somehow, uncreased despite a plane flight and two long days without her personal drycleaners. The dark hair is pulled back loosely, a few strands artistically tickling her cheeks, but her grin is huge and messy.
Tossing him her coat, she wraps an arm around his waist lightly, leaning close enough to stifle him with some heavy musk that clings to his nose. "You're making the careers of social columnists all over the country."
Great, just what he needs to hear. Taking her carry-on, Clark glances toward baggage claim. "You want--"
"Don't even bother. They're on the next flight. Don't ask. Just thank God I put everything I needed in my carry-on. Come on."
Outside, she nods in approval at her car. "Washed. Nice. So, business or personal?"
"You mean I have a choice?"
Lois snickers as she slides into the driver's seat, obviously looking around for signs of--"Lois!"
"Be good. Seatbelt on. I have information, but it's on my laptop. Spill. At least, what I can't guess."
Sighing, Clark closes the trunk and circles, sliding into the passenger seat as she revvs the engine. "We're dating. Happy?"
"So that's what you're calling it?" A merry wink before her foot drops on the gas pedal, hitting sixty almost before they leave the parking lot. Luckily, Clark's used to maniac drivers and simply closes his eyes, belatedly aware that if there's an accident this time, he's pretty much going to die. Dammit.
"Cassius," he says, giving her a quick look, and forces down a grin when he sees the eyebrows slide up.
"Okay, so business. Tell me."
"Lex wanted me examined--" Lois snicker makes him flush. "Shut up. Human. Immunization. Stuff like that."
"Good idea. I wouldn't have thought of that. Keep going."
"He's a kryptonite mutant, dated from first impact." Leaning back in the seat, Clark closes his eyes, refusing to watch them enter the highway. Just too stressing. "He's head of medical services for LexCorp."
"That we know."
"He also heads up the facility where Lex has been keeping other Smallville mutants."
"Jesus Christ." With a quick flick of her wrist, Lois plunges into the next lane, and Clark breathes out sharply. "He *told* you that?"
"I’m pretty sure he know who I was," Clark answers, closing his eyes again. He'll be better able to concentrate if he isn't pretty sure he's going to die. "He's been working with them--Cassius says to cure them. Since he is a geneticist--"
"Yes, he'd have the creds. Hmm." Leaning an arm on the window, Lois surveys the highway like her own personal driving range. "He and Rhinestadt have been meeting a lot more than a geneticist and a theoretical astrophysicist should under normal circumstances. Even ones employed by LexCorp. Some email here, some letters there--"
"How'd you find out--"
"Dad's old Marine buddies. One's a pilot for NASA, the other's--not." The corner of her mouth twists. "Dad, of course, acted like I'd just asked to sell the country out to the Nazis, but he did say that Rhinestadt's been a very busy man the last year or two. Nearly disappeared, in fact, between LexCorp and NASA."
Clark catches the tail end of something like frustration. "He's liaison, isn't he?"
Lois sighs softly. "That would explain a lot. His clearance, by the way, is higher than Dad's. Than, in fact, anyone I could get to talk to me." Her pause is thoughtful. "Lots of equipment being moved around, very carefully. I know shuttles and computer systems, and I can recognize most disassembled weapons on sight, Smallville. None of what I saw being moved looked anything like that." Her mouth tightens. "But I saw the people moving it, and ten to one they're LexCorp employees."
Leaning back in his seat, Clark considers. "So there's a meteor shower--and you didn't get anything out of Rhinestadt?"
"A lesson in Einstein's relativity and how commoners just didn't understand it, along with some grandstanding about his education and impeccable background. He shut up when I asked about his LexCorp contract. So working theory--they're worried about the meteor shower. Enough to contact LexCorp and set up something. I guess get hold of Luthor's weapons or something. The thing is--why aren't they moving this stuff to the space station? I know they have weapons capability up there--it'd be smarter to shoot from space. No atmospheric problems, better sight."
"How do you know they aren't?"
"If they are, it's nowhere in Atlanta or Houston." Lois tosses him a grin that makes him wish she'd keep her eyes on the road. They're going very fast. "I checked every log and had Jimmy ask around in Atlanta. Very long day." Straightening in the seat, Lois leans a hand on her elbow, glancing through traffic like she would a collection of Ralph Lauren sweaters. "Nothing not logged already. Nothing unusual in the cargo. And the stuff I saw would be unusual."
Nodding, Clark lets his eyes open briefly. Oh good, they're exiting into his neighborhood. Survived again.
"So--they're worried about the meteor shower. LexCorp would be interested, since it specializes in meteor rock experimentation, whether they admit it or not." With a quick turn, Lois speeds into the parking lot of Clark's apartment complex, spinning to a stop beside his old Ford. "You need a new car."
"After I pay off that damn suit," Clark grumbles, undoing the seatbelt and getting out. God, better. Staying in one position too long just hurts. Seeing Lois' grin, Clark flushes again. "Okay, I asked Jimmy--"
"Yeah, he told me. He's staying an extra couple of days, has some friends from MIT in town he'll get drunk and talk to, a couple who are pretty close to Rhinestadt in academic circles. Scientists are easy marks." Grinning, Lois locks her car and circles around to the trunk, opening it up and taking out her bag and coat. Grinning at him over the trunk, Lois tilts her head. "What's Cassius thing?"
Clark considers. "He knows when you're sick."
The smile fades. "Jesus." Shaking her head, she slams the trunk closed, and Clark follows her to the stairs. Third floor, corner that views the skyline pretty well. Clark keys them both in, deadbolting behind. "Has Luthor tapped you yet?"
Clark grins. "Not yet. I checked when I came home to change. My phone might be bugged, though."
Lois snorts. "Good to know his MO with new lovers hasn't changed." Tossing her bag on the smaller couch, she kicks off her shoes, stretching out slowly. "God, I hate flying. Okay, so. How was Luthor?"
Clark stumbles as he walks into the tiny kitchen, half turning to watch the dark eyes fix on him with unmistakable intent.
"I'm not telling--"
"I have, I do, and you love it. Spill."
He can't help grinning. Going to the refrigerator, he gets out two bottles of water, walking back over to the couch and lifting her feet to sit down. Handing her a bottle, he turns her right foot and gently begins to massage the arch. The sound she makes is--really hot.
"We had a good time." Clark rubs his thumb into the arch again, watching her eyes glaze slightly, pushing her foot harder into his hands. "We had lunch, doctor's appointment, sex. You know him."
"I know him," she agrees. "But considering he took weeks to get around to letting me anywhere *near* the penthouse after we started dating--probably to make sure nothing incriminating was lying about--I'd love to know why I woke you up this morning there."
"How do you know I was there?"
Lois makes a bland sweep of the living room. "When I called you earlier, you didn't say you were at home." Another sharp grin, then she pushes her foot into his unmoving hand and twists the cap off the bottle. "More. My feet hurt."
"Right." Going back to work, Clark leans into the worn cushions of his couch, wondering what to tell her. "We had fun."
"You got laid."
"Very." Oh God, very. Shaking his head a little, Clark runs his thumb down to her heel, then back up to the pad of her foot, gently massaging. "Have you ever--have you ever had one of those nights where everything went exactly like you always dreamed? Like--like someone hotwired themselves into your fantasy life and did everything, told you everything you ever wanted to hear?"
"My nightmares? Yes. But never my fantasy life." But she levered herself up pushing another cushion behind her back. "Clark--"
"I asked about you and him, okay?"
"Oh." Clark tries to check her expression, but she's doing that perfect mask again, the one like Lex's, the one that makes him remember again that, like Lex, her childhood hadn't been that great. They have, he thinks, a lot in common in their problems with their fathers. "What did you want to know? I would have told you, Clark."
Clark shrugs. "I--don't know."
"Still jealous? After all this time?"
Jerking his gaze around, Clark fixes on the impossibly dark eyes. No smile, nothing, just calm acceptance. "I wasn't--"
"Clark. I didn't get to be the best reporter in Metropolis, if not the country, by not paying attention." Making a soft noise, she takes a drink of water, gazing thoughtfully into the bottle as if it has all the world's best secrets ready for publishing. "After you became my partner, Lex wouldn't come to the newspaper anymore."
"I--didn't know that."
"He thought I didn't notice either." Shrugging, she takes another drink. "I asked you and you said there was nothing between you."
"Funny, he said the same thing." Putting the half-empty bottle of water down, Lois folds her hands on her stomach. "Ask me what you asked him."
"Why did you break up?"
"Because Lex wanted everything. Wants everything." It's the first time he remembers her using his name. "Because somewhere in his head is this idea of what his life should be, and I couldn't fit into that. And when I knew I couldn't, I had to leave."
"Were you in love with him?"
Taking a deep breath, Clark looks down at the foot resting innocently in his lap. Lois, his best friend, confidante, former enabler of Superman, mentor. Lex's ex. His life's never going to be simple. "It's not--"
"Do you remember the day we met?"
Clark jerks his head up, but Lois is examining her nailpolish for flaws. "Yes. Why?"
"We argued and then you went off and got the Superman interview just to spite me." Her eyes dance when she looks up. "When Lex saw me at dinner, he laughed himself sick. Scared the waiter to death. Do you know what he told me?"
"I'm scared to ask."
"Learn to share." Grinning, she leans back into the cushions, watching his face.
Clark runs his fingertips absently over the tops of her feet, shaking his head sharply. "He--I never told him. About Superman. He figured it out--I don't know when--"
"About a month before we broke up," Lois says, like he should know this. Clark blinks, staring at her. "If I were guessing Lex's motivations for the sudden and inexplicable need to have me change jobs *and* get married when we'd barely negotiated when we'd be sleeping over and where." Flicking a nail at him, Lois smiles, but it fades slowly, seriously.
"You were still at MetU when Lex and I started dating, so you probably don't remember a lot of the media frenzy. It's going to get worse for you, what with the guy thing. Frankly, I'm surprised he's being so open about it, especially with the senatorial races approaching. Third party candidacy is always a long shot, even with his money and popularity." Running her nails across the back of the couch, Lois considers. "You remember how careful he was with his last wife, right?" Clark nods. Not even a hint until the wedding was announced. "You're an investigative reporter, not a society reporter, so this is going to go a little differently than what you're used to. I've worked every department at least once, so lets cover this now. No interviews, I don't care what they promise, Clark. You're a Daily Planet reporter, my partner, and Lex Luthor's new interest. Those three things guarantee they'll be looking for shit on you. Do not comment on anything they say. Lex can handle photographers well enough, but he can't watch you twenty-four seven, though God knows, he tried with me." Snorting, Lois waves a hand at the futility of anyone thinking she couldn't handle herself. Clark has to agree. "In any case, you've been on the writing side, not the written-on side." Lois snickers. "You're going to hate reporters soon."
Clark laughed softly. "I can handle myself."
"I know." Her smile fades again. "I just want you ready. The Inquisitor follows Luthor like a vengeful ex-girlfriend, and with just that level of friendliness. Chloe's not going to talk, but anything she's said to Daniel about you is fair game. He has the ethics of a hungry shark and even less tact." Tapping a nail thoughtfully into the cushion, Lois frowns. "Normally, I'd say let Chloe do one interview to start things off--something positive and friendly, but my instincts say no." And Lois' instincts are flawless. Clark makes a mental note to ask her why later. "Lex's staff is incorruptible--we both know that--but your neighbors, friends, anyone else…." She leaves off with a long look, meaning plain.
"I can handle this."
"I know. I just wish Lex didn't show such uncharacteristic openness this fast. I had a few weeks to get used to the idea of being stalked before everything went public. Where are you going tonight?"
"Opera." Clark barely flushes. "Mom went to school with one of the sopranos or something and Lex thought I'd like to meet her while she's in town."
"You need a tuxedo." Lois, always ready with clothing advice.
"Lex ordered me one. It's supposed to be delivered here. Hopefully after the pizza." Clark grins as she pushes a heel into his thigh and starts rubbing her left foot again.
"So you out tonight?"
Now he blushes and Lois laughs. "I'll take that as a yes. My apartment was fumigated while I was gone. You care if I crash here?"
"Go ahead." Clark frowns a little. "Jimmy said he'd email--"
"I broke your passwords years ago. I'll check and see what comes up. Did you get the analysis back from the Fortress on Rhinestadt?"
Clark blinks in surprise. "Yeah, but I haven't done much more than skim it. Just basically, yeah, he's nervous, yeah, he's leaving something out, and he was sweating more than the average human of his size and fat to muscle ratio." Sighing, Clark slumps into the couch. "I wish I'd taught it to be more user friendly. You're welcome to chat with it. I sent the coordinates of the meteor shower, and it's been watching its approach, though the stuff isn't in range yet. Too much interference or something for anything other than there are a lot of big rocks."
Lois nods slowly, relaxing into the couch.
"If it's just to avoid panic--" Lois says softly, and Clark's head comes up sharply. She has that line between her brows, and she's fingering her bracelet. "I can get why they're not public if they're worried about another Smallville situation, but--"
"But?" He rubs his thumb into her arch meaningfully and gets a little kick in response.
"But. I'm thinking. I don't know. Cassius, who comes on board, what--"
"Two years ago." Clark watches her straighten.
"Around the same time as Rhinestadt?" The dark eyes light up. "One doctor with a background in genetics who specializes in meteor mutants and runs Luthor's lab. One astrophysicist with a thing for wanting to know all about Superman." Lois' eyes glaze over. "Do you think Luthor's sharing the meteor mutant information with the government? What could happen if it is more Kryptonite that's going to hit?" The dark eyes narrow. "Or how to deliberately get--"
"Get useful mutations. Interesting ones." Human experimentation, Clark's worst nightmare in two simple words. He lets a breath out, falling into the couch again, Lois' feet forgotten. Lex said--but right, this is Lex, ambitious beyond words and not exactly moral in any sense Clark's ever heard of. "Lois--" It catches on the back of his throat, words he can't say, and his stomach turns over. He doesn't want to think. Lex wouldn't-- "Lois--no."
Lois looks up, wary. "Smallville--"
"No. Lex *is* one. So is Cassius. He wouldn't risk himself like that, and Cassius sure as hell wouldn't--" Clark watches Lois' expression turn thoughtful. "I'm betting that the government still doesn't know about the effects on Smallville. Lex did a pretty thorough clean-up the second he had enough resources and somewhere to store it. We would have heard about investigations in Smallville, disappearances. Nothing." Lex wouldn't let that information out at the most basic mercenary level--that's his edge, or one of them. He wouldn't risk it.
Lois nods slowly, lifting a thumbnail to chew absently, a long-broken childhood habit. She only does that when she's thinking hard. She's too proud of her nails otherwise. "But this isn't a coincidence, Clark." Straightening, the stockinged feet are pulled free of his lap. "Okay, your black shoes, the ones I got you from Saks? Those for tonight. Bring them here and let me make sure they look okay. God alone knows what you do to your clothes."
And lo, Lois switches mood like no one's business. He's not fooled. Somewhere in her mind is a huge game of connect the dots going on. She'll be glad when he's gone so she can concentrate, Clark thinks with a grin.
"My wallet's on the counter," Clark says. "Pizza should be here any minute. I'd better shower."
She waves a hand absently, reaching for her carry-on and unzipping it, pulling out her laptop. He watches her turn it on, already pulling up notes. "Run along. I want to go over a few more things before you go. Hurry."
"Aye aye, Captain." He laughs at her smirk and stretches, wondering if those shoes are still okay. They'd had a run in with a muddy field in Smallville a while back. With a little sigh, Clark pushes open his bedroom door and wonders what the opera will be like.
Happy New Year's Eve! We have a marvelous array of alcohol in the house. This pleases me except for the implication that many people will be here to drink it.
I need to find a nice dress to wear. Why jeans aren't acceptable, I cannot imagine. *sighs*
*edited to correct link