Courier

by LaT



Notes: I originally started writing this in response to the CLex Typography Challenge, but the idea for the relationship constellation depicted here came to me several months ago. The story itself stalled for a while, then Season Two ended and for some reason that helped kicked it into gear. It's not an actual challenge response, though, because it's more Lex-y than CLex-y. Still, the idea of the challenge appealed to me.

Disclaimers, et al.: Smallville and its characters aren't mine. If they were, they'd probably have on-screen love scenes more often. Rated R for language, sexual content and mature themes.

Spoilers: For Heat and Exodus.

Summary: Settled scores and second chances sometimes come in the most unlikely of packages.

Feedback: Is always a pleasant surprise. Ship it off to LaT96@comcast.net.

==

Courier
by LaT
June 2003

Thinking back on it, she realized there wasn't anything to suggest that day would be different from all the others. The inside of her cell was still more spacious than she knew she deserved, the window still low enough to see to the world outside but thick enough there was no way she'd ever break through it. She'd tried a couple of times, in the first few weeks after being brought there, and got nothing but sore shoulders and a sprained wrist for her efforts.

The chairs with their broken legs were always replaced within the hour or at least by the time the sedatives they used had worn off and after the sixth try, she'd given up. Looking back on those first weeks, she knew it had simply been instinct, trying to get away. She wouldn't have it better than she did now. Whatever strings had been pulled to keep her out of a real jail cell and whatever price she'd eventually have to pay her benefactor, it was worth it to not have to share her space or herself in the general prison population of Kansas. Her abilities aside - or maybe because of them - she was a loner at heart, other people more useful to her than anything else. She honestly didn't mind the solitary nature of her existence and after four years of it, sometimes wondered if she even remembered how to interact with people who wanted to do more than observe and test her.

The precautions they took with her made her smile when she thought about them. Women were the only ones allowed in the same room with her and even then, they never quite got close enough to kiss unless she was in some kind of restraints. When the doctors or researchers or whatever they were were men, they asked their questions from behind a clear, six-inch thick wall of plexiglass protection and they always cleared out completely before she was moved again. She may have been a prisoner of one kind or another, but there was fear behind how they acted around her, the tentative confidence of animal trainers who know that if the tiger really wants to maul you, the chair and whip aren't going to do you a damned bit of good.

They watched her like they knew she was always plotting and that staying on their toes around her was a matter of life and death. It amused her to no end because while it probably should have been true and maybe was once upon a time, it wasn't any more. She had nowhere to go, nothing to do or be, and she'd never actually liked what she had to do to make her way in life.

Well. Almost never.

Sometimes, when the sun hung low and especially hot outside her window, it reminded her of the one time she hadn't minded so much, and of the miscalculations that had sealed her fate. She wasn't big on regrets, but sometimes, she thought she could have played that one differently. Could have played it better and smarter and finally been able to stand still.

Maybe standing still was what her strange acceptance now was all about. She wondered at times if there wasn't something wrong with her that she no longer felt any real humiliation at being poked and prodded, at having bodily fluids from sweat to blood taken as samples, or sometimes being asked questions you'd only expect to hear in an extra-racy game of Truth or Dare. What should bother her didn't any more. What did bother her was never of consequence and always easily rectified.

Even her freedom had never been that straightforward.

A sharp knock pulled her attention to the door. They all had keys and could come and go as they pleased, but the small nods to what privacy she did have were appreciated.

"Come in." It was more reflex than actual permission.

The woman who entered the room was new and Desiree instinctively bristled. She never realized how much she liked routine until something happened to disrupt it. Her visitor was tall and sleek, the black pantsuit tailored to within an inch of its life, fitting in ways that made it clear the body beneath was a strong one. Desiree felt herself take a step back. The woman's thick, straight blonde hair was pulled away from her face and done in a single braid like a length of rope down her back, the severity of the style matched by the look on her face. She was pretty in a hard, sharp way. When she spoke, her low voice was clipped and professional.

"Put your shoes on. If there's anything you absolutely have to bring with you, pack it now, although you'll find everything you need when we get to where we're going."

Desiree didn't move. "Where are we going?" She may have gotten complacent, but she would never be stupid.

"Somewhere else." The woman did something that made her seem even taller. "I don't have the time to play Twenty Questions with you. Let's just say that if I meant you harm, you'd already be in pain. Now. Put on your shoes, get whatever you want to bring with you and let's go."

The door was still open and for a spilt second, the thought of making a run for it crossed Desiree's mind. There was no way she was getting past her Amazon of a visitor, though, even with the best Lowell County street-fighting techniques newly fresh in her mind. She couldn't tell if it was a good or bad sign that her ever-watchful regular guardians were nowhere in sight, but if this was a run-of-the-mill kidnapping, she figured her kidnapper wouldn't tell her to bring whatever she needed to be comfortable. At best, it was something different; at worst, well, at least she knew how to put up a fight.

She put on shoes she could run in but hesitated at the door of the closet, trying to be sure there was nothing she truly needed. She could practically feel her visitor's impatience, radiating in waves at her back, and she decided, closing the door.

"Let's go."

They stepped into the hall where striking black woman with the same tall, athletic build and wearing the same sharply tailored suit as the blonde waited. A telephone headset curved around her ear and she spoke into the mouthpiece. "Bring the car around. We're ready."

Walking between them, Desiree kept her eyes straight ahead. The place she'd been kept had always been so quiet she wondered if she was the only one there, but this was the first time it had felt that way. Fear spiked through her. What if these two had killed everyone else? What if there was now no one, anywhere, who knew she'd ever been here? Her body readied itself to run as soon as they got to the front doors, but she reminded herself that if they had guns, running wouldn't do her any good.

The corridors seemed endless, their spotless, antiseptic white walls doing zero to soothe her. It didn't help that her companions didn't talk to her or each other and Desiree cursed herself for so nonchalantly walking into what could be her own death.

"Stop." The blonde. Before Desiree could ask why, the other one moved, lightning fast, and tied a blindfold around her head. She got in roughly two seconds of struggle before she felt the warm press of metal at her throat. "Don't make me have to shoot you. Our employer wants to talk to you as soon as we get where we're going, but if I have to take you down, it'll be hours before you wake up. That will make him unhappy. When he's unhappy, I'm unhappy. So play nice."

Desiree forced herself to go still and relax, to let herself be steered outside where it was sunny and hot on her skin and the air smelled of spring. Then, a cool inside, where the rich scent of leather curled around her, where the leather itself was supple under her hand. A car, probably expensive, and at least she was going wherever she was headed in style.

"Where are you taking me?" she asked, aiming for and nailing her haughtiest tone of voice.

"Somewhere else."

"I gathered that, thanks," she said, testing to see if flippant would earn her a slap or other physical upbraid of some kind, but her escorts - captors? - responded with silence. One of them was beside her but the voice that answered her question came from opposite her, facing her. They must have been in a limousine.

"How long?" If they weren't going to hit her every time she got demanding but didn't struggle, it made sense to try and find out as much as she could.

"Long enough."

Or not.

She sat back, resenting the comfortable ride on principle. It was impossible to tell how long it took; it could have been one hour, it could have been several and she forced herself to stay awake. The women never spoke, to her or each other, probably to keep from giving anything away.

The car finally stopped. When the door opened it was cool enough to be nighttime, but Desiree didn't think they'd been driving quite that long. The hand at her elbow was firm but gentle. "We're here. Come on."

She was led down what felt like a long hall, and hustled onto an elevator. With her eyes closed, the steady, lengthy ascension made her dizzy. Wherever they were headed was somewhere high, a penthouse office or apartment, and despite her impatience, annoyance and the tiny slivers of fear, Desiree was curious about what waited for her when she got there.

The elevator pinged and the whoosh of the doors opening told her it wouldn't be much longer before she found out. Several more steps in darkness, then she was stopped again, felt a light pressure at the back of her head as the blindfold was undone. She opened her eyes to a bedroom easily ten times the size of her holding cell. An entire wall was nothing but floor-to-ceiling windows, allowing a spectacular view of a city skyline kissed with the rich hues of a setting sun.

There would be no jumping out the window to freedom today.

A bed that could sleep at least five people with no difficulty stood to her left, raised at a slight angle on a dais, covers the color of blood. The richly pale leather furniture looked like it could swallow her whole, the shapes modern and stylish in a way that felt vaguely familiar. Desiree dismissed it as the trick of an overworked imagination and stepped further inside. Even with shoes on she could tell the carpet was plush and deep, its creamy color showing no signs of wear and tear. It wasn't a room that "belonged" to anyone.

She started at the blonde woman's voice. She'd been so busy taking in her surroundings she forgot she wasn't alone. "The bathroom is through that door," and the blonde pointed to the right as she spoke, "and the closet is through there." She indicated an opening on of the other side of the bed. "We'll be back to get you in an hour."

She turned around quickly as they moved to the door. "Who are you taking me to see?" The blonde kept walking, but the black woman glanced back with an expression Desiree couldn't begin to read, before closing the door with an audible click. Desiree suspected it was pointless, but she tried turning the knob anyway, only to confirm she'd been locked in.

"Fuck." It echoed back to her, bouncing off the endless stretch of glass panes. She sat down right where she'd been standing, several hours' worth of tension draining out of her all at once. It was useless to panic; she'd never been able to think clearly when she was worked up. She closed her eyes, took several deep breaths and went back over what she understood.

Fact: Whoever had her didn't want to kill her. Too much trouble and care was taken to get her here and Desiree knew enough about human desire to know she was wanted for something. Fact: Whoever had her hadn't wanted her to know where she'd been, or where she was.... yet. That probably meant a connection to where she'd been and definitely meant no way to get help, if it was needed, to where she was. Fact: Whoever had her might know what she was capable of. Female bodyguards weren't the norm, and Desiree had no doubt that the women who'd come to get her were bodyguards of some type.

So, she did have some advantages. She was wanted for something and her host might have concluded she could be dangerous. Those thoughts made her feel better, made it easy for her to pull herself together. She took another deep breath and stood up, then moved to the bathroom and ....

The blonde hadn't been kidding when she'd said "everything you'll need." The bathroom was a small palace, the tub practically big enough to swim laps, all manner of expensive toiletries lined up on the marble vanity. The linen closet was a walk-in, towel sets thick, plush and in a range of colors. She took her time in the bathtub, sliding beneath the warm, soapy water again and again, letting the tension melt away. She needed to be in control to meet her host, needed to have her wits about her.

She dried off with a towel the same deep wine color of the bedding, then made her way to the closet. Like the bathroom, it was spacious enough to house a small family. Another wave of nerves washed over her when she realized the clothes were all perfectly sized for her and in the vibrant colors and smooth, flowing fabrics she loved.

Whoever had her definitely knew her, Desiree was certain of it. Which made her a little less certain of her safety.

Her fingers wrapped around the silk of a skirt and Desiree decided that whatever the deal was, it was time to face it head-on. She'd always been as good at improvising as she was at planning and she had more than one trick at her disposal for getting the upper hand in things.

She selected her outfit carefully, a long skirt with a delicate pattern to emphasize her lines, a fitted camisole top - deep red, the color of blood, of desire - to emphasize her curves. Expensive Italian perfume at the hollow of her throat and behind her ears, the whole thing topped off with a signature Chanel color on her lips.

She was ready, looking out at the skyline, when the women came to get her. It wasn't a long walk at all, down a wide hall bathed in late afternoon light. They left her alone in a office decorated in the same sleekly modern style as the bedroom. The glass desk with its silver accessories delivered another sharp hit of deja vu. There was a wall of windows behind the desk and in the distance, she could make out the Daily Planet globe.

Metropolis, then, and Desiree felt eyes on her at almost the exact instant the possible identity of her host clicked into place. She tossed her hair once for good measure before turning around. She hadn't heard him, but he was leaning in the doorway watching her, his expression unreadable.

Desiree hadn't seen Lex in four years, but it could have been yesterday for all that he hadn't truly changed. Skin still smooth and pale as cream, features still an uncommon mix of sharp and soft. Only his eyes seemed different, the light in them colder somehow. When they were together his eyes had glinted warm and teasing in a way that made it easy for her to pretend.

He was still the only mark she'd never had to fake an orgasm with.

As her eyes swept over his body - long and lean as she remembered, wrapped in fitted, basic black - she flashed on the last time they were together, his face full of righteous fury as he got off the floor and stalked towards her. She never pegged him for a hitter, but the look in his eyes had been lethal as he came at her. In the here and now he looked too calm for her to feel completely safe and she glanced at the desktop, hoping for a letter-opener or something sharp she could get to in a hurry.

Lex's chuckle was low and soft. "No attempted murder today, I'm sorry." He pushed himself off the doorframe as she puzzled over whether he was referring to her or to himself. "I was hoping we could talk."

He moved over to the bar. "Something to drink?"

It was tempting, but her nerves were enough on edge to make it a bad idea. Sharpness was more important than ever now that she knew who she was dealing with. She shook her head.

Lex shrugged. "Suit yourself." He poured himself a brandy. "I trust Mercy and Hope were hospitable on the way here."

She nodded despite the fact he wasn't quite looking at her. It hadn't really been a question.

He turned to face her completely, looking her up and down with slow, unapologetic appreciation. "You look good."

It came out sounding like a purr and Desiree saw her chance. Unfinished business was a powerful aphrodisiac. One last touch, one last chance to make things better or right was a lure most people couldn't resist. Lex Luthor wasn't most people by any stretch, but there were some things to which even he wasn't immune.

She'd leave him alive and whole this time. Greed had gotten the better of her before, but she wouldn't make the same mistake again. All it would take was a hyper-dose and she could have him arrange it so she'd never have to worry about money and she'd have the freedom to enjoy that security.

She returned his lazy once-over, moving to stand in front of him. "So do you," she said, "although I'll admit I'm surprised you're being so ...."

"Gracious?" His smile was sharp enough to draw blood. She had always liked his mouth and the only reason she'd never told him she thought he was beautiful was because she didn't intend for them to last.

Desiree moved in closer. "Yes," she answered, breathing in his vaguely spicy scent. "More than I deserve, I know."

His eyes dropped to half-mast and his smile softened, got more languid. She trailed her fingers up his arm and went in for the kill. This was the part she loved, the precise rush of power through her veins, a force she could feel under her skin, in the throb of blood in her ears, in the pulse of it between her legs.

His lips were already parted when she kissed him, his tongue hungry and insistent as it moved over hers to stroke along the roof of her mouth like he was chasing her taste. Body memory took over and she didn't fight when he pulled her closer, one hand settling in the small of her back as the other tangled in her hair and she'd .... forgotten how well he could kiss, the way he took over like he was laying claim.

The hand at her back tugged her close to settle in the cradle of his hips. She could feel the proof of her power in the hard heat between his legs. She couldn't help but smile and suck a little harder on his tongue.

Gotcha.

Desiree pulled back slowly from the kiss, ready to bask in the hazy-eyed look of lust that always came over her marks after the first boost of power. She liked them best in that first moment, when they looked at her like she was a goddess they were only too happy to worship.

Lex .... didn't look like that at all, the blue-grey eyes slightly narrowed and practically twinkling with what could only be called amusement. She tried to take a step back but his hold was strong and firm. Panic bloomed anew as the significance of his non-reaction struck her with full force.

"You .... son of a bitch." His grip tightened to the point of being painful, and okay, maybe disparaging remarks about his lineage weren't the way to go. She was angry and cornered, her hopes of getting out of this with a terrific little nest-egg dying right before her eyes. She needed a back-up plan, pronto.

"How did you ...."

"Please." Lex didn't roll his eyes, but if a tone of voice could be the equivalent, his nailed it. "You didn't really think all those tests were because your keepers had nothing better to do with their time, did you?"

She heard the slap before she realized she'd raised her hand to hit him. Confinement was fair enough - she had tried to kill him after all - but treating her like a goddamned lab rat apparently was another matter entirely.

Her hand hurt.

Lex laughed, throaty and smug and, God help her, sexy, and it was all she could do not to slap him again.

"That's my girl," he said, fingers rubbing in a slow circle on her back. "I suppose I deserve it, affront to your dignity it was, but look at it this way." He stopped smiling, face suddenly hard and cold. "At least I never let them set you on fire."

She did struggle then, pushing against his broad shoulders, trying to use her weight to break his grasp. He indulged her for all of three seconds before grabbing a handful of hair and yanking her head back so hard she was surprised her neck didn't snap.

"Desiree." The sharpness with which he said her name startled her into going still. There was power in his voice, the confidence of someone who knew the tables couldn't be turned and it pulled her up short with realization.

He was immune to her. There was nothing she could make him do if he didn't want to do it. He was the son of one of the wealthiest men in the world and a very wealthy man in his own right. He'd been responsible for both her confinement and her freedom and as the day's earlier cloak and dagger routine was no doubt meant to prove, if he wanted to get rid of her, all he had to do was say the word and no one would be the wiser.

There were two ways she could play this - smart or stupid. She was a lot of things, most of them not particularly good, but one thing she wasn't was stupid.

"What?" she asked, willing herself to relax in his arms. "What do you want?"

The grip in her hair went slack and the hand at her back started up its lazy stroking. "Many, many things, but at the moment, I'd like your assistance with something."

Amazing how he made it sound as though she had any kind of real choice. She rolled her eyes.

"Oh, now, there's no need for skepticism." Lex slid his hand beneath the fabric of her top, long fingers hot on her skin.

She had always liked his hands.

"Naturally, I'll make it worth your while," his hand moved further up her back and there was no mistaking that it was a caress when her skin actually started to tingle.

He leaned in, nuzzled her throat, breath soft and warm behind her ear, tickling her. "And if you don't try to betray me - again - I'll even let you live to enjoy your questionably gotten gains." He licked the shell of her ear and pulled back, making her shiver from twin spikes of arousal and revulsion. And just like that, he let go of her, hands sliding into his pockets.

Desiree considered him, this sleek, powerful man who, at the moment, was perfectly capable of playing God with her. She flashed on the memory of his face as he rose from that floor, hell-bent on doing her harm. She understood the warning about double-crossing him was no idle threat. That she was here at all was her second chance; there would be no others.

Smart or stupid, she thought again, and if anyone could set her up like a cat in cream for the rest of her life without breaking a sweat, it was Lex. She made her choice.

"What do I have to do?"


In the end, it proved surprisingly easy to accomplish. A new wardrobe of suits - elegant cuts and killer fabrics, all of them costing more than the last car she ever drove - and an identity and background befitting a world class power-broker. The last was necessary, Lex said - even if the former was enough to get her close - unless she could guarantee getting the job done in one meeting.

"It doesn't quite work that way," she said, before sucking a bruise onto Lex's hip. "Not for that level of persuasion. I need at least two whole days." She licked the tips of his fingers when he brushed them across her mouth. "It takes a higher than average dose."

Apparently, when he was in his right mind, Lex never missed a beat. "You've done this before," he said, cocking a pale eyebrow and clicking his tongue in mock disapproval.

Desiree kissed the bruise and slid back up his body to straddle him. "My boyfriend at the time of the meteor shower wasn't exactly a peach." She shifted against Lex, smiled when he took her hips in his hands to steady her as she guided his cock inside.

"He hit me sometimes. When he was drunk or pissed off."

She rolled her hips, and ancient rhythm Lex took up in counterpoint beneath her. She could tell him this because she knew he wouldn't pity her. "A few weeks after I figured out how my power worked, he came after me because he thought I was screwing around on him with one of his friends."

"Were you?" Lex asked between panting breaths.

Desiree pressed down, raised herself, then shimmied down again. "Ironically, no." She pumped herself on him in earnest for a long stretch of time where the only sound between them was ragged breathing and noisy moans.

"What did you do?" he asked before orgasm caught up with him. She rode it out, fascinated all over again at the mix of pleasure and almost-pain on his face. With the exception of when he kissed her, it was the only time during sex he ever closed his eyes. When he opened them again, they shone with mischief and curiosity.

His thumb moved in slow, insinuating circles over and around her clit but she knew he wouldn't make her come until she told him.

Brat.

She leaned forward and down, her hair a curtain around their heads, another layer of false but pleasurable intimacy.

"I dosed him steadily over a weekend," she breathed against Lex's throat, the tell-tale pressure starting to build, "then I told him that if he really loved me, he'd want to be with me forever." She started to tremble, Lex's busy hand somehow frantic and in control all at once. "I told him .... I told him to go first...." She moaned, blatant and needy. So, so close. "And I would follow." There was sweat in every crease in her body and she breathed out the rest of the story right before she came. "I didn't even have to give him the gun."


Metropolis Journal
May 29, 2007

BUSINESS WORLD STUNNED BY SUICIDE OF LUTHOR CORP CEO by Chloe Sullivan

The Metropolis business community was reeling Monday after it was announced that Lionel Luthor, the 58-year-old president and CEO of Luthor Corp., committed suicide sometime late Friday afternoon. Almost as shocking was a preliminary medical examiner's report, leaked late yesterday, which revealed the seemingly healthy tycoon suffered from an extremely rare form of cancer that had apparently reached an untreatable stage.

Reached for comment at the Luthor family estate, Lex Luthor, the 27-year-old heir apparent to the multi-billion dollar corporation and mogul in his own right would only offer his hope that the media would allow both him and the Luthor Corp family the time and space to grieve the tragic loss of his father. The younger Luthor further indicated that any decisions about the future of the corporation would be made and announced in due time.

The news of the senior Luthor's death marks the second unfortunate blow to strike the conglomerate in as many weeks. On May 21st, Luthor Corp lost a multi-million dollar contract with the Hyperion Genetics Laboratory and Research Center to Damascene Technologies, a deal that could have netted Luthor Corp several hundred million dollars in profits. Inside sources placed the loss of the deal directly at the feet of Lionel Luthor, who failed to attend no less than two high priority meetings with the movers and shakers of Hyperion. Sources said the oversights made it possible for Damascene to swoop in and stage a coup.

When asked if the collapse of the Hyperion deal contributed in any way to the senior Luthor's decision to take his own life, long-time Luthor Corp employee Dominic Senatori dismissed such supposition as "nonsense."(Story continued on page 3)

Desiree finished the Journal article just as the flight attendant announced their departure for Morocco. She was flying commercial first class - Lex may have been true to his word on payment but that didn't mean she trusted him implicitly. The article yielded a few details she hadn't known: That Lex had been missing and presumed dead for six months after a plane crash that claimed the life of the second Mrs. Alexander J. Luthor; that there'd been a second Mrs. Lex Luthor; that as a result of the younger Luthor's miraculous survival his often tempestuous relationship with Lionel Luthor had greatly improved; and, the pair had been expected to announce plans to work on a joint venture at the end of the month.

There were no clues as to why her particular brand of assistance had been sought, though Desiree had to smile at Lex's cleverness. Of course no suspicion would fall on the contrite son who'd finally come to heel of his own accord. There was definitely a story to be had, if a body knew where to look. It wasn't just about inheritance and birthright, though. Lex hadn't simply wanted his father dead; he wanted Lionel humiliated and weak before it happened, so besotted he couldn't tear himself away from Desiree for those all-important meetings, so blind with lust he didn't care what missing them had cost him. Lex was the only person aside from her who knew the truth behind Lionel's negligence.

"Would you care for something to drink?" The flight attendant cheerily asked.

With a final glance at the Journal's headline, Desiree ordered a glass of champagne. She may not have known the why of it, but she could still congratulate herself on a job well done.

Epilogue

By the time she visited Istanbul, Desiree admitted to herself that retirement was boring. She was a grifter at heart it seemed, and it looked like she actively enjoyed the game. It was time to do something about that.

She fished her phone out of her bag and settled back in her chair, sunshine wrapping itself around her as she sat by the side of the pool. While she waited for the call to connect, she ran her fingers through her hair . It was time to get it done again. She'd liked the coppery auburn color Lex had insisted on for their plan, an extra detail intended to catch his father's eye. It made her feel sophisticated so she decided to keep it.

To her surprise, the call clicked through. She hadn't expected the number to work.

"Enjoying your whirlwind tour of, well, the world?" Lex's voice was low and amused, its warmth unaccountably making her smile.

"Yes and no."

"I'm sorry to hear that." There was a strange pause followed by a softly wet sound and laughter. He wasn't alone. "But I'll admit to being confused as to what that has to do with me."

"I have a proposition for you," she said, ignoring the urge to ask who was with him.

"I'm listening."

"Let's just say that if you were interested in .... securing my assistance in a more .... regular capacity, I .... could be persuaded that would be a good idea."

She'd never admit the offer was partly driven by being tired of worrying about when he was going to have her killed. If she was actually useful to him, made herself of value, he had no excuse for treating her like surplus.

"Could you now?" She could feel the smirk.

"Think of me as a modern-day ...."

"Mata Hari? Courier of desire and useful information?"

"Something like that."

There was another pause, followed by a throatier, fuller laugh. "I sincerely hope your plan isn't to throw that on me while I'm on the phone."

Briefly, she could make out the sounds of a struggle, then a different yet familiar voice was speaking in her ear.

"Whoever you are, Lex is on vacation and you only have one more minute before he's forced to hang up on you!"

It was Desiree's turn to smirk. So Lex had finally caught a clue that his farmboy best friend wanted to be more.

Lex was back on the phone. "Whatever wry observation you're thinking of making .... don't."

"I'm just surprised it took you so long."

"Well, there were a number of road-blocks."

"And now?"

"There aren't."

"Lucky you."

"Indeed."

There were both silent for a moment. If he was interested, he wouldn't want to come off as eager. She didn't want to come off as begging. She took a few sips of her drink before asking in her most casual tone, "well? What do you think?"

"It has .... potential. Of course, there are ground rules to work out."

"Of course."

"Loyalty is both expected and required." The unspoken promise that disloyalty would be punished hung in the silence before she answered.

"Of course."

"Your minute is up," Clark called warningly in the background.

"Leave your arrival information on my voice-mail. Hope will pick you up from the airport and we can work out the terms."

She smiled. "I'll see you, then."

Lex laughed again. "Yes. I guess you will." The call ended.

Desiree closed her eyes and titled her face up to the sun. She could certainly do worse in life than getting paid well for doing what she was good at and as long as she didn't piss Lex off, he'd treat her like his own. She picked up her drink and toasted herself. Smiling into the sun, she idly wondered if Lex would make her change her name to Faith.

==

Additional Author Notes: This is very much a companion piece to "Reckoning" and should be read as such (although the two stories can stand independently of one another). I just didn't want to say that upfront and tip my hand as to where this story was headed.



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