Hostage

by Jayne Leitch



Rating: PG

Spoilers: If you've seen the trailers for the season 3 premiere, you're as spoiled as this story.

Notes: none of it belongs to me, alas and alack. Also, many many thanks go to Celli for the beta.

HOSTAGE by Jayne Leitch

The memorial had been draining. Almost as much as Lillian's funeral had been, so long ago; Lionel regarded that unpleasant realization with a rather dull sense of surprise, then tucked it into the back of his mind to be better examined later. Now wasn't the time to become maudlin. He had work to do.

The elevator dinged softly, and as soon as the doors parted he was off, striding through the darkened hallway that led to his office at the very top of LuthorCorp Tower. Like the rest of the building, the floor was deserted. Lionel had shocked the business world and much of the non-business one as well by declaring that every LuthorCorp office would be closed the day of Lex's memorial; it had been a strategic move as much as anything else, designed to cater to the expectations of the public--especially the LuthorCorp shareholders and customers--even if Lionel knew none of them really expected such an action from him. Lionel had always known the value of rarely-expressed emotional appeals; he never presented them lightly.

So he'd delivered a day off to everyone in the LuthorCorp employ, including those he'd regained in the very quiet reacquisition of Plant Three a week after Lex's plane had gone down. The publicized display of grief had the desired effect: the media praised him, the public pitied him, and LuthorCorp stock went up five percent. Handsome dividends for a move made mostly to ensure his privacy after the memorial ended.

That the late hour of his arrival at the Tower would have ensured a nearly-empty building anyway was hardly to be considered.

At the end of the hall he unlocked his office and pushed through the doors, then let them fall shut again behind him. Ignoring the light switch, content with the faint glimmer of the city below as it filtered through the massive window, he continued across the room, turned his back on the view and sat in his desk chair with a light sigh, absently unbuttoning his jacket as he considered how best to proceed. Drumming his fingers on the armrest, he muttered, "Lucas, Lucas...where would Lex have put you, hmm?"

"Why bother looking?" The voice, issuing unexpectedly from the shadowy corner by the piano, made Lionel jolt. "You'll just have to get rid of him too, after he's defied your expectations one too many times."

In the same second his hand began to reach for the panic button under the desktop, Lionel reconsidered: no one else was supposed to be in the building, much less in his office; no one could get in, or so the best security team Lionel could hire had assured him. But Lionel recognized that voice, and with recognition came the certainty that his security team hadn't taken the abilities of every potential trespasser into consideration. Deciding that whatever help he could possibly summon wouldn't be enough to save him should the situation become unmanageable, Lionel slowly brought both hands into view and folded them on the desk. "I'm not sure I take your meaning," he said mildly, turning a thoughtful gaze in the direction of the voice.

Chuckling softly, a tall, lean shape detached itself from the shadows. "Lionel, Lionel, Lionel. You don't have to pretend for me! Not here; not now." He stepped fully into a dim shaft of light, and Lionel's breath caught at the boy's appearance--there was something in his posture, his bearing, his recently-acquired edge that reminded Lionel vaguely of Lex at his dissolute teenaged worst. "Certainly not today."

The difference between this boy and the one who delivered produce and skulked around the castle in Smallville was remarkable; Lionel met his eyes and suddenly felt a chill of uncertainty. Chiding himself for his apprehension--he'd managed the lad's temper before, after all--he leaned back in his chair and steepled his fingers in a deliberate show of ease. "If it isn't Clark Kent," he said, smiling. "It's been a while, hasn't it? How are you, son?"

"Not yours," came the immediate reply, drawled out of a lazy grin that Lionel suspected was a mirror image of his own. Then, spreading his arms at his sides as if to emphasize his sleek, expensive clothing--Lionel recognized labels the Kents would've had to mortgage their farm again to afford--Clark continued, "But as you can see, I'm alive, which makes me better off than at least one of your sons right now. So I'm not complaining."

Lionel let all the good humour drain from his face. "I don't find your attitude regarding Lex's death at all amusing," he said evenly, and waited for the boy's reaction.

Clark simply shrugged, the picture of casual unconcern--except that his eyes, dark under deceptively sleepy lids, were fixed on Lionel with blatant calculation. "I always thought your sense of humour sucked."

Taking that for the obvious challenge it was, Lionel let the tension hove in the air between them for a long moment--then, once again, he relaxed visibly and gave another smile, smaller and sharper than the last. "You should know that I've been baited by men much more accomplished at it than yourself, young master Kent. And with much more provocative lures."

Another shrug; it was a sinuous motion that pulled Clark's shirt tight across his broad shoulders, subtly hinting at both the strength of his body and the ease with which he inhabited it. Lionel remembered Lex needing years of fencing lessons before he learned to carry himself with that much presence. "That only matters if I care about getting a rise out of you."

"Isn't that why you're here?" Gesturing to encompass the dark, empty building around them, Lionel arched a speculative eyebrow. "Your tactics certainly suggest you aren't here for entirely wholesome reasons."

Clark grinned. "You're right," he said, his eyes catching the light for a second with what looked like an oddly reddish glint. And suddenly, too quickly for Lionel to catch the motion of the draw, Clark had a gun pointed at his head, grip strong, aim sure. "I'm not."

Lionel froze, staring down the barrel, making a show of disbelief that it was there at all, much less being used against him. Then, without blinking, he shifted his gaze up and looked Clark steadily in the eyes. "You would do well to think very carefully about what you're doing," he rasped, but Clark only stared steadily back.

"I know exactly what I'm doing."

"Oh, of course; just like you've known exactly what you've been doing all summer, I suppose?" At Clark's arched brow, Lionel waved a hand at the city out the window. "For the past few months, the wealthier institutions of Metropolis have been suffering the effects of an unstoppable crime spree, a crime spree that began, if I'm not mistaken, right around the time you ran away from home. A crime spree perpetrated by someone who--although no one has been able to get a good look at his face--does fit your general description." Shaking his head, Lionel let a note of amusement back into his tone. "I have to tell you, Clark, I thought Lex had some creative ways of acting out, but to my knowledge he never robbed banks. As a strategy for seeking attention, that's..."

Clark's grin, which had dimmed slightly as Lionel spoke, brightened with pride. "Inspired?"

"Idiotic." Ignoring the angry look this provoked, Lionel spun his chair to the side and rose to his feet, then strode around his desk to face Clark in front of it, drawing himself up to give the boy the impression that this was exactly like any other important business negotiation. "Now, listen to me. It's not too late for us both to forget all about this little lapse in judgement. We both know you're in trouble; I can help you, Clark, but you have to put the gun away." Settling into the pitch he'd been planning since news of the first million-dollar robbery had reached his attention almost four months ago, Lionel allowed an indulgent chuckle. "I've known all summer that you were going to get around to LuthorCorp eventually; frankly, I'm a little surprised you've waited this long, but--"

"Stop."

The command brought Lionel up short, more out of shock than anything else. "I beg your pardon?"

"You seem to be misunderstanding me a lot today." The gun had tracked Lionel as he moved, without wavering so much as an inch; now, Clark hardly seemed aware that he was holding it as he looked right over it to give Lionel an exaggeratedly patronizing look. As if he were speaking to an imbecile, he said, "I told you to stop because I wanted you to stop talking. And I wanted you to stop talking because I'm not interested in making any kind of a deal. I'm not here to rob you, Lionel."

Again, Lionel felt a twinge of doubt itching his spine. This time, he paid it a little more attention. "Then why are you here?"

"You're either really full of yourself, or really slow. Maybe both." Keeping his aim fixed, Clark sauntered forward, then veered away. Lionel didn't turn to keep him in sight as he began to circle him slowly. "I'll spell it out for you," he continued blithely once he had made a full circuit. Using the gun to indicate Lionel's mourning suit, he said, "You held a memorial for Lex today, which means you've stopped the search. Which means he's officially dead. Which means it's officially time for the bastard who killed him to pay."

The twinge blossomed into a cold emptiness in Lionel's chest, and he felt himself paling under Clark's darkly pleased attention--nothing like the righteous anger he might've expected from Jonathan Kent's son, but more like Clark was...playing. Enjoying himself, and the power he held with his particular sense of vengeance. Working hard to choose the right words, words that wouldn't make the situation any more volatile than it already was, he began slowly, "I did not kill Lex--"

"Oh, of course not." Clark paused just long enough to allow a flicker of hope to rise in Lionel's mind--then, smirking, he continued, "Not face to face, anyway. But the way you set up that plane crash was...inspired."

Shaking his head, Lionel argued, "The crash was an accident, how could I have--"

"Enough money can make anything look accidental."

"No." Lionel clamped down on his desperation, working hard to keep his voice even and reasonable. "No, Lex was my son. Why would I murder my own flesh and blood?"

"Because he wasn't who you wanted him to be," came the answer, fast and simple and, Lionel noticed, strangely lacking the twisted pleasure Clark's voice had been infused with only a second ago. Without moving a muscle, his body seemed suddenly closed, shuttered, as he continued flatly, "Because he was turning into his own person, successful and happy and free of your influence. Because you couldn't control him anymore, and you couldn't have that." Then, just as suddenly, that disturbing little smile started playing at his mouth again, and his body relaxed back into its louche stance. "Killing him was the ultimate display of power, wasn't it, Lionel? You took his life away from him so completely, he'll never challenge you again. So what if he's dead? At least he won't keep disappointing you."

"This is insane." Backing away from the gun as Clark shifted his finger to the trigger, Lionel held up his hands as if that would more effectively placate him. "Lex and I had our differences, yes, but they were hardly reason enough for me to want him dead!" Frantic to redirect Clark's intentions, he remembered something one of the investigators had said right after the discovery of the crash. "I know you want to blame someone for Lex's death, Clark; that's a normal reaction. I went through it, Helen went through it--"

"You know, I went looking for Helen the other day," Clark interrupted, and something in the sheer casualness of his tone made Lionel's heart trip. "After the announcement that a date had been set for the memorial, I thought she could use a visit from someone who'd be...sympathetic. Funny thing, though--" The look he gave Lionel was sharp and knowing. "--Helen Bryce-Luthor was nowhere to be found in or around Metropolis. And I noticed today that she wasn't at the service. Doesn't that seem odd to you?"

Nonplussed, Lionel said, "I don't--I hardly think it's odd that she would be reluctant to attend--"

"Whatever." Dismissively, Clark brought his free hand up to skim through his hair, pushing it back from his forehead; Lionel caught the glint of a thick ring on one finger. "Helen doesn't matter, anyway. If she was involved, it was because you paid her; if she wasn't, well, then she's really not worth the effort I could put into tracking her down. The point is, I'm blaming the only person that matters, and that's that person who murdered Lex, and that's you."

"So you're going to murder me to avenge him." Letting his own anger into his voice, Lionel drew himself up as regally as he could, meeting Clark's gaze with the look that brought entire rooms of rival businessmen to heel. "Without proof, without any real idea of what actually happened, you're going to play executioner? It's a dangerous role, my boy, and one you're ill-suited to play. My God, what would your parents think if they knew you'd come here to kill me, just--"

"I know exactly what my parents would think." The steely quiet of the interruption was enough to throw Lionel off-balance; the nasty curve to Clark's mouth was more than enough to convince Lionel that he'd chosen exactly the wrong thing to say. "For finding a way to fulfill my destiny and do the right thing by humanity at the same time? Something tells me they'd be damn proud."

Clark's hand tightened around the gun, and in the silence of the room, Lionel thought he could hear the faint whine of stressed metal.

He had always known the value of rarely-expressed emotional appeals. Now, gazing into the ruthless cruelty of Clark's expression, he spread his hands before him and let his voice crack as he said, "Lex was my son, Clark. I loved him."

Clark's hand didn't falter. "I guess I just love him more," he replied readily, and pulled the trigger.

End.



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