by slodwick

"Son of a bitch!"

Lex dove from behind the tree moments before it was engulfed in flames, rolling behind a nearby boulder. He winced as his wounded shoulder screamed in pain. He knew he wouldn't have much time before Superman spotted him. Searching the ground wildly, his fingers finally found what he was looking for.

He grabbed the small ring with the glowing green stone, and slipped it on his finger, smiling. He stayed there, back against the boulder, sweating, muscles coiled and tense, until he heard finally heard the sure footsteps approaching. Jumping up, he thrust his hand out, thrilled at the instant reaction in his adversary.

"Tsk, tsk. Oh, Superman. You are so predictable." He said, his tone cutting and mocking. He took several steps forward, satisfied with the way the superhero struggled to gain distance from him. The look of pained nausea and panic was obvious on his face. Lex was positively delighted.

But, back to business.

Glancing quickly around the small forest clearing, he spotted the flashing remote. It actually appeared to be intact, he noted. He was shocked that Superman hadn't crushed it when he had the chance. The old boy might be slipping, after all. Well, that just wouldn't do. Where else would he find a worthy playmate at this stage in the game?

Lex picked up the remote, brushing dirt from the small digital readout, and turned to stand over Superman.

"You don't want to do this, Luthor." Superman croaked, his jaw clenched, looking the perfect picture of agony. "You're not a cold-blooded killer... not yet. If you do this, nothing will be the same. Once you turn this corner..."

"I'll never be able to go back. Yadda yadda yadda, unredeemable evil bastard." Lex interrupted. "Yes, I know all that, Supes. You're really starting to bore me here. Haven't you got anything new to say? Something that pops? Honestly. How do you expect to me to work with this drivel?"

"You're sick, Luthor." The voice was dripping with venom. "How many innocent people have die for you to be happy?"

"I don't know. How many do you suppose are in that stadium right now? That should do nicely... for a start." As he lifted the remote, preparing to enter the necessary codes, he watched with more than a little pleasure as Superman's eyes filled with dread.

"No! Wait, Lex! You don't understand!" Superman cried.

"What is it now?" Lex sighed. "Some of us do take pride in our work, you know. At this point, I'm quite behind schedule, and that just doesn't reflect well on me. What would people say?"

"But, really, you don't understand..." Superman replied weakly. "It's past five."

"It is? Already?" Lex glanced down at his watch. Sure enough, it was after five. "Holy cow. Today just flew by, didn't it?"

He stepped away from the prone man on the ground, pulling the ring off his finger. He withdrew a small lead container from his pocket, and dropped the ring inside. As he did, the change in Superman was immediate. Lex reached out his hand, and helped the other man up.

"Geez... you nearly had me there, huh, Lex?" He asked, a sly grin spreading across his face.

"Sure did, Clark. Maybe tomorrow. Who knows?" Lex threw a casual arm around the other man as they walked towards the narrow path that ran through the woods.

"Don't count on it, mister! I've got something special planned for you tomorrow. It is Friday. Gotta end the week on the right note, you know."

"Right. Fine. We'll see. You're not the only one with big plans, bubba." Lex said, stopping in front of a large metal box mounted a large oak tree. "Speaking of plans, Clark, do you have any for tonight? Wanna go get something to eat?' he asked, glancing at Clark over his shoulder. "Pancakes maybe?"

"Do I?! Let's go!" Clark's face lit up, and he immediately started for the parking lot.

"Clark! Hey! Don't forget to clock out, buddy." Lex called.

"Oh, yeah. Right." Clark said with a sheepish grin. As he inserted his time card into the meter, his fingers worked that the knot that had formed in the ties to his cape. Lex had offered to buy him one with velcro, but Clark insisted on wearing the one his mom had made for him all those years ago.

"So... can I get blueberry pancakes? With maple syrup? And powdered sugar?" He asked, his voice full of what could only be called boyish glee.

"You can get whatever you want, Clark." Lex replied indulgently. "Whatever you want."

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