Yeesh. This so should have been in four or five parts. There's no method to my madness.
Now there have been threats involving octopuses, so I'm just going to go ahead and post the rest. But I'm committed to doing it in weird little posts. So there will be two more. Because I want there to be. And, to quote laceymcbain, "it's my LJ and I'll do what I want to!"
Lacey wasn’t quite sure what she was mourning: the perfect corporate account, a young, hip company on the rise with a charismatic CEO who owed her; her good name and reputation, basically her career, which she had the sneaking suspicion that Lex Luthor was perfectly capable and, after the conversation they’d just had, absolutely willing to utterly destroy; or maybe just the hope of friendship, the idea that, after the first few horrible days, she and Lex had found some common ground, some shared space where humour and honesty and just – liking – had seemed to draw them together, to make them comfortable allies against time, if not actual friends.
But what really chapped her ass, as she pulled her tiny feathered cape a little further down over her shoulders and hunched with her back to the wind, was her suspicion that she was mourning the death of Lex and Clark’s friendship.
Sitting on a cold and windy balcony, gusts of exhaust-fume laden air blowing the shards of her still-new Metropolitan life and dreams of a successful career around her feet, Lacey McBain was mourning the death of a fucked up relationship between a fucked up rich boy and an emotionally retarded teenage hick.
No. What really chapped her ass was that she’d neglected to grab a bottle of Shiraz on her way up here.
Lacey finally gave in to the cold and slid down in the corner between the balcony railing and the building wall to sit on the freezing tile. It wasn’t much of an improvement, but the lower part of the railing was solid, and it blocked the wind. The balconies were wide and long on the executive floors, and Lacey was sitting in the corner furthest away from the sliding doors to the office; as far away from LuthorCorp and LexCorp as she could be without actually leaving the building.
She turned her head to look out over Metropolis. If she pressed her cheek against the railing, the light from the hall beyond the office was blocked out and the night seemed utterly black except for the points of lights that made up the city.
She hadn’t known where to go when she’d rushed out of the conference room, had only known that despite having had one of the most embarrassing experiences of her life she was a professional, and she had a responsibility to remain and see this party through, no matter how much she wanted to tear out of the building and never come back. She’d walked straight into an open elevator and hit the most familiar floor button. Once on the executive level she’d wanted to go to Lex’s office, but she couldn’t even believe she’d had that impulse and ruthlessly repressed it. Instead, she’d wandered into the office that Lex had told her she could use for making phone calls, the office of some executive he’d just fired that week. She’d drifted through the office in the dark, and out onto the balcony.
Now she was sitting on the ground with nothing between her and the cold but her best red dress and an emu-feather cape and, damnit, all she could think was that if somebody would just – something – knock those two stupid boys’ heads together that – and this sounded ridiculous, even to her – the world would be a better place.
It just seemed so damn important. Clark and Lex. Clark Kent and Lex Luthor.
But Lacey supposed that Craig was right, after all. It didn’t have anything to do with her. She shouldn’t have …
“ – Luthor and Clark Kent … -ethal com- … damn you, you …”
Lacey un-hunched a little and turned her head creakily to peer into the office. If she was lucky, it was just security come to haul her ass downstairs and chuck her out. If she was unlucky, it was Clark and Lex, and god only knew what they’d want. If she was really unlucky, it was Craig, come to tell her he’d told her so and to get her ass back to work. If she was damned to hell, it was Craig and Pam, and she’d have to sit through another twenty-minute sob session about Raoul and the dangers of match-making before she could escape.
She’d left the balcony door open, and now the words were drifting through. Not wanting to be found in her undignified position, Lacey started to lever herself up.
“I said Clark Kent and Lex Luthor are a lethal combination, you idiot.” It was a woman’s voice and, somehow, hearing it made Lacey feel a little bit colder.
“Kent is nothing but a Boy Scout,” the second, male, voice was thickly accented.
“Boy Scout, my ass. You’ve heard the stories as well as I have. Clark Kent plus meteor freak equals dead meteor freak.”
“Neither of us is one of these ‘freaks.’ And Kent is easily controlled through fear; I have done this myself …”
“You arrogant imbecile! I know all about Sullivan and the football game, you’ve only told us a thousand times. But even if Kent is as easily controlled as you say, it’s him Ian’s got on the ground back there, not Luthor. And Luthors are not easily controlled.”
Lacey gripped the railing behind her with cold hands and stayed very still as she tried to take in what she was hearing. It didn’t sound good.
“That’s not what Ian told us,” the accented voice cut in. “He said in Belle Reve Luthor was more concerned about helping Kent than his own escape.”
There was a long pause.
“Well, you’d better hope Ian finished them both off,” the woman’s voice finally sounded again. “Because after the way we just left him, there’s no way he’s coming to help us, and he’s the only one with the stuff.”
Finished them both off. That definitely didn’t sound good.
Lacey desperately wanted to slide back down out of sight, but the dark haired man with the accented voice was pacing close to the balcony door now, and she was afraid that he’d see her if she moved at all.
“I don’t know why we’re even hiding in here,” the woman snapped suddenly. “It’s undignified. They’re going to find us any minute, and then we’re either freak puree, or it’s back to Point, or worse, prison.”
The man snorted. “There is nothing worse than Point. And we are not hiding. We are regrouping. We just need a new strategy. We must leave this floor before they find us and find a place where there are people.”
Lacey watched him pivot on his heel and stalk towards the balcony door as he spoke. He leaned his head out of the door, closing his eyes as he breathed in the chill air. When he opened them he was staring straight at Lacey. “We need a hostage.”
“Shit,” Clark swore as they moved down the hall toward the door. “There’s someone else in there.”
“What?” Lex drew up short, “who is it?”
“Don’t know, don’t know the skeleton.” That drew a quizzical look from Lex and Clark wasn’t sure whether or not he was looking forward to telling Lex how well, how intimately, Clark knew him. Clark had spent years staring at Lex and even now he knew the curve of every arch and foramen, knew every bone chip and fracture that distinguished Lex’s frame from other people’s.
Focusing back on the matter at hand, Clark quickly explained. “I can see bones in the dark, but not – the outside – and it’s too dark in there to see.”
“I don’t know, Lex.”
“Well then,” Lex said abruptly, “let’s see.” He threw open the door.
‘God!’ Clark thought. ‘What’s the point of being next to invulnerable if your – friend – insists on taking point all the time, anyway? Where’s the sense in that?’
Clark took in the scene. Molly standing by the wide desk, looking towards the door, her face a mixture of anger and resignation. Mikhail at the balcony door, advancing on the third person Clark had seen with his x-ray vision, a person with no place to go, trapped in the corner between the balcony railing and the wall.
“Lex!” Clark shouted, suddenly knowing the answer to Lex’s question. The third person was no accomplice, it was Lacey, the party planner, only a few metres separating her from Mikhail. Her eyes, wide with fear, darted over Mikhail’s shoulder to meet Clark’s and damn it, that put a cramp in Clark’s style.
When Lex moved for Molly Clark accepted the unspoken division of action. Lex would take down Molly and Clark would have to reach Mikhail before he could get to Lacey, hopefully without using too much speed.
Clark and Lex moved forward, in tandem for just a moment before their paths diverged, and it felt so right to Clark to have Lex at his side, the two of them working together towards some greater –
“Trip,” Mikhail’s voice was flat and sure.
Clark froze, and had a moment to be horrified that he’d forgotten. That he’d forgotten about Mikhail’s ability to trip him up, and then – he wasn’t tripping.
Molly was. Clark had seen the look on her face when Lex had burst in the door and he didn’t think it was going to be a matter of Lex tackling her to the floor; maybe something more like just making sure she didn’t get in Clark’s way. But as she moved forward to meet Lex, her knees gave way. She tumbled forward and Lex, who had been moving quickly, stepped on her body.
Lex stumbled, hard, and took several quick steps forward trying to regain his balance. Lex had excellent natural balance and a sinuous grace and he recovered quickly –
Lex went flying forward to land at Mikhail’s feet. Mikhail had an arm around Lex’s throat and had backed them up to the railing so fast Clark hardly had time to register what was happening.
“Don’t,” it was Lacey who spoke. “Please don’t,” she repeated, as Mikhail leaned back over the rail, dragging Lex with him.
“Let him go,” Clark’s brain finally caught up, and he blurted out the first thing that came to him.
“I plan to,” Mikhail drawled.
“There’s nowhere to go, Mikhail,” Lex said, shakily. There was a red mark on his forehead where he’d hit the floor and his eyes were a little glazed.
Mikhail planted a foot on the bottom of the rail and hoisted himself and Lex up to a precarious height. Lex didn’t fight, but made a dead weight of himself, hanging from Mikhail’s arms.
“There’s down,” Mikhail hissed.
“But why do you want to die?” Lacey asked.
“I’d rather die than go back there,” Mikhail shouted hysterically. “And I’m going to take him with me. You hear that, you bastard?” he shook Lex, choking the slim man as he dragged him even farther over the rail.
Clark seized the moment. Mikhail was glaring at Lacey as he shouted, his attention off of Clark for the moment, and Clark took a breath preparatory to moving into quick time.
It was as though Mikhail were waiting for it. As Clark breathed in, Mikhail’s head turned, and Clark could see his lips moving.
Clark moved into quick time and he was running. Molly was lying on the floor to his right, curled protectively, a hand frozen in the act of fluttering towards her hip where Lex’s foot had landed when she fell under him. Lacey was caught in time retreating from Mikhail’s furious verbal onslaught, still reaching out towards Lex. Lex had a hand at his throat, gripping at Mikhail’s arm where it choked him, his eyes locked on Clark’s.
Mikhail’s eyes were locked on Clark’s as well, his lips caught in the motion of flattening out – moving together to form the “p” of the word that Clark had no intention of letting him finish.
But something was wrong. Something was – wrong. Horrifyingly, painfully wrong, and after only three or four steps at his fastest speed Clark felt his throat seizing, his blood curdling, his muscles turning to water, dragging him out of quick time even as he neared Mikhail and Lex. Mikhail’s lips pressed together and Clark’s watched helplessly, straining to keep up his speed but knowing that he just wasn’t going fast enough.
Even as he fell, Clark felt the weakness leaving him, the green pain left behind him by his brief spurt of speed. He felt strength rushing through him, the momentum returning to his stride – but it was too late. Too late. Clark’s ankle folded and he hit the floor, moving fast, tumbling and rolling straight towards Mikhail and Lex and the edge of the balcony.
Lacey tore her eyes away from the jagged hole in the railing. The hole where just moments ago Lex and the psycho with the accent had been standing. Struggling.
She looked into the office, where Clark had been a moment before the streak of black had appeared and torn Mikhail and Lex away –
He was gone. Clark was just – gone. Like Lex was gone.
Lacey couldn’t tear her hand away from the railing, the tubular metal rippling and bending from the jagged tear to a spot inches away from her hand. She clasped the railing with her other hand as she sank to her knees on the balcony in the wind.
Lacey found herself thinking something bizarre. That the shadow that she’d seen, the one that had seemed to flash from the office out onto the balcony and through … that maybe that had been Clark.
How that could be, she didn’t know.
Lacey bent her head, shaking in the cold and found herself thinking that, God – she didn’t understand why she was thinking things like this – that if they were both gone, that was okay. That if they had died together, it would somehow be alright, but for one to have survived, or for them both to be alive but apart, that would be the disaster. Lacey shook her head hard and tried to feel bad, but she already knew that she wouldn’t even mourn them.
She tightened her hands on the railing and tried to pull herself up, her knees slipping on the tile and –
Looking down, Lacey realized the tiles she was kneeling on were spattered with blood.
Letting out a hoarse breath that wasn’t, wasn’t, wasn’t a scream, Lacey lurched to her feet and stumbled back from the railing. Strong, warm arms wrapped around her and, yeah, that was a scream.
“God, Clark, I thought –” Lacey broke off as she turned, realizing that the short, sandy-haired boy holding her wasn’t, couldn’t be, Clark. Her first thought was, horrifyingly, relief: relief that Clark and Lex weren’t separated after all, that they would still be together.
“Hey, it’s okay, it’s okay,” the young man soothed.
“There was … I don’t know what …” Lacey stammered, trying to get her thoughts in order. “They went off the balcony, and …”
“It’s okay,” the man said again. “They’ll be back. Or at least Kent will be,” he said, meditatively.
“What?” Lacey gasped, a cold chill running down her spine.
“And when he gets here,” he shifted, one arm staying around her in a now not-at-all-comforting embrace, the other bringing an object up close to her face. “I’ll be ready.”
When the scream that tore out of her throat had died, Lacey wrenched herself out of his grasp. “What the fuck is wrong with you people?!” she shrieked, staring at the large, brown, severed hand covered with lumps that the short man was holding by one of its curled fingers.
The guy shrugged. “Mom always told me I was special.”
Lacey stared, starting to edge away, then realizing that she was still on the balcony with nowhere to go.
“Don’t go anywhere.”
“What do you want from me?” Lacey demanded.
“Nothing, really,” he said, almost cheerily. “But if Luthor’s paste, then you’re my security when Kent gets back.”
“When he gets back?” Lacey parroted, incredulously.
“Just wait,” the psycho said.