Flying Pigs, Paper Hats, and Pretty Girls All in a Row
by paperbkryter

His first sensation upon emerging from the darkness was of cold. He was cold, and for someone who was rarely cold, this was quite a shock. It caused him to wonder just exactly who was to blame for it (he wasn't, for sure) and whether or not it would require some sort of disciplinary action. (The boss is cold, and you're fired.)

The second sensation he felt was not so much a sensation as it was an emotion; he was annoyed. He was annoyed that he was cold. He was annoyed that someone would be in trouble because he was cold, and he was annoyed that for some reason he didn't seem to be able to move his arms or legs.

That caused him to open his eyes.

And then he remembered.

The meeting with Lana regarding the first quarter earnings of the Talon.

The rude man who burst into the den right in the middle of the meeting.

The rude man waving a gun.

Getting hit in the head.

Again.

Damnit.

Getting rather tired of that scenario.

Lex winced and attempted to raise a hand to rub at the goose egg at the back of his skull. The hand refused to move from his side, and when his vision cleared and the nausea passed, he realized he could not move because he was tied to a chair. He also realized that he was actually tied to two chairs because directly behind him was someone else, also bound.

Someone with a lot of hair.

He turned his head as far as he could in order to look, at the same time she did the same thing. Their temples bounced off each other, and Lex, already suffering from a headache (and imagining permanent brain damage from yet another head bashing)hissed.

"Sorry, sorry," she said. "I'm sorry."

There was a pause.

"Are you all right?"

He remembered trying to protect her, (Oh, chivalry sucks when the other guy has a gun, Lex) and her scream as he went down. He'd not expected her to become a victim too, but he was rather glad the intruder hadn't simply shot her and been done with her. He seemed to recall the guy hadn't been too worried about disguising himself and she would be a witness. So murder an mayhem were not on the menu. Burglary was also off, considering the current state of affairs. Kidnapping, then, was the motive.

"Great." Lex murmured. She took it as an answer to her question.

"Oh, good."

He blinked.

They were in a dark room, a cellar by the looks of things, tied together on two chairs placed back to back. The only light was a bare bulb hanging over what looked like a workbench where there were scattered a wide variety of objects. There were tools lying there as well as discarded bags and wrappers from several fast food joints, the gun, and a cell phone. Of their captor there was no sign. Lex craned his head to look around, and concluded that they were indeed in a cellar. The walls and floor were made of stone, and glistened with moisture. The floor was cold against his bare feet.

Bare feet? Bare everything. Well, almost bare everything. The jingle from the most recent, and most obnoxious, Fruit of the Loom commercials clanged around in Lex's head before he made it shut up by telling it he would not be caught dead in Fruit of the Loom underwear.

He hoped he wouldn't be caught dead in BVD briefs.

Then he realized she was also in her underwear, and resisted the temptation to laugh. Clark Kent eat your heart out.

Clark would have poked out his own eyeball to be tied to a chair in his underwear with Lana Lang.

He grew sober. "Lana, are you okay?" (Ha, chivalry!)

"Uhuh, just scared." She paused. "Sort of." Her voice dropped to a whisper. "I don't think he quite knows what he's doing."

Before Lex could absorb this statement, there was a clattering noise, and their kidnapper banged down the stairs behind them, or rather, behind Lex due to the way the chairs were facing. There came with him the strong scent of onions. Lana sneezed, and the man in question came around to face Lex.

Lex was not impressed.

He told his stomach to shut up when it growled at the grilled onion (was that Philly steak?) sandwich the kidnapper (so called) was eating. He arranged his features into an expression of complete nonchalance (as if he were kidnapped at least once a week) and gave the man a chilly stare.

"Yer up."

Disgust obliterated the nonchalant expression. The kidnapper spoke with his mouth full, greasy lips smacking together, pointing with the dripping mess that was his sandwich. Lana sneezed again. Lex's eyes watered from the onions waving around practically under his nose.

"No thanks to you. What do you want?"

"Money."

Lex sighed.

The kidnapper (still so called) was a tall lanky man with wild blond hair, and a beard and mustache growing in dark fuzzy patches much like mold on a piece of bread. He wore a dirty t-shirt, torn jeans, and both of his elbows were scabbed. One sported a dirty Band-Aid. He also had a scab on the end of his nose and the beginnings of a rather nasty black eye.

One eyebrow.

Obviously quite high on the evolutionary development scale; maybe even possessing an I.Q. higher than that of an iguana.

One very large bushy eyebrow.

Or maybe even a carp.

"I'm gonna call yer dad."

"That will be interesting. What do you think will come of that little scenario?"

The eyebrow dipped, and Lex wondered which word he didn't understand. Possibly "think?"

"Money."

Lex decided it would be a very good time for Clark to show up and make his prerequisite rescue.

He waited.

Nothing.

Damn.

He sighed again, and watched Eyebrow Man rummage around on his workbench. A clump of onions fell out of the sandwich, eliciting a mumbled curse, and more cursing ensued when one toe got crunched against the table leg. The sandwich was precariously deposited on a shelf as the object of the search was located. Eyebrow Man picked up the cell phone. He waved it at Lex and held up a grubby piece of paper that had obviously been torn from one of the fast food wrappers.

"You'll see," he said.

Lana giggled. "See what I mean," she whispered. "It's like being kidnapped by Stan Laurel."

"Only Stan Laurel has a gun." Lex replied out of the corner of his mouth.

"He doesn't have any bullets."

"What?"

Eyebrow looked up from squinting at the paper. "Huh?"

"Nothing. Nevermind." Lex said hastily, then, to Lana: "What do you mean he doesn't have any bullets?"

"After I elbowed him in the eye..."

Wonder Lana.

"I managed to get hold of the gun for a minute...."

Super Lana.

"And it didn't have any bullets in it."

Super Observant Lana

"What happened then?"

Lex felt her shoulders roll in a shrug. "I was so surprised that the gun was empty, I just sort of stood there. He slammed me into a wall and took it away from me."

Idiot Lana.

"He does have chloroform," she said ruefully.

"Terrific."

He turned his attention back to Eyebrow Man, who was dialing the number with the speed of a drunken tortoise. It was painful. Lex wondered if this was the chosen method the man had of torturing his victims. Regaining his composure, (the disgusted look had stuck) Lex quietly observed the conversation between E.M. and the receptionist at LuthorCorp.

Lex knew his father. Lionel was extremely difficult to reach, and the only number this - person - could have possibly acquired, would be the main number at the LuthorCorp. offices in Metropolis. He knew the receptionist there personally, and Janice made Nurse Ratchett look like Mother Teresa. He mentally supplied the other end of the conversation.

"Heh-yes. I want to talk to Lionel Luthor."

"And who may I say is calling?"

"Mr. Smith."

Lex suppressed a smirk.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Luthor is unavailable Mr. Smith, you'll have to leave a message."

"I have his son."

"Mr. Lex Luthor can be reached..."

"No, no. Look lady, give me Lionel Luthor or else..."

"I can give you to his secretary and you can leave a message. Please hold."

Lex wondered if Lionel had changed the hideous xylophone version of The Sound of Music that he'd had on the machine the last time Lex called the main office.

He wondered if his father still had the same secretary.

"Lionel Luthor's office, Mary speaking, how may I help you?"

"Look, Tina...."

Whoops, new secretary.

"I want to speak to Lionel Luthor. Now."

"I'm sorry sir, Mr. Luthor is visiting our European offices right now. Would you care to leave a message in his voice mail?"

"When is he coming back?"

"Next month I believe, sir. Let me check the calendar. Please hold."

"No, don't...."

There was a moment of silence. Eyebrow Man glared at Lex. Lex schooled his features into a completely innocent expression and blinked innocently at him.

Moron.

"Sir?"

"Yes, yes?"

"Mr. Luthor will not be back in the United States until November fourth. Shall I schedule you an appointment with him then? His next opening will be on the nineteenth."

"The - November - what? Lady you don't understand..."

"If you would like an appointment with Mr. Lex Luthor I can give you the number to his secretary in Smallville."

"I have Lex Luthor."

"Is there a problem then?"

Spit flew. "Yes, there is a problem! I've kidnapped Lex Luthor and I want -- hello?" Eyebrow shook the phone. "Hello?"

"I'm sorry sir, your connection is breaking up. Let me connect you to his voice mail."

"No, wait. I want money..."

Apparently, Lex thought, the ability to operate a cell phone and speak coherently at the same time exceeded Eyebrow Man's abilities. Perhaps he needed a personal secretary.

"If you'd like to leave a message, please press the pound key..."

The phone was immediately thrown to the floor and stepped on.

Hmm, the dance moves were - interesting - to say the least. The colorful language gave the flailing arms a bit of sparkle.

Lex gave him a seven for creativity.

Yoo hoo, Clark, any day now.

Eyebrow Man concluded his dance, and turned to glare at Lex.

Lex glared back.

"What's he doing now?" Lana whispered.

"Besides drooling?"

"You call." Eyebrow demanded, pointing at Lex accusingly, as if the corporate messaging system and its foibles were all his fault. "Tell him I'm gonna kill you and your girlfriend if he doesn't give me money."

Lex cleared his throat. "Firstly, she is not my girlfriend. Secondly, if you had done your research prior to setting out on this little adventure you would have realized my father could probably care less if I've been kidnapped because it saves him from worrying about what I'm plotting behind his back." He drew a long breath. "And lastly, you've just done the Mambo on the telephone."

Eyebrow Man looked down at the remains of the phone, and immediately repeated his dance, adding, this time, some interesting leg action reminiscent to the time Lex's Nanny had gotten a mouse up her pant leg. Even the screaming was very similar, leading to Lex to wonder if Eyebrow Man had not been his Nanny in another life.

"Is he rabid?" Lana asked with some concern.

"Possibly."

"Who is she?" Eyebrow suddenly stopped, and pointed at Lana. "Does she have money?"

"According to the figures we were going over when you so rudely interrupted our meeting, no, she doesn't have any money."

Lana sighed unhappily. "Things are looking better."

Eyebrow Man growled. Lex was rather disappointed that the dancing did not resume.

Instead their captor picked up his sandwich, and still growling under his breath, stomped out of the room again.

"Where is Clark?" Lana said softly after a moment. Her voice wavered, and Lex knew she was, despite her earlier display of pluck, frightened.

"You've noticed that too?"

"That he always seems to get us out of trouble, yeah." She chuckled a bit. "Chloe calls it the 'LL' phenomenon, despite the fact he's rescued her a few times too."

Lex didn't reply right away. "Chloe's not one to be really open with her feelings," he said cautiously. "You know she has a crush on Clark."

"I know."

"How do you feel about that?"

"I'm fine with it."

"Yes, and our kidnapper is a rocket scientist in real life. Come on, Lana."

"What do you want me to say, Lex? That I'd like to gouge her eyes out with a stick every time I see her looking at Clark the way she does?"

"If it's the answer to my question, yes."

He sensed her eyes narrowing. "Why are you so interested in Clark's love life?"

"He's a friend."

"Truth for truth."

"This isn't a game show."

"We could be dead by morning."

Lex snorted. "Only if he continues to soak us in onion fumes."

With what little mobility she had, she poked him with an elbow. "Tell."

He sighed. "The truth?"

"Yes."

"I'm bored stupid, and watching Clark trying to figure out whether he likes you or Chloe better is much more interesting than going over the stats for a factory that processes cow dung into carcinogens. Happy?"

"Yes. Happy." She paused. "He is funny, isn't he? I sat with Pete once at lunch, and we watched Clark having a conversation with Chloe. Pete added the color commentary. It was hysterical. He has a name for every one of Clark's expressions you know."

Lex raised an eyebrow. "Really?"

"He only has four."

This, Lex realized, was true. "The startled look?"

"Pete calls that the 'Who Goosed Me?' " Lana said, deadpan.

"The frown?"

" 'Got Ex-Lax?' "

Laughing, Lex shook his head. "The grin?"

" 'I'm a Good Boy I Am.' "

Lana was snickering. Lex furrowed his brow. "What's the fourth?"

She sobered then, and he felt her hair brush his head as she shook hers. "I asked Pete the same question, and you know what he said?"

"No, of course not, what?"

"He said he wasn't sure what that fourth expression was all about, because sometimes, he felt like it wasn't even Clark at all."

"The Mask?" Lex asked softly.

"Yeah."

Lex knew all about masks. "Truth for truth," he said after a bit of silent contemplation. "Chloe?"

"Well, I don't want to gouge her eyes out with a stick. I lied."

"Ah, is that so?"

"I want to poke her eyes out with a number two lead pencil."

There was a loud bang, and Eyebrow Man stumbled back down the stairs. He carried a bottle, and a rag.

"Uhoh." Lana whispered.

***

Cold was an understatement. Freezing was less than accurate. Caveman frozen in a block of ice and buried under an arctic glacier was pretty damn close.

At that moment, however, as he slowly opened an eyelid that felt as if the lashes were made of lead, Lex would have given up his BVD's for a bottle of aspirin. He had a monumental headache from being hit over the head with the butt of a pistol and forced to inhale chloroform.

And onions.

He coughed, kept coughing; tried to sit up. When he reached the end of his tether, (tether?) a heavy weight jerked him back down and he lay (where?) stunned as he realized he was no longer tied to a chair. What the hell was he chained to if he was not tied to the chair?

It was dark, and cold (no kidding) and damp. He opened his eyes again, realizing he was outside. Eyes took a moment to adjust, and then he realized he was lying in a ditch beside a dirt road in the middle of what looked like a forest.

A forest? Huh?

A banjo played in his head ala Deliverance.

"I hate Gene Hackman."

"And I'm sure he hates you too." Lana said softly from the darkness. "Where did that come from?"

"The chloroform hangover." Lex looked up, and saw Lana sitting next to him. He realized she was what he was tied to, or more precisely, what was at the other end of the handcuffs he was wearing.

Our new fall line, underwear and handcuffs, and an under-aged teen also clad only in her underwear.

He groaned. "Where are we?"

"I don't know," she said matter-of-factly. "I was just as unconscious as you when he dumped us here."

"What an idiot." Lex sat up, pressing his fingers to his forehead. "I don't suppose he left us anything in the way of clothes?"

"No."

He looked at her, she looked down at herself uneasily, and then away.

"Blushing, Ms. Lang?"

"Make any attempt to teach me the breast stroke Mr. Luthor and I'll break your arms." She looked back at him, and smiled sweetly.

"You are not as angelic as your reputation makes you out to be, Lana. That threat actually has me a bit frightened."

"I am well aware of your reputation, Lex."

"If I laid a finger on you, I'd be thrown in jail, not to mention have to face the harpy that is your Aunt Nell." Nell, Lex knew, had once made Lionel Luthor back down during a disagreement. That took guts.

Lana's mouth hung open. "My Aunt Nell is not a harpy!"

"All right, she's not a harpy."

She smirked.

"She's a bitch."

Lex rubbed his temples, and nearly fell over when his arm was cruelly jerked. "Hey!"

"Get up! Get up right now." Dark hair whirling in a tangled mess around her face, eyes wide, and mouth set, Lana was standing up, pulling on the other end of the handcuffs. "I am not spending another minute here with you."

"You really don't have much choice."

"Get. Up!"

Lex got up, wondering if he'd called the wrong member of her family a bitch, and promising that if he ever saw Eyebrow Man again he would strangle him. "Where are we going?" He followed her out of the ditch and onto the road, wincing as he stepped on a rock.

"Anywhere. There has to be something around here somewhere."

"Phone booth? Ow."

"A phone booth?" She looked over her shoulder. "Are you kidding?"

"Yes, and ow, stop walking so fast." Lex hopped on one foot, set it down, and stumbled along gingerly trying to catch up with her. His wrist hurt from the constant drag against the handcuff.

She gave him an appraising look. "Barefoot much?"

He glared at her.

"I guess you never went camping either?"

"No."

"Well this is going to be an adventure."

"If I wanted an adventure I would have gone on vacation somewhere in the wilds of the African rain forest, not on a hike through some god-awful place in Kansas wearing only my underwear."

Lana's eyes grew very round. "Africa? Would you really?"

"No, I hate traveling, you're missing the point."

"I've always wanted to see Africa, tour the plains on safari, visit the rain forests...."

"It's hot, dirty, and there is usually a war going on somewhere that causes a great deal of trouble when you're trying to get from one place to another. It's not as romantic as it's been described in modern literature."

"Or Venice..." she continued, ignoring him.

"Also hot, and the canals stink of sewage. Try again."

"Paris?"

"The traffic is a nightmare."

Lana stopped walking abruptly, and Lex, not paying attention to anything but avoiding the worst of the rocks in the road, was jerked to a stop. "Ow, what?"

"Have you ever been anywhere you did enjoy?"

He thought, then gave her a little tug. She fell back into step beside him. "Switzerland, once, when I was a kid."

"Cold though..."

"No, it's beautiful in the summertime. It does look just like The Sound of Music, with the green fields full of the white Edelweiss, and the snow capped Alps behind them." He shrugged. "My mother took me there, to a spa where there were hot springs. She thought it would help my asthma."

"Did it?"

"No. The meteor shower helped the asthma. It went right along with the hair." Out of the corner of his eye he saw her look at him, and he answered her unspoken question. "Not many people know."

"I'm sorry."

"Don't be, I'm not."

They walked on in silence. There was no sound of any cars anywhere nearby, nor any sign of civilization. There weren't even any sounds of crickets or frogs. It was too late in the season. The silence started to bother him.

"So," he said. "The asthma was unaffected, but I had a really good time. It was just me and my mother, no one else. Not my father, nor any servants. It was like I had her all to myself for the first time in my life, and I really got to know her." He smiled slightly. "We went to a play, and a concert, and toured the countryside by carriage. I was a sickly kid, and never got out much. It was nice to feel the sunshine and actually have fresh air to breathe."

"Have you ever been back?"

"No."

"Why not?"

Lex side-stepped a stone, thought about side-stepping the question, but changed his mind. "It wouldn't be the same."

"I know what you mean."

He glanced over at her, but could not see her face for the fall of her hair. He wondered if he should brace himself for one of her "dead parents" speeches and whether or not he would have to be cruel to her to get her to shut up.

He didn't want to be cruel to her.

"Where the hell is Clark?"

The comment had the desired effect. Lana laughed. "I don't know. He's slacking off." The laughter died off. "He's probably with Chloe."

She said nothing further, and after a moment Lex cleared his throat. "Thinking of a number two lead pencil?"

Lana remained quiet.

"Don't you think you're being unfair?" He asked finally. "Clark has been Lana Lang's number one fan since the age of four, and when he finally gives up moping around after you and finds someone else - oh, now you're interested?"

"What makes you think I wasn't interested before?" Her voice was terse. "May I remind you, again, that you are new here."

"I'm just pointing out how others might see it. Personally I think you've been playing him. When the quarterback was inattentive you always had Clark to fall back on for your petting." Lex ignored her gasp of outrage. "Now Whitney is gone, Clark has given up waiting for you to pay him the attention he deserves, and you've turned jealous and spiteful, wanting to poke your rival's eyes out with a pencil." He raised an eyebrow. "A dull pencil?"

She was staring at him from beneath her masses of dark hair with an expression very much like the "mask" from the movie Scream. Lex wondered how his critics would handle discovering his weakness for comic books and cheap horror flicks.

Lex Luthor.

Geek.

"Truth hurts doesn't it?"

"You - are a - a - slime ball," she said, and snapped her head away from him.

He grinned, wryly. "What an articulate outburst, Lana. If our next president needs a speech writer I'll recommend you for the post."

She grumbled under her breath. "Don't talk to me."

"Chloe has actually been a very good sport about this. She could have made her move a long time ago..."

"Didn't I just say, don't talk to me?"

"Captive audience. You should feel lucky, I could do what my father used to do to me and give you a complete analysis of the Trojan War, it's parallels to modern business practices, and how you can best use those concepts to screw the competition. A pop quiz will follow to make sure you were paying attention."

Lana stopped, turned, and glared at him. "Shut. Up."

They resumed walking. Lex smiled. He could feel her tension through the chain that connected their wrists, and eventually he felt it ebb.

"It wasn't on purpose," she said.

"What wasn't on purpose?"

"I never played, Clark. I just - when I figured out he liked me, I thought it was sweet. You know, in a brotherly sort of way." Her smile flashed in the darkness, coy behind the veil of her hair. "He was always the big goofy kid next door, always getting tangled up in his feet any time he got near me."

Lex had some theories regarding Clark's clumsiness in relation to Lana Lang, most of them centered around a particular piece of jewelry. He had once, to himself, referred to her necklace as "Baubletus Vomitus," and not because he thought it was ugly.

Of course he did think it was ugly, and very odd. He often wondered why he hadn't thought to have a piece of his hair gilded and made into a necklace to wear around his neck.

All the rage in Paris.

Nell needed to have her head examined. What was she thinking, giving a child a piece of the meteor that killed her parents? Lex imagined himself in the same situation, being presented a small glass vial by his father.

"Here Lex, here's a piece of the diseased tissue that killed your mother."

"Thanks dad, I'll treasure it forever."

"So you liked having him around."

"Yeah," Lana said quietly. "He's easy to talk to, and very kind and..." The coy look returned. "Sort of cute..."

Sort of cute? She needed glasses.

Even Lex thought Clark was good looking. He wondered if these country girls needed more incentive, like a two-by-four to the back of the head, before they noticed. Lex had seen uglier guys on runways in Paris and New York modeling the latest in GQ chic. Clark was just....

Frumpy?

"The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain..."

"What?"

"Nothing."

Note to self: take Clark shopping.

"I was going to break up with Whitney a couple of times, but he was having problems, and I just didn't think it was a good time."

"But you wanted Clark." It was not a question.

She gave him no answer.

"And you still want Clark." Also not a question. "Obviously, or you would not be contemplating mutilation by pencil." He took a long stride forward so he could glance over into her face. "Did you know he hasn't given up on you?"

The reaction was somewhat, as he'd expected, startled.

"But your quarterback has used Clark's own good nature against him. The 'watch out for my girl while I'm gone' scenario, and you know Clark won't dare lay a finger on you while he's under that promise."

"I didn't know that! How did you know?"

"Clark told me."

The skepticism in her voice hurt. "He confides in you?"

"We're friends."

She cocked her head. "So I am to understand. I still find myself wondering about your motives, Lex."

"I'm going for the big brother angle."

"Uh huh."

He walked on, winced as he stepped on a rock he did not see, and tried not to let the limp show. "I told you. I'm easily bored, Clark is entertaining, and he's a nice kid."

"And Luthors' always pay their debts?"

"Well, there is that."

Lana ran her free hand through her hair, trying to tame the tangles a bit. She pushed it back behind her ears. "I like Chloe," she laughed a little. "Despite the pencil thing. I don't want to see her hurt."

"Do you love him?"

Her sigh, in the growing chill of the late September night, was almost visible. "I don't know."

Lex let it drop. They kept going, until he heard her teeth chattering. He had given up trying to avoid the rocks, and was limping badly.

"Are you cold?"

Lana nodded. "Very."

He took her hand. "Come on. I'm limping, we're both cold, and I can't see to tell if we're passing anything important in the dark. I say we call it a night."

She nodded, falling in behind him as he led her across the road. They went off the road, wandering a short way into the woods, until Lex found a tree with a few low hanging branches. It was not much shelter, but it was better than nothing. They sat down at its base, much to Lex's relief. He felt as if he had been walking on raw and bloody stumps instead of feet.

Upon a somewhat closer examination (which revealed little due to the overwhelming degree of dark) he saw only dirt, and some probing revealed what was only mild bruising.

"Baby." Lana said, laughing.

"If the stock market crashes I want to be able to fall back on my career as a commercial foot model," he murmured. He felt her eyes on him, turned to look. "What?"

"You have a sense of humor."

"And that surprises you?"

"Yes, you've always seemed so - serious."

"For lack of a better term." Lex leaned back against the tree, drawing his legs up and resting his elbows on his knees. "Lana, we've been kidnapped by Stan Laurel, handcuffed together, and thrown out into the middle of nowhere wearing only our underwear. Furthermore, during our Sears Catalog underwear moment we've spent a great deal of time analyzing your love life. If I couldn't see the humor in the situation I would go completely insane."

"Lex Luthor, exposed."

He groaned.

Tabloid angst.

If this got out to the press, Lex would hunt down Eyebrow Man and shove a pitchfork up his butt.

Tines first.

Lana's teeth were still chattering. She huddled closer.

"Come here."

"Huh uh."

"Lana, I'm not going to molest you." Lex said quietly. "I think exposure is a real threat."

"Serious?" Her eyes were dark as she looked up at him, and he could see her bravado slip sideways.

"Serious. Come on." His smile was faint, wry. "I resisted the whipped cream didn't I?"

"So don't remind me of that, Lex. I'm still mortified."

"I'm still in awe of your pitching arm."

"I'm sorry..."

"Don't worry about it." He gave her a tug with the handcuffs. "Lap."

After some hesitation, the need to get warm overruled her unease. She crawled into his lap. It was the only way they could get close because of the handcuffs, and as she sat in his lap, their bound hands rested in hers. She curled herself into as small a package as she could, and huddled against his chest, shivering beneath the mantle of her long dark hair. Lex wrapped his free arm around her and held her close. Her voice was very small, and very tired, and that, more than anything, kept propriety. She was only a kid, a little girl, for all that she looked like a woman.

"I want to go home."

***

"Lana."

"Mmph."

Lex sighed. "Lana."

"G'way."

"I can't go away because my legs have gone numb."

She burrowed her face into the junction of neck and shoulder, and sighed.

She'd slept; he hadn't. Between the mosquitos, the odd noises coming from the woods, and the fact that even though Lana didn't weigh much she was still rather heavy to be sitting in his lap for hours, made it nearly impossible for Lex to get any rest at all. He'd dosed, at best, for about an hour, coming around just as light started to filter through the trees. His legs were cramping, his bladder was aching, and Lana's hair beneath his nose was making him have to sneeze.

Lex was not used to discomfort.

She sighed again, and he looked down at her.

She was a pretty girl. Lex had to give Clark credit for having excellent taste. Her skin was pale and flawless, contrasting sharply against the darkness of her hair and the green of her eyes. Full lips begged to be kissed. High cheekbones spoke of breeding and elegance, and a broad smile broadcasted sweetness. Beautiful, but smart and tough too, despite her critics. From nothing but a memory she'd built a (steadily improving) career for herself as a business woman and when Lex had (half jokingly) suggested that she play a little hardball with the competition, she had surprised him by doing just that and more.

He ran a finger along the line of her chin, thumb brushing her cheek.

Beautiful.

Young.

Too young.

Illegally young.

Prison.

Large hairy roommate - close resemblance to King Kong.

Alone in the shower with the large hairy roommate.

Lex snatched his hand back and dumped Lana off his lap.

"Hey!" She hit the dirt, and scowled up at him. "What?"

He stood up, shakily, wincing a little as muscles that had been held in the same position for hours, complained about being moved. He dragged Lana up to her feet as well. She stood rubbing her wrist where the handcuffs had chafed her skin red.

"I was tired of trying to get you to wake up."

Her expression was sour as she dusted dirt from her behind. "So you knock me down?"

Very white panties.

Virginal.

He resisted the urge to smack himself in the forehead.

They looked at each other.

Lana blushed; shifted her weight from foot to foot.

Lex simply shrugged. "It was inevitable."

"I can't," she said plaintively.

"And I thought you were the experienced camper?"

"Yes but I wasn't attached to someone else when I went camping!"

He raised an eyebrow.

"And I had paper."

"So I suppose even in the situation we find ourselves now, you'd be okay going to the bathroom in front of me if you had toilet paper?"

"No..."

"Would you feel more comfortable if I were Clark?"

Instantly her embarrassment turned to pique. "What does that have to do with it?"

"I'm curious."

"Yes," she said bluntly. "I would."

"Why?"

"Because - I don't know. He works on a farm."

He kept his expression neutral. "So that gives him some sort of advantage in regards to bodily functions? I run a manure processing plant. Personally, I think that gives me an advantage when it comes to waste products."

"That's really gross, Lex."

"Dignity has already flown out the window here, Lana. Drop your pants and get it over with, I'm getting tired of discussing it."

"Here?" She asked incredulously. "Right here?"

"Why not?" He looked around. Underbrush, hidden from the road, a tree to duck behind. He didn't see anything wrong with it.

Apparently she did. "We slept here!"

"So? We're not coming back to sleep here again, and by the way you may have gotten sleep, but I certainly didn't. Not with you digging your elbow into my ribs and snoring..."

"Snoring!" Lips pursed, eyes narrowed, Lana lowered her voice to a low growl. "I do not snore."

"I've heard quieter foghorns."

"Ooh!"

She turned around and jerked him along by the arm, hiding herself as much as she could behind the tree and the bushes. He saw her eyes peering through the leaves.

"Don't look."

"I can't see anything!"

"Turn your head!"

Sighing, Lex turned his head. When she crouched, she nearly pulled his arm out of the socket, but he kept his eyes on the trees in the opposite direction.

"I don't believe this," he murmured. "Kidnapped by a genetic anomaly and handcuffed to Mother Teresa."

Could be worse, his mind whispered. Could be Jonathan Kent.

Oh. God.

Lex imagined traveling through the woods handcuffed to Clark's father, who harbored a very obvious distaste for his son's rich friend. He could see Jonathan yanking on his arm every other mile in order to slam him into the sides of trees. Lex's entire body would be a uniform shade of black and blue by the time anyone found them, and Jonathan would innocently claim that Lex's evil ways were behind everything.

He thought of Eyebrow Man, and decided that if anyone tried to claim Lex had anything to do with him they would be taken to court and sued for libel, slander, and any other type defamation of character that existed in the known universe.

And beyond.

"Done." Lana said. "My head is turned. You go." She remained behind the tree.

Sighing, Lex set about to relieve a bladder close to exploding. He didn't care if she looked at him taking a leak. He had as much modesty as he had hair, and was actually quite proud of the trim figure he worked so hard to maintain. He had no qualms about nudity. Cold, yes, nudity in general, no.

Sickly, but spoiled, Lex had been a pale and pudgy child, with chipmunk cheeks and a turned up nose that had given him a rather piggy look. One of Lex's classmates had called him "Hammy" once, and he had not taken it very well. In return for the disrespect, Lex had planted porn and evidence of cheating in the other boy's desk, resulting in a horrible scandal and the first ever expulsion that particular boarding school had ever had to issue.

Reggie Pollard. He was now a shoe salesmen in Minneapolis.

Oink, oink Reggie. Do you have this in a size ten?

"Come on, I'm done."

Lana skipped out from behind the tree as if lightening her bladder lightened her spirits as well.

"Did you look?" He smirked.

"No! Of course not."

"Uh huh. Sure."

"No!"

"Not the tiniest bit curious about whether I have hair somewhere else? Most people are."

The blush was very pretty. "Okay, yes, but I swear I didn't look."

"You want to?"

Lex had quite a bit of experience with being slapped by offended women, so much in fact, that he had once jokingly written up a slap analysis system with which he could rate them. It was based on swing, loudness of hand against cheek, force of impact, and follow-through and included a section on facial expressions made by the slapper. The slappee (Lex himself) in his youth, had reacted with an expression of shocked surprise, but over the years that had changed. Now nothing surprised him.

Except maybe the fact that Lana didn't slap him.

She looked startled, which was generally the reaction prior to letting Lex have it across the face, but then some strange twisting motion screwed up her features into something he wasn't sure he understood. It was followed immediately by a shy, and somewhat sly look of curiosity.

"Yeah," she said.

Lex tried not to laugh. He slipped a thumb in the waistband of the BVD briefs and pulled it out. "I feel like I'm in pre-school."

"Perv." Lana said, and she leaned over to look.

Her mouth and her eyes were perfectly round "o's" when she looked back up at him. Her face was a uniform shade of scarlet.

"You're a red-head!"

"Was, and why is that so funny?" He took her hand, and guided her over a fallen tree as they wove their way back towards the road.

"I don't know, maybe because I've met your father."

"Ah, well, there's where most people go awry with almost every judgment they make about me. I am not my father."

"I'm beginning to realize that."

"I'm much more devious."

Lana laughed. Lex wished she hadn't.

He wished it wasn't true.

They arrived at the road again and Lex sighed as he realized it had not changed much in the daylight. It was still a dirt and gravel road stretching out through woods on either side. There were no houses or vehicles in sight, leading Lex to wonder aloud if they were still in Kansas at all. Lana was no help. There were, of course, wooded areas around Smallville and the surrounding towns, but having just gotten her driver's license, she was not quite familiar with them.

Lex determined that either they would get to something sooner or later, a car would have to come down the road, or Clark would show up to rescue them, and thus decided to keep walking. He was still foot-sore, and extremely tired, but he kept Lana's hand as he helped her over the ditch and into the road, and together they began walking again. Neither minded that they were holding hands, it kept the handcuffs from rubbing at wrists already sore. Lex suspected, for Lana, it provided a little bit of comfort in a still rather frightening situation.

"I think I'm also beginning to see why Clark considers you such a good friend."

Lex glanced over at her and raised an eyebrow. "Really? According to a few people it is due to the contents of my pants, or his pants, but what's your theory?"

"About the friendship or the contents of your pants?"

"The stand up comedy of Lana Lang - the friendship of course."

"I have a lot of reasons," she said quietly, growing more serious. "Clark is sort of an outsider at school you know. He keeps to himself except for Chloe and Pete, and doesn't let very many people get close. Once you get to know him, you see how intelligent, and kind, and funny he is and you wonder how you missed it." Lana pursed her lips, and frowned a little bit. "But even then, you get the impression he's holding something back."

"I see, and I agree with you, but what does that have to do with why we're friends?"

She looked into his face, studying it with eyes turned brighter green with the light of the morning sun. "You're a lot like him. I think he senses a kindred spirit."

Lex met her gaze, and wondered how he'd missed her intuitiveness and her intelligence. Blinded by her appearance? Possibly. "You could be describing yourself you know."

"I know," she said quietly.

"The Three Musketeers of Smallville, Kansas."

Lana chuckled, and gave his hand a little squeeze.

They kept walking.

"I wouldn't call it love." Lana said after a while.

Lex frowned, puzzled. "Call what love?"

"What I feel for Clark. It's not exactly love I guess. Can we really understand the concept of love at our age? I don't know."

"I didn't know love had an age restriction, but I can see your point."

"Juliet was thirteen." Lana reflected.

"Juliet was a fictional character and the relationship didn't exactly end on a positive note." Lex shook his head. "I can't see either you or Clark being so melodramatic as to swallow poison."

"I can't picture him in tights."

Lex laughed. "No, never."

"Clark is flannel and denim."

"I would generalize and say 'cotton'. Remember, if you will, his few attempts to dress up."

Lana tossed her head back as she burst out laughing. "Oxford cloth and khakis."

"One thing I've learned, being so involved in the corporate world, is that people do pay attention to how you dress. There are strong colors, and weak colors."

She nodded. "Which is why you always wear black and grey."

"Precisely."

"What about the purple?"

"It's representative of the aristocracy, and a power color."

"Not something else?" Lana ribbed, grinning mischievously.

"Have you been listening to the 'pants' theorists?" He echoed her grin, then gave her a sideways glance. "So, what about the quarterback?"

"He asked me to wait for him."

"I know."

She appeared slightly miffed. "Does Clark tell you everything?"

"No." Lex's nose wrinkled in distaste as they passed something mysterious lying by the side of the road. He longed for his Ferarri.

Or just a pair of shoes.

"Are you going to wait for him?"

"What do you think I should do?"

Lex snorted. "Me? I'd tell him he was dreaming, and do whatever I wanted."

Lana thought about his statement as they walked towards a bend in the road. "I would, but I'm scared," she said finally.

He turned to look at her face, and although her expression was neutral, he had heard the pain in her voice. His voice was softer as he spoke again. "What are you afraid of Lana?"

She answered just as softly. "Same thing I think Clark's afraid of regarding me."

"Which is?"

"That maybe having the dream is much better than having the reality."

They rounded the bend.

And stopped.

It wasn't a Ferarri, but it was definitely a car.

Lex and Lana looked at each other.

They didn't run, but they quickened their pace. Half trotting, half limping, they closed the distance between themselves and the car sitting at the side of the road just around the bend.

It was a big car, of the type that had been popular in the early seventies just prior to the gas crunch, with long sweeping fenders that were the last remaining nod to the gigantic fins from the previous era. In the modern era they were known as land yachts, and for good reason. The massive Buick, with its faded blue paint, rusting side panels, and big metal bumpers, made sleek little fiberglass cars like Lex's Ferarri look like Matchbox toys.

Idly, Lex wondered how easily Clark could pull the roof off of this car.

If, of course, that's really what he'd done to that Porsche.

Always cautious, Lex slowed as they approached the back of the car, indicating to Lana by way of a finger to his lips, to be quiet. With her walking meekly beside and slightly behind him, he made his way around to the driver's side of the car. A silent figure could be seen sitting in the front seat. Lex edged closer, and peered in the window.

"Oh, great, just great!"

It was their bungling kidnapper.

It was (fanfare please) Eyebrow Man.

He was sitting in the driver's seat with his head thrown back against the headrest; eyes closed, mouth open, and a trickle of drool running down his chin. His nose, and his bulging Adam's apple, were pointed towards the roof of the car.

"Is he dead?" Lana whispered, horrified.

Eyebrow Man answered her himself: "Snxxggrk."

Lex sighed. "Apparently not. He snores worse than you do."

She poked him with a finger. "Shut up."

"Snxxxggrk."

"Shh." Lex warned, carefully stuck his head in through the window, then rapidly withdrew it with a curse.

"What?" Lana whispered frantically. "What is it?"

He waved a hand in front of his face, and pushed her slightly backwards. "Chloroform. The idiot spilled the chloroform in the front seat."

Lana giggled. "Poor thing."

Lex turned and glared at her. "Poor thing! I'm standing here in my underwear, wearing handcuffs, in the middle of god knows where, and he's a poor thing?"

"Shh."

He growled, and turned his attention to the door handle.

"What are you doing?"

"Trying to get us home."

The door opened with a screech that would have waked the dead, but typically, Eyebrow Man was apparently immune to such everyday occurrences. He slumped sideways out into the dirt to land at Lex's feet with a thump.

"Snyrgrxxzik."

Still asleep.

"Help me." Lex bent and grabbed one lanky arm.

Lana helped drag Eyebrow Man over the the passengers side of the car. His long arms and legs made him unwieldy and awkward to handle, even just to drag him through the dirt, and it took them some time. He also
smelled.

"He's built like a sock monkey!" She complained, as they propped him up against a rusty side panel on the other side of the car. "All floppy."

"Snxgrk."

Crouching, Lex started hunting through pockets, cursing as he discovered nothing but lint. He dragged Lana back around to the open driver's side door and, holding his breath, examined the keys dangling from the ignition. He then began to rummage around in the trash strewn interior of the car. Periodically he withdrew to catch a breath of fresh air. Lana stood outside, with her arm stretched to give him as much room as possible without letting herself be exposed to the still strong chloroform fumes within the car.

Finally, red faced and sweating, Lex stopped searching the car and let fly with a fist on the top of the roof. "Damnit!"

"What are you looking for?"

He shook their handcuffed wrists. "The keys, our clothes, a phone..."

"He's not very organized." Lana said sympathetically.

Lex glared at her again. "If you say 'poor thing' again Lana I'll never forgive you."

She clamped her mouth shut.

They went back to stare at Eyebrow man.

Eyebrow Man made an emission.

Lex groaned as he bent towards him again.

"Now what?"

Her question was answered when Lex handed her Eyebrow Man's wrinkled and dirty t-shirt. He'd ripped the seam down the left side so that she could get it on around the handcuffs. Reluctantly she did put it on, tying the loose side up with a tidy knot and trying not to look at the mysterious stains down the front of it. Lex, pulling on the filthy pants and rolling up the legs, reflected that she had the less disgusting article of clothing. (What was that smell?)

"Can we drive the car?"

Again crossing around to the driver's side, Lex tried the horn, which failed to respond. "He's left the lights on all night. Even if the fumes weren't so bad, it won't start." He sighed as he put his feet into the battered sneakers. They were too big, but better than nothing. "We're walking again."

"Wait, wait." Lana tugged back at him as he started to go.

As if diving into a pool, (cesspool) she held her breath and ducked into the car, coming up with a sheet of newspaper from the back seat. Perplexed, Lex watched her as she leaned on the hood and began folding the paper. He moved his arm with hers so he would not get in her way.

"What is that?"

After a moment she presented the results of her handiwork with a flourish. "Ta-dah!"

"I repeat, what is it?"

"It's a pirate hat."

He stared at her. "Okay, do I applaud here or something? Give me a little help, Lana."

Lana popped open the bottom of the triangular-shaped paper hat and plopped it down on his head. "Aye, aye Captain Luthor," she crowed. "Let us cast off and be gone towards the ports of home."

"You breathed the chloroform didn't you?"

"No," she pouted. "How long as it been since you've been out in the sun?"

"I never go out in the sun."

"Well then, do you really want to get back to town with the top of your head resembling a Red Delicious apple? If we spend all day walking around in this - quite beautiful actually - weather, you are going to get sunburned within an inch of your life."

"Point taken." He tipped his hat at her, and gave her a sweeping bow. "Shall we go then? Before yonder sock monkey awakens and we have to do battle?"

"Aye sir, although I'm quite confident you would be the victor."

"Flattery gets you everywhere matey." Lex started back down the road.

Lana took his hand and walked beside him, grinning. "Thought so."

***

"If," Clark thought to himself. "I'd landed on a planet that did not have chocolate milk shakes, I think I would have died at a very young age."

He was sitting in a chair at the Talon, feet propped on a stool, enjoying the latest copy of Astronomy and the biggest double chocolate milk shake the Talon offered. Thick chocolate ice cream, rich chocolate syrup, a generous helping of whipped cream, and (and Clark thought this was complete decadence) chocolate sprinkles.

Heaven.

Carbohydrate overload.

Damn, life was good.

He settled back in his chair with a sigh, and slurped.

"Clark!"

Uhoh.

Pete's voice, rather frantic, cut through the music and interrupted Clark's happy milk shake meditations. The Talon wasn't busy on what was an early Saturday afternoon, as the lunch crowd had just left and the evening crowd had not yet arrived. Clark had been spotted easily. He looked up to see Pete weaving through the few people mingling about, and raised his eyebrows in question. He did not stop drinking the milk shake.

Out of breath, and grinning from ear to ear, Pete grabbed his arm. "Come on, hurry. You have to see this."

He might as well have been trying to drag a ten ton weight. Clark was not budging. "What?"

"You have to see it. Old man Winston...."

"The pig farmer from Southdale?"

"Yeah...."

"The one with no teeth?"

"Yes."

Clark slurped. "I've seen him." He ignored the tugging Pete continued to inflict upon his sleeve.

"He just came into town, you know, in that nasty pick-up he drives..."

"Yeah, so. He brings his manure to the plant for processing once a month."

Pete sniggered. "He brought in more than manure this time."

The doors to the Talon burst open with a bang, and Clark, Pete, and everyone else in the room, turned to look.

Half naked and sunburned, filthy, and wearing a newspaper pirate hat, Lex Luthor stood in the doorway roaring for someone to give him a telephone.

Right.

Now!

Behind him, at the end of a pair of handcuffs, was a tangle-haired, scantily-clad figure streaked with pig manure from head to toe. She sneezed. When her hands instinctively rose to her face, she jerked Lex backwards by the handcuffs connecting them. He stumbled, due primarily to wearing ugly brown high-topped sneakers much too big for him, and slammed into her. They both lost their balance. Lana fell down. Lex toppled over onto her.

He lost his hat.

Clark, sucking in a breath in order to burst out laughing, choked, and instead shot chocolate milk shake out his nose.

"Phfffzzzt!"

Pete dodged the spray.

The complete and utter chaos that followed, wherein the waitresses scrambled to locate a phone and untangle their cursing, laughing and obnoxiously stinking employers, only made Clark laugh harder. Pete relieved him of the precariously tipping milk shake and pounded him on the back until he could breathe again. Clark wheezed. Tears ran down his face.

The patrons slowly filed away, due to either the smell coming from the front of the room, or the necessity of finding some secluded corner in which to laugh, and Pete and Clark made their way forward. Pete's hand ached from pounding Clark on the back. Clark was still sniggering.

"You!" Lex pointed, as soon as he hung up the phone, at Clark. "Where were you?"

Pete held his nose.

"Me?" Clark's eyebrows vanished beneath his bangs.

"Whud habben?" Pete managed. He was not going to let go of his nose.

"We were kidnapped." Lana said, pushing her hair back and making a face as her fingers caught a tangle. "Last night."

Clark looked sheepish. He hadn't noticed they'd been missing.

Uhm, whoops?

"Are you all right?"

"Besuds duh smuhl." Pete added.

"I think Lex has been traumatized."

Lex scowled.

"Who was it?"

"I don't know." Lana replied. "He was tall, almost as tall as you Clark, but all lanky. Blond, funny beard..."

"One eyebrow." Lex muttered.

"Drove an old blue Buick." Her brow furrowed. "Liked fast food - a lot. Especially with onions."

Pete and Clark looked at each other.

"Billy!"

Lex's scowl deepened. "You know this person?"

Clark stuck his hands in his pockets and shrugged. "Yeah. Billy Anderson. Lives out in the woods near Southdale. Raises earthworms for a living. He's harmless."

Pete finally let go of his nose, but winced as he was immediately assaulted by the smell of pig manure. "Nice fat nightcrawlers."

Nodding, Clark grinned. "Best fish bait for miles."

"Harmless!? Fishbait!?"

Pete ignored Lex and gave Clark a nudge. "Oh man, let's go over there and get some. We've not hit the Scott's pond yet this year!"

"I heard Robbie pulled a twenty pound bass out of there last weekend." Clark added. "Let's." He turned to look at Lex. "Billy is okay, isn't he? You guys didn't hurt him when you escaped did you?"

Lex sputtered in utter indignation.

"He's asleep." Lana said helpfully. "He spilled his chloroform. You can find him somewhere between here and Southdale. Mr. Winston was nice enough to give us a ride...."

"Pigs." Lex shuddered.

They looked at him with some concern.

Lana grinned. "I could go with a fish dinner."

Clark beamed at her. Even smelling like crap, and with hair tangled into a Brillo-pad-like mess, she was the most beautiful girl he'd ever seen. "I'll bring you some."

"Great. Come over around seven."

His smile broadened.

Lex groaned.

Pete handed him Clark's milk shake.

***

"How was your date."

Lana looked up from the clipboard she was using to inventory the glasses. It was Sunday and the Talon was closed, but Lana had work to do regardless. She was back to her tidy self, with her hair neatly plaited into braids, and her pretty forest green sweater a perfect match to her eyes. Pale pink lipstick gave her mouth just a hint of color. Her smile was cheery as she greeted Lex.

"You mean the fish fry? It was hardly a date. It ended up more of a cook out. The Rosses and the Kents joined us."

"I take it then, that Clark found Eyebr - er - Billy?"

"Yeah, woke him up and gave him a stern lecture before taking him home and buying bait from him. He won't be trying to kidnap anyone again for a while." She cocked her head. "Clark can be very persuasive."

"I've noticed."

"I tried to call you, invite you too, but I got voice-mail."

"I was in the bath, trying to soak all the pig manure out of my pores."

Lex too, looked fully recovered from the ordeal, clad in his usual black, and sporting a rich purple dress shirt. A glance out the front windows revealed the curves of a shiny black Porsche parked at the curb.

Lana smiled, lowered her eyes. "I had ulterior motives."

He narrowed his eyes.

Romantic motives?

He looked at her, admired her pretty smile, her dark hair, and the way her small hands curved around the clipboard. Her nails were painted in a pale champaign color to match her lipstick. Her cheeks were flushed with natural color. She was very beautiful.

Maybe. In a few years. If, of course, it fell through with Clark.

Or not. Lex had made off with other guys girlfriends before.

"Ulterior motives huh?" Lex smiled. "Which were?"

"I wanted to thank you."

"For what?"

"Listening to me," She waved a hand. "I know, captive audience, but...." Her eyes were bright. "I think I may give it a go."

"With Clark?"

She nodded.

"I'm sure he'll be happy."

There was a pause, and Lex looked up at her questioningly, sensing something unsaid.

"You're a nice guy, Lex," she responded.

He snorted; looked away.

"I mean it."

He looked back towards her.

Their eyes met.

"I'll try not to let you down," he said softly.

Lana leaned over the bar, and kissed him on the cheek.

"But," he added, as he edged away from the bar toward the front doors. "If you ever tell anyone about what happened, particularly members of the press, I'll have to do something evil to you."

She stuck out her tongue at him.

Lex crossed his eyes, and returned the gesture.

Laughing, Lana returned to her inventory as the Porsche shot away from the curb with its radio blaring.

***

For Christmas that year Lana gave Lex a black and purple stocking cap she'd knitted herself. "For when it gets really cold," she wrote in the card.

Lex gave Lana a diamond and gold bracelet made to resemble tiny handcuffs all linked together. "Shh," he wrote in his card.

Clark gave them both gift certificates to Billy's Worm Emporium. He didn't write anything in the card.

In the spring Lana took Lex fishing.

They left Clark at home.




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