There's something about four-year anniversaries.

I actually wrote the first bit in class. I do a lot of my writing in notebooks and then type it up afterwards. It was in present tense in the notebook, so it got transferred to present tense on the computer. Afterwards, I looked at it and wondered if I really wanted the entire story in present tense, couldn't decide, and posted it.

Later, when I started writing the actual story itself instead of the lead-up, I discovered that I wanted it in past tense. Whoops. So the lead-up got made into a little prologue type dealy.

For their three-year anniversary Clark flew Lex to the Arctic and showed him the Fortress, with explicit instructions to the AI to let Lex in anytime he wished (Lex was oddly touched, which just went to show that he was still unfathomable).

I'm not sure if I'm writing this with the fifth season premiere in mind. Some people are going to read it that way, of course. I knew long before the finale that the collection of the three elements was going to lead up to the Fortress, but that's because I have prior Superman knowledge.

The reason Lex is so touched by this three-year anniversary gift is that, well, he treats this relationship as a much more fragile thing than Clark does. Clark is young, Lex is his first serious relationship, and so naturally he thinks it's forever. Lex would like to think that it's forever, but he's jaded and cynical enough to know that it's not.

Showing Lex the Fortress, though, is a very serious Forever sort of move. He's trusting Lex with this gigantic part of his secret and giving Lex access to it even when Clark himself isn't around (I bet you the Fortress isn't too happy about this). Clark, of course, doesn't see it this way. All he knows is that he loves and trusts Lex and wants to share with him things that he thinks Lex will like. He doesn't see very far into the future.

He is going to prepare a nice, romantic dinner, give Lex his mundane gift, and then take Lex to bed and make him come three times.

I wanted sex to be this totally normal thing for them. I mean, they've been together for four years, there's no reason for Clark to still be shy about sex.

The phone rang while Clark was trying to remember if he was supposed to take the chicken out before putting the dough into the pot.

Some of you have probably noticed that I seem to have this obsession with chicken and dumplings. I like chicken and dumplings, yes, but it's also a shout-out to punk's Meanwhile, Back in Metropolis. . ., where chicken and dumplings is Lex's favorite food.

The vegetables were pretty mushy by now, he was probably supposed to take them out. . .

Chicken and dumplings is actually really hard to mess up, from what I can tell, so there wasn't going to be any hilarity from this venue. It does, however, seem to require a lot of taking things out of the pot and putting them back in, which I've always thought kind of pointless in cooking.

"Yeah, what's up?" Clark asked, trying to sound upbeat and not like he was imagining Lex, beaten and bruised and tied to a chair while a masked criminal held his cell phone to his face.

This probably happens to Lex a lot more than Clark is comfortable with.

"Great," Lex said. "Can you make enough for three? I'm bringing someone home."

I actually had no idea who Lex was bringing home when I made that poll. Then, of course, everyone voted for it. After frantically discussing it with pauvretoi, I realized that Lionel was the only probable choice; as Clark notes, anyone you bring home has to be either a personal friend or a parent. Lex wouldn't bring home, say, a business associate; he'd take them out to dinner.

This meant, however, that I would have to write Lionel, something I had never before contemplated. I was terrified. Fortunately, Lionel turned out to be a lot of fun to write.

Moving mechanically, he began to remove the chicken from the pot, placing it on a large dish.

Clark is actually a decent cook once he stops overthinking it. He's so consumed by the depressing thought of Lionel coming over for dinner that he stops wondering what he's supposed to do and just does the correct thing, which is removing the chicken from the pot so he can cook the dough.

Clark hung up the phone very, very gently

To avoid smashing it.

Wait, why did he care what Lionel thought anyway? He and Lex were perfectly fine, their fourth anniversary was coming up, and Clark wasn't about to let Lionel ruin an otherwise perfectly fine evening.

Clark's neuroses regarding Lionel's approval kind of became a reoccurring theme. I enjoy it. Clark is the kind of person who just wants to be liked.

The chicken and dumplings turned out fine, if not quite as good as Martha's.

It seems to be one of the laws of home cooking that you will never, ever be able to replicate your parent's cooking no matter how hard to try. Even if you follow the recipe down to the letter, it will still never be quite as good.

Clark had already been planning freshly-steamed green beans as a side; after a quick look in their alarmingly well-stocked pantry he added roast potatoes. He tossed together a quick salad, and then popped over to the corner grocery store for dinner rolls and fresh fruit for a fruit salad dessert.

Writing this made me really hungry.

The penthouse door beeped softly to announce Lex's arrival.

High tech!

(or breakfast continent, as Chloe had once called it).

Look! Chloe's still in their lives!

"Not at all," Lionel said, baring his teeth in a grin. "It's very quaint."

One of the fun things about writing Lionel is all the backhanded compliments you get to make.

"Sit, Dad," Lex said. "I hope you're not waiting for one of us to pull out a chair."

And the sniping between father and son!

Clark hovered, sure he was forgetting something.

I actually forgot drinks while I was writing this and had to go back and write it in.

Clark fetched two glasses of iced tea and a glass of milk for himself, then seated himself on Lionel's right side.

I have no idea if there's any actual significance to the seating arrangement here. I'm sure there is. Lionel, of course, seats himself at the head of table because that's where he thinks he belongs. I don't know if there's any significance to Lex seating himself on the left (is that the place traditionally reserved for queens?). I just did that so he wouldn't be bumping elbows with Lionel during dinner, since he's left-handed.

Lionel grinned and interjected an anecdote from, surprisingly enough, not actual history but Richard Adams's Watership Down.

I don't know what possessed me to do this. Lionel doesn't strike me as a Watership Down fan. He might have read it--I hear it's required reading in some schools--but I don't know that he'd quote it. Efrafa, however, does seem like his kind of thing.

"A Wide Patrol would sometimes come upon General Woundwort crouched under a tussock of grass, inquiring as to why they were off their patrol route," Lionel said.

I'm sure that if I'd bothered to do five minutes of research I would've found some sort of Greek/Roman/Macedonian example instead of rabbits, but rabbits came to mind and I was lazy.

"Well," Lionel said, once dinner was finished, "I suppose you're all wondering why I invited myself over so abruptly."

I think I left a big burden on the readers here, and consequently a kind of scary burden on myself. This poll literally would have determined which way the story went: funny or sad. If Lionel had a terminal disease, the rest of the story would have been about grief and Lex coming to terms with the fact that he never has and probably never will come to terms with his father on the eve of their four-year anniversary. If Lionel was getting remarried or needed a place to stay, the story would have remained light-hearted and funny. If Lionel was getting a dog, then the whole dinner-with-Lionel thing would have ended in a very anticlimactic sort of way and the story would have been about something else entirely.

Clark wondered if this was what madness felt like.

This is totally a Firefly reference. Everyone who's seen it should know what I mean.

"Oh, a week should be long enough, surely," Lionel said.

I have no idea what kind of renovations take only a week, but I figure he's a Luthor and money can accomplish almost anything.

He might have sounded less manically cheerful and more like a serial killer, but he thought it was allowable, given the circumstances.

I really like this line.

Clark staggered into the kitchen the next morning, stifled a yawn, and reached for the Froot Loops.

Shout-out to toomuchplor's Omiai this time.

Lionel, for his part, was neatly groomed, albeit dressed-down in a short-sleeved polo shirt and what might have been only $100 slacks instead of $500 ones.

I couldn't remember if we'd ever seen Lionel in casual attire, so I made something up. He doesn't seem like the jeans and t-shirt type, so polo shirt and slacks it was.

By "in his position" he meant "semi-retired." LexCorp had finally swallowed LuthorCorp two years ago.

Something that started needling me around here was how and why Lex lived in a penthouse. A lot of Smallville writers take it for granted that when Lex moves back to Metropolis he'd get his own penthouse, but why and how? Lionel, of course, gets his own penthouse apartment at the top of the LuthorCorp tower, but unless Lex had his own tower as well I didn't see how he'd get his own luxurious penthouse apartment like this.

So I decided that in this universe, LexCorp got big enough that he could and did have his own building, with his own penthouse apartment, and that it eventually swallowed LuthorCorp. It was also a good way to get in a nod to canon, where Lex's company is indeed called LexCorp rather than LuthorCorp.

Sitting at their breakfast island reading the newspaper, Lionel didn't seem to mind.

I imagine Lionel was both pissed and proud. Pissed that his son beat him, and proud that his son beat him.

They kept two kinds of milk in the penthouse: 1 percent milk fat for Lex, who had very balanced eating habits, and full-fat unpasteurized, unhomogenized milk from the local health food store for Clark, who was used to milk straight from cows and thought city milk tasted like thin plastic and chemicals.

Yet another shout-out of sorts, this time to Thamiris's When a Strawberry is Pushed Into a Mountain. Unpasteurized milk is actually illegal in all states except California, which I forgot when I was writing this.

Incidentally, lactose-intolerant persons can actually drink unpasteurized milk. Milk naturally contains lactase, and it's the pasteurization process that breaks it down so lactose-intolerant people can't digest it.

"Ah, the leisure of youth," Lionel said. "Lex, of course, was running a company at your age."

There really is no good response to this.

Lionel said nothing, only turned back to his newspaper. He rattled the pages. "What do you think of Metropolis's new superhero?"

When I wrote Pitch, I thought that Clark didn't become Superman until after college. Then I realized this couldn't be true if Lex helped him with it, because there's no way that Lex would have tolerated Clark running around saving people without a safeguard for four years. So I decided that Clark probably became Superman a year or two into his college career but didn't think to take it global until maybe the end of his senior year, when he started thinking about Life Beyond College. All this, of course, makes it all the more impressive when he walks into the Daily Planet as a young, awkward intern with the first interview that anyone's been able to get with Superman.

"Really? Tsk. I thought you were a journalism student."

I'm required to subscribe to the local paper in my journalism class. It's expensive as hell. I imagine that in higher-up journalism classes, such as at Met U (watch me ignore the 4th/5th seasons again!) you're required to subscribe to more than one paper.

Clark hated that name. It had started out as a quote, some overawed woman he'd saved from a mugging squealing, "It's like he's a--a superman!"

Canonically, I think it's actually Lois who gives him the name Superman. That couldn't happen in the Smallville universe, though, because Lois is not yet a journalist; she's a year older than Clark but ends up taking a year off from college due to Smallville writer suck syndrome. This kind of screws up actual Superman canon really badly, but there wasn't anything I could really do about it. As I write this commentary occurs to me that I didn't actually have to do all this because I decided that the Lois in this universe isn't the same as Smallville!Lois. Oh well.

And it'd stuck. It didn't help that Clark had decided to fly around with his family crest emblazoned on a chest like a brand, to remind him of all the ways in which he could--and had--misuse his powers. The crest did, admittedly, look somewhat like an S inside a shield.

It actually looks more like a figure 8 than an S, but hey, what do I know?

The really odd thing about the big red S on Clark's chest is that, well, the original comics artists probably came up with that S on Clark's chest because S stood for Superman. Clark, of course, did not give himself the name Superman (that's a little egotistical, don't you think?), so clearly he must have meant for that S to stand for something else. But what? Smallville? That's a dumb thing to name your superhero persona after.

The show, eventually, gives us the El family crest, but Jor-El gives Clark so much crap throughout the series that I couldn't think of a viable reason for Clark to wear it on his chest like that. Eventually, I decided it was probably a reminder of the responsibilities he has to bear.

Lionel made a little noncommittal humming sound. "I think it's too early to tell," he said, and turned the page.

You know, neither Clark nor Lex have bothered to check that Lionel's apartment is actually being renovated. He could have fabricated that to have an excuse to be close to them. He might be trying to find out Clark's secrets.

Lionel's not stupid, of course. He would have hired people to make sure the penthouse looked like it was being renovated.

Lionel also effectively destroyed their sex life; his constant presence irritated and stressed Lex so much that he couldn't get it up, even if he wanted to.

I like little details like this.

That was it. Lionel had to go.

The problem with writing these next few scenes is that Clark is not a mean person. Nor is he terribly clever. I'm presuming that Clark gets smart eventually since he ends up working for a paper that's the DC equivalent of the New York Times--and you cannot be stupid if you work for the Times--but in the Smallville verse he's not really all that bright.

The long and short of it is, it was really hard to come up with plausible schemes that Clark would think of himself and enact, which was why I made my readers do it.

"We have this really horrible silverfish problem, you know," Clark told him.

I got this one from the poll. It seemed like something Clark would actually try.

Lionel licked his finger and turned a page in his book. "I'm surprised Lex allowed such an infestation to occur in the first place."

I told akukorax that Lex probably has the place fumigated at the sight of one moth.

Next, Clark tried being an obnoxious teenager.

I thought of this one all by myself!

Unfortunately, Clark completely forgot to factor in Lex, who was, of course, home on Sundays.

When I first wrote this, I decided that Lex worked half-days on Sundays because he's a workaholic. Then I realized that it made no sense for Lex to be working half-days while Lionel worked full days when Lionel presumably has less work to do than Lex. So, uh, I had to rewrite this slightly.

"And is there some reason you're suddenly into Chemical Brothers?"

Some people write Lex listening to classical music and opera all the time. While there is little evidence to disprove this in the show--Lex is high-society and clearly knows the fine arts--I think it's even more likely that Lex also listens to bad techno music.

Mind you, I like electronica, but I'm not really into Chemical Brothers. Breakbeat = noise, IMHO.

"Uh, sorry," Clark said, hitting the remote and turning down the volume.

Lex has one of those awesome stereos that has a remote control.

Clark discreetly cleaned it up. When Lionel wandered into the living room later, wearing nothing a wifebeater and sweatpants (what was really disturbing was that Lionel looked good; he was totally cut for an old guy), Clark inquired as to whether or not he'd been bothering Lionel earlier.

I really, really wanted to write Lionel walking around shirtless at one point just so Clark could make some kind of side comment about how good-looking Lionel is. Because he is! That one scene in the fourth season where he's doing push-ups in prison? Whoa! And have any of you seen that one picture where John Glover's pulled up his shirt and is teasing the viewer? Mrowr!

But it didn't seem very in-character of Lionel to walk around shirtless with company, someplace that isn't his own home, so I had to settle for a wifebeater.

"Oh, not at all," Lionel assured him. "You forget I had to put up with Lex's adolescence."

Lionel: 2 Clark: 0

Lex constantly complained about his secretary, Brenda.

There's this thing you do to determine whether or not a girl's name is skanky or not. You try out the name in these two phrases: ______, the President of the United States! and _______, the prize and star of the Boom Boom Room! I wanted a name that was not immediately skanky-sounding but not incredibly prim, so I ran a few through on this test until I landed on Brenda.

Clark dropped by Lex's work and found Brenda at her desk as usual, apparently doing three things at once.

The only reason Lex keeps her around is because she's incredibly good at her job. He may dislike her personally, but he wouldn't be able to replace her right away.

Brenda arched one slender auburn eyebrow. "Why?"

Lionel has a thing for redheads in the same way that Lex clearly has a thing for brunettes. I'll bet you anything that Lionel's mother had red hair.

Clark rolled his eyes. "Yeah, compared to, I don't know, Bill Gates or J.K. Rowling or something.

I find it kind of funny that J.K. Rowling is up there with Bill Gates.

"You don't go out at all. All you ever do is just come home, eat, and then read or watch television for the rest of the night. You need to get out a little."

Lionel strikes me as being a little depressed at this point in his life. I mean, not that I blame him. He works at the pleasure of his son, and that's gotta be a blow to a guy's ego, especially a guy like Lionel. That's pretty much the only excuse I can offer to how this scene worked, because really Lionel shouldn't have agreed to his blind date at all. But, what else does he have to do? He's not the top of the heap anymore, so he might as well amuse himself with some poor, hapless woman that Clark Kent picked out for him.

Man, that's gotta be a new low.

"It's not a night out on the town, it's just dinner. And maybe a show or something." Clark cocked his head and tried to look even more puppyish. The how-could-you-say-no-to-these-eyes? face. "I already told her yes."

Clark probably doesn't realize how familiar he's become with Lionel over these past few days. Note that he's not doing the neurotic housewife thing anymore. He actually feels comfortable initiating conversation with Lionel and making puppy faces at him.

"Great!" Clark flashed what Lex called his million-watt smile, earning a very tiny smile from Lionel in response. "I'll call her and let her know. Um--"

Clark apparently has powers over more than one Luthor.

"The Belle Rivière," Lionel said.

It's a dumb name for a restaurant. I know. I'm sorry.

Clark used to wonder why and how it took Lex so long to get ready when he didn't even need to style his hair and the most complex thing about his clothing was his cufflinks. He'd asked Lex repeatedly, and each time Lex just shrugged and said, "First impressions matter."

I have no idea what takes Lex so long, either. Actually, I'm not sure that Lex does take very long, it's just that Clark takes so very little time that Lex seems really slow in comparison.

Lionel took his own sweet time, wandering leisurely around the apartment, trying on different ties and exaggeratedly scrutinizing his hair in every available reflective surface.

I don't know that anyone cares, but my mental image of Lionel in this story is the short-haired Lionel from season 4.

Lex was going to be home in an hour and Clark needed to make the Most Perfect Anniversary Dinner Ever.

I'm not certain that anything can be most perfect. I mean, how can you improve on something that's already perfect? How can something be more perfect than something else?

"My mom always said that punctuality is the respect you show for others by being on time." Clark tried not to fidget.

That seems like something Bo Kent might say, actually. Hmmm.

And I'm sure you need plenty of time to prepare for your anniversary with Lex."

HAHAHAHAHA GOTCHA!

But it described his feelings perfectly: flabbergasted.

I love that word.

"Good. I want you to come downstairs."

At first, I wrote that Lex sent a driver. Then, when I looked it over, I realized it was stupid: Clark and Lex live on the top floor of the LexCorp building. Lex would just tell him to come downstairs.

Curse Lex and his surprises! Why couldn't Clark be the surpriser for once? This sucked.

This is what happens when you don't clear your surprises ahead of time, Clark.

"I know," Lex said.

Lex has probably known since the chicken and dumplings. See, typically, Clark makes pretty easy stuff for dinner. Chicken and dumplings is something that requires slightly more preparation and more ingredients: Lex caught on immediately that it was supposed to be something special.

Lex was waiting patiently on the sidewalk in front of a limousine. Clark gave him a questioning look, but all Lex did was hold out a blindfold.

Lex has a penchant for drama.

The blindfold wasn't heavy, so it wasn't lead-lined like the one they occasionally used in bed.

A HINT OF KINK.

Clark abruptly realized how distant they'd been since Lionel had invaded their penthouse.

Which is how Clark was able to pull off all those schemes. You think Lex would've let him get away with that if he'd been around?

"Well done, Holmes," Lex said. He led Clark across the lobby and into an elevator.

Lex strikes me as a Sherlock Holmes fan.

And, probably, without a garden.

Lex had a garden put on the roof for Clark because Clark goes crazy without greenery in his life.

"I thought we'd stay here until my father left," Lex said.

I told this to akukorax and she cracked that Lionel would probably come home and wonder where everyone went. I figure that once Lionel ascertains that they are not, in fact, in mortal danger, he just takes advantage of his newfound privacy to walk around shirtless a lot. And maybe listen to bad music.

"Like what?" Lex looked like he honestly wanted to know the answer

I think Lex genuinely doesn't know what he's doing for Clark. He's known for a long time that Clark doesn't care about Lex's money, he just cares about Lex--and as far as Lex is concerned, he has nothing to give of himself.

Oh, right! Clark stepped back and pulled something out of his pocket. "I got this for you."

You have no idea how much I agonized over what Clark would get for Lex. Because it's true: Lex has everything he could possibly want. All Clark can get for him are things that Lex would never, ever think to buy for himself: such as beanie babies!

I honestly have no idea how this occurred to me. Maybe I was on something. It wasn't like I thought, "Now, if I were Clark Kent, what could I see that would remind me of Lex Luthor?" I just received this vision of a cute plushie or beanie shark, and I ran with it.

It was a beanie shark with a grey-blue back and a white underbelly, white felt teeth, and beady black eyes. The little tag on his fin said that his name was Crunch the shark.

Crunch the shark is adorable, although I think his name (and poem) are retarded. I actually did research to see if such a thing as a beanie shark existed. It did, and I was afraid it would be something cartoony and completely inappropriate. To my delight, it's a perfectly realistic-looking shark--for being made out of felt--and is so inexpensive online that Clark could easily have purchased one.

"Oh Clark," Lex said, and he sounded so quiet and fervent, like a saint seeing God, "only you would buy me a beanie shark because it made you think of me."

It's true. Only Clark.

I don't know if Lex reads into the shark the way Clark did when he bought it. It's just something so small and ridiculous and Clark that he falls in love with Clark all over again.

"You like it?" Clark said, dazed, once Lex conceded to their need for air.

"I love it," Lex said. "I'll keep it on my desk." Then he started unbuttoning Clark's jeans, and Clark supposed he would cook for Lex tomorrow. They could order in tonight.

The end!

The end of the story is considerably worse than the beginning, I think. I had a very frantic weekend and that kind of knocked me out of the groove of writing this story. I tried my best, though, and I hope it was satisfactory.



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