Auothor's Notes: Sorry this has been so long coming. The muses got distracted. They aren't now.


Part 8

Lex's head was pounding, and the sound of the voice droning on about finance reports at the other end of the boardroom grated on his last nerve. In retrospect, getting very drunk after Bruce left last night was not as brilliant an idea as it had seemed like at the time.

"Lex?" His father's voiced boomed out as the drone finished his monologue. "Do you have anything useful to add?" Inwardly, Lex winced. His father seemed to know he was off his game today, even if he didn't know why. All eyes in the room turned expectantly towards him.

Lex nodded, slowly, to test how even the slightest motion would affect his throbbing skull. It didn't hurt half as badly as he'd anticipated, so he decided it was safe to say something. "Naturally," he replied, his lips curling slightly at the edges as he pointed out the weaker areas of the report he'd just heard. He was all-too aware of his father's eyes on him, watching his every move and mannerism. Watching him too sharply, too keenly.

He wrapped his commentary and sat back down, fielding questions from various board members. The questions lasted for a few more minutes and then the meeting ended. Lex rose from his seat, trying not to appear hasty, and exited the room. His sole thought was on getting out of the LuthorCorp building as quickly as he could.

"Lex!" Dominic's voice rang out behind him, grating even more than usual. He ignored the salutation and continued on his way to his office, slamming the door behind him, which caught on Dominic's hand when he tried to stop it so he could follow Lex--uninvited--into the office. His father's drone yelped, and Lex smothered a laugh. Served him right for not taking the hint when Lex ignored him the first time. Lex didn't want to talk to him.

"What is it now, Dom?" Lex sounded tired, but thankfully not whiny.

"Your father wants--"

"It can wait," Lex interrupted. He didn't care what Lionel wanted. Besides, he was certain he knew what his father wanted. He busied himself by straightening his desk and shutting down his computer.

"But Mr. Luthor said--"

"Dom." Lex looked up from his computer and glared his father's favorite lackey. "I'm going home for the night. Whatever Dad wants from me, it can wait until tomorrow." His tone left no room for argument. He wasn't going to start jumping through his father's hoops just because Bruce had decided *for them* that they needed to start keeping an even lower profile.

*&*&*&*

Lex woke Saturday morning with the same pounding headache he'd had for most of the previous day. This time, however, it was not from anything he'd consumed, but the result of having every phone in his possession ringing off the hook for most of the night. Apparently, his father hadn't been happy when he hadn't rushed straight into his office as expected.

Lex had actually answered the first of many phone calls, then hung up while Lionel was in mid-rant. He'd called back a few more times, and then Lex unhooked the main phone. Then his father started calling on the cell phone.

Lex turned it off, but by that time, he was tense with annoyance. Sleep came fitfully, and only after he lay awake wrestling with his own mind. Bruce hadn't given him a say in this decision. "I'm going back to Gotham for a while," he'd informed Lex, and then went on to add that he thought they needed to be more careful with their arrangement. Not relationship. Not involvement. Not even affair. Arrangement. As if he were trying to distance himself from Lex altogether.

Logic said that Bruce was right: if his father discovered their personal involvement, he could use it against them both. He understood that--Hell, if the situation were reversed and he could get some dirt on Lionel, he'd do the same--but his pride stung at not being allowed an active role in the decision. They were... partners... lovers... he'd assumed Bruce respected him.

The Luthor part of his brain insisted he'd assumed wrong. Most of the night had been a war to convince himself he hadn't been. Now, in the morning light, he was cranky and he had a Little League game to attend.

*&*&*&*

Sunglasses hid the fact that Lex wasn't really paying attention to the game. His mind was still churning with too many new ideas--most of them bad--and the mediocre children's baseball team wasn't enough to hold him. Therefore, when a peanut shell hit him square in the chest, he nearly jumped out of his skin.

"Hey!" Chloe Sullivan called out when Lex looked around for his assailant.

"Chloe." He smiled and then removed the sunglasses. Chloe and her cousin stood and moved down the row to sit next to him.

"Wow, you look like a raccoon," Lois commented. "All night party?" Lex was immediately made aware of which side of the family Chloe got her directness.

"Sadly, no," Lex replied dryly, although the thought occurred to him that a night out might be just the thing he needed to blow off a little steam. He hadn't been to a club since before he moved to Smallville. He'd left--or thought he had--that world behind him. His responsibilities with the factory, and now with both LuthorCorp and the credit union, left no time for him to be frivolous or reckless.

Working so hard without distractions, however, combined with pressure from his father and from his relationship--make that 'arrangement'--with Bruce Wayne had left him feeling drained. Maybe a step on the wild side was what he'd been needing to take off the edge?