Part 3 Chapter 3

Lex almost jumped when the doors to his office slammed open and his father strode in, hair flying with each firm step. He tossed a paper onto his son's desk, "Congratulations, Lex, you made the business page for once."

The sarcasm was not lost on this audience. Lex raised a nonexistent eyebrow, picking up the paper and gesturing with it, "I told Dominic I was doing this two days ago."

"Yes, and my drone dutifully reported it to me," Lionel agreed, somehow giving his beard the impression of frowning. "I just didn't think you'd be stupid enough to implement it."

Lex shook his head a little, "If you had a problem with it why didn't you pick up the phone and call me?"

"We have a reporting structure. Just because you're my son, don't expect any special treatment."

Lex snorted, "Believe me, I never have."

Lionel's temper sparked, "That wounded pride routine may have worked on your mother," he strode around the desk aggressively, moving to use his standing-height advantage against his still-sitting son, "but don't try it on me."

Lex smothered another snort—he hadn't been trying anything. It had been a simple statement of fact. He leaned his head back slightly to avoid his father's attempt to touch his cheek.

"You know perfectly well how I feel about you," Lionel's voice gentled.

"Hence I'm at a crap factory in Smallville," Lex sniped before wincing internally. Careful, he cautioned himself. He didn't really want to leave, not anymore.

"Lex," Lionel began, "Did you know the Caesars would send their sons to the furthermost corners of the empire so they could get an appreciation of how the world works?"

Lex sighed. He'd known that perfectly well, and known his father would point it out. "Whatever helps you sleep at night, Dad." He glanced up at the man, who looked away.

"All right," Lionel decided, moving across the office to grab a fencing foil, "here's how I propose we solve our impasse…" he ran his hand down the weapon and gave it a few practice swings before smiling in satisfaction, "We'll fence for it." He turned to face his son, "If you win, and I'll let you pursue your plan. If I win, you fire twenty percent of your work force."

"The question you have to ask yourself, Lex, is… are you good enough to take your old man?"

Despite misgivings, Lex agreed. He'd been doing a lot of practice lately, and while Heike always kicked his ass, she was better than his father.

Lex had to wonder if he was, too.

Less than half an hour later, they were dancing across the floor of the office, each motion punctuated by the clash of steel.

Lionel's form was better, but Lex held more fury and was driving the man back. He knew within moments of starting that his father was better in the long run and he had to overwhelm him quickly if he wanted to win.

Lionel rolled back over the pool table and decided to taunt his son, "Look at your move, Lex. They're rash, no thought of the consequences."

Oh, that wasn't true. He knew the consequences, all right. He also knew he had to keep attacking if he wanted to beat his father, who apparently wanted to turn this into a business lesson.

"If I wanted a running commentary, I'd buy one of your books on tape," Lex retorted, less out of breath than his father.

"You know what your problem is?"

"Enlighten me," Lex spread his arms sarcastically before resuming a defensive stance.

"You're ruled by your emotions. You always have been." Lionel had bought the chance to regroup with his words and while using them as a distraction, disarmed his son, placing his sword at the younger man's throat, "And that can be a fatal blow."

Lex cursed himself for falling for that. He could have won if he'd pressed his advantage while he had it.

"I want those workers gone by noon tomorrow." He tapped Lex's chest with the blade, "Meeting adjourned."

Lex snarled silently at his father's retreating back.

xxxx

Clark examined his football-uniform clad reflection in the full-length mirror leaning against the wall of the loft, not quite satisfied with his appearance, but uncertain what caused his dissatisfaction.

He glanced up as his mother walked up the stairs.

"Heading out to the pep rally?" she asked.

Clark nodded, "How do I look?"

"As handsome as your father," she smiled.

Clark sighed, "You don't have to do this, Mom."

"Do what?"

"Play Kent Family Peacekeeper."

Martha smiled a bit, "If the Kent men weren't so stubborn, I wouldn't have to," she pointed out.

Clark shifted a bit, wary, "So you're taking Dad's side?"

It was Martha's turn to sigh, "No, Clark, I'm not. I told him he's being unreasonable."

Clark smiled, "Thanks."

"Well, I'm not saying you're entirely innocent here, either," she pointed out, "If you want to make your own decision, you have to be prepared to live with the consequences."

"You trust me, don't you?" Clark asked suddenly, feeling uncertain.

"I want to Clark. So does your Dad. Just… give him a chance."

xxxx

Sorry for both the shortness of the chapter and the delay in getting it out. However, my Dad was in and out of the hospital for a while (he's doing much better, now), and then a friend of mine was killed in a car crash… and I just haven't had the heart to write for a while. I'm trying to get back into it, though.

And thanks to Jonny Bravo J for the scripts suggestion, as I had to send back the disc… I never would have finished this chapter without it, much less been able to start the next one.

The story should deviate a little more from Cannon next episode. It'll deviate a bit (some Lex interaction within the next few chapters) but not a whole bunch this episode. There isn't a lot of room for me to work Lex in, and as other variables remain the same… well, the deviations will grow as time passes, but some things will remain the same.