PART THREE – By Starlight

Chapter One

I didn't know that it was so cold

And you needed someone

to show you the way

So I took your hand and we figured out

That when the tide comes

I'd take you away

1 All That You Wanted – Michelle Branch



I'm falling in love with Lex Luthor.

Yeah, shocked the hell out of me too. I mean, I've known I was attracted to him since the day we met outside the Plant. And little by little, there were aspects of him that pulled at me and drew me in. His smile, his intelligence, the inner child in him that seemed to scream for someone to care. It's hard for the maternal instinct to ignore that, especially when a soul is crying out as loudly as his is. I never realized how deep I was in though, not even after the night of the Fourth. Everything had been so incredible. and he had been so much gentler than I had expected and then wham! it was over just like that, and the Lex that he expected everyone to believe was the real him emerged. And at first it had hurt, and I had gone home and cried myself to sleep. Then I had just gotten angry and wanted nothing more than to hurt him back, which was completely irrational on my part since it is easy to see how often he has been hurt throughout life. So he hurts me and I hurt him and he hurts me… A vicious cycle.

But then tonight, everything changed for me. It was no longer about reacting in anger but forgiving and teaching him that he doesn't have to be afraid of me. He asked me if I thought I could save him. I don't think he needs saving. I think he just needs love. It won't be easy. I'm not fooling myself about that. His defenses are the strongest I have ever encountered and for me to simply walk up to him and announce that I am falling in love would only serve to push him away further. No, I will have to chip away at him bit by bit until one day, without me saying it, he will realize that he is loved. It's the only way that I will be able to make him believe. God, I must be insane to try to take this on.

I had gone to the party at the museum as Lex had asked. The evening had started out with my being cornered by the managers of Plant Numbers One and Two, demanding to know Lex's secrets behind the growth that Plant Number Three had experienced lately. When I had simply replied it was due to his excellent business skills, they had promptly decided that it was only because he was Lionel's son and could do what he wanted. That pissed me off to no end. I excused myself from that conversation and ended up yawning through another conversation with some LuthorCorp board members. Unfortunately, it wasn't long before Dominic had sniffed me out, bearing a glass of champagne and a smooth smile.

I didn't like the man. Not one bit. Not from the moment I had met him in Lex's house. Our conversation at the museum made me like him even less. He made some extremely snide comments regarding the relationship shared by Lex and I, as if that was the reason I got the position I held. I almost hit him. Instead, I enthusiastically informed him about the Fortune magazine article. Dominic had run away quickly after that, I was certain, to tell Lionel Luthor all about it.

My instincts were correct when a few minutes later, Lex's father had quietly cornered me in a secluded area of the museum. I had been staring at a case filled with gorgeous Faberge eggs when I felt someone walk up behind me. Another glass of champagne appeared dangling before me. Knowing I would probably need it, I took it, drank a sip, then turned to find Lionel Luthor smiling in front of me.

"Miss St. Claire. A pleasure."

I raised an eyebrow at that in disbelief. "Funny, but I got the completely opposite impression the last time we met."

He smiled. "Please blame my past behavior on a father's desire to look out for his son."

"You mean you were looking after your empire."

"Semantics," he replied with a wave of his hand. He moved closer to me, and I took a step back, only to find myself pressed up against the case with no where to go. "I hear you and my son have been spending quite a bit of time together."

Was there someone spying on us? For some reason, I didn't doubt it. Not with the way Lionel was regarding me at the moment, like a particularly tasty morsel he was more than ready to take a bite out of. "We've had a lot of work to do."

"Hmmm." Lionel reached out and brushed his fingers across my cheek which made my skin crawl in reaction. "I heard about that Fortune story. Nice work."

Imagine my lack of surprise. "Thank you."

"Someone like you could go far in the world," he continued, his fingers now moving down my arm. I itched to throw my drink in his face. "But not if you're holed up in a crap factory in Smallville. What would you say to coming to Metropolis and working at the LuthorCorp headquarters for me?"

How's no way in hell for an answer? "I am perfectly happy where I am at the moment, Mr. Luthor – "

"Of course you are," Lionel replied as if he didn't believe me. "I would double your salary. You would travel the world." He leaned over me, whispered into my ear, "There would be other benefits to working for me as well, Miss St. Claire."

I bit back the retort I wanted to utter, knowing that I was still representing Lex, and I didn't need to make the relationship between him and his father any worse than it was. Still, I couldn't believe he had actually made me such an offer. "Mr. Luthor, I am not so stupid as to not realize that your offer is a… generous one, but I am surprised that you would consider doing such a thing to your son. Especially after the way you criticized him for hiring me in the first place." What I wanted to really do was kick the man.

Lionel shrugged, smiled. "My son and I continually play chess, Miss St. Claire. This is simply another move on my part."

I returned the smile, slipped away from his reaching hands. "How nice for you, Mr. Luthor. Unfortunately, I am no one's pawn. Not your son's. And definitely not yours. Excuse me."

I headed straight for the ladies room and stayed there for over twenty minutes. When I figured the coast was clear, I emerged once more and decided I'd had enough of that party and was getting out of there. That's when I passed through the Luthor Hall of the museum and noticed the Elizabethan jewels in the case, especially the emerald necklace that had caught my eye at Lex's house. And a cold chill had swept over me. I had taken out my phone and dialed Lex. He had been disbelieving and then, quietly accepting. When he had hung up on me, I had dialed back immediately but only got his voice mail. I panicked. Called Clark. Like he could have helped all the way out in Smallville. He told me to calm down, hang up the phone, and call the police. Then he told me not to go near the docks, no matter what I wanted to do or thought I could do. Oh yeah, like I was going to listen to him or Lex. I dialed the police, gave them the location, then ran for the Aston Martin.

When I'd arrived at the docks, the police and medics were already there. I became frantic when I saw the coroner zipping up the body bag on Lex's driver. The police finally calmed me enough to let me know that Lex had been shot, but was alive and on his way to the hospital. I wanted to follow immediately, but they held me back for questions. I knew that I had to give in to them since I would soon be talking to the press anyway. Already my mind had kicked into damage control – the press would go nuts over the shooting of Lex Luthor. Luckily, they didn't keep me long. I got the distinct feeling that the cops I spoke with had dealt with the Luthors before, and there would be little to no investigation.

So there I was standing in the hospital, waiting for Lex to come out of surgery while I watched the summer rain falling onto the city outside. It was just after midnight, and I was beginning to feel the effects of the day, from the confrontation between me and Lex in his library, to the party, the frantic phone call to Lex, and the realization that he could have been killed.

And now the knowledge that I was falling in love with him.

"Sinjun!"

I turned to see Clark hurrying down the hall toward me, aunt Martha following behind. I was so relieved to see a welcome face I couldn't see straight. I went to him immediately, and he hugged me.

"Are you okay?" He asked, holding me away from him to look me over. "What happened to Lex?"

Aunt Martha was beside me before I could answer. "Honey, you look exhausted! When Clark told me what happened, we got in the car and hurried here as quickly as we could. Your uncle was out hunting, or he'd be here too."

I hugged her, looked at both of them. "I'm fine. Tired, I guess. Lex is in surgery. He was shot."

Aunt Martha gasped. Clark just frowned.

"Is he going to be okay?" My aunt asked.

"I… I don't know. They haven't told me much yet." I was terrified, and I couldn't admit as much to her. I glanced at Clark, knowing that I could at least talk to my cousin. I had no one else.

"I'm going to call Jonathon and let him know where we are and what's going on so he doesn't worry," aunt Martha told us before hugging me again and hurrying off to the phones.

Clark took my hand and led me over to the chairs where he sat down beside me. "Okay, explain to me what happened."

"Lex was going to this meeting for his father – trading jewels for something. Anyway, while I was at the museum, I saw the exact same jewels and realized that what Lex had were fake. So I called and warned him. When I showed up at the docks, the police and medics were there." I shook my head. "It was weird. Two of the men who had shot at Lex were unconscious. The police said they believe one of the stacked crates had come loose and fallen on them. But the others had taken off, without making certain Lex was dead. Isn't that strange?"

Clark raised his eyebrows, shrugged. "Do we even know who these people were?"

"I'm sure Lex does." I worried my lower lip for a long moment. I just wished someone would come out and tell me something. I was sick of trying to be strong for appearance's sake. I sighed. "Clark?"

"Hmmm?"

"Something… something happened… between Lex and I."

Silence. Then, "I kind of thought so."

I looked over at him, and he was smiling. "It wasn't good, Clark." He frowned. I quickly added, "Well it was. And then it wasn't. In fact today… well we said some awful things to each other."

"I don't understand."

"Neither do I," I admitted. "One moment it's like he wants me and the next he doesn't."

"Lex is a little closed off," Clark commented.

"That's putting it mildly."

Clark put his arm around me and gave me a hug. "Is there anything I can do?"

"No. I am going to work through this," I told him quietly. "I can't help but get the feeling that Lex needs a little TLC in his life."

My cousin smiled. "You really care about him, don't you?"

I sighed. "Yeah. I guess I do. Your father will love that, won't he?"

Clark made a face. "Oh. Didn't think of that. Maybe we'll just keep this between us for now, hmmm?"

"Excuse me, you were the young lady with Mr. Luthor, correct?"

I turned to see Dr. Ahluwahlia, whom I had met earlier, standing beside me. I immediately jumped to my feet, Clark joining me. "Is Lex all right?"

"Mr. Luthor came through surgery just fine," he assured me. "The bullet nicked his lung which then led to a shortage of blood flow to the left atrium. We went in and sutured the tear in the lung's lining and aspirated the blood from the chest cavity. We're going to carefully monitor his blood pressure over the next few days and keep an eye out for any possible malfunctioning of the valves, such as mitral valve regurgitation."

I hadn't the slightest idea of what the man was talking about. But that didn't matter. "May I see him?"

"I'm sorry, ma'm. Only family are allowed in."

Dammit!

"She's his sister," Clark said.

I blinked. The doctor blinked.

"I didn't know Lionel Luthor had a daughter."

"I'm not that important in the scheme of things," I supplied, wanting to both kick and kiss my cousin for his brilliant and yet troublesome mind.

Dr. Ahluwahlia clearly didn't believe either of us. I was ready to cry. Finally he turned, indicating that I follow him. "Come along then, Miss Luthor."

Flashing Clark a quick smile of thanks, I hurried after the doctor down the hall toward ICU. He stopped beside a door, held it open, and stepped aside so that I could pass. I came to a halt as I entered, my gaze staring ahead, barely registering the quiet closing of the door behind me. Lex looked so pale and weak against the stark white sheets, wires and tubes stemming from him to the blood pressure monitor, EKG and, IV. Forcing myself forward, I pulled a chair over beside the bed and sat down, gently lifting his hand into mine. A hand that could be at one moment gentle and strong and threatening the next. I held it against my cheek, enjoying the softness of his skin, and then I just broke.

The past few days washed over me in a torrent of pain, and I cried for what I probably shouldn't have allowed to happen between us, no matter how badly I had wanted it, and the consequences that followed. I cried as I recalled the angry words I had said to him about people wanting to kill him and my comparison of him to his father and Dominic. I was angry with myself for wanting to hurt him when he had been hurt so often throughout his life already. I should have been more understanding, stronger. The excuse that he had hurt me first wasn't justifiable. I knew what I was doing when I had walked into his house that night; I knew why he had been pushing me away. Still I had selfishly taken what I wanted from him, even if he hadn't been ready for it. When the tears had finally ceased, and I knew in my heart what I needed to do, I laid my head beside him on the bed and fell asleep.

I dreamed again of being in the White House, walking down the long hallway into the Oval Office. This time though, the doors to the terrace stood open. Longing for the feel of the sun against my skin, I stepped outside, blinking for a moment against the harsh light. Around me, there stood only silence. No breeze blew through the trees, no birds chirped. Nothing. It was as if I had created an artificial world into which I could escape.

"It's only us."

I turned to find Lex standing beside me, dressed as I was in all white. I shook my head. "I'm lonely. I don't want it to be like this."

"Its too late. I'm all you have, Sinjun. Isn't that what you wanted?" He turned and walked back through the doors.

I shivered, looked around, glanced over the railing, contemplating the fall beneath me.

"Sinjun!" Lex called from beyond the doors. "Come inside before the world sees you."

Drawn by all that I knew was Lex, I started in, when Clark's voice came from behind me:

"Don't follow him, Sinjun. Stay. Stay in the light."

I turned, looking for my cousin, but couldn't see him anywhere. "Clark? Where are you? Come out, please."

"I can't, Sinjun. There is too much you wouldn't understand. I must remain hidden."

"And I must follow Lex." I turned toward the doors once more.

"Once you step through, you will never be able to turn back."

"Sinjun!" Lex called again, desperate, agitated.

"I know," I told Clark. "But Lex needs me."

"Sinjun, don't," Clark pleaded. "Stay. Just a while longer."

"Goodbye, Clark." I took a step over the threshold.

"Sinjun!" Clark cried out, but I didn't look back. "Sinjun!...

"Sinjun? Hey, Sinjun, wake up."

I opened my eyes to find Clark standing beside me, holding out a Styrofoam cup filled with coffee. I blinked for a moment, attempting to separate the dream from reality, before I glanced over at Lex who appeared unchanged. I realized I still had not let go of his hand.

"What time is it?"

"After two," Clark replied, shoving the coffee toward me once more. "Mom and I are going to head back home. She thought you might want to go with us, but I told her I doubted it."

I smiled. "Thanks, Clark."

"Anyway, I brought you this to help with the whole "wake" factor." He shoved the coffee toward me again. "I know you hate the stuff but it's all they have."

"What? You didn't run all the way to Starbucks?" Clark grinned as I frowned, but I took it and swallowed the bitter beverage down, made a face, drank some more. "Any sign of Lex's father?"

Clark shook his head. "No, but I did see some reporters. They wanted to talk to you, but I told them to come back tomorrow."

I shook my head in disbelief. "His own son is lying in a hospital bed, shot, and he doesn't even have the decency to come see him."

"Yeah, you should have heard some of the things my mom has been saying," Clark agreed. "I didn't even know that she knew some of those words."

I laughed a little. Clark always could make me feel better.

"Mom wanted to know if you needed anything before we left?"

"No, I'm okay. I'll call in the morning to let you know how he's doing."

"Okay." Clark leaned over and kissed my cheek. "He'll be okay, Sinj. Lex is tougher than he looks."

"I'm sure he'll appreciate your saying that." I smiled.

"Doubtful. See you later. And tell Lex I'm glad he's okay for me when he wakes up."

"I will. Goodnight."

I watched as Clark disappeared through the door, and I was left alone once more with Lex and the soft, reassuring beeping of the monitor beside him. Leaning over, I brushed my hand across his forehead, caressed his smooth head, ran my fingers down his cheek. In a way, I was taking advantage of his unconsciousness to do what I knew he would most likely not allow otherwise. I liked touching him, wanted to touch him, reassuring myself that he was there and he was alive. For good or bad, Lex Luthor had become a significant part of my life, and I just didn't think that I wanted him out of it just yet. Standing, I placed a kiss at his temple then, grabbing my coffee, I wandered around the small room, working out the strain on my muscles from sleeping in such a strange position. Always, my gaze strayed back to the bed, silently pleading for the motionless form to awaken.

In the next hour a new doctor, by the name of Adams, came on shift and attempted to get me to leave. Not having Clark's finesse, I became a little belligerent and angry, and he threatened to notify security. I guess I'd been influenced by Lex a little too much already because I promptly informed him that being both Lex's valued employee and confidant, I would make certain that this hospital would never see another penny from LuthorCorp for research or otherwise, and that I doubted it would be very hard for LuthorCorp lawyers to find a reason to have his license revoked. After that, I was left alone. It didn't take long before I felt ashamed for what I had said and done, and I considered seeking out Dr. Adams and apologizing. But then I looked over at Lex and pictured him waking to find no one there, and I realized I had done the right thing. It was Lex who was important at the moment, not some doctor's over-inflated ego. Growing tired once more, I curled up into the chair beside the bed, my gaze carefully trained on Lex until my eyes grew too heavy to hold open any longer.

I dreamed that I was holding Lex's unmoving form against me, my clothes and hands bathed in the blood from his wound. I caressed his face, kissed his cold lips, knowing that he was already lost to me. Despair took over me, and I held him to me, breathed my life into his lungs, gave of him everything I harbored within me, determined to trade my life for his. And then he was holding me, alive and strong and tears flowed from his eyes, and he ran his fingers over my lips, kissed me, whispering over and over again how very sorry he was.

"Save me, Lex," I begged.

He shook his head. "I can't. Please forgive me, but I can't."

Lex leaned down, kissed me once more, and I clung to him, desperate to take him with me, to never let go, not caring that life was ebbing from both of us and we were falling into darkness together.

"Let me go," Lex begged, struggling within my grasp.

"I can't," I replied. "Please forgive me, but I can't…"

I forced myself awake, my eyes flying open, my heart pounding rapidly in my chest. I unclenched my hands, which had been balled into fists in my lap. My neck ached from the position I had been laying in against the chair. I could still feel his cold lips and the wetness of his tears on my face. The room was flooded with the dawn's light from the window, signaling that I had slept the past few hours peacefully. Willing myself to calm, I suddenly felt the unpleasant sensation of being watched and quickly cast my gaze over at the bed where Lex's eyes were open and quietly watching me. Relief flooded through me.

"Lex!" I uncurled myself from the chair and leaned over to him, once more gathering his hand into mine. I reached over and pushed the button to alert the nurse before turning my attention back to him. I wanted very much to tell him how worried I had been but fear of moving too fast held me back. Instead, I asked, "How are you feeling?"

"Like… " He rasped, his throat obviously dry. "Like I've been shot."

I smiled. "Well, that would make sense, wouldn't it?"

Standing, I poured him some water from the pitcher beside the bed, then reached my hand under his head to lift him up just a little and held the glass to his lips. He took a few swallows before pulling away, and I gently lowered his head back to the pillow. Lex continued to watch me as I returned to the seat and laid my hand over his. His gaze was full of questions that I knew would have to be addressed eventually, but for now I wanted the doctor to look him over and assure me once more that he would be all right.

"What happened?" He asked finally with a frown. "I thought for certain that I was dead."

"Well, there – " I started but the door opened, admitting Dr. Adams and his nurse, and I quickly stood.

"I see our patient is awake," the doctor announced as if neither of us had already figured that out. "How are you feeling, Mr. Luthor?"

"How should I be feeling?" Lex snapped back, his voice still slightly groggy.

I found myself smiling though. Clark had been right. Lex would be fine.

Dr. Adams flashed a tight smile that I'm certain Lex would get rid of in no time. "Miss. St. Claire, would you mind waiting outside while we exam Mr. Luthor?"

I glanced down at Lex, feeling slightly overprotective but knowing I had probably already pushed my limits with the medical staff. "I'll be right outside the door," I told him.

Lex grunted in reply, glaring at the nurse as she approached him with a tray filled with metal instruments. Wincing in sympathy – I personally hated hospitals – I quietly slid out the door, immediately pulling the cell phone from my pocket and dialing home.

"Hello?"

"Hey, Clark. It's Sinj."

"Hey! How's Lex?"

"He just woke up, as cranky as ever."

Clark laughed. "Told you he'd be all right."

"How're things at home?"

"Dad's not too happy with you still being there. He wants to know where it's written that as an employee of Lex's, you are supposed to be his nursemaid as well. He threatened to drive out there and get you this morning."

I made a face. "I kind of figured that would be his reaction. Look, just explain that I have to handle press matters. It's my job."

"What about rest? You've been up a long time, Sinj."

"I've been sleeping in the chair. I'm fine, Clark. Don't worry about me."

"My dad isn't going to like this, you know."

"If he gets really testy after chores this morning, have him give me a call."

"Wow. You're brave."

"Geez. That instills confidence, Clark. Thanks." I wandered into the waiting room as we spoke, finding the coffee dispenser. I filled a cup about halfway with powered creamer, added half as much sugar, and then filled it with coffee. That ought to keep me sufficiently wired for a while. If not, I would just resort to some Mountain Dew.

"Well I'd better get the cows fed. Say hi to Lex for me."

"I will. Bye, Clark."

I hung up, took a taste of the coffee, winced at the flavor, poured a quarter of it out and then filled it with more powered creamer. There, that was better. I dialed the castle.

"Luthor residence."

"Brandon? It's Sinjun."

"Ah, Miss St. Claire. How is Mr. Luthor?"

"He's awake and doing well judging by his disposition." I paused. "You haven't heard anything from Lionel Luthor, have you?"

"No, miss. Nothing. Though we have had plenty of calls from Mr. Luthor's business associates and press. Mr. Sullivan was also hoping that you might contact him when you have a moment."

"I'll take care of it. For now, just keep taking messages for Lex. I don't think he needs to be dealing with any business matters at the moment. Besides, if anyone has a question, they can read the paper."

"Yes, I have my copy of the Planet in front of me right now." I could hear Brandon's smile through the phone. "Interesting little story, how it paints Mr. Luthor as a hero. His father will be… amused."

"Hmph."

I could care less what Lionel Luthor thought of it. I had to tell the press something and since I doubted that the truth of the matter was anything the Luthor's wanted getting out, I had to make things up as I went along. So the story I had fed to the press last night was that Lex had accidentally come into information regarding some stolen Da Vinci artwork from Europe. His intention had been to collect the art and return it to the museums from which it had been pilfered. Only, things had gone badly and he had almost died in the heroic attempt to restore such important and valuable treasures. I knew the press would take things from there and embellish however they felt was necessary. It was frightening, how easy this line of work was becoming for me.

We hung up, I dialed Gabe, and filled him in on Lex's condition. He said the phones were going crazy already that morning at the Plant. I told him to forward them to me, and I would take care of it. We chatted a little about when to expect Lex back, and I told him that I would try to have him give Gabe a call later that day. I seriously doubted that Lex would be out of commission for long – bullet wound or no. For some reason, I found myself picturing the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, still trying to fight without his arms and legs. The thought made me giggle, and I realized I was seriously in need of some uninterrupted sleep.

Slipping the phone back into my pocket, I tossed the coffee, dug through my purse for some coins, and broke down and bought myself a Mountain Dew. Pure caffeine, through and through. I hated the stuff almost as much as coffee. Still, I got two cans out of the vending machine, slipped one into my purse, opened the other, and swallowed it down. There were a half dozen people scattered around the waiting room, two stretched out across the couches, sleeping hard, a couple of kids coloring at the table. They glanced up at me as I walked past, and I smiled down and complimented their work before moving back down the hall toward Lex's room, where I remained waiting outside the door, my mind drifting to the memory of that too short evening that Lex and I had spent together.

"Well, I see the lioness is protecting her cub."

I snapped from my reverie to see Lionel Luthor leering down at me, his expression a cross between amusement and immense dislike. I glanced down at his hands to see him holding copies of the Planet and Inquisitor, both of which he was currently slapping irritably against his thigh. I hated that this man intimidated me so badly. I wanted to stand up to him but always felt myself shrinking in his overbearing presence. It was like being forced to confront Satan himself and then realizing you walked into Hell without a single fragment of ammunition.

Finally gathering my wits about me, I retorted, "What, did you finally find a few seconds in that overly packed schedule of yours to see whether or not your only child was dead or alive?"

A thin smile. "Why should I worry when he is obviously in such… capable hands?" He waved the papers in my face. "My son makes the screw up of the century, and you have him painted to be a hero? I can't decide if you're incredibly clever or extraordinarily obtuse."

"That's funny, since I can't decide if you're just simply a terrible father or an undeniable asshole to everyone, regardless of blood relation."

Lionel took a threatening step toward me, and I backed up, about two inches since behind me was a wall. He grabbed my chin and lifted my gaze to meet his. Cold, calculating. "Your father was a valued member of LuthorCorp, Miss St. Claire. I would hate to see the St. Claire name sullied because you haven't learned when to keep your mouth shut."

I debated opening it right then but wisely refrained from a reply.

Lionel stepped back, still holding my gaze. "Now, I am going in to speak with my son, unless you have an objection?"

"Well.. erm… the doctor is examining Lex," I informed him.

"Then I guess he'll have to stop, now won't he?"

Lionel flashed me one more look, one which I couldn't quite distinguish, and pushed the door open. I peered in through the narrow window of the door in time to see Lex look up at his father, and the myriad of emotions that passed across his face made me want to scream. The briefest moment of happiness, followed by sorrow, resignation, and finally anger. I was tempted to follow Lionel in there but instead barely jumped out of the way as Dr. Adams and the nurse practically flew out the door, Lionel's barking voice on their heels. The doctor turned to look at me as he passed by, his expression incredulous.

"You actually work for these people?" He shook his head and stalked off down the hall.

I sighed. Yeah, well, not everyone was smart enough to become a doctor.

Turning, I peeked back in through the window. Lex's head was turned toward the window, so I figured his father was on the opposite side of the room where Lex wouldn't have to look at him. I watched as his jaw clenched and unclenched, he winced, then a careful mask fell over his features, and he turned back towards Lionel. The older man's voice raised occasionally but I only heard snatches of the conversation, something about Lex "letting such a deal fall through", "not paying attention to detail", and "disappointing me yet again, Lex". No hint of "I'm so glad to see your okay, Lex" or "I'm sorry I got you involved in this, Lex". Nothing even remotely parental-like and concerned. No wonder Lex shut himself off from people the way he did. Feeling that Lex had suffered enough torment, I grabbed my phone out of my pocket and dialed Gabe at the Plant.

"Gabe? Sinjun here… Do me a favor and call me back immediately on my cell. Ask for Lex… I just need to get Lex out of his current situation… How'd you guess?… Oh… Yeah… I don't know, make something up… Thanks, Gabe. I owe you one."

I hung up. Seconds later the phone rang. I hit "talk", held it to my ear.

"This is Sinjun. Sure, Gabe. Hang on." I pushed through the door, just as Lionel was in the middle of some sentence about Philip of Macedonia. I couldn't for the life of me fathom what a history lesson had to do with being in the hospital with a bullet wound, but I put it from my mind, figuring I would never fully understand the Luthors anyway.

"Sorry to interrupt," I commented to Lionel as I brushed past him over to Lex's side. "It's Gabe. He said it was important."

Lex frowned, took the phone from me, quietly began speaking to Gabe. I turned back to Lionel, my smile freezing on my face. Damn, he was pissed. I winced when his hand shot out, and he grabbed me by the arm and pulled me over to stand in front of him, away from earshot of Lex. He leaned over me, his icy gaze holding mine.

"You may feel you've won this round, Miss St. Claire, but I guarantee you've done nothing but set yourself up for a bigger fall. You think you're protecting my son from me? Others have thought the same thing and ultimately failed." He smiled then, pleasantly. "Oh, I know what you're thinking, but you're wrong. You see, my dear Sinjun, I don't have to do anything. Ultimately, it will be Lex who screws you over, leaving you as little more than an empty, soulless husk. He does that, you know. Feeds off the strength of others. I will admit, I shall enjoy watching your descent into Hell. Enjoy your victory while it lasts."

Lionel stepped away from me, chuckling as he made his way through the door and out of the room.

I felt sick. I thought I was going to throw up. What was I doing? Were these simple games that father and son enjoyed playing with one another? How the hell did I ever think I could join in?

"What the hell was that all about?" Lex demanded from behind me.

I turned to look at him, not certain what he was talking about, my mind still echoing with Lionel's parting words.

Immediately, Lex's expression softened as he looked at me. "Sinj, what's wrong? What did he say to you? Come here." Somehow my legs carried me over to him. He took my hand in his, told me to sit down, his gaze continually watching me. "You're pale as a ghost. What happened between you and my father?"

I shook my head. I really didn't know. Finally, I answered, "Last night he offered for me to come work for him. Leave you and the Plant." Lex frowned at that but said nothing. "This morning… I think he doesn't like the story I fed the press."

Lex smiled. The sight of it tore at my heart. "No, he didn't like that at all. You might have gotten away with it if you had said he was the one to discover the information, but he hates it when I'm mentioned in the press." Lex paused and I belatedly realized his thumb was stroking the palm of my hand. His blue eyes were watching me closely. I wanted to lean over and kiss that perfect mouth. "I… thank you, Sinjun," he said softly.

It took me a moment to understand what he was talking about. I had to stop looking at his lips and concentrate on his eyes. No, I got lost there too. Finally I shrugged. "It's my job."

Lex frowned. "Is it?"

No, the truth is I would do positively anything for you whether I worked for you or not. Of course, I couldn't voice that out loud. Lex would have jumped right out of the bed and taken off at a dead run. The visual that thought conjured was a funny one, and I couldn't refrain from smiling.

"What is it?" He asked, his gaze trained on my smile.

"Nothing." I shook my head; changed the subject. "Clark says hello. He wishes he could be here too but he's needed on the farm."

Lex nodded. There was a brief moment of silence where he handed my phone back to me, and I dropped it into my pocket. He still held on to one of my hands. Finally, he asked, "What are you doing here?" He looked up and our gazes met and held. "And don't tell me it's your job."

Here we go. Am I ready for this? Probably not. "I'm here because I want to be here, Lex. Because I don't want you to be alone. Because you need me. Because I need to be here."

Turning his head away, Lex told me, "Sinjun, go home – "

"No, Lex. I listened to you once, and I'm not going to make that mistake again."

He turned a quietly disbelieving gaze in my direction. "You're not going to listen to me?"

I shook my head.

There was long silence between us where we continued to watch one another. I kept waiting for that mask to fall over his features, for him to shut himself off from me completely, but surprisingly it didn't happen. I watched as disbelief turned into surprise, a very brief, simmering anger then, every so slowly, something that closely resembled acceptance. Lex's hand tightened around mine. I squeezed back.

"This is impossible, you know," Lex told me softly as he tugged me nearer to him. "It's not going to be easy."

"Nothing worth having ever is, Lex," I replied, sounding more confident about the situation than I felt.

"I'll try to push you away," he added.

I moved closer. "I know."

"I'll hurt you."

"There are some things that would hurt worse, Lex," I whispered as his hand wound around the back of my neck, pulling me toward him.

"You'll have to be strong." His fingers threaded through my hair.

"I'll be strong enough for both of us."

My lips brushed over his, and I felt that familiar and welcome tingle from the tips of my hair to my toes. I tried to remind myself that he had been shot only hours before and was lying in a hospital bed hooked to an IV, and I really should have left him alone to rest but Lex's kisses were incredibly drugging. One would think he would be rough, dominating, and cold; but in actuality his kisses were soft, tender, impossibly gentle, and warm, almost hesitant as if he were uncertain they were invited. I could kiss him for hours on end. I wanted to trace that scar on his upper lip with my tongue, but I knew there was time enough for that once he was out of the hospital. Knowing this, I pulled back and retook my seat in the chair next to the bed.

Lex was watching me. Hell, I was watching him. He still held my hand. That was a good sign. Happiness flooded through me. I found myself smiling. Lex smiled back. I yawned. He frowned.

"You should go home, Sinjun," he told me sternly. "You're exhausted."

I was already shaking my head. "No, Lex. I'm staying right here."

"What? Until I'm released?" He scoffed. "Go back to Smallville. I'm sure your aunt and uncle are frantic about you being here anyway."

"So you'd rather I drive two hours in an Aston Martin along a boring Kansas Highway when I'm dead on my feet?"

Ha! Had him there. Lex knew it too, if his frown was any indication. He could give such fierce expressions. It had to be frightening to be his enemy. I drummed my fingers against the arm of the chair while I waited for his response. He continued to frown a good minute before finally looking back over at me.

"Go to my apartment in town then. Get some rest. You can't argue with that. It's nearby – you can take the train to it if you need to. And you'll still be close enough to come running to my rescue whenever you deem it necessary."

The last Lex said laden with heavy sarcasm. I wasn't so thick-headed that I didn't realize he was a little upset with my intrusion on his conversation with his father. I wasn't going to let that bother me though. I'd do it again if I had to.

"You just can't admit when you need someone, can you, Lex?"

A muscle flexed in his jaw. "Luthors don't need anyone, Sinjun. Once you realize and accept that, you'll save yourself a lot of heartache."

"Yes, Lex." I nodded.

He gave me a narrowed look. "Are you being condescending?"

"No, you're just being paranoid," I replied innocently.

"Paranoid my ass." And then he smiled and shook his head. "Where are my things? My keys should be in my coat pocket."

I stood and walked over to the small closet where they had placed his clothes. I dug through the pockets of the leather jacket he had been wearing, finding not only his keys but also his cell phone and PDA, which I figured he would want for later. Moving back over to him, I set the articles on the table beside the bed while he took the key ring from me and slid the apartment key off of it, handing it to me.

"It's located at 14003 Market Avenue, Penthouse #2. I'll call ahead to the doorman so that they can expect you. I haven't been there in awhile so don't expect there to be anything in the fridge."

I quietly tried to remember the numbers he had rattled off. I felt slightly uncomfortable about going to his place without him as I stared down at the gold key I held in my hand. "Don't worry, Lex," I told him. "I won't disturb your things."

Lex's hand shot out and grabbed my wrist. "I didn't mean that, Sinj," he replied. "You take whatever you need, okay? I'll call Anna, the woman who watches the place for me, and have her stock up the kitchen for you. Especially if you have any intention of staying in Metropolis until I'm released. Which I believe you do."

"You think me incredibly foolish, don't you?" I asked, unable to meet his gaze.

A long silence, then, "No, Sinj. More like incredibly wonderful."

I looked up then, and he was smiling at me. I smiled back, leaned over, and kissed him. "Will you be okay?" I asked. "Is there something I can do for you?"

"Yeah. Go get some sleep."

"I will. And I'll be back soon," I promised.

"Get that doctor back in here," Lex told me as I moved toward the door. "I think I need to apologize for my father's behavior earlier."

"Lex, if you apologize for every time your father is rude to someone, you're going to spend your entire life following that man around."

A perfect smile. I'd carry that with me for the next few hours at least.

"Get out of here, brat," he replied.

I ducked out the door and went in search of Dr. Adams.

***

It started raining shortly after I left the hospital. Another heavy Kansas summer thunderstorm. Not wanting to walk in the rain and too tired to drive, I took a cab to 14003 Market Avenue, otherwise known as Luthor Towers. I sat staring at the daunting eighty story structure before me as the doorman hurried over to the car, umbrella in hand, pulling the door open for me.

"You must be Miss St. Claire," he smiled as I climbed out. "My names Carl. Mr. Luthor just called to say you were on your way. Let me show you up to the Penthouse. Have you ever been to Luthor Towers before?"

I shook my head, thanking him as he held the front door open for me, and I stepped into the marbled lobby. I immediately felt out of place, in my rumpled black cocktail dress with my tangled hair and smudged makeup across my face, while around me the lobby glittered and gleamed with glass and marble and gold. Men and women in dark business suits hurried past me, this way and that, every now and then one occasionally would glance at me with a curious expression.

Carl led me forward, explaining that he was taking me to the private elevator, which did not stop at the other residential floors and would whisk us straightaway to the 80th floor where the Penthouses were located. He went on to describe the building, which housed a bank in the lobby on the lower level, and a five story garage beneath it for residents only. The second through fourth floors housed a mall, filled with only the top designers and jewelers – stores that I would have been blessed to get a job in let alone actually buy something – while the fifth through twentieth floors consisted of law and stock broker offices, all of which worked for LuthorCorp. Floors twenty-one through thirty-nine were considered the low rent district – those apartments which rented for $1500 - $2000 a month. The fortieth floor housed the Tower gym, fully equipped with two Olympic size pools, weights and exercise equipment, spas, saunas, racquet ball and basket ball courts. The next thirty-eight floors went to the more expensive apartments, ranging in monthly rent from $2500 - $5000. There were two Penthouses located at the top of the Tower – Lex's and one that belonged to Johnson Jameson, a board member of LuthorCorp and Lionel's consultant. Apparently, Lionel Luthor had his own Penthouse, consisting of no fewer than three floors, located at LuthorCorp Headquarters. I was just relieved to know that there would be little chance of running into him here.

True to Carl's promise, the private elevator took us quickly to the top of the Tower. At an alarming rate, truth be told. I think I left my stomach somewhere between floors twenty and twenty-one. I said as much to the kind doorman, and he laughed and told me that I would get used to it. I couldn't help but wonder how used Carl was to showing a strange woman to Lex's Penthouse. I knew it was none of my business and that Lex had likely had dozens of women falling over him for years now, and it was something I would just have to get used to, but still, that little green monster of jealous couldn't help rearing its ugly head.

When we reached the eightieth floor, Carl led me down the hall to an ornate oak door. I handed him the key and he opened it for me, switching on the lights and then stepping aside for me to enter. "Should you require anything else, simply pick up the phone and dial "01" and that will put you directly to me. To make an outside call, just dial "8" and then the number. I certainly hope that Mr. Luthor heals quickly."

I smiled. "Thank you, Carl. I appreciate all of this, and I'm certain Lex does too."

Carl smiled, nodded, and disappeared into the hall, closing the door behind him. I felt like collapsing.

Kicking off my heels, I wandered through the front room of the Penthouse, over to the glass doors that led out onto the roof, which housed a garden and small pond. I wondered if Lex ever even made an attempt to step out there, considering his fear of heights. If it weren't raining, and I weren't in danger of being struck by lightning, I would have liked to have stepped out and seen the view. I turned, allowing my gaze to sweep over the main room. It was roughly the size of the entire first floor of the farmhouse, maybe a little bigger. It was decorated with ox-blood red leather couches, a bar, mahogany tables, a 40-inch widescreen television, marble fireplace, and original oil paintings covering the walls. It would have very much resembled a typical bachelors pad… If it had anything even remotely personal in it. Instead, it was more of a museum reproduction of what a bachelor's pad should resemble.

I moved over the plush deep red carpeting to the kitchen, which was again double the size of aunt Martha's though I seriously doubted Lex ever used it. I peeked into all of the cabinets, found some canned goods though I realized I wasn't all that hungry, glanced into the refrigerator, which did contain an opened bottle of Dom Perignon. It was tempting, but getting drunk on an empty stomach would have been unpleasant to say the least. Nothing left to look through in the kitchen, I wandered down the hall, locating the study, an exercise room, a guest room and guest bath, and finally the master bedroom. Part of me thought it would be best if I stayed in the guest room, but a more selfish and greedy side of me chose the master bedroom.

Taking a deep breath, I realized I could smell a hint of Lex's cologne hanging in the air. Smiling to myself, I allowed my legs to carry me over to the closet, which I opened to find was completely stocked with clothing, all of Lex's typical attire. Dark slacks and long-sleeved dress shirts in colors ranging from black and dark blue to lavender and light gray. Reaching out, I fingered one of the lavender silk shirts, figuring I had nothing to wear anyway so why not? I pulled it from the hanger, closed the door, and wandered into the marble bathroom.

Briefly I debated taking a bath but knew I would most likely drown once I fell asleep, so I took a quick hot shower, which only served to relax my muscles and make my eyes grow heavier. I still wanted to explore, but my body was telling me otherwise. So I slipped into the lavender shirt, which blessedly smelled like Lex, and returned to the bedroom where I pulled back the covers on the king-sized feather bed and climbed in. Snuggling against the pillows, I realized that everything around me was laden with the scent of Lex. It comforted and teased, all at once. Smiling at the thought of him, and knowing in my heart that he would be fine, I closed my eyes, and drifted off into the first restful slumber I had experienced in days.