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Networking

by shrift

[Story Headers]

Dan and Casey were settling in at the anchor desk when Dana marched up and smacked her clipboard on top of Casey's script. "There is a man in my control room," she announced.

"Would that man be Dave?" Dan said, watching Casey attempt to extricate his script pages from beneath Dana's tapping fingernails without incurring injury.

"No, it would not."

Casey freed a page and clutched it close. "Would that man be Will?"

"Also no," Dana said. Her fingernails doubled their tapping speed.

"Chris? Elliot?" Dan tried again.

She raised an eyebrow. "No."

Casey slanted him a glance. "I think that leaves us with Jeremy."

Dan shrugged. "Or Isaac. Unless Kim's had that sex change operation."

"You're both wrong," Dana said, picking up her clipboard and pointing one end at Dan. "But I'll be sure to let Kim know you've been spreading unfounded rumors about her interest in certain elective surgeries."

Casey groaned. "If we have to do another broadcast without our pants, Daniel, I will do you irreparable harm."

Dan waved him off. "Natalie already ran the 'boxers or briefs' betting pool. I think we're in the clear on that one, my friend."

"Out of idle curiosity," Casey said, turning back to Dana. "Just who the hell is the man in your control room?"

Dana leaned in and crooked her finger. Dan and Casey sat forward on their elbows. "There is a man in my control room," she whispered. "He is a very important and very rich man looking to invest in Quo Vadimus and CSC in particular, so it wouldn't hurt to put a little pizzazz in tonight's show, okay?"

"Pizzazz?" Casey demanded. He looked aghast, like Dana had proposed he bring a plain white cake with no frosting to the next office party.

Dan tapped his pen against his lips. "We could always do the broadcast in tiaras."

"Are you saying our usual performance doesn't have enough flair for you?" Casey said.

Dana laughed and poked him just above his tie pin. "I refuse to answer that question on the basis that you used the word 'flair' in reference to yourself."

Casey spread his arms, suddenly looking like a gymnast after dismounting from the pommel horse. "I'll have you know that I possess flair."

"Sure you do," Dana said patronizingly.

"I have plenty of flair," Casey insisted. "I'm flairing right here."

Dan patted Casey's shoulder. "Face it, Casey. You're flairless."

"All that I'm saying," Dana said, "is that a very rich, very inscrutable man is going to be in my control room for the entire show, so don't do anything stupid that will cause me to yell at you while he's here."

"Oh, he's inscrutable now, is he?" Casey said.

Dana looked over her shoulder toward the control room, clenching her clipboard until her knuckles went white. "He's just this tall, inscrutable presence, and I want him to go away so I can do my show in peace! Is that too much to ask?"

Dan shuffled his script. "Does Mr. Tall, Dark, and Inscrutable have a name we might recognize?"

Dana put both of her hands flat on their desk. Dan didn't bother mentioning that her clipboard was cutting off the blood-flow to his left pinkie, because her eyes were looking scary, like a When Animals Attack video. "His name is Mr. Luthor, and both of you will behave. Or I will let Natalie punish you for all eternity."

That was a dire threat. The big guns. Dan and Casey instantly said, "Yes, ma'am."

Dana jabbed at the air with her forefinger as she backed away from their desk. "I am not old enough to be a ma'am."

Casey saluted her and Dana gestured back rudely, marching into the control room. "Mr. Luthor. Interesting."

Dan put on his microphone and squinted, trying to remember what he'd read about the man in the newspaper. "Doesn't he own the Metropolis Sharks?"

"I do believe he does," Casey said, clipping on his mic.

"Thirty seconds," Natalie said in their earpieces. "Good show, guys."

"Rolling VTR."

"Good evening from New York City. I'm Dan Rydell, alongside Casey McCall. Those stories, plus a visit to the Detroit Red Wings locker room where we'll interview the team fresh from a crushing sweep on the ice."

Casey smiled at the camera. "And we're not talking about curling, folks. All that coming up after this. You're watching Sports Night on CSC, so stick around."

"We're out," Dave said in their earpieces. "Back in sixty."

"You'll notice," Dan said, sitting back in his chair with something like triumph, "that I did not say Detroit Wed Wings."

"Congratulations, Danny," Casey said. "Getting that harelip fixed really did the trick."

"The wonders of elective surgery," Kim said. "Sex change operation, Dan?"

"I meant absolutely no slur on your womanliness, Kim," Dan told her, gazing earnestly at the control room. "In fact, I have been a long-time admirer of your womanliness, as we all know. It's just that I fear Natalie more than I fear you, but I am not without significant fear of you. And please don't take away our pants."

"Smooth."

"Shut up, Casey."

"Don't make me come out there and knock your chuckleheads together," Dana threatened.

"Back in five," Dave said loudly. "Four, three, two..."


Dan unhooked his microphone during one of his longer breaks about halfway through the show; he pushed back from the desk, threaded his way between the cameras, and waltzed into the control room with his hands buried in his pockets.

"What?" Dana demanded when he'd been standing in front of her for ten whole seconds.

"I think your malevolence is short-circuiting camera two," Dan said sincerely. "A magnetic field of pure evil, if you will."

Dana shoved her hands in her hair and clenched them, blonde tufts sticking up between her knuckles. "Don't you have to be on the air right now?"

"I have five minutes. Natalie, don't I have five minutes?"

Natalie pulled the grape sucker out of her mouth with a pop. "Four minutes and forty-five seconds until your ass is grass, Dan."

"Do you people hate me?" Dana said. "Is that it? Is this why you're making a mockery of me and the entire profession of sports broadcast journalism?"

"We love you, Dana, but don't you think that's overstating the case by just a little?" Dan said soothingly. He reached out to pat her on the shoulder and froze at the look of death and dismemberment in her eye; he drew his hand back from the bear trap before he lost it. "And now we fear you. All hail Darth Dana."

Dana made a shooing motion and nearly cold-cocked Dan in the eye.

"Flee while you still can, young Jedi," Jeremy said, typing away on his laptop.

Dan decided retreat would be a prudent course of action and edged past Will and Dave's chairs, noting the man standing in the corner of the control room wearing a tailored suit that would send wardrobe into raptures. He wasn't the Mr. Luthor Dan had seen in the papers, the one with the wild hair and craggy face. This guy was six feet of sleek, bald presence, and definitely not old enough to be Dan's father.

Better yet, Dan wasn't old enough to be his father, either. He prayed he wouldn't trip on the carpet as he approached the guy and stuck out his hand, smiling charmingly. "You must be Mr. Luthor. I'm Dan Rydell."

Luthor's poker face eased into a small smile as he shook Danny's hand, his grip firm, skin warm and dry. "Please, call me Lex," he said, his tone smooth like really expensive coffee.

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Lex."

"Likewise," Lex said.

"What brings you to our humble control room?"

Lex took in the control room with one smooth glance and then looked Dan right in the eye. "I like to take a personal interest in my investments."

Dan slid his hands in his pockets and clenched them into fists, looking right back. "Speaking of investments, the rumor is that you're looking to sink some money into CSC."

"Calvin Trager's a friend of mine," Lex said. "When I mentioned I was interested in expanding my corporation's portfolio, he recommended your network. I hear Sports Night is the show to watch."

Dan ducked his head a little, but didn't let go of Lex's eye contact. "We're very good at what we do."

Lex smiled. "So am I."

Oh yeah, Dan liked this guy. He liked this guy a lot.

"Maybe after the show I'll have to hit you up for some tips on expanding my own portfolio," Dan suggested. And, okay, that was definitely him flirting, because Dan didn't have a stock portfolio. He had portfolios full of embarrassing photographs from his childhood, pictures of family trips and nakedness on bearskin rugs. Sordid pictures from college, bodies sprawling every which way on cheap plastic furniture, with all the faces distorted by alcohol.

Dan should probably ask Casey about who handled his investments, because he had no doubt that Casey had an investment portfolio. It was a grown-up kind of thing to do.

"Are you certain that's a wise suggestion?" Lex said, voice low. "We could be accused of insider trading."

"Oh," he said, easing forward almost involuntarily. "I'm willing to risk it."

"You may be basing your decision on a certain amount of misinformation, Mr. Rydell. It happened to Martha Stewart," Lex said, amusement curling his lip. "Incontrovertible proof that no one is safe."

"Man, even Satan is cutting back on the benefits package," Dan said. "Time was, selling your soul to the devil got you a 'get out of jail free' card."

"Dan, thirty seconds," Natalie said loudly, and it finally broke their eye contact. Dan realized he'd been breathing shallowly the whole time, and the sudden intake of oxygen danced purple and black sparks behind his eyes.

"That's my cue," he told Lex, backing up. Lex smiled then, and it had to be the real thing, because it blew all his other smiles out of the water. For a moment, Dan's body seized up, and if anyone asked him a question, he didn't hear it. People always said crap about forgetting their names in a situation like this, but Dan still knew what to call himself; there was just no way in hell he could articulate anything right now.

He somehow made it back to the anchor desk in time for his next segment, and he must have done a passable job of reading from the teleprompter, because nobody mocked him mercilessly at the next commercial break.

"So?" Casey prompted, waggling his eyebrows and nodding not-so-subtly at the control room.

And because sometimes Dan actually remembered when he was wired for sound, he said, "Inscrutable."

Casey shook his head. "There's that word again."

Dan looked at the control room. "It's a good word."

"It's a lame word," argued Casey.

"You're only saying that because you're like the antonym of inscrutable."

Casey tapped his script pages on the desk. "Considering my profession as an anchor on a television sports show, I can only assume that my lack of inscrutability is a good thing."

"You go with that," Dan said, and turned back to camera two. "Welcome back. Next up..."


The problem with being the talent, Dan decided, as he took off his microphone and made a casual beeline for the control room after a quick detour to wash the makeup from his face, was that there were too many people allowed to move around behind the scenes while he sat there smiling at a camera. Too many people who moved around and moved in on territory Dan had already scoped out prior to being stuck behind the anchor desk, and trying not to itch his nose while they were broadcasting live.

Lex, though -- it was pretty obvious that Lex was no one's territory but his own. Obvious to everyone but Sally Sasser, who was towering over Lex on her stiletto heels and presenting her cleavage like it was her best sales pitch. Dan had to admit, his dislike of the woman aside, her cleavage was a very nice feature, and it certainly beat out her personality by a country mile.

Lex's face was blank as Sally continued to talk at him, but when Sally reached out and put her hand on Lex's arm, Dan noticed that Lex was staring at her manicure. Dan couldn't tell if Lex was just bored, or trying to figure out places he could hide her body, so he sailed to the rescue. "My god, it's the Attack of the 50 Foot Woman," he said, stepping between them and forcing Sally to drop her hand.

Sally frowned at him, stopping mid-schmooze. "Hello, Dan."

"Oh hey, Sally," Dan said, feigning surprise. "I didn't even notice you were here."

Her expression turned unpleasant until she remembered Lex was still standing there. "You're such the jokester, Dan."

"I think I have a future career in stand-up," Dan said without bothering to disguise his insincerity. He turned to Lex. "Were you ready for that tour I promised you?"

Lex 's body language didn't change, and for a moment, Dan wondered if he'd seriously overstepped some boundaries. But then the tension in Lex uncoiled, and he said, "Lead the way."

Dan guided Lex out the door and around a corner, brushing past the potted plants. "I apologize for Sally the Overly Friendly Giant. Someone should have been running interference."

Lex made an amused sound. "In my social circle, the average debutante would eat Ms. Sasser alive in thirty seconds or less."

"Would they rip out her still-beating heart and devour it?" Dan said, gesturing for Lex to precede him into his office. "Because I'd pay good money to see that."

"I'm sensing an enmity between the two of you," Lex said, slanting Dan a sly glance. He nodded at the window. "Nice view, Mr. Rydell."

"Yeah, I think so, too," Dan said and joined him at the window, both of them standing behind the couch. "And please, my friends call me Dan."

Lex stared out the window at the skyline for another minute before he looked deliberately at Dan; his light eyes stapled Dan in place. "Am I your friend?"

"Don't know yet," Dan managed to say. "But I think you can call me Dan, anyway."

"Thank you, Dan," Lex said.

And if Lex kept talking to him in that voice, Dan might start messing up his broadcasts with Lex's name like he used to with Rebecca's, only this time he'd be proposing blow jobs instead of talking about cheese, and wouldn't that be great for PR?

"Hey, Danny --"

Lex and Dan turned to see Casey walking into the office, already changed out of his suit. "Hey, Casey. I'd like you to meet Mr. Lex Luthor. Lex, this is Casey McCall, my partner in crime."

Casey shook hands with Lex like it was an arm wrestling contest. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Luthor."

Lex glanced over at Dan. "Believe me, the pleasure's all mine."

Casey looked back and forth between him and Lex for a moment, looking intensely interested as if he was watching Anna Kournikova play at the French Open. "Everyone's heading over to El Perro Fumando in a few minutes," Casey said. "You in?"

"El Perro Fumando?" Lex said.

"Giant blue margaritas on special," Dan explained. He tucked his hands into his pockets. "I think I'll pass tonight, Case. But if Dana gets on her boogie shoes, I'm gonna want a play-by-play of the entire evening."

"Will do," Casey said, pointing at him. "You sure you don't want to go, Danny?"

Dan shrugged. "Not really in the mood for consuming anything giant and blue tonight, Casey."

"Your loss, my friend," Casey said, shaking his head in exaggerated dismay. "Mr. Luthor." Casey nodded once at Lex and then left the office, yelling, "El Perro Fumando! Who's with me?" to the bullpen.

"Tequila isn't your choice of poison?" Lex said, watching the activity outside the office door.

"Meh. I'm more in the mood for scotch tonight," Dan said, grabbing his keys from his desk drawer. "You know, there's a place just across the street..."

Lex looked like his arm could be twisted. "Single malt?"

"Of course," Dan said. "Do I look stupid enough to offer you a blend? Don't answer that question."

Lex chuckled quietly. "I'll get my coat."


Dan sipped the last of his scotch as Lex waved Jack over to order them another round. They were bellied up to the back bar at Anthony's, and the place was only half-full since the rest of the Sports Night crew had followed Casey's lead down to El Perro Fumando.

"My father believes sports entertainment is terribly bourgeois," Lex continued once the bartender moved down the bar for the bottle of scotch. "And yet he owns an NFL team. It should suffice to say that my father can be somewhat disingenuous."

"I can already tell," Dan said, smiling over the top of his glass, "that you and I have enough daddy issues to pay for the college education of many a psychiatrist's offspring."

Lex licked a droplet of scotch from the rim of his glass. "What's your tally?"

"Number of therapists?" Dan asked. At Lex's nod, he said, "Four. No, wait -- five."

"Please," Lex said, his eyebrows pushing together in disdain, like Dan was a minor league pitcher trying to talk his way onto the mound at Yankee Stadium.

Dan smiled. "I have the feeling that your tally would make me look like anybody playing against the U.S. in Olympic basketball."

Lex stared at him for a moment. "I hope you don't take this the wrong way, but I don't grasp the significance."

"Huh." Dan collected his new glass of scotch from Jack before he said, "You're not a sports fan, are you?"

"I'm a product of the English preparatory school system," Lex said dryly.

"Meaning?"

"Meaning polo and fencing are more my forte," Lex said.

Dan grimaced a little. "Not really my area of expertise. You do anything else?"

"A little boxing," Lex said. He reached up and loosened his tie. Not much -- about an inch or two, just enough to work open the top button of his shirt and reveal the soft hollow of his throat. Dan had already shed his suit jacket, undone half the buttons on his shirt, and rolled up his shirtsleeves.

"Yeah?" he said, delighted to picture Lex taking on a heavy bag. "You golf?"

Lex smiled as he lifted his glass. "Doesn't everyone?"

Dan looked around the bar for a minute before saying, "Hey. You mind if I ask a question?"

"As long as you don't mind if I choose not to answer," Lex said. His voice was still pleasant, but it had gone kind of chilly, as if Lex fully expected Dan to dig around in his dirty laundry.

He thought about being insulted by it, but Dan was a public figure, too, so he was in a pretty good spot to understand the reaction. Mostly, though, what Dan didn't like was what it said about the caliber of Lex's usual companions.

"Fair enough," Dan said. "If you're not a sports fan, why are you looking to invest in Sports Night? I mean, I'm not trying to dissuade you or anything, because we do put on a mighty good show. I was just curious."

"Aside from diversifying my portfolio, you mean?" Lex said after a moment. At Dan's nod, he continued. "A good friend of mine -- he's really into football, basketball. He's from a small town, and I'm given to understand that athletes are usually considered minor gods there."

Dan propped his chin on his hand. "So you're basically, what, going to invest in Sports Night because your friend would think it was cool?"

Lex looked amused as he nodded yes. "A future internship may be part of the deal."

"Must be some friend," Dan said.

"He is," Lex said firmly.

Dan just bobbed his head, because he felt that way about Casey. If he had millions to spend, that's who he'd spend it on, not that Casey didn't make enough to buy pretty much anything he wanted, excluding small islands and his favorite sports teams. Dan would give Casey the world if Casey wanted it from him, but the reason Dan was sitting here in a rumpled suit at Anthony's with Lex, instead of El Perro Fumando with Casey, was that Casey didn't want that from Dan.

And maybe he'd had just enough to drink to be getting a little maudlin, and that never ended well.

"What about you?" Lex asked. "Do you play any sports?"

Relieved to change the direction of his thoughts, Dan said, "If I had any real athletic ability, I'd be out on the field instead of behind an anchor desk." He shrugged. "But I play some hoops, some baseball. Do play a mean game of racquetball, though. You should play me some--"

"Excuse me," a woman said from behind them.

Dan looked over his shoulder. A pretty redhead stood there, nearly six foot even in heels. "Can I help you?"

"I hope so," she said. "My husband just loves your show, and I was wondering if I could get your autograph for him? He's in the hospital having surgery, and it would really mean a lot."

"Of course," Dan said, taking the notepad from her extended hand. The lady had a serious rock on her left hand, probably two karats. "What's his name?"

"Aaron, but if you could make it out to AJ?" she said. "I'm the only one who calls him that, and it would make it like a personalized present from both of us."

"Sure," Dan said, scribbling a witty, sincere message to the man in question. Well, as sincere as he could make it given that he'd never met the guy, and his wife was a little wacky. "Here you go."

AJ's wife beamed at him as she backed away. "Thank you so much."

"My pleasure," Dan said, turning back to Lex in time to see Lex watching them with a bemused expression on his face. "What?"

"Does that happen often?" Lex asked.

Dan shrugged. "We film across the street and we come here pretty often, and people know that. So yeah, maybe a couple times a night."

"Fascinating."

Dan lightly bumped Lex's shoulder. "What, do you mean to tell me that you've never signed an autograph?"

Lex's eyebrow arched high, and then he smiled a little. "Are we including legal documentation?"

Dan chuffed out a laugh. "No."

"Then my answer is no."

"That is a travesty," Dan said. "Young, rich, famous -- they should be lining up to get your autograph."

"I'm certain my security team is pleased that they aren't," Lex said, sipping at his drink.

"Well, you gotta sign at least one autograph in your life," Dan said, choosing to overlook the whole 'security team' thing, since it only reminded him of scary bomb threats. "So, Mr. Lex Luthor, may I have your autograph?"

Lex lips quirked, but he gamely pulled a pen from an inside pocket of his jacket. "Do you have any paper?"

Dan looked around the bar. There were a couple of napkins within reach, but they were nearly soaked-through with condensation. He had no luck hunting in his pockets. "We'll improvise," he said finally, holding out his forearm wrist-up like a groupie. "Sign me."

Lex's fingers closed around his wrist, hands warm and dry, and the tips of his fingers a little harder than Dan would have expected. He tugged Dan closer, and Dan had a moment to realize that Lex was left-handed before he began to write. The pen Lex used was an old-fashioned kind, dark ink spilling out of the sharp tip as it caught and scratched over his skin, staining it in bold loops. It was a weird thing to be turned-on by, the feel of being written on, someone's warm fingers snug around the bones of his wrist. The ink glistened on his skin. Lex bent over his forearm, pursed his lips, and blew a warm puff of air over the words until they dried.

Dan didn't realize he wasn't breathing until Lex's fingers slid from his wrist to cap the pen. He watched Lex tuck the pen back inside his jacket and fold his hands together on the bar.

"So how do you feel?" Dan asked.

A smile curled the edge of Lex's mouth. "Fulfilled."

His mouth went dry. "Really."

Lex leaned closer. "Thank you for the experience."

"It was my pleasure," Dan said, swallowing hard. They both fell silent. Everything seemed magnified. The sweep of Lex's eyelashes as he blinked, Dan's heartbeat in his throat, a bead of condensation trickling down the side of his glass and dropping onto the napkin.

This was the moment that Dan had been hoping for -- the hint, the flash, the recognition, that indefinable tell that indicated the guy he was chatting up was interested in more. Dan didn't hook up with guys much anymore. It was more difficult and risky these days. If he hit on the wrong guy, his career would probably be over, and Dan was reasonably sure that his Dad would stop talking to him for good.

Not that Dan let any of that stop him; it just made him more cautious. But if turned out that Lex Luthor was completely straight, Dan was gonna have to turn in his queer card and retire his gaydar from active field duty.

He shifted closer to Lex. "So."

Lex tilted his head slightly, his stare bold. Almost challenging.

Dan leapt. "You wanna get out of here?"

Lex smiled, a sly curl of lip, wet with scotch. "I'll call my driver."

"Cool," Dan said. "Wait, you have a driver?"

Lex pulled out his cell phone and pressed a few numbers with his thumb. "And a limousine."

"Must be nice."

"It is," Lex assured him easily. Dan grinned and tossed back the rest of his scotch as Lex spoke to his driver. "He'll pick us up out front in ten minutes."

Dan pushed himself off his barstool. "In that case, I'll just make a quick pit stop in the bathroom. Be right back."

He went to the bathroom, did his business at the urinal, and was washing his hands when he heard the door open. There was a cool gust of air across his back, followed by the warm press of a body. Dan looked up from the sink to see Lex's face appear over his shoulder.

"Hey," he said, turning around and drying his hands with a paper towel, tossing it into the garbage when he was done.

Lex didn't step back. "Before we leave, I want to ask you something."

Dan leaned against the sink and spread his arms. "Fire away."

Lex tilted his head back and looked at him, eyelids heavy. "Perhaps a demonstration is in order."

Dan wanted to say something pithy, but he didn't have the chance before Lex kissed him. Lex's mouth was warm and soft, his lips -- Dan wanted to say they were pliant, but that wasn't it at all. Lex didn't yield anything, but his lips moved in ways that made Dan feel light-headed and hot. Lex pushed his tongue inside Dan's mouth, and the kiss turned wet and deep. Mouths open wide, their tongues rubbing together, teeth catching.

It was slick and urgent. Lex pulled away and stared at him, breathing hard, his eyes at half-mast. The sink edge pressed uncomfortably against the small of his back. It didn't hurt nearly enough for Dan to think about moving.

"We should go," Lex said, his eyes flickering down to Dan's mouth.

Dan cleared his throat. "Lead the way."

He tried to be cool as they walked back to the bar, dropped money on the counter, and collected their coats. It wasn't easy, because one, he was turned-on as all hell, and two, he was leaving with a billionaire to go for a ride in his limousine so they could have sex.

It wasn't the kind of thing that happened every day, and Dan wanted to savor it just a little bit.

But not for too long. "Ready?" he said.

Lex took off walking, his step confident and his hips moving like sex; Dan followed him immediately. The limousine was waiting at the curb outside of Anthony's, and the driver opened the door for them, his eyes staring straight ahead underneath his cap. The leather seats squeaked as Dan slid across them. The leather stayed silent for Lex, probably because he had more practice at it. Crystal decanters of pricey alcohol. Satellite phone. Portable DVD player. It was all a little too rich for Dan's blood, and he was a moment away from rethinking the whole thing when he looked over and found Lex watching him.

Lex's face was in shadow, his eyes dark, hands resting on his thighs. Dan got looked at for a living and he was used to it, but this felt different, like he was caught, like being naked on camera. Lex stirred, tilting his head. A street light flashed over his face, and something fluttered in Dan's gut when he saw Lex's expression, because it reminded him of the knowing way Abby looked at him when he turned on the charm.

Dan looked away, staring blindly out the tinted window and remembering why this sort of thing was dangerous. He started when Lex touched his knee with his fingertips.

"Second thoughts?" Lex said, his voice soft and blurred, like suede.

"Second thoughts?" Dan repeated. "I was already on second thoughts about five seconds after I shook your hand."

"I appreciate your candor," Lex said, sitting forward to rest his forearms on his thighs. He swallowed, and that drew Dan's attention to the soft hollow of his throat and the loosely knotted tie just below it.

"Do you?" Dan said absently. "That's nice."

"I find honesty refreshing," Lex said. "And all too rare."

"That really sucks," he said. Lex looked at him sharply, and Dan reached out to stroke his fingers over Lex's throat. His skin was smooth and warm, and flushed from the scotch. Dan wondered if he'd get to touch him everywhere.

"What?" Lex asked.

"That honesty is rare," Dan said. He pushed his fingers over Lex's throat until they bumped against his jaw. "That sucks."

Lex's smile stopped halfway. "It does."

The limo was quiet for a moment, filled only with the sound of the tires shushing and bumping along the street. The leather upholstery squeaked as Dan leaned forward and pressed his lips to Lex's neck. Lex's throat moved underneath his mouth as he kissed it, air rushing over his ear as Lex breathed it into his lungs. He tasted clean, faintly salty, and expensive. He bit at the soft skin, and Lex's hand covered the back of his head, fingernails scratching at his scalp.

Lex dipped his head and caught him in a kiss, their legs bumping together and Lex's fingers tugging on his hair. Dan rubbed his thumb over the damp skin he'd left behind and returned the kiss eagerly, his mouth open wide, and willing to forget all the reasons why this was a bad idea. He was willing to forget because Lex kissed like someone who hadn't eaten in days, like the way Casey ate ice cream after giving it up for Lent.

Dan's breath snagged in his throat as Lex ran his hand down Dan's shirt, bumping over the buttons and his belt, and tracing the zipper of his pants. A shiver ran up the length of his spine, and he felt like laughing.

"Wow," Dan said breathlessly.

Lex didn't retreat, but he did pause, his hand heavy and warm on Dan's cock. "Too fast?"

Dan made a "pffft" noise without even thinking, and Lex's answering smile tasted a little like peat and smoke. His lips and teeth caught at the skin along Dan's jaw, and the urge to laugh disappeared behind a groan. The motion of the limousine turning a corner pushed them closer together, Lex's arm rubbing along his and the heel of his palm pressing harder on Dan's cock.

Dan gasped, and he felt Lex laugh quietly against his cheek. "You are so..." he started to say, but Lex rubbed his thumb over Dan's lower lip and Dan sucked it inside his mouth. Lex made a pleased humming noise in his throat as Dan licked the pad of his thumb, his lips tight around the first knuckle. Lex squeezed his cock and sucked at the skin high on Dan's neck, the tender place behind his ear.

"We're here," Lex said, his lips brushing Dan's earlobe.

"Oh." Dan stirred sluggishly, realizing the limousine had come to a stop. "Where?"

"My hotel," Lex said. He sat back a little and straightened his tie, his mouth wet and ruddy. "We'll go in the back."

Dan grinned. "Sounds like a plan."

Lex raised his eyebrow, but then the limousine door opened and the driver said something that ended with 'sir'. He followed Lex across the leather seats and stood on the wet pavement, shivering at the change in temperature and huddling inside his coat. It was a couple of minutes before one of Lex's security guys appeared at the door and waved them forward. As Dan followed close on Lex's heels, he noticed that the security guy looked familiar, and then realized that he looked familiar because he'd been on the set and at the bar. Unobtrusive and sneaky.

Dan spent so much time seeking attention that he had no idea how anybody avoided it. Knowing he and Lex had been watched the whole time they were at the bar was vaguely creepy, but Dan understood the necessity; fame and money brought out the crazy in people, and if Dan had been able to get Natalie to agree to a security guard when that asshole Christian Patrick had been threatening her, he would have done it in a New York minute.

Dan stared at the floor indicator when they got on the elevator, Lex's arm brushing his. They were in the express elevator, so the lights didn't start flashing until after the sickening stomach-lurch of bypassing a bazillion floors at warp ten. They kept going up and up, and just when Dan wondered if he should have taken something for altitude sickness, the elevator slowed to a stop, and the doors slid open with a ding. Dan followed Lex and the security guy, pausing momentarily to feel the petals of the exotic bouquet of flowers outside the elevator. Softer than silk on his fingertips. They were definitely real.

Everything always seemed to echo loudly in hotel hallways -- the drag of their shoes on the carpet, the rustle of their clothes, the breath in his nose. It made Dan feel self-conscious, like the time Casey told him that he breathed too loudly on the phone, even though it turned out that he just had a head cold. When they finally came to a stop, Lex swiped his keycard, and they waited outside while the security guy checked things out.

"All clear, Mr. Luthor," he said, finally appearing at the door.

"Thank you, Jacob," Lex said. "Have a good night."

Jacob nodded once, and then took off down the hallway. Lex gestured at the open door. Dan took a deep breath and walked through it. The door clicked shut behind them. He glanced around the fancy suite, and then looked over his shoulder at Lex. For a moment, the situation seemed terrifying and way too complicated, and he felt an urge to leave. To leave the state and change his name to John Smith, to take up something practical like plumbing or dentistry, and never look back.

He looked at the door for about a heartbeat, and then he looked at Lex's hungry expression, and decided he'd be nuts to go anywhere. Being wanted was seriously underrated. And besides, he shuddered to think of what Casey would do if left to his own devices.

Lex closed his fingers around the rumpled collar of Dan's shirt and jerked him closer. He stumbled across the open space of the foyer, hands coming up to grasp at Lex's biceps and his mouth open in surprise. Lex kissed him like he knew what Dan had been thinking, like Lex had decided that he owned Dan's mouth and now was a good time to take possession, his tongue slick and persuasive. Dan made a whining noise in his throat and pressed closer; Lex's back thumped against the closed door. They both pulled at Lex's coat, tugging it off his shoulders until it dropped to the beige carpet.

"What do you do?" Lex said as Dan's coat and suit jacket hit the floor.

His belt buckle was hard against Dan's belly, his fingers nimble with the buttons on Dan's shirt, and the traces of Lex's cologne smelled fantastic. "Are you kidding?" Dan said. "What could you possibly ask me to do that wouldn't be incredibly hot?"

Lex hummed under his breath and looked at Dan speculatively. "You might be surprised."

Dan tugged loose the tails of Lex's shirt and ran his thumbs over the smooth skin at Lex's waist. "Please tell me you're not going to ask me to wear a pink tutu."

Lex furrowed his brow for a moment, and then took off Dan's shirt. "I don't think that will be an issue."

"Good to know," Dan said. He used Lex's tie to pull him into a messy kiss. "No clowns? Water sports? Strangely skittish dogs?"

"Rumors of my debauchery have been greatly exaggerated," Lex said. His words were dry, but he looked amused. "No, I just want to fuck you."

"I do that," he said immediately, and groaned when Lex scratched his fingernails over Dan's nipples. "I definitely, definitely do that."

"Good," Lex said. He pushed Dan back a step and began undoing his tie as he walked into the bedroom. Dan blinked for a few seconds at Lex's abrupt departure, and then followed him, watching him strip out of his tie and shirt. Lex was smooth and lean, muscles flexing as he undressed, and in the dim light, Dan could see that his shoulders were covered with the faintest of freckles. Dan ran his thumb over Lex's shoulder blade. Lex didn't shiver, but he did turn his head, his hands busy with his belt. "Get undressed."

"Okay," Dan muttered under his breath. He kicked off his shoes and bent to remove his socks. When he straightened, Lex was putting his watch and cufflinks on the nightstand. The watch had the face of some old coin, and Lex brushed it with a fingertip before turning away. Dan finished undressing, leaving his clothes in a messy pile on the carpet. The room was cool and dim. The curtains were closed. Dan felt uncomfortably exposed, and his skin twitched like he was being watched.

"Get on the bed," Lex said.

Dan didn't argue because he couldn't think of anything else to do. He walked on his knees to the center of the bed and lay down on his back. Lex was staring, his body bare and his eyes hooded, the dim light casting angular shadows on his skin. He stroked his cock almost absently. He was long, thick, and already half-hard, and he was so ridiculously hot that Dan couldn't help saying, "Fuck." Lex's eyes darkened and he climbed onto the bed, crawling over Dan. His skin felt warm and soft, and he sucked on Dan's neck, making his throat sting. Dan lifted his hands and touched Lex's skin, dragging his palms over Lex's shoulders, arms, chest, and mapped the small of his back. He felt so good that it was almost unreal.

He tugged, and Lex let his weight rest on Dan completely, skin moving against skin, and Lex's cock rubbing along his. Lex kissed him, his tongue pushing into Dan's mouth languidly while his hips moved in a long, slow grind. Dan slid his hands onto Lex's ass and squeezed, trying to make him move faster. Lex stopped moving altogether, and Dan groaned in frustration.

"Come on," he said. "Please --"

Lex kissed him quiet, hard and wholehearted, and it was everything Dan could do to keep up with him and keep breathing. And then Lex's hand was on his cock, jerking him off slowly. Lex's thumb circled hard around the head of his cock just as he sucked on Dan's tongue, and Dan just wrapped himself around Lex and whimpered.

"Hands and knees," Lex said, and backed off to sit on his heels.

Dazed, Dan blinked at him for a little while before he could find the mental wherewithal to roll over onto his stomach and rise shakily to his hands and knees. The mattress dipped as Lex moved behind him and slid his palm up Dan's back. He dropped his head and shuddered when Lex rubbed his thumb over Dan's asshole. He felt the warmth of Lex's breath about a second before he realized what Lex was going to do.

Lex held him open and rubbed his tongue against Dan's ass. Dan moaned and dropped to his elbows, pressing his forehead against the sheets. Lex pushed in, and sweat prickled over Dan's body at the hot and the wet and the slick thrusts of Lex's tongue. He tried to push back, needed to push back, but Lex had his hands on Dan's hips and he was stronger than he looked. It was maddening and agonizingly hot, but it wasn't enough.

Dan couldn't do anything but gasp and moan and shake, his fists clenched, legs spread wide. He hit the mattress with his closed fist and chanted please and fuck me, and when Lex finally replaced his tongue with his long, slick fingers, Dan was ready to thank even Jesus and Santa Claus.

"Oh!" he said when Lex curled his fingers just right. "There. Right there." He barely heard Lex's chuckle over his own harsh breathing. Lex slid out his fingers, and Dan looked over his shoulder to watch Lex roll a condom onto his cock. Lex's eyes were dark and his mouth red, and the flush of his skin made the freckles stand out more. Dan closed his eyes and groaned when Lex slicked himself up, and the press of his cock made Dan want to beg again.

Lex nudged his thighs apart and pushed inside, and Dan tried to remember how to breathe. It hurt. It burned. It had been a while, and it stretched him out of shape, but if Lex stopped, he would have to kill him. Lex moved slowly and steadily, and by the time he was in all the way, all Dan wanted him to do was move some more. Lex shifted his hips in a shallow thrust, and he nudged Dan's thighs wider, Lex's chest sliding against his back. He moaned when Lex wrapped his hand around Dan's cock and stroked. "Harder."

Lex didn't give him harder. He moved again, too gentle and shallow, skin slipping and rubbing together. Again, and again, and Dan said, "Harder."

He squeezed his muscles around Lex's cock and startled a grunt out of him. Lex's breath was harsh in his ear, and then his teeth closed over Dan's shoulder. He cried out, and then Lex fucked him for real, hard and fast, the bed protesting with a series of squeaks. Dan braced himself against the headboard with an arm and pushed forward into Lex's hand and then back onto his cock. Lex was screwing him into the mattress with his hips and making the sexiest, softest noises each time he stroked inside Dan's ass.

Dan needed to come. He needed to come like crazy, and then Lex moved just right. He made a garbled noise when Lex did it again, and his eyes rolled back in his head at the third time. He came all over Lex's hand, babbling something mindlessly, his sweaty forehead pressed hard against the sheets.

Lex let go of his cock and pressed his messy palm against Dan's belly. He was still hard, his breathing audible, and the sexy noises he was making got louder as Lex continued to fuck him steadily. It still felt really good, and Dan tried to move helpfully. Lex hissed and his hand twitched, his short fingernails biting at Dan's stomach. He went motionless as he came, his face pressed against the side of Dan's neck. Lex weighed heavily on him for a moment until his hectic breathing slowed. He rubbed his hands down Dan's sides and slowly shifted backward.

Dan flopped onto the mattress and blearily watched Lex take care of the condom, his nerve endings still buzzing.

"Up," Lex said, sliding off the bed.

Dan stared at him, wondering if he meant 'get up' or 'get out'. "Huh?"

Lex tugged at the bedspread. "It's warmer under the covers, so I'm told."

Dan smiled. "I've heard the same rumor."

"Then I think we're duty-bound to field test it."

"I'd have to agree." Dan stood and helped Lex turn back the bed.

The sheets were cool on his skin as they settled in. Lex rolled onto his side, giving Dan a good view of his freckled shoulders. Dan pushed his face into a pillow, and his eyes drifted shut.


Dan awoke to the sound of someone talking quietly, the conversation muffled and casual. He yawned and stretched, his stubble making a scratching noise on the pillowcase. He had a headache, his stomach was appallingly empty, and his body ached like he'd been having sex all night long. Dan abruptly recalled where he was and peered at the window. The sun wasn't even up yet, and the dent in the bed next to him was cold.

The bathroom door opened and Lex walked out, his cell phone to his ear. He was impeccably dressed in a dark suit and a shirt the gray color of the morning sky. "No, I'm in New York. I'll be back in Smallville tonight," he said.

Dan regarded him sleepily, his nose tucked into the crook of his arm. Lex appeared to be listening, his eyes down and his hand in his pocket. Dan hadn't put that smile on Lex's face, because if he had, he was pretty sure he'd remember.

"Yes, of course, Clark," Lex said after a moment. "I'd be happy to." Lex's phone beeped as he turned it off without saying good-bye. He walked across the room and sat down on the edge of the bed. "Good morning."

Dan grunted something unintelligible and thought longingly of coffee. "Going somewhere?"

Lex nodded once. "I have a plane to catch."

"No rest for the wicked?"

Lex smirked. "Unfortunately."

Dan was disappointed. He liked Lex and they'd had fun, and he didn't want him to go yet for more than one reason, not the least of which had been the hope of shower sex. "I think I like you, Lex Luthor. You should come back to New York sometime."

Lex looked down at him for a long moment, his focus intent. He reached inside his jacket and took out his pen, uncapping it. He closed his fingers around Dan's wrist and tugged it from beneath his pillow, and then Lex leaned down to write something beneath the smudged letters of his name still marking Dan's skin. Sweat had caused the dark ink to bleed, and the elegant loops of his signature had developed tree branches overnight.

"In case you're ever in Metropolis," Lex said, the tip of his pen scratching over Dan's forearm, "and you want a box seat at any sporting event, you should give me a call."

"Yeah?" Dan said, watching the numbers glisten wetly before drying into flat ink. Lex smelled clean and his fingers were warm.

"Oh, I insist." Lex smiled and squeezed his wrist. "Check-out isn't until noon. You can stay in the room until then."

"Hey," Dan said, covering the hand on his wrist with his palm. "I think I know, now."

A line formed between Lex's eyebrows. "Know what?"

"Whether you're my friend."

"Ah," Lex said, his expression flattening into something inscrutable. "Am I?"

Dan nodded at his forearm. "That's going on my speed dial, my friend."

The smile made a reappearance. "Speed dial number one?"

"Now you're pushing it."

"It's what Luthors do best," Lex said.

His cell phone rang. They both looked at it.

"I have to go," Lex said.

Dan let go of his hand. "Yeah."

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Fandom:  Smallville, Sports Night
Title:  Networking
Author:  shrift   [email]   [website]
Details:  Standalone  |  NC-17  |  *slash*  |  44k  |  02/16/04
Characters:  Lex Luthor, Dan, Casey, Dana, Natalie
Pairings:  Lex Luthor/Dan Rydell
Summary:  Flair, flirting, ink, inscrutability, and tiaras. A Smallville/Sports Night crossover event.
Notes:  Beta by Nestra.

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