Titanium - Smallville
Oz, Lex LuthorRating:
Lex puts in a service call for his home computer with a purpose. Oz kinda defeats that purpose.Length:
Only the words are mine, and that’s probably up for philosophical debate.Notes:
This is technically a companion piece to a trilogy I wrote ages ago called the Veni, Vidi, Not-So-Vici cycle, specifically "Let it Bleed". I’m not sure you can find any part of the trilogy online anymore, but you’re welcome to try (or to ask me for the stories).
The butler or housekeeper or footman or maybe he was a groom...because Oz was pretty sure he’d seen a working stables as he came up the drive. If he’d been in his van he’d know for sure, but Distaff Technology Consulting tended to prefer Jettas to beat up camp-vans. Although Contessa, the owner, had readily agreed that using vans was not in fact a bad idea. "But we look more important in company cars."
Always less concerned with how important or not he looked, Oz had agreed with his boss—sort of his boss—and left the van in the lot when he took a job that required driving. Not that the Jetta was bad or anything. It wasn’t what he was used to, was all.
So, this guy, butler/housekeeper/footman/groom guy, lets Oz into the house and takes him to the corner of the monster-castle that the owner of the house has carved out for work. Oz briefly wonders where he’s carved out of the corner for enjoying himself. The place/castle/palace thing looks like it was decorated by a professional, and lived in by the same. Even the family pictures that he’d glanced at in passing looked studio perfect—like they were standard issue for every new house/mansion/palace thing.
"This is it?" he asks the footman/groom/butler/housekeeper as they neared a massive desk dwarfed by an even more massive room.
The guy—all those potential names, too much—nods. Then he’s holding up his hands to stave off the questions bubbling under Oz’s skin. "Master Luthor is finishing up a call. He will be with you to answer all of your questions momentarily."
"Cool." Squatting, he started pulling his laptop and diagnostic tools out of his bag.
"Master Luthor, the person from Distaff is waiting for you in your office, as you requested."
Lex looked up from machine in his lap, eyes bright and sharp with anticipation. He hated that the woman from Distaff had a knack for eluding him. There was no way she could know his schedule, and yet, somehow, she always managed to make her service appointments when he was out of the house. He didn’t even know her name. Lex had long ago discovered that the only mysteries he liked were the ones he created himself.
"Tell her I’m on my way."
Bowing, his butler said, "Already done, sir."
But Lex did like good help.
"You’re a guy."
Oz nodded, eyes still focused on the screen in front of him. "Last I checked."
"Where’s the woman?"
Oz looked up into the face of an annoyed young man, about his age or older he guessed but already bald. Hunh. "You’re Lex Luthor?"
"Where’s the woman from Distaff?" Lex was nothing if not doggedly persistent.
"Uh, the guy who brought me here was definitely of the male persuasion, unless there’s something you need to add to that conversation. So, um, nope can’t help you."
Lex’s eyes narrowed as he got closer to the desk, and Oz behind it. "You’re from Distaff?"
"Yeah, Distaff Technology Consulting. You had a service call. I came to service your call."
"But you’re male."
"Pretty much all the time, yeah." Oz half expected Luthor to ask if he, Oz, had always been male. But instead, "Who’s the woman that you work with?"
"Me? There is a distinct lack of women in my office." Which was technically true. "Although, girls, very nice and often smarter than the average guy. If nothing else, usually a lot more dextrous," he said, uncharacteristically filling up the space with noise.
It was obvious Luthor had been expecting a woman and not a man as his service rep. It was also pretty obvious that he was expecting a specific woman. Distaff was a pretty small company. Though they had offices in three major cities, there were only five employees if he counted his boss, the owner—a woman.
"So it’d be nice if we had a woman, y’know, working with us," he said, speaking to his laptop again. "Wouldn’t see her much because we tend to be out of the office, but there’d be texts and emails, maybe quirky banter when we all happened to be in the office. The occasional opportunity for dating advice and big brotherly concern."
He felt like Xander.
Hands braced on the edge of his desk, Lex leaned forward to see Oz over the top of his laptop. "You don’t work with a woman."
"Not unless Seth has more to add to the conversation, no."
"And you’ve never worked with a woman."
"But isn’t the owner of Distaff a woman?"
Oz shrugged. "Yeah." It was so much easier falling back on his own habits. Xander worked for Xander. He was Oz. And he thought he had a better handle on the situation now.
"What’s her name?"
Oz raised his head and met Luthor’s bright, curious eyes. He was trying very hard to look merely interested, but his body-language screamed tension.
"You don’t know?"
Lex pushed himself up, slapping the desk.
"Why do you want to know?"
"Why do you care?"
In his head, Oz heard his Aunt Maureen playing with little cousin Jordy, her voice deep and silly, saying over and over "Guardguardguardguard Guardguardguardguard"
She’d just broken the news to the family that she was pregnant again and had given her young son the Very Important Job of being the Big Brother. "And you know what that means, Jordy? It means that sometimes you’re going to feel the urge to protect your little brother or sister just like that big dog in the cartoon, the one that goes ‘Guardguardguardguard. Guardguardguardguard.’ and that’s very cool."
She had done the funny walk, too, to everyone’s amusement.
Oz felt it now. The need to guardguardguardguard his boss, who had been nothing but kind and understanding, and respected the privacy of her employees almost to a fault. There were three days a month when Oz either couldn’t take jobs at all or couldn’t take jobs in the evening? No problem, see you in half a week. Some people and places where he just wouldn’t go? We’ll ask Seth to take it over. Don’t want to talk about home? Cool, neither do I.
He wasn’t friends with his boss, not really, but they were cool. He’d seen the panic in her eyes when she saw the emailed service request for Luthor’s place. Figuring that she didn’t like the up and coming business man, he already had a bad reputation as a playboy and his business rep seemed to be following his father’s, Oz had volunteered. Celebrity, dirty money and sexual indiscretion meant little to him. Then again, Oz would have said the same thing of her. Now, however he could see that her panic was likely based on personal reasons.
Luthor crossed his arms over his chest, eyebrow ridge curved high and tight. Oz wondered if he had eyelashes. "I like to know who I’m paying," Luthor said.
"Didn’t seem to bother you before. According to my file, you’ve been a Distaff client for a few years now."
A humorless smile crossed Luthor’s face. "I’ve changed my mind."
Shrugging, Oz bent his head toward his laptop again. The diagnostic was almost done. "Can’t help you."
"Either you tell me what I want to know, or leave."
Oz executed a command, then waited for the program to shut itself off.
"What are you doing? I asked you a question."
"Leaving. It’ll just take me a minute to close out."
"I’m sorry, say that again?"
Oz looked up from his laptop, almost done. "I’m sure you heard me." He wanted to growl. He didn’t, and he was proud of himself.
Luthor laughed humorlessly. "It’s just a name. I could look it up online, but I thought it’d be better getting it from an employee."
"If you could have gotten it online," Oz started packing, "why haven’t you?" In less than five minutes he had everything more or less jammed into his bag. Standing, he came around the desk and nodded to Luthor. "If you want, you can see if my coworker will come out to finish the job but I’m pretty sure he’s also a no. I’ll show myself out. I think I remember the way."
"This is going to cost you. Not just you, but your entire company," Luthor said as Oz passed him and went to the open door. "Think your boss can handle that? I have lots of friends."
Oz unclenched his hand and took a deep breath. "Good for you. So does she." He nodded again. "Luthor."
Stalking through the palace/mansion/manor/house/thing, Oz hoped he hadn’t just done something really stupid.