I'm still working out the what, but I know the why. At least, I think so. *hugs Caro* For you.
"It's my turn," Clark said with a sharp grin.
Lex doesn't like it when Clark gets that grin. Shark crossed with wolf, like he could cut himself on the razor edge of it if he so much as moves.
And chess, of all Godforsaken reasons for Clark to show his dormant competitive spirit.
Clark hits the timer, and what does it say about this entire situation that Clark hunted up a timer from somewhere anyway? Lex stares at the board, trying to find what on earth could be making Clark so damn smug. Lex is still winning. Clark's still dying by inches o the board. Sacrificing pawns like kindling, a bloodbath in progress with his bishops, and the less said about the early loss of the queen the better.
"You do know the point of the game is to checkmate, right?" That Clark seems to know what the pieces do is irrelevant--so far, his idea of aggressive playing leaves a lot to be desired and verges on suicidal. Lex fingers the captured rook with nervous fingers. Clark is *losing*. There is no reason why this should worry Lex so much.
"Sure," Clark says brightly, like a kid with an ice cream cone on the warmest day of summer when life is just too fucking perfect for words. The kind of moments they show in afterschool specials right after the Good Kid Who Did a Bad Thing owns up to it and rediscovers joy in life or something equally clichéd.
Frankly, it's scary.
"Your move," Clark says, hitting his timer and Lex belatedly reaches across the table and hits his. He's had his strategy worked out from the beginning, but it was meant for sane opponents, not one who was playing General Custer to his Geronimo. It's fucking *unreal*. The last bishop is just sitting there, completely unprotected, like it has a magical shield around it to block the advance of Lex's *pawn*, and is there anything more embarrassing than killing someone's rook with a pawn?
He makes the move, watching Clark's smile join the list of things that you can only find in Kansas. Fields of perfectly golden corn in winter, far too many reclusive types with doctorates and the will to use them badly, and smiles that stretch across county lines and make you wonder how any mouth, even that one, could possibly be big enough. Like a light turned on behind his eyes, and Lex gets fragments of memories he thinks he might have had once as more, that smile, that look, that warmth that reaches out in a way he recognizes as familiar even though he can't remember a damned thing.
Sometimes, he wonders, on afternoons like this, when the sun grows long and spills dark gold across the floor, arrowing toward him like an accusation, you don't remember, you don't remember, you don't *remember* this, or that, or that vase, or why the fuck you buy so many damn organic vegetables. Looking at the bills with a blank expression while the latest housekeeper explains, puzzled, it's always been like this, Mr. Luther.
But I don't eat that much, he thinks but doesn't say.
He still buys then, though, every week.
Clark puts another rook in the direct line of fire and Lex almost sighs, almost asks, who taught you to play chess, but he already knows, Clark told him on a breath, the first time they set up the board. You taught me.
*You* taught me, and Lex's fingers remember a thousand games, but they don't remember any with Clark.
Lex hits the timer and watches the rook die by knight in a quick and painless battle that leaves him with a skin-warmed piece and a grinning Clark.
Did Clark always smile like this?
He thinks he'd remember if Clark did. This is new. He knows it.
Clark sprawls back in the chair when Lex wins, like it's so totally inevitable it's not even worth the effort to comment on, drinking bottled water like it's his best friend ever, and Lex wonders how often Clark is here and where he picked up that thing where he feels up the bottle like a fifteen year old copping his first feel. Hypnotizing fingers sliding up and down, vaguely reminiscent of handjobs that linger on the edges of Lex's mind, torn edges of almost-memory. Slowly moving to wrap his mouth around it while he drinks, and the comparison's too stupidly obvious to even bother making.
"So, Clark--" But conversation stops. It always does, and that's the only thing that makes Clark's smile fade, just a dimming around the corners that slip down, and Lex hates that look more than anything. More than lost memories or lost opportunities or the strange smile on his dad's face whenever he sees him these days. Hates that Clark *knows* something, no matter how Lex hides and prevaricates, like maybe knows about the truck in the garage, polished with exactly ten miles on it, has no context. No reason why he goes there to stare and touch with shaking fingers, because he should *remember*.
"You like losing that much?"
Clark shrugs. "I don't mind."
Sometimes, Lex remembers his first day back in Smallville, how so much seemed familiar, like something out of an almost-forgotten dream. How the smells had soaked into him and he'd stripped off Metropolitan suit and designer shoes, stood naked at his window and breathed in. As mnemonic devices went, it was crude, but sometimes--God, sometimes, he felt it. Just beyond the reach of his fingers, the pieces of himself that wouldn't quite join.
Clark's corn in the wind and baking bread, the smell of river water and the squelch of warm, clean, wet dirt under his fingernails and shoes, the taste in his mouth, and he doesn't even know why.
*An accident on a bridge. The boy saved your life, Lex.*
Like that could explain anything. A room upstairs says so much more, but the translation's beyond him.
He finds himself tapping his fingers into the table, the chess board still the scene of a very messy battle that he won at low cost. It's unsatisfactory to win when like this. He's not sure why.
Winning against Clark seems cheap unless he's given it his all.
"Lex? You want to play again?"
The smile's gone, they're back to Solemn Interest, like Clark's worried Lex will spook if he looks at him wrong, and God, he's remembering their meeting on the streets of Smallville, and that had been an experience to remember.
An unfamiliar boy and an unfamiliar coffee shop and how his feet knew where to go and how the name came from nowhere. "Clark."
Clark. Rolled on the tongue, lips used to shaping the word, like he'd said it more times than could ever be counted. Just staring, eyes wide, arms around him before he could even breathe, and he thought of being naked at his window and the corn outside and how this second was all of that rolled into one. The slivers of memory that would never come together but finally gave him peace, only there, only in that moment. Like he'd come into town that morning just for that, only for that, only to feel that, even if he didn't know why.
"Maybe later." Lex gets up, going to the tiny refrigerator that he stores all that bottled water in, picking out one at random, just to give his hands something to do.
Clark moves to sprawl on the couch, loose and way younger than anyone who claimed seventeen should ever be. Seventeen. Jesus. They'd met two years ago. *Fifteen*.
Fifteen seems like a lifetime ago. Lex doesn't remember being young. Doesn't remember when his breath didn't coil around his chest like it does now.
Clark grins when Lex sits down on the other side of the couch, taking another drink of his water, and God, that's hot, and did he always think it was hot?
Clark shrugs, but there's a tense set to his shoulders that make Lex wonder.
"Okay, I guess."
It's all this painful, weird, obvious, light chatter, dinner conversation, but Clark had to have been more than that to him. He feels it, like he feels that bittersweet regret touching a silver white wedding dress buried in the back of the closet. The smell of dead flowers and expensive perfume, a warm body that inhabited it. Dad had never told him her name.
No one else ever says it, and Lex hasn't quite made himself look it up.
Their thighs touch when he shifts, and Clark looks at him, and that's the look that scares him most. Everyone wonders, speculates, knows where he was, maybe even thinks they know why.
Clark doesn't look like that.
He looks like he *knows*.