When the Sky Falls Down
"I don't believe this."
Clark does. Clark believes because there are a few basic principles of a bad night, and this is one of them.
It can only get worse.
Witness; one cab, leaving them in the completely wrong part of town, petty retaliation for the fact that at some point during the night, probably between the time their dinner was dumped in their laps by the incredibly clumsy waitress and the rain that started less than an hour ago, Lex lost his wallet.
Lex is checking every pocket for the tenth time, which is par for the course when you lose something, but it really doesn't make it any less funny. Because of course, if it isn't there the *first* time you check, it's miraculously going to show up on the tenth time, right in your hand after hiding in the vortex of Missing Things that Clark honestly believes swallowed half his pens and last week's algebra homework.
Shoving his hands in his pockets, Clark stares at the building just behind Lex, because a single look will bring another accusation that Clark is *smug*, when he's not, he's just very wet and very, very fucking amused, not that he's going to *say* that. Not if he values his life.
Pulling his hands from the depths of wet cashmere, Lex gives his coat an accusatory look, then glances around them again, like there's an off-chance something's changed. Which no, nothing has--this is still Westonhouse and Burlington, they are still surrounded by dilapidated buildings, and no, there isn't a single vehicle in sight that can take them anywhere.
"Where the fuck could it *be*?"
It *could* be anywhere. That's the beauty of losing things. That's why you find yourself checking the septic tank for the aspirin bottle you had five second ago and the freezer for your lunch money. Because when something is Lost, logic stops applying. Lex's wallet *could* be somewhere they've been, but the Vortex of Missing Things sometimes deposits things in very unlikely places, say, the back of the truck, like Clark's Spanish book that mysteriously vanished off his desk a month ago and turned up under a pile of hay, speared on a pitchfork while unloading..
Lex checks their immediate vicinity while puddles form under their feet and water slides by them on the way to a crack in the sidewalk roughly the size of a small fault in the earth's crust. An earthquake couldn't surprise Clark at this point. It's just been that kind of a night.
Clark's pretty sure it all started when he said, yes, when Lex said, you want to go to a movie?
"Fucking *hell*, I don't even have my cell phone." Lex pats his empty pockets down again, making sure that they are, in fact, as lint-only as they were seconds before. Clark nods. They don't have a phone, because they left that in the Porsche currently stalled up on tenth street, right before they got in the cab, right after Lex realized that staring hard at the steering wheel would not, in fact, force obedience.
Lex wipes water from his face, resettling his coat in damp lines, trying to do that trademark flicker that just fails when wet wool meets water. It could be worse, Clark thinks philosophically. Lex could break his ankle. Or it could be midnight right now, with his parents wondering where he is, and not five to midnight, so really, Clark's got a five minute window opportunity to not worry at all about the many kinds of grounding in store for him.
That still leaves the fact they are in the worst part of Metropolis, where he's walking around with a guy wearing a Rolex and designer clothes, bald head like a massive beacon of 'guess who I am! Yes, that rich guy! Please rob me!'
Or maybe that's just Clark, wondering if the robber would give them a ride somewhere in exchange for their material goods.
"How much money do you have?" Lex demands. Clark slowly reaches into his back pocket and takes out his wallet, opening it to stare down at the five one dollar bills that make up his entire fortune. This might, if he's very, very lucky, buy them a sandwich. If they want to share. So they don't die of starvation going the *eighty-five blocks* back to Luthor Towers.
Looking through grey fog, rain, and a general sense of doom, Clark wonders why his fabulous vision isn't so great with the seeing through falling water in the dark. And he knows that Lex's sense of direction is as bad as his own.
Not to mention that Lex's shoes are not only ruined, but taking in water, tiny boats that are going to be submerged any minute, and any minute, Lex is going to notice and the bitching until now will look downright *pleasant* in comparison.
"What are you smiling about?"
Clark wipes his mouth clean. "I wasn't smiling."
Lex stares into his face suspiciously, searching for signs of amusement at their current plight. "It's eighty-seven blocks back to the penthouse. And I don't have my keycard, since it is in my *wallet*, which, you'll notice, isn't here."
Clark nods. Of course he doesn't have his keycard. That would be *good*. This night isn't about good. It's about seeing just how many things can go wrong at once, like three hours ago, when the movie theatre lost power half-way through Spiderman II and Clark and Lex left early, Lex muttering lawsuits and buy-outs in the general direction of a terrified manager and two ushers who looked vaguely suicidal.
Because that is their night. Lex's stained cashmere pants, wet shoes and coat, no wallet, no cell phone, no keycard, a lot of sidewalk, and Clark, supposed to be home and very much not. Clark checks his watch when Lex turns in a slow circle, like looking hard enough at the rain will force it to part and show him the lights of downtown in relation to where they are.
And on any other night, Lexian will might be enough--after all, Lex had managed to get Dad to say, sure, go to that den of iniquity with the scion of darkness and watch an unnamed but probably pornographic and decadent movie. Not that Dad put it like that, but Clark's good at reading between the lines. Be home at midnight, Dad had said with a threatening look at Lex's tires. Or you will die.
Okay, Dad hadn't said *that* either, but again, Clark was reading between the lines.
"This way," Lex says, like he has any clue at all, going left, tripping over the sidewalk crack and scuffing the toe of his shoe beyond hope of redemption. The ground got a look that said one day, he would personally tear up every inch of sidewalk and pound it into dust, if not today, soon.
Clark takes a deep breath and follows.
"Fuck. My feet are killing me." Lex leans up against a building, something he would never, ever do to solid wool if he was anywhere near sane, but Lex lost sanity when the Porsche died and has only been going downhill from there. Reaching down, he pulls off a shoe, and Clark watches the small waterfall of water pour onto the soaked concrete, a little impressed. Shaking the shoe grimly, Lex forces it back over the soaked cotton sock and straightens, wincing. Yes, that would be blisters. Of course.
"Clark? You've been quiet since we got out of the cab." It's more accusatory than concerned, and the look that follows says a lot more. Talk, farmboy, now.
"I'm just--wondering how long the rain will last." He is, kind of. It hasn't slowed, hasn't stopped, hasn't even given the impression that it wants to, just a steady, cold downfall that's soaked Clark to the skin and soaked Lex through wool overcoat, suit jacket, and silk shirt, through charcoal pants gone to black, and Clark has a brief, vivid image of pale, bare skin tinged blue.
Being a gentleman, he doesn't say, mmmm, but he does smile, and Lex's frown deepens. "A while. Are you enjoying this?"
He's grounded. They have no car. At any moment, according to tonight's script, they should be held up by some sort of desperate character who will demand Clark's five dollar fortune and Lex's Rolex. Clark figures that they'll leave his Wal-Mart Timex alone, but hell, it may go too, and then there they'll be, bereft of all mechanical aids, lost in a wet, timeless limbo.
"Well." Clark watches pale, gloveless hands twist in the wool like they'd like to wrap around Clark's neck. "I was thinking. That maybe we're going in the wrong direction." He's thinking no such thing. He *knows* they are. Because no matter what direction they chose, it would be wrong. It's just that kind of night.
Lex's eyes narrow. "You think you know Metropolis better than I do?"
Clark considers. Lex has, of course, been everywhere in Metropolis. Doubtless in one of these abandoned buildings, Lex once possibly presided over a Roman orgy featuring some variety of wildlife, or so rumor stated, but Clark doubts Lex was actually sober. Lex knows Metropolis *in theory*. In a vehicle. With signs, drivers, maps, telephones, and OnStar. Not on foot, in the rain, with Clark, who is wondering if all the buildings down here are identically dilapidated or they've passed this one for the sixth time. "I'm just saying, I think we passed this building before."
Lex snorts something that doesn't sound polite, so Clark doesn't bother to translate.
Minus Nine Blocks
"I really don't want to hear it," Lex says, as they come almost in sight of their landing spot, which Clark finds kind of endearing, as the only familiar place in the entire city right now. Yes, that's where Lex skidded on a puddle when the taxi driver threw them out. Over there is where Lex banged into the wall when he tried to chase the driver down to threaten him with epic revenge on a scale unheard of in modern times. That is where Clark helped him up and pretended that everyone fell into puddles fully dressed at least once in their lives. And right here, this is the spot where Clark, with a warm glow of nostalgia, realized that they were doomed.
Clark likes this spot. He wouldn't mind just staying here until the robber came for them.
"This way," Lex says grimly, pointing across the street, toward a dark void of rainy nothingness that looks, remarkably enough, a lot like the rainy nothingness they just left. "Now."
Lex lost a shoe to the gutter.
"I don't believe this."
Lex is *sans* shoe. Lex is without foot apparel. Lex is walking down the most broken concrete sidewalk in creation, with only one shoe.
There is no place in the universe that this isn't funny. Somewhere under Metropolis, floating merrily through the sewage, is a single five-billion or so dollar shoe. Maybe some nice homeless guy with only one foot will find it and bless the day that Lex Luthor stepped wrong into a grate.
"You said that already," Clark tells Lex's socked foot as it splashes menacingly into a puddle. He's still not sure whether it would be better or worse if Lex took off the other shoe. Either way, it's funny. Sadly, it's also sexy. In a way that Clark is completely unable to explain.
Lex half-turns to give him a glare, still walking, and Clark watches in resignation as he angles into the broken brick of the building in front of them.
Mugger, any minute now.
Seventeen and a Half Blocks
The extra shoe resides in Lex's pocket. Clark has some theories on why Lex is keeping it around, since its mate is lost forever to the bowels of the Metropolis Sewer System, not the least of which is just that Lex's bitterness is such that he will keep it just to spite himself, even though the muddy heel keeps knocking into his wrist.
"How much farther?" Clark asks, because he just can't help it. Lex gives him a quick glare, slowing as he does so, just enough for Clark to see the really spectacular beginnings of what will be quite a black eye.
"Seventy blocks," Lex snaps, snapping down his feet on the concrete as if to prove that feet that have only tred on carpet through designer footwear are fit for nearly bare walking on broken concrete, glass, and random rocks. Clark admires a weed growing up between a crack and Lex steps on it with obvious relish. Yes, he understands. That is his head Lex is imagining. "We need some place to dry off."
Clark glances around warily. All the buildings look condemned, but in a shoddy, lived-in way that tells him that there is, just possibly, somewhere they could go inside and wait out the rain. Overhead, lightning cracks menacingly, just as Lex comes to a complete stop, looking up with an expression of utter relief. Clark's heart sinks as he reads the sign.
"Waterloo Tavern," Clark reads slowly, trying to interpret. Was the lightning a warning? But Lex is already moving inside, socked feet blurring up the stairs and pulling open the door with a surly ring of a tarnished bell that probably isn't real copper. Slowly, he follows, letting the door swing shut behind him with a thump that sounds like the end of his life as he knows it.
It's dark, with a low ceiling that emphasizes how large and uncomfortably silent these men are, surrounding tiny tables in groups of two or three, and none of them look like the type to give directions. Far in the back, a single pool table is being used by two men using the pool sticks in highly aggressive movements against each other. It just might be mistaken for a fight, if Clark wants to look too close.
One breaks, and Clark trots to Lex, who is heading for the bar like a thirsty man for an oasis.
"Brandy, neat," Lex says, like he isn't aware that he's in a whiskey-type bar and showing off that silver spoon upbringing like a big beacon of 'easily-kickable-ass'.
The bartender looks at him from under a thick mat of facial hair, moving a dingy cloth over the bar in an aggressive motion toward Lex's splayed hand. "ID."
Lex's hand goes for his wallet like a gunfighter for his holster and comes up empty. He actually seems *surprised*, like this very special hell didn't all start with one lost wallet, adrift in the wilds of Metropolis, probably right now being used to buy beer and alcohol and black market atomic weapons somewhere in the backstreets of Metropolis. His credit limit is certainly high enough to take it. Maybe several weapons.
"I lost it," he says, still just amazingly shocked. "I need to borrow your phone as well, if possible."
"Not unless you buy." The mustaches, plural, bristle impatiently. "No beer without ID."
Lex, of all Godforsaken things, looks ready to *argue*. Over his head, Clark watches Poolstick Man #1 go down in a blaze of denim and broken wood splinters. Oh, this can't be good.
"I'm *twenty-two*," Lex says, like his word should be graven in stone somewhere for others to read. "I'm Lex Luthor."
The beady eyes of the bartender narrow in interest, and Clark watches as he ostentatiously sets his rag aside and rests both elbows on the bar, giving Lex a long, careful look from the top of his wet, bald head down to his waist. "Oh really, *Mr. Luthor*?" Clark watches the eyes fix. Recognition. Oh God. "I don't suppose you remember a few years ago? When you and some of your friends came by?"
By the look on Lex's face, if he didn't before, he does now. Blue-grey eyes open wide, fixing on the bartender with a look of dawning horror.
"No," Lex says in an absolutely unbelievable lie. "I've never been here before in my life."
The bartender smiles slowly. Clark takes a deep breath. "Maybe I can remind you." Slowly leaning forward, he gets right into Lex's face, and Clark smells the whiskey on his breath from the two feet away from Lex he's standing. Maybe he should be closer. "Five tables. Fifteen chairs. Eight stools. Thirty-five--"
"I have no idea what you are talking about." Lex isn't a complete idiot, though he plays one well, Clark thinks sadly, matching Lex's slow steps backward. From the tables, interested patrons are approaching, lured in by the name Luthor, or possibly, imminent bloodshed, since the bartender helpfully comes around the bar to help Lex toward the door. Which is exactly where Clark wanted him to go, true, but this wasn't what he'd had in mind.
"Of course you don't, *Mr. Luthor*." They're being angled wrong, Clark realizes when the wall hits first his back, then Lex's. Not to the door. To a wall. A nice, no-possible-escape wall, because the door would be too easy and the wall makes this entire nightmare extend just a little longer. "But maybe I can remind you."
"I'll pay whatever you want." Because Lex has never met a situation he didn't think could be improved by money.
The bartender, less than five feet away and closing in, smiles wide, revealing gaps in his teeth and a propensity for chewing tobacco. Behind him, three patrons seem ready to lunge on command. "Thought you lost your wallet, rich boy."
The first uppercut hits the wall where Lex's head used to be, since while he sucks at dodging stationary walls, moving targets seem A-okay. Clark watches both bare hands come up in fists and has vague memories of Lex boxing when one fist goes out in a punch that sends the bartender to the floor in a spout of blood. Lex hisses, rubbing his knuckles, and even Clark's not stupid enough to think that's a good idea, as both patrons move in with identical looks of pure glee.
"Get behind me, Clark," Lex says inanely, staring down the three men like he actually thinks he has some chance of walking out of here alive.
Clark gives a desperate look at the door, well to their right, just as Lex yells something and, because this is *this* night, not another night, and because Lex lost his sanity along with his wallet, charges the three men.