In Which I Have No Idea Why I Stopped
Chloe laughs like no one else can hear her. Huge, full chest, almost braying, and absolutely gorgeous, and she never seems to care about the looks she gets. Perfectly unself-conscious, and he likes to think he gave that to her.
She's beautiful in red tonight--shimmering dark, catching the light with every movement, brushing her calves. She's let her hair grow out a little and it's twisted up on her head in some complex knot, little short curls damp against her throat. They've danced a lot tonight. She's not wearing heels--never does anymore, he's noticed, and the collection of flats in her closet's increased over the last month. They're so close in height tonight that he can press his forehead against hers when they dance, and that makes her smile, too.
He thinks he likes that best of all. Better than the dress or the flowers he gave her on her wrist, or the feel of her fingers wrapped in his. That smile, that's like sunlight breaking through the clouds, and it lights up her eyes and curls up her mouth and he can feel it on his skin like heat.
The song ends, and Chloe ends well after it--so much energy, like sh'es burning it straight out of the air, ultra-oxygenated and flushed as red as her dress. Grinning, she grabs his hand and skips off the floor to their table. Lana's there with Michael from chemistry class, and so is Jodi and her date, but for the life of him, he just can't remember the guy's name.
He's not sure he can remember his own when Chloe turns her head and grins, dropping into a chair and pulling her skirt absently straight. There are already creases everywhere, and he's pretty sure there's a camera hidden somewhere in her skirt.
Just in case.
"Tired already?" Lana grins and leans over with her glass of punch, and Chloe laughs her thanks--God, so pretty, he wonders if he can just listen to that forever.
"No way. Just need to refuel." She's already drained Lana's glass, and he's on his feet before she can do anything more than shake the cup.
"I'm getting it already."
She snickers. "I didn't ask."
"You looked it." He'd get Lana more, too, but Michael's standing up and reaching for the glass. Michael's pretty cool, he thinks--they both like football and Metallica, and they do chemistyr homework together on Wednesday nights during Birds of Prey and talk about the Huntress and the hot blonde chick. When he looks back, Chloe's smile's gone, and she's staring across the room, eyes folded into a squint, nose drawn up, like she's looking for something.
He pretends he doesn’t know what she's looking for.
"So, you and Chloe coming with us to the Talon afterward?" Michael asks as they fill up the cups.
Pete looks back to see Chloe's gaze stop and fix, and his hand shakes just a little when he sees her stand up.
"Yeah, man," Pete answers absently, getting his and Chloe's glasses and turning around. It's fifteen steps that he doesn't run, doesn't need to, because he can make her feel secure and he'd never let her think he wasn't. Not even when he presses the cold edge of the glass to the back fo her neck, condensation mixing with the beads of sweat.
She turns around, eyes wide, like she'd forgotten he was there.
He pretends he doesn't see it.
Her smile's slow, but it reaches her eyes and that's all he asks. Taking it, she puts it on the table.
"Come on," she grins, fingers sliding through his. "Let's dance."
There's some sort of level of karma involved, Clark is sure of it. The footsteps are Lex's--after all this time, Clark can identify Lex by nothing more than the way he sets his feet, always so precise, like every step is a danger he can't quite commit himself to until he's sure. Very Lex, Clark thinks, and doesn't move from the couch.
The soft knock on the bannister makes him look up, and Lex is watching him, head tilted.
"You were there."
He almost wishes Lex would lie.
"I was there." It's matter-of-fact, nothing close to pity, and Clark tries to decide if that's what he wants or not. An entire *galaxy* of words are hanging on the tip of his tongue, ready to spill over, but nothing comes out.
A few long seconds, and Lex is seated beside him. Lex does quiet sympathy very, very well.
"She and Pete--" It's hard to say, hard to *think*. Harder to remember, so why the hell is it that it's playing like a movie through Clark's head? Rewind, play, stop, and over and over again. Lit up eyes and giggling and this just-- "You--you knew, didn't you?"
Somehow, it just doesn't surprise him at all that Lex doesn't answer. And right, anger would be nice here. Or something. "You should have told me, Lex."
"I didn't know for sure." The lightest brush of fingers against his shoulder--quick hint of warmth before it's gone, and God, he must really look bad if Lex is pushing the personal space envelope enough to try physical comfort. Jesus. "Not until tonight."
"Yeah." So he's dense, right. He's Clark Kent, and that seems to come with the territory. Fixing his eyes on the far wall, he slumps deeper into the couch, drawing in a slow breath, trying to break the tightness in his chest, the way it catches at his breath. The way just *thinking* about her makes him ache, and that's--nothing he's used to. "I didn't know. They--they didn't tell me."
That's maybe the worst part, though it comes a close second to seeing Chloe--Chloe and Pete. Chloe and Pete *together*, and right, things have been weird between all of them, but he didn't--didn't expect *this*.
"I'm sorry." And damned if Lex doesn't sound it, too, and Clark turns his head just enough to catch blue eyes fix on the wall. "Fascinating wall you have here."
Clark hears his own laugh--a little hysterical, mostly weird, and right, this is-- "I didn't--I didn't think she meant it."
"Which part?" Lex, settling in, scarily like a priest in designer black and really shiny shoes. Obviously perfectly willing to hang out in un-airconditioned barns and listen to adolescent angst for no good reason at all.
"Just--the fight. Everything. I thought--" Thought something else would happen. Something would go right. That the right words would eventually show up and somehow make some kind of sense. "I don't know what I thought."
Another touch, just a little more substantial, and Clark sighs, leaning back. "It's not the end of the world. Come on."
"Come on?" He knows his voice breaks--no way to hide that, and he doesn't even want to. "Lex, I--" Right this minute, Chloe and Pete are at the spring fling. Dancing, probably. God. He can't-- "I'm not really in the mood--"
"Yes, because sitting here staring at the wall is so much more entertaining. Get up." Lex is already standing, and callused fingers close over his wrist. He's too surprised to even think of resisting. "I already talked to your mother. Come on."
"Lex--" God, talked to his mother. What is he, *eight*?
"I can drag you." Which is a thought. Clark can resist, but that just--really sounds stupid.
"You wouldn't." Though really, Lex might. Lex--well, does things like that. And he makes them look so normal. Kinda weird. "What are we doing?"
"Pizza and some movies." The slight grin is almost enough to win him over. "Come on, Clark. I know about bad break-ups, trust me."
Yeah, Lex certainly does at that. Sighing, Clark nods, and the fingers free his wrist instantly.
The Porsche is great, and Clark thinks about asking to drive, but--somehow, tonight just isn't the night for it. Sliding in the passenger seat, he watches Lex settle himself, the car coming alive with a soft purr.
The town looks dead, but Clark can see the lights in the gym, brilliant and almost mocking. Look what you aren't doing, Clark. Look at where Chloe is. The twist in his stomach hurts.
"Can we go by the dance?"
Oh God, that's stupid, but he doesn't want to take it back. He can see Lex hesitate briefly, fingers tightening on the steering wheel.
"You know how bad an idea that is."
"Yeah." Clark stares at the lights, feeling a faint burn just behind his eyes. "I want to anyway."
"It won't help."
Clark sucks in a sharp breath. "Does anything help?"
He guesses Lex probably doesn't have a good answer to that question.
If he'd been paying attention--well, nothing would have changed. Short of sitting outside and waiting for Clark to show up--well, that wouldn't have worked, and Lex *knows* that. And God knows, it's a coffee shop, but he can't help glancing at Lana as she twirls around in her green formal for Chloe to grin at, wondering why the *hell* they decided they had to meet here.
If he was the type to wonder about that sort of thing, he'd almost say it was deliberate. Choice of venue, choice of time. Clark's religious about delivery, down to the minute.
They don't see him at all--Lex does, though, having that perfect, uncluttered view of the door, and Clark comes to a dead stop, carefully covered muffin tray in hand. The tension's almost palpable, and yeah, there are a lot of really bad ways to find out the ex has someone knew, and Lex will say that maybe finding out it's your father's the worst, but it can't be much better for it to be the best friend.
Clark's as bad an actor as he is a liar. Twenty even steps to the counter, handing the tray over to Jilliane, who tries out a sympathetic grin and a little tilt of the head that could be her idea of flirtation. Not the brightest girl ever, Lex thinks, watching Clark's gaze follow like a magnet back to the quartet in the corner. Chloe's laugh echoes through the shop, loud and bright, and Lana says something in a low voice that sets her off again. Four annoyingly happy teenagers.
Lex really doesn't remember being that young, even when he was.
There'a few seconds where Lex wonders if Clark's going to walk over to them--maybe say something like, have a good time, what the hell, this is Clark, he might very well offer to be the person they call if designated drivers are needed, because Clark--does crap like that. Almost enough to bring Lex to his feet, but Clark turns away, stuffing the envelope carelessly into his coat pocket and disappearing out the door without another look.
Getting up, Lex takes his coffee cup to the counter, turning just in time to see Lana approach, her mouth curved down in worry.
"That was Clark."
What a lovely grasp of the obvious she has. Lex pushes the empty cup toward Jilliane, finding his driving gloves in the pocket of his coat.
"Any particular reason for meeting here?" he hears himself ask, and it's got to be beneath him to be questioning high school students, but--it's Clark. Clark, who is a lot of things, but never in his life did anything to deserve something like this.
The dark eyebrows slide down in a near-frown, then the pink lips purse. "It's deliveries for the Talon--oh damn, I didn't think of that. When Pete said--"
When Lex looks over her head, he sees Chloe, still talking animatedly to whoever it was Lana was seeing, hands moving rapidly over the table like she's trying to illustrate by force of will. Pete's staring out the door that Clark Kent just exited.
That answers a lot of questions.