"I wanted to be president," Lex counters, and four and a half beers can't be enough for a buzz, but tonight, none of the rules apply. "Beat that."
"A writer." Clark flushes, but his body turns toward Lex. Cherry-red cheeks and brilliant eyes. What is he doing in Smallville, whatever the hell this place is? "Journalist, maybe. I--worked on the high school paper, at the university paper too. It was great. It just--turned out it wasn't what I wanted to do with my life."
Lex doesn't glance at the wedding band, doesn't need to see unconscious fingers rubbing it again, as if for luck. Some kind of special morse code.
"Yeah." Lex breathes out slowly, thinking of being eighteen and thinking he'd one day run the world by thirty. "I had a few times like that. Were you any good?"
Clark shakes his head. "Not really. A girl I went to school with--Chloe Sullivan. You may have heard of her."
Lex nods slowly, building the visual. Short blonde hair. Too many questions for LuthorCorp executives and PR. Relentless. She's always left him alone. She has an unerring nose for finding the real power and knowing the right questions to ask. "Yes."
"She was great. She used to--God, you wouldn't believe some of the stuff she--thought up." Almost as if he'd betrayed something, Clark takes another drink, sinking into the sofa. "She visits sometimes. Tries to convince me to come to Metropolis."
Clark in Metropolis. All that wide-eyed--God, what was the word? Innocence isn't quite right, but Lex can't find the right one.
"I like it here." Clark's voice is quiet. "Smallville is home."
There's no answer to that, so Lex only nods and drinks again. Definitely buzzed, a soft golden cover on this quaint reality of a shabby country living room, drinking with a man he met only hours before. Surreal doesn't begin to describe it. "Any kids?" Maybe he's better at small talk than he thought.
Clark shakes his head, the light dimming as suddenly as a quenched candle, and Lex bits his lip before he looks away. "No."
"Me either." She'd been tested. He'd been tested. God, and he'd spent more time studying the latest in technology stocks than the analyses from the doctors. Reading lab reports isn't his forte--he's not sure anymore if he'd even understand the terminology, despite the degree that's hung on the wall behind his desk. Pushing the thought aside, Lex takes a thoughtful drink. "I suppose it's for the best."
Clark nods along with him, eyes turned down, tight around his mouth. "Lana--wanted children. We talked about adoption, but--" His voice stops. "Too complicated."
Too complicated, bringing a child into his world. Lex thought of the home pregnancy tests he found in their bathroom, stuffed in the bottom of a trash can. They appear less and less as time goes on. "Yeah."
They're both drinking to keep from talking, and it almost makes Lex smile. Something about being able to confide in strangers what he'd never say to intimates, to friends, to acquaintances at those country club dinners and golf games. Clark's become a sprawl against the opposite corner of the couch, staring at his bottle as if it has all the secrets in the world buried in the liquid.
"I--" Clark stops, looking up from beneath a fall of unruly bangs. The efforts at grooming were wasted, but Lex likes the rumpled prettiness more. A kid looked back at him, making him feel suddenly younger than forty, more reckless, more--something. He'd driven the Porsche at sixty miles an hour on deserted roads. A decade ago, he'd have broke a hundred and never noticed.
"I've never been drunk on beer," Lex says thoughtfully, and Clark blinks at him. A sleepily tilt of his head that makes him seem even younger, one denim leg pulled up beneath him. Lex notices his socks are a spotless white. He changed socks while upstairs. It's endearing, in a way that he's never going to try and work out.
"What's your usual?" Clark's head is sinking into his arm, braced on the back of the sofa. "From the car--what, million dollar whiskey?"
"Please." Five hundred dollar brandy. At least. Lex almost says it, but the teasing lift of Clark's lips drives the thought away. "Tell me about your wife." He knows a man who wants to talk when he sees one.
Clark lifts his beer, glaring at the contents. "I'm not that drunk."
Lex snickers softly. He is. "One more beer do it?"
That brings a laugh, low and rippling, and Lex thinks he'd sell his stock to hear that again. "That should do it."
Keeping the clear green eyes locked on his, Lex finishes his bottle. "Get us another one."
"...I used to try and write her poetry." Clark's a marvel of uncoordinated delight, grinning up at the ceiling, loose sprawl of limbs on the couch, head only inches from Lex's knee. "It was so bad. Pete would laugh himself sick when he saw it."
"Your bad poetry did the trick?" There are bottles on the floor, and Lex has stopped trying to count them.
"Not really. I think she felt sorry for me in the end." Clark's grin fades, but the light doesn't. Lex could bask in this--he's never seen anything like it, felt it. Almost indecent, to watch this, let himself be pulled into Clark's simple, happy memories. "We--after a while, it just happened. And--" Clark sighs softly, eyes far, far away, seeing something Lex doesn't. "We--I think I knew the first time I saw her. Everything was easy after that, when we--" A blush. He must have them stored somewhere, but Lex can't imagine where or how. Bright, hot color that Lex wants to feel, find out if it can possibly be that warm, that real. "She made everything so easy."
"How?" He takes another drink, splashing some on his sleeve. Somewhere along the line, his coat disappeared along with his cufflinks. Loose silk caresses his arm with every movement. Curled into the couch's corner, it doesn't seem that strange.
"Staying here." A soft, dreamy lightness. Clark is very drunk. Very, very drunk. "It--she loved Smallville. She didn't want to leave. Hated Metropolis all the time we were there."
"Ah." Lex tries to imagine caring for someone enough to leave a dream behind. Like imagining a green sky and his father being benevolent. Impossible. Lex takes another drink, washing the bitterness of the thoughts away.
"She loved being here. When--when she came here, after we were married--it was so perfect. She loved the farm. She raised horses, did I tell you that?" Yes, once. Lex smiles, one hand sliding absently down his thigh, resting too close to soft-looking hair. "We used to race over the fields at night, when no one was around. It made her uncomfortable sometimes, but that was okay. She loved that." Clark's voice trails off into a sigh. "Not the other stuff, but that was okay."
Something comes aware in the clear green, and for a second, Lex thinks he sees--something. Flash of clarity breaking the alcohol-induced haze, the first stiffening of Clerk's body, and he doesn't want that. Questions are trying to push their way into the forefront of his mind, but he gets rid of them quickly, shaking his head to thicken the fog. Better. Much better. "She must have been good."
"On a horse? Yeah." Clark's smile returns in degrees, expression fading again into memory. "We'd go to this place outside town and dance. She loved doing that." A soft sigh. "She thought money would be a problem, but--I could take care of her. I wanted to. I always wanted to."
"My wife rides." It falls out by accident--Clark twists his neck to look up at Lex, and he could be a sweet sixteen, red lips and curious smile. "Dressage. That's how we met."
"Really?" Clark looks interested, but Lex shakes his head.
"It's not very interesting. We met at a riding competition in Metropolis. I liked how she sat on a horse. She liked my prospects." That sounds--bad. Lex bites his tongue too late, but Clark is turning, a puppy-roll onto his stomach, coming up on shaky elbows with a curious expression. "It's--different."
"You--you've been married a long time."
Yes, a long time. Lex remembers taking her to clubs and fucking her against the wall between hits--God, to be twenty-one and stupid. Back in Metropolis for a year before his father freed him again, having come to heel like a good boy, barely missing exile to the boondocks of--God, *had* it been Smallville? It's been too long. It could have been any tiny town anywhere in America, but he likes to think it was here. Imagining meeting this boy.
A discordant jangle of keys, and they feel cold in his hand.
*"I can't keep it, Lex."*
When he looks, there's nothing in his palm. Sticky as cobwebs, *something* trails soft and sweet across his mind, leaving the impression of wide green eyes in a younger face. Yes, that's what Clark would have looked like then. High school, maybe. Awkward with too-long limbs, but dressed like this. We have a destiny together.
*"We have a destiny, Clark."*
The warm touch of a palm draws him back, golden haze of alcohol slipping around him, sweeping the memories away as neatly as a broom. Lex blinks, looking down to see Clark's thoughtful eyes.
"A long time," Lex says softly, turning his gaze away. It's hard to look at Clark--this kid he doesn't know keeps looking back and he doesn't know why.
"Maybe you should call and leave her the number where you are," Clark says, almost soberly if you could forgive the angle of his head, endearingly sincere. "She'll be worried if you don't come home."
"No, she won't." She'll think I'm fucking my secretary, and she'd be right any other night. Or the new executive VP who gets all her career moves from her bedroom moves, and God, she'll be getting another promotion soon if I put in that recommendation based on her mouth and what she can do on it.
Clark doesn't answer. Lex doesn't want to look and see--anything in Clark's face. Disgust or surprise, or even wide-eyed shock, wondering what he could mean, maybe telling him he's wrong when he knows he's not. The stillness draws his eyes, though, and Clark isn't looking at him at all.
"She hated it when I left her alone." There's a low, quiet intensity that hasn't been there before, and Lex is frozen, listening. "She--she'd cry herself to sleep at night when I was gone, even if I called."
Inexpressibly fragile, and Lex loses the battle, reaching out to touch. Just his hair, nothing too wrong with that, and he's drunk and has all the excuse in the world.
"She must have loved you very much."
"I--she did." Clark's gaze lifts, as if something is being torn free inside him with every word. He doesn't seem to notice Lex's fingers, brushing slow strokes through fine, tangling strands. As soft as it looks. "She made me promise, finally, never to leave her again. It was the only thing--the only thing she really needed from me, for me to be here for her. I couldn't deny her that, not--not for anything. I'm glad I did. It made her happy and she--lost so much. She didn't deserve that, too."
Lena had asked for everything. Did he love her like that? Lex can't remember. He remembers the first time they fucked, but then, he'd almost thought it was different. How she twined around him and breathed into him and told him she loved him and that she would save him from himself, that together they could do anything, be anything. Fall of chocolate dark hair over his body and he'd believed her, believed everything she said.
Not quite the man she expected to marry now, certainly not the one who promised her anything she wanted if she'd only stay, wanting every second he could have from her, every touch, every look, every breath.
He'd loved her, then. This bright flare of brilliant light that somehow, never lasted. His obsessions never did. He should have known that.
"You were very lucky."
Clark pauses, like something Lex said didn't quite make sense in his head. "Yeah. I suppose I was."
"Like a fairy tale," Lex hears himself say, maudlin, Dad murmurs, but beer chases him away and Lex takes another drink just to keep him back. Like a myth of true love. Who believes in that, and God, who would, anywhere but here?
"..the stuff of legends," Lex says softly, taking another drink. The phrase rolls through his head. It would be the stuff of legends.
Clark smiles then, a lift to the corners of his mouth that's so familiar Lex begins to smile back. "The friendship?"
*"You think we'll end up like that, Lex?"*
Green eyes and a fall of dark hair and a full mooned night. Lex's breath catches in his throat and he doesn't know why. He's not sure he even cares.
Clark stares back. Alcohol is washed away, or maybe it just makes it stronger, and he curls his fingers in the dark hair and pulls, just a little, just enough, wants to see into the pools of green. Huge and asking questions he can't understand enough to answer.
Close enough to breathe in beer and cheap laundry detergent and a night spent outside. Clean skin and shampoo and--. "Trust me, Clark."
*"Trust me, Clark. Our friendship will be the stuff of legends."*
The taste is sour and bitter and so good Lex forgets to breathe. Clark doesn't even try to draw away, this open and curious boy who read in a quiet loft and smiled when he came up the stairs. I don't understand, Lex would have said, but he doesn't have to know what he's seeing to know what he's feeling.
Doesn't understand why the pretty boy kisses him back, hesitant, all first-time unsure with a warm, soft tongue and wide, glazed eyes. Too young to know to close your eyes because it makes it easier to pretend, and Lex doesn't look away. His heart's pounding and stomach clenching like he might throw up, and he doesn't. Even. Care.
Lex isn't sure which one of them breaks it off, which one of them speaks. His hand falls, loose and open on the couch, palm flattening on the afghan. Alcohol is a thousand miles away. He's never been so sober in his life.
Clark draws back, and the shaking of his hands he tries to hide in a tight grip on the cushion. "I--guess I had more to drink than I thought."
No. They both knew how much they were drinking. It's like waking from a dream. "Yeah."
"I'd--better show you where you're sleeping before we're--both too drunk to walk." Clark's weak smile is more than Lex would have expected, far less than he wants. He wants that brilliant smile that Clark used when he said Lana's name, wants that low, clear voice.
Wants that mouth and those hands that he felt skim his face, rough and hard, and he's silent, nodding along like an idiot when Clark stands up unsteadily. Follows him, kicking beer bottles aside and the stairs are an eternity of winding, narrow darkness, but Clark's close enough to touch if he chose.
He grabs the rail instead and holds on as tight as he dares.
At the doorway of the room, Clark turns another smile on him, wider, more natural. Whatever happened shoved to the edges of his mind and it's a choice, it always is, to forget. Lex has done it before. Clark's doing it now.
"Here you go. Goodnight, Lex."