by FayJay

With thanks, as ever, to the PPO Collective.

DISCLAIMER: The delectable Messrs Luthor and Kent belong to DC comics, The WB and a host of people who aren't me. I do not mean to infringe upon any copyrights. Just playing. Don't sue.

COMMENTS: With thanks to the foamy devotees of the PPO.


He paused with his hand on the door handle and almost laughed at the automatic frisson that the voice sent through him. Pavlov's dog. When he turned, there - always, always there - was Smallville's unappreciated hero looming large as life on the sidewalk outside The Talon, wearing the look of sweetly awkward entreaty that undid him Every. Fucking. Time.

Lex leaned back against the smooth metal of the car and rewarded Clark with a reassuring smile.

"What can I do for you?"

The innocuous phrase was so familiar on his tongue, but the layers were always there. What can I do for you here, now, this moment; what can I do for you tomorrow, next week, next year to repay this debt of life; what is it you want from me; what will you let me do for you? To you? On you? In you?

Ah, Christ, he felt like Humbert Humbert. Clark was such a pretty boy.

"I just - I wanted to apologise for Ryan."

But of course. Clark's model-perfect features were overcast with an expression of puzzled disappointment that Lex was coming to know all too well - that maddening wounded-Bambi look that he wore whenever he was forced to notice that an idol had feet of clay. Lex wished he wouldn't put everyone on these damned pedestals all the time - but then he wouldn't be Clark. Clark's charm was this very combination of oblivious beauty and perversely rose-tinted glasses. He honestly believed that the world was designed by Norman Rockwell. It took Lex's breath away.

"It's fine, Clark. Nothing to worry about." Which was true enough, although the snub had stung. "I guess I'm not very good with kids." Ah, Smallville was getting to him. He never used to bruise so easily.

"He shouldn't have acted like that," said Clark with a frown. "He's going through a difficult time right now, but that was just rude. He's a really nice boy when you get to know him, Lex."

"Ah, Clark, Clark. Always seeing the best in people. Young Ryan's really growing on you, isn't he?"

Lex had absolutely no defence against that luminous smile. Metropolis would be unbearably cold without it. He brought the paper cup to his lips and sipped at the coffee like an idiot.

"Warrior Angel?" Clark's voice was affectionately incredulous, laced with a note of uncertain teasing. "I never would've figured you for a comic geek."

"There are lots of things you don't know about me, Clark," he said lightly. "Come over some time and I'll show you my etchings."

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