No one is going to win when this is all over: Lex will still want revenge and Clark is still going to feel however he feels.
Lex doesn't really know how Clark feels, but he knows he has to feel guilty about something if he's run this far for this long. Lex has a lot of experience with guilt. For a fraction of time he even knew what it felt like, but that's not important right now.
Lex's stride is long and slow, like the beat of his heart. It never occurs to him to be concerned for his welfare at this time of night, and the air around the docks is humid and the fog is thick. A brief moment of island-related queasiness passes by before Lex can think about it, and his steps are unfaltering as he heads towards the unmarked door and the inevitable.
One night isn't going to change anything; Lex knows this before he sets foot over the threshold of this nameless dive bar on the wrong side of town. Another bar on another corner that smells of urine, cheap beer and stale cigarettes. It could be any city in any town anywhere. He knows this. He's already run through The Reunion Scene with Clark in his dreams a thousand times. He knows the real thing won't come close; it never does.
There's the Hell's Angel's reject working as bouncer, and there's the part time-stripper, part-time actress working behind the bar. The patrons don't care who Lex is, and of course one of the lights over the pool table is busted. The clichs are piling on top of each other, and Lex can't be bothered to dig himself out from underneath them.
Clark's sprawled out at the table in the corner as though he's been waiting for this moment, and Lex doesn't fool himself into thinking that the brown bottle in his hand is root beer anymore. Not after all this time.
Clark's hair is a bit longer and the flannel is gone. His eyes seem a bit harder, but that's probably just the bad tract lighting. Or maybe it isn't.
Lex doesn't really know. He won't pretend he does.
He's not here for anybody but himself.
Clark's smile is feral, and in another place and another time, this might concern Lex. It might even excite him. Tonight, though, Lex isn't interested in games.
The wooden chair creaks and sticks as he drags it out from under the table. Everything looks toxic, and this is why Lex has taken to wearing jeans on his nights out. He sits down without ceremony. Whatever posturing works during board meetings is going to be fruitless against Clark.
"I'm not coming back," Clark says by way of greeting.
Lex's eyebrow arches of its own accord. His sunburn has finally peeled enough that he can do that without pain. "Did I ask you to come back?"
Clark is silent, but his gaze is piercing. "Then why else would you be here?"
"It's a free country, and unlike some people, I'm legal." Lex turns around and gestures to the stripper/actress/waitress to bring him a drink. When he turns back, Clark looks impatient.
"Your reverse psychology isn't going to work on me," he says.
"That would imply that I'm using psychology on you at all."
"You don't fool me, Lex."
Lex's laugh is dry, low and not particularly mirthful. "I'm not trying to fool you, Clark," he says as the waitress clunks down another brown bottle, identical to the one Clark is already drinking. Obviously selection is limited at this establishment.
He takes a sip of some nameless beer he would have scoffed at six months ago and regards Clark thoughtfully.
"I'm somebody here," Clark challenges. "I make good money; I have respect. I don't need Smallville. There's nothing for me there."
"I don't know many people that do need Smallville," Lex concedes. He spares a brief thought for Lana Lang and Jonathan Kent before passing them by: they would do the same.
He traces a drop of condensation on his bottle absently. "I mean there can't be a lot of business for hustlers in a place with only one bar."
Clark is quiet for a moment, and then he smiles proudly. It's very wrong; Lex will worry about it tomorrow.
Clark upends the last of his beer and wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. "So, you know."
Lex shrugs. "You've built up quite a reputation."
"I'm good at what I do." Lecherous is a very interesting look on Clark.
"So I've heard."
"Do you want to find out?"
This is what Lex has been waiting for; it's what he dreamed about for months while he was stuck on that fucking island.
He pushes away from the table and tosses a twenty on the table, leaving most of his beer untouched. "Let's go."
Something flickers across Clark's face: worry, astonishment, glee, Lex doesn't know. He's not going to think about it too hard. It's just one night.
Lex turns around and leaves without looking to see if Clark's following. He emerges into the damp night and pauses momentarily as the door clicks shut behind him.
The night is quiet around Lex except for the river slapping against the pylons off the waterfront; and he closes his eyes and exhales deeply. The redolent salt water makes him want to heave, but it's nothing compared to the burning sensation in his stomach.
He'd wagered and lost. Clark didn't follow him out.
Lex couldn't save him because he didn't want to be saved, and if he's not lost forever, at least he's lost to Lex.
Lex is shocked when he opens his eyes, and Clark's standing before him, grinning toothily. His hands are buried deep in his jean pockets, and he's rocking back and forth like a junkie. "So, are we going to do this, or what?"
Lex's hand grazes over his scalp for the first time in months. Just another reminder of island living. "Whatever you want, Clark."
Clark's hands are pulling Lex closer before Lex even realizes they're not in Clark's pockets anymore.
"I want you," Clark says, leaning forward and kissing Lex deeply.
His tongue sweeps through Lex's mouth setting off alarms and fireworks, and Lex pulls away slightly breathless, but not convinced. He isn't stupid; this isn't the Clark he used to know. That person is as dead as the skeleton Lex found during his island explorations. "You mean you want my money."
"You, your money, it's all the same to me, Lex. I can take or leave either one."
Lex's right eye twitches in the face of Clark's blatant honesty. It's a clear first. He wonders what else Clark is going to surprise him with. "Would you give up hustling if I compensated you adequately?" he queries.
Clark's grin is sharp. "That would take a lot of money."
"You probably haven't heard, but since my dad's demise, I have a few extra dollars."
Clark's expression of amusement is the real thing. "Yeah, I'd heard about that. Tragic."
Lex shrugs. "You have no idea," he says, pulling away from Clark and walking in the direction of the city.
Every other street light is blown out, and the car is at least half a mile away, safely ensconced in a parking garage. It doesn't matter; the walk will do Lex some good. He still has to figure out what he's going to do with Clark once he gets him home.
Correction: If he gets him home.
After the sex, of course.
He doesn't hear Clark race to catch up, but there he is matching Lex stride for stride. "Did you have something to do with his death?"
"No more than you probably have to do with the recent rash of bank robberies," Lex says matter-of-factly.
Clark's hand on Lex's arm is like a pressure cuff. "Don't push me, Lex."
Lex glances down at his arm and back at Clark. "Ask me no questions, and I'll tell you no lies," he recites. "A bad end comes to a person who pries."
Clark's grip loosens, and he tugs Lex along as they continue their walk.
His hand eventually slides down Lex's arm and their hands brush against each other as they pass by a Luthor Corp warehouse. "You can't save me, Lex," he warns.
"I'm not trying to save anybody, Clark," Lex says. "I think it's a bit too late for that, now."
"So if you're not trying to save me, and you're not going to make me go home, what's your angle?"
Lex glances at Clark briefly. It's just an offer. "The world is my angle, Clark, and I'd rather you be with me than get left behind."
"You really think you could leave me behind, Lex?"
"Everybody gets left eventually, Clark. That's just life."
Once again Clark's hand halts Lex's stride, and the exasperation begins to seep out unchecked. "What?"
"I can take you anywhere you want to go," Clark challenges.
Lex's eye is beginning to twitch again. The doctor said it would pass once he'd relaxed back into his surroundings. Lex is beginning to suspect that his doctor is an idiot. "Prove it."
Clark invades Lex's personal space, again, and Lex is still blinking when he feels Clark's arms around his waist and warm breath against his ear. "Don't say I didn't warn you."
Lex's biting retort is swallowed up in a rush of wind and Metropolis blurring by him in a whirl. He can't remember any historical reference about a man who could fly without wings.
Icarus obviously wasn't the real thing; maybe Clark is.
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