Nil Desperandum

by Genie

Note: Haven't a clue where this fic came from, only it had to be written. Stupid muse. Many thanks to Tors for beta.

Disclaimers: Not mine, so broke that there's no point in suing me. You won't get anything other than my debts.

No one would believe Lex Luthor could be sitting in a smoky bar in the middle of Washington D.C. nursing a cheap beer. Lex could hardly believe it himself. He wasn't even sure how exactly he ended up here. The last thing he could clearly recall was buying a ticket on the first commercial flight out of Kansas, away from Metropolis and all the media frenzy, away from Smallville and Clark. He's checked himself into the first hotel he came across, a place he normally wouldn't be found dead in - The Holiday Inn. On the positive side, it did reduce the chances of him running into any of his or his father's associates. The hotel had a bar, but with all the children running around, it wasn't conducive to what he had in mind. Lex supposed he could've ordered room service, but the idea of getting sloshed in the deluxe twin room they stuck him with wasn't really that appealing. Which was how he ended up here, in a nameless bar drinking cheap beer. To be fair, the bar probably did have a name, Lex just wasn't inclined to learn it at this point.

"Bad day?" The other man was seated two stools away from him. Dark blond hair, late twenties to early thirties. From the looks of it, he was drinking the same cheap beer Lex was attempting to swallow.

"More like a bad decade," Lex snorted. It was true, everything had went to hell since his mother's death.

"Ouch," the other man winced, making a rather... comical face. "Sorry I asked."

"You and me both." Lex wasn't sure why he was talking to the stranger. The sole purpose of his visit was to get drunk, not make new friends. Lex wasn't sure he wanted any more friends. The last friend he had made was Clark, and didn't that relationship turn out spectacularly?

"Tony," the man extended his right hand towards him.

Lex had to lean across the seats next to him. "Alexander." It was... liberating not to be recognised. He had almost forgotten how it felt.

"So, Alex, never seen you here before."

"Just visiting." No one had called him Alex before. It had always been Lex, or Alexander. Alex was... ordinary. Something he wasn't. He didn't mind it as much as he thought he would. Tony's eyebrows rose in interest. "First time in D.C?"

"Yes." Lex took a sip of his beer, grimacing at the taste. He gestured to the bartender, "Scotch, neat. The good stuff, and leave the bottle." The almost bald, middle-aged man gave him a look, assessing. Lex pulled out a hundred dollar bill and placed it on top of the bar. The bartender pocketed the money before reaching underneath the bar for a bottle and a shot glass, placing them in front of Lex. "Get another glass for Tony there." The bartender complied without a word. Lex poured them both a generous portion, drinking his in a gulp. It was nowhere near as smooth as his father's stash, but it was better than the beer.

"Whoa, easy there."

"Don't worry, I can handle my liquor."

"The way you're drinking, I sure hope so. As much as I love scotch, if I toss it back like you do, two shots of'em and I'd be dancing on tables."

Lex chuckled at the mental image. "That would probably be entertaining."

"For you maybe." Tony took a sip of the scotch before returning to his beer. "What brings you to the political BS capital of the country?"

"Not a fan of politics?" Lex knew he was avoiding the question, but he really didn't owe Tony anything.

"I'm as patriotic as they come, but all the red tapes and bureaucracy in this town makes my head spin, not in a good way."

"You're telling me there's a good way for heads to be spinning?"

"Hey, if you're the one watching the heads spin, it's fun as hell." Tony grinned. Lex couldn't help thinking it made him looked younger... boyish. "How long are you staying?" Lex shrugged in reply. "Okaaay, how long have you been in town?"

Lex looked at his watch and did a quick calculation. "Seven hours."

"You should probably visit the Washington Monument. I've heard that it's beautiful at night."

"Probably." Lex was starting to feel a little more relaxed after his fourth drink.

"Of course, my inner teenager can't stop giggling whenever I drive pass it."

It took a bit of an effort, but Lex managed not to snort scotch through his nose. It wouldn't have been a pleasant sight. Instead, he settled for almost choking on it. Tony got off his stool and thumped his back in an effort to help. It was a couple of minutes before Lex felt he could breathe again, and he let out a struggled laugh.

"Sorry," Tony apologised. "I've been told I have a very immature sense of humour."

"Don't worry, I'm somewhat used to it. Frankly, that has been the highlight of my week. I just wasn't expecting it."

"Glad to hear it." Tony gave him another one of his boyish grins. Lex felt something in him stir. He was determined not the let this turned into one of those 'nights that never happens'. He took another look at his watch. "I think I better get going. It's getting late. It was nice meeting you, Tony." He stood up, gathered his coat and extended his hand.

"I'll see you around, Alex." Tony shook his hand. Lex smiled and left.

It was his second drink, but Tony didn't felt the urge to dance on table. The only urge he was feeling was for a third drink.

"I thought you preferred beer?" Tony looked up from his drink. It was the guy he'd met a couple days ago, Alex.

"Yeah, well, the occasion calls for it." He gestured to Andy, the bartender, and a glass was immediately set before Alex. Tony did the honours and poured his new friend a drink before swallowing half the content in his own glass.

"Bad day?"

"Bad couple of days."

"I guess I still have you beat."

Somehow, Tony managed a chuckle. "You think I'd be used to it, but it still surprises me, the level of cruelty a human being is capable of inflicting on another." Tony finished his third drink. Alex refilled his glass without comment, a thoughtful look on his face.

"Pray that you never get used to it." Alex finally said in a quiet voice. Tony shook his head. What did Alex know about cruelty? Tony might not be as good as Kate when it came to profiling, but he had been a cop and he knew how to read people. From the clothes he wore to the casual way he tossed the hundred-dollar bill on the bar a couple of nights ago, he could tell that Alex was well off. He had some trouble pinpointing Alex's age though, the baldness throwing him off. But Tony would bet even Kate would be challenged in this case. On the other hand, Gibbs had pretty much told him the same thing, and Gibbs would know about cruelty. It made him wonder.

"They were just children," Tony found himself saying. It must be the alcohol. He never talked to anyone outside of work about the cases he worked on. Not the serious ones. And if he did, it was usually some amusing anecdote to impress a date. This was definitely not a date. "The oldest was only fifteen. I can understand why someone might want to try smuggle them into the country, for a better life, better chance, but to force them to do..." he couldn't continue. Not even with the alcohol. He hadn't come here to talk about it, he'd come here to scrub his brain with scotch so he could forget.

From the corner of his eye, he could see Alex looking at him, thoughtful. Finally, Alex pulled out his wallet, tossed an unidentified amount of money on the bar, grab the bottle with his right hand and Tony's arm with his left. "Come on."

Tony blinked in confusion but went nonetheless. "Where are we going?"

"Found this great spot last night. I think you'll like it." No further explanations were provided as Alex led him to a rental car.

A voice at the back of his mind was telling him it was a very bad idea to get into a car with someone he barely knew, especially when he was more than a little drunk. He told the voice to go to hell and buckled himself into the passenger seat.

Another sight that had to be seen to be believed: Lex Luthor, almost doubled over in laughter. "She was a he?" The pained look on Tony's face only made him laugh harder. Lex preferred to think that it was the alcohol influencing him.

"It's not the fact that he's a guy," Tony started to explain. "Though that was a factor, quite a major factor as a matter of fact," he took a swing from the almost empty bottle of scotch. "It's just... put it this way. If I'm to kiss a guy, I'd like to know that it's a guy I'm kissing."

"So, if it was the other way around, with you kissing a guy only for him to turn out being a her - "

"Yeah, I'd absolutely freak." From where they were sitting, on a park bench, they had a clear view of the Washington Monument. It was indeed quite a sight by night. "Wouldn't you?"

Lex took the bottle from Tony and took a drink from it. "I don't think so, but seeing as I haven't exactly been in that position before - "

"Well, either way, I admire your ability to cope with the unexpected." Tony grabbed the bottle back from Lex and took another drink from it. "Say, you never did tell me why you were in town."

"You're right."

"So, why are you in town?"

Lex shrugged. "Just needed to... get away for a bit."

"Ahh... if she, or he if you're so inclined, is giving you so much trouble, it's probably not worth it."

Lex had no idea what to say to Tony's drunken, yet accurate assessment of his situation. His relationship with Clark lately had been... strained, more so in the last week than ever before. Lex didn't know why he hadn't anticipated Clark's reaction. Small town mindset, even in the twenty first century, was quite different from metropolitan ideals. He didn't know why he felt the need to apologise to Clark for his actions; they were supposed to be a bit of fun, a way to relax, to feel... something other than the void inside, it wasn't his fault one of them turned out to be a psycho. Was it?

In the end, Lex settled for a simple: "It's complicated."

"They always are. Until you take a step back and look at it rationally." Tony finished what remained of the scotch. "You know, I'm drunk out of my mind and have no idea what I'm talking about. But whatever it is, uncompleec.... uncomplicating - " Tony managed to slurred, " - things can only be a good thing. So you do that."

"I wish it was that easy." Lex let out a sigh. He took the empty bottle from Tony and tossed it into the trashcan a couple of feet away from the bench.

"You're stronger than you think. You can make it without'em. To hell with'em!" Tony shouted to the night sky, blinked, then shook his head as though to clear it. "Whoa. Haven't drunk this much since I graduated collage. And is it me, or is it getting colder out here?"

Actually, it was freezing.

"Let's take this indoors then. Come to think of it, I think I'd better take you home."

"You know where I live?" Tony looked at Lex in amazement.

"Not a clue. But I'm assuming you do." Lex stood up and pulled Tony onto his feet. The other man swayed, Lex grabbed him to stop him from toppling over. "Come on."

Lex managed to get them back to the rented car without too much trouble. He started the engine, turned to ask Tony for directions, only to find Tony passed out in the passenger seat. "The Holiday Inn it is." Lex muttered to himself, steering the car out into the traffic.

"Fuck... lose weight... why do I... " Bits and pieces of conversation drifted through the drunken haze. Tony tried to make some sense of it, but the alcohol that had somehow replaced his blood prevented it. He tried opening his eyes, only to close them immediately after discovering the world around him was spinning at an alarming rate.

"... stranger back... gun... dead..." Gun? There was someone with a gun? Tony opened his eyes again, thankful that the world had stopped spinning quite as fast. He struggled to sit up, letting out a groan when everything started spinning again.

"You really are a lightweight when it comes to drinking." A tug on his left foot and he felt his shoes came off.

"Where am I?"

"My hotel room. And you couldn't have woken up when I was hauling your ass up here?" Alex asked wryly.

"Did you say something about a gun?" His mind might be fuzzy, but he was still coherent enough, sort of.

"Your gun. It's in the first drawer on your left. If I didn't already know you're a cop of some sort, I'd be thinking that I'd brought some psycho back with me. You might want to get out of that jacket." Tony struggled with his jacket, finally managed to get it off with Alex's help.

"Yeah. I'm with NCIS. Psycho with a badge."

"Is that supposed to make me feel better?" Alex chuckled, neatly folding his jacket over a chair. Tony squeezed his eyes shut, hoping it'd slow down the spinning. When he opened them again, he found Alex right next to him, bending over the bedside table, switching off the light. He didn't know what possessed him to drag Alex down by his shirt and kiss him. Another side effect of the alcohol he guessed.

It was clumsy, the angle was wrong, but it felt good... until Alex pushed him and scrambled away from the bed.

"Tony, you're drunk." Alex looked... freaked.

"Sober enough."

"This is a bad idea. You'd probably regret it in the morning. Just... go to sleep."

His brain couldn't come up with a good argument to rebut Alex, so Tony closed his eyes and sank into oblivion.

The kiss had been.... unexpected, bringing back memories he would rather have left behind. Lex sat in a chair at the foot of the bed, staring at the unconscious figure lying there, snoring softly.

When he'd walked into the bar on the first night, meeting Tony was definitely not on the list of things he'd expected. Anthony DiNozzo, Naval Criminal Investigative Service, if the badge he found was real. Lex had enough experience with fake IDs to know that it was.

Tony seemed so... carefree and cheerful the first night they met. Even more so than the group of high school seniors he often found himself in the company of. He had not expected to see Tony again after that, but the sight of the other man at the bar when he had walked in earlier was, unexpectedly, a pleasant surprise. The fact that the cheerful persona was nowhere in sight was also a bit of a surprise.

As a general rule, Lex didn't like surprises. Most of the time, they were bad news and made him feel out of control. He liked being in control. And yet, tonight he had managed even to surprise himself by inviting Tony out for a drive and ending up at a park with a bottle of cheap scotch.

By the time a quarter of the scotch was gone, the immature sense of humour Tony had mentioned had started to emerge again, tinged slightly with a dose of broodiness. Lex once again shocked himself by laughing along with Tony. Before tonight, he hadn't had a good reason to laugh in what seemed like years. It probably had been years.

For a while now, he had a feeling that maybe Clark wasn't as good for him as he once thought. Clark live in a world made only out of black and white, Lex's world was filled to the brim with shades of gray, something Clark could never understand. But Clark was also the only good thing in his life and he was afraid if he let go, he'd fall faster towards the darkness that he had been trying so hard to escape.

You're stronger than you think. You can make it without'em. Tony's earlier comments came back to him. He might have been drunk, but he might be right as well.

In vino veritas.

Letting go.

Was it possible?

Tony groaned even before opening his eyes. His head was pounding and his ears were ringing.

Wait, it was his cell phone that was ringing, not his ears. Still didn't make the pounding go away. Cracking open an eye, he saw his phone right next to him on the nightstand. He grabbed it and flipped it open, promptly wished he hadn't.

"You better have a damn good reason for not being at work. As a matter of fact, you'd better be knocking at death's door!"

He peered at his watch. 9:20am. Ducky was going to have fun performing his autopsy. "Hey, boss." He managed to croak out, closing his eyes again.

"And that better not be a hangover I'm hearing." Gibbs finished and hung up. Double fuck. How the hell did Gibbs know these things? It just wasn't possible.

After the pounding in his head had subsided a little, he slowly opened both eyes again, only to find himself staring at an unfamiliar ceiling. Taking a careful look around the room, his eyes came to rest on a bottle of painkillers on the nightstand, beside it a full glass of water with a piece of paper beneath it.

Tony quickly swallowed two pills and finished the water, thanking whoever it was who had left it there. Something about the piece of paper finally caught his attention and he picked it up.

Dear Tony,

I'm sure you will find the painkillers useful when you wake up. I'm sorry to leave without saying goodbye, but there is some unfinished business that I need to take care of. I have been putting it off long enough.

Feel free to stay as long as you like and order in room service if you wish. Everything has been taken care of.

Thank you,

P. S. Look in the first drawer.

Attached to the bottom was also a plain, white business card with the name Alexander Luthor printer in black. Tony turned it over to find a cell phone number had been written on the back in the same handwriting.

Carefully, he slipped the card into his wallet.

The End.

Additional note: The title is in Latin, meaning 'do not despair'. Actually, the literal translation would be 'nothing to be despaired of'.

If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to Genie

Also, why not join Level Three, the Smallville all-fic list?


Level Three Records Room