"The Lone Ranger, right?"
Lex looked Clark over, gesturing him toward the Metropolis Zoo's new Luthor Pavilion. Sparkling cafe lights lit the path, and jack-o-lanterns gaped at the costumed swarm of the city's elite. Well, the elite, plus Clark Kent, who must have gone all the way to Gotham to find a white shirt big enough to billow on him.
"I'm supposed to be Zorro." Following Lex toward the Pavilion, Clark tugged at the foil dangling from his belt, as if that were definitive proof of his Zorrohood.
Lex gave Clark another once over. A long, slow consideration, Lex measured him with his eyes, brows rising, then falling in a brief flicker of appreciation. "No cape?"
"It's at home." Clark wiped a hand against his mask, careful not to smudge the eyeliner-mustache his mother had drawn so carefully on his upper lip. "It made me look like a dork."
"It's Hallowe'en, Clark. Looking like a dork is part of the fun." Nodding in silent thanks to the porter opening the door for them, Lex dropped back to get a good look at Clark's assets in those tight black pants. The cape might have gone with the costume, but the view was much better without it.
"Easy for you to say." Clark turned, his eyes widening at the spectacle inside. Glittering decorations twined around Mediterranean-themed pillars, gold and black to match the surroundings and the holiday. Small, twinkling lights shimmered above, threaded through lacy netting that flowed like clouds across the ceiling. Hallowe'en in Atlantis, large round tables sported centerpieces of sea witches and tridents. One entire wall made up of glass, dolphins swam by on the other side of it, cutting grey, graceful figures through bright blue water, the only reminder that this ethereal event was taking place at the zoo.
A brunette mermaid, shivering in her shell-bikini and hobbled by a tight teal skirt, appeared to escort them to their table. For a moment, Clark forgot to be irritated at Lex's misidentification of his costume, and Lex forgot to be amused by it, their interest diverted to the iridescent shimmer of half-woman, half-couturefish. Once they had their table assignment, and Ariel's R-rated sister had minced back to work, Clark turned to Lex with a frown. "Who are you supposed to be, anyway?"
Lex smoothed down his jacket, his hand coming to rest in an obscenely lazy curve right above a furry sporran. Narrow hips wrapped in an orderly procession of black, purple and white on green, the kilt looked almost as business-formal on Lex as his usual suits did, though it did have the personal touch of a lion-headed pin holding it closed. "My great grandfather."
Readjusting his mask, Clark frowned. "You can't be your grandfather for Hallowe'en."
"Sorry, Clark. It may look like a party, but I plan on nailing Kimiko Miyazaki to the wall about her tech division, and I can't do that dressed up like a Ferengi."
"Has anybody ever told you you're a geek?" Clark slumped into his chair, affording himself a very nice view of Lex's legs. Not usually in the habit of showing a lot of skin, Lex somewhat exposed in public felt like taboo, and he wondered what would happen if he snuck in a little touch of that pale, exposed flesh.
Adding mind-reading to his list of marketable skills, Lex took a step back. "Don't." To soften the command, he patted Clark's shoulder, starting toward a seahorse waiter nearby. "I'll get us something to drink."
Left alone to amuse himself, Clark played with the auction paddle at his place setting, flipping it back and forth with quick snaps of his wrist. At just the right speed, it looked like the number printed on one side would jump into the air. Caught up in his cheap, 3-D thrill, Clark nearly dropped the paddle when someone feminine coughed behind him.
"Hot or bored?" The voice belonged to an angular, icy blonde angel, her halo tilting slightly askew when she leaned in to offer her hand. "Tansy Maxwell-Smythe."
Taking her hand, Clark put considerably restraint into keeping his eyes on her face, though he could make out the lush curve of cleavage spilling from her less-than-holy gown. "Uh, Clark Kent."
Tansy made herself at home in the seat next to him, and with his hand, which she chose not to return immediately upon introduction. Instead, she stroked his palm with her thumb, tracing lazy swirls there with the edge of her pearl-polished nail. "Well, Clark Kent, I'm sure I would remember you if we'd met, so tell me why we haven't until now."
Across the room, Lex watched the heiress to the Maxwell Sugar empire thrust her breasts forward for inspection again. Biting back a smile, he took a sip of champagne, enjoying the florid blush creeping into Clark's cheeks, and admiring his attempts to ignore completely gratuitous cleavage. Maybe the girls in Smallville hadn't noticed, but the women of Metropolis recognized the body of a Greek god and the face of a Botticelli when they saw them.
"Who is he?"
Without turning his head, Lex raised his glass to gesture toward Clark. "A friend." He didn't need to look to recognize Kimiko's voice, she was cultured and casual as ever. He did, however, take a quick peek at her costume. A cherry blossom pink kimono- he'd seen her wear at her college graduation party, much to the blushing pride of her parents. He smiled, judging it perfect attire for a business meeting dressed up in the guise of a masquerade.
"I need to make more friends like that," she said, leaning back against one of the pillars and tucking her hands into her sleeves.
Lex shook his head. "Not your type."
Disappointed, Kimiko pursed her lips. "Gay?"
"High school student." Lex shrugged congenially, taking another sip of his champagne, perfectly content to keep "bisexual" and "18 year old senior, graduating in the spring" to himself. He enjoyed battling her in the boardroom, he'd hate to have to break her if she took a liking to Clark.
Clark never wanted to go to one of Lex's charity dinners, ever again. First of all, the food was weird. He'd managed to destroy three crayfish before giving up on the snap and twist Tansy tried to teach him, and he'd gotten the unpleasant shock of his life when he discovered that truffles didn't always mean he would be getting a mouthful of battered chocolate. Second of all, watching the back of Lex's head while he flirted with Kimiko over statutory surpluses and contingent liabilities did very little to settle what parts of the meal Clark had managed to enjoy.
But third of all, and most importantly, he was running out of ways to push Tansy's hand off his thigh without drawing attention. It had started between appetizers and soup, just a little touch on his knee, steadily progressing between courses until now, over finger bowls and post-prandial drinks, making a play for a handful of something nobody but Lex had permission to handle. Efficient merwaiters had cleared all the dishes, so he couldn't drop another fork, and Tansy had tossed his napkin somewhere beneath the depths of the table.
When Lex ignored his subtle plea for help (if clearing his throat like a coal miner and elbowing Lex in the back could be considered subtle,) Clark surveyed the table in search of a weapon. Nothing seemed to turn her off, not when he coughed, not when he stared at his plate, not even sweating through his shirt- as the night wore on, it seemed that Atlantis floated deeper into the tropics. Wincing when Tansy actually managed to graze the seam running across his crotch, Clark lamented the centerpiece's decided lack of mace, gave up on subtle and tipped a glass of red wine.
In very short order came shrieking, furious gown-swabbing, apologies and offers to pay dry cleaning bills, but finally, after all of that excitement, Tansy retreated, leaving Clark and his slightly damp pants in peace. At least, until Lex rolled his head in Clark's direction and teased in a murmur, "If I didn't know better, I'd say you did that on purpose."
Bastard. Long abandoned around his neck, Clark used his mask as an ersatz napkin, and considered saying that out loud. Finally, he opted for something a little more neutral. "Surprised you noticed."
"That Mrs. Maxwell-Smythe wanted to make you a man?" Lex stole a quick glance, swallowing hard to keep from laughing at Clark's rainbow expression of horror- splotchy pink cheeks, darkening green eyes, and a faint bluish cast to his slack lips. Lex had every intention of rearranging those colors later, but for the time being, he just savored Clark's mortification. "Didn't notice."
Sinking down into a sulk, Clark scowled into his glass of water. He didn't know what was worse- that Lex knew a very-married woman was coming onto him, or that he found it funny. Sometimes he didn't appreciate Lex's sense of humor, and especially not on a half-empty stomach. Fortunately, or unfortunately, the heat in the room sharpened the faint scent of chlorine and too many brands of expensive perfume, effectively killing the remainders of his appetite.
A flurry of activity at the other end of the room caught his attention. A very staid pirate adjusted a lectern, then a woman dressed like a croupier took her place behind it. All around him, tigers and southern belles picked up their paddles, and when Lex did, Clark followed suit. He'd been to auctions with his parents, but he guessed that threshers and milking machines wouldn't be on the block tonight. The food was weird, but it might be interesting to see what rich people would buy for a good cause.
One by one, the auctioneers displayed the lots- artwork, mostly, that didn't look like anything, certificates for spa weekends in exotic-sounding places, and oddly, a kitchen table at La Meilleure. Clark didn't get a chance to ask Lex why somebody would want furniture from a restaurant; when he turned to pose the question, he saw Lex give his paddle an idle wave.
Numbers flew back and forth, rising into the thousands, then the tens of thousands. Leaning forward, Clark tried to make out what had interested Lex enough that he was willing to pay 30,000... okay, now 35,000 dollars to own. Something small and crystalline glittered on the lot table, but it didn't really look like anything important- maybe more artwork or something. Brows jumping up when Lex upped the bid to 45,000 dollars, Clark leaned over to whisper incredulously. "What are you buying?"
"No idea," Lex said, tipping his head back when the barker called it once, twice, and sold to Mr. Luthor at table four. Clark's breath warm on his ear, he was tempted to turn quickly and catch a hint of it tracing against his mouth.
Exhaling a thin laugh, Clark tried to wrap his mind around the idea of paying that much money for nothing in particular. That was more than a truck, almost as much as four years at Metropolis University. 45,000 dollars would pay the taxes on the farm for a whole year. When he managed to find his tongue, Clark tried, and failed, to shake the absurd number out of his head. "Then why did you buy it?"
Lex reached out slowly, taking the paddle Clark had been using to fan himself and laying it on the table. "Necessity. I had to outbid you."
After the auction, the costumed guests slipped out of the pavilion to take in the rest of the zoo by night. Decorations and atmospheric lighting couldn't erase the basic zen nature of the place, the air permeated with the scent of cotton candy and animals. After a cursory look at the gibbons, which Lex seemed to find especially fascinating, and a quick tour of the marsupial compound- because no trip to the zoo was complete for Clark without a quick peek at the wombats, they started their long walk back to the front gates.
Breaking their comfortable silence, Lex offered a little inside information. "She's a widow, by the way."
"Not making me feel better, Lex." Veering around a wandering peacock, Clark turned to walk backwards to watch it. The bird fanned its tail, hissing at the intrusion into its evening stroll.
Hands in his pockets, Lex strayed toward glowing glass dome. "Would it make you feel better if you knew she wasn't the only one looking at you tonight?"
"Probably not." When Clark realized that Lex intended to make a stop at the dome before leaving, he gave up on staring the peacock down and followed. Reaching past him to pull open the glass door, Clark basked in the faint frown that earned him. He met it with a sheepish smile, pretending that his all-American manners were so ingrained, he couldn't help but open the door for somebody he was dating, but deep inside, evil Clark savored the taste of revenge.
Past the doors, the temperature rose, tropical heat that clung like a cloak to the thick, emerald stalks of the garden inside. Misters whispered quietly among the riotous beds of king proteas, helioconias, and orchids, leaving fine, crystalline beads of water clinging to Clark's dark hair. This exhibit smelled good, like fresh earth and green leaves, and when they stilled, like their bodies warmed with pleasure.
Clasping the rail that separated them from the recreated rainforest, Lex gestured toward a tightly closed cluster of buds. "Fortnight lilies. They bud every two weeks, but the blooms only live for a day."
"That's kinda sad," Clark said, coming to rest beside him, their arms brushing in gentle caresses.
Quiet for a moment, Lex finally shook his head, fingers slipping down the rail. With an air of incidental familiarity, he turned Clark's hand over, tracing smooth, warm fingers across his palm. His touch erased Tansy's, sincere about memorizing Clark's skin, each and every line that crossed his hand. "The phoenixes of flowers. I find them inspiring."
They moved at the same time, leaning in, leaning down, their lips skimming together with a slow, passing stroke. Taking another taste, Clark turned to lean back against the rail, smoothing his fingers against Lex's cheek and feeding him a sigh on the first slick glide of tongue. Sharing breaths between tastes, their eyes flickered open, pale and dark lashes parting at once to share a lingering gaze before closing again. Sultry slow, they traded kisses, Lex sinking deep to wash over Clark's tongue, catching his lower lip to suck when he pulled back. Clark followed, teasing Lex's parted lips before slipping past them.
Breaking away with slower, clinging kisses, Lex traced an L into Clark's palm before his touch subsided. With a subtle nod toward the door, he traced the shape of Clark's mouth with his gaze and asked, "Ready to go?"
Clark swallowed, tasting the lingering hint of Lex's mouth, still feeling its imprint on his lips. Home would be good: away from groping socialites, and too-quiet auctions, bad food and business, home sounded perfect. Trailing behind him, Clark watched Lex's purposeful stride for a few steps, the way his long legs cut through the air, the kilt sharing flashing glimpses of his forbidden skin, which reminded him... "Hey, Lex?"
"You'll find out when we get home."
Also, why not join
Level Three, the Smallville all-fic list?