Near 5th and Vine

by MartianHousecat



Part of him knows the name of the diner. The rest of him denies this. He prefers the anonymity implied by a generic all-night dinner, facing an empty Metropolis street. There are ten barstools covered in slick blue vinyl. Four booths. Green vinyl. The tiles are a checkered blue and pink. They serve fantastic pie and terrible coffee. It's always apple pie, though.

He always comes by the bus, knowing the diner is two blocks from the corner of 5th and Vine. He walks through the faded commercial district, his pace tailored to the neighborhood - somewhere between the quick stride of downtown and a suburban stroll. There are no muggers to bother him, not at this hour, but he keeps his head down and covered. Even in the summer it's a little chilly.

Between closed up storefronts - mostly fabric wholesalers and bodegas - the wind has free reign and whips up left over bits of garbage into a frenzy. A few feet ahead of him, a newspaper flips up and dances momentarily, before clinging to his leg. He shakes it off with a studied nonchalance. That's not something he can hide with old jeans and a hoodie.

It's the only place open for blocks. There are no chimes on the door and when he pulls it open, no one remarks his entrance - the cashier huddles over the counter, smoking, in the corner beside the jukebox. It isn't quiet inside, not like the streets. The jukebox moodily fills up the edges of the near-empty dinner, blaring morphine-edged music, thick with base and bitter sentiment.

He curls up in a booth. It faces the street on one side and a print on the other. The stark cubist lines of the picture melt into the roughly textured deep red and warm purple - he knows the name of the techniques, if not the artist, though he could probably guess. Right now he wishes neither.

Apple pie with a slice of cheddar cheese appears before him. He didn't order. He's never had to.

Outside a uniformed driver steps out of his truck and starts filling the newspaper boxes. The truck carries the Daily Planet and the Inquisitor. He knows because three years ago he bought the two largest newspaper chains in the Midwest and made them subsidiaries of LexCorp.

He presses his back to the window and pulls his knees up, so he can rest his pie on them. He keeps his hood up and between that and the knit cap his head is covered. The small diamond stud in his nose completes the illusion. He's a MetU student, experiencing situational insomnia, probably just finished a paper and too jittery to sleep.

He waits.

He isn't a regular customer, only coming once a month and sometimes less. It's the only thing in his life that isn't scheduled. He never knows when the craving for sweet, spicy pie and sharp old cheese will come on him. He's learned that denying this is impossible.

When he was young and very foolish, he had his first taste of it and he's been hooked ever since, through all the turns of seasons and character. The peace here has not dwindled with time.

Years from that first bite, he'd found someone in his seat, working on a second helping of pie. "It tastes like home." They meet sometimes - when each has gone too far from themselves and needs that morphine melody to creep down their spines and the taste of cinnamon and apple to take up residence in their mouths. Both sensations remain through the day. These early mornings have Lex going to sleep late at night, humming and licking his lips.

Another piece of pie appears on the table with a click that's covered up by the slow, breathy wail of the jukebox. He looks up at the body sliding in beside his and puts his now-empty pie to the side. If he looks closely, he might find some of the red and blue, tucked behind the tightly knit black wool and faded denim. A leg presses against his ankles and a chest to his shins - Clark's plate is warm, where it rests on Lex's knees and Lex can feel every strike of the fork, though he can't hear it.

Lex watches him eat. Clark watches Lex.

An older man, gray and tired, watches them sullenly from his position at the counter. Lex holds his gaze while he takes Clark's plate and places it on top of his. He lines up their forks beside each other, then brings his bare fingers to his lips and slowly licks them clean of the remnants of filling. The man turns away quickly but Clark presses closer.

Lex let's his knees drop and his thighs open and Clark slides smoothly into the new space.

"It never happened, it never will," he murmurs. He knows this song.

Clark knows it too. He pushes Lex's hood back enough to expose the line of his neck and leans in to suck on it.

Later, Lana will remark that Lex tastes unusually spicy. And sweet like apple pie. Lex will make reference to forbidden fruit while unbuttoning his wife's blouse and kissing down her pale skin, until he reaches her navel. He will bite her gently.

He takes Clark's hand from his shoulder and pulls it to his mouth. Bites it sharply, hard enough to make a human bleed and then tongues it, not soothingly. Lex tangles his fingers in Clark's hair, pressing him closer.

The cashier, doubling this morning as a waitress drops off two more slices of pie and mutters about kids. "Not a care in the world. Hey Joe-"

"The sun rises at five this morning."

They will both be gone before then.



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