Title: Fool Me Once
Fandom: Smallville/DCU/JLU (Toon)
Pairing: Clark/Lex, Clark/Bruce and Clark/Lois implied
Rating: Adultish, R
Length: 3332 words
Spoilers: post-series for SV, all messed up for DCU and Toon!verse
Warnings: slash, angst, humor, no porn
Disclaimer: Not mine, seriously. All belongs to Al & Miles, WB/CW and DC Comics.
Summary: Lex gets what he wants. Or does he?
"Why have you never learned to tie a tie properly?"
Clark stood on the penthouse veranda of the Metropolis Plaza while Bruce adjusted Clark's haphazard bow tie.
"Too many women in your life to do it for you, Clark?" Bruce said, voice lilting up with innuendo. Completely in character, the way his mouth curled up in a soft smile. No one would think anything of Bruce Wayne, in a champagne haze, taking a somewhat flustered Clark Kent, press pass askew, out for a little air and a tête à tête.
But a stone-cold sober hand gripped his arm, the whispers about reconnaissance and strategy. Most of the Metropolis elite were here, for a worthwhile cause, clutching cashier's checks. A roomful of potential hostages. A tempting target, not for the homegrown villains, but for a struggling Gotham City crime syndicate looking to branch out.
"We should get going," Clark said. "I think we can slip out now."
A cool voice stopped them. "Not afraid of the paparazzi, Bruce? What they could do with this. It's really quite the picture."
They both turned to find Lex Luthor leaning on the balustrade, eyebrow raised in mild amusement, swirling a glass of scotch.
"Lex," Bruce said, "It's always nice to see you." His voice low, a viper smile, indicating anything but.
"We could chat," Lex said. "But I'm sure that the two of you have someplace to be." He walked to the end of the veranda, gazed out over the city. "The next time you're in town, we should do lunch." And he waved them off, dismissive.
"Let's go," Bruce said, sotto voce, pulling Clark back inside.
Superman hovered in the stairwell at the 51st floor. Batman adjusted his utility belt.
"He thinks..." Superman said.
"Let him," Batman replied, taking out a smoke bomb, holding it in his glove. "Where are they now?"
Superman furrowed his brow, looked through the plaster and concrete. "Still in the parking lot." But he continued. "I try to keep Clark under the radar with him. He can make life difficult."
"Doesn't he always?"
"I mean personally."
"I see," Batman said. "You're the one who chose not to wear a mask. You assured me that the Kryptonian technology..."
"He's found a way to counteract that."
He alighted next to Batman, a stair above, but close, near enough to whisper. "Just be careful, Bruce."
"We can talk about this later," he said, mouth set. "Right now we have work to do. Are you ready?"
"They have a lead box," Superman said, sighing. "Two guesses as to what's inside it."
"That's what you have me for. Let's go." Batman raised his arms, prepared for the flight down.
"Oh great," Superman said when they'd reached the 3rd floor, seconds later. "Lex is down there. He's got LexCorp security with him."
"Good, two birds with one stone."
"No, wait." It wasn't like Lex to be this obvious. He'd consider it too crass. Something about beds and bathrooms. "The syndicate...they're leaving."
Batman let out a small noise, for him a laugh. "He is proprietary, isn't he?"
One week later, while eating lunch at his press room desk, Clark received a plain yet elegant note by courier.
Angelino's. Friday at 7:30 p.m.
P.S. Don't even think about not showing. The world can wait.
He brushed away sandwich crumbs, leaned back in his chair. Lex had done nothing more than issue him the occasional press pass, through his assistant, for years. Nothing like the public challenges he's issued to Superman all that time. So much for keeping under the radar.
He sighed, took off his glasses, rubbed his eyes. He'd have to contact the Watchtower, let them know that extra shifts were in order, prepare for backup. For all his cunning, Lex gave in to his meglomaniacal impulses, gloated while giving a speech to unwilling witnesses. A flaw that Clark's used to his advantage before.
This must be it. End game. And he'd have to wait three days for it.
Lex sat at the lone table in the back room, lights low and candles lit. With anyone else, Clark would call it intimate. With Lex, he would call it lonely.
"I see curiosity got the better of you," Lex said, smiling, indicating a chair.
Clark adjusted his jacket, sat. "What's this about, Lex?"
"Why dinner, Clark," he said, a sigh of mock offence. "I took the liberty of ordering for you. The medallions here are excellent."
Great, he probably had the kitchen staff use kryptonite dust as a condiment.
Lex took a sip of wine, studied him. "Don't worry, I'm not planning on poisoning you. This is a truce, Clark. We've had them before."
Bruce had been right about Lex's proprietary nature. When someone besides himself had threatened Metropolis or the world at large, he'd offered the olive branch. Usually by standing on his balcony and yelling, "Superman! We need to talk."
Lex picked at an appetizer, swallowed. "So you've been keeping company these days."
Oh. He'd been expecting a campaign against Wayne Industries, not this.
"That's not any of your business, Lex." Bruce had been right, let him think so. Denial was only affirmation to Lex. It always had been.
Lex didn't say anything, finished his wine, poured himself another glass. "True. I'm just surprised. It's not like you to move on, Clark."
Lois. He meant Lois. In another universe, all dust and destruction now, she'd worn his ring. And in this one, she wore someone else's. He'd grown used to the framed picture on her desk. The Whites. But he couldn't forget when that same frame held the Kents.
"You remember," Clark said, looking down. He decided that the wine was safe, poured himself a glass, but didn't drink.
"As do you," Lex said, surprisingly gentle. "Believe me, Clark, I hesitated."
"Is that what this is about? An apology?"
"No," Lex said, leaning back, wistful. "You know me. No apologies, few regrets."
And he did know him. For Lex, it was all about the numbers, figures entered into a database. Calculated risk. Necessary casualties.
Lex had once called him a horrible tactician because, for him, they were all people. Faces. Names. Lives. A weakness, he said, to counterbalance your strength.
"Then why are we here, Lex?"
"As I said, Clark, dinner." The waiters arrived. "Ah, here's our food."
"Let me walk with you," Lex said while putting on his overcoat. "You're not far from here."
They stood outside Angelino's. Lex waved the valet away before Clark could answer. "Tell my driver to go back to the tower," he said.
Clark started walking. "Lex, how are you going to get home?"
He smiled, put his hands in his pockets. "Let me worry about that."
And much like dinner had been, they didn't say much as they walked, shoulders practically touching, the few blocks to Clark's apartment complex.
Behind them, Lex's security car followed, keeping half a block distant.
"Do they have to do that?" Clark said, irritated.
"I no longer have you as my personal protector, Clark," Lex said, looking at a street lamp.
Maybe this was a lead-in to another proposed alliance so Clark didn't respond. Lex always had a game plan. Clark just hadn't figured out this particular one yet.
"Well, here you are," Lex said as they reached the steps and Clark took out his keys.
And maybe it was the way Lex stood there at the bottom of the steps, hesitant, so human-looking and alone, that made Clark turn from the door and say, "Do you want to come in for coffee?"
Lex gave him a startled smile. "I could do that," he said. He waved off his security team and followed Clark in.
"It's not much," Clark said as they entered the apartment. He'd always kept things spartan, simple, with only the faint touches of home. Having Lex peer at his bookshelf, pick up a picture, felt like inviting a Borzoi to mix it up with the mutts at the dog park.
"It's very you," Lex said, turning. He put down the photo of Chloe in Japan, took off his coat, laid it on the arm of the couch. "May I?" he said, glancing at Clark's pitiful CD shelf.
"Go ahead. I'll put the coffee on."
He'd only put the first scoop in when he heard Belle and Sebastien drift in from the living room. "I gave you this," Lex said from the doorway.
True, a just because present, years ago. "Not really my thing," Clark said.
"A guess gone bad," Lex said. "I had to guess so much with you."
He put in the last scoop, put in the water. "Well, you don't know everything, Lex."
"No, but I'm working on it." And he moved forward, leaned against the kitchenette counter, close, gazed sidelong at Clark.
And Clark felt that vertigo, the past and the present dancing pin-pricks on his skin. Even Lex's haute couture cologne smelled the same. Odd, for all the times that he'd faced him down, hair slicked back and uniform on, he knew that Lex had changed that. You've got to keep pace with the times, Clark, Lex had once said after pocketing a double-shot on the table. Never let your opponent think you a creature of habit.
Lex reached down, hand brushing by Clark's as he picked up the half-empty coffee can.
"Brown Mountain? Really, Clark, are you trying to keep yourself in business?"
"What's that supposed to mean?" Mr. Coffee chortled merrily away, percolating.
"Even with your meager salary, I'd think you'd buy Fair Trade. Didn't you just bust up a forced labor plantation in Guatemala last week?"
And he had. The camp quarters...it was horrible. He'd burned the whole thing to the ground, searing the timbers, as he carried the last child out.
Steam wafted from the top of the pot, the carafe almost full.
"What do you care, Lex?"
"Oh, I don't," he said, eyes locking with Clark's. "The parent company's a good stock. I just don't care for crap coffee."
He took a deep breath, started to put the mugs away.
"Clark, the damage is already done," Lex said, soft, hand on his shoulder now. "Let's just have the coffee." And Lex picked up the pot, poured two cups.
Clark picked up his, took one swallow, put it down. If it ever had been good, it only tasted horrible now.
"Besides," Lex said, putting down his own mug next to Clark's, "Coffee's just a modern-day euphemism, isn't it?" His hand moved from Clark's shoulder, down to his waist. He whispered, "Are you still the tease, Clark? Don't you kiss on the first date?"
Clark didn't say anything, only braced his hands against the counter, closed his eyes.
"I know you're lonely, Clark," Lex said, voice rough, nuzzling his neck, hand slipping down to his ass.
And Lex should know that. He's made sure of it over the years. Lex was taking his life into his hands here. He had to know that too. For Lex, for all his calculations and certainties, the precipice enticed him, that freefall.
Freefall and gravity. But they lived in a world where men could fly, gravity defied, time could flow backwards, worlds could be destroyed and created. So Clark turned slightly, placed his mouth by Lex's ear. "Yeah," he said. "I am."
By the time Lex led him to the bedroom, both shirts were off, cast on the kitchen floor. He pushed Clark back onto that Smallville quilt.
"Have you ever been with a man?" he said, mouth tracing Clark's collarbone. "Don't...don't lie to me."
So Clark said nothing. If he bothered to deny it, Lex would only take that as a yes and Wayne Industries would be under full-scale corporate attack.
There had been only Lois, a world and a lifetime ago.
Lex paused, pulling back. Clark allowed the scrutiny until Lex laughed in wonder, disbelief. "I'll take this slow then," he whispered, leaning back in.
Clark had drifted to sleep. He woke up to find Lex dressed, adjusting his cufflinks. He sighed, rolled to check the clock. Three in the morning.
"There's nothing like the feel and taste of a woman, is there, Clark?" Lex said, picking up his watch from the nightstand. "Nothing like it in the world."
Clark gazed up at the ceiling.
"In my experience," Lex said, putting on his coat, "No man can match that."
Clark didn't bother to sigh again. Lex must have gathered his shirt from the kitchen, his coat from the living room. If he really wanted to sneak out, he would have done so.
Lex made a show of checking the time, opening up his cell phone.
"What did you expect?" he said, as calmly vicious as he'd ever been. "Weekends in the Hamptons? Antiquing?" He snorted. "Really, Clark, you're much too easy."
Years ago, yes, he would have felt shame. But not now. Even if it was all about winning, plateaus, his body had been a battlefield for too long.
"Lex," he said, calm and cool. "I never expect anything from you."
He looked up from his cell phone, startled only for a moment before the mask came back down. "I've messaged my driver," he said. "I'll wait downstairs."
Clark sat up, stood, made a point of yawning, stretching. "Would you like some coffee to go? I've got a travel mug."
"No," Lex said, "I'll get an espresso on the way back."
"Okay," Clark said, heading for the bathroom. "It was good to see you, Lex."
As he finished off his shower, he could hear Lex get into his car in the street below.
"Hey," Lois said, "Let's knock off early and get a drink." She cuffed him on the shoulder, friendly. "No black balloons, I promise. Although, I have to say I was tempted. It's not like you turn thirty every day."
Thirty. Elsewhere, elsewhen, he and Lois had their first child by thirty. A xenobiological miracle. Miranda.
"I'm not in the mood, Lois. Some other time, okay?" he said, turning back to his computer.
"Glum really isn't your color, Smallville. Come on, you can cry on my shoulder about how you haven't published the Great American Novel yet. That's tradition around here."
"Okay," he said, standing. "But only fizzy water for you." He glanced down at her maternity suit. Five months along and just showing.
"What do you think I am? Stupid?" She got her coat, picked up her purse. "I gave up Nicorette for this."
"You're not stupid, Lois," he said, following.
You're just worth the world.
Three margaritas later, he came back home to his apartment, turned the lights on. Before he could check for messages, his Watchtower earpiece buzzed.
"Hey, big guy, the party's winding down," Wally said. "What's keeping you? You going all diva on us?"
He went through his mail. A few cards, mostly bills. "I said I didn't want a party."
"Yeah, people say that and then cry when they don't get one." Wally paused, burped. "Cake's gone anyway. See you around, Supes."
The phone rang.
He picked it up only to hear a click on the other end.
Ten minutes later the phone rang again.
After ten times of this, he unplugged the phone from the wall.
Then his cell phone rang.
After three hangups, he turned it off.
He brushed his teeth, went to bed.
His League earpiece buzzed. "Okay, what is it?" But no one said anything. He heard the faint sound of a disconnect. Half an hour later, it buzzed again.
Great. Only one person could infiltrate the system. And he couldn't turn the damn thing off.
Simple and effective, sleep deprivation torture. Tried and true. He'd gone often enough without sleep, didn't know if he really needed it. But he liked it.
So the next time the earpiece buzzed, he said, "Lex, cut it out."
"I'm drunk," Lex said.
"Good for you," Clark said, attempting to disconnect on his end, but the LexCorp servers kept the line open.
"You went out tonight," Lex said. "With her."
"It's my birthday, Lex. I'm allowed." And he must be really tired because he knew what Lex hinted and it pissed him off. "What kind of an asshole do you think I am, anyway? She's five months pregnant!"
Proprietary. He should just hop in the suit and kick some proprietary ass.
"I'm drunk," Lex said again.
"You said that already."
"You could come over..." Lex said.
"Not a good idea, Lex. You pretty much killed the chance of a repeat."
"I know, Clark," Lex whispered. "I do things, I say things..."
"Lex, you have girlfriends. Don't even pull this with me."
"But I never let them stay, Clark. You must know that."
"Well, that's too bad. Life's short." He pulled the pillow over his head. "Time to say bye-bye now, Lex."
"Clark, wait..." He paused. Clark could hear the slosh of scotch. "Happy birthday," he said. And he hung up.
God, why did it always have to be about him?
Three days later, he received a package by courier. Inside lay the largest espresso machine he'd ever seen, along with a basket of coffees.
Next time, I expect better coffee.
He could just melt that thing into slag right there, return it as defective. But that would be a waste.
Looked like he had a new coffee maker.
A month later, he came home to find Lex standing in the middle of his living room, gazing out the window.
"I think this is called breaking and entering," he said.
"Goose, gander, Clark," Lex said. He pulled out a flask. "Do you mind?"
He had a headache, a serious one. "Feel free."
And then Lex pulled a bottle of scotch out of a bag on the table. "I thought I'd keep this one here," he said.
"I thought you wanted coffee," Clark said.
Lex smiled. "Why, yes, I'd love some."
"Just coffee," Clark said, stern.
"Of course," Lex said quietly. "Of course."
Clark primed the massive espresso machine. Lex followed him into the kitchen. "So are you here to talk about women, Lex?"
"No," he said.
And Lex just stood there until finally he said, "You've been away."
"Assignment," Clark said. Which was true. He'd been offworld negotiating a treaty. Usually the Green Lantern Corps handled that, but the Viregeans had specifically requested Superman, citing his noted impartiality.
"I see," Lex said.
Clark handed him a small cup. "Did you want milk?"
"No," Lex said. "You know me."
"Yes, Lex, I do."
Lex leaned against the counter, as if seeking support, hardly resembling the confident predator he'd been. "We are who we are, Clark."
And they were. So Clark took the cup gently away, placed it down on the counter. And the kiss he gave Lex wasn't full of passion, not even regret. It was simply the kiss of two people that have known each other a long time.
This time, he led and Lex followed.
Hours later, Clark had drifted to sleep again. And again, he woke up to find Lex sitting on the side of the bed. But this time, he saw a lean, bowed back, naked.
And maybe this had been about Fool Me Once, Shame On You; Fool Me Twice, Shame On Me. Lex had been known to change tactics for the same results.
But once again, Clark didn't feel ashamed. "What is it, Lex?"
"I do prefer women to men, Clark. I didn't lie about that," Lex said, lost and hollow, back still turned.
"There are plenty of women out there, Lex," Clark said.
"True. But none of them are you," Lex said. "And they never have been."
And Lex turned, half-erect and rising, desire and fear flitting across his face. No less dangerous than he'd ever been. Probably more so.
"Come here," Clark said and pulled him down.