No, it really isn't. But it's your birthday, Caro, and I adore you. You're a good friend, and great fun, and you write the good crack and I'm glad to have you in my life. *nods firmly* And to show that?
I wrote you the following:
He didn't see it coming, and maybe that's why it had worked so well.
They were sitting outside, and Lois was waving her hands in the air and ranting ("I swear to God, Smallville, the people down in copy editing are what you get when the family tree doesn't fork, you know what I mean?") and he was nodding agreeably and eating his chicken parmigiana, mentally reviewing the press report that was circulating about the Mayor and his "indiscretions" ("...found in bed with two MetU coeds while wife and children were out of state...").
Lois sighed, stubbed her cigarette out in the ashtray and drooped forward, propping her chin in her hand, and widened her eyes, and that should have been his first clue that she was about to do something subversive.
"What?" he asked, when she just stared at him for an uncommonly long period of silence. "Did I get marinara sauce on my tie?"
“Unfortunately, no. It would improve the pattern," she told him, grinning. "Kent. When was the last time you went out on a date?"
"Oh, God, no, Lois, please. Let's not do this again," he said, putting down his grinder.
"Do what?" she asked, eyes widening. "I'm not doing anything. I'm just asking a question."
Clark crossed his arms, and sat back, leveling a flat glare at her. "You're going to try and set me up with someone again. And really? I think I'd rather spend a weekend trying to write an article using only words that start with 'a'."
"Oh, come *on*. I know you're a repressed farmboy, but sex won't kill you. In fact, it might be good for you. I know it'd be good for *me* if someone managed to get you to lighten up," she said, waving away his complaint with one hand. "I'm not trying to set you up with the long lost love of your life or anything. Just a guy I happen to know, who I think you'd be very compatible with. Besides, he's hot, and good in bed. Trying to do you a favor here, kid."
Clark eyed Lois, expression skeptical. She smiled at him. He raised an eyebrow, and she rolled her eyes. "Oh, for Christ's sake," Lois muttered.
“Last time this happened you gave my number to an ex-Marine who folded his socks at a ninety-degree angle," Clark pointed out, pushing his glasses up. "Can you blame me for being less than overjoyed?"
Lois shrugged, lighting another cigarette. "I thought you could bond over your whole 'rah! rah! Law and Order!' thing. Besides, he was cute. You can't deny that he was cute."
"Sure, fine, cute, whatever. The man washed his hands ninety times a day, and practically dipped his furniture in Lysol whenever I touched it," Clark told her. "He was a total whack job, Lois."
"Oh, and you're the world's most well adjusted individual suddenly?" she retorted.
"At least I'm not an anal retentive pathologically compulsive guns and ammo enthusiast," Clark shot back.
Lois just raised her brows, and pursed her lips. "You know, I'm just trying to help, here."
"Yeah, well, help appreciated, but not needed, okay?" Clark said, turning his attention back to his lunch.
"Not needed? This from the man whose Saturday nights involve long, wild hours spent communing with his television and eating Cheetos," Lois said, dryly, exhaling a long plume of smoke.
Clark stubbornly ignored her, fiercely chewing his food.
You know, you're not bad looking. I mean, you're kinda butch, but hey, some people like that kind of thing," she continued, absently fiddling with her fork. "I don't get why you don't go out more."
"Gee, thanks, partner," Clark said.
“And don't tell me that it's because you're shy, because you're really not. You do that foot shuffling 'aw shucks' routine pretty well, but you are *not* shy." Lois narrowed her eyes at him. "Are you pining, Clark?"
"What? Pining? Over who?" he sputtered.
"I don't know. That's why I'm asking. Here, drink this so you don't choke to death and die on that garlic bread," she ordered, handing him a glass of water, and frowning with concern at his coughing fit.
"Thanks," he wheezed, eyes watering.
"You are. You're pining."
"No, this is choking," Clark corrected, voice wobbly. "Not pining."
"I can't believe you're holding out on me," she continued, pointing at him with her cigarette. "You've got some 'splainin to do, Lucy."
"I. Am. Not. Pining," Clark enunciated clearly. "And I don't want to be set up with another one of your friends. At all. Ever. Again."
"You haven't met all my friends, Kent," Lois told him with a wicked grin.
Clark sighed, wearily. "God, if you're up there, please just let the earth open up and swallow me, okay?"
She rolled her eyes. "Look, Friday is my birthday, and Chloe's throwing me a surprise party. This guy will be there, and I'll introduce you, and if you don't like him, then that's fine, but I think you will because I have a keen intuitive sense about these things." Lois grinned. "Trust me, Clark. You won't regret it."
"This is going to be awful," Clark said to no one in particular. "A special kind of hell."
"Oh! And make sure to tell Jimmy that he is not, under any circumstances, to give me lingerie, okay?"
Clark stared. "How do you *know* these things? Did you hear him talking about Frederick's of Hollywood yesterday or something?"
"I thought by now you'd know that a good reporter never divulges her sources," Lois told him smugly, taking a long drag off her cigarette and smirking.
"You are not of this world," Clark said with conviction.
Lois laughed. "I know."
"Why did you wear that jacket?" Chloe whispered to Clark as they crouched behind a leather couch in Lois' living room, listening to her footfalls coming up the hallway. "It's awful."
"Didn't Lois tell you that she was trying to set you up tonight?"
"Chloe, I say this affectionately, but I hate you," Clark whispered back.
"No, it's really bad, Clark. It's like the definition of bad." She reached over and poked his shoulder. "Is it alive?"
"Stop! That!" Clark hissed.
"Hey, hey, knock it down a notch or two," Chloe whispered. "Want to give it away?"
"It isn't a surprise," Clark told her, petulantly.
"I know," Chloe replied, serenely, "but Lois likes to think she's fooling everyone by acting like it's a surprise. She's been like this since we were kids."
Clark opened his mouth to reply, but the door swung open, and the lights flicked on, and everyone who was crouching leapt to their feet and started to sing 'Happy Birthday'. Lois widened her eyes in an artful impression of shock, and Chloe giggled. Clark glared, and sang along.
"Wow, guys, I had no idea!" Lois said over the uproar, hugging everyone she could reach, pausing only when she hugged Jimmy, giving him a narrow-eyed look and stated, "Hands, Jimmy," sternly.
Jimmy shrugged, and grinned, and raised his hands in a placating gesture. "Happy Birthday, Lois?"
She rolled her eyes and he grinned wider. Chloe leaned into Clark, and whispered, "I give it another two weeks before Jimmy starts coming into work with hickeys, and Lois starts grinning like the cat who got the canary."
"Less," Clark said, confidently, especially when Lois shot Jimmy a look over her shoulder. "Much less."
"Chloe! Clark!" Lois said, swooping in to hug both of them tightly. "Did I look surprised?" she asked, grinning.
"Yeah, totally shocked," Chloe responded, returning the grin. "You almost had me that time."
"Happy birthday," Clark said, raising one hand when Lois eyed his clothing with distaste. "I love you, Lois, but one word about my outfit and I'm stealing your champagne and going home."
"Is he here?" Chloe asked, eagerly.
"Not yet," Lois responded in an undertone. "Said he'd be a little late."
"I am not here to be set up with anyone, guys," Clark protested.
Lois patted his arm soothingly. "Yeah, yeah, I get it, Smallville."
"I don't think you do," he responded, eyes narrowing. "I think you're just humoring me."
"Well, that's because we are," Chloe said reasonably, eyes scanning the crowd milling around Lois’ living room.
"Oh, okay, great," Clark groused. "Where's the champagne?”
“On the counter in the kitchen,” Chloe chirped.
“Don’t you dare get drunk,” Lois ordered him, distractedly, tugging on her cousin’s arm. “Introduce me to your new boyfriend.”
“I don’t know if he’s up for trial-by-Lois-yet,” Clark heard Chloe say dubiously as Lois all but dragged her away. She gave Clark a pleading glance over her shoulder, but he just smiled and waved.
Clark managed to make his way through the crowd into the kitchen. Perry clapped him on the shoulder and growled something around the butt of his cigar that Clark didn’t understand at all, but Clark just nodded, and smiled, pressing onward.
“Hey there, CK,” Jimmy said cheerfully. “Not big on crowds?”
“Something like that,” Clark muttered, pouring himself a flute of champagne, and drinking it quickly. “You ever have a friend bent on fixing your love life single handedly, whether you wanted them to or not?”
Grinning, Jimmy rubbed the bridge of his freckled nose. “That sounds rough, man.”
“Tell me about it,” he agreed.
Several glasses of Tattinger later, Clark was feeling a little fuzzy around the edges, and generally well disposed toward humanity as a whole. He stood by the window, fiddling with his champagne flute and smiling happily at his reflection in the window. Lights winked on and off in the apartment building across from him, and he was so absorbed in trying to decide whether or not they were doing so at regular intervals, when Lois tapped him on the shoulder he jumped, dropping his glass.
“Relax, Kent,” Lois chided, as he bent to retrieve it, sounding amused.
“Sorry, I was just –” he began, straightening, but stopped when he found himself face to face with Lex Luthor for the first time in over a year. His hand tightened reflexively on his glass, easing up only when he felt a small crack begin.
Chloe gave him a thumbs up from across the room, and Lois grinned at him. “Clark, this is a friend of mine, Lex Luthor. I heard that you two knew each other in Smallville?”
Clark was going to kill Chloe horribly. And Lois, too.
“We may have run across each other once or twice,” Lex said dryly, eyes shimmering with amusement. “How are you, Clark?”
Clearing his throat, Clark forced a smile. “Oh, I’m doing just fine,” he managed finally, mentally sending Lois death rays. “It’s been a while.”
Lex nodded, a small smile playing around the corners of his mouth. “Yes, it has.”
“Great!” Lois said triumphantly, clapping her hands. “Then you need to catch up. I’ll leave you to it.” She gave Clark a friendly pat on the shoulder as she left, and he repressed the urge to smack her hand away.
“I see that Lois is in for a patented Clark Kent set down,” Lex observed, giving in to the temptation to smile, and rocking back on his heels.
“Big time,” Clark agreed darkly, glaring at her retreating back.
“She didn’t tell you I was coming, then.” It wasn’t really a question, but Clark nodded anyway, and Lex inclined his head, hiding his amused expression. “This doesn’t *have* to be this awkward, you know.”
Scrubbing a hand over his face, Clark nodded. “You’re right, you’re right. I just…I guess I was just thrown. Anyway, how are you? How have you been?”
“Busy,” Lex said, his grin a quick, white flash. “But overall, I’ve been well.”
“That’s good. That’s very good.” Clark frowned out the window. “I’m glad to hear that.”
“Are you?” Lex asked quietly, advancing a few paces to stand beside Clark at the window.
“Of course!” he replied, instantaneously. “I don’t, you know, wish you harm or anything. It’s not like we had a big fight or anything. We just…kind of fell out of touch. It happens.”
“Very true,” Lex said, staring out the window. Clark studied his profile through lowered lashes, and made another mental note to do something drastic and terrible to both Chloe and Lois at the first possible opportunity, because Lex looked…god, he always looked good. But now, in the half light from the street lamp beside Lois’ apartment, contemplative and contained after so long, Lex looked amazing, and Clark remembered all over again what it was to want this man *so badly*.
“Lois thinks that you’re… pining, is I believe the word she used,” Lex said abruptly, breaking the silence. “And Chloe pointed her toward me.” He half turned toward Clark, eyes dark, and Clark felt the way he always did when Lex looked at him like that – measuring, assessing. He felt like he wanted to hide, and stay still all at the same time.
“Did she?” he asked weakly, putting down his glass for fear of breaking it entirely. “How strange.”
Lex turned fully, leaning against the window frame. “Is it? Strange?”
Clark sucked in a deep breath and shrugged, meeting Lex’s gaze. The blank neutrality of Lex’s expression was broken only by the intensity of his eyes. Clark swallowed, and looked out the window again. “Maybe. Maybe not.”
“Maybe not,” Lex echoed carefully, and Clark could feel the heat of his body as he took a step closer.
“Yeah,” Clark whispered, still watching the winking lights. “Look, Lex, it’s okay. You don’t have to...” he trailed off.
“I don’t have to what?”
“God, I don’t know,” Clark said, raking a hand through his hair and turning back to face Lex. “You don’t have to talk to me, or any of this, I guess. Lois just thought –”
“Would you believe me if I told you that I’ve missed you?” Lex cut him off, raising an eyebrow.
Clark blinked, incredulous and Lex smiled again. “You…you have?”
“Yeah, I have,” Lex admitted quietly. “I think it surprised me, how much.”
The lights shone in Lex’s eyes as he watched Clark, and there was…a softness, a tenderness to his expression that Clark had seen before, and maybe he’d been too young to really understand it. Maybe he didn’t understand it now, and was misinterpreting this whole exchange, but hope rose up in Clark, effervescent, like a wash of bubbles over his skin.
“Why didn’t we ever…” Clark began to ask, flushing, and looking away. “We flirted. All the time.”
“You were in high school and showed every sign of being heterosexual,” Lex said dryly. “Lana, Chloe, Lana, Jesse, Lana, Kyla, Lana…”
“Victoria. Desiree. Helen,” Clark shot back, squaring his shoulders, and forcing himself to catch Lex’s eye, and keep it. “And after? When I was in college? After Luke?”
“Ahh, well, then…” Lex trailed off, and chuckled. “Then you were my friend. There was too much to lose.”
Clark swallowed, cleared his throat. “We’re not friends now,” he said, voice low and huskier than usual, and Lex’s eyes darkened.
“We could be,” Lex replied, cautious, even as he swayed toward Clark.
“What if…” Clark murmured, staring at Lex’s lip, at the scar there, and the fuller bottom lip. “What if I don’t want to be friends, again, Lex?”
“Then I would have to kiss you,” Lex said simply, voice rasping against Clark like velvet, weaving around him like smoke.
“I don’t want to be friends,” Clark whispered, and Lex drew in a sharp breath, reached up, and pulled him down, *taking* his mouth. Nibbling at his lower lip, sweeping his tongue through Clark’s mouth like he was cataloguing everything he found there, pressing his body against Clark’s, and Clark moaned into the kiss, grasping Lex’s hip in his hand. Maybe leaving bruises, but he didn’t care, *couldn’t* care, not if Lex was going to keep kissing him like this.
“We need to leave,” Lex rasped as he pulled away. “We need to leave right now.”
Clark just nodded, mute. He raised a hand, and laid his thumb on Lex’s swollen mouth, and couldn’t help the huge grin that broke over his face.
Lex grinned back, predatory and hungry and happy, as he slipped away through the crowd. Clark followed.
“Hey, Smallville,” Lois called as they reached the door.
“Yeah?” he replied, turning to catch the wicked smile on her face.