Word count: 2,100
Notes: Many thanks to Kirstie for the awesome beta.
Feedback: Is my favourite.
They meet once a year on the last day of summer, at dusk.
It was Lex's spot first.
Clark was covered in soot and gunk and blood that wasn't his, and he was so damn tired of meteor mutants turning homicidal, so damn sick of fighting with Lex even when it was all Lex's fault, that he just had to run. He circled the state of Kansas and eventually found himself in an overgrown, deserted park on the outskirts of Smallville.
He wandered through the brush curiously, wondering how he'd missed this place.
Summer was coming to an end but the weather that night was just about perfect: warm, dry, a gentle breeze, sky the colour of burnt amber. It was so peaceful there, as if the day hadn't just been a traumatic, gruelling drain of Clark's goodwill toward man.
It was impossible not to feel better. Away from people, away from their problems, away from all the fucking kryptonite that seemed to be everywhere in Smallville. He kept walking through the unkempt wood until he reached a clearing, and he nearly tripped over in shock at the sight of Lex.
Lex looked a little beat-up as well, blood and dirt all over him, shirt ripped and un-tucked, a serene smile on his face as he gazed out at the sunset. He sat on a park bench with his arms spread out behind him resting on the back of it, and Clark thought he'd never seen him so relaxed. He barely reacted to Clark's incredulous approach, even though they hadn't been friends in more than three years.
Clark sat down on the bench next to Lex and looked out at the view. Quiet and green and orange and calm.
They're not enemies when they meet at the park, once a year, on the last day of summer, at dusk.
Clark wakes up with a smile on his face. He rolls over and nuzzles Lois's neck, enjoying her annoyed groan. She shoves him away and he leaps out of bed with a laugh, then heads into the kitchen to make them both some eggs.
He's been looking forward to today for the past month. This will be the sixth year, not counting that first time, and it seems every year Clark is more excited about it than the last.
No one else knows; they wouldn't understand. Because Clark and Lex see plenty of each other in Metropolis and it's never pleasant, and Superman and Lex see even more of each other, and frankly, that's always a disaster. Superman barks and is condescending to Lex and calls him "Luthor", and Lex is mostly composed but occasionally his voice rises to a screech and there is nothing but fury between them. Clark yells difficult questions at Lex during press conferences and glares at him through thick glasses. Lex's replies are tinged with malice.
But Lex is looking forward to it too, of that Clark's sure. When Superman saw him a week ago, after foiling yet another one of Lex's ridiculous, dangerous plans - this one involving smuggling poisons into the country to do God knows what with - Lex had growled out several obscenities in Superman's general direction before making eye contact for a fast second, and Clark read his mind. See you soon.
Clark suppressed a smile and Superman flew into the sky with an angry sigh.
"You're cheery this morning," Lois mutters grumpily, heading straight for the coffee pot, her eyes barely open. "What's that all about?"
Clark doesn't have to tell Lois about his meetings with Lex. She knows how his life works, and that he can't always be there, and that he sometimes disappears for days, and that he often doesn't want to talk about where he was. Not that she doesn't badger the hell out of him when she's bored; she's a hungry journalist before she's anyone's sympathetic girlfriend.
But she understands. More than anyone else in his life ever has.
Clark isn't like other guys. And he doesn't have to tell Lois anything.
It's why their relationship works.
"Nothing," he says, shovelling a forkful of scrambled eggs into his mouth. "Just in a good mood, that's all."
He never lies to her. He just keeps certain things all to himself.
They alternate who turns up first. Last year it was Clark, this year it's Lex.
And he's there, sitting on the bench, staring out at the sunset, looking just the same as he had the first time, aside from the blood and filth. He's dressed in black slacks and a lavender shirt with the top button undone. He still isn't over his obsession with purple.
Clark is dressed in a blue t-shirt and jeans and he's not wearing his glasses. He gets to be himself today.
He sits down and they turn their heads towards each other, both grinning, all thoughts of reality discarded for the next little while. They always part ways once it's dark, and it always goes back to… normal… once the sun rises the next morning; not hatred exactly, but serious animosity that… this… doesn't seem to ever fix.
"How's Lois?" Lex asks, taking his arms off the back of the bench and laying them in his lap, utterly relaxed.
"Good. How's Catherine?"
"Fine." Lex laughs a little. "I hear you're getting married. Congratulations."
"Yeah. I must be crazy." Clark pauses, then quirks his eyebrow at Lex, and he can't stop the glee he feels at the sight of Lex's contented smile. It's worth all the shit they put each other through for the few hours where he gets this.
"You'll enjoy married life, Clark. It'll be right up your alley."
"Thanks. I think." Clark lets his head fall back until he's staring straight up at the sky. "Are you planning on staying in your marriage, Lex? Is it right up your alley?"
"It'll do," Lex chuckles. "She's not insane, which is good enough for me."
"Don't put yourself down," Clark says, looking at him with mock seriousness. "She's not only of sound mind, she's pretty too."
"And not completely stupid."
"Well, no. She's not a retard."
Lex cracks up and Clark joins him.
"Although…" Clark says thoughtfully, "…she doesn't know that you cheat on her."
Lex chokes out a surprised laugh. "Excuse me."
Clark holds out his hands. "I'm just saying!"
"I have no idea what you're talking about." But Lex isn't remotely offended or angry, he's just smiling out at the darkening day.
"Fine. Don't tell me all about them."
They laugh again.
"Clark, have you been spying on me?"
"Maybe a little. I like to know what my arch-nemesis is up to at all times. You know how it is."
"Of course. It does strike me as somewhat unfair that you're so much more difficult to keep track of though. Not that there's anything to find out about you, you boy scout."
"That's right. And I'm always prepared." Clark offers Lex a sunny grin, which Lex responds to with a snicker.
"So how much do you know?" Lex asks.
"You were seeing a blonde woman at the beginning of the year, but that didn't last long. Which didn't really surprise me because blondes aren't exactly your type." Lex nods in agreement. "Then there was the hot waitress who was totally wowed by you and who stroked your ego to such a massive degree that you couldn't stop yourself from taking her to bed – several times – but who you had to pay off when you got bored with her so she'd keep her mouth shut about the two of you. Then there was the widow." Clark shakes his head sadly at Lex. "That was low, even for you, Lex." Lex shrugs nonchalantly. "And then there was…"
Clark swallows and tries to stop the giggle that's threatening to escape from within. "…the guy. That… um… that guy you went to that hotel with… those times."
Lex is gazing at him with his eyebrows raised and a small smile playing on his lips. Clark can't maintain eye contact or keep his own grin at bay.
"Oh that guy," Lex says dryly.
Clark takes a quick breath in. "Are you still seeing him?" He doesn't dare look over at Lex and it takes a while for Lex to respond.
"I… No. That's over." Clark glances over and finds Lex staring at him. "You ever been with a guy, Clark?"
Clark holds his gaze. "A couple of times. Before Lois." He looks back out into the dying sun. "How many have you been with?"
"You mean you don't already know?"
Smile. "I only know about the one."
"I'm boring, Clark. Let's talk about the couple of times you mentioned. Who, when and where?"
"I'm not telling you who."
Clark sighs in defeat. "There was a guy in college. He was an actor." Lex laughs and Clark glares at him until he stops. "We saw each other a few times but… I dunno. He was so… self absorbed."
"Shut up. He was hot."
Lex looks surprised. "He was ‘hot'?"
"Yeah. He was hot." He grins shamelessly at Lex.
"You never struck me as the shallow type, Clark. You live and you learn."
"Oh come on, Lex. Lana's not exactly the girl next door. And Lois is a babe."
"Ha. You have a point."
Why is this so easy? Why is this so much fun?
"Then there was a guy I met in Egypt. It was right before Lois and I got together."
"How far did you go with these guys?" Lex's voice sounds a little strange. Like he isn't sure he wants to know the answers to the questions he's asking.
Clark looks at him carefully. It's getting darker. "As far as you went with your…" Lex nods and they both fall silent for a while.
When they pick the conversation up again, it's a little lighter, a little less meaningful, and they chat easily for another hour or so. Then they stroll out of the park together and Clark resists the urge to throw his arm around Lex's shoulders as they walk.
At the edge of the park they turn to face each other. This is where they say goodbye. Lex stares into Clark's eyes and… it's harder this time. To leave.
"See you next year," Clark says quietly, with a sad smile.
They don't hug or shake hands or touch each other in any way, they just turn away from each other and walk. It's the worst part of the day, the month, the year.
Clark sprints back to Metropolis and goes on patrol.
A month later and Clark lets Lois do all the questioning at Lex's press conference. She's loud and aggressive and fabulous, and Lex is charming and slippery and untrustworthy, but when he catches Clark's eye before he leaves the stage, Clark feels it in his gut.
He dashes away from Lois, leaving her with a lame excuse, and he catches up with Lex just before he gets into the backseat of his chauffeur-driven Bentley.
No words come out of his mouth, he just stands there and gapes at Lex, who looks surprised and then annoyed.
"Yes?" Lex says shortly.
But Clark can't talk. They're not friends. He can't ask Lex how he is.
Lex's expression softens. "Clark?"
"Sorry." There are a lot of people around. It's broad daylight and there is no good reason why Clark Kent and Lex Luthor would be having a polite conversation, and Lex's driver is looking at him with frightening hostility, and that weird Mercy chick is hovering about, too close for comfort.
"It's okay," Lex murmurs. "Can I ask you something?"
Clark blinks and nods quickly.
"Why didn't you come to me?"
Clark knows what he's talking about and there's a lump forming in his throat. "I wanted to," he manages to say, but his voice sounds strangled.
"Well if you ever…" Lex slides into the car gracefully instead of finishing the sentence. The chauffeur shuts the door after him and Clark waits as the window opens and Lex looks up at him with a wistful smile. "You know where to find me."
The car's engine starts up with a purr and Clark is suddenly panicked. Eleven more months to go.
They stare at each other.
Clark reaches his hand out and as the car pulls away from him, Lex stretches his arm out the window and their fingers touch, just for a second.
Then he's gone.