The atmosphere was
perfect. It was a quiet little cafe off Boulevard
Germain, with the Eiffel Tower rising up over the buildings like a
protector of the city. The coffee was just a few degrees shy
sweetened and lightened to her specific taste.
Chloe knew every detail. She could feel the pulse of Paris around her, hear traffic just a few blocks away, see the bright colors of people moving busily through the street. Venders called out, offering crepes and gaufres, dogs sniffed at the sidewalk, and everything was the way it should be.
Clark sat next to her as she sipped her coffee and scribbled notes in a journal. He grinned, running his hand up her thigh, teasing the flesh under her slacks. It was a delicious feeling, the something stirring in her belly, and Clark leaned over to whisper something naughty in her ear.
"Are you going to finish that?"
Chloe blinked, coming back to reality. Paris was suddenly replaced with Smallville, the quiet cafe with the bustling coffee house that was the only night spot in the sleepy little town.
"Huh?" she asked, realizing Clark was looking at her expectantly.
"Your muffin. Are you going to finish it? I skipped lunch today, and I'm hungry," Clark said, pointing to her blueberry scone.
"It's not a muffin," she said, pushing her plate across the table to him. "You can have the rest."
"It tastes like a muffin," Clark said between bites.
"Well, crickets taste like chicken, but there's still a difference," she retorted, flipping through her notes.
"How do you know what crickets taste like?" Clark grinned, leaning on the table.
Chloe rolled her eyes. "What are we going to do for our English project?" she asked, changing the topic quickly.
Clark made a small humming noise as he looked down at his own notebook. "Well, we have to interpret a literary work we've read this semester using one of the senses. We could make a poster."
"Lame," Chloe declared. "Everyone else is going to make a poster. We should do something different."
"But, posters are easy," Clark defended. "And, they don't take much time."
"We're not making a poster, Clark," Chloe sighed. "Maybe we could do a dramatic interpretation."
"But, I can't act," Clark said bluntly. "Or sing, or dance."
"Thus the 'interpretation,'" Chloe smiled. "It could be like Romeo and Juliet meets Ezra Pound."
"I still think a poster is a good idea," Clark said firmly.
"That's because you're a wuss."
"What is it, superwuss?"
Clark's eyes rolled upward. "Why is it, out of all the students in our class, I have to be partnered with the most annoying one? Hey!" A wide grin spread over Clark's face. "I think that'll be your new nickname. The Most Annoying One."
"Well! Is this meeting of the minds restricted, or can anyone join in?"
Chloe felt the teasing smile slip from her face as Smallville's very own pariah sauntered up to their table. Her disposition soured even more when she noticed the pleased look on Clark's face.
"Lex!" The dark haired boy smiled warmly at the new arrival, and scooted closer to Chloe. "Pull up a chair, there's plenty of room. Of course, our conversation might bore you to tears, but..." He trailed off, head bent, blue eyes peering shyly up through thick lashes. If Clark's super hearing had been developed he could have clearly heard the muted, yet wistful sighs that came from either side of him.
Lex snagged a chair from a neighboring table. "You could never bore me, Clark." He momentarily basked under the glow that comment produced, before turning his attention to the sullen looking blonde girl, that, in his opinion, was taking up way too much space. "Who's your friend?"
"Oh, right!" Clark stopped just short of smacking himself in the head. "Chloe Sullivan, Lex Luthor. Lex, Chloe."
As pleasant head nods were exchanged, the competition sized each other up. Eyes narrowed, and a challenge was issued. Somewhere a tumbleweed rolled across a dusty street.
"So, what is the heated topic of discourse this evening?" Lex asked, his focus completely and utterly on Clark.
"We're working on our English project," Clark said. "I want to make a poster, but Chloe thinks it's a stupid idea."
"I think a poster is an excellent idea," Lex drawled slowly.
Clark beamed and shot a look of triumph at Chloe. "See? Lex thinks it a good idea."
Chloe snorted, and glared daggers at Lex. She wished she had some kind of laser vision that could melt the bald freak to dust where he sat. Lex just smiled at her. Luthor: One, Sullivan: Zero.
"I'm sure Lex also thinks A Modest Proposal was an excellent idea," Chloe retorted, rolling her eyes.
"Well, it wasn't a bad idea," Lex said with a smirk. Clark and Chloe just stared at him incredulously. "I'm joking." Sort of.
"It's not that I think it's a bad idea," Chloe continued. "It's just... Isn't a poster a little one dimensional?"
"Actually, it's two dimensional," Lex corrected, earning another glare. He just smiled and shrugged.
"What I mean," Chloe sighed, "is that it only requires one dimension of thought. You're smarter than that, Clark, and I just thought we should explore our other options before we settle for something so juvenile."
Clark looked at Chloe skeptically. "And other options involve me standing up in front of the class, pretending to be Romeo."
"Well," Chloe grinned lewdly. "I was sorta thinking you'd be Juliet."
Lex was very glad he hadn't ordered a foamy caffinated beverage yet, as snarfed coffee is one of the most unpleasant sensations know to the modern world. Clark just laughed, a wonderful sound that sent warm fuzzy feelings in everybody's stomach.
"You're priceless, Chloe. Did you know that?" Clark smiled at her, and Chloe beamed. She just barely resisted the urge to stick her tongue out at Lex. Tie game, one all.
Lex resisted the urge to drum his fingers on the table as his mind grappled with the notion that there might actually be someone in this godforsaken town that could challenge his own innate snarkiness. "So... will this be a plain clothes reading, or will the two of you dress up. I think I might be willing to pay to see Clark Kent in drag." Oh, and didn't that just bring up a whole slew of interesting images.
Clark's smile faded along with all the color in his face. "No drag," the suddenly deathly pale young man intoned.
Chloe rolled her eyes as Lex grinned. "Maybe it would be best if you played Romeo," he said slyly. "You wouldn't mind sliding into a pair of tights, would you, Clark?" For an instant, the image of long, strong, muscular legs encased in skin tight material danced through the combatants heads, and both Lex and Chloe wondered if there was any way to check for drool and not be obvious about it.
Clark's eyes were as wide as the cappuccino cup in front of him. "No tights. No drag, and no tights," he said firmly.
Chloe shook her head slightly, trying to clear the yummy, Clark-y fog in her brain. "I didn't mean the character Juliet, I meant the archetype."
Clark's eyebrows raised while Lex's furrowed.
Then, understanding dawned, and Lex smiled. "Ah, you mean, Clark could play the unattainable beauty, residing high in his father's fortress, gazing dreamily out a large window while, below, aggressors battle for his affections."
Chloe shrugged. "Something like that, yeah."
"Oh, come on, guys," Clark snorted. "No one's gonna see me like that."
And, if Clark's super hearing had been developed at that moment, he might have heard crickets chirping... three counties over.
"You're right." Chloe said finally.
"Who could ever believe you in that part." Lex pursed his lips and picked at an imaginary piece of lint on his trousers.
Clark nodded firmly, secure in the knowledge that he was still a geek and all was right with his world. Suddenly, his entire body stiffened in a fashion reminiscent of an alert, young buck. . . or, possibly, an alert, young meercat.
"Uh, I need to... I'm gonna... I'll be back." He stammered out as he rose from the table.
Longing gazes followed his backside as he made his way to the front of the shop. It was a long trek for Clark, mostly because he kept bumping into people and things. "Sorry, sorry," he mumbled as he stooped to pick up a dropped book.
Neither Lex nor Chloe was the swooning type, but for another glimpse of that excellent view, they would have both made exceptions. Distracted by denim-clad, farm-grown wholesome assets, they didn't notice Lana until Clark approached her.
"Well, if it isn't the cheerleader-cum-working girl," Chloe grumbled.
Lex snorted softly, like a bull. "Isn't that the same thing?"
Chloe tried really hard to repress her giggle, but a small teeter escaped. "Oh, that's a good one."
"Thanks," Lex said with pseudo-modesty. "I try."
"What does he see in her, anyway?" Chloe groused, tapping her pen on the table. "What does she have that we don't?"
"Well," Lex smirked, his eyebrows quirking with mirth. "Strictly from my perspective, she has long flowing hair that begs to be touched. And breasts."
"I have breasts," Chloe pouted, looking down at her chest. "And my hair likes to be touched."
"Well, then, I don't know what your problem is."
"I'm cute, aren't I?" Chloe looked at Lex with a frown. "I mean, I know I'm not the most traditional beauty, but I'm not so god-awful to look at. Am I?"
Lex raised an eyebrow. "You're worried about your appearance?"
"No," Chloe said, slumping in her chair. "I was just trying to be shallow."
There was a long pause.
An uncomfortable silence. Lex looked
at Chloe from the corner of his eye, and then across the room to where
Clark was trying to impress Lana. Chloe watched Lana laugh at
Clark said, and then glanced over at Lex. It was a big production
Got My Eye On You While Pretending To Ignore Your Existence."
gave it rave reviews, and it was up for several awards.
"This is uncomfortable," Chloe said finally. "I mean, not just the awkward, who's going to win him pissing contest we've found ourselves in."
"Yeah," Lex nodded. "It's the watching him fawn over someone who doesn't have a clue."
"This is Smallville, Lex," Chloe explained. "Finding someone in this town who actually knows what a clue is, much less actually knowing how to use it, that's like finding a cure for cancer. I mean, theoretically, it's possible, and scientists believe they're on the right track, but it's highly unlikely that anything like that will happen in our lifetimes."
"Are you talking about Clark and Lana, or Clark and us?"
"Take your pick."
"Well, that's a pretty cynical way of looking at things." Lex commented.
"*You* think I'm being cynical? Should I go ahead and kill myself now?"
"Luthors aren't cynics, Ms. Sullivan. We're realists."
"Oh, really? Then, realistically, why are you still chasing after Clark?"
"Why are you?"
Chloe leaned back in her chair, a strange look on her face. "Good question."
Gone were the mocking smiles. Lex slowly nodded. "Yes, it is."
"Okay, you said you're a realist, then let's do a reality check. Realistically speaking, Clark Kent is. . . goofy."
The were both silent for a few moments. "He has horrible taste in women." Lex offered.
Chloe grinned. "He wouldn't know a good thing if he pulled it out of a porsche and gave it mouth to mouth."
Lex's eyes crinkled as his mouth quirked up. "So, remind me again, what did we ever seen in him?"
They turned their heads to once again gaze on the almost painful sight of Clark trying to impress Lana. Then, as if he could feel their no longer infatuated eyes upon him, the former object of their affections looked over at their table and presented them with the biggest, brightest, most beautiful grin either had ever seen.
"He's sweet." Chloe said weakly.
"And, loyal." Lex murmured.
"And, very, very pretty."
"Oh, yeah. Almost forgot that part."
"You know, it would be a shame if something unfortunate were to happen to Lana Lang," Lex mused quietly.
"Like an accident?" Chloe asked. She let out a dejected sigh. "Clark would probably just save her. Like some big strapping superhero or something. And then they'd fall in love and then where would we be?"
Lex looked at her. "Are you always so pessimistic?"
Chloe shrugged. "Usually."
Lex tried to hide his eye roll. "Actually, I was thinking of something a little more subversive than your run of the mill 'accident'."
"Maybe," Lex tapped a finger against his lips as he thought. "Maybe have something so fortunate happen to her it turns in on itself? You know, LuthorCorp does offer scholarships to out of state boarding schools for talented and gifted students."
"Oh!" Chloe grinned. "You're evil!"
"No, not evil." Lex smiled at her. "I like to think of myself as a benefactor to the humanities."
"No, you're evil."
"Well," Lex shrugged lightly. "Maybe a little."
"And with Lana out of the picture..."
"May the best man--"
Chloe cleared her throat sharply.
"Or woman," Lex amended, "win." Lex offered his hand and Chloe shook it firmly.
Let the game begin.