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The Red Box

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"Hi Lex."

Lex looked up to see an uncertain Clark standing in the doorway, his hands behind his back, shifting from side to side. Quickly, Lex stood up, closing his laptop to give his attention fully to his friend. He scanned Clark up and down to see if he was okay. He seemed to be, other than his extreme nervousness.

"Clark," Lex relaxed somewhat, and stopped his approach in front of his desk, leaning back on it. "You're a little early today."

The tan skin acquired a hue of darker rose. "Yeah, I..." Clark trailed off. Then he hesitantly came forward. As he did so, his right hand swayed forward, showing that he was holding a box with red wrapping paper around it.

Lex squinted. Then he glanced at the calendar discretely hung in a corner. "Of course. Valentine's Day. Is that for Lana?"

Clark blushed even harder and tried to hide the box, but then gave it up and held it in front of him with both hands, staring down at it intently, as if it held the secrets of the universe.

With a gentle smile, Lex reassured his friend. "It'll be okay. She'll love it. Women enjoy chocolates."

"It's... it's not for Lana." Clark closed his eyes, his fingers worrying at the edges of the paper. At this rate, he was going to shred it before it got to his giftee.

Lex raised his eyebrows. Clark had moved on? This was... well, it had to be welcome news, for Clark. He would be glad for his friend, really he would. "Chloe?" he guessed, suppressing a spurt of jealousy. No matter how much he thought Chloe was a better match for Clark, he also dreaded it, knowing that if they ever got together, that Lex would be left on the outskirts as Chloe could fulfill needs that Lana could not, that Lex currently substituted for in companionship.

The edges of the box crumpled in where Clark gripped the edges, and Lex tried very hard to keep from making any sort of sound about it. Clark would feel bad enough when he noticed.

"Not... Not Chloe." Clark managed to get out.

The red was almost overpowering the tan now. Not the best of looks for his farm boy. But Lex could spend hours looking at him, no matter what. And he hadn't heard of any new girls at school, nor mysterious cave friends... Lex frowned. Who else was there in Clark's life? He would have to start making inquiries again for whoever it was, though he had to remember to be discrete. They didn't take investigations as casually here as a Metropolian would.

Lex didn't think he blinked, but then Clark was there in front of him, a slightly crumpled red box being held out to him. Reflexively, Lex put his hands out and the box was shoved in them.

"You. They're for you. Lex." Clark looked him in the eye as he said the three short sentences, and then he was gone. A few steps backward at normal speed, and then going faster until Lex couldn't see him anymore and the door was banging back and forth in his wake, and Lex was left standing there with a box of chocolates in his hands.

Stunned, Lex didn't move for a long minute.

Then he looked down at the box, at the edges crumpled in by large hands, at the fancy wrapping showing Clark had paid more than his normal allowance for it.

Slowly, Lex moved around the desk and reached without looking for his chair. He didn't take his eyes off the box.

Everything he wanted, wrapped up in such a simple, traditional gift.

Nothing that he could have.

Something so sweet, so delectable, so comfortable and exciting at the same time.

Something so young, so wrapped up in mystery and secrets.

Lex wondered if Clark even realized what he'd done with his departure. He honestly wasn't sure. Maybe that was part of his gift. Another thing he couldn't have. Another thing he wanted.

"Clark," Lex whispered, longing bare within his voice now that he was alone. Alone with a gift he wanted so desperately. That he shouldn't have. And there went the first erosion, from couldn't, to shouldn't. Next it would be maybe, and then it would be yes.

Lex closed his eyes and held tightly onto his gift.