Title: Stalemate
Author: Lint
Rating: PG
Summary: Just a little conversation.

***

"What happened to you?"

A simple question that rarely results in a simple answer. He knew that even before he asked, but is still mildly surprised and the unexpected silence it brought. Lex's icy stare was something that seemed like it could make even him shiver. He knew that his old friend had been closed off in the past. That he had his own fair share of secrets and outrages. Business deals and personal experiences that were never exactly on the up and up.

He watched as the man he once knew remove his flattened palms from his desk and resume his laid back posture in his oversized office chair. A throne fit for a king, he thought. He always had an inkling that Lex wanted to be something akin to royalty. Even if he had fought his 'rich kid' label for so long. He missed his old friend. The person sitting before him now was nothing but granite covered in marble. Stone to the core. He could tell there was no longer any sense of joy in his life. Only the quest for unattainable goals he set for himself.

By the look on his face Clark could tell he was still contemplating his question. He noticed that there were no pictures on his desk. The absence of personal touch wasn't entirely surprising. But it still struck him as something just seeming off. The desk itself was highly polished hand crafted mahogany. He could see Lex being there as the tree was cut down. Only the best money could buy. Perhaps, he thought, that was the personal touch.

High atop the one hundredth and twenty-second floor of LexCorp's World Headquarters, the life they shared long ago seemed so much farther away. Sure, Lex had always had a fancier house than he was used to. But here in this mountain of steel, glass, and concrete, Lex seemed to be beyond anything that he might have brung himself to accept in the past. No birds flew by the windows this high up. The bald man had always been a loner. But Clark couldn't help but think that this was just lonely.

"Life happened to me," Lex finally responded.

By the mild grin etching itself across the marble, Clark guessed he must have had a quizzical look on his face to the answer.

"That was a little simpler than I would have expected," he replied.

"My father once said that if you expect too much, you'll only find yourself being disappointed."

"I thought that you never took anything your father said to heart."

"Maybe one or two things stuck with me," Lex admitted.

"I think it's kind of funny for someone so against everything his father stood for, not only did you fill his shoes, you took them places he'd never even walked."

"Do you believe in destiny Clark?"

"What?"

"Oh, what am I saying? I know you do. Ten years ago you asked me if I believed that two people were destined to be together. Kyla, your little native girl. Tell me Clark, do you think that if she were still alive you'd be living off in some cottage with your white picket fence and two chocolate labs? Would you be here in my office in your fancy suit asking what happened to me?"

Clark stood ramrod straight, his only reaction to Kyla's name was the folding of his arms over his chest.

"I fought my father so much because I knew Clark."

"Knew?"

"I knew that no matter how hard I tried, I was going to end up walking down the same road as he."

"Well, then talking about destiny is pretty arbitrary don't you think?" Clark replied. "Because if it is real, no one has any real choice against it. And if it isn't, well then you're only talking in possibilities."

"I see that philosophy class I recommended did you some good."

"You're changing the subject."

"Oh, you noticed that too?"

Clark sighed and unfolded his arms. Simple questions rarely produced simple answers.

"You know I could ask you the same Clark. For a kid who was always trying to prove he was just like everyone else, you sure don't dress the part anymore. Or did you always wear a cape and just never told anyone?"

"I help people. That's never changed."

"Perhaps," Lex allowed. "But you never used to take so much credit. Sure, your intentions may still be noble, but I know you grew to love that spotlight. Day after day of front-page news."

"That's not what it's about."

"No? Are you sure? You are 'Super' after all."

"I didn't come up with that name."

"I'm well aware of your co-workers creation. But I'm also aware that you didn't shoot it down. For a kid who never thought he was better, you sure took to being super easily enough."

Clark opened his mouth to reply, but found nothing retaliatory to respond. Nothing to counteract Lex's words. His only thought was the he wasn't a kid anymore. He turned his head to the giant floor to ceiling windows and stared out. Lex got up from his chair and made his way over to his decoratively costumed guest.

"I know what you're thinking," Lex said following his gaze. "Stalemate."

Clark raised his eyebrow in response.

"You'd always start to stare out the window like this when you were losing."

"You always were a better chess player."

"You lacked the killer instinct Clark. You thought of it as just a game."

"It is just a game."

"No, see that's why you would never win. Chess is a war. The objective is defeat. To divide and conquer. Take down the king."

Clark noticed the small smile that Lex allowed himself to have. Maybe there was still a person hiding in there somewhere. Small joy that came from memories of better times and a better place. Lex, for the moment, seemed to be almost normal again. Well, as much as he allowed himself to be.

"It's a far cry from Monopoly."

"Is that what we're doing?" Clark asked. "Being at war? Playing a game?"

Lex smirked and let out the vaguest trace of a laugh

"Have we ever done anything else? We were friends Clark. We trusted each other... Well as far as people with secrets like us could ever trust each other. You have to admit we were always on opposite sides of the board."

He let that sink in and Lex gazed across the landscape. He thought that maybe, if he tilted his head a little to the right, squinted his eyes, he just might be able to see the small town they used to share. When times seemed to be so much simpler than today.

"We were friends once Lex."

"We were."

"So how did this happen?"

"I think we both know our differences would have come to a head sooner or later."

"You changed."

"We covered that part already. But you still have that eternal optimism don't you? Sometimes I can miss it. Always seeing on the sunny side of the fence. You never knew me as a kid Clark. Sure, over time you've heard stories filtered down from somewhere, but you didn't really know me. You didn't see what I was capable of. When you and I met, I was under the disillusion that I could change. I was, pardon the cliche, attempting to turn over a new leaf. I'm mature enough to know now that I never did. Never could."

"I don't think that's..."

"For someone who can see through walls you're still so blind to the obvious. Always were."

"Lex..."

"Did that raven-haired reporter make you forget all about Lana and Chloe these past couple years? You never saw them and their feelings either."

"Damn it Lex, shut up!"

"Well," Lex replied the icy stare returning. "I guess you have changed Clark."

Clark turned his head and regarded his companion slowly. Grasping for straws at some remembrance of how they could have ever been friends. As much as he grasped he only came up blank. There was too much time between them. Too much distance. They were now two sides of a spectrum that existed because they had too.

Black and white.

Good and evil.

Lex and Clark.

He thought that if he ever came across the sixteen-year-old version of himself, he would naively try to fight whatever circumstances led to this collapse. Lex's fall into his father's place doing more damage than Lionel ever could. He can't pinpoint anything in particular. Lex thought it over and knew he couldn't, so he said life happened. True it seemed to be an overgeneralization, but now he thought it made sense.

"Have you ever heard the saying 'you're only as good as the last great thing you did?" Lex asked.

"Is that another one of your father's?"

"Grandfather's actually. That saying has made the Luthor name what it is today. My father took it and ran as fast as he could go and look where it got him. Sad thing is it's true. In fifty years no one will remember us Clark. You will be replaced by some other powered beings that seem to keep popping up after your colorful debut. Me by some other ruthless mogul. Or, if I ever have a son. Our accomplishments will be bested and forgotten. Names nothing but old print on unread files. You fill your life with great things Clark. You said you help people. You do, and you do them well. Don't judge me for doing something well even if you don't agree with it. I was once shown my future was destruction and death. Don't blame me for living it."

"Lex..."

"Rook for Bishop not using Bc7 Clark. What do you do?"

"I... don't know."

"No you don't. You never did. And that's why we'll never be anything beyond this. Opposite ends of the board Clark. That's all we'll ever be. I can't stop you, you can't stop me. I'd appreciate if you left my office now."

Clark shook his head. Simple questions never garnered simple answers. He took one last look at Lex, now sitting back in his oversized chair purposely not looking in his direction. He eased open one of the tall windows and floated outward. Lex still had his back turned. He thought of all the good times they had shared. All the bad as well. Life was unexplainable. And the paths you choose are your own. Sometimes they'll take you where you want to go. Most of the time they won't. And other times they'll just get you nowhere.

He watched Lex a few seconds more. Remembered one rainy Saturday afternoon in his game room. The thought hit him before he even knew what it meant, but he knew he was right.

"Rook takes Bishop through Bc6," he said just loud enough for Lex to hear.

And flew away before he had a chance to turn around.