Title: Bright Light City
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: Don't own them; just borrowing.
Summary: "You don't want to know my name."
Spoilers: None, unless you don't know who Aaron and Clementine are.
Notes: For the lostsquee Lost Fic Battle 2010: Aaron/Clementine, what happens in Vegas. The title is, obviously, from Elvis' Viva Las Vegas. Because I'm cliché like that.

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Clementine's mother always told her anyone'll believe anything in Vegas.

Of course, her mother also always told her that her uncanny ability to sell anything to anyone was the only thing she'd gotten from her daddy. But she'd found a photograph, once, and she hadn't been too young to realize she'd gotten her smile from him, too.

Turns out, both things serve her well, here in Sin City. She works the Strip (but no, not in that way – her mother raised her a bit better than that), selling knockoff jewelry to the men who come here for the cheap booze and the slots they never win and the women-by-the-hour. It's the oldest con in the book, and men like these, she's learned, are always swayed by a dimpled smile and the reminder that they'll need something with which to placate their wives, once Vegas is a hazy memory.

It's not much, and it's not glamorous - things in this city rarely are, underneath the glitter - and her mother probably raised her better than this, too. But it pays the bills and she keeps telling herself, someday she'll get out and do something real. (Sure, Clem, she hears herself chiding. Someday.)

-----

The first time she sees him, he's playing halfway decent guitar on a street corner, but who the hell plays The Beatles on street corners anymore, really? He's not getting any cash from it, at any rate. On a whim, she brings him a coffee from the diner she frequents, because even Vegas gets cold at night, under the unnatural, bright lights. Something about him reminds her a bit of someone she might have known, once, but Clem figures that's all in her head.

He takes the coffee in a motion that halts Eleanor Rigby mid-phrase, a dissonant chord, with a smile that she recognizes all too well, lost and sad and kind of desperate. She thinks that if he had any money he'd be an easy mark, but she keeps her knockoffs in her bag and sits on the curb beside him, instead. She stays just long enough to finish her own coffee, and then parts with a smile that's not unlike his own.

-----

The second time she sees him, only days later, he's playing quarter slots in a hotel lobby and she's just killing time. She watches him for a few minutes, his blond head bobbing in time with his pulls of the machine, his face set like his anger will bring him the jackpot she knows isn't coming.

"Stick with the guitar," she says, low and close to his ear, so close that he jumps and turns with a glare. She's unaffected. "It's more lucrative," she continues.

"Wasn't getting any money with the music," he points out, and she nods meaningfully at the slot machine and his fast-emptying cup of quarters. He huffs out a breath and gives the machine another pull for good measure before turning off his stool and falling into step beside her. "Got a better idea?"

It's not a better idea, but she takes him to her place, a studio off the Strip. She doesn't know why (her mother'd have her ass if she knew, really), but there's something about him. She cards her fingers through his blond hair as he looks around the tiny apartment. "I know what you're thinking," she preempts, to his arched eyebrow. "I'm not a hooker."

He laughs and sets the guitar case down. "I know."

"What's your name?" she asks, half to still prove it to him, the not-a-hooker thing (but like her mother said, anyone'll believe anything in Vegas), and half because she thinks she should know.

But he pulls her to him, finally, and covers her mouth with his. "You don't want to know my name."

The next morning, she's tangled in the sheets and he's gone.

-----

She's back in Albuquerque for the first time in five years, the third time she sees him. Her mother's finally succumbed to the cancer, and Clem's tired and sad and actually missing the anonymity of Vegas. She almost doesn't recognize him, because it's been a couple years and he's dressed in black and his hair is slicked back and he's holding a supermarket bouquet. It doesn't occur to her to ask how he's here. It doesn't even occur to her to be surprised.

"I told you to stick with the guitar," she says instead, abruptly, eying the wilting flowers in his hand.

He shrugs a shoulder, unsure but determined. "Clementine?"

She pulls it from the deep part of her memory then and it falls into place – crashes, really – a blond-haired little boy, a man with a guitar on a Vegas street corner. This is why she isn't surprised, she thinks.

"Aaron."