"Sorry," he whispers when Lex tucks him back into bed. "I was--I thought I was in the bathroom." He sounds so pathetic. Honest to God sick and sad and not at all suspicious.
Lex smoothes the covers over his chest, a hand resting on his forehead, checking his temperature. Clark tries to erase the image of Lex's face when he saw his shoes from the front of his mind. It's not helping the pathetic looks at all.
"It's okay, Clark." Lex actually sounds sincere, and if that isn't a warning signal, Clark doesn't know what is. Those are Lex's *shoes*. "They're just shoes. Take a deep breath. Do you want some more to drink?" Lex reaches for the glass.
"No." Oh God, does he. So badly his mouth aches. But that glass--that's not just water, Clark would bet anything. "Just--I'm being such a baby. Can you--just stay here?" He forces in a whine, watching from behind half-closed eyes as Lex hesitates. "Just until I fall asleep? I've--except for when I changed, I've never been sick before."
"You seem better." There's a thread of something uncomfortably close to suspicion in his voice. Lex was born suspicious, though, so Clark thinks it's mostly reflex.
"If this is better--" Clark lets his voice trail off, not bothering to hide the wince at the next cramp in his stomach. If he acts more out of it, Lex might tell him things. But he's not that great an actor.
"I can stay for a little while." Lex shifts Clark over, and Clark burrows close the second Lex is near. Breathing him in--light cigar smoke, brandy, whatever his laundry does to his shirts that make them smell like summer. Nuzzling in, Clark just lets himself feel Lex.
Heart a little too fast, breath in his hair, and so--Clark shuts his eyes, and it's not his imagination, Lex is almost clinging to him, hands hard on his back. Whatever's going on, he can find a way to make Lex stop doing it. If he knew what and how, that is.
Cassius said suicidal. Lex, going to the Arctic--Clark tries to calculate, taking into account that Lex has no issues with breaking the sound barrier if he thinks it's necessary-he'll have to leave soon. And do something. Bruce can get up there, assuming Lex hasn't done something like sabotage the entire Justice League, but what the hell will Bruce be dealing with?
Lex said a *deal*.
Maybe the water makes him sleepy *and* sick or something, because he can think again, at least a little. Put the pieces together, Kent. You were here, Lois wasn't, but Clark would bet anything Lois knows. He'd heard it in her voice, that way she just suddenly figures out things. God, he should have asked.
"Lex, is something wrong?" He doesn't have to fake the quiver in his voice. Lex said something about his will. Lydia. It refuses to completely settle, and his head's pounding, every thought's an effort. He needs--God, does he need Lois right now.
"Everything's fine." Slow stroking of his hair, and Clark breathes him in. A tang of sweat. Lex. And the heart beneath his ear stutters. "I--have to leave for a few hours."
"Why?" He's starting to sound like a ten year old girl. Is that suspicious? "Tell your associates to fuck off."
"I didn't think of that." Lex sounds--amused. "Somehow, in this case, I don't think it'll work. After I'm done, I'll be back, Clark. Hopefully by then, you'll feel better."
"I'm never eating at that place again, Lex." Be back. Lex is lying. Lex doesn't think he's coming back.
Lex laughs softly, and Clark shivers at the brush of lips against his head. "I don't blame you. I won't be long. Cassius is staying here to make sure you're okay. Just do what he says and you'll be fine, I promise." It's almost painful to feel Lex shift up, but Clark doesn’t have the energy to hold on. Fuck. *Fuck*. "Drink this and get some rest."
Ah yes, the drugged water. The better to keep your lover unaware while you wander off to do whatever the *hell* it is you're planning. Clark takes a drink, holding it in his mouth, slumping as Lex lets him back down, turning away. Okay, if Lex sees this--
But he has white pillowcases, and Clark turns over onto his side, spitting the water out, and yes, there's that medicinal edge. Shifting his head on top of the wet spot, he lets his eyes fall closed, hating that he can't see Lex, has to just lay here while Lex sits beside him, and he can feel the sharp gaze, studying him like he never expects to see him again.
Or Clark could be projecting.
"I love you." A brush of a hand across his hair, and the bed shifts. And for a second, Clark thinks he'll say something. I know what you're doing, even though he doesn't. Don't go. Tell me. Let me help. And maybe, you fucking controlling bastard, you *poisoned* me? But this is Lex, and Clark bites down into his lip as he listens to Lex walk away. Every step hurts, feels like it's echoing, which would be logical, since his head's still pounding and he has to--has to *think*. There are a thousand questions and only Cassius to answer them, and Clark has no idea how he's going to get answers.
When the door closes, Clark rolls off the pillow, staring up at the ceiling, trying to breathe. Cramps can fuck themselves, and so can the headache. Somewhere out of this room, Lex is going to the Arctic and it wasn't a meteor shower after all. At least, that's not the thing that's been consuming Lex for two years.
God, he needs Lois, aspirin, and just for the next six hours, his super-self back in action. Something, because this should be obvious, he knows it, but every time he settles, everything flakes again. Rolling on his side, Clark draws up his knees, breathing out slowly.
-"*Your origins always interested me, Clark. So don't be surprised when on the same basic trajectory, I noticed that something was coming at us.*"--
"Right," Clark whispers, then bites his tongue. Well, fuck it. Maybe Cassius will think he talks in his sleep. Saying it seems to help. "Right on the same trajectory, so Kryptonite. Or--"
Kryptonians. The other great export of the exploding planet, just as dangerous, slightly more sentient, and Lex Luthor has lost his *mind*.
"Fuck." He has to get up. Has to--find his pants. Right. He'll *crawl* north and terrify whoever the hell it is with his remarkable ability at aimed projectile vomiting. Those shoes had been scared to death of him. "This can't be happening."
"Well, it is." The voice from the door snaps Clark's head around, and Cassius blue eyes fix on him. Clark thinks about reaching out and dumping the rest of the water, but Cassius probably has more. "I see you're awake. Lex wasn't paying attention."
Well, Clark hadn't been either, and that's going to change. Pushing himself up on his elbows, he ignores the rush of vertigo, the queasy lurch of his stomach. "You let him go."
Something flashes in the blue eyes that makes Clark almost wince, but the image of Lex doing whatever stupid thing he's gotten into his head cancels it out.
"Lex had his mind made up."
"You could have stopped him."
Cassius cocks his head, snorting softly. "You ever do it when you're not Superman?" Crossing the room, Cassius gives the water glass a thoughtful look. "You know, he must have been out of it. He should have noticed if you didn't drink."
"I think he was too busy contemplating whatever martyrdom he's planning," Clark snaps out, regretting it almost immediately by the way Cassius' eyes fix on him. "I've got to stop him."
Cassius gives him a once over that reminds him of the state of his body right now. "Right."
"Call the Justice League in. Give me a phone and I'll do it. Whatever's going on--"
"There isn't time."
"There's hours!" At least, Clark thinks there are. Did he fall asleep again?
"Let me put this another way. If they see more than one human up there, they'll destroy from space." Cassius sighs, sitting down on the edge of the bed like he has no idea what he's doing. "I've thought about this, too, you know. So has he"
"Until two weeks ago, I was Superman," Clark says slowly. "If---if this--*who* is it? What are they?"
Cassius gives him a sardonic smile. "You haven't figured it out yet?"
Clark had been kind of hoping he was wrong. "Kryptonians."
"Bingo." Leaning back into the post, Cassius' eyes go distant. "Three of them, to be exact. Depressingly well-informed about earth and yellow suns, in case you're curious." Oh fuck. Clark lets his elbows collapse, staring up at the ceiling. "For obvious reasons, Lex wasn't too hot to inform you at first."
Clark's mouth goes dry. Every fight they'd ever had, public and private, flashes through his head. "He thought I'd--help them?"
"I think he thought you'd fight them and die. Three on one aren't good odds."
Yes, that's Lex all right. "He was protecting me." Because taking out Superman was one of Lex's many hobbies, and damned if anyone, especially latecoming alien invaders, were going to take that away from him.
Cassius makes a sound that's very close to a laugh. Clark wonders if Cassius understands. "In his Lex way, yes. There are---were--contingency plans to keep Superman out of this, you understand. The government had its own reasons--wondering if you'd help your kind--but he got what he wanted out of it. Then you neatly removed yourself from the equation altogether. I was hoping--" Cassius stops, and Clark forces himself back on the pillow, propped up just enough to see the man's face and not piss off his stomach any more. Exhaustion and frustration are written into every line, and Clark feels a sudden start of something very, very close to hope.
"Why--" Clark stops, taking a breath. Go about this carefully, categorically. He's a reporter, used to getting and organizing information. "What deal did Lex make?"
"Oh, that." Cassius waves a hand. "The Kryptonians wanted to get rid of the competition, you understand."
"Superman." This is why Clark will never be any good at being a bad guy, even if he wanted to try. He just doesn't think that way. "Okay."
"Right. So Lex promised them Superman, tied up with a bow, in the Fortress. In return, Lex--"
"All the kingdoms of the earth?" Clark wishes he could have seen this conversation happen.
"Just one. The only one Lex wants, really." With another sigh, Cassius closes his eyes. "Like I said, they've been paying attention. Enough to know about the eternal Superman and Lex Luthor struggle, not to mention Lex isn't exactly subtle about his ambitions if you read between the lines." Clark can't help but grin at that. "So. They offered."
"Yes. And you're a smart boy. You figure the rest out."
Clark takes a breath. Miraculously, talking does make things clearer. At least, his headache isn't pushing the thoughts out of alignment when they're already verbalized.
"He's setting them up."
"In the Fortress, yes."
Clark nods slowly, wincing at the ache that jumps at every movement. Don't do that again, Clark, not if you want to get through this. "Why didn't the Fortress figure out what was coming?"
"That, you'd have to ask our future Kryptonian overlords," Cassius answers dryly.
"And did they mention how they survived the explosion?" The Fortress had been pretty clear on the entire death of his entire species thing.
Cassius smiles, eyes still closed. "Did the Fortress ever mention to you that Kryptonians didn't always keep their most dangerous criminals on the planet?"
No, that sounds like disturbingly practical information that the Fortress had forgotten to bring up during all those history chats.
"Though I suppose it really couldn't anticipate them finding a ship and getting around to following you."
Clark takes a long breath, regretting it instantly with the sudden cramping in his stomach, sending a flare of pure pain up into his chest. Oh fuck. He has to--God, stay with this. Figure it out. Work out something. Lex has had two *years* and he's got hours. Maybe less.
"What's Lex planning?"
Cassius' smile widens. "It's really simple, actually. Get them into the Fortress and blow it."
Clark frowns. "That won't kill them. I've survived volcanic activity, and Lex knows--" just about as much as Clark does about his weaknesses. "He--what? Weaken them with Kryptonite? That will kill them outright."
"It's never been proven that it will kill you," Cassius says calmly, and Clark shivers. Close enough. "Weaken you, yes. Make you very ill, yes. Close to comatose, yes. But kill? We don't know. And Lex isn't testing the theory. Not when this is our only shot."
Yeah, three. That's--that's a *lot*, and Clark until this moment hadn't really appreciated the reality of that. Three of him. Three of him, without the morals, the Kents, a Lex, and a conscience.
Clark takes a more careful breath. "Why does he think he's going to die? If that's it--"
"He's staying inside until the Fortress goes. Like I said, Lex isn't taking any chances. He's going to be in there and watch them until the thing explodes. He wants to be absolutely sure they don't escape."
"He thinks he can stop them if they try to run." Right. That makes perfect sense. God. Clark shuts his eyes, waiting for the start of dizziness to pass. "Because obviously, it's too fucking easy just to walk out and blow it from a distance. This needs that personal, controlling touch."
It's so Lex.
"The Kryptonite would disable them. He doesn't need--" Clark lets out a breath, slow and easy. "Cassius. Does he want to die?"
There's a second where Cassius doesn’t answer, and Clark is flashing on every conversation, remembering Lex's voice only--God, a day ago? Blank and dreamy and low and--wistful.
"No. I think--" Cassius pauses. "I think he doesn't trust anything or anyone as much as he trusts himself. Not the Justice League, not the government, not you, not even me. Believe it or not, Clark, he hasn't been that forthcoming on what exactly he has in mind to anyone. I've been with him since his cancer treatment. It's not exactly rocket science to figure him out when--" Cassius cuts himself off, standing up. "You need rest."
"I need Lex."
That flicker again. And it's a bad idea to sit up, Clark knows it, but he does it anyway, ignoring every painful stretch of muscle, roil of nausea, arrows of pain that actually seem to be trying to cut him open, because he needs Cassius to see this, to get it.
"Clark, there's nothing we can do. He's had two years to put this together. You think you can figure out something better?"
In only a few hours? Clark grins back, surprised at the hardness in it. Lois will be here very soon. "Try me."