Clark thinks Cassius is just humoring him when he brings his jeans from somewhere in the closet. Clark tries to remember when he brought them over or even if he *did*, but again, the idea of Mercy wandering through his closet is just a little too disturbing to linger over too long. A long sleeve t-shirt is unearthed, a little small, but Clark's going to have to work with that.
It's like trying to move wrapped in honey. Cassius watches him struggle with the jeans, and if Clark had had the energy to spare, he probably would have been yelling. Midnight. Every tick of the alarm clock beside the bed is like counting off the remaining seconds of Lex's life.
And *why*? Of all the ways Lex could go about this, he chooses this way. Superman had always been willing to die to save others, but he'd also liked the idea of surviving, too. Lex is like--like someone who doesn't have anything to lose, anything to return to, like he doesn't even *care* if he--
"Fuck that," Clark murmurs to himself, and flushes when Cassius looks at him. "You know the savior thing? If he's trying it out for a fit, did he ever notice that we really *don't* try to get ourselves killed during? I mean--two *years*. There had to have been another way."
Cassius, leaning back in a chair by the door, shrugs. "If you hadn't put off meeting with me, this would have been a hell of a lot easier."
Well, yes, there's that. "If I'd known--is this what you wanted to tell me?"
Cassius pinches the bridge of his nose lightly, eyes closing. He looks like a man who hasn't seen a bed for several days, all too-wide eyes and too-sharp movements. Long fingers push briefly against too-thin temples before Cassius' eyes go distant and bleak.
"The penthouse isn't lined with lead," Cassius says softly, blinking rapidly before snapping back. "Want to know how many people in this building have under five years to live?"
Shuddering, Clark tries to work the button on his jeans. His fingers feel thick and clumsy, refusing to hold the button, and Clark closes his eyes to concentrate better. There. Got it. Opening his eyes, Clark looks at Cassius, thin and too-pale and Jesus. No lead.
"Kryptonite." Keep him talking, keep him distracted. "His entire store?"
"Most of it. He designed a kind of bomb--such a useful background in biochem engineering," Cassius says a little sharply. "He sold the original prototypes--non-Kryptonite based, of course--to see their range in a non-laboratory setting."
All those little events Lex had referred to in their shared history. Clark shakes his head. Lex loves mind games even if he's the only one that knows they're being played. "China, arms trading. That idiotic black market ring that didn't make any sense when we found out about it." Yeah, even Bruce had been surprised at the information. "He wasn't making any money. Bruce thought--" Bruce had thought at the time there was more to it. "He was practically giving them away."
"Practically, but not quite. He needed to find out how big an area they were going to contaminate. The ones he sold were gas based, so not exactly the best tests available, but computer simulations using the data were better than purely theoretical."
"If it's any consolation, the ones sold weren't exactly lethal. More--a warning shot to whatever dissenters there were out there." Cassius' smile twists. "It was used for the spread of democracy in autocratic countries--"
Clark doesn't need to know this, really. "I remember the body count." It's kind of disturbing that he and Lex were almost on the same side. The people Lex sold his bombs to were also the ones Clark had been saving pretty regularly from the government.
"So does he."
Gritting his teeth together, Clark sits up, reaching for the shirt. This might be complex. His arms just don't want to stay under control. Shit.
"And he found out the range?"
"Enough to decide it would have to be the Fortress for this. No where else far enough away from human habitation and the ground contamination's going to be amazing. Worse than Smallville, if the computer's right."
Oh fuck. What animals live up there anyway? Clark pushes it out of his head. No time right now.
"You never asked about the gold Kryptonite."
Clark freezes with his head consumed in cashmere and one arm bent awkwardly over his head. Really uncomfortable, not a little annoying, and totally ridiculous. Grimacing, he jerks it down over his face, catching Cassius' eye.
"What about it?"
Cassius looks--indecently gleeful. Like Lois when she comes across a really great story. Oh damn. What *now*?
"You didn't ask why Lex didn't think to use that." Cassius gets jerkily to his feet, palms wiping straight lines across both thighs.
"I--" Thought that would be obvious. "I didn't even know it existed until I found it. Lex didn't know until I had already--"
No, that's not right. Lex knew before. Right, he'd had Clark watched, Clark had known that for *years*, but-- Clark watches Cassius cross the room, jerking the curtains back with one shaky hand. It's past sundown, dull orange and bleak and brilliant, and they're running out of time. Jesus, please, let Lois have gotten through to Bruce. Let her be on her way here. Let Lex have not anticipated something.
"Okay, I'm asking." Cassius is staring out like he's watching the end of the world, and Clark tries to curb his instinctive sympathy. He's feeling too much, from the people all around him, and why the fuck hadn't Lex ever thought of coating his private dwelling with lead? And does Clark really care about the answer to that? "Cassius!"
Even to himself, his voice sounds too sharp, but the man snaps back into the room and finds Clark on the bed. Oh damn. He's going to be falling apart any minute now. Clark knows the signs of shock when he sees him. How the hell had he functioned on his own before Lex and lead?
"Right." Letting the curtains fall, Cassius paces the length of the room. A slightly manic smile is turning up one corner of his mouth. "Yes, gold kryptonite. Not red or green, completely different. You know the difference?"
"No." Besides the obvious, he means? Fuck. Worry makes getting socks on easier, even with clumsy hands and sucky hand-eye coordination. It's like being sixteen all over again. At least he won't accidentally tear the sock like paper when he starts shaking. "I mean, not really, besides what it does."
"Yes, what it does. Interesting stuff, your Kryptonite. With the right radiation levels, the right brain patterns, and just that right moment, does amazing things, doesn't it?" The edge of bitterness makes Clark wince, but he's used to the automatic stab of guilt these days. It never gets easier. Clark wonders if it ever will. "A little sunlight, a little catalyst, humans get anything they want."
"Sort of." Clark wishes he could have seen Lex's lab results, what he'd found out over the years. Something. Anything.
"Anything," Cassius murmurs. "Freedom from illness, touch of death, power--but you knew that, didn't you, Clark?"
"Yes." Bitterly, thanks. Shoes on the floor, where he left them last night. Too far to reach, and fuck if Clark will crawl if he can help it. Grabbing the nightstand, Clark levers himself to his feet, working through dizziness and nausea. Five steps, sit down on the rug. It's comfortable. He and Lex had sex on it once. This won't be nearly as much fun.
"So you have to ask yourself, why not use that? Why not go the non-lethal way?"
"Because there isn't enough of it?" Clark answers sharply. The rock he'd found had been tiny, and the Fortress hadn't been sure it'd work at all. Only one shot, just enough for one alien to do what he had to, and-- "Hold on."
Cassius spins on his heel--fast, sharp, almost frightening, and Clark watches the man loom over him like some huge spectre of death and destruction. The only link Clark's got to Lex is slowly falling to pieces, and God, Lois, get here. Get here. Get here *now*.
"What--what do you know about it?"
"That it's not natural." Cassius grins, revealing too many teeth and what could be the beginning of something like insanity. "You know how many tests we ran before Lex could figure out what it did?"
Oh Jesus *Christ*. Is there *any* part of his life that Lex hasn't tried to rearrange? Clark shoves on a shoe, clumsily knotting the laces into some kind of order, then grabs for the second one. "You--you made it?"
Cassius laughs. "No. You did."
The shoe falls from nerveless fingers. "What?"
Rocking back on his heels, Cassius shakes his head. "Keep up, Clark. Years of exposure, and Lex has almost every piece you've ever been exposed to. And it gives you whatever you want. Guess what happens when you want something so badly you'd die for it."
Clark shoves the shoe on, trying to tune out the voice in his head. Lex's ring, Lex's toys, Lex's store that Superman has spent a lot of time around in one form or another. "That--" Makes so much sense. "Lex found it."
"He--he and Rhinestadt couldn't figure it out, what to do with it. There wasn't much, you understand, and the radiation signal was analyzed for almost a year. Then it clicks--I don't know how, don't ask. And Rhinestadt says--"
"Says we don't need green Kryptonite anymore," Clark whispers, shoe laces forgotten in one hand. "Because this will take care of it."
"I always thought you were brighter than you let on." Cassius steps back, almost falling into the chair. Even from here, Clark can see the sweat breaking out across the man's forehead. "Just enough for one try. Filter enough yellow light through, just like kryptonite, get the right person, say a good isolation chamber--"
"And he's got the answer to the end of the world."
But that would be far too easy, Clark thinks, staring down at his shoes. Lex gets his miracle and-- "But he gave it to me."
Clark doesn't need to see Cassius nod.
"That fucking *moron*." Anger gets Clark to his feet, and wow, emotional overload's really great for tuning out physical pain. "He *had* an answer! He--he could have--" Could have just used that. Instead, no, that'd be too easy for Lex, and why the fuck do it the easy and quick way when you can turn it insanely complex. "But he gives it to me." Clark gets what he wanted most and Lex gets Superman out of the way. Clever, clever Lex.
To think he'd never even thought how convenient this all was. How everything just fell into place like it'd been planned, because Lex is just that fucking good at strategy. Fucking *hell*. "Is there any part of my life he didn't control? Tell me he wasn't planning on marrying me off to Lois now that he's playing martyr?"
Fuck him. Fuck Cassius, too, though Clark feels kind of guilty about that part, but hey, he's got *reason*. Lex wouldn't ever tell Superman the truth, so instead, insanely complex plots in plots, and only Lex could have pulled this off and almost gotten away with it.
Almost being the operative word.
Sucking in a breath, Clark goes back to the bed, allowing himself the luxury of sitting down. "Is it reversible?"
Cassius murmurs something, but Clark's not sure the man's still in the room at all. "Cassius, is it reversible?" Strange, how it doesn’t seen like a sacrifice at all.
When Cassius looks up, he almost seems sad. "I don't know. And even if I did, you have the only piece in existence."
No, the Fortress has the only piece in existence. It hadn't been very active--in fact, the Fortress hadn't been entirely sure the process would work the way its projections were showing, but-- "Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck him. I--" Clark looks at Cassius. "What happened to him? What--what changed?"
Because love or not, Clark knows Lex. Something happened. "Did he ever mention sheep herding in Tibet?"
Cassius grins a little, shaking his head. "Clark, those are questions only Lex knew the answer to."
"I'll be getting them from him, then." Lois. Need Lois, need Bruce, need the entire Justice League, but God…. Think. If Bruce goes straight up there--
"Fuck." Oh damn. Sliding over, Clark grabs for the phone, dialing Lois' number by memory.
The first ring it's picked up. "Smallville."
Clark breathes out. "Tell me where you are." Laying back on the bed, Clark indulges his body for a few long minutes.
"According to Mr. Wayne, less than an hour outside Metropolis airport. Don't ask. Looks like Luthor and Kent aren't the only one with secrets."
She's going to kick his ass when all this is over. Fuck. Rubbing his temples, Clark tries to think.
"Tell him I'll meet you at Lex's private airfield. And he can't leave, not until I talk to him."
"I'll put him on--"
Oh hell no. Clark's never up to conversation with Bruce Wayne. Just--no. "No time. I'm leaving now. Lois, don't let him leave Metropolis. I don't care what it takes. I--I think I know what to do, but if he goes up there alone--"
"Right. Go for two. Lex made a deal. What would happen if they figure out someone besides Lex is up there?"
Lois blows out a short breath. "I'll take care of it. Anything else?"
Clark smiles grimly. "Tell me again Superman is just a state of mind."
The quiet's thoughtful. "Tell me you never stopped believing it. We'll see you there." She clicks off--Clark doesn't envy either of them the conversation about to take place, but Lois will win. She always does. Sitting up, Clark looks at Cassius.
"Can you drive?"
The man starts, like he forgot Clark was there at all. Okay. You can do this, Kent. Up, one two three.
Good. Great. "Get--get some keys. You know where he keeps them. We don't have much time left."
Cassius eyes narrow, and Clark finds his feet.
"What do you think you're going to do, exactly?" Cassius asks, and Clark almost rolls his eyes.
"That depends on how fucking fast you get those keys and how well you drive standard. I'm getting my phone. I'll meet you by the door." Turning stiffly, Clark finds it in him to walk--back straight, head up, some long-ago P.E. teacher's voice telling him how authority is more than just the person in the skin. And maybe Cassius believes him, or hell, maybe he's just bored, because Clark hears the door open behind him. Going to the closet, Clark holds onto the doorframe and lowers himself down, deliberately not breathing as he retrieves his coat from among the ruined shoes.
Not--pleasant. This is nothing, Clark. Remember the mud slide in Bulgaria. Or--something that isn't regurgitated hamburger and fruit. The pocket where the phone is located is clean enough, and Clark pulls it out. Pushing it into his pocket, he lets the dizziness take over for a few moments, then grabs the doorframe again.
On his feet. Got it. The room looks impossibly huge, and God, it's going to be an epic journey to the front door, but hey. This is what superheroes do. They go great distances and save people. But he's challenging any one of the Justice League to try it when they feel like their stomach's trying to crawl out of their mouth. Slowly.
Oddly, Cassius is just outside the bedroom door, and Clark almost--almost yells, but the sparkle of the keys and a square piece of plastic in Cassius' hand stops the words, and Clark really didn't have the energy to do that anyway. A strong shoulder braces itself under his arm, and Clark wonders a little as he settles his arm across Cassius. Each step's slow, but so much easier.
"You change your mind?" Clark asks as they slowly make their way down the hall. The front door is looking possible, even likely. Only a few hundred floors and a garage to go. Lex just had to live at the top of his building. Couldn't go for something closer to the ground.
"More or less. These are the keys and access card to the airfield. I called down. A car's waiting for us out front."
Oh. That was better than Clark's plan. And really obvious, too. Taking a deep breath, Clark grits his teeth, ignores his jaw, and wonders if dental work is in his future.
It--doesn't get any easier. Clark's legs want to let go and his head's about to fall off, and Christ, humanity has some seriously sucky points. How do people *handle* feeling like this? Right, with bed and juice and solicitous spouses or parents, they don't have to run after their delusional lovers. The idea of living with Lex has a growing charm--he can be absolutely sure he never goes through this again. Next time, Lex's ass will be as pinned to the bed as Clark's wants to be, and there will be liquids in bed being served to him involved. And maybe a massage or three.
"What--did he give me?"
"Nothing serious." Cassius says, figuring out what Clark meant as the elevator starts moving. "You'll be fine in a day or two."
"I need to be fine now, thanks." Clark watches the little elevator lights blur into one long streak. Fuck fuck fuck. He forgot his glasses. "Can't you give me anything?"
"B-complex and some Vitamin E, but it won't really help that much." Cassius makes a hoarse sound, like someone just hit him in the gut. Clark doesn't want to know who he felt right now. "I'm never leaving my office again. Ever."
"Don't blame you." The last light flicks and the doors open smoothly. Lobby, not too many people. All of them stare, though. Clark really doesn't care. No reporters can get inside Lex's building. Outside's a different story.
That they're flanked with people in suits as soon as they step outside the door makes Clark pause, but Cassius just jerks him along, waiting while one of the suits opens the passenger side door, then inserts Clark in like a kid into a car seat.
"That bodyguard you didn't know about."
Huh. Clark watches the door close, putting them behind illegally-dark tinted windows while he struggles with his seatbelt, and Cassius slides in. He looks like he's just about ready to die, but at least he's not shaking anymore, which still makes him better than Clark is right now. "They're following us, aren't they?"
"Pretty much." Turning the ignition, Cassius gives the gear shift an interested look. "This should be interesting."
Oh fuck. "You can drive standard, right?"
The grin Cassius throws him is just on this side of insane. "Does it count if I've watched Lex a lot?"
Clark doesn't answer--doesn't have time to answer.
"Airfield?" Cassius says, pulling out into the street without bothering to check on traffic. They're going to die.
"My apartment first," Clark says, closing his eyes. "There's something I need to pick up."