Clark thinks that snow is the best stuff in the world. Mountainous piles of it, thick and soft and extraordinarily cushioning when you need something to break your fall.
"Clark. Clark." It's Lois, somewhere--above him? Nearby? Doesn't matter. He can feel Lex under one hand, possibly because he's clinging, and Lex is saying--some really, really nasty things. "Come on. You've got to get up."
"…fucking moronic, idiotic alien hybrid of a…"
His hearing's going in and out. Clark's okay with that. He's not sure he wants to hear where Lex is going with this little diatribe.
"Clark, it's--look, just a little farther…."
"I swear to God, Clark, if I didn't feel like shit I'd kill you for this."
Clark grins and tries to pry his eyes open. "You wish." Someone's behind him, sitting him up, and Clark tilts his head enough to look back. "Hey, Lois."
"Hey yourself." Tight line of her mouth and there's blood splashed across her chin, over the shoulder of her parka. Not hers. "You do know we're right outside the door, right? Maybe a little farther--"
"Where's Bruce?" The wind and dark make it hard to see.
"Hell if I know. Come on, Clark. Just a little farther. You know, maybe not quite at ground zero in case Bruce blows this up before getting us?"
Clark nods slowly, trying to put the words together. "Yeah. That's--is the comm working?"
The look on Lois' face is completely wonderful--shock and anger at herself, and probably a little pissed at him for remembering before she did. Reaching up, she touches her ear, trying to see if there's a signal. As she turns away, still bracing him up, Clark looks over at Lex.
He--doesn't look happy.
"Sorry I messed up your funeral," Clark says, and Lex winces, eyes opening brilliant and oh so pissed.
"I don't believe you did this."
Lex sounds so much like every other time Clark's destroyed his plans or his toys. Almost--surreally normal. Clark snickers and tightens numb fingers. Hypothermia could be an issue real soon now.
"Habit," Clark says, trying to make his eyes stay open. "I--"
"I had it under control." The words are forced out between clenched teeth. "You *shot* me."
"You said you'd heal!" The strangest urge to giggle wells up, and Clark tamps it down. God, he could just sleep here, right in the soft snow. It'd be wonderful. "Oh damn, Lex, could have been so much easier if you--"
"Bruce is coming. Clark?"
"--if you just had let me help." Clark closes his eyes again, vaguely aware of the hands on his face, even more aware of Lex pulling away, and the low, pissed sound of someone who's been shot and not enjoying it at *all*. Like Lex has room to complain. He's *alive*. Which really, wasn't that the point?
"Shit, Clark, come *on*. You made it this far. Sit up. Come on. I can't carry you. I don't *want* to carry you. You weigh a ton. What the hell have you been eating, rocks?"
He's--not giggling. It's just wrong. Letting go of Lex, Clark tries to pull his head together. "I'm--just tired. Sick. I want to be in bed."
"You *should* be in bed." That's Lex again. Closer. "I can't believe you let him pull this." Possibly directed at Lois. Or at God. Lex is weird like that.
"Me? Oh right, this great plan of yours was so clever--" Lois then.
"It would have fucking *worked* if you two hadn't--"
"--you know, what with being a hostage and almost getting yourself *killed*? Please."
"I *had* it under control!"
"Timer or personal?" They both shut up instantly, and Clark slits his eyes open. Lex is sitting up on his good arm, and Clark sees an efficient, rough bandage around his shoulder. Nice.
"Was it on a timer or were you doing it yourself?" Lex hesitates, and Clark grins. Lex is all about control. "You were pulling the switch yourself."
Lex looks at him like he's completely lost his mind. Maybe he has. He's tired and his head hurts and the snow feels good, and if Lex would just stop talking him, he'd be so happy to fall asleep right here. There's a slow line of darkness falling over his vision, blocking his view of the stars--hypothermia or just his bad eyesight? Oh, wait.
"Bruce!" Lois pulls herself up from behind him. "Cassius! Get the hell *down* here! They're both--"
"Why does it matter?" Lex asks, low and careful, like he's navigating quicksand with words alone. Clark shakes his head, weak arms collapsing, dropping him back in the snow. He should be cold. Very, very cold. It's snow, this is the Arctic, and the uniform has never been what he would call thermal exactly. A sharp slap brings his eyes open, and Lex sounds like he's talking through his teeth. "Oh hell no, Kent, stay conscious. No way in *hell* you're getting out of this that easily."
"…over here. *Idiots*. Looks like hypothermia…."
Strong hands are under his arms, lifting him effortlessly, and Clark shakes his head a little, trying to get away. "I'm--just tired."
"Yes, and Lex is just muttering about a scratch," Bruce mutters too close to his ear. "Come on, Superman. After all this, you--"
"One kilometer," Clark hears Lex say. "Only one of them is dead."
Bruce hesitates, then lifts Clark entirely from the ground, like he doesn't weigh anything at all. God, how embarrassing. Totally, totally embarrassing. "You're sure?"
"I designed and built them, what the fuck do you think? One kilometer, I'll blow it, but fucking *move* already. Jesus, you're supposed to be *superheroes*?"
Clark's vaguely aware of a blast of almost painful heat, being lowered onto something warm and soft. There's yelling all around him.
"…have that kind of range?"
"Five with this remote. Emergency reasons. Come *on*."
The low thrum of the engine's comforting, but the people who keep moving him are *not*, jerking him from the warmth and into--oh God, this hurts. Stomach and head and every limb, and how, how, *how*, did he manage to walk around like this? Lifting a hand, Clark hisses, aware he's being wrapped up in something thick and heavy, lifted up so a bottle is held to his mouth.
"Warm fluids will help." Lois, softer than he's ever heard her. "Lex just promised me an exclusive interview if I leave him alone until we get back, so you got me to yourself, Smallville. Come on. Drink up."
He can keep his mouth closed and turn his head like a three year old who doesn't want to take his medicine, but fighting her off is impossible, and she's that kind of relentless like tides and Lex's temper tantrums. With a sigh, Clark opens his mouth, surprised at the warmth, letting it trickle inside and heating something inside that almost hurts.
"How--" His voice sounds funny. Strange and thick. Trying to wet his lips with his tongue, he comes away with the sharp taste of blood. "Lex--"
"Whining up front and getting ready to set off the explosives. You with me here?"
Clark nods, not even trying to open his eyes. "Cassius, is he--"
An almost painfully hot hand rests on his forehead, and Cassius makes a low sound like a chuckle. Or something. "He'll be fine, Ms Lane. Just catching up with him. A week in bed and he'll be fine."
Just a week? Clark wants a *month* at least.
"…cot over here."
"No." That sounded more like himself. With a huge effort, Clark pries his eyes open, just in time for a burn of brilliance, almost filling his sight. Faintly green, he thinks, hearing Lois mutter, one elegant hand coming up to cover her eyes, but Clark doesn't look away. "No."
The last of his homeworld goes up in a flash so bright that Clark thinks it can be seen from space, and he may see it for the rest of his life every time he closes his eyes.. It's still superimposed over everything after the slow fade, even the dark figure that appears from the cockpit, taking four steps toward him before hitting the deck with both knees. Clark hears Cassius curse, moving by Clark too fast to follow, and a low response that's probably offensive, because Lex is always in a bad mood after he's injured.
"Besides being poisoned?" Cassius sounds--amused. Relieved. A little hysterical. Clark knows the feeling. "He'll be fine. Just needs rest and fluids."
"You disobeyed orders."
Like at this late date, that actually means anything. Clark can't help laughing and regrets it when two very blue eyes fasten on him, and right, it's Superman and Lex Luthor the continuing adventures all over again, except it's not. Keeping his grin, Clark forces his eyes to focus, and Lex pushes himself off the floor, taking five more steps before dropping to a painful-looking crouch beside him. Clark can see fresh blood seeping through the bandages, and Lex keeps one hand low on his ribs, like they're injured.
Lex looks like there's a lot of things he could say here but can't quite find the right one. He's looked at Superman like that a lot. Explains the long periods of time they'd spent yelling profanity at each other over the years.
"Next time," Clark murmurs, and Lex opens his mouth, then shuts it tight. "Next time, Lex--"
"You're going to be the sick one." Sucking in a breath, Clark makes the effort, reaching out and touching Lex's knee. Living flesh under his hand, separated by a thin barrier of wool. It's--he's alive. It worked. Pretty much by accident, but it *worked*. Which, come to think of it, is how it usually happens. Grinning, Clark shuts his eyes.
"Why didn't--" Clark sucks in a breath. "You--were in there. With us. You could have--could have blown it at any time. Why didn't you?"
"That would have been utterly pointless." Lex's voice is low and rough and utterly exasperated, like Clark should *know* or something.
"Why?" Lexian psychology. A lifetime of study won't ever make this make any sense. "They--they almost got away."
"Clark." The hand on his face is warm, hard palm, demanding his focus, his attention, and Clark opens his eyes again, just enough to see Lex watching him. There's a hesitation, brief but strangely endless, and Clark almost thinks he knows what Lex is going to say. But he doesn't, because Lex isn't predictable like that. "Clark. Every face I saw was yours." A gentle, almost tender stroke, then Lex pulls away. "Get some rest. If you'll excuse me, I’m going to go and kill Cassius."
The first thing Clark sees when he opens his eyes is Cassius, holding a thermometer.
"There." Cassius is staring at the read-out, a little frown of concentration on his face. Clark blinks, trying to get oriented, but all that's registering is *warm* and *soft* and *no headache*, all big plus signs as far as Clark's concerned. "Ah, you're awake."
"Yeah." Lifting a heavy but entirely unpainful hand, Clark touches his forehead. "I--when did we get back?"
"Last night." Cassius sounds pleased. "You really fought the sedative, too."
The *water* Lois gave him. What is with these people and their damn spiking of his beverages? Almost growling, Clark tries to sit up and fails. Too tired. But no nausea, and that's so good he actually sighs. "Don't try to move too much yet. It'll be a little while before you get your strength back. Just relax."
Clark closes his eyes briefly, opening them again. "Penthouse?" Of course. "How's Lex? And Lois--"
"Lex is fine. I checked his shoulder. Clean shot. The Kryptonite might complicate his healing a little, it's already closing up nicely. Lois is fine--she's sleeping it off down the hall. Something about getting an interview and she's not leaving until Lex talks."
Poor Lex. Clark grins, letting Cassius do whatever arcane practices doctors do on sick people, but he gives the glass of water Cassius holds up a suspicious look. "Don't drug me."
"Just electrolyte replacement, I promise." Clark's not sure he believes him, but his mouth's dry and gummy. Taking the glass carefully, Clark takes a small drink. He wouldn't recognize any taste at this point, but he at least has to give the impression he can. "Doris will bring you something to eat in a minute. Just fluids for now. Any dizziness, nausea, unexplained weakness--"
Clark fixes his eyes on Cassius. "How about, poisoned and almost shot, nearly frozen to death, and--" Cassius grins, smile fading a little as he rubs his forehead. "Are you okay?" Right, unshielded penthouse. Not good. "You--"
"One of the guest suites is lined in lead." Oh. "I'll be fine." With a pat of Clark's hand, the doctor stands up.
The hesitation's so brief that Clark thinks he might have imagined it. "Trying to drink the destruction of his plan away." The smile that follows is mischievous. "A post-Superman-fucks-up-my-life ritual of sorts."
That sounds less than really encouraging. Clark watches Cassius walk out, humming something vaguely tuneless under his breath, then pushes the blankets aside. They feel too heavy and his body's not at all sure that this plan's a good idea, but Clark ignores it in favor of getting his feet to the floor, scrunching his toes in the soft weave of the rug before bracing both hands on the mattress.
Okay. He walked while sick. He fought while sick. He saved the *planet* while sick, and from Kryptonians at that. He can go find Lex. And back then, he'd had a headache *and* a time crunch involved.
Grabbing for support on the nightstand, Clark tries an experimental step and watches in surprise as his knees give out, dropping him on the floor like a sack of potatoes. It's a comfortable rug. But he still doesn't want to be on it.
Hmm. Could be that world-saving and time limits had been more of an incentive than he'd thought.
"Oh Jesus, what the *hell* are you doing? Get *back* in that bed immediately!"
Clark looks up to see Lex, brandy glass in hand, looking at him with utter annoyance.
"Hey." Bed, behind him. Very far away. And the rug's comfortable. "How are you feeling?"
Even from here, Clark can see the slight bulk of the bandage beneath Lex's sweater, the slight stiffness when he puts down his glass, crossing the room like he's planning a conquest of it when he has time.
"Fine. Get. Back. In. Bed." A hard hand is on his arm, pulling him up with annoying effortlessness, depositing him on the mattress, blankets tossed over him like ropes to tie him down. The glare's almost intimidating. Almost. "Don't you think you've wandered around enough? You're ill."
"You poisoned me."
"You shot me."
Clark really doesn't think that equals out, but God, this is comfortable. Warm and soft and wonderful, and he's never leaving bed again. Hadn't Lex mentioned something about chains? That would be--oh, so nice.
"In his penthouse, doubtless explaining to the Justice League why exactly they weren't informed of the latest apocalypse." Nudging Clark over with one hip, Lex sits down on the edge of the bed, reaching so one wrist is pressed to Clark's forehead. "Fever's down."
"I can't believe you poisoned me."
"You're still upset about that?" Lex sounds amused now. Oh, fuck you, Lex. "It wasn't serious--"
"You have *no* idea what it's like to negotiate when you think you may start throwing up on your captor any minute." He's got to talk to Cassius about that virus. Soon.
Lex sighs, rubbing the bridge of his nose, eyes closing. Reaching out, Clark just manages to brush his fingers against Lex's elbow. "What did they do to you?"
"Nothing serious. A few ribs, a crack in my L3 vertebra." Lex shrugs off life-threatening injuries with a little sigh, shaking his head. "Get some rest." An impersonal pat of his hand, expertly shifting it to Clark's thigh, before Lex levers himself to his feet. "I--"
"Stay." It comes out before Clark can really think about it, and he wishes it back almost instantly. Something's changed. Something that's making Clark's palms itch and his head start to hurt. "Lex--"
Obviously, Lex is thinking about something, though God alone knows what it is. Scooting over, Clark gives him a hopeful look. It's gotten him interviews with supermodels and huge discounts from salesgirls over the years. "You need rest, Lex."
"Rest." The dubious edge makes Clark grind his teeth. He's really going to need to see a dentist soon.
"Severe injury, exposure to cold, mental trauma--"
Clark's sure he didn't imagine the twitch at the corner of Lex's mouth. "Trauma."
Clark pulls back the blanket. "Okay, my trauma." Pausing, Clark searches unreadable eyes. "I'm cold."
Lex's hesitation lasts just about as long as it takes to glance back at the brandy glass on the dresser, then he kicks off his shoes.
Lex. Who's warm and close and Clark's careful of his shoulder when he touches him, feeling the instant tension before warm relaxation.
"You're sulking, aren't you?" Clark murmurs, draping one arm across Lex's chest. Lex makes an unclassifiable sound, like maybe he's choking, and Clark grins and digs his fingers in at the half-hearted attempt to pull away. "I'm sorry Superman spoiled your plans for world salvation."
"You know, I thought we wouldn't have this problem again," Lex answers in resignation. "I burned the suit, by the way."
Clark frowns. "It doesn't burn."
When Lex turns his head, the grin he gets is very, very sharp. "You'd be very surprised what I can do with enough incentive." The barest press of fingers against his temples, and Clark willingly lets himself be led closer, forehead pressed to warm wool. "Go to sleep."
"The Fortress--" He really should have thought of that earlier. Lex chuckles softly, fingers threading soothingly through his hair.
"Dust and snow. My team's out there already, cleaning up the site. Sleep."
"Stay." He's tired and sick and Lex feels good. Clark digs his fingers into the sweater, pulling it and the shirt underneath up to slide his fingers against warm skin. Holding on.
Lex sighs softly, warm breath ruffling Clark's hair. "Trust me, Clark. I'm not going anywhere."