Spoilers: roughly through season four canon, but not specific
Codes: Lex, Clark, Lois, AI, Clark/Lex, Clark/Lois, Lois/Lex, Pete/Lana, Clark/Lex/Lois, etc, futurefic, AU
Summary: Five ways the world didn't end for Lex Luthor.
Author Notes: Most of this is basically due to svmadelyn and issaro. When I stopped writing, they reminded me, and when I stopped caring, they sort of didn't, and when I tried to delete it, they talked me down. cjandre walked me through plot problems, issaro beta'ed every word and sometimes went over it twice.
You know, I always wanted to do another Five Things story.
He's not sure where he is.
The navigation system gave out six hours ago, the engine two. He's not sure of the time since his watch froze, eternally at eighteen to three, like some paperback horror novel on the discount shelf that didn't understand real horror always starts at midnight. Walking's not smart in the Arctic, but coming hadn't been either, and that hadn't stopped him.
He's so *awake*.
After five sleepless days and nights of an Arctic winter, he's never been this wired in his life. Something to do with the stimulants, perhaps; more with the way exhaustion and rage became a world all their own.
It's hours, or days, or just seconds when he sees it, for the first time and maybe the last time. It's what he expected and nothing he expected at all--Fortress or glorified igloo, pick a term, colored like the snow and about as friendly. But it lets him inside, and that's all he cares about.
The heavy metal doors open at a touch, a slow progression of light chasing itself down the hall like a path he follows as blindly as the instincts that led him north. He hates the cold stone, the way that it reminds him of the castle in dream-images, like the memory of memory. It's easier to follow than think, feeling the snow melting from his coat, the prickle-burn of slowly, slowly warming fingers and face.
Somewhere a thousand miles back is dynamite and nitroglycerine, left behind when the engine cut and instinct took over. Now, he's not sure that would have been the answer, even if he'd known the question.
God, he's so tired.
The main chamber comes to life with a slow, subliminal grind that Lex can feel in his bones.
"Lex Luthor." The voice is contralto female, richly toned, and it's almost as if she's standing in the room. It's indecent. Only Clark would want to humanize a computer like this. "State your purpose." If the AI were human, he'd say it was hostile. If it were human, they wouldn't be having this conversation, though. He's listing into the wall, head aching.
"Can't I just drop in for a visit?"
The silence stretches. It's waiting, and it can, because it's ageless. It's patient. And he's not, never has been, never grasped the reason why he should *have* to be. "I want to see him."
"You do not have access permissions here."
Computers are stupid. They follow instructions, bound by the parameters created by their programmers. A smart person can tell a computer the sky is green and it'll believe it, if you know the way to tell it. If all he wanted were databanks, he could do that, no problem. What he needs, though, is something only the AI can provide. "Does it matter?"
There's something surreal about arguing with a machine, even this one, but it knows him like it knows them all. His name didn't get him in here, but his DNA did and always will. Like calls to like. "A recording was released to the newswires two point five days ago--"
"Not that. I want what you saw."
"State your purpose."
Lex takes another step into the room, pausing as the door closes behind him. Light like something out of a near-death experience, but so cold, and how could Clark live here and think he could ever find anything close to peace? Another step, he's so close to the glow of the screen that he should be able to feel it like heat. "James Friedman. Eric Mahoney. Edward Michael Trew. Dr. Lizabeth Parkinson. Timothy Allen Davis. Josephina--"
"Current employees of LexCorp."
"There's nothing current about them." Lex stares at the screen, wondering why he's bothering. It's just-- "Lucas Dunleavy Luthor. Pete Ross. Senator. Lana Ross. His wife. Chloe Sullivan. Inquisitor reporter. Lois Lane. Planet reporter. Clark Kent. Planet reporter. Her husband." Lex takes a deep breath. "I want to see what you saw."
Another pause, and it works on drug-enhanced nerves like sandpaper, rubbing him raw from the inside out. This need to twitch and move and scream that's always burning just below the surface of his skin. They've called him crazy for so long that he can't remember when they weren't right.
"It would serve no purpose--"
Christ save him from machines with delusions of judgment. "It would for me. Why did you let me in?"
"You are incapable of threatening this facility or using it to threaten any other on the planet." There are far more interesting things now for that particular career choice, it doesn't say. It doesn't need to. "Why are you here?"
There are reasons on reasons, but the important things always stayed the same. Jesus, he's so tired of explaining, even if it's only to himself. "I need to know." It hurts to say it, God, it's been so *long* since he needed anyone for anything. He wonders what the computer hears in his voice.
The AI rumbles something, and Lex watches the lights with a kind of fascination, because he *remembers* lights the way he remembers so fucking little that's ever mattered. Just watching it, it looks like any machine in the world, mindless and silent, unable to offer answers to the questions Lex doesn't know how to ask.
"I need to see him."
Memory's a tricky thing. It twists and changes with time and experience, with what-should-be to what-could-have-been, until sometimes, he's not sure of the difference. He hated Clark for longer than he ever loved him, but he never forgot him.
He remembers this.
It had happened so fast--he remembers ducking beneath the rubble of the building, gun in his hand, like it was any kind of use against machines with dreams of conquest, like anything he did could be any kind of deterrent at all. He remembers stepping over Mercy's body and kneeling by Hope, as if he could save her, as if he could save anyone at all, even himself. Murmuring words into her ear that didn't mean shit, because they were all dead and this was just marking time.
He remembers putting the gun against her temple and giving her the peace he couldn't give himself. Remembers the screaming and the silence and the bodies he'd stepped over like litter.
And he remembers Clark.
Not Superman, caped and alien, blurred images that overlap from a thousand encounters, but Clark, like he'd been in Lex's never-reliable memory, suddenly this too-pretty man in a ridiculous outfit with serious, too-old eyes.
Clark, beside him, catching him when he fell, hand over the wound he hadn't known he had. It was way too much like Smallville, except Clark's fashion sense had taken a downturn. He'd have said it, too, if he could have found the breath to speak.
He hadn't, he couldn't, he didn't, and now, God, he wished he had.
He remembers Clark's hands and Clark's slow, sweet smile, and he remembers the way he couldn't believe that even Clark could be this naive, to think that he could do anything against this.
"You can't save everyone, Clark," Lex had said, and God, what the *fuck*? Like those were last words that meant anything, but he'd meant them, every one of them. Stop fucking trying, Clark, a million are dead and a billion more will die, just fucking *stop*. Get the fuck out of here.
Not that Lex had ever taken advice like that.
Clark had just smiled.
"You can't save everyone," he'd said, and Clark had just laid him down and touched his face, like they were kids in Smallville playing at grown-up manipulation, playing rivals that become enemies, playing at everything that they'd never wanted to be.
"But I can save you."
The recording of the thing that was brought to the Fortress doesn't look like anything Lex can recognize as human. As Clark.
Is that what you needed to see? The AI doesn't need to ask it for Lex to hear it, the thrum of the Fortress rocking him in his chair. If he didn't know better, he'd say it was angry. If he could think, he'd wonder if it even *could* be.
He can't. Lex doesn't answer.
He falls asleep, at some point. When he wakes up, the image is still there.
"Are you sure?" That he's dead, because he's *Superman*, for Christ's sake, and Lex had tried to kill him and never had. There was always comfort in that, a twisted kind, the man he could never give up, would never let go.
"Yes." For a machine, it sounds almost sad. "I verified his demise at twenty two and sixteen--"
"How the hell can anyone be sure?"
"His body ceased to absorb radiation," the machine answers slowly, like it's talking to an idiot child, not Lex Luthor, so fucking brilliant, Lex Fucking Luthor who could do anything and have everything and make anyone do whatever he wanted except this fucking machine didn't seem to know that. "Metabolic processes were absent. Brain scans showed no electrical activity after seventy-two hours of observation."
Lex breathes slowly. "What did you do with his body?"
"Cremated, as per his instructions."
Of course. Not leave his body to whatever hungry fascinations scientists would have with their not-quite-immortal alien. As if any scientists left had the time to care.
"I don't remember any of it." His voice seems to crack, though that's not right. "He didn't stop it, did he?"
The computer is silent for too long, and Lex's chest tightens. "It was badly damaged at the end, before it left. It will take time for it to reassemble itself, but no, it was not destroyed."
He knew that, somehow. Knew it like he knew his name, knew he breathed, and knew Clark had died and died for nothing.
"A fucking waste."
Like talking in a tomb. He wants to raze it down and salt the ground where it stood, do clichéd and dramatic and over the top things, but it seems such a waste of energy compared to sitting. Superman had to die, and if he was going to, it was going to be Lex who did it, Lex, who knew him better than anyone living and didn't know him at all. But Superman hadn't died in the middle of Virginia, in a forgettable field surrounded by the bodies of LexCorp's best and brightest. Superman hadn't, wouldn't have, thrown himself into a war he could never win. Superman was smarter than that, Lex knew it. He *knew* him.
He knew Superman, but it wasn't Superman who died in twisting, melting metal, slow and silent and staring into the sky he came from. Only Clark would have been that stupid. Only Clark would fucking *get up* and go to die like that.
Only Clark would have done that, and only Clark would have thought that Lex's life, anyone's life, was worth it.
"A fucking *waste*."
His hand aches, and Lex stares at bruising skin, the console, the edge that deflected him. It should hurt more.
"Yes." And with that, the computer seems done with him, screen going dark and silent. He doesn't move, though if ever an artificial intelligence could use body language to indicate he was to get his ass out, this one did, with dimming lights and a chill to the room as the temperature gauge fell.
He doesn't care.
"You couldn't teach him better than that?" And somewhere in his head, it seems like a logical question. "Christ, your people were what, suicidal? How the fuck can you have been an advanced civilization? How the fuck did you survive getting the fuck up in the morning?"
A few lights flutter lazily, like the slow blink of an eye. It's annoying as shit.
Thirty-four straight hours haven't given him any more answers than he'd had when he arrived.
"Did it hate him? Clark?" It seems like it must have. The targets had been so strangely specific, a connect the dot from California to Virginia, Chloe Sullivan to Lex Luthor and everyone and everything in between.
The computer doesn't like him, but it lets him access information, though he hasn't tested the limits of its security, and between flickers of the screen, he falls asleep on the console, dreamless sleep filled with suffocating silence. The thing that killed Clark will be back and there's no one to stop it, because the Justice League is hopelessly outclassed and possibly dead, and Superman is gone, but not forgotten, or so a thousand television talk shows and CNN keep reminding him, like he needs the reminder.
And he hates Clark a little, a lot, sometimes when he's staring at the news reports, sometimes when he's studying one of a thousand bits of data the computer gives him, the ones Clark accessed before he lost his mind and died and left them alone.
A thousand bits that tell him the same thing the first did--that kryptonite is good for anything and everything, and most especially for this thing, and the entire world can mourn or prepare as they pleased, but they'd better get ready to mourn themselves.
"I do not know." He's beginning to suspect the entire computer-drone voice thing is deliberate, just to annoy him. He lived half his life with Lionel Luthor. The AI doesn't even come close to the mindgames his father could play.
"But you suspect?" Sometimes, it helps if he's specific.
"The--entity--seems to have no pattern other than mass destruction."
"And targeting of Clark's family and friends." Or enemies, as the case might be. Very familiar enemies. "There's a pattern." A few flickers of his fingers bring up a new screen that vanishes before he even has the chance to read it. "Get that back up."
"You do not have permission--"
Lex bangs on the keyboard. "The world's fucking ending anyway. What the hell do you think I'm going to *do*? I don't want to die."
The news is becoming amusingly hopeful. It almost scares him, if he had the energy or cared enough to bother. They think it's over.
"I'm aware of that." The dry voice makes him twitch. "Nevertheless--"
"Fuck *off*. You want that thing coming back?" Though come to think, it might not care. Superman's dead and this thing has no link to humanity. "You think Superman would have wanted that?" Though it may not give a good shit about that, either.
"I do not pretend to understand Kal's--eccentricities."
Lex almost grins. He'd never understood them either. "There's got to be a way to stop it." Superman hadn't found it, but Superman was for shit when it came to advanced tactics. That's why he'd had--had Bruce.
He winces away from memory again, turning his gaze on the screen. At least the damned computer wasn't arguing with him about accessibility. "There's got to be something here."
The screen seemed to freeze, briefly, and Lex found himself staring up at the lights like they were eyes, like he could read something in them. Stupid and fucking insane, but he's okay with that right now. "You know something."
"Yes, and no."
Fuck. Twenty questions time. Again. "Can't you be specific?"
"I'm not--sure--that the information will be applicable to the situation at hand."
Of course not. That would make things *easy*. "You want this?" He waves toward the walls, feeling that rise of rage again that starts somewhere impossibly deep. Hate and anger and hurt. He's not sure he's ever felt anything else. "It's going to get itself together and *kill everyone*. You can't tell me why, you can't even tell me what it wants."
"He's *dead*." Lex isn't sure when it will become real, isn't sure why repetition doesn't make it any different. It feels like a dream, where you can't run fast enough and everything happens in slow-motion and waking up is the only thing in the world that makes it okay. "There has to be a way--"
"There isn't." The computer pauses. "Not in this place."
Lex lets out a slow breath, staring at the monitor, waiting, but it stops there, like it has any right to. Fucking machines and their drama. "What do you mean?"
The pause may only be something Lex can hear, the nonexistent clicks of a computer thinking, and there should be something to remind him this isn't a real person, a human being, but then again, real is so subjective these days, isn't it? Nothing feels real here, feels real now, and it's this place that makes it. Like leaving, which he wants to do ten times an hour, will change it, will make it fact. No matter how many times he watches Clark die, it won't be true until he's in what remains of Metropolis and accepts that the sky will never see him again.
It's not fucking *acceptable*.
"What do you *mean*?"
The computer doesn't answer, but the monitor whirls to life, bringing up equations like Windows contemplating a breakdown, too fast for Lex to get anything but alphanumeric combinations in unlikely places, random symbols he can't possibly understand.
It takes forever to comprehend what it's showing him; it takes even longer to believe it, reaching out with one hand to touch the screen, freezing the image. It's so--it's--
"How?" he says slowly.
The computer's voice is strangely gentle. "That depends," it says, slow and careful, "on what you're willing to risk."
Part I: Metropolis
Lex opens his eyes on the ceiling of his room.
No, *not* his room, not quite. The sheets feel cool, like he hasn't been in them long, and Lex looks down, surprised to see himself half-dressed, unbuttoned silk shirt and unfastened pants, tie twisted around one reddened wrist and, strangely, fastened to the post of the bed. That's--different?
That's disturbingly strange, in fact, even for his life.
Sitting up, he picks the knot with his teeth, smelling dried come and blood in the fine weave, wincing at the free movement of blood again, stretching his fingers out to get circulation going again. There's blood under his nails and his back's begun to sting, and God, now he's feeling it. The kind of sex that fifteen through thirty-five spent serious time indulging in, before sex was as boring as everything else, and that, Lex thinks, says more about just how fucked up he is than anything else ever could.
Sliding out of the bed, Lex shivers, hands sliding to the buttons of his shirt and finding none. The room looks like his own, even if he isn't quite. His balance feels off--the body doesn't match the mind quite enough. Apparently, this one doesn't eat quite enough, thinner in some way Lex can feel more than see. He thinks he might be hungry.
A shower makes everything better, or at least, less weird. Showers are pretty much the one thing that life cannot fuck up. Hot water and soap, and Lex closes his eyes, pretending this is any morning in his life, the morning after, maybe, that at forty-five, he should fucking have gotten over already.
His hands linger on the lines of someone's fingernails on chest and stomach, though, bruised skin, pulled muscles reluctantly relaxing beneath the flow of hot water. He's way too old for this shit.
The clothes seem familiar, though, military precise rows, dry cleaning bags, sorted by color and type. He can close his eyes, reach for any two pieces of clothes, and they'll match. He's predictable like that.
"You're up early."
Lex doesn't have time to freeze at the sound of that voice so close to his ear; Clark always moves like water, but not even *sensing* him says some uncomfortable things, most of them about Clark himself. It takes a beat to relax, fighting down the reflexive surge of fear and anger, another body's instincts, but Clark doesn't seem to notice, nose against Lex's neck.
Even so, it's a lifetime's worth of control to stop the wince when sharp teeth sink into his bare shoulder.
The worst part is, this body doesn't even move. "Clark."
It's been a long time since he's shaped the name to the face of the man, hard consonants and flat vowels curving around his tongue, but it feels familiar. Familiar as the bloody lines on his body and the teeth on his skin, and the low hum of spiked pleasure. It's all going somewhere, but his mind's caught between two conflicting instincts, and only one set is his own.
Clark turns him around with effortless ease, and a blur of dark hair and swamp-green eyes are lost in the first hard kiss.
Lex sucks in a slow breath when Clark lets go, tasting blood. This Clark plays a little rough.
"Up way too early," Clark murmurs, and Lex opens his eyes.
Knowing and seeing are two different things. His body may have given him the clues, but not this kind, and the man who watches him from Clark's eyes is the one that matches those marks on his body, tracing his bare back with possessive fingers, smiling with slow heat, pushing him a half-step back with a puzzled expression but not quite letting go.
Lex has no idea why he just stands there. This body didn't come with an operating manual, after all.
"Something's wrong." It doesn't even pretend to be a question. Lex takes in the mess of dark hair, the exquisite cut of his jacket, the painful perfection of a beautiful man dressed by someone who knows clothes and knows all the things they can say. Clark--his Clark in a suit was Clark in flannel, awkward and uncomfortable, saying, ignore me. This Clark's never met awkward, and uncomfortable is for lesser people.
"Lex." Big hands rest on his shoulders, shaking him like a puppy. Lex blinks away the surprise, trying to hold his balance on unfamiliar feet. It's not easy. "What's wrong with you?"
Clark doesn't expect Lex's retreat, which is the only reason Lex can pull it off, disguising it as a reach into the closet for clean pants. The superfine material slides over his skin easily, and his hands even get to the fastenings before Clark's in front of him, and Lex is against the wall. It might be Superman in the room, not Clark, except Superman, in Lex's memory, never used his strength quite like this.
"Lex." The warning tightness of fingers in his shoulder will leave bruises. Clark would never have done that. Superman, either, even at his most righteously enraged, but this one hikes Lex up against the wall until his toes barely brush the floor. Surprise is the understatement of the century. "Don't fucking ignore me. What the hell is up with you?"
Lex takes a deep breath and fails. "I--had a bad night." It could be true, since he doesn't remember the last time he really slept, but the context of the Arctic is needed and Lex can't explain that without being reduced to explanations of relativity and how many impossible things there are in the universe that man has yet to touch. His mind's still not wrapped around it.
Also, explaining? Very stupid.
"You were sleeping okay when I left." But Clark lets him down, one hand freeing his shoulder to circle his bruised wrist. The marks are fading slowly, but Clark smiles as he raises it to his lips, brushing a soft kiss against the broken veins. Big knuckles graze his chin, and Lex is completely surprised by the urge to flinch. That, too, is new.
It's your mind, but that body, the AI had told him, and he hadn't considered body memory when he said yes. This body's remembering things that Lex's mind doesn't understand.
"We have a meeting this afternoon," Clark tells him, smiling now, dismissing everything else. Taking a step back, he glances through the closet, and the Clark of before never, ever would have studied the myriad shades of purple for that long. Nor with such interest. "The violet silk."
Lex is reaching for it before he even realizes he's doing it. It's an actual effort to freeze his hand inches away. Lex knows himself, down to the chromosomes that made him and the mutation that changed him. Whatever happened to this body, to this man, it can be summed up in the fact the hand that reaches for that shirt shakes, and that tells him everything.
Lex closes his eyes. "I'll be down in a few minutes."
That seems to satisfy him; Clark leaves as silently as he came, and Lex listens to his nerves this time, that tell him when Clark's no longer in the room. Never out of sight or out of hearing, perhaps, but the overwhelming physical presence is gone and Lex can breathe again.
Breathe and pull away and turn around, take in the room again, looking for himself, or whatever passes for him here.
"This wasn't what I expected." He's talking to empty air. It's Belle Reve all over again, except this time, his voices are real and the world's compressed into this room, that man, and the mirror that shows Lex Luthor, billionaire and the most powerful man in the world, scared to death by a man he once thought he could kill.
Lex walks to the bed, looking at it. Blood-stained and messy with a night of sex, abraded wood and ripped sheets. The ache's almost gone, relegated to the periphery of his mind, and he heals fast, he always had. Lex shuts his eyes for a second, grounding himself.
This really isn't what he expected.
The staff is invisible. Good staff is invisible, but Lex has lived in power all his life, and he knows the difference between good and the kind of fear that makes them move like ghosts. A flicker of a skirt or a starched shirt, coffee on the table without any visible means of transportation, and Clark, this indolent, reclining presence at the table.
There's no practical way to reconcile what he's seeing to what he knows, so he doesn't try. That way lies madness and drug overdoses. So Lex doesn't, pasting a smile on his face as he sits down.
The green eyes narrow as they take in the red shirt, but Lex just takes a cup of coffee, wondering if he really wants to read the paper neatly folded beside the plate of dry toast.
"You seem really--" Clark's frowning, and Lex thinks of those fingers, so casually wrapped around a mug of coffee, cutting blue lines into his right shoulder. If he wasn't left handed, he'd be having a really bad morning right now.
"I'm just tired. I didn't sleep well." Lex keeps his eyes on the paper. The front page for the Daily Planet is graced by Chloe, not Lois, and Lex feels the sparkle of the other memories. This could be a danger, the AI had explained. Getting lost in Now and forgetting Then. Losing the entire point of this exercise in insanity.
There is, Lex thinks, a good chance he's actually back in his old room at Belle Reve right now, screaming about the apocalypse while many a friendly, faceless doctor shoots him up. Even his metabolism hadn't known what to do with psychotropics. When Clark reaches across the table and Lex's body stiffens, he almost wishes that were true.
Enough monkeys typing brings you the entire works of Shakespeare. Enough universes and time, there's a Clark Kent who scares the shit out of Lex Luthor over breakfast. There's not a word in the English language to adequately describe this moment. When Clark simply picks up a bagel, Lex breathes again.
"Are you planning on coming this afternoon?" Clark asks, friendly and patient, like Lex staring determinedly into his coffee cup is completely the norm, and hell, maybe it is. He still takes it black, though; Lex thinks he might have started the slow nervous breakdown percolating in the back of his mind if he found out that his first coffee of the morning needed cream these days.
"Coming?" Somehow, though Clark's voice makes it sound dirty, he's almost sure Clark isn't referring to sex. The dark head bends, eyes narrowing thoughtfully, and Lex remembers that while Clark had always played the part of dense farmboy, the mind behind those eyes is frighteningly sharp. Ten times that now, the habit of suspicion written on his face. Lex watches him stands up, crossing the room with cool elegance, this grace that Clark could never have mastered, this ease inside his own skin, power barely leashed.
Power he likes to use, Lex thinks. He takes a drink of coffee, wondering if any of this is showing on his face. And if it's too early for alcohol.
"You haven't exactly been enthusiastic about this," Clark says in a voice that echoes with petulance, the dissatisfaction of someone who is used to getting their own way and can't imagine why anyone would want something different. It is, Lex thinks, a little too close to Lex in adolescence.
Or hell, Lex in middle age. Years of commanding obedience can do strange things to a person. Lex has few illusions about what he is, but he's not sure that he's ever looked quite like that.
"I have some--errands to run," Lex says, surprising himself. He gets the feeling this Lex spends as much time on errands as possible. Away from this overwhelming presence that makes the room feel claustrophobically tight and small.
Clark's mouth turns down in dissatisfaction. "Shopping again?"
"Spring trends wait for no man, even a super man." The words are coming out of his mouth without checking in at his head. A slip through of that other personality, edging into his consciousness, and Lex pushes it back. He's the son of Lionel Luthor--compartmentalization is in his blood. "Do you mind?"
Because he gets the feeling that Lex Luthor asks that a lot here. And the implication of *that* are going to have to wait. Forever, if possible.
Clark's frown deepens. "Whatever. Just be on time for once." Turning, all exquisite silk-wool blend and too pretty face, Clark walks out, but his presence lingers in ache in Lex's shoulder. Clark's not stupid, never has been, no matter how many dumb farmboy thoughts have crossed through in the recesses of his mind. And Lex doesn't feel it would be in his best interests to find out just what this Clark does when he's actively suspicious.
Mercy and Hope are in the other car; Lex thinks that probably tells him everything he needs to know about status quo. He thought about driving himself, but he doesn't trust this world to be close enough for him to navigate. Getting lost isn't on the agenda--thinking *is*.
And thinking isn't something that goes on in that penthouse suite, Lex thinks.
"Where to, Mr. Luthor?" asks the driver from behind the glass. Lex stares at the intercom for a minute. Where to, indeed?
"Anywhere." And that's an order he's given before, on long nights, with a glass of scotch, wanting to be alone but not, riding through Metropolis like it's his personal demesne, which it mostly is, even if he shares it with Superman.
The driver here, too, seems to know his moods, going off without another word, and Lex shifts on the thick leather, leaning his head back into the seat. He should have found out more--at least, enough to not make any monumentally stupid mistakes that can happen when you jump universes on a whim, but *getting out* had been paramount. It was living with Lionel all over again, drugs and sex and rock and roll, or at least, sex, apparently.
The AI had been specific. To win, they needed to find the weakness. Their universe didn't stand a chance. Not with the best and brightest dead, not with Superman and half the Justice League gone, not with the world they've been left. So, this way. However the hell it's going on, with history and science reduced to mathematical equations and a chamber in the Fortress. Because he's just stupid enough to climb into an alien device and let himself be shuffled.
He really should have asked a few more questions before he agreed to do this.
Somehow, he'd grabbed a PDA off the dresser before making his great escape. Pulling it from one pocket, Lex glances down, pulling up the meeting for today. Genetic engineering. Other notes, his own code, but subtly different, cover the rest of the day. The rhythm feels off, but Lex can't quite put his finger on the dissonance--maybe the difference between this Lex and him, but he's not sure. The random Kryptonian symbols makes it that much more disconcerting. He knows enough to know he's reading the work of someone fundamentally more familiar with it. Slang? Maybe.
Maybe he should have tried to find out more from Clark.
Lex reaches for the intercom. "LexCorp Towers." Familiarity would be nice.
Lex thinks it through. Reflexive reactions hadn't been good. Neither had the compliance. None of this looks good, and he's half-tempted to start doing a history lesson, just to figure out how the hell they'd gotten to this point. The AI had said, things may be very different, with a gift for understatement that comes close to epic.
Glancing out the tinted windows, Lex watches the streets go by, an absorbing exercise when he needs to relax, less so now with the sheer lack. Oh, here and there a hurrying figure, coated and moving hastily.
Glancing at the sky like a rabbit watching for a hawk.
Working theory--here, Clark got over his savior complex in a big way.
When the driver stops, Lex gets himself out, pushing the PDA into the recesses of his coat pocket. "I'll call," he tells the driver, seeing Mercy and Hope, materializing behind him like the shadows they usually are.
"Sir?" Mercy tells him, a note of almost-question in her voice. Now that he's here, he's not sure what to do. The AI hadn't been clear on where he was supposed to find this information. Glancing up, he realizes he's right in front of LexCorp headquarters. Some people have comfort food--Lex has comfort places. LexCorp is hot chocolate, oatmeal cookies, and a warm blanket all at the same time. Though he notes, while he kept his security sharp, the men at his door are just on the edge of full time war. And that's an awfully big gun for someone working a civilian enterprise.
Do not tarry, the AI had said, and how the hell had it come up with that word? Don't wander, don't explore. The longer you're there, the more you will be affected by the one who is already in that skin. His body will be yours, and with time, his mind as well. I don't know the effects of pulling you out with the consciousness of the other in you. You have two days in relative time. Do not tarry.
Do not tarry, and find what you need.
LexCorp seems a good place to start.
His passwords are the same, and if his staff seems more rabbit than usual, refusing to meet his eyes and watching the floor like they expect it to announce end times, Lex can deal with that. His secretary looks surprised, but she doesn't duck and run, which is more than he can say for some of the executives he's seen.
His office is an oasis of complete normality. Some things don't change. Lex is Lex anywhere and everywhere, and never more Lex than when behind a desk. Even the chair fits right, though he's feeling a little off wearing red.
The meeting is on genetics, and Lex skims it from habit, but it's not the information he's looking for. One world, one time, they defeated that thing, and even if the computer couldn't tell him which one, and Lex still doesn't understand *why*, it narrowed it down enough to make this feasible. And time in the Arctic stands still for him, so really, they have eternity if they need it.
Or as long as his sanity stays intact. The AI hadn't been really specific on what effect this kind of thing could have. Probably because no one sane would think this could possibly be a good idea.
"Hiding in your office?"
Lex is on his feet so fast he doesn't have time to think, wondering where the fear comes from, like he's caught doing--something. The woman at the door is tall, red-brown hair twisted into an elegant French knot, Lois' eyes staring at him with traces of old suspicion.
"Lois." Not on the Planet. The immaculate woman he knows isn't in this too-thin figure, still graceful as she crosses the room, but Lex's eyes catch the limp. Plain beige suit, like she's trying to blend into the scenery, and blending is a word that Lex hadn't known was in Lois' vocabulary. "Why--"
She shrugs, taking a seat, and Lex watches her warily. Like Clark, she was always pure energy unleashed, and it's disturbing to see her sitting so still. Like every part of her is as wrapped up in beige as her body. "You're up early."
This Lex is, apparently, not much for mornings. Lex isn't either, but that's never been a consideration in the business world. He hasn't slept past six, barring concussions, institutionalization, or a time zone lapse, in years.
"I wanted to get started early," Lex answers, wondering what she's doing here. That she was let in without being announced argues that she's either expected, or-- "Did Clark send you to watch me?"
Lois rolls her eyes. "Oh, now that's a shock, isn't it?" Head tilted, she studies him with clear dark eyes. "You do seem--different this morning. Didn't get your morning fuck?"
Jesus. "You can get the fuck out if that's all you have to do. I don't like being watched."
"It never bothered you before." And there's no mistaking the bitterness, or the underlying fear. Crossing her legs, Lois leans one elbow onto the arm of the chair. "Look, I don't like it any better than you do." Her body says it even better than her mouth.
Getting up, Lex circles the desk--and he doesn't like the way she shrinks a little in her chair. Lois Lane doesn't back down from anyone or anything. What is Clark, the question has been asked and answered, not completely, maybe, but he can live without the full view. But this--what is *he*?
The fading bruise on his shoulder makes him wonder. "Lois, I--" I'm sorry? What the *hell*? He's done things to her, to her family, to her friends--but that seems so much less frightening, so much less personal, than the things her body is telling him. The things his body is, just looking at her. Memories are pushing now--image shapes of a Lois he's never seen before. Flashes that start and stop too fast to grasp, but memory is more than the visual. It's sensory, in taste and smell and feeling, and the hand that touches her knows her, knows her skin and how soft it is, how fragile the bones are beneath, the way she smells, the way she feels. The way she whimpers through clenched teeth and refuses to scream, even when she should.
"What do you want?" she says, like she already knows.
Lex doesn't know. "Nothing." Pulling away, he leans back into the desk. "It was a bad night. I'm sorry."
The graceful eyebrow arch slowly, and Lex watches the soft mouth work slowly, like she's trying to force words out that won't come.
"A bad night," she says softly, and for a second, he sees the woman who makes his life a living hell on various occasions, sees the glow of the most brilliant woman he's ever met, ever wanted, and ever lost. Just a flash, gone with the intake of her breath.
"He's right. You're--" Long fingers twist together. "Lex, be careful. Ever since he started on that research, he's been--dissatisfied."
"The genetic research?" The notes alone are enough to make him want to split his attention a little--in his world, they're no where close to what they have here.
"Not just that." The implications are legion, but she just shrugs. "Just--watch it. I'm not up to another week waiting to see if you live or die because you pissed him off."
Jesus *Christ*. "I won't die."
Lois looks down. "But sometimes, you seem to want to."
There's no answer to that he can think to give. Swallowing thickly, Lex turns around, walking back to his chair, picking up a pen from the edge of the desk, just to give himself something to do. "How long are you staying?"
"He's worried about security," Lois says, and it's like she becomes a different person. "About you. After the last run-in with Ross."
Yes, that would figure. From one world to another, some things just shouldn't change. Pete Ross and family should be one of those things. "I can take care of myself."
Lois frowns, standing up. "I'll be on hand until the meeting. Just--try not to do anything stupid until then? If this gets off the ground, Clark will be way too involved trying to recreate his species to pay much attention to us." Her eyes say she hopes to God it does. Circling the desk, she leans over, brushing a surprisingly sweet kiss against his mouth. Just long enough for Lex to remember the taste of her--expensive lipstick, nicotine, soft lips and remember--
--remember her in bed, in his bed, in *their* bed but not, and the tightly closed eyes, bitten lips, tracks of tears and the way she shudders away every time he touches her.
She said: "You don't have to do this, Lex."
Fuck. It's too fast for him to stop, images and voices and--
He said: "We have to."
"I'd rather die."
"I won't do this alone. I can't."
The shattered pen cuts into his palm, enough to drag him out. Barely enough. That was too close.
"That's not me," he whispers, and Lois freezes, so close he can smell her. That scent all over her. Perfume and sweat and exhaustion, and Clark. Reaching up, he touches the line of her jaw, wondering if this is when he's going to start feeling this--really feeling it.
Academic exercise in world-changing is fact, created all new by the bruised look in her eyes when she looks at him.
"Lex." And there are a thousand things in her eyes, in her voice. She's Clark's whore and his, too, and he's not sure how it happened, but it had, it did, and she still can stand to come this close and let him touch her. Cares enough to warn him.
"What we do to you--"
She pulls away, so fast she's a blur. "Don't you fucking dare--not now. Not after all this time."
"Lois." I wanted you dead. You had Clark, you had yourself, and you loved me once and then stopped, but I never would have done this. Not to you. To anyone, but never, ever to you. "I--" This Lex knows things about her that he doesn't want, and it's hard to push it back, lock it down in the deepest part of his mind, but he manages, somehow. It's the danger, the AI says, and he can hear that voice now. His body will be yours, and with time, his mind as well.
He doesn't want this man, this life. "Go."
She nods, almost frantically, taking a slow step back, then another, like she doesn't dare turn her back on him. At the door, her hand fumbles the knob, staring at him like that day on the bed that never happened, he *did not do*, and slipping out. He thinks he can hear the fast click of her heels as she leaves.
Not far, he thinks, not if Clark's making her stay. But far enough to get away from him.
Lex stares at the screen of his computer. This isn't any more real than he allows it to be. It can't be. He needs one thing, and he's done here. Just one thing.
This Lex drinks a lot.
It's not a hard hypothesis to form. A glance at the bar--a bar in his *office* for God's sake, complete with a dizzying array of glasses--is disturbingly well-stocked and recently, too. Hell, he wants a drink just on speculation.
He takes some comfort that his taste is as good as it always was. Two glasses later, he's finding his balance. Alcohol, like showers and LexCorp, is the oatmeal cookie of Lex's life.
The third glass makes life look a lot less terrifying, and Lex flickers through his computer with a much less freaked out head. Something he needs to find. Something to defeat the undefeatable, and somewhere, it's got to be here, even if they don't know it.
A few quick glances through the databases show a lot of unfamiliar technology--Kryptonian, Lex thinks. Makes sense with this Clark. None of the worries about technological advances far ahead of the human race. A weird feeling of deja vu when he sees the meteor mutant files, chased by the neatly documented experiments, open for almost anyone to see. There are a lot of them. And not all were accidents of a meteor shower or being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
It has his fingerprints all over it. As familiar as a signature, and Lex can't help looking, as much as he can't help breathing. Some of it seems familiar--this reaction documented there, this mutant here--but some isn't. Terms like 'radiation threshold' and 'susceptibility' and 'tolerance limits'. The names that scroll by aren't all familiar, but Lex suspects that they might be people that pissed him off at some point.
So not what he fucking wants to think about right now.
Lex skims the pages, wondering if this is where he can find it. An immortal monster of metal that can reassemble itself. Kryptonite has no effect. Pretty much the greatest horror in human history, yadda yadda yadda, but everything has a weakness. Even Clark. So, that thing *should*.
"You know, this could start to annoy me."
Lex stops himself from flinching at the amused voice. Looking over the screen, he closes the window and leans back, pulling out his best smirk, one of the thousand ways he learned to annoy the shit out of Clark Kent.
The narrowed eyes show it works here, too. "I have no idea what you're talking about."
Clark drops onto the edge of the desk, far too close. This Clark, like the other, has no concept of personal space. Except that Clark never used it as a weapon, height and weight and pure threat, leaning over enough to stare into Lex's eyes, amusement fading.
"You run out on me and come here? To do what? Drink yourself under the desk so you have an excuse to make a mess of the meeting this afternoon? You may not give a shit about the project, but I'll be damned if you're going to act like a brat just because you can."
"I wanted to get some work done."
Clark rolls his eyes. "Like you've bothered since you appointed Gabe." Now that, Lex doesn't like at all. Not work?
It makes him wonder what exactly he does in this place.
"Besides." And the drop in Clark's voice is all the warning he needs. Stomach tight, Lex watches the slow smile with a sinking feeling. "I missed you."
"*Didn't get your morning fuck?*"
Lex slows down his breathing, picking up his glass. "I'm not in the mood." Even as Clark's hand rubs over his shoulder, just a hair too hard, reminding Lex of all the strength in those fingers. He wonders if the Lex here has to be reminded a lot. Or if Clark just likes to do it.
"Maybe I don't care."
This is the memory of Lois, sitting awkwardly in that chair. This is the memory of Lois, in that bed. This is the memory of his own voice, the scratches in his back, the fingers too-hard on his shoulder. The way Clark looks at him; it's not even personal. Just Clark, wanting to fuck someone, and Lex is right here to do it. Like that's the only reason Lex has to exist.
Lois said, be careful. Be careful, because he's dissatisfied. Be careful, her face said, her body said, because she knew. She knew what happened when Clark Kent was dissatisfied.
"Maybe we could discuss exactly what you want to accomplish at this meeting?" His hands don't shake when he raises the glass to his mouth. It's probably the hardest thing he's ever done.
Clark rolls his eyes, leaning back, but sliding over to the middle of the desk. One foot catches the seat of Lex's chair, jerking him between his legs. Lex wonders what shows on his face--fear? Anger? Or just boredom? He would do anything, anything at all, not be in this room right now.
"And here I thought you'd lost interest in anything outside those bottles and your little lab projects," Clark croons, grinning down at Lex, achingly like the kid he once knew. "We're going to get this going. I'm tired of waiting. Your scientists are perfectly capable of starting the prototypes."
"Are you sure you want a world of people just like you?" It's a calculated risk--Clark just doesn't strike him as the sharing type.
Clark grins. "I knew you were more than just a pretty face." The big hand cuffs him, lightly for Clark, but enough to rock Lex in his chair. It doesn't hurt--much--but then again, it wasn't supposed to. A warning, Lex thinks. His dad was like that sometimes. "With careful--manipulation of the gene patterns, they won't be like me. No one will be. But they'll be my kind."
Great. Just what they need.
"After all, there are more worlds to conquer, and humans just aren't up to it." Clark smirks. "Present company excluded."
"I'm not human."
Clark laughs, and both big hands land on Lex's shoulders. "I wouldn't be with you if you were." Before Lex can think, Clark kisses him, not gentle at all, but it doesn't feel--bad. Maybe it's this body, that knows how this goes, that makes Lex relax into it, this body that makes him reach out, hands settling on big, warm thighs, makes him groan a little when Clark pulls him up, standing between those spread thighs, licking into his mouth like he's trying to fuck him with his tongue alone.
But it's not the body that makes him touch that flawless face, press himself closer, and he only wishes it was. It's a very young man in a very small town, who was rescued by a beautiful boy and fell in love for the very first time. A much older man who watched a super man die alone in a lonely field.
"Lex," Clark whispers into his mouth. Big hands are on the button of his pants, knuckles rubbing up and down his cock, somehow an arm around his waist, too, licking down his throat, pulling his shirt free, all just too-fast and too-hard, making Lex's breath catch and hard, so goddamn hard. And that's all him.
Seeing Lois had been--fracturing. But Lex could deal. Knowing Clark had become all the things Lex had ever feared of Superman--not a surprise. But feeling this--this, here, for this man, who wears Clark's face and Clark's perfect body, who's stripping him in broad daylight in his own office--that's something else. Lex isn't sure what to make of it, to make of himself, moaning into it, letting his pants fall at his ankles, bent over the desk like a hooker, with Clark's mouth on the back of his neck. So--so fucking *natural*, he knows this, this body knows this, knows how to relax and let Clark take, with one smooth thrust that he feels through his entire body. Big hand on his hip, holding him painfully tight against the desk his cock aching with the need to be touched, one hand on the back of his neck, holding him down, like there's some chance of him running away.
Like maybe the first time--
"*You've wanted this from me since I was fifteen years old. Don't fucking pretend you don't want it now.*"
Lex chokes on the way his mouth shapes no, even when he comes, so hard he feels it in his toes, eyes blacking out. Dear *God*.
"That was fast." Clark pulls out, too fast, and Lex hisses, but Clark's just turning him over, toeing Lex's pants onto the floor before both legs go over his shoulder, pushing back in hard enough to force out a groan. Lex grabs for the edge of the wood with both hands, trying to keep some level of control. Too sensitive still, but that doesn't seem to bother Clark, running a hand up his chest beneath his shirt. Clark watches him with eyes so dark they seem black, and Lex can't read anything in them. The slow, steady pressure isn't unpleasant, but it's been years since Lex bottomed for anyone, though apparently, this Lex is comfortable with it.
Comfortable with being used like this, on his own desk, an unlocked door, a wall between them and the secretary, Lois, anyone could walk in and see this, see them--
"Oh yeah," Clark whispers, licking a line over Lex's cheek. "So fucking *good* with you." Lex feels his hips pushed higher, and speed increasing, and Lex catches his breath, cock getting hard and hurting. It's way too soon to be this aroused, but Lex's body doesn't seem to worry about that. The ache in his shoulders spreads in this position, and Clark's sharp nails are cutting lines in his skin.
"You're so hot like this." Clark kisses him, messy and wet, biting his lip too hard. Lex tastes blood, making him even harder, and Clark seems to like that, reaching for his cock, jacking it roughly with one hand, other hand braced to keep Lex in place. "Knew it when I met you."
Lex closes his eyes. If he does that, he can almost pretend that the man inside him is someone he knows. Pretend this isn't happening at all, that he's not lying on this desk, swallowing his own blood, Clark's taste coating his mouth, filling him up, driving out reason. His body *knows* this, wants this.
"Used to whore yourself out for anyone."
And only Clark could make that sound hot, sound sexy, sound like something he's supposed to want.
"But not anymore, not anyone but me, Lex." And the last thrust *hurts*, a shock to his spine. His cock gets impossibly hard. "You learned that."
Lex opens his eyes. The other life drifts too close, and he doesn't want to see the memory that will illustrate those words.
"Come on," Clark whispers against his ear, vicious bite to the lobe, then the tender skin beneath. Marks for other people to see. "Come for me, Lex. You want it, you want to give it up for me, give up everything for me. Do it. Come. Do it, Lex."
It's a command that Lex's body gives up gladly, and through the haze, like falling into space, he feels Clark come with a bone-bending thrust, mouth against the side of his neck, panting into his skin.
It's a long time before Clark pulls out. Lex's thighs hurt from being pulled up so long, but coming down isn't any better. Clark straightens himself easily, grinning down at Lex like they did nothing more than discuss the myriad ways to clone Kryptonians. Reaching out to pull Lex up, kissing him, sucking on his lip enough to break the fragile scab. "I like how you look after I fuck you."
Stepping back, Clark reaches for the jacket he discarded at some point, still smiling, licking Lex's blood off his teeth. "I have some things to do. Get back to--" And the smile changes, becoming a smirk, eyes taking Lex in like a conqueror of a subjugated country, "--work."
Lex doesn't move for a long time after Clark leaves.
Lois finds him after he's cleaned up in the bathroom in his office--he'd jump out the window before he left this office looking like he did. There was nothing to do about the bruises or the bloody lip or the change of clothes from the suspiciously full closet inside, in all the shades of bruises. Just deal with it, like he dealt with being prepubescent and bald, and like he dealt with being adult and hated. Let other people worry about how to act around him.
There's no pity, but he thinks that he might just break if she showed any. The dark eyes fix on him briefly, a flash of feeling that he can't identify, before she leans into the door, as far into the room as she'll come.
He doesn't blame her. He can smell Clark all over him, all over the desk, sex permeating the room.
"We'd better get some lunch before we go," she says, looking at the wall to his right. She doesn't want to be here, but she was told to watch, so watch she does, without seeing a thing.
"You don't have to--"
"I really do." The irony in her smile hurts, almost as much as it hurts to sit down. Lex nods shortly, grabbing his overcoat before locking down his computer and finishing off his seventh glass of brandy. He's not even close to drunk, and that is a tragedy. "I'm supposed to be his biographer, after all."
Lois follows him down to the limo, already waiting--probably the secretary called down. Lois slides in first, slipping unobtrusively to the other side of the car so naturally, Lex gets the feeling she avoids being in closed spaces with anyone if she can help it.
Sitting down gingerly--even supersoft leather and thick cushioning doesn't make a difference when you've been fucked hard enough to draw blood--Lex tries to think of something to say to her.
"You look tired," Lois says softly, from the miles of seat between them.
That's an understatement. If this is what this Lex deals with, no fucking wonder he gets up so late. Lex wants nothing more than bed right now--preferably his bed in his own world. Beds here, like desks, like this vehicle, aren't safe zones.
"Did Clark say anything?" Any conversation is better than the sick tangle of his thoughts.
"Just that you seemed out of sorts." Lois hesitates, like she's choosing her words carefully. And maybe she is. "If Clark wasn't so worried about this meeting--"
He just might notice something. In no universe does Clark Kent pass for a complete idiot, and this one comes across as a control freak of the first order. Too much time together, Clark's going to notice something's wrong. Lex can be a lot of things, but he's not sure he's ever going to crawl into a bed willingly with Clark again, and there's no way to play that down.
"Why is he worried?" Even to himself, his voice sounds bitter. Is this Lex ever bitter? Or is he too drunk and too fucked out to do anything but just go with it?
She shrugs. "The first tests weren't--good. Even with all the advances, we're years away from understanding what it is Clark wants us to do. Cloning an alien race isn't easy, and Clark's the only template we have. Especially with all the changes he wants." Leaning into the door, Lois stares out, like she's imagining something or someplace entirely different. "I keep thinking--it's so stupid...." She breaks off with an embarrassed laugh, mouth shutting tight.
"It's just been a long month." Lois closes her eyes. "I was thinking of asking if I could go home for a little while."
Home. She put meaning in it, power, a yearning so strong even Lex could feel it. "Out of Metropolis?"
"Just for a little while. Maybe see Lucy." Her eyes turn down. "Just--away." Anywhere, she seems to imply. Home isn't a place, not really; it's a state of mind. And Metropolis would never be home to her, not to this Lois. "Do you ever wonder what would have happened if we had got away?"
Lex shuts his eyes tight. Got away.
"I was going to win a Pulitzer. Marry a man I loved. Grow old. Maybe have kids. I keep thinking about that recently, and--I just wonder sometimes, if we hadn't stopped for the night, if we'd just kept driving--" She laughs, like she's embarrassed. "But the world turned and times changed, didn't they?"
"If we hadn't stopped--" It'd been a truck stop, so close to the Canadian border. They'd been exhausted, and he'd run off the road three times. Chasing rumor of places there, with Kryptonite and lead. Places to live, to survive. Before--before-- "If we hadn't stopped--"
"He would have found us anyway," Lois whispers, and all the light goes out. "No matter where we went. You knew that. So did I. But it felt free for a little while, didn't it?"
Lex swallows hard. This isn't real, this isn't his world, and this isn't him, with this woman, in this place. It's just until he finds what he needs, and then he's gone, and this isn't real, it can't be real--
No more real than the blood on his tongue and his pants, the feeling of Clark inside him, and Lois' pain, the memories that aren't his and keep trying to be. They want to remember Lois with a gun in her hand, because she'd do anything not to go back. And Lex had pulled it from her and that had been--
"I'm sorry." He--the other he, the other Lex, who drinks too much and lives like this--hadn't been willing to let her go, any more than he'd been able to get away from Clark, not get away and mean it. He'd pried it from her hands and went home when Clark said to, took her back when she would have killed or died to be free. He'd broken her, not Clark.
It's not *him*. It's this Lex, not him. It's--
"I'm not hungry," Lex says as the driver slows, not quite able to face Lois, not knowing this. He wonders if his counterpart ever feels the same. "Just drive."