Lex has no idea why he and Lois are here--it's a bunch of scientists, corporate suits, and a few people Lex assumes are public figures of some kind. It could be the President of the United States for all Lex knows or cares. If there's even one here.
He's not getting over the view of the desperately clean, desperately empty streets of Metropolis anytime soon.
Luckily, he's not expected to do much, another jarring moment that he can let pass because Lois is still as a statue beside him, and Lois has never been still, not since he met her. Bruised in places that show in her eyes every time she looks at him.
They all talk above his head, and it sinks in, slowly, that while he's CEO of LexCorp, he's not actually expected to act like one. Gabe gives the answers, asks the questions, not even a glance to see what Lex thinks. If Lex thinks at all. If they even think--
Christ, what *is* he to these people? Clark's fucktoy? Lex isn't
It's all genetics, experiments, failures, successes, success rates and quotes, the kind of science that Lex lives and breathes, but somehow, he keeps it off his face, just listening. Playing with the glass--he doesn't seem to be the only one in need of alcoholic courage, with the sheer number of glasses and bottles on the table. The only face he recognizes is Gabe, but a Gabe who lives in a kind of daily terror that's numbed him down to just going through the motions. Maybe praying it's enough, that he gets out of here okay. Clark going into a rage and killing everyone doesn't seem as unfamiliar a concept as it should be.
Another part of the other-Lex getting through. Lex reaches for the bottle and pours another glass, imagines sinking a knife into the man smirking at him across the table, like nothing else but this could be expected from Lex Luthor.
Lionel, Lex thinks a little distantly, would have razed his life into the ground, just for that smirk. This Lex Luthor, however, skimming just below his own thoughts, already has the man in one of those Kryptonite labs, and that Lex makes him smile across the table, slow and thoughtful. There are, Lex thinks, feeling nausea rise slow and sweet, a lot of things far worse than death. All of them were in those files in his office. Lex watches the man's eyes widen, turning quickly back to conference, to Clark, watching everyone with unconcealed boredom, waiting for them to tell him what he wanted to hear.
"That's all you have?" Clark snaps, bringing Lex back into the present, echoed by Lois' kick at his ankle. So. Something's happening. "Two years. You told me two years."
One of the scientists looks like he's seeing his own death in progress right in front of him. "The complexities of the genome--"
"You *said* you could do it!" Like an angry kid, denied a coveted toy, in the invulnerable body of a super strong man. Lex has nightmares that go like this, but they usually involve his father and a few hallucinogenics to really up the terror factor.
"We can!" The terrified desperation reminds Lex of a rabbit in front of a wolf. "We can, we will, we just need more time--"
"You've had plenty of time." Clark leans forward, pure menace, and Lex knows, like he knows his own name, that this man is dead and buried in Clark's mind already. And there's a good chance this entire room will have to watch it.
"Do it yourself."
Lex hears himself drawl out the words without a real idea why. This man's life means nothing to him. But it's there--maybe the feeling of Lionel in Clark that brings up every stupid adolescent and adult rebellion, before he learned less direct ways to retaliate.
The deathly silence is kind of fun, in that way that anything is fun when you realize you are just as crazy as you've always suspected. Lex can feel Lois' stillness beside him, her disbelief.
"What did you just say?" Defected rage with a new target, all focused on Lex. But Lionel could do it better than Clark--he could call on a childhood of emotional manipulation and an entire arsenal of emotional weapons, not just this physical threat. Cheap, tawdry, rough, not subtle, not at all what Lex is used to. Clark can kill him to shut him up, but that's all he can do.
"You think it can be done faster? Do it yourself." Leaning back in his chair, Lex grins over the rim of his glass. Everyone's watching him in fascination. Lex supposes someone committing suicide right in front of them is pretty damn interesting.
Clark looks like he can't believe the words coming out of Lex's mouth. It's just like meeting with Dad. What do they say about picking out a lover who reminds you of your father? Until now, Lex had thought it only applied to women.
"Everyone. Get out."
They leave. Like rats off a sinking ship, they don't run, but only because they don't want to be noticed. Lois doesn't move--either she thinks the order doesn't apply to her, or she's too shocked by Lex being an idiot to get up.
Slowly, making a show of it, like Lex needs it, Clark circles the table. One second, sitting with his glass, watching--the next, up against the wall, a strong hand wrapped around his throat.
It's all so fucking--*stupid*. He'd laugh if there was enough air.
"Who the hell do you think you are?" Clark whispers, hot breath against his cheek. "You think you have any clue what's going on? What we're trying to achieve?"
"You're going to kill him." Lois' voice is strong, just out of sight. He's going to black out soon. "Clark. Even he can't heal a crushed throat. And you don't want him dead."
For a second, Lex is almost sure Clark's going to test that. The steel fingers tighten, then loosen by degrees. Not enough to get a full breath, but enough so the possibility of strangulation becomes more unlikely. Passing out, however, is not.
"You little fucker." Like that, Clark drops him, going back to fall into a chair, arms crossed over his chest. When Jonathan used to lecture him, Clark would do just that, Lex remembers. With just that look on his face.
This Lex is *afraid* of this man. And has good reason. Rubbing his throat, he sees Lois take an aborted step toward him, then stop when he looks at her. In the name of God, don't get his attention.
"You." Clark gives Lois a slow once-over. The Clark in his world loved her to distraction. He never--he would *never*-- "Looking for a little visit to the penthouse?"
Lois stiffens, but her eyes stay fixed on the floor. "If that's what you want." Lex doesn't like the look on her face--he's not doing this Lois any favors, acting like this. She's not a superhealing mutant. She'll end up dead if Clark gets bored and decides to kill her.
Using the wall, Lex makes himself stand up. Residual swelling could still cut off his airway, but he doubts the damage will last long enough to come to that. Leaning back, he takes a slow breath, feeling Clark's eyes on him again. The speculative look isn't comforting, but then, this Clark's anything and everything but comforting.
"We're going home," he says, standing up and kicking the chair. Lex watches it hit the far wall and crack. Reminder that even a casual Clark is a danger to everyone around him. He understands. "You too, Lois. We should all have a nice little talk, don't you think?" His eyes slide up and down her again, and Lex wonders how she can stand there and take it, not even twitch. "It's been a while since you visited."
Lois beats him to the brandy, while Clark leaves after a phone call that sends him out the door. He did stop to talk to security, which Lex thinks--and maybe he's reaching here--means that he and Lois can consider themselves under house arrest.
Lois unpockets her phone as she hands Lex a glass, not looking at him as she raises hers to her mouth and takes a long drink. The Lois he knew couldn't stand brandy. A complicated number is punched into the phone, then Lois sits down, frowning into the floor. A few long seconds pass, then she sighs, looking at her phone briefly before turning it off.
"Bad news?" Lex refills her empty glass. It looks like both he and Lois are becoming too close to the brandy bottle. Or have been for a long time. Too long, if she can drink like that, not even a wince when it goes down burning.
"Just Chloe, leaving a message to remind me how great her life is." The pretty mouth twists hard, a smile that twists her eyes as well. "How *The Planet* can't live without her and all of that." Lois tosses the phone onto the couch before taking another drink. "She's probably right. They live and breathe on her word. Being friends with the most powerful man in the world does have that effect."
That doesn't match the Chloe that Lex remembers at all. "She--" Chloe was all about the truth and all kinds of other idealistic nonsense. But he can't ask questions for answers he should already know. "I suppose that helps."
Lois grunts something that sounds like agreement, downing the rest of the brandy. She seems to debate before extending it. "More."
Lex looks at the decanter. "You sure--"
"I want to be so far from sober I won't care what he wants me to do." The stark pain is what moves him across the room, filling the glass with a hand that shakes. "You know."
Apparently, from the amount of alcohol he's already consumed today, he'd have to agree. This is how the other Lex gets through the day. Enough alcohol so even his metabolism can't keep up. It's kind of funny, in that way that he'll never be able to laugh about. "You could leave."
"And have him send you to fetch me back again?" On her feet and moving, those fast, graceful movements, that familiar smirk--*Lois*. "Where would I go? Everyone knows my face. Everyone knows what I--" She stops, drowning the words on her tongue with another drink. "When I leave, it'll be the last time, and then where would you be?"
"I can handle it."
"Yeah, you're doing a great job." Another drink. She wasn't going for a metaphor--she wants to be drunk. Before Clark gets back. So she won't care. Christ. "I--I understand, you know." Her step's a little unsteady as the alcohol hits her. "I mean." She sits down, and Lex watches her head fall back on the back of the couch. "It's been a long time, Lex. I--I don't--I get why you came back. Why you made us come back."
Jesus and God. No. "Lois--"
"I get it. It took a while, but--no one should be alone. Not--and it's hard. To want to leave. He--you know, when we met, he made me feel--sophisticated. So much older, so much wiser. I was so damn young, I didn't know--" She stops. "It's hard to leave, when I can see that in him still."
"He's not the same person." God, she wouldn't believe him if he told her just how different he is.
"Sometimes--it's so stupid." She stares up at the ceiling, and Lex's chest tightens at the smile on her face, so young. God, so fucking *young*, nineteen and brilliant and everything in the world in her eyes, but that was a thousand years ago here "He can be--and you. Both of you." Her smile fades. "I know why you couldn't really leave him then. I don't think I can now."
Her head turns, slow as honey. "I don't know what I am without him anymore."
Lois never defined herself by anyone else. Lois was Lois was Lois, and this--this-- "You could get away. I--" God save him from stupidity, but he's in the right mood for it. The right universe. "I'll help you."
And God, the way she looks at him. He's never made a promise he didn't break. She knows that. "I still love you, Lex."
"I hated you for years, but that never changed." There are tears in her eyes, and she stands up, unsteady, grabbing for the arm of the couch. Staring at him. "I love him, too. And I--" She stumbles, and Lex drops his glass, catching her before she can hit the floor. Too thin, too light, too-big eyes. "I wish you'd let me pull the trigger, Lex."
Lex sinks onto the floor, feeling her face against his chest. "I wish I had, too."
He's Lex fucking Luthor. Genius, brilliant businessman, ruthless, powerful--and doing nothing. Watching her sleep, in the neatly made bed he'd woken up in this morning.
Clark still hasn't come home, and Lex can't find it in himself to be anything but utterly relieved.
He remembers the first time the Justice League had called him that, laughing himself sick, because it was Clark's voice he could hear saying it. Clark, who drew his life in blacks and whites, like this, with him on one side and Lex on the other, an inseparable gulf between.
This, he thinks, is something that Clark would be able to label, so easily drawn blacks and whites. Clark would have--well, what would Clark have done, faced with a him like this? The Clark he'd met, that he'd watched grow up, that had been friend and enemy, reluctant ally and sometimes fantasy, couldn't have become this. Where, how, why, what the *fuck*--it was Jor-El's son, not Jonathan and Martha Kent's, except all those damn--all those little things that were Smallville Clark through and through.
Whatever had gone wrong here with Clark--and God knew, the list of possibilities was enormous--it had been astronomically bad.
"You went to bed early," comes the voice, and Lex stiffens without even thinking, rolling over to look at Clark. Jacket and shoes discarded, shirt unbuttoned, so fucking hot, even now, in this time, in this place. Sitting on the edge of the bed, a big hand lands on Lex's hip, caressing gently. "Tired?"
And like that, Smallville Clark all over again, sweet smile and messy hair. So gentle. Almost playful when he pushes Lex over, curling up beside him, big body warm against him. They'd never been this--but Lex had wanted it like he'd wanted few things in life before or since.
"I'm not mad," Clark says against his mouth, hand cupping his head, deceptively gentle. "Not anymore. You're having a bad day, right? That's why you acted like that."
That's why-- "Yeah," Lex whispers back. "Very bad."
Clark kisses him, playful and still sweet, almost chaste--a sixteen year old boy might have kissed like that. Clark draws back, still grinning--then the green eyes darken as they look over his shoulder and Lex knows the second Clark sees Lois, feels it in the hand tightening on his head. "What's she doing here?"
Mistake. If she'd been conscious, or he'd been thinking, he would have known that, she would have known that. He would have thought and left her on the couch, or found one of the other beds to put her in. Before Clark can move, Lex twists, rolling on top of him.
"She's waiting for you." Kissing Clark hard, getting teeth this time, the soft mood apparently ending. Clark's arms go around him, just a little too tight, like he needs the reminder that he's with someone who can rip him apart without a thought.
"I don't like her in my bed." A pause, an unspoken two words. Lex wonders how on earth he'd gotten Clark's obsession like this. If it was there when they were both kids, because God, would he have wanted to know about this. He kisses Clark again, imaging the boy he met, shy eyes and shy smile, the one who lived and died for his friends. Lex didn't understand it, but he'd never stopped respecting it.
"I thought you wanted her," Lex murmurs against Clark's throat. Clark's arms loosen by degrees, giving Lex some flexibility in movement. "You know I want--that I--" That I love you. That this Lex probably does, and that woman does, too, because we've broken her and made her believe there's nothing else for her. And maybe there's not, not anymore.
Straddling Clark's waist, Lex sits up, looking down. Clark doesn't look angry anymore. Runs his knuckles over the bulge in the pants, just to see Clark hiss softly, one hand closing around his wrist.
"She tried to leave," Clark says softly, but his eyes are glazing as Lex pulls down the zipper, snapping the hooks on the pants open one handed. "You did, too. She helped you."
"But we haven't since." Some particularly virulent form of Stockholm Syndrome, maybe. The sickest kind. Or Lex's monumentally fucked up definition of love. Somehow, right now, nothing seems hotter than this, than the way Clark looks at him.
The hand on his wrist cuts off circulation, and Lex feels the bone begin to creak. "If you break my wrist, it's going to cut the night short."
Clark has to think about it--for a second, Lex thinks he can actually feel his bones giving, the white hot pain blinding, traveling toward a blackout like the darker edge of orgasm, but Clark finally loosens.
"You brought her for me." Clark's head tilts on the pillow, watching Lex through narrowed eyes.
"For you. Like the first time. Because you wanted her." Like a truck stop in Canada in a life he didn't live, just remembers. She lived because Lex couldn't live without her. Because Clark wanted her so badly. Because Lex is Lex, and the instinct to give Clark whatever he wants is still so strong. So much that even a bone bruised wrist doesn't stop him from leaning down for another kiss. "Just for you."
Clark growls something into his mouth, rolling him onto his back, pushing between his legs, cock rubbing against the wool of Lex's pants, and he's so hard beneath, he wants it *off*.
This is--other Lex in him. That sad bastard who drinks away his guilt and lives with being nothing but Clark's toy, it has to be. Other Lex that makes him whimper and twist and arch into each touch, shudder when Clark leaves the bloody marks of his teeth in his side, around his nipple, on his collar. Too-hard touches, establishing a possession that Lex never would have thought he'd want to claim.
Sitting back on his knees now to look at Lex, panting beneath him, with a bright smile and the clearest, most beautiful eyes in the world.
"Fuck her," Clark tells him, rubbing Lex's cock with one hand, distracting circles that make everything sound like holy writ, the best idea in creation. "Fuck her while I watch."
Lex turns his head, and Lois' open eyes stare back at him.
"*You don't have to do this, Lex.*"
But this isn't that Lois, who would have rather died. She stretches like a cat, eyes closing, going someplace else entirely when he kisses her. She tastes like brandy and old pain, the kind that never stops hurting, never scabs, never heals. Long fingers push his pants away, long legs wrap around his waist, and he's inside her before he even knows he's going to do it.
"Lex," she whispers, arching her back, and Lex chokes back the apology he wants to make.
He tells himself he would have stopped if she'd said no.
"Yes," Clark says, voice thick, stretching out beside them. Watching his face, watching *hers*. "Like that."
The silk of her skirt rubs against his hips with each thrust, and her shirt comes open at a touch. Clark kisses her, making her contract tight around him, blindingly good, her nails cutting into Lex's shoulder. Clark moves, still watching them like he's watching porn, like he paid for the show, hand casual on his own cock.
Lex doesn't know how long he can stand this, bracing himself on one arm over her, watching her face tighten and relax. Still drunk enough to lose herself in the moment, maybe forgetting, and sex is good for that, the best for that, and he can make her forget everything else. Touch her like he touched Lois in his own world, knowing all the tricks that made her hot, made her smile, made her gasp, and made her come.
"Oh." The hand on his ass drags him back--probably the entire point. Clark grins at him, nipping his shoulder before he's out of sight, but that hand stays, one finger working into his ass. "Clark."
"Just keep going." Clark's voice is rough in his ear, and a second finger pushes inside. Lex is caught between them--Lois' wet heat, Clark's big, agile fingers. Slick and fast, touching on that place that makes the world go dark Oh God.
"Oh *God*. Clark."
Clark eases in him this time--so different from the office, matching his rhythm with Lois, and it falls together so naturally Lex knows this has happened before. Lois' legs move to the bed, feet braced on the mattress, eyes closing, giving up to the purely physical. Clark's inside him so deeply he can't remember living any other way. "Clark. God."
"Yeah," Clark whispers, licking the back of his neck, under his ear, one arm going around his waist. "Just like that. Fuck, you feel good."
It seems to go on forever. Wet heat and hard fullness, one or the other, and he's trapped in sensation that never seems to end. Lois moans under him, almost shaking, so close to coming but never quite. So fucking close--just beyond reach, he can *feel* it. Clark murmurs into his skin, breath hot and becoming desperate, fucking into him harder, pushing him into Lois.
"Come," Clark whispers, and their bodies just *obey*.
Lois convulses, making a sound he's never heard anyone make, and the sudden tightness pushes him over, seeing stars and planets and galaxies all around him, feeling Clark still moving in him, pushing him farther. Lois hands are on his chest, but it's Clark, Clark whispering into his skin and thrusting hard enough for Lex to feel something tear, but he can't find it in himself to care, not when Clark stiffens, teeth in his shoulder, coming inside him.
They collapse in a tangled pile, and Lex feels Lois' tears on his neck and wonders what it means when you felt like this with someone like this. This good, this hot, this fucking *young*, like he hasn't been in decades.
Clark moves them, sliding down and pulling Lex against him, softening cock still in his ass, soothing hands on his skin. Lex doesn't hear what he says.
He's not sure it even matters.
He's in LexCorp's offices before dawn--and the looks from security are enough to amuse the shit out of him, like they're seeing a hallucination of epic proportions. Clark had vanished sometime between exhausted slumber and the moment Lex woke up. Lois, too.
Lex can only hope she left alone, and in one piece.
Keying in his codes, Lex ignores his office, all the pretty trappings of power that don't mean anything here. He needs the core databases in the sublevels, and he suspects this Lex doesn't give a good shit about those, probably doesn't have access from that shiny office. If anyone would know anything about this, it would be in the computers here.
Or hell, if it comes to it, he'll hit google and start checking out the conspiracy theorists. It can't be any more insane than what he's lived through.
You're sure there's something here, Lex had asked the AI while it hooked him in. You're sure that I can find it?
I'm sure, it had said. What you need to know, what it takes to defeat it, will be where it was faced and defeated. Lex supposes an immoral Clark with a lot of time on his hands and a world at his feet could do a lot of things that even Lex and Superman and a world of superheroes combined couldn't figure out.
It's a little lowering, but not as lowering as the fact Lex can't make himself sit down and face the white pain that announces even superhealers need to take breaks. Jesus. No wonder he gets up late.
It's here. Somewhere. Record after record, keyword after keyword. Kryptonite is useless. Conventional weapons, various lasers, multiphase conductors, electricity, nuclear energy, plasmic energy--all tried, failed in a line of states up the center of the United States, leaving a trail of death that ended, at least temporarily, in Virginia. It'll be back, because they left room for a sequel, The Thing II, and this time, Lex wants to be ready.
"You're looking for something."
Lex doesn't look up. "Still following me?"
She doesn't answer, a quiet, pained presence in the doorway.
"What are you looking for? It's not like you can kill him. Or that you want to." Her voice is too soft to draw blood, just bruise. The other-Lex agrees. We wouldn't do that. We're not sure what we are without him. If we're anything at all.
Lex grits his teeth. No. No. "Believe it or not, I'm looking for something else. So if you'll--" If you'll leave. Guilt's is just as distracting as he'd always suspected it could be. Clark--his Clark--did guilt like a high school trend.
Lex's back hates leaning over like this--not to mention the vulnerability it implies. "This. A thing. That happened. I don't know what it was called, but it was a regenerating machine. Kryptonian origin. Resistant to Kryptonite." How much longer until the AI called him back? Two days in relative time. That gives him through today. Lex tries to imagine another twenty-four hours and shudders. Two days is too long. Way, way too fucking long. Or not long enough. "Christ. It happened, I know it did."
"Lex?" The door shuts with a soft click, and Lex lets himself look up. She's moving stiffly, but it doesn't look like any major injuries occurred. Clark must be in a good mood.
He usually is after nights like that, other-Lex's thoughts offer, bitterly amused. He's probably at the labs. Showing them incentives to being smarter.
"How the hell do you live like this?" It comes out before Lex can check it at his tongue--the question aimed at the other Lex, who just rolls over for all this. Lex can't imagine being a man who could do that, be this, to live wrapped up in a cloud of alcohol and helplessness. Of all the things he could be, could have been, this doesn't even come close.
"Who are you?"
Fuck. "Don't be any more crazy than usual." And that sounds like both of them, taking the battle to another field, distracting from the original question. "Go--do something."
She's close enough to breathe--a fresh shower and clean clothes, scraping herself clean of Clark and him. Close enough to touch, if he so much as moves. "You're different." When he looks up, the dark eyes widen, pupils swallowing the irises. "Two years ago. The last time you entered a lab. You don't remember?"
Easier if he consciously accessed this Lex, maybe--but so dangerous, even the AI hadn't recommended that, even if he was desperate. "I--killed it?"
She's staring at him. "You and Clark's pets. There wasn't anyone who could figure it out, even Clark. It hated him, somehow. It--didn't have a mind. You said--"
"That I'd be damned if I was bending over for anyone else." Yes, that sounds marginally like him. "What did I do?"
Lois's hands press into the surface of the desk. "You aren't Lex Luthor."
This is the wrong time to get curious. This is way beyond caring. Intellectually, he knows he's being stupid. "There's nothing wrong with me." And to prove it, he turns away from the wide eyes, fingers on the keyboard.
"He's going to figure it out." She isn't moving, just standing there, and he always forgets, somehow, that Lois really does have a genealogy crossed with bull terrier. It's a comfort that some things are the same, but this second isn't the moment he would have chosen to find out. "How did you get here--where are you from--"
"Really not a good time for explanations." She doesn't have any evidence. Clark won't listen to a word she says.
And like that, he's pushed back against the desk, Lois' hand buried in the collar of his shirt, and he's getting really beyond fucking tired of being hauled around like a rag doll.
Other Lex just grins. Have a brandy. You'll get used to it.
"Shut the fuck *up*." And he has no idea who he's saying that to. "Lois, back the fuck off."
She's so close he can breathe her in. "You would have thrown me into the wall before now. Tell me who you are."
Tell her, other Lex says. It's not like it makes a difference.
"One or five universes to the left," Lex grinds out. His back aches from the angle, he won't even think of his ass, and one knee is starting to bend in the wrong direction. Pushing her off, Lex watches her stumble, catching her feet from habit like a cat, or a woman used to being knocked around a lot. "And I wanted you dead there, so don't fucking push."
Strangely, she doesn't even smile. "That's how you got rid of it." Her voice cracks. "Pushed it out of our universe. I don't know where you put it, but that's how it was done."
Fuck. Lex doesn't want it just gone--he wants it *dead*. Twisted metal melting into the ground, salting the ground where it stands. Make the fall of Carthage look like amateur work. Lex closes his eyes. "I didn't destroy it."
"You didn't even know what it was." Her voice sounds hoarse. "How did you--"
"The Fortress. Another time." Lex opens his eyes. "You're going to tell him."
She doesn't bother to deny it, eyebrows going up. "I won't have a choice if he asks. But I won't volunteer the information, if that's--how long?"
"Two days. Less than a day left." Lex bites down on his lip, feeling the remains of the healing cut on his lip with his tongue. "He's not going to figure it out."
Lois shakes her head. "You--really aren't from around here. He'll--Jesus. Where are you from?" The curiosity is unmistakable. "Not like here."
"Not like here, no."
"He's going to know."
Lex pushes himself straighter. His father would be horrified by his son slumping like a common laborer after a hard day's manual work. "How? If you don't tell him--"
"He knows you. He *made* you."
Lex stiffens. "I only need to get through--"
"After yesterday--he's not stupid. He--" Lois' eyes go blank for a minute. "He knows something is wrong. And he's going to find out, because he can. He's--"
Not stupid, not dense, not short-sighted, not any of the things that he's always accused Clark of and never really believed. This Clark is honed and suspicious and Lex thinks, just maybe, that Lois might be right. "Lois, stop."
"You never come here anymore," she says, and Lex still can't wrap his mind around it. "He--he wants to own everything, you know that. He can't stand not knowing why. You won't want to tell him, but you will, you'll tell him because you have to. And then because you want to, because you can't imagine not wanting to be whatever he wants you to be."
Lois, other-Lex murmurs, knows. And you're me, and soon I'll be you, and it won't matter anymore.
The more time spent around Clark, Lex thinks, that will probably be true. "I need my laptop." A laptop, if not his. In this place, he seems to lack a certain work ethic. "Lois--"
"What do you think you're going to do?" She looks scared. "He'll come for us and he'll push and he'll ask, and if you can't be, if you aren't what he expects, what he made--he'll want to know why. And he'll figure out why. He worked those equations, he knows people can move between dimensions."
"He won't figure it out."
For years and years and years. "I'm getting out." He's Lex Fucking Luthor, in any time, in any place. "Less than twenty-four hours." That's too long, Lex feels it in his bones. Far, far too long.
"You think you can get out of the city without him knowing?"
When she puts it that way, no, he doesn't. "Where is he?"
"With the geneticists. He'll be there all day. But he'll come looking. People will see you leave. And they'll tell him where."
"Not if they aren't alive to tell." Lex can kill in cold blood. He doesn't like it, but that doesn't mean he can't do it if he has to. Just one fucking day. "If I--if this Lex ran, where would Clark think he'd go?"
Lois shakes her head. "He'd never believe it." Her head tilts, and Lex watches her eyes come alive. That had never meant good things, not in his world, and he can't think it's any better in this one. "If you run, he'll find me, and I'll tell, Lex, whether I want to or not." The look suggests that she won't want to, and that Clark will have to be very creative. This Clark, Lex thinks, seems like a very creative alien. The dark eyes light up. "He won't believe it, that you're running alone. But he'll believe it if I go."
Oh Jesus. "I don't want you dead." Mostly. Give or take a few bad exposes. "I can do this alone."
"You really can't. He'll--if he thinks we went together, he thinks we'll make for a border country. South America, maybe. It'll take even him a while to search the entire border for us." Buy time, she doesn't say. And we'll need every second.
Lex stares at her. "He--I'm *leaving*. The man who will be left in this body--"
"I'll take care of Lex," she says, slowly. "And I can take care of myself." Not noticeably, Lex thinks, but other-Lex only laughs. She's survived Clark for over a decade. Her instincts are a hundred times better than yours ever could be. "You--is it better? Where you are?" For a second, her eyes fill with something impossibly huge and hopeful.
Lex thinks of all the ways that it isn't--the devastation, the riots, the bodies, the living monster that will kill them all, for no better reason than that it can. He thinks of Clark's slow death, the bullets he put in people's heads, the deaths reported on the news. He thinks of Lois' body, and Clark's silent, terrible grief, hidden behind closed doors and badly-fitted glasses.
"You won a Pulitzer. You married a man you loved." He stops, throat closing on the words. "You had a life, and you were never afraid of anything."
Lois nods. "If we leave now, I know where we can go."
"At the Planet?"
"Yeah." She drives, because he can't figure out how the hell this car *works*. Kryptonian technology, maybe, but Lex can't risk even trying to access any of other Lex to find out. Other Lex bleeds through all on his own quite nicely, so inviting more of him just seems like a bad idea.
Lois grins, fast and sharp, and Lex glimpses a reporter, immaculate suit and high heels, following him around with brayed questions. Lois, bulldog and implacable enemy, the kind you get to have once in a lifetime. Twice, if he counts Clark. But only if you're lucky.
It occurs to Lex that he's been luckier in his enemies than he ever was in his friends or lovers.
"Was I good?" She seems a little freer with every mile. Lex doesn't think of the way she fired her gun at the first security checkpoint. The body hadn't even had a chance to hit the ground before they were moving again. She took him very literally. No one is going to live to tell that they left the city.
He wants to ask why she even has a gun, but he doesn't.
"Amazing." And that's true enough. "I really, really hated you."
Her eyes dart sideways, almost laughing. "I was that good?"
"You were that good." And you had Clark, at least for a little while, and it wasn't the fucking that got to me. It was what you were to him, even after. Lex leans his head into the headrest of the little Ferrari. "Is this my car?"
"You almost never drive them anymore." How depressing. "You ran off the road one too many times, and Clark started to suspect passive aggressive deliberation." She shrugs, foot sinking deeper onto the gas. "In your world? You're that bad?"
Well, he'd thought so. But there are places here that even he hadn't ever thought to go. "Relatively speaking, I'm looking pretty good in comparison." In a fair universe, he'd be able to explain that to Clark. Time can be relative, and so can evil. Or whatever the hell Clark thinks he is. "But. I have an entire Justice League watching out for me." It's a nostalgic thought--what Lex wouldn't give to see Bruce looking at him with blank disapproval. "Can you tell me--Bruce Wayne--"
Lois' blank look says it all. If Bruce had been here, Clark had recognized real competition when he saw it in obsessive flesh and blood. "I--don't know. I could look it up when we get--"
"No." It's better not to know. Rubbing his eyes idly, Lex watches the landscape pass by. "He won't look in Smallville first?"
"He hates Smallville." Lois voice is flat. "So do you, for that matter. So no, he's not going to think that you'd go there." Her eyes are shadowed. "He won't believe you don't want to be caught."
"Right." Lex looks down at his wrapped wrist, the bruising underneath fading green already. "How did--do you know--" But how does anyone know? In some other universe, Lex Luthor might have been a butcher, a baker, a candlestick maker. There's so much, and so little, that makes the difference between the man you are and the man you could have been. A fine line you can step over at any time. Whatever line Clark had crossed, Lex had crossed, too. And he's not sure he ever wants to know what pushed him over. Or how. "Never mind."
Lois' eyes are fixed on the road. "When I met him, he wasn't like that."
Lex wishes he'd shut his mouth before the question could be asked. His mind's creating timelines, trying to mark the places.
"But it was in him."
"It's in everyone," Lex murmurs. "Just sometimes, there's something to stop it--"
"Or someone. It's not just one thing," Lois says, and Lex sees her mouth thin, a tight white line. "We'll go the castle. It's been condemned for years."
That's probably the most cheering news that Lex has heard since he came here. "Really?"
Lois smirks. "Hate it there, too?"
"Beyond the language to adequately describe." God knows the number of times he's been tempted to send a team out there to raze it to the ground. Burn every overpriced antique, extravagant rug, and pretentious painting. Only Lionel Luthor would have-- "My father--" God, what the hell?
"He's comfortable." Lois' eyes fix on the road, but her hands are tight on the wheel. "Last time, he almost recognized you."
No. No. And no. "How much farther?" Anything but this. Anything.
"Forty-five minutes." Her foot presses down harder, and Lex watches the car slide into two hundred miles an hour. This must be what freedom feels like for her. "Make that thirty."
It's dark, and cold, and bare of anything like furniture, and Lex thinks it's an improvement. It always felt like a tomb--now it looks more like one. Lex can't stand false advertising.
Lois looks around like she's never been here before. Maybe she hasn't been. He's not exactly inclined to ask. "When will he notice we're gone?"
"When he gets bored enough to want us around." Lois picks her way through cobwebs and broken stone floor, forehead creasing. "At least another hour or two. He really wants to make an impression on the lab techs."
Lex nods, looking around the billiards room with a sense of disbelief. There are no memories here, not from any time. Like those games with Clark never existed. Ask, his mind says. Find out more. Look inside and get the answers.
Lex clings to the memory of the pool table, the rich rugs, the stain glass window in his office, the painted ceilings, now nothing but peeling plaster and falling stone. Sunlight spills in from the poor repair. It would be a very, very special kind of irony to suddenly be killed by falling rock. Would he go back to where he came from, or would he die?
It's not something he wants to think about too hard.
"You lived here?" Lois asks, sounding a little disbelieving, and a little out of breath. "I mean, intellectually, I know that, but--"
"It's a fucking tomb. I know, trust me." The halls are marginally better, structure-wise, probably more due to good engineering than anything else. Upstairs would be a death trap, but Lex still feels this insane desire to look around. "Why don't I just have it razed?" It's the same question he could ask himself in his own world, and the answer's muddled, caught in the grey spaces of his mind.
Lois is a little ahead. "Maybe this wasn't such a great idea. We can't just sit around on bare rock--"
"It's surrounded by Kryptonite." Years of exposure made Lex sensitive to it--not like Superman, but a feeling, a tickle of some kind. It works on his nerves like an itch. "If I know me, and I do, I didn't throw everything out." At least he hoped. It might say a lot about both of them that being caught was becoming less worrisome than sitting around without furniture. "Storage here somewhere."
"You think?" She doesn't sound too certain. Neither is he.
"Not really, no, but--" Lex pushes a rotting doorway open, checking the footing, before motioning her forward. The huge kitchen was spread out before them, trapped forever in the early 00's, modern steel cut with stone and hideous, and expensive, tile. "Let's--have a seat. This is as good a place as any." A dusty table still takes up space by the granite counters. Lex watches Lois gingerly sit down, remembering belatedly that her night hadn't been any easier than his. "Are you--"
"I'm fine." She's pale, though, and Lex can see the way her hands shake. Reaction to stress, or a bout of insanity. Clark might kill them both. Or keep them both alive. When he finds them. And he will.
Lex is betting on Lois being right, that they can mark time, and he'll be out, leaving her and other-Lex here to face whatever comes after. And God, does he not want to think of after.
"Lois--" He's not sure what to say. He can't apologize, because he's not sorry. He can't be. He can't tell her that he can help her, because the man that lives in this skin can't even help himself. The curl of his body stops the word before she looks up.
"Just tired." Looking away, she closes her eyes, leaning down on the table. "It's--it's okay. I just need to rest."
Lex nods. He can give her that, at least.
Smallville nights are as endless as Smallville days. And Clark can see in the dark just as well as he can in light--darkness doesn't guarantee safety, but it feels like it does.
And Lois is sleeping like the dead, awkward position and all. Lex thinks she might not have slept much last night. The idea that she doesn't sleep when she's in Clark's bed if she can help it crawls the edges of his mind, but he dismisses it. There's nothing he can do.
The wine cellar still exists, and Lex marvels at the fact that his counterpart stripped the furniture but left the alcohol to slowly rot.
The castle's an abandoned ghost--from what little Lex saw of the road to Smallville, the country isn't much better. Darkened, barren fields--too many years of Kryptonite, slowly poisoning the land, creeping inch by inch through the soil. Another world, his world, they'd taken steps to prevent it, contain it, destroy it. Here--Lex stops at a window, staring out into the dark, the treeless, grassless ground No one had stopped it.
Glass sprinkles the floor where windows caved; even the stained glass in his office is falling apart, bright slivers of blood red and autumn gold littering the floor. No desk, but the sagging bookshelves still line the walls, a few books forgotten, or hell, maybe the guy had picked up a serious hate for Nietzsche and Catullus.
If he closes his eyes, he can remember, though. Clark at fifteen and sixteen and seventeen in here, standing before his desk like the least supplicating supplicant in history. A man who changed his future, like a tornado and an island and a tiny padded cell.
This is marking time, and the AI said two days, but he woke up in this body, so God alone knows what time that means. It could mean in the next fifteen minutes. It could be six am, when he woke up that first morning. It could be anything in between.
"Do you remember when we met?"
Lex keeps his eyes closed. "I wonder if you do."
Clark laughs, and it's fifteen all over again. Jesus. He wonders what the other Lex hears when he listens to that voice, if this is the reason he can't make himself leave. "You used to say it was the most fucked up way to meet ever."
It's strange; he can feel Clark this time, even with silent movement, too fast--he's ready for that big hand to brush his shoulder, ready to control the instinctive need to recoil, and bites his lip against the bright slash of pain. Someone normal would have screamed when their collarbone broke.
Lex has been everything and anything but normal.
"Does it work?" Lex asks, tasting blood when he bites through his lip. "You just beat the shit out of people and they do what you want?"
"It's pretty effective." The hand moves, and Lex forces himself not to touch himself, check the damage. He knows the damage. And he knows he'll heal from it, like he heals from everything else.
"When I was fifteen, I used to get into fights." Lex thinks he can almost hear Clark behind him. "When you were fifteen, you tried to stop them. What changed?"
"Everything changes." It's a breath across his scalp. "You told me that yourself."
Slowly, Lex turns around. Clark is Clark, this Clark, too-glossy and too-perfect, this ruthlessly powerful man who'd learned to like power and the ways he could wield it. Lex thinks of all the ways he'd thought Superman could fall from grace and how wrong he was. The Clark he knew could never have become this thing, pacing across the floor with soundless feet, a living, breathing predator.
This thing, who touches him with deceptively gentle fingers, brushing across the line of his jaw, the bruises on his throat, marking out the places he owns on Lex's body, like it's his right, his property.
"Someone's going to kill you someday." Lex says, and the hand freezes, dangerously close to his throat. Bar none, this is the stupidest he's ever been. "I want to be the one that does it."
And Clark laughs.
A lunge, that sends searing heat through Lex's body, broken bones grinding into living muscle and flesh, a brutal kiss, before Clark pulls back, arms around Lex's waist, looking into his eyes.
"You can try. Right now."
The pain recedes, a surprise--but it's not just pain. Everything seems to be pulling back, like he's being steadily jerked down an endless tunnel. He has no idea what it felt like when the AI threw him in here, but this sure as hell better be the way he leaves, because otherwise, it's very probable he's going to die.
"Where did all this come from?" Clark croons in his ear. Too close. Arms too tight. Clark might be bored, finally. "Did you and Lois think you could get away?"
Lois. Christ. "Where--"
Lex feels his ribs begin to crack under the pressure. Still here enough for Lex to want to struggle, even if his reaction time is for shit. Could be blood loss. "I thought I'd talk to her. After."
It's hard to get enough air to breathe, and if this is the AI, it's being shitty with timing it like this. The other Lex is struggling to the surface of this thoughts--a million touches like this, meetings like this. No, Clark isn't going to kill him. Clark is going to hurt him. And Lois will sit by a hospital bed again and wait for this Lex to either live or die, because this man doesn't care if he does or doesn't. Because Clark can do this, time after time, day after day, knowing Lex can heal it.
"He saved my life," Lex whispers, surprised to hear his own voice, even more surprised by the words. Other-Lex, maybe, creeping into his body while the AI pulls Lex out. "I fell in love with him. You were just what I got when I couldn't have him."
Clark pauses, staring down with unreadable eyes. "Lex--" The last of the air. Anytime now, the fucking AI can do this.
"Someone will take you down like a dog in the street, you son of a bitch." Lex whispers, feeling blood bubble, the snap of his ribs. God dammit, do it do it do it, get me the fuck *out* of here-- "And it might not be me, but it'll be somebody, and I'll be there, too. And when you die--"
"I want you to remember me."
Clark's head jerks around, and Lex gets the blurred vision of Lois at the door, and does she really think a fucking *gun* will do it?
"You've got to be kidding me." Clark sounds like Lex feels. "What do you think you're going to do with that? Annoy me to death?"
"Was I happy, Lex?" Her eyes are fixed on Clark, and Lex thinks that no matter how much he's ever hated Superman or Clark, or Clark hated him, it's nothing to compared to this.
He can't talk, but he can nod, and Lois smiles--the too-bright, too-smart, too-fucking-annoying woman she had almost been.
"Stop *this* bullet, Clark."
Lex hears the gunshot, feels Clark jerk in surprise, and--God, the sink into his body, too fast for pain to register, or maybe that's the AI, it sure as hell better be. The fall to the floor ends with bright light and Lois' voice close to his ear.
"Thank you." Lex thinks he sees her smile.
Lex doesn't hear the second gunshot. The AI's voice drowns out everything but that light.
"They sent it into another dimension," Lex says. His hands keep pausing at his ribs, feeling the smooth, unbroken bone beneath his skin, lingering on his collar and throat. He still tastes blood, but it's from biting through his lip when he came back, awake suddenly in the chair. The AI said it had only been an hour.
A fucking *hour*.
"That--does not assist us." The AI's pause sets Lex's teeth on edge. "We cannot send the entity into another universe to destroy--"
"Why not?" Lex knows a losing argument when he hears it. It's not like he thought that it was likely the AI would be okay with that. Somewhere, calculations are going on, studying the math that makes up a world. Lex can't quite wrap his mind around it, but the implications fascinate him. "And for kicks, can you pick somewhere a little less fucking *insane* next time?"
"How the hell can you tell that thing is there and *not* catch on to the world is run by a sociopath?" His tongue freezes on the use of Clark's name. He still wonders where the AI came down when Clark drew his line, with Jor-El on the other side.
The computer is silent for a few long seconds. "Calculation of probabilities--"
Another brief silence. Lex wonders if Clark had problems like this. "Your human mind cannot--"
"I'm not human." And if the AI thinks that kind of crap will fly, it's going to be a shitty night. "Don't even try that bullshit. How are you choosing?"
"The active continuation of the timeline." Lex thinks the AI might be trying. "There's a difference between a world without life and a world that still lives."
"And you can tell when this is because of it or something else--"
"No." The AI makes a low, humming sound. "But I can calculate the probability based on the information given. Fourteen point six three percent of dimensions, for instance, ended due to your direct influence."
And talk about being a bitch. Lex's eyes narrow, giving it a second to take it back, but it goes back to that low hum that he can feel shaking every nerve.
"I do not kid, Lex Luthor. Nuclear device, one point six three. Plasmic instability, two point six eight. Utilization of Kryptonite in its various incarnations, eight point three nine eight two. Genocide, nine point two one seven--"
"Genocide?" Lex's chest tightens, like his ribs are less unbroken than he thought. "I never--"
"The complete and systematic destruction of all life on the planet to the bacterial level," the AI parrots, like it's reading from the fucking dictionary. "Gaseous emissions, point seven two, viral infection, one point three eight nine two, war, six point--"
"Shut. The. Fuck. Up." Lex takes a deep breath. "You can tell what destroys a world?"
"In a manner, yes."
And does he want to hear how many other ways he's ended life as he knows it?
"The next attempt will be made in four hours," the AI says, like it's just made some kind of point. Maybe it has. "You should rest and consume--"
"Don't you fucking dare tell me what to do." If the AI was trying to make him go away, it succeeded. Turning, he walked out the door, aware only after it closed that he had no idea where the hell he was going to go.
Turning back around, he stared at the closed door for a moment, but the idea of going back in and giving the AI the satisfaction of asking for directions--and no, he didn't care he was anthropomorphizing what amounted to being a fucking *computer*....
"Shit." This isn't the same hall he used to see.
"There are private quarters on this corridor," the AI says helpfully, and Lex bites down against the urge to jump. Shit. That world had seriously screwed with him. "You may use--"
"Got it." The metal and stone corridor has the vague undertones of a hospital, or an institution. Multiple doors march in a straight line, and Lex wonders what on earth the Fortress has so many for. Clark, as far as Lex knew, never had visitors. Lois or his family, perhaps?
Lex chooses the closest door, watching in bemusement as it slides silently open. The Fortress, for some reason, reminds him of Star Trek. All it needs is little chimes to play.
The room is about what Lex would have expected, if he'd been expecting--well, bedrooms. Plain mattress on some kind of raised area against one wall. A terminal for interface with the AI. A door, presumably to a bathroom--dear God, there had better be a bathroom. Another to a closet. Lex is still relieved the AI grasped the human concept of plumbing. God only knew what Kryptonians used. Some strangely utilitarian clothes hang from the few hangers. And here he'd thought Kryptonians were all about the primary colors.
And he needs rest, no question.
"You can acquire sustenance--"
"Stop that!" Maybe he's more unnerved than he'd thought. Taking a deep breath, Lex sits on the bed, aware for the first time that his clothes are clammy. Sweat, from the smell. "I was under for an hour of real time?"
"Yes." The AI pauses. "You seemed--distressed."
"No shit." Staring at the wall, Lex tries to decide what to do. "Was he here? Often?"
The AI pauses, like there's a world of 'he's out there and can't be expected to know who on earth Lex means. "Kal-El?"
Lex nods, then wonders if the AI has visuals. He really doesn't want to know if it does. "Yeah. Did he come here often?"
"Yes." Another pause. "He said he found it quiet here."
Lex imagines he did. "Without the bustle of humanity, I suppose." Somehow, it's hard to see Clark here. Superman? No problem--the tights and over-righteous attitude, the alien, would have fit in here like a glove. But not the kid that wore flannel, not the man in the glasses. "Was he--" Was he what? At peace? Comfortable? Unhappy? There are a thousand questions that Lex wants to ask, but the only person that could ever answer them is dead. "Can you leave me alone for a while?" Though that's kind of funny, if he thinks about it. The Fortress is the AI's body, for all intents and purposes. And he's *in* it. There isn't anywhere to go from there.
"Of course." And maybe Clark had made requests like that, too, because even the subliminal buzz seems to recede. It could be his imagination, but Lex doubts it. Leaning back, Lex takes in the ungiving mattress, almost as hard as the floor, staring into the high ceiling. Clark came here for peace, for quiet, for help. He wonders, a little inanely, if it would amuse him to know Lex is doing the same thing, and for some of the same reasons.
After all, he hasn't asked the AI to update him on what's been happening on the planet. There are some things that, right now, he doesn't want to know.
Sleep's impossible. Even given that he's been awake--or at least, his mind has been awake--for over twenty four hours, his body's only been up for five. Pacing the room gets boring fast. Eating takes some time, but Lex has always been a relatively fast eater when dinner doesn't involve business or espionage. The shower takes more, but not much; his skin pruning by the time he gets out, shivering in the AI's idea of a reasonable temperature for humans. The clean clothes feel wrong, flowing in strange angles over his body, like they were shaped for someone else, with odd fastenings.
Lex tries to imagine Clark in these rooms--so spartan, compared to his apartment with Lois. Clutter and boxes, piles and left over take-out; neither had been the kind to clean up after themselves. Too intense, between their work and each other to remember domestic chores like taking out the trash and cleaning up the living room once or twice a week. Completely unlike his boyhood room in Smallville, or the loft as well.
Peace, the AI had said. Almost zen-like.
He wonders if Clark came here after their fights.
Shaking the thought away, Lex drops on the terminal. The temptation to check out the state of the world eats at him, but he's not quite ready to face that yet. Not if it's come together, not if it's out there, destroying more cities, more property, more people. What remains of the Justice League is so outclassed it isn't even funny.
If Superman hadn't died--
Lex stops the thought. It's too easy to fall into the memory, the anger and helpless fear and frustration and, God, why did he *do* it? Lex can't quite wrap his mind around that moment of realization, and thinking on it doesn't help. Tapping a sequence into the keyboard, Lex watches the screen come up. He needs something to do.
"AI," Lex says, then remembers that he told it to stay out. Shit. Leaning away, Lex spins the chair, feeling silly, but it's something to *do*. Lena had hated that. Lena had--
Lex knocks those memories away too.
It's amazing how many things in his life he would prefer to forget.
A long time ago, Lex had wanted more.
Power, wealth, the protection that those things bought--he hadn't always wanted it so much, so desperately, so badly that he'd do anything to have it, to keep it. The transition had been seamless, and even now, Lex can't look back and press his finger on the moment that he stopped believing, stopped being able to pretend, stopped trying.
Homicidal ex-wives and betraying girlfriends galore, but he hadn't stopped believing, not really. Somewhere, he knew, he'd find someone he could live with. Fall in love with. Make a life with. Someone that would be there, for the lonely child still trapped somewhere deep beneath Lex's skin. Someone to talk to, touch, trust, surround himself with, the only protection he'd ever need.
And then he'd stopped, and he's still not sure how that happened.
He never imagined that with Clark, even in the richness of his secret fantasy life. Loving someone was very different than having them, and Lex knew impossible when it stared him in the face with wide dark eyes and said they would always be friends. He knew lies, too, but he thinks that Clark wasn't lying then.
"I would have taken care of you, you know," Lex tells the room. This isn't Clark's room--the AI surely has some sense of decency and would have warned him off if it was--but he can imagine Clark here if he tries. Slim, lithe body, those guileless eyes, that cocksucker mouth. He can see Clark now, t-shirt and ancient jeans that cling to every curve of his ass, smiling at Lex from beneath his bangs. "Back--then. I would have protected you. I never would have--would have--" Used you. Even the thought feels like a lie, though. He remembers twenty one through twenty-four, and he wasn't the person he is now, but he's not sure he's ever been the person that could have made promises like that to Clark and kept them. "I would never have hurt you."
He remembers Clark and Lois--the easy camaraderie, the friendship and rivalry and passionate devotion to work, the way Clark lit up around her, like a supernova. Lois made Clark more of what he already was.
God knows what Lex would have made him, if he'd had him.
"I would have," he says, and he could believe it if he tried. The person he was then loved Clark to distraction, would have lit himself on fire if Clark asked.
"He never hated you."
Lex rounds on the source of the voice, trying to locate it. "I said leave me the fuck alone!" He's too utterly exhausted to be embarrassed; that or too fucking angry. "The stupid motherfucker left us to die so he could go out in a blaze of unselfish glory. Don't give me that shit--"
"You were the last one."
Lex's breath stops. "Last--"
"The last of his family. He couldn't save them." The AI sounds odd, like a student of a foreign language testing their skill. Not entirely sure that what they are saying is what they meant to say.
Lois, in the first attack, hunting down the story with all her soul. The Kent farm a blackened wasteland. Pete and Lana those terrible three days in Metropolis. Superman couldn't be everywhere at once, though he'd tried, God, had he tried. Lex remembers the blur of blue, the exhausted anchormen on the television every day, reciting Superman by rote, trying to save the world, hour after endless, nightmarish hour as the casualty reports came in.
"How the hell would you know?"
"Kal-El knew the necessity of expediency. He would have let you die. Clark--did not believe in expediency." The AI doesn't sound thrilled by that, either. "Are you ready to start pre-jump procedure?"
Nodding warily, Lex stands up, feeling lightheaded. Strange. "Let's get this show on the road."