*still looking* That's just--perfect.
He'd never had a hangover.
Not after the RedK incident, not after that evening at Lex's where they'd drank shot after shot of brandy and Lex had collapsed in a strangely vulnerable pile on the floor of the den, speaking nothing but Latin and making Clark suspicious every time he giggled at some particular phrase. He's played at it before--after a kegger his freshman year that Pete made him to go for the purposes of raising his profile, when he was *really* young and he and Chloe and Pete had drank all that hard cider at Mr. Johnson's without anyone knowing.
He wasn't sure this was comparable to what he'd heard, but it was so close, and Clark rolled over, wishing Mom would come upstairs. She *so* didn't approve of drinking, but he thought she'd be sympathetic, bring him water and lecture him a little when he felt better. His mouth felt dry and tastes like he'd been sucking on handfuls of rusty coins for hours, all of his skin seemed to be trying to subtly crawl off his body to pool on the floor. God, even his *hair* felt weird, like every strand has a little weight attached.
"Mom," he murmured, trying to get one hand up, and that made his ears ache, too. God. Dammit. "Mom, I feel--"
"...off me or you'll lose it."
Lex had never had what anyone sane would call a soothing voice--low and rich and soft when he worked for it, but also? Kind of hot. In a way Clark tried not to think about too much. Right now, Lex wasn't trying for soft and conciliatory and it showed--every vowel was as sharp as a razor and trying to cut into Clark's skin individually, and Clark wondered if his mom would mind that Lex was here when Clark had his very first hangover.
Oooooh. Maybe Lex *caused* the hangover. There was a thought.
"Sir, you don't--"
The sound of a door slamming felt a lot like hitting that car when he had no powers, and wow, that's a memory Clark could have survived without reliving, like, ever. Curling up, or trying to, Clark wished someone would make Lex shut up. And go away. Or come here with water. Something.
A slow weight eased itself onto the mattress, but Clark didn't dare open his eyes.
Lex. Sitting on his bed. Clark considered opening his eyes and then decided against it. The nausea-inducing shift of the bed was really enough. "Clark. I need you to focus."
Clark sucked in a slow breath. "Go away." Or bring Mom here. Either would work. "Feel--terrible."
"I know." There was something in Lex's voice that made Clark wonder, and he slowly shifted onto his back, slitting his eyes open.
Stupid mistake. Dark room, but not too dark. Lex nearby. Entirely not his room. Entirely not his--
A hand almost touched his face--Lex, completely uncertain, and Clark wondered briefly if anyone made Lex look like that besides him. Make him pause and consider, before the hand dropped away, and headache be damned, stomach be damned, hangover be damned, Clark sat up straight. "What--"
Memory's fast and as painless as a stiletto. One minute nothing, the next everything, no transition, no time to panic, no time to wish he had never woken up at all. Clark sucked a breath like he was suffocating, and the hands clenched in the thin sheets began to shake.
"Look at me. Don't--Jesus, don't freak out." He'd almost think Lex was shaking, too--pale oval of a face, features blurred in the dark, circles under his eyes easily visible. "I need you to focus. We're under observation."
Observation. Clark nodded slowly, carefully, trying not to jostle too much. That--made sense. Rebels and different worlds and Kal, who kills people. Clark might have himself under observation.
"You're--we're in. There's meteor--kryptonite in the room. That's why you feel like shit." Thanks for noticing, Lex. "Everything's going to be fine."
Clark didn't laugh, but only because Lex seemed so *serious*. Blinking slowly, Clark let Lex lower him back down when his arms wouldn't hold him up anymore, trying to take in what little of the room he could see. "Cave."
"Yes." Lex took a deep breath. "I don't know much more. They're--not happy you're here."
That might be a massive understatement, and Clark thought it was almost sweet that Lex would take the trouble. "You?"
Through slitted eyes, Clark could see Lex's sharp smile. "They're--very suspicious." Wow, that would be a huge shock. "I'd speculate that--" Lex almost instantly cut himself off, eyes narrowing, and while Clark was way too out of it to try and translate his expression, the context was good enough. They were being observed.
Slowly, Clark nodded, and even that hurt--Jesus, he couldn't stay like this for long. Even broken ribs hadn't been like this--this endless moving nausea and pain. Knocked out would be good. Dead might be good. Somewhere not here would be even better.
"They all wear--"
"Like a pop teen fad." Lex sounded disgusted, and Clark tried to grin.
Lex hesitated for a minute, then the hand touched him--oh God, blessedly cool, sweet. Wonderful. Wanted to move into it like a cat, curl up against Lex and leech all the cool from his body and wow, that was kind of weird, but he'd worry about it later. Later, when the world made sense and he didn't feel like complete shit.
"I need to tell you some things," Lex murmured, and Clark tried to concentrate. "Important things."
Clark's eyes fixed on Lex's face, then slowly sat up. The dizziness was dismissable. He needed to focus. Direction. Where--would they put it. The little room was depressingly bare--made Clark wonder if they often had Kryptonian guests. Focus, though. Where it was coming from. Why it was coming from there. How to--
"Left," Clark said, and his voice sounded terrible. "Under the bed. Maybe in--"
A hand on his arm pulled, and Clark wished, a little desperately, that Lex wouldn't be so focused in speed over comfort, because he was in a tangle of sheets on the cool stone floor before he could finish the sentence. And since when the hell was Lex so damned strong? Trying to get to his elbows, he watched Lex methodically pull apart the cot, mattress and bare metal railings, jerking those apart too, and Clark watched dazedly as a little pile of green rocks slid out of the hollow tubes to pool in Lex's hands.
Even looking at them made him sick.
Behind him, Clark could hear the door open and a part of him was ready to push up, Lex was so damned often in danger and not so great at getting out of it often, but his body refused any kind of movement. Lex was already crossing over him, coming to a stop only a few inches from his head.
Was Lex trying to--oh the moron.
"You shouldn't have done that." A woman's cool voice, not one that Clark recognized, but he didn't mind. "You do understand our reservations--"
"If I'm who you think I am, then you know what I'll do when faced with a direct threat." There was a steel in Lex's voice that, until now, had only been present when faced with his father. "If I'm not, then you have no idea what you're dealing with and you should act accordingly."
"Kal is my friend. I don't want him in pain."
"Do you have a better solution?"
Clark thought he could almost hear Lex thinking. "Take your little toys out of the room. Stand guard outside for all I care. If the best humanity can do in war is torture without reason, then maybe there's a reason we haven't won yet."
Silence. Clark could almost hear the arguments going on in their heads, see the face off between Lex and whoever was facing him now.
"Can you prove you are Lex Luthor?" Her voice was almost soft.
"I don't plan to try."
So much confidence--but then again, that's all Lex had to work with. Playing this Lex, rebel leader, was all well and good, but in a question and answer session, he'd be outed. And they both knew it. God, he wished he could do something besides lay here and wish for his own death.
"You'll be watched." It should have been a threat, but Clark didn't care much because--oh God. The rocks were going. Muscles were relaxing and his body was calming and oh God, yes, it was wonderful. Vaguely, he was aware of the door closing again, and Lex dropping beside him, not even bothering to return to the disassembled cot. Instead, the mattress was pulled over, and Clark willingly climbed onto it, pain replaced with exhaustion.
Opening his eyes without real pain, and oh God, that was good, too, Clark looked at Lex.
And blinked. "They changed your clothes." And did Lex have a black eye? Clark flickered in vision automatically, scanning the slim body, wincing as abrasions and cuts and what looked like a nasty set of blisters across one bandaged thigh.
"Surprisingly, they didn't take the word of a twelve year old child," Lex answered softly, and Clark glanced around, trying to listen for the hum of audio. "Don't worry. They don't have the resources to bug."
"How would you know?" Every instinct was awake. They'd--hurt him. A lot. Nothing broken, so far as Clark could tell anyway, but they'd hurt him. Asked him questions, maybe, about Clark, and Lex had lied and that was why, maybe, that Clark was still alive.
Lex's smile was almost painful--probably was, Clark thought with a sick feeling. Split lip. "Their computer systems are well below the quality I'm used to. Scan for wires, but I can't find anything. They have--a separate room for interrogations."
Oh. Clark flickered his gaze around the room. Nothing. "Talk quietly anyway?"
"Pretty much. They're watching, but I doubt they're watching for more than sudden movements and attacks. They--" Lex trailed off, frowning. "They're a very badly, badly organized rebellion, if this is supposed to be the current headquarters."
"Good weapons. Or whatever I was hit with."
"Equivalent of a Kryptonite laser, you might say. Think a green laser pointer with a lot of range. Not a bad innovation either." Lex would be intrigued, and Clark pulled up a pillow from the floor, letting his eyes fall half-closed as his body recovered. "They--took me by surprise."
"Me too. I didn't hear them."
"I don't think anyone hears them if they don't want them to. Badly organized, not badly trained." The thoughtfulness was back. "From what I understand, there was--a raid not long ago. Some leaders got together in one place in an act of utter stupidity, and predictably, they were betrayed. The best and the brightest and pretty much the core were killed, including--well, Lex." Clark wondered how long Lex had worked that over in his head before he could sound so casual. "These are civilians. And apparently, the new best and brightest."
Lex sighed softly. "I have no idea if they're telling me anything that even vaguely resembles the truth. But just from overhearing--it's bad for them. And it's not going to get better."
Clark opened his eyes. "If there's a Lex and a Cl--Kal here, that means there's other--"
Lex's mouth tightened. "I know."
There were a lot of things in Lex's voice that made Clark want to know, but he bit back the questions. Mom, Dad? Maybe who looked at him like James did.
"Any idea how we got here yet?" His voice was hoarse. He really wasn't up to that.
Lex's mouth twisted. "Magic? I have no idea. These people--" His voice trailed off. "I had only a few minutes to look at their computers, and I wasn't exactly focused on looking for history. We're pretty far underground, if my calculations on the way down were right. Away from sunlight. Ask me why."
Clark pulled himself up on an elbow. "Not wanting to be caught outside?"
Lex grinned. "Interested to know why you have these--powers?"
Oh. Clark blinked. "I--what? Sunlight?" He was joking, but apparently, he was also some kind of bizarre genius. Lex only looked at him. "Sunlight. You're kidding."
"Nope." Yes, the inner scientist was having a moment alone with the information. "Yellow sun. And there's an expiration date on how long you can go without it, in case you're curious."
He really wasn't at the moment. "Okay. I--what else?"
"The woman you heard--" Lex took a long breath. "Elizabeth Ross."
Clark sat up straight. "Pete."
If possible, Lex seemed even more tense. "Yes. He's here."
Clark opened his mouth to ask, where, how is he, can I see him--but even before the words could form, everything fell back into place. Different Pete. The woman who had put rocks in this room with him was Pete's mother and he wasn't Clark, and--
A hand on his shoulder brought his head up. Lex looked back at him with careful sympathy. "It's not the same people."
Swallowing, Clark nodded, not able to believe a word. "How many would I know?"
"Not many. Pete--Pete and his family. What's left of them." Clark winced, shoving back the spurt of non-kryptonite nausea. Because this place was apparently an inspiration to entirely new kinds of guilt. "They--" And for a wonder, Lex stopped, obviously searching for words to cushion the blow.
"Want me dead?"
Lex didn't answer, but then, he didn't need to.
Laying back down, Clark stared up at the low, dark ceiling. Underground, Lex said. Like rats. Like animals. In caves. Hiding from sunlight, from Kryptonians, from--him.
"What else?" Flat voice, like the walls around him. An interrogation room was located somewhere in here. How would they find out how long it takes before a Kryptonian dies from lack of sunlight? Rooms like this, maybe, where they--they--they--
This was war, Clark thought dully. This was what people did during war, but the room seemed suddenly crowded with ghosts. His own kind--whatever they were--who had died in here without the sun.
There was no frame of reference. Nothing in his life had prepared him to see this, to even begin to understand it.
"I'm not a kid." Yes he was. He was a kid. He was whining a few hours ago about staying at home and wanted to ride dirtbikes with Pete and thinking about Lana. He was sulking because his best friend was getting married and not paying him enough attention. He was worried about algebra and gerunds and those misplaced commas on his book report that lost him the A. He worried about meteor mutants and saving his friends and where his people came from. And why he was here. There.
Now he knew, and he didn't want to.
"They sent me to conquer," Clark whispered, and Lex's eyes on him felt like an accusation even if they weren't. "In the ship. My ship. At home. That's what it said. That's what I know. This is what they wanted."
Lex didn't say anything, but the tentative, uncertain brush of fingers across his cheek wanted to help. Lex didn't know how to give comfort, only how to share pain. "What am I here?"
"You're Clark," Lex said slowly, measuring out each word, like it was the most important thing he'd ever said. Probably was--after all, he was as lost as Clark was, wasn't he? The only other person Lex knew was having a breakdown, and he had to get Clark out of it before something dangerous happened. So they could get home. Practical even now.
"Can you--go?" He couldn't look at Lex, knowing what he did. What little he did, anyway, and surely someone was going to enlighten him Real Damn Soon, tell him what he'd done to their families and their friends and--and--and then Lex's hands were on his shoulders, pulling at him, and Lex--
God, Lex, trying very hard to hug him. Like someone who had seen it done but never quite got the practical experience behind him, awkward and not quite sure how it was supposed to work, and Clark closed his eyes and held on, too.
"He's not you," Lex whispered. "I'll get you out of here, Clark."
"They'll--Lex--" They're watching, he wanted to say, but he shut his mouth and just held on. Held on even as the door opened and Lex's arms tightened protectively. "Lex, you can't risk--"
"He's not staying in here," Lex said over his head, and maybe Lex had just gone crazy with all that had happened. Someone was at the door, maybe Judge Ross who made pot roast on Wednesdays and had come to Career Day and made them all want to be judges if they could get their very own gavels. Judge Ross, who was someone else entirely. Clark couldn't make himself look at her "K-Kal is no danger to anyone here. I want him let out and left alone."
"He can't, Lex," she said in a low, unhappy voice. "Lex, even if I trusted him--"
"Then you put us back on the surface and we'll take our chances." There was a finality to Lex's voice that made Clark shiver. Lex might very well do it.
"There's a price on your head high enough to buy all of us pardons," she answered slowly, every word dropping like a rock. Clark tried to pull away, tell Lex no, don't risk yourself, but Lex was good at holding onto things that he wanted. Clark had forgotten about that somehow. "You wouldn't. Not for him."
No one told a Luthor no. No one told Lex what not to do. And no one sane told Lex he couldn't beat every odd ever made, and there was a kind of inevitability in Lex's next words, because they didn't surprise Clark at all. "Try me."