Hands clenched in the sheet by Clark's hip, and Clark tried not to find it comforting. Just to see Lex as on edge as he was. Just a little. It was wrong. And stupid. And juvenile.
And it helped.
"Clark--" A wealth of unspoken disagreement in his voice.
"That's what it's generally called when one man kills fifty-seven people, right?" Man being a loose term. Even now, he could see the faces of the other refugees when Mrs. Ross said those words. "Mass murderer. Arsonist. Genocidal maniac. Sociopath. Or just following orders. Take your pick."
"It wasn't you."
He made it sound simple. It's not you, Clark, this is some Kal guy who looks like you and fits your description, except for that nasty sociopathic habit of genocide he's picked up. Don't worry about it. You're nothing like that. Get some sleep. We have a long, hostile, nightmarish day ahead of us.
Rolling onto his other side, Clark took a slow breath. "I'm fine. Go back to bed."
"You're not fine if you're dreaming crap about this." And maybe Lex wasn't as utterly philosophical as he'd been playing it so long. Gritting his teeth, Clark closed his eyes again and concentrated on thinking of anything but this room.
Think of--Smallville. Bills he needed to deliver. Mom making apple pie--it was Sunday now, right? Or do they have an entirely new calendar here?
"Go to bed, Lex."
The hand that brushed his shoulder pulled back instantly, like Clark's skin burned, and he regretted saying anything. He--God--
"It's not easy for me either, Clark." It was almost worse than Lex's anger--anger at least, would have been something to fight against, spend his own rage on, but the cool, dispassionate voice cut like anger never could. You're being a brat, his voice implied. Unreasonable. Childish.
I'm in a fucking nightmare, Clark almost said, but he couldn't answer things that Lex wasn't saying.
"They were burned to dust and ashes," Clark whispered, opening his eyes on the dark. When they closed, he saw what must have happened that day. "I flew in and killed you all. They said it was fast. But it was personal. Just dust and ash, all that was left of their leaders. Of--" You. But it wouldn't come out and Clark wasn't sure he could say it.
"They look at me like they expect me to kill their children in front of them."
"Clark, *stop* it."
"They know Kal and they know me. One day, Lex, you're going to look away and they're going to kill me--"
"--and when you look again, they'll tell you how great you are while my blood's covering their hands."
What in the name of God was *wrong* with him?
"Jesus *fuck*." He never felt Lex move--one second beside him, the next a slim, angry body against his, hands braced on his shoulders like he could be held down, and he pushed, just lightly, just enough for Lex to lose his balance, falling to the floor with a soft gasp. Remind him he wasn't dealing with sweet, bumbling, stupid little Clark Kent. A sickening sound, like a ripe watermelon being thrown into the wall, that was Lex's head against the bare, brushed stone of the floor, and Clark heard himself laugh--this high, choked thing that sounded a lot like sobbing. He cut it off.
Silence. Clark could hear Lex's breathing, slow and even, Lex's body shift as he sat up.
"Taking it out on me won't help." Simple words belied by the fact that Lex didn't come close. Not too close, not to the monster, the murder, the man these people wanted to kill so badly Clark knew they could taste it ever time they looked at him.
There were *children* here, and they had seen him and he was--God, this was so fucking hysterical--he was their bogeyman.
"Afraid of me?" Clark whispered, and the blue eyes flickered down. He moved before he knew what he was doing, his mind gibbering in shock, but his body had control now, slamming Lex into the wall, fingers wrapped around that pale, vulnerable throat that was left open to him, like he was just that Clark Kent who would never do anything even close to this.
Mrs. Ross' voice murmured in his mind. They wore black, the military, and Clark could see himself standing outside that building and burning everyone inside. People had run from him and when the building went up, so did Kal, disappearing and leaving them alone to watch the end of hope.
They told the story by rote, like it was memorized, like a rallying cry, this is how it happened, Mrs. Ross had said. This is how they died, and this is who did it.
Lex. Didn't. Understand.
What are you *doing*? Lex's heart was beating so loud, so fast, gasping for air. Breathing out, Clark jerked himself back, stumbling until his legs hit the bed, going down like the awkward teenager he'd been only yesterday, hearing the soft crack of the headboard when he grabbed for it, the squeal of overstressed metal.
That, Clark thought dully, was Kal. That's what Kal was. A man who killed without thought or mercy.
Lex didn't move from the wall. "Is that what you want?"
Jesus. No. "I want to go home."
The footsteps didn't pause--God, why? What the hell was Lex thinking, to come this close, but Clark couldn't find it in himself to move and then Lex was stretching out beside him. No touch anywhere except in eyes Clark could feel like skin. Close enough to feel warm breath tickle his skin, even through cheap cotton. Lex.
"Pete's dad was there."
The catch of breath beside him was enough. Clark turned his head, just enough to see Lex's eyes close briefly. He'd known. "She told you?"
Clark took a deep breath. "What did they tell you, when I was in that room? I need to know, Lex."
The darkness that filled the place of blue had nothing to do with the room around them. Clark rolled on his side as Lex looked away.
"You're right." A hand traces the sheets slowly, thoughtfully. "You do."
"Who are you?"
He had a body memory of Smallville that related in two universes, apparently, with the shock of hitting the wall, and God, his head was never going to ever heal. One day, he just knew it, he was going to get one knock too many and start actually believing the shit his dad poured out about rarified air and Alexander the Great, and wasn't that a hell of a thought when he was getting the shit beat out of him by a *girl*?
Okay, a woman about twenty years older than him with a hell of a right hook.
The kid, James, had been taken away from the scene, yelling at the top of his lungs like someone had just started to slaughter Santa Claus right before his eyes. This was definitely something no child should see, though Lex was beginning to think there was a completely different baseline going on here for what was appropriate for minor eyes and ears.
Clark. It pounded in his head, an endless litany, memories of green-tinged, *crawling* skin like something out of the worst low budget horror movie in history blocking everything else. Clark. He had to get to him. And that required getting through this. Alive.
He ducked the next punch and had the satisfaction of hearing a man's voice yell in shocked pain. Women he couldn't hit, fucking rules of behavior and Mother's training, but a man he *could*, and Lex--well, Lex had some aggression to work out.
Figure out something, Lex thought as he felt his knuckles split under the force of a blow that ricocheted up his arm and made his shoulder ache in a way wholly satisfactory. Voices kept asking him questions, people had taken Clark away, and the only chance either of them had was to make them believe he was who he already was.
In a manner of speaking. Lex hit the cave floor spitting blood and wondered if Mrs. Ross a universe or so over had ever had this fantasy about him and his father. Right now? She must been feeling a warm glow of satisfaction and have no idea why.
Christ, she was strong.
Lex almost laughed. "Better people than you have tried and they sure as hell couldn't manage." His lip was already swelling, eye ached from that second--third?--fourth?--punch that he hadn't expected at all, but it really was funny as hell. "What the fuck do you think you're *doing*? You think I got of there just to get killed by my own people?"
Mrs. Ross hesitated, hand coming up sharply, and the others fell back. Leaning into the wall, Lex finally got the chance to take in the numbers. Ten. All too-thin and too-pale and too fucking wired, and apparently, not too sure what the hell they were seeing.
He knew the feeling. He was getting that a lot.
Hell. He had to wonder what he was seeing himself. That was Judge Ross, the one that had signed Ryan's papers, Clark's best friend's mother, down and dirty and way too fucking scary, the familiarity jarring as hell, and God, he'd kill to get some time to have a breakdown anytime now. If Luthors did that. If Lex did that.
Which Lex did *not*.
The others were blurred faces--maybe people from the plant or Smallville residents themselves, but Lex focused on her, the nucleus of all the power in the room. She'd be deciding what happened to them both.
She'd decide whether he was the Lex they'd lost.
Thank God he was such a good liar.
"I'm obviously not Kryptonian."
That gave them all pause, taking in the bleeding and they might, just might, have cracked a few of his ribs. Nothing new there. One hand against his side, Lex braced himself against the wall, wondering what on earth he could use. He didn't know *anything*.
"You could have been sent by them," one voice offered uncertainly. Well, they'd certainly raised paranoia to a new level. "One of their--creations."
Jesus, so much more than he really could absorb right now in one simple sentence. Forcing it aside, Lex got his head up, holding Mrs. Ross's eyes. Dark and suspicious and terrified from the second she'd seen who came in with him. Disbelieving and wanting to believe.
Needing to believe. He got that. He'd seen the look on James' face and here it was again, written into them all.
"They're all dead." Another one of them--Michael Phillips? Didn't he work waste management?--stepping forward uncertainly, freezing when Mrs. Ross glanced over.
"I got away."
That look--he'd seen it on his own face before. When instinct and reason and need collided, when what you wanted was more important than what actually was. These weren't reasonable people who would use logic, who he could appeal to, work on with simple rationality. They were exiled people, living on the kind of hate that Lex could barely understand, and he got that.
"No one--no one does that."
Lex grinned, wondering if there was blood on his teeth, tasting it in his mouth. "I can do anything."
What kind of man would lead a fucking *rebellion* at twenty-two? And how? Lex tried to imagine that other self--thirteen years under the heel of alien invaders, like something out of the weirdest and least likely sci-fi movie in history, but there. Here.
God, his head hurt, and not just because of what had to be a record number of concussions.
"Can you prove it?"
Lex stared back at her, watching how her eyes fixed on him, looking for a single flaw, a single difference between her memory. These people, he thought, had never met him. He was--what had the kid said? A legend. A--distant figure of hope. They told stories about him.
God, don't laugh, don't laugh, this wasn't the time, but if Jonathan Kent could only *see* this....
"I don't plan on trying." Somehow, he was off the wall, standing on his own two feet, nausea sweet on the back of his tongue, and dizzy as shit, but he wasn't swaying, please God, and even his voice sounded sure. More sure than Lex had ever been in his life.
"Kal killed all of you." Michael licked his lips uncertainly, eyes flickering to Mrs. Ross. Taking a deep breath, Lex took a step forward, and surprisingly, the floor didn't tilt and he didn't fall.
Clark wasn't Kal, but was an alien, and someday soon, that was going to sink in, too, but right now, it wasn't Kal Lex needed to think about.
"He saved me." So many times. Even when I didn't want to be.
Lex almost laughed. He'd been in Smallville too long. Nothing was impossible these days. Man could fly, aliens walked among us, and a trip into a car cemetery could turn into this. "You know better than that. Nothing's impossible, Mrs. Ross."
She jerked at the sound of her name and Lex grinned again. "How--"
"You don't think I'd recognize the badlands cell leader?"
The dark eyes widened. "No one knows about us except--" Her voice cut off abruptly, and for the first time, he saw something besides blank fear. "No one knows we're here, even the Kryptonians."
"No one survives a Kryptonian raid." Her voice was uncertain, but God, did she want to believe. He wondered if he'd ever wanted anything like she wanted this.