Title: World Without
Fandom: Smallville/DCU/JLU (Toon)
Pairing: Clark/Lex, Clark/Bruce
Rating: Teen, PG-13
Length: 2253 words
Spoilers: post-series for SV, all messed up for DCU and Toon!verse
Warnings: slash, angst, schmangst indulgence, no porn
Disclaimer: Not mine, seriously. All belongs to Al & Miles, WB/CW and DC Comics.
Summary: Just another confrontation between Superman and Lex Luthor. This one turns deadly.
Superman has Lex pressed against the wall of his office, hands around his throat.
"I should just..."
Lex sputters, laughs with what breath he has. "If you do, I win," he mouths darkly.
He releases him, lets Lex fall gracelessly to the floor, a crumpled suit and shaking.
"Fool!" Lex says, suddenly prying open a floorboard, revealing the sickening green beneath.
And he falls, cape wafting around him, choking.
He wakes, pain receding, to an empty office, no less shattered than he is. Crystal litters the plain yet elegant rug. By his head, a forlorn walnut drawer, upended, post-its and pens by his hand.
Lex is gone.
He staggers towards the panoramic window, glass yielding, and falls into a Metropolis sky, fresh with rain.
He never hits the ground.
Days later, he's standing in the Batcave. Batman is sitting in a swivel chair by the monitors sipping coffee, cape on but cowl back.
"How many times have I told you not to confront Luthor alone?" Batman says.
He stands there, shifting from one red boot and then the other. "It's my city like this is yours." They've teamed together on several occasions, know their rhythm, but they have their demarcations, boundaries.
"Clark..." Bruce says, looking up. And suddenly he is. Clark Kent in a costume. The exchange of names, not the best idea that Clark ever had. How he once thought that only the ones they fought could use his name as a weapon.
"When it comes to him, you're blind," Bruce says, the fingers of his glove reaching out, beckoning. "You need to see this."
He positions himself in front of the monitors, beside Bruce, who uncharacteristically places a hand on his arm, warm and tentative. One stroke, two, and then it's gone.
"What's this about?" Clark says. In the distance, he can hear Alfred upstairs in the kitchen, pouring tea and sighing. They're between Robins and the manor, always nearly empty, is emptier.
"Just watch," Bruce says, mouth grim and set with purpose. He flips a switch.
Technicolor and sound explode on the screen. Clark sees himself two days ago in Lex's office. The angle high and slanted, but otherwise clear. The events unfold as he remembers. And then continue.
"Always the arrogant fool," Lex laughs, holding a chunk of kryptonite over a motionless Superman. "Never presume that you can best me. I know all of your weaknesses. Mind and body. All of them."
Superman doesn't respond.
"Passed out already? Getting weaker in your old age? You're pathetic."
Lex rises, drops the meteor piece by the wilted cape on the floor. He goes over to the wet bar and pours himself a leisurely scotch.
"What should I do with your body? Hoist it up on a pike? Let the good people of Metropolis see how fallible you really are?"
He takes a few sips and sighs, places the glass on his desk. He walks over to Superman, toes the kryptonite with a polished Italian shoe. It rolls a foot, then two, across the floor.
"Time to move, hero. I want you conscious for this."
Superman doesn't move. He doesn't move at all, no rise and fall of the emblazoned golden symbol.
Lex frowns, pokes him with his foot.
"Move..." he hisses.
He crouches down and rolls, ungently, Superman onto his back.
Superman's eyes are open, unblinking, mouth slack.
Lex shakes him, hard and then harder.
"Clark?" he says, soft.
He rises, retrieves his scotch from the desk, paces. His laugh, staccato, unbelieving. He runs one hand over his head. "Clark?" he says again. "Oh Jesus..."
Lex hurls the tumbler. It skids once, bounces and shatters. He lunges towards the kryptonite, tosses it back beneath the floorboard, closes it. Waits one second. Two.
"Clark, goddamn it, wake up!"
He crawls the few paces to the body, pumps its chest twice, holds the nose shut and breathes in. Again. And then again. "You're supposed to be forever, you alien son of a bitch," he says between breaths, the heels of his hands working the chest. One, two, three, another breath. "Breathe!"
The body, in defiance, refuses.
Lex pauses, tries it again. One, two, three, breath. Finally, his mouth skids off that of Superman, rests by the side. His hand reaches up, cards the hair back, lingering.
He rises, rocks back on his knees, and shudders. "No," he says. And again, "No."
Lex stands and reels over to the executive desk pulls a drawer completely out and flings it away. He reaches inside, grabs something small, metallic.
"You think you're going to heaven, don't you?" he says, each word clipped, glass fallen to the ground, brittle. He kneels by Superman, leans and whispers, "But you're not."
He holds the object in front of Superman's unfocused eyes. A trigger.
"You're going to hell. With me." His fingers dance across one cheek. "You see this, you smug son of a bitch? I only need to press this and ten thousand nuclear bombs all over the world will erupt. All those people you could have saved...and it's all your fault because you turned out to be mortal like the rest of us."
Lex's thumb traces Superman's cheek, his mouth.
"See you soon, Clark. Are you ever going to be pissed."
But then a breath, a sigh, a groan. Superman's chest rises, falls.
Lex tilts back his head and laughs. "Once again, Superman to the rescue."
He rises and leaves, taking the trigger with him.
The scene plays on. Clark sees himself stagger towards the window, fall through, and then fly away. Bruce reaches forward and the screen turns black.
"It took me five years and two deep-cover agents to get those cameras in place."
"How long was I dead?" Clark says. Above him, a pigeon lost and cooing flaps its wings, struggling for an exit.
Bruce says nothing. He closes his eyes, glove finding his forehead, he tilts his head back. "By my calculations, six minutes."
"What do we do now?"
Bruce straightens, pulls his cowl and mask firmly back in place. He stands.
"We find those bombs."
Batman, who never has been much of a team-player, manages to contact every member of the League, including the auxiliary. By ten p.m. the next day, all ten thousand devices are found and disarmed.
"Is that the last of them?" Diana asks.
"Yes," Batman says, "It would be difficult for Luthor to accrue more. We have some time."
"Good," she says. "Let's bring him in."
Every bomb they've located has been linked to a local terrorist group. A fundamentalist enclave in Idaho, disenfranchised Soviets in Georgia, absolutely nothing to link the bombs back to LexCorp. In fact, LexCorp has just issued a gushing press release, praising the League for its effectiveness while hinting that that very effectiveness could turn lethal on an unsuspecting world.
"On what grounds?" Batman says. "He's proven just as deadly on the inside before. Let him think he got away with this one. We'll watch and wait."
Superman nods, turns to leave. A hand grabs his shoulder. "Watch and wait, Clark. Don't be an idiot."
The Watchtower hums. J'onn floats nearby. "I won't be," he says. "Bruce...just let me go."
The grip tightens. He can feel each finger press down below his cape to the shoulder beneath. "Clark, we should talk."
Clark turns. From Diana or Wally or any of the others, this would mean a cup of coffee, an exchange of words. From Bruce, he has no idea what it would mean.
Bruce pushes the cowl back, face naked and personal. "Don't do it," he says.
Clark has seen the affable playboy, the Bat, but rarely has he seen this. Bruce's eyes lock with his, blue and searching. Clark has no idea who this is and wonders if Bruce does either.
"Don't go back to Metropolis tonight."
"And go where?"
"I've got plenty of room. You know that."
They've come to blows more than once over the years, argued over the meeting table until J'onn finally said, "Enough", have become estranged to the point of curt nods and then dropped it all for a greater cause. The hand on his shoulder, no longer admonishing, becomes, of all things, a brief caress.
"I know revenge, Clark. It's not who you are."
The Watchtower has seen all manners of battle intimacy over the years. The cots become discreet witnesses to fallen comrades, the grief of the living and solace.
"You died the other day," Bruce says. "I don't want to avoid another one of your funerals."
"You won't," he says.
Bruce smiles, pure relief and open, terrible and unfamiliar. "You haven't tasted anything like Alfred's omelettes," he whispers, leaning in.
"I'm sorry," Clark says as he cheats, vibrates away, runs until he's in open space.
He finds himself outside Lex's office, prepared to knock the door down.
"It's open," Lex says. "I'd rather avoid the replacement cost."
Clark turns the knob, enters. Dressed as Superman, but Clark all the same.
Lex stands away from his desk, walks over to the bar, pours himself a scotch. "It's time for a break," he says. "Your timing couldn't have been more perfect." He gestures towards a second glass, but Clark nods in refusal. "Of course not," Lex says, "I offer only from politeness. Always duty first with you."
He smiles and leans against his desk. "Congratulations are in order. Another terrorist plot foiled."
Clark says nothing, folds his arms across his chest.
Lex takes a small sip and goes over to the new window. "Let's cut this short, shall we? I'm not behind every nefarious plot, or any at all, although I'm flattered you think so." He sighs. "Everytime the world's in danger, you come to me."
Turning, Lex says conversationally, "So how's the boyfriend? What are they calling you these days, the World's Finest Duo?" He pauses with a vicious smile. "It's rather cute."
He might be Clark, but he hasn't come without his own weapons. "Lex," he says, "We need to talk."
Lex stiffens, ever so slightly. He might still be Lex in his mind but only Luthor has crossed his lips for years now. Lex crosses to the desk, pushes a button. The almost silent hum of the surveillance system whirs to a stop. "Alright then, Clark, off the record."
"I've seen the footage, Lex. I know what happened."
Lex places the glass behind him on the desk, barely missing it. "But I erased..." Startled more than Clark has seen him in years, Lex takes both hands and rubs his face. But then he lets them fall, calm again. "I see," he says, "I'd suspected a Wayne Technologies plant." He picks up his glass again. "So now you know," he says, one sip then two. He plays with the rim of the glass, awkward.
This is the time to push his advantage, make a statement, leave.
Instead, he walks over to the couch and sinks down, cape rucked up behind him. All those people...
"How could you, Lex?" And the tears come.
He expects Lex to raise up that floorboard again. But instead he hears him place the glass down gently, walk over to him.
"What's the world to me without you in it, Clark?" he says softly.
Lex kneels down, places a hand on the side of his face. "Why do you always have to be so beautiful when you're broken?" he says in wonder.
"Is that why you do it?" he says. He should be sick, revolted, push Lex away. He shouldn't raise his own hand and caress him back. Lex holds the world hostage for sex. He digs deep, but the only disgust he can find is for himself.
For instead of incendiary devices and fission flashes, all names and hope disappearing at the whim of a madman, he sees only a blanket on a flat bed, the curl of curtains in the summer breeze. He sees things long ago lost and not the ones that need to be kept.
Lex leans in, brushes his lips against his. "No," he says, regret and whisper. "That time's come and gone." His breath ghosts over Clark's jaw. "Two men left Smallville and never went back."
But Lex doesn't pull away, instead he brings his lips back up to Clark's. "I was your first," he says, "but I won't be your last."
He rises. "But Clark, don't even begin to think that he's any less dangerous than I am." He pauses, leans in again. "Grief can bring a man to do terrible things."
"What do you expect me to do?" he says as if he's sixteen again and Lex is back in his study, analyzing his next shot at the table. An old habit, harsh and sudden. The time for many things has come and gone. No advice Lex can give him would do anything but hurt him. Perhaps it always did.
"Simple," Lex says, kissing him once more. "Live."
But then he stands, retrieves his glass from the desk, looks out the window. "Don't expect me to make it easy for you." He reaches back, presses the button, turns the surveillance system back on.
"Goodbye, Superman," Lex says, calm and confident. "Next time, make an appointment."
And Clark does the only thing he can. He goes out into the world, hears the sound of fire sirens in the distance. He rises into the Metropolis skies, clear and open now, and leaves the past behind.