Summary: Written for Madelyn, who requested: Clark/Lex--Lex, in a shocking turn of events, has *gasp*, lost his fortune. He goes to the one person he can trust for help, even though they haven't exactly talked for a few years. Due to untimely exposure to The 4400, I'm afraid I interpreted this request a little liberally (oops?)
Spoilers: Picks up directly after SV 4.04 'Devoted'
Disclaimer: These characters are the intellectual property of DC and the WB. I intend no copyright infringement and make no money.
The second to last thing Lex remembers from before is standing in the Smallville High carpark after the big game, replaying Clark’s sixty yard pass in his mind; there had been beauty in it, but ugliness as well, because it was a cheat, one Clark seemed hardly aware of. The rest of the crowd had cheered, but Lex had felt uneasy. The further Clark falls, the closer he comes to Lex’s reach. But Lex doesn’t really want him like that.
The last thing Lex remembers is discovering someone had scraped a key along the side of his Ferrari 348 Spyder. Fifty seconds and fifty years later, Lex is still pissed off.
Lex has no visitors in quarantine. There are no living relatives. During his interview with the woman from Homeland Security, it becomes clear that the name Luthor means nothing to her. Lex is uncertain how to feel about that.
They have television access. Television itself hasn’t changed much in all the time Lex has been away. Politics, crime, economics, weather; the stories are much the same as they were fifty years ago. Still, it is like picking up a newspaper in another city, or another country, and getting that fragile, far away feeling in his belly that his mother used to call ‘homesickly’.
Lex has been an orphan for a long time now.
If there is one obvious difference in the news stories, it is their cartoonishness. There are heroes and villains, jokerz and supermen and ghouls fighting it out in digitally enhanced, colour graded trenches. There are mind probes and synthoids and orbital laser platforms and...and the reappearance of 4400 people missing, presumed dead, in a fiery ball of light over a Washington state lake is the top news story, yes, but not as startling as it might have been fifty years ago.
Lex was a Smallville resident too long to be entirely surprised by these changes.
Lex is released from quarantine with little to his name but a pocketful of cash and vouchers, a plain, wrinkled outfit-–prison uniform masquerading as civvies--and a sign saying ‘0100’.
Around him, many of the missing are being found. It feels something like a hospital, or perhaps a circus. There are tears, and laughter, and strange, hushed screams. ‘2871’, a young woman named Charlotte, is presented with a bunch of helium balloons by a balding, beaming, middle-aged man who calls her ‘mom’, and she releases the balloons into the sky and holds his face between her hands. Lex watches the balloons’ haphazard but determined progress through the air, and waits to feel lightness within.
Looking about him, it seems to Lex that the world is just a little off kilter, like a George Lucas special edition of 2004. The cars are different-–hell, some vehicles are actually hovering-–and the fashions are absurd, though no more so than his own time, he supposes. The air smells strange, but perhaps it only seems so because of his confinement. The hairstyles are...unfamiliar...but then, so is his own. He rubs a hand through the short, orange, clown tufts that have sprouted on his head since he first woke in this time.
He’s not expecting anyone, not really, but he scans the horizon of the crowd in search of a tall, dark figure anyhow. The person he finds is not the one he was half hoping for, but the sign matches his own, so he approaches. Bruce looks like Lurch from The Addams Family; Lex wonders if anyone remembers The Addams Family, or if they are as forgotten as the Luthor family.
“You’re a long way from Gotham,” he says.
“Lex,” says Bruce, a faint smile breaking the stark lines of his face. “You’re a long way from anywhere at all.” He holds out his hand and Lex shakes it carefully. Several weeks ago, his hand was accidentally broken like this by one of the missing, a shy young man named Sayed; they had both watched in bemusement as the bones knit themselves together in less than ten minutes.
“You look like a cadaver,” he says finally, because there’s no getting around it: Bruce is an old man.
“You’re the one back from the dead,” says Bruce. There’s just a hint of mock sing-song in his tone, reminiscent of their boarding school days. God, he’d been a weird guy.
Brandishing a cane, though. That’s new. “Arthritis?”
“Old stab wound,” says Bruce curtly.
“And now you’re providing limousine service?”
“If you like.” There’s a dangerous gleam in Bruce’s eyes that Lex might’ve been wary of had his life not been so fucked up beyond belief anyhow. “A friend wanted me to come by. He was concerned about you. And I’m concerned about him.”
Bruce is fishing, but Lex is not in the mood to play. “I can catch a cab.”
“You have nowhere to go.” Only Bruce can make such undeniable heartbreak sound like a threat. “What do you want, Lex?”
“I want to go home.”
“That can be arranged.”
There is something in Bruce’s voice that makes Lex wonder if he can actually spin back time and put Lex back in the Smallville High carpark next to his desecrated car. More likely he will fire up a home-made comet and shoot Lex back into space. But Bruce just drives him to the airport and bundles him into a Wayne Enterprises jet. Lex doesn’t ask where they’re going.
It should be a nervous flight; Lex has had too many mid-air mishaps to feel entirely relaxed at thirty thousand feet. But mostly he just feels numb. The worst thing that can happen to him has already happened many times before; disaster has become routine, and he has no energy to spare for dread anymore.
Bruce is wisely forgoing any attempt at comfort, taking a business-like stance instead as he fills in the gaps of Lex’s unlife; the loss of family and fortune leaves little else to discuss, because Lex is a person displaced by time and context. Lex can tell Bruce is itching (in his grim, impenetrable way) to find out more about where Lex has been, and Lex feels a not unfamiliar stab of realisation that he is important only as a curiosity. He wonders how often he made Clark feel this way, wonders why this is only now occurring to him, fifty years too late, and offers up a heartfelt mental apology to his friend.
“What’s your interest in all this, Bruce?”
Bruce stares hard at him, as if the force of his gaze will be enough to drag Lex from relativity to real time. “4400 people, missing anywhere up to fifty years, turning up in a great ball of light from outer space? It...concerns me.”
“I can’t tell you more than you already know.”
Bruce raises a skeptical brow. “Homeland Security’s medical reports have been fascinating.”
“Security is not the operative word, I take it.” Lex smiles, just a little; he can’t really fault Bruce for something he would’ve done himself.
“Wayne Enterprises has its resources.” Lex can’t tell if Bruce sounds proud or embarrassed, but the latter doesn’t seem likely. “Wayne Enterprises absorbed many Luthor resources.”
If Bruce is expecting surprise, he will be disappointed. Everything may be new to Lex, but it feels very old at the same time. He doesn’t need to school himself not to react. “What is your conclusion?”
The massive, hunched shoulders move in a glacial shrug. “I haven’t had a chance to look through more than a percentage of the individual reports, but what I’ve read so far is...intriguing. Overall, it seems that there have been small but significant changes made within certain sequences of the junk DNA of those missing. They...you...have been...souped up, so to speak. Homeland Security does not know how or why. They have apparently decided to take a cautious wait and see approach, since ongoing incarceration of such a large number of presumably blameless citizens is not feasible.” Bruce is watching Lex intently. “They told you nothing?”
“You know they didn’t,” Lex answers. “But I heard...things.” Actually, it had been another of the missing, a teenager named Kamal, who had heard things. Kamal had heard things through glass and brick and steel. “I’ve always been different.”
“And now you are even more so.” Bruce hands him a sheaf of paper and Lex flicks through it, but it is beyond his half century old college education. Bruce takes him back to the first page and begins, patiently, to explain. Lex tries not to look at the age spots on Bruce’s gnarled, calloused hands.
It seems that Bruce has the power to turn back time after all; Smallville feels unchanged.
Lex stands beneath the ‘Kent Farm’ sign, watching Bruce’s car recede in a dust haze and pondering Bruce’s definition of home. Lex still has his ‘0100’ sign, and decides that this is as good as a snap. Maybe better.
The sun bears down on him as he walks the long path to the house; sweat gathers uneasily at his hairline. The farm plainly has some hired help; the summer crops look healthy and the cows are lowing, and if they are not the same crops or the same cows as fifty years ago, Lex can’t tell the difference.
He knocks at the front door and lets himself in. Inside, the air is cool and the fixtures appear much the same, but the pictures on the walls are strange and disorienting, and he turns his eyes from them deliberately. He finds Martha asleep in a complicated but cosy looking armchair, the sort of thing designed for a person with shaky legs and a bad back. Her nose is still prominent, her bosom less so, and he is glad she is not awake to see his first reaction, because her frailty frightens him more than anything else he has seen in this world.
He touches her hand gently and it turns in his to hold him. There is a shuddery moment when he wants to pull away, and then she opens her eyes and says, “Welcome home, dear,” and he thinks that maybe it will be all right. If she says so, he will believe her.
Later, he stands at the barn’s open window watching the sun go down. He wonders how many storms these creaking old timbers have withstood.
Martha says Clark will come if he calls, but Lex is silent; he thinks Clark will come anyhow.
He turns when he feels the telltale rush of air behind him, and asks, “Where have you been?”
Clark looks tired, a bit disheveled, and unbelievably pleased to see him. “Japan. Earthquake. And isn’t that my question?”
Lex smiles, intrigued by Clark’s honesty. “Seattle. Quarantine. But you knew that.”
“Bruce told me you were back, but I already knew. I remembered the sound of your voice. I just didn’t know what to do about it. After looking for you for so long, I didn’t know what to do.” Clark cocks his head to one side. “They launched missiles at you guys, you know. And then they launched me. I told them it wasn’t a comet, and it just made them more scared.”
Lex doesn’t ask who ‘they’ are. He guesses there is any number of people willing to use Clark as a weapon. Maybe he can put a stop to that. “You look...” Just the same, he means to say, but it’s not entirely true. “You look exhausted.”
“Possession by starfish,” says Clark with a shrug and a grin, but his face soon stills. “It’s been a long decade.”
Lex steps forward, looking up into Clark’s face and reaching out tentatively before pulling back. He has forgotten how to touch Clark. “How do you hide this?”
“You’d be surprised what people don’t see.” Clark strokes a tender hand across the peach fuzz on Lex’s head, and Lex accepts the invitation, walking into Clark’s arms in relief. “I’ll show you.”
“How can you just pick up like this?” Lex feels embarrassed about the wonder in his voice, but he can’t seem to help it. His time was stolen and Clark’s has stopped, and somehow they are together now when almost everything else has gone.
“I’ve had a long time to think things over. To miss you.”
Lex smiles, because he has been missing so long, and because it is a wonderful thing to be missed. “I feel like a stray puppy Bruce left on your doorstep.”
“He worries about me. He probably thinks I’m going nuts, and maybe I am. He thinks I need company. A partner.”
“Bruce? Are we talking about the same person?”
Clark laughs. “Hey, he’s a complicated guy. Not to mention twisted. Any bets he was sizing you up for a pair of green panties before he threw you out into Hickory Lane. But metahumans give him the jitters. He probably decided you’d look better in red and blue. And that I needed you more than he ever could.”
It seems very Clark, this nervous mix of chatter and naked emotion. Lex takes Clark’s face between his hands before he can fly away. “Bruce tells me I’m going to live a long, long time.”
“Then will you do me a favour, Lex?” Clark’s voice is quiet. “Will you live with me?”
There is a deep furrow between Clark’s brows that Lex doesn’t remember from before, and it pisses him off. “I’m willing to give our friendship another chance,” he says, and he smoothes the furrow with painstaking fingertips.