All roads lead to.

by Shropshire



Disclaimer: The characters are not mine. I really doubt they'd want to be.

Warnings: Slight language. No sex. No plot. Angst and musing.

Summary: Lex and Clark have a future.

The dream was about rats and he had it every night. It was such a familiar nightmare now, so ritualistic, that he thought he would be more disturbed not to have had it. And yet his fear was real. Every night.

Lex Luthor woke up, controlled his breathing and poured himself a drink. Coffee, nowadays. Control was not just important, it was almost everything. One of these days someone would call his bluff and Lex Luthor, most powerful businessman on the planet, would die. Not an unappealing prospect, but he'd more than likely take the rest of Lex with him and, mostly, Lex really did want to live. "You're a survivor, Lex" was one of the only true things his dad had told him, and those genes held true. He had a meeting in five minutes and he needed every one of them.

Clark was on the news again. Superman, rather.

Clark, on his rare television appearances, was inclined to stumble and mumble and say, 'gee whiz' more than any sane adult is entitled to. Superman was a different matter, entirely. Proud and tall and supremely confident, he made interviewers literally swoon and small children trade in their baseball cards for capes. Superman was the Voice of America, the wholesome, heroic ideal.

Lex preferred Clark, but he knew himself in the minority- and maybe there was an element of sour grapes. In any event, Clark and Superman both scorned Lex Luthor in equal, and hearty, amounts. Scorned, but never ignored. Luthor and his presumed sinister ways were an ongoing project for the man in tights and an ongoing sorrow for his geeky alter-ego. Clark blamed himself, naturally. He always seemed to feel the guilt hardest for the things least his fault. The meteor shower, Ryan's death and Chloe's ( a tragic death but a heroic one and through nobody's decisions but her own).

And now, Lex Luthor: Owner of Metropolis; warts, blisters, running sores and all. 30 years old, feared by most, respected by many, loved by no-one at all. How tragic for the boy. At this rate he would drown in a sea of the gloopiest self-pity ever oozed by man, woman or spaniel. Clark, or rather Superman, would keep trying to save his soul. And if Clark tried more often, Lex might even appreciate it a bit but Superman... Lex had loved Warrior Angel as a boy and still loved him as a man, but he realised now that if a wormhole in the fabric of reality ever sent him spinning into that comic book world, he would have to avoid meeting his idol in order to keep from strangling him. Lex had loved Clark as a boy and he loved him still but, boy, did his hands itch in his presence. And not for the same reason that they used to (or- be honest- not solely for that reason). Another meeting. Another carefully orchestrated bluff. Another round of bloodshed averted, perhaps.

Lex hadn't mourned Lionel at first. Liver disease, appropriate enough. The forces of nature achieving what decades of finely-honed criminal menace, never got close to. No, at first he was too involved in trying to keep himself out of prison, his father's worst projects jettisoned, Clark, above all- Clark, that reckless, brave and stupid boy- protected. So much evidence had been collected, much of course, by himself. Knowledge is still his driving force, knowledge is what keeps him alive. Knowledge is what he is. That doesn't mean he wasn't wrong. Lex is an obsessive and he's fully aware of it. He would be his own worst enemy if the world's worst dressed superhero hadn't applied for the job.

Lex hadn't mourned Lionel at first, but as soon as he was free of the FBI, of the immediate threat of the circling corporate sharks and of some projects that still haunt his dreams (his other dreams), then he felt the loss like a wall he had suddenly slammed into. He had wanted so much to stop loving his father. He knew and hated what his father had done to him. He knew much of what he had done to others and what he had been. Surely loving such a monster was, itself, monstrous? But apparently, he was about as good at stopping his love, as he was at choosing an appropriate person to lavish it on in the first place. Nobody loved him, maybe not since his mother died (Helen's declaration was meaningless, Clark? He could never be sure) but that didn't stop him from loving them.

And love brought out the worst in him. For love, he would do more than fake those tiger claws.

There were two rats and two mazes. He saw every detail of those mazes, the walls high and terrifying in their completeness, the almost never-ending labyrinth, enmeshing the rat completely. Lex was both of the rats and both of the observers watching. He put the cheese down to entice the one rat to finish the maze and he ate it. He fired the shocks that hounded and goaded the other, and he felt them. Cheese and pain, one after the other, every night. And always each rat ended up in the centre. Each, where it was supposed to be.

Lex wasn't sure when he had lost Clark. The road to estrangement was apparently, also a journey, a slow sad trudge towards a bitter parting. Maybe, when he found himself in his father's place and didn't abdicate. Too late now, too dangerous to be other than suicide but then- he had had his reasons. Stupid arrogant reasons, no doubt. He had missed the hole in the maze. And Clark...

With hindsight, Lex could see that Clark had been young and sheltered and painfully immature. Ready to face mutants but not madness, lost in the twisted, uncomfortable complexity of a Luthor world. Unable to cope, he condemned. Of course he was also scared and had reason to be. Lex understood scared very well. He used it very well, too. Fear kept his world in balance and his sheep's clothing from poking out under the wolf shirt. Still, Clark had hurt him badly. Too quick to anger and distrust, too quick to use, too slow to understand. Too much beloved.

But Lex had forgiven Clark a long time ago. He forgave, he sometimes thought, for his own sake, because he could not stop loving and forgiveness was easier than that torn exhaustion of loving and hating at once. Clark was older now and less sheltered and slightly less immature. But his image of Lex was set in stone, a lost soul, a wicked soul, a mistake to be pitied and prevented from ever happening again. He was too blinded by what Lex was capable of, to see what he wasn't and to see how carefully he played the board, his board. His city. The centre of his maze.

Superman dropped by to say hello. Actually, he came round to glare and to rant, with a look of secret sorrow (what other kind could he have?) in his fierce eyes. If only you knew, Lex, say the eyes. I am secretly your former best friend and it hurts for me to do this.

Superman and Clark look different, like an actor in two wildly opposite roles, but Lex had never been fooled. With all that he knew, only blind, wilful ignorance could have prevented his seeing. Clark had enough of that though, sometimes, for the both of them.

"I know you're behind this, Luthor, and I will do everything in my power..."

Superman.

Lex, really, really doesn't like him. But he has always been part of Clark and so he loves him, anyway. Plus, he's sure nifty at saving a life. Handy, when a bomb starts ticking. How the hell did that get planted, anyway? Somehow, somewhere, fear wasn't enough.

Ol' Supes grabs him in the nick of time (traditions must be upheld) and shields him from the blast. It's nice to have those arms around him again. Lex imagines the shock on that sculpted face if he turned around and kissed him, right now. He imagines the disgust too, and it just isn't worth the risk. Lex is bad. Clark is good. And never the twain shall fuck.

Damn it.

Balance and control. No human experiments, no massacres in the street, no leering crime-bosses who only want to destroy. Charities and scholarships, falsely appearing false. Lex is no saint but he'll never be a monster. He'll never try to explain it to Clark, not again. And perhaps he's right, perhaps there are absolutes. Clark has always believed in himself. Lex never has, not entirely. Bluff and pretence and fooling himself if he has to. He's made so many mistakes.

"Are you okay, Luthor? Lex, are you okay?"

Clark is really concerned this time. Lex has drifted, spaced out, in a way he never does. Why today? Who knows. There have been so many other times, just like this. Still...

"I'm fine, Clark. Thank you."

Still, he's lost it this time. For whatever reason, Lex just can't pretend anymore. Superman's made of tougher stuff.

"Clark? Luthor, do you have a head injury? Who's Clark?"

"My best friend. Still. It's really very sad if you think about it."

Lex smiles. It's heartbreaking really, if you think about it. He laughs, softly.

"Lex, I..."

Say it Clark. Say you trust me after all. Say you want our future together to be better than this. Say you love me, even if it isn't true.

"...think you need to go to the hospital. You seem delusional..."

"I'm fine, Superman. You just reminded me of a friend for a second. Excuse me, won't you? I need to get the place tidied up a little."

Lex thinks he knows which rat he really is, trapped and herded in his maze. He thinks he knows who the other rat is, too.

Perhaps, though, Clark would disagree. Perhaps he'd switch their places. He's never seemed truly happy, not as Clark Kent, ace reporter, lousy friend, secret hero.

Lex would make him happy if it were in his power to do so. In his dreams, he's sure one day he'll find the trap door, the plastic explosive, the magic red shoes that'll break them from their paths, with so many twists and turns and only one end. And then again, he is the observer as well as the rat.

But every night the walls surround him, and the dream is the same.



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