One More Day

by Mistress Ace

Author's Notes: This story was written in response to an icon challenge issued by *permetaform*. In the wake of *Memoria* and *Talisman* - it's a look at the past and a glimpse of the possible future.
My thanks always to my wonderful beta, *diluvian*. I would be a much poorer writer without her.

One More Day

When Julian died, all Lex wished for was one more day.

One more day to wake up to the sound of Julian crying. One more day of creeping into Julian's room to lift him out of the crib and hush him gently. One more day to sit in the rocking chair beside the window with Julian cradled in his arms.

One more day of small miracles.

But miracles weren't allowed in his life and Julian was gone. Dead and buried right next to his grandparents who'd passed away long before Lex's own birth. He no longer had a baby brother.

Instead, he had a secret and someone to mourn forever.

When his mother died, all Lex wished for was one more day.

One more day to hold her hand as she talked about her childhood and how happy she'd been. One more day of rambling through the streets of Metropolis, or Paris, or London at her side. One more day of bringing in a tray loaded with her tea and his hot cocoa, perching in the chair beside her bed while he listened to her breathing and wondered when it would finally stop.

When it did, he wasn't in the room. He'd been on the phone, trying to track down another doctor, another expert to help her and when he finally understood why the whole house had gone silent, it was too late.

She was laid to rest next to Julian, together in death as they had never been in life. The day she was buried, Lex knelt on the ground, heedless of the smears of dirt on his best clothes as he placed a spray of white orchids in the black marble vase beside her monument.

Every year after on the exact same day, he would place another spray of the same flower in that vase and pray for the same thing.

One more day.

All he wanted was one more day.

When they carted his father off to prison for his sins, all Lex wished for was one more day.

One more day of his father's endless life lessons, couched in ancient history and replete with allegories that would take other men years to unravel. One more day of sparring with his father, either with swords, or words, or hostile takeovers of companies they both desired. One more day of yearning for what would never be given freely - his father's love and approval.

Instead, he was paid his thirty pieces of silver and sent on his way, secure in the knowledge that Metropolis P.D. had closed their file on the six counts of negligent homicide bearing his name. Lex Luthor had a clean slate and his father was destined to rot in prison, his body ravaged by the same disease which had claimed the life of Chad Nash -- or as he'd been known post-Lazarus -- Adam Knight.

There would be no such resurrection for Lionel Luthor. He would be laid to rest next to his parents, a fitting end considering their murder sent him to jail in the first place, some thirty years after the fact.

The Luthor family plot would be occupied by murderers and their victims, laid cheek to jowl for all eternity.

There was a certain amount of irony in that.

When Clark declared the end of their friendship, all Lex wanted was one more day.

One more day of simple pleasures - walking around the mansion's grounds beside Clark, listening to Clark complain about his stunning lack of a love life while lining up a shot, giving Clark sage advice about the fairer sex, romantic strategy, filial devotion and the need to slip the traces occasionally... any number of topics.

One more day to unwind the secrets wrapped so tightly around Clark that he could barely move without something snapping free, blowing promises into the wind for anyone lucky enough to catch hold and pull.

One more day to admire the clean lines and the absolute artistry that had gone into sculpting such a perfect face and form. One more day to ache for something he would never have...

But Clark's father was dead and Clark was reeling in grief for not having been there, for not being fast enough, for not being able to save him. In trying to offer comfort Lex said the wrong thing, made the wrong move.

He hadn't meant for it to happen.

He hadn't meant to let his armor slip out of place.

He'd meant to pull Clark into a hug, not a kiss that left both of them breathless and staring at one another in stunned silence.

By revealing that secret, instead of all the others still locked deep inside, Lex earned an expulsion from the farm and Clark's life. Banished forever - his ears stinging from the sound of Clark's voice raised in outrage, his chest bruised from the furious shove toward the stairs, his stumble backward into the railing rewarded by a shower of splinters that shredded his palms - the insult he'd given answered by injury.

There was no repairing this. Nothing he could say that would make it better. Nothing he could offer that would undo what had been done.

In baring his soul, he'd destroyed the one thing that still mattered to him. As Clark stood at the loft window, his face hidden from view, his massive hands clenched and his entire body trembling with rage, Lex took the only possible course. With the stigmata of his sins carved into his flesh, he'd turned heel and raced away from the wreckage of their friendship.

Lex didn't stop running until he reached the gates of the mansion and there he collapsed, his fingers hooked through the wrought iron as he struggled to stay upright. He failed, sinking to his knees with his face pressed against the cold metal, his body racked with the effort to breathe, to push past the pain... to stop crying in vain for one more day...

Just one more day...

When Superman made his first appearance over the skies of Metropolis, the sight didn't startle Lex Luthor.

He'd always known this day would come.

While everyone else speculated about the alien, or cooed about how handsome he was, how strong and good and what a savior he could be for mankind, Lex calmly went about his business. His contingency plans were already in place. They'd been in place for years.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely. That was the single lesson where his father had been completely correct. Superman was simply lulling the populace, he was saving lives and kissing babies like any good politician but underneath... underneath lay a conqueror. Once the sheep were convinced of his benevolence, the wolf would shed his wool and the world would bleed.

But Lex was ready.

He alone knew Superman's weakness.

He had the weapons in place.

He and his were protected by mountains of glowing green, its virulence thinly concealed within a veil of lead, ready to be ripped away at a moment's notice. His guards were armed in the same fashion. His person was shielded by the ring that never left his right hand. It glowed brightly whenever the alien was near, thereby warning Lex of the potential danger.

One day Clark would snap. The thin veneer laid over his alien nature would melt away. Jonathan and Martha's homespun goodness would disappear in a rain of fire and Lex would be ready.

That day was coming, Lex could feel it.

Clark was spreading himself thinner and thinner, edging closer to the moment when he would reveal his true self. When he would shed the pretense of innocence and goodness and show the world why he bore the mark of Alexander the Great on his chest.

And when that day dawned, Lex would do his duty.

He would slay the conqueror and save humanity from being enslaved.

He would put a very special bullet through the heart of his best friend.

All it would take... was one more day...

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