A month, two then three went by without any new Lexcorp projects for Superman to shut down. Lois was actually quite bored that nothing was going on and none of her usual sources saw any hint of Lex plotting out an elaborate scheme so she started to pay more attention to various other threats to the city. Even Perry started to wonder if Lex had burned out on "being evil."
Superman, however, was persistent in his watch over him. As the fourth month of non-activity started, he landed on Lex's patio and knocked on the glass door.
Lex slowly opened the glass door and said, "Did you come to borrow a cup of sugar?"
"No, Luthor, I just want to know what you're up to . . ."
"Nothing." The glass door slowly began to close.
Superman stuck his hand in the way. "Come on, give."
"I know that you've been keeping an eye on me. You know I haven't done anything."
"Why . . . did you stop?"
Lex opened the door wide. "Come in then."
He went in, a little uneasy. As Superman, he had often saved multitudes of people. From personal experience, quite a few of the people he had saved over the years had supernatural powers. Perhaps someone was exercising undue influence on him? Even though he should be glad, he didn't like the idea of a part of Lex being excised or sapped away for his convenience. It reminded him too much of things past. It made him feel like Lionel.
Clark looked closely at Lex's eyes and was disquieted to find that it appeared that a light had disappeared from them. "Is something wrong? Are you sick?"
There was a quiet pause. "And if there was? No, I'm perfectly healthy. Thanks for asking."
Lex said, "If you don't have any more accusations, I'm going to turn in."
"Don't you hate me anymore? Don't you still want to destroy me?"
Lex blinked slowly. "You ever heard of these Japanese soldiers who kept on fighting decades after the World War II ended because they were told not to surrender? They lived in the jungle, stole food from the natives and refused to come back. One soldier in particular refused to surrender and go home until the government dug up his immediate superior officer in the army, flew him over there and had him order the soldier to surrender. He kept on fighting even though his side had already surrendered to the enemy, the people he used to know were gone and everything he stood for lay in the past. I bet they thought he was a fool for continuing to fight."
"Lex . . ." Clark said.
"I understand why he kept on fighting,though."
"If he surrendered then he would be the loser. Everything that he had gone through was for nothing. All the pain, all the terror, all the castigation . . . was just a waste. His life would be utterly meaningless but the more he fought, the more he suffered and the less he wanted to admit that it was all for nothing. He kept on fighting because at least he could pretend that he had a chance if he kept on fighting. At least with a direct order from his superior, he was relieved of the responsibility for his inability to win."
The dead, flat tone of Lex's voice scared Clark in a way that fighting off the missiles and death rays didn't. "You're . . . not a loser. How . . . can you say that? You're the head of a business empire . . . You're rich and powerful . . ." Is he depressed, thought Clark. He had noticed that Lex had been sleeping more lately and that he had lost weight.
"But what am I fighting for when I fight you? I try to tell myself that I'm fighting for humanity but lately I'm wondering if humanity's worth it. Humanity has basically surrendered itself to you. Who am I to continue to fight when the side I was fighting for has already fallen?"
Clark opened his mouth but couldn't think of anything to say. It would be insane of him to encourage Lex to go back to his old ways, to tell him that he needed to keep fighting him but this . . . "I didn't want a war in the first place," he said, unnerved by the way Lex was standing. Even when Lex stood still, he used to project a kind of restrained energy but right now his body was empty of whatever used to power him.
"How long has it been since we started fighting?"
Clark thought for a moment, making sure not to include the years that he had fought with him as himself but purely as Superman. "I'd say about twenty years . . ."
"Twenty years . . ." Lex said softly, closed his eyes to think about it for a moment. He opened his eyes, slowly turned and started to walk away.
"Lex . . ." said Clark.
"I'm going to sleep. You know the way out."
That night, Clark dreamt that he was in a jungle so vast that no matter how fast and how far he ran, there was no end to it.
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