His body was a numb weight on the sheets, his tongue a wet shape in his mouth. The oddest flares of sensation rippled along his nerves, and his eyeballs were slick under his eyelids as they slipped up and down in a slow blink.
Dr. Kelley's hand rested on his shoulder. "Don't try to move, sir." The mere idea made him-- well, less laugh than choke on his own tongue. Kelley looked encouraged anyway. She turned away, then held a mirror over his face. "Here."
He willed his eyes to focus. A young face looked back at him, wet skin still flushed from the shock of artificial birth. Long wet hair was plastered back against his skull.
He was... It had worked.
A wave of triumph rolled his eyes back, rolled him into unconsciousness again.
The next few days strobed in and out. Lex's new body was tested and probed, his muscles stimulated with electrodes for hours each day. Brief waves of consciousness pulsed into longer periods of wakefulness, and finally the ocean of numbness spat him out and retreated. He coughed, swinging his legs over the side of the hospital bed.
Dr. Kelley was hovering at his side. He grinned at her, running a hand back through his wavy red hair, and she actually blushed. Lex raised an eyebrow and slid awkwardly off the bed, crossing to the mirror above the sink. The counter seemed low, and then he realized that his perspective was off. He was taller.
"Excellent work, Gretchen," he said distantly. "Really, excellent." He wasn't often given to superlatives. This time, though, he felt they were deserved.
Lex sat in the airport lounge, sipping an Australian beer. He grinned at anyone who glanced at him, especially anyone pretty. It was a sunny spring day, he was rid of the debilitating pain and weakness that had plagued him for the past year and a half, and, well, to be perfectly honest, he was rather enjoying living life as a different sort of science fiction cliche. Lex Luthor, The Brain That Wouldn't Die.
He caught a glimpse of a middle-aged man, coming towards him through the crowd, but let his glance skate away idly without betraying his recognition. Dominic was flanked by a couple of lawyers; good old Dom, Lex had trained him well. Legalities first, pleasantries later.
He glanced out the window again, letting Dominic approach and introduce himself. It wasn't hard, Lex found, to act appropriately-- impressed. Uncertain.
The stupid grin that he just couldn't wipe off his face probably helped. Dominic no doubt thought him immensely callous, given the recent death of his 'father.' Then again, what better way to prove he really was a Luthor?
Over the next few weeks, Lex signed papers, gave interviews, and set about arranging his new life. It was frighteningly easy to settle into his new identity: Lex Luthor's bastard son, raised in secrecy for his own protection, and sole heir to his father's fortune. The day he received his first invitation to a charity function, addressed to Alexander Luthor II, was the day he knew he'd made it, free and clear.
He stood in the main hall of the Metropolis townhouse and listened to the clocks tick. Lex had preferred to have his mail brought to him in his office, but Alexander Luthor was less formal, picking it up from a tray in the front hall instead. He remembered his mother doing the same thing, more than a lifetime ago.
The townhouse was old-fashioned, and not as convenient as his penthouse in the LexCorp tower. But Lex had thought it best not to stay anywhere too familiar. He hadn't lived in the townhouse for any significant length of time since his mother had died.
It helped, a little.
Twilight found him wandering idly near the lake in Jefferson Park. He'd ducked out of the townhouse without informing anyone of his plans. It wasn't as if anyone cared, anyway. Lex had made it quite clear he had no intention of interfering with the multinational conglomerate that was LexCorp in any meaningful, way. Been there, done that.
No one looked twice at him as he walked. With his hair back in a ponytail, wearing a Sharks jacket and cap with his T-shirt and jeans, he was apparently unremarkable. Unrecognizable.
He needed a hobby, he thought. Or a pet. Maybe he'd get a dog. Something big and pretty and stupid. Just for looks.
"Alexander Luthor," came a voice behind him. Lex turned, and looked into Clark Kent's eyes.
Clark had lines on his face, and hair shading to iron-gray at the temples. An age as false as Lex's youth. He was wearing silver reading glasses, and a worn tweed jacket with leather patches on the elbows.
"Yes?" Lex said curiously, looking at Clark over the top of his sunglasses.
"Clark Kent," he said, sticking out a broad hand. "I was-- I knew your father."
Lex pulled his sunglasses off, rubbing a thumb over one lens. "A lot of people knew my father."
Something hardened in Clark's eyes, or maybe just vanished to reveal the steel that was always there. "They really didn't."
"Sorry," Lex couldn't help but smile. "What'd you say your name was?"
"Clark Kent," Clark repeated, reaching up to adjust his glasses nervously. "Feature editor for the Daily Planet. I... I met Lex when he was your age." He stepped back, brushing his hands against his khakis. "You look a lot alike."
"So people say." Lex shrugged. "I don't see it, myself."
Clark stood there for a moment more, then nodded and moved on. Lex stood aside to let him continue down the path. The sun was low in the sky over the lake, and the willow trees were trailing their branches in the water.
Lex breathed in deeply, smelling fresh-cut grass and the faint scent of roses. It was 2027. He was living in a beautiful city. He was independent, healthy, wealthy, and handsome as hell.
This time around, he was bound to get it right.
Superman stopped by later that night.
"You know, Lex," he said, "human cloning is still illegal."
"Lex was my father, Superman. I go by Alex." Lex finished toweling his hair dry, then tossed the towel at Superman's broad chest. He caught it out of the air gracefully. "And I'm not sure I understand your point..."
Superman frowned and dropped the towel on the floor. "If Gretchen Kelley ever turns on you, Lex, you'll spend the rest of this life in a jail cell. Was it worth the risk?"
"You really want to play this game, Clark?"
He stared at Superman's perfect face as it hardened. Clark Kent had aged, but in costume he still looked the same. Perfect, immortal, untouched by care. Hard as stone, as he set his jaw and crossed his arms over his chest. "Are you threatening me?"
Lex had always wondered which identity Clark considered real. Which name, which face. By now, of course, neither one was wholly made of the truth.
It must-- it must be lonely.
Lex pulled his bathrobe down off his shoulders and let it fall to the floor. He stood naked in front of Clark, every inch of fresh-scrubbed skin tingling. "Do I have to?"
Superman looked away. "I... Are you going to answer all of my questions with questions?"
"That depends," Lex said, coming closer, "on what your next question is."
Clark was gentler than he had any right to be. Lex endured every careful touch and slow kiss in silence. He wasn't in any position to be making demands.
As it turned out, Clark wasn't much of a talker, either. Contrary to all expectations, he sounded as though he didn't have breath to waste on words. Every exhalation was hot and desperate against the back of Lex's neck, even through his hair. Clark gasped as he came, then rested his cheek against Lex's shoulderblade.
"Ah, Lex," he said, still deep inside him, holding him close. "You used to have freckles here."
Lex's arms shook with the effort of holding himself upright, and he hung his head, exhaling deeply. He let Clark disentangle their bodies, then let himself be pulled against Clark's chest and held for a few minutes as their breathing slowed.
He waited, but Clark didn't seem to be in any hurry to leave. Finally Lex had to relax, letting his head fall back lazily on the pillow. Clark stroked his shoulder, then dug a thumb into the muscle of Lex's bicep, making his arm twitch.
"Ow," Lex murmured. "What?"
"I'm sorry," Clark said. His voice was very low, and very serious.
Lex stopped rubbing his toe up and down Clark's ankle. "For what," he said, "the cancer? It wasn't your fault."
"I could have..." Clark sighed. "If you'd known--"
"If I'd known what?" Lex said. "I knew damn well the meteor rocks were dangerous. Unpredictable, at the very least." He shrugged. "Actually, I should be thanking you. My initial exposure in 1989 was probably all that allowed me to survive Gretchen's procedure."
Clark shifted in his arms. Lex could tell from the startled flex that he hadn't considered that part of it.
"Anyway," Lex continued lazily, "that's all behind me now. The straight and narrow for Alexander Julian Luthor."
Clark was silent, taking that in. "No more worlds to conquer?"
"I'm not crying," Lex said, and stretched. Morning sunlight spilled through a gap in the curtains, cutting a slice across the bed. He rubbed a thumb idly over his jaw, enjoying the rasp of stubble.
Clark shifted again. "This time around," he said softly, "you're also eating more organic fruits and vegetables."
Lex was still for a moment. Then he disentangled himself, pushed himself up on one arm and stared intently at Clark. Clark looked back at him, eyes firm and knowing.
He was smiling.
Finally Lex smiled back. "You know anyone who delivers?"
Clark's eyes gleamed like steel. "I might."
The plot of this story was adapted rather loosely from what I know of current Superman comics continuity. Lex Luthor actually did clone himself (with the help of Dr. Gretchen Kelley,) then faked his own death and came back as 'Lex Junior.' I couldn't help but wonder how SV Lex and Clark would fit into that storyline. For a good one-issue summary, check out Superman: Action Comics issue #678: They Saved Luthor's Brain!
Also, my grateful thanks to Rebeccat, elyn and LaT for beta, and Te & Sarah T. for their thoughts.
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