Special thanks to Aelora and Cleotrue for the beta.
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The first thing I know is cold.
I'm naked and alone in the dark and it's so fucking cold, but I don't know how to fix it other than to curl in on myself and shake. The icy surface I'm sitting on burns my ass and the bottoms of my feet with unyielding intensity. I feel around with my hand, searching for something, anything, but all I find is the end of my world. Jerking my hand back, I tuck my arm against my quaking body. I don't dare explore further into the dark nothingness.
Unspeakable things happen in the dark.
And then my eyes are on fire from the shock of light abruptly filling the room, chasing away the nothing.
And God said let there be light, and there was light.
Trembling, I look up into the face of my God.
He's speaking to a woman that followed him into the room, but I ignore the words in favor of staring at His lips as they methodically open and close, bracketed by a full, graying beard.
"The other one was the same." I realize He is speaking about me.
"Yes, it takes some time for their internal body temperature to regulate itself." I watch carefully as the woman reaches into a hidden cabinet in the wall, and pulls out a cream colored blanket. "Until that time, they remain extremely vulnerable to even the slightest changes in external temperature."
She comes toward me, unfolding the blanket and wrapping it around my shoulders. I would find her beautiful, but there's something lurking just under the surface -- something in the way that she can't quite look me in the eye as she tucks the edge of the scratchy blanket under my chin.
Now God is speaking again. "Leave me with him."
"I'm not sure that's wise after the last one, Lionel. You know how unstable he was."
Something dangerous flashes in His eyes, and I learn to fear God.
Perhaps Helen should fear Him as well.
She sighs, but obeys. Lionel stares at her back as she leaves, quietly closing the door behind her. He turns to face me, staring into my eyes the way Helen would not. Cupping my face in both of His hands, He studies me intently.
"You look identical."
"To `the last one?'"
"Indeed. And to the one that inspired you both."
"Are you God?"
Chuckling, Lionel releases my face, but not before patting my cheek somewhat affectionately.
"To you I am."
After Lionel leaves, Helen brings me some clothing. Everything fits me perfectly from the gray dress shirt to the Italian leather shoes, but it leaves me wondering just how I know what Italian leather shoes looked like. For that matter, how do I know anything? I have no memories beyond the small, featureless room with the metal table that I awoke on.
I move into the penthouse only a few days later. It's disconcerting I have no memory of ever having lived there, but at the same time I know the exact value of every item in it. I know that channel 58 is MSNBC, and that they have a continuous stock ticker. Hell, I know every brand of liquor that is kept in the bar. I have access to so much fucking useless information, but no knowledge of how it got in my brain in the first place.
I wonder if that's what made the last one so `unstable,' as Helen had put it.
The days all blur together, one very much the same as the next. I make public appearance after public appearance, parading Helen around Metropolis as my new bride. We've never had sex, and I don't remember marrying her, but, to the world, I'm her husband.
To the world, I'm also Lex Luthor, heir to the Luthor empire.
It seems I was once a rebellious asshole, at least, that's what I'm told. But getting married a few months ago mellowed me, brought me back to the Luthor fold. I'm now at Lionel's right hand, his veritable shadow. I sit in on endless board meetings, never saying a word, only observing everything that happens.
I'm supposed to be all these things that everyone tells me, but the truth is, I don't know who I am. Or even what I am. When I look at myself in the mirror, all I see is a skinny bald man with shady eyes.
A total stranger.
After nearly a full month of living in the penthouse, Lionel comes to the decision that we should put in an appearance in Smallville. Helen is at a medical conference in New York, so it will be just the two of us.
We take one of the LuthorCorp helicopters, an endless sea of green cornfields whizzing below us. Flying feels inherently wrong to me -- it's so strange that creatures without wings could ever achieve a way to part company with the ground. I keep my gaze stubbornly locked on the back of the pilot's head rather than the rolling corn on the ground.
Lionel stays hidden behind a copy of the Daily Planet for the majority of the flight, only occasionally peering out to smirk at me in that annoying way of his.
Landing at the mansion is much the same as riding the elevator up to the penthouse for the first time. I know every minute detail about this place; that Lionel had it shipped, stone by stone, from Scotland to the middle of fucking nowhere Kansas just because he could. Same shit, different day.
"Dominic will be meeting us here shortly," Lionel yelled over the noise of the propellers. "We have an inspection of LuthorCorp Fertilizer Plant 3 set up for this afternoon."
I merely nod as the helicopter takes off, the prop wash tickling over my bald scalp.
"You will be watched closely today," he continues. "Your behavior must be identical to his, or there will be Hell to pay."
Lionel didn't have to explain whom he meant; it has been drilled into my head from my first waking moment. We walk across the immaculate lawn, through the ruthlessly pruned rosebushes and tall hedges of the garden in the back.
That's where he's hiding.
I'm surprised at Lionel's look of complete shock. No one ever gets the upper hand with him, but when I turn to see the man at my back, I understand everything.
He looks just like me.
Or maybe I look just like him.
Only we're different because he's dressed in worn clothes, most likely second hand. The threadbare jeans are almost sliding off his narrow hips, even the faded, stretched-out t-shirt is too large for his wiry frame.
I feel like an interloper. I'm obviously wearing his clothes, wearing his identity, his name. Had they even bothered to buy me clothes of my own, or had they just recycled his wardrobe?
"Lex." I think I'm the one that says it, but I can't be sure.
The bald man is holding a gun pointed at us, his mouth turned up in a smug, small half-smile. I bring my hand up to the scar bisecting my upper lip -- Lionel said we were identical. He was right.
"Let's take a drive. Just you and me and me." He motions toward the side of the castle with his gun. "Just one big, happy, dysfunctional family."
We walk into the garage, Lex following close behind. "We'll take the silver BMW. You drive, Dad."
I climb into the back seat as Lex takes the passenger seat, gun still aimed at Lionel as he slides behind the wheel. Lionel starts the engine and we drive out of the garage and through the open gates of the mansion until we get out to the road.
"Go right," Lex orders.
I know Smallville lies to the left. The only thing to the right is endless miles of farmland.
We drive for fifteen or twenty minutes, Lex occasionally ordering Lionel to turn right or left at a crossroads. We've circled and doubled back so many times that I'm certain Lionel must be as lost as I am.
"Stop here and get out of the car."
I watch as Lionel exits the car, scrabbling out after him while Lex follows both of us with sharp, predatory eyes.
He smiles almost nostalgically, rounding the car. "Helen went so easily. You know, 35th floor hotel balconies, alcohol, and tranquilizers rarely mix well." Lex levels the pistol at Lionel's chest. "You should start running now."
"Lex, Lex -- you can't do this. We're blood, son."
"Look at it this way, Dad." Lex pauses. "I'm going to give you something you never gave me."
"And what's that?"
He smirks. "A head start."
I know, deep in my soul, that he's completely serious.
Lionel's face goes slack with shock, and then tightens with a sickening combination of rage and fear. He turns and starts running, disappearing into the dense foliage.
Counting under his breath, Lex watches me intently, occasionally shifting his gaze to the sleek car idling on the side of the road. After the longest minute of my life, he turns and follows his father into the field.
I know I can stay or I can go, he's given me a choice.
But what kind of future can a man have when he has no past?
And what kind of future can a man have when he murders his own father?
I run through the cornfields after them, not quite sure what I'll do when or if I find them. The sharp leaves tear at my face and ears, stinging my bare scalp as I weave quickly through the tall rows. I stop short at the unmistakable crack of a gunshot just ahead and to my left, my stomach rolling in dread.
Continuing forward, I find Lionel's lifeless body lying stretched out across several broken corn stalks, the rich Kansas earth awash with his cooling blood. His unblinking, dead eyes stare at me, pinning me to this spot.
I look to his killer, standing only a few feet away, clutching the gun in his remarkably still hand.
I speak first. "What are you going to do?"
"I'm going to finish this." Lex turns to face me.
I take a step back as he advances toward me. I know what's coming -- I can see it all laid out before me. His leather-clad hand reaches up, the slender fingers gently caressing the side of my face, so eerily like his.
My world shrinks to this moment, to the feel of the still-warm barrel of Lex's pistol digging into my stomach.
I gaze deeply into my own eyes as he pulls the trigger.
And I die.
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