Title: The Lucky Man (sequel to "At the Bright Pane Surrounded")
Fandom: DC/Smallville crossover AU
Rating: NC-17 (obligatory somewhat-disturbing content warning)
Summary: Lex copes as well as he can.
A/N: Written for the Free Verse Challenge. (unbeta'd, so all mistakes are very much mine.)
There's so much more between us than this table.
All those years, all those dreams, all those plans.
Guess you know without me saying I still love you,
But I've enjoyed as much of this as I can stand.
So you say you're happy now you've found a new love.
Tell him I said he's a lucky, lucky man.
No, I don't think I'll have time to see his picture.
I've enjoyed as much of this as I can stand.
~Bill Anderson, "As Much as I Can Stand"
The Lucky Man
Settling back in his armchair, Lex hits the replay again.
It's become something of a ritual, and his staff has learned to judge his mood based on how much, and which parts, he watches. He personally oversaw the editing of the master cut -- both the long and short versions, pouring over each microcam's raw footage. Which he shouldn't have, just as he shouldn't be watching the long cut again tonight.
He knows he should be working, never mind that it's after midnight and he's done all the work he can until morning.
Still, he should be doing something more constructive than mentally composing another pestering email to Happersen. Plotting to overthrow a major WayneTech supplier for instance. Or at least undercut Wayne Enterprises' new aerotech expansion. Right now, he should be undercutting Bruce in every way possible.
But he isn't, quite. At least, not since the knee-jerk takeover of a west coast Wayne subsidiary the day after. That had been a mistake; he'd paid too much.
And maybe that's significant -- the new way he thinks of his life in terms of before and after. It used to be before and after the meteor shower. Before and after his mom's death. The island. Clark.
He watches, swirling his snifter of brandy. Unlike the ones in the bedroom and study, this view-screen magnifies them precisely to life-size. The shots inter-cut between Clark scrubbing at his neck in the shower and Batman nosing through a dozen empty cabinets.
It was okay for it to be Lois. Clark's always had a thing for strident reporters, and Lex could handle that. But it wasn't supposed to be Batman.
Isn't supposed to be Batman.
Bruce looks amazing for a mere mortal, though Lex finds the extent of the scars, at best, unnerving. Especially considering the last time he had seen so much of Bruce was almost twenty years ago, when they'd both been condemned to a prep school at which rugby was akin to religion, and all boys were required to play. Neither of them had stayed there long.
Lex is glad for the hair. And the scars. All the roughness about him that defines the Batman -- and belies the smoothness of the Bruce Wayne façade. If he and Bruce were more alike, it would make everything much more difficult.
As it is...it's been six months and eleven days, and his life has changed in ways he never imagined.
They haven't been back to Clark's old apartment at all, even after Toyman had sent them scrambling after killer rubber duckies in the river mere blocks away. They haven't been anywhere he has cameras.
But they have been elsewhere. Fiji. Johannesburg. Sydney. Paris. Lex strongly suspects there was once in Scotland, but the intel was spurious and Bruce had an alibi. But then, Bruce *always* has an alibi. Unfortunately, there's no effective way to monitor trips to the Fortress; its sensor distortion field is (thus far) impenetrable.
He wonders about the Watchtower, but can't imagine them being anything less than professional in those confines. They're both too good at what they do. Too practiced at compartmentalizing their lives. And while Clark may tend to blur the boundaries when it comes to relationships, Bruce would keep him in line.
Bruce has always kept him in line. Just a little glare when the hero-façade threatens to slip. And vice versa. They do that for each other., and it makes Lex's teeth hurt.
He hasn’t made a serious attempt on either of their lives since...before. Which doesn't mean he hasn't found other ways to up the ante.
Of course, no one knows the true reason Lex Luthor is suddenly agreeing to television interviews with reporters he's refused for years. Or why he consistently steers the conversation to matters of respect, honor, and loyalty. Inevitably, they bring up Superman. At which point, he gives them all his most charming smile, and pauses mid-sentence to aim a meaningful glance straight at the camera.
They think he's on a crusade. That always makes him smile.
Fiji happened the day after his first primetime interview.
Bruce has apparently kept it out of Gotham, so it's highly unlikely that anyone -- League, little-bat, Lois, or otherwise -- suspects them of anything. Which vaguely reassures Lex against the absurd fear that they're 'dating'. Or that there could be anything between them besides the same old desperate need he can't help re-watching.
Because Clark still loves him. The proof is in the video.
Sometimes that's the only part he watches. He knows it's the only part that matters. Clark can go to whomever he wants for solace, but in the end, he can never get away. Not completely. Whether Lex baits him or not.
Which should mean more. Less. More. After all they went through together. Clark swooping to his rescue. Lex bailing him out. Clark storming in, calling him out with his farm-bred ethics. As if he'd never helped his father put down sick or wounded livestock. Clark has never understood that defeating an opponent well is an equal sort of mercy.
He never wanted to be Clark's opponent.
Lex dials up the volume on the comparison Bruce forced and feels his stomach clench, just like always. He could kill him for doing that to Clark...but if he did, Clark would never forgive him.
Clark has a type. Not the chirpy security of his girl-friday reporters, but rather, the kind he truly falls for.
Lex is Clark's type. He's watched it over and over in the boys he picks for his rebounds - seductive, adamant, self-reliant, imbalanced enough to seem interesting, inexplicably needy. Bruce is all that and more.
But Lex is haunted by the longing in Clark's eyes. There, in that look, when Batman yanks him back into the moment. And Clark's eyes stop darting between cameras.
Bruce shouldn't be the proxy.
Although...Bruce does consider turnabout fair play. At least inasmuch as Clark plays proxy in turn. And from the way Clark had cleared his schedule, he suspects Paris had more to do with Bruce than Lex's four minute appearance on World Financial News.
Which is a positive sign...when his priorities are rooted firmly in place.
From time to time, he entertains the notion of seducing Nightwing. Not that he particularly wants to, but it would be amusing to drive home the point, so to speak. And the challenge of it would be delightfully sweet...although sometimes he wondered if a simple "Wanna fuck?" would do it. But, no, the boy's too slim, too acrobatic, a poor substitute for what he craves.
He still doesn't know whether Clark confessed to Bruce about the bugs. He can't imagine that Bruce somehow knew, but remained indifferent. Unless it were meant to be yet another comment on Lex's relevance to Clark's present life. And if that were the case...except that hindsight could create the illusion of connections that hadn't been present at the time. It was maddening.
Onscreen, Clark's nipples are the same dusky rose-brown as ever. His hair is shorter than it used to be, but it suits him. His erection is dark, enduring, and he's writhing under Bruce's touch, and...fuck. Clark's as much bad news as ever.
But he doesn't mean that, not really. He needs to remember. He needs to figure out where he fucked it all up.
Back in prep school, the first time he did anything harder than pot, before he'd learned how to handle loss. He was still trying to bury his mom, Julian, and Pamela in that first pipe. Even his father, as that was about when he'd realized that even in grief, reaching out to Lionel was an utterly lost cause.
Rehab had shown him. And the island. The breakdown later. A depth of need beyond what any man alone could bear.
And then, Clark saving him over and over, whether he wanted to be or not. He never could get free of that. Of Clark.
Once, only once, long after everything had imploded on them, he'd called Martha. It had been a few years since he'd spoken to her, but with Martha that never seemed to matter. She'd told him she still loved him. That he was still a member of the family in her heart, no matter what happened.
It wasn't what he wanted to hear. He'd said something nasty about Clark in reply...and she'd only sighed. He missed her. Even if she hated what he'd become...she knew where he'd come from better than almost anybody.
Maybe it helped that she had never directly saved his life. She'd never foolishly imagined she was somehow responsible for it.
Clark and Bruce, Bruce and Clark. Lex takes a long sip of his drink, letting the burn heat his chest as he watches them move together on sheets he'd picked out, in a bed he'd repeatedly caused Clark to break. It's an endless nightmare. A disaster waiting to happen, even if they are only fuck-buddies...and what a hideous term to use in reference to Superman and Batman.
Lex still laughs when the media call them 'world's finest'. Naturally, their people had jumped on it, trademarked it, launched a World's Finest merchandising campaign. Not a bad power play, actually. They're everywhere, larger than life, awe-inspiring. On one hand, it's cartoonish; on the other, it's pushed their intimidation factor through the stratosphere.
It's especially irksome because he knows Bruce has read enough Orwell to acknowledge the gamble. It's cold comfort that one of the SuperBat-approved charities promotes literacy.
They're so insidious now that every late night talk show host has a throwaway line that starts, "So, what do you get if you cross Superman with Batman...." It always gets a laugh.
Lex doesn't laugh. A large part of Clark still hasn't begun to think of himself as more than an overgrown kid wanting desperately to be liked. And Bruce, in addition to his regular neuroses, is occupied with his new boy. Already a Robin, and not even out of junior high school yet.
Which perhaps casts new light on Bruce's...motivation with Clark. Training a thirteen-year-old would be stressful, especially after the way he lost the last one. Bruce has always been plagued by ghosts...and Clark has an uncanny ability to hold the demons at...no. He won't think about that.
Lex watches them doze, semi-entwined, onscreen. The two of them *are* friends, as much as Bruce can be friends with anyone. Clark was desperate, and Bruce was willing. Continues to be willing. It doesn't mean there's anything more to it. Not necessarily.
Stress relief doesn't need to be anything more than physiological. Except there's still the fact of their afterwards -- and pillow-talk is another term that should never apply to them. But that kiss. The hesitant little kiss Bruce gave him on waking.
A tiny, nerve-wracking kiss. As if Bruce would ever come out. As if there could ever be a place in Bruce's life for a Clark. Batman's life barely has room for a Superman. No, they're simply each other's safety net. Proxies. Surrogates. To take the edge off what they won't let themselves have.
Lex can deal with that. And besides. He has the sheets.
Hope had brought them up before he'd even finished the first replay. Lex shivers, remembering the smell when he opened the seal on the bag. The mixed scent of them. The fabric soft in his hands. The mouth-watering familiarity of them, rutting on the monitors from three different angles. Best of all, their come was still wet.
They don't yet know about the tiny genetic miracle growing in the lab. They won't know for a couple of years yet, if all goes well, and by then...well, this is going to change everything for all of them. Especially given the right mental programming, and Happersen already has Packard at work on the process.
Then, if the acceleration phase goes as planned, the other two await, still in embryo.
Lex watches Bruce, back in uniform and studiously ignoring Clark's nudity -- a crisp goodbye and a jump-line dive off the balcony rail. Bruce will adapt, might even be secretly pleased. After all, he has much more experience dealing with young people. Clark will have to learn.
He thinks no one would blame him for wanting to redefine 'world's finest'. It wouldn't even be infringement, technically.
Of course, Bruce might as easily kill him. Though he'd somehow managed not to kill the Joker for so much worse, so it's unlikely that he'd kill Lex for making new life out of what they'd wiped on a sheet.
And Clark would protect him. Probably.
Bruce might very well kill him, but at least he would understand. Bruce is always there, even when he's not. Because of the damned superhero dolls and toys and breakfast cereals. Because of the League, and the constant corporate warfare between WayneTech and LexCorp. And most of all because of Clark.... Because Clark lets him in where he's shut Lex out.
But he's not going to think about that, either. He has to think about what he can control, not what he can't.
Clark grinds against the bed, face pressed into Bruce's pillow. Lex is still trying to decide whether to age the babies equally, as artificial triplets, to bring the second two on as twins, or to stagger them all like normal brothers. Packard assures him that he can tweak it during acceleration.
Fully lit by the lamp, Clark's eyes are very green, full of love and sad longing. This is Lex's favorite part, the part he hates the most. Life-size Clark kneeling before him, jacking himself for him, making love to him through the camera. Giving him everything he can no longer give. Twisting the knife and then soothing it better, because despite it all, Clark still loves him.
And that, in the end, is what did it. Those wide green eyes, offering him everything he could, no matter that it would never be enough. For the first time in a very long time, Lex has both the means and the will to make something good, pure, and real. Something more important than anything else he's ever attempted -- something that will be so much bigger and better than 'world's finest' ever could be.
Most important of all is that he's made it with love. Clark will understand that. Bruce will figure it out one day, maybe.
Eventually, Bruce might even appreciate the poetry of it. The three of them in various combinations: allies, opponents, lovers, partners, rivals, friends. They have so much history among them, and so much history yet to be made, even as enemies.
This is the legacy that matters. Six halves. Three boys. Their sons.
It's a perfect parallel. The motherless borne of the motherless: half-alien, half-mutant, and half-human -- half-Kent, half-Luthor; half-Luthor, half-Wayne; half-Wayne, half-Kent.
It's a geneticist's wildest dream. It's the best thing he's ever done.
He knows exactly which expression will cross Clark's face when he finds out that he's a father, though that won't happen for years yet, per the current plan. Lex can only imagine how Bruce will react to the news.
Hopefully, he won't kill him. He can't wait to see what the boys will look like, to find out what they'll be able to do. All of them, of course, but especially his and Clark's son. He's impatient for the day he can hold him.
The final frame tracks Superman's lift-off from the terrace, freezes, and fades away. Lex smiles. They have so very much to look forward to.