His father. His mother. Julian. Thoughts swirled like a maelstrom in Lex Luthor’s mind, keeping him awake. His father. His memories. Seven missing weeks. It was pressing on four in the morning, and Lex sat in his study, unable to sleep. His father. Clark. Secrets and betrayal. He watched the amber liquid dance in the firelight, the crystal tumbler in his hand refracting rainbows against the hardwood floor. His father. His hatred. His love.
Lex pressed his lips in a thin line. His father was the main component in all his recent troubles. Correction: his father had always been the problem, especially since that night with Julian…
Lex brought the glass to his lips and took a long drink. To have the astuteness and shrewdness to protect his mother -- to know what Lionel would’ve done to her -- when he had only been twelve said something horrible. Whether it was said about himself or Lionel was up in the air.
The worst part of remembering what his mother had done was that he thought she’d done the right thing. Lillian had protected Julian; she had loved him enough to kill him. Lionel would’ve played his games with both Julian and Lex until they were both destroyed. Death was preferable to that sort of life, Lex knew now. His father’s stammering notions that “things would’ve been different” had he loved Lex instead of hated him meant nothing. Love only existed in fairy tales and smothering pillows.
Lex set the glass on the coffee table, rested his elbows on his knees, and held his bowed head in his hands. He needed to detach himself from his emotions, just like his father had always said. He laughed hollowly. The old man’s advice was actually a sound idea. He’d felt nothing but hurt for as long as he could remember (minus those seven weeks) because he was ruled by his emotions.
Lex looked up sharply, startled by the quiet call of his name. Speaking of hurt, Clark Kent stood in the doorway of the study, wearing the same clothes he’d been in earlier. It looked as though he hadn’t slept, either.
“Clark, it’s late,” Lex said, concern and annoyance warring inside him. He rose. “Is there something you needed?”
Clark stared intently at Lex, saying nothing, until Lex grew uncomfortable. “What is it? You know that anything you need, I’ll give you,” he said. And that was one of his problems. He’d still do anything for Clark despite the secrets, lies, and betrayal. Lex was too emotionally involved in Clark’s well-being for his own good.
A dreadful thought came suddenly to Lex, and he closed the distance between them. “It’s not your father, is it?”
“No,” Clark said. “He’s fine. Mom’s fine, too.”
“Then, what is it?” Lex pressed. “Four in the morning is hardly time for a social call.”
“I couldn’t sleep.”
Lex waited for Clark to continue, growing impatient now that he knew nothing had happened with the elder Kents. “Clark—”
“I can’t lose you,” Clark said abruptly. His voice held an angry edge. “You have to stop, Lex.”
“This is about the hole in my memories,” Lex said, eyes narrowing in irritation.
“This is about your life.” Clark grabbed Lex’s shoulders and practically shook him. “Your quest for answers puts you at risk—”
“No risk, no reward,” Lex interrupted. He looked pointedly at Clark’s hands and tried to step back out of Clark’s grip, but Clark didn’t let go. “You don’t understand—”
“No, you don’t understand!” Clark exclaimed. “If you keep pressing, you’re going to end up dead or worse, locked up at Belle Reve again, electroshocked into a vegetable.”
“It’s not going to come to that, Clark,” Lex said. Bitterness tinged his tone. “Especially not now, since Dr. Garner is out of commission.”
“He was killing you,” Clark said. “Don’t you even care?”
“I care about those seven weeks I can’t remember.”
“You want to know what happened?” Clark was incensed, his eyes wild and his voice cracking on every spat out word. “You learned a secret that your father didn’t want you to know, and he tortured you because of it! If you remember, he’ll do it again!”
Lex knew it all boiled down to his father. Everything always did. Anticipation for the truth made his teeth itch. “What did I know that was so dangerous?”
Clark made a harsh sound, it could’ve been a laugh or a sob, and suddenly Lex found himself trapped in an iron-armed embrace. “No, Lex. No,” Clark said in his ear. “I can’t go through that again.”
Lex stood stiffly in Clark’s arms. He tried to pull back, but couldn’t move. “Can’t go through what again?”
“Not being able to save you.” Clark’s voice was reedy and barely a whisper. “I can’t lose you.”
Lex’s mind reeled at the information. Clark had tried to save him and failed? Save him from what? Obviously from Lionel, but what else? And how had he failed? Did it have something to do with why Lionel was after Clark? Why did Clark go to Lionel, then, for help? He asked the last question aloud. “If you’re afraid of what my father will do, why did you conspire with him against me?”
Clark released Lex and stepped back. “You wouldn’t listen to me,” he said. “Your dad had the power, the resources -- and he didn’t want you to remember.”
“Was dealing with the devil worth the price you paid?” Lex said with a spiteful knife-jab. He felt both vindictive and remorseful at Clark’s wince.
Clark drew into himself, folding his arms defensively and averting his gaze. His response contradicted his posture. “Yes.”
“He owns you now, I hope you realize,” Lex said, unable to stop twisting the knife. “I don’t know if I can protect you.”
Clark seemed to grow suddenly, his shoulders straightening and his arms falling to his sides. The tilt of his chin was strong and resolute. He looked at Lex, with determination and promise in his eyes. “As long as you’re safe, I would give myself to him.”
Lex was off-balanced by the response. “The sentiment is appreciated, but we both know you aren’t suicidal.”
“I would step into the sword if it meant saving you.” Lex didn’t flinch when Clark lifted his hand and slid his fingertips along the side of Lex’s scalp, curving behind his ear to cup the back of his head. “I can’t lose you, Lex, to your father or to yourself.”
“Christ, Clark,” Lex breathed, not knowing how to reply. Clark really would sacrifice himself to protect Lex.
Clark tugged lightly, pulling Lex in for another embrace. “Anything for a friend, remember?” he whispered in Lex’s ear. “Even if it means hurting you in the process.”
Lex closed his eyes and swallowed thickly. Shit. He could cut Clark off now and circumvent future pain or put himself in his father’s path, just like he had for his mom. “I’ll stop asking questions.”
Clark moved to rest his forehead against Lex’s and said softly, “Thank you.”
Lex would never get those seven missing weeks back, not without Clark playing unwanted savior and handing himself to Lionel. He would have to find a way to divert Lionel’s focus from Clark and without Clark knowing.
Lex didn’t want to turn into his father. And he wouldn’t.
In order to protect Clark, Lex would have to become worse than Lionel Luthor.
“Anything,” Lex echoed, and locked his fears and the remainder of his tattered soul in St. George’s box.
In the back of his mind, a baby began to cry.