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Elusive Memories

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Elusive Memories

by Artemis



Disclaimers: I don't own the pretty boys or their friends in the Smallville or Gotham universes. The memory of the wake, woods, and underground cave was inspired by the Batman movie. Rating: PG-13
Summary: Lex was betrayed by Clark in a moment that would change the paths of Lex Luthor and Clark Kent forever, shattering the destiny of friendship Lex had once promised. After Belle Reve, Clark and Superman had to live with those consequences, but they, as well as Lionel, forgot one thing. No one should ever underestimate Lex Luthor. Challenge: CLex Fest Wave 7: The First Line... Lex could still pinpoint the exact second that Clark broke his heart. Warnings: Same Sex (MALE/MALE) relationship. If this turns you off or offends, go back now. _A/N_: At the end of the story. Minor grammatical changes from the story submitted to CLexFest Wave VII.


Elusive Memories
By Artemis
1st in the Memories Universe Series
January 2004


Lex could still pinpoint the exact second that Clark broke his heart.

It was the day he'd betrayed him for the last time. The betrayal that had set his life spinning onto a path that couldn't be avoided. The betrayal that had pushed him into a destiny he hadn't chosen and one he wouldn't have wanted.

It was the day that Alexander J. Luthor died, and the son of Lionel Luthor was born: Lex Luthor the Puppet. Lex Luthor the Villian.

Lex Luthor the Mad.

It was the exact second Clark Kent turned around and disappeared, using his speed to run away. Using his speed to leave Lex to Lionel's tender mercies. Daddy dearest who made Mommy dearest with her wire hangers seem like Mother Theresa.

To be locked in a cage, drugged and tortured, all for the end result of wiping out all of his memories and planting a new personality with false ones. A personality of Lionel's choosing.

After all, he was the heir, and if he wouldn't fall into line and become the person Lionel needed, then Lionel Luthor used his power and money to make sure that Lex was molded into that person.

And Clark allowed it to happen.

Yes, he knew the exact second that Clark had broken his heart.

After all, it was the first real memory that he'd recovered.

Not the love he had felt, the joy of being near Clark, or the hope he had known just by having met an extraordinary man-child on a riverbank. Not moss green eyes, raven hair, or a smile that shone brighter than sun. A smile that felt like sunbeams dancing on his soul.

No, the first real memory was of a man running away, a man whose features he couldn't quite see, and feeling his heart breaking as the memory played out.

Who knew the back of Clark Kent would be more memorable than his front?

"Luthor, what the hell is this about? You're the one who called this meeting, and despite the fact that I've refused numerous times in the past to work with LuthorCorp, I've agreed to give you thirty minutes. And you've just wasted five of them."

Lex turned around, leaving his view of the skyline of Metropolis, and barely held back a smile at the impatience and irritation in Bruce Wayne's voice.

God, he'd missed Bruce.

Or at least, he'd missed him since he'd remembered him.

And memories were so damn fleeting, so hard to retain and hold onto.

Lex waved careless at the window with his right hand, sitting down in his chair across from Bruce, and murmured, "Did you know my father gave me this office after my release from Belle Reve? He said it was for the view, so I would always know my place and my inheritance, so I would be reminded of the empire that would one day be passed onto me."

Lex chuckled at the shock that appeared on Bruce's face. "Let me guess, you're surprised I mentioned the B-word."

Bruce's dark blue eyes narrowed, his lips tightening in a grimace. "I don't know what game you're playing, but I---"

"Ah," Lex broke in, cutting off Bruce's rather sadly predictable threat. Superheroes really were boring that way. "Please, save the theatrics, Bruce. I get enough of it from Superman. I really don't need it from Batman as well."

Bruce exploded out of his chair, hands slamming down on the desk in front of him. "I don't know what the fuck you think you're doing, Luthor, but you're mistaken. If this is some sort of game to flush out Batman, keep me the hell out of it! I'd think you have enough on your plate with Superman dodging your every step."

Lex just raised his eyebrows, looking at Bruce calmly, until the agitated man finally sat down a few moments later, glaring at him fiercely. He reached over, pressing a button under his desk, and metal sheets slid down silently over the windows. Another button turned on the lights. Illuminated the dark.

How appropriate.

"A precaution," Lex said casually. "I doubt his Holiness is flying around stalking me at the moment, but as you said, I have business I'd like to conduct with you and I'd rather it remain between the two of us."

The walls of his office had sheets of lead embedded in them, the office was checked twice daily for bugs, and with the sheeted lead blinders over the window, he was as confident as he could be that nothing would leave the room.

Lex raised his hand, cutting off whatever Bruce was about to say, completely serious for the first time since the man walked into his office. "I remember, Bruce."

Bruce looked at him blankly, the businessman obviously trying to work out what that statement meant, before a calculating look entered those cobalt blue eyes.

God, those eyes. As blue as the ocean, and Bruce had been the first person he'd ever had a crush on. He still remembered meeting Bruce for the first time when he'd just turned five, a playdate arranged between their mothers, and he'd looked into Bruce's eyes and had fallen in love. Poor Bruce had been all of eight, and he'd had an annoying five-year-old trail after him all day like a shadow. It had set the pattern for every playdate afterwards.

Bruce's mother and father had died five months later.

He could still smell the rain in the air as they stood in the cemetery, black umbrellas up in the air like dark, bowed poppies. He'd looked over at a silent and somber Bruce, and he knew he'd remember until the day he died how cold Bruce had looked. His face white, like all the color and life had been leached out of him, except for those magnificent eyes. No tears had fallen, no smile like those he'd seen five months prior, and so cold and silent that Lex had gone over to hold his hand.

His father had yelled at him on the way back to Metropolis on the LuthorCorp private jet.

"I still remember holding your hand that day, the raindrops trickling down our faces and necks, and how tense you got every time someone came over to tell you how sorry they were."

It took a few seconds for Bruce to take that in, to realize what they were talking about, and his face grew dark and furious. "Don't you dare bring them into this."

"Don't, Bruce," Lex said, standing up and making his way to the other side of the massive desk. He quickly and gracefully went down on his knees, grabbing onto Bruce's right hand with both of his. "Do you remember how I sat like this, at your side, clutching your hand once we got back to the mansion? That stupid wake taking place, as if it was supposed to do anything but upset you, and I held onto you and watched as you stared out mutely at all the interlopers in your home."

Bruce tried to yank his hand away, but Lex held on. Mutant strength was good for something, even if it paled in comparison to alien strength.

He continued on, his voice low and hypnotic. He looked directly into those impossibly blue eyes and willed Bruce to follow the memory. "Do you remember how you finally got away from me, and I found you hiding under one of the tables? I tugged your arm and asked you to follow me. And we ran out into the storm, behind the house and into the woods. I just wanted to get you away from all those people because they were hurting you just by being there, reminding you that you were alone. But I fell into a hole, and I was scared and started to cry."

Blue eyes looked into his intently, piercing and sharp. Reluctantly, Bruce's low baritone broke out. "I was scared, too. You'd just disappeared, falling so fast I hadn't known what had happened to you. You were my responsibility. Mama always said so. And you were just gone. If you hadn't started crying, I might not have found the hole where the ground had collapsed. You kept crying out for me, and I could hear the tears in your voice as much as the faith that I'd find you."

Lex smiled faintly. "Because I knew you would. And I waited when you told me to, and I curled up into a ball because I'd always been a little scared of the dark. After what felt like forever, the sound of rain stopped and moonlight started filtering in from that hole. I got up, and that's when I heard something moving towards me. Things started flying at me, all through the air, and I was screaming, and then you were there."

"I tried to get back as fast as I could, but I needed to get rope from the gardener's shed. I was making my way down when you started screaming and sobbing. I got down as soon as I could, and I put my hand on your shoulder." Bruce paused, and when he continued, his voice was troubled. Soft. "You were trembling. I could see the dirt and tear tracks on your cheeks in the moonlight, and I could see the bats wheeling in the dark. I hugged you, tried to calm you. I always remembered how scared you were of them, and how they made me...calm. Because I knew what it was like to live in the dark, too."

Lex stroked the hand he held, his thumbs caressing softly. He said quietly, "I'm sorry I forgot you, Bruce. That I forgot that day, and all the others. Of boarding school, and how we used to sit up until four in the morning talking about Warrior Angel, the Gray Ghost, and superheroes. That I forgot how we planned out Batman, and the Batmobile and the cave under the covers with a flashlight, a pen, and a spiral notebook. I...I forgot everything, Bruce. Mom, Julian, you...LexCorp. But...I remember now. I remember it all."

Bruce looked down at him, his expression grave. Hope, with a hint of skepticism, flickering over his face. "What happened, Alex? And when did it all come back? How? I can't...I can't trust you until I know everything."

Lex turned his head, and he tried to hold back the anger that wanted to consume him. The anger that had been growing and building since the memories started coming back. It was an anger that he sometimes feared was an infinite pool at his center, and it had its birth when he started to realize just how much had been stolen from him. And that anger had burned all the hotter when he'd realized he'd had his identity and his destiny stolen by two of the people he'd loved most in the world.

Lionel and Clark.

The fuck of it all was that he still loved them, regardless of what they'd done to him either actively or passively.

He looked back at Bruce, his gaze steady. He had nothing to hide from this man. This was the one person who'd never betrayed him or lied to him. It was the first person other than his parents that he'd loved. Pamela and Clark came after Bruce, and they had both betrayed him. Bruce was the only person he could trust. The only person he should have ever trusted.

Now he just needed to show it Bruce. He needed Bruce to trust him. He needed Bruce.

"Alexander," Bruce said gently, setting his left hand on Lex's shoulder. "You can tell me anything."

Lex swallowed at his full name on the lips of his oldest friend, his first best friend. Maybe his last best friend. No one but his mom, Pamela, and Bruce---and occasionally Lionel---ever called him Alexander. And only Bruce had ever shortened his name to Alex. Only in private, like it was a secret between them.

"Belle Reve. Dad...Dad used drugs and electroshock therapy to try to erase my memories. And other...methods. When that didn't work, he'd used some experimental procedures that worked directly on the brain...well, let's just say that I had sections of my brain destroyed."

A soft touch landed on temple, stroking his head softly. "I'm sorry."

Lex shook his head minutely. "I'd found out some things about Dad...terrible things. He needed me to forget, and he wanted a puppet son more than a genius son. He had my mind wiped out, and he programmed me with false memories and a personality that better fit his agenda for LuthorCorp. I...I have a folder with all the necessary data on my desk. For you."

"I should have killed him."

Lex looked up, eyes wide at the darkly uttered words. So matter-of-fact that it made him shiver. As well as made something inside him warm.

"I heard about what had happened after the fact. I was moving people into place to get you out, but then was told that it was too late. It took me months to infiltrate Belle Reve and LuthorCorp, to get people close to Lionel and the doctors in charge of your case, and by then it didn't matter. You were being released a few weeks later, and I was told your memories weren't recoverable."

Lex stayed silent, waiting for Bruce to finish.

"I was going to kill Lionel for it. Go in and just take you, try to at least give you a safe place to live a new life...but I wasn't sure if you'd forgive me for killing him. I knew how much you hated him, and how much...how much you loved him, too. So I let it go. Let you go."

Lex shut his eyes, setting his forehead against Bruce's thigh. "I would have forgiven you. But I would have missed him. Even knowing now...I hate him so much...but the love is still there. He's...my father. He's all I have in the world."

"No, he's not."

Lex smiled against Bruce's slacks, at the hand that was stroking his neck and head. No, maybe he wasn't. He might have Bruce. But Lionel...Lionel was still his only family. The last of his family.

"I'm sorry, Alex. Forgive me. I should have come for you. At least you wouldn't have had to bear being under Lionel's thumb for so many years."

Lex just sank wearily into Bruce. "And what? Lionel would have declared war on you. He would have accused you of kidnapping me, and he would have done anything to get me back. I know you could have fought him, and it's enough knowing you would have. No one else would have. There's nothing to forgive. At least not with you."

"But there's those you can't forgive," Bruce said knowingly. "I sincerely hope Lionel is included among those."

"Yes. Lionel. The doctors involved, as well as the other minions at Belle Reve and under my father. Superman." Lex raised his head, looking up at Bruce intently. "Clark Kent."

Bruce gave him a hard look, and then nodded once. "You know."

"Since I had my memories restored. It was obvious once those came back. I knew Clark when he was teenager. We...we were friends. The closest friend I'd ever had, other than you. And he was there the day my father's lackeys came for me, and he let them take me."

"Why," Bruce bit out, his expression fierce and dark.

Ah, so the rumors were true. Lex had heard that Superman and Batman didn't exactly play nice together. Just like he'd heard that Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent didn't exactly get along, though it was rumored it had to do with Lois Lane dating the playboy billionaire whenever the man blew through Metropolis.

A little sliver of the old Lois-hate made his ego wonder if it really was the exasperating Miss Lane that had caused those problems, or if some of them weren't linked to Bruce's old feelings towards Lex. It wasn't exactly a secret that Lex Luthor and Superman hated each other with a ferocity that made hurricanes seem tame.

"I've never asked him," Lex said, trying to keep the bitterness out of his voice. Not that it worked. "My guess? I'd just found out he wasn't human, and I'm sure he thought it was a hell of a lot safer for the big bad Luthor heir to be locked away in a nuthouse. In fact, I'm sure he hoped that they'd just throw away the key. His bad luck that Dad had other plans."

"I thought you said he was your friend."

Lex's lips twisted into a sharp smile. "He called me his best friend. Friendship to Clark...well, let's just say that Clark's willing to break his friends if it means obtaining his own objectives. He really should have been Lionel's son instead."

"Why haven't you made him pay? You know his weakness, and you think circles around the boy. I've never understood the games you play with him, and why if you hate him, you never finish him off."

"You forget, Bruce, I'd do anything for my friends." Lex chuckled mirthlessly. "I may never have been his friend, but he was mine. And as far as the past ten years...well, that was my Pinocchio to my father's Geppetto. He wanted Superman taken care of, and there was traces enough of...me...left that he was never taken care of in a permanent or truly harmful manner. I just never realized why my subconscious was sabotaging me, or making me want to draw out our animosity into a game."

Lex swallowed hard at the fury burning in those cobalt eyes, and he lifted one of his hands from Bruce's and set it tentatively on his knee. "Leave it. For now. There are more vital things we need to discuss. We can discuss the self-righteous twit and his betrayal later."

"How, Alex? How did you get your memories back? I was told your mind was...it was damaged. Everything I've seen of you, of your interactions with the world, suggested this was the truth."

"Do you remember how my asthma disappeared after I lost my hair? How in boarding school, I never got sick? I rarely got bruised, even with all the bullies that were constantly after me. And when I did bruise, they disappeared within days?"

Bruce nodded.

"We just thought I healed fast. But then I was exiled to Smallville when I was twenty-one. Do you remember how Dad yanked me out of school?"

Bruce frowned. "I never approved of that. I knew you loved school, and to send you back there...fuck, Alex. You almost died there. I remember thinking Lionel was a cold son of a bitch."

Lex snorted. "He is. But as far as Smallville...I learned a lot. It's where Clark landed, with a shit load of meteorite that his ship dragged along into our atmosphere."

"Kryptonite."

"Yes. If you can believe it, I was in the damn field the day he landed. Who knows, it could have been his ship that did this," Lex said, tracing a hand over his head. "And I found out much more. About how I wasn't the only one changed by the meteor shower or the meteorites that littered the county."

Bruce lifted his left hand, lightly ghosting over Lex's head in the same path Lex's fingers had just taken. "I take it all the changes didn't result in this. Otherwise there'd be a lot more bald people running around in Kansas than what I'm aware of."

Lex's lips turned up into a half-smile. "No. I instigated several investigations, funded research into the meteors and the...mutants that resulted from the radiation from the meteors."

"Mutants?" Bruce sounded out the word slowly and carefully.

Yes, Bruce, the world is a much more strange and magical place than most people imagined.

Lex nodded. "Yes. Smallville's darkest and best kept secret, aside from Superman. Kryptonite changes normal humans in the right circumstances at a cellular level. Mutations, mutants, humans turned monsters...all a possible result from Kryptonite exposure."

"Does Lionel know?"

"A little. Meteor research was always my interest. You know how much money has to be poured into scientific research, and there's never a guarantee that it'll be recouped. Dad thinks it's a waste of time and funding unless there are guaranteed results, and there are never guarantees in something so unknown. Since I was in charge of the labs, and I never shared anything I learned about Kryptonite with my father, he knows just the little that he put together while I lived in Smallville. As far as he knows, kryptonite makes Superman physically vulnerable and it has the potential to cause uncontrollable and unpredictable mutations."

"And he never took an interest in it?" Bruce said skeptically.

Lex shook his head. "No. He used some of it in a liquid mixture back in the early 90s to test in a new pesticide, but it didn't work. He ended up mutating the plants, as well as the insects it was supposed to kill. Since he can't use it in a controlled manner to create a profitable product, his only interest in the rocks is as a weapon against Superman."

"It did more to you, didn't it?" Bruce guessed, seeing where Lex was going. "Something to do with restoring your memories. Your ability to heal faster as a kid."

Lex swallowed hard, voice utterly serious. "Bruce, you're the only one I can trust. And I think you'll understand in a moment why what I'm about to tell you is dangerous to me. If it got out...I'd be the most hunted person in the world. I wouldn't be able to hide anywhere without someone coming after me. Governments. Private companies or labs. Desperate or ruthless individuals. People with personal fortunes who would spend their lifespan hunting me."

He tightened his hand on Bruce's knee and continued, "I found out after moving to Smallville and being exposed to continuous physical trauma...I heal. Fast. And it's very difficult for me to become sick. I'd say impossible, but I found out after the plane crash from my second marriage...I can only get sick if my body's damaged so badly that my system is forced to heal the physical trauma before it starts on the virus. It always repairs the most life-threatening damage first. And the more life-threatening the damage, the more quickly it works."

Lex shut his eyes, taking a moment to collect himself before he continued. He looked at Bruce solemnly. "My tissues and cells regenerate, Bruce. I heal from everything eventually. And my healing and regenerative abilities are continuing to evolve. I heal faster now than when we were kids. It's not instantaneous, but I don't doubt that someday it will be."

"Alex..."

He looked down, staring at their clasped hands. He shook his head, cutting Bruce off. He couldn't see Bruce's face as he told him the best part. Or the worst, because it would mean the loss of his freedom if it got out. After all, what wouldn't people do if they found the Fountain of Youth. Or at least the possibility of it.

Who wouldn't tear him apart, lock him up so his DNA could be harvested over and over, if it meant coming up with a way to extend the life of humanity? If humans could become immortal? Or gods?

"Bruce, I've stopped aging." He tightened his grip, fingers shaking slightly. "Since I didn't start testing and experimenting on my own DNA until I got to Smallville...since I didn't know there was something...different about me...well, I'm not sure when I stopped. It might have been when I died, or at least drowned, when I first got into town. Maybe it was meeting Clark, or being exposed to Kryptonite again, or who knows what the catalyst was for my mutation to start evolving into something...more. But I regenerate so fast, I don't age."

Lex looked up at the raven-haired man, Bruce's face visibly stunned. "I was shot in the head two years ago. If it hadn't been for Mercy and Hope keeping it within a circle of my most trusted employees and doctors...I don't even want to know what my father would do with that information. Point blank, Bruce. And I was up and walking a week later, no sign of a bullet wound. No permanent damage. That's when the memories starting trickling back in. The old damage was being slowly mended, old memories restored a piece or a sliver at a time. As of six months ago, I've recovered all of them, the damage to my brain completely repaired. Or at least almost."

"Jesus Christ, Alex," Bruce breathed out softly. He suddenly lurched forward, shaking Lex's hand off and using both his hands to grip Lex's shoulders tightly. "Who knows? Who else knows this?"

Lex's shoulders slumped in relief. Bruce believed. And he was willing to protect. Still.

"A handful of doctors who are completely loyal to me. They're also the ones working on the Kryptonite research. Hope. Mercy. Charity. Me. This small group knows everything, or at least nearly everything. There's no one on the planet that knows more about Kryptonite and its effects on humans, animals, and plant life than us."

"And you trust them."

"Enough to keep them on the project for the last decade. And enough that they've been in charge of my medical care during that time."

Lex didn't say that it wasn't like he had a choice. He hadn't had the medical and scientific knowledge to figure all this out on his own back then. He did now, had made sure he became an expert in many scientific fields, including medicine, and thanked whatever deity might be out there that he was born a genius, given the intellectual capability so he could do so. But back then he'd had to rely on the scientists he'd hired.

He said tersely, "And it's imperative you realize that Superman, for all his alien technology in his little fort up in the Arctic, knows barely a fraction of what we do. I've...helped myself to the technology he has stored in his computer, and I've gone through its databases. It only knows what was stored in it, and it's limited by its own programming. It only knows that the radiation signature and the effects of the Kryptonite in our atmosphere and with our sun are unique. What he thinks he knows are merely conjectures based off the information that was inputted by his parents, containing their scientific knowledge. I've already proved some of those theories wrong."

Lex stared at Bruce, his expression hard. "He thinks he knows everything, when he knows little. And he doesn't have the background, knowledge, or training to pull the information together on his own to come up with anything viable. Clark was incredibly smart as a teenager, but he wasn't brought up to use his mind. To think for himself. He sees the world as he understands it, as he's told to understand it. He can't know about the research. He'll destroy it, or he'll discount it as the dim-witted ravings of the lowly backward humans that reside on this planet. He believes too much in the superiority of Kryptonian science and technology."

Bruce looked at him, his face blank. "You don't want him to destroy ten years of work."

Lex spat bitterly, "He's good at destruction. It's a specialty. Especially when it comes to me."

He got his face back under control, and then continued in an emotionless tone. "I had a lab about an hour north of here. Three years ago, Superman heard rumors of illegal research, and he went in and destroyed it. Everything. The building, the computers, the files, the test tubes filled with five years worth of trial and error."

Lex paused, the expectancy behind it blatant. "We had a cure for cancer. We were testing it on volunteers, all completely willing, but it was against FDA's rules. It was working. They were expected to have all cancerous cells eradicated with a few more treatments. After Superman's temper tantrum, we lost the cure, the volunteers' cancer came back, and all but two of them have died. Most of the scientists and doctors on the project refuse to work for another five years to have their work destroyed again, even if some of research could be duplicated. You know that science is mixed in with chance and accidents as it is with persistence. And now that entire project is dead. I won't allow that to happen to my Kryptonite research."

Bruce was quite for several minutes, thinking over everything. Lex could practically see that brilliant mind working, taking apart the knowledge and putting back together in new patterns. Working out all the possible and probable implications.

It was yet another reason they'd bonded as children and later as teenagers. Bruce had always been incredibly brilliant, attending classes with kids who were two or three years older. And Lex had been even smarter, so that when they'd attended the same schools, they'd often shared many of the same classes. They knew what it was like to be different in that way.

"Something's happened. Something to do with your Kryptonite research, or your own abilities, and that's why you've asked me to come."

Lex nodded. Thank God Bruce was still as intelligent and sharp as ever.

"Yes. I...my memories. They aren't as...solid as they should be. Sometimes some of them...slip away. They come back, but it's like an ebb and flow of...self. I think the problem will right itself in time, but..."

"You don't think you have time."

"No."

The word seemed to hang in the air, heavy and ominous. Lex felt Bruce's fingers biting into his shoulders, and he took comfort in the strength there. In the strength that Bruce had always held, even as an eight-year-old mourning the murder of his parents.

"The meteorites affected people differently. With all my research, there's still more I don't know than of what I do know. Part of the problem is that I just don't have enough information, of people who've had benign, harmless mutations. Of people who've gotten...sick. Of people who've moved away and experienced some sort of mutation. But what we do know..."

Lex leaned forward, his voice intense. "Not everyone mutates. Some just develop cancer. Many develop cancer, and I've yet to discover why some people's bodies aren't able to support the cellular change while others do. Those that do mutate...some mutate to form abilities or needs that require them to kill to survive. Some of the mutations are unstable, and it makes the mind equally unstable. I have a whole building full of insane mutants, and I've yet to find a cure for one of them. And some of the mutants, a few rare cases that I've uncovered, are completely stable. No insanity, and the mutation is such that killing isn't a prerequisite for the continuation of life. And I'm the only one that I know of that has a continually evolving mutation. My abilities are the only ones I know of that didn't just spring into life from some catalyst and stayed static. The only one that constantly seems to...strengthen. Mature."

A hand left his shoulder and picked up his right hand. Bruce traced his thumb over Lex's ring finger and sent him a questioning look.

"Yes," Lex nodded. "It's why I took the ring off five years ago. We'd just figured out the linkage of Kryptonite to the causation of cancer. I went in for a complete work up and traces of cancer cells were found in my hand. My abilities had them cleared out within a year."

Bruce's hand tightened around the paler, smaller one in his grasp. Interest and scientific curiosity flitted through his eyes, before he sent a composed look at Lex. He wasn't quite able to keep the fascination out of his voice though.

And Lex couldn't blame him. The research was damn fascinating.

"Using your DNA...is that how LexCorp found a cure for Parkinson's Disease?"

Lex didn't bother to keep the smirk off his face. "Yes. It helped lead us to it. Dad was pissed as hell, especially because he thought LexCorp was a joke and would remain a joke."

It had been one of his better moments. Despite his pureed brain, he'd still retained enough of an interest upon finding out about LexCorp's existence that he'd made a deal with his dad early on. Even though he hadn't remembered starting the company, he'd had enough of an ego to want to keep it around and to expand it. As long as he fulfilled all his duties to LuthorCorp, LexCorp was given back to him. Most of the labs, along with the scientific and medical research, fell under LexCorp. It was costly as hell, but it had paid off under Lex's tutelage. LexCorp was a smaller corporation, but wildly successful and worth billions.

It was a source of pride and fury for Lionel that his son owned one of the most flourishing and hottest corporations in the world, and Lex still managed to help keep LuthorCorp at the top of the corporate world.

Bruce kept his hold on Lex's hand, and he raised his other hand to gently touch Lex's bare head. "Why didn't you come to me when you regained your memories? We could have fought off your father together."

Lex sighed, his shoulders falling. He was still traveling the road he'd been forced onto, but there was a chance to create his own fork. To take another path, to bend his destiny into one of his own choosing. But so much had been lost already.

"I'm evil, remember. Supervillian, according to the Superman, Clark Kent, Lois Lane, and The Daily Planet. Ruthless businessman and arch-nemesis of Superman to the rest of the world. Even those who don't believe I'm evil incarnate think I'm a cold-blooded, heartless son of a bitch. Someone who might be brilliant and owns one of the best medical research companies in the world, but whose underlying interest is in the bottom line." Lex shook his head slowly. "And then there's Dad, who'll do anything to keep me at his side. Under his control. I've spent the last six months, the last year really, making plans. Trying to find a way out of the labyrinth I've been dropped into. A labyrinth I've been lost in for a decade."

"Let me help you find that way," Bruce said, voice low and eyes burning with intensity. "Let me help you now. Where I couldn't before. I have more resources now, and I don't have to play catch up."

Lex nodded, his shoulders still slumped. He let his head fall again, resting on Bruce's thigh and sitting like they had when they were young. When he'd asked Bruce to tell him a story, or he'd ask silently for comfort. Or sometimes, to comfort Bruce.

"I...I need you. To do something for me. I..." Lex trailed off, something inside him twisting and bleeding, and he closed his eyes. It hurt just to say it. "I want to sign over LexCorp to you. All the labs will go to you, including the lab with the Kryptonite research. And me. I need you to...there's something wrong. I need you to oversee my...confinement. And as a friend, if there's no hope for me, I need you to end it."

"Alex?!?"

Lex ignored the horror in Bruce's voice. Bruce was strong enough. He was like Lex in that respect. "I'm immortal, Bruce. For the most part. But I'm fairly sure that I won't survive having my head severed from my body. If I...deteriorate the way that I think I will...I need you to take care of me. To make sure I don't spend...that I don't spend an eternity being the heartless, soulless creature my father and Superman molded me to be these last ten years."

Lex whispered softly, "I won't be less than what I am. And I can't spend an eternity as some mad megalomaniac. An eternity of insanity, trapped in a cage of my own flesh and blood, my mind shattered. It would be a living death."

"No," a hoarse voice rolled over Lex. "No, I won't...I won't kill you."

"If you ever loved me, if we were ever best friends, you will. For me." Lex reached up blindly, setting a hand on the knee near his head. "You'll let me die as Lillian's son, and not live as Lionel's legacy. But that's the worse case scenario. There might...another way might be found. A cure...just because a cure hasn't been found yet, doesn't mean that it doesn't exist."

"Tell me."

Lex smiled at the command in the voice, the Wayne in Bruce, the prince of Gotham in Bruce, that could demand so simply with so few words and expect an answer as his due.

Crown princes, both of them, who would never be kings. Their fathers were too strong, too larger than life, either as a memory or in reality. In their minds, they'd always be their fathers' sons. But as he'd remembered so recently, he was also his mother's son as well.

"My memories flow in and out, like the waves in an ocean slipping on and off a beach. Or perhaps, if you don't like that analogy, it's as if my mind's a sieve. The memories keep leaking out, only to be deposited back into the sieve until they leave once more."

Lex petted Bruce's knee, running his hand slowly over the soft, expensive material. Letting the motion soothe him. "My mind...it's becoming unstable. I'm not sure if it's because my memories are so elusive, so shifting, that it's causing my mind to become unbalanced since it has nothing to hold onto. Or if...so many of the mutants go insane. Usually it's immediate, but...my mutation has always been unique. Different. Maybe my healing abilities fought off my mind's instability. Until now. Or the gunshot wound has caused complications we haven't been able to define."

A hand clamped onto Lex's shoulder, tight enough to bruise. Lex didn't move, not even a twinge, and said nothing. Another hand touched his cheek, resting lightly as if wanting a connection.

"What did you plan?"

"I...I can't stand being locked up. Caged away like an animal. I didn't understand...until I remembered Belle Reve. I...I'm scared, Bruce. But I'm more scared of what I could become if left alone. I don't want to be a monster. I won't," Lex swore vehemently. "The mutants. The dangerous and insane ones that I know of. They're in a medical facility, much like a private hospital, that's part of the laboratories with the Kryptonite research. Only the dangerous ones, the homicidal or violent ones, are locked away in cells. They...they have a choice. They're all taken care of. Treated as humanely as possible. But...I've never understood until my memories returned on why I insisted on it."

A hand stroked his cheek softly.

Lex continued, his voice quiet and filled with pain. "I didn't want to lock them away like monsters, even when I didn't know why I hated the idea. I assumed it was because they were like me; I was just one of the lucky few to accept the change without mental instability. So I gave them a choice. We developed a drug, it helps to soften the entrapment. To let the mind drift, not be fully aware of their environment. It allows them to...not be caged, in a way. They're taken out of it annually, so they can be given the choice again."

Lex's voice broke off, and he gathered his thoughts. The silence in the room was deafening, weighing heavily and pressing him down. He didn't want this. He didn't want...but there was no other choice. No other way to save himself, to save his name. No other way to save Clark. Or Bruce, or his father, or the rest of the world. If he became imbalanced, if he truly went mad like so many of the mutants from Smallville, he might literally try to tear the world apart. Especially with the anger that resided in him. An anger that would destroy if left unchecked.

"I've made arrangements. Mercy, Hope, Charity...they've been with me since I left Belle Reve. I saved them...from the street. In return, they gave me their loyalty. Their service. You need to take care of them for me. They've agreed to serve you. They know everything I've done in the last decade, and everything that my father's done that he's allowed me to be a part of. They know LexCorp inside and out, and can easily take over any position in the company that you need. Even mine."

Bruce knew about taking care of people. He'd been taking care of Alfred for years, just like he'd allowed Alfred to take care of him. Bruce knew. Not to mention the teenagers he'd taken under his wing. Richard Grayson. Timothy Drake. Barbara Gordon. He could trust Bruce with his girls.

He'd spent eight years unable to form an emotional attachment to anyone and anything. Lex Luthor the Puppet was incapable of emotions. Feelings. Love. Or if he was, it had been only pale shadows of it. Other than hate and anger, of course. Which Lionel fed to him like mother's milk, so that Superman and Clark Kent became the object of all that banked animosity.

But he'd had two years to bond to the three girls he'd saved from the street. Two years of the three of them watching over him, protecting him, showing him the closest thing to affection or love that he'd known in a decade. Combined with his memories of the prior years of faithful service, Lex would do anything to protect them. To keep them safe.

This was best for everyone.

"The doctors are...expecting me. I've chosen to be drugged. They'll take whatever samples are necessary to try to figure this out. They'll take me off the drugs when they need to evaluate my clarity of mind. Only you can release me. You'll have complete...control. Over me. My fate. Once I'm in, I won't be able to do anything. My people will defer to you completely. Including Mercy."

Mercy was particularly loyal to him. She was the oldest. The cleverest. The most dedicated. She'd been the one to take care of Hope and Charity, until she'd saved a bald young rich kid from a mugging and a knife. He'd repaid her by taking her and her girl gang off the streets. Gave them a home, an education, a future. And all they'd wanted in return was to remain at his side, to protect and serve.

It had taken a month to convince Mercy that he couldn't be trusted to know his own sanity. That Bruce was trustworthy. That Bruce had the knowledge, scientific and of the old Lex, that he had to be the one to decide if Lex was really sane. He would see past any deceptions or masks.

"Earlier. You said you thought it would heal itself in time. And you do have extraordinary healing abilities. Regenerative abilities. You might not need to---"

"Cage myself?" Lex cut in harshly. "Make myself my own captive? Your captive? You're right. I might not. A few months in a padded cell, or in seclusion at one of the Luthor properties, my mind might become...balanced. The memories might solidify. But what if they don't? What if it continues to get worse? Like it has been. Would you really want a truly insane Lex Luthor loose in the world? A Lex Luthor filled with rage and pain, who sadistically hates Superman, who hates the world, and is more power-hungry than this world can contain? I could make the last ten years seem like a charity event."

"You don't know that."

"I don't know that it won't happen. I can't take the chance. You can't either." Lex paused. "Batman can't."

A tense silence descended on them, before Bruce bit out, "Damn you, Alex. Don't bring him into this."

Lex's ace. Bruce might be his friend. But Batman had obligations to the world that he'd taken on when he'd been created. Batman's conscious wouldn't let him give Bruce Wayne's friend any latitude. Not even if that friend was also one of his creators.

A small smirk touched his lips. In some ways, as one of Batman's creators, he was sort of Batman's father. Who knew he and Bruce could father a superhero?

His fanciful line of thought was cut off as the hand on his head fell down, settling on his nape and stroking the skin there softly.

"I'm trusting you, Bruce. You could keep me locked away for your lifetime. Maybe beyond your lifetime with instructions to the right people. I'm trusting you with my life. My future. To do what's best for me, my company, and for those around me."

"Why?"

Lex flinched inside at the anguish in that voice. "I love you, Bruce. I've loved since I was five years old. You were my best friend. My first kiss. My first lover. You're the best person I know; I wanted to be you growing up. And now...I know you won't use me. You won't betray me. You're the only one who never has."

Other than his three girls, but that was why he was giving them to Bruce. They'd take care of Bruce like they took care of him. And Bruce would make sure they never wanted for anything in their lives.

Dad was another story. He suspected Bruce wasn't going to be kind to Lionel Luthor. And Lionel would go crazy when he learned that Lex disappeared, leaving the company to Bruce. Listing Bruce as his beneficiary in his will. Leaving everything to Bruce, even his LuthorCorp stocks. And he'd made sure that when he did leave, his father wouldn't be able to track him.

As far as Superman, the flying freak will probably be glad one Luthor was gone and out of his life. Out of Metropolis. Wiped out of existence as far as the alien will know. And without Lex Luthor to wreak havoc in his life, maybe the alien would have enough time to actually form a personal life. Actually go after that bitch Lane.

Lex felt a stab of pain.

He ignored it. Clark was dead to him. Dead since the moment he turned his back and ran. Dead since he chose not to go after Lex, to break him out of Belle Reve in order to save their friendship and Lex's mind. Dead since the creation of Superman and Clark Kent the Reporter.

Clark, his Clark, with the green eyes and the shy smile was dead. In his place was a clumsy reporter and an alien superhero, both with grim visages and cold blue eyes. All the warmth had been leached out of Clark, the beauty snuffed out, the youth he'd loved long dead.

Even if he could forgive the betrayal, even if he could look past the ten years of abandonment, it wouldn't matter.

Clark was dead.

"Okay, Alex," a baritone whispered, wrapping around Lex like a blanket. "I'll take care of you. I swear it."

"And you won't let me live an eternity chained with insanity?" Lex asked quietly. He had to know. Had to get the promise. Bruce never broke his promises.

A long pause. Minutes passed, and Lex was so sure Bruce wasn't going to answer. Then he spoke. "No, Alex."

"Promise."

"I promise. I won't allow that to happen." Intensity, and something dark, rang in those words.

Lex closed his eyes, relieved. He knew he could count on Bruce. Knew that Bruce was trustworthy. He was so tired, so weary of having the weight of this around his neck for the last six months. He was ready to rest, to let someone else be in control.

He was so tired.

Who knows? Maybe he really was saving the world with this decision. Maybe he was a superhero, and no one would ever know it.

Maybe Bruce would tell him someday.

END


A/N I: MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD. DO NOT READ IF YOU WANT TO READ THE STORY UNSPOILED. This story was inspired by the folks over at the Smallville Slashdom Archive. A few authors have been playing with the idea of Lex going insane by his mutation, thus creating the rift. In my mind, I think Lex would kill himself first, or lock himself away in his own lab, before allowing himself to hurt Clark or before allowing himself to become a monster. This is my spin on how I think Lex would act. Thanks to my beta Rogue. January 2004. A/N II: For anyone who might wonder about the whole Lex-in-love-at-first-sight-at-five: There was nothing sexual about it (hello? 5 years old!!), but it was a connection that Lex never forgot. And neither did Bruce.