Lex was hunched over his desk, carefully making notes as he gazed into a microscope. He looked older than the last time Clark had seen him, but not as old as he should. Lex looked like a tired man of fifty, nowhere near his 100 years.
Clark watched Lex from the door for a moment. He should turn around and leave, find Diana and J’onn and figure out a new way forward. Instead he walked into the room. He cleared his throat and Lex looked up, reaching quickly for his box of kryptonite, but Clark held his hands up in a surrendering gesture.
“Did you come to stop me?” Lex asked, moving to put his body between Clark and the vials of green liquid lined up on his desk.
“No,” Clark replied. “I came to help you.”
It was hard when his father died. No child is ready to lose a parent—especially not suddenly—but prepared or not, that’s the way of the world. Children are supposed to outlive their parents and Clark still had his mom and his friends.
Once the grief passed, he didn’t think about death much. Even though the threat of death was always present when he was wearing the cape, he managed to stand between it and his loved ones. He knew that he was lucky that he hadn’t had to deal with it directly since his father, that no matter how many times Lois or Chloe got in over their heads he managed to show up just in time.
When his mom got sick, he’d been distraught. He had spent more and more time in Metropolis, only returning to Smallville for the occasional visit, so when she called him, her voice weak and reedy, and told him about the cancer he was shocked. He’d flown home immediately, x-raying her himself, and sure enough there was a large mass in her brain. Inoperable.
Clark sat by her beside night and day and wondered when she’d gotten old. It seemed like only yesterday that she had been baking in the kitchen and chastising him about his homework. When she passed he’d felt unmoored. She’d been the last bit of home, his last connection to Smallville and his childhood. He no longer had a childhood home, just an empty house full of ghosts.
He wouldn’t have made it through his mother’s death without Lois. Lois was everywhere, making phone calls, planning the funeral, and most importantly she was there holding his hand through it all. She gave up no less than three major stories to other reporters to be there for him, and he’d never loved her more.
It was hard, but with the support of Lois and his friends, he moved forward. He kept going the way countless children went on when their parents died. He focused on his own family and his life and the ache slowly dulled.
It wasn’t until Lois turned sixty that he realized something was wrong. He looked into her beautiful face, lined with age, and realized that she was getting older—and he wasn’t. Other than a touch of gray at his temples and a maturity in his eyes, he looked the same as he had on they day they were married. Lois brushed off his concerns, telling him that she liked it when people thought she was a cougar, but he was terrified.
Suddenly, everyone was old. Chloe had grandchildren, Pete had gone completely gray, and Bruce had actually passed on the mantel of Batman to Dick. He knew it was only a matter of time until they were gone, and there was nothing that he could do about it. For all his strength, he was helpless against the effects of time. So he watched. He discreetly x-rayed his friends for signs of cancer or heart blockages and tried to make the most of the time that was left.
Lana was the first to go. He hadn’t seen her much since he'd left Smallville, but when he heard she’d died he was devastated. He’d loved her once and he knew that she was just going to be the first of many. Over the next several years he lost Pete, Chloe, and Bruce to the ravages of age. Clark knew that he should be grateful that they had all lived full lives, but he couldn’t help looking into the mirror and wondering why he had to be left behind.
Lois lived well into her nineties. He secretly believed that she'd held on that long, despite a failing body, because she was afraid for him. During her last few weeks he didn’t leave her bedside, holding her hand tight, trying to hold her in this world. He had felt the moment it happened, the moment that her heart stopped beating and her life ebbed away. It was in that moment that he became truly orphaned in the world like he’d never been before.
Without Lois, his life was meaningless. There was nothing left of Clark Kent, not that it mattered, because without aging it was a useless identity anyway. All that was left was an endless future as Superman. Sure, he had Diana and J’onn, but they had never known him as Clark. They’d never sat in the loft with him in his parents' barn in Smallville and just enjoyed being human.
There was only one other person in existence who had, only one other person who remembered Clark Kent before the cape.
“Help me?” Lex asked, his eyes widening in surprise. “What are you playing at?”
“Nothing,” Clark said wearily. “Lois died.”
Lex raised an eyebrow, but didn’t say anything.
“You’re all that’s left, Lex,” Clark said. “You’re the only person in the world who knows Clark Kent. I…I can’t lose him.”
“What is it you want?”
“A truce, at least, friendship if it’s possible,” Clark said. “I know you’ve been extending your life. Have you found a way to make it permanent?”
“Almost,” Lex said, “and if it doesn’t work there’s always another clone.”
Clark nodded. “How can I help?”
“What if I don’t want a truce?” Lex asked. “Would you still help me, even if I told you I only want to live long enough to kill you?”
“I’d rather spend an eternity fighting you than one spent fighting a thousand faceless criminals. At least you mean something.”
Lex studied him for a moment and then looked down at his notes. “There is something I need, but it’s on the Watchtower under close guard. It’s a magical artifact that was left behind in the invasion last year.”
“Okay,” Clark said. “I’ll get if for you now.”
Clark left Lex’s lab and headed straight to the Watchtower. He was certain that he was doing the wrong thing, but he couldn’t bring himself to care. He couldn’t lose anyone else, especially not himself.