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looks can be deceiving

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1

Lex lies back and covers his eyes with both hands. "My entire life is a nightmare," he announces. His voice carries. "Every last bit of it."

"Well, at least you are alive - which is more than can be said for Superman."

"Oh, Mercy," Lex says. "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy. Remind me - why didn't I blow you to smithereens when I had the chance?"

Mercy picks at her nail and considers. "Because you couldn't." She pours herself another glass of wine and drinks it quickly. "I would be dead, if you had your way."

Lex rolls to his feet. "Ah, but you see, I couldn't have anybody guessing! Guessing, guessing, guessing - " He grabs her hands and pulls her to her feet. He licks his lips. "You are an exquisite creature."

"You can't distract me," Mercy tells him, as his hands curl over her hips. His fingers are tapping even now, tapping, tapping.

 

2

The reporter is standing outside again. His coat-collar is slicked to his neck with rainwater. He has his hands buried in his pockets and is craning his neck up. Mercy pulls down the blind. He's still there when she goes out; when she returns from the store, he doesn't try to stop her.

In the end, she cracks. "What is it that you want, Mr - ?"

"Kent," the man says, "Clark Kent."

Mercy stares. It occurs to her that she is a) holding a bottle of very expensive wine which could double as a weapon, b) wearing high-heeled shoes which won't do much for running away, and c) talking to the man Lex says is Superman.

Kent, Clark Kent, is holding out his hand. Mercy shakes it once and drops it.

"You're here to see Lex," she manages. "If you're going to kill me, do it quickly."

Clark Kent laughs. He truly is very attractive. His cheekbones are chiselled and his hair is perfectly quaffed. Every line of him is stark, and his suit fits him a little too well around the behind - not that Mercy would ever consider mentioning that. Professionalism, her inner voice chides her, but it begins screaming again soon after.

"So he's told you, then." Clark Kent sighs. "This is - difficult. He could, potentially, inform the world at large." He stares off into the distance.

"You've found his hideout. Why aren't you arresting him?"

Clark Kent snorts. "Does he seriously call it a hideout?"

Mercy manages to keep her face straight. "Yes."

After a while, Clark stops chuckling. "Well. The fact is, uh - what did you say your name was?"

"I didn't. And Mercy."

"Do you have a last name, Mercy?"

"None that you'd be interested in."

Clark rocks back on his heels. "I was just making sure this was the place. It seems a little - unassuming."

"What were you expecting?" Mercy asks. "A palace made of gold?"

 

3

"Pack your bags," Mercy says, throwing open the door. "Superman's alive and he's found us out. Let's move to the suburbs and spend the rest of our lives bickering. That's what my parents did."

Lex is standing by the window. He's wearing a suit and tie. Mercy blinks.

"I know, I know," Lex says, "which is why we're staying in the property I like the least. You see, Superman's most likely going to come in overnight so that he doesn't get any civilians into the line of fire. For all he knows, I've got the place booby-trapped."

Mercy uncurls her fists. "Oh." She sits down on the couch, in the space Lex directed her to. "You could have warned me, sir. Is he going to arrive tonight?"

"Probably not," Lex soothes, rubbing her shoulders, "but then again, he could. Technically. Not to worry, though. Unless another superhero shows up, the kryptonite embedded in the walls will handle him."

Mercy leans backwards. Lex presses a kiss into her chin and the line of her neck. "Are you comparing us to your parents?" he continues. "Because I want to be Cassy. She makes the best crumble. Mm."

Stepping forwards, Mercy smooths down her suit. "You're bringing one of my mothers into this?"

Lex keens. "What? What did I do this time?"

Mercy holds down her smile.

 

4

At the end of the day, one of Mercy's favourite indulgences is to run herself a hot bath - deep and full of bubbles. Lying back in it, she shifts. Her phone buzzes. It was a gift from Lex - can't have my best girl letting me down, he'd said.

"Damn it, Luthor. I don't care. I'm not getting electrocuted for you. That is the point at which I draw the line."

The phone beeps more insistently, it seems. Mercy rolls her eyes.

When she's dry and towelled off, she heads into the living room. She considers reading. Her phone goes again, this time ringing. Reaching for the TV remote, she tucks it into the crack between her cheek and her shoulder. Her hair is dripping down her back.

"Mercy, my sweet," Lex says, "I may have - uh - I'm in trouble."

On the screen, Lex's third favourite private mansion is burning. Superman is flying around it in circles. In the bottom right corner, Batman's cape is visible as it flickers out of view.

"I'm under the desk in the library. Apparently, the Batman thought it would be a brilliant idea to murder me properly this time, and Superman's trying to stop him." Lex makes a little frustrated noise. "This happens to coincide, conveniently, with Superman's attempt to finally bring me to the authorities."

Mercy shoves the phone into her bag. "I'm coming," she says.

Lex releases a shaking breath, saying, "My hero. Oh, you are my - "

The line cuts out.

 

5

The house is in chaos. There are police officers everywhere and the flames are leaping higher and higher. Mercy narrows her eyes, and through the smoke, she can see Superman - Clark Kent - Kent, Clark Kent - and he looks like he's arguing forcefully with someone. He then grabs this someone and ducks them down into a kiss.

Mercy grabs hold of the drainpipe. A woman shouts at her to get down. She pulls, and she jumps. There are those beautiful seconds - the ones where she's suspended, just floating, before her feet hit the roof.

Both the Batman and Superman turn to look at her, breaking out of their embrace. The Batman's holding what appears to be an enormous gun. It's got to be the biggest Mercy's ever clapped eyes on. It's currently trapped in-between them. Superman is sporting bright red lips.

"Mercy," Superman mouths above the din, gaping.

Mercy jumps onto the ledge opposite them and swings out of sight. She can't make them out anymore. It won't be long until they come for her. Gritting her teeth, Mercy reaches downwards and punches a hole in the ceiling.

"My hero," Lex says again when Mercy lands. Her knees are scraped. She stretches out for him. Their hands brush, and then she's holding onto him and bearing him up, cradling him in her arms. She just catches sight of the Batman's jaw dropping before she draws level with the clouds.

Lex's hands tangle in her hair. The city spreads out below them. His fingers probe gently at her jaw. "You've busted your lip," he says. "That's going to sting in the morning, oh yes - you need to stop hurting yourself."

Mercy is quiet.

Lex hums against her cheek. "I knew you wouldn't die," he murmurs, "when I tried to kill Superman. You think I didn't, but I did. I trusted you."

They land on top of a building. There's a billboard opposite it with a sign advertising Doctor Pepper. Lex is twisting from side to side. His hands are stuck deep in his coat and a piece of his hair is smouldering.

"I trust you," Mercy says. "Remember."

Lex steps in front of her. There's something in the corner of his eye. Mercy rubs at it with one fingertip, and she kisses him gently on his lips.

 

+1

"Hello, cousin," Diana says, sitting down on the step next to her. She's wearing a trenchcoat and long black boots, and looks divine.

Mercy smiles. "Hello."