Thanks: lyra_sena dear sweet god you put up with a lot on this one. I mean, you sat with me *ON THE PHONE* and listened to me pitch a temper tantrum. I mean, God. You're amazing. Thank you for nursing me through this. Thank you, thank you.
bexless, thank you for audiencing.
And, again, Lyra. Sweet dear god, thank you for being the best beta.
The blanket was soft, blue, and probably hadn’t been washed recently. It smelled vaguely of grass, and feet. Lex pulled it tight around his shoulders, and leaned against the white, smooth surface of the cushion. It was a small boat, and the vibrations from the engine shook Lex’s teeth – a hum, the thrum of electricity he’d missed. He could hear the fishermen talking, words blending into one another, slow, easy, comfortable.
When Lex looked back over the water, he could barely see the island at all – just a faint line of sand curving into the water. Waves lapped against the sides of the boat, and it swayed. The raft Lex had been building was left leaning drunkenly to one side, browned palm fronds hanging dejectedly from the canopy. Beside it, Lex knew, there were three coconuts, and a sharpened shell; his toolbox. A tall, fat palm squatted by the grass mats Lex had painstakingly put together. They’d put out the fire on the beach before leaving, and all that were left were charred, blackened sticks piled haphazardly one on top of the other.
There wasn’t anybody on the island now. There wasn’t a body beside what used to be the bonfire – just a pile of burnt seaweed, brown, and brittle. It crumbled in his hands, and rattled when he dropped it. It left dust on his fingers, and Lex wiped his hands against the blanket again. He shuddered, and pull his knees closer.
He closed his eyes, and breathed, slowly. The air was heavy with salt, and sprays of water splashed against his cheeks. The men mended nets and steered, their accent musical and soothing. The boat rocked and Lex clutched his compass, and fell asleep.
Lex’s fingers were white on the handle of the machete. His shoulder popped as he swung it down, and air split audibly. Louis smiled up at him, eyes hectic, even as the point cracked his skin, even as the blade bit his bone. It reverberated up the metal, and Lex’s arm tingled with the impact. He gulped in oxygen, and it burned. Louis’ chest was smooth, and warm beneath his foot.
Louis’ blood was hot across his face. He could smell it, taste it. He wiped at it, noticing how it stained the lines of his fingers a deep, flat red – just the same way it was staining the sand.
When he turned to see the fisherman, his foot pivoted, and his toe landed in a clump of congealed sand. Louis’ blood.
There were so many details and Lex remembered everything. Down to the way Louis’ lips had turned up just as he took his last breath – that bitchy little smirk Lex had hated so much – and the way Louis’ matted blonde dreds had looked like snakes, fanned out across ashen dunes.
The sand was stained orange and yellow by the bonfire. A man stood in front of the sparse sawgrass, shifting his weight from foot to foot. His eyes were big, brown and soft.
Lex could still feel Louis’ blood splattered across his face. There was nothing there, nothing where Louis should have been. Nothing but him, the fisherman, and the fire biting into the night.
Lex woke up between stiff, starched sheets that smelled chalky, and chafed his raw skin as he sat up. He could hear people walking by, the soles of their shoes squeaking loudly, and the whining of wheels rolling along the floor.
His mouth was dry, and when he licked his lips, they felt like paper. There was a needle, an IV drip, stuck into his arm. He examined it, pushing it lightly with one finger, and winced.
It was a small room, and the walls were bright green – a cheerful lime, that told Lex plainly he was still in the islands, if not on *the* island anymore. A small window let in bright light, silhouetting the sinuous body of a gecko that clung to the pane outside.
He wondered where he was – what country, what city, what hospital. He wondered what day it was, how long he’d been gone, and if he’d been recognized yet.
The hinges on the door protested as it was opened, and a woman in a doctor’s coat, skin the color of coffee and huge, kind eyes stepped into the room. Her curls glinted as she tossed them back over a shoulder and came to perch beside his bed. Her weight was solid, warm beside his leg, and she patted his shin companionably.
Her hand felt very real against his leg.
“Awake, mm?” she asked.
Lex nodded, swallowing. His voice was thin and cracked when he spoke, tickling his throat as though he’d inhaled dust. “I need to go home.”
“And where is home?” the woman asked him, her eyes slanting upward with her smile, words rhythmic, musical. “And how will you get there?”
“Fly, walk, boat, I don’t care,” Lex said, pushing himself up. “I have to get home. I’m an American, and I need – ”
The doctor smiled again, shaking her head, pushing him lightly back, onto the bed. “You need rest, for at least a night, American. Do you have another name, perhaps? One to better call you by?”
He hesitated. “Alexander.”
She raised a brow, but said nothing more. Her palm was cool against his forehead, and her lips pursed to the side with thought. He thought of Martha Kent, and could almost smell the cinnamon of her kitchen.
“Alexander, then,” the doctor echoed, standing. Her heels clicked against the floor, a strange, familiar sound. Lex stiffened. “You will rest, and you will eat, and tomorrow we will see about getting you back to America.”
She patted his foot through the sheet. Lex felt younger than he’d let himself be.
Lex needed to get home, needed to *be* there. See it. Touch it. Be sure it was still the way he remembered it. Be sure it had ever been that way. The doctor’s eyes – dark, and tilted at the corners with concern – rested on his face as she reached for the door. “Is there anything you would like, Alexander?”
“A phone,” he told her, “and milk.”
She nodded, and the door snapped shut. Lex breathed out slowly. Outside, Lex heard laughter – a man’s voice, young, and strong. Beside his bed the compass was a rusted ring absorbing light on the gray table top. It fit his hand perfectly, and he turned it over and over between his fingers, seeking out every small dent, smoothing his thumb over the scratch across the face of the glass. It was rough against his fingertip.
He looked past the window, the gecko, and the brightly colored bougainvillea that crawled up the side of the window frame.
Lex saw Louis, smirking up at him. Lex saw Roger Nixon, falling to his knees in the clearing. He’d killed twice.
He’d died twice.
An orderly brought him a phone, and a tall glass filled with milk. Lex drank it slowly, savoring it, and thought of the bright, white flash of Clark, grinning. He picked up the telephone to plan his resurrection.
There was lightning, there was thunder, there was wind – whipping throughout the cabin – and a terrible groaning sound as the plane descended. Lex could feel gravity pulling them down – a kind of queasy ripple throughout his whole body. He stumbled to the cockpit, careful of falling books, glasses, handbags.
The water was a smooth, black expanse. It looked like asphalt. Lex didn’t scream, not even when he heard the snap and shudder as part of the tail broke off, not even as the ocean got closer, closer still. He watched, eyes wide, fingers clenched in the headrest of the pilot’s seat. He wasn’t afraid.
The left wing trailed into the waves, and Lex remembered a bridge, a river, and water flooding into his lungs. It burned. He choked. Then he was moving, climbing out onto the right wing, hugging a seat cushion tightly, and leaping off, kicking through the currents.
He toed off his shoes as he swam, pulled off his shirt, his tie. Got rid of all the extra weight. Got rid of his wallet. He found the compass Jonathan Kent had given him in his pocket, and treading water, found north.
The salt water stung his eyes and the inside of his nose. Lex swam until he couldn’t move his arms, or his legs, and his eyes drifted shut, head pillowed against the cushion. Lightening splintered the sky.
Lex wasn’t afraid of drowning – he’d done that once already – and as the waves tossed him from side to side, exhaustion pulled him far, far away from consciousness. He dreamed.
Helen put her hand in his. She smiled, polished and burnished in her glossy dress. She told him she loved him, and vanished before his lips could touch hers.
Clark murmured across Lex’s skin, pressed against Lex’s back. His lips were warm and moist. He kissed Lex passionately, needfully, and Lex could smell Clark over the salt of the sea. Lex could smell his clean, sweet scent.
Lex whispered in his sleep, slipping off the cushion when his feet dragged over a sand bar. His eyes opened long enough to see the beach in front of him, and he trudged forward, pressed through the water, made his tired legs lift slowly – one, then the other.
And as he collapsed on the long, lonely bare stretch of land, Lex curled in on himself, shivering.
Lex sat next to the window, in an aisle by himself, breathing in and out. He conjugated Latin verbs with his eyes closed – scio, scis, scit, scimis, scitis, sciunt. I know, you know, he knows, we know, they know.
The children in front of him fidgeted, their seats shaking as they shifted from side to side.
Lex gripped the armrests of his chair so tightly that his knuckles popped. The skin stretched taut; it looked like the cartilage would break through.
“Open your eyes, Lex,” he heard his father’s voice say. “You’re never going to get anywhere with your eyes closed.”
And he did – opened his eyes and kept them open, even as the plane taxied down the runway and took off. It jerked, and bumped, lurching into the sky. He studied the lines on headrest in front of him, red and blue.
“Why are you in such a hurry to get back to a family that twisted?” Louis’ snide voice asked, echoing in Lex’s memory, and he shivered.
No body there, nobody on the island. Just a pile of charred sticks, a coconut, a grass mat, and a handful of burnt, dried seaweed, he reminded himself.
Nobody. No body.
“…either your father set you both up, Helen managed this on her own, or the two of them were in league.”
The plane shuddered slightly in mid air, and Lex tensed.
Helen loved him. Had loved him. She’d slept in his arms for months, a twist and tangle of curls and limbs, and had pressed soft, tender kisses across his face. She’d married him, and her eyes had been gentle, her smile almost embarrassed.
He didn’t think of her often. He tried not to. He tried not to her imagine her battered and broken by the ocean, a limp, dark haired doll sinking lower and lower into the dark blue water.
Helen was probably dead, and Lex knew it.
He was meant to be dead, too. The two of them tragic newlyweds, floating forever, side by side in the Atlantic Ocean.
“You have a destiny, Lex.”
Lex snorted, lips pressed tightly together. Lionel had Lucas now – a more tractable son. Another son, one less interested in proving himself, more interested in entertainment. Easier to manipulate.
Lex was a loose canon. A liability. Destined to ruin Lionel’s plans.
And so his plane went spiraling down and Lionel’s popularity went spiraling up. A grieving father was always sympathetic. It would be good for LuthorCorp.
He wondered if Lionel had managed a tear or two for the cameras, and sucked in a quick breath, blinking.
When Lex was ten his father read him Machiavelli, out loud. Lionel loved to hear himself talk, loved to hear his own clipped, booming voice. Lex had sat beside him on the couch, leaning against his father’s side, Lionel’s arm draped over his shoulders.
Jaw set, Lex inhaled sharply. His nostrils flared at the stale scent on the air.
At the airport in Metropolis there would be a car waiting for him. In the glove compartment there would be a gun.
“…a destiny, Lex...a family that twisted…open your eyes…”
Lex looked out the window, and made himself watch as the plane flew steadily over the smooth, smooth ocean.
His bed was cold.
Lex pulled up the sheets, and curled tightly in on himself, becoming smaller and smaller in the expanse of his bed until he was a ball, pressed against the bulwark of his pillows.
Helen was tall and proud and gone. She’d jumped out of the plane, and they hadn’t found her.
Nobody washed up along the coast, no body anywhere.
She’d pointed a gun at him, and told him she loved him, and Lex thought maybe she would have been the perfect wife for him after all. He hadn’t loved her when he married her – she’d been convenient, and someone he’d cared for, sure enough. But perhaps she’d loved him.
Loved him enough not to pull the trigger herself, and Lex wasn’t sure what to make of that, precisely. He wondered if she’d killed before. He wondered if she remembered his sleeping face. He wondered if it had haunted her.
And he needed to know if *he* would ever stop seeing that smirk – that last goddamned smirk of Louis’.
And it was strange, wasn’t it, that it was Louis who haunted Lex, and not Nixon. Louis wasn’t real, had never been real, and so Lex couldn’t have killed him. But Nixon didn’t keep Lex awake at night. Maybe because of Clark, but maybe because Lex had felt the shudder of the machete breaking on Louis’ sternum.
Except that Louis didn’t exist, and so Lex had destroyed nothing.
Nothing at all.
He shuddered, and pulled harder on the sheets, tried to get warm. He wanted so desperately to be warm.
The castle stretched out around him - vast, empty. Lionel was in Metropolis, proud of his son. Happy Lex was alive.
Lex hadn't expected that. Maybe Lionel hadn't either, just like he hadn't expected Lex in his office.
Lex would have killed him. He knows it, knows it down to his bones, where the fact shakes, and aches. He could have pulled the trigger, and cried over Lionel’s death, and both would have been honest acts.
He was grateful that Helen had disappeared. Her neck was long and slender and he knew how it felt in his hands.
He knew he was strong enough to snap it.
When he closed his eyes he saw Louis’ blood running down the tanned chest in streams. He saw Roger Nixon’s stunned expression as he collapsed against the loam of the forest floor. He saw Cassandra Carver, and the frozen rictus of shock on her face when she stopped breathing.
Lex saw his father, staring at him. Saw Lionel’s eyes shift slightly. Saw Lionel watch the dull gleam of street lights against the dark barrel of the gun in Lex’s hand.
Sleep was impossible, though there was no light, no motion – the only sound in Lex’s bedroom was his shallow breathing.
It reminded him of nights on the island. Hearing the rush of water at the shore, and the rustle of leaves as the night animals made their way over the ground. He hadn’t been able to sleep there, either. Too alone, too uncomfortable, too fearful, and instead he’d listen to Louis sleep. He’d heard the soft sigh of each inhalation and exhalation, and been comforted to know he wasn’t alone – someone else was there.
Except…except he knew there wasn’t, and as he mulled the thought, turning it over in his mind, he heard himself breathing. Heard a catch on the exhalation – recognized it from listening to Louis, and Lex knew, *knew* in a way he hadn’t before that he’d been alone on that island.
By himself the whole time – imagining things. Crazy, Louis’ voice whispered, and Lex stiffened, sitting bolt upright.
He stayed that way until mornings, eyes open. Unsteady under layers of blankets, watching sun rise – alone.