This story started as a choose-your-own-fanfic over at my LiveJournal. After each part, I'd post a poll with four different scenarios and the readers would pick what they wanted to see. "Fledgling" was also done this way. Choose-your-own-fanfics lend themselves well to humor, so I think that's the direction I was headed at first with this story. But I write somewhat serious things much better, I think, and that's where this story started to go after a while.

Pitch meetings at the Daily Planet were short and sweet. The news cycle was much too short to waste time. Perry White called everyone into the meeting room, assigned stories, and that was that, the same as it was in newsrooms across the nation. The difference was that Perry White had a 99 percent accuracy rate when it came to assigning stories to people who'd be good at them.

Pitch meetings at my college's newspaper are not, in fact, like this. The staff is small enough that we can all actually meet in one room--editor-in-chief, section editors, and writers--and pitch ideas together. I'm informed that this is not the case in other newsrooms.

Superman had destroyed a lab in the next state over about an hour ago, and one in South America maybe a half-hour before that. Details were fuzzy on what exactly the lab had been doing, although word on the street was "evil robots," which naturally everyone was skeptical about.

I'm no good at coming up with clever, evil plots, so I IMed my friends on this one. One of them--I think it was akukorax--suggested evil robots.

"Kent," he said, "I want you on the Superman piece." Clark nodded; he was almost always assigned the Superman story. "Oh, and either you or Lane is gonna go to the Luthor press conference tomorrow. There's gonna be one."

I actually got really, really hung up over this detail. I'm a budding journalist, so of course I wanted to get all the journalism details right. The original drabble called for an actual personal interview with Lex--but I couldn't do it. The only reason a journalist would do a personal interview with someone so important would be if it were a feature article or something. For something as big as a Superman blowout--and I wanted there to be a Superman blowout--Lex would simply call a press conference and that would be it.

Finally, I decided that Clark could bloody well go to a press conference.

It must have shown in his voice, because Lois gave him a strange look and said, "Niece's birthday party tomorrow? I told you about it weeks ago."

It didn't occur to me until later that this would mean that Lucy had kids. How scary.

That was right. Clark had it in his planner, too. And you didn't break promises to six-year olds. That was just low, and you deserved a special handbasket to hell for that.

You go to the special hell. Along with people who talk at the theater.

"You're welcome." Lois patted Clark on the shoulder. "Now, go and fire up the Supersignal, or whatever it is you do to get Superman to talk to you."

Clark did maybe half an eye-roll (he wasn't in high school anymore, after all), grabbed his jacket, and went out to get a statement from Superman.

I figure that Clark has to leave the office in order to get a statement from Superman. I mean, he is Superman, but nobody else knows that, and he has to make it look realistic.


Superman, as usual, was extremely neutral. He said he'd noticed strange activity in the area, used his x-ray vision, and discovered an underground laboratory that was, apparently, manufacturing AI software chips. There was nothing inherently nefarious about this, and he had left it alone. Later on, however, he discovered a link between this lab and another, similar one in a war-torn country in South America where the chips had been used to build robots, which had been used to exacerbate an already brutal civil war. Superman then produced one of these chips, which Clark promised to have analyzed.

I'm also no good at science-y stuff--I'm an English major, for crying out loud--so I had to ask pauvretoi, who was on some kind of Robotics team in high school. She explained to me that an AI is software and that a chip cannot contain an AI, but it can contain AI software. Thus, she helped me concoct this hopefully somewhat-realistic sounding story. It should be DC-realistic, anyway.

There was nothing, so far, to link this to LexCorp. Then Clark remembered an article in Business a while back. It had been a small one, just a blurb, but it talked about a new, more intelligent AI that LexCorp had developed, and a subsequent contract to manufacture these software chips for the military. There had been nothing about exclusivity in the contract, Clark thought, but exporting these chips to South America to build a robot army was pretty wrong.

pauvretoi also explained to me the nature of government contracts.

So there were "evil robots" after all. Funny.

Haha! Everyone loves evil robots!

Clark thanked Superman for his help and went back to the Daily Planet. It was probably unethical for him to write articles on Superman when he was Superman. Technically, it was a conflict of interest. But he couldn't think of a way to get out of it now, not after so many years. The best Clark could do was report fairly and objectively.

I figure the biggest Boy Scout in the world can be allowed one failing.

Clark sat up straight, notepad and pen at the ready, and looked attentive. The press secretary said a few words, and then made way for Lex. Flashbulbs went off immediately, but Lex hardly blinked. He waited until the photographers were done, smiled, and began to speak.

Maybe Lex is a reptile. That's why he doesn't need to blink.

There was nothing new. Lex said very pretty things about how, yes, the laboratory was underground and hidden, but that was for security reasons. Nothing sneaky there; the laboratory showed up on all his paperwork. He made no attempt to hide it. It was the same with the South American lab, although of course he'd had no idea it was being used to manufacture robots. He promised that an investigation was under way even as they spoke. Clark had no doubt that someone, probably several someones, would be pinned with the blame and fired or encouraged to resign.

pauvretoi helped me on this again. She's smart.

"Second row," Lex said, "blue shirt."

Clark realized that he was sitting in the second row, wearing a blue shirt.

This is another example of a spot where I got hung up over wonky journalism details. I realized that I had no idea how press conferences actually worked. I mean, I watch them, but I don't pay attention to whether or not reporters raise their hands. Fortunately, akukorax does. I also had no idea whether or not the speaker just pointed to the reporter in question or used some kind of verbal identifier. I decided to use both, just to be safe.

The question was irrelevant, but Lex seemed to take it seriously. After a few moments of consideration, he answered, "I think Superman does good work. He saves lives and helps people, and Metropolis is now a better place for it. However, I believe that we may come to rely on him too much. He is, after all, only one person, no matter how mighty. And he is not human, and cannot be entirely relied upon to judge human right and wrong." He looked away, and Clark found he could breathe again. "Next question, please."

I think Lex saying that Superman is an unreliable judge of right and wrong was probably a bad move on his part. I mean, the public loves Superman, and here Lex pretty much condemned him. Sort of. But Lex in the comics is a pretty vocal opponent of Superman and he managed to become President of the United States, so it must work out somehow.

An auburn-haired woman in a salmon pantsuit

That's really ugly, by the way.

Superman destroyed two illegal LexCorp facilities yesterday, prompting Lex Luthor to hold a press conference in which he said that he was "grateful" to Superman for ml;sdamgfl'a

I suck at writing leads. I mean, I'm still getting used to this whole journalism gig. So Clark, in real life, probably would have written a much better lead than this. My excuse is that he's still all wrinkled over the press conference.

Clark had been confused until Lex revealed his plan: give Clark another identity.

Everyone loved it. More accurately, everyone loved Superman. After all, Gotham had Batman while Keystone City had the Flash. Why couldn't Metropolis have its own superhero?

A lot of Smallville futurefics seem to ignore the whole Justice League thing, which I think is a shame. There's a lot of potential there. Then again, that means you'd also have to be familiar with some DC canon, and that's a lot of extra work for some future!Clex.

"You're lucky," Lex observed, "that superheroes are trendy right now." And he'd gone back to his newspaper.

I wanted to illustrate here how even though Lex helped Clark become Superman, he doesn't want to get too close or attached to Superman, either. Hence how he's kind of dismissive and just continues reading his newspaper. Clark is also a newspaper journalist, so newspaper--never mind.

Then Superman destroyed a LexCorp R&D facility. It had been a necessity; it had been experimenting with Kryptonite and human and animal cells.

I often tell my friends that I don't care who you are, but Lex is smarter than you. I don't care if you're Einstein. Lex is still smarter than you. Despite all this, I don't know why Lex doesn't line all his labs with lead. Maybe it's a health hazard.

The story had run in the Planet a few days later, in Health and Science,

Again, budding journalist. I get hung up over journalism details.

Besides being a public health hazard, it was a danger to Superman, and the city could not endanger their hero.

The real reason Kryptonite was banned!

"Clark," Lex said, rubbing his temples, "couldn't you maybe talk to me about this first? Instead of destroying millions of dollars worth of equipment?"

It's true. I mean, they do live together. They could talk about it over dinner. "Honey, I don't think experimenting with the effects of Kryptonite on animal cells is a good idea." "Why do you say that? You've seen firsthand its effects on humans. If we learn to control it, it could be a great asset to science. Please pass the pepper."

The next time Clark saw Lex--a televised appearance at the opening of a new wing at the Metropolis Children's Hospital--he was wearing the Kryptonite ring.

These few lines were added in the "final version" of the story, after it finished its run on my LiveJournal. One of the hazards of choose-your-own-fanfic is that you generally don't know where the story is going until about halfway through, at which point you think, "If only I'd been able to add that one line of foreshadowing there!" Oh well.

"Smallville! Hey, Clark!"

Lois only calls him Clark when she wants to get his attention.

"Hello, this is LexCorp Public Relations," said a robotic female voice. "May I speak to Lois Lane, please?"

For some reason, said robotic female voice also had a Southern accent in my head. I don't know why.

"May I speak to Lois Lane, please?" the voice repeated.

Also, I couldn't really think of any reason for Lex to call Clark and request an interview. I really should have thought of one beforehand, since I had a sneaking suspicion that this was what everyone and their dead grandmother would vote for.

So I asked akukorax, and she said that Lex should be calling for Lois. She likes it when Lex has a crush on Lois.

So he stared at his article, trying to ignore Lois, and finally hit Backspace until he'd deleted the entire lead. There. A clean slate.

This is actually one of those stupid English-y things I like to do once in a while: an allegory. I mean, Clark deletes the badly-written lead and starts over with a "clean slate," which is kind of what he wishes he could do with Lex. Haha. I suck.

"Lex Luthor just asked me to interview him for the Planet," Lois finally said in an odd voice.

I think it was around here that I started to realize what the story was about.

Also, I have no idea if this is proper procedure. It might be more proper for LexCorp to contact the editor-in-chief and request an interview. But this was faster.

Now that he was well-established he did the occasional phone interview, made the occasional television appearance. Press conferences and company PR handled the rest.

As a journalist, you spend a lot of time on the phone. You call spokespersons, fact-checkers, etc. Very little time is spent actually physically chasing down leads.

"With me, no less. Oh, don't give me that look, Clark. I know they call me the Barracuda."

I made that up.

"What--what's the interview about?" Clark asked. "Did they say?"

Wait, this might be when I figured out what the story was about.

"Well, we are a very reputable paper with millions of subscribers," Clark pointed out.

I didn't know what was a realistic number, and I was too lazy to check and see how many subscribers the New York Times had. So, millions.

Clark turned his attention back to his work. White passed them by to yell at someone else about a photo caption.

My journalism professor ranted about photo captions that day in class.

The Planet always closed late when covering big events, and Superman destroying a LexCorp facility definitely counted as a big event. It was something that would hit Science (the AI), Business (LexCorp), World (South America) as well as the front page (Superman), which meant that a great many people stayed in the newsroom well after closing, writing, fact-checking, and copy-editing.

Again, more of my journalism geekery. I like to think it adds realism, but maybe it's just annoying.

By the time the paper went to print, Clark was exhausted. Not physically, of course; that was a dim memory from freshman year of high school, when he'd temporarily lost his powers to another boy.

I like to add these little references to the show to keep it grounded in Smallville fandom instead of just DC comics in general.

It was too late for a quick visit home for a pick-me-up, so Clark just took the bus back to his apartment.

Okay, I'll admit it: in every poll I include what I think of as "the no answer." It's the choice that I think nobody will pick. In this case, Clark going back to his apartment and having insomnia was the no-answer, but I decided that if people actually picked it, there would be porn. Clark would have insomnia and jack off. This I promised to myself and akukorax.

Hey Clark, it said in her girlish script, how's it hanging? Berlin's a blast! You should come visit me sometime. Stop being such a homebody! I'll show you the greatest beer garden. xoxo, Chloe

Chloe didn't know that Clark had been to Germany twice, once to deal with a forest fire and once to destroy a facility that had been attempting to illegally clone humans. He didn't know where the greatest beer garden was, though.

I'm not entirely sure why I included this. It's a little gratuitous. I think it was to show how distant Clark was from the people he'd once been close to. Like, Chloe has no idea that Clark's been to Germany. As Superman.

Also, that Clark ends up seeing all these places and doing all these things as Superman--saving people--that he doesn't really have any fun. Like going to beer gardens. The best beer garden in Berlin is the Prater Biergarten, by the way.

Note, also, the factory that's attempting to clone humans. I added that as a hint.

I actually have no idea if it's illegal to clone humans right now, but it is in Clark's world.

Mrs. Harrison laughed. "Oh, but imagine if there was no Superman--you'd have nothing to write about!"

"Well, the paper survived before Superman," Clark said. "Have a good evening, Mrs. Harrison."

I think Clark is aware, on some level, that people are becoming dependent on Superman. Like they think there wouldn't be any news without him. But that's not true, because somehow the Planet survived before Superman, and it'll probably find a way to survive after.

He almost always had the news on when he was at home because it might be something Clark had to write about the next day. That, and it might be something Superman could help with.

Again, more journalism geekery.

Dinner turned out to be some frozen leftovers his mother had sent home with him last week. Clark returned to the living room to find the television broadcasting various footage of Lex, the newsanchor speculating on how this might affect Lex's rumored future run for political office. Clark changed the channel to Cartoon Network and ate his lasagna while watching Teen Titans reruns.

Clark changed the channel because of Lex, of course.

The first such night had been a mudslide in California.

Yes, California has mudslides. I grew up in the San Gabriel Valley, far away enough from the mountains that I never saw or experienced a mudslide myself, but close enough that the local papers always reported it.

Clark nodded and did as he was told. He thought he should apologize for tracking mud all over Lex's spotless carpet, but the words never made it to his mouth.

You focus on really small things when you're reeling from some kind of tremendous tragedy or trauma.

"No crumbs on the bed," Lex said automatically.

This is something I do.

Clark shook his head.

"Are you sure?"

"No," Clark said honestly.

I figure, Clark probably doesn't want to talk about it because he just doesn't want to think about it anymore, but he probably knows that he really needs to talk about it. Hence his weird oscillation here.

He paused. "One of them said to me, where were you? Where were you earlier? And I didn't know what to say."

Clark probably gets this a lot. Note that Superman almost always gets there after the disaster already occurred. People probably want to know, why wasn't he there earlier? Why wasn't the disaster prevented? But, you know, it's up to people to prevent disasters. Superman can't do people's jobs for them; all he can do is help in situations when it's beyond mere human control, like alien invasions and acts of nature and stuff.

This also brings to mind an incredibly sad comic I once saw after 9-11, where Superman stood in the rubble of the Twin Towers while a little boy asked, "Where were you?" It broke my heart, and in these trying times--after Hurricane Katrina and all--I wish that there really was a Superman.

"It's enough," Lex said. "No matter how little or how much, it's enough."

This turned out to be one of those lines that became really, really important.

So there was no justification, really, for Superman to go out tonight.

I had to explain why Clark didn't go out patrolling, since nobody voted for it on the poll. Well, maybe one person did.

Come to think of it, Lex hadn't been wearing his ring at the press conference.

Yeah, by now I knew where the story was going.

Clark rubbed one hand wearily over his face. It was going to be a long night and sleep didn't seem to be anywhere in the near future.

There was a real moment here where I didn't think I'd be able to work in the porn. akukorax was very upset at me. I'd promised her porn and it seemed like I wasn't going to be able to deliver.

I went to class, came back, sat down, and wrote wank. Sometimes you just need to get away from the story for a while.

Clark didn't get out of bed. Instead, he pulled down his pajama pants and grasped his cock, stroking with his left hand and pretending it was Lex.

I know the wanking is not particularly hot. This was somewhat intentional. For Clark, the masturbation isn't very hot. It's more painful than anything else because Clark has to think about Lex, and that's not fun.

Clark hadn't had sex in four years.

I think I might have tried to write Clark thinking about other people before realizing that wait, Clark probably hasn't had sex in four years. Not because he's being faithful to Lex--although that may be part of the reason--but because he's paranoid.

One time, Clark dislocated Lex's arm during sex.

This is actually an homage to

's Biological Imperative, which is probably the hottest alien!Clark fanfic I've ever read.

Lex, who was so strong and untouchable in his daily life, loved being dominated in bed.

I have no doubt that this is true. Some people write Lex as an all top, all the time--which is, you know, within their rights--but people who are that self-controlled in their daily lives tend to crave domination in bed. It's the one place they don't have to be themselves--or rather, the one place where they can be themselves.

Yes, I know I think about my porn too much.

He thought of the times they'd experimented with bondage (their safeword was "Krypton").

I thought it was cute.

Clark still came for Lex, every time, toes curling and head thrown back.

I think this is kind of sad. Not sad as in pathetic, but sad as in. . . sad. Am I the only one who thinks this?

(Bruce Wayne, who seemed to sleep approximately four hours a night, was most assuredly not a normal person)

I like making fun of Batman.

The phone rang. Clark answered it out of sheer surprise.

Haven't you ever done that? Answer a phone automatically?

"Tell me about it," Lois snorted. "Anyway, if you're thinking of calling in sick, don't."

Clark had a moment of real fear. Did Lois have superpowers? "I--you--what?"

Clark calling in sick was yet again the "no-answer" that, for some reason, turned out to be the majority vote. I think everyone just wanted Clark to get chewed out by Lois. Not that I had any problem with this, it was just that I don't think Clark would ever call in sick unless it was an actual emergency. He's way too noble and responsible for that.

So I decided that Clark could think about calling in sick, and then Lois could be psychic.

"Got a call from LexCorp and they wanted to reschedule the interview for this morning and I said yes. I mean, it's LexCorp; they say jump, you ask how far. Anyway, that means I need you here to cover me."

As it turned out, Lois's call actually turned out to be convenient because it gave me a reason to speed up the story. I have no idea what would have happened otherwise.

Clark mentally groaned as he recognized Jay, the copy chief.

Jay is actually the name of my copy chief at the school newspaper. My Jay, however, is not evil. Also, my Jay is a woman (Jay is short for Jennifer).

"Yeah. I mean, sure, you don't really know how to use a comma, and you have this terrific tendency to abuse semicolons.

Clark's writing problems are my own. I like to think I've managed to get my semicolon problem under control, except now I have a tendency to overuse regular colons. You just can't win with punctuation.

Jay nodded. "And that's why we like you, Kent. So no more sloppiness like the past few days, okay? You don't want to get the copy team angry."

I have a lot of sympathy for copy editors, since I am one myself. They have an enormous responsibility to remember all these nitpicky little things that a staff writer doesn't necessarily have to memorize--because presumably the copy editors can take care of it.

Earning the ire of the copy team could be a complete nightmare, as some of his coworkers had attested.

Seriously man, don't fuck with the copy team. They have the power to rewrite your stories.

Clark breathed a sigh of relief and found the list of tasks Lois had assigned him pinned neatly underneath her Spider Jerusalem action figure.

At the beginning of the story, I was lamenting to pauvretoi that I kept getting hung up over stupid journalism details. She told me that if I found a way to work in Spider Jerusalem, she would love me forever.

"I need to talk to you," Lois said abruptly, seizing Clark by the biceps. "But not here. Let's. Let's go outside. I need a smoke."

At first, I wanted Lois to blurt it out to Clark right here. Then I realized that breaking this kind of news in the middle of the newsroom was probably not such a great idea. Lois isn't dumb.

Lois took a deep breath and said, "Luthor has cancer."

I can kind of see why everyone wanted to kill me. I mean, this part started out really light-hearted. There's a parenthetical aside that makes fun of Batman, Clark has a funny conversation with Lois, there's a humorous exchange with a copy editor. . . and then suddenly Lex Luthor has cancer.

I don't know why he wants it out in the first place; it's not gonna be good for LexCorp.

Yeah, that sort of news tends to make your stock drop.

I don't know why Lex wanted to break it like this, actually, and I never really figured it out even by the end of the story. I figured that part of the reason was just that he wanted to tell Clark somehow. The other part of it is that, yeah, he probably wants to control how the news gets out. Better now, this way, while he still has some dignity, rather than if he collapses in the middle of a press conference or something.

"Started in his hand," Lois said.

See, this is what gets me. I mean, I read a lot of SV fanfiction. A lot. My knowledge is scarily encyclopedic at this point. And I've noticed that lots of people do the Lex-has-cancer thing, and a lot of people do the Lex-loses/lost-his-hand thing, but nobody seemed to have done the Lex-clones-himself-a-new-body thing. And why not? It's canon, after all.

So I decided that I would do it.

At Clark's startled look, she said, "You're my partner, of course I dug up everything on you I could.

This is the part where I started pretending the fourth season never happened. Or, as akukorax put it, I made my own fourth season. One in which Clark and Lex shagged like bunnies.

He sat down, right there on the roof, and stared at the sky in amazement.

I like the mental image this gives me: Clark, dressed for work, sitting on the roof of the Daily Planet--maybe next to that big globe on the top--and staring at the sky.

The cancer cells probably had the same increased healing and replicating rate as Lex's normal cells, and the doctors didn't know how to deal with it.

This is my sad, sad attempt to be somewhat science-y. It has some basis in fact, though.


There was, originally, a flashback scene between Clark's trauma at finding out the news and him actually being on the moon. In the trade paperback Till Death Do Us Part, Clark visits his parents after a fight with Lois and gets treated to a Jonathan Kent anecdote. Jonathan tells him that after fights with Martha, he used to go out behind the barn and just break things with his bare hands. Got his anger out. Then he'd go back in and apologize or talk things out or whatever it was he did. Clark takes Jonathan's advice and punches some new craters in the moon.

I really wanted to include this scene in the story--more as a private joke than anything else--but I couldn't really find a way. It didn't really serve a purpose and I couldn't transition it properly. So it got cut out.

In the meantime, he sat on the moon in his Clark Kent suit.

I like the phrase "Clark Kent suit." It's like the Clark Kent persona has a uniform, just like the supersuit.

Once, when Clark was younger and just learning how to fly, he realized that his powers allowed him to fly into space without any repercussions whatsoever.

I wanted to include a reference to either "Fledgling" or "Flooding" at some point so that readers knew these stories were connected in the same universe.

The Fortress had never approved of Lex.

All this blather about the Fortress and the AI? I have no idea what I was doing here. I honestly had no idea what Clark was doing on the moon besides brooding, and your thoughts just kind of wander when you brood. So I let Clark's thoughts wander and it came up with this, which ended up becoming relevant anyway.

"You are Superman. Always have been. Even without the uniform, even without the Fortress."

Lex always says this. I can't name how many fanfics I've seen this line. I hated to use it, it's so hackneyed, but I had to. Because it's true, really; that's what the show is about.

I kind of wanted to include a line about "If you had to choose between saving the world or saving [Lex], what would you do?" but I thought it'd be mean. Clark honestly doesn't know what he'd do, but he'd probably choose the world. It's kind of Machiavellian thinking--the needs of the many over the needs of the few--but nobody ever said that Clark wasn't a hypocrite.

The balcony doors still opened from the outside.

Clark could have come back any time he wanted. He just never thought to try.

But behind the desk Metropolis glowed, bright and tall, black buildings and dark highways striped and busy with lights.

I really liked the mental image this created: Lex, alone in his office, a little desk lamp glowing by his elbow, Metropolis all dark and bright behind him. I knew I wouldn't be able to describe it the way it was in my head, so I didn't try very hard. That's not what Clark's focusing on, anyway.

When he x-rayed it he saw a mess of wires and metal.

I feel like I don't play with Clark's powers enough in this story. It's hard to write someone who has extra powers; you have to remember that the character has them and he can use them as naturally and easy as you might, say, blink.

"I thought you'd come by," Lex said.

This conversation was really, really hard to write. I usually write kind of on instinct; I just let the words come and somehow it turns out okay. This time, though, I really wanted to get it right. I mean, this is the climax of the story, pretty much. I wrote this conversation two or three times before I was satisfied, but even now I'm not sure.

"Clark," he began, hesitantly. He looked down at his hands, then up again. "I'm sorry."

The apology was one of those things that appeared in the second or third iteration of the conversation. Lex has to apologize; he's dying.

"It seems that the only recourse left to me is death."

I like writing Lex's dialogue because then I get to use big words like "recourse."

"Ah. The Fortress."

I have no doubt that the AI could fix Lex. I mean, the Fortress brought Clark back from the dead once (see The Return of Superman). Clark doesn't know this, though, and Lex is, in a way, still too proud to ask for help.

See, Lex's whole platform in the comic books is that humanity does not need Superman. He wants humanity to get bigger and better, and it can't if it's always got Superman there to help it when things go wrong. Superman is a reminder to humanity of what they can't be because he's Super; Lex wants them to remember what they can be. So he doesn't want to fall back on alien technology to help him beat cancer. He wants to beat it on his own. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to--but he's got another ace up his sleeve.

"It's terminal," Lex said gently. "I doubt even the AI can help me now."


Clark brought one hand up to his own face, found the glasses in his way, and irritably took them off and let them drop to the floor.

I wanted this line partly for the mental image and partly because I'm an English major who likes to assign symbolism to things. Clark lets the glasses fall off here because he's being honest, and the glasses are part of his dishonesty. He doesn't actually need them; he only wears them when he's pretending to be Clark Kent, Normal Guy. But here, all the masks are off.

"No," Clark said, "it's just--I hate this. I hate that I'm Superman, and I still can't--" He broke off.

You're not going to believe this, but at one point I disliked Superman.

No, I did. When I first got into superhero comics. Superman is inherently boring. He doesn't have the neuroses that, say, Batman does. Batman's psychological issues are what make him interesting. And he's not witty and funny like the Flash. Superman, well, he's Super. That's all there is to it. He has no angst, or rather, the only angst he has is that he can't be any more Super than he already is.

Which is what makes Superman interesting. He's most interesting when he's interacting with other people, particularly other superheroes. Superman is an icon; he's what all other superheroes aspire to be. That's quite a burden, and no wonder Superman develops a complex over how imperfect he is.

"If you'd never come to this planet," Lex said, "I would have died at the bottom of a river.

This is debatable. If Clark had never come to Earth then Lex wouldn't be bald, and then he might not have grown up to be psychotic. Who knows?

Clark stared and thought, despairingly, that Lex had never been so beautiful and alive as he was in this one moment. "I wish--"

Originally, Clark said, "I love you." Then I decided that this fic didn't need that.

Behind them, Metropolis continued to live.

I was afraid that this line would be out of place, but a few people commented that they liked it. Sorrel had a really kickass reading that was way deeper and cooler than what I meant.

My intention, by the way, was just that Metropolis will continue to live no matter what happens to, well, anybody. Superman is supremely important, yes, but the city lived without him before and it will after Superman is gone. It's like what Clark said about the Daily Planet. Lex Luthor is dying and yes he's oh so important and he's the center of Clark's entire world--but in the end he's still small fry. It's one of those "I am so small in the face of the infinite" sort of things.

A week later, Lex took the ludicrously named Lexwing, his private jet, on a round-the-world journey, ostensibly to check on international LexCorp offices one last time before living out his last days in hermitage. The plane crashed in the Swiss Alps. There were no survivors.

This is also canon. Except for the Swiss Alps. I think he crashed in some random, unnamed mountains.

Three days after the Daily Planet broke the news, Clark went home.

akukorax noted that I spent the entire fic trying to get Clark to go home to Smallville, which I hadn't actually noticed. But yeah, almost all of the polls mentioned Smallville in some way, shape, or form.

So I decided that Clark could bloody well visit home in the epilogue.

"I'm fine," Clark said, smiling harmlessly.

I don't really like that I wrote "smiling harmlessly" here. Clark can't really say if his own smile is harmless, and the story's from his POV.

"I read in the paper last week--and I was so sure you'd call, or come by, and I did so much baking. . . but you never came."

I don't know why Martha didn't just call. Maybe she was doing that, "My baby's a big boy, he'll call if he wants to." **frets** thing that mothers do.

Martha bit her lip, but Jonathan said, "That's your mother's line."

Jonathan's demonstrating his knowledge of Kent Repression here. He figures Clark will open up when he needs do. Martha's the more emotional type.

Besides just wanting Clark to go home, I wanted to give the readers an idea that Clark was okay. He's not upset, he's not crying, he's not going home for emotional comfort. Well, maybe he is, but not overtly. He's not upset because he doesn't really believe that Lex is dead. Call it denial if you will; I prefer to think that he knows Lex, and he knows Lex isn't going to just lie down and die. He's going to wait and see if Lex has something up his sleeve.

A month later, another Lex Luthor turned up in Australia, claiming to be the Alexander J. Luthor's illegitimate son. This was not the first time such a scam had occurred, but this one appeared to have all the correct papers and the correct DNA. The legal wall of thorns around LexCorp was forced to recede. Curiously enough, Lex Luthor had left a strange, seemingly irrelevant clause in his will pertaining to such an event, instructing that any blood kin of his to appear would be given the reins and occupy the same throne that Lex Luthor had once owned.

This is not all entirely canon. The "illegitimate son" is Australian, yes; Lex does affect an Australian accent in the comics. The stuff about Lex's will is all made up. I don't know how he would have ascended to Lex Luthor's throne otherwise, the law being what it is.

He found Alexander J. Luthor II wandering the living room, touching things in the reverent manner of someone exploring his past and new future.

Look, look, it's a double meaning!

Alexander II had a full head of red hair and a full red beard as well, but the same blue eyes as his predecessor.

This is canon. Well, except maybe for the blue eyes. They can't seem to decide what color Lex's eyes are in the comics. Most of the time they're green.

Clark opened his mouth and said the first thing that came to mind: "Why didn't you tell me?"

The first time I wrote this ending--which is still up on the SSA, I imagine, since I can't seem to get any of the archivists to respond to me--I just had Clark coming in and saying, "That beard makes you look like Lionel." No anger at all. Then someone wrote me a very nice letter (I'm serious, it was a very nice, thoughtful letter) saying that Lex's behavior was kind of cruel, and why didn't Lex let Clark in on his plan?

The simple answer is that it never occurred to me. The entire intent of this story was to tie something in comics canon into the Smallville continuity, and of course in comics canon Superman never knows that Lex cloned himself.

But the letter-writer had a point; Lex was pretty cruel in not telling Clark about his plan, even if Clark did have some inkling of it. So I rewrote the ending to give Clark a chance to be angry, which I like much better.

"That cloning facility in Germany," Clark said, "was it yours?"

When I rewrote the ending a second time--oh, wait, that's the version that's up on SSA; the original ending is up on my LJ--I accidentally left out the part about the cloning facility in Germany. I included this little exchange because I wasn't counting on the reader to remember Chloe's postcard and also to give the reader more of an idea that Clark knew something like this was going to happen all along.

The smile fell away. Lex looked away, at the bust of Caesar he'd been looking at before. "It was. . . just a hobby, at first. To see if I could. Then I had a much more personal stake."

I was even more upset that I'd accidentally left out this line because I thought it was funny, and it seemed to be a hit on my LJ.

I have no idea if the bust of Caesar is symbolic or not.

"I was afraid it wouldn't work," Lex said. "I didn't want to get your hopes up."

It's a pretty flimsy excuse, I admit. I couldn't come up with anything better.

Lex didn't move. "I didn't want your help."

Lex's whole platform, in the comics--which has recently been more developed with the Lex Luthor: Man of Steel mini-comic (which is frankly not very well-written; I've read better in the SV fandom)--is that Superman is an alien, and you can't trust something that foreign. Furthermore, having the ubermensch ideal actually exist destroys the human motivation for growth, or at least that's what Lex things. Like, if there's a Superman, nobody else will try to reach that level. He wants humanity to keep achieving and growing rather than relying on the soft shield that Superman provides for them. At least, that's what I got out of it.

Clark knew Lex was right, so he didn't argue. Instead, he said, "That beard makes you look like Lionel."

It really does. I wish I had a picture.

Clark had the sudden urge to stroke his hair, and it made him want to laugh.

It would make me want to laugh.

"Yes," Clark said, "and no. You're much hotter." Then he became serious again, the sudden burst of mirth subsiding into something quiet and anxious. "Is this--now that--can we start over?"

Lex froze. "If you want," he said carefully.

"I want," Clark replied, but he sensed that wasn't all.

"Clark." Lex stared fixedly at Clark's chin. "I'm not--I can't be the person you want me to be."

Clark kissed him then, soft and gentle. It was strange, different, with the beard in the way, but all his cells were singing that Lex was whole, alive, and here with him again. "It's all right," he said. "It's enough."

And hence, the end. I can't say if everything ends happily ever after; they obviously still have some issues they really, really need to resolve. But Clark is willing to settle for a Lex that can't or won't change, which is a little disturbing in itself. Then again, perhaps Clark had some unrealistic expectations in the first place. By the time I reached the end of the story the obvious title was "Enough," but I rather liked the working title of "Pitch" for some reason, so it stayed. This story is, to date, probably my favorite. "Flooding" is a close second.