Author: Kat Lee
Character/Pairing: CLex (Clark/Lex)
Challenge/Prompt: 1_million_words Say What Friday: "Show me a hero and I'll write you a tragedy." - F. Scott Fitzgerald
Word Count: 1,534
Date Written: 8 July 2017
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to DC Comics, not the author, and are used without permission.
Show me a hero, Lex had once read somewhere, and I'll write you a tragedy. He's far from being a hero, but his life has often felt like a tragedy. Ever since he lost his mother as a little boy, Lex has tried not to follow in his father's footsteps, but these days, it seems like he's matching Lionel stride for stride.
He barely glances at the workers gathered around one of the larger windows on the top floor of LuthorCorp as he boldly strides for his office, but as he takes a sip of his coffee, he can't help noticing that every single person on the floor is gawking out of that window. They haven't even noticed he's entered the room! "Back to work, people!" he snaps angrily. He doesn't need to look out the window to know what they're gawking at or, rather, at whom. The whole world watches every move Superman makes, but none of them know him like he once did.
A few of his workers immediately snap away from the window and the latest superhero battle. With quick murmurs of "Yes, sir, Mister Luthor, sir," they hurry back to their desks and their various tasks, but still a few remain. "Now," Lex adds, snapping, "or you'll find yourselves gawking in the unemployment line!" His workers rush back to their desks like good, little bees, and Lex continues on into his office and another day leading the most prolific and profitable company in the whole nation -- and the one who, when the time comes, will truly save the people.
His workers do not even dare to look back up when Lex slams the door shut to his office. They know better than to alert the beast to their presence, and the best any of them can hope for is to keep a very low and unnoticeable profile for the rest of the day. Alone in his office, Lex throws his suitcase and coffee onto his desk, sinks into the chair that was once his father's, steeples his fingers before him, and sighs. Already today, he's being ignored in favor of everybody's hero!
But Superman isn't really a hero, Lex knows. The man has built his entire life on a web of lies. He perhaps even lies more to the people than Lex himself does, but they'll never guess that the things they take so easily from him as being truths and all lies. None of them would ever believe that Lex himself is more truthful and, thereby, in a way, more honorable than Superman will ever be. He doesn't hide his faults; he doesn't lie to their faces. He has no need to. The world can see him as he is, and he'll never care rather or not they accept him.
But Clark . . . Every day, he lies. He lies to his fans and the people he saves. He lies to his friends, to his wife, and to his beloved mother. He even lies to himself, and Lex knows one of those lies is that he can not possibly be happy, satisfied, or even proud of the "hero" he's become. After all, lies bring nothing but hurt and pain, not happiness or honor.
Rising, Lex strides over, still walking with purpose but more slowly now, to his window. His office window provides the second best look at Metropolis, seconded only from directly above and seen through the window of an airplane or helicopter or from the arms of a supposed hero, but he doesn't look down into the city today. Instead, he looks up. He watches the bright streak of blue, red, and white win another battle protecting Earth and listens, with a jeer, to the people below on the sidewalks screaming for the man they think is their hero.
What would they do, Lex wonders as he does every single day of his life, if they knew the truth? What would they think if they knew the man they all adore has always lied to them, since before he first donned his bright, red cape? How would they react if they learned that the man they all adore is so vastly different from them, that he is the type of man against whom so many parents warn their kids, that so many patriotic fathers wish and pray with all their might their kids never become? What would they do if they knew their beloved Superman is gay and in love with the very man he proclaims to be his enemy?
Lex has never been a fool, and he knows the feelings that first grew between them when they were mere boys are still there, as strong and powerful as ever but also as denied as ever. He lost any chance he had of not following in his father's footsteps the day he kissed Clark Kent and that terrified boy, who the whole rest of the world now cheers as a hero, pushed him away. Clark broke his heart that day. Lex has never forgotten -- he will never forget, but he will also never act on that love again. Clark wants him to be the enemy, and so the enemy he will be until the day Clark's strengths fail him and the world. When that happens, and he knows it will eventually, Lex will come to the rescue then, to Clark's rescue and the world's, with his machines.
A part of him wonders who will be cheered then as a hero, but with his lips drawing a thin, grime line across his face, Lex admits, again only to himself, that he already knows. The world will still hate him. They'll still fear him. Clark himself will still fear him and the feelings he blames him for having provoked in him all those years ago. The world will always see the people they choose, the ones they know to be different, as their enemy while raising those they choose as heroes. Clark will always be their hero; yet, Lex will always be the one between them who knows and tells the truth as it is, saving only Clark's secret identity as a secret because he knows what will happen to his beloved's life if the truth is ever revealed.
They want Superman. They adore Superman. But if they ever find out Clark Kent is Superman, Clark will never again have the private, wholesome life for which he longs. Every moment of his life will belong to the people even more than he already allows it. He forbids himself love, because they say it isn't right. If they ever know his true identity, he'll give himself completely over to them, and there will be nothing more left of Clark Kent. Only Superman will remain, and he completely and utterly at the world's bidding.
Still, he's not a hero . . . Lex remembers how much the man he loves used to pride himself on honesty. That part of him is gone forever, and without honesty, Lex knows, a man's morals can not be that high and mighty. Honesty is one of the greatest things a man can offer, and it was Clark, oddly enough, who first convinced Lex that a man has to be honest to be a good man. Lex isn't a good man -- he never will be --, but neither, he knows, is the hero the whole world praises.
A bark of dark laughter at the irony of life escapes Lex.
"Mister Luthor?" his assistant asks again, more than a little startled. She's afraid of him, he knows, and whereas he might once have enjoyed that fear, it now just further proves the thoughts weighing so heavily on his mind. The young woman is terrified of him while he speaks the truth yet she loves Superman, who is nearly a complete lie. Almost all the world knows about him is indeed a lie. Yet he remains their hero while Lex is only a villain, the villain Clark first made him out to be the day he pulled away from his loving kiss.
Lex squares his shoulders and clasps his hands together behind his back. Very well. They want him to be a villain, so a villain he will be, but when Superman fails, he'll be the one to rescue them . . . and yet, he knows, still be the villain. "What's on today's agenda?" he demands, turning away from reality to face his assistant. Yet he already knows.
He's got to play the part assigned to him: He's got to be the villain until he saves the world, and yet, even then and for as long as he lives, he will still be the villain. He's more than branded by his father's name now. He's branded by his own truthfulness and the choices he's made in this life, but he'll wear that brand with pride because it's honest. He's honest, just as Clark always wanted him to be, and yet, Clark, everybody's cherished hero, is now the lie. Shaking his head, Lex moves on as best he can and ignores the bright streak outside his window for the rest of another day.