Twelfth of Never

by Bernice

Now

"A time machine, Luthor?" Superman smiled in the face of the other man's barely controlled rage, holding the device up in the superhero version of keep-away. Luthor would probably have snarled in fury if he wasn't trying to be above that kind of thing. Instead he stood and glared at Superman, his white coat flapping in the breeze from the broken window, his whole demeanour cool and unruffled.

"I'd be very careful with that, if I were you, Superman," Luthor said, his voice tight with anger at having his latest invention taken in yet another of their interminable power plays. "That's a very sensitive-"


Then

"What the hell?"

The ground wasn't underneath Clark's feet anymore - he dropped for a split second until his flight reflex kicked in. Looking down all he could see was ocean - it spread out and around him as far as he could see.

"I'm definitely not in Kansas anymore!"

It wasn't like crazy stuff hadn't happened before when he'd tried to destroy Luthor's latest ill-advised scheme, but he couldn't remember a time when picking up one of Luthor's gizmo's had transported him to… to wherever this was.

He looked down at the gizmo in question. Perhaps he should to say to 'whenever' this was.

His own inch-deep finger impressions marred the surface of the small, loaf of bread-sized machine, and the lights that had flickered across the surface when he'd grabbed it from Luthor's lab were now dark. He'd squashed the thing in his surprise, and now he was stranded until he could find someone to fix it, or find some other way back.

Clark didn't panic. He'd travelled through time before. Not often, but often enough to know there was always a way back. He just had to find it.

Flying again - after choosing a direction at random - he scanned ahead to look for land. He hadn't seen what the time setting on the gizmo had been, but judging by all this water he guessed that it was far enough into the future that global warming had become an issue. Or maybe far back enough in time that the continents hadn't risen yet?

He was going to lecture Luthor until his ears bled if Clark had been thrust way back into the dawn of time. Never mind that Luthor hadn't created the time machine as a weapon against Superman, he would have known that Superman would come to destroy it, as he destroyed all of Luthor's more dangerous toys, and he should have made it a lot safer. That was the problem with Luthor's creations, it wasn't that they were inherently evil, or even that Luthor's intentions were always inherently evil, just that everything always went wrong with his plans. And usually it was Clark that took the brunt of it.

He flew over the water for miles, scanning in every direction. He even scanned the water in case he found Atlantis or some other underwater civilisation where he could ask for directions, but he saw nothing, not even fish. The air was devoid of birds, and the water was devoid of anything larger than krill. The only thing that moved in the water were long, trailing plants, something like kelp, writhing faster than the waves.

When he finally saw land, there was no sign of civilisation, just more plant life. And most of the plant life appeared to be vines. There weren't even any tree species that he recognised.

Now he started to worry that Luthor's device had sent him to another world entirely instead of another time. If that were the case, then he would have little to worry about as he could navigate through space as easily as he could navigate through Metropolis.

Except, he looked up to check, he was pretty sure that was his sun. Although it didn't shine as brightly as it had yesterday – his yesterday – it was still in the right place. He checked out the stars overhead – visible to him even in the daylight – and they were familiar, although not exactly where he remembered.

Finally he saw a dome, dingy off-white and definitely something man-made. There were plants, odd looking vines, creeping all over the dome, and the vines turned deep purple pods toward him, tracking his movements as he looked for a way in. He avoided them as he found a weakness and lifted one panel corner, sneaking inside and then pulling the panel back in place as the vines tried to slide tendrils underneath and into the building.

A quick X-Ray of the building, which turned out to be a large, partially underground compound, revealed one human form. Clark quickly hid the device under some very old boxes, cursing when they splintered and broke, and strode out to meet the resident. The halls were dusty, and some of the rooms he passed where full of old boxes. X-Rays revealed the boxes to be full of a lot of utterly random things: disintegrating books, books that were carefully preserved; old machinery and technology Clark couldn't recognise; jars and preserved items that could have been food - many, many years past their use-by date. It looked like some extremely advanced preservation techniques had been used on the organic items, but that they had failed a long time ago. A lot of the items, all covered in dust and old leaves, he simply couldn't recognise at all. Mechanical or organic, they all appeared as alien as things he'd seen on other planets.

As he walked, tendrils of vines reached out towards him, trying to grasp at his hair and shoulders. The purple pods followed his every move, and a closer inspection showed them to be faceted, with iridescent structures reminiscent of insectoid eyes. He shuddered as he pulled the tendrils from his hair again. They were strong and grasping, and just creeped him out.

The whole place had an atmosphere like some kind of decaying museum to weirdness, and those plants were way too happy to see him. The damned things were not even coming in from multiple access points, but had come in behind him and were growing down the corridor as fast as he was walking.

He swatted one away that tried to crawl into his ear, and came face to face with the only other human occupant.

"Luthor!"

Luthor looked at him, his expression showing little surprise. Instead he appeared calm to the point of numbness. He was wearing a beige shirt that hung to his knees, over simple beige slacks. The design was simple, the construction messy, and the fabric coarse. It was disconcerting to see him in beige. Luthor just didn't wear beige. Purple, black. White when he was trying to make a point about his own innocence and strength in the face of Superman's invading alien evil, but never beige. Even stranger, he had bare feet. Clark couldn't remember seeing Luthor's feet bare outside of a hospital room. He looked mostly clean, but also looked somewhat unkempt. Something Clark had never seen before, not even after one of Luthor's numerous car accidents or homicide attempts. Nothing changed the way Luthor looked – no matter what he went through, he was always pale, handsome, and arrogant.

"What's going on here, Luthor?" He demanded in his best Superman voice, feet planted wide and arms akimbo.

Luthor walked up to him, smiling a little, his expression vague, then leaned up with a small, white object in his hand to zap at the creepers. The creepers squealed like tortured piglets and curled up their leaves, withdrawing back the way they had come, letting go of the walls and pulling out of the dome.

"What is the meaning of this, Luthor?" Clark tried again, but Luthor just smiled and walked closer, pocketing the device he'd used to get rid of the creepers, and placed one hand on Clark's chest.

Clark stepped away, but Luthor followed him, serene smile in place, and put his hand back on Clark's chest.

Luthor's mouth moved, as if he was trying to talk, but he made no sound. He seemed a little puzzled at the silence.

Clark tried to step back again, but Luthor once more moved with him, and put his arms around Clark, leaning forward to put his face against Clark's neck. Clark put his arms up and out, as if avoiding getting Luthor-germs. "What are you doing? Get off me!"

Clark pushed him back, and finally Luthor found his voice, rough and rasping. "You came back."

"What do you mean, I came back?" Clark backed away another step, regarding Luthor with suspicion.

"I don't know, Clark." Luthor's voice was a coarse whisper, as if he hadn't spoken in a very long time.

Clark gasped at the use of his real name, but Luthor continued as if he hadn't noticed Clark's shock. "You died. You died so long ago. There was no way you could…" Luthor paused, one finger to his lip as he seemed to work his way through a puzzle. "I can feel you so you're not a hallucination, and you're not a solid hologram or I wouldn't be able to smell you, either."

Clark was affronted at being told he smelled, but he listened to Luthor's rambling, watching as Luthor's face changed from the vacuous expression it had held to the much more familiar look he took on when he was working on a mystery.

"I died?" He thought about the time machine he'd hidden. "What year is this?"

"I have no idea, Clark. What century are you from?"

"Century?" Clark backed up another step. How far had he travelled? "Twenty first. How far have I come forward in time?"

"I'm sorry, I really have no idea. I'm guessing maybe a few billion years? Trillion? I can no longer keep track of time. I have other, more important machines to keep working. Time pieces have no real meaning anymore."

"Ba ba billion? A few billion years?" Clark stuttered. "I'm going to kill you!" He reached out to put his hands around Luthor's neck, as he'd done so many times before, and slammed him up against a wall, feet dangling, but Luthor didn't appear afraid or even startled, he just smiled again, that soft, unfocussed smile.

"You are certainly welcome to try, Clark," Luthor said, calmly.

"And stop calling me Clark!" Clark let him go, let him drop back to the ground.

"I can't really remember chronological details too well anymore. I take it from the way you're behaving that you're from the centuries when we were enemies? I was born in… I don't… yes, 1980 so therefore… if you're twenty first century we would be enemies, still."

"We'll always be enemies, Luthor! And whatever trap you set to get me here, I'll defeat you!"

"Oh, I dare say you will," Luthor ended his sentence with a slight cough. "Please, pardon my voice. I haven't used my voice in… I’m not sure. A good few hundred years. Occasionally I yell at the invader vines, but otherwise… I'm somewhat rusty."

"A few hundred years? Why not?" Clark was derailed from threatening Luthor by the unexpected statement.

"To whom would I talk? I've been alone here at the end of the world for a very long time."

"Why? And hang on, why are you still alive after millions of years?" Clark let go of his shock at Luthor using his real name and started to focus on the anomaly of his presence in this time. Luthor certainly didn't look the age he claimed to be – he looked just as young and smooth as he always had, and moved with the same easy confidence.

"One of the 'gifts' of Kryptonite mutation. Baldness and immortality. I cannot die."

"Oh, well, that's cool, I guess," Clark had known about his own immortality for a while, and knew he'd outlive everyone he loved at some point. It was something he wouldn't have to face for a long time, though, so he rarely thought about it. 'Cool' wasn't something he should probably say, but he wasn't sure how to react to this placid Luthor who knew his identity. The current situation had him quite discombobulated.

"No, it isn't. Are you hungry? I just made some lunch; perhaps you'd care to join me? I do remember you always enjoyed your food."

"Er, yeah, I guess," Clark was totally thrown by the situation, but he had no reason to believe that Luthor was lying. He was acting harmless, but then Luthor often extended an olive branch to Clark, only to use that branch to slap him in the face. Clark had been caught more than once, trusting bright blue eyes and not protecting his back. "You're not going to try and poison me, are you? Kryptonite coffee, or something?"

"No, Clark, what would be the point? You're the first living soul I've seen in several millennia; I'm very pleased to have the company." Lex seemed so sincere, as charming as he was when they first new each other.

"Oh, yeah, okay. Millennia. So, what's for lunch, then?" Clark was used to Lex's impeccable manners, even at the oddest of moments. It was always an odd juxtaposition between Lex's old school etiquette and his determination to destroy all who stood in his way, no matter how low he had to sink to do it. Lex had enjoyed the old school villain routine, sitting behind his desk with his legs casually crossed, offering wine or cigars while Superman ranted and yelled and threatened.

"Vine soup. I eat a lot of vine. They are now the dominate form of life on the Earth, and have been for a few hundred thousand years, but over the past hundred years or so, they've managed to eat nearly everything that walks or crawls upon the planet and they're starving. Soon they'll probably become extinct. It will be interesting to see what comes along after that, as there appear to be only insects, and the parasitic bonfers that prey on the vines surviving now."

"Bonfers?"

"Bonfers came from the planet Torook when the Torooks invaded. They're neither quite reptile nor mammal, but they've managed to survive when all other animals and birds were wiped out through disease and predation. They are difficult to catch, and they don't make very good eating. So I eat a lot of vine. I cannot, of course, starve to death, but I certainly feel hunger. It's a very boring diet."

They walked down towards an area of the dome set aside as a dining area, and Luthor served them both bowls of green soup with the same grace he'd once served Clark water, or soda, or snacks made by his cook back in the Smallville mansion.

Luthor smiled again as Clark sat down, tucking his cape neatly under his legs, and that vaguely happy smile on Luthor's face was as creepy as those invading vines. Clark took a mouthful of the green soup… and promptly spat it out again.

"This is disgusting!" He restrained himself from getting up and grabbing Luthor around the throat again. Nothing that tasted that bad couldn't be poisonous.

"Yes, that's true. I've never really developed a taste for it myself. Although I find that if I don't eat for a few days, hunger gives it a certain palatability. I do have some other food items in storage," Luthor looked thoughtful. "I should have offered you something…"

"No, no," Clark thought of the state of the stored items he'd passed on the way in. Lex had always prided himself on offering Clark the finest that money could buy, and Clark felt a little sheepish for his ill grace in accepting the awful soup. Lex would hate having only sub par food to offer. "I'm not really hungry, it's fine."

"But tell me, Clark. How did you get here?" Finally Lex's curiosity about Clark's appearance was engaged. Lex's interest in whatever Clark had to say reminded Clark of when he'd been a teenager and couldn't wait to get to Lex's house. Lex had always been interested in whatever Clark had to say, like no one else had been. Instead of telling Clark to get over it, or stop being weird, or whatever his other friends had said, Lex had always listened as if what Clark had to say was the most important thing in Luthor's life.

"A time machine. You built one, or bought it from someone - a wizard, maybe. I took it from you, and it activated when I picked it up."

"And it sent you all the way here, to me. Why?"

"I don't think Luthor, that is, you back then, intended it to do that. You were probably going to use it to steal information or destroy the Justice League or something. I think I just picked it up at the wrong time."

"The Justice League… I remember them," Luthor said, looking away with a whimsical smile. "I never was overly fond of the JL, but they didn't last very long."

"What do you mean?" Clark fished for information. If he made it back home, he might need whatever he could find, and if this Luthor was oddly friendly and forthcoming, all the better.

"I mean that I only remember the League being around for a few hundred years. They came and went. Sometimes the governments of the day would make them illegal, or unconstitutional, and they'd reform in different ways, but eventually they went away."

"How did they go away?" Clark wanted to know if there were any super villains he needed to know about.

"Everyone goes away. People go away. Governments rise and fall. Everyone dies. Genocide and war and evolution and extinction. The ice caps go away and the world floods. The ozone layer goes away and the world burns. Everyone dies. Countries invade and other planets invade and we fight and we change. After a few million years evolution changes everyone so much that human beings don't really exist anymore. All the species change and die and all that survives are the freaks that can't die."

The way Lex had recited those facts in such a weary tone of voice, gave Clark the chills. Clark stirred his spoon in the soup. The slimy texture reminded him of the aloe vera mix Batman used on his burn wounds. "Are there many of you? Immortals?"

"Me. Just me. There were a few others, for a while. But they weren't truly immortal; they were just very, very hard to kill. Eventually they managed to die. Some by decapitation, some by burning, some by flying into the sun. There's a limit to how long anyone wants to live, Clark."

"I guess… You call me Clark, so you know…?"

"Everything. You don’t remember it, because it hasn't happened for you, yet. But we were enemies for only a few hundred years. We were friends for such a short, troubled time when we first met, but I always cared for you. I cared for you greatly. Then we were enemies, and we were both so passionate about it!"

Luthor smiled brightly at Clark, as if this was an enormously funny joke, and Clark couldn't help but twitch his lips in return, even though he didn't get it. As far as he was concerned, Luthor was the evil nemesis who cursed his life, but this Lex certainly didn't seem to feel that way.

"Then, after a few hundred years of fighting one another, and uneasy truces, and working as resentful partners to protect the Earth, and trying to destroy each other, you came to me one day and said you were sorry."

"I said what?" Clark surreptitiously pushed away the soup. Even the smell was nauseating.

"You just flew into my office. It was early summer. Warm, but not unpleasantly so, and the windows to the balcony were open. It was late afternoon, and I remember that the sun was turning everything gold. I don't remember the year, or even the century, but I remember the time of day. You flew in, as gold as the sunlight, stood at the end of my desk, and said you were sorry."

"Sorry for what?" Clark snapped. As much as Clark had felt guilty for some of the things he'd done to Lex when they were best friends, he felt that the things Lex had done afterwards more than justified anything Clark had done wrong.

"Everything. You apologised for the lies, for not trusting me when we were younger, for all the abuse. You apologised for using me, for stealing from me, for repeatedly knocking me unconscious and destroying everything I'd ever attempted to achieve."

Luthor looked off into the distance suddenly, "No wait, I do remember the century. It was soon after my ninth time in Presidential office. I was using the name Douglas O'Conner, and my wig was strawberry blond. You were using the name Chad, then. Chad Mortlock. It would have been about 2560. We'd been fighting and hating each other for a very long time by then."

"You had nine times in office?" Clark was horrified. So horrified at the idea that Lex had made President fourteen times he overlooked the fact he'd been placed in the position of having been the one to say he was sorry. After everything that Lex had done, it was Clark that apologised?

"Oh, more times than that. A lot more. It doesn't really get that much more interesting by repetition, but practice makes perfect, and I didn't have a lot else to do in between alien invasions. Most of the time I think I did a very good job. Of course, sometimes I'd get a little bored, and perhaps just a tad despotic", Lex held is fingers about an inch apart to demonstrate 'a tad', "but I have no regrets over my times in politics."

"And I just decided to apologise? Why on earth would I apologise to you, Luthor?! You're the criminal mastermind!"

"I think you were just sick of the fighting, Clark. And as bored as I was. Making peace with your enemies is at least something else to do."

"Maybe. If I was over 500 years old, as you say, perhaps I was senile." Clark wasn't sure why he was believing everything this vague, beige-wearing Lex was telling him, but Lex had always had an intense earnestness when he'd lied to Clark, and this Lex just didn't seem like he was connected enough to be bothered lying. "So… I said sorry and you just forgave me?"

"Of course."

"Why 'of course'?"

"I always forgave you, Clark," Lex's voice held a note of humour, and his eyes gleamed just a little.

"No, you didn't!" Clark jabbed a finger towards Lex, annoyed at the outrageous lie. "You held grudges and destroyed cities to get revenge!"

"Not at first, when we were first friends I forgave you all the time. Later on I held grudges, true, but it was only because you never apologised."

"I never… That's stupid."

"Perhaps, but that's all it takes, Clark. You apologised and said you wanted to be friends again. I yelled for a while, and you stood there with your arms folded – I hate that pompous 'Superman Pose' by the way – and yelled back. We fought, of course, viciously. But by midnight we'd exhausted ourselves, and were curled up together on the couch. We spent the night watching ancient holovids - the really old ones that only operated in four dimensions - and eating deep fried Popplers. It was a very pleasant evening."

"I said I was sorry, and you forgave me, and that's all it took? After everything that you've… that we've done," Clark was incredulous, but it was a nice story. He wondered what Popplers were.

"Yes. You said you wanted to be friends again. You're the only friend I've ever had after all, and after all those centuries, I was lonely enough to accept any kind of olive branch. I was just so grateful to have your company again, to have you in my life again."

"And…" Clark stirred the soup again, watching it solidify into a gelatinous mass. He didn't argue that he'd done things he should have apologised for, back when he was a stupid teenager, but he wondered if Lex had also offered his regrets. Unilateral disarmament? "…we stayed friends?"

"Yes, for a long time."

"How long is a long time?" Considering how far in the future Lex was saying he'd travelled, he really didn't have a reference for 'a long time'.

"Human lives are so fleeting, it's like the life span of mice. A thousand life times. We lived long enough to see only one religion survive the New Crusades. Don't put your money on Christianity, by the way. We lived long enough to see world peace. We lived long enough to see every ethnic group of people become one single, honey-coloured, black-haired race. We lived long enough together to watch the human species evolve, meta-humans and homo-superior become the norm, and long enough to see the human race become extinct."

"Why did it happen? What caused the extinction?"

"Time, Clark. That's all. The human race as we knew it had only been around a few hundred thousand years when we were born. A few million years after that, it was unrecognisable. A few million years later again there was nothing left."

"What did we do?" Clark couldn't imagine knowing what to do with himself for millions of years, as the world went by.

"Helped, tried to save people, at first. But as the centuries passed, all we were doing was interfering, and most of the people who were on the planet didn't think of us as anything other than peculiar, unkillable cave men. We were simply ancient curiosities, and even your powers were not all that special or unique any more."

"So we just…?"

"Lived. Made our happiness were we found it. We travelled the stars for a long time. You and I explored countless worlds. I invented a system of terraforming empty worlds so that human survivors and the others that lived on this world could grow and escape. You helped forge thousands of civilisations, but most of those have gone."

"Where are they now, why didn't you go with them? If there are other worlds out there, why stay here alone?"

"We came back here to die."

"Who?"

"You and I. We'd lived so long, so very long. You were tired. Millions of years, Clark, you have no idea what that's like. You were so tired. By the end, we admitted we were only living for each other, to keep each other company. We came back here so we could die together, in each other's arms. We were so tired."

"You didn't go through with it? You tricked him… me… into dying and you changed your mind, didn't you!" Clark shouted.

"No, I died. We came back here, to the planet that nurtured you, that gave me life. This was the planet where we'd first met, that had shaped us and created us, and here we would die in each other's arms. We built a huge funeral pyre, and I gave you a poison I'd developed which would kill you painlessly. I kissed your lips and took the poison myself, then lit the fire."

"The fire didn't work? The poison failed?"

"No, they worked. I woke up. I don’t know how long I was dead, but when I woke the ship we'd travelled in had rusted into the soil, and whole new species had risen to conquer the old. This was no longer a planet barren and devoid of life, but rich with greenery, even if it was somewhat limited in scope."

"You survived a fire?"

"You don't understand. That pyre was almost nuclear in size. I used some of the most powerful accelerants known to me, to make sure we couldn't come back this time. And you didn't. You're not immortal, you're just very hard to kill, but eventually, we found a way, and you had your peace. But I didn't. My ashes had fused into the soil, and by the state of our old ship, it must have taken many thousands of years, but I came back. That ship was designed to fly through suns, so I cannot even guess how long it took to decay like that."

"I didn't realise you were that… powerful. I knew you didn't get sick, and you healed quickly from bullet wounds, but I didn't know you were that strong."

"I get stronger. The longer I live, the stronger I get. Now nothing will kill me, not for long. And god knows I've tried. Recovering from fire that reduces me to nothing but ashes is a long and painful process, but it still happens. Over and over."

"I'm… I'm sorry, Lex." Clark hadn't realised what a burden immortality could be, but he was getting an idea of the horror from Lex's quiet recitation of facts.

"It's not your fault."

"Yes, it is." Of everything Clark didn't really feel he had to apologise for, he knew that Lex wouldn't be in this position now if Clark hadn't come to Earth dragging so much Kryptonite behind him.

"Causality doesn't mean fault, Clark. And I don't regret my life. Just the length of it. I achieved so much, and I'm proud of a lot of what I've done. I loved every minute that I spent with you. We were actually very happy together, and when we decided to end our lives it wasn't out of pain or unhappiness, just that we were both very, very tired. Life has to end sometime."

"But now…"

"Everything should die, Clark. Everyone has the right to die," suddenly the distance Lex had been maintaining slipped, and the distress broke through, he started to rock, a pinkness showing on his cheeks, eyes too bright. "Everything should die. Everything should die. Everything should die. Everything should die. Everything should-"

Clark stood and grabbed Lex, pulling him from his chair and holding him against Clark's chest while Lex finally broke, repeating that he had the right to die over and over, his head tucked under Clark's chin. Then he was quiet.

"I don’t even have the mercy of madness, Clark," he said, his voice suddenly calm again. "My mind heals, too. The boredom should driven me mad, and it does, over and over, but my mind heals. That's one of the worst things. I will live, and be sane and aware, until the end of this universe."

"I'm so sorry," Clark repeated, and held Lex closer, rubbing his hands over Lex's back in a hopeless gesture of comfort.

"You won't be staying long, will you?" Lex's voice was muffled against his shoulder.

"No, I…" Clark couldn't find an excuse not to stay here, time really wasn't the issue when he had a time machine stashed in the building. Lex saved him from having to find some lame excuse, though.

"This is a horrible place, and I'm sure that spending any time here is distressing. I do apologise for that. Could I beg an hour or two of your time, though?"

"Yes, of course," and as much as Clark wanted to be away from this place, away from this desperately sad man and this horrible vision of his own inevitable future, he couldn't begrudge him time. Lex had given him so much, and not only pain, fear, and anger, but also his support and favours and gifts, both wanted and unwelcome. He could at least spend a couple of hours with Lex.

"Thank you. I don't mean to be greedy; I know you have given me many millennia already, but-"

"I'll stay."

Lex looked up, the gratitude in his eyes made Clark horribly uncomfortable.

"Thank you. Come on, I'll show you something."

They wandered down the softly lit corridors. "Did you build this place out of our old space ship?"

"The bits I could salvage, but most of it was useless. This stuff," Lex tapped the soft white walls, so thin that they were lit from the sun outside, "is actually old bone. For a long time there were these flying things, kind of shaped like Pterodactyls, but I think they evolved from bats, with a wing span of about sixty feet. Their wings expanded like a concertina and each fold was plated with this stuff. Even though they have been extinct for a long time, I collected enough of their wing plates to build this place. It's the only thing I could find that was strong enough to keep the vines out."

"You're very self-sufficient," Clark didn't mention the horrible food.

"I don't have much else to do. I tend this place, keep the vines out, grow or scavenge what I can, and watch the years go past. Sometimes the vines win, and they eat me."

"They eat you?" Clark couldn't keep the horror out of his voice.

"Oh yes, it's quite karmic. They eat me, and I eat them. Energy can never be stopped, it can only be converted. You'd think being eaten would convert my energy into something else, but no, I recover from that, too. Cleaning this place up after it's taken me a few years to recover from being plant food is always a bitch, but at least it's something to do."

"Yeah, I um, guess," Clark couldn't imagine being so bored that being eaten by some sort of savage Venus flytrap could be regarded as entertainment.

"Here," Lex gestured him into a room. "I keep all the mementos I've been able to salvage here. As you can imagine, most of them have disappeared or been destroyed over the years."

"Yeah," Clark was shocked by how little there was to show for such a long life. There were containers in here, made of a fibre that he guessed came from the vines as well. They were rotten and crumbling, mildewed in places, but clean of dust. It seemed Lex made the effort to keep his small treasures as intact as possible.

"Tempus fuckit," Lex pulled down one of the boxes and pulled out solid sheets of clear material. "Old pictures, Clark. I had them preserved like this – so old fashioned. Transferring them to something more technical turned out to be a mistake as the machines would become obsolete, then unserviceable, or they'd simply decay into dust.

Clark sat cross-legged on the floor, his cape surrounding him, as Lex eagerly showed him old photographs of them both together. Posing on a thousand worlds, smiling, arms around each other. Ruling planets, saving lives. He grinned as Lex showed him a few gossipy news holograms, one of the 'grams was of them fighting bitterly. It was reassuring to see that they could still tear into each other in the future. Lex held the old hologram projection machine as if it was made of spun glass. As futuristic as it was to Clark, it was obviously an ancient antique to Lex.

"There are portraits of us hanging in galleries all over the galaxy, Clark! Or, there were, a lot of those galleries aren't around anymore. Actually, a lot of those planets aren't around anymore. But I love to remember them. We were very well regarded. The people loved us. Sometimes we would live as unto gods."

Lex looked at Clark, his expression dreamlike – lost in memories - then he put up a hand to stroke Clark's face. Clark held still and tried not to flinch. Lex had never struck out at him physically, both of them knowing there would be no point, but still Clark had been conditioned to expect violence from Lex, not a soft caress.

"I loved you so much, for so long," Lex said, voice soft.

Clark tried to grin and shrug it off, uncomfortable with the intensity. "Not when I come from! I think you'd like to see me dead!"

"No, never. You made me so angry, but you were only able to make that angry because I loved you so much. If I hadn't loved you, I would never have cared so much. I think most of the time I was angry at myself for being unable to stop loving you."

"Oh, I… um," Clark blushed and looked down at the small painting of the two of them he held. The material it was painted on was powdering under his hands, though he held it as delicately as he could. He couldn't admit that he'd had a massive crush on Lex when he'd been a teenager, it was too embarrassing, and that his disappointment in Lex had mostly come from his disappointment in losing Lex's friendship, not so much from Lex's attempts at evil and destruction.

"You're still young, Clark. When you get to my age you give up caring at all about anything embarrassing. I may not look like it, but I'm a very old man, and old men say embarrassing things. I miss you so much," Lex stopped and swallowed, getting himself under control again. "You have been a part of my life since I was nine years old. Enemies for a short time, lovers and companions for so much longer. It's difficult being alone."

"I guess," Clark felt his face heating up. He'd known it was coming, he wasn't surprised when Lex said they were lovers. He hadn't even pretended to himself that they'd only been friends. He knew that if he could have had his old Lex back, he wouldn't have just stopped at only friends. He'd known there was attraction, along with the hate and the resentment and the anger. If he had his life over, with the confidence and knowledge he had as an adult, he would have trusted Lex and he would have seduced him, Jonathan Kent, homophobia, and fear of Luthors be damned. But still, hearing it put into words meant he had to acknowledge it, not just let it be the passing fantasy of the occasional lonely night.

"Here, one of our wedding portraits," Lex said, handing Clark a stone tablet. It had quite a nice image of the two of them carved into the surface. "That will last a long time. Perhaps it will be found and puzzled over by a future species who will argue that we could never have existed because their god only made the universe a couple of thousand years before they came along."

"Maybe… So. Wedding?"

"That became a bit of a theme for us. We'd visit a new world, be feted as the cool alien visitors, and get married according to local customs. We had some lovely honeymoons…" Lex looked off into the middle distance, smiling, lost in memory.

"I guess you get very bored here," Clark said. Clark thought about honeymoons, and zero consequences, and things that happened at the end of the world. He thought about a million lifetimes together, and Lex a million lifetimes alone. He couldn't conceive of that kind of loneliness.

"Yes," Lex said, and gave Clark a look that said 'duh!'

"Do you want to… would you like to have sex?" Clark asked, his voice squeaky, surprised at his own forwardness.

"Do I want… Are you sure?" Lex looked genuinely surprised, the first truly focussed moment Clark could remember since he'd arrived here. "Why are you asking? I thought you came from the time when we were enemies?"

"Yeah, but you said you always loved me, right? And even though we hate each other, you've always been attractive. And I haven't done it in a couple of years and you haven't done it in a lot longer than that, and no one would know, right? I mean, we could, like, just… do it… and it wouldn’t be awkward at all. Right?" Clark rushed out his statement, which he tried to make sound totally logical and sensible, and not at all like a teenager trying it on.

"I… If you're sure, Clark. That would be wonderful. But I don't want to make you feel uncomfortable…"

"I'm sure I will be uncomfortable, but I want to. I used to think about it a lot when we were kids, and… I just… I can't justify it, okay, Lex? The offer is there, yes or no. Don't make me explain why or…"

"Yes, Clark," Lex smiled, and took his hand, and they both stood up and left Lex's dusty tomb of memories.

Lex led him down another winding corridor. It seemed like Lex had just built the place on a whim, with no real goal or direction in mind, and all the corridors and domed areas were just randomly placed wherever the vines and the ground made it easiest. Lex led him into his bedroom, which had the same dim lighting through the bone walls as the rest of the place. The bed was pretty basic; a frame made of bone, strung with vines and stitched over with old pelts.

"It's mostly bonyer pelts. They're small and hard to catch, but I had plenty of time. It's not very comfortable," Lex looked disappointed, as if he'd wanted to offer more to Clark. "The pelts are easier on the skin than the fabric I make from the vines."

"It's fine," Clark said, and took off his cape, spreading it over the pelts. The vibrant red made the place look more civilised, a little more modern. Or perhaps that should be old fashioned, he thought.

He toed off his boots, and undid the clasps that held his uniform together, letting it fall to his waist. Lex looked at him with a hungry expression, and reached out to stroke his arm.

"I never forgot how beautiful you are," Lex said, and leaned up to kiss him. Clark didn't quite know how to react, but Lex did. Lex kissed him like he'd done it a million times before – as if it had never become boring. His hands threaded into Clark's hair, stroking him gently, caressing his ears. Clark leaned into it, enjoying the confident way Lex kissed him, the way Lex's hands stroked down his back and caressed his ribs, unerringly finding the places Clark liked to have touched and stroked and petted. It had been a long time for Clark since he'd been with someone sexually. Not as long as for Lex, of course, but long enough that he started to get hard very quickly, and couldn't hold in a small groan of excitement.

Lex's clothes were held together with crude ties, and Clark pulled them apart, letting them fall. After all he'd been through, Lex's skin was still unmarked and unblemished, not a single imperfection to mar him, to show the horrors he'd suffered. Clark picked Lex up and carried him onto the bed. Lex didn't stop kissing his face. Clark's nose, his eyes, his eyebrows, his lips, his cheeks, Lex kissed all of them as if re-memorising a sculpture by touch.

"I missed you," Lex said, as he rolled Clark over on to his back, rubbing Clark's chest with a movement Clark found both soothing and arousing. "I didn't think I'd ever see you again."

Clark let his own hand wander, exploring smooth skin he'd often seen, but never been brave enough to touch. It was as silky and warm as he'd imagined, and Lex moaned in soft appreciation at the caresses Clark bestowed, leaning into them with soft desperation.

Sighing gently, Clark leaned back, letting Lex push him how he wanted, move and touch him as he desired, Lex's expression was as intense as if he was working on some device for world domination, but softer in the mouth, a gentle smile of happiness before he moved to taste and lick at Clark's skin. Clark let his legs fall open, let Lex move between them, and groaned and arched up into Lex's mouth. There was more skill in Lex's mouth than Clark could ever remember having felt before, and soon he was whimpering as that wet heat hungrily devoured him. Lex's eyes were slitted, his expression blissful, his cheeks hollowing and filling as he reduced Clark to a whimpering puddle on the bed.

If he hadn't believed Lex before, he believed they had been were lovers now. No one had ever guessed how much Clark liked having his balls bitten without being told, and generally even then they would be too gentle. Lex knew exactly how Clark liked to be bitten, how much pain he could take without it being uncomfortable, how much an invulnerable Kryptonian could truly enjoy the sharp nip of teeth on sensitive skin. When Lex went lower and sank his teeth into the rounded flesh of his perineum, Clark almost left the bed entirely, arching up and begging for more.

Before Clark could reach completion, Lex stopped, and straddled him. "You're going to fuck me now," Lex said, lowering himself.

"Wait… we need…" Clark looked around, wondering where on earth they could get lube at this time and in this place, but Lex just shook his head and smiled.

"You can't hurt me, it'll be fine."

But Clark thought that it had to hurt, if it had been so long since Lex had had been with someone, and he wanted to protest, but Lex was forcing himself down, head thrown back, eyes closed. The strain of it was in the line of his throat, the sweat on his upper lip and shoulders, the tendons in his neck, but the pleasure of it was in the tiny little whimpers of delight and joy he uttered as Clark slowly slid in.

"Oh," Lex said, face pink and voice soft, as his skin became flush with Clark's, and then he smiled down and wiggled just slightly, settling Clark comfortably within. He leaned forward, rubbing Clark's chest again, knowing not to bother with Clark's nipples, but using his fingernails to scratch, to force Clark to feel him.

It would have been better with something other than spit for lube, Clark thought, but not much better. There couldn't be much better than this, with Lex twisting his hips and clenching his muscles like a professional, like someone who knew just how Clark loved having his dick twisted around inside of someone – something Clark was only discovering now. Clark found out just how much he loved having Lex ride him like this, both of them groaning and grunting like animals as Lex moved up and down, the muscles in his thighs straining.

Lex bent his head, biting at Clark's chin and chest and Clark wanted it to go on forever, wanted to spend an immortal lifetime buried in this man, but it was all too new and too surprising and too good, and too soon he was spilling deep inside of Lex. Lex took himself in hand, a fast hard stroke with a twist on the end that Clark emulated when he knocked Lex's hand aside and took over. It didn’t take Lex long, either, before he painted white stripes on Clark's chest, coughing and whimpering his pleasure.

Clark gathered him close as they pulled apart, wet and sticky, and Lex tucked his head beneath Clark's chin, whispering, "Thank you, Clark. Thank you," before drifting off.

Closing his eyes and ignoring how uncomfortable the bed was, Clark focused on the warmth of Lex's body, the way he fitted in so neatly against Clark, like he knew exactly how to place his limbs so they'd be the most comfortable, Clark fell asleep as well.

-oo0oo-

When he woke up, he was alone. He put on his uniform again, not bothering to try to find whatever it was Lex used as a bathroom. He didn't want to find out that Lex used vine leaves or vine juice to wash himself. The smell of Lex's come on his skin was oddly exciting, anyway, and not something Clark wanted to lose too soon.

He found Lex sitting in the corridor where Clark had come in, his beige, dried-vine clothing back in place, and the time machine on his lap.

"This is what you used to come here, isn't it? This is the time machine you mentioned."

"Yes. I wanted to get it away from you before you did something terrible with it. I didn't mean to come here, though, it went off accidentally."

"No one would come here voluntarily. I've repaired the damage to it," Lex put the machine back on the ground. "Are you leaving me again?"

"I can't stay here. But you could come back with me? You can be with people again."

"No, I've already lived my life. I don't need to live it all over again."

"Please, you can't stay here alone. Please come back with me." Clark couldn't stand the thought of leaving Lex here, so bored, so alone, not able to die, not able to even lose himself in the freedom of madness.

"No. The Lex from your time, he has the right to live his life not knowing what the future holds. You know that he loves you. Like my body and my mind, my love for you will never die. No matter what happens, that will always be there. But you should escape from this place. Go back and live your life, too. Live a long and happy life. Just promise me that when it's time for you to go, you must make sure I'm really dead first. Don't leave me here alone."

Clark took the device from Lex and reset the timer; it was such a simple design. Lex, the Lex of a million life times ago, had made sure the machine was as simple and clean and tidy as a battery operated alarm clock. So simple, even Clark could set the timer. It was easier than flying around the world fast enough to turn time backwards. This would have him back faster than thought.

He set the time back to less than a minute after he'd originally stolen it from Lex, but didn't activate it, just placed it on the floor.

Leaning forward, he placed a gentle kiss on Lex's cheek. He took Lex into his arms, hugging him hard and tight, like he'd done way back when he'd been a teenager, like the first time he remembered holding this elegant man. This Lex would remember a million more hugs, but his Lex back in his own time, back home, would only recall those they'd shared as teenagers.

Clark would remind him of those hugs and that affection, once he went back. He'd remind Lex how much they'd needed each other, how good they'd been together. He'd tell his Lex how unimportant their constant battles were, and that in the grand scheme of forever, they'd be better off as friends than as enemies. He'd tell his Lex he knew that Lex loved him, always had and always would, no matter how much they fought and argued. He'd teach his Lex how to bite and scratch, and how to accept being loved and cared for. He'd teach him how to love Clark all over again.

Clark put his hand around this Lex's neck and snapped it quickly and cleanly, severing the spinal column before Lex could even register what was happening. He'd never killed anyone before – at least, not intentionally. There had always been 'accidents', but never had he just put his hands on someone and deliberately murdered them. But Lex's life had always belonged to Clark, ever since he'd pulled Lex out of the water, he'd felt the responsibility for Lex's life and actions. It was one of the reasons why they fought so bitterly, because Clark couldn't let go of that responsibility.

Now, that life was his to take, and death was a mercy he could give. He picked up the limp, dead body and cradled it close in his arms, letting Lex's head drop against his shoulder in the parody of a groom carrying his bride over the threshold.

Clark flew, tearing a hole through the bone ceiling of Lex's compound, leaving the horrible, clasping vines behind, up through the sky, through the atmosphere, into space.

As he was leaving the atmosphere, he felt Lex twitch, the first thump of Lex's heart beat returning. He ignored the twitches as the new life was again snuffed by lack of oxygen. There had never been time for Lex to regain awareness.

He had all the time in the universe to fly, and there was no way Lex could regain consciousness while they were in the vacuum of space. He flew at the speed of thought, without making allowance for anything that got in his way. Asteroids or planetoids, he used his heat vision to blast them into pieces so they couldn't slow his journey. He flew so fast that he could feel the body in his arms tear and break, but even here, with the lack of pressure that should have torn apart fragile human flesh, Lex's healing ability kept him together.

He flew for months.

Without turning or breaking or stopping he flew. He had a lot of time to make up for. The body that should have decomposed simply discoloured, recovered, and died over and over without ever waking up.

He flew until he found a sun. A yellow sun. A new sun. A sun that had not long been born, only a few million years old. In the years of the universe, it was a mere baby, and it would live until the universe had grown so old that it stopped expanding and started to turn in on itself, contracting into a black hole the size of a fist. This sun would see the end of time.

The journey had long since burned away Lex's clothes. Despite bruises and the swelling caused by the vacuum around them, Lex's skin still appeared almost pink and almost healthy, as if all he needed was a few minutes with the earth beneath his feet to regain his life.

Clark placed a gentle kiss on Lex's sleeping lips and hurled Lex's body into the infant sun. Together they would burn until the end of time. This time, Lex would never come back to life.

Then he turned around and flew back.


Now

It was mid winter, and the wind was bitter. Lex's balcony doors were open to let out the smoke of his cigar and he paced inside, angrily stalking up and down the office. The thin morning sunlight bathed the office in shades of blue and grey.

Clark flew down into the office, through the open doors, five hundred years early.

"I'm sorry."

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Author's Notes

Beta: I couldn't find anyone to beta read this, so I'd appreciate it if you could tell me where I've made any mistakes, or point out what needs to be improved.

The title: This isn't a song fic, but when I was trying to think of a title that fitted, I remembered this old song. If you're interested, here are the lyrics to 'Until the Twelfth of Never'. Or you can download the song here. It's 50 years old this year! Still pretty.

Until the Twelfth of Never
Artist: Johnny Mathis – 1957

You ask me how much I need you, must I explain?
I need you, oh my darling, like roses need rain
You ask how long I'll love you,
I'll tell you true
Until the Twelfth of Never,
I'll still be loving you

Hold me close, never let me go
Hold me close, melt my heart like April snow

I'll love you 'til the bluebells forget to bloom
I'll love you 'til the clover has lost its perfume
I'll love you 'til the poets run out of rhyme
Until the Twelfth of Never and that's a long, long time

Until the Twelfth of Never and that's a long, long time