Disclaimer: I do not own Smallville.
Never let it be said that Lex Luthor did not know how to take advantage of an opportunity.
He hadn't been expecting Clark Kent to call him that morning, sounding more shaken than Lex had ever heard him, and ask to come over but he had quickly agreed. It wasn't like his refusal could stop Superman if he were really dead-set on the idea so Lex didn't think there was anything dangerous about granting the request. And then, of course, there was the fact that it might actually prove interesting.
Though he had indeed lost his memory fifteen years ago, he had immediately put his top men to work on finding a cure and as some of them had helped develop the chemical that had taken away his memory in the first place, within the year he had managed to restore it.
That was the one secret he kept from Clark. It was nice to be able to have a secret from Clark for once instead of always being the one left out but that wasn't the only reason he'd done it. He had more information than Clark, who remained convinced that he didn't know, and information such as that was power. There was also the risk that one of Clark's associates might try to kill him or erase his memory again if they knew that he was aware of Clark's alter ego for all that he had never used that information.
And then, of course, there was the simple fact that he was convinced that if Clark knew that he remembered those seven years spent in Smallville then he'd have to put up with more sanctimonious lectures about how he'd tried to save Lex but Lex just wouldn't cooperate. It was unbelievable how obtuse Clark could be at times.
"He would have felt the same way about you, Lex, if you would have tried." How Clark had honestly managed to look him in the eye and tell him that Lionel would have given a damn about Lex if only he would have tried was beyond him. Clark's selective memory wasn't anything new, however, once he had decided that Lex was evil – notably after Lana started dating him – he seemed to have completely rewritten their entire history. Walking away from all of that was the smartest thing he'd ever done.
"Mr. Kent is here," his secretary's voice said over the intercom.
"Send him in," Lex instructed.
Clark walked through the door and Lex started at the change in him. Usually he seemed to be almost hiding when in his reporter persona, slouching to hide his physique and his confidence and with a pair of ridiculous spectacles adorning his face as if that was all that it took to fool the world. Amazing, that really was all it took but Lex had never had much faith in the world anyway. Today, Clark was wearing the same sort of suit that he always wore but he was standing up straight for once so everyone could see just how well-built he was and the glasses were nowhere in sight.
Lex decided to remain silent and let Clark make the first move.
"Lex, thank God," Clark said, breathing a sigh of relief.
Whatever Lex had been expecting, it had not been that.
"Is something the matter?" he asked carefully.
Clark nodded. "Like you wouldn't believe! I woke up this morning and all of a sudden I'm forty and I live in Metropolis and work at the Daily Planet and am married to a complete and utter stranger!"
"I know the feeling," Lex said dryly.
"Oh, are you married?" Clark asked curiously.
"Not at present," Lex said, deciding not to elaborate. "So tell me, Clark, why come to me?"
"My dad's apparently dead," Clark said, looking shocked, "and my mother is off in Europe. She's a Senator, Lex!"
"I was aware of this," Lex said matter-of-factly.
"I don't have Pete's address and I'm closer to you than to Chloe," Clark explained.
"What about Lana?" Lex wondered. If he was supposed to be closer to Clark than Chloe then this must have been before his father's bail hearing.
Clark looked awkward. "Well…I'm not sure what happened there but apparently it didn't work out. I don't know where we stand."
"Why don't you tell me what the last thing you remember is," Lex invited, trying to ignore how surreal it was that Clark had chosen to come to him for once with the truth.
Clark nodded. "Well, we had just gotten the cure for all the people who had been infected with the Nicodemus flower."
That was…that was way back at the beginning. In fact, it might have even been…
"Clark, was this before the tornado?" Lex inquired.
"There hasn't been any tornadoes since you moved to Smallville," Clark confirmed. "Please tell me that you believe me because I don't know what I'll do if you don't."
"Don't worry," Lex said smoothly. "I believe you."
Of course he believed Clark. The man was an alien, after all, and they'd both lived in Smallville for too long to doubt something like a reverse Peggy Sue experience. The question was, what could he do with it? He could try to kill Clark now since he would never see it coming and Lex had no idea how long this would last. And that, of course, was assuming that it really was Clark from the past inhabiting his future self's body and not just Clark having amnesia. Still, if Clark was right about this then he knew exactly how he wanted to play this.
"Then…we're not…" Clark trailed off uncertainly.
"Not what, Clark?" Lex asked innocently.
"When I mentioned you this morning, Lois – that's my wife, apparently – said that we didn't get along," Clark informed him.
And yet Clark was here anyway. So this truly was him from the days before he started believing random strangers over Lex. He'd almost forgotten that there had been days like that.
"What makes you think that we don't get along?" Lex asked him. "Sure, the articles that you and Lois write are hard-hitting but it's mostly her aggression and you always pull her back from the brink of libel."
"Well, because of…" Clark stopped, looking miserable.
"Because of Superman," Lex supplied.
Clark's head jolted up, his eyes hopeful. "Then you know?"
"Of course I know," Lex said, sounding insulted. "Why wouldn't I know?"
"Lois said that you and Superman are mortal enemies," Clark explained.
"Clark, I would never condescend myself to be mortal enemies with anyone who dresses like Superman does," Lex sniffed.
"But Lois said you call Superman an alien menace every time he comes up in conversation," Clark said unhappily.
And yet Clark was still here. Clark had had faith in him once. It was surreal.
"That's just a part of our plan," Lex said dismissively.
"Plan?" Clark repeated blankly.
Lex nodded. "Of course. As Superman, you're capable of dealing with villains of a higher caliber than the other members of the Justice League. Brainiac, Zod, Livewire, Atomic Skull, Morgan Edge, Hank Henshaw, Silver Banshee, Kryptonite Man, Titano, Mister Mxyzptlk, Doomsday, Bizarro, Mongul, Faora, Atlas, Parasite, Lobo, Bloodsport, Gog, Darkseid, Solomon Grundy, Prankster, Bruno Mannheim and his Intergang, Toyman, Jax-Ur, Metallo, Superboy-Prime, Ultra-Humanite, Ultraman…"
"Th-those are all people who want to kill me?" Clark asked, horrified.
"Just the important ones," Lex said innocently. "They're not around all the time but, as you can see, you're really very busy. Combined with stopping the occasional mugging and dealing with natural disasters around the world, is it any wonder that we decided to scare some minor villains off by pretending that I was your archenemy and wouldn't tolerate interlopers?"
"I just don't understand why we'd do that," Clark said, biting his lip. "Why pretend you were evil when you weren't?"
"It's actually rather amusing to play the villain," Lex admitted. "And it's not like I'm the only one pretending; do you really think 'Clark Kent, Daily Planet reporter' is anything like the Clark Kent that I knew in Smallville? No, you're playing a role just the same as I am. It was actually my idea to play the villain, Clark."
Well, sort of. He'd finally admitted it to himself and decided to stop fighting fate once it became clear that no one was ever going to believe anything else anyway and that even his father had managed to convince more people that he was a good man than Lex ever had. Sometimes, enough is really enough.
"What about the rest of it?" Clark wondered. "What about Lois and the Daily Planet and Superman and everything?"
"Lois Lane is actually Chloe's cousin," Lex revealed. "You met her after Chloe had to fake her death after my father tried to kill her to prevent her from testifying and sending him to prison." Seeing the look on Clark's face, he quickly added, "Long story. She's fine. You decided working at a newspaper would be a good way to keep an eye on the news and later to help control what they release about your alter ego. Superman came about because eventually it got to the point where you couldn't just ignore people suffering but you also couldn't openly save people or risk revealing yourself. Metropolis is a lot different than Smallville."
"And where do you fit into all of this, Lex?" Clark asked him. "How did you come to agree to be my enemy?"
Here was where Lex was going to have to twist the truth so much that it would be absolutely unrecognizable. "I found out your secret when you saved me from Morgan Edge running me over. Unfortunately, I was also being drugged by my father at the time to simulate a mental break and so was promptly sent to Belle Reve and given electro-shock therapy to make me forget that my father had his parents murdered for the insurance money. I didn't forget everything, though, and I remembered about you."
"And how did you react?" Clark asked nervously.
"We talked about it, you apologized for keeping it a secret for so long, and I told you that I understood now what a huge secret it was for you to keep," Lex lied. "I had previously just thought you were another meteor mutant, albeit a sane one. That's still not something you want just anybody to know but far less dangerous information than being an alien."
"I'm glad you understand," Clark said, relieved.
"Clark, I want you to know something," Lex said seriously. "You didn't choose to tell me when you did finally tell me. You just saw that I would die unless you revealed your powers to me and so made your choice then. Just the same, you can trust me. If you returned to your time and told me immediately, I wouldn't betray you. Just trust me with your secret and I can help you become a hero."
Clark was quiet for a moment. "That means a lot."
It looked like he was buying it. Lex had always been a good actor. Past-him would never have dreamed of selling Clark out and if he got a chance to actually be trusted like he had deserved to be than that was better than any victory here and now. But just to make it more convincing…
"Pete found out about you during your sophomore year of high school," Lex continued. "He felt the pressure keenly and eventually moved away with his mother when his parents got a divorce but that seems more the weight of being your only secret-keeper besides your parents than anything else. Telling him when others know should make it easier."
Clark nodded. "I figured I could trust Pete."
"Chloe and Lana can also be trusted. Chloe found out your senior year of high school and kept the secret for months waiting for you to tell her and when Lana eventually found out she kept your secret faithfully and didn't look at you differently for it," Lex informed him. "Maybe you might want to wait awhile with Lana until what's-his-name is out of the picture but don't wait too long or you'll have too many 'secrets and lies' between you."
"Really?" Clark couldn't believe it, this time in a good way. "That…that would be amazing."
"I know your parents are concerned about you telling anyone and they have a right to be but you can trust us, Clark," Lex said earnestly.
"I will," Clark promised. "The minute I figure out how to get back, I'll tell you everything."
Lex smiled. Exactly as planned.
"Perhaps you'd like some help getting home?"
He'd always preferred to make his own destiny anyway.