Characters/Pairings- Lois, Lex
Summary- If you asked nearly anyone, they'd tell you that Lex Luthor was Superman's nemesis. They'd be wrong.
A/N- This is an odd piece. I posted it as Smallville primarily because that's the particular embodiment of these characters I had in mind when I wrote it. Some elements may be recognizable from SV canon, butit can be interpreted as general Superman fic if you so desire. Anyway, enjoy! Or don't, your choice.
Fifteen years have passed since that first magical day when a dashing hero swooped down from on high and saved the world, and for a little while everyone was eight years old again and still believed that good would always win out over evil in the end. Some of that magic has worn off, but it's been replaced by a very different, scary brand of magic. You'd have to ask Zatanna about that, though. She'd know more about it than I do.
Superman changed everything. He was the hero the world desperately needed, a champion unlike any other. He was King Arthur and Ghandi and Warrior Angel all rolled into one. Sure, there have always been those who fear and distrust him. Xenophobes are a part of the human race. For the most part, though, people got it. They were willing to look up in the sky and see a brighter tomorrow with a scarlet flag guiding the way.
But every good hero needs a villain. Superman has many. More than a few of those have come back for seconds (and thirds and fourths), and if you asked nearly anyone, they'd tell you that Lex Luthor is Superman's nemesis.
To most of the world, it seems like a pretty straightforward fact. Lex Luthor is a criminal (when he's not proclaiming himself as a born-again humanitarian and Friend Of Superman, that is). Lex Luthor has more lives than a cat/cockroach hybrid. Lex Luthor hates Superman unlike any other. Ergo, Lex Luthor must be Superman's nemesis, right?
It's a different world than it was before Superman revealed himself to the world at large. A new battle royale for the fate of the whole universe (and sometimes others) seems to take place on a monthly basis. Larger than life characters straight out of the pages of a comic book walk among us, men and women with strange appearances and awesome powers who can save the world or destroy it as they choose. How could one person, one ordinary human, possibly keep up in a world like that?
Well, I'm a different person than I was before, too. I'm no longer that eager young reporter, that virtual unknown who somehow landed the first interview with Metropolis's favorite stranger from a strange land. (And yes, I do know about the rumors that used to circulate that my landing the Superman interview had more to do with my "assets" than my skill... and honestly, I don't blame them much for thinking that. I did used to work for a tabloid, after all, and the fact that I was his fiancee probably did have a lot to do with it.) Once upon a time, all I cared about was the front page. I wasn't a bad person, I really wasn't. I did what I did because I felt the public deserved the truth, unsullied and unabridged. I got up, went to work, got my heart broken for the ten thousandth time by man's inhumanity to man, and made fun of Smallville for still believing humankind was better than that.
Thing is, more than two decades of knowing Clark Kent and fighting the things that go bump in the night by his side has changed me. In some ways, I'm more malleable. I've always been a quick thinker, but by now I'm a strategist the likes of which the General could never even have dreamed. I, who used to be the most cynical woman in Kansas, have somehow found myself in possession of an unshakeable faith in the basic goodness of people that even I can barely comprehend. Clark always tells me I'm the strongest person he knows, but that's a lie. I've seen men and women, friends of mine and total strangers, stand up against all the evils of the world and lose their lives in the process. That's real strength, I think. They throw themselves on the pyre just to keep the fires burning long enough to make it through the night, and every damn time it breaks my heart and wakes my soul. More often than not, I'm asked to write the obituaries.
I've become more. Everyone in this new world has become more. Even Lex Luthor has become more. A could've-been corporate sleazeball elevated to the dubious honor of being Earth's greatest villain. And Lex? He's not Superman's nemesis.
Maybe it's presumptuous of me, but if anyone is Kal-El's nemesis, it's Zod. Lex may be the king of the xenophobes and president of the I Hate Superman club (I'm pretty sure he started the website, at least), but he's my villain to handle.
When President Luthor was conspiring with terrorist groups and mercenaries to start a potentially devastating global war as part of a warped attempt to cleanse the Earth of the metahuman "threat," it was me who uncovered and exposed the plot. When he broke out of prison the first time (and the second), it was my leads that eventually lead Interpol to recapturing him. Foiling his self-serving schemes and power grabs may end with Superman carrying him bodily to the authorities, but it usually begins with me coaxing a critical piece of information out of a terrified source.
In this endless chess game Lex is playing, I'm usually on the other side. There are other players, other pieces that move around the board, but at the end of the day, it comes down to the two of us. White Queen. Black King. Staring each other down as we wait, patiently, for the other to make their next move. It's a dangerous dance, this game we're playing, but the show goes on and we wait each other out.
I think maybe we are the only two who know what's really going on here. We both have our things. He has a gullible public to convince of his innocence (again), and I have other stories to write and other monsters to fight by my husband's side. But it always comes back to Lois Lane versus Lex Luthor. He knows I'm the watchdog hounding his every move, and I know that no matter what he says, Lex Luthor is a snake. He's one of the few people across the length and breadth of humanity who earns no place in my newfound optimistic outlook. In the times when even Lana, who always did know him best, wants to believe he really means it this time when he says he's changed, I'm the one who keeps my hackles raised. I'm the one who makes the moves necessary to keep him hemmed in on his side of the chessboard.
Perhaps that's fitting. We're evenly matched, he and I. We both have our fingers on the pulse of humanity, both vocal and opinionated people with tremendous influence should we chose to use it. We're both only human, and both so much more. He is a villain without powers who could never hope to physically match one of the world's guardians, but who is all the more deadly and insidious for that. I am no heroine but I have a byline that's known and trusted around the globe, and the sheer stubbornness to keep coming after Luthor even when the rest of the world is sick and tired of hearing about him. He hates, fears, and usually tries to destroy the man I love more than anyone in this world, so how could I do anything else?
Sometimes, I'm so exhausted by this. There are times when I miss the easy days. I miss when my job was as simple as an expose on the frequency of medical malpractice in Metropolis hospitals. Back then, my job was simple. Get the story, write the story, print the story. Lather, rinse, repeat.
But it's a brave new world, remember? There's no going back to that, and even when I'm so bone-weary from months of hounding Lex's every move, not sure what he's planning but knowing whatever it is will be bad, I don't really want to. For the world to be simpler, there would have to be no Superman, no Lex, no villains or monsters or beautiful tragedies that make the world believe in heroes. And while I'm all for a world free from crazies like the Joker and Darkseid, I wouldn't trade my husband for that. I'm sure that reveals some fundamental flaw in my supposed good character, but I don't care. I love him, and I love the person that loving him has taught me to be.
So I carry on, and I keep my eyes firmly fixed on the snake that everyone seems to forget still has fangs.
And while the heroes fly away to fight the threats we mere mortals could never hope to counter, Lex and I stand face to face in the shadows they leave behind and continue our silent struggle for the soul of the human race. I'm still not sure which side of the fence our struggle will come down on in the end, but uncertainty never stopped me before and it never will.
Leave the world-shattering supervillains who can turn the universe inside-out with a thought to the Justice League. I can handle Lex.