Rocking Horse Winner
by Gradient

"If any one faculty of our nature may be called more wonderful than the rest, I do think it is memory. There seems something more speakingly incomprehensible in the powers, the failures, the inequalities of memory, than in any other of our intelligences." - Jane Austen

For some time after Lex sees the ghosts everywhere, and it takes him a moment to realize that this isn't some nightmare, that his eyes are open, and this is now.

Lionel is there when Lex first wakes up; all smooth words and sharp smiles, organizing the orchids resting on the hospital issue next to his bed. The light is real and natural and it hurts his eyes.

He knows what has happened to him, and that makes the idea of waking up truly horrifying. There isn't however, any real choice, so he does. When he tries, he finds that he really cannot remember. Fuck.

How could this have happened? What went wrong?

The drugs weigh heavily in his mind and his voice is slurred as he says, "Don't think you've won."

The smile slips off Lionel's lips, but the soothing words linger, assuring Lex that he is safe now; that now, he has nothing to worry about.

Maybe he would scream if he could force his lungs to work, but the cheap comfort it would bring seems to be too much effort. Lionel's face is swimming out of focus, features blurring somewhat alarmingly into one another, and he can feel a prick near his elbow.

He is going to make his father suffer.


He wakes up hot and alone, at least, as alone as Lionel plans to leave him. There is a note tacked neatly to the dresser, written in his father's dark ink-heavy scrawl. It is filled with neat statements about 'speedy recovery' and a few tantalizing references concerning his return to work. It makes painfully clear the fact that Lex is at his father's mercy.

Overall, perfectly worded to piss him off, and he pisses on it before flushing it down the toilet.

Fortunately, Lex finds that staying in the castle is amenable to his recovering state of mind. There are newspapers and coffee with orange juice waiting for him when he wakes up, and the sheets are the thread count that he prefers. In a way it is as if that past two years had never happened, and he is twenty one, wasting his days in Smallville until his father calls him back to the city.

Lex is realistic - he's been out of the picture for quite some time now, enough for Lionel to gain the advantage. The castle has been searched, personal papers read, nothing kept secret. For Christ's sake, he'd had an entire fucking room devoted to Clark, and if there had been any remaining ambiguity on Lionel's part about Lex's weaknesses, it most certainly has been dispelled.

Clark. Like an alarm, the bells go off in his mind. Lex gasps for air as the start of a splitting headache starts to form at the base of his skull. There is something very important that he knows about Clark.

I was right about something. Oh no, no, he can do better than that.

He sits trying to figure it out and he thinks that maybe he's got it and then it's gone. The images slip from his mental grasp, like fish slipping out of wet hands. His breathing is heavy from the effort and goddammit he was so fucking close.

Lex looks for ulterior motives, analyzes situations detail by detail. It's an instinct, but he finds now that all it leads him to are unstoppable waves of frustration and paranoia. So he decides to stop, drink the coffee, read the newspapers, and send back the eggs because they are underdone.

But he doesn't lose track of the fact that he has just been on the losing side of a major battle.


With his body free of monitors, cords, and drugs, his dreams are wild creations of odd colors and light that are difficult to deal with. Fragments of conversations he doesn't quite remember having and images that resonate meaninglessly slip in and out of his mind.

On a hair trigger the dreams turn from calm to haunting and she's standing by the window just as he remembers. Her face is calm and alert exactly as used to be when he was ill. A familiar smile flickers across her face, the one that made him ache even when she was alive. Then she's gone and he is left wide awake with a killing headache and dry mouth, feeling grey and painfully under-medicated.

Lex drags his body out of bed and goes to the dresser to pour a glass of water that is stale and old. The ghosts leave him feeling prickly and disjointed, out of touch with what's real. The only sound that Lex can hear is his heavy even breathing, still tinged with the touch of sleep. He swings his feet over the side of the bed and makes his way to the shower.


Plagued by uncertainty, Lex likes to recite lists during the day. The types of produce ordered from the Kent's, the number of black tie charity events attended in the past year, the make, model and color of every car that he owns. His long term memory seems startlingly intact, and he rummages carelessly through his closet remembering a particular event at the Metropolis Museum of Modern Art four months ago. And there it is, charcoal pinstriped Armani with tie, and yes there they are too. Two little salmon colored pills tucked into the blazer's inner pocket.

Lex shakes them out of the plastic bag and stares at them critically, holding one under the lamp to look at it more closely.

Nembutal? Or maybe Demerol. He can't remember who he had gone home with that night, so it's probably the latter.

His throat closes on a random instinct and it takes two swallows to get them both down. As he waits he puts on the Armani, making sure that there are no wrinkles. Passing by the mirror, he is struck by how normal he appears. Still bald though.

He drinks another glass of water before slipping on a pair of black leather loafers and making his way downstairs to his office.

As he leaves the room, a shadow vanishes quickly around the corner. Lex appreciates Lionel's security detail - they won't leave the castle but they make themselves agreeably scarce whenever he approaches.

"I feel very free." he murmurs. He's not sure if he's just said that out loud or not, which convinces him that it was definitely Demerol.


His office is well lit, sunlight coming through the stained glass windows and bouncing off the balcony and the rows of books. Lex wanders up and down the staircases and runs his fingers over the spines, thinking about lazy summer days, Clark, and playing pool.

He settles at his familiar desk and makes notes with the fountain pen his father gave him when he was eighteen. There are so many things that need to be done if he wants to return to work anytime soon. Lex needs to find a doctor, he needs to get his hands on some money, and he should definitely see if he can get some more of this Demerol.

His computer password still works and Lex goes through his hard drive systematically deleting files. There is no place safe to keep information, no place where Lionel won't be able to find and read it. The only safe place is his mind. Right. What a fucking joke.

Tinted light slides over his desk, same as always, but there's something that catches his attention and he turns in his chair arrested by the stained glass of the windows.

Who's there?

His brain feels wired and he's flooded with images. There is something that he should that he is looking into and he's so close, so close... Lex watches as the window cracks and shatters, spraying him and the room with glass. The headache, muted by the drugs, explodes again.

Oh God. No.

Something. Something is not as it should be.

He opens his eyes and it's just a trick of the light because the window is intact and firmly in place.


Once when Lex was sixteen, he had booked a room at the Metropolis Plaza with a couple of friends. Between them they had collected a handful of Vicodin, an eighth of weed, and a gram of cocaine. Lex remembers this very clearly, because James McKinley had overdosed and been left in front of Metropolis General emergency room to die.

Lex can still remember the feeling, of horror and desperation that had filled him at being confronted with the twitching body, the blue sheen of Metropolis streetlights, his high panicked voice, and the unshakable sense of unreality that had permeating that whole event during and after the fact.

It's the same drugged rush that fills him now, the odd sense that maybe, just maybe, none of this is happening, that it's all part of a larger unwelcome daydream. Bright Kansas sunlight fills the room, surrounding him and making him dizzy, creating an atmosphere of sunny tranquil unreality.

Lex has never been one to give in to the fear, the kind that clouds judgment and makes men weak. He doesn't even believe in karma. But he can feel it now, waiting in the cracks on the floorboards, waiting for him in rooms.

He is sixteen again, high and horrifying paranoid, everything clear and inexplicably real. After the McKinley incident, Lex had been sent away from Metropolis to a much tamer prep school in Connecticut. Three months in the achingly boring countryside of Connecticut and a seventeenth birthday later, it had become just another incident, detached of meaning, floating about in his memory.

Perhaps this will fade away like that; he is still young, young enough to put this behind him. But there is rage simmering somewhere beneath his drug induced stupor, and Lex is sure that sometime soon it will come out, and his bluff called and torn to shreds.

He blinks, slow drowsy movements, and ambles back to his bedroom in a pleasant stupor. Maybe this is all just part of a game. Lionel had raised the stakes, and Lex had lost his cool and lost his hand. One hand. The Luthors are a gambling breed, and Lex has always been a gambling man.

Just another bluff, quiet lies to lull the drugged man with no memory to sleep.

And his head hits the pillow.


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