DISCLAIMER - Not mine, I couldn't afford the motor and household insurance bills. I promise I'll scrub them down and give them back to DC comics, the WB and anyone else who does own a slice of them when I'm done with them. Story, such as it is, copyright Karen Colohan, July 2002.
Author's notes - 1) Written for Livia's Bradbury titles challenge. 2) With grateful thanks to Barbara for betaing. 3) Spoilers for Hourglass, Tempest.
Given the ferocity of the storms that had so recently ripped through Smallville, the scene outside seemed implausibly serene. Lex stood by the window - clear panes put in place temporarily until new stained glass could be shipped over from Scotland - and wondered how everything could appear so deceptively normal.
He sipped from the tumbler of scotch he held, the spring sunlight catching on the faceted crystal and breaking into rainbow patterns that decorated the wall beside him. It was almost as if Mother Nature were trying to replace the familiar wash of colour, lost along with the broken window glass.
Lex snorted at the fanciful notion. It was just the light being refracted by his glass, not some cosmic apology for the destruction of his several hundred year old windows.
He swirled the remaining liquid around in the bottom of the glass for a moment before tossing it back in a single swallow. Lex eyed the now empty tumbler and wondered about the advisability of going for a refill.
It seemed like a bad idea - which probably meant he hadn't had enough yet, Lex decided. He wanted to be drunk enough not to care what was a good or bad idea and clearly he hadn't reached that point.
More than that, Lex wanted to be sufficiently drunk to blur his memories of everything that had happened while the storm had raged outside the Luthor mansion, and he certainly wasn't at that stage yet.
The images were still vivid in his mind, edged with the bright clarity of the repeated lightning strikes. They played over and over inside his head; nothing seemed to shut them off.
Glancing briefly out the window again at the scene of calm skies and the semblance of returning normality, Lex turned his back on it. It was a lie. Those moments in the midst of the storm had changed everything, redefining the parameters of what was normal for Lex, and he didn't want to be reminded of that. It was hard to avoid, though.
Everywhere he went in the house there were visible reminders, though most of the debris had been cleared away now. Work had begun on repairing the damaged areas and an exo-skeleton of scaffolding had grown around the outside of the building. Inside, support joists held up the unstable portions of the mansion's fabric.
Lex found himself wishing that it were as easy to shore up the damage inside of himself.
Superficially, he'd come through his ordeal with remarkably little to show for the fact that the library had literally come crashing down around his ears. The wounds on his face had already more or less healed, leaving no visible marks, but Lex knew the scar tissue was there. Only, it was so deep down that no one could see it but him.
Idly twirling his empty glass between his hands, Lex wondered why it was that winning hurt so much. He had gotten what he wanted; everything that he'd been planning had come to fruition. The plant was going to be his, not a single job would be lost and he himself would be staying in Smallville.
It was precisely the outcome he'd wished for, so why did he still feel as if he'd lost it all?
The brilliant flash of memory taunted Lex with the answer to that question, back in the moment and remembering it all with an intensity that burned.
Lionel had been ready to agree to anything in those terrifying seconds when he suddenly realised, almost too late, just how badly he'd underestimated his son. As the jagged roof timbers had inched towards his chest, Lex had seen the knowledge in his father's eyes.
It had finally occurred to Lionel that Lex really might let him die. Alexander stepping up for his own taste of greatness...
And just as vividly Lex could remember how cold and dead he'd been inside at that moment - that interminable passage of time, measured out in heartbeats, when he'd literally held his father's life in his hands.
It had been so tempting; it might have been the answer to all his prayers, all of Smallville's prayers.
Lex knew, hadn't been able to forget for an instant since then, just how close he'd come to turning his back and walking away... but he hadn't been able to, in spite of everything.
Looking back, Lex knew that if he had he would truly have become his father in that moment... and it still scared him to realise just how fine the line had been. And it didn't help when he remembered that even then his help hadn't been unconditional.
Lex had turned the very act of saving his father's life into a business deal. How very Luthor-like of him.
He'd picked his way carefully across the rubble-strewn library to where his father was trapped. Lex had been very aware of just how little it would take to bring half the house down on top of them both. Then he had knelt at Lionel's side, simply staring into his pain-filled eyes for a long moment.
Lex wondered what his father had seen in his face then. Whatever it was, it had been enough to make him show fear for the first and only time Lex could recall. Lionel still hadn't known what his son would do, that much Lex was sure of.
None of that had touched him at the time, though. Lex felt only that cold, blank numbness as he had stared down at Lionel and heard himself ask, "Will you withdraw your objections to the buyout?"
From the expression that had flashed across Lionel's face then, it had been obvious that he understood everything rode on his answer. For a moment Lex had wondered if his father would refuse, just to see what he would do, but it hadn't come to that. In the end Lionel had conceded the battle in order to fight on in the war.
"Yes, I will. As soon as I'm able to do so I'll have the papers drawn up. Congratulations... Alexander."
And, in his turn, Lex had understood that as well, why his father had used his full name, the one only his mother had ever actually called him by.
Lionel had acknowledged the fact that Lex had taken an irrevocable step towards becoming the heir he'd groomed him since childhood to be. Lex's actions had simply proved to him that the strategy tools in the guise of toys and the endless history lessons had at last paid off.
His father had recognised that Lex might have assumed the Luthor mantle, as so many of the historical role models he'd offered up to his son had also done. And no one would ever have queried the means by which he'd come to power.
After all, who would think to question what was clearly an accident in the midst of a natural disaster?
But, instead, Lex had graciously granted his father a reprieve, albeit not without a price, finally pulling aside chunks of rubble with his bare hands until he could move Lionel to safety.
That knowledge might have made the now convalescent Lionel proud, but with the benefit of hindsight it only made his son feel sick at heart.
Lex stared down into his empty glass as if it were a crystal ball, holding all the answers to his future. Maybe he really was destined for greatness, but at what cost... to himself as well as to those around him.
Was this what Cassandra had foreseen?
Was this what had killed her, discovering that Lex held within him the capacity to stand by and watch his father die, even as he begged for his son's help?
Every time the memories played themselves out in Lex's mind a little bit more of his humanity seemed to die inside him. Each painful repeat of those events brought him closer to wondering, what if...
Was it inevitable that he would become like his father?
Caught up in the intensity of the storm driven images in his head, Lex was beginning to be convinced that it was. Was it truly possible to do great things without losing what passed for his soul?
And... did he actually care either way?
Deciding that, at least for the moment, he didn't, Lex walked back across the room to pour himself another drink. The scotch burned his throat as he downed it in two long swallows. He eyed the glass reproachfully. It really shouldn't be empty again quite so soon.
Intellectually, Lex knew he'd had too much of the scotch already, he could feel it in the unsteadiness of his gait and the growing confusion of his thoughts. It didn't stop him from pouring again, though. Why should he stop? He ought to be celebrating.
It was what people did when they won... and he had won.
Yes, the plant was now the first building block in his business empire and the entire workforce had been reinstated on his inaugural day as owner. That was a victory indeed, worthy of a toast... which Lex duly drank.
He drank a second one to Smallville, which had apparently emerged from the storms with considerable property damage, but no known fatalities.
Another cause for celebration...
That Lex's glass seemed to be empty again.
He stared at it mournfully.
With the last rational portion of his brain Lex wondered why, in the absence of a corpse, this felt more like a wake than a victory celebration. Coherent thought deserted him before he could formulate any kind of answer.
With an unsteady smile Lex picked up the half-empty bottle of scotch and hugged it to his chest as he sank slowly down the wood panelled wall. When he was safely ensconced on the floor he poured himself another drink.
If this was a wake it was only fitting that he was drunk.
Idly, Lex wondered who was dead. Not that it really mattered; it was the thought that counted. Silently he toasted the empty room, downing his latest glass of scotch in one.
Lex closed his eyes gratefully as the alcohol hit his system. Finally the endlessly repeating memories had fallen silent.
He breathed a sigh of relief as they were replaced by a blurred numbness. It was a little disconcerting after the sharp-edged clarity of his recollections, but at least the numbness didn't hurt so much.
And Lex decided that really was a victory.
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