Beginnings

by Corinna



Their apartment on Metropolis's broad Memorial Parkway was not, perhaps, as grand as it should have been. There were only eight rooms, and they shared a hallway with another tenant rather than having the floor to themselves. The Bentley was one of the city's most exclusive buildings, and their neighbors included a fair sampling of the city's most powerful citizens; men who a few years ago would have ignored him or pretended not to know him now smiled and greeted him by name when they passed each other in the lobby. Still, as he unlocked the front door, Lionel wished again that so much of their money wasn't tied up with his new holding company: there was no reason for either of them to settle for anything less than the best of the best ever again.

Lillian was stretched out on one of the living room couches, her red hair and black pantsuit even more dramatic against the beige upholstery. She smiled up at Lionel as he walked in; he thought she looked tired.

"Hello, my sweet. Long day?"

"Interesting day," she replied.

"Really? How so?"

She wiggled her bare toes at him. "Oliver Queen is promoting John Wandsworth to senior management."

"Really?" He leaned over to drop a kiss on her pale forehead; her skin was a little cool, but her eyes were sparkling. "And just how did you manage to discover this interesting piece of intelligence?"

"Diane Wandsworth came to the Young Donors lunch at the Metropolis Museum in a Chanel suit. Last season's Chanel, but when a woman has never been seen in anything classifiable as couture before, one has to make allowances. Didi Fanshaw asked her about it, and while she tried very hard to be discreet, she as much as gave the poor woman directions to John's new office with all her hinting around it."

"Well, well, well." Lionel sat down next to his wife. He took her feet onto his lap, which earned him one of the brilliant smiles he'd first fallen in love with. He couldn't help smiling back. "This is interesting news."

"I should say so." Wandsworth's value to Lionel as a corporate spy went up tenfold if he was sitting in Queen's senior management meetings. Lionel made a note to himself to make sure John was reminded of precisely why he'd taken up spying on his employer in the first place.

"You are my eyes and ears, my sweet." He rubbed her feet the way he'd learned to when she was pregnant, his hands moving across her soles in slow circles.

"Mmm," she sighed, leaning deeper into the couch cushions. "You flatter me, love. That feels nice."

"Anything else?"

"Edward's starting his own art gallery. I told him we'd be there for the grand opening."

"You did?"

"His mother's the Secretary of Agriculture."

"And he's a fool."

"So much the better."

Lionel stopped rubbing his wife's feet as he rolled the possibilities she suggested around in his mind. She pointed her toes and poked at him with them to get him to start again, and he caught them between his hands. She had him fixed in a slantwise look, which he knew meant trouble, but she looked so much more awake and lively than she had when he'd walked in, he couldn't find it in himself to mind. "My love. Are you seriously suggesting that I should take up agriculture?"

She rolled her eyes at that and kicked at him. "As though you'd last a day as a farmer before dying of boredom. Agribusiness, Lionel. I think it's a good opportunity."

He pursed his lips, deep in thought. There would be new chances to consolidate his position in Metropolis if he took her advice -- one could never go wrong in Kansas making money off of farmers -- and the deregulation Reagan was promising would open all sorts of new opportunities in bioengineering. It was worth looking into, and he made a note to himself to have the research done in the morning. "You only say this because you like art openings."

She laughed at him, and swung her legs over to sit up at his side. "Of course. I live to torture you with them." Her lips touched his, a sweetly familiar taste, and he could feel the knots of tension in his back begin to unfurl.

"Mrs. Luthor?" The nanny's voice was hesitant, and Lionel bit back the instinct to snarl at her as Lillian pulled out of the kiss. The nanny was standing at the entrance to the living room, almost cringing, with the baby in her arms. "I'm sorry. You said you wanted him when he woke up."

"That's fine, Lidia. Thank you." Lillian walked across the room to claim the baby from her. He squawked happily at the sight of his mother, and lunged for her; the nanny struggled to keep her grasp on him.

"Hello, darling. Did you have a nice nap? Did you?" Lillian took her son in her arms, and smoothed back his curly red hair. "You're a happy boy today."

"He'll need to be fed soon," said Lidia.

"That's fine; you can bring the bottle to his father and I then. Thank you, Lidia." She turned and brought the boy back to the couch. "Look, Alexander! It's Daddy! Daddy's home! Isn't that lovely?"

Alexander looked up from his place on his mother's lap, considering his father carefully. Then he grinned, a spit bubble forming between his lips, and shook the plush yellow toy in his left hand at Lionel.

"What do you have there, son?" Lionel asked. He reached for it, but Alexander wouldn't let go.

"It was a gift from Senator Hargrove," Lillian explained. "It's meant to be a lightning bolt."

Alexander shook his toy again and gurgled.

"I see," Lionel said to his son. Looking back up at his wife, he added, "It's certainly fitting: Thor was a red-haired god, after all. But I can't say that I imagine myself as Odin."

"No," she said. "You've always modeled yourself on Zeus."

There were levels to that comment he would have to sort through later. For now, she was continuing, "And that would make him, who? Hercules?"

"If he were Hercules," Lionel said, happy to be back on safe ground, "it would be a snake, not a lightning bolt. Hercules's first feat of strength was strangling a snake in his crib. And certainly Alexander has a tight enough hold on that toy...."

She shook her head at him. "You just have to know the way to handle the boy." She cooed at her son, gently rubbing his hand, and the toy fell from his grasp as he reached up to touch her. "You see?" she said, not breaking eye contact with the child. "It's simple enough."

"If you want him to be easily led by his emotions."

"Lionel," she chided. "He's six months old. You can worry about making him a warrior when he's old enough to understand it."

The knives would be out for this child, Lionel knew; all the enemies he'd made on his way up would look for a weakness in his heir to bring him down with. Alexander would need to be clever and cunning and strong just to survive in the boardrooms that were his birthright, and more than that still, if he were to fulfill his father's dreams for him. Lillian understood, or she had before the boy was born, but Lionel wasn't ready to start a fight with her over it yet. So he nodded in a show of acquiescence, and took her into his arms.

"You should make an early night of it," he told Lillian as he kissed the crown of her head. "You had a busy day."

"I'm fine," she said. Alexander crawled off her lap and grabbed at his father's tie.

"Lily..."

"I said I'm fine, Lionel."

There was steel in it this time, but he persisted. "I don't want you overextending yourself."

"Lionel Luthor. I had pneumonia, not consumption. And I'm fine."

She'd spent a night in the hospital with a spiking fever and a saline drip to rehydrate her. He'd sat by her bedside, unable to concentrate on the stack of paperwork he'd brought with him, unable to focus on anything other than her ragged breathing. He never wanted to go through anything like that again. "It was only a month ago, sweet. I just want you to pace yourself for a while." He held Alexander against his chest and tried to look pitiable. "After all, we both need to have you at your full strength."

"You do," she laughed. "You'd be lost without me."

"Utterly," he agreed. "So you'll get some rest?"

"If you'll draw me a bath after dinner."

"With pleasure," he said. He leaned across the baby and kissed his wife again, more deeply this time, and she wrapped her hand in his hair. Alexander burbled happily in his arms, shaking his toy lightning bolt, and with his family wrapped up in his embrace, Lionel felt something like a god himself.



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