Lois knocked on the door of Lex's hotel suite. He got herself a bottle of water. "Help yourself to a drink from the bar." Lex pointed to the refrigerator holding overpriced drinks.
Lois took a can of soda from the refrigerator. "You can get these down the hall for half price." Lois opened the can.
"You pay for the convenience of having them in your room. I don't drink soda," Lex said.
"You can't expect me to sell newspapers saying you hid at your manor for seven years." Lois sat on the sofa.
"It's not my problem." Lex opened his bottle of water.
"If I report that you had burnout, people will think you aren't the go-getter that you once were." Lois sipped her diet soda.
"I'll have to prove them wrong."
"You're still growing."
"I'll reach my full height soon. You can't tell people I found Ponce De Lion's fountain; they will laugh at you." Lex drank his water. "You'll write something."
"I'm not in the habit of printing lies." Lois looked at Lex as he sat in the chair opposite from her.
"This from a woman married to Superman."
"If that became common knowledge, Clark and I would have no life."
Lex smiled. "That isn't my problem. Just don't tell me you always print the truth."
"There are more important truths that need to be reported." Lois smiled back at him.
"Ms. Lane, I wasn't aware that there were degrees of truth." Lex leaned forward in his chair.
"Superman is an icon; Clark Kent is the man I sleep with every night," Lois said, not breaking eye contact.
Jeremy entered the room without knocking. "Mr. Luthor, I didn't realize that you were in bed with the press."
"He invited me into his room for an interview," Lois stated.
"Lois, would you like to have dinner with us?" Lex asked.
"You can't pass for thirty-five," Lois said.
"I look a young sixteen. Ms. Lane, I won't order liquor. The worst that can happen is that the cashier will think it's my parents' credit card."
Jeremy said, "I'll use my credit card if you prefer."
"Jeremy, you're a starving artist," Lex said, not missing a beat.
"What you should have done was told everyone that Lex died in the snow and you are his son, Alexander," said Lois.
Lex sat back. "That wouldn't work. Lucas called me Lex's clone."
"Lucas who?" asked Lois.
"My little brother," said Lex, not missing a beat. "He's in jail after kidnapping me."
"Who do people think you are?" Lois said.
"Alexander Luthor. No one in Smallville questioned my identity. Victoria invited the little league team to my thirty-first birthday. People in Smallville accept the odd. My high school principal was my head master nineteen years earlier."
"Metropolis isn't Smallville," Lois stated obvious. "Clark wrote an article about a Lucas Luthor kidnapping his little brothers, Alexander and Geoffrey. I didn't think it had anything to do with you. I should have known better."
"Ms. Lane, if you told the public that I had my personal fountain of youth, you'd incite a riot."
Lois's pen was working overtime. "You're a teenage boy."
"No one sees that," said Lex. "I told my young protg that if I act thirty-five, people will see thirty-five.'
Lois glanced at the boy dressed in black. "Protg, so that's what you call it."
"You had your chance, and you told me and I quote, 'No.' Ms. Lane, I trust you to come up with a story."
"He'll have me say that he took an extended vacation," Lois said.
"Jeremy, should I sell it all and we can live comfortably the rest of our lives?" Lex asked.
"You would miss working," Jeremy said.
"Perhaps, but I can always do what I want and not be a slave to the marketplace," Lex said.
"What do you want?" Lois put her finger through her hair.
"Superman to stay in Metropolis, world peace and enough work to keep me happy." Lex drank his water.
"Can I quote you?" Lois asked as she scribbled quickly.
"Sure," Lex said.
Lois continued to scribble. "Superman to stay in Metropolis, world peace and enough work to keep you happy. Got it." Lois continued. "What are your plans for Lexcorp?"
"I'm meeting with my plant supervisors. I plan to take a more hand-on approach than I have in the past," Lex explained.
"How long have you've been painting?" Lois asked.
"Five years." Lex sipped his water using more as a prop than drinking it. "I discovered that painting was a great way to relax. Tony Curtis, when he gave up the booze, started painting."
Lois leaned forward with her pen moving fast in her hand. "Do you plan to have other public showing of your work?" she asked.
"Possibly in the future. I don't have anything scheduled in the moment. I plan to attend the Smallville Open Air Art Show next May. I hope to have other showings before that date."
"I notice your art is influenced by Smallville. Why Smallville?" Lois asked.
"My father had the Luthor ancestral home moved to Smallville stone by stone. Smallville is also the home of Lexcorp Fertilizer Plant No. 1. The people of Smallville will always have a special place in my heart," Lex said. "Jeremy, this may take awhile. Ask Ms. Lane what she wants to eat."
"Ms. Lane, I'm going to the food court. Mr. Luthor is a fussy eater. What can I get you?" Jeremy asked.
"Chinese is good," Lois said.
"Moo Goo Gia Pan," Lex said.
"You remember." Lois smiled.
"Extra eggrolls," Lex added.
"Got it," Jeremy said before leaving the hotel suite.
"Would you mind if my photographer took pictures of your work?" Lois asked.
"No, shoot away," Lex said.
"Did you do other things on your seven years respite other than paint?" Lois asked.
"I did a lot of thinking. I never really came to terms with my grief after Helen died," Lex said. He didn't grief Helen. He did grief the innocence he lost after killing someone in cold blood. He hated the lies. He couldn't even tell his father that he rigged the parachute not to open. Lex Luthor became something evil that day and that he did grieve.
"Thank you for your time. I'll talk to you more while you're showing my photographer your work." Lois left before Jeremy returned with the food.
On Monday morning, Ms. Lane interview was in the business section. There were no personal photos, but a picture, "The Life", of the Kent's cows in pasture made the front page of the business section. Ms. Lane had wrote that Lex Luthor discovered painting while taking a respite from the day to day management of Lexcorp and he had returned to take a more hands on approach to management.
Jeremy read the short article. "She made you look good."
"That's her job," Lex said.
"She didn't mention me."
"Did you want to be mentioned as Jeremy Walsh, Mr. Luthor's personal assistant?"
"I'm not your personal assistant."
"You got the Chinese food. That makes you my personal assistant." Lex kissed Jeremy. "I have Lexcorp and you have art school. I need to meet my people and fly to my New York chemical plant. I'll call you tonight."
"Sure." Jeremy, getting his portfolio together, watched Lex pick up his briefcase and leave.
Lex called Wednesday night. "I'm in a Comfort Inn. I miss you."
"When did I become your personal assistant?"
"After you referred to me as Mr. Luthor, I'm Lex."
"You're no longer the boy I attended art class beside."
"Do you want out?"
"You have eight plants to manage. You'll be on the road more times than home."
"I won't be. I have plant managers. Most business can be done through the Internet or on the phone. Honey, I need to make a strong presence. My enemies are looking for me to fail."
"Alex Luthor didn't have enemies," said Jeremy.
"I always had enemies,' Lex explained. "I'm heading out to Gotham tomorrow. I'm seeing Bruce Wayne for dinner and cocktails. I can send a plane for you."
"What would I say to Bruce Wayne?"
"The same things you say to Ms. Lane. Bruce zips his fly the same way as you or I."
"I wouldn't know."
"You get the copter from the Lexcorp roof and it will fly you to the plane," explained Lex. "I'll handle everything."
"A private plane?" Jeremy asked.
"If Martha Kent could do it, anyone can."
"She was my father's personal assistant."
"In the same way."
"That was their business. My dad has a thing for redheads." Lex didn't hear Jeremy say anything during a pause in conversation. "Good. I'll tell my secretary, Carolyn, to expect you ten o'clock tomorrow. Wear a nice suit like you would at a gallery opening."
"Should I pack anything?"
"Enough for three days."
"Three days? I have school."
"I'm taking the plane back Sunday. You'll want something casual to wear in Gotham. I plan to take you to the Gotham Museum of Modern Art."
"When did I become Lex Luthor's boytoy?" Jeremy asked.
"I thought you would like to meet an old friend of mine. Bruce was an upper classman in Excelsior during my brief time there."
"I suppose it would be OK."
"Good. I'll see you tomorrow. Love you."
Jeremy said, "Love you, too." But he missed sixteen-year-old Alex, the awkward boy in his art class. Smooth-talking Lex Luthor was a stranger to him. Jeremy liked living in a loft in the Metropolis Art District and didn't want to run back to Smallville. Lex had never lied to him, but still? He was going to Gotham by private jet to have dinner and cocktails at Wayne Manor. He called his mother.
"Mom, Alex invited me to have dinner with Bruce Wayne," said Jeremy.
"Of Wayne Enterprises."
"The same one."
"Just remember that he pisses the same as you."
"That's what Alex said."
"You don't have to go."
"I told him I would. I felt invisible when Ms. Lane interviewed him. I didn't sign up for this."
"When you agreed to go to Metropolis, you did."
"I want to go home."
"All relationships have give and take."
"I could go to art school on my own income."
"You would still need a roommate," his mother stated.
"Lex should date someone sophisticated like Ms. Grant." Jeremy packed his overnight bag and went to bed alone. He arrived at Lexcorp bright and early to get the helicopter waiting for him. He felt odd getting into a private helicopter having never been on a helicopter before. Finally, he stepped on a plane in a small airfield and found himself the only passenger.
As the flight attendant served him drinks and snacks, he wondered if Lex always had this kind of service; obviously not, Lex did stay at a Comfort Inn in a hick town the last few nights, but Lex grew up with this kind of service. Jeremy didn't think much of fish eggs. "What does Mr. Luthor eat on long flights?" he asked the attendant.
"Raw vegetables and crackers," said the flight attendant.
"Do you people actually like caviar?" Jeremy asked.
"Mrs. Luthor likes it," she said.
"Victoria?" asked Jeremy. He couldn't see Helen Luthor liking those bitter salty little things on a cracker.
"Dr. Luthor died before I started working for Lexcorp," she explained. After she gave him a plate of veggies with ranch dressing and crackers, she sat down and read a magazine.
After he ate, Jeremy started reading his art history book. Lex met Jeremy at the Gotham airfield and hugged him. "How was the flight?" asked Lex.
"Good. Different. I never have been on a private plane."
"Only the best." Lex smiled at him.
"Aren't you the boy that drove his bike to my trailer?" Jeremy walked to the limo.
"The limo is Bruce's," said Lex.
"That's cool," Jeremy said.
An older man opened the door. Lex walked inside then Jeremy climbed in. The older man shut the door. "Master Bruce is expecting you."
"Alfred, this is my friend, Jeremy Walsh," Lex said, getting inside the large black vehicle.
"Very good, sir," said the driver.
"Alfred is Bruce's manservant," explained Lex. "Chauffeur, handyman, butler, cook. Alfred does it all."
"Sounds like Bruce's wife," said Jeremy, sliding into the car beside Lex.
"Don't let Selina hear that," said Lex. "Bruce tells me she's his personal assistant. Her old boss died and she was quite shaken up. Bruce hired her on the spot. I haven't seen Bruce since the ice fortress and Bruce is the most observant person I know."
"What about Clark?"
"He always has his head buried in a book. All he ever noticed was Lana."
"Lois has him on a pretty short leash."
"We know who wears the pants in the household."
"You almost married her."
"She wasn't like that when we dated."
"I have trouble believing that."
"Lois has always been a hard-hitting reporter. When we dated, she was into the nightlife and parties. She wanted someone to show her a good time."
"And you did that?"
"Let's not talk about Lois. She and Clark deserve each other."
"What am I going to say to Bruce Wayne?" asked Jeremy.
"'Hello, how are you?' works." Lex smiled. "Bruce likes to ask questions. Just answer them."
"Did you date Bruce?"
"Never. He was sophisticated and I was a spoiled brat. We met because a bunch of boys were engaging in their favorite pastime (beating up the skinny bald kid) and he rescued me."
"Oh," said Jeremy.
"I met a lot of people because they save my life."
"No wonder you draw such gruesome pictures."
"Bruce is a great guy. Alfred raised him after his parents died."
From the outside, Wayne Manor looked creepier than the Luthor Castle. Alfred parked the limo and opened the door.
Jeremy said, "Thank you, Alfred."
"You are quite welcome," said the older man with a slight British accent, slighter than Victoria's. He obviously hadn't lived in England for many years.
Lex got out of the car.
Alfred shut the door and collected their bags from the trunk.
Lex took the bags from the pavement. "Thank you, Alfred. I can bring them in."
"Master Bruce will see you now. Miss Selina Kyle is with him." Alfred unlocked the grand front door and gestured for the two young men to follow him to the receiving hall.
A forty-ish man with dark hair and darker eyes opened the door. "Welcome," he said in a deep voice.
Lex put down his garment bag, suitcase and Jeremy's overnight bag. "Bruce, this is my friend, Jeremy Walsh. Jeremy Walsh, Bruce Wayne."
"Charmed," said Bruce. "My assistant, Selina Kyle, will be joining us for dinner."
"Very good, sir," said Alfred. "Mr. Walsh, Mr. Luthor, your coats."
Lex gave Alfred his coat then Jeremy handed him his leather jacket. Then the two young men followed Bruce to the parlor. Selina, a woman in a beige jacket with matching skirt, was already seated on the sofa.
Bruce sat beside Selina. "Miss Kyle, Lex Luthor and Jeremy Walsh."
Lex took her hand and kissed it. "It's a pleasure to meet you."
"The pleasure is mine." The woman blushed. Her silky black hair was in a bun and she looked very much the proper secretary.
Lex let go of her hand then sat down on the sofa. Jeremy sat on the leather recliner.
"Hello," said Jeremy.
"Lex, you look young," said Bruce.
Jeremy was surprised that Bruce could see anything in the half-lit room. A boy entered the room and turned on the lights. The slender boy, with feathered back sandy brown hair, was wearing a biker's jacket, blue jeans and leather boots.
"Lex Luthor, Jeremy Walsh, this is my ward, Dick Grayson," said Bruce.
Dick pulled an antique chair toward the sofa and sat down. "Hello, Jeremy, Lex."
Jeremy smiled. "Hello, Dick. Do you go to school?"
"Gotham University," said Dick.
Jeremy said, "Alex and I got to the Metropolis Art Institute."
"I read that you started painting in your absence," said Bruce.
"It's a great way to relax," said Lex. "I feel years younger."
"There must be some truth in those stories about the Smallville meteorites," said Bruce. "You look twelve."
"A young sixteen," said Lex.
Dick said, "Holy Fountain of Youth."
"This I have to hear," said Bruce.
"My brother, Lucas, accused me of being my own clone," said Lex. "My employees pretend not to notice."
"What happened?" Dick asked.
"I messed with alien technology," explained Lex.
"I knew your obsessions would lead you astray," said Bruce.
"This from a man with no obsessions," said Lex.
"None of my obsessions have bit me on the ass," said Bruce.
Jeremy couldn't believe Bruce Wayne just said ass.
Lex lay back on the sofa. "Miss Kyle, so do you have any obsessions?"
"Cats," said Selina in almost a purr.
"Who many do you own?" asked Jeremy.
"Fifteen that stay indoors," said Selina. "The strays vary from day to day. You wouldn't believe my vet bills."
"They must call you Catwoman," said Jeremy.
Selina leaned against Bruce and purred again. "I thought your friends would be older."
Bruce put his arms around the woman. "I could have Alfred make us something."
"Lex only eats raw fruits and vegetables," Jeremy teased.
"I eat more than that," said Lex. "Jeremy would have you believe I'm vegan."
"I know better than that. His flight attendant served me fish eggs," Jeremy said.
"I adore caviar," purred Selina. "With the amount of fish I feed the cats, if I didn't eat it, I would feel like a hypocrite."
Bruce said, "Selina doesn't eat land animals."
"I have to draw the line somewhere."
"So you're in art school," Dick said, filling in the empty silence. "I'm still undecided. Bruce wants me to go into business. I used to be an acrobat. Not much call for that outside the circus."
"The Flying Graysons," said Bruce.
Alfred arrived in the parlor. "Sirs, the bags are in the guest rooms."
"Alfred, five for dinner. Prepare fish or seafood," said Bruce.
"Very good, sir." Alfred left.
"An acrobat?" Lex repeated.
"A family tradition. After my parents were killed, I've lost interest. I was lucky that Bruce took me in," Dick said. "It would have been hell for the foster system to place a nearly seventeen year old boy."
"By the time they placed you, you would have been eighteen. Besides, I needed a heir," said Bruce.
"You can do like Carnegie and put all your money in foundations," suggested Lex.
"I like the idea of having a heir," Bruce said.
"My dad has too many," Lex said. "I was kidnapped twice by my brother Lucas."
"Holy sibling rivalry." Dick winced.
Selina said in her soft sexy voice, "Sounds like he has one heir too many."
"Dick, get the boys some pop," Bruce said.
Lex put out his hand in front of his body to gesture for Dick to stop. "Sparkling water if you have it."
"If I knew we were going to eat in, I wouldn't have dressed up," said Jeremy.
"We'll go to one of the guest rooms. Dick shouldn't be the only one in jeans." Lex directed Jeremy to the room he used the last time he was here. Jeremy's overnight bag and art kit were in the bedroom across the hall. "Wayne Manor is nearly as big as my dad's castle."
"And just as spooky," Jeremy said.
Lex brought Jeremy's bags into the sparsely furnished bedroom and shut the door. Lex removed his business clothes and folded them. "What do you think of my friend, Bruce?"
"He's okay. Not as scary as his press would make you believe." Jeremy undressed, folded his suit (knowing he would need it for later), and put on his jeans and a black tee shirt with a white comic book logo.
Lex put on a pair of tight black jeans and a mauve long sleeve polo shirt. Lex touched the quarter inch of hair on his head. "I should have brought a comb."
"When you have enough to comb, you shave it off." Jeremy kicked his dress shoes under the bed and slipped on his sneakers. "I feel human again."
"I like looking good," said Lex.
"You have wonderful fashion sense," said Jeremy.
"I need to take you shopping at Brooks Brothers and some other stores while we are at Gotham," said Lex. "The clothes make the man."
"I thought we were going to the art museum," said Jeremy.
"The museum closes at five." Lex put his arms around Jeremy. "We have plenty of time to shop. Let me buy you a suit.'
The way Dick looked at Jeremy and him as they walked down the stairs reminded Lex of Lucas. Dick had the same dangerous look about him. The young man moved with strong graceful movements unpinned by anger. Dick read the logo on Jeremy's shirt then commented, "Comic books."
"They went under. I drew for them a few weeks. When I didn't get paid for my last set, I checked the Internet and found out the company had folded. I'm keeping the drawings for my portfolio," Jeremy explained.
"So you're a walking billboard for a dead company," said Dick.
"It's a shirt," said Jeremy.
Dick handed Lex a bottle of seltzer. "Jeremy, do you need anything?"
"Pepsi," said Jeremy. "It must be strange living in a mansion."
"It's huge and dark," said Dick. "Kind of like my soul."
"Ooh," said Jeremy.
Lex didn't want to go there.
Thankfully, Alfred arrived in the parlor and announced, "Dinner is served." Salad was on the table. The baby greens salad didn't look as fresh of the spring lettuce from the Kent Farm then living in Smallville had spoiled Lex. Lex saw the grimace on Jeremy's face as his friend poured dressing on the salad. Alfred asked Bruce, "Would you like some wine?"
"With the meal," said Bruce.
Alfred looked at the three young men sitting on the other side of the table. "It's good to see Young Master Grayson socializing."
"Whatever," said Dick.
"I'm hoping another comic book will pick me up," said Jeremy. "I'm doing book covers mostly. Art shows don't pay the bills."
"I'd love to see your work," said Bruce.
"You'll have to fly to Metropolis," said Lex.
"We have this loft in a converted warehouse," said Jeremy. "High ceilings. Great for two artists."
"And your work is all over the walls." Dick didn't sound impressed.
"Mine, Alex's and some we bought from friends," said Jeremy.
Dick opened a bottle of soda pop.
Bruce asked, "Jeremy, did you ever have an opening?"
"Like a gallery opening, no," said the eighteen-year-old artist. "I did four art shows last summer and I've done a local con three years straight. I don't have enough high quality work to put together a gallery opening."
Lex teased. "He's never going to have enough high quality work since he sells his best work as soon as he paints it."
"You need an opening," said Bruce. "I own a few galleries. I'll see what I can set up. Lex, promise me your friend will put together a collection."
Lex shrugged his shoulders. "It's up to Jeremy."
Alfred told Bruce something needed his attention and he left dinner. Selina left soon after leaving the three young men to finish their meal alone. "I'll get us some beer. Alfred will show you my DVD collection," Dick said.
"Not the cheap stuff." Lex reached into his wallet and pulled out a twenty and handed it to Dick.
"Be back in a flash." Dick took the money. "Save me some dessert."
Alfred collected the empty dishes as Lex ate the last of his meal. "Would you like me to bring coffee and dessert to the studio?"
"Whatever room has the large screen TV," Jeremy said. "Lead the way."
Lex and Jeremy were snuggling on the sofa watching The Matrix when Dick arrived with the beer. Lex, seeing Dick enter the room, moved a respectable distance from Jeremy.
"I'm not a child," Dick stated.
"I feel like a child most of the time," Lex commented. Lex felt like his old friend, Bruce, had sent him to the children's table. He had the mind of a thirty-five year old in a sixteen-year-old body. Until his father's technology allowed the rich to download themselves into cloned bodies, he had to accept that people would see him as a child. However, he had hoped Bruce would be different.
Dick threw Lex and Jeremy each a beer. "This is a good movie." Dick opened his own beer. "Bruce often leaves during meals. You get used to it."
"Would you like to accompany us to the museum?" Jeremy asked.
"I have class," Dick said.
"So do I, but I'm here," Jeremy said.
"But you're an art student and we're going to an art museum," Lex said.
"Why did Bruce adopt you?" Jeremy asked.
"Bruce's parents were murdered as he watched. He felt he could help Dick deal with his grief," Lex said.
"I'd be serving time if it wasn't for Bruce," Dick said.
"You're lucky to have him," Jeremy said.
"He's strict and his mansion is creepy, but he means well," Dick said. "How did you hook up with Alex?"
"He followed me home and I told him that I beat up faggots with rich daddies," said Jeremy said.
Dick leaned back on the sofa. "Did you beat him up?"
"No, I handed him a beer," said Jeremy said.
Dick drank more of his own beer. "Beer is always good." They watched the rest of the movie and Matrix 2 in relative silence. Bruce arrived home to find the three boys asleep on the sofa. In the middle of the night, Lex went upstairs alone to one of the guest rooms.
Bruce hurried through his coffee and toast. "I'll meet you for a late lunch at the museum."
Dick grabbed his backpack. "I only have a morning class. I can be at the museum later today."
Lex repeated, "Modern art." He didn't want Dick or Bruce going to the wrong museum.
"I shouldn't have treated you as a child," Bruce said, finishing his black coffee.
"I am a child," Lex said. "We'll talk at lunch. You have a corporation to run."
"And you?" Bruce asked.
"Monday, I have another factory to visit," Lex stated. After Bruce left, Alfred offered to make Jeremy and Lex a hot breakfast. "Don't go to any trouble."
"I don't understand the children today even good kids dress like punks." Alfred served Jeremy and Lex breakfast. "I'll drive you when you're ready to leave."
"Whatever you say," said Jeremy.
Alfred left the dining room to go kitchen. Alfred had raised Bruce after his parents died. He's more of a father figure than a servant. A few minutes later, Lex brought his plate into the kitchen and got himself more coffee. "How old is your brother?" Alfred asked. Lex had mentioned Geoffrey last night.
"He must look up to you."
"He wants to help me run my business. I tell him to read the classics and learn his history. I was starting to dabble in calculus at his age and he barely knows his times tables."
"All children learn at their own rate." Alfred washed the dishes. "Why aren't you in college?"
"I'm taking an art class. I have a bachelor," Lex said.
"A bachelor degree at sixteen. You can't expect your brother to be as gifted as you," Alfred explained. "Bruce is gifted. He was a very serious child."
"Jeremy and I hope to enjoy the city before flying back," Lex said.
"It's good that you have Jeremy. Master Bruce spent his teenage years alone."
"We share our love for art." Lex picked up his leather jacket and touched Jeremy's shoulder when he passed him. "Let's go."
Jeremy put on his coast then put his hand on Lex's arm. "We haven't kissed in days."
"You fell asleep," Lex said.
"We both did." Jeremy followed Alfred to the limo.
A new artist had her paintings in the new exhibit wing. At the end of the day, Lex and Jeremy walked to the wing. Jeremy had spent most of the day standing in front of a Paul Cezanne sketching it.
Lex sketched a few paintings and ended up doing a sketch of hanging sculpture. Lex couldn't do it justice in two dimensions. Lex checked his watch. They only had an hour to sketch the work of the new artist before the museum closed. The hall was empty which wasn't surprising. Lorinda Michael did paintings of wild life: cheetahs, wolves and polar bears. Her picture of wolf cubs was world famous.
Lex sat down to sketch on of her more surreal paintings, "The Artist." It was an argyle rabbit with a palette in her hand doing a self-portrait.
Jeremy sat down on the bench beside him and started sketching. The next thing Lex felt was his head being banged into Jeremy's head. He woke for a second to feel a woman's boot kick him stomach. When he regained consciousness, he was on the floor tied up to Jeremy. The colorful characters had a wooden crate on wheels. They were taking paintings off the walls and putting them in the crate.
The criminals in Metropolis wear black and black ski masks or black pantyhose. The keyword was black. Lex was still wearing his mauve Henley and black jeans from last night. Today, he was glad for his centimeter or so red hair on his head. Everyone knew Lex Luthor was a thirty-five year old bald man, not a sixteen-year-old redhead. These colorful characters hopefully wouldn't realize he was worth holding hostage. One of the art thieves was a blonde in a harlequin costume and the other was in a purple suit and had on clown make-up.
"Jeremy," Lex whispered. "Don't move or struggle. If they think we are still unconscious, they won't kick us, again."
"These crooks aren't your crazy brother," whispered Jeremy.
"My advice holds," Lex whispered.
"Shouldn't we gas them?" said a high-pitched girlie voice.
A man's voice said, "When we leave, Harley."
The yellow pigtailed woman was Harley. Lex's eyes were still slightly out of focus. How many times had his out of focus eyes see Clark rescue him? Clark Kent was in Metropolis and Lex was in Gotham City. His luck had run out. Just then, two more colorful characters entered the hall, a man in a bat costume and a young man in shorts, tights, leotard and a mask.
"Batman and Robin," whispered Jeremy.
Robin kicked Harley then the clown put on a gas mask and threw Harley one, not a good sign. There was an explosion and the room filled with gas as Batman chased the clown and Harley. Robin, now wearing a facemask, untied the two artists. More police, normal uniform cops, comes into the room as the gas dissipated. Robin gave Lex his gas mask before quickly leaving the room.
The cops helped Lex and Jeremy to an ambulance. The crate with the art was gone. Batman would return Lorinda Michael's work. Lex wondered where Bruce and Dick were and why they never made it to the museum. Lex had a yellow bruise where Harley kicked him. The gas made him throw up while still in the ambulance; Jeremy was also tossing.
After they got to the hospital, a nurse asked, "Son, how old are you?"
"Thirty-five. I was born August 15, 1980."
"Honey, how hard were you hit?" asked the brown skinned woman.
Lex got out his passport; the picture was taken a few months before. "August 15, 1980. Do you need to see my birth certificate? Alexander Luthor, my parents are Lillian and Lionel Luthor. I was born in Metropolis General Hospital. Call them."
"Say I believe you," said the nurse. "How?"
"You have two clowns rob an art museum and you ask how I was born thirty-five years ago."
Jeremy walked over. "Mr. Luthor was born thirty-five years ago."
"I can only give you emergency treatment," the nurse said.
"I'm going home," Lex said. "Jeremy, get your art kit." Lex put his passport back in the art case with his pad and pencils. "I'm normally treated with respect."
When they were in the taxi, Jeremy said, "Let's get out of town tonight."
"Anything," Jeremy said.
"I never had anyone doubt my passport."
Alfred invited them into Wayne Manor. Lex ran to the upstairs bathroom to shave his head. Alfred knocked on the door. "Will you and Mr. Walsh be joining us for dinner?"
"Yes," said Lex.
Alfred closed the door.
Lex shaved his head almost everyday, sometimes, twice day. His baldhead was part of his image. After he was done, he smiled at the bald boy smiling back at him. He went into the room that he had shared with Jeremy.
Jeremy put a hand on Lex's head and kissed the back of his head. "Why don't you pretend to be your son?"
"Because if Lex Luthor died tomorrow, what would happen to my estate?" Lex asked, putting his hand on Jeremy's firm ass while the other hand unzipped Jeremy's pants.
"Can't you leave everything to your son?" Jeremy helped Lex get him out of his clothes.
"Because my father and my stepmother in my little sister's and little brother's interests would fight it in court. I would loose all my money in legal fees." Lex removed all his clothes below his waist.
"I didn't think of that."
"If I could will it to myself, I would have done it. Things are never that easy where Luthors are involved."
"Mr. Luthor, fuck me hard," Jeremy begged, trying not to laugh.
Lex took a tube of lube from his bag and pulled Jeremy against him. Lex put one hand on Jeremy's cock and the other on his ass. "You feel so good."
"I want it hard and fast." Jeremy spread out on the full size bed.
It wasn't long before Lex was pounding Jeremy into the bed. Afterwards, he kissed the boy's back.
Alfred knocked on the door.
"Alfred, we're busy," Jeremy said.
"Dinner is done," Alfred said, through the door.
"We'll be down soon," Jeremy yelled. No man gets to Alfred's age being that stupid. Jeremy put his pants back on. That ruined the mood. "After dinner, I'm nailing you to this mattress."
"I figured that," Lex said, putting on a clean tee shirt and jeans.
Jeremy laughed at the pink tee shirt that Lex had brought at the science fiction convention with the fan art of a teddy bear and dragon. "Dick will think you look like a fairy."
"I am a fairy." Lex kissed Jeremy on the cheek.
When they arrived in the dining room, Bruce and Dick were already seated. Lex gave the overcooked chicken breast in white sauce to Jeremy and ate most of his vegetables.
"He picks," said Jeremy.
"Your manservant is ruining my sex life. Alfred interrupted us twice," said Lex.
"I'm sorry," said Bruce.
"He never interrupted us," Lex said.
"You're always lecturing me on right and wrong and you fucked a sixteen year old boy," Dick said.
"I was fourteen when he fucked me." Lex enjoyed throwing his outrageous behavior in people's faces.
"I like tall, dark-haired men," Lex teased as he played with his food.
"Did you fly to Smallville for a piece of his ass?" Dick asked, nearly choking on his food. He must have forgotten their talk about Lex finding the fountain of youth. "He's a child." Dick stood up and looked about to leave the table. His shoulders were back and his arms at his side. Lex wondered how long it would take before Dick remembered that, the first time Lex was fourteen, Bruce was only sixteen.
"You told me that you never dated Mr. Wayne," Jeremy said.
"I didn't. We just fucked a few times," Lex said.
Dick blushed brilliantly. "Before or after you drank from that fountain."
"Before," Lex said. "We met at prep school."
"You had me going a minute," Dick said.
Alfred cleared the table. A few minutes later, he brought out slices of lemon pie. "Alexander, I made it myself. You must try it."
"I'll taste it," Lex said. "Thank you."
Alfred returned to fill their cups with coffee.
"Who does Alfred think I am?" Lex asked after the older man left their presence.
"My friend's son," Bruce explained. "Why didn't you claim to your own child?"
"Bruce, I have relatives. Let's see my father, brother and sister would want a piece of the pie," Lex explained as he broke up his slice of pie with the edge of his fork.
Jeremy kissed Lex briefly. "I think he should take two or three million and put it into a foreign account. We could live comfortable the rest of our lives on an exotic island. All Alex eats is vegetables."
"It sounds almost tempting," Lex said. "I have always dreamed of doing great things. I could find out how the Kryptonite made me younger. I fantasize about being a nine year old again after being ninety. As Lazarus Long says, the best revenge is outliving your enemies." Lex knew the reason his memories returned was because the AI wanted him to reconsider the original request.
"Do you really want to live forever?" Bruce asked.
"I don't know," Lex said. "My father might be immortal."
Dick ate some of his pie. "That's a dangerous thought."
"He's been shot many times, once in the head. I suspect the Joker's gas does more than make people vomit," Lex said.
"It's nerve gas," Bruce admitted. "It should have killed you."
Jeremy gasped. "My God. Is Robin okay? Did either of you see the news?"
"Yes. Robin is OK and paintings have been returned," Bruce said. "It was on the six o'clock news."
"Thank God," said Jeremy.
"Lex, I know you're a Smallville mutant, but Jeremy wasn't born when you and your father were in that cornfield," said Bruce.
"I lived in Smallville. There are meteorites fragments in the soil. I've even skinny dipped in Crater Lake. The meteorites part of scenery." Jeremy drank his coffee.
Alfred collected the dessert plates. "Would you like more coffee?"
"Thank you. Alfred, I should call my parents."
"This way, sir," Alfred said.
Lex called the castle's landline. Victoria answered, "The Luthor estate."
"Mom, it's Alex. Jeremy and I were tied up and poisoned during an attempted robbery. It shouldn't make the national news because the police saw me as just another art student."
"Are you all right?"
"After the drugs I did in college, what's a little nerve gas?" Lex teased. "I had some trouble breathing, but after I threw up, I was fine."
"Yes, Mom. I'll be fine by tomorrow. Really, Mom." Lex talked slower. "Can I talk to Geoffrey?"
"You sound your physical age; that isn't a good sign," said Victoria.
"Mom, I was upset that the hospital didn't want to treat me because I don't look over eighteen. I left without signing in."
"You're aging normally," Victoria said.
"It appears so." Lex sighed. "How's Dad?"
"He's in remarkable good health."
"As always," Lex sneered.
Victoria handed the phone over to someone else. "Lex, are you alright?" Geoff asked.
"Fine. It's good to hear from you. I miss you."
"Get your business done in New York?" said the little boy.
"Met with my people, gave them the usual peptalk, then fired them all." Lex laughed. "Geoff, I'm kidding. Our dad did that once."
"I heard the story," Geoff said.
"I rehired them while Dad was in the hospital," said Lex. "Geoff, have you ever been sick?"
"No one in Smallville gets normal illnesses," said Geoff. "Are you okay?"
"Fine, considering a criminal mastermind threw nerve gas at me," said Lex.
"Did Superman rescue you?"
"No, he didn't. I got dizzy and vomited, but Jeremy and I breathed enough gas to kill us."
"You're lucky I guess."
"I need to go back to Smallville and get my rocks," said Lex.
"You should be happy you're alive," said his little brother.
"Geoff, I don't like mysteries." Lex said good-bye and hung up the phone. His whole obsession with Superman started when he couldn't accept that he was alive when he shouldn't have been.
After Lex got off the phone with Geoffrey, Lex and Jeremy fucked until exhaustion won out. In the morning, Lex knocked on the door of Bruce's bedroom. "Dick doesn't share your bed?" Lex commented, seeing Bruce spread out on the king-sized bed.
"No, Dick has his own room." Bruce had on a black terrycloth bathroom tied at the waist. Lex seemed to recall that Bruce slept nude or in black satin boxers. "I don't molest children."
"You and the Cat Woman," Lex said. "Are you going to let her and her fifteen cats live in the mansion?"
Bruce tapped the bed. "It's like time stood still for you. You're still that boy I knew in Excelsior and I'm an old man."
"You aren't old." Lex sat on the bed beside Bruce.
"Compared to you and Dick I am." Bruce got up and sat on the single leather chair in the room.
"I'm a biological dead-end. My dad had his doctors' examine me regularly. I make adult levels of androgens but I don't make sperm. He's grooming Geoffrey to be his heir. The pressure is off me. Dad is interested in survival of the fittest. I'm not even in the race."
"Why are you telling me?"
"You chose your own heir. My estate will go to my nieces and nephews. I don't want to be a footnote in history. I want to do something great."
"And painting isn't enough."
"I'm good, not great. I was thinking of founding an organization, The Legion of Doom."
"Capitalists for a Free Society doesn't have the same ring." Lex lied back on the bed. "We will promote anarchy. Down with government controlling free enterprise. I can't conquer the world with the United States is always telling me what to do. And the European Union is worse."
"You're thinking like a child," said Bruce.
"Will you join?" Lex sat up and looked Bruce in the eye. "I'm the president. So far our meetings consist of Jeremy and I drawing pictures of Superman with 3 sixes on his chest. We need to design a website and have meeting somewhere other than the Smallville trailer park."
"Jeremy came up with Legion of Doom." Bruce's dark eyes were frowning.
"I came up with the name," Lex said. His Legion of Doom would be great. Their first order of business would be to get rid of Superman. When Clark's powers had been transferred to Eric Summers, Clark broke ribs. He got sick once. He had weaknesses. And Lois was his biggest one.
"When you have a real agenda, I'll think about joining." Bruce patted Lex on the back. "I'm going to take my shower. You better get out of here before Dick accuses me of sleeping with children."
They spent the next two days shopping and taking in the sites of Gotham City. On the plane back to Metropolis, Lex researched the Flying Graysons.
Jeremy looked over his shoulder. "Working?"
"Snooping," said Lex. "Did you know Dick's stage name was Robin because he flew like a bird?"
"Do you think Dick was our rescuer?" said Jeremy.
"He will deny it." Lex returned to looking at the specs for the new chemical plant. He needed another plant to do his materials research. The New York plant didn't have the facilities and the high cost of construction in the area made it not feasible. An old chemical plant in Metropolis seemed to be just the ticket. His research on the octagonal disc was still in his computer files untouched. He could revolutionize the materials industry with his and Hamilton's notes on the alien alloy. "I can't fly though the air with the greatest of ease, but I will do great things."
Jeremy was still looking over his shoulder at a map of the old industrial park. "Revitalizing Metropolis Corporate Park isn't a great thing."
"If Lex Luthor invests his money in converting an abandoned factory, others will follow suit. My PR can tell the media that I'm a hometown boy investing in the city I love."
"The wheels are always going."
Lex shut his computer and sat by Jeremy. "I like having my hand in several baskets. You do the same thing with your original art, book covers and comic books."
Jeremy kissed Lex's head. "I suppose."
Lex put his arms around Jeremy. "I'm planning on buying the Inquisitor after the chemical plant is finalized. Under my leadership, it can be a real tabloid like the Gotham Tribute."
"Do you need an editorial cartoonist?"
Lex gave Jeremy a wicked grin. "Are you asking for a job?"
"I know." Jeremy put a hand on Lex's knee. "You'll want to see my portfolio and my resume."
"I just started looking over the specs. I don't know if it is a good purchase. I thought you would find the humor in me buying the newspaper that regularly trashed me."
"A third chemical plant and newspaper aren't great things."
"It isn't quantity; it's quality. I want to make a difference in people's lives. The products made at my plants will revolutionize the world. The next Teflon or Kevlar could be around the counter. I plan to recruit the best scientists." Lex wrapped his arms around Jeremy.
"When will you have time for me?"
"On the weekends and in the evenings." Lex pushed his hand through Jeremy's hair. "Occasionally, I could get away from it all and spend a three hour lunch with you."
"I don't want to be Lex Luthor's toy."
Lex put his hand on Jeremy's muscular thigh. "The door is always open."
"The drop is several thousand feet. I doubt know if even your dad could survive that. Let's make love." Jeremy put his hand on Lex's chest.
"Do we have enough time?" Lex turned his wrist so he could see his watch.
"We don't land for over an hour." Jeremy kissed Lex deeply. "There is plenty of time."
A blonde woman in jeans and a pink sweater entered the loft. "Jeremy, this is Chloe Sullivan from the Washington Post."
"I'll make us some tea," Jeremy said.
"So do you think I could make the Inquisitor a real paper? I don't want to compete directly with the Planet. I'd like our focus to be local news, the people's paper." Lex sat down on the overstuffed chair.
"You would have to change the name. We'd have to sell it as a totally new paper with its focus on local news, entertainment and sports," Chloe suggested.
"That's why I need your input," Lex said.
Jeremy brought out some black tea. "Miss Sullivan, would you like lemon or sugar?"
"Black is fine," Chloe said.
"Do you think we can get a large enough market share?" Lex sipped his tea.
"If we go for the soft news, good entertainment section is important. The restaurant ads could support the paper. We need a good food editor," Chloe said.
"We have the best," Lex said. "I want the paper's focus to be sports. How do I fire most of the Inquisitor's staff without resentment?"
"You can't. You'll have to be secretive on who you decide to keep," Chloe said.
"I can manage that. Chloe, most new projects fail. Are you up to the challenge?" he asked.
"I'll be in the area two weeks for my vacation; after that I'll be returning to DC," Chloe said. "Since you mentioned this project, I've researched the college papers for upcoming talent." Chloe sipped her tea sitting forward in her chair.
"Jeremy is interested in doing editorial cartoons," explained Lex.
"Are you any good?" asked Chloe.
Jeremy went to the back of the large room and got his portfolio. "You can see for yourself."
Chloe looked at his cartoons. "Good. Can you work under deadline?"
"I do magazine and book covers." Jeremy pointed out some of his covers.
"You're too good for a small paper," Chloe said.
"Perhaps, someone would see my work and I could syndicate," Jeremy said. "I could use a regular paycheck. I hate people thinking of me as Lex Luthor's toy."
"He isn't my toy. Tell Jeremy that he's my personal assistant. Without him, I would need to hire someone to do all he does," Lex said.
"Mr. Luthor, I'm not interested in your personal life," Chloe said.
"Lex." He sipped his tea.
"Jeremy, I'll put you on my short list," Chloe said.
Jeremy kissed Lex on the cheek. "Bruce offered me an opening in one of his galleries."
"Joker-free," Lex said.
"He's in Arham," said Jeremy. "Be happy for me."
"With the paper and the new plant, I can't get the time off," Lex said.
"We both wanted this."
"Go. I'll miss you." Lex gave him a good-bye kiss.
A few weeks later Jeremy came home and started packing his stuff. A moving van was outside. "Bruce gave me a position at a gallery and access to a studio. Everything I've wanted."
"Gotham is so far away."
Jeremy put a hand on Lex's cheek. "You're getting a few whiskers."
"I shave them off with the rest of my hair." Lex looked away from Jeremy.
"You'll meet someone else and forget about me." Lex took an apple from the bowl.
"I won't forget; you're unique."
"True. It's not as easy for me to meet people. I can't date employees and other people only see my money."
"Chloe likes you," said Jeremy.
"Her father manages my Smallville plant." Gabe Sullivan was one of the original investors into Lexcorp. If Gabe had sold near the top, he would be worth ten if not twenty million. He wondered why Gabe was still working for him, when he could buy a small island.
"You and Chloe are more partners than boss and employee," said Jeremy said. "I never promised forever."
"I like having someone to share my life."
"Alex, you'll meet the right person." Jeremy hugged Lex. "I'm sorry it wasn't me."
"It's hard to say good-bye." Lex kissed Jeremy briefly. "I'll go out. Have everything packed when I get back. Leave the key on the kitchen table."
"What if I want to take the kitchen set?" Jeremy teased.
"Take whatever you want." He had the watch his mother gave him on his wrist. "Leave the key on the kitchen counter." Lex blew him a kiss. He couldn't bear to see Jeremy pack. "Have a good life."
Chloe arrived in her business suit carrying a briefcase. "So did the sale go as planned."
"I've closed the deal.'
"You didn't call me, so I took a red-eye to Metropolis. I feared the worst." Chloe put her briefcase down.
"I'll make us coffee." Lex went to the kitchen counter and grinded coffee.
"Where's the sofa?" Chloe asked.
"I told Jeremy to take what he wanted. I haven't had the opportunity to buy new furniture. I was planning to call you, but life has a way of getting in the way." Lex poured the coffee into the coffee maker then filled it with spring water.
Chloe laughed. "Now I have to find a new cartoonist. Justin Gaines is on my list. I don't know if he's available; it's been so many years since we talked. The years have treated you well."
"With a little help from Kryptonite." Lex smiled at her. "So would you like to discuss plans for the Metropolis Herald over dinner." Lex looked at the space the dining room table used to be. Jeremy took everything but the bedroom furniture and the two overstuffed chairs. Lex looked in the kitchen cabinets. The cheap dishes were gone, but the good china remained (No accounting for taste.).
"Jeremy cleaned you out," Chloe teased. "We'll have to eat at a restaurant."
Lex felt the centimeter or less of growth on his head. "He left less than a week ago. I haven't got around to buying new furniture. We should eat at an ethnic restaurant; there are plenty in the neighborhood."
"Japanese?" Chloe suggested. "We can talk for hours over tea and sushi."
"It will remind me of my dates with Ms. Lane," Lex teased. "I feel embarrassed. The place is so barren; all he left was the paintings."
"If this isn't a good time," Chloe said.
"The sooner we get the ball rolling the better." Lex took her hand.
"Don't compare me to my cousin?" Chloe watched Lex lock up the loft.
"She's on the short list for city editor for the Planet."
"We couldn't afford her for the Herald."
"What do you think about Jimmy Olsen as sports photographer?"
"We'll talk about staffing at the restaurant." Chloe had her briefcase in her hand; she looked at Lex holding her other hand. "Is this a date, Mr. Luthor?"
"You know what they say about getting right back on the horse," Lex said. "Chloe, you're a beautiful, young woman."
"You aren't over Jeremy."
"He probably has someone in Gotham. Would you rather I bitched about my boyfriend leaving me?"
"That's not your style." Chloe kissed his cheek. "You should let your hair grow out."
"The public expects Lex Luthor to be bald. I've been careless about shaving it since Jeremy left."
"You never lived up to public expectations." Chloe walked beside Lex hand-in-hand.
"You once said that with my money I could buy a decent toupee."
"I don't recall saying that."
"It doesn't make it sting less. That was a long time ago. I thought Bruce was my friend and he stabbed me in the back."
"It's nothing personal; it's business."
"Please, don't misquote the 'The Godfather'." Lex opened the door to a small Japanese restaurant. "Tomorrow, I do my peptalk, I bring people into my office in small groups and fire them."
"Never an easy job," Chloe said as the host, probably the owner, seated them.
"It never is. I organized my list so I'm either keeping the whole group or letting them go. I'm keeping more than a quarter of the staff, including all the mechanics and press operators. After we go into production, we may need to reduce the staff more. I want a totally new editorial staff, excluding the food editor. I hope you done your homework," Lex said after they were seated. "Advertising will be the hardest. I need an experienced staff, but we need to do it with a reduced payroll."
"You want me there tomorrow?" Chloe asked.
"Yes. You should introduce yourself as the new editor and chief," Lex said.
"We'll try to do this as bloodlessly as possible."
The waiter gave them washcloths.
"I hate doing this." Lex wiped the sweat off his face.
"After we get the new staff, the work begins." Chloe wiped her hands and face.
The waiter collected the washcloths. "Are you ready to order?"
Lex picked out an assortment of sushi and a salad. "Chloe, any appetizers?"
"Dumplings." She pointed to the ones on the menu that she wanted. "Sake."
"Two large sakes." Lex wondered if he would be carded this time, but the waiter didn't bother. "I know you never ran a professional paper before, but I believe in your abilities."
"Clark didn't make your list," she said. "Is there a reason?"
"Lois carries him," Lex said. "When Lois takes the editor job, he'll have to stand on his own two feet."
"You don't think he can."
"That has yet to be seen. He wrote the cafeteria menus for the Torch; you didn't have that much faith in him."
"Do we have to talk business?"
The waiter brought the sake.
"Tomorrow, we'll talk. Tonight, we're Lex and Chloe," he said.
"No talk about old boyfriends."
"I hate all of them." Lex sipped his sake.
"I know the feeling. I didn't see you at Lois and Clark's wedding."
"I was there. I was sitting at the table with my stepmother, little brother and sister. Lois and I even shared one dance."
"You were the little red-haired boy sitting with the girl in a blue dress." Chloe blushed.
Lex smiled slightly. "Brittney and I were on the same little league team for two years. She's a good pitcher."
"No one knew what happened to you when you vanished."
"No one was looking for a nine year old boy," Lex said before taking a sip of sake.
Chloe had a look on her face like she was telling herself that she could handle this; she had handled flesh eating girls and telekinetic artists. "What did you do those years?"
"Paint, learn patience, many things." Lex folded his hands.
"You're not a youth stealing demon."
"Nothing that exciting. The incident happened seven years ago and I now appear to be aging normally. You think I should grow my hair. Jeremy had teased me that I would shave it off before I had anything to comb."
"It's up to you. Marie had hair the length of yours when I moved in. I convinced her to grow it. She said it was an awful mousy brown color. A bit of dye and she never shaved her head again."
"Jeremy liked it this length. Oops, no talk about old boyfriends."
"You need to talk about it. I mentioned Marie."
"She isn't any old boyfriend."
"Old girlfriend. I packed my things and lived at a hotel the last two weeks in DC. I hated leaving her."
"You could have asked her to join you in Metropolis," Lex said.
The waiter put the salad on the table.
"We had been fighting off and on for months. The relationship was dying a slow painful death. I needed a clean break."
"So that's why you aren't freaked out about me being bisexual."
The waiter brought two plates of assorted sushi.
"I see myself as gay," Chloe said without much change in her pitch, making her sound nonchalant.
Lex smiled. "We both had unrequited love for Clark Kent. At least, he kissed you. Once he agreed to go to my penthouse, but when I came back for him, he was gone."
"Clark left me standing a number of times." Chloe started to eat her food.
"Lois deserves him. He left her at their wedding. The groom doesn't normally get lost on the way to the reception." Lex ate some sushi.
Chloe ate her salad. "You were that obnoxious boy who sat in Clark's chair."
"He wasn't in it. One of the advantages of being a child and there aren't many."
"I'd hate being a child knowing what I know now."
"My memories returned slowly over time. The AI wanted me to be young again so I would have time to think or it wouldn't have allowed my memories to return at all."
"AI?" Chloe asked.
"Alien Intelligence. I found Superman's fortress on a satellite photograph. It had the same alien symbols as we found in the cave near Smallville," Lex said.
"And you had to explore it. Haven't you learned that curiosity killed the cat?"
"I must have nine lives. The AI wanted me to have time to think."
"About what?" Chloe pondered.
"I had to leave Smallville. People were starting to recognize me. I had to age nineteen year overnight."
"That must have been hard."
"Not really. I act thirty-five and people pretend not to notice. I acted thirty-five when I was twenty-one and freaked out Mayor Tate. He thought he could push me around and learned otherwise."
"You don't seem any shorter than I remember."
"I finished growing taller this year. My bones may get wider and my body hair may get thicker." Lex smiled weakly. "Not that I had hair the first time around."
"After everything I've written about in The Torch nothing freaks me out."
"Bruce said I act like a child."
"I can be pretty childish at times. We can run through puddles together." Chloe ate a piece of sushi.
Lex finished his sake and ordered tea for himself and Chloe.
"Think about what?" Chloe asked, bringing up the question the AI must have posed.
Lex played dumb.
"What did the AI want you to think about?" Chloe asked. She was a reporter after all.
"I have to speak to Clark about it since it concerns both of us," Lex said, fearing that he had said too much.
"If it concerns Clark, I understand why you wouldn't want to tell me first." Chloe bit her lip.
"We'll talk to Clark after we fire everybody. Tell me about Marie."
"I can't tell you about an old girlfriend."
"Is she the reason that you decided to move?"
"I never had my own place. I lived with Tony as soon as we graduated from Yale. After we had lived together almost two years, he proposed to me. I told him that I was unable to have a child and he wanted nothing to do with me."
"Inconsiderate asshole. Chloe, you deserve better."
"Marie and I drank the better part of a fifth of Scotch. She offered to let me stay a few weeks until I could find a place and I stayed over five years. Lex, I thought it didn't matter. Marie had a son and I didn't want other children." Chloe ate the last piece of sushi.
"I'll order more," Lex said. "You can cry on my shoulder tonight. Tomorrow, we need a strong, united front."
Lex locked the door and poured them each a glass of white wine. "No pressure." He smiled at her.
"I haven't been with a man in very long time." Chloe laughed.
"The last woman that I was with was Lois," Lex admitted. "Most of the time, I see myself as gay and then a woman catches my eye and I'm not sure."
Chloe drank more wine as if having a glass in her hand would make her bolder. "Before the incident?"
"Do you have to ask?"
Chloe put a hand on his face and looked into his blue eyes. "I feel like Mrs. Robinson. Physically, how old are you?"
"You're still a boy." Chloe kissed his forehead.
"I've stopped growing and I'm sexually mature."
"Can you handle this?" Chloe started to undress.
"I've waited so long for this." Lex hadn't done more than kiss Brittney. He felt like an adolescent, longing for a mature woman. He caressed her short blonde hair that she had spiked with mousse.
Chloe touched his cheek. "I know rationally know that I shouldn't feel like I'm robbing the cradle. You've been around the block more than I."
Lex kissed her cleavage then ran his finger along her breast. "We don't have to do more than kiss." Lex took off his shirt then his tee shirt.
"You just broke up with Jeremy. This isn't right." Chloe sat on a chair and redressed. "Lex, you deserve better than rebound sex with a dyke."
"We can talk." Lex put his tee shirt back on.
"We have a busy day ahead of us."
"I'm going to enjoy firing the staff of the Inquisitor after everything they wrote about me."
Chloe lifted an eyebrow. "You bought the paper so you could fire the staff."
"It's a side benefit." Lex smiled. "To have power in this world you need to own the media. A small paper is a start."
"You don't own me."
"Chloe, one thing that I always liked about you is that you can't be brought."
"Is that the only thing?" Chloe drank more wine.
"No. Your honesty, your integrity, your warm smile, your bustline." Lex refilled his glass.
"Well, my honesty and integrity came first."
"I'm on the gay side of bi. I'm sure Marie thought your tits ranked on the top of the list." Lex smiled before he emptied his glass.
"Marie spent many hours, saying she was my baby," Chloe admitted. "I loved her breasts; there wasn't a part of her body that I didn't love. I would complain about mine being small and she would laugh saying I had just enough."
"Your tits are very nice." Lex poured himself so more wine.
Chloe kissed his forehead. "Will you respect me in the morning?"
Lex kissed her briefly. "That isn't going to change."
After firing over half the staff of the Inquisitor, Lex asked Chloe to join him for a late lunch.
"You enjoyed firing those people," Chloe said as they were seated in a Chinese restaurant walking distance from the old Inquisitor building.
"They give real reporters a bad name," Lex said, taking a sip of water.
"And you didn't do it for Helen's memory."
"I supported several research facilities in her name. I don't fire people," Lex said in a firm voice. Helen tried to kill him, but he couldn't let the world know that. He had to let the world believe he was widowed soon after his honeymoon. There were so many secrets he had to keep.
"I didn't mean to suggest."
"A day doesn't go by when I don't miss her." Another lie. Well, he couldn't let Chloe know he killed Helen. Helen had opened her parachute and got a surprise like her pilot got a surprise.
"You're pissed that Jeremy left."
"I don't like waking up alone." Lex hated being alone more than anything. He couldn't understand why Chloe was in such a hurry to live alone; it sucked. That wasn't the right word; he would give anything to be sucking off Jeremy about now and for him to reciprocate. Jeremy had a beautiful mouth and it was probably around someone else's cock. Jeremy was a gorgeous young man living in the art district; he didn't have to wait long to find a man to fill Lex's place in his life.
"We're both nervous." Chloe said. "We don't have to date. Can we agree to be friends and stop kidding ourselves?"
"Deal." Lex shook her hand. "Chloe, sexuality isn't an all or nothing thing." Lex put his hand on her face.
"You would say that." Chloe pulled away.
"You were obsessed with Clark," Lex said.
A waitress brought out fried noodles and duck sauce like they always did at cheap Chinese restaurant. Lex put the flatware to the side of the table. "Chopsticks," he insisted like he was insulted by the flatware being on the table in the first place.
"Are you ready to order?" she asked.
"Steamed vegetables with shrimp," Lex said.
"Chicken and broccoli." Chloe asked, after the waitress left the table, "Watching your figure."
"I don't do cheap food," Lex stated.
"I always thought you were thin because of the meteorites. The truth is that you don't eat." Chloe ate the fried noodles and overly sweet sauce.
Lex poured some tea for both of them without a comment.
"I have to get back to the paper after lunch."
"Cracking the whip already." He smiled.
Lex and Chloe spend most of their time working on the paper. Chloe called her cousin Lois to suggest they get together. Lois invited her to the brownstone while Lex listened on the speakerphone. Since the brownstone was less than a mile from the loft, Chloe and Lex decided to walk.
When they reached the steps, Lex said, "Nice house. I didn't know reporters get paid that much."
"Ours don't," said Chloe.
Lois opened the door and hugged Chloe.
Lex showed Lois a bottle of white wine. "I come bearing gifts."
"So did the Greeks," said Lois.
"I don't know what I did to offend you," said Lex.
"You used me to get the inside track on Superman," said Lois.
Lex walked inside the house. "I had the inside track on Superman long before I met you."
"Cous, half the high school knew who Superman was before he graduated, only he didn't call himself that back then," Chloe said, inviting herself into the traditionally-furnished house.
Lex handed Lois the bottle. "A house-warming present."
"We've been living here for years." Lois took the bottle to the kitchen.
Lex looked at the paneled walls. "You and Clark never invited me over. Are we having Stouffers or are we going out?"
"Take a load off." Lois pointed to the sofa. "We should give the appearance of waiting for Clark."
Lex sat on the sofa near Chloe who put a hand on his knee.
"Do you know he keeps a collection of alien artifacts?" asked Lois.
"I haven't looked at my collection for years. Rich people collect things." Lex fondly recalled Ryan saying that when Lex had asked how Ryan knew about his Warrior Angel collection.
"He's obsessed with Superman," cried Lois.
"You're the one who married him," said Chloe.
"I married Clark Kent." Lois stood up and slammed her right foot on the carpet.
"The same difference," said Chloe.
"Chloe, Lois and I have different opinions on Superman. She separates the icon from the man that sleeps in her bed. I don't make such distinctions."
"You use big words and you think people won't notice you are physically what? Sixteen?" Lois sat back down on her recliner.
"Lex needed to be an adult when most of his peers were still in college," said Chloe. "You didn't know him when he took over the shit factory as my father calls it."
"When he isn't calling it the bean dip plant," added Lex. Gabe Sullivan had a lot of colorful metaphors, fertilizer humor.
"Do you know why Superman's computer reset Lex's age?" Lois, not waiting for an answer, continued talking. "No. He followed Superman to his Fortress of Solitude."
"Lois, the AI gave me a choice. Either bare Kal-el young or return to who I was before I met him. I stand by my decision." Lex had never told anyone before. He hated to think what Lois would do with such knowledge.
"I thought you were obsessed with Superman," said Lois.
"When my memories returned, I didn't rush into Clark's arms." Lex stood up, walked over to the door and went outside.
Chloe joined him on the porch step and put an arm around him. "Do you want to go home?"
"I can handle Lois."
"You're allowed to hurt." Chloe hugged him.
"He would end up hating me."
"Why did you answer no?"
"I didn't want a computer telling me what to do and who to marry."
Chloe hugged him some more. "So freewill won out."
Clark arrived. "What are you doing on my step?"
"We came to words with Lois," said Chloe.
"Lois has that way with people," Clark said. "Are you ready to head out for dinner?"
"No Stouffers," said Chloe.
"I know this great Chinese restaurant," Clark said. "Let me change out of this suit and I'll be right with you."
"Clark, do you know the other choice I could have made at the fortress?" Lex asked.
"Lara told me," said Clark.
"I told Lois," Lex said. "I'm sorry."
"Let's go to dinner," Chloe said.
"Lex, we need to talk." Clark smiled at him and Lex could never refuse Clark's smile.
"Sure." Lex followed Clark to guest bedroom.
Clark put his hand on Lex's shoulder. "I thought you loved me."
Lex, looking into those green eyes, felt like he had cotton in his mouth. "You never returned my love. I'm a boy and you're Superman. It's the past."
"Your pain is real."
"Clark, it's my pain." Lex walked out of the bedroom and went downstairs. His pain was also real when Clark insisted that Lex never hit him with the Porsche. Clark never cared about his pain. "Chloe, we're leaving." Lex took her hand.
"Another time," said Chloe. "I could make us something."
"We can stop at a restaurant on the way back," Lex said in a soft voice.
After they walked over two blocks, Chloe asked, "What did he say?"
"That I made the wrong choice."
"So, is he going to divorce Lois and marry you?"
"No." Lex felt as if Chloe could see right through him. He was a fairly androgynous bisexual man, but he was still a man.
"I wouldn't let what he said bother you. He isn't a great catch. Lois spends most nights alone."
Lex did his monthly check on the Smallville fertilizer plant and the Talon. "Gabe, everything is running at peak efficiency." Lex handed Gabe a paper. "Read this."
Gabe unfolded the tabloid size paper, The Metropolis Herald. "The Herald?"
"We were thinking about calling it the Torch after the school paper, but less than twenty-five puns later we decided against it. Chloe was still saying things about hot leads and the weather being a scorcher when we agreed on the Herald."
"Superman saves the Space Station," said Gabe.
"It's a mock-up: Two international headlines, three national ones. One that may be used as a cover story. We want our cover story to be local news as often as possible. We strive to be a hometown paper. The Planet has the staff to do the national and international news. Our focus will be sports, entertainment and local politics. I look forward to your daughter's take no prisoners editorials."
"This is a fake paper."
"It's a dummy. It shows our advertisers and distributors what our paper will look like once it hits the stands."
"You've been spending long hours with my daughter."
"I've spend long hours with you. I'm a hands-on person, but the Herald is her baby."
Gabe handed Lex the paper. "Why hire a twenty-nine year old to run your paper?"
"I believe in talent. I was twenty-one when I started Lexcorp. You put a second mortgage on your house because you believed in me."
Gabe looked through it. "The Sharks won the Superbowl."
"One can dream. We have a great sports photographer. His close-ups will sell the paper. Your daughter has a great eye for talent."
"She takes after her old man."
"I never thanked you."
"You've listened to my bad shit jokes for years," Gabe said. "How about a tour?"
After Lex returned from Smallville, Chloe put an arm around him. "You have time to decide. His sperm is at Star Labs."
"It is?' Lex leaned back on the sofa.
"I have my sources." Chloe laughed. "You make the decision that is right for you."
"Clark is married to Lois."
"Star Labs. Lois doesn't need to know a thing." Chloe rested against him. "It's your choice and yours alone."
Lex looked into Chloe's eyes. "Will you marry me?"
"No with an explanation.'
Lex turned his head away from Chloe. "Explain."
Chloe put a hand on Lex's lap and the other on his cheek. "Emotionally, you are still a child. Also you have a large decision to make. I'm willing to compromise. You get another bedroom built and I'll move in."
"You won't sleep with me."
"I can't have sex with a child. Pouting doesn't make you more grown up." Chloe kissed Lex's cheek. "It will all work out. I need to put the paper to bed. " After waving good-bye to Lex, Chloe left the loft.
Lex thought back to the way she licked a lollipop and wanted to be that lollipop. Lex dressed in a large tee shirt and boxers to paint. He found an incomplete painting and whited it out to start a new one. After washing his hands, he found a photo on his computer to print out as a model. He put the photo by the easel and began painting Helen in her lab coat with her hair pinned up; he could throw darts at it later after he painted the horns on her head. As he made himself a small dinner, the phone rang.
"Clark, what a surprise."
"I wonder if I could visit."
"I'm only painting."
"Lois is out of town for a news conference," Clark said. "And we need to talk."
"Come over. I'll buy you a box of Ding Dongs."
"I can afford my own junk food," Clark said. "I'll be over in a few minutes."
Lex put on a pair of jeans then returned to his dinner. Clark arrived in less than ten minutes carrying a box of Ho Ho's. "Have some grapes," Lex suggested. "You colon will thank you."
"You have been hanging out Mr. Sullivan too often," Clark stated.
Lex ate the grapes. "He oversees my Smallville plant; besides, I just asked his daughter to marry me."
Clark sat down on the sofa and started eating his junk food "Congratulation."
"She said no. She agreed to live with me. Here I'm the most available man in Metropolis and I can't get a date," Lex said.
"Sure," Lex said, moving his grapes to the coffee table. "Lois and I always fight."
"You made the wrong choice at the fortress," Clark said.
"You aren't going to kiss me." Lex ate some more grapes.
"Would it help?" Clark made eye contact with Lex. "Do you love me?" Clark touched Lex's chin.
"You know that I do. Clark, this is wrong; you're married to Lois."
"Lara doesn't think Lois is good enough for me. The program won't make it possible for Lois to have my children," Clark said.
"I can't reason with an AI," Lex stated. Clark looked so beautiful, smiling at him. It took all Lex's strength not to kiss him. Lex couldn't go to the fortress. His appearing there would be the same thing as saying yes to Lara.
"Tell me that you don't want to have my children." Clark ate three more snack cakes.
"Not if they have an appetite like yours." Lex couldn't stop thinking about having Clark's children. He stared at every pregnant woman that passed; he couldn't get it out of his head. He feared that he would start painting pregnant women. "Lois is an intelligent, beautiful woman."
"I wish Lara would see it," Clark's eyes were seducing him.
"You could adopt," Lex said.
"We'll talk about it. If Lois gets the position as city editor, I might take a job with the International office translating the stuff that comes over the wire. I could quit work and help you raise our child." Clark wasn't saying this.
"Lois would want to kill us both." Lex didn't want to think about raising children with Clark. He wasn't dependable. He would leave an infant alone to stop a fire or prevent a robbery, but he was so handsome.
"Lois is a better reporter than I."
"Superman couldn't raise children full time. Clark, it wouldn't work."
"I want you to know that I never hated you." Clark finished his box of junk food. "Do you have more?"
"I told you that I should have stocked up. I eat only health food and you eat nothing but junk; we would never get alone."
"Maybe our kids will eat in moderation."
"Obsession is in the genes," Lex teased. Lex filled a plate with carrot and celery slices. "I'm sorry I caused a confrontation between you and your wife."
Clark almost appeared to be drooling when he looked at Lex. "This is hurting me as much as this is hurting you."
"We would never get along."
"Good luck. I wish you and Chloe the best."
After finished the painting of Helen, Lex found a painting that he didn't finish of Superman flying and completed working on it. He liked the wind blowing Superman's red cape. He would sell his Superman paintings at Smallville Open Air Show. Smiling at the finishing touches he added to Clark's face, he painted a more realistic background. He wasn't going to be embarrassed by his obsessions.
Chloe arrived in the loft near eleven. "I'll make some coffee."
"Be my guest," Lex said.
Chloe filled a bowl with grapes. "So you've been painting."
"I'm going to be in the Smallville Open Air Show," Lex said.
"You better register. It's in less than two weeks," Chloe said.
"I will on Monday. Grandville and two other nearby towns have summer art shows. I'm going to start to see a therapist." Lex poured spring water into the coffee maker.
"I'll have the entertainment section cover the local art shows. We had a half page article on pick your own fruit this Wednesday. I can't believe the number of classified in the second issue."
"You're doing well. Let's not talk about the paper."
"It's like a large version of the Torch. Only the front pages are international and national news and we pay for it over the wire."
"It isn't much bigger than the Yale paper." Chloe poured two cups of coffee.
"The Yale paper probably had more reporters." Lex took a cup.
"I'm so excited." Chloe kissed Lex and ruffled his hair. He had about an inch of growth.
Lex put his hand on Chloe's bottom. "What do I need to do is stop you from talking?"
"That is good." Chloe pulled away from his touch. Wearing a skimpy lingerie, she joined him shortly in his bedroom and wrapped her arms around him. "This is nice."
Lex pressed his head to her chest. "It is."
"I'm not exactly your type." Chloe kissed his shoulder.
Chloe started to laugh.
"What is it?"
"When I was a teenager, I couldn't manage a conversation with you."
Lex's hand moved over her ass. "You handled yourself well when you interviewed me." Lex started to kiss her thigh and worked his way up. His tongue reached her innermost regions. No child could give cunny like that.
Chloe screamed as she looked at the ceiling. Afterwards, Chloe rested her head on his chest. "I can't marry you."
"Why?" Lex knew the answer.
"Lex, you have problems."
"I'll see a therapist. I won't shut you out." Lex stroked her back. "I don't get a full erection. Lara doesn't want me to mate with anyone other than her son."
"You give cunny like that and you don't need to do more."
"Did you ever feel like destroying Superman?"
"No." Chloe gasped.
"Not after he left you at the Spring Formal and used you to make Lana jealous."
A small smile crossed her face. "Sometimes, late at night when I'm all alone and have to make deadline. I hated him when he didn't turn his articles in on time."
"You made a deal with the devil."
"Your father is not the devil." Chloe put a hand on his hand because she couldn't think with him touching her.
"He's a close second," Lex said. "Clark only came to me when he needed help. 'My friend Kyle is hurt. Ryan needs help.' I let him use me."
"That was years ago."
"He asked me for help earlier today and I refused to give it to him, but I was so tempted."
"You were in lust with him." Chloe stroked his short hair.
"I was obsessed. He smiled at me and I did anything."
"I did the same thing. I was Clark's personal search engine for years."
Lex smiled. "At least, you got stories for your effort."
"Does he know his smile is a stronger weapon than all his superpowers combined?" Chloe sat up a moment. "There are plenty of tall, gorgeous men in Metropolis."
"If you don't meet one, I'll fix you up and I know how much you hate to date reporters."
"That is a threat." Lex kissed Chloe's neck. "Are you moving in?"
"It's better than living alone."
Also, why not join
Level Three, the Smallville all-fic list?