"The hardest battle of your life is the one you didn't even know you were fighting"
Lionel Luthor stepped out of his car and marched towards Smallville High. It seems the Sullivan girl needed a personal reminder of just where her place was in this relationship. He certainly wasn't impressed by her pathetic attempt to blackmail him and hide behind Lex. He picked the lock on the doors to the gym, and headed towards the room where the school rag was put together and where Sullivan would no doubt currently be pasting together the next bit of gossip on a computer that was not her own. He stopped outside the half-open door when he heard a second voice, ducking to the side beind the door to avoid being seen until whoever was with Chloe left...
It was 7:30 on a Friday night and Chloe Sullivan was sitting at the school's (decidely poorer quality) computer, trying her best to paste together the next issue of The Torch in time for the deadline while Lana was sitting on the edge of another desk, trying her best distract her as much as possible. Lana had been rather shaken up by the incident with Magnet Boy and was spending as little time by herself that she could avoid. Clark and Pete had gone camping for the weekend, so that left poor Chloe to deal with Lana.
"Well I guess we both share one talent: attracting meteor freaks" Lana quipped.
"Yes, it would appear that we do." Chloe's patience was wearing thin. She wanted to get this done, preferably before midnight. "I'd really appreciate it if you'd let me get this paper finished. It's hard enough on this dinosaur of a computer.."
"What happened to the old one?"
"A certain bastard's hired goon stole it." Chloe's temper flared again at the thought of it. Her hated for Lionel Luthor was unparalled. She'd never felt as frustrated or trapped in her life. Nevermind the embarassment of having to hide behind the man's own son, of all people. Chloe had always prided herself on being able to handle her own problems. Until now...
"A certain bastard?"
"One Lionel Luthor."
"Why on Earth would he..?"
Chloe immediately cut off her question. "Don't worry about Lana, it doesn't concern you." Lana seemed taken aback. Chloe wasn't her biggest fan ever, but she wasn't usually this sharp with her.
"Fine, fine, I'll drop it.." She went back to kicking her heels against the desk and watching Chloe type, delete, and retype. After a few minutes of silence, she spoke up again out of boredom.
"You shouldn't let Lionel Luthor get to you, you know. He's not really worth getting upset. If anything, both Luthors deserve pity and nothing else..."
"You've got to be kidding me.." Chloe stared at Lana like she was a circus freak.
"No, seriously. I'm not joking. Lionel Luthor is rather pathetic."
"Well I know that much, but..."
"... But He doesn't have as much power as he thinks he does. Listen to me for a minute. I'm not lying!"
"Fine, I'm listening. Go on, impress me."
"Think about it. He couldn't walk away from that company and money of his if his life depended on it. Or even his own son's for that matter. It dictates every move he makes. He has no friends and scores of enemies. Even Lex can't stand him. He's sacrificed everything to that idol. It's a demon of his own creation and he doesn't even realize it."
"So what? He likes it that way. Being a greedy heartless bastard is his favorite pastime."
"No, listen. I'm not finished. He just thinks he likes it, but he's really miserable! He holds onto this illusion of power because he'd be too scared to live without it. He's drunk on it. He's like a heroin junkie. And he can't stand the thought of not being in control of everything, but he doesn't even realize that he has no control over himself, that he's really under control of money and this false 'power' of his."
"I think maybe you're just jealous because he's up to his ears in money and influence and you get chased by freaks on a regular basis" Chloe didn't really like where this conversation was headed. Why the hell did Lana have to bring up Lionel Luthor? That was the last subject she wanted to think about right now.
"Chloe, you're not listening to me. Yes, he has power and influence, but he's like King Midas. Everything he touches turns to gold, but he's starving. He'll grow old and die completely miserable and alone and unmourned and his empire will fall apart and all his treasures will turn to dust and there'll be nothing worthwhile left behind. Hell, the only good thing that's ever come from Lionel Luthor is Lex and he's doing his damnedest to destroy him too."
Chloe was not quite prepared to feel sorry for the man who was probably plotting her death as she sat there, but she wasn't in the mood to argue.
"Fine, Lana, whatever you say. Now for the love of all that's holy, please just let me finish this issue..."
Lana sighed and stood up. Chloe obviously wasn't in the mood to keep a goldfish company, much less herself. She walked out of the door and down the dark hall, leaving the school and driving home alone.
Neither girl noticed the dark-haired man who'd been eavesdropping on their conversation from the shadows. Nor did Lana notice when she walked passed him, nor as he slipped out the door behind her. Chloe would never know that Lionel had planned on further harassing her that night, nor would she ever have the chance to wonder why he aborted that plan and many others regarding her.
Lex walked into his father's office early in the morning, ready for yet another bout of verbal fencing over the plans he'd proposed for cutting production costs over the next fiscal year. Lionel didn't even look up at him when he stood before the desk.
"Dad? Did you read the report I sent?" Lionel flinched slightly, looking up at Lex briefly before looking back down at the papers on his desk.
Lex was worried. His father never flinched. His father was never surprised. His father always looked him straight in the eye when speaking to him. Was he ill?
"Yes, I did."
Lex looked at him suspiciously. "Aren't you going to fight me on this?"
"No, son, I'm not." Now Lex was really worried. His father must be seriously ill.
"Are you okay?"
"I'm fine, Lex."
Lex put his palms down on the desk and leaned over his father. What was wrong with him? "Are you sure?"
Lionel finally looked up at Lex and briefly ran his fingertips down Lex's forearm before resting them on the back of his hand."Yes, Lex, I'm quite sure." He half-smiled at his son before withdrawing. "And I'm quite busy, if you don't mind..."
Lex stood up and backed away.
"Fine, I suppose I'll leave you to it..." He turned and walked out of the room, shaking his head, wondering what had just happened.
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