Nothing was as important to Lionel Luthor, during those moments when he ordered the shock treatment to start, as self-control. It had to remain his entire core, so that he would be able to do what was necessary. To order the second shock, and seeing no response, a third. After the fourth, he finally saw the change and could put an end to it. But now was no time to abandon that control, to let himself gather in his arms the silent, limp figure that combined rival, victim, heir, possession, and child. He might not have noticed the doctor's frozen pose as the results of the EEG appeared on the screen if he had.
"What is it?" Control let him make it a harsh demand.
"You knew the odds," the physician started to protest, but Lionel cut him off. "What is it?"
"The...his...I did warn you...the-"
Terrified, the doctor could only nod.
It was like a roll call of the dead as, later that day, the specialist Lionel summoned reported her findings, naming the areas and the damage. Hippocamus. Memory. Profound damage. Prefrontal cortex. Higher-order thoughts and decision-making. Profound damage. Broca's area. Speech. Primary motor cortex. Voluntary motion. Reticular formation. Capacity to process information. All those areas, while expected to be dormant while the coma lasted, had a high likelihood of damage.
As Lionel stroked Lex's face after the specialist had left, he surrendered control enough to whisper "I'm sorry, Lex. I'm sorry," words he knew were spoken only to go unheeded.
The coma lasted 36 hours and Lex then passed into deep sleep for another 72, all under the watchful eyes of the experts Lionel had convened.
"Will there be-what other functions will he regain?" He loathed being the recipient of pity and worse, knowing that their pity was for a tragedy he had to admit he played some part in creating. He saw that pity all too visibly before one of them spoke.
"He may regain others. Probably the earliest-learned behaviors and those with the most direct biological roots. These early days are critical but it's not always true that after approximately 90 days, a patient won't make any further progress." After a pause, during which the Cambridge neurologist was clearly debating with himself, he added, "It's a cliche, but while there's life, there is hope."
He felt as though his own force of will had been strong enough to awaken Lex, to open his eyes, to restore the most basic movements, but to do no more than that. His will was infinite, but the body's response had been all too finite. As Lionel wearily returned to Lex's room, the only hope he could see was shattered behind his son's immobile and pallid face.
The clinic was one of the best in the world, the staff first class, the security excellent, and the patients' rooms were as luxurious as a fine hotel's, but Lionel was determined to bring Lex home as soon as the doctors said it would be safe to do so. He wanted a general and therapeutic staff dedicated only to Lex's care and under his own direct control to fire if there were any lapses and to add to as he saw fit.
He'd asked about the clinic's staffing earlier, casually, and learned that their rigorous and lengthy recruitment process, as well as their huge expenditures on ongoing training made an excellent shortcut for him. After having their credentials and background rechecked by his own staff, he offered quadruple pay to the therapist who had accomplished more than the doctors had thought possible, reteaching Lex to walk and to grasp objects, the nurse who was especially good at guessing if he was in discomfort and remedying it, and a masseur who had taken particular trouble with the rubbing and stretching to keep his joints and limbs from losing function during the earlier days when Lex could make only small and random movements.
He also wanted the protection of a security staff perfectly ready to trample any number of others underfoot if it meant keeping Lex even marginally safer. Lex would be entirely unprepared to defend himself and Lionel was keenly aware what a target that would make him for a kidnaper or somebody holding a grudge. An unexpectedly profound anxiety filled him at the thought of Lex being brutally treated, wretchedly uncomprehending and terrified.
He spent most of his days at the clinic, quite capable of running business from there, and spent little time in his office. For whatever reason, possibly only a biological instinct, Lex wanted his presence. He smiled when he saw Lionel, leaned into his touches, and reached for his hand. Even if it was only his own biological instincts responding to a drastic change in his role as a parent, he wanted to give that to his son.
Dominic had come in secret to try to bribe the doctors to tell Lionel his presence was in fact hampering Lex's progress. When they informed him, he asked them to express interest and call him back and on Dominic's return, fired him on the spot. He was surprised that his anger was as much for Lex's sake as for the attempted deception.
Even once he had brought Lex back to Smallville, which he judged would be the most familiar and peaceful of their many homes, he felt no urgency to leave. When he finally arranged to make the mansion his permanent residence, it seemed as though he had made the decision long ago. Lex sought his presence even more than before, now that he was steady enough to move about unassisted, and Lionel even developed the habit of sitting only on the couches, as Lex would almost inevitably come to sit next to him and responded with what appeared to be contentment when Lionel put an arm about him or drew him closer to rest his head against his shoulder.
The specialists recommended talking to Lex, keeping him surrounded with speech, on any or no particular topic, to try to revive his own capacity, and that, too, felt oddly natural, as he read reports or news or simply thought out loud, no longer closely examining to see if Lex showed any flicker of comprehension or response. Once, thinking for an instant that he had seen Lex's eyes moving as though he were reading the documents in Lionel's lap, he eagerly stared and exclaimed, which only overwhelmed Lex into withdrawing into immobility, then wrapping his arms around himself and rocking back and forth for hours.
In other days, when his role was to prepare Lex for a world where all those surrounding him would take any advantage they could, he would have pushed and demanded, but now, when barring a miraculous recovery, he would be surrounded only by those tending to him, he could indulge both his son and himself.
Clark Kent visited nearly every day and Martha at least once a week. Even Jonathan Kent must have overcome his aversions in order to visit, talking to Lex with a warmth and gentleness that made Lionel fight to stifle thoughts of the nurturing that Clark must have received.
The visits continued long after sentimentality or pity alone would have dictated and Lionel selected an opportune moment to ask all three to visit one evening. It was child's play to persuade them to agree to become Lex's guardians in the event of his death or incapacity. All he had to do was say they were the only people he knew who would truly want to help and then paint a heart-rending image of Lex's lonely plight if they refused. He wondered if Jonathan was going to sanctimoniously declare that it was Lionel's fault there was nobody else he could ask, but he did agree as quickly as Martha and Clark did. Clark was his particular concern, since he doubted that Martha or Jonathan would outlive him, but his consent was immediate and wholehearted.
Clark was there the day that Lex had a nearly disastrous fall. The therapist had assisted Lex up and down stairs often enough that he assured Lionel that he was capable of taking them unassisted. Lex was walking down the stairs just as Clark came in, and as Lionel looked up the stairs, Clark followed his glance and grinned at the sight. Without warning, Lex lost his balance mid-step, tumbling down several stairs before Lionel plunged up the stairs to catch him before he fell further. Though Clark had only jerked, not moved, at first, he followed Lionel only seconds later, and stayed with Lex as Lionel called for the nurse. She agreed with Clark's strangely firm assertions that Lex hadn't broken anything and Clark carefully carried Lex to his room. When Lionel returned from having the nurse call a doctor to come and make certain, and ordering a search for a new therapist to start that instant, Clark was sitting next to the bed, an expression of profound guilt and misery on his face. "Lex, I'm sorry," he said, getting up when he saw Lionel. "I should have been able to catch you. I should have caught you."
Clark was also there a few days later, when one of the physicians came for the first time to perform a brain activity scan. Lex froze at the sight of her, then bolted past Clark to Lionel, clinging to him, eyes wide with terror. Lionel felt a surge of unanticipated triumph that Lex had sought his protection, rather than Clark's, and in a fierce unwillingness to sacrifice this, told her to leave, he'd arrange it again for later, perhaps in a few months. Clark inadvertently sweetened the triumph by looking disconcerted, even put out, and he felt himself smiling.
That night, after Lex slowly closed his bedroom door, a frown of concentration on his face, a remarkably similar smile emerged. It didn't leave as he retrieved a notebook from a locked box in his closet and began to write careful, precise notes from Lionel's description of a planned entry into the aerospace market after his arrangements to topple the existing giants came to fruition sometime in early 2006.
"After all," he murmured to himself, "I told you that I heal quickly." As he got into bed, he added, "And you've always told me to follow your example."
AN: This one had lots of help from thediehard who liked it and had suggestions when I wasn't sure if it was tripe or not. So this time she gets credit, not blame!
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