The Amazing Romance of Luthor and Kent
It wasn't the first time that investigative reporter Lex Luthor was being chased by a car but it was looking to be his last. Shit, he thought as he ran down the empty streets in the shadier, industrial part of Metropolis. I finally get a good lead and the security alarm goes off. He ran towards the chain link fence, hoping to get over before the car could hit him.
A second later, he felt himself swept off his feet and a sudden acceleration upwards that happened all in a blur. He blinked and realized he was being carried several stories off the ground with no visible means of support in someone's arms. He turned to face his savior.
The names of various Renaissance painters came to his lips but he found himself speechless when he saw the man's face. Green eyes, flushed cheeks and dark hair dazzled his senses. He's so gorgeous he can't be possibly be human, he thought.
He felt them both land on a nearby rooftop and was gently let down. Before he could say anything, the man in a strange blue costume with a red cape flew so fast back down to the ground it reminded him of teleportation. Lex watched in fascination as the man wrapped the two thugs who had gotten out of the car to see where Lex had gone with pieces of the chain link fence like one wraps a piece of candy in its wrapper. He was about to pull out a camera when the man turned to look up at him and flew back to stand in front of him.
"Are you all right?" said the man.
"I'm fine," said Lex. "I've been on a lot of airlines but that was the best flight ever. Let me introduce myself, I'm Lex Luthor, reporter for the Daily Planet." He flashed him his press badge and gave the man an appraising look. Hmm, he thought, his body's nearly as breathtaking as his face. "I was following up on a lead. Those gentlemen you gift wrapped were trying to dissuade me with a couple tons of steel. What's your name?"
"Some people around town call me Superman."
"So, you're the one. An apt name, glad to finally see you in the flesh," Lex purred while smirking naughtily.
Superman looked as if he was trying to repress a smile but a corner of his mouth quirked up a little.
"I hope we get to meet again."
"I don't think that's a good idea."
"It'll mean that you've gotten yourself in trouble again," the man said before flying away.
"Trouble is what I'm all about," said Lex softly.
"Lex, it's me, Julian."
Lex smiled at the sound of his brother's voice.
"The new Warrior Angel comic series is supposed to show how Warrior Angel and Devilicus became enemies. And the artist is Alex Ross! I'm getting a copy on Thursday. Are you going to be busy this Saturday? Ramon said he'd cover for me. I'll call you later."
Lex sighed, erased the message and sat down in front of his computer to write an article about what had transpired that afternoon. This should make the front pages, he thought after he clicked send on his e-mail to Perry, editor of the Daily Planet.
"What, Perry?" he said, not bothering to look away from his computer screen. He was a bit miffed that his story had been put on the second page of the local section of today's newspaper and shrunk to the size of a postage stamp. He could also sense from the slightly unctuous tone of his voice that Perry wanted him to do something he might not want to do.
"I'd like to introduce you to your new partner."
"I don't . . ." said Lex before looking up from his screen. He stopped mid-sentence when he saw the tall man standing next to his boss.
The man was wearing a tan corduroy jacket, navy slacks, a white shirt, unflattering glasses with dark frames, a red tie and boots that were suited more for a farm rather than an office. The suitcase he was holding was a basic black leather one that was noticeably battered. It was an utter fashion disaster but the outfit couldn't hide his cheekbones, the sweet smile and the beautiful complexion. Even the mussed up hair looked good on him.
"Lex Luthor," said Perry. "This is Clark Kent."
"Nice to meet you," said Clark. "I hope that you won't mind my being your partner."
"I don't think that'll be too much of a problem." Lex leaned back in his chair to better enjoy the view.
Perry said, "I've already given Clark the guided tour. He'll be sitting next to you from now on." He pointed Clark to the desk that was a few feet away from Lex's. "I'll leave you two to get better acquainted," he said before walking back to his office.
"If you like, we could have lunch and you can tell me more about yourself," said Lex.
"Um, sure, but there's not much to tell."
"Need help setting up your desk?"
"No, I can manage."
"Well, welcome to the Daily Planet," said Lex, holding out his hand. "Tell me if there's anything you need."
"Thanks." Clark shook his hand. Lex couldn't help but notice how large his hand was.
Lex turned back to his computer but occasionally snuck glances at Clark. Clark was putting up a calendar of pastoral landscapes, took out a mug that had a black and white pattern reminiscent of Jersey milk cows and a picture of a red-headed woman and a blond man, presumably his parents. Hmmmm, a farm boy, he thought. He quietly noted that there was no picture of a girlfriend and that his new partner had no wedding ring.
"No, I'm fine."
"So, where do you come from?"
"Smallville. It's . . ."
"A farming community, isn't it?"
"You've been there?"
"Once, a long, long time ago when I was a child. My father took me." There was a brief flash of memory of fire falling from the sky and a dark cloud of dust and falling . . . He closed his eyes.
"Are you OK?"
Lex opened his eyes. "I'm fine. Where did you get your degree?"
Clark relaxed. "University of Kansas, Metropolis."
"Summa cum laude."
"I'm impressed. Why journalism?"
"I enjoy doing the research and the writing. Hey, you should let me ask you a few questions. How did you end up working here?"
"Let's say I had access to information that not even the reporters could get. I also had a way with words so I ended up a staff writer. Maybe Perry wouldn't have hired me without the marquee value of my name but nobody in the office will say that I didn't earn my desk."
"You're really . . ."
Lex sighed. "I'm Lionel Luthor's eldest son, yes. He disowned me quite a few years ago. All I have is what my mother left me in a trust after she died. Even my father couldn't take that away from me. I bet that there's another question that you're dying to ask but you're afraid it'll come off as rude. Let me answer it for you. I lost my hair during the meteor shower in Smallville and it never grew back."
"I wasn't going to ask . . ."
"I figured that I'd tell you ahead of time rather than have you ask other people in the office what happened. Everybody seems to want to know," said Lex, sweeping a self-conscious hand over his scalp.
"I happen to think you look good bald. It's very striking."
Lex smiled at that. "Got people back home?"
"Just my parents."
"No siblings or significant others?" Sounds good so far, he thought.
Clark shook his head. "Just my mom and dad. You said you were the eldest son."
"Ah, good, you're listening. I have a younger brother named Julian." Lex took out his wallet and showed Clark a picture of a gawky teenager with short red hair and blue eyes who looked ill at ease in his school uniform. "I think he's going to become the next Bill Gates."
"You keep in touch?"
"From time to time, even though our father discourages him from talking to me. I didn't want to . . ."
"Want to what?"
"Maybe I'll tell you some other time. Know what you want to order?"
Clark looked down at the menu and said, "What do you recommend?"
"How about the duck?"
They spent the rest of the hour, alternating between eating and chatting about the little idiosyncrasies of the people in the office.
Despite Clark's protests, Lex had insisted on taking him shopping so he'd be presentable at the function. Much to Lex's irritation, Clark continued to wear his very unstylish glasses and kept his hair mussed. Still, Lex thought as he compared Clark to the more stylish men and women that filled the room, he's the one I can't stop looking at. He smiled at the bemused delight in Clark's eyes.
"Shouldn't this type of thing be handled by the social reporter?"
"Clark, this is an opportunity."
"Look at it this way, you get to see the people in power up close, maybe find out a few things about them. Like how well they handle alcohol . . . or not. Liquor lubricates the tongue, never know what someone will say after they've drunk their fifth glass of champagne. See that brunette over there." said Lex, waving towards a lovely woman in a black dress with his hand without pointing. "That's Helen Bryce. She's an interesting one. Three years ago, she married a very wealthy mutual acquaintance of ours only to have him die in a tragic car crash after the honeymoon. There's persistent rumors that she's a black widow. It doesn't keep her from showing up at functions like this, though."
"And that white-haired man without wrinkles over there. Botox," said Lex, gesturing towards the old but smooth-faced owner of the radio station KOWS.
Clark coughed to cover his laughter.
"And see that man standing in the far corner, looking glum. He's Dominic Senatori. He's my father's right hand man."
"A friend of yours?"
"Absolutely not. While I was still in my father's good graces, he hated me because he saw me as standing between him and future control of Luthercorp. With me out of the way, he's transferred a great deal of his hatred towards Julian. He still hates me for . . . other things."
Clark raised an eyebrow and parted his lips to ask about what other things Lex had done to make Dominic hate him but decided not to. "Do you miss this?"
"The ostentatious displays of my father's wealth and place in the social hierarchy? Nah, I hated them. I especially hated the Christmas parties."
"I meant the life."
Lex thought for a second before answering. "Sometimes, I miss the ease of access to everything. But I found out who my friends were once I was disowned."
"None of them. To be honest, there's only one reason I came here . . ."
Lex turned to see his brother walking towards him from across the ballroom. "Julian."
"What are you doing here?" said Julian as he tugged at his collar, looking as ill at ease as he did in the photo.
"Covering the event. Let me introduce you to my co-worker. Clark, this is my brother Julian. Julian, this is Clark. I'm showing him the ropes."
"Hi," said Clark.
"Hi," said Julian before turning back to Lex. "Did you really get rescued by Superman?"
"Of course, I don't work for the Inquisitor, you know."
"Wow, that sounds like something right out of Warrior Angel. What was it like? My friends have been bugging me for details."
"Well . . ."
"Ah, there you are, Julian," said a voice.
They all turned to see a man with a beard and a full head of hair walk towards them. He gave Lex a chilly look which Lex returned in kind. He turned towards Julian and said, "Come with me. I've some people you really must meet."
Lex watched as Julian walked with Lionel but give him a helpless backwards glance. He swallowed his pain then said, "And that is our father, Lionel Luthor."
Clark leaned over and whispered, "I rather like your brother, your dad not so much." He put a comforting hand on Lex's shoulder. "Hey, let me get you a glass of champagne."
Lext touched his hand to acknowledge the gesture. "Hey, no drinking on the job. We're here to cover this event."
Lex looked up from his plate of enchiladas. "We are. It's a miracle."
"Our father liked to set us against each. He liked to say that Julian was the heir and I was the spare."
Clark looked disgusted. "Why would he do that?"
"Because he figured that we should be each other's competition."
"Didn't your mom say anything?"
"Our mother died when Julian was three. She had heart trouble but she didn't want to die until she saw him walk, saw him say his first word. When she saw him do both, she kept telling herself that she had to see other firsts. But there are limits to what willpower can do . . ."
"That's all right. It happened a long time ago. My father thought that he could now totally make us over in his own image except he made one fatal miscalculation."
"He didn't count on the fact that we'd end up depending on each other. After she died, our nanny Pamela left . . . He hired a whole string of nannies, most of them staying only for a few months. I guess he wanted to make sure we didn't bond with any of them like we had with Pamela. He tried to make us look to him as the only stable person in our lives. When my mother married my father, her entire family cut ties with them. They didn't even show up for the wedding, so it was just my father, my brother and me. Thing was that he was a much better business man than a father so he left us on our own a lot. We were all that either of us had until he finally got rid of me, too."
"That's really messed up," said Clark, shaking his head.
"I bet your family's a lot more like `Leave It to Beaver' or some sort of Rockefeller painting."
Clark looked down at his taco plate. "Actually . . . no. I . . . I've had problems with my dad, too. Looking back, I feel ashamed of a lot of the things I've done."
"Clark, you're talking to someone who used to be the God Emperor of bad boy behavior. Drinking, clubbing, getting into fights, partying with a rough crowd, ended up having to go to the hospital to get my stomach pumped . . . I guarantee you that there's nothing you could say that could shock me."
Clark hesitated before saying, "Growing up in a small town . . . you're expected to do what your dad did before you. The thing is that my dad was a farmer who never really got ahead. As much as I love my father, I figured out that I didn't want to BE him. It wasn't just about the money. I didn't agree with him on a lot of things but I didn't have the guts to speak up for myself. Life in Smallville may look idyllic but there was a lot of things I saw there that a casual visitor would never notice. There were so much that everyone knew about but nobody really talked about. I got so tired of it that I ran away one summer . . . My father had to track me down and drag me back home. I really hurt him and a lot of other people . . ." A slightly bitter smile graced his face. "I was so mixed up. You would've hated me in high school."
"I wasn't exactly easy to live with in high school, either. I think you turned out all right," he said.
"I . . . don't know why but even though I haven't known you that long, it seems like . . ."
"Seems like . . ."
"It's like I . . . I could talk to you about almost anything."
"I'm really flattered, Clark."
They smile at each other and continue eating.
"Hey, want one of my tacos?"
"Sure, if you take one of my enchiladas."
"Almost," said Lex, standing in his grey sweat pants and sweatshirt. "I just need to finish putting on my shoes."
Clark walked in and saw pictures on the coffee table. He walked over to take a closer look and picked them up. There was a picture of Lex as a teenager holding hands with a red-headed toddler on the coffee table. There was another picture of Julian smiling and riding on Lex's shoulders, holding on to his brother's bald head while Lex held on to his legs. He smiled at the sight before putting them down. "You two are so cute. How old were you guys?"
Lex had finished tightening and tying the laces of his shoes and stood up. "I was fifteen while Julian was three." Lex saw the answering machine's button blink and said, "It's probably from Julian." He pushed the button. "He must've called while I was taking a shower."
Julian's exasperated voice said, "Lex, are you there? Or are you out with your new boyfriend? Anyway, call me! Bye!"
Beep, intoned the machine, End of messages.
Lex blinked then looked at Clark. "I . . ."
Lex sighed, "I date men. I guess he assumed that . . . Does that bother you? I mean about Julian . . ." Lex wasn't given an opportunity to finish his sentence. He found himself against the wall of his apartment with Clark leaning his frame into him and kissing him. After a second of surprise, he relaxed, closed his eyes and pressed himself against Clark.
When they came up for breath and opened their eyes, they both smiled at each other, partly from relief and partly from the mutual understanding that both had an interest in the other that was more than platonic.
"So how about we jog over to my place? It's just ten minutes away," said Clark, his hands on Lex's hips.
"We could just stay here instead of going out jogging." Lex licked his lips suggestively.
"I went to my parents' house yesterday. My mom gave me a couple apple pies to take home. I thought maybe you'd like a slice."
"How could I possibly resist?"
"How did you do on your finals?"Lex said.
"OK, I guess. They were all pretty easy."
"What are you going to do for the summer?"
Julian looked up and made a face. "Dad wants me to work for him. He already gave me an ID and my own office. My summer now officially sucks." Julian sighed in an overly dramatic manner then decided to sit cross-legged near the coffee table.
"Don't worry, Clark and I'll . . ."
Julian's fist came down hard on the coffee table, causing the pictures of them to fall face down. "All you talk about nowadays is Clark and Superman."
"Clark is my friend . . ."
"OK, boyfriend and he's a big part of my life. You know I don't have that many friends. Besides I thought you said Superman was cool."
Julian sulked. "You're never home. I call and call but you're always out."
"I told you that I'm right in the middle of an investigation! I can't really talk to you about it."
"It's about dad, isn't it?"
"It is, isn't it? Lex . . .let me help. I'm not a kid."
I have been ignoring him, Lex thought. He's got a right to feel unhappy. "All right, I've been keeping track of where Dad's been going these past few months. Dad's been going to several medical researchers. Do you know why he'd do that?"
Julian shook his head no. "He hasn't said anything. . ."
Lex frowned. "Damn, that's too bad."
"I once caught him injecting himself with something."
Julian nodded. "But I don't know what it is. It didn't have a label. Want me to get a sample?"
"No, if he catches you, he'll have one of his flunkies watch over everything you do. No, I'll try to find out through my other sources."
"However as my trusty computer expert, I'd like to borrow your expertise. I've been receiving these e-mails from someone called Deep Blue. I have my suspicions about who it might be but I can't seem to trace where the mails are coming from. As my trusted computer expert, I'd like to borrow your expertise."
"You've made a back up copy of everything on the computer, right?"
"Yes, I've got everything backed up."
"Good, I'm not resurrecting your hard drive like I did the last time you forgot to back up everything and you got hit by that computer virus," said Julian as he turned on the computer.
After fifteen minutes of keyboarding and mousing, Julian said, "I give up. They hid their tracks really well."
"Damn," said Lex. "If these messages are real then this could be the biggest story in the history of the Daily Planet."
"Serious? Anything else you want me to do?"
"I can't get you more involved than you are now."
"But . . ."
"Think about what Dad will do if he ever found out . . ."
"Lex . . . "
"I'm not discussing this with you any more."
"Fine," said Julian. He stood up and began walking towards the door.
"You're leaving? You just got here," said Lex. He got off the couch and put his hand on Julian's elbow.
Julian shook his hand off. "Just leave me alone." He opened the door and walked out.
"Julian!" Lex shouted after him.
"Doing what?" said Lex as he noted the door that had been blown off its hinges and the thugs lying on the floor unconscious and tied up. He turned his attention back to the superhero scowling at him. "Getting in trouble."
"But that would mean I'd have to enter a twelve-step program to kick my duct tape habit."
"You're not invulnerable, you know."
"I may not be Superman but I think I can survive."
Superman sighed in exasperation. "What is it that you're after? This doesn't look like typical investigative journalism."
"I'm not a typical reporter." Lex stood up and rubbed his arms and legs to get the feeling back in them. "People say that you stand for truth and justice . . . If you really stand for that, then you'd help me."
"Help you with what?"
"Bring down my father. I know for a fact that the rumors are only a shadow of what's really been going on."
"Why don't you ask your partner Clark Kent to help you if it's that important to you?" he said, half irritated that he was talking about something that was important with an absolute stranger rather than him even though technically . . . it was him.
"Clark's a great reporter but he's still a rookie. It's my private crusade and I don't want him to get wrapped in it. Having thugs beat the crap out of me is enough. I don't want them doing that to him as well."
"Why don't you give him the choice of helping you?"
"Because I'm afraid he'd say yes."
"Then why are you asking me to help you?"
"Because this kind of thing seems right up your alley. I saw you rip the door off its hinges and the bullets bounce off your body. I know a car full of thugs wouldn't faze you. Look if you think that agreeing to help me is like being Sancho Panchez to Don Quixote, then just say no. I'm not going to hold it against you after everything you've done. And you're one of the few people I trust."
"Lex, why are you doing this?"
Lex said, "My father is involved in some experiments that are highly unethical." Lex frowned. "You don't know what I'm investigating? You're not the one sending me emails?"
"Emails? I don't . . ." He shook his head slightly.
Lex bit his lip. "I see. How does human experimentation sound?"
"Human experimentation? Are you sure about this?" he narrowed his eyes.
"That's what the information I've been getting has been saying. I know my father well enough that I wouldn't put it past him."
"For what purpose?"
"I'm not sure. The project's name is Methuselah. The name is rather suggestive, don't you think?"
There was the sound of police sirens in the distance. Lex raised an eyebrow.
"I called them before I came here to rescue you. If I find anything, I'll tell you but you need to get back up when you go looking for information.. I doubt your friends and family are looking forward to going to your funeral anytime soon. I think you're one of the best reporters at the Daily Planet, but you're taking too many risks. And get those cuts and bruises taken care of." He gave Lex a disapproving look before flying away.
Maggie Sawyer appeared with her gun drawn. When she saw Lex standing in the middle of the room with a dozen unconscious and tied up thugs surround him, she lowered her weapon and relaxed her shoulders. "We really have to stop meeting like this, Mr. Luthor."
"Nice to see you, too, Officer Sawyer."
"One of my investigations went slightly awry." Lex winced and rubbed his side. "I just dropped by to tell you that I'm afraid that I don't think I'm in any shape for a night out."
"Come in, Lex. Don't worry about that."
Once Lex was inside, Clark began unbuttoning his shirt. Lex tried to get him to stop. "Clark, I'm fine. Just . . ."
"Let me look!" He pulled open the shirt and saw the bruises on his chest and abdomen. "Who did this to you?"
"Oh, the usual suspects. The police couldn't get any useful information out of them."
"Let me get you some ibuprofen."
Lex sat down on the edge of the couch after buttoning his shirt. "You don't have to worry so much, Clark. I've been through worse, much worse. Luthors don't die easily. Besides, I already got a tongue lashing from the local superhero for my blatant disregard for my own safety."
"You should've called me. I would've gone investigating with you," said Clark from the bathroom.
Lex gave him a smirk. "So you could get the shit kicked out of you, too?"
"Maybe you wouldn't have gotten the shit kicked out of you if I was there."said Clark as he handed Lex two tablets and a glass of water.
Lex took the pills and drank them down with one swallow. "I promise you, these will be gone by tomorrow." He put the glass down on the nearby coffee table then sat back down on the edge of the couch.
Clark frowned. "Those are pretty big bruises, Lex."
"I've always been like this. By dinner tonight, they'll turn brown and yellow. I'll wake up and there'll be no sign of them."
"I've survived being shot, stabbed and beaten to a pulp. And worse."
"But you don't have a scratch on you except for that little scar you have on your upper lip," said Clark. "I know this for a fact."
"I think it's because of the meteor shower."
"What do you mean?"
"I was in the hospital for a long time after the shower. After I got out, my father wouldn't touch or look at me for weeks like I'd contaminate him. My mother finally stormed into his office one day and told him that unless he stopped treating me like a freak and started treating me like their child, she would leave him. Still, things were never quite the same. When Julian was born, he became the one my father treasured."
"Funny thing is that I noticed that Julian always got sick almost every year. Nothing big just the usual ear infections, colds, flu, runny noses. I never came down with anything. It was so obvious even Julian complained about it, saying it was unfair that he had to stay in bed while I got to go out and play. I finally figured out that I hadn't been sick since the meteor strike."
"After I was hired by the Daily Planet, Perry told me to write an article about the Edgecliff Condos. He probably thought it was a straightforward business article. But nothing connected with Luthercorp is ever straightforward." Lex chuckled. "The funny thing is that it lead me to things I never expected to find."
"I was going some research about the previous project that had occupied the site. There had been some tenements that had been burned down. Imagine my surprise when I found out that the pretty picture my father had painted about his side of the family was a lie."
"Apparently, my grandparents died in the tenement fire. According to my informant, it wasn't just a regular fire. It was an explosion that blew out the windows out of buildings two blocks away. The only reason my father could afford college was because of the insurance money. I was driving towards Smallville to meet with him. I was halfway there when the gas tank of my car exploded. I managed to crawl out of the burning wreck. It should've killed me. A passing farmer and his wife driving to Metropolis for a fun weekend saw me lying next to the car and called for an ambulance. I don't remember much except the doctors said that I didn't even look human when I first came in through the emergency doors. They said they couldn't believe that my skin grew back like it did. The meteor shower that nearly killed me saved my life."
"Oh, my God, who tried to . . . Your own father?"
"I've made quite a few enemies but I can't think of anybody else who'd go that far. I can't prove anything but during the month I spent recuperating, the informant who had helped me find the documents turned up dead and all the documentation that backed up what he was saying mysteriously disappeared." Lex rubbed his face. "This is why it's so personal. I'm not just trying to get back at him for disowning me. The man tried to kill me. The only reason I don't put a bullet in his head is Julian."
Lex stood up and yelled, "Don't you get it, Clark? I need something so big that he can't just bury it underground like his own parents' murder!"
"I didn't know. You never told me."
Lex sagged back down on the edge of the couch. "That's right. I never told you."
Clark wrapped his arms around him gently, trying not to cause him any more pain. "Stay here tonight for my peace of mind. We don't have to do anything. But I want you to tell me what's going on. I need to know because I want to help you. If something were to happen to you and nobody else knows what you've found out, it's going to stay buried . . ."
"Once I tell you, you might not be able to back out later."
"I'm a reporter, too. You've read the article I wrote about Dr. Claire Foster's abuse of an experimental form of ECT and that expose I wrote about the Hardwicks . . . You and Perry thought they were good. Now spill . . ."
Lex sighed. "The project name is Methuselah. If that isn't just a code name but actually has something to do with the project's purpose then I guess it has to do with longevity. I've been getting emails from this source called Deep Blue. I thought they were from Superman."
"I doubt that."
"Well, wouldn't he tell you in person? He doesn't sound like the type to use emails. Wouldn't he be afraid of being traced back through the server? I mean with the secret identity and all?"
"True enough. Last time I saw him, I asked if he was but he looked as if he didn't even know what I was investigating. But if it's not him then who could it be? There's nobody willing to risk their neck for me at Luthercorp."
Are you sure it's not a trap?"
"I can't tell unless I check it out."
"If you do check it out, take me with you. After all, Superman can't always be there to save you."
"I was doing this before I met Superman and I'll be doing this even if I never see him again. I'm not going to lose anybody to this, not you, not Julian. I `ve shown you everything that I know just in case something happens to me because I want my father to be exposed. But . . ."
"If it's important as you say it is then I'm willing to take that risk. And you need all the help you can get. Getting beaten up again and again is bad for you no matter how good your system is at healing."
When Lex remained quiet, Clark continued, "I just want to be your partner in very sense of the word. I'm involved now, too. Even if you ask me to stop, I'm going to start investigating this, too. So we might as well work together."
Lex nodded wearily.
"Why don't you take a bath? I'll make us something to eat."
"I've looked at all those files Deep Blue has been sending you," said Clark.
"There aren't any pictures of any identifying information about the test subjects but they definitely sound human. The problem is I'm wondering if these files aren't being created to get you to publish them. Once they're published, the documents could be revealed as frauds, discrediting the rest of your reporting. The kind of things described in these files are reminiscent of what Josef Mengele did during World War II."
"That's why I haven't told Perry anything. I'm not going to risk exposing this until I either see it with my own eyes or get physical evidence that won't go up in smoke. My dad would love to say that I've either gone mad or just have a baseless vendetta against him."
"However, I did find out what your father has been taking. I managed to get a sample."
"How did you get that?"
"I had a source get it from Dr. Teng's office. She's not a medical doctor but a researcher in the field of biochemistry. I had it analyzed and the vial contains a mixture of enzymes, RNA and various proteins. An analyst I trust said that they're human but . . . altered," said Clark.
"Ever since Luthercorp took over that pharmaceutical company, there's been a lot of buzz about new, exciting drugs being developed. It must tie in with that. The drugs have already undergone tests on lab animals and they're being green-lighted for human trials." Lex sighed. "The problem with our investigation is that so much depends on the veracity of our source Deep Blue. I can't contact Deep Blue. Any replies to the original message gets instantly deleted or bounced back."
"I had a computer expert try to trace the source. The problem is that the messages keep coming from a different server every time. It appears as thought someone modified a program spammers use to obscure their email address. Basically, the source is using someone else's computer to send the message to us."
"At least we have proof that there is something going on with my father. Whether or not it's connected with the rest of our information is another question," said Lex. He stretched. "It's been a while since we went out just for fun instead of investigating. Tonight, let's go somewhere."
Clark smiled. "I'd like that."
"No, it's great. It's because I told you that I used to have a telescope, huh?" said Clark as they sped down a lonely road leading out of Metropolis.
"I figured that getting out of the city and looking at the stars would be a nice change of pace."
"Are you sure we're not going to get lost?"
"No, I have my global positioning system hooked up to the car. I've preprogrammed it so it'll tell me exactly how to get there."
"GPS . . ."
"Don't laugh. That has saved me from getting lost a number of times."
"I'm not laughing."
"And you're going too fast."
Their destination turned out to be the top of a small hill. They parked a short walk away from it and hiked up the hill. Clark carried the telescope while Lex carried the blankets for sitting down.
After they saw a few through the telescope, they decided to relax on the spread blankets and watch the sky from there. There was also the spectacular skyline of Metropolis along the horizon.
"It's beautiful," said Clark.
"Mmm," agreed Lex.
"Do you believe in aliens?"
"Well, I believe that humans aren't the only intelligent beings in the universe if that's what you mean. Whether or not they've ever visited here is debatable. If they haven't, perhaps it's because they have taste."
Clark said, "Let's say Superman is an alien."
"OK. Go on."
"It wouldn't frighten you that he's an alien?" Clark carefully looked at the expression on Lex's face.
"I think it would be amazing, Clark."
"Because it would be a great story."
"No, because . . . It would be a dream come true to talk to someone from another planet about their world. That would totally explain why he doesn't have a jet pack or an armor suit. I was wondering if he was a cyborg. The flying and the strength, I wonder if it's some sort of tactile telekinesis . . . Have you ever seen Superman?" There was a look of pure delight on his face.
"I've never been rescued by him or seen him rescue anybody. I always just miss him."
"That's too bad."
"Lex . . . Do you like Superman?"
Lex smiled. "I think you usually like someone who's rescued you a few times, yes."
"No, I mean do you really like him?"
"Why do you ask?"
"You seem really interested in him."
"He's an interesting man, Clark . . . but I'm afraid I'm already taken," said Lex, putting his hand on top of Clark's. "So would you like to break the bad news to him or should I?"
Clark took Lex's hand and pressed his lips to the palm of his hand, dotting kisses along his lifeline. He growled a little and pushed him down on the blanket.
"You never struck me as the jealous type," sighed Lex as he felt Clark nuzzle his neck and unbuckle his belt.
"I just like the fact that you prefer me over Superman, that's all."
"The trail is quite cold but a few leads look promising. Officer Sawyer really wants this case to be solved. Do you know anything about it?"
Lex shook his head. "I was still in the hospital recovering during that time."
"Oh, right. Sorry."
"That's all right. Hmmm," said Lex, frowning.
Lex said, "I got a message from Deep Blue. He wants to meet me in an hour at a playground I used to go. He says to come alone."
"Lex, you've got to let me help you. I'll shadow you from afar."
"I can't. My informant says to meet him alone. But I'm not just going to go blindly. My car has a GPS Tracking System. My computer can keep track of where my car is going. It'll give you an idea of where my last known location will be. Wait an hour and then follow my path. If I don't call you an hour after I stop the car, call Maggie Sawyer. She's one of the honest cops on the force. At the very least, she'll treat my disappearance as something serious."
"Suppose they don't use your car."
"I'll deal with that possibility if it comes up. And whatever happens, don't try to rescue me all by yourself. You're not Superman. The most important thing is the information." He gave Clark a kiss. "I have to go."
"Julian, what are you doing here?" Lex said though upon seeing him, he already knew the answer.
"Lex, I'm Deep Blue."
"You're . . . That's why you said you couldn't track down who sent the e-mails. Why that name?"
"It's the computer system that beat Kasparov at chess. Were you thinking it was Superman?"
Lex ignored his not so subtle dig. "How did you get the information you've been sending me?"
"I have access to a lot of the company because he gave me a company ID card. What I didn't have access to, I hacked into."
"But why, Julian?"
Julian looked down. "I couldn't stop dad from driving you away. I watched him treat you like crap for years. I'm tired of seeing you beat up because of him. I've read the data, too. Maybe I don't understand it as much as you do but even I can tell Dad's been up to some really bad shit. I can get you inside."
"This isn't one of your video games that you play and you can just press reset. This could get you in real trouble."
Julian scowled. "I know what I'm doing."
"Julian, I'm not going to . . ."
"I did this for you. I would never have turned this kind of information over to anybody else but you. If you don't act on this, I'm never going to send you another file ever and you can totally forget about me ever telling anybody else about this. Then you can just go back to beating your head against the coffee table for the rest of your life."
"We . . . We are going to have a long, long talk about this afterwards, Julian."
"Yes, after . . . not now." There was a triumphant cool smile on Julian's face. "That old crap factory in Smallville . . . the answers are on Level Three."
"Yes, I hacked into the system so it'll give me the same access as dad's," Julian said as he swiped the card through the card reader. The door slid open.
"This is what Dad was hiding?" as they stepped through the door.
"Oh, my God, Lex!"
Around them were tanks of green liquid with numbers etched into the containers. Many of them were filled with body parts that still pulsated with life. Others had entire bodies in them, their movements suggesting that they were alive if not completely awake. Sometimes, the body would be missing layers of tissue, allowing any observer to notice the motions of certain internal organs. The experimental subjects ranged from little girls to old men.
"Who are they?" said Julian.
"The numbers match the numbers given to subjects in the files you gave me. I suspect they're people that nobody would miss. Since their bodies haven't turned up in an alley or any nearby rivers, their disappearances would be easy to ignore."
Julian looked nauseous then turned to see something that made him bury his face into Lex's coat. Lex turned to see what made Julian turn away and gasped. Horribly misshapen, obviously experimented on, a clone of Lex was floating in a tank.
"God, Lex, how can he do these things? Why?"
"The project's name is Methuselah. He was a Biblical patriarch whose name is synonymous with longevity. That's probably what he's after. After I take a couple pictures, lets get out of here." Lex took out his digital camera and began snapping pictures. He put the camera back in his pocket and said, "We've got to get out of here and get the authorities here before they destroy all the evidence."
Julian swiped his ID card through the card reader to get out. "It's not opening, Lex."
Julian swiped his card again. "It's not opening!" There was a touch of panic in his voice.
The door finally slid open . . . to reveal two armed guards.
"How did you know we were here?" said Lex.
"I implanted a locator chip in the back of Julian's neck when he was small."
Horrified, Julian gasped and put his hand on the back of his neck to feel for it.
"Now, I put it there so I'd be able to find him in case he was ever kidnapped. I wanted to talk to Julian about tomorrow's presentation even though it was late. Imagine my surprise when I found that he was missing and his bed wasn't even touched. Using the program set up to locate him, I immediately saw that he was being driven towards Smallville. Now there's only one thing in Smallville worth visiting. I immediately got on my helicopter and alerted the security for this facility.
"Dad, let Lex go. I talked him into driving me here."
I'm sorry, Julian, but I have to teach the both of you a lesson. As the older brother, he's supposed to look after your best interests. He has to be punished for leading you astray."
"How? Are you going to use another car bomb?"
"It wasn't me, Lex," said Lionel.
"Car bomb? You were trying to kill Lex?" said Julian.
"One of my . . . associates decided to go too far. That was not supposed to happen. I promise you it will never happen again." Lionel looked both chagrined and angry.
"Why all this, Dad?" said Lex. "You already have more money than you could ever want. You're one of the most powerful businessmen in America. What do you have to gain from this?"
"My life!" roared Lionel.
"Your life?" said Julian. "You're sick?"
"I have liver cancer that metastasized."
Lex looked unconvinced. "You look remarkably healthy, Dad. And you have a remarkably full head of hair for someone taking chemo."
"I'm not taking regular chemotherapy. I'm taking someone I've developed."
"Is it something to do with my clone? You wanted to figure out what makes me tick and keep on ticket despite everything you've done to me?"
"I tell you that I did not order for you to be killed. You're my son. However, the incident, though regrettable, only served to confirm my suspicions that I've had since you two were children that the meteor shower made you very different from the rest of us. I found out about my illness shortly after it happened, how could I ask you to help me? So, I made a copy. When you went to the hospital for a followup checkup to the accident, I had them get me a sample of your blood as raw material."
"Dad, who are all those people in that room?" said Julian.
"Well, you didn't think I'd test it on myself first, did you? I got them from the pharmaceutical company experimental drug trials. I chose people who were terminal, had few or no family members and were . . . financially challenged. Part of signing up for the drugs was that they'd allow us possession of their bodies after their deaths if they died. Unfortunately, some of the patients didn't die but didn't exactly recover, either. It took several attempts but a few of the factors involved in your healing abilities were isolated."
"From the documents, it looks like you've been experimenting for nearly a decade. You just made one of the applications about curing your disease."
"And so far, it's worked. Unfortunately, the cloning process isn't flawless. The clone is a poor facsimile. What I've been taking merely keeps the disease from spreading. What I need for a cure is the original. That's you, Lex. I need your help and I'm going to get it, either with your cooperation or without."
Then the lights went out and a shot rang out.
Superman walked with the emergency technicians as they wheeled Lex in. "This is what I get for trying to grab my father's gun while handcuffed," said Lex.
"I'm sorry," he said. "I would've gotten there sooner except I had to shut down the facility so they couldn't destroy the data they collected and sealed the doors so they couldn't move or destroy the evidence. I didn't want you and Julian's work to have been in vain. I've already called the authorities. I'll tell your partner where you are."
He watched the stretcher go then turned to Julian, who was standing still. "Julian?"
"We . . . were in Smallville just a few minutes ago," said Julian. "Everything that's happened, it's real, isn't it?"
Superman looked down at his suit, stained by Lex's blood. "It's all too real."
A nurse said, "Is there anybody that needs to be contacted?"
"Actually, there's the man's partner but I'll contact him myself. He'll have all the necessary information to fill out the forms. Please keep an eye on Julian until he gets here. He's the patient's brother." With that, he disappeared.
Julian was crying and shaking. "Is Lex going to die?"
"I don't think so. He's too tough to die."
"I nearly got him killed. I made him come with me to the lab."
"You're not the one who pulled the trigger," said Clark. "Lex made the decision to go with you. He's risked his life before for much slimmer leads."
"What are you talking about? He got shot because of me. I told him that I wouldn't send him any more information if he didn't come with me. I wanted to show him what I could do but it all went wrong . . . How can I face him?"
"Listen to me. You're going to visit him in the hospital with a bunch of flowers, a card and the new Warrior Angel comic. You are going to have a long talk with him about what happened. You're going to tell him how sorry you are that he got hurt. You're going to learn something from this. One of those things you should learn is that your brother loves you very much and that you occupy a very special place in his heart that nobody can replace. You don't want to learn the hard way that running away doesn't help things. Understand?"
The boy nodded and wiped his eyes with his sleeve but he kept on crying.
Clark looked at Julian and thought, God, I was that young once. "I know. Seeing someone you love lying in the hospital bed because you think that you put him there, it hurts like your heart is being sliced to ribbons. Like you would do anything to switch places with them because you just want to make things right. But just feeling guilty doesn't solve anything . . . You have to show them how you really feel about them."
Julian sniffled and said, "Clark?"
"I thought you were going to be like all the other guys Lex ever hooked up with. The minute things got rough, they left. I kept waiting for you to do the same thing but then you kept sticking around. I used to hate the fact that Lex spent so much time with you but I guess I kinda understand why now."
Clark put his arm around Julian's shoulders and said, "Lets get something to eat. It's going to be a while."
"Other than some . . ." Lex winced a little. "Residual pain, I'm fine."
"How did your talk with Julian go?"
Lex nodded. "We have to talk more once we get home but I think that he's been dealing with it as well as can be expected. I'll get someone professional to help him as soon as possible."
"I'm glad. With some help, I'm sure he'll come through this all right."
"But what about . . ."
"The facility is crawling with FBI agents. Most of the evidence was left intact. Perry wants you to write an article as soon as possible. I've already outlined a great deal of what we've already written to him. He scolded me for not telling him that we were sitting on this big a story."
Lex chuckled. "Figures . . . Clark, I was wondering . . ."
"If you'd move in with me."
Clark looked at Lex. "Move in?"
"I . . ."
Lex sat up and whispered into Clark's left ear. "If it's because you're afraid I'll find out. Don't be. I already know."
Clark froze. "Know what?"
"That you and Superman are different sides of the same man."
"How did you . . . how did you know that it was me?"
Lex leaned back to see the astonished look on Clark's face and he beamed with delight. "There were a lot of little things. There were all those times you were missing when Superman appeared while we were investigating the same story. It was the insistence that Superman couldn't possibly be Deep Blue. You both have the same irritated look on your face whenever I get in trouble. That Superman showed up to save the day instead of you. There's also the fact that Superman knew where the information was but the real clincher was . . ."
"It was the way that Superman smelled just like you, Clark," Lex leaned in just a few inches from Clark. "He smelled just like the way the pillow smells after you've spent the night next to me and his breath was minty like yours. I had my face in the crook of your neck on the flight all the way from Smallville to Metropolis. You don't think I wouldn't recognize the way you smell with your aftershave? It wasn't much of a case I admit but my gut was telling me that I was right."
"You're not afraid."
"No, I'm not."
"It's a heavy burden knowing my secret."
"Clark . . . I'm a Luthor. I know all about heavy burdens."
"There are still a lot of things that you don't know."
"I'd like to be around to learn about them."
"How about Julian?"
" Julian and I had a little talk. You must've had one hell of a conversation with him while I was in the operating room. He understands that you're a part of my life and that it's non-negotiable. If you want to wait until Julian goes to college, I understand. I'm not saying that it will be easy but I think we'll manage."
Clark squeezed Lex's hands, kissed him and said, "The answer is yes."
The founder of Luthercorp, Lionel Luthor had decided to commit suicide rather than go on trial for his crimes and go to jail where he would only face a painful, lingering death in the midst of utterly humiliating surroundings. He left behind a scathing letter regarding the duty that sons owe their fathers and how his children were utter failures in that regard.
His funeral was private and the only attendees were the people who had brought him down.
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