by Mistress Ace
His father was dead.
After years of contemplating, anticipating, and then praying for that particular occurrence, it had come to pass. In the midst of a parole hearing, once again lying bald-faced to the parole board about his level of rehabilitation and offering up restitution to his victims, Lionel Luthor had clutched once at his chest and keeled over dead.
Given the time and energy Lex had squandered on imagining it, the actual event was anti-climactic.
Dead of a garden-variety heart attack. The old man had survived liver disease, not to mention various assaults on his person -- including innumerable beatings, several stabbings, and one incredibly brutal rape the reports of which caused Lex to first wince, then track down the perpetrator and have him ham-strung -- and what had taken Lionel Luthor down in the end was a simple case of cardiac arrest.
Oh, intellectually he understood no one could last forever, but his father and the Grim Reaper had been engaged in the dance for eons. Their pas de deux had been so protracted that Lex half expected one day to learn that Thanatos had been discovered face-down in his father's cell, shrouds torn, bony hands shattered, and a scythe buried in his back.
Holding up his glass, he silently toasted the specter's victory over the indomitable Luthorian will.
The King is dead.
Staring out over the lights of Metropolis, Lex sipped his scotch, certain for the first time since his father's incarceration that his drink hadn't been tampered with. A thirty-year-old freshly-opened Islay, older than he was by two years -- the taste smooth, mellow, and chased by a pleasant burn that spread quickly through his veins.
His father was dead and now Metropolis was his for the taking.
It wasn't exactly the world, but he wasn't thirty yet.
The King is dead.
Long live the King.
On one unremarkable evening in the maternity ward at Metropolis General, Lex Luthor fell in love for the second time in his life.
But unlike his headlong tumble into the arms of Eros, the current object of his devotion was a girl. A very little, very special girl.
He was a father.
His daughter was the most precious thing on this planet. Ten fingers, ten toes, dark auburn hair like his mother's and eyes the color of the Kansas sky. From the moment he saw her, in that very instant when her tiny fingers curled around one of his own, enclosing it in her fist, he was hers.
Heart and soul.
Lena was perfect.
She would have the best. The best clothes, the best schools, companions hand-picked for their intelligence and kind-heartedness -- she would never want for anything. He wouldn't raise her like his father had raised him. There would be no tests, no challenges, and no lectures on ancient history, prophecies or the dictates of a manifest destiny.
Absolutely no Nietzsche.
She was going to be what he'd never been: a child.
The bitch had tried to kill him.
Granted, it was a pastime all his other wives indulged in, but he thought he'd dodged the bullet with Erica. She was royalty, raised within a world of rank and privilege, pampered and petted from the moment she'd first drawn breath. Her manners were impeccable. Even after seven years of marriage, she still said 'please' and 'thank you' whenever she asked for things -- unlike his first and most enduring love who'd burst in and issue a demand without a single nod to basic courtesy.
But despite that politesse, despite everything he'd ever given her, every request he'd fulfilled, every whim he'd catered to -- even the divorce she'd mentioned casually in between sips of coffee last week -- she'd still pulled a gun and taken a shot.
All because he wouldn't let her have custody of Lena.
She couldn't have Lena.
Lena was his.
Obsession was an ugly word.
It brought up memories he'd buried long ago, memories of an eternity of sleepless nights. A wrecked car, the fleeting touch of chilled lips on his own, the flash of a smile that warmed him clear through, a boy so radiant that looking at him stole Lex's breath away. A companion so perfectly suited to his tastes that the torture of knowing him, of loving him from that cautious distance both their friendship and his parents enforced, of wanting him with a passion too fierce to be borne and never being able to give into that passion -- the strain of living under all of those constraints had broken something deep inside.
Something that had never healed. After Clark, he learned to trust no one.
Every word that had fallen from that beautiful mouth, that mouth which he still had fevered dreams about, every word uttered had been a lie. Lies, lies and more lies. Nothing but lies.
And yet, he still woke with that name on his lips. Woke to stained sheets, torn pillows, and the wraith of a love that would never die.
Obsession was an ugly word. It didn't belong in the same sentence as his daughter's name, but now it was there. His name and hers, linked together, hints of odd behavior dropped by ex-members of his household staff and insidious rumors spread by unscrupulous reporters, each of those slanders haunted by echoes of the past.
When a deputation came from her school to investigate those rumors, Lex greeted them personally. He treated them with deference, spoke at length about the school's curriculum, discussed its strengths and shortcomings as they paced the halls of Luthor Manor. He'd led them through Lena's suite of rooms and introduced them to his daughter's staff: her nanny, her Latin tutor, her fencing instructor and her personal assistant.
After pleasantries were exchanged and Lena's staff dispersed, Lex adjourned to his study with the delegation in tow. Within an hour, the concerns which precipitated this visit had been dealt with, the rumors thrown about by the press dispelled, ruffled feathers smoothed and a generous bequest arranged for a new library wing.
Everything had gone perfectly. Lena behaved like his little princess, sweet and affectionate, kissing his cheek and climbing into his lap while he talked with her teachers and the school administrators. She'd even giggled when he tickled her, then asked him for a bedtime story before bounding away in a flurry of knees and elbows.
God, he loved her.
Then, after she was well out of earshot, that bastard mentioned the one rumor they hadn't touched on. It was the real reason behind their visit. Evidently, the school officials had already approached Lena about it, an interview which had been conducted without his permission or his knowledge. Upon being stonewalled by the youngest Luthor, this invasion had been chosen as the next course of action.
The evidence, while circumstantial at best, had been enough to merit an investigation. He had a reputation, an extensive history of indiscretions with the under-aged, even though at the time he'd been under-aged himself. The Contessa had been gone for several years and after decades of being quite free with his attentions, he wasn't dating anyone. In light of his earlier promiscuity, there were questions being asked and the only answer currently on the table had just skipped out of the room.
As if he would ever touch Lena in that fashion.
He was many things but he sure as hell wasn't his father.
It took exactly twenty seconds and seven blows before the man was on the floor. Ten more solid hits before Mercy pulled him away from the bleeding mess he'd made on the priceless Aubusson.
That was an interesting lawsuit.
His city, his home.
He owned her. Everything of value in Metropolis was his to command. The city council, the county commissioners, the police force, the fire department, two of her three newspapers and even the mayor himself belonged to Lex Luthor.
He controlled everything in his environment.
Every single thing except the most precious.
He'd protected her, nurtured her, given her everything a child could want, but apparently he didn't know how to love her. She'd railed at him for being too controlling, for not letting her have air to breathe and for the first time in his life, he was completely at a loss.
He could send her to a shrink, a move some of the braver members of his staff had suggested. But he remembered the tender mercies of Dr. Foster, along with the occasional flash of his confinement at Belle Reve. He'd never inflict that on his own child.
There had to be someone who could help him. Someone who had experience in raising children -- difficult children.
There was someone, but he had no access to her. Many years ago, he could've simply shown up on her back porch with this problem and been invited in to talk about it over a cup of excellent coffee and some of the finest muffins in the world. Now he didn't dare come within twenty miles of that warm country home or the woman who still lived there. Her husband wouldn't stand for it and her son certainly wouldn't allow it.
No matter what he said, no matter how many times he'd sworn he had nothing to do with his father's death, Clark didn't believe him. Their last actual conversation had been held at the side of Lionel's grave, the last barbs and arrows had been thrown, the last lies were told and even though what he'd said about his innocence was the absolute truth, Clark hadn't believed a word.
In Clark Kent's eyes, Lex Luthor had committed patricide. An unforgivable offense.
He couldn't fault Clark's logic, but the motivation it was based upon was completely erroneous. Clark thought he'd done it to secure control of LuthorCorp and the city of Metropolis. In that, Clark was wrong. If he'd actually chosen to kill Lionel, he would have done it to protect his best friend.
If it had become necessary to bury what the old man knew about Clark Kent, Lex would've done so. In order to keep Clark from ending up as a lab rat, Lex would've slit his father's throat and not suffered a moment of remorse. Despite Clark's continued meddling in the affairs of LuthorCorp, either through a series of barbed articles under his shared byline with Lane, or his moonlighting as Metropolis' costumed hero, Lex still would've taken that last step solely for Clark's sake.
Fortunately for all of them, Lionel had taken that knowledge to his grave.
Clark was right in one respect. After his father's death, Lex did control LuthorCorp. As for controlling Metropolis, he'd done that on his own. Lionel Luthor had been a poseur, a man with an inflated sense of self-worth.
Lex Luthor knew his own worth right down to the last decimal point.
"Mercy?" His ever-present watchdog emerged from the shadows with hands clasped behind her back and head held high. She waited silently. "Call the Daily Planet and ask for Lois Lane and Clark Kent. I'm in the mood to grant an interview."
As she followed his order without question, Lex raised his glass, saluting the globe that took up a large slice of the Metropolis skyline. He was sure Clark would take the bait and after the interview, he'd invite his old friend for a drink and then inquire about his mother.
It would be a good opening gambit.
If he brought his best game to the table, there was a chance he'd capture more than just the queen.
Perhaps, if the rumors he'd heard about Clark's college days and what he'd deduced on his own were true and could be played just right, he'd snag himself a knight as well. Administer the correct amount of alcohol, leave a few bright green stones lying about in strategic places and an equally bright red one in his bed, and that colorful armor would simply melt away.
Tonight, with a little luck, Metropolis would yield up her last treasure to its rightful owner.
Long live the King.
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