"After the Storm"
Lex Luthor stood silently in the hall outside the hospital room, watching the scene before him with no small amount of envy. In the room, Clark Kent sat beside his father's bed, holding his hand and whispering quietly. Martha Kent flanked her husband on the other side, and she too held his hand, stroking his fingers tenderly. The display of familial love was touching and was also the complete antithesis of what his own reunion with his father was sure to be. Because of this, Lex felt envious of his friend at that moment.
But he also felt guilt. Guilt for so many things. Jonathan Kent has risked the storm because of the private investigator Lex had hired to investigate the meteor shower that had so changed his life. Lex had no clear idea why this man had started targeting the Kents, nor would he but he knew he was ultimately responsible for it. Just as he was also responsible for the jobs lost when his father closed the plant a few days ago.
These were things Lex knew he could never make up for, but he surely wanted to try.
Sighing in frustration, Lex forced his gaze past the idyllic display of compassion towards the curtain that separated the Kents from the other occupant in the room.
Lex hadn't seen him since the rescue team had pulled them both from the rumble which was now the Luthor ancestral home. Not purposely, really, as his father had only just recently been released from the Intensive Care Unit. Lionel Luthor had been hurt very badly, and although Lex would admit it to no one, he'd been afraid his father would die.
So, instead of sitting by his father's bedside, as Clark was doing now, Lex threw himself into aiding the clean-up crews. He'd thrown his money and his family name around, just to ensure that the town suffered as little as a possible in the wake of the storm. However, he soon realized that the damage wrought upon Smallville both by the storm and his father was too great.
Which brought Lex to this point at last:
standing in the doorway to the room his father now shared with Jonathan
Kent, unable to go inside.
As if on cue, the Kents paused in their whispering, having heard Lex's stifled sigh.
"Lex," Clark spoke up, drawing a rustling sound from behind the privacy curtain. "Here to see your dad?" he asked. Lex nodded quietly, but his gaze fell on Jonathan Kent instead. He wanted to ask how Clark's father was doing, but was afraid the Kents might hold him ill will for his being there in the first place. Clark seemed to know what Lex was thinking however, and added, "Dad's doing fine now. The doctors say he can go home tomorrow, but he won't be doing much work until the casts come off."
Lex smiled weakly. "Glad to hear it," he said softly, the sound of his voice eliciting more rustling from the other bed. "And... I'm sorry. I really am. If there's anything I can do..."
"Not now, Lex," Jonathan Kent said quietly, in a tight voice, and Lex knew that he alone bore the blame for two broken legs. "I'm sure your father would like to see you."
Lex turned away from them and reached for the curtain. Slipping behind it, he swallowed the lump that was already rising in his throat. Behind him, he could hear Martha Kent herding her son out of the room to "give Lex and his father some privacy."
"I was beginning to think I wouldn't see you here," Lionel Luther said, drawing Lex's attention fully away from the Kent family.
Lex shrugged. "I had a lot of thinking to do," he replied.
"Oh? What about?" The Luthor patriarch coughed then--his chest heaving--and Lex recalled the beam which had fallen, trapping his father beneath it.
"Metropolis," Lex told him. "And Smallville. I've come to make a compromise, father."
"Compromise?" Lionel stopped coughing long enough to chuckle at the irony of a Luthor compromising. "Let's call it what like it is, son. A deal. You want to make a deal. What?"
Lex shook his head, swearing to himself. Even now, he could tell his father wasn't about to make this easy for him. "I'll go back to Metropolis with you--when you're able to travel again," he added swiftly. "If you agree to reopen the plant and allow me to continue overseeing it's growth from there."
"Why should I do that? I've already closed it," came his father's questioning response.
"If you don't, it will ruin Smallville. The tornado destroyed nearly a third of the town. They can't afford to rebuild and continue with the employee buy-out. And I can't help them do both, either. You know that as I do. So, I'll..." he paused, thinking of the friends and the freedom he'd be leaving behind. "I'll go back with you--willingly--if you do as I ask." As he spoke, Lex turned away from his father to stare out the window. Below them on the street, he could see ambulance pulling up and knew instinctively that it held someone else who had been caught up in the storm.
"Why, Lex?" His father asked after an awkward silence. "Why does this mean so much to you?" He coughed again, and Lex waited for the coughing fit to pass before he replied.
As he waited, he debated the best way to state his reasons, knowing that Lionel Luthor wouldn't like them in the least.
"Well?" the man in the bed prodded.
Lex sighed. "Maybe you'll think I've gone soft or something... or that I've lived here for too long, and maybe I have," he admitted. "But I like it here, father. For the first time in my life, I have friends who don't like me just because of my money. They... they're everything to me." The words astounded even himself, but the instant Lex spoke them, he knew they were true. Fueled by this revelation, Lex continued. "Half the people in this town hate me because of who I am. Hell, my best closest friend's father hates me worse than most. But I don't let it bother me so much, because I know they have good reason. And I wouldn't have it any other way... because I know the people I've become close to are there because they saw past the name and the money and saw something in me. That's more than you've ever done."
Lex stopped, realizing he'd said too much, even if it had felt good to say it. He turned around to face his father and was surprised to see that the contemptuous smirk had disappeared from the older Luthor's face. In fact, his father seemed older somehow... older than Lex had ever seen him. Sort of fragile and broken. He wanted to say something, but now wasn't sure what could make it right between them... or if that would ever truly be possible.
He was spared the effort when Lionel Luthor turned from him, rolling over on his side to face away from his son.
Lex stood there a moment longer in the deafening silence. His soul raged with conflicting emotions, but he couldn't bring himself to voice any of them. Not now. Instead, he said the only thing he knew to say. "I see you're tired, so I'll go now. Think about my offer; I'll be awaiting your answer."
Without another word, he walked away from
his father's bedside, leaving Lionel Luthor alone to make his decision.