Babylon

by Hope


For The Spike, though it didn't turn out quite the way I envisioned it.


Title: Babylon (1/2)
Author: Hope
Author's E-mail: rosenho@anywherebeyond.com Author's URL: http://rosenho.diaryland.com Disclaimer: Lex is not mine, no matter how hard I clap my hands and believe otherwise.
Archive: Help yourself.
Category: Uhhh... drama, I guess?
Rating: R
Spoilers: Pretty much the whole season
Summary: The art of war is governed by five constant factors.
Author's Notes: For the Spike, though it didn't turn out quite the way I envisioned it.

My father gave me my first car the day of mother's funeral. It would be overly dramatic to say I've never forgiven him for it; there are so many better things I've never forgiven him for. He left it on the front drive, where I could see it from my bedroom window. I'd seen enough from that front window: the hearse that took my mother away, the cab that took Pamela away, the limousines that returned my father every evening, and now I was subjected to a silver Aston that never went anywhere.

To some people, I suppose it seemed like a spectacularly clumsy attempt at comfort. Those people don't know my father. The Romans were fond of hobbling their prisoners of war and parading them through the streets as a testament to victory. It wouldn't have done to cripple me- I was already enough of an embarrassment, so a car I couldn't drive to celebrate conquering my mother was an appropriate substitute.

I set it on fire.

Four days later, from the front steps of my first boarding school, I finally watched a limousine take him away.

-

I learned more about honesty than Latin there.

It's a fact that people revile what they don't understand, and I- bald, a little overweight, and mysteriously appearing midway through the term at Hartmount Academy, was not understood. My schoolmates suspected I had cancer, or worse, that I was just weird, and they weren't shy in speculating about which it was. I bit down on my tongue and smiled. That was the first lesson in honesty: don't waste the truth on people on people who don't want to hear it.

The second lesson was more important. Every month, we'd have a mixer with the girls' school just down the road. The theory behind the practice is that we, as fine young society men, would learn to socialize with the opposite sex, and quit giving each other hand jobs in the attic after lights out. It was only partially successful.

Anyway... attendance was mandatory, and asking one of the Landingham girls to dance was too, unless you enjoyed being summoned to the Chaplain's office to be lectured on the evils of homosexuality. The girls roved in packs on one side of the gym, smoothing their uniforms and waiting. It was easy to tell who appealed to them. Somehow, by telepathy or instinct, their gazes would settle on the rugby players, then the soccer team- on down through the ranks until they got to the caste of untouchables beneath their consideration. Eventually, one of the boys' school Brahmins would get brave enough to cross the divide, and the dance began.

Inevitably, I'd cross, too. I could feel them shrink back, and their sighs of relief when I passed by without stopping. They judged me with poorly concealed whispers I didn't need to hear. I knew what I looked like to them. What I don't think they realized was that I was judging them at the same time: deciding who was beneath me, whom I'd allow to reject me. I asked the prettiest girl to dance, the one with the biggest flock of admirers. She laughed.

"You're joking, aren't you?" When it became clear I wasn't, she laughed again, brave with the strength of her equally horrified cohorts. "You're disgusting. I'd never dance with you."

She was right. We never danced. But later, years later, going a hundred miles an hour through the English countryside, she went down on me. She wasn't shy with other sexual favors when she wanted something, either, but unfortunately, Victoria never bothered to learn the lesson she taught me.

Never volunteer the truth, because some people never forget.

-

I was fifteen when Bruce came to Hartmount. He was welcomed with curiosity, and a little admiration. Old money and gracefully good at everything, he had already inherited his father's empire while the rest of us remained uneasy crown princes. We thought he was crazy for putting up with boarding school life when he didn't have to, but that didn't stop him from becoming the most popular guy no one knew.

Everyone wanted to be his friend. Everyone, and I was no different. He seemed important, wiser than sixteen, with a sense of humor that kept him at genial distance from everyone else. I don't think a weekend went by when someone didn't offer him something, trying to get closer. Tickets to football games, invitations to beach houses and skiing trips, and he declined all of them so well that no one minded their failure.

As for me, I watched- my classmates, who were stupid enough to try the same unsuccessful strategy every weekend, and Bruce himself, who, it seemed, just wanted to be left alone. So that's what I did, making myself obvious by maintaining an appearance of disinterest. He knew who I was, we sat next to each other in Chemistry, and after a while, he would catch my eye when he found himself trapped in particularly tedious company. He'd smirk over their heads, and I'd smile my condolences; we had a hundred silent conversations this way before I ever considered approaching him.

And when I did, it was with something simple, something he needed: 9/5 C = F -32, a shortcut past two, more complicated temperature equations that always made him frown and wear out erasers. Without a word, I leaned over and wrote it in the margin of his notebook, then went back to my own work. After class, he approached me, and that night, I helped him with his homework. I'd done what no one else could- I'd solved him for X.

We became friends. He taught me to box, and I taught him the basics of chemistry. We spent most of our free time together, and I don't know if I changed him, but he transformed me. My body changed, stronger and leaner than it had ever been, and tougher just to survive barely controlled sparring matches between us. And my perceptions changed. Once I made friends with Bruce, it was suddenly valuable to know me. I entertained the same offers he'd gotten, but I was a lot more vindictive about declining. I knew what they really wanted, they'd already volunteered the truth, after all. And I admit it, I enjoyed making them feel small.

I would have continued to enjoy it, too, if Bruce hadn't asked me why. It was simple to me. "I don't need them."

It was simpler to him. "Maybe not -now-."

Like I said, he transformed me.

-

Title: Kansas Babylon (2/2)
Author: Hope
Author's E-mail: rosenho@anywherebeyond.com Author's URL: http://rosenho.diaryland.com

According to legend, there were tunnels beneath the campus that led out beyond the grounds. Legend also had it that the tunnels were filled with a legion of skeletal remains, unfortunate boys who got lost and never found their way again. The truth wasn't nearly so compelling. There -were- tunnels, originally built to get students from building to building in bad weather, but they didn't go beyond campus.

What did go beyond the gates from the tunnels was the storm sewer, and if you were willing to risk being trapped by a flash flood, freedom could be yours. It goes without saying that the rumors of corpses were greatly exaggerated.

Bruce and I spent half a term mapping these catacombs, though I don't know why we bothered. He memorized the path from our dorm to the sewer access in two trips, and preferred to walk it in the dark. "Somebody might see the flashlights," he explained, but really, I think he just enjoyed pitch black. I know I enjoyed being in it with him.

Sometimes, we'd sneak into town to go to the movies, or steal packs of cigarettes we never actually smoked. Other times, we'd sit in one of the tunnel alcoves and talk. About everything, or nothing, it didn't matter- we could say anything there. Safe in darkness, he told me about the alley where he watched his parents die in the rain. I told him about my mother, and let him hold the watch she gave me. Whether we cried or not, I'll let you decide. Some things are still sacred.

I always thought Bruce was a little bit off, but I have to give him credit. All that dark made it easier to kiss him, to...

Listen, it's not like either of us was innocent, but we didn't know the first fucking thing about... infatuation. That's all it was. I admired him. I wanted to be him. And if I couldn't be him, being close was the next best thing. That's all it wasfor me, anyway. I don't know what it was for him. I can't say that I care.

It was a strange year.

A few weeks before the end of term, we snuck into town for one last movie before summer recess. It was supposed to rain, but we still went. We figured if the storm sewer filled up, we'd just hop the fence to get back to the dorm. Most of our finals were over, what were they going to do if they caught us? Give us a stern talking to?

Bruce won the coin toss, so we ended up going to see a revival of "The Invisible Man," the one with Claude Rains. Or rather, Bruce saw it, I took a four dollar nap. He wasn't interested in anything that wasn't in black and white, and I wasn't interested in anything without a gunfight, so we both paid for a lot of naps that year.

Another thing about Bruce- he had to watch until all the credits were over. I had no idea what a best boy did, so it really didn't make a difference to me if I knew who it was. It still doesn't, now that I think about it. I woke up just as the movie ended, and told him I was going out back to stretch. The sun had gone down while we were inside, taking warmth with it, and replacing it with cold drizzle. I hung under the eaves, trying to stay dry and wondering what was taking him so long. Black and white movies never had long credit reels.

I heard them before I saw them. A couple of townies, not known for their appreciation of the rich Hartmount bastards who flooded the streets on Saturdays and flirted with their girlfriends. Practicing cool disdain, I just stared at them when they asked me for a dollar. I'd like to say that all those boxing lessons came in handy, but they hit me faster than I could think. I remember smelling stale beer and new rain, then nothing else.

When I came to, it seemed wrong that all I could see were legs. It took a second for me to realize I was on the ground, and another to realize that Bruce was standing over me. Not over me, actually. Nearby, with a hand wrapped tight around one of the townie's throats, crushing him against the wall. I don't know what happened to the other one; he probably ran when he saw the look on Bruce's face. I might have. He was calm, even serene, and watching the life drain out of the townie's eyes.

I know I said something. Stop, maybe. Or don't, I'm not sure, but it seemed like years before he actually let go. The townie rolled against the brick, retching, trying to escape but stumbling instead. Bruce followed him with his gaze until he managed to lurch out of the alley, then finally looked at me. No, through me. He looked through me. Helping me up, he asked the right things (are you hurt? are you sure?) but he wasn't really -there- anymore.

Things were different after that. End of term was always busy with last minute finals, and packing to go home, but Bruce disappeared so completely I started to wonder if he existed at all. He was everywhere I wasn't, it seemed. I caught traces of him in the tunnels, in chem lab, in the dorm, as if he had some supernatural sense to leave just moments before I arrived. I threw up enough in those last two weeks that people started to think I was on chemo again.

Finally, on the last day of school, he reappeared. One minute, I was alone in my room, the next, I wasn't. He'd abandoned his uniform for a dark suit, already divorced from his year at Hartmount, aged much more than eight months could measure. Out of sheer reflex, I bit my tongue and smiled when he extended a hand to shake mine.

But I stared too. A handshake. A fucking handshake. Just who the hell did he think he was? I looked him in the eye. I shook his hand. I still didn't say anything. And instead of saying good bye, he wished me good luck. Bruce always was a little off.

From the library windows, I watched him leave in a Rolls Royce. Old money. Gracefully good at everything.

I haven't seen him since.

-

Coke never did it for me. It was a train wreck, and it made my nose bleed. But morphine? Meperidine, codeine, and heroin? I couldn't get enough, couldn't get it fast enough. They sound like poetry, don't you think? Morphinemeperidine -codeine-and-heroin. After I left Hartmount, I didn't have days of the week anymore, I had- say it with me, you'll like it, morphine-meperidine-codeine-and-heroin.

Either I made friends because I had drugs, or I did drugs because I made friends. I'm pretty sure it was one or the other, but it didn't really matter. Once you learn to just sink back and accept opiates as your personal savior... it doesn't matter who the company is. Everybody's beautiful, nothing's forbidden- do you have any idea how fast a Ferrari can go when you're flying?

My father always said Luthors were set aside, above, for something great. I don't know about that, but being a Luthor made it easy to get pure pharmaceuticals. I was sixteen years old when I found out that a genuine, Harvardeducated M.D. could be had for the low, low price of five thousand dollars a month. And do you know what else being a Luthor could do? It could -blind- the faithful, most specifically bouncers who looked past the birthdate on my license, if they ever asked for it at all. The last time I'd been in Metropolis, I was a fat little freak, oh, but when I came back from school, I was a changed man.

Suits by Armani, body by Wayne, and divinity by dad, I owned that city.

Why waste my birthright? I had the money, the cars, and the lawyers to get me out of jail if the cops we owned happened to be off shift, this was my destiny. My -duty-, to acquire, consume, and conquer. Did I mention the women? There were a lot of women. My dad's colleagues had a lot of daughters, but not as many of them as I had, and more than a few their wives were a lot happier once I came home. I was invincible.

None of it was real, it didn't have to be. I didn't want it to be. I -liked- shooting up, I -liked- waking up in unfamiliar beds, I -liked- stumbling home with whiskey on my breath. And the best part? The best part was that I didn't even have to tell my dad to fuck off, just walking in the door did that for me. Get a little bit of poetry in my veins, and I could listen to him threaten for hours. Comedy. Pure comedy.

He tried to put his foot down, of course, but not until I started making page three in the Inquisitor. Too late, dad, because my goal was page one, and it only took me three months to make it. Above the fold, full living color, me in handcuffs and a wrecked Alfa Romeo in the background, it was beautiful. Have no idea whose car it was, but they said I was driving it. I don't know. I don't remember. I blew a 1.24 that night, and that was a slow night.

None of it was real, it didn't have to be. I didn't want it to be. I -liked- shooting up, I -liked- waking up in unfamiliar beds, I -liked- stumbling home with whiskey on my breath. And the best part? The best part was that I didn't even have to tell my dad to fuck off, just walking in the door did that for me. Get a little bit of poetry in my veins, and I could listen to him threaten for hours. Comedy. Pure comedy.

He tried to put his foot down, of course, but not until I started making page three in the Inquisitor. Too late, dad, because my goal was page one, and it only took me three months to make it. Above the fold, full living color, me in handcuffs and a wrecked Alfa Romeo in the background, it was beautiful. Have no idea whose car it was, but they said I was driving it. I don't know. I don't remember. I blew a 1.24 that night, and that was a slow night.

Rehab sucked. But I picked up some pointers, so it wasn't a complete waste of time.

-

I wasn't an addict. Well, perhaps I was, but it wasn't the drugs. I'd been so many things. A child. A pawn. A victim. A freak. A fool. So many things to so many people, and I didn't have the slightest inkling who I actually was. Sometimes, you have to let go of everything to become something, and every time I came close to killing myself and survived, I thought I came closer to becoming myself. Conquering death, again and again, that was my addiction. I didn't realize I wanted to be god, not at the time. Not until someone else died.

Rehab wasn't as bad the second time.

-

So now I'm something else entirely. A villain to most everyone in Smallville, the manager of a fertilizer plant, friend to wayward teenagers. If I stay here long enough, perhaps I'll become the eccentric old man in the manor just past the Dietz farm. Whether I meant to or not, and I don't recommend my methods, I've learned quite a bit. Interestingly enough, if I'd just listened to my father, I might have learned it a little easier. It was all right there in one of the first books he forced me to read.

Sun Tzu said the art of war is governed by five constant factors: the moral law, heaven and earth, the commander, and method and discipline. He also said that all warfare is based on deception. Attack when you seem unable. Pretend to be weak, when you are strong. Appear where you are not expected. I added my own lessons, of course. Don't waste the truth on people who don't want to hear it. Don't underestimate who might be of use to you one day.

And that's how I got here, Chloe. Feel free to use what you want of that.

I trust your judgment.



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