Title: People Get Ready (1/1)
Category: PG-13, post-Tempest, gen, drama, Lex-fic
Spoilers: For "Tempest" and "Jitters"
Disclaimer: Those guys own them. Duh! Feedback: I enjoy all opinions. Send them to: email@example.com
Summary: After the storm, Lex gets busy.
The hospital room was private, placed far from the post-tornado bustle. It was situated in -- of all places -- the maternity ward, where the Gold Club members' room held, in Lex's approximation, the biggest mother of them all.
His father, Lionel Luthor.
The tornado had broken parts of him, but few that counted. Lex examined his father's face carefully and saw the bruises that lined his sharp cheeks. There was a definite sag to his normally inflexible mouth as well. "How are you feeling?"
Lionel's nostrils flared with each breath, his lips pinched as if the air itself was painful to touch. He stared past Lex's shoulder, his gaze focused somewhere between a pastel lamb wall hanging and a poster exhorting the benefits of breast milk. "The pain is reasonably intense. I can see, hear ... I have feeling in my legs. Have I disappointed you yet?"
"On the contrary. I'm glad to see you didn't lose any of your faculties." Lex plucked a disposable cooling cloth from its box on the nightstand. He folded it into neat thirds and held it over his father's forehead.
He chuckled drily at Lionel's flinch. "I was trying to be helpful."
"Of course," replied his father. "And I know exactly how helpful you can be."
Lex tossed the cloth aside. "How serious we are. You're acting like I didn't save your life."
"You're acting like you didn't think twice about it." Pinch, flare ... Lionel gasped for breath. "Or were you in such shock you couldn't lift your perfectly capable finger to dial 911 for a full twenty minutes." Lionel snorted with laughter, then groaned. He shifted with irritation and pain. "Standing over me, deciding my fate, oh, such a silent war our Lex fought. Did you enjoy it, Lex? Your only moment of glory? I hope so. Because it's the last one you'll know. For if it's war you want ..."
"Then it is war I shall receive," said Lex. "I have to say you grow more predictable every day, Dad. With every new low you reach, you narrow the odds of what I think you will or won't do. Pretty soon, I'll think you capable of anything and will respond in kind." He thought for a moment. "Oh wait, we've already reached that stage haven't we? This is our whole new level, isn't it?"
"I raised a fool," said Lionel, not sounding quite convinced. "A damned fool."
"You keep telling yourself of that," said Lex. "In the meantime, I hope they cure you of all your ailments."
"They will .... son," said Lionel, eyes glittering. It was clear that the tiger wasn't extinct, not yet. "And after that's done, I plan on curing you of all your illusions. Be ready for it."
"It's what I've been training my whole life for, isn't it?" Lex sounded nonchalant but inside something was ripping, like flesh against a cracked mirror's edge. "See you around, Dad."
No response, but when Lex turned to leave, he could feel his father's eyes on his back.
They burned like only ice could.
It was Clark, running down the hospital hallway toward him, dodging the milling crowds gathered in and around the emergency room in various states of happiness and distress. The storm had brought them out in droves, everyone searching for something in the sterile halls -- whether it was salvation or damnation, only Fate could tell.
Lex felt himself pulled into a tight embrace. Allowed it because it was Clark; because people were watching. He'd explain the no-touching rule to him some other time. "I'm glad to see you too."
"I heard the mansion got hit," said Clark, releasing him. "I heard about your Dad. I'm so sorry, Lex."
"Thanks. It missed the school, I hope."
"Yeah, but ... "
He stopped, and Lex could see the distortion forming somewhere behind the guileless hazel of Clark's eyes. Ah, here come the half-truths, here come the lies. Clark's hair was wild, covered with dust and his tuxedo coat was torn nearly in half, meaning he was outdoors while the storm raged.
Outside in the middle of a deadly tempest. Interesting.
Why would he do that? To save lives? To battle the forces of nature with his bare hands?
Then to stand there and tell Lex such things were impossible?
"But what?" Lex fingered a corner of Clark's tattered sleeve. "The dancing got a little out control?"
"It's a long story." Clark licked his lips nervously. "Anyway, how's your Dad?"
"He'll survive," said Lex. "That means the survivors better watch out."
The hall was getting more crowded, sometimes shaking with activity when another reunion took place. Mothers hugging sons, lovers reuniting ... it was getting all too full of home baked, lucky-duck, teary-eyed goodness for Lex to handle. He itched to leave.
There was work to be done. He had to get ready.
Clark looked confused. "What do you mean?"
Lex patted his shoulder. "I have to get going, Clark. Unless the tornado hit Metropolis, they're probably rioting up and down Market Street screaming for a Luthor to come and let them know everything is all right. Since I'm the only one they've got I have to try and get there before the overseas markets bottom out on us at the terrible rumors of Lionel Luthor's untimely demise."
"Right." Clark shuffled on both feet, looking as if he felt huge and oafish, useless in the most basic of ways. "Can we ... can we talk later?"
"Sure. Give me a call. Let's say Tuesday?"
Lex waved as he left, leaving Clark standing alone and openmouthed in the careless crowd. He stepped outside the sliding doors and took a deep breath of air; it was cool and void of humidity after the storm. The sky was a strange gray-golden color, the setting sun tossing its rays far through a dust-choked atmosphere. It was like nothing Lex ever saw before.
For somehow, through the fury of nature, everything had changed.
An ambulance screamed up from the road. Lex stepped aside as the doors flew open, banging hard, metal against metal. Out of it tumbled a pair of paramedics hauling a stretcher so covered in medical supplies, blankets and wires it was hard to believe that a person was actually atop it.
But there was. Lex recognized him immediately. "Roger?"
The lump turned toward Lex, oxygen mask covering his mouth, eyes wide with fear.
"Stop!" he ordered the paramedics, who obeyed, mostly out of surprise. The word "stop" wasn't usually part of their vocabulary. "All right, Roger," he whispered urgently, his face hovering an inch over Nixon's. He could smell the hanging odor of death. "Tell me what you found. Come on, you bastard. Do the right thing for once in your life and tell me. What was it? What was your great find?"
A dirt-blackened hand reached from underneath the blankets and pulled down the mask.
Roger Nixon smiled. His gums were bleeding. "Burn in hell, Luthor," he said with the conviction of a man who'd seen the place, up-close and personally.
Lex jerked back in disgust. The paramedics, recovered from their lapse, shoved past him, screaming orders at the top of their lungs and the automatic doors slid shut after them.
There was nothing left then but silence and a gold-dust sky.
Lex reached for his keys and hit the beeper for his car. Slid inside and turned on the radio as loud as it would go. He drove away, fast, thinking past the dark thudding that rumbled through his chest.
You got one pass, Clark Kent. A pass for my one and only friend.
Not so sure about the next time though.
So you better get ready.
Two days later, Lex paid a visit to Cadmus Labs.
He surveyed the brand new additions: the five new fishbowl-like rooms fully equipped with the latest medical technology and monitoring devices, not the mention the five large beds centered in each. Beds that had heat, cooling, massage ... and four point restraints.
A file was placed in his hand and he signed off on it without looking.
A much more interesting sight had just arrived.
It was a gurney carrying a heavyset black man, his eyes bruised with exhaustion. His hands were ever trembling, even with the heavy sedation he was being fed via three different intravenous tubes.
"Mr. Jenkins?" Lex put a solicitous hand on his shoulder. "Do you remember me, Earl?"
The cracked lips twisted derisively. "You're hard to forget, Luthor," he croaked. "So ... is this what you and your father consider taking care of your employees? Or am I just going to get jerked around again like in that last hospital you stuck me in?"
"Not my father, Earl. Just me. And yes, I remodeled this facility for your specific needs. You'll be getting top-shelf private care here. Your own nurse, twenty-four hours a day qualified care and hopefully with our new, innovative treatments, you'll receive a cure."
Earl's eyes widened. "A cure? You mean ... you think ..." He grasped Lex's hand so hard Lex could hear his bones squeak. "If I could just hold my baby, my son, just once, I'd forgive everything. Every damned minute of pain you Luthors have caused me ..."
"All I can promise is that you'll be our focus from now on, Earl. The rest will have to follow naturally, but I give my personal assurance that we'll do our best. I won't rest until the answers are found."
Tears glittered in Jenkins eyes. "God bless you, Lex. God bless you. You're nothing like your father."
He nodded. "That's the idea."
Lex smiled one last time at Jenkins, then motioned to the interns attending the gurney. Watched as it was rolled into a readied room, a full staff waiting to attend to their new patient. He stepped outside to the viewing area, where Steven Hamilton stood, scowling.
"What the hell are you thinking? We're not a hospital," said Hamilton sharply. "Why do we have this sick man here? He belongs in a medical care facility, not a laboratory."
A medical curtain wrinkled between Lex's fingers. He released and smoothed it in one soft stroke. "I want to know the effects of the meteors on human beings, Doctor." He gazed at Hamilton. "Not on flowers or imaginary creatures, but people."
"What? You want us to experiment on human beings? But ... that is ... that is ..." Hamilton's voice stuttered, then stalled.
"That is what I want. What I need to know, what I hired you to do." Lex shrugged, as inside something that felt like the glory of war was rising, gorging him full on its brittle meat -- its bitter herbs. "The door is that way and if you want to leave, feel free. But know this ... you'll never get within a hundred miles of this research, ever."
"It's my research," said Hamilton, with an edge of whine to his voice. "It was supposed to be mine."
"Not even close," Lex laughed. "Now go, do the work I hired you to do." He waved him off airily. "And be sure your results are ready. We all have to be ready, Dr. Hamilton. Because you never know when the storm will hit."
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