by Jayne Leitch
Disclaimer: Would I want to own Lionel Luthor? Oh, hang on a sec... (Also, ME for the #2 crossover and Dickens for #3. Not I.)
Notes: Many thanks to MaryKate for the beta, as usual. Many thanks also to Thea, for listening to me whine a lot. Blame for #2 can go directly to Cassandra and her Screen Saver of Evil. This act of depravity as a whole is for the 5 Things Challenge.
TRINITY: Three Things that Didn't Happen to Lionel Luthor by Jayne Leitch
Black Mary Janes, polished and gleaming in the light from the fireplace. White socks, trimmed with lace. A white dress with a pastel-pink pinafore, the skirt bulging over thick layers of stiff crinoline, the sleeves like cream puffs on her shoulders. A hairband, the same soft pink as the pinafore, gathering her hair so it hung, straight and simple, down her back.
She looked like a doll. It was a look she was too old for, but then again, beside Lex, whose Excelsior uniform was a carefully-constructed disgrace--tie half-undone, shirt half-untucked, slacks stained at the knees--she might as well have been a doll, for all the life her look suggested. Lionel ignored her, for the moment, turning instead to put the full weight of his disapproving stare onto his lazily-fidgeting son.
"For God's sake, Lex, learn to show at least a pretence of shame. I suppose you want me to demand an explanation for your appearance?"
He was certain that fourteen-year-olds weren't supposed to be able to smirk like that. "You gave an urgent summons, Father," Lex drawled, hands sliding into his pockets somehow managing to hint at the obscene. "I thought it best to respond in kind, regardless of my current state of undress."
"Because of it, more likely." Leaning back in his chair, Lionel tapped a finger on the top of his desk for emphasis. "These stunts you keep pulling aren't impressing anyone, son. Quite frankly, they're rather more tiresome than shocking, so you might as well stop trying."
"Of course," and Lex quirked a knowing eyebrow, "when it comes to scandals, you're speaking as one with a jaded palate, aren't you, Dad?"
Lionel glared. "Watch your tongue, young man. You're in a position to set an example; it would behoove you to set a good one."
"You mean for her?" The chuckle that escaped Lex's mouth was the epitome of bitter dissolution; it grated Lionel's nerves. Neither of them bothered to look at her. "I think she knows better than to use me as an example for anything."
"I should hope she does." Now Lionel spared her a glance; her fingers were curling into the folds of her skirt, her eyes downcast, long lashes black on her plump cheek. "She's been here long enough; I can't imagine this is the first time she's come upon you in the throes of--your peccadilloes. And I know she's familiar enough with stable etiquette to know that your activities there aren't to be emulated."
He caught Lex's sinuous shrug out of the corner of his eye. "She's still young."
"Lionel?" The voice, lilting with excitement, was enough to make Lionel bite his tongue. Ignoring the baiting smile on Lex's face, he deliberately swivelled his chair so his back was to his son before he stood up and strode across his office; he greeted the new arrival with a warm clasp of her arm, and let her kiss his cheek as they moved to stand together before the children. "You haven't told them already, have you?" she asked breathlessly, eyes sparkling in the low light.
"Of course not, my dear." He placed his hand over hers, but turned his sharpest smile to Lex. "It's your news as much as mine."
Lex's expression had gone stony, his clever eyes fixed on the glitter Lionel's hand wasn't quite covering. "You have news," he said, his tone a studied neutral.
"We do." Glancing away from Lex, Lionel looked down into his companion's eyes, delighting for a moment in the adoration and enthusiasm he found there. "You see, son, we've been together--living together, spending time together, simply being together--for a long time now. There's no reason not to give our arrangement a little permanence, some genuine stability--"
"For heaven's sake, Lionel," she interrupted, laughing. She batted her hand playfully against his shoulder. "You're making it sound so businesslike!"
"Am I?" He chuckled gamely. "I apologize. Perhaps I should cut to the chase?" At her energetic nod, he turned again to face his audience's expressionless faces. "All right, then. Nell and I have decided to get married," he announced with a grin, and waited.
Lex was motionless for a very long moment. Then, as if someone had wound him up, he straightened his shoulders, took a step forward, and held out his hand, waiting until Nell took it--rather hesitantly--before saying with mechanistic precision, "Congratulations, Ms Potter. Welcome to our family."
Nell blinked, and she slid a sidelong glance at Lionel before smiling a little wider. "Thank you, Lex."
"Very kind of you, son." Nodding with satisfaction, Lionel turned to the other--very silent--occupant of the room. "How about you, Lana?" he asked, benevolence or something he hoped approximated it shining from his eyes. "I'm going to marry your aunt, which means I'm going to adopt you. You're going to be Daddy Lionel's little princess--what do you say about that?"
Lana looked up from her continuous study of her shoes. Her eyes were wide and glistening; her mouth opened, and her bottom lip trembled. A single, fat tear slid over her cheek, and a choked-off sob wrenched out of her throat before she turned on her patent-leather heel and ran out of the room.
Nell gave Lionel a startled, concerned look, then let go of his arm and hurried after her.
Lex turned to watch her go. When the door swung closed behind her, he glanced back over his shoulder at his father with an arched eyebrow and quirked mouth. "Well, I can't say I fault her instincts."
The bottle of wine he'd placed outside before dinner to chill was coated in a thin layer of fluffy snow; Lionel brushed it off, then clenched his hands into fists for a moment to melt the lingering flakes. When there was nothing left but water, he opened his fists and wrapped one hand around the slender bottleneck, pulled it out of the accumulation and held it up to the porch light, searching critically for crystals in the liquid.
"He's waiting for you."
Lionel started, almost dropping the bottle as he looked up, eyes straining to see in the dark. He took in a sharp breath of freezing air when he made out the shape of a woman: black-clad, silhouette blurring into the nighttime shadows, she stood in the snow just beyond the reach of the light from the door. "Who are you?" he demanded, tightening his grip on the neck of the bottle, preparing to use it as a weapon if it became necessary. "How did you get onto the grounds?"
The woman swayed a little, buffeted by an imaginary wind in the utterly still night. "I walked," she said, as if it were the most obvious answer in the world. "Crunch crunch crunch, through the snow and the bones."
She had an accent; it reminded Lionel of the girls he used to meet when Harry Hardwick took him drinking in the less-reputable areas of London. It was absurdly out of place in Metropolis. "I'll have to have a chat with my security team. I was under the impression that I paid them to prevent late-night strollers from wandering right up to my door. Don't come any closer," he added sharply as she took a step forward. "If you leave now, I won't call security."
"Won't do you any good," she lilted, continuing to walk slowly and steadily into the sphere of light. As she approached, Lionel saw that she was wearing a cloak, with a hood drawn up over her head that cast her face in shadow. Her hands were bare, however, and almost as pale as the snow as they hung limply at her sides. "Crunching through the bones..."
"What?" Lionel half-raised the wine bottle. "Miss, I said--"
"Lionel?" The soft voice, accompanied by the squeak of the door opening behind him, made his heart trip. Reaching around with his free hand, he pushed at the metal frame, pushing it closed again so his wife wouldn't have enough room to come outside.
"Lilly, go upstairs, lock yourself in the bedroom, and call the police." Without taking his eyes off the slim shadow making its way with catlike precision through the snow on the deck, Lionel issued his steady orders. "Tell them there's at least one intruder on the grounds."
He heard Lilly gasp. "But Lionel--"
"I'm fine. Go." She paused for a second--then, thankfully, she hurried away, her steps echoing clumsily with her speed. Lionel shifted his grip, his fingers quickly numbing on the cold glass of his bottle. Something was very wrong; his guards were the best he could buy, they should have responded to the security breach long before now...
"Shouldn't scare her like that." The woman came to a halt a few steps away, tilting her head to the side as if listening to someone whispering in her ear. "Her heart can't bear it. Might just stop."
"That's ridiculous." But there was a history of heart problems in Lilly's family, Lionel suddenly recalled; a truly unsettling number of her elderly relatives were on medication of some kind or another. How the hell did this woman know that? "You stay away from my wife."
The woman, already halted in her steps, seemed to freeze all over; it was as if she turned, suddenly, to stone. She stood with breathless stillness, a long, thin shadow in the gathered dark, facing him in a way that felt vaguely like appraisal. Lionel shivered involuntarily; he could feel her eyes on him, even though he couldn't see them in the shadow of her hood. He jumped when she spoke again, unexpectedly unfreezing with a jerky, birdlike move of her head. "Okay."
"It's not her, in any case." She swayed again, her bony fingers gripping the edges of her cloak so she could swing the fabric, loose and free, as if dancing with it. "He's waiting for you."
"Wh...who is?" Lionel put the stammer down to the fact that he was ill-dressed for the freezing-cold night, standing in the dead of winter in his dressing gown and slippers. He had no idea what she was talking about. "Either explain yourself right now, or--"
He didn't see her move, but in the blink of an eye she was right in front of him, one cold hand brushing his while it pulled the wine bottle out of his grasp, the other flattening to his cheek, pushing him until his back hit the wall of the house. Frozen bricks leeched heat through his clothes in seconds. He struggled briefly--wondered why, when he was so much taller and broader than she, he couldn't seem to even shift her iron-grip--but then she lifted her face, and he could do nothing but look into her eyes.
He went utterly still, feeling at once lost and enthralled.
"Blood and rain," she whispered, and some distant part of him registered the lack of body heat pressing against him, the lack of warm fog that should have been her breath in the below-freezing air. "All the suns falling dead, ashes and char, char and bone, bone and blood and rain." He felt her other hand slip between the folds of his robe and press, cold and clever, in just the right place; he gasped, and felt himself push forward into her stroking. "Your wealth lies here," she murmured, and he couldn't see her smiling, but knew she must be; she couldn't be anything but amused, the way she sounded. "Just waiting to come, he is."
"...who...?" She scraped her nails over him, once, twice, and he jerked hard against her hand. His breath was ragged, loud in the stillness, and he watched with distant fascination as drops of it seemed to condense on her face, bedewing her lashes, jewelling around those eyes...
"Oh, yeah." And now she was leaning into him, a full-body press of heavy fabric and that incomprehensible strength, her mouth teasing over the line of his jaw while her hand moved under his robe. Lionel sagged back against the wall, unable to even think about trying to get away. "I can see it. Kings and conquerors, gods and monsters, soldiers in green marching, marching, marching..."
Lionel stared into her eyes and saw it, too: empires, glories, power and importance and a trail of fire through the sky. "Mine?" he croaked, a sudden blaze of covetousness forcing out the harsh gasp he hadn't known he could vocalize with her touching him like that.
Her hand stilled, drawing a moan from the back of his throat. Pulling back just a little, she gave him a look that seared through his brain and asked, very softly, "Do you want it to be?"
Lionel saw sunflowers bloom and decay and bloom in her eyes. "Yes. Mine."
She smiled, and changed. He watched, fascinated, as her face contorted--her brow raised, her nose wrinkled, her eyes turned yellow and catlike--and when she opened her mouth to reveal pointed fangs, he bared his throat in automatic submission.
She bit him and he came, spilling uselessly into her hand and the frozen deadness of the night.
"Is this supposed to frighten me?" Lionel nodded contemptuously at the gravestone bearing his name. "Every man must die, Spirit. The only matter that should possibly concern me in life is the prospect of leaving a suitable legacy." With an expansive gesture that seemed to encompass the whole of the misty Christmas Eve night, he went on, "In any event, I've always preferred Sun Tzu's practicality to weepy Dickensian sentiment. If you'd read The Art of War, you'd know that any man determined for greatness mustn't allow attacks on his emotions to succeed..."
His cowled companion's shoulders slumped. As Lionel lectured on, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come gave an incorporeal sigh, threw its hands into the air in defeat, and strode away through the fog.
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