Carrot Top

by Uris

Feed the muse. Please, it makes me write more. My sister Athena betaed.

The helicopter landed within a kilometer of the ice fortress that Lex had spotted on aero photos. Lex, in a totally white snowsuit, stepped out of the helicopter into the blinding snow then cut the fuel line. The pilot ran out of the helicopter and screamed. "Are crazy? You'll kill us both."

"Only one of us." Lex started to walk away from the helicopter; the pilot would die of hypothermia before help could arrive.

Lex touched indention in the fortress that appeared to be a closed door. "Welcome. You are the one that the pod has chosen for my son, Kal-el," said the holographic image of a dark-haired woman that could have been Clark's mother.

Lex tried not to shiver, as the computer scanned him, and walked into the ice fortress, because, no matter what obstacles it held inside, the structure would shield him from the wind and snow.

"I do not know any Kal-el." Lex Luther didn't cower to computer programs.

"Kal-el's mate, you meet him the day his ship landed on your world," the computer program explained.

Lex hoped the program meant mate as slang for friend or companion. "Clark." Lex acknowledged the program.

"You must make a choice to go forward or do you wish to return to who you were before meeting Kal-el?"

"Go back," Lex said. A computer program wasn't going to tell him what to do. The AI program meant mate in only one sense. Lex Luthor was no one's mate. As much as he liked or possibly loved Clark Kent, he wasn't bearing Clark's offspring. The computer scanned him again. Green light filled the ice chamber. Suddenly, he felt weak and lost consciousness.

A nine-year-old boy opened his eyes to see a man in a funny red and blue suit stand over him. Lex started to wheeze. Where was his inhaler? It must have got lost in the cornfield. How did this snowsuit get on him? And why was it so cold? "Mister, where am I?"

"In my Ice Fortress," said the man. "I'll get you home to your father."

"My father is in Smallville," explained the boy between breaths. "He was buying another factory and it was so boring."

"And you ran away," said the man.

The cold made Lex sleepy. The boy fell asleep in the large man's arms and woke up in the hospital.

A nurse said, "We can't keep him in the hospital without his parents' consent."

"My dad is Lionel Luthor," said the boy.

"I'll contact him."

"She'll get your father," said the man. "Just tell him his son Lex is in the hospital. Don't tell him the boy's age or condition until he gets here."

"Sure, Superman." The nurse left.

"Will my mom be coming, too?" asked the boy.

"Your dad will be here soon," said the man in blue and red spandex.

"Why are you dressed for Halloween?'

"I'm Superman. I fight for truth, justice and the American way." The man, Superman, like Nietsche, sat by the bed. He had the muscles for an outfit like that, but he still looked like a comic book character.

"Right. My dad says nobody does something for nothing. What's in it for you?"

"You are awful young to be so cynical."

"And you're a little old to be trick-or-treating."

The nurse came back in and the man left. She said, "Honey, your dad will be here soon."

"I hate having asthma," said the boy.

"Once your dad gets here, we can work on getting you the right medication. Superman said you were nine years old."


"What year were you born?"

"1980. Do the math."

"That would make you a lot older than nine. Would you like me to get the book cart?"

"I've read everything on your cart, except sissy books."

The nurse left. Lex couldn't understand how he ended up in an ice cave when the last thing he remembered was running through a field and a teenage boy, with an "S" painted on his chest, tied to a cross. Lex had thought the world was coming to an end. Dad had bought him army men, so he could act out the Trojan War or create his own battles. Dad equated business with war. Luthor men were powerful, not chubby boys that ended up in the hospital due to asthma attacks. He was a disappointment to his dad.

The nurse came back with the book cart. Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper looked like a good book. Indian wars, conflict and adventure.

"Isn't that a bit old for you?" asked the nurse.

"I've probably read more books than you." The boy held the worn paperback in his hands.

"That may be true." The nurse sat by his bed and looked at his chart. "Lex, could you tell me who's the president?"

"George Bush, duh."

"Okay," said the nurse. "Who's vice president?"

"Dan Quayle." The boy gave her his best I'm bored look.

"What's the year?"

"1989. Do you want the date, too?"

"If you don't mind," said the nurse.

"October 13. The hick town my dad is screwing over was having some big game."

"The day the meteorites landed." The nurse gasped and scribbled something on the chart. "Read your book. Your dad should be here soon."

After the nurse finally left, Lex opened the book and started reading about colonial America. He was well into the book when his father approached his bed. Dad must have aged twenty years over the last couple hours. "Dad, you don't look good. Too much cream corn."

Lionel went over to Lex and put his hand through Lex's red hair. "Lex, it's really you."

Lex pushed his dad's hand off. "Who else would I be?"

"The doctor needs to check you over then I can take you home."

"Is Mom home?"

"Lex, your mother died a long time ago."

"I just saw her a couple days ago."

"Lex, it isn't 1989. It's 2008."

"I'm sorry I ran away, but Smallville is so boring." In 2008, Lex would be twenty-eight. He was a nine-year-old boy. Dad must be lying to him, but why?

Lionel sat down by the bed. "What do you remember last?"

"The meteorites falling from the sky. I wanted to be brave for you."

"You were brave. You be brave for the doctor." Lionel kissed his forehead.

"You didn't freeze me for nineteen years and Superman didn't find me in your secret laboratory in the North Pole?"

"No, son. We'll talk more when we get home."

The chauffeur looked at the red-haired boy before opening the door. "Rick, you remember Young Master Alexander," said Lionel.

"New help?" said Lex. "Mom is gone. Is Pamela Jenkins still in your employ?"

"She died of cancer a few years ago," Lionel said. "I've remarried."

Lex's mother and nanny were gone and a strange woman would expect him to call her mother. Lex didn't have many friends, but all the boys he knew from school were now nineteen years older than him. He felt like Rip Van Winkle. "What's my stepmom like?"

"Victoria is very pretty. She inherited her dad's businesses which I stole from her."

"Before or after you stole her heart," asked the boy. His father may have loved his mother, but the man was a dog.

"Before," said Lionel. "I do not mix business with pleasure. Lex, strategy is everything. One can't plan while thinking lusting thoughts."

"Do you still have the ranch?"

"No, but I can buy another one. Victoria isn't the outdoorsy type."

Lex couldn't believe his father said outdoorsy. "What type is she?"

"The kind that likes to spend my money on herself and her son. Geoffrey is three. Lex, you're a big brother."

Lex smiled. He liked the idea of having a little brother. Three was young enough to have a major influence on Geoffrey's life. Vicky must be younger than Dad to have a three-year-old child. According to Dad's lecherous smile, much younger. From the limousine window, 2008 didn't seem all that different from 1989. Dad hadn't changed.

"Dad, if you didn't freeze me, how did I end up in the North Pole?"

"You can ask Superman later. Son, I haven't kept up with your exploits since you married Helen."

"Helen?" Lex would have rather believed he was frozen all those years.

"She was killed a few years ago. You haven't been the same since. That Lex is gone. No more talk of him. You're here now." A reluctant tear ran down his father's face.

"Dad, you can grieve the loss of your adult son. I hope to grow into the kind of person who makes you as proud as he made you. I'm sorry for your loss." Lex was curious what the twenty-eight year old him looked like. However, he knew he would eventually grow up to be someone different than whoever married then grieved Helen Luthor.

His dad explained that the manor was brought to Smallville stone by stone. Lex thought the place was nice if you were a ghost and needed a place to haunt. Lionel took Lex to the parlor where a boy, Geoffrey, was watching Wizard of Oz.

"Geoff, we're in Kansas," said the older boy. "I'm your big brother, Alexander."

"Hi, Ander," said the small child.

A slender dark-haired woman said, "Lex, welcome home," in a slight British accent.

"It's Alexander," said the boy. "Lex is my father's nickname for me. You can call me Lex if I can call you Vicky."

"I prefer you calling me Mum," said the woman. When she turned around, Lex could see she had a bun in the oven.

Lex mimicked her accent. "Not bloody likely." The boy returned to his normal mid-West accent. "Do you have any real movies?"

Victoria opened a cabinet with rows of thin cases with movie titles on the side panel. "These are DVD's. They're like laserdiscs only smaller."

"No robots?" asked Lex.

"Geoffrey has a couple," said Victoria.

Lex sat on the sofa facing the large screen TV and flipped the remote. Instead of thirty-six channels of shit, there were over three hundred. He stopped the remote at some horror movie. They never made sense when he started watching them halfway through, but Lex wasn't into sense. He was into enough blood and gore to make Geoff cry for Mummy. Hopefully, a body part or two would be tossed around.

Vicky left Geoffrey alone with his older brother. Did Vicky know that was dangerous? In a year or two, the two of them ready to take over the world. He would have to teach Geoff how to speak clearly and annunciate first. The little boy climbed on the sofa beside Lex.

"My mother is dead," said Lex. "I'm stuck with your Mum."

"Hi, Ander" said the little boy.

"It's Alexander," said Lex.

"Xander," said the overall clad boy.

"Lex," said the older boy before the drooling child totally destroyed his name. "I'm your big brother."

"Budder." Geoff would get it eventually. After all, he couldn't stay three forever. The boy was, at least, silent while the mutant monsters took over the town. That probably was fear.

After the hero save the day and the hick town that looked kind of like Smallville, except it was filled with mutants, Lex turned off the big screen TV. "Geoff, where's the kitchen?"

Geoff got up and led Lex to the kitchen. The two boys got cold cereal and milk then put popcorn in the microwave. Vicky found them as Lex was using a chair to get the popcorn out of a microwave a bit higher than his reach.

"A chair isn't a ladder," said the pregnant woman.

"Vicky, you aren't my Mum," said Lex, still grabbing the popcorn. He dumped the bag of popcorn into a bowl before putting the chair back. "Get a piece of paper. I am not going to die because you don't know my allergies. Make sure to give it to the chef."

Vicky took out something from her pocket that looked like a tricorder from Star Trek then flipped it open like it was a communicator. That little device must be what went for computers in 2008. "Give me your list. I can download it into the cook's computer."

"I'm allergic to strawberries, peanuts, cashews and chocolate. My other allergies aren't food related." After sitting on the chair he moved back to the table, Lex popped some popcorn into his mouth. "Can I get a computer like that?"

"We can look at Palms when we're buying you clothes."

"It must be 2008 because my dad cried and I haven't breathed this well since I was a baby." Lex had asthma attacks even with the best medicine money could buy. Without the shortness of breath, he felt like a different person. He would be able to compete in sports and do dozens of other things he couldn't do before. Dad would probably want him tutored since his time traveling was odd to say the least, but Lex wanted to go to school for the first time in his life.

"The doctor says one pill every morning and you won't need an inhaler," said Vicky.

"Vicky, did you know the twenty-eight year old me?"

"Yes, that doesn't matter." After Vicky helped Geoffrey into his highchair, she reached over Lex to get some popcorn to put in Geoffrey's tray. "Let's go to the mall and get you clothing, a computer and everything else a growing boy needs. Your dad prepared your room while you were in the hospital, but he would have you raised with lions if I didn't step in."

Lex chuckled. "Like my namesake." Dad wanted Lex to be another Alexander the Great. Lex just wanted to fit in and make a few friends. He missed his mother. The shock of everything changing around him was a bit much for the nine year old to handle.

"The Edgecity Mall has an electronic store where you can play all the newest gaming systems. I'll introduce you to the twenty-first century."

"As long as, I don't have to push Geoff's pram." According to Peter and Wendy, boys fell out of their prams and were whisked to Neverland, but "girls... are much too clever to fall out of their prams." Lex felt like he just returned from Neverland.

Vicky took another kernel of popcorn. "Only if you want to."

"Sure, Mum." That didn't sound too bad.

Vicky hugged Lex. "It must be terrible to come home and find your mum and nanny dead. Your daddy is busy putting your assets in a trust until your eighteenth birthday."

"What are my assets?"

"I don't know the exact figures. You were the head of Lexcorp. You can read some business magazines on the way to the mall."

"My daddy would kill his own grandmother for less than an area of land. How do I know when I turn eighteen I won't be left with a goose egg?"

"Superman will keep him honest. Besides, your dad gets your voting rights until you reach majority if he keeps things honest. That's incentive enough."

Lex ate more popcorn. "I don't think I want to see myself as an adult. It would be too freaky."

"I can check the magazines for pictures. If they have any pictures, I'll cut them out."

"Did you like the twenty-eight year old me?"

"Our relationship was odd."

"I've been told I have a late wife. Did you know Helen?"

"We met once or twice. She was a doctor. Helped a lot of people. Don't worry about such things. The man who married Helen wasn't you." Vicky started playing with the boy's hair. "He was at that cornfield, but his life took another turn. You have hair; he didn't. You have asthma; he didn't. His mother helped him recover after the meteorites. Your mother is deceased. You are very different people."

The boy blushed. "You fucked him."

"I made love to a twenty-one year old man, not a nine year old boy."

"As long as, you didn't fuck a twenty-four year old man."

Vicky backed away from Lex. "Geoffrey is your brother, not your son."

Lex took another handful of popcorn. By every right, he should be wheezing by now. 2008 medicine was good. "You slept with me then my father."

"Your father married me after he learned about Geoffrey. I've done nothing to be ashamed."

"Vicky, let's go shopping."

"Do you want the magazines?"

"Some other time." Wondering whom this Superman was that could keep even Lionel Luthor honest, Lex got down from his chair then took Geoff out of his highchair. The older boy helped the three year old with his coat then got his own. This big brother thing had some merits.

Hearing Superman knocked on the window of his bedroom, Lex opened it. "You better use the door."

"The computer monitor wasn't there earlier today." Superman floated like bricks don't.

"Vicky took me shopping. She's taking this stepmother thing a bit too seriously."

About a minute after Superman floated away, someone knocked on the door. Lex invited Superman to sit on his computer workstation chair while Lex sat on the bed with the Metropolis Sharks bedspread. Dad owned the team.

"I came over to talk to you about what happened in my Fortress of Solitude." Superman turned the chair to face the boy.

"The ice castle in the North Pole?" clarified Lex.

"Lara returned you to who you were before you met me."

"I met you in '89. How old were you then?"


"Like Geoff," said Lex.

"I'm sorry I didn't say anything about your mother or the year in the hospital. I didn't think it was my place."

"Were we friends?" asked the boy.

"I'd like to think so."

"You have me at a disadvantage. You know about me and I know nothing about you."

"I'm Superman. The goofy suit says it all. Why aren't you asking me to take you back to the Fortress?"

The boy clasped his hands around his knees. "From what I've heard I was a widower who drowned himself in his work. I didn't have that much of a life."

"You're a smart child."

Lex touched his head. "Some of the adult me is still in here. I have to believe that."

"How are you getting along with your stepmom?"

"She's a whore that tricked my dad into marrying her." Lex made eye contact with Superman. "I need to stay here and help raise Geoffrey. I had my mother to raise me. Vicky seems like a worse parent than Dad."

"Geoffrey isn't your responsibility."

"I'm his big brother."

"You are also Lucas's big brother."


"Your father's son by Rachel Dunlevey. He was under your protection."


"Lucas tied you up and made your father chose between you and him."

"What happened?" The boy moved forward on the bed, closer to the strangely dressed man. Superman had saved his life, at least once, probably more times.

"Lionel chose you. Lucas filled two guns with blanks and told Lionel to kill you. Lionel fired two shots at Lucas."

"Where's Ms. Dunlevey?" asked Lex.

"In a mental hospital. She tried to kill you with an axe."

"And you saved me, yet another time." Lex got off the bed and hugged Superman. "Thank you."

"Lex, your friendship is thanks enough."

"Nice family, I have. I want you to protect Lucas for me. I have to learn about the Internet, computers, pop music and other things 21st century. When I'm ready, Lucas and I will have a brother-to-brother talk."

"Keep the world safe for democracy and watch over Lucas Luthor."

"I'm imposing." Lex lied down on his bed. "I invade your space and your computer resets my internal clock back about nineteen years. I have no business asking you for anything."

"I'll check on him tonight," said Superman. "Lex, Geoffrey and Lucas are lucky to have you as a big brother."

Lex was tutored the rest of the year. In September, he went to one of Smallville's five elementary schools. He told his dad that he had been to private school the first time around, but what convinced his dad was Lex saying, "If I go to private school, I'd be spending all my time on a bus."

Vicky said, "We could move back to Metropolis."

"We are staying here," said Lionel.

"My father has this Lord of the Manor thing going," said Lex. "Why else would he bring a castle over from Scotland?"

"Watch your mouth, boy," scolded Lionel.

"I live here because it suits me," Lex explained. "I was born in 1980. That makes me way over age of majority. I can take my money and go elsewhere."

"No one will believe you're twenty-nine," said Lionel.

"This is the age of the Internet. I can do transactions over the computer and use technology to deepen my voice when I use the telephone," explained Lex. "I still own Lexcorp."

"Due to your amnesia, I was given executive power unless you want to go to court and prove your competency." Lionel gave Lex a wicked smile and crackled. "You handle the growing up and I'll handle Lexcorp."

"You live in a nice house. You have two loving parents," said Vicky. "Why do you have to fight with your father?"

"He stole my company. Lexcorp is getting smaller and Luthorcorp is expanding. I'll have nothing by the time I can fight him in court," said Lex. "And he knows it."

"Lex, your father won't live forever as much as he'd like to think so. You are his eldest son. That isn't going to change." Vicky made a lousy peacemaker.

"My father wants to be alpha male," explained Lex, "but he knows any of his sons could take him, including Geoff."

"This isn't Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom," said Vicky. "I have to protect Samantha from all you rutting males."

"I want to try out for sports," said Lex.

"What about your asthma?" asked Lionel.

"I'll carry my inhaler," said Lex. "I haven't had an attack since Superman found me."

Vicky gave Lionel one of her looks. "Let the boy try-out."

"Public school, soccer," said Lionel. "He's a Luthor, not a Bell or a Ross."

"Those things don't matter to a ten year old boy," said Vicky. "My dad played rugby in his youth."

Lionel took Vicky's hand. "Darling, Sir Harry playing rugby. You must have a photo."

"Sorry, love," said Vicky. "He burned them. Competitive sports teach a child about teamwork and winning. It will be good for him."

Lionel made a face. "It's so plebian."

Vicky said, "Love, Lex is a good kid. You can put him in private school later if things don't work out."

"The next thing he'll be doing is hanging out at the Talon," said Lionel.

"I am part owner. After I settle into fifth grade, I'm make my presence know to Mrs. Ross," said Lex. "Dad, I know what companies I own and Superman promised me he would keep you honest."

"You threatening me, boy?" said Lionel.

"Reminding you," Lex said.

Lex made a few friends in school. He joined Smallville Little League. Vicky, sitting in the standing with Geoff and baby Sammi, was priceless. After the second week of practice, Vicky had Sammi stay with the nanny, but Geoff wanted to see his big brother play.

By the time Lex was eleven, he and Geoffrey went to most practices and games without Vicky. Lex told five-year-old Geoff about his plans to take over the world with Superman's help.

"What makes you think he would help you?"

"He's my friend," said Lex, carrying his bat and glove.

"Superman doesn't want power," said Geoff. "He fights for truth, justice and the American way."

"His blood is as red as yours and mine." Lex walked by the cornfield.

"He's an alien."

Lex kicked the dusty soil on the edge of the road. Bad topsoil meant more fertilizer; business was good. "I've seen his blood on a slide in my late wife's office and dripping down his face. And it's red."

"You know who he is."

"If I tell you, the whole kindergarten class will know."

"You will tell me?" Geoff gave Lex his most adoring glance, the I'm your sweet adorable baby brother look.

"When you are older and can keep a secret."

"I want to know now." That evening, Geoff ran into his mother's bed. Dad was off on some business trip on the other side of the planet. Lex stood by the door as the five year old whined, "Lex knows who Superman is and won't tell me."

Vicky got out of bed and put and a bathrobe over her silk nightie. "Lex, don't tease your little brother."

"He follows me around," Lex said.

"That's what little brothers do," said Vicky.

Lex went to his room, locked the door and played his latest Sega game, turning the volume up until he drowned out the child banging on his door. Lex left for the bus the next morning without saying good-bye to Vicky. After school, he went to the Talon. "Mrs. Ross, I'd like a cappuccino."

"No chocolate," said Lana.

Pre-adolescence Lex could see why Clark found her so sexy. "Or nuts."

With the cup in a tray, Lana watched Lex looking over the quarterly report of Lexcorp's earnings. "Not required reading for sixth grade," she said, putting his coffee on the table.

"I need to keep an eye on my dad." Lex drank a cautious sip. "I know it's sadistical to read the reports when my dad won't let me near my companies."

Lana made herself a cup of joe and sat across from Lex. "Lex, are you eleven or thirty?"

"Eleven," said Lex. "Dad had a team of psychologists and psychiatrists check me out. Mentally, emotionally, any way that is testable, I'm a child. Superman's AI program took the boy from the meteorite crash and dropped him in present day."

"You don't talk like eleven." Lana drank her coffee.

"Or drink coffee like eleven," Lex said before Lana could. "Now that baseball season is over I was wondering if I could work here."

"You're underage."

"Children are allowed to work a limited amount of hours at their own businesses. Think of this as a big lemonade stand." Lex gave her his best smile.

"A few hours a day would be okay."

"Thank you, Mrs. Ross."

"It's Lana. You're six years older than me."

"I prefer to call you Mrs. Ross. The only adult I refer to by first name is Victoria because she hates when I call her Vicky."

"How long have you remembered?"

"Over the last six months." Lex sipped more of his cappuccino. "I remember bits and pieces. Things that happened when I was eight or nine are clearer than that big empty space of not me. I see this little red haired boy in the mirror and I don't know who that tall bald guy I remember being was. I get more of his memories every day, but he isn't me."

"I think I can understand," said Lana. "Everyone saw this little girl in a fairy princess costume. No one could see that was no longer me."

"I always saw you as a capable woman. I never saw you as that fairy princess. Most new businesses fail and you swallowed your pride and went to the mattresses against The Beanery." Lex smiled up at Lana. "You and I are business partners. We signed a contact. Whatever happens to Lexcorp, the Talon is a separate business venture."

"You should tell someone you're getting your memories back."

"I'm telling you."

"I'm not your mother or father."

"I can't tell my father; he'll use it against me and I had sex with Vic. She'll sent me off to boarding school."

"I'm sorry," Lana refilled her coffee then rejoined him.

"Do you have Clark Kent's phone number?"

"I'll get it for you." Lana returned to work after finishing her second cup of coffee.

Lex put his schoolbag behind the counter then went to the men's room to wash his hands. "Mrs. Ross, I'm ready to work."

"Make a fresh pot of coffee. Only four hours. I don't want to get in trouble with the child labor board."

Lex took orders and refilled the coffee pots most of the afternoon into early evening. He enjoyed working, again. When a few of the couple high school girls called him cute, he blushed. He filled Pete Ross's coffee before signing himself out.

Pete waved as Lex was getting his schoolbag. "Hi, Alex. Join me."

"Sure, Mr. Ross." Lex poured himself a cup of coffee and sat down across from Pete Ross, law student. "Mrs. Ross didn't have Mr. Kent's home number and I don't want to call him at the Daily Planet."

Lex returned to reading the quarterly reports.

"That isn't schoolwork," said Pete.

"My memory is coming back, and I don't want to tell my dad until I'm sure enough about my facilities to challenge him in court for control of my companies."

"I can understand that."

"I could always talk to Mr. Kent," Lex explained.

"I'll call him." Pete hit the auto-dial. "Clark, a friend of yours wants to talk to you." Pete handed Lex the phone.

"Hi, Mr. Kent," said Lex.

"Hi, Lex, what's up?" said Clark.

Lex was flooded with images from his half-remembered past. "I'm remembering things. Did I hit you at sixty miles an hour?"

Clark's voice got tense. "I pulled you out of the water."

"I need to know if I hit you. The story I've been told doesn't fit that was I remember the accident. I have so many bits and pieces." Lex took the phone outside the Talon. "Clark, I need to know true memories from false memories."

"You didn't hit me. If you did, I wouldn't be arguing on the phone with you."

"And my dad wasn't shot twice and his optic nerves didn't regenerate."

"Your point being?"

"Clark, I need the truth. I'm trying to reform the past. Most of my life is this jumble of images."

"What exactly do you remember?"

"I was using my cell phone and remember hitting you then the guardrail. I clearly remember seeing your face as you hit the windshield."

"You also remember flying over Smallville and only Superman can fly."

"That was a near death experience." Lex could feel his chest tightening as tears poured down his face.

"Lex, get your inhaler. Is your dad or Victoria there?"

"I'm at the Talon."

"Pete's phone," said Clark. "Give him the phone."

Lex used his inhaler while running inside to Pete. Then he tried to take a breath with hyperventilating. Through his tears, he said, "Mr. Kent needs to talk to you."

Pete put the phone on the table. "Lex, sit down and breathe slowly."

Lex did as ordered. He used his inhaler, again. The medicine was working. He looked at Pete through tear filled eyes. Lana gave Lex a glass of water.

"Honey, I'll call your parents. Pete, take him to the hospital."

Lex felt better. The water helped. "I'm fine."

Pete put a hand on the boy's shoulder. "Better safe than sorry."

"I'm not going to be allowed to work here, again." Lex gathered his papers and put them back into his bag. "Mr. Ross, I'm sorry."

"Lex, you can work here. The Talon is half yours," Pete said. "No talking to Mr. Kent during work hours."

"I hate this." Lex wiped the tears covering his face. He must have cried while struggling for breath. "I'm thirty years old. This body betrays me."

Pete drove him to the Smallville Medical Center.

"Helen worked here," Lex said to hear himself talk as if talking about his memories would anchor them. "I gave her the key to the mansion in her office. An open letter from John Hopkins was on her desk and she said I could read it."

Pete got him a seat. "Lex, Lana called your parents. You must feel like you're grieving Helen for the first time." Pete took the chair beside Lex and put an arm around the boy's shoulders. "I need to tell the desk we're here. Will you be alright?"

"I have my inhaler," Lex said.

Vicky came through the door and raced over to hug Lex. "Are you alright? I needed to leave Geoffrey and Sammi with the help."

"I started having problems breathing when I was talking to Clark," said Lex, trying best to some mature, considering he was less than five feet tall and still a soprano, it was rather difficult.

"You should have called hours ago," said Vicky. "Your father and I were worried sick. Do you want us to buy you a cell phone?"

"I'll call next time," said Lex.

Vicky said, "I don't think you need to be seen tonight. We'll call your regular doctor in the morning."

"Whatever you think best," said Lex. "Vicky, thanks for coming."

"You're my son. I don't let just anyone call me Vicky."

Lex smiled. "Or Vic."

"Vic?" Vicky said as she picked up Lex's schoolbag. "Let's go home. I'll have the cook send up some herbal tea. Aroma therapy is just what the doctor ordered."

Lex put his arm around her as they walked to the car. "Vicky, this can't be easy on you."

"You're my stepson. When I married Lionel, I married his family. You are a wonderful big brother to Geoffrey and Sammi. You had a little set back. Honey, Mrs. Ross said you insisted on helping at the Talon. You shouldn't overstress yourself."

"I'll be more careful."

Vicky opened the door of her Mercedes and helped buckle him in. "Tomorrow we'll see the doctor and get you a cell phone."

"I won't work at the Talon again until summer vacation," Lex said, "and I'll call if I don't come straight home from school."

"Honey, we want you to have friends, but your father and I worry."

Lex closed his eyes. All those memories troubled him. He remembered weird shit. Stuff he didn't want to believe happened. Clark and the Porsche was only the tip of the iceberg. "Mom, let me be."

"Mom, not Vicky," Vicky repeated. "I'm nagging. Aren't I?"

Lex nodded. After they got home, Lex wrote an email to Clark while he drank his tea. After Vicky sat with him awhile, Lex finally felt ready to talk, "I'm sorry I teased Geoffrey. He gets on my nerves at times."

"I know you're used to being an only child. Having a new mother and two younger siblings is an adjustment." Vicky sat on his bed.

"I never got to say good-bye to my mother," said Lex.

"Your dad says your mother was sick a long time."

Lex hit the send button on his email. "It doesn't make it easier."

"Honey, remember you don't give people your age, your whole name or where you live," said Vicky.

"Can I tell people I'm thirty?" asked Lex.

"If you want." She walked over to him and kissed his forehead. "They will probably believe you. You spell better than I."

"I rather chat with other pre-teens and teenagers. I don't feel thirty."

"The doctors say you're aging normally. You're better off not remembering. Your father said you set the bar for teenage rebellion the first time around."

Lex played a game of computer solitaire. "I wonder if would have been a different person if Julian lived. That person wouldn't have walked into Superman's Fortress."

Vicky walked toward the door. "You don't know that."

"I love being a big brother to Geoffrey and Sammi."

"They must get on your nerves."

"At times." Lex smiled. "I'm lucky to have you for a stepmother."

"Don't play on the computer too long. You need your sleep."

The following day, Lionel found Lex and Geoff playing Sega on the big screen TV. Lionel took the remote and turned off the TV.

"Dad," cried Geoff.

"Lex, your teacher called. Apparently, you're remembering your history."

"Some." Lex didn't want to talk about it.

After Lionel put the remote out of Geoffrey's reach, the younger boy left to find another TV.

"Mrs. Knight says you should teach the class. Do you want to talk about it?" asked his father.

"Not really." Lex turned the television back on.

"Lex, did Clark say something to upset you? I heard from the Rosses that your breathing problems started while you were on the phone with him."

"He said I had another little brother Lucas."

"What did he say about him?"

"Nothing that made sense."

Lionel sat on the leather sofa. "Then it is probably true."

"Why would Lucas force you to shoot me with blanks? Clark told me you shot Lucas, not me."

"It was awhile ago."

"I want to meet Lucas. The four Luthor men should go camping or something. Clark says Lucas plays a mean game of basketball."

"Son, Lucas has problems. He might not be about to handle seeing you like this."

"All your shrinks gave me a clean bill of health," said Lex. "I'm not going to wake up tomorrow and be thirty. It's been two years. You want your adult son back. I'm sorry I'm not him."

Lionel put his arms around his son. "I love you for who you are. I don't want you to be someone else." Lionel's words felt false to Lex. They rang hollow to the boy.

"If not camping, a Sharks game. You own the team and Geoff and I have never been to the stadium."

"I'll take you and Geoff to pre-season training camp this summer." Lionel got himself a drink. "You can watch them practice."

"Something will come up."

"I'll see that it doesn't. Would you like to see an expedition game?"

"Sure, Dad. I didn't mean anything about Lucas. It's just that I have a brother I never met. Geoff and I get along so well."

"Lucas is trouble. The next time he may not use blanks. I'll try to do more things with you and Geoff. I'll schedule more father/son time. You and Geoff are the two most important people in my life."

"It doesn't feel that way." Lex went to his room to do his math and spelling homework. Lionel had fired Pamela because he wanted Lex to be his son, not Lillian's. Lionel had tutored Lex in history and philosophy, every dinner discussion a debate, every question a quiz. When he didn't recognize the wiry bald boy in family videos as himself no matter how many times Dad made him watch them, Dad's tutorage turned to benign indifference.

Writing twenty-five words five times each with his small awkward hands was torture. Dad knew he was remembering. He shouldn't have corrected the sixth grade textbook on the Peloponnesian War. He also told the teacher how the city of Athens fell to the Sparta after Pericles's death. Dad had browbeaten him on Greek and Roman history. An incorrect reference wasn't to be suffered lightly.

After he wrote his last word the required five times, Lex noticed his non-writing hand was covered in ink from leaning on the page. He went to the bathroom to wash his hands and brush his teeth. Then he knocked on his parents' bedroom door.

"Come in, Lex," shouted his father.

As the nervous boy entered the master bedroom, Vicky slid a bathrobe on and Dad raised the blanket to cover everything below his waist. Dad was taking advantage of Vicky's one talent earlier. He fondly recalled Vicky slapping him. The woman was still a whore. She would eventually bore of Dad's money.

Lex sat on an antique chair. "I shouldn't have asked about Lucas."

"Son, you didn't know," Lionel stated.

"You used to lecture me during dinner," said Lex. "Why did you stop?"

"Victoria likes us to have peaceful dinner conversation. You make allowances."

"Dad, you don't make allowances. You set the standard and expect everyone else to meet it," explained Lex.

"I'm getting older," said Lionel. "You remember me as a young father. You aren't twenty years older, but the rest of us are. I no longer have the stamina. I want to enjoy the comforts of my hard work. The homefront should not be a battlezone."

"Why did stop making videos after mother died?"

"I stopped doing a lot of things after your mother died."

Vicky rested against Lionel. "Honey, go to bed."

"Dad, are you disappointed in me?" Lex hated the way Vicky's arms were all over Dad.

"I could never be disappointed in you." Lionel smiled at the child. "Son, I've read a bit about amnesia. A lot of amnesia sufferers remember general information like history. That doesn't mean you will remember people and events."

"I look at home movies and the bald boy isn't me," Lex explained. "I like looking at Mom though. I miss her."

"I miss her, too." Lionel held the blanket over his waist.

Lex walked over to the bed. "Dad, if I never remember, you won't love me less." Lex remembered enough to know never give Lionel Luthor the upper hand.

"Son, a parent's love isn't conditional." That's why Lionel kept Lucas in foster care and never let him be adopted. Then that wasn't about conditional love. That was a social experiment: one child gets everything and the other child gets nothing. Lex could do without that kind of love.

Lex, too old for bedtime kisses, walked toward the door and touched the knob. "Good night, Dad, Vicky."

Lex had too much on his mind to go to sleep and decided to check his email one last time to find a letter from a "Lex, I'm visiting my parents this weekend. Come to the Kent Farm anytime. CK."

On Saturday, Lex put his inhaler and cell phone in his backpack and rode his bicycle the seven miles to the Kent Farm. Linda, the youngest Kent, was playing with her dolls in the front yard by the sunflowers.

"Hello," she said shying.

"Hello, I'm Alex." Lex parked his bike then walked up the stone path.

"Linda, I'm six," said the small framed red-haired girl. She looked more like his sibling than sturdy curly haired Geoffrey. The poor thing had a classic British jaw and favored Sir Harry. Linda had the Luthor nose and delicate features. Lex could see Martha and Lionel in her.

"I'm eleven years old." Lex knocked on the door. Jonathan answered it. "Mr. Kent, is Clark in?"

"Alexander, does your father know you're here?" asked Jonathan.

Do you know that child is no more related to you than I am? Clark looked more like Jonathan than Linda did and Clark was from another planet. Lex didn't say any of that. "Yes, Mr. Kent," said the boy. "Clark emailed me. I'm starting to get my memories back and Clark and I were good friends."

Linda Luthor, Lex grimaced. Not another L.L. Lex recalled Jonathan spending a few nights in jail, so Jonathan did have motive to shot his dad. Then again, so did half the other residents of Smallville, including all the investors in Lexcorp that Dad forced Ethan to dig up dirt on.

Jonathan invited the boy into the kitchen. "Clark is helping with the spring harvest. I need to join him."

"I can help, too." Lex put his backpack on a kitchen chair.

"I'm sure you can." Jonathan gave Lex that look adults give children when they think they are too little to help.

Lex stood tall. "I play baseball and I rode my bike here from the castle. I'm pretty strong."

Jonathan put an arm around the boy. "Let's get to that squash."

Lex took his inhaler from his backpack and put it in his pants' pocket.

"Are you okay?" asked Jonathan.

"This isn't Georgia. My big allergy is peanuts," explained Lex. "Sometimes, heat can bring on an attack. I've had asthma since I was two. I'm extremely cautious."

They barely crossed the field when Jonathan yelled, "Clark, Lex is here." It sounded more like a warning than telling Clark that company had arrived.

Lex looked up at Jonathan. "Mr. Kent, I know you don't like my father, but I never gave you any reason to hate me."

Mr. Kent walked on. "No, you haven't." The lack of eye contact told the boy Jonathan was lying.

"I knew something about Clark that you didn't want me knowing and you're afraid if I get my memory back I'll learn what it is." Lex, as a child, could say things adults couldn't. He could no longer vote, drive or work in his own factory, but he had cuteness on his side. Cute could be a powerful tool if wielded properly.

The man said nothing. Bingo. Lex had called it.

"Mr. Kent, I won't give out your family secrets. However, the cook does want Mrs. Kent's apple pie recipe."

"Not the strawberry-rhubarb?"

"I'm allergic to strawberries. Mrs. Ross may want it and she needs three strawberry-rhubarb on Monday and as many peach pies as you got. I'm working at the Talon now."

"Aren't you young to be working?"

"I'm part owner of the Talon. According to the child labor laws, I can't operate the espresso machine, but I can take orders and serve food and drinks." Lex knew he sounded more like Ryan James than Lex Luthor. Ryan had worked cute for all it was worth.

Jonathan stopped walking. "Your birth certificate says you were born 1980."

"Mr. Kent, no one can see past the red hair and chubby cheeks," explained Lex. "I can get all my memories back tomorrow and I would still be seen as a child."

Clark ran over to Lex and hugged him. "How's it going, Carrot Top?"

Lex ran his hand through his hair. "Another comment like that and I'm shaving it off."

Clark stared down at him. "You would not."

The boy smiled back. "I look good bald."

Clark blushed.

Lex recalled the way Clark used to smile at him when Clark was a teenager. "Mr. Kent, I need to talk to Clark alone."

"I need to get back to the squash," said Jonathan.

Clark put an arm around Lex and started walking toward the farmhouse. "I'm sorry that I upset you over the phone," said Clark. "You can't bully me into remembering something that didn't happen."

"It's just that I remember it so clearly," said Lex.

"We can talk inside over strawberry-rhubarb pie," said Clark.

"I'm allergic," said Lex. "The old me didn't have allergies or asthma."

"No," said Clark.

The little boy looked up at the 6'3" man. "Doesn't your dad need you in the field?"

"I didn't get a degree in journalism, so I can pick my father's crops."

Martha poured two glasses of milk for the boys.

"Mom, I'm old enough to pour my own milk," moaned Clark.

"Sure, you are," Martha said. "I won't have Alexander picking up your bad habits. Your stepmom told me you were coming over, so I made some banana muffins without nuts."

"Walnuts, I'm okay with," said Lex.

"I figured better safe than sorry," said Martha.

"I can write you my list. It's cashews and peanuts. I eat your banana muffins all the time. I lived with allergies all my life."

Martha gasped.

"Yeah, I know the bald guy running around with my name and fingerprints didn't have allergies. I have an easier time dealing with it, if I think of myself as being in a fugue state for nineteen years."

"Sounds reasonable," said Martha.

"Mrs. Kent, I'm an eleven year old boy. I ride my bike, play with my baby brother and hate doing my spelling homework. Do you know why teachers make you write twenty-five words a week five times each?"

"Writing helps you memorize the words," said Martha.

"I think teachers like torturing their students," said Lex.

"Does writing the words help?" she asked.

"I know most of the words on the list. I was not a stupid man. Mr. Sullivan said I was a more competent plant supervisor than my father."

"Why do you go to school?" said the mother of the younger LL.

"What else am I going to with my time? Geoff is going to First Grade next year."

"Why don't you ask your father to take out of school, so you can learn a craft or a foreign language?" asked Martha.

"I know five languages now." The boy drank the rest of his milk.

"Clark knows over a dozen languages." Martha poured herself a glass of orange juice.

"Eighteen last count." Clark appeared to be mentally counting them on his fingers. "Over twenty if you count all the dialects of Chinese."

Lex took another muffin. "The foreign affairs desk must love you."

"Lois says I should give up reporting and become a translator." Clark took another slice of pie. Lois Lane was Clark's mentor at the Daily Planet and possible girlfriend.

"You're good reporter," said Lex.

"Lois and I share a byline," said Clark.

"I thought Lane Kent was a cousin of yours," teased Lex. "Superman rescued me from the North Pole. Ms. Lane seems to have a close relationship with him; maybe, she can relay my thanks."

Martha blushed.

"What did I say?" asked the boy. He was pretty certain that Clark was Superman from his attitude regarding the Porsche incident. He didn't act like a man with nothing to hide. What he recalled from there relationship Clark was found of keeping secrets from Lex.

Martha said, "Superman doesn't need your thanks."

"I no longer have a crush on Clark." Lex smiled, fawning innocence. "I grew out of it by my twenty-fourth birthday. I now have a crush on Superman. Him and Warrior Angel."

Clark emptied his glass. "Do you want me to relay that to Lois?"

"No." The boy blushed. He blamed Lois Lane for Superman's popularity. If Lois Lane didn't write that positive first interview with Superman, the rest of mass media wouldn't have considered him a good guy. They would have seen a man with unlimited power as the threat he was. When Lois Lane made him into a hero even NPR followed suit.

Clark led Lex outside after the boy finished his second muffin. "What is going on in that fevered brain of yours?"

"Nothing, Clark." Lex smiled. "Your secret is safe with me."


"I once explained to you that there are women you fuck and women you love. Vicky is the fuck sort and Lana is the love sort. How did Pete hook Lana?"

"He asked while I was still putting my foot in my mouth," said Clark.

"I didn't see that coming."

"You were too busy conquering the world one company at a time and trying to destroy Superman."

Lex kicked up the dusty soil as he walked in the direction of Clark's loft. "The press never understood me. I didn't want to destroy Superman. Discredit him, perhaps. Destroy sounds so permanent."

"I try to stay away from the Inquisitor."

"Don't you read your competition?"

"That rag isn't my competition."

Lex walked into the barn. It seemed larger than he remember. "More people read the Inquisitor than the Planet. The masses want fluff. They don't appreciate hard news."

"What makes you the expert?"

Lex sat on the sofa near Clark. "According to the legitimate press, I never disappeared. My name is still listed as CEO of my companies. I suffered a mental collapse a couple years ago and my father seized my control in my moment of weakness. I would never been able to start Lexcorp if I didn't strike while my dad was recovering from injuries."

"Tit for tat."

"Standard operating procedure in the Luthor household. Dad is growing old and weak. I have time to reclaim the throne. If I no longer choice to attend board meetings, that's my prerogative."

"What doesn't this have to do with the Inquisitor?" Clark sat with his legs crossed at the knee.

Lex walked over to the telescope. "You ask any person on the street about Lex Luthor and they will say I disappeared in the North Pole. I'll have to thank that pilot for squealing to the press."

"Superman dropped him off in a hospital in Canada," Clark explained.

"The pilot told everyone I was buried in the snow." Lex touched the window frame. "As you can see, I'm very much alive."

"Two years is a long time to disappear for public eye."

"Clark, I want you to have Ms. Lane give me an interview. Is her cousin Chloe still a whiz with computers?"

"Why do you ask?"

"She can update my photo. Make me look a little younger. That way, when I return to the spotlight, all anyone will think is I went to some European spa."

"You're a boy."

"I realize that." The boy turned around to look at Clark. "My dick is the size of my thumb and that isn't very big. I deal. Being Lionel Luthor's kid has its good points. I get all the newest video games and the best part is I have two younger siblings, so I no longer have to suffer through Dad's history lessons."

"This is a game to you."

"Do I look like I'm playing?" Lex sat back down on the sofa a few inches from Clark. "Are you screwing Ms. Lane?"

"I'm five years younger than her. I doubt she takes me seriously. Her nickname for me is Smallville."

"Take her out."

"We're together all the time; sometimes, twelve hours a day."

"Eating Chinese take-out hunched one laptop isn't a date. Take her to the opera; she likes concerts."

Clark stared at the boy. "You dated her."

"For a couple months, I took her to my Metropolis penthouse and asked her to marry me and she said no."

"Did you ask why?"

"I just got my memory back. Look at me. She's a woman; I'm a boy."

"That would put a damper of things."

"It could be worse. I have time to read, play on the computer, goof off, but people don't listen."

"I'm listening."

"I can't imagine dating a twelve year old girl."

"First kisses are always awkward."

"It won't be mine. BTW, Lois is an animal in bed."

"Thanks for giving me the heads up."

"She likes any excuse to dress up and she dresses up well." Lex smiled. He had his memories until his body reached puberty for a second time. Clark was a lucky man to get to date Lois. Lex wished things had gone differently with Lois. He and Lois fought over her handling of Superman among other things. Lois had a lot of passion in and outside bed.

Lex called his dad on his cell phone when he was half the way home. His dad got to ride in a limo and he was a slacker if he asked for a battery assist bike. At least, Kansas was flat. "Dad, have you visited the Kents recently?"

"Is there a reason I should?" asked Lionel.

"If I told you, I'd ruin the surprise." Lex hung up then finished his bottled water before riding the rest of the way home. He wondered if he should ask Superman to find Lucas for him. He just spoke to Superman and all he did was play mental games.

Lex showered and washed his hair. While drying off, he looked at himself in the mirror. Having adult memories in this body was a pisser then recalled Robert Heinlien's Lazarus Long's motto was the best revenge was outliving your enemies. The next time he took "A Drink from a Certain Fountain" he'd be seventy or eighty. Being nine after being eighty would be a kick in the ass.

He dressed and wrote some letters to his Internet friends and went to a chat room to engage in Internet sex. A "lady" with DD breasts hold him she was wearing a black nightie and nothing else. It would have been nicer if he were able to get a riser. Clark didn't know what he was getting into. Lois Lane was one hot babe.

He was typing in "Groan, pant," when dad entered the room. Lex shut the window.

"Lex, what's did you see at the Kent house?"

"You need to go over there yourself," said the boy.

"Do you want to join me?" Lionel sat on the boy's bed. "Or should I discover this joy myself?"

Lex decided he needed a little excitement in his life. Besides, he would like to see Martha's face when his father discovered the truth. "I would love to go." He hoped he didn't make any LL jokes on the way over, feeling unable to hold in a smirk much longer.

"Mrs. Kent, is there something you should have told my father years ago?" Lex asked.

Lionel laughed. "Son, I've known Linda is mine since Martha found out she was pregnant. Sorry, he has amnesia he doesn't remember these things."

"It's okay. Telling Jonathan would destroy our marriage. I told him it was magic," Martha said.

"In Smallville, optic nerves grow together," Lionel said smiling. "Martha, you leave Jonathan and I'll leave Victoria."

"What about Sammi and Geoffrey?" Martha teased.

"What about them? Lex and Linda are the only two with potential," Lionel said.

"I have potential," Lex said.

"You've always had potential. Lex, you shine in everything you do. Can you keep the secret that Linda is your sister?" Lionel gave an evil grin. "It would ruin three people's lives."

"I've want Mrs. Kent to be my mom since we've met," Lex said. "I have always been jealous of the way she loves Clark unconditionally."

"That sounds like more than a few scattered memories." Lionel put his arms around his son.

"It's starting to come together. I'm a long way from being the person that I was." Lex hugged his father back. "Mrs. Kent, leave the struggling farm and live with my dad in the castle."

"As tempting as that sounds, I love my husband," Mrs. Kent said.

"Does Linda know that she is my sister?" Lex asked.

"No. We'll tell her when she is a teenager," Lionel said. "Would you like some cake and coffee before you go?" Martha asked.

"I rather not run into Jonathan," Lionel said. "Thanks for offering."

Martha said, "Alexander, you can come over and play with Linda anytime you want."

"After Lucas, how could you allow my sister to?" Lex said as he climbed into the car.

"She's growing up with love. Not a word about this to Victoria."

"I won't say a thing." Lex had another sister. Martha was beautiful and intelligent and his father needed someone to hold him in the dark. Like most women, Martha probably thought the infertility was her fault and didn't think she could get pregnant by Lionel. His father better remove that ten percent clause or he'll have nothing left. And what does number 11 do?

Lex didn't care that much. He had the Talon, what was left of Lexcorp and his position was secure as the first-born. In a way, he was related to Clark since his sister was Clark's sister. Either way, it gave him excuse to visit the Kent Farm as often as he wanted.

Lex whispered to his father. "At this point, I'm looking at 20 percent of Luthercorp. You better get a vasectomy."

"If Lucas doesn't settle down, he won't live to see his inheritance," Lionel said.

"He'll live. I told Superman to watch over him."

"Why did you do a fool thing like that?"

"Superman told me Lucas was under my protection. I'm a child. I can't protect anyone, so I told Superman to take care of him."

Lionel snickered. "Hopefully, Superman will put him safely behind bars."

"I'm not in a hurry to grow up," said Lex during his twelfth birthday party. With Geoffrey, Linda, and Sammi, Lex didn't need to hide in cloakroom during parties. Dad kept his word and took his two boys to a Sharks game.

"I don't think I would want to live my childhood a second time," said Victoria.

"No one should have lived through my childhood once," said Lex. "I got a chance to live a better childhood. I have two healthy parents that love me, a wonderful brother and sister, a good job, friends. I am so lucky to have you."

"I feel the same way about you," said Victoria.

"Destinies can be changed and not the man who needed to chase Superman to the North Pole."

"I know you're not." Victoria kissed her cheek.

Everyone sang Happy Birthday. When they got to "How old are you now?", Lex said, "31," then laughed. Lionel cut the cake and served his eldest son the first slice. Brittney, a girl on his little league team, sat beside him at the rented table.

"Hi," Lex said shyly.

"You look awful young to be 31," said Brittney, playing with her cake.

"What can I say," said Lex. "I look good for my age."

Brittney ate some cake. "Vanilla cake with buttercreme icing. My favorite."

"I'm allergic to strawberries, peanuts and chocolate."

"I would die without chocolate."

"The last time I ate chocolate I almost did die. I went into anaphylactic shock."

"How old were you?"

"Four," Lex explained. Brittney and everyone else on the team knew he had an inhaler. "I could outgrow my allergies. Daddy grew back his optic nerves."

Victoria gave him a dirty look.

"It was in the Daily Planet," explained Lex. "It's no secret. My evil stepmother is watching me. We'll have to behave ourselves."

"What happened to your mom?" Brittney put a hand on Lex's knee.

"Is this twenty questions?" Lex drank some of his grape juice. "You're a great pitcher. Do you bowl?"

"I only throw balls that won't break my foot," teased Brittney. "Are you going to try out for sports in Junior High?"

"Are you?" asked Lex.

"Softball and soccer."

"Have you lived in Smallville all your life?" asked Lex.

"Ah-uh." Brittney cut more of her cake and drank some soda. "Have you?"

"I lived in Metropolis most of my life," said Lex, "but small town life has its perks."

"Don't you miss the city?"

"Brittney, were you a newspaper reporter in another life?"

Brittney ate her last forkful of cake. "I'm sorry. All my other friends are so Smallville. You're different."

"I'm Mr. Vanilla Cake. I'm boring. My dad think because he had this castle brought over from Scotland stone by stone people will see him as this eccentric billionaire, but I'll let you in an a secret, he's boring, too." Lex stood up. "I'm going to get some more cake."

One of the servants had already cut the rest of the cake into slices. The next party Lex would have catered. Around Brittney, he felt like a twelve-year-old boy. Where was sophisticated Lex Luther? Here he was barely able to put together two words. Superman couldn't defeat Lex Luther. They had reached an impasse, a stalemate. Twelve-year-old physiology had defeated Lex. He was slave to his chemical reactions.

Lex sat back down near Brittney. "Would you like to go to the movies?"

"Alex, I like you and all."

After refilling his drink, Lex ate some more cake. "We've been on the same team for two years."

"I'm not old enough to date."

Lex smiled at the girl and ate the rest of his cake. Dating would have to wait. After the party guests left, Lex played his newest Sega system with Geoffrey. He had signed up for Art, Wood Shop, and Spanish for Junior High electives. He really enjoyed drawing and painting. He couldn't talk about his memories, but he could paint them.

As Lex was painting in the solarium, Victoria looked over his shoulder. "You're quite good, but untrained. Would you like lessons at an art studio? I could drive you to Metropolis every Saturday."

"Sure, Mom," Lex said. It was no longer Vicky; he respected her as a stepmother as long she advised him and didn't act like she was smarter than him.

"The cook has brought up dinner. Are you going to join us?" Vicky asked.

"I'm busy. Have the cook bring me a plate of steamed vegetables." Lex mixed a darker blue then dabbed it on his pallet.

"Would you like me to model for you?" she asked.

"I paint from memory; it's therapy." Lex looked at the half done painting. He used a fine brush to shadow using the dark blue.

"I'll have the cook bring you some blanched vegetables. Would you like some chips and artichoke dip?"

"Mom, I won't starve to death." Lex didn't care about eating at the moment. He wanted to finish the work in front of him. It was exciting to see his ideas take form. He liked contract. He painted off-whites against dark greens and blues. He showed a dimly lit room against the pale skin. The lone sofa and the man's dark clothing nearly blended into the background.

"That is creepy," Vicky said.

"It's my life." Lex stepped back from the painting a moment.

"What is it?"

"A friend flat. He left me there when he went to party."

"Why didn't you go?"

"I thought I needed quiet, but the silence was deafening. After leaving a crowded room, the noise is still in your head." He was stoned as usually; that was par for the course in those days.

"I'll leave you and your canvas," Vicky said, looking over the thin boy running his fingers through his very short red hair. Lex would insist that the barber would shave it off, but the barber would whisper to Vicky that he would leave some. Vicky looked Lex pouting in front of the canvas like she wondering if that frustrated man was lurking inside the little boy.

Lex kept painting before covering a large portion of his work with white paint to redo it. Many of his work ended up in a pile in a closet since he was too much a perfectionist and was never satisfied with the way it looked on canvas versus the way he saw it in his head. The problem with the vision in his head that it changed and many times what he was painting wasn't at all how he imagined it. He wanted to tear the painting up in disgust but redid it after he reconsidered what he wanted to draw in the first place. In a few hours, he finished the painting. He wondered how an artist could work on the same piece for days at a time without ripping the canvas in two.

Halfway through his freshman year, Principal Reynolds called Lex into his office. "Mr. Burns says you're using Calculus to solve your algebra problems."

"I show all the steps,' said Lex.

"High school is not a joke," said the principal.

"I treated high school like a joke when I was in Excelsior Prep." Lex made eye contact with the man. Lex wanted to look very much the teenage boy with sky blue eyes, pale skin and crew cut. "I appreciate the value of an education now."

"Alexander Luthor, why are you in my school?"

"I thought it was the tax-payers' school," said the boy. Mr. Reynolds had been one of Lex's mentors. He had made a difference to one spoiled kid. Mr. Reynolds had grown gray, but Lex was the same fourteen-year-old boy that Mr. Reynolds had tried to expel years ago.

"All children are required to have an education." Reynolds shifted in his seat. "You are no child to spite appearances. You aren't a youth-sucking demon like Chrissy, not that I wouldn't put that past you." He had looked at the same fourteen-year-old boy nineteen years earlier. The office had been more posh, but otherwise there was a strong sense of deja-vu.

Lex was getting boring of freaking the man out. "You can't believe my press. You expel me and my daddy goes to the school board and we don't want to repeat history."

"Alexander, I'll put you in Calculus next year. In the meantime, do algebra in algebra class. I see you are taking Art and Drafting."

"I like art. Painting helps me with my inner demons. I don't see the teenage years as the best time of life. I was getting to my best years before this happened." Lex gestured to his young body. "Do you want me to write a five page essay on what I plan to do five years from now?"

The man relaxed in his chair. "What do you want to do five years from now? Keep it to a paragraph unless you want to write another five page essay."

"I'm already working part-time at the Talon and I just started overseeing operation of Lexcorp, although my dad still has my power of attorney."

"You haven't answered my question."

"I plan to takeover the day-to-day operation of Lexcorp."

"Fine. I don't want to hear about you cutting class and hanging out at the Torch."

"If I hang out any place, it would be the art class. I have no interest in journalism. I dated a reporter."

The man sneered. "I told Clark Kent to stay away from you."

"I was referring to Ms. Lane."

"I don't want to see you back in my office and you better not have any 22 year old men drop you off in the morning."

Lex stood up. Reynolds wouldn't believe that no impropriety occurred between him and Mr. Kent. "Only if they drop me off in their Porsche."

"Out." Reynolds stood up from his seat.

Vicky came to the school to take him to his doctor's appointment. "Maybe, we can convince the doctor to take you off your asthma medicine."

"Next thing you'll want is me to eat a peanut?"

"You can sniff it."

"I've sniffed chocolate without problems." Lex recalled the all too common candy sales at the high school. He never had the urge to buy the chocolate or eat the candy-coated chocolates that other children hoarded. Lex preferred organic vegetables to junk food any day.

Lex grimaced when the doctor took his height and weight. He was still short of a hundred pounds. He must have been the smallest boy on the swim team. The other boys laughed at his bony narrow frame as he struggled to make a good enough time to stay on the team. He remembered teasing Clark about Kansas farmers growing them tall and muscular. "I have a form I need signed for the swim team."

The doctor took it and put it on top of the Lex's medical record. "On the swim team this year. Are you still playing little league?"

"I'm swimming and playing tennis. Little league conflicts with my art lessons," Lex explained. Little league wasn't something he intended to do the rest of his life. If he was going to be serious about art, he needed to put in the hours.

"You sound like you have a busy schedule," the doctor said. After a short exam, the doctor agreed that Lex was in sound health and could be on the swim team. "I'm going to take you off your medication. Call my office if there are any problems. Mrs. Luthor, introduce foods that Alexander had sensitivities to slowly. No more than one new food a week and look for reactions."

"I'll inform the cook," Vicky said. "Lex is a fussy eater. He rather eat apples and carrots sticks than dinner."

"I don't want interrupt my painting," Lex said.

"Alexander, you're a little underweight. It wouldn't hurt to gain a few pounds," the doctor said.

"I hate junk food," Lex said, trying to sound his physical age.

"You don't need to eat popcorn and potato chips, but you could sit down to dinner with your parents," the doctor said.

"Mom, drop me off at the Talon," Lex said as they left the doctor's office. "I'm small boned. I'm not underweight."

"Lex, you could eat with us occasionally," Vicky said.

"I have a busy life. When I'm not practicing with the swim team, I'm working at the Talon," Lex explained.

"I'll have dinner at seven. Try to be there," Vicky said.

Lex decided not to answer. There was no point in getting into a shouting match with his stepmother.

Vicky stopped the car on the curb outside the Talon marquee that said "Poetry reading Wednesday night" and said as Lex opened his door, "At least next year, you'll be able to drive yourself. I'll have the mechanic restore one of your old cars."

"I'm taking back my companies and telling the press that I'm tired of letting my father steal all my glory," Lex said stepping out of Vicky's flashing car.

Vicky stepped onto the curb. "You're taking mostly electives."

"The first time around, I couldn't take things like drafting or art because I feared that my precious GPA could drop. I couldn't let Daddy see me get less than a 4.0."

Vicky bit her lip. "Lex, your father wants you to get the most from your education."

"That is why he sent me to run a shit factory instead of allowing me to continue my education."

Vicky looked down at Lex. In her high heels, she was considerably taller than him. He would have a major growth spurt during his fifteen year. By his seventeenth birthday, he would be at his adult height. He had to be patient soon Vicky wouldn't tower over him. "The reason your father sent you to Smallville was you were partying your way through university."

"Vicky, you take the stepmother thing a little too seriously."

"See you for dinner. Just don't get any little girls in trouble."

"Vicky, that is my father's job." Lex watched Victoria get back into her car and drive away. He opened the heavy door to the Talon and walked to the counter. Mrs. Ross was pouring coffee for the few football players sitting at two tables. The rest of the coffee shop was empty, but it was still early.

Brittney sat by Lex at the Talon. "Alex, can you help me with my English paper?"

"Sure," he said looking up from his laptop.

"Is that your paper?"

"No. It's the earning report from Cadmus Labs; they're one of my subsidiaries." He closed the program.

"My father brought me a couple share of stock for my twelfth birthday. I've been following them." Brittney was a pretty clear skinned brunette.

Lex made eye contact. "I have controlling interest in Lexcorp; my dad serves as conservator until my eighteenth birthday. I own three fertilizer plants."

"Including the one in town?"

"My first one. Mr. Sullivan says I'm a better boss than my father. I also have five chemical plants and am heavily into genetic research."

"You're kidding."

"Look it up. So you want to go to the homecoming dance?"


Lex ended the tradition of the Riley Field scarecrow by standing in the field with the four fifth grade classes in his elementary school including teacher and several parents. At the time, Jeremy Creek felt like last year. "Do you want to work on the paper here or the library? I promised my mother that I would be home for dinner."

"Alex, let's go to the library. It's noisy here."

Lex shut down his laptop and put it in his backpack and took out his cell phone "I need to call my stepmom?"

Brittney waited as Lex told Vicky that he was going to the library and he would be late for dinner. He assured her that he ate at the Talon. Lex enjoyed helping her with her paper. Vicky dropped him off at Brittney's house. Brittney's father would drive them to the dance. Hopefully, a couple of the older kids could drive them home. He didn't want to call Vicky.

Brittney's father opened the door. "Hello, Alex," said the large man that reminded him of Jonathan Kent.

Lex shook the man's hand. "Hello, Mr. Campbell."

"You've been telling lies to my daughter."

Lex sat on the sofa and looked at his feet. "I've been very honest with her."

"The owner of Lexcorp was born in 1980. You don't look 33 to me."

"I'm fourteen."

"Are you the CEO of Lexcorp?" the man asked.

"My father runs it as my legal guardian. We discuss business decisions." Lex didn't want to talk business with his date's father.

"Brittney will be down in a minute."

In a blue dress, Brittney came downstairs. "Daddy, you're making him nervous. Alex is shy."

"It's okay." Lex smiled at Brittney, then turned away. He hated starting a date in the backseat of his date's father's car. Lex pinned a corsage on Brittney's dress. Brittney turned and pinned a boutonnire on his lapel. "You look very pretty."

"Thank you." Brittney smiled as they boarded the bright red SUV.

The dance went well. An older friend of Brittney's took Brittney home and then dropped Lex outside the Luthor mansion. The next date, Lex managed to get the courage to kiss her on her front step. He felt the way he imagined Clark felt when he kissed Lana Lang on her front step and was interrupted by Nell. Mrs. Campbell opened the door slightly and Lex moved away. It was only a brief kiss, no tongue. Before returning to the castle, Lex looked at the cement porch and felt no older than the boy that he saw in the mirror.

Brittney ran into him the next day at the Talon. "Can we go out, again?" she asked.

"Sure," said Lex, feeling like a foolish adolescent.

Brittney like most girls in his class was taller than him. She bent down and kissed his forehead. "You call me."

Lex made eye contact with her. "I have to go. My stepmom worries." Lex drew a picture of Lana Lang from his mind's eye. He felt like he had turned into a teenage Clark Kent losing his concentration over a pretty adolescent girl. He had only given her a chaste kiss and he was flying. As he painted an adolescent long hair Lana Lang, he fantasized about doing more than kissing Brittney.

He didn't know when would squeeze in dating in his busy schedule. He had swim team three nights a week plus meets, an art class Saturday afternoon (the morning class was strictly beginners and he needed to be around students with talent), and worked the Talon the day he didn't have art class or swimming practice. He didn't know how normal teenagers did all that. No wonder my parents forbid their teenagers from working, sports and other extra curriculum that used up so much time. As much as he enjoyed swim team, he might have to miss a few practices if he wanted to invest more time in his art. Once he had his license, he would find an art school closer than Metropolis and arrange to have private lessons on top of the classroom instruction.

As he painted Lana's long brown hair, his father entered the solarium. "I think Mr. Ross wouldn't take kindly to knowing that you were infatuated with his wife."

"I'm not. I was remembering her as an awkward teenager. I was thinking about Clark's infatuation with her. I hope he'll be more courageous about dating Ms. Lane. I dated her for a few months," Lex said.

"Mrs. Ross or Ms. Lane?" his father asked.

"Ms. Lane," Lex said.

"So your memory has been returning." Lionel walked behind his son, looking at the few canvases proudly displayed. "Your artwork has potential. Remember that painting like music is only a hobby. I spent many years talking piano lessons to be told that I would never be good enough to play in the conservatory."

"The conservatory closed in the seventies," Lex said, looking at the portrait of a young Lana Lang, not giving his father benefit of his eye contact.

"I have no problem with you learning how to draw; as long as these things stay in their proper place. Art is great way to reduce stress and clear the mind to make better business decisions. I'm glad that you're learning to appreciate the finer things in life."

Why did everything his father say sound like a challenge or a threat? Geoffrey wasn't the prize that Lionel had hoped. He was in third grade and could barely read. Lex was reading the classics by Geoffrey's age, not struggling to read baby books. Victoria tried to sit with the child, but he didn't want to learn. Victoria said that he would settle down in time, but Lex looked at the Neanderthal features and knew Geoffrey would be stupid all his life. Linda and Lex got all the good Luthor genes leaving none for the rest of their siblings.

"In a few short years, I'll be on the top again," Lex said. He didn't know if he still cared about such things. He had learned patience being away from the rat race in the quiet castle. He enjoyed the quiet of contemplating the next brush stroke. "Dad, I'm not surprised that you stole much off Lexcorp. What disappoints me is that you sold off so much? You could have done much better with it. I was the leader in genetic engineering. I know that the bottom fell out of the industry but you didn't a miserable job of savaging my companies."

"Son, we could rule an Empire together," Lionel said.

"You were too selfish always trying to control me. As soon as I'm successful, you shot me down. I'm no longer your pawn. I made Lexcorp the tenth largest company in the world and I could do it again."

"Is that a threat?"

"No, Dad. I don't threaten. If Lexcorp doesn't rise back to the top, it is because I have other interests. I wasted too much time worrying about our friend, Superman." Lex knew that his father knew Clark Kent to be Superman, but he wasn't going to admit that they shared knowing this secret. Lex learned over the years to never let his father know his hand. He had let his father see his hand too soon and always paid dearly for it. Telling Lionel Luthor any secret was asking for trouble. "Strange visitor from another planet who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men fights the never ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way."

"Perhaps, he believes that trash," Lionel said, looking over his son's shoulder.

"He has larger goals. He has the world fooled; when mankind isn't looking he'll conquer us and have us live under his rule." Lex stroked his rather short hair; he would shave it off when Victoria wasn't looking. Perhaps, being under Superman's rule wouldn't be so bad. He couldn't do a worse job than the anarchy than people presently lived under. Maybe Superman would establish a gentle dictatorship and organize the mess that most people called their lives. He would love to give Clark a few suggestions. Since Clark seemed to like his friendship and listened to his advice, perhaps, it would be wiser to join forces with Superman than try to defeat him.

"Perhaps." Lionel scratched his chin. "Son, you want to help Superman take over the world?"

"I would like to lead him in the right direction. It was like that AI program at his fortress knew and sent me somewhere that I couldn't influence Superman's life."

"Have you painted the man of steel?" Lionel asked.

"Not in costume. If I did paint him, I would paint his doom."

"Isn't he your friend?"

"He is. I don't want to destroy the man only the caricature that flies over Metropolis." Lex finished the painting of Lana. "Do you think I can bribe Mr. Ross into buying it?"

"Son, it is quite good. Remember art is only a hobby."

"Yes, Dad." Lex cleaned up this paints for the night. "Do you think Eve could warm me something?"

"I sure there is a plate waiting for you," Lionel said. "Son, enjoy the finery things in life."

"Like a good bottle of brandy."

"Among other things."

Lex showed Brittney the article Lois Lane wrote on him. "That isn't you," said the girl.

"Sure, it is," said Lex. "The picture was taken when I was twenty-six. Ms. Lane used her computer to put my present hair on my baldhead. If I stay out of the paper too long, people will think I'm dead."

"You were born in 1980?"

Lex giggled. "I dated Ms. Lane."

"What happened?"

"I had my servants prepare a candlelit dinner on the balcony of my Metropolis penthouse and after enjoying the sunset, I opened a box containing a two caret diamond and asked her to marry me. And she said, 'No'."

"Just no?" Brittney asked.

"She's a reporter for the Daily Planet. She's concise for a living."

"Did you ever ask her why?"

"I was hurt. By the time my memory came back she had a new boyfriend, besides what would she do with an eleven year old boy? Adopt me? I did what any mature person would do. I gave her present boyfriend dating advice." Lex took a sip of his mocha; he decided it was time to test if those allergies were a thing of the past. It wasn't bad; it was a little sweeter than the beverage that he normally drank but the chocolate gave it a good aroma.

"And?" Brittney looked interested.

"Engaged," Lex said. "So would you like to go as my date to the wedding?"

"And when you turn eighteen, I'll be forgotten."

"No. I'm not promising you more than a few dates." Lex sipped his mocha a little more. Chocolate tasted the way it smelled; he didn't see the big fuss.

"One moment you're sophisticated and the next you are a child." Brittney looked at another article in the newspapers.

"Isn't that how teenagers act?"

"You aren't a teenager." Brittney put her hand over his.

"Just because I've been through puberty once doesn't make this time any less real."

"You're over thirty."

"So? Because I've done this already, it takes all the mystery out of it." Lex was starting to enjoy his mocha. The sweetness and chocolate felt good.

"Things could be different this time."

"Other than having body hair. I'll eventually need to shave." Lex looked at the floor.

Brittney whispered, "I'm sorry."

Lex put his hand over his short hair. "Some mornings, I feel like shaving it off."

"You could shave it off. This time it would be a fashion statement." Brittney sipped her own drink.

"Ms. Lane already updated my pictures with short red hair. It's strange. I talk differently. I doubt I could make a very believable me." The cup was empty. He would have to have Mrs. Ross make him another one. Lex walked over to the counter. "Mrs. Ross, I would like another mocha."

"Testing those allergies," Lana said.

"The doctor believed I outgrew them. I was hesitant to believe him; I'm the one that ends up in the hospital if he's wrong. Make this one without chocolate."

"Cinnamon," Lana suggested.

"Sounds great." Lex returned to sitting by Brittney after he paid for his drink. Lana would bring it to the table.

"Alex, you're a strange man." Brittney gave the article a second glance. "Does anyone call you Lex?"

"Clark and my family. Geoff couldn't say Alexander when he was three. According to Erikson identity is formed in adolescence, so I'm a different person now."

"In what way?"

"I'm a shy quiet boy. I had to learn patience. I was physically eleven year old when my memories started to return. Since then, I'm taken to painting; I can spend hours fussing about one line. I'm not the man that drove fast cars or needed to be somewhere yesterday. I have the time for the swim team, working at the coffee shop and even playing Sega with my little brother."

"And you're happy."

"Most of the time."

Lex visited the Kent Farm Sunday morning. He had promised to visit Linda but he got so bogged down with life that he forgot. He blamed not visiting on the long bicycle ride, but life simply got in the way. He became so involved with his art that he didn't want to leave go to school or do much of anything else. He found now that he knew the difference between good and bad art; he could work on one piece for several days perfecting it. He found books on art history and looked at the work of the masters. He thought now that he wasn't bogged down with the day-to-day running of Lexcorp that he would all the time in the world to study but it wasn't so.

Linda greeted him with a hug as soon as he stepped off the bicycle. Funny, she looked like Clark, but that couldn't be. Perhaps, the pod had something with her birth. Mrs. Kent had claimed to be infertile before conceiving her. It made more sense to believe that Jonathan was sterile and Martha had sex with another man and that was all. Linda was strawberry blonde, tall and strongly built.

"I missed you, Alexander," she said.

"Have you mother bring you to the castle. When I paint pictures, sometime I forget about the rest of the world."

"I would love to see your paintings," Linda said.

"I can't carry them on my bicycle. I'll scan them and email you the pictures. You need to come to the castle and see the originals."

"Come in," Martha said from the porch. "You must be hungry after that long ride."

"Thanks, Mrs. Kent." Lex put his backpack on the counter.

While Lex and Linda were having cookies and milk, Clark came into the kitchen and drank some milk from the bottle before Martha grabbed it away from him.

"Manners," scolded Martha.

"Are you coming to my wedding?" Clark asked.

"I wouldn't miss it for the world. Do you mind if I bring a date?" Lex asked.

"Bring a girl," Martha said.

"I've dating this girl since the Homecoming Dance. I was glad that I didn't have to spend that Homecoming Dance in the corn field," Lex said.

"I can't believe that they were hanging boys every year before the Homecoming Dance," Martha said.

"This town has a number of secrets," Lex said.

"Besides unusual healing," Linda said. "Kids from other towns don't heal broken bones within the week. A boy transferred from another city and he had his arm in a cast. We must have all stared at him like he was a freak when he told us that he broke his arm six weeks prior."

"Keep that inside town limits," Clark said. "We don't want people flocking here thinking our water has healing power."

"It might," Linda said. "Clark was the scarecrow one year."

"They hung you?" Martha asked.

"Whitney and his friends put me on a cross and crucified me. Lex helped me down," Clark said. "I saved Lex's life by diving into the water and he saved my life by taking me down from a cross. I insisted at the time that it was a childish prank, but I might have died."

"Did other boys die?" Martha asked.

"We don't know. Pete knows more about this horrible tradition so you might ask him," Lex said. "He helped me put an end to it."

"I'll speak to him," Martha said.

"On the day that the meteorites fell, a boy was crucified with a S painted on his chest. I had nightmares for years about this boy hanging there helpless. I dreamed that I was tied to that cross. I ran into Riley Field the day that Clark was on the cross in the fear that it was happening again. I've painted that image time and time again. I can't get that thin, frightened boy out of my mind," Lex said.

"Jeremy Creek," Clark said. "I have his picture somewhere in my loft. Chloe had put his picture on her Wall of Weird."

"Your mind is a dark, dangerous place," Linda teased.

"See why I paint," Lex said. "Let's drive to the castle and I'll show you three my paintings."

"You don't have several paintings of Jeremy Creek," Linda said.

"I wouldn't show you all of them. Most of them are bad and incomplete."

"I have never had nightmares about it," Clark admitted.

"I told you that the Romans saved crucifixion for special occasions, and Clark shrugged it off," Lex said.

Lex walked Martha, Linda and Clark to the solarium. He was working on a painting of a woman lying in a bathtub with her leg dangling outside it. "Such horrible images," Martha said after looking through pile of canvases.

"Most of it is junk. If Dad didn't have this castle, I wouldn't save all of them. I should go through them and put the really bad ones in a separate pile," Lex said.

Clark looked at the painting of a field with a scarecrow in it, not Jeremy Creek, but one stuffed with straw. The sky looked too still like a storm was coming.

"Be gentle," said Lex. "I've only been painting for a few years and I never had a public showing of my work."

Martha said, "These aren't the work of a child."

Lex took a few paintings from out of his piles of canvases and leaned them against the solarium wall. One picture was a bowl of apples, another was his best Jeremy Creek painting, one was an empty strait jacket on a worn sofa, there was a picture of Lana and the last was an empty metal chair with light and shadow. "These are some of my best work. The apples are a still life from art school."

Clark noticed dates on the wood frames. "At least, you date them."

"I need to organize this mess. It looks like a studio. I'm surprised my father isn't breathing down my throat about it," Lex said.

"He probably feels that painting is good therapy for you," Martha said.

"He doesn't think I have talent," Lex said.

"Has he said that?" Clark asked.

"No, but he tells me not to think about painting as anything more than a way to reduce tension. He wants me to be detached from my work like I was listening to music," Lex said.

"I think you have potential," Clark said. "I like the portrait of Lana."

"You can have it. I can paint another. Maybe this time, she'll pose for me," Lex said. "I thought about painting Lois from memory but I don't feel the same passion for her."

"It's good that she told you no," Clark said.

"I have painted you a number of times. I white out your face," Lex said. He whited out the face since he usually painted him as Superman and he didn't want other people to know Clark's secret.

"Why?" Linda asked.

"After all these years, I'm embarrassed about it. Principal Reynolds told me not to have an 22 year old men drive me to school," Lex said.

"If I pose for you, will you not white out my face?" Clark asked. "Are you still embarrassed that Principal Reynolds lectured us about our morality?"

"I was suppose to be mature and sophisticated and I had this crush on a teenager," Lex said as he started to prepare a canvas.

"I was always flattered by your interest," Clark said. "It wasn't a foolish crush. I had this crush on Lana and every time that I saw her, I put my foot in my mouth."

"When you weren't falling down," Lex teased. "So Martha and Linda, do you want to watch me paint Clark?"

Clark went through the pictures and found a Superman painting with the face missing.

"I used a picture from the Daily Planet as a model. I had to white out your face," Lex said.

"Don't draw me a Superman," Clark said.

"I'll do the face. Say it is a present from me to Lois," Lex said.

"How long have you know?" Martha asked.

Lex put the painting on an easel to finish it. "I doubt I knew before my memories started coming back. I needed confirmation and Clark lied to me." Lex mixed colors to make flesh tones.

"I'm sorry that I lied," Clark said. "I don't want everyone knowing."

"Then, you should wear a mask," Linda said.

"I hold myself differently. It doesn't cross people's minds," Clark said.

"Which one is the real you?" Linda asked.

"Both, neither. The real me is who I am in Smallville and around Lois and my friends. Lex would know all about this. When you're working you have a persona that you put on for business. I present an image as a reporter; it's like being on stage," Clark said.

"Sounds exhausting," Martha said.

"Mom, Lois needs to do it as much as I. As a woman, she needs to be twice as professional. She has to always act like she's on stage: manners perfect, clothing perfect, never a coarse word while still being forceful enough to get that interview. I don't know how she does it," Clark said.

"I have always admired Lois," Lex said. Which was saying much, considering how Lex felt about reporters in general.

"And after all that she likes to be in the public idea during her off time. I want to do is curl up with a good book or sleep," Clark said. "I love getting that interview, but it's exhausting trying to act perfect all the time."

"You aren't perfect in the office," Lex said as he started to paint.

"Far from it or Lois wouldn't have called me Smallville for over a year," Clark said. "Loosening my tie and eating junk food doesn't make me look like Superman."

"It make you look like you grew up in a barn," his mother said.

"Mom, thanks," Clark said.

After another hour or two of small talk, Lex handed Clark the painting. "Be careful not to touch the wet paint," Lex said.

"Thanks. Lois will love it," Clark said.

Vicky drove to Lex and Brittney to the Lane-Kent wedding. They had to share the backseat of the Mercedes with Geoffrey. The eight year old looked almost human in a suit and tie. Being a gentleman, Lex gave Brittney the window seat. Lex was forced to sit on the hump for the three hours drive, the indignities of being still physically a child. Lex looked at the red haired boy in the mauve tie with the crisp white shirt and black jacket. His crew cut had grown out a little and Lex needed mousse to keep the spikes for the three-hour ride then the wedding and reception. He wouldn't be getting any alcoholic drinks at Superjerk's wedding and his date was a fourteen-year-old virgin. Why was taking over the world a bad thing? He wished he brought his sketchpad, but Vicky was muttering about getting charcoal on his nice suit.

Lex followed Vicky to their seats on the groom's side of the church. Mr. And Mrs. Kent weren't seated, yet. They were probably helping Clark get over last minute jitters. Mr. Kent entered the church and took his seat without saying hello to Lex or Vicky. Mrs. Kent joined him a few minutes later. The minister was talking to Mr. Lane, Lois's father. The wedding would be starting soon.

Pete was Clark's best man. Linda got to be flower girl and Lois's little sister was her maid of honor. No villains interrupted the wedding, darn. If Clark's super ears picked up a bank robbery in progress, he ignored it. After the wedding was over, it was back in the crowded car for the mile and a half trip to the reception hall.

The Luthor party was a table near the door. Since dad had to cancel last second and fly to Frankford, Vicky had the fortune of being the only adult at the table. Sammi and Geoffrey were already seated and eating their fruit cocktails. Lex looked at the main table. The groom was noticeably absent.

Lex finished his fruit cocktail and kissed Brittney's cheek. "I'm going to talk to the bride. I'll be right back."

Lex walked the long table and sat in the groom's empty chair then played with the fruit cocktail. "Where's Clark?"

"Alexander, act your age," said Martha. "I expect this kind of behavior for Geoffrey or Samantha."

Lex looked up at Lois. "I wouldn't have left you at your own wedding."

"Your point?" asked Lois.

"Did you like the picture? I tried painting Superman from his photo in the Planet, but I couldn't get the face. Clark posed for me. You have to admit the similarity is striking."

"When did you take to painting Superman?" asked Lois. "I thought you wanted him destroyed."

"You can't believe the rhetoric. No one is that good. One of these years he'd ask the governments of the world to hand over control and no one says no to Superman. Absolute power corrupts absolutely."

"You're just a fourteen year old brat." Lois turned her chair to face the boy. "What do you know?"

Lex got out of Clark's chair and stood behind Lois's. "I know Napoleon, Stalin and Hitler." Lex walked back over to Brittney. "I was the better choice. I wouldn't have left her at her reception. She sees me as a child."

Brittney put a hand on his shoulder. "You are a child."

"But I'm right. Lois saw me as a madman; now she just sees me as a foolish child. If you can't destroy you enemies, you discredit them."

"Why would Lois discredit you?"

"She thinks Superman is the savior of the people; however, the world will be united under one man and that man is the anti-Christ." It's all his fault; Lex should have never taken him down from the cross. "She gave him a voice in the Daily Planet. Without Lois Lane, Superman would not have the backing of the people."

"He rescues people," Brittney said.

"He's after power. At least, men like my father are honest about it," Lex said. "Back when I had close to a million employees, I had that kind of power. You can't meet them all personally, but you are responsible for their lives just the same. When Superman took away my competency, most of those people lost their jobs. I let them down."

"They don't blame you," Brittney said.

"Of course, they blame me." Lex returned to his salad.

"Do you think they'll serve us rubber chicken?" Brittney asked.

"I ordered the fish," Lex said.

"I'm here for the cake," Brittney admitted.

Lex noticed that Clark had returned to the room. Before sitting at the head of the table, Clark kissed his bride. Lex put his hand on Brittney's hand. The servers took the salad plates and brought out the entre. The small piece of chicken or fish looked dry and overdone and the few steamed vegetables were under a bland cream sauce. Lex played with his food like an ordinary fourteen year old boy.

"Can I have your fish?" Geoffrey asked.

"I'm not going to eat it," Lex said, playing with a piece of carrot.

"Lex, you need to eat more," Vicky said.

"Comparing Superman to the antichrist isn't that a bit extreme," Brittney said.

"According to Lois Lane, he can do no wrong. I didn't buy her rhetoric. I went to his ice fortress and I was zapped. Killing me would have made me a martyr; no one listens to a nine-year-old child. It rendered me ineffectual, giving Superman years to develop his powerbase," Lex explained.

"Making faceless painting of Superman," Vicky said, "isn't going to bring him down."

"But it feels good," Lex admitted. "I may put one in Dad's office so he can throw darts at it."

"I'd say you're obsessed with him," Vicky said.

"I was." Lex shook his head. "I'm not anymore. In the Left Behind series, the antichrist can do no wrong. People see him as the man with all the answers. Like Superman, he knows many languages and always knows the exactly what to say. Superman has audiences with generals and world leaders. He has ended the war in Palestine and we all know the Biblical ramifications of that."

"So he's bringing food to the hungry that doesn't make him the antichrist," Geoffrey said.

"Am I the only one to question him?" Lex said.

"You should talk about this online. I'm sure you're not the only one that feels this way," Vicky said.

"Me and the religious fanatics," Lex said. "My opinion isn't taken seriously. Rev. Fletcher agrees with me and the media pins him as a religious fruitcake."

"You're not religious," Brittney said.

"No, but I know my history," Lex said.

"Let's enjoy the wedding and have some nice conversation for a change," Vicky said.

Lex would keep it to himself, but Lois Lane like the rest of the world chose Superman over him. Why couldn't people see that Superman had ulterior motives? He spoke to generals and world leaders and they did as he said; why didn't anyone question this?

Pete Ross gave a fairly short Best Man's speech, which, as a lawyer, brevity didn't come naturally to him. Vicky had given Brittney and Lex apple juice to toast the bride and groom. He wasn't a child like Sammi, Geoffrey or Linda.

While the bride and groom were having the first dance, Lex took Brittney's hand.

"Do you think we'll be them some day?" asked Brittney.

Lex looked at her pretty young face. "I never promised you more than a few dates."

"You need to save us all from Superman," Brittney said.

"If I don't, who will?" said Lex. "I rather manage my coffee shop and leave that to more capable hands. I make lattes and debate history with my father. I'm one small boy."

"So was the little Dutchboy who held back the flood," said Geoffrey. His little brother supported him. "Anybody can put a finger in a dike."

"Geoff, will you help me hold back the water?" asked Lex.

"You're my hero," said Geoffrey. "You always help your friends. You don't need superpowers to do the right thing.

Lex fluffed Geoffrey's thick brown hair. "Thanks, bro."

After the new in-laws danced, the dance floor was opened. Brittney took Lex's hand when the band played "Save Me" by Remy Zero. After the song was over, Lex went to the bar.

"I'd like an apple martini," Lex said in his most mature voice.

"I don't serve minors," said the bartender, a lanky man in his twenties.

Lex took out his expired driver's license from his wallet. "I'm older than you."

The man looked at the picture. "Is that your older brother?"

"It's me. My girl married another man. I need a drink."

"Boy, you have my sympathy." The bartender gave him back the license. "Give your brother back his ID. I've seen better fake ID's. Do you want a soda?"

"A bottled water, please," said Lex.

Lex went back to the table to drink his water and watch Linda and Geoff dance. He wondered if Geoff knew that he was dancing with his half-sister. While Brittney was getting a soda, Lois asked Lex if she could have a dance.

Lex looked up at Lois's brown eyes. "Why did you say no?"

"I like tall men." Lois danced slowly with the teenage boy.

"Clark's a giant and that's not an answer."

"You were moving too fast and I needed time," said Lois.

"I've learned patience."

"What are you doing now?"

"Besides high school?"


"Off the record, I'm painting and working at my coffee shop."

"Will you let me cover your opening?"

"Victoria is getting me a booth at the Smallville Open Air Art Show. The Daily Planet won't be covering it."

"Good luck. Clark and I will attend."

"Thanks." Lex returned to dancing with Brittney. Chloe caught the bouquet.

As Clark was still on his honeymoon, Lex rode his bicycle to the Kent farm. Lex looked at Mr. Kent driving his fairly new tractor; he must have broke down and allowed Clark to buy him a new one.

"Mr. Kent, can we speak a moment?" Lex asked.

"Of course, son," Jonathan said. His blond hair was starting to gray. He was still a very strongly build man. Lex knew of men well into their eighties that could throw bags of feed.

"I'm worried about Clark," Lex said, looking up to Mr. Kent.

"You called him the antichrist at his wedding," Jonathan said, getting off the tractor.

"I'm not a Bible thumper. Could you see me in church?" Lex smiled a small smile.

Jonathan looked over the thin boy.

"Clark is getting corrupted by his own power. He could use a dose of those Kent platitudes." Lex walked with Jonathan back to the yellow farmhouse.

"He's doing good things." Jonathan washed his hands at an outdoor faucet.

"I remember you tearing up my checks. You wouldn't take my money because my father had sold out your neighbors. You stood up for your principles." Lex looked at the tall, solid man in his fifties.

"I don't blame you for the sins of your father. Are you going to be a world leader?"

"No. I no longer want that kind of power. I plan to maintain the companies that I have. I'm learning my own limitations. I'm Clark's friend. I don't blame him for his need for power."

"What do you blame?" Jonathan looked down at the boy.

"The rocks. You must remember what the rocks did to Rickman. He had you sign over your farm to him with a handshake," Lex stated.

"Clark isn't a meteor mutant."

"Mr. Kent, you surely don't believe that Clark's people look like us. The rocks that made him look like us also gave him his powers. The ones that sent him wanted him to have the power to rule us."

"Clark is a force for good."

"Rickman could use his handshake to do anything. I'm sure he didn't think his intentions were evil."

Jonathan looked over Lex's head. "What is wrong with stopping war and famine?"

"Ask yourself should one man have that kind of power? Clark doesn't have the answers."

"He doesn't manipulate people like Rickman," Jonathan explained in his nave farmer's tone.

"He can sit prime ministers and generals down like schoolchildren and point out their strengths and weaknesses and browbeat them into diplomacy." Lex wasn't going to let Superman's adopted father intimidate him. He was going to put his finger in that dike and hopefully prevent the flood.

"Alexander, what you suggest that he does with his life?"

"Manage your farm, work at the paper and forget his special powers. Superman is the hero of the world, but Superman's hero is Jonathan Kent." Lex used his boyish charm.

"I'll talk to him about not trying to save us from ourselves."

"I could used a bowl of steamed green beans and a cup of your green onion dip," Lex said, not wanting to talk about Superman any longer; besides, he was hungry from that long bike ride and Jonathan Kent made fantastic onion dip.

"I'll make us some sour cream and green onion dip," Jonathan said, walking inside the kitchen door. "Ask Martha for a bowl of fresh veggies. I could never get Clark to eat healthy."

"Lois said something about Clark liking Snicker bars and protein shakes for breakfast," Lex said. It was always safe to talk to a farmer about food. Lex could eat the Kent's organic vegetables all day long.

Martha smiled as she sliced a few vegetables. "I pity Lois. Clark would rather eat burgers than sit down for a nice dinner."

"That is Clark. Steak and potatoes," Jonathan said. "I'm glad I'm not feeding him anymore."

"Jonathan's more of the three square a day," Martha said.

"I grew up in a farm. Mom cooked all day," Jonathan said as he mixed up the seasonings to make dip. "The doctors warned us about heart disease so Martha and I try to eat more vegetables. Neither of us is getting any younger."

Soon after his fifteen birthday, Vicky drove Lex downtown and he took his road test. Lex was excited about being a licensed driver again and swore to drive slowly. Vicky gave him a large old car that needed constant repairs and was lucky to go sixty. As he drove the Cadillac to the art class in Grandville, it was only a forty-five minute drive to Grandville; however, the class was given at the vocation school. A boy from Smallville High talked to him after the class and suggested that they ride in together to save the gas.

"Gas isn't a problem," Lex said. "My father has money to burn."

"I understand the game. We'll go in your classic car. I'm Jeremy."


"I graduate this year."

"I've seen you around the art room," Lex said. "Jeremy, did you draw cartoons for the Torch?"

"I did. The principal censor me. I implied in one of them that Superman is a Smallville mutant."

"Reynolds doesn't believe in censorship. He would claim it was small town pride." Lex liked the boy already.

"I exaggerate. He didn't censor; he just said it was in bad taste."

"The best political cartoons are tasteless," Lex said, recalling a picture in a history book of Yankee Doodle. Political cartoons went back further than George Washington.

"I'm sending my work out to magazines. Follow me back to my trailer and I'll show you my work," Jeremy said.

"I have paintings all over the solarium," Lex said. "My dad said as long as I treat painting as a hobby he doesn't mind. He says, 'Lex, you're meant for bigger things.' He sees business as war."

"Isn't your older brother also named Lex?" Jeremy asked.

"That is a long story," Lex said. "I'll follow you to the Smallville trailer park. My father will love to hear I'm hanging out there. At least, no one will steal a 70s Caddie."

Lex got in his car and followed the boy on the souped-up Hog. He'd rather sit with his arms wrapped around the muscular boy than drive in this thing that passes everything but a gas station. As he turned his music up to deafening levels, he watched the leather jacketed boy speed on his Harley with the wind going through his short dark brown hair.

Lex parked on the gravel road on front of a green and white trailer house with chintz curtains on the kitchen windows. Jeremy leaned the bike against the side of the motor home. He strolled over to the door. Lex watched that firm ass swing a moment before walking over to the door.

"Alex, are you checking me out?" asked Jeremy.

"What can I say?" Lex smiled. "I like what I see."

Jeremy took out a folder and sat at the small kitchen table with Lex. "I might beat up faggots with rich fathers."

Lex thought he looked punk with his spiked hair, gray tee shirt, leather jacket, black jeans and black Converses. "Why would you do that?"

"What's the story with your brother Lex? He returned to running his companies a little over a year ago after being absent for close to forever. No one ever sees him outside of your family. Do you have him imprisoned in one of those seventy-odd rooms in your castle?"

"No. Do you think my dad would lock up one of his kids in a tower?"

"I would put nothing past Lionel Luthor. Most likely, Lex is dead and your father is using his name," Jeremy said.

"Interesting theory," Lex put his arm around Jeremy's shoulder. "Why Lana Ross collaborate with my dad if Lex was dead?"

"He obviously has something over her head."

Lex put his hand over his spiked hair. "Or I'm not dead."

"I heard stories of old people falling into Crater Lake and waking up twenty, but that doesn't happen." Jeremy grabbed a beer. "Want one?"

"Sure." Lex opened the twist cap against his palm and started chugging it. "I haven't had a brew in years."

"That is just a story." Jeremy drank his beer. "These are my cartoons."

"I like this one." Lex looked at the caricature of Superman drawn with 666 on his chest.

"The number of the beast," Jeremy said. "No one is that good."

"I agree. He's after power." Lex chugged his beer then fondled the empty bottle.

"If you had the power of Superman what would you do?" Jeremy grabbed another beer and ripped open a bag of chip. He plopped down on the worn sofa.

"I'd be honest because they couldn't stop me anyway," Lex sneered.

"He really thinks that he is for truth, justice and the American way," said Jeremy.

"The King of Lies thinks he's for truth," said Lex. "He calls himself Kal-el, God's swiftness; what an insult."

Jeremy put his hand into the bag of chips. "Alex, it sounds personal."

"He rescued me more than once. I thought we were friends, but he lies to me. His precious secrets are worth more than our friendship."

"So he is a Smallville mutant," Jeremy said.

Lex got another beer and then sat beside Jeremy on the couch. "I shouldn't have more than two. I have to drive home."

"You could stay the night," Jeremy said. "My mother works late."

"I still have to finish my English paper," Lex said. "After I finish this one, I'll head home."

"So how did Lex Luthor become a little boy?"

"Following Superman. I don't think his AI wanted me to get my memories back, but nature abhors a vacuum, so my memories returned." Lex didn't think Superman programmed it; the AI was probably from his homeworld and it asked him questions before it zapped him. It was a simple program if he didn't love Kal-el enough to mate with him then it erased all his memory of Kal-el.

"I see why you have a personal grudge."

"He gave me years to plan my revenge." Lex did his best evil grin.

"Are you?"

"The world deserves what they get. He sees himself as a benevolent force. He redirects rivers to stop floods, speaks to dictators, and inspects nations for weapons of mass destruction." Lex could wait out Superman and strike when the time was right.

"But he won't tell anyone the answer if there are weapons of mass destruction or not. He won't pit one nation against another."

"By not playing sides, he's playing sides. He treats us like children in a playground."


"It's a game to him." Lex finished his second beer. "I know he has a weakness, but I don't know how to use it, yet." Superman had weaknesses; Lex only had to discover what they were. The spores that made Clark sick were destroyed. His power could be transferred to other people. Eric Summer had his power; then Lois Lane.

"And?" Jeremy leaned forward.

"Eric Summer got Superman's powers during lightning storm."

Jeremy put his hand on Lex's shoulder. "Wouldn't you like to have his power?"

"I used to read Warrior Angel and think it would be neat to be a superhero from another planet with awesome powers, but life isn't a comic book; no one should have that kind of power." Lex turned toward Jeremy.

"We could play Nintendo." Jeremy handed Lex a controller.

"You're afraid that if I don't have a controller in my hand, that I would put my hand on something else."

"Kid, you have some problems."

"Yeah. My stepmother is a whore. My father is a has been. My little brother is an idiot. My little sister is a pest. I have a normal dysfunctional American family."

"It's just my mother and I. My father left us. It was as well; he was a drunk anyway." Jeremy turned on the game.

"My mother was a saint, but she was sick all the time," Lex said. "My father says that I'm pretty like her. It's like he's spitting on me."

They played several games without another word spoken until Lex looked at his watch and said goodbye.

"Come by anytime. Bring some of your work."

Lex wanted to kiss him, but thought better of it. Jeremy probably thought he was a crazy fifteen-year-old boy. He wouldn't have believed that he was Lex. He rather believed that Lex was chained in the castle like Bryon. He wondered if Jeremy liked poetry. He felt comfortable around Jeremy and he hadn't felt that way around anyone since Clark was a teenager.

The art show was the weekend before Memorial Day at the park near Crater Lake. The Kents put up a stand to sell pie and muffins. Martha Kent came to Lex's booth midday. "How's the sale?" asked Martha.

"People are afraid to haggle. A few people looked at my paintings but walked away."

"I'm sure they'll be back before the day's over."

"What do you think? They're going to buy all my paintings fifteen minutes before closing on Sunday? The key chains and magnets are selling."

"Who thought of that?" Mrs. Kent asked.

"Brittney." Lex stood by his cash box then walked around his small booth to show his work. "She suggested that people have only so much wall space, but they people will always buy key chains and refrigerator magnets."

Martha looked at the painting of a man hanging upside down in a dark room in a strait jacket, "Honor", the bald man in the white strait jacket shown brightly like a stoplight was focused on him. "Such twisted images from such a young mind." Martha shook her head then noticed a picture, "Visitor", of a black pod in a cornfield.

"How much?" Martha asked.

"Twenty-five," Lex said. The price was marked under the painting. He could have gotten fifty or better, not that he wanted to take Martha.

Martha counted out the money. "Alex, you have talent."

"Thanks." Lex wrapped the painting for Martha.

"What does father think of your work?" Martha asked.

"He claims my art makes he wish sight never returned. Chloe says I go to the Justin Gaines School of the Art."

"I'll sure you'll sell out."

"Thanks, Mrs. Kent." Lex handed her the painting now wrapped in brown paper.

Clark walked over to Lex's booth as his mother walked the other way. "So you're into leather," Clark said in a husky voice.

"You had your opportunity," Lex said.

"From the looks of these paintings, you're into S and M," Clark said coyly.

"You begged me to hit you with a hammer," Lex said. "Where's Lois?"

"At my parents' booth," Clark said. "How is everything?"

"Good. I have a new beau. He's nearly as tall as you and he drives a Harley."

"Your father must love that."

"He thinks my father keeps my older brother in the castle and only takes him out to whip him occasionally," Lex teased. "Come on. I'll introduce you." Lex picked up his cash box and walked over to a neighboring booth. "Jeremy, this is Clark, an old friend."

"Ditch the shirt and tie," said a boy chewing gum wearing a torn tee shirt and faded jeans.

Clark pushed his glasses up. "Where do you know Lex from?"

"Art school. We took Still Life together," Jeremy said.

"I saved Lex's life the day we met," Clark said.

"I saved his a few days later. There was this awful tradition in Smallville that I put a stop to years later," Lex explained.

"It was a childish prank," Clark insisted.

"You could have died," Lex said.

"I should buy one of his paintings so he shuts up," Clark said.

"You would look good in leather. No one can see those muscles under all those clothes." Lex smiled at Clark.

Lois, wearing a short maroon business suit, walked over to Clark. "Does the kid have talent?" Lois wrapped her arms around her husband.

"If you're into torture," Clark said walked back to Lex's booth.

Lex put his cash box back.

Lois picked up a painting. "Crop circles," she said. "Very nice. I'll take it for 25."

"It is marked 45. The frame cost me twenty," Lex said. He had brought the frame at Walmart for 12 something including tax.

"It's a nice wooden frame. 30," Lois said.

"Stop being cheap," Clark said and pulled out the cash. "You're embarrassing me."

"The boy expects us to banter," Lois said.

Lex put the cash in the box then put the painting into a very large plastic bag. "Thank you. Have you put up the painting of Clark that I made you for your engagement?"

"It is in my walk-in closet," Lois said. "I can't have people seeing it."

"He doesn't wear a mask," Lex whispered.

"Lex, will you shut up if I buy you out?" Lois asked.

"That isn't necessary. Ta Ta For Now," Lex said, faking a British accent as he handed her the painting.

"I don't know what I ever saw in you."

"You thought my baldhead was sexy or was it just my money?" Lex asked.

"I was never attracted to your money." Lois looked like steam was about to come out of her ears.

"That isn't what you said about my Ferrari." Lex looked at her perspiring her expensive suit.

"It was the package. You were smooth. You're now an arrogant kid," Lois said.

"I won't be this arrogant kid forever. I hope Clark and you are very happy together," Lex said, looking off into the distance.

"Maybe you should take this time to grow up," Lois said.

Lex felt like sticking his tongue out at her, but he didn't. He didn't need to act like a little kid. "I grew up too fast the first time. I'm in no hurry to wear a coat and tie."

Jeremy walked over to Lex. "You dated that bozo."

"No, but he did look sexy in a tee shirt and jeans. He had great muscles from doing farm work. I could drool over him for hours."

Jeremy shook his head. "He's a doofus. A tall, muscular doofus, but there is nothing sexy about him."

"Clark in a wet tee shirt," Lex said in a slow sexy voice.

"You're going to make me jealous," Jeremy kissed Lex briefly.

"Unfortunately, my romance with him was one sided," Lex said. "You look just as hot riding your bike and in the back of my car." Lex was thinking about cutting out early and taking a drive in his car. "You have no reason to be jealous of the stuffed shirt." Lex put his arms around Jeremy's waist.

"See you, later." Jeremy pinched Lex's behind before returning to his own booth. No one saw Clark Kent as Superman, glasses or not, because Clark was doofus, according to Jeremy. And Superman, need anyone say more, was not.

Mrs. Ross walked over to Lex's booth. "Alex, you have to paint something that I can post at the Talon."

"I don't paint old buildings and the two Mrs. Kents brought the only ones that I did of cornfields. I'm selling magnets and key chains."

"I'll take three magnets," Lana said. "Something without dripping blood."

None of his pictures had dripping blood. "I have a lot of weird images in my head."

"Many people like Goth. Is that supposed to be Jeremy Creek or Clark Kent?" Lana asked.

Lex looked at the thin brown hair boy that he had painted. "Neither or both."

"I'll take the magnets of it. If I put The Scarecrow on the wall of the Talon, the football team will throw darts at it."

"As I told Clark even the Romans saved them for special occasions."

"It's haunting."

"It can be yours for the low price of 45 dollars."

"I think I'll pass."

Lex put the three magnets in the bag. "It would be a conversation piece. Fifteen for the magnets."

Lana paid for the magnets. "I'll talk to Pete about buying the scarecrow painting."

At the end of the day, Pete Ross brought the painting that his wife looked at earlier and said that they would post it in the Talon. Lex was very happy about selling all but three of his paintings on Saturday. He put his three remaining paintings in the trunk of the Caddie. Jeremy had five remaining. As Lex helped, Jeremy carry his painting to the Caddie, Jeremy said, "That you did well for your first art show."

"My prices were too low. Mrs. Kent would have paid more for the painting of the pod," Lex said. "So you want to hang out at the castle or go for a drive?"

"What does your father think of your work?" Jeremy asked.

"We don't talk about it. Let's get these painting in the trunk and find a field to make out," Lex said.

"The doofus is the man that you painted as Superman," Jeremy said.

"I had a huge crush on him. Let's forgot about it. It was a big mistake."

Jeremy shook his head.

"He's married now."

"Miss High-maintenance. I'm surprised your paintings went over with the Smallville crowd."

"First show. A lot of friends brought my work. I'm not expecting that kind of reception the next time," Lex said, as he picked up the next painting and walked it over to his opened trunk.

"My friends never brought my paintings."

"You don't hang out in the same crowd as I."

"So you recommend that I start hanging out at the Talon."

"Of course, I own the place. Who am I to turn down away a paying customer?" Lex put the last painting in the trunk. "We'll go to your place. Do you think you could buy us a six-pack?"

"Sure. I'll have my mom pick us up one."

"You don't mind me crashing on your sofa."

"If you like slumming it."

"I should give you something toward groceries. I did make more money than you at the art show."

"Beginners luck." Jeremy punched Lex in the arm.

"I bruise easy," Lex teased.

"And heal overnight." Jeremy leaned down slightly and kissed him.

The next morning, he found three more painting to post at the art show and priced all slightly higher than the day before. Two were from his Still Live class. He added the hypodermic needle to the painting, "Justice", when he got home. His teacher wouldn't approve of using a needle as a model. His brother, Lucas, walked over to Lex's booth. Lucas had a blonde, dressed in a miniskirt and wearing too much make-up, on his arm. Lucas spent a long time looking at "Justice," a still life of a teddy bear and a hypodermic needle.

He then looked at "Crater Rocks", "Homecoming" another painting of Jeremy Creek, and "Zero". Lucas then said, "You're one sick child."

"I was in an accident when I was nine," said Lex "I had amnesia for over a year. I couldn't talk about my memories, so I painted them."

Lex gave Lucas a business card. "Alexander Luthor."

"Well, Alex," said Lucas. "I thought this was going to be all sunflowers, windmills, and sunsets."

Victoria came by. "Dear, I'll watch your paintings. You visit with your friends."

"Mom, this is Lucas," said Lex.

"Kid, I didn't tell you my name," said the man.

"I must remember you from somewhere," said the boy. "I can't recall, amnesia remember."

Lucas said to the woman. "His paintings are a bit rough, but he's young, yet. The boy has talent." Lucas messed with the boy's hair. "He should raise his prices. How about I give you seventy-five dollars for 'Justice'? Consider it an donation to the arts."

Lex took that as a compliment, considering the source and that he had already raised his prices. Then, again, he might have felt some camaraderie due to sharing the same last name.

Vicky put the money into the cash box. Lex put a card by the painting to mark it sold. "Do you want it now?" asked Lex. "Or are you picking it up later."

"Kid, why 'Justice'?"

"This woman kidnapped me and said she was going to take my father's son because he took her son."

"What happened?" asked Lucas.

Lex smiled. "Superman rescued me."

"You and everyone else," said Lucas. "I'll pick it up later. I'm going to look around some more."

Lex said to Victoria, "I should go to the concessions and get some muffins from the Kents."

"Find out how your friends are doing," Vicky suggested.

"I'll be back in an hour. Mom, thanks."

"Geoffrey and Sammi are at the children's table."

After the art show was over, Lionel went over to his eldest son. "Maybe, now you will end this foolishness and return your attention to Lexcorp."

"Dad, art is a hobby like your piano playing and listening to opera."

"I agree. A man needs hobbies. Just don't make it more," Lionel said. "How did it go?"

"Great. I had to raise my prices. My friend from art school was jealous of my sales. Lucas brought a painting. I almost smirked when he asked about the story behind it. I couldn't tell him that his mother drugged and kidnapped me. Luthor is a common name; I doubt he knew we were brothers."

"I'm glad I didn't stop by," Lionel said.

"Both Mrs. Kents brought paintings from me," Lex said. "Most of my paintings sold to friends; so I'm not sure if I have talent or not."

"Have an show in another town," his father suggested.

"Jeremy suggested that I get a panel at MetropCon."

After he did his homework he rode his bicycle to his friend's trailer park. The Caddie was in the shop. Jeremy greeted the exhausted boy. "Alex, it is good to see you." The living room had a makeshift studio where Jeremy drew his comic books. Jeremy just landed a contract with a horror comics distributor. He also sold paintings at art shows and conventions. He had yet to have a major opening.

"I took my bike; my car is in the shop."

"Slumming it." Jeremy handed him a bottle of hard lemonade.

"Not at all. We have common interests. I told Vicky that by my seventeenth birthday I'd reach my adult height and weigh close to a hundred and thirty pounds. However, she still buys my clothes in the boys' department."

"I want from five foot nothing to over six foot in one year myself."

"I buy jeans. Eventually, she'll realize I'm not a little kid. I always thought I was too thin for jeans."

"I think otherwise." Jeremy drank his hard lemonade.

"So are you going to show me the drawings for the new issue?"

"I need seventy dollars to get you a membership to the con and a panel," Jeremy said.

"Give me the URL and I'll do it myself," Lex said.

Jeremy handed him a flyer for the convention. "Here is all you need. We'll share a hotel room."

"My dad will love that."

"I won't give him any ideas about chaining you in the dungeon." Jeremy started to laugh. "I won't use water sprinklers if I tie you at the con."

"Water sprinklers?"

"During a con, a New York City cop tied up his girlfriend to a water sprinkler and flooded the hotel. At cons, fen put signs up by water sprinkler stating these are not sex toys," Jeremy said.

"Cons must have their own jargon."

"You won't be a virgin for long," Jeremy said.

"It's been a long time since I was a virgin." Lex started laughing. "Are you going to show me the drawings for the next issue?"

"They're on the table."

Lex put his drink down and looked at the sketches taking this time to appreciate his fellow artist. "I could draw this stuff."

"The company sends you plot and storyboards and you have to draw pictures to their specs. It's hard work. I also do magazines and book covers for hire. It helps my mom pay the bills."

Lex had hoped that Jeremy was saving a good portion of his income but he wouldn't ask. Lex put his hand on Jeremy's shoulder. "Are you going to take an art class next semester?"

"It's tax deductible and I'm always hoping to learn a new technique. Are you really that entrepreneur that disappeared six years ago?"

"If Amelia Earhart didn't disappear would people still be interested in her?"

Jeremy went to his bedroom and googled Lex Luthor and found a picture of Lex from the Daily Planet archives. "That is you with a few lines on your face."

"Jeremy, I didn't come over to discuss the old me." Lex put his hand on the dark haired boy's face.

"I'm three years older than you."

"Actually, you're seventeen years younger than I. Age is only a number." Lex put his hand on Jeremy's back and put his other hand on Jeremy's shoulder.

"I didn't think." Jeremy, still sitting in his chair, turned toward Lex.

Lex put his hand through Jeremy's hair. "Are we going to play games?"

"Alex, who are you?" Jeremy put his hand on Lex's face.

"A boy that is going to kiss you." Lex put a thumb on Jeremy's lip.

"I don't understand." Jeremy stood up and looked Lex in the eyes.

"I've always been attracted to tall, dark-haired men." Lex put a hand on Jeremy's shoulder and closed the space between them firmly placing his lips against Jeremy's lips. He moved his hand to the back of Jeremy's head as he deepened the kiss. Jeremy was kissing back and moved his arms around the thinner, shorter boy.

"You don't kiss like a fifteen year old," Jeremy said breathless.

Jeremy's kiss was better than Brittney's kiss. Brittney kissed closed mouth with the innocence of a virgin. Jeremy's kiss felt like sex. Lex told himself that he couldn't tear off Jeremy's clothes no matter how much he wanted to. "Another kiss?" Lex put his thumb on Jeremy's lip.

"Just a kiss. I have to make dinner," Jeremy said before diving in. Jeremy wrapped his arms around the other boy.

As Jeremy was cooking dinner, Lex found a disposal razor and shaving cream. He had a crew cut so it wouldn't be hard to shave off. He started to shave his head with an alternative rock playing in the background. Jeremy entered the bathroom through the open door. "You have such pretty red hair."

"I look better without the hair."

"I'll help." Jeremy took the razor from Lex's hand. He washed a bit of shaving cream off and kissed the newly baldhead. Jeremy washed Lex's scalp and then shaved the parts Lex missed. Jeremy moved his hard over Lex's naked scalp. "You have a beautiful head."

Lex put his hand on Jeremy's hand. "Your food will burn."

"My mom will be furious," Jeremy said returning to the tiny kitchen.

"I'll just do potatoes. I don't care for steak. Vicky laughs at me. I eat mostly fruit and raw vegetables when we've had a staff of cooks."

"No wonder, you're so skinny."

"I'm small boned. I gain weight and it all goes to my stomach. I look better thin. Your mother won't hate me."

"You're a Luthor."

"I've been your friend for months."

Jeremy's mother arrived as Jeremy was putting the food on plates like he knew the exact moment she would get home. In Smallville, clairvoyance wasn't an impossibility. She looked haggard in her waitress uniform. She was young looking at have a son, Jeremy's age. She was tall, slender with dark red hair just the type of woman that Lionel Luthor hit on. "Alex, you should head back," his mother said. "It isn't safe to ride your bike in the dark."

"Mom, he's staying the night. We're going to work on my drawings," Jeremy said.

"What could you possibly have in common with a Luthor boy?"

"We have the same taste in art," Jeremy said. "He has a good eye for detail."

Jeremy's mother walked passed Lex, looked him over twice, then sat down beside him. "Mr. Luthor, it can't be. I used to work at the plant."

"Unfortunately, I didn't have time to get to know all my employees," Lex said. "I suffered an accident seven years ago and have been lying low."

"I want you out of my house," she said.

"So does taking an interest in your son's art offends you," Lex said.

"You aren't here for that reason," she said.

"We go to the same art class. Why else would I be here?" Lex asked.

"Alex, help me with the dishes," Jeremy said.

"Ma'am, I'll go now. Jeremy, we can talk about your comics another day," Lex said.

"I don't normally entertain billionaires," she said.

"So it's my money that offends you. Would you prefer me went someplace to talk? I'd offer to drive you, but I only brought my bicycle."

Jeremy washed the dishes. "Alex, take the drawings to my bedroom. We can discuss them there."

"Mrs. Walsh, I didn't become someone else because I shaved my head," explained Lex in a calm voice. "I'm still the boy that attends Smallville High and takes an art class after school."

"Mr. Luthor, people don't shrink," she said.

"This is Smallville. I'm sure I'll grow back to my previous height," Lex said.

"Let's suppose I suspend disbelief a moment. What happened?"

"I went snooping around this ice cave. Superman rescued me and called my father. I didn't know what happened. I thought I was nine, but I later learned that nineteen years had passed," Lex explained.

"That is it," she asked.

"The AI program must have thought I knew too much and made me into a child again," Lex explained, not wanting to give out too many details. It was better if Mrs. Walsh didn't know Superman's true identity. He liked Clark, despite his Superman persona.

"You were intent on discrediting Superman," Mrs. Walsh said. She must have read The Inquisitor's articles about Lex Luthor's obsession with Superman. No respectable paper would have reported such nonsense. Lex should have killed that pilot when he had the chance.

"I admit that I don't think Superman's intention are good, but I didn't deserve to be turned into a child for being curious about him," Lex said. "Jeremy doesn't trust Superman either." Much of his press outside of the Daily Planet was negative. Most felt that he was a vigilante that took justice in his own hands.

Jeremy put his hand on Lex's shoulder. "Let's look at the storyboards," he said.

"Jeremy, we'll talk in your room," Lex said, taking Jeremy's hand in his.

"I rather not talk about the man you were." Jeremy ran his fingers over Lex's scalp. Jeremy put his other hand on Lex's shoulder and moved his head down to blow in the boy's ear. "I think your head is very sexy."

"All of you is sexy," Lex whispered back.

Jeremy led them to the small bedroom and started to kiss Lex. Lex found out he couldn't talk with Jeremy's tongue trying to reach his throat. That boy had experience kissing as Jeremy worked the buttons of Lex's shirt. Jeremy pushed the shirt off. Lex sat on the edge of the bed after closing the door; unfortunately, it didn't have a lock.

Lex started to lick around Jeremy's ear. "Your mother will hear us."

"So what?" Jeremy said. "I don't believe you were out to destroy Superman."

"I was curious about him," Lex said. "I don't do well with mysteries."

"Did you and Superman?"

"He's an alien."

"You must have hit on him." Jeremy moved his hand to Lex's chest.

"You seen him in those tights." Lex blushed. "You're here and real. I want to touch you." Lex watched Jeremy undress. "It's been so long since I touched anyone." Lex put his hand on Jeremy's sex. "I need you."

"I don't know if I can handle this." Jeremy pulled Lex's hand away.

"I want to taste you." Lex moved his head down.

"People will remember you."

Lex licked the tip of Jeremy's cock. Slowly he licked the length as Jeremy closed his eyes and moaned leaning back into the mattress.

"That is so good."

Lex didn't want to think about lost opportunities, only pleasing the boy in front of him, but bad memories followed even here. Lex swallowed all he could the boy erupted faster than Lex expected, but Jeremy was only eighteen and probably hadn't had many blowjobs in his life. Jeremy screamed so loud when he came. Lex pulled away and kissed Jeremy if only to shut him up.

Jeremy's hands returned to Lex's scalp as they kissed. Jeremy finally broke the kiss. "We're never going to look at my drawings."

"It will give me an excuse to visit again," Lex said and returned to kiss Jeremy.

Jeremy broke the kiss in a few seconds. "You need to talk your parents."

Lex pulled out the cell phone from his pants and speed dialed Vicky. "I'm staying overnight with a friend," he told the voice mail. "Don't worry about me." Lex put the phone back in the discarded pants' pocket. "What were we doing?"

Jeremy put his arms around Lex. "Cuddling."

"This is nice. I like a man with muscles."

"You were widowed," Jeremy said.

"So. I have Parisian tastes." Lex moved his hand over Jeremy's muscular chest. "This is very nice."

Jeremy moved his hand over Lex's ass.

"Don't stop," Lex whispered.

Jeremy grabbed a bottle of lube. "I'm need to stretch you with my fingers."

"Take your time," Lex whispered.

"You're so beautiful."

"I might shave my body hair."

"Don't. It's so light."

"To me, it's hideous."

"It's nice." Jeremy moved his hand over Lex's ass. "Feel nice."

"I'm not a virgin."

"It's been a long time."

"I don't mind a little pain."

"I don't want to be the cause of it." Jeremy kissed Lex's back. "Relax. You can pretend I'm Superman."

"I like who you are."

"I'm no one."

"You're my friend."

Jeremy drove Lex to school the next morning on his Harley. Lex loved wrapping his arms around the larger boy and holding on tight as he felt the wind against him. It felt different without hair, but just as exciting. Mr. Reynolds was at the front of the school locking the gate. "Mr. Luthor and Mr. Walsh come to my office. You both know better than coming late."

Jeremy helped Lex down from the bike. Lex stood on his tiptoe and kissed Jeremy briefly. "I'll see you after class."

"Love you," Jeremy said.

Mr. Reynolds ushered Lex into his office. "No school books," he said.

"I didn't have homework over the weekend," Lex lied.

"You'll have to wait in the office for your mother to sign you in," Mr. Reynolds said.

Lex said, "Can't I just take a note home for her to sign?"

"And not have the opportunity to embarrass you." Reynolds rolled his eyes at him. "It's unlike you to be late. You know that I lock the gate at 8:15 every morning."

"I was looking at Jeremy's sketches for a spread that he's doing for a comic book," Lex said. "Jeremy is eighteen and drives a Harley."

"And you didn't spend the night with him."

"Sir, that isn't your business." Lex didn't say another word. Vicky arrived in less than a half an hour from the time Principal Reynolds called. Lex was glad that she was so quick about it. He was missing his favorite class, mechanical drawing.

Vicky looked at her son sitting there with a shaven head in the principal's office. "You don't have to continue high school. I could have you tutored until your sixteenth birthday."

"I like going," Lex insisted.

"Why? You know all that they are teaching you."

"Socialization. I enjoy my electives. I'm planning to take home ec next year. I might be the only boy in the class."

"They must look like little girls to you."

"Emotionally and physically I'm the same age. I just have this older man's memories," Lex said. "Psychologically, I'm just another adolescent boy. If I wasn't Lex Luthor, would you have fucked me?"

Vicky's face showed her horror. "That's an awful thing to say."

"Well?" the boy asked.

"You used me as much I used you," Vicky claimed.

"It was strictly business, Victoria," Lex said in an adult voice. He was wearing a gray Henley and black casual pants. Lex moved his fingers over his baldhead to add to the effect. He had several inches to grow, but otherwise he looked exactly like the young man Victoria remembered.

Vicky grasped.

"The Phoenix rises from the ashes." Lex smiled that small smile before leaning back in his chair.

"Alexander needs you to sign him in late to class," Mr. Reynolds said.

"Lex, do you want to finish out the year?" Vicky asked.

"Yes, Mom," Lex said in his schoolboy voice.

Vicky signed the book as Mrs. Luthor. "Lex, try to get to school on time. I'm not making a habit of coming to the school."

"I won't let it happen again," Lex said.

"We'll talk when you get home," Vicky said.

Lex did his English paper on a table at the Talon before starting work. As he was working, Brittney ordered a mocha. He didn't want to tell her that he was dating someone else. He didn't stay stringing her along when he had no romantic feelings for her. "Brittney, I'm busy after work."

"So that is it?" she asked.

"I never intended to date you forever. Can we be friends?"

"No." Brittney walked out of the coffee shop.

Lana walked over to Lex. "Let her go."

"I met someone," Lex said. "I never promised her forever."

"Dating is never easy," Lana said.

"Especially around Clark."

"Man of mixed signal," Lana agreed.

"He gave me mixed signals, too." Lex admitted. "I wanted him more than I ever wanted anyone but I couldn't tell him. Instead I tried to buy his friendship with favors."

"I was rather infatuated with him myself. We kept hurting each other. You were smart not to tell him."

"He's married now."

"Lois is a lucky woman," Lana said.

"That she is," Lex agreed.

"So where are you going on your big date?" Lana asked.

"To his house to look at sketches. I also have to get on the online to register for a convention. I'm going to have to move back to Metropolis. People are starting to recognize me. I no longer look like a little boy," Lex said.

Jeremy arrived at the Talon. He looked at the painting of the other Jeremy in Lex's life. "I'm glad they stopped that awful tradition by the time I started high school."

"We all are," Lana said, putting her hand on Jeremy's back. "Would you like some coffee?"

"Two mochas," Lex said. "Jeremy, I need to finish my English paper. I'm not going to school after this year. I'm returning to Metropolis."

"You could go to art school," Jeremy said.

"I'll look into it," Lex said. "I would love to paint full time. I need spend a fair amount of time in the Lexcorp corporate offices getting to know my people again."

"I want to go with you," Jeremy said.

"We'll talk about it over the summer," Lex said. "After we finish our drinks, we have to get your drawings ready to be sent out." Lex put his arm around Jeremy before leaving the coffee shop. "I feel like I aged nineteen years in one day."

"Alex, I'm here for you," Jeremy said.

"I wish I could take Geoffrey with me. He isn't as strong as I was. Dad will break him," Lex said.

"You aren't giving him enough credit."

"You're the one that thought my dad had me chained in the basement."

"We have work to do."

"I should I bother to finish the year?" Lex asked finishing his beverage.

"It's up to you. Do you have a BA?"

"From Oxford."

"Don't bother."

"I worked very hard for my grades. I've maintained a 4.0."

"Finish the year out if it makes a difference to you." Jeremy kissed Lex briefly. "Do what you want?"

"To go to art school next year. We need to continue research on those green rocks. They can make a twenty-eight year old man nine again when directed by an AI. One girl was able to change her shape to look like anyone, including me. And we can't forget the senior citizens that fall into Crater Lake and disappear from the nursing home. They may have really tumbled into the Fountain of Youth." That Lex had heard stories from at least twenty different sources about nursing home patients vanishing, including some who had mysterious young relatives pick up their belongings. Relatives that were never seen before by nursing home staff.

"You said they were too dangerous to study."

"The first scientist I had study them, Dr. Hamilton, died from the Jitters. Earl Jenkins, a janitor at my father's plant, also got the Jitters, meteorite rock poisoning. Some things are worth the risk."

Lex and Geoffrey were walking home from the playground when Lucas walked over Lex and put a gun at him. "Let's go to my car slowly."

"Geoff, get help," yelled Lex.

"Geoff, get in the car, too," said Lucas, "or I shot him."

"Go," yelled Lex.

"I won't let him take you," said the younger boy.

"I wanted the clone, but you can come, too," said Lucas. "Two Luthor boys are better than one."

Geoffrey ran into Lucas head-butted him. When the boy tried to bite Lucas, the man ducked out of the way and Geoffrey got a mouthful of air. Grabbing the boy, Lucas held his arms behind his back with the hand not holding the gun.

Lex opened his cell phone. However, before he dial a number, Lucas put a gun at Geoff's neck. "Drop it," said Lucas. "Or the boy dies."

"Lex is friends with Superman," said Geoff.

"I'm so scared." Lucas knocked Geoff on the head with the butt of the gun and tossed the kid in the backseat of his car.

The boy was holding his head and crying. "Please, leave my brother alone."

Lucas slammed the car door shut on the boy.

"Get away," yelled Lex.

Geoff was trying to open the door, but Lex could see his little brother was in bleeding from the head injury. The young man was probably dizzy from the blow. Lex went over to the car to help.

"Back away," shouted Lucas.

Lex put his hands up. "Lucas, you can't drive and hold a gun."

"Then you drive," said Lucas, pointing the gun at the teenage boy.

"No," cried Geoff. "You never get in a stranger's car. You can still run for help."

"Lucas isn't a stranger. He's our brother." Lex stood a few inches away from the car. "Don't worry. Superman will find us."

Lucas got in the backseat with the young boy. "Get in car or I shot your little brother."

Lex did as told.

"No," cried Geoff.

After Lex got into the driver's seat, Lucas held the gun to his cheek. "We understand each other. Thanks to your friend, Superman, I spent five years in jail."

"Lucas, you don't want to hurt me," said Lex. "We're family."

"How did you know my name? Dad wouldn't have any pictures lying around." Lucas pressed the gun into the back of Lex's head. "Drive. Turn when I say turn and no one gets hurt."

Lex turned over the engine. "No blanks this time."

Lucas pushed the front sight into the back of his head. "At this range a blank is as deadly as a bullet."

"You shot me. The car drives off the road and we all die."

Lucas took the gun off of Lex. "I am aiming the gun at your little brother."

"Lex, save yourself," said Geoff. "Don't worry about me."

"Stop calling him Lex," shouted Lucas. "Lex would be thirty-four."

The boy cried, "That's his name."

"Geoff, call me Alex or Ander," said Lex. "Never argue with a man holding a gun."

Lucas said, "Good advice. Left turn at the corner."

Lex made the turn then stopped the car.

"Drive, Freak."

"Lex isn't a freak," said Geoffrey.

"What did I say about calling him Lex?" said Lucas. "If either of you talk the brat gets shot."

When they arrived at the warehouse, Lex felt a thump on his head. He woke to find himself and Geoffrey in a tied by duck-tape to metal chairs. "Lucas, you aren't going to tell Dad to shoot me again. You're so predictable."

"No, I'm going to tell Dad that I have two Luthor boys for sale."

"Dad doesn't deal with terrorists," said Geoff.

"Then he will have two dead little boys," said Lucas.

"Why do you want to kill us?" asked Geoff.

Lucas said, "I was rotting in jail while you and the clone got Dad's love."

"Alex isn't a clone," said Geoff. "I look more like Dad."

Lucas rubbed Lex's short hair. He had some stubble since he didn't shave his head since the weekend. Lucas then pulled Lex's head back. "How many Lex embryos does Dad have? He needs a better hobby."

"I'm not a clone," said Lex.

"You aren't the original." Lucas started rubbing the new growth of hair on Lex's head. "When you were a baby, our dad had his two boys fight for position. I see he is still doing social experiments."

"If he has Lucas embryos in his basement, he flushed them down the toilet," said Geoffrey. "Lex and I are the good sons."

"Shut up," said Lucas. "What did I say about calling that thing Lex?"

Geoff tried to bite Lucas as the man gagged the squirming boy.

"That's better," said Lucas. "Dad must think a united front is better than dividing and conquering this time, but I wouldn't have been able to kidnap either of you if it wasn't for your brotherly love."

"You really think Dad has a basement full of clones." Lex laughed. "You watch too many horror movies. Call Dad. Ask him."

"I will." Lucas dialed the cell phone. If Lucas didn't disable the 911 sensor, he just told Superman their location. "Dad, you didn't care while I was in prison. Maybe, you will care now. I have Geoffrey and Alexander."

"You tell me where you are," said Lionel's voice on the other end, "and I'll be over."

"No, you wait for me to call again." Lucas turned off the phone.

"Lucas, you've worn out your welcome. Guests and fish start smelling in three days." Lex knew Lucas had overheard him paraphrase Poor Richard's Almanac before he knocked out Jonathan to kidnap Lex. A well-turned line would show Lucas he wasn't a clone.

"You can't be," said Lucas.

"Now do you believe I'm the one and only." Lex smiled.

"You look about twelve. Lex was older than me."

Recalling what Kirk had said in Turnabout Maneuver, Lex said, "Whatever made Lex Lex is in this young body."

"How?" Lucas asked.

"Could you ungag Geoffrey? Not that he isn't at his best when he's silent. You show some goodwill on your side and I may share with you the secret of immortality."

Lucas put a gun at Geoffrey's head. "Talk."

"You kill Geoff and I say nothing. Daddy Luthor isn't the only one who doesn't give in to terrorists."

Geoffrey started crying. Tears ran down his young face. Suddenly, Superman appeared and in a blur, the gun crashed onto the floor and Lucas was tied up in his own duck-tape.

"That should hold him until the police arrive," said Superman. He untied Geoffrey then Lex.

"I asked you to watch Lucas for me," said Lex.

"I get busy," said Superman. "Let's get you boys home." Superman carried them back to the castle with one boy under each arm. Before Lex could thank him for saving his life yet another time, Superman was gone.

"Superman is cool," Geoffrey said as they walked to the gate.

"He didn't watch Lucas," Lex said.

"He can't be everywhere," said Geoffrey. "Cut the man a break."

Lex opened the gate. "I'm sorry that you had to meet our brother that way." Lex put a hand on Geoffrey's brown bushy hair.

"You wouldn't have let Lucas kill me," said Geoff.

"Of course not. I would have told him to jump into Crater Lake. The meteor rocks would have got him," said Lex. "I needed to play him. If I told him my secret too fast, he would know I was lying. He's a con artist. He would smell a con."

"You were gambling with my life."

"I'm truly sorry, but I had no choice." Lex pulled Geoffrey into a hug. "Can you ever forgive me?"

Geoff hugged Lex back. "I'll think about it."

After Lex attended Jeremy's graduation, he rented a truck to move his belongings to a loft he was renting in Metropolis. He had planned to make his grand reappearance at his Metropolis office later than week.

Geoffrey cried, "You can't go."

"Geoff, I need to move on. I can't be under Daddy's wing forever," said Lex. "I was going to tell you in a few years, but you're old enough now."

The now ten year old asked, "For what?"

"To know who Superman is."

"It's Jimmy Olsen," said the boy. "Everyone knows that."

Lionel had an evil grin.

After Geoff ran off, probably to play video games, Lex said to his father, "You know."

Lionel crackled. "I told you you'd be amazed for people will do in front of your eyes when they think you can't see."

"You've known that long," said Lex. "I'm off to Metropolis."

"Good luck, son." Lionel gave Lex a short embrace.

"Thanks, Dad." Lex returned to packing his smaller paintings into boxes. The larger ones he would place on the truck; he didn't trust movers to handle his paintings correctly. He would go over to Jeremy's trailer house and they would pack Jeremy's clothes, paintings and art supplies.

Lex greeted Jeremy after parking the large rental truck. "We're out of here. I rented us a loft near the art school. We have the summer to ourselves."

"You're inviting me." Jeremy wrapped his arms around the thin young man.

"I believe in you." Lex kissed him briefly.

"Help me pack."

"You haven't put your stuff into boxes."

"I didn't think you wanted me to come."

"You're the best thing in this town." Lex put his hand on Jeremy's arm. "I have extra boxes in the truck. I'll help you pack."

"What do we need?"

"Your clothes, personal stuff, drawing tables, your work, everything," Lex said.

"Dishes, silver," Jeremy said.

"If they have meaning for you, otherwise we can buy new stuff. You need your worktable so you can continue working once we arrive. You have a deadline to make."

Mrs. Walsh came in as Jeremy and Lex were boxing Jeremy's clothes. "If you leave, you're not coming back."

"Idle threat," Lex whispered. "My father said things like that hundreds of times and he has always taken me back."

"Mr. Luthor, you can't buy my son," she said.

"I don't buy people. You must have me confused with my dad." Lex carried a box to the truck.

Mrs. Walsh followed him to the truck. "Why are you taking him?"

"He's eighteen years old and just graduated high school. He goes where he chooses," Lex stated as he put the box in the truck.

Jeremy carried a box to the truck. "Mom, I'm only going to art school in Metropolis. I can visit every month."

"Are you going to drive the bike or do you want to put it in the truck?"

"I don't think we have the space in the truck. I have a number of painting to pack myself," Jeremy said.

"We'll leave Vicky the Caddie; I'll get a car worth of my status. Follow me on the Hog," Lex said.

After Lex and Jeremy had unpacked the truck into the 3,000 square foot remodeled warehouse space. Lex would get an interior decorator out there within a fortnight. He and Jeremy could sack on blankets until then. Lex looked at his suits in the upstairs closet. He would make his unannounced appearance the next morning at the Lexcorp main office. He had the black suit and maroon shirt chosen.

Lex watched Jeremy draw for his latest deadline.

"What is wrong?" Jeremy asked the young man peering over his shoulder.

"I hadn't touched the money my corporation made in years. I had to move funds to put a key deposit on this place. It's overwhelming. I have over a million in my personal accounts." Lex sat on a pile of blankets and crossed his legs. Little Alexander Luthor lived off his minimum wage job at the coffee shop. Dad and Vicky took care of everything.

"We could order pizza," Jeremy said.

"Let's walk to a restaurant. We're in Metropolis," Lex said. "What is the point of having money if you can't spend it?"

"You haven't spent it in years," Jeremy said back.

"I have so much to do. Lois will be at my office to ask me question within a day."

"Tell her no comment and hand her a press release."

Lex walked to the door of the loft. "And miss the joy of bantering with her again."

"I don't know how to talk to the press or corporate bigwigs," Jeremy said.

"They don't come into my private life. You can be assured of that. The closest was when Karen Castle faked having her car break down on the highway. I'm Teflon, nothing sticks," Lex said.

"You still shouldn't drink alcohol in public."

"I'm thirty-five years old."

"And you look sixteen."

"I see the same kid in the mirror, but it's attitude. If I act thirty-five, people will believe it."

"You aren't going to get all serious on me."

"Only at business meetings."

Jeremy and Lex stopped at a chili restaurant. Lex ordered a coffee. Jeremy ordered a beer and wasn't asked for ID. "Why me?" Jeremy asked. "You have millions. You could have anyone."

"Not true. Most women in my class are high maintenance. The women that are worth my attention want me to take them to the best parties, most exclusive clubs, and I don't have those kind of connections anymore. Lois would talk about living that kind of life, but she married a farm boy."

Jeremy sprinkled cheese on his chili. "I can't give you any of those things."

"I don't want them. I love you." If Lex wanted the connections, he would have them.

"You don't have to jump into the Metropolis high life."

"I don't plan to. Been there, done that. Why me?"

"Why not? You're an interesting man. Besides, you give incredible head." Jeremy drank his beer.

"I rather spend time with you than those corporate types." Lex made a list describing Jeremy: artist, political satirist, motorcycle mechanic, and connoisseur of bad horror movies. Lex wondered if it was Jeremy's personality or his body that interested him more. Jeremy was gorgeous: dark shortly chopped hair, rich tan all year round and muscles that the average body builder would be envious. He had just the right amount of body hair just a sprinkling not the thick carpet that many Italian men had. He wondered if Jeremy had Native American blood, but Jeremy wouldn't know his parentage. "I'm glad you're not impressed with my money." Lex drank some of his black coffee.


"I'm eating. You're becoming as bad as my stepmother."

"You still have growing to do," Jeremy teased.

"And I'll do it if I finish my dinner or not. Do you love me?"

"I like you. I love having my dick up your ass."

"Stop being crude for a minute." Lex ate a few bites of food.

The first meeting with the board of director went well. He played the sophisticated businessman and they brought it hook, line and sinker. He met with his secretary and looked at a few corporate reports. He had fewer employees that he believed. His father had been trimming the fat for years. He would have to hire enough people to get his factories running at peak again. An influx of new talent would boost the stock and put Lexcorp back on the map. He needed to visit each plant personally to show his managers that he was back in charge.

Lois arrived at his office as he was completing a memo of hiring practices.

"Ms. Lane, may I help you?" Lex said, barely glancing up from his computer.

"Your secretary told me that you were expecting me," she said.

"Take a seat. What would you like to know? I'll do my best to answer your questions." Lex leaned back in his chair.

"Mr. Luthor, why did return now?" Lois asked.

"The time was right," Lex said.

"When you disappeared from public life, your corporation had nearly a million employees and you were tenth on the Fortune 50O." Lois liked giving interviewees (victims) history lessons.

"And?" Lex smiled at her. She had a point somewhere.

"And now. You have less than 30,000 employees and only nine plants."

"I'm hiring. We'll back in peak operation in no time."

"So what were you doing as your company and stock plummeted?" Lois asked.

"Ms. Lane, my stock has been on the rebound for close to three years," Lex said. "Should I have my secretary print up the financial reports?"

"Mr. Luthor, you have always been very hands on."

"And I plan on returning to being so."

"Why vanish?"

Lex smiled. "Burn out."

"Don't you think my readers deserve the complete story?" Lois asked.

"I took time off to reestablish my priorities, but I'm now back stronger than ever."

"That remains to be seen," Ms. Lane stated.

"If you don't have any more questions, my secretary will give you a press kit."

"You've avoided my questions. No one disappears for seven years without a trace."

"I was living in my family home in Smallville."

"People should have seen you in town."

"I stayed on the estate. I needed the solitude."

"You and I know there is more to this story," said Lois.

"Ms. Lane, Carolyn can tell you all you need to know about Lexcorp. If you don't mind, I'm rather busy." Lex reopened his computer and pretended to ignore her.

"Thank you for your time." Lois left the office and picked up her press kit from Lex's secretary on her way out. Lex knew her report in the Daily Planet wouldn't be flattering. Lex had more important things to worry about than huffy ex-girlfriends.

Jeremy and Lex chose paintings for the convention. Lex marked his paintings at a lower price than Jeremy plus marked them amateur. Jeremy had two panels at the art show while Lex had only half since it was his first show. Jeremy told him that if he sold well; he could have a whole panel next time. They could do conventions near Lex's factories, but unfortunately, most of Lex's factories were in small towns in the mid-west because the land values were less, labor was cheaper and the environmental regulations weren't as strict.

"I can only put two paintings in my space or four smaller ones," Lex complained as he tried to put up his work.

"Four smaller ones. If you hang two off the bottom of the panel, you can put up six," Jeremy said. "I know you have over a hundred to choose from."

"Most are crap," Lex said, "but they show me where I came from. I can't believe you insisted that I use a minimum bid of close to the prices that sold at the open air."

"You'll get people to bid. You price it too low and people will think you don't value your work," Jeremy said.

"My factories are at a hundred percent. Fertilizer Plant One is making a 20% profit." Lex put the four best paintings on the half panel. "I can expect more next quarter. This is fun. I'll get two more from the car."

"I'll meet you at the consuite after I put up my work," Jeremy said. "Aren't you worried people will recognize you?"

"I'm not a celebrity. I just own a few factories." Lex started to walk out of art dealers' room.

"You became a celebrity by disappearing."

"The American attention span is surprisingly short." Lex had returned to corporate life; he wasn't missing anymore. It wasn't like Elvis spotting.

They spent the night chatting other artists and patrons at the artist reception. He called himself Alexander on his badge so his name didn't ring any bells. It appeared to be working; he was just teenager/young adult artist. He talked to several other artists and had a good time. Lex started a conversation on the difference between professional and amateur depended on the artist alone. The strict con definition was earning more than fifty percent of your income through art. Jeremy was professional and he wasn't.

When the dealer room opened, Lex spotted Lois and Clark buying books. "I didn't expect to see you here," Lois said.

Lex looked at Clark grabbing rare books. "Isn't your library big enough?"

"I can find unusual books at conventions." Clark paid the dealer for pile.

Lois took the pile and put it in a bag. "I keep threatening that I'll take all his books and have the Metropolis library open a Clark Kent wing."

"Are you still reading everything you can find?" Lex asked.

"I'm a little more selective," Clark said.

"He reads a book once and it's spent, but he can't part with anything," said Lois.

"He comes by it naturally," said Lex. "All the Kents were packrats."

Jeremy whispered into Lex's ear. "Dork."

"Lois, you should have married me when you had the chance," Lex said

Jeremy elbowed him.

"Lois, you remember my friend, Jeremy Walsh," Lex said.

"I'll check your work," Lois said.

"And put down a bid or two," Jeremy said.

Lois whispered into Lex's ear. "I don't know what you see in him."

"He's good in bed and he doesn't bore me with conversation," Lex whispered back.

Jeremy went to look at another table.

"We can talk while my husband buys another stack of books," Lois said. "So how is everything?"


"I'm sure Cat Grant could fix you up with a socialite," Lois teased.

"She would want to get her claws in me," Lex said. With the name Cat he couldn't help himself. Lex usually didn't lower himself to bad puns. "Lois, sometimes one needs eye candy."

"Clark is much more than eye candy."

"Lois, if you say that enough times, you may just believe it."

Lois smiled at him. "And you wouldn't want to take him off my hands."

"I've never said that." Lex blew her a kiss as she walked toward her husband.

Clark went over to Lex at the consuite. "You talked to my father behind my back. I thought that was beneath you."

"I got your attention."

"You're always had my attention." Clark sat on the sofa beside Lex.

"You aren't God. The people of Earth don't need a savior."

Clark looked down at the boy. "You know what the people of Earth need."

"No, I wouldn't be that presumptuous and neither should you. You're only a Kansas farm boy." Lex ate a handful of grapes. "Leave the battle for truth, justice and the American way to comic book writers."

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