Author's Notes: This is a "what if" that I've been kicking around for a while with some friends of mine. It's an alternate reality fic in which Lionel is dead and Lillian (his wife) is the parent who raises Lex. This is raising the question--would Lex be different because he lacked his father's lasting influence? If so, how different would he be? The title, by the way, is French for "what might have been."


"Ce Qui Aurait Été"

Prologue

(Homecoming Weekend 1989, Smallville, Kansas)

The contract had just been signed, and Lionel Luthor was now the owner of a dilapidated cream corn factory and some cornfields. Nothing special, but once he brought in the wrecking ball and a construction crew, it would be magnificent. Well, as magnificent as a fertilizer factory would ever be.

With a sneer in the Rosses' direction, Luthor pocketed the contract and turned to leave. He called for his son as he headed for his helicopter.

The boy did not come.

Lionel turned impatiently towards the field where he'd last seen his son headed. He couldn't have gotten far. "Lex!" he called out, raising his voice. An edge of warning could be heard in it. "Come here, son!"

The pilot who'd flown then in caught sight of his boss's face and grimaced. He'd been in the Luthors' employ long enough to know that the look on Lionel's face meant trouble for young Lex.

Lionel's wrath, however, was eclipsed by the wrath of something more natural and yet unnatural at the same time. Just as he reached the edge of the newly purchased cornfield, a tidal wave of fire and energy washed over them, heading like a rocket towards the earth.

The angry shout on Lionel's lips died away only to be replaced by another... one of panic. "Lex! Son!" he called out as he began to run, pushing through the corn stalks as he searched. "Son!"

"Dad? Dad!"

He heard the small, frightened voice in the distance, and ran towards the sound. Just as he caught sight of something he hoped was his son's red hair and made towards it, another wave of energy came crashing down over them, forcing him face first into the ground.

Later, when the meteor showers had passed, the helicopter pilot led a team of rescue workers and volunteer firemen into what little remained of the blackened cornfield in search of his employers.

A volunteer found Lionel twenty feet from where the helicopter had waited to carry him to safety hours before. His body was severely burned and still smoldering in some places. A few feet away, in a mass of torn, burnt clothing and surrounded by the stench of singed hair lay the small form of a child.

"This kid's still alive!" one of the rescue workers called out.

*~*

"Da..." The boy in the bed called out weakly, as if the broken syllable was all his body could muster.

"Shh..." a soft, feminine voice answered as his eyes slowly opened for the first time in nearly a week. "It's alright, Lex. Mommy's here."

He turned his head in the direction of the voice. "Mommy?" he asked, his mind still cloudy from his long sleep. He felt her hand on his cheek, softly stroking. Comforting.

"Oh, baby," she cooed, gathering him in her arms.

About that time a doctor came in. He motioned for the boy's mother to move away from her son, and began inspecting the child. He asked a few questions about how bad the pain was in certain places, showing him a chart with smiley and frowny faces. The boy stared at it for a while but didn't indicate a face that matched his pain level. His father had always tried to tell him that pain was for babies.

"Lex, sweetie. Tell the doctor how you feel," his mother prompted. "He can't help you if you don't tell him." The boy frowned, but finally pointed to the middle face. Not smiling, but not frowning, just an average face.

"You're sure?" the doctor asked. The boy nodded. "Well, then... Let's have a look under your bandages, shall we?"

For the first time since waking up, Lex became aware that he even had bandages on his head. He reached up to touch them. "What happened?"

"Honey, there was a meteor shower," his mother explained. "And you and Daddy were trapped in it. You were..." here she paused, looking at the doctor hesitantly. "Exposed to an awful lot of heat and radiation... and..."

"Mrs. Luthor," the doctor said in a gentle reprimand. She fell silent as he began to unwind the bandages. The doctor continued to remove Lex's bandages. When the last one came off, however, he stepped back, a look of pity on his face.

It was the first of many looks--some of them not as nice--the young boy would receive throughout his life. As if prompted by it, he reached up, tiny fingers finding bare skin where hair should have been.

"Where's my hair?" he asked, fear filling his young voice. The doctor said it had fallen out during the meteor shower.

"Because of radiation," the doctor told him.

"M-mom?" he whispered, turning frightened, eyes to his mother. It was, perhaps, the only emotion the boy would show for his lost locks.

"It's okay, baby," his mother told him, drawing him into her arms. "It doesn't matter if your hair comes back or not. Mommy loves you no matter what."

"Does... does Dad know?" His voice sounded doubtful. His dad would be angry. It was bad enough when he was a redhead. He would be worse of a freak in his father's eyes if he were bald.

"No, Lex. Your father doesn't know," Lillian told him with a strange hitch in her voice.

"Mom?" He pulled away from her, just enough to let him see her face. She was crying. He reached out to touch a tear that slid down her face, watching it as if he'd never seen its like before.

"Lex, honey, your daddy didn't make it out of the meteor shower. He's dead," she told him, hugging him tighter.

Lex's eyes screwed shut as the memory of what happened flooded back to him. He remember being in the field, and hearing his father call to him. But the man on the cross and the fire in the sky scared him, and he couldn't let his father know he'd been scared. It was a weakness. His father was always pointing out his weaknesses; Lex was very weak for a Luthor. Finally, the fear overcame him, and he ran, calling for his father. And then... nothing but fire and darkness.

He'd killed his father.

*~*

A few days later, after several tests, Lex was released from the hospital. His mother came for him early that morning, but by the time the doctors actually signed his release forms, it was closer to afternoon.

An orderly pushed him in a wheel chair towards the hospital entrance, but stopped when he saw a huge crowd of reporters out side. "Mrs. Luthor?" the man inquired, unsure, as several bodyguards rushed to their side. One of them informed her that the media had all the entrances covered.

"Mommy, I wanna go home," Lex whispered, his voice sounding louder than it really was in the moment of indecision.

"I know, honey," Lillian replied, lifting her son into her deceptively strong arms. She dismissed the orderly and nodded to her chief bodyguard. Moments later, the automatic doors slid open as she strode out, feigning oblivion in regards to the microphones being shoved in her face and the cameras flashing around them.

Halfway across the parking lot, Lex looked up, peering over his mother's shoulder at the sea of reporters. One of them saw him look and shouted out his name. He heard another ask what it had been like in the meteor shower. Another asked about his hair. He scowled back, his darkening with something akin of hatred. Their questions-- cruel and demanding--frightened him even more than discovery that he had no hair. He hated them.

Moments later, a guard was opening the limousine door and his mother was ushering him inside. They were going home, he thought, pressing his face against the tinted glass to watch the parasites as they attempted to rush the car. Home to a strange world without his father. He had to be brave.