Title: Jonathan Kent's Christmas Carol
Author: PepperjackCandy
Rating: PG13
Pairing: Clark/Lex
Category: General/Drama/Romance/Literature
Set During Second Season. Mostly. Except for the bits I'm ignoring.

Disclaimer: I own nothing Smallville-related, or related in any other way to Clark Kent, Superman or any of the various creations of the wonderful folks at DC Comics. The original A Christmas Carol was written, of course, by Charles Dickens and is in the public domain, as is Machiavelli's The Prince (both are available at http://www.gutenberg.org).

Feedback: Always welcome, either by e-mail or using the review system at fanfiction.net.

Thanks: A very heartfelt 'thank you' to Kel, who hand-held me through this fic -- I not only didn't have trouble waiting to post it, Christmas actually sneaked up on me! ;-)

A/N: I was extremely surprised to find out that the order I've always read the Chronicles of Narnia in is now the approved order, starting with The Magician's Nephew, then The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, and ending with The Silver Chair and The Last Battle. During my own childhood, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe was first, followed by Prince Caspian. The Horse and His Boy, the Magician's Nephew, and the Last Battle were the final three books in the series. Consequently, that's the order that Lex is reading them in here. At least for the first time.

"Raiju" is the name of a Japanese lightning demon that takes the shape of a badger, weasel or cat. It sounded like a good name for a troublesome feline to me. http://www.pantheon.org/articles/r/raiju.html

A triptych manip follows once I have a picture of Lionel Luthor I like.


"Dad, I've invited Lex over for Christmas."


"Why? Why what?"

"Why did you invite Lex to Christmas?"

Clark closed his eyes. It was time. He'd surprised the hell out of Lex when he said that he was going to do this, but he meant it and he intended to go through with it. "Lex and I have been seeing each other."

"Of course you have. You see each other a couple of times a week for his deliveries, and you go over there to hang out nearly every . . . ," Jonathan paused. "You mean that you and Lex are *seeing* each other."

Clark nodded, trying to steel himself against the censure in his father's eyes. "Ever since the tornado."

"What'd he do to you?" Jonathan asked.

"Geeze, Dad." Clark skipped being hurt and went right for incensed. "Do you think Lex drugged me, or is blackmailing me? We all know I can't be hypnotized."

"Now, son, you know it's not like that. It's just that Lionel . . . ."

Clark interrupted him. "I've heard you go on about Lionel Luthor, Dad. But Lex didn't spring fully-grown from Lionel's head. He had a mother, too."

"Lillian Luthor was a fine woman. I met her once myself, and all I've heard of her certainly seems to be true. But she died a long time ago."

"And Lex misses her every day. You know he has a favorite watch? She gave it to him right before she died."

Jonathan chewed on that for a moment. "No. I didn't know that."

"Yep. Well, he's still her son, too, and *that's* who I love." Clark was stunned at his plain-spokenness.

Jonathan blinked, and Clark took the advantage of his father's momentary speechlessness to head towards the back door. "I'm going out to the barn." He told his mother before he stepped out into the snowy Christmas Eve night.

Martha watched her son walking out to the barn, head hung low, and counted to fifty before walking into the living room.

"Don't you give me that." Jonathan said pre-emptively.

"What?" Martha tried to look harmless.

"You're going to tell me that I should allow Clark to have his . . . friend over for Christmas."

"I wouldn't dream of it. Though it's interesting that *you* seemed to think that was what I was going to say. Maybe your conscience is trying to tell you something?"

Jonathan stared into the fire that crackled in the fireplace, refusing to respond to his wife.

Jonathan awoke with a start and a crick in his neck. He was still sitting in his chair, but the fire had dwindled and now there were just warm, glowing coals in the fireplace.

As he stood to put the fire out before he went to bed, he saw a figure in his peripheral vision. His heart jumped in his chest as he turned to face the intruder.

He'd only met her the one time, but he'd recognize her anywhere, particularly after his conversation with Clark. And living in Smallville had taught him not discount anything as impossible. "Lillian? Lillian Luthor?"

She turned to him with the kind of warm smile he'd remembered from their introduction when he'd come over to bring some papers for Lionel regarding Clark's adoption. "Hello, Jonathan."

"What are you doing here?"

"Your son, Clark, isn't it?, is very fond of my son. My Alexander. And Alexander's very fond of Clark as well.

"If you'll come with me, there are some things you should see." She extended a hand towards him, which he took.

He felt a disorienting lurch, and suddenly was standing in the foyer of the Luthor penthouse in Metropolis, a crowd of elegantly-dressed men and women moving and mingling from one room to another. "This is 1986." She told him. "Lionel is holding court in there." She indicated one doorway.

"Where's Lex?"

"Do you see me, there?"

He looked where she indicated and saw Lillian, in a green dress with gold beading, heading purposefully towards the foyer. "Yes."

"Follow me. I'll be waiting here for you when you're done."

Strangely, her instruction made perfect sense to him, and he followed the 1986 version of Lillian as she carried a plate of food and a glass of something that looked like cola through the foyer. She stopped and opened the coat closet door. Jonathan expected her to take a coat out, but instead, she stepped into the closet as if it were the most normal thing to do.

The door closed behind her, and he looked over at Lillian, who nodded for him to step forward.

He closed his eyes and took two steps forward. When he opened his eyes, he was inside the closet, and Lillian was sitting on the floor. He walked over towards her and saw a redheaded boy, small for what Jonathan knew must be six years old, hidden in the corner.

"Alexander, why don't you come out?"

He shook his head. "No. I don't like those people." Jonathan's heart went out to this small boy. There hadn't been anyone younger than twenty in the room outside, and Jonathan couldn't imagine making Clark at six sit through a black-tie party alone like that.

"How about sliding forward just a little so I can see you, then?"

Lex slid forward. "Thanks, Mom." He smiled at her, taking a cookie from the plate.

"You're welcome." She kissed the top of his head. "So what are you doing in here by yourself?"

Lex reached behind him and pulled a book from the corner.

"The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, huh?" She smiled. "That's one of my favorites."

"I know." Lex smiled. "I'm almost done with it. Then I need to somehow get hold of my copy of Prince Caspian."

"Tell you what." She smiled at him conspiratorially. "I'll sneak up to your room and get it for you, then bring it back down."

Lex grinned back widely. This Lex smiled more than the Lex he knew, Jonathan realized, despite the fact that the Lex he knew had everything he could want, and this Lex was alone in a coat closet on Christmas.

Lillian kissed Lex's forehead, pulling the tuxedo-clad six year old to her for a hug. "You finish that up and I'll be back down with Prince Caspian in a minute." She smiled. "By then, you'll be able to tell me how you liked The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe."

Lex nodded. "Thank you for bringing me this." He pointed to the plate.

"You're welcome, sweetie." Lillian stood and left the closet.

Lex, alone in the closet now, picked up his book and continued reading, munching on hors d'oeuvres as he read.

Jonathan stepped through the door of the closet and walked back to Lillian.

"So? What happens now? Do I get to see what happens when you come back?"

"It's too late for that. Don't you see anything different?"

Jonathan looked around and realized that the black-and-silver foyer was now mahogany-and-gold. "How'd you do that?"

"I didn't. Time did. It's 1990 now, and there I go."

Jonathan didn't need to be prompted. He followed Lillian into the closet as he'd done in 1986. This was when he got his first good look at the 1990 Lillian, who was extremely pregnant. Jonathan hadn't had much experience with pregnant women, but she looked as though she were going to give birth any minute.

Gingerly, she lowered herself to the floor next to her son.

"What are you reading?" she asked as she held out a plate.

Lex took it from her and silently held the cover up to her inspection, wrinkling his nose.

She sighed. "On Christmas? Why don't you read something more fun than Machiavelli?"

"Because. Dad wants to ask me questions about it in the morning. If I don't have it done . . ."

"Sometimes I regret making that deal with your father. And with little Lee, here," she rubbed her abdomen, "you *know* he's going to want the same thing, to be in charge of his education, and I'll handle everything else." She picked up a plate she'd brought for herself and took a bite of the apple from the Waldorf salad she'd brought in with her.

"Why don't you read to me?"

"You don't want to hear it."

"Of course I do. Anything you're doing is interesting to me."

Lex sighed heavily, showing clearly that he knew she was exaggerating. Nevertheless, he began to read, "But it is necessary to know well how to disguise this characteristic, and to be a great pretender and dissembler; and men are so simple, and so subject to present necessities, that he who seeks to deceive will always find someone who will allow himself to be deceived."1

"Do you believe that?" Lillian interrupted him.

Lex shrugged. "Dad wants me to."

"But someday you're going to be a grown man, and then it'll be your responsibility to be the kind of person *you* want to be, not the kind of person your father, or I, want you to be."

Lex picked up a cracker with cheese on it and chewed it thoughtfully for a moment. "I suppose that it's right in that there's one born every minute," he smiled up at her. "But I don't think that it's necessary to lie to people. I can't believe that every successful king, President, whatever, has been just a big liar."

Lillian nodded and took another bite of her salad. "Ooh! Give me your hand, Lex! Quick!"

Lex reached out a hand towards his mother, which she placed on her abdomen.

Lex looked up at her, wonder in his eyes. "Is that Lee?"

She nodded. "You're never around anymore. You're always at school, or at some kind of lesson. I wanted to make sure you felt the baby kick." Her eyes tearing up, Lillian pulled her son into her arms.

"Jonathan!" He heard someone calling his name and turned around to find Lillian halfway through the door of the closet. "It's time. You've seen enough here."

They stepped out into the foyer, which was completely empty. Moments later, Lex came downstairs, looking to be in his early teens. "It's 1993, and I've passed away. Julian, too. That was the baby's name. We were going to call him Lee for short."

Lex walked into one of the rooms off the foyer.

"What are you waiting for?" Lillian asked. "Follow him."

Jonathan followed Lex into the dining room, where Lionel was actively engaged in an argument with an employee of some sort.

"You sent for me, Dad?"

Lionel wheeled on his son. "Armand here says that you won't be joining us for dinner tonight."

Lex shrugged. "I just figured I'd . . ."

"Hide in the closet like you've done every year." Lionel snarled. "Oh. You thought I didn't know about that, didn't you? Lawrence told me he saw you sneaking in there last year.

"If you can't handle your responsibilities like an adult, I'll have to take this," Lionel snaked a hand out and grabbed Lex's right wrist, exposing the shining, golden face of Napoleon, "away from you until you can."

Lex blanched. "No. I'll attend the dinner."

With an air of self-satisfaction, Lionel turned to Armand. "Please set a place for Alexander."

Jonathan could see Lex trying to keep his dignity as he left the room. Jonathan followed, wondering where Lex would go next.

As Jonathan stepped out into the foyer, the party was in full swing again. "So? What did Lex do that night?" He asked Lillian.

"See for yourself." People were filing out of the dining room and Lex took the opportunity to slip away into the closet again.

"Lionel's not going to be happy." Jonathan said to Lillian.

"Lionel has never been happy with Alexander." Was Lillian's simple response. "Go on. See what he's doing in the closet."

Obviously Lex had planned to duck out on the party after dinner, for Jonathan walked through the door of the closet to find that Lex had set up a sort of nest for himself -- books and pilfered food, a blanket and pillow. And Lex sat in the middle of it all, clutching the pillow to his chest and sobbing bitterly.

Jonathan walked back out into the now-empty foyer. "Why's he crying?"

"What would you do if you were thirteen and you were forced to attend his boring business party by your father threatening to take away the last thing your mother gave you before she died?"

Chastened, Jonathan said, "I see your point."

"The next Alexander you'll see is very different from this one, so this is where I have to leave you. I'll take you home first, of course." She took his hand and led him through the closed door of the penthouse.

Immediately they were back in the living room of the Kent house. "It's almost time for your next visitor." Lillian informed him.

"Let me guess, the Ghost of Christmas Present?"

She smiled. "Something like that. Only certain . . . constraints will keep your next guide from being able to speak to you. I think you wouldn't like the things he'd say anyhow."

"The next Christmas you will visit will be Christmas of 1998." She kissed him on the cheek

Without another word, Lillian disappeared.

Jonathan slowly lowered himself into the chair he'd vacated and felt his eyelids being pulled downwards.

He woke what seemed like seconds later to see Lionel Luthor standing in front of him.

"Lionel! What the hell are you doing here!" It felt like he was shouting, but miraculously his voice never reached above a whisper.

Lionel merely looked at him evenly, his mouth twitching as if he were restraining words he wanted to say.

"Well, spit it out!" Belatedly, he realized that Lionel looked hazy, slightly more transparent than Lillian had been. And Lionel was clearly able to see him. Something was very, very odd here.

"You can't speak, can you?" Jonathan asked. "Are you my next guide?"

Lionel merely glowered at him and turned to lead Jonathan out the front door of the house. As he turned, Jonathan got a glimpse of a silver cord extending from his back. Jonathan chuckled. Nell Potter had been interested in all sort of paranormal phenomena when they were in high school. He wondered if she'd believe him if he told her that he had actually seen the proverbial "silver cord."

When they stepped out the front door, Jonathan found himself in the foyer of the penthouse again.

He could hear raised voices in one of the rooms off of the foyer.

Lionel was berating his son, and a now-eighteen year old Lex was giving it back.
"I refuse to have a son who . . ."

"Shut up, Dad. I behave, you disapprove. I misbehave, you disapprove. I've finally decided to hell with it. And don't worry. I won't be in the closet again. I won't be in the closet because I won't be in the penthouse." With that, Lex stomped out of the room.

Jonathan watched Lionel for a minute to see what, if anything, the mogul did. He turned to a lackey who was lurking in the corner. "He's too afraid to face life without my money. All I have to do is threaten to take that away, and he'll toe the line." Lionel gloated.

Jonathan, shaking his head at the cold-heartedness of Lionel's tone, went back into the foyer, to find that another time shift had occurred, and he was surrounded by elegantly-dressed partygoers again.

Lex returned from wherever he had been, an obvious hickey on his neck, and his mouth covered with a bright-red lipstick so smeared, it was impossible to tell if the coloring had been kissed onto or off of his mouth.

Even to Jonathan on the astral plane, or wherever he was, Lex smelled like a distillery.

He grabbed a bottle of champagne off of one of the trays and walked, amazingly steadily, through the crowd, until he reached the living room. He stood on top of the wet bar in the corner.

The conversation stilled as the partygoers saw the young heir, and they turned expectant eyes up to him.

Lex shook the bottle in his hands. "Merry fucking Christmas, everyone!" He shouted, popping the cork and laughing hysterically as thousands of dollars of finery was soaked with the alcohol that spurted from the bottle.

Jonathan cringed. This was how he'd always imagined Lex being, although he'd never shown this side to Clark. But after watching Lex's childhood interaction with Lillian, he was beginning to think that Lex was just acting out and that this wasn't his true persona.

Unable to bear to see any more of this, Jonathan walked back out into the foyer and back to Lionel. "So? When are we now?" He could still hear Lex's manic laughter in the background.

"What's wrong? Shouldn't we have moved to another year by now?"

Lionel merely looked at him and turned to go out the front door of the penthouse.

Jonathan followed and found himself in Lex's study.

Lex was on the phone. "Yeah, Clark. I understand. It's important to spend Christmas with your family. I'll see you tomorrow, though."

He hung up the phone and turned to his bar in the corner. He poured a couple of fingers of scotch into a glass, then left the glass on the bar and took the decanter over to the sofa.

"Here's to my first Christmas in Smallville." He said mirthlessly as he swigged deeply from the crystal bottle. "Merry fucking Christmas."

Jonathan turned his eyes to Lionel, who watched dispassionately as his son drank himself into a stupor.

"All right. Where are we going now?" Jonathan asked.

Silently, Lionel turned and left the room, dragging Jonathan behind him like a leaf in a crosswind.

They stepped out the front door of the castle and into the living room of the Kent house.

Then, without acknowledging Jonathan further, Lionel left.

Jonathan sat down heavily in the chair he'd left. "All right. Ghost of Christmas Past. Check. Ghost of Christmas Present. Check. I guess it's just a matter of time for the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. Might as well make myself comfortable."

Jonathan picked up his copy of Progressive Farmer, and soon was asleep.

A sound woke him up. Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come? He thought groggily as he put the magazine back on the end table.

"Hi, Lex." It was Clark. Jonathan looked out the window and saw that it was daylight outside. Surprised that he'd slept so long, Jonathan stood and walked into the kitchen.

"Dad doesn't want you coming over; just like I was afraid of."

"Yes, I told them about us."

"I'm really, *really* sorry."

"Yeah. I wanted to spend Christmas with you, too." By now, Jonathan could see his son's face, and the sadness there, combined with his . . . dreams the night before, almost made him reconsider. Almost.

Martha was buzzing around the kitchen making breakfast. "What's for breakfast, hon?" He asked, peeking over her shoulder. Martha took a step backwards and stepped right through him.

Just as this happened, Jonathan heard laughter from the living room. He walked in to find that it was night again, and there were two women standing in front of the fireplace, laughing uproariously.

"Gets 'em every time." The one on the right, beautiful, with cinnamon-toned skin and a face that looked unsettlingly like Tyra Banks, said.

"I don't know where you come up with these ideas." The blonde on the left said.

"Just brilliant, I guess." 'Tyra' responded. She turned to Jonathan. "I'm Hope, and she's Mercy, and . . ."

"Let me guess, you're the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come."

"Well, 'Ghosts,' technically, but yeah. So, do you want to see Lex's side of tomorrow morning's conversation?"

Jonathan shrugged. "Sure."

"Come this way, then." Hope said as she and Mercy walked through the front door of the house.

As they passed through the door, they found themselves in Lex's study just as the phone rang.

"Clark!" Lex said with unmistakable joy.

Then his face fell. "He doesn't? I know, you warned me, but . . . Does he know that we're together?"

"I know you're sorry, Clark. So am I." There was a genuine, heartrending, regret in Lex's tone.

"Yes. Tomorrow. Of course." The flatness in Lex's tone frightened Jonathan for reasons he couldn't name.

After Lex hung up the phone, he dialed again. Ten digits. A long-distance call.

"This is Lex Luthor. I'll be joining my father at his Christmas party after all. I've changed my mind. Can you get my old room set up in time? I'll be bringing my own tuxedo. I just had it altered last week."

"I'll be there in about two hours."

Jonathan turned to Hope and Mercy. "So that's all it took to make Lex go back to his father? So much for trying to convince me that he was different from Lionel."

"If Clark's partner had just backed out on Christmas plans, where would you want him to spend the day? At home alone, drinking?" Hope asked.

"No. I'd want him home. Where he belongs."

Hope raised her eyebrows meaningfully at him, but didn't say anything besides, "Come on, we're running late for 2009."

They stepped out the front door of the house and into the foyer of the Luthor penthouse, where the party was in full swing, as always. Only, for the first time, Lex was at the center of it, laughing and mingling, carrying a glass of champagne with him that always seemed to be full, no matter how often he sipped at it.

The foyer had changed, again, and now it was pure, matching shades of white, with the barest hints of a dark blood red.

Lex looked up and disengaged himself from his current conversation with a smile that didn't touch his eyes. "Clark. How nice to see you. Thank you for coming."

Jonathan turned and found himself face-to-face with his son. Seven years older now, an adult, but still the same fresh-faced kid that Jonathan and Martha had raised.

"Thank you for inviting me." Clark said, an odd detachment in his tone. "Though I'm not sure why you invited me."

"Can't I want to touch base with an old friend? I hear that you're on staff at the Planet. Quite the plum position, too. I had no idea you were interested in journalism."

The superficial tone startled Jonathan. If any adjective would describe Lex Luthor's reaction to Clark Kent, 'superficial,' would never have been the first thing Jonathan would have thought of. 'Intense' would be nearer the mark.

"Yeah. Well, after . . . during my last years of high school, I threw myself into the Torch, and discovered why Chloe loves it so much. Turns out I'm pretty good, too."

"Why are you still so self-effacing? You're an excellent writer, and still fearless from what I've heard."


"The way you exposed that drug ring at Met U. Those were some seriously scary characters. I just thank God you and I weren't there at the same time, or I would have had to find another source for my spending money." Lex laughed lightly.

"So, you invited me here . . ."

"Ah. Well, I could use a contact at the Planet."

Jonathan saw his son stiffen when Lex wrapped his arm around his shoulders in a patently false gesture of camaraderie. "Oh?

"Yes. Well, I have a sort of . . . event coming up. Since my father has died, I'm now sort of 'it' for the family and I've decided that it's time for Wife Number Three. Erica. She's over there. I'll introduce you. What I need is your very **best** photographer and someone other than that bitch Cat Grant to cover the event for the society pages."

Clark stiffened further, shaking Lex's arm off of his shoulders. "That's why you asked me here? To get good coverage for your wedding?"

"What else are friends for, Clark?"

"You used to know." Clark said sadly as he walked away towards the front door of the penthouse.

Jonathan turned back to Hope and Mercy. "What next?"

Hope said only one word, "2022."

Before Jonathan's eyes, things shifted. The white-and-red color scheme remained the same, but the table, the floral arrangement, even the spindles on the banister of the staircase changed.

The partygoers came into focus next, and Jonathan's attention was immediately caught by Clark, who was virtually unchanged from his appearance in 2009. The only change was that this time, Clark wasn't alone. A beautiful brunette was at his elbow.

"Clark. Lois." Lex greeted them smoothly.

"Merry Christmas, Lex." Clark responded.

Lex exchanged a fake hug and an air kiss with Lois.

"So, I've been anxious to meet your daughter. Lena, isn't it?" Clark began.

"Yes. It is. Unfortunately, she's in Paris with her governess at the moment."

"You sent your daughter to Paris for Christmas?" Lois asked before she could stop herself.

Lex looked at her steadily. "Yes. Ever since her mother died, she's spent the holidays in Paris with Brigitte's family. I have obligations here, and wouldn't want to bore the poor child with things like this party. Instead, she gets a real, old-fashioned family Christmas every year."

"I'd think she'd want to spend the holidays with her father." Clark asked, honestly asking for clarification.

Lex shrugged offhandedly. "I've got too many obligations this time of year. I make it up to her at other times."

Jonathan was irate on behalf of the absent Lena. Doesn't he know how important the holidays are? How any man could want to spend his holidays away from his child -- his *only* child . . .!

Just then, a young man hurried up to Lex. "Mr. Luthor! I just overheard Mr. Douglas," belatedly he noticed Clark and Lois there and lowered his voice to a whisper.

Lex looked up at Clark, meeting his eyes briefly. "I've got to handle this."

"Don't worry on our account." Lois assured him.

With an odd expression, Lex left them.

"I asked Del to distract him." Lois whispered to him. "Now I'm going to sneak into his office and see *what* is going on with those e-mails we've been tracking."

Lois and Clark walked to the door of Lex's home office, and Lois slipped inside, leaving Clark to stand guard outside.

Several minutes later, Lex returned. "Where's Miss Lane? Or is it Mrs. Kent now?"

Clark gave Lex a smile that was a shadow of his former smiles. "She kept her maiden name, personally as well as professionally. And she had to go to the powder room."

"Ah. So, what have you been up to lately?"

"I'm more interested in what *you've* been up to."

"Personally, or professionally?" Lex asked with heavy insinuation, intentionally using the same words that Clark had just used moments before.

Clark kept his tone light. "Either."

"Ah. Well, there's no Mrs. Alexander J. Luthor Number Five on the horizon yet, and . . ." Lex was interrupted by a crash from inside his office.

"What the hell was that?" Lex asked, pushing Clark aside.

Clark resisted, but didn't dare resist too much for fear of outing himself as Superman, so after a brief tussle, Clark moved out of Lex's way.

They stepped into an apparently-empty room. Empty, that was, except for an orange tabby cat, who looked up at Lex and said, "Meow!"

"How'd you get stuck in here, Raiju?" Lex picked up the feline, scratching behind his ears.

Clark breathed a silent sigh of relief.

"What did you knock over?" Lex looked around, and saw the lamp on top of his desk overturned. "Were you on my desk?" He asked Raiju.

He grew distracted. "No. I don't think you were."

Clark held his breath as Lex stepped into the room and walked over to the desk. "You can come out now, Miss Lane."

When Lois emerged from under the desk, she had her tape recorder in her hand, turned on. "So, Mr. Luthor, would you like to make a comment on the record about just what kind of deal you've cut with the Tomorrow Party in exchange for being their Presidential candidate in '24?"

"Yes. There is no 'deal.' The Party wants a President, and I've wanted to be President. It's a move that benefits both of us. There's only one thing I've ever wanted more, and that was denied me a nearly two decades ago." He flashed a very possessive up-and-down look in Clark's direction.

Lois ignored the obvious way Lex was admiring her husband. "And does the party's new interest in you have anything to do with the death of Myron Williams?"

"I assure you I had nothing to do with the death of Mr. Williams. Now, get the hell out of my penthouse. And never. come. back."

Clark and Lois left with alacrity at Lex's steely tone.

Jonathan stepped out into the foyer, rejoining Hope and Mercy. "Was that the truth? That Lex wants Clark more than his ambitions?"

Hope smiled softly. "Why don't you wait and find out?" She nodded towards the dining room, where gaily-clad partygoers were filtering out into the foyer.

The throng parted to allow a petite brunette to walk among them into the foyer.

Servants with trays of champagne glasses began to move among the guests, serving them. "Now, if everyone can please join me in a toast." She held her own glass aloft. "To the memory of my father, Alexander J. Luthor," she indicated a painting of Lex on the wall opposite the staircase, "the past of the Luthor family, and to my husband, Thomas Kyle Wayne," she caressed her abdomen, "father of the future of the Luthor family."

Shocked murmurs ran through the crowd. "Yes, there is going to be a fourth generation of Luthors in this penthouse in six more months." She smiled. "And, in aid of a new dedication to my family, this will be the final Luthor Christmas party."

The shocked murmurs increased in volume.

"Now, everyone enjoy yourselves. The party goes until midnight, and we've got rooms reserved at the LuthorHilton downstairs for anyone who doesn't feel safe driving home. Or for anyone who does, and who just would like to stay the night in the LuthorHilton."
Everyone laughed at this, and the group dispersed into the rooms that came off of the foyer like the spokes of a wheel.

Soon afterwards, Clark came in. His temples were slightly gray, but he was otherwise unchanged. "Miss Luthor? I mean, Mrs. Wayne?"

The brunette turned to face him. "I kept my maiden name, just like your late wife did. But you may call me Lena. After all, we're practically family."

Clark looked at her as if he didn't understand her.

"Well, I know that you and Bruce are pretty close, and now I'm married to Tom, so . . ."

Clark nodded. "I see. Well, thank you, Lena. And you may call me Clark."

"There's another reason I consider you to be family. It's why I asked you to come here tonight. Why don't we go into the office?"

Jonathan followed them into the office and once they were in the office and seated, Lena said, "Tonight's party isn't just about Christmas. It's also sort of my way to say good-bye to my father. He always hated these parties when he was a kid, and so he tried to," she smiled fondly, "protect me from them. It's my understanding you didn't think that was a good idea."

"I thought that you and Lex should be together during the holidays."

"And you were right. But I know that Dad meant well." There was a fondness in the word 'Dad' that had never been there when Lex had used the word to refer to Lionel. "But that's why this is going to be the last of the Luthor Christmas parties. That way, my children won't have to suffer through them, like Dad did, but I won't have to send them away, like I was, either. Next year we might consider replacing it with a New Year's Eve party. Seems like a more suitable holiday for business, anyhow. Christmas should be about family, and real friendship."

She reached into a file folder on her desk and pulled out an envelope. "I thought you might want to say good-bye to Dad, too. I think he convinced himself he would destroy this letter before he died, but he didn't. You might want to destroy it yourself once you're done reading it. Some of the things in here are probably best left between you and me and my late father's memory."

Clark nodded and took the envelope from her hand. She walked around the desk and leaned over to give him a small hug. "Good-bye, Clark. I don't think we'll see each other much after this, but maybe in another world we would have known each other better.

"I've got to go. I'm making an announcement that LexCorp will be making a substantial donation to the Smallville Medical Center's trauma unit in Dad's name. You'll be all right?"

Clark nodded. "Yeah. Once I'm done with this, may I burn it in the fireplace?"

"Sure. I think I can trust you to do it safely."

"Yeah. I will."

September 23, 2041

Dear Clark,

This is probably the last contact we'll have. I was told today that I've come down with the same heart condition that killed my mother almost 50 years ago. Seems my aging processes have been slowed considerably, since my mom was 41 when she came down with it, but I was 60.

But you'd know something about slowed aging processes, wouldn't you, Clark? After all, when you're . . . not yourself, you don't have those nice graying temples. Don't worry, I've known all along that you're Superman, the Last Son of Krypton, and I've never told anyone. And I never will. Not that that's going to be an issue for much longer.

Lena is getting married next week, and as soon as she's on her honeymoon, I'm going to kill myself. I have a vial of a drug that will make it look as though my heart condition has killed me.

But before I go I want to tell you that if I had it all to do over again, I'd do it all differently. When you chose your parents over me, I should have fought for you. I'd give it all up to be with you -- the money, the fame, the two terms as President. The only thing I'd want to keep from this life would be Lena, and I'm sure there must have been a way I could have had you both in my life.

Well, it's too late for regrets, even though I have them anyway. At least let me leave you with the words I never had the courage to say to you in life.

I love you.

Clark carefully ripped the final four words from the sheet of paper and then carried the rest of the sheet to the fireplace, setting it afire with his heat vision. Once the paper was charred, he crumbled up the carbon remnants, then put the only declaration of love he ever got from Lex in his wallet and left the room.

Jonathan followed Clark from the room and rejoined Hope and Mercy. "So? Where now?"

"Home." Hope said. "You've seen it all. The life of Alexander J. Luthor. The question you should be asking is 'What am I going to do with this knowledge?'"

In his heart, Jonathan knew she was right. Clark had hit the nail on the head when he'd said that Lex was Lillian's son as much as he was Lionel's. Watching Lex and Lillian together had proven that.

He followed Hope and Mercy out the door, finding himself once again alone in his living room.

And he'd learned that, as bad as things got between Clark and Lex, Lex had been trustworthy with Clark's secret. Presuming, of course, that was what the reference to 'Superman, the Last Son of Krypton' was, which he was pretty sure it was.

The deathbed confession of love might have been insincere, but it caused Jonathan to pause. What if it hadn't been? He certainly had seen Lex admitting that he would give it all up for Clark in 2022.

By then he was exhausted, so he dropped back into his chair and fell back to sleep.

"Hi, Lex." It was Clark. Jonathan looked out the window and saw that it was daylight outside. His heart stopped in his chest.

"Dad doesn't want you coming over; just like I was afraid of."

"Yes, I told them about us."

"No!" He shouted, bolting to his feet and heading for the kitchen.

Martha and Clark stared at him as he ran into the room. The phone had dropped away from Clark's mouth.

"I've reconsidered." Jonathan said. "Tell Lex he's welcome to come here for . . . Give me that."

Jonathan snatched the phone from Clark's numb fingers. "Lex? You're welcome to come here for Christmas."

"Should you bring something? Um, well, we're having roast beef with Martha's garlic mashed potatoes. Do you have something that'll go with that in your wine cellar?"

"I'll just have to trust your judgment on that one." Jonathan . . . smiled. "Well, here's Clark." He handed the phone back to his son and walked over to sweep Martha up into a kiss.

"What brought that on?" Martha asked.

"Can't a guy kiss his wife?"

"Not that." She looked over at Clark, who was still insisting into the phone that he didn't know what had come over his father. "That."

Jonathan shrugged. "I guess I just had some time to think it over, and hope that maybe Clark will bring out some of Lillian Luthor's son."

"That's a very progressive attitude to take." Martha smiled at him.

"Well, I'm a very progressive guy." Jonathan grinned at her.

Martha laughed and rolled her eyes. "You'd better get off the phone, Clark. Breakfast's ready. Does Lex want to come for breakfast and presents?"

Clark passed on the message and shook his head. "He'll be by around 1:00?"

Martha nodded.

Breakfast, presents, and three showers later, the Kents were watching the annual schmaltzy Christmas movie festival on television when Lex arrived.

"Merry Christmas, Lex." Martha greeted him with a smile as she answered the door.

"Merry Christmas, Mrs. Kent." Lex answered as he stamped the snow from his shoes.

"Please, call me Martha."

"Thank you. Martha." He handed her a bottle of wine. "I hope this is to your liking."

She looked down at the red wine he'd brought. "I'm sure it'll be fine."

"And I brought something else for you, too." He held up a bouquet of flowers. "From the greenhouses at the castle."

Martha gasped. "Tim's growing orchids at the castle?"

"Yes. He said that he wants to send one of his plants over here, but that they wouldn't survive the trip. I'm actually not sure whether he meant the cold or . . . my driving."

Jonathan suddenly realized that Lex was actually nervous. He stood and walked over to shake Lex's hand. "Lex."

"Mr. Kent."

"I suppose that this is a different experience from what you're used to."

Lex laughed. "You could say that. I'm usually forced to attend my father's Christmas party. I'm looking forward to this a great deal more."

"We're looking forward to having you. And I must say that I'm looking forward to getting to know you." Jonathan glanced down and saw the same gold coin watch that he'd seen in his dream, or vision, or whatever it had been. "And please, call me Jonathan."


1 The Prince, Nicollo Machiavelli, Chapter 18