Spoilers: Memoria, Memoria, and Memoria. Happens within hours afterwards.
Description: Lex has places to go, people to see and things to do...again.
Disclaimer: Not mine. Not mine.
Feedback: I fiend for it.
The Japanese like to say that the actions of an hour can destroy the reputation of a thousand years. Lex thought that might not be true. He couldn't afford it to be; he had taken a crap on his entire resume - he'd have to live a thousand lives to make up for all the damage.
Not that there wasn't some truth in those years - all those tortured years of isolation, voracious longing, and self-destruction. Years dotted with debauched nights that turned into languid days. Nope. Those years were still with him. He had never left them behind, he had just learned to manage them in some way that allowed him to step up to life and play. To participate in a way that he would get the most return. Simple economics. Simple truth.
To the casual observer, or even his own father, those years looked like just another teenage phase. But there was nothing true about that. Because he wasn't some recreational screw-up, intent on impressing friends, cheating death or getting the girl. No. Those years were as real and valid as all the hours he had spent promoting LexCorp or analyzing projections until the facts were exhausted. Those storied nights in Metropolis were still some of the best therapy he had ever gotten.
And Lex was going in for a check-up.
It was already 11:00 when he sped out of his driveway, leaving the mansion behind in a cloud of dust. All he saw was Metropolis. He was topping out at 102 when the buzz starting settling in. Careening down those country roads, barely paved and as desolate as Atlantis at noon, he knew something familiar was ahead. Somewhere that he knew better than any other place. Somewhere that was scary and thrilling and raw and that had answers. Someplace honest. Not like Smallville, a nice-nasty hamlet that on crushing nights like these, had all the appeal of a golden vial of arsenic. Sure, it looked good, but it was still poison.
Twenty, thirty-seven, ninety-three minutes went by before he shifted down. Even Luthors obeyed the law, sometimes. Or came close. The "Welcome to Metropolis" sign whizzed by. Lex turned his willpower over to his car, entrusting her with the night like a genie at the mercy of a magic carpet. He flew through some yellow lights, even more red ones, going further and further into the pulsing heart of the city. He felt like a shot of heroine raging through the veins of a wearied junkie craving the sting of the fix.
He stopped on a dime under the carport of the Shii. Window down. Valet on right.
"Hello, I'm Todd. Welcome to the Shii. May I have your keys?" he droned. Then he perked up. "Hey, Lex! Long time no see."
"Yeah, how 'bout that," Lex replied distractedly. He was still absorbing the ambience of a club he hadn't seen in three years. All around him were people milling around in various states of sobriety (or lack there of). They weren't sloppy escapists - this was a classy place. These people drowned their hurt in entourages, fancy cars, lavish clothes, and messy relationships. Occasionally even designer drugs. It wasn't disturbing like the vagabonds on 28th and Clyde. But it was just as obvious. They were all searching for a reason to keep living until they died. "You still haunting these parts?"
"Like a ghost. But this is my last week here, I graduate Met U in 2 weeks, then I'm headed back to Athens." Lex unintentionally showed his confusion, "Georgia."
"Of course," he said, head already turning towards the uproarious laughter of some barely legal socialite who walked past.
"So what brings you back here, Lex? Working on your groove theory? If the tabloids mean anything, you're slipping on your game." Lex just gave a head nod. "Yeah, I'm on the relationship rocks too..."
Lex turned to his right. The doors to the club were wide open, and past the foyer, he could see two more doors open to the inner room, the center of the throbbing Shii. Even from his car, he could see the strobe lights flashing, the incredible bass pulsating all through the block. He saw hands up in the air, and bodies, slim and manicured, writhing with the rhythm of the music. The whole atmosphere was a dichotomy of spirits. The mood reeked of pain and levity. The smells were sweet and vile. The tone was brooding and ballistic. The sounds were melodic and cacophonic. It was just the place for a person blinded by the light of a rude awakening after barely surviving years of groping in darkness.
"...and after my girlfriend decided to go to med school at UCLA, I decided, screw it, I'm taking the deejaying job. I have a life to live too." Lex turned back to the valet (he had forgotten his name), with a blank numbness. "But, enough about all that. So, do you plan on going in?"
Lex shook his head, "No." He handed the guy a hundred-dollar bill through the widow, "Best wishes for the future."
"Sure, Lex. Thanks," the guy said, appreciatively. "I guess I'll, um, see you?" Lex nodded once as he sped off.
The streets of Metropolis - lined with dotted lights, flashing neon, and gargantuan edifices stacked like building blocks along the main drags - unfolded before him like a dream sequence. There was a chance he had even been driving with his eyes closed. But he ended up at the only place he could possible stand to be right now.
"How may I help you sir?" The man approached Lex's car, talking through the window that was just barely cracked.
"I came to visit."
"This place is not currently a residence. May I ask who you are?"
Lex swallowed hard. He gazed through the windshield that framed the picturesque mansion before him that was illuminated by headlights below and the natural nightlight overhead.
"I'm Lex...Luthor." He rolled down the window a little further, and met the man's eyes.
"Mr. Luthor. What a most unexpected visitor. What brings you here tonight?"
"Unfinished business," Lex just managed to say, and he advanced the car. The imposing steel gate opened, beckoning Lex forward.
Not too long after his wife died, Lionel bought the penthouse downtown, where he stayed when Lex was at school. Eventually he would stay there sometimes even when Lex was in town, maybe after a long day at work, occasionally with a lady-friend in tow. After Lex went to MetU, he took to staying there as well. He doesn't remember when the masterpiece of neo-Gothic architecture before him stopped being home, but one day he looked up and it had been months since he had stepped foot through its doors. In fact, the last time he had been here at all was over a year and a half ago, when his father held his annual Auld Lang Syne dinner for his upper staff. He'd missed 2003's dinner - for obvious reasons.
He looked down among his keys, and was even stunned himself that he still carried around a key to the place. It would seem such a magnificent home wouldn't be bothered with such a mundane thing - a simple key to open it's doors.
He stepped in to find it fairly sparse, but immaculately pristine. A seasonal staff, a staff whose work was rarely seen and never appreciated, maintained the building and grounds.
The thought of its diligent maintenance gave Lex a feeling of overwhelming nostalgia. Everything around him was so surreally familiar and yet so distant. He took off his shoes, placing them to the side, and ascended the steps slowly, inhaling every draft of air, feeling every cool board under his feet, firmly gripping the rail as he went. These halls, these walkways, the rooms, the stairs...they belonged to him more than anyone else he could conceive. His father had only built the place as a tribute to his wealth; although she once enjoyed it, his mother was eventually confined to its beds and sofas; Pamela never embraced it as home . It only made Lex more possessive of it's existence. It was tangible evidence that once, even he had been naive and innocent, and that he hadn't known that terrific things like backyard mazes could be bought. Or that wonderful people did terrible, terrible things. Or that simple, happy boys grew up to pathologically complex, tortured men. Evidence that once, there were people who cared about him, truly loved him, and expected nothing in return. It was evidence that he used to sing, and run, and hide and do naughty things that really didn't hurt anyone.
It was evidence he had been a child.
A faint smile crossed his face when he walked towards his bedroom, his second bedroom, the one he slept in after they had all moved down a floor. He remembers the last night he had actually slept there. It was over three years ago, the night before he came to Smallville. He had stayed there out of necessity. His dorm at MetU had long been a distant memory. (He still remembers how much stuff he never salvaged from the pilfering "schoolmates" that had somehow interpreted his eviction as a yard sale.) His dad's penthouse hadn't been an option - their relationship was on the rocks to say the least. There were no girlfriends or friends that he could bare to stay with. Besides, he had to get all of his stuff out of there in one piece, as he figured some of the staff had more than ample reason to exact revenge on some of his more valued belongings.
He stood at the door without going in. The memories hadn't been as charming then as they sounded now, years from the event. He had left the room without ceremony, and he didn't see the need in sanctifying it now. Besides...this wasn't the room that had brought him back tonight.
He walked up another flight of steps, took a left at the bust of Caligula (something he had never understood) and kept walking towards the east wing. He slowed as he approached.
And there it was before him: the biggest hidden-door cliché ever conceived: a mahogany wood bookcase, filled with dubious literature. It could have been funny, except that...it wasn't.
Lex wasn't even sure it would open. He tugged at it, and sure enough, it came forward to reveal a door behind it. Lex turned the knob, revealing the banished chamber.
It was absolutely empty. Not a trace that it had ever been inhabited.
And then...Lex looked up and spotted a sky-blue, circle patch of paint in the middle of the wall. Perhaps where workers had painted around the place where a clock once hung. The only evidence that a boy, a baby boy, had ever lived here.
Lex watched the clock tick each agonizing eternity of a second by. He sat on the couch, repressed and fidgety, in yet another non-descript sitting room that their family never used. Except for times when they stopped living. Times like this.
His father sat in a lounge chair on his right. But he wasn't lounging. He was sitting erect, motionless, tense and alert, as if at any moment a siren would sound and he would be whisked away to put out a fire, or evacuate the premises, or escape his life.
Two males in the dark, father and son, sitting, waiting, anticipating.
A siren of sorts did sound as a loud thump could be heard overhead, and a yell with it.
Before Lex realized it, his father was up, walking briskly (he seldom ran) towards the central staircase of the house. Lex was following.
"Lex, stay behind," he said, firmly, with a wave of his hand. But his voice was touched with panic, and Lex thought he might be less peeved than he sounded. He continued to follow him, up the stairs, around two corners, through the corridor. And then Lex stopped. Because, he couldn't go that far. Over there. In that room.
"Lillian," he heard his father call. Through the door that his father had pushed wide open, he could see his mother in the floor, hair sprawled in every direction. She was clinging to a pillow, the very one Julian slept with, and was rocking from side to side. She looked delirious. "Lillian," Lionel called again, stooping this time. "Come, love. You can't do this."
"God help me," she screamed, breathlessly. "Oh my God." The words ended in the same sobs that had echoed through the house for days now.
The screaming wail of his mother was the blood-curdling soundtrack to this waking nightmare. But the dizziness that he was constantly feeling and the heart palpitations that made him faint came from something real. There really had been hundreds of flowers in the parlor. He really had gone to a funeral today. He really did have a brother once. The horror of it all was eroding at his sanity - something even he would have begun to question, if he had been old enough to know what the brink of insanity was.
"Lillian, please stand for me darling," Lionel coaxed desperately. He gathered her in his arms, like maybe he could will her to brace herself. She looked so small. Like a child. "Hold on to me...stand," Lionel said. His voice was growing more insistent, more unrelenting.
Lillian wobbled to her legs in some weak attempt at standing that reminded Lex of Bambi. She clung to Lionel, her forehead pressed into his chest.
"There," Lionel said, more to himself than to his wife. She had stopped crying, but was far from silent with general groans and whimpers of sheer anguish. "Shhhh," he said calmly, stroking her hair. "This is no one's fault; he was ill. We must come to terms with this. We must move on. You and I. We will do it." His voice was a forced stoicism that was as fragile as a butterfly's wing. Any moment, it could break.
"I failed him Lionel," Lillian said softly. "I failed him so much. It's my fault, I failed him." She spoke with a frantic repetition that made Lex's skin crawl.
"Mom!" Lex cried out. And he didn't know why. He didn't have anything to say. He didn't even know how he had gone from standing in the hall to standing in the room, feet away from his parents.
"GET OUT!" he father roared with a violent ferociousness that would never be matched as long as Lex lived. Lex ran from the room, landing in the hallway, inches from his original spot, falling flat on his face from a rebellious slipper.
He could have gotten up, but he stayed there, forsaken and abandoned.
The commotion reignited his mother, who slipped from his father's grip and slid down to the ground, on her knees, clutching that same god-forsaken treacherous pillow. She was talking, sobbing, incoherently.
Lionel got down on this knees as well. "Lillian, you must - " he gritted through his teeth, never finishing. He just cradled her head and looked up, his bottom jaw trembling, valiantly resisting his grief.
Lex looked on, paralyzed. It was the most terrifying scene he had ever witnessed in his entire life.
And that's when he ran. And he kept running, running, running, till his legs couldn't take him any farther.
Lex pulled himself from the floor, before he was bounding down the steps, out of the front door and into the night. He shoelessly raced to his car, and after an eternity of fumbling, turned the key in the ignition. He was off. The gates opened automatically, or maybe remotely by a guardsmen, and Lex was thankful. He didn't have the wherewithall to think about the logistics of his flight. He just wanted to be gone more than he had ever wanted to be there, and he thought he may never return.
"MOM," screamed to himself in his own ballistic pod, hurtling down the now lightly wet streets. "How could you have done that to me!" He could barely talk, and yet, he absolutely could not shut up. "I hope you're rotting in hell. I HATE you!" he yelled. "I HATE you!"
His breathing grew loud and choppy, and he was very hot. He wiped his face. Only then did he realize his was crying.
"My WHOLE life," he continued, pressing on, "Everything, everything...my fears, my guilt, my aching...it's all because of YOU. Something YOU did. YOU, not me." The blinding tears were flowing in stiff competition with the blinding rain. "All those years. All those days I wanted to die, wanted to kill myself...the times I almost did. Oh my God." Lex pulled over the side of the road.
He leaned his head into the steering wheel. Through blurry eyes, he didn't know if he was still crying, but he was still hurting. He was whispering now. "Dad hated me. He could barely look at me. Every glare chilled me, chipped away at me. Made me feel worthless. I had to prove myself, over and over and...over again, every day of my life. I had to make it up to him...up to - " he stopped.
"JULIAN!" he yelled. "YOUR child! How could you do it. How could you let Dad do that to you? How?" he paused, mute with confusion. "How? I need an answer Mom. I have to know. I need to know. I need to know why Dad loved you, and he loved Julian, and he never....ever loved me." He was pleading now. "God, I have to know."
Lex's head fell to the side, and he stared blankly at the news article on Dr. Garner that was in the seat next to him. "Why do I always lose?" he asked.
"You'd probably hate me too Mom. You don't know what I've done. I've done a lot of bad things. Clark says - ," he paused, "he says I'm turning into Dad." he shook his head despondently, rubbing his forehead with the base of his palm. "I don't want to be like Dad, but I can't help it. He's too powerful, he's too...he controls me Mom. I can't shake...I can't get him off of me. He wants everything - he want's my soul." He was suddenly angry. "And that's your fault too. You left me here with him. All by myself. I needed you and you left me. You loved Julian more too. You took him, then you left me." In his head the words made sense, but out loud they sounded childish and embarrassing. He turned on the ignition and drove on.
He rode in silence. The only noise to be heard was the windshield wipers, water dripping on steel, and the plaguing hysteria of his own thoughts.
It was only minutes before he was in front of the cemetery. He slowly got out, hesitantly approaching the Luthor lot where his own name had been just a few short months ago. The manicured grass was wet with rain and dew, and Lex pulled off his socks, discarding them as he went.
He felt possessed as he went forward. Everything about the night had been compulsory and rash, and he didn't know if he could survive another emotional assault.
He was at least a hundred feet away when he first noticed. There had been a car and lights and a running engine to warn him earlier, but he hadn't seen and he hadn't heard. Until that black silhouette that froze Lex's blood loomed in the distance.
Lex stopped dead in his tracks, watching as his father stood at his late wife's tomb. God only knows what solace he got from such a visit in the middle of the night, and Lex didn't care. After one last fleeting glance, he turned around and walked back to his car.
There was something about seeing that man in the flesh, the personification of sacrilege standing on holy ground that firmed Lex and steadied his mind. That gave him the clarity to recall what a million hours in Dr. Garner's pool could never retrieve. He had fallen in love with his mother when she was generous and kind and spirited. He hadn't fallen in love with her when she was lost, and hurting, and ravished by illness and abject misery. It made him think of his own desolate hours, hours he'd rather forget. And yet, even his most debased moments, he had felt her love. A kind of eternal love, tied with loyalty, that neither of them ever got from the man standing at her tomb. And they never would. It was something they both had realized too late.
One thing he would never do again.
"I forgive you Mom," he whispered as he slipped into the night, homeward bound.