Deep Dark Family Secrets
Or Why Lex Doesn't Remember His Grandparents
Lionel would never admit that Lillian's parents intimidated him. Especially her mother. Leah Roy may not have possessed official power over the government, or the economy, like her husband, but she was endowed an intense personality and rather more than her share of character. Lillian's parents belonged to a generation in which the men had the power and the women had the influence, anyway. Felix Kinnaird had a magic touch for money, much like Lionel himself, and was justly famed for honesty, morality and good sense (which Lionel was not). They didn't approve of Lillian's marriage, but it wasn't hard for her to wrap them round her little finger over it. Her mother had even started calling Lionel an agreeable young man, after Lex was born. Whenever Lillian brought Lionel on her less than frequent visits to her ancestral home, she made sure to bring Lex, then an adorable toddler. Even her father wasn't proof against Lex's youthful charms.
Hence, Lillian was rather surprised when, after a cozy dinner with her parents, her husband, and her son, her father started in on Lionel. As soon as the servants had flitted off to wherever servants go when they're not wanted (Lillian could never be bothered about such things), Felix spoke with an edge Lillian has only heard him use when condemning 'immoral' behavior on the part of his colleagues in the State Senate.
"Will you be so obliging, Lionel, as to explain why I was accosted by Smythe and Henderson today, demanding my support for the Hamilton Bill?"
Lillian glanced at Lionel. Did he recognize the dangerous tone in her father's voice? She experienced a brief impulse to cover her son's ears, lest the knife-edged words cut through his vulnerable innocence, but quelled it sternly. She would not conceal the world's wickedness from him. As for his innocence: if he was to survive long in her and Lionel's world, no doubt it was her maternal duty to see it quenched as soon as possible.
"The Hamilton Bill, sir?" Lionel asked unconcernedly, swirling his wine in his glass. Of the assembled company, only Lillian knew how poised he was to strike. Sometimes, she wondered how on Earth it could be that no one else seemed to see it. Like lambs to the slaughter. "I thought you were against it?"
"Against it!" Her father laughed scornfully. "Of course I'm against it! It's just another damned Republican plot to steal from the poor, and give to the rich! Any decent man must be against it!"
Uncharacteristically, Leah Roy (who refrained from conforming to the norm, and kept her maiden name on the event of her marriage) kept silent. Lillian glanced at her quizzically, and received a tiny shake of the head. Correctly interpreting this to mean, be patient, dear, this is men's talk, she winced, and pulled Lex on to her lap. She could never understand her mother's calm, apparent docility when it came to these matters. Leah must comprehend the Hamilton Bill as surely as Lillian did. With a superhuman effort, she refrained from voicing this very proper complaint against sexism.
"I daresay," said Lionel unconcernedly. "But the fact remains that it will bring much-needed big business to Kansas."
"Yes, for Luthorcorp," Felix said bitterly. "I am cognizant with your interest in the matter. The relevant question is: how dare you drag my name into it? I will certainly never vote for such a travesty, and so, you may be certain, did I inform Smythe and Henderson! Two such sniveling sneak-thieves as only you, my dear son-in-law, could appreciate!"
"Father!" exclaimed Lillian, aghast. Not even the most quelling glare from her mother could prevent her from crying out against this unsavory reading of Lionel's character (though she knew it to be little less than gospel-truth: she was acquainted with Morgan Edge). Lex pulled on her long red hair, in a plea for attention. Absentmindedly, she pried his fingers free, handed him her unused desert fork, and twisted her hair into a knot, one-handed. Briefly, she longed for Pamela, her son's nurse. Now was not the time for Lex's fragile pleas for attention.
"I assure you, sir, I gave no such encouragement to either Smythe or Henderson. Possibly they assumed, upon the basis of our relationship—"
Felix snorted. "And that, of course, is why Phillips and Davis voted against housing relief in the slums. Davis had the temerity to say that he understood I—I!—supported such an action. After all, you assured Phillips there could be no objection, and our relationship…And there have been a dozen such cases. I understand your regard for your own interests, Lionel, and far be it from me to condemn you for nourishing different ideals than mine (if I could discover you possessed any ideals) but to bandy my name about in defense of your inhuman schemes—! I am not one of your 'business associates.'"
"No, sir—financial backer," said Lionel, with a flash of humor. Lillian could only marvel at his courage in withstanding the onslaught of her father's words. Glancing at her mother, she noticed that this lady's eyes were glowing in appreciation of what she plainly considered a masterly trimming, and her posture stiffened. "Mama?" murmured Lex at once, leaning his head back against her so she might see his widening eyes. She marveled at the perfection of those eyes. They were so expressive, ever changing, and an exact barometer of their owner's mood. They were a clear blue not inherited directly from either of his parents. It was Lex's eyes that told Lillian her son was destined for greatness.
She had lost track of the conversation for a moment. Lionel was speaking: "—assure you, sir, there is no basis in these unjust allegations."
"Well, I'll spell it out for you, then: make your political inroads as you please, but cease trading on my name for your ends, or you'll wish you'd never left Suicide Slums."
Lionel frowned, but before he could refute this suggestion with all the vehemence that had served him so well, both in the slums and the boardroom, Leah spoke for the first time since this disastrous discussion had begun:
"Speaking of your fortuitous departure from the slums…" she said slowly, watching Lionel with the eagle eyes that had detected the slightest foundation-covered blemish on her daughter's cheek, "isn't it interesting that you split your parents' life insurance with that young thug you allowed escort my daughter, Morgan Edge? What possible interest could the two of you share? He took no part in the founding of Luthorcorp, yes?"
"Just what are you insinuating, Mother?" Lillian inquired, her dagger-edge tone matching her mother's precisely.
At the same moment, Lionel spoke, his complacency masking whatever fear or anger he might be expected to feel, "Morgan and I are old friends. I helped him escape our childhood's nightmare."
"Yes," said Leah. "And how did he help you?"
"Mother!" Lillian could have wept with frustration. "Would you spit it out, whatever it is?"
"Did you never wonder," whispered Leah venomously, leaning over the table and speaking directly to her recalcitrant daughter, "how it was that your husband's parents died in a tenement fire? His alibi checks out," with a contemptuous gesture toward Lionel, "but that of Mr. Edge? Far from it. What better way to escape an unhappy home and begin a profitable venture—in one fell stroke?"
Lillian recoiled. Not, she admitted to herself, out of disbelief—rather, out of horror that her mother could so accuse Lionel when he was sitting right there! Furthermore, she had been the recipient of several morbid confidences from Lionel concerning his formative years, and was much inclined to think, even were the story true, it might well have seemed to Lionel that the only solution was the final solution.
She allowed none of this to show in her face or voice, however. "Mother! How dare you? Lionel is my husband! How dare you level unfounded accusations at him? And in front of our son!" Dramatically, she placed her manicured hands to Lex's ears. He protested vehemently, and squirmed out of her grip, which she correspondingly tightened.
"Stop!" bellowed Felix. "You're hurting him!" Lillian relaxed her grip reflexively, and frowned at her father.
"It's all right, Lillian," Lionel said soothingly. "No matter how unjust their accusations, I don't bear your parents any malice for their hasty words. I shall, of course, be happy to receive their apologies—"
"No you won't!" said Felix stoutly. "You won't be receiving any! You can get out of this house, boy!"
Lionel rose gravely, and held out his arms for Lex. He exchanged a speaking glance with Lillian, which she knew counseled her to hold her peace until her parents should have had sufficient time to calm down. As she was in the act of transferring Lex from her arms to his, Leah spoke:
"Leave the boy." Lionel gave her the sort of look, Lillian reflected bitterly, which would have frozen the blood in her veins and left her a motionless statue, had there been any justice in the world.
"Yes," Felix hurried into speech. "Lillian, you and Lex will stay with us until we can get the divorce processed."
Lillian had not thought more rage could have possessed her. She was mistaken. She snatched Lex close to her chest, upon which he uttered another protesting cry and reached out for Lionel, and faced her parents with such fury holding her upright that, had they not raised her from the cradle, must have convinced them they beheld a raging Nemesis.
"Never," she said softly. "I will never leave Lex in your hands, I will never divorce Lionel, and I will never see you again!"
With that, she turned, took Lionel's arm, which he obligingly proffered, with all the elegance that might have been expected in a ballroom, and would have made a magnificent dramatic exit, if not for the ill-timed entrance of a servant, carrying desert. This servant went down in a ludicrous heap of chocolate, coffee, and self-pity; and Lillian and Lex would have fallen as well, if not for Lionel's suddenly iron grip on Lillian's arm, and her own around Lex (who moaned in fresh protest). Lillian shot one final glare at her unnatural parents, and tossed her luxurious red curls over her shoulder. Alas, even this fine gesture was ruined by Lex's death grip on one such curl—luckily, he was not yet strong enough to rip it out, Lillian reflected bitterly.
"That went rather well, didn't it?" Lionel informed his two-year-old son seriously, bending over him.
Lex reached for Lionel's dangling lion's mane of hair, but otherwise refused to comment.
"The truth is, Felix Kinnaird's wealth and influence have been as useful to me as they ever will be. Luthorcorp has far outstripped his grossly humanitarian efforts, in any case. I could have…dealt with them more directly, but this is really more elegant, don't you agree?"
Lex gave an encouraging, "Mmmm."
"Your mother will never forgive them, you know. Good thing, too: any more of that harpy, who calls herself Lillian's mother's, insolence, and I really would have murdered her. You are singularly unlucky in your grandparents, son."
Lex looked up. "How come?" he asked.
"A man's character is forged in adversity. Never forget that. I have faith in you, son."
Lex hugged Lionel's leg. Lionel stiffened slightly, then bent and tugged gently on one of Lex's red curls. Lex smiled. "I love you, Dad."