Title: Changing Direction
Summary: What would Lex Luthor's life have been like if he'd walked away from his father before he was exiled to Smallville?
Disclaimer: I do not own these characters and I make no money from this work.
Warning: Very AU! And slash!
Lex Luthor decided epiphanies could be very odd things. For some reason he'd always thought they came in blinding flashes, presenting themselves in grand fashion with all the accompanying fireworks. But his first epiphany of that afternoon had crept up on him slowly, like a lazy sunrise, there in his head before he quite realized what he was thinking.
He was standing in front of the massive mahogany desk in his father's study, and Lionel was deep into a lecture on all the many different ways Lex had disappointed him, concentrating mainly on the mess he'd had to get his son out of last night. Lex wasn't quite sure what the big deal was. It had only been a party, after all. And yes, maybe it had gotten a little wild, and maybe he had ended up having sex with three different girls and one boy at the same time, but honestly, Lex thought the one he'd had in London right before getting kicked out of Harbridge Academy had been worse.
Perhaps it was the boy that had gotten Lionel worked up into such a state. Lex had assumed that his father knew he sometimes indulged in both sexes, but maybe he hadn't. Or maybe Lex had just never been so blatant about it before. Of course, there had been that blinding flash that had ended up being a camera; Lex imagined that had cost Lionel a pretty penny to bury, as it hadn't appeared in any of the tabloids this morning. Maybe that was why he was so mad. It wasn't that his father cared about what Lex himself did, it was the time and money he had to spend to fix what Lex did.
Money is the only thing he's ever going to care about, Lex thought to himself, and then had to stop his mouth from gaping open, as the inherent truth in that thought wriggled its way into his consciousness. He somehow managed to force his expression to keep the slightly annoyed, slightly bored look that it always held during one of these sessions, as his brain followed the thought: I only do these things to get his attention, because that's all that ever will get his attention. He doesn't give a damn what I do, so long as my actions don't reflect badly on him.
Somehow, way back in the deepest recesses of his mind, he had known this all along, but he'd never allowed the thought to filter through to the front before. On the heels of this perception altering shift, came the next traitorous realization:
I don't have to put up with this.
Now, that was a thought that had crossed his mind a time or two in the past, but this was the first time that it was quietly honest instead of petulantly adolescent. Because he didn't really. He didn't have to stand here and listen to a harangue of all his many faults, made only worse by the irritation of dealing with coming down from the high of last night's drugs.
Lionel didn't love him, and no matter what Lex did or didn't do, that was never going to change. Lex had always considered himself a rather intelligent person, and the final epiphany of the day was that if he wanted that claim to continue to be the truth, then he'd be better off if he simply removed himself from his father's presence. What was the saying? 'The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.'
At first, the thought was almost too radical to give much credence to. Leave his father's presence? And do what, go sulk up in his room? He found that he was having a difficult time keeping these revelations from showing on his face, not that he thought Lionel would notice even if he suddenly starting sticking his tongue out at him. The old man was firmly in lecture mode now, and Lex knew that once he got started, he might not stop for hours. So Lex let his face maintain the bored listening pose, while his brain began clicking at a million miles an hour.
Reasons that I stay and put up with my father's shit:
Family loyalty and love and all that garbage. Okay, but he doesn't love me, never will, so why should I bother?
Dad has a lot of money, and I like money, because it gets me what I want, but what do I want, really? The drugs? Eh, mainly to piss him off, so I don't need those. The girls? Hmm, I really prefer the boys anyway, and most of them don't expect all the frills and baubles that girls do, so I don't need that either.
A position some day in LuthorCorp. What, so I can put up with this shit the rest of my fucking life? I don't think so.
He tried hard to think about the last time he'd been truly happy, or at least the last time since he'd been content, because he didn't think he'd been happy since his mother had died. Setting aside all the partying, drinking, and clubbing, there wasn't much left to consider. Then he remembered something that his biochemistry professor had said to him when Lex had turned in his final project – one of the few things he actually had completed in his time at Princeton – last semester.
"I didn't know what to expect from you on this, Mr. Luthor. But I have to say you've pleasantly surprised me. Have you considered a career in the sciences, because I think you've got great potential."
The man had sounded more than a little shocked.
Lex had then pissed his professor off greatly by laughing in his face at that notion, because obviously Lionel would never allow that. But inside, a little thrill had fluttered through his heart, because no one had ever told him that he had potential before.
The longer he allowed the idea to swim in his head, the more credible it became. He didn't want to become his father's lackey, didn't want to take his place beside him in the family business. The only reason he'd been going through the motions was because he sought his father's approval, and clearly, that was never going to be given.
I don't have to put up with this.
Such a simple notion, and yet it had changed his life completely from that moment onward.
Eleven years later, at thirty-one, Lex still liked to recall the apoplectic look on Lionel's face when he had turned and walked out the door of the study and then continued his steady gait right out of the house and out of being a Luthor. Oh, he still used the name – he figured it was his own as much as it was his father's – but he definitely was no longer one of 'those' Luthors.
Of course, Lionel hadn't realized right away exactly how far Lex was going to go away from him, but Lex knew that wouldn't last, so he'd moved as quickly as he could. When he'd left his father's study that day, he'd gone straight to the bank and withdrawn everything that was in the personal account Lionel had set up for him. He still had five months to go before he turned twenty-one and would be able to lay claim to the money that his mother had left him - money which his father was unable to touch - so he knew he'd need something to live on for a while.
It was a pittance compared to the Luthor billions, certainly, but Lex had been able to use it for what he needed while waiting on his mother's money: an apartment, since he knew he'd be thrown out of the penthouse; a mid-sized understated sedan, since Lionel owned all the cars Lex drove, and really, that had been the hardest part of this because Lex loved his fancy sports cars; and the bare essentials for stocking his new apartment. He had been unable to resist going back to his dorm at Princeton and getting all his clothes, as there was only so much he was willing to sacrifice to his new goal, and dressing well was not one of those things.
Then he'd formally withdrawn from Princeton and hunkered down in his apartment in Metropolis and waited for the explosion. He wasn't sure whether to be glad or hurt that it had taken Lionel a full week to notice what he'd done. He'd shown up on Lex's doorstep, curling his lip in disdain at the mediocrity of the place his progeny had chosen to live, and ordered his son back to Princeton.
Lex thought Lionel had actually been surprised when he refused to go. His father played his trump card then, the thing that he'd always held over Lex's head.
"I'll cut you off, Son. You won't get a penny of my money or work for any decent company in this city ever again."
Lex couldn't hold back the smile as he'd silently said good-bye to his old life.
"Go ahead, Dad. Do it."
Lionel's entire face had turned an interesting shade of red. "You think that I won't?"
"No, I know you will. I just don't care anymore."
The elder Luthor had blustered on for another several minutes before he seemed to realize that Lex was completely serious. With a dark scowl, he turned to leave the apartment.
"Oh, by the way, Dad…" Lex said, and Lionel paused for just a moment. "Give Lucas my regards, won't you?"
Startled, Lionel spun around and stared in shock at Lex. "How did you-"
"I'm not nearly as clueless as you like to think I am. Have a nice life."
And then he'd shut the door in his father's face.
Lex still enjoyed remembering the feeling of delight that had brought. It hadn't been easy, of course. For the first couple of years, his father still occasionally called and lectured and made snide comments about Lex's 'failure', but Lex found that he was able to let it roll off his back. It was the most amazing feeling of freedom he'd ever encountered, far better than any high he'd ever gotten by artificial means.
Once his mother's money came in, he quietly enrolled in Metropolis University, starting completely over as a freshman and majoring in his favorite subject at Princeton…biochemistry. It had taken all of his persuasive skills to talk the dean of MetU into allowing him into their program. Lionel had tried to bring his own pressure to bear, but Dean Collins was disdainful of the Luthors anyway – which both helped Lex and hurt him at the same time – and wasn't about to knuckle under to threats.
Finally, after their third meeting in which Lex had passionately plead his case, Collins had decided to take a chance on him. Lex had shown his gratitude by never once getting into any trouble in the four years he was there and by graduating summa cum laude, with the highest GPA of anyone in his class at MetU.
His years at MetU had been mostly peaceful, with a few interruptions by Lionel and a few by the Metropolis press, who were rabid with curiosity over the fallout in the Luthor family. They'd followed him around fairly often that first year, but when he failed to do anything remotely scandalous, the interest in him had gradually died down. By his senior year, articles in the Daily Planet and the Inquisitor about Lionel Luthor never even mentioned the son that had walked away anymore.
Perhaps that was because Lex's half-brother Lucas seemed determined to follow in his older brother's footsteps with regard to the drinking and the partying. Pretty soon, there was a blurb in the papers nearly every week detailing some excess of Lucas Luthor. Lex barely even read them, but when he happened to catch a picture or two, he merely smiled sadly and silently wished the brother he'd never even met well.
Lex had lived a very quiet, mundane existence in his years at MetU, and in fact, it wasn't until halfway through his sophomore year that he'd made his first friend. Lex liked to think of David Holloway as his first friend because he was the only person Lex had met up until that point that had been interested in him as a person, and not what his last name implied.
Naturally, he'd been wary at first - his past experiences with sycophants and hangers-on still fresh in his mind - when David had asked if Lex would tutor him in his biology class. David had approached him, which only made Lex even more cautious, and at first he'd politely refused. David had been persistent, gently winning him over with jokes about how he was doomed to fail without Lex's help.
Lex had thought David might be coming on to him, until he learned that David wasn't gay; he wasn't even bi. He had a serious girlfriend that he was working up the nerve to propose to, in fact. Eventually, Lex had discovered that David was a basketball player, and had gotten into MetU on an athletic scholarship. He knew perfectly well, though, that there was no chance of him going professional as he wasn't quite good enough for that, and so he was determined not to waste the opportunity for a good education and a degree.
It had taken a while for it to sink in, but Lex had realized that David was just genuinely a nice person. He was averagely attractive, moderately smart, came from a solid middle-class family in Ohio, and was hopelessly lost when it came to the sciences. And after knowing him for less than six months, Lex would have walked through fire for the man.
David introduced him to his friends on the basketball team, which led to Lex tutoring some of them as well. He invited Lex over to his dorm to hang out with him and his girlfriend, Lindsay, sometimes. Christmas break of their junior year, he'd convinced Lex to come with him to his parents' house in Ohio to stay for the holidays, because he knew that Lex would otherwise spend it alone.
While they were all there, David finally proposed to Lindsay on Christmas day, and Lex had never felt more part of a family than he did when they'd allowed him to share in the celebration with them. When David and Lindsay had gotten married a month after graduation, Lex was his best man, and was more proud to have been given that honor than he was of any accolade he'd ever gotten while living under his father's roof.
The moment that he knew David was a true friend came just a few weeks after graduation, not too long after the Holloways returned from their honeymoon, a trip to Paris which had been Lex's wedding gift to them. David had called Lex up to tell him about the job offer he'd just received…from LuthorCorp.
David had graduated with a degree in Financial Business Management and had been sending out resumes to all the banking and securities firms in Metropolis. He'd had a few promising interviews when a call came from LuthorCorp flat out offering him a position – no interview required - with a starting salary four times what a recent graduate could expect to make.
Lex had grit his teeth, realizing that this was his father's way of getting in one last dig by destroying the one real friendship that Lex had ever had. But he'd gamely congratulated David and wished him well in his new job. He'd been shocked when David had laughed and called him an idiot. While Lex sat there stunned, David told him how he'd turned the offer down, because he knew what Lex's father was trying to do, and he didn't want any part of that.
To his embarrassment, Lex remembered feeling tears in his eyes at the realization that his friend had chosen him over what would have been an incredible opportunity for a young man just starting out in the business world. David had brushed Lex's fumbling apologies and thanks off, and invited him over to watch the baseball All-Star game on the big screen TV that had been a gift from his new in-laws.
It wasn't until David and Lindsay's daughter was born that Lex realized their friendship meant as much to David as it did to him. He was still so uncertain of his own self-worth that he thought it was a coincidence when they named her Alexa Natalie Holloway. Then they asked him to be Alexa's godfather.
He was thrilled to accept the honor, of course, and from then on, considered it part of his godfatherly responsibilities to spoil the little girl silly. And he did. By the time she was six years old, Uncle Lex was Alexa's favorite person in the whole world and she had more toys and had been on more adventures and trips to fantastic places around the world than most people three times her age.
Lex couldn't imagine loving a child of his own more than he loved Alexa, and he supposed that was a good thing, since children of his own were looking more and more doubtful the older he got. For once, though, his beloved goddaughter was not the first thing on his mind as he bounded up the walkway to David and Lindsay's home. She distracted him for a moment by leaping on him the second that he stepped in the door, but he gave her a hug and kiss on the cheek and sent her as quickly as he could into the living room so that he could talk to her father.
"Hey," David smiled as Lex walked into the kitchen and handed him a beer. "What's got you all worked up? I think I'm blinded by the smile this time instead of the shine off your head."
"Jerk," Lex said, an automatic response to David's teasing. He'd intended to lead up to his big news with a funny little story, but he was so excited, he ended up just blurting it out like a kid. "I've been awarded the National Medal of Science!"
"Is that a big deal or something?" David teased.
"Yes, it is, you uneducated cretin," Lex said in mock exasperation. "I thought I was able to teach you something during our years at MetU, but obviously I was wrong."
"Hey, I never claimed to be the genius in this friendship!" David said with a laugh.
Over dinner, Lex gleefully gave them all the details of the prestigious honor that had been bestowed upon him, David playfully cutting him off before he went into too much detail on the specific research that had won him the award. Lex gracefully glossed over some of his more intense work, as he knew that it was undoubtedly boring to most people.
"So, there's going to be a banquet and everything in about four weeks in Washington, D.C., and as my best pal in all things, I thought you might like to attend with me," Lex said, as he nodded to Lindsay's silent offer of coffee.
David frowned a little as he helped his wife clear the table before sitting back down to wait on coffee with Lex. Alexa was having ice cream for dessert and she dove into it with fervor, ignoring the grown-up talk around her.
"A banquet? Isn't that something you'd take a date to? What happened to that guy you were seeing, Brian something, wasn't it?"
It had been yet another moment in which the bonds of his friendship with David had tightened and grown even stronger when, shortly after they'd first really started hanging out together, Lex had hesitantly confessed to his best pal that he was bisexual. Lex was prepared for David being disgusted, and ending their budding friendship then and there, but once again, David had surprised him. He'd given Lex an exasperated look, told him he already knew that, and then asked Lex a question about the chemistry problem he was having trouble with in his homework.
By the time Lex had tried to reassure David that he'd never been attracted to him in that way, David had already put it to the back of his mind. He'd even tried to set Lex up with a few friends that were of the same persuasion, but nothing had ever come of those attempts.
Unfortunately, Lex's luck with the rest of his life didn't seem to extend to the romantic side. It seemed that everyone he tried to date, male or female, was either repulsed by the fact that he was a Luthor or far too interested in his last name. Apparently some people still viewed him as a way to get to his father. This was something that was very frustrating to Lex, not to mention confusing because didn't any of these people remember that he had cut all ties with the demon that had spawned him?
"Yeah, that's kind of over," Lex muttered into his coffee cup. Lindsay gave him a sympathetic glance, and reached out to pat his shoulder. Then she and David looked at each other with that silent couple communication thing that made Lex so envious, and announced that it was time for Alexa to have a bath, thereby giving Lex and David a chance to talk privately.
Alexa protested a little, but eventually gave in, and after hugs and kisses from her daddy and her Uncle Lex, Lindsay carried her off down the hallway. David gave Lex an understanding glance once they were gone.
"So what happened?"
"What do you think happened?" Lex said, sardonically.
"Oh, man, not another Luthor hunter?"
"Yeah, but he really blindsided me. Didn't even mention Lionel for three whole weeks. Then, while we were at dinner last Wednesday, all of a sudden he starts talking about the importance of family, and had I ever considered reconciling with my father, because the father-son bond is so important," Lex said, and this time the bitterness was especially sharp.
"That sucks, Lex, it really does. I'm sorry," David said, in heartfelt sympathy. "So, how fast did you drop him?"
A decidedly evil grin stole over Lex's face as he replied, "Approximately two minutes. I went to the men's room and then snuck out the back door, leaving him with the bill to boot!"
"Nice!" David laughed as they mockingly high-fived one another.
"Yeah, he tried to call and text and e-mail for the next few days, but I just completely ignored him and he eventually gave up," Lex sighed, and then muttered under his breath, "Bastard."
David clapped him on the shoulder and tried to encourage him. "Hey, I know that somewhere out there, there's somebody that doesn't care that you're a Luthor."
"Well, probably, but finding them, that's the thing, isn't it? I just want you to know, that if I don't find this person by the time I'm thirty-five, I'm moving in with you and Lindsay," he teased.
"Oh, the horror! I'd better get you set up as quick as I can, then," David laughed. "Hey, I know what will cheer you up. Guess who flew by my window today?"
Lex immediately sat up straight and peppered David with questions. "Really? Did you get a good look at him? Did you get to talk to him? Is he as devastatingly handsome in person as he is in those Daily Planet photos?"
"No, I didn't get to talk to him, he was outside my thirtieth floor window, idiot. But we did get a good look at him, because he wasn't moving at supersonic speed for once. Matter of fact, he must've been looking for someone, because he was kinda hovering in midair, staring down at the ground very intently."
"And? Then what happened?" Lex demanded.
"Patience, please, you're almost as bad as Alexa!" David said, but Lex noted that he'd leaned forward onto the table and was getting just as into his retelling of the story as Lex was into hearing it.
Lex supposed it was all the comic books he'd read as a child, but he was absolutely fascinated – as almost all of Metropolis was, really – with the alien that had suddenly appeared in their midst a little over a year ago. Sightings of him were becoming more frequent, but still weren't considered commonplace enough that it wasn't a huge deal whenever he did show up.
David had often teased him that his infatuation with Superman was one of the reasons that he couldn't seem to make a long-term relationship with anyone work. Lex hated to admit it, but there might have been a grain of truth in that, as he did tend to ramble on about the superhero at times.
It was one of Lex's greatest frustrations that he'd had never gotten the chance to see the man in person, but Superman seemed to limit most of his activities to the city limits of Metropolis, when he wasn't at some natural disaster elsewhere in the world. Unfortunately, Lex's lab was housed in a lonely building on the outskirts of the city, and he only had one window anyway. Lex had never had any complaints in the seven years he'd been employed by the pharmaceutical company he worked for, but he'd seriously contemplated asking for a transfer to the downtown office just to increase his chances of seeing Superman, and how sad was that?
By the time that David had finished telling his story of the Superman sighting, Lex was feeling somewhat more relaxed about the Brian incident, and was even able to put it out of his head completely. Unfortunately, there were still other things weighing on his mind.
"Oh, and did I forget to tell you that the Daily Planet is going to send a reporter out to interview me day after tomorrow?" Lex said casually.
It was a testament to how well David knew Lex that he realized this was not entirely good news. He gave his best friend a measuring look before asking carefully, "And you're worried about this because…"
Lex hunched his shoulders a little and took another sip of Lindsay's excellent coffee before he answered. "I guess I'm just concerned that the focus is going to be more on my last name than on what I've accomplished. It would be nice to have an article in the paper be about something I've done right, rather than how much blow I've ingested or how many blowjobs I've given."
David, well used to Lex's bluntness when it came to talking about his former life, simply reached out and slapped Lex on the back in encouragement. "Look, an interview in the Daily Planet is just one small aspect of the honor that's been given to you. And who says you have to do it anyway?"
Lex gave a harsh chuckle. "My boss, actually. He says it'll be good press for the lab, and he's been pushing to have our R&D budget increased for next fiscal year, so this'll be a big boost for him."
"Oh. Well, that sucks."
"Yeah," Lex sighed in agreement.
"Okay, here's what you need to do then. You're a Luthor still, right? A better man than your father could ever hope to be, but you got his genes, man. Take control of that interview. Make sure that it goes the way you want it to go, and if the reporter starts getting off track, you get 'im right back on track, your track, the way you want it to go."
Lex stared hard at David for a moment and then gave a rueful laugh. "You know, you're the only person who could remind me that I am my father's son and not make me want to stab you in the face."
"What can I say? It's a gift," David said, a sly grin crossing his lips.
The rest of the evening was decidedly lighter in tone, as Lindsay rejoined them after getting Alexa to bed, and the three of them watched a movie that Lex had brought with him. Both he and David teased Lindsay about crying at the sad parts and she accused the two of them of being heartless and cruel at not seeing the obvious heartache of the two lovers onscreen. Before Lex finally left for the night, David promised him that if he hadn't found anyone else to go to the award banquet with him in the next couple of weeks, then he'd be glad to go along.
Lex climbed into his car and headed back towards his own apartment, feeling as usual the warm afterglow of having spent time with dear friends, and a touch of envy that he hadn't yet been able to find what the two of them shared. Sometimes Lex feared that he never would, and he was a little disheartened by how melancholy that thought made him feel.