Lionel Luthor had been true to his word. On their last day in Smallville, he reopened the fertilizer plant. Two days after getting his son back to Metropolis and under his thumb, however, and he'd sold said plant.
Lex went rigid with anger when his father told him the news.
"How could you?" Lex demanded, his fists clenched tightly at his sides. He was so angry; he could have killed his father. Only the need for answers kept him from committing the crime.
His father merely gave a slight, disinterested shrug. "I reopened the plant, as you asked, Lex. You did *not* specify how *long* it had to remain one of our holdings." Lionel's challenging eyes met his son's angry gaze. "Besides, it was a fair offer for an otherwise worthless piece of property."
"Well we all know anything you don't value must be worthless," Lex chided. His mind raced, anger and hate whirling through his body and soul. His father tricked him--betrayed his trust--and for what? The satisfaction of ruining something Lex held dear?
His further objections were silenced as Lionel waved his hand regally. "Please, Lex, let's not fight over something so trivial as that little crap factory. What's done is done."
"But we had a--" Lex countered, only to be cut off once again by an imperious Lionel.
"*I* held my end of the bargain; now it's time for you to uphold yours. I have a new job for you, Lex."
The announcement was cold, calmly stated, and sent a wave of panic through the young entrepreneur. But it also signified a turning point in the conversation. As disappointed as Lex was, he knew he had no other choice but to concede to his father.
"What?" he asked crossly, turning away from his father to stare out the window. Somehow, the Metropolis skyline paled in comparison to twinkling stars suspended in the heavens over Smallville.
"I need you to return to Smallville and oversee the finalization of the sale," Lionel informed his son.
"Why me? Aren't you afraid I'll run away or something?"
"Why, Lex... you should know by now, son... there is *no place* you could run that I could not find you." Lionel Luthor laughed maliciously. "Besides, you're the only one qualified to handle this. Smallville was *your* project."
Lex's nod of comprehension was almost imperceptible. His emotions were once again in check, like the calm in the eye of a hurricane.
"Good," Lionel continued, taking his son's silence to be acquiescence. Satisfied, he strode towards the door. "All the information you'll need is on the desk. And Lex..." Here he paused as Lex turned to face him at last. "I trust you'll come straight home when this is finished."
Lex scowled at his father's retreating back before approaching the desk. He flipped open the folder his dad had casually tossed aside when this unfortunate meeting began, and his heart promptly fell. If he'd been looking forward to returning to Smallville, he wasn't now.
"Damn," Lex muttered to himself as he read the contents of the folder. His father had covered all possible bases, and in the process, had severed any ties he might have had to this sale.
Leaving his son to take all the blame.
Lex's anger with his father had increased tenfold by the time he reached Smallville. The helicopter ride from Metropolis to his once happy rural retreat had given him a bird's eye view of the extended damage the tornado had actually done. It was much worse that he'd first thought, Lex realized. Many of the outlying farms had suffered damage to fields and early crops, not mention their houses and barns. Instead of a summer of planting and harvesting, they would lucky to repair the land at all. As the helicopter came closer to the town itself, Lex could see where buildings on the out-skirts had been torn down by the twister's fury. Then his gaze fell on the lonely fertilizer plant which, like a beacon calling to him, stood as a reminder of a town in despair.
The helicopter landed in the lawn in front of the Luthor ancestral manor. Lex noted with irony that his father had already commissioned a crew to repair the ancient bricks, restoring to beauty a home no one was likely inhabit for many years... if ever again.
Servants flocked to him as he climbed from the helicopter and crossed the lawn. He was informed that while his former living quarters had been extensively damaged, other areas of the castle were still livable. Lex just nodded and ordered his things to be set up in another wing.
He couldn't bear to see this right now, he thought as he barked his next order--for a car to be brought around front. When the Aston Martin appeared a few minutes later, Lex calmly took the keys and sped off.
Internally, however, Lex was anything but calm. Everywhere he looked, his eyes were met with signs of his father's handiwork. People who noticed him on the road scowled in his direction. Someone even flipped him off. Lex assumed it was a disgruntled employee who must have heard by now that money from the plant's sale was being funneled into another LuthorCorp project in Metropolis. The whole town must have heard that much by now, Lex figured.
He was still fuming as he pulled the car up in front of the Kent farmhouse. Killing the engine, but not bothering to remove the key from the ignition, he slammed the door with near-brutal force in his haste.
Mounting the stairs, Lex halted when he reached the front door. Through the screen window, he could see the family in their kitchen. Jonathan Kent sat in a wheel chair at the table, Clark by his side. Martha was busily cooking lunch and listening as her husband read from the Smallville Ledger.
The farmer's voice failed him when he looked up to address his wife and saw Lex standing outside their door.
"Lex!" Clark exclaimed as the Kents stared at him in shock.
Lex took this as all the invitation he needed and opened the door, stepping inside hastily.
"God, Lex. You look like Hell," Clark told him. This afforded Lex a momentary chuckle, even if the irony was, he felt like it, too.
"Thanks, Clark," he replied more sarcastically than he'd intended. His eyes fell on the Ledger whose headlines read: LUTHORCORP FACTORY SOLD--Employees bitter over 'betrayal' by Lex Luthor. Below the words was a picture of Lex and his father.
Lex snorted as he read a few sentences into the actual article. "Well, at least the staff at the castle was glad to see me," was his sardonic comment.
"Lex," Clark looked at him pleadingly. "Please tell me you didn't do this."
Lex was silent for a moment, studying his friend closely. Then he turned to look out the window, his eyes falling upon the doors to the storm cellar. "I can't do that, Clark," he said at last, his voice controlled and unemotional. But his hands were shaking, as they had been that day in his father's office.
"You see, son, I told you not to trust--"
"Dad!" Clark interrupted his father's accusation. He then rounded on Lex. "You know that's not true, Lex."
"Isn't it?" Lex demanded, anger and frustration rising in voice. He snapped his eyes back to met Clark's still-pleading, still hopeful face. "Don't you see, Clark? It doesn't matter if I did it myself or not. Can't you see that I'm responsible for this?"
"Not if you didn't do it," Clark pleaded. "Please, Lex..." He reached out, touching Lex's arm, which was now visibly shaking in his growing fury.
Lex jerked away from the touch, unwilling to be comforted. "No, Clark... you don't get it, do you? I failed. I had my chance to save Smallville...and myself... and I failed."
"Lex," Clark whispered, fear in his voice at the anger he felt radiating from his friend.
Lex barely heard him. "I should have let him die... when the roof collapsed on top of us. I should have saved myself while I still had the chance. I was weak, and because of it, I failed." His word were bitter and angry, more so than the Kents had ever heard coming from Lex Luthor, but Lex hardly noticed the concerned looks that passed between the three of them. He'd slumped into a chair at the kitchen table, bald head fallen into his hands in an expression of despair.
"You didn't fail," a voice said, causing Lex to look up in surprise. "You didn't fail," Jonathan Kent admitted quietly. "You saved his life, Lex, and that proves you're a better man than your father."
Lex wanted to feel comforted by the words of this man who usually condemned him. But he couldn't; he still had to face the rest of town and finalize the sale... and these were things he was loath to do. "Maybe," Lex conceded reluctantly. "But people will still lose their jobs. Smallville still needs to be rebuilt. And thanks to my father, I'm the one getting credit for it. I find it hard to see how that's not a failure."
"And you think things would be any different if your father had died?" Clark asked incredulously.
"Yes, Clark, I do," Lex told him simply.
When Lex finally calmed down, he left the Kent farm and headed back to the castle. A part of him wanted to drive on into town and do something... say something... to prove he hadn't been party to this nightmare. But a part of him also knew that no one in Smallville wanted to see him right now. Instead, he followed a butler up to the rooms that had been prepared for him.
The butler politely informed him that a man from Wayne Enterprises had called while Lex had been out. Mr. Wayne was to arrive tomorrow, Lex was told. *Mr. Wayne* as in the owner of the mega-conglomerate his father only hoped to rival. Lex was impressed. He wondered if his father knew whom he'd sent his wayward son to deal with? He probably didn't, Lex reasoned as he decided whether or not to return the call. It didn't really seem necessary; it wasn't as if he needed to work Mr. Wayne into his otherwise very empty schedule.
Lex was suddenly very angry... again. Handing over the plant was a slap in the face to him, and even though he hadn't done it yet, he was already feeling the sting. "Thanks, Dad," he muttered bitterly as he stalked into the den and poured himself a drink. And then another.
Outside, the construction crew pounded away as it labored to repair the damaged castle. After yet another drink, the incessant hammering began to annoy Lex. He hurled his half-full glass across the room. It sprayed alcohol everywhere as it hit the wall, shattering upon impact. Lex gingerly stepped around some of the glass and then stomped out of the castle.
After a few minutes--and one heart to heart with the foreman--the noise ceased. Lex watched as the construction workers packed up their tools and took off down the highway. He smiled a little, thinking of the neighboring house he'd noticed on the way to Clark's house. The entire roof had blown clear off in the tornado, and Lex had just sent his father's little clean-up crew to do just that... help clean up a place that really needed it. The foreman had protested, of course, but Lex had not-so-politely pointed out that the noise was a distraction and that they could return to work after he'd left again. He also threw in the promise of a generous bonus on top of what his father had already paid them.
Not that Lex thought this small gesture by any means made up for the last few days. He might never be able to undo that damage.
But at least the hammering had stopped for a while.