By Nomad
Aug 2002

Spoilers: The season finale, "Tempest"
Disclaimer: I can't even begin to imagine how many people have a claim on some little corner of the Superman franchise this far along the line. I'm absolutely positive, though, that none of them are me.
Author's Note: My first Smallville fic. Not that I need another fandom or anything, but I just couldn't resist the siren call of the Luthors.

Lex Luthor smiled on the inside as his father died. He smiled through the funeral. He smiled through the parade of commiserating mourners; those who cared, and those who didn't care, and those who thought they should but couldn't.

He smiled, because he'd finally learned what his father had tried so long to teach him.

Victory. The true goal, the only goal. Not just to best your enemy, but to see him removed from the game forever. To be victorious.

He'd struggled for so long, because he hadn't understood. He'd wanted acknowledgement; he'd wanted his enemy to bow his head and surrender. But there was no room in victory for surrender. Only obliteration.

The purpose of winning was not to see your enemy humbled. The purpose of winning was not to prove that you could do it.

The purpose of winning was to win.

In that moment of clarity, that moment of decision, he'd seen it all. His father had called for his help, and at last, he'd been in the position of strength. He'd been in the position to chose between mercy and victory.

There was no room in business for mercy. There was no room in business for altruism. There was no room in business for emotion. Only for cold, logical decision-making.

It was the Luthor way.

And in that instant, he'd finally mastered the biggest secret of them all, discovered the key to that Luthor detachment. The ability to assess the situation coolly, impassively, scientifically. To see the opportunity for what it was, removed from all the trappings of emotion and sentiment that could cloud his judgement.

The key to victory was to destroy your enemy. Nothing less would do. And should the perfect opportunity present itself... Well, business was business.

Nothing personal.

It had taken him a long time to learn that secret, to find the truth in those two words, to separate himself out from his decisions and see them without emotion. Freed from that weakness, free to see them the logical way. The Luthor way. His father's way.

It had taken him a long time... but now he understood. And he smiled.

He smiled as he entered his father's office, smiled as he sat at his father's desk, smiled as he reached for the hidden compartment that he knew without a doubt had to be there. Smiled as he absorbed the secrets of a man who no longer seemed such an enigma.

Yes, at last he understood Lionel Luthor - and in understanding him, had finally defeated him. He'd watched his father die, with no expression on his face. And on the inside, at long last, there had been nothing. Nothing, but a secret smile.

And still he smiled as he emptied out the remnants of his father's secrets; absorbed him, consumed him, broke him down and took him over. He read reports of operations with names that had never been spoken aloud. Flicked through diaries of clandestine meetings. Skimmed contracts for underhand dealings.

Lifted the last of the papers aside, and saw the photograph.

Hidden away at the bottom of the door, but cracked with age and folding; battered around the corners from twenty years of being handled.

Just a photograph. His mother, looking on, her eyes alight with the softness of affection, and his father, looking down. Looking down at the baby in his hands as if it was the most precious thing the world had created.

That was when he stopped smiling.