Spoilers: post-Exodus, pre-Third Season. Summary: Alone they are weak, but together they are powerful. Can you crack their story? Disclaimer: Until the day I own DC comics and the WB, I am but a poor fanatic drunk on too much time.
"I'm sorry Lana, but Mr. Luthor specifically requested that he have no visitors this evening," Marguerite told the young woman for the third time in the past five minutes. She smiled once again to the usually likable young woman, but her patience was running thin. She had her orders and right now, the town darling was keeping her from carrying out her other duties in the mansion.
"But can you at least let him know I'm here?" Lana insisted, also for the third time in the past five minutes, and hugged her coat closed against the chilly night air. "I just think if he knew it was me --"
"I truly am sorry," Marguerite cut her off and stepped away from the doorway. "Good night."
And the thick wooden door of the Luthor mansion slammed shut on Lana's face.
Marguerite knocked on the door lightly and waited two seconds before entering the study. "What is it?" said Lex, who was sitting in front of the fireplace with a mostly empty double-old fashioned in his hand. He was transfixed by the light and shadows that danced from the flames before him.
"Someone came to see you just now," she informed her employer.
Lex brought the glass to his lips and took a sip. "Clark?"
"No sir," Marguerite replied. "Lana Lang."
Lex blinked. "Thank you," his mouth moved in dismissal. He took a deep breath and reached over to refill his glass as the door closed with a soft click behind him. He raised the now full double-old fashioned up to the fire. "Happy anniversary, Mom," toasted Lex and drank down the entire glass.
_Lionel's private study, Metropolis._
Sitting before the fireplace of his own study, a glass of wine and a half-empty bottle on a small table beside his armchair, Lionel began reading the more extensive file on Smallville's young entrepreneur and former poster girl for TIMES magazine. "Hmm." Lionel brought a hand to rest under his chin and extended the index finger to tap his lips thoughtfully. He flipped to the second page.
Two slender hands slipped from behind him and down his chest smoothly, causing him to take a larger than usual intake of breath. "What are you doing?" a voice whispered in his ear. From the corner of his eye Lillian's face appeared beside his own and peered down at the open file in his lap. "Ahh, to know a person is to know his friends." She turned once more to him and Lionel closed his eyes as her lips brushed his ear seductively, "must it come to this between you two?" She pulled away from him then as smoothly as she'd come and something wrenched painfully inside of Lionel. The separation was excruciating. When Lionel opened his eyes again she was kneeling beside him with her face cupped in hands that were propped up on the armrest of his chair. She stared down at a recent snapshot of a smiling Lana leaning over the counter at the Talon. "I agree, she's not his usual type," Lillian commented, "but she is definitely not an eyesore, either."
"I swore I would prevent the past from repeating itself and that's what I intend to do." Lionel stared at his wife and closed Lana's file. "The cycle will end with Lex."
"You think you're stopping it, Lionel, but you're not. You're doing the complete opposite," she shook her head and brought herself to her feet. "Like father, like son."
Lionel put the file aside and stood up to face her. "I am NOTHING like my father."
"Aren't you?" she grinned coyly, stepping forward and closing the gap between them. "Ambitious, widowed, an estranged son," her hands reached up and tugged at his tie playfully, "absolutely ruthless in business -- feel free to stop me when I'm wrong."
His hands grabbed hers and pulled them away from him. "He never loved my mother," Lionel rasped.
"But he did," Lillian sighed, "it was in his eyes just like it was in yours." She reached up and ran her palm down the side of his face.
He withdrew from her touch and humphed, incredulous. "You saw that?"
Lillian broke out in a big smile. "Me? Darling, I'm a projection of memories you locked away in that devilishly handsome head of yours a long time ago," she bit her lower lip and leaned even closer to him, running a hand through his hair. "So clearly, you saw it. Deep down in that cold and brooding heart of yours, you knew he loved her."
Something flickered in Lionel's eyes and he turned away from her touch to stand before the fireplace. He did not hear her follow, but she appeared at his side. One of her small hands slipped into his own and squeezed as she tried to catch his eye. "We loved each other, I think."
He looked up and their eyes locked. "A small compensation for the demands of being a Luthor," he said grimly. Lionel's lips thinned until it was just a straight line on his face. He bowed his head and took her other hand into his. "I should have been better to you," his voice was laden with regret. "There was so much pain....I'm sorry, Lillian."
"Sorry." When he looked up, she was smiling again. "That word shouldn't be in your vocabulary, Lionel. It doesn't suit you."
"If I had known what would happen to you, I would've told you..." Lionel swallowed hard, but before he could open his mouth again a finger pressed against his lips and stopped him.
"Don't," Lillian said simply. "I knew, Lionel. I also knew why you could never say it. You wouldn't be the man I married if you had."
"But I would have been a better man who loved you," he admonished.
Lillian shook her head. "There's no point regretting the past. I don't."
She smiled sadly. "You know, death is a lot like love - you can't help when and who it happens to."
Lionel nodded and let his hands slip from hers as he stepped away and walked back towards the armchair. He pulled a small bottle from his pocket and popped a single tablet from it.
"You shouldn't take that," Lillian said, appearing at his side immediately. Lionel retrieved the glass and placed the prescription pill in his mouth before taking a generous gulp of red wine.
"Please, Lillian," he retorted, licking his top lip and returning the glass on the table. "We Luthors have never been able to trust the words of doctors. A lesson our son, unfortunately, knows all too well now."
"You still shouldn't have taken it," she shook her head disapprovingly.
"Because it was your last one." A long silence fell between them. Her face bore a terribly sad expression. "Be kinder to him. I always said you pushed him too hard."
"Lex will be a great man one day," he said.
"But he already is," she exclaimed. "All you have to do is open your eyes, Lionel. And your heart."
He glanced away and a frustrated sound escaped his lips. "It's too late for that."
A finger touched his chin and turned his face back to her. "We missed each other so much in life. So many opportunities," she searched his eyes desperately for a sign of hope or understanding. "Don't let the same happen with Lex."
"I miss you," he confessed.
She reached up and placed her hand to his face, but Lionel could not feel it. What he did feel were the first numbing effects of the pill. "You're changing the subject," Lillian pointed out and chuckled softly. "Promise me you'll be proud of the man our son already is. Don't wait for who he will be."
"But I am proud."
"Then there are worse things than letting him know," she whispered.
Lionel nodded and twirled the empty medicine bottle still in his hand. There was no reason for him to continue taking it now that Lex was back. "This is good-bye then," he realized.
She nodded. "So it is."
He gazed at her once more and began to burn her image into his mind. "Thank you, Lillian."
Her head tilted curiously at him, "for what?"
A beat. "For bringing back the memories." Lionel pursed his lips and raised his hand to hover just beside her face, too afraid that if he tried to touch her she'd disappear. It struck him then that he'd always been a little afraid of touching her. Had she ever truly been his? "For never giving up on me."
Lillian laughed softly, "I keep telling you I knew what kind of man you were when I married you, but you never believe me."
He stared at her for a long time until she turned quietly on her heal and exited his study, or he succombed completely to the effects of the medication and dreamt she did. What really happened, Lionel would never be certain.
The Stables, Smallville.
The beauty of small towns, Lex thought, was that it wasn't hard to find people. There were only so many places to go. He approached one of the stalls on the farthest end from the stable entrance and leaned over the gate. He reached over with one hand and touched the horse's face. "Hey fella," Lex greeted, "you're a handsome one, aren't you?" The horse took several steps towards him and turned its head a little so that he could be patted on the neck. Lex smiled and acknowledged the request. A dark-haired figure emerged from around the corner carrying a saddle and froze in her tracks when she saw the two. Lex looked back at her and gave her the same smile in greeting, "good morning, Lana."
"Lex," she said in return and rolled her eyes when he unhitched the gate for her and stepped back in a gentlemanly fashion to hold it open for her. She brushed by him into the stall and propped the saddle on the side before going over to the horse. "Hey boy," she cooed as she stroked its neck. "Up for a run today?" She took hold of the side of his bridle as he gave an enthusiastic snort. Lana lead the horse out of the stall and faced him to Lex, patting his neck once more in encouragement. "I guess you two have met, " said Lana as she shot an accusing glance in Lex's direction.
"Actually, we haven't been properly introduced," Lex clarified and took a step forward.
Lana's eye narrowed. "Donatello, this is Lex," she introduced to the horse. "Lex, this is Donatello." Pulling a little on the bridle, Lana pushed herself up on her tip toes and whispered in the horse's ear, "he's the grumpy bald man I was telling you about." Donatello bobbed his head in a nod and snorted once more.
Lex smirked. So Lana was going to be snippy with him today. That suited him just fine; it would make the day that much more interesting. He went to retrieve the saddle and emerged from the stall with it in his arms. "I'm here to apologize for the rather rude dismissal you received at my home the other night," he started confidently. "And ask how I can make it up to you."
"You don't have to make up for anything, Lex, " she smiled knowingly. "I'm sure you had some very important brooding and masterminding to do last night."
Lex's lips parted slightly in mild surprise. Is that what she thought he was up to? "Then at least let me clarify what I was doing," he said. "I was commemorating an anniversary." He paused for effect and offered her a weak grin. "And maybe a little brooding."
Lana frowned and walked towards the stall entrance with Lex and Donatello in tow. "From the sound of it, I'd say there wasn't any cake."
Lex shrugged and fell in step beside her, still holding the saddle in his arms. "So are you going to tell me why you were at my door last night?"
"I wanted to see how you were," she answered easily.
"That's what Marguerite told me," he said and asked the question again. "So why were you at my door last night?"
Lana stopped and turned to face Lex while Donatello stomped his hooves impatiently. They stared at each other for a second. "Because I was thinking of what you said about there being more than one person in the world meant for you."
"And?" he raised his brow curiously.
She lifted her chin confidently, "I want to rebut."
A grin slowly spread across Lex's face. A repartee with Lana first thing in the morning? It was going to be an interesting day after all. "I'm listening."
Lana released her hold on Donatello's bridle and raised her hand in the universal gesture for 'one moment, please.' She took the saddle from Lex's arms and hefted it onto the horse's back, strapping it into place before giving him a good pat on the rump. Donatello snorted and trotted casually out of the stable and onto the enclosed field. Lex and Lana followed him walking side by side.
"I believe there really is only one perfect person for you," Lana began to explain as they emerged from the stable. "The problem is that there are some people who honestly seem like they're the one, but aren't. It sounds harsh, but I think these 'almost-ones' serve as a prelude, a kind of trial and error to help you better identify the real 'one' when you finally meet the person. To quote Khalil Gibran, 'a heart cannot be unlocked unless it first be broken.' " She saw the odd expression on Lex's face and paused. "What?"
"Nothing," he said as he continued to look at her in amusement. "You put a lot of thought into this, didn't you? Gibran was a nice touch. I'm very impressed, Lana."
"But not convinced," she observed.
"It's an interesting theory," he complimented, "but it begs the question: how would you know the 'one' from the 'almost-one's?"
"That's the tricky part. There's your usual signs of attraction and chemistry," she mused, "and then there's - synergy."
Lex tucked both hands into his jacket pockets and looked out at Donatello as he coasted along the fence at the other end of the enclosure. "That's an interesting word choice," he said and tried to repress a smirk. "But based on your theory, is Clark the 'one' that you will achieve this phenomenal ability to synergise?"
Lana raised her hand to her lips and whistled loudly. Donatello neighed and trotted in their direction. She patted his neck and hoisted herself onto the saddle. "You're the brilliant mad one," she teased ambiguously, "why don't you tell me?" Donatello was eager to run again and began to turn away from the stable. Lana pulled on the reign to keep him from wandering and as a result, horse and rider did a 360. "So Lex," she grinned as they faced each other once more. "As you can see, my boy is getting impatient. Are you going to ride his girlfriend in the third stall or not?"
Lex smiled, and Donatello neighed excitedly.
_Unofficial final chapter - EPILOGUE: And They Lived ... Ever After_
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