For all intents and purposes, he should have died. That’s what the doctor told him, second day in, when Lex was loosing his mind trapped in the narrow hospital bed, deprived of the use of his cell, deprived of an aide who knew what the hell was going on and how to take proper measures to handle it.
The doctor should have known better, having treated Lex for other various life-threatening injuries over the years and witnessed miraculous recovery. Should have expected Lex to be up, by the end of that second day, despite the aches and pains and lingering faint headedness of severe blood loss, and wanting out.
He should have stayed there.
He came to that conclusion rather quickly, when the federal agents descended. When he discovered the military had cordoned off the dam site, and all the sodden secrets within. And Smallville law was clamoring after him, on the heels of the federal government, claiming something about finding Lana’s journal, and the incriminating evidence there in. But they didn’t stand a chance at staking their claim when there were charges being leveled on a Federal level, the least of which were illegal human experimentation, misappropriation of military personal and federal funding and the worst being possible treasonous acts.
It became surreal, on a certain level.
Lex was inherently a multi-tasker, tremendous pressure was a fact of life. He had learned to deal under the harshest of circumstances, but things were veering out of his control. Personal impacts had shattered his calm, and continued battering hindered him from piecing it back together. Part of his brain – – part that could have been put to better use dealing with lawyers and endless questions, the answers to which needed to be meticulously worded – – seemed stuck, much as it had in years past, in the mire of Clark Kent.
He hadn’t seen Clark since he’d picked him up, half-dead, off the side of the road, after the entity had been at him. At least he thought it had been Clark. The real Clark, not something masquerading in his body. And that had been the crux of the problem, of the questions he couldn’t shake, how Clark had come out without a mark when no one else that had ever had that close a contact with the thing ever had? Well, other than him – – and he certainly hadn’t come out unscathed.
He’d dredged up every scrap of information they’d gathered on the entity while he’d been lying in the hospital bed, or sitting in federal custody waiting to be questioned – – or hell, being questioned – – and there was simply no recorded evidence to support what had happened. And if the thing had left Clark, where was it? The fact that it might be running around free somewhere, with its new mentality to mask its old taste for blood – – was chilling.
It was easy enough to admit that he was afraid of it. He hadn’t been particularly before, more interested in what the properties of its biological make up could provide him, but it had been decisively good at instilling fear. He would hunt it down regardless, if it was still out there, because fear or not, he had a personal score to settle, and left uncollected those sort of debts could cripple a man.
It had worn Clark’s face so well. He could still see that smile, and hear the tone of his voice while it had been hurting him in ways inconsistent with the methods Clark used to inflict pain. He would have given a good portion of his fortune for a chance to get Clark alone in a room and willing to answer questions.
As it turned out that was a sacrifice he’d be forced to make regardless.
It was close to 1a.m. and the offices of LuthorCorp tower were dark, devoid of the usual scurry of personal. It had been eight days since the calamity. Eight days since Lana’s death. Eight days since the thing had stolen Clark’s body and wrecked vengeance on him, the result of some unspecified threat against his father. Eight days since he’d had more than an hour’s sleep not interrupted by anxiety driven nightmares.
Lex was not at his best. There was only so much caffeine and amphetamines could do to keep a sleep-deprived mind alert. But it was better than the nightmares. Things he couldn’t remember, and likely was lucky not to.
Lionel paused at the doors to his office, crisp, clean suit, bright eyed and focused like he was walking into a mid-day meeting instead of intruding on a midnight soliloquy. His bruises were fading slower by far than the deeper one’s Lex had sported, but he carried them well, like battle scars to be proud of.
Supposedly he’d been there when Lana’s car exploded – – tossed aside by the ferociousness of the blast. How apt, since it had been his hand pulling the strings behind her acceptance of vows.
“Get out.” There was a gun in Lex’s desk. He was of a mind to pull it out – – of a mind to give the vultures on his doorstep something deliciously solid to rip into.
“You look appalling, Lex.” Lionel strode in, a folder in hand. “You should have stayed in the hospital. You’re always so eager to put your health at risk.”
“Its mine to risk.” He wasn’t feeling eloquent. He’d been eloquent all day in the face of government bureaucracy. “Would you have had me stay put while they pulled the company down around us.”
“Around us?” Lionel laughed. “If the company comes down, it will be because of your actions son. Your obsessive pursuit of ridiculous fancy, when you should have been focusing your efforts on growth and expansion. And it’s not the company they’re after, Lex. It’s you.”
Lex rose, fighting back an instinctive snarl. “Don’t lecture me. You lost that right a long time ago. I’m dealing with this and I don’t need your input or your help.”
“You’re not getting out of this, son. You’ve made enemies in high places. You’ve been so busy feeding your own paranoia that you’ve forgotten the politics of negotiation. You’ve been sloppy. How many bodies did they pull out of your project at the dam? Personal that even your appropriations committee puppets didn’t know about. And let’s not forget about your little disagreement with Senator Burke before his untimely death. That was a rash move. Smacks of desperation and desperation is the herald of failure.
“The military wants a piece of you. The federal government does on quite a few levels. We won’t even mention small town law.”
“Let’s not.” Lex suggested coldly. “And let’s not forget your hand in that, shall we?”
“Anything I did, was done in the attempts to curb your obsession.”
“The hell it was. And my obsession was well placed, don’t you think, considering the things we both know as fact. What you seem to know quite a bit more than you’re sharing, dad. Did you think I’d forgotten that the thing came to see you?”
Lionel smiled at him. A pitying curve of the lips, like he was delusional and spouting madness. Fuck the coffee, he wanted a drink. He wanted to bash Lionel’s head into the glass surface of his desk. He wanted to damage something until it bled. In that respect, he thought he could almost understand the entity’s motivation – – if it had been frustrated and hounded.
“Did you know they recovered Lana’s journal?” Lionel threw him off guard. He did know, but he had no idea what it contained. His lawyers might have copies by now, if it was to be used as evidence against him, but he’d been too wrapped up in federal problems to deal with insubstantial local ones.
“She was very – – concise – – in her recounting. Quite damning really. I have to even question if it was all true, or some of it merely the venting of a tragically unhappy young woman. You really should have noticed, Lex.”
“Like you noticed with mom? Seems to run in the family,” he said and was rewarded by a minute flinch and a tightening of his father’s mouth. Then Lionel shrugged, a cant of his brow that conceded that Lex had scored a hit.
“If this goes public – – more public than it already has, they’ll crucify you, Lex. They’re talking congressional hearings to discuss the misappropriation of funds even now, did you know? And when they start digging, they’ll uncover your other dirty little secrets and we both know what they entail. You may never see the outside of prison again – – if they’re that kind.”
“And that would be a coup for you, wouldn’t it, dad? Payback.” He leaned forward, hands flat on the desk, because otherwise, they might betray him.
“Oh, Lex.” Lionel shook his head, the picture of melancholy. “The loyalty of a parent to a child is boundless. I’d sell my soul to keep you safe, son.”
“Can’t sell what you don’t have, dad.” Lex laughed, he had to. It came out bitter and cold with the irony.
Lionel laid the folder on the desk, slid it across to rest between Lex’s hands. Lex didn’t touch it.
“Over the years, son, I’ve cultivated alliances and gone out of my way to curry favor with men that aspired to power. I’ve paved the way for political careers and broken the competition of men that might not have achieved their places of power without a nudge of help. If you think simply because I don’t sit at the head of this corporation, I don’t have power, that’s one more miscalculation on your part.
“It’s going to all go away, Lex. The federal inquiry, the military investigation. I’ve called in my markers. Favors from very high up in the food chain and this mess you’ve created will be buried.”
Lex stared at him, waiting to hear the catch. Because there always was one with his father.
“There’s a price.” Lionel said, tapping the folder.
“Of course.” Lex didn’t want to open it, but he did.
“The federal government will be levying fines. Against LexCorp. Against you. Quite substantial, but when you’re buying off the government, the cost is always high.”
Lex stared down at the documents. The neat categorization of agencies from the EPA up, claiming financial toll. He sat down, knees gone a little weak, tallying numbers in his head. Staggering numbers. The corporation was multi-billion dollar, but only a fraction of that was liquid.
“So in return for me putting a dent in the national deficit, I get to avoid the inconvenience of a few hours of congressional bullshit and criminal charges that might or might not stick? I’ll take my chances.”
Lionel’s smile was tight and condescending. “Pass the offer by your lawyers. I built the company from nothing, I trust you can follow in my footsteps and recover from setback that’s financially crippling, but not devastating. So you liquidate property and go without a new car for a year or two. I assure you the alternative is considerably worse.”