Lois Lane could admit that her life hadn’t gone exactly as she had planned when she was younger but she was happy and content with the life she had found herself with. Being a journalist had always been the dream of her cousin Chloe and not something she had ever thought about with any kind of seriousness but it turned out she had a knack for it. One look from her with her “steely” glare learned at her fathers knee and people crumbled and told her everything she wanted to know.
Alright everyone but her partner at the paper. She knew the entire sorted histories of everyone working at the Daily Planet except for one Clark Kent. The boy was far more mysterious than anyone hailing from a po-dunk bit of nowhere had any right to be. Every time she found out something about the guy it just made the mystery deepen more and more.
He grew up on a farm in Smallville Kansas and was a budding love interest for her cousin Chloe so any sane person would assume that his life could be laid bare before her with one well timed phone call across the branches of her family tree. Wrong! The entire conversation Chloe just circled around and around the guy talking about anyone and everyone else who they had both attended school with but all but flatly refused to talk about Clark Kent at all. The only useful thing she learned during the entire hour and a half she’d spent circling around and around with her had been that Smallville had played host to one Alexander “Lex” Luthor for their entire high school lives.
While she and the rest of the world had known that the Luthor spawn had been all but exiled into the wilds of middle America it had never occurred to her what that could mean. Sure she knew that he had resided in Smallville, there had been cornfield jokes on the late night talk shows for a week straight when the news finally broke, but somehow it had never clicked that he was in Smallville. She had always pictured him sitting in some fancy housing situation surrounded by money and surrealist art sulking in a plush wingback chair waiting next to the phone for daddy to call him home to the big bad city. If she had bothered to picture him at all, which to be honest she hadn’t. But to hear it from Chloe he’d actually been a part of the Smallville landscape. Chloe talked about Luthor almost like he had been going to high school with them instead of being a banished glorified lord in training already in his mid twenties by the time his life had crashed and burned into those corn fields.
Every time she brought up Clark Chloe had brought up Lex almost like the two of them were linked in her brain in some kind of strange word association game. She had tried to bring it up to Clark but he’d only given her a blank stare in return and her glare had no power over him at all. She then tried to get a meeting with Luthor himself but she was stonewalled since the young tycoon didn’t speak to the press. Or she should say he didn’t speak to any press that wasn’t Clark Kent. Now that she knew there was definitely a connection between the two of them dating back years it was a bit more understandable how Smallville kept scooping everybody on everything Luthor. Whenever anything Luthor came up Perry always sent Clark and no one else and the next day while every other publication in the world had a press release running as their headline Clark always had a quote or a full out interview. Cat Grant and Linda Lake were both foaming at the mouth to sink their claws into Clark and his obvious connections to the wealthy and elite.
What had first been a simple exercise of her investigative journalism skills had become a challenge that she gladly rose to meet. If no one would tell her how Kent and Luthor fit together she would figure it out on her own. Her every instinct was screaming at her that there was something here to find and she would dig it up even if she had to do it alone.
She had tried searching Clark’s little apartment when they had to stop over so he could change after a particularly heated exchange with a construction worker looking for clues about his connections, she was no longer comfortable assuming that Luthor was the only billionaire the innocent farm boy knew, but all that did was depress her.
The building was old and while well maintained it was clear that it would probably be forcibly condemned by the city sometime in the next five years or so. Some things no amount of TLC could fix and that much water damage to the walls had to be a health hazard. His closet was smaller than the one she had in her own studio apartment and only held a handful of shirts and two pairs of jeans. His kitchen had nothing in it at all, not even the obligatory baking soda in the fridge. There was nothing there to find, not even any pictures and that just made her feel bad and made her spring to buy them both lunch after they headed back to work.
Now she was focusing her attention on the other end of the dynamic duo to help assuage her guilt about invading Clarks’ privacy. Luthor on the other hand didn’t make her feel an ounce of guilt about invading his space and the man had never enjoyed the luxury of privacy before so if he caught her snooping the worst she would get would be a jaded snarl instead of the puppy dog eyes of her partner.
There was something here to find and she knew it, she just had to follow her gut until she found whatever it was her instincts were screaming at her to find. There was just something about the way everyone talked about the two of them, the way they pushed them together in conversations like they couldn’t talk about one without mentioning the other. Chloe had done it seemingly without realizing it, but when she tried her hand with other Smallville alum she’d been met with similar stories. Lana Lang, Pete Ross, Whitney Fordman, they all behaved the same way, like they were treading on dangerous ground when talking about Luthor’s time in Smallville. Two of them had even hung up on her after his name was mentioned.
She had gotten herself invited to one of Luthor’s parties, the man liked to keep in touch with anyone and everyone who held a position of authority in any area he might have an interest in and his parties were legendary. Being invited to a Luthor soiree was apparently the golden ticket that many of the country club set would give a kidney to get. Once she was past the front door she left her “date” to his networking and set to finding her evidence of whatever it was that Luthor had gotten up to in Smallville that everyone was so hush hush about now. A picture or an old e-mail anything to prove his connection to Clark so she could finally get some damn answers. This mystery had become an itch in her brain and she wanted it scratched so she could move on.
She had been looking around the man’s study trying to keep an ear out for someone coming near the door, but the music and chatter from the party was so loud that she could barely hear herself think let alone distinguish footsteps headed her way. Crossing her finger she decided to wing it and hope for the best. She’d only just started to pull out a scrapbook that seemed to have a bit more wear and tear to it than any other book on the shelf when she heard a creak behind her. She straightened up with an excuse poised on her lips just to feel a great pain in the back of her head that pitched her forward into the shelves before she fell back into the waiting darkness. That she had not expected at all.
Lois came around a little at a time, every time she cracked her eyes open the world would blur and spin until she gave up and closed them again. She felt the bile rising in the back of her throat as her stomach twisted and flipped inside her. She needed to get out of here, she needed air, she needed water, she needed a bathroom. But when she moved she realized that her hands were tied to the arms of the chair she couldn’t remember sitting in. This was not good.
“You’re awake Ms. Lane. Good. Let’s talk.” Looking up Lois saw the smirking face of the devil himself. Lex Luthor.
Not good at all.
It was always a toss up with Luthor how things could end if you poked the bear and that decision always came down to how many people would notice whatever retribution he chose to deliver and how useful you were beyond that punishment. Unfortunately for her she was less useful than a thorn in his side and no one even knew she had come to the party since she was trying to be sneaky.
Lifting her head up she put on her best glare and tried to bluff her way through it.
“I heard you were into bondage but I’m not so how about we cut this little session short?”
“Yes.” Now he was just playing with her. Glancing around the room she found it empty and while she couldn’t turn to look behind her she didn’t feel anyone over her shoulder either. They were alone. She couldn’t hear the party anymore and what she could see of the room didn’t look like the study she had been snooping around in meaning Luthor had his goons move her. The chill working its way up her spine was starting to make her physically shake, but she refused to let anyone see her fear.
“So what’s the plan here Lex? You don’t mind if I call you Lex do you? After all the chats I’ve had with the people of Smallville about you I feel like we’re practically friends.” Leading him to think she already knew something might not be the brightest move she could make but it was the only move she had. She needed leverage and her theories based on the radio silence of everyone she talked to wouldn’t be nearly enough.
“Funny I’ve been having some chats with those same people myself lately. Lana was particularly eager to let me know that she had hung up on you. I am still the silent partner in her little business after all and she didn’t want to risk me pulling out my funding. Whitney was likewise worried about invoking my wrath and having me call in the little loan I made to his family to help out after his father passed a little early. So whatever you think you have can’t be much.”
Crap! She wouldn’t start naming any of the names he hadn’t mentioned if Chloe and Pete had decided not to rat her out; she wasn’t going to put their necks on the chopping block for it. Instead she kept silent and just glared at him. She had nothing and they both knew it. The ball was very much in his court.
“Don’t look so vexed Ms. Lane I’m not here to harm you or even to chastise you for your dogged determination to dig into my past. In fact, I’m going to help you.” He sounded so casual and open but she was still tied to a chair. Wiggling her hands she drew his eyes to her restraints before putting on her best you’ve got to be shitting me face.
“I will admit the restraints are a bit unfortunate and they might strain the trust in our relationship Lois but by the end of our little chat here you will understand why they were necessary.”
“Lois huh?” The tone of his voice was so calm and steady it was starting to make her question her own sanity. Only the tight pull of the metal against her wrists kept her grounded and focused in reality. In reality Lex Luthor was a monster.
“You’re the one who called us friends.”
“So friend of mine, what is it you want to talk about?” What was this? A soul cleansing confession before her execution? Did he think he could scare her into being like Lana and the others? Someone so afraid to cross him that they hugged his thighs in fear and pleaded for mercy. If that’s what he thought he didn’t know her very well at all. She did not scare easily. She ignored the small voice in the back of her head saying that Chloe didn’t scare easily either and yet she had been as much of a dead end as the rest of them. She might not have gone running to Luthor with a tell all but she hadn’t exactly been running her mouth to begin with either.
“I want to talk about what you want to talk about. Clark.”
“What about him?”
“Well, you seem determined to dig into his past and by extension mine. So I thought I might just help you out so you can come out of the darkness of ignorance and into the light where everything will become clear.” He sounded almost like a televangelist.
He was holding the scrapbook she’d been pulling off the shelf in the other office, he slammed it down somewhere behind her before grabbing the back of her chair to spin her around to face the desk there. The quick movements were enough to send her head spinning again. Her vision blurred but she could still hear him as he leaned over her with his mouth right next to her ear.
“Shall we begin?”
He flipped open the book and stopped at the inscription for a moment to run his fingers across the passage scrawled there. Her eyes were still too blurred to read what was written but whatever it was brought Luthor to a screeching halt for a moment which she was thankful for. She felt like she was going to puke and any second now the whole world would stop spinning and come crashing down on her head.
“This was the beginning of course.” Looking towards the book she saw an old newspaper article from the Smallville local paper talking about a car crash. There were no photos and she couldn’t see any names being named but someone had driven a car off a bridge in the middle of the day.
“He saved me that day, you know. I was sure I was going to die but then he pulled me from the water and delivered me back to life.” Flipping the pages he breezed by photos of Luthor and Clark around town. One of them standing next to an old pick up truck at what looked like a farmers market. One of them sitting together at a coffee shop. Another of them doing all kinds of things one after another all of them benal and innocent unless you saw them all together like this where Luthor got closer and closer to the innocent farm boy in every shot. “We were such good friends.”
He sounded so proud of himself, like the fact that a man in his early twenties being friends with a fifteen year old boy was something to admire. His words might say friends but those pictures painted a different story to tell. That wasn’t friendship, it was a slow and methodical seduction one a small town farm boy wouldn’t have even seen coming until it was too late. All she could see when she thought of it were those big puppy eyes so open and trusting. What had Luthor done?
“Of course friendship can only be friendship for so long before it must become something else or die.” The next few pages were all more intimate than the beginning. A laugh. A caress. A look. Still nothing anyone would have been able to point to as what it was even with one of these photos it took all of them to see the oncoming storm. Luthor was going in for the kill.
Past the nausea and the dizziness she could feel her anger building. Clark couldn’t have been more than fifteen in these pictures, a high school freshman who should have been worried about inane things like asking out her cousin Chloe for the first time. Not the wolf at the door.
A wolf the rest of the world had sent there and forgotten about. Now all those jokes about the club hopping worldly Luthor being sent to a small innocent town weren’t nearly so funny anymore. What had they all thought would happen? You don’t put someone born and raised in the hardened jungle of Metropolis in a place like Smallville and expect the sheep to survive intact.
“He was such a beautiful boy, so hard to resist.” The next few pages were different. These were of Clark being hit on by other people some his own age while others were closer to Lex in maturity. It was almost like he was justifying his obvious obsession. Like he was saying see I wasn’t the only one like that would make it all okay. It didn’t it just made her wonder where all the decent adults in his life were during all of this.
Under each picture was a name and a number that looked kind of like a rating. Lana Lang. Chloe Sullivan. Desirée Atkins. Alicia Baker. Kyla Willowbrook. On and on the pictures went, name after name, until she couldn’t keep them straight anymore. Each of them a variation on a theme. They had their hands on Clark, on his chest or his face or grazing against his arm. They were all touching him in some way like they couldn’t stop themselves.
“They thought they could have him, that they could take him from me. Some of them came close, I’m man enough to admit that.” Turning the page the pictures changed from innocent flirtation to something more cinemax in nature. Clark with no shirt on and a girls hand on his belt buckle. Clark with his face thrown back in pleasure while someone sucked on his neck. None of them were overly explicit but they did show clear signs that Clark had been at least “active” with other people. “They never lasted long of course.”
No, she imagined they didn’t. Lex was not the kind of man who was keen to share with others. He had already marked Clark as his own and these were interlopers in his eyes. A part of her wondered why he was even showing her any of this, was this a brag session before the kill. Was he just excited to have a captive audience who would never be able to tell others of his perversions? Was she going to die down here?
“Clark grew up of course, time marches on for us all, and he started to see just how well we fit together.” The pictures shifted back to ones of Lex and Clark together in a more solitary environment. Gone was the farmers market and the coffee shop. Now they were always alone somewhere. Eventually he stopped turning the pages at one that had Clark sitting at a table in front of a cake that read “Happy Sweet Sixteen”. Clark was beaming at the camera happier than she could remember ever seeing him before. Lex reached out and stroked a finger across the face in the picture, a caress and an act of possession all in one.
“Things must always change.” The next page was the same spot with the cake on the table with the candles burning down but Clark wasn’t looking at the camera anymore. No instead Clark was being kissed by Lex. Deeply and savagely.
“Does Clark know about this little keepsake of yours?” That deep feeling of shame and invasion that had been with her since she had searched Clark’s apartment was swimming up inside of her again. This felt like an invasion on a deeper level. This was Clark as a teenage boy being seduced in front of her eyes. She could never unsee this.
“Of course he does. I showed it to him after I first had it put together and he was thrilled. Of course his viewing of it was a bit more exciting than yours. I had it on a desk like this but while Clark was looking at it I was taking his virginity. Oh, his ass was so tight and warm and his voice was so deep and rasping each time I asked him what picture he was looking at. I would stay still until he answered me properly.” She saw him reach down to adjust himself in his slacks, he was getting off on the memory of what he’d done. How old had Clark been then? How long after that birthday party had it been? How much time did Clark have from first kiss to first fuck?
The pages started to turn again going deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole of sex and pain that made up the relationship between Lex and Clark. From the first kiss all the way to a photo that looked like it was taken this month. Every first Clark ever had was documented in this book in still pictures. If a picture is worth a thousand words than what she was seeing was a novel detailing the fall of an innocent boy into the hands of a monster.
“No Ms. Lane, I am not a sick man. No, what I am is a man in love. I love Clark and you are a threat to the beautiful life we have built together. When I found Clark he was trying to fit himself into a mold he would never truly be a part of. Middle America was stifling him in ways he couldn’t even see. He was so used to the tight squeeze of making himself smaller for the comfort of others he couldn’t even feel it anymore. I set him free and in return he did the same for me. I no longer walk in my father’s shadow because of Clark, he gave me my life and nothing and no one will ever take him from me.”
Lex slammed the book closed the loud thump almost making her jump as it echoed through the empty room. The look in his eyes was closer to a territorial animal being threatened than anything close to human.
“Here endeth the lesson. Now this little back and forth of ours can end one of two ways Lois. You can either choose the path of a stubborn martyr. You can say to yourself that you need to save Clark from me and continue on your way blindly stumbling towards a very bad end filled with unnecessary violence and pain for yourself and all those around you. While I am inclined to be lenient with you to a certain degree because of your place in Clark’s life and even mildly because of your connection to Chloe that inclination will only get you so far and it’s not nearly as far as you might think. That option might make you think yourself a hero or some kind of moral superior to everyone else who has turned a blind eye thus far but I want you to remember the ruin that befalls those finding themselves ensnared with their own cleverness. You will never win against me no one ever does.
“Conversely you can take the wiser path for once in your life. You can swear to me here and now that this little hunt of yours is at its end. I will leave this room and after some time of reflection you will be released, I will have someone drive you home, and you can continue your life like this little encounter never happened. You can write your little stories at the paper I own. You can lay your head down and sleep in peace in the apartment building I own. You can keep in touch with your dear cousin Chloe.” The that I own was silent but she heard him loud and clear.
Lois wanted to fight back to bite and snarl and declare herself his undoing. She wanted to lie or trick him into letting her go so she could run out of here and out him to his adoring public as a monster and a villain of the worst kind. Only she couldn’t and they both knew it. She didn’t have any proof and even if she did he would simply make it, and her, disappear on a whim. This was the fear that gripped the people of Smallville, this was the panic she heard on the other end of the phone every time she said Luthor’s name.
She could console herself and say that she could still be there for Clark as a friend and try to keep an eye on him that way. She was sure that Chloe had told herself that same lie when it was her in this chair being stared down by the abyss. It was a lie though, everything she knew about Clark now had a bitter taste to it. His apartment with its sad remnants of life inside of it was no longer a monument to a proud farm boy trying to make ends meet and failing but a statement that he didn’t actually live there other than on paper. Sure he had some clothes there for a quick change during the day but that was all it was, he was tucked up in bed with Lex every night living a life she would never be able to help him escape. He might have never had his turn in this chair but Clark was just as trapped as the rest of Smallville caught in the orbit of a shark on the hunt, and so was she.
“I swear.” This was what it felt like to die a little inside, to feel her pride and her moral foundation curl up inside her chest and shiver there just under her heart.