Lex watched as Lana fell to her knees, but did not pass out. Given the excruciating pain she must have been in as the nano-suit deactivated, that was somewhat surprising.
Her head fell forward and her hair swung in front of her face. Lex took half a step toward her, with a vague notion of brushing it back. And she would be weak from the sudden loss of superpowers; Lex should help steady her.
Suddenly Conner appeared and jabbed a syringe full of a yellow liquid into Lana’s neck. He looked Lex in the eyes and said, “Lana used her meteor power to make you her love slave. She made you give her a coffee shop to run when she was fourteen.”
Damn, she had almost gotten Lex again. Bitch.
Lex stepped back again and gave Conner a nod to signal he was clear to proceed. Conner grabbed Lana’s arms and roughly pulled them behind her back, latching handcuffs around her wrists. This seemed to rouse Lana a bit, and she turned around to see who her other captor was.
“Superboy?” she croaked.
“The one and only,” Conner replied with a grin. Lex grimaced. He didn’t care if Conner was “sort of a clone,” that joke wasn’t funny.
“Superboy,” Lana said, looking at Conner pleadingly. “I don’t know what Lex told you, but you can’t trust him. Everything he says is a lie.”
“Not everything he says,” Conner disagreed. “Only like, seventy percent.”
“I do not lie that often,” Lex objected. In fact he had been trying to avoid lying to Conner as much as possible.
“I don’t mean in casual conversation,” Conner explained, “just when you’re doing evil plotting stuff.”
“Oh. Better make that eighty percent then,” Lex said.
“If you know that,” Lana interjected, “then why are you helping him?”
“Oh I’m not helping him,” Conner said brightly and hope flared across Lana’s face. “He’s helping me.”
Lana looked both crestfallen and doubtful at that so Lex added, “It’s true. This whole thing was his idea, I just provided the resources.” He gestured toward the syringe in Conner’s hand which had formerly been full of their anti-love-slave-making serum (Lex had made the unfortunate mistake of allowing Conner to pick the name).
“I don’t believe it,” Lana stated venomously. “You don’t care about anyone but yourself Lex. Why would you help him?”
“Father-son bonding,” Lex told her.
“Father-son – I thought you were Clark’s brother,” Lana said to Conner, sounding unnecessarily accusing.
“Superman’s brother,” Conner corrected her. “Why do we even have secret identities if no one is going to use them?” Clearly Lex’s flat refusal to pretend like he didn’t know the “secret” identities of most of the Justice League was bothering Conner more than he realized.
Lana glanced over at Lex, apparently confused by Conner’s sudden outburst, and he gave her a “what are you going to do” shrug. To Conner he said, “See, I’m not the only one who fell for your cover story.”
“Superman’s the one who didn’t tell you, not me. I’m sure if you complain enough you can get him to apologize again, but really, shouldn’t you have known? You’re the one who made all those clones in the first place.”
“Clones?” Lana asked. “What’s going on here Lex? Who is he?”
“Con-El,” Lex said, switching names mid-word at Conner’s beseeching glance, “was originally a clone I made of myself who, due to DNA from Superman that I added into his creation and latently dominant Kryptonian genetics, has taken on a similar appearance to and the powers of his other genetic donor.”
Lana seemed to actually be in shock for a few seconds as she processed this. Lex fully expected her to come out of it accusing him of stealing Clark’s DNA or trying to make a super powered being for his own uses. He certainly wasn’t expecting her to ask “Why are you so obsessed with Clark?” Conner made a small noise of protest at the use of Clark’s name, but didn’t try to correct her.
Lex was a bit indignant at her ludicrous accusation. Sure, he and Clark spent a lot of time together, but that was because they were arch-nemeses, and before that they had been best friends. And maybe he dedicated a lot of effort trying to figure out Clark’s secret, but so had everyone else who spent more than five minutes with him back then and had even a grain of curiosity. “I am not obsessed with Clark.”
“Lex, you spent a ridiculous amount of time and money trying to fulfill every single one of his whims, not to mention all the energy you put into hooking him and me up. And then there was all the research you did on him, and now this?” Lana said, ending with a jerk of her head toward Conner.
Well, anything would sound bad if you put it all together like that.
“Plus there was the stalker shrine he built,” Conner chimed in.
“You built a stalker shrine to him?” Lana said sounding faintly disgusted, which was completely hypocritical of her considering what Lex had heard about her activities at the Isis Foundation.
“Let me be perfectly clear,” Lex said, glaring at the two of them. “I had good reasons for every one of those actions, and I am not obsessed with Clark.”
“Clam down,” Lana responded, voice dripping with disdain. “It’s not like we’re accusing you of being in love with him.”
Lex very nearly choked when she said that, and then he did choke when Conner followed her statement up with “I am!”
Lex gaped at Conner for a minute, not sure how he was supposed to respond to something that far divorced from reality. Conner didn’t help matters by continuing with “It’s okay Dad, this is a safe space; no one here is going to judge you. Well, Lana probably will, but no one else.”
“I’m not homophobic,” Lana objected. “I’m certainly not going to judge him for being in love with another man when there are so many other actually evil things he’s done.”
“See Dad, no one is going to judge you.”
“I’m not in love with Clark!” Lex exclaimed. He felt it was important to get that out there before the other two got any more carried away. “And I’m not gay.” He supported this statement by indicating his ex-wife, evidence of how very gay he was not.
“Dad, you’ve been married to six different women, of course you aren’t gay,” Conner said. “You’re bisexual.”
“I do not find men physically attractive,” Lex clarified.
“Well, then it’s a good thing Clark is an alien.”
That’s it. “You’re grounded,” Lex informed him.
Conner tilted his head to the side as though considering and then, with a decisive nod, said, “Worth it.”
“You let him talk to you like that?” Lana asked, incredulous.
“What do you mean let? I just grounded him,” Lex pointed out.
“Exactly, you just grounded him,” said Lana very slowly and clearly, like she had fully expected Lex to pull out Kryptonite and start torturing son, or something ridiculously over the top like that.
“He’s been much nicer since he took up supervillainy,” Conner offered. “General consensus is that having a productive, if not necessarily healthy, outlet for his anger issues has been therapeutic for him, and helped him react more reasonably in his interpersonal relationships.”
“Who says this?” Lex asked, irked.
“Mainly Clark, Chloe, and Martha,” Conner told him. “But Lois will agree if you put her on the spot, and Oliver doesn’t disagree when people bring it up, so he probably thinks so too.”
“I don’t like the idea of all of you discussing my private life,” Lex protested.
“What part of that is private? The part where you’re a supervillain, or the part where you’re acting nicer to other people in public?”
“My mental wellbeing is very private.”
At this point Lana, who could only be expected to not be the center of attention for so long, interrupted. “As much as I’m enjoying this little back and forth, could the two of you please focus?”
“Hey,” Conner objected. “We were having a conversation. That was rude.”
“The two of you attacked me without warning or provocation, took away my powers, injected me with some mystery substance, and handcuffed me. I think I’m allowed to be rude.”
“There’s never a good reason to be rude,” Lex told her. Not when someone else is in control of the situation, though Lex left that part off, out of consideration for Conner.
“Fine,” Lana snapped, eyes narrowed. “Then do you want to please tell me what the two of you are planning on doing with me?”
“Well, what I’d like to do,” Lex began and Conner cleared his throat. Lex sighed and continued in a toneless voice, “We’re turning you over to the authorities.” Conner beamed.
“For what?” Lana scoffed. “Having superpowers isn’t a crime.”
“No,” Lex agreed. “But stealing LuthorCorp’s technology to give yourself superpowers is.” Lana paled. “And so is faking your own death, and embezzling ten million dollars from my company, and killing Genevieve Teague. And I’m sure we can come up with more by the time we hand you over.”
Then Lana, who had been relatively calm up to that point, snapped. “You won’t get away with this, Lex!”
“Get away with what?” Conner questioned. “You committed a bunch of crimes and we’re turning you into the police.”
“Clark will save me!” Lana cried, heedless of Conner’s comment.
“Save you from what? We’re turning you over to the police!”
This time Lana had appeared to at least hear him talking, because she turned to Conner and said, “I’m sorry it had to turn out like this Superboy. We could have been friends.”
Thoroughly confused now, Conner looked at Lex. “Is she always like this?”
Lex thought it over and, somewhat embarrassed, admitted “Yes, pretty much,”
“God,” Conner said. “Maybe it was a good thing she had that meteor power.”
“Meteor power?” Lana repeated, apparently having finally deigned to actually pay attention to what other people were saying. “What are you talking about?”
Now, Lex could respect the need to try and maintain plausible deniability, but at a certain point you just had to give up the ghost, or else look completely ridiculous. “Lana,” he said, “it’s over. That serum Conner injected in you deactivated your meteor power, so you aren’t going to be forcing any more people to fall in love with you.”
“You’re crazy. I don’t have any meteor powers; people like me because I’m a good person, unlike you.”
“You know,” Conner said, “I don’t think she’s lying. Her heart rate’s still the same from what I can hear. Maybe she didn’t know?”
Lex considered that. Lana had only been three during the first meteor shower. If she had gotten her power then, she would have grown up with everyone around her feeling compelled to love and protect her. Without anything to compare it to, it was entirely possible that she would have assumed that that level of adoration was normal. Lex almost pitied her. Almost. “You’re in for a rude awakening,” he told her with a sharp-toothed grin.
“You are insane Lex,” she said, full of venom. “You’re insane and you poison everything you touch. I will get out of this, and when I do I am going to hunt you down. And this time I won’t stop until I kill you.”
“Wow,” Conner said. “You’re a bitch.”
“Conner,” Lex reprimanded. “Language.”
“I’m seventeen,” Conner objected. “I can say ‘bitch.’”
“Really? Because my records on LX-15 say that you’re only five,” said Lex.
“What? That’s totally not fair! You can’t treat me like a little kid just because your experiments did weird things to my aging.”
“I’m you father,” Lex told him, “As long as I’m not abusing you in any way, I can do whatever I think is necessary to raise you properly.”
“My father? That’s a joke,” Conner shot back. “You didn’t even start talking to me until six months ago when we were trapped in a room together.”
“I’ve been over that a million times; I didn’t know you were my son before that.”
“Well, maybe if you were really my dad you would have!” shouted Conner.
Lex took a deep breath and tried to calm himself. “I’m sorry if my lack of contact with you before that upset you or made you feel unwanted. But if that’s how you’re feeling you need to talk to me about it. Respectfully, or I really will ground you.”
Conner’s anger, which seemed to deflate with Lex’s apology, flared back up. “How are you going to ground me? I don’t even live with you!”
“I would expect you to respect the fact that you were grounded and behave accordingly.” Lex told him. “But I will talk to Clark if I have to.”
“You’re going to nark on me to Clark?” Conner asked, disbelieving.
“I-“ But Lex’s response went unvoiced and forgotten as, in between one blink of an eye and the next, Conner went from standing with his fists clenched at his sides to holding a squirming and snarling Lana.
“She must have escaped while we were arguing,” Conner explained. “Luckily, I heard her trip and was able to catch her.”
Lex glanced at the ground and, sure enough, there were Lana’s handcuffs. “How did she even get out of those in the first place?” Conner asked.
“I told you she was crafty,” Lex reminded him.
“Yeah, but I thought that was the meteor love-slave in you talking,”
Lana continued to make admirable efforts to escape, and she looked like she might even be making progress. Clark would have been able to hold her without any trouble, but Conner was still not entirely used to properly regulating his strength and so was probably holding her looser than he could have, in order to make sure he didn’t unintentionally squash her. “Can you do something about this Dad?” requested Conner. “Make her stop wriggling or something?”
“How am I supposed to do that?”
“I don’t know, flick her on the nose?” Conner suggested.
“Conner, that’s for misbehaving dogs,” Lex told him.
“I am not a dog!” Lana protested, though the effect of this declaration was lessened somewhat by the fact that she had to stop trying to bite Conner to make it.
“Okay, you’re not a dog,” Conner agreed with a mischievous grin. Then, with no small amount of difficulty, he managed to get her turned around until he was holding her up in the air facing him.
“No Lana,” he said, punctuating each word with a gentle shake. “Bad kitty. No trying to run away.” Lana let out a feral noise that did kind of sound like a wildcat and redoubled her efforts to escape. Conner just slung her over his shoulder and smirked at Lex, who was beginning to worry that maybe he was rubbing off on Conner a little too much.
“Back to the ‘copter?” Conner proposed.
“Back to the ‘copter,” Lex agreed. Then, because he was the parent and therefore had to, he added, “And we’ll finish our earlier discussion later.”
Conner looked sullen at that comment, and Lex crossed his arms and did his best to channel Martha Kent’s “no nonsense from you mister” attitude.
“Fine,” Conner agreed with a sigh. Then the two of them headed back to their transportation, with a struggling Lana in tow.