He'd designed the study to replicate the one at the Smallville Castle. It was supposed to be a reminder of the things he admired about himself, what was left of them. All the traits he'd developed so painfully in spite of Lionel, he'd honed behind a desk just like that one, on a leather sofa only slightly darker than that. Increasingly, though, the decor of the study seemed like a bad joke. Stephanie had been encouraging him to redecorate for years. Sometimes he thought the only reason he didn't was because she thought it was a good idea.
He'd had hopes for his marriage, once. Early on. There'd never been any doubt that it was a practical alliance rather than a love match, but Stephanie had somehow escaped her upper-crust childhood with a streak of compassion and softness that reminded Lex of his mother. He'd thought that perhaps they would grow into each other, even if they never had the raw passion of Lionel and Lillian. Raw passion hadn't served Lillian well in the end, and Lex had wished for something gentler for himself. For Stephanie, even. Until the afternoon he arrived home unexpectedly and found her in their bed with another man.
Such a cliché.
She'd had the grace to apologize and try to explain. "I just needed something for myself," she'd said. "Just for me." Not for duty, or family, or dynasty, or power. Yes, he'd understood that better than she knew. He'd forgiven her. But he never slept in that bed, or with her, again. They were considering adoption. For the sake of the dynasty.
Lex sighed and poured himself another drink. Sixteen years ago this very day he'd sat on a sofa very like this one, with a glass of fine whiskey in hand much like this one, and watched the sun come up through rose-tinted glass much like what he was looking through now. And later that day, he died. It had been an unexpected turn of events, but even more unexpected had been his resurrection, courtesy of one Clark Jerome Kent. Something just for him, not for duty or family or dynasty or power. Only love.
Two electric years until their first kiss. Six blissful, innocent years of companionship. Together through Clark's journalism degree, through Lionel's death and the restructuring of LuthorCorp into LexCorp. Two years of increasing tension and heartache, as Clark's first years at the Planet and the strains of managing Lionel's legacy tore them apart.
Except that wasn't entirely true. It was easy to claim that their circumstances worked against them, two ambitious men driven apart by the demands of their careers. Circumstances hadn't helped. But Lionel's legacy was what had poisoned them. Lex turned out to be Lionel's son. Not entirely, perhaps, or Clark would have met his end on a Kryptonite-coated lab table in a bunker somewhere. But enough that the temptations of business called to him. When he was pushing to get LexCorp to the top of the Fortune 500 list before his thirtieth birthday, the moral considerations that were so important to Clark just faded from Lex's mind. At first he told himself that Clark need never know. But Clark was an investigative reporter. Clark was nosy. Clark had x-ray vision. And Lex had never, ever really been able to lie to Clark.
The last thing Clark had said to him? "If you ever decide this isn't who you want to be anymore, you'll know where to find me." And Clark kissed him gently, and walked out. When Lex came home from work the next evening, Clark's clothes were gone. The picture taken at Clark's graduation - the two of them happy, smiling, still in love - remained in its place on the mantle. Lex never knew if Clark left it out of sentiment, or if he just didn't want it anymore.
LexCorp made the top of the list, Clark reentered the hero business disguised as Superman (and if Clark thought he was fooling anyone with that nelly outfit he had another thing coming), and Lex did as his father would have wanted and married an appropriate woman. Now Lex was having an discreet affair with his speechwriter Dennis and was a year away from claiming the governorship of Kansas. It was already bought and paid for; there remained only to wait for the election. Lex wondered if he could get a receipt for the governorship and write it off his taxes - it seemed like a legitimate expense. His advisors were already talking about an eventual run for the Presidency. He had all the power he could ever have grasped for, everything he lusted after when he was building LexCorp from the ground up.
The only problem was, now he realized it wasn't for him. It was for his father, for his family, his duty, his dynasty. For his pride. For his insecurity. For his fear. Nothing in being the Governor of Kansas would bring him joy. It was like running a glorified crap factory. Just another version of Plant No. 3, and the only thing that had made his days in Smallville worthwhile were the nights with Clark. Tricky bastard that he was, Lionel had managed to manipulate Lex from beyond the grave and Lex was beginning to understand that there was nothing left in his life that Lionel would have disapproved of.
At dawn on the sixteenth anniversary of his death, Lex wondered what would happen if he called The Daily Planet and said he'd changed his mind.