Conner found out his dad was running for president when he stepped out of Whole Foods with half a brownie hanging out of his mouth and got assaulted by the entire North American press corps.
â€œConnerâ€”do you have any comment on your fatherâ€™s decision to enter the Democratic primary?â€ somebody had shouted at him, to which Conner felt compelled to reply, â€œWhat the fuck?â€ and drop his groceries in the process, eggs splattering across the pavement.
It was moments like this, Conner reflected glumly five minutes later, down on his hands and knees crawling out from a mass of flashbulbs and screamed questions, that he really wished that Superman could make a brief reappearance. As it was, Clark was probably at home, freaking out next to some kind of transmitter that hooked up to an implanted GPS slash radio that relayed Connerâ€™s every move. Conner loved his father, but he had no illusions as to the depth of Lex Luthorâ€™s crazy: it was dark and magical and extremely hi-tech.
It was pure luck that let Conner slip away from the madding crowd and down into the Norlina subway stop, half tumbling down two steep flights of stairs and dashing through the turnstile as he swiped his card. Conner was pretty sure he lost a chunk of his hair to the closing subway car doors but the entertainment value of seeing Melissa Oâ€™Brian from Action New 16 with her face pressed up against the glass in what looked like an extremely painful way was worth it.
As soon as the car started peeling away from the stationâ€”and Melissa Oâ€™Brianâ€™s considerable amount of concealerâ€”Conner dug through his jean pockets, tugging out his cell phone and stabbing speed dial four, and as soon as he heard his father pick up he yelled, â€œYouâ€™re running for president?â€
Lex made a dismissive noise.
â€œDad,â€ Conner promised, â€œIâ€™m going to kill you!â€
â€œConner, really, donâ€™t you think youâ€™re overreacting a little?â€ Lex asked, voice wry. â€œItâ€™s not as if you didnâ€™t see this coming after my last senate race.â€
In the background, Conner could hear Clark saying, â€œI told you we should have had a family meeting.â€
â€œI was just attacked by like, three-quarters of the reporters in America!â€ Conner shouted over the sound of the rails. â€œI would know! Iâ€™ve spell-checked half of them!â€
â€œI left you a voicemail,â€ his dad said evenly. Conner pulled his phone away to glare at the display, and there it was in the right hand corner of the screen: 1 new voicemail. â€œYou should really check your messages more,â€ Lex was saying when Conner brought the phone back to his ear.
Conner tore at his hair. â€œI was coming out of the grocery store,â€ he moaned. â€œI was eating a brownie. I was coming out of the grocery store eating a brownie and then I dropped my groceries and now the only things in my refrigerator are a thing of mustard and Geoffreyâ€™s God damn eye drops!â€
â€œHe should really just go to my ophthalmologist for that,â€ Lex chided.
â€œYou suck!â€ Conner snapped and hung up, snapping his phone shut. And wasnâ€™t until he leaned against a handrail, running his hands through his hair, that noticed everybody else in the subway car was staring at him. Wincing, Conner waved awkwardly. â€œSorry. You know. About that.â€
A guy in a hoodie gave him a sympathetic look. â€œDude,â€ he said to Conner. â€œYou knowâ€”itâ€™s not like everybody didnâ€™t see this presidential run coming.â€
Conner gaped at him. The rest of the people in the car nodded.
After the Smallville High Brain Trust had strung Conner up half-naked and beaten and concussed in a field, Connerâ€™s lifetime of media invisibility had dissolved. No one could have stopped the tsunami of public interest and it was only worse because Conner refused each and every single interview requestâ€”and still did when they trickled in one or two every season. It was nobodyâ€™s business. Conner knew the Luthor family notoriety was equal parts boon and baneâ€”but at least he had money and bodyguards and an army of lawyers, all three of which Terry and Whitney had none.
So it had been weird to come back to Metropolis and get recognizedâ€”and even though itâ€™d been a decade since Smallville and the corn field and the worst teen angst outing ever, Conner was still shy to be recognized. And everybodyâ€”Conner could tellâ€”in that train car recognized him.
â€œItâ€™s true,â€ a girl nearby said, her glasses glinting in the light. She held up a flier. â€œThereâ€™s actually a Luthor for America meet-up tonight at the Pinter Center at MetU.â€
â€œI got a Facebook message about that,â€ somebody else piped up. â€œWhat time is it supposed to be?â€
The girl looked to the left. â€œStarts at 7:30â€”theyâ€™re ordering pizza.â€
â€œArriving at West Eden, with transfers to lines three and four,â€ the mechanized announcer said as the subway car screeched to a halt.
â€œIâ€™m gonna kill him,â€ Conner muttered, and stomped out of the train car.
Everybodyâ€”Conner and Geoffrey included, Conner admittedâ€”had thought it would be easy, instinctive, as simple as breathing. For most of Connerâ€™s life and all of it that had really mattered Geoffrey and Conner had been locked in orbit around one another, admiring, and that shift from best friends to the slick suggestion of body heat had crept in slow, cautious. Conner had been gun-shy and more than a little fucked up and Geoffrey was still trying to find some way to hide and or destroy all the extra-small lubricated condoms Eve had put in his locker as a Happy Break Up! present, and it had always been easy and unhurried between themâ€”there was no rush.
But theyâ€™d forgotten that the world moved at a different pace than they did, and that outside of the artificially calm heartbeat of St. Annâ€™s, there were colleges and photographers and other boys and other girlsâ€”that their money and names meant something. As grateful as Conner was to have never really understood the power of the Luthor name as a kid, he wished somebody had pulled him aside for a reality check before heâ€™d stepped into his first college classâ€”or that Geoffrey hadnâ€™t been nearly three thousand miles away, building castles out of air in Rhode Island.
College was bad and good, but mostly bad, and Conner had gone from living in dormsâ€”total impossibility, thanks US Weeklyâ€”to student off-campus apartmentsâ€”similarly foolish, thanks TMZâ€”to moving into the half-floor penthouse downstairs from his parents. He wrote the first ten pages of a lot of really terrible novels and missed Geoffrey constantlyâ€”stayed up way too late at night staring at Geoffrey doing math problems through the iSight camera on his laptop, which even Conner recognized was creepy and weird. But his loneliness was nearly tangible, and he missed Geoffrey, wanted Geoffrey, and for the first time in his life it was more than whatever stupid fight theyâ€™d had last week that was separating them.
Nobody even felt bad for him. Instead, they tended to ask questions like, â€œWhy donâ€™t you just use your family jet to fly over and see him every week?â€ and Conner couldnâ€™t exactly answer, â€œBecause my dad says thatâ€™s even creepier than the webcam thing, you douchebag.â€
As it was, Conner did abuse the family jet as frequently as possible, but five years waiting for Geoffrey to become a B.Arch had dragged and dragged until Conner had finally started picking up some freelancing workâ€”which of course meant heâ€™d been in Tokyo, in soapland, talking to waifish underage prostitutes while Geoffrey had been graduating. Which, unsurprisingly, Geoffrey hadnâ€™t taken well. God damn National Geographic anyway.
So when they were finally togetherâ€”on the same continent, in the same city, arguing where to put what chair in the same apartmentâ€”theyâ€™d both assumed itâ€™d be easy and smooth as Mrs. Bannerâ€™s sweet potato pie.
Instead, in those first twelve months:
1.They broke up three times;
2.Nearly got evicted during break-up number three when Gawker and TMZ raced to break the story and paparazzi started camping out on the sidewalk in front of their building hoping to telephoto Conner bonging whiskey and sleeping with serial killers or something;
3.Got grounded at Christmas when Geoffrey got kind of punchy and told a hilarious story about getting drunk at a frat party his freshman year at RISD and making out with a Kappaâ€”after which Conner had flipped the entire dinner table with his telekineses and righteous fury and theyâ€™d all ended up eating take-out Mexican and Chinese and pizza;
4.Had to live through his fatherâ€™s senate campaign.
Year two had been a little better, and by year three, Conner admitted that despite his and Geoffreyâ€™s best efforts theyâ€™d never be normal and gave in to their pedigrees, moving to a 23rd story loft in the oldest section of West Eden. There was building security and a doorman with a questionable employment history, but who was perfectly comfortable shoving photographers out of the way so Conner could get home relatively unmolested. They lived across the down the hall from the guy Connerâ€™s dad had beaten to get his senate seat, which made for awkward morning elevator conversations.
It was year four now and Conner needed his dad in a presidential election like he needed a knife in the eye. Geoffrey was sort of like a zombie these days, studying for the last sections of his AREs; Lois was using all but the most ethically-questionable methods known to man to badger Perry White into retirement so she could rightfully take her place as editor in chief of the Daily Planet; his grandmother had decided to start caring a lot about third-world adoptionâ€”and now this.
â€œIâ€”have gotâ€”to startâ€”working out,â€ Conner gasped to himself, rounding a corner and seeing the other quarter of the Metropolis press corp and a couple of news vans from the big three parked in front of his building.
â€œGive me a fucking break,â€ he moaned, took a deep breath, and braced himself for the final sprint, jacket flapping behind him.
And if the 11 oâ€™clock news of every major network featured Conner Clark Luthor, scion of the LexCorp empire and only son of the junior senator from Kansas and Democratic candidate for the Office of the President of the United States trippingâ€”full-body tumble and allâ€”into his apartment building, Conner decided he didnâ€™t care. If his dad had wanted to avoid negative publicity, he damn well should have engineered a less embarrassing kidâ€”or at least informed his existing embarrassing one that he was running for God damn president.
â€œHave I ever told you how hot you are when youâ€™re covered in panic sweat?â€ Geoffrey asked, and brought Conner a bag of frozen peas, setting it gently on Connerâ€™s rapidly-darkening bruise, an ugly one that blossomed out over his left eye. â€œOh, thatâ€™s going to be nasty when it sets in.â€
Conner punched him in the side. â€œYou just wait until I tell my dad you hit me in anger.â€
Geoffrey rolled his eyes. â€œBecause Iâ€™m the crazy jealous one who throws furniture. With my mind.â€
Holding up his hands in surrender, Geoffrey added, â€œYes, okay, because Iâ€”â€ and here he started reciting â€œâ€”foolishly and cruelly engaged in pre-sexual congress with a frat boy, for which I am eternally sorry.â€ He smirked. â€œForever. Times six.â€
Conner smacked him in the side. â€œYou donâ€™t have to say that part.â€
â€œBut it was in the original oath,â€ Geoffrey said, too innocent, blue eyes huge and wide.
â€œI wrote that oath when I was like nineteen,â€ Conner muttered, flushing.
Grinning, Geoffrey lifted the peas, touching his fingertips gently to Connerâ€™s forehead. â€œAnd you still mean every word of it,â€ he said absently, and wincing, Geoffrey added, â€œThis looks pretty badâ€”what the hell did you hit your head on?â€
Closing his hands over the peas, Conner groaned, leaning forward until his cheek was pillowed on Geoffreyâ€™s shoulder. â€œI came out of the rotating doors wrong and took a header into the lobby,â€ he moaned.
â€œOh, good,â€ Geoffrey said, cheerful. â€œThen itâ€™s all over TV. This is going to be fun.â€
It was, all things considered, extremely lucky that Conner and Geoffrey were Conner and Geoffrey, because to say that Conner and Geoffrey had scary, crazy parents was possibly the grossest understatement in the history of time.
â€œDo you think we defaulted to each other?â€ Conner had once asked, lying on their living room floor eating Craisins by the handful, because nobody ever said being cool was hereditary.
â€œItâ€™s better not to think that way,â€ Geoffrey had replied, talking around the tube of superglue in his mouth, bent over a magnifier, building a scale model for work. Conner had stared at him for along time before heâ€™d said:
â€œYouâ€™re rightâ€”weâ€™re probably just not cool enough to date anybody else.â€
â€œThatâ€™s the spirit,â€ Conner had muttered, and settled in for the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit marathon on USA.
At half past seven Conner had finally caved to earnest starvation and called down to the front lobby for Norman Hewitt from the LA Times and traded him ten minutes for him to deliver a three day supply of Chinese food from Lucky Dragonâ€™s on Fearrington Street and a fridge-pack of Sunburst.
â€œIf you forget the duck sauce,â€ he said seriously, â€œthe dealâ€™s off.â€
â€œYou are fucked up, Luthor,â€ Hewitt told him, forty minutes and two giant brown bags of lo mein and chicken and broccoli later. â€œYou are seriously fucked up.â€
â€œItâ€™s what happens when you grow up under heavy media scrutiny,â€ Conner explained, and waved him into the apartment, saying, â€œWe can do the ten minutes in here.â€
â€œAm I getting your man-wife, too?â€ Hewitt asked, grinning.
Conner cocked an eyebrow. â€œYou know as well as I do heâ€™s never part of any deals I make.â€
â€œI can always hope youâ€™ll change your mind,â€ Hewitt said, looking over Connerâ€™s shoulder into the apartmentâ€”down the hall to the shut-tight door of Geoffreyâ€™s mostly-unused office. â€œYouâ€™d make it a lot easier for both of you if you just cracked your iron lockbox ten millimeters.â€
Shrugging, Conner led him into the kitchen. â€œCome on, youâ€™ve got ten minutes and I start countingâ€”â€ he glanced at his Full Metal Alchemist watch â€œâ€”now.â€
Conner had once upon a time thought the way his father interacted with Clark was disconcerting, equal parts possessive and possessed, but now he thought he understood: Luthorâ€™s want everything, and Conner was been taught from the day he was born that if he wanted it enough, he could have anything. There was privilege to the marrow of his bones. Geoffrey might not have minded being forced into Connerâ€™s spotlight, but Conner was his fatherâ€™s son, and jealous with the people he lovedâ€”and Conner loved Geoffrey best, enough that he couldnâ€™t find edges to the geography of his feelings, and no one else would ever have the opportunity to look.
Hewitt pulled out a digital recorder, all business. â€œHow did you find out about your fatherâ€™s decision to run?â€ he asked, tugging out a pen and reporterâ€™s notebook for good measure.
Conner rolled his eyes. â€œMy voicemailâ€”can you believe it? No, Iâ€™m not kidding, and yes, youâ€™re free to quote on me on that.â€
â€œClassic Luthor,â€ Hewitt said, grinning. â€œAll right: historically, youâ€™ve been an infamous media hermit. I donâ€™t think anybody knew what you even looked like until the Smallville incident brokeâ€”â€
Scowling, Conner said, â€œNo brownie points for bringing up teenage trauma.â€
â€œâ€”and you were absent during his house and senate runs,â€ Hewitt continued, blithe and untroubled, the bastard, â€œso the question is, will you be participating in your fatherâ€™s presidential campaign?â€
Conner thought about it for a long moment before he said, â€œIâ€™ll support my father to the best of my ability and however he needs me to, but Iâ€™ve always had faith in his convictions and I donâ€™t doubt he can do this without my being there and smiling awkwardly.â€
â€œWill Geoffrey be there?â€ Hewitt pressed.
Conner scowled. â€œShouldnâ€™t you be asking me if you think that being in relationship with a man will destroy my fatherâ€™s chances at a successful run or something?â€
Hewitt raised his eyebrows.
Conner rolled his eyes and sighed. â€œI like to believe that the country has come a long way since people had to resign their elected positions or quit their jobs because of who they loved, but I think itâ€™d also be naÃ¯ve to think itâ€™ll be a cakewalk.â€
â€œAnd once again, just for posterity: will Geoffrey be there?â€ Hewitt asked.
â€œHeâ€™s deformed you know,â€ Conner said, annoyed. â€œTruly and tragically hideous. I hide him in the apartment because heâ€™s a living Quasimodo who can build skyscrapers, and I believe if I exposed the American populace to his disfigurement it would be detrimental to my fatherâ€™s campaign.â€
The door to Geoffreyâ€™s office opened and a rubber gum eraser came flying outâ€”just falling short of hitting Conner in the side.
Hewitt grinned and made a note. â€œMoving right along. Thereâ€™ve been accusations in the pastâ€”whether or not theyâ€™re serious can be debatedâ€”that Lex Luthor wants to take over the world, and after LexCorp and congress and now a run for the White House, you can sort of see where the claims are coming from. Any opinion on that subject?â€
Conner blinked. â€œYou know,â€ he said oddly, â€œyouâ€™re probably the first person to ask that question to my face.â€
â€œIâ€™m fearlessly stupid like that,â€ Hewitt replied.
â€œWell, the thing is, the way I look at it,â€ Conner said, digging into a container of fried rice, â€œ just because my father might want to take over the world doesnâ€™t mean he wouldnâ€™t be good at it.â€
Hewitt snapped his reporterâ€™s notebook shut and grinned.
â€œHe bought a journalist money-shot from you for the pittance of three days of Chinese food?â€
â€œDad!â€ Conner wailed in agony.
â€œExcuse me: he bought your integrity from you for the pittance of three days of Chinese food?â€
Conner sighed and cradled the phone between his ear and shoulder, gathering up his latest metric ton of FedEx boxes. â€œDad, reporters were eight-deep in front of my buildingâ€”I wasnâ€™t about to go out there and come back with another shiner, all right? And we were hungry.â€
â€œWell,â€ Lex said, voice tight, â€œI hope Geoffrey understands that Iâ€™m interpreting this as the modern day equivalent of you prostituting yourself for his benefit.â€
Heâ€™d tried working second shift on the copydesk of the Daily Planet, but there were constant and uncomfortable ethical questionsâ€”could he edit business stories? Could Conner write heds for articles about politics? First local, then state, and now nationally? And the day that Rhonda Jasper, the copy chief had come by his desk uncomfortably, asking if he felt all right with managing all the entertainment and reviews every Thursday afternoon, Conner had saved her the trouble and resigned. â€œIâ€™m really sorry, Conner,â€ sheâ€™d said, and meant it, so Conner had given her his Brave Little Toaster grin and promised there were no hard feelings, and to point any good freelance work in his direction. So now he wrote blurbs for libraries, edited nonfiction and biographies, and when he was desperateâ€”and it had to be true desperationâ€”he ghost-wrote scifi fantasy for tech millionaires who could string together two nouns and an adjective. And between Geoffreyâ€™s respectable salary at Dutch & Moller and Connerâ€™s steady trickle of work, they lived fairly comfortablyâ€”and tried not to think about the fact that the apartment was bought and paid for by somebody else.
â€œYeah, thatâ€™s exactly what this is like, Dad,â€ Conner agreed brightly. â€œAnd sometimes, when things get really tight around the time to pay the bills, Geoffrey walks me out onto the a corner, pulls down my jeans and starts asking for the highest bidder.â€
On the other end of the line, his father made a wounded noise. There was a brief shuffle before Clark came onto the phone and said, voice reproachful, â€œConner, you know your father canâ€™t handle it when you say things like that.â€
â€œThen he should stop talking about jerking off for the press,â€ Conner retorted, thinking tangentially that maybe he should rephrase that.
â€œYou two deserve each other,â€ Clark said, disgusted. â€œHowâ€™s Geoffreyâ€™s studying coming along?â€
Conner glanced into the solarium, to where Geoffrey was surrounded by ferns and orchids and huddled with his drafting table, his dozens and dozens of prep booksâ€”murmuring to himself in the language of math and physics. His fourth year at RISD, Geoffrey had come home for Christmas with an armful of books about wood and steel, and Conner had flipped through them, lying in Geoffreyâ€™s bed, and been jealous of bricks and frame and concrete. He felt that now again, just little pricks, and if Conner sneered at Geoffreyâ€™s textbooks, that wasnâ€™t for anybody elseâ€™s prying eyes.
â€œItâ€™s coming. Heâ€™s barely looked up from his books except to eat and bathe.â€ Conner frowned. â€œAnd honestly? There hasnâ€™t been enough bathing going on.â€
â€œAny chance of hosing him down?â€ Clark laughed.
Grinning, Conner glanced over his shoulder: Geoffrey hadnâ€™t moved an inch, still mumbling to himself. â€œNot unless I can convince him thereâ€™s something he needs to be studying for the AREs in the roof garden,â€ Conner said. â€œHowâ€™re you?â€
â€œFighting with your fatherâ€™s media advisors,â€ Clark sighed, and after a beat said, â€œIâ€™m sorry we didnâ€™t schedule a real time to talk with you about this campaignâ€”we should have.â€
Conner shrugged, and wondered if it telegraphed over the phone lineâ€”or if he should give in and buy a videophone like his father had been pestering him to do for half a decade now. But Conner had strong feelings about giving his dad more opportunities to spy on him, and those generally veered in the direction of no.
â€œIâ€™m used to it,â€ he said. â€œHowâ€™s D.C.?â€
Conner heard his father pick up on a different line and say, gleeful, â€œTed Haggert hit on Clark.â€
â€œLex!â€ Clark shouted, voice overlaying Conner saying, â€œOh my God, Ted Haggert? That guy used to run a megachurch out in Colorado! Clark, youâ€™re like, a homosexual beacon from Satan!â€ and then Clark muttered, â€œI hate you both,â€ and hung up.
It left a silence over the phone line for a long time until Lex finally cleared his throat and said, â€œThis is going to be different than beforeâ€”worse than the Senate race.â€
Conner looked out his living kitchen window, at the persistent crowd at his front door, the line of news vans disrupting traffic. â€œI know.â€
The Senate race had started the same way, but this would be differentâ€”this would be months before the primaries and then Iowa and New Hampshire, the steamy heat of Florida and the crackling hot of California, how it felt to drive endlessly though the middle forty of America, down interstates in a Luthor for America RV. Conner could already imagine itâ€”putting a smile on his face at four in the morning when the caravan stopped to recharge, the red-eye flights.
And Conner thought he should be mad, that after all his father could still be selfish, to want things that werenâ€™t good for his familyâ€”that were unfair to Conner, but mostly there was a sense of inevitability. It was stupid and impossible but Conner thought maybe heâ€™d always known it would come to this, that heâ€™d been ready since day one, like heâ€™d been waiting.
â€œLook, Dad,â€ Conner said, to forestall any apologies or more awkward silence, â€œyou should know this alreadyâ€”but youâ€™ve got my vote, all right?â€
And when Lex said, â€œThank you, Conner,â€ he sounded too serious, his voice a little shaky, but whatever he meant to say and couldnâ€™t out loud came through clear as a bell. And when Conner fell asleep alone that night, curled up on the living room couch, he could hear Geoffrey a murmur nearby, and the steady drone of the televisionâ€”of CNN broadcasting his fatherâ€™s face over and over again: bright and brave and unbeatable, the sure thing.
Three weeks later, Geoffrey got his last set of ARE results back and immediately tackled Conner into bedâ€”which would have been a lot hotter and sexier if he hadnâ€™t then immediately fallen asleep.
Conner, because Geoffrey was a dead weight and not at all because it was kind of nice to pet him like a cat, stayed in bed anyway, typing one-handed on his laptop and running his fingers through Geoffreyâ€™s hair with the other. He had emails from both Julie and Garrison, casting disturbingly similar aspersions on one anotherâ€”although only Julieâ€™s included a frighteningly detailed plan of how to break into Garrisonâ€™s apartment and kill him without leaving any signs of entry. Garrison talked extensively about Loretta, his new dealer. Conner suggestedâ€”purely for Garrisonâ€™s safetyâ€”that he should look into introducing Julie and Loretta in the (very) near future.
And since Geoffrey seemed content to sleep through the night that way, Conner eventually wormed his way out from underneath his six-ton arm and wandered into the kitchen. There were three stacks of manuscripts laid out on the counter: to be mailed, in progress, and oh fuck I should have already started these. Most people worked straight off of electronic documents but Conner had approximately twelve thousand multicolored Fineliners and God damn if he wasnâ€™t going to use themâ€”so he grabbed something off of the in-progress pile and headed up for the roof garden.
It was an unseasonably cold spring for Metropolis. Conner had gotten used to the sidewalks and buildings soaking up sunshine like ovens, radiating it outward again so that team rose late at night. Conner, during his extremely short love affair with Sin City, had thought that Metropolis at night looked like something out of a Frank Miller comic: a little sultryâ€”but only from a distance. From his 23rd story view, Metropolis looked like an electric playground. Nearby, there were short, orange-windowed rowhouses and brownstones, squat apartments with rooftop gardens, overflowing with greenery nearest, and in the distance, slick, sleek, seamless skyscrapers glittered.
The sight of Metropolis shining only made it feel colder, and Conner abandoned his defensive position next to their wildly overgrown fern to retrieve a blanket, wrapped it around his shoulders like a shawl. It was too dark, really, to do any work, but it felt good to listen to the city murmur below, to look at the burnt umber shadows of people in nearby windows and smell food and car exhaust and the occasional breath of cold, sweet oxygen.
In his more maudlin momentsâ€”which Lex attributed to Clarkâ€™s genetic contributionâ€”Conner thought Metropolis was a dark-haired woman, and like Lois Lane who documented her ins and outs, Metropolis would have a laugh that filled entire rooms. In contrast Washington felt buttoned-up, the beltway like fine hemming, holding it all in tailored perfection, a city cut out of limestone and marble and artfully litâ€”beautiful and intimidating and elegant.
Conner had always felt awkward in the face of elegance, like he was in a complicated choreography: he knew all the stepsâ€”of course he didâ€”but he was so busy making sure he did everything right he could hardly do anything at all. When he was 17, redoing his junior year at St. Annâ€™s, heâ€™d come out of a subway station and trippedâ€”face firstâ€”into an open recycling bin, and even then heâ€™d been thinking about the physics test he was honor-bound to fail. Conner had always thought privately heâ€™d probably been born above his station in life, despite how horrible and French feudalism it all sounded: heâ€™d come from a glass tube and a family legacy of megalomaniac bastardsâ€”it didnâ€™t seem right he shied from crowds and blushed when photographed.
â€œAnd itâ€™s only going to get worse,â€ Conner told the fern, sighing into the blanket.
In the morning, he had a four-hour meeting scheduled with Lexâ€™s publicists and campaign strategists, and knowing how time slowed and warped at the event horizon of his fatherâ€™s political intentions, he could expect that four hours to balloon into six, then eight. And then heâ€™d wake up on a jet and be headed toward Washington, kidnapped out of his ordinary existence to make nice with potential contributors and negotiate Clark and Lexâ€™s latest peace treaty, to keep them from burning down their multi-million dollar townhouse in Georgetown, which would almost certainly hinder his fatherâ€™s campaign.
And even if he resented it more than a little, Conner could never begrudge his fatherâ€™s aspirations, his due credit. Heâ€™d meant what heâ€™d told the L.A. Times.
His father did want to rule the world, and Conner wanted to see what he would do with it.
The Luthor for America campaign headquarters were across the street from the only Krispy Kreme in all of Metropolis, which Conner figured was the primary reason for the location of said headquarters. Considering it was barely eight a.m. and he was meeting with politicos, he was grateful for it, and stuffed three still-warm doughnuts into his mouth, one after another, washing it all down with the appallingly bad coffee from Newtonâ€™s Cafe next door. Conner knew a guy who knew a guy who knew Newton, and if ever there was an argument for the power of guilt by association, it was Conner walking past two Caribou Coffees, a Starbucks, and an indie hipster place that roasted its own fairly-traded shade-grown organic beans on site to go buy coffee at Newtons.
The actual office interior bore no resemblance to any other Luthor-affiliated office space Conner had ever known: the furniture was old and scuffed and looked as if itâ€™d been collected from the dumpster area of the MetU South Campus dorms, there were ugly (defaced) motivational posters on the walls, and there was utter, unrelenting chaos. People shouted into telephones and shouted at fax machines and computers and typed in ALL CAPS on their BlackBerrys; there were television and video feeds running constantly, NPR faint in the distance, and Conner saw at least two dozen video phones and two dozen faces from different corners of the country reporting in.
He debated, briefly, sneaking away, but then Sherryâ€”God damn her, Conner thoughtâ€”caught sight of him and waved him over. Even her elbows looked harried, snapping her forearm and wrist in and out like a telegraphed shout, and Conner hustled, eating another doughnut for strength as he went.
â€œYouâ€™re late,â€ she told him, snatching up a tablet computer and a binder of loose paper, pen already tucked behind one ear, near-lost in her nest of red hair. She was wearing a black linen shirt and tan slacks, spike heels and no jewelry. Conner and Julie had once been in the process of betting whether or not Sherry actually had a soul when Lex had walked past and dropped a twenty and said flatly, â€œNo,â€ which had pretty much ruined the entire thing because Connerâ€™s dad was only ever wrong about women he tried to marry.
â€œI was on time,â€ Conner argued, winding around wayward campaign workers and following her tap-tap-tapping heels to a back conference room. â€œI was watching the crazy.â€
â€œI was teleconferencing with some stockbroker in Norway,â€ Sherry muttered, sounding disgusted, tugging open a door and waving Conner inside. â€œHow many women did you father have to propose to? Iâ€™m the only person in politics whoâ€™s ever been in the unenviable position of trying to convince people somebody is gay instead of just slutty.â€
Conner covered his face. â€œSherry,â€ he moaned.
â€œPlease, Conner, grow a pair,â€ Sherry sighed, aggrieved.
â€œNot about my fatherâ€™s sex life,â€ Conner snapped, glaring at her through his fingers.
Sherry gave him a pitying look over the thin, silver-wire frames of her glasses and said, monotone, â€œOkay,â€ and tapped around her laptop with her manicured nails, clearing her throat before she said, â€œThis is going to be a long ride, Connerâ€”longer than the Senate races or House races.â€
Conner wished he had another doughnut.
â€œIâ€™d give you some stupid campaign kid speech about smiling and thinking of the White House but I think you already know that song and dance,â€ Sherry continued, relentless and without any empathy. â€œAre you ready for this?â€
Conner stared at her, morose. â€œNo.â€
â€œGood,â€ she said, turning back to her tablet. â€œLetâ€™s talk about platform.â€
Seven hours later, Conner finally dragged back into his building, sore and cranky and feeling six kinds of stupid. Sherry had spent the whole morning insulting his intelligence and then the entire afternoon making fun of his clothesâ€”and then sheâ€™d polled the entire office via instant message about whether or not his Chucks made Conner look like a hipster tool. the only redeeming element of the entire day had been when the poll came back with a firm, â€œYes, but in a cute way,â€ answer.
Conner had just liberated himself of pants with buttons and his socks, Jeopardy playing in the background, when the migraine hit.
â€œKill me,â€ Conner begged.
â€œYes, because complaining is productive,â€ Geoffrey said, but his voice was barely louder than a whisper, just a brush of syllables near Connerâ€™s ear, fingers carding through Connerâ€™s hair.
Conner pressed his face into the coolness of the pillowcase.
â€œThe medicine should kick in any minute,â€ Geoffrey promised.
â€œYou lie,â€ Conner whimpered. â€œYouâ€™re a liar. The left side of my head is gonna explode and Iâ€™ll die.â€
Conner recognized that his apparent age decreased with the magnitude of migraine-associated suck, because nothing brought you down a peg or two more than feeling like your brain was committing itself to suicide-bombing your skull.
â€œItâ€™s true,â€ Geoffrey admitted. â€œAnd then Iâ€™ll take all your money and spend it on hookers and blow.â€
Flailing in Geoffreyâ€™s general direction, Conner promised, â€œIâ€™ll kill you. And your hookers.â€
â€œYeah, thatâ€™s the Zomig,â€ Geoffrey laughed, palming the curve of Connerâ€™s skull.
Conner turned his cheek to the pillow, squinting at Geoffreyâ€™s silhouette, dark against the shining background of the city, faint blue in the lengthening days of late spring. â€œIâ€™m not sure Iâ€™m happy about Dad running for president,â€ he admitted.
Geoffrey shrugged, reaching over Connerâ€™s shoulder for a quilt to tuck around him, ward off the chill air slipping beneath the sash of their opened bedroom windows. It smelled like laundry detergent and atmosphere and falafels. â€œYouâ€™re entitled to your opinions, Conner.â€
He felt selfish, uncomfortable in his own skin, and it was good to talk sometimes like this, when it would distract him from the lingering throb of the headache, a slow pulse in tandem with the blood pounding in his ears. Rolling over, Conner stared at his ceiling, the slowly-ambulating fan blades and thought of Lois and her old apartment, the breeze from her bedroom window.
He reached up and caught Geoffreyâ€™s fingers, laced his own in between. â€œThis is going to suck a lot for you and me.â€
Geoffreyâ€™s fingers mapped Connerâ€™s knuckles, and he said, â€œWell, yeah.â€
â€œSorry,â€ Conner said.
Shrugging, Geoffrey said, â€œI knew what I was getting into when I got into it.â€
Conner raised his eyebrows. â€œDid you just make a sex joke?â€
â€œYeah,â€ Geoffrey said, grinning, â€œI learned it from a hot Kappa in college.â€
â€œOkay,â€ Conner promised, pushing himself up and reaching for Geoffreyâ€™s neck, â€œIâ€™ll kill you.â€
Geoffrey caught his wrists. â€œSeriouslyâ€”Conner. Itâ€™s fine.â€
Blinking, Conner asked, â€œAre you sure? Because thisâ€”no one signs up for this.â€
â€œClark did,â€ Geoffrey pointed out.
â€œYeah, but theyâ€™re…â€ Conner started, and then trailed off, because he didnâ€™t even know what kind of point he was trying to make. Or maybe he did, but he didnâ€™t like it because he liked to think that he and Geoffrey were the same kind of self-assured comfort that he saw in his parentsâ€”hopefully with less shouting and gay divorce. But he and Geoffrey were still newâ€”a toy with the shine on.
â€œStop worrying about it,â€ Geoffrey told him. â€œWeâ€™re going to be fine.â€
They spent the next three weeks on the front page of every newspaper and magazine and headlining every television newsmagazine in the entire world, it felt likeâ€”Conner talked to Stone Philips, Diane Sawyer, some guy from the New York Times, Hewitt from the L.A. Times, someone named Mary from the Trib, and a woman from the Houston Chronicle who was totally not psyched to be working for the Houston Chronicle.
â€œI like Texas,â€ Conner had said awkwardly, staring in blank horror down at the crib sheet of issue statements Sherry had given him along with her patented Warning Look.
â€œReally,â€ the reporter had said, sounding unconvinced and from Boston.
â€œItâ€™sâ€”you know,â€ Conner continued, giving desperate looks to the rest of the Luthor for America media staff.Â â€œUh.Â Beef is delicious.â€
Thereâ€™d been a long sigh over the phone.Â â€œIâ€™m a vegetarian.â€
â€œWhat the fuck,â€ Conner said, hanging up half an hour later.Â â€œI mean, seriously, what the fuck?â€
â€œTheyâ€™re journalists, Conner,â€ said Mandy, one of the ex-journalism major interns.Â â€œItâ€™s how they are.”
Glaring, Conner snapped, â€œIâ€™m a journalist, Iâ€™m not like that!â€
Mandy patted his arm.Â â€œOh, Connerâ€”youâ€™re not a journalist,â€ she told him, and then reminded him he had a meeting with Matt Lauer in half an hour, and if he went on national television wearing his YES, BUT NOT WITH YOU t-shirt, Clark would die of embarrassment by-proxy.Â And an ugly, embarrassingly public death was the last thing that Clarkâ€”whoâ€™d spent the last three weeks on the campaign trail talking to single mothers and stay-at-home soccer momsâ€”needed.
People kept asking not-so-subtly whether or not his father(s) had made Conner gay and Conner kept cracking the same, â€œMy parents are gay?â€ joke over and over again until it felt stupid even to himself.Â He remembered that the senate campaign was the same three questions over and over, and here it was the same three ethical moral conundrums every time he talked to a reporter.Â He wished he was younger, or hell, fresh off of being scarecrowed in Smallville, when this degree of scrutiny would have been expressly forbidden, and he could have curled up in the safety of the West Eden apartment and watched all the boxed-set DVDs of Stargate: Atlantis and ask Geoffreyâ€™s about art deco buildings downtown.
And it was during a phone interview with Savage Love that Conner finally snapped, a skull-splitting migraine curling around the back of his neck and pounding on his templesâ€”Dan Savage asking, â€œSeriouslyâ€”did your family foster homosexuality or something?â€ that Conner snarled:
“No, actuallyâ€”but I did make Geoffrey gay.”
“Really, and how did you do that?â€ Savage said, fascinated, and Conner dug around his desk for his painkillers.
“With my cock, I guess,â€ Conner snapped.Â â€œNowâ€”if youâ€™ll excuse me, Iâ€™ve got to go find some opiates.”
It was on the wire less than an hour after The Stranger published, two days later.
The next time Conner saw his fatherâ€”exactly fifteen minutes after thatâ€”Lex was lying prone on a fainting couch in their house in Georgetown, Clark changing the cold compress on his forehead while giving Conner darkly-accusing looks over the videophone.Â â€œI donâ€™t even know what to say to you, Conner Clark Luthor,â€ Clark had said, mouth tight and disappointed, which made Conner feel like sixteen kinds of scum.Â â€œYou know how hard itâ€™s beenâ€”and I know itâ€™s been hard for you, too, but I justâ€”you should know better,â€ he concluded, and wandered off after Sherry, whoâ€™d called for him from off the viewscreen, her voice soft as she said, â€œMr. Kent?Â I need a minute.”
There was a long silence filled up with Conner staring at Lexâ€™s unmoving body and listening to the sullen nothingness before he finally cracked and said, â€œLookâ€”Geoffreyâ€™s already furious with me, okay?Â And Iâ€™m sorry, but thereâ€™re only so many times that I canâ€””
Lex flung the compress off of his face, rocketing to his feet to scowl directly into the viewscreen, saying low, â€œConnerâ€”there is no limit to the number of times people will ask you stupid questions, and no limit to the number of times you might have to answer them in your lifetime.Â And this?Â Is unacceptable,â€ before the ended the callâ€”picture disappearing into black with just a horizon line of color, melting into the LCD viewer.
“Oh,â€ Conner said to the black screen, â€œyou have got to be fucking with me.”
If Lex was, it was the worst joke in history.Â And no matter how frequently Conner called or emailed or v-phoned, Lex could only spare him a minute or two before he dashed off.Â â€œHeâ€™s really not angry any more, Conner,â€ Clark sighed, during a snatched few minutes between speaking engagements, â€œheâ€™s really just that busyâ€”and maybe still a little hurt.â€Â Connerâ€”toothbrush still hanging out of his mouthâ€”had shouted, â€œThis is totally immature!â€ and even as heâ€™d started hanging up the phone, heâ€™d heard Clark mutter, â€œWhich explains where you get it from.â€
The publicity machine kept rolling.Â Conner got booked on Oprah, in part to apologize for his outburst and also to give a humanizing element to his relationshipâ€”now marred with the specter of drug abuse and sexual coercion.Â Everything was soft-lit and rounded edges, and the hair and make-up people had attacked him in the green room and forced him to put on a pale salmon-colored shirt despite Connerâ€™s wailing protests that he was a redhead!Â This was a travesty!Â Were they trying to ruin his father?
Chicago was cold and slick from November rain showers, the slush that came down before the snow, and Conner had spent most of the night before his appearance on the show on the phone with Geoffrey, sulking and wishing Geoffrey was there.Â â€œYou know Iâ€™d do it if you really want me to,â€ Geoffrey had reminded him softly.Â â€œItâ€™s not too late for me to catch a plane.â€
â€œYouâ€™re never part of the deal,â€ Conner had said, automatic.Â â€œNot any deals I make.â€
â€œNo,â€ Geoffrey had said, much-defrosted since the â€™You told Dan Savage what?â€™ debacle, â€œno I guess Iâ€™m not.â€
â€œMr. Luthor?Â When weâ€™re ready for you on air, Judy will walk you to the edge of the curtain, just step out and go to your leftâ€”thereâ€™ll be a lot of lights, but please donâ€™t be startled,â€ said one of a million backstage producers whoâ€™d taken to manhandling him from point A to Bâ€”and so Conner just nodded oddly, tugged awkwardly at the sport coat theyâ€™d tossed over the shirt, felt restless in his dark blue Chucks.
And when Judy did push him out in front of the studio crowd, Conner suffered a moment of sheer blindness before he pasted a smile to his face, going on instinct, ignoring the deafening shouts and applause, the hundreds of people in the audience staring holes through himâ€”felt his way to the plush seats, where Oprah said, â€œItâ€™s so great to see you,â€ and kissed his cheek, told him to sit down.Â She asked him about his charity work and about the campaign trail, what it was like to be the center of so much media speculation, about what had prompted his semi-meltdown on the phone.
â€œIt wasnâ€™t really a meltdown,â€ Conner said, uncomfortable with the sheer amount of sympathy he could feel welling up in the room.Â â€œI justâ€”Iâ€™ve always been extremely private about my personal relationships, and the sudden attention has been…a bit overwhelming.â€
â€œAnd what about the opiates,â€ Oprah asked, eyes wide with concern, interest, affectionate acceptance.Â Conner thought about setting her stupid studio on fire with his mind, but considered that it might make him look even worse.
â€œI have severe migraines.Â I was talking about my Zomig,â€ he admitted, wryly.Â â€œIâ€™m sure TheSmokingGun.com has already dug up illegal copies of my prescriptions and put them onlineâ€”I promise, Iâ€™m way too whipped to ever do anything as cool as drugs.â€
He was right about the prescriptions being online, and apparently being too whippedâ€”by Geoffrey, who said, deeply unamused, â€œAmazing, given that you were supposed to have tamed me with your cock,”â€”won him major points with the eighteen to dead female demographic, and the controversy disappeared, like a lot of things, into a hush of ether in the Luthor for America campaign behemoth.
By Christmas, opinion polls said Lex rated higher in voter consideration than most of the candidates, but still lagged behind the democratic incumbent and the Republican favoriteâ€”which made celebrating Christmas about as fun as being stabbed in the eye with a tack.Â The penthouse was decorated as beautifully as ever, with an enormous Christmas tree and a lighting display that was the envy of Rockefeller Center, strung out like fairy lights on the roof garden, but Lex spent almost all of it locked into his study-cum-war room.
â€œHow is this not driving you completely insane?â€ Conner asked, finally, sitting at the dining room table with Clarkâ€”drinking heavily and steadily eating the leftovers from dinner that night.
Clark smiled tiredly at him.Â â€œI donâ€™t know,â€ he admitted.
â€œWasnâ€™t this your entire crusade?â€ Conner demanded, frowning across the table.Â â€œLike, donâ€™t let Dad take over the world?”
Like so many other things, the family history was unspoken, suggested, and Conner had found it like any other gossip-hungry kid: on the internet, in the back archives of the Daily Planet and the Inquisitor and on the gossip pages of so many magazines.Â Conner had known about the many loves of Lex Luthor and the farm boy whoâ€™d broken his heart a hundred thousand wives and girlfriends agoâ€”but it wasnâ€™t until recently that Conner really understood the long-running dispute between his father and Superman, about how the most powerful man in the world, and the most powerful man not of this world were enemiesâ€”before Conner.Â Before heâ€™d come along and interrupted, put a semicolon in the story that hadnâ€™t picked up until nine years later, when heâ€™d been bubbling over with more questions than there were answers.
Clark raised his eyebrows.Â â€œConner, do you realize your dad used to invest in things like killer robots?â€
â€œIâ€™m sure they could be programed to do good stuff, too,â€ Conner defended automatically and at Clarkâ€™s soft laugh, Conner asked, â€œSeriouslyâ€”how is this not bugging you?Â This is the antithesis of everything you used to stand for, I meanâ€”â€
â€œConner,â€ Clark finally interrupted, putting a hand on Connerâ€™s shoulder, looking fond, â€œwhy were you willing to put up with Geoffrey during his AREs?â€
Blinking hard, Conner said, â€œBecause heâ€™s going to be a great architect.â€
â€œExactly,â€ Clark said, grinning, and standing up to ruffle Connerâ€™s hair, he added, â€œGood night, Connerâ€”merry Christmas.â€
And so December rolled into January and one morning, when Conner rolled over to say good morning to Geoffrey, he opened his eyes to see his pillow soaked in bright red, to taste blood in his mouth and on his face and still streaming out of his nose.
â€œOkay, I really think youâ€™re overreacting,â€ Conner managed to say through a faceful of terry cloth.
After Conner had shaken Geoffrey awake, Geoffrey had taken one look at Conner, the bed, the pillow, and all that blood before rolling out of bed, pulling a sweatshirt on and stuffing a damp towel over Connerâ€™s face, stuffing him into a coat and then into a car.Â And Geoffrey, who was already a notoriously-reckless driver, tore through downtown Metropolisâ€”city speed limit: 30â€”at 65 mph, ignoring stop signs and traffic signals and narrowly missing a city bus before he jackknifed into a parking spot at Mercy Metro General.
â€œShut up,â€ Geoffrey muttered, rushing Conner toward the ER entrance, â€œsave your energy to make more blood.â€
â€œItâ€™s really not that big a deal,â€ Conner said, preternaturally calm.Â â€œItâ€™s just a nosebleed.â€
Geoffrey looked around the dimly-lit room, at the rows of uncomfortable looking chairs and mom sand their colicky babies, people with bloody rags tied around their handsâ€”the long, long wait, and muttered, â€œfuck this,â€ to himself before turning to Conner and saying, â€œThis from the guy who nearly gave himself a stroke when I got into a fender bender and needed to wear a wrist brace.â€
â€œYou could have been brain damaged,â€ Conner hissed.Â It was an old fight but he was determined not to lose it.
â€œJesus,â€ Geoffrey muttered, and went storming off after a passing nurseâ€”and before Conner could do something like beg him not to make a scene, Geoffrey grabbed her by the arm and whispered something close to her ear, low and hurried and intense.Â And as Conner watched her eyes widen, he groaned, because there was only one possible reason for her suddenly hot-footing toward him.
â€œThanks a lot, jackass,â€ Conner muttered, ignoring the poisonous glances of the other ER patients as he was led to to a bed in triage.Â â€œThis is going to be all over the internet by tomorrow morning,â€ he complained, climbing awkwardly onto the gurneyâ€”smearing blood on the sheets.
Stroking Connerâ€™s hair away from his face and lifting the towel to inspect Connerâ€™s nose, Geoffrey mumbled, â€œAsk me how much I care.â€
â€œYou should care,â€ Conner said, petulant, but the unnatural disengagement was starting to wear off now, and fear trickle in.Â He was cold and still in his pajamas, a little lightheadedâ€”probably from the blood loss, he thought half in whisperâ€”and there was a lot of blood on the towel, a lot.Â It had started off pale yellow and now itâ€”wasnâ€™t.Â â€œHoly crap,â€ he mumbled into the towel, â€œthatâ€™s…thatâ€™s a lot of blood.â€
Geoffrey put a hand on the back of Connerâ€™s neck, thumb stroking along his throat.Â â€œDonâ€™t talk,â€ he suggested.
Conner glared at him.Â â€œI want a divorce.”
â€œYou can do that later,â€ a doctor interrupted, looking mildly amused and all business, snapping on a pair of latex gloves.Â â€œIâ€™m Dr. Brennanâ€”move the towel, please.â€
Dr. Brennan peered at him and peered at him, and made â€œhmmâ€ noises until he snapped off the gloves and said, â€œOkay, weâ€™re going to have to suction out the blood clots in order for me to get a better look.â€
â€œWhat?â€ Conner squawked.Â Theyâ€™d replaced his towelâ€”lost to the medical waste bin nowâ€”with cotton balls, but the blood kept coming.Â â€œI want less bleeding, not more.â€
â€œAnd I promise that is my ultimate goal,â€ Brennan said, and five minutes, five shouts of violation, and one barely-restrained freakout later, Brennan was anesthetizing the back of Connerâ€™s nose in preparation to cauterize something in his face.Â But if nothing else, it seemed to stop the bleeding, and Conner got checked into one of the upper floors for an unpleasantly numb and breathing-impaired overnight stay, with Geoffrey sitting watchful at his bedside, looking worried and wearing bags under his eyes.
â€œHey,â€ Conner said, hoarse, a few hours later, â€œstop that.Â Iâ€™m the one who just had the inside of his head burnt shut.â€
â€œWe should make another appointment with your neurologist,â€ Geoffrey said.
â€œWhat does that have to do with anything?â€ Conner asked.
Geoffrey stared at him for a long time before he stood up and said, â€œIâ€™ll call his office right nowâ€”itâ€™s morning, they should be open.â€
â€œWait, what the hell?â€ Conner asked, but Geoffrey was already ducking out of the private room, and then all Conner could do was watch the sunlight grow stronger and stronger in the frame of his windowâ€”change from rose gold to orange and finally into searing white as the city shrugged off its yawns.Â Metropolis at morning was soft, green blending with fog and the warm light in windows before the sun was bright enough to make shadows out of the dark.Â Conner had spent two of the last four weeks on the road: traveling between Chicago and New York and Washington D.C., a brief stop in Miami for a speech his father was givingâ€”in perfect Spanish, the show-offâ€”there, and then cross country again to Los Angeles, where the studio heads at 20th Century Fox, Searchlight, Miramax, and Dreamworks all came together to throw Luthor for America fundraisers.Â Conner spent most of it hiding in upscale bathrooms and from the pressâ€”and also from T.R. Knight, who always wanted to know if Conner was watching Greyâ€™s Anatomy and wanted to talk about how he was single now.
Geoffrey had been gone for more than half an hour when Connerâ€™s beside phone rangâ€”which he answered, resigned.
â€œHi, Clark,â€ he said and silently cursed Geoffrey for being such a rat.Â â€œItâ€™s really not a big deal.â€
â€œNot a big deal,â€ Clark huffed.Â â€œThey had to cauterize something in your face.â€
Sometimes, Conner really loved his mom.Â â€œThatâ€™s what I said!â€
â€œThatâ€™s obviously a big deal,â€ Clark decided over the phone, and after a beat asked, â€œIâ€™m guessing that if theyâ€™re letting you talk the bleeding stopped?â€
â€œYeah, I meanâ€”Iâ€™m fine now.Â A little lightheaded, but the doctor said that was normal,â€ Conner said, and contemplating hospital food for a moment, added, â€œYou should have somebody send me piles and piles of cookies.Â For my health.â€
Clark laughed over the line, and in the background, Conner could hear the bustle and rush of dozens of other people.Â The last he knew, his parents were still in Los Angeles, running the press gamut long after Conner had called it quits, and yesterday morning heâ€™d seen his father on Good Morning Americaâ€”although that was on satellite feed so he could have been calling in from anywhere.
â€œWhere are you guys, anyway?â€ Conner asked.
â€œYour dadâ€™s in Oregon,â€ Clark answered, â€œdonâ€™t ask me why, I donâ€™t know.Â Iâ€™m back in Smallville bunking down with your grandmother, who obviously heard you talking about cookies because sheâ€™s making you some as we speak.â€
Conner grinned and leaned back in the bed.Â â€œExcellent,â€ he said, â€œall part of my master plan.â€
They said their I love yous and I love you way better than mom, Grandmas and Hey!s and hung upâ€”which left Conner in the unenviable position of reading all the pamphlets they left in his room (twice) before Geoffrey showed up again, bringing with him breakfast and a change of clothes, tough guy chaiâ€™s from the cafe near their apartment.
â€œWell,â€ Conner said reluctantly, cupping his hands around the insulated mug, â€œI guess I forgive you.â€
Geoffrey smiled tightly at him.Â â€œYou have an appointment with the neurologistâ€™s office tomorrow.â€
Conner frowned.Â â€œI take it back.â€