"Jesus died for your sins," his grandmother told him, the last time he saw her.
He was fifteen and he smiled cheerfully at her. "Must have been quite the chump, then."
She nearly had a heart attack right there. Lorraine Luthor was nothing if not outwardly devout. The heavy cross around her neck always struck Lex as less an object of faith and more a billboard of it. 'Get off here. Next exit: Hell.' She never could comprehend when people chose not to stop.
To keep on driving. The vast stretch of road between wasn't to be missed, after all. Casinos and fireworks, and the meteor capital of the world with its endless sideshow of freaks. Lex learned, over the years, that most roadside attractions had at least one interesting surprise tucked away. Behind the beer vendor, in a back corner, on the side of a bridge -- always somewhere.
He never saw her again, not after she clutched her cross and gasped and forgot to lean pitifully on her cane as she hurried away from him. His suspicion was that she was less horrified on behalf of Jesus than she was for herself and her authority as family matriarch.
His father came to talk to him hours later, where he sat listening to the crash of the ocean on the deck of her beach house. "We'll be leaving tomorrow, Lex. My mother doesn't seem to like the thought of you in her home anymore."
"I'm devastated," he said dryly. "What is it this time? Am I actually the anti-Christ, or does she merely suspect us of being friends?"
"Lex. She is my mother and you will respect her. You have to learn what you may say, and when you may say it. There's a time and a place for everything."
"Except the truth, it seems." Lex tilted his head, heard another set of waves break and it seemed almost muffled in the humid heat, in the oppressive chill of their voices. "Are you telling me to back down, *Dad*?"
"I'm telling you to choose your battles carefully. Always fight to win, but not all battles have to be bloody."
"Some battles do."
His father's footsteps sounded dull and receding against the wood of the deck. "I wouldn't have said it if I were you. Even if" -- and was that a smile he heard hints of, around the cool edges of Lionel's voice? -- "I've thought about it for years. The car will be around at 9 am, Lex. Don't be late."