Lex Luthor normally wouldn't be bothered by such events. He had much more important things to do than attending a circus, of all things- but Mercy informed him that it would help his public image up, so he reluctantly went.
He clapped and smiled at the clowns, the ponies, and the tightrope walkers, but it was all a show- inwardly he cringed at the crude humor, cotton candy, and child-like atmosphere.
It took him a second to notice when that atmosphere changed.
The nets beneath the trapeze were being removed.
Despite his efforts to remain uninterested, he felt his curiosity perk up. The next act was sure to be different, if it was to be done without any safety regulations.
Then again, it may just be so incredibly simple that it didn't require the net.
Spotlights paraded around, and the ringmaster, a very plump, boisterous man, waddled out, holding a megaphone in his hand.
"Ladies and gentleman, I give you…" here he paused dramatically, and Luthor almost snorted out loud, "…the Flying Graysons!"
They came out, one by one, soaring on the trapeze so easily it looked like they were flying, true to their name. A whole family of them (but Lex didn't care enough to count them). As they flipped through the air expertly, one form, smaller than the rest, stood out among the others.
A boy… very young, eight, nine at the most? The ringmaster was still speaking, Lex tuned him out and focused all his attention on the child.
Ebony hair, athletic body, slightly olive-toned skin- he found it hard to believe his eyes, it shouldn't be possible that someone so young could defy gravity like that.
But his eyes weren't deceiving him.
The boy would make an excellent assassin.
As soon as the thought crossed his mind, he shook his head to get rid of it. He was Lex Luthor, billionaire, genius, and (dare he say it) arch-nemesis of Superman! He had no need for an assassin! But as more possibilities crossed his mind, he found himself pondering the option even more.
It was about then that the Graysons were approaching their finale.
He watched as the boy pouted and returned to the platform on the edge of the ring, not allowed to participate in the final trick. The rest of his family swung down on the trapeze, beginning their final routine-
A sickening noise, several screams, the sound of shattering bone.
Bloody bodies on the ground.
Luthor stared down at the now dead family impassively. He was no stranger to death- not anymore. It no longer fazed him.
So as the crowd erupted into panic and shouting filled the tent, he slowly stood and brought his gaze up to the traumatized boy, whose screams sounded over everything else.
No, he had not arranged this. He knew Superman would try to blame him simply because he was there, but as far as anyone could tell, it had been an "accident"(Through years of experience, Lex had learned to see when said "accidents" weren't really accidents at all. This was one of those times).
Lex brushed invisible lint off his suit and turned to Mercy, who had risen at the beginning of the panic to ensure his safety.
"Mercy," he said, not taking his eyes from the sobbing child, who was now being coaxed down by a sympathetic clown, "get me down there. Now."
Moments later, he stood before the boy in question.
He was sobbing in the ringmaster's arms, trembling. He had the purest blue eyes Luthor had ever seen, and they glistened with tears. The ringmaster gently turned the boy towards him.
"Richard," he called softly, but the boy let out a pained cry and buried his face back into the man's chest.
The ringmaster gave Lex a helpless look, and the genius sighed. Children were Superman's specialty, not his. But he bent down to the boy, Richard's, level and cautiously held out a hand.
Richard glanced up at him, curiosity shining through the sadness and grief, and Luthor smiled as kindly as he could to the boy.
"Hello, Richard. My name is Lex Luthor," he tried hesitantly, and cringed at the small whimper the boy let out, hurrying to continue. "Would you like to come and stay at my home for a while?" He knew the offer was very rushed, and the ringmaster gave him a curious look, but he pressed on, now addressing the plump man.
"Mr.… Haley, was it? I believe I can provide Richard with a place to stay. If you'll allow it, I would like to take him in."
The man's mouth opened in a surprised "o", and, seeing he was about to protest, hastily added, "And along with that, I would like to fund the circus with money to honor the Graysons." A little bribery always helped in these situations.
At his last name, Richard let out another sob, but Mr. Haley's eyes widened. He looked extremely conflicted, but Luthor was growing impatient.
"He would be well taken care of," he prompted, and the man glanced at the boy in his arms.
"But… Dick is part of our circus family… we can't just…" Haley said haltingly.
"Think of the good it'll do for him, Mr. Haley," Lex snapped, "It is almost definitely more suitable for the boy than the rough conditions he would be in if he stayed."
Mr. Haley looked slightly shocked at being addressed in such a manner, but Lex waited as logic worked its way into the ringmaster's head, and he nodded slowly.
"Excellent," Lex said, snapping his fingers as Mr. Haley handed Richard over to Mercy despite the whimpering protests, "Mercy, finish up here. I have a call to make."
He walked a short distance away, smirking with pleasure. All the possibilities! The last Flying Grayson had so much potential, and now it was his to exploit! But first…
He pulled out his phone and dialed a well-used number. It only rang once before it was picked up.
"Hello, Luthor," a smooth, deep voice said, and Lex smiled.
"Deathstroke," he replied, "I have a task for you…"