Author's Note: This is an Alternate Universe of Smallville, where Lex and Clark meet earlier in life. Lex is 20, and Clark is 14. Written November 2009.
Disclaimer: I do not own any of these characters, and I am not making any money from these stories.
Warning: Non consensual disciplinary spanking of an adult by a parental figure.



Friendship - Chapter 10

After starting off the summer between his sophomore and junior years of college with some biologically late teenage rebellion, Lex decided he was absolutely, positively, finished with rebellious behavior for the rest of his life. Not only had the resulting punishment been painful, but the lectures from both of his 'parents' had been painful as well.

He'd been at the farm for a month, when his father showed up one Friday evening, just before dinner. Lex was carrying a bowl of mashed potatoes to the table, when the doorbell rang. Answering the door with a smile, he almost dropped the potatoes, when he saw who was on the other side. "Dad?"

Lionel said, "Hello Lex."

"What are you doing here?" Lex asked. By the time the words were out of his mouth, Jonathan, Martha, and Clark were standing next to him.

"I hope I'm not intruding," Lionel said.

"You are," Jonathan said.

Martha put a hand on her husband's arm to calm him down, and said, "We were just about to sit down to dinner, Mr. Luthor."

"I apologize for the inconvenient timing. I wanted to speak with my son about his schedule this summer, but I can come back in the morning if you prefer."

Jonathan said, "I'd prefer you not come back at all."

"Lex could always come meet me at the mansion tomorrow instead," Lionel said.

Lex started shaking his head no. He didn't want to spend any time alone with his father. They'd had very little contact since the day Lex had pulled at gun on him. The day he'd told his father he didn't kill his baby brother all those years ago. The day he'd told his father that he never wanted to see him again.

Lionel had been to the farm one other time, months ago, to tell Lex he was sorry that their relationship wasn't better. He'd said he wanted to build a new relationship with him, but then hadn't followed through on that, except to leave Lex alone, and to let him spend the summer at the farm.

"Could you excuse us for a minute Mr. Luthor?" Martha said, and shut the door in his face, without waiting for a reply. Turning to Lex, she whispered, "None of us want you to see your father alone. You could see him tomorrow morning, but I think you'll be nervous and anxious all night waiting to hear what he has to say. Or we could invite him in now, and talk about things over dinner."

Jonathan hissed, "I don't want that jackass in my house."

Glaring at her husband, she said, "We could stop him from seeing Lex right now, but we can't stop him indefinitely. This is an opportunity to help push their relationship in the right direction." Turning to Lex, she said, "None of us are telling you to trust him, but unless you've changed your mind about living without your family's money, you'll have to see him sometime."

Lex stared at the bowl of mashed potatoes, and wished they would give him a new and improved option. With a sigh, he said, "If it's okay with Pop, then I guess I'd rather see him now."

Jonathan didn't like it, but could see his wife's point. "Fine, but don't think I won't kick him out if he starts something."

Opening the door, Martha said, "Would you like to join us for dinner, Mr. Luthor?"

Surprised, Lionel said, "I'd love to, Mrs. Kent. Thank you."

She opened the screen door to let him in, and then started issuing orders. "Clark, set another place at the table. Lex, go put the potatoes down, and sit. Jonathan, could you get the roast out of the oven for me please?"

Once they were all sitting, and had food on their plates, Martha said, "Okay, Mr. Luthor, we're all listening."

Felling slightly uncomfortable talking in front of the Kents, Lionel cleared his throat, took a drink of water, and said to Lex, "I know you want to spend the summer here, but I was…"

Already on edge, and emotional because of the surprise visit, Lex yelled, "I knew it! I knew you'd take that back!"

Martha put her hand on top of Lex's hand, and gave it a gentle squeeze. "Please don't interrupt Lex."

Glaring at his father, Lex said, "Sorry Mo…" catching himself, he turned to Martha and said, "Mrs. Kent."

She patted his hand, and smiled to let him know she understood. Turing to Lionel she said, "Please continue."

Lionel also heard and understood the implications of Lex's slip. He felt a rush of jealousy towards the Kents' relationship with his son. With a frown, he said, "I was hoping you could spend the weekends with me at the mansion. I want to spend some time with you, Lex. See if we can build a new relationship."

"No, God damn it!" Lex yelled, and banged a fist onto the table for emphasis. "I'm spending the summer here!"

"Lex!" Martha said, with disapproval. "We don't swear, or yell, or hit the table during dinner."

Too emotional to stop, Lex yelled, "Didn't you hear what he said? I don't want to spend time with him!"

"Your mother told you to lower your voice," Jonathan said in warning.

Automatically reacting to the tone, Lex muttered, "Sorry."

Lionel hadn't realized until this point, exactly how close Lex had become to his new found family, and he found himself livid. How dare they take away his son? How dare they connect with him, in a way that he hadn't been able to? He glared at Jonathan and said, "Mrs. Kent is not his mother. His mother is dead."

Chaos erupted at the table. Lex jumped out of his chair, and practically dove at his father, ready to attack. Clark jumped up also, and wrapped his arms around Lex's stomach, to hold him in place. Jonathan stood, and yelled at Lionel, "Get out of my house!"

Lex yelled, "I hate you! You hear me you bastard! I hate you!" Struggling to get away from Clark's grasp, even though he knew it was futile, he yelled, "Let me go Clark!"

"No," Clark said with a calm he didn't feel, and tried to make it look like he was having trouble holding on to his brother.

"Mr. Luthor," Martha said, "I'd appreciate it if you could step outside for just a moment."

"Yes, of course," Lionel said. He realized that he'd let his emotions get in the way, and had to remind himself that he was here to reconnect with his son, not to drive him further away. "I'm sorry." He stood, and walked out to the porch, closing the door behind him.

Once the man was out, Lex stopped struggling, and Clark let him go. Martha pointed to the table, looked at Lex, and said, "Park your butt in your chair."

Clark didn't think she was talking to him, but sat down in his chair just in case.

Lex was calmer now that his father was out of the room. He could tell his adoptive mother was upset, and swallowed hard. He sat down and muttered, "Sorry Mom. He just…"

She held a hand up to stop him. "You boys sit quietly for a few minutes, and eat your dinner, while your father and I talk."

Martha walked into the living room, and Jonathan followed her with a sigh. While their parents were arguing in hushed tones near the back door, Clark whispered, "Sorry."

"For what?" Lex whispered back.

"For holding you back."

"Apology not accepted."

Clark darted his eyes over to Lex. Lex saw hurt and surprise in the kid's eyes, and said, "Because you have nothing to be sorry for. You were right to hold me back."

"Oh…" Clark smiled, and said, "… well then you're welcome."

A few minutes later, their parents came back. Jonathan said, "Okay boys, we're going to try this again. Lex, you and I need to work a lot harder at keeping our tempers in check. Your mother wants to have a nice dinner together, and we're going to do that for her, even if we don't like it."

"Okay, I'll try harder."

Martha gave Lex a quick kiss, on her way to the door. Instead of letting Lionel back inside, Martha stepped out, and shut the door behind her. Lionel opened his mouth to speak, but Martha beat him to it. "Mr. Luthor, before we go back inside, I need you to understand a couple of things."

He nodded to show he was listening.

"My family has spent more one on one time with your son over the past two years, then you've spent with him for the past ten years. We were there for him during a difficult time in his life, when you couldn't help him, because you were causing most of his problems. You can hate us for that all you want, but it won't change the bond we have with him; it will only make it stronger. If you truly want to build a new relationship with him, you're going to have to do it with our guidance, or it will turn into the old relationship you had. Jonathan and I love Lex, and want him to be happy. I believe he'll be much happier, if the two of you can have a civil relationship. So we'll help you, for his sake, if you let us."

That was a lot for Lionel to take in, but after a pause, he said, "I would appreciate your help, Mrs. Kent."

"Good. And since we're speaking candidly, there's something else I should mention. I've seen the bruises you've left on Lex."

Lionel clenched his jaw, but maintained eye contact. Martha continued, "You can't continue to damage him like that. Lex will never truly be able to trust you, until you do two things. Number one, talk to him about the times you've lost control, and tell him it won't happen again. And number two; prove that it won't happen again, by not rising to the bait when he tests you, which will probably be often at first. In the heat of the moment, you remember that you're the reason he's acting out, you count to ten in your head, and then you call us to deal with it."

Lionel was furious. He hated this woman for pointing out his past mistakes, and for calling him on it. He hated her for telling him what to do, especially since he could see validity in what she said. He hated her for blatantly pointing out that her and her husband were far better equipped to deal with his son then he was. But mostly, he hated himself. He'd done awful things to Lex, under the false assumption that he'd killed Julian, and he didn't know how to make that right. He ground out, "I'll think about it."

"You do that," she said, and opened the door for them to go back inside.

Once everyone was seated again, Martha said, "Before things got out of hand, Mr. Luthor was talking about spending some time with Lex. I think some supervised visiting would be an excellent idea."

"Supervised?" Lionel asked.

"I don't want to see him, Mom." Lex glared at his father, challenging him to comment on the word.

"I didn't ask you if you wanted to Lex, I said it would be a good idea," she answered, and turned to Lionel. "And yes supervised for now. Tomorrow is Saturday, are you available to spend some time with Lex?"

"But Mooooom…"

Turning to Lex, Martha put a hand over his. "I know you don't want to, Honey, but eventually you'll have to. Wouldn't it be better to start things off with us close by?"

"I guess." He could tell she wasn't going to let him say no.

"Mr. Luthor?" she asked.

"Yes, I have time tomorrow."

"Good. Why don't you come to the farm tomorrow after lunch, and the two of you can visit in the living room for an hour, while I make cookies within hearing distance. If that goes well, then we'll set up another time."

"I'll be here at one o'clock."

"Okay, that's settled. We'll see you at one." She turned to Lex and said, "Why don't you tell your father about the projects we've been doing on the farm this summer."

The conversation that followed was stilted and awkward, but civil. When Lionel was done eating, Martha thanked him for dropping by, which was a polite way of telling him to leave. Taking the hint, he excused himself. As soon as they heard his car on the driveway, Martha said, "You boys clear the table, while Dad and I talk upstairs for a few minutes."

After catching Jonathan up to speed on her conversation with Lionel, and getting his agreement on her assessment of the situation, they came back downstairs. The table was clear, and the boys were playing video games in the living room. Jonathan said, "Turn it off guys, we need to talk about tomorrow."

Clark groaned, but Lex was anxious to hear what they had to say. Clark turned the television off, while Martha sat down next to Lex, and put a hand on his knee. "When I spoke with your father outside, I told him I'd seen the bruises he left on you, and that it needed to stop."

Hearing it said out loud, in front of the whole family, made Lex blush with shame, even though it wasn't something he'd had any control over. "I doubt he took that very well. You need to be careful when you talk to him, Mom. If he did something to hurt you guys, I couldn't take it."

"I'm not afraid of your father, and neither is Pop."

Grabbing her hand in his, Lex said, "But you should be. He's dangerous."

She pulled him into a hug and said, "He's not going to hurt us Lex, he's smart enough to see that he needs our help. He agreed with me tonight." Letting him go, she said, "I also told him to talk to you about the abuse, and to never let it happen again. So now there's a new rule. If your father is physically violent to you, in any way, you call us immediately."

"Okay."

Jonathan said, "This is one of those black and white rules, Lex. Non negotiable."

"I understand. I'd want to call you anyway, it's not going to be a hard rule to follow."

Martha said, "And tomorrow when he comes to visit, I expect you to do your best to stay civil. If you need a break, you come see me, and if I have to mediate, you'd better listen to me."

"I will."

"Do you want to talk about tonight? How are you doing now that he's gone?" she asked.

"My stomach felt like I was riding a roller coaster the whole time he was here, but in retrospect, it went pretty well all things considered. Right now, I'd just like to forget about it, and do something mindless for a while."

"That's fine for now," Jonathan said, "but if you have a problem tonight, you'd better wake one of us up to talk, instead of doing something I wouldn't approve of."

"Yes sir, I will."

Jonathan nodded, and let the boys turn their game back on. Martha patted Lex's knee, and went to do the dishes.

# # #

The following day after lunch, Jonathan and Clark went out in the field to start putting up a new fence, while Lex hovered around the kitchen, looking at the clock every few seconds. At one o'clock sharp, Lionel knocked on the farmhouse door. Martha got both of the Luthors a drink, and left them to talk in the living room.

Lionel asked Lex about school, and for the next forty-five minutes, Lex elaborated on what college life had been like for him over the past two years. When there was a longer pause in the conversation, Martha brought them a plate of warm cookies. She waited until both of them had a bite of food in their mouths, and then turned Lionel, and said, "You have fifteen minutes left to visit today. The two of you need to talk about Julian. I know it's a topic you'd both like to avoid, but that won't help either one of you."

She left the room, to the sound of Lionel choking on his cookie. Lex set his half eaten cookie back on the plate, and kept his eyes on his lap. He damn sure wasn't going to start the conversation.

Lionel cleared his throat, had a drink of ice tea, and said, "Lex, I…"

After an awkward silence, he tried again, "I've had a lot of time to think about you over the past few months. I've thought a lot about that night, and I want you to know that I'm fully convinced of your innocence. If I could go back in time… Well, all I can do now, is apologize for the way our relationship is, and work to make it better."

Lex was too angry to think straight, and said the first thing that popped into his mind, "I begged you not to send me away to school."

Even though Lex wasn't looking at him, or maybe because he wasn't looking at him, Lionel winced at that statement. "I remember."

"You hated me."

"Yes, but I loved you at the same time. I sent you away for both reasons."

"What?" Lex asked, making eye contact.

"I sent you away because I hated you for what I thought you'd done, and I couldn't stand the sight of you. But I also sent you away because I loved you, and I knew I'd only hurt you if you stayed."

"Sending me away did hurt me!"

"Not the way I would have hurt you." Lionel took a deep breath, and took Martha's advice. "I'm ashamed to say this, but I was afraid to let you stay. I was afraid that I'd… well that I'd beat you. If you'd stayed, you might have gone to the nursery, or touched one of Julian's things, or mentioned him in conversation, and I would have lost control."

"Like Christmas," Lex said, not because it was the only time, but because it was the most recent time, that Lionel had hit him because of Julian.

"Yes, like Christmas. That was wrong of me, and I'm sorry. I'm a man who prides himself on not having regrets, and with one revelation from the past, I realize my life is full of them." After a short pause, Lionel added, "It's never going to happen again Lex. I promise."

With a glare, Lex said, "Sure Dad. Whatever helps you sleep at night." Lex stood and called out, "Mom?"

Martha rushed to the living room, "Yes?"

"I want to go help Pop now."

She could tell he needed to escape. "Okay, go ahead."

Lex dashed out, and Lionel called after him, "Lex, please don't…"

The front door slammed behind Lex, on his way out to the field. Martha said, "I think that went well for a first time. If you're available, I'd like to have you over for Sunday dinner tomorrow."

"I'd be happy to come, thank you."

Martha showed him to the door, and sent him on his way.

# # #

The next evening, Lionel arrived with a smile, and brought the Kents a bottle of wine. Once everyone was sitting, Lex noticed his father's mood and asked, "Why are you so happy?"

"Yesterday Luthorcorp acquired two more shares of Bauman Security. That leaves us four short of a corporate take over."

"And I suppose you know just the person to bribe, to get those last four."

"You say bribe, I say persuade."

Lex shook his head, but smiled. This was common ground for the two of them, especially after last summer, when Lex had worked at Luthorcorp. Even when they hated each other, they both could discuss business with detachment. They both understood business etiquette, and knew how to treat others in the business world. It was when things became personal that they disagreed.

The two of them monopolized the rest of the dinner conversation with Luthorcorp business. Clark, bored out of his mind with the whole conversation, asked to be excused as soon as his food was gone. Jonathan and Martha were pleased to see Lex getting along with his father, no matter what the topic was.

When the conversation finally wound down, half an hour after everyone was done eating, Martha said, "We're glad you could come to dinner tonight, Mr. Luthor. Are you going back to Metropolis tomorrow?"

"Tonight actually."

"When will you be available to see Lex again?"

"I'll be back in Smallville next Friday," Lionel said.

"If you'd like to come to dinner again next Friday, you'll be welcome."

"I was hoping the four of you could come have dinner with me, at the mansion, next Friday."

Martha and Jonathan exchanged a look. Martha said, "We'll discuss it, and let you know."

Lionel clenched his jaw, and glared at her, obviously not liking that answer. After having such a good conversation with his son, he'd expected an immediate yes to his invitation. He had power over most of the people he had contact with, and those he didn't have power over, could usually be bought. But because of his son, the Kents had a kind of power over him, and he hated it.

Seeing the hate on his father's face, Lex felt a rush of fear for his adoptive parents. With a big fake smile plastered on his face, Lex said, "Come on Mom, we can't refuse an invitation like that." He could tell from her face, that she wasn't going to agree with him. He turned to Jonathan, hoping he would understand, and said, "We'd love to come to dinner. Right Pop?"

Lionel smiled, pleased that his son wanted to spend time with him.

"No," Jonathan said. "We'll talk about it tonight before we decide."

"But…" Lex started to protest.

Putting a hand over his, Martha said, "Lex, are you eager to go, because you want to see your father, or are you eager to go, because you're afraid he'll try to hurt us if we don't?"

Lex darted his eyes to his father, and saw the surprise on Lionel's face. Lex turned back to Martha, and shrugged, not wanted to answer.

Martha said, "If the two of you are going to break old habits, you need to stop reacting out of fear and anger, because things are different now." She turned to Lionel, and said, "Isn't that right Mr. Luthor?"

His anger had fled the instant he was confronted with the possibility that Lex was afraid to say no to his offer. He wasn't above using fear to control people, but he didn't want that to be a part of his relationship with his son anymore. "Yes, that's right."

Scrutinizing his father, Lex tried to see if he was telling the truth or not. Lionel said, "It's just an invitation Lex. If you aren't ready for it, I'll be happy to come here next Friday. Give me a call tonight and let me know."

"Okay." Lex believed him.

Standing up, Lionel said, "I should really be going. Thank you for an excellent dinner Mrs. Kent."

"You're welcome, we're glad you could come," Martha said, as she showed him to the door.

Once he was gone, Martha started clearing the table, and asked Lex, "Do you want to go?"

He had to think about that for a few minutes, and helped clear the table while he thought. He still had trouble believing that his father had been so understanding, and kept wondering what his ulterior motives were. But at the same time, he wanted to believe that his father really meant what he'd said. Eventually he said, "Yes, I'd like to have dinner at the mansion next weekend."

Jonathan said, "Okay, why don't you go find Clark and play some basketball, while your mother and I talk about it. We'll let you know."

Lex thought about protesting. He was tempted to tell his parents that he was twenty, and could go if he wanted. But he already knew how that scenario would end, and kept his tongue in check. Instead he frowned, nodded in acceptance, and went to find Clark.

After a short discussion, Jonathan and Martha decided to give it a try.

# # #

The following Friday, the family had dinner with Lionel at the mansion. Things went well, and Lionel invited them to come back Saturday afternoon, with promises of lunch, swimming, and horseback riding. Jonathan had too much work to do on the farm, but Martha and the boys agreed to come.

During lunch on Saturday, Martha and Lionel spent most the time talking about restaurants, food, and wine. Once lunch was over, Lionel said, "If everyone's done, we can head out to the stables."

"I need to change into my jeans first," Martha said, "but you guys go ahead. I'll meet you at the stables in a few minutes."

Lionel, Lex, and Clark all walked to the stables. Josh, the man who'd been running the mansion's stables for twelve years, had already gotten four horses saddled for them. Josh smiled at them and said, "They're all ready to go."

"Thank you," Lionel said, and then gestured to Clark and said, "This here is Clark Kent. Clark, this is our stable master, Josh."

Clark nodded politely and said, "We've met once before. He brought Lex's Porsche out to the farm."

"Nice to see you again," Josh said. "Mr. Luthor tells me that you're an experienced rider."

"Yes sir, I am."

Josh put a hand on one of the two mares that were saddled. He said, "This here is Daisy. She's young, she loves to run, and she's full of mischief. Think you can handle her?"

"Yes sir, I think Daisy and I will get alone just fine."

Smiling, Josh turned to Lionel and said, "There are some carrots in the bin for them when you get back."

Lionel nodded, and Josh went back to training a new stallion they'd recently acquired. Lionel walked up to Daisy and patted her on the neck. He turned to Lex and said, "Daisy reminds me so much of Frostbite. Remember how much your mother used to dote on that horse?"

Lex felt his entire body tensing at that unexpected comment, and he automatically said, "Don't talk about Mom."

Shaking his head, Lionel sighed. They'd had this argument more than once. "Don't you think it's time…"

"No! Don't talk about her!" Lex's hands were balled into fists at his sides, and he looked ready to attack or bolt. Clark took a step closer to his brother, and tried to change the subject, "Hey Lex, what's your horse's name."

The Luthor's ignored Clark completely. Taking a step towards Lex, Lionel kept his voice calm and said, "She's been dead for a long time now, son. We should be able to talk about her without it being traumatic."

"Traumatic?" Lex yelled. "She killed Julian! How can that ever not be traumatic?"

"Your mother loved you," Lionel's voice showed barely controlled anger. "The last couple years of her life she was unstable, but she was your mother for eleven years before that."

"You think I don't know that! She was unstable because of you!" Lex yelled. Clark put a hand on Lex's arm, ready to pull him back if he needed to. Lex tried to shrug the hand off, but found himself held tight. The horses, upset by the yelling, moved around nervously.

Jabbing a finger towards Lex, Lionel took another step towards him. "I loved your mother! How dare you imply that her mental illness was my fault!"

"It was your fault!" Lex tried to take a step towards his father, so they would be within touching distance, but Clark forced him to stay where he was.

Lionel took the last step that separated them, and his arm raised half way up to slap Lex. Clark saw it, and was ready to pull Lex back at the last instant. But Lionel's arm stopped mid way in the air, before Clark needed to react. Lex belatedly saw the raised arm, and flinched away. Seeing the flinch, Lionel put his arm down, and took a step back. Remembering what Martha had said, Lionel closed his eyes and counted to ten.

He'd only made it half way to ten, when Lex recovered from his surprise and snarled, "You wanna hit me Dad? Go ahead! It won't change the fact that it's your fucking fault she's dead!"

Lionel's jaw clenched, but his eyes remained closed, and he started the count over in his head.

Martha came in running, and asked, "What in the world is going on? I could hear the shouting all the way across the yard."

Still trying to get out of Clark's grasp to step towards his father, Lex yelled, "What's going on? My heartless bastard of a father thinks it shouldn't be traumatic for me to talk about my mother, but it fucking is!"

Martha could see Lionel struggling to control himself, and wanted to put some distance between father and son before he lost it. She pointed to a spot beside her and said sharply, "Lex! Come here right now!"

Startled by her tone, Lex hunched his shoulders and ducked his head slightly, but made no move to go to her. "You don't understand Mom! He…"

"Alexander Luthor, you come here this instant!"

Wincing at the use of his full name, Lex turned towards her, but hesitated still. Clark gave him a small push to get him moving, and then let go of him completely.

Glaring at the ground, Lex shoved his fists in his pockets, and stalked over to the spot Martha was pointing to.

"Thank you," she said, before turning to Lionel. "Lex and I are going to go talk outside for a few minutes. Please stay here in the stables with Clark."

Lionel gave her a slight nod of understanding. Turning her attention to Lex, Martha linked her arm in his and pulled him towards the large open door that led out to the yard. Once they were outside, Lex opened his mouth to talk, but Martha beat him to it.

"I don't want to hear an explanation until you've calmed down. Let's take a walk to the mansion and back. When you're ready, you can tell me what happened."

The two walked arm and arm across the grounds. By the time they were headed back towards the stables, Lex said, "He brought up my mom, and I couldn't take it."

"What did he say?"

"He mentioned how much she liked her horse, Frostbite, but that's not the point. The point is that it doesn't matter what he says, I don't want to talk about her at all. Ever. I told him not to talk about her, but he just wouldn't shut up. He said it shouldn't be…"

Martha could tell Lex was working himself up again, and interrupted. "Lex."

She stopped walking, and turned towards him. "When I came in, you said it was his fault she's dead. Can you tell me why that is?"

"He knew she was sick. Not just mentally unbalanced, but physically sick. She died of heart failure a few months after Julian died, but Dad didn't even try to get her help."

"How do you know? Weren't you in school when she died?"

"I was, but I know, because my mom's friend, Pamela, told me."

"Pamela?"

"She was hired as a nanny when my mom started having heart problems. She helped take care of me, and later Julian too."

"I see." After a pause, Martha said, "I think you should ask your father to tell you his side of the story."

"No!"

"Don't raise your voice to me please. We're having a calm discussion."

Ashamed, he turned away from her and mumbled, "Sorry."

She turned him back towards her, and pulled him into a hug. "I understand, but you need to work harder at staying calm."

"Okay, I'll try." He hugged her back so hard, that she could barely breath.

She patted his back and let go. "I think you should hear your father's side of the story, so if you can't ask him when we go back in, then I will."

"I don't want to hear what he has to say, Mom," he tried to make her understand.

"There will be plenty of things in life that you're not going to want to do, Lex. That doesn't mean you don't do them."

His only response was to glare at the ground. She said, "If you can't stay calm while your father is telling his side of the story, we'll go straight home, and you can spend the rest of the afternoon in your room."

"I won't be able to stay calm, even if I try," Lex whispered.

"I guess we'll see. I have faith that you can stay calm if you try. Come on, let's see what your dad has to say."

They headed back into the stables, and found Lionel and Clark talking amiably about the horses. Lionel saw them and immediately said, "I'm sorry Lex, I should have known you weren't ready to talk about it."

Lex shrugged, not ready to accept the apology. Martha put her hand in Lex's for comfort and said, "Part of the reason Lex doesn't want you to talk about his mother, is because he blames you for her death. Could you tell us what happened?"

"She died of heart failure."

She could feel Lex's hand gripping hers. She said, "How did that come about? Was she seeing a heart specialist?"

Shaking his head, Lionel said, "She wouldn't even let a doctor near her after Julian died. She first started having heart problems when Lex was eight or nine. We saw a slew of doctors, and they all said the same thing. That she'd eventually need a heart transplant, but it wouldn't be immediately necessary for quite a few years. They put her on a list, and we waited. But after the pregnancy… she changed. She refused to let any doctor touch her. And then once Julian was gone… I was too involved with my own grief to realize just how sick she was. Her death came as a shock. The doctors had assured us that with the right medications, her heart would last until she was in her late forties, but she died at thirty-six. The autopsy showed that she'd been taking other medications. Things that none of our doctors had prescribed to her. Things that were detrimental to her heart."

"You're lying," Lex said, but it was more of a plea then an accusation.

"I'm not saying that I don't carry some blame for her death, I do. But I didn't cause her heart failure."

"You just caused her depression." That was a direct accusation with a raised voice. Martha squeezed Lex's hand in warning.

Turning his attention to the horse beside him, Lionel quietly said, "Yes. Our marriage hadn't been happy for a while. She wanted to know more about my business dealings, and I forced her to stop looking into it. I bullied her into getting pregnant a second time, partially to distract her from my work. Then once the baby came, I didn't believe her depression was serious, and I bullied her into taking care of the baby by herself as much as possible."

"Mother fucking bastard," Lex hissed.

"Lex," Martha said in warning.

"If I could go back in time… but I can't. All I can do, is tell you I'm sorry." Lionel said, looking at Lex again.

"I hate you," said Lex honestly.

"I know."

Martha said, "Maybe we should plan on a horse ride another day."

"Yes, I think that's a good plan," Lionel said.

Clark sighed, disappointed that he wasn't going to get to ride, and wistfully looked at Daisy. Lex saw Clark and said, "No."

Martha, Clark, and Lionel all looked at him with surprise. "Clark and I still want to go. Don't we Clark?"

"Well, I still want to, but it's okay if…"

Walking over to his little brother, Lex put an arm around his shoulders and said, "Clark has had to put up with boring adult conversation for the past five meals we've had together. It's not fair to get him excited about a ride, and then not let him go. If you two aren't up for it, Clark and I can go alone."

Beaming with pride for Lex, Martha said, "I'd still like to go too, if that's alright with you Mr. Luthor."

"Of course you can still ride. My stables are available to your entire family, anytime you'd like to ride."

"I think it would be good if you could come as well Mr. Luthor. Let's just keep the conversation to a minimum." Martha said.

Lionel glanced at Lex to see his opinion. Lex begrudgingly nodded, and Lionel said, "Very well. Let's go."

# # #

While they were riding, Lex and Clark stuck together, and kept their horses well ahead of the two adults. When they got back, everyone was more relaxed. As Lionel was getting off his horse, he turned to Lex, and asked, "Would you still like to stay and swim?"

Lex wasn't sure if he wanted to or not. He wasn't as angry as he had been, but he wasn't happy about being around his father right now either. He looked at Clark, and could tell he obviously still wanted to swim. Before Lex answered, Martha said, "I think we'd better call it an early day today, maybe next time."

Lionel nodded and asked, "Allow me to extend an invitation for lunch and swimming tomorrow then."

"I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to decline," Martha said.

"Why?" Clark asked.

"Because emotions were high today," she said. "I think it would be better if Mr. Luthor came to our house for lunch tomorrow. Give everyone some time to calm down, and then meet again on more neutral ground."

Clark sighed with disappointment. Lex heard it, and said, "Mom?"

"Yes?"

"If things go well, could we come and go swimming next weekend?"

"I don't see why not, as long as Mr. Luthor agrees."

"The mansion is Lex's home," Lionel said, with a tinge of irritation. "He can come and go as he pleases, and invite whomever he wants, whether I'm here or not."

"Home?" Lex asked with a glare. "My home is…"

"Lex!" Martha raised her voice and cut him off. "That's enough. Both of you boys go get in the truck and wait for me."

Lex kept glaring at his father, as he walked towards the door to the stables, with Clark at his side. Once they boys were out of hearing range, Martha said, "Will you come for lunch tomorrow?"

"I'll be there."

"I wanted to let you know that I can see that you're trying to change things between you and Lex. Keep at it, and eventually it will pay off." She turned and left him, before he had time to respond.

She quickly walked to the truck. Lex and Clark were waiting for her, with Clark in the middle and Lex in the passenger seat. As soon as she had the truck on the road, she turned to Lex and said, "When we get home, you're going to spend an hour in your room."

"What? Why?" he asked.

"I want you to have some quiet time, to reflect on the things your father said and did. I know your father makes you angry Lex, but you're going to have to learn to control yourself. I saw Clark holding you back. If he hadn't been there, what do you think would have happened before I got there?"

He really didn't want to talk about it and shrugged his shoulders.

"That's not an acceptable answer."

"I don't know." He slouched lower in his seat.

"I think you do."

"Fine. I wanted to punch him, or at least shove him away from me. But I didn't."

"But you would have." It wasn't a question. The truck was silent for a few miles, and then Martha said, "When we were first talking about visiting with your father, I was more concerned with him being aggressive towards you, but now I see we need to work on your aggression too."

Lex wanted to deny it, but couldn't. But he wasn't about to admit it either. After a short pause, Martha said, "Lionel is trying to change, but if you throw the first punch, I doubt he'll be able to keep himself in check."

"You don't know my father," Lex said. "He says he wants to change, but it's just an act. He'll never really change."

Clark didn't want to rat on his brother, but after hearing what his mom had to say, he thought he should. He mumbled, "I'm sorry Lex, but mom is right."

Glaring at his little brother, Lex said, "Nice. I make sure you get to go horseback riding, and you take her side."

"I'm not taking sides," Clark said, "But I don't want to see you get beat up. I saw Mr. Luthor today. He raised his arm to hit you, and then stopped himself. But if I hadn't been holding you back…"

Frustrated with both of them, Lex turned and glared out the window.

Martha patted Clark's knee in comfort, before she said, "Okay Lex, we've established that you need to work on your temper, so tomorrow after breakfast, you can muck out all the stalls by yourself."

"What?" He sat up and focused his glare on her.

"Your father will be coming for lunch tomorrow. While you're mucking out the stalls, you can think about how calm you're going to be when he's visiting."

"But Moooom, tomorrow's Sunday," he whined. Sunday was the day that Jonathan didn't make the boys do any work on the farm.

"Yes it is," she said firmly.

He scowled out the window, and muttered, "That's great."

She let that comment slide, and said, "If things go well during lunch, maybe we can all go horseback riding again."

Lex didn't comment, and after an awkwardly long pause, Clark said quietly, "Sounds good to me Mom."

When they arrived back at the farm, Lex got out the instant the truck came to a stop, and headed for the house. He didn't want to give Martha another chance to tell him to go to his room, he just wanted to get there, and block everyone out for a while. He stomped up the porch steps, keeping his head down, and almost ran into Jonathan, who'd come out to greet them. Startled, Lex stopped in his tracks. Jonathan gave him a smile. "How'd it go?"

Frowning back over his shoulder at Martha, who was just now getting out of the truck, Lex said, "Awful." He turned back to Jonathan and added, "Mom's being completely unreasonable."

Well this is new, Jonathan thought, and asked, "What happened?"

"Dad and I yelled at each other a little bit, about things I have a legitimate right to be angry about, and mom says I have to go to my room for an hour, like a five year old. And then tomorrow, I have to muck out the stalls by myself. Tomorrow's supposed to be a day off, but according to her, I need to concentrate on controlling my temper around my Dad, when she's the one who forced me to see him this summer in the first place!"

Jonathan was too surprised to react for a few seconds. Lex almost never said anything negative about Martha. The boy often had negative things to say to and about Jonathan when he'd been given some sort of restriction, but when it was Martha, Lex usually was more agreeable.

Martha had been walking towards the porch with Clark while Lex was talking, and had heard most of his rant. She walked up the steps towards him and said, "That's enough! I know you're unhappy with me, and I understand. But that doesn't mean you get to be disrespectful." She was standing in front him now.

Instead of apologizing, Lex crossed his arms and gave her a snide, "I'm not being disrespectful."

Jonathan was about to intervene, but Martha beat him to it. She reached up and grabbed Lex by the left ear. She started pulling him towards the house as she said, "You most certainly are being disrespectful."

Clark's eyes were wide with surprise, and he quickly turned to look at the field where the cows were grazing, not wanting to see or hear what might happen.

Caught off guard, Lex stumbled slightly, before getting his feet under himself, and following her. He winced at a particularly hard tug to his ear, and hunched down slightly to keep it from being yanked so hard. She led him through the front door, and said, "And now, because of it, you can spend the next two hours in your room. If I were you, I'd use that time to think about better ways to deal with your anger."

They had made it to the bottom of the stairs, when she let go of his ear. Standing up straight, he put a protective hand over the red ear, and glared at his mother. "Go on," she said. "I'll come get you when you can come back down."

He looked at the stairs once, and then glared back at her, thinking how utterly unfair it was. He hadn't wanted to visit with his father this summer in the first place, and now she was punishing him for being angry, for something he deserved to be angry about.

"If you need help, I'm sure Pop can see you to your room," she said. Her eyes darted to a spot behind Lex, where Jonathan was patiently waiting to see if he was needed.

Understanding the implications of that statement, Lex took the stairs two at a time. Halfway up, he muttered, "I didn't want to be around you anyway."

Both parents were able to understand the muttered statement, and Jonathan took a step towards Lex, with his lips in a thin line of irritation. Martha put a hand on his arm and said, "It's alright, Jonathan."

"No it's not." They heard a door slam upstairs. Jonathan patted Martha's hand before removing it from his arm. "I'll be back in a minute."

"He's had a rough afternoon," she said in his defense.

"I know he's having a hard time right now, but that's not an excuse for what I just saw. He needs a quick reminder on respect."

She bit at her lower lip, and finally nodded to show her reluctant approval. He headed up the stairs, and went to Lex's bedroom. The door was shut, but he could hear angry muttering from the other side before he knocked.

Lex had been going over the injustice of it all, when the knock surprised him. Realizing this was probably a very bad sign, he swallowed once and said, "Come in."

Jonathan came in, and shut the door behind him. He sat on the edge of the bed and said, "Come here."

Taking a step backwards, Lex said, "Why?"

"You're going across my lap, and then we're going to talk about you showing your mother some respect."

With wide, pleading eyes, Lex shook his head no. How had his day deteriorated so quickly? "But that's not fair. You didn't hear the things my Dad said. I had a right to be angry."

"You're not talking me out of this. Come here, or I'll come get you. Either way you're going over my knee."

Tears of frustration threatened, while Lex thought about it. Jonathan made a move to stand, but before he got all the way up, Lex was by his side. They considered each other for a few seconds, before Jonathan grabbed a wrist, and tugged the boy across his thighs. After six solid swats, he stopped and said, "You mother loves you and wants you to be happy. She's trying to help you."

Lex had been expecting a lecture, and directives, not a gently stated comment on love. He squirmed, thinking about all the love he'd gotten from Martha over the past two years. "I know."

Jonathan swatted him six more times and said quietly, "When she's punishing you, and you show her the kind of disrespect I saw in the living room, it makes me reevaluate the level of respect I have for you."

Those words hurt Lex far more then any of the swats, and tears spilled over his eyes. "I'm sorry."

Thinking he'd gotten his point across, Jonathan helped Lex stand, and stood up with him. He pulled the boy into a hug. After a few minutes of quiet sniffling, Lex said, "I do respect mom, I was just angry."

Jonathan squeezed him a little harder. "Sounds like it's been a rough day."

"Yeah," Lex agreed and tried to stop crying.

Jonathan patted his back, and then let him go. "So you'll have a lot to think about for the next two hours."

Lex nodded with a frown, and Jonathan went back downstairs to get the full story from his wife.

Sitting down on his bed, Lex was struck with a thought. The last time Martha had pulled him to the stairs by his ear, and sent him to his room, had been two years ago. At the time, he'd been terrified that she would kick him out, and he'd been profusely respectful. Now he knew she'd never kick him out, and he'd been horrible. He cringed when he remembered the things Jonathan had said earlier in the summer about teenage rebellion. Lex didn't want to equate what he'd done today with teenage behavior. He was an adult. Then he thought about Clark, who really was a teenager, and noted that Clark's behavior had been much more mature then his own. Lex lay down and pulled the pillow over his head in embarrassment.

Two hours later, Martha came to get him. She knocked on the door, and was a little startled when Lex pulled it open. He pulled her into a hug and said, "I'm so sorry Mom. Really sorry."

She hugged him back. "I know, and I forgive you. Dinner's almost ready. Are you hungry?"

He nodded, and the two of them went downstairs together.

# # #

The following morning, Lex was much calmer then he had been the day before. But that wasn't surprising to him. The less time he spent with his father, the less volatile his emotions were. While he mucked out the stalls, he took Martha's words to heart, and told himself he was going to remain calm the entire time his father was visiting. When he was done, he took a shower and found Martha making lunch in the kitchen.

"It's done."

She gave him a quick kiss on the cheek and said, "Thank you for having a better attitude about it today."

With some color in his cheeks he said, "Sorry."

"Hey now, I already forgave you for yesterday."

"I know." He leaned against the counter and watched her chop celery. "I just…"

She stopped and looked at him. "You just what Sweetie?"

Blushing even more, he looked at the floor and said, "I just feel so stupid when I look back on what I did, and realize I was acting like an eight year old. Clark's fourteen, and he's the one who held me back."

Drying her hands on a towel first, Martha took Lex's hand in hers and said, "In the two years we've known each other, you've matured by leaps and bounds. When you first came to stay with us, you wouldn't have even realized that yesterday's behavior was immature. Don't be so hard on yourself. After the kind of abuse you suffered, it's not at all surprising that you have trouble controlling your emotions, especially when Lionel is around."

The only response she got was averted eyes, and a nod at the floor. She pulled him into a quick hug and said, "Set the table please."

Half an hour later, Lionel had arrived, and they were all having lunch together. The conversation stayed centered on buying and selling horses, so Jonathan and Lionel were able to talk without glaring daggers at each other. Lex stayed calm through the entire meal, entering his opinions here and there. Once everyone was done, Martha suggested they go for a horseback ride to the lake. Jonathan and Clark went to saddle the horses, while Martha, and Lex cleaned up the lunch dishes. Lionel had offered to help, but Martha wouldn't hear of it, and had him sit on a barstool at the counter to visit while she and Lex worked.

When the dishes were almost done, Martha accidentally spilled half a glass of water on her shirt. With an irritated sigh, she said, "Looks like I need to change before I go riding."

"Go ahead. I'll finish this," Lex said.

She headed up the stairs, and Lex put the last few dishes in the dishwasher before turning it on. He turned and realized he was alone in a room with his father for the first time in a long time. Feeling uneasy, Lex looked out the window and said, "Well… I guess we should go out to the barn."

Lionel had realized before Lex that they were alone together, and he hated the look of worry that passed over Lex's face before he suggested they go outside. Lionel stood up and said, "I don't understand or condone this newfound fear you seem to have whenever we're alone together. It's ridiculous. I told you I wasn't going to hit you anymore."

Any calm that he had been able to keep throughout the morning disappeared. He glared at his father and walked around the counter into the dinning area to face him. "I am not afraid of you."

Mild amusement laced his words, as Lionel said, "Come now Lex, neither of us believe that." His expression grew serious and he added, "But if I think for one second that the Kents are turning you against me, you'll have a reason to be afraid."

Lex saw red, and his hand balled into a fist. He punched his father in the jaw, without any forethought. Lionel stumbled backwards, bumped into the china hutch, and fell to the floor. The sound of breaking glass sounded distant to Lex. He looked at his father, and then back to his fist, and realized for the first time in his life, he was physically stronger then Lionel.

He wasn't aware of taking the steps that separated him and his father, but he found himself looming over him. He saw a look he didn't recognize on his father's face. It was fear. Lionel pushed himself into a sitting position, held his hands up in surrender, and said, "Lex, calm down."

"I'm not afraid of you!" Lex yelled, and lunged for his father, shoving him back down to the ground.

Martha was coming back out of her bedroom, when she heard a loud thunk followed by breaking glass. She raced through the hall, and down the stairs. At the top of the stairs, she saw Lex sitting on top of Lionel next to the dining room hutch. Half way down the stairs, Lex had punched Lionel in the face. Martha yelled, "Lex! Stop that right now!"

By the time she'd gotten to the bottom of the stairs, Lex had slugged his father quite a few times, while Lionel held his arms up trying to block the blows. Running to them, Martha reached down to pull Lex off his father, but the second she grabbed his punching arm, Lex reacted by trying to fling off whatever was holding him back, without looking behind him.

"Oh!" Martha exclaimed in surprise, as she was flung backwards. She landed on her side, a few feet away from Lex.

Hearing the distressed noise his mother had made, Lex stopped punching as suddenly as he had started. Turning to look behind him, he saw Martha on the floor, and realized instantly that he had made her fall. With an expression of horror on his face, Lex scrambled up to a standing position. He looked back at Lionel. Lionel's eyebrow and lip were bleeding, and he was scooting backwards on the floor, away from his son.

Pushing herself up to a standing position, Martha said in the gentlest tone she could muster, "It's going to be okay, Lex, just calm down."

Appalled by what he'd done, Lex's eyes darted back and forth between Lionel and Martha a couple of times. Martha reached her hand towards him and took a step closer. His entire body started shaking, as he backed away. His mind repeated a mantra of, No, no, no, No! Needing to escape before he could hurt someone else, Lex ran towards the front door.

She saw him making a run for it and called out, "Lex!"

He didn't stop. The keys to the Porsche were on a small table by the door, and Lex grabbed them on his way to the door.

"Alexander Luthor, don't you dare leave this house!"

Without a pause, he yanked the door open and ran to his car.

"Lex!" she called after him, and ran to the door.

Jonathan had been headed towards the house to tell everyone the horses were ready, when he saw Lex running to his Porsche, and heard Martha calling out to him. He ran towards the Porsche, but Lex was in and had the car started, before he got to it.

Dirt and gravel were kicked up from under his tires as Lex pushed the gas pedal to the floor. He almost lost control of the car, as it lurched forward, but was able to steer himself onto the main road. As he watched the farm getting smaller in the rearview mirror, his shaking got worse, and he had to grip the steering wheel tighter.

The tight grip turned his knuckles white, which contrasted sharply with dark red blood on his left hand. He wiped his knuckles on his jeans, trying to get the blood off, only to realize some of the blood was his own. He kept wiping at it, as if getting rid of the blood would erase what he'd done. Soon the wiping made his knuckles bleed more, and he stopped trying. Holding on to the steering wheel again, he watched as a drip of blood trailed down his hand and onto his wrist. The blood dripped off his wrist, and splattered onto his jeans. Lex felt tears starting, and drove even faster down the deserted road.

Back at the house, Martha met Jonathan halfway across the yard. "What happened?" he asked.

"It's my fault. I left them alone for a few minutes to change my shirt, and when I came back down, Lex was sitting on top of Lionel, and punching him. I tried to stop him, but ended up startling him instead. He shoved me back before he even realized who it was, and I fell. Once he saw what he'd done, he ran."

By the time she was done with her explanation, Clark was standing beside them. Jonathan thought about trying to go after Lex in the truck, but he knew the truck would never catch up to the Porsche. He sighed and turned to Clark. "Do you think you could follow him Clark?"

"Yes, I know I can."

Jonathan put a hand on Clark's shoulder and said, "Follow him, and try to talk him into coming home, but under no circumstances are you to force him to come home, the way you did last time. If he won't come home, you call me and let me know where he is so I can come get him. Got it?"

"Yes, Sir," Clark blushed slightly, remembering when he'd punched Lex and carried him home.

Martha added, "Tell him I know he didn't mean to push me. It was an accident, I'm not mad, and he's not in trouble for it."

"Okay. Anything else?"

"Tell him that I said running away from his problems won't solve them," Jonathan said. He patted Clark's shoulder and said, "Good luck."

Clark looked at the house to make sure Lionel wasn't watching, and then super sped down the road towards Lex.

Jonathan and Martha walked towards the house together. "I shouldn't have made him see his dad," she said.

He put his arm around her, and said, "Don't second guess yourself, Sweetheart. Lex could never accept living without wealth, which means he's going to have contact with his father, no matter what we say or do. If we weren't helping them this summer, who knows how much worse things would have been later on when they did meet up. Lex already pulled a gun on him once."

They made it to the house, and found Lionel at the kitchen sink, dabbing the blood off his face with a paper towel. Martha went to him and said, "Here, let me take a look."

He turned so she could see him. She said, "Let's go to the bathroom. I have some butterfly band aids that will keep that cut closed."

Following her in a daze, Lionel let her push him down to sit on the lid of the toilet. He kept his hands on his knees while she cleaned up the blood, put some antibacterial ointment on the cut, and bandaged it up. Once she was done, she said, "Any other injuries?"

"What?" he asked, clearly unaware of what she'd asked. He couldn't stop himself from wondering if this was what Lex had felt like every time the tables were turned.

"Are you hurt anywhere else? Somewhere under your clothes that I can't see."

"Oh. No."

"Come on then," she said, and walked back to the dining room.

Jonathan was picking up broken pieces of china from the floor next to the hutch, waiting for them. Once they were all in the dining room, Martha sat down, and gestured for the men to sit as well. "I was gone for less then five minutes. What happened?" she asked, directing her question to Lionel.

"I told him not to be afraid of me. It made him angry."

The room was silent for a few minutes. "You said that, and he just attacked?" Martha asked.

Not liking the tone of disbelief in her voice, Lionel said, "The two of you have been conspiring against me this whole time! Corrupting my son's opinion of me!"

Snorting with disgust, Jonathan said, "Bullshit. He would have refused to see you this summer if it weren't for us. If I wanted him to hate you, he would. Believe me when I say, I could talk him into it with a few sentences. He has a reason to hate you. You made him hate himself for years for a murder he didn't commit. Don't blame us for your mistakes."

Martha put a hand over her husband's to calm him down and said, "The point is, that we want Lex to be happy. He's not going to be truly happy until he either cuts you out of his life entirely, or makes peace with you. So now the question is what do you want? Are you still willing to keep trying after today?"

Swallowing down the disgust he felt for himself, Lionel said quietly, "Lex is all I have left."

She put her free hand over Lionel's on the table. "Okay, then wait here with us until he comes home, and Jonathan and I will continue to try and help the two of you work things out."

Shaking his head, Lionel said, "When he comes home? After a blowup like that, he won't be back for weeks."

Squeezing his hand in comfort, she said, "He's changed. I bet he'll be back before dinner. I'd appreciate it if you could at least stay here until it gets dark out."

He doubted that Lex would be back, but Lionel was shaken up from the fight, and didn't want to get in his car and drive. He said, "Okay, I'll stay."

She let go of his hand, and said, "Why don't you go rest on the couch for a little while. We have some painkillers in the bathroom cabinet if you need some."

# # #

Clark found the Porsche with no trouble, but he wasn't sure what to do after that. He could jog next to the car, and wave at Lex through the passenger side window, but Lex was driving dangerously fast, and Clark didn't want to startle him. He could continue to jog behind the car and hope Lex noticed. He could run out in front of the car and stand still, hoping Lex would stop when he saw him on the side of the road.

Making a decision, Clark raced ahead a couple of hundred feet, and stopped by the side of the road. Turning towards the oncoming Porsche, he started waving his arms above his head to get Lex's attention.

Lex saw the figure before he could tell who it was, and slowed down. When he got close enough to see Clark, he slowed down even more, trying to understand what was going on. When the answer clicked in his brain, he stomped on the gas, and yelled as he passed him, "Go home, Clark!"

Thinking that could have gone better, Clark wondered what he should do next. His dad had said he couldn't force Lex to come home, so instead of picking the car up over his head, and running it back to the farm, Clark ran to catch up to it again. He jogged to the passenger side, opened the door, sat down, and closed the door again, before Lex could blink.

Startled, Lex almost lost control of the car. "Jesus, Clark! What the hell?"

Once he was sure Lex had control again, Clark checked the speedometer. "Jeez Lex, you're going a hundred and twenty with no seatbelt! You need to slow down."

Lex stomped on the break, and the Porsche skidded to a stop, almost causing it to roll. He growled at Clark, "Get the fuck out of my car!"

Clark slouched in his seat, and looked at his lap. "No."

"Arrrg!" Lex shoved open his door, got out of the car, and kicked the side of the car, leaving a heal size dent in the side. Pacing in the dirt, Lex yelled to himself, "Screw all of you! Screw Dad, and Pop, and Mom, and everyone! If I want to leave, then I God damn well can leave!"

Clark got out, and stood beside the car, watching Lex. Lex saw him, and shouted, "You're going to have to knock me out if you plan to drag me home!"

Upset by the things Lex had said, Clark glared, and yelled back, "Believe me, I'd like to right now, but Dad said I couldn't!"

"That's great! So the two of you talked about this, and set up some ground rules before you came to fetch me like a runaway puppy. Perfect."

Refusing to answer, Clark got back in the car and waited to see what Lex would do. After several seconds of loud cursing, Lex got back into the car. He took off, headed in the same direction as before, and said, "I guess you're coming with me for a nice long ride then, because I'm not going home, and I can't make you get out."

"Fine."

"Great."

After a few minutes of silence, Clark said, "Are you trying to kill yourself? Slow down to seventy and put your seatbelt on, or I'll break the car."

Glowering, Lex yanked the seatbelt on, and let his foot off the gas. After a few more minutes, they were in the main town of Smallville, and Lex slowed way down. He made his way to the main freeway entrance, and brought it back up to seventy as he headed for Metropolis.

Thinking that Lex was slightly calmer, Clark said, "Mom wanted me to tell you that she knows it was an accident, and that she's not mad."

Feeling his eyes filling again, Lex shook his head, not believing his brother. He whispered, "I pushed her, Clark. I made her fall."

"It was an accident, Lex."

"I'm just like him, you know. Just like my father. A violent fucker who lashes out at the people I love."

"That's crap," Clark said with conviction. "You're nothing like him. Remember when I pushed that bail of hay on you because I was pissed? Does that me a violent… jerk? How about when I punched you to make you come home? We all make mistakes. You wanna know what Dad said?"

Crying too much to continue driving, Lex pulled over on the side of the freeway, and parked. Clark said, "Dad said running away from your problems won't solve them. Mr. Luthor tries to run away from his problems by burying them, or hiding them. Our family admits it when we screw up. We accept whatever consequences there are, and try to make things right."

After a few minutes of silence, Lex wiped his face, turned to Clark, and said, "Mom's really not mad?"

"Really."

"She's not hurt?"

"No."

"What about Pop? He's got to be pissed that I hurt Mom."

"I don't think so." Clark shrugged, not knowing the real answer. "He didn't seem mad when he told me to get you. More worried."

Looking down at the steering wheel, Lex tried to decide what to do. Clark said, "We should go home Lex."

"I don't know if I can."

"Come on, don't make me play the annoying little brother who rats you out to Dad the next time we need to stop somewhere. Play the awesome big brother who lets his younger brother take a turn at driving the Porsche once we get back on the dirt road to our house."

Lex hadn't thought it possible, but that comment made him smile. "Okay, you win. We'll go home, but no way am I letting you drive my car before you even have your learners permit."

"I drive the tractor all the time!" Clark said in his defense.

"Yeah, it doesn't have quite the same horsepower."

The two boys smiled at each other for a second, and then Lex looked back at the steering wheel. He said quietly, "Thanks Clark. For everything."

"It's okay. You'd do the same for me."

Knowing that was true, Lex nodded, and pulled back into traffic, looking for the next exit, so he could turn around and head home.

The ride back to the farm was mostly quiet. Clark turned on some music, knowing that Lex needed time to think. A mile away from the house, Clark said, "Pull over. I'll go in first, and pretend that I've been in the field."

He pulled over, and as his little brother got out, Lex said, "Hey."

"Yeah?"

"I owe you one."

Clark shut the door with a smile, and disappeared from Lex's sight.

# # #

Soon after Lionel had sat down, Jonathan went to the barn to 'help' Clark unsaddle the horses. Martha had decided to scrub the kitchen sink and wash the windows, telling Lionel that cleaning always helped calm her nerves. Lionel spent his time sitting on the couch, wondering what in the world he would say to his son, if he did come back.

Jonathan took his time unsaddling the horses, brushing each one down as he went. He was just about to go out to the field, when Clark appeared in front of him. He could tell by Clark's expression that things had gone well. Clark said, "He'll be here any minute."

Jonathan put an arm around his son's shoulders, and headed them towards the house. "I'm proud of you son."

"Thanks… Hey Dad?"

"Yeah?"

"Is Lex in a lot of trouble?"

"Not as much trouble as he thinks he's in. Why?"

Clark bit his lip once, and said, "I don't want to get him in even more trouble, because he's really scared, but I don't think he'll tell you, probably because he doesn't even think it's bad, but I…"

"Slow down Clark. If you know Lex was doing something dangerous, you need to tell me about it no matter how much trouble he's in. Remember when you took off to get him from Metropolis? You were in serious trouble, and Lex still told me that you used your abilities on that security guard. He told me, because he knew it was the right thing to do, and that you couldn't do it yourself. Now you need to do the same for him."

He knew his father was right, but he still didn't like doing it behind Lex's back. With a sigh he said, "He was going over a hundred miles per hour, and he wasn't wearing a seat belt."

Clark felt his father's arm twitch at that news. Jonathan took a deep breath, and then squeezed Clark's shoulder. "Thanks for telling me son."

"You'll give him a chance to tell you himself right?"

"I will."

They both saw the Porsche pulling in to the driveway, and stood by the spot, waiting to see him. Lex parked, turned off the car, and darted a glance at Jonathan through the window. He could tell from his expression, that Jonathan was glad he'd come home. With that knowledge in place, he got out of the car, and stood next to the car. Staring at the ground, he waited to hear what his pop had to say.

Jonathan pulled the boy into a tight hug and said, "I'm proud of you for coming home. I know it wasn't easy."

Hugging back, Lex whispered, "I'm sorry about Mom."

"I know."

Lionel could hardly believe his ears, when he heard the distinct sound of his son's Porsche pulling into the driveway. He stood up from the couch, and saw Martha hastily putting away her cleaning supplies. They walked to the front door together. Through the window, Lionel could see Jonathan hugging Lex. Martha opened the door, and rushed out to give Lex a hug as well. Lionel felt like an outsider, intruding on a family moment.

Lex felt another set of arms wrap around him, and knew it was Martha. Letting go of Jonathan, he turned so he could pull Martha into a better hug. "Are you okay?" he asked.

"I'm fine. Are you okay?" she asked, noticing the blood on his hand.

"I'm so sorry."

She patted his back, and kissed the side of his cheek. "I accept your apology. Now you need to accept mine."

"What?" he asked, as he let her go.

"I'm sorry I left you two alone. I should have known better."

Feeling worse instead of better, Lex said, "You shouldn't have to babysit us every second, Mom. There isn't any part of this that's your fault."

"I made you see him in the first place. Some of it is my fault." She saw him shake his head, and knew he was feeling too guilty about what had happened to think rationally. "Let's go talk about this in the house. I asked your father to stay, and he agreed."

Lex's head jerked around to the front door. He saw Lionel standing there, and felt his stomach churn. "He's still here?"

Putting an arm around Lex's shoulders, Jonathan got his attention away from Lionel. Knowing they were far enough away that Lionel couldn't hear them, Jonathan asked quietly, "Who threw the first punch son."

"Me," Lex said, wishing it weren't true.

"Why?"

"He was belittling me for being afraid of him, and threatening to hurt all of you if you turned me against him."

After thinking about it for a few minutes, Jonathan said, "I don't think it was right of you to strike out first, but I would probably have done the same in your shoes. I've wanted to sock him one, since the first day I met you, so I can't be angry with you for it."

Martha said, "Lex, Honey, if you decide that you want to cut your father out of your life for good, we'll support you, and help you find a job. But if you want to continue going to college, you're going to have to make peace with him. I'm not saying you have to apologize for hitting him, I'm saying you need to go in there and let him know that you won't let it happen again."

Amazed that his parents weren't angry, Lex said, "Really? I mean, I thought…" he trailed off, not sure what he thought. He'd been expecting some kind of anger and punishment, not acceptance.

Understanding, Jonathan said, "If it were anyone else, things would be different. It's not okay for you to lose control, or start a fistfight. But I'm not going to punish you for hitting the person who abused you."

"This time," Martha amended. "If it happens again, we'll have to rethink that."

Reluctantly, Jonathan nodded in agreement. "Let's go inside," he said.

Lionel watched them talking in the yard, and wondered what they were saying. He thought about going to join them, but couldn't make his feet work. When Lex had turned to look at him with an unhappy expression, he felt overwhelming distrust for the Kents again.

Jonathan and Lex walked side by side to towards the porch, with Martha and Clark walking together behind them. Lionel stood still, and waited.

Lex walked up the porch steps, and stopped a couple of feet away from his father. When Lex was close enough, he took a good look at his father's face. He could see bruising, swelling, and scabbed over cuts. The words, "I'm sorry," slipped out of his mouth. After they were said, he realized they were true.

"Me too," Lionel answered. He was sorry. Sorry for every time Lex had been on the receiving end.

Unable to keep eye contact, Lex turned his face towards the kitchen window and said, "It was wrong of me to attack you, and I won't let it happen again."

All of Lionel's fears about the Kents turning Lex against him were quelled in that moment. He took the step that separated them, and to everyone's surprise, pulled Lex into a hug.

Startled, Lex stood stiffly in his father's embrace, and waited for it to be over, while holding his breath. Lionel said, "It was wrong of me to attack you, every time I did it, and I won't let it happen again."

Lex found it easier to believe him this time, and felt his father let him go. He let out the breath he'd been holding, and nodded to show he'd heard him.

Smiling, Martha said, "Why don't you all have a seat in the living room, while I go take care of Lex's hand."

"It's fine, Mom. You don't…"

"Come on," she said, grabbing his wrist, and pulling him into the house and towards the bathroom.

With a sigh, he let himself be led to the bathroom. Martha was quick and efficient, and soon he was back in the living room, sitting next to Clark on the couch. Jonathan was in a rocking chair, while Lionel was in an easy chair on the opposite side of the coffee table.

Martha was the first to speak. "I think it's clear that the two of you…" she looked first at Lex and then at Lionel, "…have unresolved issues, and need help keeping your emotions under control when those issues come up. I suggest using a phrase to indicate to the other that you're getting upset and need to take a break. Something like, 'Let's take a five minute break.' Or, 'I need a minute.' Whatever the phrase is, make it specific, and use the same phrase each time."

Father and son exchanged a look, trying to see what the other thought of the idea. Before they could comment, she continued, "I doubt either one of you want things to get physical again. So, you both need to agree to respect the other person when they say it's time to back off for a few minutes. Do you think you can do that?"

"Yes," Lionel said.

"I guess," Lex agreed.

"Good. Let's practice it a couple of times. Both of you stand up please and face each other."

"Moooom," Lex whined. He wanted to forget about the day, not relive the bad parts.

Lionel stood and faced his son.

"Stand up please," Martha repeated, keeping her tone firm.

With a groan, he stood and faced his father. Martha said, "Okay Lex, say something hurtful to your father, and then Mr. Luthor, you say 'I need a five minute break,' and both of you step back and wait to calm down."

The two men looked at each other, trying to read the other's thoughts. After a few seconds, Lex opened his mouth and then closed it again. It was much easier to say hurtful things when he was angry. Looking away he said, "I blame you for mom's death."

"I…" Lionel was about to say, 'I know', but stopped himself in time. He wasn't actually angry, but for the sake of practice, he said, "I need a five minute break."

Lex sat back down, while Lionel walked behind the easy chair he'd been sitting in, and stood waiting. After a short pause, Martha said, "Good. Okay Mr. Luthor, your turn. Get closer again, and then say something hurtful to Lex."

They did, and Lionel said, "I hate the Kents for being close to you when I'm not."

Lex clenched his jaw, and his hands balled into fists. Martha held her breath to see what he would do, and Clark tensed, ready to jump in and intervene if necessary. After a deep breath, Lex said stiffly, "I need a five minute break." He turned and walked to the dinning room. Everyone could still see him, but the distance helped.

Lionel sat in the easy chair, and looked at Martha. She gave him an encouraging nod.

After a couple of minutes of Lex pacing around the dining room, he came back to the living room and said, "No more practice today. Okay Mom?"

She cocked her head to the side, thinking about it, and he added, "It's a good idea. It's much better then having no plan at all, but could we please hold off on practice until next weekend?"

Turning to Lionel, she asked, "How did it work for you?"

"Well Lex didn't really upset me this time, but with some practice, I can see it being a valuable tool."

"Alright then," she said, "we'll practice again next weekend."

Relieved, Lex sat down on the couch and said, "Thanks mom."

"Don't be so quick to thank me, we still need to talk about you running out of here today."

Blushing, Lex darted his eyes over to Lionel, and then back to his mom, hoping she would understand that he didn't want Lionel to be in the room for the upcoming conversation.

Quick to reassure him, she said, "But that's a conversation for later."

He nodded with relief. She turned to Lionel and said, "I would invite you to dinner Mr. Luthor, but that might be pushing our luck."

Smiling, he stood up, and said, "I need to get going anyway, I have a long drive to Metropolis ahead of me."

"Thank you for staying."

"Of course." He turned to the two boys on the couch and said, "Lex, Clark, I'll see you both next weekend." He turned to Jonathan and Martha and said, "Thank you for… well for everything. I'll call you Friday morning, and we can make plans for next weekend."

Martha walked him to the door, and as soon as she saw his car driving away, she went back to the living room. With a displeased expression, she asked her son, "Did you, or did you not, hear me yell at you to stay put."

Looking at his lap, Lex whispered, "I heard you."

"And?"

"I just couldn't stay."

"Look at me when we're having a conversation please."

He reluctantly looked up at her. She sat down on the coffee table in front of him, so they could be at eye level. "Couldn't? You were physically incapable of staying in the room?"

"Maybe," his eyes refused to keep contact with hers.

She let it go for now. "Okay, let's say you couldn't stay in the room. That most certainly does not mean that you had to get in your car and race out of here like the devil was after you."

Jonathan added, "You were much too emotional to be driving, it wasn't safe."

"I know," he agreed.

Martha held out her hand in front of him and said, "Give me your car keys. You're grounded from driving for the rest of the summer."

His face and ears heated up as he dug into his pocket and pulled out the keys. He handed them to her, and said, "Okay."

"How unsafe was your driving?" Jonathan asked.

Lex's eyes darted over to Clark. He knew if he lied, Clark would tell on him. "Pretty unsafe," Lex said while scowling, and wishing his brother was somewhere else.

"Lex," Jonathan's tone was one of warning.

"Very unsafe."

Jonathan came and sat down on the coffee table beside his wife, so he could look Lex in the eye. "Give me the details please."

"Come on, Pop. I'm already grounded, can't we just leave it at that?"

"No."

Turning to Clark, Lex hissed, "Don't you have something better to do then sit here and watch me getting in trouble?"

Hurt by those words, Clark opened his mouth to say something, but before he could, Jonathan said, "Hey." He grabbed Lex's chin and turned his face so they were making eye contact. "Don't take your anger out on Clark. He went after you because I asked him to, and he's here because your mother told him to sit in the living room with everyone. It's not his fault you're in trouble, and it's not even his fault he happens to be here while we're talking about it. Now answer my question."

"I was driving too fast for that road," Lex said, thinking this was the safest thing to say.

He heard Clark snort beside him. He couldn't turn his face, but he darted glaring eyes in his little brother's direction.

"Do you think this is funny Clark?" Jonathan asked.

"No, Sir."

Turning back to the older boy, Jonathan asked, "How fast was too fast?"

"Well… I wasn't really looking at the speedometer." As soon as the words were out of this mouth, Lex could see disappointment flicker in his pop's eyes, and Clark's words came rushing back to him. Our family admits it when we screw up.

Jonathan opened his mouth, but before he could speak, words came tumbling out of Lex's mouth, "But Clark did, and told me I was going a hundred and twenty without a seatbelt."

Martha gasped and put a hand over her mouth. Jonathan let go of Lex's chin, and patted his knee in approval. "Thank you for being honest with me, son."

"A hundred and twenty without a seatbelt!" Martha yelled.

Wincing, Lex looked down at his lap and said quietly, "Yeah."

"A hundred and twenty without a seatbelt," Martha stated again, in an unpleasantly calm voice.

"I'm sorry," Lex offered.

"That is so far beyond acceptable, I just…" Too angry to continue, Martha turned to her husband.

After they exchanged a look, Jonathan said, "Clark, go shoot some hoops, or take a walk."

More then ready to leave, Clark jumped out of his seat and muttered, "Thanks Dad," on his way to the front door.

Feeling his stomach lurch, Lex tried to think of some way to defend what he'd done. "I didn't even think about what I was doing, I was just trying to get away."

"You stay put, your mother and I are going to go talk on the porch for a few minutes."

"Yes, Sir."

His parents exchanged another look. Unlike Clark, who used the term often, Lex almost never called Jonathan 'Sir', unless he knew he was in trouble.

Once they were on the porch, Martha started pacing. Jonathan leaned against the railing and waited for her to calm down. Talking more to herself then him, she said, "If he can't be trusted to drive safely, then he should be grounded for a year. Or better yet, he won't be allowed to drive cars that can get up past seventy. He needs a car that won't start unless you have a seatbelt on. A hundred and twenty… That's just insanity!"

When she was done, she stood still, and looked at her husband. He walked to her and pulled her into a hug. "He was scared. It was a mistake on his part, not a deliberate act of defiance."

With a sigh, she nodded into his chest. "I know, it's just terrifying to think of him going that fast at all."

"I agree." He kissed the top of her head, and said, "And I'm going to spank him for it, but I think that, plus being grounded for the summer, is enough."

She thought about it for a few seconds. Now that she'd had a chance to calm down, she could think more clearly. "Okay. You're right."

He let her go, and said, "Do you want to talk to him now, or after?"

"Now. I think we should present a united front."

With a nod, he opened the door for her.

When his parents had left, Lex had leaned his head back against the back of the couch, closed his eyes, and groaned. Thoughts of getting spanked wouldn't leave his mind. No way am I getting out of this without a spanking. But I confessed, and Pop said he was proud of me. And he said I wasn't in trouble for attacking Dad. But that doesn't mean he won't spank me for something else. Mom was really pissed. That by itself could get me spanked. Damn it! This summer was supposed to be fun! Instead I get in trouble twice. What was I thinking?

Groaning again, he shifted forward, and rested his head in his hands, with his elbows on his knees. "Stupid," he muttered.

He heard the door open, and sat up straight, turning towards the front door. His parents came in together, and sat back down on the coffee table in front of him. Martha put a hand on his knee and said, "I know this has been an emotional couple of weekends for you, and I understand that you were just trying to escape, and not trying to hurt yourself. But driving without a seatbelt is reckless in the best of times, and you'd better never do it again."

Thinking this was sounding better then he'd hoped, Lex nodded and said, "I won't."

She leaned forward and took his hand in hers. "If you do, you'll be grounded from driving for a year instead of a month, and I'll make you install a failsafe in your car, so you can't turn it on without the seatbelt buckled."

Swallowing down his embarrassment, he nodded and said, "Yes, Ma'am," to his lap.

Squeezing his hand once, she let it go, and turned to her husband. Jonathan said, "I assume you were doing a hundred and twenty on the main road to Smallville."

"Yes, Sir."

"What's the speed limit on that road?"

"Fifty."

"Right. So how many miles over the speed limit were you going?"

Lex's stomach lurched at that question. He knew when his pop started talking numbers, that there was no way he was getting away from this without a spanking. And this number was gut wrenchingly high, if it was going to equate to the number of swats he received. He had to clear his throat a couple of times before he was able to say, "Um… Well technically it's seventy, but you always drive sixty on that road, so really it's only sixty over normal."

"Only?" Jonathan asked with a raised voice.

In a panic, his pride took a back seat and he begged, "Please Pop! Sixty is already too much, and I'm sorry, and I confessed! Please not seventy!"

"You don't think I should give you seventy swats? Does the number seventy sound frightening to you? Does it sound ridiculously high? Does it sound excruciatingly painful? Because I sure as hell know, that when your mother and I think about you driving seventy miles per hour over the speed limit, it sounds frightening, ridiculously high, and deadly to us."

The color had drained from Lex's face, and he just shook his head. Jonathan felt his wife's hand squeezing his shoulder, and knew she didn't like this fear tactic he was using. With a sigh he said, "Seventy is too much, and I would never do that to you. I just wanted to make a point."

Calming down, Lex let out a breath he didn't realize he'd been holding. Jonathan said, "But that doesn't mean you aren't in for a spanking. Mom and I understand that it was a spur of the moment, panic induced lapse of judgement, but it was a deadly lapse in judgement. One that we don't want to happen again."

The words, 'Please don't spank me!' were on the tip of his tongue, but Lex doubted they would help, and his pride had taken a few serious hits lately. Instead, he said, "But I'm really sorry, and it won't happen again."

Putting a hand on Lex's knee, Jonathan said, "I know it won't. Go to your room, and I'll be up in a minute."

Looking defeated, Lex hauled himself off the couch, and trudged up the stairs. Martha patted Jonathan's shoulder before going outside to find Clark.

Lex was just about to sit down on his bed to wait, when Jonathan showed up in the doorway. Instead of sitting, Lex stuck his hands in his pockets and looked at the floor. After shutting the door behind him, Jonathan went and sat on the edge of the bed. "Come here."

The boy walked towards Jonathan, with dismay clearly written on his face. Jonathan said, "Because you confessed, I won't be using my belt. But you could have died today, so the pants are coming down."

With shaky hands, Lex unsnapped his jeans. Once they were undone, Jonathan grasped the kid's wrist, and pulled him across his lap. Lex let out a whimper as he settled himself into the all too familiar position, with his top half resting on the bed, and his lower half hanging down off the side of his pop's thigh. He felt Jonathan pulling down the jeans along with the boxers, and tensed in expectation of the first swat. The first slap from the callused hand always made his entire body jerk in response. He let out a muffled grunt at the next swat, and tried to console himself with the thought that he wouldn't be getting spanked with the belt.

After a few seconds of heavy swats, Jonathan heard his son was making soft noises of distress in the back of his throat. He kept swatting, and started lecturing at the same time. "Running away from your problems doesn't make them go away. You shouldn't have left after your mother told you to stay in the house."

"I'm sorry," he said and hissed in pain as the swats continued.

"Driving recklessly is bad enough, but driving recklessly without a seatbelt is ten times worse." Jonathan increased the tempo and strength of the swats for the next ten to get his point across.

"Ow! Pop! I won't do it again! Ow! I swear!"

Pausing for a moment, Jonathan said, "Okay Lex, time for the big one."

"I'm sorry about the speeding!" Lex squirmed, and fought with himself not to put both hands back to cover his butt.

Jonathan swatted with each word, "Seventy miles over the speed limit."

"Oww! I'm sorry! Ow!"

Taking a deep breath, Jonathan paused and said, "It's so far beyond what I'll tolerate from you, that I don't even know how to put it in words." With that said, he let his actions speak for him.

A couple of seconds after the spanking started again, Lex did throw a hand back to cover his butt. He knew it wouldn't stop things, but in that moment of sharp stinging pain, even a second of respite would be welcome. His hand was secured at the middle of his back in a firm grip less then a second later, and the swats kept going. Frustrated, and emotionally worn out, Lex started to cry.

Jonathan heard the first few gasps of breath, and knew Lex was crying, but didn't stop. He heard Lex apologize, and beg him to stop, in between tears, but that didn't make him stop either. The image of Lex's body crashing through the windshield at a hundred miles per hour kept going through his head, so he kept swatting, until the boy's entire rear end was bright red instead of pink.

Lex realized the spanking was over as soon as he felt his arm being released from behind his back, but he was too busy crying into the crook of his elbow to get up. He could feel Jonathan rubbing his back, and tried to calm himself down.

"I know that it probably seems like I'm being too hard on you right now, but I love you, and I can't stand the thought of your mangled body on the side of the road, just because you couldn't be bothered to buckle up or drive the speed limit."

The only response he got was more crying from the boy, so Jonathan reached down and eased the boxers up over the red behind. He said, "Okay, all done now. You're forgiven."

A couple of minutes later, Lex was calmed down enough to push himself up. He quickly pulled his pants up too, and as soon as he had them fastened, Jonathan handed him some tissues. After he'd blown his nose a few times, Jonathan pulled him into a hug. Lex wrapped his arms around the man to return the hug, and muttered sincere apologies into his chest. Jonathan squeezed tighter and whispered, "I know."

As Lex calmed down, he thought about how much comfort he was getting from this hug, and couldn't help comparing it to the discomfort he'd felt when his biological father hugged him earlier that same day. Even though Jonathan had just caused him a good deal of pain, he still felt safe and secure in his embrace, while Lionel's touch had made him nervous and unsure.

When he felt Lex letting go, Jonathan let go as well. He looked at his watch, and put a hand on Lex's shoulder. "Okay kiddo, for the next hour, I want you to do some computer research for me."

Lex groaned in complaint, already having a good idea where his pop was going with this.

Pretending he hadn't heard the groan, Jonathan said, "I want to see some statistics on car accidents. I want to know the difference in death rates for people wearing seat belts, and for people not wearing them. And I want to know how the death rate correlates to speed in a collision."

Feeling tired, sore, and unhappy, Lex whined, "Research too?"

Taking pity on the boy, Jonathan said, "Yes, research too, but it can wait for tomorrow if you don't feel like doing it right now. It's not really punishment. It's more like a needed dose of reality for you.

Surprised that he was getting out of it for now, Lex said, "Really? I mean, that's great, but… really?"

"Really. It's been a rough Sunday for you all the way around, so you can do whatever you want with the rest of your day."

"Okay. Thanks," Lex said, and sighed with relief.

Jonathan patted his shoulder and said, "I'm going to go see if there's a baseball game on. You're welcome to join me if you want."

Thinking that some mindless television sounded like a great idea, Lex said, "Sure, I'll be right down." Lex went into the bathroom and splashed some water on his face, before following Jonathan downstairs. The television was already on the sports channel when Lex got downstairs.

"I'll go see if Clark wants to join us," Jonathan said when he saw Lex.

Remembering the way he'd snapped at his little brother, Lex said, "No, you go ahead and watch. I'll go ask him."

Lex found Clark and Martha in the barn talking. The conversation stopped when they saw him, and he was sure they'd been talking about him. He found it impossible to maintain eye contact, but said, "Hey Mom, could I talk to Clark for a minute?"

"Sure," she said, and gave Lex a quick hug on the way back to the house.

Once she was gone, the boys were quiet for a few seconds. Taking a deep breath, Lex said, "I'm sorry."

"What for?"

"For the whole summer I guess."

"That's a lot to be sorry for," Clark said with a small smile.

Lex shrugged, "Right off the bat I get us both grounded from all movies for the entire summer, and now I'm forcing everyone to live through my ridiculous family drama every weekend."

"It's not that bad, Lex. We both got grounded, because we both did something to get grounded for. And I don't mind getting to know Mr. Luthor. He's always been nice to me."

"There are so many times that I'm grateful to have you for a brother, even if I don't deserve it."

"Yeah?"

"Absolutely."

Turning towards the horses, Clark said, "Maybe you shouldn't be. I told dad how fast you were going before you even got home."

"What?" Lex asked, not quite sure how to react to this new information.

"I ran home and ratted you out to Dad. And I should probably be sorry about it, but I'm not, because I'm grateful to have you for a brother too, and your body isn't like mine. You have to take better care of yourself."

Happiness and anger warred for the top position in Lex's heart, and in the end happiness won out. With a rueful smile Lex said, "I guess it's a good thing I confessed then. Mom and Pop were pissed enough as it was. Besides being grounded from driving for the rest of the summer, tomorrow I have to do research of safe driving, and Pop just wore out his hand on my ass for speeding."

"Ouch," Clark said sympathetically.

"Yeah." After a short pause, Lex said, "So, do you forgive me for wrecking your summer?"

Clark smiled, "During the last week of school, Pete kept bragging about going to Disneyland again, and I told him I was still going to have a better summer then him, because you were coming stay with us. Even a bad day with you here is better then a good day without you. So there's nothing to forgive."

Snorting with laughter, Lex said, "Yeah right. Are you an alien or something? No human could possibly be as forgiving and kind hearted as you. Not even Mother Teresa."

The kid laughed, and Lex decided he was going to try his best to talk their parents into letting him take them all to Disneyland the week before school started. He said, "Pop and I are going to watch some baseball, did you want to come watch too?"

"Sure," Clark said, and they walked to the house together.

# # #

Lex had broached the idea of Disneyland with Martha, and found she wasn't opposed to it. She brought it up to Jonathan, and after a few days of discussion, Martha had him talked into it. Jonathan told the boys, that if they both stayed out of trouble for the rest of the summer, he'd let Lex take them. Both boys did their best to behave for the entire month. The whole family spent five days in Disneyland the week before school started, and everyone agreed it was the best vacation any of them could remember having.

During that last month of summer, Lex and Lionel had spent supervised time together every weekend. They'd talked about both the past, and the future without either one coming to physical blows. They'd practiced taking five-minute breaks when things got too emotional. They'd been able to stay civil, even when upsetting things had been said.

The family got home from Disneyland on the Thursday before Labor Day weekend. On Friday Lionel had dinner with the Kents as usual. Most of the talk during the meal had been about their trip, but while they were eating dessert, Lionel said, "Mrs. Kent, what do you think about letting Lex spend the last weekend before school at the mansion with me? It's been a while now, and I think we're ready to try some unsupervised time. He'd still be close if something went wrong, and you could come to dinner at the mansion and check up on him."

Everyone stopped eating, and turned to Martha. Martha turned to Lex to see his opinion, and was happy to see he didn't look terrified or disgusted with the idea. "I think it's a good idea. How about you Lex?"

Since the day he'd lost control and attacked his father, Lex hadn't felt that nagging sense of fear in the back of his mind every time he was close. "I think it's a good idea too." He made eye contact with his father and said, "Things are different between us now. Not so painful."

Getting emotional, Lionel smiled and said, "I agree. Why don't you come by tomorrow morning? You can spend Saturday night with me, Sunday night with the Kents, and then Monday we'll fly out to New York to get you settled at the condo for school on Tuesday."

# # #

The next morning, Jonathan drove Lex over to the mansion. Trying not to let his nerves about the upcoming day get to him, Lex complained, "You know Pop, summer is over in three days. I could have driven myself to the mansion."

"If you even sit in the driver's seat of a car before those three days are up, it will be the last sitting you do for a while."

Lex rolled his eyes and didn't comment. After a pause, Jonathan added, "Do I need to have a little talk with your father before I leave? Tell him you're grounded, and not allowed to drive, or see any movies until Tuesday?"

Aghast at that thought, Lex shook his head, "No! I mean… no, Sir, there's no need for that. I swear I'll follow the rules."

Jonathan took his eyes away from the road for a second to make sure Lex knew he was serious.

"I promise."

With a nod, Jonathan turned back to the road, and said in a much more gentle tone, "If something goes wrong today, you call us."

"I will."

"Clark can be here in a couple of minutes if you need someone, and I'll be right behind him with the truck. We'll all be here at five thirty for dinner, and if you want to come home then, you can."

Lex smiled and said, "I love you Pop, but you worry too much. I think things are going to be just fine this time around."

Jonathan patted Lex's knee once, and pulled into the mansion's driveway.

# # #

The two Luthor's spent most of the morning talking about Luthorcorp, a subject that generally put them both at ease. Before either one of them realized so much time had passed, a servant came to tell them lunch was ready.

After they'd both started eating, and were alone in the dining room, Lionel said, "I've been thinking about the nursery lately…" Lionel trailed off, turned back to his plate, and took a bite of salad.

"What about the nursery?" Lex asked quietly, feeling his stomach churn.

After swallowing, Lionel said, "For the longest time, I needed that room to stay exactly the way it was when Julian died. But I don't know if that was the healthiest thing for either one of us. I told myself that it was a way for me to keep a connection to Julian, but maybe it was just another way for me to punish you."

Lex didn't know what to say or do. Unwanted memories came to him. His father, slapping him for mentioning Julian's name. His father, yanking him out of bed, and shoving him across the room, for sleeping with Julian's teddy bear. His father, kicking him in the leg, hard enough to make him limp for a couple of days, for being in the nursery one afternoon. Unable to eat anymore, he put his fork down, and waited to hear what else his father had to say.

"I think it's time to take the nursery down, and change that room into a guest bedroom."

"You mean it?" Lex asked, his voice so low it was almost a whisper, and his eyes open wide with a mixture of surprise and fear.

Lionel saw the look, and tried to keep his tone mild as he said, "The nursery has been frozen in time for almost a decade. But since finding out the truth about that night, I've realized I don't want to keep it that way anymore. I was hoping you'd be willing to help me pack Julian's things. I think it's something we should do together."

"Okay." That was his fear talking, but Lex didn't care. He wasn't sure he was ready to even face the nursery, let alone take it down, but he was incapable of disagreeing with his father at this moment in time. He found himself desperately wishing that Mom, Pop, or even Clark was there.

Seeing the panic on his son's face, Lionel shook his head. "You need a five minute break."

The words were familiar, but wrong. Martha had been unrelenting in making them practice every weekend, but the phrase was always, 'I need a five minute break.' Lex gave his father a look of confusion.

"Okay, if you prefer, I need a five minute break."

The look of confusion didn't go away, but Lionel concentrated on his lunch, and left Lex alone for a few minutes. Instead of timing the brake, Lionel finished off his food and waited for Lex to do the same, before speaking again.

Lex watched his father eating, and slowly realized Lionel had been right. Lex hadn't been able to say it, but he'd needed a break to think and calm down. When his father was almost done eating, Lex was able to pick up his fork and eat without gagging it back up when he tried to swallow. Julian and the nursery had been the main source of contention between them for so long, that it was hard to think about it without his emotions running wild.

After eating one third of his lunch, Lex set his fork down again, and pushed his plate away. Lionel said quietly, "You don't have to Lex. I won't be mad if you can't. I'll wait until you can."

Knowing this was a big step forward for the two of them, Lex said, "We should try. I may need to leave once we start, but we can try."

"If you're finished, why don't you go up to the nursery. I'll go find James and have him bring up some packing boxes. And a screwdriver to take the crib apart with."

With a nod, Lex headed to the nursery. He stood in the doorway for a few minutes, unable to step across the threshold. Closing his eyes, he took the step, and opened them again. He walked over to the dresser, and opened the top drawer. It was full of tiny socks, hats, and onesies. Lex reached out to touch one, but stopped his hand halfway there. He hunched down slightly, as if waiting for a blow to the head. When none came, he pulled out a pair of socks, and muttered, "So tiny."

Putting them away, he closed the drawer. He walked to the crib and pulled out a stuffed bunny. He said to the bunny, "He'd be eight now you know."

A voice behind him said, "I know."

Dropping the bunny, Lex spun around to see his father in the doorway. Eyes wide with fear, he felt like he might throw up. He said, "I… I was just…"

"It's okay." Lionel walked over and stood next to the crib beside Lex. Lex was rooted to the spot, unable to move. Moving slowly, and trying not to spook the boy, Lionel put a hand on Lex's shoulder and said, "It's okay." With his other hand, Lionel reached down into the crib and picked the bunny back up. He handed it to Lex and said, "Sometimes I talk to them too."

His father's gentle touch was slightly reassuring, and he was able to keep his lunch down. Lex tried, but failed, to stop his hand from shaking as he held the bunny. "You do?" he asked.

"I do. You know Lex, if there's something of Julian's that you'd like to keep, I would be fine with that. I'm going to give away all the furniture and clothing. James can take it into town later today. But I'm going to keep the toys and stuffed animals. I'll put them in storage, but if you want to keep something in your room, or take something with you to your condo, that would be fine."

Looking down at the bunny in his hands, Lex said, "Okay… I'll… I'll keep this… I mean… if you're sure."

"I'm sure."

They could both hear movement in the hallway, and turned to see what it was. James came in holding a small toolbox, some flattened cardboard boxes, and some packing tape. James said, "We have quite a few more boxes. I'll bring another handful up."

"Thank you James. Lex and I will set the things to be donated in the hallway, and the things to be kept in storage we'll leave in the room."

"Very well. I'll get Josh to give me a hand carrying things downstairs later today, once you're finished." James went to get more boxes.

Lionel let go of Lex's shoulder and picked up a box. He opened it up, and taped the bottom. Once it was ready, he said, "Why don't you start putting some clothes in this box, while I start on the crib?"

Over the next half an hour, the two men worked on boxing up everything in the nursery. The longer Lex stayed in the room with his father, the less jittery he was. He didn't feel the urgent need to escape, but did make sure never to turn his back to his father while they were in the room together.

When it was finally done, there were boxes and pieces of furniture in the hallway, and three boxes for storage still in the nursery. Lex picked up the stuffed bunny and stood in the middle of the room next to his father. Lionel said, "If you don't have any objections, I'm going to have the walls painted, and a new carpet put in."

"No objections. Sounds like a good idea."

"I'll hire someone to turn it into a guest bedroom, furniture and all."

"Okay."

They were quiet for a few minutes, neither one sure what to do, now that the room was empty. Lionel reached up to put an arm around his son's shoulders, and saw him flinch. He settled the arm into place anyway, and said, "Thank you for helping me today."

Taking a deep breath, and fighting the urge to throw the arm off, Lex said, "Thank you for letting me help."

His voice wavered with emotion as Lionel said, "I'm sorry things were so bad between us for so long."

Lex believed him, and felt tears sliding down his face. "Me too."

Squeezing his shoulder in comfort, Lionel said, "It wasn't your fault, it was mine."

"I don't know about that, Dad, I was pretty horrible. I spent my teenage years stealing, scamming people, doing drugs, getting kicked out of schools, and basically doing anything I could to piss you off." Irritated with himself, Lex wiped some tears off his face.

"Yes, but all of that was in reaction to me sending you away."

Lex looked at his father, and gave him a small smile. "Maybe we should stop trying to lay blame."

Smiling back, Lionel patted his son's shoulder once before letting his arm drop. "Good idea." Looking at his watch, Lionel said, "We still have a few hours before the Kents will be here. Do you want to see the new horse Josh acquired?"

"Sure." He held up the bunny and said, "I'll just put this away, and meet you out there."

"Okay."

Lex followed his father out of the nursery, and walked to his own room. He set the bunny on his dresser, and stood staring at it for a few seconds. He knew it would take time, but after today, he believed he could have a relationship with his father that wasn't based on hurt and anger. He also knew that it never could have happened without the love and guidance he'd received from the Kents. He was looking forward to seeing them tonight, so he could tell them about his day, and reassure them that he was doing just fine. With a smile on his face, he headed towards the stables.


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