Family, Friendship, and Love
Lex grabbed his hat before climbing out of the car, setting the alarm, and heading across the semi-crowded parking lot towards the stadium to meet Clark and Sam.
That first weekend visit had become two. Two became four. Four became eight. Lex went to Smallville to celebrate Clark's nineteenth birthday and Sam's third. Clark and Sam went to Metropolis to celebrate Lex's twenty-fifth birthday. The friendship that had dissolved with Lex's move to Metropolis was slowly being rebuilt and redefined, with Sam as an important part of it.
Lex had to actively try to make time for Clark and Sam, but with the invaluable help of his secretary, Laura, his calendar was freed up for them most weekends. It was well worth the trouble, especially because of the time spent alone with Clark while Sam napped. Lex berated himself repeatedly for allowing distance to have ended his prior relationship with Clark.
Clark was quieter now than he had been three years ago. He'd talk freely about Sam, but Lex had to drag out personal thoughts and feelings — although Lex wasn't the most forthcoming with his own personal thoughts and feelings, either. Thankfully, conversation was becoming easier as they grew more comfortable with each other. Lex was looking forward to the day he could share everything with Clark without hesitation.
Lex handed over his ticket as he pushed through the turnstile, entering the stadium. Acting like he belonged even though it was obvious that he was out of his element, he purchased a program and followed the signs hanging overhead to the correct seating section. He climbed the ramp and stepped out into the bright Saturday afternoon sun.
The Metropolis Mudhens was the minor league ball-club for the Lowell County area. The baseball stadium was located in the suburbs of Metropolis, surrounded by neatly landscaped housing developments and parks. The stadium itself seated only a thousand, with silver benches that burned bottoms in the sun. Local advertisers had signs posted next to bigger name brands on the walls surrounding the green field. The electronic scoreboard congratulated Mona and Hank on their fortieth anniversary.
When Clark had suggested they take in a baseball game as one of their weekend activities, Lex had offered to get box seats to the next major league game, but Clark insisted on the minor league. "Major league players play for the money," Clark had explained, "the minor league players play because they love the game."
Minor league or not, Lex still wanted the best seats and he managed to secure three in the cordoned-off VIP section, behind home plate. The chipped blue hard plastic seats folded down and had curved backrests, and Sam was standing on one as Clark slathered him with sunblock. They were both dressed in shorts and tees, due to the unseasonably hot weather, which served to make Lex looked overdressed in his pale pink shirtsleeves and tan linen slacks.
"Hi." Clark smiled softly, just a turning up at the corner of his mouth that indicated he was happy to see Lex, as Lex joined father and son in the VIP box. "Did you have any trouble getting free?"
"Barely any," Lex answered, ruffling Sam's red locks in greeting. He sat in the seat beside Sam. "Laura conveniently interrupted the meeting with an ‘emergency.' I'm going to have to give her another raise."
"Considering you make her work on the weekends, you definitely should," Clark said, rubbing sunblock on Sam's ears. He tweaked Sam's nose when he finished. "You're done."
Sam sat down on his knees, facing Lex. "We're going to do statistics, right? You promised."
"We certainly are," Lex said, handing Sam the program he'd bought.
Clark took an olive green fisherman's hat out of the backpack by his feet and put it on Sam's head. He glanced at Lex. "Where's your hat?"
Lex answered by putting on the tan Panama hat he'd had on his lap. He smiled bemusedly at Clark. Clark grinned sheepishly in return.
"The father-hen will sit down now," he said, plopping a tattered Smallville Crows baseball cap on his own head before taking a seat on the other side of Sam.
"Dad, can I have a pencil?" Sam asked.
"May I, please, and yes." Clark reached into the backpack and procured a thick children's pencil. He gave it to Sam. "What do you say?"
"Thank you," Sam said obediently. He put the program on the armrest and carefully printed his and Lex's name at the top. "This morning, I calculated the odds of the Mudhens winning at six-to-one. Dickie Nolan has a good grasp of Newton's Laws. Did you know that everything is about physics, Mr. Lex, even baseball? Physics is mostly math, which I already know pretty good."
Lex listened as Sam rambled on about things no three-year-old should be able to understand. Even now, after months of interacting with Sam, it amazed Lex how intelligent Sam was, and how inquisitive. He wondered how Clark was able to keep up with Sam. He also wondered if Clark knew how much Lex respected and admired him, more so than when he was just a boy with a good heart.
Lex glanced over Sam's head at Clark, who was looking out over the field. There was a world of difference between adult Clark and the high school freshman that used to come around the castle. Nineteen and twenty-five didn't seem so far apart as fifteen and twenty-one had. Lex and Clark were on somewhat equal footing now, though their lives were radically different. It was strange that they were friends, since they had little in common, but Clark liked Lex in spite of his name and money, rather than because of it. Lex would be a fool twice over not to do everything in his power to keep Clark in his life.
Clark looked over at Lex, smiled softly, and Lex's chest hurt suddenly with emotion. He dropped his gaze, focusing intently on Sam, and began to explain the intricacies of statistics.
Fifteen-year-old Jimmy Olsen loved sporting events, but not for the game. Jimmy was a photographer and people were his favorite subject. Candid shots of humanity, taken unaware. Sometimes, he photographed famous people and sold the pictures to the newspapers, but it was a rare occasion when he was in the right place at the right time to see a VIP, especially in Metropolis, Kansas.
Lex Luthor was a very important person, and he was at a Mudhens ballgame.
Jimmy took an entire roll of pictures of a quasi-casually dressed Luthor in a Panama hat, sitting with a child and another guy in the VIP stands behind home plate. Jimmy wondered if he'd struck gold when the child climbed onto Luthor's lap. Through the viewfinder, Jimmy saw familiarity, comfortableness, and a strong resemblance between Luthor and the child.
Jimmy didn't remember reading anywhere that Lex Luthor was a father, and he had no siblings so the boy couldn't be a nephew. Maybe Luthor had a secret, illegitimate child and Jimmy was first to capture the evidence on film. But if that was the case, where was the mother? And who was the guy that was now seated right beside Luthor, arm comfortably laid across the back of Luthor's seat as he leaned closer to look at the program in the child's hands?
Jimmy's finger depressed the shutter button, capturing a laugh shared between Luthor and the guy, the child smiling brightly up at both men.
Jimmy lowered the camera, suddenly feeling like he was intruding.
Clark sprawled on the couch in the den, in Lex's Metropolis apartment. The word "apartment" was actually a misnomer. Lex's place was bigger than the Kents' entire house. A party with two hundred guests could easily be held in the opulent residence, and probably had.
The multitude of rooms were decorated modernly, a bachelor's pad of the ultra rich, subtly child-proofed. There were three bedrooms with in-suite bathrooms, and an additional powder room for guests. Several salons, parlors, and an extended dining room went unused a majority of the year. The den with connecting office were the only rooms that looked lived in, aside from the servants' quarters, although none of the servants actually resided at the apartment.
"I think Sam has the right idea," Clark said, accepting the glass of lemonade passed to him by Lex. "I could use a nap myself."
"Feel free to use my bed," Lex told him, joining him on the couch.
"Nah." Clark dropped his head on the back of the cranberry leather couch and closed his eyes. "I'm good."
They sat in comfortable silence for a little while. Clark eventually rolled his head, opened his eyes, and looked at Lex, who was partially curled in the corner, fist propping his head up as he leaned against the arm of the couch. He held a nearly empty glass of amber liquid in his other hand, resting it on his bent leg. The tip of his nose was sunburned from the ballgame. Clark didn't bother to suppress his smile.
"What?" Lex said, watching Clark with sleepy eyes.
"Nothing," Clark said. "I'm just happy."
"You say that like it's a novelty."
"It still is," Clark admitted. "It was a lonely year, with Lana gone to college."
"Did you two ever hook up?" Lex asked, lifting his glass to take a sip.
Clark shook his head. "No. We're just friends. Things might have been different if Sam hadn't come along, but so would a lot of things."
"About Sam, never," Clark replied instantly. "About anything else...," his lips curved in a half-smile, "...just losing touch with you."
Surprised pleasure washed across Lex's face, roses blooming on his cheeks. He looked down quickly and fiddled with his glass.
It was nearly impossible to visibly fluster Lex, and Clark found it immensely satisfying that he was able to do it.
"Refill?" Lex asked as he stood, obvious in his need to move.
"No. I'm fine."
Lex walked over to the bar. The silence was no longer completely comfortable, which amused Clark. He took pity on his friend and turned on the television.
When Lex returned to the couch, Clark studied him through half-slitted eyes while pretending to watch the television. They had been getting steadily closer as friends, both personally and family-like with Sam. Lex didn't open up easily, but he made an effort when Clark asked specific questions. However, Lex loved to talk about his company, LexCorp, and especially about ancient history. Alexander the Great as told by Alexander the Wannabe Great, though Clark didn't dare call Lex that to his face.
Lex shifted on the couch, toeing off his shoes and propping his feet on the coffee table. Clark hid a grin when he saw Lex's pink socks, which matched his shirt. Only Lex could get away with wearing something pink and not look girly.
Clark sipped his lemonade and continued to subtly observe Lex. The trust Clark had wanted to develop between them was growing steadily. He was actually glad in one way for the break in their friendship, because their new relationship was built from mutual like and not gratitude. It was also nice to have an "adult" friend who didn't have such trivialities as school or extra-curricular clubs and sports and think that those things were the toughest activities in the world.
Some people would say Clark and Lex had nothing in common, and discounting Sam, they would be correct. But it was their differences that made their relationship work and Clark was extremely happy to have Lex in his life once more.
A small, content smile on his face, Clark scrunched further down on the couch and continued to enjoy his visit with Lex.
Smallville was a close-knit farming community despite its size, and the high school's Homecoming brought nearly everyone out for the day. The Homecoming celebration started with a parade, followed by the football game against the Winnetka Wolverines, Smallville's biggest rivals. If the Crows won, a bonfire would take place later that night, mostly for the high school crowd.
Jonathan always liked Homecoming. He could remember the days when he was the one playing in the big game. After he'd married, he remembered longing for a son of his own who would play. He got his wish for a son, although not by the usual means, but his child would never play in a game.
Jonathan wouldn't trade Clark for a son who could follow in his father's footsteps, but he would admit things would've been a lot different if Clark had been a normal, human child. Jonathan had adjusted, however, to all the wild passes life threw at him. He was a grandfather now to a wonderful, if exasperating, little boy and couldn't be prouder of Clark taking responsibility as a father. Jonathan didn't hold back on voicing his negative opinion of the Luthors, but the one good thing associated with that name was Samuel David Kent.
It was on the warm Homecoming Saturday during the parade that Jonathan surprisingly found himself disliking the Luthors less than usual. Lex was in town by invitation from Clark, something that was becoming a regular occurrence, as was Clark and Sam visiting Lex in Metropolis. Jonathan was wary of the renewed friendship, especially because Clark planned to tell Lex the truth eventually, but it wasn't Jonathan's place to forbid the relationship. Clark was old enough and mature enough to make his own decisions and be knowledgeable of the consequences of those decisions. Subsequently, Jonathan thought it would be wise to make nice with Lex, to better protect Clark and Sam, in light of the forthcoming truths.
It was with that frame of mind that Jonathan sought out Clark and Lex at the parade. He found them near the end of the parade route and was surprised by what he saw. Lex had Sam on his shoulders and Sam was holding on to Lex's ears like handles. Lex did not look uncomfortable, either. In fact, he seemed relaxed and cheerful, completely un-Luthor like in Jonathan's mind, as he spoke to Clark, who was standing beside him.
Clark also surprised Jonathan. He was smiling, happily smiling, something that he hadn't done in years unless it was directed at Sam. Jonathan knew about the rumors around town when Sam first arrived and had watched in sadness as Clark withdrew from others. His only three friends — though Chloe and Pete had been mostly absent in the last year — were away at college and Clark hadn't made any friends at the plant close to his age.
Jonathan begrudgingly had to admit that anyone who got Clark to come out of his self-imposed shell couldn't be that bad, even if his last name was Luthor.
"Hello, you guys," Jonathan said, joining them. In the street, the high school drama club was re-enacting a Shakespearean fight scene as they marched.
"Hi, Grandpa! Where's Grandma?"
"She's talking to Mrs. Munchnick," Jonathan replied. "Enjoying the parade?"
"So far," Clark said, eyeing Jonathan warily. Jonathan didn't blame Clark for his wariness. He hadn't been all that polite to Lex in the past.
"That's good," he said, glancing at Lex. Lex looked blandly at him in return. "I just stopped to see if you two had plans for dinner."
Surprise appeared on Clark's face, and he exchanged a questioning look with Lex. "No," Clark said. "No plans."
"Martha's putting dinner on the table at six o'clock. I hope to see you both there," Jonathan said.
"Um, okay," Clark said.
"Okay, then," Jonathan said. "Have fun today." He clapped Clark on the shoulder briefly, nodded to Lex, and walked away. He had to go find Martha and tell her he'd just invited Lex Luthor over for dinner. She should be proud.
Martha was going to kill Jonathan.
Granted, it was somewhat her own fault for not informing her husband of her feelings about Lex, but she never thought Jonathan would extend an olive branch to a Luthor.
Lex sat at the kitchen table, looking relatively relaxed. Martha wanted to break something over his bald head. He had despoiled her baby, upended their lives, and dared to think that he was welcome in the Kent home.
Martha smiled flatly and passed the corn upon request. Apparently, repressing her feelings for years hadn't been a good idea. She was mad at all three men. She was mad at Lex for not being the responsible adult three years ago. She was mad at Jonathan for being the bigger person and accepting Lex as Clark's friend. She was mad at Clark for wanting Lex as a friend again and for being an alien that could get pregnant, which started this whole mess. She knew she wasn't being rational; she should be proud that the three were trying to build a comfortable relationship. Perhaps she was menopausal.
"How do you like working in Metropolis?" Jonathan asked, making polite conversation. Sam had fallen asleep immediately after the football game, so they didn't have his usual chatter at dinner.
"It's all right," Lex replied as he cut his food. "Working for my father is a pain. I do all of the legwork and have none of the voting powers. That's one of the reasons that I created my own company."
"Oh-so-modestly named LexCorp," Clark teased.
Lex gave him an unamused look. "Purposely, and for family reasons that I'm not bringing to the table."
Martha knew the reason: to show up Lionel. It did nothing to endear Lex to her.
"What does your company do?" Jonathan said, sounding truly interested.
"I buy scientific technology companies, sink money into them, and hope to turn a profit with increased productivity and innovations," Lex said. "So far, I seem to be succeeding."
"LexCorp is worth over a half-billion dollars," Clark bragged on his friend's behalf. "He's on the Fortune-500 list."
"At the very bottom," Lex clarified. Martha had to credit Lex; he appeared mildly embarrassed by Clark's words of praise.
"That's rather impressive, Lex," Jonathan said. "What do you do if one of your purchased companies doesn't make money?"
"I close it and offer the employees transfers to any of the other companies," Lex replied. "There's about a forty-sixty ratio of those who choose the transfer, usually the scientists, which is actually a benefit to me to keep them on."
"I wish you owned the plant here," Clark commented. "A job guarantee would be nice."
"I'm sorry, Clark," Lex said, looking sincerely apologetic. "The fertilizer plant is not in the correct scientific field. I can see if there are any positions open in one of my other companies. I own one in Metropolis..."
Clark shook his head. "That's okay, Lex. I was just speculating."
"You sure? It's no problem—"
"Lex," Clark interrupted, smiling widely with fond amusement. He laid his hand on Lex's arm. "Thank you, but no."
Lex nodded. "All right, but let me know if you change your mind."
Martha's face showed none of her unhappiness at the obvious caring between Clark and Lex. That Clark had his hand on Lex's arm longer than propriety allowed didn't ease her mind, at all.
She smiled falsely and passed the rolls upon request. She was going to kill Jonathan.
Lionel Luthor had seen the bonfire as he flew over Smallville. After he'd landed, his chauffeur had explained in more detail than necessary that it was the high school's Homecoming. How quaint. The festivities had better not interfere with his business. He had land to purchase on Sunday, contracts to be signed, and he did not want to deal with a hungover farmer.
Lionel was quite surprised to see one of Lex's cars and the lights on in the castle, when the chauffeur pulled up the driveway. While he didn't purposely keep track of Lex, Lionel usually knew his son's whereabouts.
Lex was probably visiting with the Kent boy again, Lionel supposed. For some reason, Lex insisted on being friends with Clark, though they had nothing in common. It wasn't even a sexual relationship, which Lionel might have understood; Clark was quite attractive for a male. Another thing Lionel couldn't fathom was that Clark didn't want money, either. He seemed to like Lex for Lex. It was incomprehensible. No one liked Lex just because. He was insufferable, irritating, over-emotional, untrustworthy, and unable to follow the simplest of instructions. If he wasn't Lionel's only son, Lionel would've disinherited Lex long ago. Alas, Lex was the sole heir to LuthorCorp and so Lionel tolerated his behavior and worked endlessly to mold him into a man worthy of running an empire.
Lionel entered the castle without knocking — it was his property, after all. No staff greeted him, though he knew the caretaker lived in residence, which meant Lex had dismissed him for the night. Slightly annoyed, Lionel went in search of Lex, to announce his presence.
Laughter spilled from the study, a purely non-jaded sound that Lionel was certain he'd never heard before. He slowed his step, interest piqued. It wasn't often he had the chance to watch Lex unobserved, and felt no guilt in doing so now.
From the shadows of the hallway outside the open study door, Lionel could see Lex and Clark sprawled on the rug in front of a cheery fire, a chessboard separating them. Lex was lying on his side, head propped up by his hand, a glass of red wine near his elbow. Across from him, Clark sat cross-legged, elbows on his knees, chin resting on his fists, studying the chessboard. The lamplight was cozy, and they looked comfortable, enjoying each other's company without pretense.
"I don't know how you do it, Clark," Lex was saying, neatly lining up the white chess pieces removed from play. "I doubt I'd make as good of a father as you."
"I think you'd do fine," Clark said earnestly.
Lex made a sound of derision. "Right, because I had such a good role model."
"Oh, I don't know," Clark said. "Parenting is preparing the child for adulthood, and I think you turned out pretty good."
"That's because you're biased. You actually like me."
"Sam likes you."
"Sam is three."
"He's also smarter than three-quarters of the adults on the planet," Clark said.
Lex smirked. "Even smarter than you?"
"Definitely." Clark's eyes twinkled merrily in the firelight. "He liked you immediately. It took me a whole week to figure out what a great guy you are."
Lex averted his gaze, a blush sweeping over his bald scalp. "Isn't it your turn?"
Clark moved the white knight and gave Lex a blinding grin. "Check."
"Bastard," Lex said with an unbidden smile in return.
Lionel retreated from the doorway, having seen enough. Without making his presence known, he headed upstairs to his bedroom, locking himself in for the night. He'd leave the boys to their fun. Chess was strictly a two-player game, anyway.