Family, Friendship, and Love
The planetarium was a part of Metropolis University and open to the public Thursday through Sunday. The winter sky was clear, for once, and astronomy enthusiasts crowded the planetarium after dark. MetU astronomy students worked in the evening, explaining to the visitors what they saw projected on the ceiling from the large telescope pointed at the Kansas night sky.
In another portion of the planetarium, a short redhead stood on a bench, lecturing to a small crowd about the mathematics of astronomy. The display on the wall behind him was a list of equations used in charting the stars and other anomalies in the universe. Almost all those who stopped to listen were awed by the boy's knowledge and elocution, especially since he looked so young.
"What a precocious young man," one woman commented and overheard by two amused men standing nearby. "I wonder what school he attends. I wouldn't mind sending my Jenny there, if the education is this promising."
"Hard to believe he's only three and a half," Lex said to Clark, watching Sam work through an equation with his audience, doing the calculations in his mind.
"I know," Clark said, "and he hasn't even started school yet."
"He's not going to be able to attend regular public school, you do know that?" Lex said, glancing sidelong at his friend.
"I... hadn't thought about it," Clark confessed, a frown creasing his brow. "I was going to try and enroll him at the Smallville Elementary School early, starting Kindergarten next fall instead of waiting until he was five."
"Except for his spelling, he's working at a high school level, and even higher than that in math," Lex said. "I would suggest either hiring a long-term tutor or enrolling him at Maplethorpe School here in Metropolis."
"It's one of two schools for the gifted in Kansas. I went to Maplethorpe until I was nine," Lex ghosted a hand over his bare skull, "before this happened and I was stuck in a private hospital for over a year."
"I'm sorry," Clark said, shoulders hunching.
"Don't be," Lex said, not wanting to be pitied. "It's in the past, and I couldn't be as commanding with a head full of clown-red hair."
"I don't know. Sam seems to be commanding attention just fine." Clark glanced shyly over at Lex. "But, I like your baldness. It's... you."
"It's me after years of therapy, self-abusing teen shenanigans, and growing up," Lex said cynically, though inside he was pleased at the compliment.
Clark quirked a grin. "Shenanigans?"
A light chuckle from Clark elicited a real smile from Lex. Lex found himself smiling more often these past few months, even when Clark and Sam weren't around. Laura, his secretary, noted the change and asked him if she should call the jewelers to commission a ring. Lex thought it amusing that she'd jump to the conclusion that he was in love.
Perhaps he was in love; in love with a pint-sized little boy, with hair the same shade as Lex's mother's had been and eyes identical to Clark's. Lex had a profound respect and strong affection for the little boy's father, too, which could be described as love. He knew he would do anything for either of them, without limits, and could no longer imagine life without them both as a part of it.
"Tell me more about Maplethorpe," Clark requested, as Sam began to lose some of his audience due to the complexity of the topic.
"It's a school for the gifted, ages four through fourteen," Lex replied, remembering back to the days he was a student. "Each student has an individual educational program to meet their intellectual needs, but allows for social interaction with their peers."
Clark grinned again. "You sound like a brochure."
Lex shrugged. "It's a good school. If Sam was my son, Maplethorpe would be my first choice."
An odd look crossed Clark's face, before he ducked his head and coughed in his hand. Then, as if coming to a decision, he straightened, looked Lex dead in the eyes, and said, "Consider Sam your son, too."
Lex's chest tightened. He stared at Clark, stunned. Clark continued to meet his gaze steadily. "I don't know what to say," Lex whispered around the lump in his throat.
"Say you'll put Sam first, above everything," Clark said.
"I already do put Sam first," Lex admitted. He dropped his eyes, bracing himself before exposing, "And you, as well."
Clark laid his hand on Lex's shoulder, squeezed gently, and dropped it again. Lex cleared his throat, shoving his slightly shaking hands in his pockets. He was being over-emotional, a trait his father hated, and in public no less. Thankfully, there were no reporters around to witness him wiping his eyes.
"Maplethorpe," Lex said, gesturing to the flat screen computer monitor. He stood, giving Clark the seat in front of the computer. "I doubt it's changed much since I went there, other than adding computers."
Clark utilized the mouse, speed-reading the information on the webpage. Sam had been put to bed shortly after they'd returned to Lex's apartment from the planetarium. Clark and Lex had adjourned to the study, where Lex had pulled up the information on the school for the gifted on his computer.
Tonight, Clark was the closest he'd ever been to telling Lex the truth about Sam. Still, something held him back, though Clark had a feeling it had nothing to do with trusting Lex. Fear, perhaps, that their comfortable relationship would change — and it would, of that there was no doubt. Maybe a bit of anxiety, too. He knew Lex would be hurt by Clark's withholding the truth for so long. For now, Clark would remain silent and share his son with Lex as much as possible.
Clark clicked on the tuition link and blinked incredulously. "Lex, there's no way I can afford Maplethorpe. It costs the same for a year of college."
"A private tutor would cost more, Clark," Lex told him. "But don't worry about it. I can easily afford tuition." Clark opened his mouth, but Lex held up his hand, cutting Clark off. "I know. Kents and their stubborn refusal of gifts. If it'll appease you, Sam could have a LexCorp scholarship and I'd get a tax break, so it wouldn't be charity. I can even offer more than one scholarship, if you'd like."
"You should set up a scholarship anyway, even if Sam doesn't use it," Clark said. He couldn't expect Lex's own son to have a scholarship when there were other, more needy children. If only he felt confident enough to tell the truth.
"I might," Lex said, which translated to ‘consider it done.' He leaned over Clark's shoulder to better see the monitor. "So, what do you think?"
Clark turned his attention back to the computer. "Maplethorpe looks okay on screen. It'd be a long commute from Smallville, though."
The offer was spoken quietly, almost tentatively, like Lex already thought it would be rejected. "You could move in with me."
Clark looked up at Lex, his nearness not uncomfortable. Clark could see seriousness and a bit of hope in Lex's eyes. This wasn't an offer made lightly, Clark knew. Lex valued his privacy extremely, keeping both a physical and psychological distance from people. Clark felt honored to be the recipient of such an offer, knowing Lex was opening up more than his home to Clark and Sam.
"You have to promise to let me find my own job," Clark said by way of an answer.
He knew the moment Lex understood that Clark was accepting by the way he lit up from the inside, even though the smile was slow to appear. "Done, but you can use me as a reference," Lex said.
"Being endorsed by a Luthor in Metropolis kind of defeats the purpose of ‘on my own,'" Clark teased, giving in to the urge to grin stupidly.
Lex laughed. "I see your point."
Clark's stomach flipped, something that had been happing a lot recently, every time Lex laughed. He chalked it up to happiness at getting his stoic friend to relax. Although, come to think of it, Lex laughed a lot easier now. Truthfully, Clark liked it. "If you're not careful, you're going to get laugh lines."
Lex's fine brows rose, but the smile remained. "Maybe I want them."
"Then I'll have to work doubly hard to give them to you." Clark poked Lex in the ribs, where he knew Lex was ticklish.
Lex laughed and backed up. Clark rolled the chair, keeping after him. "Clark!" Lex sputtered, dancing away from Clark's fingers.
An evil gleam entered Clark's eyes. "Laugh lines, Lex. You have to laugh to get laugh lines."
"Don't you dare," Lex warned, hands raised defensively.
Clark smiled predatorily.
Stocking feet slid easily on the shiny marble tile. Lex skid across the hall as he ran from the study, nearly crashing into a table. He changed direction, stumble-running towards the kitchen.
Clark chased after Lex, telling himself it wasn't cheating to use his powers for balance and speed. He caught Lex just outside the kitchen doorway, wrapping an arm up under Lex's shoulder in a half-nelson, tickling with the other hand.
Lex cursed like a squeaky sailor, laughing the whole while. Clark guffawed at some of the more inventive promises of retaliation Lex made.
Eventually, Clark released Lex and slumped against the wall, watching with amusement as Lex tried to catch his breath. "You are so dead," Lex stated. It would have been more convincing if he was standing upright.
Lex straightened finally, fixing his shirt and mock-glaring at Clark. Clark smile beatifically, then reached out and pulled Lex into a hug. "Thank you," he said.
"Of course," Lex said, returning the embrace. "For what?"
"For being the best friend I could ever hope for," Clark replied.
"Then, consider the thanks returned tenfold," Lex said quietly.
Clark nodded, holding Lex a tiny bit tighter, before releasing him. Shy smiles were exchanged, and Lex cuffed Clark lightly on the arm. "C'mon, let's go raid the fridge. All this laughing has made me hungry."
Clark followed Lex without hesitation, feeling quite happy simply to be alive.
The Fortress of Solitude. A hayloft in the barn, with beams and boards, scavenged furniture and handmade curtains. A place for a teenaged boy to hide from the world, or to figure out his place in it. A refuge when he became too old for his parents' arms.
Dust motes glimmered in the winter sunlight streaming from the open hay door. Taped boxes sat near the creaky wooden steps, each neatly labeled in black marker: telescope, old school books, and Sam's gadgets. The loft was nearly empty, a half-lifetime of memories packed away.
Clark stood by the rickety desk, packing the last of the boxes. The movers would be arriving soon, to take Clark and Sam's belongings from the Kent farm to Lex's apartment in Metropolis.
Clark was excited and nervous all at once. The move was a new beginning, a chance to be Clark Kent instead of ‘that disappointing Kent boy.' In Metropolis, it wouldn't matter that he was nineteen-years-old and had a child. In the city, there would be people his own age that worked full-time. There were also more things to do there; more places take Sam and opportunities for both of them.
The scary part was being over a hundred miles away from his parents. They'd always been there, helping and supporting him, even if they didn't constantly get along. They were extremely close to Sam and vice versa. And until Clark would tell Lex, they were the only ones who knew about Clark's origins and abilities. Thankfully, Clark could fly back to Smallville in a few seconds if he needed to, five minutes if he brought Sam.
Clark brushed his fingers over Sam's baby book before putting it in the box. The book was complete now. He had found a key to open his spaceship in Baker's field one day, last November. Inside, there was a place to put the tablet his dad had given him when he was fifteen, that operated the artificial intelligence computer built into the ship. It had spoken a foreign language at first, then in English when Clark tried talking to it. It hadn't taken long for Clark to learn everything about his origins, his biological parents, and the world he would have grown up on if it hadn't been destroyed.
Footsteps sounded on the steps, pulling Clark out of his woolgathering and he looked over his shoulder. "Hi, Mom."
"Hi, sweetheart," Martha said. "Do you need any help?"
"No. I've pretty much got it done," Clark replied. "Where's Sam?"
"With his Grandpa, checking the rooms of the house for the third time, to make sure he's packed everything." Martha perched on the flat arm of the couch. Her lips were pursed, and she hesitated before speaking. "Clark, are you certain you want to do this?"
Clark turned fully to face his mother. "Move to Metropolis?"
"Move in with Lex."
"Yes, I'm sure. I'm also sure we've had this conversation already, when I first told you guys last month," Clark said, folding his arms and leaning against the desk. "I thought you guys were okay with this. Heck, Dad's encouraged it." Jonathan had told Clark the best way to get to know a person was to live in their back pocket and that the move would give him the opportunity to really see if Lex was worthy of Clark's trust.
"Your dad thinks it's a good idea," Martha said. "I don't."
"Why?" Clark asked, frowning.
"Truthfully, it's because I don't like Lex," Martha replied.
"You don't like Lex?" Clark was thoroughly surprised.
"I'm sorry, but no, I don't," Martha said, looking steadily at her son. "He took advantage of you, Clark, and as a mother, I cannot forgive him for that, no matter how good of a person you think he is."
Dumbfounded, Clark stared at her. "Why didn't you say anything before now?"
"Because you weren't moving in with the person who sexually molested you, Clark." Martha's tone was extra calm, and Clark knew she was really upset.
"Mom, Lex didn't molest me—"
"He most certainly did," Martha stated. "Whether you wanted it or not, Lex was twenty-one and never should have had sex with a fifteen-year-old boy."
Clark didn't know what to say. On the one hand, she was correct. The thought of Sam having sex at age fifteen with anyone, let alone someone older, was unsettling. On the other hand, it was Lex, and it had been... right. A natural occurrence between very close friends.
"I'm sorry," Clark said finally, "but Lex is going to be a part of my life for a long time. If you don't want him to come here anymore, I'll understand, but he is Sam's father and that will never change."
Martha smiled sadly. "You grew up when I wasn't looking." She stood and moved to embrace him. "I'm going to miss you."
"I'll miss you, too," Clark said, closing his eyes against the sudden moisture filling them. He hugged Martha a little tighter. "I love you, Mom."
"I love you, too, Clark," she said.
A car pulled in the driveway, and Martha released him. They both glanced outside. Lex had arrived. He got out of his car, closed the door, and picked up Sam when the running boy reached him. A smile lit Lex's face and he tweaked Sam's nose before walking towards the house.
"Lex really cares for Sam," Martha observed.
"Yeah, he does," Clark said.
Martha straightened Clark's flannel shirt collar. "I'll let you finish packing."
Clark watched as his mother left the loft, and realized that the last of his childhood had slipped away by his choosing Lex over his mom.