A Sound of Thunder

by Jayne Leitch

Response to Livia's Bradbury Titles Challenge.

Rating: G
Spoilers: the Pilot. Pastfic.
Summary: Lillian suspects he's sleepwalking. Disclaimer: not mine.
Thanks to MaryKate for the beta.
For Livia's Bradbury Titles Challenge.

A SOUND OF THUNDER by Jayne Leitch
Copyright 2002

There's a storm gathering outside, and Lillian lies awake listening to the tap of branches against her window. Beside her, Lionel sighs deeply in his sleep, one arm thrown across the covers, his hand resting beside her thigh.

He has always been able to sleep, despite anything. She envies him that, sometimes.

A sound, light enough that the wind almost covers it, catches her attention--the squeak of a floorboard out in the hall. A second later comes the shuffle of bare feet on hardwood, and Lillian eases herself away from her husband and out of the bed, stepping into her slippers on her way to the door.

Alexander is standing in the hallway, pale skin glowing in the light from a nearby window and the streetlamp outside. Despite his wide-open eyes, Lillian suspects he's sleepwalking, but as she slides out of her room and pulls the door gently shut behind her, he turns and focuses clearly on her. "Hi, Mommy."

"Alexander, what are you doing out of bed?" She hurries over to him, kneels and brushes her fingers over his bare head. "Did you have a bad dream?"


"Couldn't sleep?"

"Yes." He leans into the stroking of her fingers, his eyelids drooping. "I was thinking about things."

Lillian laughs, a low chuckle that won't wake Lionel. "It's always so busy in that head of yours," she says, and takes Lex's hand as she straightens. "Come on, let's put you to bed."

He trails a step behind her, clutching her fingers. Small for a ten year old, his hand feels exactly the same in hers as it did when he was four, five, and sleepwalking was an almost-nightly occurrence. Lillian hadn't known that she was still programmed to listen for him, but she's glad she is. Alexander seems so fragile now, a glimmering-pale ghost in the shadows, and it makes her want to bend down, pick him up and carry him nestled against her as if he were still a baby.

He would never let her, even half-asleep as he is. He's never been touchable, not even before the accident.

When they reach his room, Lillian finds his window open. Cool, damp wind blows the curtains into billows, and the first few drops of rain glisten, caught in the screen. Releasing his hand, she goes to pull the glass closed. "Were you hot?"

"A little." Turning back, she watches him climb up onto his impossibly high--antique--bed and burrow through the heaped-up comforter. "And I wanted to watch the storm. I heard thunder and thought there might be lightning."

"I see." Lillian wanders back across the room, clicks on the bedside lamp as she sits down beside Lex. "But I thought you didn't like thunder and lightning?"

"I don't." He rests his head against the crest of a pillow and blinks up at her. "But I'm not afraid of them."

She smiles. When he was younger, Alexander was terrified of thunderstorms; she remembers waking up once to find him trembling against the side of her bed, eyes wide and tearful, his whole body jumping at every flash of lightning or rumble of thunder. She had lifted the covers and snuggled him up close to her, fluffy red hair tucked under her chin, and he'd slept the rest of the night in peace. Lionel had made noises in the morning, but Lex had been three years old and Lillian laughed it off...

But she'd never woken to find a frightened Alexander at her bedside again.

She reaches out to tuck his blankets up to his chin. "That's good," she says, "but you know, it's okay to be a little scared sometimes. Even of something kind of silly, like thunderstorms."

He nods, blinking solemnly in the light. "I know. But I'm not scared of them. Not anymore."


"I'm not scared of anything anymore."

Lillian's smile fades, and she tries to read beyond the surface of his untroubled expression. "What do you mean, honey?"

"It was the meteors." He says it so easily, his eyes clear and not at all tired. "They were the last things that scared me, Mom. I didn't notice it for a while, but now I do."

"That you're not afraid of anything anymore?" She feels a chill, and glances back to make sure the window is still tightly closed. "But--"

"It was red and black and hot and dirty and loud." Alexander's voice is light, and his eyes are fixed unblinkingly on hers. "And I didn't know what was happening. I tried to run, but I couldn't catch my breath, and then I was flying and it was too fast to breathe, and I was so scared."

Lillian reaches out to cup her hands around his face, stroke her thumbs over the smooth curves of his cheeks. "Shhh, baby, it's okay--"

"Don't worry, I'm not afraid now." Lex frees his hands from under the covers and wraps them around hers, pulling them down to rest on the blanket, and Lillian realizes that he's not the one who's shaking. "I was then, but ever since I woke up in the hospital, I haven't been. I'm fine, Mommy." His little hands squeeze hers in reassurance.

Lillian swallows, once, thickly. She's heard him talk about what happened in Smallville before, but she hasn't noticed until this second how very calm he always is. It makes her watch him, very closely, for any sign that he's hiding something, any little glimpse of the trauma she knows he went through--but all she sees is Alexander, staring solemnly up at her from a nest of bedclothes, his smooth scalp the only indication that anything bad happened to him at all. "That's...that's good, sweetheart," she manages, her voice faint.

He nods. "I think Daddy will be happy."

Lillian blinks, then seizes on the possibility, leaning forward until her son's eyes fill her entire field of vision. "Alexander, you know your daddy loves you."

There is a pause before he nods.

"He does." Taking a deep breath, she tries not to sound as frantic as her heartbeat feels in her chest. "No matter what's happened to you, no matter what you look like--and no matter what you're afraid of--your daddy will always be happy that you're his son. He loves you, just like I do, and he always will. You know that, Alexander, right?"

Another pause, and Lillian's fingers feel like ice under Lex's hot ones. She searches his eyes for something other than clear blue calm--tears, doubt, annoyance, even--but he stares readily back, without even a flickered blink. "I know, Mommy."

He's too composed, too steady, and Lillian pulls back when she realizes it's her breathing that's too loud in the nighttime stillness. Alexander's unwavering gaze follows her as she rises from the bed, his hands neither clutching at hers nor falling away; she adjusts her grip so his fingers tangle with hers, and tries to think of something to say, something to make him know that it's okay, that she loves him, that she's scared for him, and Lionel--

There is a loud crack of thunder that shakes the house, and the light blinks out.

Blue and purple afterimages crowd Lillian's vision, and she blinks rapidly against them, trying to see in the sudden blackness. "The light's gone out!"

Three quickened heartbeats pass, and a flash of lightening throws the room into white and grey before dropping it into darkness again. Alexander's relentless calm is imprinted on the pale face that hovers before Lillian in the dark, photo-negative motionless and horrible as he speaks.

"It's okay, Mom. It's just the storm."

Lillian stares into darkness as her eyes adjust. At the next clap of thunder, she is the one who jumps.


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