by victoria p.
Lex fell in love with Martha Kent the moment he met her.
He saw her red hair glowing in the sun, and he knew. Not only had Clark given him a second chance, a new lease on life, but he'd also provided the opportunity to have a mother again.
Lex missed his mother.
He would never be so crass as to say so, not in so many words. He buried his feelings deep, and played the wild child to his father's stern patriarch, but really, he just wanted his mother back.
Alive and healthy and whole.
That had never changed, as he went from sullen eleven-year-old to drug-addled eighteen-year-old to ruthless corporate shark at twenty-one.
And here was another redheaded woman, one whose smile seemed to clutch at his heart the way hers had, and he was lost.
Lillian had tried to give him some of the homier experiences of childhood, but even she hadn't been able to banish the ever-present Luthor hauteur. He had been floored at the middle American, Norman Rockwell version of life he saw at the Kents'.
He'd known before he ever set foot in the house that Martha Kent's kitchen would be bright, cheery, warm. It would smell of apples and cinnamon.
And it did.
He could count on one hand the times his expectations were matched by positive experience, and it made him love her all the more when she not only lived up to what he'd anticipated, but gone far beyond it, with her cookies and pies and the beautiful boy she'd raised to be his friend, Hephaistion to his Alexander.
His first day in Smallville, he'd searched the Castle, looking for something of his mother's, but it was all Lionel.
Finally, he'd made his way down to the kitchen, thinking that there, perhaps, he could find some trace of warmth or comfort.
Big stainless steel appliances overwhelmed him. There was a staff of three hurrying around, and he'd sighed internally. He somehow doubted there'd be any cookie baking or ice cream making in there.
But Mrs. Kent's kitchen, with bright copper-bottomed pans hanging from the ceiling and cheerful gingham curtains on the windows, was a room made for little boys (and men who wanted to remember sometimes what being a little boy was like) to play in.
He schooled his expression and reminded himself that he was an adult, a Luthor. He wasn't giddy over being asked to dinner at the Kents' for God's sake. He wasn't giddy at all. Luthors didn't get giddy. Or nervous. Or, he reflected dryly, happy. Well, he would try to be different on that last score. And he would start now, by simply enjoying the gesture Martha had made, though he was sure the meal would be good, as well.
He opened the door and said, "Mrs. Kent."
Martha hummed along to the radio as she cooked.
She turned, and Lex stood in the doorway.
She inclined her head in greeting, hands busy chopping carrots. "Lex."
He walked over to the stove, lifting the lid of the pot and inhaling the fragrant steam that escaped.
"That smells absolutely delicious. I wish Enrique would make chicken with dumplings."
She smiled, feeling the blush creep up her cheeks. "You can bring the recipe home, if you'd like."
He grinned. "I don't know, Mrs. Kent. I'll tell you a secret." He leaned in and she felt a small thrill at his easy confidence in her. "Enrique kind of scares me."
She blinked and laughed. "Oh, go on, Lex. I seriously doubt you're afraid of anyone or anything." She didn't say, but it hung there in the space between her words, that he had faced down his father and come out on top. There was nothing left for Lex Luthor to fear.
At least, nothing in the material world.
Martha feared for him, though. Jonathan would no doubt call her melodramatic, but she feared for his soul.
Lillian had been a good woman -- strong, intelligent, a good match for Lionel -- but she'd been taken from Lex too soon, and Martha feared the boy had been permanently scarred by her death. Her heart ached for him; underneath his urbane faade, she knew a there lurked a hurt little boy, and she wanted to reach out to him before he was lost completely to his father's manipulations.
He looked out of place in her cluttered kitchen, his black pants and jacket definitely in danger of being splashed with chicken stock or Bisquick. He set a bottle down on the table. "Beaujolais," he said. "For the house."
She wiped her hands on a paper towel and moved toward the table. "Lex, you shouldn't have--"
"Don't worry, Mrs. Kent. It's not from my father's cellar. It's a nice ten dollar bottle of wine."
She blinked. Underneath his studied insouciance was a hint of bitterness, much like she knew the wine would have a spicy pepper undertone.
"Yes. My father used to serve something similar." She wanted to let him know she understood; she was from the city, and knew how lonely -- how alienating -- life in a small town could be when you were different. And no one was more different than Lex. Even Clark fit in better. She took a breath, glad that she'd invited him. It had been Clark's casual mention of Lex being alone on his birthday last weekend that spurred her on. No one should have to be alone, especially not on their birthday, not when Martha Kent was around to remedy the situation.
And if Jonathan was away at the National Corn Growers' Convention in Metropolis, well, she could be as devious as Lionel Luthor when the situation called for it. Lex needed a family, and since Clark had taken to him so readily, Martha was willing to give him a chance, Jonathan's (valid, but somewhat overwrought) concerns notwithstanding.
Martha had done some investigating, starting with Sonia Rafelson, who was cleaning for Lex since the Parkers had gone back to Metropolis after that business with Amy.
Sonia said Lex didn't seem to care much what he ate; as long as it was hot and filling. That surprised Martha, because she'd expected him to be something of a gourmand, but no. He lived on coffee, bottled water and expensive cognac, and didn't bother himself with any of the fancy dishes Enrique liked to cook.
So Martha was going to mother him.
Chicken and dumplings, and apple pie for dessert.
Clark's favorite meal, and despite the disparity in age and social standing, she didn't think Lex would be much different.
And so far, he seemed to approve, if his expression when he sniffed at the pot was any clue.
Martha realized she'd let the silence stretch too long as she contemplated this young man, the boy king of all he surveyed. She looked at the bottle of wine again.
"We should let that breathe," she said, going to the workbench and getting the corkscrew.
"Allow me," he said, taking it from her.
Half an hour later, Clark still hadn't returned from bringing in the herd, and Lex wondered if he was up in the loft, staring soulfully at Lana's bedroom window.
Normally, he'd have gone to check that out, but somehow, he and Martha were bonding over the bottle of Beaujolais.
It wasn't a bad wine, he thought, though not, perhaps, up to his usual standards. Mrs. Kent liked it though. She was flushed and smiling.
He put his elbows on the table and leaned forward, noticing her eyes widening at the gesture. He thought at first it was in fear but then she burst into laughter. It was a rich, full alto sound and again he was reminded of his own mother, and the way she'd laughed with him over -- God, something he couldn't even remember. It didn't matter. Making her laugh had been a goal in and of itself, especially toward the end.
"What?" he said, smiling.
She pursed her lips and tried to stop laughing. "You leaned in some flour. Your shirt--"
He raised his arm, and looked at the white powder now clinging to his linen-covered elbow. He lifted his eyebrows in question and she said, "I was making dumplings. I guess I didn't wash up as well as I thought."
"Martha Stewart would be disappointed."
Another laugh. "Oh, yes. It's not a good thing to douse your guests in flour, is it? Unless you're intending to fry them, of course," she teased.
"Of course," he said. "Believe me, Mrs. Kent, you're a much better cook than Martha Stewart."
She blushed, but played it off. "It doesn't surprise me. She's so impractical. A woman pressed for both money and time would never do things her way."
He nodded, though he knew nothing about being pressed for money, and never would, if he had anything to say about it. He wanted to make life better -- easier -- for her, for Clark, as well, but he knew that whatever the cause of it, the enmity between Jonathan Kent and his father ran deep, and all the Beaujolais and laughter in the world wouldn't change that.
She must have noticed his sudden darkening of mood, because she said, "And I'll tell you a secret."
His mouth turned up in a half-grin. "I like secrets."
"I bet you do," she answered. She nodded her chin toward the pots dangling over the counter. "Those pots came to Kansas with Jonathan's great-grandparents. His mother used them, and passed them on to me." She leaned forward and whispered, "They're a lot of trouble to clean, though. I never use them, except when Jonathan's family visits." She pointed to the pot on the stove, the one containing dinner. "Non-stick T-Fal. Bought them at Sears a few years ago, after spending all of Thanksgiving scrubbing burnt pots while the rest of the family watched football. I keep them under the sink, where no one can see."
She looked smug and a little silly, and his throat tightened. "You remind me of my mother," he blurted
"Oh, Lex," she said, laying a hand on his arm and squeezing gently.
"I'll tell you a secret," he offered.
"A fair exchange, huh?"
"Nothing's free." He smiled again, though it felt more like a grimace. He looked away. It was always easier to admit something when you didn't have to look the other person in the eye. "I miss her."
Her hand slid down arm and grasped his tightly. "Of course you do, Lex. You always will. But as long as you remember her, she'll always be alive inside you. She loved you very much."
He returned the pressure on her hand, catching his upper lip between his teeth, feeling all of eleven again.
He wanted to lay himself down in Mrs. Kent's lap and cry, the way he had when she'd died, but Lionel had burned the tears out of him. He could hear his father's voice, 'Luthors never show weakness.' He blinked a few times, and withdrew his hand, suddenly awkward.
He stood abruptly, and took a sip of wine, the weight of the glass in his hand comforting.
He was saved from having to say something when the door banged open and Clark walked in.
"Lex! You're here!"
"Nothing gets by you, does it, Clark?" Lex replied.
Martha rose as well, and kissed her son hello. Lex pushed down the envy that rose in him, and took another sip of wine.
"Why don't you boys set the table," she suggested, moving back to the stove to tend the stew. "Dinner will be ready soon."
"Ooh, chicken and dumplings," Clark said, inhaling deeply. "My favorite."
"I know," Martha said.
"And apple pie for dessert?" Lex asked, willing himself to feel a part of the family, at least for the next few hours, rather than apart from everything.
"And apple pie for dessert," Martha replied, her smile encompassing both of them. And Lex was, for the moment, content.
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