by Basingstoke (firstname.lastname@example.org)
"You can't sleep either?" Jonathan asked.
"I may never sleep again." He heard her shift onto her side under the covers. "Bullets..."
"I know. I know, Martha." He reached over and held her close. He knew exactly what she was thinking about. Bruises spotting his boy like a Dalmatian, and every one a bullet fired by Lex Luthor. "What almost bothers me more is Lex..."
"...his new best friend. We can't stand in his way--that'll just drive them closer together and alienate Clark from us." Martha pressed her forehead into his chest.
"I just--I want to lock him in the storm cellar until he's done growing up. But I guess that's not an option."
She laughed. "I think a lot of parents would do that if it were."
"Chloe's parents sure would." He smiled, thinking of poor Gabe Sullivan and his wife. Martha laughed again.
"At least she's got Clark to take care of her," she said. She settled into the curve of his arm.
"Do you think they're seeing each other?"
"No, he's still tied up in knots over Lana. And, well, Lex."
"Jonathan, I want you to be prepared!"
"Our boy's not gay!" he whispered angrily. "He played football!"
"Oh, honestly. You know better than that. I want you to be ready just in case!" she hissed.
"There's no 'just in case'--damn it all!" He stopped making sense even to himself and shut his mouth.
"You know my friend Mark. His parents kicked him out of the house and he nearly died. I don't want us to be those parents--"
"I wouldn't kick him out of the house!"
"I want us to be ready! For it not to be a surprise if he ever says it." She grabbed his collar, tugging like a terrier. "I hope he never does. But just in case!"
"Just in case," Jonathan sighed. He rolled back onto the pillow and closed his eyes.
"And I invited Lex to dinner on Sunday."
"What?" Jonathan shot back up.
"It's the least we could do! He saved us the farm."
"And shot Clark!"
"That wasn't really him." She elbowed him painfully. "You, mister, are going to be on your best behavior."
"Oh, for the love of Pete--"
"Would you rather have Clark seeing Lex here in our house or there in Lex's castle?"
He frowned. "All right. You have a point."
"Especially--just in case." How many bedrooms in the castle? How many snares for a bright, naive boy?
"Just in case." She rested her head again. "I hope I'm wrong."
He hugged her.
Light suddenly flashed under the bedroom door, then dimmed. Rattling sounds in the bathroom.
"Clark...I wonder what he wants?" Martha rolled out of bed. Jonathan sat up. She opened the bedroom door. "Clark?"
More rattling. "Sorry, I didn't mean to wake you up. I was trying to be quiet."
Jonathan slid out of bed and joined Martha in the hallway. Clark stood in the doorway of the bathroom, holding a bottle of Tylenol. He wore only the ragged gray sweat pants that he slept in. The bruises stood out on his chest like bull's eyes. "We weren't sleeping," Jonathan said. "It's been a heck of a day."
The day started with Clark coming in at four in the morning, full of stories about Rickman and Kyle that Jonathan and Martha had to believe. Clark hadn't slept at all that night--he hadn't slept in two days. He had to be wiped. "I'm on a bruise no matter which way I lay down. I don't know--would drugs even work?" Clark asked, scowling at the Tylenol.
"They--sometimes," Martha said. She frowned. "You probably shouldn't. Let me get Mom's featherbed down, Clark, and you can sleep on that. It should be a lot softer." She bustled down the hall toward the attic ladder.
"Thanks, Mom!" Clark called. He looked back at the Tylenol and put it back in the bathroom.
Jonathan suddenly noticed that Clark's hair brushed the door frame. "How tall are you these days?"
Clark turned back around and grinned. "Six-three. Unless I grew again, but my clothes still fit from last time."
"Please, don't grow until harvest!" They'd had to replace half Clark's wardrobe last time. "You're officially taller than your old man now...you know, I can remember when I could pick you up with one hand." And holding Clark's wrist and ankle and playing airplane.... His first word was "up."
His first word in English, anyway.
"And now I can pick you up with one hand," Clark said.
"You can try!" Jonathan crouched into a boxing pose. Clark held up his hands, grinning, as Martha reappeared with the featherbed barely contained in her arms.
"I tried to beat out the dust," she said, making her way down the hall to Clark's room, "but it shouldn't be too bad with a blanket over it. I don't know why I didn't think of this before!"
"Nothing's really hurt before. Not for a few years," Clark said.
Jonathan looked at him. "Years?"
Clark looked at the floor and shrugged. "I was thinking about it earlier, and, well, I only really noticed things were different with the last growth spurt, you know? But really, things have been changing all along."
That was--well. Nothing more to say. Jonathan touched Clark's shoulder lightly. "Just let us know what's happening with you, son. You know you can tell us--anything."
Floating. X-ray vision. Lex Luthor. Just in case. His little boy, turning into a man by fits and starts.
Martha stepped back into the hall. "Sweetheart? Give this a try." Jonathan peeked into Clark's room and saw his bed piled comically high with the pillow-like featherbed. Clark circled it, finally climbing up from the foot of the bed and rolling over gently onto his side.
"It's like sleeping in a bag of marshmallows!"
"But it doesn't hurt?"
"No, Mom. Thanks, Mom."
She smiled and stroked his forehead, then picked up the other blankets from the floor. Jonathan caught up the other end and together they settled the covers over a red-faced Clark. Embarrassed at being treated like a kid, Jonathan figured, but--well, it was only going to get harder, so they might as well get their licks in while they could. "Goodnight, Clark," he said.
"Night, Dad. Night, Mom."
In the hallway Jonathan held Martha's hand, and she leaned against his shoulder, and he picked a wisp of dust from her hair. "I promise not to beat Lex Luthor at the dinner table," he said. "I'll even play checkers with him afterwards. But I won't let him win."
They went back to bed.
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