Lost Boy

by Erika



Title: Lost Boy.
Author: Erika
Email: funhapjoy@yahoo.com
Fandom: Smallville.
Rating: PG.
Disc: Smallville belongs to WB, Superman and all its characters belong to DC Comics, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Beta: Jose, Tara and Jamwired.
Note: The story takes place before the episode 'Stray.' Diana (steeleye2000) summarized the story as follows: Lex learns what its like to have a loving father.

Cover for the story:
http://carlaerika.150m.com/LostB.jpg

Livejournal:
http://www.livejournal.com/users/chinae/

Website:
http://carlaerika.150.com
http://www.geocities.com/carlajanep/Erika/EEpart00.html

~oo00oo~

It was dark when Lex finally made his way back to the mansion from the factory. Ten o'clock on a Tuesday night.

Lex rubbed his weary eyes. He badly needed sleep and a good night's rest. Lex changed the gearshift in the car, going faster, speeding on the deserted roads leading to his home. What he needed was a week away from Smallville. From the freaks that seemed to congregate here. From the Luthor name. From the responsibilities.

Freedom.

As he entered his property, Lex slowed down the car and looked over at the mansion. All the house required to cement its reputation as a house of horror was its very own gargoyle. Maybe he should get one. After all, Bruce Wayne had one. Several in fact, and if it was good enough for a Wayne, Lex smirked, it should be good enough for a Luthor.

Lex parked the car, made his way inside the house, and quickly headed toward the office. He picked up the cognac from the bar and poured himself a drink. What had he done to deserve a visit from his father, Lex wondered as he twirled the drink in his hand. At least Lionel had called this time, warning him of his impending arrival. Unfortunately for Lex, it could not have happened at a worse possible time. There had been two small accidents at the plant this week; one of the machines had broken down, and half the workers at the plant had come down with food poisoning. The plant cafeteria was now closed, and health inspectors from Metropolis were expected to arrive tomorrow.

Sitting down on the chair in front of his laptop, Lex noticed the light blinking on the answering machine. He pressed the button; the tape started playing. Clark's voice filled the room.

"Lex, I've been trying to reach you all day." Rustling could be heard in the background. "Chloe, give me that. Look, I need to borrow some books on Alexander the Great. Yeah, you guessed it. I finally picked my history topic. Call me, okay?"

Lex looked at his watch. Ten thirty. By the time he showered, changed, and picked up some papers, he'd be heading back to the factory at midnight. His father was scheduled to stay for at least two days. He'd probably see Clark on Saturday, but that was a big if.

Lex rubbed his temples, fighting off the impending headache. He really should have stayed away from the alcohol. He got up and picked up the folders next to the laptop, taking them with him as he headed toward the library. Clark needed books. Lex would give him books.

Twenty minutes later, Lex had gathered six books on Alexander the Great. He left everything at the top of the staircase and made his way to his bedroom for a quick shower and a change of clothes.

~oo00oo~

It wasn't until he was halfway to the Kents that Lex realized dropping by unannounced in the middle of the night would not endear him to Clark's family, especially Jonathan. If Lex just showed up and rang the doorbell, with the way his luck was going, Clark's dad might accidentally shoot him. Lex really did not want to bleed to death on Clark's porch.

Lex slowed down the Porsche, picked up the cell phone, and dialled the Kent farm. It rang three times before someone answered.

"Kent Family." It was Martha.

"Mrs. Kent, I'm sorry to bother you..."

"Lex, is everything all right?" Martha asked, concerned. Lex could hear some rustling in the background. Jonathan? Had he woken them up? Probably. Great.

"Um...Clark left a message at the mansion. He asked to borrow some books, and since right now I'm heading back to the factory, I was wondering if I could just drop by and give you the books."

Before Martha was able to reply to his request, the front tires of the car suddenly burst. Lex quickly lost control of the car. He dropped the cell phone, put the car in neutral, and hit the brakes, steering the car left and then right.

"Lex?" Martha called out. "Lex! Jonathan, I think something is wrong."

Lex fought for control and finally managed to wrestle the car to a stop. The Porsche ended up in a ditch, and he had come close to hitting a tree. Real close. Lex searched for the cell phone, picked it up, and took a deep breath.

"Mrs. Kent? I'm all right. I'm fine," Lex assured her as he opened the door of the car and stepped out. He was shaking slightly.

"Lex, what happened?"

He looked around. "I don't know. The two front tires gave out." Lex walked to the rear of the car, opened up the trunk, and took out the roadside emergency kit.

"Where are you?" Lex could hear Clark in the background, talking with Jonathan.

"About ten minutes from your place, past the crossing," Lex turned on the small flashlight, leaving the emergency kit open on the hood of the trunk. He walked around the car, observing the damage. He looked up at the dark sky. It had been warm all day, humid. Lex was surprised it wasn't raining.

"Lex, are you still there?" Now it was Clark's voice on the phone.

"Hmm?" To Clark listening on the phone Lex sounded distracted. "Sorry about that, just looking at the car."

"Look, I talked with my dad. We'll be there in few minutes to pick you up." Pause. "Lex?"

"Yeah. Still here." There was something, a light flashing by the bushes. As he approached the area, the light got brighter, almost blinding him. "Clark, this might sound strange, but there's something here."

"Here?"

"In the ditch near the car," Lex clarified. "There's a light, and it's glowing red..." His voice dropped as he backed away, but it was too late. The light consumed him. He dropped the phone.

"Lex!" Clark shouted through the static on the phone.

"Clark?" Clark could hear Lex's voice; it sounded faint. "God, it hurts." And the connection between them was severed.

~oo00oo~

It had taken them ten minutes to reach Lex. Clark could have done it in less but his father had insisted they take the car. He was not letting Clark handle this, whatever it may be, by himself.

They got out of the car at the same time, having parked the car near the crossing. With flashlights turned on, father and son walked down the middle of the road, calling and searching for any sign of Lex. They both shared a look as they noticed the tire tracks on the road. They flashed the lights to the ground and slowly made their way down the ditch, calling for Lex. Using his X-ray vision, Clark swept the area. No sign of Lex. No sign of any struggle, except there was a small area a few feet in front of them near a bush that Clark could not see past. It was as though something was interfering with his vision.

Suddenly a bright light appeared by the bushes, flashing and then dying down. Now Clark could see past the bush to a small figure lying on the ground near a clearing.

"Dad?" Clark called to his father. They both cautiously approached the area. The beams from their flashlights pointed toward the still figure.

As Clark crouched down, he took note of the clothes the huddled form on the ground wore: they seemed vaguely familiar. He reached out and turned the figure on his back and then gasped aloud. He stumbled and took a step back.

Curly, red hair. Red eyelashes against pale cheeks.

Stepping forward Clark knelt beside the body, heart pounding, not able to believe what he now saw in front of him.

"Clark?" Jonathan asked his son, his hand coming to rest on Clark's shoulder.

"Dad?" There was wonderment in his son's voice. "It...I..." short pause, "I think this is Lex."

And then the heavens opened, and it started to rain.

~oo00oo~

Martha was in the kitchen, her late night call with Lex utmost in her mind. She looked outside. It had started to rain shortly after Jonathan and Clark had left the house to search for Lex.

She made coffee, needing to keep herself busy. Ten minutes later, as she watched for her husband and son, lights appeared down their long dirt road leading to the house. She stepped onto the porch, watching as her husband parked their truck, and Clark cautiously got out of the vehicle, carrying a small bundle in his arms.

She held the door open for them as they entered the house, and Martha found herself glancing back to the truck. Where was Lex?

Jonathan took off his wet coat. He looked haggard. There was a certain weariness around his eyes which troubled Martha.

"Jonathan? What happened out there?"

Not getting an answer, Martha turned to her son. Clark still held on tightly to his bundle, the wet hair plastered to his face adding years to her son's true age. Watching him, Martha reflected that Clark resembled more a young man than a boy.

Jonathan walked up to Clark and pulled aside the blanket that was wrapped around Clark's bundle, revealing a small child. Red, curly hair. Mud on his cheek. Skin like porcelain. Asleep.

She looked at husband and son. Both seemed unable to find the words to explain who this child was and why they had brought him to her. Martha advanced toward Clark, her hand reaching out to caress the young boy's cheek. The child leaned into her touch.

"Who's this? And where's Lex?" None of this made any sense, and Martha had an uncomfortable feeling she wasn't going to like the answer.

"This is Lex, Martha," Jonathan explained with quiet certainty.

"No. This can't be." Lex was a young man, not a child, but the seriousness of her husband's gaze made Martha step back in shock.

They all looked solemnly at the small boy who slept soundly, safe, in Clark's arms.

~oo00oo~

It was six o'clock in the morning, and usually, at this time, Jonathan was inspecting the farm, but today he found himself standing in the doorway of the guest room, watching as Martha checked up on the still-sleeping form of Lex Luthor.

Jonathan had gotten very little sleep last night...this morning...after they had put Lex to bed and had explained to Martha the circumstances in which they had found him.

When Clark had discovered the de-aged body of Lex Luthor, they had quickly walked back to their truck. Jonathan had noticed as it had rained that somehow Lex's Porsche had been nowhere in sight. It had disappeared. As had the tire marks on the road.

He had seen enough strange things in his life to have realized it would have been best if they had left the place before anything else had occurred. As he had driven back to the farm, from the corner of his eye, Jonathan had observed as Clark had wrapped a blanket around Lex, keeping the child dry and warm; they had kept an old woollen one in the truck for emergencies.

Now, as he watched Martha tuck another blanket around a small shoulder, Jonathan shook his head, still wrestling with the same question that had kept him from sleeping the night before. What were they going to do?

How could they explain things to Lex, or to anyone else for that matter? And how would this affect Clark? Affect their family?

From across the room, Jonathan, seeing the determination in Martha's eyes, sighed deeply. Regardless of his concerns for the family's safety, it appeared Martha did not share them. He knew any attempts by him to remove Lex, this child, from their home, from her care, would be met with resistance.

"He's just a child," his wife had informed him, eyes pleading for him to understand, grant her this, allow her to care for this boy. For him not to disappoint her.

Besides, there was a fragility about the boy that Jonathan could not ignore, no matter how hard he tried. It would be a cruel thing to turn this child away unprotected. He was so much like Clark, Jonathan thought.

Lex was in fact wearing a set of Clark's old pajamas, white flannel material with a small penguin print. The child slept soundly. He had not even awakened when they had changed him into dry clothes or when they had tucked him into bed. In fact, from the moment Clark had picked him up out in the clearing, Lex had not opened his eyes.

Martha walked up to Jonathan, her arms coming around his waist. She leaned into him so that her head rested on his chest. "Do you remember Clark at this age?"

That was the year Clark had broken his bike, riding it too fast, too hard. The wheels had practically melted.

"Yes." He kissed Martha on the forehead and smiled reassuringly at her. "Coming down for breakfast?"

"Actually..." Martha looked back to the sleeping child.

Jonathan remembered this as well, Martha as a tigress protecting her new cub. "Stay." He kissed her on the lips, slowly. God, he loved this woman.

Another kiss this time on the forehead, and then Jonathan turned, leaving the room, heading down the staircase and into the kitchen. He wasn't surprise to find Clark already there, eating breakfast.

"Son."

"Dad." Clark looked up away from his cereal bowl. "Is Lex okay?"

"Your mother is with him."

"I was wondering, that is, I really don't have to go to school today. I could stay here and look after Lex." Earnest gaze, pleading him to say yes.

"Clark," Jonathan shook his head and looked gravely at his son.

"He's my friend," Clark insisted, serious, determined.

"I know. I know, son." Jonathan had never felt this helpless before. So much was at stake here for his family. For Lex. For all of them.

~oo00oo~

In the end, they decided that Clark needed to attend school. If anybody asked, Lex had called last night about dropping off some books, but he had failed to come to the house. Which was the truth. The adult Lex had never showed up.

Throughout the morning, Martha stayed inside, making sure that Lex was all right while Jonathan fixed the fence around the farm. By one o'clock, Jonathan, who had returned to the house for lunch, found himself upstairs, bumping into a child dragging his blankets.

"Lex?" There was a slight sleepiness around the child. A weariness that was gone as soon as the boy focused on him.

"Who are you?" the child asked. There was fear in those blue-gray eyes, an apprehension as the boy nervously looked at Jonathan.

"Lex?" Jonathan repeated as he stooped down so as not to frighten the child with his towering height. "It's Jonathan. Jonathan Kent."

There was a certain hesitation in the way the boy continued to observe Jonathan, a timidness Jonathan had not ever witness in the adult Lex. The boy swallowed, straightening his shoulders. In a monotone voice, he asked, "My parents?"

More than anything else, that question confirmed to Jonathan that whatever had de-aged Lex physically had also affected him in other ways.

"What's the last thing you remember?" Jonathan asked, trying to sound nonchalant, hoping his voice did not convey the concern he currently felt.

The child brightened. "Pegasus. My mother's going to take me to ride Pegasus." The boy frowned. "Is my father still angry?"

"Angry?" Jonathan asked, standing.

"About cancelling our trip to Smallville," he said with a questioning gaze, a slight pensive frown settling upon a young face.

"You are in Smallville," Jonathan informed, trying to read this child's current mood.

"Oh."

"Jonathan?" Martha called from kitchen. The sound of Martha's voice seemed to solicit Lex's attention. They waited for her silently as she climbed the staircase. She smiled warmly at Lex as she approached them, giving no indication that there was anything peculiar about the two of them standing together in her upstairs hallway.

With every step Martha had taken toward Lex, he had seemed to relax. The tension Jonathan was now just noticing in the boy was giving way to tears.

The boy was confused. Scared. Lonely. He had awoken in a strange bed. In a room not his own.

Martha crouched down and wrapped her arms around the boy. He rested his head along her shoulder. Martha ended up sitting on the floor. Lex crawled to her lap, seeking reassurances, still holding onto the blanket he had taken from the bed, his body quivering.

"It's all right," Martha murmured along Lex's hair, feeling his throbbing pulse against her fingertips as she gently soothed him. He was beautiful, this child. This boy who was not hers...they were never hers.

Martha kissed Lex on his temple, feeling him relax and settle against her.

"I'm sorry," Lex said, sounding so mature, grown up, though the slow blush coming to rest upon his cheeks gave away his youth. "It's just...where am I?"

"You're at our farm," Jonathan explained carefully. "I'm Jonathan Kent, and this is my wife, Martha."

The child nodded in greeting. "I'm Alexander." Pause. "Alexander Luthor."

"We know." Martha adjusted Lex's pajama top.

The child's empty stomach grumbled, and Alexander ducked his head, embarrassed.

Martha chuckled. "Why don't you get yourself dressed?" Alexander stood up and offered his small hand to Martha to help her get up. "We'll explain everything later." Martha manoeuvred Lex back toward the guest bedroom. "Come on."

Jonathan watched as Martha helped Lex with his clothes. Clothes that their son had once worn. He went downstairs alone, trying to find a way he could explain all of this to Lex without frightening the boy.

~oo00oo~

Lex...Alexander ate a hearty breakfast with a quiet delicateness that was, in some ways, unnerving to a man brought up on a farm and who had very little experience with the world this child of privilege inhabited.

During Lex's meal, Jonathan informed seven-year-old Alexander that his father had wanted him to have a learning experience here at the farm, an opportunity for Lex to integrate himself into a society different than his own. A test of sorts. A character-building session. Throughout Jonathan's explanation, the child nodded, understanding and accepting this account as though it was normal for him to have his father drop him in the middle of nowhere and expect his son to survive.

Lex did not find Jonathan's request that nobody discover he was Luthor's son strange, as his father had not attached a bodyguard for this particular field trip. In the end, it had been Alexander who had come up with the idea of calling himself Wayne, Alexander Wayne, after a friend from prep school.

It was when Lex had asked about his mother that Jonathan had found it hard to lie. He could not tell this child his mother was now dead, and had been for some time. The adult Lex had known what it was like to have grown up without a mother, but this child standing in front of him did not. Luckily for Jonathan, Martha had intervened, quietly telling Lex his mother had thought he would enjoy this grand adventure and was anxiously waiting for his return so he could share with her all that he had learned.

"How long did my father say I would be staying here, Mr. Kent?" Lex asked, sipping his hot milk.

"A few days." Jonathan hoped that whatever process had de-aged Lex would soon wear off.

The sound of footsteps on the front porch told Jonathan and Martha that their son had come home early. They only had a few second's notice before Clark opened the front door of the house, smiled at his parents in greeting, and then stared at Lex intently. Concerned. Pleased. Worried about his friend.

"Clark, I will like you to meet our guest, Lex Luthor."

"Alexander," the young boy insisted. "My mother calls me Alexander; only my father calls me Lex."

"Alexander."

"Clark," Lex said in greeting as Clark exchanged a look with this father who gently shook his head as though to silently convey 'not now'; he would explain everything later.

"Actually, son, now that you are home, would you mind taking Alexander up to the barn, show him around?"

"Sure." Clark put down his backpack. "Come on, Lex." A slight frown formed on the young child's lips. "Sorry, Alexander." The frown turned into a welcoming smile.

"Thank you, Mrs. Kent, for the lovely meal. May I be excused?"

Martha had barely managed to finish nodding before Alexander slipped off his chair and went running out of the house, hard on Clark's heels. Waiting for the sound of small footsteps following the longer stride of their son into the barn, Jonathan turned to Martha and breathed a sigh of relief. So far, so good.

~oo00oo~

Clark found himself looking back to Lex in concern. Seven-year-old Alexander Luthor was enjoying his first experience visiting a farm, a farm the adult Lex had frequented on many occasions. Alexander viewed the farm as a child would a circus, smiling endearingly as small baby ducks waddled toward him. He bent down and picked one of them up in his arms, laughing as it squirmed against him.

"Can I keep one?"

"Wouldn't it miss its mother?" Clark asked, watching as another baby fowl unravelled Alexander's shoelace.

"I guess so." The young boy put the duck down, gently petting its head and neck.

"Come on. You still have so much to see, and I have chores to do."

"Can I help?" Lex asked in an excited, hopeful voice.

Clark looked down at him, really looked at Lex, at his young, still-forming bones and his small heart beating rapidly. "All right, but you have to do as I say." Alexander nodded. "Okay, squirt, I guess we have a deal." And they shook hands, sealing their bargain.

~oo00oo~

By the time they had finished Clark's chores, Lex had started to yawn, tired, not used to all the activity of farm work.

Clark ruffled Alexander's curls that were soft to the touch. A part of Clark was still unable to believe this child was Lex Luthor, his best friend.

The sound of cars coming down the long dirt road cut short Clark's musing. Watching as they approached and noticing that they were police cars, Clark picked Alexander up in his arms and carried him back to the house.

"Hey," a startled voice said. "Wow, you're tall." Small arms came around Clark's neck.

"Mom. Dad. We have visitors." Clark adjusted Lex's weight on his hip as the child buried his face into Clark's neck, murmuring all the while about giraffes.

As Jonathan stepped outside, Clark handed Lex to Martha who then took the child into the house. Clark stayed outside with his father, unsure of what he should do.

"Brad. Allan." Jonathan nodded to the Sheriff and his deputy as they came up onto the Kent's front porch. "Something I can do for you, gentleman?"

"Jonathan, we were wondering if we could talk to your son."

"About?"

The officers exchanged a look. "Lex Luthor."

"What about Lex?" Clark asked, looking concerned.

"Have you heard from him in the past twenty-four hours?" The Sheriff glanced at both father and son.

"He called last night. He was going to come by and drop off some books, but he never showed," Clark told them, puzzled.

"Are you sure he did not drop by?" The Sheriff insisted.

"Yes, we stayed up late just to wait for him, but...has something happened to him?"

"Nobody has heard from or seen Lex Luthor since last night. He was expected back at the plant around midnight. The foreman and his crew waited for hours for Lex to return, but he never did. He was also supposed to have a meeting with his father this morning and, well... It was actually Gabe Sullivan who grew concerned. He told us it was not like young Luthor to disappear."

"If we hear from him, we'll call you," Jonathan reassured the officers.

"Please do." The Sheriff glanced back to the house. "Good day, Jonathan, Clark."

Father and son waited until the cars had truly left their property before they headed back to the house. Jonathan rested a hand on his son's shoulder. "Whatever happens, it'll be okay," he stressed, trying to reassure both his son and himself.

Until things returned back to normal, they had no other choice but to hide Lex, take him into their care. Jonathan admitted he was scared, but all his fears were forgotten as they entered the house to the sound of laughter as Alexander and Martha came down the staircase.

~oo00oo~

His hair was just like Jonathan's, soft and curly. Martha had always wondered what Jonathan's child would look like. Ironic that a young Lex Luthor would so resemble her husband. She wiped her hands on the tea cloth and checked on the apple pie. Almost done. Martha walked out to the porch and almost laughed at the sight in front of her; Alexander was helping Jonathan clear the pile of straw near the barn.

For the past four days, she had caught Alexander trying to mimic Jonathan's walk, trying to emulate her husband, always looking up at him, following Jonathan everywhere like a lost puppy. And, in a way, Lex was lost, lost in an environment different from what he was accustomed to with a man who had shown him far more affection and attention than Alexander was used to receiving from his own father.

She smiled. There he was, at it again. Jonathan had paused for a moment in pitching the hay to stand, one hand braced on the pitchfork, the other propped against his hip. Lex, standing next to him, had carefully adopted the same stance, awkward and adorable where Jonathan's was unconscious.

"Mom?"

She turned toward Clark, a smile still on her lips. "You're home early."

"What are they doing?" Clark asked. There were times he could not believe just how close his father had become to Lex. No, to Alexander, as the young Luthor insisted he be called. A part of Clark was still finding it difficult thinking of, let alone seeing, Lex at this age, while another part was jealous of the closeness that existed between his parents and the young boy. After all, Alexander was normal, human. Raising Alexander, Jonathan and Martha wouldn't have to always worry about him hurting someone.

"Clark?" Concerned blue eyes stared up at him. His mother's hand now rested on his arm.

"It's just..." There was Alexander covered in dirt, beaming at Clark's father, bits of straw on his clothes and red hair. "I know dad loves me and what happened to Lex might just be temporary but..." he paused, having trouble finding the words. "Did you and dad ever regret adopting me?"

"Oh, Clark. How could you think that?"

"You could have adopted a normal child."

"We wanted you. Just you," his mother informed him, hugging her son close. A child's laughter coming from the barn had them both turning away from each other, gazing back toward the barn.

"Alexander..." How could she explain? "Look at him. Really look at him. Clark, when I think what this child will become, it saddens my heart. Right now, at this moment, he is so young, open and carefree, but you and I both know all of that will change. There's this vulnerability about him, this innocence that, in a way, he still carries as an adult if one searches deep enough. A want. A need to be accepted." She watched as Jonathan knelt in front of Lex and tried unsuccessfully to teach Alexander to whistle.

"The adult Lex seems so self-assured, so confident, like nothing can touch him. Sometimes we forget what it must have been like for this shy child to have lost his mother, and then be raised solely by Lionel. But, Clark, because we've come to care for Alexander, it doesn't mean we love you any less." They shared another smile.

"Thanks, Mom."

"Anytime."

"Do I smell something burning?" Clark asked.

"My pie!" Martha exclaimed as she rushed back inside. Watching her, Clark chuckled and shook his head. Parents.

Clark walked toward the barn, catching Alexander as he almost tripped trying to get to him.

"Clark, you're home!" Alexander cried out, all flushed cheeks, smiling blue-gray eyes, and tousled curls as he clutched at Clark's arms, still wrapped around Lex's shoulders from catching Lex as he tripped.

It would be nice having a kid brother around, Clark thought absentmindedly as he took some straw out of those curls, pushing Alexander's hand away.

"Hey, stop that. I'm not a baby," Alexander protested.

"You know, Mom might want you to take a bath before supper," Clark warned as he knelt down on the ground.

"Do I have to?" Alexander asked rubbing his cheek. Clark wondered if at this age he, too, had had an aversion to water.

"Or no apple pie." Small arms came up to rest along Clark's shoulders.

"But I've been good, and I had a bath yesterday." His mouth was set in a pout.

Now on his knees, Clark tugged at the pants covered in dirt, point made. Looking at the child, Clark then brought his hand to his lips and moistened his fingers with saliva. Clark wiped away some of the dirt from Alexander's cheek and forehead.

"Ew." The boy shrieked in protest as he buried his face along Clark's neck, his warm breath tickling. "Warn a guy next time, will you," commented Alexander as Clark shared a smile with his father who had silently watched this exchanged. Yeah, having a kid brother around wouldn't be so bad.

~oo00oo~

Who would have thought that there were things Lex had no knowledge of, especially when one considered how often he gave the impression of knowing everything and anything. Supreme confidence, like everything he did, turned to gold, the adult Lex, that was. His younger self just stared blankly at Clark, giving him the impression that they weren't even speaking the same language.

"It's a ball, Alexander," Clark explained patiently.

Alexander was wearing a Kansas State baseball cap and Clark's hand-me-downs. He kept looking at the baseball he held in his hands and back at Clark. They were playing just outside the barn, next to the house.

"Now just throw it to me," Clark told him, raising his glove, ready to catch the white ball.

Alexander just raised his eyebrow. "Why?"

Why? What did he mean, why? "It's baseball." Clark racked his brain trying to come up with an explanation that would make sense to Lex. "It's...it's like rugby."

"I think they use larger balls," Alexander gently explained. "And I'm pretty sure they do a great deal of running."

Clark blushed. Wrong sport. "I meant cricket." Damn, even at this age Lex could make him feel like a bubbling idiot. Clark zero. Lex one. To lose to an infant, it could only happen to him. "Now just throw me the ball, okay?"

Alexander shrugged his small shoulders and threw the ball to Clark.

Good. Good. This could work. Clark threw the ball back and watched it fall a few feet to the right next to Alexander. Who had not moved to catch it but instead stared at the ball on the ground as though it was a foreign object.

Agh! Okay, calm down. It is not his fault. Alexander is just a kid, Clark reminded himself. A rich kid who probably had never played this game.

"Was I supposed to catch it?" Alexander asked.

"It's okay. We'll try again." He watched the young boy nod, and by the time Chloe and Lana came upon them, they had settled into an easy rhythm of throwing and catching the ball.

"Hey, Clark." Both girls waved to Clark just as Lex threw the ball back at him. Clark turned, smiled at Lana, and smack got hit on the arm by the baseball.

"Ow."

Lex stood still. Eyes uncertain.

"I'm okay," Clark told him, approaching Lex carefully, noticing the nervous air that suddenly surrounded the young boy. Cautious blue-gray eyes stared back at him, watching Clark's approach.

"Who's your friend?" Chloe asked, sending Alexander a friendly smile.

"Oh, this is Alexander." Clark nodded toward Alexander. "Alexander, this is Chloe and Lana. We go to school together."

Lex stepped forward, took off his cap, and politely said, "How do you do?" Formal. Stiff. Correct.

Clark wondered where the mischievous child had disappeared to and why he had been replaced by this miniature adult.

Chloe smiled and raised an eyebrow at Clark's direction. He wouldn't be surprised if she had a thousand questions about Alexander.

"I'm fine. Thank you. Is this your first visit to Smallville?"

Alexander relaxed slightly. Watching them talk, Clark noticed the way Alexander kept glancing back to him, as though seeking his approval.

"So, your parents have you baby-sitting," Lana mentioned to Clark as they all started to walk back to the house.

"Yes."

"Will he be staying long?"

"Probably for a few days. We really don't know. His...um...parents are having marital problems and um...you know how it is," Clark informed her, repeating the story his family had come up with to explain Alexander's presence in the Kent's home. He looked everywhere but at Lana.

"Really."

"Yeah. Look, I have to talk to Chloe. Would you mind looking after him?" Clark didn't even wait for her response. Lana had a way of reading right through him, of making him confess to things, and it was important that nobody found out that Alexander was actually Lex.

"He's a cute kid," Chloe informed Clark as they watched Alexander and Lana sit on the steps leading up the porch. "So, why do you want to talk to me?"

"Oh...um."

"Clark?"

Damn. He had forgotten about Chloe's inquisitive nature.

"You know, Clark, I have been meaning to ask, have you heard from Lex?"

"No." Clark shoved his hands in his jean pockets, looked down to the ground, and shuffled his feet.

"It has been four days, Clark. Don't you think it is strange nobody has heard from him?"

"Chloe..." Clark looked up. Big mistake. Chloe's eyes were intense, searching, pinning Clark to his place and making him choke on the lie hovering in the back of his throat.

"I was talking to my dad last night, and he seemed worried."

Clark glanced away. Lana must have said something to Alexander because he was looking at her rather strangely. Alexander's heart rate had picked up.

"Earth to Clark."

Clark blushed slightly. "You were saying...?"

She rolled her eyes. "I thought Lex was your friend."

"He is."

"You're sure, Clark, because you are really not showing that much concern. He could have been kidnapped, killed, for all you know."

"Chloe, you just don't understand..."

"Then explain it to me."

"I can't." This wasn't something he could share with her, as much as he needed to talk to someone. There was no way Clark could allow Lex to become part of Chloe's 'Wall of Weird,' collection.

"Have it your way," Chloe angrily responded, turning to stalk away.

Clark reached for her arm. "Chloe."

"You can't be bothered with this, fine, but don't expect me to sit idly by, wondering what happened to our favourite millionaire playboy."

"You care." Clark asked, stunned.

"He treats my father with respect, Clark. Doesn't act like a moron, unlike other people I could mention."

"I'm sorry."

She relented slightly, her eyes softening. She was on the verge of saying something more when the sound of Alexander's voice as he replied to something Lana said distracted Clark, making him turn toward the sound of their voices and away from her. "We'll talk later, okay?"

Later that evening, after Chloe and Lana had gone home, Alexander leaned against the kitchen counter; he looked reflective. He had seemed preoccupied ever since his talk with Lana.

"Hey, you okay?" Clark asked.

"Did you know Lana's parents are dead?"

"Yeah," Clark answered cautiously, wondering where this conversation was headed.

"They died in a meteorite shower. Crushed to death like bugs," Alexander explained, bringing up his arms to demonstrate how this occurred. "I wasn't sure it actually happened," Alexander confided. "Is that why she's so strange?"

"She isn't strange," Clark denied, defending Lana.

"Well, she kept talking about it," Alexander insisted, reaching over to grab an apple on the kitchen counter.

"Alexander!"

Alexander ignored him, titling his head to the side. He then became slightly pale and dropped the apple to the floor. "What if I have nightmares about it?" He stopped, looking slightly aghast. "Maybe we shouldn't go outside anymore."

"Alexander..." He's only a kid, Clark reminded himself. He couldn't strangle a kid.

"A big rock could fall on us and crush us, Clark. We could die."

"Clark. Alexander. What's going on?" Clark's parents called out as they stepped down the staircase.

Alexander rushed to their sides and wrapped his arms around Martha's waist. "We're all going to die, just like Lana's parents!"

"Clark?" Jonathan looked at his son, seeking an explanation.

"Chloe and Lana dropped by earlier this afternoon."

"A big rock fell on Lana's parents, and it went kaboom, body parts all over," a horrified Alexander explained. "Promise me you won't ever leave this house."

"She didn't tell you that," Clark found himself saying as both his parents looked at him disapprovingly.

"I'm seven. I can fill in the blanks."

"Maybe it is best if we keep Lana away from Alexander," Jonathan informed Clark as his hands went to rest on Alexander's shoulders, reassuring the frightened boy.

"But, Dad..."

Clark looked at Lex who just kept his eyes closed tightly, hugging Martha for dear life. Okay, Clark could concede that maybe Lana should not have told Alexander about her dead parents or at least not gone into so much detail.

Alexander opened his eyes, and he looked at Clark accusingly. 'This is all your fault,' his eyes seemed to say.

Clark was so used to hearing about Lana's dead parents that he hadn't thought how the story would sound to someone as young and impressionable as Alexander.

Clark sighed deeply. "No Lana."

Alexander looked at Jonathan as though seeking reassurance. "And she said she has a piece of the meteorite that killed them and that she would come by later and show it to me." Alexander's heart was beating rapidly, and he shuddered, again reaching over to hug Martha.

Actually, Clark thought, Alexander's breathing patterned had changed, and it seemed rather laboured.

"Mom. Dad. Alexander is not breathing properly," Clark mentioned as he used his X-ray vision to see inside the young boy. "We need to take him to the doctor." His parents shared a concerned look.

"We'll take him," Jonathan told Clark as he picked Alexander up. Carrying Alexander, his dad headed toward the truck, Martha following close on his heels.

Clark just stared at them. They couldn't really make him stay, could they?

Martha got into the passenger seat, took Alexander from Jonathan, and gently rubbed the child's back. She spoke softly to him. Alexander just closed his eyes and rested his head on her shoulder.

Jonathan got into the driver's seat, and as he started the car, he turned back to reassure his son. "Alexander will be fine. We'll call you later from the hospital."

~oo00oo~

It was midnight by the time they arrived home. Alexander was asleep, and he didn't even wake up when Martha, with Jonathan's help, changed him into his bedclothes.

They tucked him in and left the bedroom door slightly ajar.

"What happened?" Clark asked when the family finally settle downstairs in the kitchen.

"He had an asthma attack," his dad informed him, rubbing weary eyes. From his jacket, he pulled out a small bag and took out an inhaler. The doctor had told them Alexander should carry this around with him--everywhere.

Martha reached to hold Jonathan's hand. When this child, now sleeping peacefully upstairs, had come to mean so much to them, Jonathan did not know. But standing there, feeling helpless as the doctors monitored Alexander's condition...Lex had seemed so small lying in that large bed. Lost. Now in the safety of his home, Jonathan finally admitted that, as time passed, he found it harder to think of Alexander, Lex, as someone else's child.

~oo00oo~

Five days had passed since the incident that had de-aged Lex into an endearing seven-year-old. After the scare they had had yesterday with Alexander, he had awakened surprisingly fit and happy. Children, it seemed, were far more resilient than their adult counterparts. Indeed, Alexander had woken up feeling so well that he had insisted on going along and helping Clark with his morning chores. The only time, during this morning routine were there had been any awkwardness was when Lex had asked about his parents, in particular his mother. For some reason, he thought Martha looked a lot like her. Upon having this information, Martha had seemed quite pleased knowing how much the adult Lex loved and still missed his mother.

The peacefulness that surrounded the farm was soon broken by the sound of a car coming up the driveway. Jonathan exchanged a silent glance with Martha as they both made their way outside.

It was a black Limo and that could only mean... The back door flew open, and Lionel Luthor stepped out. He hadn't even waited for the driver to open the door for him. Jonathan quickly looked toward the barn. If Clark walked out with Alexander, the game was over. Surely Lionel would recognize his own son.

"Mr. and Mrs. Kent, I was wondering if I could talk to your son, Clark?"

"He's busy doing chores. Is there something we could help you with?" Polite response. Jonathan tried to calm his racing heart.

"It's about my son, Lex."

"As we told the police, Mr. Luthor, my family expected your son to drop by the night he disappeared, but he never arrived," Jonathan informed Lionel as his hand went to rest on Martha's shoulder, giving and seeking reassurance that what they were doing was right. Keeping a father away from his child.

"Yes, history books on Alexander the Great are missing from our private library," Lionel confirmed to them as he glanced around the farm, noticing the tractor beside the barn in need of repairs and a small flower garden leading up to the house. An air of tranquility surrounded the area.

Martha nodded. "Lex was lending those books to my son."

"I see." An uncomfortable pause settled between the three adults.

The sound of someone approaching had them all turning toward the barn. Lionel stilled, looking past Clark's shoulder to the young boy walking behind him, holding some wild flowers in his hand, swaying them gently against the morning breeze, his baseball cap hiding most of his red curls.

"Lex," Lionel softly murmured as he stepped forward. He stopped and then shook his head as though to clear his mind, a part of him unable to accept the image in front of him, of Lex before the accident.

Lionel remembered his son, age seven, always wanting to spend time with him. Watching him. A silent witness to his father's triumphs.

But it couldn't be. That boy was long gone, almost fourteen years gone, in fact. That child had died on the cornfield years ago. This...surely this was some other child, some farmer's red-headed kid whose strong resemblance to Lex's childhood self was no more than a trick of the slanting, early morning light. Because...well, it just couldn't be.

Lionel turned his back on the image before him. He had no time for hallucinations.

"If your son hears from Lex, please have him call this number." Lionel took out a business card, left the Kents, and walked back to his limo, all the while forcing himself to face forward, to resist the impulse to turn back and discover whether the mirage was true. More than anything else, Lionel wanted his son back, a second chance to make things right. To be a father to his son, to go back to a time before Julian, before Lillian's death. To happier times. But some things were never meant to be.

~oo00oo~

If Jonathan hadn't been a witness to Lionel's reaction at seeing his son, he wouldn't have believed...how could a father turn away from his own flesh and blood? There had stood Alexander, smiling shyly, his hands along his overalls, looking down, embarrassed. But everything about his demeanour had changed when Lionel had turned his back to him.

Alexander had watched his father walk away from him, mouth set, shoulders stiff, head held up high. Alexander had waited until Lionel had gotten into his limousine before he had dropped the flowers, had stepped back, and had run in the opposite direction.

"I'll get him," Jonathan called to Clark who had moved toward Lex. From the corner of his eye, he watched Martha hurry to Clark's side and hug their son tightly.

Ten minutes later, Jonathan found Alexander underneath a tree; his cap lay a few feet away from him, forgotten. Lex was hugging his knees, face hidden as quiet sobs racked his thin shoulders. Jonathan knelt down beside him and opened his arms. He was quickly engulfed.

"My father doesn't love me."

"Lex..."

"He doesn't love me..." Alexander repeated time and time again, and Jonathan found himself petting the young boy's back, brushing the curls away from the tear-streaked face. After some time, Alexander looked up and whispered, "I wish you were my father." The confession nearly broke Jonathan's heart.

~oo00oo~

It was eight o'clock, and Alexander was upstairs sound asleep. He had seemed rather tired, hardly touching his food before asking to be excused long before anyone else had been even half-done with their meals.

Martha and Jonathan had been taking turns checking up on him. "Have you thought about what we are going to do if Lex doesn't change back?" Martha asked her husband.

"That's all I've been thinking about, Martha," Jonathan replied, reaching out to lace his fingers through hers.

Sitting on the couch, Clark glanced up from the term paper he was working on and looked toward his parents. He listened intently.

"What if he stays?" Clark asked.

"Son..."

"We could adopt him. He could stay here--with us," Clark pleaded. Lex was his friend. Twenty-one years old or seven years old, Lex was still his friend.

"If," Jonathan looked at both Martha and Clark. "If the changes in Lex are permanent, he will stay here with us." Decision made. Jonathan would have another son. A son. They hugged, knowing that tomorrow their small family would include a new member.

"Let's go and check up on him," Martha told them as she walked toward the staircase.

"Martha." They all shared a smile. Yes, Jonathan would indulge her, remembering back to a time when they had first brought Clark home and how often they had watched him sleep. Indeed, how many times had they hugged Clark, trying to reassure themselves that he was really and truly theirs? Too many times. Not enough.

All three made their way upstairs to the guest bedroom. They entered the quiet room, observing the sleeping form on the bed. The light from the hallway illuminated the dark room.

Alexander was asleep. He was hugging his pillow tightly. The covers on the bed had been thrown aside, and he had somehow managed to take off one of his socks.

Martha gently brushed Alexander's curls away from his forehead. She repeated this motion, frowning slightly.

"Mom?" Clark whispered, concerned.

Jonathan turned on the lights.

"He's burning up..." There was a break in her voice. The back of Martha's hand was resting lightly along Lex's forehead. Looking at Alexander, Martha noticed that his clothes were wet, sticking to his young body like a second skin. Alexander's cheeks were also flushed from the fever.

His hair...

"Oh. God," Martha cried out. Alexander's beautiful curly hair. So much of it lay on the pillow. "Jonathan, we need to cool him down." Alexander moaned, and he started to shake. "Jonathan, now!" Panic filled her voice.

Alexander opened his feverish eyes. "Mama?"

Jonathan picked him up and headed toward the bathroom. He was followed closely by Martha and Clark. They disrobed Alexander quickly as Jonathan stepped inside the shower, holding onto him as the cold water hit them both.

Alexander cried out in pain, and before their very eyes, his metamorphosis began. The young child they had cared for slowly began to change. His once curly, red hair now lay at the bottom of the shower floor and his small frame suddenly gave way to a more mature body.

Whatever had once de-aged Lex was now forcefully turning him back to his normal self. And throughout it all, the child, boy, young man screamed with pain until he lost consciousness.

Silently, in shock, they wrapped a blanket around the adult Lex. Jonathan was still holding him rather tightly.

"We have to take him to the hospital." How could they explain any of this? And who would believe them?

~oo00oo~

Before this day, Jonathan had never seen Martha so scared. Not even years ago during the meteor shower when their truck had rolled upside down had she been this afraid.

Upon arriving at the hospital, Clark managed to take Lex inside, undetected. He laid Lex's still-fevered body on an empty bed. Clark pressed the nurse's communication link and then quickly left the room.

Outside the hospital with his parents by his side, Clark used his X-ray vision to observe as the nurse who found Lex summoned the doctor.

Another day passed before the Kents would get any news of Lex's condition. Word of his finding spread throughout the small town, and questions still lingered among the townsfolk: what had happened to him, and who had brought him back?

Using the excuse that Clark would want to visit his injured friend, the whole family made their way back to the hospital, carrying the flowers they brought from Nell's flower shop.

It took them a few minutes to find the room Lex had been transferred to. They waited outside in the hospital corridor, watching as a doctor approached the other occupant of the room--Lex's father, Lionel.

Lionel stood at the foot of the bed. He seemed to be staring intently at Lex. "He woke up this morning?" Lionel asked.

"Yes, but he has no memories of the last few days. All he remembers was that he went home for a quick shower." The doctor looked at his notes. "There's no sign of concussion, and a blood test only revealed that he has a low white blood count."

"Is he fit to travel? I want him in Metropolis."

"He still needs to rest and I suggest..."

"My own doctors would see to him." And Lionel curtly dismissed the physician.

Now alone with his son, Lionel thought back to the report he had read earlier that day. It would appear that Lex had lost control of his car after the front tires had blown out and had driven it into a ditch. He had then walked away from the scene of the accident and had taken out a flashlight from the road side emergency kit he had left open on the hood of the trunk. They had found the flashlight near a clearing ten feet away from the car. What nobody could explain was how an area that had been thoroughly searched earlier that week now suddenly showed evidence of the accident.

For the past few days, Lionel had tirelessly searched throughout Smallville for Lex.

His son.

Lillian's boy.

Lionel thought back to the image of Lex as a child. He remembered Lex at the age of six, running toward him, being closely followed by his wife, excitedly informing him of his day. So much joy. Laughter. His son had loved him, and for a brief moment, Lionel had allowed himself to bask in the love that had been freely given.

But all that had changed. Too quickly. Too soon.

Lex had informed him he had wanted to be a fireman when he had grown up, and instead of indulging the imagination of a six-year-old, Lionel had shouted at him, "No son of mine would ever be a fireman. A slave. Luthor's were meant to be kings. Masters. Lords of all they survey, not servants of the realm." And his son had backed away, running to his mother, embracing her. All the while, Lillian had looked at Lionel in disappointment.

Standing now, here, knowing his son was safe, Lionel could finally admit that regardless of any appearance that indicated otherwise, he did love his son, his flesh and blood. His son who was worthy of the name Luthor.

Lionel edged closer to the bed and, with the back of his hand, touched Lex's cheek.

Lex slowly opened his eyes. "Dad?" he croaked. His voice hoarse.

Lionel quickly withdrew his hand. "It would seem, Lex, that even in this God forsaken town, trouble seems to find you."

Lex flinched, and his eyes hardened. He shifted in the bed and then groaned in pain. His muscles were sore.

"Lex?" His father asked, concerned, regretting his earlier words.

"I'm fine. Fine," Lex said as he closed his eyes, feeling tired.

"Rest," Lionel told Lex as he watched over his son. A few minutes later, Lex fell into deep sleep, and Lionel found himself adjusting Lex's blankets, tucking them closer to his son's body.

~oo00oo~

It was a silent ride back home for the Kent family after their short visit with Lex.

Upon arriving at the farm, Martha headed to her bedroom. She opened her small jewellery box and took out a white handkerchief. Inside, each individually tied with red ribbon, were three different locks of hair: Jonathan's blond and curly hair, a piece she had cut from him when they had been dating; another small piece of hair from Clark's first haircut; and, next to that, a small, red curl, a recent addition.

From behind her, Jonathan's arms went around her waist. He buried his head on the crook of her neck.

Martha wiped a tear from her cheek.

"I know," Jonathan told her. "I miss him as well."

"When Alexander gets better, we will invite him for supper."

"Martha."

"He needs a family, Jonathan," Martha quietly reminded him. "When I think how hard it must have been for Lex, our Alexander, to grow up in that house..."

"We will invite him for supper," Jonathan agreed.

"And you will take him fishing."

"But..."

"You promised him," Martha reminded her husband who had in fact promised a seven-year-old Alexander to include him on his and Clark's next father and son fishing expedition.

"Do you think Lex Luthor would approve?" Jonathan asked doubtfully.

"Seven-year-old Alexander would, and he still lives inside that young man."

They kissed each other gently, knowing that tomorrow or the next day, their family would be increased by one, not the child they had embraced but the young man he had become.

The End.



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