by Celli Lane
Lex rolled his eyes; that tone, this early in the evening? Never good. "Yes, Clark?"
"You're not wearing that, are you?"
Lex looked down. Comfortable slacks, check. Comfortable sweater, check. Comfortable shoes, check. "I hardly think I'm underdressed for an evening with the Rosses."
"Lex. You are not wearing cashmere around a two-year-old. Go put on the jeans you use at the farm, and I brought an extra shirt. I knew you wouldn't have anything appropriate."
"I'm sorry. Did you just tell me to wear flannel?"
"It's a T-shirt."
Lex sighed and went to change. "I don't know how you talked me into this," he called over his shoulder. One hand darted out to catch the shirt Clark tossed at him.
"Pete has worked day and night on your campaign. He needs a break. He needs to actually see his wife again."
"Yes, but I could have just paid for a babysitter. Hell, a fleet of babysitters."
"This is more personal."
Lex stuck his head through the neckline of the shirt and gave Clark a Look. "Money can be very personal."
"Very funny. Come on, we're late."
The screaming could be heard from the driveway.
Lex gave Clark another Look.
The door flew open before they'd even come close; two figures tumbled out. "Thank God! I mean, glad you could make it, you guys," Pete said with that blinding smile that had won him a place at the head of Lex's spin doctors. Next to him, Lana hugged Clark on her way past him. "Formula's in the fridge, milk is right next to it, Monsters Inc. is in the VCR, and we ordered pizza for you. Thanks so much!"
They jumped into the car and spun out of the driveway so fast gravel flew in Clark's face. He half waved. "Um, bye Pete. Bye Lana."
"Yes, I can see why this is much more personal," Lex said. "You can see their deep and abiding love for the two of us."
Clark snickered. "Or their deep and abiding need to get out."
"You are not reassuring me."
"C'ark!" came the scream as soon as they walked in the door. "C'ark C'ark C'aaaaaaaark!"
"Oof!" Clark caught two-year-old Laura and pretended to fall. "You're too big, Laura. You knocked me down!"
She squealed. "I got C'ark!" Then she stared up at Lex. "Ohhhh. Hi, Mayor Yuthor."
"Hello yourself, Miss Ross," Lex said with some gravity. "And how are you today?"
"I'm watchin' Monsters," she said.
"Glad to hear it."
"You gonna watch?" There were dried tears on her face, but if she'd been suffering any trauma from her parents' abrupt departure, it was gone now. "Watch with me!"
"Yeah, Lex, why don't you watch with her?"
"Unless you want to check on P.J." Clark tilted his head towards the other room, and as if on cue they could hear a baby's cry. "I think he needs his diaper changed."
"I'll watch the monsters," Lex said quickly.
Clark grinned and disappeared.
Lex settled himself on the couch, trying to avoid any sticky spots.
"Petey is a baby," Laura informed him.
"Yup. But Petey is my daddy too. Hee!" She danced around in a circle, pleased with her deductive skills.
"I suppose you're right."
On the screen, a little girl who looked eerily like Laura was screaming. Laura pointed. "That's Boo."
"Boo!" she squealed in his ear. Lex jumped. Laura giggled, and Lex was pretty sure he could hear Clark laughing too. Somebody had better not be looking through walls again.
Lex looked down at the baby in his arms. "He was so little when he was born."
"I know. I could almost hold him in one hand. Now look at him."
"I don't have to look at him. He weighs a ton." P.J. was wedged firmly into the curve of Lex's arm, alternating between staring up with wide brown eyes exactly like his mother's and trying to stuff his whole pacifier in his mouth. It seemed to be occupying him, so Lex risked looking up long enough to check on Laura. She was propped against one end of the couch, her head half-nodding as she watched the end of the movie.
"Okay, Laura," Clark said after the very last note of the end credit music had played. "Bedtime."
"No! Not bed! Not tired!" She stared up at Clark with huge puppy dog eyes. "Stay with C'ark and Yex!"
"I've been demoted," Lex said, as Clark choked on a laugh.
"No, honey. It's bedtime."
"No. Watch!" She bounced off the couch. "Awake! Hey!" She tilted forward alarmingly on one foot, the other stretched behind her, both arms in the air. "Look! I Superman!"
Lex's turn to choke, now; Clark stared fixedly at the blank television. "Really?" he asked in a strained voice. "Who taught you that?"
She beamed up at him. "Daddy."
"Oh really," Clark said. Lex snickered.
P.J. made a choking noise. Lex looked down. "Oh, hey, there. Don't swallow that." He shifted the baby to his other side. "You really are heavy, aren't you?" P.J. beamed up at him. "But I have to admit, you're kind of..." He mentally edited out the "sweet." "Nice."
P.J. turned his head to the side, spitting out the pacifier and drooling all the way down Lex's arm. And his leg, too.
"Oh," Lex said faintly. Then, "Clark, I swear, if you laugh, I will--"
Laura looked at him curiously.
"--laugh right along with you like the good sport I am," Lex said through clenched teeth.
Clark, wisely, did not laugh. But his dimples were showing. He swooped Laura up. "Come on, Supergirl. Let's fly to bed."
"SuperMAN!" she yelled.
"Oh, so sorry. SuperMAN. Come on." He hurried out of the room, making little zooming noises.
Lex looked down at P.J. "Clark asked you to do that, didn't he?"
P.J. drooled some more in answer.
Lex wrinkled his nose. "Lovely."
"Okay. Do you want milk or water?" Clark asked.
"What? You want water?"
"Water?" Clark pulled his mouth into an exaggerated oval. "Waaaaaaater?"
"Miiiiiilk!" Laura was laying on the floor of her room, arms and legs akimbo, screaming with laughter.
The noise drew Lex in from the living room. He looked in the door, bouncing P.J. on his hip. The baby seemed nearly as amused as Lex himself. "Having fun in here?"
Clark handed over the sippy cup. Laura took one drink, fixed Clark with a heartbreaking look, and started sobbing. "No! Not milk! Water!"
Clark looked befuddled. "But--you--"
"Water!" She threw the cup on the floor and screamed. "Waaaaater!"
"Okay. Okay!" Clark hurried off, and was back about three seconds later--Lex smirked--with the same cup, rinsed and filled with water. "See? Water."
"What?" Clark got down on one knee. "Baby, you said you wanted water."
Lex set P.J. down in his crib and picked up the cup. Clark didn't even notice; he was too busy arguing with Laura. By the time Lex returned a minute later, both Laura and Clark looked to be on the verge of tears.
"Here, Laura," he said. He handed over a cup. "Milk." When she drew a breath to scream, he handed her the other one. "And water."
Laura gave him a deeply suspicious look, then crawled into bed, clutching both cups protectively.
"Superdork," Lex muttered low enough that Laura couldn't hear him. He went back to the crib when P.J. started fussing, leaned over to pick him up--
--and smacked his forehead on the mobile hanging from the ceiling. "Ow!"
"Mayor Dork," Clark said. Lex just glared.
Lex was sprawled out over most of the couch. P.J. was limp on top of him, his forehead resting just below Lex's collarbone.
Clark walked back in. Lex waved cautiously with the hand that wasn't supporting the baby. "She asleep?"
Clark opened his mouth, closed it, opened it again, and finally nodded.
"Nothing." Clark plopped himself down on the floor and leaned against the arm of the couch. "I just had this sudden, not entirely irrational fear that I was about to start talking in Dr. Seuss-like rhyme."
Lex laughed. "How many books did you read her?"
"I lost count somewhere between six and a hundred." Clark tilted his head to the side. "And I was squished into the weirdest position. Ow."
"No chairs your size in there?"
"Not quite. Want me to take P.J.? We can probably lay him down for the night too."
"That's okay. I don't want him to wake up." Lex rubbed P.J.'s back; the baby sighed and snuggled closer. "Besides, it's nice to just lie still for a second. I think I walked him a few miles up and down the hall."
"He's probably teething or something."
"You're making that up." Lex rolled his eyes. "You don't know any more about this than I do."
"That's not true. I've been around lots more babies than you have. Well, a few more."
"And do you remember when any of them teethed?"
"That's what I thought." Lex grabbed a corner of the blanket that hung over the couch and tucked it between P.J.'s drooling mouth and his chest. There was cute, and then there was drooling.
Clark scrunched his head around and stared fixedly at P.J. "Yup. Teething."
"You only use your powers for good. " Clark gave him a Look. "That's what you said when you wouldn't peek in the ballot box for me on Election Day."
"That was different."
Lex hrmphed into P.J.'s head.
"See?" Clark said after several peaceful minutes had passed. "Tonight wasn't so bad, was it?"
"There was screaming. There was crying. There was drooling. I'm going to have to burn these clothes."
"Not my shirt," Clark said quickly.
"It wasn't 'so bad.' It was...it was..." Words failed him. "I have never been so tired in my entire life, and that includes the week before the debate, when Pete and I stayed up for three nights straight cramming with potential questions."
"And yet, Lana goes through this every day, along with running her restaurant and helping Pete when she can..."
"Very subtle, Clark." Lex sighed. "I'll give Pete more time off."
There was an expectant pause.
"And a raise, so he can hire more babysitters."
"I'm sorry, but I'm not doing this again. I'm not made for this sort of thing. You know I have a limited supply of patience. Eventually I'd put Laura down for a second to read a briefing paper and forget where I left her."
More silence. Lex shifted defensively. "Look, we've talked about this. I don't know if I'll ever have kids. Would you willingly put a child through being a Luthor? My legacy is politics, not the damn company. It can go to Lucas. Or P.J. here, for all I care." He rested his chin gently on the baby's head. "My father's obsession was his empire. I have better things to do than inflict 'lessons' on poor unsuspecting progeny. My time is better spent working to help all the children here in Metropolis, and eventually in other places, not damaging a few close to me. And yes, I know that makes me sound like an ass. But you have to admit it's the truth...Clark?" He tipped his head back. "You're asleep, aren't you?"
When he wiggled his head around, Clark was indeed asleep, with his head resting on his shoulder at an impossible angle.
Lex sighed. "That's okay," he said to P.J. "I'll explain everything to him later. He'll understand." He scooted farther over on the couch, wiggled P.J. around to make sure he wouldn't roll anywhere, and brushed his lips over the baby's forehead. "He'll understand."
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