by Aelita

Notes: Thanks to Giyenah for her support and beta. She's wonderful and I dedicate this to her.

On the day Ryan decides to grace this world with his presence, Clark calls Lex from the hospital and spends an hour blubbering about the baby's every little move. He ends the conversation with an invite. Lex begs off, claiming an important meeting and having to work late.

Lex finds himself on the hospital parking two hours later, a bouquet of white and sterling roses (delivered from Metropolis this morning) resting on the passenger seat. He doesn't get out of the car. Instead, he stares at the steering wheel and asks it for an analysis of what it thinks he is doing, precisely. The steering wheel makes better progress than his last shrink did. It took the man four months to figure out that his sixteen-year-old patient wasn't passively suicidal or psychopathic but was simply fucking with him. It takes the steering wheel fifteen minutes of snobby silence before Lex gives up and gets out of the car.

The flowers end up being given to smiling Jonathan because Martha's hands are full.

Lex knows that a lot of people think that 'glowing' is just a term but he knows better. Martha looks exhausted and in pain and the fact that she is glowing has nothing to do with the sun shinning through the ugly, pink blinds. The smile on her face as she looks at the miracle in her hands is beatific.

He remembers his mother looking just like that and he tries to push aside the vivid picture in his mind. It's harder than swallowing the lump in his throat but he manages, because his memories have no place here.

This room is overflowing with happiness, smiles and wonder. It's contagious too, because the smile on his face is close to genuine as he listens to Clark and Jonathan banter about babysitting and diapers. And he almost laughs when Clark bounces closer to him and drags him near the bed.

Lex doesn't recall babies being that small or that red. He does remember them being this fragile and how it feels to hold one in his arms. He keeps his hands in his pockets as he remarks how adorable babies are, startled at the smoothness of his voice despite the burn in his throat.

"Would you like to hold him?" As Martha adjusts her gentle hold, a small lock of thin red hair escapes from underneath the blue knitted hat. Ryan chooses this moment to open sleepy blue eyes and everything goes blurry. "Lex?" He blinks, until his vision is almost clear, and looks up. The beautiful redheaded woman on the bed is looking at him, wide smile and expectation, and something heavy inside of him shifts. He is biting his cheek but he is still smiling and it's fine because no one notices anything. He says something he won't be able to recall later, and makes his escape before someone does notice.

Clark calls after him but he pretends not to hear and keeps walking.

With Martha and Jonathan being busy out in the yard, it's up to Clark to keep the baby calm and happy.

Two months of babysitting his little brother and so far he's failing desperately.

On Lex's amusement scale, watching Clark pace and coo at his little brother with rapidly growing panic is ranging somewhere at 9. He finds it definitely more entertaining than playing with PhotoShop and fabricating pictures of Dominic in drag and bondage. It quite possibly rates higher than imagining his father's face when he received those pictures from an anonymous source.

Unfortunately, as much fun as terrified Clark is, there is only so much screaming Lex can handle. He has musician's delicate hearing-something good had to come from his father's side of the family-even though he'd never had the patience to learn to play the piano well. After all, there is more than one reason he has gags in his toy chest. It's a nice collection too, with some rare items he found in that bondage shop in Berlin, and he's very proud of it. He'll have to show it to Clark someday but for now, he needs some quiet and his patience is wearing thin.

"Give him here." And yes, saying that is worth it just for Clark's expression. The doubt stings though. Just because he vehemently refused to even touch Ryan until today, doesn't mean he can't handle a tiny baby. Some things are easy to learn but impossible to forget. "Well?"

Clark stares at him for a moment longer but finally places Ryan into Lex's arms. Lex gently shifts the baby until the head is supported in the crook of his elbow. He bends the pinky of his free hand and tentatively rubs it across Ryan's lips.

He'd love to see what's on Clark's face as the blessed silence descends, but he's busy. Ryan weighs less than his laptop. But the weight is substantial in ways Lex can't describe and warm. So warm and moving and real. And when he thought that he remembered how it feels to hold a child in his arms, he was wrong. Because he forgot how soft and tender the skin feels to the touch. He didn't remember that babies smell sweet, like milk, and salty, like tears, with a hint of fresh powder. Teary blue eyes stare at him and if Lex isn't careful he'll be overwhelmed faster than it takes for McLaren F1 to go from 0-60. He's already grinning like a fool and using $200 shirt to wipe up drool. He takes a small reprieve in the fact that at least the drool is not his yet. He shakes it off because he knows that as soon as the kid realizes that he's being fooled and there is no milk coming, the crying will resume.

"There. He is just hungry." He realizes he's whispering and almost cringes at the awe in his voice. It hits him, rather unexpectedly, that when he looks at Ryan, Ryan is whom he sees. Ryan grabs his finger before he can completely process the thought and makes a gurgling noise that can qualify as anything from bliss to give-me-food-or-lose-a-finger. He seriously considers sticking his tongue out at the kid but remembers just in the nick of time that Clark is in the room and he will never live that one down.

"Lex. I'm impressed." In the three years, Lex had never missed the presence of either one of older Kents but his parents' radar must have gone into overload from all the cuteness. Followed quickly by his extensive lexicon because he is perfectly aware that cuteness is not a real word but can't come up with anything else that fits. He can only hope that his gaydar is more resilient because without it he's screwed. Or rather will never get screwed again. He hastily looks up to see Martha hovering a mere foot away from him, smiling teasingly. "Either you're a natural or this isn't the first baby you've handled."

He should probably answer that even if it's not a question.

A loud crash distracts Martha and he thinks that Clark is looking at him as he apologizes to his mother for breaking another bottle. But he doesn't care if Clark finally makes the connection and this time he doesn't want to know what's in Clark's eyes.

He smiles at Ryan instead.

When Martha opens the door, Lex presents her with a rubber kitten and asks permission to stay with Ryan for a bit. It's late and he knows that Ryan is most likely already asleep but Martha laughs and lets him in. She follows him up the stairs and touches his shoulder before he enters the nursery.

"He'll be fine, Lex."

He isn't sure what startles him more, her statement or how she says it. Her confident gaze eases the knot, which had taken a residence in his chest for the last two weeks. He has to clear his throat to speak. "I have no doubt that he will be, Mrs.Kent."

Her smile is warm and a little sad. "You can stay as long as you like." For a moment she looks as if she wants to add something but she changes her mind and rubs his arm lightly instead.

He stands, with one hand on the doorknob, and stares in the direction of the kitchen long after she disappears behind the wall. It surprises him how much closer he'd become to the family in the five months since Ryan's birth.

He enters the room as quietly as he can but realizes how irrelevant his intentions are when he hears the soft sounds Ryan makes. He walks up to the crib and touches Ryan's nose and tiny hand delicately as a silent hello. The kid is staring at him and Lex can swear that there is mischief in those sparkling and absolutely not-sleepy eyes.

"You're supposed to be asleep," he whispers and his voice shakes with silent amusement.

Ryan has his fist halfway down his mouth and yet it doesn't stop him from replying with a muffled, "Gah".

"Where are your manners, Ryan? Don't you know it's not polite to talk with your mouth full? Your mom will be appalled." That is answered with a nice, long tirade and if there isn't a giggle at the end of it, Lex will give his Aston Martin to charity. He raises his arms in defeat. "Alright, alright, and hello to you too." Lex spots the pacifier on the floor and picks it up. "I don't suppose you care to explain?"

"I'll wash it." He turns to find Clark watching the scene with such an innocent expression that no halo is almost a shock.

Lex sighs and throws him the pacifier. "I forgot to turn off the baby monitor again, haven't I." Clark nods and his lips are twitching with barely suppressed chuckle. "Your father heard me." Clark nods again, this time with more sympathy even though his shoulders tremble. Lex swallows his groan, glares at the monitor darkly, and smiles. "Ryan likes when your mom sings to him."

"Yes. Why?" Clark's question is a perfect combination of mirth and suspicion.

"I know he is a little young right now, but I was thinking that maybe he would love to learn to play a musical instrument." He pauses for effect and speaks a little louder. "Like drums for example."

"I have a chainsaw and I know how to use it." Jonathan's voice carries through the thin walls easily but Lex hears the smile in it and isn't worried. He reaches out and clicks the monitor off.

Clark shakes his head and leaves, muttering about the insane people in his life.

The rocking chair is too far away and he moves it until he can see the baby clearly.

Clark comes back immediately, balancing two cups of coffee in one hand. He passes the coffee to Lex, replaces Ryan's fist with the clean pacifier and settles on the floor next to the crib.

Surprisingly, Ryan falls asleep quickly, with little complaint. But they keep chatting about everything and nothing softly for some time, before Clark follows his little brother into the land of Morpheus, using a huge stuffed dog as a pillow. Lex drinks Clark's untouched coffee soon after he finishes his own.

When Ryan starts to fuss, sometime around midnight, he simply steps over Clark to get to the baby. Holding him is almost a second nature now and Lex settles back into the chair comfortably. He whispers random poetry soothingly until Ryan dozes off again.

If Martha is surprised when she comes in a short time later, she hides it well. She smiles at all three of them, kisses Ryan's cheek, gives Lex a bottle and leaves without saying a word.

After a couple of hours, the chair isn't as cozy as he thought it was. Which is possibly a good thing because he did pull in a full day at work and a decent night of sleep is nothing but a memory. He supposes he could get more comfortable if he puts Ryan back in the crib but he can't.

He can't change the past, no matter how much he wishes he could. But Lex is a good student and he doesn't make the same mistakes twice.

He rests his fingers lightly on the baby's chest and feels it move with each soft breath.

Ryan wakes up as the rising sun starts coloring the light blue walls into a pretty purple color. Which Lex would've found a lot more amusing if he hadn't lost the feeling in his arms about an hour ago. He shifts Ryan until the kid is sitting up and cringes a little as the pins and needles attack his muscles. There is an impulse to stretch, but he ignores it and gets up, grabbing one of the toys out of the crib to keep Ryan quiet because Clark is still asleep.

Leaning against the windowsill, he looks outside.

Captivated, he watches as the morning gets brighter and richer with every moment. He slides the window open just a bit and the air is fresh, and crisp and smells a lot like grass and babies and second chances.

Jonathan finds them in the same position when he comes in. He kicks Clark in the shins, reminding him that it's time for the chores, takes happily gurgling Ryan from Lex, and orders Lex to go get some sleep in Clark's room. When Lex tries to decline, Jonathan gives him a don't-argue-with-me stare and tells him that he better or the tapes of Luthor cooing at a baby will be send to every radio station in Kansas. Lex hides a smile and concedes, even though he is probably too wired to sleep and perfectly aware that baby monitors don't have recording devices.

As Lex gets up and stretches, trying to get rid of the stiffness in his shoulders, Jonathan also mentions that he'll wake him in three hours.

The Baptism doesn't start until noon but they want to get to the church early.

If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to Aelita

Also, why not join Level Three, the Smallville all-fic list?


Level Three Records Room