A/N: I apologize profusely for not posting for God-knows-how-many months. I have been under some very heavy stress lately, and it has eased off. Hopefully, I can get back to what I love: writing. Thanks for everyone who's been so patient and is reading this now. Love you guys. Please review when you're done!

I couldn't stop the nightmares. They would wake Clark and me up in the dead of night. It didn't help when they came more than once a night. I would've been an insomniac had Clark not soothed me back to sleep. Even in the Kansas heat, the warmth of Clark's body was always comforting. He could draw my back against his chest and allay my fears just by touch. I wouldn't let my father win. Not this game. I had control of the outcome for once, and I didn't want to fail. I wouldn't only be failing myself. I would fail Clark, Ryan, Martha, and Jonathan. I would fail the baby girl that had been in my stomach for five months and had managed to steal my heart. There were good dreams intermingled with the bad. I would see a little girl running through the field with her long, red hair flowing behind her. I could never see her face, but I knew she was there.

I knew that it had to be the baby. Clark's connection with her was just as strong as mine if not stronger. I saw tears in his eyes the first time I dreamed about her. They were filled with emotion. I could tell that the strongest one was pride, but I could also feel the warmth of love. I got the sense that Kryptonian fathers weren't the type to pack up and leave their children. He was fiercely protective of the both of us. At times, it was overbearing. But in the moments that I needed him and he was there, it was all worth it. If there was anything that I wasn't used to in my life, it was the stability of our love. My past was full of intense, brief romantic experiences. Most were sexual. I couldn't think of one single relationship that ever felt real to me. Not like this. None of my former lovers would have held me close, despite the sweat and tears, and whispered strengthening words into my ear.

I could beat this. Dominic and my father may have had control over my life before, but it would never happen again with Clark protecting me. I had finally become something more than just another Luthor; I was Alexandra Kent. At least, I would be in two days. I would legally and officially become part of the Kent family, but I knew that I was already there. So much had changed in six months. I went from spoiled brat to loving wife, daughter, and mother. I had the parents I had always longed for in the darkest of nights. I had my own man of steel to balance out my penchant for attracting danger. Ryan and my unborn child were two of the things that I had never wanted before, but now I couldn't imagine life without them. I was the protective mother with a feral instinct to give my life for my children. I was miles away from where I had been before.

I couldn't turn into a scared shrinking violet. Not for anything or anyone. A man's touch would not make me break down. All I had to do to win was to overcome Dominic and my father. It sounded so simple, but it felt so difficult. I had been at my father's side for so long that to turn against him seemed unnatural. I couldn't go back to him ever again. Going back to my father and begging for mercy was pathetic. I was not pathetic. I had made my choice and picked Clark and my baby over my father, and I would stick to it. It wasn't about making a decision and sticking to it. It was about my life and the lives that were now connected to me. There were people around me that I didn't have before. I had support. It wouldn't be easy to stay strong against my father's iron will, but I never liked taking the easy road anyways.

I felt disgusted when I thought of what my father had done to me. How could I have ever allowed him to retain so much control over me? I had been brainwashed into believing that my father was all-powerful and that my life would be nothing without him. Clark had proven that wrong just by existing. I was infuriated that I felt so insecure because of something that my father had done to me. It was he who had done it, he who put his hands on a teenage girl, and he who would pay the price and burn in Hell when his day of judgment passed. My faith in myself had been restored enough to know that it was never my fault. Any court in the country that wasn't bribed by Lionel would say the same.

It was hard to allow myself to be that vulnerable. I had to stare my darkest fears in the face without falling apart. Even when I did, Clark was there to pick up the pieces. His touch was so loving and gentle, but I couldn't deny the power behind it. He could crush my bones to dust if he wanted to, but he wouldn't do it. Not in a million years. If I somehow became the creature in the blackest corner of my soul, Clark would never kill me. If it meant saving hundreds of lives, he still wouldn't do it. There was no deception between us. We knew each other's every thought. When my thoughts took a turn towards maudlin, he would soothe me with a stroke of his hand, the curve of his lips, or the light in his eyes. The smallest things could cheer me up. They were mostly irrelevant to what I was thinking about, but who was I to resist smiling at the way Clark's fingers drummed against his thigh when he heard music? Or the way his lips parted ever-so-slightly when he fell asleep. The knowledge that the most powerful man in the world had a weakness for frosted corn flakes was something that only a few select people on Earth possessed.

My life had been filled with so much darkness and pain before. Clark was a brilliant, shining light that I couldn't resist. Like a moth attracted to flame, I was a dark, odd creature who lingered close to the light it couldn't attain by itself. If I were to bond with him, I had to give up part of myself. I was fine with that so far. It was far more bearable than life under Lionel's thumb. I was my own person where I had never been before. It had been so frightening to give up my precious control and hand it over to something that was literally alien to me, but I had achieved a freedom that I clung to madly. Working at the Talon was a steady, predictable life. It was everything I had ever wanted without knowing it. I wasn't overworked, but I had enough to keep me busy. I was making a profit that would be enough to sustain the family for at least a year after the baby was born should I decide not to return to the Talon.

Lana had been a miracle. What I thought was an empty-headed cheerleader had bloomed into a capable young woman with an uncanny marketing ability. She was the one who had put the Beanery out of business by informing the right people that they were behind on their paperwork. She was the one who dug out the information from one of the other waitresses, who was fired for stealing immediately after she gave Lana the information. She was so goddamned crafty that I would have fallen in love were I not already smitten with Clark. She was no danger to our relationship. Instead, she was a gigantic help to my business. The ailing theatre had been on its last leg when I bought it, but now it was surviving and thriving. We were packed at all times.

She put on a sweet face for the customers, but I saw the borderline manipulative behavior that she exhibited. It was a good thing that she was our ally and not our enemy. Nell and I had long conversations before both of our stores were set to open about her nymph-like niece. I would have almost believed the cotton candy and bubble gum act were it not for the moments of cunning and intelligence that went by so quickly that I would have missed them had I not been watching. Lana had always been like that, Nell said, after her parents died. The little girl seemed to almost develop another personality under the fairy princess attire. I saw the picture from the day of the meteor shower. The little girl's pink outfit was dirty and stained. Her face was covered in dust and sweat, and her face was contorted in tragedy. Other people saw sadness or a whining infant; I knew that it was the fury of betrayal. God had struck down her parents, the two people in the world who would give her unconditional love. It was no wonder that she had some darkness in the depths of her heart.

After some exposition, it didn't surprise me to find that Lana and I were cut from the same cloth. Even when my father was somewhat loving, it still wasn't the love I was supposed to feel. I walked through life knowing that my father didn't love me. Losing my hair only confirmed that fact. The hatred was growing even before my mother died, when I exited my class into the hallway to find reporters swarming around me. School officials were trying to pull them back. Through the shouts, I could hear the question that would change my life forever. How did I feel about my mother's death? That was the first time I'd heard about it.

The answer? It felt like a kick to the chest. Like losing my balance and falling backwards with that suddenly urgent feeling in my chest that screamed I was falling into the unknown. Like missing a stair on the way up with a jerk in my gut that told me I had made a fatal error and then suffering the consequences of falling. There was the shooting pain of my shins hitting the stairs, trying to stop my downwards momentum, and the desperation of flinging my arms upwards and reaching for anything to steady myself again only to find nothing but empty air. It felt like losing my breath, mouth open and lungs helpless to draw in air that wouldn't come. I was stricken with the knowledge that I would never see my mother again, and all I wanted to do was that very thing. I wanted what I couldn't ever have again. The smell of her exquisite perfume, the soft strands of her hair tickling my face, and the sight of pride in her eyes, green as the grass in a summer field.

Lionel, who was Daddy back then, ordered for her things to be packed up and shipped away that very day. I came home from boarding school to find the front door open and unfamiliar faces hauling away my mother's beautiful dresses in silk, chiffon, and Egyptian cotton. It wasn't the lack of the expensive fabric that tore at me. It was the fact that she had worn them, some of them only once or twice, but I remembered her in each and every one. I threw myself at one of the boxes and attempted to tug it out of the man's strong hands only to hear my father's voice in a sharp reprimand telling me to let the man do his job. I faced my father with every inch of my pent-up fury and asked him why he was doing this. Why he was erasing her from our lives.

Poised as ever, Lionel stood straight and lifted his bearded chin in a haughty manner. There were no signs of grief on his unmarred features. No red-rimmed eyes, no swollen lips, no tear-stained cheeks. Everything that I saw when I looked in the mirror that day. He was no broken widower. His black cashmere sweater was pristine. He tucked his hands into the pockets of his creamy white slacks and looked down upon me as if he were a God. Behind his designer-brand wire-rimmed glasses, his amber eyes were hard and unforgiving. It was time to move on, he said. There would be no crying in that house, no pathetic grieving. "She's gone, Lex. We must accept it now. There's no sense in holding on to useless belongings." He was a lying hypocrite. I hadn't figured it out until I was nineteen years old.

When I first stepped foot in the penthouse that my mother had left me, the one that was legally in my name and not Lionel's, I explored every inch of it. It wasn't until midnight that I had found the closet where everything was stored away. Her old clothes still smelled like her, fresh as if she were right there in the darkness with me, and I cried for more than an hour clinging to it. It was such a bittersweet joy to be holding her belongings again, because my father had not moved on like he said. Instead, he had ferreted her belongings away for himself in the hopes that I would never find them. He kept them for himself and selfishly locked them away from me. He had never breathed a word about them. The clothes never moved from that closet, because I was so afraid that if he knew I had found them, he would destroy them.

Lionel always wanted to take away what was precious to me. As I watched Clark sleep underneath me, I knew that he was one of those precious things. My father would rip him apart given the chance. That was why I was being extra cautious. It was a near thing that I had caught Dominic in the barn before he started going through Clark's things. I had just happened to be in the loft for a moment of solace when I heard the signature creak of the third stair leading up to Clark's Fortress of Solitude. I sat completely still and watched from my perch as my father's greasy henchman made his way up the stairs and into Clark's most private sanctum.

For the first time in front of Dominic, I felt completely and totally in control. I finally saw him for exactly what he was: a slimy piece of shit that was stuck to the bottom of my father's shoe. There was nothing powerful about a self-serving snake. My father was only using him as a pawn to get what he wanted. He would find no information here. I asked him what he was looking for, and the way he twitched in surprise told me that he hadn't seen me in the corner. He had been hoping not to get caught. It made me smile. The verbal battle that ensued wasn't important. It was the ending that was classic.

Jonathan was silent coming up the stairs. He knew to skip the third stair. In the middle of a sentence, Dominic was struck in the back of the head with the butt of a shotgun. I was grateful for Jonathan's rare brutality. He showed me where he kept the duct tape and only nodded when I told him that I was going for a ride. I bound Dominic's hands and feet, covered his lips, and threw him in the trunk of my Mercedes.

Clark didn't approve of the extreme behavior. I didn't care. He wasn't in the position where he could disappear. He was in the middle of investigating the meteor mutant who could control bees. He was starting to slowly regain his friendships with Chloe and Pete. If he disappeared on them now, they would never forgive him. Their friendship was more important than keeping me from teaching my father a lesson.

I drove to Metropolis to meet my father. Lionel arrived looking pleased until I opened the trunk. I told him to keep his nose out of my business, or else next time he would find his men buried in a field. It was one of the rare times that I caught my father by surprise. His face was pale as I jerked Dominic out of the trunk. His body hit the pavement hard. While I was shutting the trunk, my father's eyes met mine. I thought about where I would be if he had convinced me to get an abortion. I saw the slightest flinch on Lionel's face before I turned and went home.

Clark's beautiful cheekbones were lit by the moonlight. The concave parts of his face were left in the shadows. The moonbeams traced the long, straight line of his nose, outlined the strong square shape of his jaw, and reflected rare light off of his inhumanly soft hair and eyelashes. I still envied him for his hair. Any human would. Models would come at him with scissors in their hands. I didn't know just how far they would get. Could his hair be cut? Did he ever have to shave? They were questions that had not crossed my mind before. I swept my thumb as gently as I could over the hollow of his cheek to feel for stubble. There was none. Come to think of it, there had never been a shadow there, either. Clark's pubescence mocked me.

He was so stunning. In any light, to see Clark as anything but alien to this world seemed impossible. Was any teenager ever this gorgeous? Obviously, I had thought so once. The thought that he wasn't of this race was one of my first upon meeting Clark. I thought that he was an angel. I should've trusted my first impression. Had he never told me what he was, the secrecy and the lies would have divided us. There was no doubt in my mind about that. There was something fundamentally different about him. That much was evident just by associating with him. On the outside, he projected a clumsy, innocent farm boy, but once he started lying through his teeth, the fact that he was hiding something was immediately apparent.

I had to protect him. The night I returned home from Metropolis, I looked through all of Clark's notebooks with him and his parents. There were Kryptonian symbols drawn everywhere. They were doodled in the margins of history notes and sometimes took up entire pages by themselves. We all decided that it was best to burn them. Ryan had fallen asleep on the couch as we tossed the paper into the fire. All the evidence that was left of Clark being special was locked in the storm cellar. The space ship was the hardest thing to conceal. The tarp hid it pretty well, but Jonathan needed a better lock on the doors. He agreed with me. I wanted nothing less than a fingerprint-accessible lock, but that wasn't possible without spending a large amount of money. We were still trying to find a solution to that.

There were times when I came home to find Clark sitting in the storm cellar by himself. The blue glow of Jor-El's essence lit Clark's features like the moon did now. He learned so much about his home from hours of talking to his dead alien father. We learned that when the baby was born, she would take the Kryptonian name of her father as her last name. She would not receive her powers until puberty. I was shaken by that one. Clark had his powers from the time he first appeared on this planet and absorbed the rays of the yellow sun. Our little girl would have to go years without being invulnerable. It seemed to strike at the center of my soul. If we were lucky, she would be a survivor and have none of my impulse.

Then came the fear that something might go wrong with her. What if she was like me when I was a teenager? Was there some kind of gene for evil, passed from Lionel to me and then from me to her? In my mind, she was the exact opposite of evil. She would have genes from Clark, too. His goodness would overcome the worst of my past. I hoped. I hated the uncertainty of it. I didn't like relying on chance, and I had been doing it more often than not lately. It was luck that Lionel didn't intervene with Ryan's adoption. What if we didn't get lucky and Lionel ruined the wedding? His absence made me nervous. But his presence would be worse.

I had to bide my time and wait patiently. Whatever Lionel was planning, it wasn't making me feel any better to worry about it. I couldn't read his mind. Perhaps it was a reminder, a nudge, that he was still in control. After the incident with Dominic, he needed to assert his dominance again. He was thinking. He was trying to drive me insane. Both were possible options.

I buried my face in Clark's neck. Instinctively, he shifted to wrap his arms around me and bring me closer to him. The full-sized bed was still too small for the both of us, especially with my growing belly, but a queen-sized bed was out of the question. The Talon was profitable, but it wasn't enough to start spending. I had to be extremely careful with my finances. Martha and Jonathan didn't have the extra money to spend on a baby. I had to get as much money together as I could. I was lucky that I had bought the Talon so that I had a source of income that wouldn't require my presence at all times. It was hard work, but it would be worth it.

I didn't want to raise my daughter in Smallville, but I had no choice. Metropolis seemed to be a much better option from a mother's point of view. There was a new meteor freak running loose every week. Not only did I want to survive for her, but I wanted for her life to be as free from trouble as possible. The damsel in distress position wasn't what I wanted her to experience. Her father belonged to Smallville first, ensuring the safety of others. I anticipated many long nights spent alone trying to get the baby to sleep.

Would I be like my mother? I couldn't imagine smothering a child, something so small and defenseless, to keep it from crying. What if her disease became mine? A tear slipped from the corner of my eye as I saw my mother standing over Julian's crib with a look of blank distress on her face. She knew what she did, but she couldn't understand it. Her mind wouldn't allow her to process it.

As many bad memories as Smallville held, there were good things here. Martha and Jonathan Kent were the ideal grandparents. There was a sense of community here that Metropolis would never have. The townspeople would learn to fawn over her, even if she was the daughter of a Luthor. She would win them over, just like she won my loyalty. Ryan couldn't leave here, either. I couldn't expect that of him or Clark.

Still, there was a pull to go home. Metropolis had been my niche, full of things that I knew intimately. Some of them were terrible, but it was familiar. I yearned for the familiar. Lying here in a farmhouse pregnant was almost surreal when I thought of my old life. At least there would be no Lionel here. He would give up, pack his bags, and leave. He would give up on me eventually.

If I needed more incentive to stay, all I had to do was look at Clark's peaceful features. I couldn't break his heart. I couldn't leave him. In such a short time, I had become absolutely dependent on him. I needed him as much as I needed oxygen. Without him, there would be nothing. It was a damn good thing that he was invulnerable, at least for the moment.

I glanced up at Clark's face and was only mildly surprised to see his eyes staring steadily back at me. His fingers gently pressed against my back and dragged the pressure down in a therapeutic massage. There was a phantom of a faint itch on my back. I could have done without the tattoo. But it was his mark on me, claiming me for his own. The same was true for the mark on his chest. Something that would remind him of me. I was his, and he was mine. Neither of us would have it any other way without tearing the world apart.