August 13, 2005.

Word count: 713

Cherish

Yellow walls like butter and honey, and baby clothes that had never been worn because Clark was so big when he'd come into their lives, and none of his clothes survived to be hand me downs. He was a good babysitter. Even with his big grown up life, he was home every weekend and public holiday, and the longer holidays without a doubt.

Lana and Pete were gone though they all tried to keep in touch, and Chloe had her future planned out and wasn't going to let little things like people hold her back, though she was nicer about it that it sounds. But Clark would come back to this small town that - in all its attractions and population - held just three people he wanted to see. And when it was going to be busy and boring all at once, he brought company with him.

Lex had looked strange with a baby in his arms, the expensive clothes and neat body gradually altering to something that looked like the washed away arrogance was just a cover. Babies aren't impressed by brand names. A heart of stone turned to toffee: soft and sweet and glowing golden on a warm day. With a silly grin on his face that wasn't his at all and tiny hands with tinier fingernails grasping at his own hands - manicured by absent nail biting that no one was allowed to know about - Lex was suddenly part of a family.

Clark carried a picture of her around in his wallet, and sometimes he was mistaken as a young father instead of just a very big brother - which wasn't helped at all by the fact that Lex would tell pretty girls at parties how good Clark was with children and then manage to hide from attention himself, though Clark could feel the good natured smirk as he was swamped from all sides. Jonathan would smile at the little mistakes people made, and Martha would joke that he was off the hook for providing grandkids for a while. And no one mentioned that maybe Clark couldn't have kids of his own, though sometimes Lex would stare off into space and look lost and sad, regretting the lifetime he missed out on.

The fresh air made everyone strong, and she was teething before anyone realised how much time had passed. Jonathan would sit on the front steps with her on his lap, peeling a fresh apple and slicing it into segments for her to chew her gums against. Clark would pull faces and play tickling games for hours on end, and Lex would comment - with a face that wasn't quite as straight as it could have been - that it was a shame there was no real career in being smitten, doing his best to pretend he wasn't.

Clark sent home money in the form of gifts because he wasn't ready to handle the guilt that would come with the former. Birthdays and Christmases and reminders of a visit and makings up for missing a visit and she grew every year. Lex lost his insanity addiction - the fast driving that he used to cherish - and did his best not to spoil her, because no one likes a brat. He got her books usually, ones with large thick pages and beautiful stories told in simple words. His own bedtime stories had been about conquerors and valour and victory. When she was old enough to listen, Lex told her stories about being happy instead.

The day before a fifth birthday party Martha found the two of them sitting on the kitchen floor painting stories on the linoleum, pausing so Lex could take a photograph of each one before cleaning it away, not caring that the clothes he wore because he'd been taught to would never be quite the same. She'd wanted to cry because he would have been such a good big brother, and that he'd never become a father because he was too afraid of turning into his own. He'd been embarrassed when he spotted her, and Martha found it a bit harder to tell him off than she would if it had been Clark. They all spoilt the new one, in their own way.