October 9, 2005.

Word count: 694

Asylum, n. shelter, refuge, sanctuary.

And then he's locked those river blue eyes on her that look like they should freeze but they're warm all over, and his mouth twitches up at one side like pure joy and an electric shock at once. "Mom?"

Like Clark, the first word he said that she'd understood. Like Clark, lost until he stumbled across something to find. The two of them couldn't look more different by design, but Lex looked so very much like Clark in that moment of dazed, confused joy. And Martha knew she could never turn him away.

And Jonathan could never see it, not in Clark then and not in Lex now. He'd kept Clark because Martha would have fought tooth and nail to keep him, but life has been hard and sometimes when the wind from the Luthorcorp plant blows over the farm she can feel that he wonders if maybe it was a mistake.

"Lex." Who offered them everything, the whole world if only they would take it. Who fought just as hard without ever showing it to let them place their trust in him, in his empty, shaking hands. Lex who wanted their trust not as a weapon, not as a jewel, but because he trusted them with every fibre of his being. He'd just been beaten down until he'd forgotten how to tell them.

And Clark does his best, he's trying to save everyone and everything but he's just a boy. Martha can remember when Clark wanted to save butterflies, keep them safe from the swallows that lived in the barn, vicious but innocent and beautiful. Butterflies to swallows, a lamb to a lion, if you clutch at them too tight they crumble, nothing left but a dark stain.

"We were going to run away together. But we did it alone." And Clark remembers, but doesn't quite understand. Best friends - and she can see that now, because she's stopped seeing the world through her own eyes. Clark is too like his father sometimes, and perhaps Lex is not enough.

A blue blanket – sky, river, shock, eyes – bundled up and in his arms, and Martha's not amazed because every older sibling loves the youngest, even if they pretend they don't. Rough voice from screaming and nightmares, because none of them are willing to admit that maybe they're just memories. He knows all the words. All of them. And Martha wraps her arms around his shoulders, standing behind him and rocking back and forth, his head warm and comforting against her stomach. She sings with him, sings to them both.

"I won't let them take him again." And she's not quite sure what he's talking about. Maybe Julian is just another word for Lex. And she's not sure who she's talking about, sometimes she's not even sure who she is anymore. But whatever is means, she'll keep him safe. She takes the blanket from his arms, he's almost asleep against her. She slides down beside him, wrapping it around them both. His head is on her shoulder, and his lips part soundlessly in mindless fatigue. But she's not his mother. It kills her inside. She's not anyone's mother.

He's lived off bottled water for a week, and two candy bars that made him feel sick. Stretching and straining his shoulders, like they don't fit inside his skin any more. She can imagine his shoulder blades swelling, pressing, bursting through and he looks like an angel when he stares at her. Martha can't remember properly when she last slept. But maybe this is the first time Lex has really been awake.

"I've been foolish, haven't I?" And he's wiping his nose on the sleeve of one of Clark's shirts, and looking over her shoulder because he doesn't know how to avoid the subject but he's too ashamed to look her in the eye. Blue eyes and golden lashes. When she looks in the mirror, she'll always see his eyes staring back at her, so lonely, enough for them both. "Of course not," she says, and carefully pulls his smile close, keeping it safe. An old lady in a barn, collecting strays.