The following morning, Lex was much calmer then he had been the day before. But that wasn't surprising to him. The less time he spent with his father, the less volatile his emotions were. While he mucked out the stalls, he took Martha's words to heart, and told himself he was going to remain calm the entire time his father was visiting. When he was done, he took a shower and found Martha making lunch in the kitchen.
She gave him a quick kiss on the cheek and said, "Thank you for having a better attitude about it today."
With some color in his cheeks he said, "Sorry."
"Hey now, I already forgave you for yesterday."
"I know." He leaned against the counter and watched her chop celery. "I just…"
She stopped and looked at him. "You just what Sweetie?"
Blushing even more, he looked at the floor and said, "I just feel so stupid when I look back on what I did, and realize I was acting like an eight year old. Clark's fourteen, and he's the one who held me back."
Drying her hands on a towel first, Martha took Lex's hand in hers and said, "In the two years we've known each other, you've matured by leaps and bounds. When you first came to stay with us, you wouldn't have even realized that yesterday's behavior was immature. Don't be so hard on yourself. After the kind of abuse you suffered, it's not at all surprising that you have trouble controlling your emotions, especially when Lionel is around."
The only response she got was averted eyes, and a nod at the floor. She pulled him into a quick hug and said, "Set the table please."
Half an hour later, Lionel had arrived, and they were all having lunch together. The conversation stayed centered on buying and selling horses, so Jonathan and Lionel were able to talk without glaring daggers at each other. Lex stayed calm through the entire meal, entering his opinions here and there. Once everyone was done, Martha suggested they go for a horseback ride to the lake. Jonathan and Clark went to saddle the horses, while Martha, and Lex cleaned up the lunch dishes. Lionel had offered to help, but Martha wouldn't hear of it, and had him sit on a barstool at the counter to visit while she and Lex worked.
When the dishes were almost done, Martha accidentally spilled half a glass of water on her shirt. With an irritated sigh, she said, "Looks like I need to change before I go riding."
"Go ahead. I'll finish this," Lex said.
She headed up the stairs, and Lex put the last few dishes in the dishwasher before turning it on. He turned and realized he was alone in a room with his father for the first time in a long time. Feeling uneasy, Lex looked out the window and said, "Well… I guess we should go out to the barn."
Lionel had realized before Lex that they were alone together, and he hated the look of worry that passed over Lex's face before he suggested they go outside. Lionel stood up and said, "I don't understand or condone this newfound fear you seem to have whenever we're alone together. It's ridiculous. I told you I wasn't going to hit you anymore."
Any calm that he had been able to keep throughout the morning disappeared. He glared at his father and walked around the counter into the dinning area to face him. "I am not afraid of you."
Mild amusement laced his words, as Lionel said, "Come now Lex, neither of us believe that." His expression grew serious and he added, "But if I think for one second that the Kents are turning you against me, you'll have a reason to be afraid."
Lex saw red, and his hand balled into a fist. He punched his father in the jaw, without any forethought. Lionel stumbled backwards, bumped into the china hutch, and fell to the floor. The sound of breaking glass sounded distant to Lex. He looked at his father, and then back to his fist, and realized for the first time in his life, he was physically stronger then Lionel.
He wasn't aware of taking the steps that separated him and his father, but he found himself looming over him. He saw a look he didn't recognize on his father's face. It was fear. Lionel pushed himself into a sitting position, held his hands up in surrender, and said, "Lex, calm down."
"I'm not afraid of you!" Lex yelled, and lunged for his father, shoving him back down to the ground.
Martha was coming back out of her bedroom, when she heard a loud thunk followed by breaking glass. She raced through the hall, and down the stairs. At the top of the stairs, she saw Lex sitting on top of Lionel next to the dining room hutch. Half way down the stairs, Lex had punched Lionel in the face. Martha yelled, "Lex! Stop that right now!"
By the time she'd gotten to the bottom of the stairs, Lex had slugged his father quite a few times, while Lionel held his arms up trying to block the blows. Running to them, Martha reached down to pull Lex off his father, but the second she grabbed his punching arm, Lex reacted by trying to fling off whatever was holding him back, without looking behind him.
"Oh!" Martha exclaimed in surprise, as she was flung backwards. She landed on her side, a few feet away from Lex.
Hearing the distressed noise his mother had made, Lex stopped punching as suddenly as he had started. Turning to look behind him, he saw Martha on the floor, and realized instantly that he had made her fall. With an expression of horror on his face, Lex scrambled up to a standing position. He looked back at Lionel. Lionel's eyebrow and lip were bleeding, and he was scooting backwards on the floor, away from his son.
Pushing herself up to a standing position, Martha said in the gentlest tone she could muster, "It's going to be okay, Lex, just calm down."
Appalled by what he'd done, Lex's eyes darted back and forth between Lionel and Martha a couple of times. Martha reached her hand towards him and took a step closer. His entire body started shaking, as he backed away. His mind repeated a mantra of, No, no, no, No! Needing to escape before he could hurt someone else, Lex ran towards the front door.
She saw him making a run for it and called out, "Lex!"
He didn't stop. The keys to the Porsche were on a small table by the door, and Lex grabbed them on his way to the door.
"Alexander Luthor, don't you dare leave this house!"
Without a pause, he yanked the door open and ran to his car.
"Lex!" she called after him, and ran to the door.
Jonathan had been headed towards the house to tell everyone the horses were ready, when he saw Lex running to his Porsche, and heard Martha calling out to him. He ran towards the Porsche, but Lex was in and had the car started, before he got to it.
Dirt and gravel were kicked up from under his tires as Lex pushed the gas pedal to the floor. He almost lost control of the car, as it lurched forward, but was able to steer himself onto the main road. As he watched the farm getting smaller in the rearview mirror, his shaking got worse, and he had to grip the steering wheel tighter.
The tight grip turned his knuckles white, which contrasted sharply with dark red blood on his left hand. He wiped his knuckles on his jeans, trying to get the blood off, only to realize some of the blood was his own. He kept wiping at it, as if getting rid of the blood would erase what he'd done. Soon the wiping made his knuckles bleed more, and he stopped trying. Holding on to the steering wheel again, he watched as a drip of blood trailed down his hand and onto his wrist. The blood dripped off his wrist, and splattered onto his jeans. Lex felt tears starting, and drove even faster down the deserted road.
Back at the house, Martha met Jonathan halfway across the yard. "What happened?" he asked.
"It's my fault. I left them alone for a few minutes to change my shirt, and when I came back down, Lex was sitting on top of Lionel, and punching him. I tried to stop him, but ended up startling him instead. He shoved me back before he even realized who it was, and I fell. Once he saw what he'd done, he ran."
By the time she was done with her explanation, Clark was standing beside them. Jonathan thought about trying to go after Lex in the truck, but he knew the truck would never catch up to the Porsche. He sighed and turned to Clark. "Do you think you could follow him Clark?"
"Yes, I know I can."
Jonathan put a hand on Clark's shoulder and said, "Follow him, and try to talk him into coming home, but under no circumstances are you to force him to come home, the way you did last time. If he won't come home, you call me and let me know where he is so I can come get him. Got it?"
"Yes, Sir," Clark blushed slightly, remembering when he'd punched Lex and carried him home.
Martha added, "Tell him I know he didn't mean to push me. It was an accident, I'm not mad, and he's not in trouble for it."
"Okay. Anything else?"
"Tell him that I said running away from his problems won't solve them," Jonathan said. He patted Clark's shoulder and said, "Good luck."
Clark looked at the house to make sure Lionel wasn't watching, and then super sped down the road towards Lex.
Jonathan and Martha walked towards the house together. "I shouldn't have made him see his dad," she said.
He put his arm around her, and said, "Don't second guess yourself, Sweetheart. Lex could never accept living without wealth, which means he's going to have contact with his father, no matter what we say or do. If we weren't helping them this summer, who knows how much worse things would have been later on when they did meet up. Lex already pulled a gun on him once."
They made it to the house, and found Lionel at the kitchen sink, dabbing the blood off his face with a paper towel. Martha went to him and said, "Here, let me take a look."
He turned so she could see him. She said, "Let's go to the bathroom. I have some butterfly band aids that will keep that cut closed."
Following her in a daze, Lionel let her push him down to sit on the lid of the toilet. He kept his hands on his knees while she cleaned up the blood, put some antibacterial ointment on the cut, and bandaged it up. Once she was done, she said, "Any other injuries?"
"What?" he asked, clearly unaware of what she'd asked. He couldn't stop himself from wondering if this was what Lex had felt like every time the tables were turned.
"Are you hurt anywhere else? Somewhere under your clothes that I can't see."
"Come on then," she said, and walked back to the dining room.
Jonathan was picking up broken pieces of china from the floor next to the hutch, waiting for them. Once they were all in the dining room, Martha sat down, and gestured for the men to sit as well. "I was gone for less then five minutes. What happened?" she asked, directing her question to Lionel.
"I told him not to be afraid of me. It made him angry."
The room was silent for a few minutes. "You said that, and he just attacked?" Martha asked.
Not liking the tone of disbelief in her voice, Lionel said, "The two of you have been conspiring against me this whole time! Corrupting my son's opinion of me!"
Snorting with disgust, Jonathan said, "Bullshit. He would have refused to see you this summer if it weren't for us. If I wanted him to hate you, he would. Believe me when I say, I could talk him into it with a few sentences. He has a reason to hate you. You made him hate himself for years for a murder he didn't commit. Don't blame us for your mistakes."
Martha put a hand over her husband's to calm him down and said, "The point is, that we want Lex to be happy. He's not going to be truly happy until he either cuts you out of his life entirely, or makes peace with you. So now the question is what do you want? Are you still willing to keep trying after today?"
Swallowing down the disgust he felt for himself, Lionel said quietly, "Lex is all I have left."
She put her free hand over Lionel's on the table. "Okay, then wait here with us until he comes home, and Jonathan and I will continue to try and help the two of you work things out."
Shaking his head, Lionel said, "When he comes home? After a blowup like that, he won't be back for weeks."
Squeezing his hand in comfort, she said, "He's changed. I bet he'll be back before dinner. I'd appreciate it if you could at least stay here until it gets dark out."
He doubted that Lex would be back, but Lionel was shaken up from the fight, and didn't want to get in his car and drive. He said, "Okay, I'll stay."
She let go of his hand, and said, "Why don't you go rest on the couch for a little while. We have some painkillers in the bathroom cabinet if you need some."
# # #
Clark found the Porsche with no trouble, but he wasn't sure what to do after that. He could jog next to the car, and wave at Lex through the passenger side window, but Lex was driving dangerously fast, and Clark didn't want to startle him. He could continue to jog behind the car and hope Lex noticed. He could run out in front of the car and stand still, hoping Lex would stop when he saw him on the side of the road.
Making a decision, Clark raced ahead a couple of hundred feet, and stopped by the side of the road. Turning towards the oncoming Porsche, he started waving his arms above his head to get Lex's attention.
Lex saw the figure before he could tell who it was, and slowed down. When he got close enough to see Clark, he slowed down even more, trying to understand what was going on. When the answer clicked in his brain, he stomped on the gas, and yelled as he passed him, "Go home, Clark!"
Thinking that could have gone better, Clark wondered what he should do next. His dad had said he couldn't force Lex to come home, so instead of picking the car up over his head, and running it back to the farm, Clark ran to catch up to it again. He jogged to the passenger side, opened the door, sat down, and closed the door again, before Lex could blink.
Startled, Lex almost lost control of the car. "Jesus, Clark! What the hell?"
Once he was sure Lex had control again, Clark checked the speedometer. "Jeez Lex, you're going a hundred and twenty with no seatbelt! You need to slow down."
Lex stomped on the break, and the Porsche skidded to a stop, almost causing it to roll. He growled at Clark, "Get the fuck out of my car!"
Clark slouched in his seat, and looked at his lap. "No."
"Arrrg!" Lex shoved open his door, got out of the car, and kicked the side of the car, leaving a heal size dent in the side. Pacing in the dirt, Lex yelled to himself, "Screw all of you! Screw Dad, and Pop, and Mom, and everyone! If I want to leave, then I God damn well can leave!"
Clark got out, and stood beside the car, watching Lex. Lex saw him, and shouted, "You're going to have to knock me out if you plan to drag me home!"
Upset by the things Lex had said, Clark glared, and yelled back, "Believe me, I'd like to right now, but Dad said I couldn't!"
"That's great! So the two of you talked about this, and set up some ground rules before you came to fetch me like a runaway puppy. Perfect."
Refusing to answer, Clark got back in the car and waited to see what Lex would do. After several seconds of loud cursing, Lex got back into the car. He took off, headed in the same direction as before, and said, "I guess you're coming with me for a nice long ride then, because I'm not going home, and I can't make you get out."
After a few minutes of silence, Clark said, "Are you trying to kill yourself? Slow down to seventy and put your seatbelt on, or I'll break the car."
Glowering, Lex yanked the seatbelt on, and let his foot off the gas. After a few more minutes, they were in the main town of Smallville, and Lex slowed way down. He made his way to the main freeway entrance, and brought it back up to seventy as he headed for Metropolis.
Thinking that Lex was slightly calmer, Clark said, "Mom wanted me to tell you that she knows it was an accident, and that she's not mad."
Feeling his eyes filling again, Lex shook his head, not believing his brother. He whispered, "I pushed her, Clark. I made her fall."
"It was an accident, Lex."
"I'm just like him, you know. Just like my father. A violent fucker who lashes out at the people I love."
"That's crap," Clark said with conviction. "You're nothing like him. Remember when I pushed that bail of hay on you because I was pissed? Does that me a violent… jerk? How about when I punched you to make you come home? We all make mistakes. You wanna know what Dad said?"
Crying too much to continue driving, Lex pulled over on the side of the freeway, and parked. Clark said, "Dad said running away from your problems won't solve them. Mr. Luthor tries to run away from his problems by burying them, or hiding them. Our family admits it when we screw up. We accept whatever consequences there are, and try to make things right."
After a few minutes of silence, Lex wiped his face, turned to Clark, and said, "Mom's really not mad?"
"She's not hurt?"
"What about Pop? He's got to be pissed that I hurt Mom."
"I don't think so." Clark shrugged, not knowing the real answer. "He didn't seem mad when he told me to get you. More worried."
Looking down at the steering wheel, Lex tried to decide what to do. Clark said, "We should go home Lex."
"I don't know if I can."
"Come on, don't make me play the annoying little brother who rats you out to Dad the next time we need to stop somewhere. Play the awesome big brother who lets his younger brother take a turn at driving the Porsche once we get back on the dirt road to our house."
Lex hadn't thought it possible, but that comment made him smile. "Okay, you win. We'll go home, but no way am I letting you drive my car before you even have your learners permit."
"I drive the tractor all the time!" Clark said in his defense.
"Yeah, it doesn't have quite the same horsepower."
The two boys smiled at each other for a second, and then Lex looked back at the steering wheel. He said quietly, "Thanks Clark. For everything."
"It's okay. You'd do the same for me."
Knowing that was true, Lex nodded, and pulled back into traffic, looking for the next exit, so he could turn around and head home.
The ride back to the farm was mostly quiet. Clark turned on some music, knowing that Lex needed time to think. A mile away from the house, Clark said, "Pull over. I'll go in first, and pretend that I've been in the field."
He pulled over, and as his little brother got out, Lex said, "Hey."
"I owe you one."
Clark shut the door with a smile, and disappeared from Lex's sight.
# # #
Soon after Lionel had sat down, Jonathan went to the barn to 'help' Clark unsaddle the horses. Martha had decided to scrub the kitchen sink and wash the windows, telling Lionel that cleaning always helped calm her nerves. Lionel spent his time sitting on the couch, wondering what in the world he would say to his son, if he did come back.
Jonathan took his time unsaddling the horses, brushing each one down as he went. He was just about to go out to the field, when Clark appeared in front of him. He could tell by Clark's expression that things had gone well. Clark said, "He'll be here any minute."
Jonathan put an arm around his son's shoulders, and headed them towards the house. "I'm proud of you son."
"Thanks… Hey Dad?"
"Is Lex in a lot of trouble?"
"Not as much trouble as he thinks he's in. Why?"
Clark bit his lip once, and said, "I don't want to get him in even more trouble, because he's really scared, but I don't think he'll tell you, probably because he doesn't even think it's bad, but I…"
"Slow down Clark. If you know Lex was doing something dangerous, you need to tell me about it no matter how much trouble he's in. Remember when you took off to get him from Metropolis? You were in serious trouble, and Lex still told me that you used your abilities on that security guard. He told me, because he knew it was the right thing to do, and that you couldn't do it yourself. Now you need to do the same for him."
He knew his father was right, but he still didn't like doing it behind Lex's back. With a sigh he said, "He was going over a hundred miles per hour, and he wasn't wearing a seat belt."
Clark felt his father's arm twitch at that news. Jonathan took a deep breath, and then squeezed Clark's shoulder. "Thanks for telling me son."
"You'll give him a chance to tell you himself right?"
They both saw the Porsche pulling in to the driveway, and stood by the spot, waiting to see him. Lex parked, turned off the car, and darted a glance at Jonathan through the window. He could tell from his expression, that Jonathan was glad he'd come home. With that knowledge in place, he got out of the car, and stood next to the car. Staring at the ground, he waited to hear what his pop had to say.
Jonathan pulled the boy into a tight hug and said, "I'm proud of you for coming home. I know it wasn't easy."
Hugging back, Lex whispered, "I'm sorry about Mom."
Lionel could hardly believe his ears, when he heard the distinct sound of his son's Porsche pulling into the driveway. He stood up from the couch, and saw Martha hastily putting away her cleaning supplies. They walked to the front door together. Through the window, Lionel could see Jonathan hugging Lex. Martha opened the door, and rushed out to give Lex a hug as well. Lionel felt like an outsider, intruding on a family moment.
Lex felt another set of arms wrap around him, and knew it was Martha. Letting go of Jonathan, he turned so he could pull Martha into a better hug. "Are you okay?" he asked.
"I'm fine. Are you okay?" she asked, noticing the blood on his hand.
"I'm so sorry."
She patted his back, and kissed the side of his cheek. "I accept your apology. Now you need to accept mine."
"What?" he asked, as he let her go.
"I'm sorry I left you two alone. I should have known better."
Feeling worse instead of better, Lex said, "You shouldn't have to babysit us every second, Mom. There isn't any part of this that's your fault."
"I made you see him in the first place. Some of it is my fault." She saw him shake his head, and knew he was feeling too guilty about what had happened to think rationally. "Let's go talk about this in the house. I asked your father to stay, and he agreed."
Lex's head jerked around to the front door. He saw Lionel standing there, and felt his stomach churn. "He's still here?"
Putting an arm around Lex's shoulders, Jonathan got his attention away from Lionel. Knowing they were far enough away that Lionel couldn't hear them, Jonathan asked quietly, "Who threw the first punch son."
"Me," Lex said, wishing it weren't true.
"He was belittling me for being afraid of him, and threatening to hurt all of you if you turned me against him."
After thinking about it for a few minutes, Jonathan said, "I don't think it was right of you to strike out first, but I would probably have done the same in your shoes. I've wanted to sock him one, since the first day I met you, so I can't be angry with you for it."
Martha said, "Lex, Honey, if you decide that you want to cut your father out of your life for good, we'll support you, and help you find a job. But if you want to continue going to college, you're going to have to make peace with him. I'm not saying you have to apologize for hitting him, I'm saying you need to go in there and let him know that you won't let it happen again."
Amazed that his parents weren't angry, Lex said, "Really? I mean, I thought…" he trailed off, not sure what he thought. He'd been expecting some kind of anger and punishment, not acceptance.
Understanding, Jonathan said, "If it were anyone else, things would be different. It's not okay for you to lose control, or start a fistfight. But I'm not going to punish you for hitting the person who abused you."
"This time," Martha amended. "If it happens again, we'll have to rethink that."
Reluctantly, Jonathan nodded in agreement. "Let's go inside," he said.
Lionel watched them talking in the yard, and wondered what they were saying. He thought about going to join them, but couldn't make his feet work. When Lex had turned to look at him with an unhappy expression, he felt overwhelming distrust for the Kents again.
Jonathan and Lex walked side by side to towards the porch, with Martha and Clark walking together behind them. Lionel stood still, and waited.
Lex walked up the porch steps, and stopped a couple of feet away from his father. When Lex was close enough, he took a good look at his father's face. He could see bruising, swelling, and scabbed over cuts. The words, "I'm sorry," slipped out of his mouth. After they were said, he realized they were true.
"Me too," Lionel answered. He was sorry. Sorry for every time Lex had been on the receiving end.
Unable to keep eye contact, Lex turned his face towards the kitchen window and said, "It was wrong of me to attack you, and I won't let it happen again."
All of Lionel's fears about the Kents turning Lex against him were quelled in that moment. He took the step that separated them, and to everyone's surprise, pulled Lex into a hug.
Startled, Lex stood stiffly in his father's embrace, and waited for it to be over, while holding his breath. Lionel said, "It was wrong of me to attack you, every time I did it, and I won't let it happen again."
Lex found it easier to believe him this time, and felt his father let him go. He let out the breath he'd been holding, and nodded to show he'd heard him.
Smiling, Martha said, "Why don't you all have a seat in the living room, while I go take care of Lex's hand."
"It's fine, Mom. You don't…"
"Come on," she said, grabbing his wrist, and pulling him into the house and towards the bathroom.
With a sigh, he let himself be led to the bathroom. Martha was quick and efficient, and soon he was back in the living room, sitting next to Clark on the couch. Jonathan was in a rocking chair, while Lionel was in an easy chair on the opposite side of the coffee table.
Martha was the first to speak. "I think it's clear that the two of you…" she looked first at Lex and then at Lionel, "…have unresolved issues, and need help keeping your emotions under control when those issues come up. I suggest using a phrase to indicate to the other that you're getting upset and need to take a break. Something like, 'Let's take a five minute break.' Or, 'I need a minute.' Whatever the phrase is, make it specific, and use the same phrase each time."
Father and son exchanged a look, trying to see what the other thought of the idea. Before they could comment, she continued, "I doubt either one of you want things to get physical again. So, you both need to agree to respect the other person when they say it's time to back off for a few minutes. Do you think you can do that?"
"Yes," Lionel said.
"I guess," Lex agreed.
"Good. Let's practice it a couple of times. Both of you stand up please and face each other."
"Moooom," Lex whined. He wanted to forget about the day, not relive the bad parts.
Lionel stood and faced his son.
"Stand up please," Martha repeated, keeping her tone firm.
With a groan, he stood and faced his father. Martha said, "Okay Lex, say something hurtful to your father, and then Mr. Luthor, you say 'I need a five minute break,' and both of you step back and wait to calm down."
The two men looked at each other, trying to read the other's thoughts. After a few seconds, Lex opened his mouth and then closed it again. It was much easier to say hurtful things when he was angry. Looking away he said, "I blame you for mom's death."
"I…" Lionel was about to say, 'I know', but stopped himself in time. He wasn't actually angry, but for the sake of practice, he said, "I need a five minute break."
Lex sat back down, while Lionel walked behind the easy chair he'd been sitting in, and stood waiting. After a short pause, Martha said, "Good. Okay Mr. Luthor, your turn. Get closer again, and then say something hurtful to Lex."
They did, and Lionel said, "I hate the Kents for being close to you when I'm not."
Lex clenched his jaw, and his hands balled into fists. Martha held her breath to see what he would do, and Clark tensed, ready to jump in and intervene if necessary. After a deep breath, Lex said stiffly, "I need a five minute break." He turned and walked to the dinning room. Everyone could still see him, but the distance helped.
Lionel sat in the easy chair, and looked at Martha. She gave him an encouraging nod.
After a couple of minutes of Lex pacing around the dining room, he came back to the living room and said, "No more practice today. Okay Mom?"
She cocked her head to the side, thinking about it, and he added, "It's a good idea. It's much better then having no plan at all, but could we please hold off on practice until next weekend?"
Turning to Lionel, she asked, "How did it work for you?"
"Well Lex didn't really upset me this time, but with some practice, I can see it being a valuable tool."
"Alright then," she said, "we'll practice again next weekend."
Relieved, Lex sat down on the couch and said, "Thanks mom."
"Don't be so quick to thank me, we still need to talk about you running out of here today."
Blushing, Lex darted his eyes over to Lionel, and then back to his mom, hoping she would understand that he didn't want Lionel to be in the room for the upcoming conversation.
Quick to reassure him, she said, "But that's a conversation for later."
He nodded with relief. She turned to Lionel and said, "I would invite you to dinner Mr. Luthor, but that might be pushing our luck."
Smiling, he stood up, and said, "I need to get going anyway, I have a long drive to Metropolis ahead of me."
"Thank you for staying."
"Of course." He turned to the two boys on the couch and said, "Lex, Clark, I'll see you both next weekend." He turned to Jonathan and Martha and said, "Thank you for… well for everything. I'll call you Friday morning, and we can make plans for next weekend."
Martha walked him to the door, and as soon as she saw his car driving away, she went back to the living room. With a displeased expression, she asked her son, "Did you, or did you not, hear me yell at you to stay put."
Looking at his lap, Lex whispered, "I heard you."
"I just couldn't stay."
"Look at me when we're having a conversation please."
He reluctantly looked up at her. She sat down on the coffee table in front of him, so they could be at eye level. "Couldn't? You were physically incapable of staying in the room?"
"Maybe," his eyes refused to keep contact with hers.
She let it go for now. "Okay, let's say you couldn't stay in the room. That most certainly does not mean that you had to get in your car and race out of here like the devil was after you."
Jonathan added, "You were much too emotional to be driving, it wasn't safe."
"I know," he agreed.
Martha held out her hand in front of him and said, "Give me your car keys. You're grounded from driving for the rest of the summer."
His face and ears heated up as he dug into his pocket and pulled out the keys. He handed them to her, and said, "Okay."
"How unsafe was your driving?" Jonathan asked.
Lex's eyes darted over to Clark. He knew if he lied, Clark would tell on him. "Pretty unsafe," Lex said while scowling, and wishing his brother was somewhere else.
"Lex," Jonathan's tone was one of warning.
Jonathan came and sat down on the coffee table beside his wife, so he could look Lex in the eye. "Give me the details please."
"Come on, Pop. I'm already grounded, can't we just leave it at that?"
Turning to Clark, Lex hissed, "Don't you have something better to do then sit here and watch me getting in trouble?"
Hurt by those words, Clark opened his mouth to say something, but before he could, Jonathan said, "Hey." He grabbed Lex's chin and turned his face so they were making eye contact. "Don't take your anger out on Clark. He went after you because I asked him to, and he's here because your mother told him to sit in the living room with everyone. It's not his fault you're in trouble, and it's not even his fault he happens to be here while we're talking about it. Now answer my question."
"I was driving too fast for that road," Lex said, thinking this was the safest thing to say.
He heard Clark snort beside him. He couldn't turn his face, but he darted glaring eyes in his little brother's direction.
"Do you think this is funny Clark?" Jonathan asked.
Turning back to the older boy, Jonathan asked, "How fast was too fast?"
"Well… I wasn't really looking at the speedometer." As soon as the words were out of this mouth, Lex could see disappointment flicker in his pop's eyes, and Clark's words came rushing back to him. Our family admits it when we screw up.
Jonathan opened his mouth, but before he could speak, words came tumbling out of Lex's mouth, "But Clark did, and told me I was going a hundred and twenty without a seatbelt."
Martha gasped and put a hand over her mouth. Jonathan let go of Lex's chin, and patted his knee in approval. "Thank you for being honest with me, son."
"A hundred and twenty without a seatbelt!" Martha yelled.
Wincing, Lex looked down at his lap and said quietly, "Yeah."
"A hundred and twenty without a seatbelt," Martha stated again, in an unpleasantly calm voice.
"I'm sorry," Lex offered.
"That is so far beyond acceptable, I just…" Too angry to continue, Martha turned to her husband.
After they exchanged a look, Jonathan said, "Clark, go shoot some hoops, or take a walk."
More then ready to leave, Clark jumped out of his seat and muttered, "Thanks Dad," on his way to the front door.
Feeling his stomach lurch, Lex tried to think of some way to defend what he'd done. "I didn't even think about what I was doing, I was just trying to get away."
"You stay put, your mother and I are going to go talk on the porch for a few minutes."
His parents exchanged another look. Unlike Clark, who used the term often, Lex almost never called Jonathan 'Sir', unless he knew he was in trouble.
Once they were on the porch, Martha started pacing. Jonathan leaned against the railing and waited for her to calm down. Talking more to herself then him, she said, "If he can't be trusted to drive safely, then he should be grounded for a year. Or better yet, he won't be allowed to drive cars that can get up past seventy. He needs a car that won't start unless you have a seatbelt on. A hundred and twenty… That's just insanity!"
When she was done, she stood still, and looked at her husband. He walked to her and pulled her into a hug. "He was scared. It was a mistake on his part, not a deliberate act of defiance."
With a sigh, she nodded into his chest. "I know, it's just terrifying to think of him going that fast at all."
"I agree." He kissed the top of her head, and said, "And I'm going to spank him for it, but I think that, plus being grounded for the summer, is enough."
She thought about it for a few seconds. Now that she'd had a chance to calm down, she could think more clearly. "Okay. You're right."
He let her go, and said, "Do you want to talk to him now, or after?"
"Now. I think we should present a united front."
With a nod, he opened the door for her.
When his parents had left, Lex had leaned his head back against the back of the couch, closed his eyes, and groaned. Thoughts of getting spanked wouldn't leave his mind. No way am I getting out of this without a spanking. But I confessed, and Pop said he was proud of me. And he said I wasn't in trouble for attacking Dad. But that doesn't mean he won't spank me for something else. Mom was really pissed. That by itself could get me spanked. Damn it! This summer was supposed to be fun! Instead I get in trouble twice. What was I thinking?
Groaning again, he shifted forward, and rested his head in his hands, with his elbows on his knees. "Stupid," he muttered.
He heard the door open, and sat up straight, turning towards the front door. His parents came in together, and sat back down on the coffee table in front of him. Martha put a hand on his knee and said, "I know this has been an emotional couple of weekends for you, and I understand that you were just trying to escape, and not trying to hurt yourself. But driving without a seatbelt is reckless in the best of times, and you'd better never do it again."
Thinking this was sounding better then he'd hoped, Lex nodded and said, "I won't."
She leaned forward and took his hand in hers. "If you do, you'll be grounded from driving for a year instead of a month, and I'll make you install a failsafe in your car, so you can't turn it on without the seatbelt buckled."
Swallowing down his embarrassment, he nodded and said, "Yes, Ma'am," to his lap.
Squeezing his hand once, she let it go, and turned to her husband. Jonathan said, "I assume you were doing a hundred and twenty on the main road to Smallville."
"What's the speed limit on that road?"
"Right. So how many miles over the speed limit were you going?"
Lex's stomach lurched at that question. He knew when his pop started talking numbers, that there was no way he was getting away from this without a spanking. And this number was gut wrenchingly high, if it was going to equate to the number of swats he received. He had to clear his throat a couple of times before he was able to say, "Um… Well technically it's seventy, but you always drive sixty on that road, so really it's only sixty over normal."
"Only?" Jonathan asked with a raised voice.
In a panic, his pride took a back seat and he begged, "Please Pop! Sixty is already too much, and I'm sorry, and I confessed! Please not seventy!"
"You don't think I should give you seventy swats? Does the number seventy sound frightening to you? Does it sound ridiculously high? Does it sound excruciatingly painful? Because I sure as hell know, that when your mother and I think about you driving seventy miles per hour over the speed limit, it sounds frightening, ridiculously high, and deadly to us."
The color had drained from Lex's face, and he just shook his head. Jonathan felt his wife's hand squeezing his shoulder, and knew she didn't like this fear tactic he was using. With a sigh he said, "Seventy is too much, and I would never do that to you. I just wanted to make a point."
Calming down, Lex let out a breath he didn't realize he'd been holding. Jonathan said, "But that doesn't mean you aren't in for a spanking. Mom and I understand that it was a spur of the moment, panic induced lapse of judgement, but it was a deadly lapse in judgement. One that we don't want to happen again."
The words, 'Please don't spank me!' were on the tip of his tongue, but Lex doubted they would help, and his pride had taken a few serious hits lately. Instead, he said, "But I'm really sorry, and it won't happen again."
Putting a hand on Lex's knee, Jonathan said, "I know it won't. Go to your room, and I'll be up in a minute."
Looking defeated, Lex hauled himself off the couch, and trudged up the stairs. Martha patted Jonathan's shoulder before going outside to find Clark.
Lex was just about to sit down on his bed to wait, when Jonathan showed up in the doorway. Instead of sitting, Lex stuck his hands in his pockets and looked at the floor. After shutting the door behind him, Jonathan went and sat on the edge of the bed. "Come here."
The boy walked towards Jonathan, with dismay clearly written on his face. Jonathan said, "Because you confessed, I won't be using my belt. But you could have died today, so the pants are coming down."
With shaky hands, Lex unsnapped his jeans. Once they were undone, Jonathan grasped the kid's wrist, and pulled him across his lap. Lex let out a whimper as he settled himself into the all too familiar position, with his top half resting on the bed, and his lower half hanging down off the side of his pop's thigh. He felt Jonathan pulling down the jeans along with the boxers, and tensed in expectation of the first swat. The first slap from the callused hand always made his entire body jerk in response. He let out a muffled grunt at the next swat, and tried to console himself with the thought that he wouldn't be getting spanked with the belt.
After a few seconds of heavy swats, Jonathan heard his son was making soft noises of distress in the back of his throat. He kept swatting, and started lecturing at the same time. "Running away from your problems doesn't make them go away. You shouldn't have left after your mother told you to stay in the house."
"I'm sorry," he said and hissed in pain as the swats continued.
"Driving recklessly is bad enough, but driving recklessly without a seatbelt is ten times worse." Jonathan increased the tempo and strength of the swats for the next ten to get his point across.
"Ow! Pop! I won't do it again! Ow! I swear!"
Pausing for a moment, Jonathan said, "Okay Lex, time for the big one."
"I'm sorry about the speeding!" Lex squirmed, and fought with himself not to put both hands back to cover his butt.
Jonathan swatted with each word, "Seventy miles over the speed limit."
"Oww! I'm sorry! Ow!"
Taking a deep breath, Jonathan paused and said, "It's so far beyond what I'll tolerate from you, that I don't even know how to put it in words." With that said, he let his actions speak for him.
A couple of seconds after the spanking started again, Lex did throw a hand back to cover his butt. He knew it wouldn't stop things, but in that moment of sharp stinging pain, even a second of respite would be welcome. His hand was secured at the middle of his back in a firm grip less then a second later, and the swats kept going. Frustrated, and emotionally worn out, Lex started to cry.
Jonathan heard the first few gasps of breath, and knew Lex was crying, but didn't stop. He heard Lex apologize, and beg him to stop, in between tears, but that didn't make him stop either. The image of Lex's body crashing through the windshield at a hundred miles per hour kept going through his head, so he kept swatting, until the boy's entire rear end was bright red instead of pink.
Lex realized the spanking was over as soon as he felt his arm being released from behind his back, but he was too busy crying into the crook of his elbow to get up. He could feel Jonathan rubbing his back, and tried to calm himself down.
"I know that it probably seems like I'm being too hard on you right now, but I love you, and I can't stand the thought of your mangled body on the side of the road, just because you couldn't be bothered to buckle up or drive the speed limit."
The only response he got was more crying from the boy, so Jonathan reached down and eased the boxers up over the red behind. He said, "Okay, all done now. You're forgiven."
A couple of minutes later, Lex was calmed down enough to push himself up. He quickly pulled his pants up too, and as soon as he had them fastened, Jonathan handed him some tissues. After he'd blown his nose a few times, Jonathan pulled him into a hug. Lex wrapped his arms around the man to return the hug, and muttered sincere apologies into his chest. Jonathan squeezed tighter and whispered, "I know."
As Lex calmed down, he thought about how much comfort he was getting from this hug, and couldn't help comparing it to the discomfort he'd felt when his biological father hugged him earlier that same day. Even though Jonathan had just caused him a good deal of pain, he still felt safe and secure in his embrace, while Lionel's touch had made him nervous and unsure.
When he felt Lex letting go, Jonathan let go as well. He looked at his watch, and put a hand on Lex's shoulder. "Okay kiddo, for the next hour, I want you to do some computer research for me."
Lex groaned in complaint, already having a good idea where his pop was going with this.
Pretending he hadn't heard the groan, Jonathan said, "I want to see some statistics on car accidents. I want to know the difference in death rates for people wearing seat belts, and for people not wearing them. And I want to know how the death rate correlates to speed in a collision."
Feeling tired, sore, and unhappy, Lex whined, "Research too?"
Taking pity on the boy, Jonathan said, "Yes, research too, but it can wait for tomorrow if you don't feel like doing it right now. It's not really punishment. It's more like a needed dose of reality for you.
Surprised that he was getting out of it for now, Lex said, "Really? I mean, that's great, but… really?"
"Really. It's been a rough Sunday for you all the way around, so you can do whatever you want with the rest of your day."
"Okay. Thanks," Lex said, and sighed with relief.
Jonathan patted his shoulder and said, "I'm going to go see if there's a baseball game on. You're welcome to join me if you want."
Thinking that some mindless television sounded like a great idea, Lex said, "Sure, I'll be right down." Lex went into the bathroom and splashed some water on his face, before following Jonathan downstairs. The television was already on the sports channel when Lex got downstairs.
"I'll go see if Clark wants to join us," Jonathan said when he saw Lex.
Remembering the way he'd snapped at his little brother, Lex said, "No, you go ahead and watch. I'll go ask him."
Lex found Clark and Martha in the barn talking. The conversation stopped when they saw him, and he was sure they'd been talking about him. He found it impossible to maintain eye contact, but said, "Hey Mom, could I talk to Clark for a minute?"
"Sure," she said, and gave Lex a quick hug on the way back to the house.
Once she was gone, the boys were quiet for a few seconds. Taking a deep breath, Lex said, "I'm sorry."
"For the whole summer I guess."
"That's a lot to be sorry for," Clark said with a small smile.
Lex shrugged, "Right off the bat I get us both grounded from all movies for the entire summer, and now I'm forcing everyone to live through my ridiculous family drama every weekend."
"It's not that bad, Lex. We both got grounded, because we both did something to get grounded for. And I don't mind getting to know Mr. Luthor. He's always been nice to me."
"There are so many times that I'm grateful to have you for a brother, even if I don't deserve it."
Turning towards the horses, Clark said, "Maybe you shouldn't be. I told dad how fast you were going before you even got home."
"What?" Lex asked, not quite sure how to react to this new information.
"I ran home and ratted you out to Dad. And I should probably be sorry about it, but I'm not, because I'm grateful to have you for a brother too, and your body isn't like mine. You have to take better care of yourself."
Happiness and anger warred for the top position in Lex's heart, and in the end happiness won out. With a rueful smile Lex said, "I guess it's a good thing I confessed then. Mom and Pop were pissed enough as it was. Besides being grounded from driving for the rest of the summer, tomorrow I have to do research of safe driving, and Pop just wore out his hand on my ass for speeding."
"Ouch," Clark said sympathetically.
"Yeah." After a short pause, Lex said, "So, do you forgive me for wrecking your summer?"
Clark smiled, "During the last week of school, Pete kept bragging about going to Disneyland again, and I told him I was still going to have a better summer then him, because you were coming stay with us. Even a bad day with you here is better then a good day without you. So there's nothing to forgive."
Snorting with laughter, Lex said, "Yeah right. Are you an alien or something? No human could possibly be as forgiving and kind hearted as you. Not even Mother Teresa."
The kid laughed, and Lex decided he was going to try his best to talk their parents into letting him take them all to Disneyland the week before school started. He said, "Pop and I are going to watch some baseball, did you want to come watch too?"
"Sure," Clark said, and they walked to the house together.
# # #
Lex had broached the idea of Disneyland with Martha, and found she wasn't opposed to it. She brought it up to Jonathan, and after a few days of discussion, Martha had him talked into it. Jonathan told the boys, that if they both stayed out of trouble for the rest of the summer, he'd let Lex take them. Both boys did their best to behave for the entire month. The whole family spent five days in Disneyland the week before school started, and everyone agreed it was the best vacation any of them could remember having.
During that last month of summer, Lex and Lionel had spent supervised time together every weekend. They'd talked about both the past, and the future without either one coming to physical blows. They'd practiced taking five-minute breaks when things got too emotional. They'd been able to stay civil, even when upsetting things had been said.
The family got home from Disneyland on the Thursday before Labor Day weekend. On Friday Lionel had dinner with the Kents as usual. Most of the talk during the meal had been about their trip, but while they were eating dessert, Lionel said, "Mrs. Kent, what do you think about letting Lex spend the last weekend before school at the mansion with me? It's been a while now, and I think we're ready to try some unsupervised time. He'd still be close if something went wrong, and you could come to dinner at the mansion and check up on him."
Everyone stopped eating, and turned to Martha. Martha turned to Lex to see his opinion, and was happy to see he didn't look terrified or disgusted with the idea. "I think it's a good idea. How about you Lex?"
Since the day he'd lost control and attacked his father, Lex hadn't felt that nagging sense of fear in the back of his mind every time he was close. "I think it's a good idea too." He made eye contact with his father and said, "Things are different between us now. Not so painful."
Getting emotional, Lionel smiled and said, "I agree. Why don't you come by tomorrow morning? You can spend Saturday night with me, Sunday night with the Kents, and then Monday we'll fly out to New York to get you settled at the condo for school on Tuesday."
# # #
The next morning, Jonathan drove Lex over to the mansion. Trying not to let his nerves about the upcoming day get to him, Lex complained, "You know Pop, summer is over in three days. I could have driven myself to the mansion."
"If you even sit in the driver's seat of a car before those three days are up, it will be the last sitting you do for a while."
Lex rolled his eyes and didn't comment. After a pause, Jonathan added, "Do I need to have a little talk with your father before I leave? Tell him you're grounded, and not allowed to drive, or see any movies until Tuesday?"
Aghast at that thought, Lex shook his head, "No! I mean… no, Sir, there's no need for that. I swear I'll follow the rules."
Jonathan took his eyes away from the road for a second to make sure Lex knew he was serious.
With a nod, Jonathan turned back to the road, and said in a much more gentle tone, "If something goes wrong today, you call us."
"Clark can be here in a couple of minutes if you need someone, and I'll be right behind him with the truck. We'll all be here at five thirty for dinner, and if you want to come home then, you can."
Lex smiled and said, "I love you Pop, but you worry too much. I think things are going to be just fine this time around."
Jonathan patted Lex's knee once, and pulled into the mansion's driveway.
# # #
The two Luthor's spent most of the morning talking about Luthorcorp, a subject that generally put them both at ease. Before either one of them realized so much time had passed, a servant came to tell them lunch was ready.
After they'd both started eating, and were alone in the dining room, Lionel said, "I've been thinking about the nursery lately…" Lionel trailed off, turned back to his plate, and took a bite of salad.
"What about the nursery?" Lex asked quietly, feeling his stomach churn.
After swallowing, Lionel said, "For the longest time, I needed that room to stay exactly the way it was when Julian died. But I don't know if that was the healthiest thing for either one of us. I told myself that it was a way for me to keep a connection to Julian, but maybe it was just another way for me to punish you."
Lex didn't know what to say or do. Unwanted memories came to him. His father, slapping him for mentioning Julian's name. His father, yanking him out of bed, and shoving him across the room, for sleeping with Julian's teddy bear. His father, kicking him in the leg, hard enough to make him limp for a couple of days, for being in the nursery one afternoon. Unable to eat anymore, he put his fork down, and waited to hear what else his father had to say.
"I think it's time to take the nursery down, and change that room into a guest bedroom."
"You mean it?" Lex asked, his voice so low it was almost a whisper, and his eyes open wide with a mixture of surprise and fear.
Lionel saw the look, and tried to keep his tone mild as he said, "The nursery has been frozen in time for almost a decade. But since finding out the truth about that night, I've realized I don't want to keep it that way anymore. I was hoping you'd be willing to help me pack Julian's things. I think it's something we should do together."
"Okay." That was his fear talking, but Lex didn't care. He wasn't sure he was ready to even face the nursery, let alone take it down, but he was incapable of disagreeing with his father at this moment in time. He found himself desperately wishing that Mom, Pop, or even Clark was there.
Seeing the panic on his son's face, Lionel shook his head. "You need a five minute break."
The words were familiar, but wrong. Martha had been unrelenting in making them practice every weekend, but the phrase was always, 'I need a five minute break.' Lex gave his father a look of confusion.
"Okay, if you prefer, I need a five minute break."
The look of confusion didn't go away, but Lionel concentrated on his lunch, and left Lex alone for a few minutes. Instead of timing the brake, Lionel finished off his food and waited for Lex to do the same, before speaking again.
Lex watched his father eating, and slowly realized Lionel had been right. Lex hadn't been able to say it, but he'd needed a break to think and calm down. When his father was almost done eating, Lex was able to pick up his fork and eat without gagging it back up when he tried to swallow. Julian and the nursery had been the main source of contention between them for so long, that it was hard to think about it without his emotions running wild.
After eating one third of his lunch, Lex set his fork down again, and pushed his plate away. Lionel said quietly, "You don't have to Lex. I won't be mad if you can't. I'll wait until you can."
Knowing this was a big step forward for the two of them, Lex said, "We should try. I may need to leave once we start, but we can try."
"If you're finished, why don't you go up to the nursery. I'll go find James and have him bring up some packing boxes. And a screwdriver to take the crib apart with."
With a nod, Lex headed to the nursery. He stood in the doorway for a few minutes, unable to step across the threshold. Closing his eyes, he took the step, and opened them again. He walked over to the dresser, and opened the top drawer. It was full of tiny socks, hats, and onesies. Lex reached out to touch one, but stopped his hand halfway there. He hunched down slightly, as if waiting for a blow to the head. When none came, he pulled out a pair of socks, and muttered, "So tiny."
Putting them away, he closed the drawer. He walked to the crib and pulled out a stuffed bunny. He said to the bunny, "He'd be eight now you know."
A voice behind him said, "I know."
Dropping the bunny, Lex spun around to see his father in the doorway. Eyes wide with fear, he felt like he might throw up. He said, "I… I was just…"
"It's okay." Lionel walked over and stood next to the crib beside Lex. Lex was rooted to the spot, unable to move. Moving slowly, and trying not to spook the boy, Lionel put a hand on Lex's shoulder and said, "It's okay." With his other hand, Lionel reached down into the crib and picked the bunny back up. He handed it to Lex and said, "Sometimes I talk to them too."
His father's gentle touch was slightly reassuring, and he was able to keep his lunch down. Lex tried, but failed, to stop his hand from shaking as he held the bunny. "You do?" he asked.
"I do. You know Lex, if there's something of Julian's that you'd like to keep, I would be fine with that. I'm going to give away all the furniture and clothing. James can take it into town later today. But I'm going to keep the toys and stuffed animals. I'll put them in storage, but if you want to keep something in your room, or take something with you to your condo, that would be fine."
Looking down at the bunny in his hands, Lex said, "Okay… I'll… I'll keep this… I mean… if you're sure."
They could both hear movement in the hallway, and turned to see what it was. James came in holding a small toolbox, some flattened cardboard boxes, and some packing tape. James said, "We have quite a few more boxes. I'll bring another handful up."
"Thank you James. Lex and I will set the things to be donated in the hallway, and the things to be kept in storage we'll leave in the room."
"Very well. I'll get Josh to give me a hand carrying things downstairs later today, once you're finished." James went to get more boxes.
Lionel let go of Lex's shoulder and picked up a box. He opened it up, and taped the bottom. Once it was ready, he said, "Why don't you start putting some clothes in this box, while I start on the crib?"
Over the next half an hour, the two men worked on boxing up everything in the nursery. The longer Lex stayed in the room with his father, the less jittery he was. He didn't feel the urgent need to escape, but did make sure never to turn his back to his father while they were in the room together.
When it was finally done, there were boxes and pieces of furniture in the hallway, and three boxes for storage still in the nursery. Lex picked up the stuffed bunny and stood in the middle of the room next to his father. Lionel said, "If you don't have any objections, I'm going to have the walls painted, and a new carpet put in."
"No objections. Sounds like a good idea."
"I'll hire someone to turn it into a guest bedroom, furniture and all."
They were quiet for a few minutes, neither one sure what to do, now that the room was empty. Lionel reached up to put an arm around his son's shoulders, and saw him flinch. He settled the arm into place anyway, and said, "Thank you for helping me today."
Taking a deep breath, and fighting the urge to throw the arm off, Lex said, "Thank you for letting me help."
His voice wavered with emotion as Lionel said, "I'm sorry things were so bad between us for so long."
Lex believed him, and felt tears sliding down his face. "Me too."
Squeezing his shoulder in comfort, Lionel said, "It wasn't your fault, it was mine."
"I don't know about that, Dad, I was pretty horrible. I spent my teenage years stealing, scamming people, doing drugs, getting kicked out of schools, and basically doing anything I could to piss you off." Irritated with himself, Lex wiped some tears off his face.
"Yes, but all of that was in reaction to me sending you away."
Lex looked at his father, and gave him a small smile. "Maybe we should stop trying to lay blame."
Smiling back, Lionel patted his son's shoulder once before letting his arm drop. "Good idea." Looking at his watch, Lionel said, "We still have a few hours before the Kents will be here. Do you want to see the new horse Josh acquired?"
"Sure." He held up the bunny and said, "I'll just put this away, and meet you out there."
Lex followed his father out of the nursery, and walked to his own room. He set the bunny on his dresser, and stood staring at it for a few seconds. He knew it would take time, but after today, he believed he could have a relationship with his father that wasn't based on hurt and anger. He also knew that it never could have happened without the love and guidance he'd received from the Kents. He was looking forward to seeing them tonight, so he could tell them about his day, and reassure them that he was doing just fine. With a smile on his face, he headed towards the stables.