Friday morning, Lex drove to Smallville with a smile on his face, picturing all the ways he might run into Helen. He'd already cleared his background check, and last night he'd filled out all the online forms they'd sent him once he'd been cleared. The training class he was taking today, was the last thing he needed before he could start volunteering, and he was hopeful that he might be able to do his first five hours of volunteer work directly after the class this afternoon.

Lex found the volunteer training excessively boring and redundant. It taught common sense instead of skills, and repeatedly cautioned against all the things that could get the hospital sued. But he forced himself to stick it out, and once it was thankfully over, he went to the teacher and asked about volunteering that day. The teacher directed Lex to the volunteer coordinator, and within fifteen minutes of speaking to her, he was changing sheets, and taking dirty bedding to the laundry room. He didn't exactly enjoy the job, but it was better than dealing with bedpans.

Four hours later, he started thinking that he wouldn't run into Dr. Bryce at all. But as fate would have it, the coordinator sent him to the emergency room to finish out his last hour of volunteering. He was working with admitting, and showing patients to their beds when he heard her voice. He felt his stomach flutter with excitement as he listened to her telling her patient about his or her test results. The fact that he couldn't see her through the curtain partition was frustrating, but he hoped he'd run into her before his shift was up. He continued to the end of the row of beds, and led a woman with a wheezy asthmatic three-year-old to the last bed. Once the child was situated, he walked back towards the front, hoping to at least hear Helen's voice again, but heard nothing.

Then, just as he was about to sign out for the day, three bloody patients were brought in on stretchers at the same time. The nurse in charge of admitting paged Dr. Bryce with a code Lex didn't understand, and he watched in fascination as Helen and several nurses rushed out from the back towards the patients. The EMT started talking about the state of each patient while Helen took a cursory look at all three. She started barking directions and medical jargon that Lex didn't understand, but clearly everyone around her did. Much too soon, the little group disappeared behind the ER door, and Lex just stood staring at the door for a few seconds.

Lex felt a hand on his shoulder, and he turned to see the admitting nurse looking his way with sympathy. "Are you okay, Lex?"

Coming out of his stupor, he nodded. "Yeah, I'm alright."

"Seeing the results of a car accident can be unsettling. I hope it didn't scare you off, because you've been a big help today," the older woman said.

He was glad that she thought his stupor had been due to the injured patients, and not due to seeing Dr. Bryce in full emergency doctor mode. He shook his head. "I don't scare off that easily. I'll be back next Friday."

"That's good to hear," she said. "You can clock out, and turn your timecard into the volunteer coordinator up on the second floor where you had your class."

"Okay, thanks." He headed towards the elevators, and tried to switch focus since he'd be heading towards the farm as soon as he was clocked out, but his head wouldn't stop replaying what he'd just seen. Helen was amazing, and now he wanted her even more than before. But he also felt even less worthy than before. She saved people's lives, and he was a college student majoring in history. He wasn't sure what exactly they'd have in common.

Scowling, he tried to forcibly shove those thoughts out of his head, because he was even less willing to tell the Kents about his infatuation now, and he had to see them in under an hour. If they asked him why he was distracted, he wasn't sure what lie would come out of his mouth, but he knew it wouldn't be the truth, and directly lying to the Kents never ended well for him. Not that lying by omission ended well for him either, but it wasn't quite as bad. Or at least that's what he kept telling himself.

After clocking out, he went to the cafeteria to eat some dinner before going home. He knew the food would be awful, but it would be unusual to arrive home on a Friday night without having had some kind of dinner. He got the least offensive looking item on the menu, and ate what he could of it before going home.

His weekend with the Kents went better than expected. Jonathan had them clearing out a new plot of land for farming, which was physically demanding, and left very little downtime for talking.

# # #

Monday morning when Lex got to work, he was in a pretty good mood when he went to his father's office.

Lionel smiled and shut the door before asking, "How was your weekend son? Were you able to ask Dr. Bryce out?"

Lex shook his head. "I saw her in passing working in the emergency room, but she was too focused on her patient to notice me. I spent most of my time on the upper floors changing bedding, and only got to work in the emergency room for an hour. But if I can have this Friday off, I'm pretty sure they'll let me do my whole shift in the emergency room."

Lionel frowned. "Another Friday? You already missed a full week because of your injury. I'm beginning to think that you're not taking your position in Luthorcorp very seriously."

Immediately defensive, Lex scowled. "It's not my fault I fell."

"I didn't say it was, and I didn't begrudge you that week. But taking more time off to meet a girl because you don't want the Kents to know about her is your fault. I think you need to work on Friday."

Lex raised his voice, "Seriously Dad? Is that how you want this conversation to go? You're lucky I've agreed to spend the summer here at all!"

"I'm lucky?" Lionel voice went up to match his son's. "You're lucky I don't have you working in the mailroom again!"

Lex glared at his father, remembering that fiasco from two summers ago, and hissed, "Fuck you."

Lionel took a menacing step towards his son, and Lex automatically flinched. Both men froze, and Lionel muttered, "I need a five-minute break," before walking swiftly towards his office door.

As soon as Lex was alone, he slowly sat down on the small couch in his father's office, and took a deep breath. "Shit," he muttered to himself. He hated to admit it, but as he sat there thinking it over, he realized he'd been in the wrong.

When Lionel came back into the office, Lex stayed seated, looked at his father and said, "I'm sorry. That one was my fault. I was asking for a favor, and then I got defensive when you didn't automatically agree."

Lionel nodded. "Apology accepted, son. And I'm sorry I brought up the mailroom. I know that summer was… difficult for you, and I didn't help matters by yelling insults and… slapping you hard enough to leave you bruised for half a week."

"Yeah," Les agreed. "The circumstances surrounding it sucked, but I honestly didn't mind working in the mailroom, or the other departments that summer. I learned a lot about the company." Lex stood and said, "And you're wrong about me not taking my position at Luthorcorp seriously. I love this company, and I fully intend to spend my life keeping it running as smoothly and as profitably as you have. But the one thing we both learned during that summer I worked in the mailroom is that when I'm an emotional mess, my work suffers because of it."

"Yes," Lionel agreed. "And since I'm the root cause of your emotional turmoil, I should do everything in my power to help you. So of course you can have Friday off."

"Thanks, Dad. It will be the last one. And you may be 'the root cause of my emotional turmoil' as you put it, but spending time with you here at Luthorcorp is helping to heal all the old scars."

Lionel slowly walked up to Lex, and tentatively pulled him into a hug. "Having you here helps me, too."

Lex hugged back for a few seconds, and then said, "Can we get back to work for the day now that we got that out of the way?"

"Absolutely." Lionel patted him on the back before letting go, and heading to his desk.

# # #

The next Friday, Lex arrived in Smallville in the morning. The volunteer coordinator had no problem assigning him to the emergency room for the day, and about half an hour into his shift, he ran in to Helen. He was showing a patient with a bloody wrapped thumb to his bed as Dr. Bryce was walking out from behind a curtain partition.

"Lex?" she said with confusion.

"Hi Dr. Bryce," he said, unable to keep the smile from his face as he walked past her. He gestured to the next available bed in line, and the man who'd been following him sat on it. Once the man was settled, Lex turned to go back to the front desk, and found Helen waiting for him just outside the partition.

"What are you doing here?" she asked.

He pointed to the volunteer badge that was clipped to his shirt, and said, "Making up those ten hours like you asked me to."

Her eyes opened wide and she scrutinized him for a few seconds, as if trying to see any hints of insincerity. "Is this some kind of joke?"

"No," he said trying not to sound offended. "Not at all. I filled out all the forms, did the background check, and took the class. I did my first five hours last Friday."

"You did?" She still appeared to be surprised and untrusting.

"I did." He gestured toward the front. "I should get back to it."

"Oh… yeah, of course." She stepped aside and let him pass.

As he walked by her he said, "The guy in bed six sliced open his thumb. He'll need stitches."

She just stared at him with shock. Once his back was to her, he allowed himself a small smile of satisfaction.

# # #

Over the next two hours, Helen and Lex ran into each other in the hallway several times and smiled while passing along tidbits of pertinent patient information like 'the woman in bed tree is ready to be discharged', and 'the guy in bed four started throwing up.' Lex found himself grinning in anticipation of each new encounter.

Midway through Lex's shift, a scrawny kid came in holding his left arm close against his torso. Lex noticed the front desk nurse stiffen when she saw the boy.

"Damn it," she muttered.

"What's wrong?" Lex asked, and watched a large man practically shove the boy into one of the waiting room chairs. The kid winced and paled, but didn't make any noise, and Lex knew without asking why the admitting nurse was upset.

She put on a fake smile as the man walked up to her, and asked, "How can I help you?"

"I think my kid broke his arm."

"Name?" she asked, but Lex could see her computer screen, and knew she'd already typed it in.

While she asked the routine questions about date of birth and insurance, Lex watched the kid. The computer said his name was Colin and that he was eleven. The kid's eyes never left the ground, and he sat perfectly still while waiting.

White hot rage started to build in Lex's chest, and he knew without a doubt that he was going to help this kid, no matter what, even if it meant he'd be asked to leave before his shift was over.

Once Colin's father had sat back down to wait, Lex leaned over to whisper with the admitting nurse.

"You knew who that kid was before the dad gave you his name."

The woman nodded. "He's been here three times already this year, and it's only June."

"The father is abusing him." Lex stated it as a fact instead of asking a question.

"Yes," the woman agreed.

"Why hasn't anyone done anything?" Lex demanded with an angry hiss.

She scowled at him. "Don't you think we've tried? We've talked to Colin alone several times, and told him again and again to tell us the truth. We've promised to protect him, and told him it's not his fault, but his story never changes. He always says he fell. We called social services this last time, but they couldn't get Colin to talk either."

"Oh." Lex stood up and thought over the problem, while the nurse furiously typed notes in Colin's file.

Over the next half an hour while they were waiting for a bed to open up for Colin, Lex tried to decide what he was going to do. His first instinct was to beat the shit out of the father, but the man was quite a bit larger than Lex, and none of his parental figures would condone that behavior anyway. His next thought was to talk to the kid, show the boy his own scars and convince him to talk, but he wasn't sure how much good that would actually do, or if it would even work. Then he thought about his own father and wondered what might have made him stop before finding out that Lex hadn't killed his baby brother, and the answer came to him almost immediately. Money.

By the time a bed was free for Colin, Lex had a plan. As he was showing Colin and his father to bed number three, he said, "Do you guys recognize me?"

"Should we?" the father asked, clearly already on the defense.

"My picture has been in plenty of newspapers and magazines."

"You kind of look like that Lex Luthor guy," the father said.

Lex smirked. "That's me."

"Yeah, right," the man scoffed.

Lex pulled out his wallet and showed the man his driver's license.

"What the hell are you doing here?" the father asked, after seeing Lex's name.

"Court ordered community service for being drunk and disorderly on a public sidewalk," Lex lied smoothly. "Smallville is ridiculous. If I'd done the same thing in Metropolis no one would have batted an eye, but in Smallville I'm stuck doing twenty hours. I don't know how you can stand to live here."

They'd made it to the bed, and Lex gestured to it. "Here we are." He looked at the father and added, "Go ahead and have a seat while I take Colin back to get an x-ray."

"What do you mean have a seat?" the man asked. "I go where my son goes."

Lex scowled. "Look man, I'm just trying to get in my hours so I can get out of this hell hole. They told me again and again that only the person getting x-rayed can go back, and I'm not going to anything that might get me sentenced to more hours. If you want some kind of special accommodation, go talk to the nurse at the front desk."

The man seemed to think that over for a few moments, but then sat on the chair beside the bed and muttered, "Fine, hurry up."

After forcing out a chuckle, Lex said, "Hurry up? In Smallville? That's a good one. I had to wait half an hour for the last guy I took to get an x-ray. Metropolis General would have had your kid x-rayed within ten minutes of walking through the door." He looked down at Colin and said, "Come on kid, this way."

Colin looked at his father, and once the man gave him a nod, he followed Lex further down the hall. Lex used his badge to get them through the door to the main part of the hospital, and led Colin towards the sign that said 'imaging'. Once they got to the correct department, Lex and Colin sat side by side in the large waiting area with three other people scattered around the room.

"Do you actually like living in Smallville?" Lex asked.

"I guess," Colin muttered.

"Maybe you just don't know any better. Have you ever been to Metropolis?"

"No."

"Well, there's your problem," Lex said. "Big city living is the only way to go. I bet your family would love it in Metropolis. Is it just you and your dad?"

"No. I have a mom and a baby sister, too."

"Nice. How'd you hurt your arm?"

After a long pause, Colin said softly, "I fell."

"Not being honest, huh?" Lex said with a nod. "I used to just keep my mouth shut after my dad hit me."

Colin visibly tensed and froze in his chair, and Lex continued. "But then my dad had so much money, power, and influence, there was no point in telling anyone. The private doctors he hired never even asked me what had happened, because they knew."

Lex leaned forward and showed Colin the back of his bald head. He pointed to the one-inch scar that was there and said, "This was the most recent one. I was holding an ornament he didn't want me to touch, so he slapped me so hard that I fell and hit my head on the fireplace."

He sat back, lifted his right pant leg, and pointed to a small scar on his shin. "I got this one when I was close to your age. He caught me in a room I wasn't supposed to be in, so he grabbed my arm, shook me really hard, and shoved me towards the door. But he shoved me so hard that I couldn't keep my balance and I fell hitting the doorframe as I went down. That seemed to piss him off even more, so he kicked me in the back. I was wearing shorts, and my bare leg scraped against a rough part of the doorframe while I was scrambling to get away, and took some skin off."

Lex put the pant leg down, and sat back. "But most of the scars my father gave me aren't on my skin." He tapped his temple. "They're up here. Just like the scars that broken arm is going leave in your head."

Colin just stared at Lex with wide eyes through his explanation. Lex was about to ask him how he hurt his arm again, when they both heard a female voice behind Lex.

"Lex?"

Lex turned to see Helen standing beside him.

"How long were you standing there?" Lex asked, as his face heated up. Pity was the expression he was expecting from her, but instead she appeared to be shocked and guilty.

She sat in the empty chair beside him, and took his hand in hers. "I'm sorry."

"No reason for you to be sorry," he muttered, wishing he could have kept this part of his life from her.

"Of course there's a reason for me to be sorry. I sat with you for hours when you were a drunk sixteen-year-old, and it never even occurred to me that your behavior was a cry for help."

Feeling very uncomfortable with the direction the conversation was going, he said, "Well, don't worry about it, because it's not a problem anymore." He turned to face Colin and said, "It's not a problem anymore because a year ago my father was forced to take advice from a parenting coach. Since he got help, he hasn't hit me once, and I've given him plenty of opportunities. I've said and done things that normally would have made him slap me or worse. He has raised his hand, and he has stepped towards me in the heat of the moment, but then he stopped himself before making contact, and that never would have happened before."

While Lex was talking, Colin's eyes filled with tears that spilled down his face.

Lex felt Helen gently squeeze his hand. He put his free hand on Colin's knee and said gently, "I'm not a social worker, and I'm not a doctor, but that puts me in a unique position to help you. I don't need to follow any laws about dealing with abuse, and I have more than enough money and power to actually get something useful done. Tell me how your arm got broken, and I'll help."

"You can't help," Colin whispered, his voice wavering with tears.

Leaning in close so they were at eye level again, Lex said intently, "I can, and I will. I don't give a shit if you tell me the truth or not, because I know exactly what's going on, and I'm going to offer your father a lot of money to come clean."

"What?" Colin asked, clearly confused and nervous.

"Lex, you can't…"

Lex ignored whatever Helen was starting to say, and kept his focus on Colin. "I'm going to offer your father more money than he makes in three years to tell Dr. Bryce exactly what he's been doing to you, and then if he agrees to get help I might even offer him a job."

Colin stared at Lex for a few seconds, and then asked in a tiny voice, "Really?"

"Yes. But I don't want him lying to me, so it would really help if you told me how your arm got broken."

Colin's eyes darted over to Helen's and he leaned in towards Lex to whisper, "Not in front of the doctor."

Lex nodded, let go of Helen's hand and turned to her. "Can we have a minute, please?"

Helen bit her lip and thought about it for a few seconds. Eventually she nodded, stood, and walked to the other side of the room to wait.

Lex leaned in again so Colin could whisper the truth to him.

"Mom gave me twenty dollars and asked me to go buy milk at the store. On the way I ran into some kids from school who don't like me. They took the money and ran off. That was our last twenty until Dad gets paid again next Friday. When I came home without the milk or the money Dad took off his belt, and I…" Colin shook his head and said with shame, "…I ran instead of taking my whipping. Dad caught me in the yard, and pulled me back to the house."

"I would have run, too. No one deserves a whipping for losing twenty bucks to a group of thugs, Colin." Lex said gently. "Your father's the one who deserves a whipping for blaming you for it."

When Colin went silent, Lex prompted him. "What happened next?"

"I struggled, and begged him not to whip me as he pulled me up the steps. That made him real mad, so he shoved me against the porch railing, and used his weight to push me into it. My arm was trapped between me and the metal railing, and when he pushed I felt my arm bend around the railing. It hurt so bad I screamed. Mom came out and yelled at Dad. She made him bring me in to get my arm checked. Dad says I'm getting two whippings now. One when we get home tonight, and another when he gets the bill for this visit."

"That's not going to happen," Lex said vehemently. When Colin tensed, Lex gentled his voice, and said, "Sorry, I'm not mad, I'm emotional because I remember how it feels to get hit for things that aren't your fault. Thank you for telling me. Does your mom hit you, too?"

Colin shook his head. "No."

"Does your dad hit your little sister?"

"No," Colin said, sounding horrified. "She's just a baby. She can't even walk yet."

"Does your dad hit your mom?"

"No," Colin sounded almost offended by that thought.

"Good." Lex put his hand on Colin's shoulder and said, "I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure that your father never hurts you again." He moved his hand and waved Helen over.

"You're not going to tell her, are you?" Colin asked with terror.

Lex turned to Colin and thought that over for a few seconds. Once Helen was beside him, Lex said, "I won't for now, but if your dad refuses my offer, then I might."

Colin kept eye contact for a few seconds, and then slowly nodded, accepting that answer.

Lex turned to Helen. "Can someone else wait with Colin for the x-ray? I need to go talk to his dad."

"Can I speak to you in private for a moment?" Helen said.

"Hang tight, kid." Lex said, and followed Helen to the other side of the room.

"Did Colin tell you what happened?" Helen asked.

"Yes."

She waited expectantly for a few moments, and then when he didn't offer any further information she said, "We've been trying to get this guy put away for months now. If you know what happened, you have to tell me."

Lex shook his head. "If Colin's father hasn't confessed by the end of the day, I will."

"You're not a professional counselor, or a social worker," she said urgently, "You could make everything worse if you go confront this guy."

"Maybe, but I have to try. This kid just confided in me after months, maybe years, of silence. I'm not going to break the trust he just showed me five seconds later." He took her hand in his and said, "If my way doesn't work, I'll know soon enough, and then I'll tell you. Okay?"

Helen reluctantly nodded, "Okay."

He let go of her hand, and walked back to Colin. "I'm going to go talk to your dad. Stay here until they call your name, okay?"

Colin nodded with fear and worry in his eyes.

Lex went back to the emergency room and walked up to Colin's father.

"Where's Colin?" the father demanded.

Lex got out his wallet, and pulled out all his cash. He counted it up, and held out the cash. "I'll give you seven hundred bucks right now to come talk to me outside."

"What?"

"I never got your name." Lex said impatiently.

"It's, John."

"Look, John, I'm going to make you an offer, and it needs to be in private. Your kid is still waiting on an x-ray, and there were three people in front of him. We've got time." He pushed the money closer to the man.

Glaring suspiciously at Lex, John slowly took the money, and stuck it in his own pocket.

Lex nodded, and said, "Follow me." Once they were standing outside the emergency room doors, Lex said, "What do you do for a living, John?"

"I'm a welder."

"And where do you work?"

"I got laid off six months ago, and the company I was working for went out of business just last month."

"About how much did you make in a year when you were working?"

"I don't see how that's any of your business," John said defensively.

Lex nodded. "When I turned twenty-one a few months ago I got access to my trust fund. I have a few million at my disposal. I told you I want to make you an offer, so it would be in your best interest to answer the question."

"Last year I made forty-two thousand."

"And what kind of outstanding debts do you have?"

"My wife's student loans are over sixty thousand. We've got two mortgages on the house that adds up to over two hundred thousand. And I still owe about fifteen thousand on my truck."

Lex nodded and said, "I'll give you three hundred thousand dollars to tell Dr. Helen Bryce what actually happened to your kid's arm."

"What?"

"I can have twenty-five thousand transferred into your account right now while we're talking, and once you make a full confession to Dr. Bryce while I'm in the room to witness it, I'll pay off all your debts."

John clenched his jaw and shook his head. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Yes you do," Lex snapped. "I don't know much about child abuse laws. You might do some jail time, and I'm sure you'll have some kind of court appointed counseling, but since this will be your first offence, the courts will probably show you leniency. I'll hire you one of the best lawyers in Metropolis to make sure you don't do much time if any. And the lawyer will make sure you are required to get counseling, mandatory parenting classes, and mandatory home checks for your kids. I'm also going to offer you a job." The man was just staring at him, so Lex asked, "Are you getting all this so far, John?"

John nodded stiffly.

"Good. I'll call my personal assistant, and she'll find you a welding job before the day is up, even if it's contract work that Luthorcorp has to create for you. If you take my offer, you'll have a job, you'll have some cash in the bank, and you'll be debt free before the day is up."

"And I'll have a criminal record, for trying to teach my son a lesson," John added.

Those words made Lex too angry to think rationally. He gave John an unpleasant smile and said, "Yeah, but if you don't take my offer, I'm going to hire some guys to beat the shit out of you, and I'll have them do extra damage to your spine in the hopes that you'll be paralyzed for life."

"What?" John whispered.

Instantly regretting his threat, and knowing that he'd never actually carry it out, Lex said, "I'm sorry, that's… that's not true. I wouldn't do that. But I will report you, if you don't confess, because Colin already told me what happened."

"No he didn't," John said uncertainly.

"Yes, he did. Probably because I told him that I was going to give you a lot of money, and he knows you guys need it. Whipping your kid for losing twenty bucks to a bunch of thugs isn't teaching him a lesson, it's abuse. And breaking his arm because he's trying to escape your abuse is criminal."

The older man paled, and Lex pulled his phone out of his pocket. "So what will it be, John? Should I call my assistant and have twenty-five thousand wired to your account right now, or am I going to go report you?"

After a relatively short pause, John said, "Make the call."

As Lex dialed the number, he said, "I'll need your bank account number."

"I don't know it off the top of my head."

"We'll figure it out," Lex assured him, and started speaking to his assistant once she answered.

# # #

Half an hour later, Lex and John walked back into the emergency room, and found Colin in his bed. The kid started to tremble when he saw his father walking towards him.

"Hey kid, did you get your x-ray done?" Lex asked.

Colin nodded, but didn't take his eyes off his father.

"Great. Your dad agreed to my offer."

Colin's eyes snapped to Lex, and then went back to his father. John kept his eyes straight ahead, focused on the curtain partition.

"He did?" Colin asked with hope.

"Yep. Take a seat, John," Lex said, "We'll all wait here quietly for Dr. Bryce. No talking."

An awkwardly silent fifteen minutes later, Dr. Bryce came in holding an x-ray. She stilled when she saw everyone in the small partitioned area. Lex gave her a smile and then turned to John expectantly.

The older man said, "Is his arm broken?"

"Yes it is." Dr. Bryce took the x-ray to a small panel on the wall, clipped it on, and turned the backlight on. They could all clearly see the fracture she pointed to. "His humerus has what we call a stable fracture. That means the two ends of the bone are mostly lined up, and it's going to be relatively easy to repair. We'll be administering a hematoma blocker for the pain, and then I'll set the bone. Once we've got it x-rayed again to make sure everything is in alignment, we'll get a cast put on. The whole process should take about an hour."

"John," Lex said with an edge to his voice.

He nodded, looked Dr. Bryce in the eyes, and said, "It was an accident, but the broken arm is my fault. Colin didn't fall. I was pulling him up the stairs, and he was struggling, so I pushed him against the metal railing. I must have pushed too hard. I would never break his arm on purpose."

"Tell her why Colin was running from you in the first place," Lex demanded.

"Because I was going to give him a whipping for losing some money."

Lex nodded and then waited to see what Helen would say.

"I see. Lex, I'm going to need you to stay here with Colin while I go make a few calls. Mr. Lanford, you'll need to come with me."

John turned to Lex and said, "Are you going to keep your end of the bargain?"

Lex pulled his phone out, and started to dial. "I'm calling your wife right now."

# # #

By the time Lex's five-hour shift was over, John had been taken in for questioning by the police, Colin's arm had been set, Colin's family was debt free, and Lex had gotten one of his father's staff members from the Smallville mansion to drive Colin's mother and baby sister to the hospital.

Pleased with himself, Lex clocked out for the day, and then went back to the emergency room, hoping to talk to Helen once more. She was talking to the nurse at the front desk when he arrived.

"Could I talk to you for a minute?" he asked. "I'm about to leave for the day."

"Sure, come on back to my office."

The nurse at the front desk buzzed him in to the back, and he followed her down the hall. As they walked she said, "I wanted to talk to you, too. Everyone here appreciates what you did for Colin. I don't know what you did to get his father to speak up, and I'm not sure I want to know, because I'm guessing it's not entirely legal. But I'm certain that your motivations were pure, and it's hard to argue with the results."

They'd made it to her office, and she closed the door behind them. "So thank you for whatever you did," she leaned in and kissed his cheek.

Acting on instinct, he leaned forward as she stepped back and touched his lips to hers. When she didn't immediately pull away, he put his hand on her back, and pressed their bodies together. When he felt her hands clutching his shirt, he deepened the kiss. For several blissful moments they were so caught up in each other, that nothing else mattered. Then he felt her hand on his chest, gently pushing him away.

He let his arms drop, and took a step back.

"We can't," she said.

"Yes we can. I've done my ten hours, I'm no longer your patient, we're both adults, and I really like you. Please let me take you to dinner tomorrow night."

She shook her head. "It's not that I don't like you, Lex, because I do. But it feels… unethical to go on a date with you. I treated you when you were sixteen. I can't just forget that mental image of you."

He stepped into her personal space again, and looked down at her, because even in her heels she was a good three inches shorter than him. "Spend some time with me, so we can replace that image with new ones." He brushed his fingers down the side of her face.

She shook her head again, and stepped back. "It's not just that. You're still in college, Lex, and I'm in my first year of residency. Neither one of us has time for a serious relationship, and if we go out… it won't be casual."

"I'm not looking for casual," Lex said. "I've had my fill of casual over the years. I'm looking for something else."

"You go to school several states away. It wouldn't be fair, or even reasonable, to ask you to be exclusive when we wouldn't even see each other for months at a time. And as I already said, it couldn't be casual between us."

"And as I've already said, I've had my fill of casual relationships. I'm ready and more than willing to be exclusive. I could see you every weekend this summer, and at least twice a month during school next year."

She bit her lip and thought it over for a few seconds. Then put her hand on the side of his face, leaned up to give him a chaste kiss on the lips, and said, "Ask me out again once you graduate."

"But…"

"No," she said firmly, cutting him off. She side stepped him, opened her office door, and said, "Go home, Lex. Enjoy your last year of college."

Feeling rejected and hurt, Lex nodded and muttered, "Okay."

He walked to his car in a daze, and tried to figure out how he felt about everything. Before he had any kind of definitive answer, he was on his way to the Kent farm for the weekend.

# # #

As soon as he parked in front of the farm house and saw Clark's surprised smile, Lex realized his mistake. He was too early, and now he'd either have to lie, come clean, or do some fancy omitting. He decided on option three, and berated himself for being a coward. He stepped out of the car and gave Clark a hug.

"What are you doing home so early?" Clark asked.

"I was having a crap day, and I just wanted to come home."

"What happened?"

Lex shook his head. "I'd rather not talk about it. At least not right now. I just want to enjoy being home."

"Okay," Clark agreed easily. "I was about to get a drink. Mom will be happy to see you."

They walked to the house together, and after a confused, but warm, welcome from Martha, Lex followed Clark back out to the field to help Jonathan.

A couple of hours later they were all sitting around the dinner table, when Lex's phone rang. He excused himself from the table and walked to the living room to answer it. It was the lawyer he'd hired for John giving him an update, and asking him for clarification for a few things. Once the call was done, he went back to the table.

"Sorry for the interruption."

"What was that about?" Martha asked.

"That was one of the many lawyers on retainer for Luthorcorp. He had some questions about a case." Hoping to change the subject, Lex added, "This spaghetti is really great, Mom."

"Is this lawyer and the case connected to why you're home early?" Martha asked.

"Yep," Lex said, "Could you pass the salad?"

Jonathan and Martha exchanged a glance. Then Jonathan held the salad out towards Lex, but when Lex tried to take it, Jonathan didn't let go until after he'd said, "I think you should tell us what happened today."

Lex frowned, took the salad bowl, and put some on his plate while considering it. Keeping his eyes down, he said, "I'd rather not."

"If you've done something we wouldn't approve of, you know we expect you to tell us about it," Jonathan said firmly.

Scowling, Lex glared at him. "Just because I don't want to tell you, doesn't mean I've done something wrong."

"Lex," Martha said gently, "You know you can tell us anything, right?"

Lex's phone rang again, and he muttered, "Excuse me." He went to the living room again to answer.

Lionel's voice said, "Please tell me you didn't actually pay off someone's mortgage today, son."

"Exactly how do you know about that, Dad?" Lex demanded. "I know you don't have access to my trust fund, so either you paid someone to tell you, or I need to hire a new assistant."

Sighing, Lionel said, "A Mrs. Lanford called asking for you. We ended up having a very enlightening conversation."

Lex groaned and muttered, "I gave her my fucking cell phone number. Why the hell was she calling Luthorcorp?"

"She lost your number."

"Fantastic," Lex said.

"She's grateful." When Lex remained silent, Lionel said, "Please tell me this was a simple lapse in judgement on your part, and not what you plan to do with your money in the future. You can't fix the world one person at a time, and if you try, you'll simply run out of money."

Gritting his teeth, Lex told his father what he wanted to hear so that he'd get off his back. "It was a onetime deal, Dad. Won't happen again. I'm in the middle of dinner, so I've got to go."

"I'm glad to hear it. I'll see you Monday morning."

Lex hung up, and walked back to the table where both Jonathan and Martha were staring intently at him.

"What?" he asked, standing behind his chair.

"Tell us about today. It's not a request," Jonathan ordered.

"I don't have to tell you anything!" Lex shouted. "It's my life, and…"

Glaring, Jonathan stood up as well.

Lex's voice immediately dropped in volume and anger as he finished his sentence. "…I can make my own decisions."

As Lex was finishing his sentence, Jonathan took the three steps that separated them. Lex tried to back up a step, but Jonathan caught his upper arm, and gave his backside a solid swat. Lex's entire face turned bright red with embarrassment at getting swatted in front of Clark and Martha. Speaking calmly, Jonathan said, "If you don't lower your voice, sit down, and speak to us with respect, I'm going to take you to your room and put you over my knee. Do you understand me?"

Swallowing hard, Lex nodded, and muttered, "Yes, sir."

Jonathan let go, raised an eyebrow and waited for Lex to sit. Once the younger man was sitting, Jonathan went back to his chair and sat down as well. After clearing his throat, Jonathan said, "We know it's your life, and we know you can make your own decisions. But your mother and I don't believe you're mature enough yet to make those decisions without parental involvement and guidance. You've matured quite a bit over the past three years, and we're proud of your progress, but you've still got some maturing to do. When I tell you to do something, I expect you to do it."

Lex glared at his plate, but nodded.

Martha put a hand over Lex's hand, and said gently, "It sounded to me like you were speaking to your father about money and a woman. If you've had another one of your hit and runs, I expect you to tell us about it, even if it means you'll be getting spanked."

A full blown laugh came out of Lex before he could stop it. The situation they were imagining was so much worse than the reality, that he couldn't help it. Once he got his laughter under control, he shook his head. "It's nothing like that, Mom. Nothing at all like that. In fact, I think you might even be proud of me." The words blackmail and bribery went through his mind, and he had second thoughts. "Maybe. Maybe not." Scowling, he muttered, "Or maybe it is a spanking offence. I don't fucking know."

"I've heard enough of that language, young man," Martha said.

"Sorry, Mom."

Jonathan said, "Tell us the whole story, son. We'll listen, we'll give you advice, we'll give you guidance and possibly a reprimand if it's warranted, but we'll love you no matter what."

Feeling secure in his knowledge that his adoptive parents would be there for him come rain or shine, Lex started in on his story, carefully leaving out names and places.

"There's this woman that I like, and I wanted to ask her out on a date. She works at a hospital, so I went there today to talk to her. But while I was there, a man brought in this kid with a broken arm." Lex shook his head. "The kid said he fell, but it was obvious to me that the kid was being abused by his father, so I…" he shifted in his chair, and cleared his throat before continuing, "I offered his father a large sum of money to tell the doctors the truth."

The room fell silent for a few seconds. Jonathan was the first to speak up. "So you bribed this man into making a confession."

Lex looked Jonathan in the eyes and said, "Yes I did."

"Did it work?" Clark asked.

"It did. The guy is in custody, and social services is involved to make sure the kid is in a safe environment."

Jonathan shared a look with Martha, and she gave him a nod. Lex wasn't sure if that meant he was in trouble or not, but he was prepared to defend his actions.

Jonathan sighed and said, "Normally your mother and I would not approve of bribery, and if this situation ever comes up again, we expect you to handle it differently, but for today… we understand why you'd do it, and we're proud of you for trying to help."

"You are?"

"We are," Martha said with a smile.

"Oh." Lex was more than a little relieved and a smile grow on his face. "Okay."

"But," Martha said, "you should probably do some research about bribery in court cases. It would defeat the purpose if this guy could get out of the charges because he was bribed."

Lex nodded. "I'll ask my lawyer about it, because that would suck."

"Did you get the chance to ask the woman out?" Clark asked.

"I did, but she turned me down." Lex shrugged and forced a smile on his face. "You win some, you lose some, I guess." He tried not to let any real emotion show on his face, and took a bite of his dinner.

"You're supposed to let us know when you ask someone out," Martha said. "Do we need to go over your dating rules again?"

"No!" he said a bit too loudly. "I mean, no we don't. I asked her out today, and I'm telling you about it today. Plus she said no, so we're not going out, which means there's nothing to report."

"All right," Martha said. "I suppose you have a good point. You've been good about telling us when you have a date, so I'm sorry for jumping to conclusions earlier."

Feeling guilty about all the things he wasn't telling them, Lex forced a smile and said, "That's okay, Mom."

For the rest of the weekend, Lex was slightly preoccupied with thoughts of Helen, but it was easy enough to keep that to himself while helping Jonathan and Clark fix miles of fencing for their cattle.

# # #

Monday morning Lex was secretly pleased to find out there had been a major accounting error over the weekend, because it meant his father was too busy to talk to him about their last telephone conversation. And when Lex helped find and solve the error, his father was so pleased that he offered to take Lex out to dinner to celebrate.

Thoughts of Helen kept wandering through Lex's head all day. The more he thought about her, the more her rejection stung. Logically he told himself that she had very logical reasons behind the rejection, but emotionally he couldn't help wonder if those were just excuses she was using to let him down gently.

After dinner with his father, Lex went back to his hotel and stewed over Helen's rejection. An hour later, he couldn't take it anymore, and went downstairs to get a drink. But then when he saw Susan waitressing, he walked past the bar and out the front door of the hotel. There was a bar three blocks down. It wasn't as upscale as he normally would pick, but there wouldn't be any awkward conversations with someone he'd taken on a date.

He could hear the blaring music before he even opened the door to the bar, but when he did open it, the noise level was blissfully ear ringing to the point where he wouldn't have to worry too much about conversations with his fellow patrons. Relaxing as he stepped into the dimly lit establishment, he handed his ID to the bouncer at the interior door without being asked. The large man handed it back with a nod, and opened the door for Lex. Inside there were at least thirty people on the dance floor, and another thirty spread out around the various tables that surrounded the dancing area. The bar itself was full of people standing around. They were ordering drinks, talking, laughing, and flirting with each other. Over to one side, there were a couple of older guys who were sitting quietly and drinking by themselves. Lex thought about going over to sit between them so he could drink quietly as well, but when the term alcoholic went through his brain, he veered off towards the other side of the bar where the young people were gathered.

He waved at the waiter and ordered a scotch and soda. A tiny blond woman with an extremely revealing silver dress put a hand on his arm and yelled to be heard over the music, "Did you just order a scotch and soda?"

"I did," Lex yelled back.

"That's sexy," she said with a grin. "Most of the guys I know order beer."

He couldn't stop his eyes from going to her chest, and noticing the way her shiny dress seemed to accentuate her perky nipples, and the way her hand didn't leave his arm.

"Thanks," he said, as his eyes snapped back to hers. "Can I buy you a drink?"

"Sure. I'd love a dirty martini."

Smirking, he leaned in to be heard, and said, "Now that's sexy. I thought for sure you'd want something fruity like an appletini."

She ran her hand up higher up on his arm, and leaned in to whisper in his ear, "I can't stand fruity drinks. I want my alcohol to taste like alcohol."

"Me too."

The bartender came back, momentarily interrupting their conversation. Lex ordered her drink as well, while taking out a fifty and telling the guy to keep the change. When he turned back to her, he saw her giving him the once over, and then smiling.

"Everything about you is sexy," she said. "The suit, the drink, the cash, the confidence, and those piercing green eyes." She gestured to an empty table and said, "Want to share a table and get to know each other a little better?"

"Absolutely," Lex said, feeling better about himself than he had since Helen's rejection. Not only did this beautiful woman just ask him out, but she was blatant about finding him attractive.

"I'll go save the table," she said.

He nodded and she went to sit while he waited for her drink. As he waited, he realized that sharing a table would probably make this encounter officially a date. If she came to this bar often, he could meet up with her three different times, have some drinks together, call them dates, and then sleep with her without repercussions. Grinning at his brilliant plan, he took her drink to the table, and sat across from her. She slid her chair over so that they were sitting side by side, and sipped her drink.

"I didn't catch your name," he said.

"Madison."

"Nice to meet you, Madison. I'm Lex."

Over the next hour, Lex found out that Madison just finished her third year at Kansas State University. She planned to become a lawyer someday. Her parents had divorced when she was young, but they had shared custody, and she had good relationships with both of them. He'd shared a little bit of his college life and home life as well. While they talked, they drank, and by the end of the hour, Lex had finished four scotch and sodas, while Madison had finished three martinis.

When he offered to get her a fourth, she shook her head. "I really shouldn't, but…" she pressed the side of her body against his, and whispered in his ear, "I wouldn't mind a nightcap if you lived close by."

He opened his mouth to say yes, but then forced himself not to. "I'd love that, but I…" he tried to come up with some kind of plausible lie, but nothing came to mind. Cringing he muttered, "…but I'd like to get to know you better first."

Chuckling she ran her hand up his thigh and said, "That's what the nightcap is for sugar. Getting to know each other better."

Her hand reached his groin, and he was almost instantly hard. Groaning he blurted out a lie without thinking it through. "I live with my dad. He's old fashioned. He wouldn't be okay with me bringing someone home that he's never even met."

Frowning, she muttered, "Me too." She grasped his erection through his clothing and said with a pout, "Are you sure there's nowhere we could go?"

Desperate, and not giving a crap about rules in the moment, Lex put a hand on her hip, and leaned in to kiss her. After he came up for air, he whispered, "When you went to the bathroom, was it a single room with a locking door?"

Grinning wickedly, she nodded, grasped his hand, and said, "Yes. Come on, I'll show you."

He adjusted himself in his pants before getting up to follow her. The second the door to the bathroom was shut and locked, they were kissing and tugging at each other's clothing.

# # #

The sex itself had been great, and in the moment, Lex didn't feel even a little bit bad about it. But by the time Madison was pulling her panties back on, and he was throwing the condom away, regret had set in. They both fixed their clothing, and checked their faces in the mirror. She brushed her hair with her fingers, and gave him a smile in the mirror, which he forced himself to return.

When she deemed herself presentable, he opened the door for her, and as she was walking out she said, "I've got to head home, but I'll be here tomorrow night if you want to have drinks again."

"Great. I don't know if I'll be free, but if I am I'll be here," he lied. There was no way he was ever coming back to this bar. It wasn't that he didn't like Madison, he liked her just fine, but she wasn't Helen, and Helen was the one he wanted to spend time with.

He stood by the bar for a few minutes, waiting for her to leave, and then headed back to his hotel. His head was full of self-recrimination the whole walk home. He couldn't believe his own lack of self-control. All he had to do was wait two more days, and he could have had her without breaking the rules. He scowled and blushed at the thought of what his parents were going to say and do once they found out. His father would find his lack of restraint amusing, his pop would find it disappointing, and his mother… He shuddered at the thought of her reaction. He did not want to go over her lap ever again, but he could picture her lecturing him, dragging him to a chair by his ear, and paddling him with that damn spatula until he was bawling.

"Fuck," he muttered, and hoped it would be Jonathan. But then shook his head, because he never wanted to experience that again either.

He'd made it to his hotel, and soon was back in his room. He paced the floor, and tried to talk himself into calling home and confessing. He knew for certain that immediate confession was what the Kents expected of him, and he also knew it would only get harder to confess the longer he waited. He forced himself to pick up the phone, but lost his nerve before he could dial their number. He slammed the phone down and yelled, "The rules are stupid! I'm a grown man, and if I want to fuck some girl in the bathroom of a bar, then it's none of their God damn business!"

Feeling marginally better, he nodded at his own logic and tried to come up with a solution to this problem that wouldn't end with him over someone's lap. He scowled and wished he'd just held off on fucking her until they'd met up at the bar three times. Suddenly her offer to meet up again tomorrow didn't just sound appealing, it sounded necessary. If he met her two more times at the bar, he could tell his parents that they'd had three dates, and it wouldn't be a lie. The order of events might be a bit muddled, but if he could get in two more dates before actually talking to them, he could possibly make that story work.

He looked at the time and realized it was way too late to call the Kents anyway. First thing in the morning when he got to work, he'd send them an email to let them know he'd had a date, and then he'd be 'busy' every time they tried to call him that day.

As the plan came together in his head, he let himself believe that he could get out of punishment. With that thought in his head, he was finally able to relax enough to get ready for bed.

# # #

The following morning while he was showering, he decided that the alcohol must have still been affecting him when he'd made his plans to email the Kents. He never emailed them to communicate, he always called. They would know instantly that something was wrong if he emailed them that he'd had a date, and then if he didn't take their calls on top of that, he was pretty sure Jonathan would show up at Luthorcorp before the day was over.

Once he was ready for work, he stared at his phone for a good ten minutes, trying to build up the courage to confess. Eventually he muttered, "The rules are stupid, and I don't have to follow them." With that thought in mind he went to work, and tried to lose himself in the business side of his life.

After working with his father for about two hours, the older man said, "What's wrong with you today?"

"Nothing," Lex said defensively.

"You've been distracted all morning, and you're… fidgety."

"I am not!" Lex pointed to the paperwork they'd been discussing and said, "If these numbers don't make you fidgety, then maybe the question should be what's wrong with you today?"

Lionel held his hands up in surrender and said, "Okay, fine. I'm sorry I brought it up."

Lex grunted, and went back to talking business.

By the time work was over for the day, Lex was drained. He had been distracted and fidgety all day, because the guilt of yesterday's actions was weighing on him. Just as he was about to leave for the night, Lionel caught up with him in the office that had been assigned to Lex for the summer.

"Would you like to have dinner with me tonight?" Lionel asked.

"No thanks, Dad. Maybe tomorrow."

Lionel sighed and said, "Do I need to call the Kents?"

"What!? No! What the hell are you talking about?" Lex shut the door to his office to keep their discussion private.

"Something is wrong, and you're not talking to me about it. I hope that someday you'll be able to trust me enough to confide in me when you have a problem, but for now I'll have to rely on the Kents to help you work through whatever the problem seems to be."

Feeling twice the guilt, Lex shook his head. "It's not that I don't trust you Dad. Not at all. In fact, I'll confess to you right now, if you promise not to tell the Kents."

Lionel raised an eyebrow and slowly nodded. "Okay son, go ahead."

"I met a girl at a bar last night, and we had sex."

Lionel looked at Lex as if expecting more, and then slowly nodded when no more information was forthcoming. "I see. And the Kents don't approve of you having one night stands, so you're distracted and nervous, because you know they'll be disappointed when they find out. Is that right?"

Lex nodded.

"What about Dr. Bryce?"

Scowling, Lex muttered, "She didn't want to go out with me."

"Ah." Lionel took a moment, and then sighed. "So you had a one night stand last night, because your ego was hurt by Dr. Bryce's rejection." Lex shook his head, but Lionel continued, "And you don't want the Kents to find out not only because they'll be disappointed, but also because they'll force you to face the reasons behind your actions."

"No, that's not why." Lex realized his tone sounded whiny instead of confident, and almost blurted out that he didn't want to be punished, but there was no way in hell he was ever telling his father about that.

"Yes it is." Lionel said. "If you don't talk to them you'll just get worse and worse all week while you worry about their reaction."

"You promised not to tell them!" Lex said, feeling panicky.

"And I won't. You will."

Lex shook his head. "No, I won't."

"Yes, son, you will." Lionel said firmly. "I'm going to have a driver take you to the Kent farm right now, and you're not allowed back at work until I've gotten a call from either Jonathan or Martha telling me in detail that you've had a talk about last night's indiscretion."

"Fuck you!" Lex yelled and pushed past his father, intending to leave.

"If you walk out that door, I'm going to call the Kents right now," Lex stopped with his hand on the doorknob, but didn't turn around as his father continued. "I'll tell them that you're having difficulties." Lionel said, keeping his voice completely calm. "Jonathan will be here two hours later. If he has to go find you, don't you think that's going to cause more disappointment rather than less?"

Feeling trapped and close to tears, Lex said, "I hate you."

"No you don't, son. You hate that I'm finally acting like a parent." Lionel pulled out his phone and ordered a driver to take Lex to the Kent farm in Smallville.

Lex's shoulders sagged, and he rested his forehead against the door, resigned to his fate.

When Lionel hung up, he said, "I'll be escorting you to the car, and I'm going to tell the driver to wait at the farm until he sees the Kents greet you, and then report back to me." He walked up to Lex and put a hand on his shoulder.

Lex flinched at first, and almost shrugged the hand off, but stopped himself in time, and let the hand stay where it was.

"I know you don't like me very much right now, son, but I'm trying to do what's best for you."

"It's not that I don't like you, Dad," Lex said quietly. "It's that I don't like me."

Lionel gently pulled at Lex's shoulder, until the younger man was facing him, and then pulled him into a hug. "I love you, son, and you're going to like yourself a lot more once you've talked this out with the Kents."

Lex couldn't deny that, and nodded against his father's shoulder. Lionel patted his back, and then kept an arm around his shoulders as he opened the office door, and led them towards the elevators. Once he'd hit the button for the garage floor, Lionel said, "If the Kents think you need a day or two off, I'll allow it, but I expect you to be back to work no later than Thursday."

"Okay," Lex said, too busy running scenarios of confessions in his head to pay much attention.

Before he'd had time to process it all, he was in the back of a car, being driven to Smallville.

# # #

In some ways the two-hour car ride felt excruciatingly slow, and in other ways it felt much too fast. He had decided the best way to come clean was to start by telling them about Helen to garner sympathy before ending with last night's slip up. But having a plan didn't mean he was actually ready to confess when they pulled into the Kents' driveway.

"Thanks," Lex muttered to the driver as he got out of the car, and went to the front door. Normally he would have just walked in while knocking, but today he knocked and waited so that the driver could see someone coming to the door.

"Lex?" Jonathan asked as he opened the door wider for him to come in. "What are you doing here?"

Lex heard the car driving away, and stepped into the house. He let Jonathan give him a hug, and waved at Martha and Clark who were in the living room. When Jonathan let go, Lex said, "We need to talk."

"Okay," Jonathan led him into the living room. Martha put down the book she'd been reading, and Clark turned off his video game.

With three sets of eyes on him, Lex sat in one of the easy chairs, kept his eyes on the floor and said, "I wasn't entirely forthcoming when I told you about my day last Friday. The hospital I was visiting was Smallville General, and the woman I asked out was Dr. Helen Bryce." He darted his eyes to Martha's and saw nothing but love an acceptance. She nodded to encourage him to continue.

He looked back at the floor and continued. "I actually asked her out back when she treated me for my sprained ankle. She said no, and pointed out that we'd met once before about five years ago. Back when I was sixteen… well I got drunk a lot back then, and when it got bad one of the staff members would take me to a hospital in Metropolis. Helen happened to be the intern that got assigned to sit with me until I sobered up one night. I don't remember this, but apparently I propositioned her in an extremely rude way. Then after she said no, I basically spent the rest of the night crying on her shoulder while talking about my dead mom." Lex shook his head. "Once she told me that part, I did remember her. I remember her being kind to me, and after finding out what an asshole I'd been just before that made me even more interested in asking her out."

He darted his eyes to Martha again, and she still didn't appear to be angry, and if anything seemed sympathetic. Lex was able to keep his eyes up for this next part. "I tried to convince her that she should go out with me, so I could make up for treating her so badly back then." He couldn't help but smile slightly as he said, "She told me if I really wanted to make it up to her, that I should volunteer at the hospital for ten hours, because that's how much time she spent with me. So I did."

"You volunteered at Smallville General?" Jonathan asked.

Lex nodded. "Last Friday, and the Friday before. Five hours each. I was volunteering when I saw that abused kid, and well, you know how that ended."

"You asked Helen out again after volunteering, and she still said no?" Martha asked.

"Yeah. She said it was because I'm still in college, and told me to ask her out again after I graduate. And logically I get it. A long distance relationship with her in her first year of residency and me in my last year of college would be challenging at best, but I really like her. We kissed when I asked her out, and I can't get her out of my head." He closed his eyes to finish his confession. "I didn't deal with the rejection well. Monday after work I went to a bar. I met a girl and we spent the night flirting and getting drunk together. At the end of the night she propositioned me. I said no once, but when she asked me a second time… I gave in. We had sex in the bathroom."

"Oh, Lex," Martha said, voice full of disappointment.

Lex opened his eyes, looked at his mother and nodded. "I know. I'm sorry. I tried to follow the rules. Honestly I did, but…" he shrugged helplessly. "It felt so good to be wanted, that nothing else mattered."

Jonathan said quietly, "How did you feel after?"

"I felt shitty about it before we were even done fixing our clothes. Not just because I knew you guys would be disappointed, but because… Well because I still like Helen."

"Why didn't you tell us yesterday?" Martha asked.

Lex muttered, "I got home really late. I didn't want to wake you."

"Lex," Jonathan's tone was full of disappointment this time. "Don't lie."

Fidgeting in his chair, Lex said, "Because I was a coward, and I didn't want to get spanked, even though I knew deserved it."

Nodding, Jonathan said, "Thank you. We're proud of you for coming to tell us, even if it was a day late."

Lex shook his head, and looked at Jonathan with tears in his eyes. "You shouldn't be. I didn't come here voluntarily. Dad found out I was keeping things from you and had a driver bring me home. He's expecting a phone call from you or Mom to let him know that I told you about the one-night stand."

Jonathan sighed and said, "Okay, Lex, I want you to go to your room while your mother and I discuss punishment, and give your father a call."

"Yes, sir," Lex mumbled and quietly went upstairs.

# # #

Lex paced his room nervously for the next half an hour. He'd taken off his suit jacket, his tie, and his shoes to get more comfortable while he waited. When someone finally knocked on the door, he wasn't sure if he should be relieved that the wait was over, or worried that his punishment was about to start.

"Come in," he said, backing up a little so he was beside the window.

Jonathan came in, shut the door behind him, and went to sit on the edge of Lex's bed.

"Your mother called Lionel to let him know that you confessed, and they exchanged notes to make sure we're all on the same page. You'll be staying here tonight, and then tomorrow after lunch your mother will drive you back to Metropolis."

Lex nodded in agreement. He knew he wasn't going to want to sit in the car for two hours after Jonathan was done with him.

"You're grounded from drinking and dating until next Monday. Your mother will be staying with you until Friday morning to make sure you stick to that."

"Mom doesn't have to stay with me," Lex said quietly, "I'll stick to it either way."

"That's good to hear, but it's already been decided. On top of being grounded, you're also getting spanked for breaking the rules." Jonathan pointed to a spot on the floor by his right foot. "Come here."

Lex shook his head. "Please, Pop. I didn't mean to break the rules."

"I'm sorry, kiddo, but that's just not true. You lied to us two weekends in a row." Lex shook his head again, but Jonathan said sternly, "We've gone over lying by omission more than once, young man. You purposely hid things from us surrounding your love life when you knew you were supposed to tell us. Then partially because of those lies, you had no one to talk to about your feelings, so you turned to alcohol and sex to make yourself feel better. So you might not have gone to that bar with the intention of breaking the rules, but the only reason you were in the bar at all was because you intentionally broke our long standing rules about honesty. So now you're getting spanked, and there's no getting out of it."

Jonathan pointed at the floor again, and said, "So come here."

Lex felt a tear slide down his face as he slowly walked to the spot his pop had indicated. When he was within reaching distance, Jonathan grasped Lex's wrist, and pulled him across his lap. Once Lex was settled with his upper half lying on the bed, and his lower half hanging off Jonathan's lap, Jonathan said, "This part is for having a one-night stand."

A harsh slap landed on the center of his ass, and Lex hissed in discomfort. Jonathan's hand came down on the seat of his slacks again and again, moving side to side until his entire rear end was uncomfortably hot and stinging. Lex whined, squirmed, wiggled and eventually yelped as the sting grew.

"I'm sorry," he said while trying to keep his struggles and vocalizations to a minimum.

Lex was about to reach a hand back to cover as much of his ass as he could, when the spanking miraculously stopped.

Jonathan patted his back and said, "We'd be done now if the one-night stand was the only issue, but it's not, is it?"

"No, sir," Lex said, feeling very sorry for himself.

"No," Jonathan agreed. "Stand up for a minute." He helped the younger man stand with a hand on his arm.

Once Lex was upright, both his hands went back to rub out some of the pain.

"We've been over lying by omission before, so your pants are coming down for this part."

That order wasn't exactly a surprise, but it still made fresh tears spill out as Lex undid his belt and unsnapped his slacks. As soon as they were loose he let go and they fell to his ankles.

"Good boy," Jonathan said, as he pulled the young man down over his lap a second time. As soon as he was in place, Jonathan pulled the boxers down as well, and immediately started spanking bare skin.

"Ow!" Lex yelped. The fresh burning sting was intolerable on top of skin that was already sore, and he immediately tossed a hand back to try and block the blows. Jonathan paused long enough to grab Lex's wrist, and pull it to the small of Lex's back. Then the unbearable smacks started right back up again.

"Ow, Pop!" Lex complained and started kicking his feet in time to the harsh slaps. "I'm sorry!"

"You don't lie to us, young man," Jonathan lectured as he spanked. "You don't lie by omission, you don't lie to keep yourself out of trouble, and you don't lie to cover things up. Do you understand me?"

"Yes! Yes, sir! Ow! Pop, I won't! Ah! I won't lie again! Ow! I promise!"

"Lying by omission is a form of manipulation, and your mother and I are not going to tolerate it. We don't lie to you, we don't manipulate you, and we expect you not to do it to us. Is that clear?"

"Yeeees! Pop please! Owww! Please stop! I'm sorry! Oww! I won't do it again! Please!"

Jonathan started aiming the smacks a little lower, focusing on Lex's sit spots. Lex instantly broke down into noisy sobs, and hid his face in the crook of his free elbow. Jonathan nodded and dished out ten more solid smacks while Lex cried.

Once it was done, Jonathan let go of Lex's captured wrist and rubbed his back. "Okay, kiddo, it's all done. You've paid for your mistakes, and your mother and I forgive you."

It took a few moments for Lex to calm down enough to stand up. As soon as he was upright, he pulled his boxers up. The slacks had been kicked off a long time ago, and he had no intention of putting them back on tonight, so he just stood in his boxers, rubbed his butt with one hand, and wiped at his tears with the other.

Jonathan got up and handed Lex a box of tissues off the nightstand. After Lex had taken a few, Jonathan pulled him into a strong hug.

"I'm sorry," Lex said again through his tears, hugging Jonathan back.

"I know you are."

"I won't do it again.

"I know."

"That sucked," Lex said against Jonathan's chest, putting both hands back to rub in favor of hugging Jonathan back.

"Yeah, it did."

After several quiet moments, Jonathan patted Lex's back and said, "Okay, son, I want you to get ready for bed."

Lex thought about protesting, because it wasn't even nine o'clock yet, but he was too tired to argue. He nodded and went to the dresser to find some sleep pants.

"I'm going to go tell your mom and Clark that it's safe to come in from the barn, and I know your mother is going to want to talk to you before you actually fall asleep."

"Okay," Lex agreed as he stepped into his pajama bottoms.

# # #

Lex had used the bathroom, brushed his teeth, and gotten in bed before Martha came in the open door and knocked on the doorframe.

"Hey, Mom." Lex rolled off of his stomach and onto his side so that he was facing her.

She sat on the edge of his bed, and put a hand on his upper arm. "How are you doing, sweetheart?"

"Sore, but I'll live."

"For the past half an hour, I've been trying to figure out why you'd go to such lengths to hide things from us. Why not just tell us about Dr. Bryce? Did you think we'd try to stop you from asking her out, or from volunteering?"

"No." He shook his head, and kept his eyes on the bed.

"Then why?"

"I…"

She gently rubbed his arm. "You what sweetheart?"

"I didn't want you to know if she rejected me. I really like Helen, and I've never felt that way about a woman before. I don't know how to handle these feelings and not act on them. Back when I was paying for women, it wasn't an issue, and then when I started having one night stands… well no one ever said no. But Helen had already turned me down once. Then when I thought about telling you guys that I was going to do something so elaborate just so I could ask her out again… I figured if she shot me down, it would prove what I'd always suspected."

"Which is?"

"That I'm not good enough for her. I'm good enough for drunk slutty girls that I meet at bars, but no sober professional woman that I meet at their place of work would ever want me." He saw her glaring at him, and opening her mouth, so he held a hand up to stop her before continuing, "I know what you're going to say, Mom. You're going to tell me it's not true. You're going to tell me that I'm very worthy and deserving of love, and that you don't want to hear me saying otherwise. And logically I agree with you. Emotionally, I'm not there yet, and Pop just got done 'talking' to me about the evils of lying, so don't tell me not to say I'm unworthy of love."

"Scoot over a little," Martha said. When Lex was over to one side, Martha laid down on top of the covers with her head on his pillow and held her arms out to him. Once he was snuggled up against her, with his head on her shoulder she kissed the top of his head. "There's a difference between feeling unworthy and actually being unworthy. You can tell me that you feel unworthy, but I don't want to hear you saying that you are unworthy. Do you understand the difference?"

"Semantics," he said somewhat petulantly.

"No young man, it's not semantics," she said sternly. "One is a statement of opinion, the other is a statement of fact. You are not unworthy of love. You may feel that you are, but that doesn't mean it's true. I love you, Pop loves you, Clark loves you, and your Dad loves you. Someday you'll find a woman who loves you, too. If I hear you stating that like a fact again, I'm going to make you write 'I am worthy of love' five hundred times tomorrow morning. Is that clear?"

"Yes," he muttered, clearly not happy about her decree, but unwilling to push his luck.

After several moments of quiet, Martha said, "Back when we first found out about your one night stands, your pop and I had a little argument. He said I should tell you about my past so that you'd understand why I was so upset, but I didn't agree. Now I wish I had. But I'm going to tell you about it now, because back when I was a freshman in college, there was a boy who made me feel unworthy of love."

Lex frowned, not quite believing it was possible that Martha Kent ever felt unworthy of love. In his eyes she was the epitome of a person deserving of love. And he suspected that this story was going to be difficult to hear.

"I'd lived a somewhat sheltered life in high school. After my mom died, my dad kept a close eye on me. I'd had a couple of boyfriends, but I'd never done anything more than kissing. Moving into a college dorm was quite the culture shock. My roommate was the polar opposite of me. She'd been wild in high school, and she liked to party. Before we'd even been going to school for a month, she invited me to go with her to a frat house party. I didn't actually want to go, but I did want to fit in, and I knew she already thought I was a stick in the mud. When we got there, someone handed me a beer. I'd never drank before, but it seemed rude to say no, so I drank it. Once I started to feel it, this tall, incredibly handsome, football player came to talk to me. We flirted for a couple of hours, and he very subtly kept pushing me to drink."

Lex felt his stomach rolling, because he already knew where this story was going.

"I vaguely remember him asking me to go see his room. Once we were there, he started kissing me, and groping me. I was too startled to know what to do at first. I was a virgin, and so naive. I had no idea until the moment he was touching me that the whole reason he took me upstairs was so that he could have sex with me. I tried to push him off, and he stopped. I asked him what he was doing, and he told me he loved me. Told me I was the most beautiful woman he'd ever met. Told me he wanted me to be his wife someday, and that he couldn't live without me."

A bitter chuckle came out of her. "I believed every word he said, and even though I certainly had reservations, I didn't say no when he started kissing me again. Losing my virginity to a big jock who had no interest in my pleasure was physically painful in the moment, and utterly humiliating in retrospect. Once he was done, he helped me get dressed, and said a bunch of sweet nothings to me. Told me he wanted to see me the next day, and that he wanted to take me on a date that weekend. I walked back to my dorm with mixed feelings. I hadn't enjoyed what we'd done, and I kind of hated myself for what I'd let him do to me, but I was also infatuated with him. I told myself it was okay that I'd let it happen, because he loved me, and was going to date me, and probably marry me."

Feeling physically ill, Lex didn't really want to hear the rest of the story, but didn't try to stop her from telling it.

"The next day I tried to call him. He wouldn't take my call. Two days after that I showed up at the frat house wanting to see him. His frat buddies called me a needy little slut and told me to get off their property and stop harassing their friend or they were going to call the police. It was soul crushing to find out he'd lied to me so blatantly just to get me in bed. I stopped trying to contact him. I saw him on campus a few times after that. Always with another girl."

"He date raped you," Lex said furiously.

"In this day and age that's called date rape. Back then it was called my fault for putting myself in a bad situation." She squeezed him for a few seconds in a tight hug, and then continued. "A month and a half later I found out I was pregnant."

Lex gasped, and picked his head up to look her in the eye.

She gave him a sad smile. "I thought it was the one good thing to come out of a horrible experience." Turning her eyes to the ceiling she whispered, "I had a miscarriage early in the first trimester, before I'd told any of my family or friends that I was even pregnant."

"Oh, Mom," Lex said, tearing up. "That's… I don't even know what to say other than I'm sorry you had to go through that."

"Jonathan is the only other person who knows, and I'd appreciate it if you didn't tell Clark. He's just too… innocent still to hear that story."

"Of course." Lex said. "I won't tell anyone." He put his head back on her shoulder and said, "What was that guy's name?"

Martha chuckled. "I'm going to tell you the same thing I told Jonathan when he asked that question. I like having you around way too much to tell you that boy's name. I don't want vengeance, Lex. I want you to think about how you treat women. Especially those hit and runs. How do you think it feels for a woman to be brushed off the next day after doing something so intimate with you? Were any of these women you slept with virgins?"

"God no!" Lex said, and then second guessed himself. "Well… I don't think so." A wave of self-disgust rolled through him at the thought that one of them might have been. He thought he was pretty good at seeing to a woman's pleasure, because he'd learned a lot from the prostitutes he'd been with. And he was certain none of the women he'd been with had found their time together painful. But if one of them had been a virgin, it would have been emotionally devastating to get brushed off the next day. He'd never asked, he'd just assumed they wouldn't be jumping into bed with him if they were.

Martha patted his shoulder and said. "It's just food for thought sweetheart. I hope that hearing my story will help you to control yourself a little better in the future."

"It will," he said with certainty.

"Okay, I'm going to get ready for bed. I'm drained."

Lex moved back so she could get up. Once she was standing, she said, "If you have nightmares, or you can't sleep, you come wake us up and let us know. Okay?"

"Okay."

She leaned down and kissed his forehead one more time. "I love you, sweetie."

"I love you too, Mom."

She turned off his light on the way out.

Once he was alone, Lex rolled back onto his stomach and thought about everything. Usually after a spanking he was so worn out that he fell right to sleep, but tonight he lay awake for a good hour before finally drifting off.

# # #

The rest of the week went fairly well for Lex. Having Martha with him in Metropolis the whole week meant it didn't even cross his mind to have a drink or go on a date, and it also made him feel loved and accepted to spend time with her after he'd broken the dating rules she'd set up for him. Lex also had a good week, because Martha and Lionel seemed to truly enjoy each other's company when they were talking about safe subjects like travel or food, so they'd all had dinner together every night.

Friday morning Martha drove herself home while Lex went to work. He'd had a good day with his father, and then he'd taken his Porsche back home to Smallville when work was over.

Lex was humming along to a song on the radio when he arrived, but stopped as soon as he saw an unfamiliar car in the driveway. It wasn't completely unheard of for the Kents to have someone over for dinner, but it was rare. He parked, went to the house, and opened the door as he knocked, and called out, "I'm home."

He froze halfway through the door when he saw Helen standing beside Martha in the kitchen with a glass of water in her hand.

"Helen?" he said, too shocked to move still.

"Hi," she said with a smile.

Jonathan walked over to Lex and said, "Welcome home, son," as he subtly pushed Lex forward a few steps and shut the door for him.

"What's going on?" Lex asked, darting panicked eyes to Martha.

"I went to see Dr. Bryce…" Martha started.

"Helen," the other woman corrected her.

"I went to see Helen at the hospital today, and I invited her to dinner," Martha said, as if that were normal behavior.

"What?"

Smiling, Helen set her water down and walked towards him. "Let's go talk on the porch."

"Okay," he said warily, and opened the door for her. He shut the door behind them, and then followed her when she went to sit on the porch swing. He sat on the other end of it and waited for her to explain what was going on.

"Your mom convinced me that I was making a big mistake by not even giving you a chance."

"She did?" Lex asked, still shell shocked to see Helen there at the farm.

"She did."

"How?" He asked, hoping to God that Martha hadn't said anything about the fact that he'd hooked up with Madison earlier in the week.

"She reminded me that the best relationships; the ones that really stand the test of time, are friendships that turn into more. So me being here tonight isn't a date. This is me getting to know you and your family better. And maybe by the end of the summer," she shrugged, "I'll be convinced to go on a date with you."

"Yeah?" he asked, not quite believing this could be happening.

"Yeah," she said with a smile, and then stood. "So how about we go back in there, have a nice dinner together with your family, and see what happens."

"That sounds perfect," Lex said as he got up as well, and went to open the door for her.

Lex watched with amazement as she went back inside, picked up her water glass, and started chatting with Martha about her flower garden.

Jonathan clapped Lex on the back, startling him out of his musing, and said, "How was work today?"

Soon Lex was chatting about his day, and the awkwardness of the situation soon faded into the background.

During their meal, Lex discovered that he and Helen had more in common than he would have suspected. They'd both been raised in excessively wealthy households, which automatically gave them a common understanding about things that required wealth like exotic travel destinations, fashion lines, and fundraising events. They'd also both had contentious relationships with their fathers in their teen years, and done some rebelling, which for Helen had meant becoming a doctor without her family's money, since they didn't approve. By the end of the evening, Lex was even more infatuated with her than he had been before.

When Helen was about to go home, Martha invited her to dinner the next night, and Helen happily agreed. To Lex's astonished joy, when he offered to walk her to her car, she happily agreed to that as well, and even gave him a chaste kiss on the cheek before getting in her car and going home.

He stood in the driveway long after she was gone, thinking over his evening. Soon he heard someone behind him, and turned to see Martha coming down the porch stairs. She stood with him quietly for a few moments.

"I like her," she said, linking her arm with Lex's, and leaning on his shoulder. "I think she'll be your wife someday."

Grinning, Lex said, "I think so, too."

"Come on," Martha said, steering him towards the house. "I need help with the dishes, and Clark is dying to play his new video game with you."

They walked back to the house arm in arm, both of them full of hope for the future.