IMPROBABLE EDEN

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

I'll be fine

I'll be waiting patiently

Till you see the signs

And come running to my open arms

When will you realize

Do we have to wait till our worlds collide

Open up your eyes

You can't turn back the tide It's No Good - Depeche Mode
As the door closed behind her, Cady let out a sigh of relief that the meeting with her counselor had gone well. He agreed that she should ride out the closing of LuthorCorp and see where the path may lead her. If there was a dead end, she could find another internship elsewhere. In the meantime, he was pleased with her report regarding the closing of the company and the work done so far towards the potential employee buyout.

Slinging her backpack over her shoulder, Cady searched through her purse for the parking ticket so she could have it validated on her way out, then started the walk back through the Student Center. As she made her way down the staircase, she noticed a large group of students had gathered in the lounge around the big screen TV. They were talking amongst themselves and occasionally one would 'sssh' the others irritably. Her curiosity taking over, Cady walked up to the edge of the crowd, glancing over some shoulders to see that the news was on, the camera currently focused on the anchorwoman.

Frowning, she leaned over to the guy closest to her. "What's going on?"

"Those thunderstorms are wreaking havoc in the central part of the state," he told, brown eyes sweeping over her momentarily before returning to the screen. "Some twisters touched down in - hey, Brent! Where did they say those three tornadoes were?"

"Smallville."

"That's it, Small - "

Cady didn't hear what else he had to say as she darted away from the group, hurrying towards the parking garage as she dug through her purse once more, this time for her cell phone. Fishing it out, she almost dropped it twice as she broke into a run down the hallway while attempting to hit the speed dial for the Kent farm. Finally putting the call through, she held the phone up to her ear and waited with bated breath as she pushed through the double doors in the garage.

Ring. Ring. The phone clicked: 'We're sorry but all circuits are busy now.'

"Dammit," Cady whispered as she reached the truck. Opening the door, she tossed her backpack and purse inside then climbed in, dialing once more and holding the phone to her shoulder as she started the engine.

Ring. Ring. 'We're sorry but - '

Ending the call, Cady tossed the phone to the passenger side of the cab then pulled out of the space and headed for the exit. She practically threw her money at the parking attendant before forcing her way out into the heavy Metropolis traffic towards I-70. The congestion kept her from speeding, which was what she really wanted to do, and she was mentally kicking herself for not borrowing one of Lex's sports cars for this trip - she could have made it through the traffic more easily. It took over twenty minutes for her to get through the city before she finally took the ramp onto the I-70 Turnpike, headed west towards Smallville.

Once she was clear of traffic and had nothing but smooth road ahead of her, Cady reached over for her phone and tried the Kent farm again. The circuits were still busy. She began chewing her nails by the tenth try. This time, the phone continued to ring, signaling that the call had gone through but no one was there. Eventually, the answering machine picked up:

"You've reached Kent Organic Farms. Sorry we're not here to take your call at the moment but if you leave your name, number and a brief message, we'll get back to you before the cows come home - we promise!"

Smiling a little at her aunt's joke, Cady grew serious once more as she spoke into the phone, "Aunt Martha? Uncle Jonathon? Clark? If anyone is there, please pick up??... I heard about the tornadoes while I was on campus. I'm headed home right now - currently passing through Lawrence. Please call me and let me know you are all right. Okay? Bye."

Cady tossed the phone back to the seat as she bit her lip and focused her full attention on the road in front of her. The rain was coming down harder now and she hoped that she would reach the other side of the storm soon to get away from it. The news radio droned on from the speakers, talking about the thunderstorms that stretched over Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma, the counties that had been hardest hit, with most information centering around Smallville and Lowell County. There had been two confirmed deaths so far, over a dozen missing and many more injured. Worry creasing her brow, Cady reached out for the phone once more and hit the second number on her speed dial.

The call went through but she didn't get the answer that she expected.

"You've reached Lex Luthor. I'm away from my phone at the moment. Please leave your name, number and the time that you called and I will return it at my earliest convenience."

That was strange. Lex always answered his phone. Always. It didn't matter how late or early or how busy he was. Worrying her lower lip, Cady began speaking after the beep. "Hi, it's Cady. I'm on my way back from Metropolis. I'm worried. I heard about the tornadoes and. well, you're not answering your phone. Can you call me the moment you have a chance? Please?... I'll talk to you later. Bye, sweetie."

Hanging up the phone and setting it back down beside her, Cady switched through the stations on the radio when the signal went out as the road dipped into a valley. Frowning, she finally became frustrated enough to slam her hand angrily into the stereo. The rain became harder as she drove for the next forty minutes or so and she was forced to slow the truck to almost a crawl as visibility diminished. The sky overhead grew darker and suddenly the rain turned to hail. Nickel-sized, it pelted against the window drowning out all other sounds and Cady slammed on the brakes, pulling over to the side of the road. Peering out, she tried to look up into the sky but could barely see a thing. The darkness was growing worse and worse, casting a pall of fear over her. The truck shook and Cady gasped, her attention drawn out the driver's side window. Wiping quickly at the steam that had built up on the surface, she squinted as she gazed out of the glass, her eyes scanning the newly planted field on the other side of the highway. The dirt swirled; her gaze was drawn upwards as the purple clouds above began to funnel.

A cry escaped her as Cady quickly slid over to the passenger side door, pushing it open so that she stumbled out of the cab to the ground. Glancing around, she spied a drainage ditch just off the shoulder and hurried down the slight embankment into it. Unfortunately the pipe was a good hundred or more yards away and she doubted she would make it before the funnel formed. Now was the time to see if the safeguards every child in Kansas was taught from kindergarten on, really worked. Throwing herself flat against the ground, Cady covered her head with her arms just in case anything decided to be tossed her direction, and held her breath, waiting out the storm.

***

Lex sat dazed and staring as the emergency crews moved around him, blocking off the damaged areas of the castle, working over his father before moving him to the ambulance, asking questions to which he only sometimes replied. Tugging the edges of the blanket which one of the EMT's had placed around him more securely over his shoulders, Lex glanced over to the other side of the hall where they were securing his father to protect his back and neck before placing him on the gurney. Lionel Luthor was unconscious, and his son was silently pleased, unable to withstand the recriminating looks he would certainly receive were his father awake. He knew he deserved them, expected them, would accept them as was his due from the moment he had hesitated to make what could likely have been the biggest decision of his life. Hesitated, faltered, wavered, vacillated - whatever word one chose to use, it was all the same.

Lex had considered not saving his father. Had almost let him die.

And now, he didn't know if he had made the right decision or not in the end. Would he have been better off to have follow through with his original intent? Or was it best to suffer through whatever punishment his father would see fit to met out in retaliation? Lex knew this wouldn't be forgotten. As much as he hoped that perhaps his father wouldn't even remember it -- that he would wake up asking what had happened and how -- in his heart he knew that it was only wishful thinking. Years spent in the attempt to gain his father's approval and love had been wasted in one moment of indecision. The gap between them now was considerably wider and Lex found himself wondering what lengths he might go to in order to close it. Or was it better to simply move on?

"Mr. Luthor?"

Lex glanced up to see the young female medic who had staunched the flow of blood from his cut, and covered it with a temporary bandage. She was heavy- set with honey-blonde hair and sharp blue eyes; he was fascinated with the amount of freckles that covered her nose and cheeks. Glancing at her badge, which read 'Tompkins', he mentally filed her name away in his memory.

"Mr. Luthor, we're ready to take your father to the hospital. If you would like to ride with him, we'll have a doctor look at your cut once we reach the ER."

Nodding only slightly because it hurt his head to move too much, Lex allowed the woman to take his arm and help him to his feet. As they started down the hall, the shrill ringing of a phone brought them both to a halt. Frowning a little, Lex glanced around, looking for his cell phone to which the ring belonged. He walked away from the medic, turning to move back down the hall toward the damaged study. The ringing continued and he followed it to the far side of the room where the tiny phone was embedded into the wall.

"Mr. Luthor?" Tompkins had followed him, stopping within the doorway to the study. "We need to be on our way."

He waved his hand impatiently as he reached up and attempted to loosen his cell from the wood. It was lodged fairly tightly but he finally pulled it free just as the ringing stopped.

"Mr. Luthor."

Lex frowned and cast a glare towards the medic. He was sick of her calling him that - every time she did so, it made him think of his father.

She was impatient. "We'll leave without you then." Turning, Tompkins disappeared around the corner.

Staring at the phone for a moment, Lex slipped it into his pocket. Before following her, his gaze traveled over the room to the column that had collapsed and trapped his father, and the fallen beam that would have killed him. When his father had appeared, striding into the study, babbling about his mother's stocks and how he was destroying his own future, Lex had been too upset over the disappearance of the octagonal disk to deal with the familiar lecture. Their resulting argument, and Lionel's threat to bury him before allowing him to strike out on his own, had been enough to firmly set his thinking on a wayward course to disaster. When he had climbed to his feet to find his father trapped, begging for his help, it had been like a page out of the manual of karma. Lex had believed that it had been his moment - his moment to be in control, to be on top, to be holding all of the cards that would force his father to accept and admit that he was worthy, that he was strong. Of course, the thought had crossed his mind of how much easier life would be if his father weren't around. The shadow he had attempted to climb his way out from behind for so long would finally be lifted. In essence, he would be free. But it had only been a thought - it had crossed his mind, and he had known it was wrong, and in the end, he had done the right thing.

Right?

When he stepped outside, Lex noticed that the skies overhead had cleared. A beautiful sunset was blazing off in the west and the only signs that the storm had occurred lay in the presence of the emergency vehicles, and the rubble from the turrets above that had collapsed. Ignoring, for the moment, the state of the castle, he allowed one of the EMT's to help him into the ambulance where he sat beside his father while they closed the doors behind him. Lex watched silently as Tompkins monitored his father before he leaned his head back against the van wall, swallowing against the unexpected nausea that threatened. Closing his eyes, he silently told himself that for the moment, there was nothing he could do but wait.

The ride to the hospital was a little over ten minutes, though Lex knew that had he been driving, they probably could have made it in five. After a young intern named Morrison stitched up the cut on Lex's brow and gave him some medication for the pain, he was led to the waiting room where he was asked to remain until the doctors working on his father were able to speak with him. It left him with too much time to think about what had happened, and what was still to come, and before long, he was up and pacing the floor, glancing down towards the doors that led to ICU, waiting for information on his father.

The ER was soon spilling over into the waiting room as more and more injuries sustained during the storm poured into the hospital. Lex leaned against a wall to silently watch the families as they gathered to wait on news of loved ones. The TV was on, news crews from as far away as Kansas City appearing to report on the twisters that had touched down in Lowell County. Three had been spotted near Smallville, though more continued to appear throughout Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Nebraska. Counties outside of Lowell were getting hit with damaging hail and deadly lightning, and citizens were being advised to stay indoors and away from windows. It was like the end of the world, even though tomorrow's forecast was for clear skies and a high of 83.

Turning away from the television, Lex slipped his hands into his pockets and felt his phone. Remembering the call that he had missed at the castle, he pulled it out and checked the message. The first smile he had experienced all day appeared at Cady's voice. It immediately faltered when she said she was heading back from Metropolis. In this weather? Ending the message, Lex hit the speed dial, his expression turning to a frown when there was no answer. Her voicemail eventually picked up and Lex hung up on it, dialing her again. Still no answer. This time, he left his own message:

"Cady, it's Lex. I'm hoping you have your phone turned off or you're on a call with your family. I'm. okay. I'll explain everything later. Just. call me when you get to town. Let me know you're all right. Talk to you soon."

Dropping his phone back into his pocket, Lex moved over to take a vacated seat, glancing up once more at the television set to hear the anchorwoman explain how emergency shelters and aid stations were being set up all over Lowell County. Reports were coming in of missing persons, and she advised families go to these stations instead of contacting emergency personnel who were too busy to respond in a timely manner. Lex felt helpless to do anything - a part of him felt that he needed to offer some sort of aid to the town but when his own father was laying in the Emergency Room he knew there was nothing he could do at the moment.

"Mr. Luthor?"

Lex glanced up to see Dr. Davis approaching. He quickly rose to his feet. "Doctor, is everything all right? Is my father awake?"

"Come with me," Dr. Davis said, waving Lex towards the ICU.

Following on the doctor's heels, Lex was led down the corridor to the private room where his father had been taken. Lionel appeared to still be unconscious, with IV's attached and monitors beeping around him. Lex stood at the foot of the bed and stared, trying very hard not to think that he was the reason his father was here.

"How. " Lex swallowed, searching for his voice and tried again. "How is he?"

Doctor Davis glanced at him for a moment before walking over to his patient. "The swelling in his vertebrae resulted in partial loss of nerve control in his legs. His spleen is ruptured and he sustained severe trauma to his optic nerve," he explained before returning to Lex's side.

"I want a medivac to Metropolis General immediately," Lex told him. "I want a team of specialists -"

"Your father's still in critical condition," the doctor interrupted, shaking his head. "Moving him is not an option."

"This isn't just any patient lying there, Doctor," Lex replied defiantly.

"I know who Lionel Luthor is, but I cannot give him any special treatment. We're overwhelmed as it is."

"That's not what I meant," Lex returned, pausing a moment to quell the fear that was rising within him. Not more than an hour ago, he had wanted his father dead. Now, he couldn't imagine losing him. "He's my father. Do everything you can for him."

Doctor Davis relaxed a little, pleased that he wasn't being asked to give special consideration to someone who was supposedly better than the other injured people streaming into the hospital. Whoever Lex Luthor was to Smallville, at this moment he was simply a boy who was worried for his father, and that was something that the doctor could accept. Giving him a small smile and nod of understanding, he turned to leave the room in order to gather a team to work on Lionel Luthor.

Lex watched as the door closed before returning his gaze to his father. Relief filled him when he realized that Lionel was attempting to speak.

"Lex... Lex... " Lionel's voice was barely above a whisper, gravelly and difficult to understand.

Hurrying to his side, Lex leaned over the bed and used all of his strength to keep his voice steady and strong.

"Hey, Dad, I'm here. Don't worry. I'll fly in a specialist from Metropolis to personally supervise your case," he told him, wanting to prove that he knew what needed to be done and could be counted on to look after his father.

But his hopes of proving anything but his own failure were quickly dashed as his father spoke, "I saw it... In your eyes, son. What you were thinking. Life would be so easy if I was out of your way... "

Lex stared silently down at his father, knowing that this was what he should have expected. Had he truly believed that all would be forgiven and forgotten? That the simple fact that he had, in the end, made the choice to save him, would mean anything beyond the truth that he could never make a decision and stick by it. Not only had his mistake been in even contemplating the thought of letting his father die and then changing his mind; but letting his father see it all, the raw emotions he had experienced from the moment Lionel Luthor had entered the study. What was he supposed to say? Would he ever be able to overcome the disappointment he constantly caused to appear in his father's eyes?

"Dad," he spoke softly, unable to stave off the emotion in his voice. "I'm sorry."

Lionel's lips moved for a moment but no sound came out and he seemed to slip into unconsciousness once more. Lex continued to watch him, knowing deep inside that the forgiveness he was hoping for was likely far from his grasp.

***

Cady pushed herself to her feet, wiping at the mud and grass that had collected around her eyes. She could only imagine what she looked like at that moment as she glanced down to see her clothing covered in mud from her shoes upwards. She was soaked and a little chilled and her back ached from the hail and debris that had slammed across it, but she was alive and unharmed and for that, she gave a sigh of relief.

Climbing gingerly up the embankment, Cady was also pleased to discover that while the truck had been pushed to the other side of the road by the strong winds, it too was in one piece and appeared undamaged.

Looking around before she crossed the highway, Cady surmised that the tornado had turned about fifty yards down the road and headed northwest instead of towards her. There was a clear path cut through a small copse of trees in the distance and Cady could swear she remembered a grain silo sitting beside the trees. The road was clear, save for a few vehicles ahead of and behind her, which had also pulled off onto the shoulder and were now scattered in haphazard positions around the highway. Travelers were wandering about, checking on one another for injuries. Cady had just made it across the road to the truck when a big blue F-350 pulled up beside her and the driver, an elderly man in a Stetson, rolled down the window.

"You okay, Miss?"

Cady flashed a smile, knowing that under the mud she was likely beet red from how filthy she must appear. "I'm in one piece. The truck looks all right, too." The man nodded. "We were lucky. Other counties aren't making out as well." He nodded towards the red pickup. "I'll wait here just to make certain y'all are up and running."

"Thanks."

Cady nodded before turning back around and opening the door to climb in. The keys were still in the ignition and she turned them, sighing in relief as the engine groaned to life.

Rolling down her window, she leaned out to the man across from her. "Looks like I'm good to go. Thanks for checking, though."

"No problem." He tipped his hat to her. "Be careful. Storms ain't quite over yet."

Cady watched as he pulled away before turning on the overhead light and digging through her purse for her compact. Flipping it open, she stared at an unrecognizable reflection covered in dirt and bits of grass and leaves. Grabbing her sweater from the other side of the seat, she wiped away what she could until she was at least certain that she would be able to drive without anything falling into her eyes.

As she tossed the sweater away, she turned on the headlights and, glancing in each direction to make certain the road was clear, pulled out and made a U-turn across the highway, heading west towards Smallville once again. She switched the radio back on, finding a clear signal from a station in Junction City and listened quietly to the news as she drove. Occasionally, she squirmed uncomfortably in her seat as the mud hardened on her skin, stretching it and causing it to tickle.

The ringing of the phone caused her to start in surprise and Cady was forced to search blindly beneath her purse and sweater before finally locating it. She had completely forgotten about the messages she had left.

Flipping it open, she held it up to her ear. "Hello?"

"Cady, where are you?"

"Aunt Martha." Relief flooded through her at the sound of her aunt's voice. "I'm so glad to hear from you! I'm about an hour outside of Smallville. Why?"

There was a slight pause, then, "I was hoping I would have caught you sooner. You shouldn't have left Metropolis, honey. The moment you heard about the storms, you should have stayed there."

Like that would have happened. "Is everyone all right?"

"Oh, Cady. "

Her aunt sounded as if she were going to break down at any moment. Panic swept over her. "Aunt Martha, what is it? What's going on?"

"Your uncle was out in the storm when it hit - we can't find him! We don't know where he is. Clark is frantically looking for him everywhere, the farm's a mess - "

"I'll be home soon and help with the search. I'm sure uncle Jonathon is fine," Cady assured her, suppressing her own fears for the moment. "If anyone knows the proper procedure during a tornado, it's my uncle."

Cady paused for a moment as something didn't sit well with her and she found herself asking, "What was he doing out in it? Surely you both headed straight for the storm cellar?"

There was silence and for a moment, Cady wondered if she had lost the connection. Then, her aunt replied, "There was man. he was trespassing and your uncle became upset. he wasn't thinking clearly. Cady, I'm scared."

Worrying her lower lip, Cady stared out the windshield at the road before her. She couldn't remember a time when she had ever heard her aunt sound so frightened and uncertain. Martha Kent was a woman of strength; her love for her family and her confidence in herself to provide for them seemed to drive her onward. If she was falling apart, what were the rest of them supposed to hang on to?

"Everything will be alright, aunt Martha. I promise," she eventually replied. "Uncle Jonathon is not only strong, he's smart. He would have found shelter, no matter where he was. There are enough ditches on the property. He might simply be trapped by some debris or something."

Cady took a deep breath and hoped that she was right. "I'll be home soon. Then I can help with the search."

"Okay. Be careful, Cady. Please?"

No need to explain her own little mishap at the moment. "I promise. See you soon. Love you."

"I love you, too, honey."

Hanging up the phone, Cady returned her attention to the road ahead, only finding comfort in the fact that with the storm cleared, she was able to push the 70mph speed limit and hopefully make it home soon. Just as she was about to set the phone down, she noticed the envelope in the corner of the screen, indicating that she had a message. Frowning, she dialed her password, holding the cell up to her ear as she listened to Lex's voice. He sounded calm enough, and she wondered if she should wait to call him when she reached town or make the call now. It was possible that he had told her to wait because he might be very busy. Turning the phone over in her hand a few times as she contemplated the best course of action, Cady finally hit the speed dial, hoping Lex would answer this time.

It was picked up almost immediately. "Cady," Lex answered, obviously checking his Caller ID as habit. "Are you in town?"

"No. About forty-five minutes out or so. Are you all right? I was worried when you didn't answer the phone."

"Same here." She could hear the tiniest smile in his voice. "Where were you?"

"In a ditch."

"Excuse me?" Lex's voice became alarmed.

"Nothing to worry about. I'm fine. What about you?"

There was a sigh and a slight pause and when he spoke again, his voice lowered. "The tornado hit the castle. My father was. he's in the hospital. He's pretty bad off."

Cady bit her lip. "Lex, I'm sorry. Are you okay?"

"I'm fine." His assurance echoed hers. "Nothing to worry about."

Cady smiled. "I'm glad."

"How did your meeting with your counselor go?" Lex asked, sounding as if he was determined to change the subject, to turn the topic away from him, which was his usual habit.

"Very well. He was pleased with the report I handed him and agreed that I should ride out the rest of this plant fiasco."

"Was that the term he used?"

"Pretty much."

"Accurate description." Lex sighed; he sounded tired.

"Do you want me to come by the hospital when I get to town?"

"It's not necessary." It wasn't a no. "We'll see each other soon."

"Okay. Try to get some rest. Your father will be alright."

"Thanks, Cady. Be careful."

"I will. Bye, Lex."

Hanging up, Cady set the phone beside her on the seat and returned her attention to the road. One day in Metropolis and it seemed like the entire world had gone to Hell.

***

Clark exited the shed in time to see their family's red pickup pull up the drive. Giving a small sigh of relief at knowing that at least his cousin was all right, he walked over to meet her as she climbed out of the cab. He was just about to say hello when his eyes widened in shock at her appearance. "What happened to you?!"

Waving her hand dismissively, Cady walked past her cousin towards the farmhouse. "I had a date with a drainage ditch. Any news on your father?"

Clark looked out towards the field, his brow furrowing with worry. "No. I've checked all over the farm. I'm going to start on the fields next and the woods after that."

"He's all right," Cady assured him, reaching out to touch his arm gently. "Your father's strong. We'll find him."

Nodding just a little, because he was afraid to believe her and afraid not to, Clark gestured towards the house. "Mom could really use your company right now. She has that whole mask of calm going but I know it's just for show."

"Do you need help searching?"

"No." Clark shook his head, knowing that having his cousin watch his every move would slow him down considerably. Besides, it was dark and there would be little she could do at the moment. "I'd prefer you stay with mom. She wanted to go to the hospital to see if dad might have been found and taken there. Also, Mrs. Miller was injured and she wanted to see how she was doing."

"Okay." Cady hurried up the steps to the backdoor. "I'll get cleaned up and take her. And don't worry, Clark. Everything will be fine."

Moving in to the kitchen, Cady set her purse down and wandered into the front room where her aunt was on the phone, pacing near the windows. She glanced up as Cady walked in and quickly made excuses to the person on the other line before hanging up. Martha's gaze swept over her niece for a moment, taking in the dried mud and general disarray before she hurried over and hugged her tightly.

"Are you all right?" Cady asked, pulling back so that she could search her aunt's face.

"I will be." Martha nodded with a tight smile. "What happened? How did you get so dirty?"

"I ran into a little storm just outside Junction City. Luckily, both myself and the truck are unharmed." Not wanting to allow her aunt to dwell on the idea that another family member could have been lost, she quickly commented, "Clark said you wanted to go to the hospital. If you don't mind waiting a few minutes longer, I can wash up and take you?"

"I'd appreciate that," Martha replied.

Flashing a quick smile, Cady hurried upstairs for a quick shower and change into jeans and a t-shirt before heading back downstairs fifteen minutes later, her hair wet, but free of mud and leaves. Gathering her aunt, they headed back outside to the truck, waving once to Clark who was on his way once more into the pastures. When Cady climbed into the cab, her back to her cousin, he broke into super speed to race to the back acreage.

The drive to the hospital was a quiet one. Cady and Martha glanced over the ravaged countryside but didn't speak of it. The sights around them were typical after a tornado's devastation - farm houses untouched across the road from a neighbor who lost everything; a home demolished while beside it, the red barn remains whole; a truck on top of a grain bin; a deep swath cut through a cluster of trees. Cady was forced to swerve a few times - from torn up trees laying in the road and once to miss a brass bed that was sitting untouched in her lane. Emergency vehicles raced past them, some from as far out as Salina and Abilene. Cady began chewing on her nails until her aunt reached out and pulled her hand away, setting it back in her lap. They smiled at one another for a moment before their attention returned to the road.

As Cady pulled the truck into the hospital parking lot, Martha began searching the faces of the people that were filing in and out of the entrance. Tables were set up outside where people were checking and adding names of those missing, found and injured. The truck was barely placed in park before Martha leapt out of the cab, purse in hand and hurried over to the table. Chewing her lower lip worriedly for a moment, Cady finally climbed out and followed her aunt. She reached her just in time for the woman at the table to inform her that Jonathon wasn't on the list but she might want to check inside in case they missed him. It was impossible to tell if her aunt was relieved or not with the information.

"I can't decide if I want him to be here or not," Martha commented to her niece as they headed towards the front entrance.

Cady glanced over at her before reaching out and taking her hand. "Everything will be fine. I'm sure of it."

Martha only nodded in reply as they stepped inside. They caught the attention of the first orderly they found and were directed down the hall to the emergency department where the newest cases were being sent. While her aunt went to speak with those at the registration desk, Cady searched the faces of those in the waiting area until she found a familiar one.

"Lex?" She called out as she moved around the chairs to where he was seated, staring at the floor in front of him.

Lex came to his feet at her voice and walked forward to meet Cady, immediately pulling her into his arms when they reached one another. He hugged her tightly for a moment, wondering about the wet hair that stuck to his cheek before pulling back and searching her face. "What are you doing here?"

Cady glanced over her shoulder, waving a hand towards her aunt. "Uncle Jonathon is missing." She turned her gaze back to Lex who was frowning deeply, looking from her to Martha. "Aunt Martha wanted to check the hospital. just in case. Are you all right?" She reached up and touched the bandage over his eyebrow gently.

"Fine." He nodded. "Just a little cut. Why wasn't Mr. Kent in their storm cellar?"

"I don't know." Cady shook her head. "Poor Clark looked so worried when we left."

"He's alone?" Lex asked, the frown still present.

"Yes. He's searching the farm." Cady watched him for a moment before asking, "How's your father?"

He shook his head. "Not good. The team is working on stabilizing him right now."

"I'm sure he'll be all right."

Lex met her eyes and considered telling her the truth for a moment before mentally shrugging the desire away. He wasn't prepared for the disillusionment he knew he would see in her eyes if he admitted that he had considered allowing his father to die. Not that he would ever blame her for feeling that way. He wasn't a good person, and he wanted her to see that, but he wasn't ready to let go just yet.

"I should give Clark a hand," he commented quietly, his fingers idly stroking her waist where they rested. "When I get an update on my father, I'll head over to the farm."

"You need to rest, Lex," Cady insisted quietly. "You've been through a lot today. Clark will understand."

"No." Lex glanced over Cady's shoulder to watch Martha for a moment before returning his gaze to hers. "He's my friend. I have to help."

"Lex." Martha walked up to where her niece was standing in his arms, and apparently in no hurry to go anywhere. She gave him a tired smile. "Are you all right? What are you doing here?"

"The mansion was hit," he explained, letting his hands drop from where he held Cady and taking a discrete step back. "My father was. injured."

"I'm sorry to hear that," Martha replied, reaching out to touch his arm. "Is there anything we can do?"

"No. But thank you." Lex wasn't used to this amount of attention and kindness. He shifted a little uncomfortably before asking, "Did you learn anything regarding Mr. Kent?"

Martha's expression darkened for a moment and Lex thought she looked older and more tired than he had ever seen her. "No. Nothing." She glanced at her niece. "I thought we could go into town. "

"Of course." Cady nodded instantly with a smile to her aunt before looking back over at Lex. "See you later, then?"

Lex flashed her a half-smile and a nod before they both leaned in to share a brief, mutually-desired kiss. Martha watched the exchange silently, trying not to judge based on the fact that Cady was her niece and bad situations seemed to follow Lex around the way meteor mutants followed her son. It was obvious that Cady saw the same things in Lex that Clark did, and she realized that she was simply going to have to trust both of them. Besides, she would be the first to admit that Lex seemed to need people to care about him in his life, and that maybe her son and her niece could be the ones to make a difference.

"Goodbye, Lex," Martha gave him a smile as she followed her niece past him down the hall.

"Goodbye, Mrs. Kent. Good luck." Lex remained silent as he watched them walking away and finally disappearing around the corner.

Glancing down at his watch, he figured he would wait until his father had been moved to his private room, and then head to the farm to help Clark. Apparently, the storm had seen fit not to let anyone escape its wrath. For as much as he and Jonathon Kent did not get along, he fervently hoped that the man was all right. For Clark's sake, for Martha's sake and for Cady's sake. She had already lost enough of her family as it was. Sighing softly, Lex ran a hand over his head and dropped back into the seat he had been waiting in for the past two hours.

***

The next morning, Cady was busy gathering up the trash that the tornado had seen fit to deposit into the yard. So far she had discovered such strange items as cancelled checks from Missouri, two car headlights, a garden gnome (which had promptly sent her into much-needed peals of laughter) and a 19- inch television. There were clothes and bed sheets and towels -- obviously carried over from someone's clothesline -- business papers, toys and home siding that in no way matched the lemon-yellow of her aunt and uncle's house. Worst of all was finding family photos, pictures of people that were unfamiliar, and to whom they would be impossible to ever return. It made her think of her uncle, and she couldn't allow herself to do that.

After the hospital, Cady and her aunt had gone downtown where they helped to establish a relief shelter at the Talon. They'd remained there for hours, helping Lana put everything in order before finally returning home with the hope that perhaps Clark had found his father. The house had been empty; Martha made coffee and they sat together quietly in the kitchen, waiting for Clark's return.

When he had finally appeared, he'd been tense and snappish and Martha had quietly suggested that they all get a few hours sleep before trying again. Clark had refused to give up and left the house once more to look for his father. It had been up to Cady to finally convince her aunt to lie down for a few hours, with the promise that she would do the same. Unfortunately, sleep had been as impossible for Cady as it probably was for her aunt. She couldn't get the fear of losing her uncle out of her mind; she couldn't imagine having to deal with such a loss on top of her parents. Certainly, she and uncle Jonathon didn't see eye to eye regarding her relationship with Lex, but that didn't mean she loved him any less.

Aunt Martha had left early that morning to return to the Talon and continue helping Lana. She said she trusted Clark in his search and she could do more good by helping others. Plus, it served to keep her mind off of her own fears. Cady had seen Clark briefly a few times that morning. He had come into the kitchen for some toast, then passed by her once as she had cleaned around the yard. They'd exchanged brief, weary smiles before he continued back toward the fields.

The morning air was horrendously humid, and Cady was already considering a second shower only a few hours after her first. Brushing a stray strand of hair from her forehead, she tugged on a board painted bright blue that was sticking out of the ground in front of the porch. It was jammed fairly deeply into the ground, and she had no idea where it had come from. Nothing on the farm was painted such an unnatural blue. Her hands slipped with her next tug and she cried out softly as a splinter embedded itself into her finger. Wincing, she lifted her hand up, peering down as she searched for the culprit. Her attention was momentarily diverted as she heard the familiar sound of a sports car coming up the drive.

Flashing another quick glare at her finger, she moved around the blue board and walked past the picket fence to meet Lex as he exited the silver convertible Mercedes.

"Morning," she called out, grimacing when one of her fingers happened to graze over the splinter.

"Hey." Lex joined her beside the fence, leaning over to kiss her cheek. She smelled like grass and damp earth and. well, Cady. Her cheek was covered in a slight sheen of perspiration, her hair clung to her scalp. He thought she had never looked more beautiful.

"How's your dad?" Cady ignored the splinter for the moment so that she could search his face. His eyes were tired, his face still pale. She thought he probably slept less than her last night.

Lex shrugged, glancing at a point just past her shoulder for a moment as he carefully schooled his features into a mask of indifference. "The specialist from Metropolis is arriving today. Doctor Davis says we should wait and let my father stabilize but I want to get another opinion first."

Cady nodded. "That makes sense. He's your father. You are going to want to do what is best for him."

Returning his gaze to hers, Lex nodded briefly before glancing down at her hands and the odd manner in which she was holding them. He frowned. "What's wrong?"

"Huh?" She followed his eyes to her hands. "Oh. I got a splinter before you pulled up."

"Let me see."

Lex took her hand in his before she could protest, pulling it closer to his face so that he could examine it closely. Running his fingers over hers, stopping only when she flinched as he found the splinter.

"Sorry," he muttered.

Pinching her finger in the area around the tiny sliver, Lex pressed against the skin just beneath it, pushing at his with his fingernail to slowly dislodge it. Cady winced at the sharp pain, knowing she was the world's biggest chicken when it came to pain, and bit her lip to refrain from actually exclaiming. She watched anxiously as Lex finally captured the splinter between two fingernails and pulled it from her skin. He brought his eyes to hers, smiling a little as his thumb moved over the slightly reddened area, soothing it.

"Better?"

Cady nodded. "Yes. Thank you."

Lex watched her a moment longer before leaning in and placing a gentle kiss against the skin. Straightening back up, he held her hand between them, as if unable to let go. His gaze wandered over the yard for a moment before he asked, "Are you here alone?"

"Clark has been back and forth. Still searching the area. Aunt Martha is in town." She regarded him silently, then asked, "Did you come by last night?"

"Clark didn't tell you?" Lex brought his eyes back to her face and gave her a tight smile. "I would have thought he would have shared that little story with the family."

Cady frowned. "I don't understand."

Lex sighed and ran his free hand over his eyes for a moment as he glanced back out across the yard. "We had. an argument. He said some things. " He trailed off and his eyes became unfocused in thought before he returned them to her face. "And maybe he was right."

"Lex, I'm not very good with riddles."

Dropping her hand, Lex shoved his own into the pockets of his slacks and turned away, wandering out across the gravel driveway, stopping halfway to his car. He stood there silently for the next few moments before looking over his shoulder at her. "Yesterday, when the storm hit, my father was trapped beneath the debris. He was in danger. He was about to die. I knew that. And. I thought that maybe it would be better if he did."

Cady clenched her jaw at his words; then nodded. "Such a thought would make sense, Lex, after what he did to you yesterday. In front of your employees, the entire town."

"He's my father."

"And you saved him, just like a son should do."

Lex gave a short bark of laughter, of disbelief. "Cady, that pedestal you have me on is a shaky and fragile one."

It was her turn to laugh. "You think I have you on a pedestal, Lex?" She asked in amazement, taking a few steps toward him. "After the way you treated me in Metropolis? After the hot and cold treatment you've handed me almost every day since we met? No, Lex, I sure as hell don't have you on a pedestal."

He stared at her, his expression caught between confusion and anger.

Pursing her lips, Cady walked up to him and took his hand back into hers. "But that doesn't mean I don't see what a good person you are, Lex. How much you want to do for this town and it's people. And how very much you are trying to crawl out from your father's shadow."

Lex's body seemed to relax with her words and he moved closer, leaning his forehead against hers. His hand squeezed hers lightly. "At least I still have you."

Cady rolled her eyes playfully. "Gee. Thanks."

"I didn't mean it like that and you know it." He kissed her lips lightly. Growing silent again, he held her gaze for a long time before commenting softly, "I think I might have ruined my friendship with Clark."

She shook her head against his. "He's more forgiving than that. Whatever it was that the two of you argued over, just explain your side to him. Apologize. You mean a lot to him, Lex. It'll be all right. I promise."

"You're incredibly optimistic, you know."

"No." Cady dropped her gaze. "I'm terribly afraid and I am just pretending. It is easier to think I can fix everyone else's problems and ignore my own fears."

Lex wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her against him. He kissed her temple and brushed his fingers through her hair. "Your uncle is fine. He's strong, Cady. They'll find him."

Cady closed her eyes and inhaled the scent of his cologne for a moment, letting her worries go briefly so that she could enjoy the feel of his arms and soothing embrace. "Promise?" She asked softly.

"Promise," Lex replied with a smile.

They remained unmoving for a few minutes, just holding one another, before Cady heard the faint, distant ring of the phone. She pulled back a little and looked up at Lex. "That might be Aunt Martha. I'd better get it. Clark is around, if you just want to wait?"

Lex nodded. "I need to talk to him before I get back to the hospital. I think I might be able to help him search for your uncle."

Cady smiled. "Thank you, Lex."

He shrugged and dropped his arms, kissing her cheek briefly. "Go on. I'll call you later."

"Okay."

Lex looked after her as Cady broke into a sprint towards the back of the house and up the porch to the kitchen. He should have told her about Nixon, the truth regarding her cousin's anger at him. It was better that she hear it from him than from Clark but Lex wasn't quite certain he was ready to share that much with her. As much as Cady claimed she didn't hold him on a pedestal, Lex still feared destroying her view of him. He knew it would happen eventually - it always did, just as it had the night before with Clark. He just wanted a few more chances to make things right with Cady before it all came crashing down. Turning back to the car, he decided to take her advice and wait for Clark. That was another relationship he just couldn't allow himself to lose just yet.

The ringing of his phone pulled him from his reverie. Checking caller ID, Lex saw that it was Martin Sparrowhawk, his Head of Staff at the mansion, and quickly answered. A contractor had already been contacted to provide an estimate regarding the repairs. Apparently the west wings had sustained the worst damage; the east wing was still in habitable. All of the staff were accounted for, and none had suffered any injury or loss. Martin was relating the timeframe given to him by the contractor for the repairs when Lex saw Clark approaching.

Ending the call, Lex slipped the phone into his pocket and called out to his friend, "Clark."

"What do you want?"

Even though the reaction was exactly as he had expected, Lex still felt himself flinch at Clark's tone. Remembering Cady's words, he explained immediately, "I should have come out and told you the truth right away. I do know Roger Nixon. I was just trying to protect you."

The disbelief and annoyance was apparent in Clark's stance and tone. "Protect me from what?"

Knowing that this was probably one of the most important conversations of his life, Lex decided to offer as much information as he could. "Before the tornado, Nixon approached me. He offered to sell me information about your family."

"What kind of information?" Clark focused his gaze on Lex, as if trying to see through to any lies he might be withholding.

"It doesn't matter now, Clark," Lex replied, wishing he knew the answers to the question; hoping that he might still be able to discover them, even if it were all simply fabricated. Whatever Nixon had on the Kents was obviously dangerous if he thought he could sell it to Lex's father. No matter what part Lex might have played in alerting Nixon to the Kents, he was determined to protect them.

He continued, "The man's a liar. He'll do anything for a story. I warned him to stay away from your family. When I saw his car I realized he might have had something to do with your father's disappearance."

"Why didn't you tell me before?" Clark demanded, his tone slightly petulant.

That was a good question. "I didn't want to alarm you unless I knew for sure."

Clark's expression was still slightly disbelieving but his eyes were softening. "You know, Lex, I don't know what to believe anymore."

Lex latched onto the slight change in his expression and pressed. "Believe that I'm your friend."

Recalling the reason he had come by before heading back to the hospital, Lex told him, "I got something to show you."

Walking over to his car, he leaned across the door to lift the rolled map from the seat and pull it out, moving back over to join Clark.

The teen frowned a little as Lex opened it, holding it between them. He asked, "What's that?"

"It's a map," Lex explained. "A cellular frequency grid to be exact. I had my people look into it. Only one cell tower survived the storm," he told him, pointing to the area. "Meaning Nixon and possibly your father had to be within a one-mile radius of where we were last night. I don't know if it will help, but it's worth a shot."

Clark had seemed appreciative of the help, and by the time Lex left the Kent farm, he had higher hopes that maybe things were better between them again. Perhaps not perfect, but better.

On his return to the hospital, Lex met with both Dr. Davis, and Dr. Farrell from Metropolis, and discussed the options for surgery. They left the choice up to him - operate now, or wait and allow his father to stabilize. While Lex had been impressed with Dr. Davis' care for his father so far, he still found himself leaning toward Dr. Farrell's recommendations. After all, Farrell worked in Metropolis, and was known throughout the country by his reputation. Lex chose to act on Farrell's advice.

Now there was nothing left to do but wait. Taking up his familiar spot in the waiting area, Lex leaned back and stared up at the television where the news was still broadcasting the latest regarding the storms. Over half a dozen people remained missing throughout Kansas, and Lex found himself holding out hope that Clark would find his father soon.

Still, the question remained: Where was Nixon?

***

The first ring startled her away and Cady reached over to grab it, her gaze settling on the caller ID for a moment before rubbing the sleep from her eyes as she glanced groggily over at the clock beside her bed. It was just after one in the morning. She'd been asleep precisely forty-two minutes.

"Lex?"

"Did I wake you?" His voice was low; it didn't hold the usual strength she was used to.

Sitting up in bed, she ran her fingers through her hair and shook her head before she realized he couldn't see it. "No. Of course not. Are you all right?"

There was a long pause and for a moment Cady thought they had lost the connection. "Lex. "

"I don't know, Cady. I. " Another pause.

The room around her lit up brightly and Cady glanced toward the window for a moment, silently counting in her head until the thunder rumbled through the sky. Seconds later, rain drops began pelting against the storm windows. The weather hadn't called for tornadoes so she relaxed a little, returning her attention to the phone as Lex began to speak once more.

"My father woke up. "

"That's good," Cady replied. Then she added, "Isn't it?"

A sharp, biting bark of laughter was the reply. "The surgery was a failure. He's blind. He said. he told me I should have let him die."

Frowning, Cady slipped out of bed and walked over to the window, pulling the curtains aside to stare out at the rain, which was slowly changing to hail. "Lex, he didn't mean it. He's just. it had to be a scary experience."

"I'm never going to do anything right in his eyes, am I, Cady?" Lex asked, his voice lowering once more, his tone bland, emotionless. "I'll never be good enough. It doesn't matter what I do. or don't do."

"That's not true, Lex," she argued quietly. "Your father loves you. You're his son. His only child - "

"But not the one he wanted."

"You don't know that, Lex," Cady admonished gently. "Have you ever asked him?"

"It doesn't matter. I don't really give a fuck anymore."

Cady sighed. After the events of the day, she was more than prepared to take both her Uncle Jonathon and Lionel Luthor and bash their heads together. What the hell was wrong with men anyway? Was it a pride thing? Why did so many of them feel the need to crush those around them? Lex had the potential within him to be an amazing individual - he was intelligent, kind, charming, handsome and a leader. But he needed to be given a chance; he needed to be shown by the people he looked up to the most that they believed in him as well. What kind of man would he become when he couldn't even believe in the love of his own father?

Turning to grab her jeans, she asked, "Lex, where are you?"

"Look out your window."

"Huh?"

Cady moved back over to the window, pushing the curtains aside once more and peering out. She saw nothing until the lights from the Aston Martin flashed once. A small smile crept across her face as she leaned her forehead against the glass. Lex had come to her. That had to mean something.

"Come inside," she said softly.

"Your aunt and uncle - "

"Screw them. I live here, too." There was no rancor in her words, just a simple statement. "I'll be waiting for you at the front door."

"Cady - "

She hung up before he could protest further and quietly left her room, moving down the hallway to the staircase. Certain to skip the steps that creaked, Cady finally reached the front hall where she pulled the door open, waiting impatiently until she finally saw Lex jogging toward her through the rain. It was coming down hard and he was already soaked by the time he reached the shelter of the porch. She stepped aside to let him in, closing the door quietly behind him and glancing up with a small smile.

"You're getting my aunt's floor wet," she whispered, reaching out for his hand, which was cold when she took it. "Come on."

They successfully made it quietly back upstairs and in to her room where Cady shut and locked the door. As much as she believed she had the right to have anyone over that she wanted to, she still didn't relish the idea of having her aunt or uncle just walk in. Grabbing a towel from her dresser, she walked over to where Lex was standing beside the window and held it out to him.

"Get out of those clothes before you freeze to death," she commanded.

Lex glanced down at her before taking the towel and rubbing it over his face and head, drying the droplets of water that clung to his skin. "I'm not going to strip in the Kent house," he replied, turning to walk over to the wooden rocker in the corner where he sat down.

"So instead you'll just die of pneumonia in the Kent house."

"I don't get sick, Cady."

"Oh. Right. That makes it all better."

Lex sighed and glanced up at her. "I'm really not in the mood for verbal sparring with you at the moment. If I wanted that, I'd go back to the hospital."

Cady had the wherewithal to look properly abashed at his comment. "I'm sorry." She moved to stand in front of him for a moment before crouching down and taking his hand, which were still ice cold, into hers. "I just worry about you, Lex."

"It's been awhile since I've heard those words," he told her quietly, pulling a hand from hers to touch her cheek, smiling just a little when she leaned into it.

"Forgive me if I don't know how I should respond."

She turned her head and kissed his palm. "It's okay."

He was silent for a long moment, watching her, before he spoke softly, "I was driving. On my way out of town to. anywhere, really. I didn't care. I just felt the need to. escape." Lex moved his fingers through Cady's hair, tangling them in the strands, as if searching for a way to hold on. "I'm tired, Cady. Tired of being Lex Luthor. Tired of having everyone judge me on that name, while in the shadows my father judges me on not being good enough to have it."

"Lex - "

"I want to be worthy of your concern, Cady, and I don't know how to do that."

"You are worthy, Lex, " Cady insisted, squeezing the hand she held. "Just because your father - "

"I killed a man today."

Cady shook her head. "You were protecting my uncle and my cousin. It wasn't as if it were in cold blood or anything."

The events of the afternoon had been startling. She'd received the call from her aunt that her uncle had been found. When the family had shown back up at the house, Clark had pulled her aside, and explained what had happened. Cady had tried calling Lex to talk, but he'd returned to the hospital to stay at his father's side.

"Wasn't it?" Lex pulled his hands from her, stood, staring down at her for a moment before walking back over to the window. He stood there with his back to her, silent, for a few moments before admitting, "Roger wouldn't have been here if not for me."

Frowning, Cady rose to her feet but remained beside the rocker. "I don't understand."

Lex ran his hand over his bare scalp, hooking it around the back of his neck. "After Clark rescued me, I became a little. obsessed with how he did it. All the evidence pointed to the fact that I should have been dead. But I wasn't. Because of your cousin."

He turned a little to look at her. "I. hired Roger to find out what happened. He did some digging into Clark and his parents. Eventually, I admitted this to Clark but by then, Roger was interested in too many unanswered questions. He kept digging."

"Questions like what? What did he find?"

"Dents in my car that could have only been made by a human form, a roof that had to have been purposely torn, tales of flying saucers the day of the meteor storm."

Cady made a face. "Lex, those things sound - "

"Insane?" Lex shrugged and looked back out the window at the rain. "To Roger it sounded like a story. I told him in no uncertain terms that he was to stop, that the Kents were under my protection. But he apparently didn't listen. He said he found something that my father would be interested in paying for if I wasn't."

"What was it?"

"I don't know. I shot him, remember?" He glanced over his shoulder at her with a wry grimace.

Cady shifted uncomfortably. "Why did you shoot him, Lex?"

Lex raised his gaze to hers and the silence hung between them. Finally, he replied, "Because I didn't want the answers. Or maybe because I didn't want Clark and Mr. Kent to find out how deeply involved I truly was. Or it could have been that I didn't trust Nixon not to sell the information to both myself and my father." He paused and searched her face. "Why do you think I did it, Cady?"

"Because you were protecting my uncle and Clark," she replied without hesitation.

They stared at one another. Thunder rumbled overhead as the lightning continued to flicker across the night sky. Lex's gaze narrowed slightly, then he turned and walked back over to Cady. Reaching up, he grabbed her by the upper arms and pulled her close, his wet clothing soaking through her nightshirt. She shivered a little from the chill that swept over her skin, while inside she melted.

"Make me worthy of your concern," Lex whispered, his breath fanning over her lips as he leaned in and kissed the corner of her mouth. "Make me believe. just tonight."

He trailed kisses across her cheek, his hands caressing her shoulders before moving down her arms to her waist, pulling her closer to him. He traced Cady's ear with his tongue, eliciting a soft moan from her that only served to heighten his desire. He was so hard with need that it was painful, but he forced himself to move slowly because this was supposed to be special. Lex had promised her that much.

Cady tried not to think about what was happening. If she thought about it too closely, she would probably put an end to it now, before it could happen. Because this was her aunt and uncle's house and, Christ, they were just down the hall and so was Clark and how was she supposed to explain what Lex was doing in her room? She didn't allow herself to think of any of that; forced it completely from her mind and lost herself in the feel of Lex against her and the scent of the wet rain clinging to his clothes and skin. As his hand cupped her breast, Cady pushed against his palm, her nails digging into the fabric of his coat in anticipation of the feel his skin against her own. She felt his fingers move against the hem of her nightshirt and then he was lifting it up and over her head and it was tossed somewhere to the floor. She shivered a little as the night air and wetness from his clothes washed over her.

Lex set her away from him, his gaze flickering over her body as lightning lit up the room. He remembered their night in Metropolis, the sound of her cries that his touch elicited, the feel of her skin, her hands moving over him. He wanted to turn on the lights and explore her body in even more detail but he knew now wasn't the time for that. He just needed her warmth, wanted to lose himself in her touch and forget the past seventy-two hours. Lex flashed her a small smile, moving his hands lightly over her shoulders.

"You're beautiful," he whispered.

Cady moved to shake her head but he kissed her to silence, his hands roaming delicately over her breasts, his palms encircling her nipples until they hardened into tight buds. Any remaining inhibitions within her quickly fled and she leaned into his touch, her arms wrapping around his neck to pull him closer. As his mouth moved away from hers, she brought her hands back around to help him out of his coat, then her fingers were skimming over the buttons of his grey shirt before reaching in to trail over his skin. It was damp and cool to the touch and she found herself wanting to warm him, hold him, erase the pain from his eyes and voice. Lex was slowly guiding her backwards, his hands cupping her face between them as he continued to worship her skin with his mouth.

He kissed her forehead, her cheek, her mouth, lingering over her lips. He kissed her deeply, his tongue teasing hers playfully. His hands moved over her skin, stroking her back and hip, before brushing lightly across her breast. She moved into his touch, moaning low in her throat as he teased her nipple into a tight bud. Lex continued to fondle her breast tenderly, his lips moving away from hers to travel down her throat and across her breastbone to take her nipple into his mouth. He drew on it delicately at first, gauging her reaction until she arched forward to meet him, then he sucked on it voraciously, holding Cady against him as she writhed from the sensations that ran rampant through her. He moved from one breast to the other, lavishing each in some strange form of worship, his touch gentle and unthreatening. Pushing her back gently until her legs hit the edge of the mattress, Lex silently encouraged her to lie back against the sheets before divesting himself of the rest of his clothing.

"You're the one who's beautiful," Cady told him as her eyes roamed over his smooth, muscular form.

Lex smiled a little in response before lying down beside her. He could allow himself to believe the lie for now.

Reaching out, he cupped her breast, relishing the weight of it in his hand, teasing the nipple with his thumb until it hardened once more into a tight bud. He noted the soft glaze that was settling over Cady's eyes, felt her tremble at his touch. He leaned over and licked at the nipple once, twice, stilling as she wriggled under him, her breath turning to soft sighs. He blew on the wet bud, teasing it once more with his thumb before finally taking it into his mouth, sucking on it forcefully before drawing back and licking it again. Cady let out a loud gasp, wrapping her arms around his neck and pulling him closer to her. He turned his attentions to the other breast, teasing the nipple as he had its twin, sucking on it greedily like a starved child.

Cady closed her eyes, losing herself to the exquisite feelings running rampant throughout her. Her body had wanted this for so long, though her mind had denied it, and now she felt as if she would explode under Lex's ministrations. His mouth was insistent on her, at times bordering on pain before gentling back to a tender suckle. While one hand continued to pet her breast, the other moved slowly down her stomach, lingering over her abdomen then moving to caress her hip, teasing as he neared the apex of her thighs.

His attention to her body was torturous, his touch leisurely. He continued to play with her nipple lightly between his teeth, while his hand lingered at her thighs, which automatically opened at his touch, and he slid a finger excruciatingly slowly within her wet warmth. She arched her hips against his hand, searching for more, only to have him withdraw and return to gently caressing her hips. She whimpered at the loss but quickly forgot her disappointment as he moved his mouth across her belly once more, pausing to tickle her belly button with his tongue before moving back across her thighs.

Over the next few minutes, Lex bathed her body with his tongue, flipping her onto her stomach so that he could pay special attention to the sensitive spot at the small of her back, lingering over the fragile lines of her ankles, nipping the soft skin at the back of her knees. By the time he had left no portion of her skin untouched, Cady thought she would weep with the intensity of the need that burned through her. His purposeful ministrations had left her a trembling mass beneath him, a rag doll simply waiting for the next sweet torture that he would visit upon her. She had become so used to his pulling away, leaving her bereft of his touch, that when he did so again she simply accepted it, unable to form the words needed to beg for release.

This time, Lex's body moved over hers as he placed soft kisses along her jaw. She could feel the length of him, hot and hard, pressing against her, seeking entrance. She trembled a little at the uncertainty of everything but his hand caressed her belly until she relaxed once more, before moving downwards to push her thighs apart. She felt a long finger slide along the cleft, slipping inside, teasing while Lex's thumb pressed against the swollen nub. Cady's eyes closed at the delicious sensations, her hips pressing upwards, seeking more. His first finger was joined by another and the feeling was slightly uncomfortable at first, though it once more faded beneath the onslaught of need that was sweeping over her.

Lex removed his hand, laying it against her hip as the other cupped her cheek. "Look at me, Cady."

She opened her eyes, only to be immediately lost in the intense grey gaze above her. Lex was staring down at her intently, the tiny scar on his lip more apparent than usual from the tightness around his mouth.

"Don't look away," he whispered, moving his hand to take one of hers, their fingers entwining.

Cady kept her eyes riveted on the man above her, enjoying the feel of his heart thudding against her chest, the closeness of their bodies. Silently, she told herself to relax as she felt Lex pushing slowly, ever more deeply into her. Again, the discomfort threatened to destroy the enjoyment she had been feeling previously. It ached a little and Lex hesitated, as if he noticed the slight change in her expression. He kissed her gently, holding her gaze still while his hand moved from her hip between them once more, pressing and rubbing her until Cady felt nothing but the immense pleasure it caused. She was squirming against him again, the discomfort obliterated amidst the desire for more. Lex answered that need by pressing more fully into her until he hesitated just a moment, then pushed completely through the barrier. She whimpered slightly but the small expression of pain was quickly muffled when Lex's mouth covered hers, kissing her until the momentary sharp sting was forgotten and only pleasure remained.

Cady thought it still felt strange, that she was stretched a little invaded but any thought quickly left her as Lex began to move within her. Her body seemed made to mold to him, so tightly did he fit within her, and once the discomfort of his initial entrance subsided, she arched up to meet his thrusts. Moving her hands to his shoulders where they clutched him, her nails biting into the hardened muscles as she strained toward him in trembling need. His hand remained between them, stroking the embers in her to burning while they rocked together. Within her, an uncontrollable inner excitement began to build, jarring her body with quick, piercing stabs of desire.

Each time that a whimper or cry began to escape her, Lex would swoop in for another kiss, covering the noise between them. The bed still creaked a little as they rocked together, but much of it was covered up by the rumbling thunder outside. Cady thought she was surely dying from splendor as the excitement began to build until she was unable to tell the real from the unreal. She was soaring, yet melting away. Her fingers bit into his upper arms as she sought for something to ground her as her body began to shake, the ache deep within her reaching a crescendo. Lex continued to move into her, never once hesitating, even as she shook and trembled beneath him, the spasms of her consuming climax taking over her.

It wasn't until he felt her muscles contracting around him, her fingers bending tightly over his own that he covered her mouth with his, swallowing her cry. While she shook and trembled beneath him, Lex finally allowed his own release, pulling out quickly since they hadn't been prepared for this moment, grunting softly against her mouth as he came against her belly.

Slowly rolling to the side of the bed, Lex took Cady in his arms and pulled her to lay against him, much as she had attempted to do at the Penthouse. This time, he wasn't going to give that part up. He'd already taken that enormous step when he should have continued retreating, but her refusal to walk away when he had pushed was something he couldn't quite let go of. Throughout his life, Lex had grown used to people giving up on him. Tutors, teachers, his father, anyone he had even come close to begin considering a friend, girlfriends. Even Clark, now that he knew about Nixon. Maybe, just maybe, Cady would be someone who wouldn't give up, who would believe in him and remain by his side, no matter what stupid mistakes he made. Maybe.

Lex stroked her back for a moment, enjoying the simple feel of her bare skin against his. He caressed her cheek, kissed her forehead, rested his own cheek against the top of her head and held her close. It felt nice. He couldn't remember the last time he had enjoyed just holding someone. Even when Victoria had moved in for a time, they had their respective bedrooms. It was easier that way - he knew she wouldn't wake up expecting anything beyond what he was willing and able to give her. Besides, when it came to a Hardwick, Lex wasn't too certain he wouldn't have awakened with a knife in his back. With Cady, he knew that wasn't a fear he had to harbor. When they did wake up, he knew he might feel differently. The light of day might make him change his mind, cause all of the warm, happy feelings coursing through him at the moment to dissipate. The comfort of being alone, of only having himself to rely upon, might be stronger than having Cady near. Odds favored the possibility that he would hurt her again.

The difference was, Lex knew it didn't matter. She would still be there. And he wouldn't really be alone.

As he felt her even breathing against his chest signaling sleep, Lex was certain that, at the moment, he never wanted this to end. Knowing he would likely never have the courage to say it again, he found himself whispering, "I think I'm in love with you." It hadn't been too hard. Lex felt a tiny breath of relief escape him and he relaxed. Maybe, someday, he would be able to say it to her for real. The thought was oddly comforting and it was enough for him to close his eyes and find his own path to sleep, completely missing the soft smile that appeared on Cady's face.

~finis~

A sequel will be coming in the next few months.