Huh, Clark thought, watching as Lex made his way down Main Street, for once getting smiles and nods from everybody he passed. It looked like he had finally found a way to make himself popular in Smallville: be the son of the man who owned the football team that was making a Cinderella run through the playoffs. LuthorCorp. might be feared and suspected by every person who didn't actually work for the plant--and probably many who did--but football was football, and there hadn't been a championship in Kansas since well before Clark was born. People were suddenly willing to overlook an awful lot, and it sure seemed like Lex was happy to let bygones be bygones, the way he was smiling back.
Clark was just about to go into the store when Lex looked up and saw him. It was funny to see the way his smile deepened and brightened, as different from the smile he'd been giving everybody else as Mom's prized petunias were from a handful of fake daisies. Clark smiled back. He couldn't help it; it made him feel different from everybody else, but in a good way, for once. "Clark!"
"Hey, Lex." He waited for him to cross the street.
"What are you doing in town?"
"Just picking up some fabric for my mom."
"Maybe if I had some company, it could kill the boredom," he suggested. When Pete had heard what he had to do, he'd suddenly remembered that he had a math test the next day that he really needed to study for. "And keep me feeling manly."
"I'd be glad to help you with that," Lex grinned. "Let's go."
They went into the craft shop, which, on a Saturday afternoon, was full of little girls and middle-aged women giggling over buttons, picking out refill kits for their Bedazzlers, and oohing and ahhing at the counted-cross-stitch samplers their friends were bringing in to be framed. The strange, almost starchy smell of the bolts of fabric hanging from circular clothes racks in the center of the store flooded his nose, and Clark was glad he had another guy with him. He went to the service desk and told Mrs. Kratz he'd come to pick up the special order, and she asked him to wait while she fetched it from the back.
"Quite a place," Lex observed, looking around.
"When I was a little kid, I used to play hide-and-seek here with my dad behind the cloth. It was the only way to kill the boredom while we waited for Mom to find the right size zipper or whatever."
"And here I thought you had an idyllic, Norman Rockwell childhood."
"I still have nightmares about drowning in paisley," Clark confessed. "So, Lex. I haven't seen you in a while. How are you doing?"
"Oh, I've got this big dilemma," Lex said casually, turning a little display of sequins with one finger.
"Yeah? Anything I can do to help?"
"I don't know. Maybe." He looked at him. "See, my father expects me to come to the game tomorrow in Metropolis. It's a great networking opportunity; that's why he bought the team in the first place. But I hardly know a thing about football. It would be much more fun if someone were with me who could explain the finer points, but how could I offer anyone in this town a ticket without offending their sense of small-town pride and integrity?"
Clark swallowed, almost not daring to believe it. "Are you...are you saying you want me to come with you?"
"I don't know. Would your father come after me with a shotgun for being a bad influence?"
He didn't think that his dad could say no to tickets to the NFC championship game, even if Lionel Luthor himself had offered them. "If he did, I'd take the shot for you. I mean, if you were offering me a ticket."
Lex grinned again. "Then I think I might risk it. Do you want to come?"
"I don't think absolutely is a strong enough word."
Mrs. Kratz returned with the fabric, he paid for it, and they walked back out onto the street. "I've got to go," Lex said. "Theoretically, my lunch hour was over fifteen minutes ago. But I'll see you tomorrow at my place, seven-thirty a.m.?"
Clark didn't need to see himself to know what kind of smile he was smiling as he started walking home--it was an idiotic, goofy grin.
His dad wanted to say no, he could see it, but couldn't quite bring himself to do it, so Clark turned up at Lex's house bright and early the next morning. A servant let him in, and he waited in the hall for a few minutes before Lex came in, looking sleepy. "God, what an hour to be out of bed."
"Hey, Lex." Lex was wearing all black--a jacket over a turtleneck and good pants and shoes--and Clark glanced down in embarrassment at his plaid. He hadn't actually realized before then that you might dress differently to sit in the owner's suite at a pro football game than you would to go to the Crows game. Stupid. He almost wondered if he should back out. Almost.
Lex, however, had caught his look. "Yes, that occurred to me last night." He went over to a table against the wall and pulled a smooth red sweater from a box that was lying there. "The jeans are all right--they give you the all-American touch--but you might want to wear this instead of the overshirt."
"Lex, I can't accept--"
He rolled his eyes. "Then just borrow it, okay? We can give it to a homeless guy after the game or something."
Lex held it out to him, and though Clark knew he shouldn't, he took it. It was amazingly soft in his hands. "What is this?"
"Cashmere. Bathroom's around the corner. You can change and we can get going. My father won't appreciate it if we're late."
Ten minutes later, they were on the road, going at least eighty. "We're going pretty fast," Clark yelled over the wind.
"I think a good driver should be allowed to drive as fast as he wants, actually," Lex said. "Don't you? Besides, we've got a lot of distance to cover."
"Okay." After all, how could he complain? If there was an accident, he wasn't the one who'd be killed.
"Find some music for us?"
Clark tuned around until he found something that sounded sort of alternative. "That good?"
"Fine." Lex stretched one arm along the seat. "Been to Metropolis a lot, Clark?"
"A few times. A couple of agricultural trade shows with my dad, and once, in the sixth grade, on a field trip to the museum."
"Would that be before or after they built the Luthor Wing?"
"Uh, before, I think."
"Hm. Too bad. I don't think that'll be a good story to use on my father, then."
"Your...dad." Of course Lionel Luthor would be there. He owned the team. Clark frowned. He could be polite, he thought.
"Of course, my dad. Just so you know, he's going to grill you about me. Whether I've been a good boy in Smallville and so on. Feel free to lie."
"To make you sound better or worse?"
"Hm." Lex considered it. "Either one would be entertaining. Take your pick."
The idea of talking to Lionel Luthor wasn't nearly as amusing as Lex was making it sound, so Clark asked, "Did you ever come to Smallville before you moved here?"
He thought he saw Lex's hand tighten on the wheel, almost as if he were flinching, but Lex said casually, "Once or twice. With my father on business. Now, let's talk football. They tell me it's a wimpy form of rugby."
They spent the next hour going over the basics. Lex caught on pretty fast, though it was hard to explain to someone who just didn't have the same assumptions as you did--Lex kept thinking too far outside the box and coming up with all these wild possibilities. Clark was patient for a good long while. "So, then, you try to sack the quarterback in the end zone. That's a safety."
"And if you bag the eighth-back on the red line?" Lex asked innocently.
"There is no--" Something dawned on Clark. "Hey!" He punched Lex in the shoulder.
"Ow! What was that for?"
"You're asking goofy questions on purpose, to make football sound silly!" Clark said. "It's not! It's important!"
"I can see that," Lex said ruefully, rubbing his shoulder. "You people in the heartland certainly take your fun seriously."
Clark laughed, but he felt an odd pang. "I wish you wouldn't do that. You're just like Chloe."
"Like...Chloe." Lex cocked his head. "There's an interesting comparison. How so?"
"You keep talking about us Smallville people as if we were totally different from you. Then you wonder why you don't fit in. You're living in Smallville now, aren't you, Lex? It's your home. Why not try to think about it that way?"
There was another of those microscopic twitches of Lex's hands. "I guess you'll have to give me some pointers on putting down roots, Clark," he said, lightly enough. "I don't have a lot of experience with that."
Clark wasn't even sure whether he'd seen what he thought he saw, but his throat instantly tightened. "I'm sorry. I wasn't trying to criticize you. I just...it seems like you're making things harder for yourself than they have to be. I like you, Lex. I don't want to see you make yourself miserable for no good reason."
"This from the guy who refuses all opportunities to get closer to the girl of his dreams, preferring to pine from a distance?"
Lex was smiling, so Clark smiled back, mostly relieved. "Well, I didn't say I had it all figured out."
"When you do, let me know, all right? I have the feeling you'll get it before me."
Clark reached up and scuffed Lex's shoulder where he'd hit it. "All right."
"So let's get back to football. I'll try to treat it with the appropriate reverence this time. I want to get to Metropolis in one piece."
They parked in the stadium's private garage, but Clark was surprised to see Lex heading out towards the public parking lots instead of into the stadium. "We going the right way?"
"I thought we'd check out the tailgates. Isn't that part of the experience?"
"Sure." Clark was up for a brat, but..."That's what you're after, the experience?"
Lex shrugged. "My father doesn't like to eat with the masses. I think that's a mistake."
Clark was puzzled, but followed Lex down into the lot, which was overflowing with people and loud music. The familiar smells of cooking sausage, onions, and peppers and spilled beer were everywhere. He was surprised at how many people seemed to recognize Lex, but, of course, he was pretty distinctive-looking. They were just going to walk around, but it wasn't long before they were both loaded down with offered brats and onion rings and surrounded by loud, excited men.
Lex was smiling and joking away. Someone brought them beers, and Lex chuckled. "Clark can't. He's not legal."
A roar of laughter went up, and someone pressed the beer into his hand anyway. Clark looked at it, unsure what to do. He was suddenly aware of Lex's eyes gleaming on him. He was just about to pop the top when a voice cut through the din. "Lex."
Clark turned to see an older, bearded man standing at the edge of the group. Lex took a swig of his own beer before replying, "Hello, dad."
"They told me you were down here."
"Just mingling with the fans, dad. Folks, you all know of my father, the owner of the team, Lionel Luthor?"
There was a wave of cheers, and someone tried to give him a beer, but Mr. Luthor didn't seem to notice. "I thought you would have come and said hello to me first."
"Oh, I knew you'd be busy," Lex aid airily. "So much schmoozing to do, so little time."
"Exactly. The president of our German subsidiary is here, and you really ought to meet him. Now." Though his voice was level, something in it caused people to start drifting away. Clark looked down uncomfortably.
"I hate to leave, my friends," Lex said to the crowd, "but duty calls. Go Sharks! Come on, Clark," he added over his shoulder.
Mr. Luthor gave Clark a once-over. He stared back, trying not to look scared. Or mad. "Is this a friend of yours?"
"Yes. My manners are just terrible today. Father, this is Clark Kent. Clark, this is my father, Lionel Luthor."
"Pleased to meet you," Clark said, and impulsively stuck out his hand.
Mr. Luthor blinked once, then shook it. "Likewise. Now, Lex..."
"Coming, coming. I'd hate to miss a moment of Herr Schneider's scintillating conversation."
When they got into the owner's suite, Clark was immediately glad that he'd accepted Lex's offer of the sweater. The two of them were the only ones who weren't in suits, and in the plaid he would have looked plain ridiculous. Lex gave him an apologetic look as he was swept off by his father to meet people, so Clark took a seat by the window to look out over the field. Nobody else seemed to be interested. It was just as...as mythic as he'd thought it'd be, like all his childhood dreams made adult-sized. How could they walk around and talk and eat snacks and not care? He guessed they must already be used to it, but he wished his dad could be there to appreciate what they didn't.
He kept glancing back, though, to watch Lex. For all the cracks he'd made about his dad's schmoozing, he was doing the same thing, smiling, nodding, laughing, and circulating around the room with an ease that Clark could only envy. He looked like he belonged there--or, even more, that he was beyond the other people already. Was this the Lex that his father was afraid of? All he knew was that he only had to watch him for a couple of minutes before Lex would look up, catch his eye, and let his smile grow more intimate even while he kept on talking to someone else. It was almost eerie, the way he knew when Clark was looking at him, and so, when it happened, he would grin a bit and look back to the field.
After about fifteen minutes of this, Lex dropped down next to him on the couch. "Whew. Canape?" He offered him a tray.
"No, thanks. The game should be starting in a few minutes," he added, looking over his shoulder at Mr. Luthor and the others. "Don't they know?"
"Oh, they know. They just don't care." Lex popped a canape into his mouth and lowered his voice. "My father didn't buy this team because he loves football. I probably know more about it after our talk than he does. It was just a PR move for him. He comes to the games to meet people, not watch play-action fakes. He never even suggested that I come until after he put me in charge of the plant."
"Oh. That's...kind of too bad."
"Well, he's brought a winning team to the city for the first time in years. As a plan to improve his public image without actually dealing with the public, it's certainly working." He looked out onto the field. "Check it out--the coin toss!"
Lex's prediction had proved to be correct. They were the only ones in the whole suite paying attention to the game instead of to their cellphones or Palm Pilots. Clark quickly found himself wishing that he was sitting outside with the other fans, who were roaring with excitement as the team took an early lead. It would be a lot more fun, if a lot less comfortable. On the first touchdown pass, he jumped up and yelled, "Yes!" and everyone in the room turned and looked at him in surprise. He flushed and briefly considered throwing himself through the glass to escape, but he felt Lex tugging at his sleeve.
He slapped his hand and felt better--now everyone was staring at both of them--but after that he didn't cheer loudly anymore. At halftime, the room thinned out a bit, and Lex left to visit the restroom. Clark sat awkwardly on the edge of the couch, not knowing what else to do. To his surprise, Mr. Luthor left the group he was standing in and came over to him. Clark started to get up, but Mr. Luthor waved at him to stay down.
"So, Clark Kent. I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to speak to you earlier. Are you a friend of Lex's from Princeton?"
"No. I'm from Smallville, actually."
"I see. And what do you do in Smallville?"
"I'm a freshman in high school."
Mr. Luthor looked startled, then his expression hardened. "And how, exactly, did you meet my son?"
"I was passing by when he crashed his car."
"Oh!" He relaxed into a smile. "So you're the young man who saved him."
"Yeah, I guess."
"We're very grateful. I trust he thanked you properly."
"I'd say so, yeah." Some instinct told Clark it would be better to leave the truck out of the story. "Not too long after, I got strung up in Riley Field by some people and he came along and cut me down. I could've died up there. So we're pretty much even."
Mr. Luthor seemed surprised and pleased. "He went into Riley Field?"
It was Clark's turn to blink. "Uh, yeah. Like I said, to save me."
"Well," he said, almost to himself, "that is excellent."
"That he went into the field?"
He looked at Clark again. "The field is where the accident happened, you know."
"The meteor shower. He was only nine, and I'm afraid it was rather traumatic for him."
A memory, an impossible memory, was suddenly vividly present to him. He was being carried, safe and warm, in someone's arms, along a country road, when he heard an awful whimpering. An ambulance was just pulling off the road in front of them. A man was standing there, holding a larger boy, who was twisted away from him as if he was afraid to cuddle but shaking as if he needed it desperately. The boy didn't look hurt, but, strangely, he had no hair at all. "Call ahead! I want a helicopter waiting to airlift him straight to Metropolis General!" the man shouted, climbing into the ambulance with the boy and slamming the door shut.
"His hair," Clark said. Funny, it had never even occurred to him to wonder why Lex was bald. It was just one of the strange things about him that added up to make him so unlike everyone else in Smallville. He'd never questioned any individual part of the package.
"Of course." Mr. Luthor frowned, as though he'd said something rude. "Radiation exposure does do that."
"Talking about me?" Lex asked cheerfully, reappearing.
"Clark here was just telling me that you two seem to have formed a mutual rescue society."
"Oh, yes. It's a higher-class establishment than my eating club was, even." Lex flopped onto the couch next to Clark, who couldn't help but flinch. "Oh, look, the game's starting again. You'd better get back to networking, dad. I'll let you know if you miss anything particularly exciting."
"Will you and Clark be staying in town tonight? The house is a little crowded because of the game, but I think we still have a guest room he could use."
Lex raised an eyebrow. "I'm surprised at you, dad. You know I have weighty responsibilities waiting for me back in Smallville. How could I trifle away my time here?"
Mr. Luthor frowned at Lex. "It was good to meet you, Clark," he said, and left.
The opposing team tied up the score early in the third quarter with a spectacular touchdown drive and then a recovered interception run in for another score. After a number of third-and-outs, however, the Sharks managed to kick a field goal with less than two minutes left and then force a fumble to end the game.
Clark should have been ecstatic, but, in fact, he was only paying attention so that he could hold up his end of the conversation with Lex. He should have realized. It was so obvious. Did you ever come to Smallville before? He could have kicked himself. Just another victim of his arrival on the planet. Was there anybody he really cared about who he hadn't hurt? Lex had been so nice to him, and he didn't even know what Clark had done. The brat in his stomach did its best to fight its way out, and when the game was over, he couldn't wait to escape the stadium. Except, of course, that that meant another three hours alone with Lex, which was even worse. His heart actually managed to fall further while he settled into the car for the trip back.
Lex had been chattering along cheerfully enough as they left, but when they got onto the interstate, he looked over at Clark. "All right, are you going to tell me what's wrong?"
Everything. His very presence on the planet. "Nothing."
"Did my dad say something to you? I mean, he is, theoretically, capable of being tactful, but only if he thinks you're worth it, and he doesn't always get who is."
"He didn't say anything rude. He just...why didn't you tell me, Lex?"
"Tell you what?" Lex asked quickly.
"About the accident. The meteor shower. When you were nine."
"Oh. I thought you knew. I assumed it was one of the great old chestnuts of Smallville gossip: how Lionel Luthor's son got turned into a freak before his very eyes. Poetic justice for what Luthor does to the local crops."
"Probably it is, but I really didn't know." Of course, his parents would've done their best to keep that kind of talk away from him, even if it might've discouraged him from hanging out with Lex.
Lex shrugged. "Well. Now you do."
Clark stared out into the night. It seemed like they had sped up since the conversation started. "What happened...after?"
"After? The very best medical treatment money could buy. I was in the hospital for six months."
"You were really sick?"
"Actually, no. Not after the first couple of weeks. In fact, the blast cleared my asthma right up. That was the problem. My dad wanted to know what was wrong with me, that I didn't--" He smoothed his free hand over his head. "He wanted me fixed. But they couldn't do it."
"But you eventually went back home."
"Home." Lex snorted. "Not really."
"What do you mean?"
"Since I'd missed so much school, my dad decided to pull me out of the academy in Metropolis and send me to a school in London. I went straight from the hospital to the airport. I didn't even say goodbye to my mother."
"A school in London? What, did you fly there every morning?"
"A boarding school, Clark," Lex said, a little impatiently.
"I didn't know they had boarding schools for nine-year-olds."
"In England they do. Dad had to pull a lot of strings for that one. It's the kind of school where your grandfather the duke has to put you down for enrollment when your dad is born. He's still paying off that favor. There was probably somebody at that party today because of it."
"But...why would he send you away when you were only nine?"
"Luthors have to be strong, Clark," Lex said with a note of rich irony in his voice. "Dad was already concerned about my courage, or lack thereof. What better way for me to develop some than to send me several thousand miles away, to a school whose most famous tradition is the brutalization of the younger children by the older ones?"
Some of the things he'd seen at the game were starting to make sense, and not in a good way. "Maybe he just wanted you to get a good education."
"Of course he did. That sending me away also relieved him of the burden of having to explain that he didn't really know what was wrong with his son and heir all the time, that was just a bonus."
They were definitely going faster now, flying along, and Lex was a good driver, but not that good. "Lex," Clark pleaded with mounting dismay. "Slow down. Or--pull off the road, okay?"
"Don't you have to get up early tomorrow? We should be getting back."
Too casual, he sounded much too casual with his knuckles showing white through the driving gloves. "Please?"
He raised an eyebrow at him, but slowed the car and angled it off the exit onto a deserted dirt road. "What is it?"
"Was it all bad, Lex?"
He killed the engine. "No. My dad was right: I learned a lot. How to take care of myself, because no one else was going to do it. How to outwit bigger, stronger boys determined to punish me for being a commoner, and an American, and a freak. How to turn myself from 'weird' to 'striking' by force of will alone. Important life lessons, Clark. I'm using them to this day."
Lex was serious. Clark could tell that by his voice, and it was one of the saddest things he'd ever known. He wanted to touch his arm, or something, but Lex looked so self-contained at that moment, as if the more he told Clark, the further he had to hold himself away. "God, I'm sorry."
"Don't be. I'm not." Was that the first time Lex had ever lied to him? He hated to think it. "Besides, it wasn't exactly your fault, was it?"
Oh, that was too much. It was either tell him or--
He practically lunged over the gearshift to kiss Lex, needing the violent burst of energy to get across the charged space between them. He really didn't have the slightest idea what he was after; he just had to do something for that wounded mouth that held itself so tight. His hands went up to cup Lex's head, to stroke and pet the vulnerable flesh there. He could feel the bones of his skull under his fingers. He could probably crush Lex's head without an effort. The thought made him moan softly and pull him closer, wrapping one arm around him protectively. He didn't want to hurt Lex, but he had, and that, that brought them together in a special way, didn't it? He could do it again--he had the power--but he wouldn't. He had never thought that the feeling of holding back power could be as dizzying as the feeling of using it, but restraining himself, keeping his touch gentle, his mouth light, that made him feel just the way he did when he was running through the cornfields, completely given up to himself.
Then Lex pushed at him a little, and he let go, and suddenly it hit him that he had just been groping. An older boy. Who probably thought he was a total idiot. "I'm sorry," he said; he could feel the crimson rushing to his face. "I mean, I shouldn't have just jumped you like that."
But Lex was smiling, and touchable now. "I want you to banish that thought from your head completely," he said, pulling his cellphone out of his jacket pocket and tossing it into the back seat. "There, that's better." He pulled Clark back to him.
This time, Clark slid his hands down under the jacket. Just checking to see that there wasn't anything else...but there was firm, lean flesh there. Different from the way he'd always imagined making out would be--no breasts, no curves, and he still wanted to find some way to get a grip. "Can I...?" he breathed, tugging at the sweater.
"Certainly." Lex sounded amused and quickly shucked off his jacket, but let Clark pull tentatively on the turtleneck. "Like this, Clark," and suddenly his own sweater was ruthlessly rucked up past his waist, and Lex was laughing even as he skimmed his fingers inside it.
"It's cashmere, Clark, you don't need to wear a shirt underneath it."
Lex wasn't; he could feel his skin right under the fabric. He leaned in closer, liking the play of the soft cloth over the chest, and nuzzled at Lex's neck. Lex sighed and tipped his head back, giving Clark better access. "God, Clark," he whispered, "you're the only good thing that's ever happened to me in that stupid town..."
Clark froze, then jerked back. He didn't know what to do with his hands, which were suddenly much too big, and he clenched the seat with them.
"Clark? What's wrong?"
"Nothing." He couldn't meet his eyes. "Nothing. I just--can't--"
"Oh, no. Don't tell me you're going to start quoting Leviticus at me."
No. There were people in Smallville who would, though. "No. It's...I'm sorry. I..."
"Oh. I see. Well, you don't know if you're going to like someone until you--"
"Lex, no!" he protested, the faint note of injured pride making his head whip around to him. "It's not that at all. I think you're--I mean, I never thought about it before, but now that I am--you're...great. I want to..."
Want to...what? Get to third base with the guy who basically lost his family so Clark could gain one? To think that his dad thought Lex was the jerk of the pair.
Lex reached for his hand. "Then why don't you?"
Clark snatched it away. "I can't explain it. It doesn't have anything to do with you, or my parents, or your parents, or anything. It's me. It's just me. I'm sorry."
Lex snorted. "So am I."
He started the car again, and within a few minutes, they were back on the highway. Clark had thought he'd lived through some awkward silences when he'd been fighting with his dad about the football team, but this was a whole new level of awkwardness. He leaned his head on his hand and tried not to think of anything at all, certainly not the way Lex's skin had been so soft under his mouth, and Lex himself offering that skin up, letting him do whatever he wanted. He made himself fix instead on that memory of the little boy, too scared even to cry, with a father who didn't even seem to know how to hold him.
I think your father loves you, he didn't say. And maybe I do, too.
To love what you had hurt was very different from loving something you kept on a pedestal. He couldn't imagine watching Lex through a telescope. He wanted to cover him up, to protect everything he had inadvertently exposed. But Lex was already doing a good job at that. Most of the time, anyway, and if Clark would just leave him alone, maybe always.
It was well past dark when they pulled into the Kent driveway. Clark turned to Lex. "Thanks, Lex. I did have a good time, you know."
Lex shook his head and half-laughed. "You're a mystery, Clark Kent."
Clark opened the door and got out. "Not really."
He started up the walk, but Lex said softly behind him, "Clark."
"I'm letting you go now. Someday, however, you are going to tell me what happened tonight."
"We'll see." The engine purred to life again, and he heard the car drive off, but he stood waiting, not ready to go into the warmly-lit house and meet his parents.
"Son?" His dad had come out onto the porch. "Did you have a good time?"
"Yeah, dad," he answered, walking up to the house, and did his best to hide his guilty flinch as he put his arm over his shoulders.
"It was a great game, wasn't it? I can't believe we're going to the Super Bowl!"
Clark bit his lip. "It sure was."
His dad looked at his shoulder, obviously noticing the texture. "Where'd you get this sweater from?"
"Oh. Lex lent it to me." He could hear Dad take a breath to say something, then let it out without doing it. "Dad, I think we should invite him over for dinner sometime soon. For giving me the ticket."
Dad hesitated, then nodded. "You're right. It's only fair."
God, he hoped that as he got older he'd figure out better ways to fix things. Especially the unfixable ones.