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With Mercy Round and Round
Thanks to LaT and Livia for betaing.

Martha had had it all figured out when she was ten. She was going to marry the handsomest boy at college in a dress just like Princess Grace's, and they'd move to a big house in the country. They would have four children, two girls, two boys: Julia, Anna, Scott, and Peter. The girls would be sweet and pretty, little ballerinas and princesses, and the boys would be brave and strong and build tree forts in their yard. She'd take care of them all, and they'd all love each other and live happily ever after.

Martha had grown up, of course. She'd discovered that there were other things she could do with her life, even if she had (in her humble opinion) married the handsomest boy in college after all, and she'd embraced them. She'd still wanted kids, though, and had dreamed after them long after the doctors said it would probably never happen. So when Clark had come, she'd accepted him at once. Even with all the strange, scary things that went with him, the things that had never appeared in her old fantasies: the needles that broke at the doctor's, the year it took him to start talking, the awful nightmares where he woke up screaming in something that didn't even sound like a language, begging them for something they couldn't even identify, much less provide, and then the manifestation of the weird powers. Whenever Jon had gotten too worried, she'd take him by the hands and say, "He may not be normal, Jon, but he's ours, and that's all that matters."

She repeated that to herself now, leaning on the kitchen table. She needed to hear it. Because she had come home early and gone into the barn to find Clark and Lex Luthor kissing in the loft.

She couldn't say she'd ever worried about that happening, but if she had imagined it, it wouldn't have been like that. Not like that, against the wall, with Clark's arms around Lex and Lex's head, bare and pale, tilted up to him. Not with Lex making soft keening noises and Clark cupping his face, stroking it, then pulling back to whisper, "Relax, relax...it's safe here..." There was no doubt about it: Clark had been kissing Lex. Not vice versa.

She'd swallowed her gasp, turned around, and marched into the house. Her first reaction had been to give Lex a good scare with the chainsaw and then ground Clark for life and twenty years into heaven. She had, however, figured out some time ago that her first reaction was not always her best one, so she'd kept herself there, drumming her fingers against the wood, to think about what to do.

Clark...gay? But there had been Lana, for well over a year now. She guessed she'd heard about people who liked both. She didn't know any gay people in Smallville, though if the statistics she'd read in the paper were right, there must have been...several, at least. She didn't know what she thought about them; she'd never really had to do it. She didn't understand what they saw in each other--that was for sure. Where she came from, men loved women and women loved men; it was the natural order of things. She couldn't imagine wanting to kiss a girl herself. But, more importantly, she couldn't imagine how gays could be happy. Not with the secrets and the lies and the laws and the hate. It wasn't enough that Clark was an alien with superpowers, he had to be...a bisexual alien with superpowers?

Not normal, but hers. She couldn't change what Clark was, but they did have to deal with it somehow. Just another thing to muddle through as best as they could.

She couldn't tell Jonathan. He wasn't a bigot, but he was even less comfortable with the idea of gay people than she was, and although he might have been able to stand it if he'd heard that Clark was making out with Pete, the news that it had been a Luthor, well, Jon's father had died of a stroke and she didn't want to get Jon started on that path. Could she call Lionel Luthor? However mean-spirited he might be, she doubted that he would want his son in jail. "Clark is only fifteen, Mr. Luthor..." He'd snatch Lex out of Smallville fast.

No. That wasn't right, either. She found herself wincing for Lex, imagining the scene. Imagining that strange, naked face--the face of a child, really, no matter how he tried to play it off--resolving itself into icy disdain in the face of his father's anger, never to soften as it had in the barn again. Somehow, she didn't think that Lex was the kind of child Lionel Luthor had had in mind, either...but in Lex's case, that was a good thing. She didn't exactly think it was marvelous that he was making out with her boy in the barn, but she didn't want to drive him back into the city, back into the labyrinth of troubles that she had sometimes seen splashed on the front cover of the Inquisitor as she waited in line at the grocery store.

What she really wanted to do was talk to Mrs. Luthor. They could've put their heads together and come up with something. But Lex--anyone could see, she thought, even if they didn't know, that he had lost his mother young. No, she was on her own in this one.

"Oh--hi, Mom!" Clark came through the kitchen door, tucking in his shirt a little. "What's for dinner?"

"Stew." She watched as he went over to the cookie jar and took one out. "Don't ruin your appetite."

"Mom, five pizzas couldn't ruin my appetite. You know that." He opened the fridge, grabbed the bottle of milk, and started to drink from it.

"Use a glass," she said. "Were you raised in a barn, young man?"

He grinned at her, and her heart melted. "No, just next to one."

She couldn't yell at him. The fight over the football team had been bad enough. Martha had never heard of its being any use to forbid two kids in love to see each other, and particularly not a kid with the Kent stubbornness. Clark thought he was becoming a man, and even if he wasn't quite right yet, it would do more harm than good to argue the point.

But men didn't sneak their--their sweethearts into the barn for secret kisses and hope that no one would catch them. Or, all right, men did--women, too, when you got right down to it. But not the kind of man Martha wanted Clark to be. That she couldn't accept, in any form. Clark had to lie, a lot, just because of what he was (maybe even more now, she thought, wincing). He couldn't get into the habit of doing it whenever it would save him a little trouble. If they couldn't trust each other, they'd never get through this.

"So...why are you home early?"

"Oh, the zoning committee meeting got cancelled. Mr. Hyde has the flu."

"Right. Must've been a nice break for you." He reached around her to snag a handful of chopped carrots. "What've you been doing?"

"This and that." She paused. "I wanted to do some laundry, so I went to the barn to get those blankets."

"Oh." Clark froze, then tried to relax. He was worse at faking than his father was, even, she thought, and swallowed her smile. This wasn't the time for it. "You did."

"I did." She bent her head over the carrots. "Clark, if you're going to have Lex over, you really should invite him to dinner." Out of the corner of her eye, she could see that Clark was giving her the stare of a petrified rabbit, his cheeks flaming. "Clark?"

"Oh! He, um, he just had...he had to go."

"Sure. But, in the future, I think it would be a good idea if you would."

"You...you do?"

"I do."

Clark fiddled with his sleeve, still bright red. "Mom, we...I..."

"Enough said?"

He looked up, visibly relieved. "Enough said."

"Good." She scraped the carrots into the pot. "Could you fetch me a bowl, please?"

"Of course." Clark got it for her. "Mom..."

"Yes?"

"Don't be mad at Lex. I started it."

"I'm not mad at Lex." And, strangely enough, she wasn't. It was a bit late to start blaming anyone for Clark's being different, and that was really all Lex had done to that point, go along with Clark's being different.

She was, however, determined to make it as hard as possible for him to do anything she could blame him for. She just hoped that cooking for him was the way. Maybe she should knit him something, too.


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