My First Taste - Ep 5 Propinquity

by Aelora



Whoever you are, holding me now in hand, Without one thing, all will be useless, I give you fair warning, before you attempt me further, I am not what you supposed, but far different. ~ Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

Lex handed Hudson another tissue, which made it over a dozen if he were counting, and he wasn't. Well, not out loud, anyway. At the moment, it was taking all of his concentration not to laugh at the girl sobbing beside him, clinging to his arm and getting his shoulder impossibly wet. She hiccupped once and Lex shook his head. "That's it. That's the last Disney flick we watch." He gently pushed her back against the couch and then stood to retrieve the disk from the DVD player. Hudson sniffed and glared at his back. "B-but why?" "Because sixty percent of the time, you end up crying your eyes out on my shoulder." He switched off the projector and turned to flash her a grin. "You're really hopeless, you know that, don't you?" "Hey!" Hudson pouted. "You were wiping at your eyes once or twice, too, you know." "Allergies." Still grinning, Lex moved back over to the couch and sat down beside her, reaching up to brush her tears away from her cheeks. "You were sobbing, Hudson." She gestured helplessly towards the now-dark screen. "How could you not? Tod and Copper were best friends - they loved each other. And circumstances forced them apart. Outside forces dictated that they had to be enemies, when all that they wanted was to be friends, to share their lives with each other." Lex smiled, his thumb moving gently beneath her right eye to gather the last of her tears. "You're such a hopeless romantic, angel." He leaned back against the arm of the couch and regarded her a moment. "Nature dictated that they be enemies, from the time they were born, Hudson. No one forced them into it. It was inevitable that their lives take divergent paths." "It's not fair." Hudson sniffed again and pushed her hair back from her face before flashing a glare at the screen. "No, it isn't," Lex agreed quietly. "But then, neither is my tickling you." "You're not - "
Hudson cut off her words as Lex's fingers attacked her, sending her into peals of laughter. She was careful not to struggle too much under the onslaught, a trick she had learned long ago when her father would wrestle with her when she was little. Always be gentle; never kick or hit; take the punishment while slowly attempting to get away. It wasn't very effective in her opinion; after all, she was forced to endure what anyone else could more quickly get away from. And while with most people she could turn the tables by tickling them in retaliation, Lex, unfortunately, was not ticklish. "Stoooopppp!" She squealed, squirming beneath his attack. "Say `I'm a dork!'" Lex taunted.
Hudson giggled. "You're a dork!"
Lex made a sound very much like a growl and intensified the movement of his fingers, crawling his hands upwards just under her arms, which caused his victim to utter an interesting squeak. "All right! All right!" Hudson begged, her laughter alternating with near-sobs. "I'm a dork! I'm a dork!" Lex laughed as he ended the `torture', dropping his hands to rest on either side of her. Their antics had spread them across the couch - Hudson lying on her back, Lex hovering just over her, resting slightly between her legs. Neither of them had noticed, and Lex found himself thinking how easy it would be to just lean in and kiss her. End the months of continuous debating in his mind as to the rights and wrongs of such an act and just get it over with. It was very possible that there would be nothing there. Sometimes, you find someone that you are beyond attracted to and you dream of touching them and feeling their mouth on yours and then you get the chance to make the dream reality - only to discover that the fantasy was far more pleasant. That could happen now. Lex could lean in and press his lips against hers and there could be... nothing. He realized he wasn't ready to give up the fantasy. Pushing himself up, he reached out to take Hudson's hands, helping her to her feet beside him as he stood, ignoring the flash of confusion in her eyes. "Let's go and see if Dodd has dinner ready. What was it you asked for this time? Spaghetti?" Hudson smiled a little as Lex pulled her along, out of the theatre and towards the kitchen. "Yes. He makes killer meatballs. And garlic bread. Although his sauce could use a little more oregano. I told him that when I got here." Lex glanced back at her, one brow raised in amusement. "You told Dodd that his sauce wasn't perfect? What did he reply?" "I'm not certain." She frowned. "I think it was in German. Or Russian. It certainly didn't sound very Italian." Lex chuckled.
The sauce was better this time, at least according to Hudson as they chatted over dinner in the dining room. Lex hadn't noticed that much of a difference but Hudson had complimented Dodd over the change, and was lucky enough to receive a grunt of acknowledgment in reply. Only one glitch had occurred, and that had been when Lex was served a glass of merlot and Hudson a Coke. She felt it was only fair that if he drank wine, she should be able to have some as well. He had quickly pointed out that he had been there at Thanksgiving to hear her parent's position regarding her consumption of alcohol and he wasn't going to go against their wishes. In protest, Hudson had stubbornly refused to eat. Lex finally gave in, allowing her half a glass. He was very well aware of the fact that the fifteen year old girl/woman seated at his dining room table had him completely twisted around her little finger. "So how come you haven't started decorating?" Hudson plopped unceremoniously onto the leather couch, stretching her long legs out in front of her as she sipped cautiously at the last bit of her wine from dinner. Following her into the study, Lex stopped by the desk to check over his email before finally joining her. His brow furrowed a little. "Decorating? For what?" "Christmas, silly. Sometimes I think you're from another planet, Lex." She couldn't resist. And here she was the alien. "Hudson, I spend 364 days a year trying to think of a good excuse to miss the LuthorCorp Christmas party. Why would I then wish to decorate?" "Because you have to!" Hudson proclaimed, horrified. "It's Christmas! The most wonderful time of the year!" She paused, watching him silently for a moment before asking, "You are coming over to spend Christmas with us, right?" Lex made a face and looked away. Ever since spending Thanksgiving with the Kents, he had been expecting this question. And he had never really decided on an answer in all of the times he considered it. While a part of him longed to experience a real Christmas again - the kind of Christmas he hadn't known since his mother had died - the more realistic side of him knew that none of this would last. Why take the chance of becoming accustomed to a lifestyle he would never lead? Lex knew that Hudson's fascination with being his friend would likely wane over the next year and he would have little more than a passing memory of the brief period that he had been invited into her life. It would be more painful to lose it than to never experience it to begin with. "I know that look, Lex." Hudson set her glass down on the end table and leaned across the couch, catching his gaze. He gave her a half-smile. "And I know that one," he countered. "But batting your lashes at me isn't going to work this time." "I don't bat my lashes!" Hudson protested, reaching up to place her fingertips near her eyelashes in an attempt to see if they were moving any quicker than usual. "I'm not batting my lashes." Lex continued to watch in amusement as she went cross-eyed trying to gauge her lash movement. He reached out and took her hand, pulling it away from her face, holding it between them. When she finally focused her attention back on him, he told her, "I appreciate the invitation, angel. I do. But we both know your parents would rather celebrate the holiday with just the family - no. No protesting that one. I think we pushed your father enough when I stayed for Thanksgiving." "But they would - "
"And you aren't going to ask them either, Hudson," he interrupted, his tone stern. "Do you understand? I don't want you cajoling them into feeling pity for me. I hate that. It's bad enough when you do it." Hudson opened her mouth to deny the accusation but just as quickly closed it. She dropped her gaze and her mouth puckered a little, pouting. It would have been adorable if this discussion weren't so serious. While he appreciated the way she tried to look after him, he couldn't stand being an emotional charity case. He knew he envied Hudson's family-life; he didn't need constant proof that she was aware of it as well. "I love Christmas," Hudson commented finally, her voice soft. "I know you do, angel." Lex smiled and placed a finger under her chin, lifting her eyes back to his. "And you can come over and watch as many Christmas movies as you want. Just don't expect me to share in your enthusiasm, okay?" She nodded a little, and then her eyes widened slightly. "I can still get you a present though, right? Because I found the perfect one and - " Lex was already shaking his head before he interrupted her. "If I can't buy you one, what's make you think I'm going to let you buy one for me?" "I... This... You can't... " Hudson trailed off, shook her head a moment, then stood and paced away from the couch before turning back and throwing her hands up in the air. "This sucks!" Leaning back against the couch, Lex shrugged a little as he glanced up at her. "I've been forced to do a lot of things that go against my nature since I met you, Hudson. Maybe it's time for you to do the same." It was apparent that she wanted to say more but, for the moment, she dropped the subject as she moved back over to the couch and sat beside him. Tucking her legs beneath her, Hudson angled herself to face Lex, staring at the floor before finally raising her gaze to his. He remained silent, waiting to see if his words had made any impact. "Are you excited about the opening of the Talon?" Change of subject. Lex didn't know if he should be impressed or suspicious. "I don't know if `excited' is the term I would use. But I am curious to see what Miss Lang does with it." "I hope you know how much I appreciate your giving her the chance?" Hudson asked, laying her hand over his. "She's been so happy lately. Even with everything that has been happening with Whitney, it's been enough to keep her mind occupied." "I hope she knows what a good friend she has in Hudson Kent," Lex replied, turning his hand beneath hers to hold it. "I admit, I was a little surprised when you pleaded her case with me." Hudson shrugged, drawing shapes on the cushion between them with the fingertips of her free hand. "I think she needs a good friend. And she has been very nice to me lately." "Not to mention the kiss and all."
Glancing up, Hudson threw him a frown. "I never should have told you about that. Is it true that men fantasize about two women together?" Lex smiled. "Who told you that?"


"Should've known," Lex said with humor. "And only if there is the chance that the guy having the fantasy gets to picture himself eventually getting involved in the action." "That was far more information than I needed to hear, Lex." He chuckled. "You asked."
She rolled her eyes before glancing at her watch. "Oops! If I don't get going, I'm going to be late and dad's going to kill me if I don't get at least a B on my biology exam tomorrow. Ugh! Two weeks until Christmas vacation starts. I'm not going to make it." Lex stood with her, walking out of the study towards the front door. "Wait until the day you no longer get Christmas vacation. Or summer vacation. Or spring break... " "Hush!" Hudson admonished, grinning. "That would make me old - like you. And that's never going to happen." "Old?" Lex reached over and pinched her. "Brat." Hudson flashed an effective wince and rubbed the spot. "I was teasing. Geez." "Be careful driving home," Lex told her when they reached the door. "No speeding." "In that old truck? Are you kidding?" She rolled her eyes and leaned up to kiss his cheek. "Thank Dodd for dinner again. And thanks for the movie!" "You're welcome, angel," Lex called out as she bounded down the steps and followed the path to the drive where the Kent truck was parked. Leaning against the door jamb, Lex watched as she climbed into the vehicle, waiting as it roared to life, the lights flickering on and she was making her way down the driveway before he finally closed the door. Turning back down the hall, he found his gaze perusing the walls beside him, picturing them covered in pine boughs and red bows, the scent of Christmas filling the air. Knowing Hudson, she would demand mistletoe and holly and pine-scented candles and bowls of candy canes filling every room. He tried to imagine the front of the castle covered in lights and actually let a chuckle escape at the image. His father would never let him live that one down.

The day had passed much too quickly. Already the sun had long since disappeared below the horizon and soon Hudson would be expected at home. She blamed the day's events on the shortness that seemed to encapsulate it. School, weirdness at the Talon, the stupid class project, that she just knew Chloe was having a blast with. What a way to start a Monday. Yesterday spent with Lex, watching movies and eating spaghetti, had been much more pleasant. Turning her attention back to her companion, Hudson asked, "Ever hitchhiked?" Lana looked up at Hudson with a small frown. "What? When or why would I ever do that?" Hudson shrugged and glanced down the empty road behind them. On one side stood an empty cornfield, its stalks harvested and dying, and on the other side, barren woods, the normally thick shrubs and trees leafless and brown, adding to the desolation of the late autumn evening. It looked like the perfect place to film a horror movie. She and Lana knew this road by heart though, having grown up walking it to and from downtown. They had both probably walked it so often that they could tell by the approaching headlights of cars who was driving them. "It sounds like an adventure, you know? Besides, everyone knows everyone around here. It's not like you'd be kidnapped, murdered and dumped by the roadside." Lana shuddered at the mental image Hudson's words conjured. "That's such a pleasant thought. Thank you for sharing. I'm sure I'll sleep well tonight." She smiled. "Wait until you go camping with me this summer." Hudson nodded. "I know some great ghost stories." "Bugs and ghosts? I'll try not to burst with anticipation." Hudson grinned at Lana's less-than-enthusiastic response to her suggestion. It was a family tradition for the Kents to go camping out by Wilson Lake every summer on Memorial Weekend. Once, Chloe had gone with them. After she woke up to find a nest of Eastern Tent caterpillars, which had fallen onto her sleeping bag during the night, she never went again. Luckily, they didn't have to worry much about bugs at this time of year, especially since it was dark out, and in the summer they would have been eaten alive by mosquitoes by now. The girls had spent dinner at Lana's house where Hudson had plied her with questions for the latest class assignment, which was to write a paper on a random fellow classmate. Hudson had drawn Lana's name and already found it to be an excellent outlet for getting to know her. Her interview had consisted of questions they had never really discussed before, and now she knew the funny little tidbits about her nearest neighbor, like her favorite flavor ice cream was strawberry, her favorite time of year summer, her first crush Brad Pitt. Insignificant pieces of information, but things that friends should know about each other. The whole experience was much less uncomfortable than the one Hudson had walked into at home that afternoon, before heading to Lana's house. Chloe had drawn her name, and while Hudson had no major qualms about her friend writing a paper on her, she knew how Chloe could get. When she discovered her interviewing her parents, she hadn't been shocked so much as resigned. The interesting aspect of it had been her parents' nervousness over it. They had said they didn't want her to ask questions about the adoption, which left Hudson wondering what could be wrong with it. Scratching at her eyebrow that was itching as if a bug were crawling on it, Hudson commented, "I think we should try it sometime." "Camping?" Lana wrinkled her nose as she glanced up at her friend. "Hitchhiking."
"H.C., your parents would kill you."
She shook her head, knowing very well that they wouldn't. Okay, they might have some issues with it but they knew she could take care of herself. There weren't any dangers of being dumped by the roadside for dead. And the chances of being picked up by a scientist out scouting for aliens? Probably not very significant. The most she would get in trouble for would be taking Lana or anyone else with her. Besides, her parent's reactions would be nothing compared to Lex if he found out. Hudson mentally shuddered at the image of what he would have to say regarding such an experiment. There were times that he was more protective of her than her own parents, and that was just wrong. Hudson glanced over at Lana to find her brow furrowed, her gaze focused on nothing in particular ahead of them. The lights from town were just ahead, maybe another half mile from the edge of the cornfield. Lana wanted to do some more quick work at the Talon that night and Hudson had offered to help her. Work had been delayed earlier that afternoon when a man claiming to be an old friend of Lex's had shown up and frightened Lana with a comment he had made regarding staying away from Lex. Knowing that was where her friend's thoughts were now centered, she asked, "Still wondering about that friend of Lex's?" Lana nodded. "It was just kind of creepy is all. I mean, the guy seemed nice enough and sincere and stuff. I don't know. There are just so many questions about Lex and his past. We really don't know him." She flashed a pointed glance at Hudson. "What's there to know? He was a teenager with a very rich daddy." Hudson shrugged, kicking at a rock in the road. "Everyone around here behaves as if Lex was a serial killer in his previous life or something. He's just trying to fit in to a town that has a serious grudge against his last name. Give him a break." "I didn't mean to upset you." Lana reached out and touched her arm. "I just... well, I know how much he means to you and I don't want to see you get hurt." "I'm more worried about Lex right now," Hudson replied, glancing over her shoulder back towards downtown Smallville. "Whoever it was that got into his car and rigged that CD player... It had Lex freaked." "I guess I would be, too." Lana grew silent for a moment as they followed the bend in the road that led them east towards Main Street. She wrapped her arms around her waist protectively against the chilled wind that picked up suddenly. Chewing on her bottom lip, she asked, "Do you think I'm doing the right thing? I mean, going into business with him and all?" Hudson looked over at Lana. "I trust Lex. If there were a danger, he'd tell us. Everything will be fine. I promise." Lana met her eyes and they smiled at each other briefly before returning their attention to the road ahead, continuing on in silence. Mr. Tomlinson, who had a soy and wheat farm on the south side of town, pulled over in his big Ford to ask them if they needed a ride. They declined, saying they didn't have much further to go. A few minutes later, Mrs. Kaye, who was the produce manager at the Piggly Wiggly, pulled over and asked them the same thing. Again, they were grateful but told her it wasn't necessary. Ten minutes later, they crossed the street and stepped up the curb outside of the Talon. "Thanks for helping me out, H.C.," Lana said as she looked back at her. "Everything you've done... I really appreciate it." "How does it feel? To save this place from becoming a parking lot? Save a piece of history?" "Good." Lana nodded, smiled. "Like, maybe I am really accomplishing something, other than just shaking pompoms or taking a class poll." Hudson was about to reply when she heard, what was becoming a familiar sound of a sports car headed down the street at speeds exceeding the posted limits. An unfettered smile broke across her face as Lex pulled up alongside the curb next to them, the headlights winking off as he stepped out of the car. "Lex, what are you doing here?" Lana asked before Hudson could. "The contractor called, saying he had an estimate. Wanted me to meet him here." His eyes flashed over to Hudson and he gave her the barest hint of a smile. She knew he was probably concerned that she would ask him more questions about the incident this afternoon. Lex had told Hudson it didn't concern her, but in her opinion, if it concerned any hint of danger to her friend, then it did concern her. She had no proof that he was in any kind of danger but someone breaking into your car to pull a stunt like that was, at the very least, a minor threat. Not to mention, Hudson didn't like the fact that Lex was keeping something from her. Lana unlocked the front doors and they walked in together, Lex following behind. As the lights came on, they saw the contractor sprawled out on the floor. "What the hell?" Lex asked.
Hudson and Lana hurried over to his side, Lana reaching him first. "Are you okay?" He sat up, rubbing at the back of his head and glancing around in a daze. There was a small stream of blood over his forehead. "Yeah. I-I came in the back door and some guy jumped me and forced me to let him in, then bashed me over the head." Frowning, Hudson asked, "Did you see his face?" "No."
Rising to her feet, Hudson glanced around, searching for anything that seemed out of the ordinary. First there was the warning to Lana about working with Lex, then the music with the strange screams in Lex's car, now this. She wasn't certain which of her friends was in danger but she planned on making certain nothing happened to either of them. That was when she noticed the box on the bar counter. It looked like a big hatbox, with a fancy bow over the lid. It could have been anything. Blinking once, Hudson narrowed her gaze and scanned through the box to see what was inside, taking no chances at to whether or not it could be hazardous. Her eyes widened when she realized what it encased. "Look," Lana commented, pointing towards the box. "That wasn't there when I locked up." Hudson moved a little in front of her, so that she wouldn't go near it. "Maybe you should go call the police," she suggested. Lana nodded and hurried off.
Moving a little closer, Hudson noticed a card attached to it, Lex's name scrawled across it. "Lex, your name's on it." She couldn't help but wonder if he knew who the contents inside of it belonged to. Lex walked over to the counter, lifting the envelope off of the box and opening it. Hudson stayed close beside him, noting the quick blanch in his expression. "Zero consequences," he muttered.
Hudson made a face, leaning in to get a look at the card he held. It was blue with a big zero and the words `zero consequences' written across it. She wasn't certain what it meant or what it had to do with the contents of the box. Worrying her lower lip, she continued to watch Lex silently as he lifted the lid, thankful for the moment of her x-ray vision so that she wasn't as shocked as he apparently was by the sight of the severed human hand lying amidst the tissue. Still, she had never seen anything quite like it, couldn't imagine anyone doing something like that outside of some mobster film and found that she had to look away quickly. Focusing on Lex, who she had never seen quite so shaken up before, she stepped closer to him, putting her hand against his back and pushing him a little away from the box. "Lana's calling the police," she reminded him quietly, mentally reiterating to herself not to look. "Let's just sit down and wait for them." Lex nodded a little, letting her guide him, running a hand over his scalp. She tried to steer him to sit down but he moved away, shook his head in a quick motion, signaling that she wasn't going to get him to do something he didn't feel like doing. Instead, he paced near the wall, his gaze occasionally flashing back over to the bar, his eyes dark, weary. Hudson had a million questions running through her mind but she knew now wasn't the time. Lex was worked up; his hands were twitching and clenching near his pockets. She knew he hated inaction as much as she did, though it was something they had never discussed. Patience and control were things to cherish, to be proud of; she knew she possessed neither. Deep inside, Lex possessed even less. "The sheriff is on his way," Lana announced as she reentered the room, her gaze sweeping over them for a moment before coming to rest on the opened box. "What's in - " "You don't want to know," Hudson warned her, shaking her head. "Trust me. Just... wait until the sheriff gets here." Lana frowned but nodded in understanding before sitting down to wait. By the time the sheriff and his deputies arrived, Lex had worked himself into quite a state. They all answered questions while the police filled out their reports. Lana had called her aunt to apprise her of the situation and Nell had driven in to town to pick Lana up and direct her own questions to Lex. As per usual, he was able to dance around the questions effectively, in such a way that Nell left believing she received the answers she had sought when really, he hadn't told her anything. Before her arrival, Hudson had gotten the answers she had needed -- all of which had done little more than create more questions. Even though she could have ridden home with Nell and Lana, Hudson chose to ride with Lex instead, hoping for more answers and maybe to calm him. She'd never seen him so upset before, which frightened her more than the appearance of the hand in the box or the words spoken to Lana by Jude Royce earlier that day. Generally, no matter what the situation, Lex rarely showed fear. Hudson could only remember two times that she had actually seen Lex so fearful - when he and Earl Jenkins had been hanging from the catwalk at the plant, and the day that Cassandra Carver had died. She hadn't enjoyed seeing him in such a state either of those times, and she didn't enjoy it now. Watching him surreptitiously in a sidelong glance, the dashboard lights casting a greenish glow over his skin, Hudson finally asked quietly, "Do you want to talk about it?" Lex's brow furrowed, his gaze narrowing. "No." His response was clipped, quick. Hudson sighed, and kicked at the floorboard. "Lex, whatever you're involved in... there was a man's hand in that box! A man that you know - " "I'm very well aware of that, Hudson!" Lex snapped, shifting the gears angrily as the Porsche sped along the dark country road. "I don't want to talk about it. I don't want you asking about it. Just... stay out of it." Biting her cheek to keep from retorting back, Hudson turned her gaze out the window, staring at the reflection of the dashboard lights and her own eyes in the darkness. She tapped her teeth together for a few moments as the silence stretched between them, trying very hard to keep from begging Lex to let her in. She knew she had no right to demand anything from him, not when she kept so many secrets of her own, but that still didn't quell the desire. They reached the farm before Hudson could think to say any more to the man sitting tensely beside her. By the time he brought the car to a halt in front of the house, she had worked up the courage to turn her gaze back to him and try one more time. "Lex, I just want to help."
His hands gripped the steering wheel for a moment before he finally brought his eyes around to meet hers. His expression softened just a bit. "I know you do, angel. But really, there's nothing you can do. I don't know what's going on but... don't worry about it, all right?" He nodded towards the house. "Go on. It's late." Knowing that was the best she was going to get out of him for the night, Hudson leaned over and kissed his cheek. "If you need anything - " Lex sighed but gave her a small smile. "I know." "Goodnight."
Sliding out of the car, Hudson shut the door behind her, then watched as Lex backed down the drive, spun the car around and raced back onto the road and out of sight. Her thoughts traveled back to the conversation she'd had with Lana regarding knowing nothing about Lex's past. It occurred to her that there was a reason she didn't know much - he didn't want her to. And how was she not supposed to be suspicious when he was holding it all in like some great mystery?
Hudson was holding Lex.
She was clutching him tightly in her arms as they sailed through the blue sky, attempting to protect him from the chill from being so far above the earth. He was silent and still against her, his body tense, his jaw clenching. It had been close this time. Very, very close. "You can end this, you know." His voice sounded loud in the stillness of the air around them. So demanding. "You can end this now." Hudson stared ahead, off into the distance where the spires of Metropolis awaited them. "I'm sick of this." He finally turned to look at her - really look at her like he hadn't done in years. "I'm tired. This pain... make it stop." "I can't... I won't do what you are asking. You know I won't." "Why?" Lex's eyes were pleading. "Why can't you just let go?" "It isn't that easy."

"You're holding on too tight. Only you have the power to end it. Just let go. Please? For me, for what we once were, for what I once meant to you - let go!" And she did.
Opened her arms and he fell away from her and she stopped and she hovered there, watching as Lex fell. Only silence drifted up to meet her. Lex would never concede defeat to her, not even in death, not even when he was plunging thousands of feet to the earth, would he give her that much. She could feel his eyes, feel him watching her as he fell, and knew that he thought this was victory. Perhaps his greatest yet. He knew he was killing her. Killing them... "Lex!"
Hudson opened her eyes, expecting to see Lex falling beneath her but found only her bed. Beneath her. A few feet beneath her. She let out a screech just as she fell, hard enough against the mattress that she heard a snap and the foot half of the bed frame collapsed to the floor with a loud bang. Scrambling to hold on to the mattress so that she didn't slide to the floor, Hudson lay there for a moment, staring in disbelief at her pillow, wondering what the hell. "H.C.?" She heard her mother yell up from downstairs. "Is everything all right up there?" "Er... Yeah, mom. Just... knocked some books off the shelf. Sorry!" "Hurry up or you're going to miss the bus again!" "Okay."
Hudson continued to lie there for the next few minutes, trying to process both what the dream had meant and why she had been floating four feet above her bed. Lines from `Ghostbusters' flitted through her mind and she mentally batted them away, reminding herself that she wasn't a demon. Just an alien. Who apparently floated.
How was she supposed to explain this one to her parents? Finally climbing out of bed, she stood and stared at the broken frame for a full minute, figuring she would fix it when she got home and her parents were outside doing chores. Her mother usually never entered her bedroom without proper warning. Speeding through her shower and dressing, Hudson hurried downstairs, ate her breakfast, missed her bus and sped her way to school. It was already promising to be `one of those days' and she hadn't even started her quest to discover what was going on with Lex yet. She suffered through her first two classes before she finally had a chance to sneak off to the Torch office and get on the internet. Typing the words `zero consequences' into Google, she searched through the returns until she found one site linking to a club in Metropolis. Taking a chance, she clicked on it, reading all about a popular nightclub called Club Zero which had used `Zero consequences' as it's slogan. Hudson found herself smiling; it was just the type of place she pictured Lex hanging out at. Changing her search terms in Google, she entered Club Zero and found article after article from both the Daily Planet and the Inquisitor on different happenings that had occurred at the nightclub. Narrowing her search, she entered Max Kasitch and Club Zero and finally found the name Jude Royce, which caused her to realize she found exactly what she had been looking for. Well, not exactly. She discovered that there were still holes to be filled as she read through the article. Hitting the print button, she closed down the window and waited for the paper to feed through the printer just as Pete and Chloe entered the office. "Now as kind as that sounds, Pete, I really don't think that falls into the `something amazing' test." Hudson frowned at the strange conversation her friends appeared to be having. "What test?" Had she missed an upcoming test in one of their classes? Chloe just flashed her a smile.
"I'm not finished," Pete told her. "H.C. didn't just push Brain Dead away, she put him through a door - as in splinters and broken hinges. How she did it, I still have no idea. That guy was at least twice our size." Hudson shifted uncomfortably as Chloe asked, "H.C., any comments?" Giving them both a small smile, she replied, "Uh... well, we were, you know, six years old. And girls grow faster. He was twice your size, Pete, which was like three feet tall. I was three feet and a half." Pete chuckled before turning back to Chloe. "If you need any more ancient history, ask the source. I've got an appointment at the student store." He made a face, his displeasure at being stuck with Stan Gibson, manager of the student store, readily apparent. Chloe made a sympathetic sound. "Have fun," she called out as he left. Turning her attention back to Hudson, she announced, "And so the mystery that isn't Hudson Clark Kent deepens." "Mystery?" Hudson frowned, fingering the article that had finished printing. "Yeah." Chloe nodded as she moved past Hudson. "Since you continue to play obstructionist, I've had to find information through other means." She picked up a blue green folder and flipped it open, her manner growing more excited as she continued to speak, "For instance, I found that your adoption was done through Metropolis United Charities. But this is the strange part. They were only in business for six months! And from what I can tell, yours is the only adoption they handled." So that was what her parents had meant yesterday when they told her they didn't want Chloe to begin asking questions about the adoption. As much as they said everything was legal and in order, there were obviously still loopholes that had been created to make certain Hudson was an actual person and not just a child they found in a cornfield. Why did Chloe have to be the one to write a biography on her? She adored her friend but she knew how tenacious she was when it came to a story. They could have been killed in that supposedly haunted house they had traipsed through on Halloween. Hudson knew that once Chloe caught the scent of a cover up, she wouldn't let go until she had all of the answers. And this story simply included answers she couldn't allow Chloe to find. Why were her friends so damn complicated? She had enough on her mind with whatever was happening to Lex without needing to run interference on her own little secrets from a student reporter. Not to mention that now she had her own questions she planned on posing to her parents. "I can't believe you did this, Chloe." Hudson glared at the folder in her hands, wishing she could just ignite it into flames. Chloe's enthusiasm evaporated as she stared up at Hudson. "You... didn't know? I just... assumed that your parents told you. I mean, weren't you interested?" She cocked her head to the side in confusion. Hudson bit the inside of her cheek to keep from screaming at her friend like she wanted to. Why couldn't things just be simple? Why did her life consist of one lie after another? "Why would I be?" She demanded. "My biological parents are either dead or didn't want me. The point is, you're prying into my private life."

"I'm sorry, H.C. I was just trying to be thorough." "This is homework, nothing more!" Hudson snapped. "I spent an hour yesterday with Lana. That's it! That's all I needed." Ignoring the pained expression on Chloe's face, Hudson added, "I'm not some mystery for you to solve." "H.C., I just... "
Ignoring her friend's attempted explanation, Hudson grabbed her coat and headed out of the office, focusing on the piece of paper in her hands, and not the questions building up in her mind regarding the legalities of her adoption.

Lex waited until Raines, the head of his security, disappeared out the back door of the gym before he returned to his workout. It was all he could do to keep his mind occupied, to keep from working over in his mind again and again what was going on around him. The appearance of someone referring to themselves as Jude Royce, Kasitch showing up claiming that Jude was stalking him, Kasitch's hand... Lex threw an uncontrolled punch into the bag in front of him, wincing a little as the shock of it echoed through to his elbow. What the fuck was going on? And where was Amanda? Usually his security was much better at tracking people down. Perhaps, after that night three years ago, Amanda had thought it best to change her identity, move far away just to protect herself. Lex had hoped she would have understood that he would have done anything to keep her safe. No one was going to come after her. No one was ever going to know the truth. Amanda deserved better than that. She deserved... better than what she had gone through. If only he could have done more for her. In the end, it had only been his father's money that had been able to protect her and apparently, that wasn't enough. Would whoever had been stalking Kasitch, and now Lex, go after Amanda next? Lex's thoughts returned to that night, after the shooting, when Phalen had shown up to take care of the situation. Still a little nave to how far his father's influence stretched, Lex had been baffled as to how the detective could have kept his name and part in the shooting out of the papers. Luckily it had been dark, people had been too wrapped up in dancing and drinking and drugs and sex to witness what had truly occurred. Now that Kasitch was missing, and most likely dead, there were only two people left in this world who knew the truth of how the events had taken place. And Lex had to do whatever he could to make certain Amanda stayed safe. Of course, that was a difficult thing to do when one was dead. Which Lex was certain was about to happen the moment he felt the cool metal of a gun barrel placed against the back of his neck. He'd felt the sensation before; he knew it well. Sucking in a sharp breath, Lex turned around slowly to face his assailant, shock pulsing through him as he recognized the face. He was proud of how well he hid it, the calm he forced to settle over his nerves -- which were stretched taut, even with the gun that was pointed at him. "Nothing to say?" The man who wore Jude Royce's face smiled at him, stepped closer, gun aimed just below his chin. "I thought Lex Luthor had all of the answers." Lex swallowed as it pressed into his skin. "Look, you twisted son of a bitch." Bravado, Lex, that was the way to go! "I don't know what you want - " "I want to know what happened at Club Zero!" He demanded, pressing the gun more insistently. "The cover up." Lex thought maybe his heart would pound right through his chest. There was a crazy man holding a gun against his throat and he had only to twitch his finger against the trigger to end any speculation Lex might have as to where Amanda was. In fact, it would pretty much end anything. The problem was, Lex had no idea who this person was - Jude was dead, he saw it with his own eyes - or where any of this was going. He chose to remain silent, hoping it was the right course of action. The man who wasn't Jude Royce, but seemed to believe he was, stepped closer, almost caressing the gun against his neck, his gloved fingers moving over Lex's shoulder as he spoke. "You know the cop? Hmmm? The one on the report, Phelan. He's dead." He reached up and touched Lex's chin, stroking it too intimately, smiling while he did so. "It seems you were somehow involved in that, too. I find that very interesting." It was amazing what self-control could do for a person - Lex hated being pawed at. It angered him, set him on edge. Made him do stupid things like tell the man with a gun to his head, "Why don't you kill me now?" The impostor seemed to find a lack of a response at first, and Lex realized that maybe he shouldn't have taunted someone who very obviously appeared a little off kilter. "Because, uh, it's fun to watch you suffer?" His assailant finally replied, smiling as if pleased with his answer. If possible, Lex thought the beat of his heart was moving even faster. Getting even more involved in his role of tormentor, the false Jude continued, "Knowing that at any moment - bang!" He shouted, shoving the gun against Lex's temple. Lex winced. He tried to stop himself from doing so but it was very possible that the gun pointed at his head could go off at any moment. And there was nothing he could do about it. "Tell me," he continued as he took a step back, pointing the gun directly at Lex and cocking it. "What really happened." "Lex!"
At the sound of Hudson's voice, Lex glanced toward the door, wondering how she always seemed to know when he needed her most. Was she psychic? Did she have him bugged? His father's security wasn't as accurate as she was. He was about to tell her to stay away, when he turned back to find Jude Royce's impostor nowhere in sight. Inwardly, he felt a sigh of relief move through him even as he scanned the gym, searching for his assailant. "Lex, are you all right?" Hudson asked, her tone one of concern. Finally certain that they were indeed alone, that no gun-toting maniac was going to jump out of the shadows and fire, Lex turned to face his visitor-cum-rescuer. "Hudson, what're you doing here?" She appeared confused for a moment, searching for a reply, shuffling her feet and the paper she held in her hands before she gave him a half-smile. "Your office told me you were here." Lex didn't say anything, was still trying to catch his breath, slow his heartbeat back to a normal rhythm. He hated feeling this out of control, knew he needed to be alone to regroup, think, figure out what was going on and who the hell was stalking him. Hudson's eyes moved over him and Lex thought she was probably a little surprised at his appearance, at least he hoped that was why she was staring at him. He'd never worn sweats around her before. "I thought I heard someone else," she commented. Fuck. Lex grasped at a level of calm, schooling his features into a mask of boredom. "No. I'm all by myself." Removing his gloves, he moved away from her, walking over to a bench beside the boxing ring and sat down. His chest still hurt from the pounding his heart had given it. Grabbing a towel to wipe the sweat from his hands and face, Lex glanced up as Hudson walked over to stand in front of him. "I looked up Max Kasitch," she commented. "I know what happened at Club Zero." Lex felt his jaw clench.
"He shot and killed Jude Royce. Everyone fits into this except for you. What's going on?" He wanted to snap at her for getting involved in something that was dangerous. As sweet as it was that she was trying to look out for him, it pissed Lex off to no end that she was involving herself where she shouldn't. Glancing up at her, he told her, "Please, angel. For our friendship, I'm asking you to stay out of this. Some secrets are better left alone." Hudson looked ready to argue and Lex wouldn't have been at all surprised had she done so. Surprisingly, she let it go, dropping her gaze for a moment to the paper she held in her hands before finally folding it and placing it in the back pocket of her jeans. Lex picked up his water bottle, taking a swallow while he watched her. She glanced around the gym, apparently stalling for time while she searched for something to say. Not letting her off the hook, Lex remained silent. "So, uh, you work out often?"
Lex's gaze narrowed for a moment before he shrugged. "When I need to think, clear my head." She looked back over at him, grinned, nodding her head towards his shirt. "And get sweaty. I thought Luthors never sweat." "We don't." Lex stood back up and took a step closer to her. "We perspire." "Elegantly." She nodded, smiling, laughing at him with her eyes. Lex returned the smile. "Shouldn't you be at school?" Hudson shrugged, suddenly unable to meet his eyes, she scooted around him to the bench he had just vacated and slipped off her jacket. Apparently, she planned on staying awhile. She picked up one of his gloves, examining it as she answered, "I'm skipping sixth period. No biggie. It's just Agriculture. I could pass that in my sleep." "I'm sure your parents would be pleased to hear it," Lex commented ironically. "Oh, like they never skipped class." She looked up at him, as if about to say something else, then returned her attention to the glove, which she slipped her hand into. "What're we going to watch this Sunday?" "Not Disney."
Hudson laughed, slipping on the other glove. She tapped the fists together for a moment in rhythm. "Okay then, you pick." Lex took another swig of his water while he watched her. "T2, Special Edition," he finally suggested. "In a destructive mood, are we?" She looked up at him and smiled before rising to her feet. She made a few very uncoordinated jabs in the air. "If you actually hit someone like that, you would more than likely hurt yourself worse than them, you know," Lex commented, frowning at her movements. Hudson flashed him what he could only interpret as a disbelieving expression. "Since when did you become Muhammad Ali?" Ignoring her sarcasm, Lex waved her over to the punching bag before grabbing the collar of his sweatshirt and lifting it up and over his head. Wiping the remaining sweat from his bare chest, he tossed the shirt aside and said, "I'm serious. C'mere." Hudson stared at him. "What're you doing?" "I'm hot." He waved at her impatiently. Watching him as if not quite certain whether or not she should trust him, Hudson finally moved over to join Lex by the punching bag. Placing his hands on her hips, and thinking to himself that there couldn't be a better way to momentarily forget about his problems, Lex pushed her into position just in front of it. "Space your feet apart." He kicked at the back of her heels until her feet were just where she wanted him, ignoring the look she gave him over her shoulder. Reaching out to grab her wrists, he lifted her arms up in front of her, holding them in place, one higher and closer to her, the other just in front and beneath it. "Always protect your face." Hudson hit the bag, again awkwardly, barely causing it to move. Her entire body had been tense and Lex thought she had to have felt that hit in her shoulder. Moving closer to her, his body against the back of hers, Lex wondered if this wasn't maybe the dumbest idea he'd had in a long time. He could only hope that there was enough on his mind at the moment to keep his body occupied and not respond to the tight ass his hips were pressing into or the soft, dark hair that was tickling his chin. He reached a hand up and gathered the strands together, pushing them over her right shoulder as he leaned his head closer to her left ear. "Put your body into it," Lex told her, noting that she was watching him out of the corner of her eye. He turned his own gaze back to the bag, his hands taking hold of her wrists once more, maneuvering the right arm forward slowly in the proper motion. "Turn your right hip into it," he instructed, pushing against her, his thigh guiding her. "Step into the punch. The strength should come from your whole body, not just your arm." "Ummm... okay."
Stepping to the side, Lex watched quietly while she took a few more jabs, her motions and follow through much better but the strength still lacking. He caught her glancing over at him and he offered an encouraging smile, nodding for her to continue, even while he knew she shouldn't have been there, should be sitting safely in school or home on the farm. He told her to stay out of his business, for safety's sake, yet kept her close, kept her within harm's reach because he was too selfish not to. Lex tried to convince himself he was doing so because he could protect her better if she was nearby but in reality, that reasoning was a load of shit and he knew it. Besides, his track record for protecting people wasn't exactly stellar lately. Deep inside, Lex knew that he unconsciously compared Hudson to Amanda. Both were sweet, beautiful young women who saw too much good in people to ever see the bad. He had thought he could show Amanda that she couldn't trust people, even those she loved, and make her a stronger, better person for it. His own jaded outlook on the world around him had gotten in the way of his better judgment. In the end, someone like Amanda would have been better off continuing to view the world around her through blinders, happier not knowing, than ever knowing the truth. Now that he understood the difference, Lex planned on never letting Hudson see the world for the hurtful, dangerous place that it could truly be. "How was that?" Hudson stepped back from the bag, looking at him expectantly. Bringing himself back to the present, Lex shrugged. "There's still no force to it. Let's just hope you never have to actually hit anyone and mean it." Hudson frowned, her gaze dropping to his chest. She seemed to be staring for quite some time, until Lex was ready to tease her about having never seen a man's chest before, then she looked back up at him. "I can hit." "It's nothing to get defensive over." Lex gave her a small smile. "Let's just hope you never have to defend yourself." Turning back to the bag, Hudson took a few more jabs at it, this time causing it to move with a little more force than before. She glanced over at Lex for apparent approval. Realizing that nothing riled her more than being bad at something, Lex just kind of shrugged. "Maybe your heart isn't in it," he suggested teasingly. Returning to her, he pressed himself back into position against her, his hands settling at her waist. Her sweater was slightly rough against his skin but he found that teasing a teenage girl who wore her emotions for all to see, was much too fun to worry about discomfort. Lex rubbed against her a little, chest and stomach against her back, and he felt her body tense. Dropping his hands to her hips, he pushed forward with her once more toward the bag, sinking into the movement. "Put some force into it this time," he whispered into her ear. "Do it like you mean it." Hudson slammed her arm forward and the chain holding the bag snapped with a loud `Chink!', the bag sailing into the shelf behind it, everything clattering to the floor - medicine balls, weights, gloves. Lex took a step back, staring in shock, his eyes drifting upwards to the ceiling where the bolts were half hanging out of the plaster. Slowly, he brought his gaze around to Hudson, who had already stripped the gloves from her hands and was glancing furtively at the bag and shelf. "Hudson - "
"Must've been rusted." She nodded quickly, turning to grab her coat and backpack. "You should be more careful in a place like this. Whole building could come tumbling down around you or something. Holy cow! I didn't realize how late it was. My chores will never get done at this rate!" "Hudson - "
"Talk to you later, Lex! Thanks for the boxing lesson!" Lex stared after her as she darted around the corner and out the door before turning his gaze back to the damage before him, his eyes moving from the bag to the dangling hook in the ceiling. Rusted, his ass!
They were just cows.
But the problem was, they weren't. Not really. There wasn't an animal on the Kent farm that didn't have a name. Hudson knew them all by heart, could describe the distinct personality of each, what they looked like down to markings and scars. And in the spring they were supposed to have calves, babies that she would show at the State Fair and they would sell well, bringing in money for the farm. And a few they would keep and raise and Hudson would treat them like pets, just as she did all of the other animals - the horses, cats, chickens. And the cows. Except, now there weren't any cows. And it was really, really hard not to blame Lex. Maybe not Lex specifically but, in the end, it was because of him that this had happened. Hudson was just having trouble understanding the whys and hows of the entire situation. It was difficult to do when the person most deeply mired in the happenings wouldn't tell her a damn thing. "Hudson, this really doesn't concern you." Well, it did now. And Hudson planned on getting to the bottom of whatever happened at Club Zero with Jude Royce and how Lex was a part of it all. That was, once she was able to locate him. She hadn't been very understanding or nice when Lex had showed up at the farm to deal with the chemical waste that had been dumped on their land and killed the herd. Hudson had allowed her upset and anger to be directed at him and typically, such behavior only resulted in her friend closing up and becoming defensive, quiet and withdrawn. Sometimes she likened it to kicking a puppy repeatedly, though she would never admit as much to Lex. She doubted his pride could withstand such a comparison. "Please, Hudson, I'm asking you for our friendship to stay out of this." Only she couldn't. Because they were friends. "I'm sorry but Mr. Luthor hasn't been back to the office since he left to deal with the situation at your farm this morning, Miss Kent," Suzanne's voice was telling her over the phone. "He hasn't checked in. Have you tried his home?" "Three times," Hudson replied. "Isn't anyone there a little worried as to where he has disappeared to?" "Not really. This wouldn't be the first time Mr. Luthor has simply disappeared for the day. I'm sorry, Miss Kent, but you'll just have to leave him a message." Hudson sighed, glancing up as her mother walked into the kitchen. "All right. If you hear from him, have him call me, okay?" "I will. Have a nice day, Miss Kent." The phone clicked. Have a nice day? Hudson frowned at the phone in her hand, wondering when the last time was that Lex had checked his employees for drug use. "Who was that?" Martha asked as she moved over to the sink. "Lex's secretary. I've been trying to find him but no one seems to know where he is. He's not at the office, not at the mansion, his phone keeps going to voicemail... " Hudson sighed as she worried her lower lip and finally slipped the phone back into its cradle. "Where's dad?" "Still supervising the removal of the cows." "But I thought Mr. Sullivan said that LuthorCorp would take care of that." Martha shook her head as she leaned against the counter and glanced up at her daughter. "It's more than just who is going to take care of what, H.C. We don't know what kind of health risk this could pose to us or our neighbors. Your father wants to be a part of everything - and allow Lex and LuthorCorp as little hand in it as possible. They've done enough." "But this isn't Lex's fault," Hudson defended quickly. She moved across the kitchen to grab the article she had printed off at school. "I think someone is trying to set him up because of something that happened at this nightclub. Look." Martha took the sheet of paper from her daughter, her gaze scanning the headline, which read `Death at Club Zero' above a picture of a smiling young man. She sighed and reached up to rub at a temple. "H.C, until this is cleared up, I don't think you should - " "Mom, Lex has always been a good friend to me," Hudson broke in, knowing what her mother was going to say. "He would never allow any harm to come to me." "I know that, H.C. I'm usually the one who defends him." Her mother looked back up at her. "But there are some things in his past that are a little shady." Hudson frowned and took the article from her, staring at it for a moment before raising her gaze back up. "I thought you always taught me not to judge a person by their past." Turning to fix a fresh pot of coffee, Martha replied, "H.C., I grew up in Metropolis. I know the Luthor world. It looks glamorous and fun but the kids grow up too fast and they can get into trouble. Whatever Lex is going through right now is starting to affect you and our family. Body parts in boxes and poisoned cows? This isn't normal." Smiling a little, Hudson commented, "What part of my life has ever been normal, mom? In fact, considering some of the things I've been witness to lately, I would say this all sounds a little more like an episode of `Homicide' and a little less like an episode of `X-Files." Her mother found a small smile at that. "We don't want to see you get hurt, honey." "I won't cut him out of my life, mom."
Martha nodded and glanced out the window. "I know. Just... be careful. I'm not so much worried about Lex as I am the people he could introduce to you." "Don't worry." Hudson leaned over and kissed her mom's cheek reassuringly before turning to head outside and get some of her chores done. "H.C.?"
"Yeah?" She turned back to glance at her mother. "Your father... " She trailed off and looked back at the coffee pot before bringing her gaze back to her daughters. "I just think it would be best if Lex stayed away from the farm for a while. I know this isn't his fault but... just until your father cools down." Frowning, Hudson nodded and let the door close behind her as she moved down the steps toward the barn, article still in hand. She knew she would worry about Lex until she heard from him, which would make concentrating on chores difficult. Luckily, none of it could hurt her so she wasn't too worried about her mind wandering. Glancing down at the paper again, she tried to put the pieces of the puzzle together but there were too many still missing. According to the article, the man in the picture was Jude Royce, and he had been killed by a gunshot fired by a security man at Club Zero. So if Jude Royce was dead, who was the guy who had shown up at the Talon and filled out the application for assistant manager as Jude Royce? Was he the same person who had cut off and sent the hand of Max Kasitch, who had apparently been the one who pulled the trigger and killed Jude? And just how the hell did Lex, who wasn't mentioned in the article at all, fit into it? Glancing up at the thunderclouds gathering in the sky above, Hudson thought the coming storm was perfectly appropriate for her mood. She worked in the barn for the next hour, tending to little projects that she had always put off because they seemed more like busy work than anything that took actual thought. Her mind was just too wired to concentrate on much more than oiling some of the machinery, changing light bulbs and separating screws into labeled jars. Twice she had to keep herself from going back into the house and trying to call Lex again. She had to remind herself that he would call her when he had the chance. He had a busy life and didn't need her constantly checking up on him. "Can I talk to you for a second?"
At the sound of Chloe's voice, Hudson rolled her eyes. That was all she needed. Without answering, she stood and started up the loft, hoping her friend would catch a clue and leave her alone. Chloe's footsteps up the stairs behind her signaled that such a wish wasn't going to happen. "How're you doing?" "That depends if it's on the record or not," Hudson snapped, wondering for a moment if this was how Lex felt when she pried into his life. "Okay, I deserved that," Chloe conceded behind her. "I didn't mean to ambush you with the whole adoption agency thing. Hudson shrugged. "Hey, you saw a story and went right for it. That's what journalists do." She could only imagine what her friend would do if she knew why the adoption was so sketchy. "You're right." Chloe came to a stop beside Hudson and looked up at her. "I let my whole desire to be true to my future profession cloud my judgment without thinking how it might hurt you. H.C., your friendship to me is much more important than any of this. So, I'm dropping the whole thing, and asking you to forgive me, please?" Worrying her lower lip, Hudson turned her gaze to Chloe, seeing the sincerity in her friend's eyes. She smiled a little. "I forgive you, Chloe. And, thank you." The relief flashed across Chloe's face and she quickly threw her arms around Hudson. They hugged one another tightly and laughed a little before pulling back. "Wow, our first fight," Hudson commented. "And I hope our last." Chloe nodded, glancing between them. "Can I... can I ask you a question?" At Hudson's look she gave her a reassuring smile. "Totally off the record." Hudson returned her smile and nodded.
"Do you ever... wonder about your biological parents?" The myriad of questions flew through Hudson's mind: who were they? Where were they from? Why did they send her here? Why didn't they want her? Were they coming for her some day? "Every day of my life," Hudson replied quietly. Chloe nodded and reached out to touch her arm, squeezing it a little, maybe in apology for asking, maybe in sympathy for answers she might never find. In an apparent attempt to change the subject, Chloe turned to the work desk, looking over some of the items Hudson had been fiddling with when she picked up the article on the shooting at Club Zero. She read it over briefly before commenting, "Looks like I'm not the only one doing some digging. What's Club Zero?" "Part of Lex's past he asked me to stay out of," Hudson replied with a wry smile. Chloe raised an eyebrow. "Boy, the irony is so thick in here you could cut it with a knife." Hudson just grinned.
"Oh, by the way!" Chloe set the article down and began digging through her bag. "I brought by some pictures for your parents. I figured they could use it for insurance purposes and stuff." She handed the bundle over to Hudson. "I'll see you later. I've got some stuff to finish up at the Torch." "See ya." Hudson began flipping through the photos when a picture caught her eye. "Chloe!" She called out before her friend could reach the steps. She grabbed the article with the picture of Jude Royce and held it up to the photo Chloe had just handed her. "It's the same guy." Chloe hurried back over to her side, peering at the matching photos. "What... but he's - " "Dead," Hudson finished, panic sweeping over her. Dammit, Lex, she thought. What have you gotten yourself into this time?
Hudson tried to remain calm as she sped towards Metropolis, carefully avoiding main roads and the very busy I-70. She'd made this trip a few times over the past few years and had become familiar with the safest route to take. She knew she had to do better with her concentration, or she was liable to run into a cow or a displaced combine, but her thoughts kept returning to Lex and the very real danger he could be in at that very moment. After discovering the matching pictures of Jude Royce, they had hurried to the Torch together to see what other information Chloe might be able to discover. Hudson had spent her time on the phone, checking in with Lex's office and his voicemail again, while her friend worked on the internet. Before long, the intrepid reporter had come through, complete with address and license plates for the mysterious CEP agent who was registered under the unimaginative name of John Smith. That had been enough to set alarms off in Hudson's head and she had instructed Chloe to call the Metropolis PD and send them to the address on the sheet as she hurried off to locate Lex. Truthfully, she had no idea where to begin. Not only was Metropolis enormous, Hudson knew very little of it except for the Plaza district where she went shopping each year at Christmas with her mom. It was raining by the time she reached the city limits, soaking through her clothes and she thought if she found Lex in some swanky restaurant, eating hot food and flirting with beautiful women, she would beat his head in. Right after she kissed him senseless. Slowing to a walk, she glanced around, searching for a gas station or somewhere she could ask about the address she remembered from the sheet Chloe had printed out. She finally approached an old man waiting at a bus stop, asking where she could find 3915 Cypress Street. He pointed and she listened, nodding encouragingly, wishing he would articulate the directions a little more quickly but not wanting to be rude. Finally, having all she needed to know, Hudson jogged away from him, rounding a corner where she glanced around to make certain no one was watching, then sped away once more, following the directions she had been given. When she reached Cypress, the police and a coroner's truck were parked out in front of the address, signaling that Chloe had made her call. Hudson frowned, wondering if they always worked this fast or if they simply knew she was coming. It made it difficult to do any investigating on her own, especially with the small crowd of onlookers that were gathered just beyond the barricade. Releasing a pent up breath, she glanced around the premises until her gaze lighted on the gurney that was slowly being wheeled out from the front door, a body bag resting over it. Refusing to panic, she focused her gaze in trepidation to search past the bag to the body inside. When she made note of the missing right hand, she felt an overwhelming sense of relief, mixed with pity for the poor man known as Max Kasitch. It wasn't Lex. Which meant he was still out there, needing to be found. Pulling back, Hudson caught the eye of a police officer who was moving past the barricade. She pushed through the crowd to talk to him. "Excuse me?" The officer turned to glance back at her and she took that as encouragement to continue. "Did you find anyone else in there?" The question was painful, beyond difficult to ask, but she had somehow got it out. The officer shook his head and Hudson sighed in relief before asking, "Do you know where I can find Club Zero?" "You're six months too late, miss," he replied, regarding her a little curiously. Hudson frowned. "What do you mean?"
"Well, it closed down," the officer informed her. "It was an old warehouse on 78th and Main." Okay. She knew where Main Street was. Stepping away from the crowd, Hudson broke into a sprint, disappearing between two buildings before she allowed herself to fall into her superspeed east toward Main. Unfortunately, she passed 78th and didn't notice until 85th that she had missed it. Slowing, she turned back around, glancing around at the abandoned warehouses and buildings surrounding her, realizing she wasn't far from the Bottoms where the haunted houses were located. Running back up Main, she found 78th, and discovered three of the four corners housed old warehouses. The fourth corner was just an empty lot. Hudson searched for any outward signs that she was in the right place, but each building looked the same - very little in the way of windows, the doors boarded up, plaster falling, paint peeling. Knowing she had no option left but to search each of them, she started towards the one closest to her when she heard the gunshot from across the street. Speeding towards the warehouse, she burst in through the door, coming to a halt when she saw Lex, bound securely in a straitjacket, falling from a second story loft. Spying the couch next to her, she pushed it towards him, hoping it would be enough to catch his fall before glancing up to find the man who had shot the gun. What the hell? It was the contractor from the Talon! Before he could see her, she raced up the steps and slammed him into the wall, knocking him out, then sped back out the door of the building. Turning, she forced herself into a normal run back into Club Zero and over towards Lex. "Lex!" She called out in surprise.
"Get down!" He warned her. "There's a man with a gun up there!" Hudson knelt beside him at the couch, so pleased to see that he was all right, that he was alive, that she almost replied `You mean the one I knocked out?' But she caught herself in time and looked up, feigning confusion when she saw the man unconscious on the floor. "You mean that guy?" She turned back to Lex, her hands moving over the fastenings on the straitjacket that had him bound. "What happened?" "I have no idea," Lex bit out, his gaze resting on her while he continued to attempt to catch his breath. "How'd you find me here?" Hudson flashed him a small smile. "With a little help from my friends." She had to admit, as much as she didn't appreciate Chloe's snooping around, the ability certainly came in handy. Lex stared at her silently, breathing hard, unmoving as she unfastened the jacket then carefully helped him to sit up while she pulled it off. Hudson then leaned over and removed the restraints around his ankles, wondering what the hell that crazy man had done to him. She moved to sit on the couch beside him, reaching out to take his hands in hers. They were freezing. She rubbed them gently, watching his face while he stared ahead, his expression a cross between shock and confusion. And just the tiniest hint of anger. "Can you tell me what this was about?" She asked quietly. "Isn't that the contractor?" Nodding a little, Lex replied, "He... he's Amanda's brother." "Amanda?" Hudson frowned, dropping her gaze to their hands while she continued to rub some warmth back into his. "She was mentioned in the article. Jude's fiance." "Yes. Jude was... He had been lying to her. When he was supposed to be out of town, I brought Amanda here and we found him, partying with some other women. I tried to stop Amanda, to calm her down but then he attacked me, blaming me for bringing her there, for allowing her to find out what he was really like." Lex brought his gaze to Hudson's finally, regarding her silently before continuing, "Jude stabbed me, then moved in for more when Amanda picked up Kasitch's gun and shot him." Hudson's hands stilled against his.
Lex dropped his eyes to the floor. "She didn't know what she was doing. She just... reacted to the situation. Maybe she meant to just fire a warning shot. I don't know. I never had the chance to ask her." He paused. "She's dead. Her brother said she killed herself." "Oh." Hudson didn't know what to say, not when she had absolutely no idea what was going on. Hopefully, Lex would make a little more sense and straighten this all up for her when he had calmed. Once she made certain he was safe, Hudson got up and located a pay phone just outside the building where she contacted the police to come and get Lex's assailant. When she returned to him, he hadn't moved. Slipping her hand into his, she sat once more beside him where they waited together. Minutes passed in silence before Lex asked, "How did you get here?" Hudson had been working on that one since she left Smallville. "The train. I realized this morning that something was wrong when it appeared you had left without saying anything to me. I called your office, but they hadn't seen you. No one could find you. So I got in touch with Chloe and we looked up some information and... well, here I am." "Again."
There was accusation in the tone but Lex seemed content to let it go, and simply turned his gaze away from her, staring up at the landing where Amanda's brother still lay silent, and unmoving.
Hudson had never been in Lex's room before.

While she waited for him to finish with his shower, so that she could make certain he was all right before returning home, she perused the bookshelves and items that they held. There really wasn't much to see in the enormous bedroom, not like her room which was plastered in posters and calendars and old dolls and stuffed animals that she refused to give up. Lex's room had a few paintings on the walls that seemed to have very little significance to anything - and there was an old tapestry hanging on the wall behind the bed, something Roman or Greek, Hudson really couldn't tell which, with curvaceous women wearing hardly any clothing. She made a face at it before wandering around the wide four-poster bed, covered in a dark burgundy duvet. The entire room was dark, even with the early evening sun streaming in through the balcony doors. Hudson stopped in front of them, peering out into the garden as her thoughts turned to the events of the day -- it had been a long one and she had been more than pleased when Lex had chartered a helicopter to bring them back from Metropolis instead of driving. After all, she couldn't have told him `No thanks, Lex. I'll just run', and she doubted she would have had the patience for the three-hour drive. Besides, Lex needed to rest. He'd been so pale when she had found him and he really hadn't improved by the time they'd reached Smallville. Neither had he said much; he had just sat there in the helicopter, holding her hand. Hudson was worried about him, which was why she hadn't just dropped him off at the door and headed home. The door to the bathroom opened and Hudson quickly turned to see Lex exit wearing charcoal slacks and no shirt, his feet bare. She thought that maybe a sound escaped her at the sight - like a whimper or a sigh or something. But apparently she had been able to keep it soft enough that he didn't notice. It had been bad enough the day before when he had removed his shirt at the gym, and stood so close to her, as if he knew what he was doing to her, and enjoying every moment of it. Unfortunately, she had cracked under the pressure and hit the punching bag a little too hard. Better the bag than Lex, though. In an attempt to pull her gaze away from the pale, toned chest and arms, she raised her eyes to his face. There was a little more color to his complexion and inwardly, Hudson felt a sigh of relief at the sight. "Feeling better?" She asked.
Lex nodded without speaking as he made his way over to the bed and sat down. Shifting from one foot to the other uncomfortably, Hudson glanced toward the door and took a few steps toward it. "Well, I'd better head home then - " "Hudson, wait."
She turned back to Lex who was looking up at her, his expression unreadable. "Stay." He paused, frowning a little before adding, "Just a while." "All right." Taking a deep breath, she nodded, her eyes dropping once more to his torso. When she noticed the discoloration over his ribs, the sight of shirtless Lex was quickly forgotten in concern. Hurrying over to crouch beside him, Hudson reached out and gingerly touched the area. "You're hurt. You should have let the medics exam you." Lex shook his head and pushed her hands away. "I'm fine. A few bruised ribs. Nothing I haven't experienced before." Hudson frowned, remembering exactly what bruised ribs felt like. She planned on staying away from lightning because she never wanted to know what it felt like to hurt to breathe again. "He did this to you." He nodded.
The last time she had felt such anger, the Sheriff had arrested her father on trumped-up charges brought against him by Phalen. She silently reminded herself that anger wasn't a good thing and Lex was safe and nothing more could be done. Still, she could have lost him. And now he was injured. And Hudson was beginning to learn that trying to keep her friends safe at all times was impossible. Especially when they refused to let you in. Hesitating a moment, she reached up and touched his shoulder. "Are you all right?" "I'm sorry about the cows."
Hudson hadn't expected that. After all, this wasn't about the herd; it was about what had happened to Lex and how close that insane man had come to seriously hurting him. Okay, killing him. If Hudson hadn't realized he was missing, if she had taken longer in her decision to apologize for what she had said... She might have been too late. "It wasn't your fault," she replied finally, as if she had forgotten the thread of their conversation. Moving to the bed beside him, she sat down and stared at the plush carpet. "Yes. Yes it was, Hudson," Lex countered, rubbing a hand over his eyes. "If I hadn't tried to ignore it, if I had gone to the authorities with the truth from the beginning... none of this would have happened." Hudson gave a small shrug, her shoulder brushing against his. "You made a judgment call, Lex." "What would you have done?" Lex turned to look at the girl beside him, willing her to do the same. When her eyes finally met his, he searched them for the accusation and blame he knew had to be there. He was more than surprised when he couldn't find it. "I don't know, Lex." Hudson shook her head. "I'll be the first to admit that there are times I don't tell the whole truth, when I think I'm perfectly capable of taking care of myself and everyone around me and that I think I always know what's right. I've told you before - I'm afraid of one day making the wrong decision." "You think I made the wrong decision."
Hudson blinked at him for a moment as she considered her answer. Finally, she replied, "You did what you felt was best. It's not my place to judge." "You're hedging, Hudson," Lex accused, his gaze narrowing as he regarded her. "You want to blame me for what happened to your father's herd, for scaring Lana with that `gift' that was sent to the Talon. Why don't you just do so?" "Because I think you're doing a good enough job all on your own." Hudson sighed and leaned back on her hands, meeting his eyes until he looked away. Lex stood and moved over to the dresser, staring at nothing, his hands shoved into his pockets. Silence grew between them. Hudson watched him closely, noting the telltale signs of exhaustion in his stance, the nervous sweep of his hand over the back of his head. Her eyes moved down the straight line of his back, to the discoloration at his left side. Focusing her gaze, she x-rayed past his skin, checking for any broken or cracked ribs. Finding none, she relaxed a little and returned her eyes to her friend. When he turned back around to face her, Hudson braced herself for the next stinging set down, wondering what excuse he would use to push her away this time. She knew it was coming, it was only a matter of time. Lex seemed to enjoy punishing himself; he seemed to enjoy punishing her. She still didn't understand why. She wanted to be his friend - what was wrong with that? "Your parents..." He began and lifted his hand as if to conduct the words he planned to speak but he stopped suddenly and his hand dropped to his side. He stared at her as if expecting her to help him find the correct thing to say. Hudson knew what was coming. How her parents were right for not wanting her to be his friend. That it was dangerous. That they came from two different worlds. She could get hurt. Well, not really, but Lex didn't know that and that was the excuse her parents still tried to use. Her father was so angry after losing the herd that they couldn't even speak of Lex in the house at the moment. And maybe they were all right - maybe her life would be easier (and possibly a little safer) if Lex wasn't a part of it. But she wasn't willing to give him up. "Don't say it, Lex," Hudson told him as she stood and walked over to stand in front of him. "What would have happened today if I wasn't your friend? If I hadn't been out looking for you?" Shaking his head, Lex glanced away with a scowl. "Do you know how annoying it is to constantly be rescued by a fifteen-year-old girl?" Hudson grinned. "Do you know how annoying it is to constantly have to rescue your sorry ass?" The slightest smirk appeared at the corners of his mouth. Lex brought his gaze back around to hers and watched her quietly for a moment before reaching out and brushing the back of his fingers over her cheek. "Thank you, Hudson. Again." "You're welcome, Lex."
Lex's fingers continued to brush over her skin, his thumb tracing her jaw line until he was cupping her cheek. Hudson felt her breath hitch in her lungs for a moment as he drew her closer. Their thighs were touching and she could feel his heart beating through his chest. Unable to tear her gaze from his, she simply stared at him in slight wonder as his breath fanned across her lips, his eyes darkening from bright blue to blue-grey. "Will you always be there?" Lex asked in a whisper, his eyes searching her face for the answer. Hudson was having difficulty thinking properly. She nodded slightly. "Yes." She wasn't certain if she had spoken the word or just thought it. "I want to believe... " He trailed off, his gaze dropping to her lips. His head angled slightly, mouth parting just a little. "I want... " "Lex - "
"Don't," he cut her off before his mouth closed over hers, negating whatever words she might have spoken. She wasn't exactly experienced with the whole kissing thing, that much was certain, but she'd watched enough movies and practiced on enough pillows to believe that Lex had the kind of kiss to make anyone's knees turn to Jell-o. And here she thought she was invulnerable. Obviously not. The first thought that struck Hudson, when she was able to think, was that Lex's lips were warmer than she would have believed, and his kiss very gentle. It evoked images of lazy summer days, the warmth of a fire in January, the scent of Christmas morning, a July night sky ablaze with fireworks. His mouth slanted against hers, his tongue brushed across her lips -- velvet smooth and warm. Hudson's breath hitched at the contact and Lex took advantage of the small gasp, his tongue pressing inside, meeting her own, stroking against her palate. She attempted to match his movements, to follow his lead. He tasted like mint and some kind of alcohol, perhaps the scotch he usually drank, and another flavor that she attributed solely to him. It tasted like he smelled - just Lex. It was better than ice cream or lemonade on a hot summer's day or her mother's gingerbread on Christmas Eve. Her second thought consisted of the fact that she was afraid to touch him. To lose herself in the feelings of this kiss -- to allow the sensations to completely overtake her -- could mean losing her control. She could hurt him. She could hold him too tightly or puncture her fingers right through his skin. She wouldn't allow any of that to happen - couldn't allow it. Sadly, her arms remained at her sides, her hands clenching and unclenching into fists as they itched to reach up and hold him. Lex ended the kiss and Hudson felt like crying at the loss. But he didn't pull away; his cheek pressed against hers, his fingers curling in her hair. "Touch me, Hudson," he whispered. "I need... to feel... I need you." Unable to ignore his request, Hudson drew in a silent breath, reminded herself to be very careful, and slowly brought her hands up to his shoulders, his skin still damp from his shower, and warm. She wrapped her arms around him and he pulled her close, one hand moving from her cheek to the small of her back where he pressed her to him before his mouth covered hers once more. Their bodies were pressed together and she could feel... everything. Something deep inside of her quivered; her stomach ached. Lex's tongue moved past her lips again, touching her tongue, sweeping over it and under it and wrapping around it. The kiss was less gentle than the first but just as good, maybe better. There were intricacies to kissing that Hudson had never really considered before, like trying not to bump noses and that brief anticipation of what your partner was going to do, wanted you to do. She quickly realized that this wasn't a lesson; Lex had no intention of teaching anything at the moment, he simply wanted to feel. So it was kind of trial by fire and Hudson did what she could to try and keep up, which was little more than allow Lex to take what he seemed to need. She spent her own time memorizing every sensation, every touch, every scent, so that she could examine it all in closer detail later. As she became braver, she allowed her hands to roam over his skin, the span of his shoulders, the strength of his upper arms. A sound, very much like a sigh, escaped Lex's mouth against hers as her fingers moved over him. Hudson cherished the feel of his breath on her lips, the taste of his tongue. She whimpered a little when his mouth moved away from hers and she thought Lex might have shushed her, but she wasn't certain. His lips trailed over her jaw and down to her throat and he sucked her skin into his mouth and Hudson's breath escaped her at the feeling. Forcing herself to calm, flexing her fingers to relax, she moved her arms once more, resting them lightly over his shoulders. Lex continued to work at her neck before moving up to her ear, nuzzling his nose against it and then pulling the lobe between his teeth. Hudson wondered at what point she had died and gone to Heaven. Lex pushed her backwards gently, until she felt the backs of her knees hit the mattress. He guided her down onto the comforter, his body quickly covering her own, one leg slipping between hers, his hands pressed against the mattress on either side, raising him slightly. She marveled at everything she felt in this position, trying her best not to concentrate on exactly what that hardest part of him was which was pressing into her hip. If she allowed that to happen, she would grow too embarrassed to think of anything else. His mouth claimed hers once more and by then, Hudson had to remind herself to breathe. She drew in the breath he exhaled and relaxed beneath his kiss a little more, slowly learning to gauge his reactions by the movements of his hips against her and the way his hands clutched her arms and shoulders. Behaving more boldly, Hudson drew her tongue along his upper lip, pausing to trace the scar, causing Lex to moan into her mouth. It was the most unbelievable sound she had ever heard. And she wanted to hear it again. Gently, she moved her hands over his back, feeling the muscles tense and undulate beneath her touch. Her finger drew down his spine and she felt him thrust into her hip again. Again her attention wandered to where it shouldn't be, and Hudson forced her mind to focus on his lips. She met his tongue with her own again, this time taking his cue and stroking it over his, under his, twisting them together. She felt and heard Lex's breath hitch and then he broke the kiss, causing Hudson to open her eyes and stare up at him in confusion. Lex leaned his forehead on to hers, his hands moving up to cup her face. "What am I doing?" He whispered. His eyes were closed. Hudson stared up at him silently for an interminable moment before she replied softly, "Feeling." She could barely catch her breath.

"No." Lex shook his head a little before opening his eyes. "Not like this." He kissed her lips briefly then moved off of her, rolling onto his back beside her. Her body felt cold and lonely the moment Lex moved away, and Hudson didn't like that. Her hands were all tingly. Her tummy felt... strange. She didn't think she was supposed to be feeling like this. Rolling on to her side, she regarded him while he stared up at the ceiling, before she whispered his name. Glancing over at her, Lex forced the barest hint of a smile. "Stay with me." It wasn't so much a request as an order. Nodding silently, Hudson scooted closer as Lex held his arm out, tucking her head against the crook of his shoulder and gingerly laying her hand over his stomach. Lex pulled the comforter up over them and wrapped his arm around her shoulders, pulling her close. He kissed the top of her head and she thought she heard him murmur something against her hair. It sounded very much like `Forgive me'.

That was the scent that greeted Lex as he awoke the next morning. It was a scent he had come to associate with Hudson - her hair, her skin, she always smelled like apples. And he knew immediately what it meant, memories of the night before, and the mistake he had made, coming back to him. Hudson had been there, as always, and she had been warm and gentle and receptive, and he had needed her. Had needed something. Lex could only count himself lucky that he had stopped himself in time, before it had gone too far, before he couldn't undo the damage that he had already done. Hadn't he hurt her family enough? Opening his eyes, Lex found that Hudson was indeed still with him, curled on her side, her head tucked against his shoulder. He felt mild frustration at the fact that he was holding her, his arms securely wrapped around her, his fingers entwined around the folds of her sweater. If he moved, she would wake, and Lex knew he wasn't ready to face what was still to come. He would hurt her, he had to, because this couldn't happen. He understood that now, better than ever. He had destroyed Amanda's life, simply by doing what he thought might be best for her. And so many lives had been caught in between. Still, he wasn't ready to give up what he had at the moment. He could let her sleep, he could hold her, he could pretend this was right. It felt right. Lex moved slightly, just so that he could pull his head back and watch her. In sleep, it is said that people appear younger. This wasn't the case with Hudson. She seemed much older than her fifteen years suddenly, her brow slightly creased as if even in sleep she couldn't escape the demons she refused to share, the ones that Lex was certain haunted her, even if she would never admit as much. Her lashes fluttered slightly, perhaps she was dreaming, and Lex reached up to touch them lightly, his fingertips holding steady as he felt the feather-soft touch brush against them. Gently, he allowed the backs of his knuckles to move down her cheek to her mouth where the pad of his thumb moved like a whispered breath against her full lower lip. The lips he had kissed the night before, which had acquiesced beneath his own, opened to him, appeared to welcome him home. That was where the danger had stemmed from - losing himself in her kiss. In the warmth and comfort, the sheer acceptance it had provided. The past week had been fraught with his mistakes - costly mistakes - and yet, Hudson had forgiven, had accepted, hadn't judged. She was still here. Leaning in, Lex took the chance and brushed his mouth over hers, just the barest hint of what he truly wanted. His body ached with what it wished to take, what it needed. Groaning against the self-induced torture, he laid his cheek against hers, burying his face in the mantle of dark hair, and closed his eyes, just breathing. His hand moved over her back as he fought to keep himself from pressing against her. He felt like he was drowning; in her scent, in her warmth, in the knowledge that he couldn't have her. "Lex?" A whisper.
He froze, heart thudding in his chest, breath fanning across her neck, his fingers curled a little tighter into her sweater, then he pushed himself back, away from her, cold space between them. Hudson didn't move; laid there with sleepy eyes gazing up at him, blinking softly in the faint morning light, confusion marred with... something he couldn't identify. "Good morning." Lex was pleased that his voice was so even; more than pleased with the comforter that lay over them, hiding his current state of arousal. "Sleep well?" "Yes." She nodded, reached out to touch him, her fingers skimming over his shoulder. A gentle touch that spoke of curiosity, innocent desire. Fuck. Lex shifted just out of her reach ignoring the brief flash of hurt that echoed through her eyes. Her hand was still outstretched. He fought against the want to take it in his and hold it. "It's late. Your parents are probably worried." Probably? He was damn certain they were worried. She had been gone all night, a fifteen-year-old girl, with Lex Luthor. He was surprised the sheriff wasn't already knocking on his front door. Beside him, Hudson remained silent. So silent, so still, that Lex was forced to turn to her, to meet her eyes, and try his best not to let his guilt show. "Last night - "
"I wasn't myself," Lex interrupted, shaking his head when he saw she was about to protest. "I did something I shouldn't have and for that, I ask you for your forgiveness." Outraged was the mild term for the expression that appeared on Hudson's face. Throwing back the comforter, she hopped out of the bed and turned back to face him, her nostrils flaring slightly with her anger. "You can take forgiveness and shove it... " Lex waited to see where she was going with her statement, curious to see just how angry he had made her. "Just shove it!"
Apparently not angry enough. He nodded a little in reply before calmly slipping off of the bed, his arousal effectively squelched with the conversation. Moving across the room, he opened the third drawer down in his dresser, withdrawing a gray cashmere pullover, before turning back to Hudson. "Finished?" He asked, before drawing it over his head and pulling it down around his waist. Hudson shook her head. "No. I... I don't understand. Why are you doing this? And don't give me that `You're fifteen' crap." Lex smiled a little. "But you are fifteen, Hudson. Even in a backwards state like Kansas, that's still jailbait." "My parents wouldn't press charges," she argued. "They wouldn't do that because they know it would hurt me." Running a hand over his face in frustration, Lex shook his head and moved over to her, taking her hand in his. Sitting down on the bed, he tugged her closer until she reluctantly sat down beside him. "Angel, it's more than just that. As much as you might feel like an adult, you aren't. Hell, I barely pull off the pretense of being one. You might think you want this, you might even know in here," he placed his hand over her heart, "That you want this, but you've got two things working against you - inexperience and hormones. They make a deadly combination. And you mean too much - more than you'll ever understand - to me to let you make that kind of mistake." "I don't think we're a mistake, Lex," she whispered, raising her gaze to his. Lex bit the inside of his cheek to keep from giving in at that very moment. "Maybe you're right," he responded quietly. "And maybe I'm wrong. But I'm not going to take that chance. Not now." Reaching up, he cupped her face between his hands, holding her gaze steady with his own. Tears hovered in her eyes, and he was silently proud of her not allowing them to fall. "I never want to lose this," he whispered. "You... are so precious to me. You. Hudson Clark Kent. Friend. Sister. Improbable lover." He smiled softly, his thumbs caressing her cheeks. "I know it hurts, angel." "Like a bitch," Hudson replied bluntly, her tone petulant and biting. Lex nodded, still gazing at her. "But it could hurt so much worse. And that, I won't do to you." Dropping his hands, he stood, his back to her, and walked over to the dresser to slip his watch on. Behind him, he heard Hudson get to her feet, the floorboards creaking beneath her step. The sound indicated she was moving towards the door. Lex's eyes strayed to the mirror, where he watched her. She hesitated at the door and he thought that if she refused, if she marched back over to him and told him that she wasn't going to accept this, he wouldn't be able to deny her. "It's not fair."
Lex agreed. "No. It isn't."
Her eyes met his in the mirror. A long silence and then she opened the door. Brief panic. "Hudson?" He turned to her. Glancing over her shoulder at him, Hudson seemed to understand what he was seeking. She smiled a little and shrugged. "See you at the Talon grand opening?" Lex released a breath he hadn't known he'd been holding. "Yeah." Hudson nodded, watching him a moment longer before turning and disappearing into the hall, the door closing softly behind her.


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