My First Taste - Ep 7 Covet

by Aelora



I don't care if it hurts
I want to have control
I want a perfect body
I want a perfect soul
I want you to notice
When I'm not around
You're so fuckin' special
I wish I was special
`Creep' - Radiohead

Staring at the monitor in front of her, Hudson frowned a moment before her fingers flew over the keyboard.

Rianne ~

I was so happy when I got your email! I'm glad you and your aunt are getting along. She seems like a nice lady and a lot of fun. Hopefully she'll bring you back out for a visit sometime. We miss you here.

Not too much going on here. The weather is starting to warm up a little bit but my dad seems to think we'll get hit with a pretty hard frost before spring completely sets in. I can't wait until summer! Of course, once it gets too hot I'll be looking forward to snow again. ; P

Chloe, Pete and Lana say hi. The Talon is doing well, Chloe is still snooping into everyone's business, searching for that story that will win her a Pulitzer and Pete is... well, Pete. He got picked up for the football team again next year so naturally he is pretty happy. His family is, too.

Oh! My mom wants to send you a care package. I need to get your aunt's snail mail addy. She's been baking up a storm lately. Even I haven't been able to eat all of the cookies! Though my dad and I have definitely been trying. I've been taking tins of them over with the produce delivery to Lex's each week. He probably isn't eating them but I'm sure the staff is. Dodd might not ever admit it but I think he likes my mom's baking much more than his own. Heh.

Lex isn't moving back to Metropolis. That's like the best news I've had in a long time. I know you probably don't want to hear it but I certainly felt relief when he told me. Although it wasn't like he called or stopped by to tell me - I ran into him at the Talon and I had to ask. He's still awfully angry with me. I feel horrible for lying to him and I wish I could tell him the truth. You're probably on my parents' side on this issue but no matter what any of you say, he is still my friend - my best friend - and I care about him and if I feel this much, then I shouldn't continue to lie to him. But, I guess it isn't completely my secret to tell, is it? That's the worst part. I don't want to hurt my parents. They've done so much to protect me, to take care of me and do what they think is best. I can't let them down.

So I guess you have no reason to worry. I won't tell Lex. Yet. Years down the road, if he is still my friend and I am on my own and no one else can be hurt by my mistakes, maybe then I'll break the news to him. At least I know he loves sci-fi's so that is one thing going for me. Right??

I'd better go. It's Sunday, which means I have deliveries to make and yes, that does include Lex's house. I know what you think you saw in him, Rianne, but I wish you could see what I see. Maybe you just need to get to know him better.

Take care, sweetie! And write soon.


H.C. Kent

Three seconds later, Hudson read over the email once more before she hit `send'. She closed down the program then sat back in her chair, regarding the screen in thought, finding that she missed Rianne terribly and wished they lived closer to one another.

Having a younger sister around had been more enjoyable than Hudson had dreamed possible. Especially once Rianne had discovered the truth regarding Hudson's secret. Having someone to talk to beside her parents, to share with, to be able to simply be herself around - not having to hide who she was had been wonderful, if short-lived. And though she and Rianne hadn't agreed on everything - namely Lex and his motivations - there had been an instant connection between them. Two girls with secrets that they were forced to hide out of fear of exploitation and experimentation. She missed her new friend terribly, especially since she was being deprived of Lex's companionship.

Ever since their discussion after the Nicodemus incident, Lex had done his best to avoid her. Two Sundays in a row he had been out of the mansion during her delivery and on the third, he had been on the phone, telling her he had a lot of work to do that day. When they met in public, he was always cordial to her - too much so. Hudson had seen how he treated business associates and acquaintances - people Lex didn't want to get too close to him - and she hated being dumped into that category. The angry child in her wanted to lash right back out at him, tell him what he had done while under the influence of the Nicodemus pollen, make him feel like an ass. Fortunately, there was a tiny rational thread that held on tightly within her, telling her that she would hate herself if she ever did something like that to him.

"H.C.!" Her mother's voice drifted up from the kitchen. "This produce isn't getting any fresher! You have work to do, young lady. Stop dawdling!"

Rolling her eyes, Hudson stood and stretched before grabbing her denim jacket from the bedpost and slipping it on as she left her room. The heels of her work boots clacked against the old oak steps as she jogged down the back staircase into the kitchen where her mother was rearranging tomatoes in one of the boxes on the counter.

"You're already behind schedule," Martha commented as Hudson leaned into the refrigerator to grab a can of Coke. "You're lucky your father is at the Tractor Show with Mr. Miller or he'd be the one yelling at you."

Hudson popped the can open. "Dad doesn't yell. He's afraid he'll make me cry." She took a big swallow of the soda and promptly belched.

Martha turned and frowned at her. "Hudson Clark... "

"Excuse me." She flashed a sheepish grin, earning a shake of her mother's head before moving over to set the boxes on top of one another and lift them with her left arm, balancing them precariously. "Is this it?"

Her mother nodded. "Yes. The Sanders are out of town this week." Martha walked over to open the door for Hudson, watching closely as she made her down the steps. "Oh! On your way through town, pick up some brown shoe polish. Your father is refusing to buy a new pair of boots so I am going to have to do what I can with his old ones before we go out on Valentine's."

"Will do!" Hudson called out as she neared the pickup, sliding the boxes into the bed. She tossed a wave to her mom. "See ya!"

"Be careful and don't forget to ask Mrs. Davies about that quilt I want to buy."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," Hudson muttered as she climbed into the cab and shut the door.

Her deliveries were running a little later than usual but Hudson tried to speed through each one and shorten her time for those who were last on her list. Unfortunately, most of their customers were quite chatty and wanted to know how things were on the farm, what her father was up to, could they order some pies from her mother and the old ladies always liked to point out what a beautiful young woman she was becoming. Typically that caused Hudson's face to turn a blazing red and she would ultimately receive a pinch to the cheek with her critic commenting as to how charming she was. By the time she left Mrs. Davies' house, Hudson was actually looking forward to a cold shoulder from Lex.

She preferred going to the mansion without the truck, when she could just run through the two miles of fields that separated them, slip through the gate and walk into his study unannounced. There was something about the expression that Lex would flash her, the one that wanted to know how she got through the gate and past the guards but never bothered asking. Just like he never offered to give her a ride back to the farm when he discovered that she hadn't driven herself or gotten a ride from one of her parents. He would just stand there, and stare at her and watch her as she walked down the drive, waving to him as the guard opened the gate to let her out. He never asked - but Hudson wouldn't be surprised the day he decided to follow her. Which was why she always had to keep her guard up. Lex was entirely too curious for his own good and her parents' peace of mind.

Not that the past few weeks had given her a chance to play their little `don't ask, don't tell' game. Even now, as she turned down Beresford Lane, she was torn between hoping she would see Lex, even if he did pretend she wasn't there, and not seeing him at all just to spare herself the pain of being ignored.

Sam Mingle, the man who sat in the guardhouse and was probably the oldest human being Hudson had ever met, waved her on through the gate as she drove up. She had commented before to Lex that perhaps the reason thugs and thieves always made it into his house was because the ancient guy who was posing as a guard was probably falling asleep on the job. She'd asked why Lex didn't just fire him and hire someone more suited to the job. Lex had just stared at her for a moment and shrugged, explaining that Mr. Mingle had two grandkids in college, his son and daughter-in-law had died in a car accident and he was a fixture in this town. He couldn't just toss him out on the street. Hudson had marveled for days over the fact that Lex apparently thought a few concussions and threats on his life were worth letting the old man keep his job and his dignity.

After pulling up outside of the kitchen, Hudson grabbed the two crates of produce and hopped up the steps to the door where Dodd was waiting with a welcoming glare.

"You are late," he barked in his thick accent, using a tone that would have terrified her the first few times she had met him.

"Cry me a river," Hudson replied as she pushed past him into the kitchen, noting that he made no move to take her load from her.

Closing the door with a resounding thud, Dodd continued, "I have meals to prepare. A job to do. You... you were probably hanging out at the local Dairy King!"

Hudson rolled her eyes as she dropped the crates onto the counter. "Queen. Dairy Queen. How long have you been in this country??"

Dodd waved a knife in her direction threateningly but his brown eyes twinkled.

"Now, Dodd, that isn't the proper way to treat our guest, is it?"

Hudson spun around at Lex's voice, surprise washing over her when she found him lounging against the doorframe from the dining room entrance, hands shoved casually into the pockets of his black slacks.

"My apologies, Mr. Luthor," Dodd replied, setting the knife on the counter. "She was being... impudent."

Lex raised an eyebrow, flashing a quick once-over at Hudson. "I would've thought you'd be used to that by now, Dodd."

Hudson made an annoyed sound over their conversation.

"Cat got your tongue?" Lex asked with humor.

"I... I just didn't expect to see you here," Hudson replied, shifting her feet.

Lex flashed a quick smile. "I live here."

"Well, yeah, but... "

Hudson trailed off a moment and glanced over at Dodd who was putting the produce away much more slowly than she had seen him do in the past. He caught her look and gave a small shrug before returning to his work. Hudson looked back up at Lex who was regarding her silently, waiting for her to continue.

"You just haven't been around much lately, that's all," she finished lamely.

Lex regarded Dodd for a moment before indicating that Hudson should follow him out into the hall. She moved past the cook and trailed after her friend, silence descending around them as they exited the kitchen into the dark hall. Lex slowed until Hudson was walking beside him and he cast a quick glance at her, brow raised.


She blinked. "What?"

"You obviously have something to say to me, Hudson," Lex commented blandly, shrugging his shoulders. "So say it."

Hudson opened her mouth to deny it then just as quickly shut it. She focused her gaze down the hall and told him, "You've been avoiding me. I've wondered if... if maybe you didn't want to be friends anymore and... it hurt."

Stopping, Lex turned to Hudson and reached out to catch her chin with a finger, bringing her eyes around to his. "You're right," he admitted quietly. "I was avoiding you."

Her eyes dropped to the floor between them.

"I was angry, Hudson. It seems like every time you open your mouth lately, I don't know if I should believe what comes out of it." His tone was slightly cold, bitter.

Biting her lip, Hudson looked up at him. "Then why... why are you here now?"

Lex offered her a half-smile. "Would you believe I miss you?"

Hudson felt her breath catch a little at his words and she told herself not to make a big deal out of it. He deserved the truth; why couldn't she give that to him? "I've missed you, too," she replied, returning his smile.

Nodding a little, Lex slipped his arm around her waist and started down the hall once more. The tension between them seemed to immediately disappear as he began asking her about school and the farm and whether she had heard from Rianne. She told him about her email to her friend that morning and how much she missed her already. Lex nodded thoughtfully as he led her into the study and moved over to the pool table to begin racking up the balls.

Hudson stood back for a moment, shuffling her feet as she watched him. He was wearing his dark blue dress shirt today, a few buttons open at the collar, looking as impossibly suave and gorgeous as always. He leaned over the table to grab the eight-ball and Hudson's gaze was distracted by the way his black slacks stretched taut over his ass. She wondered if he wore boxers or briefs or boxer-briefs. Blinking at the realization of how easily she could find out, Hudson bit the inside of her cheek and glanced away, staring at the stained glass windows for a moment as she tried to convince herself that undressing her friend with her eyes was bad.

"Hudson?" Lex's voice broke through her thoughts. "Is something wrong?"

She looked back and forced a smile, shaking her head. "No. Nothing."

"Ready to play?" He held out a cue to her.

Nodding, she moved forward to take it from him, watching as he removed a quarter from his pocket and tossed it into the air. "Heads," she called, her face warming as her mind went to all the wrong places once more.

It landed as tails and Lex flashed her a grin before moving back over to the table and leaning over to make his break. Hudson watched closely as his fingers moved over the cue stick, stroking it a little before slamming it forward. She swallowed as her thoughts drifted back to the night on the hood of his car and the feel of his fingers against her skin. Her eyes traveled back to his ass as he walked around the table and leaned over in front of her and she really hadn't intended to focus her gaze like that - it just happened!

Black boxer-briefs that fit around the curve of his ass and down over his upper thigh. All she had to do was peer through one more layer...

" - comics I gave her?"

"Huh?" Hudson snapped her gaze up to find Lex glancing over his shoulder at her. His eyes dropped to his slacks for a moment and then back up at her and he grinned and it took every bit of willpower she had not to turn bright red. "Comics?"

"I was asking if Rianne got the comics I had dropped off at your place?"

"Oh. Yeah." Hudson nodded and forced herself to move away from her position directly behind him as she scratched at the corner of her left eye. "She left a few with me, though. She told me to read them."

Lex watched her a moment before he took another shot. After the snap of the balls, he stood back up and asked, "You don't read comics?"

"Nah. I'm not really into the Superhero thing."

He nodded a little and tapped the edge of the cue stick against the floor before moving into position for his next shot. "You should give them a shot. Comics aren't just for geeks, you know."

"Are you calling yourself a geek, Lex?"

He glanced over at her and grinned. "There are some pretty complex stories written between the pages of many of them."

Lex took his shot and missed and Hudson sighed inwardly at the chance of being able to play. It didn't happen often. Walking over to the table, she tried to focus on what Lex was saying while preparing for her shot. As she lined up the cue, she wondered why she even bothered - after all, Lex won every game they played. Oh wait, except that one time he had a hangover.

"Take `Warrior Angel' for example. The characters aren't just black and white, good versus evil. Warrior Angel makes his mistakes and Devilicus has his good points."

Hudson made her shot, practically lost the pool cue out of her hands and watched in dismay as the ball went wide, completely missing her target. Making a face, she glanced up at Lex as he moved in beside her. "But I thought Devilicus was the bad guy?"

"He's Warrior Angel's nemesis, true." Lex made his shot this time, then stood up and leaned a hip against the table, focusing his gaze on Hudson. "But that doesn't necessarily make him evil. Just because he hates the person that other people may perceive to be a hero doesn't mean he's out kicking puppies and taking candy from babies. Warrior Angel and Devilicus didn't agree; they saw the world from two very divergent points of view and this led to the dissolution of their friendship. It doesn't necessarily make Devilicus wrong and Warrior Angel right."

"I thought you were a fan of Warrior Angel?" Hudson asked with a smile. "Suddenly you are sticking up for his enemy."

Lex shrugged, his gaze never leaving hers. "I am. Beyond Jean-Luc Picard, there aren't many bald heroes out there. But that doesn't mean I don't feel sympathy for Devilicus. They were best friends, once."

Hudson dropped her gaze, sighing softly. "Like Bob Rickman and Kyle Tippet."

It was impossible for her not to think of the recent incident with the Nicodemus flower and how, until just half an hour ago, she thought she lost Lex's friendship. It hurt to consider how tenuous the bonds of friendship and trust were.

As if reading her thoughts, Lex reached out and took her hand in his, forcing her to look at him. "We're going to be okay, Hudson," he told her softly. "I promise."

Hudson barely dodged getting whacked in the head by a basketball that was tossed by Whitney to Jeff as she dialed in the combination to her locker. She flashed a quick look down the hall in the direction of Lana's boyfriend, who grinned at her sheepishly and waved. Some things needed to be outlawed in school corridors.

"You do realize your locker is bordering on a shrine, don't you?"

Glancing over her shoulder at Chloe, Hudson frowned. "It is not."

Chloe moved up beside her and reached into the locker, flicking the tip of her finger over the article from when Hudson had pulled Lex from the river. There were several other articles clipped beneath it, ranging from Lex's appointment as Plant Manager in Smallville to his purchase of the Talon. She then pointed to the ticket stub from `Phantom of the Opera', the necklace he had given her that was dangling from the edge of the door because she was too afraid to let her parents see it yet and finally a photo that had been taken of her and Lex over Christmas vacation. In the photo, they were looking at one another and laughing over something and while Chloe thought it was entirely too cute, when coupled with the other items, it just became too much.

"You're bordering on Palmer-sized stalking here, H.C."

Nudging her friend out of the way, Hudson's face remained expressionless as she gathered her books into her arms. "Not even close, Chloe," she replied. "You didn't see the shrine she had built. Besides, these items are no different than the ones you have gathered in your locker from me and Pete."

"Right. No different." Chloe nodded. "Except, of course, for the fact that Lex is significantly older than you and a billionaire. Other than that, it's the same thing."

Hudson closed her locker a little too hard and flashed a tight smile at her friend. "I'm glad you see it the way I do."

Chloe shook her head as they started down the corridor toward her own locker. "You're hopeless. Anyway, I thought he wasn't speaking to you?"

"Oh, we patched things up. At least, I think we did. He missed me." She grinned happily at her friend. "I'm telling you, Chloe. Before this year is over with, Lex Luthor will be all mine."

"And that wasn't a stalker-type statement," Chloe commented as she stopped beside her locker and entered the combination.

"It isn't when Lex knows my intentions."

"Whoa. Wait. What?" Chloe blinked up at her.

Hudson smiled. "I told him on New Year's that I planned on changing his mind about us. And I don't think he is completely opposed to the idea."

Shaking her head, Chloe hooked her bag on her arm and began swapping out textbooks. "Of course he isn't opposed, H.C. He's male and he's breathing. He's got a gorgeous teenage female after him. In the long run, he isn't going to turn that down. He just has to figure out how to get around that big, fat silly law that says he'll go to jail for any `bad touch'."

Hudson rolled her eyes. "I'm not gorgeous, Chloe. I certainly don't rank with the women he's used to dating. And yes, the age factor is a bit of a drawback." She paused thoughtfully for a moment. "Personally, I'm banking on the whole soul-mate thing."

Chloe glanced up at her in disbelief, relief filling her when she realized Hudson was joking and they both laughed. "God, you had me scared there for a moment that you were serious or something." She closed her locker and they turned to join the throng of students headed to class. "And you are gorgeous."

"Yeah. I have guys falling at my feet. It's why I appear so tall - I'm walking on them," Hudson commented sarcastically.

"I didn't say the guys at school were all hot and heavy for you, dork," Chloe responded. "They're intimidated by you. I mean, hell, you're like a foot taller than most of them. And you're kind of an introvert. If you were more outgoing, they'd notice you."

Hudson didn't respond to that. If there was one thing she had been taught by her parents for years it was how to keep to herself, to learn how not to draw attention to who she was, what she was, the things she did. Fading into the background had always been a specialty of hers. And yes, more than once the desire to be noticed, to be popular and admired, gnawed at her, urging her to do stupid things and go completely against her parents wishes. Luckily, common sense usually won out and she pulled back, knowing that it was safer all around if people just didn't even know she was there.

Except Lex. There was a significantly large part of her that never wanted him to not notice. Being noticed by him, being important to him, was like some strange validation of who she was, or at least could be. She was becoming almost dependent on it.

"Hi, Hudson."

Turning at the voice, Hudson dropped her gaze a little to find Michael Powell, a new student who had transferred this semester from Edge City, standing beside her. She nearly knocked him over on his first day when she had been hurrying around a corner without looking. He stuck out in her mind because he reminded her of Tobey McGuire - blue eyes, dark, unkempt hair. He wore glasses and polo shirts and looked like the average geek except that apparently he was an All-Star pitcher on the baseball team at his old school and had already been accepted into the jocks' circle at Smallville High. The other day, Whitney had been going on and on about how the Crows were certain to win the championship this year with Michael on the team.

"Hey, Michael." She smiled a little and tried to ignore the slight jab that she felt Chloe give her in the ribs. It was Chloe's opinion that Michael had developed some sort of crush on her. "What's up?"

"Nothing. I saw you and thought I'd say hi." He stepped closer and glanced at her armful of books. "Did you get through the Algebra homework last night? It severely kicked my ass." Michael grinned.

Hudson nodded a little. "I didn't really have any trouble with it. But then, math has always been kind of easy for me."

"Maybe you could help me sometime."

Another jab from Chloe's elbow and Hudson smiled. "Sure."

Thinking the conversation was over, Hudson turned to continue down the hall when she felt a hand on her arm. She glanced back to see Michael staring at his hand and her arm before he met her gaze and let go. He smiled a little sheepishly and stepped closer once more, shoving his hands into the pockets of his jeans.

"I was, uh, wondering if you would like to go out and grab something to eat tonight? Maybe we could drive into Abilene for a movie or something."

Hudson glanced over at Chloe, who was fighting a smile, before she returned her gaze to Michael. "I'm sorry, Michael. It's nice of you to ask but - "

"I know I'm no billionaire or anything," he commented, frowning. "But that doesn't mean you can't at least give me a chance. It's not like you have a boyfriend or anything."

"I already have plans," Hudson continued, her eyes at little wide at his outburst. "Chloe and I were going to see `Fellowship of the Ring' again. Umm... maybe some other time?"

Michael stared at her for a long moment before his gaze flickered over Chloe. Finally, he gave Hudson a quick smile. "Sure. Sorry. Another time is no problem."

The bell for first period echoed down the hallway and Hudson tried very hard not to sigh with relief at the sound. She returned Michael's smile. "Okay. Well, off to class. See ya, Michael."

As they walked away, Chloe leaned over and commented, "See, right there. Only the freaks seem to have the guts to approach you."

"That's kind of harsh, Chloe," Hudson replied. "I don't think he's that bad." She frowned. "I mean, that little tantrum he started to throw was kind of weird... " Hudson shrugged. "But maybe he's just been rejected a lot."

Chloe shook her head. "I doubt it. He's an athlete. The cheerleaders have already been flocking around him. And he is kind of cute... in a greasy kind of way." She grew silent for a moment before adding, "He reminds me a little of Greg Arkin."

Hudson stopped and glanced down the hall where she saw Michael hovering beside the lockers. He looked her way once then back down the opposite end of the hall. "Does this mean I need to start monitoring his meteor rock activities?"

Chloe followed her gaze. "Quite possibly. Do you know if he's into insects?" She grinned at Hudson.

"That isn't funny."

"What isn't funny?" Lana walked up to stand with Chloe and Hudson, following their gaze down the hall.

Not wanting to mention Greg Arkin to Lana, Hudson quickly replied, "Just a stupid joke Chloe told. Sorry I didn't call you back last night - "

"Apparently she was with Lex," Chloe commented.

Lana's eyes widened. "Really? I thought you two were fighting or something. Is everything okay now?"

"We weren't fighting exactly."

Chloe replied, "Well, you certainly weren't holding hands and frolicking through the park."

"I - " Hudson started to say something but the image of Lex holding her hand and `frolicking' was too much and she burst into laughter. Lana and Chloe quickly followed suit. Shaking her head, Hudson remarked, "I think the world would reverse it's spin if Lex was caught `frolicking', Chloe."

"True." Chloe nodded as she moved through the doorway into the classroom. "But it would make for one hell of a story."

Hudson sighed and shook her head as Lana followed her towards the back of the classroom where Lana took the desk in front of her, Chloe to her right. Mrs. Mackay called attention to the class, asking them all to open `Ragtime' to the next chapter they were to cover. Hudson sorted through her backpack until she found it, frowning a little. She didn't like the book; it evoked too many sexual images in her mind, always involving Lex, and that made each and every interaction with him more stressful than they should have been. She couldn't watch him drink a bottle of water without turning red.

"So, what happened?" Lana leaned her head back, looking at Hudson.

"With what?"

"With Lex, of course." She rolled her eyes before she continued to whisper, "How'd you patch things up? Did you ever find out why he was so upset?"

Hudson hadn't bothered informing Chloe and Lana that the reason Lex had been ignoring her had to do with what had occurred during the Nicodemus outbreak. Of course, she hadn't told Lana the truth regarding that whole situation either. She'd shared a kiss with another female and an orgasm at the hand of Lex Luthor, and she couldn't talk about either experience with anyone other than her mother, who really didn't want to hear about it. She knew Chloe wouldn't be able to keep her mouth shut so here she was, left pretending none of it happened, except at night when she was free to dream. Luckily, only one of those dreams had involved Lana so far.

Shaking her head, Hudson whispered back, "No. We kind of skipped the details. He said he missed me and we played a game of pool and talked, just like everything was back to normal."

Lana nodded and glanced at the head of the class to make certain Mrs. Mackay hadn't noticed them. "That's when you know your friendship is strong - when you can forget the fights and just go back to being friends."

Smiling at the sentiment, Hudson leaned back in her chair and tried to focus on the words being read by Cecily. Moments later, the sensation of being watched swept over her and she turned to glance at the back door into class but saw no one through the window. Frowning a little, she narrowed her gaze and focused through the door to see the back of Michael as he headed hurriedly down the hall.

"Can I get you anything, H.C.?"

Hudson glanced up from the notes for her biology test to find Lana watching her, a concerned expression on her pretty face. "No. I'm fine. Thanks."

"You're worried about Chloe? You always get that little furrow in your brow when you're worrying about friends or family," Lana pointed out.

Blushing, Hudson looked away, pondering the fact that Lana apparently watched her close enough as to know when she was upset. If it was true that the Nicodemus flower simply released inhibitions, then Lana's behavior the day she was infected meant... No, she didn't need to deal with those thoughts right now. There were plenty of more important issues to worry about than her non-existent (slowly emerging??) love life.

Lana touched her shoulder, squeezing it encouragingly. "She'll be all right, you know. She's strong."

"Yeah. I know. I'm just worried that whoever did it is still out there."

"I heard the police believed it might have been some kids playing?" Lana frowned.

Hudson shrugged. "Sure. Maybe. Maybe not. Whoever did it though, I would prefer to know they won't do it again."

Nodding, Lana gave her a smile. "You can't solve the world's problems, H.C. I know. I've tried." Stepping away, she told her, "If you need anything, just holler."

Solve the world's problems. She couldn't even take care of friends and family.

Last night, shortly after she and Chloe had talked on the phone about what time to expect to head out to the theatre in Abilene, a brick had come through Chloe's bedroom window, glancing off her forehead and knocking her out. She had fallen into some of the glass, receiving a few minor cuts along with the concussion. Gabe had called the house to alert Hudson to what had happened and that instead of going to the movies, they had taken a detour to the hospital.

Hudson had hurried over to visit her friend and find out what had happened. According to Chloe, she'd heard something tapping against the glass of her bedroom window. She explained that it sounded a lot like in the movies, when the boy goes to the girl's house and throws pebbles against the window to get her attention. Curious, she wandered over to it, standing back for a moment, waiting for the sound again. Nothing happened. Moving forward, she peered out, searching the street and sidewalk below, glancing over their yard, seeing nothing out of the ordinary. Figuring it had only been her imagination, Chloe turned to move away when the brick had come crashing through the window, knocking her out. Hearing the noise, her father had hurried upstairs, called the paramedics and Chloe awoke in the Emergency Room, realizing she and Hudson had missed out on their movie date to see `Fellowship of the Ring'.

Chloe was going to be all right but that didn't lessen Hudson's concern for her friend. She could only be grateful that it hadn't been a meteor rock because that would have led to even more questions and conclusions as to what kind of freak was running around Smallville this week.

Sighing, Hudson tried to turn her attention back to her homework but it didn't last for long. For some reason, Hudson's ability to sense when Lex was near was uncanny, even to her.

She looked up from the booth she was stretched out in as she felt something - a strange change in the air around her - that caused her to glance toward the Talon's front door. At that moment, it opened and Lex walked in, knee-length black coat billowing out behind him as he strolled into the coffeehouse. Lex always walked like he had purpose, knew where he was going, but didn't really care about when he got there. It was the strangest contradiction Hudson had ever seen. Even on the farm, he walked as if he owned the dirt beneath his feet, but with an attitude that seemed to say he could care less.

Forcing her gaze back to the notes in front of her, Hudson pretended extreme interest in her homework, though the words and numbers made very little sense at the moment.

"Don't I get a hello?"

Hudson looked up at Lex's voice to find him standing beside her, a small smile hovering over his mouth as he watched her. "Oh, Lex. Hi. I didn't see you come in."

His smirk continued as he slid into the seat across from her. "Is that so? Whatever that is in front of you must be terribly exciting."

She glanced down at the papers and felt her cheeks redden. "Well, it's biology. We have a test tomorrow."

"Biology?" Lex raised an eyebrow. "And here I thought you might have been studying anatomy, considering the fierce concentration."

Hudson wondered why the seat beneath her couldn't just open up and swallow her whole. The universe had to be conspiring against her. "Er... ummm... anatomy is next year," she mumbled, keeping her gaze focused on the words in front of her.

"Relax, angel. I'm just teasing you."

His voice washed over her, low and gentle, and Hudson found her gaze drifting back up to his, discovering that his eyes were no longer mocking. She found it easy to return his smile and her embarrassment quickly melted away. "I'm surprised to see you. You've been working late so often the past few months."

Lex shrugged, leaning back against the wall of the booth as Lauren stopped by to bring him his cappuccino. After thanking her, he took a cautious sip then glanced across the table at Hudson. "I had an afternoon meeting that ended earlier than I expected and decided to give myself the rest of the day off."

"Meaning that you're planning on going home and working from there."

Lex just quirked an eyebrow at her, took another sip of his beverage but didn't bother to reply.

Shaking her head, Hudson returned her attention to her notes, actually able to make a little more sense of them this time around, even with the faint scent of Lex's cologne drifting across the table. He must have had some stored up energy within him because the fingers of his hand not holding the mug were tapping lightly against the tabletop. Most of the time, Lex was collected and could sit as still as a statue for hours, with only his eyes moving, taking in the activity around him. On rare occasions, such as now, the energy he kept contained tightly within himself seemed to burst to the forefront, demanding to be released. His body would move as if he'd drank one too many cappuccinos in a two hour period. She couldn't help but wonder if the behavior stemmed from years of being forced to curb his energy as a child.

"You wouldn't have a fencing lesson this evening, would you?" Hudson asked curiously.

Lex frowned a little as he snatched up the pen she had laying beside her homework and began twirling it between his fingers. "No. Heike is in Germany. Why?"

"No reason." Hudson glanced up under her lashes, watching as the pen moved through his fingers with almost lightning fast speed.

"I was thinking of going to the gym though."

She thought that was probably a good idea but didn't say anything as she became distracted by his fingers. Lex had beautiful hands - slim, long, powerful. She couldn't help but find the visible veins in the top of his hands fascinating and his nails were always manicured, clean and shiny and perfectly rounded. They were soft, too. Soft and warm and they had glided over her skin -

"Earth to Hudson Kent."

Hudson blinked, snapping out of her reverie to find Lex grinning at her again. "Sorry. I just... my mind wandered."

"You're doing that a lot lately," Lex commented, gathering the pen between thumb and middle finger and tapping the edge against the table. He leaned forward, regarding her thoughtfully. "Anything you care to talk about?"

As a matter of fact, I would really, really like to know what sex is like. Specifically, with you. "No. Nothing. Just school stuff and junk."

Lex gave a small nod. "You know you can tell me anything, angel," he encouraged quietly.

Hudson couldn't help but think it was silly, how much those few words meant to her. "I know. That means a lot to me, Lex. Thank you."

Smiling, Lex lifted the mug up to his lips and took another drink before asking, "How's Chloe?"

"Better. Her father will be bringing her home this evening. Luckily, she got off with a concussion and some minor cuts."

"Any leads on who might have done something like that?" Lex asked with a frown.

Hudson shook her head. "Dad talked to the sheriff last night and they said they thought it was likely just some young kids playing around, who really didn't mean to hurt anybody. They're offering a small reward for any leads. I just wish I could learn something more."

"She's lucky," Lex commented, watching Hudson with a thoughtful expression. "The glass could have done a lot more damage."

The worst of it was, there was nothing Hudson could have done to protect her. Beyond forcing her friends and family to live inside of plastic bubbles all of their lives, there was nothing that she could do to protect them from the surprise occurrences that could happen in everyday life. Like kids playing with rocks or bricks outside your house.

"Hey, Hudson."

Lex glanced up sharply at the voice, his eyes narrowing just a little. Hudson followed his gaze, flashing at quick smile at Michael. "Hi, Michael. I don't think I've ever seen you in here before."

Michael returned Lex's stare for a moment before turning his attention to Hudson and offering a smile. "Well, I know you hang out here a lot so I decided to check it out and see what was so special about it."

"Well, Lana runs it," Hudson replied, waving her hand toward the front counter where Lana was talking to Whitney. "Out of loyalty to her, I won't buy my coffee anywhere else." There was a moment of silence between them, before Hudson nodded her head toward Lex. "Do you know Lex Luthor? Lex, this is Michael Powell. We go to school together."

Lex continued to hold the pen in one hand, picked up his mug again and nodded once as he lifted it to his lips. "Powell. Your father just started working for me, didn't he?"

"Yeah. We moved here last month." Michael watched Lex a few moments longer before looking back at Hudson. "I wondered if you wanted to get together this week and study for the History exam we have coming up? We could meet at my place. I'm sure my mom wouldn't mind ordering pizza or something."

"Ummm... " Truthfully, Hudson was beginning to feel bad for turning him down the other day. It had to be hard to be the new kid in town, not certain where you fit in among the cliques that so quickly formed in high school. If anything, she could at least invite him in to the circle of friends she hung out with. Besides, one night of studying really didn't mean all that much. "Sure. When?"

"Tomorrow night?"

"Okay." Hudson nodded and smiled. "Tomorrow night it is."

"Great!" Michael continued to smile down at her, his hand reaching out to brush a strand of her hair from her shoulder.

Hudson twitched away from his touch without thinking and across the table she heard a strange snapping sound. Glancing over, she watched as Lex's gaze narrowed further on the boy standing over her.

"If that's all, Michael," he commented in a low tone. "Hudson and I were in the middle of a conversation." He indicated with a quick jerk of his head that it was time for Michael to leave. Then he flashed a quick, falsely patient smile.

"Maybe Hudson doesn't want me to leave," Michael replied, not moving.

If Lex didn't look so offended by Michael's reply, Hudson would have laughed. As it was, she didn't want a repeat of losing his friendship. "Michael." She waited until he turned his gaze to her. "I'll see you tomorrow, at school. Okay?"

"Yeah. Okay. Sure." He cast another quick look at Lex before finally turning and moving away.

Hudson watched until he exited the Talon then looked back across the table. "What was that all about?"

"You're not seriously going to go to his house, are you?" Lex countered, leaning over the table and regarding her intently.

Blinking, Hudson commented, "Whoa. Do I detect a hint of jealousy?"

Lex rolled his eyes. "Please, Hudson. That's hardly anything to get jealous over."

Trying not to show her disappointment, she asked, "So what is it, then?"

Lex glanced over his shoulder toward the door that Michael had recently exited through. "There's something about him I don't like... " He trailed off, staring longer before sitting straight once more and focusing an intense gaze on Hudson. "How well do you know this guy? Enough to let him just touch you like that?"

Hudson sighed. "I know his father works for you and that he was a very popular athlete at his last school. Geez, Lex. I know more about him than I did about you when we began hanging out." She glanced at her fingernails for a moment before commenting, "Besides, I think he's cute. And... and maybe it's time I start dating. I'm going on sixteen, you know. A boyfriend couldn't hurt."

"Is this a test?" Lex asked, his expression one of amusement. "It's not working, Hudson. These childish little hints of yours aren't going to get me to break down and ask you out just to beat some high school kid to the punch. You know very well my thoughts on anything happening between us. Trying to make me jealous - which isn't going to happen - won't change that."

Doubting that she could be any more mortified than she was at that moment, Hudson looked away, focusing her gaze on Lana and Whitney and mentally repeating over and over that she wasn't going to cry. She added to that how much she hated Lex Luthor and that she wouldn't want to go out with him anyway because he was mean. She didn't even know why she bothered being his friend. Tomorrow night she would meet Michael for a study date and they'd probably hit it off really well and fall hopelessly in love and then Lex would realize what he could have had and come crawling to her. And she would just laugh in his arrogant and very mean face!


She looked up to find Lex standing next to her, the merest smile playing around his mouth. "What?" She snapped.

He reached out and placed a finger under her chin, lifting her gaze up while he leaned over, his mouth next to her ear. "We both know that Mr. Powell doesn't stand a chance," he whispered. "Remember your New Year's resolution? The stuff of legend, angel."

Straightening, Lex winked at her before turning and walking away.

Hudson glared after him, caught between frustration and amusement. Whatever he might deny, she was almost positive that she had detected a hint of jealousy in his tone. Maybe it was time for Lex to do the pining instead of her.

The next morning, Hudson followed Pete off the bus, her thoughts centered on her upcoming study session with Michael that night and Chloe's theories on the phone last night as to who was `out to get her'. So far she was almost positive it was someone in the school cafeteria for the expose she wrote last week regarding the health code violations that were almost certainly regular practice among the employees. Hudson had commented that she was certain Chloe had hit her head a little harder than the doctors believed and perhaps they should put her on medication. Her friend hadn't found that very funny and had promised that when she returned to school next week, she would prove her theory right.

"So would you believe my mother actually went out and bought me a pack of Valentines to hand out at school?" Pete commented in outraged disbelief as they entered the school. "Like we're still in elementary school or something."

"Spiderman?" Hudson asked as they turned down the hall towards their lockers.

Pete shook his head and leaned closer to whisper, "No, man. Scooby-Doo."

Hudson burst into laughter before Pete elbowed her in the ribs.

"It's not funny," he ground out between clenched teeth. "I told her she was trying to kill my rep."

"Pete, hate to break it to you, but you don't have a rep to kill."

"That's cold." Pete flashed her a quick frown. "Just... cold."

"It's not my fault you hang out with two of the most unpopular girls in this school," Hudson remarked, stopping beside her locker and dropping her backpack to the ground.

"You and Chloe are not unpopular," Pete disagreed, leaning against the lockers beside her.

"Yeah. That's why so many guys are always asking us to the school dances. Because we're so popular."

"Who's popular?" Lana walked up between Pete and Hudson, flashing a smile.

"H.C. is trying to tell me that she and Chloe are the two most unpopular girls here," Pete replied, shoving his hands into his pockets with a frown.

Lana frowned as well and glanced up at Hudson. "That's not true. I've heard plenty of the guys talk about you."

Hudson almost dropped her History book. She looked down at the brunette beside her with wide eyes. "Who?"

"Steve Rollins - "

"No-Neck Steve," Pete added with a smile.

Lana hesitated to give him a quick look before turning back to Hudson. "Josh Matthews, on the swim team? He was talking about how `hot' you were just the other day," she told her. Then she shrugged. "Of course, he followed that up with something about you being about two feet taller than him."

"Great." Hudson turned back to her locker while Pete and Lana grinned at one another. "I suppose he won't be asking... me... on... "

She trailed off as she noticed a folded piece of blue paper sticking between the edges of the vent into her locker door. Reaching up, she pulled the paper free and unfolded it, her eyes glancing over the black ink scrawled across it.

"What is it?" Lana leaned up to peer over her shoulder.

"A poem," Hudson replied, frowning a little.

Pete stepped closer. "Now this I have to hear. Read it."

Worrying her lower lip for a moment, Hudson read:

"In the mirror of the wishing well
I see your smile,
And the midday meal on the bright green lawn. Hear the unhappy buzz of the bumble-bee, Climbing out of the picked flower.
Smell the rain the cooling air,
Taste popcorn on your lips through my laughter, Feel your face under my curious hand.
Things that should be."

"Sounds like you have a secret admirer," Lana commented with a smile. "That's beautiful."

"What kind of freak writes poetry?" Pete snatched the paper from her hand.

"The romantic kind," Lana supplied. "I wouldn't mind if someone wrote me poetry."

Hudson frowned as Pete turned the paper over in his hands. "What are you looking for?"

"I just want to make sure it isn't from Lex Luthor. This is just the kind of weird ass, freaky shit he would do."

Lana's eyes widened and she turned back to Hudson, her smile growing. "Wouldn't that be the most romantic thing possible? Lex writing you poetry and then sneaking into the school to slip it into your locker?"

"Romantic and highly improbable," Hudson remarked, taking the paper from Pete's hand, folding it and slipping it into her pocket. "I don't see Lex sneaking into Smallville High for anything. And he reads poetry; he doesn't write it."

"I don't know what you see in that guy, H.C.," Pete commented as she shut her locker and they started back down the hall. "He's bad news. I keep telling you and you aren't listening."

Lana leaned her head around Hudson to add her opinion. "Lex isn't so bad, Pete. Look at everything he is doing for this town, with the Talon and all. He could have just turned it into a parking lot but he didn't. He took a chance on me. You can't continue to blame him for what his father did to your family over a dozen years ago."

"He was raised by that man," Pete pointed out. "And maybe I shouldn't bother to mention the slightly shady dealings he's had since he's been here - Earl Jenkins, Club Zero, the stuff with the Nicodemus flower - "

"Earl Jenkins you can blame on Lionel Luthor," Hudson defended. "And there is no proof that Lex had anything to do with the Nicodemus flower. You're going on conjecture."

"And what about Club Zero?"

Lana glanced up at Hudson with Pete's question but she just continued to look ahead, ignoring him, and the trio grew silent.

Truthfully, the only person who seemed to encourage Hudson's interest in Lex was Lana. Pete was completely against him even being in Smallville and while Chloe never came out and said that she didn't think they should be friends, Hudson knew very well that she had her misgivings. It was like fighting an uphill battle; everyone was prepared to judge Lex without ever giving him a chance to prove himself outside of his father's influence.

Hoping to change the subject, Hudson asked Lana whether she and Whitney had any plans for Valentine's Day and what those were. After Lana described the restaurant they were going to in Salina, Pete chimed in that he was taking Emily Brower to the movies and dinner as well. He was quick to amend that it wasn't anything really romantic - yet. Hudson teased him that she thought his interests were all about Erika Foxx or was that attraction only fleeting?

"Erika is always number one with me," Pete replied quietly, his gaze moving around the hall to make certain the subject in question wasn't listening in. "But seeing as how she is currently with Kurt, I need to have other options available to myself."

"How fickle is the heart," Hudson commented.

Laughing, Lana told him, "I heard the other day that Erika is growing tired of Kurt and is considering breaking up with him."

Rubbing his hands together, Pete grinned. "Sounds like the day of Pete Ross approacheth!"

Hudson rolled her eyes while Lana did her best not to laugh out loud.

He made a face at both of them before ducking into his homeroom. "See you at lunch!"

"How's Chloe?" Lana asked.

"Frustrated that her dad is forcing her to stay in bed instead of allowing her to go out and investigate her fall."

"That sounds like her. She's determined to find the culprits, isn't she?"

Hudson nodded, knowing that Chloe would likely, in the end, cause more trouble than if she just left it to the police. While Hudson thought whoever had done it needed to suffer some kind of consequences, she had trouble believing that it was truly done out of malice. In a town overran with meteor mutants (and one silent alien), a brick through the window seemed rather unimaginative. And harmless. Maybe she had simply become too accustomed to people trying to burn her friends alive or eat them as opposed to breaking their windows. Of course, had Chloe been seriously injured, she probably would have been looking at the incident in a much different light but as it was... well, Hudson just had trouble believing it was purposely meant to harm her.

"This is so unfair," Hudson muttered as she stomped into the kitchen to pick up the phone.

Martha glanced up from the bills she was working on to watch as her daughter punched at the numbers with more force than was necessary. She kept waiting for Hudson's fingers to go right through the receiver - it wouldn't be the first time. When Hudson looked over at her, Martha returned her gaze to the checks and invoices in front of her, though her attention was still firmly focused on her daughter.

"Hi. Is Michael home? Thanks."

Michael? Who was Michael?

"Hi, Michael. It's --- Oh. You must be good with voices.... That's sweet. I don't think anyone has ever complimented my voice before."

At those words, Martha turned around in her chair to watch Hudson. She was leaning over the counter on her elbows, playing with the notepad that lay in front of her. There was smile on her face and Martha could swear her daughter was flirting over the phone.

Who was Michael?

"Actually, I'm calling because of that... Unfortunately, I have to cancel... I'm sorry. We're finally getting a few head of cattle in this weekend but the fence in the south pasture is totally destroyed and my dad wants to work on it this evening... Well, maybe we could get together before class tomorrow and go over our notes?... I'm really sorry... "

Hudson giggled. Martha didn't know her daughter knew how to giggle. Typically she would either laugh without restrain or just flash one of her brilliant smiles. Who was this Michael and why did he make Hudson Kent giggle?

"That's cool... Well, I'd better go. I'll talk to you tomorrow, okay?... Thanks. See ya!... Bye."

"Who's Michael?" Martha asked as Hudson set the receiver in it's cradle.

"Huh?" Hudson turned around and blinked at her mother for a moment then smiled. "Oh. Just a guy at school."

"Just a guy, hmmm?" Martha smiled knowingly as she signed the next check. "You've never mentioned him before... "

"He just transferred in this semester." Hudson sat down at the table and lifted a banana out of the bowl of fruit. Peeling it, she added, "I think he likes me."

"Is that so?" Setting the bills aside, Martha folded her arms on the table and watched her daughter nibble at her food. "Do you like him?"

Hudson glanced up at her, searching her eyes before shrugging. "I guess. I don't know. I mean, he is kind of cute but... "

"He isn't Lex."

"That obvious, huh?"

Shaking her head, Martha replied, "Unfortunately, H.C., it becomes more obvious each and every day. I'm glad to hear that there's another boy out there vying for your attention. This crush on Lex - "

"You haven't exactly been deterring me from it, mom," Hudson pointed out, remembering her mom's insistence that she visit Lex on Christmas.

"I've only done so because I know what he means to you. And I know that you are his only friend in town, and I certainly don't want to see the boy lonely." Rising from her seat, Martha gathered the bills into her hands and walked over to the desk drawer where she began searching for stamps. "But the fact of the matter is, Lex is much older than you. Not only would any interest on his part be illegal, but your father wouldn't allow it. I'm just saying you need to find a boy closer to your own age if you want to start dating - "

"No one said anything about dating, mom," Hudson was quick to point out. "I was just going to Michael's to study." She paused long enough to finish off the banana, then stood to throw the peel into the garbage. "And Lex really isn't that much older than me. I mean, we don't even know how old I am. You've told me that you and Dad made the decision to hold me back from school until I had a grasp of the English language. For all we know, I could be eighteen. Or even nineteen."

Sighing, Martha turned around and leaned back against the desktop. "H.C., you're adoption papers and birth certificate list you as turning sixteen in April. That's all that matters. Conjecture as to how old you might be, or even should be wherever you come from have no bearing." Martha frowned slightly. "Or is that you plan on explaining to Lex that gee, you might be blowing out the candles on your sweet sixteen cake but it's very possible you are much closer to his age because you aren't certain exactly how long it took you to travel from space and reach earth?"

"No," Hudson muttered, kicking gently at the waste basket. "But it's... well, it's unfair."

"Yes, Hudson," Martha replied with a nod, watching as her daughter glared out the window at nothing in particular. "It is unfair. But I think there are plenty of good things in your life to compensate for those which you question the fairness of. Be thankful your father even allows you to spend so much time with Lex. It's enough that the people in town can't help but comment and question as to the nature of your relationship. Do you think it's fair that your father is forced to defend his daughter's virtue time and again?"

"It's not like it's any of their business anyhow," Hudson defended angrily. "And why is it perfectly okay for someone like Tammy Winslow to sleep with every guy in school but Heaven forbid if I should want to do the same with Lex?"

Martha didn't want to bother arguing that point. She understood where Hudson was coming from, understood that it really shouldn't matter what age Lex was, especially when she knew how mature Hudson could be, how she was likely closer to eighteen in age than sixteen. But then, she and Jonathan had discussed it long ago - they hadn't felt right enrolling a seven year old girl into kindergarten. It never would have made much sense, especially considering how bright she was. Fabricating her age had made the need to keep her out of school longer in order to learn their language easily explainable. They hadn't bothered considering the consequences of what would happen when she was older and understood what they had done and was drawn to others closer to her age.

Then again, Lex Luthor could have been fifteen and Jonathan likely wouldn't have wanted him any closer to Hudson than he was now.

Walking over to where Hudson stood glaring at the floor, Martha touched her shoulders and gave her a warm smile. "Honey, I know it's difficult. So many lies have been fabricated to protect you, and in the end, many of them do little more than hurt you. But you're strong. You'll find a way to get past them all eventually and find your niche. I'm sorry that life can't be exactly how you want it - that's an impossible wish for anyone, even us lowly humans."

Hudson rolled her eyes at the `lowly humans' comment and they both laughed.

Putting all thoughts of dating and boys from her mind, Hudson spent the evening helping her father replace fifteen yards of fence before sitting down to a peaceful family dinner. Morning, and another day of school, arrived quickly. As promised, she met up with Michael before class and they sat in the bleachers next to the soccer field to go over their notes for history.

"I think this test is going to kick my ass," Michael commented after answering two questions Hudson had posed to him incorrectly.

"Nah. You'll do fine." Shifting her position, Hudson reached into her backpack to pull out the textbook. She flipped to the back section where lists of questions were divided by chapter. "Here, let's try these. When did the California Gold Strike officially begin?"

"You're very pretty."

Looking up, Hudson smiled a little, her face growing warm at the compliment. "Umm... thanks."

"I mean it," he continued earnestly. "More than pretty, even. The most beautiful girl I've ever met."

Hudson laughed. "I think you could have gotten away with pretty, Michael. That's a little much."

"Not when it's true." Michael reached up and touched her cheek before moving his fingers back through her hair, gazing at her for a long moment. "I'm surprised you don't have guys lined up along the hallways. But then, I guess that makes me kind of lucky, huh? Getting to spend time with you and all."

She dropped her eyes back to the textbook on her lap, trying to quell the feelings of discomfort his words and touch were causing. Hudson couldn't understand why she was feeling this way; she wasn't typically the type who minded being touched, not like Lex who had to restrain from flinching every time she took his hand. The only explanations she could think of were that she didn't know Michael very well, and she wasn't used to receiving attention like this from the guys at school. Maybe for girls like Lana, who were petite and popular and outgoing, they were used to having boys tell them how pretty they were and wanting to touch them. But Hudson just found it plain weird.

And she still thought it was weird when she got home that afternoon. While she did her chores, Hudson replayed the conversation over and over in her mind again, trying to figure out what it was that disturbed her so much. Maybe it was his insistence - especially when he called her beautiful. For some reason, hearing that from a fifteen year old boy was disconcerting. Now if Lex had said it, she might have accepted it better.

Then again, maybe not.

"H.C.!" Her mother hollered out from the kitchen door. "A package just arrived for you!"

Pulling away from the tractor engine, Hudson wiped her grease-covered hands over her jeans before her dad tossed her a work towel. Grinning, she wiped what was left onto it, then tucked it into her back pocket and headed for the house, Jonathan following.

"Who's it from?" Hudson asked as she walked into the kitchen.

"It'd better not have the initials L.L. on it," her dad commented as he grabbed a glass from beside the sink and filled it with water from the tap.

"It doesn't have a return address or anything," Martha replied, carrying the big box over to the island and setting it down. "Here's the card."

Hudson took the envelope and opened it, pulling out the card and reading:

"Roses are red. Violets are blue.
Chocolate is sweet, but not sweeter then you. I will watch you sleep, listen to you breathe, And your calm riposte will bestow ease. Be my Valentine, make my heart delight. We belong together. It is perfect. Right. Those who nay-say, fools who interfere, Will forget to meddle when they'll know fear. Roses are red. Violets are blue.
No one will dare to part me and you."

She frowned. "Okay, that's kind of creepy." She flipped the card over. "There's no signature."

Jonathan took the card from her, his expression darkening as he read over it.

"Maybe it's from that boy you were talking to yesterday," her mom suggested. "Michael was it?"

"What boy?" Jonathan glanced at his wife.

Hudson rolled her eyes as she removed the box from the white box. "It isn't Michael's handwriting. His looks like chicken scratches." Lifting the lid, Hudson found two dozen perfect uncut red roses tucked within the box.

Martha let out a low whistle. "That isn't a cheap gift." She peered at the card in Jonathan's hand again. "Are you sure it isn't from Michael? He could have had the salesperson write it."

"Why would he send an anonymous card and gift?" Hudson asked, picking up one of the roses and sniffing at it. "Trust me. He has no issues with hiding his interest."

"Who the hell is Michael and why is he sending you roses?" Jonathan demanded loudly, glancing from his daughter to his wife as they looked at one another.

"Just a guy at school, Dad," Hudson told him while Martha walked over to the cupboard to remove a vase for the flowers and fill it with water. "And like I said, I don't think the roses are from him. We studied for our history exam together this morning and... well, if he wanted me to `be his Valentine' he would have mentioned it then. He isn't exactly... shy about his feelings."

Jonathan's gaze narrowed further as he studied his daughter. "What, exactly, does that mean?"

"Geez, enough with the third degree." Hudson huffed, moving over to stand beside her mother as they began arranging the flowers into the vase. "First you want me to hang out with guys my age instead of Lex. Now you don't want me to hang out with guys my age."

"I'd prefer you just... go back to playing with Barbie and following me out to the pond to catch some catfish," Jonathan replied, frowning again at the card in his hand, ignoring the grins from his daughter and his wife.

Closing the file in front of him, Lex's gaze drifted to the doors of his study as he contemplated his next course of action. There was nothing in the file on Michael Powell to suggest that he was any kind of danger to Hudson, nor were there any links to the disappearance of his last girlfriend, Dana Riley. Still, nothing regarding the boy sat right with Lex. Sure, he had been popular in Edge City, had fairly decent grades, his father, Frank Powell, came highly recommended when hired as a shift manager at the Plant, and his mother, Elizabeth Powell, was a stay-at-home mom. So what was there for Lex to complain about with regards to Hudson's relationship with the kid?

Well, for one, it was Hudson. No matter what he told her, no matter what denials or reasons came to mind for why he continued to hold her at arm's length, Lex couldn't help but feel like she belonged to him. Whether she ever truly would or not didn't matter; what mattered was that he take care of her, watch over her, spend the life she gave back to him making certain she was always safe and loved. She deserved the best, and much like Jonathan Kent likely felt, Lex didn't truly believe there would ever be anyone out there deserving of her.

Glancing at the folder again, Lex knew that whatever he said against the Powell boy would be misconstrued. Hudson would think it was all due to jealousy - and Lex would be hard-pressed to deny such an accusation - and her father would probably believe it stemmed from some Luthor power trip. Still, Lex had learned long ago that proper caution wasn't to be taken lightly. Hudson might fight him on this, but he had to do whatever it took to keep her safe. Shoving the file into a drawer in the credenza behind him, Lex grabbed a set of keys and his jacket and headed out of the castle.

As Lex pulled up to the Kent farm, it was to find two of the Smallville police cars parked in the drive. Deputies were exiting the house, evidence bags in hand, while Martha and Jonathan stood outside by the fence, talking to Sheriff Ethan. Frowning, he brought the Aston Martin to a stop, shutting off the engine before opening the door and stepping out into the surprisingly warm February afternoon. Martha glanced up as he approached and though she acknowledged his presence with a slight change of expression, it wasn't the usual welcome he had grown accustomed to. Lex's gaze drifted around the yard, searching for Hudson. Not seeing her, his frown grew and a strange sensation of panic swept over him. Increasing his pace, he hurried over to the Kents.

"What's happened?" He demanded. "Is it Hudson? Is she all right?"

"I don't see how anything going on with my family is any of your business, Lex," Jonathan barked in reply.

In Lex's mind, everything regarding Hudson was his business because of what she meant to him. He turned his gaze to Martha when she touched his arm. She was giving her husband a silencing look before she looked up at Lex.

"H.C.'s fine, Lex. She went to Chloe's after school to drop some homework off. There's nothing to worry about."

Relief filled him and Lex was surprised to find that his legs really did feel like jelly. He thought briefly that if Martha hadn't been holding on to him, he might have collapsed to the ground. Wouldn't Jonathan Kent have loved that?

"Is there anything I can do?" He asked earnestly.

"Yeah," Jonathan replied. "Why don't you go back to your castle?" He turned to the Sheriff. "Ethan, why don't we move over to your car?"

Lex moved his gaze to the ground, saying nothing as Jonathan and Sheriff Ethan walked away, clearly out of hearing distance. He wasn't family; he knew that. But what would it take for Jonathan Kent to understand what this family meant to Lex? That if there was a problem, he wanted to help, however he could. Lex knew that they would never accept monetary help from him, not after they would rather pile mortgage on top of mortgage instead of accepting the offer he had proposed to them a few months ago. But he was more than willing to offer other assistance as well - whatever they wanted from him, he was more than happy to give. Instead, his concern was thrown back in his face time and again. Lex wondered if there wouldn't one day be a point when he just didn't care anymore.

"I'm sorry about that, Lex," Martha apologized beside him. "It's not really you that my husband is upset with at the moment."

"Mrs. Kent," Lex began, bringing his eyes back to hers. "If there is something - "

"Mom! Dad!"

Turning, Lex and Martha watched as Hudson came running toward them from around the side of the house. Her backpack dangled from her hand and her hair was windblown, strands caught across her nose and chin. As she stopped between them, Lex's fingers itched to reach out and brush the strands away, tuck them behind her ears. Part of him just wanted to touch her, the other part wanted to gaze at her features. Sometimes he thought he could waste hours just looking at her, marveling at her perfection. She wasn't even an adult yet and already she would put the women he knew in Metropolis to shame, even with all of their plastic surgeons and daily visits to the spa. Her eyes were wide with concern at the moment, mouth pulled tight. The urge to kiss her upset away was almost too much to ignore.

"What happened? Are you and Dad all right?"

"We're fine, honey," Martha assured her.

Hudson looked over at Lex curiously. "What are you doing here, Lex?"

"I came by to see you," he replied before glancing at her mother. "I'm sorry, Mrs. Kent. Perhaps I should come back later."

Martha shook her head. "No, it's all right, Lex. In this town, I'm sure you'll hear about all of this through the grapevine anyway." She turned back to Hudson who was fidgeting impatiently between them, her concern causing her brow to furrow. "When your father and I got home this afternoon from running some errands in town, I went upstairs to put the dry cleaning away and... well, apparently someone broke into the house."

"Was anything stolen?" Lex asked as Hudson let out a sharp breath and cast a quick glance at the farmhouse.

"No. Nothing that we could see." Martha released a shaky sigh and ran a hand through her hair. "They... they laid out the best outfits Jonathan and I own across our bed - neatly set out across the sides of the mattress that we each sleep on. Shoes, stockings, everything - like if we had been lying there, we would have been wearing them. And then... and then they placed one white lily each across the clothes." Her voice choked on the last word and Lex automatically reached out to take her by the arm, supporting her.

"What?" Hudson stared aghast at her mother for a moment before looking once more at their house. "That's... who the hell would do such a thing?"

If Martha didn't approve of her daughter swearing, she was too upset by recent events to reprimand her for the slip. Lex watched silently as the woman beside him seemed to draw on some hidden reserve of strength and smile at Hudson. "We don't know, honey. But I'm sure Sheriff Ethan and his deputies will find out for us. There's nothing to worry over for the moment."

"Nothing to - "

"Your mother's right," Lex cut in, dropping his hand from Martha's arm and briefly acknowledging the silent thanks in her gaze. "Let the police do their job, let your Mom and Dad answer any questions they might have." He nodded toward the barn. "Why don't we go up to the loft?"

Hudson appeared ready to argue but Martha chimed in, "Go on, honey. Lex came here to see you. I'm sure he's busy enough that he can't spend all evening here."

Lex held his hand out, waiting for Hudson to take it. She glanced between them, obviously seeing through their ruse to get her away from the house but was apparently disinclined to argue. He was surprised at her easy capitulation, grateful when she took his hand and followed him across the drive toward the faded red barn. They both glanced over at her father and the sheriff as they passed by, neither of whom looked up. Lex squeezed her hand encouragingly and they moved through the door into the relative warmth of the shelter.

Once upstairs, Hudson paced around the loft while Lex stood near the steps, watching her. Pent up energy was pulsing through her and she continued to look toward the barn wall, as if she could somehow see through it to the driveway and her parents, protecting them with her gaze. Lex understood that feeling of inaction, the need to be doing something but he also knew there was nothing that Hudson could do. Her parents would be much more interested in stopping anything from happening to her than allowing her to do her own investigating. He blamed Chloe Sullivan for that particular habit that Hudson had seemed to acquire.

Moving forward, Lex walked over to where Hudson finally stood, fingers thrumming against her thighs nervously. He placed his hands on her shoulders and turned her around to face him. "You okay?"

She forced a small smile, focusing her gaze on the second button of his shirt. "I guess. Maybe. I don't know. It's just... Someone has deliberately threatened my parents and I don't know where to begin in trying to find out who that person is."

"That's not your job, Hudson," Lex told her quietly but sternly. "Leave that to the police. The last thing your parents need to do is worry about you as well."

Hudson didn't reply.

Noting that she purposely didn't give him an answer, Lex suppressed a sigh and squeezed her shoulders lightly. He knew he had some information that might be helpful in determining who the culprit was, but he was slightly worried about sharing it with her. It was the reason he had come by to see her in the first place. Had Jonathan Kent been a little more receptive to accepting his help, he would have shared the information with the sheriff. As it was, he might have to have his own people step into the investigation.

"Hudson, until this is all cleared up and the culprit is found, I think you should stay away from your friend, Michael Powell."

Frowning, she glanced up at him, searching his face. "Why? What does my friendship with Michael have to do with any of this?"

"He's interested in you - that's no secret. There's the roses you received, with a poem attached that was obviously a threat. Your mother said you received an earlier poem - "

"Wait," Hudson interrupted, stepping away from his hands. "Are you trying to imply that Michael has something to do with this? Give me a break, Lex. He's a nice guy. He's popular at school, he's polite, he doesn't collect bugs... "

Lex reached back to rub at his neck for a moment, stamping down on the urge to yell at her, shake her, something. Calmly, he replied, "Some of the most dangerous people in the world were perfectly charming to friends and family, Hudson. Charles Manson, Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer. Just because you can't see it doesn't mean it isn't there."

"I can't believe you." Hudson shook her head before turning and walking away to stand beside her telescope. She grew silent, obviously lost in her thoughts, before she finally turned back to him, arms folded over her chest. "Did you delineate the rate of danger he was to me from the sixty second conversation in the Talon the other day?"

"Give me some credit," Lex scoffed. "Unlike the majority of habitants in this town, I know better than to judge someone without understanding the facts."

Hudson winced and Lex realized he hadn't meant to implicate her father in his comment but it hung there anyway, unable to be retrieved. She continued to stare at him and he knew she was waiting for an explanation.

Shrugging his shoulders lightly, Lex admitted, "I did some checking into the Powell's and their move here from Edge City. A girl disappeared shortly before they left town, a girl Michael happened to be dating - "

"You what?" Hudson asked, her tone incredulous. Dropping her arms, she moved back over to him quickly, stopping just a few feet in front of him. "What the hell, Lex? Do you plan on doing background checks on every person that speaks to me from now on? Perhaps you'd like fingerprints and blood samples as well!"

"I'm trying to look out for you, dammit!" Lex snapped back at her, fighting the urge to let loose with his temper. "What is so wrong with that?"

"It's wrong because you are prying into their personal lives, Lex! You - you're acting like God, walking around looking into peoples' past, deciding who I should or shouldn't be friends with, playing judge and jury," she accused, her tone rising. "I thought you would have learned your lesson by now, Lex. Or are you still trying to find answers to questions that aren't even there?"

Lex clenched his teeth, refusing to reply. She was clearly referencing his curiosity into the Porsche, his need to know what had happened that day at Loeb's Bridge. He thought it rude of her to bring up something that had no bearing on the current situation, as if she was trying to change the subject, steer the conversation away from Michael Powell. What would it take to get her to understand that whatever he did, he did it because he cared about her, because she was his friend, because he owed her so much? She had come to mean more to him than he could have imagined - certainly more than he was willing to admit to himself.

Or maybe seeing her talking to Michael had pushed him to finally admit the truth to himself.

"I just want to protect you, Hudson," Lex finally told her, breaking the silence between them. "I didn't mean to upset you."

She let out a breath and looked away. "I can take care of myself, Lex."

Her refusal to acknowledge his apology only stirred his anger back to the surface. "And what about your parents, Hudson? Are you protecting them? How about Chloe? Can't you see these two incidents are connected? Or are you too lovesick over some stupid high school prick, who happened to make eyes at you, to see the simple truth?"

Hudson pulled back as if he had slapped her, her expression going from outraged to hurt within seconds. She said nothing in response, simply stared at him.

Immediately regretting his words, Lex took a step toward her, trying not to let the pain he felt when she moved away from him be apparent. He held out a hand to her. "Angel, I'm sorry. I just wanted - "

"I'd like it if you went home now, Lex," she told him quietly.

Dropping his hand, Lex glanced out the hay-portal and into the darkness. He had known that checking into the Powell's could backfire but he proceeded anyway, allowing his desire to watch over Hudson override any concerns he might have otherwise considered. It was a horrible habit of his when it came to her - this loss of sense. More than once, Lex had cursed her presence in his life, the upheaval that had occurred since the day they met. Sometimes he just wished she had left him to die.

But more often than not, he knew he couldn't stand the thought of not having her there. And this - her telling him to leave - hurt like nothing else.

Lex turned to leave, making his way past the couch, stopping just long enough to tell her, "Just... think about what I said, Hudson. Think about the girl who disappeared in Edge City and what her family must be feeling. I'm not saying Michael Powell is responsible, I'm just saying the possibility is there."

He waited a moment for a reply but she turned away in silence. Knowing he would never bring himself to the point of begging for forgiveness - not even from Hudson - Lex moved down the steps and headed back to the mansion.

Hudson couldn't get her argument with Lex out of her mind. All through school the next day, she considered his words and the tense expressions of her parents all through dinner that night. She saw Michael at lunch and talked to him for a few minutes, wondering if she was somehow blind and missing some important aspect that would clue her in to his being mentally deficient. Still, she couldn't see it. He was as concerned for her family and her as anyone else was.

Maybe too concerned. And that was what caused her to decide to look into the situation herself.

On her way to Michael's house an hour after school let out, Hudson told herself she was being ridiculous.

No, Lex was being ridiculous; she was just being pulled in by his apparent madness.

Michael was a nice guy, everyone at school liked him, he was fairly popular - there was no reason why he would try to hurt her family or friends. He certainly wasn't the one sending the freaky poetry to her. He seemed to like her, sure, but it wasn't as if he had made any direct move or even behaved as if he were upset when she had to cancel their study date. Hudson could only reason that by talking about him so much and actually having someone interested in her, that Lex was beginning to feel the stirrings of that jealousy he told her he wouldn't feel. A small part of her - okay, a fairly large part of her - was quite pleased at the thought. Even if she did think he was an ass for prying into people's lives.

Michael's family lived in Pleasant Meadows, the housing division created by LuthorCorp for the majority of the chemical plant employees. In fact, as she glanced at the address on the paper in her hand, she realized he was only a few blocks down from Chloe's house. Making a mental note to stop by and see her friend before she returned to the farm, Hudson jogged up the steps to the white porch and rang the doorbell.

A few moments later, a woman who could only be Michael's mother by the resemblance she shared with him, answered the door, smiling curiously at Hudson.

"Mrs. Powell? I'm Hudson Kent, a friend of Michael's. Is he home?"

Mrs. Powell's eyes lit a little with recognition and her smile grew. "Oh, Hudson. Of course. Michael talks about you all of the time. I should have recognized you by the description. I'm so glad we could finally meet!" She held out her arm, waving Hudson into the house. "Michael isn't home at the moment - he said he would be back in a bit. Please, come in and wait for him. It will give us a chance to get to know one another."

Not wishing to appear rude, Hudson nodded and stepped inside, glancing around the sparsely furnished house, noting the few boxes that were still unpacked between the living room and dining room.

"Please excuse the mess," Michael's mother was saying as she led her down the hallway. "I've spent so much time looking for employment that I haven't had much time to unpack. I'm tempted to take my husband's advice and ask for a job at the Plant. Can I get you something to drink? Lemonade? Tea?"

"Tea would be great, thanks."

Hudson flashed a smile at the woman before slowing a little as she looked over the family photos hanging along the wall. There were a few of Michael in his baseball uniform from his old high school, photos of the family from vacations throughout the years, school photos from when Michael was younger that had Hudson stifling laughter. He was obviously well-loved and cherished as the only child.

"Why don't we sit down with our tea and talk until Michael gets back?" Mrs. Powell suggested as she re-entered the hall from the kitchen, carrying a tray with pitcher and glasses.

"Ummm... okay." Hudson wasn't really in the mood to chat with the woman but her mom had always taught her to be polite and she certainly wasn't going to have it getting back to her parents that she was anything but. She settled on the sofa across from Michael's mother and took the glass of tea that was offered to her. "Thank you, Mrs. Powell."

Michael's mother smiled at her, regarding Hudson silently as she sipped at her tea. Finally she commented, "You're much taller than I thought."

Hudson blinked then quickly attempted not to appear confused by the comment. "I... I'm the tallest girl in school," she finished lamely.

"Hmmm. Well, Michael will grow. He's father is six foot three, you know." Mrs. Powell cocked her head to the side for a moment before reaching out to cup Hudson's chin, ignoring her reaction of surprise, and move her head from side to side. "You don't look fifteen. Michael's last girlfriend always seemed so young to me. You seem much more mature."

Michael's last girlfriend? Frowning a little, Hudson pulled back from the woman's touch, asking, "Umm, Mrs. Powell, exactly what kind of relationship do you think I share with your son?"

"Why, you're very much in love, of course. I think you'll make a wonderful daughter-in-law."

"Daughter... " Hudson almost dropped her glass. She shook her head. "I don't know what your son has been telling you, Mrs. Powell, but Michael and I are just friends. There is nothing else going on between us. I'm not interested in him like that."

Mrs. Powell smiled patiently. "But of course you are, dear. We've sent you flowers and poetry. I'll admit, it's been a bit of a problem getting the two of you together but we've tried to take care of that as well."

"Y-you sent the poetry and the flowers?" Hudson repeated, setting her glass carefully on the coffee table in front of her, her eyes never leaving her hostess.

"Of course." Mrs. Powell was still smiling as she placed her glass beside Hudson's. "Who else? My Michael loves you so much I told him to spare no expense on the flowers. Next month we should be able to buy the ring." Her gaze drifted to the tea left in Hudson's glass for a moment before flickering back up to Hudson who was slowly rising to her feet. "Do sit down, dear. I wouldn't want you to fall and hurt yourself."

Hudson blinked. She had thought the beverage tasted a little strange. "You drugged me?" She asked incredulously.

"It will only help you to sleep for awhile until Michael returns. Then we'll all have a little chat and work things out. Now please, Hudson, sit down." Michael's mother gave her a tense smile, as if attempting to lighten her tone.

"You're insane." Hudson turned to leave but the woman leapt up and grabbed her arm.

"You can't leave!" Mrs. Powell shrieked at her. "The last one tried the same thing, threatening to hurt my Michael and I had to take care of her. We're not losing you - once we have a little talk, once you understand the consequences of hurting Michael's delicate heart, then everything will be fine. Now sit down!"

It was all a terrible nightmare or misunderstanding or something. Hudson was in too much shock at the words the woman was uttering to do much more than stand there and stare at her, not even bothering to remove her hand from her wrist. What had happened to Michael's last girlfriend? Was she the one Lex had been talking about? And what did she mean by `consequences'?

"Wait... Michael hurt Chloe," Hudson commented softly, eyes growing wide with realization. "Because I was going out with her that night. And my parents... That was Michael, too."

"You're clever," his mother commented with a nod. "But not to worry. Once you fully understand the danger your parents and friends are in, you'll cooperate and eventually you'll come to realize that Michael is the only one for you. You're like soul mates, much better suited to one another than that Lex Luthor you are always panting over - "

"Lex?" Hudson cut in quickly. "What does he have to do with this?"

Mrs. Powell's expression seemed to pale a bit and her gaze flickered away for a moment before she changed the subject. "Why aren't you asleep yet? I gave you the regular dosage. Perhaps you should drink more - "

Losing her patience, Hudson snatched her hand away from the woman and grabbed her by the shoulders. With a tiny shake, she demanded, "What does this have to do with Lex? Tell me!"

"I will not!" Came the reply. "You're like a little tramp, the way you follow him around! He's too old for you anyway. He'll never appreciate your beauty the way Michael will. He'll only break your heart! Michael, on the other hand - "

Hudson huffed and pushed the woman away from her. "I don't have time for this."

Moving to leave, she stumbled a little in surprise when Mrs. Powell rushed up behind her with a fireplace poker in hand and hit her over the head. Hudson turned back, ignoring the flash of disbelief in the woman's eyes as she yanked the tool from her hand.

"You... That should have hurt you!"

Hudson smiled tightly. "I guess you picked the wrong girlfriend again, huh?" She remarked before flicking the woman in the forehead, catching her as she fell into unconsciousness. Once she settled Michael's mother onto the couch, Hudson turned and sped toward the mansion.

Arriving at the east side of the property, Hudson glanced around quickly before leaping over the fence and speeding over to the kitchen door. She opened it without knocking, stepping inside to find Dodd working with a huge ball of dough. He glanced up as she entered, frowning instantly.

"If you have no delivery to make then you are wasting a trip. Mr. Luthor is not here," he told her, spilling some flour to the floor.

"Not here?" Hudson repeated, her jaw clenching. "When did he leave? Where is he?"

Obviously noting the concern in her tone, Dodd moved away from the counter, walking over to her. "What is it? What is wrong?"

"I think someone is going to hurt him."

He frowned. "People are always trying to hurt him. Do you have proof?"

Growing impatient, Hudson snapped, "Look, are you going to tell me when he left and where he was going or are we going to stand here and play Perry Mason?"

Dodd regarded her silently for a brief moment before nodding. "He left about fifteen minutes ago. There was a call about a problem at the Plant. He was headed there."

"Thanks," Hudson shouted as she broke into a run out the kitchen door.

Once she was away from the Luthor property, she moved into superspeed once more, heading along the roads she knew Lex took on his way to the Plant each day. As she passed Hobb's Pond, Hudson noticed someone out of the corner of her eye and turned back, slowing to a regular run as she saw Michael standing near one of the willow trees, whistling. Taking a deep breath, she moved over to him, stopping when he lifted his head and smiled at her.

"Hudson! I didn't expect to see you here. I was going to call you - "

"I just had an interesting talk with your mother," Hudson told him. "It's over, Michael. Whatever this sick little game of yours is, I know everything now. The poetry, how you tried to hurt Chloe and my parents... "

Michael shrugged. "It doesn't really matter now, anyway. I'll have what I want. You'll see. Want to hear the latest poem I wrote? Well, Mom actually wrote it... I was going to give it to you tonight." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a piece of paper. He smiled at Hudson then began to read:

"My world is yours, yours to command,
every color, every mood, all of me.

My breath starts with yours each morning, ends as sleep steals you from me each night.

I see your pain and curse his name,
yearn to rip and rend his life away.

His eyes are dead, as is his soul,
hidden behind his lies, his cold false heart.

Only I can see the bitter truth,
deserve your smiles, your oh so gentle love.

I know someday you'll see me here,
forever watching, loving, protecting you.

I've made myself worthy of your love,
slain so many dragons in your name.

I'll slay the one named Lex as well,
then claim you as my own, my precious love."

Hudson's eyes widened in panic and she began searching the woods around them. "Lex!" She shouted. "Lex!"

"Oh, please, Hudson. He can't hear you. I've taken care of everything," Michael assured her.

Ignoring the boy, she continued to search the area until her gaze flickered over the pond, only to see a familiar Ferrari sitting on the bottom, motor still running. Dread filled her. If she lost Lex, it would be all her fault for not listening to him.

"Shit!" She started toward the pond only to have Michael jump out in front of her.

"No!" He shouted. "You're mine! I'm saving you from him!"

"You and your mother are both insane," Hudson told him before tossing him out of her way and diving into the water.

Swimming to the driver's door, Hudson reached for the handle to rip it off, then reconsidered and punched her fist through the slightly rolled down window instead. Reaching through, she tore the seat belt from around Lex's still form and lifted him out, moving back up to the surface quickly. Once on the bank, she laid him down gently and began CPR, silently praying to whoever would listen that she made it there in time again.

"Come on, Lex," she whispered as she carefully applied pressure to his chest. "Come on... just do it once more for me. You know the drill... "

Relief washed over her as he began coughing up pond water, gasping for air. She touched his shoulder as his gaze slowly focused on her, almost expectantly.

"You're safe," she told him quietly, as if she were trying to convince herself of that fact.

Lex dropped his head back against the mud of the bank, closing his eyes momentarily before they opened again. "It... it was that Michael kid."

Hudson nodded. "I know." She glanced over toward the willow tree to see where Michael Powell lay unconscious against the trunk. Apparently she had tossed him a little too hard. Looking back at Lex, she asked, "What happened?"

He seemed to ignore the question for the moment, taking a few breaths and struggling to sit up. Hudson reached out to help him, wrapping her arm around his shoulders so that he leaned against her for support.

Lex stared at Michael as he replied, "When I drove around the corner, he was laying in the middle of the road. I stopped and got out to check on him when he sat up and popped me on the head with something." He reached back to touch the spot Michael had apparently hit. "I came to when the cold water touched me. The car was already in the pond by then. I thought I could just hold my breath until the car filled and the pressure equalized, and I could get the door open, but he broke the lock."

Hudson gasped at the image of Lex sitting there, trapped, waiting to drown. Closing her eyes, she leaned her forehead against the back of his. "I'm sorry... I'm so sorry, Lex. I should have listened. I should have -- "

"I kept telling myself you'd be there. You wouldn't let me drown after saving me once," he continued. His hand found hers and he squeezed a little. "Lucky for me, you made it just in time."

Lifting her head, Hudson met his gaze and found she couldn't think of anything to say in reply. Lex gave her a half smile.

Swallowing, she hugged him a little closer, trying not to think of the fact that she had almost lost him again. That had she been a few minutes longer... It was bad enough that he had warned her about Michael, that Lex had somehow known that something was wrong with the boy and she had ignored him, argued with him, blamed it on jealousy. Hudson couldn't decide if she should be embarrassed over her behavior or sad because Lex really didn't care if she dated, as long as the guy wasn't some psychotic freak.

"That was a new car, too," Lex commented blandly.

Hudson smiled a little, her gaze following his out toward the pond. "You're not going to try to... you know, keep this one? Like last time?"

Lex turned his head just enough to flash her a long-suffering look.

"So anyway, Sheriff Ethan said he spoke with the police chief in Edge City and Dana Riley had turned up missing three months before the Powell's moved here. Of course, no one ever considered that they had anything to do with her disappearance because they were such a well-loved family and Michael apparently seemed very distraught at his girlfriend disappearing. But after they heard about Michael and Mrs. Powell's arrest here, they searched their old house and found her body buried in the cellar. Apparently, Mrs. Powell is getting the wrap for that one." Hudson paused to take a drink of her Coke before grabbing the remote on the couch beside her and flipping over to `Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown'.

"I miss all of the good stories," Chloe bemoaned on the other side of the phone. "This could have been mine - if I hadn't been one of the victims."

"You could still write something, I'm sure. After all, poor Mr. Powell had nothing to do with it." She frowned at the television before grabbing a fistful of popcorn from the bowl in her lap.

"What's happening to him anyway? Is he staying in town?"

"I doubt it. Lex told me that his father requested the man find employment elsewhere. Mrs. Powell is being taken back to Edge City so she can be charged with murder. And, of course, whatever happens with you and my parents and Lex."

Chloe sighed into the phone. "Well, at least I'm not the only one who gets targeted by the freaks." She laughed. "I can't decide which is more pathetic - that we've both had our run-ins with complete wackos in the past few months or that we're both sitting at home on Valentine's Day, stuffing our faces and watching TV?"

"I think I prefer sitting at home to the alternative," Hudson replied. "I've had my share of romantic interludes."

"Yeah, I'm sure you'd be saying that exact thing if Lex showed up at your door with flowers in hand."

Hudson smiled wistfully. "Somehow, I don't think I need to worry about that happening, Chloe."

"Meh." She could feel Chloe's shrug through the phone. "Like Motley Crue said, we're too young to fall in love anyway."

"You've been watching too much VH-1 lately," Hudson told her. "I don't think - " She halted her sentence when the phone beeped in her ear. "Hang on. Call waiting. It's probably mom and dad wanting to make certain I'm not throwing another party tonight."

"We're much too pathetic for that," Chloe commented before Hudson switched over to the other line.

"Kent Farm."

"Nothing to do but answer the phone tonight?"

Hudson smiled. "Hi, Lex. I'm talking to Chloe. What's up?"

"Give my best to Miss Sullivan," he told her. "And I was just wondering if you had been out to your loft lately?"

Brow furrowed, Hudson glanced toward the back door and the darkness beyond the window. "Er... no. Why?"

"Nothing very interesting. Maybe you should go back to talking to Miss Sullivan." The phone clicked and nothing was left but a dial tone.

Rising to her feet, Hudson changed the line back to Chloe as she walked into the kitchen, turning on the light. "That was Lex."

"What did he want?"

"I have no idea. Look, I'll call you back. I have to go outside."

"Outside? It's freezing out there. H.C., what are you smoking? And can I have some?"

"Bye, Chloe."

Hanging up the phone to her friend's protests, Hudson grabbed her dad's P-coat from the coat rack beside the phone, slipping it on over her pajamas before stepping outside and closing the door securely behind her. She peered through the darkness to see a light on in the barn that she knew she had turned out earlier that evening when she had finished with her chores. Curiosity stealing over her, Hudson hurried across the yard, hopping over the picket fence and making her way to the barn door. Pulling it open, she stepped inside, glancing at the horses as the mare nickered to her in greeting. After patting the mare on the nose, Hudson moved up the steps to the loft where she came to an abrupt halt at the sight that lay before her, her mouth falling slightly open in shock.

A small round table sat in the middle of the floor, draped in a deep red table cloth, a pretty yellow candle flickering with firelight in the center. Delicate china and silverware adorned the table and two carved oak chairs with cushions that matched the table cloth sat on either side. The delicious scent of prime rib and some kind of fowl filled the air and there was an enormous electric heater in the corner, filling the loft with warmth.

"Happy Valentine's Day, Hudson."

Hudson spun around as Lex moved out from the shadows where he had been hiding to the right of her. He was wearing a deep red shirt that she had never seen before, a striking contrast against his black slacks and one that she wholly approved of. In his hand he held a single rose - yellow with red tips.

"Dodd was a little baffled when I told him that I wanted a meal fit for a King packed and ready to eat in a barn."

She opened her mouth to say something but no words came out.

Lex smiled and held the rose out to her.

Taking it, she stared at the tight bud a moment before glancing up to meet his gaze. "Lex, I... "

Again, she couldn't think of the right words to say. Her eyes blurred as she stared captivated at the yellow and red petals. Lex Luthor was standing in her loft, sharing Valentine's Day with her with a rose and a romantic meal and... She had to be dreaming. That was it. She had fallen asleep on the couch in the house and she was dreaming this whole thing. Okay. So if this was a dream, then Lex would move up to her right now and kiss her. Biting the inside of her lip, Hudson waited as the silence stretched between them. Finally, she lifted her eyes to find Lex watching her, smiling slightly.

Not a dream.

Somewhere, she found her voice. "What... what is all of this?"

Tucking his hands into his pockets, he looked over at the table and shrugged. "I've come to a strange realization." He brought his eyes back to hers. "I told you I wasn't jealous, that I didn't care if you went out with high school kids, that I was simply concerned about Michael Powell. Unfortunately, that was utter bullshit."

Hudson stared up at Lex in silence as he stepped closer.

"The truth is, I can't stand the thought of another male - man or boy - touching you, speaking to you, even looking at you." He gave her a small, self-deprecating smile before reaching out to touch her cheek with his fingers. "You may not know this about me, but I don't like to share."

A small laugh escaped her at his comment, which caused his smile to grow. Hudson shook her head, glancing down once more at the rose. "Lex, what are you saying?"

Stepping away from her, Lex moved over to the couch and sat down, eyeing his hands for a moment before looking back over at her. "I'm not certain, Hudson. I meant what I said about not destroying what we have, not destroying you." He frowned. "Then again, I hadn't counted on feeling like this, such... rage at the idea of another man having your attention."

Hudson smiled, slipped off her father's coat and walked over to sit beside him, twirling the rose between her fingers. "I don't think you need to worry about that, Lex. This recent experience was enough to make me go back to playing with Barbie dolls and forget about guys for awhile."

"You really liked him, didn't you?" Lex asked, taking her hand in his.

Shrugging a little, Hudson cast him a quick look. "I don't know if I liked him so much as I liked the attention. It's not something I'm used to..." She smiled at Lex. "Well, I mean from other guys. I guess I was... flattered."

Lex nodded but didn't reply.

"That won't happen again, though," she told him resolutely. "Flattery just isn't worth it. I don't need that kind of attention, that's for certain!"

"Is that so?"

Lex regarded her thoughtfully before settling his arm behind her and leaning over, his mouth brushing against hers softly. When she responded, he increased the pressure, slanting his lips across hers, teasing her lower lip with the tip of his tongue. Hudson trembled beneath the kiss, thrilled that it was real and that he wasn't under the influence of some strange pollen (at least she hoped not) and that the rose in her hand was from him and he had been jealous - jealous!! Her hand moved up around his neck, her fingers caressing his warm, smooth skin, tentatively and curiously touching.

When he broke away, she whimpered a little at the loss of contact, opening her eyes to find him smirking at her. She frowned.

"Are you sure you don't need that kind of attention?" He quirked an eyebrow at her, then leaned forward to kiss her forehead before reaching up to rub the crease of her frown away. "And I think you're a little too old for Barbie."

"And too young for anything else." Hudson pouted, slumping back against the couch.

"At the moment." Lex took her hand in his and stood, pulling her with him to her feet. "You get a little older every day, Hudson. The question is, how patient are you? Can you wait?"

She met his gaze and countered, "Can you?"

Lex grinned. "I always get what I want, Hudson. No matter how long it takes." Tucking her hair behind an ear, Lex pressed a kiss against her earlobe and whispered, "And make no mistake, Hudson. I want you."

Hudson's mouth fell open as he moved away from her, walking over to the table and the cart beyond which held the food that Dodd had carefully prepared. Lex began serving it onto the plates as she finally gathered her wits about her, turning around to stare after him. He flashed her a quick, somewhat reserved smile before returning to the food.

He wanted her. Lex Luthor wanted her -- Hudson Clark Kent! She was close to doing cartwheels through the barn, but that wasn't very mature and he might consider her just the perfect age to go back to playing with Barbies if she were to give in to her impulses. Glancing down at her attire, she felt her face redden; she wasn't exactly dressed for a romantic dinner, even if it was in a barn.

Wandering over to the table, she told him, "I should probably go change."

"You look perfect," Lex replied without hesitation, not looking up from his work.

She smiled. "Maybe you hadn't noticed but I'm wearing my pj's."

Replacing the platter of prime rib onto the cart, Lex set her plate in front of her before moving around the table to pull her chair out, indicating that she should sit down. As she did, he bent down and kissed her neck, replying, "If you think I haven't noticed what you're wearing, you really do have a lot to learn about men, angel."

Face burning, Hudson focused on the plate of food in front of her as Lex took his seat, laying her rose beside her fork. There was a slice of perfectly roasted prime rib, breast of duck, new potatoes in butter sauce and crisp asparagus. A basket of fresh baked French bread sat between them and she quickly reached out to grab a slice to occupy her hands.

Glancing at the flower, she commented, "It's a beautiful rose. Thank you, Lex."

"Did you know that all rose colors have significant meanings to them?" Lex asked, handing her the tiny bowl of butter. "Not just red."

She touched the petals a moment then lifted her gaze to his. "What does this one mean?"

Lex just smiled and shook his head. "Did you really think I would make it that easy for you?" At her soft grunt of frustration, he nodded toward her plate. "Eat your food, angel. And try not to worry about it... yet."

Hudson stared at him in silence, smiling curiously when he flashed her a quick wink.

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