Notes: For Fizzabith, who requested Jonathan/Helen with the prompt of: "You said it wouldn't make you sick!"

Healer

There was a light snow falling onto the thick layer already blanketing Smallville.


The formal gardens outside the Luthor mansion were obscured by a sea of white, the statuary buried, and the pond frozen solid. Helen would have liked to gone ice skating with Lex. They would come in cold and laughing, have hot cocoa before the fire as they snuggled to get warm. Normal newlyweds would have done it. She and Lex were far from normal.

She stood there watching the snow swirl down from the roof. From her vantage point at a hall window high on the second floor, she could see out across some of the lower roofs. The castle was just that, a castle, and its various wings and towers sprawled off across the grounds like gangly limbs. Helen had memorized every twist and turn of it. She really had nothing better to do.

The servant standing slightly behind her cleared his throat, reminding Helen that she wasn't alone. She glanced over her shoulder at him.

"Mr. Luthor says he has the flu," he said.

"The flu," Helen repeated flatly. She ground her teeth. "Thank you, Han."

Han bowed slightly, and hurried down the hallway with new fodder for the rumors that were already circulating among the servants. Helen didn't care. If the servants thought she and Lex were having problems, let them. It was, after all, quite true.

She turned on her heel and stalked off in the other direction. She'd sent Han to see if Lex was awake. Apparently he was awake, but lying about why he wasn't out of bed. He didn't have the flu. Lex might think it was okay to lie to the servants, but he would not lie to Helen, and if she could help it he wasn't going to squirm out of spending Christmas with his father in Metropolis. Helen wasn't about to go to the big LuthorCorp party by herself.

The door wasn't locked. Helen let herself in. 

The smell of alcohol greeted her and if she hadn't already known Lex's flu was fictional, walking into his room would have told her the truth.  A trio of empty bottles lined the dresser. She'd been working overtime the past two days at the Medical Center, and apparently Lex had been busy drinking the whole time. He wasn't sick. He was hung over. 

"I though you couldn't get the flu," Helen said coldly.  She addressed the lump in the bed. Lex was curled around himself, buried beneath the blankets, facing away from her. He hadn't moved when she entered. He didn't move now. His misery was palpable, but Helen's sympathy was starting to wear thin.

"Sick," the lump murmured. 

Helen swallowed a burst of temper. "Lex, it's Christmas eve. Your father is expecting us at the party tonight.  No, strike that, he's demanding that we be there."

"Fuck him."

With a sigh, Helen went to the bed and climbed into it. Lying down behind him, she caressed his back. She could feel the ridges of his spine beneath her hand. He'd not been eating well. Helen sent up plates piled with food when he refused to come down to dinner, and he left them virtually untouched. His only nourishment came from scotch, and whiskey, and vodka.

"Come downstairs. I'll make you a nice breakfast. Please, Lex. It's Christmas."

His voice was low and muffled by the blankets. "I don't feel like celebrating, Helen."

"It's been six months."

There was no answer, but the body beneath her hand shuddered.

"What do I tell your father then?" Helen raged. "Should I tell him the truth about us, that our marriage was a scam, a smokescreen, just to cover up your affair with Clark? Is that what you want?" Angrily, Helen pushed herself back, and got out of the bed. She could have said more, could have hurt him, but she didn't.

The old Lex would have railed back at her. This Lex didn't. He rolled over and peered out from within his cocoon of blankets with the eyes of a man imprisoned in his own grief. Dark circled, red from tears and alcohol, his eyes looked haunted. Helen's medical training told her he was too thin, and too pale. Maybe it wasn't the flu, but Lex was definitely sick.

Heartsick.

"Don't leave me," he whispered. "Helen, please. I'm sorry."

"Come with me," she pleaded. "Just put in an appearance."

Lex stared at her for a heartbeat, then rolled over again and pulled himself into a tighter ball.

"No."

**********

Dr. Franklin was overjoyed to have Helen take his shift.

"You aren't going to the big shindig in Metropolis?" he'd asked, referring to the big Luthor Corp. Christmas party, a major social event every year. "I heard the governor will be there."

"Lex has a bad case of the flu," Helen had replied, and left it at that.

She knew her co-workers, like Lex's servants, suspected something was wrong, but not quite what. The tabloids were speculating that Helen had married Lex for his money, and now she regretted it. She'd read some of the articles. They claimed Lex didn't allow her access to any of the money, and that is why she still worked at the Medical Center. The reporters didn't bother to ask Helen any questions. She'd married Lex because she loved him, despite the fact he didn't love her. She worked at the Medical Center because helping people made her feel good. Simply being called Mrs. Luthor didn't bring with it the same sense of pride as saving a small child's life did.

"You're like Clark in that," Lex once told her. "He likes to help people."

Helen looked out over the empty waiting room. Dr. Franklin's shift was in the ER. If they had been in a Metropolis hospital it would be packed with the walking wounded. People in Smallville seemed to be more safety conscious, or maybe it was because life moved a little slower here.  Helen had put a few stitches in a young woman who had stepped on a glass Christmas tree bulb, and distributed ointment to an old farmer who'd singed his eyebrows lighting a fire in his hearth, but that had been all.

It was still snowing. People were staying off the roads, thank God.

Nothing hurt more than being a doctor and not being able to save someone, unless it was having special abilities and experiencing the same failure. Helen would have liked to have talked to Clark about that, but she never got the chance.  Her friendship with Clark had been cut off as abruptly as her trip to the airport and her honeymoon.

"Excuse me, sir. I thought you would want to know. I just heard that there was an explosion at the Kent Farm."

"What?"

"Is anyone hurt?"

"A squad has been dispatched."

"Turn around! Turn around!"

"No, not to the farm. Take us to the hospital. I can help!"

Helen shuddered. She'd burned the wedding dress. The blood hadn't come out of it. She'd fought desperately to save Martha Kent, who in addition to her injuries from the truck crash, had miscarried the baby. Too much blood was lost from a body already stressed from trying to carry a child she should not have been bearing. Helen would never forget the look on Jonathan Kent's face when she told him she'd failed to save either his wife or unborn child. Dealing with his grief, and her own, had blinded her to the fact Lex had left the hospital.

Dr. Franklin, ironically, had been the one to break the news to her.

"Lex just phoned in from the Kent Farm."

"What? Why did...when did he leave?"

"I don't know, but Helen, he found Clark."

Instead of a honeymoon, Helen attended a double funeral by herself.  Instead of her husband, she stood with Jonathan Kent, who hid his grief behind a wall of silent stoicism as he shook hands with friends and family. She'd walked with him back to his car. His back and shoulders had been rigid with tension as he held back the visible signs of his pain.

"I'm sorry," she'd told him. She hadn't known if she were sorry for failing to save his family, or for Lex's conspicuous absence. Apologies for both seemed appropriate.

"Thank you," he'd said.

"Jonathan. Lex...."

"I know."

Blue eyes, lighter in shade than Lex's, had met her brown. There had been a sadness in Jonathan Kent's eyes that went beyond anything she'd ever seen before. It went down to the core of him. It was different from Lex's zombie-like despair, more like an utter bleakness, as if his heart was now a black hole allowing no feeling at all.

"I logged on to Clark's computer," he said. "I read some of his letters. I know how it was, Helen. I didn't know before. I had no idea what he'd been keeping from me. I should have known, and now - I should be saying I'm sorry to you."

"Why?" she'd wiped the tears from her eyes with a handkerchief he provided.

"You've got to pick up the pieces," he'd told her, and she hadn't known what to say to that.

Helen shook off the painful memories, and looked down at her watch. Her shift was almost over.

"I'm doing a horrible job of picking up the pieces," she whispered as she filed the last of her paperwork and headed for her office. "Lex is falling further apart every day."

Lex was unreachable. He'd withdrawn from her and everything else. He refused to talk to a counselor, and hid behind Helen's skirts when it came to dealing with Lionel. Helen lied to Lionel Luthor's face on several occasions, telling him Lex could not come to his meetings because he was busy, or ill, or simply spending the day with her.

"We are," she'd once told him rather flippantly, "newlyweds after all."

Lionel was not going to stand for Lex blowing off the Christmas Party.  Lex's business dealings, thanks to Gabe and Helen covering for him, were doing well. Lionel wanted to show him off, give his son accolades for a change, if only to make himself look better. If Lex didn't show up, Lionel was going to be infuriated by the affront. Helen wasn't kidding when she'd asked Lex what she was supposed to tell him. No excuse but the truth was going to appease the old man, and they both knew it.  Whatever they told him would have to be good, but then maybe Lex wanted Lionel to know the truth. It would certainly go along with his current path of self destructive behavior.

"Clark wouldn't approve," Helen muttered.

She bundled up tightly. The snow had stopped finally, but the temperatures had dropped. Helen frowned a little. Santa would bring new skates and sleds to Smallville's children. There would be a few cases of frostbitten fingers, toes, noses and ears by afternoon Christmas Day. It would be busy in the ER. Switching shifts with Franklin might have been a better idea than she'd thought.

As she headed out onto the snowy roads, carefully picking her way home, she thought of Jonathan Kent. Unlike Lex, he was completely alone. He had no one left to help him through his grief and Helen suspected that like Lex, he would refuse a counselor. The thought worried her. She'd seen him very little over the summer, and only once or twice in the fall when he'd brought in a meager harvest to sell at the farmers market.  He'd assured her he was doing well under the circumstances, but like Lex, he seemed a shadow of himself.

"I'm going to make a house call," Helen decided. "It's Christmas."

******

Nobody was sure what had caused the explosion. An investigative team had found traces fertilizer and gasoline in the massive crater that had once been the Kent's storm cellar. Poor storage, and age had brought on a deadly chemical reaction of some sort at just the wrong time. The authorities chalked it up to a tragic accident based on their findings and the results of the autopsies. Helen herself performed the autopsies.  Martha had died of massive internal bleeding. Both the car accident and her miscarriage had contributed to it. Helen had fudged some of the data regarding Clark's death, although the initial cause had been obvious. A jagged piece of shrapnel had pierced his heart, killing him instantly. She'd turned the lethal fragment over to Jonathan secretly, substituting a shard of wood as evidence in her more "official" report.

Jonathan had turned the shining green shard over in his fingers, staring at it in horror. "My God, kryptonite. How did this get down there?"

Had the explosion been entirely accidental?

Helen didn't think it was, and when she'd seen Jonathan again, he'd confirmed it. Clark had inadvertantly caused the explosion himself, and it had nothing to do with poorly stored flammables. Jonathan had discovered more details from Peter Ross, although he would not disclose them to Helen. Pete wasn't faring too well after his friend's death either.  Helen saw him several times when he came in to visit the psych resident at the hospital for a chat. There was a smart kid, getting help with his grief. Helen wished she could convince Lex to do the same. Lex's
relationship with Clark, however, had been much more complex than that of mere
friendship.

"Then why are you marrying me?"

"Because you're my friend, Helen, and I need you. Clark and I can't come out, are you kidding? My father is getting suspicious. I need something to throw him off. I need to get married."

Helen turned up Hickory Lane. The utility pole had been repaired. The skid marks were covered up by a thick layer of snow. She drove past the crater that no longer existed. Jonathan had filled it in again, and the snow masked the new grass he'd planted over the bare earth. The trauma done to the farm by the accident had been neatly erased, but the trauma done to the men involved was not so easily removed. Lex's wounds were still raw and bleeding from losing his friend and lover. Jonathan had lost more: his wife, and both his children. Helen needed to see how he was faring on this first holiday without them.

The lights were still on in the house even though it was nearly midnight. Any hesitance Helen may have felt about disturbing Jonathan went away as she saw a shadow pass by the window. He'd heard her drive up and was opening the door even as she stepped onto the porch.

The gauntness of Jonathan's cheeks had been filled in with a beard of dark blond, scattered with gray. His hair was longer, and the thick curls fell down over his forehead and around his ears in loose tangles. The hair and the beard, coupled with his red flannel shirt, and a pair of wire rimmed glasses perched on his nose made him look like a thin, youthful Santa. It made Helen smile.

"Hi," she said.

It took him a moment to recover from his obvious surprise. "Helen, hi! Merry Christmas. Here, don't stand out in the cold."

The door was opened wider, and Helen stepped into the warmth of the house. She looked around quickly, noting that he'd changed nothing in the six months since Martha's death. It was a little untidy, with dishes piled in the sink, and muddy boot prints on the hall rug, but otherwise the same. There was a sadness to it though. Had Martha been there Helen suspected there would have been decorations up, and the kitchen would have smelled of apples and cinnamon from Martha's baking. Instead it smelled of  strong, hot coffee, and what Helen suspected was a microwave dinner.

"I'm sorry about the hour," Helen remarked. "I was on my way home from work and thought I'd stop in to see how you were doing."

"Work?" Jonathan went to the kitchen. He procured two mugs from the cabinet and filled them from the pot of coffee he'd apparently just finished brewing. "Shouldn't you and Lex be in Metropolis?"

Helen shrugged out of her coat and folded it over the back of a kitchen chair. The hot coffee was welcome. "Lex has the flu."

Jonathan looked at her over the edge of his coffee mug. He didn't comment, but she knew he didn't believe her. There was no reason for her not to tell him the truth.

"That's what he's claiming," she added after a sip of her own coffee. It was black, and bitter, but then that's rather how she felt. "He's...."

She couldn't keep the pain out of her voice as it cracked. If anyone else had come at her with a scheme like Lex had, trying to coerce her into a marriage of convenience, Helen would have kicked their ass to the door. The fact was that she loved Lex. She didn't want to lose his companionship, his friendship, even though she never had his heart. Having Clark between them would have been difficult, but doable. Having Clark gone was tearing them apart.

"Not doing well, Jonathan."

"I'm sorry," he said quietly. He set his mug down. "Helen, I'm sorry you got mixed up in this. It isn't fair...."

"It isn't fair to anyone!" Helen's hands shook.

Jonathan took her coffee away before she spilled it, and guided her into the living room, where they both settled onto the edge of the sofa.  The television was on, showing some old Christmas movie in black and white. God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman was being sung by a group of children as they marched through drifts of snow. On top of the set was a picture of Jonathan, Martha and Clark, all smiling, all caught in a moment during happier times. Leaning against the wall, within easy reach of the sofa, was Jonathan's rifle.

Helen started crying. She'd always prided herself on her strength. It was still a man's world in the medical profession, especially in Kansas. She'd had to be tough. Like Lex she'd had to resist the pressures of her father to follow in  his footsteps, and fought his will throughout her life. As a result she was good at holding back the "womanly" tears. She and Lex were a lot alike, and that's what had attracted them to each other. Their lives were tied together in a way Helen couldn't explain.  Now Clark's death was destroying Lex, and in turn, Lex's grief was destroying Helen.

All the pain she felt for herself, Lex, and Jonathan Kent came bubbling to the surface in a flood of tears. She couldn't stop sobbing as Jonathan pulled her into his arms and held her to his chest. The warmth of him, the solidity of him, brought her some comfort, but his flannel shirt was soft against her skin and smelled of  hay. It made her cry harder.

"That's the thing about Clark you know. He's like safe harbor in a storm. I can count on him to be there, Helen. I come home from a board meeting reeking of cigar smoke and nauseated by corporate politics, and there he is smelling like freshly cut hay and excited about a new lamb born on the farm."

Helen felt selfish. She had come to offer some comfort to Jonathan, and it was she who was having a breakdown. Her fists clenched in the soft cotton. She wiped her eyes on Jonathan's shoulder but the tears kept coming, shaking her body until her muscles ached. The strains of Christmas carols issuing from the television were blurred by her choking sobs, until gradually she settled down to sniffling, and the words became clear again.

What child is this,
Who, laid to rest,
On Mary's lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet,
With anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?

Slowly she raised her head and looked into Jonathan's eyes. His lashes were damp, but no tears fell. Instead he lifted his hands and pushed back her hair, wiping her tears from her cheeks with his thumbs. His skin was rough from hard work on the farm. Helen understood then what Lex meant by a "safe harbor." Maybe it wasn't so much that as a reality check, drawing them away from their big city world into another, more mundane existence. Lex's melodrama paled beneath the quiet grieving of this man. Lex's weaknesses were revealed in stark contrast to Jonathan Kent's strength.

Helen wondered if she'd fallen in love with the wrong man as she leaned in to kiss the one in her arms. He didn't resist her, but when she pulled back she could see the fear in his eyes.

Clark had been much like his father. Neither could ignore a cry for help. All Helen had to do was say:

 "Please."

********

"She'd understand," Helen said afterward.

Jonathan had just nodded, and gathered her into his arms with a gentle sigh. It wasn't long before he was sleeping, and Helen lay awake staring up at a crack in the ceiling. How many times had Martha lain in the same bed, in the same embrace, staring up at the same crack? Guiltily Helen closed her eyes, her fingers gently stroking the curls upon Jonathan's chest. The last man she'd slept with had been Lex, just before he'd come clean with her about Clark. After that - nobody. The sensation of feeling a body with hair against her was odd after Lex's silky skin.

She rolled over, inhaling the scent of Jonathan's sweat. How had she not known Lex was fey? He'd never seemed - manly - to her. Not like Jonathan, or Paul, or any of her other lovers but it wasn't anything she could define that made Lex different. Jonathan had been just as gentle with her, just as sensitive to her needs. His touch was rougher. He was a farmer. His hands were calloused from working with heavy tools, and chapped from the cold of outdoor activities, but he had handled her with the same care as Lex had always shown her.

Yet it was different. Jonathan had seemed more in charge as he touched her breasts, kissed the skin of her throat, and parted her thighs. His kisses were at first hesitant, but had grown more confident as his arousal increased. He filled her mouth with his tongue and her body with his cock. His hands stirred her passion. In that there had been no hesitation, no uneasy fumbling as there had often been with Lex. When Jonathan thrust himself into her she'd accepted him with a cry, but quickly found her rhythm, and soothed his worries with her caresses. Her legs rose around his hips, encouraging him to thrust into her deep and hard. Her nails dug into his broad shoulders as she bucked up into his hips. Her opening had been slick, and hot, and throbbing with mounting pleasure. She came for him. No intricate foreplay had been required bring her to climax. Jonathan enjoyed her. Having her had been a privilege, not a chore.

Helen stroked Jonathan's chest. He mumbled in his sleep, and his hand cupped gently around her breast. Against her thigh he was hard again and she felt a longing ache between her legs in response. She wanted to wake him and make love to him again.

But he moved a little against her, his erection wilting. His voice rumbled out of the darkness, low with grief. He dreamed not of Helen, but of the woman he'd once loved with all his heart.

"Martha," Jonathan murmured. "Come home."

********

"You're leaving?" he whispered.

Helen paused in the act of buttoning her blouse, and shook her head. "I have to go home. Lex is waiting."

They both knew she was lying. Lex probably didn't care if his token wife ever came home.

Jonathan rolled out of the bed, and pulled on a pair of sweatpants. He ran his hands through his hair as he padded across the room to the dresser. Helen realized she'd buttoned her blouse wrong, and angrily jerked the buttons open again to start anew. She bit her lip hard to keep from crying.

He returned to her. He put the envelope he held under his arm and pushed her hands away from her blouse. She stood still as he buttoned it for her. He kissed her when he was finished. She kissed him back, holding him to her for a moment to savor his presence. When they finished he withdrew the envelope from beneath his arm, and handed it to her. It had nothing written on it. It was simply a plain white envelope with the flap tucked inside to keep it closed.

"I owe you an apology, and a thank you," he said.

"Why? For what?"

Jonathan looked over her shoulder, and sighed deeply. His gaze returned to hers after only a moment. "I know you tried to save Martha and the baby. You've kept Clark's secrets. I can't thank you enough for that." 

"It's what I do, Jonathan. I'm a doctor."

"Keeping Clark's secret goes above and beyond your oaths as a physician, Helen. Revealing it could have brought you fortune and fame beyond your wildest dreams, but you kept it. Thank you."

"I don't want fortune and fame," Helen breathed. She clutched the envelope in her hand. "I just want someone to love me."

He stroked her cheek, and smiled at her. She could feel her chest ache with the longing desire to belong. She'd always been stuck in the middle, never finding a niche among the rich and famous, nor among the "common people." Her family came from money. Her desires lay among the mundane. She'd thought maybe Lex, with his love of Smallville and his ties to the elite of Metropolis, could have been that in-between she'd so desperately sought. But it hadn't been Smallville Lex loved. It had only been Clark.

Jonathan's touch and his smile were gentle, as if he were her father rather than the man she'd just slept with. "I know," he whispered. "And that's why I need to apologize to you. I should have given you that..." He nodded at the envelope. "Sooner."

"What is it?"

"Read it."

Helen slipped her fingers under the flap, and carefully unfolded the letter inside. She didn't recognize the handwriting, but as she skimmed the words she quickly realized the identity of the author.

I have to tell you the truth....

Alien.

Abilities.

My real father....

I have to destroy the ship. I might not survive the attempt.

I love you.

Helen....


She stopped, and read more carefully what Clark  had written about her.

Helen loves you Lex, more than you know. I can see it when she looks at you and I recognize it in her expression, because I look at you the same way. If I fail, Lex, know that she's there for you. You won't be alone.

There was more, not about her, but about love, and friendship. Helen couldn't look at it anymore. She folded the letter up into the envelope again, and threw her arms around Jonathan's neck, holding him tightly to her. She felt his beard brush her cheek, turned her head to kiss him and suddenly understood what had drawn them together this night. Jonathan had lost a wife. In a way, Helen had lost a husband. Their loneliness ran along a similar vein. Perhaps she had indeed fallen in love with the wrong man.

"I got out the gun a couple of months ago," Jonathan said quietly.  "After the harvest."

Helen pulled away from him, staring at him and shaking her head. "No...."

He refused to meet her eyes. "I sat down with it one afternoon, and set it up under my chin, with a string on the trigger. All I had to do was pull the string."

"Jonathan...."

"I was going to do it. I almost pulled that string, Helen. Then I couldn't go through with it. I thought about how selfish it would be, and I thought about Clark. He rarely complained. He suffered because of who he was, and what he could do. His - affair - with Lex wasn't the only secret he kept, nor were his abilities. Any pain, or doubts he had, he often kept to himself. I honor his memory by learning to live with my pain, not by ducking out on life just because it gets a little difficult." Jonathan grasped both her hands in his. "Lex isn't using a gun, Helen, but he's killing himself just the same. You give him that letter, and you tell him what I've said."

"And you?" Helen whispered.

Jonathan shrugged, and he smiled slightly. "I'll be right here. I'm not going anywhere."

"Do you regret...what we've done?"

"Do you?"

Helen looked up at him. "No," she breathed. "I needed to be warm again."

As he guided her toward the stairs, Jonathan paused, and kissed her deeply. "Merry Christmas, doctor."

"Merry Christmas, Mr. Kent."

*******

Lex was, surprisingly, out of bed when Helen got home. It was past three in the morning. Despite her brief nap, she was exhausted, both physically and emotionally. A confrontation with Lex was the last thing she'd expected, and not what she wanted just yet.

He was standing in the door to his office as she entered the hallway.  She saw him and stopped. In his hand was a glass, which was not surprising, but he was dressed, which was something new. Lately he'd taken to wearing a robe and pajamas around the house, like a reclusive, bald Hefner, only dressing when he absolutely had to.

"Your shift ended at eleven," he said. "I was about to go out looking in all the ditches between here and town."

His voice was slurred. Helen stated the obvious.

"You're drunk."

"Is that your official diagnosis?"

"Fuck you."

Lex reached out and grabbed her arm before she could continue down the hall, drawing her into his office. For someone as obviously drunk as he was, his reflexes were astoundingly good.

"Where were you?"

Helen shook him off. "I went for a drive." She sniffed. "And it's a good thing you didn't go out looking in ditches, you would have wound up in one yourself."

He took a long pull from his glass. "No big loss."

Jonathan Kent's words came back to her.

Lex isn't using a gun.

"I stopped by the Kent Farm," Helen said.

Like a deer stung by a hunter's bullet, Lex flinched. "Oh," he said.

"I talked to Jonathan. I wanted to see how he was doing."

"And? How is the old bastard? Still hates me I presume." Lex stumbled a little as he went to the bar and topped off his glass. He laughed a little. The bitterness in his voice was painful to hear. "What would he do, I wonder, if he knew I've fucked his dead son."

Helen groaned to herself. This is not what she wanted to deal with at three in the morning on Christmas.

"Would he ram a shotgun up my ass? Probably. Would I care? No. Fuck. Fuck!" Collapsing into a chair, Lex spilled his drink down his shirt as he drank. He set the glass down and pressed his fingers to his forehead. "God, Clark...."

"Jonathan knows, Lex. He has for months." Helen dug into her pocket and withdrew the letter. It was crumpled, and stained with her tears. She'd read it from start to finish in the car where she sat shivering at the end of the Kents' driveway after leaving the house. "He gave me this. It's for you."

Lex peered up at her blearily. Wordlessly he took the letter in hand, and fumbled it open. She watched carefully as he read it, but his face held no expression. His eyes were lowered beneath his pale lashes so that she could not see them. 

Helen looked away. The thick glass of the study windows obscured her view of outside, but as she'd driven up into the garage it had started to snow again. She'd turned on the radio halfway home and heard  White Christmas. This Christmas snow would fulfill many dreams, but it couldn't erase some nightmares. 

A flutter of movement caught her eye. She turned in time to see the letter drift silently, like the snowflakes outside, to the floor. Lex sat perfectly still, staring into the fire. The letter, and his drink, seemed to be forgotten. Instead he held his hands clasped together, his forefingers extended against his lips, and his elbows resting on his knees.

"Jonathan is dealing with it, Lex. He said...he said he thinks of Clark, and how much he pain he bore on a daily basis, how many secrets he kept inside. Thoughts of Clark's strength gives him the ability to carry on." Helen inhaled deeply before continuing. "He told me to tell you that."

Lex raised his head to her. His voice seemed steadier, as if the letter had sobered him. He did not acknowledge Jonathan's words, but referred instead to the letter.

"Why didn't Clark tell me the truth before? Why did he lie to me, Helen?"

She didn't know. She told him what he wanted to hear.

"Because he loved you."

The fire crackled. Helen found the sound infuriatingly merry, and resisted the temptation to dash the flames with water, bringing a totality to the silence. Lex's breath trembled, wavering in his throat. His eyes were watering. Tears dangled on the ends of his lashes.

"I miss him."

"I know, Lex. I know, but please don't keep doing this to yourself." Helen hesitated, then told him exactly how she felt. "I miss you. If I could do anything, sacrifice anything, to give him back to you, I would."

Lex stared at her, and slowly levered himself out of his chair. He stood waveringly before her, and for the first time in six months, his mouth quirked in the small, gentle smile she remembered. Helen held her breath, afraid of making it disappear.

"So Clark said," he murmured. The smile faltered, then faded, and the tears fell. "Helen. Help me."

Letting her breath out in a rush, she caught him in her arms as he took a faltering step toward her. She held back her own tears and squeezed him tightly.

"I'm here, Lex. I'm here."

*******

"You lost the beard," Helen said.

Jonathan looked up from the work he was doing, mending a fence in the barnyard. Behind him a row of sunflowers bobbed and waved in the sunshine. Smiling, he rose and removed one of his work gloves, running his hand over his face. He'd cut his hair too. He looked civilized again.

"Yeah, I figured it would be too hot once warmer weather arrived."

"I like this look better." Helen blushed a little, and looked away toward the fields. "Did you get everything in?"

"Not everything. South pasture is still a little mucky. Thank you for sending Nick my way. His help has been invaluable." 

Helen nodded. The old man had been unceremoniously chucked from Luthor Corp's Fertilizer Plant 2 just before retirement. Lex slipped him in on the payroll of Plant 3 and got him his pension back, then quietly retired him properly. Lionel never found out about it. Nick was a widower, and still fit for his age. He was renting out the apartment above the Talon and helping Jonathan out when he needed an extra hand. Nick worked cheap, Jonathan couldn't afford much, so it worked out well between them.

Jonathan squinted up into the sun for a moment and removed his other glove before returning his attention to Helen. He gazed at her silently for a long time, then asked, "How's Lex?"

"Better," Helen replied softly. She leaned on the fence, soaking up the warmth of the sun. It had been a rough winter.

"The anniversary is coming up. I thought I'd ask him...." Jonathan cleared his throat. "If he'd want to come out to the cemetery with me, but if he isn't up to it...."

"I'll tell him."

Jonathan nodded. Martha and Clark were buried on the farm, in the Kent family cemetery that had existed on the farm since its earliest days. Lex hadn't been near the farm since the day he'd found Clark. He hadn't visited the grave. Maybe he should. She would have to talk to him about it, bring him herself.

"He's in Metropolis this week," Helen added. "Business. He's been staying away quite a bit."

"Does it help?"

"Yeah, I think it does."

"But not you."

Helen bit her lip, then smiled wryly, trying to keep the sadness out of her expression and sensing that she was failing. "I bought a cat," she said. "It keeps me company."

Their eyes met.

Jonathan tapped his hand on the top rail of the fence. It was all that stood between them.

"Do you want to come in for a little while. I have lemonade cooling in the fridge." He paused a beat. "Or would you like a beer?"

Slowly, Helen's smile broadened. "I could go for a beer."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah."

They fell silent again.

Jonathan held out his hand. "Let me help you over this fence," he whispered.

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