by Kyn Moonlight
Clark looked at the ready-made bouquets of flowers at Nell's, mentally counting the money left in his wallet. He knew his mom appreciated the simple things, and would probably be just as happy if he didn't do anything extravagant. It wasn't like he could afford extravagant anyhow. But it was Mothers' Day, and he'd rushed his farm work to get into town while the flower shop was open for last-minute shoppers this morning, because he wanted to do something special for her.
He raised a hand to one of the prettier arrangements of tropical lilies and pink baby roses, cautious to not touch the delicate flowers. 'Mothers' Day Special!' the sign above them proclaimed, with little red hearts and roses, in all it's inkjet and click-art glory. He smiled at the thought that Lana was still making posters for her aunt. Nell had always proudly displayed Lana's creations, from her crayon scrawls in when they were in grade school or elaborate marker designs in junior high, to her current digital efforts.
It was sweet, really. Motherly in a way you seldom noticed about Nell. Just like his mom would always tell him his presents were just perfect, whether they were a few wilted wildflowers picked along the roadside, or that horrible pink sweater he'd bought with five weeks saved allowance money a few Christmases ago, because he thought it would look pretty on her.
But he was in High School now, and aware enough of his peers and their lives to know how lucky he was to have Martha and Jonathan Kent as his parents, no matter how frustrating they were at times. He was old enough to want to tell her so, but enough of a teenaged boy to squirm internally at even the thought of trying to verbalize emotional thoughts. So she deserved the best flowers he could buy, even if she'd say things like that didn't matter.
He scanned the open cooler and the price tags again. The best he could afford wasn't much, but he picked the freshest looking bouquet of 'the cheap stuff', carnations, snapdragons, daisies, and something not quite daisy-like that he couldn't name, and took it up to the counter.
Nell smiled as she took them out of his hand. "Are you sure you wouldn't like one of the bouquets with orchids or roses? They're marked down to thirty dollars this morning."
Clark dropped his gaze, and took the last ten dollars out of his wallet. "No thanks. These will be fine." Lana would just have to forgive him if he didn't buy any coffee at the Talon this week.
"Well then, I know your mother will be very happy with these," Nell offered with a smile that attempted sincerity, as she began to wrap them in bright paper.
She would, he knew, but he cast a longing look at the lush bouquet of long-stemmed red roses Nell had been working on, and thought that it must be nice to be able to buy exactly what you wanted. He blinked in surprise then turned when he heard the bell on the door chime. Lex walked in, all casual confidence and aloof expression, as usual. The facade softened a little, though, as he saw Clark, and they greeted each other with smiles.
"Clark," Lex said. Spoken like that, slow and deep, it was like there was a whole conversation layered into that single word, if Clark could only figure out how to unravel it.
"Hi Lex," he replied brightly, vaguely disappointed at the sound. Simple. Uncomplicated. When he said a name it was just a name, when he bought flowers they were just daisies.
"Buying flowers for Mothers' Day?" Lex asked.
"Yeah." He exchanged the rumpled bills with Nell for the bouquet. "What are you doing here?"
Lex leaned past him to slide a fifty-dollar bill across the counter and pick up the roses, with a brief nod of acknowledgement to Nell. "The same."
"But... oh." Clark ducked his head to hide the embarrassment. "So you're going... um."
"To Metropolis cemetery, yes," Lex answered, with a self-depricating shrug.
Clark looked down at his simple flowers as his friend held the door for him. That was so like Lex, really, to take his mother flowers, even at her grave. Really expensive ones. He knew his dad, or Pete would point it out as a sign of decadence to spend so much on something beautiful to just let it lie, wasting away on the ground. But maybe Clark was learning to hear and see at least some the layers there were to everything Lex did and said. It wasn't a careless expenditure by a spoiled rich kid, it was a young man telling his mother that he loved her.
"Can I give you a ride?" Lex gestured to the car of the day. The Lamborghini. Clark allowed himself a small sigh of appreciation.
"I," he started to decline, then took another look at Lex's face. Well-concealed but still recognizable, though perhaps to his only friend, was the expression of someone who's feeling how terribly alone he is. "How can I resist the Lamborghini?" Clark answered with a grin. He could at least give his friend a few more minutes of being not entirely alone.
After the spending the first half of the trip of silence Clark was starting to wonder if his company was any improvement at all over alone. He felt he should say something, but everything he wanted to say was either not enough ('I'm sorry'), or too much ('You really loved her didn't you?'), and whenever they resorted to small talk it only emphasized the awkwardness of a situation rather than covered it.
"So, Clark," Lex began, finally breaking the solitude. He glanced over and offered his half-smile. "Those are nice flowers."
Clark scowled, wondering why Lex was mocking him and his pitiful attempt at a gift when it was all he could afford. They usually managed to get along without much awareness of the differences in their financial status, and had never let it become an issue for petty remarks on either side. But when he turned his head all he saw was sincerity. "They aren't much, I mean, she deserves better."
"I'm sure she'll love them." Lex could lie as easily as breathing, and as believably, but again, Clark saw only sincerity.
"Do you really think so? They're so...common."
"I'm sure of it. In fact I was just wishing I'd gotten daisies too."
"Why would you want daisies when you could have roses?"
"That's what my father said," Lex answered in that slow, amused drawl that always meant there was a lot more to what he was saying than the words he was actually speaking. "I'm betting your mother likes daisies and snapdragons and ... sunflowers or whatever as much as roses, if not more."
Clark shrugged. "I know she likes roses, but she says she likes carnations and mums and," he paused and smiled, "sunflowers. But she always says whatever I get her is just perfect, even if I know it's not what she really wants."
Lex nodded again, still serious, still sincere. "My mother did too."
"You didn't always get her roses?" Clark glanced to the bouquet resting behind the seats.
Lex turned toward him with a smile that bordered on patronizing, but was somehow more sad and gentle. "Yes, I did. That's just the point. She loved daisies. And carnations. And those little yellow things that grow at the edge of the yard where the weed killer didn't quite reach."
"Buttercups?" Clark supplied, wondering that someone could prefer such simple everyday flowers when they could have something bigger and prettier and... And what had his mom been saying all along about choosing to live on the farm and preferring cotton to satin and Hamburger Helper to caviar?
"Yes, those," Lex agreed.
"I thought Lex Luthor always got whatever he wanted," Clark observed with a half-teasing smile.
Lex fixed him with a stare that was part amusement, part sadness and several parts more shrouded emotions. "Hardly," he finally answered, using that soft slow voice again. "My father always gave her roses; had them ordered for her actually. I wanted to be different, to get her something special I knew she'd like, but Luthors couldn't be seen to have anything but the best so every year we went to the best flower shops and bought her the best long-stem red roses for Mothers' Day, and every year she smiled and told me they were just what she wanted."
"Lex," Clark said helplessly.
"Don't. She loved roses too. I'd just forgotten that she liked all the simpler ones just as much."
Clark's mind finally registered the familiar surroundings as Lex slowed the car to turn. "Wait!" he said, suddenly anxious.
"What?" Lex asked, stopping immediately.
"Just, well, I can get out here."
"I think I can drive a few hundred yards out of my way without interfering with my day's itinerary. Or don't you want your parents to see me with you?"
"It's not like that! They like you."
"Clark," Lex said, cautioningly.
Sometimes, Clark mused, having a genius for a friend was a pain. "Well, mom likes you, and I just thought it would be a nicer day for her if she didn't have to listen to my dad and I argue about you."
When Lex nodded in understanding, Clark reconsidered the genius/friend/pain thing.
"Here," Lex said, reaching for the roses and transferring a few from his bouquet to Clark's. "If she likes roses she should have some too."
"But they're for your mom," Clark protested.
"She wouldn't mind. I think she would have liked your mom." Lex smiled that complex, layered smile again. "And I know she'd like you."
Clark grinned back as he opened the door, then turned and pulled a handful of daisies out of his bunch of flowers. He slipped the simple white flowers in among the elegant roses, and looked back up at Lex with a soft, serious, layered smile of his own. "I know I'd like her too."
Maybe he was beginning to understand what Lex was saying when he wasn't saying it after all.
He walked slowly up the driveway, hearing the sound of high-performance engine dying away behind him, and feeling melancholy. He thought that Lex's mom would probably have understood what he was saying too, when he wasn't saying he loved her. He smiled. But she would have probably liked to hear him say it anyhow.
Clark ran the rest of the way up the drive, and swept him mother up in a hug when she came out on the porch to meet him. "I love you mom," he said holding her tight.
She laughed and returned the hug, then nudged his arms gently till he set her down. "I love you too honey. But what brought this on?"
"Just realizing how lucky I am to have parents like you and dad, and that I don't say so, but I do appreciate that, and I do love you."
When he held out the flowers to her, her face brightened even more. "Oh, Clark, they're just perfect!"
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