Author's Notes: I owe matchbox twenty for the title.
there's a crack there in the doorway where the walls have peeled
She wakes up one day and she's forty, pregnant and barefoot in the kitchen.
Or she's thirty-two, her two children are seven and five, she owns a restaurant and she has pink fuzzy slippers to wear. She can't tell the difference anymore.
Pete calls from Metropolis. He sounds weary. "Lana," he says. The way he used to say it when they were still married. When she was Mrs. Pete Ross and he still loved her enough to stay in this town, when this life was enough for him. "Lana," he says. He sounds broken. She passes the phone to her daughter.
Christina Dana Ross was born in winter. Lana had gone into labor while they were driving back home from Luthor Manor after dinner with Lex and Clark. They'd been arguing, not that unusual anymore, and her water had broken. She whimpered, and clutched her stomach, and Pete turned around towards the hospital without even looking at her. She'd known at that exact moment that it was over.
Perfect child. Seven pounds, nineteen inches long. Ten fingers and toes and a strong, hearty cry. So unlike her elder sister, at two already all dusky skin and huge, solemn eyes. Elizabeth reached out one hand to touch, and tiny fingers held on tight. Lana laughed, and then she started crying.
They'd had the perfect wedding. Lana wore the white dress that had been her mother's, and Pete never looked so handsome. Clark was the best man, and Chloe the maid of honor. She'd had Lex give her away, against all of Pete's objections. He never exactly got around to liking Lex, but at the very least they didn't hate one another. Their lives were so intertwined sustained hate was pointless at best. Her first choice had turned down the offer anyway, and Gabe Sullivan hadn't lived long enough to see his adopted-in-spirit daughter walk down the aisle.
Honeymooned in Paris. Paris! She was a fairy princess, and Pete was the knight in shining armor. Or the knight's best friend, but she never for one moment thought that she'd settled. That first time, when they were both eighteen and fell into bed almost by accident, his hands encircled her waist and she'd felt so safe, safer even than when she was with Clark.
College, he'd compromised and decided on Metropolis U, in part because Clark had wanted to go there too. Plus there was the "incredible" law program, according to Pete's mother. Lazy, hot afternoons, her wearing his oversized old football jerseys and propped up on his bed eating yoghurt and watching him study. His hand would reach out occasionally and run absently down her thigh, assuring that he hadn't forgotten she was there.
It wasn't that she didn't want to leave Smallville, it was that everywhere else seemed so far away from her parents. Her life. Her home. They fought over it, but then she got pregnant and they stopped. Elizabeth made everything better, what with her soft delicate smiles and Pete's absolute devotion to her. He started a law practice in town, only a few blocks away from the Talon, and they had lunch there almost every weekday until he started getting more clients and got too busy.
They never talked about Chloe in New York or Lex back in Metropolis or even Clark, finally joining him. Mostly they sat in what she thought was companionable silence until it turned out it wasn't.
He never followed her to her weekly visits to her parents' grave, and they argued for two hours before he finally allowed her to bring Elizabeth there. No more than once a month, and she pretended that she didn't hear him when he said he didn't want his child to end up as freakily obsessed over dead people as she was.
Back in high school, when she'd gone there, she could talk to them forever, and sometimes she was almost certain that there was someone watching her. Now those graves felt cold and empty no matter how many flowers she laid down and she knew that the person watching her must have been Clark.
"I love you, Lana..." But. Always, that but there. But Pete wanted more. But Pete felt he deserved more. To matter. To make a difference in the world.
"You make a difference in my world," she said quietly, once.
"No, Lana. No I don't."
She shook her head and tightened her lips, didn't tell him that it was never about Clark.
Funny, but she doesn't remember him asking her more than a few times to come with him. Never remembers whether he made room in his plans for her.
She cuts newspaper clippings from the Daily Planet and the Inquisitor. Lex mostly, at first, and gradually, one or two articles about Pete Ross. One of the up and coming. Potentially somebody. Potentially Congressman. The world moves forward without her at a rate so fast she can hardly hope to keep up. Her children grow older, beautiful and strong, and she wishes she knew how to protect them. They miss their father, but he buys them expensive presents and she allows them to go up and visit him almost every other weekend, even if every time they wave goodbye she's terrified that they won't come back.
The first time she'd seen her name in print she'd stared at the article for a full hour without reading the rest of it. The ex-wife. Restaurant proprietor. Mother of the future Congressman's two children. The second link to fame, first being that Senator Lex Luthor had once been part owner of the original coffee shop that had burnt down under mysterious circumstances. The rest of the article fled from her memory, but she remembers the small photograph of Pete and Lex standing together, Lex pale and haunted despite the expensive suit and Pete, Pete shining, the way he always wanted to.
Clark had called her, when he'd broken up with Lex, the last time he had called her, and she listened, and she didn't react when he told her why, didn't say anything until he was finished, and then she hung up and put her children to bed and didn't think about meteor showers and being frozen in time on the cover of a now defunct magazine because of a boy hurtling through space so fast he almost destroyed a town when he landed.
She listens to Christine now, talking happily to her father, and almost takes the receiver when it's held out by a small hand and a chirpy "Daddy says he wants to talk to you. Says it's impoortant."
"No, I...I'll talk to him later, sweetie. You go on." Lana smiles the smile she's had years to perfect, and doesn't think about how Pete keeps trying to speak to her, or how desperate Chloe had seemed the last time she'd called, or how the news from Metropolis gets more dire with each passing day and why Superman, for all his power, never puts an end to the people responsible for so much of it. She doesn't think about how even Smallville is not safe anymore, not for her.
Tomorrow, she'll bring her children to see their grandparents, and she'll try not to feel the ghost of Clark Kent on the back of her neck, or the shadow of Pete Ross.
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