Wrestling With Lara

by rose_emily

For zebracake267's icon ficlet request.

You wrestle with Clark's mother sometimes -- his other mother -- in the dark, after Jonathan has fallen into a soft familiar cadence of snores. You feel your mind drifting down the hall, only a little ways, to where love lies sleeping in soft flannel pyjamas, a ratty and smelly yellow blanket tucked under his chin.

Whoever you are, you say to the darkness, to the vaguely brown-haired, green-eyed woman (because in your mind she looks like him, she bears an unmistakeable, unshakable resemblance that you hate and love), you couldn't have loved him like I do, or you couldn't have let him go.

When you were sixteen years old, you had a boyfriend, and your father and mother called him fast, with censorious frowns. You wanted to tell them, to shock them into understanding that you were the fast one. You were the one who urged him into things, things that were too much, too soon, too good, pleasure spreading over your body like black ink, like a dark bitter bite.

You still don't quite understand it, the impulse that drove you to such dangerous acts, but you think it's maybe linked with how you fight Clark's other mother now, in the darkness. Because there were nine days, that summer you were sixteen, nine heavy and angry and terrifying days when you were pregnant and the fast boy had gone, driven away by the reckless edge of your rebellion, and all you could think of was how to get rid of it, this thing inside that threatened your life. Mother and Father never knew, never had to know, because the very night you resolved to tell them about it, you were saved by vicious cramps and a dense river of blood, and you cried from relief and then you forgot all about it, and about the fast boy, and about the astringent taste of danger and desire.

Until now. Until you have these nights, wrestling with the unknown mother, and you know that you would have put that long-ago baby in a box and sent him away, would have done it with the pure selfishness of a child, with arrogant assurance that you were right, that there was no other way.

Was it like that for you? you ask her in the dark. Were you only a girl? Were you sure that I could love him more? But then you remember the vast distances Clark must have come and you doubt that his arrival was some sort of extreme method of population control. But still you wrestle her.

I deserve him, you assert. I wasn't ready then, but I am now. I've been nothing but ready ever since. And he loves me -- did you see how he hugged me when I tucked him in? Then, with a poisonous delight, Do you hate him for loving me?

She is silent, because she never answers you. Jonathan mutters something, turns over, emits a muffled fart. Down the hall, your baby breathes.

I hate you for loving him first, you admit. But I will love him last. I will love him best.

And she, the despised other, blinks dark-lashed green eyes, she smiles with the full curve of Clark's baby smile, and you know. She never wanted to give him away. She deserved him as you never have. It's your dumb luck, your lightning-strike good fortune, that her beautiful child fell out of the sky and into your arms. Because he is not yours. You will love him best, you will love him last, but he is not yours.

Then you slip out of bed, you walk down the hall and stand just outside the door of the bedroom, just close enough to hear his breathing. You don't enter the room. You don't dare, because you are certain that if you do, you'll see her, bowed over him, stroking back his heavy curls, running a finger over a sleep-flushed cheek. You couldn't bear the sight, so you stand and you listen to his breath.

He murmurs in his sleep, his one word. "Lara."

You go back down the hall and clamber between the sheets, already wrestling again. Whoever you are, you couldn't have loved him like I do, or you couldn't have let him go.

Sometimes the words are enough.

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