Reminders and Regrets

by Celli Lane


Notes at the end. (Correct notes, this time.)


You chase me like a shadow
And you haunt me like a ghost
And I hate you some
And I love you some
But I miss you most...
--"On a Bus to St. Cloud," Trisha Yearwood


Smallville
Thanksgiving Day


Clark stood at the door. That hadn't been a car driving by. Well, it had, but it had been a Ford pickup, not an Aston Martin or a Porsche or anything costing more than the mortgage on the farm.

"Superhearing fails again," he muttered, and went back into the kitchen.

"Is someone coming?" his mother asked. Martha seemed to be stirring something, setting the table, and giving him a Concerned Look at the same time. Moms were amazing.

"Nope. I thought Pete might be down early, but whoever it was drove by."

"I'm really looking forward to having everyone back. It seems like every time you came home from college these last couple years, Pete was interning, and Chloe had a story to write, and Lana was out with the horses. It'll be nice to have you all together in one place."

"Yeah," Clark said. All of us that matter anymore. The pain had settled in his chest like a dull ache, and he welcomed it lately as his powers grew more and more, well, powerful. Maybe he couldn't hurt physically anymore, but he could be heartbroken with the best. Yay him.

"I'm surprised it's not snowing," he said quickly as the Concerned Look got turned on him again. "It seems like it always snows on Thanksgiving, usually just in time for me to get stuck in a blizzard driving home."

"Welcome to Kansas," Martha said. "If you don't like the weather--"

"Wait five minutes, it'll get worse," they said together. Clark felt some of the bitterness ease as he looked at his mother. He gave her a quick hug.

"I think it's behaving because Someone," she pointed her spoon at the ceiling, "knows it's our last Thanksgiving like this."

"What do you mean last? Mom, just because we're graduating doesn't mean none of us will come home for the holidays again."

"You never know. The Planet might want you to work. There might be a big story only you can cover."

"Or a little one and all the star reporters will be home for the holidays, more likely. Assuming the Planet hires me at all."

"Of course they will!" She leaned against his shoulder. "Or there might be a disaster or something. You might need to...help out. You never know."

"True." His near-total recall (SuperMemory, Pete called it) was the only thing keeping him in a decent GPA this year. It seemed there was a new crime to fight every ten minutes. He and Pete and his parents all worried about it...but they had until graduation to figure something out, before he had to find a way to excuse himself from a nineto -five job to go save people secretly. "Okay. So if it's our last Thanksgiving bash, we should do it properly. Anything I can do to help?"

She pointed at the table. "The cider's getting cold."

Fwoomp! He blasted it with a quick heat wave. "Not anymore."

She was laughing. "Okay, but after everyone gets here, you might want to use the microwave instead."

"Yes, Mom."

"Now get your dad. If we let him, he'll be playing with the new tractor all day and he'll never get dressed for dinner."


Jonathan was in the barn, of course, practically petting the new tractor.

"Have you named it yet?"

"What?" His father looked up with an embarrassed laugh. "Sorry. I know you and your mother think I'm being foolish--"

"No, not foolish." Clark stepped next to him and ran a hand over one wheel. "It's going to make a huge difference in our productivity this year." He didn't look at his dad. "Almost makes up for me being gone."

"Clark."

He shrugged. "I know it's harder without me."

"Well, yeah. I'm not going to deny that. But I miss you, son, not your abilities."

Clark shuffled his feet. "Yeah. But." He sent a sideways look at his dad. "The tractor will help, though."

"Is that a hint? I admit, I had a hard time accepting the tractor at first."

"So it's all gifts you have trouble taking, not just a Luthor's." The silence that followed was deafening, and Clark shoved both hands in his pockets. Shit. "I promise I didn't do anything illegal to get the money. Pete triple-checked with the Senator's office to make sure no one owned the claim, and nobody saw me dig the gold up-- heck, it's Alaska, I don't think anyone was around for--"

"Clark."

He stopped. Suddenly the dirt on his boots was immensely fascinating.

"Don't expect me to get angry because you miss him."

He rubbed a hand absently over his chest. The pain was back, compounded by the guilt and the...the sheer emptiness that not even Thanksgiving and Pete and Mom and Dad and new tractors and new powers could fix.

"I'll get over it," he said roughly.

He heard the long, rough sigh that was almost a platitude in itself, and he had to smile.

"I will, Dad."

Jonathan put a hand on each shoulder. "Clark. Look at me."

"What?" And it was nearly a whine, dammit, he'd thought he was done with complaining and pity and all that.

"Of all the things you can't fix as a father, this is the hardest to accept."

"My sexuality?" Clark said lightly, or tried to, and Jonathan shook him.

"Stop that." A long, steady look; those eyes still saw more than X-Ray vision ever could. "I want to tell you it's all for the best. I want to tell you this would happen anyway, that's who he is."

What he is, Clark thought. Lex had never been given the chance to be who, just what.

"But I'm your dad, and you're hurting, and it doesn't matter what I think."

"Dad--" His father's arms were tight around him. How could he still miss Lex? It'd been months, for God's sake, and there were only so many classes to take, so many chores to do, so many lives to save. He should have worked this out of his system by now.

"Hearts aren't invulnerable," Jonathan said as if he could read Clark's mind.

"I know," he said into his father's shoulder. "I know."


Gotham
Later that day


"Mr. Wayne? Mr. Luthor?"

Lex turned smoothly, leaving Bruce still laughing at his last joke (or smirking, at least, which was as close to laughing as he usually got). "Thank you, Jayne."

"Is that her name?" Bruce murmured, and Lex gave him a sardonic look.

"She's your assistant."

Bruce shrugged. "Everything set?"

Lex skimmed through the contracts quickly. They looked the same as the ones his lawyers had sweated over for hours, but it never hurt to double-check. Even with a Wayne. They matched up just fine, and he made short work of the multiple signatures.

While Bruce did the same, Lex wandered over to the window and stared out. Fifty-some stories down, and it was all lights and steel and the occasional snowdrift. Nothing like the clean modernity of Metropolis, which was nothing more than a facade for the same crap you saw in any big city. The polar opposite of Smallville, where even the snow was quaint, and hey, he wasn't thinking about that.

He checked his watch. A good half hour since the last time he hadn't thought about it. Impressive.

Lex turned back to watch his assistant, Donna, take the paperwork and tuck it into his briefcase for him. His eyes lingered a bit on the LexCorp logo on the cover page. Even after all these years, it gave him a happy little jolt.

"Thanks, Donna. Nothing else tonight. I'll see you in the office on Monday."

"Happy Thanksgiving, sir." She followed Jayne out the door. Lex was sure they'd be discussing their respective executives within seconds. Well, he had Bruce beat on fashion, if not looks.

"Heading back home for the holiday?" Bruce asked, moving nearly silently to stand beside him at the window.

Home. A city mansion with cold floors and a colder master. A stone castle with a bed he still couldn't sleep in. A farmhouse kitchen with people laughing and talking with their mouths full and passing dishes over and around each other in defiance of any rules of manners whatsoever.

"No, I think I'll go out and find a bar that's still open. Join me?"

"I have...plans," Bruce said in that deep, portentous voice that probably made "I'm using the bathroom" sound like An Event.

"Oh. Well." Lex shrugged. "Have fun."

Bruce smirked. "See you."


Gotham might be an action-packed town, but it seemed even its famous nightlife shut down for Thanksgiving. Lex walked along, one part of his brain scanning his surroundings, the other flipping through his options. The restaurant in the hotel was a last resort...no. He was too restless to head back just yet. Two or three visits back, Bruce had taken him to a jazz club that was low-key for a Luthor but not too unentertaining. Now what street had it been on...?

"Day deceives, but at night no one is safe from hallucinations!"

"What the hell?" Lex spun around, searching the shadows near him. "Who said that?"

A man reeled out, bouncing off the nearest streetlight. He laughed madly. Drunk? High? Plain old nuts? It was hard to tell.

"The legends here are all of bloodfeuds and suicide, uncanny foresight and supernatural knowledge."

"Ah...they are?" Lex saw the paper bag clutched in the man's hand. Drunk, then. "Glad to know it." He backed up a step, calculating how far he should be before turning his back on the guy--

--and ran smack into someone. Before he even turned around, his stomach sank.

Yes. Bad news. Roughly the size of a mountain, dressed completely in leather, with a wicked-looking nightstick in one hand. Before Lex could even open his mouth to barter (he was arrogant, not stupid), the mountain spoke.

"Wallet. Watch. Coat," it rumbled.

Ah, dammit, not the watch again. Lex spread his hands in a hopefully non-aggressive gesture. "Look, I'm sure we can come to some sort of--"

"Now." The mountain reached out and grabbed his arm.

Lex could feel his temper detaching from the rest of his brain and taking over. Oh, to have a good golf club with him... "Like. Hell."

The mountain seemed a bit surprised to be challenged, which gave Lex just enough time to yank away and put all his strength into one punch.

No effect at all. Except on Lex's knuckles. Great. He scuttled back a bit, twisting to get to the knife in his boot top, which probably would feel like a toothpick to this guy. Shit! Where was Clark with his improbable rescues when you needed them?

Both Lex and the mountain had forgotten about the drunk. "Moon, moon, rise in the sky!" he shrieked. "Be a reminder of comfort and the hour when I was brave!"

The mountain jerked around, surprised, which gave Lex enough time to dive for the knife. But when he came up, someone was behind the mountain. Someone big, masked, wearing bat ears.

Huh.

Three kicks later, the mountain was a crumpled heap in a corner, and Lex was unscathed right where he'd started. He stared at his savior. "Thank you, Batman," he managed. Feeling rather stupid, he leaned down to put the knife away. What was he supposed to say? To do? You didn't tip superheroes, did you?

Of course, by the time he straightened, Batman was gone. "This is familiar," he told the empty air. "I have a friend you should meet."

Then he stared back at the ground. No...no, he didn't.

"There is no room for pity, of anything," the drunk said. He'd moved until he was standing right next to Lex. "In a bleeding heart I should find only exhilaration in the richness of the red." He grinned and held his hand out.

Lex dug through his coat pockets until he found a silver monogrammed flask, which he dropped in the man's hand. "Here. Shut up."

He stalked off. Pity. Ha. "Nothing bleeding on me," he muttered. "Didn't you hear? I don't have a heart to bleed. Asshole."


Metropolis
Five months ago


"I'm tired of secrets."

Lex sighed. "Trust me. If you told your parents, you would be much, much more tired of the flack they would give you."

"They'll get over it." Clark was pacing beside the bed, wearing only unbuttoned jeans and one sock. Lex gave serious thought to getting out of bed just to remove the sock. And the pants. And...he made himself focus on the argument.

"No. No, they won't."

"You don't know them--"

"Excuse me." Lex's eyes met Clark's squarely. "I do know them. I've known them for almost six years now, and they still don't trust me farther than they can throw me. Definitely not as far as you can throw me. They can handle me as your friend. They might even, with a great deal of time and therapy, be able to handle me as your lover. But you know what? The minute you tell them I know about your past, your father will have you in the Superhero Protection Program."

How many times had they gone over this argument? Lex let his mind drift away from the logistics of parental lying and back to that one dangling sock. If he stepped on it when Clark walked by, he just might trip him, and Clark flat on his back was never a bad thing.

"I don't think you give them enough credit." Clark stepped into Lex's line of view, or rather his chest did. Lex ran a hand across it almost absently; he could feel the hitch in Clark's breathing, feel the muscles contract where their skin met. He moved his hand down towards the invitingness of those undone buttons.

"They trust me," Clark said, although from the sound of his voice Lex would be able to distract him any second now. "Just because your father would screw me over without thinking twice--"

"Never say 'father' and 'screw' in the same sentence," Lex said, speaking lazily to hide the burn in his throat. "Ever. Don't mention my father in the bedroom, really." His hand dipped still lower. "Why are we still talking about this? Isn't this the part of the program where we--"

His hand was pushed very firmly away. "It's not always about sex, you know."

"It's not?" Lex said with mock-innocence. "Because we're mostly naked in my bedroom, and if we just came up here to talk, you waited a while to tell me. Or are you really here for a discourse on corporate mission strategies? I really don't think that's your kind of--"

"God damn it!" Lex blinked at the sudden vehemence. Clark was nearly shaking with fury. "Not another joke about how you're slumming with me. Not another attempt to seduce me out of a conversation. Listen to me, Lex."

"I am listening."

"No, you're too busy having father issues and trying to feel me up."

Lex threw the covers off and stood in one swift movement. Clark took a step back. "You're right. It's not about sex. And it's not about my father," he said coldly. "This is about a spoiled brat thinking his parents will give him whatever he wants. They're not just going to fall in line with whatever your master plan is. They'll see me as a threat. And my father will treat you just the same. That's how it is."

Clark's face had flushed at the "spoiled brat" comment. "It is two years of sneaking me out of my dorm room and making excuses for you to come to the plant on my vacations. What are you going to do when I graduate?"

Lex shrugged. "I'll think of something then." Somewhere in between the dangling sock and his father's intentions-- he flinched at the very thought--the argument had left its usual track. This was a battle now, and Lex knew better than to give up anything in battle.

"Right. You'll think of something. Something to make my life even more twisted and dishonest. Because I am the spoiled brat. Right." Clark moved forward until he was inches from Lex's face. "Tell me the truth. This isn't about me at all, is it? It's not to protect me. It's easier for you to lie."

Sometimes a silence spoke for itself. A thousand replies came to mind, but none of them could stand up to that. "It is," he said slowly. Clark was already backing away. "I thought it was easier for both of us."

"Fuck. Fuck." Clark sat down and jammed his shoes on. He dug through the sheets until he found his shirt. Lex somehow felt more naked with each move Clark made to get dressed. "We've been arguing about this for two years. I don't know why I thought I could fix it."

"Fix what? Why does it have to be broken?"

"You don't get it, do you?" Clark yanked the shirt over his head. "I can lie to the world. Okay? I hate it, but I have to do it. I've accepted that. But I can't lie to my family. I don't know why I ever thought I could."

His words had an almost physical impact. Clark's family. The people he loved. The people who had only accepted a Luthor on false pretenses.

"I don't know why I thought you'd understand that," Clark said.

"No." Lex's voice echoed oddly in his ears. "What would I know about family? About relationships? About protecting people? You have to have an actual heart for that, and everyone knows the Luthor model isn't equipped with that particular enhancement."

Clark looked up from buttoning his shirt. For the first time, his hands faltered. "Lex..."

"You're right." He drew himself up to his full height. "I'm surprised it took us two years to realize what a mistake this was."

Clark's mouth shaped the word "mistake," but he didn't argue. He just left.


Metropolis
The day after Thanksgiving


Clark landed in his favorite deserted alley and looked through the walls before walking out casually. No point in being circumspect about the flying, just to walk into someone who knew he hadn't been there a second ago. He headed for the dorm, checking his watch as he went. Between holiday shopping, family visits, and the wonders of the new tractor, no one at home would miss him for a couple of hours yet. And he just really needed to be someplace...else. Somewhere away from the lingering looks and the tactful queries and somewhere, underneath, the demands that he just get over it. Even his friends, who only knew he'd ended a relationship "badly" (what an understatement) had stopped asking questions and were making noises about fixing him up.

"Male or female," Chloe had said cheerfully over a serving of Dutch apple pie. "You pick. We'll find you somebody, Clark."

Only sheer manners had kept him from leaving the table. Preferably at a speed faster than light.

*You're moping,* he told himself as he ducked around other pedestrians. *You weren't this bad in high school. Well, yes, you were, but you should be over it. All of it. I'm sure Lex is.*

Lex didn't wake up in the middle of the night reaching for...well, if he did, there was someone there, not a dream or a memory. Lex wasn't still replaying their last conversation five whole months after the fact, trying to figure out where he'd made whatever crucial mistake he'd made. Lex had moved on. And Clark would too.

Clark looked up. Yeah. Just as soon as he stopped automatically walking past Lex's condo, anyway.

He stared up at the wall. If he focused tightly, he could just see one of the penthouse windows. Lex's office window.

*Now you're a moping stalker,* he told himself. *Move your alien feet. Go. Home.*

There was a quick burst of movement near him, and Clark looked down to see doormen and limo drivers and all kinds of assorted servants bustling around the front entrance. He knew that level of obsequiousness. Lex.

He was tempted to speed away, but just the thought of seeing him again scrambled Clark's brain, and he couldn't send the orders to his feet fast enough. And then the wall of people parted, and Lex was standing there, wearing all black and all attitude.

Clark swallowed, hard, but even when Lex's gaze reached him he didn't move, although his legs locked with the effort of keeping still. His fists clenched in his pockets. He saw Lex say something--his name maybe?--and take a step forward, but there was a noise behind him and Lex turned away.

Clark stayed rooted to the sidewalk until the last of the people crowding the door had disappeared. If he looked up and through, he could see the elevator ascending, see Lex walk into his home, see if he went to the window to look down.

He didn't look up. He made his way back down the street blindly. Lex's face seemed burned in behind his eyes somewhere, and he couldn't forget it. *It doesn't matter. It's over. He's over it. It's a mistake, remember?*

But that last look wouldn't let him go. Lex's eyes, and something in them. Something that might have been regret.

--the end--

Notes: Huge thanks to Jayne for the challenging, the betaing, and the brainstorming. Feedback, good or bad, greeted with the kind of excitement usually reserved for naked billionaires.

Challenge notes: The following lines are taken from Elizabeth Smart's book "By Grand Central Station I Sat Down And Wept." The Elizabeth Smart Challenge can be found here: http://www.dreamwater.net/ladyjaynel/smartfic.htm and I recommend not only the fic but the challenge itself. Great food for thought.

"Day deceives, but at night no one is safe from hallucinations. The legends here are all of bloodfeuds and suicide, uncanny foresight and supernatural knowledge."

"Moon, moon, rise in the sky to be a reminder of comfort and the hour when I was brave."

"There is no room for pity, of anything. In a bleeding heart I should find only exhilaration in the richness of the red."



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