Last Night of the World

by Philadelphia Tuesday

Disclaimer: I own nothing. :)
Author's Note: Very minor spoilers for the Lex/Victoria story arc of season 1, and the season 2 episodes "Heat," "Insurgence," and "Visage."

Martha Kent pulled the last pie from the oven and placed it carefully on the countertop to cool. Her husband, Jonathan, padded into the kitchen, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. She regarded him with bemusement and smiled tolerantly, then wrapped an arm around his shoulders and followed him to bed.

In the loft, their adopted son slept fitfully.

Across town, Chloe Sullivan paused, searching for the right word to complete the last sentence of the last article she would write before summer vacation--although the last edition of The Torch still needed to be laid out, she reminded herself, a prospect she found comforting. But for the first time since she was six years old, the perfect word seemed to have deserted her. She tried several: stated, claimed, exclaimed, proposed, posited, and the old standby, said. Nothing seemed to fit. She yawned and stretched and decided to go to bed, barely remembering to save her work before retiring.

In the next bedroom over, Lana Lang finally finished the 100th brushstroke, set down her undoubtedly beleaguered hairbrush, and fell to sleep.

A few miles away, Pete Ross put the finishing touches on the love letter he'd waited the last six years to write, stopping just short of dotting all the i's with hearts. He folded it carefully, placed it in an envelope on which he'd written a certain 5-letter name that began with "C," and sealed it shut. He was overcome by the desire to rest, so he fell asleep stretched across his bed, still clutching the letter.

When every last light in Smallville had been turned off, silence fell over the town. Several miles away, a well-placed bomb tucked inside the Torch office finally detonated, turning Smallville white as everything exploded outward, every body safe in bed instantly burned to ash.

The attractive redheaded psychiatrist stood behind the boy's father, squeezing his shoulder as they watched the lifeline flatten as the heart rate ceased. The doctor, a Southern blond man, nodded mournfully in their direction, then called the time of death.

He did not display any emotion beyond the necessary regret; he abhorred that sort of public weakness. It had been difficult to cope with the idea of losing his only son, out of some absurd adherence to history, but he was confident that his eldest daughter was capable--indeed, eager--to take over his business. The boy had never been interested, even before his mind failed. Therefore, any grief he now felt was purely that of a father and not that of a businessman. And he did grieve, to be sure, but the boy's death also came as a relief: now no sign existed of his most poignant failure.

He would not, of course, admit this to his wife. Helen would never understand.

"Mr. Luthor?" the psychiatrist asked gently, joining him in the hallway as he gathered his remaining family and prepared to leave. "Could I have a moment? It's about your son. There are some things..." She hesitated; this intrigued him. "There are some things you might want to have of his."

"Of course." He exchanged a glance with Helen, who nodded and ushered Victoria and Alison toward the exit.

As he followed the psychiatrist down the hall, he was accosted by yet another woman. "Mr. Luthor," the slightly older redhead said. "Thank you for asking me here; it means a lot." She snuffed loudly; her eyes were red.

"I'm glad you were here, Lillian. He would have wanted you here, I'm sure."

She smiled through her tears. After she was out of earshot, he explained to the psychiatrist: "His childhood nanny."

"That would explain--" She cut herself off.

"What would it explain?"

"I think you better have a look at this." She led him into her office and closed the door behind them. She rifled through her filing cabinet and handed him an overflowing folder with his son's name written neatly across the top.

"What is this?" He began to sort through the crayon drawings and bits of rippedup notebook paper covered with childish handwriting.

"This is his work," she explained. "It would appear that your son never progressed mentally after the accident... until you begin to read." She paused. "He's created this entire fantasy world and filled it with people, like a child would do with his toys, but it's very complex."

He didn't respond; indeed, he barely heard her, as he examined each piece of paper closely.

"It might not make sense if you don't understand the world he created," she offered.

"Explain it to me, then," he replied distractedly.

"First, he created a town. A small town in Kansas, to be exact--"

"Yes, he spent time there as a child."

"Okay," she nodded. "After the accident, he regarded himself as different, as freakish--to cover up for that insecurity, he also gave himself superpowers. In a way, his story resembled the arc of a comic book--those Warrior Angel things?" She laughed. "My nephew adores them, I used to bring your son his old comic books."

"Never heard of it," Lionel murmured. "He seems to have taken a liking to you," he pointed out, holding up a crayon drawing of a smiling redhead beside a blond man.

"Yes," she replied sheepishly. "In his world, I was his mother. The doctor, in there? That was his father."

"His mother and I weren't present?"

"Well. You were, yes. Both of you. But--okay, he divided himself, within this world, into a "good" self and a "bad" self. The second self also regarded himself as different, eccentric, an outsider. To compensate, his conscience gradually deteriorated. You were the father of the second self. Lillian was his sainted mother. He blamed you for her death."

He didn't respond.

"Your wife..." A pause. "Maybe you should read it yourself."

"Frankly, I can't make heads or tails of what's written here. It used to frustrate him so when he was very little--he would bring all of these little notes to his mother and I, and we would never be able to read them." He laughed, remembering the 3-year-old's anger. "I'm afraid it's the same situation."

"Your wife," she began again, "eventually married the second self--Lex, he was called, short for Alexander."

"Well, that's textbook, isn't it?"

"There's more. Alison married Lex, and attempted to seduce the first self--Clark--as well. Victoria also became close to Lex, and betrayed him with you."

"Good Lord. I don't even want to think about the implications."

"He also gave himself, as Clark, an object of desire: an orphan girl with whom he bonded as a result of their similar fear of abandonment and rejection. She was based on a volunteer from the local high school." She smiled. "There's a story in there about her boyfriend, who is sent away; in his absence, Clark is free to make his move, as it were, on the orphan girl."

"I'd say he's been watching too many soap operas."

"What's interesting about that is the reality of the situation. In your son's world, the orphan girl's boyfriend was called Whitney. This boy was apparently based on the real girl's very close female friend, Whitney, who he met on one occasion."


"In another story, he creates a threatening female character who is obsessed with the orphan girl, representative of the real girl's lesbianism--real or perceived. He kills the threatening female, 'saving' his love from her."

He chuckled and produced another drawing. "And this one?"

"Ah, yes. Chloe. That's an interesting story, actually. After a few sessions, I had the idea of trying to introduce a character into his world. We had long discussions about what she would look like and what she would wear--he was always very specific about what he wanted. I was then able to use this character as kind of a 'truth-seeker'--an avatar for myself, if you will. She was always getting closer to discovering the truth about Clark's superpowers and Lex's evil plans."

"They're holding hands."

"Chloe also had something of an unrequited crush on Clark--his invention, not mine, of course."

"My son certainly has an interesting fantasy life."

"He also created a best male friend, who grew up with him, based on one of the boys from the high school. This one had what Clark and Lex didn't; a very big, loving extended family. But he was African-American--Clark's way of stigmatizing him. No one in Clark's world wasn't different in some way, as he perceived himself to be after losing his legs."

He examined one of the written pieces, recognizing his own name. "What was this one about? Who's Martha?" He handed it to her for a closer look.

"I am--Clark's adopted mother. He wrote this one after apparently seeing you and I conversing during one of your visits. He suspected that you and I were secretly in league with each other, conspiring against him. So he wrote a very involved story about Lex and other 'good' characters inadvertently disrupting our plans. He was very careful to indicate that I wasn't at fault, merely a willing conspirator."

"And I was always the villain?"

She hedged. "Sometimes it was Lex, but when it was him, it was almost never really intentional, except toward the end, when his conscience began to wear away further. But there was always something of an attraction between Clark and Lex--almost sexual--like he was expressing the desire to reunite his two selves. I think your son really did want to get better." She sighed.

He was silent for a moment, then asked again: "It was always intentional with me, though, wasn't it?"

She nodded. "Perhaps it was related to the fact that you were the one who brought--"

"It was because I was the one who was driving," he said softly.

She did not respond.

"The accident--it was my fault. He must have seen it as a deliberate act." He shook his head ruefully.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you. I just thought you'd like to--"

"No, I appreciate this. Look, can I keep these?"

"Well, it's not..." She paused, clearly (and wisely, he noted) considering who had issued the request. "Okay."

"Thank you." He gathered up the pictures and stories, stacking them neatly, and tucked them into the file labeled Clark Alexander Luthor.

"I'm sorry about your son."

He nodded. "Goodbye, Doctor."

Later, after Helen and the girls had retired, he started a fire and poured himself some brandy. Then he sat cross-legged before the fireplace and watched each of his son's carefully rendered drawings and chicken-scratch burn and curl, one by one, until they were all gone. He did not need his son's dementia discovered by a nosy secretary, or the press, or even by his wife or his daughters. What would they think about the roles Clark had assigned them?

Yes. It was better for everyone this way.

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