Lex hugs her when he enters, gently, almost fearfully. When she kisses his cheek, he wipes it off with a long, "Mooooom!" She can see him trying to hide the smile though and chuckles.
He tells her about the school and the new book he'd finished.
She smiles and nods and waits until he's done.
This isn't easy and she doesn't know how to start.
She takes his face into her hands, tearing up at the knowing fear in his eyes.
She thinks denial was easier to face.
"Lex. I want you to know that I'll always be with you."
She can always tell the mood he's in by the flowers.
A single white rose is blossoming in his hand and she smiles.
"Hi, mom. I'm back from Excelsior."
He is growing up so fast. Fourteen and so serious, so mature. Yet so lost.
"I missed you. In Metropolis, I always feel as if you're near."
She wants to touch him and tell him that she always is but she'd never lied to him when she was alive, she won't start now.
"Dad is upset about the almost-expulsion."
He sits on the marble step.
"I just wanted to come back."
"Another year, another expulsion."
It's raining and she realizes that she doesn't remember what wet feels like anymore.
"I don't know what to do with Lex anymore. Nothing is ever good enough."
Lionel looks older and tired, so unlike the regal faade he presents to the world. She wants to tell him that all he has to do is love their son as much as he loved her.
He chuckles, wistfully.
"He has your temper."
She can never tell Lex how much she misses them both because she has to be strong for him.
She wishes she could tell Lionel.
It's the middle of the night and he is drunk.
She doesn't care because his eyes are shinning with unshed tears and he is so angry with her.
"Why did you leave me with him?"
No, not with her. With him.
"He's fucking impossible. He wants me to be his fucking clone. I hate him."
He bites his lip and collapses on the ground, defeat and desperation pouring out in a single tear.
She wants to cry for him but can't. She wants to know why she's here if she can't help her son.
"Why can't he love me, mom?"
"He is so passionate, Lilly. It scares me how similar the two of you are."
He smiles, but sadness dulls his eyes. "If you were here, you'd tell me that emotions didn't kill you. That your heart was just weak and couldn't handle the stress. And that his heart is strong, has been since the accident." His hand shakes as he rubs his face and she thinks she understands. "I can't take that chance. This is the only way I know how to protect him."
The desperation in her husband's voice cuts like a knife. "I can't lose him too."
"Mom." He sits on the ground, like he did when he was younger and he is smiling, brightly, openly. Happily. She almost forgot he can smile like this.
"I think I'm in love. He says he loves me too." He sounds bewildered. As if loving him is a difficult task.
"He's lied to me before." She's surprised he isn't angry.
He stays silent for over an hour.
He looks straight at her, as if he can see her, and there's something a little like fear and a lot like hope in his eyes.
"I want this to be the truth."
Lex visits more often since he'd moved back to Metropolis.
He likes sharing stories about his lover. Sometimes funny ones, that tell her about deep intimacy and happiness. Sometimes long rants about fights that make her smile because she remembers how sweet the reconciliations are.
This time he brought him over.
Lex was right, she does like him.
Lex doesn't say anything. He passes the French Lilacs to Clark, who puts them in a vase. And as she watches them exchange glances and smiles, she wishes she could cry because her baby is finally loved how he deserves to be.
He visits her today.
He brings a bouquet of Black Magic, which remind her of dried blood.
He's calm and composed, as usual. Ready for a close-up. Until his sunglasses are off.
His eyes would've betrayed him, even if she hadn't heard him sob through the night.
Her baby's eyes should've never looked this old and tired.
Just like his father's did on the day she died.
He takes off one glove and traces her name. With a smile that twists something deep inside her. It makes her want to scream.
"Well, it finally happened, mom. He left me too."
"Congratulations, Lilly. You are now a mother-in-law. For the fifth time, if I'm not mistaken. I've had summer flings that lasted longer that our son's marriages."
Alexander doesn't come as often anymore.
"Did you know that he'd had an affair with a man for four years? Of course you did."
"For years I'd tried to beat the emotions out of him and I failed. Turns out all had to happen was love." He drags the last word as if mocking but she can hear distress underneath.
"I don't recognize him anymore, Lilly."
Lionel sounds almost defeated.
"He scares even me."
It took years, though time feels different. She often wondered what was the reason for her existence.
She finally understands.
Lex had willed her presence into his life.
She was around was because her son needed her.
She thinks she failed.
She realizes it now, as she looks at the beautiful stranger, who doesn't feel like her son anymore.
His eyes glow with brilliance but they don't betray his emotions anymore. She doesn't want to think that maybe there is nothing to betray.
He places a black tulip in her vase and doesn't say a word.
It feels like goodbye.
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