Season 7, after "Fracture"
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
Screencap from SVFan.
You love me but you don't know who I am
I'm torn between this life I lead and where I stand
And you love me but you don't know who I am
So let me go, let me go
-3 Doors Down, "Let Me Go"
"When I was in Lex's mind..."
Clark Kent hesitated, because what he had to say was awkward. Then again, talking to Lana Lang was always kind of awkward nowadays. It shouldn't be, because she was his girlfriend. They'd been living together for six months now. And yet sometimes he felt like he didn't know her at all.
And that she didn't know him, either.
She stood in the farmhouse kitchen now, watching him warily. Her hair was as sleek and perfect as ever, and she was as beautiful as she'd ever been, yet the innocence that had once filled her face was almost entirely gone.
She looked exactly like the girl he'd adored in high school... except when he looked into her eyes.
When he looked into her eyes, he saw a stranger.
"When I was in Lex's mind," he went on, slowly and painfully, "I saw this... memory."
He saw a flash of wariness cross her beautiful face. It was a look he'd seen more often than he wanted to admit lately, the expression of someone who had a great deal to hide, and who was always afraid of being caught in a lie or half-truth.
"What memory?" she asked, quietly.
"You and Lex." He hesitated again, then barged ahead. "Making love."
"Clark." Her voice was wry, and she reached out and put a hand on his arm. "You know that he and I... well, we had sex more than once. It was a mistake. I know that now. And if I could take it back, I would. But I can't."
"No." He shook his head. He wanted to pull away from her hand, but he thought that wouldn't be polite. She was his girlfriend, after all. "See, the thing is that in this memory... you were wearing a wedding ring."
She froze, and then her hand dropped away from his arm of its own accord. She stared at him, wordless.
"I thought you married him because you were forced into it," he went on, uncomfortable but stubborn. It would be easier to sweep this under the rug, as they'd swept so many things under the carpet in their relationship, but he knew they needed to get it out in the open. "But in this memory, you were-- you were telling him you loved him, Lana. That you'd love him forever."
There was a long, long silence, broken only by the sound of her swallowing nervously. He'd said everything he had to say, so he waited silently.
"You've been missing for almost two days," she said at last, her voice sharp. "And now you come back, and the first thing you do is start hurling accusations at me."
Lana was good at that, at turning an argument so that it was all about his failings, rather than hers. But the fact that he'd been gone so long was something he refused to feel guilty about, all things considered.
The truth was that he didn't particularly enjoy coming back to the farmhouse after two days and getting into a fight with her, either. He was tired, and all he really wanted right now was to sleep. But he knew they had to stop avoiding discussion of the problems in their relationship.
"I had somewhere I needed to be," he said flatly. "And that's not the point here. The point is that you made love to Lex, after you married him. And you told him you'd always love him. Why, Lana? You told me you didn't want to marry him. That you were forced into marrying him."
She stared at him a moment longer, then her face went shuttered and cold.
"I also told you I loved him," she answered. "Not the way I loved you-- but I did love him."
He remembered what she'd said to him on the day of the wedding: I thought that the love that I have for Lex would be enough, but I can't keep turning my back on the truth. He heaved a sigh. "I don't understand how you can love two people at once, Lana."
Her gaze was accusing, and he stared back at her for a moment, then shrugged uncertainly, not quite sure what she was trying to imply. "The thing is," he said, "in this memory, you acted like he meant an awful lot to you. I just can't understand how you could tell him you'd love him forever, when you came so close to leaving him at the altar."
"I didn't have much choice but to have sex with him," she answered. "If I hadn't, he would have known my heart wasn't in our marriage, wouldn't he?"
"But why would you care? He wasn't the one forcing you into marriage. It was Lionel."
Her eyes narrowed into slits. "Because otherwise, I was didn't have any power over him."
"Power." He thought about that, and a cold shiver went down his spine. "Are you telling me you had sex with him just so you could manipulate him?"
The idea bugged the hell out of him. The thought that Lana used sex for manipulation had occurred to him more than once. She usually only seemed to want sex when she wanted something from him, and more than once he'd had the uncomfortable idea that she'd learned to use sex as a kind of bargaining chip, a way of controlling men. But he'd pushed the thought away, because to him, sex was supposed to be an expression of love between two people, not a means of bending other people to your will.
Using sex to manipulate other people struck him as... well, creepy.
"I had to have some way to control him," she answered, her voice icier than he'd ever heard it. "Until I could figure out an exit strategy, I couldn't just let him have all the power in our relationship. But it doesn't mean I loved him more than I love you, Clark."
He looked at her for a long moment. Her eyes were like two chips of dark green ice, hard and cold. He wondered why he'd never noticed her eyes were so cold before.
And suddenly, he had no idea if he could believe her or not.
"If you love me all that much," he said, very softly, "then why didn't you notice when I was missing for a month?"
"Oh, God." Her mouth drew into a tight line. "Do we have to rehash that again?"
"We can't rehash it when we've never really discussed it, Lana. Every time I bring it up, you try to avoid talking about it. But it's a problem, at least for me. It's a big problem. Because I really feel like you should have noticed the guy you were sleeping with wasn't me."
"How would I know that?" she snapped. "You wouldn't have sex with me at all."
"I was afraid of hurting you."
"No, you weren't. You just weren't willing to commit to me." Her eyes blazed with a chilly light. "The other Clark-- he was committed to me. He wanted to make me happy."
Clark sighed. "He was just playing you, Lana."
"No! He really loved me!"
Clark opened his mouth to argue, then shut it. The truth was, he had no clue exactly what had been in his double's mind. For all he knew, the poor sap really had fallen in love with Lana. Clark really couldn't see any other reason why the guy would have hung around a quiet rural farm for a month, when with his speed and strength and abilities he could have gone anywhere in the world, and done anything he wanted.
All of which made the fact that Lana had been the one to destroy the other Clark that much more disturbing. Sometimes Clark wondered if he was going to be the one who was destroyed next.
"Okay," he said at last, quietly. One of them needed to be calm. "So you think he loved you. Did you love him?"
"I thought he was you!"
"Yeah, you said that. But I think you noticed the difference, even if you don't want to admit it. The honest truth... is that you liked me better that way. Didn't you?"
She glared at him for a long moment, then her face crumpled, and tears filled her eyes.
"He was willing to devote his life to me," she whispered. "You're not."
And there it was, right there. The big issue that they couldn't find their way around, no matter how hard they tried.
"Lana..." He sighed. "I've been doing my best. But I can't spend my life on this farm, and I can't run away with you to Paris, either. That's not who I am. At least, it's not who I want to be."
"You don't care about me," she whispered, and he saw her lips tremble. He wanted to go to her and put his arms around her, to comfort her, but he restrained himself.
"I do care about you," he answered steadily. "But I care about the world, too."
She looked at him, and he saw her eyes glimmering.
"I need more than that, Clark."
"Yeah," he said. "I'm starting to get that. But it's all I've got to offer."
She stared at him a moment longer, then turned her back on him.
"It's not enough," she whispered. "If I can't have you-- all of you-- then it's not enough."
He stood there, looking at her. She was the girl he'd loved, or thought he'd loved, since he was five years old. And yet she didn't know who he was, or what made him tick. And he was beginning to realize he didn't know who she was, either.
He'd tried so hard to make this relationship work. But it was finally beginning to dawn on him that it wouldn't. It couldn't. She simply wanted more than he was willing to give.
She wanted more than he thought was reasonable of her to ask for.
"Lana," he said, very softly. "Let me go."
She turned her head and glared at him venomously. "Why? So you can go to Chloe?"
He blinked. "Chloe?"
"Yes, Chloe. That's where you've been for the past day, isn't it? With Chloe?"
He shrugged noncommittally. He'd promised to protect Chloe's secret, just as she protected his, and he wasn't about to tell Lana that Chloe had died, and he'd spent most of a day waiting for her to come back to life. Which, fortunately, she had.
"Chloe has nothing to do with this," he answered.
"Chloe has everything to do with this," she snapped. "She's always meant more to you than I do."
The words hit him across the face like a blow, and he actually took a step backward. He'd been in love with Lana for years, and the idea that Chloe meant more to him-- well, Lana was wrong.
She had to be.
"No," he said, shaking his head. "This isn't about Chloe, Lana. It's about us."
She spun around. Her eyes were colder than ever.
"If you're really honest with yourself," she snarled, "you'll admit it's about Chloe too. I might have fallen in love with other men, but at least I'm willing to admit it. You don't even see what's right in front of you, Clark."
He thought about the way he'd sat next to Chloe for most of a day, refusing to give up hope that she would somehow revive. He'd sat through darkness and daylight, moments of hope and moments of despair, and when she'd finally opened his eyes, his heart had swelled to the point it almost hurt.
He'd never been happier in his life than the moment when he realized he hadn't lost her forever.
Even so, he tried to deny it. Chloe was his friend. She'd always been his friend. A very, very close friend, but nevertheless just a friend. "I'm not in love with Chloe, Lana."
She shook her head. "Clark," she said, more gently. "A few minutes ago, you asked me to let you go. But I can't. Do you know why?"
He hesitated, then shook his head.
She smiled sadly, and turned away, walking toward the front door of the farmhouse. She spoke over her shoulder, her words ringing with a sorrowful truth he couldn't deny, as much as he wanted to.
"Because I never had you to begin with," she said softly.