Season 8, SPOILERS for "Bride"
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
Still from Andreas at LJ.
Standing in the loft of his barn, he presents her with a withered white flower, very gravely, and she looks down. A faint, wistful smile tugs at the corners of her mouth.
"Clark," she says, softly. "Is this from the spring formal?"
He nods, feeling oddly exposed all of a sudden. He's kept the thing tucked away carefully all these years, but he can't exactly explain why. It's not like their single date turned out really well. In fact, he'd wound up in the middle of a tornado, saving another girl, and it was a miracle the little flower had stayed pinned to his lapel.
But somehow it had.
Their friendship is like that too, he thinks. All the storms they've weathered, they've weathered together. Every time he's thought he's lost her, she's come back to him. They've faced everything, even the end of the world, side by side.
He watches her carefully tucking the dried white rose into her bouquet, and sighs. After the events of last week, she doesn't remember half of their friendship. Hell, maybe two-thirds. Everything that had anything to do with his secret has been erased from her brain.
And that was his fault. He'd chosen to do that to her. He'd wanted her to be happy, unencumbered by all his baggage.
He still thinks it was the right thing to do. At least, he hopes it was. But it means that all those times they stood together, all those times they saved each other, all those times they lost each other, only to find each other again...
As far as she's concerned, they never happened.
The thought makes a lump ache in his throat, and he watches as she places the bouquet carefully back on the table. The little boutonniere she pinned onto him so many years ago is lost amidst the bigger, fresher, showier flowers, but it's going to accompany her down the aisle to another man.
And so is he.
At the thought, his throat aches worse than before. He's losing her, losing her forever. He's already lost so much of her by his rash decision to strip her of her memories of his secret. But today he's losing what's left of their friendship, their history. And it hurts.
But he wants her to be happy. That's all he wants. All he wanted to do was lift some of the weight from her shoulders.
And he succeeded. Because she's happy. She really is. There's a happy glow in her eyes he hasn't seen there for far too long a time.
She smiles up at him, and he bends, and brushes a politely formal kiss across her forehead. Suddenly his mind flashes back to the week before, her body lying motionless on a slab of ice, a great crystal structure rising around both of them. He remembers kissing her forehead. And he remembers his own words.
You're the best friend I ever could have wished for. The truth is, you've saved me more than I ever could have saved you. I'm sorry... so sorry...
He hadn't been sure whether he was sorry for taking her memories away, or sorry for himself, sorry for losing everything that had linked them together. He still isn't sure. All he knows is that he is indeed terribly sorry.
Grief spills over him in a wave. He bends again, and this time his lips are brushing over her mouth. He lifts his hands, capturing her face between them, and kisses her, softly at first, then more urgently.
This is so wrong. He's supposed to be giving her away today. She's getting married to another man, and he'd promised himself he wouldn't do anything to screw up her perfect day.
And yet here he is, kissing the hell out of her.
At first she's still against him, maybe even responding a little, but slowly he becomes aware that her hands are on his face, and not in a loving way. She's trying to push him away. Reluctantly, he lifts his head and stares down into a very angry pair of hazel eyes.
"What the hell is wrong with you?" she hisses.
Anger fills him at the rejection. But hard on the heels of the anger comes a very profound regret. What the hell is wrong with him? If he really wants to keep her safe and happy, then dragging her back into his life, into an intimate relationship with him, would be stupid.
No more secrets and lies, he thinks grimly. I'm never basing a relationship on secrets and lies again.
And that means no relationships, ever.
It's not like she's interested in an intimate relationship with him anyway. She's glaring up at him, bristling like an angry kitten, and he realizes his hands are still cupping her face. He removes them, feeling his cheeks flush in embarrassment.
"I'm sorry," he says humbly, thinking he's said that to her an awful lot lately. "I just... I just..."
"Clark..." She sighs, and the anger drains out of her expression. She looks at him with compassion. "Look, we both know you've been carrying a torch for me since high school. But it's time to let me go, okay?"
He blinks at her. Suddenly it occurs to him how their history must look to her now. He's been hanging around her desk at the Daily Planet or the Isis Foundation on a daily basis-- why? She no longer has context for those memories, no longer remembers helping him save people, or helping him investigating the weird and unexplained. As far as she knows, he's just been hovering around her constantly for the past four years. Of course she thinks he's carrying a torch for her. Why else would he have been spending all that time with her?
And the truth is... she's right. He'd never admitted to himself how much he loved her till this week. But now he can't deny it any longer.
But his feelings for her don't matter, because he's not putting anyone through the dangers of knowing his secret. Not ever again. No matter how he feels about her, he has to let her go.
"I'm sorry," he says again. "I didn't want to make things awkward, or screw up your special day..."
"Oh, nothing can do that," she answers brightly. "Don't worry about it."
He winces, stabbed through the heart, and forces a smile.
"Okay, then," he says. "I just wanted to give you--" A little piece of our life together. A little fragment of my soul. "The flower. But I'll let you finish getting ready now."
He turns and walks slowly away, then pauses at the top of the stairs, and turns back.
"Chlo," he says, "I really am sorry."
He's sorry for much more than his desperate kisses, but she has no way of knowing that. She smiles at him brightly.
"Don't worry about it, Clark. It's forgotten."
The terrible truth of those words staggers him. So much between them has been forgotten. So much has been lost. She doesn't remember everything they've done together, everything they've meant to each other. He's just an old friend, and from her point of view, their friendship is as old and withered as the rose he gave her.
He's the past. Jimmy is her future.
He takes one last look at her, beautiful and pure and glowing in her white gown, and then he walks down the stairs by himself, very slowly.
Later he'll walk down these stairs with her on his arm, and give her away to another man. He thinks about that, and admits to himself he doesn't want to give her away. Just the thought makes his throat tighten with grief and loneliness. He doesn't want to let her go. He desperately wants to keep her for himself.
But he remembers his words to Jor-El: Chloe deserves a life free from the burden of my secret.
And despite the ache in his heart, he walks away from her.