Author's Note: After season four, I've only seen part of season five and two episodes of season six, so there might be a few inaccuracies in this. Though the pairing might be considered Clana, this is in no way a romance, so devotees of that ship may want to steer clear. Anyway...this fic is pretty AU in the sense that I don't think Clark would ever act like this. Erm, this is dark. Way dark. I'm sorry!
"I don't know how I could've ever loved you."
She couldn't have hurt him worse if she'd stabbed him with kryptonite. He nearly gasps from the sheer crushing pressure that one sentence has inflicted upon him. Was this the consequence of years of trying to protect her from everything—even himself?
There are so many things to say. So many explanations that could come tumbling from his lips. Anything, anything at all that would make her understand that he loves her more than life itself. Doesn't he?
Unbidden, the memories flood his mind: The first time he discovered that he could see her house with his telescope.
Kneeling beside her in a graveyard, talking to a headstone.
Her necklace at his throat as he was strung up in a field, weakened and humiliated.
Opening a sepulcher and gently lifting her out, cradling her to him as his heart beat frantically from the terror of possibly losing her...not knowing that it was the first of many, many times he would feel that way.
Leaving the spring formal to go out in a tornado after her, and covering her small body with his own to keep her safe.
That short time of bliss when they were dating for the first time; her body leaning against his so casually was intoxicating and he'd finally, finally felt her lips against his own.
Making love to her two years later, feeling so complete it scared him.
Little memories fire rapidly across his consciousness: stroking her hair while looking into those big brown eyes; smiling at her as she lay in the bed next to him, barely awake; grinning about some silly joke that was just between them; clutching her tightly and spinning her around, chuckling as she pounded on his chest to be released; losing footraces to the car just to hear her laugh; running to Metropolis several times a week for no reason but to see her face.
Isn't that love? Isn't it?
Yes, there have been secrets, but they are for her own good. He trusts her, he just doesn't trust the world not to hurt her for the knowledge she possesses. He'd told her everything once already and she was dead within a day.
And, as she walks away, the worst memory of all resurfaces. No matter how many times he's tried not to dwell on the thought, it always returns, and with it rises the sickened feeling. He'd sacrificed his father for her. He'd traded Jonathan Kent's life for hers without hesitation.
Was it worth it?
Was his father's life worth this girl's?
He isn't sure anymore. He isn't certain he'd made the right choice. He hates himself for comparing the two, judging who was worthy to live and who must die, but he can't help it.
Later, when he is alone, he will choke back the hot sobs building in his chest once again. Ever since that earth-shattering day, he has never been certain. If he had known it was Jonathan for Lana back then, he doesn't know which way he would've chosen. No one should have to make that decision or live with the consequences.
It was one more reason he can never tell her the truth. She will know then that he has sacrificed his own parent for her, and there is little in life more horrifying than that. He can't force her to share his guilt. Especially now, when he isn't sure he's satisfied with his choice.
Is it petty of him to want his father back? Jonathan would have been so disappointed that he is having these vile thoughts, but no matter how invincible he is on the outside, he's still only a kid. A kid who has never felt more alone and utterly forsaken. He's saved one and lost both.
When he compares the warm, constant devotion of his father to the fleeting, fickle affections of Lana, he realizes that he has made a mistake. He wishes now that he'd never gone to Jor-El, wishes he'd never turned back time. That revelation leaves him feeling cold. Given the chance to repeat his repeat, he would choose Jonathan over her. Never has he put it so bluntly, even in his own mind. He guesses he's more human than he has ever imagined. It's sickening, but he is finally being honest with himself.
He feels hollow inside and the last of his adoration sours into a bitter resentment. He doesn't feel worthy to receive anyone's love, but he wants it, craves it. He needs the kind voice and the unassuming acceptance, and he desires a father more than a girlfriend, of that he's now certain.
As he watches her moving away from him, he thinks he might vomit. He wants to scream at her back, I saved you. I lost my father so you could live. In this moment, he wants her to feel his burden, his guilt. He wants her to know how, when his mother sobs, he can hear it from anywhere in Smallville, and that it splinters him into so many pieces that he thinks he'll never be whole again. He wants to see tears in those pretty eyes, hear an apology issued from that full mouth.
Realization comes heavily, and his lips part sharply as he wonders at the sort of man he is. A liar, a fool. A regret-ridden soul who wants to inflict his pain on the one he has saved.
"I don't know how I could've ever loved you," she had said, eyes hard.
She's always asking for the truth. Well, here it is at last—he doesn't know either.