He wasn't sleeping, but he was dreaming. He was delusional. It was just déjà vu.
And that was not regret he felt. Anger did not make his hands curl into fists. He was not. . . sad.
He was not jealous because there was nothing to be jealous of.
He was just imagining things again. It happened sometimes.
They were dancing on the other side of the room, twirling and smiling and not looking anywhere but at each other. They were happy. It was all over their faces, and in every head tilt, licking of lips, and move of their hands. New love. Together now for barely three months. Watching them was both nauseating and endearing. He remembered what that felt like.
He remembered. . . what it should have felt like with her--
Lin shook his head and finished off his drink. He could feel the burn of the liquor as it swept down his throat, as it clung like tar to his lips and the inside of his mouth. One of his birthday gifts from Bruce all those years ago: a new ring made out of his constant enemy. A chance to "enjoy the more physical aspects of life," Bruce had explained. It was just another strange gift. What gifts did rich people give each other? Rings of radioactive meteorite and made-up family portraits with dead mothers. Lin always created their gifts with his hands, and he supposed they did the same to a certain extent. Bruce brainstormed and drew the specs. Lucky just worked his way into Lin's head and then literally drew what was missing into the picture.
Lex bought him cars and new gadgets and clothes he wanted Lin to wear. Julian bought him paints, pencils, canvas, tools.
They gave him these things because they loved him, because they wanted him to be happy. It wasn't their fault he never was. It wasn't their fault he couldn't be. There had always been something wrong with him. He'd always been different. He always would be.
And that wasn't their fault, either. Lucas looked happy, really happy, for the first time in a long time. He looked confident and real over there on the dance floor. Lin should feel happy for him. What sort of brother was he if he couldn't even muster up any goodwill or pride at the sight of Lucas dancing with his new girlfriend?
But why did it have to be her? Why was it. . . Lois? Couldn't Lucky have looked at some other woman and fallen head over heels? Any other woman.
And what right did Lin have to be upset about it in the first place?
A waiter strolled past slowly, tray lifted high and loaded with champagne. Lin stuck his arm out, carefully getting the guy's attention long enough to exchange his empty bourbon glass for a flute of the champagne. The waiter then went on his way.
And Lin kept standing there, watching. He was a creep, staring like he was and no doubt garnering some strange looks or double-takes in the process, but damned if he could look away.
Lois was beautiful, and Lucas was beautiful with her.
And why did that bother him so much? Why did he feel like this, all tangled up and knotted inside?
"Beautiful, aren't they?" was said to Lin's left. "Although, I have to say, I've never seen another woman as prone to tripping over her own feet."
"They look happy," Lin volunteered, proud that his voice didn't betray any of what he was feeling.
"That they do," Lex agreed. There was a pause, and Lin felt it when Lex turned to look at him. "You okay?" he asked, trying to downplay his concern but failing miserably.
"Yeah, I'm fine," Lin assured him. He darted a quick glance over and then looked away again. That was one thing they had to be careful about these days. Brothers didn't usually hold eye contact as long as he and Lex did.
Lucas had been the one to point that out to him.
"I think the alcohol's just gone to my head," Lin added after a moment. Lex was still looking his way, but Lin forced himself to ignore it. "Might call it an early night. Head out and. . . go do some work," he said quietly, knowing Lex would pick up on what he was really getting at.
Finally, Lex turned his head away and looked in the other direction, and Lin breathed out a quick sigh of relief. He glanced around to see if anyone were paying them any attention, and noticed a few women by the bar looking their way. They were all relatively young and well-dressed, if scantily so, and judging by the way they held themselves. . . Lin would bet anything those women subscribed to, read, and memorized the annual list of Eligible Bachelors of the city. He'd also lay odds on the fact their focus seemed to be more on Lex than himself, no matter that Lex always claimed the opposite.
Lex was quite the catch these days. A respectable businessman and entrepreneur, he was also wealthy, cultured, intelligent beyond belief, and a philanthropist. He was a reformed no-good, clubbing, playboy with connections out the wazoo. He was infamous and famous and a celebrity. It was no wonder those glittery women were ogling him.
Lin caught himself looking again and jerked his head away, just as Lex turned to look back.
"Lin," Lex said quietly. It was reprimand and question and apology, all in one.
"I'll see you later," Lin offered. He kept his eyes on the floor as he added, "Tell Lucky goodnight for me."
"And his date, too," Lex prompted, and from his tone Lin knew he'd somehow picked up on the real reason Lin was ducking out early. "I'll. . . see you at home?"
Lin nodded, and gave in to his desire. He reached out and darted his hand over to squeeze Lex's and then blurred it back down to his side, all quicker than the blink of an eye. His own apology, maybe, for acting like a stuck-up jerk all evening and ruining the party.
Lin flashed Lex a quick fake smile since they were in public, and gave him a hearty slap on the back before heading for the exit. He had to pass by the dance floor on his way out, where Lucky and his date were still spinning around and laughing at something.
It was a second, maybe, probably less. Lin looked over and Lucky was looking back. There was eye contact and then Lin turned away. He left the room and kept right on walking until he was outside.
He ripped that tux off himself. He tore it to shreds and shot upward into the sky. He left the ground below and flew around the globe till he found the sun.
Lin left Metropolis behind, but couldn't for the life of him outpace his own thoughts. He couldn't outrun his nightmares. He couldn't bury his past, no matter how he tried, and his delusions stuck to him like a second skin.
And the look on Lucky's face like he'd done something wrong, committed some terrible crime against Lin.
Why did it have to be her? Billions of women the world over, and Lucas fell in love with the one. . .
The woman Lin saw in his dreams, in his nightmares, and delusions, all.
And Clark Kent. Whoever that was.