Clark walked into the front door of the apartment to find Conner lounging on the couch. “Hey Clark,” he said, putting down his magazine.
“Hey,” Clark replied absently, mind still going over the weirdness of earlier that afternoon.
“What’s up?” asked Conner.
“Nothing really, just when I went to go see Lana a little while ago–“
“Wait you’re not trying to break Lana out, are you?” interrupted Conner. “Because you promised that if we let the legal system handle it, then you’d leave it alone. And if you are I’ll totally sic Dad on you.”
“Lex tries to kill me on a regular basis,” Clark objected. Both Conner and Lex seemed to forget that little fact with alarming frequency. “How are you going to sic him on me?”
“I’ll just tell him to not try to kill you. He does pretty good with the capturing and holding you hostage thing, his plans only fall apart when he comes in with the death threats. I think he may have a mental block,” Conner mused.
“Well, what about the Justice League? They aren’t just going to let Lex capture me.”
Conner seemed to think that over for a second before saying, “I’d go to them first and tell them the truth. That Lana is mind-controlling you into breaking her out of jail and I had Dad, who has a lot of practice capturing you and hates Lana, help me keep you in custody until you come to your senses.”
Which would probably work, dammit. “Did you just come up with that right now?”
“Pretty much,” Conner shrugged. Apparently Lex was rubbing off on Conner a little too much, and that was going right on his Things To Worry About list. But, since being held captive by Lex was not even remotely on his agenda, first things first.
“I’m not trying to break Lana out of prison.”
“Then why would you go visit her?” Conner asked.
Clark looked at Conner disbelievingly. “I hope none of your friends ever get thrown in jail.”
“She’s your friend now?” said Conner skeptically. “Aside from today, when was the last time you spoke to Lana?”
Not for years actually, but that wasn’t the point. “Even if we don’t talk much anymore, Lana and I used to be really close,” Clark told him. “I even proposed to her once… sort of. Do alternate timelines count? What, I’m trying to say is she’s still really important to me.”
“Blah, blah, blah, Lana is your soulmate,” Conner replied, rolling his eyes. “You know, it’s because you say things like that that Lois keeps breaking up with you.”
“Lois and I do not keep breaking up,” Clark objected.
“Breaking up, getting into big fights, same difference,” Conner said, waving his hand dismissively. “Either way, you’re sleeping in Watchtower.”
“They aren’t the same thing at all! And besides that only happened twice.”
Conner didn’t say anything in response to that, just raised his eyebrows that same way that Lex did. Clark was so adding corruption of impressionable teens to the list of evil things Lex had done.
“So,” Conner prompted, after he was convinced that his eyebrows had made their point, “you went to see Lana.”
“Yeah,” Clark said, deciding to let the Lex thing go, for now. “It was weird though. I mean, I guess I just assumed that a part of me would always love Lana – and don’t tell Lois I said that.”
Conner smiled the most innocent “who me” smile that may have ever been smiled.
Lois was so going to kill him.
“But when I went to visit her,” Clark continued, because it’s not like he was going to be able to change Conner’s mind, “I didn’t really feel anything. At least not until the very end when – never mind.” Because it didn’t matter how vicious Lana got when she found out Clark wasn’t there to break her out, Superman being afraid of a five foot three girl with no super powers to speak would just be ridiculous.
Which is why he hadn’t been afraid. Not at all.
Conner, surprisingly, did not follow up on that total shut down. “So you didn’t feel anything,” he pressed instead. “No love or overpowering need to bow down and worship at the feet of Lana Lang?”
“You’re not still on that stupid love-slave thing are you?” Clark asked, exasperated.
“Yes, because it makes sense,” Conner retorted. “Why do you have such a problem with it? Or rather, why do you have such a problem with it now that you aren’t her love-slave anymore?”
“Because it just doesn’t line up with what happened. Yeah, a lot of people liked Lana, but they weren’t all in love with her. Not to mention all the times someone tried to kidnap her or did things that hurt her. Why would her ‘love-slave’ do that?”
“Just because you define love as mooning from a distance doesn’t mean everyone does,” Conner told him. “Chloe was a straight girl, so she loved Lana like a sister, Henry Small was her dad, so he loved her like a parent, the meteor mutants were mostly insane, so they tried to kidnap or mind control her, and Dad is crazy obsessed and possessive, so he loved her by making her think she was pregnant to entrap her into marriage.”
Conner actually had a valid point there, so Clark did what he did in all such situations: abruptly changed the subject until he had enough time to come up with a counter-argument.
“I wish you wouldn’t call Lex Dad,” he said. “It’s really weird.”
“Why wouldn’t I call him Dad?” Conner asked. “I mean, you guys are the ones who decided I was his son.” Clark winced a little at that. Because while the whole “Conner was Lex’s son” thing had just sort of happened, and was totally Lex’s fault besides, Clark still felt like the issue could have been avoided if he had just agreed when Conner had originally asked if Clark was basically his dad.
Conner caught Clark’s wince and rolled his eyes. “I don’t want you to be my dad, Clark. You’re my big brother, the best big brother a half-alien sort-of-clone could possibly want. You let me crash at your place whenever I want, you don’t blame me for kidnapping your fiancée and you’re a great role model for me to look up to.” This was all said in a very dry tone, Conner every inch the put-upon teenager, but it still seemed like he meant it, which made Clark feel a bit warm inside. “You’re my big brother and Lex is my Dad and that works for me. Besides,” he added in an undertone, “if you were my dad then I’d probably have to earn your love.”
“What?” Clark sputtered. “Has Lex been telling you that you have to earn your father’s love?” Because Clark was totally willing to fly over there right now and yell at him. And then, to be fair, run over to the cemetery and yell at Lionel’s grave for a while.
“No,” Conner replied. “You told Dad that.”
“I did not!” Clark objected. Because seriously, who would say something like that? Besides Lionel, that is. And possibly the Jor-El AI.
“Does ‘they would've felt the same way about you, if you would've tried,’ ring any bells?” Clark stared at Conner blankly, because the bells? They weren’t ringing. Conner sighed. “It’s what you said to Dad about your dads when you broke into his house the night his father died.”
“The night Lex killed him,” Clark corrected.
“Lionel,” Conner countered, which definitely wasn’t an excuse, but even Clark could see how that might be considered a fairly large mitigating factor.
“Anyways, there’s no way I said that. Lex is remembering it wrong or something,” said Clark.
“No, that’s what you said,” Conner disagreed. “Dad showed me the security footage.”
“Why would he show you that?”
“Because I asked him.” Conner answered. “I’m a curious person.”
The only thing that was keeping Clark from banging his head against the wall at this point was that that would just make a huge hole, and Clark really wasn’t looking to do any home maintenance right now.
“Okay, even if I said that, I didn’t mean want you’re implying I meant.”
“But that’s how Dad took it,” Conner informed him. “And you know what else? I bet Lionel abused him as a child. You told an abused child that it was his fault his dad didn’t love him. Are you proud of yourself?”
Clark eyed Conner. “You aren’t going to let this go are you?”
“Nope,” Conner replied with a grin. And if Conner said he wasn’t going to let it go, then he was not going to let it go. Hell, the main reason Clark had agreed to stand back while Conner and Lex plotted to deactivate Lana’s supersuit and get her arrested was because Clark had been about a week away from helping Conner himself, just to get Conner to shut up about it.
“What do you want?” Clark asked with a sigh.
“You need to apologize to Dad.”
“What? I am not apologizing to Lex!” protested Clark. Lex was his arch-nemesis.
“Whatever happened to ‘taking responsibility when you mess up?’” Conner said.
“This is different. And I do not sound like that.”
“You’re right,” Conner agreed. “Your voice is much deeper. ‘Taking responsibility when you mess up,’” repeated Conner, dropping his voice so low Clark wasn’t sure it was actually audible to normal human hearing.
Clark wondered if his mom would get mad if he strangled Conner, just a little bit. She would probably understand, Clark decided, but Lex was bound to get pissy. And then Conner would probably make him apologize to Lex again. Not worth it then.
“Fine,” Clark snapped, pulling out his phone. “I’ll apologize.” Conner beamed sunnily at him while Clark scrolled through his contacts. Batman probably never had to put up with this shit from Robin. But then, Batman probably didn’t have the Joker’s number saved into his phone either.
“I’m not helping you get Lana out of prison,” Lex said by way of greeting when he answered up the phone.
“I’m not trying to break Lana out of prison,” Clark replied. “Why does everyone keep saying that?”
Lex didn’t say anything, but Clark could hear his damned eyebrows raising, and fine, maybe that did kind of sound like something Clark would do.
“If this isn’t about Lana, then why are you calling me? I do have other things to do.”
Clark sighed gustily. “It has recently been brought to my attention that I may have implied to you that it was your fault that Lionel never showed you proper paternal affection, and I wanted to apologize.”
“Conner is sitting right there, isn’t he?” Lex asked.
“Sure am,” Conner called cheerily. Clark gave him a look, and flipped the phone into speaker. Clearly, today wasn’t Clark’s day anyway.
“In that case I accept your apology for exactly what it’s worth,” Lex told Clark. “Thank you for the effort, Conner.”
“What is that supposed to mean?” Clark said.
“You know what it means,” retorted Lex. “How did you word it, ‘An apology isn’t worth anything, Luthor, if you only make it because other people are forcing you to?’”
“Come on, Lex. Conner isn’t going to let this go if he doesn’t think I’ve properly apologized and you’ve accepted,” Clark said, pouting just a little bit.
“I’m really not,” Conner chimed in.
“It’s fine. Clark doesn’t need to apologize.”
“I don’t?” asked Clark.
“He doesn’t?” Conner exclaimed.
“No, you don’t,” Lex said firmly. “Obviously, you think that children should have to earn their parent’s love, and I can’t make you apologize for sharing an opinion. I’ll just have to know that you consider Conner a little brother rather than a son and be satisfied with that.”
“I don’t think that!” Clark disagreed.
“You don’t? Because that was the impression you were giving.”
Clark made a noise of frustration. “No that’s not what I think. What I think is Lionel was an utter bastard who was never going to love you unless you killed an alternate dimension version of himself, and I think that him never showing you any sort of affection wasn’t even slightly your fault, and I’m sorry if I ever implied otherwise, okay?”
Conner was giving him with a look of utter shock that Clark suspected mirrored the expression on Lex’s face right then.
“Apology accepted,” Lex said a few seconds later. Conner grinned even wider than before, once again proving that Kryptonians weren’t bound by the normal laws of physics.
“Clark, you should come movie night this week,” said Conner excitedly.
“I’m not coming to your and Lex’s movie night,” Clark replied emphatically.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea Conner,” Lex said, in agreement with Clark for once.
“But Clark’s never even seen Princess Bride! And that’s totally your fault Dad.”
“How is that my fault?”
“Because,” Conner said, “you were his best friend, so it was your job to make sure he saw it.”
There was a brief moment of silence after that, as Lex considered Conner’s claim, and Clark considered how he could possibly make it clearer that he wasn’t going.
“Clark,” said Lex, “would you like to join Conner and me for our movie night?”
“No, I would not,” Clark said very clearly.
“Don’t worry about it Dad, he’s totally coming,” Conner said, giving Clark a look that made it quite clear that, even if it wasn’t this week or next week, Clark was going to be going to movie night.
Sometimes Clark really hated his life.