“Lex never told me any of that,” Clark said at last, earning an annoyed face from Conner, which wasn’t fair: Lex had revealed so many of his secrets to Clark that to find out how much had been held back was shocking. “How much of this—?” Are you sure about? Do you remember as if it happened to you? Clark wasn’t sure how he wanted to finish either question. “Is that all?” he asked instead, because Lex had plots nested within plots, and Clark would be remiss to give up an opportunity to learn more about what Lex might do next.
Conner scowled. Clark was pretty sure that expression was left over from Lex. “Um, no, but I’m pretty sure you don’t want to hear about his first time with a real live girl. Or the first time he jerked it thinking about you.” He said it with the kind of half-guilty excitement that said he meant to provoke, but this time Clark wasn’t able to be the grown-up. Conner made an exaggerated moue of disgust as Clark struggled not to flee in embarrassment. “I was him, and now I’m you, and so I remember perving on myself, which just adds another year to the therapy that I really, really need now.”
Therapy was not a terrible idea, if they could find someone who could be trusted, Clark thought distantly.
Conner sighed. “I didn’t mean to freeze-ray your brain, Clark. Well, I kinda did,” he sniggered, “but it’s no big deal. By the end there, the reflexive surge of lust was pretty strongly countered by the way he kind of wanted to throw up every time he saw you. You were like, every failure he ever had, wrapped up in a package of lies and accusations. His and yours both, he wasn’t making fine distinctions at that point.”
Clark blinked. The vocabulary and the concepts were all Lex’s, but the delivery was teenaged boy. (Lex had barely been more than a teenager when they’d met, even though he’d seemed impossibly sophisticated. It didn’t matter; none of that mattered now, if it ever had.)
“Conner—” Clark tried, and then had to stop and reset himself. He was responsible for Conner, who shared so much of him. “I’m sorry you had to remember all that. I know a lot of what you went through was confusing—”
The laugh he got from that was a shade bitter, and maybe Clark was overreading given what Conner had just told him, but he heard too much of Lex in it. “Confusing isn’t the word I’d have used.”
“What can I do to help?” he asked, the question he should have asked Lex more often then, the duty he owed Conner now.
Conner stared at him for a second, and then his shoulders slumped. “I’m being a huge jerk, aren’t I?”
“Kind of,” Clark admitted. “If it makes you feel any better, I’m getting the sense it’s a family trait.”
Conner paced around the loft, and Clark turned to follow him. Maybe Clark shouldn’t have sent him back to Smallville for high school; maybe then he wouldn’t have remembered—but no, the problem wasn’t Conner remembering the truth. The problem was the horrible content of that truth. “Could we—? Nah,” he said.
“What is it?” Clark asked. Conner sometimes still didn’t believe that Clark would do anything in his power for him, still thought that he had to earn the right to be family.
Connor stared out the barn window where Lex and Clark had stood, so many years ago. And here Conner was, the combination of their failures who had somehow become a hero in his own right. Clark hated so much of what had happened, but he wouldn’t trade Conner for anything, even the chance to reverse all the suffering associated with his creation. Maybe that made him selfish, or maybe he’d learned the wisdom of not thinking he could improve the world with do-overs. Regardless, it was good that Conner knew the truth. It gave him a chance to be a better man than his fathers.
“I’d like to go see him,” Conner said, startling Clark out of his contemplation. “You and me.”
“We don’t even know what he remembers from before,” Clark objected, automatically. Given that Lex had deployed several potentially lethal Kryptonite traps on LexCorp property in the past week alone, Clark wasn’t particularly enamored of Conner’s proposal. Lex might not be at open war with Superman, but undeclared hostilities were definitely in progress.
“Maybe he’d like to hear what I have to say,” Conner said. “I’m guessing that he’s still just as hungry for answers as he was ten years ago.”
Clark gave himself time to think, something he hadn’t been able to do when Lex was living Conner’s memories. “You’d have to be prepared for it to go badly,” he warned. “Lex finding out that he has living relatives—it hasn’t gone well for him, or them, so far.”
Conner shrugged. “I guess it’s a good thing I’m practically indestructible.”
Clark considered Conner, a shadow outlined by the setting sun. Not yet a man, but wanting to reach out to his other father—wanting to help him. If nothing else, Clark should support the man Conner was becoming. And maybe that thought was just a way of distracting him from what he owed Lex (since Lex’s attacks weren’t payback; they’d never even the scales through punishing each other).
“All right,” Clark said. “We’ll go together.”
Conner’s grin was brilliant.