DISCLAIMER - Not mine, I couldn't afford the motor and household insurance bills. I promise I'll scrub them down and give them back to DC comics, the WB and anyone else who does own a slice of them when I'm done with them. Story, such as it is, copyright Karen Colohan, May 2002.

Author's notes - Written for Livia's X-Files titles challenge. With many thanks to Barbara for betaing and serious handholding on this one... you're the best!

I wish the look in his eyes could actually mean what I'd always hoped to see there... hoped and been disappointed, every time. For just a moment there I honestly thought it did. Of course, I should have known better. Though is it really so much to ask? Apparently so, as I realise it's just a kind of twisted pride as he decides that I finally seem to be following in his illustrious footsteps. Like father, like son...

Christ! What normal person is proud of the fact that his son had the balls to bundle up some meaningless drone in the trunk of his car? I knew it would get his attention, it was supposed to, but I didn't expect him to be quite so pleased with what I'd done. Dysfunctional? Hell, it doesn't even come close to covering the fucked up state of my relationship with my father.

Love. There, I've said it, and the sky didn't fall or the world stop revolving, despite my Dad's dire warnings. Luthors aren't supposed to need it; I guess that means I'm not a real Luthor... which might explain a lot. Love. It gets easier each time I shape my mouth around the sound of it. Such a small word to encompass so much... But the lack of it, the absence of those few seemingly insignificant letters, has left a gaping wound in my life, one I've never been able to fill... And I've tried, believe me I've tried.

If I said that to his face he'd tell me I was a fool, that I was being melodramatic. Maybe he's right, but I know that I have been defined by that missing piece of the jigsaw, as I was meant to be. No love, only an ongoing fight for dominance... a fight I've always known I could never win. Until now.

I surprised him this time. He thought I'd fail his test, be the same dissolute son in Smallville that I was in Metropolis. In fact, I've done the exact opposite, turned my life around in every sense. Which is why he's now trying to shorten the leash on me again. He let me run free and instead of fucking up spectacularly I've grown, finally become my own person, stronger... And discovered that you can find love in the most unexpected places, precisely when you're not even looking for it.

It's a precious gift and I've grabbed onto it with both hands. I think this is the closest to being truly happy that I've ever been in my life. Even so, it still can't fill all the empty places inside of me, no matter how much I wish it could. And when I see the unconditional love that can, that should exist between a father and his son something else begins to grow in those unfilled corners of what passes for my heart.

Jealousy, as green and glowing as the fragments of meteor rock that have infected this town. Just like Lana's necklace when it hung around Clark's neck the night I found him strung up in a field, weakened and shaking and needing me to save him. No one ever actually needed me before... Not that he really does, but it's nice to pretend. Until I see Clark basking in the warmth of his adoptive family's affection and then the poisonous envy starts to creep through my veins again.

The reflection of his parents' love is mirrored in Clark's eyes every time he smiles, and it mocks me. Now, in his company, when I should be feeling the warmth of everything we've shared, I feel only the coldness of a love long needed, but always denied.

I wish you could have loved me, Dad. Sometimes I've been so desperate to believe you do I've imagined I could see a hint of it in your eyes when you looked at me - a trace of something that couldn't be explained in any other way. For a while I almost convinced myself that was why you asked me to come back to Metropolis. That you wanted me to be with you, to make up for all the lost time... and then I woke up in the real world.

But it didn't have to be like this... I never asked for it to be. I only wanted to make you proud. Instead, the lessons you imparted in place of simple affection have made of me nothing more or less than an adversary. I'm the imperial son, just waiting in the wings for the right moment to come. Then I'll march back into the very heart of your kingdom at the head of my own army, ready to tear you down and take your place, no love lost.

And the realisation of that has finally set in. That's what ruffled your feathers, knowing the time is drawing near, that maybe I am strong enough to take you now. You might be right, but neither of us can be certain... hence the status quo. Nevertheless, that's why you want to keep me close, the only reason. You want me where you can see me, so that you can, perhaps, at least delay the inevitable. It wasn't love that brought you to Smallville, that made you ask me to come back; I see that now. You simply don't like not being able to predict what I'll do... Well, you'd better get used to it, Dad.

I never wanted this to turn into a metaphorical fight to the death between us. The competition wasn't of my making. You were the alpha male and me the upstart pup, nipping at your heels but rolling over and showing my belly whenever things got serious. I was content to be the young pretender to the throne, but you wanted me to be more than that. Only now it's all blowing up in your face. I've absorbed those endless lessons of yours better than you ever dreamed.

It's a pity, Dad, because I was always there, ready and willing to love you, if you just gave me the chance. All it would have taken was a single sign that you cared, that I was anything other than a disappointment to you - the bald freak you got stuck with after you lost Julian and then my mother. That really was careless of you, Dad...

And now you want to raise me up, set me at your right hand as the cherished heir apparent. Except it's too little too late. I've come to realise that I don't need you, or your approval, to be my own man. I will do great things, in spite of you, not because of you.

It might have been so different.

I wish...

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