NOTES AND DISCLAIMERS: Smallville and Roswell are owned by other people. No profit to be gained from this story ever. The movie Sean watches is Lucky Town. Title and quotes from Kristin Hersh's song Milk Street. Thanks to other Sandy for help with title. And thanks to Younger, Mare and Amber.

PUT YOU HALF TO SLEEP




As you're battered by the underside of what we swore we wanted
And bothered by the crapshoot that has put you half to sleep
A sorely needed sleep

*

Sean lives in a one-bedroom apartment in Metropolis, working night maintenance, which means he pushes around the thing that keeps the floors shiny. Sometimes he doesn't remember how old he is, how close he might be to thirty. Most days, he thinks he already is.

*

The company he works for isn't so bad. They even let the maintenance crew come to the big company family fun day. It's in the football stadium; Sean's never been to a game so that's new and fun. There's a small Ferris wheel, carnival games, one of those things where kids can bounce and those shooter games. Sean gets food and wanders around, doesn't play any of the games. All his criminal days, he never held a gun or learned how to shoot.

His afternoon is just free food and watching people drift by. He stares up at all the empty seats and lets his mind wander. He wishes he could get a beer but it's family fun day, no booze allowed.

He looks down and looks up and sees Liz. Except it isn't her. He knows that one second after his heart jumps up to his tongue, it's not Liz. It's just a woman with long dark hair and slim shoulders and sun all around her. He stares anyway, because he wants to imagine. His cheap thrills.

Someone next to him says, "She's beautiful."

Sean looks down and says, "I guess." Shoes next to him are expensive and brown and somehow not even scuffed from walking on the artificial turf.

Shoes says, "Do you know her?"

"Nope. Just looks like someone I knew." Sean looks over once and realizes he's chatting with the CEO. Same bald head and young face as the picture in the lobby. That sucks. He's probably ogling the guy's girlfriend and this is all an elaborate smack down. He sighs and thinks, no, it's not, because why would anyone care if he were looking?

CEO says, "Someone you miss?"

Sean doesn't say anything for a moment because of course he does, why else would he stare? He shrugs. "She's very much missing. Like, missing persons missing. But it doesn't matter. I bet she's fine, just ran off with her guy and didn't tell her parents where she was going."

CEO snorts a little and says, "Sometimes you need to get away from home."

"Yeah," but that's not something Sean wants to think about. He says, "It was a crappy town, anyway. Probably still is. Weirdest town in America, I swear."

"Oh, I don't know." Sean watches the CEO smile. "I lived in Smallville for a while."

Sean says, "Roswell, New Mexico, I think I win."

"You just might."

Then the CEO walks away and Sean breathes easy for the first time since he thought he saw Liz. After another hour and two hot dogs he wonders if he'll get fired for contradicting the boss. He's heard about that happening, but not at LexCorp.

*

His crappy studio apartment has illegal cable but it's all fucked up. Sean pushed the cable into the wall socket to see if it would work and it did. He only gets one movie channel and it's not one of the good ones. Every day it seems like he sees the crappiest movies ever made with nobodies and shitty dialogue. One day it's a lame movie about Las Vegas. Sean sips his coke and thinks he should have taken Liz there. Except she did go there, he remembers, with Max. And Maria and Michael.

Sean's never been to Las Vegas. He feels like he has, though, because every other crappy movie is set there. At the end of this one, the girl quits smoking and the boy throws out all his cards, one by one they're flipping out of the car window. Sean wonders what the fuck happens after they leave Las Vegas. Get jobs somewhere, probably. He hopes their stupid young faces get tired and gray and all they manage is dead-end slave wage bullshit. Just like him.

*

Maria has been missing for years. Sean calls Aunt Amy once a week and she mentions Maria every time. Aunt Amy sounds happy to hear from him and it's the best minute of his whole week when she says "Sean," so bright and happy. Aunt Amy gets these phone calls - just hang-ups - every once in a while. She thinks it's Maria telling her she's okay. Sean thinks it's neighborhood fucks.

He thinks they all ran off to have crazy adventures with little green men and the feds. He thinks everyone is looking for his stupid cousin and this girl he almost definitely loved because crazy people shouldn't be let loose. Except sometimes he thinks it's all true, all that shit Aunt Amy believes. He'll never know. That's the only thing he knows for sure.

*

He's cleaning the seventh floor with the big floor polishing machine when he sees three people rush off the elevator. CEO, he realizes, plus two bodyguards. He keeps his head down but CEO stops and says, "Sean DeLuca, right?" Little charming smile and he's standing right there with his hand out like he's happy to see Sean.

Sean mumbles, "yeah," and turns off the machine because no one likes the sound. The CEO's hand is still there so he shakes it and leans against the machine.

Larger smile and, "I'm Lex Luthor."

"I know," Sean says and remembers to smile so it doesn't sound hostile. He doesn't want to lose this job.

Luthor says, "You're from Roswell. We talked two weeks ago."

Sean says, "Yeah, I remember. Um." He can't think of a reason for this guy to stop and talk to him. The bodyguards look suspicious. Probably a typical look. Or maybe they don't know what the fuck is going on either.

"After we talked, I did a little comparison and I think we're tied. Roswell is just as weird as Smallville." Luthor has a bright smile, like he can talk to anybody and it will all make sense. Sean just blinks.

"Yeah, well, we had aliens."

"It was interesting, Roswell. When I looked into your town." Luthor says. "We have to go now, but I wanted to say hello."

His smile gets bigger and then he turns and walks to the other end of the hall, the section the special team cleans, not the crew Sean is on. Sean watches the locked door after it closes for a few minutes and then starts the machine again. He has to get the floor clean.

*

Sean goes to a bar near his apartment. He can walk there and back and they never have karaoke or bands. He plays pool and wins half the time and there are a couple of guys who smile when he walks in.

He gets wasted on five beers, loses at pool and walks home. Someday he's going to get mugged doing this, drunk and weaving, but not tonight. He makes it home safe and throws off his jacket and takes out his wallet before he notices the lights are on. Then he looks up and there's Maria. Sweet fucking Jesus, Maria fucking DeLuca sitting on his couch. Smiling up at him and looking a little embarrassed.

He rubs his eyes and looks again and she's there. She's also fucking pregnant. He says, "Hey," because thinking of something else is more than he can do.

She says, "Hey. Sorry about the whole breaking-in thing."

"Did you fuck up my lock?" He turns to look back at the door but it looks fine.

"No. And hey, I'm fine, thanks for asking, how are you?" Now she looks pissed.

"Well, gosh, Maria, I'm fucking fine. So's your mom, by the way. I talk to her every week, how about you?"

Now she looks down and her face is pale. "Right," she says, "You're right." The way she says it, Sean realizes she's not eighteen anymore and neither is he. The way she says it, he realizes that under everything, she's still his little cousin who ended up with snot on her face whenever she cried for real.

He sits down next to her and says, "You're pregnant."

She nods. "Yeah, I hadn't noticed." It doesn't sound sassy, it sounds sad.

Then she says, "It's the whole fucking thing, Sean. I need you. I need, okay, I know this sucks, and I suck for doing this to you, but I'm kinda in this place where I have nowhere else to go. You know how it is."

"Well, now I feel special." Sean sits back on his couch and says, "What am I supposed to do?"

She sighs. "Well, forget that I'm your cousin and not in some sick 'let's make out' way --"

"Yeah, pregnant chicks turn me on. Especially ones I'm related to." Sean gets himself a glass of water and starts some water boiling so he can make tea for Maria. Or something.

"I mean, we're still, I'm still missing, okay? I have a fake ID and I have other stuff and I need to hide here. To be safe." Maria rubs her forehead.

"So you thought of me?"

"I just think no one would look for me here. Sean, seriously, there are bad people trying to find us, to find me."

He makes her tea and listens to her talk about keeping secrets and calling her Anna and not Maria and would it be okay if she stayed for a while and should she find a job. She goes on and on. Sean nods and pats her knee and tells her to sleep on the bed.

*

He doesn't get Maria and he never has. She's always been something else, something out there. But she's family and he owes Aunt Amy his life or something like it so he does it.

He goes to talk to his union rep a week after she arrives. He says, "Hey, I've got this weird ass problem. Sort of."

Ted nods and rolls his hand. "Fire away."

"Okay, see, so I've got this ex-girlfriend. Anna," Anna, he says, and he practiced so it wouldn't sound weird. "Anna shows up last week and she's pregnant. She says it's mine and it probably is, but the thing is, it's not like we're getting married but I want her to be able to go to the doctor. Baby care, right? Is there a way she can use my card without me getting in trouble?"

Ted exhales and his cheeks puff up like he's playing the sax. "Well, you're a nicer guy than me."

"Fuck, not really, but it's not, you know, she showed up. It's not the kid's fault, right?"

Ted nods again and then he says, "Give me a day, okay? I'll see what I can do. You're not gonna marry her or anything, right? Wait until you know you're the dad for that." Ted grins and walks away.

Ted does come through and when Sean gets home from work he gives Maria a temporary card and a list of doctors she can go to. She gets all teary and hugs him. Then she says, "I have to be careful."

"Yeah, you do." He gets up and opens the window in the kitchen so he can smoke. He used to smoke everywhere, even in bed when he was drunk. But now there's Maria and the baby so he's getting used to the kitchen window and half falling out of it.

"I mean, I'm worried about the baby. About the tests."

"They don't do anything that would hurt it." Crazy Maria and her organic fairy holistic herbs shit.

"Sean. The baby might not be, like, normal."

"What do you mean?"

"God, hello, Roswell?" She just stares at him like he's stupid. She always thought he was stupid. She wasn't the only one.

He stubs out his cigarette on the windowsill and says, "You should still go to the doctor."

She nods and holds the card against her chest. She says, "I know." And, like ten minutes later, "Thank you."

*

Sean never really learned to cook and apparently, neither has Maria. They mostly eat take-out and microwave meals. Sean thinks it might be bad for the baby so he's really careful where they get their food from. They only eat one meal together what with Sean working nights and Maria working during the day.

Maria says she doesn't know how long she'll be in town. Sometimes she says, "God, forever, probably. So I guess it'll just be you and me, huh? And baby makes three. Typical DeLucas." She never quite smiles but she lets him pat her stomach and murmur, "Junior, your mom is crazy."

Sometimes she acts like she expects someone to come for her. Michael, he assumes. She looks out the window at night like she's fucking E.T. or something. She says, "If I'm still here after the baby is born, I'm getting a much better job. This one sucks." He hears the 'if' and watches her eyes going to the window and the slice of night visible from between apartment buildings.

But it'd be nice if no one came for her.

She decorates, which is weird but nice, too. Christmas tree lights strung up in the bedroom, postcards from the Museum of Art in town taped on the wall in a square, almost art itself. She buys too many candles and never lights them, just puts them around the room.

*

He's thinking about daycare, about what can they afford and where they should go while he polishes the floor on the third floor. And there's Lex Luthor again, his weird rich wannabe buddy. Sean stops the machine and then Lex says, "Your missing girl, was that Elizabeth Parker?"

Sean looks down at the machine, all wires and plastic casing. He's never asked Maria about Liz. He doesn't want to know. "Max Evans broke my heart," she said once. He likes to remember her that way, which he thinks shows how fundamentally stupid he is.

He looks up and says, "Yeah. You found her?"

"No," Luthor says, with a small laugh. "There are a lot of people looking for her, though. She's not just a girl who ran off with her boyfriend."

"But she's that, too. Bet they got married." He won't ever ask Maria about that.

"It was interesting reading. She disappeared with your cousin, right?"

Maria, Anna. He says, "Yeah. I talk to my Aunt Amy every week, she hasn't heard anything. It really sucks."

Luthor says, "It must be very hard."

Sean shrugs. "It's been years now."

"Still. I'm sorry to bring it all up again." Luthor pats Sean's shoulder, like they are really friends or something, and walks away again.

He doesn't tell Maria about the conversation.

*

He gets home from work and Maria is in bed. He rubs her shoulder and says, "Don't you have work today?"

She glares and says, "No. I put my schedule on the refrigerator, Sean."

He says, "Couch for me then," but sits down to take off his shoes.

She pokes him in the hip with her toe. "You can sleep in the bed. Don't make a move or anything."

"You're so fucking sexy, how will I resist?" He rolls his eyes. He wakes up once and they're spooned together, his hand resting on her belly. He thinks he feels two heartbeats through his palm, but he knows that it's crap. He's signing up in his head to never get laid for years so maybe he is that stupid, to think about it for a baby. He doesn't want her, he'll never want her, but he wants this possibility of things under his hand.

*

Liz said he was a hero, once. Heroic. He took the fall for her; he was even brave when that crazy guy from the UFO Center took them all hostage. He remembers Liz lying in his bed and kissing him. He remembers sliding on a bowling alley lane. He's like every single loser he's ever met whose life peaked in high school, except it's worse because he wasn't even in high school. Lame, lame, he thinks, in tune to the whirr of the machine.

Then he sees Luthor, walking towards him, all black suit and shiny head. Anna, he thinks, call Maria Anna. Luthor says, "How are you, Sean?"

"I'm good, how are you?"

Luthor just smiles. He says, "I noticed you've been working here for two years now. You know, there are a lot of opportunities here for bright young people like you."

Sean almost laughs. Bright? Young? He smiles and says, "I think I've found my place. Wouldn't mind a raise, though."

"You think this is your place?"

The thing Sean dislikes about these odd conversations with Luthor is that he always feels like something else is going on. Some other questions are being asked, he's being tested, something's going on. He says, "I have people to think about. I try for something else, they're screwed."

"People?" Luthor sounds so polite and smooth and interested. Sean looks somewhere over his right ear, a trick from juvie when eye contact was too risky.

"My ex-girlfriend, Anna, she's having a baby. She's living with me now and in two months there'll be the baby, you know?"

"Congratulations." Luthor pauses. "Except you didn't say it was yours." He looks so concerned. Sean doesn't buy it.

"So what? Kid can't choose its parents, and it's not the baby's fault. Anna's a good person." He thinks Maria is a really good person, even if she ran off, even if she hurt Aunt Amy. "She'll make a good mother, I'll make a mediocre father, it'll balance out."

"If you're willing to support a child that might not be yours, I think you'll be much better than mediocre." Luthor steps away and says, "Security guards at my downtown factory make more than you do here. You could apply."

Sean saw that advertised. No record, it said. He bets Luthor knows that, knows Sean has a juvenile record. So he says, "I have a record, man."

"Juvenile record. It wouldn't show up on the check." Luthor waves his hand like it's done, it's set.

"I'll remember that." He thinks it would be a good job. Same time, more money. A better place to live, actual second bedroom for the baby. He smiles and says, "Thanks."

"No problem. Have to take care of your family." Sean is scared for a minute, but Luthor always has that know it all look. Maria's paranoia is rubbing off on him.

He applies the next morning, waits around at the office after his shift to get everything together.

*

He gets home from work and he's used to the lights being on, to the smell of food and the buzz of the TV. So there's a moment when he's happy, a moment before he notices that Maria isn't alone. And that she's smiling like she never does.

Michael's there. He looks older and thinner, almost gaunt. It's not a good look on him. But he's looking fucking happy too.

Maria comes over and hugs him. She says, "Sean, hey!" She's warm and smells like stupid herbs and her stomach bumps his.

He says, "Hey." He hugs her back and walks into the room.

There's babble and big smiles and "everything's good, now, don't worry!" and Michael says, "Thanks, man, seriously. We're grateful."

It takes an hour for them to leave. Maria takes all her clothes and all the baby stuff. She tries to leave money for everything Sean bought. He won't let her.

Then the door closes and the apartment's empty. Sean lights a cigarette and doesn't open a window.

*

He gets the security guard job. He almost turns it down but fuck it, he could use the extra money. He thinks he'll get actual cable so he can watch movies that don't suck. Maybe ones with actual movie stars in them.

Sometimes, he thinks, he should have asked about Liz. He'll never know now.

He has two weeks left cleaning the floors. On his second to last night he sees Luthor again. He thinks this time Luthor wasn't looking for him, he's just walking. His bodyguards aren't there. He isn't wearing a tie, and his shirt is open at the neck. Sean thinks he might even see a bruise. Luthor looks up from the window he's stopped next to and says, "Sean DeLuca."

"Mr. Luthor. You want me to skip this floor, come back later?"

"Thank you. But no, it's fine." Luthor doesn't smile this time, too tired for charm, maybe. "I thought you had the security guard job now."

"I do, thanks. Don't start until two days from now, though."

"That's good, then. More money for the child." This time it's an almost smile.

"No kid anymore. The real dad showed up and she ran off with him. Thanks so much, Sean, you're the greatest." He wants to punch the wall but he just stands there. He's been trying not to think about it.

"She used you."

"Well, yeah. But she loves him. Doesn't think of me that way, hasn't ever. So, what the fuck can you do about it?"

Luthor shakes his head. "An excellent question." He stares for a minute at the window. "Would you like some coffee? I feel like coffee."

Sean shrugs. "Sure."

Luthor unlocks a door to the employee lounge. It's all carpeted so Sean's never been inside before. Luthor turns on the light and turns on the coffee maker. He moves slowly. Sean says, "Is there cream?"

"Of course." It takes a few minutes but then they have their white mugs with the company logo on them and really good coffee. Luthor says, "When did she leave?"

"Last week." Sean sips his coffee. There's almost too much cream but it's better than any he usually has. He says, "She took all her stuff. But she left all these lights and stupid pictures she put up. I wish she'd taken them, too."

"You prefer no reminders?"

"It would be nice." Sean drinks more coffee. "That's not possible, though."

"No, it's not." Luthor's eyes narrow and he looks somewhere past Sean's shoulder.

Sean stands up to put his cup away. And then Luthor stops him, one hand on Sean's hip, fingertips edging open Sean's stiff blue uniform pants pocket. It's not what he expected Luthor to ask for but he gets it. He looks in Luthor's eyes for the first time. He doesn't blink.

He sinks to his knees and thinks about how long it's been since someone wanted him or even touched him. And it's been years since he's done this, since juvie, but he remembers. Undo belt, open slacks. He licks his hand slowly, because everybody likes to look. He reaches out and opens his mouth. It doesn't take long to get Luthor hard. He put his hands in Sean's hair, just touching, not pushing or pulling, and that's the part that gets Sean hard.

His jaw aches and his knees are hurting when Luthor pulls back and guides him up to the table, a light push but Sean gets the score. A moment of vulnerability that he hates and then he feels Luthor rubbing his back and pulling his pants down.

He's glad there's a condom. He's glad there's no talking, only grunts, he's glad Luthor likes to fuck hard and is still concerned enough about consideration to jerk him off. For a moment he thinks of Roswell and the desert and the sun and it's better than the bright white blank heat of coming.

He's surprised that he comes. He's not surprised that Luthor isn't there when he finishes cleaning the room. He wonders what shit fell all over Luthor's head that he'd even want it with the first guy who'd keep his mouth shut. It's the first time Sean's had sex in a year. It wasn't so bad.

*

He figures he'll get fired, the sort of thing that happens when the boss fucks you. It's what he expects. But he's not fired. He shows up for his training at the security guard job and everyone's nice and happy to see him.

He's being watched now, though. He's sure of that. Whoever's after Maria and Michael and Liz, plus probably some of Luthor's people. It sort of makes him feel safe. Everybody watching him again, watching to see what he'll do with everything that's happened to him.

He knows how to keep his mouth shut. He won't do anything. Not now, maybe not ever. He expects he'll put all of them to sleep.




You are good
You are brave
No matter what you say
But never brave enough
As you're trying to shield your glass
Newborn from the dodgeballs
And aching for children that you have never seen
It's still a tragedy

THE END.

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