By Night

by kHo

future fic, takes place after the inevitable rift that Clark and Lex will eventually have

One of these day's you'll stop doing this. You'll stop torturing yourself. You'll stop asking questions no one can answer.

Every night you tell yourself not tonight, you won't do it tonight. You won't fly to his penthouse window, you won't look inside. You won't watch him in his own habitat, you won't see him let down his guard. You won't look at him, alone, without anyone to postulate for, and see that deep down, he's still in there.

You'll stop questioning when it was he changed. You'll stop asking yourself if you could have stopped this. You'll stop wondering if you gave up too soon, if you never should have given up at all. You'll stop considering the possibility that if you'd just stayed, if you'd just been there for him longer, if he would have remained intact. If he wouldn't have splintered.

You'll stop thinking that maybe if you'd told him from the beginning, told him everything, he'd be by your side instead of your greatest enemy.

By day you hate him. You hate everything he stands for, everything he's become. He is exactly what is wrong with this world. He is greedy, and he is power hungry, and he is everything you've always stood against as a man. You just wish you could forget that he is also everything that /he/ once stood against as a man, too.

You sit at your desk, writing your articles, and you seethe. Tonight, you think, tonight it's lights out at 10. Tonight it's TV and bath, and dinner alone, and then it's bed. Tonight you won't go to his apartment, tonight you won't care. This is the end of it, this is where you give up. This is where it stops.

Except here you are. Again. Floating outside his window, cloaked in the night sky, red cape pushed back because the blue blends with the black skyline better. You watch him prowling, strutting like a king, and wonder why it is he even bothers to be like this when they can't see him. He's got the phone up to his ear and you can hear him talking about facts and figures and numbers, little tidbits about the Roman empire, a turn of phrase bent to his advantage about Napoleon. That part's never changed.

Then he's off the phone, and he's working on his cufflinks, and he turns so he's facing the window. And this is why you keep coming back. This is why you can't stop. Because you can see it draining out of him. His shoulders slumping, his mouth turning down into that now ever-present frown. In his eyes you see the anger, and the bitterness, but that's not what you pay attention to. The sadness, etched deep into his soul, shining out through his eyes, that's what you lock onto. That's what holds you prisoner.

He's got a picture of you on his desk. A picture of you, and Chloe, and Lana, and you think you can maybe even make out Pete. It's a small picture, in the back of a frame, turned inside out. It's hidden behind a photo-sized rendition of Alexander the Great, and every night he looks at that picture and you know he's not seeing the warrior. You know he's seeing you. His fingers trace over the glass, but he never opens it, he never looks directly at it. Sometimes you think if he would, if he'd just look at it once, you could still save him.

It's been years now since you cut him out of your life. He was too obsessed, he was too fixated on discovering your secret. He was too ready to snap. He didn't trust you, and he thought you didn't trust him, and you're forced to acknowledge he was right. You didn't. By day, you know you shouldn't have, but by night, in moments like these, when he lets the pain bleed out of his eyes as he gazes at the stars, you think you should have. You think that might have given him enough strength to not be what he never wanted to become.

But he wouldn't give up. He kept pushing, he kept searching. He kept looking, and you weren't ready to tell him. Up until that point the only people that knew were the people that found out by accident. Pete, because of the ship, and Chloe because of the memory loss. With Lex, it would have been by deceit. Deceit or by your own admission.

Sometimes you let yourself wonder if his descent into madness was partially your fault. If you drove him mad, if you had a part in his breakdown. Because he kept seeing things he couldn't explain, couldn't accept. You never told him that there was a reason he couldn't explain it, there was something he didn't know, couldn't know. You never told him he wasn't going crazy.

All of these years you've told yourself you didn't tell people to protect them, but this time you think you're wrong. This time you think you destroyed him by not telling him. You protected him from your secret, but not his own obsession. You protected him from the people that wanted to hurt you, but not from himself.

In moments like this, when you see the old Lex, buried underneath years of a hardened and embittered shell, trying to poke his head out, you kind of hate yourself for that.

Tonight you can feel yourself breaking a little bit. Succumbing to the guilt that's haunted you for years. You could still walk into his place if you wanted to, the guards are still instructed to let you in, but you never will. Instead you take out your cell phone, and it's not the first time you've done it. You dial the numbers to Lex's phone, and it's not the first time you've done that either.

Tonight, though, you actually hit send. Tonight you put the phone up to your ear and you watch him turn his head towards his cell phone with a look of annoyance. He picks it up and he freezes, because all phones now have caller id. You knew that when you made the call, but for a moment you worry he won't answer. When he reaches for it, you worry he will.

"Clark," he says, and you can see the confusion on his face. You can see the fear pass through his eyes. His following words rip a hole in your heart. "Is everything alright, Clark?"

"No," you say, and you hate the roughness to your voice. You don't want him to know how close to tears you are. You don't want him to know that he still hurts you like this. You don't want him to know you care.

His fingers clutch into his desk and he closes his eyes, and it's the first time in five years you've seen him this near to breaking. "What's wrong, Clark?"

"You," you say, your voice stronger now. You've become more practiced at your lies by now, better at hiding that telltale warble when you're scrambling for a cover. Still, you think, he can tell. He always could. "You're what's wrong, Lex."

You can see his jaw clench and then comes the laugh. That laugh that you hate, that laugh that's anything but a laugh. The bitterness seeps through the phone wires. "Ah, that's what this is," Lex says, rolling his eyes up towards the ceiling. "Another Lex Luthor is destroying the world article, Clark? Is that want you're working on? You want a quote from the devil himself?" You see his fists clench and his jaw work open before he swallows, and even if you can't hear it in his voice you can see it in his eyes. He's still just as hurt by this are you are. "You never needed it before, Clark, what changed your mind this time?"

"This isn't about an article," you say, floating discreetly to the side as Lex comes over to the window, looking back out at the stars. You think back on all the times you spent with him in your loft doing the same thing. You thought you were past being hurt by that memory. "This is about us. About you, and me."

"Ah, but there is no us, Clark," he says, and even though you can't see it, you can picture the ugly curve of his lips in a sneer. "You made sure of that when you walked out five years ago."

"You've changed Lex," you whisper, because you're not sure how thick his window is. He's five feet away now, and there's no way you could deny it if he saw you right now. Somehow you know he'll know it's you. "You became exactly what you never wanted to. Why? I don't understand, Lex. You were so determined."

"Why?" Lex asks, and there's that laugh again. "Why not."

"It's not who you are," you say, hoping that's still true, somewhere deep inside of him. "You didn't have to become him."

"I haven't," he says, and you know he wants you to hear pride in his voice. All you hear is years of cultivation. "Didn't you hear, Clark? I'm so much worse than Lionel Luthor. So much more cold-hearted. I'm so much more /evil/."

"You didn't have to change, Lex. You could have stopped this." you say, and you float even further away, because your voice is rising and you can see his hand on the glass, his head turning slightly. "You still can."

"You don't get to be my moral compass anymore, Clark," he hisses, that bile and vitriol in his voice cutting through you again. "You cut /me/ out, remember? Not the other way around."

"You never needed me to be your moral compass, Lex," you say softly, hoping that just once, just one more time, he would listen to you. That he would hear the honesty and the love in your voice and let you through his thick armor. "You've always known right from wrong. You never needed me, I was just the excuse."

"I guess you never knew me at all Clark," Lex says, his tone flat and lifeless. Back to that every day staccato he uses with his board members. "That's okay. It took me /years/ to realize who I truly was. Why should you have been any different."

And you just can't help it. You just can't hold it back anymore. "I miss my friend, Lex. I miss you."

You're about a mile away now, you know he can't see you, but you use your vision to see him. You can see him put his head in his hand and you think he might just break now. You think there's a chance he'll crumble and let the old Lex out again. "Oh, Clark," he says, and his voice is rough and impenetrable. Unforgiving. "You were always so fucking nave, weren't you?"

"We were friends once, Lex. That guy? He was real. He existed. You're still him, down there under all the bullshit and metal plates of armor." You pause, and search for the magic phrase. The sentence to snap him in two. The words to make him come back to you. "He's still inside of you, Lex."

"No he's not," Lex says, his voice a growl, and you know you've lost. You've lost him for good. "He got ripped to shreds five years ago when the only person that meant /anything/ to him walked out of his life!"

He hangs up then, and you can see him heave the phone across his loft. You can see the veins in his head throbbing, his heart pounding in his chest, and he picks up a sword from its place on his wall. He thrashes it around, shredding papers, and couches, and anything in its wake. You can hear the animalistic growl rip out of his chest as he slams it into the desk right next to the picture of Alexander the Great.

Before the tears cloud your eyes you see him lean over that picture and whisper to it.

"Fuck you, Clark," he hisses, and you think those might be tears running down his cheeks. "Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you!"

You tell yourself as you blindly fly home that tomorrow you won't go back.

You still know it's a lie.

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