Four Years

by kHo

written for sv_flashfiction lj comm challenge

Title: Four Years
Rated: R, language
Characters: Lex, Clark (Lex/Clark-ish)
Notes: takes place in the future, spoiler for Covenant.

[ four years ]
by kHo

We haven't spoken in four years. I went to college at Kansas State, and he went to work in Metropolis full-time, and I don't know if we faded apart or broke, but it doesn't really matter. We can't get it back.

Sometimes I wonder if it's because I failed him. Because I lied to him, because I didn't trust him the way I should have. Because there was a time I should have. There was a time I could have. And sometimes I think if I just had, he would have remained someone I could trust. Sometimes I think if I could have just let myself tell him the truth, he would have been the most loyal, trustworthy friend anyone could have had.

Sometimes I wonder if it's because he failed me. Because he lied to me too. He investigated me, he made me feel like I was hunted, like I was a specimen. Walking into that room was the most painful thing I have ever been through and in that moment I hated him. I hated him with all of my being. For betraying me, for betraying my trust, for disregarding my feelings when he already knew what they were. Because he should have known that my not telling him had so much more to do with not trusting anyone, not even myself, than it had to do with not trusting him.

But I couldn't hate him. I still can't. No matter how much I try, there's still that voice in the back of my head that says the only reason I hate him is because I love him so much. Because no matter what, I still do.

We haven't spoken in four years, but every year on my birthday he calls me. He never says anything. I don't know how I know it's him, but I do. Caller ID is no match for Luthor technology. Sometimes the calls come from China. Sometimes the calls come from Elaine Johnson of New York. Sometimes they come from the Deli down the street from my apartment. They come from all over, but I always know it's him. Always.

The first time it happened, I picked up the phone to dead silence and the hair stuck up on the back of my neck. I asked, again and again, who it was. Who was calling me. Why were they calling me. But I knew. I knew it was him. I sat there on my bed, at 1 o'clock in the morning, every bone in my body trembling, knowing.

The second time it happened, I didn't even bother to say hello. I just picked up the phone and lay there until I fell asleep, listening to him breathe.

The third time it happened, I started crying. I'm sure he heard me, and I know I heard his breath catch. I begged him. I plead with him. Please, please Lex, just fucking say something. I stayed on the phone for two hours and he never said a word. In the morning, my pillow was still wet.

The fourth time will be today. It will be now, if I pick up the phone. It will be painful, and it will be hard, but I know I'll regret it if I don't. So I place the phone to my ear and close my eyes.

"This is getting ridiculous," I say.

He says nothing.

"I could call the cops on you. This could be considered stalking. I've looked it up."

Nothing except maybe a laugh.

I fiddle with the phone chord and pull the blankets up to my chest. I still feel cold.

He continues to breathe.

"Chloe called me the other day. She said she ran into you at the place she always gets lunch. That you actually invited her to join you. She was really touched by that, Lex. She'll probably never let you know that."

For a minute I think he's hung up, and my heart freezes. I use my super-hearing to hear his heart beat.

"She said you looked really sad. That you're very good at hiding it, but Chloe's always been freakishly perceptive. She said she didn't even bother to bring me up. Trading barbs with you was always one of her favorite things, did you know that? She said no one could keep up with her like you could. You should invite her to lunch more often, Lex. Just because we're not friends doesn't mean you can't be friends with her."

I wonder sometimes if I can actually feel his pain through the phone. I hope not, it's absolutely crushing.

"I haven't told her you call me every year. I haven't told anyone but my mother. She still worries about you, by the way. She even got angry with me once for what she called giving up on you. Said you needed someone good in your life, and it should have been me. But I'm not the only one that gave up, Lex. You did too."

Still. Nothing. I don't know how much more I can do this.

"You know. I never stopped caring, Lex. Not even when I thought I hated you. Not even when I was so angry at you I couldn't see. Couldn't breathe. I never stopped caring. I've always wanted you to be happy. I've always wanted you to find peace. With something. Someone. I don't-- I don't know if you can. Was that what I was? Was I your chance at peace?"

Please. Say something. I don't know how long I can go through this without breaking.

"Why couldn't you just stop? Why couldn't you let it go? I begged you, Lex. I asked you to stop so many times. You should have listened to me. If you had just stopped. If you had just trusted me, we could have stayed friends."

Except that's not completely honest, is it? No. I can admit that to myself.

"People have secrets for reasons. Everyone has secrets, Lex. I know some of yours, and you know some of mine. But do I know all of yours? No. So why should you get to know all of mine? I don't... didn't. I didn't keep things from you because I didn't trust you, Lex. I kept secrets from you because they're mine. They're mine, and there are so few people that know. There are so few people that know, and even that's too many."

He breathes in and for one second I think he might speak. Instead, he breathes out again.

"Why do you do this? Why do you call me? It hurts. It hurts so fucking bad, and you know it does."

I don't know if he's crying, but part of me hopes to God he is. It would be less embarrassing if we both were.

"Lana was dating this guy Toby a while back. You probably know that. She dated him for two years, and then he cheated on her. She cried on my shoulder for three hours, Lex. She took a while to get over him, but I could tell. After she cried she felt better. She felt lighter. Not whole, but... less broken. I never did that. I didn't know I could. We were never just friends, were we? It wasn't just me that felt like I'd lost... I don't know what to call it. We weren't. Lex, I don't know how to put this. I felt like I lost a part of myself when I lost you, and that's exactly what it feels like when you break up with someone. And I've dated, and I've fallen in love, but it's never hurt as much as it did with you. What does that make you, Lex?"

I don't know why I even bother to let myself hope for an answer.

"Does that make you my ex? Because that's what it feels like. And there was a time that I worried about that. When I thought I was gay. Because I couldn't imagine losing anyone would hurt more than losing you. Chloe says that everyone has someone like that, though. She says that everyone has a soulmate, and sometimes you might even have more than one, but it doesn't always mean anything sexual. That it's just some cosmic melding, and the feelings are the same as when you're in love, because it is love."

The way his breath catches on that feels like an admission, and I have a feeling I'll cling to this for years.

"I hate this, Lex. I fucking hate this. I want things back the way they were. I want to be able to walk into that mansion without permission. I want to walk into your office and just sit there with you, saying nothing and being happy. Playing pool. To this day I can't look at a pool table and not hear you philosophizing on the importance of setting up the next shot."

Just say something. One word. Just one word so I can remember what your voice sounds like.

"But it can't go back to what it was, can it? It's too twisted. It's too damaged. There's too much history. You'll never believe in me, and I'll never trust in you. No matter how much I want to. It'll never be like it was because you'll always be searching for answers I can't give you, and I'll always be wondering what angle you're working on."

It hurts so much worse to say than I thought it would, but I've never been more honest with him.

"I'm graduating in May. I bet you already know that too. I've already got a job at the Daily Planet. Remember Perry White? He told me my Junior year that if I decided to go into journalism I should give him a call. Because he went back to it. He went back to being the journalist Chloe always said he was. He's called me every year, asking me if I graduated yet. This year I get to tell him yes."

I can hear the words of congratulations caught on the tip of his tongue, and it's enough.

"Lex. I want you to come to my graduation. You don't have to speak to me. You don't even have to let me see you. I just want to know you're there. I want you to see me graduate. I don't know if it'll feel real if you're not there. You've been there for some of the most important things in my life, even if we weren't speaking, and I can't stand the thought of you not being there for this."

He doesn't have to answer. I know he'll be there. I knew it before I asked him.

"I have to go. I have to wake up early for a class. Lex. I just. I wanted to say."

I can do this. I can do this. I have to.

"I miss you, Lex."

Nothing. Just like I thought.

"I'm going to hang up now, but... I just wanted you to know that. I really do. I miss--"

"I've never stopped loving you, Clark. Never."

He hangs up before my heart can start beating again and the tears have never fallen faster.

I have to wait three hundred and sixty-five days until I can respond.

A year before I'll talk to him again, and I don't even know if that's enough time for me to recover from this.

Every year I swear I'll hang up on him, and every year he leaves me just a little more broken.

I don't think this will ever stop hurting.

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