Life and Death in the Breath of a Kiss

by kHo


set after the season finale of the fourth season but before the fifth season. no spoilers for the fifth season


Title: Life and Death in the Breath of a Kiss Rated: R, language
Pairing: Clark/Lex
Warning: heavy angst
Notes: Takes place after the season finale of season 4, but not including any spoilers for season 5.

[ life and death in the breath of a kiss ] by kHo

"So that's it then," he says, walking forward, so slow, so calm, like this isn't anything. "You're just walking out now."

You remind yourself of everything he's ever done wrong, and it's not hard to remain as angry as you had been when you'd walked in here. You know in the back of your head that you'll be crying on your way home. That you'll probably take a thousand mile detour, running faster than the wind, because the last thing you want is for your father to see you cry over the man standing in front of you. But you have to do this, because you can't stay where you are. You can't keep hoping he'll change, you can't keep holding onto the belief that he was more than what he's letting himself be.

"I can't do this anymore, Lex," you say, and it's really amazing the way your voice is so steady when your heart is throbbing inside your chest as you try to not let it break in two. "It's too hard."

"Hmmm," he says, nodding, stopping right in front of you, looking you from head to toe, and it's too easy to remember how that used to make you feel. It's too easy, because it still kind of does make you feel like that. Like you're the only thing he wants. Like maybe you want that too. "Funny, cause the thing is, this has been over for a while, hasn't it Clark?"

This is not what you expected. This flipness, this smirk. You didn't expect this from him. You'd expected him to try to hide the emotions from you, but you'd never thought he'd succeed. You start to realize then that you'd maybe stopped paying attention a while back, because he's not acting like this is anything new to him. "What has?"

"Us," he says, and it almost looks like real amusement in his eyes as he gestures between the two of you. It almost looks like he's about to chide you about being oblivious to Lana's feelings, or not knowing where the salad fork goes. "This friendship. It's been over for a while, now, Clark. I've tried to convince myself it could be salvaged, but maybe I should think of this as the lessening of a burden."

And that takes you back, and that anger snaps back into place. "So I'm a burden to you?"

He grins, leaning against the pool table behind him, so casual with his hands stuffed in his pockets. "No, Clark, you were never a burden. What was a burden was the hope that one day you'd trust me. Hope is always a burden to us Luthors, Clark. I'm surprised it took me this long to accept that. That's a lesson I'd learned well and true before you. Somehow I let you make me think it could actually be different."

"If you'd given me a reason to trust you--"

"I gave you plenty," Lex says, and finally you see some fire in his eyes. Finally you see some angry lines of tension just underneath his form fitting black shirt. "I gave you plenty of reasons to trust me, Clark. And in return, you gave me plenty of reasons to wonder why I bothered."

You shake your head, because you can't wrap your head around this. It wasn't supposed to be like this. This was supposed to be about you giving up on him, not him giving up on you. "Lex, you betrayed me--"

"Because I'm the one who protected Lana this time," Lex asks, raising an eyebrow. "You had plenty of time, Clark. You had the world at your feet and you sat on the sidelines."

Your fists clench. "Fuck you."

"But this isn't about Lana. Lana's your excuse," Lex says, once again going back to behind the iron mask of indifference. "Lana's what you'll conveniently use to tell people why we don't speak anymore, but really what it's about is your inability to be honest. Have you ever heard of overcompensation, Clark?"

You step forward, and you think if he says one more word, just one more, you'll deck him for sure. "Lex--"

"It's simple psychology, Clark. When one is guilty of something, they suspect others to be guilty of the same. It's called misdirection." He smirks and looks up at you. "There were times, yes, when I deserved your mistrust. But you didn't trust me long before I deserved it, Clark. Why is that?"

"You lied to me! You betrayed me! I've spent so much time defending you to other people, Lex. To Chloe, to Pete, to my father--"

"That's all well and fine, Clark, but why would you," Lex asks, shrugging his shoulders elegantly. It infuriates you how easy he can make it look. Sometimes, you think he could make the end of the world look like nothing of importance. "Why would you defend me, when it's clear you've never believed in me?"

"I did believe in you, Lex."

"No, Clark," Lex says, shaking his head. "No. You didn't, and you don't. And that killed me, Clark. That killed me to realize that the one person I considered to be worth it-- the one person I thought might actually see me for who I am and not who others think I'll become-- saw me just the same as the rest."

And that hurts. That hurts, and you're not sure if it hurts because it's wildly untrue, or too true for you to admit it to yourself. "I always saw you for who you were. I never gave a damn what other people thought of you!"

"Well," Lex says, looking down at the floor and laughing lightly. It almost sounds real, and that's more depressing than maybe anything else. "That might mean more if I didn't know how easily you lie now, Clark."

"I never lied to yo--"

"What happened on that bridge, Clark," Lex asks, interrupting you again, meeting you in your eyes. "Why do the caves mean so much to you? Why do you never get hurt? How do you always know when and where to be? How is it possible for you to get from point a to point b, with no mode of transportation, in less than the time it takes my helicopter?" He pauses and stands up, and you can just barely see his hands trembling before he clenches them. "Where did you go, Clark, when the light filled the cave and took you with it? What were the elements for? What do the symbols on the cave mean?"

He takes one step closer and the anger and hatred and rage and hurt and betrayal in his eyes almost cripple you to the floor. "Why were you always on the verge of apologizing to me, always holding back tears, when I got out of Belle Reeve? Why did it seem like you thought you should have protected me, gotten me out?" He raises and eyebrow and you can feel yourself shaking, feel the vomit and the tears rising in your throat at the same time. "That wouldn't have been possible, Clark. There's no way you could have gotten me out of there."

He steps back then, and suddenly the curtain is back in place. "Or could you have? Because I don't know Clark. I don't know anything about you, about who you really are. Because you never let me in. I told you everything, Clark. I told you about my mother, my father, my brother. My hopes, my dreams. My fears. My nightmares." He shakes his head. "I told you everything Clark. And all you gave me in return were your lies and your betrayals."

"That's not true," you think you say. Because you're not sure if it was actually audible. You're not sure if you actually got it past the sobs you're holding back that are choking you.

He steps forward then and grabs a hold of your chin. There's a certain wildness in his eyes that you've never seen before. Some kind of reckless abandon that chills you down to your bones. You wonder briefly if this is what you looked like when Lois stopped you from killing the mutant who killed Alicia. Because all that had mattered then was that moment.

You think there was a time when you would have known before now just how good Lex had gotten at hiding, that you would have recognized it. But right now you can actually see him breaking inside, and you hadn't seen that coming.

"I loved you Clark," he hisses, and you feel your resolve start to break when you see the first tear form in his eye. "More than anything. I have nothing left that's good in my life, you were the last remaining piece. And maybe I fucked it up, and maybe you fucked it up, but it doesn't matter." He pauses, and he takes a deep breath, and you've never seen him like this before. You've never seen him so close to broken, not even when his father drugged him into being crazy. Because this time he was still him, not some drug induced schizophrenic fabrication. "You were my salvation, Clark, all you had to do was be there."

"I was there," you say, and you hate the way your voice sounds. Like an apology, like a plea. Like you're begging for forgiveness. Because it wasn't supposed to be like this. You were so certain before you got there on where you stood. You were so positive that you held the moral high ground.

"No you weren't," he says softly, the grip on your chin turning into a caress as his thumb strokes your cheek.

You take a deep breath and reach up to thread your fingers through his. "I wanted to be."

He looks into your eyes and it's like looking into them for the first time, on that river bank, when he looked at you like you were everything good in the world. You close your eyes, because you know, deep down, that you're not. Not to him. Not anymore.

"Not good enough," he says softly and then his lips are on yours, and you think to yourself that it's always been leading here. It's where you've always been heading, tripping and falling the whole way, toward this moment right here.

When you open your eyes he's nowhere to be seen, and you think to yourself this is fitting.

You brought him back to life with a kiss, and he killed you with the same.

Author's Note/: this developed into a bit of a debate, which can be read in it's original place on LJ here: http://www.livejournal.com/users/khohen1/359152.html

and it's follow up post, here:
http://www.livejournal.com/users/khohen1/359423.html



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