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Distance

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Distance

by Annie


Distance

By Annie

Rated: PG
Summary: Linear distance isn't the only kind; futurefic; Clark/Lex (Clark POV) Spoilers: None
Disclaimer: Still not mine, or they would spend more screen time together; also, do not own Terminator, or Kyle Reese would be alive. Feedback: crehnert@ptd.net

I come here every day.

It's a short flight, even if it is the hardest thing I have to do on a daily basis. I always bring a flower, just one, chosen from whatever country has the most beautiful currently-blooming flora that morning. It would be so much easier to stay at home and have coffee before work, but I need this. I need to try to cleanse the dark guilt I know I'll feel as soon as I walk into my office at the Planet, walk past the empty space where her desk used to sit. Try to purge the empty space inside me, where her trust used to be.

They offered to move me, of course; no one expected me to work in that room without her. No one except myself. And not even I had expected the enormous tragedy at the warehouse that day.

Never expected that Lois's intense investigation would unwittingly entangle her in a plot to kill a presidential candidate; never expected both her and said politico to end up as prisoners, bound and gagged at opposite ends of the unused cavernous warehouse.

Never expected, while x-raying the warehouse on my frantic inflight that, somehow, my body would veer left, sweep the struggling, trussed-up Lex Luthor in my arms first, automatically turning toward the other end of the building to pick up Lois and get them away from there.

I was always fast enough. Just not that day.

Never expected the ingenious little twist on the bomb; the casing that began to erode the second or two before the bomb actually exploded, the leech of Kryptonite gas into the air I was flying through, the infinitesimal drop in my speed that cost Lois her life.

Lex, too, almost, except I managed to get him out through the wall, shielded with my body as the bomb went off gloriously.

I had most of Lois's files. I was close to finding the identity of the man who had stolen her from me. Who would have stolen Lex from me, if he had still been mine for the stealing. Lex and I hadn't been on the same page of life for over a decade.

But I come every day. I promised her, after all, when I gave her the ring she wears even now, buried with her. I promised we'd be together every day.

And so we are.

I know one day he'll be here, too. His voice should startle me, but it doesn't. I hear him coming before he is anywhere near me, expensive shoes treading on cemetery grass, as comfortable here as he would be in his own office. I wonder sometimes if he truly thinks he owns the entire planet. The sounds of the bodyguards stopping a little distance behind us reminds me how far from Smallville we really are.

"You come every morning. You miss her." Lex says quietly, reaching past me to place three white roses on the grass near the simple headstone. "I've been here a few times myself, but never this early in the day."

He is looking at the engraving on the granite, following my own gaze.

"I know," I tell him, still looking at Lois's name, edging away from him the slightest bit, unintentionally, sensing the distance we have been maintaining for so long. "I've seen the white roses. I knew it was you. Why?"

"Why?" Lex repeats. "Why not?"

"I wouldn't think you'd take the time. Wouldn't bother to make the trip."

"Some days I'm closer." He says. "Some days the trip is too long. I think about her every day."

"Don't feel the need to come here, Lex," I tell him bitterly. "It's long ago and far away since we were close enough that I expect you to pay respects to my dead fiance."

"But you come here every day. You chose your enemy over the woman you loved."

I know he's looking at me then, and I force myself to turn and meet his eyes, brace myself for the hardness I'll see there. The hardness I have seen there ever since I left Smallville. Left him. Gave up on him because I could see what he was becoming and he wouldn't listen to my warnings.

Left him because I was afraid to live yet another lie; afraid I wouldn't have the courage. Did it one early morning before I could change my mind, before the memory of his heat, his hands, his lips invaded me again, rendering the decision futile.

"I never loved her, not enough," I say, finally accepting that lonely truth as the words leave my mouth. It's in this moment, this singular second in time, that I know. Know who I love and always have loved. Still, I have denied it. I have denied him.

I see it then, the sadness behind the steel in his eyes. "You should have stayed, Clark," Lex admonishes quietly. "She might still be alive."

"And you might really be dead. Long ago and far away, Lex. Way too much dirty water has gone under that bridge where we met. Too many years and too much distance between us to ever go back." I sidle a glance back to Lois' resting place, uneasy with the thought that she might somehow be able to hear me. That she will know this one secret I have never divulged to her, this pain I have tried to leave behind.

"Retreat is a weakness, Superman. I won't go back. The real test of strength is in the forge ahead. There is no fate but what we make."

"I saw that movie, Lex. I didn't like the ending."

Flash of the smile, the real one, the one I haven't seen since that morning. Not in the newspapers, not on television, in magazines or even in pictures with the wife he lost a few years ago. It's gone quickly, fast enough that I manage to stop the movement of my hand toward him.

"As I recall, you weren't happy with the whole time travel thing. Too many unanswered questions. If you could travel back in time right now, would you go back to the warehouse and save her first?"

I feel the burn of unshed tears in my eyes. "Some days when I come here, I almost hate you. For a decision I made, I almost hate you. And I hate myself because if I could go back in time, I'm not sure anything would end up differently."

Lex studies my face seriously for a too-long moment, brief flicker of something in his eyes that makes me feel like the Clark who existed years ago. The loved Clark, not the enemy with the alien powers, not this empty hero who has an arch nemesis as the single constant in his life. The long-ago Clark, who played pool and watched movies. The Clark who so often supersped to the huge stone mansion in the middle of the night, because he couldn't bear to be away, the Clark who spent months trying to purge the dreams and the ache of need inside.

Lex clears his throat, breaks the mood, and the flicker leaves his eyes. "I have meetings today, Superman, schedules to maintain, evil plans to bring to fruition, I'm sure you're aware of all this. I'll leave you to your quiet thoughts."

I take one step closer, as if I want him to stay physically, but am unable to admit it verbally. "Lex," I start, as he is turning to leave, calculated rake of his gaze down the front of my spandexed form, heat rising in me without my want or permission.

"Was there something else?" he asks, eyebrow raised challengingly, discreet bodyguards a little distance away coming closer as he stops and turns back.

My throat doesn't want to work, doesn't want to tell him that I'm sorry, that I want him. "No," I manage to say, looking much more casual about it than I actually feel. "There's nothing else. Thank you for bringing the flowers, Luthor," I tell him, fully in Superman mode now, vestiges of Clark well-hidden once more.

Lex tilts his head slightly in farewell and turns to leave again. He turns back one more time, considering a moment before he replies to the silent question on my face.

"By the way," he asks, "Which decision of yours is it that makes you hate both of us? The decision to leave me? Or the one to save me? Do you even know yourself?"

He whirls to leave for real now, leaving me standing alone at her grave. I look at the stone again and the words are blurred by the salty burn in my eyes. I turn back to watch the limo move until it's too far away to see with human vision.