They didn't understand.
Of course, it wasn't the first time in his life that Lex Luthor had thought that about anyone. It undoubtedly would not be the last. Still, nothing so very important had ever been so deeply misunderstood before.
Lex wished that he could make them understand.
Still. There was nothing to do for it now.
It had been years. Years spent alone in the castle in Smallville, quietly running his business interests through high speed internet cables and satellite broadcasts. Even Mercy had abandoned him at last, tears streaking down her too-perfect face, silver-streaked blonde braid frayed at the tip from the slam of a door that had also caught the tips of her left middle and ring fingers.
Of them all, he missed Mercy the most.
She had stayed by his side through those years, despite the horrors, despite the toll it took on her. But finally, he had simply had to make her leave. Set her free, even if it had been as painful as if he'd cut out his heart. She loved him. Not romantic love, but love nevertheless. And he'd loved her enough to finally make her leave, for her own sanity and safety.
Leaving him with his technology, and wisps of nothingness to talk to.
Perhaps it wasn't quite nothing.
The castle was filled with sound, in its way. It almost seemed to breathe at times, and there were errant winds that traced in little cyclones around the place, shifting frantically from window to window as if perhaps it would be possible to blow right through their brilliant color-traced panes.
Whispering past the bed during the nights.
It wasn't the wind or the faint shush of sounds that made Lex tired, made his eyes droop during the day. No.
It was the other sounds that came in the night.
The other ones.
The moans. The howls. The words. It had gotten to Mercy, eventually, so he'd done the kind thing.
Maybe the kind thing would be if he blew the house up, with he and.... with them still in it. But he couldn't do it. He couldn't give up on the hope that he could put an end to it. That he could fix everything after all those years. It was, perhaps, a maddened hope. But it kept him going.
That, and the early exposure to falling
Mercy had aged. Slowly, yes, much more slowly than normal because of who and what she was, but...
Lex had not.
Lex remained the same, eternally twenty-three in flesh, no matter how tired and old he became of mind. That, too, was part of the hope and the horror of being in the house. Of belonging in the house, and he did. He did belong there, more than anywhere else in the world. Leaving it, no matter the precautions that had been taken, was never going to be an option.
If he ever succeeded, what would happen? He'd step out that door, and... And. Lex Luthor, eccentric billionaire, couldn't still be twenty three years old. He should have been hitting middle age, at least the point where middle age had been redefined by vain baby boomers. As it was, he could get away with a lot thanks to video technology. There was uncertainty out there, even if he ever did succeed.
With a sigh, he closed down his e-mail, listening for the wisp to talk to.
Listening for the whistle of the wind, and
the sounds of the house rearranging itself around him.
It came to him, not long after he settled down, brandy in one hand, the fire crackling close by. Sounds of shrieking wood, the tenderest little clinks that implied glass might be forming from the sand he'd dumped in the center of the one-time ballroom...
Well. It was still a ballroom, only now the floor and walls were mirrored in such a way that it made Lex shudder to see himself in the room. He tried, usually, not to go in there, but there was no question that the sand gave his ghost something to do.
"Clark..." Lex took a sip of his brandy, eyes trained on the fire. Sometimes he wondered why he even bothered. "Clark. How are you tonight?"
How are you.
The words whispered back to him, shifting with mocking little breaths and gasps, pants. They were a mockery of things that once were, that perhaps would always be, but which were now twisted beyond bearing, beyond imagining. Warped the way that the lead-paned glasses with their faint emerald tinge made the world seem from inside the castle.
"I'm tired, Clark. I'm tired of this, I'm tired of this house. Why don't you just stop?"
It was a conversation he held with himself, with the house, with the breezing ghostly remnants of once-upon-a-time ever-after love. Nightly, the words spilled between his lips, spewing forth into silence and the creaking of the castle around him.
Destruction, and rebuilding. Constant renewal around him, even as the things he loved disappeared before his eyes.
It had been horrifying the first few times. Simply horrifying. And then he'd... gotten used to it. Nothing was permanent, everything was transitory. Made to spite him without harming him. Why stop at spite and horror, though? Lex couldn't understand that -- he could just hope that it meant there was a shard of his love remaining.
"I miss you, Clark."
Missed him, but...
The accident had been terrible, the explosion nearly robbing Lex of an eye and neatly destroying his right hand and his beloved Clark in one fell swoop. Perhaps that was the reason for such a vicious haunting -- the fact that he'd been stupid enough to even attempt the sorts of experiments he had with those dangerous space rocks.
It had just... called to him to be done. They were the sorts of things that benefitted humanity -- or failed to, depending on the circumstances.
Lex's tragedy had done no one any good. "Clark. I wish you'd spend time with me. Forgive me."
The rest of the world had long since declared him half-mad for the discussions he held with what was, to them, nothing more than a violent ghost. Poultergeist. The fact that he still made brilliant business decisions, still controlled at least Smallville with the iron fist of a Luthor... Those things didn't incline them towards any kindnesses. Only, perhaps, pity.
He wasn't mad, though. No more mad than he'd been to do the experiments in the first place. Staying there only made sense. Served as a penance for his... crime. Mistake. Whatever he wanted to call it that particular time. "I know you're in the ballroom, Clark. I can hear you in there. I know you can hear me."
Always, always hear him.
Hear him the way Clark had once been able to hear him from a state away, even though it had been a long time before he admitted the truth to Lex. Lex had waited to hear it, though, waited with patience once the lies became subtle, trembling-mouthed looks that apologized every time Clark did something he shouldn't do.
The ballroom had gone quiet.
It could be a good sign, or a bad sign, and Lex had given up on predicting when it would be which type. He just took another sip of his drink, and stared into the fire. "I'm sorry, Clark. I don't know how many more times I have to tell you that I'm sorry, but I am. I'm tired of living like this. Aren't you tired yet, Clark?"
As if Clark could get tired. As if the ghost
that whirled air up around him, never seen, was capable of becoming
exhausted. It had been so long, and sometimes he thought that
perhaps, if he could just see, see more than the sounds
of the house changing around him, the dry, dusty creaks that threatened
from the closet, then perhaps...
He could make things right again. Somehow.
For all that he was a keen scientific mind, there wasn't yet a way to reverse death. Or whatever limbo state he'd sent Clark into. A limbo of red kryptonite, an angry hell. The house, his mansion, their home was an angry hell, now, too. A lonely one.
Sending Mercy off had been for her own good. And telling himself that again and again was the only thing that kept him from reaching out for her, from getting her to come back. Maybe Clark had wanted that -- to have Lex and Lex alone in the house at last. No servants. Just the two of them.
Just the two of them for eternity, if need
be, an eternity to make Lex ultimately sorry for every wrong thing
he had ever done and then some.
The faint sound of crashing came from upstairs, the bedroom that had once been theirs, and it made Lex's eyes close in sorrow. Clark made and remade that room, as if he could somehow reconstruct the day of the accident by making it ultimately perfect.
That was worse than the ballroom.
Lex slept there every night.
Part of his penance. It had been their room, their place in a house full of hundreds of useless rooms. Why sleep anywhere else?
That question had a lot of answers, and Lex was tempted, again, to just fall asleep in his chair. There were too many things that were disturbing about being there. Ultimately perfect, ultimately flawed in every way.
Filled with everything a man could ever
want or need, save the one thing that made it completely empty.
The sounds faded, signifying more than anything else that it was time, past time, for Lex to be in bed. This ritual was always the same, every night, and that was part of what had made Mercy tremble come evening, made her begin to jerk faintly with anxiety, dampen with nervous sweat.
It didn't bother Lex. Not anymore. Or at least he liked to pretend that it didn't.
He just stood up, finished off his drink, and then closed the fireplace so it would smother itself out. Then he'd go to bed, and... and suffer, hearing but not touching.
Never touching. Oh, God. What he wouldn't do for just the slightest of stray ghostly caresses, anything more than the taunting of green-limned veins in arms that were viewed as just too far away, that disappeared when he reached for them. They always disappeared. Whether Clark simply couldn't hold still long enough or wanted him to suffer when he almost touched was hard to say. It could have been either, knowing what Clark could be like when he was unsettled.
It could be that the accident really had destroyed everything but the angry wisp of ghost that had driven everyone but Lex completely mad. Oh, God, he hoped that wasn't true, though. He hoped desperately, endlessly, that wasn't the truth.
He'd stayed there... stayed living, stayed working out of hope that there was some way to fix Clark. Or that there was something less than malicious in his ghost. It was hope alone that kept him coping, and if he didn't have hope...
Then there wasn't much sense in climbing the stairs.
Still. It was one step after another, the same steps he'd climbed the last thirty years, and the wind buffeted around him wildly as he set his foot upon every one. Lex had long since given in to his own sense of the melodramatic, and the clothing he wore rippled pleasantly around him with each motion. At least that way, it was something like a lover's caress. It certainly wasn't natural, and there was no question that it was Clark at work with the 'wind'. "Yes, I'm coming, Clark. Don't worry, I'm going to bed now."
It was time, and past time, after all. He
never went until the room had been carefully remade, though, recreated
to mimic the night that everything had gone so desperately wrong.
"Lex..." Caress of the wind past his ear, house groaning an approximation of his name. Teasing.
Fucking with him, if he wanted to think about it any harder. "Are you going to rip everything apart as I sleep again, Clark? Does it make you feel better?"
Ohh. That was the first time he'd ever gotten a reaction to that taunt, and the sudden silence and lack of motion in the air was really... Well, it was strangely terrifying, actually. Maybe he was going to rev up and make the night worse than ever.
"I genuinely want to know, Clark," Lex pressed as he started up one more step, and paused at last. "Does it help?"
"Helps." Mocking sound instead of relief, but Lex had long since ceased to believe that what Clark sounded like had any meaning as to what he said. No. It didn't, not really, perhaps it hadn't even before. Clark, after all, was a consummate liar until the moment you looked at his face. It was something like that, really.
It had to be worse with him in whatever state he was in. Lex sighed, and started up those last few steps. "I'm sorry, Clark. If it helps, then... it helps." But it never changed that he was sorry. And it never changed what happened in their bedroom nightly.
Mornings were so much worse to face than the night, really. Lex had become more than accustomed to sleeping through the sounds of chaos, the whispered promises that floated across the bed. He never seemed to acclimate himself to the house changing around him, though; to waking every morning and being lost in his own home.
He was getting keener about navigating it; most mornings it only took him half an hour to systematically figure out where the important rooms were -- bathroom, the downstairs, stairs that actually went downstairs, his office.
That, like the bedroom, remained the same, or at least enough that it was always recognizable. Lex took that as something of a good sign; after all, if Clark didn't change the places where they had spent so much time together, then perhaps it meant that one day...
One day, Clark would return to him. In some way.
Somehow. It was, simply, his chest-clutched hope. Lex had to hold onto that when he paused and opened the door that he recalled had been the bedroom when he'd woken up and left it that morning.
Predictably enough, it was the bedroom
again. That was the single constant in the entire matter, and
it made Lex shudder to consider it. Why couldn't Clark just make
it change, the way everything else did? Even the ballroom. Just
Just once, to let it be different, instead of perfect and in its place in the evening, and ripped to shreds by morning.
He sighed, lingering in the doorway before he stepped forwards into his own personal version of hell. There was one light on, the bedside lamp giving the room a fake warm glow. "Are you here, Clark? Of course you are."
"Course I am." Desperate shuddering mockery of Lex's words. "Here for you."
There for Lex, and the faint shade of purple-tinged light that spread over the bed made Lex's mouth tremble. Both sides turned down, pillows perfectly plumped, and only one side would be used.
Thirty years of this, every night.
Maybe it would be another thirty before he could tell one way or the other if Clark's ghost was truly responsible for the tragedy unwinding around them both. If he could handle another thirty years of that sentence, if he could handle another thirty years of being a prisoner in his hellish home, if...
"I love you, Clark. You don't have to keep doing it this way." He glanced around as he moved to 'his' side of the bed, looking for a glimpse of the shadow.
Clark didn't have to keep doing it that way, but he persisted in it. Maybe torturing Lex was some bizarre twist on red kryptonite, because Clark had always been spectacularly cruel to him during those incidents.
He should never have attempted those experiments.
At the time, it had just seemed... right. Clark had wanted him to, and it had its uses for them both. Harmless experiments, until everything was wrong, at least.
Lex laid down slowly, facing the lamp and away from the other side of the bed. It only took a moment to pull the blankets up, wrapping himself in safety the way a child would. "Good night, Clark."
Such simple words to release such horrible retribution.
Whispered breaths, horrible, barely recognizable sounds, pure mockery. Pleasure-noises floated to Lex's ears, making him bite down viciously on the inside of his mouth.
He closed his eyes, and prepared to bear that night's storm. It was a lot like when one was little, and could swear there was a monster lurking out outside in the hall, only the monster was upon him, circling him, ruining the room. Mocking him, trying to hurt him.
Accomplishing it, actually.
God, he'd give anything for both of them to be done with this. Eternally, completely. He wouldn't mind dying, if only it would help.
Nothing could help.
He couldn't die, Clark... What was left of Clark, if it was Clark, wouldn't let him. They would always be that way, they way they were just then. It would've been easy if he could've let himself just give up and walk away, but he couldn't. Not as long as there was a thread of hope that maybe... maybe...
There was really no question about it. Lex had never been anything like a morning person, and since the accident, he'd come to hate facing them at all. If he didn't have a human (alien, otherworldly?) alarm clock to force him to consciousness, perhaps he'd be something like Rip Van Winkle.
Sleeping was escape, in a way. Even if it had taken years of practice and outright desperation to learn to sleep that way. People slept in war zones, after all. His situation wasn't much different, unless he counted the fact that as he lifted his head to look at devastation, he knew that the house would be changed again.
It would take him half the morning to find the bathroom again. Was it really even worth it to get up?
Maybe if he started pissing in corners, Clark would put both of them out of their misery.
Lex cracked his eyes open slowly, not quite sure what he expected to see other than havoc. But it was, somehow, worse than havoc. Everything seemed... seemed to be in its place. Looking straight out, he could see the lamp, the wall, the wardrobe doors. Maybe Clark had ruined something about the floor.
Nothing visibly wrong there, unless Clark had ripped out the supports somehow and was finally going to end all of this with Lex stepping out of the bed, except...
A faint, keening whine was in the air, and that was just as new as a bedroom that was all in one piece come morning.
So he made himself sit up, and moved to carefully place both feet on the floor. The whine had to be Clark, or Clark created, even if his first fear was that Mercy had come back for him and had been caught up in something. No, he was alone in the house except for the shadow of his lover.
No reply. Only that god-awful sound that made him want to cry. Lex was stronger than that. He wouldn't do it, not after so many years. It was just another way to drive him crazy.
It was just one more hurdle to leap, one more thing to struggle through that day. There was always, always just one more thing. Lex sucked in a breath as he started to stand up, still taking in the bedroom. "Clark... I'm up, Clark."
He was up, but nothing he could see was destroyed. There were no sounds of incessant horrible building and rebuilding around him.
Just... that sound.
Lex paused long enough to grab his robe, slipping it on before he padded barefoot towards the door. "Clark?" There was something not right about that sound. Something mournful -- not spiteful. It wasn't a sound trying to rouse Lex from his rest.
The door clicked quietly when he turned the handle, and opened up into a familiar hall. It made Lex shiver a little. He hadn't seen things so... so put together, so right, since...
Not only was the noise mournful, but it was distinct. It didn't run circles around his head, it didn't dart and play like a breeze around him. Lex started to follow the sound, listening carefully. "Clark? Clark, can you hear me?"
The words echoed back to him, but they were nothing more than that; just echoes, faint sounds that bounced back from empty halls. Still. He was heading in the right direction. He could hear it, he was getting closer.
He walked a little faster, curious to see what was going on -- but it was without the usual dread that hung over him. "Clark? Is that you? Clark, it's Lex..."
Scattered steps, scrambled sound, and he was right on top of something. Clark. Something. He wasn't sure. He just had to open the door...
One slow deep breath. It was probably a trap a set up for something spectacular. But Lex touched the doorknob and it felt solid. So he pushed it open, quicker than caution wanted him to.
No wonder Clark had never slowed down enough to....
Lex swallowed, reaching a hand out in front of him as he started towards his lover. Lover of... a long, long time ago, but it hadn't ever changed. Accident or no. The hell of that house or no. "Clark. Clark, it's Lex. Answer me."
"Nnooo." Such a shaky answer, Clark's arms wrapped around his head. "Nnnooo."
So much destructed beauty.
It explained... so much.
"I haven't seen you for decades, Clark," Lex whispered, edging towards him. Closer, closer, until he could kneel down and touch him. "I still love you. Let me see."
"Nnno. No, no, no. no." Lex's fingers caressed over large hands, his thumb stroking the faint knob of a joint. "No. Not looking. Not..."
"Clark." Lex kept his voice firm, unwavering as he smoothed his thumb, and then all of his fingers, over the lines of Clark's hands. "Please."
"Not looking. Lex. Not looking." Ah. Wet there. Had it been red all of the time, or had it been this? Lex couldn't say.
After everything that had happened, there wasn't any answer that would really satisfy him. But if things would... stop. He could be satisfied. With Clark, disfigured or not. "Yes, Clark. Let me look. I still love you. I love you. Despite... everything. I know you love me."
"You screamed. When you saw." When? When? Lex couldn't remember, he'd never SEEN, and in the early days, he'd cried his fury aloud at everything. At everyone.
"I never saw," Lex denied. He leaned in to Clark's hair, waiting to see if he could get that close. Clark smelled clean, still. Somewhere in the madness and motion, he cleaned. Somehow. "I saw you hurt, I feared for you. It wasn't because of you."
"So scared of me." Clark was shaking, and there were remnants of red dust filtering through the air, visible in the sun spilling through windows. How had he managed to repel it, Lex wondered? It didn't matter.
Closer, so close. Lex closed his eyes, and pressed lips to Clark's hair, fingers still stroking over Clark's big hands. "No. If I was scared of you, I wouldn't have stayed. Looking and waiting for you."
Waiting forever if he had to. Maybe he was crazy. Maybe he'd been just as crazy as they said, for longer than he had any right to consider. For eternity. Lex couldn't guess.
Lex wasn't sure it that was directed at him, or if Clark meant it about himself. He shifted, pressing against Clark more. "No. You aren't. This was my fault, Clark."
His fault, but God. They couldn't have known it would come to this, end this way. Or perhaps not end. Perhaps only...
Lex wasn't sure, and the milky eyes that peered through scarred fingers were even less certain.
He pulled back a little, so he could watch Clark while Clark watched him. "I've waited, Clark. I love you, and I've waited for you. Please. Let me see you again. I don't care how you look."
Funny that it was true. That he didn't. Lex had always loved beauty, and Clark had been a startlingly gorgeous boy.
Had been a beautiful man.
But he'd loved Clark, had hung in there against all sanity... and it didn't seem to matter so much. Not when he'd woken up day upon day disoriented, with odd rooms turned to mirrored places, staircases that didn't go anywhere, and the sounds. "I love you, Clark," he reiterated, almost desperate as he started to pull Clark's hands down. He was ready for it, wouldn't recoil in shock no matter how Clark looked.
And it wasn't really that bad.
It wasn't really that bad. Was it? Faint ravines traversed once-perfect cheekbone, arched across Clark's nose. There were traces of damage that had undoubtedly been caused by the green kryptonite with which they'd been experimenting, an ear that... Lex wasn't going to contemplate that, really, no, and tangled curls would mostly cover that, anyway, and it just... It didn't matter.
He kept his eyes open as he moved to hug Clark, his cheek pressing against the gored side of Clark's face. It didn't matter. If he was half mad, if Clark was half mad, it didn't matter. "I've missed you... God, I've missed you, Clark."
"Love you." Hoarse, croaked sound, one shaking hand petting over Lex's bare scalp. "Love you, love you, love you."
"Yes." Lex sighed that, hugged Clark tighter and turned his head to kiss him. "Please stay with me, Clark. I've done everything from this house for years now, waiting for you..."
"Wouldn't let me out," Clark whispered, shaken, allowing Lex's mouth to press against his own disfigured lips. "Monster. Animal."
It made Lex still, for just a moment. "No, that wasn't why. I wanted to protect you, help... if I could... I..."
"Made me that way." Clark's breath was hot, sweet, against his face, and it felt so good to touch him. Just to be close to him again. Anything.
"I know." Lex half closed his eyes, still leaning into Clark. He hadn't felt so intensely guilty in his life, not for anything but that. His eyes... weren't, weren't welling up, no. "I'm sorry, Clark. I wish... we'd never started to do that. I'm sorry..."
"It's been so long since I've seen the sky," Clark whispered against him, petting tenderly.
Lex stifled the urge to cry, feeling the hands stroking his back through his robe. "I'll take you outside. Right now, Clark."
"Love you, Lex. Love you. So sorry. Sooo, soo sorryyy..."
"Don't be." Lex started to stand, but kept close to Clark. And wouldn't let go. "I'll get the balcony doors open. These ones... hell, right here should still work."
A shudder worked through his beloved, mad creature. "But you have. You have. You, those windows." Green windows, God. He hadn't thought.
"I'll have them taken down. I'll... take them out myself," Lex promised. "I still have tools downstairs. I'll take them off their hinges."
"I just want to see the sky..." And Lex could give him that, could give him anything, could give him everything, even if he couldn't fix Clark's face.
"Yes... Yes. Stay here, Clark, and I'll... be back." Wouldn't even bother getting dressed -- he'd run downstairs and see if his tools were still where he'd kept them once upon a time.
Everything was back in place, after all. Everything was... It was right. It was going to be right.
It was going to be all right. He'd call and get workmen to get rid of all of the green kryptonite, and he... would do whatever Clark wanted him to do to help make everything right. Lex walked down the staircase for the first time in years without a heavy heart, without dread. Walked, no, ran. As fast as he could without tripping.
Ran and came back with tools, God, TOOLS, and he was going to make a mess of it, he knew, just knew, but it didn't matter. Didn't matter, because Clark was curled up in the room making those sounds again, and it broke him, broke his heart.
Smashed his heart all over again. "I'm back, Clark. Let me get the doors off their hinges and I'll... just push them off the balcony. Shouldn't take long at all."
"Oh. Oh. Kay." Hiccoughed. He'd always hated to think about Clark upset, or crying, and he'd only seen it when Chloe had died.
He veered, for just a moment. Long enough to kneel down again, and kiss Clark's forehead. "I'm sorry. Please don't cry, Clark. I'm going to do my best to make everything better now."
"Yes." Tiny sound, God, it was going to kill him before he could rip those kryptonite-paned doors off their hinges.
One more kiss, and Lex swallowed back his own urge to cry for Clark. For the Clark that was, and maybe for the Lex that was, too. "Trust me. I love you... you'll see the sky soon." He pulled back, screwdriver in hand, and moved to start removing the hinges.
It wouldn't take long.
It wouldn't take long at all, and he had the strength to send them flying over the edge of the balcony. He had everything he needed to do that.
"Thanks so much, Lex." Dangerous. Dangerous sound.
No... not quite what he'd been waiting to hear. He dropped the screwdriver over the edge, too, out of startlement to hear Clark speak so clearly, and turned around. "Clark...?"
"Thanks for letting me out, baby," the demon at his back purred, reaching out to touch him. "I've been just dying to see the sky."