Authors notes: Don't own any of the characters. One shot, Chlex. Time frame's about season six. Obviously AU. I haven't watched Smallville since about then, though I will always love it (didn't like the direction it was going.) So it may be a little inaccurate.

- - - - - - - -

Once, she had tried to believe in him.

Before all this, before the Senate and power and Lana the beautiful had spun their sweet death spell over him, before the way she'd felt about him had anything to do with hatred. When she was a silly fifteen year old and Pete was still here to be the one to hate him, she had tried to believe in him.

Too much had changed since then for her to really see it clearly anymore. Then she'd wanted to know everything, had been voracious in her pursuit of all things true and real. Now she wished she could spend more time in the dark, more time with her eyes closed.

There are still things to see in this world, she knows, but she feels as though she's already seen too much to give a damn.

She still works at the Planet, the way she'd always dreamed she would, but somehow it feels static now. She waits here most days for Clark or Lois to come and save her from the absolute monotony of it with some puzzle, for she still loves to unravel a good mystery. It's the only time she ever feels as though she's alive, the slow piecing together of something that seemed unsolvable. When they visit, their heads so wrapped in themselves and occasionally each other they barely notice her, she tries too hard not to remember he'd used to come too, bringing puzzles of his own, when he was sure no one else was there. Sometimes he'd let his hand brush over her shoulder, the only fleeting sign of his affection. They'd agreed to keep it secret. Her coworkers looked at him strangely enough already, and he hated the attention. Now she wonders if they remember his visits, if they wonder why he doesn't come anymore.

I was in love with him, she wants to tell them. But only once.

Of course she never admits this truth to any of them. More than that, she never admits the larger truth to herself, the sticking fact that makes her hold her breath- she is still in love with him, despite how much he has changed. And she misses him terribly.

Without him, it all moves a little faster, and it all matters so much less. The seasons change without her noticing now, and she writes up memos and press releases without looking at her hands or the paper until the tips of her fingers are bleeding from overuse and she has a case of carpal tunnel so extreme she's facing surgery. Her life flies before her eyes and the moon comes and goes and she stands there watching, wondering if she will ever feel anything so strongly again, or if that kind of thing only happens once.

- - - -

The first time he'd kissed her, she was sixteen. He'd been recently married, and just as recently divorced. She'd recently had her heart broken by a boy who'd just as recently broken someone else's. Together, she'd told him dryly, they nearly made a whole person. It was then that he'd lifted her face to his and kissed her more carefully than Jimmy Olson's sloppy lips could ever dream of, and with more finesse than Clark Kent could ever manage, no matter how many years either of them might live.

She knew she should have stopped him then, and he knew he should have stopped himself. But it was more than being two halves to a sadly distressed person. They were kindred spirits and neither of them could escape it. It was delicious, nearly wicked, to be with someone who was as hungry as she was. Someone else who could have stepped over anyone, done anything to get what they wanted and what was best for them, but instead walked the fine line of conscience. Someone else who knew the kind of guilt that came from ambition, and how it could come so close to swallowing you whole. Someone else who was working to prove they were more than the sum of their parent's mistakes.

Someone else who had been burned by Clark Kent and who was doing their best to turn the other cheek.

She was young, he'd tell her much later, but just old enough. And after that day, she'd belonged to him.

There were rules they had to follow. More appropriate women came and went from his life, and part of her would always love Clark Kent. But their strange and sometimes tumultuous union was constant, sometimes on low and sometimes on high, full of risks and rewards they couldn't find elsewhere. There was no doubt there were days it was hard. Days they pretended they barely knew each other, nights they'd come very close to being caught by an unexpected visit from one of their parents, mornings she'd lounged in her bed too late with him only to be late to school, and one very memorable afternoon that she'd met him in the hospital and they'd made love in a supply closet while he waited for Helen to finish with a patient.

It had changed somehow after he'd come back from the island, after Helen. He'd kept his distance at first. But one night he'd summoned her to his office and she realized that she loved him so fiercely Clark Kent could simply not exist in the same universe.

That night was the first and last time Chloe had seen Lex weep.

It didn't matter that she'd had to wait for him more than once, through death threats and faked insanity and possession. After that night, he was hers, too.

- - - - -

It has been a lifetime since then, or only two years; she doesn't know. It's one of the things she doesn't pay attention to anymore, like the state of decay on the food in her fridge or Lois' attempts at high-minded political rants.

She's still not sure how they'd ended and what had happened to them when she sees the engagement announcement in the Planet. There she is, the girl she's harbored and hated over the years no matter how much it cost her, marrying the man who stole her heart. It's almost fitting, and surely ironic. She'd known they had been dating, but hadn't known it was serious.

She sighs as she puts the paper on a stack of papers on her desk, changes her mind, and puts it on her keyboard. Changing her mind she took the entire paper, and, straightening it, put it through the shredder.

"You saw the announcement, I take it." Said a voice from in front of her. It was not a question.

"Congratulations, Lex." She said, measuring her voice as carefully as possible.

"Thank you," He said, just as measured. A slow smile crept on to his face, but there was no warmth in it. Just a wicked sense of pride. In a moment he'd crossed the room, lifted her from her seat, and kissed her hard.

The thought crossed her mind that this was not happening, but this Lex was too insistent and powerful to be a fantasy. In her dreams, he was that gentle man, the one who hesitated. This was the Lex everyone had warned her about. The one who hadn't existed before Clark Kent and his father accused him of hiding somewhere inside a well-meaning man with a terrible past. And while she was thinking on this, and admonishing herself for thinking so poorly of the dead, Lex was still kissing her.

"Someone will see." She murmured as he took a breath. But Lex only laughed, and she realized that no one was there.

"It's 4 am, Sullivan." He mused into her neck. "Even interns have to sleep sometime." He pressed himself tight into her body, tugging the buttons on her suit, and she closed her eyes against his touch.

"Lana-" She started.

"Isn't here." He finished as shrugged off his own jacket. For the first time in too long, Chloe let herself go as she pulled at his shirt.

"This can only happen once." She sighs as he pulls her skirt down.

He laughs.

- - - -

Like any kind of addiction, the high wears off fast.

He is even more callous after it is over, and she feels even emptier. He straightens his tie carefully and she notices he's wearing one of his best suits, and one of the purple shirt-and-tie combos that suit him so well.

"Business meeting?" She says, slumping into her chair so that she is now looking at his back. She tucks her forgotten underwear into a drawer and readjusts her heels.

"Party." He says nonchalantly, looking at his watch. "It's my engagement party, actually, and I'm fairly certain Lana isn't going to be thrilled if I'm late."

She tightens a little as he begins to leave without taking a second look at her, and more than anything she wants to let him. But she can't.

"Lex," she says quietly, "Can I ask you a question?"

He stops, turning a little. She takes a breath.

"Why her?" She says, unable to keep her sadness at bay. "Why not me?"

He pauses, and in that pause she imagines every answer he can give. Her beauty. Her elegance. Her grace. Her easy athleticism. Her love of being coddled. Her ability to wear her hair long and smile sweetly and be the perfect politician's wife. All things Chloe is fairly certain she cannot compete with or does not possess. Beauty, not Brainy, was meant to be with Prince Charming. Or, in this case, the Beast.

"Because it's easy." he finally answers.

"I just let you have your way with me on my desk, Lex." She says dryly. "Does it get much easier than that?"

He shakes his head. "Lana is simple. She's easy to read, easy to control. There's no need to try with her. She's just trying to hurt Clark, and I don't mind that. With her, I can be this monster I've become. With you…with you I will always see what I used to be, what I could have been, reflected back at me."

He pauses again, moving up the stairs. When he is half way, he looks back at her, and finally meets her eyes. They are full of tears, like hers. "And I hate you for it, Chloe."

When he leaves, she only allows herself to weep a minute. Just once, she loses control after that minute. In the middle of stapling a stack of memos, and she has to stop and howl for a moment, covering her face to smother the sounds that won't quite die, exactly the way her heart refuses to keep beating no matter how hard she wills it to.

- - - -

The spring after Helen, before she'd graduated, he'd come to her door one day. She'd been surprised to see him there, since they rarely met outside his carefully fortified mansion.

"Get your coat." He said. "And lock the house. We're going out."

She'd stared at him incredulously. "Out? As in, in public where anyone could see us? What about your reputation? What do I tell my father?"

He kissed her swiftly. "I happen to know your father had an urgent business trip to take. I sent him there."

She'd raised an eyebrow, and stifled the urge to ask if he felt all right. He'd recently been discharged from the hospital and she had a feeling he wasn't going to be thrilled with any question that made light of his sanity.

"Trust me." He said seriously, as though reading her mind. "Or are you like everyone else?"

He held out his hand.

She wasn't like everyone else. So she took it.

Only a few hours later, they were in Gotham, strolling the streets and window-shopping as though he was any other person, and she was any other girl. He wore a baseball cap pulled low over his eyes, and it seemed almost as though he were not the Lex she knew but merely an actor playing him on television, a man who only had to be burdened with the weight of the world some of the day. A man who smiled at least twice during their trip and meant it both times.

For just a fleeting moment, she wished it could be like that every day. He would be happy and she would be his, and there would be no secrets between them, no sadness to mark their lives with ruin. But it occurred to her that maybe without his pent up anger and reckless ambition, he would not be the person she loved.

So she only wished it once, and then took it back. And after that moment she didn't think of the future, but slipped her fingers into his and reveled in the brief anonymity.

- - - -

These days she's seeing Jimmy again.

It isn't the same, kissing Jimmy, though he means well. And isn't the same imaging a future with him, when a future with him might actually be possible.

And sometimes at night, she still thinks of Lex, and the way his broad shoulders felt pressed against her back, or the way the way his body smelled when it was so close to her she could focus on nothing else. She doesn't feel that intensity with Jimmy.

But Lex is not coming back, she tells herself.

And she's become good about it, pretending she is an open book and not an open sore, festering in slow agony. She's only cried about it once since then. On the day Lana married the man she loved, who hated her to avoid hating himself.

But it was brief. And only once.