Boys Don't Cry
AN: This fic has been haunting me since Red. (yep, that long) but refused to take real shape until I stumbled upon Rhiannonhero's The Cure Song Title challenge. The song I chose is "Boys Don't Cry" and the lyrics I used are in italics. (I included them at the end as well) AN2: I'd like to thank blackfall and Ana for their comments and a special thanks to Signe who whipped this story into shape with her wonderful editing skills. This story is dedicated to you, ladies.
Thursday goes by in its typical slow fashion.
Chores. School. Deliveries.
Mrs. Batterfall meets him with her trademark grandmother smile and offers him a cranberry orange muffin as a reward for the job well done.
He hates cranberry orange muffins - not sweet enough - but he'd never told her that. Not just out of fear of hurting her feelings, but because they're Lex's favorites. He always begged off eating one at her place by saying that he didn't want to ruin his appetite and took it with him to his last delivery of the day.
He is halfway to the mansion when he remembers.
It's been three weeks since his friend had moved away, and five days since Clark had seen him last.
He still forgets.
He is seventeen, a grown man, but right this moment he feels like a little boy whose world just fell apart.
It feels that way every time he remembers.
His hands don't shake when he makes a jerky U-turn.
And those aren't tears hiding in his eyes.
Because boys don't cry. No matter how old they are.
It's not Lex's fault.
Deep down Clark knows it.
But he blames Lex anyway.
He looks at the reflection of the mansion, barely visible in the rearview mirror, and asks, softly.
"Whom do you blame?"
Clark parks the truck about a mile before the turn to his farm. His hands reach out almost mindlessly toward the cursed muffin.
He breaks off a small piece and puts it in his mouth because he wants to know Lex's taste. It's strange and obsessive but he doesn't care.
He'd only savored that tempting mouth once, but he's had plenty of dreams and this feels wrong. Too sour, not spicy enough, not hot enough, and he spits it out. For some reason the aftertaste is bitter, almost acid and he has to fight to ignore it.
Clark throws the muffin as hard as he can, and watches it fly farther than even he can see.
The strange sting in his eyes is gone but now he feels tired. He barely makes it to his loft without collapsing. Curling on the couch, he watches the stars burn out through the window.
Falling asleep is impossible and he thinks of the last fight. He thinks of how angry Lex was and tries to comprehend why. It wasn't the first time he had accused Lex of something; it wasn't the first time he'd talked before thinking and it wasn't really him talking. Lex knew it and yet...
Clark thinks he finally understands.
The memories of the last few months overflow his mind. Implications he brushed off, points he missed, fights he didn't understand and it's starting to hit him. Really hit him.
Clark's been lying to Lex but Lex has been lying to him too. It should have balanced itself out.
It should have, but didn't.
Because Clark didn't lie as well as Lex. He hated it, hated the weight of it, and he lashed out at Lex because he believed that it was Lex who made him feel that way.
He truly believed that Lex would take it. That Lex wanted, needed him in his life enough to understand and not take his anger at face value.
He was wrong.
He misjudged Lex's limits, and one day Lex left. Without much of an explanation, except for a veiled accusation that Clark didn't interpret until later.
He bites his lip and buries his head in the dusty pillow.
But he doesn't cry.
Hours pass before he finally gives up on sleep. Quietly--he isn't sure what time it is, but his parents are probably already asleep--he sneaks out of the barn and runs.
He wasn't planning to go to the mansion but isn't surprised when he ends up just up the hill.
It's where he ends up every night.
The ground is cold and uncomfortable. The castle is dark and empty.
He has no business being here but has three questions he needs to ask.
Lex's isn't here to answer but he whispers them into the cool air anyway.
"Will you ever come back? Will you throw away your pride and forgive and forget? Or will you give up on the friendship that you swore you'd hold on to forever?"
He can't leave. Lex may be gone but this is all that Clark has left.
But he doesn't go inside either; he'd learned his lesson.
He remembers every little detail and flips through them in his mind. Wondering when it all went to hell.
Clark had never seen Lex wear pure white before. As Lex sauntered closer, the lights falling through the stained glass shifted from bright welcoming white to slightly menacing red, and Clark wasn't sure why it scared him. Lex smiled and reached for the muffin Clark was holding in his hand.
With a smile, Lex took a small bite.
The cranberries started glowing. He knew he should warn Lex but couldn't move, couldn't speak. Confusion twisted the features of Lex's face when he took one out of his mouth.
It looked nothing like the soft berry. Lex inspected it for a moment and then attempted to bite it.
His reverie broke rapidly and Clark grabbed Lex's wrist. Fearful of touching the rock, he shook Lex's hand until he understood and threw it and the muffin on the floor. Clark patted his chest with a relieved sigh and a smile.
When he stepped away, where his fingers had touched, the pristine white was soaked with crimson.
Clark looked up and Lex's lips were twisted in a smile that looked scarier than most of the meteor mutants Clark had faced so far.
Without breaking eye contact, Lex showed Clark that he was still holding the rock and reached for him.
The awakening was sudden and left him gasping. It took a moment for him to understand that he was in the castle and for a moment he though that this was a continuation of his nightmare.
But no, he remembered breaking into the mansion last night, the hope that familiar surroundings would make this easier overwhelming his common sense.
His heart fluttered like a caged bird, and he mentally threw a sarcastic thanks to his subconscious for being so subtle. A brief glance at the window told him that it was too close to sunrise. His parents would be up soon.
Clark got up to leave and finally saw Lex, leaning against the doorway with an unreadable expression on his face.
His heart jumped somewhere in the vicinity of his throat as anxiousness hit his system.
A hundred questions wrestled for importance in his head.
Was Lex still angry with him? Would he at least agree to talk to him?
Would he stay once he found out how sorry Clark was?
Was he sorry too?
None of them made it out of Clark's mouth.
Lex looked distant and unfazed and his white shirt kept Clark frozen.
Silence stretched into something almost tangible. Lex broke it first.
"My security team called me when they recorded a break in." He looked up, and Clark followed the direction of his gaze, swallowing hard when he saw the steady red light indicating a camera. "I have a direct digital feed into my Metropolis office."
Lex glanced back at him and turned around, walking out of the office. Clark followed, watching him carefully, noticing the stiffer than usual shoulders and flexing hands.
Lex led him into a room he'd never been to before. One wall was completely covered with small screens and, with a sinking feeling in his stomach, Clark realized that each one of them was connected to a camera. Lex slid behind the large console in the middle of the room. A few keystrokes opened another wall, bringing up a larger screen. A few more, and it was on, showing a clear picture of the front gate.
The time at the corner of the screen was present.
Clark looked at him but Lex was ignoring him, focusing on the commands he was typing. When Lex glanced back at the screen, Clark glanced too and the time had changed, going back about three hours and the slow motion was in progress.
"They gave me the exact time of the break in." Lex murmured, almost absentmindedly, rocking the chair slightly. Clark knew that he should do something but couldn't move, couldn't even breathe. Something blurred on the screen, difficult to distinguish as anything but black haze even when Lex hit pause.
It hit Clark that Lex didn't look surprised or even confused. Lex appeared as if he knew exactly what he was searching for. Clark blinked and watched him type some more. When Lex was done, he replayed the clip but this time, there was nothing there.
Only a missing second on the panel.
Clark saw him nod and start typing again. The picture on the screen changed, showing the kitchen entrance.
Clark realized that he was shaking and slid down the wall, sitting on the cold floor. Numbly, he observed Lex fix the footage and bring up thee other different angles. It never occurred to him how many cameras were installed in the mansion.
Lex finished up with the view of the office. Clark was aware that Lex didn't delete this one, just watched him sleep for a moment before turning everything off.
He didn't say anything. Felt as if he should have but didn't know what.
"Do me a favor, Clark. Stay away from the mansion. I have no desire to rush to Smallville every time you feel maudlin." The words cut, but Lex sounded tired and strained. And Clark was more confused now than he had ever been.
Without as much as a glance his way, Lex rose and left the room, locking it as soon as Clark was out as well.
"Go home, Clark." Lex's voice was flat and emotionless and there was something terribly wrong with that. Because whenever Lex had talked to him, there was always something. Sarcasm, teasing, anger, nostalgia, happiness... but not nothing. Never nothing, and it startled Clark how much he hated it.
Lex turned away from him and walked down the hall.
Stubbornly, Clark strolled after Lex into the kitchen, and watched silently as Lex set up the coffeemaker with sharp, precise moves. Nothing like his usual liquid grace and it told Clark more than Lex would've probably liked.
"Is this when you ask me how I did that?" He hoped he sounded as defiant as he wanted to but mostly, he thought he simply sounded scared.
"I think we can safely skip that part. I'm not in the mood to be lied to." Lex turned around and pinned him with a glare. "Do you know how humiliating that is?"
"There are very few things in my life that I'm proud of. My intellect happens to be one of them. I don't appreciate being treated like an idiot. Another damn concussion is better than that."
The aroma of fresh coffee started to fill the kitchen. It wasn't comforting at all, and Clark turned away.
"How long have you known?"
Lex's voice was so controlled that Clark had to wonder how much he was hiding. "About your superspeed? Let's just say that Phelan was very skillful at blackmail but as a robber, he left a lot to desire. As a security precaution in case of power outage, some of the cameras in the museum were connected to UPS."
"I..." Clark's voice cracked and he had to close his eyes. He didn't expect this. He wasn't ready. He thought he trusted Lex, he thought he wanted to tell him the truth, but only now he understood that he didn't. Not really.
He didn't ask Lex how much more he knew. Clark wasn't sure he could handle the answer.
He heard Lex's bitter chuckle but didn't look at him until he heard Lex open a cupboard.
"I would say I'm sorry if I thought that it would change your mind."
For a moment Lex was so motionless, Clark believed that he'd accidentally slipped into superspeed time. But no, Lex took two cups out of the cupboard, and turned around, placing them on the counter that separated them.
"I'd appreciate it if you didn't."
And maybe it wasn't the most graceful apology but it still stung that Lex refused to accept it. "Why?"
Lex seemed to ponder the question before answering. "Because it wouldn't change anything. Except maybe make this more difficult."
He didn't think Lex meant for this statement to contain hope, but he saw it anyway. He took a step closer and tried to speak as convincingly as he could. "Lex, I wasn't myself when I said those things."
Lex didn't look impressed. "I figured as much."
He wondered if Lex knew about Red!Kryptonite. "Then why..."
"The real question is whether you meant them."
"I..." He couldn't lie under the weight of Lex inquisitive stare. "Not everything. Lex, sometimes you push too damn hard and..."
"Have I really pushed you too far? I suppose I did, didn't I." Contemplative and strangely amused. Lex poured the coffee and put three spoons of sugar in one of the cups. Sliding that cup toward Clark, he shrugged. "Sorry, I don't stock milk here anymore."
Like it mattered. Clark swallowed a few sips but could barely taste it.
He was losing Lex.
Unless he did something drastic, right this moment, he was going to lose his best friend.
He did what he always did when he was scared or desperate. He lashed out.
"Was it ever about me or did you just want my secrets?"
He understood his mistake when he saw Lex's elegant fingers curl into a tight fist. The tension in the air was almost palpable but that was nothing new. He took comfort when Lex didn't throw anything. The way expensive crystal sounded shattering against a wall still haunted him at night.
"'We hear only those questions for which we are in a position to find answers.' Or, I suppose, in your case it'd be the opposite." Lex's eyes were dark, angry gray, but his voice gave nothing away.
Clark wasn't sure why it rubbed him the wrong way but didn't bother to hide his irritation. "What is that supposed to mean?"
"It means that it doesn't matter what I say. You've already decided on an answer and if I dare to contradict, you'll merely accuse me of lying."
"That's not true." He flinched at the contradiction.
"How many times over the course of our friendship have I told you that all I want is to be your friend? If you can still ask me that question, I really have nothing to reply. You won't believe me anyway. And even if you did, it's too late."
"I didn't really mean it, Lex. You came close, too close and I panicked. The best defense is a good offense. You taught me that." He fought to keep his voice steady but knew he was failing. Knew he sounded frantic and frightened, but couldn't do anything about it.
"Well, in that case it's perfectly alright to use it on me." So much vehemence that Clark took a step back. Lex rubbed his eyes and took a deep breath. "I can't do this anymore, Clark." He sounded a little calmer but when he dropped his hand and looked up, his eyes scared Clark. Fevered and frenzied and, god, hurt. Lex had never showed this much to him before and there was finality in it that knocked the breath out of his lungs.
"Lex." Clark reached for him but Lex moved out of his reach.
"No." Lex shook his head and Clark's hand fell. "You're suffocating me, Clark."
"I don't understand."
Lex's smile was bitter. "I know. You expect things from me I refuse to give."
"Lex, would you stop talking in riddles?"
"You expect me to fuck up. You pretend that you think of me as a good guy but you don't. I'm sick and tired of being your scapegoat."
Clark watched Lex trying to control his anger.
"This really isn't about what I said last time, is it?"
"It's about everything you've said in the last year. From the moment you rushed in accusing me of shooting my own father and everything else after. Don't expect me to hang around just so that you'd have someone to blame. I'm a vindictive bastard and I have only so much control. I don't want to seek revenge against you, Clark, but if something doesn't give, I will." Lex's voice shook; too much emotion, not enough control even for a Luthor.
Clark was surprised it didn't hurt. It should've. Probably would later. But at that moment he was just numb and even more exhausted than he had been for the last two weeks.
He saw Lex's reflection reach for him but the hand dropped back. "You used to have faith in me, Clark. You lost it and it's understandable. But I can't be your friend or anything else. I'm sorry."
"Lex." Clark looked up and he kept his gaze as unwavering as he could. "I.... Please."
"Clark. Right this moment, I don't know whether I'm a genius or a madman. And I will never find out as long as you're this close. I have to go."
He didn't understand what Lex meant but it didn't really matter. Right there, underneath all the anger and betrayal in Lex's eyes, lay the sadness that told Clark that his friend was already gone.
He stays until the first rays of sun start coloring the sky dark, royal purple.
By the time he slowly makes his way to town, the streets are busy with people rushing to work.
Smallville has never felt this empty and lifeless.
The Talon is already full of customers, including Chloe and Pete. He waves to them but doesn't come closer. They have been bugging him about how terrible he looks and he has a hard time brushing them off. He thinks Chloe is less worried than Pete because she understands better what it's like to lose a friend.
She almost lost him plenty of times. He thinks she's hurting a little too because he didn't look this bad when he almost lost her.
But she is Chloe - loyal, understanding and always willing to push her pain aside to keep him happy - so she tries her best to cheer him up and leaves him alone when she grasps just how futile her attempts are.
He orders coffee. Black, no sugar and ignores the surprise in Lana's eyes. If she wonders why Clark orders his coffee exactly how Lex likes it, she doesn't say anything. But she offers him the same mints Lex always buys and Clark takes them silently.
He doesn't drink it at the Talon. Waits until he's back in the loft and only then takes off the lid.
It smells a little like Lex and good-byes. He breathes the scent in, deeply, and shivers. There is this sudden flash of awareness of how pathetic he is being. His hand jerks and the cooling liquid spills on the couch.
He pretends that it's an accident and that he doesn't care whether the couch will smell of coffee for days.
He doesn't understand why it hurts so much. He's lost people before. Even if it didn't turn around to be forever he couldn't have been sure at the time.
He doesn't remember having difficulty breathing when he watched Lana choose Whitney.
He doesn't remember insomnia when Chloe told him that their friendship was over.
He thinks it might have something to do with hope.
Or rather lack of it.
He thinks that if he tried, he could've brought Lex back. But if what Lex said was true, if Clark was really suffocating him, eventually Lex would've hated him for it.
Clark isn't sure Lex doesn't already.
He doesn't want to think of what Lex Luthor can do when he hates someone and knows his biggest secret.
So when Lex said, "Let me go, Clark," he didn't say what he really wanted.
He'd shaped the sentence in his mind.
If I thought that you would stay, I would tell you that I loved you.
Instead he had closed his eyes and nodded.
When he had opened them, Lex had gone. Two cups filled with untouched coffee and a dirty coffeemaker the only reminders in the otherwise immaculate kitchen that he was even there.
And now, he carefully places the paper cup on the floor and leaves.
*Boys Don't Cry
<b>i would say i'm sorry
if i thought that it would change your mind</b> but i know that this time
i have said too much
been too unkind
i try to laugh about it
cover it all up with lies
i try and laugh about it
hiding the tears in my eyes
<b>because boys don't cry</b>
boys don't cry
i would break down at your feet
and beg forgiveness
plead with you
but i know that it's too late
and now there's nothing i can do
so i try to laugh about it
cover it all up with lies
i try to laugh about it
hiding the tears in my eyes
because boys don't cry
<b>i would tell you
that i loved you
if i thought that you would stay</b>
but i know that it's no use
that you've already
misjudged your limit
<b>pushed you too far</b>
took you for granted
i thought that you needed me more
now i would do most anything
to get you back by my side
but i just keep on laughing
hiding the tears in my eyes
because boys don't cry
boys don't cry
boys don't cry