Disclaimers: Nothing in this story is mine--the characters are M&G's, the song lyrics are the Barenaked Ladies', and the idea was Miss Windy's.
Clark was surprised to see lights on at the Talon. Lana should have finished closing up hours ago. He stopped to look through the window, staying to the edge so as not to scare her. She was just sitting at the counter staring into space. He pulled back, wondering whether or not he should go in to check on her.
He opened the door and flinched at the eardrum-shattering music that spilled out onto the quiet street. He slammed the door shut, not wanting to wake up the whole street.
"Lana?" Not surprisingly, she didn't hear him. He moved closer, hoping he wouldn't startle her too badly. "Lana? Are you okay?"
Lana turned so fast she nearly fell off the stool. Her long ponytail smacked Clark square in the face. "Clark? What are you doing out so late?" she asked, reaching across the counter to turn down the CD player.
"I asked you first," he replied, half-smiling.
Lana sighed and turned back to the counter. "It's just---you've had one of those days, right? Where everything just seems so incredibly screwed up that you can never fix it?"
Clark nodded. "Haven't we all?"
Lana smiled ruefully. "Well, let's just say it's been one of those years."
Clark looked at her quizzically, but she didn't elaborate. After a few seconds, he broke the silence. "What are you listening to?"
"The story of my life," she answered. "Listen." She turned it up.
When you were born, they looked at you and said, What a good girl, what a what a smart girl, what a pretty girl.
We've got these chains that hang around our necks, People want to strangle us with them before we take our first breath. Afraid of change, afraid of staying the same, When temptation calls, we just look away.
"You still feel like people treat you that way?" Inwardly Clark sighed, knowing full well what was coming next.
Lana sighed and got that faraway look in her eyes. "I'll always be a fairy princess, Clark," she said in a more whispery voice than usual. "No matter how hard I work here or at school, no matter how many good things I do for this town, everyone will still just see a little girl twirling around in a pink princess dress."
'Well, maybe if you didn't wear pink every day, you wouldn't remind them quite so much,' Clark thought, and wondered where he'd gotten the mean streak from. 'I must be spending too much time listening to Dad gripe about Lionel.'
He tried to think of a suitable, non-sarcastic reply, but he had nothing. He turned his attention back to the song instead.
I wake up scared, I wake up strange.
I wake up wondering if anything in my life is ever going to change. I wake up scared, I wake up strange
And everything around me stays the same.
"You know, Lana, you're not the only one who feels trapped in your own life," Clark informed her.
Lana turned to him, interest sparking in her deep brown eyes. "What do you mean?"
Clark took a deep breath and sat down on the stool beside her. "It really isn't that much different for me," he replied. "I mean, everyone knows I'm not from around here, that I was dumped here because my parents didn't want me. I mean, my name is Clark Kent, but is that who I really am?"
Lana just stared at him in a way Clark could only describe as blank confusion. "I never knew you felt that way."
'Well, maybe if you ever bothered to listen to me instead of just blathering on about "secrets and lies," you would.' Where was this stuff coming from?
"It's hard, it really is."
Lana nodded sadly. "I know." She gazed deeply into his eyes, as though she were looking at him for the very first time. He found himself moving slowly closer to her. She leaned slightly forward, resting her elbow on the counter and batting her eyelashes. Closing his eyes, Clark went in for the kiss...
...and jumped backwards when he heard the door open, nearly falling off the stool.
"Am I interrupting anything?" Clark could practically hear Lex's lips turning up in that bemused smirk he was so famous for. He fought down the urge to strangle his now-former best friend.
"No, we were just listening to some music," Clark answered. "Isn't it awfully late?"
"Seems like I should be asking you that," Lex replied smoothly. "I saw the lights on and thought perhaps Miss Lang had finished the monthly profit report early."
"You're in luck!" Lana chirped. She jumped up on the counter and grabbed a yellow folder from underneath it. "Here you go."
"Excellent." Lex opened it up and flipped through a few sheets. "I'll take a look at it tomorrow." He paused. "Barenaked Ladies?"
"You know this song?" Clark asked incredulously.
Lex grinned. "Is that so hard to believe?" His face turned serious. "It might as well be my personal anthem. 'This name is the hairshirt I wear,' indeed."
This name is the hairshirt I wear,
And this hairshirt is woven from your brown hair. This song is the cross that I bear,
Bear it with me, bear with me, bear with me, Be with me tonight,
I know that it isn't right, but be with me tonight.
Clark nodded. "I'll probably get this stuck in my head every time my dad starts talking about Luthors," he joked.
Lex didn't seem to hear him. "The first time I heard this I thought it had been written just for me. It was everything I needed to say but couldn't."
He turned to Clark. "I never thought I'd find someone to bear it with me."
"Neither did I," Lana piped up. Lex's eyes narrowed, as if to say, "Why is that whiny little chit still here?"
Clark jumped in quickly, breaking the tension. "So how do we break the chains?"
Lana sighed. "We never will. At least, not while we're all still here. I'll always be a princess, you'll always be not from around here, and Lex will always be...Lex."
"Oh, I don't believe that," Lex replied. "Everything has a weakness, even metaphorical chains." He turned his intense gaze on Clark. "What about you, Clark? You look like you could break a chain or two with strength to spare."
Clark swallowed hard and looked away. "What makes you say that, Lex?"
"Call it a hunch." He was still focused intently on Clark.
The song began to fade, and Lana reached across the counter to turn it off before it could repeat again. "I probably should finish closing up," she announced.
"Of course," Lex replied. "Do you need a ride, Clark?"
Clark's breath caught. "Uhhh, I...I better stay here with Lana until Chloe gets here. Just in case."
"All right." He smiled. "Good night Clark."
"Good night, Lex."
Bear with me, bear with me, be with me tonight, I know that it isn't right, but be with me tonight.
Also, why not join
Level Three, the Smallville all-fic list?