By Sara <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: October, 2004
Summary: What happens when you fall in love with your best friend?
Much thanks to Sas, my fantastic beta, for doing this one on incredibly short notice and amazingly quickly. This one appeared on the mbs (http://www.lcficmbs.com/) under a different title — thanks a million to all those who commented on it there :) And just as a little note — I've twiddled a little bit with the timeline here and there, just to make it fit with my plans, so if things seem a little strange… bear with me. It gets easier… I think <G>. Many thanks to LabRat, my GE, for her very helpful edits.
I sigh as the door slams behind me, rubbing my aching back and stretching. It's been a long, tiring day to say the least and I'm tired and emotionally wrought and just plain *angry*.
Sometimes, when I'm as exhausted as this, I think I hate my job. I think I hate what it drives me to do. I think I hate the pressures I have to put on myself in order to stay at the top. I get angry, and I snap at people, and I drive people away.
The feeling usually passes, but sometimes — just sometimes — I find myself getting sucked into those feelings of self-pity. Sometimes I'd love to have somebody just to sit and have a coffee with, moan to, somebody who understands…
I've driven them all away. Every last one. When I was a kid, I knew it, I could see it. I was the wallflower taking root by the water-cooler; I was the loner sitting at the back of my algebra class taking notes; I was the person who never knew what to do with my hands, with my eyes, nervous little gestures that made people look at me differently. I knew it, but I couldn't stop it. When I finally left school, I was in the same situation — my self-esteem battered and bruised by years of bullying.
Kids can be so cruel. Surrounding me, closing in on me, circling like a flock of vultures, shouting. Ugly names, cruel names, names I never deserved, never asked for. They drove me deeper into myself. I hated myself, I hated everything about myself, hated how I had to lie, how I had to hide. I adopted a rough exterior — people expected it. I was my father's daughter.
I acted tough, acted like I didn't care — and somewhere along the line, I started believing it, believing I wasn't lonely, believing I didn't need anybody else. I thought I was better than them, stronger. I thought I could survive on my own. I left them all behind me when I graduated, considerably older, still inside my shell.
And I met him. He of the coal-black hair and the slow, devastating smile. I'd seen him around, of course — he'd tried to talk to me on more than one occasion — but never before had I allowed myself to notice him. I envied him from a distance, his manner with people, his welcoming nature seeming like a beacon, drawing me in unwillingly, but I'd never gotten closer. I was afraid that if I did, he would suck me in, trap me like a fly in amber.
It was bitterly ironic, in a way. Because that's exactly what he did. He found me when I was in sore need of comfort, and stuck by me — even though I tried my hardest to shrug him off. I was consistently rude and abrasive, but nothing would dissuade him.
Against my better judgment, we became close. So close. Closer than I'd ever dreamed two people could be. He was the person I turned to for every occasion, for any occasion. He bolstered me, made me feel safe, made me feel like I was worth something, and in turn I tried to be there for him. It wasn't easy — not after my years of avoiding other people — but I did it, to the best of my ability. I went against the habits of a lifetime and became his friend. I rebelled against instincts that had been ingrained in me for so many years and let him cry on my shoulder, let him confide in me, let him share his joy with me, his pain, his successes, his failures. And slowly I realized — I liked it. I liked the feeling, the friend factor. I liked being treated as though I had something in me, something good. I felt secure.
Clark Kent was a good man. He was my friend. He was like a brother to me. I had a younger sister, but we'd never been close, we'd never meshed like Clark and I did. I loved her, sure, but tentatively. I never knew what she was thinking, how she was feeling. I did with Clark. It was strange — like we had a mental cord between us that kept us linked. From just looking at him, I could instantly gauge his mood.
It was scary. It was dangerous. It was… it was…
Slowly, I started to open up. Started to let him see past the bravado, let him see me, the true me. It was so gradual and so natural that I didn't even realize I was doing it. If I had realized, I'm certain I would have stopped immediately, cut down all lines of communication, gone back to my loneliness, welcomed it like the cold, snow-covered tundra that it was.
A place where I was faceless, invisible. Safe.
With Clark, I had an identity. I had a personality. My favorite color was blue. My favorite ice cream was chocolate. I liked jazz, the blues, sad slow singers, their voice like a purple stream, mournful and flowing, enveloping me. I couldn't abide dogs but loved cats. I was terrified of wasps, of heights, of water so deep I couldn't see the bottom. I had an irrational fear that I was going to get swept out to sea.
He laughed when I told him that, but gently, and teased me a little. With him, it was safe to have fun, safe to mess around, the pair of us like children. He was so entertaining like that, so innocent, and yet there were times when he had an air about him that was almost haunted. He cared so much about everything, his eyes flashing as he spoke passionately about one cause or another, wanting me to understand the depth of his feeling.
He took me to that dance… that one, perfect night, so early in our friendship. I didn't have a date, was resigned to the idea of going alone, when suddenly he was there — as he was always there, right from the beginning — and in a move that was completely out of character for me, I asked him to the dance. I made it perfectly clear that it was purely on… no, not even on a platonic basis. I made it sound like a business arrangement, hoping to keep him at arm's length.
Still, that evening, I found myself making a huge effort to look my best, and when I caught sight of him in his tuxedo, I nearly swooned. It was such a shock to my system to be attracted so strongly to *any* man, let alone somebody I was in such close proximity to, that I dismissed it as a coincidence, as a base reaction that could happen to anyone.
And then we danced. I remember being angry with him for cutting in, but somehow that didn't seem to matter when he took me in his arms. It was frightening, how fascinated I was by him, the smell of his cologne, his broad shoulder so close. I spent most of the time babbling, trying to distract myself from my partner and… oh, how foolish I was.
It took me so long to accept him, so long to trust him. After what had happened with my father, after various other let-downs from m — *boys* who were too full of their own self-worth to see me, I'd determined that I wouldn't let myself fall in love with a man. Clark was a high-risk zone, even friendship with him was asking for trouble. But it was like an addiction — I'd get a little of his kindness, his caring, and crave more. Suddenly he was a confidant of mine. Suddenly he was the guy I'd run to in times of trouble. Suddenly I had somebody whose shoulder I could cry on. I liked the feeling, but my taste was constantly expanding — I needed more and more and more.
He was so willing — *so* willing to give it. It was… uncanny, actually, like he thought I was worth something, like he *liked* me. For the first time in my life, I had a real friend, somebody who would stick by me no matter what.
And then I blew it. I fell in love.
It's strange. I remember exactly how it happened — or at least, how I came to realize it had happened. It ensued all at once, hot and sweet, filling me from top to toe, fizzling all over. It was around six in the evening and we'd planned to catch a movie at the cinema. Nothing particularly unusual about that, it was a regular occurrence with us.
And then he rang and cancelled; he was feeling ill. I offered to go over there and keep him company, but he refused, saying he didn't want me to catch anything. It was so sweet, so *Clark*, to be concerned for me.
I put down the phone and I frowned. There was an unfamiliar feeling in the pit of my stomach. It took me a minute to realize what it was.
I missed him.
In fact, I realized with a shock, I missed him *all* the time, when he wasn't there.
This huge manifestation of how much he'd changed me hit me upside the head with the force of a sledgehammer. Suddenly I was recalling all I knew about him. How his nose crinkled up when he smiled, how his eyes sparkled and flashed when I teased him. How his laugh somehow filled the building, made something stir inside me. How gentlemanly he was, opening doors for me, making me feel special. How kind he was, always.
The awareness of how much he meant to me bubbled through me, a cruel, delicious cataract of feeling. And just like a shot, I knew that there would never be anyone else for me. I faced the monster — love — for a minute and realized it had a face. His.
And it wasn't so scary anymore.
And *that* — that admission that I could love, could love deeply, without reservation, without being scared — was plain *terrifying*.
So what did I do? I hid it. Very cleverly, I avoided him. I threw myself headlong into work. I screened my phone calls; I hid the scary demon of my emotions in a place with no doors. On the few occasions I was cornered into speaking to him, I was evasive, didn't pay attention, acted like I didn't care. He was hurt, I knew, but I desperately needed distance. As with everything else I set my mind to, it worked. Suddenly he wasn't around anymore, suddenly *he* was the one avoiding me, his manner cool, his friendliness under wraps, hidden, like my heart.
First came relief, sweet and soothing. We weren't right for each other, I told myself. I wouldn't survive getting my heart broken, and he was barely aware that I had a heart to break. He didn't love me, would never love me. Relief cradled me for all too short a time.
Then came the withdrawal symptoms, cravings and desperation. Without his friendship I was invisible again — no, worse than that. I was the girl who'd jerked Clark around. I was practically a tourist attraction — The One Who Dared Reject Him. I felt so unreal, I needed him to keep me grounded. I was like a balloon with too much air, tugging at the string, needing to escape.
But I couldn't go any further.
And… the first time I saw him with… *her*. Oh god. Oh *god*. I wanted to leap on them, to rip her off him. She was *disgusting*. I'd disliked her from the very beginning — too blond, too leggy, too sickeningly obvious — but this, this really got to me. I loathed her and her free emotions, how everybody saw how enamored she was with him, how pathetic she was. I practically pitied her.
Through that long, lonely time, I watched from a distance. I knew it wouldn't last. She was too blatant for Clark. Then again, *everyone* was too something for Clark. I was the only one who was good for him, because he was somehow mine. It wasn't fair, it wasn't at all fair, and it was only a matter of time till he realized it.
When she got the messages he had been giving out to her for so long, I was thrilled. I cheered silently from the sideline, thinking that now, maybe, I'd have my best friend back. And who knew, maybe it would be okay to love him this time; maybe he'd finally come to his senses.
And then my world shattered. He left. He packed his bags and he left, and he didn't even tell me.
I kept the panic at bay by convincing myself that he'd be back. So he'd taken a vacation and I hadn't known about it. Big deal. He'd be back soon, he'd realize how much he needed me and it would all be okay.
So the hours passed. The days, the months, and then the years. How I waited, how I hoped, how I swore, foolish promises, it'd be better soon.
I'd almost given up hope when one day, there he was, walking down the street, a long-distant memory suddenly alive again, as tall and manly and beautiful as ever. I called his name, he turned and saw me, hesitated for maybe a millisecond and then he was moving forward with that long-legged grace I'd almost forgotten. He caught me, hugged me, swung me around and I squealed, loving it — loving him. I wasn't so afraid to show him what I was feeling now. I knew what I'd nearly lost — or so I thought.
Oh, how cruel it was, that second of hope before the cosmos came bearing down on my head. He moved back, so familiar and yet so new, still smiling all over his beloved face, and… looked away.
Looked at another woman, to be precise.
The pure *devotion* in that gaze. It made my breath catch in my chest just to witness it. How was it possible, how were people still talking and fighting around me, how was the earth still turning when Clark Kent could look at another woman like that?
Introductions were made — Lois Lane, Rachel Harris — but I was barely aware of them. Damn her, she was gorgeous, her hair, her eyes, she was everything I longed to be and wasn't. I tried to swallow my emotions, tried not to let the raw edge of my need show, but suddenly I was horribly aware of my accent, my lack of femininity in the sticky Sheriff's uniform. My total lack of sophistication next to the big-city reporter. How could I ever have had a chance.
I smiled through it, made my escape swiftly, blinking back un- sheriff-like tears, went home and ate a whole carton of chocolate ice-cream. I tried to deny reality with a healthy dose of Hollywood schmaltz, but the way he had looked at her echoed in my head — far more realistic than anything any screenwriter could have come up with. He'd looked at her like he'd never looked at me.
At the Festival I watched them, she could dance as well.
I tried to be an adult. I really did. I knew, the game was over and I'd lost. I'd lost everything through my stupidity and I had nobody to blame but myself. I tried to accept it, tried to stop loving him.
Easier said than done.
When I saw his life being threatened, I panicked, something that was unforgivable in my profession. Because of it, I took out a gun and I killed a man, drove a bullet through his chest with a simple flick of my finger. I watched him gurgle, gasp and sink beneath the water, his final resting place, only barely aware of Lois and Clark clinging to each other, practically next to me.
The whole of Smallville — including my superiors — forgave me for it, said it had to be done. But I knew better. I should have tried to reason with Trask, but I didn't.
I shot him for Clark, for the man I loved, for the man who went back to Metropolis without saying goodbye. Not out of malice or spite — but because he simply forgot to, forgot to visit the friend who'd disowned him, the girl he'd left behind.
Taking a step back and seeing this, this link of causes and effects, has been hard. Watching everyone I grew up with fall in love and get married has been plain torture. Even Lana Lang, my chief tormentor for so many years, the girl who'd originally stolen Clark from me, was married with an angelic little baby.
Whatever idiot came up with the concept of unrequited love has a lot to answer for. Knowing the only man for me is the only man who's completely and utterly unattainable, through my own idiocy, hurts.
But if nothing else, at least I've *known* love. I've felt the butterfly wings, tasted moonlight, danced on the wind. I've had a glimpse of what it's like to be loved that totally, that completely, and I wouldn't deny it to Clark, especially not now — on his wedding day.
I smile, opening my desk drawer and bringing out the invitation. "The honor of your presence…" Such a small gesture, but it gave me a few moment's happiness — and a few moment's bitterness when I had to decline.
On this balmy summer night, I know somewhere Clark Kent is dancing with his wife, the woman of his dreams. I'm struck, and strangely comforted by the thought that everything is exactly where it should be. Clark's happy. And I'm happy *for* him — I owe him that, he deserves that.
So why am I feeling so miserable?
I still miss him, still miss him terribly, even after all these years.
It's nobody's fault but my own. I pushed him away. I ignored him. I closed up inside myself and tried to deny his existence.
Now I have to move on. After all, he did — I owe it to myself to try and forget him. I can never tell him how I feel. Love isn't something that can be turned off and on like a tap — it won't go away just because he married another woman. But I can learn to live with that, and to be happy.
//Just one step at a time, Rachel. Just one step at a time.//
(c) Sara, September 2004