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by Kelsey



Disclaimer: Not mine. I'm pretty sure you'd have to be pretty darn stupid to think it was mine, but... Summary: Prequel to `Confusion'. Whitney implied that something had happened to him previously to make him push aside any attraction to other guys. This is that story. Rating: PG

Whitney was fifteen when it happened, the summer before his sophomore year in high school. He was already a bigwig, one of the popular kids. He'd made the football team without a hitch, been on a couple of dates with one of the cheerleaders, and made friends with some of the more `important' upperclassmen. His dad was so proud, and Whitney made sure he always smiled when he talked about his new life.

Really, it wasn't so bad. He'd been part of the mostly-popular crowd in middle school, too. Football team, soccer team, cheerleader dating then, too. But Whitney's father had always drilled into him that he couldn't be sure where he stood until high school. So Whitney had ] taken extra pains to fit in with the popular crowd this last year, to make his dad proud.

Now that summer was here, though, Whitney was off to camp, and couldn't have been happier. The guys he hung out with at school were neat enough, nice if you happened to fit their criteria of cool, and many of them smarter than they acted. But if you wanted to write poetry and quote Dickenson in your spare time, they were definitely the wrong people to be around.

Because of that, Whitney couldn't wait to go to camp.

He'd been sure to tell his father about the excellent sports program at the camp, even arrange for him to meet the coach of the football team, and tell him all about the games with competing local summer camps that they'd participate in. What Whitney hadn't told him about was the English program that was absolutely to die for. While three hours of the day would be taken up with sports practice, more during the last few days before a game, the rest of the time Whitney was free to take the classes he wanted, and hang out with kids who could quote Dickenson and wouldn't laugh at his humble attempts at poetry.

His departure to camp hadn't been a big deal, though his mother cried a little. His father told him gruffly to have a good time, and congratulated him about picking something that showed such an interest in his future. Whitney smiled, a real smile this time, because he was thinking about his poems, and nodded. If his father wanted to think he was talking about football, so be it. Whitney sure wasn't about to correct him.

He'd had a little bit of a rough time fitting in at camp, at first. The jocks weren't sure quite who he was, the boy who could be `the best damn quarterback I've seen in five seasons!' to the coach, and then read Shakespeare on the sidelines, but eventually they came to just accept him for who he was. Whitney learned that as long as he pretended to be another dumb jock while he was around them, everyone got along pretty well, and that was just fine with him.

The poetry kids were a little easier. More accepting of people, they were used to the strange and unusual, and Whitney was positively normal on that radar. When he settled in to talk with them, they opened the discussion wide and welcomed him, no questions asked.

There was only one other kid who drifted between the groups as Whitney did. A basketball player, he was also enamored with the same English groups that the quarterback frequented, preferring creative writing to poetry discussions, but still interested in pretty much the same thing. The depth of the human soul that could be reached through writing. His name was Chris Buckington, and though Whitney didn't know Clark Kent yet, later he would think that Chris looked a lot like Clark. Same dark, dark hair, same soulful eyes. Chris was leaner and definitely lankier, but overall, pretty darn similar.

Whitney had felt brief pulls of desire in himself occasionally when a particularly attractive man was around, and this was nothing new. He squashed it as well as he could, something he'd learned from years of his father's Kansas-bred Christian morals being pounded into him figuratively, if not literally. Assuming they would go away in time, like they usually did, he waited.

Besides, he had reasoned with himself, even if there had been any possibility of a relationship, even if it hadn't been for the rampant homophobia that surrounded him, even if they hadn't been in Kansas, Chris was three years older, having just turned eighteen, and what would he want with a skinny small-town kid like Whitney?

But this crush, if that was what it was, wouldn't go away, and one night Whitney found himself sneaking out to find Chris where he'd promised to meet him by the lake, unsure of what was about to happen. Playfully, they had shed their clothes and wet their naked bodies in the clear water. When they came up, Chris kissed him, hard, and Whitney didn't protest.

Meeting this way, they continued their clandestine relationship for weeks. Camp was eight weeks long, almost the whole summer, and the night that they'd acknowledged their feeling were mutual had only been two and a half weeks in. Whitney was glad, knowing that he was going to have to leave Chris and go back to Smallville was hard enough, it would have been harder if they'd only just figured out their feelings at the end of camp.

But one night, about three weeks after he and Chris had started meeting at the lake, Whitney wasn't careful enough and one of his cabin mates had followed him. Brought up by a dad like Mr. Fordman, Whitney was sure, but apparently having absorbed those lessons far better than Whitney, he immediately ran for the camp counselor.

Whitney had found the counselors at the camp to be nice enough as a rule, but the particular one his cabin mate had chosen to track down was the exception. Intolerant and prejudiced, he ragged on the black kids, made gay jokes, and dissed religions other than Christianity with frightful regularity. Though he'd done nothing to get himself there, and if truth be told, rather resented being there, Whitney had become his poster child for excellence.

It wasn't that Whitney was particularly cruel to black kids, but due to his upbringing, he did tend to run with a mostly white crowd. Laughing at gay jokes was something that one learned early to do automatically, regardless of how you actually felt, in the Fordman household. As for religion... well, Whitney wasn't sure how he actually felt, but he went to church every Sunday, and he said his prayers at night.

So when this particular counselor followed Whitney's cabin mate out to find him and Chris kissing and fondling, he was even more furious than he might normally have been, because he seemed to feel that Whitney had somehow betrayed him.

The call was made swiftly, and his parents had arrived before dawn the next day. Whitney had paced the whole night away, worrying with every step what his parents might do. Chris, legally an adult, hadn't allowed the camp to contact his parents, but the staff had made it clear in no uncertain terms that he was thrown out, just as soon as they allowed Whitney's parents to deal with him.

Whitney's father had been irate, and though he hadn't laid a hand on his son, Whitney had never been more scared in his life. Watching his father threatening Chris with everything he had, Whitney was abruptly reminded that not only was what he and Chris been doing a crime, but that he was under the age of consent, and that Chris was a legal adult, making everything worse.

Eventually Mr. Fordman had agreed not to call the police, on both Chris and Whitney's promises that they would never see each other again. It had hurt Whitney like hell to say that, to let go, but he couldn't let Chris go to jail. He wasn't sure what he felt for the older boy, whether it was lust or love or simply a great respect and attraction, but whatever it was, its hold on him was strong.

He would never forget the look in Chris's eyes, both when Mr. Fordman had threatened him with the police, and then later, when Whitney had sadly whispered his promise never to see him again. The first time, the clear anger and fear that doing something that had felt so right could possibly be twisted into something wrong, a feeling that Whitney knew well because he was feeling it himself. The second time, a painful jerk on his emotions, and the reality that these wonderful three weeks he and Whitney had shared were over.

Whitney would never forget the way Chris's emotions had danced in his eyes that night. He couldn't afford to. He'd barely escaped getting Chris seriously hurt, he had to remember those eyes as a reminder that he could never skate that close again.

After being dragged home to Smallville, he'd been grounded for the rest of the summer. His father and he had had a long `talk', in which Mr. Fordman ranted, and Whitney tried his best to ignore him.

He'd never so much as looked at a guy again after that summer.

Until Clark Kent came around.

It was jealousy, he told himself, and at first, it was even a bit true. He wasn't sure how he felt about Lana, really, but he enjoyed her company, liked dating her, and felt that he could be happy with her, given a chance. So he labeled the funny feelings in the pit of his stomach `jealousy'.

And then Clark had come to him, today, and told him that he thought he might be... what? Gay? Bi? Hell, Whitney wasn't even really sure where his sexuality stood, despite his father being gone. He sure as hell couldn't try to put a label on someone else's. Attracted to other guys, at any rate.

And the fact that what Whitney felt for Clark Kent was far more than simple jealousy unnerved him more than he wanted to admit.

Because he could ignore it again, but that would be letting his father win.

Because he could tell Clark about it, and run the risk of losing everything if he reciprocated, or losing his dignity if Clark didn't feel the same way.

Or he could sit on his bed and mope, like he currently was, until he could make up his pathetic mind.

Whitney hated these feelings. He hated living in homophobic Kansas, and he hated playing football because he felt like he had to, even now that his father was dead. He loved English, and poems and writing them and the freedom that gave him to express himself, and Lana, in one way or another.

He also felt something for Clark Kent that he either wasn't sure what it was, or was too chicken to face. He was willing to bet on the latter.

Whitney hated lying. He hated it when people lied to him, lied to each other, lied to themselves. But without his father around to stamp down every `incorrect' emotion or inclination he had, he was starting to realize that lying was all he knew.

That lying to himself was all he'd ever done.