Chapter 1: One
Martha stood in front of the room, holding a glass in one hand and quieting people with the other. It had been a hard day and as she looked at her son sitting in the back with his bravest face on, she knew that nothing she could say would be as hard as the day had been for him.
"Well, I had never expected we'd be here like this." She sighed. "Let's think of the good times. I remember the day I found out...I hadn't even known that the boys were really friends."
Martha pulled into the driveway and stopped short, surprised to be her son and a friend other than Pete playing basketball.
Seeing his mother, Clark allowed the ball to be stolen from him and let the other boy score. "Hey Mom!"
The other boy turned around. "Hi, Mrs. Kent." She paused for a second before acknowledging the other boy.
She'd never have expected to find Whitney Fordman at their house, let alone to see him playing basketball with her son. As far as she knew, they weren't openly antagonizing each other anymore over Lana, but friendship seemed a bit much for her to believe. Not after what Chloe told her about that particular Smallville tradition that had nearly killed her son.
"Hello, Whitney," she said coolly.
Apparently, they'd been at this for a while, because they were sweating profusely and breathing hard. "I won't keep you boys from your game." They came to her anyway and helped her bring the groceries inside. Something that all good boys raised in Smallville did for their mothers.
She was quiet and polite and genuinely interested in how they interacted. Jonathan was out in the field somewhere and she wondered if he'd seen Whitney. Probably, she figured. Her husband had always liked the boy. Though, she doubted he knew about what Whitney had done to their son. A fleeting thought crossed her mind, because twenty five years prior, her husband would have been the captain of the football team. She pushed the thought away that considered if Jonathan had ever made someone else the scarecrow like Whitney.
There was no use in unburying ghosts of the past. Everyone had them and she and Jonathan knew better than most that keeping them hidden was most important. She busied herself with other things.
Every so often as she cooked, she'd look up and watch them play. They were having fun. From the way, their mouths moved, she could silently make out trash talk. It was good to have friends, but only if they deserved you in return. That's why she never had a problem with Lex, unlike Jonathan. Lex was more than worthy of Clark’s friendship and vice versa. His last name had no bearing on his worth as a person. She just wished others felt the same.
Sometime later when the sun was nearly set, Martha looked out and didn't see the boys. She really shouldn't have allowed that small flare of fear to embed itself so deep into her gut, but she found herself walking towards the barn and up the stairs before she knew it.
Martha stopped midway on the stairs and listened. "Whitney—" Clark said with a voice full of exasperation.
"No, Clark. Let me say this. Please." Whitney pleaded.
Now Martha was interested and not feeling the slightest bit of remorse for spying.
"I'm so sorry, Clark, for what I let them do to you. I should have been smarter and above being jealous." Clark must have opened his mouth to stop him from continuing, but Whitney's tone changed and turned determined. "With everything that's happening, I wanted to tell you how much I appreciate you as a friend."
"I can say the same, Whit." Clark replied genuinely.
There was the sound of them moving above her. "You don't understand. I guess you could call this self-realization or something, but..."
"But?" Clark asked.
"I know why I was so mean to you and it has nothing to do it Lana." There was no more talking, just the creaking of the floorboards. Martha climbed higher, close enough to see the two boys standing toe to toe with Whitney's hands clutching Clark's face.
Her brain was slow to realize they were kissing. Clark broke the kiss. "Whit..."
"I'm sorry for doing that, Clark. I just had to do it once." Whitney began to back away, but Clark followed.
"Maybe we're both dumb, because this feels right. Maybe—" Clark ducked his head, "I was jealous of Lana and not you."
Martha and Whitney came to the same conclusion simultaneously. Whereas Martha was stunned, Whitney moved to action. He kissed Clark furiously and Clark returned the kiss in kind. She simply watched as they seemed to drown in each other.
As soon as hands began to wander, though, she began her descent. This was their moment and as important as it was for them, it was just as clarifying for her.
"Boys, time for dinner." She just might have to get used to saying it.
"We've had dinner, almost weekly, for ten going on eleven years. I just wish there would have been more."
The crowd toasted and the Talon was silent as the crowd remembered. She walked to the back of the room and held her son and tried to ease the pain of losing a second one.
He didn’t think he could be anything but tired at this point. After everyone shared their best memories of Whit and had toasted him time and time again, Clark felt as though the rest of the night dragged on, pushing closer and closer to this moment.
Lois gave him a rare hug, followed by a pat on the back and told him to call if he needed anything. Chloe was a harder sell. She was more than willing to go with him and stay the night, but Clark had declined her offer. He hugged her close instead, and made sure she took home some of the food from the repast so that he and his mom didn’t have so much to clean up. He had always been good at distracting himself. As people had begun to leave, he kept himself busy by clearing the Talon’s tables and offering short but genuine gratitude for everyone coming.
His mother saw through it.
She waited until they were last among their closest five before taking him aside in the Talon’s kitchen. Martha wrapped her arms around her son. Not saying a word, she held him close. Clark clutched her back just as tight—silently, focusing on the sound of her breathing and heartbeat. He wouldn’t allow himself to break.
He couldn’t allow himself to break. Not now. Not yet.
At a time like this, it seemed ironic that the strongest man in the world, maybe the universe, simply wanted to stay in his mother’s arms and shut the world out. Invulnerable to most kinds of physical pain, this sort of hurt, which went straight to his heart, left him feeling defenseless and shockingly helpless.
So he stayed in his mother’s arms until he could assure himself that he could continue to pretend to be okay.
Lex came too. He didn’t hover like Lois, Chloe, and his mother. He waited until everyone was gone before approaching Clark. There was no ‘I’m sorry’ falling from his lips, just a simple ‘call me for anything’ and a tight embrace. It was the look in Lex’s eyes that spoke more than his words did.
So here he was. Home again. Standing in front of his door, key already in the lock waiting to be turned while silence reigned over the house like a mourning shroud. Their place had never felt so cold—almost alien until now. It was home and it was not. The box in his arms could have weighed as much as planet with the way his fingers hesitated and he shifted the box tortuously before finally sliding back the lock with a simple twist of his wrist.
The walk-up was dark and quiet with faint traces of cologne riding beneath the smell of medicine. Clark flipped on the light switch by the door before closing it. It closed just the same. Just as the house looked no different. It should have, he thought.
Clark stood there in the hall beside the stairs and looking back at the living room with the box in his arms. It was heavy, but he could hold it a bit longer. Had to, he supposed, because his fingers wouldn’t let go anyway. His hearing has tunneled to the silence of house. He could almost imagine the sound of Whit’s laughter or the sound of his truck pulling into the garage. The real thing would be so much more satisfying than the ghosts of memory.
After finally taking a breath, Clark willed his limbs to move and he climbed the stairs to their—his bedroom. He set the box down on the dresser and stripped out of his suit and jacket. It was still damp from the day’s earlier rain shower.
Down to his boxers, he turned the main light in the room off, in favor for one on the bedside table. Before he could lay his head back on the pillow, the scent caught him off guard. The other side of the bed lay empty and would be forever and always.
Clark stared at the box. Black and gleaming, it was a rendition of the Vince Lombardi Super Bowl trophy.
“Good night, Whit.” He said like so many times before. Yet this time, Whit wouldn’t be saying back that night or soon.
He finally broke down beneath the covers and the old Kent family quilt with Whit’s pillow pressed against his face.
Whitney showed up at Clark’s place three days after the Wade debacle. He really didn’t seem to be walking around with his tail tucked between his legs. Instead he seemed more strident and with a new resolve. One that seemed to hinge upon Clark telling him to make himself at home when he came up to the loft.
“So you want to play basketball...” Clark asked before adding the confused addition, “With me?”
Whitney gave him a pointed look, where his eyes were darkened to a dark blue—closer to royal than aqua, and clearly said ‘duh.’ “Yeah, Kent.” Reverting to the last name was similar to what his mother did when she was pissed at his dad. Why Clark thought of that now? He couldn’t be too sure.
“I want us to hang out. That may involve playing basketball occasionally,” Whit expounded as he sat on the old loft couch, spread out like a king surveying his domain. Clark stood in front of him with hands tucked in his pockets, still looking sure.
“Really?” he finally asked again.
Whitney threw his arms up in disbelief and dropped his head in his hands, muttering. “—sus, I sa…yes already.” He lifted his head to look at Clark with long-suffering patience. “For the last time: yes, I want to hang out with you.”
“Okay.” Clark understood what Whitney was saying, just not why. Usually people he saved, except for Lex, Chloe, and Pete, didn’t go out of their way to try to be his friend.
The other boy threw his arms up in a dramatic show of accomplishment before stretching out again over the back of the couch. “I know you know how to play. I’ve seen you in gym and there’s a hoop right outside anyway. Why does seem so weird for me to want to be with you?”
Something about the end of Whitney’s question seemed off, but Clark shrugged instead of questioning him. “It—it just does.”
“Well, I play ball with all my friends, especially the ones that have my back when I’m being an ass.”
“Don’t make excuses for me being a jerk, because I was and I’m so sorry for what I did.”
“I forgave you a long time ago. You should do the same.”
The air between them was solemn and Clark found himself turning away from Whitney’s piercing gaze.
“Are we going to sit here and grow fungus or play some ball, huh?”
A second and it passed.
Clark touched his lips every so often, checking to see if they felt any different. They’d been kissed now. Overcome by the tingling of another hot mouth pressed against his. Whit’s lips weren’t too dry or too wet. They were just perfect.
Considering how huge the occasion was he touched his lips wondering if they changed somehow or if there was some lingering physical reminder. Of course, there wasn’t. He finally stopped when he noticed the weird look Pete was throwing his way.
“Sorry,” he mumbled. “Snuck a piece of pie before I walked out the door…And it’s sticky, you know.” Clark lied.
Pete shook his head, totally believing that Clark would indulge in pie for breakfast if allowed. “Some things will never change, Clarkbar.” Pete turned away without any clue as to what happened the night before in Clark’s loft.
The bus stopped in front of Smallville High and Clark almost found himself sighing as he stepped off and looked up at the building. Pete gave him another strange look and bumped his shoulder to get him moving. Everything felt so normal. Far too normal and boring compared to the steady pulse of adrenaline in his veins.
He dreaded the thought of going to US History and having to listen to Mrs. Robeson’s droning voice. Not today. Not after last night. How could he sit still when the whole world—his world had changed completely overnight?
Before his foot could land on the steps, he felt a hand on his arm. Clark turned around to face Whitney’s smiling face. When Whitney pulled him back, his feet flowed backwards off the steps, and quickly in time with the other boy’s.
They walked in a counter flow to all the students in a hurry to get inside before the first bell rang. Whitney led them over to the baseball bleachers behind the school. It was the perfect place to talk without being interrupted by friends or Principal Kwan. The air was crisp and pleasant, carrying a seasonal spice in the air. The autumn sun warmed them just enough to keep the chill from pinking their cheeks too much. As they looked at each other, each boy would swear that the other was glowing.
Whitney wore his red and tan Crows letterman jacket, looking every inch the high school hero that people worshipped him as. “Hey,” he finally said.
Clark blinked before finding his own voice. “Hey.” He could have smacked himself for being so unoriginal.
Whitney didn’t seem to mind in the least. His smile actually grew as he looked back at Clark. “I was thinking…let’s do something today.”He shifted his backpack from one shoulder to another and flicked his eyes from Clark’s feet before resting firmly on his eyes.
Yeah, he could do something. He’d run home, tell his parents, and finish his chores in a flash. He could definitely do something later. Hopefully, there would be more kissing. Just the thought caused him to blush. He looked pointedly at Whitney’s toes, so that his words could escape his mouth with Whitney looking at him and easily steering him towards distraction. “Okay, I have some chores after school, but I can finish them quickly—”
“No, I meant today,” Whitney corrected.
It took Clark a minute to realize what exactly Whit meant. His brows arched almost cartoonish when he realized Whit’s meaning. “Skip school?”he whispered, though no one else was around to hear except for Whitney.
Whitney’s smile grew brighter. “You really are a boy scout.”The joke fell flat, forcing to step up his efforts to convince Clark to skip for the day.
The other boy stepped closer, invaded his space just enough to let Whitney’s cologne tickle his nose, and feel the warmth radiating from his body. “If I promise that you won’t get in trouble and you’ll have fun, will you come?” There was sincerity in Whitney’s voice.
He could get into a lot of trouble. His parents would be angry, might even ground him. This was what his head said. Something else, some little voice that wanted to know what Whitney had in mind chanted louder for him to just take the chance. “Whit—”
“Clark.” It’s the type of tone that sounded like a kiss.
“Okay,” Clark relented.
Clark’s okay put him in Whitney’s truck a minute later as Whitney ran back into school to put his plan into motion. He picked the seam of his jeans and looked about the truck’s cab, all the while asking himself if he’d made a mistake. From the window, he could see a few students here and there making their way into the building. Maybe he could get Whitney to change his mind about today.
The driver side door slammed bringing Clark from his thoughts. “We’re all good to go.” Whitney whooped in triumph. He started his truck and had them on the road as the last students climbed the stairs into the building.
They rode in relative silence with Whit’s radio playing the newest Top Forty hits from Metropolis. Whitney whistled along, every so often throwing looks Clark’s way. Clark in turn tried not to stare.
“Where are we going?” Clark asked as they headed farther and farther away from town.
A cocky smirk formed on Whitney’s lips and Clark could help but think how good the look was on the other boy. “You trusted me to skip school without knowing. Just wait a little longer. You’ll like it, I promise.”
Clark nodded silently then turned back to the window and watched the Kansas landscape bleed past them in colors green and yellow. Trusting Whitney didn’t seem so hard, so he just hunkered down for the ride.
‘It’ turned out to be a carnival about an hour away.
It was a carnival in conjunction with a county fair. By it being so early, the only people out and about were school kids taking field trips and their chaperones. It was the type of day a person dreams about; riding until your heart’s content, eating until you didn’t have the stomach to do so anymore. They covered every ride, even the ones that were clearly for kids. They shrugged off the frowns of the carnies and rode. They did everything once before going a second time.
By the late afternoon, the temperature began to cool and the sun’s color burned darker. Clark had a half eaten bag of cotton candy tied to his belt loop and a plush Metropolis shark in his arms. Whitney had tested his luck with shooting free throws and made all three shots to win his choice of prize. He picked the medium sized grey shark wearing a red and blue Metropolis Shark’s football jersey, passed it off to Clark, and simply said, “Keep it.”
Clark’s cheeks heated in that moment and he managed to say ‘thank you’ without too much embarrassment. Later on, they passed another booth, one with the milk bottles arranged in a stack. It was technically cheating, because he used his strength, but neither Whitney nor the booth operator noticed. Whitney too had a reminder of the carnival—a brown cowboy hat.
As the evening crowds poured in and the day began to draw to a close, Whitney angled them towards the Ferris wheel, the one ride they still hadn’t done. “Just one time, okay?”
“Yeah.” Clark sat beside him, bear still in hand as the operator lowered the bar across their waists. “You should hold on to that.” He pointed to the hat.
Of course, Whitney smiled softly and twirled the hat in his hands. Then he slipped in on his head. “Like it?” His voice was suddenly very scratchy, husky. “Do I look like a cowboy?”
Very much so, Clark wanted to say. “You look good. Not dorky at all.”
They could see the entire carnival and all the outlying lands from the top of the Ferris wheel. Seeing the world like this made him feel small, which was a pleasant change. A day like this almost made him feel normal. He suddenly felt compelled to say something.
“I had a good time today.”
Whitney’s expression was soft, but cryptic. Something flashed in his eyes that Clark couldn’t identify. “I’m glad. I wouldn’t want you to skip school and not enjoy yourself.”
Clark snorted. “Yep, you have me living on the edge, Whitney.”
“Call me Whit.” Whitney asked.
Clark’s breath caught in his throat. “Whit.” His voice croaked. “I liked…last night too.”
“Me too.” Whit held his gaze while licking his lips absently. His blue eyes dropped to Clark’s mouth for a few seconds and then he began to chew on his lips in nervousness. “Maybe it doesn’t have to be a one-time thing.”
Clark could delve deeper into what it meant to kiss Whitney and like it so much. But right now, the only thing he wanted was to have Whitney kissing him again.
“That I can do.” Whit leaned in capturing Clark’s mouth in a soft press of lips. He must have said the last part aloud. Even if he hadn’t meant to, he enjoyed the results.
Whitney continued the kiss until Clark felt like he was sinking. He held on to the bar, but not too tightly and the shark, while his other hand searched out for Whitney. The sinking feeling was back when Clark realized they were moving again.
“Whit—”His voice was ragged like a moan.
A sudden inhalation of air and Whitney pulled back. “God, Clark—” His hands still had purchase on Clark’s shoulders. He leaned in again.
“Wait, the ride’s almost over.” Clark explained and the disappointment was clear on Whitney’s face.
The other boy drew back and composed himself to exit, even took off his cowboy hat. They got off the ride and began to head off back to the car in silence. When they reached the truck, they slid inside silently.
Whitney clutched the steering wheel, released it a second later. His hands dropped into his lap and he looked like a picture of nervousness. Clark was the nervous one. His heart was pumping like a stampede of wild horses. “Tell me it’s not over…tell me you want to see where this goes.” Whitney said without looking over at Clark.
His life was already very complicated, but he couldn’t fight how Whitney was making him feel. He wanted more of this. The kissing. The touching. The feel of normal, even though it wasn’t all that normal.
“Yeah, Whit. I want it.”When Whitney finally turned to face Clark, the smile on his face was one that Clark knew he’d always have etched into his memory—into his heart. Every time he would look at the shark, he’d feel the same.
His mother called him to come over for breakfast. She called him at two in the afternoon. He was still in bed and wanted to stay there. It wasn’t like he had anywhere to be or someone to see other than her.
Getting out of bed had never been so hard. His sleep had been dreamless, because the house was too quiet and the other side of the bed too cold.
He was off indefinitely, having made the decision to leave the Planet after Whitney first got sick. He worked from home, mostly little bursts whenever he had some downtime. Two of his books had been published and were best sellers. A few more waited in his desk.
Money wasn’t an issue and it would never be one ever again.
Clark sat up beneath his covers, allowing his arms to rest on his knees. There was no Planet, no League waiting for him. No Whit…
The last thought hit him hard like shard of ice being swallowed.
“You may not want your mom’s pancakes, but I do,” he heard Whitney say. The blond emerged from the bathroom with his pants unbuttoned and a towel tossed over his head. He swept the towel over his hair, leaving it in blond spiky tufts. He turned that blinding mischievous grin Clark’s way before reaching for his shirt. “Last one there does the dishes for a week.”
Clark remembered saying, “Is that all the winner gets for a week?”
Whitney grinned and effortlessly radiated cool. “Cheeky cheeky.” He licked his lips. “I’ll have to make sure I win then.” His eyes gleamed with nighttime promises that still made Clark blush.
“In your dreams,” Clark replied. In a flash, Whitney was gone. Clark knew somewhere around the edge of town, they’d catch up.
He sighed, coming out of his daydream. “In my dreams.” They would be the only place he’d ever see Whitney again.
He didn’t feel up to the run, so he made the long three hour drive and tried to think about nothing in particular. Let the music on the radio wash over him and settle his movements into an automatic lull. His Prius cruised along the roads, passing small towns and open fields in between, billboards called with messages—attractions, and Clark could almost hear the faint edge of Whitney’s laugh as he passed one sign in particular. Ed’s Gas N’ Go had a missing ‘G’ in the first word and an extra ‘s’ tacked on to the end of the first word in the title.
Whit had laughed every time they passed by it, saying that Ed was undoubtedly the most popular man in the State of Kansas for having such fine wares.
Upon entering Smallville, he opted to not drive down Main Street; instead he took a slow ride along some of the back roads until he reached the one leading to the farm. He’d been there just the day before and now seeing the house as he parked the car, knowing that it was just him and his mother made the wound fresh all over again.
The plain band on his left hand gleamed in the errant rays of sunshine that fell upon the dashboard. Clark took a breath before forcing himself out of the car. As he walked up on the steps, he winced hearing the sound of Krypto’s paws scratching the wood on the inside door. He’d apologize and fix it soon as he had a chance; maybe even take Krypto home so that he didn’t do any more damage to his mother’s house.
Krypto leap at him, pawing his pants leg and licking Clark’s hands excitedly when the door opened. Inside the house, the scent of breakfast carried him over to the kitchen. His mother stopped flipping pancakes to hug him, squeeze him tight, and he let her, knowing that he still needed the comfort.
Even Krypto was capable of knowing something was wrong. The big white lab laid his head over Clark’s knee and looked at Clark with the doggie equivalent of mournful eyes. “How was last night?” His mother set down a plate of eggs and another loaded with sausage and bacon before returning to the pancakes.
No use in lying, he patted Krypto’s head gently. “Hard.”
“Sweetheart—”She knew what it was like to lose a lover. A husband. A soul mate. “He was in so much pain. You have to realize he’s better—”
“I know.” He cut her off. Krypto lifted his head from his knee and stared at Clark. The table creaked; he realized then that he was trembling. “It’s just…why? Why now? Why him?” Whitney had been the sun to his galaxy. His everything.
Martha placed the last tray on the table and pulled up a seat in front of her son. She took his hands in hers, his large hands that had seen so much, fought so many battles, saved countless lives, and were soft and clenched as they trembled in her own. “Bad things happen…even to extraordinary people.”
“It’s not fair. After everything we’ve done, all the people he’s saved…something so small took him—away.” His voice stuttered and drew to a stop. “He was only thirty-two.” Martha rubbed his hands as wet warmth rose behind his eyes. His field of vision blurred and Clark quickly wiped away the tears leaking from the corners of his eyes. “I’m twenty-nine years old and we were married for almost twelve years. He wasn’t supposed to die.”
His mother shook her head in empathy. “I know, but there are things that are beyond our control. Whitney was strong until the end. He fought so hard…for you. For every ounce of happiness that he knew you had together and would have.” She took his face in her hands, bringing his green eyes tinted pink in line with hers. “Clark, you loved him and you know he loved you. It might have been short, but it was good.”
Clark allowed his mother to wipe away his tears, knowing that she knew from experience the depth of hurt that came as a result of losing the one person that made your heart beat and your soul remain intact. His father’s death had been sudden and left them with only time to grieve once he was buried.
Whit’s death came at the end of fast and devastating decline. It was as if one day Whit was fine, then he was sick, and shortly thereafter he was gone. Whitney had been a soldier, a hero, and the best husband anyone could asked to have.
“Come on, let’s eat.”His mother wiped the last tear away, patted his knee, and tossed a piece of bacon down to Krypto. “We’ll get started with the thank you notes when we’re done.”
She’d show him how to get past it, but his stomach told him he wouldn’t.
Clark lay in his hammock. Metro, as he called the shark, also lay on his stomach as he swayed lightly in the evening breeze. He hadn’t been found out. Not yet, at least. Hopefully never, if he had any luck.
Whitney had driven him home. Not quite to the door, but close enough that they had to be cautious about sneaking another kiss. Whit had promised to come by the next day after school to talk. The way his eyes had darkened and his cheeks had flushed; Clark knew that talking wouldn’t be a priority.
His fingers danced over the soft grey fur of the plush shark. A gentle smile on his face. The throat clearing at the top of the stairs scared him so badly; he almost fell out of his hammock. Lex stood, smirking in his customary black overcoat and black pants with lilac—not purple—shirt combo.
“So Clark, mind telling me where you were yesterday?” Lex sauntered through the loft until he reached the hammock.
Suddenly, Clark remembered that he was supposed to go over to Lex’s and help him move the battlefield table. Lex was trying to restore it and Clark had volunteered to help him catalogue the figures before he got started.
“I’m sorry,” he said with full remorse in his voice.
Lex circled, noble eyebrows arched high as he gazed down at Clark. “Well, I figured something must have come up. I waited for you outside the school and Pete came over to tell me that you weren’t in school. ”
Continuing his circle, Clark felt a little like prey beneath Lex’s intent stare. “Where did you go?”Lex asked.
Clark’s cheeked flushed, selling him out before he had a chance to speak. He ducked his head and trailed another finger over the shark’s fur before looking at Lex again with an earnest apology written in his eyes. “I kinda skipped yesterday.”
“I guess my bad influence is rubbing off on you.” Smirking, Lex looked all the more like his bad boy image.
“Nope, that was completely my doing,” another voice countered. Lex and Clark turned at the same time to see Whitney standing in the spot Lex had recently vacated. “It’s my fault for corrupting Smallville’s favorite farm boy.”
“Well, we can’t have that. Don’t make it a habit.” Lex’s gaze on Whitney was cold and resolute. His dislike for Whitney was obvious, but Whitney withstood the death glare. “I’d hate for Clark to get in trouble with his parents.”
Whit’s hands were shoved deep inside the pockets of his letterman jacket with his shoulders set in a straight hard line. “The same,” he agreed resolutely.
Lex dragged his eyes from Whitney and back to Clark. The semi-smile that came to his lips was forced and strained, though he only did it for Clark. “I guess I’ll see you around. Give me a call when you’re free.”
Clark rushed to stand before Lex could leave. Something in the way Lex was departing made Clark uneasy. He had this heavy sense of foreboding that nestled its way into his stomach. “I’m really sorry about missing our thing, Lex.” Of course, Lex waved him off and forgave him, making Clark feel infinitely worse. Lex left shortly and neither boy said a word until they were completely surrounded by silence and the occasional sound of the cows in the field.
“Luthor won’t be a part of my fan club anytime soon,” Whit said with a shrug.
Clark pointed to the old battered couch, offering Whit a seat. “He’s just concerned.” Clark sat on the other end, putting space between them which Whitney quickly erased by moving over.
Whitney cocked his brow and a knowing expression spread across his face. “Of course, he is...” He left off the part about Lex being jealous, figuring Clark hadn’t picked up on that yet.
“So?” Clark found himself shifting and squirming beneath Whit’s gaze. “No football practice?”
Whit chuckled. “You really don’t follow sports do you?”
“Yeah—not really.” Clark added in shame. “Maybe not Smallville High’s sports.”
Between his bursts of laughter, Whitney slid across the couch and took Clark’s hand in his own. His fingers played with the skin on the back of Clark’s hand and his wrist. “That’s okay. I kinda like it that we’re not in the same social circle. This makes it—us feel more special.”
“Wouldn’t it seem weird to your friends that you’re spending time with me and not Lana?” It was an earnest question. As Smallville’s resident demigod, all of his actions were scrutinized and emulated.
Clark watched as Whitney’s fingers circled his wrist, noting that this had to be very different for the other boy when considering the last person he held this way was Lana. “About Lana…we broke up and just haven’t said anything about it yet. We were going to wait until the end of the year, because breaking up would make sense then…I’d be graduating and you guys would be juniors.”
“Now, the plan has changed—”
“Definitely. I can’t be with Lana even in name only. Call it my strong upstanding moral character coming into play here but it wouldn’t be fair to you.” This was the part where someplace in Clark’s chest where Whitney had taken up residence swelled just a little more.
It struck Clark in that moment just how much Whitney liked him. Because like physics, Clark knew that there were consequences to every action; breaking up with Lana resonated in Clark’s stomach as a potentially explosive situation. But then, Whitney was being honest and so nice—sweet even, and Clark found himself like the day before wanting nothing more than to just enjoy feeling Whitney being near.
“Seems like you put a lot of thought into this.”
Most people wouldn’t use the words ‘deep contemplation’ to describe the actions of a football player, but Whitney was obviously different. With his head tilted back on the couch, the blond stared up at the rafters with his brow creased and Clark was again struck by how much Whit looked like some homespun god.
Whitney still hadn’t let go of Clark’s hand and the action seemed much more intimate. “Yeah, you know I had thoughts before. Just thoughts. Observations mostly, nothing that I felt strongly enough about to take a risk over. But you came along, you know. Always hanging around the periphery,” he stopped. “Yes, I know the word ‘periphery’ and you were always there. Then you just…I don’t know—blossomed into Mr. Tall, Dark, and freaking-oh-so-gorgeous and had to go and save my life more times than I could count.”
Clark smiled in Whitney’s direction. “I like gratitude.” He’d never been one to handle compliments well, as evidenced by the rising blush in his cheeks.
“Good.” Whitney pointed out. “See, you’re doing it again. Being cute.”
Feeling a bit of courage, Clark added, “You’re cute too.”
Then, Whitney graced him with that impossibly white grin. “I’m not cute.” Clark’s brow quirked in confusion. “I’m ruggedly sexy and supremely debonair.”
“Aw, that’s it.” Clark smiled softly, his eyes suddenly going wide when Whit pulled him forward and pressed a soft kiss to his cheek.
The sunset spilled over into the loft and Clark listened to the dueling staccatos of their thumping heartbeats.
“I promise I’ll be honest…Swear it.” Whitney swore against Clark’s cheek.
And Clark trusted Whitney fully. The promise of telling his own secrets carried a whispered ‘eventually’ to them.
He’d dared to venture into town with his mother; walking with her made being home just a little easier. At every corner, on each street, they were ghosts of them being together. People were nice when he saw them about town. The town had come a long way since they’d lived there as kids. For such a small town in the middle of the Bible Belt, attitudes had changed, at least on the surface. It helped that the two of them came from good families with deep community ties and they were golden boys who had made good.
Most were supportive, but then there were still others. The ones that smiled thinly their way or outwardly grimaced. The ones that hurt the most were the cold looks that came from people he’d once considered friends.
Clark and his mother were walking down Main Street, passing by Nell’s old shop which was now a little Italian café, when Clark caught sight of a flash of brunette curls as a very recognizable body crossed the street. His mother bumped his arm to keep him going instead of getting hung up on another display of Lana’s cold shoulder.
His mother’s phone rang. The sound chirped at the edge of his hearing, while his eyes followed Lana across the street. They hadn’t been friends for a long time. People could have said whatever they wanted about his relationship with Whitney, but Lana had staunchly refused to see it as anything other than a massive act of betrayal towards her. She’d been bitter during their junior and senior years, but not outwardly so.
After he and Whit got married, Lana made a smooth transition from bitter to angry.
She unjustly donned the woman scorned shroud, even while being married to Clark’s best friend's brother. Clark watched her go and tried to stamp down the hurt she caused him. His mother grabbed his elbow after issuing him a beatific smile. “That was Mary—” Whitney’s mother. “She wants us to come by.”
Mary, like Martha, had taken some time to get used to the idea of him and Whitney together. She’d actually been more supportive after they’d gotten married. Considering that Whit’s dad had died not long before and later Whitney’s sudden induction into the marines, she’d actually found the idea of the two of them getting married a stabilizing factor.
She’d stayed in town just like his mother and the two had become fast friends. With Clark’s father dying a year after he and Whit were married, Martha and Mary had leaned on each other for support. Mary had practically moved to Metropolis when Whit had gotten sick.
When they reached the old Victorian house, Mary was already waiting for them on the porch. The years had been kind to her, but the weeks of Whit’s illness had taken a serious toll on her. “Clark…Martha.” She hugged them both.
“How are you, Mary?” She patted Clark’s cheek in that sweet comforting maternal way, making the Man of Steel feel like Jell-O.
“I could be better.” They followed her into the house and as per Smallville custom; there was already a pitcher of lemonade waiting in the living room. “I could say the same for you.”
They sat in the living room, making quiet conversation when the question came up. “When are you going back to work?”
Clark and Martha knew what she talking about instantly. Obviously, she wasn’t talking about the Planet.”I’m taking an extended leave of absence until I can get myself sorted out,” Clark said.
Martha patted his knee gently. “You will, honey.” The addition of ‘in time’ hung in the air.
“I liked the way they memorialized Whitney’s shield. He would have liked that.” She walked across the room and opened the top desk drawer of the Fordman family’s roller top desk. Mary came back with a white envelope in hand. “It’s going to be hard…so hard to think of him not being here. That’s why when I found it; I wanted to give it to you as soon as I could.”
Clark took the envelope and looked from Mary to his mother. The straight blunt scrawl on the front was definitely Whit’s.
“Maybe we should—”Martha began.
Mary finished. “—Let’s go out on the porch. Take your time, honey.” They each placed affectionate pats on his shoulder before walking outside.
The letter felt too delicate in his hands, while his fingers felt too big to make a small tear in the paper. Clark hesitated in pulling the paper out, feeling as though he was breaking the last bond he had left with Whitney. The single sheet rested in his palm. Just one sheet of Whit’s words and that in itself wouldn’t be enough.
It would never be enough.
He finally unfolded the paper and Whitney’s voice poured out to him.
What can I say? First, I’m sorry for not being there. Sometimes, I get flighty. Flighty, get it?
“Superhero humor, Whit?” Clark chuckled dryly.
Yeah, I know. This isn’t a time for jokes, but I need you to laugh again, okay? There are three things I never want to see you lose: your smile, your laughter, and your hope. I’ve seen the three less and less as my time draws near. We had fourteen good years together, twelve blissed out years of marriage. What more can a guy ask for? Doing what you love and working with the person you love the most is a dream. Well that and the fact that you are the hottest man in the universe makes life so much more enjoyable.
“Gee Whit, still thinking with your—”
You know me. I always try to think with my heart first. When it comes to you, my little brain is very happily biased. I want you to live, be happy, and continue our mission. But first take some time off.
“I already am.”
I’ll help you to figure out when it’s time to go back. People will always need us…Need you. I once heard someone say, maybe it was Lois, that we—the Captain and the MoS were the heart of our super charged universe. I think she’s right. They’ll need you, because the mission never ends.
I’m sorry I’ll miss your birthday. The big 3-0 is quite a big deal. You’re finally starting to make me feel not so old. I’m here and I’ll get you through this, just wait and see. Start with home—our home and get rid of the old. You’re not getting rid of me just yet—only my stuff.
Clark sighed. “I can’t, Whit.”
You can. I’ve been thinking about this since I knew that there was no recovering. My letters will come from a variety of sources. Be prepared. You’re my everything, C. We’ll get through this. I promise.
I love you,
It wasn't the ache in his heart, but the expectant flip-flop of his stomach that drove him back to Metropolis. Krypto came with him, barking excitedly all along the way. He made two pre-emptive phone calls; one to Chloe and the other to Lois. Then he combined the promise to have dinner with each the following night. But for now, he'd procrastinate—brood, and mire himself in how crazy it sounded that Whitney was going to help him from beyond the grave.
Back at home, he tossed off his flannel shirt and shoes. Padded up the stairs barefoot with Krypto on his heels and threw himself down face first into the bed. The bed didn't squeak, didn't utter a sound. Made of refined titanium and vibranium, the same stuff as Whit's shield, the bed frame had been an excitingly awesome perk of the superhero gig.
As he lay there, he knew the moment he turned around Krypto would be staring down at him. Looking at him like he was nuts. But he wasn't.
Whitney had to have known when he wrote the letter that he’d be absolutely miserable. Clark knew there weren't enough letters to help him feel better.
A wet stripe caught him across the neck, pulling him from his thoughts. He turned over and stared at Krypto. "Okay, boy. Down." Clark pushed Krypto away.
Above his head, he heard, “You spoil him."
"Do not." He remembered saying. Clark tilted his head back and could see Whit standing before him with arms crossed over his chest, looking not amused.
"C, he believes he's our big hairy lovechild and thus entitled to sleep in our bed."
Several nights, Clark had been surprised to find a big furry body draped across his back, rather than Whit's long, muscled frame. "He gets lonely..." Clark said with faux innocence in his voice.
"Says the man that hasn't woken up with dog butt in his face." Whitney rounded the bed and stood in front of Clark's feet. "I get lonely too." That spark in Whitney's eyes belied any such loneliness.
Clark's voice hitched as he ordered, "Krypto out." If the dog could have frowned, he did for being sent from the room. But there were nothing but smiles from him and Whit the rest of that day.
Then Krypto barked and Clark snapped out of it, finding his momentary escape into memories dissipating like an early morning fog.
The dog was no longer on the bed. Instead, he stood in front of the closet doors, trying to squeeze his head in the partial gap between them. Knowing that Krypto and shoes didn't mix, Clark dragged himself from the bed to push Krypto away from the closet. The dog pushed the doors wider before Clark got to him, allowing Clark to catch sight of Whitney's old foot locker.
Whitney had managed to keep it since basic. Clark had never bothered with it. It was Whit's special place, like the loft had been for his memories. He could look now. No harm, right? He dragged the trunk out then closed the doors to keep Krypto out.
Upon first appearance, the trunk appeared to be a big black box. Nothing more, nothing less.
He raised the lid and found himself smiling.
No one would have ever taken Whitney for an artist, but he'd managed to cover the top with a collage of sorts. Pictures dating back as far as high school stared back at him with smiling, stoic, and proud faces. The one that caught his eyes was from the day of Whit's father's funeral. They were standing near the fence overlooking the pasture. Whit had been staring at the ground, while Clark had rubbed his back in an attempt to comfort him as the cows ambled by.
His mother had broken the silence. Just coming out to ask how Whit was doing and then asking for a picture of the two of them. Clark knew then that she was okay with them.
They took their first picture on the saddest day of Whit's life. It sat next to the one with Whit and his dad with the Metropolis Sharks.
Jack had been proud of his son that day. Clark knew Jack would have been proud of his son now too. Whit had been a real hero, like his dad.
Word that Smallville High’s royal couple had broken up spread like wildfire. It could best be described as the dissolution of the Brad Pitt-Jennifer Aniston marriage by high school standards.
Clark was paranoid that everyone was staring at him. Really, it was no more than usual and instead of him hearing his classmates whispering 'freak' in his imagination, now he heard 'fag.'
Chloe was waxing eloquently and retelling what one of her sources told her about the now famous break up. Pete looked interested, mainly because he knew the consequences of zoning out. Clark, as usual, was out in space, which to his friends wasn't all that strange for him.
"—so Alexa said that Lana was devastated."
The guilt that was ever present inside of Clark began to rise like a helium balloon. Lana was feeling horrible and now it really was his fault. He tried to steer his mind away from the meteor shower, because—-yep, resistance was futile and he was again bogged down in blaming himself for ruining Lana's life. First, her parents. Now, her boyfriend.
"Then, Krissy, you know the second leader of Damien's pep squad said she's nicely transitioned from shocked to bitter."
Pete nudged his shoulder. "Maybe this is your shot. You never know what could grow out of a rebound thing."
Whitney and crew were passing their way, coming down the opposite side of the hall. Whitney caught his eye and issued him a friendly nod. The pack of letterman jacket clad jocks passed with no more than a wink or two Chloe's way and a slight sneer in his and Pete's direction. Apparently, Whit told them to back off, because he'd saved Whit's life. Most seemed to understand, one or two showed that they were in fact slow learners.
When the group was a safe distance away, Clark shifted his backpack to his other shoulder and did his signature move that tried to make his tall body collapse in on itself. "No...um, I think Lana could use friends right now. The last thing she's probably interested in is someone hitting on her, especially since you said she's taking it hard."
Pete made a face that clearly said he thought Clark was crazy, while Chloe did that thing where her big doe eyes lit up and seemed to twinkle just by looking at him. It was the type of look that made him feel bad that he didn't respond to it, other than looking away and coughing uncomfortably.
Pete slapped him on the back. "You know I thought you were crazy for saying you'd pass up such a golden opportunity, but—" That 'but' was big. "—you're going to work the friend angle like a genius! That's even better, my man.” He expected Clark to high-five him, though Chloe and Clark's eyes locked and they knew Pete was clearly misunderstanding him on purpose. Chloe's eyes flicked to the cluster of Crows jackets then back to Clark.
"You're somewhat friendly with Whitney, right? Did he say anything about the break up?" she probed.
Chloe had moments when she seemed more like an alien than him, because her powers of perception freaked him out.
"We're friends, but some things stay private...Why do you want to know?"
Inside the Torch office, there was privacy, but Chloe could slip into her element here and subtly sink her journalistic talon in so deep, you wouldn't know you'd been caught until she shook you loose.
She turned to him. Her flipped hair bounced and slid with each move of her head. She was still a city girl, another outsider among outsiders.
"Wouldn't you want to know what the iceberg was that sank the titanic Lana and Whitney relationship?"
Clark swallowed hard. He really didn't need to know.
He knew he was being a jerk to Whitney, but he couldn't help but feel guilty about making Lana sad. Smallville's resident fairy princess was in a true state of distress.
The break-up had been so hard for her that she'd quit the cheerleading squad much to the disappointment and disapproval of her Aunt Nell. Now, Lana could be seen about town, first at the Beanery, and then the Talon where she received Lex's help after Clark pleaded her case.
He could tell himself that he was busy lately. Mostly dealing with the meteor-infected that kept popping up. Of the three he'd come into contact recently, he'd only grown closer to Ryan. Tyler and Justin made his guilt flare up as well as his sense of justice.
Putting a stop to the latter pair could be his excuse for missing and not returning Whit's emails and phone calls. The floor boards of the stairs creaked beneath a now familiar weight. Clark didn't need to turn around to see Whitney standing there. He could smell him and hear his heart beat.
"It's good to see you're alive." Whit's voice dripped with sarcasm.
Clark released a pained exhale. "I know...I've been a jerk lately." Whit was across the room in his signature jacket, white t-shirt and jeans. His face wore a half-scowl tinged with extreme disappointment.
"I hadn't expected things to go like this and with everything else—I really needed you around."
"I'm sorry." Clark said again.
"Just tell me, Clark." Whit sat on the back of the couch with his hands folded between his splayed knees. "Can I count on you? Are you going to duck and run when things get tough, because I don't think I need a boyfriend like that if you do?"
He tried to wrap his mind around what Whit was saying, pushing as an ultimatum. "No, Whit, I won't run. It's just..." Clark sighed. "I feel so guilty, you know? Lana's hurting because of me."
Whitney rolled his eyes in exasperation. "Look, Clark. She knew this was coming. We talked about it. She's having this melodramatic tantrum because I broke up with her. If it had been her actually ending our relationship, she would have been fine. I gave her the choice."
Clark stepped closer to Whitney. "I didn't know that."
"Of course, you didn't. Now, she has everyone in a stir for quitting the squad and opening a coffee shop. She's smarter than people give her credit for; she's just bitter now that I told someone we broke up first. You—" He caught Clark's eyes. "—have nothing to do with the break-up. It was coming any day now. Being with you only made that day come sooner."
Clark stepped in front of Whitney, almost between his knees. "Your dad?" He'd heard about Whit's dad when he'd been trying to find Tyler.
"Another heart attack." Whitney placed a hand on Clark's hip and pulled him close. "The doctors said it won't be long now. His heart's too weak."
Normally, it would have been weird to stare down at the top of Whit's head, but the feel of Whit's face nuzzled against his t-shirt-covered stomach caused him to reach out and pull Whitney closer, wrap his arms around his shoulders and hold him gently. “I’m sorry, Whit."
Whitney tried to press his face deeper. "Promise me..." he mumbled.
Clark could promise to not be afraid anymore. Not of himself or the monsters he'd helped create. He could promise to not run away, leaving Whitney alone. "I won't run anymore.
Chapter 2: Two
He busied himself by taking Krypto out for a walk and then using the time as an excuse to find boxes. Again, the day was drawing to a close. Clark, dressed in jeans and an old trusted t-shirt, lowered the last box of clothes by the door. Krypto had long since given up on trying to get Clark to play. After shouting a little more forcefully than normal, the dog wandered off to lay on the living room sofa in chastisement.
The clothes in the closet were the first things o go. Then Clark pored through the drawers; every moment felt like he was picking Whit out of his life with each tossed article. Bit by bit, the boxes filled, leaving him with just the trunk, Whit’s leather jacket, his tools and bike in the garage, and his prized collectibles.
Clark sank down on the couch, taking up the remaining space the dog had left. The flat screen television on the wall remained off as Clark stared at their reflections. “Just us, boy.” He sank deeper into the cushions; the sound of plastic whining caught his ears.
After turning around, he pulled the cushion up and revealed the tightly wrapped and tied plastic package. It was one of many Clark knew had been hidden around the house. A few had actually been discovered during the most inappropriate times and embarrassingly enough by their mothers. Whit had always had this resolute stance on them using protection. They had always used condoms and any suggestion of doing otherwise was met by Whit’s anger. Stony as it was, Clark wondered if Whit had hidden something else from him too.
A knock at the door startled him. He palmed the package of condoms and hid them in the top drawer of the side table.
Bruce stood on his doorstep in Milan-ready black coat and sweater set that made his blue eyes appear even more piercing. His face bore a look that was a cross between being expectant and annoyed. “Bruce.” With a slight quirk of his head that Krypto imitated at his heels.
Bruce glanced between the two and there was a slight pull at the corner of his mouth. “Clark, may I come in?” Clark stepped aside, allowing Bruce to enter.
“The boxes.” Bruce casually observed. This was one of those moments where Clark liked the fact that Bruce didn’t ask questions.
“Stuff that needs to go…Whit’s old stuff,” he supplied.
Clark watched Bruce take one more glance at the stack. It was a calculating look before walking into the living room. He pulled an officially sealed envelope from inside his coat and passed it over without a word. Clark stared down at the envelope, wondering if this was another message from Whit.
He could surely admit that his knees felt wobbly while his stomach most certainly went back to that tight-strummed feel, where it seemed air was being vacuumed from every inch of internal space.
“What is it?” Clark turned over the envelope, which lacked any sort of departmental seal.
Bruce was once again checking for other differences in the room, looking for signs of change besides the obvious removal of some of Whitney’s personal effects.
“Something I thought you should have.”
There was a medical folder inside the envelope. Whit’s charts and medical history. Clark flipped through the pages until he came to final report compiled by J’onn and Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. The League and S.H.I.E.L.D. never mixed outside of some grand sort of emergency. Most interaction between the two came as a result of Clark and Whitney’s relationship. The fact that they’d collaborated on an inquiry into Whit’s death meant a lot to him.
The fact that Bruce had delivered the package meant even more. Whitney and Bruce had never been friends. Mostly ideological differences kept them at odds. The other things—Clark tried not to think about. Mainly the bits and pieces of muffled conversations and thinly veiled threats that passed between them in private or the hint of steel that roamed into their voices when he wasn’t around. Clark used his old power of selective blindness to ignore the tension between his husband and best friend. The months of acknowledged sickness brought a détente between the two.
Clark absorbed the details of the report; much of the medical jargon flew over his head. He reached the last page and read the final conclusion. His heart sank with the pronouncement. “So, it would have happened anyway?”
Bruce faced him, nodded grimly, and set his gaze back on the photographs dotting the walls. “The problem was hereditary. In Whitney’s case, his initial meteor infection helped him to survive until he was given the serum. The effects of the Myocarditis were partially repaired by the serum, but there was already permanent damage.”
The folder lay closed in Clark’s lap. “I guess I should be happy that kryptonite did something right for once.”
“I felt it necessary for you know this information, so as to help you with your grieving.” Clark’s eyes cast a warm look in his comrade’s direction. Bruce was always a tactician first; even his words were delivered after careful selection. “Read the rest when you can.” The abrupt change in Bruce’s tone signaled that the visit was over.
“What else are you boxing up?” he tossed over his shoulder.
“The clothes in those boxes.” Clark gestured to the ones by the door. “Some sports equipment, some other stuff in the garage, and the truck.”
Bruce crossed over the threshold and remained on the landing. He simply stared at Clark’s face as if he was conducting some sort of assessment.
“The League will be having a meeting Thursday.” As usual. This was Bruce’s version of an invitation. He appreciated the gesture, but he wasn’t ready. With that final statement, Bruce walked away. Trying to figure out the puzzle of Bruce Wayne offered a momentary reprieve of having to think about the contents of the folder.
Dinner the following night turned out to be quite nice. Clark found himself laughing more than he done so in weeks, maybe months. It was mostly due to Chloe and Lois rehashing their memories of Whit.
“—So, I’m thinking here’s this ridiculously handsome guy with no one around guarding him. I might as well go introduce myself.” Lois paused her story and took a sip of wine. “How should I know—” She said with feigned innocence. “That this guy was happily gay- married and the legendary ‘Smallville’ that my cousin’s been telling me about for years…Call me a little slow—”
“Slow.” Clark and Chloe said in unison and snickered at Lois’ glare.
“Call me slow, but I got the hint when this way-hot blond came stomping my way with all that pent up and concentrated aggression that just screamed ‘Marine’.” Lois had been thoroughly embarrassed that night and only Chloe’s working her negotiator magic had talked Whit down from having a fit.
Clark took another glass of wine, though the effect was lost of him. “Well, if I remember correctly, Whit was so mad because you were groping me like a cheap gigolo.”
“You definitely didn’t look cheap.” Chloe added, leaving the other implication hanging in the air. Their table erupted into laughter again, earning them poisonous looks from nearby tables.
Chloe had picked the place. She was careful to not choose something that might accidentally dredge up memories. The place was cozy modern-American with a wine list that might keep Lois happy.
Chloe pushed her glass away, indicating that she’d had more than enough. She cleared her throat. “Speaking of gigolos.” She turned to Lois with a coy smirk on her face. “Did I ever tell about the time I caught a peep show in Clark’s loft?”
Clark found himself smiling without self-consciousness.
As the evening wore on, they found themselves sobering up and said a final toast to Whitney. Clark managed not to get teary-eyed this time. He walked them to their cars and promised to call them separately.
That night, he had opted to walk. Sure, he should have gotten home in less than three seconds, but he wanted the forty-five minutes to keep his head clear. He enjoyed spending time with them and decided he’d make time to visit the Planet.
It was amazing that Chloe had remembered that evening in the loft. It had been their first Christmas together as a married couple. Now, the memory felt so ancient.
The streets were fairly empty for a Saturday night. Rain from earlier in the day had coated the streets liberally in a thin wet sheen. His footsteps echoed between passing cars. He didn’t pay much attention to them. Like everything else, he managed to tune them out like everything else.
That was until something fine and European whizzed past him, clearly going well above the legal speed limit. There was a curve up a head; he hoped they took it safely.
The streetlights created orange rings of light between the long stretches of the darkness. The walk reminded him more of his days in Smallville than he could remember. In particular, that afternoon when they buried Whit’s father and he’d just stood in the rain thinking and waiting for some sort of sign of the things to come. As he continued to walk, he felt that stirring low in his belly that made him feel not so quite alone.
In the distance, about twenty yards from where he was, he saw a lone figure leaning against a car. Dressed in dark colors in the nighttime shadows, for a second Clark wondered if Bruce was following him. The figure wasn’t as tall or as broad though, but Clark knew the identity of the man soon enough.
“Lex, out for a drive?” Clark slowed to a stop beside the silver Ferrari.
Lex pushed off the gleaming machine in such a way the action could only be called elegant. “I was until I saw someone that caught my eye.” Lex stopped short of Clark. “Hasn’t anyone told you that walking the streets late at night is dangerous?”
Clark smiled. “I have it on good authority that it’s not so dangerous anymore... so, I think I’ll be okay.”
Lex knew all about his specialness and that hadn’t caused the rift between them. It was Whitney that had. “I’d rather intervene now to keep my conscience is clear.” Lex nodded towards the car. “I’ll give you a ride.”
“Sure.” Clark slid in the car and almost moaned. “These seats—” He wasn’t ashamed that leather seats made his voice breathy and rather off key.
Lex smiled. “They’ve only gotten better.”
The Ferrari purred as Lex touched the ignition. “Touch sensitive almost.” It was clear once they reached the expressway that Lex didn’t need him to provide directions.
They made idle conversation. Neither one asking questions that went deeper than the surface out of respect for the distance that had grown between them over the years. Seeing Lex twice in the span of a few days was actually jarring for Clark. It helped that everything else was out of whack so he couldn’t dwell on how much he’d missed Lex or the pain of when Lex turned away from him.
Between the empty streets and Lex driving his car like he was in the Daytona 500, they arrived in front of Clark’s house in under ten minutes. Clark might have coughed ‘show off’ much to Lex’s delight. He had only driven faster.
There was a light on in the living room and one in the bedroom. Krypto became a little unhinged when left in the dark even though he could see in it. Clark saw the dog jump into the window after Lex parked the car.
“Thanks.” Clark said.
“You’re always welcome.” Lex turned to face him and Clark was pinned beneath the eternal gaze of Lex’s blue-grey gaze.
“I don’t want to keep the dog waiting…”Clark trailed off when Lex touched his arm.
Still holding on, Lex kept him silent for a few more seconds. When he began to speak, his voice cut through the tension inside the car and suddenly, Clark was no longer focusing on his touch, which was something he greedily coveted when they were younger and Lex hadn’t given it out much.
“Whitney’s passing made me realize that I’ve missed out on a significant part of my best friend’s life.” Clark threw him a look that questioned the title. “You’re still my best friend, even if we aren’t as close as we once were.”
“Promise me you’ll call, Clark.” The insistence in Lex’s voice bade him to comply. “Please.”
There was something like pleading in Lex’s voice. “I promise, Lex.” He’d do it. There wasn’t any room to push anyone away in his life.
He’d promised Whitney that he wouldn’t run anymore. At times, he felt urge to hide away. His life was so fragmented. He could talk to his parents about his powers, to Whit about his feelings, and to his friends about neither.
Since the constant craziness of his life kept him always on his toes, Clark felt like he had a responsibility more than ever to help those around him, and not just protecting them from meteor mutants. He started with Lana. No matter what Whit said, he still felt like he owed her something. That was why he’d gone to Lex and talked to him about the Talon. Now, Lana had her coffee shop and the preserved memories of her parents.
Whit had lost his scholarship and his dad was getting sicker by the day. He had only mentioned what had happened to Whit to Lex and his friend had set the whole thing in motion. Like the Make A Wish Foundation, Lex helped Whitney to fulfill his father’s dream. Jack Fordman saw his son play with the Metropolis Sharks.
Clark knew simple thanks would never be enough for what Lex did. Whitney had thanked Lex countless times and had seemed to back off a little when Clark divided his time between him and Lex.
With the football game a week behind them and Jack Fordman inching closer and closer to death, Whitney had taken to dividing his time between the school, the hospital with his parents, and the loft with Clark. A few times, Clark had gone with him to the hospital and Whit had been thankful for the support. Everyone needed time to just be away from the stress. Disappointment hurt more when it wasn’t just your own.
Whitney was stretched across the battered couch. His feet hung off one edge while his head rested in Clark’s lap. “The doctors said it’s going to be soon.”
“I’m sorry, Whit.” Clark’s fingers curled through Whit’s flaxen hair, much like his mom used to do when he was sad. Whitney leaned into his touch.
“Some things can’t be helped, but I—” His voice went from determined to soft. So fragile in its exasperation. “I wish I could save him. Save someone else from going through this…”He sighed with bone tired bitterness. “I want to know why it has to be my dad.”
Clark slipped his hand from Whitney’s hair. “Oh, Whit.”
“I –I wish you could save him like you saved me. My dad’s going to die. There’s no football, no scholarship, and I’m going be stuck here forever. I’m going to be another loser with pipe dreams. ”
“You won’t, Whit. You’re going to get out of this town, because you’re a leader. Even the Sharks recognized that.”
“I wish I had your optimism.”
“You don’t need it.”Clark smiled down at him. “Because you have me.”
“For the time being.”Whit turned his face away and exhaled tiredly. “You’ll leave too, ‘cause you’re not cut out to be farmer. Being with you is like holding onto the wind.”
Clark’s heart broke at the thought of Whitney being so sure that he would be the one to leave. “I guess you should hold on to something. I’m not letting go until you tell me to.”
Whitney sat up at this, twisted his body and suddenly he was staring into Clark’s eyes. He wrapped one strong hand around the back of Clark’s neck. The force he used to bring their foreheads together might have hurt someone other than Clark. There was a fierceness to Whitney’s touch, desperation in how he held Clark close, making their breaths mingle with each slow inhale.
The hand on Clark’s neck shifted upwards, allowing Whit’s fingers to curl into his hair. “You make me happy every day that I stopped being a chickenshit and kissed you.”
“Me too.” Clark did the initiating for once by pulling Whitney into a kiss. Whit’s mouth opened under his and he slid his tongue in, tasting the subtle flavor of the Gatorade or fruit drink that Whit drank earlier. He licked the roof of Whitney’s mouth until he moaned.
The hand in his hair grew tighter, while Whitney threw the other around Clark’s waist.
A cough from the stairs.
Clark turned his eyes away from Whitney and caught sight of his dad standing at the top of the stairs. “Dad!” Clark and Whitney separated at the same time.
The elder Kent’s face was red in embarrassment. “I was…um…coming to say—no, tell you that your mother wants you two to wash up for dinner.” He cleared his throat again and hurriedly turned to descend the stairs.
Clark went to the spot his father vacated on the stairs. His face was flushed too. “Dad?”
Jonathan Kent stopped his descent and turned to address his son. He could see the unsettling worry in Clark’s eyes. “We’ll talk about this later. You boys need to wash up for dinner.”
By the time the boys came back to the house, it was obvious that Clark’s parents had talked. “Wash up, boys.” Martha instructed them. Her tone didn’t convey any anger. She sounded like she always did.
They did as they were told and dinner went on as usual. The only difference was that conversation was stifled as the boys looked between Martha and Jonathan. After dessert and boys washing the dishes, they all returned to the table where the inevitable conversation was to take place.
Jonathan cleared his throat again. It was the only way he felt comfortable starting conversation at the moment. “So, how long…”
“Since January.” Meaning three months, because April was almost over.
Clark noted that his father looked surprised, while his mother looked the exact opposite. “You don’t have to hide from us.” She found Clark’s hand. “You can always tell us anything.” There were plenty of secrets in the house already. If there were anymore, the whole thing might explode.
“What about Lana? What about both of you and Lana?” Jonathan asked. Jonathan was more scared than angry. His anger came from knowing that Clark kept a secret from them, but the fear was instinctual. He wanted to protect his son as long as possible and there was already the matter of his other specialness. This was actually pretty normal in comparison.
Whitney fielded this question. “Well sir, I broke up with her a while ago. We’d only been together in name only since the fall. I knew it wouldn’t be fair to Clark, so I ended it.”
Jonathan seemed satisfied with Whitney’s answer and turned to Clark for a response. “I…I like Whitney. He makes me happy.” Clark said with his head bent low.
Jonathan looked between the two of them. “You boys need to be more careful.” He’d heard much of what was said in the loft. He’d never seen his son so focused on one person. “We’ll talk about rules later.”
“You can go back to the loft until your curfew, Clark.” She dismissed them with a smile.
After Martha and Jonathan left them, they released the breaths they weren’t aware they’d been holding.
The first thing Clark did the next morning after he woke up was lay in bed staring at Whitney’s pillow. He woke up without either dog breath or dog butt in his face and felt the innate warmth of sunshine seeping into his body as the sun rose in the world beyond their eastern bedroom window.
Initially, he’d stared at the red-orange glow and watched as yellow bled into the color stream and softened the light. There was a moment, a calm serene second when he felt warmth behind him and the slightest tickling of breath on his neck. He turned over to see the sleeping sprawl of Whitney. Instead, he was faced with an empty space.
The other side of the bed was untouched with pillows stacked high and firm. Clark wouldn’t bring himself to touch it, feeling like he’d disturbed a tomb or a monument; it had to remain as Whitney left it.
He was crying before he knew it. Not deep racking sobs or wails of rolling grief; these were silent tears of acknowledged absence. He laid there with the sun on his back, with water in his eyes and waited with a furious determination for the pain to go away.
Sometime after—maybe minutes or hours later, he dragged himself out of bed after Krypto gave him a pitiful whine. He padded downstairs in old pajama pants and paper thin t-shirt to let Krypto out the back door.
His eyes picked up on the sight before his brain could register the meaning. He opened the back door and let the dog out and left it cracked for him to come back inside. He gazed at the spot where the boxes once were. They were all gone. Clark walked to the door that opened to the garage. The Prius remained waiting for him, beside it a large vacant space, and Clark wasn’t sure whether he was feeling relief or sorrow that the truck was gone too.
When he could find the words, he’d call and thank Bruce. Leave it to the other man to rip off the band-aid to get him on the path to healing.
Krypto took that moment to nudge Clark’s leg with his head. He moved on autopilot, emptying a can of dog food into the dog’s bowl before snagging a bag of something off the kitchen counter for himself. There was no hunger in his stomach, just numbness.
He climbed back into bed and just laid there. They didn’t often have times to just enjoy lying in bed together late in the mornings. There was always somewhere to be, someone to save, or a deadline to meet. The times when they could meet were precious.
Clark trailed a hand down to his stomach, right below his navel as the memory of their last late sleep-in, their last time together replayed itself in his mind. Whit had come out of the bathroom, a small speck of white in the corner of his mouth.
“You got something—” Clark pointed at his mouth and Whitney had frowned, reaching for the wrong side first. Clark had laughed.
Whitney went back into the bathroom and washed his face, returning to the room with a worn out look on his face. “You laughing at me?” Whitney looked over his shoulders before he pointed to his chest with supreme cockiness. “You must be laughing at me.”
Clark had grown used to Whit’s love of movie quotes. Taxi Driver always led to fun. “Yeah, I’m laughing at you. What are you going to do about it?” he chided.
Whit did another imitation Deniro look around before launching himself on the bed and Clark. He released a startled gasp more for Whit’s benefit than his own. He stared up at Whitney’s face that was just out of reach of his own.
“You’re always making fun of me,” Whitney mock-sighed.
Clark’s eyes went wide and his green eyes glistened as his mouth tightened into a pout. Whitney called the puppy-eyed look his kryptonite. “You don’t like it?”
Whit’s face sobered. “Like it? No, I love it.” Then they were laughing. Clark had always liked days like this best of all, when they could just laugh and talk about nothing and still be happy.
When they stopped, they simply stared at each other. Clark traced nonsensical patterns in Whitney’s wheat-colored fuzz. Whitney didn’t look thirty-two. They had the serum to thank for that. Just as Clark didn’t look twenty-nine. Whitney’s face lost the last soft edges of boyishness years ago. Now, his face had sharp angles and even harder masculine lines, but Clark would swear forever that Whitney’s eyes looked different—tired, old, even a little defeated.
He opened his mouth to ask, but Whit took that moment to dive down, dropping his mouth to Clark’s lips, effectively silencing him. This was the kind of kiss that stole Clark’s breath, where Whitney showed every ounce of his training, seeking his target and manipulating it to his will. Clark’s tongue willingly obeyed Whit’s by tangling and following Whit’s lead as it tasted the cool mint of his breath.
Whit moved to his neck, his mouth alternating between biting and teasing suckling. Whit was hard at his hip, grinding down, while Clark pressed eagerly at his belly.
This morning felt slow. Mouths were given time to explore and taste, hands freedom to roam trails of skin that they’d memorized a thousand times, but each touch felt as electrifying as the first. There were no costumes or alternate identities when they did this. Just them, like the two boys they were years ago in the barn loft.
Clark’s hands were addicted to Whitney’s back. Muscles contracting and releasing like hot iron beneath velvet, Whit felt like possibilities. Clark got harder as Whit’s hands slid down his sides to finally land on his hips. The grip was strong and tight; firm enough that Clark could feel it and not worry that Whit would break.
There weren’t many clothes between them and they were gone rather quickly, tossed recklessly on the floor as they slid together. Limbs locked around each other as they shared the same breath. Clark held Whit tighter, touched more when one of Whitney’s hands broke away to find the lube. Whitney with his little caches all over the place made it easy to get up to this quite frequently.
And then, he tried to draw away. Clark followed, still sucking on Whit’s swollen bottom lip. Whit finally stopped him with a firm hand on the chest. Whitney hovered over him with lube in hand and an expectant look in his eyes.
Clark looked between Whitney and the lube, knowing he was missing something, an obvious observation that his sex-addled brain couldn’t quite process yet. “What?” he said raggedly.
Whitney held up a condom and tossed it to the side. “Only once.” The condoms had always been Whit’s rule and not Clark’s. He’d gone with it, because there was no way he was going to get the sex he wanted without it.
Clark nodded fervently, ignoring the apprehensive look in Whit’s eyes. He pulled Whit down and resumed the attack on his lips.
He shifted down and up, giving Whit better access. A long moan poured from his mouth when Whitney began to push inside. Nothing compared to having Whitney inside of him, opening and filling him with a sense of completion.
Clark rubbed that spot low in belly as if he could still feel that fire that had burned that day. And he’d never felt Whitney like this—without protection. First, Whit rocked up into him with slow and languorous thrusts, taking the whole ‘smooth is steady and steady is smooth’ motto quite literally. His slick fingers curled around Clark’s cock, just as he found that spot that made Clark’s vision go nova. Clark wouldn’t last long with the way Whitney touched and shifted deeper inside of him.
His skin was so hot. Breath felt like fire. There was a warring push and pull inside of him. His cock grew impossibly harder in Whit’s grip as he neared the precipice of coming, while he felt the relaxing tightness low in his stomach when he tried to pull Whit closer.
Whatever fire lay burning inside of him seemed to be galvanized by every second of Whitney straining in release. Clark followed and closed his eyes to keep the flames inside.
It never felt like that before. The heat that remained was comforting, though odd; he planned to tell Whit about it the next day.
But Whit told him he was sick the next day instead, so Clark never had a chance and never saw a good moment to say anything, not when Whit was steadily dying day by day. That was twelve weeks ago.
So Clark lay in bed with his hand slowly rubbing the patch of skin between his navel and the cache of dark curls below it and tried to stoke the flames that remained.
Whit’s dad died on a Tuesday. He was buried that Saturday.
The day of the funeral, the sky was a sickly grey color threatening to spill at any second, but holding off until they lowered Jack Fordman into the ground. He came with a sunflower in hand and dropped it in like all the rest; Whit’s eyes watched him the entire time. They held his in an even tighter focus when Lana slid over to Whitney and touched his arm. He did his best to shrug her off without seeming too rude. She gave him a piteous look.
Clark felt angry.
Whit looked uncomfortable.
He stood a ways back after the mourners had cleared away. Just out of reach of Whitney as the rain poured and Whitney said his final goodbyes. The moment felt prophetic, more so than Cassandra’s vision of him in the circle of graves. Whitney stood with shoulders stiffer than any board and his head dipped low.
“Whit.” Clark called over the steady rainfall.
A deep exhale drew Whitney up and his posture seemed to unfurl. “I’m ready.”
They rode separately to the Fordman house, Clark going with his parents while Whit traveled with his mother. The house was packed; making it seem like the entirety of Smallville had turned out, which was mostly true. At the house, he alternated between standing with his parents and Chloe and Pete.
He noticed the furtive glances Chloe sent his way, staunchly ignored her, and especially after Lana tried to break into the shoulder to shoulder huddle Whit’s teammates had formed around him. He gave her a polite smile, thanked her for coming and excused himself.
The rest of the evening was like this. Whitney held himself aloof and was friendly, but distant, as he thanked friends, family, and acquaintances for coming. He was every inch the man of the house and the sight made Clark’s heart ache for him.
Clark grudgingly left, despite Whitney telling him he was fine. But he was stubborn and he found himself still awake after midnight, his parents had long since gone to bed. He zipped over and stopped inside the Fordman’s yard. The light in Whitney’s room was the only one burning in the house.
He grabbed a handful of stones from Mrs. Fordman’s flowerbed and tossed them lightly at the window while hoping that he didn’t throw them too hard. After the third stone, Clark saw a shadow move on the wall behind the window. Whitney’s eyes landed on him and he smiled. He inclined his head towards the front door.
When Whitney opened the door, the darkness of the house seemed to overcome that of the natural nighttime sky. The door closed quietly behind them and they stood in silence. Finally, Whitney reached out, taking Clark’s hand in his own and pulled him up the stairs. They were even quieter as they passed Mrs. Fordman’s closed bedroom door.
Whitney’s room hadn’t changed much since Clark’s last visit, save for the suit jacket that lay haphazardly strewn over the desk chair. Trophies gleamed on almost every available surface, while the walls featured the determined and sometimes smiling faces of Whit’s athletic superstar heroes. Whit was still in his slacks and dress shirt, the top buttons were opened letting golden skin peek through and the tie that had hung around his neck had been abandoned.
Clark leaned against the closed door watching Whitney, who sat on the edge of his bed with his shoulders, slumped and head bowed. “He’s gone,” Whitney finally said.
“Yeah,” Clark replied.
Whit’s blue eyes rolled over the floor and reached Clark. “Everything seems so different now. It hardly seems right that I just go back to doing what I always do.”
Clark wasn’t sure what to say. How did you make someone feel better in the aftermath of the death of someone so important to them? “There’s nothing wrong with what you do, Whit. School’s almost over and I’m sure the teachers will be pretty laid back, considering everything that’s happened. When summer is here—” Whitney held out a hand, drawing Clark closer to him. Clark sat down beside him, close but not close enough as Whitney shifted over and brought their sides into flush contact. “When the summer’s here, you’ll …we’ll figure something out.”
An arm wound itself around Whit’s shoulder and he slid closer to Clark, absorbing his heat through the cotton of his t-shirt. “I wish we were there already. I wish I had a plan…or just didn’t feel like this.”
“It will get better every day.” Clark hesitated, but found himself buoyed by Whit’s arms wrapping around him in return. “I promise.”
Clark allowed Whitney to push him back on the bed and they turned on their sides to face each other. Clark could see Whit’s eyes gleaming with tears. “Whit—”he stroked Whit’s cheek.
Then Whitney was laughing softly. A deep genuine laugh that sprouted from his belly as tears leaked out of the corners of his eyes. He wiped them away with the back of his hand, but the pink tint haunted his crystal eyes. “I think I’ll be okay…But I’m awake now and the only way I see myself going to sleep…” He trailed off as his lips were quirked for more laughter.
“What do you need?” Clark questioned, seeing the mischievous glint in his boyfriend’s eyes.
First, Whitney drew their foreheads together, and then he dropped a kiss on Clark’s lips. “I need you to stay….We’ll just sleep,” he promised.
Clark nodded. The consequences would be worth it if he could bring Whitney some comfort. They lay side by side; Whitney still dressed in most of his suit and Clark in a t-shirt and sweatpants fell asleep with their arms wrapped around each other.
That was how Mrs. Fordman found them the next morning, though she never said a word to either about it.
Clark was verging on being a hermit. Hadn't left his house for days. Mostly, he migrated like a giant sloth from the bedroom to the living room and watched Whit's old movies, repeating the dialogue that used to make his eyes roll with Whit's wonderful and tireless recitations.
Sometimes, he'd gravitate towards the backyard and lay out in the sun, finding himself more satisfied by the light of the sun than food or water could make him.
He was a few breaths from reciting his own rendition of the Cool Hand Luke line of 'What we have here is a failure to communicate' when there was a knock on the door.
At first, he was going to ignore it, but then he looked back and saw the blue masses covering the windows above the front door and became curious.
Easily, he could have x-rayed the door, but he was still on his powered-down kick. He padded over to the door and opened it. Clark could only blink. Just blink...because there was a costumed man on his door step.
The man thrust a handful of strings attached to giant Superman and Captain America balloons.
“Can I help —you?" Clark stared at the man decked out in full red gear, even with the matching red arrow holder strapped across his face. He'd have to tell Roy how Hallmark had butchered his costume.
The Red Arrow wannabe pulled out a card. "Are you Clark Kent?" he asked in a flat voice. This was the type of job where you wanted to make other people as miserable as you were wearing costume.
"Yeah," Clark answered.
Clark looked at the giant assortment of primary-colored inflated sacks of helium and prayed he and Whit didn't look quite as swollen in real life as their balloon selves. The Arrow wannabe cleared his throat. "For you and here's your message." A moment of silence, then he opened his mouth. "Have A Super-Super Birthday! Have A Super-Super Birthday. Have A—"
"Thanks, that's enough." Clark began backing up, but the man was shaking his head and continued singing in a tired flat voice.
"No, really. You can stop."
The man frowned. "I have to finish the song."
Clark sighed, and allowed the man to finish two more rounds of Super-Super before he lost it and handed the man five bucks and sent him on his way.
Krypto backed away from him as he walked through the house.
The dog's eyes clearly screamed 'what the hell?'
"Tell me about it." Clark said as he tied them down.
When he turned over the card, his heartbeat instantly drummed in his veins at the sight of Whit's blunt script.
He returned to the couch, said goodbye to Cool Hand Luke, and slipped the envelope open.
He hadn't thought much of Whit's promise, but he had proof. Whit wasn't quite done with him yet.
Clark took a steadying breath and began to read.
Happy Birthday! I know you probably forgot without me there to remind you. I know you're moping too.
Then you're brooding, if you're not. Get up and shave. You're probably starting to look like a Sasquatch by now. A sexy Sasquatch— a distant member of Big Foot's family nonetheless.
There's a surprise coming and you need to look good. Not too good, because I don't want to start kicking ass from beyond the grave.
Any minute now and your surprise will be here.
—I don’t want to go out.
Tough, C. Tough. How many times did I have to surprise you at work or between rescues? You remember that one time in room on the Watchtower? Yeah, I remember.
—God, Whit...Now, I'm blushing.
This one is easy and I guarantee you'll like it. I'm just sorry I wasn't there to see you enjoy it.
Now cheer up! You're old now...just like me and I don't have feel so guilty for corrupting you. Have fun tonight or else...
—Really, Whit. You always think you know everything...But you didn't know about that batch of cookies my mom made for you a few years back....Nope, you didn't know.
Have fun, Clark....By the way I know about the cookies your mom made for me and you forgot to share, because you ate them. That's okay. I could tell how good they were just by kissing you.
Your poker face is still for shit and my super Whit powers are too much for you. Any minute now, you'll start feeling better. Now go, I'll have something else for you in a few days.
Remember, C, I love you.
Five minutes later, he was dressed in a starched dress shirt the color of ripe martini olives and crisp black pants. His hair was combed and slicked back, longer than it had been in years but it obeyed him on this rare occasion. The shirt really didn’t require cufflinks but considering that he was carrying out another one of Whit’s plans, he decided to wear Whit’s. They were silver, tiny coin faces that Jack Fordman had passed down to his son before he died.
Now they sat in Whitney’s unused bedside drawer and caused Clark to swallow around a lump in his throat. The weight of them at his wrists was comforting. Like Whitney’s shield, they felt like an impenetrable sheets of armor.
He was adjusting them one last time when his ears caught the sound of a light rapping on the front door, followed by a much more fervent pounding. He headed downstairs and was relieved to not see any more balloons filling the windows. The front door swung open just as Lois was gearing up for her second assault on his door.
“—Bout time, Smallville.” Lois did her best to look put upon, but the smile on her face was less annoyed and more excited.
Chloe rolled her eyes at her cousin’s antics. “We’re here. What’s next?”
Clark looked at the two, his brows knitting up in confusion. “I thought you guys knew the surprise?”
Chloe shook her head. Lois sighed loudly and pushed off the doorframe. “Look Smallville, I loved Whit, but getting cryptic requests from beyond the grave is a little too spooky for me.”
“He sent you letters too?” So for a second, he didn’t feel quite so special anymore and the feelings stung low in his belly. “He told me a surprise was coming.”
Chloe retrieved her letter from her purse. “Yeah, we’re supposed to meet here and help you—”
“On penalty of Whit haunting us forever, we’re supposed to help you make this a birthday you can’t forget.” Lois finished, but her gaze bore straight ahead and suddenly, she was chuckling lowly to herself. “Looks like the celebration already started.”
She bumped Chloe’s shoulder and brought her cousin’s attention to the massive float of balloons stalking Clark’s living room. “That’s some collection.” Chloe remarked.
Something impolite was on the tip of Clark’s tongue when a black Land Rover pulled up. The SUV looked like a chariot for the ridiculously rich. And Clark was suddenly saying, “Lex” before his former best friend emerged from the vehicle.
Lex rounded the car with a gait full of purpose. He looked up at Clark with a gaze that used to make Clark’s cheeks go instantly red under Lex’s blue steel scrutiny. “I believe the celebration can start. Let’s go.” Lex ordered; they followed. Even Lois remained quiet out of curiosity.
Sure enough, there was a blind fold that Chloe used to cover his eyes. He had to willfully control his breathing after realizing that he couldn’t see through it. He managed to go back to being completely calm when Chloe patted his shoulder and whispered in his ear, “It’s from Whit.”
Lead-lined blindfold and a mystery ride from Lex was enough to make him genuinely nervous. There was thirty minutes of driving followed by two sets of feminine hands guiding him from the front and Lex’s strong reassuring hand placed on the small of his back to steady him. A bell chimed as they entered a building and his nose was filled with familiar delicious smells.
Only after he was sitting with a laminated menu in his hands were his eyes uncovered. They were surrounded by the fifties literally and their waitress with her cat-eye glasses and spiraling beehive smiled sweetly at him. “So, you’re the Kent-Fordman party?”
She rolled away on her four wheeled roller-skates and returned with an overflowing tray laden with milkshakes and hot burgers and fries. “We didn’t order, Ma’am.”
The waitress smiled. “Don’t worry; it’s already been taken care of. Now, eat up before it gets cold.”
Neither Chloe, Lois, or Lex look all that surprised. It was interesting to see Lex chow down on a burger and fries, because it was just so…normal, plebian by Lex standards, but he seemed to enjoy it and didn’t complain one bit.
“You ready for the next bit.” The waitress appeared right as they were finishing the last of their food and swept the empty dishes off the table like a true veteran. She rolled away and their chitchat only mildly resumed, because she was back with at least five other waitresses, two of which were helping her carry the largest pie he’d ever seen with thirty candles burning on top.
They set their ponderous load on the table and took a few breaths before breaking into their marvelous rendition of Elvis’ Burning Love. Clark’s cheeks burned on principle. When the group finished, the Oldies Café erupted into massive applause. Their waitress instructed him to blow out his candles and then laid a box wrapped in Captain America paper on the table.
Clark looked at the box and reached for it, though his hand trembled. Chloe patted him on the shoulder. It didn’t bother him that they saw him like this. Whatever lay inside the box was just one more thing that could keep him close to Whit.
“You should open it later.” Lex urged. Clark held his gaze and decided to trust him.
Somehow, they made room for some of the mammoth All-American Birthday Pie Special. It was blueberry, cherry, strawberry, rhubarb, and vanilla and tasted like everything that ever made him happy.
He realized he was happy. Surrounded by two good friends and one old one, Clark had managed to find a bit of peace that had abandoned him in the disquieting weeks. Even after he convinced Chloe, Lois, and Lex to take some pie and he was still left with far too much, he still felt good. The package that waited for him filled him with a hopefully anticipation too.
As the afternoon faded into night and they followed Lex’s direction, because he was the only one who had been privy to Whit’s plans, they danced, drank, and watched fireworks over Metropolis Harbor. There was enough action during the night that Chloe and Lois might have decided to call into work the next morning. Lex was the boss and could easily take a mental health day.
After Lex dropped him off and Clark promised they’d do something the next day, Clark curled up with another slice of pie with the package in his lap. He’d kicked off his shoes, undid his collar and rested against the pillows as Krypto lay across his feet. The wrapping and ribbon fell away and he opened the box to reveal a tape recorder.
That night, Clark went to sleep with Whit’s voice in his ear.
His eyes grew heavy when Whit’s voice began to drawl just a little. “Remember when—”
Clark always did.
Chapter 3: Three
Clark didn’t want to ask what now, but the question seemed to be looming. With the Spring Dance looming a couple of days away and graduation two weeks after that, Clark wasn’t sure what Whit’s future plans were. He was itching to know in light of his own drama.
All of it arising from Lex and Lana.
Lex with his questioning eyes and subtle prodding.
Lana and her sudden desire to be close to Clark with her millions of thanks and their accidental meeting in the cemetery. Now she seemed to float around him, like a ghost that made its presence known at the most inappropriate times, and he was suddenly uncomfortable and nervous.
Then there was Whit, and Clark was doing his best. His parents hadn’t given him too much flak for sneaking out of the house, but they had reined in some of his free time with Whit as a consequence. And Whitney seemed to understand; he was making it a little more every day.
Whitney threw himself headlong into running the store after school, and working seemed to fill the void that might have been otherwise spent thinking about his father and the should- have-could-have possibilities that he never said or did with his father.
His jock buddies came around, made Fordman’s an unofficial hangout spot, and their efforts made Whitney smile. When it was time for closing, Clark would come around. He always ran, stopping just short of being seen by anyone. He’d hover mostly, suddenly feeling big and ungainly, but Whit swore that he wasn’t in the way, instead saying he was happy that Clark was there.
Clark never felt like he was doing enough.
There wasn’t a sense of a complete resolution. Not like with Ryan or Lex. Watching Whitney heal was like watching ice reseal its fissures after a sudden patch of heat in the middle of winter. Whitney didn’t talk about it. Didn’t tell Clark how much he missed his dad, he just gripped Clark’s hand tighter and gave him a look that was filled with words for which there was no language, only instinctual understanding.
So they slipped into this routine and it was the only thing vaguely normal for either of them in the last weeks of school. Whitney worked and Clark came by at the dawn of the evening, and they would ride over to the Fordman house, where Mary was always happy to have Clark over for dinner. She’d been nicer to him ever since the funeral. Clark couldn’t figure out why, but he appreciated it. Other times, Whitney drove them out to the farm and they had dinner with Clark’s parents. They’d go up to the loft, watch the sunset, and stay close.
Not as close as they usually were, because the loft had too much open space and secrets couldn’t be whispered there, more like shouted or like launching rocket shells. There were close calls with Chloe and Pete and even once with Lana, but none of those times left a lingering feeling like Lex did. The way Lex’s blue-grey eyes swept over them made Clark shiver, because they possessed too much knowing, as if Lex could see through the walls—inside of them and know exactly what it was that they were doing, what they were feeling.
Their relationship was comfortable and it seemed to just be. Clark was happy. Whitney was returning there soon enough. Clark liked that he could make Whitney happy. Loved it, in fact.
It was Saturday, six days away from the Spring Dance for the underclassmen, Prom the night after for juniors and seniors, and two and half weeks until graduation. It was midmorning and Clark for once had nowhere and nothing pressing beyond the usual chores. So he stood on the metal fence surrounding the grazing pasture, watching his favorite cows chew away on cud and Clark thought about the simple lives of dairy cows. There was no stress, no problems.
He tried not to sigh as he rested his head on the sun-warm red gate. He heard the truck approaching before he saw it; the heavy hemi engine roared even as it cruised down the gravel drive towards the Kent house. Clark turned and smiled as it stopped and Whitney climbed out.
Clark leaned lazily on the gate with his arms spread. Whitney looked as good as ever with his button-down shirt beneath his Crows jacket. Just looking at him made Clark feel grungy. Whitney sidled up to him at the fence and tried hard to not wrinkle his nose at the smell. He was getting better with every trip.
“I thought you were working today?” Clark asked.
Whitney shook his head quietly. “I wanted the day off and we already had enough people covering the store.” His blue eyes darted away from Clark’s and back to the field. “You busy?”
Clark shrugged and began pulling off his work gloves, which were mostly for appearance sake. “Not really. You want to do something?”
Whit shifted sluggishly while a lone hand trailed up to his hair and scratched the back of his head ideally as his gaze lingered on the cattle. “Yeah, if you want I can go ask your mom, while you finish up…that is.” Clark touched Whitney’s arm, which caused Whit’s attention to be drawn once more to Clark.
“You okay?” Clark’s eyes radiated concern and Whit seemed to thaw beneath his gaze, relinquishing whatever had him tied up in knots.
“I—yeah, I am. Just a lot on my mind.” Clark rubbed Whitney’s forearm gently. Whit’s hand dropped on his own. “I’ll go ask and you finish up.” After the sneaking away incident, Whitney and Clark had to ask permission to take little trips together. It was an exercise in gaining trust, though Clark found it strange that Whitney wanted to ask, because Clark always did.
He finished his chores quickly, fighting the desire to use his speed to move things along further, and kept his thoughts on spending time with Whitney. His work gloves were deposited on the work table in the barn, and he turned and saw Whitney leaning against wood beam waiting for him on the porch.
When Whitney was walking over that was when Clark was conscious of how he looked; suddenly feeling grungy and dirty. He made a half attempt to tame his curling hair by running his fingers through it and placing his faith in sheer hope alone that it would settle down. Dusted off his t-shirt and jeans vigorously to cast off any of the ambient dirt from the farm and his chores; Whitney threw an amused look his way. Leaned in, drawing his nose up the side of Clark’s neck very slowly—almost bringing out a combination of ticklish giggles and hot and bothered signs, when Clark was close enough.
“Don’t worry about it. Your mom said you could go.” Whitney drew away from Clark’s neck.
Clark’s face was alight with heat and there was no way he could blame it on the sun. “Okay.” He managed to say.
Whitney was off the porch and across the yard in a few strides; Clark met him beside the truck. “Where are we going?”
“—Just taking a little ride.” Something in Clark’s gut said otherwise. Whitney started the truck and they pulled away from the Kent farm fairly quickly.
As they passed the LuthorCorp plant, Clark saw Whitney flinch at the sight of the field beside it. The scarecrow was still a hot button issue between them. Clark wanted to forgive and forget, but Whitney still harbored this need to be punished and reminded that he could have potentially killed Clark. And at this moment, he’d rather not start the argument all over again, so he blurted something else that might have been just as inappropriate. “I think Chloe wants me to take her to the dance.”
He watched Whitney’s brow lift speculatively before his face was once again a normal mask with eyes staunchly focused on the road. “Are you going to take her then?” Whitney asked the question with the tone that made it seem like they’re just two friends shooting the breeze.
The tone made Clark want to be reckless. “I don’t know…What do you think?” The truck pulled off the paved road and began down the dirt path that was a long abandoned way to navigate the town’s limits. Clark watched Whitney, who just shrugged in response, so Clark turned away and looked out the window as the land transitioned from open fields to the tall clutches of ancient trees that insulated their little corner of the world. As Clark watched, he missed seeing Whitney’s knuckles grip the wheel until they were burning white at the tops or the diamond tightness of his jaw.
A grunt emerged from Whit’s direction. He tried to find his words, so he grunted again. “Well…you know she likes you, right?”
Clark snapped around to stare at him. The look of disbelief on his face would have been incredulous if it hadn’t been true. “She does not. Chloe’s—”
“Did she ask Pete?”
Clark though for a moment, realizing he either didn’t know or she hadn’t; Pete hadn’t said anything to him. “I don’t know.” The truck stopped in front of a cluster of trees and Whitney was already outside before Clark could add more. “Probably…You know Pete. He has a ton of girls that he’s chasing or are chasing him.”
Whit leaned against the truck with arms folded defensively over his chest. “It’s obvious to everyone, but you that she’d love to be tucked under those great big arms of yours. I just want you to be able to handle whatever happens when she gets too attached.”
If Whit was right, could he handle having Chloe wanting to be closer to him. It wouldn’t be fair to her, because she was only a friend in his eyes, Whit was already his boyfriend and Pete had a serious crush on Chloe. That much he already knew. “So I won’t go to the dance.”
“Go if you want to, Clark. I’m not trying to stop you…I just want you to think.” Whit looked at him with old eyes that peered at him with far too much wisdom. The way Clark wanted to shrug and sigh spoke of his immaturity. “Whatever, Clark. That’s not why I brought you up here.”
Shrugging as he looked at his feet nestled in the soft grass, Clark offered, “I’ll tell her no. It’s not like I really want to go… Can’t dance anyway and couldn’t go with you.” Whit smiled sadly at that last part.
Clark looked around and finally took stock in where they were. They were in the valley that started at the edge of the woods and sat high enough for them to look down on the whole town. “My dad used to bring us here,” Whit brought up as they climbed to the top. “Always liked it, because it cleared his head and put things into perspective.”
“It’s beautiful.” Clark had only been up there a few times. After getting lost in the woods once with cache of meteor rocks when he and Pete were little had spoiled him on venturing this far out.
Whit was looking at him. “Yeah, it is.” Then, he pulled Clark down to sit beside him. “Seeing this puts everything in focus.”
Clark kept Whit’s fingers tangled with his own, though Whit tried to pull away. “What’s wrong?”He leaned against Whit, bringing them into maximum contact.
“Nothing…Nothing is actually wrong for once, which is kind of funny.” He faced Clark, ran his hands down Clark’s shoulders and arms until they settled over Clark’s hands and he watched their fingers twine together. “I just have a solution is all.”
“So, you made up your mind about school?” Whitney had been accepted into Central Kansas, Met U, Gotham U, and a few others that were all far away. Clark knew it was selfish to hope that Whitney would go to Central Kansas, because they’d been truly able to continue their relationship without an issue of distance.
Whitney held his gaze steadily. “Actually, I decided to not go to school.” A beat passed. A strong gust swept through the valley and Whit’s next words didn’t quite penetrate, because of the distraction. “I’m going to the marines instead.” Whit repeated in one sure breath.
“Really?” There was immediate and palpable disappointment and the sudden feeling of having a train go off the rails in Clark’s stomach. “This is what you want?” Of all the things Whit could have said, this wasn’t what Clark had expected in any way.
Whit nodded in confirmation, a serene smile cutting across his face. “I think this will make me happy. It’s what I want, Clark.”
Clark couldn’t begrudge Whit’s happiness, even if he didn’t like the idea. “Okay,” Clark rejoined softly. “Then I’ll have to support your decision.”
The sadness in Clark’s voice was unmistakable. Whitney drew them close together, just as he started in on kissing Clark’s neck before nuzzling his cheek. “Are you saying that because you’re okay with my decision or what?” He drew their foreheads together and reveled in the softness of Clark’s skin.
“I don’t know, Whit. Doesn’t seem like I have much choice in the matter.” Clark half whispered into Clark’s mouth.
“You do, because—” Whit trailed off.
“Because.” Clark repeated, waiting for Whitney to give him something else. He held the sides of Whitney’s face in his hands and brought their gazes together.
Whitney took a deep breath. “Because I’m leaving on Friday for basic training…”Clark found himself pulling away, because Friday was six days away and that was way too soon. He wasn’t ready to let Whitney go. “And I want to know if you’ll wait for me.”
With the way that things had been and the way Whitney made him feel, Clark could see the answer was obvious. Yeah, Whit was leaving, but he still wanted this—wanted them to be together. And Clark wanted that too. “Whit, I can wait.”
When he was sixteen, he couldn’t imagine anyone else but Lex being his best friend. Ten years ago, he would have said that he and Lex needed time to reevaluate their friendship. Five years ago, Lex was just another one of the cities’ industry scions that Clark would attend press conferences for or run into at gala events.
It was strange to see Metropolis from so high and not be able to feel the wind on his skin as he did so. He reached out and touched the cool glass that separated him, and could feel the wind as it furled his cape, but then he drew back remembering he hadn’t flown in months. Not since Whit’s sickness started.
“It’s a beautiful view.” Lex couldn’t have been standing behind him too long, but Clark was too deep in thought to realize anyway. Still his eyes tracked the cityscape, a smile spread across his face when his eyes landed of the glittering globe rotating on the roof of the Daily Planet.
“Then again, it’s the tallest building in the city and LexCorp couldn’t find itself situated anywhere else.”
A millennium seemed to have passed since he worked there and walked the streets with Lois digging up stories and elucidating the inner angles to events seeming too mundane to the general public to care about.
Clark turned away from the window, the slight smile at his lips reached his eyes and he chuckled, voice scratchy and slightly rough to his ears. “The good denizens of Metropolis wouldn’t expect any less of its flagship of industry.”
Lex laughed. An honest to god laugh erupted from his lips as he strode across the room to stand by Clark’s side, gaze not breaking a second from Clark’s. “Sharp and witty—journalism has been good to you.” He paused as his eyes roved Clark’s face. “But you were always smart.”
“Just not witty,” Clark added.
“Sometimes no,” Lex gestured towards the spacious living area that looked like it was the crowning jewel in an exclusive new modern showroom in the heart of Manhattan. It had the same deep colors—black leather and slate grey steel and glass. Lex’s colors.
“I figured the best way to catch up would involve doing what we always did.”
Lying, hiding secrets, and sometimes abandoning each other, Clark thought. From the momentary furrowing of Lex’s brow, Clark’s thoughts must not have been as secretive as he would have liked. “I was just thinking of the eternal debate—pool or video games?”
The rocky moment passed without further incident, because Lex was laughing again. “Have I taught you nothing? Video games, Clark. No, they are gaming systems. We have long since transcended the days of pong.”
Before taking a seat on the long black sofa, Clark bowed facetiously and nearly scolded himself for not remembering. The long debates from days gone by had carried on late into the late before and after he and Whitney had fallen into their relationship, which was also before Lex started placing enough distance between them to erect a second Great Wall of China.
His hands went up in surrender. “I’m not ready to lose that badly, so let’s play a game.”
“So, you’re only in the mood to lose badly.” Clark rolled his eyes. “Just checking, “Lex clarified as he passed over the controls for the newest Playstation.
Lex turned on the system and the massive wall covering flat-screen television. “Mrs. Benson, do you remember her?” He asked without looking at Clark.
Clark hadn’t forgotten any of Lex’s staff after the Amy incident. Mrs. Benson was a sweet widow, who had taken a job at the castle and lived with her parentless grandchildren. He’d sometimes tutored the kids when he’d made deliveries and in return, she always had something sweet for waiting for him no matter when he visited Lex. She’d also earned a special place from him, because she made sure Lex ate at least twice every day.
Clark finished typing his name into the screen and replied, “How could I forget Mrs. Benson? Her strudel and brownies are legendary.” The utter joy in Clark’s voice did something to Lex’s stomach, just like it always had. Clark didn’t know that though, probably never would.
“I knew you only liked me for the baked goods I could provide.” Lex lamented with a sarcastic slyness.
Shaking his head, Clark pressed the buttons on the control with minimal pressure and bit of extra speed to counter Lex’s attacks. “That’s not true. It was the cars and your random historical lectures. I may not have passed without ‘em.” Lex bumped Clark’s arm in response.
They settled into light conversation, mostly focusing on the various games that Lex whipped out. Sometimes, Clark just fawned over the games that he’d wanted to play for some time or hadn’t hit the market yet.
The afternoon passed quickly and it was so routinely them. They avoided the controversial issues in their relationship and Whitney and stuck close the mundane. Lex elected to feed him after their first four Playstation games. The act of eating and complimenting the food kept them steered far enough away from rough issues, though Clark hadn’t been all that hungry. But it couldn’t last forever and it was pool that spilled all their problems into the open.
“What are you going to do now?” Lex asked as he lined up his shot and sank a striped ball into the pocket. He rounded the table, glancing at Clark quickly before leaning over to make the shot again.
Another ball in the pocket and Clark stood with the stick resting beneath his chin. “I’m still thinking about it.”
Lex was smooth. His movements were fluid as the muscles on his back bunched and released to put enough momentum behind the ball to sail across the table and sink again for a point.“If you need any help—” he began to offer.
It had been a long time since he’d taken Lex’s help and that stubborn fire in his belly flared and spoke in a voice that sounded an awful lot like his father. “Thanks, Lex, but I think I can manage.” Lex missed the shot, ball bumping errantly off the sides of the table, and then Lex stood up, giving Clark his full attention.
Clark had already taken his shot when Lex began to speak. “You can only mourn so long before you become mired in the pain.”
“Pardon me, Lex, but I think you’re the last person who should be giving me advice about losing my husband.”
“I lost my mother as a child, Clark, and my father—” Lex prowled around the table and stopped short of Clark, leaning on a corner. “We may not have been close, but he was family…and losing him hurt. What you and Whitney had—”
“Don’t, Lex. Just don’t.” Clark warned in a strained voice. Lex didn’t know anything about him and Whitney, because Lex had refused to be a part of Clark’s life after he and Whitney had taken the final step. “You’ve never lost someone…someone that became your reason for waking up in the morning. Someone who made you smile without trying. Then you have to watch them decline…”
Lex’s eyes flashed with anger and cold fire. Righteous anger always looked great on Lex, even if Clark was swept up in his own tides of fury. “I lost someone who did all of that.” Lex punctuated sharply. “And I watched my mother suffer needlessly and die while I was powerless to do anything. I can blame many of my mistakes on being lost and then spiraling out of control. I wouldn’t want the same to happen to you, Clark. You are my best friend—”
Clark held back a laugh; it if it had poured out of him, it would have been bitter and harsh, unnecessarily hurtful to them both. “Still, Lex?” Clark dropped the pool cue on the gorgeous felt. “If you treated me like that and I’m your best friend, I’d hate to see how you treated your enemies.”
Lex crossed his arm over his chest. “I deserved that.” He regarded Clark with a look that was less angry, but more on guard as he waited for Clark to make his next move. “Not a day goes by that I don’t regret having pushed you away.”
A deep wounded breath flowed out of Clark. “You have a funny way of showing it, Lex.”
“I was hurt. Basically, I couldn’t understand how my best friend could trust me with the biggest secret on the planet and not with the simple fact that he was in love deep enough to rush off and get married.”
Life before Whitney had come back for good was like playing Double Dutch, because his movements and lies had to be fluid and his secrets were divided between his friends. Pete and Lex had his alien heritage in mind. Chloe knew about Whitney. Usually, the two topics never crossed, but when they did, Clark always found himself skating a perilous slope as a result. “That last part was as sudden for me as it was for you.” Clark candidly admitted. He mirrored Lex’s body language, leaned on the pool table and loosely folded his arms over his chest. “Why did you stop, Lex?” He sighed and the air that escaped from his belly hurt from all the compressed tension inside.
They had forgiven each other or so Lex had said. It was Belle Reve that had done it. Had finally made them realize how much they needed each other, how much they could do together. Sometimes when he thought about Lex, Clark could imagine a future where he wasn’t scared of himself for being different, one where he was accepted all the way around. Then Lex dropped him.
Silence settled around him, the kind that buzzed when interrupted. “Do you remember that one time when I was literally split in half: good Lex and bad Lex.”
His years in Smallville had prepared him for anything. Having Lex split into virtually good Lex and bad Lex had been just one of the many trials that had encountered during his teenage misadventures. “How can I forget? You were chained up and Alexander roamed free and tried to maul me in the loft?”
“What?” This was the first he’d ever heard about such an assault. From Clark’s look in his direction, Lex knew asking further questions about the encounter would be beside the point. “The rift made me realize that you knew virtually everything about me and the same could be same for you until a point and that was Whitney. Having you in my life filled so many voids, Clark. When you married Whitney, it felt like he’d already taken you away and I was only waiting for you to start drifting away and leaving me alone again.”
Clark slide closer to Lex and held his gaze. Lex’s honesty radiated from his eyes, and Clark just shook his head in mild disbelief. “So, you left me first? Lex…you’re an idiot.” Then Clark laughed. So authentic and cathartic.
And Lex stared at him until he found his cool resolve breaking under the absurdity of the situation. “I wouldn’t have left you anymore than I would have left Chloe or Pete. Hell, even Lois.” Lex knew Clark was right. Forgive him if his heart was fragile and he’d loved Clark far too long and hard to see him be happy with a man that wasn’t him. The majority of his strategy had been about denial; Clark didn’t know that and Lex would keep it that way.
Lex too moved closer to Clark. Their shoulders barely touched, but he could feel the heat pouring off Clark’s body in waves just as it had always done. “I’d like to try again. Be the friend you need at a time like this and maybe have you be the friend that I needed for these last ten plus years.”
A pensive expression crossed Clark’s face as he considered the offer. “We can do that.” He bent low to sink another shot. His eyes trained intensely on the colored balls scattered on the felt. Lex watched Clark strike the cue ball with such light force that the resulting pocketing of three balls shouldn’t have seen likely.
As Clark righted himself, with smile in place, it was obvious that his pool skills had improved immensely in their years of separation. “See that was easy and you didn’t even have to ply me with baked goods.”
Their pool game resumed itself as if it had never been interrupted.
Lonely. So absolutely freaking lonely. No one ever expected to be spending the middle of their summer alone. All his friends had literally fled town: one on a family trip, another on an internship, and the last on a mission trumped up by his father to put him one step closer to conquering the world.
The Talon had been his only refuge from his mother’s efforts to cheer him up. He’d already sliced all the apples for her pies for the farmer’s market and the community center’s midsummer fundraiser. Not that she hadn’t taught him how to make the perfect natural crust. Clark would never call his mother a snob, in spite of her Metropolis upbringing, but she absolutely scorned store-bought crusts and anyone’s attempt to pass them off as homemade. One more rant about how Mrs. Smith was like eating cardboard and he’d put a massive dent in the kitchen counter after banging his head into it repeatedly.
So he’d gone out to the mail box, as per usual, only earlier to escape his mother’s unintended torture. His spirit automatically soared; Whit had sent a letter—two actually. The first was a general wrap-up of his last few days in basic. Whit was clearly shooting the breeze with the way he described his platoon mates and superiors at great length. Clark already felt like he knew some of these guys like old friends. The other letter folded so many times, it seemed like the folder’s intent had been to make it disappear in space and time.
He was so gentle as he unfolded all of the diamond tight creases. This letter was meant for the loft, had even said so on the outside of the last fold. The loft was their place. It offered them privacy and security. Not as much as Whit’s room or Clark’s, but the parental units had always seemed to materialize whenever they tried to sneak away for more. Their parents never understood that. Though, Whit’s mother always smirked to herself whenever she stopped them.
After only having read the first two lines and his face was already aflame with heat and excited blood brought on by Whit’s words. Though Chloe was pestering and hogtying Clark into helping the Torch, she’d hamstring Whit if she knew how well he could write.
Not like she would ever get her hands on these letters.
The letter weighed so heavy in his back pocket, its presence was more apparent as he slipped into an empty booth. He’d have to be so careful with it. His newest freaky trick had almost annihilated his new science teacher, who became Mrs. Luthor for a few days, his friends, his parents, and Whit’s letters. He’d been so afraid to open his eyes, scared that he’d accidentally hurt someone. If he had hurt someone, then he would have really felt like a monster. His father had placed his hands on Clark’s shoulders, steered him towards the empty pasture and waited and coached him until he’d regained control.
It had been the most frightening experience of his life. The lack of control and thought of living his life with his eyes closed filled his gut with a sick gnawing sense of terror.
Reading the second letter was a stutter and stop operation with him turning away from the letter until the heat in his eyes could back off. But Whitney’s voice was steady, so calm and real in his mind. “—Get weak in the knees whenever you look at me…Dream about you every night.”
He couldn’t let himself get too hot and bothered.
It was so hard when Whit wrote, “I’m counting the days until I’m back…Did you know you smell like sunshine? I hadn’t realized that until I tried to describe you to someone else. Never thought I could miss something so little so much, but I do. Not long now and I’ll be home.”
The fact that Whit missed him made him more hurt, a different kind that was colored by loneliness. Yet when Whit finished his letter with, “I know this was the right choice now…My only real choice.” Clark felt a little relief, because this had to happen to bring Whit closure and new path in life.
The boyfriend and alien spheres of his life hadn’t mixed until now. He could talk to Chloe about the boyfriend, which had come as a result of Chloe’s well-meaning intrusion that let a skeleton from Lionel’s past into his life and crushed the brief hope for Lex that he and Clark were truly destined to be something great together as brothers. In the end, he was under Lionel’s gaze, Lex was almost killed again, and the trust between he and one his best friends was tenuous at best.
She wouldn’t allow it to stay that way and had cornered him and forced him to go with her to the Torch’s office. He hadn’t planned to forgive her yet, had planned to brood and stew over it until he was no longer angry, but Chloe’s tenacious spirit and love for the friendship wouldn’t allow her to wait.
Chloe had the first move and usual; her words though were surprising. “You never share anything, Clark.” She gave him a look that was tinged in pity. “And most people would want to know why their parents abandoned them. At least, I would,” she admitted.
Chloe had only told him once about her mother leaving her and her father, but he’d heard enough rumors and whispered speculation as to why the city girl had no mother after Chloe first moved to town. Maybe it was because he knew he was adopted at the time that he didn’t press her like everyone else. Instead, he understood internally and focused on being a good friend instead. Now he could understand why she would breach his privacy, even if the idea of someone other than his parents knowing all of his secrets terrified him.
He heaved a defeated sigh. Lying was the only way out of this, because he would still have to perform some minimal evasion at least, but he could at least start out with the truth. “I don’t need to know who my parents are, because they’re Jonathan and Martha Kent. Maybe, I don’t want to know about the people that could abandon a three year old on the side of the road…I’m lucky my parents—” he emphasized, “—came along when they did.”
Chloe’s eyes widened, mouth working silently with questions suddenly bursting forth at his revelation. “I didn’t know, Clark…I never knew your parents had found you.”
He shrugged, stared at his enormous feet. “It’s the type of thing you really don’t want to share.” He looked at her from under his overgrown bangs, reminding him to take up his dad on his offer to give him a haircut. “I get why you would want to help me, Chlo, but my parents love me and I love them. And—” She saw the trust and openness in his gaze, which allowed him to give her this part of himself.
“And they accept me.”
Chloe’s smile was fragile, reminding him of flower petals at the end of summer. “What’s to accept about good old Clark Kent?”
His gaze found interest in the floor and his feet again while he rubbed at an old stain above his knee on his jeans. “For one thing my gigantic appetite, which Lex swears would bankrupt a small country.” She chuckled in agreement. “The other is my boyfriend to go with all my teenage angst.”
“Oh, I…“ Chloe found words escaping her. She tapped that spot on his knees and drew his eyes to hers, support radiated from her big doe eyes. “Well, I guess I figured…but there was no proof...and you’d stopped talking about Lana…but then I thought you were just being a nice guy by not going after her or taking me to the dance because you saw it as a mistake.”
Clark hugged her suddenly as guilt coursed through him. “We’ve been together since January and if he wasn’t around and you wouldn’t mind your feet being trampled by my giant flippers, then we could have gone to the dance. As for Lana, I can’t remember the last time I thought of her that way.”
He flashed a megawatt grin her way. Relief was clear on Chloe’s face. “Thanks.” When she smiled back at him, she looked like the regular confident Chloe Sullivan and he felt better because of it. “He must be some great kind of guy.”
“I think so.”
She squeezed him close again and said into his shoulder, “Thanks…for trusting me. It means a lot.”
Not long after, he virtually did the same thing with Pete. Except Pete got the “I’m an alien” talk. Pete had been a spectacular hostage and second ever more awed that his best friend was a super powerful alien. Pete was the first person to make his abilities seem like something natural like a talent or a trait, instead of being a burden. He’d never felt more normal.
He hadn’t seen much of Lex since the tornado, even less since the marriage and nearly fatal separation from the first Mrs. Luthor. Yeah, Clark’s dad nearly shooting Lex and the fact that Clark was the only male immune to Desiree’s kiss put even more strain on the thin wall of secrets between them.
His overly complicated-named and overpriced strawberry milkshake was set in front of him and Clark snapped out of this thoughts, because beyond the heaping of ultra rich whipped cream on the pink drink was Lana. The way her lips firmed such a perfect pink grin, the sight could have been likened to the miracle of clouds paring in the sky to release sunshine. Any man would hear the sound of his blood pumping and the song of cherubs.
The effect had worn off on Clark and like with Desiree; he found himself totally immune.
He mumbled, “Hey…thanks,” unsure of why she was still hovering.
“Mind if I sit?” She sat before he could answer and he simply nodded in acquiescence.
“Not at all,” he said as she stared back at him with her brightest grin in place again. Having her in front of him was actually rather weird, considering she hadn’t gone out of her way to talk to him since he’d helped her get the Talon.
“We don’t talk much, we should.” Lana’s gaze crawled over his skin. The pressure and heat was almost incendiary as if she was the one with heat vision.
It seemed they were on the same wavelength. “True.”
“Clark,” she shifted closer against the table, bringing her folded arms beneath her chest, making her small breasts protrude immensely against her pink top. “I consider us friends,” she said in a semi-purr.
“And I know you’re also friends with Whitney. That’s why I can understand if you don’t want to answer my questions.”
Suddenly, he felt a spark of anger boil low in his belly. The months spent feeling bad for her were quietly mutating into something more visceral and sickeningly green like jealousy. “He is my friend. So yeah, I wouldn’t want to betray his trust.”
She flipped her hair over her shoulder and it flowed down like a raven curtain, and she tilted her head just so, exposing the delicate line of her neck. “I know. Just a question or two,” she rejoined breathily.
Clark grimaced in discomfort.
“Does he ever talk about me?”
Clark scrambled to think. He couldn’t exactly tell her ‘no.’ There was an indignant part that wanted to yell and make her realize that Whit had moved on since their break up. Unfortunately, a voice that sounded an awful lot like his father and Lex entered his head and he found himself sounding more diplomatic than his seventeen years.
“I think he’s trying to move on. You guys broke up a while ago now and with everything he’s gone through this year; I think Whit’s trying to do what’s best for him. “
Her peculiar cat-colored eyes narrowed on him with extreme focus. “So, there is someone else?”
“I didn’t say that,” Clark blurted with blood coloring his cheeks. “Whit has a lot on his mind.”
“I bet he does. He hasn’t really talked to me since we broke up.” She sighed. “It’s like he thinks I can smell it on him.”
“You’ve broken up, Lana.” He tried to reiterate without being rude. “Why does it matter?”
She gave him a pitying smile. Her eyes had a predatory gleam. “It’s just morbid curiosity, I guess. I want to know what he thinks is better than what he had.” The ice in her tone was gone just as suddenly and she smiled so pleasantly at him. “Gotta get back to work. I’ll be seeing you, Clark.”
He didn’t doubt her on that, even if the idea didn’t seem as enchanting as it once did.
He stared at all his old files. Short stories and novels all done and waiting to be published as soon as he found the time or the focus to call his publisher. Writing had always been the one thing he could turn to when times were rough. It started with Whitney’s letters and gradually transitioned into him writing thoughts to put in his letters or just things he wanted to remember for later. The skill grew with him being pressed into service. Then, he started fleshing out his ideas, mostly things that were semi-autobiographical, though no one save a select few knew that the sci-fi and futuristic stories he wrote were based on his life.
Sometimes, Whit inspired him. He never grew tired of writing about Whit’s transition from ordinary man-hero in Clark’s eyes, to a near immortal the likes of Achilles. Whitney became more, because he could and not because he had to. The first time Clark saw Whit in his uniform he laughed so hard, he cracked one of the floorboards while he was rolling on the floor. Whitney had had the audacity to laugh at his fashion sense, despite Clark’s argument that his uniform came from traditional colors from his family, while Whitney only had the government to blame for his garish fashion faux pas.
Inspiration would be hard to find now with his muse being gone.
The phone rang at the end of the melancholy thought.
“I need your assistance.”
“Manor. Now.” Bruce was never overly polite when a simple order would do.
Clark hung up the phone, futilely considering disobeying Bruce’s command, but the thought of missing something important and someone getting hurt because of him forced him to go anyway.
He’d simply worry that Whit’s next letter would sit lonely in the mailbox until he returned. If he made the trip fast then the last worry would resolve itself quickly.
He scratched the top of Krypto’s head and said, “You’ll get the letter, right boy?” Krypto barked happily in reply.
Wayne Manor was always ominous at first sight. With its Gothic architecture, it looked like the bedrock of the 1700s with its gargoyles and dark promises to crush intruders. If one was brave enough to look beyond the stone façade, they might be lucky to encounter the loyal Alfred Pennyworth, who had been likened to Cerberus by the Gotham Gazette.
The reporter’s bias was based on Alfred’s pesky ability to prevent guests from snooping during parties.
The large dark wood door laden with classic etchings opened as soon as Clark approached, thereby solidifying the belief in Alfred’s omnipotence.
“Master Kent.” There was general surprise in Alfred’s tone.
“Alfred.” Clark had long since stopped insisting Alfred call him Clark, but he did offer the man a hug to spite the man’s formal training.
Alfred warmly returned the embrace, releasing Clark slowly; his demeanor had sobered. “I’ve been of a mind to send Master Bruce with something for you.”
Clark grinned as they walked into the manor. “You know how much I love your cookies. They in themselves make me grateful that I can’t get fat.”
He patted Clark’s shoulder lightly and the hand remained there, turning into a guiding force. “I know for a fact they have curative properties, even if they are short term.” Alfred’s eyes glanced from side to side cheekily. “They have managed to make Master Bruce stop brooding temporarily,” he stage-whispered.
They walked through the halls; every wall was laden with antiques, monuments to the long and proud Wayne heritage. Clark’s grin wasn’t so tight when he passed them now. He no longer had bittersweet churnings of loss for his home world or the House of El.
He didn’t pay them any attention now, as he had grown fond of the manor just as he had with Lex’s castle.
Clark tried to hide a sudden chuckle beneath a cough and earned an amused look from Alfred along the way. He was the only person he knew who could count some of his best friends as inhabitants of castles, manors, towers, mythical islands, and high-tech-living houses. Clark could hear Robin Leech in a jaunty voice proclaiming new times on the Super-powered and Famous—From The Batcave to The Ice Fortress. We will explore the hideaways of the aptly named World’s Finest.
The daydream instantly deflated as they entered the mouth of the sitting room; even in his mind Clark addressed it as such, because nothing in Wayne Manor was plebian enough to be called by a normal name.
Bruce was waiting when they arrived, already sitting in one of the high wingback chairs that surrounded the fireplace. No matter the season, the fireplace always lit the sitting room. It was necessary with the natural chill of Gotham.
Alfred hovered at the back of the room. “Shall I bring you any refreshments?” Clark shook his head, while Bruce verbally declined. “Now play nice, sir. It isn’t often that we receive friends.”
If Clark didn’t know better, he’d swear that Bruce had blushed. It was hard to forget how intense Bruce was. When those piercing sapphire beams turned his way, they were reminder enough. In his chardonnay hued button down and crisply pressed wool trousers, Bruce looked every inch of the blue blood American royalty that he was.
“Good to see you, Clark.” He rose from his chair.
“Same, Bruce. Though I’m curious to know what was so urgent.” Bruce quirked a sharp brow. “Not that I was doing anything…waiting for anything.” Clark hastily added.
“I can tell. You took your time getting here.” Clark opened his mouth to protest, but fell silent.
Bruce pivoted suddenly on the ball of his foot. “Let’s go.”
He walked to the far wall and tapped the side of the grandfather clock in a precise rhythm stepped aside as it clock slide across the floor. The doorway was so dark and silent that it felt like they were descending into the depths of the earth if Clark hadn’t been to the cave several times before. Down the stairs, Clark marveled at the changes since his last visit.
A giant penny sat up high along with other garish funhouse collectibles. “Joker?” he asked.
“Some,” Bruce deadpanned as he continued to descend the stairs.
Clark followed Bruce down onto the bottom floor of the cave. The giant penny sat up high while a T-Rex that looked remarkably life-like was frozen in mid roar on the opposite wall. “These are just things I felt should no longer be available to Jack or any of the other active members of Gotham’s crime life,” Bruce said offhandedly.
When was the last time he’d been to the cave? Clark looked around, took in all the changes which couldn’t have accumulated over a scant number of weeks, and he was forced to acknowledge with a low-placed hurt in his belly that he was the only one stuck in the void of Before.
No one stayed the same.
Not even Whit.
Whit had changed too and Clark was scared to think that he’d done the same.
Of course, he could count on Bruce to know this. He wasn’t called the World’s Greatest Detective for nothing.
The super computer would have made the Department of Domestic Defense salivate. “Fury called.”
Clark lifted one brow, surprised. “Yeah, how’s he doing these days?”
“As cool as ever. He wants to bring Bucky on permanently as the new Captain.”
A wistful grin tugged at his mouth. Bucky was a good kid, a little high-strung, but Whit had trusted him and had taken him under his wing. If Whit could trust the kid to watch his back, then Clark couldn’t object to Nick Fury’s plans.
Bruce huffed, conveying annoyance without uttering a single word. “Tony thinks it’s too soon.”
“Well, Tony and I have never seen eye to eye anyway, so I’m not surprised.” Clark and Tony were like vinegar and baking soda, only with more explosive encounters.
Bruce’s lips fought off a smile. “I’m sure Tony would bite his tongue in your presence.”
The idea of Tony biting his tongue was as unlikely as Batman donning a sparkling glitter suit and fighting crime in the daylight. As if sharing a mutual thought, they laughed together and honest laughter from Bruce was hard to come by.
Clark smiled slyly. “Even if we don’t see eye to eye that doesn’t mean we can’t be civil. I mean, I never told Lois about Vegas and I’m sure Piper would be eager to help me tell her if I ever decided to share that secret.”
Bruce spun away from the computer. “I always believed you weren’t as wholesome as everyone believes you are. You just proved my case.” Amused was good look on Bruce’s face and Clark liked that he’d put it there.
“I’ll tell you something else,” Clark checked the surroundings to verify they were alone. “I’m not even a real boy scout,” he whispered.
Bruce tried to clear his throat in order to stifle his laugh. “Dinner awaits.”
“What? Talking about Tony and Bucky weren’t the only reasons for my visit?” Clark teased.
“Just a ruse,” Bruce clarified and rose from the computer.
Dinner was like everything else at Wayne Manor. Alfred prepared old favorites that actually stimulated Clark’s appetite finally. Bruce wasn’t known for being a stimulating conversationalist, but when he opted to do so, he could make his guests fall under the thrall of the deep bass timber of his voice and eagerly continue the scintillating commentary. Neither one could take Alfred up on his selection of desserts or coffee, so they returned to cave.
Bruce sat in the large chair in front of the cave’s monitors, which Clark leaned casually against the console. His eyes might have been directed on the screens ahead, but he was well aware of the warmth seeping into his side.
“How go things in Gotham City?” Clark queried.
Bruce’s mouth thinned into a slight line. “It’s quiet.” For anyone else, quiet was welcome. To Bruce, quiet was just as ominous as one of the Joker’s laughing gas-infused bombs.
“I know that worries you.” Clark’s eyes remained on the monitors, so he didn’t notice the quick glance Bruce threw his way, while Bruce’s fingers flew over the console’s keys. Graphs and curves showing various relationships alternated on the screen. “Are these—”
“Metropolis crime figures.” Statistics that the MPD wouldn’t have for another six months and probably twice as accurate. “The incidence of crime in the last two months has decreased by 0.2%.”
“That’s good,” Clark noted, genuinely surprised. Any decrease was good.
Another graph filled the screen. The curve’s dip was lower and obviously more significant. “Six months before, the decrease was 5.8%.”
Clark sighed. Bruce relied on facts and numbers, while Clark was more satisfied with feelings and visual progress. He’d heard that people were happy, especially with the new collection of heroes patrolling the city’s skies.
Clark prepared himself for the inevitable fight. It was the price of philosophical differences. “0.2% is better than nothing. You have to give the others time.”
“What Metropolis needs is you. Superman is just as much a symbol as Batman is; as Captain America was. Just being around gives people hope and it gives everyone else something to fear,” Bruce reasoned.
“I know,” Clark agreed, “I’m not ready, though.”
That razor sharp jaw clenched and those cold fire blue eyes wouldn’t be swayed. “You’re the strongest person I know. You’re not a god, despite what others are inclined to believe. You hurt like the rest of us, sometimes more. Our mission will never be over and as your colleague and friend,” he paused, “I can’t allow you to run from it.”
Clark held Bruce’s gaze, felt those familiar stirrings of adrenaline and courage pump into his veins. The biological components that made him want to act. “I’m not, Bruce. Time,” Clark’s voice faded out after the word as if it was something so intangible and hard sought that just mentioning it would make it obsolete. “Time is something I need.”
Bruce was unfazed. Returned his gaze to the monitors anyway, but hadn’t dropped the conversation.
“You’ll think I’m the world’s largest hypocrite for saying this, but it’s necessary. You are not meant to be an unhappy person, Clark. You can be unhappy or sad like everyone else and losing Whit makes you entitled; however, those two emotions are completely unnatural on you.”
Clark opened his mouth to speak, but Bruce silenced him with a pointed look. “You should dwell on the happiness. Nothing can usurp the pain of your loss; I know.” Bruce’s expression softened for a pained fraction of a second before resolving itself into a stern mask. “I want you to think about your greatest disappointment then analyze it and see that it wasn’t as bad as you thought it was. Underneath all of that you’ll find that moment when your love was at its zenith. Just think about it.”
Then Bruce turned sharply and ascended the stairs of the cave. “And Clark—” Bruce threw over his shoulder.
“Gotham Gala next Friday. Formal. I need to have someone as respectable as yourself at my newly reformed side.” He moved down the stairs and closed the door behind him. It wasn’t up for discussion and Clark wouldn’t have complained if it was. Whit would scowl and Bruce would smirk. The whole thing always brought warmth to his belly.
Chapter 4: Four
Junior year. Two years down and two to go. Clark wasn’t sure if he was as emo as Chloe and Pete termed it, but he was more prone to introspective moments. Mostly, his thoughts catalogued the changes in his life and how much they deviated from his expectations.
After knowing and losing Ryan, Clark wanted Lex to know. Lex had risked his life to save Clark and his classmates. Lex had never mentioned the time he found Clark asleep in the middle of the road to anyone. Maybe, it was time he took some of his father’s advice—the non-biased kind, and finally trusted Lex the way he wanted. Clark didn’t trust Lionel. No one did and Lex shouldn’t be continuously punished for his father’s actions.
His father was right. If you gave a man your trust, then you gave him hope. He’d tell Lex soon. About himself at least.
Whit had been gone since May and if the calendar in the kitchen and the start of school was anything to go by, it was September. Clark had been keeping a countdown since Whit left in May. Their relationship, though new, had been running like clockwork. At least three letters a week with a call or two in between.
Lately though, he’d been moody and irritable, all due to the lack of contact he’d had with Whit. His mom noticed, as did his Dad. Chloe did too and she was the only one to call him on it.
She pounced on him after their last class in the first week of the new school year. As per usual, she dragged him into the Torch office before she began her interrogation. “Alright, Clark. Tell me who peed in your cornflakes and I’ll go give them a pounding.”
Clark wrinkled his nose at her phrasing, but found himself nonetheless cracking a smile. “No one, Chlo.”
She wagged her finger disapprovingly. “Try again. This time tell the truth, farm boy.”
Clark sighed in defeated resignation. “I think ‘he’ might break up with me.”
“Wait,” she began with confusion furrowing her brow. “He?...You mean him! Why?”
Clark shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe, he’s tired of me. He hasn’t really called or written.”
“Can I ask you something, Clark?”
“Is ‘he’ Whitney?” She placed a gentle hand on his arm, bringing his eyes to hers. “My promise is the same as before. Your secret is safe with me.”
“I don’t know very much about what’s going on between you and him, but I doubt he’s tired of you. He’s a soldier and that’s a hard life.” Another reassuring hug. “Give him time.”
“I hope you’re right.”
“Of course I’m right…” Chloe leveled Clark with a mischievous smile. “Now, tell me what’s up with the Pink Princess. Is it me or has she suddenly decided that you’re her new best friend?”
He laughed. Chloe didn’t know the half of it.
The phone rang after dinner. Martha answered the line in the kitchen while Jonathan sat in the living room watching Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy and Clark did his homework.
Martha smiled as she recognized the voice on the other end. “Clark, phone!”
He left his books spread across his bed and dashed down the stairs. “Sounds like a herd of elephants is running through here.” Jonathan yelled over his shoulder while simultaneously turned up the volume of Pat Seajack’s voice two notches above annoying.
“Sorry, Dad.” Clark rolled his eyes and took the phone eagerly from his mother.
“Hey Whit,” Clark repeated.
“Is this a bad time?”
“Not at all. Hadn’t heard from you in a while.”
“Sorry, things have been moving really fast here.”
“I miss you, C. So much.”
“Why do you say it like that?”
“I mean, you’ve been kinda quiet these last few weeks.”
“Yeah,” Whitney paused. “Things…have become complicated and I’ve been putting off telling you.”
“What’s going on, Whit?” Clark asked, concerned.
“Let’s just say that I’m an especially good marine and I’m being sent ahead of my unit. Sorry, C, but I’m not coming home yet.”
Disappointment hit him like a fist to the gut. He tried to conceal his hurt, but Clark wasn’t one for handling dissatisfaction well. “I guess that’s better.”
“What do you mean?” Whit asked.
Clark pitched his voice low and wished he had a phone in his room. “I thought you weren’t talking to me, because you were growing tired of me or something. Thought you might’ve wanted to break up.”
Silence gripped the conversation for a solid minute or two. Then Whit asked in a quiet voice, “Is that what you want?”
“No,” Clark said hurriedly.
Whit sighed and Clark could hear the frustration in Whit’s voice. “I would understand if you do. I mean, I’m on the other side of the planet and you’re still in high school…Christ. Has Lana come to her senses? Or it is Chloe?” Tired resignation bled out of Whit’s voice, leaving it hollow and with little sparks of righteous anger that didn’t flare up.
Clark shook his head and adjusted the phone between his cheek and neck. He tried to move deeper into the kitchen and away from the earshot of his parents. “Whit, there’s no one else…I thought, well, I thought wrong, okay? I still want to be here for you, if you want me to?”
More silence and Whit blew out a tired breath. “There’s no one else. Practically nothing else, but you…and I wish I could see you like I’d planned.”Static filled the line, but Whit’s words remained audible. “I want you, C. Want you so much.”
Clark squeezed the phone closer to his ear. Let up some when he heard the plastic moan. “I’ll be here then.”
Clark had done his fair share of interacting with high and mighty upper class of Metropolis as a reporter and during his years in high school. Lex hated attending galas, balls, socials and the only way he found them bearable was to have someone by his side as equally miserable.
Going to galas was much better as Clark Kent than Superman or with Captain America. The socialites, society dames, and gentlemen had a tendency to get handsy and speak more liberally, sometimes too much. He was always having to fight the flush from spreading into his cheeks at some of their suggestions or touches.
Clark almost thankful he didn’t have to deal with that now. Though he’d miss the sight of Whit is dress uniform at times like this.
“Here,” Bruce pushed a small plate with various hors d’œuvres at him. “I thought it was time to feed you again.”
Clark smirked. “Why Bruce, is this how you treat all of your dates?”
Bruce’s gaze swept over the room. “No, most of my dates haven’t eaten for a week or so. Putting food in front of them most likely will trigger gagging rather than an appetite.”
“You’re terrible, Bruce.” Clark ate one mini quiche in a single bite and found it surprisingly good. “You want one?”
Bruce wrinkled his nose distastefully as the Prince of Gotham should. “No, thank you. Some of us aren’t fortunate to have the metabolism of a hummingbird… Who knows? Brucie may need to make an appearance tonight. Can’t have a stomach full of food to do so.”
There was never a time when Bruce let his guard down. Granted that this was Gotham and no event was sacred from the interference of someone bad seeking attention, but Clark felt bad for Bruce never having a chance to wind down. “How about you coming out to the farm with me? I haven’t seen my Mom for a while and the last letter told me to relax.”
“We’ll see.” Clark couldn’t keep the look of surprise off his face. He hadn’t expected Bruce to say that much. “My tux selection for you was good. From the appreciative glances coming this way, I can tell I more than hit the mark.”
Clark leaned close to Bruce’s ear. “I think it has more to do with me standing next to the Prince of Gotham, who is staunchly refusing to fall for the coy glances of the debutantes in attendance.”
“True.” Bruce admitted. He hid the subsequent smile around his champagne flute
“I guess what they say about Gotham and Metropolis merging more and more is actually true.” Clark and Bruce turned away from the action of the gala and towards the voice. Lex stood behind them, watching them with a cool sharp gaze and a tense grin.
“Lex,” Clark greeted. “What are you doing here?”
Lex half shrugged. “Socializing for a good cause. Had I known you were on the guest list, I would have suggested we come together.”Lex directed his attention to Bruce. “I expected to see you this evening. Can’t say that I expected to see you together.”
Bruce jaw clenched at the subtle dig. “Clark and I have known each other for some time. I thought it was high time for him to rejoin the social masses.”
Lex’s smiling gaze clearly said, ‘sure you did.’ “How do you know each other again?”
Clark couldn’t get over the feeling of being a chew toy between these two. “Well, being a reporter for one thing. Now that I’m off Bruce’s avoidance list, we can talk now and then. We travel in mutual circles,” Clark explained.
Lex nodded, seemed to buy the explanation. Bruce, however, had his own questions. “I never got how you and Clark know each other.”
“A history of friendship like you and I, Bruce,” Bruce’s gaze narrowed. “Except I was the one who caused our friendship to break down. I‘m hoping I can start making amends.”
Clark smiled and patted Lex on the back. “We’ll get there.”
“I know we will, Clark.” Lex took a sip of champagne. “I feel like tonight could be a reunion of sorts. Though not a happy one possibly. Did you know Lana and Pete are here tonight?”
Clark’s gaze hit the floor, before sweeping discretely around the room and landing on the couple on the opposite side. “No, I didn’t have a clue.”
“You’ll have to tell me the story behind why she avoids you like the plague.” Clark could feel stirrings of anger bubbling to the surface and Whit wasn’t there to rein his temper in when it came to the self righteous and perpetually scorned Lana Lang-Ross.
“It’s not that epic, Lex.” Lex gave him a secretive grin, which swore otherwise.
Bruce cleared his throat, bringing their attention back to him. “How’s Lucas, Lex?” I’ve heard he’s experiencing some difficulties lately.”
Lex coolly swallowed the last of his champagne. “What can I say? He’s like most younger siblings and always gets underfoot.” Clark remembered Lucas very well. Where Lex was eternally cool, Lucas was pushy and more sleazy than sly. His time in Smallville had left a lasting impression.
“Sorry to hear that.” Clark lamented on Lex’s behalf, because he always had to clean up the mess of his father or his brother.
“Excuse me,” Bruce muttered before walking out on to the balcony to take a call. He returned seconds later with a keener look in his eyes. “Sorry, I’ll have to cut the night short. Clark—”
“Don’t worry, Bruce.” Lex interrupted. “I’ll see that he gets home.”
Bruce looked like he wanted to say more, but Clark’s insistent nod that he go kept him silent. Lex wore a smile the rest of his night.
“So, you never told me the reason why your friendship with Lana Lang went down like the Titanic?”
Clark lifted his head from the towel he was spread over. “Nice simile, Lex.” How Clark had found himself laying out in the hot summer Metropolis sun in the middle of Metropolis Bay was Lex’s fault. When Lex asked him to help him with something, Clark actually thought they would have been conferring over evidence of possible corporate espionage like they used to.
Mercy drove them to Metropolis Harbor and led them to what amounted to floating palace. Clark could never be described as lazy, but soaking up the sun’s rays alongside Lex in plush chaise loungers made Clark feel blissfully indolent, slothful, laid back, lazy. The high afternoon sun was enough to make him feel just a bit punch-drunk.
Answering Lex’s question required dredging up enough energy to return from his momentary idle state. He gave Lex a sidelong glance. “I’m surprised Lucas never told you.”
He saw Lex’s non-existent brows rise behind his ultra chic black sunglasses. “Well,” Lex’s tone was full of interest. “I’m sure he’s saving this little revelation for a prime opportunity.”
“You know I’m not angry with Lucas about it anymore…I guess I see him more as the straw that broke the back of our relationship.”
“Relationship?” Lex parroted. He would scarcely call Clark playing second fiddle to all the real and supposed drama of Lana’s life a relationship. To him, it sounded more like indentured servitude.
Clark shrugged as the afternoon sun swathed his chest in golden light. “Yeah, I thought we could have been friends there for a while.”
Lex pulled his eye away from Clark’s leisurely pose. Doing so was extremely difficult as Clark looking beautiful came with no effort being expended on Clark’s part, and Lex was always a sucker for beauty. “That’s why I like you, Clark.” Lex managed to pull his eyes away and turned his Armani-shaded gaze over the glistening waters of the harbor.
In his mind’s eye, he could see Clark’s inquisitively arched brows and the slight part in his lips as he waited for Lex’s answer. “Why?” Clark asked.
Lex thought, not for the first or the last time, that Whitney was a fool for ever willingly leaving Clark behind. If he’d ever been given that opportunity, once Clark was free and clear and totally beyond the age of consent line, he would have attached himself to Clark like knotted Velcro and never left his side.
To answer Clark’s question, “Because you’re way too damn nice.”
Lex had had a brother for less than two weeks and he was already thinking finding him was 1) a mistake and 2) probably leading to fratricide. Though Lucas had their father’s cool sensibilities, he was almost manic and overly hyper when faced with expensive toys, namely Lex’s cars.
Lex let Lucas think he was sneaky enough to joyride in Lex’s silver Mercedes and the black Porsche. The line was crossed when Lucas touched the Lotus. That was Clark’s car and no one touched it besides him or Clark. Lex had toyed with having the castle’s security force surround Lucas with drawn weapons in a to catch a thief-esque firing squad scenario.
Clark’s influence was again rearing its humanitarian-in-training little head and Lex gave Lucas another pass. Now they drove to the Kent Farm. This time, Lex was rightfully behind the wheel and Lucas was somewhat petulantly sitting in the passenger seat, glaring at the fields of cornstalks as if they were threatening to mess up his Prada.
He turned his Groucho Marx glare on Lex. “I’m starting to think that you’re not at all like the tabloids say,” Lucas said in upmost sarcasm.
Truth be told, Lex had been like the tabloids said he was. Now, not so much; blame it on the fresh air, open spaces, and hospitality of flannel-wearing farm boys. “Lucas, don’t be so droll. You think I judge you by your rap sheet?”
The newest Luthor made no attempt to disguise his stink eye that clearly said come on. “Kind of expect it, actually.” Lucas craned his neck to take in his new non-urban surroundings. “So, we’re going to see your best friend. Who lives…on a farm?” Lucas enunciated the question like it was foreign and beyond the slightest grasp of his comprehension.
“What’s Farmer John like?”
Lex cleared his throat in an abortive attempt hide his chuckle. “Actually, his name is Clark and his dad’s the farmer. Also named John.”
Even Lucas could see the humor in that and laughed. Lex turned down the drive and came to stop in his usual place between the back porch and the opening of the barn. Lucas gave him a sidelong glance and fixed his expression into a sincere mask. “If he’s wearing overalls, I don’t think I’ll be able to stifle my laughter…”
Lex elbowed his brother in the side at the dig against Clark and issued his brother a look that could melt tar. “You’ll be nothing less than friendly and respectable.” He managed to loom over his brother, who was actually marginally taller than him. “If it wasn’t for him, you wouldn’t be here.”
That sobered Lucas momentarily. They stared at each other until the sound of Clark’s voice calling them drew them out of their deadlock. “Hey Lex.”
They turned to watch Clark. Lucas whistled lowly, and then turned back to his brother. “I totally recant my earlier insult. You’re a better con man than me any day.” He chucked his thumb at Clark. “That’s your best friend? Sweet is all I can say.” Lucas raked his eyes over Clark’s tall muscled form. “Sweet as apple pie, I bet…I guess this place must have some real charm, probably real rife with cherries to pick.”
Lex’s jaw clenched. “Cut it out.”
Clark stopped in front of them. “Wow, you guys already sound like brothers.” The similarity in their styles of dress had been a coincidence. The fact that they favored strong, deep colors, mostly black, with designer labels or none at all was a trait that probably spoke of their shared Luthor heritage.
Lex’s eyes took a quick roll around in his head; if the action could have been articulated then his eyes would have groaned. Meanwhile Lucas continued to wear the same too-white and sharp grin that was squarely directed at Clark.
“This, Clark,” Lex gestured to his brother, “is Lucas. My brother. The one you encouraged me to find.” Yes, he would put emphasis on the fact that Lucas did owe Clark for getting him here and out of the sights of underworld Chinese mafia goons he’d hustled.
Clark and Lucas shook hands. “Nice to meet you.” Clark gestured towards the house. He’d most likely offer them lemonade and Lex might not be able to restrain himself from smacking his brother upside the head for being a rude little smart ass.
Lucas’ head perked up. “Is that cherry pie I smell?”
“No…” Clark glanced at Lex and smiled that not so secret laugh that said Lucas was clearly a little weird. “It’s apple. My mom just made it. Care for a slice?”
“I’d love some of your pie.” Lucas smirked. Lex’s cheeks flushed.
“Can you possibly make that to go, Clark?” Lex wrapped a hand around Lucas’ elbow to which his younger brother glared sharply in Lex’s direction. “I haven’t finished taking Lucas around town.”
The neck wringing would commence as soon as Clark had his back turned. “Well, if you want some help—”
Lucas eluded Lex’s grip and shifted to stand next to Clark. “I’m sure Clark here can show me the sights and sounds of Smallville.” Lucas eased closer to Clark’s side, obviously attempting to make Lex jealous. The arm around the shoulders was overkill.
Clark sidestepped the arm. “I’ll bring him back safe and unharmed.” In Smallville, that might have been a difficult task at times.
Lucas failed to hide a half snort. Clark’s smile was still sweet and kind. “You’d be surprised, Lucas. Smallville could give Edge City a run for its money at times.” Lucas was extremely doubtful of that fact, but humored Clark with a slight nod.
Lex left them eventually, though he’d tried to beg off several times and Clark and Lucas had refused. He promised to come back immediately if there was any trouble, though Clark couldn’t imagine for the life of him what exactly Lex thought Lucas was going to get up to in the Talon.
Simply put: Lucas was a Luthor and Clark should have known better.
When they reached the Talon, Lucas’s went wide and his mouth dropped open in shock. Clark seriously doubted the reaction was feigned. “Lex helped a friend save this place.”
“I can tell he didn’t decorate it.” Lucas muttered under his breath. “This is Smallville’s answer to Starbucks.” He looked mildly disgusted by the faux-Egyptian themed décor and tried to smile at Clark, though his face was construed in more of a pained grimace.
Later after two complicated coffees were ordered, they found an empty booth to sit in, and as Clark looked Lucas over, it was like seeing Lex in a funhouse mirror. Lex, but not Lex. They had similar fashion sense and the same cocky, undoubtedly eternally self-assured Luthor smile. There was also that perspicacious gaze that was disassembling and assessing, capable of making even the strongest men feel small.
“Tell me,” Lucas leaned across the table and somehow used a trick of light to make his eyes sparkle. His voice was low and calm, and he asked, “Got anyone special. I’m sure you’re beating them off…” he paused, “—left and right.”
What would ever possess Clark to confess to Lucas of all people he wouldn’t know for the rest of his life. Such as it was the seconds leading up to this moment were like kismet, beyond his control and randomly predestined. “Yeah, there’s someone.” He dropped his eyes to the table and that irrepressible blush crept into his cheeks at the thought of Whit. “—been going out for a year now.”
Lucas’ grin didn’t have that classic shark sharpness that he’d later associate with it then. Rather, he looked a little awed. “They really know how to grow them around here.”Puzzled by Lucas’ comment, Clark pushed back in his seat and came almost flush against someone.
Behind him stood Lana, which Clark hadn’t known when he’d opened his mouth. “That—that’s a big secret to keep.”
“Lana?” He turned around to look at her. She was the last person in the world he wanted to have that information.
The empty tray she carried was upturned against her chest like a shield, the smile she wore genuine, and Clark swallowed thickly. “I only wanted to stop by and say hi to you and your friend, but now I wish we weren’t so busy.” Her hazel eyes narrowed, filling with a teasing light. “I’ll have to catch up with you later. Don’t think I’ll let news of a secret Clark Kent romance die and fade away.” She walked backwards towards the counter, waved at him, and dove back into the afternoon rush.
Lucas drank his cavity inducing drink. “You better be up to talking, because she wants all the details about your relationship.” He tiled his head to get a better view of Lana’s comings and goings at the counter. “Is she single, because I’d easily let her break my heart.” The slightest crook of Lana's indicated that she was still listening. Unknown to Clark, Lana, and Lucas at the time, the Lana-Lucas saga had just been sparked.
Thinking of the Lana and Lucas saga was trauma in its own right. He’d only escaped having Lana as his sister-in-law by a hairsbreadth.
Lex believed that eating Chinese food when one was not in China was sacrilege enough, as he explained to Clark for the umpteenth time. Clark had authentic Chinese food many times before when he’d done flyovers, mostly in Hong Kong. Whit loved those nights when he brought back the real thing.
Clark thought about telling Lex this, but reconsidered when Lex pulled up to a hole-in-the-wall that would usually engender lectures about the different breeds of rats in the cities and all the possible food-borne illnesses one could pick up from food that was inadequately prepared.
Lex spoke almost fluent mandarin to their hostess and only half attempted to flirt with her. Though his pronunciation was similar to a wooden duck, Clark and the hostess shared a look and small snorts.
After casting a suspicious eye at his best friend and the hostess, Lex went on to order enough food to not only feed Clark, but half of China too.
Between the potstickers, dim sum, and crab rangoons, Lex asked for the conclusion of Clark’s harrowing saga.
Lex tapped his chopsticks together in a low drum roll to pass the time until the story’s anticipated continuance. “Tell me how it ended? It’s criminal to keep the suspense to yourself.”
“Let’s cut a long story short and say that fate worked against me. Or maybe, I did it to myself. Lana came by my house while I was dropping Lucas off at the castle.” Clark pointed a steaming potsticker between his chopsticks at Lex. “He has really grabby hands….Definitely made the drive hard and awkward.”
Lex’s own stopped before his mouth, in surprise. “That’s quite a description.”
“I caught Lana storming out of the barn and hightailing it to her car like her tail was on fire.” He made another grab for a steaming dumpling. “Mom tried to surprise me—left one of Whit’s letters on my desk, and Lana’s curiosity got the best of her.”
“Let me guess: she went from your pseudo-best friend to woman scorned, because she found about your big teenage epic gay love.” Now, Clark raised his eyebrows in amusement. Lex was big on the sarcasm and that last statement could easily liken him to being a Chatty Cathy. “You obviously have more to be pissed about, considering she overtly invaded your privacy. Maybe you overlooked this, but opening someone else’s mail is a federal offense.”
“You’re right; she didn’t see it that way.” It was Whit who told him just how pissed she was.
Whitney’s sigh morphed into a tired laugh. “Finally decided to tell Lana, huh? You couldn’t have been nicer about it.” Whitney was a recipient of Lana’s cold shoulder of doom.
It was hard for Clark to not feel bad about it. To feel as though this dustup was his fault, when in truth, it absolutely wasn’t. “Well, she decided to read your last letter you sent me. I guess I could ask you what you wrote.”
After seeing supporting evidence for Lana’s abrupt departure from the farm and the icy glares she’d sent Clark’s way, he’d placed the lengthy letter back in its envelope and stuffed it into the desk drawer.
There was silence on the other ended, followed by long whistled breath being blown between Whit’s teeth. It rattled into the receiver. “I’ve heard of sending someone a four page letter, but a four page e-mail is a little extensive…maybe I shouldn’t have poured my heart out, huh?”
Clark knew Whitney was sitting alone in enclosed phone booth, but he could hear the ambient noises—voices, walking, the shifting of the sand as if Whitney was standing in the middle of it. Just like he could hear Whitney scrubbing his buzzed off hair. “She’s really mad. Hurt, definitely, but what I do and who I date aren’t up to her anymore. They never really were.”
Lana didn’t see it that way, Clark wanted to protest. Fighting with Whitney wouldn’t help the situation in the least. “You think she’ll keep quiet?” asked Clark, not knowing if Lana would cause trouble for the two of them.
Whitney chuckled and blew out another deep breath into the receiver. “She’s hurt, yeah, jealous even, but she’s not going to do anything that will draw her public embarrassment. She’s going to seethe and be mighty unresponsive when it comes to you.”
“I feel bad that she’s hurting, you know? But this is Smallville, not Metropolis, so we have to keep quiet.”
Whitney sighed. “One day, we won’t. Not if—” He trailed off. “Not if we see this through.”
Lately, Clark had been trying something new with himself. There was no way he would tell anyone else the big secret for a good long while, but he realized he could be truthful about other things. Being honest with himself was a first step. “Yes, we will, Whit.”
Clark wondered if Whitney was blushing at Clark’s candidness. He shifted gears away from the murky borders of the future. Instead, he would stick to the relative safety of the present. “I’m curious now. What could have possibly written to piss her off so much?”
There was humor in Clark’s tone, a joke evident in his words, yet Whitney didn’t seem to follow the trail. His reticence was disquieting and Clark waited for him. “What’s wrong?”
Whitney’s voice was pitched in a whisper. “Did you guys hear about that Black Hawk crash a couple of weeks ago?”
If only vaguely, Clark recalled seeing something about a helicopter going down near Tikrit. His parents had given him concerned looks and asked when was the last time he talked to Whit; he assured them a few days prior.
“Yeah, I did.”
“It was supposed to be a training exercise, but we took on enemy fire. Lost some great guys.”
“I’m sorry, Whit.”
“They were friends…” He paused. “Good guys, none of them made it. Just me.”
This was one of those things he refused to think about. How everyday Whit could be seconds or inches away from getting hurt or killed. “God, Whitney.” His mind could run in circles with all the ways that he could lose Whit, make him stark raving crazy if he let them, but he wouldn’t be any use to Whit in the meantime if he did.
“As much as I wanted to leave that town, it’s good that I waited. Someone was impressed that I survived and I’m—I’m going away for a while. Got signed up for a program and the letter was saying goodbye for a while.”
“I don’t understand.”
Whitney released a pained exhale, brought the phone closer to his mouth. “I’m special, Clark.” Whitney whispered. “Not crazy like the others, just special. There was something in my blood.”
Something in his blood. From the meteors went unsaid, but Clark knew it. It was his fault, bringing the meteors, Lana’s parents, Lex losing his hair, and now, Whit.
Whit’s still talking, completely oblivious to the panic that was coursing through Clark on the other end of the phone. “— Big brass thinks I can be of better service to the country by going through this new program they have.”
Special. Whitney was different in more ways than one. Whit’s honesty now made his heart swell in affection and fear—the type that was ever present when thinking of the power of the meteor rocks. Whit was in the middle of confessing that he was going to become a super G.I. Joe and didn’t want to break up with Clark in the process. His thoughts needed to go back to Whit.
“How long?” He asked. Crazy assignments and scenes from late night action movies from Sci-Fi filled Clark’s head.
“I don’t know. Maybe a year. They’re not telling me much.” Whit confessed.
“Will you be safe?”
In his mind’s eye, Clark could see Whit biting his lip in frustration, wondered if he was rubbing his thigh like he normally did when he was thinking too hard. “Can’t promise you safe? The marines don’t guarantee that…I’ll write as often as I can….Just don’t give up on me until I tell you that I’m not coming back.”
How could Whit promise that? He had another cold fear burning in his gut, being the recipient of a Dear John letter written by someone else to tell him that his Johnny wouldn’t come marching home again.
Tell Whitney something, he urged himself. The silence was doing anything for Whit’s nerves either. “I think I can do that,” Clark promised.
Whit snorted. “I have a feeling that um, things are going to get even weirder from now on…They’re resetting my days til I can come home. Soon as I find out, I’ll tell you.”
“You know I’ll be waiting.”
There was a smile evident in Whit’s voice. “I know.”
Clark found himself waiting a lot for Whitney in those early days. The sum of it, though, was the best payoff he could ever imagine.
“Just—” Whitney sighed. Clark imagined Whitney licking his lips, maybe even pinching the bridge of his nose. He’d seen Whitney do it before, especially after his dad died. “Just don’t believe I’m dead until you see a body. Even then…” he trailed off.
He wondered what Whitney could possibly be doing? Sure, he could hold his promise to not believe Whitney was dead if things came to that, but it would be so hard
Chapter 5: Five
This conversation had started with Lex and flowed seamlessly into Bruce. Clark couldn’t remember who started it anymore. He’d never really told the story of how they became an ‘us.’ They just simply were.
Guess this was what they meant by a therapeutic release, Clark thought. Lost in his thoughts too long, Bruce gave him a quick look urging him to stay apace with their conversation. Bruce didn’t like meandering.
“What happened after that?” Bruce asked. He didn’t really need Clark down in the cave with him, but Clark assumed as he watched Bruce’s back become increasingly more hunched as he poured himself into the unspecified modifications on his workbench, Clark could just assume that Bruce, of all things, wanted company.
The head of a screwdriver twisted over the pad of one of Clark’s fingers. “I waited and did my best to not draw any attention to the rift between me and Lana. Though, it was obvious to some—Chloe, Pete, and Lex, that something was going on between us.”
“Did she eventually cause a scene?”
“Not so much. Just pouted and made herself look like the world’s most unfortunate victim and told anyone that would listen that Whitney had cheated on her with someone in town. Though she gave Lucas a chance and as they say the rest is history.” If he could be thankful for small favors, it was the fact that Lana never called him out to everyone. Just postured and wore a constant wounded expression.
The times he tried to talk to her, she’d either ignored him by walking away or gruffly told him she had nothing to say to him or said she couldn’t deal with him right now.
The time to deal with each other never seemed to come, no matter what did as a friendly overture. Lana continued to avoid him like the plague. With Lucas at her beck and call, literally, she got everything she could have ever wanted. Why she persisted in being pissed at Whitney and him, he should have figured out sooner.
Lana Lang didn’t like to lose. Every time she and Lucas broke up, she had been the one to end it. The same with her and Jason, Adam, and all the other men whose hearts she’d broken. Nell taught her a very Lionel-like lesson: she was to break hearts and not have hers broken. That was the way one won in life.
Bruce truly didn’t need Clark to help him modify his belt, but Clark wouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth when it came to Bruce willingly wanting to spend time with him. Actually talking was the bigger surprise. The newest addition to his belt was an additional compartment, which was designed to hold small magnets with enough force to erase the types of giant servers found in tech company basements or possibly military installations. The fact that Bruce could invent such a mighty mini weapon without disabling his belt or all of the electronics in the cave spoke of the countless other failsafe mechanisms already in place.
“Did you ever read the letter?” Clark watched as Bruce folded the nanite-fiber cloth the magnets were contained in and slipped them into the interior pocket, where Bruce held his lock picks. He marveled at the dexterity of Bruce’s fingers. Bruce had the deliberately cautious movements of a watch maker.
The latter must have been said aloud, because Bruce’s movements stilled and his attention was solely on Clark. “Sorry.” Clark muttered as he ducked his head and looked elsewhere in the cave.
Bruce’s work resumed. “I’ll ask again. Did you ever read the letter?”
“After that call, of course I did. It was a good thing he wrote so much.” The letter sat in Whit’s trunk now, creased and worn from Clark’s countless readings. It had been the only thing that kept him reassured during Whit’s year of silence. Any letter he received was distilled down to “he’s okay,” “fine,” and “he’s alive.”
Just three. None of them written by Whitney and all so far in between that no one would have blamed him for giving up hope. The promise he made to Whit he still believed in, as did he believe in what Whitney had said in his letters.
With the magnets securely tucked away, Bruce turned to Clark. “I’m heading out on patrol. Do you want to come?”
Clark hadn’t had on his suit in months. Sometimes, an itch would start, when a voice would call out for him or he’d catch sight of blue and red together. He missed flying through the clouds and the relieved smiles of the people he saved. He missed Whitney still.
“Next time, Bruce.”
Bruce didn’t look satisfied, but clearly not disappointed. “I’ll hold you to that.”
“Good.” Eventually, he’d have to go back. If Bruce was pushing him along, he’d get there.
The next night, he went home to Metropolis to finally sleep in his own bed, which seemed to be something he did with less and less frequency as of late. His time had mostly come to be divided between Gotham and Metropolis, Wayne Manor and Lex’s penthouse. He could admit to himself that he was having fun, almost happy with how his thoughts had been diverted.
Tomorrow would mark six months that Whitney had been gone.
How he was able to wait for Whit when he was seventeen and not knowing if Whit would ever come back still amazed him. Here he was at thirty with the cold assurance that there would be no such return. Clark would take the uncertainty any day, because there was still a chance that Whit could come back to him. Now, he had the trunk, a head full of memories, and his lover’s letters from beyond the grave.
He showered and put on an old pair of sweats and t-shirt that fit him years ago. Krypto trailed after his heels as he moved around the bedroom. On the iPod deck, he pulled up Whit’s favorite mix titled “Western Stars.” This was after the K.D. Lang version and not the Chris Isaac.
He pulled the trunk out of the closet and swatted Krypto away, who was enthusiastic to help and see what Clark was searching for. The envelope lay at the bottom, separate from all the others, tucked under Whit’s dress uniform.
No Brokeback moment was necessary. He didn’t need to smell the uniform to smell Whitney. Opening the trunk unleashed Whit’s scent into the room. It was as if he was actually there in their bedroom.
“I think I’m ready,” Clark said to Krypto, who licked his hand in support.
On the bed, Krypto laid across his feet as Clark pushed a button the remote and the soft acoustic twang of Western Stars filled the room. He pulled the letter out of the envelope with the reverent care shown to a priceless artifact. It was a monument to Whit’s love. That was why it was precious.
Four pages on blue line notebook paper, more like eight as Whit’s words filled both sides. Words. Secrets. Fantasies.
It had all been for Clark.
Maybe this was the moment when he could finally be angry with Lana for invading his privacy. No, not when Whit was calling.
He picked up the first page and was transported back to the loft, lying in the hammock with the evening dusky sun haloing through the loft window.
No pretenses, no hiding this time. I’ve got some time off and you’d think I’d be off base drinking after all that’s happened. I almost died a couple of weeks ago. Cooper, Hays, Lopes (remember them) and I were doing a training exercise in a Black Hawk. The area wasn’t as clear as our superiors thought and we drew fire. I’ve had two weeks to sort it out, but I still can’t remember all of it. First, someone began shooting at us and we returned fire at nothing we could see. Then the chopper shook from a hit. Right now, they’re thinking a surface to air attack. Not that they’re telling me much.
They’re dead, Clark. All of them.
The docs said Cooper and Lopes probably died on impact, same as the pilots. Hays and I made it to the hospital. I was out for a day and he died sometime that night. They were good guys and really didn’t deserve to go out like that. I look like I had a small tumble, nothing worse than anything after any of my games. Some scratches and bruises is all.
Everyone thinks I’m one lucky son of a bitch (sorry) to be alive. Can’t say I blame them, but…I knew there was something else. Heard the doctors talking before they allowed me to return to my unit for active duty.
Got my confirmation almost a week ago when I was corned and pulled aside by some big battlefield brass. They’re still curious about why I survived and the others didn’t and they think it has something to do with my blood. There’s something in my blood. The town’s finally gotten to me and I got the meteors inside me. Now, I’m scared that I’ll go crazy and hurt people and I miss you so much, and I’m more damn scared than I’d ever admit. The brass wants me for some program. Secret survival training type stuff.
Yeah, I’m thinking this sounds a little too X-Files, but they’re saying it’ll be a service to the country and I’ll be a true help with the war effort. The only one remotely talking to me, and not at me, is General Erskine. He told me it might be a year before I’m stateside.
I’m scared that the stuff in my blood might make me into a monster like Greg, Sean, or Tina. Then I think what if it was all a fluke and I should have died like the other guys? What if it was just luck and I’m supposed to die another day. What if their recruitment is all for nothing?
It’s not fair to ask you to keep waiting for me. It’s selfish, I know, but I can’t help wanting to know that you’re there for me. In case, I do get to come back. I love you, Clark. Love you so much.
I think about you every day. Sometimes, when my mind wanders, it’s just you and me before I left. You and me walking around the farm or town or just sitting in my truck.
In case I don’t come back or even if I do, these are the things I want you to know.
Every night, I dream about the last time I kissed you. Your lips are so warm and soft. I hear the other guys talking about Angelina Jolie and I just think of you. Your kisses make me wish I’d stayed. The way they’d open just enough to let me in and taste the sugar on your tongue; bet you didn’t know that? You taste like sugar, not so much like candy.
That night you stayed with me after my dad’s funeral, I played with your hair all night. I couldn’t stop my fingers. Your hair’s ridiculously soft and smells like fresh air and flowers maybe, still haven’t figured out what exactly that last little thing is. Though I’ve smelled it before. Sunshine, I think sometimes.
When you sleep, your cheeks go flush and your lips are even pinker. They scream, “Kiss me!” (Don’t fall asleep near anyone else besides your parents and Metro.) You don’t know how hard it was to not kiss you until you woke up.
I feel a little like a perv telling you all of this. I’ve never been too fond of hugs, except for when my mom and dad gave them to me. But you. I’d just hug you…just to touch you and feel your arms around me. Your back’s so strong and I like feeling your muscles under my hands. You’re so perfect. I know you’re rolling your eyes, but you don’t know how beautiful you are. So goddamn pretty with your blue-green eyes, pouty lips, soft hands, gorgeous smile, and beautiful body. You’re smart and nice and above all else, a good friend.
I used to get so jealous when you’d spend time with Lex. Not really with Chloe or Pete. Lex has everything you could ever think of and he has to be a nice guy for you like him so much. I’m always afraid of when you’ll open your eyes and see that he’s your Knight in A Shining Mercedes. I’m just a low down jarhead. I can’t compete.
But then you said you loved me and I realized I didn’t have to. I wish…and I know I’m blushing as I write this that we’d gotten closer. I wake up some mornings with my bottom lip swollen and bleeding, because I bit it during my sleep, dreaming about you, touching you and holding you.
I wish I knew what all of you felt like. What kind of sounds you’d make as my fingers slide down your arms and touch the inside of your wrists. What your chest and bellybutton taste like when I kiss every inch. I like that you’re just a little bit taller than me. The line of your shoulders fits perfectly with my mouth and the nape of your neck.
I know you say you have no rhythm, but I’d love to dance with you. Your prom maybe? Me in my buttons and brass and you all dolled up in a tux. I’d take you for a whirl around the floor and make everyone realize just what they were missing; make them jealous because you were all mine. I always wanted to try to the whole back to front kissing. I know we’d fit together perfectly. My arms around your waist and your hips pressing back against mine and you’d turn your head and I’d meet you.
There are other dreams. Ones that I can’t fully write out, because I might die of embarrassment. Let’s say it’s you and me in the locker room and after the big game. I’m almost out of my uniform and you’re bringing some of your mom’s cookies to congratulate me and we end up against the lockers. I pressed you against the lockers and really got to feel you. Deeply.
My mom and dad don’t know I used to watch them dance in the long hours after I should have been in bed. They’d sway to whatever old country tune was on the radio. I loved watching them dance to Western Stars. I look up at the stars and think of you doing the same thing. I want to come home to you, Clark. If I could come home, I’d promise to never leave you again (or as long as you’d have me).
I still don’t understand why you love me, but I’m glad you do. Call me scared and confused, I’ll do anything to come back. If this program will help me do that, then I’ll do whatever they ask me do. The first thing I’ll do when I come home is kiss you. I don’t care where we are or who’s around, I’m going to kiss you until you’re breathless. (I can hold my breath a long time.)
I’ll be selfish and ask you again to wait for me. When I talk to you, you make me feel like a hero and not a big scaredy cat, which is more than I could ever ask. I love you and I’ll do everything I can to get back to you.
You’re going to be the great writer, so you can understand when I say I love you more than my words can describe means exactly how it sounds. I’ve never been in love before and I don’t know if I’ll ever feel the same about anyone else. I don’t think I would ever want to.
I hope this letter will be the start of a new beginning and not the epilogue to our story.
Love you again. Hope to see you soon,
To mark Whit’s sixth month anniversary he went home, visited with Whit’s mom and his own. The television had remained off the majority of the day. In the world’s mind, Captain America had been gone for a year exactly. He fielded calls from Chloe, Pete, and Lois, who in her own way offered him comfort through entertainment offered by some of Metropolis’ finest…male strippers. It was her attempt at helping him.
Surprisingly, he hadn’t heard from either Lex or Bruce. He wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not. He could have gone to the fortress, but Whit’s voice was loud and clear in his mind without Whit’s AI speaking to him.
Instead, he opted to take Krypto on a walk. He’d been pretty single-minded for the last nine months and the neighborhood reflected his distraction just a tad. When they’d first moved into the neighborhood, it was purely middle class, less trendy and more working couples. They were far from the only gay couple in the neighborhood and far from the only workaholic couple either.
Their block was full of brownstones and tiny front yards that belied the actual green space behind the homes. There was a coffee shop, trendy stores, a couple of restaurants, and a park that they’d always gone to, especially on their mutual days off. One would have thought that Whit was the one that needed the sun for his metabolism. Whit would stretch out long and lean over Clark’s legs and tell Clark to read him something, whether it was Clark’s own writing or the newspaper, Whitney liked to relax by listening to the steady cadence of Clark’s voice.
When Krypto came along, they played fetch and tossed Frisbees, though Krypto would never become exhausted. Krypto would decide when he’d had enough and venture over to their tree and lay down in the soft grass.
He hadn’t forgotten that spot, it seemed. Krypto walked over to their tree, a broad limbed and thick-leafed maple and sniffed the base and whined low in his throat before turning his big puppy eyes on Clark.
“I know.” Clark patted the dog’s head. “I miss him too.”
In the park, he bought two hot dogs, one for him and the other for Krypto. They walked aimlessly around the neighborhood and the friendly folks he encountered reaffirmed Whit’s good decision to move them there. A year removed from college, he’d been satisfied with living in an apartment. Whitney, not so much.
Whitney, for once, had had the better argument and a ton of back pay from his work in security and Clark’s book had picked up a publisher. Financial security hadn’t been the issue. They’d lived in an apartment since Clark, and later Whitney, had started college. Whit had always said a place without a lawn wasn’t a home.
One look at the house and the sloping ground behind it had solidified the house as home in Whit’s mind. He sold Clark on the house furiously, repeatedly, and with a passion that was transferable. Now Clark couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.
When he returned to the house, there was a figure sitting on his porch. It was Bruce. Krypto barked excitedly as they neared the walkway, prompting Bruce to turn towards them.
“Hey.” Clark reined Krypto in, knowing Bruce wouldn’t want his dressed-down black ensemble covered in white dog fur.
Bruce stepped aside for Clark to open it and pet Krypto leisurely. “I was in Metropolis and thought I’d stop by.” Translation: Bruce had planned to sneak up on Clark and was seconds away from picking the lock on the front door when Clark showed up.
They entered the house and Clark immediately unclipped Krypto. Only a few knew the leash was made of a special Kryptonian polymer, which Krypto couldn’t snap like a piece of thread. “Come on in.”
“The boys are doing my patrol tonight, so I wasn’t in a rush to get back to the city.”
Clark slipped off his coat and hung it in the closet and gestured for Bruce’s. “I could use some company.” Clark walked into the kitchen and washed his hands. “Hungry? I could get dinner started.”
Bruce leaned against the doorway. “Well, I didn’t come to inconvenience you.”
“You’re here to keep me company,” Clark said with a smile. “Thanks, I appreciate the concern.”
Bruce didn’t so much as look uncomfortable with Clark’s glowing appreciation as he bristled silently, rolled up his sleeves and prepared himself to work beside Clark in the kitchen. “Is there anything you need chopped?”
Clark raised a questioning brow. “So should I add master chef to your title of world’s greatest detective?” he teased as he passed Bruce a small pack of tomatoes and mushrooms.
“Actually, the chef title preceded the detective, so I’ll have to prove my skills.” Bruce accepted a paring knife from Clark. “I’ll have to prove my knife handling skills to you.”
“I’m sure you will.” Clark marveled at wattage behind Bruce’s smile. Suddenly, his face felt hot and his eyes darted to the cabinet, where several boxes of pasta lay in wait. He passed a box of pasta to Bruce and intentionally avoided their fingers touching.
Bruce understood and subtly backed off. Though the smile hadn’t completely disappeared. “How has today been?”
Clark distracted himself by pouring two glasses of lemonade, his mother’s recipe, and organized his thoughts. “It was good. I saw Whit’s mom and my mom and we reminisced. Today wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be.”
“Good.” Neat rows of multiple colored bell peppers, mushrooms, and diced tomatoes were laid out on the chopping board. “Anniversaries are always tough.” Bruce slid the knife through the neat lines and the colorful vegetable pieces mixed into a mosaic-like assortment. “When people say the pain gets better in time, I realize—”he paused. “They’ve never met me.”
Clark wasn’t sure whether he should smile or wrap Bruce up in a hug. “You’ve turned out just fine, Bruce. There are countless people that would attest to the fact. You’ve saved the world a couple of times over and you’ve been a great friend.”
A heating saucepan was adjacent to Bruce on the stove. “I think you should remember the same.” The vegetables skittered and sizzled in the pan. “I’m still holding you to doing patrol with me the next time you’re in Gotham.”
“I wouldn’t expect you to do otherwise.” They slipped into silence as the pasta boiled and they sipped their lemonade.
Clark showed Bruce the facsimile of the scrapbook Whit’s mom had made of their costumed exploits. It dated back to the first articles of the blue-red blur that had been spotted throughout Metropolis and Captain America’s work with the government. He hadn’t known she was making this, but he was glad she had.
It shouldn’t have surprised Clark that Bruce brought wine with him. If anything, Bruce would have helped him to drink away his sorrows. They worked in harmony, getting the dining room table set and bringing the food to the table. Clark brought a bottle of parmesan cheese to the table as Bruce prepared to open the wine. To Bruce’s scrutiny of the bottle, Clark responded, “You haven’t lived until you’ve had cheese out of a bottle.”
To which Bruce rolled his eyes and shrugged.
A knock sounded at the door and Krypto barked excitedly. The white lab bounded down the steps and barked at the door, scratching the wood lightly. A look passed between Clark and Bruce before the former went to answer the door.
“You should get that, “Bruce urged as he poured wine into their glasses.
Clark pushed Krypto out of the way with his knee and opened the door partially, and smiled when he saw Lex waiting patiently on the other side. “I figured I’d come to you, since you haven’t called me today.”
Lex stepped over the threshold and paused when he saw Bruce standing at the opposite end of the dining room. “I didn’t know you had company.” He didn’t hesitate in removing his coat and gloves.
“Bruce stopped by to check on me as well.” Clark said as he tucked Lex’s things in the closet. “I guess the more, the merrier. You’re just in time. We were about to have dinner.”
Lex had a box in hand and passed it over to Clark. “If you insist.” It was a box of Clark’s favorite Canadian ginger ale. You literally had to go to Canada to get it. “I was in Toronto a few days ago. Thought you’d enjoy it.”
“Lex.” The two men acknowledged each other sternly.
The air suddenly had gone a bit frosty. Clark pushed Lex along. “Let’s eat before it gets cold.”
Clark sat at the head of the table with Bruce and Lex at the both sides of him. Lex showed that he was deftly skilled at eating grated cheese from a bottle.
“This is great, Clark.” Lex moved towards having seconds.
Bruce also made a move towards the heaping plate of pasta. “Thank Bruce, Lex. He chopped the veggies.”
Lex’s chewing came to a still. He eyed Bruce and nodded appreciatively. “It’s good. Didn’t know your skills extended to the culinary arts?”
Bruce finished the last of his wine. “I’m man of many talents, Lex. I think I’ve proven myself to Clark, hopefully I’ve proven myself to you too.”
“Proving yourself? It sounds like some type of secret society.” It might as well be, Clark thought, considering the nature of the secrets the three of them and their friends kept.
“Be nice, guys.” Clark asked. “Thanks for coming to see me. I appreciate it.”
Lex lifted his glass in a small toast to Whit. “You’re my—our friend and we know how much you loved Whit and how that love was returned in equal measure.”
“To Whitney.” Bruce raised his glass. “A good man. A great hero. A damn good husband.”
Clark drank his wine in one quick gulp. His eyes suddenly going misty. Both men had their issues with him and Whitney in one capacity or another, but they’d shown just how good friends they could be.
“Thank you both.”
“I think the next step is taking it one day at a time.” Lex offered. Clark and Bruce shared a secret smile, because they’d shared a conversation about the same topic an hour ago. Lex was bemused and he smiled the pair.
The night was still young once the dishes were cleared away, but going out didn’t seem like an option. They’d settled into the den with Clark on the sofa, nursing a can of ginger ale and Krypto resting with his head on Clark’s lap, while Bruce and Lex sat in the chairs opposite of him.
Bruce and Lex were polishing off the rest of the wine. “How long was it before Whitney came back?” Bruce inquired.
So much had happened between the day Clark last talked to Whitney over the phone and the moment they set eyes on each other again. For one thing, Clark was a few weeks from graduating and still not quite sure if he was heading to MetU or Central Kansas. His father—the biological one—had stopped talking to him after his staunch refusal to do his bidding. Lex was recovering from failed marriage number two and Lionel’s imprisonment and luckily misfired attempt to brainwash him via corrupt doctors, false
imprisonment, and a thousand volts of strategically placed electricity.
Krypto perked up his head and stared at Clark as if he could remember just as surely as Clark and Lex could. “Whit came back a year, three months, and seven days after we last spoke. I’d received letters, mostly telling me he was okay, but he hadn’t sent them. There were only three of them anyway.”
Lex swirled the last of his wine around in his glass. “I doubt I’ll ever forget that sight either.”
Clark did blush. “I’m sure you won’t.”
Whitney hadn’t lied about his intentions.
Lex offered to drop Clark off at the farm and Clark had eagerly accepted. Time spent with Lex had grown shorter and less frequent with Lionel in jail. The dark circles under Lex’s eyes were molting like bruises and his suits seemed to swamp him rather than swathe as the days progressed and Clark was genuinely worried.
“Are you sure you don’t have time to stay for dinner? A little birdie told me Mom’s cooking her famous meatloaf and we all know you can’t resist.”
Lex laughed and fingered the edge of his shades. “I would if I could. Lucas has decided to pay me a visit under the pretense of keeping the family together. I wonder if he’s persuaded any of my staff to mutiny yet?”
“Even more reason why you should stay for dinner,” Clark countered. “Plus, you could help me come to some decisions.”
Finally having learned from the countless injuries sustained to his cars, Lex had traded in his tiny sports cars to opulence with 4-wheel drive. The Land Rover navigated the loose gravel drive up to the farmhouse with controlled ease. “I think I’ve done all I can to help you make this decision. Nothing short of me ordering you to go to one of them will help you choose.”
“You could just do that.”Clark smiled at Lex earnestly and it was a genuine Clark Kent symbol of trust. “I know you’d do an excellent job.”
The Land Rover stopped behind a late model Ford sedan. “Resorting to flattery? Still won’t help you, Clark. This is your decision to make. Sink or swim, my friend.”
“Lex.” Clark whined.
“Not bribery either.”Lex pointed at the car. “Looks like your parents have a visitor. Maybe that will give you more time to think.”
The playful expression that filled Clark’s face with a natural sunny glow slowly evaporated as recognition filled his eyes. “That’s Mrs. Fordman’s car.”
As soon as the words fell from his lips, Clark was out of the truck and inside the yard. Lex hadn’t fully gotten out of the car when Clark bounded up the few porch steps and entered the house. The door was only partially closed and through the lacy curtain over the glass lookout, Lex could see Clark’s back facing the door.
He stepped inside, just a little behind Clark, when a pair of arms encircled Clark’s back and a collective gasp filled the room when the body that matched those arms pulled Clark into a tight embrace and kissed the ever-loving life out of him.
Lex’s breath trickled to a stop for the duration of the kiss. Clark’s arms came up and grabbed onto Whitney’s arms drawing him closer. Apparently, neither of the Kents (though Jonathan looked vaguely uncomfortable), nor Mrs. Fordman had a problem with Whitney and Clark making out in the living room. Whitney pulled back, eyes still glued upon Clark’s face, on his mouth mostly, before he smiled. “I told you I was going to do that the second I saw you.”
“You did promise.” Clark parroted, his voice sounded rusty and whisper-low.
Whitney looked beyond Clark’s shoulder. “Hey Lex.”
Clark turned suddenly and Lex got his first and only look at Clark’s kiss-bruised lips. Extra pink and swollen, they truly looked bee stung. “Lex—”
“You guys catch up…I’ll see you later, Clark.” Lex’s tone was nonchalant, though his feet move with a supreme swiftness to get him out of the house.
Clark followed out on to the porch, but he waved him off. “You have catching up to do.” Clark looked torn between explaining and turning around to kiss Whitney some more. Lex would make this decision easy for him. He reversed and left the Kent Farm.
Having Whitney so close was like having all of his senses suddenly go on overload. They sat side by side, Whit’s thigh constantly pressed against Clark’s own, the platter of meatloaf lay in front of them, the centerpiece of tonight’s dinner, and it was so quaint. Just like nearly two years hadn’t passed. Clark wondered if he flushed every time Whit’s left hand trailed over his skin. He’d somehow found the will to restrain himself from snagging Whit’s hand and keeping it against him for the remainder of dinner.
The evening passed in a haze, sitting around the table with Whit next to him felt indescribable. This was what shock must have felt like. Being disconnected from your surroundings, but marginally aware. He was only aware of Whitney. Of the glint of the dining room light off his shorn blond fuzz, the ruddy tint of his skin, and the pink stray lines that covered his skin in odd corners, fading scars. Somehow, he answered their questions, could feel his parents’ eyes on him, but he only watched Whitney.
He let his senses expand and memorized the sound of Whit’s heartbeat again. It was a perfect match from memory. Each thud strong and steady and his touch was living warm against Clark’s skin. It had been his mother who’d blessedly understood and offered to let Whitney stay the night.
“If it’s okay with you, Mom?” He deferred. She nodded and kissed his forehead and hugged Clark.
They weren’t that lucky to have it be Friday night and following day the start of the weekend. At least there was only one day in between the weekend. “I’ll drop him off on my way to school.” Whitney touched his hand as he went to walk his mother out and Clark went to help his make up the guest bed for Whitney. Being liberal enough to allow you gay son’s war hero boyfriend to sleepover was one thing, allowing them to sleep together was entirely another can of worms that neither Martha nor Jonathan were ready to think about.
“If you boys go out to the loft, you should take those cookies I made yesterday with you.” She shooed him out of the room and finished the bed by herself.
Clark stepped out onto the porch with the tin of cookies in hand. The night was warm bordering on hot. He was dressed down to one of his plain t-shirts, red of course, and jeans faded from hours of work around the farm and repeated use. Whit watched his mother drive away. He looked so crisp and perfect in his uniform, olive green with shiny buttons and brown dress shirt and black tie. Clark couldn’t help but feel underdressed.
Then Whit turned his eyes on him.
His feet were moving before he thought about it, same with Whitney as they meet in the middle of the path inside of the gate. The cookies tumbled around inside the tin as their bodies collided. The kiss was slower, deeper than the first Whit’s hands maintained a firm grip on Clark’s arms and Clark’s fingers fisted the front of his jacket. Clark pulled back just enough to speak, though it took a try or two, since Whitney followed his mouth aggressively. “Let’s go to the loft. I don’t think my parents need to see this show.”
Whitney darted in for another kiss, before saying, “Sure.” They walked out of the picket fence gate with Clark leading the way. Whitney snagged Clark’s free hand and entwined their fingers. In return, Clark smiled at Whit, thankful the fall of night kept his blush hidden.
The loft was clean for once. Even the old afghan was folded over the back of the couch and the main window was closed. Clark dropped the cookie tin on his desk and turned to face Whit, who still stood in the center of the room, cataloging the minimal changes.
“Looks…pretty much the same,” he admitted with a wide grin.
“Yeah, there wasn’t much to change.” Metro sat on the couch, smiling with far more reverence than a plush shark should show.
Whitney shrugged out of his jacket and tossed it over the back of the couch. Clark eyed his form, immediately recognizing the changes in it. “You’ve gotten bigger.” Whit smirked and his muscles flexed under Clark’s scrutiny.
He was definitely fuller in the shoulders and upper arms, maybe even bigger than Clark. “I could say the same for you.” He stepped in front of Clark; like magnets they had to connect. “Your hair’s longer.”His fingers curled in the messy bangs that always fell over Clark’s eyes. “I like it.”
Clark fingers hovered over Whit’s golden bristles. “You’re nearly bald.” The cropped locks tickled his palm. “You look great.” Whit nodded absently, still focused on Clark’s face and touching his skin. “I guess I have a lot of questions.”
Whitney crowded him against the old wooden desk and stepped into the gap of Clark’s akimbo legs. “One at a time then.”
He watched Whit undo his cuffs and delighted in seeing more ruddy skin. “How long do you have home?” Clark grabbed Whit’s hand this time and tangled their fingers; the contact was sweet.
“At least three months. After that, we have to negotiate my contract.” Their hands rested on Clark’s warm thigh and Whit’s eyes darted between the sight and looking into Clark’s eyes. “Before you ask, I’m not exactly in or out, but it’s my choice to continue working for the government.”
Nodding, Clark tried to think of what else he could ask, though all he wanted to do was kiss Whitney until they were both breathless. “When did you know you were coming home? You could have called.”
“I didn’t want to ruin the surprise. My new unit finished up a mission about six weeks ago, and because it was so successful, we’re being decommissioned. Now, I’m here and all yours again.” The last bit was said with a bit of uncertainty.
“All mine,” repeated Clark. Whitney’s eyes flashed with some emotion, a happy one, as he was suddenly leaning closer to Clark, their mouths inches from touching again. “It feels like I should keep talking, but for the life of me, I can’t think of anything to say.”
“Me neither.” Whitney’s mouth crashed into Clark’s, their teeth gnashing from the collision and Whit backed off marginally. “There are plenty of other things I want to do.”
The fist in Clark’s shirt brought him up to his feet and they walked backwards until Clark’s legs hit the couch. Clark went down with his grip firmly attached to Whit, whose legs were straddling one of Clark’s and the couch.
Clark didn’t know where to touch or how. A part of his mind, the few devoted cells capable of resisting the unrelenting force that was Whit’s hot wet eager mouth warned him, sent him terrible flashes of what his strong hands could do. Of how his excitement could get the best of him and leave Whit panting and moaning for all the wrong reasons, but then, just as Clark was about to break away and try to slow them down Whit ground against him.
They felt fevered, so unbelievably hot. Clark pulled Whitney down by the back of his head and they kissed sharing one single breath. Whit was hard against Clark’s thigh, he shifted suddenly, tossing himself fully between Clark’s legs and brought one hand up by Clark’s head for leverage and the other up to anchor Clark’s thigh against his hip.
It was one thing to know how amazing his own hand felt sliding over his cock, but to have Whitney providing the same delicious pressure in kind… Clark could allow himself to forget, at least for the moment, and stop worrying about the trials of being an alien by focusing on the pleasures that were entirely human-made.
“W-Whit.” Clark stuttered in ragged breaths.
The crisp material of Whit’s dress pants pulled taut against his crotch and rubbed against the stiffness in Clark’s worn jeans again and again. “God, waited so long.” Whitney confessed like a dying man as he continued to rock against Clark, alternating between kissing him and sucking on his neck.
The green of Clark’s eyes was barely visible for the growing circle of black. His eyes, partially open, watched Whitney surge against him and clutched at him as the pleasure built up, the heat low in his belly rising higher, his muscles tightening and Whit’s fingers dug into his skin with enough force for him to feel it, even momentarily wonder if he’d bruise under the pressure.
“W-Whitney,” he stuttered and rocked back down against Whitney. He wanted more, his hands on Whitney’s skin and less layers between them for starters. This was the result of months of waiting and separation. The sounds they made were borderline animalistic, not real words decipherable, only grunts and moans as the couch squeaked appropriately.
Whitney refused to let Clark’s leg ease down. His hand was firmly plastered across the swell of Clark’s ass and he used it as another leverage point. Clark’s big hands stroked his back, trailing up and down the dips of his vertebrae and landing on his shoulders and rolling forward with each surge. The wet spot between them was growing against the fabric of their pants, and neither Whitney nor Clark cared, as Whit buried his face in Clark’s neck, taking a deep inhalation of his scent and sucking and nibbling at the flesh until Clark’s fingers dug into his shoulders and he came with a muffled shout.
The assault on Clark’s neck continued and Whitney’s hips rocked steadily into Clark, who’d drawn both of his legs up to cradle Whitney’s progress. “Yes, yes, yes,” Clark chanted between kisses.
Two years should have given him a hair trigger, but Whit saved all his energy and feeling for seeing Clark again. Every fantasy had been stored to be savored in reality. His first mission had been to make Clark come undone beneath him; now he pushed himself to finish.
He dropped his head into the crook of Clark’s neck and came with the absence of sound and air. Just the initial decline in the frantic energy that was abated by him finally coming. His hips gradually slowed, then stopped, and he breathed against Clark’s neck, dropped little kisses along the skin there and marveled at the reddening spot he’d put there.
Never before had Whitney been able to mark Clark. The idea that he had made him a helluva lot more punch-drunk. “Love you…love you so much,” he stuttered and gasped finally.
Clark’s hands rolled over him like ocean waves. “You too. Love you too, Whit. Missed you so much.”
Unsurprisingly, Whitney never got a chance to sleep in the guest bed.
With morning light splashing across his eyes, Clark was drawn out of the realm of sleep and smack into the warm snug embrace of reality. Whitney was curled around him, which was slightly less inconspicuous than Whit snoring light against Clark’s chest and cradled between Clark’s splayed legs.
By the wide arc of the sun, he could tell it wasn’t quite seven and his parents would know without tell-tale signs of flushed cheeks or shifty eyes that he and Whit hadn’t returned to the house. Whit’s chest pressed against his back, rising and falling with the steady rhythm of concentrated wakefulness.
Whit’s fingers skittered down the skin of his flank, exposed by his t-shirt riding up during sleep. “You awake?” Clark asked.
The fingers lazily walked down to his hip, where they curved and dug into the denim; Whit squeezed once and said, “Yeah.” The hand didn’t move, rather stayed there burned against Clark’s skin with proprietary weight. “Been awake for a while. It’s going to take awhile to adjust to Kansas time.”
Clark hadn’t thought about that. “Guess it’s time to face the music,” sighed Whit, as he rubbed his lips against the back of Clark’s neck. “Think your dad will whip out the shotgun and run me off his land?”
The couch groaned as Clark swept his feet around and onto the floor; the smile he tossed over his shoulder was unmindful of morning breath and equally as winsome as Whit’s. “You don’t have to worry about Dad. Mom’s the better shot anyway.”
At the sight of Whit’s expressing sobering, Clark tucked his chin against his chest and chuckled, lowly. Whit sat quickly realizing he’d been had and bumped his shoulder into Clark’s. “Laugh at the vet, why dontcha. I’ve been put through enough scares already.”
Their eyes locked with the same magnetic force as the night before and they found themselves being pulled forward by an invisible string of tension and connecting suddenly, softly, and with the harmony that only a good kiss could bring. Their lips meshed, their noses didn’t bump, and it was as close to perfect as a morning kiss could be. It spoke volumes, repeating the words Whit said the night before and Clark responded in kind, that he was still dedicated to them.
When the broke apart, Whit traced Clark’s rosy lips with his eyes. “Let’s go.”
Breakfast that morning was…interesting to say the least. Martha and Jon were already settled around the kitchen island drinking their morning coffee when the Clark and Whitney walked in the door. One look at Clark’s clothes from the day before and the somewhat shabby state of Whit’s uniform only raised a lone eyebrow from Martha and a blush from Jonathan.
“You boys wash up.” Martha ordered as she poured two glasses of orange juice. She held Clark’s eye purposefully, promising a long talk later on. Clark led Whitney to the guest bathroom and resolutely tried to force his blush down.
The rest of the morning passed without incident. Breakfast was had and Whitney gushed earnestly over Martha’s pancakes, eggs, and bacon. He swore that he would put on at least twenty pounds with all the food he knew his mother would force on him, which he wouldn’t put up much resistance to eating.
He said his thanks and promised to come back for dinner the next night before he and Clark shuffled out the door. Clark turned the trusty red pick-up onto the main road and Whit continued his praise over Clark’s mother’s pancakes. Whitney lived a couple of blocks of Main Street in what would pass for Smallville’s wealthy neighborhood. The lawns looked more like green carpet than grass and Clark imagined the stares of the neighborhood descending down on his rusted truck as he came to a stop in front of the Fordman house. At the moment, he felt more outclassed than worried that they could be outed by nosy neighbors.
Clark cast his gaze about before saying, “I guess you’ll be busy the next couple of days, huh? With the hero’s welcome and such to look forward to.” Clark expected Whitney to by swarmed by neighbors and friends, all eager well-wishers and ready to welcome him home the moment he stepped foot into the Fordman front yard.
Whit rubbed the back of his neck, bore a grimace that tried to masquerade as a smile, and he looked genuinely tired from the night before, though they hadn’t gotten up to too much. Clark imagined all of Whit’s stress hadn’t magically disappeared with him coming home, and all he could do was try to help Whit unwind.
“I’ll do my best to be gracious, though I won’t place any bets on my not leaping out the front window and running off screaming once the Jell-O molds come out of hiding.”
Clark couldn’t fight the swell of laughter that caught in his throat. “Okay, be nice, Whit.” Knowing how the experience after Jack Fordman’s death had been, Clark knew it was fair to not assume that Whit would bask in the attention worthy of the return of the town’s golden boy.
The engine tinkered and pinged as it cooled and the early morning sun cast an optimistic tint on the world around them. The broken vinyl covering the bench seat crackled when they shifted. Whit’s gaze had only strayed to the house once when they first arrived, but remained fixed on Clark. Moving closer, he dropped his hand over Clark’s, where in lay in between on the worn rough material of the seat.
“I’m always nice, Clark. Just a good ol’ Kansas boy back from serving his country and wanting to see the boy he left behind.” Whit drawled in an overly deep twang. “I want to spend time with you. It’s the one thing I’ve been promising myself that I’d do when I came home.”
“We will,” Clark promised rather solemnly, glad that he hadn’t made his earlier comment about Whit sounding like a country song.
The smile on Whit’s face reached his eyes and all that previous stress seemed to just vanish. Suddenly, he was across the seat and his warm lips touched the corner of Clark’s mouth with lightning quickness, and before that warm gut feeling that Clark had come to associate with Whit’s kisses could settle, Whit then was out of the car, the door slammed, smiling at him.
“Whit.” Clark gasped, startled by Whit’s brazenness. He felt much more conspicuous and wondered if any of Whit’s neighbors had seen. Not worrying so much about Mrs. Fordman, because she’d seen Whit plant a big one on him in front of her, his parents, Lex, and God, Clark presumed.
Whit leaned back inside the truck’s cab and the sun caught on his pins and metal accoutrements. He was rakishly handsome. “I’m your boyfriend and you’re mine.” His eyebrows waggled for suggestive emphasis. “I know we need to talk some more, but that was a taste of what was to come. I’ll see you after school.”
“Okay, good luck fighting off the Jell-O molds.”
Whit beamed. “I’ll do my best to save you some.”
Chapter 6: Six
They did manage to run into each other that day. Clark had tried to stir clear of the Talon since Lana’s cold shoulder had transformed into a deep freeze. Pete was more resolute about going to the Talon, since he still didn’t understand the inexplicable breakdown in Clark and Lana’s budding relationship.
Their group almost plowed headlong into Whitney and crew as they exited the café. Chloe commented sarcastically that the others must have forgotten the concept of doors working in both directions. An ex-linebacker that had graduated the year before guffawed and pestered Whit about Lana’s cold shoulder, to which Whitney replied, “Break-ups hurt, man.”
Whitney didn’t ignore him or smile subtly at him like he’d gone before Whit had shipped off. No, he actively stopped said “hey” to Chloe and reminded Clark that he would be by later, which made his hangers-on scowl in confusion.
As promised, Whit drove down the gravel drive of the farm around six. They couldn’t have timed it better, as Clark was pulling off his gloves when Whit stepped out of the truck. “Done yet?” Whit called.
“Yeah, I just finished. If I didn’t know better, I’d think you timed this.”
Whitney dared to look sheepish. “Came to tell you it was your turn to come to dinner tonight. Mom really wants you to join us, especially after you know.” Meaning the kiss that shocked the living room, which reminded Clark to go see Lex as soon as possible.
“Sure, let me change and tell my parents, then I’ll be ready to go.”
The ride was actually fun, with Whitney being playfully handsy. Clark ended up sitting flush against Whit’s side as Whit sang along with the radio.
“I kinda feel like we’re acting out some really bad country song cliché.”
Whit tapped one hand against the wheel, while the other carded through Clark’s hair. “As long as you don’t leave me and take my dog, then we’ll stay out of cliché territory.”
Clark shook his head, smiled before wrapping his hand around Whitney’s. “I think that defines cruel and unusual punishment when you separate a man from his dog.”
Whitney couldn’t have agreed more.
Dinner than night was Mrs. Fordman’s—please call me Mary—signature lasagna. It definitely wasn’t Stouffers, because it was way better. Like his own mother, Mary plied them with enough servings to make Whit’s conjecture of gaining a ton of weight very plausible.
After dinner and the offer to wash dishes, which would forever endear Clark to Mary Fordman, they cleaned up and settled on the back porch. The yard was sizeable, bigger than Chloe’s or Pete’s, with the time of fixtures that you’d expect to see in a Better Homes and Gardens spread. There was one of those souped up grills large enough to cook a hog in near the picnic table and gazebo set-up and a small rock path that led across the yard to a small vegetable and flower garden. It was cute and the vitality of the flowers and small spring crops showed Mary’s dedication to her hobby.
It was a nice place and Clark wondered how many memories passed through Whit’s mind of him and his Dad playing catch or running through plays in the beneath the shady oak tree. Them on the back steps. Since Whit was about six months beyond twenty and had gone to war, Mary had no qualms offering him a beer after dinner, though she smiled regretfully at Clark, because the offer logically didn’t extend to him.
They each had an old fashioned glass bottle of Coke apiece. Clark didn’t care what anyone else argued; Cokes packaged in bottles had a richer flavor.
“So?”Whit began and took a long swig of chilled coke.
“Yeah, dinner was great.”
“I’m surprised you can still button your pants.”
“Look who’s talking?” Clark retorted gingerly.
Clark observed Whit’s profile. He’d definitely gotten bigger, besides his deepened ruddy tan. The black t-shirt whit wore was obviously at least six times the price of Clark’s own. The worn and cracked lettering spelling out ‘AE’ warped and clung over the muscular swell of his chest and flat stomach. His cologne was spicy and roused his attention differently than Lex’s expensive collection and the Old Spice he and his dad shared.
Whit pulled a long neck bottle from the small cooler sitting beside them. His hands were slick with condensation as he rolled it between his hands in spite of the bubbling pressure inside. It was a gesture he’d seen his father make hundreds of times over his life.
He quit before asking, “Met U and Central Kansas, huh? Those are really good. You make a choice yet?”
“No, I’m not sure how.”
“What do you mean? It’s as simple as picking the one you like best or the one that gives you more money.”
“If you’re staying stateside, I want to be close to where you are.” Not that distance was really an issue to Clark, which was the benefit of being an alien, even if his boyfriend didn’t know he was in a relationship with one.
Whit focused on him with that hard discerning stare that made Clark want to blush on purpose. His mouth was fixed tight and he was clearly thinking and looked neither happy or upset, just entirely focused on Clark at the moment. Whit’s scrutiny trailed off after a moment and drifted elsewhere until he nodded and the hand that had been resting peacefully on Clark’s thigh was now gripping the back of his neck and allowing Whitney to dive in for a kiss. Like the one in the truck, it was jackrabbit fast and his mouth was moving over Clark’s slow, hard, and so steady, like the hands of a sniper. Clark held on and relished the bitter taste of beer on Whit’s tongue.
When they finally parted, the shadows in the yard crept out just a bit more and the sun’s bruised orange fire seemed to hand barely out of reach. Neither breathed hard or had the conscious worry of being caught. Whitney’s perusal was back, scanning the depths of Clark’s eyes as if he was the one gifted with x-ray vision. When his eyes fell, Clark smiled, knowing Whitney was transfixed by his lips, which were probably red and swollen.
“You have no clue do you?” The fingers on the back of Clark’s neck began to knead the skin there tenderly. “You say things like that and god, Clark, you turn me into a sap.” Whit licked his lips and worked his fingers deeper into Clark’s skin. The motions would have been too hard for anyone else; for Clark, the feeling was tripping firecrackers of feeling down his spine. It was a good feeling.
“I keep saying I love you, because it’s true and I mean it didn’t happen over time. I feel like I was smacked over the head with an anvil when you said you’d wait for me.”
Clark leaned into the massage and his eyes had drifted almost closed. “Was there any other choice?”
“Yeah, lots, C. Dozens.”The deep breath that escaped Whit’s lips sounded tired, weighed down and didn’t sync with Whit’s effervescent mood. “I’m pretty sure I’ll be stationed over here permanently. Gotta check in with my contact at the Dept of Domestic Affairs in about a month.” He trailed off. “What I really should be saying is that I’ll follow you wherever you’ll go, ‘cause I’m hooked until you don’t want me anymore.”
This wasn’t the first time that Whit had assumed Clark would leave him. Why did he always think that Clark would grow tired of him? Sure, their relationship had difficult parts, but that was the nature of all relationships, even secret ones. The desire to be honest bobbed up like a buoy on the open seas. “Maybe I should be worried about you getting tired of me. You may travel all over the world and meet so many people and I’ll still be here, going to school or farming. Seems like your life is shaping up to be more…interesting.” And he ducked his head and blushed. “And I haven’t put out, which seems to be unusual, if you’ve been with someone longer than a year.”
The massage stopped. “I haven’t put out either. Doesn’t mean that I’m not dying to do so, just hasn’t happened yet. There’s been no time, and as for me leaving you behind, that’s bullshit.”
“Yeah.” Just the faintest traces of the sun remained as it sank below the horizon and the sky became purple as it transitioned to black. Whit’s hand was no longer on the back of Clark’s neck and he missed the strength in Whit’s touch already. Whit’s elbows hung on his knees and he stared straight ahead. He was so still, whether he was breathing or not could be debatable. Clark could see the slight expansion and contraction of his chest and wondered where Whit’s thought were taking him.
“Could you still love someone if they kept a secret from you?” Whit asked in a low voice.
Secrets were the one thing Clark knew expertly. Whitney didn’t know about his otherness, did he? Could he handle it, if he did? Very few could. That didn’t mean you loved the person any less. “Yeah, Whit, you can. Sometimes they’re for everyone’s protection.”
Whit nodded, listening. “You think my Dad would still be proud of me if he knew what was inside me?”
The meteors had gotten to Whitney just like they’d gotten to so many others. The litany of blame began inside Clark’s head and the overwhelming sense of being contrite could have strangled him. “Of course, he’d be proud of you. He—”
“They—the doctors kept checking me over after the crash and couldn’t find anything wrong with me. I should have been dead like the other guys. I was feeling so low about the whole thing until the general spoke to me. Told me my talents could help win the war and I believed him. So I went through more tests and some treatments as they called ’em, did what they wanted me to when they asked me to, and know I feel like I may not be even human anymore. I’m not sure if I still want to be the hero they want me to be.”
Clark found himself wrapping an arm around Whit’s rigid form and dropping his head on Whit’s shoulder. This was cosmic irony of the worst kind. Whit worried about not being human anymore in the presence of an alien pretending to be human. He couldn’t help feeling like it was his fault for causing Whit’s life to move in this direction. “Whit, you’re already a hero and you can’t fake your way through being one.”
“I’m a freak.” Whit whispered so low, the sound could have been a rustling of the wind.
Freak. The word hurt, always had and always would. “Me too. I guess I can say being a freak isn’t so bad when you have someone else who understands.”
“You think so?”
That anvil Whit talked about before Clark finally understood. His feelings were already deep and genuine, but it wasn’t until he saw that intrinsic fear that haunted him every waking moment reflected in Whit’s eyes that Whit suddenly took up the mantle of hanging the sun, moon, and the stars. “I know so. You’ll be okay and we’ll be okay.”
Clark meant it and knew he’d never let Whit go.
Nights later, while drinking his Canadian ginger ale, Clark ruminated on Lex and Bruce’s reluctance to leave after his greatly abridged rehashing of Whit’s return home. He wondered if they understood why he told them about Whit’s fears of being different after having the serum. He wasn’t subtly telling them that he couldn’t let go, more like the process was extremely difficult, because of how connected they’d been.
They had an intrinsic understanding of the other’s fears. Fear motivated people in the most extreme ways; for them, it brought them even closer and sealed every fissure that could have possibly developed between them. It was a gift-horse that couldn’t be denied.
The comm link on Clark’s desk buzzed and vibrated against the miscellaneous papers he had stacked behind it. He stopped in mid-sip and stared at the device. The League needed him. Maybe, like then, it was time to stop being afraid.
He slipped the bud into his ear and opened the connection. “Ready.”
“Better be.”Bruce said. “I’m calling in that favor. Seems Jack’s even hotter under the collar than usual after his latest escape. He’s sent bombs to disguised as gift-wrapped packages all over Gotham. Tim and Dick are already working their way through defusing all the packages in Central Gotham. He’s targeting every location that caters to children.”
Clark stood from his chair, already thinking of where he’d put his suit. “What about Gotham Children’s Hospital? Are you on your way there?”
“Yes, Gordon’s evacuating the building, but I’m not sure we’ll have enough time to get all the children free of a potential blast site.”
Gotham Children’s Hospital was one of the largest, if not the largest hospital dedicated to children on the East Coast. The number of children and babies entrusted to its care on a daily basis, Clark couldn’t figure off the top of his head, but Bruce was right. He’d never find all the bombs in time without his help.
Down the hall in the bedroom closet, there was a false wooden panel that opened to house their suits. Clark was halfway suited when he asked, “How much time?”
“Twelve minutes. I’m almost to the hospital and I’m starting with the bottom levels first.”
He found his cape and unfurled it quickly, connected the intricate and near seamless Kryptonian clips, and then his fingers worked through his hair allowing that lone black curl to fall upon his forehead. He blinked, once, opened his eyes and they were alien blue. “I’ll meet you in the basement.”
He patted Krypto’s head and gave him a stern look to be good while he away and sped out of the house. The second he allowed his body to rise in the air, the Kryptonian equivalent of adrenaline began to course through his veins as he floated higher and higher, moving east with rattling thunder behind him as he broke the sound barrier.
After Clark reached Gotham and honed in on the children’s hospital, the following twenty minutes blurred. In his head, he heard the steady ticks as time edged them all closer to the Joker’s mad desires and at counterpoint the rapid staccato of the young hearts of Gotham’s children, and every now and then, the sound of Bruce’s fingers working with deadly efficient speed as he disarmed the bombs in the remaining wings of the hospital.
There was a frantic moment when the timers began a cacophonous laughter as a minute remained before they were detonated. The shrieking cackles were calling out to him. Superman swept through the halls in a tornado of blue and red and scooped up the seemingly innocuous packages from the upper three floors, but one was hidden on the top floor, somewhere within the neonatal cardiac unit. The cackles rattled on and Superman’s head whipped about to pinpoint the sound’s origins. The Joker was as creative as he was demented. The last bomb wasn’t a gift wrapped package, but a giant over-stuffed plush gorilla dressed in typical circus clown costume.
With thirty seconds left, Superman wrapped the sparkly packages and the giant gorilla inside sheet that hung over the back of an empty rocking chair. He swung the makeshift sack over his shoulder and would have been told he looked like a younger version of Santa if anyone had seen him, and leaped through the nearest window and shot upwards in the sky. As the final five seconds tickled away, the obnoxious laughter trailed off into the warped sounds of melting plastic as Superman reached the bottom layer of the atmosphere. He swung the sack once like discus and released it, and watched the sack explode into a ball of bright orange light thousands of miles above anyone the bombs were intended to harm.
Back on the ground, Superman saw Batman in the shadows and was offered a nod and two-finger salute in thanks. Debriefings always followed skirmishes with the Joker, no matter how big or small they might be. He’d see Bruce at the tower later.
Immediately, he was swamped by Gordon, grateful parents and staff, and children who were excited to have Superman save them. He took a few pictures, shook hands, and gave hugs to the extremely ill patients. The smile he wore was his million dollar signature grin and for the first time in about a year, it was genuine and unstrained. He was sure the big headline in the Gotham Star and the Planet would be “Superman Returns.” Not for the first time and certainly not for the last, Superman marveled at how underappreciated Batman was.
Eventually, he flew back above the city, because just hanging around was preventing the kids from cooperating with the staff to return to their rooms. He slowed down as he neared Metropolis and hovered in mid-air on the outskirts of the city, where the lights shown brightest against the darkness of the sky. The show truly lived up to its name from this height. It was a gleaming metropolis and called him home with his busy sounds of life and memories still so fresh and vivid.
“It’ beautiful,” he said to the empty air.
Whitney answered, “Always has been.” It was their first meeting in costume and far from the last.
Superman smiled at his home and replied to the memory, “Always will be.”
For the first time in months, he felt grateful to be going home.
Chapter 7: Seven
Lex invited him to breakfast the next morning. Between the fresh fruit medley and the cook’s signature blueberry French Toast, Lex slid a copy of the Planet over and sipped his coffee. This was how Lex broached tough subjects. He’d show you the evidence, whatever it might be, and allowed you supply your reasoning for it.
Clark savored the natural sweetness of the fruit and might have moaned due to the sheer deliciousness of the dish, which earned him a quirked brow from an amused Lex. “I knew I’d make it on the cover.”
“Superman returns after a year, of course that will make headlines.” Lex folded the paper and set about pouring more coffee for himself, since caffeine seemed to be his sustenance of choice, and ineffectually shrugged. “My question is was that a good idea?”
Clark caught Lex’s gaze and it was a mirror of concern. “A favor was called in,” he said quickly and returned his attention back to his plate.
“Don’t let Bruce or anyone else bring you back before you are ready.” Trust Lex to see right through Clark’s attention to respect the secret identity line. “Are you ready? That’s the question.”
The image of Metropolis burned bright in his mind. The whistle of the wind, the breaths of the bay, and the irregular hum of life in the city were so beautiful; listening to it again was like falling back into sync with his life. “It’s time, Lex. I felt it when I flew again…If you can believe it, I feel closer to Whit somehow.”
“You answered one question only to raise another: are you letting go? Clearly, you’ve moved beyond the grieving,” Lex paused and he looked momentarily uncertain, like he was searching for the right words, which was very un-Lex like. “You still sound so expectant when you talk about him. I want you to hear me out, Clark because I’m your friend. There’s no changing the outcome by waiting this out. There’s only two options here: acceptance or none.”
True, Clark’s voice carried an air of expectancy when he talked about Whit. He didn’t want to get into an argument with Lex, mainly because it bring into a discussion of metaphysical nature of love. Love was like time, continuous in so many directions and it didn’t end when you asked it to and to stop loving Whit in the present or the future required more strength than Clark believed he possessed.
“I don’t think you understand. You care, but —“
“I’ve always cared.” Lex retorted a little sharply, blue eyes flashing indignantly. “I have always cared. I’m talking to you about this, because I care and I want…” He corrected himself. “What you need is to let go.”
“I’ve already accepted, but I’m not quite sure how that’s different from letting go.”
Lex’s look of consternation told him to not be so dense.
Clark sighed, looked over at the inner heart of the Metropolis cityscape and wished for the life of him that they weren’t having this conversation. “What happens when I do?
“You’ll be happy. Completely and absolutely happy.” Holding Clark’s eyes, he spoke, “And hopefully you’ll see—” The ‘me’ went unspoken. “It’s not my place to say this, though if we remain on this cathartic kick, it remains to be said that Bruce is hoping for the same. He may try his best to keep everyone at quarantine distance, but he cares. Never doubt that.”
“Lex.” Clark felt like he was uncomfortably wearing the Mr. Oblivious hat again. It was safe to say that breakfast was substantially more awkward after that double set of revelations.
He returned home before breakfast could bleed into lunch and entered the house to Krypto’s happy barks. The red light on the answering machine blinked furiously, alerting him to the messages from undoubtedly Chloe, his mother, and multiples from Lois. The third of which will probably have a threat or two revolving around meteor rock and wedge heels. Lois’ threats showed how deeply she cared.
After deciding to call them later, Clark opted to treat Krypto for not getting too hyper while Clark went out the night before. Just the sight of the suit had Krypto leaping and smashing pieces of furniture as he tried to bound after him or Whit. It must have been the primary colors, he presumed.
They walked about the neighborhood, ate a few hotdogs, and Clark even let Krypto chase a cat or two. He received light scowls of disapproval from his neighbors, which morphed into smiles just to see him out and about and being a carefree guy with his dog.
It was mid-afternoon when they returned to the house. Without a thought, Clark picked up the mail and tossed it on the table before heading upstairs. There were ideas stirring round in his head. Lots. Stemming from the rescue the night before and the conversation with Lex earlier that day.
Chloe had said it best when they were back in high school that despite all of Clark’s many talents, understanding people—mainly, the subtleties of human interaction—were as foreign to him as Klingon was to practically everyone else.
That imaginary light bulb went off over his head, so bright and luminescent anyone should have been able to see it. Lex had turned his back on him the day Whitney returned. For years, he couldn’t understand. Thought simply that Lex was angry at him for keeping another huge secret. Everyone else could accept one secret in exchange for an omission.
There were photographs dispersed on Clark’s desk and along the walls of his office in between band posters and sci-fi staples. There were also little touches of Whit here and there: a plush football on a shelf between books, a Metropolis Sharks pennant over the door, and a couple of familiarly-dressed action figures stationed around the room. Clark had to admit he was a bit partial to the G.I. Joe and Captain America action figures on the rotating deck. Turn one way and Captain America stood proudly patriotic; the other way had G.I. Joe in desert camos ready to do the will of his commander and chief.
It was a progression through time. From the farm and high school to the barely above roach motel apartment he and Whit lived in during his three years of college to the present; the experience that had led him here. Clark would even keep the years of bitterness and his parents’ disapproval at him eloping at eighteen.
His eyes landed on a picture of him and Bruce, a year or so after working together, six months of knowing each other’s identities. Bruce on the farm was a sight that needed to be savored.
Weird didn’t even begin to describe how his mind started to dissect every moment when he and Bruce were alone together or all the memories of the unspoken feud that seemed to permeate his marriage that raged incessantly between Bruce and Whit.
It wasn’t that he was actually that oblivious; Clark had nature and nurture working to his disadvantage. Growing up with Martha and Jonathan Kent, Clark was always presented with the image of eternal love and steadfast dedication. Children modeled the behavior they observed. When he was little and made up of awkward limbs and frantic energy in the midst of his puppy dog love, he’d believed he’d grow up to be the prince to Lana’s fairy princess. As time went on and he grew into a young man, Clark realized whoever lay in his future would get his full attention and constant devotion. Kryptonians, on the other hand, took marriage far more serious than even the strictest of earth protocols for marriage. Kryptonian marriage or bonding was a matter of uniting spiritually more so than physically; having believed that they’d evolved beyond the need to physically procreate, Kryptonians didn’t relegate physical intimacy to the same sacred position it had within earth marriages: those of the younger brazen generation and the counterculture did.
Born of Krypton and raised on Earth, he was a student of true love and the institution of soul mates.
Whit happened to hit all those buttons.
Dressed in his sweats and old Crows tee, Clark sat at his computer with the intention of writing a little. Nothing in particular, just his thoughts, a little like free association.
His email pinged as a new message entered his inbox. From Bruce, of course. The Bat had an uncanny ability to make his presence known when he wandered into one’s thoughts.
Subject: Jack Debriefing
You missed meeting in WT. It’s crucial to review all Jack cases for analysis of trend and conjecture for potential strike areas, if not apprehended within 24 hours. Monitor duty schedule is being augmented to decrease number of repeat shifts with your return. Currently on reserved status, active deployment for alpha and omega level events.
Expect to see you at tomorrow’s meeting.
A minute later, his inbox pinged again.
New restaurant owned by mega-restaurateurs has opened on the Gotham waterfront. So as to not offend any of the social graces, an appearance by the P.o.G. is expected. Would greatly appreciate your company tomorrow evening. I’ll provide the formalwear and you provide your own transportation to Gotham—(j/k).
Correspond at your earliest convenience.
Clark immediately responded to the first with the appropriate Bat-placating speech and decided to hold off on the second. He wasn’t sure if he could provide Bruce with expedient with new information just coming to light.
Talk about great expectations.
All the thoughts that could have been put to good use writing something fresh escaped Clark and left him futilely rubbing his eyes against non-existent phantom pains, more like mental weariness.
He abandoned the writing for the time being and decided to check the mail, which he realized he’d neglected since he’d been home. He found the usual—bills, two menus, one promising fast Italian and the other fast Chinese, and at the bottom of the stack was Whit’s handwriting on another nondescript white envelope.
The bills and advertisements for fast food were left in the kitchen, while Clark climbed the stairs with the letter in hand. It felt too special to read in his office, so padded into the bedroom and shut the door behind him. Krypto whined and scratched the wood in objection, though Clark didn’t feel bad. A sense of foreboding hit him as he sank down on the bed.
The white envelope rested on his open palms. Staring down at it felt like alignment of his world could shift with just the small action of ripping it open. There was a side of him that warred with keeping himself blissfully ignorant from whatever Whit wanted to say at this point, but then thought back to Lex’s question of the day of the last year really; was he letting go or was he still laying claim to a ghost?
Clark closed his eyes, expanded his range of his hearing and allowed the sounds of the neighborhood to wash over him. Cars passing, people talking—arguing over one thing or another, the wind, birds chirping, laughter, the sound of someone saying ‘I love you.’
He opened his eyes and opened the envelope, while releasing the breath he held hostage as he began to read.
By now, I hope you realize this is my last letter. Know that I have plenty of things left to say without the luxury of time to say them. I never expected to fall in love for the first time and to never turn back. It may have taken us a while to actually say the words, but I can confess now without any worries that I loved you from the moment you let me kiss you. Taking you to the carnival was icing on the cake.
If it makes you feel better write our story. I think it would make a pretty good one. It starts with a boy daring to love another boy and finding his love returned in kind. Our life together feels like a fairy tale with you cast as my alien prince and me the soldier turned mighty knight. If this were a fairy tale, we’d find a way to stop this, but such is life.
I’ve come to have very few regrets. One that still haunts me to this day. You strung up on a cross with meteor rock around your neck while you struggled to breathe and I did nothing. I am so sorry, Clark. I still say you’re a better man than me for forgiving me years ago and wanting to be my friend…I can’t fathom life without you in it or with me. My second regret is never telling you what scared me most. I guess it still stems from the first one: I was always afraid of hurting you. Considering that I’m strong, but you’re still the one capable of crushing coal into diamonds, this seems very weird. After you told me the secret, I was scared that I could hurt you without even trying; I could hurt you just by loving you.
The rocks are in me. Under my skin. In my blood. Inside everything that matters.
You never said anything and I knew our condoms weren’t made out of lead, but I always worried, so that’s why I was ridiculous about keeping rubbers all over the house. You may be the strongest hero in the universe, but I’ll always worry about keeping you safe.
You went out to California with me on a leap of faith and answered the most important question of my life. I can’t begin to describe how being married to you has felt. I still get the same rush at 33 that I had at 21. It’s still equally as phenomenally hot. You made an honest soldier out of me and I have to thank you for that.
I don’t regret our crappy apartment or the tension with our parents. My favorite was waking up next to you with your terrible bedhead in our too small bed. We had to sleep in each other’s arms the first two years. Sometimes, I stayed awake after you came back from the library or patrol and listened to you sleep. You never snored, but you do talk in your sleep and you’d always talk to me.
I’m thinking about those nights, the funny things you could do with your eyes and candles, the look on your face when you saw the house for the first time, how you laughed at my suit, how I laughed at yours…Whether I have a week or a few days, I think I’ve had a better life than any man can ever hope for. I’m sorry we didn’t get thirty or forty or even fifty years instead of our ten and change, but I’ll take these just as gladly.
Thank Lex and Bruce for me. If you’re reading this, then they came through when it counted, despite me never liking them for obvious reasons. They’re good guys and I know you realize that. Take this as a blessing for when—and not if, the time comes.
I’m a shameless Clark-addict, so I know how bad the separation is right now. Here’s my final set of instructions, also my final request. Take off my ring. Put it on a chain or in the trunk, but you can’t wear it anymore. Instead, honor my wishes by remembering how it went on in the first place.
Don’t continue to mourn me, because you’re only keeping the pain fresh and preventing the healing process from beginning. I’ll be a ghost soon as a matter of all things with time. Let me go, Clark. Know that I’ve been be a son, a student, a soldier, and a hero, but I’m most proud of just being with you.
I love you forever and always.
Your eternal husband,
Whitney K. Fordman
The constant noise of the world for the first time faded into silence and Clark exhaled like he was finally releasing the breath that he’d held since Whitney confessed he was sick. The gleam of the ring on his finger winked at him, beckoning him into action.
Without a sound, Clark did as Whitney requested and removed the ring. He placed it on top of the letter, where it lay on the nightstand, and fell back against the pillows. Another day was coming to a close. As the sun began to set, he tried to remember how to breathe.
It was two days past graduation. Still hadn’t seen Lex face to face. All of Clark’s attempts to visit or call were met with polite staff telling him that Lex was busy or not home. The calls went straight to voicemail, which wasn’t unusual. Not returning his call was.
Though his graduation gift had arrived on time in the form of an envelope and a box. The card came from Lex’s personal stationary, the same set he used to make his introduction as the ‘Maniac in The Porsche,’ and contained his loopily scrawled well wishing message and two passes to Disneyland with an accompanying hotel package. The box contained the laptop he’d been eyeing for months. Lex knowing the rules about giving Clark gifts waited for graduation day when no gifts could possibly be returned.
Clark would have liked to have thanked Lex in person at his graduation; instead he celebrated with his parents, Mrs. Fordman, Chloe, Mr. Sullivan, Pete, the Rosses, and Whit. Only one of which gifted him with a celebratory blow job, his first by the way, and probably the best he thought he’d ever have.
Being a graduated man didn’t feel much different from still being in high school. Sure, he didn’t have to get up for classes. Chores still awaited him during the day and he had some semblance of a curfew.
They were cataloguing Clark’s graduation presents when Whitney saw Lex’s card. He read it, closed it and stared off into space, while Clark fiddled with his new laptop. “I haven’t given you your gift.”
“You don’t have to.”
“I want to.”
“When I first came back, I told you there was something I needed to do. To do it, I need to take a little trip. Are you up for some serious spontaneity?”
“If this is how you’re asking me to come with you, then yes. I’ll go.”
“Great,” Whit smiled as he patted Clark’s cheek excitedly. “California, here we come.”
“You want to go to Disneyland?”
“That’s part of it. But—” He slipped his fingers through Clark’s belt loops and yanked him forward and flush against his front. “Business first, then pleasure.”
Take a trip with Whitney? Why not? “Yeah, let’s go.” Clark pressed closer.
Clark couldn’t even begin to count the number of weird things that had happened in his life. The newest one to be added to the top ten was definitely his father’s attempt to remind him about safe sex. Well, Jonathan Kent’s sputtering and red-faced lecture about sex safe regarding his son and his son’s boyfriend was the stuff awkward silences were founded on.
It ended with Clark promising solemnly, shaking his head so fast to be safe that Jonathan actually became motion sick from looking at him. Jonathan Kent patted his son’s shoulder and smiled before exiting the barn and entering the house to tell his wife that the next big talk was on her.
When Clark told Whitney about the lecture debacle, Whit laughed from across the whole state of Utah and had sputtering coughing choking guffaws when they reached central Nevada. “Comedy gold, Clark,” Whitney said after later round of laughter.
“Now, it seems like comedy. At the time it was horrific and awful, way more embarrassing than…”He trailed off thinking about his misadventures with heat vision and Lex’s first wife. The same Lex who he hadn’t spoken to in weeks.
Whit looked across the cab at him, making Clark’s sudden pause seem all the more noticeable. “Hmm…I would have preferred the cow insemination lecture than the one I got.”
“There’s always something to do on a farm.” Clark replied. “You think mucking out the stalls is bad, just try collecting the eggs.”
“What’s wrong with collecting the chicken eggs?”
“When the chickens are capable of organizing against you and watch your every move, waiting to strike like in The Birds, you’ll see what I mean.”
Whit’s brow furrowed and he looked alarmed. “That happened to you?”
“No,” Clark admitted with a smile. “But it would have been a cool story if it had.”
In retaliation, Whit shoved Clark’s shoulder playfully. “You’re a special one, Clark Kent.” From his periphery, he could see Clark smiling, not because they were passing a sign welcoming them to California, but the fact that he’d just pulled one over on Whitney and made him laugh.
Making Whit laugh had become Clark’s mission as of late. The days leading up to the trip had Whit in anxious, almost nervous state. Clark figured he’d help in the one way that Whitney seemed willing to accept—laughter.
Clark’s attention was drawn away to the land around them. The scene was a picture of blue sky and an orange sea of dirt and rock arrangements that Whitney would barely acknowledge as mountains and the sporadic dotting of trees between the uneven crests of dirt.
The smile of Clark’s face extended the life of his own. Whitney turned his gaze back onto the road, though his mouth whispered, “My special one.”
Staring out the window at the literally new frontier, Clark smiled and thought the same thing to himself.
When they finally stopped, they weren’t anywhere Clark would have imagined. They were in a town, from the looks of it a very small one that was nearly the same size as Smallville. The only difference was the fresh salt in the air and the sounds of the beach that resonated through the open air of the air on Main Street.
There didn’t seem to be many attractions along Main Street, a few shops, a polished fifties diner, a courthouse or library at the far end of the main drag, and the beach at the opposite end past the bend in the road.
Whitney checked his watch for the millionth time that afternoon and looked at the diner expectantly. Clark’s attention was still being held by the promise of the beach. “How about lunch and then a trip down to the beach?”
“What about your meeting?”
“It’s in there.” Whit nodded at the diner.
An odd place for a meeting, Clark thought, and wondered what exactly Whitney was meeting to discuss. They climbed the stairs of the raised boxcar. Like the places back home, a bell over the door chimed as they stepped inside. The place was about half full with a normal distribution of white hair customers and young beachgoers. A waitress in a standard teal on white uniform waved to them to have a seat wherever they chose.
Whit stopped Clark with a hand on his arm. He looked at Clark with a reassuring smile then back to the lunch counter. “You find us some seats. My contact’s here.”
There was no time for questions as Whit walked away from Clark and towards the dark-skinned black man wearing expensive sunglasses and a sunshine bright smile. Questions stirred inside Clark’s head ranging from trying to guess what type of meeting happened a few states away from home and in a small town diner and what couldn’t wait for Whitney to return to base to resolve. Knowing Whit, he’d come back to the table and order a big burger, a heaping stack of chili fries, and milk shake and tell Clark
what all this was about eventually.
The meeting lasted a surprisingly quick fifteen minutes, which wasn’t enough time for the waitress to become annoyed that he wasn’t ready to order yet. The man caught his eye on the way out of the diner and issued him a silent two finger salute. Years later, Clark would come to know the man as Nick Fury. Their interactions never reached the level of like-hate-like-infuriatingly annoying the way his encounters with Tony had, which made Clark even more grateful that Whit ended up under the leadership of the man.
Sometime later, after the food was eaten, they made their way up the surprisingly empty stretch of beach. The dirty white carpet of sand would have seemed endless, if not for Clark’s x-ray vision. The ocean was swept up in a gentle ebb and flow; absolutely calm and majestic. Neither Clark nor Whitney could stop the smiles that bloomed on their faces with each gust of salty sea air washing over them.
This was California and Clark was here with Whit.
They sat in the sand, still quiet, with their hips and bent knees in parallel. Clark was too caught up in the magnificence of the sea to notice that the direction of Whitney’s gaze had changed. Clark closed his eyes and relaxed in breeze “I’ve seen the ocean a few times, but--”
“It’s more beautiful each time you see it.” Whitney finished.
“Yeah.” Opening his eyes to the sight of sunlight pouring down from the sky, making the swaying tides glitter and simmer, Clark couldn’t fathom being bored by this. He wondered if Krypton had sparkling oceans. If his biological parents had ever sat in front of one just to make the tides move. “I couldn’t grow tired of seeing this.”
Whitney scanned Clark’s profile. “Me neither,” he said, not referring to the ocean. His hand snaked up Clark’s knee to tangle their fingers together.
At the sight of their hands, Clark smiled. “Thanks for bringing me.”
Whit’s voice was low and his gaze was focused squarely on Clark. “Thanks for staying with me.” The pitch of his voice made Clark shiver, as if the wind had sent a chill up his spine. Unaffected by the wind as always, this feeling spreading over him was entirely Whit.
“You got something to say?” Clark asked.
Whitney’s left hand rested on the crest of their knees. His fist clenched tightly. The words that Whitney wanted to say came with the preamble of his intense gaze and the tightening on his right hand with Clark’s left. The blue of his eyes became steelier as he came to some inner resolution. “I’ve been meaning to ask you this since I first laid eyes on you after I came back.”Whitney opened his palm to display two rings. “Will you…C, will you marry me?”
Was there any option except for yes? There was only one reason he could think of to say no. “Yeah, if you’re okay with what I have to tell you.”
Whit quirked a brow and licked his lips nervously. “Okay.”
“When I said we were both freaks I meant it. You’re a meteor freak and I’m an alien.”
Whitney scrutinized Clark with a stiff eye. “Alien? As in the illegal kind?” Whitney was more than sure the Kent line went back a few generations in Smallville, though he knew Clark was adopted.
To prove his point, he used his heat vision on the sand next to their feet. The melting smoldering heap was starting to solidify like glass. Whit’s gasped, “Holy Shit,” conveyed that the message was received.
“No, more like E.T.” Clark watched Whit’s face transition from confused to incredulous. “We’re from Smallville remember? Aliens and meteors…and meteor freaks go hand in hand. Even if I’m kinda severely allergic to the meteor rocks.”
Whitney wasn’t able to mask the alarm in his eyes. “Why now?” he said behind clenched jaws.
“If you love someone you tell them the truth, right? A relationship based on lies can’t stand and I think I’ve learned that more times that I care to remember. I learned to lie to keep me safe, my parents insisted on it, but now that we’re here,” the empty beach transitioned from a silent audience to active interloper. “I never really thought about falling in love with anyone until I realized I’d fallen in love with you. So yeah, I want to do this with you. Do it right, I mean.”
Whit’s hands slipped over Clark’s cheeks and he stared into green irises with luminescent red pupils. Starkly beautiful and supremely alien, Whitney’s eyes bore unwaveringly into Clark’s. To a watcher from afar, it must have looked like they were locked into an effort to hypnotize each other.
Gulls cried overhead, the sea spray sprinkled across their exposed skin, and Clark dove forward capturing Whit’s mouth and telling in a single kiss that he was certain and willing to trust Whitney with his life. He searched Whitney’s blue eyes, hoping to not find a scintilla of doubt or fear. Waiting to hear Whitney say anything sent Clark back to the hellish confines of his nightmares of a few years ago. This time, however, he wasn’t faced with the residuals of those who he left behind, but the one person who could truly leave him in freefall.
“I guess like attracts like.”
“I think it does.”
Whitney smiled up at the sky with closed eyes and slid his hands down the length of Clark’s body to catch his hands. Being close had so much more meaning to it now. “Let’s do it…Let’s get married right now.”
“Now?” Clark’s jeans were worn and old, the tattered ends caught the sand in its frayed trap, and his white tee shirt both strangely appropriate and way below standard when contemplating on the spur of the moment matrimony. Whit was slightly better off in his American Eagle rugby shirt and still crisp jeans, though the flip flops were a glaring mismatch.
Whit gave him that oh-so patient look that left Clark equal parts flustered and slightly flushed. It was the type of look that conveyed that the obvious elephant in the room needed to be examined or at least consulted. If the alien factor wasn’t an issue, then what did their clothes matter? If they could get married here, why not?
“Okay, Whit. Let’s go.” With the ocean at their backs, they walked hand in hand up the beach and down the main thoroughfare to the courthouse.
The Justice of the Peace at the Nueva Mirada county courthouse was a wizened old man with owl white hair and two bushy eyebrows that reminded them both of hungry caterpillars. He smiled at them as they approached. What they must have looked like; two young men not yet in their prime, healthy, strong and handsome, probably on visiting the beach with a minor detour at the courthouse. The smile didn’t fade in the least when Whit requested their Notice of Intent to Marry. The old man—Bob McGee, who had worked in the clerk’s office for nigh on fifty years and had only missed work for his knee replacement surgery in 1990, told them congratulations and said they could get started as soon as they filled out the form.
Mr. McGee followed a script that wasn’t entirely like the one they’d heard on television countless times over, but the words had the same resounding impact. Whit had planned this, had all the dependent variables in order in line with whatever Clark’s answer might have been. Whitney reached into the deep well pocket of his carpenter jeans, revealing two plain gold bands in his palm.
Their vows went something like this:
Clark vowed, “I’ll love until you tell me to stop.”
Whitney promised, “I promise to love you even when I have no physical strength; I’ll manage to find more, because you’re worth it.”
There was the kiss followed by paying the service fee and a private reception at Great Mirada diner. They ate apple pie ala mode to celebrate.
The Sunrise Inn was the only motel in Nueva Mirada, so they booked a room that coincidentally had the best view of the rolling Pacific. They could leave the curtains open as the floor was completely vacant save for their room. That night would bring the first time either would see sunset over an ocean.
With the door shut behind them, the quiet giddiness that had held them over since the courthouse melted away, leaving them with the frenetic nervousness of overeager hands looking for the right place to begin touching.
Whit had always been partial to Clark’s hands. They’d intrigued him, beyond their sheer size, now he assumed he had a reason for their preternatural smoothness. “Our parents are going to kill us.”
“I’m sure of that. I’m wondering if you won’t have double the grief because of that policy. What about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?”
“I’m too valuable for them to kick out. Though adding a hyphen to my name will really be pushing it.” Whitney wrapped his arms around Clark and walked him backwards towards the bed. “How does it feel, Mr. Kent?”
What would come next was obvious. Clark smiled in reply. “Good, Mr. Fordman, and you?”
Whitney stole hard kiss and swiped his tongue against Clark’s. “It feels excellent.”
Clark responded in kind by tasting the lingering sweetness of sugar and vanilla on Whit’s palate. Whit shivered against him, his hands bunched within Clark’s shirt while he nuzzled the stubble-free plains of Clark’s tawny cheeks. “Come on.”
The room didn’t have much in terms of décor, save for the continuous use of pastel colors one could immediately associate with the beach and the clam-like carving with rolling smooth ridges in the center of the wooden headboard. The mattress was comfortable, barely uttered a sound when their collective three hundred pounds fell upon it.
Whitney lay half on top of Clark, his hands wrapped around Clark’s wrists as their legs tangled together. Clark’s lips pulled back into a smile, the usual contagious variety and Whit’s smiling down at him with moony soft cow eyes and a cock that was growing harder against Clark’s hip by the second.
There wouldn’t be any talking through this beyond the nonverbal sounds that started flowing out of Whit’s mouth as Clark mouthed the line of his jaw, working his way to the strong throbbing pulse down the fading ruddiness of Whitney’s neck. He gasped when Clark’s teeth slid a little too hard and deep over the muscle; Whitney suddenly imagined a warm knife over his skin. Clark’s teeth were perfectly imperfect and sharp despite their gentleness when nipping at Whit’s throat.
Shivering, he wondered what other things Clark’s alien body could do. His hand wound through the black strands—more like tresses to guide Clark’s attention back to his mouth. So big, Clark’s hands clung against Whitney’s fevered skin of his back and flanks. He planned to taste Clark’s fingers, see what he tasted like on them.
Feeling like he was coming apart from kisses of asphyxia and his hips rubbing, churning, trying to rub away the layers of denim separating his flesh from Clark, Whitney pulled back and breathed like a man breaking the surface of the ocean. Mouthfuls of air swam inside his mouth and filled his lungs with sweet air. He already missed the blessed lightheadedness of kissing as his eyes catalogued Clark’s heavy lidded bedroom eyes and the red puffiness of his already swollen mouth.
Closer. More. Now. Instinct dictated.
His fingers began to peel up the rumpled shirt, a ghost-like touch swept behind his fingers and Whit’s shirt was gone, as was Clark’s, and those lean long fingers were working deftly to remove his jeans. Belts and buttons yielded, singing in metallic voices as they were unzipped and clashed when they landed on the floor.
The tent grew taller with freedom and pointed apologetically at Clark. Whitney made quick work of getting Clark’s pants off. Whitney had had a difficult time learning how to drive stick. Like then, switching from third to second seemed nearly impossible. But he’d do it.
Had Columbus felt like this discovering the New World? He’d never seen Clark’s legs without the protection of jeans or dress pants with the exception of the night of the scarecrow. The darkness of the night and the circumstances above all had prevented him from looking closely. His erection sagged in response to his own perverted feelings of disgust whenever he thought about what he’d done.
Clark hadn’t noticed in the least. He pulled Whitney forward, showing strength that Whitney had noticed previously without questioning it. Clark was a big boy. A farm boy, of course he would be strong. Whitney was strong too. Much stronger than before he left. He pushed Clark’s shoulders against the bed, twined their legs, noticing how their bodies were in compliment. The short dark sparse hairs on Clark’s legs didn’t create friction with the curly coarse blond carpet covering his.
They rocked together, the closest they’d ever been. Whitney would explore the flawless terrain of Clark’s skin, starting at the hollow of his throat and down the swells, dips and curving valleys of Clark’s chest and stomach. He wanted to taste. The pebbled strain of Clark’s dusky pink nipples called to him. Quarter size and perfect for Whit’s mouth and tongue to suckle.
He’d have to remember how a simple sweep of his tongue had Clark arching and moaning. Clark’s hardwiring for sex started with his nipples, each touch of Whitney’s tongue or fingers the equivalent of static shock.
Clark’s cock rubbed hard against his belly. Not yet. No coming yet. They rocked together, Whitney resting between Clark’s thighs, but both were still trapped behind fabric. Okay, Whitney shoved Clark’s boxers down, his too, the first touch of hot skin was toe-curling electric. They’d felt each other for so long without seeing. Clark was long and full, the same faded rose color as his nipples. If a cock could be described as pretty or beautiful, Clark’s was just that, matching the same model perfection of the rest of him.
Whitney didn’t have the build in length, he had girth, thick to the point of wondering if he would be too much.
Clark’s lips hung open, eyes still on Whitney. He first reached out, running his fingers over the head, rubbing the fluid over his fingers and down the shaft. That was how their positions came to be reversed with Whit on his back and Clark settled between his legs with his attention divided between Whit’s non-subtle commands and directions and the waiting cock in front of him.
There was no need to lie. Not to himself or Clark at this point. Every night when Whitney had been on the other side of the world, sometimes half afraid that he’d die the next day, he‘d fall asleep and think about Clark, dream about Clark staring down at him—his lap, and then feeling like going to heaven of slipping inside Clark’s mouth. Lips like Clark’s made promises that Clark probably hadn’t understood. Whitney hadn’t been the only one to notice. Then, there it was; the tight wet cling, the plush barricade to keep him inside.
Clark licking him, tasting him like he was honey. The images of what Clark did along his shaft and balls were lost when he closed his eyes. Too blissed out to control his motor functions. Clark could have all the control if he could continue to make Whitney feel like there was lava flowing beneath his skin waiting to erupt from his cock.
He rested his hand over Clark’s head as he felt himself getting closer. God, he could feel himself deep inside Clark and the sounds within Clark’s throat vibrating against his skin. Leaking like a faucet, he knew, all over Clark’s tongue.
Panic had the most ill-conceived planning. On the beach, Clark had said that he was deathly allergic to meteor rocks. The scarecrow post and every single occasion he’d ever seen Clark green in the face. It was in him. Oh God, they were inside of him and he could hurt Clark. Kill him.
He tried to pull back, but Clark held on, using force to keep him pinned in place and when their eyes locked, Whit lost it. He came in Clark’s mouth, thankful and begging for forgiveness if he’d managed to hurt Clark in some way.
Against his leg, Clark was still hard and he was pretty boneless. With his eyes closed, he told Clark, “Fuck me,” and rolled over on to his stomach. In theory, he’d planned for all the logistics. Rings, bravado, condoms. But no lube.
They improvised with the hotel’s lotion. He prepped Clark with the condom and helped Clark set the tempo for opening him up. When the time came and they were settled front to back, Whitney would recall thinking of just how big, seriously huge Clark was. Though any line of coherent thought was lost when fireworks and the feeling of electricity filling his bones began when Clark rubbed against his prostate.
The future would be bright for them as a couple. There would be sex. Lots of sex. Safe sex.
Sex could be his second life mission. Sex with Clark did trump anything he’d ever done before now. The general consensus was that first times happened quickly. Like off like a shot and high as a rocket, but they were making up for lost time and it felt like an eternity until Whit was coming again, wrapped inside Clark’s smooth palm as Clark thrust inside him trying to do the same.
Wrung out to the bone, they lay piled together in a dry spot and slept as the sea and the sky merged into one.
Whitney had lied. There was something better than Clark being inside of him and it was the converse: him being inside of Clark, and the apparent enthusiasm of Clark begging him, urging him on spoke of the joy that was had on the opposite end. Waxing poetic was inappropriate at the moment. This world was literally distilled down to sense and instinct. The hottightminegoodfantastic feeling kept Whitney from saying something along the lines of, “Made for me” or “Fuck, fuck, fuck.” There was something wrong about cursing around Clark, but fuck was like gasoline to fire and at the present, that was more than okay.
To have Clark groan, “Fuck,” and tighten around him would become the stuff Whitney’s fantasies were built on for years to come.
Yes, made for this, for him, for sex. Clark grabbed Whitney and urged him faster, deeper. The fire at the base of his spine boiled over causing him to come undone and Whitney came harder than a freight train through the night. He caught his breath and went back to work on Clark, this time tasting the traces of latex and lube as he brought him off. Another feature Whitney would chock up to Clark’s alienness was the sweet instead of salty tang of Clark’s spunk. It wasn’t bad, just different.
After they had lain side by side for a while, their breathing had tapered off and they’d stopped sounding like they’d raced in the Kentucky Derby. Whit staggered out of bed to get them a cloth to clean up with and tugged the disgusting duvet off the bed and isolated it to a lone corner.
There was kissing when they found a non-wet or damp spot. Clark’s arms and hands had the tendency to anchor him from the top, while Whitney went for the hips, eventually down to Clark‘s butt where each cheek fit perfectly against his palms.
The kissing faded to relaxed silence. Whit’ fingers traced the corded muscle along Clark’s back as it worked to settle comfortably against Whitney. “So you’re not freaked out about the alien thing?”Clark asked in a drowsy thick voice.
“You’re asking me now?” Whitney leaned over Clark. “Not really, you proved your people aren’t like the Praying Mantis, so I don’t think I need to worry.”
“You’re lucky I didn’t set the room on fire when you…” Clark tapered off blushing.
“I assumed I’d have plenty of time to learn about your freaky alienness as your husband. The same goes for my specialness.”
“I like the sound of that.”
On June 1st, the Loeb County Clerk filed the domestic partnership agreement of Mr. Whitney K. Fordman and Mr. Clark J. Kent. By the end of the day, half of the town knew what Whitney and Clark had gone off and done. There was the excited shock, disgust, and a surprising amount of congratulations, even from some of Whit’s former teammates.
June 3rd, Clark and Lana spoke their last words to each other. She came to the farm during a rare period when Whit wasn’t there. Lana did her best to stalk around him and level her best accusatory gaze on him. “You really took it far, didn’t you? What exactly are you trying to prove by marrying him? Are you after an even bigger spectacle than you and me?”
Clark was never one to use his size to intimidate, but when hurt and offended one’s personal limits were sorely tested. He crowded her just enough to make her realize she wouldn’t win in the physical intimidation game. “I’m not trying to prove anything to you or anyone else. What I feel for Whit is only for him. How we express our feelings is our business and as for the spectacle, Lana? I think you’re the only one desiring the spotlight and sympathy.”
Lana kicked up a cloud of red dust as she screeched off in a hurry. Clark figured Lana would find a way to resolve the issue. By Saturday, she was hot news again for having accepted Lucas Luthor’s proposal. Nell couldn’t have been unhappier if she’d tried.
Life ran its normal course as the gossip died down, leaving Whitney and Clark without the veil of secrecy their relationship had thrived under. Not that its absence mattered in the least.It was back to private moments and sneaking out to climb through each other’s windows after their parents’ mutual bedtimes. Being married solidified the fact that their relationship wasn’t a passing phase, which Jonathan and Martha Kent and Mary Fordman had come to recognize eventually.
Over the course of one Sunday dinner, Mary Fordman revealed to them that the parents did indeed know they were each sneaking off to visit the other and since they were married they did not in fact need to sneak around. Never had Clark’s face or Whitney’s burned so brightly in discomfiture. Though they had their parent’s blessing to spend the night, the idea of doing anything more than sleeping together under their parents’ roofs was a bit revolting. There was sex, lots of it—in the loft, Whit’s truck, the store, and interesting places that would forever be their secret.
On a humid summer night as the rain fell, Clark and Whit settled down to sleep in Whitney’s old bed. Clark lay stretched out on his back with Whitney resting on his chest, his ear in perfect alignment with Clark’s heart.
“It’s sad that we still have to sneak around though we’re married.” Clark’s voice rumbled through his chest.
Whitney dropped a small peck above Clark’s heart and replied, “This must be what they call keeping the spice in the relationship.”In the dictionary, there were words like intimacy and compatibility, concepts that were abstract until seen in real time color.
In his mind, Whitney no longer considered himself the quarterback. He was the soldier, who’d supposedly be a great hero one day. He looked at Clark whose easy grin and bedroom soft green eyes offered him trust without restrictions and love that carried no sense of expectation. Clark was so much more than the beautiful farm boy from the outskirts of town; he was an alien and a good man, a better man for loving Whitney, the blond believed.
Whitney crawled up the bed to fit himself perfectly against Clark. Threw an arm across Clark’s chest to keep him close, bit what he could. Clark responded in kind by holding him closer. Smallville was their home, not their future. He wondered if Clark had finally made up his mind. “Have you decided where you want to go?”
“Yeah, Met U.” Clark’s big hand glided over the slightly longer fuzz atop Whit’s head. He closed his eyes under the attention, basked in it.
Many nights, Whitney had dreamed this same moment, lying in bed with Clark’s body against his, just touching him and letting each sensation speak the words he couldn’t say. He wrapped his arm around Clark’s back, bringing their chests together. Clark’s heartbeat against his. He didn’t think he could sleep without it again. “GI Bill covers my education, so if Met U is where you want to go that’s where we’ll be.” Whitney bussed Clark’s temple. “We’ll be alright, you’ll see.” He fell asleep with that life would be just fine for the two of them.
“Never doubted that we wouldn’t,” Clark said, before drifting off to sleep.
That night he dreamed of flying with Whit, though he forgot to tell him. Clark remembered the dream as they flew above Metropolis many years later.
Clark didn’t make the debriefing as he promised. He did go to the Watchtower, waited until the meeting was over with everyone having exited the conference room except Bruce.
Bruce knew he was in the room without looking up. “Whitney told me to tell you thank you. Well, you and Lex.”
Batman neatly closed his folder before looking over at Clark. To anyone else the gesture would have been dismissive. To Clark, this was Bruce showing concern. “He asked for our help and we were obligated as comrades to give it to him.” Not as friend, definitely not that.
Whitney’s last words, Clark thought. All of Whitney’s words had gotten to him. “How did you do it?” Clark leaned against one of the conference chairs, readying himself for support if need be.
Bruce watched him intently. His heartbeat steady. He’s not nervous to tell Clark any of this. “He wrote the letters and gave us instructions for mailing and your birthday. We were the messenger boys essentially. Whitney did all of the work. ”
Whitney planned it all, just like before. “When did he write the last one?” Clark’s eyes strayed to the empty spot on his finger. He’d followed the instructions and couldn’t help but to feel naked without the small weight on his left hand.
“Two days before he died. He wanted you to be prepared and understood he was getting it to by sending you those letters. He promised you’d be okay, and if you being here is any indication, then I’d have to agree.”
It was done. Their marriage over. Whitney was gone. Acceptance finally took hold. He understood now. “Thank you, Bruce... I’ll have to thank Lex in person too.”
“You’re welcome,” Bruce said stiffly.
Clark turned away, deciding to leave, but stopped, realizing he had yet to finish all his tasks. “By the way, I’ll see you tonight.” Clark added as he walked out of the conference room. “I’m expecting ice cream after dinner. Let’s say Dairy Queen.”
Batman half smirked. “You’re on.”
There was no anger or hurt. Clark didn’t feel. It wasn’t numbness that took over, but a true absence of pain with no similar sentiment to take its place.
He walked for hours, strangely not finding many others in the halls. He forgot these were the prime sleeping hours. Eventually, he found himself up on the observation deck. Morning was coming to the eastern half of the world. He watched as the earth turned and revealed more of the sun by each second. The view from the Watchtower had a way of placing the world into perspective. He’d witnessed dawn breaking like this many times before but the meaning had been lost on him. Clark was finally seeing the sun for what it was and Whit knew he would.
He saw the hope that came with a new day.
“Yeah, it really is beautiful.” Clark said to the glass.
This time he didn’t wait for Whit to answer.