The Way Things Are

Title: The Way Things Are

Author: Bone

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Fandom: Smallville

Pairing: Clark/Lex

Rating: PG-13

Type: Slash

Summary: Clark's thinking about a few things.

Archive: Ask first.

Spoilers: Hothead

Disclaimers: Written for pleasure, not profit, and with no harmful intent. Please do not archive or redistribute.

Notes: Cuz I just can't freakin' help myself, I'm dipping a wary toe in the vaguely green-glowing pool of Clark and Lex. Don't talk to me about how old that boy is—the actor's 24, and that's good enough for me. ;)

If I stand by Lana, I can scream.

If I stand by Lex, I'll have to whisper.

It took me four hours to fumble my way to that confusion. I mean, conclusion. I'm really tired, and I'm not making much sense anymore, even to myself. I used to sleep at night. I didn't use to know what two a.m. looked like. Now I'm intimately familiar with it, and its friend three a.m., and every once in a while four a.m. shows up just for fun.

Four hours I've been lying here, thinking. Climbing down from the adrenaline rush (it's sweet, like candy). I bet there was a time when the spontaneous combustion of our legendary football coach would have been enough to occupy my mind for an evening. But that was before all the weird adolescent shit I've just started getting used to started looking like child's play.

Think waking up to hot, wet sheets sucks? Try floating two feet above the bed.

Think growing a foot in a year is bad for your heart? Try puking in front of the girl of your dreams.

Voice changing, hair sprouting in odd nooks and crannies, the sudden urgent need for deodorant…it all seems less dramatic than it did a couple months ago. The really scary part is that the stuff going on inside makes the outside changes look like party decorations.

How many years have I followed Lana, not with my feet, but with my eyes? How many nights have I watched her light go out before turning off my own? I'd actually started to welcome the sweep of nausea, the melting in my bones in her presence, because at least I knew then that I was close to her. It had to be love, didn't it? Nothing else swayed men in their tracks.

I can't remember when I started thinking of myself as a man. It might have been when I met the fender of a Porsche doing sixty and ended up being the one on EMS duty. Which would mean that my first action as a man involved breathing air into Lex Luthor's water-logged lungs.

Hot breath. Cold, wet mouth.

Goosebumps rise like little soldiers, all the way up my arms, across my chest. I tug the blanket a little higher, checking that it stays tightly tucked on both sides—Flotation Prevention 101. Mom manages to handle my newly disgusting laundry with surprising grace, but I'll do my best to spare her the levitation thing.

Of course, there are worse things she could catch me doing…

Hot mouth. Wet breath.

See, there go the thoughts again, wandering off on their own tangent, going down dark and twisty paths.

I'm flat on my back, staring dry-eyed at the ceiling, watching the hours pass in the shadows of the trees. In the summer, my room is almost pitch-dark, the leafy shadows so full they overlap, making piles of shadows. Now that it's colder, I can watch leaves fall in the ceiling sometimes, watch branches appear like spiders' legs. When I was little, the shadows stopped halfway; now they stretch from wall to wall. The trees grew with me.

Like so much about Smallville, they pretend to stay the same, but every day, they're different.

I'm different.

Lana's not wearing her necklace. You know how I know? Because I'm not keeling over when I get within ten feet of her. Probably wasn't love, it turns out; it was the meteor rock. I know that because I got the same damn feeling in the sauna with Coach Firebug, and I can guarantee you I'm not pining for him.

Not for him.

I got weak-in-the-knees with one other person, with the nausea, the fever feeling, the whole bit. Surprised me until I made the connection, the box in his hand, the necklace. What surprises me more is that I still get a little of that around Lex. The shiver, the clench in my gut, but there's nothing green and glowing to cause it.

Without the necklace, being with Lana is…easy. She cozied right up to me in the coffee shop today, sat on the arm of my chair, her hair brushing my sleeve. I'm not sure I've ever been that close to her. It was…nice. She smells good. She's so beautiful she makes my eyes water.

After all these years, she finally seems to look at me and see a person there. All this time, I've waited for her to notice me, and now she does, and it's…nice.

But as humiliating as it was to experience, I kind of miss the shivery, fever feeling I used to get around her. It made me think something miraculous was going on, and it was, but maybe it didn't have as much to do with dimples and clean hair as I thought. I never imagined being comfortable standing next to Lana Lang. I couldn't have predicted we'd ever stand together on a football field and yell our fool heads off just because we could.

I can stand by Lana, and scream.

She's open, and warm, and soft. What I always thought I wanted, dreamed about, watched from afar, passed out over. So what's the problem?

The problem is that something in me, something new and different, wants the closed door of Lex Luthor instead. I want to knock on that door, knock it down, I don't know. I'm hot, and he's cool, hard. I didn't have any idea I might want that.

I don't need my dad to tell me it's a bad idea. It's the worst idea ever.

I know, I know, I just said I was a man, right? A real man would stand up to his dad, find his own way, do his own thing. Thing is, my dad's usually right about stuff. Historically, I mean. I've done okay following my dad's advice. He only balks at stuff he thinks is…dangerous.

Follow the logic with me here, because it's late, and I'm tired, and I don't know who the hell I am anymore. My dad puts his big foot down when he thinks someone could get hurt. But that doesn't make sense, because it's almost always a fear of me hurting other people, and he has to know I wouldn't hurt Lex. So maybe he's afraid Lex is going to hurt me?

But Dad, when have I ever run from danger? Nothing's hurt me yet. If I can take moving violations and exploding pick-ups and the sharp ends of farm equipment, what could Lex Luthor do to me?

Heat crawls up my legs at the thought of what Lex could do to me. The thought of my dad finding out sends a different kind of heat through me. If I'm embarrassed to even think about it, how will I ever…?

You know, until really recently, like, today, I thought I had to hide how I felt about Lana. Like getting laughed at was the worst possible thing that could happen.

How did Lex put it? "Not even close."

Pretty funny, huh. Now that I no longer want to, I could probably serenade Lana from the middle of Main Street and nobody would bat an eye.

What I want to do, and who…well, let's just say it's probably not happening on Main Street.

Lana or Lex. Screams or whispers. Out in the open or…not.

I don't like it, but that's the way things are.

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