Whitney hasn't seen Father Daniels in ages, and yet, he'd know that grizzled face anywhere. Raven and silver strands of hair illuminated by fluorescent Fordman's lighting, and the obligatory collar peaking out of an unexpectedly trendy winter jacket. Just on this side of haphazardly fashionable because vanity is one of those sins, and it would never do for a priest to be vain on top of everything else. Like they're not already getting enough bad press.
Moment when Whitney can't help but think that all priests can't be bad - perhaps just the ones in the Northeast and Texas because things like that never happen in Kansas, and then he realizes how wrong he is. How deceptive appearances are and the multitude of bad things they have the potential to cover.
Vanity just one of many, many sins and Whitney freezes in the doorway because there are so many worse ones. Knocks his head against the jamb with an audible crack when he's faced with a flash of Clark Kent's hazel eyes framed by glossy black lashes. Lithe, flannel clad body backed into the corner of the bed of his truck and pleading for Whitney to let him go. Clark tied up in the field and calling Whitney over and over. Using Whitney's name like a mantra. Like a prayer.
Another flash, and Whitney's memory jumps to the warehouse and now Clark's watching him take off with Wade and Co. Calling his name with a tremulous quaver that courses through Whitney's veins into the deepest recesses of his repressed heart. Clark's eyes offering absolution, his body offering temptation, and Whitney refusing to think about any of it at all.
Now he's back in the concrete present, lingering in the shadows of the store, and unable to think of anything else. Just Clark and his mouth-watering, sharp hipbones covered by golden velvet skin. Spares another thought for swollen red lips begging to be sucked and licked, and an ass that would fit perfectly in the span of his hands.
Whitney just likes to make himself suffer. Masochism is a new hobby, and he has to shake his head to clear it. Instead he concentrates on observing the Father as he cards through the racks of outdoor guides.
Whitney can't decide whether to say hello or retreat to the safety of the storeroom, so instead he remains where he is. Watching, silently observing and waiting. Neither here nor there. Neither hell nor heaven. Just stuck in the Purgatory known as Fordmans since 1943.
Catches a little girl out the corner of his eye blowing iridescent soap bubbles while her mother studies the latest French cookbooks; and he can't help but think that maybe Purgatory is too kind a word for what his life is stretching into. He's seen the same woman looking at the same books for the last two months. Sometimes, Whitney wishes the store would burn down and wouldn't that be something to confess to.
Something else to confess to.
Whitney has a clear memory of his first confession, his first time in the inner-sanctum. Twelve going on thirteen and all ready for Confirmation. Even now he has no idea what anybody was trying to confirm back then. Religion just this cover for whatever else people wanted to know. That he was straight. That he wasn't. That he was going to play football. That he was going to be a slave to his father's store for the rest of his life. The whole religious aspect was just molded into an entity all it's own. Something sentient and mysterious.
Something new. Something unknown.
Whitney still remembers reciting his catechism while playing catch in the backyard and staring aimlessly at the vaulted ceilings while he waited his turn to confess. His turn to be absolved. Easier than cleaning his room or taking out the trash. Remembers pushing back the veil of religion and passing through a potent haze of incense. Deep cherry wood paneling and raspberry velvet curtains hiding sliding doors. Ornate guilt crosses and Father Daniels coaxing out his pubescent crackling trivialities.
Whitney didn't have a lot to confess to back then: pushing his sister when his mother wasn't looking. Talking back to his father when he told him to clean his room. Little, minute things the equivalent of two 'Hail Mary's' and an 'Our Father.'
Nothing like now.
He actually enjoyed going to confession for a while there. His chance to recount his successes and his failures. His attempts to be the prodigal son. Wednesday night confession was a place where someone was actually required to listen to him for a change. He never felt any bitterness over being gently chided and scolded. Remembers feeling the exact opposite: unburdened, free - if only for a brief moment. He thinks it's a shame that that had to change. That he had to be present the day the Father preached his sermon about crimes against nature.
'Crimes' meaning sex. 'Crimes' meaning homosexuality.
It hadn't really helped that that sermon came right on the heels of his first kiss with Lana and his first hand job, courtesy of the JV second-string running back.
Whitney certainly had to hand it to the man upstairs. He could never be accused of having timing issues, that much was clear. Still is. When Whitney sins, he hears about it directly. Instant karma in the form of falling cars and missing necklaces. Freshman girlfriends who are impatient and self-centered and fathers who fall ill when their sons start lusting after the local farmboys. But if Whitney is going to be judged by God then he doesn't need any middleman telling him right from wrong. Doesn't need to confess to a church that's going to be judgmental and harsh.
It's one thing if he's going to be shown tolerance, allowed to have some semblance of hope. Something else entirely to hear he's going to go to hell regardless. Just makes Whitney want to be more hedonistic.
He can still remember the last exchange he had with Father Daniels. His last proper confession. Months before Homecoming. Before Clark became the scarecrow, his scarecrow. His sacrifice. There's a clear delineation in Whitney's mind between before Clark-on-a-stick and after. Life before he got a chance to touch the golden child and life since he's been tempted by what he really wants. What the Father said he'll burn in hell for.
Whitney still remembers confessing that he had been having impure thoughts. Thoughts that the Father naturally assumed were about a girl. Assumption truly the mother of all fuck-ups; and not that Whitney actually corrected him, but perhaps if he had, perhaps if Whitney had been able to tell the truth. To come out then, maybe... Maybe nothing.
Whitney knows that that would never actually happen. That he would never tell the Father because religious figures don't need to have that sort of information. They aren't the ones fit to judge; only God can judge him, or barring that, someone of Whitney's choosing. And Whitney can't help but think that maybe that's why he's started confessing to Clark - because he wants Clark to judge him. Absolve him.
Deem him worthy enough to love.
Watches as Father Daniels turns and makes his way towards the front of the store, and Whitney's missed his chance. But Whitney's been missing a lot of chances recently and he's faced with an image of Clark grinning at him while they played basketball, and he can't help but think that that's been happening a lot recently - Clark smiling at him. He can't help but hope that maybe he's not too later here. That perhaps Clark's forgiven him.
Moves over to the rack where the outdoor guides are, mindlessly rearranging them in the right order, and Whitney knows he's tapped into something here.
Clark as his confessional. Clark as his savior. It's the only explanation for why Whitney unerringly confides in Clark before anyone else. Before his friends. Before Lana. It's why Clark was the one he told when his father was sick in Metropolis. Why Clark was the first to know that he lost his scholarship. Why he's always so angry when he confesses to Clark. It's not Clark he's upset with - it's himself. The way he keeps wrecking his chances.
Confessing everything but what he really wants to say.
Something about Clark that just releases something deep inside Whitney. Something about Clark that makes all these emotions bubble up inside him. Something about slim hips, farm dirt under short nails and raspberry red lips, that makes Whitney feel violent and confused and possessive. Possessive of Clark.
No other explanation for why after he tied Clark out in the field he stood there and stared. A million and one graphic images trail-blazing through his mind of him owning Clark. Of him on his knees worshipping Clark. Whitney's eyes burning quarter-sized holes into Clark's bent head and Whitney unable to do anything but stare and wish and hope and pray.
Pray that Clark understands that it was about Whitney. That it was about more than just him. That Whitney had to do this in order to feel worthy of him. The only way Whitney could relate to Clark was once he got Clark off that proverbial cross. Off the pedestal, so he wasn't being dangled in front of Whitney like the golden ring on a merry-go-round. Clark as symbol of all that Whitney's not supposed to want. Of all that he's not supposed to have.
Only now Whitney can see his mistake.
Instead of bringing Clark down to his level, he's built him up even more. Made him even more God-like. More Christ-like. If Clark is a religion now, all Whitney wants to do is go back to church.
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