The Thinner the Air

by Pablo

Thanks to Yvette for the beta and Zahra for her help.

It's easy for Whitney to see where things went wrong. It's a little harder to admit it, but that doesn't mean that with the benefit of hindsight he can't figure it out.

He realises now all his hatred was misplaced. Transferred. He never really hated Clark, he simply hated himself and he wasn't in a position to actually admit it. He'd been feeling all the emotions all right. Just suppressing them, hoping that if he ignored them they'd go away.

He's learnt from those mistakes. He no longer hates himself. He simply hates what he doesn't have, what he could have had. Things that very easily could be his if he'd simply played his cards right. Hadn't made a wrong turn.

He knows there are some things you just can't change. Like people, no matter how hard you try there's no way around it.

Of course now it's too late. There's no sense in worrying about it, going over past mistakes in his mind. It doesn't really matter because he's missed his opportunity. Someone else realised before him that if you don't make your move early enough you're simply going to miss out.

It doesn't matter how hard he tries. Some things are out of his reach.

It was only a matter of time before someone else showed any interest in Clark., and now when he knows who he is, knows what he wants, it's too late. He can't have Clark Kent because someone else made that first move. Someone who wasn't too slow to realise that he was special, who doesn't have as many issues of their own to work out. Someone who has already been through all the things that currently seem to be occupying every waking moment of Whitney Fordman's life.

Someone who doesn't have to lie to everyone about who they are.

And it's true. He is lying. His whole life is a masquerade and doesn't that sound so melodramatic. He sounds so much like a drama queen. Like someone who really is "out".

He laughs to himself a little as he thinks about it. There's nobody in Smallville that can claim that. Can claim to be out. Which only makes it harder for Whitney to fathom. To try to comprehend.

Even he isn't.

Whitney still tries to avoid actually saying his name. Instead prefers to refer to him in other ways. Usually accompanied by something his mother would describe as "colourful language".

The thing that makes it worse for him, is the fact that Whitney knows that if it wasn't for Clark, he'd be referring to him in different ways. That in fact he doesn't hate him. He could if given the opportunity admit to feeling very differently about Lex Luthor.

But he doesn't let himself think like that. He buries those fevered imaginings deeper even than his true feelings for Clark. Tries to hide them, but Whitney's not foolish enough to pretend that hiding the way he really feels, isn't becoming harder and harder every day.

That not thinking about Clark Kent isn't slowly transforming into imagining him at every opportunity.

He's never thought of himself as over-sexed. Like most of the guys, like Sean in particular but Whitney's started noticing "things" a whole lot more. He'd never really understood it when the guys had been talking about girls so much. Like they couldn't do without them. Like they needed them more than anything else. Oh, he'd join in of course. More out of a sense of obligation than anything resembling his friends' fervour, but when it came right down to it, none of it really mattered to Whitney. He never really got it.

That sense of longing he'd heard about, that feeling of love. The way it ate away your insides and made it almost unbearable to be separated. As hard as he'd tried, Whitney had never felt it. So he'd never really understood the way that everyone spoke. The way they made it sound like it was all consuming. Like they couldn't survive without it.

He's almost used to it now. When he'd been younger it had been even worse. He could never understand why he seemed to be the only one that didn't think that way.

He can remember vividly. Becky Silverstein's thirteenth birthday. A small group of them, sitting cross legged in a circle in the basement of her parents' house. The place was almost silent. Becky's parents were somewhere upstairs, faint sound of music filtering down from the upstairs floor. But for those few hours they may as well have been alone. Free to do what they wanted. And it was Becky's birthday, and even Whitney had started noticing the way she looked at him. The way she always seemed to blush when he was around, how she'd laugh and have to run away whenever she saw him.

They ended up locked in the coatroom. Sean holding the door shut, stop-watch in his hand, counting down slowly in a voice that heavily betrayed the slightly more normal "changes" that were going on in his life.

Whitney pressed against the back of the closet, overcoat brushing against his face while his eyes adjusted to the lack of light. The way that Becky moved her hand up to his face. Her fingers, at first cold against his skin, shocking him slightly. Heart beat racing.

Before he even had a chance to think about it she'd moved closer. Pressed herself against him. Mouth locked to his as he opened it to protest. He'd just moved against her. Her tongue feeling slightly wrong in his mouth. He'd spent that whole time wondering why. Strangely abstracted from the process. The only sound besides the soft noises Becky was making were the muffled giggles he could hear coming from the other side of the door.

Flash of light as the door burst open. Becky, dragged away by three of her friends. High-pitched laughter combining to a level that made Whitney's ears hurt. All he could think of, remember from the way she kissed him was how her braces had knocked against his teeth. Strangely cold in comparison to the moist warmth of her mouth and tongue.

He'd been shocked. Didn't know how to react but it didn't matter. Sean, slapping him on the back. Whispering questions in his ear in a voice much too loud for the relatively small size of the room. Becky had blushed and covered her mouth and Whitney didn't even have to say a word. They assumed his silence was proof enough.

Proof that he was a man.

He'd simply gone along with it.

Like he's still doing. Simply letting everyone believe that what they assume is true. His parents. The guys on the team. Lana. The perfect son, the perfect boyfriend. So very much what he "isn't".

Even when he and Lana aren't fighting he still doesn't feel it. No matter how hard he tries, it's not there. So he could never understand that sense of frustration all his friends seemed to talk about.

Now he can.

When he can't act on those feelings. Can't simply walk up to Clark and tell him what he's feeling. How he feels about him.

He's watching him now, at the Beanery. Sitting talking to Lana. The way his body's curled up in the seat, shoulders hunched over. The way he's leaning forward, concentrating solely on what she's saying. Focusing on nothing but her, like Lana's all that matters. They're sitting so close together that Whitney swears all it would take would be the slightest movement and she'd be touching him. Their hands across the table.

He doesn't try and hide the fact that he's watching them. He doesn't think he'll need to. Everyone will think he's simply staring at his girlfriend.

Scattered conversation filtering through the crowd of people between them. He can't help but think to himself that it seems so much further than the 10 or 15 easily taken steps. The way they seem so comfortable, quietly talking. Clark's eyes following the movement of Lana's head as she speaks.

Whitney can't help but feel a tiny bit resentful. Like he's the only one that doesn't quite seem to fit in. The odd one out. He tries not to, but it seems plain to him that even Lana is more capable of sharing with Clark than he himself is. Maybe it's due to the fact that he wants more, that he thinks that Clark might once again be able to save him.

But not like last time when he'd carried him from his burning truck. Not like that. For real.

Save him from himself. From loneliness. From thinking that maybe things aren't going to get any better no matter how good Whitney is. No matter how hard he tries to be a good person.

Which only brings him back to Lex again. The way that he doesn't need saving. The way he can be everything that Clark wants. Whether Clark even knows it himself, let alone admits it.

He's still leaning against the counter watching them when he hears someone clear their throat from beside him. Just outside his peripheral vision. And the fact's not lost on Whitney that when he's watching Clark, everything else seems to be just out of sight. Not important.

He turns towards that sound. Thinks it's probably the waitress waiting for him to pay. Muttering to herself about inattentive customers, but it's not.

It never is. It's always him.


Standing watching him. Coat pulled tightly over his body. His posture's slightly too relaxed, he seems almost feral. Ready to pounce. Whitney can see the edge of Lex's mouth begin to turn up in a smile.

Whitney's finding it hard to breathe. Like all the air's been sucked out of the room and he only has thirty seconds to escape alive, sirens blaring. Except Whitney knows he can't get away from this. Won't ever be able to escape.

He's blushing, he can feel the embarrassment scorching his face and he dips his head down. Tries to conceal the surprise that he knows is flickering, obviously across his eyes.


He doesn't have to worry though.

That Clark'll find out.

He pulls his wallet out of his back-pocket and grabs a couple of scrunched bills, smoothes them out and lays them on the surface of the counter. Hopes that the activity will allow him a moment to recover. To distract Lex, but when he looks up at the other man standing next to him, his eyes haven't left him. Neither has that smirk and Whitney's without a doubt that Lex knows his secret.

He doesn't worry though. He's thinking more about short-term embarrassment than any future confrontation. He's sure Lex won't betray him. Whitney doesn't really know him but from what little he does he's sure it's not in his nature.

Lex doesn't need to worry about him because he's not really competition at all. Whitney knows he poses no threat to what Lex has with Clark.

Has. Will have.

Lex's voice is flat and unemotional and Whitney just shakes his head in response.

'Are you waiting for someone?'

He's swallowing, not really looking at Lex standing next to him. He can feel the other man still watching him. He's sure to someone like Lex he must seem obvious and transparent. Whitney can't quite respond to the question from Lex, he simply moves across the room, mug in each hand. Clark's voice becoming gradually louder as he closes the distance separating them.

the end

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