by Pearl-o

Last night, when they were making out, Clark had stopped kissing Lex's neck long enough to ask him a question. "What are you afraid of?"

Lex had stilled. When Clark looked up, he had caught the tail end of an expression he didn't recognize. "Nothing, Clark," Lex said, and he pushed Clark onto his back against the couch and kissed him hard.

"No," he'd said, breaking the kiss. "I mean--" He frowned up, and Lex looked down at him skeptically.

If you tell me, Clark had thought, then I'll know, and I can protect you from it... But he couldn't say that, so he shook his head and closed his eyes and felt Lex touch him again.

When Clark got home last night, it was late, and his parents were already in bed.

He cut himself a slice of pie and poured a glass of milk, sat at the table in the dark and began to eat.

The pie was his mother's apple, sweet and tender, and the milk was cold and fresh. They tasted good; they tasted the same.

The light flickered on overhead, and he turned his head to see his mother, in her robe and slippers.

"Did you just get home?" she asked. She moved to the counter, taking a box of tea bags from the cabinet.

"A couple minutes ago. I didn't realize how late it was."

"You were at Lex's?"


"Did you have a good time?"

"Um, yeah. I did."

His mother sat down across from him, mug in her hands. "What did you two do?"

He met her eyes and smiled. "Oh, you know. Hung out. Guy stuff."

She nodded.

He stood up and put his dishes in the sink. "I think -- I'm going to go up to bed now."

"All right, Clark. Good night."

As long as nobody says anything, Clark thinks, he can just pretend he doesn't hear it anyway. It works with Lex. It should work with his parents, too.

At least with his mother. Maybe not with his father, because he doesn't think his father would ever just leave anything unsaid enough.

He hasn't seen his father yet today, which is not exactly planned on his part, but not exactly total chance either.

When he woke up this morning, his mind was full of not quite remembered images of flying, of apple trees, and of Lex's mouth on his, tasting of ashes and blood. There are people who think dreams are full of abstract symbolism and deep-rooted meaning, and there are people who think it's just the brain shooting out random images; Clark's always leaned towards the latter view, so he didn't bother trying to analyze or remember the dream, just got up and took his shower and went out to do his chores.

As he walked to his loft afterwards, he thought: the last time he was in the barn, he was a virgin.

He's different now. Things change.

Clark doesn't think about the future very much.

There isn't any point to thinking about the future, really. It's not like his expectations ever served him so well; his life has never been -- never will be anything like what he imagines. His life up to this point has been completely unpredictable, and there's no reason to think that's going to change.

Being an alien gives you perspective.

The future will be more high school, and then college, and then real life, and that's all Clark knows. He's only sixteen; he doesn't have to know what he wants to do with his life. All he knows now is what he's not going to do: he's not going to take over the farm. But he can't really see himself in any other profession, either.

He has plenty of time to learn what he wants, to let the future come to him.

It's what he's doing now that matters, he figures.

Last night, when Lex was under him, sweaty and flushed and jacking himself off as Clark thrust, Clark had closed his eyes again, and whispered, "I love you."

He hadn't known he was going to say that. Lex didn't say anything, just wrapped his legs around Clark and pulled him in harder, and bit Clark's shoulder and shuddered as he came.

If Lex had asked Clark what he was afraid of, he would have said nothing, too. It wouldn't be true, but almost, because there isn't a lot that frightens Clark.

He's scared of rejection, and humiliation, but they're not even worth mentioning, because everyone's scared of those. It's natural. He's scared of someone finding out his secrets; that's frightening on its own, beyond any of the consequences that would follow. More than anything, though, he's scared of bad things happening -- not to him, but to the people he cares about. And so Clark needs to protect them, do what he can to keep them from getting hurt.

This is one of the things Clark thinks about when his father or Pete makes some remark about he and Lex not having anything in common. Lex may not care about that many people, but when he does care, he cares a lot. Lex thinks that sort of protection is just something that comes along with friendship.

And Clark is Lex's friend, no matter what else there is, and Clark never expected to have someone guarding him, too. It's weird, and something he never thought to wish for, and it's nice.

They can protect each other.

The air in his loft is hot and stale. Dust floats through the patches of sunlight, and Clark looks out the window and laughs.

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