Title: The Longest Road
Summary: Whitney breaks up with Lana over her Nicodemus-induced actions, and she takes it had--so hard it endangers her life.
Disclaimer: I don't own Smallville, the characters, or anything else.
Summary: Whitney decides not to forgive Lana for her escapades in "Nicodemus," and she has a rough time with the breakup. AU.
"What did I do?"
"You 'unleashed the inner Lana', that's what! You told me that you were locked in this relationship out of guilt, and that my concerns--my grades, my family's store, my father--meant nothing to you! You don't care about me at all. We're only going out because I'm the quarterback of the football team and you're...you're Lana Lang." "Whitney, I told you I was sorry! What more can I do?" "Nothing. That's why we're breaking up." "Whitney!" Lana shrieked desperately. "It's over, Lana," he replied coolly, walking away. "Wait! Whitney, no! It doesn't have to be like this!" He kept walking.
Clark watched uncomfortably, wishing he hadn't decided to telescopically "observe" Lana that day. He couldn't tell what they were saying, but it looked like Whitney was dumping her and Lana wasn't taking it very well. He watched her pound on the window of Whitney's truck as Whitney tried to pull away. Clark couldn't take it anymore. He pulled back from the telescope, shaking his head. He knew he should be happy, but he felt terrible. Lana looked so distraught, so desperate. He wished she could see that she would be better off this way, but he knew that would take time--lots of time.
Whitney's truck pulled away in a whirlwind of dust and dirt, and Lana fell to her knees on the ground, sobbing. "It wasn't me!" she shouted to the winds. "I didn't mean it! I didn't! Whitney!" She buried her face in her hands to muffle the sobs. She was lucky Nell was at the Talon and wouldn't make a fuss. She was still wailing uncontrollably when she felt a gentle hand on her shoulder. She whirled around, hoping it was Whitney. But it was only Clark. He knelt down beside her. "Lana, what's wrong?" "Whitney broke up with me," she explained haltingly. "For what I said to him when I was sick, and I don't even know what it was!" She started bawling again. "I never meant to hurt him! I never meant to hurt anyone! I didn't know what I was doing!" Clark put his arms around her. "I know you didn't. Lana, it'll be all right. Whitney will come around, and if he doesn't, then you two just aren't meant to be." Lana was still crying, but she was beginning to let up. "Come on," he said, getting to his feet and taking Lana's hand to help her up. "Why don't you come to my house for dinner?" She smiled shyly. "Thank you."
"Lana! What a pleasant surprise," exclaimed Martha as she was setting the table for dinner. "What's wrong, Lana?" she asked upon seeing Lana's red, swollen eyes. "Lana's had a rough afternoon," Clark explained gently. "I thought a nice Kent family dinner might cheer her up." He squeezed her shoulder and Lana smiled slightly. Jonathan entered the kitchen. "Hello, Lana. Nice to see you," he said amiably. "Thanks, Mr. Kent," she replied, sniffling. He headed upstairs to clean up for dinner. "Have a seat, Lana," said Martha. "Clark, go wash up. Dinner's almost ready." He nodded and left the room. Martha turned to Lana. "What happened?" she asked softly. "Whitney dumped me," Lana whispered in reply. "Over what I did when I was sick." "Oh, honey, I'm sorry," Martha replied sweetly, putting her hand on Lana's shoulder. She recalled her own husband's disturbing behavior and wondered what Lana had done to Whitney to make him so upset. She knew better than to ask. Clark returned, wiping his hands on his jeans. He sat down across from Lana. "You feeling any better?" he asked, genuinely concerned. She nodded. "Thanks for inviting me over. This is really nice," she said. "And thank you, Mrs. Kent." "Lana, you know you're welcome here anytime," she said, smiling to herself. "We're always glad to have you." Lana blushed. "Thank you," she replied demurely.
Lana tried to eat, but she just couldn't. She was too upset. She halfheartedly pushed the food around her plate, hoping Mr. and Mrs. Kent didn't think she was being rude. "Are you all right, Lana?" asked Martha, noticing that Lana hadn't really eaten anything. "I'm sorry, I'm just not hungry, I guess," she answered sadly. Clark looked over at her and gave her a reassuring smile. "It's okay, Lana." He finished his food quickly. "May I be excused? Lana and I are going out to the loft." "All right, Clark, but don't forget about your chores," said Jonathan sternly. "Later, Dad, I promise," he said quickly. He pulled Lana's chair out and took her hand. Lana smiled.
Lana followed Clark up to his Fortress of Solitude, otherwise known as the loft. He offered her a blanket to sit on. He sat on the floor beside her. "Lana, I know you're hurting. Is there anything I can do to help?" Lana smiled. "Just being here has helped a lot," she answered. "It helps to not be alone." "Is there anything you want to talk about?" She shook her head. "No, I'd rather not talk about it," she said. "You know, maybe this is all for the best. Whitney doesn't need another complication in his life right now. He's having such a hard time keeping up with school, since he spends so much time at the store." Clark nodded. He understood how Whitney must have been feeling, having been in the same situation just days before--not knowing whether his father would live or die. He felt for Whitney, but he felt worse for Lana. For her, the breakup had come out of the blue. She didn't even truly know what she did to cause it. Hearing it repeated and explained by those around her just was not, just could not be the same as remembering it. And even though she hadn't been in control of herself, a little part of her had meant what she said to him, or she wouldn't have said it. And that must have hurt her more than anything.
Lana almost missed the bus the next morning; it had been so long since she had to ride it. She dreaded seeing Whitney in school that day, but not as much as she dreaded hearing all the gossip and the whispers in the halls. Luckily, there was an empty seat next to Clark. "How are you?" he asked as she sat down beside him. "I'm okay," she replied, not really knowing whether or not that was actually true. "I just don't really feel like facing everyone today." Clark nodded. "Don't worry about it," he advised her. "Just hold your head high and don't let them get you down." She rolled her eyes. "I wish it were that easy." "Look, you know you can always talk to me when things get rough," he reminded her, squeezing her hand. She smiled beatifically up at him. "Thanks, Clark."
School was as bad as Lana imagined. She could feel the stares of everyone in school as she passed through the halls. She tried to hold her head up high but she knew that they were talking about her. A few of her old cheerleading friends had talked to her and said they were sorry, but Lana knew that one of them would end up in Whitney's bed before long. But at least they had talked to her. Everyone else just stood around and stared in awe at the perfect Lana Lang who just got dumped by her perfect quarterback boyfriend. She knew what they were saying, and she tried to tell herself that she didn't care. Which would have worked, except for one thing. She did care.
She didn't really know how she made it through the first half of the day. She didn't remember anything from any of her classes. She sat down with Chloe, Clark, and Pete at lunch. "Clark, can I borrow your English notes? I kind of zoned out during class." "Sure," he replied, smiling warmly at her. He handed her his notebook, and she started copying the notes in earnest. "Aren't you getting lunch?" asked Chloe. "I'm not really hungry," Lana replied. "I just have too much on my mind, I guess." "Oh, okay..." Chloe said warily. "Oh, I need to see you in the Torch office after school. Mrs. Stapleton wants me to publish that poem you wrote for class last week." "Okay," said Lana. She went back to copying Clark's notes. Chloe shot Clark a look and Clark shrugged.
Lana was just leaving the Torch office when she felt a hand on her back, startling her. She whirled around. "Clark! What are you doing here?"
"Walking you home," he replied, reaching for her hand.
She smiled. "Clark Kent, you are the perfect gentleman," she complimented him. He blushed.
"So how was your day?" asked Clark.
"As bad as I expected," answered Lana. "Everyone kept staring at me. I know what they're all saying behind my back. Especially my friends--I think they're competing to see who can get into Whitney's pants first," she spat bitterly. Clark put his arm around her shoulders. "Don't worry about it too much. This will all blow over in a couple of days. And you know Whitney's not looking for another relationship right now, you said it yourself--he has too much on his plate as it is, with his dad being so sick." Lana nodded. "You're right. I don't know why it bothers me so much, but it does. I can't stand it." "You'll get through this," Clark assured her gently. When they arrived at her house Clark gave her a friendly hug. "You know where I'll be if you need me," he told her, looking deep into her eyes. "I know," she replied, smiling. "Thanks, Clark." He smiled that megawatt smile. "Anything for a friend."
Lana sat in front of her algebra book, staring blankly at the quadratic equations. She didn't feel like doing it. She didn't feel like doing anything.
"I'm not hungry!" she yelled down at Nell. It wasn't exactly the truth, but Lana didn't really want to deal with Nell right then. She turned back to the textbook and started punching numbers into the calculator. She figured Nell would leave a plate for her in the refrigerator for later if she got hungry. When Lana was done with her homework she went downstairs to the kitchen. She opened the refrigerator, but then realized that she still didn't really feel like eating anything. She heard a noise, and she jumped. "Lana, you need to eat."
"I'm not hungry! Seriously, I just don't feel like eating." "What's wrong, Lana?"
"Nothing's wrong! Just get off my back already!" Lana ran back upstairs to her room and slammed the door. She threw herself down on her bed and began to cry.
It had been a week since Whitney broke up with Lana, and Lana didn't seem to be getting over it very well. She still dreaded going to school every day, especially Tuesdays and Thursdays, when she went to watch Clark and Whitney play basketball. It was an excuse to get out of lunch, but it was so hard to see Whitney looking so...normal. Like nothing had happened. Like nothing had changed. Her friendship with Clark was becoming deeper every day, and she had to admit that Clark had a lot of great qualities that Whitney lacked. But she still woke up every day expecting Whitney to want her back; she couldn't help it. He had been a part of her life for so long. Lana was just getting out of the shower and starting to dress. She'd spent the past week wearing t-shirts and sweatpants and no makeup, and she suddenly realized that she would never get Whitney back that way! She ran to her closet and pulled out a pink sweater and flowered skirt. As she zipped up the skirt, she realized that it was a little too big for her. She pulled at the waist of the skirt and saw at least an inch of space between it and her stomach. She started to feel upset, but then she realized something wonderful--she was losing weight! She was getting thin! Soon she would be so thin and beautiful that Whitney would be on his knees begging her to come back to him. She went back to the closet and pulled out a tighter black miniskirt. She ditched the pink sweater in favor of a bright red tank top and black sweater. This will show him what he's missing, she thought happily. Wait till he sees how great I look. He won't be able to resist! Lana rushed eagerly to meet the bus that morning. She saw the awed and appreciative stares of her classmates and smiled to herself. If it worked on them, surely it would work on him. She took her usual seat beside Clark. "Wow, Lana, you look great!" he exclaimed. "What's the special occasion?" She looked into his sparkling blue eyes and could barely resist saying "It's you, Clark. I did it all for you." With a start, she realized what she was supposed to be thinking. Her mind went blank, and she stuttered an ineffective answer. "I just thought it was time for a change." "That's good," Clark replied encouragingly. "It is time for a change. And what a magnificent change!" Lana smiled. Hearing that from Clark made her heart feel as though it was melting into a puddle in her chest. She was beginning to realize how important he was to her.
It was Tuesday, and Lana went to the gym to watch the basketball game with Holly and Chloe. She walked in with her hips swaying and her hair bouncing lightly on her shoulders. Her back was perfectly straight, thrusting her breasts out. Whitney turned and caught a glimpse of her and dropped the basketball. He fumbled clumsily to pick it back up without taking his eyes off Lana. Lana grinned slyly. Her plan had worked perfectly. She giggled slightly as Whitney fell on his ass trying to get the basketball and Clark, whose eyes were also glued to Lana, tripped over him. Chloe's laughter echoed off the gym walls. "Hey guys, are we going to see any dribbling other than what you're doing over Lana?" Clark blushed and grabbed the ball. Lana snickered. He's so cute when he does stuff like that, she thought. Look at him, he's adorable! And he doesn't even notice. The game started, but it was clear that Whitney was off his game. He kept stealing glances at Lana, who was cheering enthusiastically for Clark. After Clark and Pete won the game easily, Lana ran up and hugged Clark. "You guys did great!" she exclaimed a little too loudly, sneaking a quick glance at Whitney. Their eyes met, but he quickly looked away. I knew it. He has to be jealous, she thought gladly. Just as I hoped. She released Clark from the embrace and went back to the bleachers, where Chloe was packing up her laptop and heading off to the Torch office. "So, Lana, what's up with you and Clark?" Chloe asked, keeping her voice carefully neutral. "He's really helped me a lot this past week," Lana replied simply, not really knowing what the answer to the question actually was. "That's Clark, our regular little Boy Scout," Chloe snarked. "Well, I hope you're not just using him to make Whitney jealous. Clark's my best friend, and I would hate to see him get hurt." "So would I," Lana replied pointedly. "I would never do anything to hurt Clark. He's one of my closest friends." She walked off before Chloe could say anything else. The truth was, she was afraid that Chloe was right. She did want to make Whitney jealous and make him take her back, but she also genuinely cared for Clark and would never want to hurt him. He had been such a great friend to her...and maybe even something more? Don't go there, Lana's mind warned her. Don't start mistaking friendship for love. It's a sure way to destroy any friendship, and Clark is too important to you. She knew she was right, but she also knew that what she felt for Clark was slowly creeping beyond "just friendship". She was starting to really like him. Yet she still wanted Whitney back.
What was she supposed to do?
Lana knew she needed to get her mind off of the Clark/Whitney conundrum. As soon as she got home she changed into sweatpants and a t-shirt and decided to go for a jog. She needed the time alone, to think. She knew that she should have been at the Talon, but she just couldn't face it today. She figured Nell would cover for her. Nell knew something was going on, but she didn't know what it was, and Lana didn't plan on telling her. She knew Nell just couldn't understand.
Why is it so important to me to get Whitney back? Do I really miss him, or do I just miss the relationship that we had? Is it better this way? It has to be, it was obvious that we were growing apart. So why does it hurt this much? And why does it suddenly seem like I should have been with Clark Kent all along? He's so sweet and kind and caring, and I know he genuinely cares about me and how I feel. I would never be a "trophy girlfriend" to him--he's above all that crap. And what about Homecoming night? Clark never would have done to Whitney what Whitney did to him. God, the right guy was in front of me all along and I was too blind to see it. I can't believe it. How could I have been so stupid?
By the time Lana got back to the house it was five o'clock. Oh my God, I just ran for two hours! she thought. Then she smiled proudly. I ran for two hours. Who's the jock now? She laughed rather bitterly. Then she went upstairs to get on the bathroom scale.
Lana was right about her clothes not fitting--she had lost five pounds. But if she wasn't doing it to get Whitney back, why was she doing it? It still seemed important to her. Well, if Clark thought I looked great this morning, imagine what he'll think when I lose five more pounds! She was excited. Soon she would be so thin and beautiful that Clark would never be able to resist her. If Clark made the first move, it wouldn't affect their friendship, she assumed. If we both want it, then it won't affect our friendship. And having a strong friendship always makes a relationship better. Maybe that's where Whitney and I went wrong. We didn't have enough in common to be friends. But Clark--there's just something about him that connects us. I don't know what it is, but we both feel it, I know.
Lana got in the shower. As she stripped off her clothes, she looked critically at her body. Of course Whitney dumped me, I'm a fat pig! I must have looked disgusting in those clothes I was wearing! No wonder he can't stand me anymore...I definitely have to lose more weight. Even if I don't want Whitney back, I have to do it for Clark. How could Clark have feelings for a big, fat whale?
Instead of getting in the shower, Lana put her sweats back on. She went into her room and sat on the floor, doing sit-ups. She was still in shape from cheerleading and found that the first two hundred were no problem at all. It wasn't until she hit 350 that she started to get tired. But she kept going. She knew she had to. She would never have a boyfriend again if she didn't.
Oh, God, not again. "I'm not hungry!"
"Lana, you're going to come down and eat dinner. You haven't eaten in days." Lana sighed. She didn't want to fight with Nell. She trudged down the steps to the dinner table. Nell had made pot roast with mashed potatoes. Look at that. It's disgusting. It's just fat, pure fat, and calories. I'm not eating that. Lana cut up her meat and pushed the potatoes around on her plate. "Eat, Lana," Nell demanded. Lana took a tiny bite of the meat. It didn't even taste that good to her. She took a little more. Then she took a bite of the potatoes. Finally, when Nell was satisfied, she excused Lana from the table. Lana ran upstairs to the bathroom and ripped off her shirt, looking at her stomach, positive that it had magically expanded from the tiny bit of food she'd put in it. Oh my God I'm gonna get fat again I can't get fat again what am I going to do? She suddenly remembered a video she'd watched in health class about a girl who didn't eat. When her parents made her eat dinner with them, she just went in the bathroom and threw it up. God, that's disgusting! she thought as she knelt in front of the toilet. She took a deep breath and plunged her fingers down her throat. It took a few tries to get everything out, but once she had she felt immensely better, and lighter as well. She washed her mouth out and brushed her teeth and went back to her room. She had homework to do.
"Lana, you look so beautiful today!" Clark exclaimed as Lana sat down beside him at the lunch table. "I mean, you're always beautiful, but today, it's just...wow."
Lana smiled. Clark just wouldn't be Clark without his clumsy kind of charm. She had been running and exercising more and more, and just last night she had gone out and bought a few new clothes to wear.
Every day Lana felt that she and Clark were getting closer. She figured any day now he would ask her out. Her thoughts about Clark and her constant exercising were keeping her mind off Whitney.
"Lana, are you working at the Talon today?" Clark asked.
"Would you like to go there with me after school?" he asked shyly, a slight blush in his cheeks and a sweet smile on his face. Lana smiled. "Of course!" she replied. "I'd love to. It's a date." "Oooohhh, it's a date," Pete teased Clark, punching him on the shoulder. Clark laughed it off. Chloe rolled her eyes. Lana couldn't help but notice Chloe's reaction. She had suspected that Chloe had a crush on Clark, but she'd never really had any reason to believe it was true--until now. Lana liked Chloe and didn't want to upset her, but she liked Clark a lot more--a whole lot more. Lana was falling in love with Clark, she knew it, and she planned to tell him that at the Talon that afternoon. Lana barely made it through the rest of her classes. Her mind was adrift with fantasies of her and Clark being a couple. She couldn't believe it had taken her all these years to realize that the one was right in front of her.
"Clark, I have something to tell you."
"Lana, there's something I'd like to say first." "Okay, Clark," said Lana hesitantly. "Go ahead." "Lana, I-I think that m-m-maybe...Lana, I love you," he blurted before he could stop himself. Lana beamed with joy. She wanted to jump out of her seat and scream. "Clark, I was going to say the same thing. I think I've fallen in love with you." Clark blushed. "Really? You're not just saying that?" Lana reached over and took his hand. "Clark, I want us to be together." "Me too!" he exclaimed in an almost childlike way. He cleared his throat, trying to regain his composure. "Lana, will you go out with me?" She smiled that beautiful Lana Lang smile. "Yes, I'd love to go out with you."
The walk home was the best experience of Lana and Clark's lives. They just held hands and talked about everything--their hopes, their dreams, their long unrequited love for one another--and enjoyed the beautiful spring day. "Lana, I can't believe this is happening," Clark admitted. "You've been my dream girl for so long that I can't quite convince myself that this is real." Lana stopped and turned to him. She put her hand around his neck and pulled him into a long, sweet kiss. "Was that real?" she asked softly. "If it wasn't, this is the best dream ever," Clark whispered in reply, and kissed her again.
When Lana returned to her house she was so excited she could barely stand still. Her heart was beating like a drum. She couldn't believe it! Clark loved her! Just then she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror. How could he love me? I'm disgusting? I'm a big fat whale. She wanted to cry. She wanted to believe that Clark loved her so badly, but she knew he couldn't--not the way she looked now. She quickly changed her clothes and went out to run. Two hours later, she came back and threw herself into doing sit-ups. She did so many that she nearly forgot to do her homework. It was nine o'clock before she even started her work. Luckily, Nell hadn't bothered her with dinner that night--she assumed Nell had eaten while Lana was out running, and Lana didn't even care if there was a plate for her or not. She had grabbed an apple from the bowl on the table; that was the first thing she'd eaten all day. Sometimes she nibbled on carrot sticks or pretzels at lunchtime, but she never just sat down and ate anymore. She told herself she would when she was thin. As soon as she was thin and beautiful and Clark truly loved her she could go back to eating again. At eleven her work was finished and Lana did a few more sit-ups before going to bed. She had set her alarm fifteen minutes earlier so she could get some sit-ups in before she got in the shower. She was tired and headachy, but she told herself that it was all worth it. She would go through anything to be loved by Clark and have her dreams come true.
Lana and Clark were in Clark's loft. They had been spending more and more time there lately. It was no longer his "Fortress of Solitude," since he almost never went there unless he was with Lana.
The two of them were cuddling on a blanket. Clark had set up some candles around the loft, and Lana looked even more beautiful than usual in the dim, flickering candlelight. He kissed her, running his fingers through her long raven hair. He was shocked to find the strands still in his fingers when he pulled his hand away. He gasped. "Lana!"
"Your hair!" he sputtered, showing her the long strands dangling limply from his fingers. She shrugged. "It's nothing. I have tons of hair." Clark looked at her, concerned. "Lana, I don't think it's nothing." "Clark, I'm fine. It's just a little hair. It'll grow back." She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him deeply. Clark ran his hands over her back and was shocked to feel how far her bones jutted from her skin. Her shoulder blades were like arrows, and he could feel each separate vertebra in her spine. That couldn't be good. He pulled away from her. "Clark, what's wrong?"
"Lana, you seem a little different lately." "What? Clark, what are you talking about?" "Lana, your hair's falling out and you've lost weight. Are you feeling all right?" "I'm fine, Clark!" she reassured him with a big smile. "I'm better than fine," she purred, stroking his face. "I have you." Clark smiled uneasily. He knew something wasn't right, but he couldn't tell what. He cuddled Lana close and tried to figure out what he was going to do.
Lana went home that night happier than ever. Clark had noticed she lost weight! He had to have noticed how much better she looked without it. She lay down on the floor and started to do her thousand nightly sit-ups.
She had to admit that she wasn't exactly feeling fine. She was cold all the time, and weak--some days she could barely make it up the stairs at school. And she was dizzy and lightheaded so much of the time that she'd actually started to get used to it. But she had to admit, losing her hair bothered her a lot more than she'd let on to Clark. But she told herself that once she was thin and beautiful and she could eat again that her hair would grow back.
"Lana?" Nell called.
"What is it?" asked Lana without pausing in her sit-ups. "I'm making popcorn. Do you want any?" Oh, God. There was the question she dreaded most. Of course she wanted it, but she could just imagine each little fat-soaked kernel lodging in her stomach and thighs and butt. God, she wanted it so much it hurt! Her stomach twisted, begging her to say yes. Just this once. "Sure, Nell, I'll be down in a minute," Lana replied. She got up to 400 and vowed that she would do 500 extra to make up for her indulgence. Nothing had ever tasted so good as that popcorn. Nell made it the old-fashioned way, on the stove, and melted the farm-fresh butter for it herself. Lana washed it down with Coke, real, honest-to-God Coke, not the diet stuff she'd been forcing down her throat for weeks now. She felt amazing, even better than she felt when she was with Clark. Her whole body seemed to be crying out with pleasure at the rich, buttery popcorn. Oh God oh God what the hell do you think you're doing? her mind shrieked. Now you've done it you've ruined everything! Quick, you've got to get it out! Lana tried to casually excuse herself from the table, but she wanted to run up the stairs as fast as she could. Throwing herself to her knees in front of the toilet, she forced her fingers down her throat and threw up until she saw blood. Her eyes widened. Blood? Oh God. That can't be good. But another voice reassured her. That just means you got it all. That's fine! Now just go do your sit-ups and everything will be fine. You'll be thin in no time. She went into her room and lay back down on the floor. The bones sticking out from her back and shoulders hurt when they contacted the floor, but she tried to put it out of her mind. She had 600 sit-ups to go, plus the extra 500 she had to add because of the popcorn--that meant she'd be doing 1100 before she could go to sleep. She hadn't finished her homework, opting instead to spend the time with Clark. Oh, screw it. Who cares? It's just homework. She threw herself into the sit-ups, counting down under her breath. 600, 599, 598, 597, 596, 595...
Lana was so tired that morning she could barely get out of bed. It had taken her until 1:30 to finish her sit-ups, and it was 5:45 now--already time to start again. Lana tried to lie on the floor, but the floor hurt her back so much that she crawled back up into the bed and started doing her sit-ups there. She was beginning to feel that she was out of control, but she didn't know what to do or how to do it. She couldn't stop; she wasn't thin yet! No matter how hard she tried, she just couldn't get thin. The thought only made her work harder at her morning workout. She stumbled dizzily into the shower. The hot water felt good on her constantly cold body. As she sponged herself off, she could feel every bone in her body. She looked down at her jutting hipbones and her concave stomach. But if she could see her bones, why wasn't she thin yet? It didn't make any sense! When was she going to be thin? She dried off, her teeth chattering in the cold bathroom. Even though it was late spring and quite warm outside, Lana still found herself wearing jeans and sweaters. Her jeans hung limply from her hipbones, always threatening to fall down and reveal the truth, no matter how tight she pulled her belts. She had to fold them over to belt them or else they wouldn't stay up at all. She knew she was thinner than she used to be, but she just wasn't thin yet! How much more was it going to take?
Lana dragged herself up the steps to the bus and collapsed in the seat next to Clark, startling when she felt the pain of the seat against her exposed spine. "Lana! Are you all right?" Clark exclaimed, putting his arm protectively around her. "Are you sick? What's wrong?" "I'm just tired," Lana answered, not knowing that she was slurring the words slightly. She relaxed into his arms. "I'm so tired," she breathed. "So tired." Clark practically had to carry Lana into school. He was starting to worry--she looked terrible, and he knew it wasn't just from a lack of sleep. Her face was pale and drawn, her hair was thin and limp, and her tiny, bony hands often sported blue fingernails. Something was definitely wrong with Lana, and Clark was afraid to find out what it was. Lana headed slowly and unsteadily down the hall to her locker as Chloe ran up to Clark. "Clark, what's the deal with Lana?" she asked worriedly. "I don't know, but she looks so sick!" he exclaimed. "But she hasn't said anything to me about it." "Clark, I don't think she's sick," Chloe said quietly. "I think she's anorexic." Clark's jaw dropped. "You're not serious!" "Clark, she's emaciated! She looks like a refugee from a concentration camp! And we never see her eating, even when she sits with us at lunch. She's definitely got a problem, Clark, and if she doesn't get help soon then..." Chloe trailed off, not wanting to just blurt out what she had to say. "Then what, Chloe?" Clark asked sharply. "Then she could die."
Clark couldn't concentrate at all in his classes. Chloe's words kept circling his brain, never giving him a moment's peace. If she doesn't get help soon then she could die. Not Lana! Not the only girl he had ever loved! Lana wasn't going to die. Not if Clark had anything to do with it. He waited for her at the foot of the stairs before lunch. He had noticed that it was taking Lana more and more time to get from class to class. He spotted her at the top of the stairs, grabbing unsteadily at the railing. She was halfway down when she saw him and smiled. "Clark," she said softly. He smiled back at her, but the smile quickly dropped from his face as Lana's eyes closed and her legs went out from underneath her. Without thinking, Clark used his super-speed to get up the stairs and catch her before she fell and hurt herself. He scooped her up in his arms, marveling at how little she weighed. Oh God Chloe was right, he thought. He was holding a barely-living sack of skin and bones in his arms. She needed help, and she needed it now. "Clark! What happened?" called Chloe, rushing up the stairs to meet him. She looked at Lana and her jaw tensed. "Oh my God," she said quietly, trying to keep her emotions contained. "We have to get her to the nurse's office. She needs to go to the hospital." Chloe pushed through the crowds of bewildered students trying to get a glimpse of the drama so that Clark could get Lana to the nurse as quickly as possible. Lana was awake, but she was drifting in and out. Clark was terrified. What if she died before anything could be done for her? Chloe threw open the door to the nurse's office. "We need an ambulance!" she screamed. She rushed to the phone as the nurse came out to look at Lana. "Oh, dear, how did she get like this?" mused the nurse. "Honestly, I don't know how she could even have gotten to school today! She's cyanotic, and I'm sure her blood pressure is through the floor. She needs attention, now." Luckily Clark heard the sirens just then. He ran out the nearest door and got her on the gurney before the paramedics even had a chance to take it out of the ambulance. "She's anorexic and she passed out," he explained quickly as the paramedics started taking her blood pressure and pulse. "She's in shock," one of the paramedics said. "Get me the warming blanket." The other paramedic, an older woman, tossed the blanket to him. She turned to Clark. "Get in, we don't have all day!" she barked. Clark jumped in and she slammed the doors shut and rushed to the driver's seat. Soon they were speeding to the hospital. Clark flashed uncomfortably back to the weeks before when he had been in this same position. Only now, things were even more uncertain. The Nicodemus sickness had a cure.
Clark looked down at his beautiful Lana, lying in the sterile hospital bed, and for the first time he really saw what she had become. Her skin was pale and brittle, her eyes were sunken, her cheek and jawbones jutted out from her skeletal face. He couldn't believe he hadn't seen this coming. He couldn't believe that he had let her get to this point. He should have realized something sooner. He should have gotten help for her sooner. What had he been thinking? How could he have been so blind?
Lana's eyes fluttered open, and she smiled. "Clark," she said softly. "What happened?"
"You passed out at school," Clark explained gently. "And now you're in the hospital. You need help, Lana. You need to eat."
"No I don't. Not till I'm thin."
"Lana! You're skin and bones!" Clark exclaimed, frustrated. "Lana, you almost died today. Please, please let them help you. I can't lose you, Lana. I love you." "I love you too, Clark," she replied. "But I want to be beautiful. For you." "Lana, you're the most beautiful person I've ever met. I've thought that since we were twelve years old! You'll always be beautiful to me, no matter what. So please, let them help you here. I want you to get well so you and I can be together forever." Tears slipped down Lana's face. "I'm not sick! There's nothing wrong with me! I'm just trying to be what you want me to be!" "I want you to be healthy!" Clark replied loudly. He looked around, embarrassed, and lowered his voice. "I want you to be happy. Are you happy right now?" She looked away from him. "No," she whispered after a long pause. "No, I'm not." "Then let them help you," Clark begged her, taking her hand. "I want you to be happy. When you're happy, I'm happy." He smiled at her, and she smiled back. "Lana, this isn't going to be easy for you, but I want you to try your hardest. You've got a long road ahead of you." She nodded. "I know," she whispered. "But I'll try. For you. For us." "For you," Clark corrected her. "Lana, do you want to get better?" "I don't want to die," she whispered in a terrified little-girl voice. "Then get better, Lana," he told her. He leaned over and kissed her sunken cheek. "I love you, no matter what." "I love you too," she replied. She smiled.
Dinner was an excruciating experience. Lana and a few other ED patients were seated in a special room and given a special meal that they had one hour to finish. If they didn't finish, they would be given fifteen minutes to drink a supplement. The rules were clear and ironclad. Lana looked down at her tray, trying to remember the last time she had seen this much food in one place at one time. She picked up the apple and took tiny bites, taking as long as she possibly could to finish it. She could feel her stomach stretching as she ate, so unused to having food in it. She hated this--the rules, the little room, the nurses vigilantly watching every move each girl made--but she knew she had to do it. She fought to keep Clark's voice in her mind. I love you. I want you to be happy. I want you to try your hardest. She smiled. It wasn't going to be easy, but she had to do it. She couldn't lose Clark. She couldn't lose her life.
Clark scooped Lana up in his arms and twirled her around. "You did it!" he exclaimed happily. "Lana, you did it. Congratulations." Lana beamed. "I couldn't have done it without you," she replied modestly, kissing him gently on his full lips. He smiled his megawatt smile. "Lana, I'm so proud of you," he said. "I love you. I will always love you. You are the best part of my life." She hugged him as tightly as she could. "I love you too, always and forever. And thank you, for everything." "Lana, you did this yourself. It was your decision. I just encouraged you to keep going." "I know you did, and I needed that," Lana admitted. "Clark, I never would have made it down this road if it weren't for you. Thank you for believing in me. Thank you for loving me." He said nothing, just pulled her close for a deep, passionate kiss. "Come on, Lana," he said, grinning. "Let's go home."
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