Getting Warmer

by Nix
(crimsonquills AT gmail DOT com)

Author's Notes: Thanks to Livia, for reading it over and helping out with a Clark character moment and the end.

Timeline: Set directly after "Cool".

Seated at the kitchen table, Clark stared into a mug of hot chocolate. Unlike Sean's other victims he'd survived, but a persistent chill was still with him almost a day later. It was disconcerting to feel the effects of the cold when he'd never really paid attention to it before. Was this what everyone felt like every day when they wrapped themselves in scarves and gloves and winter coats?

He looked up at the sound of the door opening and found his mother shedding work gloves and boots. She placed them in their places and glanced up. "Hi, Clark. How was school?" She slid into the seat across from him.

"Fine, I guess," he said, looking down at the mug again.

Martha reached out and touched his hand lightly. "Just fine? Is something wrong?"

"Not really," he sighed. Maybe talking it over with his mom would help. "I asked Lana why she stayed with Whitney."

"What did she say?" Her voice was calm, sympathetic, but Clark could tell his mom was reserving judgment on his pursuit of Lana. It just wasn't in Martha's nature to support his interest in someone who was "taken." But she would listen.

"She said, 'Because he's always there when I need him. I guess he makes me feel safe.'" Clark turned the mug around in his hands a few times. He looked up at his mom, his expression sad. "These abilities I have...they give me so much more responsibility than anyone else. Knowing I can help, that I may be the only person who can help, I have to help. And they just keep growing. With responsibilities like that...I don't think I'll ever be able to be there all the time for just one person. I have to be there some of the time for a lot of people. is being there for someone, does that mean I'll never have it?"

Martha smiled and reached across the table to take one of Clark's hands in her own. "Different people need different things from their relationships, Clark. No two loves are alike. You just need to find someone that needs what you have. Not just your abilities, all of you."

"What about what I need from them?"

"I can't tell you what that is. You have to figure that out for yourself." Martha rose from the table and got a glass of water. She leaned against the sink thoughtfully. Clark turned and watched her, waiting for the thought she seemed to be ordering. "Still, I suppose what you need most from someone is independence. Someone that doesn't need you to be there all the time."

Clark turned slowly back to his hot chocolate and took a sip. Someone who didn't need him all the time. Someone who could understand what it was like to never quite fit in...anywhere. Someone who could give him a bit of a reality check, or a push, every now and then.

At some level Clark was aware that his mom had left the kitchen, so when the door creaked he glanced up, expecting it to be her returning.

"Lex!" The young man stood just inside the kitchen door, one hand still holding it open.

"I hope you don't mind me dropping in," Lex said, stepping fully into the room and letting the door swing shut behind him. "I was just wondering why you pulled your disappearing act in the middle of your date."

"It's all right," Clark smiled and gestured for Lex to take a seat. "I was just thinking about you."