Title: Touch

Rating: T/PG-13 (for violence and peril)

Summery: When Clark is kidnapped by an ex-classmate, his life and relationships are all thrown on the line. What would you do if you couldn't touch the ones you love?

Time-Frame: Season 5: Just after "Solitude" and just before "Lexmas".

Pairings: I'm going with cannon in this story, so it's technically Clana, though there's plenty of friendship Chlark as well.

Disclaimer: Of course, I do not own any of the characters/places/names in Smallville.

Feedback: Oh definitely! I take all kinds of feedback. Even flames. So hit me with it. ;)

"Look at me when I'm talking to you-"

"You have nothing left to say to me!"

CRASH! Three dinner plates hit the floor, sending the remains of the evening meal flying across the kitchen. Jonathan gritted his teeth, now twice as irritated, and began to mop the spaghetti sauce off the floor and cabinets. Clark stood stoically by, not speaking. Finally his father stood up again, throwing the sodden dish towel into the sink.

"You have no right to speak to me that way."

"And you have no right to assume you know what you're talking about when you don't!" Clark spat back.


"No stop it! You don't care, Dad, you never cared."

Jonathan pointed a dangerous finger at his son. "Don't you say that. Don't you dare-"

"It's true, isn't it? Face it, you'll never be able to understand me. Ever." His fist hit the counter, denting it. "Ever!"

"Clark Kent!" Martha came in then, though whether the breaking dishes or loud voices had woken her first, Clark didn't know. He felt a twinge of guilt, seeing that she still looked tired.

"Mom, you should be resting," he mumbled, trying not to make eye-contact.

Martha's eyes were set on her son's face. "What's going on." She looked to her husband. "Jonathan?"

Jonathan's jaw was taut as he glanced at Martha then back to Clark. He opened his mouth to speak, but Clark dove in first. "Dad was just explaining to me why it is he's never around anymore."

"I seem to recall you saying that you thought I should run for Senator no matter what. What happened to that idea, huh? Cause it's too late to back out now, Clark."

"You know what? Fine. You go and be Senator, Dad, I'll just say my goodbyes now. The Metropolis TV crews are going to see you more than I am anyway."

Martha's face went pale. "Clark, what's wrong?"

Clark threw his hands up, exasperated. "Why do you guys insist on acting like you care so much? I know you don't, I know you think of me as an alien. I mean, it makes total sense to me, you don't have to treat me like I'm four."

"Clark." Jonathan came to stand in front of him, putting both hands on his shoulders, but Clark shoved them away, and stepped back.

"Just leave me alone," he whispered, shaking his head and looking down at his shoes.

"Clark, listen to me-"

"No!" He looked up at them both, fighting for the right words. "Just…just shut-up, okay? Just shut-up!" And he ran out the door.

Jonathan and Martha stood in silence for several moments. Martha's eyes finally left the kitchen door and she approached Jonathan instead. The moment she moved, he turned his back to her and started mopping up the spaghetti sauce again. "What happened?" she demanded quietly.

"I don't know," he replied, scrubbing the red stains out of the dishtowel he was holding. "He just…lost it."

"What did you say to him?"

"Nothing. I asked him why he so was quiet during dinner, he said he was fine. I told him that he wasn't fine, and that if he needed to talk I was here." Martha nodded, rubbing her husband's back gently. He sighed and pushed his palms against the edge of the counter, bracing his shoulders and staring down at the floor. "Then he asked why I was always gone, demanded why I couldn't be home on the weekends more often, you know, when he doesn't have school. I explained that between running for Senator and keeping up with the farm, I was just really busy." He laughed a little. "We can't all move at the speed of sound, right?"

Martha smiled. "What did he say?"

"He said, 'You're never around anymore, Dad, you're never there when I need you.' Well, I asked why this was coming up, what…what it was that I'd missed or forgotten about that was making him feel that way. Clark doesn't blow up like that without a very good reason, sweetheart."

"I know," she soothed. "Did he tell you what was really bothering him?"

"No, that's just it. He insisted that I didn't really care about him anymore, that I was becoming a stranger to him. That I didn't love him any…" he cleared his throat hard. "Anymore."

"Silver Kryptonite?"

He shook his head. "I don't know…he wasn't violent, Martha, but something…something's really getting to him."

Martha sighed, and patted him on the arm one last time. "We'll figure this out. I'm going to call Chloe, see if she knows anything."

"Yeah, maybe one of his teachers, too. Something might have happened today at school." She nodded, and went for the phone, but Jonathan touched her arm making her stop. "Sweetheart, you were supposed to be sleeping."

"I'm okay, Jonathan," she insisted, going to the phone and dialing. "It takes more than a Kryptonian virus to keep me away from you two." She got him to smile at that, and then jerked her head around to speak into the phone. "Hello, Chloe? Hi, it's Mrs. Kent."

- - - - -

Clark slammed the kitchen door and stormed at light-speed towards the barn. His temper was running so high, however, that he overshot the barn and went tearing across the cornfield, past the cemetery and off down the highway. The "Welcome To Smallville!" sign looked like a postage stamp as it whizzed past him, and soon all he could see were houses and fields. He didn't even know where he was until he finally came to a stop in the middle of the road, and saw Smallville Highschool just behind him and Walt Arnold Stadium just ahead.

He kicked angrily at the road, tearing a chunk out of the blacktop and sending it skidding into the ditch. Feeling a little guilty, Clark's anger cooled enough for him to stick his hands in his pockets and start walking instead. The argument was still running in his head over and over. He felt hurt, guilty, angry, frustrated…scared? Yeah, maybe a little.

Clark wasn't really in the mood for following rules and being discrete. As the sun set over his shoulder, he forced the front door of Smallville High open, and stepped inside. The darkening halls were completely deserted. Even the janitors and nigh owl studiers had gone home, being that it was Friday night. The setting sun made all the shiny wood floors look like they were glowing. He missed this place…things were easier when he was going to high school.

Slowly, he meandered down the empty hallways, between red and blue lockers, past doors that lead to classes he used to take…eventually, his subconscious led him to a familiar blue door. Clark smiled vaguely at the silver label above the door's window: "The Torch". He went inside.

Clark was surprised to realize that he hadn't actually been here since the last day of school. It looked sad and unfamiliar without Chloe's knickknacks and pinups decorating the desks and walls. It looked like the new Torch editor was a neat nick, since the only things that made the office looked used was a jar of pens, a stapler, a silver frame with a pretty-looking family of five inside, and a locker poster of Remy Zero tacked exactly in the middle of where the Wall of Weird used to be. Clark assumed the rest was tucked away in drawers and cupboards around the office. He sat down on the slick, orange couch and looked around gloomily, trying to think of something that didn't depress him so much. This was probably the wrong place to come. He sighed, rubbing his face with his palms, and stood up.

"Don't go on my account." He looked up suddenly, then smiled in spite of his mood.

"Chloe, hi. Umn…what're you doing here?"

She studied him keenly, as though looking for something, then shrugged, rolling a chair across the room from the desk and sitting down to face the orange couch. Clark sat back down. "Your mom called me. Said you weren't acting like yourself."

Clark felt a little annoyed, that funny twinge of guilt returning. "Yeah, I…my dad and I had a fight. And-" He sighed loudly, his irritation showing through. "Please don't give me that whole 'Oh, the Kents fight sometimes?' because you know we do, and I get so sick of everyone thinking that my parents and I never argue, like we're perfect. We're not."

"Umn, okay," Chloe said, smiling just a little. "Clark…you okay?"

Clark groaned into his hands again. "Yeah, umn…I'm sorry, Chloe. I just…it was a really bad argument. I-" He rolled his eyes. "I said 'shut-up' to them. I mean, how juvenile is that? The worst part is the whole thing was my fault."

"Clark, you think everything's your fault," Chloe raised her eyebrows at him, and he let himself laugh just a little. "Listen…it's not Silver K, right?" She leaned forward, trying to meet his eyes. "Cause you seem okay, but your parents…they're really worried."

"No, no, it's not- they really thought it was Kryptonite?" Now he felt really guiltily. The idea of acting on purpose like he had under Silver Kryptonite made him feel a little queasy. Had he really been that out of control? Looking back, he supposed he had. He felt terrible.

"So what's bothering you?" …but not so terrible he was ready to open up.

"You know, Chloe, I just don't really want to talk about it." He stood up abruptly.

"Okay, hey, hey-" she stood up too, grabbing his elbow. "You don't have to tell me what's going on. I just thought…you look like you could really use some company. You want to talk? We haven't talked in awhile."

Clark shrugged and let Chloe ease them both onto the couch again. "Sure we have."

"Not since we were beamed back from the Fortress, and that was like a week ago. Hey- how's your mom doing, by the way?"

Again, he shrugged. "Okay, I guess. She's sort of tired lately." He shifted uncomfortably in his seat. "The burns and scars from the virus are gone, but she's still not back to normal, physically. She hides it. I hate it that she hides it, like I need to be protected or something."

"She's really strong, Clark. She's going to be okay." Chloe squeezed his arm, but it didn't seem to make him feel any better. He clearly didn't want to talk about his parents at all, so Chloe made for a hasty segue. "Well no wonder you're depressed," she waved an arm at the empty Torch. "This place is a tomb."

Clark smiled ruefully. "Yeah, I really don't know why I picked here. Hey, how'd you know where to find me?"

"Your dad saw that you didn't go to the barn, and I figured you'd probably either come here or Loeb Bridge. It was a shot in the dark, really. At your speed, you go missing and it could take three plane tickets to track you down."

Clark looked up at the dark ceiling of the office. "This place sure looks different now."

"Yeah. I need to have some words with the Martha Stuart running it," Chloe said, rolling her eyes. "She doesn't even have Post-It notes. Betcha she's one of those tidy little pocket-planner types."

"You have a pocket-planner." Clark jabbed a finger at her purse. She pretended to be defensive.

"Yes, but…I make up for it by leaving one cup of day-old coffee on each computer desk." She was proud of herself for getting a genuine laugh out of him, but the moment the talking stopped, his shoulders fell a little, his face paled, his eyes gazed downward. "Ah, Clark," she whispered, rubbing his shoulder. "You look so miserable. Is there anything I can do?"

"No. Thanks, Chloe." He didn't even look at her. "I should…I should get home, I guess. I don't want my parents to get worried."

"Yeah. Okay." They stood up. Clark was about to run out the door, but he hesitated. Chloe smiled at him. "Don't feel obligated to walk like a mortal, Roadrunner. I feel like a stroll anyways." A breeze burst through the room, throwing Chloe's hair in her face, and Clark was gone. Chloe sat back down on the couch, staring at the ceiling. She supposed she should call Lana and let her know she'd be in Metropolis late, but even as she flipped her phone open held down the #3 button, her thoughts were with Clark and his sad eyes. And how he hadn't been the same since Jor-El returned his powers.

- - - - -

Clark…Clark Kent. I bet that she doesn't know who you really are, Clark. I bet she doesn't realize how imperfect you've been, the mistakes you're making. You know how to hate. You're bitter, aren't you, Clark? Yeah…you're definitely bitter.

Curtis Jaye sat in the cabinet beside the coffee table in The Torch, knees drawn to his chest. His breath echoed loudly in the small space, and he smiled to himself at the conversation he'd just heard. Chloe had left probably twelve minutes ago, but he preferred to be on the safe side. Girls always forgot stuff and had to rush back five minutes later, and sure enough, Chloe returned twice; once for her purse, once for her jacket. He was smart, he thought, and coughed to himself. Yeah, tell that to the board of education at Smallville High.

Finally, feeling he'd waited long enough, he shoved against the door of the cabinet, walked to the orange couch and sat down, staring at the ceiling. He didn't think it was that gloomy in here…but then again, he was suddenly in a very good mood.

"On your way home, huh Clark? Gee, that's too bad." He tapped his toes against the floor excitedly. "I sort of was thinking you could come to my house tonight."

- - - - -