The rest of the dishes were put away in silence. Nell tried to jumpstart a conversation, but Clark refused to talk. He was afraid of what he would say. There was nothing left to do, so Nell offered to drive Clark home.

"Thanks all the same, Nell," he said. "I'll walk."

She shrugged. "All right. It was nice to see you, Clark. You should come over more often."

Never again, he promised her silently. "I will," he said. Nell smiled.

"I'll walk you out," Lana offered.

He said nothing, so she followed him out the door.

It was dark outside. The porch light was on, attracting moths like planets to a sun.

Lana turned as soon as the door was closed and kissed him.

Something exploded beneath his eyelids and he stepped back, heart racing a million miles an hour.

"That was what he meant, wasn't it? Whitney?" Lana was short of breath too, though he was sure it was more exhilaration than what he was feeling.

"Lana, please…" he swallowed hard. He wouldn't stop her. He knew he wouldn't. If she kissed him he would kiss her back and the next day Whitney's life would be over.

"I am so stupid," she said, shaking her head with a laugh. "I can't believe I didn't see it before. Comes from shaking pom-poms too much, I'm sure Chloe would say. She knew. So did Lex. I think everyone knew, everyone but me." She was babbling, and he realized that her emotions from the Whitney situation were carrying over. This wasn't her.

"Lana-"

She didn't give him a chance to finish. Lips on his, arms wrapped around his neck, she destroyed with just a moment his determination to leave.

His arms were around her back. He didn't remember putting them there, nor did he remember when he began to kiss her back. His blood was pounding and his face was flushed and he couldn't remember why he had wanted to leave a minute ago. Her hands were splayed on his neck, tongues of fire on his skin. His own hands could do nothing but crush her close, desperate to hold on, irrationally frightened that at any moment she would disappear and he would be dreaming it all.

"Clark," she whispered when he finally withdrew to catch his breath. "What am I doing?"

It was like someone had just thrown him into a lake of pure ice. He was totally speechless; he just stood there, arms frozen around her waist.

She stepped away and his arms fell like rocks, like magnets with an opposite charge to Lana's. "I can't believe I…" Lana looked away. "Clark, you'd better go."

Still unable to speak, Clark wanted to scream, "No! No, I want to stay, don't make me go…" But he walked off the porch, and every step was knives in his feet. He didn't look back, didn't want to see Lana's guilty, self-disgusted face. He thought he heard her whisper "I'm sorry," but he wasn't sure. The darkness of night closed in on him and when he was out of hearing range, the lump in his throat burned his eyes and made them overflow. Round the bend, past the trees and he was gone, a dismal streak in the air that couldn't run far enough, trailing tears in his wake.

It's as close as you'll ever get to her…