Category: Slash, Angst
Rating: R (for adult themes)
Pairing: Clark/Whitney, Lex/others (het content - implied only)
Archive: If you want it, take it, please keep my name attached.
Disclaimer: They belong to DC Comics, Gough/Millar Ink and I'm just playing with them like the little brat I am. I swear I will never, ever try to pass them off as my own artistic creation because that's just stupid.

Summary: As the door closes, a window opens for Whitney Fordman but the view may not be what it seems.

*** WARNING: If you are a die-hard fluffy bunny Clex shipper (as I usually am) you probably won't enjoy this. There are reasons you might, but you probably won't.

COMPENSATION by mako


[][][][][]

It started the day of his father's funeral.

Whitney Fordman stood at the fresh gravesite alone, not thinking, just staring at the dark mound of dirt dotted with garish bouquets and tiny American flags, a nod to the elder Fordman's service in Vietnam.

Lana wasn't there. She said she couldn't handle the funeral; it reminded her too much of her own losses. A weak excuse when Whitney thought about it, luckily he wasn't thinking about much of anything now that it was really over and his life stretched out before him into a dark haze of dull responsibility and stagnation.

You're the man of the house now, they'd told him. How many times had he heard it, almost from the very moment his father's hospital monitors began their final, fatal whine.

It was the beginning of the end.

Whitney heard the light scuff of shoes against the plot's gravel pathway but didn't turn around. He'd had enough pity for one afternoon.

The person stopped next to him and Whitney glanced over to see Clark Kent. Dressed in his best black slacks, a dark turtleneck and a blazer that seemed strangely expensive and well cut, at least compared to Whitney's own cheap suit, bought in Metropolis at a half price sale nearly two years before.

It was his first time wearing it. Now he wanted to burn the damned thing, but knew he couldn't.

The man of the house needed a good suit, didn't he?

Something inside Whitney grew restless at Clark's presence. It was the same aggravated twitch he always felt in the other boy's company, the one he'd chalked up to righteous defense of his territory as been marked around Lana from the day of their first date.

Except that Lana wasn't there and he still felt it. Odd.

"That was a great eulogy, Whitney."

Simple statement, straightforward tone and Whitney glared at Clark who stood staring at the grave, a very large, very bright sunflower clutched in his hands.

"Thanks." Whitney stuffed his fists in his pockets and suddenly wondered when the tears would come. He hadn't cried yet and that disturbed him. He nodded toward the procession of cars that were making their way out of the cemetery. "You'll miss your ride back to the house, Clark."

"That's okay. I can walk." Clark's eyes checked him over, dark with concern. "We can walk together if you'd like."

Whitney swallowed and yes, there they were. Tears, pressing against the very backs of his eyes, not quite whole yet, but present and accounted for.

Thank God. "Yeah," he breathed. "I'd like that."

"Good," replied Clark, sounding relieved. He awkwardly held out the sunflower and Whitney stared at it for a long moment before accepting it. "I put one of these on my grandfather's grave years ago. Mom told me it's a little bit of sunshine to help us through the darkness."

Whitney's lips twisted and he nodded. Sniffled, then crouched at the foot of the mound, carefully placing the sunflower on top, where it shone against dark earth. Rose and wiped his shins, smacking the clumps of dirt from his palms.

"That's it then," Whitney said shakily, the sudden rush of grief making him lightheaded. "It's just me now, isn't it?"

"No, that's not it." Clark put a gentle arm around Whitney's shoulder and steered him away from the grave. "And you're not alone."

A brief flash of Lana's face somewhere in the back of Whitney's mind but it was gone as fast as it appeared. There was nothing then other than the strange, welcome warmth of Clark's arm slung across his shoulder and the twinning of their steps as they walked together to the road below.

[][][][][][]

Whitney lost track of Clark at the funeral luncheon and found himself surrounded by his teammates, all of them looking alternately abashed and confounded by the situation. None of them had lost a parent, not yet, and there was nothing in the football playbook that had prepared them for such a calamity happening to one of their own.

The initial consoling backslaps slowly turned into a shuffling silence and Whitney was relieved when they began to file out, promising get-togethers and endless summer keggers, all free of charge for the new man of the Fordman house.

Whitney grinned at them, slapped their backs in farewell and desperately looked for Clark the minute their trucks roared away.

Too late. He was gone as well. Whitney let out a huge, angry sigh and yanked off his tie, tossing it on the floor before flinging himself onto the couch.

His mother tsked softly before bending to pick it up. She smoothed it between tired-looking hands then bent to kiss her son's cheek. "The Kents asked me to give their farewells. Their son Clark wanted me to let you know that you're welcome to come by his loft anytime, day or night."

"Thanks, Mom." There was an unopened beer on the table and Whitney snagged it. Popped it open with his keys and drew a long sip as he watched his mother out of the corner of his eye, waiting for her disapproval.

None came.

Guess the man of the house can have a beer at least, thought Whitney bitterly as the warm ale slid down his throat.

It was a different world now. And he hated every part of it.

[][][][][]

The light from Clark's loft could be seen for acres. Whitney drove toward it, embarrassment growing with every turn of the wheel. He wasn't sure why he decided to visit with someone who'd only caused him grief more often than not.

Maybe it was Lana's newfound devotion to the Talon. Every moment she wasn't in school she was working in that bitter-smelling hole, hopping to Lex Luthor's unspoken commands. At first he tried to understand why she put up with it, now he no longer cared.

He tried to hang with the team but their stories of girls' chests and the latest NFL trades left him cold. There wasn't even much fun in drinking anymore -- his mother had a six-pack of beer stocked in the fridge for him to have after work every night, as she'd done for his father for the past thirty years.

Whitney wondered if he'd touch another beer ever again.

He braked to a stop in front of the loft and could see Clark's dark shadow backlit against the window. He was leaning down, staring into something; a something that Whitney realized was a telescope.

He climbed the creaking stairs and called out into the dusk. "Hey, Clark. You busy?"

Reached the landing and Clark's broad smile greeted him there, nearly taking his breath away. When had -anyone- ever looked that happy to see him? Not Lana, certainly.

"Hey!" Clark's voice was bright with enthusiasm. "Welcome to my truly humble abode."

Whitney looked around, appreciating the creative use of furniture that must have been yanked from the roadsides of at least three counties. "This is cool. What do you call it? Barn chic?"

"Recycling," Clark corrected with a grin. "Can I get you anything? I have a few sodas left over from my house party in the cooler outside. Not exactly fresh, but they're outdoors cold."

"Naturally chilled is always best." Whitney plopped onto the sofa, wincing as it creaked beneath him. "I'll take anything you got."

A can was in his hand and Clark was sitting beside him almost before he knew it. Whitney leaned back and returned Clark's grin, feeling the weight lift from his shoulders, the same way it had after the funeral when they'd taken their walk together away from the darkness.

Whitney nodded toward the telescope. "So, what you looking at?"

Clark raised the can to his lips. "Usual stuff. Spring constellations, Venus, ... Bigfoot."

A mouthful of Coke nearly came out Whitney's nose. "Yeah, right." He wiped his chin with the back of his hand. "Seriously, you ever see anything weird out there? UFOs or anything?"

Clark blinked, then shrugged. "Have I ever seen a UFO flying in the sky overhead? Nope. Can't say that I have."

"With all the weird shit around here, it wouldn't surprise me." He drained the can and crushed it absently. "Wouldn't surprise me if the aliens were living among us."

"How's your Mom holding up?" Clark asked, casually changing the subject.

Whitney paused. Remembered the hysterical crying jag that lasted an entire night and ended at dawn, never mentioned or repeated again.

"She's doing all right. It's just us now and the store keeps our mind off of stuff. She's got the morning shift at the store and the bookkeeping at night so it's pretty hectic."

"Do you need help?"

Whitney smiled in spite of himself at the sincere question. "Are you applying for employment at the world famous Fordman's, Mr. Kent?"

"No, just offering help." Clark thought for a moment. "Although some pocket change might be nice."

"Just come by." He shifted into a more comfortable position, the rough upholstery of the couch scratchy against his neck. "Whatever hours you want, you can have. You'll have to call me 'Boss' though."

"Oh," was the frowning reply. "But I have to call you that at school, don't I?"

"No. Not anymore," Whitney replied gravely. School was a minor consideration now, a place of relief rather than reign. "You can be the boss there if you like. I officially resign."

Clark stared at him with sad eyes. "No, thanks. Seems like a thankless task anyway." He reached out and gently brushed a stray lock of hair away from Whitney's forehead with his thumb. "I don't have the temperament, you know."

"Yeah, I know." Whitney's mouth had turned desert dry and he didn't want to think why, except that it had something to do with Clark's warm touch, so warm it left a trail of prickling heat across his brow and down both temples. "Do you have another soda, by any chance?"

"Sure ... 'Boss'," Clark joked, rising to retrieve more drinks. He returned from the cooler, two Cokes in hand. "Are you sure it's not 'Master', oh, Master?"

"Asshole," said Whitney cheerfully, accepting the soda. He raised the can in salute. "To Clark Kent, my new drone. May he know and share my pain."

"Absolutely," Clark replied, and the cans clinked as one.

[][][][][][]

Two weeks had passed when Whitney found himself standing the back storage area of his store, telephone clenched his shaking hand and tears running down his face.

He'd done something so stupid, so idiotic he should have laughed, but there was something about picking up the phone to call your father to ask him a question because you'd forgotten he was dead that seemed to inspire the opposite reaction.

His mother had answered and he'd almost done it, almost asked if Dad was there and caught himself in the nick of time. "I ... it's ... nothing, Mom. Sorry, I dialed the wrong number."

Damned straight he did and Whitney sat down hard on a shipping box, unable to stop crying. He was going to lose his fucking mind, it was apparent now and he was just that close ...

When he felt the arm slip around him, pulling him against a chest that was so warm, he thought he might melt into it. "It's all right," Clark said, perfectly reassuring. "It's gonna be okay."

"No," he said, his words muffled against Clark's shirt. "It's not."

"Shhhh. Yes, it will. Come on. Let's close up and you'll come home with me. Come on."

Whitney tried to protest but five minutes later found himself standing outside the locked gates, hunched into his jacket to hide the shame of his wet eyes and runny nose. Let Clark take the keys to his truck and they drove in silence back to the Kent loft, the passenger window cool against his forehead.

"Do you want me to call Lana?" Clark asked after he'd gotten them both inside and sat Whitney down on the couch.

"No," he replied hoarsely. "She won't come anyway. She's busy. Always busy with that shithole of Luthor's."

"Right. Got it. Okay, let's get your jacket off."

A warm, Indian style blanket was wrapped around his shoulders and Whitney sank into it, miserable. Nothing mattered. Life as he knew it was over and would never be the same again. He was eighteen going on forty, and the future looked as bleak as his father's dire predictions said it would, especially once his football scholarship vanished into thin air.

Too bad Dad hadn't stuck around to see it all come true.

"Come on, lean back."

Clark's voice soft in his ear and Whitney vaguely registered a very long, very strong pair of arms encircling him from behind. A moment of hesitation then something very close to surrender took over. It felt good, better than good and why shouldn't he give in to the only warmth he'd known in what seemed like forever.

It's not as if Lana had ever truly cared.

The kiss that followed wasn't as much of a surprise as it was an unexpected pleasure. It was merely Clark's lips pressed tentatively against his cheek as Whitney turned into the touch and simply opened up to the warmth offered.

It seemed natural, it seemed right and the only thing strange about it was the fire it inspired. Whitney's breath caught in his throat as the kiss deepened and became more meaningful. The blanket slipped from his shoulders and he allowed himself to be pressed down into the couch with Clark virtually hovering above him, like an angel in disguise.

A very hot, horny angel.

Whitney didn't think he was technically a virgin, not since the night Lana had given him a reluctant hand job in the truck, her face wrinkling with disgust when he came messily into her palm. He remembered apologizing profusely to her, feeling ashamed he'd dirtied her so and they agreed afterwards to confine their activities to kissing only, at least for a while.

But that had been the end of it and he was shocked to discover that Clark definitely wasn't a virgin, not from the confident way he undressed himself, then Whitney, stripping them both down with a smile, nary a blush to be seen anywhere.

There was certainly nothing virginal about Clark's kisses, which were deep and hot against his tongue and it was hard to think while his moans were being swallowed by Clark's questing mouth.

Whitney tried not to squirm too frantically against Clark's body but it was impossible. Those hands were everywhere -- huge, warm hands smoothing over him in waves of sensation. He felt beautifully helpless and when he heard Clark's whispered admonishment to "relax" it was all over.

He gave himself up and it was as close to flying as he could have ever imagined. Then there was Clark's hot mouth going down on him and he was soaring, soaring over Smallville, without a care in the world.

Whitney came with a whimper and Clark followed him over the edge, smiling as if the world wasn't such a scary place after all. Smiling as if Whitney made him happy, as if all that had happened between them was nothing more than a bad dream made right by one night shared.

It was better than all the touchdowns in the known universe.

"I love you," Whitney murmured against Clark's damp skin when he could breathe again. "Thank you so much. I love you."

A beatific look in reply and Whitney held on tighter. It was true. He was in love with Clark Kent and that fact didn't seem anywhere near as insane as everything else in his life.

In fact, it was wonderful. If this was happiness, Whitney thought wildly, the joy of it all making him tremble bring it on.

Bring it the hell on.

[][][][][][]

Three days later Whitney Fordman, star quarterback, quit the football team.

From his coach down to the lowest benchwarmer it was exactly as if Patton had announced his resignation in the middle of World War II. Shocked faces, every one of them gaping stupidly at him as if trying to understand why April Fool's Day had fallen in the middle of May.

It was way too funny.

Whitney apologized handsomely, explained slowly and carefully about his new responsibilities and laughed long and hard up his sleeve, wishing he could tell them the real reason behind his departure.

That being in bed with Clark Kent was an infinitely more enjoyable way to spend his free time than playing little boy games with them.

Clark looked shocked when he told him later that evening. "But you love football."

"I love you," Whitney corrected, twining his arms around Clark's jean-clad waist. "Besides, I can still play football. Somewhere." He nuzzled the warm spot where a strong heartbeat mimicked his own. "I've got other plans, big ones. For the first time in forever I'm not seeing a dead end. And I've got you to thank for that."

Clark didn't reply, he merely pulled Whitney closer.

"I was drowning, Clark. You pulled me out of the water and brought me back to life," Whitney continued fervently, kissing his lover's shoulder. "You're my angel."

Clark's throat worked as he swallowed. "Let's not talk anymore, okay?"

"Okay," Whitney replied happily. "What do you want to do?"

With a chuckle, Clark bent his head and soon they were doing exactly what Whitney had given up his sport of choice for.

It was definitely worth it.

Later on, they sat companionably together on the makeshift bed, doing their homework in the nude. Whitney tried not to laugh as he nipped at Clark's jaw between math problems, wishing he'd figured out a way to combine sex and school work much earlier in life.

He probably would have gotten an academic scholarship in no time flat.

"Damn. My pen ran out." Clark shook the offending instrument. "Could you get me another one off the desk, please?"

"Yes, Master," Whitney smirked, with a lick to Clark's ear.

He rose from the bed, searched the desk and peeked into a long wooden box that resembled a pen case. Was shocked to see the gleam of gold and upon closer inspection his mouth dropped.

"Jesus, Clark. This is amazing," said Whitney. He held up a solid gold Rolex watch, lamplight glinting off its polished surface. "Where the hell did you get it?"

Clark quickly got up, took the watch away and snapped it back into its case. "It was a gift."

"That's some gift. Why don't you wear it?"

Clark shrugged, his mouth set into a tight line. "It's a little ostentatious for Smallville High, don't you think?"

"I know some guys who would kill for a watch like that."

"Maybe I'd like to avoid that as well," said Clark, strangely agitated. "Did you find the pen? They're right in the coffee can there."

"Got one." Whitney looked at him searchingly, worried. "Are you upset? I'm sorry I opened that box. I didn't mean to pry."

Green eyes met his, too bright in the loft's dull light. "No, I'm not upset," said Clark softly. "Not with you." He smiled weakly. "It's been sort of stressful for everyone these past couple of months. I guess I'm not immune to the pressure, no matter how hard I try."

Whitney reached out and embraced Clark tightly. "It'll be all right. I know your parent's farm is having some trouble but it'll work out. I'll be right here and whatever you need, we'll figure out a way to get it." He carded his fingers through the dark silk that framed Clark's face. "Together. You and me."

"Sure," said Clark quietly. "You and me."

He was shaking a little but Whitney held him closer, strangely pleased to be able to offer comfort instead of the other way around. He was good at that; at least he'd had a lot of practice over the years with Lana.

"We should finish our homework," Clark sighed against his hair.

"Nah." Whitney tugged on his hand and they landed together on the bed, pages of looseleaf crunching beneath them. "I think we should study something else for a while."

Clark just laughed in reply.

[][][][][][]

The Talon's antique sconces threw a sickly yellow pall over everything and Lana Lang's pretty face wasn't an exception. Whitney reached out across the table and took her hand, stroking it gently. "I'm really glad we could come to an understanding about this."

Lana nodded. She'd seemed oddly content in recent weeks, a strange cat-that-ate-the-canary look shading her normally ingenuous eyes. "I'm really sorry that we ... " She sighed. "I dunno. Just sort of fizzled out like this. It makes me kind of sad."

"Me too. But I'm glad we can still be friends," he replied, emphasizing the last word. "I really want that, Lana." Whitney smoothed the soft skin of her wrist with his thumb. "I'd rather break up like grown-ups than have some ugly fight just to force the issue."

"Yeah, you're right," she said, brightening. "This is a very mature way to do it, isn't it?"

"We're half-way to the old age home I'd say," he laughed.

"I've always felt older than I am," she said dreamily. Another sly cat-smile and Whitney leaned over to kiss her cheek.

"Thank you for all the happy times, Lana," he said sincerely, as he rose from the table.

"Thank you too, Whitney," she replied sweetly.

Another brotherly peck against her hair and Whitney made his way to the door passing by a familiar face, the slim, compact body beneath clad entirely in black. Whitney normally didn't bother to take too much notice of the man, but this time was the exception.

Because Lex Luthor staring him with a look that could only be defined as one thing.

Hatred. Pure, unadulterated hatred.

The sort of hatred that sent chills straight down one's spine and Whitney felt it like an ice water bath splashed over his soul. He shivered and quickened his pace, glancing back to see if he'd been imagining things.

But Lex was talking into his cell phone, drumming his fingers lightly against the table, his face the usual mask of boredom.

Ah, he had been imagining things, Whitney told himself as he leapt into his truck and finally made his way onto the road that led to Clark's house. He was getting paranoid in his old age, he thought wryly, or maybe that's the way the younger Luthor dealt with everyone, being the Devil's son and all.

Whitney kept driving, humming along with the radio, happy in the knowledge that a gorgeous Clark Kent nestled in his arms was only minutes away.

But for some reason, the chill remained.

[][][][]

The walk from Fordman's store to the Talon was about a twenty-minute hike but it went much faster at the pace of Clark's long strides.

Whitney had to stretch to keep up but that didn't bother him in the slightest. It was wonderful being at Clark's side, feeling their arms brush every few steps, knowing that in less than an hour they'd be tangled together in bed, naked and loving.

The thought warmed Whitney to his toes and to think, it was only a month ago he'd been so sure his life had ended. But here he was, happy, hopeful and madly in love with a gentle, perfect angel who cared about him, whose desire matched his own.

It was almost too good to be true.

"I'll just be a few minutes," said Clark when they reached the coffeehouse. "I've got a few things to talk with Lex about and then we can go. Would you mind waiting here?"

"Nope." He leaned against the locked delivery door. "Give the talented Mr. Luthor a big hello from me."

Clark nodded absently before going inside. "It won't take long."

Whitney smiled, then stared out onto the darkened street. Watched the cars pass every few minutes and it wasn't long before he remembered he'd left his best jacket in there the night he'd broken up with Lana.

He'd been in such a hurry to leave and with that Luthor asshole giving him the evil eye

Whitney bit his lip thoughtfully. He could just sneak in, snatch the jacket from the lost and found coat rack up front and sneak back out. No one would know, it would only take a second and

He gingerly opened the door and tiptoed inside. Saw his coat hanging off the far rack and almost had it in hand when two voices distracted him.

The familiar voices of Clark and Lex Luthor. Fighting.

Fighting in tones that were at once familiar -- and furious. He was taken aback at the raw passion in Clark's voice and he couldn't help but lean in and listen to his lover speak as he'd never heard him before.

Primal, hot and enraged. "I can't believe what you're doing with Lana."

"That's just business, Clark."

"Just business? If that's just business, I'd hate to think what that says about you."

A long pause followed. Whitney swore he could feel a chill coming in through the walls and Lex's voice was like winter, icy and bitter.

"I not the one fucking the quarterback who tied me to a pole in a field and left me to die like an animal. Amazing how forgiving you can be when it suits you."

"He doesn't lie to me, Lex. While you ..."

"While I what? That situation was unavoidable! I did the best I could and your father is alive and well ... thanks to me."

"He wouldn't have gotten sick in the first place if you hadn't ..."

"That wasn't me."

"Jesus Christ, Lex! Is every word out of your mouth a lie?

"Tell me one thing. Do you love him, Clark? Do you have with him what we had? What we still and will -always- have? If you say yes, I won't be only liar here."

"Whitney would never hurt me. Not like you did."

"That's because he can't hurt you. Because deep down, you don't care."

"That's bullshit, Lex. You don't know anything about him or us."

"I know you. " The ice left Lex's tone and a smooth, seductive summer heat took its place. "I know that you're standing here right now, wishing I'd kiss you, wishing I'd bend you over that table and ..."

"That's enough." Slightly strangled voice. "I told you we're through and I meant it. I loved you, but ..."

"You still love me. You'll always love me."

"Glad to see your ego remains intact." Clark sounded weary. "It's over, Lex. Stay with Lana, maybe it'll be good for both of you. I'm staying where I am."

"For now. But we are far from over, my friend. You and I ... we have something that no one can ever come between. Be it love or hate." The voice turned impossibly soft for the man that was Lex Luthor. "I want it to be love, Clark, I truly do. If you'd come back to me, back to us, I'll give you anything you want. Anything. Name it and it's yours."

"You can't give me what I want."

"Try me."

"I want the truth, Lex. All the time. Every minute of every day, with no conditions, omissions or excuses. Can you look me in the eye and say you'll give that to me? Can you?"

Whitney held his breath as the clock behind him ticked the seconds away.

Ten ... fifteen ... and on the twentieth, Lex answered.

"No. I can't."

"Then I can't come back to you."

Such terrible sorrow in those words and Whitney could hear Lex's labored breathing, as his voice lowered to a hoarse whisper.

"Then listen carefully, Clark." The rasp turned into something dark. "I will do whatever it takes to get you back -- in my life and in my bed. I mean whatever it takes, for however long it takes. Nothing's going to stand in my way and you will come back, because you know in your soul that neither one of us has a choice."

"I don't know anything of the sort. Goodbye, Lex."

Said with finality, and Whitney stumbled back as Clark's footsteps echoed closer. Turned and ran out the door, praying he didn't fall and break something.

Except that something inside was already broken.

[][][][][]

The next six hours were spent staring at the ceiling of the loft with Clark draped over his chest, sleeping soundly. Whitney began to count the beams, immediately lost track and started again, only to go back to the same maddening thoughts.

Lana with Lex.

He should have known, shouldn't he? All those dreamy and snide little smiles. All those hours spent in the Talon, ostensibly working, obviously doing something else with someone who made her feel "older than her age."

That filthy son of a ...

His mind careened in the other direction.

Clark with Lex.

Well-cut new clothes. Sad, distracted looks. Fucking gold Rolexes for God's sake. And a singular promise to take Clark back, no matter what the cost.

Whitney clutched Clark tightly to his chest, his heart hammering.

No. That wasn't going to happen. Lex could have Lana, he could have anything in this world he wanted except for Clark. Clark was his and there was nothing, no amount of power or money that could change that.

Lex Luthor would simply have to compensate himself for his own loss.

Forever.

Whitney closed his eyes and forced his breaths out in even, steady beats. Felt dawn's rays brush against his eyelids and Clark stirred against his chest but he put his hand on the damp forehead, soothing him back to rest.

"Shhhh, love," he murmured. "Go back to sleep. I'm here."

A sleepy murmur followed. "Lex?"

Whitney's chest tightened brutally but he bit back the agony. "Yes, angel. I'm here. Whoever you want me to be I'm here. Always."

And Clark returned to the darkness, smiling.

[][][][][][]

end

Reviews welcome below. Thanks for reading! :D