|by Samuel Hawkins
As Clark Kent stared into the eyes of the most dangerous thing he had ever seen, his body responded accordingly. A heart strong enough to pump dry the Atlantic pounded furiously. A brain that worked faster than the computers of Colu frantically searched for a proper course of action. A stomach that could handle 22 of Martha Kentís pancakes without complaint churned without mercy.
For the first time in his life, Clark Kent was terrified.
For the first time in his life, Clark Kent was in love.
"Well, Clark," Lana Lang asked him coyly, "what do you think? Am I prettier than Margie Thompson?"
Clark swallowed hard and took a deep breath. It was strange that a boy who could fly to Pluto and back and never need to breath would feel so suffocated at the almost-innocent question of a thirteen-year-old girl. His heart pounded harder and his head spun faster as they sat there on an early summer night under the apple tree on the line that divided the Kent and Lang properties. A month ago, he wouldnít have felt this way. A month ago, he would have probably responded to a stupid girl question like that with some stupid boy tease. A month ago, all he could think about was finally convincing his folks to let him put on that costume Ma was making for him and go out and help people.
For some reason, though, and he didnít quite know why, things felt different than they had a month ago. Everything really, but especially the way he felt when he looked at this girl heíd known practically all his life. For some reason, whenever he looked at her, he felt like he was melting.
Finally, he choked out, "Sure, Lana." He coughed, then looked away and added, "I think youíre the prettiest girl in school."
Had he not looked away, he would have seen Lanaís eyes go all soft with her own rush of new emotion. Oh, sure, when they were four Lana had gotten big laughs by telling everyone at the church social that she was going to marry Clark Kent someday, probably when they were five or six. But things had changed after that, and not, Lana knew, in just the normal way that boys and girls spend a few years thinking each other are icky.
Clark had changed.
Heíd become more hesitant, more restrained, like he was always holding something back. Social pressures being the force they are, sheíd joined with the other kids in teasing him about his newly-found meekness, but part of her sensed that Clarkís reserve meant something. Something Ö important, and something to which she was curiously drawn. No one else noticed, but Clark Kent had an intensity about him, a quiet maturity that exceeded his years and his place in the world. She didnít know exactly what it was in those deep blue eyes peeking out from behind those thick glasses that so stirred her. She only knew that lately, it had been keeping her awake at night.
And now heíd told her that she was pretty.
She was still smiling when he looked back to her. In the growing darkness, their eyes locked, and for a moment she thought Clark might kiss her. She certainly wanted him to. And he certainly wanted to. But fear of rejection is the one force that can, if only temporarily, overcome first love, and Clark instead looked away. Lana was disappointed, but almost grateful. The swell of emotion between them was almost unbearable.
They were quiet for a moment. Just to have something to say, Lana said, "The stars are beautiful tonight." She noticed that Clark, looking skyward, smiled. "What?" she asked.
He leaned over and pointed across her body towards the sky. "You see that star there, the one about 5 degrees west of Venus?" Lana liked that too. Clark didnít talk down to her. He seemed to be the only person sometimes who remembered that she wasnít just a pretty face. "Yes, I see it."
"Itís ..." he paused, and Lana knew that the walls that Clark for some reason needed to put between himself and the rest of the world were back. Not this time, she thought. Not with her. She leaned closer and slipped her hand over his. "Tell me," she whispered.
He hesitated, looking for the right words. "Itís my star," he finally said.
"Your star?" she asked, trying to sound appropriately respectful.
"Well," he said as he looked away, "I donít own it, or anything. But itís the one Ö I like to look at. You know. When I come out at night and sit on the back porch, or walk out in the fields. I look at it. Itís ... special."
"Why?" she asked gently.
"Itís where I was ..." he blurted out, then, hesitant again, added "I guess itís just where I was looking when I started looking at stars."
He seemed embarrassed at having told her. She squeezed his hand to reassure him. "Iím sure itís a special star."
"It is," he said, and when he turned his head, he found himself closer to her than heíd ever been. "Maybe Iíll take you there someday," was all he could think to say.
Lana stared at him. Heíd said that almost like he meant it. Almost like he could. She started to say that sheíd like that when the sound of Smallville silence was broken by a motherís voice. "Clark! Clark!" Martha Kent called. "Come on in. Time for bed."
"Be right there," Clark yelled back. He turned back to Lana and sighed. "Gotta go," he said flatly. "I hope you have fun in Mexico," he said as he stood.
"Yeah," Lana replied, suddenly having mixed feelings about her trip to visit her father on an archeological dig. "Itíll be good to see Daddy."
"Yeah," Clark said, unable to hide his disappointment at her impending absence of three weeks. "Tell him hello for me. And Iíll ... uh ... well, I hope you have a good time."
"Yeah," Lana said, suddenly equally disappointed, "yeah, I guess itíll be okay."
"Well, bye," Clark said as he began to walk across the yard.
Lana watched him walk away. "Clark?" she called out. He turned back towards her, and she said "Iíll look at your star when Iím in Mexico. And maybe we can look at it together when I get back."
He broke into a wide smile that the darkness couldnít hide. "Yeah," he agreed, then turned and headed inside just as Martha called for him again. Lana watched him as he walked, and couldnít help noticing that he seemed almost to be floating every step of the way.
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