For the FandomNation Pulp Fiction Title Challenge.
I could lose myself
I could curse like hell
But I've lost the will to even try
If you ever doubt, listen to the sound... No lies...
This is my last goodbye.
"Last Goodbye" - Kenny Wayne Shepherd
Sounds carried in the house now. They drifted and echoed in a way they hadn't since Clark and Chloe had first moved in, sitting on the bare hardwood floors, arguing playfully over cold pizza about where to put the entertainment center and what color to paint the bedroom walls.
With so much of the furniture gone now, it was like traveling back in time, and Clark didn't like it. There had been the promise then, the assurance of filling the empty spaces with their life together. Now those spaces were just... vacant. Obvious and gaping holes in the life of this house, and its remaining occupant.
He'd thought the kitchen would be safer, somehow. Small, narrow room, counters on both sides, tiny breakfast table in the corner below the window. Perhaps he hoped there had been less of Chloe to extract here, less of her presence in this room than the others. But leaning against the chipped blue counter, he saw that wasn't true.
The fridge looked incredibly forlorn without her eclectic assemblage of magnets, and sadly pale without the brightly colored notes she left for herself on a near-daily basis. The curtains were still there, the gingham ones his mother had made as a housewarming gift, but the prism that had hung there, catching early morning sunlight and scattering rainbows on her face as she drank her first three cups of coffee, that was missing. He hadn't even realized how accustomed he'd been to seeing it.
He made a mental note to buy himself a toaster this weekend. Using his heat vision to zap his Ego's on the freeway didn't seem like a good idea.
One of the cabinet doors was open, revealing an empty shelf that used to have Chloe's grandmother's china on it, the set they had only used once, when they'd invited Clark's parents over for dinner. Lex had arranged for a chef to come over early and cook the food, leaving Chloe and Clark to fill the plates, and then enjoy. They'd made a mess of the kitchen with an impromptu hollandaise skirmish.
He stepped over and closed the cabinet completely, fingers curled around the handle, ensuring that it didn't slam shut. Clark didn't want to hear the echoes in here, too.
From this vantage, he could see the driveway through the window, and the rusty green hatchback parked outside the back door. Something she had borrowed from a friend, probably Rebekah or Kelly. She hadn't gotten another car since her old one died; they had just shared the pickup, an easy carpool into the city, working only four blocks apart. She said her new apartment was on the red line, and that made him feel a little better.
Clark felt a draft by the window, chilled air slipping in where the plastic weatherproofing had ripped, and the old wooden sill didn't close all the way. During the summer, it hadn't been a concern; now, though, with winter fast approaching, threatening to cut autumn short, he would have to fix it. But, it was something easy to fix, something he could repair without causing more damage. That was a skill, indeed.
The ledge under the window was covered in cracked, peeling white paint, and he pulled a little at a loose chip, dropping it onto the floor, then another. There wasn't anyone to chide him for it now. He traced a finger around the ring that stained the wood, something akin to a chalk outline of the plant they'd managed to murder there. Despite Wal-Mart-Bruce's assertions that the fern was rather easy to care for, they had managed to kill it in under a month. Chloe had still watered it for three more months, just in case.
He heard them before he saw them, Chloe and Bailey, walking up the sidewalk, respective breaths clouding in the crisp air as Chloe spoke to the dog, and the dog huffed in response. Though Chloe's pace was slow, the small dog's stubby legs worked double-time to keep up with her. She used to joke with Clark that Bailey hated it when he walked her, because his legs were about 80 times as long as hers, proportionally. Clark had argued that he was helping to keep her in shape, and Chloe usually had the decency not to mention all the table scraps he slipped Bailey while she pretended not to notice.
The car was filled to capacity with cardboard boxes and plastic bags, and at the back window there appeared to be a solid wall of colorful clothing. He noticed, however, that the clothes seemed duller than they had when they hung in the closet.
Chloe opened the passenger-side door, moving aside to allow Bailey adequate room to jump up on the seat, which seemed to have just barely have space for her. Once she ensured that both dog and leash were safely inside the vehicle, Chloe closed the door, and turned, leaning back against the car. Her hand reached up to pinch the bridge of her nose, and her mouth was a tight line. Clark recognized her attempt to prevent tears, and had to forcibly stop himself from doing the same.
Turning from the window, he glanced down under the table, and spotted Bailey's tennis ball. Clark dropped to his hands and knees, and grabbed for the tattered toy. He opened the door off the kitchen that led to the mudroom, feeling the blast of much cooler air, as the heat vents were always closed out there. Clark shut the door to the house behind him, and then stopped, peering out through the little, frosty squares of glass in the backdoor at the vaguely Chloe-shaped figure on the other side.
With a deep breath, he opened the door, the noise of a squeaky hinge heralding his presence. She didn't turn around right away, but he saw her stiffen, suddenly very interested in contents of the bag she was holding. As Clark closed the distance to the car, Bailey saw him, and quickly made the journey over the central console to sit in the driver's seat, wagging her tail and pressing her nose to the window. Clark passed a finger over the glass, careful to keep her ball out of sight.
"She might want this." He spoke quietly, holding out the threadbare ball, rubber showing in more than one place, and, unable to meet her eyes, found himself staring at the watch on Chloe's wrist, the flaking ruby nail polish on her fingers.
"Oh. Thanks." Chloe seemed a little surprised, but accepted the ball, dropping it absently in the bag she had been so focused on moments ago. He knew she was looking at him now, her body moving away as she twisted towards him.
He noticed suddenly that it was snowing, tiny, little specks of frozen rain. It wasn't enough to stick, it wasn't enough to even slick the roads, but it was still snow. Winter was begun, officially. Clark shoved his hands into the back pockets of his jeans, and he felt his lips curling a little, a sort of awkward half-smile because he didn't know what else to do. "Did you get everything else?"
"Uh, yeah, I think so," she replied, her voice cracking just slightly, and he knows he's the only one who would have noticed. "I left the DVDs and CDs for now. I thought if you could go through them, pick out yours, I could just come back some other time for mine." Chloe had always had such nervous hands, and when she crossed her arms over her chest, it was only partly because of the cold.
"Ok. That's fine. I'll, I'll email you? Or should I call?"
"Either way. I still have my cell. You know the number. Just, you know, let me know the best time." She didn't need to say it, but it was clear that "the best time" was a time when he wasn't there.
"No problem." Clark looked down, absorbing the sight of her small feet, clad in white canvas tennis shoes, facing off against his much larger feet, work boots that had been a near-permanent fixture since he had been old enough to drive a tractor. He made another mental note, this time to get his loafers out of the basement. They had always been comfortable, and he had a feeling comfort was going to be a rare commodity now.
"Well, it's going to get dark soon. I should get going." She turned, opening the door, using her knee to shove Bailey back towards her own side. Pulling out her keys, she looked back to Clark, this time catching his eyes. He saw so much emotion in her gaze, a reflection of his own, but stronger. More. Always had been.
"Chloe, I ... " He stopped, shaking his head, because he knew. They both did. There was nothing left here for her, if there ever really had been. Everything real, everything she could hold on to was packed in the back of that car, or was sitting in an increasingly gloomy apartment on the south side of Metropolis. So, he offered all he could, knowing how little it really meant. "I do love you, you know."
"I know, Clark," she said as she dropped lightly into the driver's seat, dodging the automatic seatbelt as it swung around on its electric track. She rolled the window down halfway, and reached out for his hand. One brief squeeze, and the car was backing slowly down the driveway. As she paused to shift from reverse to drive, she looked back at him again. He didn't hear it, but he saw her lips move.
He watched the little car as it grew smaller and smaller, until it finally turned on McDowell, out of sight, taking her Away. Blinking back stinging tears, he padded back to the door, and up into the kitchen.
He wasn't really cold, but the idea of something warm to drink, something like tea or hot chocolate, it soothed him. Not quite as good as a hug from his mother, but he was grown now, and he would have to do this alone. Clark reached to the cupboard above the fridge, and pulled down the teakettle. He filled it with water, and set it on the stove to boil.
As he stood waiting, the phone rang from somewhere deep in the house. He supposed the handset was in the office somewhere, where he and Chloe had spent so many lazy afternoons together. Working and playing side-by-side, the tiny office had been like a shared universe for the two of them, a distilled version of their life together. Full of shoptalk and crossword clues, the sound of dualing keyboards and the memory of one glorious, sweet afternoon of making love under the printer cart.
Listening as the machine picked up, broadcasting Chloe's voice through empty rooms, echoing, Clark decided he might not go in the office to look for the phone today. In fact, he might not go in at all. He just might let that phone ring forever. There was no one calling he wanted to talk to, and there was no one to call.
Besides, it was snowing, and he had a window to fix.
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