The truth sucks.
It's weird for me to say that because I like to think of myself as something of a truth-seeker. I like to imagine myself seeing things other people turn a blind eye to, and knowing things other people ignore. Sometimes it's difficult to stand in the cold, naked light of truth.
But sometimes... sometimes the truth can be wonderful.
Right now, my truth is sitting at my kitchen table with bleary eyes, a cowlick and toxic morning breath.
Even in the eighth grade, Clark Kent was taller than everyone else. A redwood among mere sprouts, as Frohike would say. He was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen -- all clumsy feet and big hands and bigger smile. Back in Metropolis he would have been one of the popular crowd, but here in Smallville he only used his powers for good. He showed me around the school, led me to all of my classes and told me to avoid Meatloaf Mondays in the cafeteria.
I kissed him in his parents' barn that night as he showed me around his farm.
And then I did something exceptionally stupid -- I told him that I just wanted to be friends. Even then it was a lie. I didn't want to be friends, far from it. But I was afraid to say anything else. I could say that I was afraid Clark would end up abandoning me just like my mother did, but that would be a lie. I was afraid because I was a coward.
And that's a hard truth for anyone to learn.
The longer I knew Clark, the more he challenged me to grow up and leave my ignorance behind. Not because he was wiser and leading me on a journey through life or anything so dramatic. But because I discovered all of the twisted, terrible things about myself when I was around him.
When he mooned over Lana, I realized how petty I could be.
When he and Pete did `boy' things in their exclusive little group of two, I realized how jealous I could be.
And when Clark hid things from all of us, I realized how underhanded I could be.
I thought I'd left it all behind me by the time high school ended, but I was a fool. Things would get much worse before they got better. I had given him my heart; I had given him the remnants of my childhood. And all I got in return was a long, bitter dose of truth.
The summer before college, I gave him my virginity.
Clark had been Lana's since the day he first saw her and I more than knew it. But I also knew that I was his first kiss, just as surely as he was mine. And that meant that we belonged, at least a little, to each other. I can't say it was all sunshine and roses; it wasn't. It was sweaty and it was desperate and it was awkward. But it was a little bit of wonderful as well.
I fooled myself into thinking that we could make it work, that we could become the high school sweethearts that everyone envies and dreams of becoming. We held on for the rest of the summer, but two weeks before we both left for Met U we had what my Dad still refers to as "The Argument," quotation marks and all.
It's strange to me that after all of these years, I can remember with agonizing detail how everything came crashing down.
Kansas had been blessed with a mild summer that year with plenty of rain, so, above all else, I remember how green everything was. A good summer meant a lot of work for the Kents, but Clark and I always seemed to find some alone time. Martha was helping our cause out quite a bit -- she was always making extra food `just in case' and sending Clark out on errands and telling him to `take his time.' If I hadn't already considered Martha Kent something of a mother figure by then, that summer would have cemented it in my brain.
I was sitting on the floor of my living room, surrounded by various kitchen utensils, crates, and dishes when Clark showed up on my front porch with a silly farmboy grin and a picnic basket. Forget about food being the way to only a man's heart.
We piled into my car, since Martha had dropped Clark off on her way into town. I still remember the sight of him trying to fold his long body into my VW Bug -- his knees ended up somewhere in the vicinity of his armpits.
Failing to suppress a grin he asked, "Were you packing for school?"
"Don't even start!" He knew very well what I was doing. I'd only complained about my father and his mother hen tendencies every fifteen seconds that summer. "I told my dad that freshmen live off of pizza and Chinese, but he's digging in his heels. He can be so stubborn sometimes."
"Oh, so that's where you get it?"
We fell into a comfortable silence. Silence is a killer, by the way. Silence with your significant other gives you the opportunity to focus your thoughts exclusively on the other person. It gives you time to think about asking them questions you've been keeping on the back burner.
I'd known that Clark was different since almost the beginning -- serious, Son of God type different. I mean, he eventually got better about it, but he wasn't too swift at covering up all the sudden disappearances and lucky saves at first. I just couldn't figure out how it was possible. Over the past few years, I'd opened my mouth at least eight million times to ask him, but I could never make myself go through with it. I felt that asking would be like opening Pandora's Box, and nothing would ever be the same between us again.
On top of all that, it really hurt that he couldn't tell me himself, that he didn't know me well enough to believe I'd keep my mouth shut. But that wouldn't be an issue until later.
I drove us to the caves, figuring it would make a meaningful picnic sight, and God knew when we'd be back to see them after we left for Metropolis. We set up not too far from the entrance to the underground labyrinth. I held the impressive picnic basket while Clark rummaged around in it, finally pulling out a red and white checked blanket.
"My own personal Boy Scout -- you come prepared for everything."
He grinned slyly. "You have no idea."
As soon as Clark finished smoothing out the blanket, I dropped the basket and jumped him. We fell to the ground in a tangled heap of arms and legs and giggles.
"Hey, I thought we were gonna eat-" I cut him off with a deep kiss.
Breaking away from his mouth, I punctuated each word with a small peck on his pretty face, "We. Are. Going. To. Eat. Some. Thing." I sat up, straddling his waist, and stripped off my shirt. I waggled my eyebrows at his pole-axed expression when he realized I was without a bra.
"Seriously." I leaned forward, running my hands under his t-shirt. "Give me some help here, Clark. I can't just make your clothes disappear, no matter how much I want to."
Both of us naked in under fifteen seconds -- it had to be some kind of new world record.
"I knew there was a reason I kept you around."
"Now you're just mocking me."
He snuffled at my neck like an overgrown puppy. "Yeah."
Laughing, I hit him on the shoulder. We wrestled playfully on the checkered blanket until Clark lay on top of me, pinning both my hands over my head. He held my wrists down while he leaned over me, searching through the picnic basket.
"What are you doing?"
"Clark, you're picking fried chicken over sex? That's absurd!"
He placed a small plastic container beside my head. "But it's finger lickin' good, Chloe."
"After all this time, I find out Martha Kent's secret family recipe is KFC?"
Nuzzling my neck, he mumbled, "Chlo?"
"But teasing you is so much-" He stuffed a strawberry into my mouth.
"Food for thought."
As I chewed, I studied Clark carefully. I could tell he was up to something, so I decided to humor him and shut up. I had a feeling it was going to be a fun ride.
Sensing my acquiescence, he gave me one of his patented brilliant farmboy smiles and retrieved another strawberry. He took a bite, letting its juice trickle down his chin and drip on my neck. I shuddered as Clark leaned down and gently sucked the juice away, carefully nibbling along the tendon in my neck.
Letting go of my wrists, he shifted off of me, and began painting an intricate pattern of red juice across my bare breasts and stomach. I tried and failed to not squirm under the light touch -- it was maddening. He fed me the remnants of the strawberry, intently staring at my decorated chest and abdomen.
I raised my hand and cupped the side of Clark's face. "See something you like?"
"Yeah." He smiled, a distant look in his eyes.
And suddenly I couldn't hold it back anymore.
So I opened my mouth and inserted my foot. "What are you?"
His face went completely blank at first. And then rapidly struggled for amused confusion. "I thought that was a strawberry..."
"I've seen things, Clark." I shivered, suddenly cold despite the bright sunshine. "I've seen you do things that no one should be able to do."
"Remember that time our junior year? When Thomas, the baseball jock, went psycho on the meteor rocks?"
"I saw him hit you with his car."
Still no response.
I sat up abruptly, pushing him backwards. I groped for his discarded t-shirt and pulled it on over my head. "Did you actually think I wouldn't notice that you should have been killed on at least five separate occasions during our high school career?"
"I swear I don't know what you're talking about, Chloe."
"Don't try to feed me that bullshit! I am not Forrest Gump, Clark. Or Lana Lang."
"Why does it always come back to Lana with you?"
"With me? Me? Do you even listen to yourself?"
"You're the one who brought Lana into this conversation, not me."
"Which of us pined over said Fairy Princess for the past infinity? I can guarantee you that it wasn't me."
"That was the past, Chloe. Did you ever stop to think that I was done with that?"
"Quit trying to change the subject!"
"You're doing that all on your own!"
Standing up, I shimmied into my underwear and skirt. "Look, Clark, if you don't want to tell me, that's fine. Just don't sit there and blow sunshine up my ass while you lie to me." I turned and left Clark hopping into his boxers and jeans.
Quickly catching up, he grabbed me by the arm and turned me around. "Wait, Chloe. I know you're upset."
"Give the man a cigar."
"Look." He paused and took both my hands into his larger ones. "You're right. I am different."
I could tell he was struggling. "But you won't tell me."
"I can't. It's not only my secret."
I was determined not to cry, but I was failing miserably. "Clark." My voice broke. "I'm sorry that you can't trust me with this -- that you don't know me well enough to trust me with it. I love you so much more than you'll ever know."
I squeezed his hands. "But I'm tired of waiting. I just can't do it anymore." So I dropped his hands and I left him there.
I drove home at a break-neck speed that would have had even Lex sweating. Everything at my home was exactly how I'd left it -- the kitchen light was still on, and the living room still looked like Martha Stewart had thrown up in it.
Everything looked the same. But everything was different.
I felt like my whole body was itching, like I was coming out of my skin. I stripped out of my clothes as I trudged up the stairs and into my bathroom. My skirt landed at the top of the stairs, Clark's shirt in the doorway of my room, my panties by the bathroom door. I turned the water on in my shower and waited for it to warm up.
I let out a small screech when I saw myself in the bathroom mirror. When we started arguing, I had completely forgotten about Clark's impromptu body art on my breasts and stomach. Now my skin was stained with pale red markings from the dried juice. Though it looked like gibberish at first, the longer I stared at the markings, the more I could detect a pattern.
I stalked out of my bathroom and over to my desk, searching for my digital camera.
"Don't know what I'm talking about, my ass, Clark Jerome Kent."
After I snapped a couple pictures of myself, only momentarily disturbed at the thought of my breasts being preserved for posterity, I got into the shower and let the warm water wash away the juice stain and my tears. Feeling the need to wallow in my own self-pity for a little while after I got out of the shower, I put Clark's t-shirt back on and climbed into bed. I decided that it was okay to be emotional for the time being, and that I could save being strong for another day.
I wasn't sure what woke me up a few hours later, but it was dark outside. Groping for my alarm clock, its bright red numbers read 9PM. My Dad wasn't supposed to be home until later, so I knew it couldn't have been him that woke me up. And then I heard the distinct tap of a pebble against my window.
Suddenly I'd fallen into The Sound of Music?
Rolling my eyes, I got out of bed and opened my window. "What do you want, Clark?"
"Jeez, Chloe, could you maybe yell a little louder? I don't think they heard you in Metropolis."
I sighed. "I'm not the one with things to hide!"
"Look, you're right, okay? You're right! Now can I come in or can you come down here or something? I feel like an idiot."
"Get used to it!" I slammed my window shut and went back to bed.
And then the tapping started again. It went on for ten solid minutes before I gave up and turned my bedside lamp on. I could almost feel Clark's hundred-watt smile from where I was sitting. Bastard. I rummaged under the edge of my bed for some baggy track shorts and pulled them on.
Flinging my bedroom door open, I stepped over my discarded skirt from earlier today and stomped downstairs. I opened the front door and saw Clark's wavering, yet triumphant, smile. Resisting the urge to slam the door in his face, I shot him a baleful look and motioned him inside.
"I couldn't just leave it like it was earlier this afternoon."
I raised an eyebrow.
"Look, Chlo, I'm sorry."
"Is that all you came here to say?"
Clark studied his toes for a few seconds. "What do you want me to say?"
"I don't know. How about you get crazy and tell me the truth for a change?"
"I don't know if I can do that."
"Then get the fuck out."
He stuffed his hands into his jeans pockets, clenching and unclenching his jaw while he stared at the door. "I do know you, Chlo. Ask me again."
I didn't have to ask what he meant. "What are you, Clark?"
"I'm different. I'm not from around here."
"By 'around here,' you mean around Kansas?"
He slowly nodded. Sometimes getting information out of Clark was like pulling teeth, so I decided to change tactics.
"Clark, what did you write on me earlier today?"
He looked at me like I was crazy.
"The strawberry -- when you wrote on me, what did it say?"
At first, I thought he was going to be physically ill, his face was as white as a sheet and screwed up as if he was in terrible pain. "It said..." His voice shook like an old man's. "It said, `This is Chloe Sullivan, daughter of Earth. Beloved of Kal-El, son of Krypton.'"
I wrapped my arms around him. "That's all I needed to know," I whispered against his chest.
I may be a truth-seeker, but don't tell anyone that I think the truth can suck.
And I may be a cynic, but don't tell anyone that I think everything might turn out okay.
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