Disclaimer: Smallville and all related elements, characters and indicia © Tollin-Robbins Productions and Warner Bros. Television, 2002. All Rights Reserved. All characters and situationssave those created by the authors for use solely on this websiteare copyright Tollin-Robbins Productions and Warner Bros. Television. Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster.
Author's note: Caught myself wondering just what Lex Luthor was reading in the paper in the second to last scene of 'Stray' [where his father tries to convince him to come back to Metropolis]. I then read 'Outside In' by jenn and formed and idea that I thought I wanted to write.
Nothing seemed right for her all day long. There was just something amiss. She wasn't able to concentrate, her editorial was going absolutely nowhere and Pete… Pete had been distant for weeks now. Ever since he'd hit on her and threatened her life in Hamilton's labs.
Not that he remembered any of it.
The flashlight fell on his smile. She knew that smile. That was partly his 'I'm gonna grab you' smile. She'd seen him use it on a million different girls, only… Only this one held something else to it.
"You looking for me?" he asked slyly.
Please, not Pete, too. Not now.
His hand came up to play with her hair, fingers grazing her face. "Do you have any idea how beautiful you are?"
That was also a popular line, but… But Pete really meant it. Right now, with her. She knew him and knew him well. He wasn't just trying to pick up some girl. He was saying it to her and he meant it.
What the- It's got to be the Nicodemus.
"Okay, Pete." She pushed his hand away and turned to leave. "You've been infected." She broke into a trot. "We've got to get you to the hospital."
He intercepted her. "That's right," he said, tears already beginning to shine in the low light of Hamilton's barn. "Ignore Pete. He's just the funny guy. Don't have to sweat his feelings 'cause you've only got eyes for Clark." On the word 'eyes' he brushed her face roughly.
She was beginning to get scared and what did any girl do if at all possible when they felt threatened? Call their very big, very strong male best friend and hope to God the hero got there soon enough.
Doesn't he always?
"Calm down, Pete. I'm gonna call, Clark."
That was before he threw the phone, grabbed the gun and pointed it at me.
She kept walking.
Lately she'd try to catch him in conversation, but… He'd just smile and nod and mutter and then excuse himself. To someone who hadn’t known him for what felt like her whole real life, it would have looked as if he was giving her a very polite brush-off.
Shoo, Perky Blonde, You're botherin' moi.
But he wasn't. He was giving himself the brush off. He couldn't look at her, could talk to her knowing what he had done, reacted the way he had and, if he hadn't been so pissed as Luthor…
What he might have stayed to do.
Not to mention what would have happened had I not given him my keys?
Would he have really shot her? Possibly killed her? Just for revenge? Is that why he was staying away? Or was it because she gave him the keys in the first place?
None of the infected people could remember a thing, so he had to rely on what Clark had told him. And Chloe guessed from Pete's reaction that Clark had told him the entire story, down to every last detail that Chloe had given him about what Pete had done in the barn.
Except the part about her only having eyes for him.
Could Pete be mad at me because I feared him? I honestly feared for my life at his hands?
You were supposed to be able to trust your best friends with your life. Maybe he was hurt.
Or was he just ashamed?
I'm so glad he was pissed at Lex.
She shook her head, feeling guilty at how thankful she felt that Pete's disgust and rage at Luthor took him away, sent him away.
Why should I feel guilty, though? Clark saved Lex. Clar-
Her brain stopped functioning properly. It used to be fine when thinking of them, used to work just as well when she thought about her own name and Martha's in a sentence, or Lana's and Kwan's but-
"But this isn't about what's new in my life or the Torch."
It was about Lex and Clark and how every time she thought of them together she got chills. It didn't used to be that way. Really. As smart as she was and as perceptive as she prided herself on being, she hadn't picked up on it. Hadn't even begun to. There was something there that she'd never even scraped the surface of until last night. Until her sweet, innocent crush with his farmer-boy jeans and his farmer-man body became a new color. Something her eyes had never even seen before.
She was still trying to figure out whether it was a hue that would have
gone better unseen.
She was going to do it. She was going to ask him to the prom. It didn't matter what he said. He already knew that she wanted it and he already knew she had a dress picked out. The best thing was just to come out and say it.
We're best friends. Surely he can't take Lana. Whitney'd… Yeah. Whitney's there. In the way. So I can ask him, beg him to take me as his fiery best friend, and then when he sees me in my dress and prom-ed up make-up he'll fall for me.
Every girl's dream. And she knew it would happen. Not because she was beautiful-
Cute in a perky kind of annoying way.
I'm the antimysterious. It's kind of why I'm so interested in anything else.
-or in need of a knight in plaid tuck-in.
That's all Lana, there.
She just knew that Clark was the one for her, knew that they were the ultimate case of right together. Some kind of wonderful, comfortable knowledge that she'd had for a while.
Ever since I met the guy.
She was just getting a tad impatient and something in her gut told her that, yes, he'd finally realize that they were- for lack of a better but not more appropriate word- soulmates. That night. At Prom. With her dancing in his arms, he'd feel how right her body felt against his, how she fit, how his fingers itched to touch her hair-
Been writing a bit too much of those romantic short stories, Chlo.
-and he'd realize-
Lot of realizing to do.
-that his love for her went deeper than kinship. Deeper than best friends that sat pressed together during horror films, Chloe packed between her two best guys, and stole from each others popcorn even though they were all well stocked.
He'd see that everything between them was… perfect. Like angst-ridden little Lana Lang was supposed to be. But Chloe knew. She just knew. Clark and Lana could never, ever be like her and Clark. Everything in their relationship would be 'Lana, Lana, Lana'. All for her and none for him.
With him and Chloe… Oh, the Roman Gods would cry from such perfection and turn away for it was one romantic entanglement of which they could not interfere. Equality and happiness and the tears would come because even the best of relationships couldn't stop them, wouldn't want to. Yes, the tears would come, but then they would wane and everything would be good again.
That's was Clark was. No doubt in her mind. And, despite her imperfection, they would fit together.
She had parked her car a mile out from Clark's house and to the east, needing the time and solitude the walk afforded her. She was just approaching him as a best friend. But things could always happen early. If she played her cards right.
She smiled, picturing the beginning of the romance between her and Clark. She wondered if he'd be shy when he kissed her or passionate. She didn't really have a preference. With Clark, everything was right and all was romantic.
Except with cow poop on his foot, she laughed remembering catching him right in the middle of his break from chores. He'd been gorgeous with his tight tank-top and loose jeans, drinking his mother's lemonade. Mysteriously sweat-free in the middle of July.
She wanted to make him sweat.
She blushed, almost to his house when she saw headlights approaching
the Kent residence. At first she figured that, as Clark had spoken
of earlier, social services was there to pick up Ryan. But then the
vehicle turned into the driveway, revealing itself to be a limousine.
The sleek black metal body, the bright but classy indicator lights on the sides, the tires crunching on the gravel. It gave her the feeling of a secret rendezvous. The time of night wasn't that late and the well-kept farmhouse wasn't some dirty, dusty warehouse; there weren't men with semiautomatics hiding in shadows while the boss of some mob stood under the one broken and hissing pipe in the building, but…
It still had an air of secrecy, an air of weighty importance and tension.
She sped up a bit, then stopped by the mailbox as Lex's lean form exited the luxury car with a seductive grace that always caught her attention.
She sighed. He was extremely attractive.
And he was carrying something towards Clark. They spoke briefly and Lex tossed it the long thin object to Clark.
She stopped on the porch of the house, hiding in the dark of the shadows and hoping she wasn't too exposed.
Their voices carried very well.
"A sword?" Clark asked pulling the weapon from it's sheath.
Lex leaned up against the limo. He looked tired and a little sad. It once again surprised Chloe to see how close her best friend and the millionaire scion were; she knew Lex wouldn't let just everyone see him at less than one-hundred percent steel. Clark got the honest truth.
"It's a foil, Clark. Every hero should have one."
They shared a look that, even at this distance, Chloe could classify as intense. Then Clark's face dropped and he put the foil back into it’s sleeve.
"I guess this means you've decided you're leaving."
Chloe thought Lex looked internally torn but it could have just been the distance obscuring her view.
"I haven’t made up my mind one way or the other."
"If you haven't made up your mind," Clark charged. "-why are you giving me a going away present?"
Chloe flinched at his curt tone, confessing the smile as a forgery.
Lex smiled, his also counterfeit, and stood. "Keep that away from the kid."
Clark's upturned lips shook. "He's already gone." His voice was tight and uneven and Chloe wished more than anything that she could be there for him right then. He was afraid that Lex was leaving him. Ryan, his little brother figure with what she saw as a strange ability to read a person, was already gone. She wished she could touch Clark, hold him. Explain to him that she'd never leave him.
Lex stiffened a little, no doubt cursing himself for his choice of subject diversions. "I'm sorry." His voice was also tight, but in a different way. Chloe knew that tightness as her own; she hated to cause Clark any pain. "I know how much you liked him."
Clark smiled genuinely for the first time and Chloe relaxed. "For what it's worth," he sounded rushed and unsure of his words. "I hope you stay."
Lex gave Clark a half-smile then slowly looked him up and down, giving him a full body perusal.
Chloe's chest constricted and her heart chose that moment in time to pound the life out of itself.
Did Clark not notice? It was as if Lex was memorizing everything about the moment for fear… for fear…
Lex turned to walk away and Clark fidgeted like he wanted to do something-
Run up, grab Lex? Tell him no to go? Make him stay? Tell him something, anything that might achieve just that objective?
-but didn't quite have the courage.
She watched Lex, his brow, hidden from Clark's view, furrowed deeply and his lips pulled back in a tight grimace.
Chloe's heart stopped abruptly. She gasped and tears almost came to her eyes at the pain, so clear, so evident on that pale, regal-
-face. Lex was going to leave Clark. Lex was not going to come back. He was going to move to Metropolis and that was going to kill him.
Even the limo driver looked surprised.
And familiar. Probably drives him around a lot.
Chloe felt knives in her chest as she watched Lex turn back to glance one last time at Clark.
The penetrating look of pain was gone, as if it had never existed, but there was a wistful longing and tiny hint of regret there. He looked at Clark as if he thought he'd never see him again, then looked somewhere over the top of the limo and got in.
That can't just be friendship. There's more to it than that.
She looked to the suffering expression on Clark's face and had to sit down and take a deep breath. It was going to take awhile to calm down.
Tears, tears comprehending and compassionate, threatened to fall.
She had to calm down.
He was playing with Lex's gift.
She cleared her throat. "Hey, Zorro." She smiled amazed at how naturally her fake smiles had been coming to her lately. She was almost proud of how believable they were, She didn’t want to think about what that meant. "What's with the sword?"
Clark breathed in. "It’s a foil."
"I'm guessing it's a gift from our favorite millionaire playboy."
Sure he was but… Slipping that in with Clark? For Clark? Was that it? Did she think he shared the same feelings towards Lex that Lex...
Of course, she scolded herself. You don't think that was one sided out there, do you?
But she hoped it was and with that hope came a blind girl's belief.
"He's thinking about moving back to Metropolis."
Her smile was weakening at the sadness and the frustration-
He wishes he'd done or said something to stop Lex.
-in his voice.
"I'm still here, Clark" she chirped weakly. "I'm not going anywhere."
Way to be subtle there, Chloe.
He gave her a smile that grew into a grin. It was genuine, but…
It wasn't what she was hoping for.
He looked back to the foil and her smile melted away completely. What was I hoping for?
Easy. A 'God, Chloe. I feel so lonely right now.' Or: 'My temporary brother's gone for good, my other best friend's leaving as well and I just can't be everyone's pillar all the time.'
Even a brief 'I need a hug' would've done, she thought sadly.
Something telling her that he was as human as her and that, no, he wasn't hiding anything from her. Or, hell, even if he was, she wanted him to do or say something to prove to her that he knew that he could trust her. That he could tell her anything. Anything at all. Ever.
Instead he buried and suppressed his emotions, keeping her at a distance.
She cleared her head and got to the exterior point of her visit. "Um, sources at the sheriff's office have given me a heads up on Ryan's step-dad."
"You have sources?"
His skeptical tone hurt a little, but she didn't show it. Instead she let her pride at her growing journalistic stature beam through. "Yeah. A cute cop in traffic. I talked my way out of a speeding ticket. He told me I was plucky." She looked down. "Maybe I'll ask him to prom."
Oh, my Lord. Did I just-
She refused to let the shock at her own words show on her face. Instead she looked up at Clark, both challenging him to say something and praying that he would.
He just looked uncomfortably down at the barn floor, no longer playing with the foil.
"Um," she plowed ahead. "So, Ryan's step-dad is a real catch. He's a career criminal."
She watched Clark flip the file open to the picture. Her stomach grew queasy as his face changed from mid-level discomfort and depression to high-level panic.
She knew the boy too damn well. He'd put a piece of some Clark-puzzle together and his face mirrored his expression when, months ago, he found that the invisible lurker in the Luthor Manor was not their schoolmate Amy, but her brother Jeff.
"This is Lex's limo driver."
She kept walking, kicking at the dirtroad with her ratty sneakers. Whenever she went walking, truly walking, it was the same thing. She discarded her colorful, original- and sometimes homemade- clothes for baggy, worn jeans, a sweatshirt and her three year old sneakers.
She smiled looking down at the dirty old Nikes, little holes littering the toes and the sides. The right one was missing the bottom half-inch of the tongue and the left…
The left's heel was worn thin from the time that she, Clark and Pete went after Mr. Duchman's van, trying to find out if there were heads in the metal box like they'd suspected. Midnight, just her and Clark sneaking around and then they heard Pete's pathetic attempt at a bird's call, the warning that they were about to be discovered.
They shut the doors and ducked just as Mitchell Duchman, whistling, rounded the corner, crossed over to his van, got in and started the ignition.
Clark opened the doors and jumped just as the van started. He called out to her as the van started to peel away-
What Duchman was doing leaving the warehouse so fast we never did discover.
-and Chloe tried to jump. Three times. But van was going too fast and her heel… The asphalt he was driving over was rapidly thinning the rubber.
Duchman had made his right too quickly and he threw Chloe out of the van and onto the-
Street, she thought. In a million different universes, in a billion different worlds, I either died that night on the pavement, or lost the use of more than one limb.
She knew the grace of being Clark Kent's friend. He saved her that day. Inexplicably.
And she never asked how. It wasn't that she didn't wonder. But it was like the time the two of them and Pete were swimming in Crater Lake and Pete was about thirty yards from them. Pete went under. Didn't come up. Clark went under. Came up seconds later thirty yards away from Chloe with a sputtering Pete in his arms.
He had gotten to him before the boy even started to drown.
They never discussed it and Chloe knew for a fact that it was something Pete thought about all the time. It was something that had crossed her mind many times. In a corner, a small recess on her 'Wall of Weird' there were five pictures set in a montage.
They were simple objects, really: a tennis shoe and a picture of Crater Lake were the oldest. The two newest were a picture of the orphan Annie symbolizing Clark's mysterious adoption and a picture of splintered wood, representing the door that Clark smashed the bully through; the one that was threatening Pete.
Her favorite, though, was the middle-child. The Porsche. It grew in symbolic matter and presence every time she set her eyes on it. She knew the mystery also intrigued Lex. Wondered what the rich, over-grown kid would do if he ever laid eyes on the montage and, without knowing four of the five pieces of the puzzle, landed it in one bite.
She knew he could.
If he ever saw it, would.
Clark had seen the montage. He conveniently never asked about the pictures and Chloe figured she knew why.
He knew he was one of her many mysteries. He continued to hang out with her because he loved and trusted her.
I could never hurt him and he knows it.
Besides, it was better then putting a picture of her best friend up there. For multiple reasons.
Staring at the cloudless night sky, she sighed and shoved her hands deeply into her back pockets, letting her mind travel back not to the Porsche but to it’s owner. To Clark's owner.
Or at least the owner of his heart.
She still couldn't believe what she had witnessed. What she had sort of walked in on, but not really. She had arrived at the same time, choosing to keep quiet and thereby picking voyar mode and optioning out her usual main character status.
She ran her fingers through her hair, taking a deep breath and letting
the memories return. She had to figure something out for herself.
She turned her car onto the dirtroad leading to Clark's house. She sped up not really wanting time to think before she got there.
She didn't know what else to do. She'd spent all day thinking about what she thought she'd seen between her crush and Lex. About what she thought she wanted Clark to say to her.
How she wanted him to react to her.
"Maybe I'll ask him to prom."
"What the hell was that supposed to mean?" she muttered aloud, her voice startling her out of her own daze.
Oops. She'd driven straight passed the Kent's driveway.
She backed up and drove in, parking to the side of the house. She could see Clark's parents in the living room, talking, hands clasped.
Clark told her they had agreed to give him some space, some solitary time, but they weren't going to vacate in case he needed them.
Sweet people. Practically the perfect parents.
"He's gone, Chlo."
She bit her lip. "I'm sorry, Clark. You think he'll be better off without his step-parents?"
"Yeah," his voice was dry and tight and she got the feeling she didn't even know the surface of the story. "Yeah. He said his aunt was a nice person."
She frowned. "How'd he know?"
Clark sighed. "Remember Kaspar Hauser?"
She sighed, picking up the hint. Don't ask. "Gotcha." She hesitated. "You, I don't know, want some company, perhaps?"
"No. I think I'm just going to sit up in my fort and play hero."
"Oh, uh. The foil Lex gave me. I really like it."
She felt strangely underused. Wasn't he supposed to want to play with his still present best friend? "Are you sure? I mean what happens when you, uh, stop?"
'When you, uh, stop'? Where's the witty commentary, Sullivan?
"I'll find something."
There was a lull in their conversation.
"I'm gonna go, kay?"
"Love you," he said and for the millionth time she wished he meant
like she did.
"I love you, too, Clark," she whispered approaching the barn.
Taking in a deep breath, she looked to the grocery bag in her hands and smiled.
Pesto, chips, soda and 'Killer Klowns from Outer Space'. She smiled satisfied. Everything a saddened boy needs.
It was their meal-and-movie deal. Every time one of them got into a fight with Pete- a true rarity- or a depression where it was just the two of them talking, this was what they did. Crunch, Munch and Watch.
Really need to find a better tag. That one's kind of-
She stopped walking and looked up when she heard footsteps. In the same instant she saw Lex's car she recognized that the feet were walking away from her and into the barn.
She knew that Lex was supposed to be in Metropolis, but after seeing the car 'surprise' was not her first emotion.
He called Lex? He wouldn't have me over, wanted to play 'Sword' with invisible foes, but Lex coming over instead of me… That's okay?
She ran her fingers through her hair, and slumped against the barn wall. She tried to ignore the burning in her eyes. Maybe Nicodemus-Pete had the right idea. Get rid of Luthor. He was suddenly all-and-everything to Clark.
Why can't everything just go back to how it was before Luthor came?
"Lex!" The surprise in Clark's voice calmed her a bit.
Kay. So, Luthor had the same idea as you. Surprise him a little. See? she thought more than a little relieved. He doesn't prefer him over you.
Still, she couldn't ignore the happiness so very evident in her best friend's voice and wondered, if it had been her would he have been as happy?
Of course not. He's moping because Lex is gone. Of course he's going to be extra happy he's there.
"Wow!" She heard him coming down the steps. "So, how's the arm?"
She peeked around the corner in time to see Lex rub the extremity. "I've got a cooling brace that's supposed to go under my clothes but I don’t know…" he shrugged. "Seems unnecessary."
Clark kept his gaze intent on his visitor.
He never looks at me like that. Not I've just survived a close brush with the afterlife.
"Did the doctor tell you to wear it?"
Lex gave him a little half smile. "The doctor thinks I'm a pampered little daddy's boy that wants a Band-Aid for bruises."
"You didn’t go to Morris?"
Lex shook his head, watching Clark as he came closer. "Nah.
He was sick. There was some goggle-eyed temp there."
Clark watched himself dig the toe of his boots into the dirt floor. "So." He swallowed.
Lex's eyes swiveled back to Clark's face.
"You come for the official send off?"
Lex sighed. "Clark, I-"
Clark turned around and stared back up at his loft. Chloe thought he looked wistful, like he wished he'd stayed. Like all was alright with his world when he was up in that damned loft. It was his fairy-tale dimension.
"You don't have to explain, Lex. It's what you've wanted since you came here." Clark faced Lex and smiled weakly. He leaned up against the stairs leading to the loft. "You've made it no secret that you hate it here."
"Hated it here," Lex corrected walking to lean up against the rail with his friend. "Hated. I told my father I'd make it to Metropolis eventually, but in the meantime…"
Clark's eyes were bright and his smile was soft. "In the meantime?"
Lex looked straight ahead, seeing something other than the tools on the wooden barn wall. "I think I'll stick around."
Clark beamed and she knew from the look on his face alone what he was going to do before he did it.
He stood up and pulled a surprised Lex into his embrace.
Chloe watched Lex's expression carefully. At first there was the shock of the unexpected action but that wore off almost instantly. He rolled his eyes and grinned. "Come on, Kent."
But Clark wasn't listening and instead pulled Lex closer. And that's when Luthor's expression got really interesting.
He licked his lips and his eyes fluttered heavily. Hands, one full of that morning's rag, moved awkwardly around trying to find a spot on Clark to safely touch. They settled with the left and its newpaper falling to the side and the right pressing flat to Clark's back.
"I'm glad you're staying," came Clark's voice, muffled by Lex's purple, long-sleeved tee.
"So I see." Lex's voice, trying to remain humor-filled, was just barely above a whisper and failed horribly at its attempt. She could hear the wavers and watched as, seconds later, his eyes lost their struggle and fell shut completely. His right hand moved up to the bottom of Clark's neck, dipping and inch under Clark's overlong hair. Lex's face turned slightly and he inhaled, subtle to Clark, but obvious to her.
Smelling him, she realized and her breath came in uneven little pants. She did the same thing. Clark smelled good, like farm breakfast and fresh air, morning sun and fountain pen ink.
After another moment Clark pulled back and Chloe noticed the distinct lack of male grunts and slap's on the back and football talk. There was no trying to dislodge the intimacy created by the physical connection here. Instead, it seemed played upon. Wanted.
"What kept you here? Why'd you decide to stay?"
Lex tried to pull off his typical shrug, but it floundered and he looked at anything but Clark. "I decided you were right. I can decide for myself who I want to be. And it isn't my father."
Lex sniffed and, unaware that his first excuse was sufficient, moved on to offer another. "And I picked up the paper this morning."
"The- The paper?"
What is it with Lex and those half-smiles? Too lazy to give his all?
Lex handed Clark the paper. Chloe watched with the millionaire heir as Clark blushed fiercely and his eyes grew dark. "Oh."
"Out of the blue really. Front page. Going to pick it up, I had no idea it was in there. Reading about the murders at the bowling alley got me to thinking. Clark Kent again." Clark walked away from him and Lex raised his voice in order to be heard. "You're always in the papers these days."
"And I thought about how many of those times it had to do with me." His voice grew softer again. "And saving me."
Clark stopped walking but didn't turn around to look at Lex. Chloe did it for him and was amazed at what she saw.
Lex is a highly emotional man when he thinks nobody's looking.
Lex's eyes shown brightly, his face looked anguished and restrained. "I'd miss you, Clark." He laughed, cynical and hard, forcing most of the emotion from his face. "I mean, come on. If I moved to Metropolis how long do you think I'd last? You wouldn't come all the way to the city just to save my spoiled, rich ass."
"But I would," Clark whispered. "I'd go anywhere."
Chloe's heart sputtered, but Lex went on, unknowing of the devotion uttered from his best friend.
"You've helped me change, Clark. I like who-" he cleared his constricted throat. "I like who I am around you. There's too much dark to go back to in Metropolis. I'm not ready."
"I don't want you to ever be ready."
This time Clark had been loud enough.
Lex hesitated. "What?"
"I thought you were leaving for good last night, Lex." He spun around on his heel, charging towards his friend. Lex tried to back up but the banister hindered any backward movement. "I thought you were taking off to your big city and your lights and your money and your- your father."
Clark stopped himself three feet from Lex even though it was obvious he wanted so much to be closer. "Do you know how unimportant I felt? You tell me you're my best friend, your only friend, and then you give me a sword? What the hell was that, damn it?!"
Chloe and Lex both shared the same surprised expression.
"Whatever you thought, it was wrong, Lex." Clark stalked away again. "I mean, what was with last night? You come over in your limo and tux and you toss me a fucking sword-"
Jesus, Clark's emotional. I've never seen him like this.
"-and it's all 'angsty Lex Luthor this' and' angsty Lex Luthor that'."
Lex looked deeply cut and didn't try to hide it this time. "Excuse me?"
"Was that your little farewell? Your 'Well, Clark. It's been nice knowing you'."
Clark rubbed his temples with his thumb and forefinger. "And, Lord, Lex. What was with those looks you were giving me?"
Lex froze, his lips parted and his stance rigid.
Clark sighed. "What if you had decided to leave town? Was that going to be it?"
"No, like I-"
"It was just going to be-"
Chloe jumped. Clark spun around to face a very angry Luthor.
"That wouldn't have been it, Kent. I would never do that to you!"
"Then why'd you come over on your way?"
"As opposed to what? Not coming over at all?"
"No. As opposed to coming earlier in the day. As opposed to hanging out awhile before you went to Metropolis with you father to decide it you were going to leave this town. As opposed to coming over to spend a little more time with me before you fucking disappeared and I never heard from you again!"
"I wouldn't do that to you, Clark! God!"
Clark didn't say anything, just turned around on Lex and shut his eyes tight. "I know," he whispered.
But Lex didn’t hear him. His face distorted in grief. "Is that what you think of me? Of us?"
"Is that how much you think you mean to me?"
He pinched his nose. "Lex-"
Tears welled up brighter than before. "I love you, Clark!" he yelled.
Chloe held her breath as Clark slowly turned around. "What?"
"I love you," Lex said softer, but no less emphatically. "I've been wrapping my mind around it for the longest time, trying to give you subtle hints every time I see you and always trying to gauge just where I stand. I can't tell with you, Clark. One moment, it's like the gods made our surroundings; nothing could be better. And the next it's 'Lana this and Lana that'."
Chloe could empathize.
Lex grew angrier and picked up the newspaper from where it had fallen, starting towards Clark. "And all of that 'Lex Luthor Angst'-"
"-as you so delicately put it. It's all over your farmboy ass, Kent." He threw the paper at Clark who watched it hit his chest harmlessly and fall to the ground. "All over you. I can't sleep, I can barely eat, and I've found myself less entertained by any other romantic interest."
He stepped up and jabbed a finger into Clark's chest. "The decision was killing me, Clark. Metropolis or you. Metropolis or you. I could give a shit about my father's plant. Literally. Smallville, too. Fuck them. It was the city or you, Clark. I-"
Clark kissed Lex gently, but with enough force to shut him up. Lex whimpered, tears fell and he opened his mouth wide, begging for Clark to take him.
Chloe saw Clark's tongue dive in, ready and eager. Lex's legs trembled and then gave out on him. Clark caught him and pulled away, making sure he had his balance.
Staring, she couldn't help but see the tranquil bliss on Lex's face. She'd didn't know he could look so happy. So perfectly at ease and in place.
Perfect? Oh, God, no.
Clark wiped away the saline trails on Lex's face. "I've been waiting, almost dying to do that, Lex."
Lex's hand found Clark's cheek and trailed up and back until it submerged itself in the black mane on top.
Chloe suddenly felt jealous. She's always wanted to touch that beautiful hair, always wanted to run her hands through it.
He's mine, she thought angrily. Mine.
Lex breathed in then let it out, deep and slow. "My father asked me if I really thought I could find my future in Smallville." He swallowed and looked lovingly at Clark. "It took me everything I had to go against my instinct and not tell him that I already had."
"I just didn't know if you felt the same way."
Lex looked at him incredulously. "I don't mean to be ungrateful, Clark, and excuse me if I am, but… Why?"
Clark kissed him. Hard. This time, after a few seconds, Lex kissed him back, as equally fierce and passionate.
Clark pulled away. "You're not who you think you are, Lex. But more than that you make this warm spot in my stomach." He fumbled for words. "You fill my voids and… well, you make me feel human. Alive. You just… You're perfect, Lex," he said and grinned. "We fit."
The bags fell from her hand, the contents spilling all over the ground.
That's what... Oh, God... No.
Chloe ran and ran hard, stumbling here and there but ultimately making it to her car. Her hand plunged into her pocket, extracting her keys and, enduring the shakes, she tried to unlock her car door.
"Want some help, Chlo?"
She spun around and watched as the sheepish grin vanished from Clark's face and was replaced by overflowing worry at the sight of her face, her pain. Too late did she realize that she had stumbled in her run because her world had gone blurry and her world had gone blurry because tears filled her eyes.
"What's the matter?" he asked panicked. His hand came to rest on her shoulder. "Are you okay? Is everything-"
"No!" She shouted, slapping his hand away, and instantly regretted it. All of it. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Jonathan and Martha look up from their on-going conversation inside. "I'm not okay and everything is not alright, Clark."
Lex was coming towards them. He frowned. "What's the matter?" he called out.
She laughed, hard and abrupt. "What's the matter?" she yelled bitterly and Lex stopped in his tracks. "I'll tell you." She looked back to Clark. "Those were my words. My things. He took them and you said them. All to the wrong person."
He shook his eyes, his eyebrows furrowed. "Chloe, I don't understand."
His front door opened. Great, it’s a whole circus act. Watch Chloe the acrobat.
Only, since Clark was the problem, she knew her safety net was gone. She'd never done this before, flying without Clark.
It felt lonely.
She watched as Lex ran up to the porch and began ushering Clark's parents inside, despite a very nonplused expression from Jonathan.
She turned back to Clark. "That was supposed to be me, Clark," she sobbed, running out of steam fast. "We-" her breath hitched. "We were supposed to fit. We were supposed to be perfect."
Clark, saddened, looked at her, mouth open. He was trying to form words that he could not find.
No words. Because I don't match him. This world's a big fucking game of Memory and I'm not the right fucking card.
She turned around and unlocked her door.
His hand found her shoulder again but she shrugged it off and climbed inside. She slammed the door hard and jammed the keys in the ignition.
"Are you okay to drive?"
She met his eyes. "Shit, Clark. Being in love with you and crushed by you is heartbreaking, but it's not world-shattering or personally debiltating," she lied. "I think I can manage a couple of miles home."
She hoped she was right.
He nodded and blinked, trying to hold back the hurt that she had caused. His features were much too innocent for that and it made her feel like a bitch. A greedy, selfish, prepubescent child whining because she wasn't getting her favorite Barbie.
She backed up and drove down his driveway, fighting the entire way not to push her little Echo to speed up.
She had to endure a lost looking Clark in her rear-view mirror and her
dreams that night.
So he felt the same as her. That was the good news. The bad news?
It was just about someone else.
"You're perfect, Lex. We fit."
She sighed. He felt the same, but he sometimes had better words.
"You make this warm spot in my stomach," she whispered. "You fill my voids and you make me feel human. Alive."
Yeah, she knew what that was all about. She should be happy that Clark did too, but-
But what? He's your best friend.
"It's Lex Luthor. He isn't right for-"
She shut herself up, knowing that after what she saw between Clark and Lex, she'd never be able to question Lex's intentions for his relationship with Clark again. And she'd have to stick up for the two of them if it ever came to that.
She didn't doubt that it eventually might.
She breathed in and looked to the stars. They always gave her a sense of comfort, reminding her of Clark-
Him and that damned telescope.
-and his presence in her life. He was always making sure she was never alone.
Alone. Like before.
Metropolis had been her city, her life. But she hated her home there. Her mother was emotionally abusive and liked to slam things into walls, preferably glass things and close enough to someone to possibly do some damage. Her father had been an alcoholic. He'd never, ever raised a hand to either his wife or daughter, but times when he was wasted he'd just sit there and let Diane just rant and rave, on and on.
Sometimes they'd have screaming matches. Chloe would go to sleep at nights with the opera of their fighting, have restless dreams, wake up to their arguments, go to school and come back to the same damned problems.
Then her father got promoted. Level one assistant manager.
Had to relocate in two months. Wanted to clean up his act.
Tried. But Diane wasn't having it. So he decided to leave her.
Gave Chloe the decision for herself, knew she could handle it. After
all, at thirteen she was wiser than most people ten years her senior.
"It's your choice, Chloster, honey. Pack up and move with me
to this quaint little down just southwest of here. Smallville.
Daddy's got a new job as an assistant manager. We'll try a knew lifestyle
there, whaddya say? No fighting. No screaming. No booze.
Or stay with your mother and come and see me whenever you want, honey.
But you gotta make this decision before Thursay, because Daddy's gotta
Thursday was three days away. She knew the moment he asked. She'd go with him.
And it had worked. Pete hit on her there her very first day of school and she accidentally slammed a locker right into his face. Instead of acting like any Metropolis-born child, he made a bunch of jokes along the lines of 'Well, that's a new one' and 'Guess I deserved it' .
He then stuck by her when he could. Yelled out 'Watch out for the locker chick!' when he saw her passing in the halls. He found her during lunch, commented that it was fate that they both had Lunch A and then introduced his best friend of, at that point, nine years.
Chloe fell in love instantly and couldn't believe her luck when she found the three of them had the same bus route and lived within two miles of each other. Pete offered for her to sit on his lap, they all laughed and it just seemed to cement everything good about Smallville.
And to think I feared being the outsider here.
Clark would never allow that. Not now. It had taken almost a full month for the kid to say more than three sentences to her, but it eventually happened and they'd never looked back.
Everything was still going pretty well. She had a great bedroom, clothes and friends she loved. The Torch was her outlet, her sanity in the craziness that was her adopted hometown. Her father was three years AA, due for another promotion and still trying to be Mr. Dad, the perfect man.
The only things wrong were: her writing was sucking a major fifth cow leg, Pete's sudden aversion to all things Chloe, and Clark finding his true love far from the depths of her heart.
So her world was falling apart.
She sighed. It's not really falling apart, she thought
and knew she was right. She was just overreacting. The only
problem was… Her friends were usually the ones to point this out.
She was having to do it herself and it just wasn't working out at all.
"Tell me I'm overreacting."
It had taken all of her courage to steer away from her aimless path, come here and then, finally, knock on the door.
Her tears welled up. "Tell me, Clark, that I'm overreacting. Because you and Pete are usually the ones I turn to. I turn to you guys all the time for everything, even my Torch ideas, damnit, and right now I really can't because I've somehow screwed things up with both of you and I can't take this anymore."
"Calm down, Chloe. You're overreacting."
She breathed in deeply. "Thank you."
"Do you want-"
"No. Don't invite me in because I'm still not okay with what I saw or said or did yesterday and your house is too damn user-friendly for me."
He cleared his throat. "I was just going to ask if you wanted a sip." He hesitantly held up his can of Pepsi. "That's all."
His face was still too innocent and she could tell he was lying. She laughed and nodded. "Thanks," she said taking a sip and then handed it back to him.
He was still leaning awkwardly against the doorframe, screendoor resting against his elbow. "Well, since you hate the indoor option, care for a porch seat? Or is that too Kent-ish for you?"
She looked away and just started towards the porch. She sat and looked at him expectantly. Clark, relieved, trotted over to sit beside her. The seat was large enough for the both of them to sit on with space in between, but he chose to sit closer. Their thighs pressed together, warm through their denim, and she wondered if she would ever be able to stand Clark's touch without thinking about how she couldn't have him.
They sat there breathing for a minute.
"Did you want to-"
"I'm sorry about the way I snapped at you yesterday, Clark. And for telling you all that. You didn't deserve to be subjected to my self-pity."
He looked like, for the life of him, all he wanted to do was put his arms around her and protect her from the evils of the world. But he knew he couldn't. Because this time the 'evil' was him.
"You did no such thing, Chloe. Best friends are there for each other, no matter what."
She nodded. "Thanks," she said and slumped into him. Her way of telling him that it was okay.
He released a breath she hadn't realized he's been holding and tugged his arm from underneath her. He wrapped it around her, pulling her close. They just sat there looking at the stars.
"They remind me of you," she said. "The stars. I don’t know why, so don't ask. They just do."
He nodded and another minute of silence passed before he spoke up.
"You're wearing the Chloe walking clothes."
"Yes, I am." More silence. "Am I interrupting anything?"
"Nope," he said. "Just Geometry."
She laughed which was, she supposed, what he had intended.
She saw him look down at her with the corner of his eye and shivered. He misread her reaction and pulled her closer, thinking her cold. "I saw you brought Crunch, Munch and Watch material yesterday."
She breathed in deeply. So he was licking the candy-coated Tootsie-Pop trying to get to the chewy center.
He deserves to talk about this. After all it's not only about you and him. It's about him and Lex. And maybe he needs someone to talk to about it. He couldn't really go anywhere before. His father hates Lex, his mother's, well, his mother. His best friends are 'The Horniest-Straight Guy in Town' and 'The Weird Torch Editor-Girl Who's Desperately in Love with Him'.
No wonder she felt like he was hiding something from her. He was. Something he probably didn't know how to handle.
She'd been quiet for a little bit too long. "Yeah."
"Thanks," he said softly.
"It's like what you said, Clark." She pushed on his chest. He moved his arm and she sat up, crossing her legs on the seat and looking at him. "Best friends are there for each other, no matter what." She searched his eyes. "I mean it."
She saw something there, in those dark green eyes of his that, at first, she couldn't comprehend. Then it found her heart.
There was tremendous relief, love and happiness there and she'd had to do with it. The fact that there was no disgust or condescension for his sexual preference, no 'I'll never forgive you for breaking my heart on the floor of your barn', and no selfish little 'I can be there for you when you need to talk about anything but Lex because it would hurt me too much'…
It all brought that happiness to his eyes.
He now had someone he loved and cared about with whom he could discuss his secret tryst. And that was her. She was, for once, helping Clark.
And that made everything better.
"You know that I didn't invite Lex over yesterday, right?"
She broke out of her brain-sloth. "What do you mean?"
"I was talking to Lex yesterday and realized that it might have, well," he blushed. "Looked like he was more important. Like I would rather be around him than you."
He knew her so well and cared so much.
"I know he surprised you."
He frowned. "How long were you there?"
She winced. "Will you get mad?"
He shook his head. Clark rarely ever got mad.
At least as long as his friends tell him the truth. Shit. He'd never lie to me.
She knew what file was being deleted off of her Torch headquarters computer the moment she got the chance.
Damn me and my blindness to thin lines and crossing them.
"How long was I there?" Her wince was still in place. "Do you really want to know?"
He smiled. "Maybe not."
"Kay. I can live with that."
They sat there, looking to the sky. "So, I can talk to you about anything," he asked, glancing at her again from the corner of his eye.
"Yes," she said simply and knew that would be the end of that. "And I you."
Statement, yet it had an answer requirement and Clark met it.
"So…" he mimicked. "What to go watch 'Killer Klowns from Outer Space'?"
She grinned. "Do I ever!" Later, they could talk about what to do about Pete.
Clark can fix it. He can fix anything.
He helped her up. "I saw you brought Pesto instead of humus. I thought you hated that stuff."
She made a face. "I do, but it was your CMW day, not mine."
"You made it?" he asked as he held open the screendoor for her.
SHe was almost insulted. "Of course! When have I not?"
He smiled. "All is right with the world."
With Clark-smiles, Chloe-smiles and Killer Klowns?