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Author's Notes: I got a little happy with use of 'third person'. 'He' references Clark. 'She' references Chloe. Just in case anyone was confused there. Everyone who's been sending feedback and encouragement, you guys are amazing, and such great boosts for my energy to keep writing. g Special thanks out to Di, since I've been steadily wooing her over to the CC frame of mind, and Teri, for being extremely supportive and encouraging. Big hugs!

After the Fall
by Molly

They've been staring at each other from across the room, in complete silence for almost five minutes now. The first time they've seen each other in just over a week. Since it...since everything happened. She hasn't been able to tear her gaze away from his eyes. Eyes that are normally so filled with laughter and they look so lost, so unbearably sad, and her heart bleeds with his pain.

She wishes she could think of something to say. Hundreds of meaningless platitudes swell in her throat, but she can't seem to force them out.

She knows nothing she has to say could really matter, anyway. Nothing could really make a difference. Words, always her weapon of choice, have deserted her and left her with nothing to offer him. She has nothing but the look that passes between them, and even that feels small and weak.

Because she can look at him like this until the end of forever, but Lana will still be gone.

No. No, not 'gone'. That's the wrong word. 'Gone' implies that Lana will be back someday. The word 'gone' hints that Lana's only off on vacation, sipping a tropical drink with a little umbrella in it and sunning herself on a beach in the Caribbean. Hints that she's charming the population of some other town with her friendly smile and caring nature, her warm eyes and lilting laugh.

But she's not doing any of those things, because she's dead, Chloe reminds herself. Lana's dead. Not alive. Not breathing. Kicked the bucket. Yet none of those phrases feel right, and even though she's had a week to adjust, her brain can't wrap itself around the images. Her brain flat out refuses to wrap itself around the images.

Because she liked Lana. She really did. It was impossible not to, no matter how hard she tried. She couldn't resent her for Clark's crush on her. It wasn't Lana's fault, and she'd finally begun to accept that. Hell, the girl had gotten her back on The Torch. She'd helped to save her life. She was one of the few genuinely good people left in the world, and Chloe had admired her. Had been glad that she was part of her world.

And now...

It would be so much easier if she'd hated her. Because that might make the hurt lessen.

No body recovered. No flowers, no shiny oaken casket, not even a real funeral. But it doesn't take a genius to figure out that when a girl gets trapped inside a tornado, she's just not coming back. Ever.

Not unless her name is Dorothy, and even then, this is Smallville, not Oz. There are no ruby slippers here. People who don't deserve to die do, and everyone else is left to pick up the pieces. Or sweep up the shattered remains.

She still doesn't know exactly what happened. She isn't sure she really wants to. She just thanks God that Clark somehow managed to evade death.

But now, eight minutes have gone by with no words, and she needs to say something. Her tongue is thick, and the aching silence in the loft is making her head pound.

She'd do anything if this could be just another night. If she could open with a sarcastic barb, and he'd flash her that heart stopping grin. If he could pull her over to his telescope and show her how bright Mars was tonight, then they'd flop back on the couch, scarf his mom's double chocolate brownies, and discuss everything they did all week. Wonder why Donald Duck wears a towel around his waist when he gets out of the shower, even though he doesn't normally wear pants. Brainstorm ideas for the next issue of the Torch. Where they could just be Clark and Chloe, best friends, and she could sneak little longing glances at him from the corner of her eyes.

It's not one of those nights. It can't be.

"Clark." His name is the only word she can find, nothing and everything. And for some reason, that's the only word he needs. In three steps, he's crossed the distance between them and pulled her into his arms. His face is buried in her neck, and she holds him tightly, her tiny frame somehow supporting his huge one. "Oh, God, Chlo," he says brokenly, his voice sounding so much like a lost little boy's. "Chloe, God..."

"Shhh," she soothes, her own tears starting to spill over. Nothing else matters, because he needs her right now. "It's okay, Clark, shhh, I'm here..."

He clings to her like she's his life preserver and he's drowning. Somehow, even through the bitter sting of her own tears, she manages to guide them over to the couch. They collapse down together, sprawled in a messy tangle of limbs and salty, tearstained faces. He hasn't moved his face from her neck, just snuggles closer against her. Crying heavy, hard tears, and she weeps right along with him.

It suddenly occurs to her that she's never seen him cry before. They grieve together, because they need to share that grief, and they need to share it with each other. All issues between them are put aside. They don't matter anymore. Not being left alone on the dance floor. Not their almost-kiss. Not their status of a non-couple. Nothing.

But their tears spend themselves eventually, and when he begins to draw away from her, his face is flushed red with embarrassment. Too intimate. "I'm - " he starts to say, and she silences him with a gentle finger held to his lips.

"If you apologize, I'll beat you down, Kent," she tells him, although the threat is somewhat less effective since she's still sniffling.

He nods, but slides off of her, anyway. The sudden cold space where his body was sends a chill through her, and she sits up, not protesting when he slides an arm around her shoulders and draws her against his side. One armed hug. Friendship. More appropriate than sobbing together while in the missionary position, she supposes.

The silence is more comfortable now, and they sit together, curled against the cushions. It's almost unbearably hot in the loft, the sweaty Kansas summer heat. Still tornado weather...but mentioning the weather would just be stupid. She nods to the coffee table in front of them, laden down with baked goods. Brownies, chocolate chip cookies, fudge squares, lemon bars, a vanilla frosted cake... "Hungry?" she asks idly.

"What? Oh, no," he responds, following her train of sight. "No. It's Mom's way of coping know. Baking like a thing possessed. She keeps bringing them up here."

"There's worse things to be possessed by, I guess."

"I know." He sighs and rests his chin on her head. "I'm glad you came. I know?"

"Yeah," she responds, not understanding, but understanding fully at the same time. She's ashamed it took her this long to be able to come. "Me, too."

"Were you mad when I left you at the dance?"

The question is so unexpected, she jerks in his arms, turning abruptly to face him. Does it even matter now? The look in his eyes stops her from asking if he's kidding. He wants to know. He honestly wants to know.

"A little at first," she tells him hesitantly. It just feels wrong to be talking about this when Lana's... "But I felt so petty being angry. There was a tornado, one of our friends could have been caught in it, and I was mad because you didn't stay at a dance with me? It was shallow, even though...okay, and yeah, I was upset, because it felt like you were picking Lana over me. After you promised you wouldn't. Even though now..."

She swallows. Now it's a moot point. "And I was mad that you'd do something so stupid, that you'd put yourself in danger that way. You've sixteen years old, and you have this need to save everybody when you should just leave it to a professional rescue squad, and it's stupid."

"Chloe, I - "

"You could've died," she interrupts, her eyes flashing angrily. "You could have died. And you don't know what it was like to have to stay in that gym, punching in numbers on a cell phone trying to reach you until my index finger actually turned bloody. I tried to go out after you, but they wouldn't let me."

His face suddenly turns panicked. "You tried to go after me?"

"Yes!" she nearly shouts. "You think I wanted you to go out in...without me right there with you?"

Her tirade is interrupted when he crushes her against him again, his fingers tangling in her hair. "I didn't know. If I had known, I would have...I don't know, but I would have done something different, and God, I'm glad they didn't let you out," he tells her desperately. "Chloe, if I'd had to see you caught in that, too...I wouldn't have been able to stand it. I would have died."

"Well, imagination is like twenty times worse than reality, Clark," she says, horrified that she's burst into tears again. Horrified that she's yelling at him. "When they finally told us we could go home, I was a wreck. Pete had to calm me down in the back seat while Erica drove, because I was hysterical! I thought we'd find you dead and bleeding, or lying in messy pieces on the ground, or - " She covers her eyes with her hands, unable to go on.

"Chloe." He gently tugs her hand down, tilts her chin up to look at him. "I'm not any of those things. I'm okay, I promise." He draws his thumb across her cheek, wiping away her tears. "It's okay."

She takes a deep breath, leaning into the curve of his palm against her face. "I was so scared," she says softly. "I was so scared."

"I'm sorry," he says, and she knows he means it. He hurts when she hurts, just like he always has. And when he realizes that he's the cause of her hurt, it's as though his multiplies even further. "Chloe, I didn't mean to scare you, I swear. I wasn't thinking straight. I just had to..." He pauses, then pushes on. "I had to find her. I had to make sure she was okay."

Hearing those words twists the knife in her heart just a little further. Does that make her a terrible person, that she can be resentful at a time like this? Lana was in trouble, and he went to her, like always. There's a tiny, jealous part of her that envies Lana that. Even though she's dead.

"It turns out I was too late, anyway," Clark adds quietly, his voice thick with some nameless ache. "I tried, Chloe. I tried to get to her in time, tried to get her out of that truck, but I couldn't."

He leaves out the part where he blindly raced into the tornado as soon as he saw the truck leave the ground. He leaves out the part about Lana screaming, how he could hear her even with the bone crushing, tree ripping wind rushing in his ears. He leaves out the part about the terror in her lovely, wide blue eyes. He leaves out the part about how he blinked and saw right into the eye of the storm, and he leaves out the part where he was hurled from the maelstrom uninjured, his hands grasping for empty air.

For a minute, he thought he could fly. He was sure that he'd been just about to. But he didn't. And Lana's dead just the same.

"You can't save everyone, Clark," she tells him, holding tightly to his hands. "It doesn't work that way."

"I saw her get picked up into it," he whispers. "I saw the truck get sucked inside, and I couldn't..."

"Clark," she says firmly. "It wasn't your fault. There wasn't anything you could've done."

"I..." He drops his gaze once again. There should have been something that he could have done. "Chlo, I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry. For everything. I never meant to hurt you. I never wanted to hurt you."

"I think the issue of leaving me stranded at the dance is null and void at this point. There's more important things," she tells him. "And I'm not going to pretend I'm not pissed that you put yourself in danger like that. But I guess...I guess it doesn't matter. I don't know how you got out of there alive. And I don't care. I don't care, not as long as you're okay." She pauses, then pushes on. "I know you loved her. I just want you to know...for what it's worth, I miss her, too."

He doesn't answer, just slides his arms back around her. "I know. But Chlo, I'm...I wanted it to be a great night. For you, for us, and I'm so - "

"You don't have to say," she shushes him, wiping at the tearstains on his face with the pads of her thumbs. "There's nothing left to apologize for. I'm here. No matter what, I'll always be here."

And she means it. Even if Clark never sees her as anything other than a friend, she'll be here. Even if he breaks her heart a million times over, she knows she won't ever be able to walk away. She loves him. Everything else is just details.

"I love you, Chloe."

Her heart gives a quick, rapid beat, but she brushes it aside. Lana's dead. Remember. "I love you, too."

His hands slide up to cradle her face. "Promise me I'll never lose you," he says, his voice pleading. "Promise."

She knows she shouldn't promise something like that. She shouldn't make promises over things she can't control. But if he needs to hear long as the circumstances are within her control, yes, she can guarantee it. "I promise," she says softly, leaning up and pressing a soft kiss to his forehead. Then another to his cheek. And another.

God, she can't lose him, either. Maybe love burns, but there's been too much loss in her world lately, and she needs something to hold onto. If she could, she'd open up her skin and let him crawl inside. Just so she'd always have that with her.

He looks into her eyes, and suddenly, she feels the subtle shift in the atmosphere. Her skin turns heated, because his gaze is almost hungry. She shouldn't be thinking this way. He's grieving. He doesn't want –

But then his lips are on hers. And nothing else matters, because this is a kiss. It's the kind of kiss she hasn't experienced in...well, forever, and it certainly isn't a platonic one. His mouth is sweet and soft and just forceful enough that an unbidden moan of pleasure finds its way out of her throat.

His tongue tickles the edges of her lips, and before she can think of what she's doing, her mouth is open and welcoming. Her hands tangle in his hair as she holds him to her, body thrumming and nerves dancing on end. His large hands are moving up and down her back, clutching her tightly against him.

She dizzily wonders which stage of grief this is when he finally pulls back, his eyes wide as he touches his mouth lightly with his fingertips. "Chloe," he says softly. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to - "

He doesn't get the words out. Her fingers curl around his soft flannel collar and yank him back to her before she even realizes it. But he doesn't hesitate, he leaves no room for doubts at the touch of her tongue on his, the feel of his lower lip being gently nibbled on.

She remembers reading something once about sex being a natural instinct in times of grief. Something tangible that two people have, to remind themselves that even if their loved one is gone, they're still alive. They're still together. And the part of her brain that's telling her this isn't right is quickly silenced when his hands slide up underneath the back of her shirt, as he trails his fingertips across her bare skin.

She's wanted this for too long. How could something that feels this good ever be anything but right?

Body takes over when Brain shuts down, and Body is telling her that there are far more comfortable positions they could be in than twisted sideways on a couch. Apparently, Clark agrees with her, because an instant later, she's flat on her back, with his reassuring weight bearing down on top of her.

He rains kisses down onto her face and neck, his hands everywhere. In her hair, cupping her cheeks, running over her shoulders. He can taste the salt of her tears on her face, and his own eyes sting again. "Chloe, Chloe, Chloe," he murmurs between kisses, repeating her name like a mantra and shifting ever so slightly on top of her. He doesn't want to hurt her.

"Clark," she gasps out in return. His mouth is so hot on her skin, the air around them is thick with heat from the atmosphere and the heat between them, and she doesn't ever want to be cold again. "Clark."

"Mmm," he agrees, trailing down the side of her face, pressing almost desperate kisses to the underside of her jaw. His hands slip down her waist, and he draws her to him, presses his rapidly hardening crotch against hers. He briefly wonders if he went too far, but he can't seem to care when she mewls in pleasure, when her legs find their way around his waist, helping her arch her back to rub against him.

They fit together perfectly. How has he never noticed how easily her body curls against his, how warm and soft she is? Has anything in his life ever felt this good?

But now her hands are shaking as she slides them beneath the soft flannel of his shirt. She lightly traces each of the muscles in his abdomen, skims the cut of his chest almost teasingly. A groan rumbles in the back of his throat. "Chlo," he says almost pleadingly. He knows what he wants, but he's not sure it's what she does...

His fears die away when she begins to undo the buttons shakily. The fabric rolls off his broad back easily, and in a moment, his bare skin is open to her touch. She looks up at him, her eyes wide, her cheeks flushed, her breath a little erratic, and he bends, pressing an almost chaste kiss to her forehead. He rests his hands on her sides, silently asking permission. She nods, biting her lower lip in anticipation. He drags her own shirt over her head carefully, letting fall to the ground beside his.

She lets out a slight nervous giggle when his fingers tug frustratedly at the back of her bra. "Problems?" she asks breathlessly in between kisses. How did they get here?

"I'm...I'm bad with the little hooks," he admits, his voice shaky as well. He's so hard, so ready, so desperate, wants her so much that it physically hurts. "I've never done this before."

Their eyes lock, and their bodies freeze almost instantly at his words. He's speaking about more than just undoing the clasp of her bra. Neither of them has gone this far before, and yet, they both know what this is leading to. The point of no return has arrived, so fast neither saw it approaching. But it's here.

"Me, neither," she tells him quietly, her arms still tight around him.

"Do you want to stop?" he asks her, even though he's pretty sure that stopping might actually kill him. He cradles her face in his hands, brushes her hair back from her damp forehead. "We don't have to do anything you don't want to do. If you're not sure..." He isn't even sure that he's ready. All he knows is that he wants her like he's never wanted anything before in his life. Wants to hold the full length of her body against his, wants to be inside her and feel her tighten around him, wants to forget about everything but Chloe, sweet, sweet Chloe, and this moment.

She doesn't reply for a moment, averting her gaze. But when she looks back at him, he sees his own need mirrored in her eyes. She isn't stopping. She reaches around her back, and suddenly, her bra is looser on her body than it was moments before.

And then she slides the straps down her arms and peels the blue and silver splashy fabric away. She drops it into their amassing pile of discarded clothing, and he's honestly afraid for a moment that he's going to pass out, because dear Lord, he's seeing actual breasts for the first time, and hers are beautiful.

"You okay?" she asks quietly, terrified that something's wrong, that this wasn't what he meant, that he doesn't like what he's seeing...

"Uh huh," he manages. "Sorry, I're..."

Revolting. Misshapen. Grotesque. Hideous. Oh, God, God, God, God... she frets.

"Amazing," he breathes, trailing one hand up her stomach and hesitantly, gently cupping her left breast in his large hand. "You're so beautiful, Chlo."

"Thanks," she says in relief, the word coming out as more of a groan as his fingertips brush lightly, almost teasingly over her stiffening nipple.


He lowers his mouth to hers once again, still continuing to explore the contours and curves of her body with his hands as they kiss. Over her stomach, across her shoulders, her sides, then coming back up to carefully fondle her breasts. He wonders if he's only acting like some horny teenager, the way he can't seem to keep his hands off of them for more than fifteen seconds. And his cock is actually aching, his pants feeling like nothing so much as wet Ace bandages binding him down.

But it's not long before her trembling fingers are undoing his fly, before her feet are dragging his jeans down his legs. Time seems to speed up and slow down all at once, and before he knows it, all their combined clothing is crumpled on the ground, and she's naked and beneath him, her arms tight around his neck, her breath coming in small, desperate hitches.

"Chlo...Chlo, it's okay," he soothes, unaware of where he's finding the presence of mind to speak gently. Because nothing is simply ‘okay' anymore. It's someplace far, far beyond that, someplace he's never dreamed he'd get to, somewhere out past the stars that are shining down in from the open window of the loft. The loft where she kissed him for the first time, and now where he's losing his virginity.

No, not losing it. That's not the right word. He's giving it to her, his Chloe, and accepting hers in return. And this...this is how it feels to fly, right now, this moment. Nothing could be better than this. Nothing.

"I know," she breathes shakily, planting a kiss between the space where his neck meets his shoulders. "I just...go slowly? Please?"

His heart is tugged by the tone of her voice, and he kisses her forehead once more, then makes his way down to her neck, across her shoulders. He tangles his hands in her hair as her legs tighten around his bare waist. "Yes," he says in return, his voice thick and muddled as his erection nestles against her, where she's so hot and wet and... "If I hurt you, tell me. I don't want to hurt you, Chloe, please..."

"You won't hurt me," she whimpers, rubbing up against him and sending another jolt of electricity through his entire body. "You couldn't ever hurt me. Clark, Clark, Clark."

"I love you," he moans, burning with the glaring truth of that statement. It's taken him too long to realize that he does love her, and now that he knows, he's going to make damn sure she does, too.

It takes every single ounce of willpower he can summon not to just slam into her. But he forces himself to do as she requested, to slide inside her slowly, to make it good for her, as well. And as he feels her tighten involuntarily around him, he can't help but let out a small cry of pleasure, feelings that only increase when she lets out a similar mewling noise.

"Are you...oh, God, Chloe...are you o-okay?" he pants, stilling the movement of his hips before sinking in any further. Even when he's run at top speed, the world has never blurred together this much.

"Mmm," she manages. "Deeper, I need you closer..."

Who is he to turn down a request like that?

She bites her lip fiercely in the single instant that this soft, sweet pleasure turns to pain. But it doesn't last for long, just one small, tearing sensation, then he's all the way inside her. He increases their pace unconsciously as soon as she becomes accustomed to the feel of him, and she moves her hips along with him, closes her eyes, kisses any bare inch of skin her lips come in contact with.

She's seen ‘American Pie'. Aren't guys supposed to finish quickly? But oh, God, she's glad that he's not, glad that he's different, glad that he's making this last, because she's almost there, flying right along with him. The room is spinning around her, everything melting together until she can't feel anything but his weight on top of hers, the frantic jerking of their hips, the feel of him cradled between her thighs...

She buries her mouth in his shoulder when she reaches her crescendo, calling out loudly into the salty sweet taste of his skin. Clark seems to have no such qualms, a long, keening cry echoing from his throat as he spills into her. She feels the warm rush of his pleasure between her thighs, and a slight grin tugs at her lips as she prays that Mr. and Mrs. Kent are sound sleepers. Prays that Mrs. Kent won't be making her way up here with a tray of blueberry muffins anytime soon.

He rests his forehead against hers, the warm sweat pooling on their bodies gently gluing them together. She opens her eyes, and he presses his lips deeply against hers. "Wow," he manages when they part, and a breathless chuckle escapes her.

"I'll...see your wow, and I'll raise you a ‘dear, sweet Lord'," she pants. "When can we do that again?"

He laughs then, a real, honest to God happy laugh as he tightens his arms around her, rolling over onto his back on the couch and tugging her on top of him. He draws the blanket that was draped over the back of the couch over her shoulders, then wraps his arms around her waist. "I love you," he tells her again. "I should have told you before..."

"Shut up," she says, kissing a trail down his chest before coming back up to meet his eyes. "I know. It's okay. And I love you, too."

"Will you stay?" he asks her, sounding almost childlike. "Tonight, I mean. With me?"

"Of course," she murmurs, her eyelids suddenly feeling very, very heavy as she snuggles her head against his shoulder.

Lana's still dead, this doesn't change that. Neither of them are expecting the hurt to completely dissipate. But life does go on, eventually. The way it has to. For tonight, they have each other.

Tonight, and all the ones after that.

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