by Misty Flores
Clark Kent liked to think he was a decent guy.
He followed a few cardinal rules, a Kent way of life that made sense to him. Do unto others as you would have them do to you. Always let someone else have the right of way. There was a good one in that Spider-man movie that really struck him, "With great power comes great responsibility."
It was for that reason he resisted the urge to look into the girl's locker room. The reason he refused to cheat on tests, despite Pete's pleas, and the reason he told himself his identity would always have to remain a secret.
Granted, there were a couple girls who perhaps would have maybe sorta suggested otherwise. Clark hadn't been successful in his teen romance meanderings, and two of his best friends (the female quotient of their 'scooby gang') would more than attest to that. But he figured that saving their lives a lot kind of balanced his other indiscretions to a happy medium.
'Yes, Clark Kent is indecisive and somewhat unsure when it comes to relationships, and yes, sometimes he isn't always honest with us, but he's saved our lives from all the freaky mutant people we attract, so we shouldn't hate him.'
He was decent. He wasn't all that bad.
He certainly wasn't a reason to swear off guys altogether.
"You're crazy," Pete said, looking disturbed, eyes shifting obviously to the girls at the counter, blinking and turning back. "You're nuts."
Clark sighed, hands rubbing through the strands of hair drifting down his forehead, pushing them back before offering a non committal sigh, and a too apologetic grin. "Yeah. You're right. I'm nuts."
Pete narrowed his gaze, studying Clark, hands twitching with his pencil again turning to stare at Chloe and Lana.
The view was disconcerting to say the least. Chloe leaned over the counter, nearly straddling the stool in her attempt to get to Lana. The assistant manager of the Talon also leaned forward, holding coffee unsteadily as Chloe's face was temporarily obstructed by the raven curtain of Lana's hair. The brunette's lips widened into an uncontrolled grin as Chloe continued to whisper softly. The intimate moment was shattered as both girls caught each other's glances, and burst into laughter.
Pete coughed, Clark shifted lower into his seat.
"Thanks," Pete grumbled, grabbing his coffee cup on the way up from his chair. "It isn't enough that.... Now I've got something else to dream about." Very nearly glaring at Clark, Pete navigated through the tables, leaving his friend by himself.
Clark wasn't quite sure why he felt the sudden urge to inhale a box of Twinkies and listen to every one of Elvis Presley's incredibly melancholy love songs, but there was something about the sight of the two young women who had agreed to be 'just friends' with him, sitting so cosily together that was... depressing.
Heels dug into the floor, and Clark pushed himself up with a groan, eyes focused on the girls as he moved in their direction. Seeing him coming, Lana's mouth froze slightly, a trim but polite grin gliding easily on her face. He managed his own back, setting his coffee cup gently on the counter before smoothing his fingers over the polished wood.
"You're leaving already?" Chloe chirped, surprised tinting her tone.
"I thought we were all studying after my shift was over," Lana added.
Closer now to the blonde than the brunette, Clark inhaled, taking a deeper breath that brought him shortsomething he never quite caught until today. Chloe wore a different scent today. It was odd, and a little disorienting, because he remembered that scent. It was Lana's perfume. Lana's scent.
All. Over. Chloe.
He swallowed hard, eyes burning before he blinked himself back into control, trademark Clark Kent nervous smile darting over his lips as he stepped back.
"Yeah. My dad... and the farm..."
"Ah," Chloe gave an expressive quirk of her eyebrow. "The farm again. First Pete and his brother and Clark and his farm." Once again, she and Lana exchanged a glance that made Lana's smile widen. Chloe turned, blonde hair bobbing as she gaze him a quizzical frown. "Tell me, Clark. Do we have cooties?"
Clark stared blankly, disoriented at the blanket statement. "What?"
Lana gave something that sounded rather like an unfeminine snort, and when Clark swiveled, she went suddenly pink, picking up the coffee pot. "Duty calls." Giving a short, amiable nod in between her fight to constrain her giggles, she moved around the counter and toward the tables. "Bye Clark."
"Bye, Lana." Clark blinked, moving back to stare into Chloe's amused eyes. "Cooties?"
"Cooties. All over me," Chloe elaborated, wrists bracelets jangling as she exaggerated her movements, mimicking little crawling bugs snaking up her body.
"Cooties?" he repeated. "Why would I think you have cooties?"
Chloe's shrug looked dainty. Turning in her stool, raising the coffee cup to her face, she sighed. "Forget it, Clark. It was a joke." Tipping the liquid into her mouth, she took a gulp, accidentally tainting her nose with whipped cream in the process.
"I know, but... why would I think you have cooties? I never thought girls had cooties," he mumbled, reaching for a napkin and wiping the creamy froth off of Chloe's pert nose. "Why? Do you think boys have cooties?"
"This conversation is bordering on the playground surreal," Chloe responded after a moment, snatching the napkin from him and rubbing at her mouth. "Thanks, by the way."
"You're welcome," he answered. Chloe's blonde hair had the funny habit of sticking up every which way, and Clark was never sure if she did it on purpose or whether it was just a strange part of the genetic phenomenon that was Miss Sullivan, but today it was oddly tame, falling and feathering against her chin.
It's attractive, and sweet. Clark leaned forward, gently pushing the hair back behind her ear, a gentle touch that startled her, before she managed a soft smile that was so unlike her, yet incredibly Chloe.
"What?" she asked, a trifle self conscious as she rubbed at her scalp, combing at the nape of her neck.
"Your hair," he answered. "It looks... different."
"Oh." Chloe nodded slightly, flushing crimson before motioning across the floor. "Lana handed me the flattening iron. Thought I'd try it out." Her features froze. "It doesn't look bad, does it?"
Clark shook his head subtly. "No," he said tonelessly, eyes following Chloe's gaze to Lana, who was serving coffee and taking orders. "How's it going between you two?"
"Lana and me?" Chloe's smile returned. "Great, actually. I didn't really expect it toI mean, never in a million years did I think me and Lana would, you know, but..."
Clark's fingers dug into his pockets, palms fisted into a ball as he forced the smile on his face to remain broad. "It's working."
"It's working. I mean, sure, living together has its hang ups, but... it's nice." Chloe took another sip, wiping at her mouth dutifully.
"Like sisters," Clark said hopefully.
An amused grin lilted across her features. "Not exactly."
That statement came with an connotation that made him squirm, left him at a loss for words before Lana interrupted the moment with a harried sigh.
"Chloe, I know you're like a guest and everything, but do you mind grabbing me a couple muffins?"
Chloe glanced at Lana and immediately put down the mug. "Sure! Which kind?"
"Two bran and a blueberry."
"Coming right up."
"Thanks so much."
"Oh, so not even a problem. Least I can do after the whole avocado incident last night. Did that even come off?" Scooting off her stool, Chloe pushed Clark back to make room and dodged around the counter, lifting up the glass dome holding the pastries and selecting the muffins.
"Clark, aren't you going to be late?"
Clark was so intently watching that the pointed question from Lana took a moment to register. "Hmm?"
Chloe's glance was almost patronizing. "The farm? Your father?"
"Oh. Right! The farm! My father! Okay... See ya."
Turning on his heel, Clark moved toward the Talon doors. Opening the door, the chill of the winter took his breath away, but he held it open, unable to resist one last look.
Chloe and Lana?
Clark blinked, shaking his head. He was crazy. He had to be.
Lana, you know that nothing in the world means as much to me as you do. We'll figure this out.
Clark Kent wasn't an investigative journalist, that was Chloe's department. In all other matters, she was the person he would first consult. She would fire up her computer, talk to her sources, come up with everything he needed to know.
Gripping the steering wheel of the truck, Clark navigated around the trench in the open road, mind suddenly at a whirlwind.
Clark could be rational about this. Maybe he was overreacting. Maybe it was just the IDEA that bothered him so. The meaning behind what he heard.
Lana was the most important thing in Chloe's life? It was disturbing, and he couldn't figure out why.
He shouldn't have eavesdropped. It wasn't that he meant to walk in so quietly, so that the scene that played out so intensely in the Talon went on uninterrupted.
It wasn't just the words he happened to overhear, but the way she stood. The way they looked at each other and how Chloe's hand brushed over Lana's cheek, gentle and intimate. Lana suddenly crumbling forward, falling into Chloe's arms with a sob, clutching at Chloe's shoulders, while Chloe murmured, shushed, and pressed her lips against Lana's forehead.
It was a private moment, a scene that left him gawking, so terribly obvious that he was almost discovered.
Chloe's head turned his direction, his heart jolted and suddenly, his feet regained the ability to move. With speed that would have impressed even his father, Clark was back outside. It took a couple breaths before he could gain his bearings to attempt to go back in, knocking loudly to find both girls now standing apart, Lana conspicuously keeping her eyes on the counter she was wiping haphazardly.
He could have imagined it, but he didn't.
A thousand moments now turned on their heels and spat in his face, visions upon visions of Chloe and Lana, the two most important women in his life (apart from his mom, of course. His mom would always be the default most important person in his life, but not in THAT way and he meant THAT way) becoming friends, then living together
And now Lana was the most important thing in Chloe's life.
Then minutes later, instead of heading up the stairs to his barn, Clark's feet were crunching up the gravel of the Luthor driveway.
Lex Luthor, for all his exuberance, always remained way cooler than Clark could ever hope to be. At the sight of him, Lex gave a small (but sincere) smile, nodded his head, and went right on to hit a perfect shot that smacked the eight ball off a bank and into the corner pocket.
Clark grinned. "Perfect game?"
"Since you weren't here to see it, I'll go ahead and say yes."
Coming forward, Clark reached for the balls, pushing them onto the green velvet and carefully sorting the solids and the stripes.
"Would you care for a drink?" Lex asked, polite and personable as he reached for his scotch, tipping it into his mouth and setting it back down (on the coaster).
"No, thanks," Clark said. "I'm good."
"Hmm." Lex, twenty-two years old, had eyes that seemed far older than his age. They drifted over Clark with that infuriatingly calm study, before Lex nodded and moved toward the rack of cues, selecting another and tossing it to Clark. "You don't look good, Clark."
Clark could never be an actor to save his life. It was only too ironic that his entire livelihood seemed to depend on his ability to tell a lie. Taking the triangle, Clark positioned the balls, carefully lifting it away before settling against the end of the table, waiting as Lex took his shot.
"Teenage angst is never stupid, Clark. Sometimes exaggerated, sometimes bordering on silly, but never stupid," Lex answered. "It's not a place I'd ever like to be again, and I do not envy you and your friends for living through it now."
Clark had a hard time imagining Lex involved in anything so trivial as 'teenage angst', but he gave him a curious look anyway. "What makes you think it's teenage angst?"
Lex took the shot, pure and powerful in one swift move. Balls ricocheted off the banks, and two stripes fell into corner holes.
"When isn't it?" Lex answered. "So?"
Now that he was talking about it out loud, it did seem stupid. And Pete's reaction more than attested to the fact he was doing nothing but spreading rumors and erotic wet dreams, but... "I just... I accidentally overhead a conversation between Chloe and Lana." Lex looked up from the table, immediately curious. Clark flushed but continued. "I heard Chloe telling Lana that their relationship, that Lana, was the most important thing in the world to her."
"I see." Lex took another shot, once again sending a striped ball smoothing into a pocket. "I don't see what's so surprising about that. Chloe and Lana are close. She's all Lana has at the moment, with Nell gone to Metropolis. It makes reasonable sense they would be close." He straightened, fingers tightened oddly over his cue. "I think it's healthy."
"Yeah," Clark responded, almost a tad too late. Lex, distracted for some reason or another, missed his next shot. Clark took up the chalk. "It's justit got me thinking about... stuff."
"Well..." Clark pursed his lips, attempting to frame his words. "LikeChloe and I never actually dated after the Formal because we didn't want to hurt our friendship. It was too important for us to ruin."
"And... we ruined it anyway. We barely talk anymore, and now Lana's the most important"
"Clark, if I remember correctly, you were never exactly devastated by the idea before."
Leave it to Lex to spit out perfectly obvious and sometimes incredibly insightful observations that big Clark in the butt.
He shrugged meekly. "I never realized how much it bothered me before. I guess it's just..." He missed his shot, and Lex smiled triumphantly. Clark relaxed, eying Lex's scotch sitting temptingly two feet away, before pushing out a sigh. "It bothers me. That fact thatnot having that importance in Chloe's life."
Lex took the shot, the balls spiraled around the green velvet and Clark narrowly missed having one jam his finger against the bank. "The question is, ClarkDid Chloe ever have that level of importance with you?"
"Of course she did!" Clark responded, heat once again rising to the tips of his ears. "Lex, I'm no hypocrite!"
"No, but you are male," Lex reminded him. "And not to disregard my own particular regard for my gender, we do tend to be a bit flightly when it comes to members of the opposite sex."
"You mean because of Lana."
"Yes, Clark, I do mean because of Lana."
"She's not the reason it's bothering me," Clark said stubbornly.
"So, you're not saying if it were anyone else but the other woman you never actually seemed to date but had a rather interesting history with, it wouldn't seem half as catastrophic."
"Lex, you try walking into the Talon and finding your two best girl friends in each other's arms, and try not coming out of just a little unhinged."
That got Lex's attention. The amused expression fell from Lex's face, cue frozen in mid air. It lasted only for a moment, however, before Lex blinked away his surprise, and returned to his cool, unaffected demeanor. "That's what this is about. You're not just jealous of Lana. You think they're involved."
"I don'tI don't really... I don't."
"Lesbianism is a perfectly acceptable alternative lifestyle, Clark."
"Now you're making fun of me," Clark answered hotly, reaching for the scotch.
"I'm not, I'm not, I'm sorry, Clark." Coming around the table, Lex managed to intercept the scotch before it actually made it to Clark's lips.
"Do you think I'm crazy?" Clark asked. "Because I know what I heard, and I know what I saw..."
Lex's steps faltered. His cue was placed gently on the pool table. "Clark, not all close relationships need to be defined as sexual. Now, Chloe and Lana...." He suddenly grinned, "Despite putting those two together would more than likely be every Smallville male resident's own personal fantasy" Clark made a face. Every Smallville male resident would include his father, and he REALLY didn't want to go there. "I doubt either of them have had such a confidant before. A friend, a friend you can really trust, Clark. That's new. It's different."
"She used to trust me," Clark muttered. "She trusted me with everything. What makes it so different?"
"Well, you broke her heart, for one."
Clark's eyes closed, head lowered, suddenly tired.
"What's more upsetting, Clark? The idea of Chloe and Lana as your rivals, or the fact that they just seemed to have cut you out?" Clark's eyes shot open. "You're not a middle man, if that's what you think."
"It's not that," Clark answered. "It's not that at all. Not sexual. And it was always different with Chloe. Lana..." Lex's hand tightened on his cue, his hand reached for the scotch, but he listened. "I've never really had LanaI mean, had her as a frienduntil recently. But Chloe... one way or another, from the first day she came to Smallville...." He blew his breath out, swallowing hard. "She's always been there. Been mine."
"Clark." Lex's voice was soothing, sympathetic, but firm. "The damage has been done. Things have changed. Like it or not, you made your priorities clear and Chloe adjusted accordingly."
Clark remained silent. He wanted to fight that accusation, to argue that Lex Luthor had it all wrong, but that would be a lie. And Clark... he was a bad liar.
"Sometimes indecision can be your greatest enemy," Lex continued after a moment. "You waited, Clark. You couldn't expect them to wait with you. You were fortunate enough to garner the affection of two beautiful, exciting, intoxicating women." Clark glanced up to see Lex taking a long, almost unsteady sip of scotch. The glass came down, and Lex stared into Clark. "It was only a matter of time before what you saw in them, they would see in each other."
The matter seemed so final, and Clark found himself smiling grimly, hopelessly. "You make it sound like that's some sort of confirmation, Lex," he remarked morosely.
After a moment, Lex grinned. "Just an observation."
It began how it always began. Usuallymore prominentlythe hair feathering down his body, strands ticking against his torso, were long and dark...
On several occasions, the hair was shorter, lighter, blonde.
Clark took in a gasping breath, eyelids fluttering as he blinked himself into existence.
A saucy smile slid across Lana's face, lipstick blood red as she spread palms wide against his thighs, pushing them further apart.
"You okay?" she whispered, breath soft and almost cold against his sticky skin.
He gulped, rising up on his elbows. She was dressed in red today, all red lingerieit was familiar and beautiful...
His eyes closed as a palm slid closer to him, tracing along his base carefully.
"What do you want, Clark?" she whispered, and it was a throaty whisper... different and new and
His eyes opened, and Chloe grinned in Lana's place. Lana's red corset pushed her breasts up, so high, so high, and she was breathing hard, so very hard...
"Chloe," he groaned, head falling back as she closed her palm around him, squeezing almost painfully.
"I asked you a question," she responded, dark and seductive, and oh, God, Chloe
His eyes opened and she grinned, eyes never leaving his, zeroing into his stare like a magnet
Shit. He had never been so... never been this...
"What do you want, Clark?" she whispered. A dainty pink tongue flicked out, searing him with a sliver of moisture that nearly sent him flying off the bed. God, control the strengthcan't hurt her
"You won't get it until you say it, Clark," she whispered, vibrations against his cock, feather lips teasing him, his heart beating so much faster
"Chloe... God, Chloe..." I want to be the only one, he wanted to scream. Tell me I'm the only one...
Her mouth opened around him, teasing still, slight moisture, small sucking against his tip, and he bucked, but she was so strongshe held him down, and he couldn't move, he couldn't move
Clark tried to grab with his arms, tried to plead, but his arms were suddenly pinned. Sharp nails scored his biceps. A loud, throaty laugh directly above him crashed his euphoria.
Lana's dark hair tickled his face, her eyes reserved only for the blonde. Chloe paused, releasing him to smile at her.
"Why are you wasting your time, Chloe?" Lana tossed airily, grip firm, keeping him pinned on the bed. "You know he'll never tell us. Clark doesn't know what he wants."
Clark groaned, frustration mounting as Chloe's chin brushed against his cock, throbbing aching in his groin as she settled against him, teasing his thigh with tiny circles of her nail.
"I've known Clark for years, Lana. He wants you."
"Does he really?" Lana's grip became almost painful, holding him down, and somehow, Clark couldn't speak. "Cause, that's you going down on him, isn't it?"
"Lana!" Chloe grinned, and her red corset shifted slightly, brown areola peeking out as her breasts pushed further up. "You were never a dirty talker!"
"I was never much of anything until you." Dark brown seared down his chest when she leaned over, Clark's head pressed against her stomach, nose buried in her belly button. "You know what you want, Chloe."
He couldn't see, he was throbbing, and red velvet scratched his face, warm musk filling his nose, when he heard Chloe's dark reply. "And if I want you?"
"I know what I want too, Chloe..."
A apex of Lana's thighs was damp with heat, and Clark still couldn't move, couldn't talk as she crawled over him, settling on his groin neatly, grinding against him.
Lana pulled Chloe tightly against her.
"He's been waiting his whole life, Chloe. Let him wait."
Clark was forgotten when Lana's lips slanted hotly over Chloe's, drawing a ragged moan from the blonde.
Clark couldn't move, frozen in waiting as thin, slender fingers threaded through dark hair, tilting faces and mingled breaths. Chest heaving against chest, nimble digits pulling at Chloe's corset, and breasts spilled gloriously free, right into Lana's waiting hands.
Wait, he tried to shout. Wait...
"We're done waiting, Clark," Chloe said, always matter-of-fact, always Chloe, spooned into Lana, arching against the questing hands.
"Chloe," he groaned, pushed against the invisible bonds, straining with hunger. "You know me. You know me...."
Lana laughed. "Please. Clark Kent, all his secrets. You know me, Chloe. You know shit about him."
"No!" he shouted hoarsely, eyes closing, then opening immediately, unable to look away from the sight of them together. "I know you, Chloe. You know I know you"
Chloe paused, Lana smiled, and suddenly, the cat-like grin moved onto Chloe's mouth. Her laughter was almost like a purr, but the words as she began to rock against Lana scorched like a bucket of ice water on a mountain of lava.
"Well, Clark Kentthis kinda proves you really didn't, did you?"
Chloe's eyes closed. She and Lana no longer saw him. No longer cared.
Clark was still tied tight, but the anger gave him strength. He began to struggle, pushed against the bonds, and with a hoarse yell, bucking forward
The sound of the hard wood against his head brought the dream to a dizzying halt.
Clark breathed heavily, palm pushing against the floor, forehead tingling only slightly from his fall from the bed.
Weakly pushing himself up just enough to roll over and land on his back, Clark stared up the barn ceiling, hands outstretched, crotch pulsing...
Head lifting off the floor, Clark glared at the obvious tent in his sweat pants. His head fell back with a sigh.
It was more than curiosity that led Clark to the Torch office the next morning. There was a general need to see Chloe, to reassure himself that his dream was just a dream. A ridiculous cross between a fantasy and an erotically charged nightmare. That it had no merit behind it.
He knew Chloe Sullivan well. He knew where she would be, he knew what made her tick, and he knew exactly where she'd be on a late morningdoing her damnedest to put the paper to bed in hopes she wouldn't be up until midnight that night.
Of course she wouldn't; of course she would be up until two, and it brought a smile on his face as he rounded the corner, knowing what he would find. Chloe Sullivan, haggard, heels clicking around her office, papers splayed around the place like another hurricane had hit it, glancing up at him with her distracted, happy grin.
Because Chloe was always happy to see Clark.
Pushing off the wooden doorway, he kept the grin on his face, steps faltering when he found a brunette at the computer, and not a blonde.
Lana Lang was startled at his intrusion. She jumped slightly, hair swinging over her shoulder, obstructing his view of the monitor as she clicked her windows closed, swerving in her chair.
"Hi." Lana Lang was never a girl he never felt at ease with. There were always tingles of excitement, or of anticipation, but he had never felt this beforeodd and weird, the way he seemed almost... disappointed.
"Umm..." Lana cleared her throat, breaking the silence with a shrug and a smile. "Chloe's not here. She's out on an assignment. I'm attempting to hold down the fort."
"Oh." Clark's grip on his strap tightened, forcing him to readjust it on his shoulder, give her a small smile. "I... I could have helped her with that."
"Well, I was here anyway, so I thought I'd give it a try. I'm definitely no Clark Kent, but I'm learning." A typical Lana Lang crystal clear laugh came out of her. She stood, smoothing out her shirt, and turning away from him, picked up some leaflets on the other side.
"Yeah," he agreed mildly. "I guess I can just wait for her. If you don't mind..."
"Why would I mind?" Lana asked, and the surrealistic aspect of this situation struck him. This was the Torch, Chloe's domain, up until this year, HIS domain, and Lana... he was asking HER for permission to
"Thanks." Clark set down his backpack, stomach raw iron with nerves, body tingling with something that seemed almost unsettling.
Why on earth would he be ansty with Lana?
She remained quiet, too quiet. Lana and he had managed to maintain a comfortable friendship, but even she seemed tense, unsure.
"Are you okay?" he asked, eyes zeroing on her trembling fingers, her small breaths.
Her eyes grew round, and he noticed a hard swallow before an insincere smile caressed her features. "I'm fine."
"You don't look fine."
The grin froze slightly, and it twisted something in Clark's stomach. A flash of her two days before, crumpled and sobbing in Chloe's arms, made it easier to perceive the moisture in Lana's eyes, the tinge of sadness.
"Clark... it's personal."
"Lana, I know we haven't been as close as we have been, but you know you can tell me anything."
And again there it was, that nervous laugh that made her shift backwards, pushing out of her chair, and brushing a dark lock behind her ear. "Not this, Clark."
"Clark, I realize that you care, and that you're only looking out for my best interests, but this is something, that... I just have to keep to myself." Her voice was hard, almost pleading, and once again, Clark's dream shifted into focus, making him warm, forcing fists into pockets.
"It's a secret, Clark. You know all about those, don't you?" The toss up of that sore subject stabbed him. Clark hitched in his breath, looking away for a moment to gain a breath, and the jealousy suddenly slipped out.
"And Chloe? Have you told her?"
Lana looked startled. "Where did that come from?" she asked.
He licked his lips. Lana stood, now defiant, back straight. Moist eyes hardened, cheeks flushed with anger. And still, Clark would not shut up.
"I'm just wonderingif it's such a secretif you're keeping it from Chloe."
Lana looked bewildered at first, then angered, and finally, confused.
"Clarkwhere is this coming from? Chloe and I are friends."
There was a place outside of Clark. Somewhere he could see himself, and rationally make the observation that he would probably come to regret this later. A little voice inside of his head that was telling him to shut up. Shut up NOW.
He didn't listen. The words had blurted out, and he was stuck.
The word was clipped, and Clarkfor what seemed the infinite timefelt very stupid.
"I just asked Chloe about you guys, and..."
"What is with you? What, now you're jealous of Chloe?"
"Clark, there's going to come a time in your life when you realize that not everyone's life revolves around Clark Kent. And just because everyone in the world does not spill their life's secrets to you, it is not a personal insult!"
Heels clicking on linoleum broke the heated stare. Chloe stood uncertainly in the doorway.
"Uh... wow. Did I just interrupt something here?"
Clark took a breath, glancing at Lana's furious figure and mutely shaking his head.
Lana's tone was resigned. "Just more of the usual," she clipped. She managed a thin smile, and headed toward Chloe. "I think I'm going to head to the Talon for a bit. Want me to bring you back something?"
Chloe never lost her innate sense of observation. One eyebrow quirked almost comically, she gazed at Clark, then Lana, then back to Clark. Her tone remained deceptively carefree.
"Sure," Chloe's voice was all forced cheerfulness. "You know what I like."
"Non fat, no foam. Got it."
Clark closed his eyes and edged out a sigh, settling into a chair and rubbing at his temples.
"Okay. Not that those aren't fun, but can you play the mating game outside my office from now on?"
Dropping bags and books onto the nearest table, her back to him, Chloe's tone was tense.
"It wasn't what you thought, Chloe," he said heavily.
"Hey, it's none of my business," she answered shortly. Her eyes were downcast, and the smile Clark had been hoping to see when he came, the one she gave Lana, was definitely not present now.
She was bothered.
"I'm sorry," he said immediately. "I just asked her a question, and she got defensive."
"Well, what question did you ask?" Chloe asked, reaching into the left drawer behind the orange computer and coming up with an economy size bag of Lime and Chile flavored Tostitos.
"I was just..." Clark's fingers drummed against the wood, a rhythm that focused his thoughts. "It doesn't matter," he said finally, pushing out his breath, letting it go. "It's you I wanted to see, anyway."
Chloe was surprised enough to pause in her quest to open her bag of chips. "Really? Me?" she gave a short, uneven chuckle. "What's the occasion?" Her eyes widened. "Please don't tell me it's another meteor freak, Clark, because I'm still trying to figure out how to push in that story about Lex's thirty-second kidnapping back to page one."
The look of pure panic on her face was absolutely adorable. "No," he grinned in spite of himself. "Nothing like that." Her shoulders deflated with relief, and she went back to attempting to crack open her chips, focusing so intently she might as well have been holding the Holy Grail. "Actually, it's just that we haven't spent much time together lately, and I was hoping we could ... hang out."
The look she shot him was incredulous. "The night before the spread is due? Clark, have you gone mental?" Giving up, she sighed, giving him the bag.
He opened it easily. Her face lit up, and she grabbed it from him. "Maybe I can help. I used to be okay at this," he grumbled, pushing himself out of the chair.
She grinned. "You weren't terrible."
"I put myself entirely in your hands."
One eyebrow cocked up disbelievingly, mouth twisting into an unmistakable smirk. "Seriously?"
Her grin was so wicked, Clark felt like a man at a guillotine. "Fine," she chirped around a tortilla chip. "Here. Have fun." Dropped into his laps were the three sports articles she managed to collect. "Make those interesting."
He laughed. "I'll do what I can." Chloe winked at him. Clark worked for a few moments, before breaking the silence. "Heyif you needed help, you could have called me."
Chloe's eyes rolled. "Clark, your assistancewhile always welcomeis hardly substantial. It's okay! I've learned to do it myself this year. And Lana, she's pretty good at the articles once she got the hang of it. She was so bored one day waiting for me to take her home, she just started helping."
He nodded, mouth pursed into a frown. "You two are close."
"Weird, isn't it?" She winked. "Maybe it's the meteors."
Always with the snark. Clark wondered what he would do if he didn't get his daily dose.
"So, seriously, Clark. Now that the small talk's over," Chloe's arms crossed, her heels clicked over to him, standing a foot away. "What's the real reason you're here?"
There was no malice in Chloe's tone, pure resignation. "You haven't offered to help with the paper or just hang out in forever. Something has to be up."
"I can't hang out with my pal Chloe just because?"
"Clark, I may be female but I'm hardly stupid."
He blew out his breath, trying to look her in the eyes, and failing miserably. "Something is up," he answered. "I just... it feels that weyou and Iwe aren't as close as we used to be. That bothers me."
There was a pregnant pause, Chloe's mouth pulling together, her study suddenly more intense. After a moment, she gave a short, quick nod.
"I'll admit we've drifted," she acknowledged, settling back at her desk. "But Clark, it happens. I mean, you've got Pete and Lex, they're like brothers to you. There can only be so much room for girl best friends. Eventually something's got to give."
"There's only one Chloe Sullivan."
"Thank God," she quipped. "Because if there was another me running around, chances are I wouldn't like her very much."
He grinned at that, but the moment stayed, as the smile fell away as quickly as it came. "Chloe, I justlately I've been feeling that after that hurricane hit... before that... before..."
"Lana?" she supplied helpfully, but there was no bitterness in the tone. It seemed Chloe had gotten over that.
He took in a shuddering breath, wondering at how easy it was for her. "Before Lana, I felt like you could tell me anything. And now, it feels like... like you're keeping things from me. Before that, there were no real secrets between us."
She looked confused. "Clark, before Lana I never realized how many secrets there actually were. Come on, Clark. You have to admit, honesty? It's a tad overrated."
"I don't like not being close to you, Chloe."
"Clark," Her smile now bordered on patronizing. "Quit it, okay? We're still friends. We may not be best friends, but things change." She covered his hand with hers and squeezed. His eyes flickered down at the contact, but she let go too quickly for him to focus on it. "You want honesty? I will admit Clark, that I put you on this almost... demi-god plane. You were this super guy, but maybe we needed that. Maybe I needed that. When you were reduced to 'just a guy', it was a crash, but maybe a good one." She smiled gently. "I needed to know that Clark Kentno matter how super he waswas just a guy." She shrugged indifferently. "All guys are just... guys. Acting like a dog tends to come with the territory."
"I don't think we're all that bad," he grumbled morbidly.
"You would believe that," she chirped, slapping at his knee and turning around. Chloe's back was straight, beautifully smooth under her shirt. She looked at her articles, fingers clicking delicately over her mouse, Lana's perfumed scent mingled with the smell that was perfectly Chloe.
Soft, sweeta little bit of tang in that spice. She wasn't the Chloe he thought he knew. This Chloe was different, new, and unfamiliar.
"It's changing, Chloe," he whispered, staring at his hands, fingers tangled together between his knees. "Things are changing, and I don't know what to do."
His view of the linoleum under his hands now figured a pair of shoes prominently. Hands with fingernails painted pink covered his, and Clark's chin tilted upwards to discover Chloe Sullivan all over again.
She was beautiful.
"Clinging to what you had is never the way to go, Clark. Things change, people changeit's a fact. The key," she said, tangling their fingers and squeezing. "Is making it fun. In fact, embracing the future, that's the way to go."
The grin on his face must have looked idiotic, but Chloe didn't complain, she smiled back. Fingers locked together, face inches from his, Clark felt dizzy. He couldn't help but ask, "Like what?"
"Well, meeting my future deadline is a start," she answered, standing up, twirling his shoulders and pushing back into the desk. "Now work! Shut up, and stop interrupting me!"
"Yes, ma'am." Clark picked up the sheets, turning them over. "Hey, Chloe?"
"Yeah, Clark?" he heard distantly.
"When did you get so wise?"
"Probably about the time you got so dumb," she retorted. "Shut up. Work. Or go away."
Chloe Sullivan had a mole on her cheek.
Not that cheek.
It didn't seem like a big deal, before. In fact, after the whole ordeal with Lana when he was affected by that sliver of red kryptonite, the most important thing back then was apologizing to her. Chloe's mole had been forgotten.
Now, Chloe's left mole seemed frightfully important. Clark couldn't quite bring himself to look at it again, despite the sore temptation. Chloe bundled up at the counter in not just a tight sweater, but a long skirt, with black boots that reached her knee. She looked good with her clothes, and since Clark couldn't use his x-ray vision without the tension or guilt, he instead tried to remember exactly where the mole was located.
Clark frowned, leaning forward. It would be so easy... so easy to just narrow his eyes, and just zoom in
"What are you doing?"
Clark jumped, scattering napkins as Pete stared down, hands full of coats and scarves, a near glare in his gaze.
"Nothing," Clark said quickly.
"Nothing," Pete repeated. Clark shrugged, turning back to the scene of Chloe and Lana speaking in hushed whispers at the counter. "Man. You're disturbed."
"I'm not disturbed."
"And obsessed," Pete growled grumpily. "You'd think a guy would be happy with one, but man, it just isn't you unless you have them both jonesing after you."
That got Clark's attention. "Pete!" Shaking his head, Clark let out a heavy sigh. "They're not... jonesing."
"Don't be using my lingo. You can't hang with it."
"You're grumpy today," Clark mumbled, pushing back the chair to its usual position, observing Pete as he flopped Chloe and Lana's coats on the chair next to him, rubbing at his eyes. "And tired."
"It's your fault."
"Yeah." Pete gave a small huff. "Thanks to you and your little eavesdropping, I spent all night dreaming about them two. I couldn't even look Chloe in the eyes today. Just saw her and Lana and kept thinking about what they were doing last night and"
"Stop, just stop." Clark held out a hand, smile pained. "I don't need to hear anymore."
"It's your fault," Pete reminded him. "It hasn't stopped bugging me since the moment you opened your big mouth about it."
Clark smiled sheepishly. "Sorry," he answered. "I think maybe I over reacted."
"Oh, really?" Pete snorted, burying himself into his cup of coffee.
Chloe smileda beautiful grin that stretched across her featuresher feathered hair, flat from her ski beanie, bobbing. Clark grinned when they looked in his direction, and while Lana gave him only a small smile and nod, Chloe gave him a happy wave back.
A content sigh fell from his lips. "You know, I'm thinking of talking to Lex about getting me and Chloe tickets to that big journalism expo this year in Metropolis. She complained non-stop last year about missing it, remember?"
"Don't bother," Pete said, staring blearily into the brown liquid. "She's already going. Lana got Lex to get her and Chloe tickets and they're going and staying at his hotel while they're there."
Clark sat up, palms slamming into his lap and mouth falling open in startled response.
"You could probably get Lex to get you an extra ticket, though."
"How do you know that?"
"Chloe said something about it. She and Lana are all excited. Girl's trip or something."
"Lex didn't say anything. Why didn't he"
"Clark, you know what, man? I couldn't even begin to care." Pete stifled an enormous yawn, shifting down even further in his seat.
In his dream induced exhaustion, Pete was about as animated as one of those electronic lighted reindeer his mom had insisted putting on the front lawn this year.
Clark's hands tightened over the edge of the table. Chloe and Lana were still in the corner, still talking. Chloe and Lana going to Metropolis. Why didn't Lex tell him?
Clark narrowed his eyes, gaze pinpointing Chloe's lips, and through the noise of the Talon, he found himself almost able to funnel the sounds, filter them. He strained, never moving a muscle, as suddenly, after a shift in his gaze, and a gasp of his breath, Chloe and Lana's conversation sounded as clear as if they were shouting it.
"overcompensation at it's finest, Lana," Chloe finished, popping another piece of muffin in her mouth and chewing thoughtfully.
Lana blushed, red tinting her pale face like Snow White's poisonous apple. "I just wanted to make it convincing."
"Right. Have you ever read Shakespeare?"
"Of course!" Lana replied hotly.
"'The lady doth protest too much'," Chloe quoted. "He's going to think you're hiding something."
"He already does," Lana sighed, pushing her bangs behind her shoulder, and leaning forward, musing silently. "He's getting testy," she said after a moment. "And jealous."
"Don't you think he has a right?"
Chloe and Lana's gaze met. Clark held his breath, keeping still.
"We're talking about Clark."
"God, Chloe. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to"
"It doesn't matter." Chloe gave a short shrug, hand moving to cover Lana's, thumb trailing against her palm. "You know how I feel, okay?"
"I know. I know." Lana squeezed tight, obviously needing the intimate gesture as she flashed a quick, nervous smile. "I would never want to hurt him."
Chloe took a breath, mouth set into a tight line, gaze suddenly far off and thoughtful. "Let's just be careful, okay? Clark may be a blockhead, and you and I both have issues with him, but he's our friend."
Chloe's expression caused an interesting reaction on Lana. The brunette licked her lips, stared into Chloe's eyes nervously. "Let's....?"
"Well, we're in this together, now, aren't we?" Chloe said, mouth spreading into a tired grin.
Lana's hand squeezed Chloe's so tightly, Clark could see the white begin to form around the knuckles, indications of the cut off circulation.
"He won't hear it from me," Chloe said quickly. "I promise."
Clark's heart beat faster, that succinct bubble of hope that came with assurance over his burgeoning feelings now horribly distorted, popped and dripping over his sheltered soul.
There was a pause, before Lana said quickly, "I need to tell him. It has to be me." Chloe closed her eyes, let out a weary sigh, suddenly visibly tired. "What?" Lana asked, eyes darkening in concern.
"He's going to hate us," she whispered. "Not just because of... you know. But because we kept it from him. On and on about not keeping secrets, and look at us"
"I'm sorry, Chloe," Lana said suddenly. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to do this to you. I didn't mean to change things like this. But you were the only one"
"Hey. Hey!" Chloe shut Lana up, shaking her head emphatically as she glanced up, glittering orbs dazzling with emotion. "Listen to me. We'll get through this. We'll figure it out, and we'll do it together."
A trembling smile creased across Lana's lips. "I don't know what I'd do with out you."
"'Never so weary, never so in woe, Bedabbled with the dew and torn with briers'," Chloe remarked with a cocked eyebrow. When Lana gave her a narrowed glance, Chloe shrugged. "Okay, so I rented A Midsummer Night's Dream last night. For some reason I had this strange affinity with Helena." She took a moment to reflect on that. "It's kind of pathetic!"
Clark didn't want to hear anymore. A headache began to bang into his head, pulsing hard.
"What's wrong with you?" Pete asked, peering over his cup.
"Nothing. Everything. It doesn't matter," Clark muttered. Grabbing his coat, he pushed away from the table. "See you." Moving fast, Clark kept his gaze averted.
"Clark, are you okay?" Lana's query went unanswered. Clark brushed past the girls and slammed into the doors, the gust of the icy wind hitting him full force in the face when he stepped out into the cold.
Clark's hands paused on the handle of the truck. Eyes closed, frustration bottling in his chest, he tried to will himself to move before Chloe got any closer.
"What's wrong with you?" Chloe's voice was worried and loud. She was shivering in the cold, rubbing at her arms, hugging herself.
"You should go inside," he remarked, pulling open the door. "You'll get sick."
"You've been acting weird, lately. Okay, weirder. What is it?"
"Are you hiding something from me?" he asked suddenly. Chloe shut up. Clark swallowed, hands pressed against the metal, icy chill seeping up his palms. She didn't say a word. "Would you tell me if you were?"
Chloe's voice was less pointed, less insistent. "Clark."
"I know you're hiding something from me." He turned now, glaring at the girl with chattering teeth.
He had been this angry with her once. Just once. When Chloe betrayed his trust, ignored his pleas, and interfered in his life in a way that very nearly cost him his secret, his way of life.
Now, he nearly shook with the hurt that came along with it, the knowledge that Chloe Sullivan stood in front of him with her secret, and she wouldn't tell him.
"Clark," she said finally, voice aching with some sort of unresolved tension. "It's not my secret to tell."
Choked laughter stumbled out of him before he had a chance to stop it. Torrents of emotion nearly pushed over it, and he clamped his mouth shut, afraid to let the words come out. He had to make it to the truck, get inside, turn the key, drive away, before he exploded.
Her hand closed over his wrist, and the shock of her touch burned him. He lurched back, nearly pushing her away, holding the truck door, and letting out a heady breath. "When did I lose you, Chloe?" he finally asked. "When did you choose Lana over me?"
The sentence, worded so precisely, struck her. Her throat bobbed with an obvious swallow, and now her eyes moistened, seemingly of their own volition. Chloe was frigid and cold, before numbly replying, "Well, that's something we both seem to have a habit of doing, isn't it?"
"You'd better get inside," he said roughly. "You'll catch cold."
Pushing into the truck, Clark slammed the door closed, turned the key, and pushed on the accelerator, leaving Chloe shivering in the cold.
The entire world was malleable, changing and moving on without him, leaving Clark behind.
Clark Kent knew he was not of this world, but it was all he ever knew. In the end, Clark yearned for that moment where he felt he could belong, be a part of this world he loved so much, stay here, feel human.
He wondered how long he would be fighting for this earth; how long he would wait for that one moment of completion, that second when he would feel unafraid, accepted, loved for all he wasno fear, no secrets, no danger.
In sixteen years he had come so close to finding that peace he sought.
Clark wondered if it was normal, to go through his life and not trust a soul. To walk through his hallways, always afraid something would give him away, eternally calling to him that he was a freak, he was different, he was a story.
Pete told him it was normal. Clark was a normal teenage boy, that no one never really thought they fit in and that no one really did. The jocks were always trying to be someone they weren't, and Lana was more than enough proof that even cheerleaders sometimes were never sure where they belonged. Chloe seemed almost proud of her ability to stand out, and Lex had all but resigned himself to the fact that with his millions and his bald head, he would never be anything but a Luthor.
For the longest time, Clark thought he had been the only one with secrets. Pete's only secret was his own. Chloe's life lay as clear as her naked ambition, and Lana's own history was told time and time again in articles and the cover of Time on Chloe's wall. He trusted that about Smallville.
But it wasn't true. Everyone in Smallville had something to hide. Even his closest friends were changing. Things were different. Chloe wasn't Chloe anymore. It was Chloe and Lana now, and there was no more Chloe, Pete and Clark, no stability. Lana was now his friend, and he knew her and he liked her, but he was no closer to becoming more than that than he was a year ago, because of all the secrets.
Waiting, and hoping, and never doing. Clark wondered why he waited, why he never took, like Lex.
He didn't take Chloe when he wanted to, he was too afraid that he would miss his chance with Lana. He never took that chance with Lana because he was too afraid of his secrets.
It never occurred to him they would find one of their own. It never occurred to him, in resolving not to fight for a relationship with Chloe, he would lose the friendship he cherished.
Despite Pete knowing, despite seeing and talking to Lana every day, despite Lex and his friendship and closeness, Clark felt suddenly alone.
And all because Chloe had chosen Lana over him.
Should he be happy for them? Happy that they found each other? Step back and smile and be glad that they had each other in the midst of all this craziness? Even now, they proved they cared about them, even now they were worried he'd find out, that they'd hurt him.
Chloe and Lana.
There wasn't a Chloe and Clark. There wasn't a Clark and Lana, but a Chloe and Lana, and Chloe knew Lana's secrets. Lana trusted Chloe, and not Clark.
Chloe knew Lana's secrets, and wouldn't tell them. Not because she was a bad reporter, but because she was Chloe. She was Lana's Chloe.
Chloe Sullivan, with her bright eyes, and her 'wall of weird material' scoops. Her fervent confidence, and her blatant insecurity, the rasp in her voice as she valiantly tried to hold back tears, thinking they were a weakness, afraid to show the world she was vulnerable, when Clark knew she was a fragile as a newborn kitten.
"Deep thoughts, Clark?"
Lex Luthor stood at the stairs, confident and concerned as he stepped up the last step and into Clark's barn.
"Something like that," Clark responded, a tired smile on his face as he pushed himself off the sofa, nodding to Lex in greeting. "Hey."
"Hey," Lex responded. "You okay?"
"I've been better," he responded. He would have elaboratedspilled out the entire story, because Lex, above all things, listened, but Lex himself had circles under his eyes. Small wrinkles marred the shoulders of his coat, and there was a darkness in his features, more pronounced that ever. Small, minute, blink and you would miss it signs, but to Clark, Lex Luthor was almost coming apart at the seems. "Are you okay?"
The statement thrown suddenly back at himself put Lex slightly out of his element. Paused in the middle of studying Clark's old telescope, Lex gave him a minute stare, before shifting into a grin that seemed too wide to be entirely sincere. "No more than the usual. Being a Luthor comes with it's share of baggage. I'm going through a routine stage in the cycle where I wonder if it's worth the effort."
Clark rubbed at his shoulder, wincing at the knot of muscles created from tension, before asking curiously. "If it's not?"
"It doesn't matter," Lex responded. "In the end, a Luthor is what I am, what I always will be. We can't change who we are, Clark," he responded. "It's how the world sees us, no matter what we do. Sometimes I wonder what the point is, in fighting it."
"Seems an awfully pessimistic way to view life, Lex."
"Believe me, it is," Lex said quietly. Lex looked away, once again at the telescope, before speaking as he twisted the knobs. "I came to invite you to a party." He turned, suddenly all friendly smiles and pure business. "Time is doing a feature on Lexcorp. The launch party for the issue, of course, I insisted on having right here in Smallville." From his right pocket, Lex produced an immaculately embroidered invitation, holding it up with his right hand. "I'd be honored if you could attend."
Clark grinned, breathing in quickly before taking the envelope, fumbling with the delicate paper. The slip between the opening seemed too small for his large fingers, and Clark tore it. Lex watched the gestures, a grin widening on his face.
"It's tomorrow," he said finally. "Eight o'clock. Formal, of course."
Clark grinned uncertainly, giving up on the invitation, and placing it on his desk. "Of course."
Clark Kent was somewhat in awe, somewhat grateful, and always happy to attend Lex's formal events. While a large part of him didn't care for the coldness of Lex's more public affairs, it was nice when Lex asked him to come.
Their friendship, despite secrets, was special. At times, it seemed unbreakable.
Clark needed that.
"Of course, I'll be there."
"Good," Lex said crisply. He nodded, looked toward his watch and winced. "I'm late. Preparations are taking place at the mansion and it's a horrid madhouse." There was a small grin, short and unlike Lex, before he stepped forward, hands in his pockets.
"Lex," Clark asked suddenly, a thought lodging in his brain, refusing to let go. "How come you didn't tell me you had gotten Lana and Chloe tickets for that journalism convention?"
Lex paused in midturn, turning back, regarding Clark carefully. "I honestly didn't think you'd be interested," he said easily. "Lana asked me as a personal favor to her about a month ago. Apparently Chloe had been chattering endlessly." Lex chuckled apologetically. "To be quite honest, I thought you'd be relieved."
"Relieved," Clark repeated.
"Clark, you never seemed to express much interest in journalism. It seemed Chloe pushed you in that direction."
She did. She had pushed and prodded, and he never admitted it, never to anyone but Lana, but he enjoyed it. He liked it, and he missed it...
"Yeah," he said finally.
"I can get you a ticket if you want to go, Clark, I should have asked"
"No, Lex, it's okay. Don't worry about it." Clark shook his head, pressing a hand to his friends shoulder. "I don't think it's a good idea I go anyway."
"Why would you say that?" Lex asked, eyes piercing Clark's in a hard stare.
"Chloe and I had another fight."
At the gruff syllable, Clark gave a pained smile. "I just... they're keeping something from me, Lex. Something big"
"I just... I want at least their honesty, Lex." Suddenly tired, Clark plopped down into a nearby couch, palms rubbing together as he stared at the floor. Lex never moved from his position, immobile as a statue. "If that's all I can have, I want at least that."
It was a long time before Lex finally spoke. "Clark," he began. "Has it occurred to you, that whatever they're hiding, might not have anything to do with you?"
"Then why won't she tell me?"
The sofa shifted under Clark as Lex sat down next to him, mimicking his seating position as he glanced at his friend. "Clark," he said firmly, gently. "Why is it so important to you that you know?"
"Chloe admitted, Lex, she chose Lana over me. She said we all did it."
Lex pushed out a sigh, staring at something in the distance Clark couldn't see.
"I can understand how she would believe that," he answered thoughtfully.
"I never wanted her to believe that," Clark was fervent now, heart aching suddenly. Chloe loomed before him, with beautiful moistened eyes, and sad, constant pleads and denials. "I never chose Lana over her."
"Clark," Lex interrupted. "From her point of view, you did."
"I never chose," he answered immediately. "I never got the chance. She brought up the friends card, what was I supposed to do? Not take it? She wanted it that way."
And Lex laughed, a hollow laugh that sounded sad for Clark and amused at the same time. "Clark, Clark..." He shook his head. "I forget sometimes how young you can be."
That wasn't comforting.
"I don't suppose it occurred to you to fight for that?"
"I was looking for my father, Lex!"
"So, she had bad timing, who doesn't?" Lex asked, shaking his head. "Clark, by not choosing, you chose."
"I didn't, I haven't..." Lex cocked an eyebrow, straight and to the point. The quizzical look was enough to break Clark, lilt his denial into a soft chortle of laughter. "Okay, I did. I justLex, I never thought that.... I couldn't believe that"
"I never thought in my life that I would end up being jealous of Lana Lang."
"Lord," Lex suddenly mused. "What fools these mortals be."
Clark smiled at that. "What's that from?"
"Shakespeare," Lex said. "A Midsummer Night's Dream."
Clark nodded. "I hear it's a good movie."
Lex's eyes narrowed, shaking his head before clapping Clark on the back and pushing himself to his feet.
"It's an even better play, Clark. I would suggest reading it before renting out the latest version. Kevin Kline and Rupert Everett are excellent, but Callista Flockhart trounces her role as Helena."
"See you tomorrow?" Lex asked, motioning in the invitation's direction.
"Wouldn't miss it," Clark responded.
"Good. Night then, Clark."
Clark waved goodbye, turning toward the invitation, once again intent on opening it.
"Clark," Lex said suddenly. Clark paused, glancing up. Lex's expression was unreadable, shadows hiding his face. "Clark," he repeated. "Whatever Chloe and Lana are hiding, whatever it might seem, it's only because they care about you. Because they're not sure how you'll react. It's not a secret they want to keep, but to open it, to reveal what you think it might be, it would change everything."
It was over dramatic, not at all a Lex statement, but it made more sense than Clark wanted to admit.
Just a little too close at home not to make Clark feel like an inane hypocrite.
He took in a breath.
"Clark? They'll tell you in time. I'm sure they want to tell you, and when they doattempt to understand." Clark's eyes locked with Lex's as Lex's voice seemed to slip in it's passive tonelessness.
"Lex?" Clark questioned, stepping forward.
Lex straightened, turned back to the doorway. "Remember why you're friends, Clark. See past their secret. They'd do the same for you."
Lex's shoes clicked away on the panels of wood, out of the barn. Clark pushed out a heavy breath, Lex's words not lingering in his head, ringing in his ears.
They'd do the same for him.
Clark wondered if that was true, if Chloe knew his secret
Would they do the same for him?
Chloe Sullivan could never blend in. It simply wasn't in her nature.
When she walked down the hallways of Smallville High, people noticed. Her hair bobbed, her smile glowed, and her clothes, always colored, always eclectic, told people she didn't belong here. She was destined for bigger, and greater things.
That was always a given. No one expected Chloe Sullivan to stay in Smallville, live a small town life. She was only a temporary resident, an observer of Smallville weirdness, experiencing life that would eventually make her famous, take her far away from here.
Clark wasn't sure why it never hit him that in two years he might never see Chloe Sullivan like this again. In two years, Chloe would most likely be gone, leaving Smallville behind with all it's weirdness. And all Clark could say about his time with her, with Chloe, was that he chose by not choosing. Taking in an unsteady breath, Clark pushed his strap over his shoulder and maneuvered around the students, walking straight.
Chloe's eyes caught him about twenty feet away. Her steps faltered, mouth twisted uncertainly. Clark's heart jumped in his chest when Chloe moved back, and quickly, he raised his hand in greeting, almost as if by sheer will, he could make her stop.
"Chloe!" he called out, moving forward.
"Clark," she said warily, books pressed against her check. Coming forward, they blocked her from him like a shield.
"Chloe, I'm sorry," he said breathlessly, striding up as quickly as possibly, looking down into impossibly deep eyes.
She sighed, fingers pushing a stray lock of blonde hair behind her ear, head cocking to study him. "I'm sorry, too, Clark," she said simply.
"I didn't meanI had no right"
"I didn't want to understand and I was jealous and I just couldn't see what you"
"Clark, stop." Chloe's hand suddenly pressed against his mouth. "Shut up. You're embarrassing."
Chloe frowned, and Clark was suddenly free as she pulled her hand away, staring up at him. "What?"
Clark smacked his lips, scent of Chloe's hand lotion now lingering under his noise. "I said, I'm embarrassing?"
"No, Clark," she answered dryly. "The stuttering and stammering? Really very cool. James Dean couldn't have done better." Clark blinked, opened his mouth again, and once again, had Chloe's palm slapped against his lips. "I forgive you, okay?" she said quickly. "And I'm sorry, too."
Reaching up, Clark managed to close his hand around Chloe's palm, and pulled it off of his mouth, tangling their fingers. "About what?"
She blinked. "Uh... I don't know," she smiled helplessly. "For being me. Me and you seems to equal lots of fighting, lately."
"We always make up," Clark responded.
She met his gaze head on, and Clark, in his ever changing world, suddenly noticed the flecks in Chloe's eyes, the dimples on her nose, the smooth creaminess of her lips.
"Yeah," she answered finally, squeezing his fingers. "We always do."
He pretended not to notice, when she finally let go.
"So... Friends again?" she asked chirpily.
"Always," he answered, nodding emphatically.
"Good." She grinned. She was dressed in purple today, a color that suited her, long sleeved, and bundled warmly for the winter weather.
She couldn't have been any cuter if she had tried.
"See you in class, Clark," she said, slapping at his shoulder playfully, moving around him.
Taking in a breath, Clark seemed to panic for no reason at all. Grabbing her arm, he turned her quickly. "Wait!"
"What?" she asked, adjusting her books. 'You're a moron', her glare seemed to say. "Clark, we're going to be late for class!"
"Lex is having a party tonight," he said. At that moment, every functional body part that Clark dearly needed decided to go on strike. His tongue was twice it's regular size, his heart pounded about twice it's normal rate, and his brain seemed to have lost any capacity for reasonable thought. "And um... the invitation?"
Chloe's eyebrow rose suspiciously. "Yes?"
Clark tried to swallow. His adams apple had somehow permanently affixed itself to the top of his throat.
"The invitation, it says 'Clark plus one'."
The eyebrow rose further into her head. "Okay..."
She was going to make him say it. Crap.
Her gaze moved down, and that was when Clark realized she was still being clutched to like a security blanket. Clark pulled his hand away.
"Do you want to come?"
"Well, it said 'plus one'."
"Good for the invitation," Chloe smiled. "I would Clark, really, but I'm already going."
"Mine said 'plus one' too," she said with a chuckle.
"Oh." The disappointment was surprising, and new. It was weird, really weird, to be doing this with Chloe. She had never said no, before. And Clark, he never knew how badly he wanted her to say yes, until she said no.
"I'm going with"
"Lana, I know," he said suddenly.
"Well, yeah, Lana." Chloe's shrugged. "You're more than welcome to come with us."
Clark stepped back immediately, smile seemingly forced now. "No, it's okay. Don't want to be a third wheel or anything."
"Clark, if anyone will be a third wheel, it'll be me," she groused, shaking her head. Clark blinked, but Chloe didn't notice his frozen smile.
"Chloe, you would never be a thi"
She shrugged helplessly. "I kinda wish you WERE coming with us. Oh well, I'll see you there!"
The last sentence clipped off as soon as the late bell rang. Students ran for their classes.
Clark, eternally confused, stood alone in the hallway for a full minute, attempting to figure how Chloe's last three sentences made any sort of sense at all.
Clark wasn't sure what constituted formal.
Lex's wedding had been considered formal, but Clark severely doubted a magazine launch party would require a tuxedo.
In times such as this, Clark would have picked up the phone and called Chloe. Despite living in Smallville these last five years, she had considerable knowledge about what to wear on different occasions.
However, the thought of hearing Chloe's voice now seemed synonymous with palms sweating and severe stuttering, and Clark, nervous enough about the party, didn't feel getting sweaty was the right way to go.
In the end, his mother was quite helpful. She had chosen a charcoal dress shirt with a black silk tie, black pants and a black dress jacket.
"It looks good," she said softly, smoothing over his shoulders and pulling at his sleeves. Turning, she regarded him in the mirror, a proud smile on her face. "My boy is growing up?"
He couldn't help but laugh at that. "Does being an adult always mean being so confused?"
"Hate to say it," she remarked, clapping his shoulder. "It never ends." Moving toward the desk, she picked up something, and turned. "Are you ready to trust me?"
Clark glanced at the bottle suspiciously. "Hair gel?"
"Yes, I know Lex doesn't use hair gel," she responded with a shake of her head. "But that's because he doesn't need it."
"Clark," Martha gave him a narrowed glance. "Trust me."
That did it. With an exaggerated sigh and a look sent heavenwards, Clark held obediently still while his mother slathered the stuff into his hair.
When she was done, she pulled back, and let him look at himself in the mirror.
"What do you think?"
"It's..." Clark cocked his head, trying to view it from a different angle. "Shiny."
She laughed. "You better get going."
"Thanks, Mom." With a hug and a kiss on the cheek, Clark moved toward the stairs. "Did you get invited?"
She nodded. "I think I'd rather spend the time with your father."
He smiled. "Bye, Mom."
"And Clark?" He turned, waited expectantly.
He wasn't quite sure why his mother was wishing him luck, but he welcomed it anyway.
Lex Luthor always had a smile for him, a lilt in his tone when he said his name, and Clark always had his own for Lex.
He gave it gladly, maneuvering though the throng of beautiful woman and handsome men, and ending at Lex's side, giving his hand a vigorous shake.
"You made it," Lex said, a smile warming on his face, ever-present scotch in his free hand.
"I made it."
"And you gelled your hair," Lex said dryly, glancing up at the frozen glaze on top of Clark's head.
Clark blushed, reaching up to tap at it. "Yeah. Mom did it." He turned, eyes roving around the party. "It's nice."
"Chic," Lex corrected, nodding. The jazz band was mellow, and there was no one dancing, but a lot of bulbs flashing and people talking with drinks.
"Did you bring a date, Clark?" Lex asked.
The sentence hit Clark slightly out of left field, and he could do nothing but smile sheepishly. "No," he answered. "Did you?"
Lex gave a slight shrug, a small smile lighting his face. "I did invite a very special lady," he responded.
"Special?" Clark repeated.
"You'll see her eventually. I'm sure she's around somewhere." Lex craned his neck, searching the faces at the event. "Ah," he grinned, and motioned with his cup. "I think I've spotted some of your comrades."
Clark turned, and finally found who he had been searching for. Chloe and Lana stood in a corner of the room, sipping on cokes. Both girls glanced in his direction, on their faces were mutual frozen expressions. He found himself taking a nervous breath in.
"They look lovely," Lex remarked after a minute.
"Mr. Luthor! Perry White, from The Daily Planet. If I could just have a moment of your time"
Lex sighed, meeting Clark's eyes with a resigned sigh.
Clark gave him a commiserating squeeze on his elbow. "I'll talk to you later."
Clark moved away, making his way across the room, both girls now nodding and waving.
"Hey," he said.
"Hi, Clark," Lana said, shifting on her heels, hand pushing her hair off her shoulders, leaving them bare. "Wow. You look nice."
Chloe gave a short giggle. "Is that, gel in your hair?" She reached up to touch. Clark, face now flaming at the look of amusement, batted her hand away.
"Stop it! My mom made me do it!"
She grinned. "I always knew Mrs. Kent had good taste."
That was probably as close to compliment he was going to get from Chloe. Letting out a sigh, Clark's hands pushed into his pockets. Wow. "You, um... you both look amazing."
Chloe gave a pleased grin, twirling in her dark green evening gown. She was literally breathtaking. "Thanks!"
Lana, however, gave only a distracted smile that disappeared as soon as it came on her face. She remained noticeably quiet.
"So, I tried to get Pete to come," Chloe said, painted fingernails waving daintily over her coke. "But he wouldn't step foot inside the Stepford Mansion. Did you hear the Planet is here?" She arched up, rising on her heels to try to get a better look at the room. "Maybe I could talk to a reporter"
Lana's suddenly squeezed Chloe's arm, a movement Clark noticed. Chloe paused, gazed in the direction Lana was staring.
Clark blinked, turning as well.
Lex Luthor was laughing with a beautiful young lady with dark raven hair.
"Who's that?" Lana asked.
Chloe pursed her lips. "I don't know. Another big city socialite, my guess."
Clark studied the scene. "She's pretty. Do you think that could be his date?"
Both girls both went eerily silent. Turning back, Clark found himself the recipient of two withering stares.
"His date?" Lana repeated.
"Clark, Lex doesn't have a date tonight," Chloe said quickly.
"Sure, he does," Clark answered. "I asked him. He said he had a date."
Chloe sucked in her breath, glanced quickly at Lana, and Lana
Lana began to openly tremble.
"Lana, are you okay?"
"Clark." Chloe gave a subtle shake of her head. Shut up, she enunciated.
Clark's eyes narrowed in confusion. "What"
"Ladies, I hope you're enjoying yourselves." Lex held two drinks in his hands, a charming smile on his face as he moved next to Clark. "Because I'm finding this gathering an overwhelming bore."
Lex's eyes fell on Lana. Lana took one glance, closed her eyes, and pushed violently through him and Clark heading for the door.
Bewildering confusion was sliding through Clark at an alarming rate as without a word, Lex handed him both glasses and moved through the crowd in an effort to follow Lana.
"What's going on?" Clark asked, immobile with his two drinks, to the only person left standing.
"Clark, please don't make a scene," Chloe whispered firmly. Without another word, Clark shoved the drinks into Chloe's hands, and sped off. "Clark!"
Clark lost Lex for a minute, it slowed him down. Searching, Clark spotted a propped glass door.
The entrance to the courtyard.
Immediately he moved forward, pushing open the door.
What he saw was both astounding and somewhat surreal.
Lana, shivering in the cold, never seemed to notice the winter chill. Her eyes were blazing a frightful green, voice nearly a shout.
"said you had a date"
"Lana, Lana, calm down"
"Don't do that."
Lex seemed to visibly struggle with his control, hands out as he attempted to get closer to Lana. She shrugged his palms off her shoulders.
"Don't do what?"
"Treat me like a child. Like I don't understand."
"Lana, the date was you, okay?" Lex came forward again, gentle, slow, fingers threading through her dark hair. "You're freezing." Shrugging off his jacket, Lex carefully slung it around her shoulders, handling her as if he were speaking to a frightened lioness.
"What do you mean?" she whispered now. "That date was me?"
Clark couldn't quite make out Lex's expression, but Lana's face was bathed in moonbeams, eyes glittering, beautiful in her anger.
"Clark asked if I had a date, I told him there was a special lady I had asked to come, and she was around." Lex's hands were now running soothingly down Lana's shoulders and arms, massaging lightly. "I meant you."
She was quiet, still frozen in her anger, unresponsive. "But I'm not, am I?"
"I wanted it to be you, Lana."
"But I'm not here as your date, Lex. I'm not your girlfriend, I'm just Lana Lang, small town girl"
"Lana, I don't want to go through this again"
"I want normal, Lex!" Lana shrugged him off. "God, that's all I've ever wanted. Not guilt, not the feeling I have when I'm not with you! I'm not supposed to have this! I'm not supposed to feel like I'm ashamed of something"
"Lana, do you think I like this?"
"Lex, sometimes I don't think you care"
"I don't care?" he responded heatedly. "I don't care? Lana the only reason I'm doing t his is BECAUSE I care. Do you know what will happen to you if the press gets wind of this? Of us? You'll be marred, scandalized"
"I know." Her words were short, clipped. "I know," she said again, softer. Her back was now to him, hands wrapped around her body, head lowered. "I know, but... it's just too hard, Lex. It's too hard."
Clark didn't move, but Lex did, gently, softly, hands smoothing over Lana's hair, gently holding her shoulders, turning her.
She fought him, or at least attempted to, but soon she crumpled, sobbing into Lex's body, wrapped in his embrace as she clutched at him, holding him like a woman in love.
And Lex held her, gently, softly, like he cherished her.
Clark was numb, too numb to think, and when a small hand closed around his elbow, pulling him back, he didn't fight it, not when Chloe closed the door, leaving Lex and Lana to their privacy.
Chloe's expression was somber, resigned, but gentle.
"It's been happening for the last month," she said finally, arms crossed, voice soft. "I'm not sure how, just that it did. They didn't want to tell you, because they aren't even sure what's going on themselves."
Clark looked again. Through the glass Lex and Lana continued to hold each other, together as if there was no one in the world but the two of them.
"Clark." Chloe stood in front of him, hand pulling on his, letting go when he finally turned to face her.
"I'm sorry," she whispered gently. "I'm so sorry. No one meant to hurt you. They just didn't know how to tell you..."
Clark felt a slight ache, a minute moment of resentment, tuning back toward his long lost dream girl and his best friend.
"I could have taken the news," he said finally, to the girl at his side. Glancing back, Chloe was lost in Lex and Lana, bittersweet hurt on her face.
"They're lost, Clark. It's just so complicated, and it... it might be too hard for them both. Wrong time, wrong place, everything's so wrong about it. Lex and Lana, they're alone in this." She shivered. "They've got the world against them, and even I didn't understand, not at first." She took in a shuddering breath. "It almost cost me my friendship with Lana."
Clark's mind flashed to a picture of Chloe, holding her best friend, telling the hurting girl that nothing in the world mattered to her more.
Not even a torrid affair with Lex Luthor.
"Does he love her?"
"I wasn't sure at first," Chloe said after a minute. "But I think he does." She shivered again, and it was getting drafty. The glass door was still open slightly, letting in the cold air. Chloe had goosebumps on her arms. She ignored them, too involved in staring at him. "Are you okay?"
He absorbed the question, wonder filling him as he glanced again at Lex, who loved Lana. Who had never loved anyone but his mother and his nanny. His mother had died, his nanny had abandoned him, and Lex loved Lana.
Chloe was shivering, cold and beautiful.
Clark finally took a clue from Lex.
"You're freezing," he said finally, shrugging off his jacket, and wrapping it gently around her shoulders. "And believe it or not, I'm strangely relieved."
She looked astounded, a patented look that came with her typical 'Clark's smoking crack again' glare.
"What are you talking about?" she asked.
"It doesn't matter now," Clark said, hands lingering on her shoulders, before sneaking one last look to Lana and Lex.
"So... you're okay with this."
"If there's two people in the world who deserve someone to love them for who they are, it's the two of them."
Chloe stared at him, disbelieving at first, but slowly, a beautiful smile creeped up on her face.
When she nodded in relief, he smiled back, taking her hand, tangling fingers and leading her away from the door.
There was a moment of peaceful silence, Chloe and Clark walking hand in hand, and it was nice. Better than nice.
"So, Lex said you thought Lana and I were kinda gay," Chloe quipped.
Clark almost stumbled, jerking around to find Chloe grinning openly, laughter bubbling up in her throat at his shell shocked expression.
"I never thought that"
Chloe just laughed harder. "You mean it's true?!"
"I never... I didn't..." Clark sighed heavily. He was never going to live this down. "You know, there's nothing wrong with being gay!"
She nearly choked. "Thank you, Seinfeld, I'll pass that memo along." She paused, eyes narrowing in thought. "Though, it does make sense."
"Pete. He's been acting weird all week." She licked her lips, and grinned. "Must have been his wet dream come true!"
His wet dream?
Clark grinned at the irony.
"You know," he responded, hand tightening on Chloe's. "It was the weirdest thing in the world."
"Being jealous of Lana Lang."
Chloe stopped walking.
Clark expected it, and he slowed next to her. Chloe's expression, even in all her disbelieving glory, was entirely too adorable.
Clark made a choice.
"You know, Chloe..." He took in a nervous breath, took her other hand, and pulled her closer. "I don't have to be the most important person in your world. But I would like be a part of it again."
Chloe's shock was evident, but as Clark continued to stare, the expression softening. Chloe was silent for a horrible two minutes, while she pursed her lips, and seemed to consider the offer.
Clark began to breath again, when her mouth burst into that beautiful Chloe grin.
"Clark, you're an absolute idiot," she clipped. "You always were!"
She was glowing, breathtaking in her happiness, and it bubbled up in Clark's chest, words he never thought he'd say suddenly coming out before he could stop them.
Not that he wanted to.
"When did you get so beautiful?" he breathed.
She quirked her ever mobile eyebrow. "I think it happened when the meteor rocks hit. Sure, I wasn't here yet, but it seems to explain the weirdness of everything else!"
The movie he watched the night before rang in his head, and he couldn't stand it any longer.
"Peace," he said, palm cupping her chin, eyes twinkling as he leaned forward. "I will stop your mouth."
Chloe's lips moved against his, gently pressed together as he kissed her in the sweetest kiss he had ever experienced. The first kiss he never got, the first kiss he would never take back, the first kiss he would always cherish.
His eyes opened, caught the fluttering of Chloe's eyelashes against his cheek, the way her lips clung to his.
Suddenly he understood everyone's obsession with Shakespeare.
"I will live in thy heart, die in thy lap, and be buried in thy eyes," Clark whispered.
The words were soft, gentle, but Chloe stiffened in his arms, pulling back to search his eyes.
"Since when have you read Shakespeare?" she asked, wondering smile forming on her lips.
"Much Ado About Nothing," he answered. "I went looking for A Midsummer Night's Dream, but it was out."
"At the library?"
"No," he chuckled. "Blockbuster."
She laughed, and the movement of her lips was enough to make him want to kiss her again, so he did. Soft, and gentle and feathery, hot and sweet, and spicy, and it made Clark feel amazing.
When he finally lifted his head, he was trembling, hands gently threading through Chloe's soft strands of blonde at the nape of her neck.
"How was that?" he whispered.
She gave a small chuckle, eyes closing as her forehead fell against his chest, fingertips spreading across his chest. "Super," she answered.
"Super Clark," he mused. "I could live with that."
"Don't give yourself too much credit," she quipped, lifting her head and knocking his cheek with her finger. "I think I had something to do with it."
Chloe Sullivan, in his arms, smiling up at him, and pressed into his body. He could live with this. For a very long time.
"You had everything to do with it." He noded. "But I did have the better Shakespeare play."
"You mean the movie?" Chloe grinned. "Lex has it. Watch it first."
Lex. And Lana. Clark took in a breath, glanced back in the direction of courtyard.
Lex and Lana. Chloe and Clark.
What was Pete going to say about all of this?
"Do you want to tell them now?" Clark asked, pulling back and threading their fingers together, stepping back.
"Hmmm...." Chloe considered, and with a smile that had trouble leaving her beautiful face, she shook her head. "Nah. Not yet. It's freezing out there, and besides," she nodded firmly. "I want a secret of my own, dammit."
He smiled. "You think we'll be able to tell each other all our secrets?"
"Eventually," she agreed, sliding an arm around his waist as he slung his own over her shoulder. "I think," she mused, pushing in the direction of the party, "I might even let you in one day on the embarrassing incident of 1992, which, by the way, was horribly traumatic as far as five year olds go."
"What could be as traumatic as that?"
"He called me Elvis!"
Clark smiled and pulled Chloe closer.
In the aftermath of all of this, Clark decided he had gotten at least one thing right. He really did get the better play.
This really was much ado about nothing.
Okay, so it was much ado about everything.
But the title fit better than A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Clark rubbed at the cloth of his jacket over Chloe's shoulders.
It really was freezing outside.