Restless Nights (Chapter 24)

My apologies for the year plus wait you've all had (in fact, all my fics have been sitting for more than a year by now). As some of you may know, I have things going on. Family things, work things, life things. I started out hoping I'd make time for fic and kind of beating myself up internally for not doing it. Then I kind of let that go and realized I'd get back to it when I actually could, as in having the time and the inclination. 

I probably could have made the time easier, though, if I felt more inclination. The fact is I feel like I gave a lot of time and energy to SV fic and, after a while, it felt like a wasted effort. The show was over, it ended poorly (for me and, I'd argue, for most), I wish it had been better and I have written a good number of fics outlining what I thought were either better endings or challenging possibilities. I felt like I've said a lot of what I had to say and explored every plot bunny I wanted to. 

During the show's run, I had readers. After the show ended, most people moved onto other fandoms, as is perfectly natural, and I was left with 4-5 people commenting and maybe five times that lurking. I'm so grateful to those of you that stayed around and invested in whichever fic, but it also feels strange to spend so much time on something maybe only a dozen or so people want or enjoy. I've gotten all I can out of fic, as far as the learning experience of writing it, and I'd love to take this and run with it in something original, fic training wheels off!

That being said, I'm going to finish what I started and, after archiving some oldies, I feel I needed this break to renew my enthusiasm for it and getting psyched about graduating.

I'm hopeful you don't feel too bad about me having taken this time. I've been rereading and archiving fic for ao3 (I'm apeygirl there) and kind of getting psyched up to finish my say as far as Smallville goes. 

I feel like I will be done with Smallville after this and maybe done with fic altogether. I might do an event here or there, but I really would like to try to play in worlds of my own making after the new year!

Until then... here's the first entry in my fic graduation log...



Chapter 24

As far as showers went, it was a small affair. Just Dinah, Bart, Martha, Clark, and a cake that was too big for just five people.

“Are we expecting a few more dozen?” Chloe eyed the massive cake with the giant blue bear on it.

“Just who’s here. Bart kept waffling between vanilla and chocolate until he went for both, which I’m fine with,” Clark said, helping her out of her coat before staring hard at her. “But maybe you aren’t. You look a little too surprised. I warned you this was coming.”

“I knew something was up with Dinah. I just wasn’t sure…” She leaned closer. “Clark, I told you before. This isn’t something we should be partying about.”

“And I don’t agree with that,” Clark whispered. “Look, you need supplies and… this is the traditional way to get them,” he smiled, “with cake and stupid party games.” He nodded at his mother, Bart, and Dinah, fooling with an iPod. “They’ve been planning this for a while, you know. They want you to feel… normal.”

“You say that like it’s possible,” she hissed, then pasted on a smile as Martha moved to her.

“So we have a few presents,” Martha grinned, “but you don’t get them without a little work.”

Chloe forced a laugh. “I thought the swollen feet and aching back were enough work.”

“Nothing that strenuous.” Martha led her to a chair. “We just thought we’d prepare you for all the headaches with some games. Bart’s up first.”

Bart held up an iPod. “This contains all the classics, songs you will be forced to listen to twenty times a day or more if this kid is anything like… any other kid,” he finished awkwardly.

Chloe looked around at the others, saw their forced smiles and their refusal to acknowledge the elephant in the room.

“So you get five seconds of song,” Bart went on brightly. “If you guess the song, you get a present.”

“Well, that’s silly,” Dinah scoffed. “Why put all the pressure on Chloe? I mean, she’s going to be getting these presents, anyway.”

“Because it’s fun,” Bart hissed. “Why are you always crapping on my best ideas?”

“Look, I get the concept, but the gameplay needs work. I think we should all guess and, whoever guesses gets to pick which present she gets, including Chloe…”

Martha pointed at Dinah. “I like that. I’m probably going to win if you’ve got any of Clark’s. He tortured me with Barney and that one song from Schoolhouse Rock… I can feel the headache already.”

“I liked The Big Comfy Couch,” Dinah said.

“With the creepy clown girl?” Bart shook his head. “Insanity. Fine. Change my game. You’re just lucky I’m not playing because I’d win. Also, Fred Rogers was a living saint and his show is more of an enduring classic than all your shows, so suck it.”

Mr. Rogers?” Dinah shook her head. “That show was way too slow for me. I’d think it’d be glacial for you.”

“I found him soothing and dependable.”

“You probably needed calming down, knowing you.” Dinah chuckled. “What was your kid crack, Chloe?”

“I think I started off with Sesame Street. But I graduated to Reading Rainbow pretty quickly,” Chloe said as Clark snorted.

“Knew it,” he said, tossing her a smile. “If this kid’s anything like you, I’ll never see him throw a ball.”

She smiled back, thinking this was just a little bit nice. It was a bit like that feeling she’d had, arguing with Clark in the cab a few months back. It was the first time she’d thought of this baby as somebody—just a boy with tastes of his own, a love for sports or books or zombie killing video games. It felt like the worst kind of denial, to fool herself that this kid might be like any other, but there were moments when she could let in the idea of this nameless, faceless boy with something like eagerness, like she couldn’t wait to meet him.

“I liked Lambchop,” Martha offered as Clark started humming what sounded like “Conjunction Junction” under his breath. “Why did you start that?” Martha sighed. “It took 20 years to get that song out of my head the first time.”

“I liked Captain Planet.” They all turned to see Oliver in the doorway, Victor just behind. “Look, we can’t stay long. Just wanted to drop these off.” Oliver pulled a large box from behind him. “I didn’t wrap it or anything. The lady at Lacy’s told me this was the number one stroller this year. I mean, I think it looks like half an egg, but it’s got all those safety ratings and all, so what do I know?”

“Thanks,” Chloe said, losing that bit of relaxation she’d almost had. Oliver and Victor’s presence didn’t help, with how tense they seemed, even as Victor pulled a bag in. “It’s a Diaper Genie. I was told it’s a staple by the lady at…uh…”

“Lacy’s,” Chloe finished for him. “Thanks. There’s plenty of cake, as you can see. If you want to…”

“No, they can’t stay,” Bart cut in. “They obviously have more important…”

“Oh, this is just silly.” Martha stood and moved to Victor and Oliver. “Just stay for the party. I know you’ve all been at odds, but maybe this is just the thing to…”

“Trust me, Mrs. K, they need to go,” Bart said mutinously, “if any of us are going to have a little fun.”

“These two like to ruin that kind of thing,” Dinah added with a roll of her eyes.

“Look, we aren’t trying to ruin anything.” Victor gripped Oliver’s shoulder. “We were just dropping some presents.”

“Yes. You can all continue with,” Oliver grunted, “whatever this is.”

“It’s a God damned baby shower, Ollie!” Dinah moved to push the both of them out the door. “I’m sorry not all of us want to do things your way!”

“You mean like dealing with reality?” Oliver hissed to her.

“You want Chloe to treat this with nothing but obvious fear and disgust?”

“That’s not what we’re doing,” Victor said tiredly, putting his hands up.

“Maybe with you three and your gung-ho, party hat attitude,” Oliver sighed, “she needs someone to balance that out.”

“Maybe she’s in the room,” Martha said just as Chloe was about to open her mouth and point out that very thing.

Oliver turned away from Dinah, giving Martha an apologetic look as he moved to Chloe. “For the record, I wasn’t against you having what you might need. I just thought it would be better if we were practical about it. I just don’t think this is a situation that requires a party.”

Chloe had thought the same thing herself, but something about the tension between everyone had her on edge and maybe a little testy. “Well, we were having a nice time,” she said, pushing her cake away.

“We still can.” Martha patted her shoulder, then stared from Oliver to Victor. “I’m not sure what’s gotten into you two.”

Chloe was glad at least someone was as confused as she was.

Then Martha went on. “I thought we all agreed that this discussion could wait.”

Chloe blinked at her, surprised that Martha-- that everyone but her seemed to be in on this discussion, whatever it was.

“For what?” Oliver threw up his hands. “We have to talk over options at some point.”

“No. We actually don’t,” Dinah said tightly. “This is her kid and the options are whatever she wants them to be!”

“Considering she isn't taking about them or thinking ahead, then we have to!”

“Stop talking about her like she’s incapable. We don’t know what she’s decided. Maybe she’s been deciding all on her own. You don’t know! And you don’t need to know because it’s not your business!”

“This isn’t just any kid. Things that affect the safety of the world are our business or… Or what the hell are we even doing here?” Oliver finished hotly. “If she isn’t going to face the possibilities, then…”

“Oliver, I am warning you for the last time. I am this close to walking if you keep pushing--”

“No, he’s right,” Chloe cut in softly, suddenly feeling guilty, tears pricking her eyes. Damned hormones! She didn’t want Dinah to finish that sentence. She hated the idea that her pregnancy was something tearing at Oliver and Dinah’s relationship. Was this what had them at odds all this time? How much damage had it done to them, to this entire team? “I haven’t been thinking about the future. I haven’t been… I just keep going day to day, from fear to hope and…”

“There’s room for both, you know,” Martha said, moving to Chloe and shooting Oliver a rather angry look. “This doesn’t have to be all about fear.”

Oliver glanced down. “With all due respect, Mrs. Kent, I’m not just fear-mongering, here. I have a plan.”

“I wouldn’t call it a plan,” Clark said. “I’d call it a theory. And I’m not going to let you test it out on this baby or anywhere near Chloe.”

“It’s all we’ve got,” Victor broke in. “If the odds are that we can…”

“No!” Bart stepped between them. “Look, you are not ruining this party! We’ve been planning this all week. I made cake!”

“Really good cake,” Clark said, moving to stand beside Bart.

“Hey, thanks, Man. I thought the pudding layer was too much at first, but…”

“Dear God, Bart, could you focus?” Dinah moved to stand with them. “You might have decided on fear, but we have decided on hope. That’s right. We’re Team Hope.”

“Stop acting like I’m the enemy, here.” Oliver took a deep breath. “Look, my plan is all about hope. It’s about survival.”

“See, that right there,” Bart began, “not a very hopeful word. Now could you just let us finish our stupid party games? Because we…”

“No!”

Everyone turned to Chloe as she stood… not quickly or anything. She had to lean on the table and push herself up. And even that didn’t work because she found Clark at her side, pulling her up.

“No,” she said a little more quietly as she waved Clark away. “Whatever this was,” she gestured to the presents and cake, “it’s pretty much over now.” She turned to Oliver and Victor, both looking shifty, but defiant. “You said you have some kind of plan?”

Victor moved to her, nodding. “Clark’s right, though. It’s not a plan. It’s more of a theory.”

“Whatever it is, considering it involves me, I think I deserve to know about it.” She turned away from Clark and to the rest of… Team Hope. “What exactly have you all been discussing?”

Martha moved to her. “Chloe, please don’t think we’re shutting you out. This is… Well, it’s not something we wanted to upset you with in your condition,” she speared Oliver and Victor with a glance, “especially since we all agreed this could wait another week, at least.”

“Since my condition seems to be the crux of the problem, maybe we should have this talk while I still have it,” she sneered, then immediately turned weepy at the look on Martha’s face. “I didn’t mean that.” She sniffled. “I mean, I did. But I didn’t want to be such a bitch about it.”

“Oh, Sweetie!” Martha pulled her in. “Of course you weren’t.”

Dinah rushed to her as well. “I think you just need to put your feet up. Damn it, Bart, get her some more cake!”

“I don’t want cake,” Chloe sobbed, annoyed at her damned hormones ruining her moment of resolve. “I want you all to stop leaving me out.”

“Trust me,” Oliver said. “No one is leaving you…”

“Give me a break! Are you saying there are no secrets here?”

Oliver drew back. “So you figured it out?”

“I’d have had to be an idiot not to.”

“Look, it was just to keep you near. I figured you needed your own space, but we couldn’t let you just move across town! Just be glad Clark didn’t get his way or you’d be living here.”

“Wait a sec…” Chloe narrowed her eyes at him. “What are you talking about?”

Oliver stared at her, looking a bit cagey. “Well… What are you talking about?”

She was talking about Davis, but it looked like Oliver was talking about something else entirely. And she had an inkling what. “Wasn’t that convenient,” she drawled as it finally sunk in, “me looking for a place in my budget and finding one just next door?”

“I think Martha’s right,” Oliver said. “We should talk about this later.”

“Don’t bother putting this off. You know I could find out. I’ve been writing my checks to Murphy Holdings, LLC. If I were to look into their parent company, would it be Queen Industries?”

“Fine. I bought all the surrounding buildings pretty much the minute we settled in here,” Oliver sank into a chair. “I didn’t like the idea of having no control over who’s near us.”

“Including me?”

“Especially you, Chloe, especially right now. I know it’s not easy to face, but this kid could come with surprises and none of us wanted you somewhere far away if or when they popped up.”

“You could have said that. You could have talked to me.” She turned to Clark, who looked away. “You once told me I knew everything I needed to know. But do I really?”

Clark met her eyes reluctantly. “I just wanted you safe. I didn’t want you upset in your…”

“Yes, my condition,” Chloe broke in, sneering, “the source of all the hope and fear. You’ve all been planning and plotting and arguing over what to do about poor, pregnant, fragile me.”

Dinah gripped her hand. “Chloe, I think you deserve to know everything. I always have, but don’t let them influence you toward their paranoid…”

“And what about your little party?” Oliver cut in. “Isn’t that influencing her toward closing her eyes to how dangerous this thing could be?”

“And how do you know that?” It was Martha now. “We could have treated Clark that way, Jonathan and I. Clark could have been dangerous, too, in the wrong hands, but he was raised by us and we loved him and we taught him what's right so he would do what’s right. Doesn't this thing—as you call him—deserve that chance?”

“This plan is all about that chance,” Oliver said angrily, “that chance that this could be a kid with a normal life.”

Chloe suddenly needed to know. If there was a possibility… “You tell me about this plan.”

Victor stepped forward. “It’s not exactly…”

“This theory, then.”

Victor looked to Oliver, who nodded. He took a deep breath and looked around. “As some of you know, we have been collecting black Kryptonite. We don’t have as large a sample as what was used on Davis, but we are working on melting it together and…”

“And using it without knowing what it will even do,” Clark said mutinously. “Don’t forget that part.”

Oliver glared at him. “You were the one who was ready to use it on Davis and…”

“And I didn’t, in the end. I started to have my doubts about it.”

“Chloe did use it. And it worked.”

“It doesn’t always work cleanly. We got lucky with Davis.”

“That was more than luck. If we have it on hand at the birth…”

“I don’t want it near him,” Clark insisted.

“We are just going to separate the beast part.”

“And what if there is no beast part?” Clark shook his head. “Davis Bloome was created in a lab, not a womb. We don’t know that this will work and I don’t want it near him. Lex was exposed to it years ago and it split him apart like… like Jekyll and Hyde. If he hadn’t been put back together, then…”

“Then our lives would have been easier,” Oliver finished.

“But what about his life?” Clark shook his head. “He’d have lived it as an incomplete person, even if his better half had survived.”

“Clark’s right.” They all turned to the doorway as John Jones strode in. “Human and otherwise, we all need to live with balance. This child… He is not necessarily so black and white. There are qualities from both parents in him. To separate what might be termed as good and bad… Every good human quality is in balance with a necessary evil.”

Oliver rolled his eyes. “Let’s not get philosophical, Jones. This isn’t the time.”

“This is exactly the time. We’re talking about someone’s existence. Every deadly sin has a virtue to balance it. Balance it and not erase it. You take away his anger, leave him with only trust and patience, and he could end up weak and defenseless. This is not a world for that kind of child.”

Martha moved to Jones. “Bad shift?”

He patted her hand on his shoulder. “You don’t want to know.”

“If you need to talk…”

“Not tonight. Maybe later.” John moved to Chloe. “It’s a little tense in here.”

Bart snorted. “If by a little you mean a lot, then sure.”

Jones ignored him, keeping his eyes on Chloe. “I’ve read him before. He was just vague then, instinctual, feeding off only you, reacting to you. He might be close, now, to forming his own ideas, thoughts. I could read him if you just give me the word.”

Chloe wasn’t sure she wanted to. Because she knew something no one else did, save Clark. She’d shown strength beyond her abilities, enough to hurt Clark, even as he claimed it didn’t hurt. Maybe Oliver and Victor were right to feel nothing but fear of this child. Then again, didn’t she need to know? Whatever was going on inside her, she had to stop running from it. She placed his hand on her belly. “Tell me what he’s thinking.”

John nodded and closed his eyes, then squeezed them shut as if in pain.

“What? Tell me!” she cried.

“I can’t…” He stumbled back, clutching his head.

“John!” She turned to Clark. “This has happened before. It’s always with me.”

Jones shook his head. “Not always.”

“Almost always,” Chloe breathed, backing away from him as Emil moved in.

“What’s going on here?” He looked around the room. “So you decided to have the shower?”

“No. Apparently, we decided to have a fight,” Dinah said angrily, “and ruin the shower.”

Emil glanced at John. “Is he alright?”

“Just a headache,” Jones grunted. “I’ll be okay.”

“I wish you’d let me look at you,” Emil sighed, before turning to Chloe. “I… uh… I didn’t actually get you a present yet. I promise I will.”

“I’m sure I have plenty,” Chloe said hurriedly. “Could you just look at John?”

“I’m fine,” Jones insisted. “This isn’t in your wheelhouse. Victor’s working on it. It doesn’t hurt much. It’s just hard to concentrate.”

Chloe gripped Emil’s arm. “It happens around me.”

“Not necessarily,” Jones said, waving Emil off and turning to Chloe. “I told you before. It’s happened other times.”

“You can all just stop,” Chloe shook her head, “stop trying to gloss everything over and make me feel better. There’s more to this kid. Clark…”

Clark moved to her. “Chloe, don’t--”

“Okay, just calm down.” Victor stepped in the middle, facing Chloe. “Look, I know we’re all here discussing the risks, but Jones isn’t lying. This has happened a few other times. I’ve been trying to find the source of interference myself, but every time, it seems to be coming from inside him, like some kind of low-frequency buzz. It could be waves from underground power lines or the path of a satellite.”

“And it doesn’t hurt,” Jones repeated. “Worse comes to worst, I check in via headset.”

“We’re already working on another base,” Victor put in.

“It’s not like I need my powers here, anyway.” John gripped her arm comfortingly. “Chloe, there really is no reason to worry.”

Chloe stared at him, then nodded, though she didn’t relax much. “Well, maybe not about this.” She turned to Clark. “Oliver and Victor aren’t wrong, you know. This is not just any kid.”

“Chloe, please don’t,” Clark said again.

“No. I’m sick of keeping everything inside and just blindly hoping for the best. I hurt Clark,” she burst out, “several times now.”

“You barely even…”

“I pushed him into the wall. I scratched his arm, his back, his…”

“She’s exaggerating. She hardly broke skin.” He turned to Victor. “As for the wall, I might have over-corrected, like I said. I mean, she pushed, but that doesn’t mean…”

“There was another time, my eyes,” Chloe swiped at those eyes now, annoyed to find her damned hormones making her leak again, “they glowed red like… Well, they didn’t glow. They filled just like Davis’ eyes when…”

“You weren’t going to tell us any of this?” Oliver gaped at Chloe.

“It was my idea,” Clark said, stepping in front of Chloe. “She wanted to talk to Emil, but I wouldn’t let her.”

Oliver pointed at Clark. “Keeping these kind of secrets is not what’s best for the team.”

“That’s pretty rich coming from you,” Chloe said, drying up. “But I guess keeping secrets from me is fine.”

“I’m on your side, Chloe,” Oliver insisted. “Nothing has been kept from you that you needed to know.”

“That’s pretty debatable,” Dinah snorted.

“Dinah!”

“No. She's right.” Dinah rolled her eyes. “It’s not like she’ll shatter into a million pieces. I’ve been saying all along that she needs to know.”

“While you’re sitting here organizing parties to distract her from what she needs to face?” Oliver sneered. “Now, more than ever, we need to consider the options. If she hurt Clark, then whatever is inside her…”

“But it doesn’t mean anything,” Clark said hotly. “You know, I have abilities, too, but I learned to contain them and control them. I’m going to be there to teach him, which is a hell of a lot more than I had, finding my way!”

“But there wouldn’t be anything to contain if we can separate the man from the beast,” Oliver countered.

Emil lifted a hand. “Now, wait a minute. We’ve discussed the Black K, but I didn’t think you two were seriously considering it as a viable option. We don’t know the effects.”

“Thank God someone is speaking sense,” Clark barked. “He deserves to grow up as he is, a chance to decide for himself. And that’s if he’s even dangerous at all!”

“Is this suddenly your decision alone?” Oliver folded his arms and held his ground. “Last I checked, this was a team.”

“If this is a team decision,” Clark sneered, “then it’s a landslide against you and Victor.”

Dinah raised her hand. “No, it’s not.”

Oliver turned to her, sighing. “Finally. Thank you, Dinah. I knew you’d…”

“No. Both of you can shut up. This is not a team decision or being put to any kind of vote. There is only one vote in this and that vote is Chloe’s.” She turned to Chloe, waiting. “And I support you in whatever it is,” she prodded.

“No one is discounting Chloe’s vote,” Victor said tiredly. “Hell, no one’s even taking a vote right now. We’re just laying it out, options.” He turned to Chloe as well. “And it is your decision.”

Everyone was staring at her now. For what seemed like an hour.

Martha broke the silence first. “What do you want, Chloe?”

Chloe stared at all of them, then shook her head. “I want to go home and go to sleep.” She turned away, then just as quickly turned back. “Before I do that, I want to know one more thing. And I want you all to think carefully before you answer.”

There was silence, waiting.

“What’s on the fourth floor?”

They all looked away. Only Clark held her stare, but he wasn’t answering.

“The fact is,” she went on, “there’s another person who might deserve a vote in all of this. Now, I told everything. What about all of you?”

There was still silence.

“Are you trying to think of some excuse? Do you think I haven’t figured it out?”

Dinah sighed. “We have Davis. For the record, I thought you should know from the start.”

“Not enough to tell me, apparently.”

Dinah nodded sadly and sank back toward Martha, who rubbed her arm and glanced apologetically at Chloe.

“We were only keeping him to be sure he was rehabilitated.” Victor, now. “I know he had extenuating circumstances, but his methods of restraining the beast weren’t something we agreed with. Believe me, turning him over to the law would have meant prison and no hope of release or rehab… or worse.”

“Meaning?” Chloe prodded.

“I just think, after certain events,” Oliver clarified, “he might have been turned over to some agency or other. I heard the government is funding tests on meta-humans and whatever company they're using... Well, their testing practices might be less than humane. Things are pretty hush-hush and even my best guys can’t get me intel, but… Look, he’s better off with us. He’s been seeing a therapist.”

“You mean Sarah,” she corrected.

“That’s technically between him and her, but yes.”

Bart piped up. “And I’ve been giving him good meals and DVRing stuff for him and… Look, he’s fine.”

“I didn’t think he wasn’t, really.” She knew for a fact he was… compared to what he could be. She didn’t tell them about the radio, wanting just one thing she could keep from them. “None of that explains why this was kept from me. Was it all just about protecting poor, fragile, pregnant me or was there more?”

“Chloe, what are you asking?”

“I don’t know anymore,” she cried, swiping angrily at her constantly-leaking eyes. “I mean, why are you even bothering with him when I’m the real danger?”

“We don’t think you’re dangerous,” Bart said. “We trust you.” He looked around. “Come on, you guys, this is no reason to let cake go to waste. Complicated pregnancy? Sure. There’s fear, there’s hope. I personally think there’s more hope than fear and that all this drama can wait. Chloe, this wasn’t how today was supposed to go. Don’t let this ruin everything.”

“Everything’s been ruined from the start.”

“Look, this is just a disagreement. We’ll work it out. It’s your decision no matter what and you have a whole month to decide.” He moved to Chloe. “You haven’t even opened one present.”

“I’m not in the mood.” Chloe pulled away.

Bart tugged at her arm. “Look, we won’t even make you play games. Just straight up presents and cake from here on out.”

“Bart, I don’t want to,” she said, getting more agitated.

He ignored her protests and pulled her to the pile of boxes and bags. “Oliver and Victor might have spoiled theirs, but there are a few surprises.”

“Bart, stop!”

“Some are just for Mama.”

“Just let me go!”

She swore, swore at the time, that she just pulled her arm away. But that’s not how it ended up. Bart landed across the room, denting the aluminum kitchen window and slumping to the floor in a heap.

And she ran.

********************

“Chloe? Bart’s fine. He wanted me to tell you that. Actually, he wanted me to tell you he’s doing elevator bits, but…”

She turned away from her locked bedroom door, but Dinah’s voice carried through it.

“He wrapped you up most of the cake. Wouldn’t let anyone else touch it till he had your portion. He doesn’t blame you. We know you didn’t mean it. Clark was explaining it to us and we think you just felt threatened even if…”

She put her pillow over her head and let the voice muffle until there was silence, before waking up a little choked and pulling the pillow away while another voice came through her door.

“…and we understand the position you’re in is difficult.” It was Oliver now. “I don’t want you to feel pressured in any direction. Like Bart said, there’s more than a month left. I just think you should consider the options before… before things get down to the wire. That’s all.”

She pulled the covers higher and waited for him to leave. He eventually did. She drifted off a little, then, sinking into that recurring dream. It hadn’t been around for some time now, but it flashed through her mind now with her fitful snatches of sleep, distorted now, but with the details still there. Running from Clark. Faceless baby. Running from Clark. Clark calling her name…

“Chloe?”

He was calling her name. She sat up and stared at the door as the door knob rattled. She knew he could turn it and break the lock if he chose. She knew he wouldn’t, though. And he didn’t.

“It doesn’t mean anything, not about you and not about this baby. You got upset and overreacted. Everything’s fine. Nothing has changed.”

She stood and moved to the door, ready to open it and ask Clark who he was trying to fool here?

“Even Oliver and Victor ag… Well, they mostly agree this doesn’t need to be decided on right this second. No one is afraid of you. No one thinks any less of…”

She placed her hand on the door and he stopped, almost as if he could see her there. He could, she realized, staring at the door and knowing he was staring right through to her.

She imagined his eyes, steady and pleading. “Chloe, Bart was right. There’s way more hope than fear.”

She backed away, back to bed, huddled back under the covers. “Just go, Clark,” she whispered, knowing he would hear.

“I just want you to know…”

“I’ve heard it all,” she said softly. “Everything’s perfect, apparently.”

“I never said… Chloe, I just want you to feel…”

“What I feel?!” She sat up now, shouting at the door. “Between every damned one of you, you control what I eat, where I live, and what I know. Maybe I can have one night to decide what I feel!”

There was silence on the other side, then shuffling.

Everyone else had decided what they feel. Maybe she deserved to figure it out for herself. It was her vote, as Dinah said. Unless and until this kid was eighteen, her vote was the only vote.

God! Even that made her feel like weeping, imagining this faceless boy, packing for college. Weeping because she wasn’t even sure if he could have that. Would he be allowed something like college? High school? Grade school? Maybe he would be locked in that fourth floor, like Davis… or with Davis.

Then again, maybe he should be locked up. She could hear the beeping now.

Of course, that was actual beeping… coming from her nightstand. She pulled out the radio and stared at it for a moment before turning the volume up.

“…pick up. Come on, Chloe.”

She didn’t.

“I know something’s going on. I heard commotion downstairs.”

She still didn’t.

“Bart brought up cake, but he wouldn’t answer my questions… or look at me. Just tell me what’s going on.”

She wasn’t sure she wanted to. She’d told him enough. Chances were that he’d be on the same team as Oliver and Victor. Team Fear. Then again, was that any better than Team Hope?

She still didn’t know what team she was on, which was pathetic, considering this was her child. Then again, it wasn’t just her child. She stared at the radio, almost hit the button before his voice came through.

“Don’t make me come down there,” she heard with a slight nervous laugh. “Chloe, I know you’re there.”

She hit it, then. “They know. I told them everything," she said tiredly. "Not about the radios, obviously, or we wouldn't be talking, but everything else.”

“And?”

“I hurt Bart.”

“He did look like he was limping a little.”

“I didn’t mean to.”

“I know you didn’t. It’s what It does. It lashes out.”

“Everyone keeps knocking on my door, trying to make me feel better and… I can’t do it. Then again, there’s this fail-safe idea they have and I can’t do that, either.”

“What’s the idea?”

“It’s… It’s just too complicated to explain.”

“Then maybe you should explain on the way.”

“The way where?”

“Anywhere else.”

She turned. That hadn’t come from the radio. It had come from behind her bedroom door. She tore it open to find Davis there, his face grim.

“How did you get out?”

“Never mind that. We’re leaving,” he said bluntly.

She took a deep breath and nodded. She wasn’t even surprised. And she wasn’t going to argue. She knew it would come down to this, in the end.


TBC

Well, that went downhill quickly. :(

It's Only Fair

Author: Apeygirl
Requester: Bkwurm1
The prompt: “Chloe/Clark, Set during season 6, at the end of Nemesis when Lex and Clark emerge from the collapsed tunnel, Chloe doesn't know what comes over her, but it's Dark Thursday all over again - though this time, she can't blame it on the world almost ending.”
Title of the work: It’s Only Fair
Pairing: Chlark
Type of fill: Fic
Rating: PG-13 (that’s new for me)
Length: 5,273

Notes: An alternate ending to “Nemesis.” For the purposes of this fic, I’m going to ignore that Chloe/Jimmy are back together after their first break-up (of many) because… I mean. it’s hard to help dealing with Lana in this. I just don’t want to deal too much with Jimmy, too. *whine, wobbly lip, doe eyes*

Summary: Chloe plants a kiss on Clark… again. This time, he’s not letting her off so easy.



Clark stared up at the clouds, not even hearing the explosion as much as feeling it beneath him and wondering if he was staring up at the heavens in a way that was permanent. If it was heaven, maybe he’d earned it after being trapped in a sort of powerless purgatory with the man who was once his best friend. Lex was now his worst enemy. And why?

The answer, as always, was Lana. Lana had been the answer to everything since he could remember looking for answers, for goals, for reasons to do anything, be anything, put on a clean shirt and comb his hair. 

Lex had her now, even in the eyes of the law. And that couldn’t be forgiven, except…

Did you really think I was gonna let you die alone down here, Clark? Guess you never knew me at all.

He blinked up at the sky. He wasn’t dying. He was healing even now. And that was due, in large part, to Lex coming back for him. He pushed himself up as he felt his strength returning, his wounds closing where the late afternoon sun touched them, started to look to his side, now worried that Lex hadn’t somehow made it out. But he saw him through the smoke. A paramedic moved to him and Clark pointed him to his right silently, hoping he’d move on to Lex instead. He turned away only to find Lana staring at him.

She moved to him quickly, her hand going to the bandage on his arm, now doing nothing but sit there constricting him. He gripped her hand, ready to push it away. It belonged to Lex, after all. She’d married him. But he gripped it selfishly for just a second. It was hard to accept, after all, having wanted her for so long, but she was no longer his and hadn’t been for some time. 

Her hand slipped out of his and he almost didn’t need to turn to see why. 

Lex.

Lex had saved him down there. Before Clark had used what was left of his strength to hoist them both out of that hatch, Lex had come back for him, trapped and weakened as he’d been. They’d never have gotten out if not for that.

He stared at the two of them, thinking maybe Lex deserved this, a hero’s welcome and a woman’s embrace. She’d married him. Maybe he was kidding himself that there was anything more to it.

Lex’s eyes met his and he turned sharply away, figuring he’d have to find a way to get past the police and paramedics and Chloe… Chloe?

She was striding toward him through the wind and smoke, her brows drawn together, her hair mussed in the wind, and her eyes intent upon his. She probably had all kinds of questions about what went on down there and he strode to her, ready to tell her that they could wait till later when she flew at him, one hand gripping his shoulder and the other curling around his neck until he found his lips against hers.

This wasn’t the first time this had happened and, like that other time, he wondered how someone so small could so easily pull him down. Then again, like last time, it wasn’t like he was putting up a fight.

Her lips clung to his as her hands moved, one slipping into his hair while the other almost surreptitiously crept under his bandage. She pulled away. “You’re not hurt, right?” She ripped at the fabric, stared at his bloodied, but unmarred arm, then her eyes moved to his lips again before she met them again.

“No,” he blearily heard them say, muffled against hers. Then he started to wonder why the hell he was even trying to talk when her lips moved, then opened.

He was supposed to be doing something, wasn’t he? He’d had some vague ideas about speeding away before the paramedics could discover he was perfectly fine a few moments before, but now there was something more important. That hero’s welcome. Didn’t he deserve this after this hellish day?

They’d been here before and he hadn’t had time to do more than stand there and be kissed. 

Not this time. 

He moved his hands to her sides and then downward, stopping at her hips, shaking just a little as he slipped them around to her back, barely even getting to consider where they might go next before her tongue slid between his lips and robbed him of all free will. He gripped her waistband, feeling a belt loop snap in his hands as she pressed against his chest… and not in the good way.

Suddenly, her lips were gone. So was the rest of her. 

“You’re okay. That’s all I wanted to…” She stumbled backwards. 

He failed to catch her, considering most of him was still stuck in that kiss.

Luckily, she caught herself, still walking backward. “So I have, you know, work to do. Like professionally and everything. Okay?”

He found himself nodding.

“Okay, then.” She pointed at him sharply. “You’re okay and that was just… all that was for and… and about.”

“But…”

“We’ll talk later,” she yelled over her shoulder as she ran back to that plain police car.

He turned around, dazed, then caught sight of Lex and Lana, staring at him, their expressions as dumbfounded as his must be. 

*******

He wasn’t sure what he was doing, returning to the scene two hours later. 

He’d gone home, showered off the dirt, the blood, that kiss… Well, as much as anyone could. He should be grateful no one was looking for that guy with no injuries. So why was he back here again, tempting them to remember? There were still police scattered around.

Maybe he was just hoping to get it all straight, the sequence of events. Sometimes he thought every moment since he emerged from those tunnels was some kind of fever dream. First Lana, slipping out of fingers, then Chloe, slipping into them… Her hands grasping him, her lips…

It had been over so quickly, he almost thought he’d imagined it. But he hadn’t… had he? 

He saw her now, some yards away, eyes on a blueprint, pacing among the last of the police cars. She’d hightailed it out of there so quickly before, he’d barely had time to say a word, once his lips had been freed, that is. He’d say something now, damn it.

“Chloe!”

She turned to him and, for half a second, he wondered if it would happen again. If she’d just run at him, grab him, pull him down and…

Chloe quickly turned away, striding ahead and pacing the dirty path with one eye on her blueprints and the other eye on some sort of blank space ahead. Neither of those eyes on him. Maybe that was just as well.

“I've X-rayed these tunnels over a dozen times,” he said, catching up to her. “They all just seem to lead to Reeves Dam.” So maybe they could talk about something besides Lex, just considering…

“Maybe so, but if Lex was willing to go up against Tomb Raider for them, I can't retire my reporter's notebook just yet.”

Or not.

Clark fell into step with her, knowing there were bigger things going on, almost ashamed at his single-mindedness, coming back out here for something as silly as a kiss that she was obviously not going to repeat or even talk about. It’s not like he hadn’t been here before. He’d once spent a significant amount of time trapped in another dimension without much more than the thought of a kiss from Chloe Sullivan to keep him going only to find, on returning, that it was just no big deal to her. Maybe this was the same.

“I still don't understand how you thought to come out here. Lex said no one knew about those tunnels, not even…”

“Lana?” Chloe cut in, stopping. 

Clark stopped, too. “She led search and rescue out here?”

Chloe silently confirmed. 

“I guess I had it all wrong. This whole time, I thought that Lex had forced her into that marriage, but now I don't think he did.” And maybe it was time to accept that. He’d already kidnapped her from her engagement party, then practically from her wedding. Neither had changed anything. From Lex’s point of view, maybe it was Clark who was the asshole here. 

“Don't give up on your hunch just yet, Clark,” Chloe said, cutting into his thoughts. “Lana knew about the other entrance to those tunnels the whole time, and it wasn't until she heard you were down there that she magically produced them.”

Clark frowned. “Lana was gonna let Lex die down there?” 

“I think the Luthor mansion has a lot more secrets than we realize.”

“Well, maybe we should let them stay there. I mean, Lana would have let Lex die,” he repeated. “Is that supposed to make me feel better?”

“I was only saying that maybe it wasn’t Lex she wanted to save.”

“I get that, but what am I supposed to do with that? Like I have some kind of shot here? I didn’t exactly want to go out of my way to save Lex, but I went down there. You said it yourself. I don’t get to choose who I save. You helped me save him, even after all he did to you. Am I supposed to give Lana a pass on that?”

Chloe sighed. “I don’t know what I’m saying. Maybe I just want you to feel better.”

“Is that what that kiss was about?”

Chloe fumbled her blueprint open. “You know, if we look more closely, I wonder if these tunnels have some special features. I mean, I hate to have this day be all pain and no gain.”

Clark stared at her. “So we’re not going to talk about it?”

“Is there a reason to?” She said, smiling blandly. “I mean, that was just me.” She smiled wider. “You know me.” She laughed. “World’s ending, grab a guy…”

“And how was that the world ending?”

“It wasn’t,” she said, still blandly, still smiling. “Look, I was just… overcome with relief.”

“But you’ve…”

“Obviously, planting one on you was a major overreaction. But, you know, I’ve done this before.”

“That’s kind of what I was going to say.”

“I know. It’s like this pattern with me. I’m sorry it makes you so uncomfortable.” 

“I never said…”

“It actually has nothing to do with you.” She stared at her blueprints again. “Just me and… adrenaline and… and this thing we used to have.”

“Used to…”

“It’s actually funny, when you think about it. But it’s just a blip. It’s not like I’m trying to go anywhere. As you know, Jimmy and I are considering a reconnection and I’m very excited about it,” she said, eyes still glued to those blueprints. “So I think it’s best we just forget this happened.” She looked up and smiled. 

He didn’t. He was staring at those blue prints and a few familiar words scrawled in the corner. “Is this a speech? I mean, did you write that down?”

Her eyes widened and she quickly started to close them, but he grabbed them before she could, scanning the untidy scrawl in the corner. Just a blip… obvious pattern… nothing to do with you…

She snatched them back, lips tight. “Okay. It’s getting dark. I think I need to look these over back at The Planet.”

“Chloe…”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” she cut in, staring down as she folded them again. “It happened. It was stupid. Just because I wrote a few notes doesn’t mean…” She met his eyes. “Can you please just let it go?” 

Clark stepped back, seeing the naked pain in her eyes. “Is that what you want?”

She stared at him for a long moment before speaking. “That’s what I want.”

He stepped back further, nodding. “I should get home.”

She nodded as well. “Like I said, I should get back to The Planet and look at these under some actual light.” She forced a smile and moved away.

He started away as well, a bit dazed. Why had he come here, anyway? To get shot down again?

“Clark?”

He turned back, saw her stopped at her car. “I promise it won’t happen again.”

************

I promise it won’t happen again.

He threw a tennis ball at his ceiling, catching it over and over as the words repeated in his head. He should be relieved. Every time Chloe did this, she managed to take it back, practically in the next moment. 

When she said it was a pattern with her, speech or not, she was right. She was always there, like some road not traveled, and every time he thought about what it would be like to explore that road, there she was, saying they were better as friends, that she wasn’t expecting them to hook up, that it was just a blip, that it wouldn’t happen again…

He caught the ball and sat up, still bothered by that more than anything. This thing between him and Chloe, whatever either of them might call it, the one thing it wasn’t was finished. For her to just make that decision, not even giving him a vote or even the chance to talk about it, made him feel cheated. Then again, hadn’t she done that before? Pretty much every other time? He just had to sit there, getting kissed, then getting brushed off almost immediately after.

Damn it, maybe it was for the best if it didn’t happen again. She was almost more confusing than Lana. Scratch that. No one would ever be as confusing as Lana, dangling herself in front of him while dating Lex, engaged to Lex, now married to Lex. He was finished taking the bait. Right now, that bait didn’t even seem very tempting. Lana would have let Lex die down there, he reminded himself. It bothered him, made him wonder who he’d been chasing all these years. Deep down, he was always thought, on an ethical level, that he and Lana were alike.

He tossed the ball away, towards the wide window. He barely knew how far. Maybe he’d never find it again. Maybe that was for the best, too. He was sick of that ball. He was sick of this year, sick of himself, sitting here and brooding alone… Well, except for when Chloe was here trying to cheer him out of it. When he wasn’t brooding, he was wearing himself out, chasing after Lex’s suspicious doings or whatever else was terrorizing the tri-state area, always feeling like he alone could do every damned thing… Well, with Chloe always burning the midnight oil beside him or pushing him to stop moping and do something!

He stood, then, the realization hitting him with a resounding beep. He frowned and looked around. It was actually his phone that beeped. But the realization was still there. Why was he sitting around, moping over a girl who made him miserable when he could be moping over a girl who made him… well, better? 

He sat down hard, reminding himself that it all boiled down to the same thing. What had he been doing most of tonight if not moping over Chloe? She didn’t want him. She wanted Jimmy. He would be angry at that, if he didn’t kind of get the appeal. Wasn’t that half of what made Lana, at least the idea of Lana if not the reality, so tantalizing? Lana and Jimmy, they were normal. They were outside the secret world he and Chloe seemed to inhabit every night and most days. Maybe she wanted normal. Maybe she wanted Jimmy. Either way, she didn’t want him. She’d made that clear. Again.

He grumbled and reached for his phone. He just hoped it would turn on this time. It had powered down in the tunnels, barely even taking a charge after draining itself so heavily searching for a signal where there was none to be had. When It finally powered on, he saw another reason for the drainage: at least eleven voicemails. And all from one number. Chloe’s number.

He didn’t even want to listen, thinking they’d contain more explanations of that kiss that was never going to happen again. But they were all from earlier today. He picked the first.

Hi, Clark. Just making sure you got down there okay. I thought you might call me when you were in, but… Okay. Maybe you’re not in yet. Forget I left this.

Okay, so the word is there’s been a little explosion down there but, considering you’re… well, you, then I could just assume you’re okay, but since you’re not answering… Clark, just call me back. Please?

Alright. I’m basically assuming you’re not okay at this point, but Lana has these blueprints and, if I have to, I’m coming in after you. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. This jacket is new.

As he listened, he could feel something growing inside him, something like hope. By the time he got to the last one, there was something else: determination.

**************

He found her in The Planet’s basement, sitting at her desk and staring into a cup of coffee. “Hey, we have a situation,” he said, pulling her up without preamble.

“What? Where are we going?”

“Somewhere we can talk.” He found a supply closet and pulled her in after him. Actually, he wanted to sling her over his shoulder and speed back to the barn, but he wasn’t sure how she would react to him going that far, let alone what was about to happen.

“Is it the tunnels?” she asked breathlessly. “Did you go back and find something?”

“No, it’s this,” he said, shutting the door and pulling her against him, meeting her lips as she let out a muffled squeak. He kept a hand firmly at her back, but she wasn’t pulling away. In fact, she’d gone a bit limp. He angled his head to the side, pressing more firmly and wondering how long he could keep this up before she either pushed him away or wound her arms around his neck. Either way, he came here to do more than kiss, though kissing would be featured heavily, at least until they were even. After that… who knew? He gripped her arms and held her firmly away. “That’s for the records room,” he said levelly.

Her eyes fluttered open. “What?” she asked, looking dazed.

“Remember that time in sophomore year? In the hospital? You just grabbed me and kissed me.”

Her eyes cleared and she stepped away, backing toward the shelves of paper and staple boxes. “Well, that was only so…”

“No. I’m sure you had a reason. You always have a reason or an excuse. Well, so do I,” he said firmly. “And mine is making things fair.”

She squinted at him. “Well, you can’t just grab someone and…”

“Why not? You do it all the time.” He threw up his hands. “And the thing that’s really unfair about it is you’re always the one who gets to decide where it goes, which is always nowhere. Doesn’t even matter how I might feel.”

“Let me get this straight,” she took a deep breath, “are you trying to imply that I have somehow played with your feelings?”

“You keep kissing me and then acting like it didn’t happen.”

“I keep… That’s ridiculous!” Chloe scoffed. “Three times is not exactly…”

“Five after today. But it’s actually seven,” he said levelly, “but there was amnesia involved for a couple, so I’m going to let those two slide.”

“Well, how generous of you,” she sneered. 

“How generous of you,” he threw back at her, “always deciding for the both of us.”

“Maybe I’m just saving you the trouble.”

“Maybe I don’t want to be saved. Here’s the thing…” He grabbed her again. This time, she did push against him, but seemed to decide pretty quickly that it wouldn’t do much good. She gripped his lapels instead, either holding herself up or holding him down to her. He really hoped it was the latter. The more he kissed Chloe, the more he wondered why he hadn’t been doing it all along. Every time she kissed him, he’d been so surprised it was even happening before it was over. Well, maybe not that time on the red K. But his memories of that were still a bit fuzzy. This was definitely bringing them back, especially when his tongue touched the seam of her lips and they opened on a little gasp.

He barely got to taste the coffee just inside her lips before she twisted her head away. “You need to stop doing that,” she said, pushing at his chest. 

He let her go this time. “That’s for senior year,” he said firmly.

“Okay. I’m sensing a pattern here.” She shook her head. “Senior year? I didn’t…”

“Show up in my loft wearing my jersey and nothing else?”

“Okay, maybe I did, but that doesn’t count. I was drugged on meteorade.”

“I’m counting it,” he said with a shrug.

She stared at him mutinously. “If you’re going to delving into ancient history, then let’s go into your side of senior year. You’re the one who told me, pretty much the next day, that you don’t even find me attractive.”

“What? I never said…”

“Maybe not in so many words, but between the lines. You said, and I almost quote, ‘I don’t feel that way about you, at least not right now.’” She jabbed a finger at him. “And those stupid words and the ‘maybe someday’ of it all kept me hooked for the last two years, at least. But you are not doing this to me. Especially not now. I have other options, you know.”

His eyes narrowed. “You mean Jimmy?”

“Yes. He’s…”

“He’s wrong for you.”

“And who's to say that you're right for me?” 

“I'm not even saying that I am, but we'll never know if we don't try. This question mark has been hanging over us since the beginning, since the first time you kissed me. Speaking of that...” He gripped her by the shoulders and, this time, she didn’t even try to pull away. She just stood there stiffly, lips closed tight, determined not to respond, which was no fun at all. He pulled away. “Eighth grade,” he said dully, stepping away.

“Where is this coming from?” she exploded. “Is this all because I kissed you?” She took a deep breath. “Okay. I get it. It’s just confused you. You’re vulnerable right now. I probably should have seen this coming.”

“What?”

She put up a hand. “This has been a tough year for you, Lana-wise, and it’s possible you are projecting some feelings onto me after that stupid kiss. And I understand that…”

“Now you’re deciding how I feel?”

“Clark, would we even be here if I hadn’t kissed you?”

“Probably not. But we are, so why can’t we just… be here? Why can’t we just see where this goes for once?”

“Because I know where this goes. It goes back to Lana.” 

“Not this time.”

“Clark, up until this afternoon, were you or were you not still crazy in love with Lana?”

“I don’t think you can call it ‘in love.’ Not when you see it clearly. I feel like I have been spending so much of my life wanting her, but when I had her, it wasn't any better. Because it's always so crowded with all the things I can't say.” He moved closer. “I don't trust her to react the way you did. I don't see her as someone who can be by my side the way you can. Chloe, I don’t even know how I would have survived these last years without you. Whenever I feel like giving up, you’re the one who’s there, making me try harder, be better.”

Her eyes softened, just a little, and she opened her mouth.

“And what about you,” he went on quickly. Damn it, he was getting somewhere and he wasn’t going to let her derail it again. “Look at everything you’ve gone through this last month. Do you really want to be with someone you can’t share any of that with? Jesus, Chloe! I actually think he’s a nice kid. But, compared to us, compared to what we’ve been through, that’s just what he is. A kid.”

“Jimmy’s… He’s been through some things, too,” she said, rather weakly. “You know, I met him again on Dark Thursday and he looked pretty roughed up.”

“Yeah, we can’t forget Dark Thursday.” Clark moved to her, but she put a hand up. 

“Clark, this isn’t fair.”

He moved closer, pressing his chest against her hand. “That’s exactly what I’ve been trying to fix,” he said softly. He leaned down as that hand curled into his flannel and slid to his neck. This time, her lips softened under his, opened slightly and he didn’t waste the opportunity, tasting her this time. She tasted like coffee with hazelnut creamer. When his arms slid up her back and his hands delved into her hair, she melted against him, both her arms looping around his neck as he gathered her closer, lifting her off the floor. 

Her tongue met his tentatively, also briefly.

She twisted away. “Please don’t do this to me.”

Just like earlier, there was real pain in her eyes. He let her down. 

“You know, maybe I have been kind of impulsive with the kisses from time to time,” she said, moving away as soon as her feet touched the floor, her face and neck red. “But that’s exactly what it is. It was impulsive. It wasn’t calculated. I don’t even know what to call this. It’s like you’re punishing me.”

“Is that it feels like to you?” 

“Look, about Dark Thursday,” she said quickly. “I was afraid you were going to certain doom. Like I said…”

“Yeah. It was the end of the world and you weren’t expecting us to hook up,” he rattled off quickly, still hurt by her words. Punishing. “Did you write that one down, too?”

She glared at him. “It was the truth. I was done expecting anything from you by then, believe me.”

“And, just like now, it didn’t matter what I had to say about it.”

“You said ‘me neither.’”

“Only because you said it first. Then I didn’t get another word in, because you were standing there flirting with Jimmy!”

“What are you saying? That you were prepared to sweep me in your arms right then? Come on, Clark!”

“I don’t know what would have happened!” he burst out. “You shot me down! Just like you did after homecoming and just like you did today! You acted like it didn’t mean anything!”

“Because it didn’t! Today was just…. I don’t know. It was adrenaline, relief, and maybe some remnants of this whole confusing thing we used to have.”

“Used to. So you’re saying there’s nothing there now?”

She crossed her arms. “Not that I can see. No.”

“And what if I had proof, from your own lips?” He dug in his pocket.

“I think you and my lips are done for the day, thanks very…” She trailed off as her voice was replaced with her last voicemail.

Hey, Clark, it's me again. Where are you? I feel like your stalker ex-girlfriend, even though I was never your girlfriend. It was just an analogy -- a bad one. I'm sorry. This is awkward. Okay, call me. Bye.

Clark gestured to her. “Explain that.”

“Explain what?” Chloe scoffed loudly. “What does that prove?”

“Well… you said you felt like my stalker ex-girlfriend.”

“As a joke. I also said I was never your girlfriend. If anything, this is… well… whatever the opposite of proof is.”

“It wasn’t what you said. It was the way you said it.”

“Okay. You’ve made all your little arguments. Whatever this is,” she said, gesturing vaguely between them, “it’s done because…”

“It’s not done. I don’t think it’ll ever be done between us, Chloe.” 

“There is nothing between us.”

“So you have no feelings for me?”

“Clark, there’s no point in…”

“Do you still have feelings for me?”

“We have so many more important things to focus on.”

“It’s a simple question, Chloe. It’s a yes or a no.”

She stared at him, then away. “Look, it’s been a long day and I’m sure you’re exhausted after the green…” 

“Just say no.”

“Clark, will you just step back and look at this objectively? Everything was fine up till now. It still could be. But you’re taking this stupid, little, inconsequential kiss and turning it into something…”

“Possible? Real?” He stepped closer. “You still haven’t said no.”

“I’m getting there.” She lifted her eyes to his. “Look at everything we’ve done together, the difference we’ve made, the lives we’ve saved. Do you really want to risk that?”

He shook his head. “Do you really think that, if this didn’t work, that we’d stop doing any of that? Chloe, that’s not who we are.”

She stared at him, taking in a shaky breath. “Maybe that’s not a chance I’m willing to take.”

He stared at her, then nodded. “I guess that’s as good as a no.” He moved past her to the door, then stilled with his hand on the knob. “I’d say I’m sorry I asked, but I’m not. I mean, now I know for sure.”

She let out a watery laugh behind him. “How is that for sure?” He turned to find her swiping at her eyes. “I mean I said ‘maybe it’s not a chance…’” She shrugged and sniffled. “But if you’re going to give up that easily, then…”

“You’re killing me,” he groaned, moving to her quickly, crushing her lips to his. She pushed at him only to pull in a gasping breath before kissing him back hard. He lifted her against him, holding her there as he smiled against her lips. “By the way, that was for today. Now we’re even.” 

She pulled back, her arms still looped around his neck and her feet still dangling off the floor. “Didn’t you mention two more?”

“Well, you don’t remember them.”

“Yes, and you never saw fit to tell me, but we’ll talk about that later.” She sighed and played with his collar. “But the fact is you do remember them, so I’ll always feel kind of cheated. I’m not sure how to even up the injustice of it all.”

He huffed out a laugh and held her tighter. “So I should probably just keep kissing you indefinitely.” 

“It’s only fair,” she said, grinning against his lips.

THE END

My first story below an R. I didn’t know I had it in me!