Season 4, an expansion of "Bound"
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the WB and DC comics, not to me
A woman stood there with two little identical girls. Her eyes went wide at the sight of us standing so close together. “Oh, my,” she squeaked.
I instantly let go of Chloe, ducking behind her to hide my, shall we say, physical reaction to the feel of Chloe in my arms. Dad says it’s nothing to be embarrassed about, just a perfectly normal reaction to pretty girls, and it happens to all human guys. I guess it happens to Kryptonian guys too, although we also have to worry about setting girls on fire, which kind of complicates things a bit. Anyway, even though I knew it was a normal male response, I couldn’t stop my cheeks from turning about five different shades of crimson. I blush really easily. I hate that.
“It’s—it’s okay,” I stammered, still hiding behind Chloe. “Nothing happened. Really.”
Chloe sounded as embarrassed as I felt. “Right!” she echoed, holding her hands out. “Nothing was going on.”
The lady didn’t look convinced. In fact, she looked extremely disapproving, and I wanted to sink through the floor and disappear. Unfortunately, that’s not one of my abilities.
“I think we’ll just take the stairs,” she said, tilting her nose into the air.
“But nothing happened!” Chloe insisted.
The woman turned and marched away, the two little girls in tow.
Chloe watched her go, and I stood there behind her, feeling like a real dog. I had just been about to kiss my best friend. Bad, bad, bad move. What on earth was wrong with me? I knew perfectly well I didn’t have any romantic feelings for Chloe, and yet I had been seriously tempted to… to use her. Just like Lex used those women, according to the newspaper article this morning.
Chloe glanced back at me, then knelt down and looked at the opening for the elevator door. I stood there kind of stupidly, rubbing my lips, which were tingling.
“Clark,” she said thoughtfully. “Suppose the earring went down this crack?”
That was Chloe for you. You can take the girl out of the Torch office, but you can’t take the reporter out of the girl. A little thing like a barely averted kiss didn’t distract her for long.
I, on the other hand, was seriously distracted. It took me a minute to figure out what she was talking about. For a moment or two, I’d kind of forgotten the whole reason we were there in the first place. Once I remembered, I squinted a little bit, trying to get my vision under control. Ignoring the burning in my eyes, I forced myself to use my x-ray vision instead of my heat vision, even though my eyes were so hot I could practically feel them sizzling. I focused in on the bottom of the shaft, a long way down, and sure enough, there was the earring.
I couldn’t very well say, “Oh, yeah, you’re right, there it is.” So I did the next best thing. “If it fell through,” I said, “it’ll be at the bottom of the the shaft.”
She smiled her brightest Chloe-grin. “Let’s go check it out.”
Great. More time alone with Chloe. That was all I needed. I cast around for some excuse to duck out and take the stairs, but no good reason came to mind. What was I going to say, that I needed the exercise? I live on a farm, for crying out loud. Anyway, she’d already pressed the first floor button, and the doors slid closed, trapping me.
“Going down,” she said with an oddly provocative smile.
When she smiled, she was gorgeous. I’d always known she was pretty—as well as smart, driven, and a totally cool person—but that smile transformed pretty into radiant. In fact, that smile was a dangerous weapon, because it made me start to wonder exactly why I’d been so determined to remain nothing more than friends all this time. Maybe I had a little more romantic interest in Chloe than I’d ever admitted to myself. Or maybe not. How should I know what I felt? When it comes to girls, I’m definitely not the sharpest implement in the tool shed.
I backed away from her smile until I ran into the wall, then stood stiffly, trying not to make eye contact. Look away from the smile, I thought. For your own safety, do not look directly into the smile.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her smile fade, and she heaved an irritated sigh. “Look, Clark, I know you don’t find me attractive, but you don’t have to act like I have leprosy or something.”
I didn’t find her attractive? Since when? Was that before I’d been about to run my hands all over her body, or after? I swallowed noisily. “Uh, Chlo, I wouldn’t say I don’t find you attractive.”
“Please.” She rolled her eyes in a typical Chloe gesture. “You practically fell over your feet getting away from me just now.”
“Uh,” I said again. Ordinarily I’m comfortable with Chloe, and I can talk and think around her in a way I can’t always talk and think around other girls, but any ability I’d ever had to be articulate in her presence seemed to have totally fled the minute I’d touched her. I felt like if I moved, I’d fall over my feet. It was weird, like she was wearing a Kryptonite pendant or something. “There was. You know. Someone else here.” I nodded toward the closed door.
She lifted an eyebrow. “Like you weren’t already looking for an excuse to get away from me.”
That was so totally unfair that I managed to get a whole sentence out, although admittedly a short one. “I was not!”
Her other eyebrow went up. She reached out and pressed the “stop” button, and the elevator stopped between floors with an abrupt jolt. All of a sudden it occurred to me it might have been better if she’d continued to believe I found her revolting.
She studied me for a long moment, then took a step forward, and I cringed back against the wall. I know it doesn’t sound really manly, but I swear to God, cringed is exactly the right word. Just like when she’d climbed on top of me in my loft, I actually found the predatory gleam in her eyes kind of terrifying. Terrifying and… fascinating, all at the same time.
She took another step forward, and I stood there, trapped against the wall, feeling like a fox trapped by a hound. “So are you saying you liked being close to me?” she breathed.
I wouldn’t say I liked it, exactly. It scared the hell out of me. But she did smell awfully good. “Uh…” was the best comment I could come up with.
I seemed to be saying that a lot lately.
She stopped bare inches away from me, reached up, and threaded her fingers through the hair at the nape of my neck. I closed my eyes, because if I didn’t I was seriously afraid I’d set her on fire.
“Clark,” she whispered.I thought about backing away again, but since I was already pressed up against the wall, backing up meant I’d go right through the elevator wall. Which was unfortunately a real possibility, given my superhuman strength. I forced myself not to panic, made myself hold still. An involuntary shiver ran through me, but otherwise I didn’t move.
“Do you want to kiss me?” she asked softly.
That was an interesting question, and the answer was pretty obvious. Yeah, I wanted to kiss her a whole lot. It wasn’t just her smell, or the way her body felt against mine, either. It was a lot of stuff—the sweet stubbornness of her personality. The way she’d always been there for me. All the history we had between us. Our whole long friendship. But if I was going to be totally honest with myself, some of it was physical, too. Chloe was gorgeous, and she was sexy, and somehow I’d never really noticed till now. Or at least I’d never let myself admit it.
Besides, from a purely selfish perspective, I was damned tired of always being alone. Yeah, I know, my parents say every seventeen-year-old guy in the world feels that way. But very few of those other seventeen-year-olds are the last survivor of their species. I was, and not a moment went by that I wasn’t aware of it.
Even though I had some good friends, not to mention parents who loved me a whole lot despite my strangeness, in some ways I was really, truly, totally alone. Some nights I sat in my loft, feeling the loneliness press down on my shoulders like a terribly heavy weight. The constant angst of my relationship, or lack thereof, with Lana, didn’t help make me feel like I truly belonged on the planet. If anything, it just gave me one more thing to be depressed about.
Chloe, on the other hand, was a lot of fun. She had a way of making me laugh. A relationship with her would probably make me feel a lot less lonely and help take my mind off the dark thoughts that whirled around in my mind and drove me crazy some nights. I really wanted to believe there was someone in the world for me.
Maybe Chloe was the one for me. Or maybe not. I really didn’t have a clue.
She was beautiful, and I loved her as a friend, but was that enough? Could I kiss a woman, maybe do more with her, just because I found her attractive? Or would that make me just like Lex?
My parents raised me to respect women, to treat sex as an important bond between loving adults, rather than as casual recreation. If there was one person in the world I didn’t want to take as a role model in how I treated women, it was Lex, who’d apparently been picking up strange women, sleeping with them, and then taking care never to see them again. Forgetting they’d ever existed. That disturbed me. I never wanted to treat a woman as if she existed for my entertainment, as if she was less than a person.
Particularly not a woman who meant as much to me as Chloe did.
The problem was, if I said no at this point, Chloe was going to be hurt. And I really didn’t want to hurt her. I’ve wounded her before, I know, but I’ve never meant to. I absolutely hate seeing the look in her eyes when I hurt her.
Besides which, the word “no” would be an enormous lie. Because I did want to kiss her. A whole lot.
I finally managed to find my voice. “I’m not sure,” I said in a gravelly whisper.
She tilted her face up to mine. “So why don’t you try it and find out?”
I guess my self-control sucks, because when her lips got that close to mine, I didn’t seem to have a lot of say in the matter. I lowered my head and let my lips brush lightly, very lightly, over hers. It felt like a shower of sparks ran through me, starting at my mouth and going through my whole body, and I clamped my eyes shut again to make sure none of the sparks escaped somehow.
Chloe tasted as good as she smelled, and my arms went around her waist practically of their own accord. I yanked her against me, a little harder than I’d meant to, and she gasped in surprise, then giggled. Her giggle was cute, a bubbly sort of sound that didn’t match her serious reporter persona in the least.
“So,” she said in my ear. “What do you think? Want to do it again?”
Part of me wanted to do it again, for sure. If I kissed her, if I let our relationship take a step toward the physical, maybe I’d start to feel something for her besides friendship-love. Maybe things would get romantic between us. It could happen. It very well might happen, considering what a cool person Chloe was, and how much she already meant to me.
Then again, what if it didn’t? What if we dated for a while and then I discovered I could never feel that way about her? What if I found out I could never get over Lana? How much worse would Chloe be hurt then? What if she fell in love with me—and I had a suspicion she was halfway there already—but I just couldn’t love her back? Was it right to just jump into a relationship with her, in the hopes that eventually my feelings for her would grow deeper?
I remembered what I’d said to her after the infamous love potion incident. She’d asked how I felt, and I’d had no choice but to admit the truth… that I didn’t feel that way about her. At least not right then.
And if I was going to be totally honest with myself, that statement was still true. Yes, I’d finally noticed she was sexy, but being attracted to a girl wasn’t the same as being in love with her, was it? I could practically hear my dad’s voice in my head, saying sternly, “Clark, do you think it’s fair to her to lead her on when you don’t really feel that way about her?”
I realized Chloe was still in my arms, her head against my shoulder, and I wanted more than anything to lift her face to mine and kiss her again. Instead I unwrapped my arms from her waist and gently pushed her away.
Maybe at some point I’d figure out exactly what I felt. But in the meantime, I didn’t have the right to mire Chloe in the big mess that was my confusion and loneliness.
“Chloe,” I said softly. “I think we’d better find that earring.”
She lifted her head and looked up at me, and I saw the hurt in her hazel eyes, along with the understanding that was always, always there. That was the thing about Chloe… she always understood and accepted me, no matter what I did or how I behaved. I had a feeling she’d even accept me if she were to find out my secret. She'd be shocked, but I was pretty sure she wouldn't totally freak out, and she'd never tell. She might think longingly about the potential for SEX WITH ALIEN headlines, but she'd never really do that to me.
So who knew? It was possible that maybe she was the one for me. After all, what I'd always wanted was a girl I could trust, who'd accept me for what I was. Someone like Chloe, in fact.
But no matter how great she was, I just wasn’t sure what my feelings for Chloe were. And the one thing I did know was that it was wrong to lead her on, to drag her into a relationship, when I wasn’t sure how I felt.
“Okay,” she agreed, the single word filled with a wealth of meaning. I knew she understood my decision, understood at least some of the reasoning behind it, and accepted it, even if it hurt. Still looking into my eyes, she reached out, took my hand, and held it for a long moment.
At last she dropped my hand and pressed the button for the first floor, and the elevator gave a jerk, then started its descent. Neither of us said anything else. There really wasn’t anything else to say.
At least, I thought, we were still friends. And for now, that was enough.
Maybe someday we’d be more.
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