Season 5, post "Void"
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the WB and DC comics, not to me
I’ve never wanted anything as much in my life as I wanted that little vial of red kryptonite. I’d never really understood what a craving was until that moment, never understood how drug users could go on blindly stealing money, hurting their loved ones, and destroying their lives, just for a rush. But now, for the first time, I could completely sympathize with junkies, could totally understand how drugs took over their lives and stole their souls.
I wanted the red K with every cell in my body, so badly I shook with the need. I remembered the fiery heat and the overwhelming pleasure of the rush, and my throat went tight and dry. I couldn’t forget the way the drug had intensified everything I’d felt when Chloe touched me, either. I wanted to feel that way again, desired it more intensely than I’d ever desired anything.
My pulse thundered in my veins, and I felt so empty, so barren, so parched, that I thought I’d die. I honestly didn’t think I could live without the stuff.
Somewhere far beneath the sharp edge of the craving, I was vaguely aware of a deep feeling of shame. I was used to thinking of myself as strong, invulnerable, but suddenly I’d come face to face with the fact that I could be as weak as anyone else.
It wasn’t a pleasant realization.
Looking up, I saw Chloe watching me. I couldn’t hear a thing through the roaring in my ears, but I saw her lips move as she said my name. There was anxiety in her eyes, but beneath that, I saw a calm confidence in me, a certainty that I’d do the right thing. That I’d be strong enough to resist the temptation.
The look of respect and assurance in her eyes gave me a strength I didn’t know I’d possessed. I flung the syringe away from me, as hard as I could, and it shattered into a million pieces against the opposite wall of the room.
The redhead—Red—looked surprised, then her mouth curved. “Well,” she said softly. “I have to give you credit, Kal. You really are something. But there’s plenty more where that came from.”
To my everlasting shame, I felt a throb of desperate need deep inside me, the compelling desire to hunt down another syringe and inject the red K into my veins, so I could feel the blinding rush one more time. I pushed the need away and glared at her as defiantly as I could. I wanted to say something cutting, but my mouth was still too dry to speak. Chloe didn't have that problem, and she spoke for me.
“Leave him alone,” she said, taking two steps, so that she was positioned defensively right in front of me. She was practically bristling with anger, and I had a feeling I was about to see a catfight. I couldn’t get near Red because of her bracelet, but that wouldn’t stop Chloe, and neither would the fact that Red had henchmen who’d probably come running at any sound of a scuffle. Chloe looked too pissed to be cautious.
But before Chloe could do anything reckless, the door burst open, and twenty or so men in black stormed into the room, guns at the ready.
Red turned around, facing the men, and all of them came to a sudden stunned halt.
“Drop your weapons,” she said, and twenty guns clattered to the floor.
I swallowed hard, forcing words out through the dryness in my mouth. “Chloe,” I said urgently. “She has the ability to control men.”
“Geez.” Chloe glanced over her shoulder at me. “You have got to be kidding me. Another meteor freak?”
“Damn meteors,” Chloe grumbled. “Someone really needs to develop an antidote for this kind of thing.”
Red started to turn back toward us, but Chloe bounced forward, clasped her hands together, and slammed her intertwined fists down on Red’s head. The redhead collapsed to the floor, senseless, and the guys in black all blinked like they were coming out of a dream, then bent and picked up their guns.
Chloe turned back to me and stretched out her hand. “Come on, Clark. Let’s get you out of here.”
I hesitated for a long moment, then put my hand in hers... and let her lead me out of danger.
"I can’t believe you called Lex.”
I stalked angrily back and forth in my loft in the barn that evening, while Chloe sat on the red cushions of my couch. She gave a long-suffering sigh.
“I told you, Clark, I didn’t have a lot of choice in the matter. The cops weren’t going to get to you before dinnertime, and by then you would have been in serious trouble. Sometimes it’s good to know people who are willing to bend the law a bit. You should be grateful Lex was willing to send over some of the security guys from LuthorCorp.”
"Red knows all about me, Chloe. What if Lex uses her to get information on me?"
Chloe sighed. "That possibility occurred to me, Clark. I think it's definitely a danger. But would you rather be addicted to red kryptonite and forced into committing crimes for her?"
I knew she was right, that I should be grateful to her and to Lex. It was mostly due to the timely intervention of Lex's security people that Red and her henchmen were now behind bars and no longer an immediate threat to me or Chloe. Even so, I felt my spine stiffen and my chin lift. “I just don’t like to be beholden to Lex Luthor.”
“Beholden?” She chuckled wryly. “You know, Clark, you sound exactly like your dad.”
If anything, my spine got stiffer. “I can’t think of anyone else I’d rather sound like.”
She smiled softly. “Your dad was a great guy, Clark. But you and I both know he had kind of a blind spot when it came to all things Luthor.”
“He was right,” I pointed out. “He kept telling me I couldn’t trust Lex, and in the end he was right.”
“I’m not suggesting you ought to be best friends with Lex again, Clark. He’s betrayed you too many times for us to ever truly trust him again. But you needed help, and he was the logical person to turn to. The only person I could think of to turn to. Anyway, you’re not ‘beholden,’ exactly. I told you, I saved Lex’s life last week. He owed me one.”
I quit pacing, turned around, and met her gaze. Embarrassment and shame over my weakness had kept me from facing her most of the afternoon, but now, for the first time since she’d rescued me, I looked directly into her eyes. “You seem to do a lot of that lately, Chlo. Saving people, I mean. I owe you one, too. Maybe more than one.”
“Oh, please.” She waved a hand in the air. “I didn’t do anything. And you saved me first. That’s why you wound up in that situation. Because of me.”
“Not your fault, Chlo.” I looked at her a long moment. “Look, Chloe, about what happened…”
This time she was the one that looked away. “Listen, Clark, you’ve been through the wringer today, physically and emotionally. So have I. I think maybe we don’t need to talk about that right now.”
“Yeah, we do.” It was awkward, but I didn’t want everything that had happened standing between us. I needed Chloe now, more than ever. “The way I… touched you… I really didn’t mean to…”
You deserve better than being manhandled that way, Chloe. You don’t deserve to be brutally kissed by a guy who’s so out of control, and half out of his mind on drugs. You deserve to be kissed gently, for hours and hours.
“I understand,” she said, but her face went still and a little cold.
Her reaction wasn't encouraging, but I stammered on anyway. “I... I really didn’t know what I was doing. I was sort of out of control.”
I wanted you so badly I could hardly stand it. I'm in control of myself now, and I need you just as badly as I did this morning, but I’m worried I completely freaked you out.
“I figured that out,” she answered, smiling a little stiffly.
“And with everything that happened today, I feel a little… weird.”
I’m ashamed of my weakness, and terribly afraid I’m not good enough for you.
"It’s okay,” she said. “Let’s just forget about it, all right?”
I swallowed. Forgetting about it wasn’t really what I wanted. But maybe she was right, and we should drop the subject, at least for now. We’d been through too much to have any sort of meaningful discussion tonight. I had the uncomfortable feeling we were talking at cross purposes.
“Okay,” I agreed.
I thought I saw something like sorrow in her eyes, but she masked it quickly with a smile of gentle curiosity.“One other thing,” she said. “You said a couple of things in Kryptonian. Kryptonese. Whatever you call it. What on earth did you say to me?”
I hesitated. “Uh, it’s all kind of a blur,” I said at last. “I’m not really sure what I said.”
She gazed at me for a long moment, and I had the distinct feeling she knew I wasn’t being perfectly honest with her. I'm not a very good liar, and Chloe's always been able to see right through me like I was made of glass.
“Hmmm,” she said at last, noncommittally. She stood up and stretched. “Well, I’ve got an early class tomorrow. I guess I better be going. Are you going to be all right, Clark?”
"Yeah." I swallowed hard. “I’m fine.”
“You’re a big liar,” she said softly. “You’re still thinking about the red K, aren’t you?”
My hands clenched into knotted fists, and I couldn't bring myself to answer. The last thing I wanted was for Chloe to know how weak I was. But she must have read the truth in my expression, because she put a hand on my chest and looked up at me. I stared over her head, refusing to meet her eyes.
“Just because your skin is invulnerable,” she said gently, “doesn’t mean you’re not vulnerable on the inside.”
“I don’t want to be vulnerable that way,” I whispered.
“You don’t have a lot of choice, Clark. You can’t stop yourself from wanting something. But you can stop yourself from taking it.”
I dropped my gaze and looked into her eyes. “I’m afraid, Chlo,” I said softly. “I’m afraid that in a moment of weakness, I might…”
I couldn’t finish the sentence. She patted my shoulder with gentle sympathy.
“Not to sound like a cliche,” she said, “but you just need to take it one day at a time, Clark. I think it’ll fade with time. And if you ever feel tempted to try to find some red K, I want you to come find me. Okay? I don’t care if it’s the middle of the night, or I’m in class or at work, or whatever. If you need to talk, come find me right away. I’m always there for you, Clark.”
I gazed into her eyes. “I know that, Chlo.”
She looked at me a moment longer, then turned and went down the stairs of my loft. It suddenly seemed very quiet, and I sat on the couch and listened to the sounds of a spring evening in Kansas. Frogs sang, insects chirped, a warm breeze blew gently through the window, and something close to peace settled into my heart.
Chloe was right. I’d get through this. And I didn’t doubt she’d help if I needed. I mulled over what she’d said to me: I’m always there for you, Clark.
In a strange way, her words echoed what I’d said to her in Kryptonian.
Yeah, I remembered what I’d said to her. Of course I remembered. What I couldn’t figure out was why I’d said it. She’d sat down next to me on the floor and touched my arm, and suddenly the words had just come flowing out of me:
I trust you
To come to me
To find me when I am lost
To save me when I am in peril
Be there for me.
And then when I’d found myself kissing her, more words had spilled out:
I will always come to you
Protect you from danger
Guard you from enemies
Be there for you.
No, I’m not a poet or anything. Far from it. The cave wall had downloaded me with the Kryptonian language, but it had also downloaded me with a good deal of cultural context. These were the formal words of the lifebonding ceremony on Krypton… words that each Kryptonian spoke only once in a lifetime.
The fact that I’d felt compelled to say them to Chloe, even under the influence of red kryptonite, had me seriously freaked out.
I listened to the sound of her car engine recede, listened to her heartbeat traveling toward Metropolis, and decided not to go back to the house tonight. I’d already dealt with Mom’s anxiety this afternoon, and the last thing I really wanted to do was talk any more about everything I’d been through. I wanted to be alone.
The loft in the barn had always been my refuge, and tonight I needed a refuge more than ever. Besides, I was so tired I could hardly keep my eyes open. I stretched out on the couch, and within moments, sleep claimed me. I expected to have nightmares about everything I’d been through today, but my sleep was dark and almost dreamless.
The only sound I heard in my dreams was the steady rhythm of Chloe’s heartbeat.
Read the sequel, What the World Could Be (Adult), here.
Or return to the home page here.