Monday, May 08, 2006

What the World Could Be, Chapter 11

Season 5, after my story "Saving Me," which followed "Void"
Rating: Adult. If you're under eighteen, please go elsewhere now.
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the WB and DC Comics, not to me.

Silence was never golden where Chloe was concerned.

Ordinarily, Chloe never stopped talking. She and Clark could talk for hours at a time and never run out of topics. But she’d hardly said two words since Clark had stopped by her dorm room. Feeling the need for a large infusion of carbs, he’d suggested Italian, and she’d acquiesced with a cool nod. Once they’d gotten to the restaurant, she’d said more to the waiter than to him, and then sat and picked at the salad she'd ordered.

Considering how much she usually chatted, her silence spoke volumes.

Clark sighed as he vacuumed down a large plate of spaghetti. He was starving, because he'd burned a lot of energy today. He’d run home to Smallville and taken care of all his farm work this afternoon--and running a farm singlehandedly took a lot of effort, even if you were superstrong and superfast. Not to mention the fact that Chloe had made him work hard this morning.

And of course, he’d totally screwed things up between them. Totally screwing things up took a lot of energy.

He knew that what had happened wasn’t totally his fault. Things had been going just fine till Lana showed up, after all. Both of them had thought Lana would be gone all weekend, and if he’d been awake, he would have heard her footsteps coming in plenty of time for them to get dressed. Even so, he was glumly aware that making love with Chloe in the dorm room the girls shared hadn’t been the brightest idea he’d ever had.

The problem was, he’d been so out of control when he woke up in bed with Chloe that he hadn’t been able to think about anything beyond making love to her.

At last he dropped his fork onto his plate with a clatter, unable to stand the stony silence any longer. He knew she felt bad about what had happened, about the way Lana had reacted. He wasn’t sure what to say to make it better, but not saying anything at all certainly wasn’t going to help sort the problem out.

"Chloe,” he said gently. “We agreed to talk about things, remember?”

Her gaze flickered up to meet his. In the wavering light cast by the candle on the table, her eyes were a luminous shade of amber, and her skin looked like it had been brushed with gold. She was so damn beautiful that his chest ached. Then she looked back down at her plate and gave a slight nod.

“So…” he prompted. “Tell me what’s wrong.”

She lifted her head again and met his gaze. Sorrow shadowed her eyes, but she spoke in a calm, even voice.

“I don’t think we should see each other any more, Clark.”


Chloe watched Clark’s eyes narrow, watched his expression slowly alter from friendly openness to something dark and ominous. “What exactly do you mean?” he said at last.

“I don’t…” Her voice broke, and she swallowed hard, cursing herself. It was impossible for her to maintain the kind of dignity she wanted to project in situations like these, because she tended to cry easily. “I can’t keep doing this, Clark. I can’t.”

“Can’t keep doing what? Making love to me?”

His voice had gotten a little loud, carrying over the noise of the crowded room, and a few heads turned. She made a shushing gesture. “It’s not that, Clark. This morning was… nice.”

“Nice?” he echoed, and there was definitely a dangerous glint in his eyes now. “Nice?”

“Okay, better than nice. It was great. But I can’t go on like this, Clark. I can’t go on being friends with you and having my heart broken every time you look in my direction. It... it hurts too much.”

She was afraid of getting involved with Clark and having him decide he didn't really feel that way about her after all. She was so afraid she'd decided it would be safer to sacrifice their friendship than to risk herself again. In fact, she admitted to herself, she was much more than merely afraid. She was terrified. Because Clark meant so much to her that she thought another rejection from him might do more than just break her heart. She was afraid it would shatter her like glass, smashing her into so many pieces she might never recover.

He stared at her for a moment, looking like he was trying to get his temper under control. His jaw looked tense, like he was grinding his teeth together. “Chloe,” he said at last, his voice very soft but very intense. “If you’d quit running away every time I look in your direction, maybe your heart wouldn’t get broken so much.”

“I can’t help it,” she said, and to her horror a tear rolled down her cheek. She dashed it away impatiently. “I know you don’t really love me, Clark. You love Lana.”

“Lana has nothing to do with this, Chlo. I told you, Lana and I are through. We were through a long time ago. I just didn’t want to admit it.”

“Okay, fine. Let’s just forget about Lana for now.” She wasn’t sure she’d ever forget the look of pain on Lana’s face, but that wasn’t the main issue here, and she knew it. “How am I supposed to believe you really have feelings for me? That it isn’t just an effect of the red K?”

He picked up his fork and turned it over thoughtfully in his hands. She knew he was still fighting his temper, because the handle immediately crumpled. He used his thumbs to smooth out the metal.

"Unless you can read minds,” he said at last, slowly, “I don’t think you can ever be absolutely certain someone loves you. I think it’s something you have to take on faith.”

She swallowed. “I’m just not sure I have that much faith in you, Clark.”

He studied the fork, not meeting her eyes. “Well, that’s a problem, all right. That's something we have to work on. But we can’t work on it if you’re going to turn your back on me, Chlo. We can’t ever work anything out if you run every time I get close to you. And if we stopped seeing each other entirely… that’d be even worse. Because I’m not sure I can live without your friendship.”

“Me either,” she whispered, feeling tears burning her eyelids.

He stared at the fork for a minute longer, then lifted his gaze and looked at her again. “Did you read the note I left for you?”

She nodded. “The words of the Kryptonian bonding ceremony, right?”

“Yeah.” He heaved a long sigh. “That’s how I feel about you, Chloe. I think that’s why I feel like I have to say the words, because they apply to you. I trust you. I hope eventually you’ll feel the same way about me.”

“I do trust you to save me when I need saving, Clark.”

“But you don't trust me when it comes to this. You still think I’m going to break your heart.” He pointed the fork at her. “Maybe it’s the cynical reporter in you, but you have a really hard time accepting people at face value. And it's a perfectly sensible reaction, really. After all, people say they’re in love all the time without really meaning it.”

“That’s true.”

“Your cynical reporter side could be right. I might not really mean it. But unless you give me a chance to show you I do mean it, you’ll never know, will you?”

Chloe looked down at her wilting salad. “You have a point,” she admitted in a small voice.

“The thing about you is, you take all kinds of crazy chances when it comes to getting a story, but you don’t ever want to take chances on people. But if you don't take chances, you'll wind up alone. Not just without a boyfriend, but without anyone. And you deserve so much better than that."

He swallowed, hesitated, then went on. "I just want you to be happy, Chloe. If never seeing me again would really make you happy, then I'll go away and never see you again. I think it might kill me, but if that's what you want, then okay. So is that really what you want?"

She studied her salad as if the lettuce, like tea leaves, might contain all the answers she was looking for. "No," she said at last, very softly. "That's not what I want. But I don't want to get hurt again, either."

"Then you're going to have to learn to trust me. It might take a while, and that's okay. But we'll work on it. Together."

He put the fork down and held out his hand to her.

"Trust me, Chloe," he said.

She reached out slowly... and put her hand into his.

Read Chapter 12 here.

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