Monday, June 12, 2006

Behind the Mask, Chapter 1

Clark/Chloe futurefic, angst
Rating: Adult. If you're eighteen, please go elsewhere now.
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the WB and DC Comics, not to me.

"Martha, I need help."

Chloe leaned back in her desk chair at the Daily Planet, her cell phone in her hand. Martha Kent's gentle tones spoke in her ear. "Sure, Chloe. What's up?"

Not for the first time, Chloe thought how lucky she was to have a mother-in-law she truly adored. Martha was a busy woman. She'd gotten involved in politics and was now a U.S. Senator living in Washington DC, yet she always had time for her son and his wife.

"I'm not sure, honestly," she said. "Clark's gone into serious mope mode, and I don't know what's going on in his head. He won't talk to me at all. I wondered if you and he had had any conversations lately that might help."

Martha was silent for a moment. Chloe could hear a light tapping in the background and realized that Martha was working on the computer as she spoke. She didn't mind. Both of them were multitaskers.

"He called this week," she said at last. "Monday, I think. He sounded fine. He told me a story about rescuing a cat from a tree and laughed about it."

Chloe chuckled. She remembered Clark telling her the same story at dinner that night, remembered the sound of his deep laughter. He'd been amused by the cat's furious but totally futile efforts to scratch his invulnerable skin. "Yeah," she said. "He goes out into the city whenever he has a minute and tries to help people. He's taken to listening to a police scanner, too. He's trying hard to make a difference here, Martha.""

Metropolis needs all the help it can get," Martha answered. "And Clark's always loved to help people. It's what he does. He's lucky to have found a woman who understands that, Chloe."

Chloe smiled, warmed by the compliment. After two days of being frozen out by her husband, she was grateful for Martha's kind words.

"Okay," she said. "So he was fine on Monday. That's what I remember, too. Then all of a sudden Tuesday night he wouldn't leave his office."

"At all?"

"Pretty much," Chloe said with a sigh. "He won't come out for meals, and he won't even come to bed till I've fallen asleep. I feel like he's mad at me about something, but I don't have a clue what I might have done to make him angry."

"It's not like Clark to hold a grudge, Chloe. It sounds more like the moping he used to do up in the loft."

"The problem is, I can't figure out what he's moping about."

"You're going to have to confront him. This is part of marriage, you know. Sometimes the other person won't tell you what's bothering them, and you just have to force the issue."

"What if I make it worse?"

"He's been in his office for two solid days, Chloe. How can it get worse?"

"Good point."

"What's he doing in there, anyway?"

"I don't know," Chloe said with a sigh. "He keeps saying he's working on a story, but I never hear him typing. Every time I go in there, he has Word pulled up, but the page is blank. Maybe he's got a massive case of writer's block."

"Maybe. Or maybe something else is bothering him. Either way, you need to make him talk about it, or he'll mope forever. You know Clark."

Chloe exhaled. Yes, she knew Clark. She'd known him since middle school, and he'd always been prone to pretty heavy-duty mopiness. "Yeah, he has moping capabilities far beyond those of ordinary men."

"Well, then, you know what you need to do. Let me know how it goes, okay?"

"Okay. Thanks, Martha."

She ended the call, dropped the cell phone onto her desk, and stared blankly into space for a few minutes. Then she came to a decision and stood up. She was going to head home for her lunch break. It was time for her to drag Clark forcibly out of his office.

She was damned if she was going to put up with being ignored any longer.


Chloe leaned against the door frame and studied her husband. He didn't appear to have moved an inch since she'd last seen him this morning. He looked every bit as dejected as he had for the past two days, and the screen was still blank.

Geez, she thought. I think he's putting down roots.

"Hey there," she said, stepping into the room. Clark didn't jump in surprise, the way a human would have. He had superhearing and had probably heard her coming long before she entered the apartment. "What's up?"

His tone was curt and dismissive. "I'm working."

"Yeah," she said wryly, trying not to sound overly snide but aware she wasn't succeeding very well. "I bet staring at a blank screen takes a lot of effort."

She saw a muscle twitch in his jaw, but he didn't turn his head to look at her. "I thought you were at work."

"I thought I'd come home for lunch." She walked over to him, ignoring the don't-touch-me signals he was clearly emitting, and dropped a hand onto his shoulder. "Come on, I'll make you some soup or something."

"I'm busy."

Sheesh. It was like talking to a wall, only walls were more interesting. She rolled her eyes. "What's the story about?"

"Nothing important."

She battled her innate snarkiness and managed to refrain from commenting that two full days was a long time to spend working on something unimportant. "You can take a break, Clark. You're going to starve to death. Come on, get up."

She couldn't possibly compel him to move if he didn't want to, but she shook his shoulder gently anyway. His head jerked up, and he glared at her through narrowed green eyes. She drew her hand back in an automatic reaction to the fury burning in his gaze.

"Leave... me... alone."

She swallowed and stood her ground. "No, Clark. I'm not going to let you sit here and mope forever. Tell me what's going on."

He glowered for a moment longer, then suddenly balled up his fist and hit the corner of his desk. The wood splintered and broke under his fist.

Clark was extraordinarily strong, capable of bending steel rods like humans bent pipe cleaners, but he was always careful to contain his strength except when absolutely necessary. She staggered backward, shocked by his unexpected violence, as well as by the fact that he'd deliberately damaged a piece of furniture he'd spent two weeks combing the city for.

"I don't want to talk about it," he said between his teeth.

She refused to let him see he'd intimidated her. He might have succeeded in startling her, but she wasn't afraid of her husband. No matter how nasty his mood, she knew he'd never hurt her. "Yeah. I kind of got that impression."

"And yet you're still bothering me. Go away, Chloe. Leave me alone."

She felt tears sting her eyes at the assertion that she was "bothering" him. This was the man she loved, the man she'd loved since eighth grade. They'd always talked, about everything and anything, and the fact that he didn't feel he could tell her what was on his mind cut her to the quick. She blinked the tears away, refusing to let him see he'd hurt her.

"I'm not going to leave you alone," she said softly. Whatever was bothering him, she wasn't going to let him face it alone. She was his wife, and she was here for him... whether he wanted her or not.

She stepped toward him, bent down, and kissed him.

Read Chapter 2 here.


blackheart_me said...

I'm starting to wonder if Clark's mood is maybe because he wasn't able to save someone? Woah aggressive too? What happened Elly? I love that Chloe doesn't back down and that she's persistant enough to tell him she won't leave him until they talk.

BloodSugar said...

My heart is already beating faster! What's going to happen??? Poor Chloe! Poor Clark! Poor me! *runs off to next chapter*