Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Behind the Mask, Chapter 3

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

Chloe stalked out of the office, still yanking her clothes on, without saying another word to Clark. She was so mad she was pretty sure she couldn't open her mouth without uttering a stream of expletives. She hadn't been married very long, but she was pretty sure cussing her husband out wouldn't help the situation.

Then again, maybe the man needed to be cussed out.

She paused and looked at her reflection in the mirror she'd hung in the little foyer. Her long hair was knotted and tangled from Clark's rough lovemaking, her cheeks and throat had obvious scrapes from his stubble, and she looked in general like a woman who'd had sex on her lunch break. She couldn't walk into the Planet offices looking like this.

Screw it, she thought defiantly. She'd try to get herself looking more professional when she got back to the office parking deck. Because she sure as hell wasn't hanging around here and dealing with Mr. Irrational for a minute longer than she had to.

Just as she put her hand on the doorknob, the phone rang. She hesitated for a moment, but realized that Clark wasn't likely to answer it in his current state. And it could be her dad or Martha. She picked it up. "Hello?"

"Hi there, Chloe," said a warm English voice she instantly recognized as Colin Smythe, an editor over at the Inquisitor. "I'm looking for Clark. Is he in?"

Chloe thought about that for a second. Clark seemed pretty checked out of reality to her. "No. I'm pretty sure he's not."

"Okay. Do you have any idea how he's doing on that story for me?"

She paused for a long moment. "What story is that, Colin?"

"He'll know. It's a profile on that university kid who was killed the other day."

"On Tuesday?" she said slowly.

"Yeah, that's the one. I really need that article. Have him call me as soon as he gets in, all right?"

"Sure," Chloe said. "No problem."

She dropped the cordless phone onto its base, stared into space for a minute, and then headed for the Daily Planet.


The Daily Planet had covered the story, of course, although in a much less sensationalized way than the Inquisitor probably had. It didn't take her more than a couple of minutes to find the story on the Planet's website.

James Young, age eighteen, honor roll student, football star, and Eagle Scout. He'd gotten blind drunk as part of a fraternity hazing at Met U, climbed into his car, and driven into the busiest part of town. He'd managed to flip his car and go airborne, and only the barest luck had prevented him from killing any of the bystanders.

But what does this have to do with Clark? she wondered.

She couldn't help but think this was somehow related to Clark's depression. He'd started writing this story and all of a sudden gone postal on her. Why? Just because it was depressing as hell to write about a kid with so much potential killing himself in a random act of stupidity?

No. That didn't make any sense. Clark had seen people die before. He'd even seen people try to destroy the world. He was sensitive, but not neurotic. Writing this story, depressing though it was, was not nearly enough to send him over the edge.

She read further into the article, then stopped, suddenly intrigued.

Several bystanders insisted a small girl was in the path of the oncoming car, and that a red streak moved the girl to safety. Police had no comment.

A red streak, she thought.

Clark had a red jacket he tended to wear all the time, even though she hated the thing and threatened to burn it on a regular basis. When he was in superspeed wearing the jacket, he did look pretty much like a red streak.

A red streak saved that little girl.

Clark had saved her.

So he'd managed to save the little girl, but he was freaking out because he hadn't managed to save the young man behind the wheel of the car. Okay. That made perfect sense. That was Clark for you-- always kicking himself for things that were beyond his control. Typical Clark move.

She sighed. Now that she knew what was bothering him, maybe he'd talk to her. If not, she'd... she'd sit on him if she had to. No, that wouldn't work. She'd put a piece of kryptonite on him and make him listen if necessary. He obviously needed to talk, because sitting alone in his office and staring at a blank screen wasn't going to get him past this.

She got up and went to ask her editor for the rest of the afternoon off.


When she walked back into the apartment, Clark was sitting exactly where she expected to find him, in front of the computer, his shoulders slumping. The screen was still blank. She stood in the doorway, staring at him, for a long moment, thinking how desperately she loved this man.

His sense of responsibility for other people, for a world that wasn't truly his, never failed to awe her. She'd never doubted for a moment that he was a hero. And yet somehow he needed to accept that he couldn't save everyone, no matter how much he wanted to.

She knew he understood that on an intellectual level.

It was the emotional level that was killing him.

"Clark," she said softly.

He didn't turn his head. "I thought you left."

She didn't let his curt tone anger her, but answered in a calm, even voice. "I decided to come back. I thought we should talk about James Young."

His head jerked in her direction, and he stared at her with wide eyes, looking shocked. The mask of indifference had slipped again, and his raw emotions were visible, etched clearly into the sharp angles of his face. "What?"

"Colin called and told me you were working on this article," she explained, walking into the office. "I looked it up at the Planet. It wasn't hard to put two and two together."

He stared at her, blinking hard. "Then you know," he said softly.

"Yeah," she said, dropping a hand onto his shoulder and squeezing. She looked down at him, hoping the love and respect she felt for him showed in her eyes, because she wanted him to know exactly how she felt about him. "I know you saved that little girl. And you're kicking yourself because you couldn't save the car's driver. But Clark, you just have to realize that you can't... save... everyone."

She spoke the last words with as much intensity as she could, hoping to get through to him. He stared at her for a minute longer, then started to laugh.

Chloe felt her skin crawl. It was not at all a normal laugh for him. It was high-pitched and wild, almost hysterical. "Clark," she said, squeezing his shoulder again. "Stop it."

He choked off his laughter and looked away from her, back at the screen. She could feel the rigidity in his muscles. "You... you don't understand, Chloe."

"I do understand," she told him. "You've got to learn to stop beating yourself up for stuff you can't control, Clark."

All of a sudden, he jumped to his feet and spun, looming over her. His face was dark with rage."You have absolutely no idea what the hell you're talking about," he growled in a low, dangerous tone.

"Of course I do. I've seen you like this before, Clark."

"No." He shook his head wildly. "This isn't what you think, Chlo. I..." He broke off, and to her shock she heard what sounded like a sob. He swallowed and went on, his voice trembling. "It was my fault, Chlo. My fault."

"Don't be stupid. You didn't make that boy get drunk, and you certainly didn't shove him behind the wheel of his car." She looked up at him, trying to get through to him somehow. "You're a hero, Clark. You saved that little girl."

"I'm not a hero, Chlo. I'm a selfish bastard, and you deserve so much better..."

"Stop blaming yourself, Clark. You did the best you could."

"No!" he yelled, his voice a roar of pain and rage. "I didn't! I could have saved both of them!"

She saw a tear slide from his eye, and she reached out to take his hand, but he pulled away. "The car went airborne," he said, his voice shaking. "I could have caught it in midair. You've seen me do it, Chlo. You know I can do it."

She stared at him, speechless, with no idea what she should say.

"But there were all these people around," he said, his voice breaking. "I knew they'd see me do it. They'd identify me. And then... you'd be in danger. I've made a lot of enemies over the years, and if they knew who I was and who my family was..." His voice trailed off, then took a gasping breath and went on. "And my mom's a public figure now, Chlo. A U.S. Senator, and people are talking about her running for President. What they'd do to her if they found out her son was an... an alien..."

"Clark," she whispered, reaching out for him again. "Oh, Clark."

"I was afraid," he said softly, looking over her head, carefully not meeting her eyes. "I knew I couldn't catch that car without being seen. So I got the little girl out of the way and hoped the driver of the car would be okay. But he wasn't wearing a seatbelt, and he died on impact. " His voice cracked on a sob. "He was a good kid, Chlo. I did research on him for my article. He was a good kid who made one stupid mistake. He didn't deserve to die, and if only I'd..."

He swallowed, tears running freely down his face.

"It's all my fault, Chlo," he whispered. "I killed that boy."

Read Chapter 4 here.


Anonymous said...

well THATS depressing!!!! LOL

Thanks for all you do, SV fan

blackheart_me said...

So she couldn't save the guy? I'm starting to wonder if maybe he also didn't save the girl. Bart is a red streak too...and Clark's feeling INCREDIBLY guilty so maybe he wasn't the 'savior'? It's his fault? Okay my Bart theory was wrong but, hu. I'm still confused. AWWW!! I almost started crying by the end. I feel so bad for Clark and his secret now...all his guilt =(