Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Behind the Mask, Chapter 4

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 stepped toward Clark, intending to try to comfort him, but he stumbled backward, away from her.

"No," he said, his voice still hoarse. "Stay away from me, Chlo."

"Clark..."

"I told you earlier," he whispered. "I don't deserve someone like you."

"That is total crap," she said angrily. "You made a mistake in judgment, Clark. That doesn't make you an evil person. It makes you mortal."

"A mistake in judgment?" he repeated incredulously. "That boy is dead because of me."

"Yes," she insisted. "A mistake in judgment. It happens to everyone. The only difference is, most of us aren't dealing with life and death situations on a daily basis."

He glared at her, his eyes flashing like emeralds in the sunlight. "I'm a selfish jerk, Chloe. I chose to protect my identity when I should have just caught the damn car. I chose to cover my ass instead of saving that kid."

"Yeah, and I admit that was probably a mistake."

"There's no probably about it. I screwed up. Big time." His voice was rough with emotion, and he turned his head away as if afraid to look into her eyes.

"But you didn't do it for yourself, Clark. You were thinking about me and your mom and your friends. You were thinking about other people, just like you always do."

"Yeah," he said harshly. "I'm a real saint."

She sighed. Once he got started with the self-flagellation, Clark was hard to stop. "That wasn't selfishness, Clark. You just wanted to protect the people you love. It's a natural impulse."

He stood in silence, then turned his head, looking at her. She went on, hopeful that she was getting through to him. At least he wasn't totally tuning her out anymore. "People in the hero business make mistakes just like anyone else, Clark. Doctors make errors and lose patients. Police officers open fire to protect themselves and later find out the guy they thought had a gun was just holding a comb."

She hesitated, then went on, her voice soft but intense. "Mistakes happen. Because nobody's perfect, Clark. Not even you."

He stared at her for a long moment. At last he spoke, his deep voice resonant with grief and sorrow.

"I just don't know how I can go on doing what I'm doing, knowing someone could die because I made a bad choice."

"You've saved a lot of people," she pointed out. "And you did save that little girl. Both of them would have died if you hadn't been there."

"But..."

"But nothing. You've saved so many people, Clark. You can't stop helping people because of one mistake."

"The problem is," he said slowly, "I'm afraid I'll make the exact same mistake next time."

She tilted her head. "What do you mean?"

"I mean," he said, "I thought I could help people secretly, without them ever knowing. But there are situations in which I can't use superspeed to conceal myself. If I let enough people see me, they'll figure out who I am, and then you and Mom will be in danger. I can't endanger you. But I can't refuse to help someone in danger, either, because people get killed that way." He looked at her, his eyes still glittering with unshed tears. "I'm just going to have to stop doing this, Chloe."

"That's stupid," she said impatiently. "What, you'd rather retire from the hero business and maybe let hundreds or thousands of people die?"

"I can't pick and choose who to help," he answered, his voice bleak. "I just can't do it, Chloe. I'm not God, and I don't have the right to decide not to save people because it's not... convenient for me to do so. Either I help everyone, or I shouldn't help anyone."

"You're never going to stop what you do," she said softly. "It's too much a part of who you are. You can resolve to give up the hero business as much as you want, but the first time there's a major disaster... you're going to fly right out that window."

He closed his eyes, looking anguished. "I can't, Chloe."

"But you will anyway." She sighed. "Look, Clark, I've been thinking about this for a while. We need to come up with some way for you to keep doing your work more anonymously. Remember the Angel of Vengeance?"

He lifted his eyebrows. The Angel had been a masked vigilante in Metropolis some years ago. "You are not seriously suggesting I wear a mask."

"Why not?"

"I never wanted to hide who I am, Chlo."

"You don't have much choice. You said it yourself-- you have a lot of enemies. You don't want me or Martha to wind up getting kidnapped, do you? What if some bad guy decides to try to force you to do something for him by holding me hostage?"

"Yeah," he admitted. "That would be seriously bad."

"No kidding. You need to be able to save people without worrying about people figuring out who you are, and who your family is. You need to be able to do your work without distractions."

He sighed. "I just wanted to save people as Clark Kent, Chloe. Not some vigilante with a costume. Just me."

She took a step toward him, took his hand, and looked up, straight into his eyes.

"I'll still know it's you behind the mask, Clark. At least you never have to hide who you are from me."

Read Chapter 5 here.

2 comments:

blackheart_me said...

I love the comfort Chloe tries to give Clark here and how she still pushes him to be the 'hero' even when he just doesn't see how he can keep doing it.

BloodSugar said...

Chloe always knows what to say.
I LOVE that!
You describe her words/attitude so well ^^