Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Season 5, sequel to "Reckoning"
Rating: Adult. If you're under eighteen, please go elsewhere now.
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the WB and DC Comics, not to me.
I grieve for you
You leave me
Let it out and move on
Missing what's gone
They say life carries on
They say life carries on and on and on
-Peter Gabriel, "I Grieve"
"I'm glad you stopped by, Chloe."
Martha Kent looks like she hasn't slept in two days. She's making a brave effort to smile, but Chloe can see her normally sleek auburn hair is tangled, and there are dark circles marring the pale skin under her eyes. She's wearing a black sweater and slacks that make her skin look paper white.
It's only been two days since Jonathan Kent's funeral, and Chloe isn't at all sure she should have stopped by, but the thought of the way her best friend looked at his father's funeral is still at the forefront of her mind. Even though two days have passed, she doubts Clark looks any better than his mother. She knows how close Clark was to his dad. And she can't leave Clark to deal with all this alone. She just can't.
"How are you doing, Mrs. Kent?"
Martha smiles wanly. "I'm doing as well as can be expected under the circumstances. But I'm afraid I don't have time to visit right now, Chloe. I'm on my way out. I have to go downtown to talk to the bank about..." She swallows. "A loan."
More financial trouble, Chloe interprets unhappily. Not that she's surprised. Farming is a rough life, and everyone knows the Kent farm has barely been scraping by for years. Jonathan's death probably didn't help matters any.
"Is Clark around?" she asks. "I thought maybe he might like to talk."
Martha sighs. "If you can get him to talk, you're doing better than I am." The sad smile touches her lips again. "But then, he'll always talk to you. I think he's in the barn."
The two women walk out the door of the yellow farmhouse together. Martha heads for her old burgundy Taurus, and Chloe walks slowly toward the barn, her boots leaving tracks in the layer of snow that coats the ground. She's not exactly sure what she intends to say to Clark. She knows her normal snarkiness isn't appropriate, but she's not sure what is. Strip her of her snark, and what does she have left?
Concern and affection, maybe. All she really wants to do is put her arms around Clark and hold him, but she knows that's not appropriate, either. She's not his girlfriend, after all, just his friend. His best friend, but only a friend.
Lana Lang's his girlfriend, and she ought to be here for him, but she decided to "take a break" from Clark just before his father died. The thought fills Chloe with anger, but she tries to suppress it, because Lana's her friend, too. And she has to admit that the whole mess isn't really Lana's fault. Clark can't be honest with Lana about who he really is, and she can't blame Lana for losing patience with him. Besides, despite their relationship problems, Lana tried to approach Clark at the funeral, even tried to hold his hand, but he gave her the cold shoulder.
Chloe figures she's in for a similar response, but she's more stubborn than Lana is, and Clark isn't going to get rid of her quite that easily.
The interior of the barn is dark and cold. She expects Clark to be moping upstairs in his loft, but instead she hears a soft sound coming from one of the stalls where the horses are kept.
"Clark?" she calls softly, approaching the stall.
A dark head appears over the stall door. Clark looks at her, his beautiful eyes dull with grief, and doesn't say anything at all. He looks away from her, dismissing her without words, and goes back to work.
She walks up to the stall and sees that he's grooming the chestnut mare, his big, strong hands moving over her sides slowly, currying her coat till it shines. Farmers don't get a lot of time to grieve, she thinks. Jonathan Kent is dead, but the work on his farm has to go on. The animals must be cared for and the crops must be planted.
She thinks maybe that's a good thing. If Clark didn't have work to do, she worries he might just sit up in his loft and mope until he faded away entirely.
"Hey," she says, leaning on the door. The mare whickers and tosses her head a little, and Chloe reaches out to stroke the velvety muzzle. She's not much of a horse person-- she was born and raised in Metropolis, and the only horses she ever saw as a child were ridden by mounted police officers-- but this particular mare is a sweetheart, and Chloe likes her just fine, as long as no one makes her climb onto her back. "How are you holding up?"
Clark lifts his head again, looks at her a long moment, and then turns away deliberately, so that she's looking at his back. His hair is rumpled and uncombed, its natural waves more obvious than ever, and there are little curls at the nape of his neck. Her fingers tingle with the desire to touch them.
"I don't feel much like talking, Chloe."
She recognizes her cue to leave but ignores it. She's not that easy to get rid of. And she knew Clark would act like this. She expected it. He tends to withdraw into himself when he's upset, and she doubts he's ever been more upset in his lifetime than he is right now.
"Yeah, well, I drove all the way out from Metropolis." She shamelessly uses guilt on him to try to break down his walls a bit. "You don't mind if I hang around for a while, do you?"
He's still speaking to the back of the stall. "My mom's in the house. She can probably get you lunch if you want it. The neighbors brought enough casseroles to feed an army."
"Your mom's on her way out." As if to underscore her words, the Taurus' tires crunch over the snow as the car drives past, heading for the road. "I thought maybe we could talk."
"I'm busy," he says flatly. "I have a lot of work to do."
"Clark." She speaks softly, trying to convey her concern for him. If nothing else comes of her visit, she wants to remind him how much she cares about him. "I didn't come to get free food, and you know it."
His hand drops onto the mare's back, and she can see the tension in his shoulders. "Look, Chloe," he says, sounding a little annoyed, "I'm sorry, but I just don't feel like hanging out right now. Okay?"
"Yeah, despite your subtlety, I kind of sensed that." Oh, hell, there's the snark again. She just can't give it up. She's a snark addict, damn it. She sighs and tries again. "Want me to help you curry the horses?"
"I just finished," he answers. He turns, opens the stall door, and brushes past her, stalking across the barn. He seems to have forgotten his love for primary colors, because he's wearing a black t-shirt and jeans with a dark gray jacket. It makes him look strangely ominous, an impression that's reinforced by his posture. Every muscle in his body is rigid, and he looks pissed.
She imagines he's walking around in a perpetual state of anger right now, given everything that's happened, and a slight trickle of unease runs through her, because Clark is so strong that when he's angry, he's a little scary.
She pushes back the notion, dismissing it as irrational. There's nothing scary about Clark. He's her friend, and he'd never hurt her, no matter how mad he gets. She knows that.
She walks after him. He hangs the currycomb back on the wall and stands staring at the coarse planks, like maybe she'll just go away if he pretends she isn't there.
"Clark," she says gently, and places a hand on his shoulder.
He jerks away from her instantly and spins around. There's a dangerous gleam in his eyes now. They're narrowed into green-gold slits, and his eyebrows are drawn low like stormclouds gathering in the sky. All of a sudden she realizes how big he is, and how small she is in comparison. It's not a comfortable realization somehow.
"Leave... me... alone," he says through his teeth.
She stares up at him, without the slightest idea of how to handle this situation. He's seething with pain and fury, and she doesn't have a clue how to get through his defenses and make him talk to her. Maybe it's too soon, and she ought to just back off.
She realizes that's her cowardice talking. Yeah, it'd be easier to let him go through this alone, to drive back to her dorm room and not have to deal with his grief and his attempts to shove her away. But he's her friend, damn it.
And if she's perfectly honest with herself, he's more than her friend. He's the man she loves. The man she's loved for a long time.
"Clark," she says softly, keeping her hands to herself. "I didn't get a chance to talk to you at the funeral. But I'm so sorry for what happened."
He looks at her, and she can see the muscles in his jaw working as he grinds his teeth. She guesses he's heard that phrase an awful lot over the past few days, and it probably sounds empty and meaningless to him. The problem is, she really means it, and she's just not sure what else to say.
"Thanks," he says at last, a single curt syllable.
She looks up into his eyes, seeing the raw pain there. It's enough to make her heart twist in her chest, and she can't stop herself from reaching out to him again. She lifts her hand and puts it on his cheek.
He twists away. "Don't touch me, damn it!" His deep voice is very loud in the enclosed space, and the horses shuffle their feet in the straw anxiously. "I don't want to talk about it, all right? I don't want to talk at all. Just leave me the fuck alone!"
Clark rarely swears, and she's never heard such a rough expletive pass his lips before. She probably ought to take that as a warning and back off, but she thinks maybe anger is better than the empty bleakness she saw in his eyes when she first walked into the barn. "Clark," she says. "I know you're upset, but--"
"Out!" He spins back toward her, and his face is dark with fury. "Get out, goddamnit!"
She hesitates, and his fist suddenly lashes out, slamming into a wooden beam with superhuman force. It shatters under the blow, wood chips flying everywhere, and the horses whinny and dance nervously in their stalls. A gasp escapes her, and she stumbles backward, startled by his sudden display of violence. It's so totally not Clark. Yeah, he's stronger than twenty humans, but she's never seen him just lose it like that before.
She's staring at him with shock, and he looked more pissed than ever.
"Scared of me, Chlo?" he says in a low growl, stalking toward her.
"No." Her voice comes out breathless and shaky, and she tries to steady it but can't. "I'm not scared of you, Clark."
"Maybe you should be." He's still striding toward her, and she finds herself backing away from him. It's crazy, because he's her best friend and she knows he'd never hurt her, and yet there's a look in his eyes that really scares the hell out of her.
"No," she says, hearing her voice quaver. Damn it, where the hell did her snark go? The moment she really needs it, it's gone. "You wouldn't... you wouldn't ever hurt me."
"I told you to leave me alone," he says, still moving toward her. She's backing away, and suddenly she finds herself up against one of the rough wooden walls. Clark's body is suddenly right against hers, shoving her into the planks. "I warned you, Chloe."
He smells like horses and soap and hay, and a little part of her is turned on by the pressure and heat of his body against hers. Okay, a big part of her is turned on. But there's still a dangerous glitter in his eyes, and her brain overrules her body, informing her that this is not a good idea. Not at all.
"You won't hurt me," she says, looking up at him.
His big hand reaches up and twists in her hair, holding her so she can't get away, and his body presses against hers. He feels big and solid and unyielding, and an instinctive, feminine part of her wants to rub against him, but her mind thinks it would be safer to run.
But she can't run, because he's got her trapped. She's not going anywhere.
"Believe me," he says softly, pulling her hair, so that she has no choice but to tilt her head up. His lips are only an inch away from hers. "Hurting you is the absolute last thing on my mind."
Read Chapter 2 here.
Posted by Meg at 4:29 PM