Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Shoulda

Clark/Chloe
Second half of season 6
2100 words
Rating: PG

Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.

The music is "Shoulda," by Hinder.

Before I hung up the phone all I could hear
Was the dial tone ring in my ear
If I could go back in time I'd say those three words
I shoulda woulda coulda said it back to you

When his girlfriend hung up on him, Clark Kent knew he was in trouble.

He'd only been dating Chloe Sullivan for a couple of months, but they'd known each other for years, and they'd been close friends for all those years. He loved her like crazy. He'd always loved her, in a platonic kind of way, and now he loved her more than ever... and definitely no longer in a platonic way.

They'd been talking, chatting about inconsequentials the way they always did. He'd been working in the barn, doing the chores that had to be done before bed, listening to her talk about the latest story she was working on for the Daily Planet, the newspaper where she worked. He'd made a few comments, but mostly he was just listening to the sound of her voice.

"I guess I better go now," she said at last. "It's getting late."

"Yeah," he said reluctantly. "I guess so. See you tomorrow, Chlo."

"Good night, Clark." A beat of time passed. "I love you."

His mouth dropped open, and the pitchfork fell out of his hand. He knew he needed to say something in return. But nothing came out of his mouth.

The truth was, he was scared to death of those three little words. The last time he'd said them to a woman, things had gone horribly wrong-- as wrong as it was possible for a relationship to go. He was well aware that Chloe Sullivan wasn't Lana Lang, and that his relationship with Chloe was build on far more solid ground than the shifting sand that had formed the foundation of his relationship with Lana. But irrational though it was, the prospect of speaking those three words terrified him, and he couldn't seem to say them. He couldn't seem to say anything at all.

There was a long, long silence.

And then the phone went dead in his ear.

*****

And this can't be saved if you can't be found
You hung up and left me for dead on the ground
You didn't even say goodbye
I shoulda woulda coulda said it back to you

Since Clark could run at the speed of sound, Chloe couldn't hide from him. There was no way she could avoid him if he didn't let her. But he didn't want to piss her off still further, so he decided not to confront her face to face. Instead he called her cell the next morning.

She promptly hung up on him again.

He looked miserably at the cell phone, then flipped it shut and stuck it in his pocket. Fine, he thought with unhappy annoyance. Be that way. I don't care.

But the problem was, he did care. He cared a lot. He might not be ready to tell her he loved her, but he knew perfectly well that he did in fact love her. He didn't really know how to get through a day without talking to her, without seeing her, without kissing her. But he did his best. He attended his morning classes at Central Kansas A&M, then went back to the farm and did the chores.

The impulse to dial her number hit him approximately twelve times an hour, but he ignored it.

By evening, he couldn't stand it any more. He needed to hear her voice, so he called her again. This time she didn't even pick up. He knew she'd been scheduled to work at the Daily Planet this afternoon, and he immediately wondered if she was hanging out with her former boyfriend Jimmy Olsen.

Not that he was jealous of a geek like Jimmy, not at all. He was just... mildly concerned. Very mildly concerned.

He headed for Metropolis at top speed, covering the distance in three seconds flat.

*****

Now that you're gone I'm wasting away
The life has been siphoned right out of my veins
If I could go back in time I'd say those three words
I shoulda woulda coulda said it back to you

Clark found Chloe at the Daily Planet, as he'd expected. She took a full class load at Metropolis University, maintaining a grade average that made him green with envy, and several days a week she worked all afternoon and half the evening at the Planet. He had no clue how she did it. He could only guess that maybe she had superpowers too, because he was pretty sure no mere mortal could accomplish everything she did in the course of a day.

She was seated at her desk in the basement, and he paused, just out of her line of sight, because Jimmy was sitting on her desk. The two of them were sharing a vending machine dinner of Ho-Hos and Cokes, chatting and laughing like they didn't have a care in the world, and rage and panic and hurt all twisted together in his chest.

He'd never let Chloe know just how much her relationship with Jimmy had freaked him out. Jimmy might be a geek, but he was also a nice, decent, uncomplicated guy. He'd never had a problem letting Chloe know how much he cared for her, he didn't have strange alien powers that caused problems for her, and he didn't spend hours alone moping. He was upbeat and fun and could almost certainly manage to say "I love you" without breaking out in a cold sweat.

Clark was uncomfortably aware that compared to Jimmy, he was a seriously high maintenance boyfriend.

He caught her voice saying his name, and barely resisted the impulse to activate his superhearing. He wasn't pathetic enough to spy on his own girlfriend.

Assuming she was still his girlfriend. Considering she wouldn't talk to him, he had some uncomfortable doubts about the current status of their relationship.

Jimmy laughed at something she said, putting a casual hand on her shoulder, and Clark felt his lips draw back from his teeth in a silent snarl. A very strong impulse came over him, the desire to superspeed across the room and rip Jimmy's hand off her shoulder.

Or maybe just to rip Jimmy's hand off.

He somehow managed to leash his inner Rottweiler. Turning away, he trudged out of the building and away from Chloe, his head bent and his shoulders slumped.

*****

When you said those three words
I kinda freaked out
When you said them first my jaw hit the ground
I shoulda woulda coulda said it back to you

The next morning she still didn't pick up, so he talked to her voicemail.

"Chloe," he said. "Listen. About what you said. I just... I mean, I wanted to say... I really meant to... it's not that I don't... honestly, I really..."

Oh, the hell with it, he thought. He'd somehow reverted to being fourteen, and completely tongue-tied around girls. Sighing, he punched the "end" button.

His relationship with Chloe was so totally over.

*****

And this can't be saved
If you can't be found...
I shoulda woulda coulda said it back to you

When Clark got back from his morning sociology class, Chloe was sitting on the old red couch in his loft, waiting for him.

He dropped his backpack onto the floor and stood staring at her. "Uh," he said. "Uh..."

"Yeah," she said, quirking an eyebrow at him. "That's pretty much what your message this morning sounded like, too."

He stood there, suddenly very conscious of the space between them. She was only five feet away from him, but for some reason it felt like miles. She came gracefully to her feet and stood looking at him.

"Clark," she said gently, "I owe you an apology."

That was the last thing he'd expected her to say, and he gaped at her, befuddled. "Huh?"

"An apology," she repeated. "I didn't mean to put you on the spot with... what I said the other night. It was an accident. It just kind of... came out."

He could relate to that. Strange things sometimes unexpectedly popped out of his mouth, too. "I, uh..."

"I was really embarrassed," she said, looking at him earnestly. "I just couldn't talk to you about it. I felt really stupid."

He stared at her, and it slowly sank in that she hadn't been avoiding his calls because she was angry with him, but because she felt embarrassed. "I thought maybe you were mad."

"Mad?" She tilted her head. "Why would I be mad?"

"You hung up on me. That's usually a sign someone's mad."

"I felt like a complete moron, but I wasn't mad. But I guess it was childish to avoid your calls, and I'm sorry. You're the one who should be angry, Clark. I've been acting like an idiot. And before that, I put you on the spot and tried to make you say something you're not ready to say."

He was ready to say it. At least he thought he was. But considering the trouble he'd had getting the phrase out, maybe he wasn't, quite.

"You didn't put me on the spot," he said. "I was just... surprised."

"Really?" She lifted an eyebrow. "Hadn't you already figured out I love you? I've loved you for a long time, Clark."

He thought about everything they'd been through together and nodded. "Yeah," he answered, his voice rough. "I guess I did know that, actually."

She stepped forward, closing the gap between them, and put her hands on his shoulders. She tilted her face up, looking straight into his eyes. "I'm not trying to pressure you, Clark. I swear, I never meant to say it at all."

"I'm glad you did," he said softly, and meant it. Because being loved by someone like Chloe Sullivan was a wonderful thing. He was glad to know that despite his many flaws as a boyfriend, and despite his many shortcomings as a person, she loved him.

She put a hand on his right cheek, brushing her thumb over the mole on his cheekbone in a familiar gesture. "The problem is," she said, "I can't seem to live without talking to you."

Her words echoed his own thoughts over the past two days, and amusement tilted his lips. "Me neither."

"So let's just forget all this ever happened and go on, okay?"

Like he could possibly forget her voice saying I love you. That was a memory he intended to hold onto till the day he died-- the memory of the first time she told him she loved him.

"Just don't stop talking to me again," he said gruffly. "I hate not talking to you."

"Okay," she agreed, smiling up at him. "I'm glad we got all that straightened out."

"Me too."

She stepped away from him and glanced at her watch. "Crap. I'm going to be late for work."

"No, you aren't," he said, and swept her up in his arms. She giggled and squirmed, but he headed for Metropolis in superspeed and took her along for the ride.

He deposited her on the sidewalk in front of the Daily Planet building, and she patted at her hair, frowning at him with mock sternness. "I bet my hair looks like hell."

He looked at her windblown, tangled blonde locks and grinned. "It does look sort of... interesting."

"Hmmmphhh." She ran her fingers through her hair, trying to get it into a more professional 'do. "Thanks for the ride. I think."

"You're welcome. I'll come get you at five."

"Seven. I have a lot of extra work to do."

"Six. You work too hard. And I'll buy you dinner." He bent and brushed a light kiss over her lips.

"Okay," she agreed. "Six it is."

She smiled up at him, then turned around and disappeared into the building.

He stood there, staring at the revolving door, for a long, long time.

"I love you, Chlo," he said at last.

He felt the truth of those words right down to his toes. He did love Chloe Sullivan. He'd loved her for a long time, and he loved her more with every passing day. And one of these days, he'd work up the nerve to say the words to her face. But until then, he'd just have to be secure in the knowledge that she loved him, and that he loved her in return.

He spun around and headed for the farm at superspeed, counting the minutes until he saw her again.

-The End-

5 comments:

sally said...

awe so sweet. You're short little stories are always so great. I really love Clark inner struggle here

Anonymous said...

AWWWWWWW!!!! That was so sweet! Yes, you big, dumb alien..of course you love her! DUH!!!

Love the stories Elly! When will Smallville get it right?? When????

meg

Khyla said...

AWWWWWWWW!!!! Elly, I don't know how you do it your fics are always so perfect!
"Clark was uncomfortably aware that compared to Jimmy, he was a seriously high maintenance boyfriend."
What a great line... a really good way to put it, i'd never thought of before, but quite true.:)

blackheart_me said...

aww i loved loved loved this one so much!! i really wish there was more to this one thou, like a sequel. loved how u added the jealousy part aww this was soo CUUTEEE!!
Chlark!!<3

Anonymous said...

This was a very cute story! I loved every minute of it!

Great job!