Wednesday, February 07, 2007
Better Than Me
Poster by Lightstar Angel. Used with permission of the artist.Jimmy/Chloe/Clark
Season 6, after "Crimson"
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
…This can’t be the end
I really miss your hair in my face
And the way your innocence tastes
And I think you should know this
You deserve much better than me.
“Better Than Me,” Hinder
“You don’t know Clark Kent the way I do.”
Those simple words irritated the hell out of me. My girlfriend Chloe Sullivan was trying to defend her best friend, to excuse his crazy behavior yesterday. But he’d done some things that simply couldn’t be excused. He’d announced that Lana Lang, his former girlfriend who was about to marry Lex Luthor, was pregnant in front of half the town of Smallville, and then he’d thrown Luthor through a pyramid of glasses… and kidnapped Lana. The only reason he wasn’t in jail today was because Lana had appealed to Lex for mercy, and Lex apparently couldn't say no to Lana.
But even though he was still free, what he’d done was absolutely indefensible. Most of the time Clark seemed like a decent guy, but last night he’d gone psycho, and I just couldn’t believe Chloe was sticking up for him.
“You remind me of that every day,” I snapped. “You know, if I did the things that he did, you’d never even talk to me again. And don’t deny that.”
“So what are you saying, Jimmy? That I’m lying to you?”
I didn’t think she was lying to me as much as she was lying to herself. It was obvious to me that no matter what she told me, and no matter what she told herself, that she had a whole lot of unresolved feelings for Clark. Maybe I should have just let her sweep the landfill under the rug again, but somehow I couldn’t keep my mouth shut. I’d let her pretend Clark didn’t mean that much to her for too long. It was time for us to get things out in the open between us.
“Are you really trying to tell me,” I said, “that if you had the choice, you wouldn’t rather be with him?”
It was one of those questions you really don’t want to know the answer to, but you can’t help asking anyway. I knew Chloe and Clark had been friends for a long time. But I also knew he was a lot more than just a friend to her. In fact, I’d known it the moment I met her, five years ago. We’d both been part of the high school intern program at the Daily Planet, and she’d talked about nothing but Clark, Clark, Clark the whole summer.
I’d fallen for her anyway, fallen for her short blonde hair and her wide smile and her perky attitude, and I’d tried everything short of standing on my head to get her to notice me. Eventually I talked her into going out with me, and after a few dates we wound up having sex in the back seat of my dad’s old Plymouth. She was my first, and I was her first, and it should have been great to have my first experience with sex be with a girl I was so crazy about.
Except afterward, she turned her face away from me, pressing it into the ratty old vinyl seat, and cried. I held her and tried helplessly to comfort her, but she cried for a long time, sounding like her heart was breaking.
She didn’t say anything, but I knew she was thinking about Clark.
I’d taken her home and never called her again, and avoided her at the Planet as much as possible. I guess it was cowardly to avoid her, but I knew I was falling for her, and it hurt too much to fall for a girl who sobbed her eyes out when I made love to her. It was obvious to me her heart belonged to someone else, and that she wished she’d saved her virginity for him too. After that summer, I did my very best to forget about Chloe Sullivan.
When I met her again, years later, she was working for the Daily Planet. It was the morning after Dark Thursday, the day the cities all went crazy, and she looked bruised and battered, but despite the bruises she was even prettier than I remembered. When I came into the Planet’s basement to report for my new job, she almost shot my head off, thinking I was a looter.
But then she said, “Jimmy?” in an incredulous tone, and smiled that huge, beautiful smile, and I fell into love with her all over again.
I figured Clark Kent was surely ancient history by now, and falling for Chloe would be safe. But I was wrong. That afternoon I stood outside in the hall and watched as a tall, broad-shouldered, dark-haired guy strode into the basement. Chloe glanced up from the yogurt she was eating, then threw it aside, ran across the room, and flung her arms around his neck.
He hugged her back, so hard her feet left the ground, and it was obvious he felt as much for her as she did for him. I watched them talk, watched them staring into each other’s eyes, and I knew these two people were crazy about each other, even if they hadn’t figured it out yet.
If I’d had the slightest bit of sense, I would have walked away from Chloe Sullivan right then.
But I couldn’t. Because I really liked Chloe. I won’t say I loved her then—I don’t think I knew her well enough to love her—but I was definitely falling fast and hard. The first summer I’d met her, she’d really impressed me with her brains and her snarky sense of humor. But she’d grown up to be something really special. She was a smart, hard-working, dedicated journalist. She was everything I admired in a girl.
So instead of walking away the way I should have, I stalked into the basement and asked Chloe to join me for a vending machine dinner, right in front of Clark. And to my surprise, she accepted. For just a second, Clark glared at me like he wanted to pound me into the ground, but then he backed off. He could have fought for her… but he didn’t. He backed down.
I’d won. Me, geeky, skinny Jimmy Olsen. I’d won Chloe, over a guy with the face of a movie star and the muscles of those models you see on romantic novel covers. I’d won.
At least I thought I’d won. But as my relationship with Chloe grew deeper, I began to realize I hadn’t won at all.
There was just no possible way to win against what existed between Clark and Chloe.
At my blunt question, Chloe had hesitated for a very long moment. Now she lifted her chin and looked at me. “Of course I’d choose you, Jimmy. You’re my guy.”
I just looked at her, thinking of the way she’d stood up for Clark and defended him to me, despite all the crazy things he’d done last night. It was obvious to me that if Clark took an Uzi into the local Wal-Mart and started shooting little children, she’d assure me he hadn’t meant to do it, and that he was really sorry about it. No matter what he did, she’d continue to defend him. In her eyes, Clark was a hero, and he could do absolutely no wrong.
She took my silence as an accusation, as I guess it was. “You don’t believe me,” she said stiffly. “Well, I really don’t know what else to say.”
“I think that’s the point. Neither of us knows what to say. Maybe… maybe we should take a break.”
Her eyes grew huge. “Jimmy… I…”
I hated to break up with her. We’d been dating for five months, and I really adored her. It hadn’t taken me long at all to fall in love with her. But the problem was, I loved her too much to let her go on pretending she really had feelings for me, when it was obvious she didn’t.
Chloe deserved better. She deserved the guy she really loved. Even if he occasionally went inexplicably psycho, she deserved to get what she wanted.
And what she wanted was Clark Kent.
I saw a tear roll down her cheek, and I wanted to reach out, gather her in my arms, and hold her against my chest. I wanted to console her. But it was past time I quit let Chloe use me for comfort and consolation. She didn’t love me the way I loved her, and there was absolutely nothing I could do to change that. I’d tried, and failed.
I wanted to say something to make it easier for both of us, but there was nothing to be said. I looked at the tear on her cheek and remembered a much younger Chloe sobbing in my arms after I made love to her. She’d loved Clark then, and she loved him now.
I didn’t think she’d ever stop loving him.
I turned away without speaking and walked away from her. I guess turning my back on her that way probably seemed kind of harsh to her, but I knew I had to make a clean break, because otherwise I’d keep hanging around, hoping against hope she might change her mind. And I didn’t want to put myself through that. It wasn’t good for either of us.
I needed to stay away from Chloe Sullivan and let her figure out what she wanted. Once she thought about it, I was sure she’d figure out which of the two guys in her life was most important to her—and it wouldn’t be me.
That knowledge hurt, but I loved her, and I wanted her to be happy. She deserved to be happy. She deserved to be with the man she loved.
She deserved better than me.
Posted by Meg at 5:15 PM