Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
Chloe gave a startled squeak when Clark whooshed into her apartment half an hour later. She'd obviously been getting ready for bed, because she was wearing a nightshirt. It only covered her to midthigh, but he hardly noticed the long stretch of her legs. He had other stuff on his mind.
"I need to talk to you," he said.
She pressed a hand to her heart, looking like she might be hyperventilating. "Is it too much to ask for you to just use a cell phone like everyone else?"
"Sorry," he said. "But I really needed to talk to you, Chlo."
She seemed to pick up on the anxiety in his voice, because she hesitated, then waved him over to the couch. "Okay," she said gently, sitting on the cushions. "What's wrong, Clark?"
He sat down next to her and waved the little burgundy book with a rueful expression. "I kind of came across this diary."
"Lana's diary?" She stared at it for a moment, then lifted her gaze and frowned at him accusingly. "You read it, didn't you?"
"Moron. Haven't you ever heard the saying that eavesdroppers never hear anything good about themselves?" She sighed. "Okay, what did you find out that's upsetting you?"
He sighed. "Lana did some bad stuff, Chlo."
"We've all done some bad things." Her chin jerked up angrily, and she glared at him, bristling defensively. "I can't believe you're going through her private stuff and digging up stuff at this point, Clark. Of all people, for you not to respect someone's secrets--"
The strength of her reaction startled him. He blinked at her, taken aback. "Chlo," he said, his voice gentle. "Remember when I had to rescue you from the wine cellar at the Luthor mansion? Lana locked you in there."
"She did not." Her lower lip quivered. "She wouldn't do that, Clark. She was my best friend. Besides you, I mean. She'd never do that to me."
"Yeah, she would, and she did. She was trying to find out my secret, Chlo. So she locked you in there and broke the handle so I'd have to rip the door off its hinges."
"No." Chloe glared at him, looking more dangerous than before. "She wouldn't do that. She wouldn't."
He had to admire her stubborn loyalty, although it didn't surprise him in the least. Chloe had always been loyal to the core. She'd kept his secret for years now. She'd known it for six months before he ever told her the truth, and she hadn't even told him she knew. He'd always known he could trust her with his secret. Hell, he knew he could trust her with his life.
He'd always privately feared he couldn't quite trust Lana, and now he was certain of it. It wasn't a loyalty thing so much as it was a lack of judgment. She'd actually written down his secret in a diary while she was still married to his enemy Lex Luthor, for God's sake. He didn't doubt she'd intended to keep his secret, but writing it down meant that anyone could have found it and read it. Lex could very easily have read it.
The idea that even now, Lex might know his secret, scared the hell out of him.
"It's true," he said gently. He held out the diary. "Here, you can read it yourself."
"I'm not reading that!" Her eyes blazed. "And you never should have, either. Honestly, Clark, how could you? Don't you have any respect for the dead at all?"
She stood up and stalked angrily across the room, and he watched her go, seeing the straight, stiff line of her spine, the angry tilt of her chin. A light began to dawn in his brain.
"You knew," he said softly. "You already knew she locked you in that wine cellar, didn't you?"
She came to a halt, still facing away from him, and her shoulders slumped slightly.
"I didn't know," she answered, her voice low. "I suspected. Not the same thing."
He should have guessed Chloe would already know. She was an investigative reporter, after all, and skilled at putting things together. "How'd you figure it out?" he asked.
"Well, you know..." She sighed, and more of the stiff anger ebbed from her posture. She suddenly looked very small and very defenseless. "Once I thought about it, I realized it was a pretty obvious setup. I mean, the wine cellar door just closed behind me and got stuck. How likely is that?" She shot a hesitant glance over her shoulder. "I kind of freaked out. If I'd thought about it a little more, I might have realized what was going on, and not called you."
"I'm glad you called me," he said softly. "I always want you to call me when you're in trouble, Chlo."
"I wish I hadn't. I let her find out your secret." She sounded miserable. "It was my fault."
"No." He stood up, walked over to her, and put a reassuring hand on her shoulder. "You didn't know, Chloe. It wasn't your fault."
"I should have known." He could hear the tremor in her voice. "She'd been bugging me about your secret, trying to get me to tell her about you. She knew I knew." Her voice fell to a whisper. "And she used me."
He could hear the stark betrayal in her voice, and realized how hard she'd fought against the suspicion that Lana had used her. He turned her around and pulled her against his chest, in a warmly reassuring hug, because he had more to tell her.
"She tried to get into your files on your laptop, too," he said gently.
She stiffened in his arms. "No, Clark. She wouldn't do that."
He sighed. Despite his own feeling of betrayal, his own anger with Lana, he was faintly amused by Chloe's refusal to accept the truth. "Yes, Chlo. She would. She wanted to find out my secret, by any means necessary."
"No need to be sorry. She couldn't get past your password."
"No." She rubbed her face against his shoulder. "I mean, I'm sorry you found out this stuff about her. I guess you're pretty upset."
He thought about it for a moment. He'd had the hell shocked out of him when he'd first read through Lana's diary, he couldn't deny that. Deep inside, he still ached with grief for her loss, and to have this new and distressing knowledge piled on top of his grief didn't help ease the ache any. But now that he'd had some time to digest it, he realized he wasn't as upset as Chloe was, and that perplexed him.
"I don't know," he said at last. "I always thought of her like she was some sort of angel. Like she was perfect. But she was just like anyone else, Chlo. She had blind spots, and she made stupid mistakes." He sighed. "No one's perfect, I guess."
"Not even Lana Lang?"
"Not even Lana Lang." He hesitated for a moment, finding it difficult to put his thoughts into words. "It's weird. In a way it's almost kind of a relief."
"A relief?" He heard bewilderment in her tone. "How could it be a relief?"
"Well... she wasn't an angel, and she wasn't perfect. She was just like the rest of us. I guess I never really admitted that till now."
"I always knew that." She sniffled. "But she was still a good person, Clark."
"I know." He knew as well as anyone that a few mistakes didn't necessarily make a person irredeemably bad. He and Chloe had both made some pretty horrible mistakes, and come out stronger for it in the long run.
It hurt to know that Lana would never get the chance to learn from her mistakes.
Chloe sniffled again. Wanting to comfort her, and maybe himself as well, he pulled her against him, just a little closer. She wasn't perfect, either, and he knew it. But he admired the hell out of her anyway. It occurred to him that even though he'd always believed Lana was perfect, he'd never really admired her the way he admired Chloe.
He felt a shudder run through her, and he realized she wasn't just sniffling, but crying outright. "Hey," he said, squeezing her with rough affection. "Don't cry, Chlo."
He heard a smothered sob, and her words fell out in broken fragments. "I thought... she was... my friend."
"She was your friend."
"No." She shook harder. "She was just using me."
"No, Chlo. She was your friend." He had no idea if it was the truth or not, but he felt the need to console her, because he understood the betrayal she was feeling. He'd felt it himself earlier, when he'd first read the diary. But he remembered the photos of the girls together, and he was pretty sure he was right. There had been real friendship between the girls, on both sides. He couldn't help but suspect it had been a little stronger on Chloe's side, but he wasn't going to say that. "She might have been using you for this one thing, but most of the time, she was your friend."
"I hope you're right."
He hoped he was right too, because Chloe was such an awesome person that the idea of Lana using her, just to get his secret, made his teeth grind together. He forced his jaw to relax.
"Look," he said, "she messed up. But you and I have messed up, too. I guess everyone screws up sometime. And I'm sure she made other mistakes, too. I just never really thought about it before."
It was strange to realize he'd never really known Lana all that well. The truth was, he'd had an idealized vision of her in his head, and hadn't really ever looked that closely at the real girl. And now that he'd taken a look, he wasn't really thrilled with what he saw. Lana had been willing to betray a friend, just to discover his secret, and then she hadn't even been able to keep it safe.
It wasn't that Lana had been a terrible person. But she was no Chloe, that was for sure.
That thought was so shockingly disloyal that he tried to push it out of his head, but for some reason it just wouldn't go away. He thought about how much he trusted Chloe, how much he relied on her, and it started to dawn on him that Chloe felt really good, right here in his arms. He'd hugged her a hundred times, but never realized quite how well she fit against him, or how warm she was.
His body started to react, and he stepped away from her, because he was getting hard, and that made him really uncomfortable. Chloe was his friend. She'd always been his friend. He loved her, but they were just friends.
Anyway, he still had something else he needed to talk about.
"There's one other thing," he said, turning around and retrieving the diary from the couch.
He turned back to her to see her brushing hastily at her cheeks, getting rid of the tears. "What's that?"
He paged through the diary and found what he was looking for, a yellowing, crumpled piece of paper stuck between the back pages. He'd been a little puzzled by its presence in Lana's diary, because he was pretty sure he recognized Chloe's style of writing, and he wasn't quite sure what Lana was doing would be doing with something Chloe had written. He held it out to her.
"I found this letter," he said.
Read Chapter 3 here.