Season 5, "Arrival"
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
It takes some time for a feeling to grow
You're so close now I can't let you go
And I can't let go
With you I'm not shy to show the way I feel
With you I might try my secrets to reveal
For you are a magnet and I am steel
-Walter Egan, "Magnet and Steel"
"I wonder who's more freaked out right now." Despite the fact that she'd almost frozen to death, he could hear the familiar warm snark in her voice, and see her customary wry smile curving her lips. "Me, knowing I'm in a hospital where they get their medicine via dogsled, or you... finally finding out I know your secret."
Clark Kent stood against the door, his arms crossed over his chest defensively. He'd been friends with Chloe Sullivan for a long, long time, but he couldn't help feeling defensive. His parents had brought him up to keep his secret to himself, and knowing that someone else had learned it, even his very best friend, freaked him the hell out.
"How long have you known?" he said at last.
She shrugged."I guess I've always had my suspicions. The quick exits, the miraculous recoveries, the lame excuses..." Her smile grew wider, and her nose wrinkled a bit.
He loved the way her nose wrinkled when she smiled that way. It always made him melt helplessly, although he tried not to let her know the effect it had on him. Because Chloe was already totally able to manipulate him, to wrap him right around her little finger.
The absolute last thing she needed was to learn yet more ways to convince him to do her evil bidding.
She went on, and he forced himself to ignore the impossible cuteness of her wrinkled nose. "But I think that when I saw you catch a car like it was a beach ball... that kind of confirmed everything."
A car. Suddenly he remembered the night his former girlfriend Alicia had called him on her cell phone, hysterically sobbing that her car was out of control. He'd zoomed out to the highway and caught it as it went airborne. But there was no one in the car. He'd assumed she'd teleported out, but the whole situation had left him feeling kind of worried. And with good reason, apparently. Obviously Alicia had set him up.
Chloe had known all this time, he realized slowly. For six months, she'd known, and she'd never let on that she knew. Not to him.
Not to anyone.
The knowledge warmed him, and he uncrossed his arms and walked across to the window. He still couldn't bring himself to look into her eyes, so he stared out at the snowy northern landscape, his back turned toward her.
"Why didn't you say anything?"
He heard a soft chuckle. "I figured if you wanted to tell me you were part of the superpowered persuasion, you would when you were ready. On your terms, not on mine."
More warmth flooded him. In that moment, he didn't need to see her wrinkled nose to be totally and completely wrapped around her finger. He would have done absolutely anything for her.
He did his best to tell her what he was feeling, but the words that came out weren't even remotely adequate to express his emotions. "You're a good friend, Chloe."
He could hear the snark in her voice. "Obviously not good enough."
He closed his eyes, hating that he'd made her think she somehow wasn't a good enough friend, when she was far and away the best friend he'd ever had. "There were so many times I wanted to tell you," he said softly.
"Clark." Her voice was very earnest, and the snark faded. "I don't blame you, honestly. Loose lips sink ships... and God knows I've sunk my share of flotillas." She was silent for a moment, and he could almost hear the wheels in her head turning. "What about Lana?" she asked at last. "Does she know?"
Clark turned around to face her. She wore a blue hospital gown, her blonde hair fell in a tangled mass around her windburned face... and she was so inexplicably lovely his chest hurt when he looked at her.
He stared into her bright hazel eyes and almost answered, Lana who?
With a huge mental effort, he managed to get his brain back in gear. Lana Lang was the girl he'd been in love with since he was five. Or at least the girl he'd always thought he loved. But the weird thing was, he couldn't imagine ever sharing his secret with Lana. He'd tried to tell her the truth a few times, and always stopped at the last moment. He just hadn't been able to get past the fear that Lana would reject him, that she wouldn't be able to accept him for who he really was. The fear that she'd tell his secret to the world.
He was surprised to discover he was very glad that it was Chloe who'd learned his secret instead.
"No," he said flatly. "She doesn't know."
Chloe looked up at him, her eyes very earnest. "Well," she said in a soft voice, "I want you to know, I'll never be the iceberg to your Titanic. Your secret will never ever leave my lips. No matter what."
He could feel himself melting again, and he mentally added big earnest eyes to the list of things she could use to wrap him around her little finger. Or maybe it was just the way she promised to protect his secret. He believed her, totally, and he could barely stop himself from dissolving into a puddle on the floor.
"I appreciate that," he answered softly.
She cocked her head, her eyes bright and curious. "There are still a few blind spots, though. Things I don't quite get. Like-- how exactly did we get beamed from the Kawatche cave to the North Pole? And what was really going on in that forty story igloo?"
He sighed and walked over to her, sitting down in the chair beside her bed. She still didn't know everything there was to know about him, not by a long shot, and he knew he didn't have to tell her all about himself. He could assert he was an everyday, average meteor freak-- if there really was such a thing-- and he knew she'd go along with it. She probably wouldn't believe him... but she'd pretend to believe him.
But he didn't want to do that. Now that she knew part of his secret, he wanted her to know the whole thing. He wanted her to know everything there was to know about him. For the first time in his life, he really wanted someone else to know.
Even so, his heart pounded heavily in his chest, and he realized he was terrified of what her reaction might be.
He struggled to keep his voice steady. "Look, Chloe," he said, ducking his head and avoiding her eyes, "there's a lot of things about me that even I don't understand. The meteor rocks... they didn't make me the way I am."
She lifted her head and stared at him, looking more intrigued than before. "So you're saying you were born this way?"
"I wasn't born anywhere near Smallville." He hesitated, then blurted the rest of it out. "In fact, I wasn't born anywhere near this solar system."
Her mouth fell open. "Okay," she said slowly. "Okay, so that would make you an..."
The word alien stood between them like a brick wall. He could feel the word separating them, could feel it separating him from all of humanity. He nodded slowly, still barely looking at her. He didn't want to see disgust and horror in his best friend's eyes. "Yeah," he answered.
"But you..." She was clearly taken aback, because it was rare for Chloe to stammer. Ordinarily she fired words like bullets. "But you look so..."
He lifted his head and glared into her eyes challengingly. "Human?"
She stared back, her eyes wide. Pain trickled through him, along with the terrible feeling of being different from everyone else on the planet. Different from her. He'd hoped Chloe would accept him for who he was, but she hadn't, and his throat went tight.
He felt literally alienated, and it hurt like hell.
"I'm still the same person." He could hear the sharp edge of defensiveness in his voice, and apparently she could hear it too, because her eyes softened.
"I know." She reached out and put her hand on his, rather to his surprise. He realized with relief he'd jumped to conclusions about her reaction. She'd been startled, but not repulsed. She knew he was an alien, and she was willing to touch him anyway. In fact, she was touching him exactly the same way as she always had, her hand warm and soft on his.
Yet another thing to add to the list, he thought.
"Clark." Her voice was soft and reverent. "I think you're so amazing."
He stared into her eyes for just a second longer, then dropped his gaze. "Chloe..."
"Seriously." She talked right over him, something she had a habit of doing. "You save people's lives and take zero credit for it. To me, you're more than just a hero." Her hand squeezed his. "You're a superhero."
He swallowed. For some reason his throat had grown even tighter. "Chloe--"
"I'm serious, Clark." She spoke over him again, but he didn't really mind, because what she was saying was so totally incredible that he could happily sit here and listen to her all day long. "If more humans were like you, the world would be a better place."
He stared at her, wordless, struck utterly dumb by the incredible acceptance she offered, and the clear admiration in her eyes. The corners of his mouth quirked up in a tentative smile, and she smiled back at him, wrinkling her nose.
He melted yet again, and fell totally and completely into love with her.
He could feel his smile growing into a big, dorky, stupid grin, but he couldn't do a damn thing to prevent it. "Chloe," he whispered, and bent forward. He knew he shouldn't, because he was supposed to be in love with Lana Lang, but he just couldn't stop himself. It was like Chloe was a magnet, and he was steel. He couldn't stay away from her.
His lips brushed over hers, very lightly, and she didn't shrink away from him. She didn't even hesitate. She just lifted a hand, put it against his cheek, and returned his kiss warmly.
He kept it sweet and platonic, even though he didn't really want to. But there was too much going on in his life right now, too much going on in the world right now that he had to cope with. Maybe soon, he thought hopefully, he'd be able to kiss her in a way that said a whole lot more.
He drew back and looked into her eyes, and saw from the smile there that he'd already told her plenty.
And he'd discovered some things for himself, too. He'd realized that Lana wasn't the girl he really wanted. He'd adored Lana Lang since he was a kid, and his childish crush had somehow obscured the quieter and truer emotion he felt for Chloe.
He'd thought his feelings for Chloe were only friendship, but suddenly he wondered how he could have been so blind and so stupid. His feelings for Chloe had been quietly growing for a long time, building in intensity until they were almost painfully strong, and now, all of a sudden, he couldn't imagine letting her go. Ever.
She knew his secret. She knew everything there was to know about him. And she liked him just as much as she ever had.
Chloe, he realized, was the girl he could trust with his life.
She smiled a little more broadly, wrinkling her nose adorably, and he melted into a puddle of stark adoration. He knew he'd do anything for her, anything at all. Any nefarious activity she wanted him to undertake, he'd do in a heartbeat. He couldn't say no to her when she wrinkled her nose that way. He just couldn't.
She drew his head back down, and he realized that fortunately for him, all she wanted him to do right now was kiss her.
And that, he decided, was something he was more than happy to help her out with.