Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
Clark couldn't move. He tried to move, but his body ignored every command his brain issued. He was frozen with shock by her words. He just stood there and stared at her stupidly.
There had been a little glow of hope in her eyes, but at his stunned reaction it flickered and went out. "I'm sorry," she said, lowering her head so he couldn't see her face. He could see her shoulders slump, though, and that conveyed her disappointed reaction as clearly as any facial reaction. "I shouldn't have said that."
He finally found his tongue. "Chlo--"
"No, it's all right. It's late, that's all. It's been a long day and you just, you know, caught me when I'm tired. But I didn't mean it. Really."
"Chloe," he said softly. "Listen. I loved Lana. I might not have loved her for who she really was, but that doesn't make my feelings any less real."
She turned around and headed for the kitchen. "I knew that," she said, her voice artificially bright and perky. "Of course you loved her. Don't worry about it."
He watched her walking to the little kitchen. In the nightshirt, her legs looked really long, and his gaze was suddenly drawn to them for some reason. He deliberately looked away from them, because he didn't need to get confused by physical stuff. Yeah, Chloe was pretty, and he was noticing that more and more-- but they were talking about love, not lust, and he didn't want to muddy the issue right now.
"Look, Chlo," he said, very gently. "You deserve better than to be my rebound girl."
"Yeah. I know." She paused in the kitchen, dropped the letter carelessly on the counter, and poured herself a cup of coffee.
"You shouldn't drink that, Chlo. You'll be awake all night."
"No. I'm immune to coffee." She smiled wryly. "Too bad I've never developed an immunity to you, huh?"
He winced again. "I'm not good enough for you, Chlo. You deserve someone who can love you the way you ought to be loved."
"Yeah." She sighed. "Unfortunately, the only someone I want doesn't want me that way."
He thought about all his years of loving Lana, no matter who she was with or how much she didn't notice him. He understood all about not being immune to someone, about being hurt over and over again, but still not being able to walk away. And he hadn't even really been in love with the real Lana, but an illusion, an idealized vision of Lana. He wondered how much worse it was to be in love with a real person, to be aware of all their flaws and faults, and still not be able to give up on them.
Chloe had loved him all these years. Not just his better qualities, but his mopiness and his tendency toward self-pity and his inability to look away from Lana. She understood him completely, the good and the bad, and she loved him anyway. All of a sudden he felt very... humbled.
He knew that at least part of what had drawn Lana to him was curiosity, the desire to know his secret. And to be fair, that was part of what had drawn Chloe to him, too, at least at the beginning. But he and Chloe had been close for so long he knew she loved him for what he was. He wasn't sure that had ever been true for Lana.
In fact, he couldn't help but wonder if Lana had really had any genuine interest in him beyond his secret. He remembered that everything she'd written in his diary had been about his secret and her efforts to uncover it. She hadn't ever poured out her thoughts and feelings about him, the way Chloe had in that letter.
Maybe she hadn't really had any feelings for him.
Or maybe she'd loved him deeply, and just hadn't been able to write about it. She wasn't a writer, after all. Chloe was a writer, so she was naturally able to express her thoughts in words. Words that had touched him more deeply than he really wanted to admit. Maybe they'd touched Lana, too. Not for the first time, he wondered what on earth Lana had been doing with that letter, anyway.
He walked across to the little kitchen and picked up the letter. "Can I keep this?"
She froze with the cup at her lips, and stared at him over the rim. "Why?"
"You wrote it for me. I figure that makes it mine." He picked it up, holding it carefully, and smiled slightly. "It just took a little while to get to me."
A little wrinkle appeared in her forehead. "I'd like to know how Lana got it, anyway. I distinctly remember throwing it out in the Torch."
"Obviously she picked it up out of the trash can. I'm not sure why she would have done that, though, or why she would have hung onto it." He thought about it. "She did say something weird to me after I recovered from that fever, though. We were at my mom's fundraiser, and Lana told me that I meant a lot to her. And then she said she wasn't very, uh, eloquent, but that some people were better with words than others. And she kind of looked over at you as she said it. I guess she'd read your letter at that point."
Chloe put down the cup. Her eyes were blazing. "Are you telling me she read my letter pouring my heart out to you, and then she went straight to you and told you how much you meant to her?"
"Um..." All of a sudden Chloe looked really dangerous. He thought backing away slowly might be prudent, and only barely managed to hold his ground. "Uh, yeah. Is that a problem?"
Her eyes went molten gold. "That bitch."
"Chloe!" He actually took a step backward before the rage in her voice. He understood that she'd already been feeling betrayed by what Lana had done more recently, and he knew as well as anyone how grief could swing wildly into irrational rage and back again in the blink of an eye. He knew anger was part of the natural grieving process. But he was nevertheless taken aback by her venomous tone. "What happened to having respect for the dead?"
She glared up at him, her eyes narrowed into glittering slits. "She knew how I felt. She knew how I felt, and she made a play for you anyway. She was supposed to be my friend, damn it. My best friend. Best friends don't steal guys from behind each other's backs."
He frowned at her, slightly annoyed by her phrasing. "I am not a piece of property, Chlo."
"Oh, I know that." She scowled. "It's just... that was always Lana's style, you know? She wouldn't ever make a move on a guy until she saw she had competition, and then she'd be all over the guy. It always ticked me off. It's a total violation of girlfriend rules."
"Maybe. But it might be better than never making a move on a guy at all, like some people."
The dangerous gleam faded from her eyes, and her mouth curved in a rueful smile. "Yeah, maybe. I guess Lana and I both had guy issues. Not the least of which was we both wanted the same guy."
"I'm sorry," he said softly. "I never meant to come between the two of you."
"Not your fault." She smiled a little. "You can't help being fabulously attractive."
He rolled his eyes. "Chloe..."
She snorted. "I suppose you figured we were both into you for your brain?"
"Chloe." It was typical of her to tease him that way, and he had to fight back a smile of his own. He folded the paper, very carefully, and tucked it into his t-shirt pocket, then looked back at her.
Surely, he thought, she couldn't really still feel that way about him, after all this time. Not after listening to him bitch and moan and whine about Lana for years on end. He remembered that she'd tried to blow it off, tried to tell him she was just tired and hadn't meant it at all, and suddenly he wanted very much to know if that was the truth. He wanted to know how she felt about him now.
"Listen, Chlo..." He hesitated, then blurted it out. "Do you really love me? Still? Or were you honestly just tired?"
She looked at him, and he saw the emotions flickering through her eyes-- the desire to keep herself safe, to close off her emotions, warring with her characteristic honesty. Finally she seemed to come to a decision.
"Yes," she said softly. "I really do love you, Clark. After all these years, I still love you."
Read Chapter 5 here.