Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
Clark felt warmth eddy through him. He tried to ignore it, and spoke gruffly. "You never told me."
"That's not true. I told you I had feelings for you after the pompom juice incident. Remember? And you said you were sorry, but you didn't feel that way about me."
"At least not right now. That's what I said. Not right now."
"I remember." She sighed. "And let's face it, right now is forever, because you're never going to feel that way about me."
"Chloe... that was high school. I knew you had a thing for me back then. But I'm talking about after high school. I thought you'd gotten past all that. Gotten past me. I mean, you never said anything."
She heaved another sigh. "And I shouldn't have said anything now, either. I'm sorry I brought it up, Clark. Really. I don't want to make things weird or awkward between us. Just attribute it to exhaustion and forget about it, okay?"
She turned her back on him and went back toward the living area, sipping her coffee. This time he let himself look at her, admiring the smooth roll of her hips under the nightshirt, admiring her long legs. Because for the first time it occurred to him that maybe letting himself get confused by the physical wasn't such a bad thing.
Maybe he needed to quit pretending he didn't have any sort of physical attraction for her.
I wish I felt the same way, but I don't. At least not right now. He remembered saying those words, and knew that even in high school they hadn't been true, not completely. Because yes, he'd been in love with Lana at the time, but he'd loved Chloe, too. On some level, he'd always loved Chloe. And yeah, he'd loved her in a friendly way, but nonetheless with an awful lot of intensity.
He remembered what she'd written in the letter that he'd placed so carefully into his shirt pocket: I'm the girl of your dreams, masquerading as your best friend.
He thought of how often he'd called her over the years, how he'd depended on her in every crisis, and he began to suspect the line between friendship and romance was a little less clearcut than he'd always believed. Emotionally, Chloe was extremely important to him.
And he'd wanted her physically, too, even back in high school. He remembered her kissing him under the influence of the love potion, moving on his lap with sensual, seductive grace, and remembered how hard it had been to push her away. He'd had a hard time pretending, even to himself, that he didn't have any physical interest in her.
When he'd rejected her later, out on that football field, he'd been doing his best to protect his friendship with her. He'd been aware he still had unresolved issues with Lana, and he didn't want to make Chloe his rebound girl, to get her mixed up in an emotional disaster, because he knew his emotions were all muddled.
Sometimes I want to rip off the façade like I did at the spring formal. But I can't because you'll get scared and you'll run away again.
He probably would have run away from her at some point and fallen for Lana again, hurting Chloe terribly in the process. And Chloe deserved a lot better than that. She'd meant far too much for him to do that to her. She still did.
Yet there had always been a part of him that wanted her, very badly. And not just the part he'd expect to want her. Somewhere deep inside, there was a need for her that wouldn't go away, no matter how much he rationalized and told himself he didn't feel that way about her, no matter how much he tried to think of her as just a friend. Those emotions had always been there, and they weren't going to go away just because he was grieving for Lana.
And the realization that she'd loved him, quietly, steadily, uncomplainingly, all these years only made his own feelings more intense.
His relationship with Lana had been turbulent, tumultuous, on-again, off-again. He remembered her spitting at him, I don't know how I ever loved you. He remembered her ignoring him coldly, and treating him with contempt when their paths crossed, for six months, then suddenly deciding she loved him again, right before her marriage to another man.
Chloe had been dating Jimmy for the past six months-- but she hadn't ever turned away from Clark, hadn't ever treated him like he was unwanted or unwelcome in her life. They'd stayed close, and she'd continued to be there for him, even when she was dating Jimmy. And she'd continued to love him, even though he suspected she probably hadn't wanted to. He was pretty sure she'd wanted to fall for Jimmy, but her feelings for Clark had gotten in the way.
The truth was, Chloe's love had been steady and unwavering. Lana's hadn't.
That realization made him think of one of his dad's old sayings. Clark, Jonathan had told him more than once, a wise man builds his house on rock. A foolish man builds his on sand.
Lana's love for him had been like sand, shifting with the wind, hard to build anything substantial on. Chloe's love for him was solid and stable and unchanging, a rock he could depend on.
Things in his head were starting to settle into new patterns, and it made him a little uncomfortable. He'd been certain his heart had been buried with Lana, but obviously it hadn't been, because here he was thinking about another girl. And even though it was Chloe, the one person he'd always counted on, always trusted, always loved, he didn't like it.
Maybe, he thought, he didn't like the direction of his thoughts especially because it was Chloe. Because Chloe had been his best friend, and if things got messed up between them, it would mess up their friendship as well. For him to think about Chloe that way... well, it was dangerous, and a little scary.
But he couldn't seem to help himself.
He walked slowly toward the couch and sat down next to her. She was still sipping her coffee with a thoughtful expression. She'd curled her legs up on the cushions, and the nightshirt rode up around her thighs, exposing an awful lot of creamy white skin. His gaze dropped automatically to her legs, and he felt his heart start to pound in his chest.
So much for my heart being buried with Lana, he thought, a little grimly.
"Uh," he said, because despite everything he'd realized tonight, he was pretty damn sure he wasn't ready for this. Whatever this might be. Retreat all of a sudden seemed like the most prudent option, so he could sit in his loft and contemplate things a little more before he took action. "I guess I better get going."
"Clark." She leaned toward him and put a hand on his arm, and suddenly his heart was pounding even harder, so hard he was afraid she might be able to hear it. "Listen... I really didn't mean to make things awkward."
"You didn't." He swallowed, feeling her palm burn his arm. All of a sudden retreat didn't seem like his best option any more. In fact, it didn't seem like an option at all. He didn't think he could walk away from her. "I mean, it's good to know how you feel, Chlo. That you still feel that way, I mean. I wish you'd told me earlier. I mean, you kissed me that time in the Daily Planet..." He remembered the feel of her arms around his neck, the way she'd tasted, and he forced his mind away from those images, and back to the topic at hand. "But then when I tried to talk about it, you blew it off like it was nothing."
"I knew how you felt about Lana," she said softly.
"Still. How could I ever really choose between you when I didn't even know you felt that way about me? You acted like you weren't even interested."
"So?" She lifted an eyebrow, looking as haughty and imperious as a queen. He hated it when she got all regal with him, because she made him feel like a peasant. "What was I supposed to do, Clark, keep throwing myself at you like I did in high school? Believe it or not, I do have a little self-respect left. I'm not going to keep trying to seduce you. I'm not going to put myself out there on the line that way."
I decided it's better to live with the lie than to expose my true feelings.
"Fine," he said. Maybe it was just because it was late, or maybe it was the way her nightshirt exposed her thighs, or maybe it was something else entirely. But suddenly he felt very reckless. "Then I'll do it."
He grabbed her and kissed her.
Read Chapter 6 here.