Seasons 1, 2, futurefic
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
Author's Note: Not a Chlark story.
"Clark, don't worry about it."
Chloe Sullivan patted her date's arm reassuringly. They'd just found out a tornado had been spotted in Smallville, near where their friend Lana Lang was, and Clark Kent was seriously freaking out. He was tall, dark-haired, and gorgeous, and she'd been in love with him for a year now, and everything had been going just great. They'd almost kissed, in fact. But now his attention was totally on the fact that Lana was in danger.
It was as if Chloe didn't exist any more.
"I'm sure she's home by now," she went on, trying to push back her petty thoughts. Lana might really be in danger, after all. "You know what... I'll go call her on my cell phone. You just wait here, and..."
She turned away and headed for the exit, because the music in the gym was way too loud for her to make a phone call. An odd sound caught her attention, and she glanced back over her shoulder and realized Clark was gone.
"Clark?" She looked around, searching for his tall form through the crowd. "Clark?"
But he wasn't there any more. Somehow he'd just disappeared.
He'd left her.
The next day, Chloe found herself leaning against a tree, blinking back tears. They'd been searching for Clark's missing dad, and she and Clark had just had a conversation. Clark had just walked away, and Pete Ross approached her, looking worried.
"Hey," he said, frowning.
She averted her face and smiled. "Hey yourself."
"What's up with the fake smile?"
"Nothing." She felt the smile wobble. "Clark and I just reaffirmed we're really good friends. And nothing else."
Pete reached out and put a hand on her shoulder. "Pulled the friends card on you, huh?"
"No." Her voice quavered. "I did. Defense mechanism."
Not that Clark had fought her very hard. But he had a lot on his mind right now, and she really couldn't blame him. It was her fault. She'd backed away from Clark, because deep inside she was sure he didn't feel that way about her. There was no point in continuing to try for a relationship with Clark when he just didn't want her that way.
Pete patted her shoulder, gently. "Listen, Chlo, it's okay to feel bummed out. Last night was supposed to be special... and it got ruined."
It was nice of him to console her, because it wasn't like Pete's night had been all that ruined. He'd gone to the dance with a pretty girl named Erica he'd had a crush on for a while, and even after the tornado was announced, they'd continued dancing in each other's arms for much of the evening.
That could have been me and Clark, Chloe thought, then pushed the bitter thought away and replaced it with some even more bitter ones. It wasn't her and Clark, and it wouldn't ever be, because Clark was in love with Lana.
Clark just didn't feel that way about Chloe, and he never would.
"It was just so close to being perfect," she said, trying to steady her voice. Her tone was so whiny that she had to roll her own eyes. "Oh, listen to me. I sound so pathetic. A tornado hit, people are in real trouble... and I'm upset because Clark didn't fulfill all my fantasies." She looked up, into Pete's steady, understanding brown eyes. "You must think I'm an awful person."
"Yeah." He gave her an understanding smile. "You're a real monster."
At his gentle sympathy, she felt the shattered pieces of her heart stir and begin to meld back into some semblance of wholeness. Good old Pete, she thought gratefully. He was always there for her. He was a real friend.
But he didn't move away, only stood looking at her, and she saw something deep in his eyes that made her think Erica didn't matter all that much to him after all. Not for the first time, she suspected Pete felt a lot more for her than mere friendship.
For an instant, she thought he might kiss her, but then he turned away, smiling a little grimly. "Come on," he said, looping an arm around her shoulders and leading her away from the tree.
She followed, but couldn't stop herself from glancing back over her shoulder, looking for Clark. Her gaze fell on the tree she'd been leaning against, and she noticed that someone had carved the word soulmate into it, almost like a sign.
That was what she'd always thought she and Clark might be. Soulmates. But for the first time, she admitted to herself it wasn't true. She and Clark just weren't meant to be. Not that way.
If the word soulmate was a sign, she was sadly certain that the sign wasn't meant to point toward Clark.
Ten years later
"You know you have to dance with me later, right?"
Chloe looked up from the mirror. A handsome guy in a tux stood behind her, grinning a grin she remembered well. She'd known that Pete was Clark's best man, and that he'd be at the church this morning, and yet she was almost shocked to see him standing behind her. Shocked, but delighted.
The hard-won dignity of adulthood deserted her, and she squealed, spun around, and flung herself against him.
"Hey, don't rumple the threads," he said, but despite the words he was hugging her back. He held her briefly, in a close, affectionate hug, then pushed her back a bit and looked her over. "Damn, Chlo, you just get more gorgeous every time I see you."
"Please." She rolled her eyes. "You're the gorgeous one here. God, you look great in a tux, Pete."
He really did. She hadn't seen him since high school, when he'd left Smallville to go to Topeka with his mom, and she was surprised to see he'd grown a few inches. He still wasn't anywhere near as tall as Clark, but he no longer looked her right in the eye, either.
Pete was a good-looking guy, his skin the color of milk chocolate, his hair cropped close to his head, and beneath the tux, she suspected he might be pretty ripped. His body had felt really solid and firm in those few seconds when he'd held her close.
She realized where her thoughts were going, and pushed them back. She and Pete were still good friends, and they emailed back and forth quite a bit. But they were just friends, and she had no business speculating on whether or not he had a six-pack.
Pete kept his arm around her and gazed down at her. "So tell me how Clark wound up getting married to your cousin."
She shrugged, trying to look indifferent. Most people, even Lois and Clark, really believed she was over her long-term crush on Clark, but she thought that even though Pete hadn't seen her for years, he might still know her too well to buy her show of indifference.
"Well, Lois came to town to look for me when I disappeared, not long after you left," she said. "And then, you know, one thing sort of led to another. It took a while, but Clark finally quit running after Lana and fell for Lois."
"Somehow I always figured you and Clark would wind up together," Pete said.
She tried for an airy laugh, but there was no humor in it. "Please. Clark and I realized a long time ago we were better off as friends."
"Sure," Pete answered, looking dubious. He unwrapped his arm from around her shoulders, somewhat to her dismay, and stepped back, studying her admiringly. She was Lois' maid of honor, and her gown was dark blue, a color that set off her pale skin and blonde hair. It rippled gracefully to the floor, but it was cut low enough in front to make most guys sit up and take notice. The glint in Pete's dark eyes suggested he wasn't oblivious to her better features.
"It's good to see you again, Chlo," he said at last. "Damn good."
She smiled for the first time that morning, and answered with total honesty.
"You too, Pete."
The wedding was beautiful. Clark and Lois were gorgeous together, tall and dark-haired and very clearly in love. His black tuxedo contrasted with her long white dress, but their happy smiles were identical.
As they said their vows, Chloe let herself cry a little, hoping everyone would think she was weeping tears of joy. She could feel her heart shattering into pieces all over again, and she wondered if there was any possible way she could get through the reception without totally disgracing herself.
"Champagne," Pete said an hour later. He'd seated her at a table at the reception, and he placed a tall flute of champagne in front of her with a flourish. "It'll cure what ails you."
She smiled wistfully, looking deliberately away from Clark and Lois. They looked happy, so happy that her secret envy made her feel very petty and mean-spirited to be unhappy. But she couldn't help the way she felt. "I wish it were that easy, Pete."
"Yeah. We all do." He sat down at the table next to her, and she looked at him curiously, wondering exactly what he meant by that.
"You're not dating anyone right now, are you?"
"No." He looked back at her, his eyes very solemn. "I guess you and I are sort of in the same boat, Chlo. I fell for someone a long time ago, and I just can't quite seem to get over her."
Her eyebrows shot up. He couldn't possibly mean what she thought he meant.
But looking into his dark, honest eyes, she knew that he did.
"Pete," she said, very gently. "Listen..."
"Yeah, I know." He flashed his wry, white grin. "You and I are stubborn, Chloe. The way we feel never changes, no matter what. There's nothing on Earth that could change the way I feel about you, and I'm pretty sure you feel the same way about Clark. I can't get over you, and you can't get over Clark."
"He's married." Her eyes suddenly brimmed with tears. "He's married to my cousin. I have to get over him, Pete."
He smiled at her, a warm, genuine smile. "I'd be happy to help you out with that, Chloe."
She shook her head, blinking back the tears. She didn't want anyone else hurt the way she'd been hurt. Especially not Pete. He was a great guy, and he deserved so much better than that. This was something she had to get through on her own.
"No," she whispered at last, bowing her head. "I don't know if I can ever... and I can't ask you to..."
"Chloe." His voice was very soft. "That's why I came here today. Not for Clark. For you."
She lifted her head and looked at him, really looked at him for the first time. He wasn't the same boy she'd known in high school. He was full-grown, with a job and responsibilities and a life of his own, and yet in a way he hadn't really changed. He still had the same sense of humor overlaying a solid, reliable core.
Pete Ross was someone she could depend on. Someone whose feelings never wavered. He was reliable and strong and decent. She admired him very much, and they'd been good friends forever.
And he'd loved her, silently and from a distance, for ten years.
Pete was right, she mused. They had an awful lot in common. In the ways that mattered most, they were very much alike.
Maybe, she thought, she'd been looking for her soulmate in the wrong place all along.
She reached out, very slowly, and took his hand. His fingers curled around hers, and he smiled at her, a warm, happy grin that made the shattered pieces of her heart slowly begin to knit back together.
"I've missed you an awful lot, Chlo."
"Yeah," she whispered, holding his hand. "I've missed you too."
Before long the music would start, and Clark and Lois would dance together. And then she and Pete would stand up in front of everyone and dance. Pete would take her in his arms, and she'd wrap her arms around his neck, and they'd sway to the music.
And suddenly she was looking forward to that moment, more than she'd looked forward to anything in a long, long time.
She'd been in love with Clark for her entire adult life, and she really didn't know if anything could even change that. She still wasn't certain she could love Pete.
But all at once, she realized she didn't mind trying.