Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
How do you know you're in love?
Honestly, I'm not the person to ask, because I didn't know for years and years. I'd known Chloe Sullivan since middle school, but I thought of her as a friend. My best friend, the person I relied on most. But still just a friend.
After college, I left Metropolis for two years and traveled the world, at the behest of the soulless AI who retained the memories of my alien father. One of his stipulations was that I couldn't come back to Kansas, not even for a microsecond. I didn't really object too hard, even though I hated leaving my friends and family behind, because the world was a pretty interesting place. I was looking forward to exploring it, and helping people outside of my own back yard.
But the whole time I was gone, I felt like something was missing from my life.
I thought maybe it was the farm I'd grown up on in Smallville. There's something about the wide-open spaces of Kansas that I love. I missed the fields that stretched to the distant horizon, the enormous blue sky, the old yellow farmhouse I'd grown up in. I missed the hard labor of keeping a farm running. I even missed the cows and the horses.
Or maybe it was my mom. She was a senator in Washington now, and I emailed her all the time, but it just wasn't the same. We'd been really close when I was a kid, and she'd always been there for me, hugging me and baking cookies. And now things just weren't the same. I really missed having her around to make a fuss over me when things got a little angsty and depressing.
Or maybe what I missed most was Metropolis. I'd transferred my credits to Met U in my junior year of college, because I really loved the city. And part of me missed it an awful lot, missed the excitement and the noise and the constant activity. Somehow the Big Apricot had gotten under my invulnerable skin, and I really missed seeing the tall glass-and-steel towers every day.
But whatever it was that was lacking, I felt a real emptiness in my life as I traveled, an emptiness that couldn't be totally assuaged no matter what I did. Even helping people didn't fill it entirely.
I wasn't sure what it was I was longing for. But I definitely missed something.
I figured out what it was that I missed most the day I came back to Metropolis as a new reporter for the Daily Planet. I walked into the bullpen, dark glasses I didn't need perched firmly on my nose, and saw Chloe Sullivan for the first time in two long years. She hadn't been there the day I'd been hired by Perry White. She was the Planet's star reporter now, and she'd been on assignment in some other city, as she often was.
As I walked toward her, she looked up and smiled her wide, bright, beautiful smile. She was as pretty as ever, long blonde hair falling around her shoulders, little lines at the corners of her eyes that hadn't been there last I saw her. She'd changed just a bit, but her smile was as happy as ever.
"Hello, Clark," she said.
And just like that, I knew what I'd been missing.
It was her.
We'd emailed constantly, of course, and I'd looked forward to every little sentence from her. But it wasn't the same as seeing her in person. I'd missed her smile and her voice and the way she didn't stop typing, even as she spoke to me. I'd missed her fierce dedication to work and her warmth and the sound of her laughter.
I'd missed her in a way a guy didn't miss his best friend. I'd missed her like I'd miss a piece of my soul.
After ten years, it suddenly dawned on me that I was in love with Chloe Sullivan. That I'd been in love with her all this time, since the very first time I'd seen that bright, happy smile, clear back in middle school.
I smiled back, because I really couldn't help it, and put my briefcase down next to my desk, which happened to be across from hers.
"Hi, Chloe," I said simply, and sat down across from her, feeling like I'd finally come home.
She smiled across our desks, looking right into my eyes, and for the first time in a long time, nothing was missing from my life.
Nothing at all.