By Laurelnola and Elly
These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to us.
Read Chapter 1 here.
Talking was actually the furthest thing from his mind, he realized.
What he wanted to do was sweep her into his arms and run like a bat out of hell, until they were far from Metropolis, Smallville, and stupid red barns that had Lana in them. He’d always wondered what Tahiti looked like this time of year.
Calm down, Kent, he told himself, willing himself to breathe as he stared at her questioning, slightly perturbed, eyes.
Except that he got lost in those eyes every time he looked at them, and suddenly his tongue didn’t want to work properly.
“Well?” she asked impatiently, “What favor do you need this time?”
He hated himself at that moment.
He’d known that he’d been purposefully distant with Chloe in the last few months, apparently glossing over her near-death experience, her break-up with Jimmy, and keeping the focus squaring on his big, dumb self. And he’d hurt her in doing it. But how on earth was he supposed to tell her it was because her dying had almost caused him to literally lose his mind? And he couldn’t exactly let slip that, after hearing about her break-up with Jimmy (and a late-night watching of “The Tick”), he’d crazily wondered if his heat vision could reach the moon so he could write the words “Clark loves Chloe” on the lunar surface for all to see.
He glanced at her with narrowed eyes. She was supposed to know him better than he knew himself, he thought desperately. Hell, couldn’t she see that he was walking around half-crazed from being locked in the farmhouse with a psychopath while he worried every second about Chloe slipping away from him?
He stared hard at her, but saw nothing in her expression except resignation.
She was giving up. That’s why she was leaving, he realized. To keep herself from going crazy from the hurt he was causing her. And it was all his own fault, because he was trying so hard to do the right thing, to protect her. He still wanted to keep her safe, but now that he knew she loved him, he wanted…. God, he wanted so much more.
The words came out before he could stop them. “Don’t leave,” he said, not letting her look away.
To his relief, her gaze didn’t drop. But then her chin lifted, and he’d known her too long to know that was not a good sign.
“I see Lana’s pillow-chat has gotten informative,” she said, her eyes growing cold, “I told her I wanted to tell you myself.”
Clark clutched at the ends of the table, praying he didn’t snap it in two. He knew he shouldn’t be surprised that Lana would stab Chloe in the back, or that Chloe would assume he was sleeping with her, but both thoughts combined did nothing except make his blood boil in his veins. Struggling, he took a long, slow breath.
“It doesn’t matter how I found out,” he said, trying to keep his hand from inching over to Chloe’s, so that he could touch some part of her before he screamed with frustration. “What matters is that I’m not letting you leave.”
Now he saw a condescending smile touch her lips, “Oh, really?” she challenged him, “You and exactly what army?”
Clark sighed. Only Chloe wouldn’t give a crap about saying those words to an alien with almost limitless power. He tried a different tactic.
“You belong at the Planet.”
Her arms crossed, “The Planet will survive without me.”
Oh, so she wanted to play hardball, did she? “So you really wouldn’t mind seeing the Edge City Post under your name when you win your Pulitzer, I suppose?”
He watched her stop, and suddenly she bit her lower lip, the way he’d seen her do a million times since they were kids. But then, it was gone, and she met his eyes with a defiant gaze of her own.
“We all do what we have to in order to survive, Clark.”
It was too much. No one, no even someone with his strength, could be expected to endure losing someone they loved this much. Losing their soulmate.
Soulmate, he remembered, and suddenly, he slid his hand over hers, grasping her small fingers in his own. He knew what to do, now.
“Chlo,” he whispered, “Come with me. I want to show you something before you make your decision.”
Chloe followed him out of the basement. Slowly, because the truth was, she didn't give a damn about whatever Clark Kent had to show her.
No. That wasn't true. She still cared about Clark, way, way more than she wanted to. He was far and away the most important person in her world. He meant more to her than Jimmy ever had. He meant more to her than anyone every had.
And that was why she had to leave. She ought to be e-mailing her acceptance letter to the Edge City Post and packing up her desk, right now, rather than trailing Clark up the wide staircase, past the guy with the world resting on his shoulders-- and God, could she ever relate to that poor guy-- and out into a cool autumn morning.
Summer was over, and gold and crimson leaves from the trees that lined the streets fell through the air like snowflakes They lay scattered thickly on the sidewalks, dead, all their prior beauty drying into dust.
Just like her relationship with Clark. Once she'd thought it was going somewhere. Once she'd thought it had potential, and that eventually, he'd see that. Once she'd thought that someday summer would come, and her relationship with Clark would burst into flower.
Instead, it had jumped right ahead to autumn, and it hadn't even flamed into crimson and gold while getting there. It had just withered and dried and fallen to the ground, dead.
"Okay," Clark said. Leaves crunched as they were smashed to dust beneath his big workboots. "We can take your car, or we can take the Clark Kent express. Your choice."
"Where exactly are we going?"
"The Kawatche caves."
She frowned, wondering what the hell Clark wanted to show her. She must be crazy to go along with this, to go along with him. She had work to do, half-finished stories that needed to be completed before she started her new, exciting life far from here...
If Edge City is so damn exciting, why are you so depressed about leaving?
She ignored the cynical inner voice and answered Clark.
"That's over an hour from here by car. I don't have a lot of time to waste this morning."
"You might have more time to waste than you think," he answered mysteriously.
God, she hated it when he went into Obi-Wan mode and got all inscrutable on her. Most of the time he seemed like an ordinary Kansas farmboy, even while he was shooting fire out of his eyes and zooming around so fast protons had to hustle to get out of his way. But every now and then he seemed very alien, and this was one of those times.
She let some of her irritation show in her voice. "I'm leaving, remember? I have things to get accomplished. Unlike some people, I have a job, and I'm going to school besides."
He winced at the jab. "Ow, Chlo. Okay, so you're in a hurry. Got it. That's fine. I'll carry you."
He swung her into his arms like she was lighter than air. She wrapped her arms around his neck instinctively, and had to struggle not to turn her head into his shoulder and draw in the scent of him. He smelled like fresh country air and hay and soap, and his arms were powerful and yet very gentle, and she realized all over again how much she loved him.
Damn it. This was why she needed to get away from him. Because as long as she was near Clark, she couldn't forget about him. She couldn't move on. She spent every day in anticipation of seeing the flash of his bright grin, seeing his pale green eyes crinkled at the corners as he smiled down at her. She loved him so much that when she didn't see him, she ached.
Which meant that moving to Edge City, where she'd never see him any more, would be agonizing. But it was better to rip a Band-Aid off quickly, and if she left, at least she wouldn't spend her days waiting for him to stop in front of her desk, blowing papers every which way.
Of course, Edge City was only a few seconds away at Clark speeds. Still, she thought he'd take the hint and quit visiting her.
She realized he was still standing there, just looking down at her. Since he moved so quickly, they could have been in Smallville by now. She looked up into his eyes, wondering what he was waiting for.
"Why Edge City?" he said softly.
She was surprised to realize their thoughts had been running along the same lines. But not too surprised, because she and Clark had been friends so long their minds often worked similarly.
"It's a new start," she said, groping for words to explain her need to begin again, to try to erase all the mistakes she'd made. "It's a long way away."
He looked at her steadily.
"There isn't any far away, Chlo. Not for me."
She stared into his eyes, wondering what he was telling her. She thought he was saying he'd continue to visit her, no matter where she went, and a little tremor passed through her, a tremor composed of equal parts of longing and pain.
Please, she thought hopelessly. Just let me go, Clark. Just let me go.
He kept staring into her eyes, and for a long moment of hope and fear and desire, she thought he'd kiss her. But then he lifted his head, looking like he'd come to some sort of resolution.
"Cover your eyes," he said.
She turned her face against his chest, closing her eyes and breathing in his masculine fragrance, letting it fill her. He jumped into superspeed.
"Okay," he said an instant later. "We're here."
She lifted her head and found that they were in the relative dimness of the caves. He put her down, and she unwound her arms from his neck, somewhat reluctantly, and blinked, letting her eyes adjust.
The primitive ancestors of the modern-day Kawatche people had painted on these walls, long, long ago, and the paintings were still quite visible, human figures mixed with strange symbols that she recognized as Kryptonian hieroglyphics. She looked at the figures, wondering exactly what story those long-gone people been trying to tell. Because as an investigative reporter, she knew that people always had a story to tell.
Clark seemed to notice her interest in the wall. "That's Numan," he said, pointing.
"Numan. That's who the Kawatche believe you are, right?"
"Yeah." He smiled wryly. "The guy who shoots fire out of his eyes. And that's Sageeth. The bad guy. Numan's former friend, now his greatest enemy."
Lex Luthor, she interpreted. The ancient prophecy seemed to have come true, to some extent, at least. Which wasn't surprising, as the Kawatche had clearly had some alien influences helping them see the future.
"And... Numan's soulmate."
He pointed to another figure, a smaller one, with a symbol Chloe didn't recognize beneath it. She looked at the figure for a long moment, and tears burned her eyes.
Numan's soulmate. Lana Lang.
There were only three figures on the wall. Numan, his enemy, and his soulmate. There was no space on the wall for Numan's best friend, the person who stood at his side and helped him fight evil, the person he turned to when he needed help, the person who was always there for him, no matter what.
There was no space in Clark's life for Chloe Sullivan.
"What's Numan's soulmate's name?" she asked at last, curious. She'd heard him mention the other names before, but she didn't recall him mentioning the soulmate.
He shrugged. "No one knows. She doesn't have a name in the prophecies. She's a woman of mystery."
She smiled, and tried to prevent it from being bitter. "It's not like we really have to wonder what her name is, do we?"
"Chlo..." She caught a sudden glimpse of misery in his green eyes. All at once he looked like he was carrying the world on his shoulders, just like the Atlas statue in the Daily Planet . Sorrow shadowed his eyes, and he stepped forward and took her hand, to her shock. His palm felt warm against hers, and her fingers curled around his almost instinctively.
"Come on," he said. "We're going to the Fortress."
The Fortress was cold. No surprise there. It was always cold, located as it was in the Arctic. Chloe shivered, and he took off his beloved red jacket and put it around her. His scent clung to the jacket, and she breathed it in and pulled the garment around her more tightly.
"Let's see," he said. He walked over to the collection of crystals that she thought of as the Fortress' console, and studied them thoughtfully. They just looked like a bunch of crystals to her, but Clark seemed to be picking through them, choosing among them. "Yeah," he said at last, apparently talking more to himself than to her. "That's the one we need."
He withdrew one, and suddenly the world went fuzzy, and Chloe could see nothing but a white blur. It was like being trapped in a blizzard. She reached out her arms in a panic, grasping for something, anything, and suddenly his hand was holding hers reassuringly. And just as suddenly, her panic faded.
Because with Clark holding her hand, she could face anything.
Read Chapter 3 here.