By Laurelnola and Elly
These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to us.
Read Chapter 2 here.
“Where are we?”
Clark was still holding her hand, and he glanced down at her. Facing a room full of kryptonite was easier than facing Chloe in this cavernous room of the Fortress, where the world had gone utterly still.
But, the irony was, he had run out of time.
Still unable to look at her, he said softly, “We’re still in the Fortress. It should clear in a moment.” And as he said the words, the sharp, icy contours of the Fortress came into view again, and he saw her eyes darting around, her brows crinkling in confusion.
“Clark, if we’re still in the Fortress, then what was all that?”
He took a deep breath, “It was because the crystal stopped time.”
Now her whole body swiveled around to face him, “Say what?”
“We’re outside of time,” he explained, still holding on to her hand, “Just you and me. Everything else has stopped.”
She stepped back a bit and he immediately felt the loss of her being close to him.
“Are you putting me on?” she cocked her head in classic even-I-don’t-believe-this-and-I’m-Chloe mode. “I mean, the Fortress looks the same.”
“Look outside,” he told her.
She eyed him warily, and he watched her walk over to the gaping entrance of the fortress and peek through. He could already see through the walls themselves, and he heard her give a little gasp when she finally saw the scene outside.
The snow was hanging suspended in the air, the clouds eerily motionless.
“Whoa,” he heard her whisper, and she swung back to face him. This time he couldn’t help but smile a little.
She started back towards him, “So… were you ever going to mention this new super-power of yours?”
The smile became a grin. Only Chloe would assume that every fantastic thing that happened did so because of his own innate powers. He almost hated to tell her the truth, but, he reminded himself soberly, that was exactly what he’d come here to do.
“I can’t do this on my own, Chlo,” he said, “It’s just Kryptonian technology.”
“Pretty handy technology,” she replied, clearly impressed. “Too bad you don’t have a roulette wheel in here.”
He frowned, “I’ve been gambling enough as it is.”
Her own smile faded, too, and he saw her eyes narrow as she began to watch him more closely, “This isn’t just you giving me the latest edition of Clark Kent’s Unusual Life, is it?”
“No,” he agreed softly, “It isn’t.”
“Do you want to tell me what it is about?” she asked, and she was gazing at him with a mixture of anxiety and curiosity and almost, he crazily thought, the faintest glimmer of hope. Could she feel it, now that time had stopped and there was no sound, no movement on earth but they two? Now that everything else had been filtered out, could she feel how much he loved her?
His felt his courage struggling to escape, because just looking at her made him weak in the knees, but he swallowed hard and pushed forward.
“It’s about you and Jimmy.”
She seemed to deflate, and he hurriedly finished, “I mean, it’s about the way I acted when you broke up with Jimmy.”
“Oh. That,” she sighed, and he could already see her priming up the super-bright smile she reserved for when he’d been an ass to her but she didn’t want him to know it. “Don’t worry about that, Clark, it’s all water under the…”
“No, that’s just it. I did worry about it,” he assured her, grasping her arm, “I worried about it more than you can imagine.”
She rolled her eyes and he realized that he’d done such a good job of acting like he didn’t care about her problems that even Chloe didn’t believe it, now.
“Yeah, sure,” she pursed her lips, and his heart began to beat frantically.
“Chlo, please, believe me,” now both of his hands were on her shoulders, and he was willing her to look at him, “I wanted to be there for you. I wanted to tear Jimmy limb from limb for hurting you. I cared so much that my only defense was to keep my trap shut so that I wouldn’t tell you…” he struggled, “… because I couldn’t tell you…”
His head bowed, defeated, so that she couldn’t see the anguish in his face. Loving Chloe came so easily. But telling her he loved her, after everything he’d put them both through, was proving to be harder than he’d ever thought possible.
“Tell me what, Clark?” he heard her voice, soft against the top of his head, and there was no anger, no reproach. Just understanding. It was the voice he knew she always saved just for him, the one that said he could trust her with anything.
“Clark,” she said again, and this time her two hands cupped the sides of his jaw, dragging his eyes back up to meet her own, so that for a moment he was lost again in those emerald depths. “You can tell me anything,” she whispered, “You ought to know that by now.”
His voice sounded like gravel to his own ears, as he looked at the woman he loved and let everything pour out of him, like water gushing from a broken dam.
“I did it all to keep you safe, Chlo. I couldn’t bear to lose you and it seemed like no matter what I did, fate kept yanking you out of my hands, just like I lost my father,” he knew he was babbling but he couldn’t stop, “And then you seemed so happy with him that I couldn’t take that away from you, even though it was killing me. But I couldn’t do anything if I didn’t keep you safe first. Not even if it meant pretending I still loved Lana and watching you drift away from me, but God, Chlo,” he gripped her hands harder, “please don’t leave because I just might go crazy if you do.”
He stared at her eyes, wide with shock, and he suddenly felt so damned vulnerable that his head dropped again, utterly at her mercy. He wasn’t even surprised when she dropped her hands.
“Pretending you love Lana?” her own voice sounded faraway, “I don’t understand.”
He raised his head once more, “I couldn’t keep quiet anymore, Chlo. Not if it was what made you leave.”
He could see the flutter of her heartbeat beneath her blouse, could see it quickening as she put the pieces together into the answer that he knew she still didn’t want to let herself believe. Because he’d disappointed her too many times before.
But not this time.
“Why would you care so much, Clark?” she whispered, and his heart twisted because he could see tears beginning to form in the corners of her eyes.
Without thinking, his own palm reached up to caress her face, the face that filled his every waking moment.
“Chloe, don’t you know yet?” his voice was low and gentle, like a tide that he wanted to wash over her, and take all the hurt of six years away, “Couldn’t you tell that it’s you I love?”
She said nothing, just stared at him wide-eyed, and courage began to return to him. He pressed her hand, “I brought you here because I needed so much to tell you. You’re my best friend, Chloe, and I’ve been in love with you since,” he laughed, “.. since you ‘laid one on me’ at the Planet. Maybe even before then.” The smile faded as he told her, “But then there was Jimmy. And you’d waited for me, so I figured I just had to put in my time before you might realize you were still in love with me, too.”
He stroked at her fingers, looking down at her delicate hands that had done so much to thwart evil, hunt for the truth, and save his ass on countless occasions. He loved every molecule in her body and now he was finally getting to tell her. He felt so light that he thought he might start flying right there and then.
“And I wanted to tell you so many times, because I never stopped loving you, even when it seemed like I fell back under Lana’s spell. But it was only because after Lex abducted you, I knew I had to do something to keep you safe. I had to keep him so busy that he’d forget all about you, and taking Lana away from him was the only sure-fire way I could think of.”
He shook his head grimly, “Maybe it wasn’t the best way, because it meant I could never tell you how I felt, but I just didn’t care as long as it kept you alive,” his eyes met hers again, pleading with her to understand, “I just couldn’t lose you, Chlo, because I love you. I love you so much I feel sometimes like I’m only really alive when I’m with you. It doesn’t even matter to me anymore if I live to be a thousand because no matter what happens… my heart is yours. You can love it back, you can break it over and over, but it will belong to you, and only you, until the day I die.”
For just a moment, relief and joy coursed through him. He’d dreamed so often of telling her that he hadn’t realized how much he had physically needed to do it. It seemed like the first time he’d been able to properly breathe in over a year. But then, with a jolt, he realized that Chloe still hadn’t said a thing.
Fear began to creep through his veins, and he stood there, scared out of his skin, waiting for her to speak. How was it possible that he knew her so well and yet had no idea what she would say?
She stared at him a moment more, her breath coming in hard, fast, puffs. Then she lifted her chin, “Clark, I want an honest answer to this question.”
Forget scared. He was now terrified. “Alright.”
“Why did you bring me to the Fortress to tell me this?”
And there it was.
He should have known that Chloe’s sharp mind would have sensed he hadn’t told her everything. Because she did know him so well, and she deserved the truth. All of it.
He swallowed, and took a deep breath, “Because once time starts again, you won’t remember what we said to each other.”
Her breathing seemed to come even faster, even though her voice was deadly calm, “I see. And will you remember it?”
She nodded slowly and peered up at him, “Then I never want you to forget this.”
She flung herself into his arms and kissed him, wrapping her arms tightly around him the way she’d done at the Planet, and he was instantly in heaven. He clutched back at her desperately, consumed with the joy of holding her at last, pressing closer into her, feeling every lush contour of her mouth, his body singing with the memory of her scent, her taste. He could hear himself groaning into her mouth and felt fire burning in the pit of his stomach when he heard her moan back, as though they had waited years, eons to do this. Her body curved into his and suddenly it was all he could do not to lay her down on the icy floor and love her completely, as he was aching to do, and had been aching to do for so very long.
It seemed to go on forever, and Clark felt as though he’d been lifted into the stratosphere, pleasure shooting out of every pore. Being in Chloe’s arms, now that she knew he loved her, was everything he’d ever dreamed it would be. There was no happiness in his memory that could even come close.
He was grinning so broadly when they finally pulled apart that even he didn’t see it coming when she slapped him hard across the face.
Read Chapter 4 here.