Clark, Chloe, Lois futurefic
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
And I won't be far from where you are if ever you should call
You meant more to me than anyone I ever loved at all
But you taught me how to trust myself and so I say to you
This is what I have to do
'Cause I don't know who I am, who I am without you
All I know is that I should
And I don't know if I could stand another hand upon you
All I know is that I should
'Cause she will love you more than I could
She who dares to stand where I stood
-Missy Higgins, "Where I Stood"
"I'm going to miss you, cuz."
Chloe Sullivan hugged her cousin hard. "I won't be far away," she said, her voice choked. "Star City isn't that far away."
"Yeah," Lois Lane agreed sardonically. "Only, like, half a continent."
"It isn't that far for Clark." Chloe sniffled. "He can bring you to see me whenever you want."
"Still. It won't be the same around here without you. You've been here ever since I started."
And before, Chloe thought. But there was really no point in bringing that up. She'd begun working at the Daily Planet when she was a college freshman, fulfilling the dream she'd held dear since she was seven. She'd always wanted to work in this building, and become the Planet's star reporter, and when she'd gotten hired by Pauline Kahn, the editor at the time, she'd been certain she was on her way.
She'd been working for the Planet for two years by the time Lois was hired. Lois had been new to journalism at that point, but when Grant Gabriel, the new editor, had hired her, he'd applauded the "passion" of her writing, while telling Chloe her articles were "filler stories." Grant had implied that the newly hired Lois might get out of the basement faster than Chloe.
Chloe had felt a little better when Lois and Grant started sleeping together. Obviously, she thought, Grant had just hired Lois to get under her skirt, and clearly he hadn't meant a thing he'd said about her writing. Even while sleeping with Grant, Lois hadn't managed to get anything published, and despite herself, Chloe had felt a little smug, a little vindicated.
Experience counts, she assured herself. I've been writing for years. I'm the one with the experience, and I'm going to be the one who gets to the top.
And then Grant had been killed, and a new editor had arrived-- one Perry White, a Pulitzer prize winner Chloe remembered from her high school days. She'd always been an admirer of Perry's work, and her Wall of Weird had made quite an impression on him back when she was sixteen.
Unfortunately, Perry wasn't nearly as impressed by her work now.
"Boring," he'd said, tossing aside an article she'd turned in on school funding. "Your writing is excellent, but it's got no heart, Sullivan. Try again."
Grant had said something similar to her. She remembered his sneering voice: Chloe Anne Sullivan, taking Met U. journalism classes by night while writing filler stories sandwiched between sofa ads by day. At the time, she'd comforted her wounded ego by assuring herself that he'd just been biased.
But for the first time it occurred to her that maybe he'd been right.
She'd tried again, rewriting the school funding article and handing it in the next morning, and Perry had sighed and printed the article, on page sixty-three.
Meanwhile, Lois, who'd been with the paper for less than a year, got a front-page headline for an article on a major car crash she'd happened to witness while driving to work.
"This," Perry said, waving the paper in the air the next day as he paced around the basement, "is good stuff, Lane. Your sentence structure needs work, but you've got a terrific sense of what makes a story. Write me more like this, and you'll be upstairs in no time."
He hadn't lied. Six months later, Lois had been upstairs in the bullpen, and Chloe had still been downstairs in the basement.
She'd had two front-page headlines under Kahn, who'd apparently liked her style, so she knew her writing wasn't awful. Awful writing didn't make it to the front page of the Daily Planet. But different editors liked different things, and her style just didn't seem to work for Perry.
And Perry obviously wasn't going anywhere. If she wanted to keep working for the Planet, she was going to keep working for Perry, a guy who didn't like her writing, and who, after all this time, had still had only promoted her to Lifestyles on the third floor.
Writing for the Lifestyles section wasn't what she wanted to do with her life. But she persisted, slogging away and working overtime, because writing for the Planet had always been her dream, and she wasn't going to let go of her dream that easily.
And then Clark came to work at the Planet.
Clark Kent had been her best friend since time immemorial. He'd just graduated from Met U with a shiny new degree in journalism, and he started in the basement, just as Chloe and Lois had. But like Lois, something about his writing appealed to Perry, and within a year he was in the bullpen, partnered with Lois.
Lois, of course, had figured out that he and Superman were one and the same within about two days, but she kept it to herself. Chloe couldn't help but be even more envious than before.
She'd always been Clark's secret keeper. She'd always been Clark's partner.
And now Lois had taken her place in Clark's life.
She and Clark were still friends, of course, but more of the pass-in-the-halls-and-say-hi variety. He no longer made special trips to see her several times a day. There was no need for it. He had Lois at the desk next to his, after all, and he and Lois were best friends now. No one could see them bantering, trading insults and laughing, and doubt that they were the best of friends.
And Chloe had a strong feeling that the only thing preventing them from becoming lovers... was her.
It was no secret that she'd always loved Clark. She and Clark had had a number of close calls over the years, moments when they'd kissed, or come close to it, moments when their friendship had barely missed deepening into something more. But somehow, those moments had never grown into anything deeper. So Clark was perfectly free to date someone if he wanted to.
Even so, the fact that Lois was her cousin made the whole situation unbearably awkward. He and Lois both knew that Chloe had loved him-- probably still loved him, if she was going to be honest about it-- and for them to start dating would rub her nose in the fact that he'd never loved her back.
And yet, Clark and Lois belonged together. Anyone could see it from the way their heads bent together when they talked, the way they smiled at each other, the way they walked a little too close together.
They were in love.
And she was getting in the way.
The whole situation-- her lack of success at the Daily Planet, and the way she'd slowly been pushed out of Clark's life-- tangled together inside her, tying her into knots. Lois had everything she'd ever wanted, and somewhere deep down, Chloe was angry and resentful about it.
She'd known Clark first. She'd worked at the Daily Planet first. And yet in the long run, Lois had won fair and square. She'd grown to be the star reporter at the Planet, and the woman Clark loved.
And the stark truth was, none of that was ever going to change. Perry just didn't like Chloe's writing that much, and Clark simply didn't feel that way about her. It wasn't even Chloe's fault. She hadn't failed as a writer, or as a friend. It was just that the roll of the dice had somehow favored Lois rather than her.
She didn't know who she was any more. Slowly, she'd started to define herself by who she wasn't-- not the star reporter for the Planet, not Clark's love. Just a person who'd apparently be toiling in obscurity on the third floor for the rest of eternity. A person who was angry and frustrated because she hadn't gotten what she'd wanted most.
One day, aggravated with herself and the situation, she'd finally given up and started sending out her resume. And now she was headed for the Star City Post, where she had a job in the newsroom waiting for her, and an editor who seemed really enthusiastic about her writing.
A chance for a new start, she thought. A chance for something better.
She hugged Lois again, then turned to the tall, dark-haired man standing beside her. He smiled down at her, his eyes solemn behind his dark-rimmed glasses, and hugged her.
"See you soon, Chlo," he said.
No, you won't, she thought sorrowfully. You might think you will, but you haven't sought out my company in a long time. And you won't start now that I'm moving away.
But that was okay. Moving away would make things easier for all of them. She wouldn't be carrying around a load of envy and anger aimed toward her own cousin, and Clark and Lois wouldn't look awkward and embarrassed every time she happened to catch them flirting. And she could begin to define herself by what she was, rather than by what she wasn't.
This is what I have to do, she told herself. It's for the best. It really is.
She gave Clark a quick, friendly squeeze around the neck. She started to echo his words, See you soon, but then chopped them off, because they simply weren't true.
"Goodbye, Clark," she whispered instead.
And then... she let him go.