Saturday, September 27, 2008
More Than Friends, Chapter 1
Season 8, MHE for "Plastique" (SPOILERS for later in season 8)
Rating: Adult. If you're under eighteen, please go elsewhere now.
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
Screencap from keakack.
"Looking for this?"
Chloe turned toward the sound of Clark's voice. He was holding out a cheap plastic ring in her direction, but not quite meeting her eyes. He had the look of a guy who was very, very uncomfortable.
She smiled, none too comfortable herself, and reached out, taking it from his hand.
"I found it downstairs," he said by way of explanation. "You must have lost it when Bette was chasing you."
"Yes." Her fingers closed around the plastic. "It doesn't fit too well."
She only realized the implications of what she'd said after the words were already hanging in the air. Clark looked at her, meeting her eyes for the first time. He smiled and shrugged, but his gaze was full of puzzled hurt.
"Is there anything you want to tell me?"
She slipped the ring onto her finger, curling her hand to keep it on. She had to clutch the thing to keep it from falling off, the same way she'd had to clutch Jimmy. He'd been on the verge of retracting his proposal, and they both knew it. She wasn't sure why she'd clung to him, why she hadn't just let him go.
"I was on my way over here this morning to tell you," she said, smiling as brightly as she could. She had a feeling her smile was too bright, just as Clark's was. The two of them were smiling at each other, yet neither of them really meant it. "How did you find out? Did Jimmy call you?"
He shrugged, and his smile changed, becoming almost shy. "Uh, that's rule number eleven. Always protect your source."
She smiled with a little more sincerity. Newspaper humor. She always appreciated newspaper humor.
His voice dropped, becoming more serious, though the too-bright smile was still firmly in place. "But I would like the whole story. How long have you been engaged?"
"A week." She heard her own uncomfortable laugh. She'd always gone straight to Clark with her good news. She'd certainly never waited a week before. But this... this had been news she hadn't known how to share. "I said yes the night I came back from Montana."
He sighed and shuffled his feet, then looked up at her. "You could have called... any time..."
She nodded, seeing the hurt in his beautiful eyes. She hadn't wanted to hurt him. She'd never wanted to hurt him. Haltingly, she tried to explain.
"It's just that... we've been friends for such a long time..."
"We're more than just friends, Chloe."
The too-bright smile was gone. He gazed at her with solemn eyes, and she could feel the hurt radiating off him in waves. She lowered her own gaze, unable to bear the look in his eyes.
"When Jimmy and I get married," she said, very softly, "things will probably change. Between us, I mean. And I don't know if I'm ready for that just yet." She paused for a long moment, staring at him intently. "Are you?"
He took two steps toward her, pausing inches from her, and stared down into her face. "I know that your happiness is one of the most important things in the world to me," he said softly. "And that... and that you and Jimmy will have a wonderful life together. Don't worry about anything else."
He wrapped his arms around her, and she slid her arms around his waist, pressing her face into the warm, soft flannel of his shirt.
She loved being held by him. She always had. She realized she'd never felt as warm and safe in Jimmy's arms as she did in Clark's.
You and Jimmy will have a wonderful life together.
But it wasn't true, and she knew it. Not for the first time, it occurred to her that she was making the biggest mistake of her life by marrying Jimmy.
The truth was that she wasn't even sure why she'd agreed. When he'd asked her, a month ago, she'd had every intention of politely declining. They'd been dating for two years, but she wasn't sure she wanted a lifetime with him. Anyway, she was too young to get married.
And yet inexplicably, she'd found herself telling him she'd marry him. It was like the words had come out of her mouth on their own.
Maybe it was fear, she thought. She'd spent a long, horrible month waiting for Clark, a month filled with too much empty time to think. Old fears had magnified in her head, the fear of loving him more than he could ever love her. Fear that she'd never be able to shake loose from Clark, fear that her life would always revolve around his, that she'd always give him everything she had to give, while he wouldn't ever love her quite enough to give her what she needed most... himself.
She was afraid of giving herself to Clark and not getting all of him in return.
No, she wasn't just afraid. She was terrified.
So she'd accepted Jimmy's plastic ring instead. A ring from a gumball machine, for God's sake.
Plastic, she thought, not without bitterness. A week later, and I'm still wearing this stupid plastic ring.
If diamonds were forever, what was plastic?
The sad part was that the ring was entirely too appropriate a symbol for her relationship with Jimmy. It was shiny and sort of cute, but it wouldn't last long.
In fact, if she was going to be honest, her relationship with Jimmy had lost its sheen a while ago, and she already knew it wasn't going to last forever. It was crumbling from beneath, its foundations eroded to dust by the fact that her deepest loyalties lay with another man.
The man who still held her in his arms, rocking with her slightly, as if trying to console both of them for the impending loss of their friendship.
She remembered her own words: When Jimmy and I get married, things will probably change. Between us, I mean.
Things would change. They both knew it. And eventually, she'd lose him.
She didn't want things to change.
I can't lose him, she thought with something very like despair. I just can't.
Her fingers had been curled into his shirt, clutching the fabric. Now she straightened out her fingers, and the too-large ring fell to the wooden floor with an audible plink. He shifted slightly, moving one massive foot, and she heard it crunch beneath the sole of his workboot.
"Oh... sorry," he said, not sounding in the least sorry.
She knew she ought to be pissed, but instead she could barely restrain a giggle. Suddenly she could hardly refrain from laughing... at herself. A plastic ring. Who agreed to marry a guy who proposed with a plastic ring? What the hell was wrong with her, anyway?
Whatever it was, fear or something else, she intended to shake it off. She and Jimmy had been dating for two years, and yet she'd never developed the devotion to him she had for Clark.
She loved Clark. She'd loved him for a very long time.
And he meant too much to her to give up without a fight.
She lifted her head a little, and kissed the side of his throat.
She heard his sharply indrawn breath, and then his arms tightened around her, almost lifting her off her feet. The atmosphere in the room shifted subtly, the familiar warmth between them fading away, to be replaced with a tension that all but shimmered in the air like desert heat.
Something dark shifted and whispered in the back of her brain, something that wanted her to run from Clark, to break away from his embrace and flee for her life. He's not the one for you... he'll never really love you... he's moving on already... you've already lost him...
Shut up, she told the voice. It was just echoing the insecurities that had grown inside her throughout the years, and she was done listening.
She kissed Clark's throat again.
And this time he lowered his head, and kissed her back.
Read Chapter 2 here.