Season 7, "Apocalypse"
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
Manip by leothelion. Used with permission of the artist.
Haven't we met
You're some kind of beautiful stranger
You could be good for me
I've had the taste for danger
I looked into your eyes
And my world came tumbling down...
-Madonna, "Beautiful Stranger"
She's never met him before, and yet his face is so familiar that it hurts to look at it. Her chest actually aches deep inside, as if she's been missing this person, this particular man, all her life. As if she's been waiting till this moment.
Which is ridiculous. She laughs at herself, telling herself it's just that he bears something of a resemblance to George, her fiancé. The dark hair, the broad shoulders, the piercing eyes-- this guy really looks a lot like George.
But George is the man she loves, and this guy is just a stranger. A beautiful stranger, to be sure, but just a stranger.
"Chloe?" he says.
The way he's looking at her is odd. There's a hopeful light in his eyes, as if he's been looking for her for a long time. As if he thinks she can help him somehow.
"Yes," she says, cautiously. "Have we met?"
He offers a friendly smile, and an outstretched hand. "Chloe Sullivan? Smallville High, class of oh-five?"
She takes his hand, cautiously. It feels warm and strong, but oddly smooth and uncallused, as if he's never done hard labor in his life. His hand feels strangely right in hers, and she has to force herself to let go.
"I'm sorry," she says. "My inner database is coming up empty. Do I know you?"
She has a reporter's memory, and she's quite certain she's never met him before. She'd never forget a guy who looked this way. And yet there's that niggling sense that he's somehow very familiar...
"Clark Kent," he says. The smile fades, and he looks at her earnestly, taking a step forward. "We went to high school together."
She tilts her head curiously, more puzzled than before. There's a Kent family in Smallville. They live on the outskirts of town, on a farm that produces organic produce, and Martha Kent runs the Talon, the coffee shop where Chloe practically lives, when she's not writing stories for the Daily Planet. Martha's son is named Clark Kent, but he doesn't bear any resemblance to this guy. He's sixteen, with blonde hair and a letterman jacket he virtually lives in.
She's almost certain there wasn't a guy with the same name in her high school class. She'd remember that. She isn't sure who this guy is-- but he's not Clark Kent.
He obviously realizes she doubts him, because he shrugs, and offers a disarming smile. "You may not remember me. I was a bit of an outsider."
Uh-huh. Like she would forget a guy who looked like this. She nods dubiously, playing along, because her reporter's curiosity has been piqued.
"Listen," he says, "I'm trying to find a mutual friend of ours, but she's not in the phone book. Lana Lang?"
She lifts her eyebrows. She remembers Lana, very vaguely. Queen of every dance, belle of every ball. Chloe had been more the geek type.
"The cheerleader?" she asks. He nods, and she shakes her head. "We didn't exactly swim in the same social ponds. I mean, to be honest, her blip fell off my radar the day after graduation."
"You were a reporter for the Torch, though, right?"
She nods slightly. She's a reporter for the Daily Planet now, but she doesn't feel comfortable volunteering information about herself to this intense-eyed stranger, who is frankly a bit on the weird side.
"Maybe you can use some of your investigative magic," he says, still staring at her earnestly. "Help me track her down."
Yeah, sure. She's a highly compensated reporter for the Daily Planet, and she's going to spend one of her rare days off doing free investigation for some random guy she's never met before. She almost says something snarky, like You don't need a reporter, you need Google. But something in his eyes stops her from snarking.
Beneath the friendly smile... he looks so lost.
Part of her wants to go with this guy and help him find whatever it is he's looking for. She doesn't understand the impulse, but it's there. She remembers the feeling she had when she first saw him, that she'd been waiting for him all her life.
The feeling is stronger than ever.
But George walks up behind her and puts his hand on her shoulder, and she forces herself to remember that he's the guy she's been waiting for all her life, and at the same time the guy who's always been there for her.
George Dean has been her best friend since high school. It took the two of them a long time to find their way to intimacy and romance, but after all these years, they're finally standing on the verge of a life together. She and George have a long, complicated history, and their lives are intertwined in a way most people couldn't possibly begin to understand. This guy, this stranger, could never compete with that.
Even so, she speaks kindly, because the lost look in his eyes touches her.
"I would love to help, but we have somewhere we have to be."
The guy, Clark or whatever his name really is, looks past her. "Oh," he says, looking unaccountably sad. "You and your boyfriend."
"Fiancé, actually," she says, putting her hand on George's so that the stranger can see her diamond ring. "The wedding's on Sunday."
The stranger smiles, and somehow looks sadder than ever. "Congratulations. That's great."
He's obviously trying to be polite, but he's also strangely insincere about it. It doesn't take an investigative reporter to see that he really isn't happy about her upcoming wedding. It makes no sense, and Chloe is a little annoyed by it.
She looks away from him, away from the inexplicable attraction she feels for him, and toward the man who's the cornerstone of her life. Her friend, her lover, her hero. "So," she says. "You ready?"
"Yeah," he answers. Today, their day off, he's wearing a t-shirt and jeans, but his t-shirt proclaims him to be a member of the Metropolis PD. He's tall and muscled and handsome. Even on his days off, he looks like a hero. "Your dad just called. He's waiting at the tuxedo shop."
"Okay." She follows George toward his car, then turns back, drawn irresistibly to the stranger and his sad eyes. Sure enough, he's still watching her. "I'm sorry I couldn't help," she tells him.
"It's okay," he says, although it clearly isn't. The shadows in his eyes make that perfectly plain. He looks like he was counting on her, and she's let him down. He looks like she's shaken the foundations of his world by her refusal to help.
She feels an odd trickle of guilt, which she tries to suppress. Whatever this guy's problems are, they're his, not hers.
She's never met him before. She needs to remember that.
"I hope you find Lana," she says, and turns away, opening the car door.
"Chloe," he says.
At the sound of his deep voice saying her name, she lifts her head. It's strangely familiar, and gives her an odd moment of deja vu, as if she's heard him say her name every day of her life. And yet she knows she hasn't. She knows it. She stares at him, bewildered.
He offers her a smile, but it doesn't touch his sorrowful eyes. "I'm really happy for you," he says softly.
"Thanks," she answers, as something twists painfully inside her chest. She doesn't want to say goodbye to this beautiful stranger. She wants to stay with him, to get to know him, to find out what it is about him that calls to her so deeply.
She doesn't want to leave him behind.
But she knows that's just her being fanciful. There's no connection between her and this guy. There can't be. They've never met before today.
She sighs, and gets into the car with George. Her hero, her rock, her life.
She glances, very quickly, over her shoulder. The stranger is still standing there in the middle of the road, staring at her, looking lost and alone.
But she reminds herself that whatever his issues are, they're not her issues. She has a life that doesn't involve him. She has a fulfilling, busy life that makes her very happy.
She does her best to put the beautiful stranger and his sad eyes out of her mind, and focuses on the man beside her. The man she loves and respects more than any other. The man who's always been such a major part of her life. The man she's going to marry.
George puts the car into gear, and the two of them drive away.
Chloe doesn't look back.