Spoilers for "Identity" and future season 8 episodes
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
Written for the Get Chlark Together Challenge.
Yeah, life throws you curves,
But you learn to swerve,
Me, I swung and I missed,
And the next thing ya know, I'm reminiscing...
Dreaming old dreams, wishing old wishes,
Like you would be back again...
-"These Days," Rascal Flatts
"I killed a man."
He'd heard the self-revulsion in her voice, seen the misery in her eyes. He'd wanted to console her, but hadn't been quite sure how.
"It wasn't you," he said at last, in his gentlest, most understanding voice. "It was Brainiac."
"But it was my hands." She'd held her hands up and stared at them, her eyes wide with unmistakable horror. "My hands killed a man."
She continued to stare at her hands, and he saw her beginning to tremble. "I have to go," she whispered. "I can't... I'm not..."
"You can't leave." He put a hand on her shoulder and stared down into her eyes earnestly. In the wake of the terrible events that had followed her wedding to Jimmy, and the subsequent annulment of their marriage, he'd finally realized how much she meant to him, and he couldn't bear to lose her. Not now. "You can't. I need you. I... I love you, Chlo."
She shook her head, her eyes still wide and wild. "No, you don't. I'm a murderer..."
The guy in question had died weeks ago, but she'd just discovered that she'd been the one to kill him today. He knew it hadn't really been her, though, knew that she'd been under the control of a soulless, murderous machine. He'd known Chloe Sullivan for eight years, and he knew she'd never kill anyone deliberately, any more than he himself would.
"No, Chloe. I told you, it wasn't you."
"But what if deep down, it was?" She didn't look up at him. She didn't seem able to tear her gaze away from her own hands. "I mean, how do we really know?"
"I know," he answered with absolute certainty. "You would never kill someone in cold blood, Chloe."
She stared at her hands a moment longer, and he saw a tear trickle down her cheek.
"I already did," she whispered.
When she ran away, he let her go. He didn't want to, but there was nothing he could do to keep her with him. Ollie helped get her a job at the Star City Post, a newspaper he held partial ownership in, and she left without even saying goodbye.
Clark barged into Ollie's apartment the next day, seething.
"How could you just give her that job?" he demanded.
Ollie looked up with his smug little smile. "She's a damn good reporter, Clark. Even if she lost her way for a little while, while you-know-who was in her brain, she's good. But after Lex fired her, she needed a little help getting a job. I was happy to help her out."
"But... she's gone."
Ollie's smile faded, and he looked more serious. "That's what she wanted, Clark."
"No." Clark paced across the room angrily. "That might be what she thinks she wanted, but it's not. She belongs here, in Metropolis."
Clark felt his shoulders hunch defensively. He paused next to the floor-to-ceiling windows and stared out into the night. He heard Ollie standing up and crossing to him.
"I understand," he said, in a voice that was very gentle, for Ollie. "Believe me, I do. I've lost more than one woman I loved. Sometimes you just have to let them go and see if they come back to you."
Clark stared out at the lights of the city and spoke in a choked voice.
"What if they don't come back?"
Ollie sighed, and patted his shoulder in an awkward, manly-guy way.
"Then you do your best to move on."
She didn't come back. He tried visiting her in Star City, popping up at her apartment, or at her office, over and over again, but she responded coldly. He persisted, and eventually she told him outright that she didn't want to see him again.
He wanted to help her work through her guilt, wanted to be with her, but she made it painfully clear she didn't want him hanging around.
At last, sore at heart, he took the hint, and returned to his life in Metropolis, which seemed terribly lonely without her there.
He remained lonely for a long time. But he remembered Ollie's words: You do your best to move on. Eventually he fell into dating the reporter across the desk, Lois Lane, who was Chloe's cousin.
But he and Lois couldn't seem to stop snarling insults at each other. Worse, it eventually dawned on him that pretty much every trait he admired about Lois, he admired because it reminded him of Chloe. He knew it wasn't fair to date Lois just because she made him think of Chloe, so after a year of dating, he and Lois split up.
She didn't seem to mind all that much. By the end of the year she was engaged to Oliver Queen. Clark was happy for them, and not jealous at all... but he was a little envious. He was twenty-five now, and something deep inside him was calling out for a soulmate.
But the only woman he'd ever really believed could be his soulmate wouldn't even talk to him. She'd moved on to a new life without him. Hell, for all he knew she was dating some other guy.
The idea hurt, but he tried to tamp down the pain. She'd made it very clear she didn't want him, and as much as he wanted to see her, he couldn't barge into her life constantly.
He went on alone.
One dark, cold February evening, he came home from work and let himself into his empty apartment, sighing, because he didn't have much to look forward to. Another night of frozen pizza cooked with heat vision, and then a patrol around Metropolis.
He knew what he did as Superman was important.
But his apartment, his life, felt terribly empty.
He closed the door behind him and turned to walk into the living room... and froze.
Chloe was sitting on his couch.
"Lois asked me to be her maid of honor," she said a few minutes later, sipping at the coffee he'd brought her. "I was surprised to hear about her and Ollie, actually. I'd kind of thought you and she..."
"No." He uttered the word firmly, and then shrugged, admitting the truth of it. "Well, we tried. I mean, we went out for a while. But we never quite got past..."
"Wanting to kill each other all the time?"
"Yeah." He grinned wryly. "Not a real good basis for a long-term relationship. How about you?"
She sipped at her coffee thoughtfully. "I haven't gotten involved with anyone," she said at last. "I never felt like I deserved that. Not after I..."
"Chloe." After all this time, he could still hear the pain and self-loathing in her voice. The desire to wrap an arm around her and console her hit him hard. "You know that wasn't your fault."
She sighed, and put the coffee down on the table. "Clark," she said, "if you killed someone with your bare hands, even if you were under someone else's control at the time... do you really think you could get past it?"
He closed his eyes, imagining it.
"I don't know," he said at last, honestly.
She nodded, as if grateful he understood her point. "I just..." She waved her hands, apparently struggling to come up with words to explain. "I feel like I should be locked away somewhere. Like there's still blood on my hands, and I don't belong with people whose hands are clean. And..." Her voice dropped almost to a whisper. "I certainly don't belong with you."
The idea that she'd left because she didn't feel worthy of him made his heart break into pieces all over again. She did belong with him. She always had. Seeing her again after all this time, he was more certain of that than ever.
"You're one of the best people I know," he said softly. "You saved me more than once when we were younger, Chlo. You saved the world more than once."
"Yes, but that was before..."
"I've been following your career," he said, talking right over her, desperate to make her understand how he saw her. "You went undercover in a mental institution to expose what they were doing to meteor freaks. You risked your life for those people, Chlo."
"Going undercover is what I do." She shrugged. "I'm a reporter."
"You're not just a reporter. You're a reporter who cares about people. You're a reporter who'll die for the truth if you need to."
She sighed, and was silent for a long moment, turning her head away from him and staring out the window at the lights of the city.
"You want to know my truth?" she said at last, very quietly.
"I used to think that maybe... maybe I could accomplish enough good in my life to fix what I did," she whispered. "That I could do enough good works to wash the stain of my sin away. That maybe one day I could be worthy of you. But nothing can ever wash away what I did, Clark. And when I look at what you do, every day, when I see the headlines in the paper... I know I can never be worthy of you."
His heart squeezed painfully in his chest.
"Chloe," he said gently. "You never had to try to be worthy of me. You're the best person I know. You always have been."
"No." She looked down at her hands again, and her eyes filled with tears. "I'm a killer, Clark."
"You are not." Sudden anger lit inside him, and he grabbed her wrists, holding them in an unbreakable, desperate grip. She'd come back to him after all this time, and he had one chance to convince her of the truth, and of how much he still adored her. "You aren't a killer, Chloe. And you aren't unworthy of me. Believe me. You're the woman I love."
She looked up, and he saw more tears welling in her eyes. "But my hands..."
He thought of those hands typing relentlessly, turning out story after story, in an effort to atone for the sin her hands had committed when she hadn't even been in control of her own body. His heart constricted more painfully than before, and he lowered his head and began brushing kisses over her fingers.
"These hands," he whispered between kisses, "have done an awful lot of good over the years, Chlo. You need to stop focusing on the one bad thing they did. It wasn't your fault."
Her eyelids fluttered shut, but he saw a tear escape and slide down one cheek. "I can't forget what happened, Clark."
"I understand." He began kissing her palms. "But at some point, you have to accept that you didn't do it. It was Brainiac, not you. Let it go, Chloe. Stop running away, and come back to me."
"But I don't deserve--"
"Of course you do. Stop that. Stop it right now. What you deserve is a happy life with a guy who worships the ground you walk on."
"And that would be..."
"Me, yeah. So tell me you're coming back to me. Tell me you're through running away."
She looked down at her hands, held in his, looking stunned, as if the fact that he was willing to touch her shocked her. He squeezed her hands lovingly, and she blinked hard.
"Are you sure?" she whispered.
"Chlo." He lifted her hands again, bringing them to his mouth, and kissed them both. "I've been waiting for you for years. Of course I'm sure."
She looked down at their entwined hands, and her mouth curved in a tremulous smile.
"Then I'll stay," she whispered.
In the nighttime, her hands brushed over his body, touching him everywhere. He whispered words of love to her, kissing her hands, kissing her mouth, kissing her everywhere, trying to make her truly believe that he thought she was wonderful, that he adored her, that the terrible act committed by Brainiac hadn't been her fault.
Making love to her was as wonderful as he'd always dreamed it would be. But he recognized that beneath it all, she was still very wounded. And perhaps what had happened was something she would never put entirely behind her.
But he wanted her to believe the truth as he saw it-- that she was the best person he knew, that she deserved happiness and joy and laughter. That she deserved to be loved.
He knew one night wouldn't be enough to make her believe.
But he also knew that there would be many, many nights after this one.