Season 8, after "Turbulence"
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
Screencap from Home of the Nutty.
He could see her crying from the truck. She stood on the hospital's sidewalk, a small, forlorn figure, waiting for him beneath an overhang that protected her from the light rain that fell. Tears ran down her cheeks, and her shoulders jerked with sobs.
Pain caught in his chest, and he hit the brakes, bringing the truck to a halt with a jerk, and jumped out into the rain.
"Hey," he said, wrapping an arm around her slim form and steering her toward the truck. She didn't resist, but followed where he guided her. A light drizzle dampened them both. "Don't cry, Chlo. It'll be okay."
"No." She dropped onto the truck's bench seat and leaned her head back against the headrest. Fresh tears streamed down her cheeks. "It's over, Clark. All over."
He didn't like seeing her this upset. He'd never liked seeing her upset. He thought longingly about hurting Jimmy, but the guy was still recovering from some pretty horrific injuries, so beating up Jimmy was pretty much off the table. He closed the door, somehow managing to avoid crumpling the door handle in his clenched fist, and hurried around to the driver's side.
"It's okay," he said again as he sat down behind the wheel. He glanced at her, seeing the drops of rain misting her hair, the tears streaking her cheeks, the pure anguish on her face.
She looked like she was falling apart, and he didn't know what to say to her, or how to help her. Chloe had been so tough through this entire ordeal with Jimmy, so relentlessly optimistic and cheerful. He'd admired how tough she was, more than once.
But now he was beginning to realize she wasn't as tough as he'd thought. She just hadn't been letting him in on her true feelings. She hadn't been admitting what was really going on in her head.
Someone honked behind him, and he resisted the urge to flip them off, knowing his anger wasn't directed at them, but toward himself. He threw the truck into gear and pulled away from the curb. "It'll be okay," he repeated, because he wanted it to be true. It had to be okay, because Chloe was his best friend and she deserved a happy ending. She deserved happiness more than anyone else he knew.
"No." She managed to force words out around the tears. "It's over-- he told me-- he said we didn't have a home--"
Her voice broke again, and his hands tightened on the steering wheel. Damn Jimmy for upsetting her this much. He wasn't exactly clear on what had happened, but from her halting explanation on the phone, it sounded like Jimmy was on painkillers, half out of his head...
"He's not himself," he said, with more confidence than he felt. "He loves you, Chlo."
"He thinks-- he thinks I don't love him," she whispered. "And maybe he's right."
He blinked at that. He saw her bow her head to conceal a fresh flood of tears, but he was through letting her hide her feelings from him. Now that he had some hint of what she'd been going through, he wasn't letting her deal with it alone. Hell, no. He pulled over into the hospital's parking lot and found a space. He threw the truck's gearshift into park and turned to face her.
"Chloe," he said, very gently. "You wouldn't have married him if you didn't love him."
She reached up and wiped the tears away, as if she couldn't let herself be weak when he was looking at her. As if she was struggling to regain the mask she'd been wearing for the past five weeks.
He hadn't even realized she was wearing a mask till tonight.
Some friend I am, he thought, annoyed with himself. He'd been caught up in his own romantic problems, so he'd turned himself outward, trying to become a better hero, trying to save strangers, trying to help the world.
And in so doing, he hadn't noticed that his best friend was having her own problems.
Being a hero, he thought, didn't count for much if you weren't there when your best friend needed you.
"He asked me..." Her voice wobbled, but she steadied it resolutely. "He asked me why I married him. And I... I..." A long pause, then she burst out, "I... couldn't... answer!"
"Chlo." He reached out and put a steadying hand on her shoulder. "You married him because you love him."
She shook her head wildly. "No," she whispered hoarsely. "I don't."
He was confused by that statement, but it occurred to him that maybe she was confused, too. She'd obviously dealt with more than she could cope with. She was a mess, emotionally speaking, and for the first time he wondered how many nights she'd cried alone, with no one there to comfort her.
The thought of Chloe, all alone, crying into her pillow night after night, made his throat tighten.
He slid his hand along her shoulders, putting his arm around her. She felt too thin, too fragile, and he suddenly wondered if she'd been eating enough. In all the running back and forth from Smallville to Star City, in between helping him and taking care of Jimmy, had she had time to take care of herself?
He tightened his arm around her, pulling her toward him on the bench seat. She slid toward him without argument. He pulled her up against him, and she buried her face in his chest. Her hands came up, gripping the plaid flannel of his shirt-- because when he wasn't at the office, he still liked to wear flannel-- and another rough, jagged sob tore its way out of her throat.
He brought up his other arm, and held her against him, offering her comfort, offering her a shoulder to cry on. He wished that he'd offered her his shoulder a long time ago, that he hadn't let her hide behind her walls, that he hadn't taken her relentless cheeriness at face value, and had looked a little deeper.
But he couldn't do anything about the mistakes he'd made in the past. All he could do was offer her his support, here and now.
"It's all right," he whispered into her hair. "You're not alone, Chlo."
She dug her fingers into his shirt, clinging to him desperately, and he held her a little more tightly.
He didn't know what was going on with Jimmy. He didn't know if she was right, if her marriage was really over, or if she was magnifying her own fears and overreacting. He didn't know if she was right, if she in fact didn't love Jimmy, or if she was just blaming herself for everything that had happened, as she tended to do.
And he didn't know how he felt about all this, didn't know how to explain the little bubble of hope in his chest, a bubble that shouldn't be there, not in this moment when her life was falling apart. He was distressed for her and angry with Jimmy, and yet somehow... he wasn't quite as upset as he should be.
But his feelings didn't matter. Not really.
All that mattered was that Chloe Sullivan, his best friend, his partner, his helper, his secret-keeper, had reached her breaking point.
And he wasn't going to let her fall to pieces alone.
"Shhh," he whispered. "I'm here."
The rain pattered on the truck's windshield and her tears soaked his flannel shirt, and he held her against his chest like he'd never let her go.