Across the seasons
Rating: Adult. If you're under eighteen, please go elsewhere now.
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
Read the story (previously formatted as a oneshot) from the beginning here.
She was seated in the Talon, looking just about as cheerful as he felt-- which was to say, not much. She was sipping listlessly at a cup of coffee, looking as bright and perky as if she were undergoing a root canal.
She'd managed to avoid him for two days, but he'd finally cornered her. She looked up as he approached, and he saw a flicker of alarm in her eyes. But at least she didn't stand up, turn her back on him, and leave.
"Hey," he said. It wasn't quite what he wanted to say, which was, Making love to you was the most awesome experience of my life, and I was wondering if you wanted to do it again. He thought that might be just a bit much to lay on her all at once.
At any rate, making love might not be the right term for what they'd done, anyway. It wasn't like he was in love with her or anything. He'd just really, really enjoyed having sex with her. Which was a totally physical thing, and had nothing whatsoever to do with love...
Shut up, he told himself wearily, looking down at her tousled blonde hair. He was doing it again. At least he'd admitted to himself that he wanted her physically, but now he was trying to do the denial thing on his feelings. Which was stupid.
If he was going to be honest with himself, he knew what he felt for her, and it definitely was not just friendship.
"Hey," she answered warily.
He couldn't tell if it was a "God I want to make love to you too" hey, or a "get lost" hey. Anxious and uncertain, he sat down across from her. He looked down at the table's scuffed surface because it was safer than looking into her eyes, and forged on grimly.
"About the other night--"
He glanced up and saw she had her hand up like a traffic cop stopping traffic. He frowned. "What?"
"I told you in my note, it's okay if we just forget about it. It's not like it was a big deal. It should be easy to forget. And besides, I don't want anything to mess up our friendship."
Yeah, he almost retorted. Clearly that's working really, really well, since you haven't even talked to me for the past two days. He bit back the angry words and looked at her steadily. "Fine."
"Good. I'm glad we're on the same page here."
"Oh, we definitely are." Bad temper he couldn't contain lit inside him, and angry words spilled out. "The other night didn't mean anything to me at all."
He thought he saw a glimmer of annoyance in her eyes, but she covered her reaction, lifting her coffee cup and taking a long, unconcerned swig. "Glad we agree," she answered.
"We totally do. I don't want anything to get in the way of our friendship. Especially not such a forgettable night."
There was definitely a gleam of anger in her eyes now. Well, he thought irritably, it served her right, after that note she'd left him. Of all the stupid, cowardly, immature...
Okay, he wasn't being exactly mature here, either. But he was pretty aggravated.
"So it really was forgettable, huh?" she said tightly.
"Must have been," he answered. He could still hear the anger simmering in his own voice. "You didn't have much trouble walking away from me and leaving that note."
Her gaze flickered away. "I just didn't want..." She swallowed, staring at the table. "I didn't want..."
Some of his rage faded, and his heart froze inside his chest with fear. He hoped to God that sentence wasn't intended to be, I didn't want you.
"You didn't want what?" he asked, more gently.
She looked up at him, and he saw that her eyes were brimming with tears. Guilt hit him like a Mack truck. "I just didn't want to mess up our friendship," she whispered.
"Chlo..." He reached across the table and took her hand. "Nothing could ever do that."
"I just... I know you don't feel that way about me. That you were just really upset, and thrown for a loop by what the Phantom did to you."
He frowned at her. "I wish you wouldn't assume you know what I'm thinking and feeling, Chloe."
"It's not like you've ever made a huge effort to keep your emotions to yourself," she said dryly. "Everyone within a three-hundred-mile radius knows you love Lana Lang."
He leaned forward and looked straight into her eyes.
"In that case, everyone within a three-hundred-mile radius is wrong."
"Don't do that." She tried to pull her hand away, but he didn't let her.
"Do what?" he asked, genuinely puzzled.
"Do not give me hope." Beneath his hand, hers curled into a tight fist. "I'm tired of hoping, Clark. I'm tired of thinking that this time, maybe things will be different, and that maybe you'll notice I'm female. I'm tired of thinking that someday, you might take off the Lana blinders and actually see me. It's just an endless merry-go-round of denial and self-delusion, and I'm tired of it."
She glared back down at the table, and he looked at her downbent head with sympathy. While he'd been engaged in denial about his feelings for her, she'd been thinking he didn't see her.
He'd tried not to see her. He'd tried really, really hard. But despite his best efforts at denial, he'd seen her all too well.
"Chlo," he said, his voice gentle. "I know you're female. Believe me, I know."
"Well..." She chuckled weakly. "I guess you have conclusive proof now."
"Cut that out." He squeezed her hand, carefully but firmly. "Quit making jokes."
"Not even lame ones?"
"Not even. This isn't a joke, Chlo. I'm serious. I know you're a girl, and... well... I want you. Not Lana, and not anyone else. You."
She lifted her head and looked into his eyes. There was a long silence while she appeared to be processing his statement.
"Maybe you're just in denial," she suggested. "Trying to convince yourself you don't love Lana any more, because she's with Lex."
"No," he said, more forcibly. "I've been in denial all this time about my feelings for you, Chlo. I won't say I never loved Lana, because obviously I did. But I felt a lot more for you than I knew, and the other night I realized my feelings for you had... had grown somehow."
Over the long course of their friendship, something inside him had shifted. His feelings for Chloe had grown, while his feelings for Lana had withered on the vine and faded away. And until they'd fallen into bed together, he hadn't recognized the slow but enormous change that had taken place inside him.
"Oh," she said, very softly. "My feelings for you have never changed, Clark."
He knew that, and he was grateful for her constancy, her loyalty, for the stubborn love that didn't give up even in the face of years of rejection. He was extremely lucky, he thought, lucky that she hadn't drifted away from him and fallen for someone else in the years it had taken him to realize exactly what she meant to him.
"I'm glad," he said, squeezing her hand again. "And I know it's a lot to ask, after all these years of me denying that I felt anything for you... but I'd like to take you out tonight. On a date."
She lifted her eyebrows. "A date?"
"A date," he repeated firmly. "Dinner and a movie."
A slight smile curved her mouth. "And after that?"
To his surprise, he felt himself growing hard at the mere thought of what they might do together. What he felt for her wasn't merely physical, but he couldn't deny that physical attraction was definitely part of it. "And after that," he said, "we'll see what happens."
She stared at him for a long moment. At last she shot him a slow, provocative smile. "I think we both know how the evening's going to turn out, Clark."
He gazed into her golden eyes for a long moment. He'd gone from denying his feelings to finally admitting he couldn't live without her, and that his life wouldn't be complete without her.
He envisioned his future, and couldn't seem to imagine it without Chloe standing beside him for the rest of his life, his lover and his partner... and always and forever, his friend.
"Yeah," he agreed, and smiled back at her. "I have a pretty good idea how things are going to turn out."