Saturday, August 22, 2009

Life After You

Clark/Chloe futurefic
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
The lyrics are from "Life After You," by Daughtry.

Ten miles from town and I just broke down
Spitting out smoke on the side of the road
I'm out here alone just trying to get home
To tell you I was wrong but you already know
Believe me I won't stop at nothing
To see you so I've started running

Damn this old truck.

Clark Kent gazed ruefully at the ancient red vehicle as it crouched on the grass at the side of the road, smoke spilling out of its engine. Of course he didn't require a truck to get around, but he had all his belongings piled into the back.

He'd taken them away a few weeks ago, and now he was bringing them back, and hoping like hell he still had a home for them.

He looked over his boxed possessions and sighed. It didn't really matter if he left the truck here. None of his stuff was worth anything anyway.

Without her, he wasn't worth anything either.

He turned his back on the truck and blurred into a run.

All that I'm after is a life full of laughter
As long as I'm laughing with you
I'm thinking that all that still matters is love ever after
After the life we've been through
'Cause I know there's no life after you

He still remembered the day they'd moved in together, remembered the heady anticipation that had filled him when she'd arrived at his apartment door. He'd opened the door with a flourish. "Welcome to my humble abode, Ms. Sullivan."

She'd gazed into his apartment, frowning as if she hadn't been there a thousand times before. "Oh. Well. It is humble, isn't it?"

"My rugs are not worthy to touch your lovely feet, my princess. But if you will do me the honor of residing here..."

She'd rolled her eyes. "Oh, stop it, Clark. Just grab my bags, will you?"

"Yes, ma'am. Right away, ma'am."

"Hmmm." She'd walked into his bedroom, and was now thoughtfully considering the space. "I'll need three-quarters of the closet."

"Three-quarters?" he'd echoed. "What am I supposed to do with all my shirts?"

"These flannel things? Burn them. Come on, farmboy, start unpacking my stuff. I'm here to stay, whether you like it or not."

He'd grinned. "I definitely like it, Chlo."

Last time we talked, the night that I walked
Burns like an iron in the back of my mind
I must've been high to say you and I
Weren't meant to be and just wasting my time
Oh, why did I ever doubt you?
You know I would die here without you

He could make it from here to Metropolis in less than two seconds, but it felt considerably longer than that in subjective time. As he raced along, he remembered their last conversation.

He'd been in one of his not infrequent mopes, thanks to a building collapse in which he hadn't managed to save everyone. For the most part, his work as Superman was rewarding, but when he failed to save someone, he took it hard. When he failed to save a dozen people-- well, he'd spent most of a week walking around in a miserable daze.

Chloe had finally smacked him lightly on the shoulder. "Come on, Kent. You need to move on."

"Move on?" He'd been slumped on the couch, doing nothing in particular, but at her words he'd lifted his head and glared at her. "Are you kidding me?"

She'd sighed. "I know it's hard when you lose them, Clark, but..."

"But what? I'm just supposed to forget about twelve people who died because I was too damn slow?"

"Why not focus on the forty-seven who lived because you're so damn fast?"

He growled, turning his head away. "It's not enough."

"Clark," she said sharply. "You have to stop beating yourself up like this. You do the best you can. Everybody knows that. You know it too."

"My best wasn't good enough for those twelve people."

"You can't do any better than your best, Clark." She put a hand on his shoulder, but he yanked away from her.

"Don't touch me!"

She stared down at her, and in her eyes he saw as much hurt as if he'd slapped her. Guilt and self-disgust swirled inside him, a combination that made him lash out even harder.

"You don't understand me," he accused, getting to his feet. "You've never understood me."

She glared back at him, looking indignant. "I understand you better than you understand yourself, Clark Kent."

"No, you don't." Pain burned inside his chest, scalding him. "I think we both know this isn't working, Chloe. We should never have moved in together."

"You're the one who said we were meant to be."

"I was wrong." He scowled, trying to keep her away with words, because he knew if she put her arms around him he'd collapse into tears against her shoulder. "We've just been wasting our time for the past two years, Chloe. This just isn't working out."

"Fine," she snapped. "If you really feel that way, then feel free to leave."

"It's my apartment," he pointed out.

She crossed her arms over her chest, looking stubborn. "I'm not going anywhere."

"Fine," he snapped back. He spun on his heel and went into superspeed. In less than two minutes, his stuff was in the truck, and he was headed down the roadaway from Metropolis.

Away from her.

All that I'm after is a life full of laughter
As long as I'm laughing with you
I'm thinkin' that all that still matters is love ever after
After the life we've been through
'Cause I know there's no life after you

He remembered laughing with her now, remembered all the fun they'd had together. It was, he thought, easy to stay together through the fun times. It was easy to stay with someone through joy and laughter. But it was the hard times that tested a relationship.

He'd been tested, and he'd failed in a big way.

And it wasn't the first time.

He remembered his own voice from years ago, saying coldly: Clark Kent is dead. He remembered himself turning his back on her and walking away when she needed him most.

Three weeks ago, he'd done it to her a second time. He'd turned his back on her. After everything they'd been through together, he'd just walked off. Again.

Chloe, he thought miserably, deserved so much better.

The first time he'd done this, she'd forgiven him, and their relationship had taken its first shaky steps into romance.

He wondered if she could forgive him again.

He wondered if they'd ever laugh together again.

You and I, right or wrong, there's no other one
After this time I spent alone
It's hard to believe that a man with sight could be so blind
Thinkin' 'bout the better times, must've been outta my mind
So I'm running back to tell you
All that I'm after is a life full of laughter
Without you God knows what I'd do

He didn't quite dare barge right in, so he paused at the door and knocked, a bit hesitantly. He heard footsteps, and then she opened the door.

He saw the flash of surprise on her lovely features, but she suppressed the emotion almost instantly, and leaned on the doorjamb, studying him coolly. Her long hair was pulled back in a ponytail, and she wore jeans and a Daily Planet t-shirt. The sight of her made his chest ache with longing.

"Hello, Clark," she said at last.

He'd hoped vaguely that she'd fling herself into his arms, sobbing with relief, and that they could just get past the awkward hi-I'm-back that way. But she was plainly determined not to let him off the hook so easily.

He looked down at her, seeing the glint in her hazel eyes and the displeased slant to her mouth. She was pissed.

But God, he was so damn happy to see her.

He realized that his only chance was to admit his guilt and throw himself on the mercy of the court. "I'm sorry," he said swiftly, before she could decide to slam the door in his face. "So sorry. I know I was a jerk. I didn't mean to be. I just-- I just never lost so many people at once before, and I..."

He still felt grief over the twelve people who'd died, but three weeks of lonely introspection had given him some perspective. He knew that as Superman, he'd saved an awful lot of people-- hundreds, perhaps thousands, over the years he'd been in Metropolis. He still hated that he hadn't been able to save those twelve, but if he focused on the people he lost, rather than the ones he saved, he'd drive himself into insanity. Just as Chloe had told him, he'd done his best, and that had to be enough for him.

Chloe had been right.

But then, she usually was.

She stared up into his eyes for a long moment, as if trying to gauge his sincerity, then sighed and straightened up. "Come in."

Meekly, he followed her into the apartment. It looked a little empty without his books and photos. Still, it was home, and a little twist of happiness curled in his chest. He hadn't realized that in addition to missing her, he'd been a little homesick, both for Metropolis and their apartment.

"Okay," she said, crossing her arms. "I'm listening."

"I'm an idiot."


"I shouldn't have taken my anger out on you."

"Also true."

"You'd be totally within your rights if you threw me out and got a restraining order."

"Can't argue that one either."

"But... I love you, Chloe. All those things I said-- that we weren't meant to be together, that you didn't understand me, that we'd been wasting our time-- I was just taking out my pain on you. You know I love you. And I know that you understand me more than anyone else in the world does."

A slight smile curved her mouth. "Clark," she said, very softly. "I love you too."

Tears of relief and gratitude burned his eyes. He blinked hard. "Thank you," he said hoarsely.

"But I'm getting a little tired of you walking off on me every time you go emo."

He remembered leaving her behind in the Watchtower years ago, tears streaking her face, and pain stabbed into him. He wondered how many tears she'd cried this time. He'd never wanted to make her cry.

He couldn't ever bear to hurt her that way again.

"I'm sorry," he said again. "I won't do it again, I promise."

"You better not. This time, if we move in together... you'd damn well better stay. Forever."

He knew forgiveness when he heard it. He flung his arms around her and picked her up, hugging her tightly against his chest.

"Chloe," he mumbled into her hair. "I'm glad to be home. I'm glad to be with you. Life after you... well, it wasn't really life at all."

"I know what you mean, farmboy." She pulled back and kissed him fiercely on the mouth, then smiled up into his eyes. "The apartment just doesn't feel like home without your junk cluttering up the place."

He grinned wryly. "It's nice to be appreciated."

"I can appreciate you a lot more than this. Come to the bedroom."

She tugged on his hand, but he hung back. "My truck broke down outside of Metropolis, Chlo. I need to get my stuff."

"Five minutes, Clark. That's all I ask."

"Five minutes?"

"Maybe four. I've missed you, big boy."

He grinned, and allowed himself to be led into the bedroom, where they spent a great deal longer than five minutes together, loving each other and kissing and talking.

And laughing together.

All that I'm after is a life full of laughter
As long as I'm laughing with you
I'm thinkin' that all that still matters is love ever after
After the life we've been through
'Cause I know there's no life after you

-The End-


Anonymous said...

Great job, Elly! I kinda secretly love when Clark and Chloe fight. Even on the show, before she knew the secret, you could tell that it was just eating them up to not get along. I know this story was from Clark's POV, so Chloe seemed more abrasive than upset, but I can imagine she was just as sad as him. I'm glad they made up.

Chris said...

I'm so glad you're back! Thanks for another great story. So wish they'd get this done on the show! Would you please write an alternate series? It could be called "Smallville Reality"!!!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful story! I just love Daughtry and I was hoping to see some Daughtry Song Fics out there. Very happy you picked this one!

Great song, great idea, loved it! You write song-fics very well. :D