Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
What about aliens? What about you and me and...
What about gold beneath the sea?
What about when buildings fall?
What about that midnight phone call
The one that wakes you from your peace?
- Carbon Leaf, "What About Everything?"
The sound of her cell phone ringing awakened her from a sound sleep. She fumbled on her nightstand sleepily, and finally managed to press the "answer" button.
"Uh?" she mumbled.
It was a voice she knew better than her own, a deep, gentle voice that had twined its way around her heart a long time ago, and never, ever let go. In the darkness, her eyes snapped open.
"Listen to me," he said. "Don't talk. I don't have much time. There's an alien ship just entering the atmosphere-- it took a shot at New York and took down the Empire State Building from orbit--"
"What?" She sat up in the darkness, suddenly very much awake. She was a reporter, but she was also the Watchtower for the Justice League, coordinating their efforts. "Ollie didn't call--"
"He didn't call because there's nothing anyone can do. Except me. Everything else that gets in the way gets incinerated. Military jets, missiles-- it's up to me. I have to grab this thing and take it back out to space. And I don't know if I'll be coming back."
"Clark," she tried again, but he interrupted.
"Let me talk. The only reason I had time to call you at all was because the military wanted to try one last thing before I take it out of here. But it's not working... I don't have much time. Listen, Chloe... I love you."
She blinked into the darkness, shocked. That was the one thing she'd never expected him to say. Like gold hidden beneath the ocean, their love for each other had always been there. But it had been so deeply submerged that she'd given up hope that either of them would ever admit to it.
Amd yet there it was, hanging in the air, suddenly and bluntly acknowledged.
"Um," she said. "I, uh--"
"No," he said, almost fiercely. "Don't. I'm not telling you this to wring some sort of last-minute confession out of you, okay? I just wanted to let you know. I had to let you know."
"I have to go now," he said. "Wish me luck. And Chlo... I love you."
He broke the connection before she could answer that she loved him, too.
The peace of sleep shattered, she sat staring into the darkness, hoping and praying that he'd be all right.
Two days followed, two endless days in which the world looked to the sky with hope and fear and uncertainty. On the third morning, the population let out a collective sigh of relief, certain that Superman had saved the day.
And yet their relief was tempered with a terrible sorrow, because Superman hadn't returned.
Chloe sat at her desk at the Daily Planet, head bowed. She was supposed to be writing a story on traffic lights or City Hall or prostitution or something, but she couldn't remember what she'd been writing, and didn't much care. She saw Perry glance in her direction, but rather than come over to her desk and bellow at her to get working, he only shook his head sadly and went back into his own office, his head bowed just as hers was.
Her cell phone rang, and she hit the "answer" button without even looking at it.
"Hello?" Her voice was breathless with desperate hope.
"I'm all right," he said, and her world spun. Tears of relief and gratitude sprang to her eyes.
"What happened?" she whispered, so overcome she could barely get the words out.
"Long story. Once I got them safely away from the Earth, I went on board and talked to them. It took me a day or so to learn their language--" Only Superman could have said that so casually, she thought wryly-- "but once we understood each other, I realized they had attacked the wrong planet, and I was able to make them understand that. They thought we were a colony of the empire they're battling. Now that they know we're not, they've gone on. They greatly regret the loss of life they caused." He sounded tired. "I thought it best not to bring them back to Earth for justice. Their technology is far beyond us. Having them leave peaceably was the best solution, I thought."
"I agree." She wiped at her eyes fiercely. "So you're all right."
"I am," he said, and she heard the faint smile in his voice. "And I'm waiting to give you the exclusive on the roof of the Daily Planet."
He stood on the roof, in the shadow of the great golden globe, wearing jeans and a gray t-shirt rather than his Superman costume, which would have attracted attention and made it impossible for them to talk. He wore the dark-framed glasses that gave him a geeky look, and somehow as Clark Kent he looked too big and too awkward, a sharp contrast to Superman's sleek grace.
She ran toward him and flung her arms around his neck.
"I love you too," she burst out, burying her face in his shoulder. "I've gone two days thinking I'd never get the chance to tell you-- I thought you'd die without ever knowing how I felt--"
"I knew," he murmured, wrapping his arms around her and holding her close. "I always knew."
"I know." She swallowed back a sob. "But I wanted you to hear it from me. I love you, Clark. More than anything."
"Yes," he said softly. "I love you too. I've always loved you."
"But what about... everything?"
"You mean everything that's kept us apart? The whole we're afraid of ruining our friendship, afraid to say how we really feel thing?"
She nodded against his shoulder.
"Chlo," he said, his voice very soft but very intense, "all I know is that I was afraid to go out into space. Not because I was afraid of dying, but because I was afraid of never seeing you again."
She gave into the tears and uttered a single choked sob against his shoulder. "I've spent the last two days being terribly afraid I'd never see you again, too."
"Well, then. What's everything next to that?"
She nodded, and gave him one last squeeze, then pulled away, straightening up and swiping at her cheeks. "I guess I have a story to write," she said.
"I'll be happy to give you the details," he answered. He looked down at her, his eyes serious behind the glasses. "We aren't going to put this away and forget it ever happened, are we?"
"I don't think I could," she said shakily.
"Me neither." He cocked his head in a gesture she knew well. "I'll be back to give you that exclusive in a few, Chlo. Right now... someone needs me."
He disappeared in a blur that shifted from gray to red and blue as he changed into his costume. And then he was gone, leaving only a gust of wind behind him.
She stood alone on the rooftop of the Planet for a long time, trying to calm her frazzled emotions. She remembered her hesitant words: What about... everything?
But Clark was right. Everything didn't matter that much. Seen through the lens of the last two agonizing days, their long refusal to accept what was between them, their long pretense that they were nothing more than friends, seemed silly. She thought about how she would have felt if he'd been gone forever, if she'd never been able to tell him she loved him, and she shuddered.
She kept a vigil, watching the bright morning sky, and at last she saw Superman sailing toward her, flying slowly so that he could be seen by the people of Metropolis. She heard cheers ringing out below, and knew that all of Metropolis shared her joy that he was back.
She smiled as she watched him approach, and it dawned on her that even though she'd always loved him, she'd never quite understood how much Clark meant to her till now.
For her... Clark was everything.