Season 9 (my version)
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
"Metropolis Times" invented by Babydee1.
I'd been walking around in a mist every since Jimmy died.
It wasn't that I loved him so much. I mean, I'd married him, so you would have thought I loved him. But there was all this confused tangle in my brain as a coldly vicious machine took over my synapses, and as a result all my hopes and dreams had been corrupted, twisted somehow.
It's hard to say how much of what happened was Brainiac, and how much was me. All I knew was that left to my own devices, I wouldn't have married Jimmy. We had some serious problems, and I knew perfectly well that a rushed marriage wasn't going to fix them.
But when Jimmy died, I felt guilty, as if every bad decision I'd been made, every bad decision I'd been pushed into, over the course of the year, had led to his death.
I felt like I'd killed him.
And so I pulled away from my best friend, my support, my rock.
To be fair, my rock pulled away first. Clark was almost as stunned by Jimmy's death as I was-- not, I thought, because Jimmy had meant that much to him, but because I meant that much to him. He ached for my loss. I saw it in his eyes. And unsure how to console me, how to help me, he did a very Clarklike thing. He ran away.
Naturally, when he came back he was apologetic, but I was angry, and pushed him away. And so we had the first really big fight of our friendship.
Without Clark, without Jimmy, I felt lost. I threw myself into the work of being Watchtower, but it wasn't enough. I felt isolated in the enormous stone tower, like Rapunzel in her forest, cut off from the world, alone and lonely.
Even when Clark did stop by, we kept our conversation to work only. The easy friendship we'd always had was apparently gone for good. I thought I saw sorrow in his eyes every now and then, along with an echo of the loneliness I felt, but I couldn't bring myself to reach out to him. The last year had left me too scarred.
And then one day...
Well, Clark was working at the Daily Planet. I was writing stories on the side for the Metropolis Times, but I didn't really want anyone to know about it. I was even using a pseudonym, just because I knew that the minute Clark found out I was writing, he'd be after me to come back to the Planet. And I was just not ready for that.
Maybe on some level, I wanted Chloe Sullivan to go away. Maybe I wanted to become someone new. Someone who hadn't been responsible for a man's death. Or maybe it was just that I had too many bad associations in my head with the Planet. Too many bad things had happened to me there. After all, Jimmy and I had worked there together.
Anyway, I was following a lead in downtown Metropolis, not far from the Planet. I'd gotten a tip that there was a meth factory in the vicinity, and I was trying to pin down the exact location.
Just as I walked toward an old abandoned building, which looked like the most likely location on the street... it exploded.
Reflexively, I ran. When you've been in as many strange and dangerous situations as I've been in, you develop good reflexes. Behind me, the building slowly started to crumble, and I heard people screaming, and knew that some people had been caught inside. I turned, and ran back toward the pile of rubble. Dust and smoke swirled in the air like mist.
And suddenly Clark appeared out of the mist.
He grabbed me by the arms.
"Don't," he said tersely. "I'll get them. Call 911."
He disappeared in a blue blur, while I dialed for help on my cell, and thirty seconds later there were five bodies on the sidewalk. He reappeared next to me and caught my arms again, looking stricken.
"One of them is dead, Chloe."
In his eyes, I saw the same grief and guilt I felt every day. I lifted my hands and wrapped them around his forearms, offering all the comfort I could.
"It's not your fault," I told him.
"If I'd been faster..."
"Clark." I squeezed his arms in my hands. "You were faster than anyone else could have been. You did your best."
"My best wasn't good enough."
I sighed, because when Clark is determined to blame himself, he can't be turned aside by mere logic. "Are the rest of them okay?"
"Yeah. they're okay. I found a doctor in the crowd, and he's looking them over, but they look all right. I think the one guy was caught directly in the explosion. His body is pretty badly burned."
"Then you couldn't have saved him unless you'd gotten here before the explosion," I pointed out. "And unless you've added precognition to your list of abilities, there's no way you could have done that."
He pressed his lips together. "I just hate it when I lose one."
"I know," I said gently. "But you can't blame yourself for something you couldn't possibly have changed."
He looked straight at me.
"You've been doing that for half a year now, Chlo. Blaming yourself for something that isn't your fault, I mean."
I stiffened, because I didn't like the way this conversation had suddenly taken a u-turn and headed back toward me. He seemed to recognize my discomfort, because he fell silent and just stood staring down at me for a long moment.
"I'm glad you're all right," he whispered.
"I may not be capable of breaking the speed of sound," I answered pertly, "but I can be pretty fast when I need to be."
"I worry about you," he said, very softly. "Every day, I worry something will happen to you. Every day, every hour, I think about you. I find myself listening for you..."
I swallowed, and tried to pull away. He didn't let me.
"I thought we weren't friends any more, Clark."
"We'll always be friends," he said, staring at me. His green eyes were big and intense. "No matter how much you try to push me away, Chlo, we're always going to be part of each other's lives."
I bristled. "Who pushed whom away?"
"It was sort of a mutual thing," he said with a ghost of a smile. "But I'm really sorry for my part in it, Chlo. I think about what it would be like if... if you had been in that building... and I'd never gotten the chance to tell you how much... how much you mean to me... Chloe, I'm sorry."
He broke off, his eyes brimming with an emotion I didn't quite dare name. I hesitated a long moment, then reached out and patted his shoulder.
"Me too," I said at last.
And it was true. I was sorry. Clark had started the quarrel between us, but I'd made it worse by refusing to accept his apology. And yeah, I've been in a bad place, emotionally speaking, but that really wasn't an excuse. Clark had repented and reached out to me, and I'd refused to listen.
Our friendship had been so important to both our lives for such a long time, I thought, thinking back over the years we'd shared. It had been foolish of us both to ever let it slide away.
He offered me a ghost of a relieved smile. I could tell his mind was still on the guy he hadn't saved, but that our shaky effort at a truce was a consolation to him. "You remember that Star Trek movie?" he said. "The one where Spock dies?"
"Duh. We only saw it twenty times, Clark."
He smiled a little more broadly, and quoted it. "I have been and always shall be your friend, Chlo."
"Yeah," I said softly. "Me too."
Relief filled his eyes, making them seem to almost glow with an emerald light. I hadn't noticed how tired he'd looked lately, hadn't noticed the jade shadows in his eyes. But now I could see the difference. He looked almost like the old Clark again. The Clark I'd always been friends with.
"The cops'll be here soon," he said, glancing around. "I better get going. But I'll call you later. Just to talk. Okay?"
I remembered the way we'd once called each other five or six times a day, just to talk. I knew he'd be beating himself up over the guy who'd died, and I thought that maybe I could help him get past that. Once upon a time, I'd been the one he turned to when he needed to get that kind of thing off his chest.
Maybe we could be that way again. Maybe.
Hope filled me, the hope that maybe our friendship could be repaired after all.
"I'd like that," I answered.
"Yeah," he said, a little gruffly. "Me too."
He disappeared as police cars arrived, their lights flashing, and I noticed that the mist was beginning to dissipate as the air cleared.
I have been and always shall be your friend.
It was the first real truth about our relationship either of us had uttered for a year.
I forced myself to stop staring after Clark. I turned and went back to the scene to ask the officers some questions, because I still had a story to write. I hated to think of an explosion that had killed one person and injured five others as a story, but, well, news is news. I was a reporter, and I had to write about the news. And this was what I'd come downtown to cover, I was pretty sure.
I'd found my story.
And maybe, I thought hopefully, a little bit more.