Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Happy Endings

Futurefic AU, in which Clark and Lois were never together and Lois is just that somewhat ditzy reporter who’s never made a connection between Clark Kent and Superman.
3200 words, oneshot
Written for Secret Chlark, for moviefreak4634

When Chloe Sullivan walked into the office at 8:47 a.m., he was seated at her desk. She hesitated, just a minute, then regained control of herself and continued toward him. She ought to be used to him showing up at her workplace. He’d been doing it since they were teenagers, after all.

But five years ago, when she moved to Gotham, they’d drifted apart, and she wasn’t used to him just stopping by her desk any more.

He was reading a newspaper—the Gotham Gazette—apparently unaware of her approach, but she knew perfectly well he heard her footsteps. He’d probably heard them coming from the parking garage. She cleared her throat, and, in the perfect imitation of human mannerisms he’d developed over the years, he jumped a little in feigned surprise, and looked up at her.

“Oh, Chloe,” he said, just as if he hadn’t noticed her till this moment. “Hi.”

She perched on the edge of her desk, since her chair was currently filled with two hundred twenty pounds of Kryptonian. “Hello, Clark,” she said, feeling awkward. There had been a time when there was nothing awkward or unexpected about him showing up like this, when she’d counted on seeing him constantly, when a day hadn’t really been complete if he hadn’t come by to bring her a coffee or to consult about some meteor freak or just to say hi. But that day was a long distance in the past.

He was dressed in a blue t-shirt, old, worn jeans, and workboots, the customary outfit he'd worn as a teenager, but now those dreadful dark-framed glasses rested crookedly on his nose, giving him a geeky look. He lifted the newspaper and rustled it a bit, calling her attention to the oversized headline on the front page. “Nice article,” he said.

The excessively casual tone of his voice tipped her off as to what his purpose was here. He wasn’t happy about her article, for some reason. She wondered if perhaps he thought she was trying to expose this particular hero. He'd never liked any superhero's identity to be threatened. Of course, she'd never do that, and he should know that by now, but...

“Thanks,” she said.

His green eyes flickered up to meet hers, for just a moment, then he glanced back down at the headline: GOTHAM’S BAT. “You’ve written quite a few stories on him lately,” he said, and there was still that cautious note in his voice.

“He’s been very nice about allowing me to interview him,” she said, wanting him to realize she wasn’t trying to expose the man.

“You’re his official biographer, huh?”

“Something like that.” She consciously curled up the corners of her mouth, aware that her attempt at a smile was tight and uncomfortable. “The same way Superman's official biographer is my cousin.”

Annoyance flickered in his eyes at her mention of Lois Lane-- the perpetual and irritating thorn in his side, who was always doing half-insane things like throwing herself off buildings in order to get another interview with him-- and his expression looked just as tight as hers. “The thing is, you make this guy sound kind of… incredible.”

“Well, he is.”

“He’s just a regular guy,” Clark said. His fingers tightened on the paper, and she heard it crumpling a bit in his grasp. “Just an ordinary human.”

“An ordinary human who does extraordinary things.” She smiled, more naturally this time. “”In a way, I find that more admirable than superheroes with unusual powers.”

“You always have,” he muttered, and she knew he was thinking of Ollie.

“It’s just…” She waved her hands in the air. “The Batman can be killed, and yet he goes out there and risks his life every day, just to protect the city.”

She heard his teeth grind together. “I can be killed.”

“Yes, but it takes a lot more to kill you. You’re not risking your life the way he is.”

His eyes flashed behind the glasses. “So he’s braver than I am, is that it?”

She blinked at him. She hadn’t seen Clark in six months or more, and the last thing she’d expected was for him to suddenly show up and start an argument about one of her articles. He almost sounded… jealous.

Which was ridiculous. Superman had no reason to be jealous of any man on Earth. Superman was, well... super.

“Look,” she said, allowing her own voice to show irritation, “this isn’t Batman vs. Superman, and no one’s calling for a cage match. I write for the Gotham Gazette, and as such I naturally write about the superhero who’s protecting our city. We leave the gushing articles about Superman to the Metropolis papers.”

“He’s no superhero.” Clark sounded as sullen as he often had as a teenager. “He’s just a guy playing dressup.”

“He’s definitely a superhero.” She glared at him, so fiercely that his hair would have caught on fire if she had heat vision. “Didn’t you read the article? He saved all of Gotham this week, and probably most of the Eastern seaboard as well.”

“Beginner’s luck,” Clark retorted.

“Beginners--? He’s been doing this for most of a year, Clark. He’s saved so many people—done so much—“

Clark slammed the paper down on the desk and rose to his feet abruptly. Anger, and something else, something less definable, smoldered in his eyes. Chloe was aware that her co-workers were sending her anxious looks—should we call security for you? Or maybe the cops?—but she couldn’t quite look away from the gleam in those eyes.

“You’re in love with him, aren’t you?”

Startled, she snorted. “In love with him? Where did you get that idea from?”

“It’s in your words.” He leaned forward, planting his hands on the desk and glaring, so that she was suddenly afraid for her hair. His voice lowered, but the intensity in his eyes didn't fade. “I’ve seen it before, Chlo. Starting way back in high school, when you wrote that article about ‘Superboy.’ I knew you were halfway in love with him, just from reading it. And now—this... this Bat thing—“

“Batman,” she growled. “He’s called Batman.”

“Batman.” He spat out the syllables as if spitting out something that tasted disgusting. “You’re in love with him.”

“Lois is in love with you,” Chloe pointed out. “Maybe journalists always fall in love with the biggest story of our lives.”

He rolled his eyes, as he always did at any mention of Lois. She’d been chasing Superman for years now, and still hadn’t figured out that he was the same man who sat across the desk from her. Chloe loved her cousin with every fiber of her being, but she had to admit that Lois Lane was not the sharpest tool in the shed.

She could write a hell of a newspaper article, though. It ran in the family.

“Lois is in love with Superman,” he said. “She doesn’t know I exist. She doesn't even see me, most of the time.”

Chloe sighed. “And if I have any sort of… interest… in Batman, it's in the hero, and what he accomplishes. I wouldn’t recognize the man himself if I walked past him on the street, and odds are I wouldn’t even like him if I met him. When a grown man dresses up as a bat, you have to figure he's got some unresolved issues. I doubt he's really my type.”

“Women always go for heroes,” Clark said, and she heard the bitterness in his voice. Heard it—and understood it. Despite his moviestar good looks, he’d always cultivated an aura of invisibility. He was the quiet guy, the student who sat in the back of the class and industriously scribbled down extensive notes, the reporter who turned in all his articles on time but never wrote anything really outstanding. He’d never win a Pulitzer, because he would never let himself stand out that much. He'd never be recognized as brave, or daring, or even particularly intelligent. Most people just described him as nice.

Superman was a world-renowned figure, but Clark Kent was just an ordinary guy.

In that moment, she understood that he wasn’t really jealous of Batman, as much as he was jealous of himself. He was tired of seeing women fall for heroes, masked men, caped avengers, rather than for the men themselves.

Which was ridiculously ironic, because she’d been in love with him since they were both fifteen—long before she’d known he was a hero. She’d loved him back then for his quiet smile, and his love of books, and his gentle sense of humor. She still did.

He was the one constant in her life, the one man she’d always loved. And he'd never really known it. Oh, he'd been aware she had a crush on him as a teenager, of course. But she was pretty sure he hadn't realized that her love for him had never faded. Even through Jimmy, Ollie, and a few other relationships-- she'd never stopped loving him.

“Maybe when women go for the ordinary men,” she suggested, “the men just don’t realize it.”

He snorted.

“Idiot,” she said gently, putting her hand on his arm. He jolted with real surprise this time, and looked down at her hand on his arm with an expression of genuine shock. “I’m not in love with Batman. I’m in love with you.”

His gaze shot up, and his eyes locked with hers. He still looked like she’d hit him over the head with a Kryptonite club. The naked doubt in his eyes made her smile a little.

“Always have been,” she said softly. “Always will be.”

“But I thought—I thought—“ He swallowed hard. “I thought you were into heroes, Chloe. You were always into heroes.”

“I am into heroes.” Her hand squeezed his arm. “Only my hero is a mild-mannered farmboy from Kansas who wears glasses.”

He looked at her, as if trying to gauge her sincerity, and at what he saw in her expression, something blazed into life in the depths of his eyes. Something hot and bright and dangerous.

“Oh, no,” she said in response to the unmistakable look in those eyes, holding out her hands. She'd never made love to him-- she hadn't kissed him in years-- but she recognized lust when she saw it. “I just got to work, Clark—I can’t— I can't possibly--"

He leaned forward, till their noses almost touched. “I want you,” he said in a low, throaty growl.

She blinked against the fierce brightness of his eyes, and the sudden tears in her own, and sighed in surrender.

“All right,” she agreed meekly.

Superman could have swept her away to anywhere—a bed, a tropical island, Los Angeles.

Clark Kent took her to the dark alley behind her workplace.

Before she could draw a breath, she was pressed up against a brick wall, his warm, big body all but crushing hers, and she was being kissed senseless.

She decided she liked being senseless. She lifted her arms, let her fingers dig into his thick, dark hair, and pulled him against her harder.

A strangled noise rose from his throat, a noise of desire and joy and need, all tangled together. A noise she’d never imagined she could draw out of him. She'd left Metropolis because she'd known she could never make him need her that way, and she'd been afraid of staying, afraid of watching him fall for some other woman. All her insecurities had compelled her to run, to leave him far, far behind.

And it looked like she'd been wrong. He did need her that way after all. Maybe he always had.

She sighed against his mouth, suffused with a happiness she’d never thought she would feel. She’d kissed Clark a few times, back in their youth, but never like this. This wasn’t the sort of kiss they’d shared back then, hesitant and naïve and cautious. This was a savage flare of need and desire, an aching desperation that had gone unsatisfied for far too long.

But it clearly wouldn’t go unsatisfied for much longer.

His big hands were all over her, sliding up under her clothes, discovering and exploring, caressing her stomach, her ribs, her… She jolted, and a little ahhhh came out of her, a sound she couldn’t have held back for all the world.

He made a little noise of satisfaction, and began caressing her there, and her nipple hardened beneath his questing finger until it ached. Her own hands reached beneath the t-shirt he wore, stroking the satiny skin of his back, stretched tight over powerful muscles. It was his turn to sigh into her mouth.

And then he was lifting her, and her panties disappeared somehow—ripped off? thrown aside? She wasn’t sure, but she never saw them again—and her own hands were fumbling at his jeans, unbuttoning, unzipping, and then…

Their bodies seemed to merge somehow. Not like normal sex, she thought hazily, not just his body sliding into hers, not just the usual joining of bodies. It was more like the two of them becoming one. They moved together, melding in a smooth and easy rhythm, and a wild and wonderful pleasure suffused her.

He groaned, throwing his head back, his eyes clenched shut, and she knew somehow that he felt the exact same way.

His fingers dug into her ass, holding her tightly against the rough brick wall, and she wrapped her legs around his hips, letting him sink into her as deeply as humanly—or Kryptonianly—possible. He sobbed into her mouth and moved faster.

Friction and heat and ecstasy coiled in her, and a climax overtook her, shaking her so powerfully she could hardly bear it. He must have felt it, must have felt her body squeezing his own, because he suddenly surged into her, quivered violently, and then collapsed against her, squashing her against the wall.

There was a long silence. At last she spoke in his ear.

“Sometimes I wish I could write about the things that really matter to me.”

He lifted his head and looked at her. A small grin tilted a corner of his mouth.

“Heroes matter,” he answered. “Even..." He made a little face. "The Batman.”

She chuckled at his residual jealousy. “They do matter,” she agreed, stroking his damp, ruffled hair gently. “But not as much as these ordinary things. Kissing. Making love. Talking afterward. It doesn't make for interesting newspaper articles, but I think… I think maybe this is what matters most in the world, Clark.”

His arms tightened around her. “Only when you do it with the person that matters most to you,” he answered.

He’d answered her question just as clearly as if she’d asked it, taken all her insecurities away with one sentence, and she felt herself grinning foolishly. “I’d like to do it again,” she said, “but I really have to get to work.”

“Yeah,” he agreed. “I have some work to do, too.”

She knew that he must have a great deal to do. Working for the Daily Planet, and patrolling Metropolis' skies as Superman, represented an enormous time commitment. She wondered if he could make time for this and for her, wondered if she really mattered enough to him. Hesitantly, she suggested, "Maybe this evening…”

“Definitely this evening.” He squeezed her, then let her go. “And all the evenings to come.”

Her throat tightened at the sincerity in his voice. He lowered her to the ground, and she straightened and smoothed out her skirt, then watched beneath lowered lashes as he straightened out his own clothes, zipping his jeans and unrumpling his t-shirt. He was, she thought, at his most beautiful like this. Despite the glasses, despite the maturity now stamped on his features, he still looked like the boy she’d loved in high school, so familiar and so lovely that her heart ached.

She loved him as a man, and as a hero. But she also knew that he never would have grown into the hero that he’d become without the man he always had been. The mild-mannered farmboy.

Her mild-mannered farmboy.

Above them, in the shadows, a figure watched silently. He hadn't intended to be a voyeur, and he'd carefully looked away during their moments of intimacy. But he'd been unable to leave the area, because he'd been trapped. He'd known that if he moved, the slightest scrape of his foot against the fire escape where he perched might betray him to the man below. He was a detective by training, and he could recognize Superman readily enough without his costume, even if no one else seemed able to manage that feat. And everyone knew that Superman had better-than-canine hearing.

He was glad to see that the golden-haired reporter had finally gotten together with the man she loved. He'd done research into her, of course, just as she'd done research into him. He'd stumbled across Superman's identity by studying her past, but he'd also come to understand the sorrow and loneliness that always haunted the blonde's eyes. She'd run away from Superman-- or rather, from Clark Kent-- a long time ago, and Superman had let her go.

All of which proved that a superintelligent alien was just as prone to stupidity as anyone else on the planet.

But they seemed to have worked out their problems now. He watched them kiss, watched them walk out of the alley with their arms around each other, and he smiled just a little-- something he all too rarely did. He liked the blonde reporter. In fact, he thought he could have felt more for her than that, but for the plainly writ sorrow that told him clearly that her heart belonged elsewhere.

The next time he saw her, he knew the sorrow would be gone from her eyes.

That was, he thought, something superheroes couldn't do. They could save lives, they could prevent tragedies, they could even protect the world. But so much sorrow in the world didn't arise from tragedies, but from the little things that heroics couldn't fix, from the ordinary grief of living.

There was only one man in the world who could take away the shadows of grief in the reporter's eyes.

And thankfully, he'd done so.

The alley beneath him was empty. The Batman turned and silently glided through the shadows, the faint smile still curving his mouth.

Even he wasn't immune to happy endings.

-The End-


megamom2 said...

Charming! Such a lovely read with my morning coffee!

Meg said...

Thanks very much for the kind words, megamom!


BabyDee said...

Ahh...I've missed Classic Chlark from Elly Dearest. :-)

Clark is so adorable when he's jealous, LOL! I'm glad Chloe was honest with him (and that he didn't break her tender heart yet again!)

Finally, the Happy Ending those two deserve. Nice one, Elly! :-)

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad to see a new story from you, Elly!! Amazing as usual. Incredibly insightful and uplifting. I hope you write more stories -- we need our fill now more than ever!!


bkwurm1 said...

Really Elly, no one can tell a Chlark story quite like you can. Just wonderful.

My nephew stayed up all night playing the new Batman game so that character has been on my mind today. Made your ending extra special.

You have a way of brightening the spirits. Thanks for posting the new story!

Tracey L said...

Thank you for sharing this with us! I was so excited to see a new story from you, and I hope you'll be inspired to keep writing such wonderful pieces. I liked the Batman cameo, and the quick "what if?" scenario with the Chloe/Bruce. They'd be a great pair if she wasn't already in love with Clark.


Anonymous said...

As usual,you totally rocks! But Elly,here I go again.Pretty,Pretty please, humor us by pleasure us with a new chapter of CONQUERED.And just in case you have not noticed,I'm begging you.LoL! So... What are ya gonna do 'bout that?

Anonymous said...

Please always make a little time for chlark, we need you!! Great as always.

AV said...

Le sigh. Reading this was like a dose of fresh, pure oxygen. I needed it so badly!