Arcadia

by FayJay


Thanks to the PPO Collective and to Ellen for Beta assistance.


Written in response to The Smallville X Titles Challenge. http://www.debchan.com/livia/smallville/xtitle.html


She shouldn't hate Lana Lang, but Chloe's only human and it's killing her to see the agonised glances passing between Lana and Clark. It isn't that she doesn't care about Whitney's dad, it's just that she can't switch off her feelings simply because they're inappropriate. She really wishes she could, but she's been on an emotional roller-coaster these past few days and right now Chloe feels - bruised. Tired. Lonely. Defeat snatched from the jaws of victory yet again; and she shouldn't be thinking about herself right now, but she can't seem to help it.

And oh, God, poor Whitney. It's ripping her heart out just looking at him, because this sort of thing just isn't supposed to happen in real life; Mr Fordman was only her dad's age, and she can't begin to imagine how this must feel. She's almost embarrassed for Whitney, because she doesn't know him all that well and yet there's such intimacy in being here now; and, big macho jock that he is (or that she thought he was) he's simply too raw to care about who sees him crying; and he's totally oblivious to the way his girlfriend keeps glancing over at Clark Kent (who, incidentally, looks quite unbelievably beautiful in the rain) as if she thinks she's playing some sort of hopeless Juliet to Clark's waterlogged Romeo. Chloe could slap them both.

She tries to tell herself that all this is character-building, but right now Chloe's got enough character to set up her own theme park and she doesn't see why the fates can't give her a break for once. She's only inches away from crying herself, and the most contemptible thing is that it isn't really for Mr Fordman (although Chloe does ache at the thought of his amiable face lying cold and still beneath the polished surface of the coffin); it's for Justin and Principal Kwan, and for herself. It's for the way that the world pulls the rug out from under you just when you think everything's going well. And Chloe knows that her own problems are insignificant in the grander scheme of things, and that she's being selfish and shallow to let her own little worries overwhelm her when there's real tragedy here under her nose; but it's one thing to know this objectively and another thing entirely to be able to act on this realisation.

She had been so damned happy when Justin looked at her like that. It felt like being filled up with light; like suddenly everything was beautiful and funny and wonderful and all her defences were unnecessary after all. She'd never guessed he felt like that. Not even after all those months of emailing and putting the world to rights on AIM (his typing was slow and his spelling was terrible, but under the circumstances that was understandable); the late night talks about journalism and creativity and artistic integrity; the shared jokes that nobody else knew; word games and shorthand and silliness and the strange intimacy of instant prose. It was easy to talk to Justin about meteorite weirdness and her fears of failure; about freedom of speech and her parents' marriage; about The Simpsons and LuthorCorp and the best kind of sandwich filling. Everything and nothing. He knew how she felt about Clark Kent and how she sometimes overcompensated for being jealous of Lana Lang with bursts of excessive and inappropriate friendliness. He didn't think she was being a dork when she described the sight of the Kents' poisoned cattle in terms of Poussin's landscape paintings. He made her think and he made her laugh, and when he kissed her he made the room spin.

Literally.

The disorientation of seeing inanimate objects discarding the laws of gravity was nothing to the sudden shift of perspective when his lips touched her mouth and Chloe saw the world without her Clark-coloured glasses on for once. It was unlooked-for and utterly irresistible; and Justin was exactly what she needed. He was passionate and quirky and funny and imperfect and he knew about the world beyond the outskirts of Smallville.

And he liked her.

Unfortunately, as it turned out, he also killed people. This wasn't really one of the qualities she was looking for in a boyfriend, but it seemed to be developing into something of a leitmotif nevertheless. How could Chloe possibly have misjudged him so completely? Some investigative reporter she turned out to be. And it never even crossed her mind to tell anyone about his secret powers, let alone to make an article from it. Because it was Justin, not some abstract puzzle for the Wall of Weird; and when you got right down to it all her grand ideals about freedom of the press had melted away like butter on a griddle as soon as somebody told her she was special.

Chloe hates that.

She also hates feeling like she's right back at square one, when things had seemed to promise so much more. Justin. Clark. The world gave her lemons so she made lemonade; then the world gave her banana skins and pointed and laughed when she fell over and spilled lemonade all over her best pants. Just as well she can still see the funny side, but it still hurts her heart to think of Justin and it still makes her ache to see Clark gazing at Lana with all this longing on his big, dumb, totally transparent face while the preacher's words about Jack Fordman finally grind to a halt, and Whitney just stands there lost in his own misery. Two steps forward, one step back.

It would be easier if she could really hate Lana wholeheartedly, but Chloe can't. Not quite. There's no satisfaction to be had in hating somebody so frustratingly, unrelentingly nice; but it doesn't mean she has to like the girl. Or forgive her for being Lana Lang; all irresistibly enormous eyes and Audrey Hepburn fragility. Chloe would far rather be played by Katharine Hepburn, would rather be a prickly, sassy, wisecracking broad than some delicate waif in need of saving. But she's only human and she's tired of being second best. Or third best - because if Clark isn't with Lana he's with Lex Luthor, and how's a girl supposed to compete with that?

In books, love isn't like this. There's only supposed to be room in your heart for one person at a time. Seems like the books aren't much of a blueprint for reality after all; because Chloe wants both Clark and Justin so much it hurts. Not like a smutty joke, not both at once or anything skanky; it's just that weirdly she can want to be with nobody but Justin and want to be with nobody but Clark simultaneously. Very George Orwell, Chloe. And sometimes she looks at Lana and finds herself feeling something else again; something other than jealousy. Hormones don't seem interested in making a girl's life any easier. Still, that whole trying-to-kill-her thing had put a real dampener on her feelings for Justin - which was a weird sort of silver lining, but that was life in Smallville for you.

So it's not like she doesn't understand where Clark's coming from, the way he follows Lana's receding back with a world of longing in his wide eyes and rain soaking through his clothes. It would be hypocritical to hate Clark for not being able to just get over Lana once and for all when he's got Chloe right in front of him, offering herself on a silver platter. But sometimes Chloe thinks she does hate Clark anyway, and the hell with being fair. Sometimes whole hours go by when she just finds him irritating and unremarkable and really not all that bright; and then he smiles at her, or does something ineffably Clark-like, and she's lost all over again.

Hopeless. Hopeful. Hooked.


"Et in Arcadia Ego"



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