by Kate Elizabeth

Contains discussion of menstruation. Written in response to Livia's X-Title Challenge, with thanks to Elizabeth for Chloe/Lana inspiration.


Chloe got breasts at eleven. She thinks of it that way because in her memory it seems like they just showed up. She looks down now at the alley between them, where sweat slides when she runs, and can't remember them ever being any smaller. Can't remember the look or feel of skin flat over bone.

She got her period at twelve, at camp in the woods, and since then it's been a damn nuisance. Her back knots up the week before and she bleeds a lot and snaps at Pete. She thinks more about shoving Clark down, climbing onto his hips, trying to hold his wrists in the circle of her fingers. She looks at Lana's slim ankles and lightly muscled stomach and gets a little sickly mad. Lana thinks of her period as a natural cycle and refuses to use tampons; Chloe discovers this when she forgets to bring some to Lana's house when they're working on a school project, and asks, very casually, if Lana happens to have any lying around. Lana gives her a sweet little moue of distaste and says, "Chloe, toxic shock syndrome is really scary, don't you think?"

Chloe glares. She doesn't like feeling so open and wet and messy, so vulnerable to the world. A woman reporter can't be so obvious; she must be considered objective, quick, self-possessed. She has to be sort of asexual. And Chloe doesn't like that very much, but she's prepared to play by the rules until she can rewrite them herself.

Chloe is a feminist. She doesn't understand girls her age who laugh nervously at the word, who claim that feminism is over and the war has been won. She can quote current statistics about the pay gap. She knows about the dispute between feminists and environmentalists over family planning in less developed areas. She's read about trafficking in women and sometimes she would like to verbally flay those nervous na*ve disclaiming girls, to leave them shaking and terrified in her wake. But really it would make no difference. Misogyny isn't the kind of thing you can force someone to understand. Chloe is going to do it a little bit at a time; a carefully placed editorial here, a corporate expos there, a kiss where it will do the most good.

She can't change Lana's mind, either, not when she tries to explain what she feels about hormones and blood. Lana is horrified when she finds out that Chloe takes Midol.

"What is so wrong with that? Do you enjoy feeling like a blowfish?" Chloe asks, eyebrows skeptical. She's flopped on her belly on the floor, holding her chin up with the heels of her hands, gazing up at Lana. The girl is hard to figure out. Because really they aren't such good friends, but they are comfortably having this conversation about the dark mess between Chloe's legs. Lana is smiling a little, shrugging. She doesn't look at all embarrassed.

"It's only for a few days." Lana untucks her knees, stretches her slender legs out on the bed. "I just don't like taking drugs if they're not necessary."

"Oh, it's necessary," Chloe says. "We're talking some serious Mr. Hyde symptoms here. Unkempt hair, homicidal mania, unrestrained darker urges. You've experienced it, you know."

Lana dips her head a little, gives Chloe this teasing look, eyelids lowered and lips quirked. "I can't vouch for the darker urges, but the hair..."

Chloe laughs, shoves herself up to sit cross-legged on the carpeting. As she moves, she catches a scent of heat and iron and it makes her smile. She likes her smell during this week, likes the fact that only she can really smell it - a little primal rebellion against all the outward displays of cleanliness and order. "Hey, screw you," she says lightly. "I like my hair."

"I do, too," Lana says. Smiles. "It's... pretty."

Like she was going to say something else, maybe. Chloe finds herself beaming. "And don't forget my homicidal mania," she says sternly through her smile. "It's not very fond of insults."

"I'll keep that in mind," Lana says. After a few moments, she asks, "Do you want a backrub?"

Chloe blinks, says intelligently, "What?"

Lana slides off the bed to the floor, crawls toward Chloe on her hands and knees before settling to sit on her folded legs. "That's how I deal with my period. I make Nell give me backrubs. And I drink tea and eat lots of cookies."

Chloe unfolds her legs and moves to sit in front of Lana. "I'm beginning to like the sound of this natural cycle thing," she says, grinning.

"Isn't it nice?" Lana's voice is pure cane sugar but her fingers are small and hard and she works Chloe's muscles harder than Chloe expected. She thinks about complaining, thinks about it seriously, but the pain is kind of good. She tries not to wince, closes her eyes. Lana and unexpected strength. The day is just full of surprises.

"Ow, jeez!"

"You've got a knot," Lana says softly, and crunches something in her back. "Does that hurt?"

"Um, yes," Chloe says, voice more aggrieved than she really is.

Lana's thumbs press hard on the spot and make little circles. Chloe writhes a bit, feeling vaguely overheated. She thinks she can smell herself again and wonders if Lana can. Lana would probably know that scent; would think it natural and beautiful.

"You shouldn't let yourself get so tense," Lana says, matter-of-factly, and Chloe wonders if it really is that easy for her, if it's a decision. Just to be so good and kind and always accepting.

"It's probably because of the deadline," she offers, oddly hesitant.

She hears Lana hum behind her. "I thought you had the copy done in plenty of time last night." Warm palms rest on her neck, smooth down over her shoulders like a traveling shiver.

"The copy, yeah," Chloe says, dropping her head back. "The layout, not so much."

"I could've helped." Lana sounds just slightly put out. She pushes Chloe's head forward, gets the tendons along the back of her neck between her fingers and thumb and slides her hand firmly up and down, fingertips tangling in Chloe's hair.

Chloe thinks about purring. Instead she says, "I just sort of had to get it done. It's okay."

"Next time, ask," Lana says. "Or at least let me fix the knots before they get this bad."

"You've got a deal," Chloe answers dreamily. The skin of her back and shoulders has taken on a heated glow.

Lana shifts behind her and the warm little hands fall away from her back. "There," she says, scratching lightly between Chloe's shoulderblades, "you're done."

And she is. Chloe sits silent for a second. Then smiles, turning to face Lana, rolling her head around on the stalk of her neck and rotating her loosened shoulders. "Thanks," she says, keeping her tone cheery. "Wow. I'm your willing servant for life. Now, we should probably work on this crap for a while. What are we doing again?"

Lana smiles back, pulling her legs to her chest again. Over breasts sweet and little just like the rest of her, Chloe thinks, and the thought doesn't surprise her at all. She knows perfectly well what the project is about. They're supposed to do a presentation on the Eve hypothesis: the study of mitochondrial DNA which suggests that all people originated from one woman who lived in Africa thousands and thousands of years ago. Genetic material spread matrilineally. History and possibility that she and Lana both carry enclosed within them like a tiny coated pill. Natural woman. You make me feel like, Chloe thinks. She kind of feels like singing.

Lana is talking, smiling at her, tucking strands of hair behind her ear. Her cheeks are faintly reddened, a dark concentration of blood under gold skin. Watching her, Chloe shifts a little. She feels the heat and heaviness between her thighs, the hollow ache, the liquid downward rush. And for once, she doesn't mind it at all.

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