by Princess Twilite
"Do you know the weight I'm under, when everything revolves around you... you... you..." - Sarah Slean, `Weight I'm Under'.
Weight I'm Under 1/1
by Princess Twilite
Quiet and hot, the house sweltered around the people inside of it. The wood swelled in the humidity, sending the heavy scent of stuffy-summer into the air. Chloe propped her sandal-covered feet up on top of her desk bythe fan so the cold air would hit her more directly. Even though she wore shorts and a tank top, she felt like a roasted marshmallow. Crisp on the outside and gooey in the middle.
"I just love summer time in Smallville," Chloe grumbled, wiping sweat from the back of her neck. Times like these she was glad she didn't have long hair. A smile skittered across her mouth when she realized the hell Lana must be going through. All that pretty hair of hers. Chloe bet Lana just wanted to chop it all off right about now. Oh, it was petty of her to enjoy that thought, but she had a right to be petty.
A brief flash of hurt spiked in her and was gone. Love had fled from her with the speed and grace of a car crashing into a tree. She grimaced at the sappy metaphor. Still, it was the way she'd felt. She smiled to herself. Had felt. Not aymore, not Chloe Sullivan.
Clark... well, Clark Kent had that special something.
And no, she wasn't going to think about that.
Frustrated, she stabbed at the controls of the fan with her bare toes, trying to turn it up higher. She sighed in pleasure when she succeeded, the full blast of cool air washing over her sweat-slicked skin and making goose bumps rise in their place.
Her notebook fluttered on the desk, slapping open, pages flapping against each other. Chloe set her other foot down on top of it to keep it from blowing away, and then leaned her head against the wooden back of the chair, relaxing completely. Relaxing completely that is until someone knocked on her door.
A low groan warbled from her throat. "God. Who is it?"
The door opened and Chloe lifted her head, staring at Lana in the doorway, a faint expression of anxiety on her face. Oh great. Just the person she wanted to see, except for the part where it wasn't.
"What do you want?" she snapped.
Lana shrugged, fingers threaded together until the whites of her knuckles became startlingly apparent against her tan skin. "I... well, you haven't been around much since..." Lana swallowed, struggling with words. "I was thinking we could..."
"You know, I'm really busy," Chloe said, even though the other girl was still speaking. She gestured to the notebook beneath her foot.
"...go out to lunch, or..." Lana shrunk back a little when Chloe's words registered. "Something."
"Can't. Sorry." Chloe dragged her feet to the floor, turning away from Lana. "I've got all this writing to do, and you know the writer temperament. I can't eat until I'm finished."
"Chloe." Lana stepped into the room, a different inflection her voice. Chloe's shoulders stiffened. She hated the reminder that Lana cared, that Lana could be strong, and that Lana could give a damn. Could but maybe didn't.
"Listen," Chloe began, turning around. The desperate look Lana wore stopped her cold. Lana had barely looked at her in the past two months, much less directly in the eyes with as much emotion as she had right then.
"I just want to talk to you," Lana said, hand on the edge of the door. "I mean, I think we should talk. Don't you?"
Clark. Lana. Kissing.
Chloe hardened against the stinging sensation in the back of her throat. "About what? The weather? Because I could go on and on about this heat."
"You hate me don't you?"
Chloe's mouth twisted to the side. She couldn't answer that, because there wasn't really a word for how she felt about Lana. There was something sweet and precious about Lana. Something told her she could never really hate Lana Lang. But there was also something hard and cruel inside, because as much as she cared, somehow she couldn't stand to look at her too closely either.
"Yeah." Lana laughed a little, but it was a horrible sound. "I'm... yeah."
Chloe stared at the empty doorway for a long time after Lana had left, chilled from something other than the fan. She forced herself to look away, trying to get back to work on the story she was writing about how the absence of crops this year could be blamed on a strange blast that had rocked Smallville at the beginning of the summer. Her pen wouldn't move across the page. It remained in one place until the ink from the tip had blotted the spot and began to spread across the paper.
"Damn it," she muttered, setting the pen down. "It really sucks being a nice person."
With that, she stood and marched out of her room and into Lana's, not bothering to knock. Lana looked up from her tattered romance novel when Chloe stormed into her room, shock written across her features, eyes wide.
"What are you-" That was as far as she got.
"If you want to go to lunch, put the porn away and get up already," Chloe demanded, tossing her head. She picked Lana's sandals off of the floor and tossed them toward the bed. They each landed with a clunk next to Lana's feet. "You're paying."
Lana stared at her for a moment, and then nodded slowly.
"Good," Chloe said briskly. She turned to leave the room. "I'll wait downstairs."
"Thanks," she vaguely heard Lana say, but she was already halfway down the hallway and didn't bother to turn back.
"Where are we going?" Chloe asked, sitting uneasily in the passenger seat of her own damn car. Lana looked over at her, hair tied back into a messy bun that kept it off of the nape of her neck. Sweat made a few strands stick to the side of her face, curling at the edges.
"To that new place in town," Lana replied quietly, eyes returning to the road. A filtered silence followed behind those words, and Chloe held onto her seatbelt, staring through the window. It was easier that way, watching the yellow and white lines painted on the road instead of looking at Lana's familiar face and its even lines.
Chloe turned the radio on. It crackled as they passed beneath phone lines and wires strung between the buildings that lined the streets of Smallville. She touched the glass with just a fingertip and felt its heat. A burn of emotion flashed high inside her, while she listened to the music fade in and out... and then it was gone.
A few minutes later, still silent, Lana pulled the car into a parking space on the opposite side of the street from `Carol's', the new restaurant she had mentioned.
As Chloe stepped out of the car, she briefly wondered where Clark was right then. Was he eating? Was he cold? Would they ever find him? She shook her head to clear it and followed behind Lana as she entered the restaurant, a little surprised when the brunette tossed a worried look over her shoulder.
Lana took a seat at the booth by the plate-glass window with its bright bold letters blocking out most of the sun, casting blue shadows across the table. Chloe sat on the opposite side, setting her purse down onto the checkered table cloth. She waited for a minute, but the other girl's silence was too stiff to bear. "So, what's this about?"
The waitress interrupted before Lana could explain, coming up to the table and setting two menus down before them. "Welcome to Carol's, I'm Sharon and I'll be your waitress today. What would you like to drink while your waiting?"
Lana's eyes met Chloe's. "Coffee."
"Coffee," Chloe said as well, smiling at the waitress.
Sharon nodded, jotting it down on her pad. "Okay, I'll be right back with your coffee and to take your orders. Thanks for choosing our establishment for your dining pleasure this lunch hour."
When the waitress had left, Chloe raised a mocking eyebrow. "Dining pleasure? Who thought up that line? It sounds like something out of a `How-To' book."
Lana smiled in reply and picked up the menu, opening it and staring intently at the lists. Chloe raised an eyebrow and waited. And waited.
"Lana." She ducked her head down, catching the other girl's eyes. "You asked me to come to lunch with you for a reason. I'm really not interested in guessing what it is. So if that was your idea of how this is going to go, you're in for a sad surprise."
Lana's lips pursed, and she cast her eyes down. She seemed to come to a decision, though, and sat up a little straighter to lean forward, staring at Chloe directly enough to give her pause. "I think you knew about Clark and me. I think that's why you can't stand to be around me anymore."
Chloe scoffed. "If I didn't, I certainly do now. And there is a handful of other reasons why I don't like being around you. Like... your hair smells like strawberries. It annoys me."
"That was random," Lana commented. "And how do you know how my hair smells?"
"Whatever. Are we done here?"
"Not quite," Lana said, grabbing Chloe's hand as she was about to rise, stilling her. "I lost him. He left and he hurt me. I'm not losing you or letting you hurt me, too."
"Oh, I'm so sorry for you," Chloe muttered bitterly. She took her hand away as if Lana had an infectious disease, holding it close to her stomach. She stayed seated, but anger brought color to her face. Rising right along with the flush of red were the memories tied to it. Words scraped roughly from the roof of her mouth, stuck between her teeth. "I'm so sorry you actually had him give a damn about your heart when he couldn't be bothered with mine. I apologize that you both hurt me. Get over it, Lana. I had to."
"I didn't want to hurt you. We were going to tell you," Lana insisted, fingers curling against her palm as she pulled her hand away. Her expression shifted, like she'd been burned and there were ashes in her mouth. The sun slanted across her hair, highlighting the red accents of the rich, dark tones.
The effortless beauty pissed Chloe off all the more.
"When?" Chloe said evenly. She answered before Lana could even attempt to. "Oh, I know. You were going to tell me when it got more serious, when it was convenient, or maybe, when hell froze over. That's when you were going to tell me."
"No," Lana whispered. "We were going to tell you that day."
Sharon came back, carrying two steaming cups full of coffee. She set them down on the table, eyeing the two girls with curiosity. Chloe realized only Lana had opened her menu. Neither of them had read through the entire list of foods yet.
"Are you two ready to order?" Sharon asked kindly, if a bit dryly.
"I'm ready," Lana said, looking away from Chloe. "I'd like a cheeseburger. Extra cheese. No pickles. No mayonnaise. And..." Lana glanced at Chloe again. What was a little challenge between girls? "That's it for me. What about you, Chloe?"
"Uh..." Chloe dragged her eyes away from Lana with effort. "French Fries?"
"Is that a question, honey?" Sharon asked, tapping her pen impatiently against the pad. Chloe shifted in the booth, even as she tried to keep herself still. She hated when she sounded stupid, which wasn't often. Usually, people only treated her like an imbecile when she had some wacky theory that they couldn't bring themselves to open their mind far enough to consider. Not when she actually behaved like one.
"Sorry. I'd just like some French Fries."
Sharon nodded, scribbling on her pad. "Is that all?"
"Okay ladies, I'll be back with your food in about fifteen minutes."
Sharon left and Chloe lifted the coffee to her mouth, taking a long, soothing sip. It burned down her throat. The last time her throat had burned like this, she'd been watching Clark and Lana kissing. The reminder sickened her.
Lana did the same, sipped at her coffee, eyeing Chloe over the rim. They set their cups down at the same time. This time, Lana spoke first.
"I'm sorry, Chloe." Her fingers traced over the pattern of the table cloth. A nervous tick. She didn't quite make eye contact. "I never meant to hurt you. I would never want that."
Chloe's heart tightened, as if someone had tugged on a rope and tried to drag it out of her chest. But no, she wasn't about to let that happen. Forcing herself to smile, bright and cruel, she leant forward, moving her face close to Lana's. The brunette's eyes widened, and then flickered down, shining a little too brightly. Chloe felt something strange and unrecognizable move through her stomach, popping like a bubble just beneath her heart.
"I'm sure you are," she whispered silkily. "Since neither of us have him."
Lana flinched, inclining away from her. Chloe made sure the guilt didn't eat her alive while her once friend's lips thinned into a firm line and she looked away. Good, she told herself. Tried to, anyway. She'd be damned before she'd let Lana Lang inside again.
She picked up the coffee, swinging her gaze to the window. It was easier to avoid the guilt if she didn't see the devastation wash over Lana's open face. The painted letters she stared past glistened with the hot sunshine. Under her eyes, the light shifted, grew cold and far away. An untouchable gray cloud replaced the light with a swiftness that left her breathless. Feeling strangely ashamed, Chloe looked down into the liquid filling her cup, hoping the frayed edges of her game weren't showing.
A plea, fertile with things that only ever whispered between them.Space filled Chloe's heart as she found her eyes on Lana's again.
Sad, sad Lana Lang, who had been closeted in her room all summer with romance novels and tissues. Who had hardly ever looked at anyone twice for days after Clark left, who had walked so quietly she might have been a ghost. Who felt bad because she had hurt a girl becoming her best friend.
Chloe had to close her eyes. The light was suddenly too bright, the sun was all too mean, and her heart gave a fitful twinge that said it didn't want to be locked away.
Two months. Two Months... and now she was cracking. Her walls were slipping. All it had taken was the mournful sight of Lana's face set full force against them.
"Be quiet," she croaked, hoping Lana would listen for once.
Not a chance. "I'm saying sorry and that you need to forgive me." Lana's voice softened, but her face had hardened into stone. Like something had changed her these two months that they'd been avoiding each other, living under the same roof as if they were strangers. "I'm saying you better or I don't know what I'll do."
Chloe's lips parted, surprised. "What?"
"You heard me," Lana said, her voice becoming the same silk Chloe had used before. "I'm not sure I want to be nice to someone who hates me. I'm sick of being nice. It's gotten me nowhere."
"Are you okay?" Chloe asked, feeling the sharp bite of anxiety crawl into her throat. She didn't like this Lana. She didn't want to be near this Lana. This Lana... the sunlight brushed her hair again... Dammit, this Lana was pretty when she was mad.
"Do you care?" Lana shot back.
Plastic bagged her tongue and she spoke awkwardly around it. "Me? Care? No."
Lana eyeballed her, before sighing and falling back against the seat with an `oomph.' She flicked at a strand of hair that had fallen loose from her bun, smoothing it along her scalp. Chloe watched, fingering the edge of the table with a broken fingernail.
"Look, I don't hate you." Chloe's voice rippled tightly across her tongue. "I've never hated you, even though I want to really badly. I don't know what's going on with you. I'm not sure I want to know what's going on with you. But you should know that."
"It's always good to know," Lana whispered, unidentifiable emotion lingering beneath her words. "You're all I have, Chloe."
Chloe blinked. She'd never thought of it quite like that. Apparently, Lana hadn't either, because she turned her gaze quickly away. "Where is that waitress?" She asked, looking uncomfortable. "I didn't eat this morning."
Chloe bit off a sarcastic comment and tapped her fingers against the table. They waited in silence, letting the quiet sit beside them in the booth so that they didn't have to speak and they didn't have to look each other in the eye. The waitress came by a moment later with two plates. She set the first down in front of Lana and the other before Chloe.
"I'll leave you two to your meals," Sharon said, wiping her palms on her apron. "You just raise your hand if you need me and I'll be right over."
"Thanks," Lana said, smiling up at the older woman. Sharon nodded and walked away. "How's Pete?" she asked into the gap left by the waitress' absence.
Chloe shrugged, lifting a french fry to her mouth. "He's okay, I guess." She chewed around the words, swallowing. "I haven't seen that much of him. He took Clark's absence pretty hard and to be honest... I haven't been around."
"I noticed." A little bitter, a little concerned.
She looked up, finding Lana's serious eyes focused on her.
Lionel Luthor. Dark hours spent in his study, going over records. Looking, searching, waiting for some sign of Clark Kent. Sometimes he came, sat in the corner and watched her with intent, snake-like eyes. Others, he hovered somewhere outside the door like a thick, black cloud that was slowly suffocating her lungs. She was in it to her ears and she knew it. No reason to bring clean and precious Lana Lang into the mess.
A ball of unease bounced around inside Chloe's stomach, bumping into her rib, pushing her into motion. "You going to eat your burger or what?" Chloe demanded, chomping on a fry as she bent over to avoid direct eye contact. Ketchup dotted her pinky and she licked it off, focusing on anything but why she hadn't been around.
Lana took a dainty bite of the burger, wiping her mouth immediately after. She'd always been self-consciously careful about her eating, as if someone would punish her if she put on a few pounds here and there. Chloe shook her head and continued to dig into her own meal.
"Thanks for the food," she muttered.
"We could do it again sometime?" Lana's voice lilted up on the last syllable, making her words a question she probably didn't intend for them to be.
Chloe paused, a french fry halfway to her mouth. She studied Lana's face for a moment, hesitancy written across it. This girl had hurt her, deeply. She pursed her lips, ready to cut her down. Couldn't. "I guess."
It took only that to make Lana smile.
Chloe's lashes pulled down, and she looked at the limp french fry in her fingers.
"Don't mock me," she said, beneath her breath. "I'm just being nice."
That night, the heat was nearly overwhelming.
Chloe slept with the covers at the bottom of her bed and still she felt like a roasted piece of meat, sweating even though she'd stripped down to her underwear several hours ago. She stared up at the twisted shadows on her ceiling, a groan stuck painfully in the back of her throat. The heat was always the worst this time of year, when Fall was just around the corner. The shapes on the ceiling shifted, agreeing.
She kicked at the covers again in pure frustration.
It was about right then, when she was a moment away from crying all the heat right out of her, that she heard someone else's tears. A quiet, breathy sound of shudders escaping a mouth. A female sound. Lana.
Chloe rolled her head to stare hard at the wall as if she could see through it. Her head tilted again when the sound repeated. There. Just there, to the right, the sound of someone struggling not to sob, hurt choking in the chest.
She sat up, peeling her soaked body from the sheets, and stood slowly. She didn't bother with a robe, walking quickly and quietly out of her room and down the hall. Past the creaking floorboard, beyond the puddle of moonlight before Lana's door. Stopped, listened.
Quiet sobs. Lana wouldn't want to disturb anyone with her tears. No one would hear unless they were awake.
"I wish I hadn't been," Chloe whispered, lips parting on a breath. Tears scoured deeply behind her nostrils, shifting inside her throat. She tilted her head back to keep the tears in, and her tongue darted out, trying to catch air so she could blow the empathy away.
She should be happy. Lana had betrayed her. She should be thrilled at these repressed sobs. Chloe closed her eyes and pressed her cheek against the warm wooden door that separated her from this girl who had once been her friend. She wasn't thrilled at all.
"Lana?" She whispered, opening the bedroom door.
On the bed, a mound buried beneath too many covers stilled. Chloe bit her bottom lip, nervously edging further into the room. She closed the door behind her, easing it shut without a sound. "Lana, are you okay?"
"Fine," Lana said, a high pitched lie. "It's just hot in here. Go back to sleep."
"It wouldn't be so hot if you weren't bundled up like this is the South Pole." Chloe moved closer to the bed, a few curious steps. "Geeze, you're gonna get heat stroke."
Chloe thought briefly of Lana's abandonment issues. She took another step forward, until her knees were pressed to the bottom of the bed. "No. No, I don't think I will."
"Please?" Another sniffle, hidden. "I just don't feel well."
"Whatever." Chloe took a seat next to the lump on the bed, placing her hand over what she guessed was Lana's shoulder. She made soothing circles with her palm, hoping to rub some life back into the girl's stiff form. "Tell me why you're crying."
Chloe tried again. "Look, we're never going to make things better between us if you don't let me help you."
"You want to?" Lana whispered, moving a little beneath the heavy blankets. Her fingers appeared at the edge, but stopped without pulling it away from her body. Chloe grasped the edge, tugging on it, but Lana had a firm grip and wouldn't give it up.
"Yes. I told you that I didn't hate you."
"Doesn't mean you care."
True. Chloe cocked her head to the side. "I'm saying I care."
Slowly, cautiously, Lana lowered the covers from around her head. The moonlight caught on her tears, turning them silver in the half-light. She looked miserable, but hopeful. "Yeah?"
A softness puddled in Chloe's heart. "Yeah."
The covers moved further down. Lana's hand fell, palm up, onto the bed. Chloe took the hint and placed her own hand on top of it, curling her fingers around the other girl's. Lana blinked up at her, smiling a little through still drying tears. She tugged and Chloe laid down beside her, above the blankets.
Lana's breath slowed by degrees until she was quiet, staring up at the ceiling. Chloe watched the side of her face, wondering what was going on inside that head.
Chloe's fingers tightened. "Tell me what's up."
Lana laughed, a sad sound, and turned her head in Chloe's direction. "I couldn't sleep, so I started thinking. About everything. About Clark." Off Chloe's wince, "about you. There's... something. I keep thinking about you."
Chloe's eyebrows drew together. She nodded for Lana to continue even as her heart gave a hard lurch in warning. "About what?"
Lana met her eyes. "I've missed you. I've missed Clark too, but..." She took a deep breath, sucking in air harshly. The shadows shifted over her mouth. "If he came back tomorrow, I wouldn't touch him. I don't want to lose you like I did... I want you back in my life. I want you to look at me and meet my eyes and make me feel better and..." Lana cut herself off. "And I'm rambling... Chloe, I just... I'm confused. I keep looking at you and..."
Chloe waited, sure that there was more.
She didn't expect it to be delivered in the form of Lana's mouth on hers. It was. Her eyes flew wide open as Lana kissed her hard, all lips and teeth pressing against her own, grinding down like she was getting as much out of the kiss as she could. Like she'd never be able to do it again. Chloe remained stock still, unable to fully comprehend the reality knocking down her door.
After a long moment, Lana ended the kiss on another sob and rolled away.
Chloe struggled to take it all in, but she couldn't move, couldn't back away, couldn't hold onto the other girl. She could only stare at the wall over Lana's arm, smell the scent of Lana's hair, and let the heat burn through her.
Lana Lang had just kissed her. Full on, all sex, non-friendly kissed her.
"Sorry," Lana said. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to."
Chloe nodded, swallowing. She felt like she was throbbing. Everywhere. Her heart echoed the kiss, knocking against her ribs.
"It's okay. I understand." Was that her voice? "Not a big deal."
Lana's hands burrowed into her hair, and Chloe felt her face being lifted. Lana kissed her again, softer this time. Deeper. A wet tongue brushed her bottom lip, and Chloe parted her mouth, letting it inside. And inside, a splash of desire cooled her spine.
New. Vivid. Burning.
"You just..." Lana whispered into her mouth. "Chloe you... can't leave me alone, again."
The weight settled somewhere around her heart, and Chloe let herself be drawn into the unfamiliar territory of Lana's body. Completely lost. Completely terrified. The girl she swore she'd never be again.
Chloe Sullivan, falling once more.
A/N: Feedback at Princesstwiltie2@aol.com
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