"You're going to be OK, you're going to be OK." he said, whispering into her ear as he flew off with her after breaking her out of her basement prison. After he heard that Chloe had been kidnaped while on assignment overseas, he was relieved to find her alive and not too banged up. However, the water the kidnappers had given their captive was polluted, leaving her feverish and shivering.
"Clark? Is that you?" she said.
He stiffened slightly, then sighed. She's delirious, he thought, she must be remembering something from the time we were both in Smallville.
Smallville . . . he thought. I remember the day she gave up on me. She had said, "Clark, I don't love you any more. I destroyed a huge part of myself because I kept waiting for you: my pride, my beliefs, my soul. Then one day I woke up and I couldn't believe that I had done this to myself. I don't want to see you again. Goodbye." She had gone to Metropolis University but she had studiously avoided him all four years, juggling her schedule to avoid taking the same classes as him, sitting as far from him as possible whenever that was impossible and crossing the street to make sure their paths never crossed. And when she heard that he had gotten a job at the Daily Planet, she had applied to almost every other legitimate newspaper and news channel . . . except the Daily Planet.
I know you wanted to work at the Daily Planet, he thought. That was your dream. You shouldn't have let me stop you. "Chloe . . ."
She continued to take shallow breaths and whimper. "It's hot, it's hot . ."
He landed at the entrance to a hospital inside an American military base and said to the guard, "Get me a doctor, quick! The person is an American citizen named Chloe Sullivan. She's the reporter who's been missing for over a week. Now!"
A stretcher came out to take her in. Once she was deposited on the stretcher and inside the hospital, he flew away.
"I can't believe they sent me home and put me on medical leave," Chloe muttered as she put down the remote control of her TV after shutting it off. She thought, I'm perfectly fine. Things like this used to happen to me all the time in . . .
Ding-dong, went the doorbell
She got up from the couch. More flowers? she thought as she looked through the peephole at a delivery man holding a bouquet of yellow roses. Everybody from the office already sent me an arrangement and Dad sent one too. Who else . . . She opened the door and said, "Yes?"
"Delivery for Ms. Sullivan. Could you please sign here?"
She signed the sheet the delivery man gave her, then took the flowers. She looked at the card. In neat, big, very familiar writing, the card said:
I heard about what happened to you on the news. I was so worried about you. Since you're in town and if you're up to it, could you please have lunch with me? My treat, of course. Please call me at 555-3425.
Sincerely yours, Clark
She nearly dropped the flowers. Typical, she thought as she smiled ruefully. So very typical. It's funny how it's always the disasters that make him appear.
"Hi, Chloe. I'm glad you could make it," he said in jeans and a white shirt. He had been standing in front of the diner for fifteen inutes. She was on time, he had just wanted to make sure he didn't miss her.
"Well, free lunch. Can't skip that," she said with a pullover that was yellow, orange and red with a skirt to match.
They sat down at a booth at the diner and began looking over the menu. "How are you holding up?"
"I'm fine. I've had a zillion tests and everything's turned out negative. I just had to take some antibiotics." She caught him staring at the bandage on her forehead. "It's just a cut."
"Reminds me of that time . . ."
"Don't remind me."
"Could I take your order?" said the waitress.
"I'll have a cheeseburger, a chocolate shake and fries."
Chloe frowned then said, "I'll have a large latte and soup."
The waitress walked away.
"How long are you off work?"he said.
"A week and a half. I've been questioned on and off by various government agencies about who kidnaped me but I can't really discuss any of the details right now. So, how's working at the Daily Planet?"
"I like it. It keeps me challenged."
"You were the worst reporter on the Torch staff. I'm really surprised you chose journalism as a major."
"I had the best inspiration." He gazed at her steadily.
"Clark, I . . ."
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry for everything that happened in high school. Seeing your face . . . on TV, I thought I'd never get to speak to you again. It scared me. I wanted to talk to you all throughout college but you just kept . . ." He took one of the salt shakers and had it give a wide berth to the pepper shaker.
"I know I did. After a while, avoiding you just became a habit." She looked to one side. "How are your parents?"
"They're great. Mom and Dad are still working the farm. Pete's been . . ."
"He's been working on Lex Luthor's campaign for Senator of Kansas. I know, I talk to him from time to time. He seems to really enjoy being the organizer."
"It's good to see you again, Chloe," he said, smiling.
"Actually the main reason I came here was because I need to know the answer to a question."
Clark's smile faded somewhat. "Oh . . . okay. What's the question?"
"You're Superman's friend, right?"
Clark looked a little surprise. "How . . ."
"Give me some credit, Clark. I did some research on the guy after he rescued me and you're the guy who interviewed him first. Well, that wasn't the question. What I need to know is why he flew out all the way to the Philippines to save me."
Clark frowned. "He saves people all the time."
"In Metropolis, sure, and if the President needs him or the Earth's in danger. Why did he save me? Of all the emergencies in the world, why did he choose me? I'm just a woman with a mike and an attitude."
"Don't talk about yourself like that!"
Chloe noticed how beet red Clark got. "Clark?"
"Why shouldn't he save you?"
She cocked her head to one side and looked at him with a puzzled frown. "Clark, did you ask him to save me?"
"I didn't have to ask but I would've if I had to. Chloe, I . . ."
"Here's your order," said the waitress, putting various dishes down.
"Cheeseburger, chocolate shake and fries. Here's your latte and soup."
After the waitress put down the rest of the food, Chloe sipped her latte. Clark smiled at the familiar sight then realized that he hadn't seen her do this in more than five years.
"When I received those flowers, did you know what I thought?"
"That it was typical of you."
"In what sense?"
She took another sip before saying, "It's funny how you always turn up after a disaster. Still have a thing for damsels-in-distress?"
"Actually I prefer snarky, fearless reporters who love coffee." He flashed her a smile.
"They're a dime a dozen. I'm sure . . ." She said, before taking a spoon and stirring the soup without eating a bite.
"Why do you keep doing that?"
Clark swallowed. It's not like I have the right to say it, he thought. To ask you why you keep putting up a wall. After all, I'm the one who put it there. "Nothing." He took a fry and popped it in his mouth.
"Clark, we can't just go back to the old days. Too much happened back then. Way too much."
"I was thinking of building something brand new from scratch. Chloe, I've changed a lot in eight years. I'm not going to do the same things I used to do."
Chloe didn't say anything but took a few spoonfuls of soup.
Clark said, "If you want to know why he saved you, I could ask him to tell you personally."
"On what condition?"
"No conditions, just tell me when you want to see him. I know you want to know."
"Why are you doing all this?"
"Because I want to. Things like this make you focus on what's important in life."
"The problem is that you always paid attention to me during emergencies, but then when it was over, it was like you got bored with me."
"I wasn't bored. I was blind. I'm not blind anymore."
Her eyes glistened while she drank the last of her latte. "I'll think about it."
You know, he thought as he walked towards Chloe's apartment building, she was one of the few people who liked you for who you were, not what you could do. She was the one who loved you before you knew what was going on. Now, the only reason she even bothered to show up was because you happen to know Superman.
Then why did she call your name when she was sick? Doesn't that mean something, he thought. And you know what happened last time. Instead of telling me the truth, she lied and said she wanted to be friends . . . She's not going to just throw her arms around you especially after all this time. And she's not going to blurt out that she still gives a damn, that's not how she is . . . if she still gives a damn.
He saw his destination ahead of him, then ducked into an alley.
She stood dressed in a tan overcoat with a white fur collar, mittens, a scarf and black boots. Okay, I, Chloe Sullivan, am standing on top of my apartment building at two in the morning, waiting to see Superman. What the heck am I going to say to him, she thought. Gee, thanks for the rescue? Think, Chloe, think. You're good at coming up with something smart to say. Brain, don't fail me now.
She looked around only to see the night sky and the tops of other buildings. Funny, she thought, when I was sick, I kept thinking it was Clark who had gotten me out of there. I don't know why, though. Then her thoughts wandered over to the newspaper articles she had read online about the super hero. What is he going to say to me, anyway? Just doing my duty, Miss Sullivan? God, what a Boy Scout! Sounds like someone straight out of Small . . .
Chloe sighed while turning around, "Clark, wh . . ." She saw the man in the Superman suit. Then she looked closely at his face. "Clark, this isn't funny," she said, shaking her head, half-angrily.
"Chloe, just watch."
Chloe watched as he flew upwards and out of sight in a manner of seconds before flying back down . On her face was a look of wonder. "Wow . . . You can fly . . ."
"Now do you see why Superman rescued you?"
Chloe put her face in her hands and began to laugh. "I should've known it was you. I should've guessed." She finally stopped laughing then looked up. Two tears were making their way down her face.
"Why are you crying?"
"Because I don't want to like you."
"Why? I answered your question, answer mine."
"Ever since my mom left us, I made up my mind that I was going to be strong. I didn't want to depend on anyone. But whenever I was around you, I felt weak. And the truth is that for a long time, being around you really did make me weak. I hated myself back then. I did a lot of things I'm not proud of, things I'd rather forget."
"Chloe, we were kids back then and I was the one who pushed you away. I hurt everyone around me during that time. I was like a terrified wild animal striking out at anybody who got near me, including you. I was afraid of this," he said, touching the emblem on his suit. "I wanted to run away from this, just curl up and hibernate until it all went away. I've finally made peace with this for the most part but . . . I regret that I lost you in the process. If it's too painful being around me then I understand but I . . ."
Chloe looked down on the ground. "So, what now?"
"It's up to you."
"Don't you feel cold in that thing?"
"Not really, why?"
"I thought that maybe we could go inside and have some cocoa before we talk some more. It's freaking cold out here."
"Sounds good to me."
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