Chloe was dreaming a very nice dream. It involved a really cute guy, ice cream, and a beagle puppy. It was a scene of domestic tranquility she usually viewed with much cynicism and a wry comment regarding how long the couple would be together before she got fat, he got drunk, and the dog got banished to the garage for piddling on the rug.
Bitter much, Sullivan?
In her secret dreams, however, it was the sort of scene she longed for, and she smiled as the puppy wagged its white tipped tail and licked a drip of ice cream from her hand. She looked up over her shoulder at her male companion. His eyes captivated her; large hazel eyes, with long dark lashes. His smile could fill even her darkest hours with heavenly light.
Chloe's eyes cracked open, and she growled.
The growl immediately produced a scowl. She must be getting sick. It had been an awfully low growl, and come to think of it, she did feel rather odd. She felt - bloaty. Her nightshirt felt like it was strangling her, and it clung tightly around her chest and shoulders. Maybe she was getting her period early.
With a grunt, Chloe rolled over, yawning, stretching her arms up over her head and curling her toes toward the end of the bed.
Okay, don't panic, Sullivan.
Logically, Chloe thought, trying to will her pulse into something close to a normal pace, the odds were slim that she'd become a meteor mutant. She investigated the "meteor rocks" and people affected by them all the time, and she was always careful. Apparently this time, something had happened to her because she'd just hit the wall above her bed with her knuckles.
She probed the air cautiously with one foot.
....her feet were hanging off the end of her bed.
"Chloe!" Gabe bellowed once more from the kitchen. "Get up!"
"All right! Coming!" Chloe yelled.
The sound of her own voice startled her so badly she sat straight up and clapped both (very large) hands over her mouth. It hadn't been her voice at all. Sick? She was beginning to doubt it, and considering how low her voice had been...well she doubted she was going to start her period. In fact....
Very carefully she lifted the edge of the sheet and peered underneath. She kept one hand firmly clamped over her mouth, and it was a good thing too, because when she saw what was lurking under her nightgown she let out a muffled scream.
Oh my GOD!
Before the significance of that could sink in entirely and turn her into a raving lunatic, her phone rang. She dropped the sheet and scrambled clumsily for the receiver, nearly falling out of the bed in the process. As it was she dropped the phone twice before she managed to get it to her ear.
She paused, and in a very small voice, pitched upward - just in case - she greeted her caller.
There was a long sigh from the other end, then Chloe's missing voice said softly,
"What did I tell you about playing with meteor rocks in a thunderstorm?"
Chloe flung herself back onto her pillow, narrowly avoiding braining herself on the headboard. "That it's a really, really bad idea," she said quietly.
"Uh-huh. Feeling a little bit off this morning, Chloe?"
Her eyes narrowed. "You better not be touching anything, Clark. I'll kick your butt."
"Don't you mean you'll kick your butt?"
"It's not funny. Overnight trans-gender mutation is not something I like to deal with first thing in the morning, particularly before I've had coffee."
Chloe ran one hand through her hair.
Okay, that's interesting. Hmm.
She hastily sat on her hand, then just as hastily withdrew it again as she realized she'd just touched Clark's butt. Hard to yell at him for touching her when she was touching him...herself...whatever.
I'm gonna hurl.
She cleared her throat, and took refuge in snark. Snark was good. Snark kept her from thinking about her new anatomy.
"You look cute in a pink nightie," she said, smirking. Clark's face smirked pretty well. She practiced a little as she climbed out of the bed, wavering a little on her (again - very large) feet as she stood up, and up, and up....
"Yeah, well, just don't go out in public in a dress or something."
Chloe examined herself in the mirror, stifling a laugh at the sight of Clark's big limbs poking out from her nightshirt. It barely covered his unmentionables, the sight of which made Chloe blush harder, especially when she realized she had to pee.
"Clark," she said. "What do we do now?"
"Dunno. Haven't figured it out yet. I haven't had any coffee yet myself."
His voice sounded infuriatingly calm, as if he switched bodies with people on a regular basis. Chloe felt the urge to pound on him, but decided it might not be a good idea considering he was in her body.
"It's not even Friday," she growled.
"You know, Freaky Friday, the movie...nevermind. You do realize that at any minute my dad is going to barge in here and find, for all intents and purposes, you in my bedroom wearing very little clothing?"
She casually examined her fingernails, or lack thereof. Clark was a gnawer. Go figure. He was so up-tight sometimes she wondered how he had any fingernails at all and didn't just walk around with bloody stumps for fingers.
"Or possibly Lana, if she's up. Maybe I should go knock on her door and say good-morning."
Clark made an odd strangling noise. It was sort of a scream, sort of a gurgle.
Chloe giggled. "Don't worry. I'm going to go duck into the shower. I'll be over in a few."
"The shower?" Clark shrieked. "You're going to take a shower?"
There was another gurgle from the other end of the phone. Chloe was surprised. She'd never been able to make herself create such a noise. Cautiously she cracked open her bedroom door and peered out into the hallway. Lana's door was still firmly shut. The smell of bacon wafting up from downstairs indicated Gabe was busy cooking breakfast. Clark's stomach growled rather insistently. Chloe told it to shut up.
"Clark," she whispered. "I'm going to make a run for it."
"What? Wait! Chloe! There's something I have to tell you...."
The last thing Chloe remembered was pushing off with one foot in the beginning of her mad dash down the hallway to the bathroom. The next thing she knew she was standing in the bathroom with the door shut and the phone still clutched in her hand. It had taken her not even a nanosecond to get from her room to the bathroom. She had, quite literally, zipped from one location to another.
She stood there blinking, and listening to the squawking voice calling to her through the phone.
"CHLOE! Are you there? Chlo...."
Slowly, very slowly, lest she trigger another turboboost, she raised the phone to her ear.
"Oh-kaaaay. What just happened?"
Chloe recognized feigned innocence in her own voice. "What do you mean?"
"I think I just set a new land speed record for the three meter dash!"
"Uh-oh?" Chloe shouted. "What do you mean, uh-oh?"
"Clark," Chloe grated, digging her fingers into the sink. "What. Just. Happened?"
The porcelain gave way under her fingers with a "crack" and a very large chunk of the Sullivans' bathroom sink fell to the fuzzy purple rug beneath her feet. She stared at it dumbly, then stared at her hand.
The awe in her voice was unmistakable, even if it wasn't her own voice.
"I broke the sink."
There was a curse. "Chloe. Don't go ANYWHERE. Don't MOVE. Don't TOUCH anything. Don't LOOK at anything."
"Don't look at anything?"
"Stay!" Clark said. "I'll be right there." And he hung up.
Chloe let her breath out with a sigh. Clark definitely - she flexed her fingers - knew something he wasn't telling her.
"Don't look at anything?" What exactly did that mean?
She eyed the toilet dubiously and bit her lip. She was going to have to touch something because she really, really had to pee.
"Oh, just deal with it Sullivan and piss. It's not going to bite you."
Toilet seat up.
She let her breath out in relief as an overloaded bladder sent a steady stream into the toilet bowl. Clean up was a dainty dab with a wad of paper, very unmanly, but Chloe didn't care. There would be no shaking of what wasn't naturally hers. Once finished, she put the seat and the lid back down on the toilet and sat on it, pulling her nightgown down as far as she could. It only came to the top of her thighs.
"Oh well. If I'd planned better maybe I could have raided Daddy's closet. As if one can plan for having one's brain transplanted into another body."
Then she realized Clark was much bigger than her father. She just might have to throw on a skirt if she was to go anywhere. She hoped Clark thought to bring her some clothes. Knowing Clark, he wouldn't and it would serve him right if she had to go waltzing around in front of Lana wearing a miniskirt.
She bit her lip and fretted.
This was going to make a hell of a story anyway.
"My life as Clark Kent."
Chloe was beginning to wonder if Clark wasn't traveling to her house via Metropolis. It seemed like she'd been sitting in the bathroom forever. A foray into face making in the mirror ended with her getting bored very quickly, so she went ahead with her shower. It was the quickest shower in history, and one in which certain parts were washed rather gingerly. She stood in the steamy bathroom afterward, a towel wrapped around her middle, flexing her muscles in the mirror ala "Ahnold."
"I'll be baaahk," she rumbled, then giggled, which made her giggle harder. Clark giggled like a girl. Hell, Clark was a girl now.
There was a knock on the door.
Chloe froze. In the mirror, Clark's face twisted into one of surprise, and fear. He had big eyes. She'd never noticed that before. Of course it was perfectly logical. Clark seemed to be big everywhere.
That thought produced a blush, and drew her attention back to her visitor.
"Chloe," Lana's voice, muffled by the door, held a note of concern. "Are you okay? You've been in there an awfully long time."
Clark imitating Chloe's soprano still sounded like Clark imitating Chloe's soprano even with Chloe masterminding things. She winced as she said, "Sick. Go downstairs."
She bit her lip and stood close to the door. She could picture Lana screwing up her face and frowning. No, scratch that...she could actually see Lana making a face, through the door.
Chloe jerked backward in shock, quickly closing her eyes and cutting off the vision. In doing so she tripped over the rug, fell over the toilet and crashed into the tub, grabbing at the shower curtain as she fell. Both the curtain and the rod fell down, the latter whacking her soundly on the top of the head and shattering into a trio of broken pieces. She found herself sitting naked in the tub, her legs sticking up over the edge, tangled in a wad of damp vinyl shower curtain.
I just saw through a solid door. I just...oh, man! Clark, you will have some explaining to do when I get my hands on you.
"Chloe!" Lana's voice was frantic. She rattled the doorknob. "Chloe are you okay?"
Silence. Dead silence.
"Uh," Chloe said weakly. Her hands slipped in the soapy water still clinging to the bottom of the tub from her shower. She couldn't get up. Every time she attempted to regain her feet, she slipped back into the tub. Clark was big all right, big and clumsy.
"Clark?" Lana said quietly. "Is that you?"
"Uh, no?" Chloe winced, slipped, and floundered around in the plastic. "Uh...."
The silence from the other side of the door was unnerving. Chloe tentatively squinted her eyes, and looked through the it again.
Lana was NOT happy. Her lips were pressed tightly against her teeth and her eyes were narrowed. She stood in front of the door with her arms crossed over her chest, glowering.
"Clark, I know that's you."
"Lana, I can explain."
There, that was a very Clark thing to say. Bracing herself, Chloe made another attempt to get out of the tub. Her hand slipped again and she crashed back into the tile - hard. It didn't hurt her, but it made a Clark-head sized hole in the tile behind her. Broken tile and dust fell down over her shoulders and chest.
Her mind frantically searched for an explanation. The truth was definitely not a good idea. Great, there's another thing for Lana to be pissed about. Clark was already in trouble for keeping things from people. Chloe was beginning to see why.
Chloe froze. She focused on the door and saw, much to her relief, herself bounding up the stairs with Pete bringing up the rear. With a sigh she lay back in the tub and listened to Clark come to her rescue.
"Is Clark in there?" he asked.
"He was sick," Pete said hastily. "Last night. He slept on the couch last night."
"Yeah," Clark continued. "We got in late, you know after checking out the meteors in Tingle's Orchard. I didn't want him to drive home in the storm." There was a knock on the door. "You in there, Clark?"
"I'm stuck," Chloe called back. "Just a second."
With much grunting and twisting, she managed to extricate herself from the bathtub, and clutching the shower curtain to her midsection, she stumbled to the door. She unlocked it, opening it slowly to reveal the trio waiting outside. Damp, disheveled, and covered in broken tile pieces, she stood in the doorway looking sheepish. Her plastic shower curtain skirt rustled as she moved.
"Uhm," she said. "Hi."
Clark, Pete and Lana stood there staring at her. Pete busted up laughing, but quickly stifled himself when Clark elbowed him in the stomach. Chloe's face, on Clark, bore a positively sick expression, like he was going to throw up, but he managed to force a smile. It was, after all, what Chloe would do in the same situation.
Chloe growled, and snatched the paper bag he held out to her. Inside was a change of clothes, including socks, shoes and underwear. The clothes weren't exactly the height of Paris fashion, and definitely not <i>her</i> style. From within the paper bag she pulled out a - surprise - blue flannel shirt. Her disdain must have shown.
"Hey, it's better than your plastic-fish-patterned Toga," Clark said. He blushed. "And less revealing."
She looked at him smugly and threatened to remove the shower curtain. His brief look of panic cheered her, and instead of embarrassing him further, she retreated back to the bathroom to get dressed. As she dressed she heard him trying to make small talk with Lana. Even in Chloe's body he seemed to turn into an utter dufus around Lana. Lana wasn't in the mood for it either. Clark probably didn't pick up on it, but Chloe did. Lana was jealous. In her eyes both Clark and Chloe were acting oddly. That meant they were hiding something - together.
Chloe couldn't help grinning a little when Lana finally dismissed herself rather testily and clomped down the stairs to breakfast.
Her good humor fled very quickly when, five minutes later, she found herself crammed into the cab of the Kents truck between Pete and Clark. It was damned uncomfortable. It made her cranky. The whole situation was making her cranky, especially since Clark didn't seem nearly as uncomfortable in her body as she was in his.
"How come you look cute?" Chloe complained. "You shouldn't be allowed to look cute in my body. You should look scruffy, miserable, and totally unsure of yourself."
"Like you?" Clark quipped. "You've parted my hair on the wrong side. I look like a dork."
"Newsflash, Clark. You are a dork." She glared at him out of the corner of her eye. He was wearing a deep red sweater with a vee neck that clung just enough to make her figure look shapely, tight jeans, and a pair of boots. He'd tamed her hair with a headband in a similar color as the sweater. No makeup, but a faint smear of lip-gloss. "Who dressed you?"
"Your Mom knows about this?"
"Well when she woke me up this morning she was a little startled by your breasts." Clark made a wry face. "Come to think of it, so was I."
Chloe reached out to punch him in the arm, but Pete grabbed her hand. "Chloe, you really don't want to do that."
"Yes I do. I'm going to knock him right out of my body and back into this big, clunky blob." She cocked her fist. "If you so much laid a finger on me...."
Clark turned off the road onto the Kent Farm. He paused in the lane, bringing the truck to an idling stop. "Chloe, honestly, do you think under the circumstances my main objective would be to cop a feel?"
"Sounds like a good objective to me," Pete grinned.
They both glared at him.
After a moment, Clark smiled. "Come on, Chlo. You're the brains of this operation. We'll figure out what happened, how to fix it, and everything will get back to normal."
She frowned. "How can you be so full of Kent charm wearing my body? That's totally not fair."
Clark's grin broadened.
"I don't want to be a mutant," Chloe moaned. She paced back and forth across the loft floor, wringing her hands. "What if we're stuck like this forever?" She stopped pacing. "A woman in a man's body. Oh my God, how will that work? I'll be...you'll be gay! Oh, God! Your dad will kill me!"
Pete snickered. "I always knew there was something fey about you, Clark."
Clark rolled his eyes. "Chloe, calm down."
"Calm down? Calm DOWN? I've been zapped by lightning, mutated by alien meteorites, and dumped into a...a...YOU! I don't want to calm down. I want to freak out. Pardon me while I freak out!" She waved her hands around and resumed pacing. "Oh, and it wouldn't be half as bad if you weren't sitting there looking all cute and smug."
Clark turned to Pete who was leaning against the stair railing.
"Do I look smug?" he asked.
"No," Pete replied. "But you are cute."
"Mmm, yes. I can see the cute part. Chloe's always been pretty cute."
"Maybe you guys should just stay like this. I think I'd have an easier time convincing you to date me, Clark."
"Oh I don't know, Pete. You're not my type. Besides, it would ruin our friendship."
"WILL YOU JUST SHUT UP!!!!" Chloe roared.
Clark and Pete immediately shut up.
"You!" Chloe pointed a finger at Pete. "Get me food. I'm hungry." She turned to Clark. "And YOU, tell me about this X-ray vision stuff."
Pete and Clark exchanged glances. Pete grinned, and clapped Clark on the shoulder. "Bye, buddy. It's been nice knowing you."
Scrambling forward, Pete ducked around Chloe and vanished quickly down the stairs, leaving Clark to face Chloe alone. They stared at each other in silence for a long time.
"You really have to change that part," Clark said finally.
He winced, and cringed as she raised a fist at him. "Okay, okay. Just remember, if you hit me, you'll be sorry." He cocked an eyebrow. "Side effect?"
"I'd buy that theory only if you had it too, and somehow I'm getting the impression that these freaky speed, strength and X-ray vision effects aren't shared between us. That leads me to believe that you Clark Kent, had them before we did the el-presto-switcho."
"I think." Chloe stated. "I think maybe you were a mutant before we became one. Hafta admit, it explains a lot."
Clark narrowed his eyes and started to cross his arms over his chest. Blushing, he apparently decided that was a bad idea and aborted the gesture. "Like what?"
"A lot of things. Like, for instance, the ability to do the Lambada with a tornado and survive without a scratch. And you never did explain to me how you dug me out of a shallow grave and tore open a steel coffin that was welded shut."
"It was shallow?" Clark said weakly. "Chloe, that really doesn't matter. What matters is...wait, what are you doing?" He stood up from his seat on the steamer trunk and started toward her. "Chloe!"
Chloe had turned, and was climbing on top of the loft railing. It was a long way down to the barn floor, which was currently occupied by the business end of a harrow. The wickedly sharp steel blades would impale anyone unlucky enough to fall on them. Chloe crouched on the railing, fighting for balance, and then slowly raised herself to Clark's full height. She wavered a little. Clark instinctively reached out a hand toward her, but came no closer.
She grinned at him. "Tell me, what will happen if I jump?"
"Chloe! Come on. Come down. You're making me nervous." He waved his hand. "Take my hand."
"I broke the sink like it was made of cardboard, Clark. My head put a dent in the tile! I saw through a wooden door two inches thick! Tell me the truth, or I'll jump. Either way, I think I'll learn something."
"Yeah, that hitting the floor hurts. Chloe!"
"For most people. You've been hiding the truth for years, Clark. I know it. You come clean or I'm jumping." Chloe looking him in the eye. "You owe me big time, Kent. I'm stuck in your wacked-out body, possibly permanently. You damn well better tell me what I'm dealing with."
Clark stared at her a minute. Finally his face (or rather, her face) shifted into a perfectly calm and neutral expression.
"Okay," he said. "Jump."
Chloe looked down at the harrow, then back at him. It was a long way down, especially when you were six feet four inches tall. She was fairly certain she'd be okay. Still....
And there had been something in his tone she recognized.
"Why am I sensing a 'but' here?"
He ran his fingers through his hair, and whistled, rolling his eyes around at the rafters without meeting her gaze.
"You've got nice nails, Chloe," Clark said earnestly, examining them. "Nice long fingers, good for...." He curled his fingers into claws. "Typing!"
He grinned. "Typing stories. Stories about mutants. Stories about boys who can't get hurt when they fall, run really fast, and see through walls. Stories that can get people locked up for the rest of their lives."
I can't believe he's waving my own manicure at me.
And he was. He was wriggling his fingers and leering like a mad - woman.
Then abruptly he stopped. All humor left his voice and he looked into her eyes with a solemn expression.
"Jump Chloe, and see what happens."
She looked down at the harrow, and again, returned her gaze to his. It was odd. When their eyes met she could sense his presence in her body, as if she were looking at him normally, from within herself.
It's like I can feel him. Is it because I'm inside his body? Does some remnant of his consciousness cling to it? Does being in my body feel this way too?
"What's it like," Clark asked softly. "Being me?"
Without hesitation, she answered.
"Clark, I'm scared."
"Yeah," he nodded. "That's what it's like."
Chloe shuddered, and carefully jumped down from the railing, stumbling a little as she landed on legs she was not yet comfortable using. Clark helped her steady herself.
They stood facing each other. Clark still held her hand, and as she watched he turned it palm upward. His fingertips tickled her palm lightly. He traced a sigil across it, like a blessing.
"It's a sign, a name," he said, repeating the gesture.
"Yeah. It appeared on our barn last year. Remember?"
Chloe nodded. "I remember," she whispered. "What does it mean?"
Clark looked up into her eyes.
"Hope," he said. Then: "Chloe, I am different. I...I can't explain it all right now, but I promise I will...after all this is over. I swear."
She started to cry, and could only nod, rubbing at her nose with her sleeve. It couldn't be helped. She was tired, uncomfortable, and more than a little frightened.
And he's afraid the truth will frighten me even more.
Tears ran down her cheeks, and she wiped at them with Clark's big, blunt fingers. The sight of them made her cry harder. She felt Clark's hand tighten around her wrist.
"It's okay, Chloe don't...oh, geesh." He looked horrified.
She sniffled. "What? What is it?"
"I've never seen myself cry before," Clark said. "It's kind of...freaky." He made a face, screwing up Chloe's face into an expression of complete distaste.
And despite her tears, Chloe had to laugh.
Chloe hadn't realized how hungry she was until after she wolfed down four donuts and a large coffee. Pete finally took the box away from her with a comment about her girlish figure being compromised. She retorted that her girlish figure had already been compromised, and they'd laughed. They needed to laugh. Being familiar with her own body made Chloe realize that despite his seemingly calm demeanor, Clark was extremely upset. She recognized signs of stress in the drawn look to her face, and the way her shoulders slumped, signs she might not have noticed had Clark been in his own body.
There's more to him than we think, Lana and I. He just doesn't express things like we do. Is that part of him being different, or is that just him being Clark? I was so wrong to think he doesn't care about me. He does. Maybe too much.
But not the way I want him to.
"This has happened before," he said, and Pete looked at him sharply. "Eric Summers."
"Superboy," Chloe nodded, recalling how Eric had been affected.
Clark winced at the name. "Yeah, but it wasn't a whole body switch. He only had my abilities. It was the lightning."
Chloe recalled the night before, when she and Clark had been out in Tingle's Orchard. They'd heard tales of some sort of creature lurking around in there and suspected it might be Jake Tingle, the eldest of the Tingle boys. A small cache of meteor rocks found along the fence line made them wonder if Jake hadn't been mutated.
The meteor rocks, Clark said, were what had made him ill; although he'd told Chloe then that it was something he'd eaten. He'd been holding onto the top wire of the fence fighting off a wave of dizziness when the lightning struck. It had traveled up the fence, through Clark's arms and into Chloe who'd had her hand on his shoulder. Both of them had been blasted backward away from the fence. Besides being a little shaken, they'd felt fine.
Until this morning.
"So, we just get zapped again and make it right again." Chloe got up from the couch. "How did you and Eric do it?"
"Played with a transformer," Clark replied. "I don't recommend it."
Pete yawned. "You know the weather service is predicting more storms. Maybe you can just recreate what happened."
Clark bit his lip. "With a little help from a lightning rod, maybe we could!" He stood up and started down the stairs. "Come on."
Chloe and Pete looked at each other, then followed.
"Where are we going?" Chloe asked.
"First, to check out the weather report. Then to Lex's."
Chloe balked at the foot the stairs, and snatched Clark back before he could get away from her out the door. "Wait, Lex? Lex knows...."
Clark turned back. "No, but Lex just got in a bunch of lightning rods. He had a minor fire over the summer when lightning struck the roof of his garage."
Pete nodded his agreement and then shuddered. "Man, the thought of all those cars going up...."
Laughing, Clark pushed open the door. "Exactly his sentiments. Hopefully his groundskeepers haven't put them up yet, and we can borrow one."
"Won't he want to know what for?"
The grin Clark affected was Chloe at her most scheming, and she had to admit, the sight of it gave her a little thrill. Despite the oddness of the situation, and the potential danger, she was excited about the adventure.
"I'll think of something," he said.
"Science Fair," Chloe announced.
Lex looked at her skeptically. When Lex Luthor looked skeptical, it was rather unnerving. He cocked his head slightly and looked at her through narrowed eyes. It made him look very reptilian. She could almost see a forked tongue flicker out between his lips.
"Honest," she added hastily. "Would I lie to you?"
Clark elbowed her in the side and shot her a look.
Hey, I'm a reporter, not an actress. 'tor. Actor. Oh man, this gender bender stuff is confusing.
Leaning back in his chair, Lex crossed his arms over his chest and put his feet up on his desk. "I can see it now," he remarked. "Gabe, I'm so sorry, but your daughter has toasted herself with a lightning rod supplied to her by yours truly."
"We'll use every precaution, swear." Chloe attempted Clark's high beam smile. "Besides, you don't really think I'd let anything happen to Chloe do you?"
Lex rolled his gaze over to Clark and Chloe bristled a little as his eye lingered a little too long at her breasts. Did he always do that? She'd have to pay more attention next time she encountered him - if she ever got back into her own body. The cad.
He brought his attention back to her. "No, particularly since I heard something quite interesting about you two this morning."
Clark and Chloe closed ranks a little, and purposely tried to avoid looking at each other.
"Like what?" Clark asked.
"Like Clark showing up naked in your bed."
"He...I wasn't naked, and I was in the bathroom," Chloe protested. "I was sick and stayed over...who told you anyway?"
"Was she upset?"
"To be honest, I couldn't tell, but I'd assume so since it was on her mind enough to mention it to me." Lex shrugged languidly. "Sure. You can borrow a lightning rod."
"Great! Thanks, Lex."
Chloe really didn't like how closely he was watching her, as if looking for something. For all that Clark claimed Lex was his friend, Chloe still found herself suspicious of Lex's motives. Knowing Clark's secret, at least in part, made her even more wary, and she mentioned this as she and Clark went out to the garage to fetch one of the lightning rods.
"Yeah, he suspects something," Clark said, watching Chloe put the long steel pole into the back of the pickup. "He knows I'm not telling him everything, but we kind of skirt around it. I ignore his prying, and he ignores my lying."
"I don't think he's ignoring it, Clark. I think he's prying around behind your back."
"What makes you think that?"
Chloe heard the annoyance in his voice, and she let it slide. He did honestly like Lex, and didn't want to hear any criticism. He probably got enough of that from his father. "Just a hunch."
"We're okay, Chloe."
"If you say so," she said, and dropped the subject. "Do you think Lana was really upset?"
"I know she was," Clark said quietly. "She's always been jealous of you."
"Of me?" Chloe snorted. "Whatever for? Like I'm any competition." She looked down at her hands and picked idly at Clark's short stubby nails.
"She thinks you are."
There was a pause.
"I think I have to agree with her."
Chloe wasn't sure what to say. She'd been waiting so long for some sort of acknowledgment from Clark that she actually existed, not to mention could be a viable commodity as far as being a girl was concerned, him doing it now took her by surprise. And now of all times to figure out he really did have feelings for her. She leaned against the tailgate and puzzled out some sort of response.
"I've been pushing her away," Clark continued. "Being around me can be dangerous."
"So I've noticed," Chloe raised her hands and gestured at her chest. "Hello? Freaky Friday?"
Clark shifted his weight a little uneasily. "I'm sorry, Chloe."
"It's not your fault. You can't help being - whatever." She shrugged. "Why don't you just tell Lana the truth, let her make her own decisions?"
"I don't think she'd understand," he replied softly. "I never thought you would either," he added. "Now I know differently."
"Ah, well considering my life's ambition has always been to get the story of a lifetime, and you turn out to be that story, I don't blame you. I've probably come off as being a riskier confidante than Lex."
"Not really. I've come close to telling you before."
"Yeah, but then I told Pete, and when he got mad at me at first...." He shrugged. "I was scared. And there is the whole danger factor...."
"It's not easy for you, is it?"
Chloe regarded him in silence for a moment. "Clark," she said finally. "I want you to know that I'm not really afraid of you, or of what might happen to me because of you. I'm willing to take my chances. You're my friend. I won't abandon you."
He snorted softly. "Yeah?"
"You mean this..." He waved a hand from himself to her and back again. "....doesn't scare you? Why were you crying then?"
Coloring, Chloe fiddled with the latch on the tailgate. "Okay, well it does a little. But overall, what I said stands. I may be a little scared, but I won't be scared off. You're stuck with me, get it?" She grinned at him, giving him the full effect of the Clark highbeam.
He returned the grin. "Got it."
They got into the truck. Clark started it but didn't immediately put it in gear. Instead they sat idling in the driveway, Clark staring out the windshield as if lost in thought.
"Chloe," he said finally. "What happens if we can't reverse this? What will you do?"
She laughed. "I guess I'll just have to learn to like girls."
He smiled, and looked at her out of the corner of his eye. "Well, there is an easy solution to that problem."
"Yeah? Are you sure you want to come out of the closet, Clark?" Chloe giggled, and then giggled again at hearing Clark's voice giggling. It was just too funny.
He rolled his eyes at her. "No. I'm talking about you just learning to like a girl."
Chloe's stomach did a slow, queasy roll. What if they were stuck like this for the rest of their lives? The thought was both chilling and somewhat exciting. To have Clark's powers...what would she do with them? Could she learn to live with them as he had? And as far as a relationship with someone was concerned, how would she deal with....
The full implication of his statement hit her.
It's practically a marriage proposal. He's saying he could live with me for the rest of his life. Could I?
"A little narcissistic, that." She grimaced. "Not to mention weird. It would be like kissing myself."
"Oh, so kissing would be involved?"
Chloe looked at him quickly. "I...uh...."
He was blushing. "Yeah, that would be awkward."
So was the silence that followed.
"We could close our eyes," she whispered.
Clark ducked his head and smiled at her shyly. "We could."
"Man, but I am really cute in that sweater," Chloe laughed, and gave a silent cheer for narcissism.
When the time came to set up for their "switch-back," Pete stayed behind under protest. He'd spent the day with them at the farm, trying to keep them entertained as they struggled to get by under the extreme circumstances. Chloe ended up helping Mr. Kent with the farm work, battling his protests by saying, "it's what Clark would do." It was actually quite fun for her to "play" with Clark's abilities. She got a kick out of tossing fifty pound bales of hay around as if they weighed nothing.
Clark and Pete played cards in the loft while Chloe helped bale hay, until sundown, when they argued about Pete going with them to Tingle's Orchard. Clark flatly refused to have Pete anywhere near their set up, indicating that it could be dangerous.
"Besides, " he said. "You need to play lookout, and stay safe in case something goes wrong."
Chloe's faith wavered. It was then that she really fully understood that something could go wrong - very wrong.
"I promise," Clark said. "I won't let anything happen to you."
They were in Tingle's Orchard, back at the scene of the crime, with a lightning rod and several yards of wire. A light drizzle was falling, but thunder rumbled in the distance. Pete had been right, they were in for another storm.
"Define you?" Chloe replied. "The fact is, we're not two entities, but four. Two minds, two bodies, and physically you aren't going to be able to do anything to help us when and if the lightning hits and something does go wrong."
Chloe twisted a bit of wire around the bottom of the pole holding the lightening rod, securing it to the fencepost. They'd increased its height by adding a metal pipe to the end. This they wired to the top wire of the orchard fence. In theory the lightning would hit the rod, travel down the pipe, through the wire, and along the fence until it hit the two of them. For added control they were not relying on the meteor rock they'd found in the field, but a piece Clark carried in his pocket inside a lead-lined box.
"Then you'll get your big chance, Chlo! You can be superboy." Clark laughed, but Chloe again saw the strain around his eyes. He was worried, and for a good reason. Either one of them could wind up crippled, brain damaged, or any possible combination of the two. It would be worse than death.
His forced humor faded quickly, and he sighed, looking up at the dark sky. Both of them were already soaked through and Clark looked pale, his lips slightly blue tinged.
She took off her jacket and put it around his shoulders. He made a joke about chivalry, and Chloe told him to shut up and put it on before he gave her body pneumonia. She'd seen him trying to hide his shivering. A wet sweater provided very little warmth, and although the weather was unseasonable, it was still October, still cool.
Chloe held out a hand. "I can sense the temperature," she murmured. "But I don't feel any discomfort." Turning, she glanced down at Clark. "If I had fallen off the railing...."
"You'd owe Dad a new harrow." Clark said quietly. He pulled the jacket closer around his trembling body. "And you would have walked away without a scratch."
"You could have anything you ever wanted, Clark. Money, things...Lana. All you'd have to do is take them." She paused. "But you don't."
"It would be wrong."
"Wrong to use the gifts you were given to make your life better?"
Clark's expression was gentle, understanding. She had no doubt he'd wrangled with these same moral questions before.
"At the expense of others, when I have an unfair advantage?" Clark shook his head. "No, Chloe. I have to play by the rules. Otherwise I risk getting caught, and you've borne witness to what happens when people with "special" abilities are outed. I don't want to wind up on the Wall of Weird."
Chloe closed her eyes, and put a hand to her chest. In her mind she was in her own body, her hand upon his chest, feeling the steady beat of his heart beneath her fingers. He was so much more than she'd ever believed him to be, and she loved him twice what she had before.
Lightning flashed bright. Chloe could see it behind her closed eyelids. Immediately she opened her eyes and looked up at the clouds. The wind and the rain had picked up momentum. The storm was closer than ever.
Clark grabbed her hand. "Come on, we should...."
He never finished what he was going to say. From out of the dark shadows of the orchard came a keening wail, and a hunched form launched itself from behind a gnarled old tree. It was unnaturally quick and had locked its long hairy arms around Clark before Chloe could do anything about it. His hand was wrenched from hers as he was thrown aside like a ragdoll.
His body, Chloe's body, was no match for the brute strength of what Chloe suspected was what was left of Jake Tingle. He bounced off the wire fence, crying out as the barbed wire snapped and tangled around him, then fell heavily to the ground.
The mutant lunged at her and Chloe shoved him with all of Clark's phenomenal strength. He shot backward, but amazingly, recovered by digging long, clawed fingers into the grass. Chloe sped toward Clark, but was intercepted once again. The meteor mutation had given Jake the strength and speed to match hers.
Chloe took a good look at him, and was horrified. They'd seen all sorts of phenomenon associated with the meteorites and their mutative powers, but nothing like this. Jake seemed to be de-evolving. Everything about him was beastial, ape-like, which went hand in hand with what had caused her to want to investigate Tingle's Orchard in the first place. People had reported sightings of Bigfoot.
Jake wasn't Bigfoot, but he was big, and strong, and fast. He grabbed Chloe and lifted her off her feet, hurling her away much as he had done Clark. Chloe, however, was more equipped to handle it. She slammed into a tree, which cracked ominously under the blow, and was up again immediately. Shoulder down like a football tackle, she roared across the field and hit Jake a hard, but glancing blow.
He howled as the barbed wire cut into his back. The fence sagged, and jerked at Clark who lay further down its length, still tangled in the broken section. Chloe heard a high pitched whimper and turned to look at him. Blood was seeping into one leg of Clark's jeans where the wire tightened around his thigh. He was still unconscious, or nearly so.
That's going to leave a scar. Chloe thought hysterically. My poor leg!
She didn't have time to dwell on it. Jake got up again.
I've got to get him away from that fence!
With a growl, Jake made a grab for the pole and the lightning rod, planning, no doubt, to tear it down and take a swing at his attacker. Instinctively Chloe started to stop him, lunging forward with a yell. Both her hands dug into the furry pelt upon his chest as she ripped him away from the fence and turned him toward the orchard again, or tried to anyway. He braced his feet into the muddy grass and pushed back, shoving her into the fence. She winced, knowing further down the wire dug deeper into her own dispossessed body.
A hand locked around her throat and squeezed.
Chloe gasped, struggling to unlock Jake's grip from around her throat. Slowly he lifted her off her feet and increased the pressure. His other hand clamped down on her belt in preparation of throwing her again. Her feet dangled. She could feel her lungs burning as she tried desperately to suck air, any air, into her throat. She beat at him with her fists. He grunted, but did not let go.
Think, Chloe! Think!
It was hard to think. Her world was decreasing to a smaller and smaller portal of vision. Her strength was waning.
Think like a girl!
Clark had long legs. Chloe swung one back as far as she could, and with every last bit of strength she had left, let fly with a kick that would have launched a football from Kansas to Hawaii. When her shin connected with a bone jarring thud between his legs, Jake's growling turned into a high pitched wail of agony, and he was launched deep into the orchard. Chloe heard a thud, and the crash of a tree falling....
Then the horrible crack of a lightning bolt hitting the fence.
She could see it. The electricity crackled down the pole and into the top wire of the fence, a dancing blue light that sparkled brightly in the darkness. Chloe's feet slipped in the wet grass. She cried out in frustration, but was rewarded with Clark's speed. It was a race of life and death, she knew it. If the lightening hit Clark before they were ready, while he was still trapped in her body, it would kill him.
It would kill both of them. She'd be alone, imprisoned in Clark's body for the rest of her life.
Go, go, go!
She skidded like a baseball player making a mad dash for home, launching herself through the air with arms outstretched. For a second she thought she'd made her leap too soon, but she willed it not to be, and it wasn't. It lasted the span of a heartbeat, but in that time, she felt as though she were flying.
The wind rushed from her lungs as she landed hard on her chest beside Clark's body. Gasping, she reached for him, tugging at his clothing. She tore his jeans in her mad scramble to pull the box from his pocket. There was no time to think about the agonizing pain that immediately shot through her when she opened the lid. With one arm she lifted Clark's limp form and clutched it to her chest, squeezing the meteor rock tight in a hand gone numb with pain. She grabbed the top wire of the fence with the other, just as the lightning reached them.
"Chloe! Chloe! Oh, God. Come on! Breathe! Please! Breathe!"
Fingers pinched her nose, lips covered hers, and a rush of air filled her lungs. It was then that she realized she wasn't breathing, and that maybe, just maybe, breathing on her own would be a good thing.
The lips withdrew from hers, and she sucked in a deep breath on her own. It made her cough, and she kept coughing and gasping until she could gather her wits. Hands sat her upright, and rubbed at her back.
"That's it, come on."
"Ow," she whimpered. "My leg. Ow."
Slowly she opened her eyes.
Clark's face wavered into focus. He was sopping wet and breathing heavily himself, his expression one of abject fear and concern. Chloe reached out to touch his face.
"Worked?" she muttered.
He nodded. "Are you okay?"
"Shredded." Her body moved sluggishly. She raised a hand and plucked at her sleeve where the barbed wire had torn it and the skin below it. The worst place was on her leg. She was cut badly there. "Ow. OW!"
Clark was lifting her into his arms. It was still raining, but the thunder was more distant. "I'm taking you to the hospital."
"No," Chloe murmured. "S'okay. M'okay." She shuddered. "Thought you were dead."
"I thought you were," he said breathlessly.
She shook her head, and he put his forehead to hers.
"Oh, Chloe. I love you." A little sob escaped him, and with it, in a small, wavering voice, came his full confession.
Those startling revelations were lost on Chloe. She no longer cared about what he was, or where he'd come from. She'd stopped listening after, "I love you," and nothing else mattered anymore.
Clark brought candy with which she could compromise her girlish figure. Chloe poked through the box looking for a caramel. She hated being in the hospital, even if it was just for overnight observation, but she liked getting presents.
"They found Jake," Clark said. He looked sad. "He drowned, in Crater Lake."
Chloe licked the chocolate off her fingers, and caught a dribble of caramel from her half eaten piece of candy with her tongue. "Accident?"
"Yeah. They think he was disoriented, wandered into the water by mistake. He was pretty beat up. You?"
"Yeah," Chloe frowned, her brows dipping. "It was self defense," she said miserably. "I didn't mean to kill him."
Clark lowered his eyes, and picked at the hem of his jacket. "I know." He looked up at her again. "Doesn't make it any easier."
"I guess you know how it feels."
He nodded morosely. "I've felt it before, more than once. It's not your fault, Chloe."
She felt her eyes burning, and dove back into the chocolate as a distraction. "How are they explaining his mutation?"
Chloe found a mint. The cool, sweet flavor filled her mouth. It made her feel better. Chewing slowly, she watched as Clark sank into a chair beside the bed. He watched her too, smiling a little.
"I like having you back in your own body," he whispered.
His expression made it very clear what he was thinking. It sent a little thrill up Chloe's spine. She wanted to throw her arms around his neck and hug him, but fear that she'd lose him again if she did, stopped her. This time, she told herself, they would take it more slowly.
"I'd like it better if I hadn't wrestled with a barbed wire fence," she quipped. "I got a tetanus shot too, right in the butt."
"Want me to kiss it and make it better?"
"Ha!" Chloe popped another chocolate into her mouth. "Be careful what you ask for, Kent. I figure you have quite a bit of butt kissing to do as it is."
"Yeah," Clark sighed. "I'm kissing Lex's butt right now. He's not happy that I let you get zapped."
Chloe laughed. "Well you did promise."
"You promised." Scowling, Clark crossed his arms over his chest. "I think you should have to wax all fourteen of his cars and the Luthor Corp. HumVee."
"Huh-uh." Chloe giggled, happy to have her own giggle back. "You're going to have to kiss my butt next buddy, for a looooong time too."
"Keeping secrets. Important secrets. From me." Grinning broadly, Chloe offered him a chocolate. Clark declined. "And you saw me naked. That's gonna cost you. So buck up, E.T, and prepare to be Chloe Sullivan's personal slave for the next millennium."
Clark groaned, but his eyes were smiling. "What do I have to do?"
Chloe considered, then carefully laid her chocolate aside. She gazed at Clark shyly, her cheeks flushing, but she couldn't get the request past her lips.
He kissed her anyway.
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