by Alexa Jones
A Summer Alone
Summary: Chloe and Clark spend a summer alone in Smallville, taking solace in each other as they come to terms with what happened the previous year.
Big huge thanks to Chiriru for her tremendous help and support. She gave me lots of good ideas and I couldn't have done it without her! Also thanks to everyone who read this over. Written before spoilers for the season four premiere came out, any similarities are entirely coincidental.
Chloe hadn't quite accepted that her father was dead. Nor that she had survived. All she knew was that she was living in the Kent's guest bedroom, having been taken in when she had nowhere else to go.
She missed Lana. She missed Pete. Except, she couldn't go visit them because no one could know she was alive. Protective custody had been not quite what its name had promised, and she was sure if anyone knew she was alive, they wouldn't hesitate to try again.
There was one person she couldn't visit even if she didn't have to stay dead. Clark.
Chloe missed Clark most of all.
The Kents were grieving over the loss of their son, although they wouldn't tell her what happened. She figured she needed to give them time, and she appreciated the space they gave her in return, both literally and figuratively.
She hoped that she was as much of a comfort to them as they were to her. She appreciated the relative safety of their house, and the confidence that they would never tell anyone where she was. She hoped that, although she could never replace Clark, having another teenager in the house might not make it seem as empty.
Sometimes, though, Chloe thought she just made it worse.
Clark's room was void and too quiet. Chloe had gone in it once or twice. At first, she'd gone in to borrow Clark's computer until the Kents could go out and get another laptop for her. She'd seen his dresser, drawer open with t-shirts hanging out. Impulsively, she'd grabbed one, and had ended up sleeping in it since Martha's nightclothes didn't fit her well.
It became a habit. If Martha noticed that she had taken to sleeping in Clark's t-shirts, even when she'd bought new pajamas for Chloe, she hadn't said anything. Chloe liked the smell of him on them, even though laundry detergent had washed most of his scent away. Except the soap smelled like him, too, and nothing could wash away the memories the scents conjured.
Tonight, Chloe snuggled into one of Clark's shirts as usual, shifting her head on her pillow restlessly. Gradually, it had become easier to sleep at night, but tonight was difficult because the Kents were gone this weekend, looking at a new bull for some of their cows. It was a big purchase for them in another small town 200 miles away, and they were going to stay overnight to make sure of their decision.
Chloe rolled over again, sighing as she glanced at the clock and saw she'd been trying to sleep for hours without success. Suddenly, Chloe's heart stopped when she heard pounding at the door. Panic seized her; they had found her, and they were going to kill her. Chloe froze at first, not sure what to do. Not sure if there was anything she could do. But it wasn't like her to not try and flee, so she shot out of bed and to Clark's window. Thankfully, she'd left the window open for the cool summer breeze and didn't have to make any noise opening it. She peered out the window cautiously, trying to avoid being seen while carefully calculating her possible descent, but she couldn't see any cars, headlights, or signs of people. Nothing. Just loud, incessant knocking.
Chloe bit her lip as she decided what she should do. Her arm that she'd broken in the past had been re-injured when she'd been hit by the explosion's shockwave, and it had barely finished healing. She knew it would never support her if she tried to use it to climb down, and she fully doubted she could do that single-handedly.
Then it didn't matter, because whoever was knocking had somehow gotten in and was coming up the stairs. Chloe was ready to hide under the bed, until a voice that made her ache rang out.
It was Clark. Yelling.
Chloe gasped in relief and sprinted toward the bedroom door. She flung it open, and her jaw dropped as she took in the sight before her.
Clark. Dirt smudged over him, and naked as the day he was born.
Chloe stood speechless until she forced her vocal cords to work. "Cl... Clark? What happened to you?"
Clark didn't answer, just turned his head toward his parents' bedroom and squinted hard, then frowned.
"Where are my parents?"
"I... they went away for the weekend."
Clark's brows creased as he took in the information. Chloe hesitantly reached up and touched his arm, found his skin to be disturbingly cold.
"You're freezing, Clark." Chloe could feel the grime left behind on her fingers. "And filthy. I'll get the water running in the bathtub for you."
Clark's eyes just passed over her rapidly, never able to stay in one place. He seemed to be in shock, Chloe realized, and frowned with concern as she headed down to the bathroom. As she turned on the faucet, she heard a loud thump, and turned to see Clark slumped and curled into himself against the wall, hands over his face.
Chloe closed her eyes briefly. What had happened to him? Why was he so dirty and... naked. Chloe pushed that last thought out of her mind. She had to concentrate on helping him now and think about... that... later.
Chloe went back into the hallway, crouching down next to him. "Clark?"
Clark didn't respond, just rocked himself a little.
"Clark," Chloe repeated louder, touching his elbow.
Clark looked up then, eyes searching her, but never able to focus.
"Come with me, okay?"
Clark didn't give any sign that he understood her, but at a gentle tug of his elbow, he rose along with her and followed her into the bathroom.
By now the tub had filled enough, and Chloe shut off the water. She'd poured bubble bath, and now the tub was full of apple-scented suds. Chloe held Clark's arm to steady him as he climbed in, and then he sank down into the bubbles with a sigh.
Chloe sat down on the toilet seat, not quite sure if she should leave him yet.
"Clark, are you hurt? What happened?"
Slowly, Clark became more responsive. "I... I don't know." He frowned then, and Chloe had a sneaking suspicion that he did know but wouldn't tell her. She let it go.
"I just woke up... in the woods behind here. And I walked back. And nobody answered. So I smashed the lock," Clark spoke brokenly.
"I'm going to go make some tea, okay?" Chloe told him when it seemed like he'd finished telling all he would, rising to go to the kitchen.
Clark grabbed her wrist suddenly, holding on firmly. Chloe jumped in surprise.
Chloe sighed and settled back onto the toilet seat, trying to banish all thoughts of a wet, clothes-less Clark only one foot from her. "You sure?"
Clark looked up at her. His eyes were wide and wet, shining with tears, the sorrow and loneliness evident. "I don't want to be alone anymore."
Chloe wanted to leave, uncomfortable with only the bubbles shielding Clark from her view, also was secretly glad he wanted her to stay. Chloe gave a tiny, sympathetic smile, wanting to do more to reassure him, but not finding the energy for a greater smile.
"It felt like I was there forever," Clark went on, "completely alone."
Chloe fought back her own tears. She reached out and stroked Clark's damp hair, feeling a small leaf tangled in it when she did so. She'd stay for him, and because he needed her, at least for the time being, and she'd always wanted so badly to be needed by Clark.
"I'll wash your hair for you, okay?" Chloe couldn't think of anything else to do to help him, and it didn't look like Clark would be able to wash the dirt out himself.
Clark nodded, still looking dazed and trapped in memories. Chloe scooped some water over his head, then poured a dollop of shampoo into his dark brown locks and soaped until it lathered, gently rubbing her fingers into his scalp.
Clark closed his eyes, and let out a long breath, looking more relaxed. Chloe hoped human contact was comforting, so she washed his hair longer than necessary to clean it. Clark kept his eyes closed until she had fully rinsed out all the shampoo.
"Thank you," Clark said softly, standing as Chloe sat back. Thankfully, he grabbed a towel immediately and loosely wrapped it around himself before stepping out of the tub.
"Are you tired?" Chloe asked lightly. He looked exhausted, but she had no idea how much of that was mental.
Clark shook his head. "No. All I was doing the whole time was sleeping."
Chloe chewed on her lip. She didn't know how to help him, and she hated not knowing what was wrong or what to do. "Okay. Are you hungry?"
Clark shrugged, and Chloe held back a sigh. He wasn't making things easy for her. She wished the Kents hadn't decided to go look at that new bull this weekend. They couldn't take her with them because she was supposed to be dead. They hadn't wanted to leave her alone in the first place, but she'd assured them she couldn't stay scared to be by herself forever, so they'd agreed to go.
Chloe stayed in the hallway while Clark wandered into his room, hopefully to get some clothes. Thankfully, he returned moments later dressed in boxers and a t-shirt.
"Feeling any better?" Chloe questioned, a yawn breaking through the middle of her question. It was 3 am now, and maybe with Clark here she wouldn't feel so nervous and alone. Not that Clark seemed to be in any state of mind to help her if something were to happen.
Clark's eyes scanned over her briefly. "You're tired. You should get back to sleep."
Chloe nodded and turned back to her room, pausing outside the door. "You sure you're alright?"
"Actually...." Clark stepped toward her, shaking his head. "Stay with me? Please?"
Chloe didn't have the heart nor the desire to refuse him. "Of course."
Clark smiled at her; it was close to his bright, beaming smile. It was good to see him finally smile again. To see him again at all.
She followed him into his room, and sat on the edge of the bed next to him.
"I don't want to keep you up," Clark murmured. "We should sleep."
Chloe nodded as she yawned again, stretching out and resting her head in the crook of her arm. Then Clark's arms curled around her, and she felt him nuzzle into her neck before settling down. Chloe was surprised, but offered no protest. Despite his earlier claims, Clark fell asleep right away, but it took Chloe longer, wondering if she was just a substitute for Lana or any warm body. If Clark hadn't been through such apparent trauma, Chloe didn't think he'd be doing this.
Then again, she'd been through some decent trauma herself, so Chloe decided she didn't really care what the reasons for their cuddling were. She allowed herself to enjoy it a few moments longer before drifting off to sleep as well.
When Chloe woke up, Clark was still asleep. They were still curled together, and despite the overall scare of last night, Chloe had slept better than she had in a long time.
Clark awoke when she tried to stretch. He sat up abruptly, glancing down at her, a mixture of confusion and suspicion on his face.
Chloe's heart sank. She wondered if he even remembered the night before, if he would regret falling asleep spooned behind her. After all, she wasn't Lana. She wasn't the name that Clark always cried out when he needed someone.
Yet, then Clark's features softened and he smiled.
"Feeling better?" Chloe ventured, hoping Clark remembered how they had both gotten themselves in this situation.
She was rewarded with a wider smile. "Yeah. Thank you, Chloe."
"Do you remember last night?" Chloe wanted to gauge exactly how awkward and embarrassing things were going to be between them today.
Clark grimaced. "You mean me stumbling in stark naked?"
Chloe blushed and nodded, but smirked as well, hoping to throw back most of the embarrassment onto Clark. Thankfully, Clark reddened, too.
"Yeah. I remember everything," Clark said. "That's why I thanked you."
Chloe couldn't stop her returning smile. "What're friends for?" she said lightly, trying to keep the bitterness out of her tone. She'd used that phrase far too often with Clark.
"Why are you here?" Clark sounded confused now that he had his sense of mind back to know she usually wasn't sleeping at his house.
Chloe swallowed hard. "My father died in protective custody. And I... I made it out. You parents took me in."
"I'm sorry, Chloe." Clark glanced down at his hands. "I know last night, I didn't ask... I didn't mean it to sound like you shouldn't be here." Clark seemed to give up trying to explain. "Umm, what happened? With your dad?"
Chloe hesitated. It still hadn't gotten any easier to think about it. "There was an explosion at our supposed safe house."
"For testifying against Lionel."
"Right." Clark paused, then asked, "How is the trial going anyhow?"
"They put it off until mid-summer." Chloe choked up suddenly. "Look, Clark, can we not talk about this right now?"
Clark nodded quickly and drew her into a brief hug. "Of course. I should go see what chores I can do."
"Are you sure you're okay, Clark?" Chloe frowned, concerned that Clark had an injury he could be hiding. "Your father said he'd be back early today. I think the cows can wait."
Clark still climbed out of bed. "I need something to do." He rustled through his closet again until he found a pair of jeans and another t-shirt, then quickly pulled them on over his boxers.
Chloe waited until Clark left the room, then sighed and flopped back down.
She had no idea what would happen to them now.
The Kents returned a half hour later. Chloe heard Martha's scream of joy at seeing her son in the yard when the truck had pulled up. Peering through the window, Chloe watched the reunion, full of hugs and tears.
Chloe put on her bravest smile when they all came in through the kitchen door. Clark was wearing his beaming smile, and Martha couldn't stop hugging him.
After breakfast, Chloe gave Clark some time alone to catch up with his parents, seeing them to begin to whisper questions when they thought she wasn't looking and figuring she wasn't quite welcome in the reunion anymore.
Chloe didn't know what her place would be in the house anymore. She couldn't see the Kents kicking her out, but somehow the absence of Clark had made her feel like she wasn't interrupting their lives.
Later that day, Chloe heard Clark climb up the stairs and pad down the hall to her bedroom. He smiled at her as he rapped lightly on the doorframe.
Chloe glanced up from her laptop. "Hi."
Chloe closed the computer's lid and drummed her fingers on it before saying, "It's weird having me live here, huh?"
"My parents told me more about what happened," Clark said quietly. "Your safety is important... and I'm glad you're here."
"Chloe, I know what it's like to be alone. I don't want you to have to be alone."
Chloe smiled and nodded gratefully. "Okay."
Not that she had much of a choice anyway. She didn't have anywhere else to go.
Chloe tossed restlessly that night. She missed Clark's shirts, and with Clark home, she hadn't been able to grab one to wear that night. She ended up putting on one of her camisole sleep shirts and some cotton shorts instead. They were still comfortable, but they didn't comfort her like Clark's shirts did.
Chloe heard the slightest of creaks in the hallway, possibly even footsteps. Her breath caught, wondering if maybe tonight was the tonight they'd catch her. Her heart pounded even more when the door creaked open slightly.
"Chloe?" a familiar voice whispered. Chloe sighed. It was only Clark. Again.
"You awake?" he whispered again.
"Yes," she answered in her normal voice, not bothering to whisper. "Don't scare me like that," she reprimanded as Clark walked in the room and sat on the edge of the bed.
"I can't sleep," Clark told her.
"Me either," Chloe admitted, fingering the edge of the sheet.
"Can I... is it okay if I sleep here? With you again?"
Chloe bit her lip. She didn't think it was okay. But she wanted to, and that's what she was afraid of.
"Okay," she replied softly, lifting the edge of the sheet.
Clark smiled at her and climbed in, again snuggling behind her and draping an arm over her stomach. Chloe was tense for a few moments; it was a bit overwhelming having Clark so close to her. After all, she'd dreamed about cuddling with him for three years, and now that it was happening, she wasn't sure if she could handle it. She could feel the warmth of his body against her back, and the heat of his hand seeping through her shirt onto her stomach, almost too hot because of the summer air. Yet, that didn't matter, because for once she felt safe. No matter how strange, but good it felt to have Clark behind her, it was comforting to know someone else was there.
Chloe fell asleep wondering if Clark felt the same.
The next morning, Chloe was awoken by Clark trying to get out of bed.
The sun was barely shining through the curtains and Chloe rolled over to squint at Clark. "Wha' time's it?"
Clark smiled apologetically. "It's 5 AM. I know it's early, but I have to get up and do chores before my parents find me here."
Chloe frowned. "What would your parents think?"
"I... I don't know. I have a hunch they wouldn't quite approve."
"I think so, too." Chloe wasn't even sure if she approved. Granted, she'd slept well after Clark had joined her, but she wasn't sure it was a good thing to get used to, and she still wondered if she was just Clark's temporary substitute.
Clark reached over and dropped a kiss on her forehead. "Go back to sleep, okay?"
Chloe nodded and watched him leave the bedroom. She couldn't fall back asleep, still able to feel Clark's lips on her forehead, and finally around 7 she gave up. She showered, dressed, and went downstairs. Martha was making breakfast, and not long after the Kent men came back in and devoured theirs.
Chloe watched Clark anxiously, looking for any sign that he regretted last night, but he smiled at her and didn't show any unease.
Maybe she was making a bigger deal out of it than he was. Maybe it wasn't a big deal at all.
The next night, Clark came back again. And again, Chloe didn't turn him away. And so the pattern was born-- each night, Clark snuck in to her room and they fell asleep together.
Sometimes they'd snuggle before falling asleep and enjoy a quiet silence, just content that the other was there. Sometimes, they'd talk before falling asleep.
"I wish I could go out to a movie or something."
"There's nothing good playing," Clark joked. "You're not missing anything."
Chloe smacked his shoulder lightly. "That's not the point. I mean, at least you can leave the farm and do something."
Clark shrugged. "I could. But it's not much fun by yourself."
Chloe tilted her head inquiringly. "What do you mean? Now that I think about it, you haven't hung out at Lex's lately, have you?"
Clark shook his head.
"I told him before... before I was gone that our friendship was over."
Chloe raised an eyebrow. "Wow, that's pretty hardcore. Why?"
"I... I don't want to talk about it really." Clark fiddled with the corner of his shirt.
Chloe smiled sympathetically and stroked a hand over his shoulder. "It's okay."
Clark sighed and slumped down, closing his eyes as he pulled Chloe closer. Chloe knew he definitely didn't want to talk anymore, and she clung to the hope that one day he'd tell her. She fell asleep listening to his soft breaths and the weight of his arm over her waist.
Every morning, Clark tried to leave without waking her, and a few times he'd succeeded. This morning, Clark was on his back and she awoke curled against his side, an arm slung over his chest and her head snuggled in the crook of his shoulder.
Clark stroked her hair as he told her to go back to sleep, but Chloe knew she wouldn't.
"I can't fall back asleep. I might as well get up and help with the chores."
A brief look of panic came over Clark's face. Chloe frowned, wondering what was the matter. "What?"
"Chloe, no offense, but there's not much you can do."
"I could feed chickens or measure out grain and stuff?"
Clark's brows furrowed. "I'm sorry I wake you up. I don't think you should with your arm though."
Chloe didn't know how hard it was to feed chickens using one arm, but she shrugged and then smiled brightly. "I could keep you company?"
"Please don't?" Clark sighed and squirmed out from under her to get off the bed. "Sometimes I just need some time to think, and I usually do that during my chores."
Chloe rolled her eyes. He could be such a bastard sometimes, and she could never understand his sudden mood swings. "Whatever, Clark. If you really feel that way, then maybe you should just sleep in your own room. To make sure you get enough time alone to think."
Clark's face fell, and Chloe immediately hated herself for making him look so crushed.
"That's not... that's not what I mean, Chloe. I... I like sleeping here. With you. I can't sleep without you anymore."
Chloe sighed. "I know. Me, too."
Clark stroked a hand over her hair, and her eyes closed. Chloe knew she couldn't help but forgive him since she secretly loved having her hair petted.
"Go do your chores."
Clark grinned at her, and Chloe hated the way his toothy smiles made her melt and made her forget everything he said.
That afternoon, Chloe decided to go down to the lake. Although it was close enough to the Kent farm that they decided it was probably safe for her to go, she'd never felt safe enough to go alone. Now, Clark could go with her, and it was nice to get out of the house, and Clark always seemed to revel in the sun.
She'd spread her beach towel along the dock, and lay tanning in her bikini. She'd brought a book along, but it lay unopened beside her as she enjoyed just relaxing.
Clark got antsy easily, so he'd abandoned his tanning and dove in the water.
All of a sudden, she felt wet arms wrap around her waist, and before she fully realized what was happening, she found herself beneath the water of the cold lake. She kicked at the figure and he let go.
"Clark!" she yelled after she surfaced. "The water is cold!"
Clark shook out his hair, droplets flying everywhere. "Feels good."
Chloe glared at him and pushed his shoulder, trying to be angry but in truth she liked that he teased her or was comfortable enough to be physical with her. Or maybe that was the problem. He was always in her space now, and she couldn't help but notice him. Her crush was returning stronger than ever before.
Chloe pushed her wet hair off her forehead. Now that she was used to the temperature, the water felt nice.
"Remember when Pete would swim with us?" Clark asked.
"Yeah, I do." Chloe smiled wistfully. "I miss him. "
"Me too. I haven't spoken to him."
"Couldn't he visit us?" Chloe smiled widely at the idea. "He wouldn't tell anyone I was here, I'm sure."
"I think... I think maybe if he doesn't know we're back, he's better off."
Chloe peered at him curiously. "What do you mean?"
Clark refused to look her in the eye. "Nothing really. Just, you know, he would be put in a spot where he'd have to hide he knows you're alive."
"I guess." Chloe narrowed her eyes suspiciously.
"It would be fun, though," Clark finally said.
Chloe debated asking about Lana, but she decided that she didn't want to give Clark any reason to think of her. She missed Lana, too, but she'd never been able to get over the one thing... person... that had stood between them. And now she had him literally all to herself. Maybe not in the exact way she'd prefer, but neither of them had any friends left. Clark was fighting with Lex, Pete had moved away, and Lana had moved to Paris.
They both treaded water silently for a moment, mulling over what they had lost. Neither was fully ready or willing to talk about it yet. For once, Chloe was fine with Clark not wanting to talk to her. She had things she didn't want to talk about either, and fair was fair, and she was glad they balanced each other because of it.
They swam a while longer, either recounting memories of previous summers or trying to forget just how much different this one was compared to others. Last summer, Clark hadn't been here, but they didn't talk about that time either.
Eventually, Chloe pulled herself back up onto the dock, tired of swimming. She settled back onto her towel to let the sun dry her before heading back to the Kent house.
Clark climbed out and settled on his back on his towel. The sun made the droplets on his chest sparkle, and Chloe allowed her eyes to trail down his body and stare at him while his eyes were closed. His swim trunks were still wet and clung to him, and she couldn't pass up the chance to admire him. Yet, she knew it was all wishful thinking. Only girls that looked like Lana would ever be able to compete for him.
Frowning at the thought, Chloe rolled onto her stomach and closed her eyes, determined not to think about how attracted she was to him again. It wasn't going to get her anywhere. She wondered briefly if Clark had looked her when she'd been lying on the dock, then chastised herself for thinking he would. Clark had rarely ever looked at her as a girl, and she had no doubt that her own clinging swimsuit was unnoticed.
Eventually, the afternoon began to cool off and it would be time for dinner. They packed up their stuff and headed back.
Chloe changed into a t-shirt after a quick shower, wincing as she realized she'd forgotten to put suntan lotion on the back of her neck. Her fair skin was reddening and rapidly turning into what promised to be a painful burn.
She sighed and twisted her head around, trying to see her back in the bathroom mirror. Clark walked by, stopping at the open door, and chuckled. "What are you doing?"
"It's not funny, Clark. I think I got sunburned."
Clark winced. "Ouch, I'm sorry." He stepped toward her, gently laying his hand on the back of her neck. "Your skin does feel hot."
It felt even hotter with him touching her. He tugged down the collar on her shirt. "Definitely looks like it's turning into a sunburn."
Chloe frowned. "I usually remember lotion, but I forgot this time."
"My mom has some aloe she puts on my dad when he gets burned from working too long in the field. I'll go get it."
He returned moments later, bearing a bottle of bright green goo. Chloe eyed it suspiciously. "Are there meteor rocks in that?" she joked.
Clark laughed. "Definitely not. It's normal aloe."
Chloe grinned and reached out for the bottle. "Just checking."
Then she frowned as she realized how difficult it would be to apply it to herself. Clark seemed to realize the same.
"Want me to help put some on?"
Chloe smiled and nodded. "Thanks, Clark."
Clark squeezed some into his hand and lightly rubbed it over her neck as Chloe held up her hair. Clark's hand dipped briefly beneath her shirt, then hesitated.
"This might be easier if you took your shirt off."
Chloe couldn't argue that. She instantly regretted that she wasn't wearing a bra, thinking the straps would hurt her tender skin. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
"Go lie down," Clark instructed.
Chloe figured he wouldn't see much, if anything, and hell, she'd seen him naked already. She still liked the idea of being able to hold that over him.
She crawled across the bed, swiftly peeled off her shirt, then hurriedly flopped down on her stomach.
Clark's large hands lifted her hair away again, then smoothed more aloe over her neck and it felt so good. The aloe cooled and soothed her hot skin, and Clark's touch was amazing.
Chloe didn't want him to stop, but it only took a minute to spread the aloe over her back, adding a little more where the burn must have looked worse.
Then Clark blew on her neck and down her spine. Chloe's whole body shivered as the aloe made his breath feel like ice winds across her back. It was nice. Too nice.
"Clark, don't," she said, stopping him mid-blow.
Clark seemed to understand that he'd crossed a line and sat back immediately. "Just let it soak in a minute."
"Okay," Chloe replied softly. Clark set her shirt next to her, then got up and left the room.
Chloe sighed when he was gone, frustrated and angry at herself. Clark had done something semi-erotic to her, and she had stopped him. Now she knew he'd never make another move.
Chloe pushed the thought out of her mind and went to check her email, then clicked through a few news sites. Chloe's stomach sank and her heart tightened as she read the latest news. Lionel's trial was due to begin. The jury had been selected that day, and the arguments were to begin tomorrow.
Chloe scanned through the few brief commentary remarks. None of the reporters or columnists seemed to think that any Luthor had a chance of being convicted, given the money and power he held over the city. Chloe bit her lip and fought back the tears. She would give anything to have Lionel receive the death penalty. While normally she was against it, knowing Lionel was dead seemed like the only thing that could make her able to sleep without Clark.
Having to stay cooped up in the Kent farm was an everyday reminder of what she had done, although having Clark with her had, at times, allowed her to forget. She had managed to push most thoughts of Lionel's impending trial out of her conscious mind lately, yet now all her worries had come flooding back in an instant.
Chloe swallowed hard and clicked her browser closed.
Clark was also uneasy at the news. The whole family discussed it at dinner, and even now that it was time to sleep, Clark still couldn't let it go. "I wonder if I'll need to testify again?"
"Probably," Chloe answered.
"I don't like dealing and siding with Lex," Clark grumbled, then smiled briefly. "But if it'll help you, then I will."
Chloe wanted to ask if Lex was really that bad, but she didn't. She was tired and didn't want to think about any of it anymore. Clark climbed into bed and drew her against him, and she winced.
"Sunburn, Clark," Chloe reminded him.
"Sorry," Clark murmured, easing away from her back. "Needs aloe again."
Except Clark didn't offer to help, and Chloe was too tired to get up and try to apply it herself. She said nothing and closed her eyes, willing herself to sleep.
The next morning, Chloe awoke grumpily as Clark suddenly bolted up straight. "Geez, Clark, what's your problem?"
"Chloe, what time is it?"
Chloe glanced toward the clock and her eyes widened. "It's 7 AM!" Usually Clark had a scarily accurate internal alarm clock, but apparently this morning it had failed.
"I heard my dad yelling for me."
No sooner than that was said, the door was flung open and Jonathan stomped into the room. "Clark! What the hell do you think you're doing in Chloe's room?"
Clark glanced nervously at her before looking back at his father. "Sleeping?"
Jonathan scoffed and didn't have to say anything more.
"Dad, we're not... we're not doing anything."
"Do you think I'm an idiot, son?"
"Dad, I swear, we're not! We just fell asleep together late last night."
"Oh yeah? Well, from what your mother was able to tell me on where to find you, it sounds like this has been going on for awhile!"
"Has it?" Jonathan demanded.
"Yeah," Clark admitted reluctantly. "But still, we're only sleeping, not anything else."
It was true, Chloe thought somewhat bitterly. It was getting harder and harder to deny her feelings or desire for him when they spent so much time together, when he was so close. Clark's smile was enough to make her melt, and even the simplest, most platonic of touches from him were starting to drive her crazy. Maybe that was why she had freaked at the aloe massage, knowing she wouldn't have been able to hold back if he had touched her any longer.
Jonathan crossed his arms and looked quickly at her. "We'll discuss this more during chores, Clark," he said curtly, ending the conversation there. Clark sighed and shot an apologetic glance in her direction before following his father out.
Martha sat down on the bed next to her and put a hand on her shoulder.
"You knew Clark was, umm, staying in my room?" Chloe asked.
Martha smiled and nodded. "I didn't tell Jonathan until this morning when he was yelling and searching for Clark. Clark... well, he goes missing occasionally. And we worry about him, and I had to tell Jonathan before he started searching all of Smallville. I don't think Jonathan expected he would ever be there."
Chloe gave a snort and sighed. "No, of course not." Instantly, Chloe regretted her reaction. "I'm sorry, Mrs. Kent. I didn't mean to go behind your backs like that. You've been so nice for letting me stay and I shouldn't have taken advantage of your trust."
"Oh, Chloe," Martha reassured. "I'm not upset with you. I don't think Jonathan is either."
"But with Clark?"
Martha chuckled softly. "Clark is going to get a good talking to, I expect." Martha patted her knee, and then left her alone.
Chloe had no clue how Martha had known. She'd heard of mothers just knowing things, but she'd missed out on that in her life until now.
Chloe waited some time until she figured Clark had finished his chores, then went searching for him, finding him staring out of the loft's window.
"Hi," he returned, smiling at her before looking at the window once more.
"What did your dad say?" Chloe asked tentatively.
Clark covered his face with his hands before answering her. "He said he believed me, that my mom was very persuasive. Then it turned into some sort of sex talk and that was awful."
"Yeah?" Chloe covered her mouth to keep from laughing.
"Yeah." Clark's gaze flitted over her briefly, then turned abruptly toward the window again. Chloe would have given anything to have been able to read his mind at that moment.
"Looks like a storm's coming in," he said dully.
Indeed, black clouds appeared to be closing in, and it effectively ended their previous conversation, leaving Chloe with no way to gather what Clark had been thinking. Chloe leaned against with the window with Clark, watching clouds roll toward them. When the first flashes of lightning came and the threat of rain, Chloe gently touched Clark's arm.
"We should go inside the house."
Clark glanced at her and then turned back to gazing at the approaching storm. "You go in. I'll be there soon."
Chloe went up to her room and read the newspaper for awhile. A knot of dread formed in her stomach when she turned the page and read the headline: 'Luthor Trial to Begin Next Week.'
Chloe sighed. She hoped it would finish quickly and put an end to her anxiety and misery. If that would ever happen anyway. Chloe hadn't dared to think ahead to what would happen to her beyond the summer. Chloe didn't even know if Lex was willing to protect her if it meant she could help him convict his father. Although, as the turn of events would have it, Chloe knew Lex wouldn't be able to protect her anyway.
As if on cue, she heard the sound of an expensive engine and rocks crunching as a car pulled up into the driveway. Chloe always made herself scarce when unknown vehicles came to the farm, and today was no exception. She quickly looked out the window to see if it was one of the Kents, but as she had feared, it was one of Lex's cars.
Lex hadn't visited the farm all summer. Chloe imagined it was because he and Clark were no longer friends, and because Clark had been missing for so long. Chloe wondered if Lex even knew Clark was back. She doubted he didn't, as it was a small town, and Clark was publicly known to be back.
Clark, too, must've heard the engine, and came out of the barn. Chloe wished she could have known what they were saying, but all she could make out through the corner of the curtains was that they appeared to have some heated words and Lex handing Clark an envelope. After that, Lex turned curtly and got into his car and sped off, leaving the dust to settle around Clark, who watched him leave before finally turning toward the house.
Chloe left her post by the window and bounded down the stairs eagerly.
"What did Lex want?" Chloe asked curiously as she met Clark in the kitchen.
"To testify against his father," Clark answered, tearing open the envelope with his thumb and skimming over the letter. "He brought the official summons to me personally."
Chloe's eyes widened. "I just read that the trial is supposed to begin next week."
"I told Lex I would testify, just to see Lionel put away." Clark glanced at her briefly and said softly, "Mostly for your sake."
Chloe gave a melancholy smile. "Thanks, Clark. But I know it's not just for me. You and me and everyone will be better off."
Lightning suddenly illuminated the kitchen and thunder clashed. Rain began to patter on the windows.
"It's gonna suck driving to Metropolis if these storms last," Clark said.
That was that, and no more was spoken. The rain continued throughout the week, and Clark left with Jonathan to give his testimony.
Martha stayed home with Chloe, and they anxiously watched the news for any word. The news gave too few specifics for Chloe's taste, and when Clark returned, she immediately pounced on him for details.
"There's a rumor he could be up for the death penalty, but it hasn't been decided yet," Clark said.
Chloe chewed her lip. "What do you think his chances are?"
"I have no idea." Clark shook his head. "Lionel's lawyers... obviously they're good, but so are Lex's. I couldn't tell who had better arguments."
Chloe spent the next two weeks watching the evening news and reading any reports on the trial she could get. After two weeks, a startlingly short amount of time, the jury was scheduled to make a decision.
Of course, as Murphy's Law would have it, their internet connection had been down for the day, as well as their cable due to the continuing storms. Finally, the cable came back after it grew dark and the storm seemed to have abated for the time being. Unable to hear of the results any other way, the Kents tuned in to try and catch anything that might air on the late night news.
The elder Kents were too tired to stay up for the results of the trial, saying it didn't much matter if they knew the decision that night or in the morning. Chloe couldn't understand that. She and Clark snuggled together on the couch after they left, each feeling the tension and nervous anticipation of the verdict.
When she finally heard the verdict, tears welled up in her eyes. "Guilty," she breathed, never feeling so relieved in her life. Lionel was sentenced to life without parole.
As soon as Clark heard the sentence, he let out an angry sigh and stormed up the stairs to his bedroom. Chloe followed him, confused at his reaction. Clark hadn't even bothered to turn on the light; only the moon through the open window illuminated the room.
"Clark, why are you so upset?"
Clark scrubbed a hand over his face. "Chloe, he's still going to be alive."
"A guilty verdict is better than anything we could have hoped for!" Chloe said shrilly, then lowered her voice. "I was expecting him to get off completely."
Clark set his jaw and laid on the bed, crossing his arms behind his head. "It's not good enough."
Chloe sighed and sat next to him, curling her legs under her and brushed a hand over his arm. "It's as good as we're going to get, Clark," Chloe said quietly.
Clark turned and glanced at her. "As long as he's alive, he can still hurt you. He'll have people looking to kill you if he finds out you're still alive." Clark moved his eyes to the ceiling. "You'll never be safe, and I'm not sure if I can handle that."
"If I have to handle it, so can you," Chloe reasoned.
Clark suddenly rolled over, leaning on his elbows and staring at his hands. Chloe raised an eyebrow slightly.
"It's my fault that you're trapped here," Clark said, his voice hushed.
"What? No, Clark."
"It's true," Clark insisted. "I'm the one Lionel was looking into. If he wasn't, he'd have never asked you to help him. It's my fault you got involved."
Chloe reached out and stroked Clark's back. In truth, the action was likely more soothing to Chloe than to Clark.
"Clark, it was my choice to help him," Chloe said firmly. "I could have said no. I should have said no."
Clark shook his head. "If you had refused, he'd have found a way to get what he wanted. He always has. Just like he still will."
Chloe felt the tears well up again. "Do you know what he told me?" Chloe let out a sob. "I tried to back out of his deal. I threatened him first. And he said there'd be consequences for my father. And not only did my father lose his job, but when that house exploded, he died. He died because of me, Clark. I killed my own father!"
Chloe cried openly, and Clark sat up and hugged her, holding her close as she racked with sobs. Chloe buried her face into his shoulder, and Clark pressed his chin into her hair. Soon, Chloe could feel Clark's stilted breaths as he cried, too.
"Chloe," Clark sniffled. "I killed him. You backed out because I got angry at you, because you were being my friend. If you were never my friend, this would never have happened. I could have saved you."
Chloe raised her head to look at him. "Clark, you couldn't have... it happened too fast. I... I was behind my father. Far enough behind that when... when the bomb went off... I was thrown clear. But my dad...."
A brief memory flashed through Chloe. Intense heat and fire, a flash of light so bright her eyes been sensitive for a week. She hadn't even bothered trying to look for her father. She'd seen him die. She knew couldn't have lived.
"I crawled out of the house, and your parents were driving by and saw me. They didn't know I was there before that; it was a total coincidence. Were they looking for you, Clark?"
"I think so," Clark replied, choking back a sob.
"What happened to you?" Chloe questioned softly, remembering how Clark had come back, naked and shaken, but otherwise without a mark.
"I know my mom let it slip that we... found my biological father. He wanted me back. And if I hadn't kept trying to get away from him, he wouldn't have kidnapped me. I could have been there to save you and your dad."
It was the first time Clark had talked about what had happened to him. Chloe had never imagined it would have been something like that. She was curious to know more, but she didn't want to pry.
Clark swallowed hard and continued. "He kept me... in this place. It... I was so alone...." Clark trailed off, starting to cry again. Chloe could feel his tears wetting her hair. Clark didn't say anything more, and Chloe couldn't bear to ask him. She didn't want to know.
They held each other until their tears subsided, their arms wrapped around the other tightly, and Chloe sitting in his lap.
Eventually, Clark drew back to look at Chloe. She lifted her eyes to him, and he rubbed his thumb over her cheek, wiping away a tear.
Chloe didn't know which kissed the other first. If anything, it seemed mutual between them, both looking into each others eyes and realizing at the same moment that there was going to be a kiss, both leaning in and eyes closing simultaneously as their lips touched.
Their kiss deepened, Chloe wrapping her arms around Clark again, and his hands settled on her waist and suddenly pulled her closer so that their bodies were nearly flush.
Chloe didn't remember pulling apart to breathe, but they must have at some point because both of them were still alive, still kissing hard and hands beginning to roam. Clark lightly tugged at her lower lip with his teeth as he lowered her onto her back, and Chloe could feel that he was hard as his body slid along hers before settling on top of her.
Chloe felt an irresistible urge to confirm it, to really know that Clark was aroused because of her, and her hand slid down and over his sweatpants to grip him through them.
Clark groaned at the touch, but didn't stop kissing her, instead raising a hand and covering her breast, squeezing hers when she squeezed him.
Soon that wasn't enough, and Chloe wanted to feel his skin. Her hand left his erection, moved up to the hem of his shirt and pulled at it. A bit of maneuvering and it was off, and then she realized that Clark was working on removing her shirt, and she knew he'd succeeded when she felt her hardened nipples scrape along his chest.
They both moaned at that, and then their hands were moving frantically over each other, Chloe caressing over his back and his chest and his hips. Clark began to suck at her neck, and then his fingers bravely tweaked her nipple. Chloe muffled her squeak of pleasure into his shoulder, then boldly slid her hands beneath his sweatpants to grip his ass. She was surprised to find that he didn't have boxers on, and briefly debated moving her hands back up, but decided that she didn't care and didn't think Clark would care consider how his hands were now all over her breasts while he continued to nibble at her neck.
Chloe didn't move her hands, but pulled him closer against her. Clark gasped and bucked against her. Chloe loved the friction and wanted more, her hands leaving his ass and grasping the waist of his pants and tugging at them.
Her hands immediately found his erection again, loving how each stroke and twist of her hand made him moan or draw in a sharp breath, sometimes both, she found, as she began to discover exactly how he liked to be touched. Soon Clark was making a constant whine in his throat and he was pushing into her hand.
Then her hand was suddenly wet, and Clark was making a choked noise against her neck. Chloe instantly decided that watching Clark come was one of the best sights ever.
Clark didn't rest like she thought he would, and didn't waste any time scooting down her body and tugging both her shorts and panties off. His fingers played along her inner thigh, and then his head ducked down. And oh, his tongue felt good, her clit swollen and more sensitive than she could ever have thought possible. She was a bit startled that Clark was doing this to her, and although Chloe had no idea where Clark must have read up on this, especially as he slipped a finger inside her, she was glad he had because it wasn't long before she was crying out and shivering as she came.
Clark crawled back up her body, dropping kisses as he went. Chloe came back to herself enough to run her hands over his body again, wanting to touch every inch of him before the night was over. She knew it might be the last chance she ever had to do it.
"Chloe...." Clark panted, "Chloe, should I go get a condom?"
Chloe could feel Clark against her thigh, already hard again. She was still having trouble gathering her thoughts after her orgasm, especially through battling the growing desire for yet another. "Do you want to?"
Clark's eyes locked with hers. "God, Chloe, please don't ask me that right now, just do you want to?"
Chloe's whole body was screaming for him, and she couldn't have said no even if wanted to. "Go get one, hurry."
"Fuck," Clark cursed, "they're in the barn."
Chloe laughed, unable to remember hearing him swear before. Before she could say anything, Clark scrambled into his sweatpants and left, returning in what Chloe thought was impossibly fast, but maybe her sense of time was warped in the dizziness of it all.
Clark quickly lost his pants again, and then was back on the bed, both of their hands shaking as they rolled the condom on him.
Chloe laid back, and Clark was on top of her again, but he scooted down slightly and Chloe wondered why until Clark's mouth latched onto one her nipples and his fingers found their way inside her again. Chloe arched up against him, loving everything but not able to stand the suspense anymore.
"Clark," she whimpered, spreading her legs wider, and thankfully Clark got the hint and settled between her legs. An instant later, Chloe wondered why she thought it was a good idea to do this when she'd had Clark in her hand and knew how thick he'd felt. But Clark drowned out her cry with a kiss and then mumbled barely decipherable apologies while a hand stroked through her hair. Soon each of his thrusts felt better and better, and she was gasping and moaning along with him, nails scraping frantically along his back each time one felt particularly good.
"Chloe... Chloe," Clark whined, his movements getting faster and faster, but Chloe didn't want it over, not just yet.
"Wait, Clark, please," she managed to say, "it's so good." She felt herself getting closer, she thought she could come again, she just needed a little more.
"Chloe, ohh, God, Chloe, I know, I can't...."
Chloe knew now not to leave her fate to the hands of others. She'd learned the hard way that never worked out to her advantage. She reached down to finger herself, and that was all she needed. Tightening around Clark as soon as her orgasm hit, he lost it, too. Clark muffled his shout into the pillow beside her neck, and then they lay there, sweaty and trembling together. Clark withdrew and tossed away the condom, pulling the topsheet over them, then kissed her lightly on the lips.
"Chloe...." Clark sighed her name, snuggling her against him and nuzzling her hair.
Chloe's lips curled into a smile. She rested her cheek against his chest, eyes watching her own fingers softly playing over his skin.
She felt Clark smile into her hair, and soon they were both asleep.
The next morning, Chloe awoke, her forehead still pressed against Clark's chest. Except, instead of a soft t-shirt, it was his bare skin, and she could see his nipple out of the corner of her eye. Memories of biting it came rushing back, as well as awareness of a soreness of and in between her thighs.
She eased her head away from Clark's chest, glancing up him. Like she had suspected from his breathing pattern, he was awake. He glanced at her, and smiled.
"Morning," he murmured, like he usually did. Except this time they were both naked, and the sheet, settled around their waists, had fallen down or never been pulled up.
"What time is it?" Chloe asked, noting that the sun seemed brighter than usual. "Are you going to be late for chores?" She definitely did not want the Kents to come looking for their son and find them here like this.
"Yeah, I do need to get up."
Chloe pushed at him. "Get up then."
Clark grinned back, then grew serious. "Chloe," began, lifting a hand and brushing it along her side, fingers barely skimming the side of her breast. "I liked it."
Chloe allowed the corner of her mouth to curl up into a smile. "I could tell."
Clark ducked his head, but to his credit, didn't blush, and had a retort. "I think you did, too." When Chloe kept herself from answering, Clark continued worriedly, "Right?"
Chloe nodded slightly. "I did," she said, breaking out into a grin, and Clark joined her when he realized she was teasing.
"I didn't know you had condoms," Chloe said, then curiously asked, "When did you get them?"
Clark didn't answer.
"Clark? Come on, spill."
"Pete gave them to me as a birthday gift last year. I kept them in a trunk in the barn so my mom wouldn't find them if she decided to do some spring cleaning."
"Your birthday? When you were going out with Lana?" Chloe suddenly knew why Clark had hesitated in answering.
"Chloe... they were a joke. Lana and I never came close to any of this."
"Well, yeah, that, but... just... I feel comfortable with you."
"Is that a good thing?" Chloe wasn't sure if that mean he was just seeing her as a friend or what.
"Yes," Clark responded softly, sounding a little hurt she had to ask. "Last night was... you're my first one, Chloe. I can be more of myself around you. " Clark gently shifted away from her and rolled out of bed.
More of himself? Just partly? Chloe wondered if he would ever feel completely himself around her. She watched him pull on his discarded sweatpants, idly pleased with memory of how his ass had felt, but slightly disappointed that her nails hadn't left any visible marks.
Like usual, Clark leaned down briefly to kiss her, this time on the lips instead of her forehead.
Chloe gave a brief, fake smile, realizing at that moment that despite everything she had fantasized about, she wasn't ready to commit to Clark, lest he hurt her again. Lest Lana came back and he went running after her again.
What Chloe also realized is that she really loved Clark's body and the relief sex had brought, physically and mentally. Although she had woken up freaking over what Clark was thinking, she knew that overall, both of them had needed it. Really needed it. Chloe figured what was done was done, so if Clark was willing to do it again, she decided she would. If Clark asked what they were, she'd tell him she wanted it to be just sex. If he didn't ask, she wasn't going to bring it up first.
Sex became a very useful distraction, letting them both forget their problems for a bit each day.
Chloe found herself complaining about her boredom less often, enjoying the sight of Clark's body more than the city. Clark was all too happy to allow her to sightsee.
He never asked about the status, if any, of their relationship. True to her resolve, Chloe never brought it up, yet she wondered if Clark thought it was just sex like she'd convinced herself to think.
A small part of Chloe grew irritated at the thought of this, but she pushed it back. After all, she couldn't expect more of him if she didn't want more either. Yet, somehow, Chloe's subconscious deduced that it proved Clark Kent would never truly love her.
Chloe had been counting the days until Lana got wind that Clark was alive. Chloe knew that Lana had written a few emails, but was glad that Clark had never been a big 'keep in touch' kind of guy. Out of sight was usually out of mind for Clark Kent, and Chloe had been happy that, for once, it wasn't her.
Then the Kents received a phone call: Lana was coming back to Smallville.
Chloe had pasted on a false, bright smile, pretending to be happy of Lana's grand return like everyone else.
Chloe knew it was only a matter of time before Clark would return to pining for Lana, and she would be soon forgotten. She clung to the last few weeks of having Clark all to herself.
The last night before Lana returned, Chloe pushed Clark onto his back. The sex was rougher than it ever had been before. Chloe bit and sucked on his skin hard and then harder, frustrated when no matter how much she tried, she could never leave her mark on him. Clark didn't seem to notice the hidden anger in her aggression, just loved it all the more.
Lana moved into the apartment above the Talon. Clark was gone the whole day as he helped her move back in and rearrange furniture.
The Kents had debated whether or not they should tell Lana she was here-- after all, she was bound to come by the farm often as she had before.
Chloe refused and insisted that they keep her hiding secretive. Chloe's heart panged when Clark agreed all too quickly. No doubt Clark wouldn't mention their fling to Lana, and would be all too happy to keep Chloe as another of his mysterious secrets.
That night, when Clark snuck into her room and his hand inched beneath her shirt, Chloe pushed him away.
"Go back to your own room, Clark," Chloe muttered to him.
Clark sat back and stared a her, a mix of confusion and hurt etched on his face.
"Why?" he whispered. "You don't want to...?"
Chloe debated several answers. She could be tired. It could be that time of the month. Maybe she heard the Kents still up and she didn't want to risk them hearing.
Instead, somehow, the truth spilled out of her mouth. "You don't need me anymore. Not now that Lana is back."
"What?" Clark shifted closer, stretching out his hand and resting it on her sheet-covered thigh. "Chloe, of course I need you."
Chloe laughed shortly. "That's right. Lana probably won't give it up, so you still need to use me to get out your sexual frustrations."
Clark's jaw fell open, then clenched tightly when he shut it again. "I can't believe you just said that," he said, hushed but the anger in his voice was clear. Chloe didn't doubt that he was angry only because she'd insulted Lana instead of him alone.
"I understand, though, don't get me wrong. That's all it was to me, too. But you can go back Lana now. You don't have to worry about me anymore."
Chloe couldn't decipher what she saw in Clark's eyes next. "I see," he said softly, then climbed off the bed. Pausing briefly before he left the room, Clark murmured, "It was more to me, though."
The words stunned Chloe. She sat, clutching the sheet in her hand before rolling over and letting her tears soak the pillow. Part of her wondered if she'd made a mistake, thinking that Clark really did care about her. Then her memories assaulted her with each time Clark had ditched her for Lana, and she was certain she'd done the right thing.
It didn't make it hurt any less. Her tear-stained pillow was evidence of that.
The next morning, Clark didn't say a word to her. Chloe followed his lead and avoided him the rest of the day, which was easy since Clark had a lot of farmwork to do that day.
The next few days followed the same pattern. This particular afternoon, Lana came to visit, and Chloe shut herself in her room with her laptop.
She idly ran through her internet routine, checking her newsfeeds and email, trying to distract herself from any thought of Lana's invasion.
CNN's homepage headline made her gasp.
LIONEL LUTHOR MURDERED IN PRISON.
Business mogul found strangled in cell.
Completing forgetting Lana would see her, Chloe flung open the door to her bedroom and clamored down the stairs.
"Lionel was murdered!" Chloe yelled, running into the kitchen and stopping short at the sight of the Kent's stunned looks. Lana gasped and her eyes widened.
"He is? How?"
Chloe hurried into the living room and flipped on the TV. A special report had interrupted a soap opera, and they listened in stunned silence.
Once it was over, Lana ran and hugged Chloe. "You're alive!"
Chloe smiled weakly. "Yeah."
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"I was in hiding. Nobody besides the Kents knew. Not even Pete."
"I figured that as long as Lionel Luthor was... well, alive, I was better off if people thought I was dead."
"Looks like you might be able to start your senior year next week with everyone else," Jonathan added.
Clark grinned widely and Chloe forgot herself and grinned back. Her smile faded abruptly as she realized that Pete would be gone, and no doubt Clark would again ignore her for Lana, leaving her with no one. At least she would have the Torch, and maybe no one would destroy her office every few weeks.
School couldn't come quickly enough. Chloe buried herself in the Torch, eagerly writing articles on Lionel's murder, which was still unsolved.
Try as she did to be an objective journalist, Chloe couldn't bring herself to write about her father. Her fingers hesitated on the keyboard, and everything she wrote, she deleted again.
Familiar footsteps alerted her to Clark's presence in the Torch office. "I liked the article on Lionel," he said as he stepped inside. "Everyone is buzzing about it."
"Thanks," Chloe said quickly, then turned her attention back to her computer monitor. Although she and Clark had returned to talking terms, she still found being with him awkward. Clark appeared to feel the same. He hesitated and fumbled around her, and Chloe didn't fare much better around him either.
"Lana has a boyfriend, you know."
Chloe's head shot up in surprise, but she calmed herself quickly. "That was random."
"I just thought you should know. She told me today."
"How disappointing," Chloe intoned. "So sorry, Clark."
Clark set his backpack down and leaned against a counter. "You shouldn't be."
"Why not?" Chloe stood and walked to the filing cabinet, opening it and pretending to search for a file, purposely avoiding eye contact with Clark. "I know it must be hard for you."
"It's not. I was hoping it would prove to you that we're not interested in each other."
Chloe gave a terse smile. "The only thing it shows me is that she's not interested in you."
Chloe instantly regretted her words. She turned around and glanced at him. Clark's face had fallen. "Look, Clark... that's not really what I meant...."
"Isn't it?" Clark cut in. He grabbed his backpack and rushed out of the Torch. Chloe sighed and followed.
"Clark. Clark!" she yelled after him.
Clark turned around abruptly. "What?"
"I... I'm sorry."
Clark merely nodded and walked away.
Chloe proceeded to yell at herself the entire ride home from school. Normally she drove both of them home, but Clark was nowhere to be found and she assumed he'd found another way to get home.
When she pulled into the Kent's driveway, Chloe could see Clark, a tiny outline in the far pasture, doing his afternoon chores.
Deciding she'd prefer to take the avoidance route and wallow in her own misery, Chloe shut herself in her room with three of Martha's homemade oatmeal cookies.
They tasted delicious, but only served to remind her that she was a guest in the Kent's home, and fooling around with their son had been the most foolish thing she'd ever done.
'And,' Chloe reminded herself, 'you are definitely not short of foolish things on your mistake resume.'
This mistake, however, could be placed at the top, bolded and italicized, underlined and bulleted. Anything to make it stand out more than the others.
Chloe had nowhere else to go, but she didn't know how long she could live in Clark's space, a constant reminder of her idiocy. Nobody else who broke up with their boyfriends, or at least their flings, actually had to keep living with them.
Dinner was torturous. Chloe would have gone out to eat, but there was no one to go out with. Clark was quiet, and if Chloe hadn't been avoiding looking at him, she might have known if he was avoiding looking at her as well.
The Kents had to notice something was amiss, as it had been the past few days, but especially tonight. Chloe and Clark had at least tried to make polite conversation at dinner before, but now they couldn't manage a single word.
Clark ate quickly, and less than usual, while Chloe pushed the food around on her plate. Clark left the table and went outside, and Chloe returned to her room again. She was grateful the Kent's didn't say anything, at least not to her.
Not even writing a Torch article on her laptop could keep her distracted that night. She finally gave up and lay on her bed, staring at the ceiling.
Her door creaked suddenly, and Chloe tore her gaze from the ceiling to see Clark coming in.
"Thanks for knocking," Chloe said sarcastically.
Clark shrugged unapologetically. "Couldn't see anything I haven't seen before."
Chloe hated him for reminding her. She couldn't think of anything to say to him, so she decided to continue avoiding him in hopes that he'd go away.
Clark put a dent in her plan. She didn't expect him to lay on the bed next to her. Maybe if she kept ignoring him, he'd leave. She kept looking at the ceiling, trying hard to keep his proximity from having an effect on her.
"My ceiling has been really interesting lately, too," Clark murmured.
Chloe said nothing.
"I figured," Clark eventually began, "that since you apologized to me this afternoon, I had to make the next move."
Chloe had to give him a point for understanding that for once.
"And I know that you did have every reason to believe that things would change when Lana came back. But I also hoped you'd believe me when I said I didn't want things to change."
Chloe couldn't hold onto her resolve not to speak. "Why should I have?" She wished she had been able to keep her mouth shut. She knew she was just going to dig herself into a deeper hole.
She thought she was done for good when Clark didn't say anything back.
Then, finally, he spoke. "I'd be lying if I said that I didn't miss the sex." He rolled onto his stomach and grabbed her hand. Chloe debated pulling it away, but couldn't help allowing it when his thumb caressed her palm. "Chloe, I'd be willing to give it up, or whatever it would take, to show you that I want more than that." Clark suddenly dropped her hand. "Unless that really is all you wanted and you don't like me at all and I'm making a complete fool out of myself right now."
Chloe suddenly realized that maybe Clark was just as insecure as she was, and she'd only been making things worse. She rolled over to face him. "I do like you, Clark. I tried to convince myself I only wanted a physical outlet, but it didn't work."
A grin slowly spread over Clark's face and he reached over and brushed a strand of hair behind her ears. "Do you want to go to the winter formal with me then?"
Chloe fought back her own smile. "Okay."
Clark grinned wider and leaned over to kiss her. Chloe sat up before he could and straddled him, pushing him back against the bed. "You had better not be serious about giving up the sex, though," she growled.
A wicked gleam passed through Clark's hazel eyes and he abruptly flipped her over, pinning her to the bed. "Maybe you shouldn't believe some things I say after all."
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