Chloe Sullivan - no, it was Claire Sutton now - blew a lock of long, cherry red hair out of her eyes, and sighed. She wasn't used to her new look yet, but she had to admit she liked the extensions. The whole fake identity thing made her feel a little bit like Sydney Bristow, which felt sort of cool, instead of just terrifying and sad.
Her father's car was in the shop, and she was waiting to give him a ride home from his new job at Cheyenne Mountain. She'd been waiting half an hour now, and was getting exasperated with the robotic soldiers who paced back and forth across the entrance, and wouldn't let her in.
For as long as they had lived in Colorado Springs, Chloe had been dying of curiosity about whatever it was that went on in the complex. Her dad hadn't told her anything useful. He claimed it was for both of their best interests. "Chloe, honey, I promise you you're better off concentrating on school, and enjoying your senior year. Think about what got us where we are."
She couldn't help feeling guilty about that. She'd never meant for her search for a story to cause such problems to the people she loved. She couldn't even blame Lionel Luthor entirely. It was her own determination that was the ultimate culprit.
"Hey!" Chloe called out to the nearest guard. 'Can I go in there?" He looked up at her and shook his head.
"This facility is closed to the public, Miss."
"Look, I'm not after state secrets. I just want to look for my dad . I was supposed to give him a ride home, and it's getting kind of late."
"Well, then, if he's in there, Miss, I'm sure he'll be right out. I'm afraid I can't tell you any more than that." The guard answered, dismissively, then he walked back inside.
Knowing there was no point in arguing, Chloe picked up her English text, and sat down against the fence to read, until a voice shook her out of her concentration.
"Excuse me, Miss, are you Claire Sutton?"
It took her a moment to realize he meant her. Chloe still didn't feel like a Claire. "Yes, that's me." Her gaze followed the crisp Marine uniform up, from boots to collar, stopping in shock when she saw the man's face. She promptly dropped her book. It was a face she hadn't seen in over a year, and one she never expected to see again. He looked just as amazed to see her.
Whitney Fordman was dead; missing in action in some God forsaken part of Indonesia, a military action few knew very much about. Smallville High's football hero, cut down in his prime, before his trophies and accolades could turn into trophy wives and alcoholism. It was true, he had come home once, but that had turned out to be a meteor related fluke, and not the real Whitney at all.
A local girl with the ability to shape shift had taken on his persona in order to be with his ex-girlfriend Lana, for whom she had an unhealthy obsession. Seriously unhealthy, judging by the huge knife with which she attacked Lana. Lana attracted everybody, Chloe thought uncharitably.
She was the first to admit a part of her had been among that group, but eventually Lana's innate self-interest had won out, and the small spark between them fizzled out. It seemed like Lana did better with affection from afar, rather than the serious building of a relationship.
They never did show anyone a body, Chloe remembered, as she saw what looked impossibly like her former classmate. But that didn't explain the appearance of his exact twin, looking a little older than he had when Chloe last saw him, but still easily recognizable. Blond hair spiking up the way it had after he'd cut it just before he left Smallville, and that same snub nose Chloe would have called adorable, if she had been willing to admit she had any admiration for the "dumb jock." As it turned out, Whitney really hadn't been a dumb jock at all, and Chloe regretted not having had the chance to find out what kind of guy was hidden under that facade.
If this was Smallville, Chloe would have easily been convinced this was Whitney's doppelganger, and not somehow the man himself.. But Tina Greer was definitely dead; the metal pole that impaled her through the chest wasn't an injury that could be healed by a stay in Belle Reve.
"Whitney? Is that really you?"
"Chloe Sullivan? What in the world..."
"Am I doing in Colorado? I could ask you the same thing. I thought you were dead!."
"Funny, that's what I'd read about you, as well," Whitney said, reaching a hand out to help her up. "I'm glad to see it isn't true."
"Me too. I'm guessing if you're like any of the other silent but deadly types in this place you won't be able to tell me just what the hell did happen to you."
"Probably no more than you'd be allowed to tell me why I'm suddenly supposed to call you Claire, and why you dyed your pretty blonde hair."
Chloe ran a self-conscious hand through her now shoulder length strands, and blushed embarrassingly. "Point taken. Anyway, it really is nice to see a familiar face. Do you know where my dad is?"
"Yes, that's why I came out, to pass on a message. Of course I didn't realize Greg was your father. I'm not sure we ever met in Smallville. He's fine, but he says he'll be a few hours yet. He'll get a ride home if you don't want to come back."
"I bet he knew who you were, though. He used to love watching you play." Chloe was sure of it. Her dad knew she was homesick, and the sight of an old acquaintance would cheer her up. "Sure, I can come back later."
"That would explain the odd looks he gave me." Whitney looked pensive at the reminder of who he used to be. "Since you've got some time to kill, would you like to get some dinner?"
"That sounds good." Chloe smiled at Whitney, who reached for her hand as they walked the short distance to her car.
For a dead girl, Chloe Sullivan sure looked fine, Whitney Fordman thought, as he watched her purposeful driving to the local caf he suggested. Seeing her again brought back emotions he hadn't felt in ages - hadn't let himself feel.
In the few years since he'd left Smallville, Whitney had seen more strange things than Chloe had ever put on her Wall of Weird. When he had been approached to join the Stargate program, and put his lot in with the people whose purpose in life was to literally save the planet, he had no idea what he was getting himself into. On the other hand, due to his youthful experience with Smallville meteor freaks, he wasn't as easily shocked as other people might be. He accepted the presence of aliens on Earth almost as a matter of course.
He wasn't so sanguine about his first trip offworld. It wasn't a particularly exciting planet - "Look, trees!" as General O'Neill would say--but the fact that it was another world made it astounding anyway. And it was an event that Lex, despite his billions of dollars, could not experience himself. Whitney felt a momentary bit of pride at that. Still, he wondered what Clark would think of it all. He had the sneaking suspicion it would be old news to him. Clark was very familiar with keeping big secrets.
"Sorry this isn't quite the Talon. But the coffee's really good." This wasn't something anyone could say where Lana was concerned.
"That'll be a change. So what exactly is it that goes on in there?" Chloe asked, pointing out the caf's window towards Cascade Mountain. "I mean, I know it isn't as boring as my dad describes it. I'm sure he's not just in there taking inventory on supplies for soldiers."
"Actually, he probably is. I doubt he's got the kind of clearance that would allow for much more. Really, a lot of what happens there is mundane stuff like that." Whitney didn't lie to Chloe, not exactly. He just didn't tell her that Greg - Gabe -- was taking numbers on weaponry that would be used to help fight an intergalactic war. It was entirely possible - likely, even - that Mr. Sullivan didn't know it himself. The complex was huge, and only a small part of its employees were more than peripherally involved with the Stargate. Whitney hadn't even known Chloe's father was working there.
He'd thought they had both died in the explosion he'd read about on the Smallville Ledger's website. There had been a memorial issue of the Torch as well, but Whitney had found himself unable to get through it, thinking of the brightly decorated newspaper office without its brightest resident.
"I'd tell you ---" Whitney started to say.
"But then I'd have to kill you," Chloe finished. "You know, that joke's not so funny anymore." She laughed ruefully.
"No, I don't suppose it is. Pretty freaky that we both have this 'not quite dead' thing in common."
"Strange coincidence, certainly. But after Smallville; 'freaky' is a relative term."
"You'd be surprised," Whitney told her, thinking about parasites and aliens that acted like the Gods and Goddesses from their Ancient History books. He wished he could tell her the whole truth. For now, he was just glad for the chance to get reacquainted with an old friend, and the hope for something more.
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