by victoria p.
She knew it was Clark by the way the doorbell rang. Three times in quick succession. Their signal.
She opened the door and leaned on it, still not fully awake and certainly not ready for his puppy-dog-face and energy. She yawned.
He pushed past her into the house, practically vibrating with good cheer.
"Lana said yes." He grabbed her shoulders and swung her around effortlessly. "Chloe, she said yes!"
Chloe swallowed hard, the nausea rising not because of the spinning -- though that wasn't helping -- but because of his news.
"Lana said yes to what?" she asked, hoping desperately that it was to something other than a date with Clark.
"A date. With me! Wednesday night." He dragged her over to the couch and they sat. Well, Chloe sat. Clark bounced almost uncontrollably. "Can you believe it? Finally?"
"Uh--" What to say to that? That she'd been hoping against hope (and what did that expression mean, anyway? She shook her head. <Focus, Chloe, focus.> ) "Yes?"
Lana would have to be dumb as a stump to say no, and while Chloe had had her doubts about Lana's intelligence in the past, she'd known it was only a matter of time before she saw the glory that was Clark, begging to worship her, right under her nose.
"You were totally right about waiting. I mean, if I had asked her out right after she broke up with Whitney, *I'd* have been the rebound guy instead of Chris." Chloe nodded, her lips pressed tightly together. She had hoped that convincing Clark to hold off would increase her own chances of winning him away from his princess, but apparently not. "Since your advice has been good so far, I figured you could help me plan the date."
She stifled a groan. What bothered her, more than any of this, was that he knew. He'd always known. And if the last few months had been any indication, he didn't care. Didn't get it. Didn't realize how every comment, every request for help with Lana had caused another little piece of Chloe's heart to wither.
Oh, she'd met other guys; even gone out with one who *wasn't* a candidate for the Wall of Weird. She wasn't pathetic, pining for what she couldn't have.
Except she was.
Oh God, she wanted him to leave now. She wanted to turn back time ten minutes, so she was still warm and asleep, unaware of the doom that was rapidly approaching. <Christ, Chloe, get hold of yourself and can the melodrama.>
"You want me to help you plan your date with Lana?" That came out relatively level. He nodded, all eager puppy again. "Why not ask Lex? I'm sure he knows what will impress a girl."
"Ah, Lex doesn't, uh, he doesn't think dating Lana is a good idea."
<Score one for Lex.> "Why not?"
Clark shrugged. "He said something about not knowing what was good for me."
<And maybe something about not seeing what's right under your nose?> she thought, but didn't say. Lex knew. Lex had his own Clark issues to deal with. The only good part about that was that Clark was completely unaware of how not-brotherly Lex's feelings were. No, Clark's whole being was focused on Lana. She caught her breath at the idea of having that directed at herself, and then shook her head.
She remembered how he'd been, right before they got the news about Whitney's dad. And then at the funeral. God. He and Lana had stared at each other in the rain, and it was like no one else existed. It wasn't the first time she'd realized she was nothing but a consolation prize to Clark, and it wouldn't be the last. She just wondered how long she'd be willing to take it from him.
"I see," was all she allowed, for once not saying everything that ran through her head.
"How long will it take you to get ready?"
<I don't think I'll ever be ready for the Clark-n-Lana Forever Show.> "Get ready for what?"
He bounced up and began pacing. "For shopping. I need to get her a gift. And we can pick out a restaurant. Lex wouldn't lend me his _Zagat's_."
She blinked. Clark knew -- "You know what _Zagat's_ is?" she blurted.
"Of course. My mom lived in Metropolis before she married my dad. She made a few suggestions, but one, I don't know if any of these places still exist, and two, they might be a little out of my price range. So I figured we could get online and pick out a place. You've become pretty close with Lana." <Know your enemy.> But really, she couldn't hate Lana, even though she wanted to. The girl was too... innocuous, too vapid to hate. "You know what she likes."
"After we shop for gift." <This isn't happening.> Maybe if she kept telling herself that, it would turn out to be true. They were in Kansas after all. Maybe if she clicked her heels and wished...
<No way in hell.> The thought must have shown on her face, because the next thing she knew, he was down on his knees in front of her, both of his large, warm hands cradling one of her little, cold ones. And hadn't this scenario come up a time or two in her fantasies?
Of course, there were far fewer clothes involved then, and certainly nothing to do with Lana.
"Chloe, please? I need your help." The way he looked at her, green eyes so wide and clear and so damned hopeful, his thumb making lazy circles on the back of her hand. She was a goner.
"'I'm just a girl who can't say no,'" she muttered, pushing his hair out of his eyes. "Give me a few minutes to get dressed."
Half an hour later, they were walking down Main Street.
Three hours of shopping with Clark -- shopping for Lana -- had left Chloe wilted and aching. Clark, of course, was still bouncing around like Tigger. It took all the self-control Chloe had not to smack him. Repeatedly.
He bounced onto her bed and looked at her with that smile, the one that never failed to make her want to write poetry instead of exposs, and she melted. Again.
Slipping onto the bed next to him, computer on her lap, she leaned her head on his shoulder as they waited for the browser to open. He put an arm around her, and she could almost believe that they were a couple, that this was more than "just friends," as they surfed the web looking for affordable yet classy restaurants in Metropolis.
Clark's hand covered hers as she worked the touchpad, sending frissons of pleasure down her spine.
When they accidentally clicked on a pop up ad featuring a woman with obviously artificial breasts and stoplight red hair, she said, "Maybe I should dye my hair that color."
"Maybe I should dye my hair red like that. Or maybe Scully-red. Do you think I'd look good with that color hair, Clark?" She cocked her head and met his surprised green gaze.
His hand brushed the hair off her face, much as she'd done to him earlier. "No."
"Oh." She dropped her eyes, bit her lip. "You know, you don't always have to tell the truth, Clark."
"I meant, jeez, Chloe. I meant you don't have to dye your hair. You look great." His thumb traced the arch of her cheek and she held her breath. "You're beautiful just the way you are, Chloe. Don't let anyone tell you different."
He leaned in, and it was so easy. That lush mouth was right there. All she had to do was raise her chin and she was kissing him. She was kissing Clark.
His mouth opened over hers and she immediately granted his tongue access. She could taste the sweet coffee/chocolate blend of the mochaccino he'd had at the Beanery (she'd refused to go into the Talon. No sense in giving the competition a heads up.) and a sweetness that was simply Clark.
His hands cupped her face and his long fingers massaged her temples as they kissed.
Her whole world narrowed to his lips and tongue.
She was floating.
She was kissing Clark.
It was everything she'd dreamed of since eighth grade, and more.
And then he pulled away.
He swallowed, those full lips swollen and stained with her lipstick (hers, not Lana's, the competitive part of her crowed) quivered, and she waited for it, waited for those lips to say it.
To shatter her heart once and for all.
"I-- you -- Chloe--"
This time, he kissed her, pressing her back against the bed. He had enough presence of mind to put the laptop gently on the floor, all without breaking the kiss. Later on, she would be glad, because if it had been left up to her, it could have gone crashing to the floor and she'd never have noticed.
His hands were then occupied with sliding up under her tee shirt, over her bra. He cupped her breasts, squeezing gently, almost tentatively, and she arched into him.
This was new territory, but Chloe wasn't going to give him too much time to think, to decide it wasn't what he wanted. Following his example, she yanked his shirt out of his pants and slid her hands beneath it, reveling in the play of hard muscle under silky skin against the pads of her fingers.
Chloe didn't break the kiss until she thought she would die from lack of oxygen. She inhaled, thinking the air was sweeter with the taste of Clark in her mouth. His lips traced her jawline up to the sensitive flesh beneath her ear. His hands continued to tease her nipples and she clutched his shoulders.
"Don't stop," she whispered before grabbing his face and pulling him back to her for another soul-stirring kiss.
"Chloe," he murmured when she let him go. His hands tugged at the hem of her shirt and she pulled it over her head, flinging it away with abandon.
This time his lips headed south along her neck; she wiggled and let her legs part so he could lie between them.
"Clark." A breath, no more.
Time stood still, or some other clich she'd laughed at whenever reading one of the cheesy romances her mother had favored.
When Clark raised his head from nuzzling her breasts (and how had he gotten her bra off? She didn't recall that but everything -- the whole afternoon -- was glazed with desire), she looked into those hypnotic green eyes and said, "You're going to tell Lana, right?"
"Yeah," he said, dipping his head to suckle at her breast again.
She pulled his hair, raising his eyes to hers again. "Promise me," she begged.
"I promise," he muttered, then returned his attention to her nipples.
She let him, telling herself it would all work out, that for once, she wasn't going to get the fuzzy end of the lollipop.
When Chloe woke the next morning, she rushed to the mirror.
Sure enough, Clark had left a nice-sized hickey on her clavicle. While she'd heard other girls express annoyance at the marks their boyfriends sometimes left, she couldn't complain. The bruise was proof that yesterday hadn't been a crazy dream.
She floated through her morning routine, humming something appropriately sappy that she would deny knowing if asked.
"Chloe," her dad called.
"Be right down." She put the last touches on her makeup, ensuring the hickey was well-covered.
Smiling, she made her way downstairs.
And saw Lana sitting in the kitchen.
"Lana." She took a deep breath. <Calm down. She doesn't know anything. Yet.> "What's up?"
"I figured you probably helped Clark pick out where we're going tomorrow night, and I was hoping you'd spill. Clark wouldn't tell me anything."
"You spoke with him?" Chloe asked, her happiness evaporating.
"This morning. He was very mysterious about the whole thing."
"Uh, I said I wouldn't tell," Chloe replied, thinking, <He promised. Just give him a chance.>
"There's a free half-caf mocha latte in it for you," Lana teased. She seemed to sparkle in the morning sunshine.
Chloe felt like throwing up.
"I really can't say--" Chloe began, when the doorbell rang. Three times in quick succession.
He walked into the kitchen a few seconds later, followed by her father.
"Thanks, Mr. Sullivan."
"No problem, Clark. You kids sure get up early these days. Back when I used to get summer vacation, we slept as late as we could. But you don't want to hear about the 'olden days.'" He picked up his briefcase and dropped a kiss on Chloe's forehead. "I'll be late tonight, honey."
"I'll keep a plate warm," Chloe replied faintly, feeling the room recede as Clark and Lana whispered, their dark heads bent together secretively.
"Well, I guess I better get going, too. The Talon doesn't open itself," Lana said brightly after Mr. Sullivan had left. She turned at the door, smiling. "Remember what I said, Chloe. I know how you love your mocha lattes."
"I'll go with you," Clark said, hurrying to her side, all the while avoiding Chloe's eyes. "See you later, Chloe."
"Yeah," she said, willing herself not to cry until they were gone.
She didn't see him again until late in the afternoon. She'd staked out his loft in the barn.
He jumped, startled. "Chloe! Jeez, you scared me half to death."
"So how did it go?"
"How did what go?" he asked, moving past her to look into the eyepiece of his telescope.
"Clark," she warned.
"I -- I couldn't do it, Chloe."
She grabbed the telescope and pushed it aside. "What do you mean, 'you couldn't do it'?"
"I just -- she--"
"Clark, you promised!" Her voice broke on the last word, and he finally met her eyes.
"I know. I just -- Chloe, I've been waiting a long time to be with her. She was the first girl I ever really liked. And now she wants to be with me. I don't, I'm not ready to give that up."
"So what was yesterday?" Chloe could feel herself becoming hysterical. Her hands moved of their own volition. They didn't feel like part of her body as they flapped around, emphasizing her words. "Practice? A joke? What?"
He put his hands on her shoulders; he shook her lightly. "Chloe, calm down."
He leaned down to kiss her, and she let him. He pulled her flush against his body and she wound her arms around his neck, fingers tangling in the silk of his hair.
She was almost lost in the sensation when a lone tear trickled down her cheek, leaving the taste of salt on her lips.
She pulled away, wiping her eyes and then her lips. She knew that kiss was goodbye.
"I'm not your consolation prize, Clark. Pick her or pick me, but pick someone."
"Chloe, I'm sorry. I think I'm in love with her."
She inhaled, feeling like something sharp had been inserted into her lungs. She couldn't get enough air, and this time, the feeling made her sick.
"Chloe, you're one of my best friends. I love you. I do. But I've wanted Lana for so long. Do you know what that's like? To want something so much, and then to finally get it?"
She stared at him, mouth agape. She wanted to rant and scream. <Of course, I know, you idiot!> But she didn't, couldn't speak.
He just kept talking. She could see his mouth moving, but the sounds made no sense.
She raised a hand. "I don't want to hear it."
She fled from the barn, fumbling for her car keys. She had to get out, away from him.
"Chloe!" he shouted after her.
She drove as far as she could, pulling over when tears clouded her vision. Yesterday's events taunted her. She knew now that it had been nothing more than an experiment. Or maybe just teenage hormones raging out of control.
She rested her head against the steering wheel, wondering how she was going to survive watching the guy she loved with another girl.
Finally, she wiped her eyes and took a deep breath. She could do this. She was Chloe Sullivan, intrepid reporter. She fixed her lipstick and fluffed her hair.
And that day, Chloe Sullivan resolved that no one would ever play her for a fool again.
Also, why not join Level Three, the Smallville all-fic list?