by zahra

For Kassie. Thanks to Lar and Hope.

I said I wasn't cheating then I began repeating I said I wasn't cheating then I began repeating The abundance of redundance flooded her head, and she said "If I'm leaving with a broken heart, you're leaving with a bleeding nose." -Jettingham 'Cheating'


Journalists are supposed to follow their noses, but Chloe cut hers off, and now her pretty face is suffering the price. Now Chloe suspects that she looks suspiciously like a mutilated pig/human hybrid gone awry. She was never an elegant crier, but she knows that pretty criers are all elaborate illusions, Hollywood tricks.

Invisible tears are all a matter of smoke and mirrors like beautiful boys who claim to love you.

So when Chloe cries, and it's all tears and snot and puffy eyes and convenient flannel for Kleenex, she doesn't care. She doesn't mind making a mess, because damnit, she has every right to make a mess. Chloe has every right to write an enormous scathing expose about what's really happening in the House of Usher.

The House of Luthor.

A house built on lies and deceit and illicit sexual escapades that Chloe is not going to think about because she never even got to second base with Clark. She thought he was shy. Maybe when she cut off her nose she also gouged out her eyes. And cut off her ears. And poisoned every rational thought that ever passed through that Teflon pan she calls a brain.

Chloe understands what the blind man saw, even now with her eyes practically swollen shut and her nose filled with the scent of hay and fabric softener diluted by sweat.

Clark needs to learn to do his laundry. He certainly needs to learn about cleanliness and godliness and not lying.

Chloe thought he always told the truth. Some kind of the truth.

Chloe honestly thinks she couldn't smell this one coming. Not because it wasn't there, but because she refused to acknowledge its pungent stench. The scent of betrayal. Clark's loft reeks of the smell. Sweat and sex and an abundance of XY hormones permeate Chloe's senses, and the truth hits her like a story that should've been hers. A story that should've made her famous.

Except that someone else got there first.

And now Chloe's reality makes the journalist inside her head rage in full-on Daily Inquisitor mode. Her conscience howls about leads she ignored and stories she never followed up on. Chloe's mind is worse than any Editor-in-Chief could ever be about a missed deadline.

Chloe deliberately misled her reader. She deliberately misled herself. No wonder she has to give up her Pulitzer.

No wonder Clark isn't really hers.

Chloe knew from the beginning that it wasn't going to work out, and yet. And yet she still went ahead with their burgeoning relationship, she still tried to write her story. She still tried to create a story worth writing about.

Even when she knew better.

Her gut is seriously pissed off about her lack of self-preservation, her lack of journalistic integrity, about the way she deliberately muzzled her source. Even when she knew the truth, even when she saw it with her own eyes.

Clark and Lex in the Talon. Clark and Lex at the Beanery. Clark and Lex, Lex and Clark.

Chloe's brain is buzzing and shrieking like the newsroom of the Daily Planet on the day she went in for her internship interview, and yet, it's kind of comforting. In that white noise to block out the pain way, in that better the devil she knows way.

The devil looks better in black and purple than red. She has to give credit to his tailor. She also has to give credit to herself.

People have to be willing to be deceived.

Chloe knows that she was willing to be deceived, but she's not willing to be anybody's beard.

She's not going to hang around in the outfield while the home team steals all the bases. She's not a part of the 1919 White Sox.

She is Chloe Marie Sullivan, and someday she'll find someone who isn't psychotic or in the smallest closet in Kansas. Someday she'll find someone who's willing to be honest with her, like Pete, only with the sexual attraction thing happening.

She'll be someone's first choice, someday. She's that good, she's better than that. She's better than sobs and sniffles and stupid stupid stupid copies of letters that Clark wrote to Lex and left in the loft.

Clark will never be a journalist; he doesn't have that necessary self-preservation instinct, despite living in Smallville. All Clark had was dumb luck; all he has now is Lex Luthor.

Chloe would rather have the dumb luck.

Chloe would rather have been dumb... but she's not.

Chloe's not dumb, she's not deaf, and sadly enough she's not blind either. Chloe is in full possession of all her capabilities, including her sense of self. Including her sense of being better, stronger, than two boys who'll lie to anyone just because they don't trust enough to try to tell the truth.

At least Chloe never lied.

She'll get through this, not because she doesn't care, but because she does care. Because she cares enough to be angry and feel used and raw. Chloe will survive because she'll hurt and then she'll get over it. Chloe will survive because that's what she does; it will be what she has to do for the rest of her life.

Journalists are meant to be unbiased. Journalists are meant to be jaded.

So just because she pities Clark, doesn't mean she can't hate him. It doesn't mean that she doesn't want him to pay. Chloe will get through this because there has to be a life for her after Clark Kent. She knows there was life before him, so it stands to reason that there's going to be life after him.

Or there will be as soon as she can figure out how she's going to react. What she's going to do to him now that he's standing at the top of the stairs looking at her like she just spontaneously cloned.

A good journalist always thinks on her feet. A good journalist never has time for second-guessing or doubting or anything like regret.

Chloe doesn't regret any of her time with Clark because she's learned from it, she's still learning from it. She doesn't regret their first kiss in the eighth grade or going to the dance with him, even though he just left her to go save Lana.

Lana, who as it turns out, wasn't even her real competition.

Not that she never had her suspicions, but Chloe is suspicious by nature. She thinks that the mailman pinches her Newsweek magazine and that's why it's always late for delivery.

Even now, although her face feels a bit twisted, Chloe thinks there's something suspicious like relief happening. She's always known that when she doesn't listen to her intuition she only has herself to blame for the outcome. So she doesn't regret learning the truth about Clark and Lex from some piddling excuse for a love letter, and she doesn't regret that she's going to make Clark hurt for a long time because he didn't tell her.

Chloe still has some integrity, and she's got a whole lot of pride. She has more than enough that she doesn't automatically smile back when Clark tries to act concerned and worried.

Chloe still has her dignity, and it's more than enough for her to haul off and slap Clark Kent for all of his lies.


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