Disclaimer: Characters owned by the WB and DC Comics Thanks: SullivanLane, H20girl, Valentine Michel Smith for the beta'ing. hugses
A cloud of dust slowly moved down the lane toward the Kent farm. It rolled past the Henderson and Potter farms, sending swirls of dust-laden air into the bright blue summer sky, before coming to a halt at the end of the Kents' driveway. The object producing said dust cloud stopped in front of the mailbox and sat there idling. It was Chloe Sullivan's old red Ford.
As it idled in front of the mailbox, its big engine purring as if it were a giant cat, the old car seemed to take the time to catch its breath from the long drive out from town. Chloe had a great deal of affection for the old girl, which Pete and Clark had long ago dubbed "Chloe's Little Red Mystery Machine." Her father had lovingly restored it, and presented it to Chloe on her sixteenth birthday. It had survived countless adventures, an endless array of natural disasters, and every dose of weirdness Smallville, Kansas could throw at it. Sure, it conked out on her a few times, and got horrible gas mileage, but nine times out of ten it started without fail and took Chloe where she wanted to go. She would miss it. She would miss a lot of things.
Lex had said it best, before he finally left for Metropolis. Chloe interviewed him after he sold the Talon. She had joked about him slumming, as the week before he'd been on the cover of Forbes, but Lex had taken her very seriously. No matter what her personal opinions regarding his business practices, Chloe respected his professionalism. When she had leaned forward and turned off the tape recorder, she had been surprised at his honesty as he laid a hand upon hers and looked into her eyes.
"Can't you feel it, Chloe?" he'd asked softly. "It's the end of an era."
And so it was.
"We skipped the light fandango, turned cartwheels across the floor..." she sang softly. "And so it was..."
She stopped abruptly, sighed, and turned the car into the driveway.
Lex was gone. Chloe had seen Pete off just last week, and despite telling herself she would not do it, she had cried her eyes out as she watched the moving van pull out onto the highway taking Pete and his family all the way to Washington D.C. She'd waved, smiling, until Pete no longer looked back at her, and then she'd burst into tears. She clung to Clark, sobbing into his shoulder, until she had him sniffling, too. An attempt to console each other over coffee later had ended up in a spat, and Chloe went home feeling worse rather than better.
Gabe took over then, making her laugh with a funny story. They'd sat on the porch and talked, but eventually Chloe broke down again. She missed Pete, and the fight with Clark had only proven to her how much she'd come to rely on him to run interference. Since their attempt to "date" had failed, she and Clark had lost something of what they'd had before. With Pete around, the gap was bridged; without him, the chasm loomed wide open between them. They were simply no longer comfortable alone together. Chloe needed Clark. She still loved him with all her heart, and without Pete, she could no longer get near him.
"Why?" Gabe had asked her, as she made her confession.
"I don't know, Daddy!" she'd replied, frustrated. "I e-mailed Lana, after she left, and asked her what happened. She wouldn't say anything beyond the fact their breakup was mutual. I know better, because I was there that night. I went outside just as they were leaving, and I saw Lana crying. So did several other people. Daddy, Lana doesn't cry easily, and certainly not in public. When I heard the next day they had broken up, I just knew Clark had dumped her."
Her own tears had begun anew, and Gabe pulled her close. "Honey...."
"I know how he felt about Lana. If he pushed her away, what hope do I have? I needed Pete around just to feel comfortable with him. Now Pete and Lana are gone, and Clark and I can't be alone together without getting into a fight over something stupid, like today's blow-up."
They had ended up fighting over who was going to pay for the coffee. Clark insisted he would, since it had been his idea in the first place, and Chloe, knowing the financial problems the Kents were facing, refused. Clark needed every red cent he could get his hands on, and Chloe wasn't about to let him pay for her rather expensive mocha latte. In her utter frustration at his hard-headed stubbornness, she'd let it slip that she knew about the trouble. Clark had been infuriated. He'd accused her of snooping in his personal business, slammed his money down on the table anyway, and stormed out of the Talon. He hadn't spoken to her since.
Gabe had consoled her as best he could, but she'd moped around the house for weeks until now, just a few days before she was to leave for Metropolis. She'd discovered Clark had withdrawn from school, postponing his entry until the winter quarter. Chloe would be the last of their "gang" to go, leaving Clark the sole beneficiary of their memories, leaving Clark all alone. There would be no way Chloe could leave him without making her peace. She knew how she would feel if she had to stay behind, so she had cranked up the Little Red Mystery Machine, and set out toward the Kent Farm.
The majority of the problems the Kents faced this year were directly related to the weather. After a long, wet spring, summer had come upon Kansas with blistering heat, a lot of humidity, and very little actual precipitation. The moisture was up there, but it absolutely refused to fall in the state of Kansas. Planting was late, and the sweet corn and vegetables the Kents relied upon as their biggest cash crops were struggling from the lack of water. Their irrigation allotment was meager, with the statewide restrictions in place. It would not be nearly enough to meet the needs of the corn during its reproductive stage and if the corn could not produce, the entire crop would be lost.
Chloe knew about the financial struggles from two sources. One was her own common sense. Jonathan Kent had been diagnosed with severe hypertension the previous fall when he'd suffered a mild stroke. He recovered, but Chloe knew he could no longer work as he had before, and she knew they'd had to take out a second mortgage to pay for the hospital bills and his daily medication. Her second source of information was Lex Luthor, who had informed her he'd purchased not only the last of the Potter land when Nell and Lana moved, but several hundred acres of the Kent property along its border. Only dire straits would have forced the Kents to sell any part of the farm, especially to Lex.
It was dire.
Pulling up into the barnyard, Chloe could make out the few cows grazing in the big paddock beyond the barn. They were piteously thin, and they kicked up clouds of dust as they shuffled about eating the sun scorched remnants of a once rich, green field of grass. Now it was brown and wilted, and held very little nutrition for them. Chloe had no doubt they were giving very little milk, and thus, very little profit. Beyond them, the fields of corn were faded ghosts of the brilliant sea of green and gold they should have been by this time of the year. The air around them was filled with a thick haze created by the dust and the lack of a breeze, and it rippled with the baking heat of the sun beating down from the sky. It needed to rain, and soon.
Martha Kent stood on the lawn with a basket of laundry and a mouth full of clothespins. The Kents had no air conditioner, and using the dryer in the heat would not only cost money, but add to the stifling hot air inside the house. Martha was hanging the family's clothes and linens out to dry the old-fashioned way: on a clothesline stretched between the corner of the house and a large tree out in the yard. Chloe smiled at her, and she nodded toward the barn. She couldn't speak for the clothespins, but the nod was all Chloe needed. Clark was in the loft.
Chloe was dressed in pedal pushers and a tank top and was about as hot as she'd ever been in her life. Her car, like the Kents' house, had no air conditioner. Driving it in the summer was difficult, and driving it in a summer wherein there existed absolutely no breeze and the air lay hot and thick all around, was sheer torture. She did not expect it to be much cooler inside the barn, particularly up in the eaves of Clark's loft, but at least it would be out of the sun. She did not hurry; any sort of hurrying in the heat would be foolish, but she did lengthen her stride at the thought of getting some sort of shelter from the sun and the dust.
A breath of cool air struck her dumb just inside the door. She hastily shut the door behind her, and waited for her eyes to adjust to the radical change in the light, while pondering the just as radical change in temperature. The air inside the barn was actually cool enough to raise goose pimples on Chloe's arms as her hot skin reacted to the sudden plunge in the mercury. How the barn came to be so cool was unfathomable. Chloe listened, but she heard only silence and not the telltale thrum of a running air conditioner.
Clark was standing directly in front of her in the middle of the barn floor. He had his eyes closed, obviously he had not heard her enter, and she closed her mouth upon her greeting as she stopped to look at him. The last time she'd seen Clark thus attired, in jeans and a plain white t-shirt, he had made her the happiest girl on earth by asking her to her first high school formal. The memory of that day was so fresh in her mind it could have happened recently instead of nearly four years previous. She could still recall the scent of him as he'd embraced her, and hear her own heart beat pounding hard within her chest as she'd realized he was finally going to acknowledge her. He chose her.
Out of default.
Chloe sighed, but she still said nothing, because she was curious as to just what in the hell Clark was doing. Tai chi?
He was breathing very steadily, drawing each breath carefully and deeply as if meditating. He rolled his shoulders, and slowly lifted his arms from his sides until they were parallel to the floor in the shape of the letter "T." He stood motionless, but the sense of impending action was palatable. Something was going to happen, Chloe could feel it, and she found herself holding her breath as she watched Clark inhale deeply one more time....
And rise from the floor.
Chloe clapped a hand over her mouth and ducked behind a stack of baled hay. She'd apparently walked through the barn door into the Twilight Zone, and there had been no warning signs posted. All her close encounters with Wall of Weirdness did not prepare her for having her best friend be "One of Them." Clark was floating. That hit way too close to home.
"Heat stroke can cause hallucinations," she whispered to herself, and peered around the edge of her hiding place.
Clark was still standing there with about three feet between his boots and the floor. His eyes were still closed, and his movements were still slow and deliberate as if he performed some sort of Eastern meditative art. As Chloe watched, he moved his hands forward and up, and as if possessing some sort of invisible axis through the middle, his body slowly pitched forward. His feet rose, and his head and arms dipped down toward the floor. He ended up stretched out in the air with his entire body parallel to the floor and his arms reaching out before him, floating serenely in mid-air. His hands were flat, palms down, and they made tiny movements to steady his balance as he tilted back and forth unsteadily. It reminded Chloe of the "Speeder Bikes" from Star Wars, with their forward-facing rudders.
She withdrew a bit as he opened his eyes. After a moment of steadying himself, he raised his head, and peered carefully over one bicep to assess his position. Chloe's mind was speeding along at over ninety miles per minute - babbling incoherently at her. She wanted to leap out and immediately start asking questions, but at the same time she really wanted to see what he would do next, if anything. It was not the first or the last argument Chloe Sullivan would have with herself, but it was one of the shortest when she settled upon a compromise.
She cleared her throat.
Like a startled deer, Clark jerked his head up toward her. The shocked expression on his face was short lived, for his jerky movement completely ruined his delicate balancing act. He wavered for an instant, struggling against gravity and his sudden unbalanced state, before flipping completely over on to his back and falling to the floor with a reverberating crash. Chloe could feel it through the bottoms of her sneakered feet, and she winced. It had to have hurt.
Removing herself from her cover, she walked over to him and stood looking down at him with her hands on her hips. He stared up at her from the floor looking somewhat embarrassed, as if she'd caught him masturbating.
"I'm seriously doubting my ability to pursue a career in journalism," she said.
"Why?" he asked carefully, not moving.
"Because of my complete inability to see what's under my own nose. I always thought you deserved the Myopic Self-Involvement Award. I guess I've been more blind than you ever were. You overlook your best friend having a crush on you for years, and I overlook my best friend being a Meteorite Mutant. This explains quite a few unsolved mysteries I've been shuffling around for a while, too. I'm going to assume imitating a hovercraft isn't the only thing you can do?"
Clark scowled. "Where's your camera, Chloe? I wouldn't want you to miss an opportunity to add to your new and improved college era Wall of Weird."
Chloe stiffened. "That's not fair, Clark." she said quietly. "I can't believe you think I would do that to you."
He got up off the floor and stomped up the stairs into the loft.
"Oh, sure," she said, pursuing him. "Run away, Clark, like you always do. Don't confront the problem, hide from it."
Oh, great, Chloe, she thought. Piss him off, as if you aren't well aware that previous encounters with meteorite mutants ended up with you as homicide fodder.
He surprised her by reappearing directly in front of her just as she reached the stairs. She'd not seen him descend again. His abrupt appearance right under her nose forced her to back up a step.
"Run away?" he demanded. "Oh, I'd love to, Chloe. I'd love to chuck everything and run off to some far corner of the world, but here's another scoop for you that you've been oblivious to: I never run away from anything; I can't."
"What about Lana?" she shot back, and immediately gave herself a mental kick in the pants for it.
At first he appeared stunned, and then infuriated, which Chloe did not find surprising. "Lana is none of your business," he said coldly, and vanished.
Chloe blinked. What the hell?
She heard his footsteps in the loft above, and cautiously continued up the stairs, entering the loft to find him standing near the window. It was closed, and the telescope was conspicuously absent.
"Why don't you start at the beginning," she said quietly, "and make me understand what's going on here, okay?"
"Don't patronize me, Chloe."
"Oh, for the love of God, Clark! So we've established that the meteorites have given you the ability to float, turn invisible, and be mightily pissed off. What else can you do? You might as well tell me before you pull a Manson trip and try to kill me."
Even as she said it, her heart was pounding. She was, in truth, extremely frightened. Although she suspected Clark had been hiding some secrets for a very long time, she was not completely convinced this new twist was part of them, or that he would not turn violent with her and hurt her. He had saved her from meteorite mutants before, but perhaps that had been prior to becoming one himself, and that was what Chloe realized had to have happened. She could come up with no other explanation for his "floating" above the floor.
"You've got it all wrong," he said, making her wonder if he weren't psychic, too.
"That's the damn point," she shot back. "Why don't you put a curb on your Power of Irrational Fury and explain it to me." She paused, and inhaled deeply, curbing her own anger. "Clark," she said finally. "I know you're having a rough time right now. I know how much the breakup with Lana hurt you, and I'm sorry I brought it up. I just want to be a good friend and give you a hand with this, okay? No ulterior motives involved. I just want to understand what's going on here."
She could see the set of his shoulders start to relax as he turned to look at her, and the anger started to ease from his features, leaving behind an expression of profound unhappiness. He looked extremely tired, which was not surprising since he was virtually running the farm single-handed. He also looked much older than eighteen. It gave Chloe a start, reminding her that in a few days she would be moving on, taking another step toward adulthood. How much they had changed since the age of thirteen, when Chloe had given him a kiss on the cheek in this very loft and said: "Let's get it over with so we can be friends."
"I'm not going to kill you," he replied. "I wasn't mutated by meteor rocks."
"Well that's a relief, I suppose. Male PMS?"
"No." Clark's smile flickered across his face, quickly fading, but it had been there and that was what Chloe had been trying to accomplish. "Maybe you should sit down."
She raised an eyebrow. "You know, those are not words with which to inspire confidence."
"Just sit down, Chloe."
Chloe turned around, looking for a place to sit, and decided on the steamer trunk he used as a coffee table. The metal straps around it were cool against her bare calves as she dangled her legs against the sides, causing her to wonder yet again how it could be so comfortably cool in the loft when the window was tightly shut and there was no air conditioning.
Clark sighed. "I'm not a meteor mutant," he repeated. "Because the meteorites only cause mutations in humans. Since I'm not human..." He made a little gesture with his hands, and looked at Chloe intently. "Get the picture?"
She took this in, contemplated it for a moment, and spat it back out at him. "What? How can you not be human?"
"Do you want that in scientific terms or layman? I'm not human because I'm not from this planet."
"I think the heat has gotten to both of us. You're telling me you're an - alien?"
He nodded, and picked idly at his cuticles. "The meteor shower was a result of an explosion that destroyed my home planet. I came with them. Mom and Dad found me when the ship I was in nearly hit their truck, and they just kept me." He shrugged. "Intergalactic Moses I guess, without the penchant for writing commandments and parting seas."
Chloe let her breath out in a little laugh. "If you were Pete telling me this story, I'd say you were full of fertilizer." Clark chuckled at her choice of words. "But since it's you, not to mention the fact I just saw you not just defying, but raping and murdering the laws of gravity, I am leaning toward believing you. I suppose you also have some sort of physical evidence to support this theory?"
"There's a spaceship in the storm cellar," he stated casually, looking up from his nails to meet her gaze.
She stared at him for a long moment, and she saw that he was absolutely not kidding. "Holy shit, you're serious!" She jumped off the trunk. "Clark! This - this is what you've been hiding? This is the answer to the mystery that is Clark Kent?"
"Yeah. I have - abilities - that aren't exactly - normal."
Pacing, Chloe bit her lip. "So you have some sort of inhuman power? That's how you were always able to challenge the creeps and make the saves! Oh, my god, it all makes sense now! The subterfuge, the mysterious disappearances...." She stopped. "I am so stupid!"
Clark smiled somewhat sheepishly "I wouldn't say you were stupid, Chloe, but I think we're tied for your Myopic Self-Involvement Award."
"Who else knows?"
"My parents, of course, and...." He trailed off, and sighed. "I told Lana the night we broke up."
Chloe tried not to let the hurt she felt show, knowing it was petty and understanding why he'd chosen to confide in Lana first. Lana had been the one he had chosen to share his heart, and being such, it was only correct that he share with her his confidence. It still hurt. It ached and burned in Chloe's chest. He might not have ever confided in her had she not caught him being "alien." He hadn't trusted her enough.
His pain, however, was a mirror of her own. "Is that what caused the breakup?" She asked softly. "When you told her?"
Clark didn't speak for a moment, but stood with his mouth half open, struggling to find the words he really didn't seem to want to say. "More or less," he whispered. "I had to tell her the truth, Chloe. I had to let her understand what she would be taking on if she accepted me."
Chloe frowned. "Accepted you?"
He nodded. "I proposed, the night of the prom. A long engagement, of course, until we were out of school, but - I asked her to marry me."
Chloe was stunned, and again, despite the fact she could not see marriage in her immediate future, she felt a twinge of jealousy. He had proposed? She would have never in a million years believed he and Lana had become that close. Apparently they had, because in simply recalling the event, Clark looked as if he'd had his soul ripped out of his chest. With regards to Lana, Chloe had seen the look on her face that night, when she'd run from the parking lot in tears. Chloe knew heartbreak when she saw it.
She often saw it in the mirror.
"She turned you down?"
"Not right away." Looking away from her, Clark lowered his eyes and resumed nervously picking at his nails. "We talked for a long time, about how it would affect us and our future together. We talked about responsibility and atonement. She doesn't hold me responsible for her parents' death, though I think I always will." He snorted softly, and fell silent for a moment, struggling again. When he continued, his voice was rough. "It just - we just - decided in the end that it wouldn't work, and she told me she would have to say no." He paused, and his words became nearly inaudible. "She said no, Chloe."
She gave him some room for a moment, and then, feeling unable to stand herself any longer, she went to him. Unsure as to how he would take it, she hesitantly put a hand to his shoulder, rubbing it gently as she looked up at him. The conflict in his features was clear, but Chloe made it clear to him she would bear him no ill, and he finally broke down into her embrace. Their mismatched heights made it awkward but she held on, hugging him as tightly as she could, trying to hold back her own tears because she couldn't make it worse for him.
Chloe now understood that his anger had not been directed toward her at all, but toward himself and his own helplessness. He could not change what he was, or give away the gifts he'd been given, and none of it could help him in any way. He couldn't make his relationship with Lana work. He could not prevent his father's failing health, or resolve the financial straits of the family farm. Everything was falling apart on him, and Clark could do nothing to stop it.
Eventually he disentangled their arms and stood back, but he kept one of her hands in his, almost as if he were afraid to let go and lose her as well. "Chloe, I loved her. I really did," he managed shakily, raising a hand to wipe his eyes. "I thought she would understand."
"I'll never forget her. I can't..."
"I know," Chloe whispered, and they stood in silence for several minutes.
"I'm sorry," he said finally, chuckling a little, but without much humor. "Aren't aliens supposed to be more dignified? Klaatu barada nikto and that sort of thing?"
"Not really," Chloe replied quietly. "E.T. dressed in women's clothes and watched `Sesame Street.' I'd say crying because the girl of your dreams has broken your heart is more dignified than that." She looked up at him. "Just proves you have a heart."
This time his laugh was genuine. "It doesn't glow though."
"Ah, well, I'm terribly disappointed, Clark. I have a dead geranium that needs attention." Her eyes narrowed. "Unless you can bring back dead plants."
"If I could do that, our crops wouldn't be dying," he said miserably.
Chloe winced, and bit her lip. She pulled away from him and looked up into his face sympathetically. "I'm sorry."
He shrugged, glanced at her, and then turned his gaze to the floor. "It means a lot to me that you aren't freaking out about this." He sighed. "It's not every day you find out your best friend isn't human."
She laughed then, hiding the fact she was near tears herself. "I'm just glad you still consider me your best friend. Lately we haven't exactly been setting congeniality records together." She gave the hand she still held a squeeze, interrupting him before he could apologize. "It's okay, Clark. Now that you've told me what's been going on in your head, I understand. I just wish you'd confided in me sooner."
"I should have," he admitted.
"Of course I haven't exactly been making it easy on you either." It was Chloe's turn to shrug.
His head came up, and he met her gaze unwaveringly. He said nothing, not quite sure what he should say, and Chloe watched him carefully. He might as well know how she felt, now that she was leaving him in only a few short days. She had never stopped being in love with him, throughout their breakup and his dating Lana, and the subsequent tension that plagued their friendship because of it.
His voice was a whisper. "Even now?"
"Even now, Clark. Especially now."
It was too much, she knew it as she had said it. They both realized what Chloe wanted to say but couldn't. She wanted to be with him, but they had tried, and failed, and his wounds from Lana's departure from his life were still too raw. What was between the two of them could not be discussed.
Chloe cleared her throat, and broke the moment.
"What you are doesn't change who you are." She touched his chest and smiled broadly. "Right - here."
Slowly, the grin that had so captivated Chloe from the first day she'd seen it, spread over his face, and he leaned over to kiss her lightly on the cheek. "I've been such an ass to you lately, Chloe. I don't know why you stick with me."
"Because you're cute," she said brightly, trying not to cry again. "I'm telling you, if you could market the Kent Charm you would have quite a lucrative business. Of course, " she added, "it could be limited to space aliens and have no effect whatsoever should a normal human male attempt to reproduce it."
Clark grew serious. "Like some sort of alien pheromone?"
"Clark, I'm kidding." Chloe laughed, and let go of his hand, returning to plop down on the steamer trunk once again. This time she grew serious, and she watched him move to lean back against the railing with his arms crossed over his chest. "I'm going to miss you. I heard you postponed starting school."
Clark nodded. "I'm going to miss you, too, but I have to stay here at least until Christmas. Dad can't work the farm like he used to, and if everything fails I'm probably going to have to get a job for a while to make up for the financial losses." He sighed. "And even that won't pull us out of the fire completely. It has to rain!"
"The forecast says it's not going to any time soon," Chloe murmured. "The moisture is up there, it just won't come down. Instead it just hangs around making everything stickier than hell. I have to peel myself out of the car." She looked up from leafing through a magazine sitting beside her. "By the way, when did you install central air in here, and whatever for? It's a barn!"
He looked at her blankly.
"Hello, Clark, it's at least twenty degrees cooler in here than it is outside. Either you have air condition hooked up, or this barn exists in a pocket dimension somewhere near Antarctica." Her eyes narrowed. "It isn't, is it?"
"No," Clark laughed. "It's not, but there isn't any A.C. either."
"Then how is it so cool in here?"
The smile was sly. "You really want to know?"
"Is it going to freak me out?" Chloe asked cautiously, raising an eyebrow.
She grinned. "I'm up for the challenge."
He pushed himself off the railing and went to her. "Give me your hand."
Chloe obeyed. She rested her hand lightly upon his outstretched palm, marveling at how tiny her hand seemed within his. Clark had beautiful hands, long-fingered, supple, and very soft-skinned for someone who worked outside on a farm. She stared at their hands together, noting the differences in the skin tone (his was slightly darker, more olive, while hers was pale and pink), and the warmth growing between them where they touched. Like pale wisps of steam rising from a warm bath, random thoughts wound around within her mind, all of them centered around Clark, and the restless longing she felt for him. She felt the warmth of his palm and suddenly she found herself wondering what it would be like to be touched by his hands in other places. Her face grew hot. She hoped to god he wasn't psychic.
At first she thought it was because she was blushing, but then she realized that the warmth of his hand was fading. The flesh beneath her palm was growing cooler, and it reminded her rather uncomfortably of her encounter with Sean Kelvin. She gazed up into his eyes, and found them distant, and rather vague. Their bright apple-green color had lightened to a pale gray-green like that of an arctic sea, furthering the illusion of coldness. It wasn't, however, an illusion. He was getting colder. Chloe was fighting the urge to withdraw her hand, and her expression became one of concern as she realized his body temperature had to be bordering upon hypothermia.
"Wait," he said.
Chloe waited, and after a moment Clark raised her hand, drawing it up toward his lips as if he were going to kiss it. Instead he blew softly. It was just a soft breath of air, much like he would have used had he been blowing soap bubbles, and it traveled up Chloe's arm, raising goose pimples along its route. Involuntarily Chloe shuddered. The air he exhaled was freezing cold, much colder than any air put out by an air conditioner, and it sent a chill throughout her body, invoking a tingling sensation along every nerve. It was exciting and rather primal in nature. To her horror she felt her nipples rise to brush uncomfortably against the cotton of her tank top, and although the breath was cold, she felt warmth between her legs.
She jerked her hand back abruptly. "Whoa!" she croaked, and cleared her throat. "How did you do that?"
He turned his head and let the rest of the breath out, and Chloe swore she could see a faint white vapor issuing from his lips. The loft grew perceptively cooler. "Biofeedback. I was goofing around with it one day and figured out I could lower my body temp to a much lower degree than a human could." His shrug was rather self deprecating. "And since I'm a lot stronger and have a greater lung capacity, I just sucked in a great big breath, cooled it down, and exhaled. I did it a few times, and it seems to keep things cool pretty well. I'm going to try it in the house next." He chuckled. "There's a product to market: Icy Halitosis."
Chloe laughed. "Just don't eat garlic and it might be a bestseller."
"I can cool it down in here, but I can't change the weather outside, that's the problem. If I could make it rain somehow...."
"I don't suppose you know any rain dances?"
"No." Clark smiled slightly, sadly. "I wish I did. I'm just strong, and fast, and pretty indestructible, but I can't make miracles."
Chloe cocked her head at him, regarding him solemnly. He was the same as he'd always been; tall, handsome, shy, and possessing a singularly unpretentious nature many people found charming. Chloe found him charming. She saw nothing odd about him, nothing alien. He was more down to earth and more human than anyone else she'd ever known, and that was much of his appeal. Clark wasn't frightening. Clark was the one who held you in the dark and protected you from the howling wolves. He was soft cotton and sweet-smelling hay. He was popcorn and a movie, and a quiet walk in the park.
And yet, Clark was so much more.
Now she knew why she had always felt something lurking beneath the surface. There had always been some indications of a much stronger, both physically and emotionally, individual within him. It was this person, this alien, that Chloe had sensed before. He was the one who staged the rescues, and miraculously managed to come out of almost every dangerous encounter unscathed. Clark kept him hidden beneath the benign veneer of an awkward Kansas farm kid, and controlled by an innate sense of right cultivated by Martha and Jonathan Kent. Chloe remembered Eric Summers, who had also developed the power of strength and invulnerability, at least temporarily, and the destruction he had wrought. The power was within Clark, too, but he kept it tame and gentle. She was not afraid of him. She could never be afraid of him.
"You forgot the Icy Halitosis and the ability to imitate a hovercraft," she murmured, and then it struck her - the solution to the lack of rain.
"Okay, well there's that, too." he laughed, but trailed off as he saw the sudden swift change in her expression. "What is it?"
"You need it to rain."
His dark brows came together. "Yeah, I do."
"What is rain?" she demanded, jumping up from her seat again and pacing frenetically back and forth in front of him. "Condensation. We need to get the humidity to cooperate with us. We need the moisture in the air to come out and fall to the ground, right?"
"Clark, I need a glass of water, ice water." She turned on him, her eyes wide and intense, and Clark, alarmed, immediately vanished.
Chloe blinked. Fast was an understatement.
He reappeared, and handed her a glass of ice water. Chloe immediately grabbed his hand and dragged him toward the stairs. "What?"
"Come on, outside," she said, and they clomped down the stairs hand in hand.
The air outside hit Chloe hard after the cool of the barn, sucking her breath from her lungs and burning her eyes. Puzzled, Clark stood beside her as she took the glass of water from him and held it into the air. Not even a minute passed before the glass began to "sweat', and beads of moisture gathered on the clear surface, running down the sides to drop off the bottom onto the ground and Chloe's outstretched arm. The sunlight sparkled off the glass and the rapidly melting ice inside.
"Look, you're Mr. Scientist. What's causing the glass to sweat?"
"The cold...." He went no further.
She looked back over her shoulder, and saw from his expression that he'd come to understand her point. Chloe lowered the glass, drank from it, and led him back into the barn. Inside she turned to face him, giving his hand a little shake. "You can cool the air, Clark, and make it rain."
He gently pulled his hand from hers. They stood together in the center of the barn while Chloe drank the water and he mulled over her statement. She could see his skepticism.
"Chloe, standing in the middle of the cornfield blowing cold air into the sky isn't going to do anything but make me sweat. All the moisture is in the upper atmosphere."
"So, that's where you go. You need to fly around in the upper atmosphere above the farm, or just west of the farm, and cool off the air. The moisture will condense, and fall to the ground as rain."
He made a wry face. "Oh, sure. That's easy. What am I supposed to do, rent a crop duster and have the pilot fly around with me hanging my head out the window like a dog in a car? I don't think so."
"Who said anything about a plane?" Chloe said quietly.
Clark stared at her, again looking rather puzzled. "The spaceship isn't that big. I was three...."
Chloe sipped at her water. "Who said anything about a spaceship?"
His mouth opened, closed, opened again. "Let's see, " he said, marking off each item on his fingers. "Strong, runs real fast, spits out cold air, X-ray vision...."
"Pink what?" Chloe demanded. Her blush returned, and she fidgeted uncomfortably. "My...."
He grinned. "Kidding." She flicked cold water at him from her glass, and he ducked away with a chuckle. "In any case, Chloe, " he concluded. "I didn't hear 'fly' mentioned in that list, did you?"
"I saw you floating three feet off the ground, Clark, what do you call that?"
"Levitation, and pretty damn difficult," he replied, deadpan.
Chloe regarded him somewhat fiercely, with the expression she adopted when she was on "assignment," and had a job to do. They had three days to experiment, and Chloe was excited about her new project. Even if the idea didn't work, it would distract Clark from his troubles, and it would keep Chloe likewise distracted. It would keep her from thinking about having to leave home.
It would also distract her from a realization she was feeling rather uncomfortable accepting.
She loved Clark, she always had, almost from the moment they'd first met. He was her friend. Briefly he had been her boyfriend. There had never been anything between them, however, more than the usual draw of friendship and adolescent puppy love. He was cute, to be sure, and she enjoyed looking at him, but in a purely aesthetic sense. Somewhere along the line things had changed. They had grown older, and on Chloe's part at least, the little love had been replaced by a deeper affection. Chloe realized she wanted more from him on many different levels, but every time she looked at him her body responded in a manner she found alarming. Hell, every time she thought of him any more, she found her mind wandering off into the gutter. She realized, much to her horror, she wanted to sleep with him.
She took a long pull from the ice water, then thrust the glass at him, trying to hide the fact that her hand was shaking. "We have three days to teach you how to fly, Clark. Meet me in Chandler's Field tonight at midnight. We'll start right away."
With that, she fled, leaving him staring after her with a stunned expression.
It was not until she was halfway home that she realized she was wearing pink underwear, and the significance of that revelation left her a little stunned.
The big blades of the windmill creaked, turning ever so slowly in a nearly nonexistent breeze, high above the weed choked expanse of Chandler's Field. Rising high into the midnight sky, it was perhaps the tallest structure in Smallville, and sported a set of airplane lights to keep any small planes from taking a tilt at it. It towered somewhat ominously over the small red rectangle of Chloe's car parked at its base. Chloe herself navigated the ladder.
Clark peered over the edge of the big windmill's platform and shook his head. "I don't know how I let you talk me into these things." He extended a hand, and easily helped Chloe up the last few rungs of the ladder and onto the wooden deck.
"Yeah, well, I'm actually not very thrilled to be here." She looked over the edge and shuddered. "I'm not comfortable with heights, and if you'll recall, the last time I was here I was buried alive by a maniacal cop with delusions of grandeur." She turned and regarded him with a half smile. "In retrospect, I should have wondered how the hell you got me out of that situation. I was so upset, I never thought of it."
He shrugged. "I'm just glad Lana had the vision, or I wouldn't have found you."
A brief flicker of pain crossed his face at the mention of Lana, probably matched by the horror on Chloe's face as she contemplated what would have happened if she had not been found. She looked out over the grassy field surrounding the windmill and suppressed another shudder. It was not from being cold.
In fact, the heat had only mildly abated with the sinking of the sun. It was still thickly humid, and Chloe felt sticky and uncomfortable after her long climb up the ladder. She was wearing a dark T-shirt and jeans, not wanting to draw any attention to herself if someone should happen by and see them standing at the top of the windmill. There was an unwritten rule in Smallville regarding climbing the windmill; it was frowned upon by parents, the sheriff, and old man Chandler. People, teens in particular, did it anyway, but not so much in recent years. Still, there was the chance someone would come along and demand to know what they were doing.
Clark was also dressed in dark clothing; jeans, a navy blue T-shirt, and of all things, a dark blue jacket.
"Aren't you hot?"
Chloe shook her head, amazed, but said nothing. Instead she glanced up into the sky, where thousands of glittering stars were sprinkled across the dark blue background above. "It's beautiful."
"Yeah." Clark looked up, and raised a hand to point. "There's Venus, and Cassiopea, and over there is Sagittarius."
The stars shone down at her, but unlike Clark, Chloe could not read their language. They were simply pretty sparkling diamonds upon a black satin cloth. They didn't speak to her. She did not recognize their patterns. It led her to wonder if, being from among them, Clark had inherited some sort of genetic advantage when it came to astronomy. "Do you remember anything about your real parents, or where you came from?" she asked softly.
"Do you regret that?"
"Sometimes," he replied. "When I'm down, and I think, 'If only I lived among them, then I wouldn't be abnormal.'"
Chloe heard the pain in his voice. She looked over at him, silently admiring his profile as he continued to look up into the stars. "If you could go back, Clark, would you?"
He turned to look at her. She could not hide the pain in her expression. What would life be without him? What if he had never been sent here, and she'd never come to know him?
"I can't go back," he said quietly. "The planet was destroyed. I'm the only survivor." His eyes found the stars again. "It's a moot question."
The loneliness was palatable. Chloe realized how much pain he probably went through on a daily basis, knowing that he was the only one of his kind in the universe. What future did he have among people not of his species? Could he have children? He'd said he was indestructible; would he outlive everyone he loved? Again she understood what he was going through now, possessing strength and swiftness, but not the ability to conquer human frailties. His adoptive father, who had sheltered him and raised him to manhood, was very ill, and Clark could do nothing to change that fact. The girl of his dreams had left him, loving him too much to lock him in a relationship destined to bring heartache to them both. Chloe found herself having more respect for Lana because of it.
"I'm sorry," she said.
He said nothing, but continued to gaze into the stars.
"We probably should get started." Chloe said after a moment. "We don't have a lot of time." She tried to make her voice light, cheery, to draw him out of his mood. It seemed to work.
Clark shook off his melancholy, and turned to look over the edge of the platform at the ground far, far below. "You know, Chloe, falling doesn't exactly hurt, but it doesn't exactly feel very good either."
"Then don't fall."
He groaned slightly.
"You have to start somewhere, Clark."
"I'd rather start somewhere closer to the ground," he said, wincing. "Or in an airplane with a certified skydiving instructor and a couple of parachutes."
"Chicken," Chloe accused, scowling.
"Bwack." Clark grinned, and cocked his head. "Chickens don't fly very well, you know."
"Afraid of laying an egg?"
"Ha, ha. Very funny."
Chloe made an elaborate display of looking at her watch. "We don't have all night, Clark, come on and cooperate with me. We'll start slow. Just hover, levitate or whatever you want to call it, over the platform for now."
He made a noise of reluctance.
"You want to save the farm or not?"
His head came up and he looked over his shoulder at her. "That hurt, Chloe."
She knew it had, but felt it necessary. Her pet project, borne out of her natural curiosity, had now turned into a mission. She felt she had to help him, so that he could make a difference, and no longer feel so helpless.
"I'm not going to pull punches, Clark. If there is even the remotest possibility that you can do this, you're obligated to make the attempt."
Sighing, he gave one last look over the edge. "All right, all right."
He stopped to the center of the platform and stood there with his feet together and his hands and his side. As he'd done in the barn, he rolled his shoulders once, then twice, and let out a couple of long breaths of air. Chloe stood back watching, her arms crossed over her chest, as he raised his arms from his sides and stood in the "T" position. He closed his eyes. The faintest of breezes rifled his hair, driven by the slowly rotating blades of the windmill. He looked like a swimmer preparing to take the plunge off of a high diving board.
She hastily suppressed a vision of him wearing nothing but a Speedo bathing suit.
Clark is an alien, she thought, and I am turning into a nymphomaniac.
After a moment of silence, Clark's feet rose slowly from the surface of the wooden platform. He wavered a little, adjusting to the fact there were actually air currents outside of the walled confines of the barn, then carefully drew his body parallel to the platform. Quietly, and just because she felt the urge to do it, Chloe walked over to him and ran her hand over his back, and then between his body and the platform. There was, of course, nothing supporting him.
"Got it?" she asked softly.
His voice was vague, distant. His concentration was total. "Uh-huh."
"Okay. Stay right like that, don't move."
Moving around behind him, Chloe looked down the long length of his body from his heels all the way to his outstretched fingertips. His fingertips and most of his arms were over the edge of the platform and if he fell now, he'd bark his chin a good one against the top of the ladder. She placed her hands lightly on the bottoms of his boots.
"Balanced?" she asked.
"Can you feel the currents?"
She grinned. As she'd been distracting him with questions, she'd pushed his entire body forward over the edge. He now hovered some fifty feet off the ground, and was gently swaying back and forth as he adjusted to the air currents coming from sides, top, and now bottom. Chloe regarded her handiwork, and the fact that he was actually doing this amazing feat, with some awe. Presently, however, she realized hovering was only one thing he would have to master in order to actually fly.
"Try turning, Clark," she said. "Use your hands, concentrate, and turn toward my voice."
It was poetry to watch him. All it took was a minor adjustment, the slightest movement of his upper body, and he swung around in a perfect half circle, silently cutting through the air as if his body were the wing of a bird. Another small movement in the angle of one hand, and he stopped. His arms were now outstretched toward Chloe, who pressed her hands to her mouth to stop any exclamation which might startle him. He raised his head, opened his eyes, and grinned at her proudly.
"Very cool," she said breathlessly. "And I think we answered the question regarding the three foot limit."
The smile vanished. He looked down, looked back at her with an expression of complete terror, and vanished as he immediately dropped below the level of the platform with a startled yell. The last Chloe saw of him was the pale flash of a flailing hand as he tried to grab onto the edge.
Despite his assurances regarding his indestructibility, Chloe still had the conviction that she'd look over the edge and find his body lying broken and battered at the foot of the windmill. Her heart pounding, she rushed to the ladder and looked at the ground, preparing herself for the worst. She saw nothing but her car.
"You tricked me!" he growled.
Chloe let her breath out in a sigh of relief. He was clinging to the ladder, roughly halfway down, and glaring up at her. "Yeah, well, sink or swim. Wait!" She stopped him with a gesture. "Come back up, but don't use the ladder."
"Don't use - oh, come on, Chloe...."
She reached out and shook the top of the ladder, knowing he could feel the vibrations in his hands. "No ladder. Fly."
"Thank god you aren't a bird, Chlo, you'd be chucking your babies out of the nest right and left." He grumbled some more, but Chloe didn't catch the words.
"Whine, whine, whine," she laughed. "I'm waiting."
Looking down, she watched him go through his little relaxation routine, and this time she made a point of looking at the second hand on her watch. It took him exactly forty-two seconds to get relaxed enough to let go of the ladder. Within sixty he was rising toward the platform, very slowly, but definitely gaining altitude. He opened his eyes after another full minute passed, and as he saw his feet clear the deck, he held out his hands slightly, bringing his rise to a stop. Still moving slowly, his body edged forward, and he dropped lightly down onto the wooden planks with a faint "thunk."
His face was flushed. "I did it," he murmured somewhat breathlessly. He craned his head over his shoulder, looking down toward the ground, and then turned back to Chloe with a broad smile. "I did it!"
She grinned back. "I knew you could."
Abruptly the smile fled, but she could see it tugging at the corners of his mouth. "You did not. I scared you when I fell."
"Okay, well, old habits die hard. I thought you'd be nothing more than a big splat once you hit the ground. I had visions of Roadrunner cartoons and figured to further complicate matters the windmill would fall over on top of you."
"Beep beep." He laughed, then let out his breath in a long sigh. "I'm tired. Why am I suddenly tired?"
"You probably expend a lot of energy defying gravity. It has to be some sort of psychokinetic manifestation, like the stuff Justin Gaines could do. Remember him?"
Chloe grinned. "Still jealous?"
"He threw a chainsaw at you, Chloe. I'm still pissed."
"He - what?"
Clark shrugged. "Post horseshoe. You missed that part."
"I'm rather glad I did."
"Anyway, I don't know if it's the same thing. It has to be more physical. I really feel like I've run a marathon, without my powers."
"Okay, try this, maybe it's a psychokinetic manipulation of the electromagnetic field surrounding your body."
Clark made a face. "That almost sounds - gross."
"Seriously. Follow me. Every living organism produces an electromagnetic field, an aura if you will, right?"
"So, maybe your particular aura produces some sort of energy opposite that of the Earth's gravitational pull. What happens when you put two magnets together the wrong way?"
"They push away from each other."
"Exactly. When you 'levitate' what you're doing is feeding your aura more energy, increasing the negative thrust, causing your body to move away from the ground vertically. Combine that with a psychokinetic ability which allows you to adjust your horizontal position, and you've got a full range of movement. You make the fine adjustments by physically moving your body, or just your hands." Chloe paused for a breath. "You can fly, Clark. You just need to practice getting all those things in coordination."
He absorbed this, nodding slightly. "Like coordinating the gas pedal, the clutch, and the gear shift."
Chloe shook her head, laughing, excited. "Alien schmalien, you still think like a redneck Kansas kid. A car? You're relating this to driving a car?"
"Lex's Lamborghini," Clark grinned. "What a sweet car that was..."
"He let you drive his Lamborghini?"
"You suck, Clark."
"We got to one hundred and eighty-seven up the straightaway on County Five."
"Jealous?" Clark followed her as she turned away in an effort to hide her laughter. "Admit it, Chloe, you're jealous because I got to drive a Lexmobile." He laughed brightly. "Ha, Chloe. I got to drive the Jag, too."
"Behave, bug, or I'll sic Sigourney Weaver on you."
"Is that a threat or a promise?"
Chloe covered her mouth, trying to stifle the laughter that suddenly wanted to bubble up out of her. She skittered away across the platform making shooing motions, with Clark hovering (not literally) over her shoulder as he followed her. "Go away."
He affected a heavy Italian accent. "Ah, the magnificent Lamborghini. Fine leather seats...."
"Cut it out." Chloe's sides hurt from holding in her laughter. She dodged to try to escape him, but he kept to her heels.
"Listen to the purr of her engine, and feel her power as you slide behind the wheel of this most grand automobile...."
"She is calling to you..."
Chloe turned around, frowning. "Clark," she said fiercely.
"What?" He blinked owlishly, his face twitching with the effort of holding back a silly grin.
"Go home," she said, and pushed him off the platform.
Chloe's frown deepened. Surely he'd caught himself again?
There was no answer.
Concerned, she went to the edge and peered over. Clark looked up at her from where he hung suspended in mid-air, and Chloe shook her head at him. "You idiot," she laughed.
Slowly he rose, stopping when his face was just level with hers. "I think your theory may be very close, if not right on target," he said quietly.
"You caught yourself. That's pretty good."
"I can't believe you pushed me."
"That's what you get for being a smart ass."
They stared at each other, and Chloe's smile slowly faded. The breeze picked up slightly, and the big blades overhead creaked and groaned as their tempo increased. Chloe pushed back her hair as it blew forward against her cheeks, and then reached out a hand to move Clark's heavy bangs away from his eyes. His face was warm and slightly flushed. Her fingertips traced the sharp edge of one cheekbone as they withdrew, and as his body tipped ever so slightly toward her, she felt a faint apprehension. It faded upon the touch of his lips against hers; returned as they parted. Chloe felt a growing ache in the pit of her stomach.
Resting her fingertips lightly against his chest, Chloe held him back from a second kiss. "I don't want to be the rebound girl, Clark," she whispered.
He hesitated, looking deeply into her eyes, and then nodded.
"Let's call it a night, okay?"
"Sure," he said.
"I'll meet you at the car," she said, and swung her legs over onto the first rung of the ladder for the long climb to the bottom.
He nodded again, and began to slowly drift down to the ground.
The drive back to the farm was conducted in silence.
At first Chloe thought he was mad at her, and thinking to simply let him stew and therefore work it out on his own, she kept her own silence. It was not until she pulled the car up into the Kents' barnyard and stopped it beneath the square of light coming from Clark's loft, that she realized why he'd been so quiet.
He sat slumped in the passenger's side, with his arms crossed over his chest and his head cocked sideways against the back of the seat. His long dark lashes brushed the tops of his cheeks, which were still slightly flushed from his exertions toward the mastery of flight, and his chest rose in a slow steady rhythm. Mentally and physically exhausted, he'd fallen asleep almost as soon as they'd left the field.
Chloe turned off the engine, and listened to the quiet "tick, tick" coming from under the hood as the metal cooled. Her eyes followed the lines of Clark's profile, drinking him in as if consuming a fine wine, savoring the "taste" of him. There was nothing there to indicate he was not as he seemed. He was human, with all the hopes and dreams, fears and insecurities, of any eighteen-year-old boy. He'd fallen in love and had his heart broken, and like any human being, he had reached out instinctively for comfort. He had reached out for Chloe.
"I don't want to be the rebound girl," she had said.
It had been the right thing to say, and they both knew it, but it was not the truth. Chloe figured they both knew that, too.
She edged across the seat. She intended only to touch him, and wake him, but as her first tentative caress of her hand upon his shoulder failed to rouse him, she hesitated. Her hand remained upon his arm, feeling the solid strength beneath the soft cloth of his jacket, and suddenly it became very important to her to feel it beneath her cheek. Breathing in the warm scent of the warm summer air within his clothes, and the faint muskiness of his skin, Chloe edged closer, and placed her cheek against his shoulder where her hand had been moments before. He murmured something unintelligible, but did not wake. Her fingers brushed the edge of his jacket, and followed the length of his denim clad thigh.
Her tears fell in silence.
She did want to be the rebound girl, more than anything else in the world.
Chloe sat cross-legged on the windmill platform. Above her the blades were perfectly still, and around her the air was dark, heavy with heat and thick with humidity. She was sweating despite the late hour and the light sleeveless tee she wore. She was grateful for the bottle of cold water sitting beside her. Raising the bottle to her lips, she drank, and took another bite out of the apple she was eating.
"How are you doing, Clark?"
He was "standing" a few feet off the edge of the platform with concentration written all over his face. They were working on improving his balance and stamina, and he'd been hovering there for twenty minutes, occasionally changing position in accordance to Chloe's commands. He had abandoned the jacket of the night before, mainly because she claimed looking at it made her feel hotter, and was now clad very similarly to Chloe in a sleeveless dark T-shirt. She, however, wore a pair of shorts. He wore a pair of faded jeans. His appearance was nothing short of extremely sexy, and it was driving Chloe crazy.
She couldn't believe she was being so shallow. From the moment she admitted to herself, yes, I would sleep with Clark, the idea of it stuck in her mind. Her every waking hour, and god knew, her dreams, were filled with "what if" scenarios involving herself, Clark, and nakedness. Chloe had known Clark for years and they had always been close friends despite their rocky patches. They had always been physical friends, quick to give a hug or a peck on the cheek, but until recently Chloe had never been fully aware of his "maleness."
She kept wanting to look at his crotch, hell, she wanted to touch his crotch.
Better yet, she wanted him to touch her crotch.
She shifted her weight uncomfortably, and focused her attention on the apple. "Go around again, Clark," she said around a bite. "Try to move a little faster this time."
He moved. Chloe had instructed him to circle the platform twice before, in an effort to practice his maneuverability and control. Both times he had first turned his body forty-five degrees, stopped, and then moved in the new direction, repeating those steps when he reached each corner. It was as if he were outlining a box with a pen, stopping at each corner. This time he tried something different, and Chloe was struck by how amazingly beautiful it seemed. It was as graceful as any bird, but coupled with the sleek lines of a human (or very close to human) body, the flight was given a dreamlike quality. Chloe envisioned sailing among the clouds, letting their whiteness envelop her body like a down filled comforter. She envied him.
As she watched, he peeled off from his original position like a fighter plane leaving formation. He used his body and his arms to change position, and to stop his movement as he found the place he needed, and once there, he quietly drifted away. At the first corner he arched his body around it without stopping, gaining speed as in continued around the square platform in a tidy circle.
It was never going to happen, Chloe decided as she watched his silent flight, not as long as she kept her head. Her head continued to override her heart and her desires, mainly because she knew a one-night stand would not be good for either herself or Clark. He was still recovering from losing Lana, and Chloe just could not accept that any sort of relationship they might forge at this time could possibly be one of the heart. Clark did not love her, he only wanted a bandage to cover his wound. If she and Clark did do the wild thing, and he discovered he didn't love her, Chloe knew him well enough to know he'd beat himself to a pulp with guilt afterward. He was nice like that. He had proven it the night before.
He had come around sometime after Chloe had fallen asleep against his shoulder, and without waking her, he had driven her home himself. Chloe had awakened just prior to dawn, sprawled across the front seat of her car, in her own driveway. Clark had been nowhere to be found.
Clark knew how she felt about him. He had wanted to kiss her, and she had pushed him away. He respected her decision, but had he been anyone else, he could have easily taken advantage of her when she'd fallen asleep next to him. It would have been so easy for him to wake her, and carry her inside where, with her defenses down, she would have succumbed to anything.
Even having sex with a space alien.
Chloe chuckled to herself.
He came around the last corner and approached her, hovering over her so that she had to look up at him. "What?"
"Come on, Chloe, you're giggling. Do I look that funny?"
"No!" She said immediately. "You look great; it's really amazing." Nervously she twirled her apple core around by its stem. "I was just thinking..."
"Uh-oh." Clark backed away from her, and swung his torso upward before letting himself drop to his feet in a perfectly "stuck" landing. "That's not a good sign."
"Do you want me to push you off this platform again?" Chloe stood and threw the apple core off into the darkness. Distantly she wondered if an apple tree would one day grow where it landed.
"You can try."
"Don't get cocky, Clark."
He sobered, but she could see the faint twitch at the corner of his mouth as he tried to hold back his grin. "What were you thinking, Chloe?"
She looked up at him, admiring the sight of him standing tall against the backdrop of a midnight blue sky and the bright dappling of stars. Out beyond what they could see, on another world, in another time, was where he'd been born. Life did exist on other planets, or had at one time. What else was out there?
"What is it like?" she whispered. "Not being human?"
She could tell that he at first thought she was kidding, but as his eyes found hers she followed the switch in his perceptions. He raised his head and looked out into the stars.
"I don't know. Aside from the things I can do that most people can't, I don't think I'm that much different. But don't know what being a human is like, so I can't make any sort of comparison." He glanced back down at her. "It is scary, when you wake up one day and something has changed."
"Like being able to defy gravity?"
His voice was touched with a slightly weary sarcasm, as if he were only now able to joke about it. "Cha, yeah, but just a little bit."
Clark drew deep breath and let it out again slowly. His eyes grew vague as his thoughts turned distant, and sad. "It's lonely. It's hard to have to hide, and lie to your friends. It's harder still to be rejected by them when you finally tell them the truth."
Chloe bit her lip, sorry now that she'd brought up the subject. "Is that truly why she said no, Clark? Did it frighten her?"
"No," he admitted. "In fact, she had figured out most of it on her own. She - she said she couldn't tie me down, that I was meant for bigger things, more important things, and that she was too selfish to share. She wants to have children..."
"You could adopt; you're adopted."
"I wouldn't be around much. I couldn't be reliable. Look what having an absentee father did to Lex." Clark shook his head. "I'm not being fair to her. I should have expected it. I mean, would you want to be stuck with someone who can bench press a house and feels obligated to save people simply because he can? Would you be willing to live a lie in order to protect me?"
"Yes," Chloe blurted.
He stared at her, and suddenly she felt very small. Some childlike instinct inside her made her want to run away and hide beneath a blanket rather than face the strength of her feelings. She definitely did not want him to see them. She had once before, and it had hurt them both.
"I - I - I mean, if I loved you I would. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices."
"I didn't want her to be the thing I sacrificed," Clark whispered softly. "But I guess that was wishful thinking."
They fell silent, both struggling to regain solid footing again, and Chloe turned to look out toward the lights of the town where she had spent the last five years. She had tonight, and tomorrow, and then Saturday morning she would be leaving. In retrospect she wondered if the recent spats she'd had with Clark weren't due in part to their own personal fears. Despite their romantic struggles, they were and would always be friends. Did defense mechanisms kick in to push each other away so that the pain of separation would be lessened?
How did missing a friend, who was only a few hours away, rank with being the only one of your kind left in the universe? Her eyes found the stars again, and Chloe simply could not fathom the vast emptiness he must feel. Clinging to Lana must have been like holding onto a life preserver in the middle of a stormy sea, and now that it was all over, he must be drowning. The financial trouble the farm faced, Jonathan Kent's failing health, and the loss of his friends as they went their way were only weights dragging Clark down. A lesser man would have already succumbed.
Chloe found herself loving him more. His strength lay not only in his body, but in his heart as well.
"But then," she said quietly, not turning her gaze away from the stars. "Maybe it wasn't you who made the sacrifice, Clark. She was telling you the truth. You were meant to fly...." Chloe raised a hand toward the sky, grasping the air above, and the illusion was such that she felt as if she were touching the stars with her fingertips. "And she would have only kept you grounded."
She lowered her hand, and looked at him.
"Maybe the greater love is the one that can let go."
Clark met her gaze, and after a pause, spoke: "Don't let go, Chloe."
"You don't love me," she scoffed. "What's the point?" She fought tears, and failed. "What's the point, Clark? Huh? I'm always second best. I'm always the one you come running to when you can't have her. I pick you up and dust you off and send you back to her every damn time and I - am - tired - of - it. Okay? I'm tired of feeling this way." Her hands shook as she rubbed at her face.
"Chloe, I'm sorry."
"No, I'm sorry. I'm sorry I ever let myself feel the way I do for you. I'm sorry that I didn't let go a long time ago." Chloe bent, picking up her bag and her bottle of water, and headed toward the ladder. "I have to go."
Clark took one long stride, and stopped her before she could begin her descent. His grasp upon her arm was light, betraying no alien strength, perfected by long years living among those whose bones he could easily crush. At the same time it was as unbreakable as if it were a band of iron. "Chloe, wait."
Chloe didn't want to wait. She wanted to run away, go home to where she could engage in her hurt and angry tears by herself where no one else could see her humiliation. She did not want to see Clark again for the duration of her stay in Smallville and when she finally left for Metropolis, she wanted to put him, finally, behind her.
"I know I'm a jerk to you, Chlo. I know that, and I don't care how many times I say I'm sorry, I can't take it back. I can't love you as much as I love her. I won't lie to you, but I do love you, I swear I do." She looked up at him as he reached out to take her by the shoulders. "Just don't leave me, please, please? Not now especially. I need you more than ever. I...."
The vague and distant look came into his eyes again, and Chloe found herself having to prompt him to finish. "What? You what?"
"I'm afraid," he whispered, so softly that Chloe barely heard him.
She started to make a derisive reply, but something in his expression changed her mind. Nearly as softly as he had spoken, she answered him with a question. "Of what?"
"Being alone. I'm afraid of being alone, afraid I'll lose touch, become - alien." Staring down at her intently, Clark dropped his hands from her shoulders, and took her hands in his. "Sometimes I feel it; a sense of coldness and a feeling of apathy comes over me, and all I want to do is hide away from it all. I can't do that, Chloe. I can't. I couldn't bear what I'd become if I did. I have to have people around me, friends and family. I have to interact with others. Yes, maybe I was meant to fly, but I need a tether, to keep me from flying into the sun. I need someone to keep me grounded." His voice grew rough. "I need someone to keep me human."
"Clark." She shook her head sadly, still trying with all her heart to hold back her tears. "I'm still here by default..."
"You're acting like this is a step down for me."
"No. I had a choice to make two years ago, Chloe. I could go right, or I could go left, and I chose to go left, to Lana. Now I'm wondering if maybe 'right' hadn't been - right - to begin with."
Chloe did not respond.
"Look, I know you don't want to get wrapped up in a rebound relationship, and I don't blame you. I'm not trying to replace Lana with you. I just feel like we've been given a second chance, Chlo. You're my best friend, and I know you want more. I don't know if I can give you more, but because I do love you, I want to give it my best try. Okay?"
She sniffled; mentally kicked herself for it. "You get humanity and I get a boyfriend?"
"Something like that." He smiled at her.
"Oh, turn it off. You already sucked me in with the infamous charm, and now that I know what you are, I am totally convinced it's an alien pheromone." She disengaged her hands to wipe at her eyes, and tried to keep from sniffling again. "I'm afraid I'm going to get hurt again, Clark."
"I'd like to think I'm just a little bit wiser than I was before."
"I'm sure knowing exactly why you disappear like you do will make things easier."
"Lana is gone."
Chloe raised her eyes to his. "No, Clark. Lana will always be there." She raised a hand to his chest; placed her fingertips lightly upon the hollow of his breast. She could feel his heart beat beneath them. "But I think I'm a little bit wiser, too."
Clark bit his lip; nodded.
"The rebound girl, that's what I'm signing myself up for with this."
Yet as she studied Clark's face, searching for any sort of deception or doubt, Chloe found only sweet honesty, and in the depths of his eyes she saw his fear and loneliness. Was it so bad to be the rebound girl, and was that even a correct definition? Was she instead, the cumulative result of the reevaluation of his desires, his hopes, and his needs? Did she have the patience and understanding to deal with his situation, or like Lana, would she be too selfish to share him? She'd shared him with Lana for years. Could she share him with the world if he were destined to spend his life helping others?
If she took the risk, her questions would be answered. If she turned him away, she would go through life always wondering if she had made the right choice. There would be no third chance.
"I'm used to living on the edge."
"Maybe," she whispered. "We can give it another try. It is going to be lonely in Metropolis with just the two of us, and you won't even be there for another three months."
"I can come see you every day," he said quietly. He took a step closer.
"In Metropolis?" Chloe breathed.
This time, she let him kiss her.
"The moment of truth." Chloe said quietly. "Tonight is going to have to be the night, unless you want to do this by yourself after I'm gone."
"I wouldn't dream of it." Clark peered over the edge of the windmill platform at the ground. "I don't know if I could."
They sat on the edge, feet dangling, fingers intertwined. Clark gave her hand a little squeeze, not too hard, and looked up into the sky as she edged a bit closer to him. It was still stifling hot, with no rain in the forecast for days, which would mean certain death for the Kents' corn crop if Clark did not take the risk.
"Well, moral support is what girlfriends are for you know."
He glanced over at her and grinned.
They had talked, earlier in the evening, after Martha had served them dinner. Clark had finally let his parents in on the plan, and the fact that he'd told Chloe everything. Chloe sensed disapproval, but as always, Jonathan and Martha Kent trusted Clark's judgment. They'd advised caution, and that was all, before retiring to bed as Clark and Chloe moved out onto the porch to finalize the plans for that evening.
They'd done more than set Clark's "flight plan." They'd discussed their friendship, how it had evolved over the years, the recent uneasy feelings between them, and the situation with Lana. The pain was fading, Clark had said, but he didn't think it would ever go away.
"I wish I had told you about myself sooner," he'd said. "I always wanted to, but my parents were against me telling anyone. I thought you'd find out on your own."
"I did." Chloe had laughed. "It just took me longer than usual."
They had been sitting on the Kents' front porch swing, and Chloe had leaned against his chest, barely comprehending the fact that she was actually in the place she'd always wanted to be. He had toyed with her hair, and kissed her, and they had been "comfortable" together as if the puzzle pieces had finally been put right.
"I know we've been at odds lately, and I know it's been my fault." Clark had continued. "But you know what my greatest fear was about asking Lana to marry me? It wasn't the fear that she'd say no, because I honestly didn't think she would..."
He'd shrugged. "We'll that's me." His breath left in a long sigh. "I was afraid it would mean the end of our friendship, Chloe. Even with Lana, I didn't want to let you go."
Chloe had looked up at him, and he'd kissed her, pulling her close into the crook of his arm. In the short time they'd actually dated before, they had never really gotten so close physically and Chloe felt an awakened sense of desire like she'd never felt before. His warmth, the strength of his arms around hers, his gentle kiss, all combined to kindle within her a physical need for something more. The fiery ache could only be soothed by an intimacy she was not sure either one of them were ready to undertake.
They'd sat talking, and rocking back and forth on the swing, for hours. He'd told her more about himself than Chloe would have ever guessed. She told him her plans for the future. Sometime before midnight they had gotten in Chloe's car and driven once again to Chandler's Field and the big windmill that rose high into the night sky above it. The moon was in the "Cheshire Cat Grin" stage, and the stars seemed particularly bright.
"Do you think this will work?" Clark asked softly.
"Sure, if all the pieces fall into place. It's you I'm worried about. You're going to have to cover a lot of ground in a short time in order to create this front, Clark. I'm worried that your stamina is going to give out on you." Chloe shrugged. "Not to mention if you go too high into the atmosphere you could pass out, fall, kill yourself..."
"I'm not going to kill myself."
"Okay, well, then destroy whatever you hit on the way down."
"You aren't inspiring confidence."
"Sorry, I just don't want anything to happen to you." She gazed up at him, her brows dipping low over her eyes. "Especially not now," she added softly. "Now that the misunderstandings of the past have been made clear, and there is a chance - for us. Please don't get hurt, Clark."
He leaned toward her. She felt the soft brush of his breath against her lips as he kissed her. She could not bear it if that breath, and the pulse she felt beneath her hand as she touched his side, were to cease within him.
"I won't," he said, and drew himself up to his feet.
They looked into the stars together; Clark from a standing position, and Chloe sitting at his feet. There was no preamble. He simply rose, slowly at first as if he were a missile leaving the launch pad, then gaining speed as he gained altitude. Chloe watched as he angled himself in a westerly direction, and continued to watch him until she could no longer make his dark-clad form out against the dark of the sky. Within seconds he was gone, on what would be his first and possibly most important major flight. Chloe felt awe, and also what she almost wanted to define as a feeling of ridiculousness. Her boyfriend could fly.
How weird was that?
She wasn't sure, either, whether the feeling stemmed from the fact that Clark could fly or the fact that she was thinking of him as "boyfriend" instead of simply, "friend." Living in Smallville had given Chloe a somewhat jaded view of the paranormal. It had ceased to be "para" and become more "normal." Had she not known strange things really did exist in the universe, she probably would have reacted much differently than she had to Clark's revelation. Then again, she'd also known Clark was a bit odd from the start. None of it changed how she felt about him and that both startled her, and comforted her.
With a sigh, she pulled her legs up from the edge of the platform, hugging her knees to her chest. She gazed up into the sky and waited.
When she was with Clark everything felt right. It was when she was alone that doubt started to creep into her. Were they doing the right thing by getting together again? What would happen if Lana suddenly changed her mind and returned? Clark had been willing to marry her, indicating a depth of affection he certainly did not have for Chloe. He truly believed Lana was completely out of the picture, but having spent years in Lana's shadow, Chloe found it difficult to be believe despite all Clark's reassurances. Yet she trusted Clark, and looking back to all the times he had "abandoned" her to be with Lana, Chloe realized every single one of those times had been when Lana had gotten herself into trouble. Hadn't Clark done the same thing when Chloe had been in trouble?
Chloe was now privy to Clark's secrets. She understood his fears, and she understood why he felt obligated to help people weaker and less fortunate than himself. She also understood why, during so many of their misunderstandings, he could not properly explain himself. Finally, she knew his stubbornness and his honesty. Adopted alien or human being, Clark had still been raised by Jonathan and Martha Kent. Jonathan had a long-standing reputation for being hard-headed and unyieldingly stubborn. Martha was known for her kindness and generosity. Clark was all of those things, and more, and if he told Chloe it was over with Lana, she had to trust him, especially since she knew the truth of things.
"And I want this so badly," she whispered aloud. "I love him. I don't care if I get hurt. I want to take what I can get."
She mocked herself for a fool, accepted her fate, and hugged her knees to her chest more tightly as she remembered the feel of his body next to hers when she had dozed off in the car. A small smile crept over her lips, and she let her mind wander. She wondered what her own wedding would be like. Gabe would no doubt make some sort of strange, off-color jokes at the reception. Someone would get in trouble somewhere, and Clark would zip off to rescue them, leaving Chloe to apologize profusely to the guests and play charades at the altar until he got back.
"Okay, three words, last word, first syllable. Rhymes with pork..."
An ominous creak from above her head drew Chloe's attention back into the present. She looked up to see the blades of the windmill starting to turn, and realized with a start that the wind had indeed picked up considerably. Scrambling to her feet, Chloe looked out into the western sky and saw, just over town, the dark shadow of angrily boiling storm clouds. They flickered with lightning as they rapidly headed toward the farms outside of town, including the Kents' and old man Chandler's. Another gust of wind blew Chloe's hair back, and the blades started to turn a bit faster. She inhaled deeply and smelled....
Not caring who heard her, she raised her voice to the air, crying out in triumph. They had done it! Clark had made it rain! Chloe danced around the platform, laughing, and as the first cool drops of water struck her hot, dry skin, she raised her hands into the sky. The rain pitter-pattered onto the wooden deck, and dampened her clothes, but Chloe reveled in it, knowing now that Clark could save the farm. He was magic, he was goodness, and he was all hers. She danced not only for the joy of success, but for the joy in her heart, which felt as if it would burst in her chest. Her laughter rose high above her, echoing over the fields and drowning out the creak of the windmill blades turning, and the whistle of the wind through the tower supports.
It was, however, suppressed by the rumble of thunder. Chloe stopped her celebration abruptly and turned her attention back toward the approaching storm. She hoped Clark hadn't triggered a tornado, that would be bad, and she hoped he was okay. He had not returned, the storm was moving fast, and the lightning looked rather severe. A bolt sizzled down even as Chloe watched, taking out a telephone pole and making her realized she was not in an ideal position herself. There was a lightning rod attached to Chandler's windmill for a reason.
"Clark, where are you?" Chloe shifted her weight back and forth and pushed back her hair. The rain was coming down harder, soaking her, and she could not see for blinking water out of her eyes. She wished she'd brought her father's binoculars.
Lightning flashed above her, and Chloe yelped, ducking down into a ball as a bolt struck a nearby tree. That was enough for her. It was getting too close. Hastily she headed for the ladder. She would be safe and dry inside her car, and the air was cool enough now that she could keep the windows rolled up but still not get too hot. She would wait for Clark inside. He had to be getting closer if he was still within the clouds, and he'd come back to her as soon as he made sure the Kent farm got water. She wasn't going to risk life and limb at the top of the windmill.
Progress down the ladder was slow. The rungs dripped with moisture, Chloe's hands and sneakers were wet and slippery, and the whole structure shuddered ominously with every gust of the wind. If anyone had asked her if she was scared, Chloe would have brazenly replied, "No, of course not," and it would have been a lie right out her ass. She was not particularly afraid of heights, but after a few unpleasant height related accidents, she had developed a great deal of respect for them. Climbing down a rickety old ladder in a thunderstorm did not rank high on Chloe's list of fun things to do. The truth was that she was petrified. She knew from experience that falling hurt.
She realized that she should have known her bad luck with heights would hold true in the split second before the lightning hit the windmill, and maybe on some subconscious level she did expect it. In that split second she paused, halfway down, to look up into the sky where the windmill was whirling madly with a rackety-bang sound reminiscent of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the old car in one of her favorite childhood movies. In the manner of the human mind and its habit of bringing the most incongruous thoughts to the forefront in stressful situations, the song "Toot Sweet" popped into her head just as the lightning struck the tall, thin lightning rod jutting out above the windmill blades.
Sparks flew into the dark sky like fireworks. The thunder boomed like the roar of a cannon. Chloe had barely time to draw in a breath and make the decision whether falling would be better or worse than being electrocuted first and then falling. Most of the charge would be redirected by the lightning rod, but she'd still get a rather nasty zap, which she began to feel in her fingers just as the thought occurred to her. She discovered she had little choice in the matter as her body instinctively recoiled from the electric shock, causing her to lose her precious grip on the ladder rung, and her balance. Like the blades of the windmill above her, Chloe's arms pinwheeled, and she fell backward with a scream.
Instantly her mind was sent racing back to the fall out of Lex's mansion window. Images from that night flashed through her mind as she fell. She remembered hitting the glass, and watching the beautiful stained-glass image shatter around her body in pieces of glittering yellow, red and blue. She remembered popping at least two of her nails off as she clung desperately to the cold stone of the windowsill and not feeling the pain for the adrenaline surging through her body. Her boots had thudded against the stone wall, but had found no purchase. Her voice had seemed distant to her as she screamed for Clark to help her. He had not come. Why? Chloe made a note to ask him if she survived this one.
As in the previous fall, time seemed to progress much slower. Chloe opened her eyes to discover her body had turned in mid-air, yet was still several feet from the rapidly approaching ground. She heard her name, but did not comprehend that it was Clark until she felt a hand brush her back. A fist closed around the cloth of her tank top and her body, dragged downward by gravity, pulled painfully against the shirt as it tightened around her. For a few seconds they were both falling, but Clark recovered, pulling back and slowing her descent. She could hear his labored breathing as he struggled to keep both of them in the air. Relief flooded her as she realized he'd caught her.
It was a short lived relief. The seams of her shirt, strained to the breaking point, ripped seconds after her fall stopped completely. In any other circumstances it would have been funny, especially when Clark made a grab for the back of her bra. Chloe felt his fingers slip against her bare skin, unable to find purchase upon the tight, narrow strip of the bra strap, and she was falling again. She screamed, felt Clark make yet another attempt to grab her jeans, and sobbed when he lost his grip on the wet denim.
Terror surged through her as she fell. Clark had failed, and oddly enough Chloe was more concerned about him than she was about herself. He would see her hit the ground, which would very likely injure her beyond repair, and he would forever live with the guilt. He'd missed. He'd failed to save her despite all the powers he possessed. She wanted to cry out to him and tell him not to worry, that he'd done his best, but there was no time. All she could manage was a gasping sob, and a faint "Clark..."
A hand closed around her ankle.
Chloe jerked to a stop, nearly twenty feet from the ground, dangling upside down by one foot. It hurt like hell, but not nearly as much as it would have had he not slowed her fall first, and a lot less than it would have had she hit the ground. Panting, Chloe dangled for a moment, before craning her head up to look at him. He held out his other hand and with a great deal of effort she swung up to grasp it. There was a moment of fear as he let go of her ankle to grab her around the shoulders, but soon she found herself with her arms wrapped around his neck and her feet locked around his legs. She sobbed into his neck.
She was shaking with fear and cold, but she could feel him trembling against her. He was nearly as frightened as she was, and as she listened to the wheeze of his breath against her hair, she determined he had to be exhausted as well. The storm she'd seen approaching had been miles wide. He must have expended every last resource he had in order to create it. He had taken his power and given it to the atmosphere, loosening it upon the Earth in the form of lightning, wind, and the torrents of rain that struck their bodies as they descended slowly to the ground toward the safety of Chloe's car. Chloe felt in awe of him. Clark had done this. He had the power to alter the world around him. He could make it rain.
Even the flying had not so impressed upon Chloe the fact that Clark was not human. The combination of the flight, the speed, the strength and the ability to cool the air; these things gave him a god-like ability to change the world around them. It was this that made Chloe understand the enormity of the burden he carried around upon his shoulders. She understood why Lana had rejected him. He was so much more than any human could comprehend. They were so insignificant in comparison to him. Accepting a partnership with Clark meant accepting one's own frailties. It hadn't really been Clark that Lana had rejected, but the truth. She'd been forced to look in the mirror and see all her own flaws and realize her own mortality; her own humanness had scared her.
Chloe was more of a realist. She knew she was flawed. She knew she was only human, and she didn't care. She embraced her own existence and knew her time was short. Bound and determined to make the best of what she had, she threw herself wholeheartedly into everything she did. Lana lived in the past. Chloe lived for the future. She understood now what Clark had meant about needing a "tether." He and Lana were too much alike. They were dreamers. Chloe couldn't remember how many times she'd caught Clark daydreaming. She'd always been the one to poke him and make him pay attention to the now. It had been she who had shaken him out of his mopes and sent him into the sky to make it rain.
At Smallville High the pompom brigade had stood on the sidelines, jumping around with their pretty smiles and cheers, inspiring morale among fans and players alike. When it came down to getting the team to do its job on the field, however, the cheerleaders were useless. That job was left for the coaches. Right now, Clark didn't need a cheerleader; he needed a coach. He needed Chloe.
Clark's feet touched the ground and Chloe let go of him. They both scrambled for the car as lightning threatened again. Chloe climbed over the seat into the passenger side, wrapping her arms around her as she shivered. She was half naked and soaked through. Clark's clothes clung to him, and he smelled slightly scorched. He was frighteningly pale, slightly blue around the mouth, and shuddering with cold chills in a manner very unlike him. Chloe could hear his teeth rattling as he reached over to start the car and thus the heater.
"You overdid it," she chided.
He nodded. "I had to make sure the rain would stick around for a while." He shrugged. "Don't worry, Chloe. I'll be okay. Whenever I learn something new, it only takes a short time before I can do it effortlessly. We just didn't have the time to wait."
"Yeah. Give me a few minutes to warm up." He grinned. "I'm not nearly as cold as I was when Sean turned me into a Popsicle."
He reached over and turned the key.
Clark looked at Chloe questioningly.
"Uhm, sometimes when it rains, the wires get wet and the electrical system shuts down. We're going to be here for a while." Chloe rubbed at her arms briskly, shooting Clark an apologetic look. It faded as she sneezed.
"Here," he peeled off his wet T-shirt and cracking open the door slightly, wrung it out as best he could before handing it to her. "Put this on."
"Clark, you're just as cold as I am!"
"Yes, but less likely to catch pneumonia. Here."
Chloe took the shirt. It was cold and damp, and clung uncomfortably, but as she put it on and wrapped herself in it without putting her arms through the sleeves, it did bring some minimal warmth. She wedged herself into the corner between the seat and door and shivered as she watched Clark watch her.
"Why are you staring at me?"
"Just sit still."
"It's hard to sit still when you're shaking all over." Chloe remarked, feeling the return of her wits.
"I try. I can't help it if you're the perfect straight man for my comic genius."
"Yes, but are you getting warmer?"
Chloe blinked, and realized she was getting warmer. Her eyes narrowed. "What are you doing?"
"Cold breath, heat vision."
"Is my hair going to burst into flames?"
"Do you want it to?"
He chuckled at her. "I'm far too cold to generate that much heat at the moment."
Chloe stuck her arms out of the shirt, which was nearly dry. She looked over at Clark and edged closer so that she could see him better. As she neared him she could see a very faint, reddish colored, beam of light issuing from his eyes and the shimmering of heat around it. It was somewhat eerie, as his eyes glowed in the darkness like that of a cat, but it was not only warming Chloe, but the car's interior. Unfortunately it was also drawing more heat from Clark, and Chloe gave him a shove as she edged closer. His skin was cold to her touch.
"Okay, that's enough. You're turning blue."
The light faded. He slumped in the seat.
"Get in the back and lay down, Clark." Chloe said gently. "After you rest you can use your heat trick to dry out the engine and get us running again."
He obeyed with a nod, and crawled over the seat into the back. Chloe heard him sigh and he curled his long body onto the seat and he settled into the meager warmth of the fuzzy, zebra patterned seat covers. Chloe loved her funky seat covers, despite Pete's jokes about the car looking like a pimpmobile. She caressed the soft faux fur with her fingers as she lay down herself across the front seat.
The adrenaline rush from her near-death experience had worn off, leaving her weak and exhausted. She thought she would fall to sleep immediately, but found herself wide awake and listening to the sounds coming to her from the darkness. It was very dark. The lightning had knocked out the light at the top of the windmill, which normally illuminated the area around it with a pale orange-yellow glow. The storm only added to the darkness. Chloe could hear the rain beating in gusty surges against the car and the rumble of thunder. She felt safe inside the little cocoon of her car, especially with the knowledge Clark was with her. She turned her attention to the sound of his breathing, and again heard his teeth rattling.
She sat up and climbed over the seat.
"What are you doing?"
"Warming you up. Scoot over."
Oddly enough he obeyed, shifting onto his side and wedging himself against the back of the seat as much as he could. Chloe lay down on her side on the sliver of seat left to her, and wrapped her arms and legs around him to keep herself from falling off the edge. He was tense, uncomfortable with the intimacy, but he was shivering and after a moment he returned the embrace. Chloe held him tighter, pressing herself close as if she could simply squeeze the cold from his body, seeking to give back the warmth he had given her. It seemed to work, for gradually he stopped shaking, and with a sigh, the tension eased from his muscles. He kissed the top of her head, and rested his cheek upon her hair.
They were silent for a moment. Chloe chuckled softly.
"Do you know the ribbing we'd get from Pete about this?" She laughed out loud. "Half naked in the back of the pimpmobile!"
"Pete," Clark murmured. "It was perfectly innocent."
"Yeah suuuure, Clark. Chloe in her little lacy push-up bra, all cuddled up to you, and you didn't cop a feel? Man, there's something wrong with you!"
"Cop feel and risk the wrath of Chloe? Pete, you are wrong, man! Wrong." Clark laughed.
"How do you know she'd get mad about it?"
Chloe felt him flinch, and the tension returned. She'd been joking of course, because Pete probably would have made the same reply. Clark's reaction indicated that perhaps he did want to make a move on her, but was held back by his natural inclination toward restraint and his normal polite way of behaving. Even though they were officially dating, it was clear his strict code of conduct did not allow him to cop a feel on his girlfriend without her permission. Chloe had been joking, but the seed of doubt had been planted. She knew she would not get mad at him if he touched her in "that way" because god only knew she'd been lusting after him for days. Until now, his thoughts had been much purer.
"You sound convinced she wouldn't." Clark said quietly, still in role-playing mode, at least upon the surface.
"I don't think she would." Chloe replied, and she loosened her grip around him. She brought her hand down to rest upon his hand, which lay upon her ribs. He allowed her to move it, and she guided it upwards toward her chest, where she left it upon the swell of one breast as she returned her hand to his side. "In fact, I know she wouldn't."
The cloth of his T-shirt and her bra lay between his hand and her breast, but she could feel him hesitantly cup his fingers around its curves. She could feel them trembling as he traced the outline of her nipple, and heard the ragged hitch to his breathing. She raised her face toward his, wanting to kiss him, but suddenly both his face, and the hand on her breast, were gone.
Chloe was very nearly dumped into the floorboards as he sat up and moved away from her. He banged his head on the roof of the car, making Chloe wince, and before she could stop him he had crawled over into the front seat and vanished out the front door back into the rain. She was left lying on the backseat, her breasts throbbing, completely alone. It took her a minute to recover. By that time he'd gotten back into the car, and it was running. He turned the heater up full blast, put the car into gear, and drove it toward the road. Chloe climbed back into the passenger's seat.
"Boobs of terror."
"Shut up, Chloe. You aren't funny."
"A little bit ago you thought I was funny."
Clark hunched over the steering wheel. "You need new windshield wipers."
"All right, all right. I'm sorry. Okay. I shouldn't have put you in that position. You're a nice guy, Clark. I'm only human, I...."
"Oh, great, just fucking great."
Chloe's eyebrows went up. Clark never swore.
"So now you're going to throw that up at me, Chloe? The 'only human' crap, like I'm some sort of superior being?"
"Aren't you? Hello? Earth to Planet Wherever-The-Hell-You-Come-From, you just made it rain, Clark. Joe Schmoe human can't do that. Besides, that's not what I meant."
"What did you mean?"
"Shut up and let me finish and you might find out."
He shut up.
"I think you're sexy."
The car continued down the highway, the windshield wipers squeaking as they flipped across the glass, and the engine rumbling along with the thunder. Clark glanced over at her. Chloe saw his face out of the corner of her eye as the car was lit by a flash of lightning. He looked perplexed.
"I'm not good at this, Clark."
"Yeah, it took years for you to actually admit you had a crush on me. Actually, you never did. Pete told me."
"Oh, and as if you weren't Mr. Oblivious..."
"It's hard to interpret longing looks shot at me behind my back, Chloe. I can see through most things, but not my own head."
"Because it's made of lead?"
"I repeat, you aren't funny."
Chloe crossed her arms over her chest and stared out the window. "Do you think I'm sexy?"
"Oh man, Chloe, come on. Do we have to have this discussion?"
"We're dating, we're legally adults, why can't we have this discussion? Most kids our age have already had sex you know."
"Why do you assume I haven't?"
"Clark, you touched my boob and you flipped out! Why are you assuming I haven't?"
"Have you?" He demanded.
"Have you?" She shot back.
It took him a while to answer. "No," he said finally.
Chloe let her breath out in a little sigh. "You and Lana didn't..."
"No," he said quickly. "No."
He drove on in silence for a minute and then cleared his throat. "She told me once that she was on the pill. It was sort of a hint."
Chloe was somewhat surprised. She'd pegged Lana for a "wait until you get married" sort of girl. "And you didn't catch on?"
"Oh, I caught on, but I didn't let her know it."
"Did you want to?"
"That's a rather personal question."
"We're talking about sex; it gets personal."
The seat shifted as he moved uncomfortably. "Yeah, I did."
"Clark, your ability to restrain your baser instincts is remarkable. Do you know how many guys would give their right arm to do the wild thing with Lana Lang?"
"Okay, that's the point, Chloe. I'm not like most guys."
Chloe turned to look at him, even though she could only make out the faint outline of his profile in the pale green glow of the dashboard lights. "You'd better elaborate here, Clark, because my imagination is going wild with that one. I've seen far too many science fiction films and read too many tabloid newspapers. You are actually - male - aren't you?"
"By what definition?"
"Now who's not funny?" Chloe growled.
"You certainly act male."
"Yeah," he chuckled. "I did peek into the girls' locker room with the X-ray vision once."
"Saw Lana naked."
"You're definitely male. I can actually hear you grinning. So, you play peeping Tom with the telescope for years, you see Lana naked, and you still don't make a move on her when she drops you a hint? My imagination is going back to the whacked-out, science-fiction stuff."
"I am very human - down there - okay, so just forget the whacked-out, science-fiction stuff."
"If you've never had sex, how do you know?"
He ignored her. "Are you okay to drive yourself home?"
"Ah, now I can hear you blushing. Played with more than that telescope up there in the loft, huh?"
They had reached the Kent farm. Clark pulled Chloe's car in behind his mother's and turned off the ignition. "You haven't answered my question," he said after a pause.
"Have you ever, " he raised his hands and made quote marks with his fingers, "done the wild thing?"
Chloe turned to look at him. "No, and you haven't answered two of my questions."
"How come you get more questions than I do?"
"Because you have more secrets, and I am a reporter."
He laughed. "Delusions of grandeur..."
"Just answer the questions, Clark."
"I would if I knew what they were, Chloe."
She cleared her throat. "Why didn't you have sex with Lana, really? I know you, Clark. I know how much you loved her and probably still love her. You were going to marry her. You wouldn't have held back unless there was a very good reason." She stopped, and lowered her eyes. "I know that's really personal, and you don't have to answer it if you really don't want to."
"We're talking about sex," he said softly. "It gets personal."
Chloe snorted softly.
"You deserve to know, Chloe, especially after what happened tonight. It's not you, I promise. I just - don't think I should have sex at all."
"Afraid you'll turn evil and kill people?"
He made a wry face. "No, Buffy, I won't vamp out and kill people."
"You never know."
"Chloe, that's the point. All kidding aside, I honestly have no idea what will happen. I don't know if I could keep from hurting you. I don't know if I'd change in some way or not. I don't know if I could get you pregnant, or if you'd have some sort of allergic reaction or..."
"I think you're overanalyzing it, Clark." Chloe said softly. She had not overlooked the fact that he'd said "you" in reference to his sexual partner. Her pulse quickened as she realized how close they were getting. Would she? Could she?
"You've lived among people weaker than you are for years without hurting anyone," she continued. "I've seen you working with your mother's chicks, fragile little lives even a human could accidentally crush, but you hold them, and you don't hurt them. I've seen you birth lambs and kittens. I've seen you help out at the nursing home, lifting frail old ladies from their beds to their wheelchairs. When Pete's baby sister was born you held her and gave her a bottle."
"This is different," he protested.
"How is this different?"
"I could get distracted, excited...."
"Yeah, and how distracted were you tonight? You were exhausted, pounded with wind and rain, trying to remain airborne for god's sake, in the middle of a thunderstorm, and you grabbed me by the ankle. You could have crushed it, but you didn't. You never, ever put yourself first, Clark, under any circumstances. This isn't any different. I trust you. You need to trust yourself."
His voice was rough when he finally spoke. "What is the second question?"
Chloe smiled. "Do you think I'm sexy?"
"Isn't that a song?"
"Yes, " he whispered. "I do."
"Do you want my body?" She sang it softly, dancing slightly in her seat.
Clark laughed. "Chloe channels Rod Stewart."
They fell silent, listening to the rain on the roof of the car.
"We did it," he said quietly. "We made it rain, Chloe."
"No, you did it."
"I couldn't have done it alone," he turned to look at her. "We make a good team."
"Yeah," she breathed. "We do, don't we."
"Would it be bad of me to say I'm glad it didn't work out with Lana?"
"No, I don't think so," Chloe replied softly. "People change, Clark. Sometimes we want something really badly and when we get it, it's not as wonderful as we once thought. Sometimes the opposite is true." She inhaled deeply. "Would you think less of me if I said I'm glad it didn't work out with Lana, too?"
"No," he said, and he held out a hand to her.
Chloe edged across the seat and he kissed her. In the faint light issuing from the porch light, she could just make out the pale oval of his face and the general outline of his features. His body was warm again beneath her hands as she rubbed his bare back and shoulders. She kissed him again, then moved to rest her head against his neck, her mouth close to his ear.
"I'm on the pill, Clark, and I have condoms in my purse."
She felt his body shake with laughter. "Brazen hussy."
Chloe kissed his neck. "What do you want me to say? Do me now, stud?" Cautiously, as if working with an easily frightened animal, she slid her hand down to his thigh and rubbed it in slow circles. "I'm nervous about it too, but I'm willing, and there isn't anything to be afraid of because if I'm at all uncomfortable I'll yell 'ow' very loudly."
"You'll wake up my parents."
She moved her hand up his thigh. "Then don't hurt me."
He squirmed uneasily. "Chloe, I don't know..."
She cut off any further protest with a kiss, a very passionate kiss, while her hand continued its work between his legs. She felt disjointed, out of character, as if something in her body was overriding her mind. Her fingers felt the bulge pressing against his jeans and her body responded with a surge of heat between her own legs. She wanted this, had been wanting this, and was far too close to stop now. If she and Clark never got off the ground (no pun intended) with this second attempt at a relationship, at least they would have the memories. "Your first time should be special, with someone special," Chloe's mother had told her. No one was as special to her as Clark.
The kiss ended, but their mouths lingered so close that Chloe could feel his breath against her lips. He was somewhat breathless, with his eyes closed.
"Please," she whispered.
Almost immediately she found herself in the rain, running toward the porch. Clark held her around the waist, and glided up to the roof, settling softly, and guiding her toward one window with a finger to his lips for silence. He popped out the screen and slipped his fingers under the window sash, easing it open so that they could climb through. Chloe shook out her hair as he replaced the screen and closed the window.
"Wouldn't the loft be better?" She whispered.
"No," he said softly. "This is better."
"All the way down the hall, and heavy sleepers - as long as you don't yell 'ow' I think we'll be okay." He turned on a small desk lamp, giving the room some light, but not enough to attract too much attention should one of his parents wake.
Chloe chuckled as she looked around the room. She'd been there before, and had noted its tidiness. Clark was tidy, save for an empty soda can on his desk and a pair of socks lying in a crumpled heap beside the bed. His current pair of socks, which were sopping wet, and his sneakers joined them. Chloe added her sneakers to the pile, laughing at the size difference, as she came over to kiss him where he sat on the edge of the bed. She stood between his legs. Her hands were on his shoulders, his on her hips, and he looked up at her with a quiet expression.
"What?" she whispered.
"Are you sure?"
"I'm sure; are you sure?"
His voice broke. "No."
She kissed him gently. "It will be all right."
Unbuckling her jeans, she slid them and her underwear off, kicking them into the pile with their shoes and socks. She reached up beneath his T-shirt, which fell nearly to her knees, and unhooked her bra, throwing it into the pile. Only his shirt covered her. She leaned over him, kissing his mouth, his throat, his shoulders, and he raised his hands. He did not touch her again, but kept his hands hovering at a distance, as if he were afraid. He could do as he wished, and stop things if he wanted to stop, but he remained passive. Chloe's hands wandered to his jeans, unbuttoning them, tugging them down. He did not stop her, instead rising off the bed so that she could take them all the way off.
"Shh." She left him, padding across the room to her purse where it lay beside the window. Pausing, she peered out. It was still raining, but the worst of the storm seemed to be passing. Only the faintest flicker of lightening could be seen within the dark sky, and the thunder rumbled a long time after the light was gone. Chloe opened her purse, and returned with the silver package clutched in her hand.
She'd heard other girls talk. She'd once seen part of a porn flick, and of course it ran rampant over the Internet. Chloe wasn't stupid. She knew what sex was all about, but she did not understand how people could be so casual about it. Her eyes found Clark, admiring in his trim body. He was watching her, his eyes dark in the subdued light, and she was overwhelmed not only with desire, but with affection. How could anyone have sex with a stranger? She didn't understand. Maybe she would afterward, once she actually experienced sex herself, but somehow she doubted it.
Chloe ran her hands through his hair. She did not ask or demand. She said nothing at all, and Clark slowly raised a hand to touch her hip. He rubbed it gingerly, and a second hand came in to play after a moment or so. Both slipped beneath the hem of the shirt, one continuing to touch her hip, the other tracing the curve of her buttock. As they had in the car earlier, his fingers trembled, but the more they explored, the more confident he grew. Chloe lifted the shirt and removed it. He groaned.
She blushed, suddenly coy. It was funny, she thought, how being naked changes things. It takes away your confidence and bares not only your body, but your soul. Standing naked in front of Clark changed Chloe. She was no longer one of the boys, she could see that in his eyes, and she no longer wanted to be thought of in those terms either. She was no longer a child. She'd crossed the boundary between being a child and being an adult the moment she'd taken off the shirt. It had been an admission, an acceptance, of her own sexuality.
As suddenly as it had left her, her confidence returned. She felt grown up, emboldened by her own - adult - desires, and she wanted to share the feeling. Her mouth found Clark's again, and his kisses were almost desperate in tone as he reciprocated. His hands guided hers to remove the last of his clothing, and her fingers shook as she tore open the package in her hand. She balked at putting it on, drawing back from him, panting, and shaking her head.
"You do it. I can't."
"Don't ask me why, just do it." Chloe knew she was blushing to beat the band and didn't care. She felt stupid. She was willing to put that inside her but she suddenly didn't want to touch it.
Clark tipped his head to the side, giving her his confused puppy look.
"Don't look at me like that."
He rolled his eyes instead, and took the condom away from her. "Sometimes, Chloe, I wonder just who is the alien around here."
"You," she said, moving in again when he was finished. She felt the rubber brush her thigh, shivered a little, and resumed kissing him.
His hands were soft as they continued to explore her body carefully, gliding across her hips and up her back, down over her buttocks and up again. They moved around to her stomach, tracing a path around her navel. They lingered there as Chloe ducked her head to kiss the juncture of his neck and shoulder, and when she raised her head to shake back her hair, they rose to her breasts. He cupped them in his palms, his fingers caressing the soft skin beneath them while his thumbs ran over the sensitive swells of her nipples. Her fingers tangled in his hair, and she marveled at the softness of the dark waves. He lowered his hands back to her hips, and rolled back onto the bed, pulling her with him.
The room ceased to exist. Chloe lay upon the soft quilt covering Clark's bed looking up at his gentle expression, and he made up her entire world. He kissed her lips, holding himself over her with arms braced on the bed. She ran her hands over his arms, feeling the bulge of his muscles and the warmth of his skin beneath her hands as he moved his kisses down to her throat and her chest. The faint brush of stubble against her nipple as he kissed her breast made her rise against him. The warm wetness of his mouth there made her moan. She moved her knees against his hips, needing more, and rose to meet him when he carefully moved to oblige her. One hand slipped between their bodies. Without the reluctance she had shown earlier, she touched him, and guided him to the place that ached to embrace him.
He met resistance, and it hurt her. Her hiss made him stop, but she wrapped her arms around him and pulled him down to her, kissing away his fears, and urging him to continue. He was as kind as he was careful, taking time to whisper to her words of affection and reassurance. He paid attention to the rest of her body, repeating the action of his mouth against her breasts, kissing her cheeks, her neck, and her mouth again and again. Gradually she relaxed, and when he pressed forward again, she bit her lip and accepted him.
The burning pain subsided almost immediately, replaced by a mounting pleasure. It made her moan. It made her throw back her head and dig her blunt nails into his back. The flesh yielded, but she made no marks upon the flawlessness of his skin. She felt the muscles move beneath her hands and the undulating motion of his back as he moved himself in and out of her in long, slow strokes. Instinct made up for lack of knowledge. She moved with him, and felt the tension building from her center, through her belly, and into her breasts. Her breathing became labored, her eyes watered from a combination of pain and pleasure as she poised on the brink of something....something....
"Chloe..." Clark squeezed his eyes shut, his breath leaving him in the softest of whimpers.
His body moved against her, within her, in a rhythmic beat like the pulsing of life blood through the veins. Her body opened fully, drawing him deep, and suddenly Chloe felt the same sensation as she had when she was falling; the sensation of air rushing past her ears, blotting out all sound, and the weightlessness of freefall. Tingling electric bursts shot through her body, as if borne by lightning, and caused it to move of its own accord. She strained against the body pressing into hers, wrapping her legs around his hips and rocking with his motion as her mind drifted upon the waves of pleasure enveloping it. Her breath left her in a series of almost surprised exclamations, the bed banged softly against the wall behind them once, then twice, then three times, and Clark moaned. His body shuddered, the point of connection pulsed with throbbing heat. He moved inside her and her body exploded a second time, muscles clenched around him, keeping him part of her. She closed her eyes, and flew, rising up from freefall to float among the clouds, before drifting down to the ground once again.
More alive than she'd ever felt before. Every sense was heightened. She could hear the sound of the rain dripping from the eaves of the house. She could feel every tiny silken hair upon Clark's skin against her body. She could smell the peppery tang of his sweat braided together with her own, and the scent of the floral fabric softener Martha had used on the quilt. She opened her eyes and she saw joy in his eyes, as one last insurmountable fear had been vanquished by her sacrifice. He braced himself on his elbows, and pushed her hair back from her eyes, and Chloe started to cry.
"What? Are you okay?"
She nodded, sniffling.
She flung her arms around his neck and hugged him with all her strength. "I love you so much."
His voice was muffled. "Jesus, Chloe. Don't scare me like that."
Her tears turned to laughter.
When Chloe heard the bird, she was put in mind of the scene from Romeo and Juliet, when they wake and he makes ready to leave her. "Tis the nightingale." Juliet declares, not wanting the night with her new husband to end and the day to begin. It had, regrettably, been the lark and not the nightingale, and Romeo had left her.
Chloe's Romeo was snoring. They lay together in the narrow confines of his bed (why the hell didn't his parents get him something bigger than a twin?), Clark sprawled on his stomach with one leg and one arm dangling over the edge, and Chloe curled up on her side next to him. She cuddled closer, rubbing the small of his back, and listening to his gentle snoring while she tried her best not to laugh at him. If she had not trusted him as she did, or had she not seen him actually do the strange things he could do, she would have never believed him to be anything other than human. Snoring was so utterly - human - Chloe could not ascribe it to an extraterrestrial.
She wanted to let him sleep. They'd been up nearly all night. They'd dozed briefly after the first round, and woke for a second, which had surprised both of them. It had been a slightly more confident version of the first. Clark had fallen to sleep almost immediately, but it had taken Chloe a while. She'd finally succumbed when he woke slightly and pulled her into a hug, but had been roused again by the sunlight streaming through the window and the song of the birds outside. She was expected to leave for Metropolis in less than three hours and her father would be frantic if he went to her room and found her still gone. There was, too, the fact Clark was always up early for chores, even on a Saturday. Chloe had to go.
"Clark." She shook him, poked him with a toe; regretted it. He was as unyielding as a cinder block.
Martha's voice, muffled through the door, froze her.
"Claaaruk Kent, breakfast!"
He moaned and mumbled as Chloe, panicked, launched herself out of the bed and scrambled for her clothes. "G'way, Mom."
"Clark!" she hissed. "Wake up."
"Clark!" Martha echoed from the kitchen.
His eyes opened. He blinked at Chloe almost as if he were trying to figure out what she was doing half-naked in his bedroom. Chloe could track the progression of his thoughts by the expression on his face, and when he finally reached the "I had sex with Chloe, she's still here, and Mom is calling for breakfast" point, he was wide awake and hastily pulling on a pair of sweatpants.
"Coming, Mom!" he called, and dug under the bed for Chloe's other shoe. "You've got to get out of here before she comes up here!"
"What if they see the car?"
"They might not have been outside yet. Hurry."
Chloe pulled his T-shirt back on and stuffed her bra in her pocket. He grabbed another T-shirt, slipped it on, and guided her to the window. The sun was out again, and it looked like another warm day was brewing, but there were puddles in the yard, and overnight everything looked much greener. If Clark could pull off another rainstorm or two before the next real weather moved in, things would be okay for them. Chloe felt a swell of pride in her heart as she looked out across the farmyard and saw the water pooling in the troughs, and the green shimmer of tiny new grass shoots in the paddock. She waited, standing on the porch roof, until Clark joined her. He kissed her.
"For everything," he said quietly.
Chloe looked into his eyes, which were bright and green in the morning sun, and she kissed him, slowly, with as much passion as they had shared last night. "I'm leaving today. I don't want to go...."
"Go. I'll see you soon." One eyebrow cocked. "You have a roommate?"
"Nope, private room." Chloe grinned. "Why?"
He was so fucking cute when he blushed.
"I might have to pay you a visit, or two, or three...."
They kissed again, and Clark lay down on his stomach in order to lower her gently to the ground. She hastened to the car, was relieved when it started immediately. Rubbing her hands over her face, she blinked herself into a somewhat alert state, and started down the lane wondering if she could somehow convince her father a later arrival in Metropolis wouldn't be a better idea.
Just before she turned onto the road she looked back at the yellow house and saw Clark still standing on the porch roof watching her. His sweatpants were blue, and the baggy t-shirt he wore over them was bright red, and he stood squinting into the morning sun with the last of the storm winds tugging at the shirt and his hair. He raised a hand to wave at her, and she returned the gesture. She drove home with a smile on her face so broad she thought surely it would split her head in half.
Years later, Chloe Sullivan would remember Clark standing on the porch roof in the light of the morning sun, as her fingers ran over the glossy surface of a magazine cover and the photograph printed there. She would remember the time they spent together, and she wouldn't cry, because the memories were sweet.
She'd look at the photo and wonder how Superman came to be photographed at the top of the Chandler's Field windmill in Smallville, Kansas. He stood on the old familiar platform, the big blades rising above his head, and he squinted into the morning sun with one hand raised as if to shield his eyes. He appeared to be looking for something, or someone.
Chloe would fret over it for weeks, until she would read in her own newspaper a story regarding the engagement of two of her journalistic colleagues. A few days later she'd mail a copy of the photograph, carefully folded within a letter, to an address in Metropolis. It was stupid of her. She really didn't think he would come. She could recall the last argument before the last, and final, breakup.
"When did you get to be so arrogant?"
"When did you turn into such a bitch?"
Neither accusation had been at all accurate, but it had been a way out of a relationship much desired yet somehow unable to ever grow roots. They had not spoken for years. It was better that way.
At six a.m. not a week after she sent the letter, Chloe stood on the balcony of her London high-rise apartment and watched the sun rise over the glittering stretch of the Thames as it wound its way through the city. She thought about the photograph. It had been on the cover of a Metropolis based periodical in which she had published some of her own work. He'd appeared on behalf of some environmental agency supporting the return of more traditional farming methods. Ironically, Kent Organic had been featured.
Chloe sipped her coffee. She believed in omens, but this one she knew had been carefully calculated.
He proved her correct as he stepped from the sky onto her balcony. His expression spoke of sorrow.
She didn't care, or at least pretended not to, until she congratulated him on the engagement, and the tears she despised started to fall. He was her Kryptonite. He made her weak. She hated him for it.
He rescued the coffee cup before she dropped it, and pulled her into his arms, whispering into her hair as she cried against his shoulder. He smelled of sunshine. He tasted of rain, or perhaps it was simply her tears upon his lips. She begged him to go, but didn't really mean it, and he stayed anyway.
He took her flying.
Before saying good-bye, and leaving Chloe curled around her pillow in the warm hollow he had left behind.
She rolled over, staring up at the ceiling. Above her bed the ceiling fan cut through the air, its blades reminiscent of the windmill. When she closed her eyes she could still see it turning in the darkness and the words of one long gone from their lives echoed up from her memories.
"Can't you feel it, Chloe? It's the end of an era."
And so it was.
Clark had finally outgrown her. The tether had been cut...
But she would never let go completely.
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