Kiss

by paperbkryter


Written for LJC's birthday challenge. Happy Birthday, and thanks for all the wonderful writing challenges!


Chloe eyed the monster dubiously, trying to hide the way her knees were knocking. She pressed her gloved hands together to stop their shaking as the creature turned its head and regarded her with a cool, calculating stare. A plume of steam issued from its nostrils. She resisted the temptation to turn and run. She must not show fear.

The staring contest drug on, and Chloe realized that before too long she would have to make her move. One smooth, quick motion and she would conquer her fear and subdue the beast. All she had to do was take one step forward. One small step. All she had to do was reach out one trembling hand and...

"Chloe," Clark said quietly. "Have you ever ridden a horse before?"

She flinched, hiding her grimace as she looked over her shoulder and up at him. He towered over her, already sitting on his mount. She smiled brightly.

"Oh - oh, sure! Lot's of times."

Does a merry-go-round count?

"I was quite a good rider when I was little, it's just been a while."

Okay, I was four, on a pony, led in a circle at the Metropolis Petting Zoo. It snorted and I freaked out.

"If you want me to get down and help you up, I can." Clark said helpfully. He put down his reins, and started to swing a leg over the saddle.

The words came out a little hastier and a little higher pitched than she intended. "No, no, I'm fine."

Play it cool Chloe. Don't let on that you'll pee your pants if this horse so much as shakes its head, its big head, with its big mouth full of sharp teeth. Did horses have sharp teeth? Oh God, this was such a bad idea.

It had been a great idea the night before, when she'd called Clark and suggested they investigate a rather legendary stretch of woodland just south of town. She'd heard about some strange things happening there lately, and she suggested to Clark that perhaps instead of hiking through the woods, they should take horses instead. That way they could get away quickly in case of trouble. She'd been ecstatic when he'd agreed, because although Chloe legitimately wanted to check out the woods, she also had ulterior motives.

She had just seen The Horse Whisperer on DVD, and it had tweaked her romance button to see the ever adorable Robert Redford riding across open fields with an attractive woman. He'd fallen in love with said woman, and it had given Chloe ideas. She'd envisioned riding off into the sunset, or at least the beauty of an autumn colored wood, with the object of her affections, i.e.; Clark. It would, she hoped, stir his passions, waking him to the wonders of Chloe. Her childhood fear of horses had been chucked out the window in favor of adult, or near adult, rationality. If riding a horse meant she got to smooch Clark, she would ride a freakin' horse.

They weren't, after all, supposed to be scary. Horses were Black Beauty and Trigger; sweet, gentle things that rescued people and looked pretty in beer commercials. Spirits high, she had arrived early to the head of the bridle trail, where there was a stable with horses for lease. With the benign Anna Sewell character in mind, Chloe had purposely picked out the black one from the group they'd shown her.

Why didn't Mr. John Wayne Wannabe tell me the horse was named Satan before I laid down the cash?

She should have known then things weren't going to go her way. Her plans were further waylaid by the arrival of the Kent's pick-up truck towing a trailer. Puzzled, she'd gone around and met Clark at the back, where he opened the doors to reveal not one horse, but two. One was a dark bay, obviously Martha Kent's crabby old horse, Decca, by the way he'd been kicking the doors; the other, a brown and white paint.

Paint? Only one person in town owned a spotted horse and would be hanging around with Clark.

Chloe seethed through her grin when Lana popped out of the passengers' side door of the truck and said hello to her.

Damn him. He just had to invite her, didn't he.

"You brought your own horses?" she'd asked.

"Yeah - Decca knock it off - these rental horses can be a little unpredictable and Mom said Decca needed the exercise."

I'm going to die.

"I thought Decca tried to kill you on a regular basis ala the Terminator; swiftly and brutally?"

"Oh, he used to, and he still tries sometimes." Clark's grin had been broad. "But he's old and I'm tough, so we've come to an understanding."

So Clark and Lana had saddled their horses, Clark easily fending off Decca's attempts to slam him into the side of the trailer, then waited while the stable hand saddled Satan for Chloe. Now Lana was marking time by making her horse do some tricky sideways maneuvers that made riding look like the easiest thing in the world, and Clark was watching Chloe as she gathered her nerve to actually get on. She could tell he didn't believe a word she was saying about having ridden before.

As Clark watched, Decca abruptly turned his head and tried to bite him, but a prod in the nose with one sharp toed cowboy boot made the horse reconsider. Decca's repeated attempts to maim Clark were not making Chloe feel any better. Neither was the way Satan was staring at her. He looked...

Hungry? Oh, I so want to go home!

"Chloe...."

"Okay, okay. I'm coming."

"Lana and I could always go check things out and report back you know."

Chloe stiffened. That was the absolute last thing she wanted to happen. Lana Lang was not going to steal her Horse Whisperer moment with Clark. If Chloe wasn't going to be able to take advantage of the romantic horseback ride, Lana certainly would not be permitted to do so either, even if Satan broke every bone in Chloe's body and ate her afterwards.

She gave Satan an evil glare, grabbed the reins, and before she could think about it, had her foot in the stirrup and her butt in the saddle.

"Okay, I'm up, I'm up - ohmigod, he's moving!"

Satan was moving, he was sidling around to face Decca.

"Pick up your reins and say whoa."

"Whaaahoa."

Clark was such a gentleman. Chloe barely heard the snicker.

"Not 'whaaahoa', just 'whoa', short and stern."

"Whoa!"

Obediently, Satan stopped, and Chloe swallowed heavily. "Thanks."

Narrowing his eyes suspiciously, Clark gave her a stare. "You're scared."

"No I'm not. I'm just rusty." Chloe picked up the reins and held them the way the stable man had showed her, trying to look like she knew what she was doing. "It's been a long time since my rear has graced the saddle, but it's just like riding a bicycle." She grinned, but even she could tell it was a rather sickly attempt.

"Uh-huh, and riding a bicycle makes your pulse race?"

Clark, don't say race when I'm on a horse. Please? Satan might get ideas.

"My pulse isn't racing, and if it were, it's because I'm excited to be riding again."

Clark bit his lip and looked away, and Chloe thought she saw his shoulders shaking, but with the big puffy coat he was wearing, she couldn't be sure.

What had possessed his mother to buy such a hideous coat? It looks like the Swiss army knife of outer apparel, unzip the lining and there is a pup tent and an inflatable raft inside.

He turned back around.

The turtleneck is pretty hot though, shows off those pecs in such a nice way. Mrs. Kent gets points for that fashion purchase.

"Chloe, you've lived here for how many years now? You've never expressed any desire to go riding before." He grinned despite himself. "This doesn't have anything to do with the fact you rented The Horse Whisperer last weekend does it?" He motioned for her to follow with a turn of his head, and guided Decca towards the head of the trail.

Chloe was relieved when Satan followed along without her having to do anything. She heard Lana fall in behind them, and hoped no one got any ideas about kicking.

"No, and how did you know I rented The Horse Whisperer anyway?"

"Pete."

Pete, I'm going to gouge out your eyes with a spork.

"No," she repeated. "I told you. I thought that if we got into trouble out in the woods we'd be able to get away faster on horseback."

"May I take point?" Lana asked, saving Chloe from further explanation, for the moment anyway. "Robbi doesn't like being behind."

"Sure." Clark moved Decca to the side of the trail, and Chloe, somewhat awkwardly, repeated what he did with his reins. Satan heaved a sigh, but he scooted over.

Smiling prettily, Lana edged her mare past the other two horses, taking the lead.

"Thanks."

I hate that I can't totally hate her.

Chloe sighed, and with a poke of one heel, managed to get Satan up to walk beside Decca. She was extremely proud of herself for it.

Pride comes before a fall, she discovered a second later, when Satan passed Decca and started some fast paced, bumpy thing in an effort to catch up to Lana. Apparently Lana's male attracting force field also applied to males of species other than human. Chloe felt like her butt was being reduced to ground chuck and her teeth were going to fall out.

"Claar-ar-ar-ar-ark...."

"Just say whoa, Chloe," he called pleasantly, and this time he did laugh at her, or perhaps his own stupid joke, Chloe was too panicked to tell.

Let's put Clark down on the death-by-spork list too.

"Whoa!"

Satan stopped the bumpy thing. In fact, he stopped everything, and Chloe very nearly had her intestinal tract invaded by the saddle horn.

Clark brought Decca up beside her and stopped. Red faced and gasping, she looked up at him.

"Thanks."

"No problem." He gave her a wry glance, and she could tell he was trying valiantly not to laugh at her. "You've never been on a horse before have you?"

Hmm, perhaps the helpless girl routine may swing things back in my direction.

"No." Chloe squeaked.

Clark rolled his eyes. "Then why did you want to do this?"

"I told you, for a fast getaway. I just didn't think it would be this difficult."

"Oh geez, Chloe!"

Or maybe not, he's not being very sympathetic.

Moving Decca back into a walk, Clark shook his head. "Try again, but this time don't kick him, just squeeze a little."

Chloe squeezed, and Satan politely dropped into pace with Decca. Lana was waiting up the trail a bit, but moved on as they caught up.

"You never fail to amaze me."

She didn't respond. She felt clumsy and stupid, more than a little embarrassed, and the sight of Ms. Perky Pom Pom in front of them was irritating her to no end.

"You've got pluck."

"Okay," Chloe spat, coming to the end of her rope of tolerance. "First of all, I hate being described as plucky. I'm not a pair of tweezers. Secondly, who the heck uses the word 'pluck' anymore anyway, besides you and a couple of octogenarian farmers who think hanging around the co-op spitting tobacco juice into a paper cup is living the good life?"

Clark frowned. "Otis and Virgil are only in their seventies."

"Augh!"

"And they have cool stories."

"You are such a loser."

"I am not!"

"The next thing you know, " Chloe said, waving a hand dramatically. "You'll be dressing like them, with your pants pulled up to your armpits, your shirt buttoned up to your chin, and a filthy dirty John Deere baseball cap on your head."

He made a little grumbling noise.

"What was that?"

"Nothing."

"No, you said something, Clark. What was it?"

Scowling, he relented. "I said 'I already have a John Deere baseball cap'."

Chloe swiveled in her saddle in order to look at him, saw that he was serious, and burst out laughing, causing both horses to jerk their heads up with a start. After a brief moment of panic, she recovered.

"What?"

"I wear it when I'm plowing because you get all dusty and..."

"Loser." Chloe laughed.

Clark pouted. "Am not."

"Are so."

"Greenhorn."

"Dweeb."

"Plucky, plucky plucky."

"Fashion don't."

Chloe was grinning, all fear momentarily gone. It might not be a romantic interlude, and it was certainly irritating to have Lana there, but she had to admit that it was nice being with Clark regardless.

"Clark, that coat got hit with the butt-ugly bus."

"I like this coat!"

"Yeah, it matches your John Deere hat."

Clark shook his head.

"It'll go with the glasses."

"What glasses?"

"The army issue black glasses that Otis wears, the ones with the tape around the middle. You are an Otis Finkle wannabe, right?"

"Chloe, if I ever turn into Otis Finkle, please kill me."

Chloe lowered her voice in an imitation of the old farmer. "I remember, it was back in forty-seven when I broke these here glasses. Calf head-butted me in the face. Nearly broke my nose, had to wear a neck brace for a month." She mimicked spitting, and Clark lost it.

"What are you two howling about?"

Lana sat waiting for them at a place where the wooded part of the trail opened up into a field. On the other side were more woods and they could see where their route would continue through the trees. Robbi, seeming to be irritated at the delay in their progress, flicked her tail and tossed her head as Lana turned her around to face their companions.

"Otis Finkle?"

Immediately Lana wrinkled her nose. "Oh."

"What is it?" Clark asked.

She made a face as if she didn't want to say.

Chloe laughed. "Come on Lana, we can tell you have some intriguing information you want to pass on regarding the amazingly fashionable Otis Finkle."

"It's not very nice."

"Oh, say it anyway." Chloe prompted. "We won't tell will we, Clark?"

"If you don't want to say, Lana, you don't have to."

Uh-huh, there he goes. If you look up the term "fawning adoration" in the dictionary of common phrases, there is a picture of Clark making that face. If he gets any more moony he's going to fall off his horse. Do I hear violin music?

Chloe had to chide herself for the thought, having caught herself making the same face at Clark in the past. She just did it not only behind his back, but under cover of her algebra book during study hall.

Well at least I can get points for being "plucky" and trying to set up a romantic liaison ala butt mutilation.

"Well," Lana said. "You know Otis has been after Mrs. Nussbaum for a while."

"Yeah, Senior Citizens in love, nothing cuter."

"Chloe!" Clark scowled.

"What? Come on, Clark, what are they going to do besides hold hands and swap stories about dentures? It's bizarre."

"I think it's sweet."

Lana smiled at him, for apparently that was the correct Lana pleasing response. Clark grinned back.

I may hurl.

"Anyway, Lana, you were saying?" Chloe shot Clark a glare, but he missed it, being suddenly too involved with avoiding yet another attack on his knee from the nefarious Decca.

"Otis comes into the flower shop to buy flowers for Mrs. Nussbaum sometimes and he..." She looked embarrassed. "Passes gas - a lot."

Chloe knew she should resist, but she couldn't resist. It was just too tempting. It would probably get her in trouble, but she didn't care. She reached out and poked Clark in the shoulder.

"See, you are like Otis already."

Wow, same shade of red as the coat. Score!

Lana chuckled.

"You aren't funny, Chloe." Clark grumbled.

She grinned at him, and turned to Lana. "Don't go into that barn after chili night." She made a face and waved a hand in front of her nose. "Fortress of Fartitude."

Both girls giggled.

"What is this, gang up on Clark day?"

"You're just so cute when you blush." Chloe grinned, and batted her eyes at him.

"I am just so leaving." Clark started to Decca around.

"No, no!" Lana laughed. "We're just teasing, Clark."

He gave them both a suspicious glare.

"You aren't Otis Finkle." Chloe said.

"Not at all." Lana agreed.

"Yet."

He scowled as Chloe snorted a laugh.

"Otis is a nice old man, and you two shouldn't make fun of him. You'll be old with gastrointestinal upsets one day yourselves."

Lana feigned outrage. "Never!"

"If this horse doesn't kill me first."

Clark gave Chloe what she thought at first was a continuation of his "displeased" expression, a rueful down-turning of his mouth, but his eyes softened, and his words indicated that it was something else.

"I'd never let that happen, Chloe."

It's not the dumbstruck look he uses on Lana*, but he does truly care about me. Why do I have to be so greedy and want so much more? Is it because I'm the one dumbstruck? Maybe I shouldn't be so hard on him over the Lana thing, because I know so well what it's like to be in love and have it not be reciprocated.

She sobered, and responded quietly. "Thanks, Clark."

But I do wish it were me, I do.

Robbi snorted, breaking the moment, and Lana patted her neck. "I'm going to let her run a little. She's really fresh today." She grinned. "Meet you on the other side."

They watched her turn Robbi towards the field, and the mare, pleased to have her freedom at last, bounded off across the open space. Lana's dark hair flew out behind her as she galloped away. They heard her laughing when Robbi gave a little buck. Decca called after her and started to dance a little, shaking his head in irritation that Clark would not let him follow. He also tried to bite yet again.

Clark turned to Chloe with a look she wasn't sure she liked. "You want to try?"

"Uh - I dunno." Chloe watched the rapidly retreating form of Lana skeptically.

"It'll be fun. Come on Chloe, where's your pluck?"

She glared at him.

"Just sit back, hold onto the horn if you have to, and you'll be okay. If you get into trouble just yell and I'll help." He reached over and patted Satan on the neck. "He seems like a nice fellow, Chloe. If you tell him 'whoa' he'd probably stop anyway."

"How can I tell him 'whoa ' if all my spit dries up from terror and I'm rendered speechless?"

Clark cocked his head at her and his grin broadened. "Since when have you ever been speechless Chloe Sullivan?"

"Plenty of times."

"That's what you said about riding a horse, too."

She looked after Lana.

Damnit, if she can do it, I can do it.

Chloe got a good "whoa-ing" grip on her reins with one hand, and grabbed the saddle horn with the other. She straightened her back, looked Clark in the eye, and grinned.

"Last one there is a big fat loser."

Clamping her legs around Satan, she gave a shout, and held on as the horse launched himself forward into the field. He did the bumpy thing first, before breaking into a very comfortable pace that Chloe actually found herself liking. It was rather nice. She started to relax, gaining confidence, but that was destined to be short lived.

Clark pulled up next to her, looking far too comfortable on his fussy horse. Decca wanted to go, but Clark wouldn't let him. Instead he held him in stride with the gentle pace Satan was setting.

"That's a nice canter Chloe, but you'll never win doing that," he said.

He then winked, clucked to Decca, and the old horse leaped forward into a gallop, illustrating just how much he still had in him. Chloe watched as the lanky thoroughbred leaped a small stream without breaking stride, and shot off towards the trail in a blaze of speed. Clark hunched over his neck like a giant red tick, urging him to go faster.

Satan took exception to being left behind, and snorted, pulling at the reins until Chloe let him go. It was one of the most frightening things she had ever done in her life, and yet, as she uttered a half-laugh, half-scream when he took off, she ended up finding herself enjoying it. Her body adjusted to his movements quickly, balancing in the saddle, and she leaned ever-so-slightly forward to urge him onward.

His hooves thudded against the ground, sending the concussion rebounding into Chloe. She could feel every stride he made, and the strength and power of him each time he sprang off the ground, bringing them closer and closer to their destination. It made her realize why so many people loved horses. It was amazing to be carried so swiftly across the open space, to put her trust in another creature, to feel that partnership. She was relieved when he splashed through the stream instead of leaping it, but she felt almost disappointed when she saw the opening of the trail coming closer. Chloe wanted to keep going, to run and run, with all her cares stripped away with the wind rushing past. It was over much too soon.

They shot through the opening and saw Clark and Lana now walking together. As she came up behind their horses, Chloe sat back, grabbed her reins once again, and brought Satan back down to the bumpy trot. He wanted to go some more, snorting and shaking his head, spinning around several times until he started to listen to her. It took several "whoas" to get him calmed down. Chloe was nervous still, but not quite so terrified.

I could get used to this.

Clark and Lana were quietly discussing Whitney's father, giving Chloe a chance to catch her breath and look around. It was rather eerie in the woods. The leaves were mostly on the ground now, but the underbrush was thick, and anyone, or anything, could be hiding among the trees. At that point she was rather pleased to have Satan with her, and that she'd overcome much of her fear. If something came after her, she would take its picture, and then run like heck. Her encounter with Sean had seriously impaired Chloe's ability to confront dangerous situations. Despite Clark's penchant for making the rescue, Chloe's new strategy involved not sticking around long enough to need rescuing.

Determined to be prepared for the appearance of some sort of "phenomenon", she had her camera at hand, but as she attempted to wrestle it out of her pocket, it fell. She looked back and saw just a small bit of silver against the fallen leaves in the middle of the trail.

Damn.

Satan, of course, didn't care that one of Chloe's most cherished possessions, as dear to her as, say - her left arm - had been lost in the leaves littering the trail. He went on, following the other horses, until Chloe managed to overcome her shock and bring him to a stop.

"I dropped my camera!"

The result of which, Chloe discovered shortly, was that she suddenly found herself completely alone with two horses, one of whom was known to bite people. Clark had thrown the reins to her when he'd run off to rescue Lana, who had been attempting to rescue Chloe's camera. Her scream had frightened Chloe more than Chloe cared to admit, and she looked around nervously. She wanted Clark to come back.

Trust Lana to get herself into trouble. I hope she had my camera and thought to get a picture before Sasquatch carried her off. I also hope Sasquatch carried her off in this direction, because I'm really not comfortable with being here all by myself. Clark where are you?

She flinched as Decca reached over and tried to bite her. He was thwarted by Satan, who took it upon himself to defend Chloe by biting back. Some angry squealing ensued, but Decca chose not to jerk the reins out of Chloe's hand, for which she was extremely grateful, and instead swung himself out of Satan's reach. This also made Chloe grateful, as now he couldn't bite her.

"Chloe!"

It was Clark, shouting back from down the trail. Alarmed at his tone, she turned Satan around. Wrapping the end of Decca's reins around the saddlehorn, kicked Satan into a canter towards the sound of Clark's voice. He went willingly, pleased to be heading in the direction of the barn, and stopped somewhat reluctantly when they came upon Clark carrying Lana.

"What happened?"

"Something spooked Robbi." Clark shook his head. "Or someone. When I found her Kyle Tippet was there, but he didn't look like he was trying to hurt her or anything."

"M'okay." Lana murmured.

Clark looked down at her with concern. "She hit her head." He sighed. "I should have made you both wear your helmets."

"Helmets?" Chloe squeaked.

Helmets? These things come with helmets? Why wasn't I informed? This is a serious breech of safety etiquette! I didn't know you were supposed to wear a helmet! Cowboys don't wear helmets!

Chloe clamped down on her internal panic as Clark put Lana up on Decca and swung up behind her. She leaned heavily against him with her eyes slightly glazed. He wrapped his arms around her and took up the reins again, holding her steady as they started back down the path towards the stables.

I could do without the headache, but I would love to be cuddled up where she is right now.

"Is she all right?" Chloe bit her lip as she craned her head to look at Lana.

"Mild concussion I'd say."

"I'm fine, it just hurts, and I feel sick." Lana managed a weak smile. "Where's Robbi?"

"Probably back at the stables. She'll be fine." Clark soothed quietly. "Just relax."

"What happened?"

Lana shook her head. "I don't remember. Robbi spooked at something. I thought she was going to run me into a tree, and I remember bailing out, but after that...." Wincing, she put a hand to her head. "I opened my eyes and saw this guy, then heard Clark yelling at him."

"What spooked her? Tippet?"

"I don't know. Maybe. Probably. I didn't see anything else around."

"We shouldn't make assumptions. Why would Tippet want to scare Lana's horse?"

"Why would he want to scare anyone? Yet someone is scaring people out here, and I want to know who, and why." Chloe stated firmly, then remembered her camera. "My camera!" She turned in the saddle, looking back at the trail behind them.

"I've got it." Clark patted his pocket. "It was recording when I found it Chloe, maybe it will tell us what happened."

"See, it was a good thing we had it."

Clark made a wry face. "Well, on the other hand. If we weren't out here in the first place, this wouldn't have happened at all."

What?

"What are you trying to say, Clark, that it's my fault Lana got hurt? Because if you are, you can just stuff it, because it was you who invited her, not me."

"That's not what I'm saying, Chloe..."

"Then what are you saying, Clark?"

She was on the verge of tears, but refused to let it show. It was bad enough that she already felt guilty about Lana getting hurt, but for him to suggest that her guilt was justified cut her to the quick. Of course he would take Lana's side in absolutely everything.

Oh, poor Lana, fell off her horse. I'm just supposed to buck up and take it, because I'm "plucky", but she gets coddled. It's not fair.

"Don't fight. It's okay, Chloe. I'm okay. I invited myself along anyway, it isn't Clark's fault."

Lana's attempt at peace-keeping only made Chloe feel worse.

If she were a hateful bitch, I'd feel better, but she's not, and that just makes me look all the worse in comparison.

She didn't even enjoy the canter back across the meadow because she felt so miserable. Clark never did answer her question, and upon ceasing the discussion at Lana's request, he said nothing more about what had happened.

Chloe rode beside them, saw Lana sigh as she settled against Clark's chest, and dropped back behind Decca once they came into the narrower part of the trail again. There she indulged in some quiet, unobserved tears. Not only had her adventure been ruined, but any progress she'd been able to make with Clark on the romantic front, had been forced back. She only hoped the camera would reveal something interesting.

They arrived back at the stables where two of the employees were saddling up to go investigate the accident. Robbi had apparently caused a stir when she'd run in from the trail sans rider. They seemed relieved when they saw Lana was okay, and hurried to help Clark with her. Another came to help Chloe down and to take Satan back to the barn.

Her knees very nearly gave out on her when she hit the ground, and the sensation of standing still after riding the moving horse, was odd at first. The woman helping her chuckled.

"Your first time?"

Chloe nodded, confessing that she had lied about her experience. She reached out and gave Satan a pat, not nearly as afraid of him as she'd been before. "He's nice," she said. "How come you named him Satan?"

The woman smiled gently. "As a joke, because he is nice, one of the gentlest horses we have in fact." She winked as she unbuckled his saddle. "We sorta figured you were fibbin'."

Grinning, Chloe watched as he was led away.

I might just have to come back and go riding again, Satan ol' buddy.

"Chloe," Clark came up to her, Decca in hand. He looked worried. "Can you take Lana home? Robbi and Decca need cooled out before I get them loaded in the trailer."

"Sure."

There was a pause, and Clark looked down at his feet, scuffing one booted toe into the dirt. "Chloe," he said when he caught her eye again. "I'm sorry. I know none of this was your fault. I should have asked before I invited Lana. She just sounded so - lonely - when I told her we were going riding. She used to ride with Whitney, but since his dad's been sick...."

Chloe sighed.

This is why I like him so much. It's not because he's handsome, or that my heart goes all funny whenever I'm around him. It's because he's a good guy with a big heart, who only wants everyone to be happy. I should have known there were no ulterior motives, not like me and my ulterior motives. Once again, I wind up feeling foolish.

"It's okay, Clark. No big deal. I should have told you I was afraid of horses, so I guess that makes us even." She smiled. "Thanks for helping me though, I really did enjoy it after I stopped being afraid. Maybe we can go again and you can give me some more pointers. I am, however, investing in a helmet and a pair of padded pants because my derriere feels like road kill."

He laughed. "Sure," he said. "I'd like that."

There was a silence, and their eyes met. What Clark was thinking as he looked into her eyes, Chloe couldn't tell, but her chest knotted itself up and gave her a great deal of pain as she watched his expression.

Oh, kiss me. This is where you kiss me, Clark. I know you want to, I can tell. Come on, don't be stupid. Kiss me...oh, no!

Decca interrupted whatever "moment" they had been sharing. After being thwarted all day, he finally managed to sink his teeth into Clark. He got hold of Clark by the shoulder, and Chloe yelped as he clamped down and squeezed with an evil glint in his eye.

Clark simply turned, and swatted him on the nose. "Decca, knock it off!"

One foot lashed out, but Clark avoided it, and Decca, chastised, settled back into a tail swishing sulk with his ears pinned flat against his head. Clark craned his neck, examining his shoulder where the coat was wet with horse drool.

"Are you okay?" Chloe asked. She did not volunteer to get any closer. Decca still looked quite capable of staging a repeat performance.

Stupid, stupid horse! They never interrupted the kiss in the movies! Robert Redford always got to kiss the girl!

"Yeah," Clark returned to looking at Chloe, and grinned. "Saved by the butt-ugly coat. Sometimes it pays to be a fashion don't."

"It's still butt-ugly and I still say you're going to grow up to be Otis Finkle."

"And I suppose you'll be Mrs. Nussbaum?"

He meant it as a joke, and didn't fully comprehend what he'd said, but Chloe did. She felt her eyes burn, and fought back the unhappiness, like she almost always did.

"Yeah," she said quietly. "I'll be Mrs. Nussbaum, and you can buy me flowers."

"Absolutely," he said, but was distracted by the sight of Lana getting into Chloe's car. "You'd better go. She looks awfully pale."

Chloe nodded, and turned away. As she walked back to the car she cast a glance over her shoulder to see Clark leading Decca away to the hitching post where Robbi already stood waiting.

One day I'll have my kiss. Maybe it won't be as romantic as riding in a beautiful fall wood, but I'll have my kiss. I know it.

It was not until she got home after dropping Lana off, that Chloe remembered her camera. By the time Clark returned it to her, they were both deeply involved in the Kyle Tippet mystery and Clark was fighting with Lana.

It was on that day that she finally got her kiss.

Chloe didn't remember it, and that frustrated her, but two nights after it happened, she dreamed about it. In her dream she and Clark rode a black horse across a bright green field towards a secluded wood. She dreamed of sitting in front of him, wrapped within his embrace, with her head resting upon his shoulder. The warmth of his body against hers, and the movements of the horse beneath them, comforted her, and upon reaching their destination, she turned her face up to look at him. There was nothing but affection in the depths of his eyes.

He leaned down, and kissed her. She tasted peppermint, and her memory surged back to the afternoon when she had stood in front of a ramshackle trailer and showed Clark how much she really did care. The dream dissolved, but the memory remained.

When Chloe opened her eyes upon her darkened bedroom she recalled the kiss, and the thrill she'd felt when it had finally happened. Her sigh was sweet as she curled around her pillow, thinking of Clark's smile. Silently she gave thanks to Robert Redford, and his theatrical inspiration, for without it, they may have never encountered Kyle Tippet. She might have never had her kiss.

Kristen Scott Thomas, eat your heart out. You may have kissed Robert Redford, but I kissed Clark Kent. One up on Lana Lang, ha!

Chloe fell back to sleep with a broad smile on her face.



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