Chloe lets herself into the apartment, making up mental headlines as she shrugs off her coat and heads into the kitchen. Ice Cream For Dinner: The True Confessions Of A Latchkey Kid. Or do they call them 'latchkey kids' anymore? Here in Gotham, or at least in Chloe's neighborhood, they're kind of just called 'kids.'
Chloe's dad died when she was little. Chloe and her mom, or Amanda as she suddenly wants to be called-- midlife crisis much?-- have moved around a lot. Gotham's not the worst place they've ever stayed, but Chloe still wishes she didn't have to walk home from school by herself. It wouldn't be so bad if she didn't stay so late, but she really wants impress the faculty advisor of the school paper; last year's editor got an internship at the Gazette after graduation. She stares into the mostly-empty fridge and sighs. She's going to have to go out again, and it's time to go rummaging through Amanda's room for cash.
Half an hour and some gunfire later, Chloe's kind of wishing she'd just stayed in. She was up at the counter trading racing tips with Mr. Park when the guys with guns busted in, and now this ski-masked bruiser with bad breath is slowly backing her down the candy aisle. The back of her thigh hits the cold glass of the refrigerated beer case, and Chloe shrieks despite herself.
"Come on, man, let's go!"
Chloe looks back at the guy facing her just as he punches her right in the stomach. While she's doubled over, gasping, he grabs her arm and drags her out of the store. The cold night air burns in her lungs, and the roaring in her ears subsides just enough so that she can hear the guy arguing with his buddies-- "not again, Ray!" "Come on, who's gonna miss her?" Oh, Jesus, he's taking her with them, just another piece of loot like the cash drawer and the lottery tickets. She'd scream, but she can't breathe.
She's still got hot tears in her eyes from getting punched, and maybe that's why it looks like the shadow appears out of nowhere. Just there on top of the nondescript car idling in front of the doors, crouched, crouched and leaning forward on one gloved hand. The gang doesn't notice him till he shouts. "This is a citizen's arrest! Let the girl go and lie on the ground, face down!"
"What kinda stupid motherfucker--?" Somebody laughs. Somebody raises a gun. For her part, Chloe manages a short, almost prim cough of disbelief. Her eyes meet the shadow's, before they narrow like something out of anime and he flies off the car. Chloe's thug tightens his arms around her, but she's too shocked to struggle anyway. The shadow fights like nothing Chloe's ever seen-- short, brutal movements, not really that impressive to watch until you realize how fast three big guys just hit the ground. The gun clatters on the pavement and the shadow steps over it like it doesn't even exist. He's wearing a mask too, made out of some thinner material than the thugs' ski-masks. Closer around the eyes.
"Shit," Chloe's attacker hisses in her ear, and then a knife flashes close to her face. The shadow looks in their direction, and Chloe just shuts her eyes. There's a thick, wet crack that she figures, later on, is the guy's nose breaking, but as his arms loosen she's already spinning away, stripping off her vintage suede jacket as she runs back into the store. Skidding around the counter, she drops to her knees next to Mr. Park.
There's a ton of blood but he's sitting up, propped against the wall. He turns his head and looks at her when she presses her jacket against the wound in his shoulder, and tries to smile. Chloe likes to think she has a certain native eloquence that serves her well in all situations, but all she can come up with right now is the sincere but obvious, "Don't die!"
"Of course not--" he says, his voice strained but reassuring, and then he gasps, paling even further. "No!"
She turns, but it's not one of the thugs, it's the shadow, just a black shade so tall he almost blocks out the mini-mart's flourescent lights. "It's okay!" She clutches Mr. Park's hand, staring into his eyes to reassure him. "He's-- I guess he's a good guy."
Behind her, Chloe hears a startled, disbelieving cough.
When she turns to look, he's gone.
The next morning, Chloe buys a scrapbook. In less than a week, the scrapbook stops cutting it and Chloe has to move everything to a long concrete wall in the dank basement of Hamilton Hill High School. Pinned up like that it doesn't look like much. Just a lot of tabloid clippings and photocopied police reports Chloe's not technically supposed to have access to.
She doesn't tell any of her friends about the Wall. It's hard with Harvey, because she kind of has a crush on him. Sure, everybody's got different sides to them, but Harvey really doesn't need to see Chloe's obsessive little underbelly just yet. Jack would just make jokes, and Edward would ask questions she couldn't answer. As for Harleen and Pamela, cheerleader and science nerd respectively-- they just wouldn't get why Chloe's so obsessed with these unsubstantiated tabloid tales.
Chloe always had her suspicions about those two, actually.
But she's got more interesting things to think about, now.
Also, why not join
Level Three, the Smallville all-fic list?