It's the smell that reminds her why she hates hospitals. That strange antiseptic sting that hits the sinuses and makes her nose cringe. The underlying layer of blood mixed with drugs and chemicals and something else sickly sweet she could never put her finger on. Her shoes squeak against the tile that is so clean it almost seems reflective. The nurse behind the counter is young and polite when asked where Gabe Sullivan is being kept and gives clear and easy directions on how to get to him. The courtesy is surprising to her because in her many hospital experiences nurses never seemed to be so nice. She takes a right and a left and finds the elevators at the end of the hall. She laughs lightly to herself at the sound of some song she knows but can never remember the name of coming out of the speaker.
Her father is being kept on the fourth floor of the patient wing. The elevator opens to a small waiting room filled with five or six chairs and a stack of old magazines on a corner table. An old man is asleep in one the chairs snoring softly. She doesn't think she has to try and be quiet as she passes him. It looks as if the end of the world won't disturb him. Still looking at the old man as she passes the waiting room she nearly runs straight into a candy striper pushing a small cart full of snacks. The hospital brand Jell-O and pudding look far less appealing than they should and she apologizes to the girl before moving further down the hall.
She hates hospitals. Too many trips to them and too many memories caused by them. Dull primary colored walls do nothing for the senses. She peaks into the doorway of room 413 and sees her father lying upright in his adjustable bed with a small cup of green Jell-O sitting on a tray in front of him.
"I told her I didn't want it," he says with a smile at the sight of his only child. "But boy was she insistent."
"Hi Daddy," she replies softly feeling like she is five years old again.
She hates seeing her father like this. Hair thinning just above his forehead, the lines creasing deeper around his eyes, the tubes poking in and out of his arms. She doesn't like the way the monitor keeps beeping every two seconds. She knows her father is dying. She doesn't need a stupid noise to remind her of that fact over and over again. She sits on the chair next to the bed and takes his hand.
Gabriel Marcus Sullivan.
The man with the youthful spirit now too much for his body and too strong for his heart. She thinks that all the years of pulling overtime at the plant is finally catching up to him. Seeing how hard working he was nearly every day of her life is what provided her with such a strong work ethic. She doesn't know whether to thank him or think of it as a curse. He's had several ulcers in his time. Work related stress. After the third and most damaging one she begged him to take it easy for awhile. Even Lex with his acquired Genghis Khan like business ethics suggested that he take a break. Too bad for her, her father was just as stubborn as he was hard working.
"Hi sweetie," he replies.
"How are they treating you here?"
"Not too bad, though I could file a complaint about the wardrobe."
She cringes and laughs and swats his shoulder lightly. She doesn't enjoy the thought of having to see her father attempt to hold the back of his hospital gown as he walks or goes to the bathroom.
"Are you behaving like I asked you to?"
"Who's the parent here?" He chides lightly.
"The young grow up and take care of the old you know that."
"Who are you calling old princess? I still got a lot of life left in me."
She barely stops the tears at her father's words. He wasn't too old and still did have a lot of life left in him. It wasn't fair he worked himself to the bone and only had an irritable stomach and a bad heart to show for it. Fifty-two years was not nearly enough time. It simply wasn't. Not for her.
Lex gladly foots all the hospital bills. Despite his ruthlessness these days he still takes care of his most loyal. The corporate insurance plan easily covered all expenses but Lex insisted on having his own personal touch in the matter. She feels a wave of disgust at that personal touch and is still unsure of what to think about that particular detail. It left her feeling like she had to look over her shoulder everywhere she went. Something she never wanted to do again.
"How's life in the sister cities?" He asks.
She moved to Keystone City as soon as she got out of college. Sister to Central City and the slogan of a million boring tourist ads that didn't seem worth the ink to print. It wasn't the most thought out choice. Her journalism professor knew the editor of the Press and sent his gleaming recommendation along with several of her articles and the next thing she knew she had a job. Geologically it wasn't as far as she would have liked to have gotten from Metropolis. She planned on heading to one of the coasts. Gotham or Bludhaven on the east. Coast or Star City on the west. Keystone meant remaining in the mid-west. Keystone meant writing a majority of front-page articles about a group of super speedsters and their rogues.
By the end of her senior year at the U, as it was called, she knew she wanted out. Staying in Metropolis meant stagnancy. In both life and career. Staying in Metropolis meant watching Clark and Lex's little falling out grow into a full-scale war. Lex's coat of arms his thousand dollar suites and multitude of secrets and untold billions. Clark's... Well his is a little more colorful. Staying in Metropolis meant watching the one she loved lose himself in a self appointed task of helping every breathing thing under the sun. Staying in Metropolis meant losing Clark anyway.
"You know," she says waving her hand dismissively. "It's the same."
"Nothing exciting happening in the world of reporting?"
"Not much beyond the usual dad. Politics, business, crime, pain, suffering, heroes and villains and the whole nine yards."
"Heroes and villains aren't exciting anymore?" Gabe asks with a hint of a smile.
"Not when you get used to them," she replies.
Her father's skin looks like plastic wrap holding his body together. Through it she can see veins and muscle density and cartilage and bones. He looks like he is already dead and she has to turn her head away from him. Feeling his hand rub her back gently she lets out a quivering sigh.
She didn't want to come back here. When he was healthy, her father always came to visit her. It was easier that way. Metropolis is a town too full of memories. Her mother leaving. Her father coping. Elementary school and birthdays and childhood. Moving day. Moving back day. College and Clark and Lex and the whole collapse. A small part of her is glad Lex insisted on sending him here instead of keeping him in Smallville. She knows she never could have set foot in that town again.
Sometimes, most of the time, she is tired of memories.
And when Gabe is gone that's all she'll have.
Her father is dying.
She hates hospitals.
It looks the same but it's not the same. The scenery hasn't changed. The park benches are still there and the garbage cans are still dented and knocked over. The pond is still brown and the ducks still look sick. Griffin Park is nowhere near as nice as Centennial, but she knows that's why she likes it so much. Centennial Park is an illusion. A safe clean place for families and couples and picnics so sweet they'll make your stomach turn. Pride and joy of the Metropolis Parks and Recreation District.
She thinks she likes this park so much better because illusion to her is pointless. If she pretends her father isn't going to die he still will. If she pretends Lex and Clark are still best friends they won't be. The good that would come out of that particular line of thinking? She can't see one.
She has crackers for the ducks who gobble them up greedily and she almost cracks a smile. She can see the ghost of herself on the other side of the pond. Smiling and happy and someone she barely recognizes. She's not entirely unhappy with her life. Co-workers and casual friends wouldn't describe her as some manic-depressive mope. But sometimes, she was told this, she just stares off into space and seems like she wants to be anywhere else than where she is. Unaware as she may be, she knows it's true. Because sometimes when she closes her eyes, she's not off in space, and where she goes is always better than where she is.
It would be a whole lot easier if she could just blame the whole thing on Lex. It was his anger, his insecurity, his overwhelming sense of paranoia that had been the final push over the cliff. If he wasn't so obsessed with secrets and lies and didn't constantly teeter on both sides of the spectrum, maybe things wouldn't have turned out as bad as they did. Everything would have ended anyway. That much she knows. But maybe a small part of her wouldn't have had to die with it.
She shrugs and tosses crackers and watches her ghost laugh and smile.
She has salt all over her hands.
The park looks the same but isn't the same.
Because the last time she was here she was happy.
There are flowers on the table when she returns to her father's room. His head is tilted slightly as he naps. A small line of drool dribbles down his chin and she takes a tissue from the box and gently wipes it away, careful not to wake him as she does. She feels her mouth crease into a frown because even in sleep he still looks so tired. Each small beat of his heart a countdown to the last. Taking a seat in the chair she is cautious not to wake him and notices a small book about Paris sitting one the tray over the bed. She remembers it was her mother's dream to go there. She remembers that over time, it became her father's too. Her mother had most likely gotten her dream when she left. Now her father never would. She picks up the book and casually flips through the pages for little over a half-hour before her father wakes up.
"Hey kiddo," he manages to speak through a yawn.
"Hey," she replies. "Who are those from?" She asks regarding the flowers.
"My secret admirer," he jokes.
Laughing brokenly she wants to chide her father for making wisecracks at a time like this. Tubes, and morphine, and beeping. It is no place for jokes. Nothing about this whole thing is funny.
"They're from Clark," he says softly.
She blinks and stares at him strangely. Clark? Here? When did this happen? How did Clark even know about this? They hadn't spoken since the day she left, and he sure as hell didn`t hear it from Lex. It takes a second before the obvious answer of Jonathan and Martha Kent comes to her. She knows Clark still goes back to Smallville nearly ever Sunday to visit his parents like he always did. She should have guessed right off the bat.
"When was he here?" She asks.
"A few hours ago. One or two maybe. It was nice of him don't you think?"
Nodding her head she thinks `nice' and `Clark' still go together as well as peanut butter and jelly.
"I've never gotten flowers from another man before," Gabe goes on. "Is it okay? I mean, can we do that?"
Chloe stares at the flowers and remembers a fields worth of them all handpicked for her.
"Did he say if he was coming back at all?"
"Do you want to see him?"
"No," she rushes to say.
"You know I still don't understand why you two broke up. You seemed so happy together."
"I was," she says softly. "We were..."
Well dad, she thinks. How about we start off with the fact that Clark isn't even human? It never bothered me after I found out, but it did make for some pretty incredible misadventures along the way. His real name is Kal-El and he's from a planet that went supernova a million light years away. He came here in a little silver spaceship that his father keeps in their feed cellar and kind of looks like a spinning top fallen on its side. He has powers too. Super strength, speed, stamina, durability, heat and x-ray vision. He's damn near invulnerable except when surrounded by bits and pieces of glowing green rocks left over from his home planet. You might actually know his more popular nickname of Superman. I was dating Superman dad. Aren't you proud?
Oh, and let's not forget his chaotic and unstable friendship with a well meaning, but still morally bankrupt, billionaire's son. You know Lex, dad. He's all about loyalty. But Clark had to keep all of his abilities a secret you know? Otherwise a million worst-case scenarios would have played themselves out with all of our lives. He couldn't tell anyone. Pete knew because he didn't want to lose a friend over it. Lana and I only found out because he saved us a hundred different times and just couldn't hide it anymore. Lex though, he knew we were all hiding something from him. And oh man did he want to know. He put up investigations on the Kent's. On all of us. He really wanted to know what was so important that would make all of us have to lie to him the big hypocrite. Clark couldn't tell him and Lex couldn't get over it. This formed a wedge you see.
This led to Lex's eventual moral downfall and he came after those of us that knew. He tried to use you against me dad. He said that if I didn't tell him, you'd be fired and he'd make damn sure you never worked another day in your life. Maybe I should have let him do that. Maybe it would have done you some good. I made sure he wouldn't do it though. I didn't tell him the big secret. But I made sure he left you alone. Thus forming a wedge between Clark and me.
There are a whole lot of reasons why.
"It's complicated," she says softly.
"Tell me something that isn't."
"I don't want to talk about Clark anymore okay dad?"
"Sure sweetie. I just think you should talk to him that's all."
"Probably," she replies.
The motel room is unusually hot as she walks through the door and sheds her coat. Opening the window she keeps the curtains closed, keeping even the slightest chance of seeing Clark out there flying around to a minimum. The bed is stiff as she takes a seat on the edge and sips casually at her water bottle. Falling back on the bed and curling up on her side she sighs. She doesn't want to be here. She doesn't want to watch her father wither away into nothing. She doesn't want to see flowers Clark picked out. She doesn't want to be surrounded by commerce reeking of Lex Luthor. She doesn't want to be surrounded by a million tiny things constantly reminding her of a life she used to have.
It's too hot in the room and she wants to take a nap, but the only thing she can see on the back of her eyelids is the five thousand images of how everything went to hell. She can hear the traffic on the street outside and she imagines she's in her apartment back in Keystone with the fan on and some music flowing throughout. She clicks on the TV and the afternoon news comes into view. The anchorwoman, in her opinion, is in desperate need of another dye job. She doesn't pay much attention to the words but let's the sound distract her thoughts.
And then a story comes on about Lex's latest acquisition and it all comes flooding back.
It happened in a sandwich shop.
Somewhere between the smells of freshly cut bell pepper and onion, fresh baked bread and oil and vinegar, pickles and olives with a strong undertone of disinfectant. Was the waiting burning scent of gunpowder. Clark wanted a foot long hoagie with all the fixings while she merely asked for a six-inch turkey on wheat with no mayo. She remembers laughing at him because he couldn't even wait until he sat down before he started eating, and having to remind the clerk to lay off with the mayo. She remembers getting pink lemonade and by the time she sat across from Clark he was already done with half of his sandwich. Everything after that point always seems to replay itself in slow motion. She can see the white van outside the window just over Clark's shoulder. Can hear the clerk behind the counter scream `oh my god' just seconds before the glass breaks and the holes start appearing in the wall behind her. Clark's eyes grow wide and he doesn't even turn around before grabbing her across the table and pulling her to the ground. He is not gentle. She has a bruise on her knee for a week afterwards. Her nose is pressed into his chest and she hears the bullets, sounding so much like mosquito's buzzing in her ear, as they whip over and around them. Clark grunts once or twice and she knows he takes a few in the back. It's all over in ten seconds. He lifts her up by the shoulders frantically asking if she is all right. Once she nods her head yes he is out the door faster than she can blink. Through the broken glass she can hear the sounds of the white van being ripped apart, and Clark yelling at the men inside.
"Who are you?"
"Why have you done this?"
"Who sent you?"
She remembers the clerk behind the counter cautiously peeking her head just above it, tear tracks strewn down her face. The girl is clearly shaken and Chloe does feel the need to console her. By then she'd been in enough dangerous situations with Clark to not be chilled to the core. She is telling the clerk that everything is okay now, and that it is over, when Clark walks back into the shop his face grimmer than she has ever seen it.
He says one word that explains it all.
It happens to Pete in a parking garage.
It happens to Lana in a grocery store.
Pete and Chloe both got drive by shootings but, if it was possible, he was a little more forceful with Lana. Putting a pipe bomb in a canned food aisle is like forty-nine cent a can claymores. She got a concussion from a stray can of peas. She's lucky that's all she got.
Lex's little jabs at everyone Clark cared about. At everyone who knew his secret. Clark was always there to protect them. Lex was smart or stupid that way. Depending on which side of the spectrum you found yourself looking from.
Chloe watches the story on Lex and wonders if the world knows that he is a hundred times worse than his father ever was.
"Come on," she mumbles into the receiver. "Pick up. Pick up, pick up, pick up."
"Damn girl, it's been a few weeks since your last call. I was starting to worry."
"My fault, I mean, you know things have been kind of crazy."
"I do. So what's up? How are you?"
"I'm okay I guess, you know, all things considered."
"How is your dad doing?" Pete asks, his voice soft and sympathetic.
"He's fine for now. They have him on this new medication and it seems to be helping a little more."
"Well that's good right?"
"They could pump him full of yak's milk for all I care, as long as it would help. Pete," she says quietly. "He doesn't have a lot of time left."
"I'm sorry," Pete replies soothingly. "I know there's nothing I can say that will make this any better for you, but is there anything I can do?"
"How about a cure for faulty tickers?"
"I'll start on it right away."
"Anytime Chloe. And the offer still stands you know."
The silence that follows wouldn't be so awkward if he were right in front of her. He would scoot up right next to her, throw his arm around her shoulder, and try his best to convince her that everything would turn out all right in the end. She misses Pete a lot sometimes. The way he cares always so seems so much different than the way anyone else does. She can't quite explain it. It always seems to her that Pete just feels so much more than anyone. He doesn't hide behind shame or insecurities. He is a rock.
"Do you ever think about what happened?" She asks hesitantly.
"Only everytime it gets cold around here."
Chloe winces and the reference. When Lex went after Pete, he'd managed to jump out of the way and not get killed, but still caught a bullet through the knee. The wound severe enough to result in four surgeries just to be able to get him to walk again.
"What's wrong? The big city bringing back all those bad vibes?"
"Something like that."
"Look," he says calmly. "Lex going all super-villain on Clark and the rest of us... Everyone knows that was some really messed up stuff that happened, no one is saying it isn't. But to let it overtake you like you do. I have a hole in my knee Chloe. I can't walk without a cane, and come winter, I can barely walk at all. But I don't let it bother me anymore. I couldn't help it, I can't change it, I moved passed it. It happened, but it's not happening. Do you get me?"
"You're going to be okay Chloe," he says earnestly. "You're one of the strongest people I know."
Chloe, despite herself, smiles for the first time in weeks.
"Hey, I said anytime, I meant anytime."
She finds herself standing in front of LexCorp's main offices. Craning her neck upward she stares at the mammoth eyesore of concrete, glass, and steel. If she looks close enough she can see the reason looming above her in the penthouse office, boiling and taunting and festering. Waiting for her. How she got Lex to leave her and her father alone. Why she dumped Clark. Why she left town. She wants freedom from the guilt of her action.
"I did it because I had to," doesn't seem to want to work anymore.
Getting into his office is easier than she expects it to be. Though if she thinks about it, Lex probably has her name on some proverbial waiting list, half expecting her to drop by at anytime. It isn't as highly guarded as she assumes, but then, it never was before. Lex is sitting in his expensive chair with his fingers folded over one another. His eyes regard her as an old friend he's seen just five days ago instead of five years.
"Chloe Sullivan," he says dismissively. "To what do I owe this honor?"
She ignores his sarcastic tone and walks toward his desk. Running her finger along the edge she notes her reflection in the highly polished wood. She's been on this desk before. No pretense of love. No faking of passion. Her words to Lex that day shoot through her mind like a thunderbolt.
"I knew you wanted to fuck me the day I met you."
A little presumptuous it may have been. A little more aggressive than she normally was. But it didn't stop anyone.
"When we're done, you leave my father alone and me out of your little pissing contest."
She recalls that Lex never so much as bat an eyelash. Merely closed the shutters on his windows, took off his clothes and signed on the bottom line.
Lex looks at her with a bemused smile, knowing what she's thinking, glancing purposely at the desk. She rolls her eyes and moves away, heading toward the shelves lining the sidewalls.
"How is your father?"
The question is asked so nonchalantly that she doesn't quite understand why it makes her as mad as it does. Lex ducks dramatically as the brandy snifter sails over his head and smashes into the window behind.
"Pay his bills all you want Lex," she says coldly. "Pretend it's the least you can do after all he gave to your company, after it's going to kill him anyway. I don't care. But don't ask me about my father; don't think you have any right to ask. Are we clear on that?"
Lex doesn't respond and only looks at the shattered glass on the floor next to his chair.
"That was pure crystal you know," he says.
"You can afford it."
"I can only guess as to why, after all this time, you've come to see me. Come to rehash the past? Maybe come for a sense of closure?"
"Am I that transparent?"
"If you were I wouldn't have to clean glass from my floor."
"Interesting thing about closure Miss Sullivan," he says. "Those who seek it rarely find."
"I've grown past the philosophical ad-libs Lex."
"I can see that. But tell me what did you think you'd get by coming here?"
"I'm not sure."
"And you came anyway."
"You'll never find out if you don't try."
"I should hate you," she says quietly.
"Does that mean you don't?"
"What was it to you Lex?" She asks, both of them knowing what she is referring to. "I never asked because I never cared, but when I think about it sometimes it's not the reason I tell myself. I didn't know the day you met me that you wanted to fuck me. Hell, I doubt you wanted to when you did. So tell me. Why did you?"
"Would my answer make any difference to you now?"
They stare at one another as if it's high noon on a heated desert day just waiting for someone to yell `draw.'
"I thought you were giving in. I thought that if I gave you what you want you'd tell me what I've waited to know all this time."
"No, that's not all of it."
"That's all I have to give you."
"No," she says again, realization coming like a clear blue sky. "All this time... You didn't want me. You never wanted me. It wasn't about me at all was it?"
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"Clark," she says, the name tasting so strange on her tongue after all this time. "That's what it was really about wasn't it? You didn't care about the secret as much as the point that he wouldn't tell you. The cold hard fact slapping you in the face that you two weren't as close as you thought you were." She eyes him knowingly. "As close as you would have liked to have been."
"Of all people I don't have to justify myself to you."
"I never said you did. But you used me Lex. Just like I used you."
"Funny," he says smirking at her. "I remember feeling a little like a piece of meat afterward. But I never knew why."
"Be careful of that question Lex. It only takes you to bad places."
"Says the reporter."
"Says the girl who saw what that question did to someone who used to not want to be his father. Look around you Lex. Only the company name has changed but you and him are the same. You both smite your enemies down without the blink of an eye. Even those close to you. We were friends all of us."
"Friends don't lie to each other."
"Friends also don't attack each other. You came after us Lex. With guns and bombs and blackmail. What did it get you? Nothing. Not a damn thing that made any difference to you getting an answer."
Lex doesn't say anything at first. She watches as he ponders her words. His eyes only stare straight ahead as his mind races, the rest of his body still as stone. She's struck a chord and lets herself feel a small gleam of triumph. It flares even bigger when he cops out.
"Now that we've completely deconstructed my life and my actions what about you?"
"What do you want to know?"
"You could have found other ways to get to back off from Gabe. But it never was about your father was it?"
She shakes her head in response. She knows the real reason. She's always known.
"Clark," he says, spitting the name from his lips as if it were venom. "It was about ending things quickly for you. It's easy to hate a cheat. And as an added bonus, you fuck his newfound enemy."
"You make it sound so simple."
"Because it is. You knew what it would do to him. I just don't understand why you would hurt him like that."
"There's that question again."
"I loved him."
"I never thought you didn't."
"It was going to end anyway."
"You know this for a fact?"
"Yes," she says firmly. "And I also know it's easier to walk away from something than to watch it leave."
"So it wasn't just sex to you. It wasn't about me leaving your father alone. It was freedom."
"That's an interesting way to put it."
Lex leans back in his chair and resumes his earlier position of folding his hands and thinking. He smiles to himself and shakes his head. She looks at him and thinks he's not as smart as she always thought him to be. All the time passed between them. All the run-ins of Superman vs. LexCorp. All the battles and the showdowns and he still didn't know. The only thing he has to do to learn the secret is to look at Superman closely. She tried to tell Clark years ago that glasses weren't enough to throw the whole world off of his identity. Lex had known him all that time and still couldn't see? She thinks of Pete's limp and Lana's mild Agoraphobia. She can't hate him as much as she used to for his anger. She can only pity him for his blindness to the obvious. And she can't hate herself for pushing the inevitable. She can only feel bad for hiding behind a false motive for her actions. Lex looks at her and she looks back and they don't really have anymore to say.
"Did this little meeting give you closure?" He asks.
"No," she replies. "The ghosts are still there. But I don't think they'll haunt much anymore."
She moves to leave but stops abruptly and turns back to face him.
"You and I are a lot alike you know."
"In what respect?"
"We let everything we care about turn to shit."
Lex smirks knowingly and she turns to leave before he responds.
"He wasn't ours to keep Lex. He never was."
When she returns to her father's hospital room he is asleep again. She takes a second to look at him from the doorway. Children are supposed to worship their fathers as gods. Gods don't get hurt or sick or old. They don't wither away into a hollow shell that looks like something they used to be. She moves over to the chair and sits and brushes her hand along his thinning hairline, saddened by how cold and clammy his skin feels. Looking at her watch she half-sighs, half-yawns and realizes she's barely slept her entire time here.
Leaning over the bed as far as she comfortably can she settles carefully into her father's side. She remembers having to fall asleep like this nearly everyday for months after her mom left. She thinks of his waffles, his botched roasts his pasta fiascos. How long it took for him to finally get into the swing of being both mom and dad to her. She watches his chest rise and fall and doesn't know what she'll do without him.
"Daddy," she whispers softly into his side. "I made a mess of everything."
The beeping of the heart monitor is still annoying.
But at least it means he's still here.
She's still half-asleep when she feels herself being pulled away from the bed. Through half-closed eyes she sees blurs of white, blue, and teal. Mumbled voices shouting "cc's" and "stat" fly through the air around her head, an underlying continuous beep striking her heart. Still groggy, she is shaken once again and her head finally begins to clear. The nurse in front of her asks her to wait outside and let them work. She says everything will be fine. Chloe wants to call her a liar but turns to leave the room as doesn't look back. She doesn't want to see her father die.
Numbly she walks down the hall to the waiting area near the elevators knowing he will be gone before she even sits down. Once in a seat she stares blankly at an old magazine and waits for a doctor or a nurse to come tell her the bad news. Tears as strong and pure as rain cascade down her cheeks. She hates hospitals because her father is no longer dying in one.
He is simply dead.
Griffin Park is virtually empty, save for one or two people walking dogs and some assorted others reading on the benches. She walks circles around the brown pond, her father's passing still cutting fresh into her. She has no crackers for the ducks and can only watch as they splash and quack and dunk themselves in the water. The cup of coffee in her hands has long gone cold but she still doesn't throw it away. She thinks of finding her mother's last known address and sending her a letter. Her mother may have stopped caring twenty-two years ago, but a small part of Chloe still thinks she deserves to know that her abandoned husband has passed.
She's on her third lap trying to commit the scene to memory because once she buries her father she doesn't plan on ever setting foot here again. The day is fairly warm and she notices out of the corner of her eye two people cuddled up on one of the benches. She wishes them all the luck in world.
It's on her fifth lap when she sees her ghost on the hill in the middle of the park, sprawled out next to Clark on a blanket she remembers that got thrown away when she moved. He is lying on his back with his hands behind his head and she sees herself leaning over him and smiling. She strays from the pond to get a closer look. She remembers this day. The last time they ever came here. They last time she made him happy. As she gets closer Clark doesn't seem to notice her, but her ghost does. She doesn't look happy anymore.
"He loved you so much don't you know that?"
"I did," she replies. "I do."
"And you still did what you did to him?"
Her ghost smiles down at Clark. Runs her fingers gently through his hair.
"This whole pain and misery and loneliness thing. You did it to yourself you know."
"What if you were wrong?"
"But how do you know?"
"I just do," she says looking away. "He would have left anyway."
"You keep saying that but do you really know?"
"Yes I do," she says turning her head back to the image of her old optimistic self. "And you do too. You cherished every moment with him because you knew they were never going to last."
Her ghost looks up from Clark.
"So you knew Lex and Clark wouldn't be friends forever."
"And you knew that you and Clark wouldn't last forever."
"About daddy dying?"
She's had enough of the vision. Enough of questioning herself. Beating herself up over and over again isn't going to change anything. She closes her eyes and counts to three, but when she opens them her ghost is still there.
"Well jeez little miss know-it-all," it says mockingly. "What happens when life tries to surprise you?"
She closes her eyes and counts to three again.
Metropolis is a town too full of memories.
If she walks down Sixth Street she can see herself walking from her new apartment to her first class at college. If she walks down Grant Avenue she can see herself interviewing various witnesses and victims of an attempted bank robbery. If she walks down Main she can see herself walking arm in arm with Clark on their first date.
Morrison Street: Desperately looking for a drugstore to find something for her headache. Abbey Way: Rushing to pickup batteries for her camera. B Street: The smell of her favorite coffee shop and the fresh scones they baked every morning. Eight Street: A shortcut back home after spending way too much time at the offices again.
She wanders aimlessly through the city flashing back to various pieces of her life in this place still leftover in her mind. Everything she's ever felt here is alive inside her. She chooses to cherish these memories because her mother never wanted her and her father is gone. She pushed Clark away and Pete lives where she won't go. Memories are all she has.
Stopping on the corner of Gaines and Burnside she can see all the choices she made. Miles of tar and concrete fade away into an endless dirt road splitting itself between stalks of corn and tall grass. She knows that everything that ever happened, everything that ever will happen, will lead her down this same road.
She continues down Burnside and thinks about destiny.
She follows her path.
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