In the Bedroom

by Misty Flores



Title: In the Bedroom
Author: Misty Flores
Email: mistiec_flores@yahoo.com
Teaser: All Chloe and Lana want is to keep things simple. Rating: PG-13
Pairing: Chloe/Lana
Spoilers: Dichotic, Visage, and speculation for the upcoming 'Rush'.

--

*So tell me one more time
How you're sorry about the way
This all went down
You needed to find your space
You needed to still be friends
You needed me to
Call you if I ever couldn't keep it all together You'd comfort me
Tell me but forever
And the promises I never should have believed in

Here's what I'm thinking
It won't be the first heart that you break It won't be the last - Beautiful girl
The one that you wrecked won't take you back If you were the last beautiful girl in the world*

-matchbox twenty

--

Chloe Sullivan liked simple.

Perhaps that was what had endeared her to reporting - simple facts, laid out like brickwork. Who, what, when, where, and most importantly, why. There was always always a why, in her stories, to define something. The WHY was what made everything click. It was the payoff, the few moments of bliss that would settle the knots in her stomach, and make the entire uncertainty of the strangeness that was Smallville just a little bit more manageable.

Her crush on Clark, while unquestionably painful, was always simple. It was always pathetically straightforward. She was the girl with the unrequited crush, the blonde with the short cropped hair, and the wry cynicism, wistfully waiting while the beautiful, starry eyed boy adored the unreachable girl next door. At times she resented her teeny bopper pratfall - stuck in the recycled character when she liked to believe, HAD to believe, that she was different.

Perhaps that was why, despite her instinctive urge to cling to eighties big hair movie cliches, she began to enjoy the tentative friendship with the girl she should have hated. It wasn't simple. Not by a long shot. Chloe understood and knew her role in all of this. She was Clark's stand up girl - always there no matter what, until the day he would turn around and realize she had been there all along. Of course, that hadn't really happened, and the Lana colored glasses were never really removed, and Chloe had just gotten hurt, but it was simple, really. She should have known better than to complicate the clich. But she did, and she did it again when she became Lana's stand up girl.

It was nothing short of a revelation, when she sat on her stool, palms wrapped around the coffee Lana had made just the way she liked it, and watched Clark walk out on her. A simple apology had turned into an argument, and Chloe, for no real reason, had sided with Lana.

It changed things - Chloe was no longer the girl with the unrequited love. Chloe wasn't the best friend. Sitting alongside Lana in the Talon, her shoulder brushing against soft cotton, dark strands of hair tickling her bare forearm, Chloe didn't know WHAT she was anymore.

What was slightly scarier, she had no idea WHY this had happened.

"You look more in deep thought than usual."

Eyes opening, Chloe discovered the hesitant form of Lana Lang lounging in the doorway, hands pressed into the pockets of her jeans, eyeing her splayed out form.

Chloe shrugged, tired smile working its way onto her face as she pushed herself up into a sitting position, nodding as Lana took that as unspoken permission to enter her room.

"I'm pondering," she said, cross legged as the bed dipped with Lana's weight, "how an attempt at an apology became a full scale argument against Clark Kent."

Lana's face froze, eyes drifting way for a second, breath blowing out. "I don't know," she responded, pushing strands of hair behind her shoulder. "I really didn't expect it to go the way it did." Lana glanced at her. "You think he's okay?"

Chloe's eyebrow cocked in morose amusement. "I think he'll will be just fine, Lana. It's not every day Clark Kent gets to tell off not one, but TWO women he's just saved."

Lana's smile returned with a snort. "Yeah, I'm really starting to hate when he does that."

"Forget saving our lives, I want to know what God given grace makes Clark Kent RIGHT all the time!" Chloe laughed slightly, shaking her head, skimming fingers through bangs as she fell back on the bed, feeling Lana bob beside her. "You know?" she said in the silence that followed. "One of these days I'm going to have to stop hoping Clark's jealous and maybe really believe him when he says the guy I'm dating in a meteor freak."

The somber sentence made Lana shift next to her. Studying the scene, Chloe could feel Lana's stare burning into the side of her cheek.

"I think he was jealous, Chloe."

Always the diplomat, that was Lana. "Lana, you're sweet, but don't be patronizing. He was jealous of you."

"Clark cares about you, Chloe." There was a soft touch against her palm, hesitant, before Lana moved her fingers away.

Chloe didn't move, eyes glued to the ceiling, as if Clark Kent himself was staring smugly down at her.

"You know what the worst part is?" she said suddenly.

"What?" Lana asked, now lying back beside her. Casting a sidelong glance, Chloe saw Lana also seemed to notice the imaginary Clark above them. Her eyes were darkened, and she was studying the ceiling intensely.

"It's not simple. I hate that. Before all of this, we could define ourselves by what we were, what our roles are - there's no teenage angst movie that can be used for referral. We're playing our own game, here."

"Chloe, please don't tell me you're using the likes of Molly Ringwald and Patrick Swayze to define your teenage adolescence," Lana said, half serious, chuckle falling from her lips.

"No!" Chloe laughed herself. "But... you know what I mean."

The look tossed sidelong to Lana proved she did, indeed, know what Chloe meant. The smile froze, and a resigned sigh fell from Lana's lips, eyes once again moving toward the ceiling.

"I know what you mean," she responded quietly.

Chloe nodded, eyes closing. Lana didn't move beside her. Chloe didn't mind. The night before had been spent in chatter, she and Lana spilling secrets and apologizing, and now, there was nothing really left to be said. It was comfortable, partners in their own heartbroken obsession with Clark.

"Chloe?"

"Hmm."

"I got one."

"Got one what?"

"Girls just want to have fun."

Chloe blinked, eyes opening. Propping herself up on one elbow, she couldn't help the swell of amusement that rose inside of her at Lana's laughing green eyes. "Great- and which one am I?"

"Guess-"

"Please don't make me Helen Hunt. I'll die before I'm Helen Hunt."

Lana laughed, a beautiful, crystal clear sound that made Chloe smile. "Better than frizzy haired Sarah Jessica Parker!"

Chloe thwapped her with a pillow.

"Oww!" Lana convulsed into chuckles, snatching the pillow and holding it to her stomach.

Chloe lips pulled into an impromptu frown. "When the simple things get complicated, that's when they fall apart."

Lana sighed, holding her pillow against her chest, hugging it as she stared up at Chloe. Lana was beautiful. Chloe admitted it freely, and she knew why Clark was so in love - first with the idea, then with actual Lana.

Lana was a beautiful, beautiful person. Who could blame Clark? Not even the quintessential Mary Stuart Masterson-esque sidekick could hate Lana Lang. She'd even asked the girl to LIVE with her.

"Chloe?"

"What."

Lana's palm closed over her own, smile creasing across her lips. "Our friendship," she said resolutely, gripping her hand firmly. "That's simple. And it's not going to change."

The statement was so final, sweet, and nave, and so like Lana Lang.

Chloe had to smile, she had no choice. Lana Lang, orphan fantasy with abandonment issues, believed in that statement so firmly, and with Lana's firm grip, hand in hand, Chloe could almost believe it too.

"Sure," she quipped. "Eighties teen movies be damned."

Lana smiled, beautiful and perfect, and sweet.

Chloe took in a shuddering sigh and smiled, squeezing back, cementing the statement.

Yeah. She couldn't blame Clark at all. Not for choosing Lana, for not loving her.

It was pretty darned simple.

Who could compete with Lana Lang?

--

Lana Lang remembered that Chloe Sullivan hated complications.

It was all pretty basic to Chloe, and she envied her for that. Chloe's nose for reporting hazed her view of things. It wasn't that Chloe saw things as black or white, not at all. It was more... Chloe's interpretations were formed at lightning fast levels. Lana had seen the reporter in action, admired how Chloe's colored eyes would take one glance at any situation, and immediately simplify it to its more basic elements: who, what, when, where, and most importantly, why.

It didn't keep Chloe from anymore heartbreak, she had had her fair share of it, but unlike Lana, Chloe, despite her uncontrolled feelings, understood them.

Lana's world was a vicious whirlwind of champions, flickering companions, and dead parents. She never understood why she did the things she did, why her feelings for Clark grew the moment he decided to move on, why she tried so hard to tell Chloe he didn't matter when they both knew he did.

Lana wondered if Chloe was relieved, now that Whitney was back, and Chloe was unconsciously thrust out of their secret, not so unspoken love triangle. Chloe, sitting on her bed, didn't have to worry about Clark's jealous rage or Whitney's memories of a war Lana would never know about. All Chloe worried about was folding her clothes, littered about on her bed.

Chloe chose to worry about her, Lana and her wavering, unsteady opinion about anyone. There was nothing constant about Lana Lang, and the return of Whitney, his tale of Clark's bizarre behavior, only proved it.

"I like simple," Lana admitted, small and meek, with one of those shrugs that made her seem apologetic even when there was nothing to apologize for. The dark-haired girl with the cat eyes continued to fold her shirts into squares. Chloe had been a bit surprised to realize that Lana Lang was just a little bit messy, but she later told her that it was a relief to stumble over a shirt hanging on the banister, to find a half opened bottle of shampoo leaving a wet ring on the counter top. When Lana folded, there were no perfect lines, no wrinkle free creases.

She wasn't perfect, and it made her human, Chloe had said.

Lana wondered what hadn't made her human before, her dead parents, or her continual mauling by mutant freaks, but Chloe's laughing eyes, and reassuring glances were more than enough to keep her quiet. Being human to Chloe meant being her friend, and Lana appreciated that too much to feel hurt anymore. She knew better, counted on Chloe much more than she suspected Chloe counted on her.

"You like simple," Chloe repeated flatly, cross legged as she reached for a sock, rifling through the pile to match its ever so dainty pair. "You mean like, Simple Simon?"

"No," Lana responded, giving her a narrowed glance, and amused smirk. "I don't like things complicated. I like things straightforward. Honest."

"Ah..." Chloe expression was slightly bewildered, but she seemed quite willing to go along with Lana's ramblings. "And from whence has this appreciation for truth come from?"

Lana's shorts dropped on the bed. It was a bad fold, even Lana would admit that, and Chloe gave the clothes an exasperated look, grabbing it and expertly folding it herself.

"I don't know, I just... Whitney comes back, and all of a sudden Clark becomes a Neanderthal from hell."

Chloe frowned, emotion in her glance that Lana hadn't quite yet learned to read. "Clark tearing up the Talon bathroom?" Chloe shook her head, doubt clouding her features. "Lana, are you sure?"

"I didn't want to believe it," Lana breathed out. "But I saw it, Chloe. You saw it. It's a complete mess. The door, and the water and-"

"Whitney saw him?"

"That's what he says."

Chloe's mouth twitched, giving up the folding in favor of settling back on Lana's bed, hand supporting her head. "Not that I'm doubting Whitney, Lana, but... Clark just never seemed the 'fly into the jealous rage' type..." Bubbles of frustration worked their way up Lana's throat. "And... the last time we accused him of jealousy? We were both dating the crazy double mutant guy with an ego the size of Mount Whitney... and I totally wish I had used another example."

A sheepish smile floated on Chloe's face, embarrassment evident.

"No, it's okay..." Lana's chuckle came out kind of hollow, swallowing as she blew out her breath. "I just... how can I not to believe Whitney? After all he's been through, it just seems... wrong not to trust him."

Chloe still had her doubts, Lana could see it in her expression. Hesitancy skimmed across her features, red lips pursing as Chloe fingered one of her shirts.

It was slightly surreal, a battle of wills and other things that made Lana aware that Chloe didn't believe Whitney, couldn't believe Whitney, when it came to Clark. Chloe saw things the way she did for a reason, and there was a reason why Chloe wouldn't want to believe that Clark would destroy a bathroom in a jealous rage over Lana and Whitney.

Lana wasn't so sure she envied Chloe after all.

"Maybe you should ask Clark about it tomorrow?" Chloe suggest, pushing off the bed, and gathering her clothes together.

The silence broken, Lana found Clark and Whitney were now the farthest things from her mind, as Chloe moved toward the door, eyes downcast, and voice curiously toneless, masked.

"Sure," Lana said softly. "I'll ask him tomorrow."

"Good." Chloe's smile was brief, a flash of brightness across of her features that didn't seem to match her eyes. "I'm gonna go to bed. The party kinda pooped me out, and I'm sure you want to get some rest. I mean, with all the Talon stuff..."

Lana took the hint. "Yeah. Yeah, you're right. I'll just finish this stuff up and... you know... "

"Yeah." Chloe bobbed her head, clutching at her clothes, pausing only a moment and then moving backwards. "Night, Lana."

"Chloe-" the word burst from Lana before she had a chance to stop it. Chloe paused, eyes downcast when a sock spilled from her arms. Feeling suddenly foolish, Lana stepped forward, kneeling down and gathering the trickling items. "Do you need some help?"

"Oh, no thanks." Chloe grinned, shrugging as well as she could. "I'm only a door away."

"Right."

"Okay. Night!"

"Night... Chloe?"

"Yeah, Lana?" Chloe asked, now a trifle impatient, trying to use her toe to pluck at another fallen sock from the floor. Lana sighed, once again grabbing the sock and placing it on top of the pile.

"What I meant to say, before, was that... even with all this Whitney and Clark stuff... you and me... we're ... simple."

Chloe's smile was bemused, as if she wasn't quite sure how to take that.

"Simple," she repeated.

"I meant that in a good way."

"I got it." Chloe shook her head, dropping another sock. "Crap."

"I'll get it."

"Thanks." Lana grinned, placing the sock back on top. "And I better go before I start a sock avalanche."

"Kay. Night!"

"Night. And Lana?"

Lana turned from her dresser, her own socks stuck in her head. "Hmm?"

"For the record. Me too."

Chloe's smile was absolutely breathtaking. Her best friend (and that was odd. Lana had never had a best friend before, and Chloe, she was her best friend) took another step back, and hobbled under her pile of clothes to her room.

It was weird, Lana thought, turning back to her clothes, and her rumpled bed. For the first time since she had heard Whitney had gone missing, there was a small moment of respite, a brief assurance of simplicity in the form of Chloe Sullivan.

It was her constant, even with her head swimming with angry Clark and amnesia Whitney and her heart that just never seemed to agree with her mind, the knowledge that no matter what, Chloe Sullivan was always in the next bedroom.

--

Lana Lang spent the entire day locked up in her room after she heard the news.

Chloe had been the one to give it to her. She had taken the phone call, heard the tears, saw Lana's look over the table, wide eyes questioning, mouth open in anticipation.

Chloe's eyes betrayed her answer before anything else did. The words, when they came out in one simple statement, straightforward truth, made Lana nearly catatonic. She was quiet, unmoving, for a few seconds, staring at Chloe as if expecting her to shrug and smile and tell her it was all a joke.

Chloe only stood, throat blocked by something swollen, stinging orbs making her blink at the thought of Whitney, golden god Whitney, lying mangled in an unknown country. Lana bore into her, staring her down, and slowly, lips began to tremble, eyes began to water, and the dam broke.

Chloe was certain she had seen Lana cry before. She was sure of it. Lana's emotions were always so naked and open, out there for people to see, much like Clark. They were brunette blank canvases, and Chloe KNEW she had to have seen Lana cry sometime, somewhere. But she never remembered it being like this. An aching flared in Chloe's chest, it physically hurt to see Lana's hands shaking, covering her face before she burst from the kitchen, shutting the door to the pink excess that was her room.

Clark had called soon after, and ever the diplomat, Chloe, despite her own shaken nerves, firmly told him Lana wasn't ready to see anyone.

In truth, Chloe waited the entire day, wondering when it would be okay to go in, steeling herself for the moment when Lana would open her door, and she would see Lana's sparkling orbs misted with tears. Chloe prepared herself, brace for the forthcoming night where there were be no sleep. She searched a couple grief and mourning self help websites, trying to find anything that would help her deal, aid her in being the one who was the shoulder to cry on.

Lana snuck out of her room sometime past eight o'clock. Chloe's hesitancy in approaching the doorway seemed almost stupid, when she finally got the nerve to turn the knob, and found no one there.

It was times like these that Chloe wished Lana Lang would join the rest of humanity and get a cell phone. Sitting alone in her room, fingers tapping idly at her mouse, Chloe kept her door open, the music as low as possible.

There were certain deductions Chloe could have made. One: the melodrama finally got to Lana Lang and she went suicidal on her. That was not an option Chloe wanted to even consider. Two: Lana resorted to habit and went to see Clark. That option, despite the twinge in her heart that Chloe had come to regard as normal, was a much more viable answer. A nervous call to Martha Kent confirmed her suspicions, and Chloe, after the moment of relief as she slumped against the doorway, thanked Mrs. Kent, clicked off the phone, and felt the lump in her throat grow larger.

Okay, so Lana Lang had snuck out of her house and went to see Clark in her hour of need. Chloe wondered blithely why this was even a surprise. Chloe knew it was stupid of her, idiotic the way she still kept her door open, that she made sure the porch light was on, and she drank an extra black coffee to keep her awake.

Midnight, and Lana still hadn't come home. Chloe, now in bed, kept her eyes on Imaginary Clark on the ceiling. What was peculiar was that Clark was joined by Lana, holding her frail form, kissing her forehead, and murmuring that things would be okay, that he loved her. Chloe watched, barely able to breathe as Clark kissed Lana, and when she couldn't stand it anymore, her eyes shut tight, liquid squeezed out from the stinging.

Chloe blew out her breath, and questioned her own stupidity. Of COURSE Lana would run to Clark. Of COURSE Clark loved Lana more than he loved her.

Why on earth did she keep thinking the way she did?

Eyes closed, deep breaths were taken, and a shaken Chloe turned off her light, shifting in her sheets, suddenly tired. With her eyes shut tight, Imaginary Clark and Imaginary Lana were far away, just out of reach, leaving Chloe to her exhaustion.

It was going to be a long day, and of course, something would come up, and they would need her to search out information no one else could, look up eight years of articles, find out who pooped in Chandler's Field, or something equally moronic. That was good old Chloe.

It was tiring, being Chloe Sullivan.

"Chloe?"

Haziness filled her senses, and Chloe blinked, trying to bring the blurry form in the doorway into focus. For some reason, her mind stubbornly insisted on not being woken up, and as a result, she could only stare from beneath half closed eyelids.

"Chloe," she said again.

Chloe's body was a dead weight, but Lana was indeed in her doorway, hidden in darkness.

"Lana?" she whispered hoarsely. Pushing up with a groan, Chloe's hand fumbled for the lamp, hitting her alarm clock instead, flopping it over the table. Lana's dark form came forward, plucking at it. Chloe sat up, sheets pooling at her waist as she rubbed at her eyes, managing to find the switch.

Lana's form became clear at the flick of a wrist. The brightness was harsh, it nearly made her wince, forcing her to shut her eyes against the stabbing light.

"Hi." Lana's voice was odd, off somehow. "I didn't mean to wake you."

"Sure you did," Chloe muttered absently, shifting over.

"I'm sorry... I can leave-"

"Lana." Chloe's tone was firm now, almost angry, patting the empty space next to her, taking in a deep breath as she tried to gather the courage to open her eyes again. "Sit down."

Lana still hesitated. Chloe waited a moment, opening her eyes again, and finding Lana much easier to see now that her eyes decided to behave.

The view made the sleepy haze fly away.

Lana, shrunken form sitting on the corner of her bed, was trembling. Her eyes were red and swollen, cheeks damp and flushed, hair a wild, windy mess.

"Lana?"

"I... um... I went out."

"That was pretty obvious," Chloe remarked slowly, pushing at the mattress with her palms. "Lana..."

"I went to see Clark."

Chloe had to fight the bitter grim smile that ached on her lips. For a moment, that stab in her heart seemed almost easier than seeing Lana this way.

"That was pretty obvious, too."

Lana gave a short chortle, small and painful. She had a piece of tissue clutched in her hand that was shredded into rags, damp and kind of gross. Chloe reached behind her, grabbed her box, and settled it into her lap. Lana held it gently, blinking her eyes open and glancing at her. Swallowing, she managed a tear streaked grin. It was too painful, apparently, to hold it for much more than a second, because it disappeared into a frown.

"I'm sorry, I just... I was sitting in my room, thinking about Whitney, and Clark..."

"Hey, Lana?" Lana didn't look at her. Chloe licked her lips, gentle as she laid a hesitant hand on Lana's back. It was warm, very warm. "You don't have anything to apologize for. I'm just glad you're all right."

"I'm not all right." The sentence was clear, short. Lana's trembling stopped, hands wrapped around Chloe's Kleenex box tightly. "I'm not all right." She didn't move, palms only tightened around her Kleenex box, features hidden by her long, wild strands of hair. "Chloe," she finally said minutely. "I know... I'm not that great of a friend..."

Chloe's eyes closed, unwelcome emotions surging forth suddenly. "Lana..."

"No. Listen, Chloe, because... I need you to listen, okay?" Lana took an audible gulp, eyes never leaving that damned box of tissues Chloe suddenly wished she had never given her. "I know that... things are complicated with Clark, and now with Whitney... "

"Lana-"

"I don't want to lose you, too, Chloe." Suddenly Lana turned, eyes full of intensity glittered straight at her like beacons, and Chloe felt suddenly caught, frozen as Lana pleaded now, hands covering hers, squeezing as hard as Chloe had seen her squeeze the tissue box. "I need you, Chloe. I need something constant in my life, and Clark and you are the only two people in the world-"

"Oh, God, Lana..." The trembling had returned, full force. Chloe's eyes shut, and her palms slid through Lana's silky, sweaty hair, wrapped around her neck to bring her forward. Lana crumpled like paper, falling against her chest, clutching to her with such strength it ached.

Chloe's t-shirt was now uncomfortably wet with tears, but she didn't let go. She let Lana hold her, rubbed at Lana's hair gently, eyes open now, heart beating wildly. Lana Lang was sobbing so completely, so brokenly.

She was scared.

"Promise me we'll stay friends," Lana whispered, lips fluttering against her shoulder, shuddering in her embrace. "No matter what happens, Chloe, with Clark or whoever, promise me we'll find a way to work around it, and we'll still be friends."

It was asking so much, too much. Chloe's Imaginary Clark gazed at her with soulful eyes, dark and dangerous, and Chloe, for once, finally just shut her eyes against him, ignoring him in favor of the girl in her arms.

"I promise," she whispered, and then, once again, her eyes opened, and Clark himself was told, "I promise."

It took ten minutes before the trembling stopped. In her bed, in her bedroom, Chloe counted, eyes on the clock, hands soothing against Lana's back.

A simple promise, she noted, one she had given, one that she meant.

Despite the complications, she would remain Lana's friend.

It was that simple.

--

One of the perks of the guest room was the fabulous bathroom that came attached to it.

Lana Lang didn't realize how much she appreciated it until a week ago, when she had woken up in Chloe's room, slumped across her best friend, fully dressed, sweaty, and puffy-eyed. It had been weird, at first. Lana had never really woken up with anyone, not even Whitney. To find her cheek cushioned by a breast, arm slung over the waist of her best friend, Chloe's face pressed into the pillow above her, was a little disconcerting.

Chloe never mentioned it. The promise, or the fact that Lana seemed to flush ten shades redder at her presence wasn't spoken of at all. Chloe was the same old Chloe, all smiles and grins, and snark.

Back to normal.

Lana appreciated that. It made things easier, to look at Chloe, to know she wouldn't get soulful, pity filled eyes, but the eyes of a friend, full of jokes and comments.

Lana stepped into her bedroom, hands rubbing at her hair, towel draped around her body, feet sinking into the plush carpet.

Chloe was there, startling her slightly as the blonde turned, bright smile on her face.

"Sorry," she said quickly. "I was in the mood for something to read, and I'm currently not really digging anything on my shelf. I hoped you wouldn't mind."

Lana stood, hand clutching at her towel, sudden dj vu making her a little dizzy.

"No," she said, forced cheerfulness in her tone as she moved quickly to her closet, pulling her towel closer around her. "Of course I don't mind."

"Great." Lana's hands ran over sweaters and blouses, ignoring the shudder that now crawled up her spine, as Chloe's voice bobbed to her. "So, any suggestions?"

"Depends on what you're in the mood for," she answered automatically. Get out, Chloe. An indrawn hiss made her calm down slightly. Tina was here. In her room. And Lana had been naked. Tina had been here, and she had looked like Chloe and rubbed up against her as Chloe, and then she became Clark, and Lana had kissed her...

Lana had kissed Tina. Lana's sweater dropped to the ground. She had kissed a girl.

"Umm.... Classic?"

"Count of Monte Cristo," Lana said softly.

She had kissed a girl.

"I don't see it."

Lana was naked. She was naked, and Chloe was there, and Tina had looked like Chloe, and Lana had kissed a girl-

Turning, she numbly moved to the bookshelf, pushing aside her copy of Watership Down and pulling out the soft bound copy of the Dumas Classic.

"Here," she whispered.

Chloe took it, eyes growing wide as she flipped through the book. "Uh... a thousand pages. I don't know if I should thank you or kill you." Chloe's smile was genuine, until she got a look at Lana's face. "Hey. You okay?"

Lana blinked, suddenly very aware of Chloe's hand on her bare shoulder.

"I'm... I'm fine!" Bright smile was flashed, and Lana stepped back, moving quickly to the closet.

"Are you sure? You look like you saw another meteor mutant." The tone was teasing, but Lana blanched at it. Chloe swallowed. "Oh, God, Lana, I'm sorry... I totally didn't think. Sometimes I just think I should have my head lobotomized or something-"

This was stupid...

"It's... it's okay." Lana grinned, blowing out her breath shakily and settling on the bed. "It's just... I didn't tell you this before, but..."

Chloe settled down next to her, weighted down by her copy of 'the Count of Monte Cristo'. Her expression was intense. "What?"

"Tina was here."

Chloe blinked. "In the house?"

Lana nodded, licking her lips, wet hair now dripping down her back, making her slightly uncomfortable.

"She was in my room, and she was... you."

"She was me?" Chloe looked seriously unsettled. "Crazy psycho freak girl was in my house posing as me?"

"Yeah..."

"How do you know it wasn't me?"

"Because you've never tried to feel me up when I was naked," Lana remarked, smile forming on her lips when Chloe gaped her like a fish.

"Wow." Chloe blinked, slumping back. "Gosh... I mean, I knew she was all in love with you, but can you imagine how freaky it would have been if you had actually-" Chloe turned, eyes suddenly wide. "Did you kiss her?"

"As you?" Lana blurted.

"No! God!" Chloe suddenly laughed, shaking her head. "I meant as someone else!"

Yeah... that was kind of stupid. Lana chuckled slowly, tension easing as Chloe shifted on her bed, bouncing up and down.

"Did you?"

Lana almost nodded. She could understand the joke, and it WAS funny, but even as her mouth opened, she remembered who it was she thought she was kissing, and her throat suddenly went dry.

She would have to tell Chloe that she was kissing Clark, or thought she was kissing Clark.

Chloe looked so beautiful, with her wide smile, and sparkling eyes. She bounced on Lana's bed, all comfort and closeness. If Lana told her about that, the expression would leave, and a new one would take its place.

For some reason, she didn't want to see that look on Chloe Sullivan's face. Not that one.

"No," she said finally, grinning quickly, almost politely. "I mean, almost, but we never really..."

Chloe's brown furrowed. "So... I tried to feel you up?"

"She did," Lana corrected gently. "Yeah. It was... pretty awkward. I was kinda nak..." Lana trailed off, glancing down at her dripping body still draped in the towel. She blinked. "Pretty much as naked as I am now," she said with a forced chuckle, pushing off the bed and moving toward the closet.

Chloe was silent. Lana could feel her staring, burning into her back.

"You were naked and I tried to feel you up?"

Lana glanced back. Chloe looked as if a truck hit her. The dumbstruck expression on her face was amusing. She grinned, suddenly teasing. "Sure. Freaked me out, I was like, 'What is Chloe on?'"

"You didn't know it wasn't me?"

"I just figured you were acting weird."

When Lana looked back, Chloe was no longer smiling. Her arms were crossed, brows furrowed, disturbed features staring her down.

"What?" Lana asked.

Chloe's head bobbed up and down, before she clucked her tongue and shrugged. "It's just... I'm wondering when hitting on my best friend is considered just 'weird' and not suddenly 'gay' and as a result something you should have been worried about, maybe even questioned?"

The tone was angry.

Chloe was insulted. A pit settled in Lana's stomach. Staring at Chloe, Lana's smile was hesitant.

"Chloe, I didn't know Tina was back, what was I supposed to think?"

"Something? I mean, GOD, Lana, no WONDER you were acting weird-"

"I know you're not gay, Chloe."

"It's not about that-" Chloe just shook her head. "It's just... nothing. I better go... let you get dressed."

Lana feet sank into the carpet, her hair sopped drops of water all around her, and she never managed to change into her actual clothes. Somehow, in the course of her trying to get dressed, she had offended Chloe-

"Okay," she whispered. "Chloe will never hit on Lana. I'll file it away." Moving toward the dresser, Lana's eye caught a dark shape on the edge of the bed.

The Count of Monte Cristo.

Lana closed her eyes. Crap.

"Lana Lang," she muttered. "Sometimes you just can't keep your mouth shut."

--

Even in her bedroom, Chloe could not escape the drama that was Lana and Clark.

Chloe chose her room when she had moved in, because of the window. Granted, there wasn't much of one, but there was something about being able to lean out of it, breathe in the cool, crisp air.

It was the one thing she couldn't have in Metropolis, the smell of lilacs and grass, the sound of birds, even in the sterile community housing program provided by Luthorcorp.

She probably would never admit it to anyone, but she enjoyed this about Smallville, enough to know she would miss it when she was gone.

Leaving was always inevitable. No one could ever picture Chloe actually STAYING in Smallville. It was absurd, really. Chloe Sullivan was a reporter, who would one day fight for truth, freedom, justice at the Daily Planet.

It was a frightening truth, that she, on her weak days, would think about what would happen if she actually had a reason to stay.

Lana had a late shift at the Talon, that wasn't new. Clark dropping her off, that wasn't new either.

It was so not new that it was exhausting.

Chloe had never seen it like this before, leaning from her window, trapped in the view of Clark and Lana saying their goodbyes. Lana's face upturned, ethereally beautiful in the moonlight. Clark own almost there grin, hand gently caressing face.

Both trying to suspend the moment for as long as possible, so much tension, so much want...

Chloe watched, deadened thumps in her heart, and even she wanted to scream for them to just jump each other already.

Chloe sighed, rubbing at her temples, closing her eyes, pushing away from the window. It was a farce, a stupid game, and Chloe wasn't even a participant.

God, from the looks of things, she wasn't even a contender.

Lana was quiet, she always was. Chloe's figure never moved, finger twirling around the tip of a ballpoint pen when Lana pushed open her door, Clark's truck rumbling in the distance.

"Hey," Lana smiled. "Your light was on."

Chloe nodded, polite grin on her face. "Tough shift?"

Lana groaned. "The worst," she said. "It was a good thing Clark was there..."

"Lana." Chloe's interruption took the other girl by surprise. Lana paused at the crisp snap of the word. "Are you in love with Clark?"

"What?"

Chloe's eyes remained on the pen, forming her thoughts carefully. What was really bothering her, aside from Clark? The resentment bubbling up inside of her... that wasn't just... jealousy, was it?

"I want you to be straight with me," she said finally, looking up from her pen, and into Lana's gorgeous doe eyes. "I need to know how you feel about him."

It wasn't a question Lana seemed comfortable with answering. She shuffled, ran her hands through her hair, stepped back, looked at everything in the room but Chloe, and finally mumbled, "Why do you-"

"Lana, please. I just need to the truth."

"Chloe-"

"Lana."

Lana swallowed, hard. Now she was staring at Chloe, gaze boring into hers, asking for something from her, but what, Chloe wasn't sure.

"Chloe, you know that Clark and I are just-"

"God, Lana." Chloe breathed hard, pushing out of the chair, turning her back to her friend as she stared out of her window. Clark was driving away from all this, leaving them behind to deal with their own personal melodrama.

For some reason, she didn't like Clark very much then.

"Please," she said finally. "Don't start spouting the 'Clark and I are just friends' chant again. I'm smarter than that. And so are you."

There was absolute quiet behind her, and Chloe couldn't help but smile grimly. Whatever Lana was expecting when she came in here, it probably wasn't this.

"Chloe-"

"I just... I want you to be honest, because I can take that, Lana." Gripping the window frame, Chloe turned, eyes upon her friend, small smile pleading with her. She let out a nervous, harassed chuckle. "I want to keep my promise, Lana. I want to keep things simple, but every day it's getting harder and harder, and more complicated because I don't know my lines. I don't know what to do, what to say..." She closed her eyes, stumbling over her words. Her heart was slamming in her chest now, painful, body tight as she wrapped arms around herself. One second to breathe, two. In that, Lana didn't say a word.

"One more time." She began again, opening her eyes. "Lana, are you in love with Clark?"

Lana looked away. "Chloe, it's complicated."

"I don't accept that," Chloe clipped firmly. "Yes, or no, Lana."

"I didn't come in here for this."

"I'm asking you, as a friend, Lana, please. I need this."

"Why?" Lana burst. "WHY?"

"Because you owe me that much. You owe us all a notice on where you STAND, Lana."

"Chloe-"

"Don't you feel it, Lana?" she whispered, coming closer, eyes blazing with unshed emotion, now rippling over the seams, pushing their way through. "It's building, in all of us, and someone needs to say something because if not it's going to explode, and then WHO gets to put the cap back on the bottle, Lana?"

Her best friend, beautiful, untouchable, Lana Lang, had tears in her eyes, shining, and brilliant. Her eyes never wavered from hers. Chloe knew, the next morning, she would feel like the world's biggest bitch-

For now, she only needed her why. The simplest nuance of comprehension. The why.

"Are you in love with Clark?" she whispered. "Yes, or no."

Lana gave a small moan, shifting away before a tear slid down her cheek. "I... it just... I don't want to see that look-"

"Lana."

Lana's eyes connected with hers with a jolt. It shut Chloe up, the fiery resolve, and Chloe expected the answer, knew it, steeled herself for it, and all it's consequences.

She could almost see Lana forming the words on her lips, the 'y' coming first.

Chloe waited impatiently for her world to fall apart.

"No," Lana said slowly. "No."

Chloe swallowed hard, certain she had misheard. "Lana-"

"I'm going to my room now," Lana said evenly. "Good night."

With a flick of her hair, Lana turned away, leaving Chloe in astounded silence, world precariously intact.

A simple answer. A simple no.

Chloe closed her eyes, and couldn't move from her window. She had pissed off Lana tonight. Seriously pissed her off, and she had gotten her answer. Chloe thought a straight answer would have helped, that hearing it from Lana's lips would sort things into place, define them.

But it just got more complicated.

Because Lana Lang said no.

--

The entire house was still. There wasn't a sound, no clanks from the kitchen thanks to Mr. Sullivan, no loud music coming from Chloe, who always insisted on having her computer blaring her MP3's so loud Lana had to ask her to turn it down.

For now, the house was silent, too silent.

Lana sat at her desk, thumbing through her copy of 'The Count of Monte Cristo'. Mind swimming, dangling precariously from the rush of her emotions, trying desperately not to drown, Lana wiped the tears from her face, kept the book open, attempting to read.

She had picked the wrong book. Recommending it to Chloe had been a mistake, a big mistake. This book, it wasn't about friendship. It was about betrayal, about vengeance, about a friend who had everything and a friend who had nothing, and how one deserved it, and the other didn't.

Lana knew that there had been times when she had kissed Clark, or thought she had kissed Clark, without thinking at all about Chloe, about how it would affect her. There had always been this understanding about Clark, and Lana swore to herself, time and time again, that if Clark ever picked Chloe, she would be happy for her. Chloe cared for Clark, she had cared for him longer than Lana had, even if Clark had always loved Lana. Chloe deserved him.

Seeing, and believing, were two entirely different things. Nothing in the world was going to shake the ache in her heart, the pure splinter of her chest, that exploded within her the moment she saw Clark wrap large palms around Chloe, and embrace her in a kiss that was pure lust, pure passion.

Worms. Damn worms in Clark's cave. They infected Pete, infected Chloe, and it had landed them both in the hospital, AGAIN. Lana was left feeling like one of those parasites had infected her brain.

Worms explained Chloe's actions, like the Nicodemus flower did the same to her. Clark Kent, once again with his secrets, couldn't explain his behavior. There were no worms in Clark. He had no explanation.

But Lana couldn't wipe the memory of Chloe in Clark's arms, Chloe's triumphant smile when she glanced at Lana's dropped tray, the glint in those dark hazel eyes.

She had come to expect, almost anticipate it, from Clark.

From Chloe... to see it from Chloe...

Lana had said no, three weeks ago, when Chloe asked. Why? She had no idea, but the thought of seeing that face on Chloe, the one that signified her heart would break, the one that Clark had caused so many times... she couldn't do it.

Chloe, infected by worms, could.

Soft raps at the door made Lana suddenly aware she had dripped tears on the pages of her book, smudging the print.

"Who is it?" she asked hastily, wiping at her eyes, slamming the book down.

The door creaked open. In the crack, was Chloe, blonde hair oddly tame, wearing an old t-shirt, eyes tinted with sleep.

"It's me."

The bottom dropped out of Lana's world, and she scrambled, trying to catch herself before everything fell apart.

"Uh... hey."

"Can I come in?"

No, Lana wanted to say. No, no, no, no-

"Sure," she smiled quickly, turning away, wiping hastily at her tears. "It's your house."

"It's your room," Chloe corrected quietly, coming inside, closing the door behind her. Lana turned, frozen against her desk. Chloe, with her old shirt hanging off her shoulder, short shorts, and messy hair, was different than Lana. She had never really believed it until the night before, at the Talon. Chloe, for all her protests that she wasn't as beautiful as Lana, had the sensuality that Lana had always craved, the utter sexiness that Lana was never sure she could possess.

It had taken a flower to bring that out of her, and sometimes, as she fingered the clothes she hadn't worn since, Lana wanted to bring it back. Looking at Chloe, she now knew why.

"Listen..." Chloe's voice was raspy, dark. Awkward, Chloe stood in the center of her room, staring at Lana, hesitant and unsure. "I don't know how..."

Panic bubbled up now, close to spilling over, and Lana once again fumbled, pushing away from the desk. "Hey, don't worry about it. I mean, it's none of my business-"

"Yes it is." Chloe spoke softly, but in the silence around her, the words cut through Lana like a knife. "Lana, I'm sorry, you have to believe that I would never betray you to Clark-"

Lana's eyes closed, hands began to tremble, glancing up, and suddenly there they were, projected on the wall, a haunting vision of Clark and Chloe in the Talon, wrapped up in each other's arms.

"Chloe," she breathed heavily, trying to shake the image. "It doesn't matter."

"It matters to me."

"Are you still in love with Clark?" Lana asked crisply. Dark eyes met hers with a jolt, and Lana's anger began to froth, simmer, a calmer Lana Lang, no longer hysterical, staring at the sensual Chloe Sullivan, who for once in her lifetime, was speechless. "Because it either was you, or it wasn't."

Chloe continued to stare, out of her element, hands now twisting the bottom of her t-shirt into wrinkled knots. "Lana, you know it's not that simple. You know about the worms-"

"Why didn't you ever tell you were still in love with Clark?" Lana snapped, turning around at her.

Chloe's eyes bore into hers, wide and glistening. Intensity came from them, and Lana wasn't sure how she could want to hate a girl so much when she loved her.

"Well," she said easily. "I figured if one of us could lie, so could the other."

Lana's breath became unsteady. It was too much to look at Chloe right now, with her righteous anger, her soft, even voice.

"I was trying to keep things simple, Lana." Chloe was insistent, coming closer, even with Lana's back to her. "Lana, if I had told you, it would have made things complicated, and CHRIST, Lana! The last thing I ever wanted to see on you was that LOOK that I'm seeing right now-"

The tears betrayed her, slipping down her face, even with the rage, and turmoil in her head, Lana still felt the tears on her hot skin.

Chloe's voice cracked, splintered, and it was suddenly too much.

"Chloe," she began thickly. "Please leave."

She expected Chloe to fight that. Stay right where she was and demand she be heard, they make this right and simple the way they promised.

Instead, the door shut, and Lana was alone.

--

Perhaps it was for the better that Lana Lang stormed into her room and interrupted Chloe while she was attempting to finish her application for the Daily Planet Internship Program.

Chloe had been far too distracted to give it the proper amount of attention.

The door banged open, and hell and fury personified strode to the desk, manicured palms grabbed at Chloe's hand, stilling the mouse.

Eyes blazing, Lana Lang looked capable of murder.

"WHY," she hissed. "Why did you tell Clark I was in love with him?"

This was... interesting. Chloe was expecting so many things from her virgin sacrifice, but a pissed off Lana wasn't even in the top ten.

Lana Lang, unpredictable as hell. Chloe never would have figured that one out.

Blowing out her breath in attempt to get some for of stability, Chloe looked up, leaning back in her seat and crossing her legs, watching Lana seethe.

"Frankly, Lana, I'm tired of the farce."

The words did their work. Lana went from furiously angry to considerably befuddled. Blinking, the girl took a step back, still panting in her emotions, now unsure what to do with them.

"What?" she asked.

Chloe closed her eyes, a sudden headache looming. She didn't want to do this now. There was so much to think about, so many broken promises, and all Chloe wanted to do was keep one. ONE damned promise that twisted her world into a pretzel.

"Things are too complicated, Lana," Chloe said finally, staring up to catch the dew eyes. "I want some sort of closure. I can't stand the tension." Swallowing hard, eyes closed against Lana's beautiful, hurt face. "At least before," she mumbled, "even with the bizarre love triangle, I knew where things stood."

"So you decided to play matchmaker?" Lana looked taller, towering over her while Chloe was still seated, but it didn't even matter now. "Chloe, I don't need that. I need a friend."

She snorted. "What kind of friends are we if we keep tossing Clark to each other like a volleyball, Lana? Someone had to make a decision, and I made it."

Lana gave a muffled moan, turning around, staring out the window.

"Chloe," she managed in a broken whisper. "I know you love Clark."

That came out so gentle. It washed over her, making her shudder in reaction. "I know you love Clark," she answered simply.

"What makes you think this is about Clark?" Lana asked, back still to her, expression unreadable.

"Because it is," Chloe reminded her.

"Why can't it be just about you? Just this once?" Lana's emerald eyes were tinted with moisture, voice tainted with tears. "About me? About our promise-"

"It's too hard," Chloe said sharply, pushing against her chair, getting up.

"Too hard?" Lana repeated. "TOO HARD? So you're giving up? Just like that?"

"I'm not giving up-"

"There's a few major things that we need, Chloe, and it's really quite simple." Her words were rapid fire, almost running into each other in their emotion. "And even at the end of the day, even with the if, and when, and what with Clark, I knew I could always come home, and find you there in your room. That was my why, Chloe. It didn't matter what happened out there, because in HERE, I always understood WHY we tried, and if I ever go out with Clark, I'm going to come home one day and you're not going to be in here-"

"MY GOD, Lana!" Chloe incredulousness was evident. "You say this is about me, but you think it's about you? What Lana needs, what Lana wants, LANA's abandonment issues- all I wanted was to stop CHOOSING, to have someone choose for once-"

"Fine." Lana's arms were crossed, her expression was dark, her words stiff. "Right here, right now, you want me to choose?"

Oh, God.

She lost her strength. Sinking into the chair, Chloe shuddered, wiping at her sweaty face, trying to calm her heart as it ricocheted off the walls of her chest.

"Look, I'm sorry," she finally managed. "I'm sorry. I just need to calm down, take a breather..."

"Chloe-"

"Lana, I just need to be alone. Do you mind leaving?"

"Yes, I do." Chloe's looked up, Lana was now two feet away, staring at her with her beautiful face, and earnest sincerity. "I don't want to leave things like this."

Chloe's smile was small, but genuine. "We'll stay friends," she whispered, hand over Lana's squeezing gently. "Not matter what. We're friends, even after Clark. It's that simple."

Patting her hand, Chloe released her, tired, moving from Lana and to her bed.

She never expected her hand to be snatched, her body to be pulled, and Lana's lips to be suddenly on hers, kissing passionately, desperately.

It was too quick, Chloe didn't have time to think, but utterly drunk on the embrace, she closed her eyes, and moved faster, lips moving furiously-

Until her mind caught up with her, and she pushed away, completely numb with shock. Blinking, she stared at the girl in her arms.

Lana looked as if she had been struck by a meteor.

"Okay," she managed. "Not simple."

Lana managed a hollow laugh. "Umm... this is... wow. I ..." she stepped back, suddenly stumbled. "Definitely not what I came in here for..." Chloe blinked, rubbing at her head, trying to resist the urge to panic. She caught Chloe's glance, and fumbled with her hair, a ridiculously huge smile on her face. "I... this is a little too much to process right now..." she thumbed toward the door. "I'm... I'm going to go to my room, and try not to freak out."

Large lump in her throat, Chloe bobbed her head mechanically. "Go right ahead. I'll be freaking out right here."

"Right. Okay!"

"Okay!"

Lana took another step back, and apparently, the mind relapsed again, because Chloe felt the tug, and in a second she was back in Lana's arms (LANA'S ARMS), and there was definite tongue this time-

Lana was a damned good kisser.

They let go just as quickly.

Okay, this wasn't awkward and weird.

Lana gave another nervous grin, and backed toward the door.

"Things just got complicated, didn't they?" Chloe breathed.

"I'd say so," Lana nodded.

There was a slight pause, and complications could be damned against the betraying yearnings of Chloe to try to steal another kiss-

GOD, don't think about that...

"G'night!"

"Night!"

Lana fumbled with the doorknob, slammed the door behind her.

Okay...

Yeah. Chloe wrapped arms around her body, glanced up at the ceiling, and saw Imaginary Clark looking down at her with that look of blank shock on his face.

She couldn't help but smile.

Definitely not simple.

FIN



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