He stood between houses, half hidden by a bush, obscured by the shadows cast from the privacy fence behind him, and the houses flanking him. He stood in the darkness, watching. No one saw him there.
Across the street lay a house decorated in nature's tinsel. Snow glittered upon the roof, and from the eaves hung icicles that glistened in the light streaming from every window. The faint wail of music could be heard from inside the house, and if he listened carefully he could hear feminine laughter. Someone made a few half hearted attempts to sing along with the music. Shadows passed before the windows - tempted him to look beyond the curtains.
A plume of white rose into the air as Clark sighed. Chloe would be mad if she knew he was out here watching her house. He'd come up with a lie if she caught him:
"I was just passing by..."
"I wanted to make sure you guys were home safely, I heard there was a prowler running around."
Chloe wouldn't believe him. Her eyes would narrow and spark like they did when she was mad at him.
"You weren't so concerned about my welfare before she moved in, were you? What's the matter, Clark, miss those long, lonely nights with your telescope? Keep this up and I'm going to have to suggest therapy for your Peeping Tom habit."
If Lex knew he was out here he would first comment on how Clark was pretty desperate to be stalking his crush on a frigidly cold night. He would go on to shake his head sadly:
"Never let them know you're desperate, Clark. Never let anyone know your weaknesses. They will be used against you eventually."
Clark figured Lex knew all about having his weaknesses turned against him. He did, after all, have Lionel Luthor for a father.
Sighing again, Clark shifted his weight and put his hands in his pockets, not because he was cold, but because he was frustrated. He had no idea why he was out here. He'd simply left the loft and started walking, and when he'd stopped walking he'd found himself standing outside Chloe's house. Inside he'd heard the music, and the laughter, and he'd wanted to knock but he had no idea what he would have said. He so desperately craved company and yet....
There were days when Clark felt like chucking the whole ruse. He was tired of fighting so hard to conform, to fit in with a society and a people who were not his own. It would be better, he sometimes thought, to simply go away from them all to some remote and utterly solitary locale, and be alien to his heart's content. He could figure out some way of getting back to the stars from whence he came. Maybe there was someone out there looking for him, and all he would have to do is send out a beacon.
Clark stifled a laugh.
E.T. phone home.
Thoughts of seeking isolation almost always gave way to thinking about all the things he would miss. He would close his eyes and feel the memory of his mother's arms around him, or his father's strong hand on his shoulder. He'd have to smile as he thought about clowning around, making faces with Chloe in a photo-booth, or shooting hoops with Pete. Then of course there was Lana. He'd miss her shy smile and the way her eyes crinkled up when she laughed, the softness of her skin as her fingertips brushed the back of his hand, and even the way she tossed her head when she was mad.
How could he leave them knowing that sometimes the only thing standing between danger, and their well-being, was himself? He couldn't.
Temptation continued to beckon, and Clark yielded to its call. He peered across the street at the Sullivans' house. The layers blocking his view peeled back like onion skin, finally revealing what he longed to see.
They were in the kitchen, preparing dinner. Gabe often worked odd hours, especially since he and Lex had become business partners in LexCorp. Dinner was served late on such nights, and this was evidently one of them. Chloe stood at the stove, bobbing her head and swinging her hips in time to the music as she stirred something in a large pot. Lana was dancing around the kitchen table, setting plates and silverware. Her head also bobbed to the music, making her long hair, which was pulled to the top of her head in a pony tail, fly back and forth. Occasionally Chloe would throw back her head and howl the chorus at the top of her lungs, and both girls would break up into laughter.
Clark realized he loved them both, and all he needed was one. He wanted someone with whom share his hopes, and fears, dreams and desires. He wanted someone who could accept him for who and what he was, and understand what it all meant. At one point he'd thought that person was Kyla. She too had been different, and she had known....
And she had died.
"Which one, which one, which one..." It banged around in his head almost constantly, like the bells pealing high above Paris that drove poor Quasi Modo mad.
Clark closed his eyes, and turned away.
He walked out of the shadows and into the light, crossing the street a block down from the Sullivans' house. The snow was pretty deep, and the roads not entirely clear, making for very little traffic in a town which never experienced much anyway. A light misting of fresh snow was beginning to fall as he made his way towards the outskirts of town. Outside the city limits he would run home, heedless of the slippery conditions. Aliens, Clark joked to himself, were fairly sure footed.
Pausing at the corner, he looked up at the dark sky. A meteor streaked across the star speckled landscape. Not many people in Smallville counted a falling star as something positive anymore, but Clark did. He had, after all, been a falling star once himself.
He made a wish.
A sound made him turn his attention away from the stars. There was a car moving slowly up the street toward him. It was a bright yellow VW Beetle with Kansas plates, but the county stickers on those tags indicated it had originated in Metropolis. The tags were personalized:
It drifted over to the curb where Clark stood, and the window slowly rolled down. An auburn colored head popped out, and a pair of very dark blue eyes regarded him with an almost fierce expression.
Clark was tempted to say the prerequisite, "Hay is for horses," but he suddenly found that his spit had all dried up and he couldn't say anything at all.
"Are you from around here?"
"Uh, sort of, why?" he managed.
The woman (girl, Clark corrected himself immediately, because she wasn't much older than himself) narrowed her eyes slightly as she looked him up and down. "I'm looking for Gabe Sullivan's house. Do you know it?"
Nodding, Clark gestured toward the street he'd just left. "Uh, it's -- turn here, and it's the fourth house down on the right. There's a red car in the driveway."
The head withdrew and the window rolled up. Clark heard the grind of gears and some muffled cursing as the Beetle proved cantankerous about being put into first gear. It turned the corner and headed down the street. Clark watched it, blinking stupidly as if he'd just been smacked in the back of the head with something very hard and laced with meteor rock. She'd been awfully pretty. He would have to grill Chloe as to her identity later.
He started to turn away when he heard the car's gears grind again. Looking back over his shoulder he saw the Beetle backing up to stop next to him once more. The window rolled down and out popped the head.
"You know, it's awfully cold to be out walking around," she said. "Do you need a lift?"
Clark smiled wryly. "You know, it's awfully dangerous to offer rides to strangers."
She appeared slightly miffed. "You look harmless enough."
"Ah, well I left my axe at home."
"Well that's good, because I left my handgun in my other purse."
After a pause they both chuckled.
"I'm fine." Clark said. "Home isn't far. Thanks though."
Nodding, she started to roll up the window again, but stopped with it closed only halfway. Their eyes met above the edge of the glass, and she smiled slightly. Clark blushed. Then, without a word, nor a backward glance, she shut the window, and drove off down the road.
Clark sighed deeply, his breath filling the air around him in a thick white cloud of vapor. It was getting colder. He jammed his hands in his pockets, hung his head, and continued to shuffle down the sidewalk. Maybe he'd stop at the phone booth uptown. A call to Lex was in order and perhaps a late night game of eight-ball would keep his mind off of things, particularly things relating to love, and a wish that might never come true.
I wish I knew who to choose.
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