This fic is set after Dichotic and is somewhat AU as it gives a bit of a different spin of what happened between the characters after the confrontation. It's a Clark-centric piece for the most part with a bit of Clex but Chloe and Pete have a lot to say in this one. Even Ma Kent has her say. The Pink one also shows up. It's an ensemble piece, really. It has spoilers for Hourglass, Dichotic, Tempest, much of season one. 95% of this fic was written before I saw Visitor.
He washed up and got dressed and ran down the stairs. "I'll just have toast today."
"Are you sure?" said Martha.
"Uh, huh. Tell dad that he needs to get a new fan belt."
"Oh, you're a mechanic now?"
"No, I just know what's wrong with it."
"Any new abilities you'd like to . . ."
"Not this time," he said as he browned his toast. Martha raised an eyebrow.
"Have you called the girls back?"
Clark sighed. "I'll call them today."
"Where's Chloe?" said Clark at the Talon. It was still early. The coffee shop wasn't open yet. All the chairs were still upside down on the tables.
"She decided to work on something for the paper," said Lana from behind the counter near the espresso machine.
"OK." He felt a slight relief that there was going to be only Lana to deal with.
"When you walked out that night, you just left us both hanging. I felt like you were abandoning me."
He tasted a slight sheen of bitterness over his tongue. "I didn't come here to be lectured on how much of a failure I am as a friend. If you want to me to say that I'm a failure, then OK, I'm a big, fat failure."
"I didn't say you were a failure. Stop confusing the issue."
"Ian said that you told him that I was giving you mixed signals and that I dumped Chloe after the Spring Formal. I'm glad that you like spreading the word on how much I suck."
"He said that? You can't . . ."
"How else would he find know these things? Sounds like you and Chloe are compiling a list of all the things I've done wrong or should have done. You two must be having hours of fun together." "That's not fair. There's no need to get hostile."
"Why aren't you angry at Ian? He's the one who tried to kill you guys."
"We are angry at Ian but we're also angry at you. You keep disappearing at the most inopportune moments, don't tell us what's going on, play with one of us then the other, and get us to do you favors."
"At least I'm not the one who sent a Dear John video to my boyfriend when he was safely overseas." The second it came out of his mouth, he pressed his lips together firmly as if he could keep the words from escaping. It was a useless gesture.
Tears came to Lana's eyes. She gasped, then splashed cold milk from the metal pitcher next to the espresso machine into his face. "How can you say something like that? Don't talk to me!" With that, she turned around and walked into the back of the coffee shop.
Clark then walked out, shaking his head.
He was looking out the window in his loft when Chloe came up the stairs. "Uh, hi, Chloe," he said as he turned around.
"I heard you said some rough things to Lana this morning."
Clark sighed. "Is that what she told you? She said some things to me, too. And since when are you two such good buddies?"
"I guess since we found out that we have something in common."
"What did you want to say to me?"
"That you just can't shut us out simply because we're saying things that you don't want to hear. Especially if they're the truth."
"What did Lana say that I said?"
"That you said that all we do is think up bad things to say to you and that you said some unforgivable thing about her and Whitney."
"So, she didn't mention that she accused me of abandoning her and that she threw a cup of cold milk in my face."
"She threw milk in your face?"
"If you're just going to believe everything she says . . . I don't think there's anything to talk about. You've already made up your mind that I'm the bad guy. Maybe I've acted stupid but you don't know everything either. I can't live up to your expectations. If all you have to say to me is how much I suck, then I don't want to hear another word." He turned his back on her.
"No, I don't want to hear it any more!"
Chloe ran down the stairs of the loft, crying.
Clark closed his eyes and pressed his forehead to the wall. "Shit."
"Hi, Mrs. Ross. Is Pete at home?"
"No, he's off with Chloe. You aren't with them?" said Mrs. Ross.
"No, no, I'm not."
"I'll tell him you called when he gets back."
He remembered what Pete had said when he heard what had happened. He had gone to his house right after Chloe had left.
Pete had sat on his bed and said, "Oh, man, I can't believe you did that."
"Well, I did it."
"I hope you don't make me pick sides. I mean, I like the both you and Chloe."
"Please don't ask me to diss Chloe because I won't. I won't diss you if she asks me to either. You see, I can see both sides of this. Chloe really does care for you but she gets frustrated because you have to remember, she doesn't know what I know. You told me about how you ran out to save Lana when the tornados came. She just thinks that you ran out because you're nuts. I mean I still think it's nuts, Clark, so it looks even crazier to her. She was really hurt when you ran out. She was really psyched about that dance. I think she'd totally keep your secret but I know you don't want to see her hurt because of it. But the thing is that keeping the secret from her causes another kind of hurt, you know what I mean? It's like you're treating her as if she should just understand and she can't because she doesn't have the whole picture. You can't expect that of her." "I guess it does look insane. I didn't think about it like that."
"Still, I think you did the right thing by telling them both you just wanted to be friends. You all seriously needed to stop being so intense. A lot of guys I know are just out to have a good time. Hell, I'm just out to have fun as well."
"I thought you liked Chloe."
Pete rolled his eyes and shrugged. "Yeah, I do but I know that she likes you. The thing is that I don't dwell on it. If she's not interested, well, there's Katie or Maggie or some other girl. Look, give them some time. All three of you need to step back and chill."
"I guess you're right."
"Some group therapy would be nice, too." Pete made a whirling circle near his forehead.
Clark chuckled at that.
"Just promise you'll keep what I said about Chloe in mind the next time you talk to her."
"If she ever talks to me."
Things at school were frosty. Lana would give him a look then turn away. The situation with Chloe was scarcely any better. She would only talk with him about things connected directly to homework or the paper but other than that, she ignored him. Pete, in the meantime, expressed sympathy but was obviously uncomfortable at trying to balance the two of them. He had the impulse to say he was wrong, to try to charm them into getting back into their good graces.
He didn't do it this time. Maybe it was wrong but he felt that if he did so, he wouldn't be able to hang onto anything. It could have been just stubbornness or maybe he just wanted to have some damn pride in himself. If he apologized then they were still angry at him, then he would've thrown even that way. Still, it was hard.
He occasionally wished that he hadn't gotten his powers back, that he hadn't gone after Eric at the dam. If he could've stayed normal, then he wouldn't have anything to hide. There was little that he could to even let off steam. He couldn't play basketball or any of the other typical games guys played. He had run for miles across Kansas and back, lit all the candles in the house but it didn't help that much..
What sucked even more was that people were starting to notice the cold war between the three of them. Gossip was starting to circulate about what exactly was going on. Speculation wasn't overt as none of the three involved was saying much about it, other than Lana vaguely saying that he was a major jerk. Few people began to wonder whether Clark was a player since some of them remembered the time he came to school on a motorcycle and acted really weird. Oddly, that got him a bit of respect from some of the guys in the locker room. He had wanted other guys' respect but not that kind.
After a week of this, Martha decided to talk to Clark about this. She was sitting at the kitchen table, taking a break from cooking when Clark came home from school. "Chloe and Lana aren't talking to you, are they?" she said, noticing the slightly tired look on his face.
"Clark, this reminds me of what happened when I was your age."
"No, seriously. I know it's been a long time since I've gone to high school but . . . A girl I used to know got some girls to make fun of me. I'm not exactly sure why. It may be because a lot of guys flirted with me at the time or maybe because I had a good shot of becoming valedictorian. Girls . . . usually they don't go around hitting people. That's not how they do things. Girls are aggressive but in a different way, at least back then. They ignore you, tease you, talk trash behind your back, gossip, pass notes. It made my life hell."
"Why didn't you tell them off or tell someone?"
"Because they were my friends or they used to be. After a while, I stopped speaking to them because it got too painful. I started calling them on it because I didn't want to lose what I had left, my confidence in myself. I thought that since there was no hitting involved, that nobody would care. So, I made other friends. After some months, the girl who had started the whole thing moved away. During the summer, a few of my former friends finally got around to apologize to me. But it was never the same."
"You never told me this story, mom."
"Because it still hurts a little. It's going to hurt a while and I know it hurts a lot. You don't have to pretend it doesn't hurt, not to me. I don't know any magic words to say to make things go back to normal. All I know is that this thing has been building for a very long time and until you figure out how it turned out this way and how to stop it from happening again, you can't move forward. I decided that if someone needed help like I did, then I'd do something. It's partially the reason you're here."
"You said things won't ever be the same."
"If things are the same, then the same thing will happen over and over again." Martha sighed then sipped her coffee. "Sometimes, I think your father and I messed up. We were always teaching you to hide and lay low but now it's ended up hurting you because sometimes avoiding things makes things worse. Sometimes, you have to stand up for yourself. But we couldn't think of anything else to do."
"Don't blame yourself, mom. It's my problem," said Clark as he walked out of the kitchen and toward his loft. "Clark." She thought about following him but decided to sit down and finish her coffee. There's only so much I can do, she thought. I hate this helpless feeling. Sometimes I miss how it used to be when you were a little kid. I did everything to protect you from the big bad world and you thought that I could do anything.
Clark opened his eyes and half-rose from the couch. "Lex?"
"It's been a while since I visited here. What's bothering you?"
"Lex, I think I'm good at emergencies but I suck at day to day life." He half rose from the couch. "Maybe showing up at disasters is the only type of interaction I can handle."
"Sounds like a terribly lonely way of life. Why do you say that?"
"I think I've lost a couple of friends and I'm probably going to lose the rest." He swung his feet off the couch and unto the floor.
"Chloe and Lana?" Lex said, sitting next to him.
"I told them both that I just wanted to be friends. They both wanted more from me than I could give them. . . . I got tired of them telling me how much I suck and how I don't measure up and how they didn't trust me . . . I kept trying to ignore that things could get sticky then it exploded in my face. I kept trying to hide from things. Now both of them are mad at me, Pete's really uncomfortable and I . . . I guess I do suck as a friend, huh?"
"You could've handled things better but it doesn't mean that the others weren't at fault, too. You took some risks, you can't always control how the venture turns out."
"I'm afraid, Lex. I feel like I'm driving away everyone I care about. It's not just those two, it's the feeling that everything is going to turn out like this. I'm getting the feeling that no matter how hard I try, all I do is hurt people. Cassandra told me about what she saw for me. She saw me alone in a graveyard. The gravestones had everybody's name on them. It scared me so bad. I . . ."
"Clark . . . you can't . . . believe what she told you. I sure as hell don't want to believe it."
"What did she show you?"
Lex turned away. "She died right before she could tell me."
"Lex, I'm sorry."
"So, it's either believe that she's an amusing liar or that she saw something so horrible that . . . But we're not talking about me, we're here to talk about you. Clark, just keep in mind, the wounded animal is only concerned with his own pain." Clark blinked. "I'm a wounded animal?"
"I'm not trying to be insulting," said Lex. "I'm just saying that the natural reaction for everyone is to lick their wounds, concentrate on how they themselves are hurt at first. Right now, Chloe can only think about how she's hurt. Lana can only think about how she feels she's been wronged. And you are just beginning to think outside of yourself. Sometimes, it just happens that people grow away from each other. It's a sad thing but it's just how things are sometimes."
"But I don't want to lose people."
Lex put his hand on his shoulder. "It doesn't always mean you lose them forever. It's just that things change. When it comes to relationships, time isn't a straight arrow. It slow and quickens, loops around and each person experiences it differently. But that doesn't mean the future doesn't exist, we just haven't gotten there yet. But don't keep something if it's beyond repair or it can only exist as if it's frozen in time. Then it's not about friendship."
"Then what is it about."
"Nostalgia . . ," said Lex. "Sometimes, you really want to call back something from the past because in the light of memory, it has this warm, seductive glow like a thousand candles on a church altar. It's a pleasant feeling from time to time. But to wallow in it, it becomes something like a sickness that takes away your strength little by little. It turns into something else entirely called fear. It keeps you from making the present the best that it can possibly be.. It becomes less about the person and more about the memory." Then he chuckled. "I've been guilty of indulging in it myself."
Clark reached over and put his hand on top of his briefly. "I'm glad you came over."
"Glad I could be here."
"Want to stay for dinner?"
"Your father . . ."
"I promise my dad will be on his best behavior even if I have to put a headlock on him. Besides, my mom's making ribs. She makes the greatest barbecue sauce." He flashed him a radiant smile.
Lex smiled back. "Mmmm, messy."
"You have heard of washing hands, right?"
Lex gave him a look.
"Afraid of messing up your manicure?" Clark took Lex's hands and felt the back of both hands with his thumbs. "They're so soft and smooth." Then he realized that he was holding Lex's hands and caressing them. He let the hands drop. "Sorry."
Lex swallowed then put on a smile. "Well, I'll just get another one after I get some sauce under my nails." Clark sighed in relief. "I'll go and tell my mom that we're having you over for the best ribs in Kansas." He started to walk down the stairs.
Lex strutted down the stairs after him. "Just in case you were wondering, Clark. I also get pedicures."
Clark nearly stumbled down the stairs then gave him a long and intense look before continuing down. Lex just continued smiling.
"God, Clark makes me so mad . . . I don't know what I saw in him . . ." Chloe said as she and Pete were sitting at her kitchen table, studying for history. Gabe was out getting groceries and running errands and wouldn't be back for hours.
Pete slammed down the textbook. "Chloe, I don't want to hear it, not another freaking word. Damn, girl! You act as if he had sex with you then bragged about it to the entire football team or that he brought you all the way to the altar only to find out he's got some crazy first wife in the attic."
"This isn't like one of those creepy books you know, what's the name . . . `Flowers in the Crypt?' This is high school, no matter how weird Smallville is. You're the one who told Clark you wanted to be friends while we were looking for his dad, remember? You've known Clark for how long? You know how he is, that he tends to take things you say on face value. If you can't be friends with him, then that's cool. Just . . . I'm still his friend and it hurts me to hear you go on about it and it's not good for you either."
Chloe bit her lower lip. "Do I really sound like some twit from a stupid Gothic romance novel?"
"When you go on and on about it, yeah. I'm not totally blaming you. I'm not." He put his hand to his forehead and closed his eyes. "I just wish things were like they were before. You know when we were all just friends."
"You really feel that way."
"Yeah, I do. Chloe, what the fuck happened?"
"What do you mean?"
"I didn't mention this before but you've been acting pretty strange these past few months. I mean where's the girl who stood up for herself and always had a snappy comeback."
Chloe looked away. "I don't know. I really don't. I guess I get this feeling that he keeps pulling away from me, that I'm not so important in his life anymore. And it hurts and I wanted him to understand how much it hurt me. It seems like he only comes to me when he needs to pick my brain nowadays. Things got so complicated. I used to be the only girl who really noticed him. Everybody used to think he was a total geek, but now it's like he's breaking out of his shell and people like Lex and Lana and some of the people around school, they're starting to see the things that I've been seeing all along. Especially after he ran for class president, it's like people started to wake up to him. I guess I felt left behind. He's changed, too. He used to be so sweet and laid back. Recently, he's gone pretty alpha."
"Things haven't been that easy for him, either. He's got problems, too." Interstellar-sized problems, thought Peter. "They have nothing to do with you and he's been preoccupied with them. They're problems that only he can figure out."
"What kind of problems?"
Pete bit his lip. "I think that finding out that he's not the total loser everybody thought he was and dealing with all that extra attention's been really . . . I guess he's enjoying it but he also is really stressed by it."
"I'm sorry for just chewing your head off like that. It's just that I've dated a whole bunch of girls. If one of them dumped me, do I go on and on about what an evil witch she is? No. Why? Because you'd totally call me on that and say I should stop being a drama queen."
"You a drama queen, hahahaha."
Pete smiled. Nothing perked Chloe up like laughter. "I'm not saying he's perfect. He's oblivious to a lot of things, he tends to have his head in the clouds. You need to shine a spotlight on it. He does and says a lot of things without always thinking them through. He's the type of guy who explodes about something, calms down quickly then wants to move on really fast." Pete chuckled. "I think he picked up a lot of that from his dad, actually. I ask myself from time to time. Is it worth being Clark Kent's friend? For me, the answer is yes. I don't know what the answer is for you."
"When it comes to being ignored, I know what it's like. I come from a whole family of high achievers and I haven't made my mark yet. Though I think it's just a matter of time. And if you need someone to talk to, why don't you try me for once?"
Chloe gives him a smile. "I'll do that. Sorry for taking you for granted, Pete."
Pete relaxed. "It's all right. Now how about we read some more about FDR?" He gave her a wry little smile and she laughed.
"It was all right. Still turning a profit." said Lana as she walked in. "A certain someone I won't name hasn't been stopping by. I guess he still feels guilty over the things that he said." There was a certain glee in her voice.
Chloe shrugged. "Could we not talk about him any more?"
"What? After all he did to us?"
"I just don't want to."
"You're not still . . . I mean, we have to stick together on this." Lana crinkled her eyebrows in annoyance.
"Actually, I've been thinking the past few days. Even though he's done some stupid stuff, it's not like I've exactly been a rocket scientist, either."
"Have you been talking to him? Because I thought we agreed not to."
"No, actually I was talking to Pete. He made me take a hard look at myself and I didn't like what I saw. I wake up every morning thinking that this isn't what I want. Even if things never go back to what they were, I don't want to keep thinking of him as the enemy.""
Lana rolled her eyes. "Well, of course, Pete would take Clark's side. Boys do that, you know. I really need your support on this!"
Chloe frowned at the extremely hostile tone in Lana's voice. "What is wrong with you? If you want to continue hating him and feeling he's a total jerk, fine. I'm not telling you how to feel. It's not like I have to be your backup singer in your song of woe."
"You're supposed to be my friend. Friends support each other."
"Being friends doesn't mean that I have to agree with everything you do or think. I've had tons of arguments with friends over a lot of stuff yet still respect them. Why does everything have to go your way?"
"I'm going to my room."
Lana then walked out of the room, glowering.
"You're talking to me?" said Clark as he swung his legs off the hammock and stood in front of her.
"Pete and I talked. He gave me quite the smackdown."
Clark widened his eyes. "Oh, I didn't ask him to . . ." "I know. I just began complaining one too many times and he told me how he saw things. I guess I just miss it when it was just the three of us. Things have changed so much since we first met. I used to be the only one who thought, Hey, Clark Kent is cool but nobody knows it but me."
"You thought I was cool back then?" He looked completely astonished.
"Yeah. I wouldn't have kissed you otherwise, way back when. But lately, it's like everybody's starting to really notice you and it's like you're driving in some beautiful red Mustang convertible with a whole bunch of people and I'm not in the front seat. I'm not even in the back seat. You're looking at me through the rearview mirror, while I'm at the side of the road, sitting on my suitcase. I know it sounds melodramatic but that's how it feels sometimes."
"I'm sorry I made you feel this way, but you never said anything."
"That's what Pete said. That sometimes you needed me to spell things out for you with big, bright spotlights even if I think it's obvious. Oh, and another thing. Lana's moving out of my house."
"She is? Why?"
"Well, we got into a couple of arguments then she said that she didn't feel welcome. She managed to get the Smalls to take her in."
"What did you get into an argument about?"
"Well, turns out that we didn't have that much in common other than complaining about you and after a while . . . I didn't want to do it any more."
"No great loss. I . . . "
"This is so awkward."
"Things didn't used to be so awkward. Despite everything, I miss you Clark."
"I miss what we used to have, Chloe. I hope that you don't think we should be . . ."
Chloe shook her head and rolled her eyes. "Uh, no, Clark. I think that's one experiment that shouldn't be repeated. Things have changed, Clark. I just hope it's not the end."
"You're not holding back how you really feel about me, are you?"
"Not this time."
Clark sighed. "I did try, Chloe. I never would have gone out with anybody else while we were . . ."
"I know, I know."
"So, what do we do now?"
"I think that we have a lot to talk about. I just got in a bag of Kona coffee beans. How about you come on over for some home brew?"
He gave her a hug. "I missed you a lot. I'm going to try not to make the same mistakes. I need you to point them out to me even if I do get mad when you do so."
"I missed you, too, you big dummy."
Lex watched Clark put his delivery on the kitchen counter. "Well, you look a lot happier. Have you patched things up?"
"Actually, Chloe was the one who came and patched things up with me. She told me that Pete explained some things to her. I didn't ask him to do that. I owe him big time. And I'm glad that we're talking. There's a lot we have to straighten out though. I have to learn not to ignore things and hope they go away until they boil over. Looks like I had to learn it the hard way. We're still friends but just friends."
"And how about . . ."
"She's still mad. I even heard that she's been dating someone from the football team. He even looks a little bit like Whitney. But I've been seeing a lot of things about her I never saw before and I can't say I like them. I think back and realize that I wasn't seeing who she really was. I was always ignoring some of the things she did because they didn't fit the image in my head. If she doesn't want to talk to me, it's her choice. I can't force her. I'll be fine. In fact, I feel a lot better than I have in a long time."
"Sounds like you're on your way."
"On my way to what?"
"To wherever you're supposed to go, I suppose."
"Lex . . . You must think it's funny."
"The way my life is. The way I'm just stumbling through it."
"Well, it's not something I laugh at. It's interesting." "I just wonder how much longer I'll be stumbling."
"If you're my father, you don't stumble, you slither. Stumbling is a stage one outgrows, slithering's a permanent state."
They both smile at that.
"So, did you get all the barbecue sauce out?"
Lex put his hands out as if for inspection. "Look for yourself."
Clark looked down and said, "Oh, missed a spot."
"I'll get it." He took Lex's hands in his, gently pulled them down and off to the side and leaned over to give him a kiss. It was warm, soft with a little tongue licking the bottom of his lip. It was a kiss that was meant to be short that ended up lasting almost a minute.
"Clark, I thought you were talking about my hands," Lex said, his face just a few inches away from Clark's. That kiss had made him a little breathless, it was almost as exhilarating as that dream he had of flying right before he woke up on the river bank.
Clark looked at Lex's hands then turned them palm up. He licked a small trail along Lex's life line, and licked the tips of his right index and middle finger.
Lex swallowed. "I'm telling you, Clark that I hate being teased, that you better finish what you start. And what about . . ."
He looked directly into Lex's eyes. "I'm tired of nostalgia. And I have full intention of finishing what I started. And I'm ready for things to change."
Lex gives an appraising look then nods with a smile. "So am I."
The wounded animal quote comes straight from Noir the anime.
After seeing the Pilot, I rather like Chlete, the semi-canon pairing that got lost by the wayside. I think Chloe is her most Chloe with Pete. She needs someone to ground her and Pete is the most sensible guy so far. She reveals more of herself to him than Clark and he doesn't get snappish at her. It's a good pairing when it comes to high school or even longer. IMHO. For het pairings, I prefer the affection to flow with a warm and gentle ease. I think that he gets her on a more fundamental level than Clark does.
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