by RantingIdiot

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Driving back from the show was quiet. Maybe too quiet.

I can't help but think it was my fault, seeing as everything was going fine, in fact great, until I mentioned that I'd forgotten to bring back a gift for Chloe. In all the excitement, the thought of buying her a horse pin that matched my own had slipped my mind. Mentioning this to Clark, it was easy to see his face fall.

How is it that a person's mood can change so quickly? One minute he was smiling, the next it was like I'd twisted the knife that had already been causing enough pain. I didn't mean to do it, I didn't mean to make him remember how difficult it's been... but it happened.

He didn't say much after that. I wasn't sure how to break out of it.

It was a long ride home.

She's never kept her eyes downcast so much. Honestly, this is one of the first times I've seen Chloe not talking her head off; the only other time it happened was when she had a wicked virus of the flu and couldn't talk much at all because of the sore throat. Clark and I had had a field day with that, knowing she wouldn't be able to do anything but glare as we ragged on her sickly state of affairs.

Looking around the cafeteria, I can't seem to find Clark anywhere. I know he's not doing so well with this whole thing either, that seemed pretty obvious when I was throwing the last of the dirt over the kryptonite. He seemed a little queasy as I did it, something I chalked up to his effects on him; at least, that was until we were three miles down the road and that look was still on his face.

Chloe can't help that she cares about him, just like I couldn't help caring about her. The difference is, I was able to let go a long time ago. Look where it got me, dates with Vanessa, Shirley, Erica... Sometimes a boy just has to date around.

But watching her over the lunch table makes it all the more obvious that what she felt for Clark was much deeper than the crush I ever felt on her. For heaven's sake, I thought the man had it down a year ago. Lana was making her exit, Chloe was getting the chance she more than deserved.... and everything just tripped up and fell on its face.

Women mystify me as much as the next guy, but even I could tell that she waved the friends card because he ran off to be with Lana. Yeah, he saved her, in fact, knowing what's up with Clark these days, it's pretty great he was able to do that. I may not worship Lana, but I certainly don't wish death on her. Too bad Chloe doesn't know what really happened. I have a feeling it'd make stuff a whole lot clearer. Even so, it hurt her. I think that's when Chloe realized that she'd always be second place.

I know how that feels. Just think about Clark's Luthor of a best friend.

Today was a little better. We had lunch outside; I purposefully led Clark out there seeing as I'd already seen Chloe sit down with Pete in the middle of the cafeteria. I'm thinking Pete and I can switch tomorrow, just so they don't think we're taking sides.

But I think it was a good idea; I saw him smile for the first time since the show. I had to fall over in an effort to catch my apple that was rolling down the incline of the grass. Grass stains aren't exactly welcome, but at least Clark broke out of his dour mood enough to laugh. It's the first time I heard him laugh in a while, too.

What was it so bad that they can't speak right now? That Clark sits on the other side of our English class?

She was on the phone late last night, I heard it just as I was going to bed. When I first heard her excited voice, my hopes got up, thinking that she and Clark had finally gotten the time to talk. That's when I heard her refer to the other person as "Mr. Luthor."

Lex? Lionel?

Even though tempted to stand next to the door, I held back. Being nosey has gotten me into enough trouble before, I have no intention of getting on Chloe's bad side again, particularly now. Clark may be on the outs, but I definitely want to stay in. What can I say? Her friendship is worth it.

Being in her family is worth it.

We talked about baseball. I seriously need to get him to a couple of games this season. If he gives me another blank stare when I mention RBI's, I swear I'll smack the alien out of him.

We traded out pudding cups; geez, we haven't done that since fifth grade. It just so happened that I got the chocolate and he got vanilla in the lunch line. We were happy to trade. It led to a discussion about simpler times but then again, we're only sophomores. If we're thinking of fifth grade as simpler times, come mid-twenties, we're screwed.

Clark dances around a subject more than those freaky Irish line guys. First he asked me how lunch was yesterday. Then if the Beanery is still any good after being shut down for a couple months (he must have seen me going there with Chloe yesterday afternoon). When he started prancing around the question of the Torch being rebuilt, I finally laid it all out.

She's doing fine. (She's a wreck.)

Things are keeping her so busy that I don't think she gets to think of much. (I caught her crying outside the girl's bathroom at the Beanery.)

Her dad said that she's thrilled about Luthor is helping rebuild the Torch. (Gag me with a spoon... I don't mention that he begged me not to tell Clark or Lana that Chloe's been sleepwalking. It turns out she hasn't that since a few months after her mom left.)

Damn it, he found her outside, sitting on the curb at three in the morning.

Yeah, Clark, she's doing okay. Don't worry about it.

I'm doing enough of that for the both of us.

Mr. Sullivan doesn't think I know about it, but being a light sleeper, I heard the door open from the moment the lock clicked.

I followed her around the house, first asking questions about why she was stumbling about. It took me a few seconds before realizing that she really couldn't hear me.

I waved my hand in front of her face, just to make sure.

It may or may not be true that waking up a sleepwalker is a bad thing, but I refused to take the chance. Instead, I followed Chloe around as she padded around the kitchen, dodging in front of sharp corners so she wouldn't hurt herself.

I sat next to her on the couch when she chose to do so for a few minutes. It was then she started mumbling. Maybe she knew I was there, I'm not sure; having conversations with people who aren't awake isn't especially my forte.

Dead people, on the other hand. Hm, I haven't visited mom and Lewis in a while. Good thing? Maybe.

Anyway. The words didn't make much sense and as much as I'd love to be able to decipher what, "Claiitymiou" means... I don't think I have snowball's chance of figuring it out. In any case, I wanted to stay with her, but all that coffee can do stuff to a person, so after I assured her sleeping form that I'd be right back, I rushed off to the bathroom.

She must have gotten up right after I left, because I was walking down the hallway when Mr. Sullivan rushed out of his room, down the steps and out the already open front door. He never even saw me. Holding back, I went to my room and looked out the window and there he was, gently shaking her awake. I could see her confusion even from where I was.

Does Clark see it?

No, Lana, I don't think he does.

We went riding together yesterday. Tyson is definitely starting to prefer Clark over me, not that I mind. He was always used to a male presence rather than my own; it makes me think of Whitney...

I miss him.

Clark was smiling again, that beautiful model's smile that sometimes I can't believe that I missed for so long while we were growing up. Mrs. Kent showed me some pictures the other day, he was a gorgeous child. But there I was, caught up in being a princess and riding horses, rather than taking up any offers to play with Tonka trucks and mud.

I ask him how he is.

He's fine.

I ask how his day was going.

He says... fine.

Going a little further (and crossing my fingers), I ask if he's tried to talk to Chloe again.

He sighs. No. She won't take his calls. After the fourth time, he got so frustrated that he broke the phone. I don't think he meant to tell me that, because his face got red and he blustered out an explanation that he slammed it on the counter, so his mom threw it away.

Maybe I shouldn't mention that I saw the phone the day I saw the pictures.

It takes one upset man to break a phone in two. But knowing Clark... I shouldn't even bother asking.

Lana wanted to hatch a plan; get them alone in the Talon together after hours. I lure Clark, she cons Chloe, they'll talk it out and everything would be good again.

I restrained myself enough not to call her a moron to her face.

She needs to give them time. As much as I want our friends to be reconciled, this is something that we can't just force. Clark has to realize that he forget he has friends other than Lana and Lex. Chloe has to let go.

We can't force that to happen.

I miss my green iMac. Somehow a Hewlett-Packard just doesn't have the same feel as my old computer.

The computer guy was barely able to salvage my hard drive from the old computer; everything has been uploaded and put in place. Everything except one thing.

The pictures.

I tell myself it was a different time, albeit a happier one. A year later, I'm caught in the same situation. Delete? Save? Delete? Save?

Mr. Luthor calls as I face this conundrum. I thank him profusely, looking around my newly remodeled offices, with all the jazz that makes a reporter feel at home. Brand new computers, ergonomic desk chairs, wall-sized erasable white boards that I already have listed some demands on, the state of the art headphones I'm speaking to him with... we're being pampered.


The reporter in me doesn't want to push away this uneasiness I feel when Mr. Luthor tells me to call him Lionel... yeah, right. Lex didn't convince me otherwise, his full-headed father isn't going to win this one either. So instead, I tell Mr. Luthor that I'm still considering his Daily Planet offer and that our Torch staff is going to get sending him a small token of appreciation after our first staff meeting.

Clark's going to be missing from that one.

No, don't think of him. Do not think of him.

Hm. Need to figure out what that token is going to be. Mini-muffins? Ha! Luthor, Sr. doesn't strike as the blueberry loving type.

Our conversation ends quickly, and I'm starting to think that the older Luthor does this on purpose just to leave the other person hanging. What do I care? Why should he care about intimidating a high school sophomore? I'm small potatoes to him at this point.

I look back at the screen. It's gotten better... my stomach doesn't twist as much when I see him in the hallways. I've been hanging out with a couple of friends outside of school when I'm not with Pete... seems I've got my own guard nowadays when I'm with him. At least he's promised not to tell Clark about the Beanery a couple weeks ago. In fact, it was wonderful that he didn't ask anything at all, he just hugged me and let me finish.

I can't help but think that Lana was there the other night, when dad woke me up. He told me I must have been dreaming. I must have, but I could have sworn I heard her voice asking me to repeat what I'd said to her. Whether Lana was there or not, she's been walking around as if on eggshells, as if I'm about to snap at her any second. Sometimes it's hard to look at her, it's true.

What can you do when you live with the person who won?

How do you move on?



Maybe it'll get even better. Maybe we just need a little more time.

I look up just in time to see Lana pass by, Clark at her side. He's smiling down at her.

Looking at the screen, I see the same expression there... only instead of a pink-laden Lana, it's a pink-laden me at the dance.

Screw him.


Emails from Pete aren't unusual. No matter what he has to say during the day, he always finds something to add during mid-evening, usually mindless stuff about how his brothers commented on his new girlfriend or his parents grounded him for tackling the said brother.

I chuckle a little as I open up an email dated yesterday, wondering what's come again of the Ross clan.

My smile fades when I see what's inside.

Clark, hey, I'm down at the offices right now. They're looking pretty great, and I'm sure Chloe's going to go crazy when she sees all the stuff that Luthor put in.

I don't have much time, Chloe should be back any second and she'll have a fit if she finds out that I tested the computers first. Anyway, I found these on the desktop, I'm not sure what she's going to do with them... but I figured you might want to take a look.

I wish I could do something to help you guys out on this, but I have a feeling that any interruption would be unwelcome. In any case, I still think that things are going to be all right. You guys just need to take some time, figure stuff out. I should get going, I think I see her car outside. See you tomorrow.

There was an attachment. Opening them up, I at first only see pink... then scan up to see Chloe's smile, one that I haven't seen in a while. The dance.

Leaning back in my chair, I stare at the screen. Forgetting completely that I promised mom that I'd stay online for only a few minutes, instead I spare long glances at us.

So much can change in a year.

Biting my lip, I look away and stare at the entrance to the loft. There was time I was scared to death that I'd never see her again because some psycho had taken her from all of us. Now I'm scared that I'll never see her again because... I lost her.

I shake my head. Things will work out. It'll just take time.

Leaning forward, I quickly save the pictures to a folder in the back of another folder entitled "Clark's Stuff". My parents know better than to go in there when they need the laptop.

It's going to work out. It has to.


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