In the end it was always the same.
She had gotten in trouble again, taking a picture when she should have looked the other way. Not that she would have looked the other way. She wasn't built for ignoring the problems of the world and, as a reporter, she had an obligation to find the truth. Only this time the truth wanted her dead.
It was a terrifying realization that had pounded between her temples every hour she spent tied and gagged in the small, dark room that reminded her painfully of a once-familiar coffin. Chloe Sullivan didn't much like the dark now, but she could survive within it. That was one of her more distinguishing qualities.
She was a fighter.
When the abyss looked into her, she stared back, defiantly. It would take more than a damp, shadowy room and ropes that left welts on her soft skin to bring her down. She would escape. She would. She had all the faith in the world that she was infinitely more intelligent than the pea-brained idiot that had thrown her in there, promising to finish her off. A chance for freedom would present itself and she would take it with both hands. She had never shied away from taking risks. It was the only way to get what you wanted in life.
With great difficulty, she shifted as much as her bonds would allow, trying to keep her positive mental attitude. Even if she didn't come up with a plan, there was always a chance…
No, she couldn't rely on him.
Well, maybe she could. This was a savior situation after all and Clark had always had a complex about that. The thing was, she wasn't sure anyone knew she was missing. She couldn't tell for sure but she thought she had been imprisoned for around a day and a night, which mean it was probably Sunday. On Friday, she had said goodbye to Pete, Lana, and Clark at school, bustling with energy for her trip to Metropolis. The excitement had faded quickly though when she had stumbled across a man depositing an oddly shaped black bag into the trunk of his car, looking from side to side nervously. Feeling a knot form in the pit of her stomach she had snapped a flashless photo. She had been half hidden by the corner of a nearby building but the man had heard the shutter click. From there it had been a hectic chase down the alleys of Metropolis. A chase she had lost in the end and was now sporting the bruises to prove it. She wasn't quite sure of what she had witnessed, but her whole situation spoke that she had come upon something dangerous. Her camera was probably sitting somewhere in a billion pieces. For that alone, the creep would get what was coming to him.
If anyone ever figured out the reason she hadn't returned from her little weekend trip.
By Monday her father would start worrying but how long would it take him to realize she was in trouble? How long for anyone to find her?
Those were questions that threatened her fragile mindset.
Tilting her head back against the cold wall, Chloe closed her eyes and breathed out over the dirty rag in her mouth. Was it just her imagination or was her curiosity beginning to shorten her lifespan? If only she had stayed in Smallville this weekend. Hindsight was such a gift, but she knew she wouldn't have been able to. The school was throwing a Spring Fling, a semi-formal dance that had turned her heart to wood in her chest the moment she had heard of it. She couldn't bear to watch Clark watching Lana, a longing in his eyes she would never be able to erase no matter how much she may have wanted to. She wouldn't subject herself to such needless torture. No, she would go away for the weekend, skip the dance. Such a brilliant plan that had ended so tragically.
She could survive anything but Clark Kent.
She felt a small sob well under her collarbone and she squished it down ruthlessly. She couldn't afford to come apart. She had to stay sharp, stay focused. She would not be beaten by a room that was beginning to feel about the size of a shoe box.
She would not cry.
Wait a minute. Why shouldn't she cry? After all, there was certainly no one to see her, no one to offer false sympathy over her chaotic teenage life and dangerous situation. Heck, she was probably going to be dead within the hour and if that wasn't a reason for tears she didn't know what was. Of course, her mind couldn't really work its way around the fact that she might end up dead. Her kidnapper had all but promised it to her but she couldn't grasp it. Right now she was living and that was all her head could think about at the moment, besides the raging headache that ached around her temples. She was pretty sure she'd been hit in the head when the guy had tackled her in the street but she wasn't sure. In fact, she couldn't remember much after that at all.
Great. Now she had head trauma.
Chloe made a sound between a sniffle and a sigh.
Bring it on.
The door to her cell slid open noisily and she blinked in the sudden light, momentarily blinded, her eyes watering as a large figure stepped close to her to grip her arm roughly and haul her to her feet.
Taking a deep breath and praying she had enough strength to carry it through, Chloe used the upward movement to slam her elbow into the guy's groin. Not a pleasant feeling but the kidnapper immediately released her, growling and cursing as he bent over himself.
Breathing noisily around her gag, she used her elbow again and brought it down hard on the man's back, pushing him to the floor as she sprang past him and out the door. Immediately she was disoriented. She was in a hallway in what looked like a huge basement, or underground floor.
Every door looked the same.
She moaned wordlessly and began to run, not caring about the direction, simply wanting to get away from her kidnapper who would surely start to recover any moment. She didn't have much time. She had to find a way out and let someone know where she was.
Behind her, the guy's voice echoed down the hallway after her.
Not much time.
Now that she was free, adrenaline started to course through her, giving her strength she knew she didn't have. She was sprinting, towards the end of the hall, towards anything that was not in the direction of her cell, all the while working at the bindings that tied her wrists together. Lucky for her the idiot hadn't tied her feet, wanting her to be able to walk so he wouldn't have to carry her.
Chloe couldn't stomach stupidity. Maybe ignorance, but never stupidity.
Because of this, she felt greatly embarrassed when she almost slammed into the elevator door. It was a large freight elevator and the floor number '3' was illuminated above it. It was on the third floor and from the markings, she was in the basement.
She pushed the up button three times convulsively as she glanced over her shoulder. She could hear him. He was coming.
The number '2' lit up.
She wasn't going to make it.
She turned slightly, casting anxious eyes to her surroundings, hoping for something, anything, to use against her attacker. There was nothing, the floor was completely bare unless she wanted to throw dust bunnies at him.
Trembling, she pushed herself into the corner next to the elevator, listening to it ding as it hit the floor above. The light hit '1' before he got to her.
He was big, muscular, and none to happy about her hit below the belt. He came at her fast, gripping the fabric of her shirt, the sound of it tearing as he threw her against the opposite wall. She couldn't stop herself from hitting and her head rebounded against the cement wall, making her vision darken and her body fall to the floor. He came at her again, a hard-toe boot finding its way to her stomach. She curled inward, crying out in pain, hardly able to see where the next blow would come from. He continued to kick her and she knew it was the end. He had promised, after all. She had seen too much. He couldn't let her live. He wouldn't.
It was the End of Chloe.
Distantly, like a hazy dream, the elevator dinged.
A blow landed on her lower back as the doors slid open and this time she screamed. Somewhat from pain but mostly from hopelessness.
She had been so close.
Suddenly, from overhead, she heard a heavy grunt and she tensed, ready for the hit that would send her into blessed unconsciousness.
It never fell.
Instead, her attacker was flung backwards an amazing thirty feet, landing hard on his side. A blur raced past her, she felt the wind of its speed, but couldn't follow it with her eyes, too full of blood and tears. Instead, she closed them, letting whatever was happening happen. She had the faintest notion, from what she could hear, that her kidnapper was getting the crap beat out of him but more than that she couldn't guess and didn't care.
She was tired.
In fact, what she really wanted to do was sleep.
Someone was shaking her. Good grief, didn't they know what she had been through? She was tired, why weren't they letting her sleep? And it hurt, the shaking. Didn't they know she hurt all over?
"Hurts," she mumbled, feeling every ache in her body. The shaking stopped and the arms hugged her close to something warm and strong.
"I know, but you've got to stay awake. Stay with me, Chloe." An arm snaked under her feet and she felt herself being lifted effortlessly, as if she weighed no more than a feather. It was nice, the feeling…Wait, that voice, didn't she know it from somewhere?
Her fuzzy brain struggled to work again, past the pain, and she felt herself begin to come alive bit by bit. She fought to lift her eyelids which suddenly felt as heavy as lead weights.
A blurry shape loomed above her, holding her tightly. She blinked, her vision tinted red from a cut above her eyebrow she didn't even know she had. A hand touched her cheek.
"Chloe, you've got to fight."
She almost groaned aloud.
It just had to be him, didn't it? Why must he only care about her when she was in mortal danger? Couldn't he for once try and rescue her when she really didn't need rescuing? At least then she would know it was more than caring…
"Clark," she managed, her voice scratchy. She tried to go on, make some witty remark that would depressurize the situation but she abruptly found herself close to breaking down and she had to swallow several times to catch herself, her face scrunching up with reined in emotion.
Clark hugged her to her him briefly. "It's going to be alright, Chloe. I'll take care of you, just stay with me. Stay awake."
She tried to nod but her eyes drifted closed and he was shaking her again.
She was tired. So tired…just a few minutes…just a few…
* * * *
She awoke in the hospital.
She knew this from the myriad of beepings that assailed her ears and from the cold, sterile smell, not because her eyes were open. She had come to with the uncertain fear that if she opened them, she would be back in that dark cell, alone. So she laid quietly, opening her other senses to her surroundings, unwilling to face the world just yet.
It was only when warm breath trickled across the back of her hand that she realized she wasn't alone. A kiss was laid delicately on her wrist as the bed dipped to one side, signaling a body very close to hers and indeed, the same warm lips pressed against her forehead.
It was that one that made her open her eyes.
Awakened with a kiss.
"You're awake," he breathed, a smile crossing his face and lighting his very blue eyes. She tried to smile but it turned into a grimace as she felt something pull above her eyebrow. Clark touched her cheek gently.
"Careful, you've got stitches."
She blinked twice and felt an irrational surge of fear well underneath her heart. Clark seemed to sense it for his voice grew soothing.
"Don't worry, Chloe. You're safe now. I won't let anything happen to you." He was so confident, so sure that as long as he was by her side, she would never hurt. She wondered how he would react if she told him it was his very presence that wounded her.
"How…" Her voice was almost nonexistent and she tried again. "How did you find me?"
She saw him visibly hesitate and she felt her curiosity rise.
"I was looking for you," he said finally, a solemn expression on his face. "You weren't at the dance and Pete said he hadn't heard from you. I called your Dad to make sure you were alright and he told me you came here, to Metropolis, by yourself." She looked away. "When you didn't come back Sunday night, I got worried."
Ever the mysterious Clark Kent. Never really answering anything just leaving more questions.
"So you came all the way up here?" she whispered, still avoiding his gaze. She felt rather than saw him nod. "You shouldn't have."
"What?" He was shocked.
She forced herself to look back at him, meeting his pale blue gaze. "I mean, you shouldn't have had to. I'm sorry I ruined your weekend."
He blinked, still so innocently confused. "Chloe, what are you talking about?"
Did she have to spell it out for him? Must he always crush her like this?
"Well, I mean the Spring Fling. You were worried about me and I know for a fact that Lana planned to ask you to dance. I'm sorry I messed the night up for you." He was staring at her as if he had never seen her before and she looked away again, unable to face him or herself. It just hurt too much. "You should go home, Clark. I'll be fine here and I'm sure you want to see Lana. I'll have my Dad come and bring me home."
"I already called him," Clark said tonelessly, hurt written clearly across his face. He didn't understand why she was pushing him away. "He'll be here tonight."
"Great." This time she managed a small smile. "See? I'll have company. You don't have to baby sit me."
"I don't¾ "
She cut him off and closed her eyes. "Goodbye, Clark."
When she opened them again, he was gone.
Tears welled up in her eyes and she began to sob silently. It was for the best, really. He was in love with Lana, and Lana, whether she admitted it or not, had feelings for him. They would be perfect together, what right did Chloe have to ruin that? They were her friends and she should wish them all the happiness in the world.
She should and she would, if only her heart didn't yearn for him so much.
So it was best that he was gone. She could recover on her own, move past all this. The police would catch the guy who did this and everything would return to normal. She and Clark would be best friends and Lana would be the ideal that every male wanted.
A perfect world if ever there was one, except for one thing.
Shewas in love with Clark.
She bit down on another sob just as the door to her room flew open and in stepped Clark, his face full of determination. She almost gaped at him, his presence was so overwhelming.
"Wh…What…," she stuttered, "What are you doing here? I thought you went home?"
"I did," he said so cryptically that she didn't know what question to ask, "and I realized I can't leave without you understanding something."
Here it comes, she thought, the big confession. The I-love-Lana-but-I-can't-have-her-because-I'm-not-worthy speech. Dear God, did it never end?
"Clark¾ " This time, he cut her off.
"No, Chloe, you've got to hear me out. I can't let this go any longer." His expression turned to one of entreaty and he stepped up beside her bed, his eyes so compelling as he leaned forward to place one fist onto the pillow on either side of her head so that he was only a few inches away, looking deep inside her.
She shuddered. He might not like what he saw.
"Chloe, from the first time I saw you, I was in love you. Not in the way a man loves a woman, but the simple way in which people love happiness and freedom. You were that for me. You were like…" She watched him search for the words, spellbound by his closeness. "…like a tiny spark of joy that danced around, bringing light wherever you went. You have no idea what's it's like just to be around you. You make everyone close to you feel…better. As if they can do anything." Tears escaped her lashes and his thumb wiped them away gently. "I didn't realize this until I didn't have you anymore. You had always been by my side, my faithful partner in everything, and when this awful distance between us began to grow, I felt incomplete. I didn't feel like myself anymore." He closed his eyes and leaned down until their foreheads were touching and they were breathing the same breath. "Chloe, I hate it that we're apart now, that we're not best friends. I miss you."
Tears were evident in her voice as she spoke, "Clark, we are best friends, we always will be. Nothing as silly as high school hormones can mess that up." She smiled blearily at him as he opened his eyes.
"What if I don't want to be?"
"What if I want to be more?"
And he closed the space between them and kissed her.
Her heart jumped in her chest and for a very brief moment, she wondered if the nurses would think she was having a heart attack, but then the feel of Clark's lips against hers became to much and she lost herself in his gentle kiss. It was chaste at first, a simple testing to see if she would smack him or not, and when he remained whole, she felt him smile and kiss in earnest when she opened beneath him.
It was heaven.
Except for the part where Clark pressed his weight against side and her ribs screamed in protest. She cried out into his mouth and he pulled back, instantly apologetic.
"Chloe, I'm sorry. Are you alright?"
She nodded at him through the pain, not trusting her voice to remain level. His fingers caressed her hair and face until the pain had passed and she could see him clearly once again. He was watching her intently, waiting for her verdict.
This was the moment. The single instant where she could decide the outcome of her own life. She would never get another chance like this. Never. It was now or not at all.
She smiled slightly and lifted a hand to his cheek.
"Kiss me again?"
Author's Note: Well, how was it? This is my very first Smallville fic and I hope it turned out alright. I love Clark and Chloe! Tee hee, and I would love to hear what you thought about this story so review, please? I'll give you a cookie….. ^_^