Started: December 15, 2002

Finished: December 16, 2002

Last Episode Seen Before Writing: Skinwalker

Pairing: Clark/Chloe, Lana/Clark implied on both ends

Rating: PG-13

Category: Drama, Angst, Romance

Spoilers: Crush, Tempest, Vortex

Summary: In the middle of an argument Clark shows Chloe something that makes her rethink pulling the 'friends card' on him.

Disclaimer: I do not own these amazing characters. And, to give credit where credit is due, I got this idea from an excellent episode of Friends. I have to say, Ross had it coming! Poor Rach.

Author's Note: I know I've done this a million times lately, but I dedicate this to Maryclare and her strive for a more romantic and sensitive Clark Kent. Here's my best shot, girl! Lana's part is a little something I added just for you! ;)

Torn Shoebox

"Hey, Clark," Chloe said with a smile, climbing up into the loft.

"Hey," Clark answered absently, looking out his telescope.

"You know, you can't see my house from here. Besides, Lana isn't there anyway," Chloe said, her voice holding controlled emotion.

Clark turned to her, shock written on his face. "I wasn't looking for Lana."

"Yeah," Chloe said quietly, taking residence on the back of the couch.

"I wasn't," Clark repeated, turning to fully face Chloe.

"Look, Clark, I'm not judging," she said, smoothing the legs of her pants. "You're entitled to look anywhere you want."

"Whatever you say, Chloe. I'm not going to argue with you about it," Clark said, tiredly.

Chloe shrugged. "Does it ever make you tired? To put so much energy into stalking someone?" she asked, looking at Clark.

"I'm not stalking her, Chloe," Clark said, his tone becoming irritated.

"Excuse me. Do you ever get tired from putting so much energy into not looking like you're stalking her?" Chloe asked, rephrasing her question.

"What's wrong with you, Chloe?" Clark asked, narrowing his eyes at his friend. "Why are you acting like this?"

"Because I'm tired of pretending that you watching Lana twenty-four seven isn't driving me insane," Chloe exclaimed, her eyes lighting up like fire.

Clark seemed confused. "Chloe, I don't understand. You've never said anything before."

"What was I supposed to say? 'Oh, hey, Clark. Why don't you turn your telescope my way sometime?'" Chloe asked incredulously, her voice rising.

"I don't know," Clark said, exhaustedly. "Any kind of sign might have helped."

Chloe's mouth dropped open. "A sign? A sign?! Like going to the formal with you, working for hours to look beautiful for you, or almost kissing you?!"

"What about saying we're better off friends, Chloe? I'm not the only one who was a little blind," Clark threw back, his words more harsh than he intended.

"What are you talking about?" Chloe demanded.

"Nothing, Chloe. Forget it," Clark spat.

"I thought I actually had a chance, Clark. For once you actually looked at me like you did Lana, but it didn't last. I was a fool to think it would," Chloe hissed.

"Sorry to burst your bubble, but you ended it, Chloe. Not me," Clark pointed out. "You pulled the friends card. I would never have dumped you."

Chloe rolled her eyes. "Yeah, right."

"Do you distrust me that much?" Clark asked, towering over Chloe's sitting form.

"No, Clark. I just know you," Chloe said, looking straight into Clark's eyes. "You never cared."

Clark stormed past Chloe, stalking to his desk. He pulled a key out of the small drawer, using it to open a large locked drawer. "What about this? You know about this?" he asked hotly, pulling out a torn shoebox.

"It's a shoebox, Clark," Chloe said, pointing out the obvious.

Clark sat next to Chloe, ripping the top off of the box. "This is me not caring about you, Chloe," he said harshly, pulling something out. "This is the newspaper you bought the first day you got here. You left it on the couch."

"What does-?" Chloe started.

"I'm not done," he said, pulling out a piece of construction paper with glitter on it. "The valentine you made me in eighth grade."

Chloe's mouth dropped open for the second time since she got into the loft.

"This is the receipt from the first time Pete, you, and I went out to eat," he said, throwing a piece of white paper at Chloe. "The ticket stub from the first movie we went to." He threw the stub into the pile he was making.

Chloe's eyes started to water as he kept pulling stuff out.

"The first article you wrote for the Torch," Clark went on, his voice loud. "Is this not caring, Chloe? Do you think you know me now?"

A single tear ran down Chloe's cheek. "I had no idea," Chloe said, her voice soft.

Clark looked up at Chloe, his eyes full of emotion. "No, you wouldn't," he said, pulling something else from the box. "The boutonniere you gave me for the formal."

"But you were outside? I saw your suit. It was mangled. How did…" Chloe trailed off, looking at the seemingly perfect boutonniere.

"I took it off so it wouldn't get messed up," Clark said, his voice lowering a notch.

Chloe's hand went to her mouth. "Clark, I had no idea."

Clark started to gently put the things back in the box. "Do you still think I don't care?" he asked, his voice still had an edge to it.

Chloe ignored the tears on her cheeks. "I'm so sorry, Clark," she said, almost a whisper.

Clark set the shoebox behind himself. "Come here," he said, taking Chloe's hand to pull her onto the couch. He hugged her tightly. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to get so angry, but you shouldn't have said that."

Chloe pulled back. "I wouldn't have if you had just told me."

Clark broke into a smile. "What did you want me to say? 'How's your day been, oh by the way I have a box full of things that remind me of you?'" he said, mocking Chloe's earlier statement.

Chloe laughed. "Any kind of sign might have helped," she countered.

"I do care, Chloe. More than you could ever know," Clark said. "When you said you wanted to stay friends it killed me. I didn't understand. Lana came up to me the day after the blow up at the career fair. She asked what I thought about you liking me and I told her that I wanted to be more than friends."

"I would have paid to see her face," Chloe said, chuckling. "Sorry, go on."

Clark smiled and shook his head in amusement. "It was the truth. Then you said you only wanted to be friends. It didn't make sense. I thought we started something, then you backed out. I apologized for leaving, and I tried to make it up to you, but you wouldn't listen."

Chloe gave Clark a sad smile. "I figure you would have pulled the friends card, so I beat you to the punch."

"I don't want to stay friends, Chloe. I want to wake up every morning and not be able to wait to get to school to kiss you. I want to go to sleep knowing you'll be there for me to hold the next day. I want to be able to know that your beautiful, bright smile is mine," Clark said sincerely.

The tears started to return, staining Chloe's cheeks. "You don't mean that, Clark," Chloe told him.

Lana walked up the stairs to the loft, stopping when she heard Chloe and Clark. She didn't want to eavesdrop, but she had come to tell Clark how she felt, and needed to tell him as soon as possible. What she heard blew her away.

"Yes, I do, Chloe. I mean it with all I have. You don't know how many times I wanted to go to Metropolis over the summer and bring you back to Smallville. To tell you that you belonged here, with me. Not in a big city alone," Clark went on.

Chloe started to breathe heavily as she wept. "I wanted to call you, Clark. To tell you that I'd made a horrible mistake. That I wanted to be with you, and never let you go. I could drown in your eyes, Clark, and just float away."

Lana's hand flew to her mouth to stifle a cry.

"They're all yours if you'll have them," Clark told her. "Don't cry." Clark gently wiped Chloe's eyes with his thumbs.

"I won't, Clark. Never again," Chloe said, looking into Clark's eyes.

Clark pressed his lips to Chloe's, bringing her body to his. He kissed her deeply.

A single tear fell from Lana's eye and ran down her cheek. She quickly turned and ran from the barn.

Chloe laid her head on Clark's shoulder, holding him tightly as if she was afraid he was a hallucination. When he didn't complain she squeezed him tighter. "Don't ever let go," she whispered.

"I let you get away once, I don't plan on doing it ever again," Clark assured her, tightening his arms around her small frame.

Chloe turned her head to kiss Clark's neck, then snuggled in closer. Clark kissed Chloe's hair, never intending on letting her out of the loft.