*For the record, I hate what the writers did to Chloe and Chance as a couple and friends, and especially Chloe as a character, so I will try to remedy some of that damage in this one shot. Enjoy! Oh, and feedback is really love!*
He found her slumped over a table at Crimson Lights, looking like life had kicked the crap out of her. An untouched mug of coffee sat beside her and he didn't think that she was even aware of her surroundings. His heart clutched painfully in his chest as he approached her, feeling more than a bit awkward, but also feeling quite unable to stay away.
"Chloe?" He announced himself. "Chloe?" He said again. She seemed not to hear him and all he could think to do was reach out and touch her bare arm. Her skin felt warm to the touch - smooth, soft, just like he remembered it. Boy, he had made a mistake throwing her away... And maybe if he would have been there for her, maybe then none of this stuff would have happened...
The guilt tore him up inside, making him feel sick to his stomach.
"Chloe," he tried again. "Can you just cuss me out, or tell me off, or something?" He said. That got her attention and though she didn't glance at him, he watched her slender back muscles clench under her loose, flowy blouse.
"Go away, Chance," Chloe said in a low voice. "Just go away."
"You can do better than that," Chance said. "At least put some vehemence into that demand. I know you have it in you… Look, are you okay?" What a stupid question. Of course she wasn't okay.
She rested her chin on her folded arms. She turned her head slightly to look at him. "Do I look fine to you?" She asked. Her voice was almost devoid of emotion but he couldn't remember ever having seen her this miserable.
"No, you don't but-"
"No, you know what I mean… You look … Very unhappy."
Chloe shrugged. "Can you blame me?" She said then thought better of it. "Wait. Of course you can. Just like everyone else does. You probably think I deserve every bad thing that has happened to me."
"I actually don't think that," Chance said, hoping she would hear the sincerity in his voice. "We all make mistakes. Every one of us."
"You sound like my shrink. Every week she hammers that very thing into my head and then reminds me of how strong I am, that I'm a survivor. Pfft."
"I happen to agree with her."
"You don't even know her."
"Let's say that I like the sound of her then."
"Oh yeah? Want me to slip her your number after my next session? I hear she's single," Chloe said snarkily.
"Now that's more like it," Chance said with a little smile. "Fiery, feisty Chloe. I knew she was in there somewhere."
"Shut up," Chloe said and then she sighed. "You know you look mighty awkward just standing there."
"Is that an invitation for me to take a seat?"
"I guess. What do I care?"
"I think you care a lot more about things and people than anyone could ever guess. And no, I don't mean me. I mean … I messed that up." He slid into the seat across from her. As close as he was to her now, he could smell the scent of her perfume and it was that uniquely intoxicating scent of lavender and Chloe that still affected him more than it should.
"Yeah, yeah, you did," Chloe acknowledged. "But who am I to judge? I'm not exactly a saint. Far from it, to hear people talk. I thought -" She broke off.
"I don't know what I thought… I guess I was crazy enough to think if I went to a mental hospital for two years, if I cleaned up my act, and told everyone about Adam Newman being alive … That they would-"
"Right… Insane right?"
"The thing is, I saw Chelsea today. You know, she's starting to show with the new baby I heard she was having with Adam and I just wanted to talk to her. Just for a second. I tried to congratulate her on the baby even, but she just looked at me like something that had in seeped underneath the door. She yelled at me to stay away from her. I miss - I miss Chelsea. Our friendship was everything to me. It sustained me through some really hard times and I'll never have that again."
Chance saw tears spark in her beautiful eyes. "I'm sorry."
"Don't pity me, Chance. The last thing I need from you of all people is pity."
"I don't pity you."
"Then what's the 'I'm sorry' for?"
"I just feel sad you're hurting, that right now, people can't see that you deserve a second chance."
"Don't you mean hundredth?" She sniffed.
"You were hurting so much when you did all of the things you did, Chloe."
"I still hurt, Chance. I still bleed inside… Fuck. Why am I telling you any of this?"
"I don't know but I'm glad you're opening up to someone."
"Don't flatter yourself… I'm - I'm lonely. How fucking pathetic is it to admit that?"
"Chloe, stop, okay? I get it. I am lonely too. Very lonely."
"Well don't come looking for me to be your companion, Chance," Chloe said.
"Because I burned that bridge…"
"No." She looked him square in the eyes even as a tear dashed down her cheek. "Because I'm poison. I ruin everything and everyone that I touch."
"Chloe, that's not true."
"Yes, Chance, yes, it is!" She said in exasperation. "I deserve exactly what I have - nothing... Bella's living with Billy and Phyllis; Kevin's long since moved on; Chelsea hates my guts; and my own mother can hardly stand to look at me. The only person in this whole world who would have looked at me and saw some something of value left inside of me is gone."
"Yes, Dee…" Another tear rolled down her cheek and she dashed at it. "But I think even she would have thought I went way, way too far."
"She would have accepted you anyway. You were her mother; the best mother to her she could have ever asked for."
"Then why, Chance? Why couldn't I protect her?" Chloe cried. A sob burbled on her lips and she grabbed blindly for her handbag before shoving back her chair and running for the exit of the coffee shop. Chance immediately gave chase. He was worried about her. So very worried.
He caught up to her as she was pushing through the back gate. "Chloe-"
"Chance, I don't know what you want from me," she spat. "If you think now is a good time to try to get into my pants-"
He cringed at the venom in her voice. "I don't think that. I just want to be your friend."
"I don't have friends," Chloe said, slowing to a stop. "Those friends … I betray them. I hurt them. I-" She couldn't finish the sentence. The sobs came then and her tiny body shook violently. Chance hesitated only a second before reaching out to her and tugging her against his strong chest. Her tears wet the front of his white tee-shirt, dampening the material to his skin, as she unexpectedly clung to him like he was her last hope.
He reached out and gently brushed her hair off of her tear-stained cheeks. "Chloe, let me be your friend."
"No. No. No," she practically chanted.
"Yes. I swear I won't ask for any more than that. Just let me be there when you need a shoulder, or a listening ear, or even hell, a punching bag."
Chloe shook her head. "You're seriously a glutton for punishment, aren't you?"
He smirked. "Yes, a total masochist."
She smiled ever so thinly and he immediately called her on it. "Hey, is that… Are your lips twitching?"
"Don't flatter yourself. I just find it amusing that you're lame enough to want to hang out with the town pariah."
"You're not the town pariah. It may feel like that way right now, but I swear, you're not okay? You're not alone, Chloe, you're not."
"I don't want to be anyone's pet project."
"Well, you're not mine. I just... care about you. That's all there is to it. I promise."
"Promises get broken…"
"Not this one. I'll be around as long as you'll let me be. But you have to give me well… a chance. Okay?"
"Good… Now what should we do to celebrate our first day of new friendship?"
"You're such a dork."
"I know," Chance said. He chuckled.
"Last chance to run, Chance…"
"I'm not running anywhere. I'd say you're stuck with me, Pal."
"I guess I am, huh… Pal."