The Warmth

Rating: PG for John's potty mouth

Pairing: John/Chloe

Disclaimers: I still don't own anyone. Chloe belongs to Millar, Gough, and the WB. John and Mystique belong to Marvel Comics, Stan Lee, and 20th Century Fox. Jaime is mine.

Author's Note: This is the sequel to "Sparks". You don't have to read that one first, but if you're curious about how John and Chloe met, you can check it out.

Chloe Sullivan wrinkled her nose as she surveyed her reflection in the full- length hallway mirror. Staring back at her was a pretty blonde with an oval-shaped face, pink lips, and warm green eyes. However, it wasn't her natural features that were causing her reaction.

"I look like I'm desperate," she said dismally, staring at the clothes she was wearing.

"You do not," Jaime Slate, her older cousin, laughed from behind her.

Chloe lifted her eyes from the clothes to look at Jaime in the mirror. "This skirt is way too short. It screams date, and we both agreed that this wasn't a date."

"Sure." The tall strawberry-blonde sauntered into the room and smoothed out her younger cousin's top. "You meet some random guy in a movie theater, give him your cell phone number, he calls, and you don't call this a date?" Her wide blue eyes met Chloe's in the mirror.

"No, I don't. We're just hanging out, that's all. Just two people doing something together."

Jaime turned Chloe around to face her, her look of amusement quickly changing to seriousness. "I want you to be careful, Chlo'. You don't know anything about this John guy, and there are a lot of weird people out there. Dangerous people."

Chloe gave her a reassuring smile. "Don't worry about me. I've dated my share of weirdoes in Smallville; I know how to take care of myself."

"I know, but still, you're my baby cousin, and you're my responsibility while you're here. I'm gonna worry."

Pulling Jaime into a hug, Chloe comforted her again. "I'll be fine, I promise." She then let go and turned back to her reflection. "Besides, I'm going into a dangerous profession; I need the experience."

Just then, the TV in the living room flashed up a picture of a passionate protestor waving a "Mutants are Dangerous" sign. "They're a menace to society," he was spitting into the reporter's microphone. "Just look at what they did to the Statue of Liberty a while back."

Chloe rolled her eyes as she shifted her attention to the screen. "Some people don't have anything better to do, do they?" she groaned.

"Yeah. One terrorist act happens and half the world turns against one race of people. It's just wrong," Jaime agreed, crossing to the TV.

Chloe followed her, still fussing with her skirt. "You know, it's one thing when you're dealing with a Smallville meteor rock mutant, but when you're talking about a group of people who were naturally born that way, it's just two different categories."

She looked up at her cousin. "Anyway, there are some humans who are just as evil as that mutant terrorist," she added, remembering Lionel Luthor's offer of her dreams for information regarding her best friend Clark Kent. Can I really call him a friend? She asked herself, reflecting on how neither he nor Lana Lang could trust her enough to tell her about their changed relationship.

Jaime turned off the TV, and then ambled back towards Chloe. "I agree. Everybody deserves a chance regardless of their genes." Her face broke into a grin. "But getting off the soap box, are you still going to wear that skirt?"

Chloe glanced down at the skirt, then back at her cousin. "Do you have a longer one? I swear this one shows off parts of me that nobody wants to see."

"Yeah, follow me," Jaime answered with a chuckle as she led Chloe back into her bedroom.

* * * * *

John Allerdyce gathered up his car keys and quickly surveyed the bottom floor of the cold, dark, mostly metal mansion. Ever since Magneto had rented the mainland house for the summer, John hadn't felt very comfortable in it. Satisfied that no one was around, he quietly crept to the door. It wasn't that he cared if he woke anyone up; he just didn't want to talk to them. He knew no one in that house would approve of Chloe, and he really didn't care.

Unfortunately, he wasn't that lucky. His hand had just touched the doorknob when a silky voice stopped him.

"And where are you going tonight?" she asked.

Inwardly, John groaned, but outwardly, he kept his cool. "Somewhere," he replied, turning around to face Mystique's yellow eyes. She was seated in a plush chair, her gaze fixed on him.

Mystique crossed her arms. "Care to elaborate?"

John narrowed his hazel eyes. "No."

Standing up, she closed the distance between them in a few strides. "If I didn't know any better, I'd say you were going to meet someone." Her blue lips parted into a knowing smile.

"If I did, it wouldn't be any of your business."

"Oh, really, Pyro. You don't have to get the attitude with me. What's her name? What's her power? She might be useful to Magneto."

John just rolled his eyes and opened the door. "I'm not meeting anyone, much less a girl."

Mystique just laughed. "Of course. Does she know about you?"

John stopped cold at the question. There had been moments when he had thought about telling Chloe he was mutant, but he had never entertained the thought for long. In fact, he had never even considered what her reaction might be. Slowly, a ball of fear crept up into his stomach. Swallowing hard, he let his usual anger shove it aside.

He whirled around and gave the blue woman behind him a defiant glare. "I told you, there's no girl. I'm just sick of being stuck in this damn house!" he spat.

Mystique held up her hands in defeat. "All right, it's not my place to push. Just make sure you're back before morning." She waved him off with one hand as she turned and left the room.

Letting out a sigh of relief, John left the house. Mystique, Magneto, and the rest of the Brotherhood weren't too keen on humans at all. If they ever found out about Chloe, there would be no way she'd be safe. It was better to keep her a secret. At that moment, he was thankful that none of them had the power to read minds.

* * *

Gripping the steering wheel, Chloe pulled the car into the parking lot of their chosen meeting spot, a local restaurant. When she parked, she saw him waiting by the door, flicking his ever-present lighter. Immediately feeling her nerves flutter, she quickly tried to suppress them. Why was she so nervous? She hadn't been nervous the last time she saw him. Of course, the last time she had been telling him where to stick that irritating lighter of his. Turning off the engine and taking a deep breath, she got out of the car and walked up to him.

"Hey!" she called with a smile. She was very impressed with how steady her voice was.

John glanced up and returned the grin when he saw her coming towards him. "Hey!"

Chloe's stomach did another flip-flop, but her face showed no signs of it. "How long have you been here?"

John shrugged and dropped the lighter into the pocket of his jeans. "Not long." He looked up. "You hungry?"

"Yeah."

He gestured towards the restaurant behind them. "Is this okay or did you want something else?"

Chloe shook her head. "This is fine."

John grinned again and led the way inside the restaurant.

The place wasn't very crowded; just a few people here and there. It was a seat yourself type of place, and they worked their way towards a back table. Chloe could hear snippets of different conversations, listening out of habit, as they passed a few tables, but she didn't really pay attention to what was being said. Instead, she focused on the handsome, older boy in front of her. There was something different, almost dangerous, about him. She liked it.

Reaching the table, they sat down facing each other. Picking up a menu, Chloe immediately pretended like she was interested in it. Now that they had gotten their greetings out of the way, she wasn't quite sure what to say. They're previous conversations had been small and shallow at best, and she didn't want this one to be a retread of that. Before she could completely worry about it, though, a waitress appeared.

She was a teenager about Chloe's age with brown hair and brown eyes. She looked extremely bored with her job and smacked loudly on her gum. "Can I get you anything to drink?"

"Sure, I'll take a Dr. Pepper," Chloe smiled. She then looked over at John to see what he would get.

A mischievous gleam danced in his eyes as he placed his elbows on the table and grinned up at their waitress. "What are the specials?"

The waitress looked at him as if he had grown a second head. "We don't have specials here."

John looked shocked. "What? No specials? Come on, every restaurant has specials." He leaned back in his seat. "You forgot them, didn't you?"

"I did not! We don't have any." Clearly, the young girl appeared to be insulted.

"You telling me I'm wrong? What happened to the customer is always right?" The broad grin never left his face.

Chloe just rolled her eyes. "Come on, just give her your drink order."

"All right, all right." He picked up the menu. "How about a beer?"

The waitress narrowed her eyes. "Got some ID?"

John patted his pockets. "Damn! I left it in my other pants."

"Sorry. No ID, no beer."

"Fine. I'll have a Dr. Pepper, too."

When the waitress left, Chloe narrowed her eyes at him as he laughed over his performance. "You know, if you're going to act like this all night, then I can just leave right now."

This statement caught John's attention, and his laughter quickly ceased. He shrugged. "Hey, it couldn't be helped."

Not liking the answer, the small blonde made a move to leave her seat. Feeling a warm hand touch her arm, she glanced over at those hazel eyes. There wasn't an ounce of humor left in them. "Stay." He didn't offer an apology, but his tone was enough to make her push her chair back up to the table and pick up her menu.

As they looked over the choices, neither one of them said anything. Finally, John's voice broke the silence that had settled between them.

"Why do they always keep it so cold in these places? A little heat never hurt anybody," he complained. His voice had a good-natured quality to it, and it was obvious to Chloe that he was trying to make sure she wasn't mad at him.

She chuckled. "Cold-natured?"

"I guess you could say that. I like the heat better than the cold," he answered. "What about you? Aren't you freezing?"

"It is kind of cold in here, but I'm okay. You know, my best friend.." Chloe stopped herself before she said Clark's name. No, not her best friend anymore. What was he to her now anyway? Not only did he not tell her about Lana, but he had also left Smallville at the end of the school year without saying good-bye. No, she felt she couldn't really call him her best friend anymore.

"Chloe?" John's lazy voice pulled her back to the present. "Your best friend what?"

Waving it off, she laughed. "Oh, nothing. Never mind. Just rambling."

At that moment, their waitress reappeared with their drinks. They placed their food order (without John harassing the help this time) and discussed music, books ("Yes, John can read," he had joked), and movies, but kept the conversation away from their backgrounds. Chloe didn't much want to talk about Smallville and Clark, and it was clear that John wasn't offering up much information about himself either. The conversation continued as their food came, and all the way through dinner, it seemed to flow with ease.

A little while later, Chloe was in the middle of explaining why The Matrix was a better movie than its sequel when a heated debate two tables behind them caught her attention. Apparently, it had caught John's attention as well because she noticed he didn't ask her why she had stopped. Turning around to see what was going on, they listened as intently as everybody else in the restaurant did.

"I can't believe you would keep something like that from me!" A man yelled at the top of his lungs. He was a rotund businessman in his forties with puffy cheeks and pig-like eyes. He was gripping the edge of the table, and his face was as red as an apple.

The young woman sitting across from him was staring down at her feet. "Dad, will you please calm down?" Her slender face turned a bright red as she glanced up and nervously surveyed the restaurant.

"No, I will not calm down! I can't believe you want to marry one of them!" The man emitted the last world like it was filthy as he jumped up from his seat, knocking his chair to the ground.

"Dad, there's nothing wrong with him; he's a wonderful guy." Standing up, she reached for his arm. "Can we please talk about this outside?"

The businessman shrugged off her touch. "A wonderful guy? A WONDERFUL GUY! He's a damn mutant!" His eyes narrowed as he regarded his daughter.

Chloe heard a loud thump from John's side of the table, and she turned to look at him. Clutching his right fist, a grimace on his face, it was obvious he had slammed his fist onto the table. Catching his eye, she looked at him quizzically, but he offered no details. The humor and mischief that had once been in his eyes were gone, a hardened look replacing them.

"You done?" John asked, his tone dropping in temperature.

"Yeah." She wasn't quite sure what had caused this change, but she wasn't going to argue with him.

"Good, let's go."

* * * *

John was so mad he could hardly breathe; it felt like his insides were boiling. He wanted to find the guy's car and light it up like the fourth of July. Liking that idea, he reached for his lighter when Chloe's voice stopped him.

"Can you believe that?" she questioned casually.

He eyed her and snorted, his fingers closing around the comforting metal resting in his pocket. "So, what? You gonna defend that guy now?"

"No, I'm not. That was the rudest, nastiest thing I've ever seen. How can he talk to his daughter that way? How can he stand there and judge someone based on their genetic makeup. It was stupid." Her words came out in an irate rush.

Surprised, John felt like the wind had been knocked out of him. She wasn't judging the girl. She wasn't making derogatory comments or throwing out racial slurs. She was mad at the injustice, and she was agreeing with him. He had never met a human who was sympathetic, and in that moment, she looked absolutely beautiful.

Letting go of the lighter, he reached out and took her hand. "Come on, I want to show you the park."

"Huh?" Chloe hadn't been expecting that statement, but she didn't pull her hand away. "Wait a minute. You were calling me prejudiced a second ago."

"It was a shitty assumption. I'm pretty used to being on the defensive."

She contemplated him suspiciously. "The park? At night? What are you going to do to me? Because I've got a can of mace, and I'm not afraid to use it."

John couldn't help himself; he laughed. "Where? In your pocket?"

"Maybe."

John's laughter died down. "Trust me. I'm not gonna to hurt you, and no one's gonna bother you with me around."

After a few minutes of thinking it over, Chloe finally returned the grin and curled her fingers around his. "Okay."

The ride to the park didn't take long. In fact, it was rather enjoyable. John parked the car, and the two of them climbed out. Almost immediately, a rush of fresh air hit him, and he breathed in deeply. It was warm, just the way he liked it.

"Oh, wow! You can see the stars from here!" Chloe proclaimed as she shut the passenger door. "You can't see them in the city."

John walked around the car and took her hand again. "Come on, they're even brighter from over here."

He led her to a curved wooden bridge that crossed over a small stream. Surrounding it were streetlamps that gave off enough light for them to see each other and the park itself. Peering over the edge of the bridge, John could see the moonlight reflected in the water's ripples.

"You're right. You can see them better over here." He turned to see Chloe staring up at the stars again, a smile spread across her face.

In that moment, as he stood there watching her, he wanted to tell her everything about him. He wanted her to know about his past, his mutation, him. He wasn't quite sure how to approach the subject, though. Did she feel that safe with him? Was she even interested? Would her reaction be different? Should he even take the chance? Only one other girl had ever made him feel that secure, and she had chosen his best friend over him.

"You know, there aren't many people who would stand up for mutants. Why did you agree with me back there?" he asked carefully.

She turned her gaze from the stars and considered him thoughtfully. "People shouldn't be judged because they're different. Basing an opinion on something that superficial only makes a person dangerous."

John chuckled. "You sound like you're talking from experience."

Her smile faded a little. "I am." He regarded her questioningly, and her features softened. It seemed that he wasn't the only one deciding to trust a bit. "Smallville isn't like your normal town. Oh, sure, lots of people want to believe it is, but it's not. After the big meteor shower of 1989, a lot of weird things have happened there."

"Weird things?"

"Yeah." Chloe stared into the dark water below them. "The meteor rocks had a strange effect on some of the people there. One of my friends made diet shakes out of the rocks, and she turned into a fat-sucking vampire. Another guy started sucking the heat from people to keep warm. Even our football coach could start fires with his mind."

John raised his eyebrows at this, but tried to look cool. "Really? And you never thought they were dangerous?"

"Oh, yeah, two of them tried to kill me, but then I met this hermit who lived in the woods. He had the ability to make people do whatever he told them, but he never used it to hurt people." Her eyes met his. "That's when I started realizing that it's the individual person, not the mutation." She smiled then. "Of course, I've never met a natural mutant so I don't actually know if it would be the same."

"It is." John's voice was soft, controlled.

Curiosity crossed her pretty face. "How do you know? Have you met a natural mutant?"

There it was, an opening. All he had to do was tell her. "Let's just say I know a few." I've got to test the waters a little more, he told himself.

She glanced down at her reflection. "Ah, another man who likes to keep secrets," she sighed.

"What does that mean?" he questioned, a defensive edge in his voice.

Looking into his eyes again, he could see her weighing whether or not she should tell him the answer. Finally, she said, "Let's just say I know another guy who could hide things rather well."

An uncomfortable silence descended between them, and John leaned with his back on the rail of the bridge. Desperately, he tried to think of a way to break it, but nothing was coming to him. After a couple of more minutes, he made a choice and turned to her. "How about we trade a secret for a secret?"

Chloe glanced up suspiciously. "What do you mean?"

"I'll tell you my secret it you tell me yours," he clarified. What on Earth are you doing? A voice in the back of his mind queried. You've let down your guard before, remember? You trusted once, and they turned on you. John ignored it and looked intently at the blond in front of him. He didn't know why, but he knew there was something trustworthy about her.

A grin crossed Chloe's face; she seemed to like the challenge. "All right."

However, neither one of them appeared to want to make the first move. They just stood there, staring at each other, almost daring the other to talk first. Finally, Chloe sighed.

"What do you want to know?" she asked.

John was quick to answer. "Who's this guy you keep talking about?"

Hesitating for a moment, then finally taking a deep breath, Chloe explained who Clark was. As the whole story of her and Clark's complicated relationship fell from her lips, she seemed to relax with every word. She told him how she and Clark met, how they were best friends, how they dated briefly in their freshman year, how they agreed to be just friends again, and then how he had betrayed her by not telling her the truth about Lana. John listened to every word and found himself becoming very defensive. He wasn't sure he liked this Clark Kent guy at all. When she finished, she looked at him expectantly, a ghost of a smile on her lips.

"So, is yours nearly as dramatic as mine?" she deadpanned.

He shared her smile. "You could say that."

When he didn't elaborate, she pushed a little. "Well? Come on, you just sat through the most boring sob story in the world. Yours can't be that bad."

This was it. Mustering up his courage, he pulled the lighter out of his pocket. "Okay, you remember when you asked me if I knew any natural mutants?"

"Yeah?" Chloe replied, her voice sounding cautious.

"Well, I happen to know one rather well." He clicked open the lighter and lit it. "I'm one."

She stood quietly, waiting for him to elaborate. When he didn't immediately, she gently asked, "What can you do?" No running, no screaming, just the simple question.

In answer, he held his free hand out in front of him, palm up. In a split second, the tiny flame jumped from the lighter obediently into his hand. Once there, it grew into the size of a softball. He heard Chloe gasp, but he didn't look away from the flame. Instead, he moved his other hand around it, and its shape began to change. Right there, before Chloe's eyes, it changed itself into a flaming rose. It was then that he looked up, expecting to see fear.

Instead, he saw a look of intrigue cross her face. "That is so cool," she breathed, gingerly reaching out to touch it.

"I wouldn't do that; it still might burn you," he warned.

She heeded it and just kept her hand about an inch away from the flame. Eventually, he twisted back into its former softball form then closed his fingers over it, putting it out. He put the lighter back into his pocket. His hazel eyes met Chloe's once more.

"You can do that with any fire?" she asked finally.

"Oh, yeah. The only thing I can't do is start the fire."

"How long have you known?"

"Since I was about thirteen. I set my house on fire."

Chloe raised her eyebrows. "Wow."

* * * *

She wanted to ask him why he set his house on fire, but the look in his eyes warned her against it. One secret at a time. Instead, she moved a little closer to him. "That was one of the most amazing things I've ever seen," she said, a genuine smile gracing her lips.

John leaned casually on the bridge's railing again. "You really think so?"

"Oh, yeah." She could feel excitement bubbling up inside of her; it was the same feeling she had gotten when she found out one of her exes, Justin, could move things with his mind. "That coach I was telling you about could have never done that. That was just so.cool."

John just stood there, beaming at her. Apparently, very few people had ever told him just how amazing his gift was, and now he seemed to be enjoying her reaction. Not quite knowing what else to say, she just looked at him, noticing just how handsome he was.

Then, without saying a word, he stepped even closer to her and took her face gingerly in his hands. She could feel the heat from the fire in his touch as she slowly closed her eyes. Timidly, their lips met, and before she knew it, the kiss deepened. Her lips parted and allowed his tongue to slip in and touch her own. A thrill ran down her back, and not even Clark had ever made her feel this lightheaded. It was slow and warm, neither one of them fumbling. It was like her lips knew what to do, and she didn't even have to think about it.

Just as suddenly, though, they parted, and Chloe opened her eyes. All of her sudden, she felt cold where his hands had once touched her.

"Wow," was all she could manage.

John didn't offer an apology; he just took her hand in his and grinned knowingly. "It feels good to trust someone."

"Yeah, it does," she meekly agreed. She was still trying to get her breath back.

Standing there, Chloe wasn't quite sure what else to say. John, apparently, did.

"You gonna be here the whole summer?" he asked.

"Yeah."

"Then I definitely want to see you again."

Chloe could feel herself blush a little and was thankful there wasn't enough light for it to be seen. "I wouldn't mind seeing you again," she said, her tongue tripping over her words.

John laughed. "Anything else you want to do tonight?"

Feeling a bit more confident, she tilted her head. "Why don't we light a few fires?" And with that, she kissed him again.

THE END