The thing about Alicia is that Clark never saw it coming.

He hadn't expected to fall for her so completely when she was just that snobbish girl across the room in Economics. But on their first date, he was pleasantly surprised when they allowed their respective secrets to remain unspoken without making the situation uncomfortable. She wasn't the first girl to know almost all of him, but with Alicia, Clark had never felt more normal in his life. That sense of belonging was exhilarating.Clark wascrushedwhen Alicia's unhealthy obsession finally bobbed to the surface.His hope evaporated, andhe was left feeling partially empty, like he had forgotten to put on socks and was just now realizing it.

Alicia had chosen to re-enter Clark's life at a time of turmoil for him, and he was so desperate to feel normal again that he was perhaps too quick to accept Alicia with open arms. They had a promising second first date, but then she drugged him and lured him dangerously close to the brink of his virginity. He angrily left her alone and half-naked in a cheap Vegas suite. And so he was again taken by surprise when something told him to take her back. He really wanted it to work, but maybe, hethought,"third time's the charm" doesn't apply to aliens.

It didn't rain at Alicia's funeral as it had at Jack Fordman's, and that surprised Clark, too. As it was, the weather was clear but bitterly cold with the kind of gray sky that makes it seem like warmth is a thing of the past. The only mourners were Alicia's parents, Clark, and his mother, who stood – silent and terse – in the shadow of her son. Mr. and Mrs. Baker clutched each other but neither shed a tear. Only Clark cried quietly as the casket was lowered; the thought briefly occurred to him that he was only grieving so deeply because Alicia would have wanted him to.

The day after the funeral, Clark sat alone before the headstone. He was dry-eyed this time but still felt cold inside, as if his faith was gone forever. Clark would never really have a normal relationship, let alone a normal life, and he kicked himself for ever believing otherwise. In the past year alone, he had been abandoned by Pete, Lex, and even Lois, who had left Smallville behind for her own destiny. Now Alicia was gone, too, and even his parents were loath to comfort him. He felt so lonely and grim that, for the first time in his recent memory, he was snuck up on.

The thing about Chloe is that Clark never saw it coming.

Chloe had been different in the past few days, but Clark had been too isolated and too depressed to notice. Truth be told, he had almost forgotten she was there at all, so sparse were the times that she popped in and out of his life. Seeing her now, at Alicia's grave, was startling, like she had been transposed onto a world in which she didn't belong. She started talking to him, slowly and carefully; Clark heard her but didn't really listen. He just watched her, fascinated by the stillness of her features and the dullness in her eyes. She was hiding something. If there was one thing Clark knew for sure, it was that.

Clark, in the sepia-toned numbness of mourning, didn't care about the nature of Chloe's new secret. He just felt a strange, deep, fervent hope that it didn't destroy her life as Clark's secret had demolished his. Chloe was, it seemed, the only one he had left. And here she was, giving him what he thought were empty words of comfort, and he grieved.

Clark hadn't seen it coming, but he hoped Chloe would.


A/N: Not my best effort, but I figured I'd put it out there anyway. Any and all feedback – constructive, preferably – is, of course, accepted and cherished. Please tell me what's on your mind.

Also, doesn't it suck that Alicia's dead? Way to go, there, Smallville.