Pieces- A "Smallville" Fan Fiction

Acknowledgements: Don't own the characters, Warner Brothers does. This is all just for fun and to exorcise the demons within me that rage when I see the potential missed on the show!

Spoilers: Um, don't know – but this is set post "Reckoning", so beware.

Ships: Clark/Chloe, Lex/Lana

Chloe watched Lana pack her things, every movement designed to avoid eye contact. Sighing, Chloe closed her laptop with a gentle snap and pulled her legs up onto the bed, crossing them Indian style. Lana did not turn, or acknowledge Chloe in any way, just continued to place her stack of neatly folded t-shirts into her suitcase. That Lana had gotten involved with Lex Luthor was not much of surprise to Chloe, once she started thinking everything through. But Lana had not shared much info about her new relationship with Chloe, either. Clark was the only one that had gotten details, and he was so shocked and hurt that he had not been seen or heard from in weeks. Lois, who lived above the Talon, told Chloe that she had seen Clark once or twice, when he had come into the shop for breakfast, but he had barely said hello, goodbye and thank you to anyone while he was there, despite Lois' best teasing. Lois had gone to Wichita with Martha Kent, and Chloe imagined that Clark would be there with his mother as well. It would give him a chance to catch up with Pete, too.

Time to catch up with Lana, Chloe thought, and she cleared her throat.

"Lana," she said, raising her voice. "There's an elephant in the room and I think we need to talk about it."

The other girl stopped her ruthless packing and bowed her head, shoulders shaking. It was not clear whether it was from laughter or tears that Lana stood there, quietly shaking, until she turned around to look at Chloe. Tears tracked down her face, but she was smiling ruefully.

"I was thinking the same thing, but I didn't know how to start." Lana said, wiping her face with her hand. "This is all so screwed up."

"Um, yeah. Understatement." Chloe patted the bed next to her. "Come sit."

Lana sat beside her friend and took a deep breath. "I was really hurt that Clark was able to tell you whatever his secret is and that he couldn't tell me. But you've always been there for him, even when I wasn't. It's taken me a while, but I realized that Clark and I really weren't meant to be together after all."

"Wow." Chloe closed her eyes and shook her head. "I'm sorry that you were hurt, Lana, really. It was the last thing I ever wanted and I know that Clark would have died before hurting you, his behavior lately non withstanding."

"Oh, I know." Lana smiled a tight little smile and nodded. "But he's gotten very closed off these past few years. Remember how you could see everything he was feeling on his face? It was one of the things I loved most about him. Now, it's like looking at a beautiful statue – except when he smiles." Lana's smile grew more sincere and warmer at the thought, and Chloe frowned.

"Do you really think you'll have emotional sincerity with LEX?" Chloe asked, and Lana chuckled.

"Probably not, but Lex doesn't lie to me. He may not tell me what he's feeling at any given moment, but, " she paused for a moment, "at least I know where I stand with him." Lana stood and walked back to her bed. "With Clark, I always got the sense that he loved me, but you know, it would have been nice to believe it really. All this temper and carrying on didn't really have anything to do with me, I don't think."

"Lana, we'll always stay friends, right? You aren't going to let this thing with Lex come between us?" Chloe went to Lana, who had hung her head again, hiding her face between the long dark length of her hair. "I mean, you and Lois are the closest thing I have to sisters, and I'd hate to not have you in my life."

"Chloe, I don't know." Lana whispered. "I really don't. You know Clark's secret and you're not telling me – I'm being left out by you and him now…if there are secrets between us, then we can never…"

"Lana, you are the one that's making this be about secrets!" Chloe exclaimed, taking Lana by the shoulders. "You are the one that this is a problem for. Everyone has secrets, everyone has things that they don't want everyone in the world to know. Why should Clark be any different? Don't you have things about yourself you'd rather not share?" It was an innocent and rhetorical question, but it had an immediate effect on Lana.

Her face grew pale and her eyes widened. It was as if she'd been slapped, Chloe thought feeling suddenly guilty, and she pulled Lana close in a remorseful hug. Lana hugged her back, giving her a quick squeeze then breaking the embrace. She did not meet Chloe's eyes.

"Yes, I guess you are right, Chloe. We all have things about ourselves that we don't want to share with others. We all have things we can only share with certain people, and I guess you are that person for Clark and Lex is that person for me."

If Chloe had bet that Clark was in Wichita, she'd have lost. There had been some talk of his going, but his class load at Central Kansas A&M really wouldn't permit it, with so many credits to make up from the time he'd taken off. At any rate, Pete was still away at school, too, and would not be home from Stanford until the semester was over. Instead, Clark had waved goodbye to his mother and Lois, and looked forward to some quiet time at home. He had given some thought to going up to the Fortress of Solitude - but his history book had a bigger claim on his time. So, Clark was home alone, he and Shelby, the golden retriever. The dog snored peacefully while Clark tried to apply himself to his reading assignment for History. The professor who had taken over for Dr. Fine was a tough, but fair woman, and she had quickly filled in the gaps in Dr. Fine's syllabus with intense reading assignments and long essays following. Actually, the new professor and her grinding assignments were a fair excuse to avoid everyone. Still not quite past the death of his father, and reeling from Lana's involvement with Lex, Clark for the first time in a long time was feeling more than a little off kilter. The thing about Lana and Lex is that he'd been blind for not seeing that coming. Lex had always made every effort to help and protect Lana, making Jason and Mrs. Teague just vanish, as well as this new quest for the more recent ship from Krypton were all part of the big picture. Yeah, he had spent a great deal of time giving into the impulse to follow them, to try and protect Lana but it had all backfired, and he had come off like a stalker. He felt like a prize idiot. It was time to let go, Clark thought to himself, setting his textbook down and staring out into the empty kitchen. He wasn't in love with Lana anymore, and hadn't been for quite some time. It had been a habit, more like an obsession, really, and being free from it even if not completely free was a release.

"So, Shelby, what do we do now, huh?" Clark asked his dog, whose tail thumped on the floor in reply. "Should we see who is still talking to us?" Shelby lifted his head from the floor, and Clark laughed. "Okay, should I see who is still talking to me?"

As if on cue, Clark's cell phone rang. Without looking, he answered.

"Mom? Everything okay?"

"Everything is fine, Smallville." Lois' voice, so irritating in person, was actually quite attractive on the phone, and Clark smiled. "Your mother asked me to remind you that the food in the refrigerator is supposed to be for BOTH of you." Lois laughed a little. "Aside from that, I called just to see if you wouldn't change your mind about being alone and…"

"I'm not coming to Wichita, Lois." Clark replied, hating himself for the edge in his voice.

"Yeah, right. No, it's Chloe. Lana is moving out of the dorm this weekend, and Chloe is a little blue. So, why not salvage your relationship with your only friend and do a good deed at the same time?" Lois answered smoothly and Clark hated her for reading his mind from so far away. It was bad enough when she did it in person. "I'd go, but duty calls."

"And you're all about duty, Lois." Clark laughed. "Actually, not to give you any credit for insight, but I was thinking of checking in on Chloe just before you called."

Lois laughed out loud, and Clark had to admit that he did enjoy hearing it. "Sure, Smallville, whatever. Just do it before the weekend is over. Oh and water my plants." She hung up still laughing, and Clark shoved his phone into his pocket as he stood up. It would be a fast trip to Metropolis and he'd call from the Met U campus. If Chloe didn't want to see him, it would be like he took a jog around the farm to clear his head.

Chloe answered her phone on the third ring, having just helped Lana with the last load of clothes from the dorm room.

"Hello?" Chloe breathed, and her cousin's voice replied.

"Hey, Chloe, just thought I'd give you a heads up. Clark's going to be around to see you sometime this weekend. He was just moping around the farm. So, take pity on him and pretend you were lonely or something, okay?" Lois asked, and Chloe felt a tingle run from her feet to her shoulders.

"Clark and I don't have a problem, Lois. I keep telling you that. He's the one keeping to himself. I just wanted to give him his space."

"Good, so you'll hang out with him, then?" Lois's gift for ignoring what was said to her and aiming for the real heart of the issue was annoying, Chloe thought. "And don't tell him I called you."

"When your political career doesn't pan out, you should try diplomacy." Chloe replied archly, and Lois laughed.

"No, I'll just become a reporter. It shouldn't be too hard. I'll just pretend to be you. 'Bye Chloe, love ya."

"Love you, too." Chloe hung up laughing. There was a brief knock on the door, and Clark's head appeared around the partially open door.

"Hey, Chloe." He had the good grace to look a little embarrassed as he slid his large frame through the small space of the door.

"Hey yourself." Chloe dropped the phone on her bed and folded her arms. "And where have you been lately?" She tipped her head and looked up at him.

"Okay, I've been a jerk." Clark held his hands up in the air. "A big jerk. I wanted to get my head together before I inflicted myself on anyone. I was wrong about Lana, and I was wrong about, well a lot of things."

"Hmm." Chloe nodded. "So, why keep yourself hidden from me? I'm supposed to be your best friend." She watched Clark's eyes as they took inventory of the newly empty space on Lana's side of the room. "I mean, it's not like she and Lex were…"

Clark turned and looked at her. Not for the first time, Chloe felt a tug in her stomach, as his impossibly blue-green eyes seemed to ask her a thousand questions. It seemed an eternity before he finally smiled and shrugged his shoulders.

"I don't know. I kinda thought you'd be mad at me, too. As for Lex being here, I don't really see him hanging around while Lana does her Astronomy homework."

"Ha." Chloe squinted a little and nodded. "So, it was my being mad at you that kept you from being here." She walked closer and peered up at Clark. "Why would I be mad, Clark? Because you acted like super-stalker and didn't take my advice?"

"Yeah, something like that." Clark grinned and Chloe felt herself falling in love with Clark all over again. Though wrong about many, many things, Lana was right about his smile. Even Lois had a hard time resisting, Chloe thought with a little pang.

"Chloe?" Clark looked down into Chloe's face. "You okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine." Chloe closed her eyes and shook her head, clearing her mind of the image of Lois and Clark together. "What did you have in mind for today?" She asked, smiling brightly.

It was Clark's turn to feel a little lightheaded. He had always thought Chloe was pretty, but her smile was priceless, all hope and fun. Even Lana's happy smiles were a little sad. "I don't know, we could go to that new Riverfront area and check it out, how does that sound?"

"That's a good idea. I think there is something about that in the Planet this week." Chloe looked down at her clothes. "Okay, space boy, disappear for a half hour so I can get cleaned up." She shooed him from her room, and when the door closed behind him, she leaned on it, her heart racing. "Get a grip, girl." Chloe whispered. "It's so the wrong time for getting weak in the knees."

As it turned out, the Metropolis River Walk was an inspired idea. It was a golden afternoon, just warm enough with a light breeze. There was even a free concert series going on, mercifully sponsored by Wayne Industries and other non-LuthorCorp friendly companies. Chloe had no desire to see anything related to Lex and his father. It would ruin a perfectly good afternoon, and Chloe was sure that Clark, who was putting on a good show for her sake, would have been unable to master even a fake smile if the LuthorCorp logo was plastered over everything. However, Chloe had to say something about the lack of even the subliminal presence of Lionel and Lex.

"I wonder if Bruce Wayne is here, given his name is everywhere." Chloe observed tentatively, "This is a major coup, getting this development deal away from LuthorCorp."

"Yeah, well, I guess Lex has his mind on other things." Clark's tone was not at all morose or sad. "Looks like Wayne Industries can really put together a party."

People were everywhere, and Chloe pulled out her press pass, eyeing the state of the art band shell. Clipping it to the collar of her jacket, she grinned up at Clark happily.

"You just never know when an opportunity for a story will come up – since this is the event of the week." She looked around as if a story idea was going to step up and introduce itself, and Clark laughed, shaking his head.

"How about some lunch first?" Clark grabbed Chloe's hand and led her to the row of food vendors that had set up near the band shell. Once they had settled down at a table with their lunch, Clark began to scan the crowd himself.

"What do you think Bruce Wayne is like?" He asked finally, after a very large bite of his cheeseburger.

"Like?" Chloe looked up from her panini sandwich in surprise. "You mean, are all boy billionaires the same?"

Clark grinned and rolled his eyes. "I remember Lex saying he lost his parents young, in some sort of robbery. He was a loner; Lex said that even at school, Bruce Wayne excelled in sports that he didn't have to interact with anyone with – swimming, track, and martial arts. I just wondered if he was still a loner, or if he'd ever gotten past losing his parents."

"You're thinking about Lana." Chloe put her sandwich down, sighing in frustration. "Come on, Clark. Not now, not today."

"Not the way you think, Chloe." Clark took another bite of his burger, and Chloe knew it was more to avoid saying something he might regret.

"No Fifth Amendment, Clark. Why the connection between Bruce Wayne and Lana Lang? Is he scheduled to be smitten with the Smallville Princess next?" Chloe could not control the bitterness in her voice, and this time Clark laughed out loud.

"Oh, no!" Chloe loved when Clark laughed. His whole face lit up and his eyes, which were beautiful already, just seemed to take on a jewel-like sparkle. "I'm just thinking about how long it takes to overcome a trauma like that. My dad being gone now, too. I don't think Dad would want my pain over losing him to ruin the rest of my life." His manner grew more serious. "Lana was four when her parents died. Bruce Wayne was eight, Lex was about twelve when his mother and brother died, and you were five when your mother first left. How long does it take to get over it – losing a parent?"

"Wow, Clark." Chloe put her hand on his, and was surprised when Clark didn't pull it away. He was always good at giving an affectionate touch, but not good at receiving physical contact. "I always knew my mother was alive some place, I just didn't know where until recently. All I can say, from my own experience, is that you just sort of get used to not having them around. You don't ever forget them, and you never stop loving them, but you do get used to not having them around."

"I guess." Clark looked down at his discarded burger, and then at Chloe's hand on his. When he looked up at her again, Chloe was completely unprepared for the raw emotion in his eyes. She could not even begin to separate them, and Clark had always been an easy read for her. "I'm thinking this burger was a bad idea."

"Hmm." Chloe laughed, and pushed the rest of her sandwich across the table, which Clark accepted gratefully and ate so fast Chloe swore he'd inhaled it. "Now what?"

"Well, there's dessert, and we'll see if your press pass is any good." Clark grinned, standing. He quickly gathered up their trash, dumped it and then, seemingly without thinking, held out his hand to Chloe. She slid her hand into his, and once again, Clark looked at their joined hands thoughtfully, as if it was all something new to him. He met her eyes and gave her a small, sidelong smile.

Chloe's press pass did manage to give them some access to the VIP areas of the festival, so it wasn't long before Chloe was in full reporter mode. She interviewed everyone and anyone she could, two or three brief questions before moving on to the next. Clark watched her in amazement; He'd always known Chloe was driven, but it was exciting to see her so completely in her element. Clark leaned against a doorframe, waiting for Chloe to get her story so they could pick up their evening of fun and distraction.

"Who's the reporter?" A low male voice came from beside Clark, making him jump. There weren't many people who could sneak up on him, and Clark felt his defenses go up. His companion nodded solemnly, his dark eyes taking Chloe in. The newcomer was about Lex's age, casually but expensively dressed, with light brown hair. His expression was completely inscrutable. Clark could sense the air of authority emanating from this man, and he was reminded of Lex and his ability to command a situation. This person had the same skill, but used it completely differently.

"That's Chloe Sullivan, from the Daily Planet." Clark offered his hand. "I'm Clark Kent, her friend."

"Hi, Clark." The man shook Clark's hand. "I'm Bruce, the host of this event."

Clark found himself a little taken aback, but Bruce Wayne took in his expression and held up a hand. "Please, don't. I'm only at this thing because I have to be. Good public image for Wayne Industries. I have a helicopter waiting on the helipad out back. In ten minutes, I'm out of here." Unlike Lex, who liked to make an entrance, Bruce Wayne was much better at exits, Clark realized, and found himself respecting Bruce on moments acquaintance.

"Right." Clark nodded. "I won't let her know I saw you, then. She'll keep you here for hours. Scoop of the century, "Bruce Wayne In The Heart of Luthorland'." He gestured toward Chloe, who glanced over with an excited smile, waved quickly, and turned back to the longhaired rocker she was interviewing.

"As much as I have no objection to long conversations with pretty blonde reporters," Bruce seemed to be studying Chloe very intently. "I get the idea that this one would be all business with me." He smiled, and Clark got the idea that Bruce Wayne was not a man who smiled often. "See you around, Clark Kent." Bruce Wayne clapped Clark on the shoulder absently, and disappeared as silently as he had appeared. Clark heard a soft, almost menacing chuckle behind him, and then, almost as if Bruce could sense his thoughts, "Keep your eye on her, Clark. If you're not careful, someone could scoop her away." Clark looked around, but all he saw was the door to the helipad behind the band shell close with a soft click in its frame.

"I can't believe you met Bruce Wayne!" Chloe wailed, an hour later as they ate ice cream back on the boardwalk. "I'm walking around interviewing has been 80's rockers and you just casually have a chat with the most elusive billionaire in the United States!"

"I wasn't going to tell you." Clark said, teasing. "As a matter of fact, HE even asked me to keep it quiet. But, since you're my friend, I thought I'd let you know."

Chloe stuck her tongue out at Clark, and he laughed out loud, leaning down to kiss her nose, leaving a trace of chocolate ice cream on her freckles.

"So, what did he say? Come on, Clark!" she pleaded, allowing him to have the excuse to wipe the ice cream off her nose with a napkin. "You know I can't stand it."

"He asked who you were, and said he was only here for PR reasons. Honest, Chloe it was a two second conversation, and that's that." Clark put the used napkin in his pocket and finished his ice cream.

"That's that? Wait," Chloe's hazel eyes took on a predatory gleam. "He asked about me?"

"Well, Chloe, we weren't exactly on the press list."

"I know, but what did he say?"

"He said, he had no objection to being interviewed by pretty blonde reporters, but he was out of there in 10 minutes." Clark repeated dutifully, and Chloe eyed him thoughtfully.

"What else, Kent? You can't hide anything from me."

"You're not getting a story out of it, Chloe." Clark sighed.

"No, I'm not looking for story. I'm looking to find out why you are suddenly being so cute with me." She poked him lightly on the chest. "Ever since, it's been almost like we're on a date."

"Chloe…" Clark blushed and Chloe jumped, realizing she hit a nerve.

"Spill it, Clark, or I swear, I'll…" Chloe bit her thumb while thinking up a suitable threat. How do you threaten someone who is bullet proof, fire resistant and stronger than the entire Metropolis Sharks football team? Her eyes lit up, and she frowned comically. "Tell me or I'll tell Lois you have a crush on her!"

"Ack!" Clark threw up his hands in mock horror. "Okay, okay! I'll talk. Anything but that!"

Chloe waved her hand. "I'm waiting."

"Okay. He said that I shouldn't let you get out of my sight, and that if I wasn't careful, someone could scoop you away from me." Clark repeated, watching Chloe's face as it expressed shock, surprise, and finally utter delight.
"Clark Kent! Are you finally jealous?"

"Maybe. Maybe just a little." Clark laughed too, covering his face. "I can't believe I'm that transparent."

"Well," Chloe rocked back and forth on her feet, and grinned. "I'm going to let you stew in that for a little while, let you enjoy the emotion. And then maybe, just maybe, I'll let you kiss me later. " She practically skipped off, a bounce in her step and even her hair seemed to be amused. Clark watched her go, knowing that wherever she went, he'd not be far away, waiting for the moment where he'd get to actually kiss her.

Chloe yawned and stretched, blinking against the sunlight streaming through her window. Yesterday had been like a fantastic dream, and even now she wasn't sure it all had really happened. Sitting up, she looked across the room to Lana's vacated space. Clark had decided to not stay, but had gone home, saying he needed to check on Shelby, but Chloe knew that after the excitement of the day, and the rather surprising evening, Clark was being a gentleman. She leaned back against her pillow, remembering the sound of Clark's heart and how his kiss had swept her off her feet. A small fear nagged at the back of her mind, and without opening her eyes again, Chloe grabbed her phone and dialed Clark's number.

"Chloe!" As usual, Clark sounded as if he'd been awake for hours. "You up?"

"Not really, " Chloe yawned again, and Clark laughed. "How about you?"

"Before sunrise. Got the farm chores done, gave Shelby a bath, did some reading for one of my classes and started breakfast." Clark rattled off his morning innocently enough, and Chloe smiled thinking that the army couldn't possibly do more before 9:00 a.m. than Clark Kent properly motivated. "What are you doing today?" He asked, and Chloe looked over at her clock.

"I have to get to the Planet and write my articles about the Riverwalk festival and the concert. After that, probably just study. I'm liking the room to myself thing." She looked around again, and the bareness of Lana's side of the room really didn't bother her anymore.

"Oh." Clark sounded disappointed. "You could come down here and write the article, and then we could study together. I don't mind driving you back tonight."

"I know, but it's not just that." Chloe was glad she could not see Clark right now, because now that she was fully awake, reality was setting in. The small fear had blossomed into a large one, and Chloe had no intention of getting on the Clark go round again.

"What?" Clark asked. "Something wrong?"

"Well, I don't know. Look, Clark, last night was amazing, exciting, romantic and just a little unreal. You're still getting over Lana, and I'm not really into playing rebound girl again."

"Rebound girl? Chloe, are you serious?" His voice was low, and scandalized. In her heart, Chloe felt a small knife twist, knowing she was hurting him, but it was for both of their good.

"Yeah, Clark, I am…" Chloe heard the line go dead. "Clark, Clark! Oh, damn!" She bolted out of bed and raced to get dressed, but before she could finish brushing her teeth, Clark knocked on the door.

"Chloe?" Clark opened the door, but did not look around the door as he usually did. "Are you dressed?"

"Yes, I'm dressed, you big dumb alien. Like you couldn't see through the door." Chloe replied, testy. Clark entered the room, frowning at her insult and suddenly seeming huge in the small dorm room.

"Wow. Big dumb alien. Hello to you too, Chloe." Clark dropped down to sit on the other bed in the room. "What did I do now? " He looked at the door. "I wouldn't use my powers to invade your privacy, Chloe."

Chloe folded her arms across her chest. Clark looked tired, a little beaten down and not at all like he did last night when they had said goodnight outside her door.

"You didn't do anything. That's just it. And I think it's probably best if it stays that way, Clark."

"So, this is about yesterday." Clark nodded. He did not stand, but sat a little straighter, squaring his shoulders and ran his hands through his impossible black hair. His green-blue eyes twinkled. "Well, let me have it."

"You just broke up with Lana, played the hermit for three weeks and now you're making moon faces at me. We've been here before, Clark, and I don't think I could stand it again. When Lex and Lana end it, you will be right back with her, and I'm left here with all these feelings…" Chloe shuddered at the word, and Clark frowned again. "So, while yesterday was really something for the scrapbook, I think I'll take a pass at the romance stuff." She paused, watching his reaction. Several emotions ran across Clark's face, and he did not move at all. "I don't want to hurt you, but I can't stand being hurt by you again." Finished, Chloe sat down across from Clark on her own bed, and then put her hands over her mouth, not believing what she had just said.

"Wow." Clark shook his head, as if clearing cobwebs from his mind. "Not the conversation I expected to have today." He stood and walked to the door. "Okay, Chloe. I totally understand. You're right, I haven't given you any reason to believe things might be different this time, and I'm not making any promises." Clark let one of his hands rest on the doorknob. "I was up all night trying to get my head around yesterday, Chloe. But this morning, Lana stopped by and everything got real clear."

"You see!" Chloe groaned, and Clark turned and stared at her. "Lana. Kyla, Lana, Alicia, Lana again. It's always Lana. I don't want to be a spacer in that relationship Clark." As always, Clark's stare was beyond comprehension, and Chloe looked away, afraid that he'd see too much in her face.

"You've never been a spacer, Chloe." He replied gently. "That's the thing. It's always been you AND Lana. I had everything all mixed up. I guess that's because I'm a big dumb alien." He grinned. "Who tutored YOU in math and science for five years." Chloe did not want to see that his angelic smile had not even touched his eyes. They were full of something Chloe did not recognize, regret and something new, hopelessness. That look bothered her the most. "Lana was out riding, she'd come to Lex's mansion to see him last night, but he'd gone to Edge City to bail Lucas out of some trouble. I was out with Shelby, so I probably wouldn't have even seen her otherwise. I still had the VIP pass on my jacket and she noticed, so I told her about the day." Clark walked back to the bed and sat down across from Chloe again. "I want you to hear this, Chloe. It's important. I'd been up all night, thinking about you and me and how screwed up everything has been. Apparently, Lana had been up all night, too, thinking about Lex and the conversation you and she had before she moved out. And I realized something."

"What was that?" Chloe swallowed around the lump that had formed in her throat.

"I never wanted to tell Lana my secret because I was afraid."

"Yeah, big news, Clark."

"No, I thought I was afraid for her, but I was afraid for me." Clark laughed ruefully and hung his head. "I made it about being afraid for her, but I was afraid OF her."

"Afraid? Of Lana?" Chloe was incredulous. "You have got to be kidding."

"I'm not. Look, Chloe – I trusted you because I knew I could. You found out about me and still let me tell you in my time, my way. You were accepting of however much of myself I felt I could give you at one time, not asking or expecting more. Lana always wanted more, more. It was never enough. When I was mortal, it was easy, because that was really all there was. But, even if I had stayed mortal, there would have been something else. By the time I saw Lana this morning, I had just about made up my mind anyway."

"To what?" Chloe didn't even want to guess. It was a rare occasion when the usually recitent Clark Kent spilled his guts so much.

"To doing what it took to win you." Clark smiled. "As long as it takes. Show you I was worthy. Knight in shining armor stuff. Buy you coffee and do your math homework. I already know I love you, Chloe. I want to find out if it's in love." He took her hands in his, and like every time he had occasion to touch her in some way, Chloe was amazed at how gentle he could be for someone so strong. "Because if it's really in love, then I have a lot of time to make up for. All the time I let get by me because I thought feeling sorry for and protective of Lana was the same as being in love with her."

"I don't believe it." Chloe said, shaking her hands free of his grip. "It's too weird, and that's a lot, coming from me. I must be dreaming. Go ahead, Clark, pinch me. " She held out her arm, but Clark didn't touch her. He looked down at her hand for a long minute, and Chloe had an odd thought that he was counting her freckles.

"Tell me about it." Finally, Clark spoke again, breaking the silence with a chuckle. He seemed to want to pull her close, but he didn't. "Nothing weirder than being awake at four in the morning and just realizing how stupid you've been. But I'm going to let you call the shots, Chloe. I'm here. I love you. When you are ready to move forward, I'll step out of the friend box." He squeezed her hands and stood. "I'm going home now. Give you some time to think about all of this, and decide where you want to be. No pressure." He bent down and kissed the top of her head, and released her hands. Two steps got him to the door, and he opened it this time and went to walk out. "I'll talk to you later."

Chloe stood quickly, and opened her mouth, then shut it again with a snap. Clark had turned around, waiting for her to speak. Finally, when she was able to get the words out, she spoke.

"This isn't red Kryptonite talking, or some alien virus, or anything like that, right? I mean, tomorrow isn't going to come and you've forgotten everything you just said or go running back to Lana the minute Lex gets bored with her?"

"Chloe." Clark closed the door, and took her in his arms. "After today, I'll never, ever forget what I said right now. There is no Red Kryptonite that could make me change my mind, no alien virus that would take away what I realized last night, and nothing Lana could do would get me back with her. I swear to you. I'm yours. Good, bad or indifferent. And that's all." He kissed the top of her head and released her. "Now, I'm going home, and you can pick up your day where you left off. I'll talk to you later."

"Yeah, later." Chloe replied puzzled wonder on her face. "You're just going to leave, after saying all of that? Not going to wait for my reaction?"

"Nope." Clark grinned at her mischievously and then walked out the door.

Lana's Jeep sat in the driveway, and Lex wasn't altogether surprised to see it still there. She had been pretty mad when he'd called from the road, on the way to Edge City. There was something about an emotional conversation with Chloe that Lana was upset about, and Lex could feel Lana's emotions becoming a burden already. He pulled the Porsche in behind the Jeep and got out. It had been an all-nighter, pulling Lucas out of the latest of the stupid and expensive mishaps, then driving home. He'd consoled himself first that Lana would be there, waiting – but then, that became a bit of a reason to not rush home.

Lana was asleep in the study, curled up under a pale pink blanket that Lex did not recognize as one of his own. He knelt beside the couch and gently pushed the hair from her face. Beautiful, truly, he thought, resisting the urge to kiss her awake. Lana had always made him think of fairy tale princesses and magic spells, but Lex was always sure to not treat her that way. The Fordman kid had done that; Jason Teague had also given in to that. Clark also put her on a pedestal, and look where that had gotten him. Lex could smell her shampoo, and the jasmine fragrance she always wore, but something else, something, animal. He sneezed twice, which woke Lana.

"Oh, hey." She smiled at him, reaching up to touch his face. "Just get in?"

"Yeah." Lex smiled back at her. "You know, there are several rooms in this place that would have been more comfortable for you than the couch in my study."

"I know. I slept in your room last night." Lana sat up and kissed Lex quickly. "But after I went for a ride this morning, I sat here to wait for you and fell asleep again."

"Ah, that explains the horse smell." Lex nodded. "Sorry for being gone so long, but Lucas will be Lucas." He stood and walked to the bar, pouring himself a glass of mineral water. "So what did you do all by yourself here? You could have gone back to Metropolis. I'm sure Chloe could have put you up for another night."

Lana chuckled, a rich, throaty laugh that suddenly made Lex hungry for her. "You're not going to believe this, Lex." Lana said, a cat that ate the canary smile on her face. "Chloe was on a work date."

"She met someone at the Planet? My, my, Archie is now without Veronica and Betty." Lex smirked, and Lana bounced on the sofa with the air of an excited little girl.

"No. It's better. She was with Clark."

"Clark?" Lex took a sip of water to keep his expression neutral. "Clark Kent that was in love with you for all these years?"

"Yes, and he's the one that told me about it. I saw him this morning when I was out riding. They had gone to that festival on the Riverwalk and then Chloe got to interview the bands. Things sort of happened from there." Lana leaned back on the sofa, her dark hair glorious spilled around her face and shoulders. "It makes perfect sense."

"Yes, it does have a rightness to it, doesn't it?" Lex sat down beside Lana on the sofa. "And it doesn't bother you at all?"
"Should it?" Lana's tone was tense but she took his glass from his hand and sipped from it. "It makes sense to me because it should have always been Clark and Chloe. And that has been the big secret – the big thing Clark was keeping from us. That he was conflicted about me and Chloe."
Lex stood, controlling his outrage. Clark's secret about who he actually loved? The little blonde troublemaker, or Lana? That was the big secret? The one Clark had tried to protect by lying and evading all this time? Lex thought not, but he schooled his emotions carefully and smiled.

"Well, then, now that you all know the secret, you can be friends again, right?" He hated the way that sounded, part-chiding father, part weird kid who keeps getting not invited to sit with the cool kids at lunch. He hated taking that tone with Lana, because she somehow managed to not see it for what it was, but related it back to herself.

"Right." Lana replied, one perfect eyebrow raised over her almond eyes. "Is that a problem?"

"No, I guess not. Not if you are okay with being lied to all this time." Lex put his hands on her shoulders. "Did you look around the place while I was gone?"

"No, Lex." Lana's voice was small, almost afraid. "Why?"

"Oh, no reason, I want you to feel at home here. But there is something I want to show you in one of the rooms here that makes me wonder if Clark Kent was being as honest and above board as you say." Lex smiled at Lana, drawing her close to him. He could feel her relax against him and that was how he wanted it. "Want to see?"

"Not now." Lana said, her voice husky and soft. "You must be tired after all that driving. Why don't we go upstairs…" She smiled up at him, and Lex nodded, stifling a laugh.

Things were going to be just fine after all, he thought, leading his girlfriend upstairs. Just fine.