Chloe Sullivan sat with her best friend, Clark Kent, on the grass at Centennial Park, an impromptu picnic lunch to celebrate Clark finally registering for classes at Met U. It was a brilliant summer afternoon, and Chloe looked up at Clark, masking her wonder and controlling her urge to feel his skin, probably softer than it had a right to be, under her hands. It wasn't the first time Chloe had found herself in awe of Clark's perfection. It was a daily occurrence that never failed to make her just a little weak kneed, and possibly even inspire that little twist of familiar yearning deep in her belly. It was fairly certain that it wouldn't be the last time, either. He'd taken her breath away when Chloe first saw him that famous day of firsts: first day at Smallville Middle School, first kiss, first friend.
She could count them all on her fingers, twice, number the times Clark had saved her from all kinds of disaster since then, with nothing worse than stitches, bruises and a concussion once or twice to show for it. There had been too many times she'd hovered on the brink of dead, and if a couple of stitches were the trade off, Chloe could live with that. Clark, however, wasn't as satisfied with that outcome. He took every single one of her injuries to heart, blaming himself for not being there sooner to prevent them. Every so often, Chloe would catch Clark staring at the small scar just below her collar bone, a souvenir from another near miss with an exploding tracking device. It was the only scar on her body that Clark himself had caused and it bothered him tremendously. Each scar had a story, eliminating the need for tattoos as far as Chloe was concerned. They certainly made for interesting storytelling when Jimmy got around to noticing since Chloe couldn't actually get into how they happened, or how they hadn't been fatal. The problem was that every story worth telling began the same way, it seemed.
"Well, Jimmy, there was this time that Clark and I…."
While Chloe was used to heavily editing the situations she often found herself in with Clark, it wasn't even about keeping Clark's secret this time. It was about not rubbing anything in Jimmy Olsen's sweet freckle covered face. Not confirming his fears where Clark was concerned was a small kindness Chloe could easily accomplish for Jimmy's sake. Things were better that way. They'd ended things in a good way, and Chloe didn't regret her choice to not share everything with Jimmy. Sometimes, a girl had one or two things of her own to keep to herself.
Chloe was good at keeping secrets. Years of practice had made her an expert at it. And now she had her meteor abilities to keep under wraps. The discovery of what Chloe was capable of doing hadn't changed the concern on Clark's face when he looked at her, and Chloe knew that he was seeing her the way he'd found her, weak and cold in the stainless steel drawer at the morgue.
Reflexively, Chloe reached out and put her hand over Clark's, making him look up to meet her eyes. He smiled, making the already gorgeous day perfect. Too quickly, concern darkened the brightness of Clark's smile like storm clouds over the sun, his eyes moving to the scar again.
"You okay?" Clark asked, and Chloe laughed, squeezing his large hand with her own small one. "You're being pretty quiet." He looked out at the sun washed park. The people around them were carelessly enjoying the summer day, tourists from Gotham and Edge City drinking up the clean air and view of the swans on the Metropolis Reservoir.
"I'm fine, Clark." Chloe smiled up at him again, as Clark slid his hand around hers. "Why shouldn't I be? It's a beautiful day, and Met U will have the team of Sullivan and Kent, righting wrongs and exposing injustice all over the campus. I'm great." She looked into his face. "Are you alright, Clark?"
Their eyes met, and Chloe felt a jolt run through her, feeling for just a second that Clark could see through her, through the wall she'd built between them, trying to preserve what was left of her heart after loving him so long without any hope at all. What she saw in his eyes both surprised her and left her speechless. It was plain in his eyes, the most gorgeous eyes Chloe had ever seen, or would ever see. Pain, and worry with the usual Clark Kent brand of self inflicted emotional torture mixed in, and Chloe felt her heart break a little seeing it.
The scars Clark carried were inside, past his perfect, unblemished, bullet proof skin.
More than that, Clark had been keeping secrets of his own. He had long practice not revealing everything, and Chloe wondered how it was that she had forgotten that. The awareness hit her hard, and Chloe looked up at Clark again, as if seeing him for the first time.
"I've dug you out of graves, mourned you, and pulled you out of the morgue, Chloe." Clark shook his head, his hand around hers. "In one day, I lost you and Lana. I can't ignore the fact that I was willing to accept Lana being gone, but losing you was more than I could stand." He squeezed Chloe's hand gently. "All I could think about was how much time I let slip by. Chloe," Clark smiled again. "I can't pretend I don't feel the way I do about you."
"Pretend?" Chloe frowned a little, trying to grasp what was being said to her. "Pretend what?"
"That I'm only your best friend." Clark said tentatively. "I know you and Jimmy just ended things, and I know it's asking a lot to hope that you might still have some feelings for me. I know how much I've abused our friendship, never mind any deeper feelings you might have had for me at one time." He looked out at the reservoir. "If you don't feel that way any more, that's fine, Chloe, it really is. The most important thing to me is that I don't lose you again and that I tell you, now that I have this chance to."
"Clark, look at me." Chloe pulled on his hand until he turned back to face her. "Just say it. Say it, and what ever it is, we'll deal with it. But, don't hint around and then back away. We both deserve better than that." Chloe smiled brightly, and Clark felt himself his mouth curve in return, amazed at how easily she could make him smile
Clark nodded, and then laughed ruefully. "I didn't expect it to be so hard to say, Chloe, because I've always been able to tell you everything. Now, when it matters, I'm tongue tied. It would be great if your meteor power was mind reading right now."
"I drew the regenerating one instead." Chloe snarked, leaning against Clark's shoulder, "So, you need to tell me. "
Clark nodded, his grip tightening around Chloe's hand gently. "I'm not sure when it happened, Chloe, but I think I'm in love with you. I may have been for a long time and didn't realize it. I know how lame that sounds, too." His eyes met hers again, and Clark touched Chloe's cheek with a tentative finger. "I don't deserve it, I know, but I hope you'll give me a chance…"
Chloe eyed Clark suspiciously and then looked around. She grinned widely, her heart pounding in her chest. "I don't see any Red Kryptonite around, Clark. Are you sure you're feeling okay? I'm not Lana…"
"If there was Red-K around, Chloe, there'd be less talking, and I know you aren't Lana." Clark laughed, pulling her close. "I'm sorry if that's the only reason you think I'd feel this way about you."
"It's a surprise." Chloe admitted happily, Clark's arms around her more reassuring than anything he could say to her. "But, it's a good surprise, Clark. The best one."
Clark smiled, leaning down to kiss Chloe deeply, her arms winding around his neck. "That's what I was hoping to hear."