Spoilers: X-Ray and Cool.
Rated: PG.
Summary: Chloe's story from the middle of X-Ray to right before Cool.

"The Search" by SullivanLane

Chloe didn't know why she was driving her father's Volvo two towns over to help Lana Lang. OK, she did know. Lana may have Clark's affection, but it wasn't her fault. There was no reason to hate her, so Chloe was going to track down Laura Lang's speech. It was no easy task, that's for sure. But Chloe was always up for a challenge.

Gabe Sullivan would probably kill her if he found out that she was driving to Inverness. She pushed the nervous feeling in her stomach aside and pressed the gas, inching the car just a little bit faster.

The search was not easy. First, she had to track down the editor of the Torch from 1977. Jenny Jurgens was difficult to track down; she had married and divorced twice, but kept her first husband's last name. So now she was Jenny Harris, and she lived in Metropolis. Unfortunately, she hadn't even bothered to transcribe the speech. Chloe persisted, and so Mrs. Harris had given her a lead. It was worth the long-distance phone calls and fifteen minutes of fast-talking.

Her cellular phone rang. Chloe sighed as she rummaged through her purse with one hand. The caller ID indicated that it was Clark. "What's up, Kent?"

"Chloe! I've been everywhere and back looking for you. I need your help with something."

"Can it wait?" Chloe asked hastily. "I'm kind of busy."

"When are you coming back?"

"Not until this evening," Chloe answered. "Maybe around seven?"

"That might be too late," Clark mumbled. "Thanks, anyway. I'll see you later."

"If you say so," Chloe said. "Bye." She hung up the phone and tossed it on the driver's seat.

She peered at the blue Post-It note on the dashboard, on which she had scribbled the directions. It should only be a couple of miles more. She looked at the sky, which was darkening with clouds. She hoped it wouldn't rain. It was already cold. She shivered involuntarily and turned up the heater on the car.

She pulled up to an old house in a cul-de-sac. She pulled her coat closer around her and straightened her scarf. There was no doorbell, so she rapped on the screen door.

A tired-looking man in his 40s answered the door. He was wearing a work shirt and dirty jeans and had a friendly smile. He looked like he had just come home from work.

"You must be Chloe," he said.

"Yes," she said with a smile. "Are you George Adler?"

"I am." He opened the screen door and Chloe stepped inside.

"You look a little young to be the editor of the Torch," George remarked.

"I'm a freshman," Chloe admitted. "I bugged the heck out of last year's editor, and did some major butt-kissing to get the position."

"You don't sound anything like Jenny," he said, inviting her to sit down. "Would you like some tea, or coffee?"

"No, thanks. I'm kind of in a hurry."

"Well, sit down and chat with me for a bit, OK? Then we'll get what you came for."

Chloe reluctantly sat down. It was the least she could do, she thought to herself. The man talked with Chloe about Smallville and how it had changed since he got divorced and moved away fifteen years ago. He said his son, who was 20, attended Metropolis University; his daughter started at Kansas State that year. He moved to Inverness and was a contractor.

"How'd you find Jenny?" he asked finally.

"I called every Jenny Harris, Jenny Jurgens and Jenny Lubbock in Kansas," she replied. "There were a bunch."

George chuckled. "You definitely aren't anything like Jenny. She's my cousin. That's the only reason why she was able to track me down. I like to keep a low profile."

"Why do you still have a copy of that speech around?" Chloe asked. "I mean, I'm grateful that I lucked out with you and all, but you know. That was a long time ago." Although she wanted to hurry up and get back home, her curious nature got the best of her.

George shrugged nonchalantly. Then he looked at Chloe, who was studying him with interest. He sighed. "Truth be told, I was in love with Laura. She was nice to me all through high school - I just never got up the courage to ask her out. Her sister Nell definitely looked down on me. Then she met Lewis. And the rest, as they say, is history. I was really sad when she passed." George was no longer looking at her. His head was down, staring at the palms of his hands.

Chloe nodded. She didn't say anything, because she didn't know what to say. She knew exactly how unrequited love felt.

"Why do you need that speech anyway?" Now it was George's turn to ask the questions.

"I'm doing a favor for a friend. Lana Lang," she added with hesitation.

"For Laura's daughter?" George seemed surprised.

"Yeah." Chloe said. She pushed aside the feelings of ambivalence toward Lana and focused on George again. "Jenny told me you transcribed it, and that you were really ticked that she didn't publish it ..."

George smiled at the memory. "Boy, was I." He stood up. "I didn't know you were doing this for Lana. Come on up with me to the attic. That's where I've got all that old junk from high school."

Chloe followed the man up two flights of stairs. The attic was fairly empty and clean, as attics went, and George knew exactly where to go. It was still somewhat dusty. Two piles of three boxes, simply marked "George," sat in a corner. Chloe coughed from the dust, and watched as George opened a box.

It was filled with trophies, 1970s style clothing, notebooks and Smallville High School memorabilia.

"My wife -- ex-wife -- packed this all up when we divorced," George explained. "I'm not sure exactly where it could be." He took one of the boxes and set it in front of Chloe. "You can look through that one. It's in a blue binder, with 'Torch articles' on the cover."

Chloe sifted through the man's things. Her box was filled mostly with Air Supply and Bee Gees cassettes, and she wondered if what she was looking for was really here. She glanced through a handful of what looked like mix tapes and gasped. One was labeled, "Graduation Speech 1977."

"George! Is this what I think it is?"

George looked over at the small package in her hand and his eyes widened. "I forgot that I still had that." He peered into the box and laughed. "I thought my ex-wife kept all my cassettes. She had better taste than I thought."

"Do you think I could copy this and give it to Lana? It would mean a lot to her."

George looked at Chloe thoughtfully. "You know what? Go ahead and give it to her. I lost my parents at a pretty young age, too, and I would imagine that she's grasping at straws to know them."

"Thanks."

"Just ... uh, don't tell her that I gave it to you. I'm still a bit embarrassed about liking Laura so much. I don't think Nell Potter would understand why I kept this tape all these years. And I don't really feel like explaining it to her."

Chloe searched George's eyes carefully and nodded.

***

Chloe took her time on the interstate driving home and popped the tape in the stereo. They had found the transcription as well, in case the tape was incomprehensible or had been dubbed over. Chloe heard the first few lines and shut it off.

Her phone rang. She glanced at the caller ID. Pete. "Hey, Ross."

"Oh, my God, did you miss the story of the century or what."

"What are you talking about?"

"Tina Greer tried to kill Lana."

"What?"

"I kid you not. She went psycho and wanted to steal Lana's life."

"So what happened?"

"Clark went to go stop her. Lana's OK, and Tina's being shipped off to the loony farm."

"Oh, my God."

"That's what I said. Hey, where are you, anyway?"

"I'm on my way to Lana's, coincidentally."

"Hey, I know this is swerving the topic about a hundred-eighty degrees, but the big scoop you missed isn't the only reason I called."

"OK, why'd you call?"

"I heard there's a party at Crater Lake on Wednesday night. I've been tapped to pass the word."

"You think I would actually go to one of those things? It's all pompoms and jockstraps and -- ugh -- raging teenage hormones."

"Hey, but you forget that with hormones, there's the hookup factor," Pete slyly reminded her. "Maybe you should ask Clark to come along."

"Shut up, Pete. How many times do I have to tell you --"

"Hey, take a chance, you know. I am. I heard Rachel Osmond is digging me, and I plan on putting the patented Ross moves on her."

Chloe rolled her eyes. "Whatever. I'll think about it. I'll talk to you at school tomorrow."

"OK. Bye."
***

After dropping the tape off at Lana's house, Chloe noticed the dark clouds were hovering above. It would start to rain soon. Maybe throughout the night. She was right. As she entered the house, the rain started to come down. Her father had left dinner warming in the oven. She ate quickly and headed upstairs. Her father was probably already asleep. He went to work at five every morning and usually was in bed by eight.

The house phone rang as Chloe flopped down on her bed. Chloe ignored it. Anyone worth talking to had her cellular phone number. To her surprise, her father yelled from his room, "Chloe, it's for you!"

She picked up the receiver and said hello and heard the click of the other extension hanging up.

"Chloe, it's Lana. I got your phone number from the student directory. I hope that's OK."

"Hi. Yeah, that's fine. Is there something wrong with the tape?"

"Oh. No, it's perfect. I just wanted to thank you again. I have a feeling you went through a lot of trouble, and I really appreciate it."

"It was nothing," she lied. "You're welcome."

"If there's anything I can do for you, let me know. I'm serious. I owe you big for this one."

Chloe paused. She thought of the hard work George went through in transcribing the speech, and how serendipitous it was that he still had the tape after all these years. It had crushed him that it wasn't published. "OK, there is something. You can say no, but I'd like to print your mom's speech in the Torch. I think it deserves to be published, even if it is 24 years late."

"Are you kidding? Chloe, that would be great!" Lana said happily. "Do you need the tape back? Or can I make you a copy?"

"I have a transcript. But thanks."

The two girls hung up, and Chloe continued to stare at the phone thoughtfully. George Adler had missed his chance with Laura Potter. He seemed to be living with a world of regret on his shoulders, and he was a lonely man. She decided she didn't want to be like that. She had liked Clark for as long as she knew him, but she had never done anything about it. Perhaps it was time to remedy that. And even if Clark perceived it as a friend-friend thing, at least they'd be spending time together.

She picked up the telephone again and pressed the top speed dial button.

"Hello?"

"Hi, Mrs. Kent. May I speak to Clark, please?"

"Hold on, Chloe." A moment later, Clark's voice came on the phone.

"Hey, Clark. What are you doing Wednesday night?"

"Nothing. Why?"

"Pete and I are going to a party down by Crater Lake. Want to come?"

- Fin - 03.11.2002