UPDATE : It was pointed out to me that I mixed up my fairy tales : ) My punishment for writing at 3 am I guess… anyways. I fixed the error (check the reviews if you want to know the exact error.) Thanks to KT for pointing out the mistake.
UPDATE2: changed the last line of the chapter
Shadows : Chapter 9
It looked warm outside, bright and warm and sunny. With her eyes focussed out the window Chloe couldn't help but wonder why she was sitting in class and listening to a supply teacher drone on in a complete and utter monotone when such a more appealing option was available. It wasn't as if she was learning anything. Chloe was fairly sure the word magnetism had been uttered at some point, either that or electricity, maybe it had been both; otherwise she was completely oblivious to everything that had been said. It wasn't like she hadn't tried listening, she really had, but the teacher was just reciting word for word out of a text book in a voice that made Chloe's mind shut down in a desperate attempt at self defense. She would have been far better off to just read the chapter herself.
It had been six long, depressing, and anxious days since Clark Kent fell asleep in her arms and refused to wake up. Chloe had spent each of those days fighting off self-pity and towards that end she made a resolution every morning that today she wouldn't be sad. The problem was that once you made that kind of a resolution you'd already defeated it; every time she told herself to be happy she was reminded of why she was supposed to be happy and that just ended up making her sad again. It was a vicious nasty cycle. But Chloe had made a resolution and you don't just give up on a resolution. In an attempt to uphold her commitment Chloe searched desperately for a cheerful thought.
"So, what do you think of our supply teacher. Better or worse than the real thing?" A familiar voice whispered behind her.
What did she think? That their school had a bad habit of placing supply teachers in the classes they were least qualified to teach. That a teacher shortage in Smallville led to unprepared temps who were improperly used to the point where they could rarely do more than recite out of a text book and take attendance. She told Pete as much, it wasn't Mrs. Alliston's fault, it was the system.
"So you don't like her lecturing style?"
"Pete, look around, the only thing being learned here is the fine technique of sleeping with your eyes open."
For some reason Pete was grinning at her, she wasn't quite sure why but it was nice to see. "You should write an editorial on this, such conviction shouldn't be left unheard."
The supply glanced in their direction and Chloe forced herself to look attentive. Nothing going on here, no chatting, we're dutifully paying attention to the dronage. Please, continue. After Mrs. Alliston had spent several seconds sending stern vibes in their direction she finally turned away, two much more obvious students on the far side of the room having captured her attention. "What makes you think I didn't. Principal Kwan summarily vetoed it. Apparently trashing the school system in the school newspaper isn't encouraged."
Neither of them mentioned that Principal Kwan was gone.
That wasn't a happy thought. If she had to repeatedly smash herself over the head with them to accomplish it, it was going to be a day for happy thoughts. Coffee was a happy thought. The sun shining outside was a happy thought. Once you got started it wasn't a problem; you just had to get yourself on a roll.
Good work Chloe, strive towards positive thinking. That and some pixie dust will let you fly out the window.
A sudden piercing tone cut through the air, interrupting Mrs. Alliston mid syllable and causing her to glare around the room, looking for a culprit until finally her gaze settled on…
Her phone was ringing. Her cell phone, the one that was strictly forbidden from being active in any of her classes via a unilateral decision on the part of the vice principal. Ever since that night she had taken to carrying the piece of high tech gadgetry with her religiously. When that conviction had encountered the inconvenient stumbling block of school policy the result had been a short and brutal contest that left policy broken and weeping on the ring floor.
Hitting the receive button to stop the ringing she quickly sprinted across to the classroom door. The rest of the students looked curious; the teacher looked disapproving. When Chloe made it out into the hall she finally lifted the phone to her ear.
"Chloe, it's Martha. He's awake." He was awake. Clark was awake. No, she'd heard that wrong. It was just one more hallucination where she imagined those exact words followed by a trip to the Kent farm where he'd be sitting up and giving her a big goofy smile and telling her that…
"Chloe? Are you still there?"
"I think so. Um, Mrs. Kent, could you say that again?"
She could almost feel the warmth in the words as they once again issued from the receiver. "He's awake."
Chloe's gut clenched and she had to lean against one of the hall lockers to keep from falling down. It wasn't a daydream, he was really awake and the next time she saw him he'd be animated and alive and… and he'd be Clark. A week's worth of tension suddenly flowed from her muscles and she slowly slid to the floor.
"How is he? I mean is he all right?" Clark Kent had just endured the longest nap in history, which could mean anything. They had no idea what had caused it in the first place; Martha Kent had lied through her teeth when she told Lana they'd brought him to see a doctor.
"He's fine Chloe. He's shaken, but he's fine. Actually he wants to see you. For some reason he thought something might have…"
Clark was alive, awake, and still Clark. The rest of it just didn't seem to matter. "Tell him I'm coming over."
Chloe returned to the class only for the brief time necessary to assemble her books and tell Pete the good news. When she went to leave she couldn't help but notice the disapproving look on the teacher's face and in return she fixed Mrs. Alliston with a big enthusiastic smile, she then shared it with the world at large just for good measure. Apparently her radically uplifted mood had caught the attention of the entire class and the focus of every student suddenly seemed to be on her. The teacher wasn't even reading anymore.
Feeling, that with such a captive audience she was required to say something, Chloe settled on just two words, "He's awake," before disappearing out the door.
He looked awake. He looked happy to see her. He also looked from the way he was fidgeting like he really wanted to get out of bed. Chloe had the brief thought that a good alternative might be for her to get into bed but discarded it as perhaps not the most appropriate time. When he had first seen her the relief on his face had been almost palpable and Chloe had decided then and there that in no way was she going to give him any indication of just how much he had scared her.
"Welcome back Snow White." She settled herself on the edge of the bed, close enough to casually touch him without giving the impression that she was preparing to ravish him.
"You've been doing a very good impression."
"There wasn't an apple."
Where was his imagination? "Why does it have to be an apple? Can't witches go modern? I'm sure these days they could just slip you some spiked fruit juice or something."
"Well there weren't any dwarves then. And don't tell me that there's a modern substitute for dwarves Chloe, you'll make a lot of very short people very angry with you."
He was going to be fine. She reached forward with her hand, caressing his face just to feel the warmth of his skin as she had every day since he went away. This time he reached up with his own hand to envelop hers and a big goofy smile lit up his face, just like she'd imagined. Clark briefly touched his lips to her palm before lowering their hands, lowering but not letting go.
"I missed you." It needed to be said.
He looked slightly sheepish, though she could tell he was pleased. "What was it you said… something about perennial bad judgement?"
"Don't. No self flagellation allowed."
A distant look crossed his face as he relived some dark memory. Then he asked a question, hesitantly, as if he was almost afraid of the answer. "Do you know if they got away?"
"If who got away?"
"The FBI agents, there were four of them leaving the hotel and I tried to hold it off while they…"
Chloe squeezed his hand. She didn't know which agents he was talking about but she did know about the massacre. He must have been there. "Clark. I'm sorry, it was all over the news. At least twenty people died in that hotel."
She expected to see pain, and guilt, but instead his face just took on the same steal resolve that had gotten him hurt in the first place. "But they were all in the hotel?"
"Then I saved some of them."
"Clark…" Chloe hedged for a moment, his parents must have already asked but she wanted to hear it from him. "What happened?"
He didn't answer right away, instead he became suddenly unwilling to look at her and she had to restrain herself from pushing. "It just talked to me Chloe, that's all."
She wondered how Clark would react to Mrs. Alliston. "Must have been a boring conversation."
"No, it was vivid. Too vivid." Clark's sense of humor was obviously not present on that particular subject. She couldn't blame him. Should she try to get him to talk about it or was it something better left alone? She needed to know what had driven him to her room, but not if the knowledge had to be at his expense. She was still in the middle of a hot internal debate on the subject when she felt him tugging on her hand.
"You don't look comfortable Chloe."
Odd, she felt reasonably comfortable. "I don't?"
"It's just an observation."
Really? "What do you think I should do about it?"
Clark shifted over in the bed as silent invitation. Come to think of it, maybe she wasn't very comfortable after all.
"You sure your mom won't accuse me of taking advantage?" She was teasing of course; no arm-twisting was required. She pulled her legs up on the bed and began to settle herself beside him. After some slight maneuvering she ended up turned towards him, held tenderly in the crook of one arm, while she snuggled close and purposefully wrapped herself around him.
Clark leaned down to brush his lips across her forehead and she resisted the urge to turn her head and capture them with her own. No ravishment Chloe; remember, he's not well. It would have been easier for her to convince herself if he didn't look so healthy. His eyes were bright, his face was animated, and his skin was warm without being flush. She could almost forget that there'd ever been something wrong.
… Clark pounding on her door until it crashed in, his complete lack of recognition as he stared right through her…
Chloe gripped him tighter and closed her eyes. She was exactly where she wanted to be. "Why haven't you gotten out of bed."
"I did, but I think waking up after six days and immediately getting up to go to the bathroom broke some unwritten rule. Mom pretty much threatened to tie me down if I got up again."
"After six days you owe her the requisite mothering and nurturing stage. Have you eaten?"
"Enough food for two days, that was the first thing she made sure of. Chloe, is it just me or does the entire house smell like apple pies?"
"It's just you." In fact the entire house was laced with the smell as Martha Kent had gone on a complete baking rampage for the past week. Fortunately Lana had been more than happy to give her an excuse, taking almost every one off her hands that she could and selling them at the Talon. "So," he still hadn't answered her earlier question. "What did it do to you Clark? You said yourself that you're almost invulnerable, doesn't that make it worth cataloging everything that can hurt you? The rest of us just point to the entire world and say 'dangerous' but…"
But I don't want to see you get hurt again, which means we need to know what can hurt you.
"It's not that easy." Chloe waited for him to organize his thoughts, slowly caressing one hand along the center of his chest as she watched patiently. There was plenty of time. "Do you dream Chloe?"
She smiled. Everyone gets sick Pete…"Everyone dreams Clark."
"Then it was like a dream, except more real. He…" He sounded scared. He didn't want to remember. Reaching up with her hand she angled his head down ever so slightly; Chloe then leaned towards him and brushed her lips first along his cheek, then across his lips. She held him there for a moment, breathing his air, tasting his skin.
"It's ok Clark."
"Chloe, he told me you were dead. And it was so easy to believe. It wasn't just his words, I could see him hiding in your car…" Her car, he meant her trunk. They'd never even thought of checking for bad horror movie cliché number one hundred and three, the evil villain hitching a ride in the trunk. Chloe shivered when she realized there had been nothing stopping it from doing exactly that. "He described it Chloe, every detail, every action and it was like I had done it myself."
She touched her lips to his forehead again, reassuring, reminding him that everything was fine.
"Chloe I can still remember it. I didn't want to believe it but then I ran to your house and it was completely dark and no one was there. I ran up the stairs to your room and when I got there... it was just like he said. Your parents were lying on the floor and you were…"
"I'm fine Clark. I'm ok."
"That's what you said, that you were ok. I heard you but it didn't make sense and…"
It was her fault. She was the one that had sent him away. "I broke you."
"I think… I think that I needed to be broken. It was weird Chloe, like he'd sucked me out of this world and dropped me into another one."
Footsteps could be heard coming down the hall, Martha was returning. Chloe realized just how intimate they looked and pulled her face away. She stayed on the bed though, wrapping herself around him again and bringing her head to rest on his chest, refusing even the idea of letting go. She wasn't embarrassed about what she'd been doing, but she didn't want it to look like they'd been making out either. Martha Kent had had enough shocks for one day.
"Are you two ok?" Clark's mother hadn't appeared so alive in a long time. Her eyes were bright and her cheeks had lost the pale unhealthy complexion that had been constantly building up from stress and lack of sleep.
Clark responded "We're good mom."
"I was just wondering if you wanted anything to eat, or maybe something to drink?" Clark hadn't been exaggerating, Martha Kent was in full motherly mode.
When Clark answered with a brief shake of his head she turned to Chloe, apparently having decided to include her in the treatment while she was there. Chloe hadn't spent much time with his parents before the recent ordeal, but now she'd come to realize from the approving looks and encouraging smiles that they were more than happy to see her and Clark together. It was encouraging. "Something to drink would be nice. Maybe some juice?"
Martha nodded and disappeared, once again leaving them alone.
"You aren't worried about a witch coming along and spiking it?"
"Between here and the kitchen? I'll risk it. You weirded my father right out you know?"
"How did I do that?"
"By breaking down our front door, barging up the stairs without even acknowledging him when he tried to stop you, and then breaking down the door to my bedroom. I don't think putting your hand through the floor helped either. It impressed him, but it didn't help."
She grinned. "You did."
"I'm surprised he's letting you anywhere near me."
"Well, if it had been anyone else he would have called the police."
The last comment confused him "What would me being me have to do with anything, I barely know your father."
"Clark, my father is very aware that you've saved my life on at least two distinct occasions. Do you have any idea how much currency that earned you?"
"Ah. Did I spend it all?"
"Every dime. Well, you might have a couple of pennies left I guess, I'll have to ask him for a balance when he recovers."
They continued to banter lightly back and forth for the next half-hour. Clark's mom stopped by once or twice and neither of them missed the amused but approving expression she developed every time she looked at their arrangement on the bed. It only lasted that half-hour though, eventually Clark tried to ask the question, the one she had been waiting for and hoping wouldn't come. She answered before he could even complete the sentence.
"It's gone." He'd been starting to ask about the vampire, about what it had been doing. It had pretty soundly kicked his ass and yet he was still ready to go out and face it again.
"What do you mean?"
"It left Clark. It left the same night. No one else has been hurt and no one else has gone missing. The FBI left too, they were gone before the end of the weekend."
"But where did it leave to?"
"Does it matter?" That shocked him. She could tell it shocked him by the way he tensed up beneath her. "Clark there's a whole world out there full of monsters. Maybe not all of them walk around in the dark wearing black trench coats and raping people's minds but they're out there. We're here, not there. I know I joked about you being a super hero but you can't save the whole world."
"I can try and save my little corner of it." He sounded angry and she could feel his entire body tighten. She couldn't blame him, she sounded callous but it had to be said.
"Sure you can, I don't deny that. I'm not saying you should hide in the sand but it isn't 'in' your little corner of the world anymore Clark; it's in someone else's. You have to let it go or you'll be chasing it for the rest of your life." Pushing herself up on one arm she watched him. He was hurting, not for himself but for each of the people that had died at the hotel. He was hurting for the bus driver and the woman from the bank and every person he hadn't been there to save. Most of all he was hurting for all the people it would kill because when he'd come face to face with it, he'd been unable to succeed. Seeing all that pain Chloe found herself hurting right along with him. "I'm sorry." It didn't mean much, but it was all she could say.
"So am I." He hesitated a moment, but then pulled her back to his chest and hugged her tightly against him. They stayed that way for a long time, silent. It took a while, but eventually she felt his muscles loosening beneath her as the stress diminished. Soon after she felt herself floating away, lulled towards sleep by the sensation of being warm, and cared for, and safe. Tomorrow life would return to normal, but for today Chloe would simply let herself drift in his embrace.
Now all she needed was the pixie dust…