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Author's note: Yet another answer to Livia's X-Title challenge. Set during "Tempest." Special thanks to Wookie, Miss Windy, Cyb, Tavia, Lint and all who helped with feedback along the way.
He was gone.
She'd turned, thinking that the table where her purse sat was on that side of the gym, but she'd been disoriented. As she turned back, it was like deja-vu. She'd known, before her peripheral vision had confirmed it, that he'd be gone.
She knew, even as she turned to the double doors of the gym, that she wouldn't see him. She looked anyway. It was habit. It was what she always did. What they all did.
She should have been able to see him pushing his way through the crowd. He should have been a few steps away. Close enough that she could catch him by the arm. Close enough at the sound of her voice might stay him—hold him at her side.
"Clark?" she called out, eyes sliding past the people looking at her. She didn't want to read what was in their eyes. Not yet.
Chloe wanted to hate her.
It was all so easy before. Lana was a member of the Pom-Pom brigade. Chloe was allowed to dismiss her as just some fluffy cheerleader. She was allowed to vent her frustration via substitution: the more Clark mooned over Lana Lang, the more Chloe could rip on the vapid Barbie dolls in miniskirts. It was perfect. It had been perfect.
But no—she had to quit cheerleading. She had to become her own person. She had to come to Chloe for her mother's graduation speech. She had to be genuinely nice to Chloe. She had to become Chloe's friend. She had to save Chloe's freaking life. Chloe had to actually be worried about her.
It was so much easier when Chloe could hate her.
It was as if a part of her was detached, seeing the balloon-decked gymnasium from high above. She could see the pale and worried faces of her classmates and their dates, shocked and concerned. She'd lived in Smallville for three years, and the town had never actually had a tornado touch down anywhere where people were hurt, though dozens of funnels had been sighted over the years. Kansans were blasť about it—there were sirens that reminded her of air raids in World War II movies, and weather advisories that interrupted TV broadcasts, and people just bitched and moaned about the text crawls along the bottom of the screens, marring their enjoyment of Frasier or the Disney Sunday movie, or whatever.
The members of the band looked a bit more freaked. They hung back, whispering to one another, cellphones already out. She guessed they were cursing their management for ever getting them involved in the radio contest that brought them there to begin with. Probably wondering if playing the prom in some podunk town hours from Metropolis and civilisation would be their doom.
Part of her felt like she was trapped in a nightmare—her words of earlier this week came rushing back, and tears burned her eyes for a second as she remembered how giddy she'd been when he'd pressed a kiss to the corner of her mouth and promised he wouldn't abandon her. She blinked rapidly, her chest tight.
Instead, she remembered Sean Kelvin. Clark had left in the middle of a dream date with his dream girl, to save her. To keep her from dying as Jenna had. She'd never even questioned how he'd known—how he'd found her. He was just always there when she needed him. But what she thought of now was how Clark hadn't even remembered Lana until Chloe had mentioned her. She'd kept that split-second tucked away in her memory like a keepsake, pulling it out every now and then. Knowing that for just a second there, Clark had been so focussed on her that Lana had been completely banished from his thoughts.
She'd never asked Lana how that had felt.
Clark was the one subject they almost never discussed, after that day in the Torch offices when Chloe had lashed out. They never talked about the kisses neither of them remembered. They never talked about how it felt, to feel his arms wrapped around their shoulders. How safe they felt with him. How cared for. They never talked about his smile, or the way his hair fell into his eyes, or how good farm living had apparently been to him, if that white t-shirt was any indication...
Clark was strictly off-limits.
They'd talked mysteries. They'd talked clothes. They'd even discussed their mothers, one night when Pete had been out on a date, Clark had been at Lex's, and Whitney had been at the hospital with his dad. Chloe had run into her as she'd been locking up the Talon, and they'd gone to the Melrose diner for cheese fries. It had been raining out, perfectly miserable, and they'd ended up chatting until Nell came to pick Lana up and take her home.
She hadn't really had any girlfriends to talk to—not since she'd moved from Metropolis. It had been nice to sit there, drinking endless cups of coffee, and talk about how weird it was not to have a mom they could run to. Sure, Chloe's was in Metropolis, and she'd run out on her and Gabe when she was about five. But Clark, Pete, Whitney... none of them understood what it was like. Not only were they guys, and sons had a completely different relationship with their moms than daughters did. But they'd never woken up from a nightmare, crying, and not been able to knock on their parents' doors and have their mothers brush away the tears. It was weird, but it was one of the things Chloe understood about Lana. Nell was... Nell. And Chloe adored her dad; she did. But she also knew that it simply wasn't the same.
She found her purse at the table, surrounded by empty cups. Numb, she hit speed dial, waited for Lana to pick up. Waited to hear her at the other end of the line, safe and sound in Nell's storm cellar.
The phone rang twice, and then she got an automated operator telling her that the lines were busy.
She was probably fine. Whitney's bus had left ages ago—she was probably home in her bathrobe, watching some old black and white movie on TV. She was probably going to laugh when Clark, with his saviour complex, showed up, rental tux soaked through, to rescue her. And the storm would blow over, and everything would go right back to normal.
She hit redial, listening to the rings, unable to think for the roaring in her ears. When the pleasant and calm voice responded once again that the network was down, she turned it off.
Everything would be so much easier if she could hate her.
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