Title: "All the King's Men"
Rating/Classification: 'PG-13', angst, CLex, C/Ch-ish, vaguely ChLex-ish, slash-ish, het-ish. Heck, it's all "ishy."
Disclaimer: Don't own them, nope.
Summary: My brother said to me, on the phone, "What happens to Chloe? What if Chloe's the reason Clark and Lex become enemies?" and, lo, this fic was born.
"D-don't be mad...Clark...please..."
"At you? Sh-shut up, Chloe...I-I could never be mad at you. Now s-stop talking, you've got to save your strength."
"Not me...him...don'tbemadathim, Clark...he loves you, too."
"What? Chloe...Chloe...stay with me..."
"Lex....love you...always loved you..."
"Chloe...? *Chloe*? CHLOE....!!!"
She's broken. You've seen her like this before. You remember her limbs, stretched akimbo, at odd angles, on the lawn and the frantic scream that tore from your throat as you scrambled for a phone, a rope, a prayer...anything.
But then she smiled at you, weakly, from a hospital bed and accepted your flowers like they were the only ones she'd ever gotten in her life. She was okay. She got up to live another and chase another meteor mystery.
Not this time.
And as you cradle her close, feel how cool her cheek is against yours, you wish you could pound the life back into her lungs. You tried. Youtriedandtried. But there was nothing. You gave her breath. You gave her speed...but it wasn't enough to take her to where it was warm and safe and away from the chaos outside.
None of your stupid alien powers can repair the damage done.
Not this time.
And he hears you. He always hears you. He skids to a stop in front of you. Out of breath. Stricken. Pale. Overhead lights bleaching him as white as a skull left in the sun too long. "Clark...Clark...I..."
You can't bear to raise your head. To look at him. To see the guilt in his eyes and the outstretched fingers that might as well have her blood dripping from them. All you can ask is "why?"
"Why Lex? Why her?"
His heart is beating so loud in your ears...it drowns out the approaching sirens, the bullhorn, the static of death. You wonder if he all ready has a story ready. A statement for the press. An easy excuse that has nothing to do with industrial espionage and meteor rock mining rights and a nosy high school reporter in the wrong place at the wrong time.
"It was an accident. These things happen," he blurts out.
Oh, so damn indiscreet. Don't tell the local yokel cops that one, you think, they won't believe you.
"Only when you're around!" you whisper into the golden blond halo that fans out from her face. "Things only happen to Chloe when you're around."
"I didn't mean for her to get involved...Clark, you have to understand..."
"I have to understand what?" The question spills from your throat like the last words she said to you. Fast. Too fast. "That you don't care about *anyone* besides yourself? That you'll do *anything* to get ahead? You knew what she was like. You *knew* how she gets when she's on to something. She was my best friend, Lex. My *best* friend. I thought you knew what friendship meant...I guess I was wrong. You couldn't possibly know what it's like to love someone."
You think he murmurs something. Something like "you're right"...but you're not sure because everything is so loud, so bright, so unreal...and you cradle her close and adjust her shirt collar and can'tlistentohim.
Not this time.
When you finally glance up at him, you think your vision must be totally shot by tears...or that there's green rocks nearby because you're sick and weak and nauseated. The guilt is gone. Something glittery and cold and hard has replaced it. And he stares down at you like he's never seen you or the lifeless burden in your arms before. "These things happen," he says, again. Only this time it is polished. Practiced. Precise. "It's a fact of life, Kent. Accidents happen. She was simply a casualty of her own curiosity."
He walks away when the first cop hits the scene.
Your last vision of your *other* best friend, Lex Luthor, is his back.
The limousine pulls away, somberly, from the gutted mansion...like leaving an ancient tomb in it's wake. The halls have been cleared...all the furniture stuffed back in the attics or forwarded to your penthouse in Metropolis.
You didn't go to the funeral. You sent an ostentatious wreath that you know the hicks of Smallville will be talking about for ages and gave a check to her father. For reparations, you said, since the unfortunate incident occurred on LuthorCorp property.
All the perfect words.
You're good at them.
But you know one person who is, infinitely, better.
*"...you don't care about *anyone* besides yourself..."*
*"...you'll do anything to get ahead..."*
*"You couldn't possibly know what it's like to love someone."*
Prophecies. All of them prophecies that turned your blood to ice and your skin to stone. So effective. Innocence and grief. An excellent sell. A brilliant attack strategy.
And you, suddenly, couldn't remember the sound of Chloe's incredulous laughter as you turned the camcorder around on her and asked "What's YOUR secret, Ms. Sullivan?"
You, suddenly, forgot how it felt to catch his eye across the room and share a smile...the kind that, if you held it too long, never failed to make him blush.
The memory of your very humanity faded, right there, in the face of his pinpoint accurate condemnation...
"Bravo, Clark," you whisper, gazing out at the cornfields that zip by faster and faster and faster. "Bravo."
And you think you might have something in you eyes because they're stinging, watering. So you blink once. Twice. Find the eyelash and flick it out the window.
In a moment, it is gone. And forgotten.
The Wall of Weird looms before you. A legacy. *Her* legacy.
You sit down at the computer...hands floating, for an instant, over the keyboard that still holds the echoes of her fingerprints. And, then, the words begin to fly...taking the path hers took for so many years at warp speed.
When you are done, the hour is late, the school has been locked and the phone is ringing...probably your parents, worried and looking for you.
But you have an article.
"Corporate Irresponsibility Leads to Death of Beloved Editor Chloe Sullivan".
"By Clark Kent".
And a purpose.
March 3, 2002.