Come Back to Where You Belong Part Four
(Disclaimer: I do not own these characters or Smallville.)
It took weeks for Chloe to start talking about it.
She had stayed in the apartment waiting for Clark to return from taking Jimmy to a clinic. He let himself in with the key Jimmy had given him. He found her huddled in a corner on the couch, the bruise on her arm completely healed. Without a word he lifted her into his arms and sat down on the couch with her in his lap. He gently rubbed her back as she cried herself to sleep. He didn’t mention that her tears not only broke his heart but caused him considerable physical pain as well.
He welcomed the pain as he remembered the years when she’d needed so much more from him and he’d failed her. The vagueness in his attempts to keep her in his life and yet not commit himself to her came back to torment him now. How many times had he told her she meant more to him than she knew when she needed to know that she meant everything to him?
From the moment he realized she knew about his abilities he had trusted her with the truth and all his troubles and never hesitated to run to her for help, always expecting her to be there for him. The crushing weights he so carelessly laid on her deceptively strong shoulders would have sent most people running. He hadn’t learned anything from Pete’s leaving because she accepted every new burden with nary a complaint. So seldom did she point out that she had a life also that he never even thought to let her know how important that life was to him.
Maybe he hadn’t abused her in the same sense as Jimmy had, but his neglect of her needs now seemed to him just as cruel. How could he have told her so many times he only wanted her to be happy when everything he asked of her was for him? Why had he never told her how he felt about her? How smart she was! How much he loved reading all her works. She was so creative. He’d never shown her the scrapbook he still had of all her Torch articles, nor given a hint of how proud he was to add her Daily Planet articles.
He couldn’t remember ever telling her how beautiful she was! How loyal! How loving!
How much he always ached for her warm hugs. He’d never told her how much every kiss she’d ever given him, from the very first one on the day they met, still burned in his memory. How very sexy she’d been during some intense make-out sessions she did not remember because of the parasite she’d been infected by.
She had always given everything to him and he’d offered nothing in return. Loving her in secret had cost him nothing all these years; he’d never given anything of himself, only selfishly absorbing all that she gave, never considering the cost to her. She had built him up for years, encouraged him, loved him, defended him… leaving nothing for herself.
Why did he let her help him conquer so many of his insecurities without every helping her overcome the doubts and fears she had? How could he let her ever think she wasn’t important enough?
His lips gently touched her hair on top of her head as he promised himself he would never leave her again; that if it took the rest of his life, he would do everything in his power to try to make it up to her.
When Chloe woke up the next morning, she was in her own bed still fully clothed on top of her blankets, securely wrapped in her comforter. She found Clark asleep on her couch not admitting to herself, until she saw him how much she feared he had left her alone. He was stretched out face down, his right arm a makeshift pillow. While she automatically set about starting some coffee, she absently wondered why he hadn’t taken one of the extra pillows and blankets from her bed as a heavy sigh of relief and gratitude escaped her slightly trembling lips.
Even in a relaxed deep sleep he looked powerful and strong; somehow without even word or action making her feel safer. With great effort she stopped herself from questioning why she needed him to be there and just concentrated on accepting that he was. Just for a little while she would take advantage of the strength he offered and lean on him. Just for a little while, she promised herself; just long enough for the ground underneath her feet to stop shaking so much. Just long enough for her to figure out why it was shaking in the first place. She would borrow from his strength until she could build up her own again.
As she took out two mugs from the cupboard, Clark woke up, slowly sitting up, his eyes searching until they met hers. She did not look away, trying hard to convey with just a look that she was okay enough for him to lose the concern in his worried gaze. The buzzer on the coffee maker finally broke the intense eye communication and Chloe filled both mugs and handed him one as she sat down on the couch next to him.
He didn’t ask any questions and she only mumbled quietly as she finished her cup of coffee, “I don’t want to talk about it.”
“You don’t have to, Chloe, not to me; but I am here if you ever do want to. And I’m not leaving. You don’t have to be alone,” he promised her. He let her pour them both a second cup of coffee before he continued, “I do think you should speak to… see someone, a counselor, maybe. Whenever you’re ready…”
A shy, somewhat insecure smile was her only reply but it was all he needed for now.
Later on the drive to the Daily Planet in her car she suddenly continued the conversation, “I’m not doing any group therapy though, okay?”
He turned his head to look at her as she concentrated on navigating her little car through the heavy traffic. It both worried and surprised him that she had agreed so easily. He had been prepared with a long list of reasons to try to encourage her to see a counselor. He wanted her to hear it from someone else that this had not been her fault, that she did not deserve such treatment. His opinion alone would not be convincing enough. He was fairly certain she would think that he was obligated as her best friend to tell her such things.
His worried thoughts of how truly troubled she must be to accept his advice so easily, were interrupted as she pondered, “Of course, it will all depend on if the Planet’s insurance covers talking to a shrink…”
He wasn’t going to let that be a problem since he was proud of her for wanting to seek help, “What they don’t cover, Chloe, I will.”
She took her eyes off the traffic for a second to gaze into his eyes and seeing how serious he was she quickly replied, “Okay. Thanks. I’ll pay you back.”
“If you want to. For now you don’t have to worry about it, okay?”
Her eyes turned back to the road and she continued calmly, “You should bring some clothes and things to the apartment, so you won’t have to go zipping back and forth to the farm all the time to shower and change like you did this morning. Unless, of course, you want to check on Shelby?”
“We can check on Shelby together on the weekends, if you’d like. A neighbor is taking care of the farm for me and Shelby had followed him home yesterday. They’ve agreed to let him stay for as long as I need,” he answered.
“That would be nice,” she agreed. “And if you’re gonna hang around a while, I should probably take the couch and you can have the bed; it’ll be more comfortable for you.”
He tried hard not to show how happy he was that she wasn’t going to argue about letting him stay and look after her. “The couch is fine, Chloe. I think it’s actually longer than your bed.”
She smiled for a moment, “Yeah, I got lucky with that. The previous tenant left a lot of the furniture. I think the landlord was really happy that I liked it so he wouldn’t have to pay someone to haul it out of there. He’s not even charging me extra for it being a semi-furnished apartment.”
Their conversation ended as she pulled into a parking spot just a couple of blocks from the Daily Planet.
And for the next week, the story they were working on consumed most of their energies during the days and late into the evenings. By the fourth day she had even been able to laugh at some jokes one of their co-workers told.
On the fifth day, a new photographer had been temporarily hired because Jimmy had officially taken a leave of absence for an indefinite length of time. None of their co-workers, except Lois, knew Chloe and Jimmy were in a relationship, so she had no unwelcome awkward moments to confront. Lois accepted the simple explanation she gave, “We weren’t really getting along, so we broke up.”
That very evening a police officer had come to the apartment to tell Chloe that a Henry James Olsen had come to the station with an attorney from the clinic to turn himself in for domestic violence against Chloe Sullivan and was prepared to plead guilty for any charges she wished to file against him. Chloe had been too stunned to read the papers the officer had handed her and she passed them on to Clark.
Clark carefully read them and told her, “He signed a statement that he will stay at the treatment center until they feel he’s well enough to be released and he’s agreed to do whatever the police and psychiatrists recommend, even if it means jail time.”
Puzzled, Chloe looked at the officer, “Why would he do this?”
“Ma’am, he only offered that he needed a way to prove to you that you would be safe from him and did not know how else to make amends. He did not say much more than that; the lawyer did most of the talking.”
“Do I have to file charges? I mean sending him to jail won’t help him get better. Can I just sign something that I agree not to file charges as long as he does what he agreed to in that statement?” she asked carefully.
“It is your decision, Ma’am. But you would need to come to the station to fill out some forms either way.”
She went into the bedroom, returning a moment later with her jacket and purse, “Let’s go now.”
Clark sat quietly beside her at the station as the officer explained her available options and the consequences of each before he gave her the requested forms to complete. Once they were home she spoke to Clark for the first time since the officer had knocked on her door, “Thank you, Clark, for coming with me. I know he didn’t have to do that, but I’m glad he did. It makes me believe a little more that he really was sorry and that I don’t have to be afraid of him.”
It warmed Clark to hear her voice her gratitude for his presence even though he’d done nothing except be there in case she needed him. He was encouraged that she was no longer afraid to accept his help. It did much to help him sleep more peacefully that night.
The following week, their building contractor scandal story made the front page and they celebrated by dining at a fancy French restaurant. She smiled a lot and easily let him keep his arm around her shoulders as they walked back to her apartment. And she didn’t resist the sweet gentle kiss on her lips when he told her goodnight.
Clark was happier than he’d been in a very long time just because he was able to take care of her and be near her almost 24/7.
He left her only when crime and accidents or disasters needed his special abilities and he was pleased when she always asked for all the details of each rescue when he returned to her apartment. From the very first time he returned from such a rescue, he’d pulled her into his arms instead of just saying hello. She never objected when he held her too tightly or for too long, clinging to him as if there was no place else in the world she’d rather be.
It became a habit which he missed with a real physical ache on the rare occasions when she wasn’t at the apartment to greet him. He only felt at home when she was there. She had been lucky to find a counselor within a few days who took on new patients and actually gave her evening appointments. While she was at those sessions, Clark waited patiently at the apartment for her to call him so they could walk home together. He quickly learned that most of the sessions were quite emotional for her and she needed the walk to unwind and calm down.
He did eventually bring some of his clothes and bare necessities from the farm and technically moved in with her. Even though she refrained from making any comments as she made some room in the closet and her dresser for his stuff, he knew from the sudden calmness in her heart beat that she felt safer knowing he was going to stay. It was as if she hadn’t realized or truly accepted that he had meant it literally that he wouldn’t leave her and that she did not have to be alone. She happily accepted his constant presence in her life because deep down she knew she needed him. She didn’t want to be alone while she tried to sort out her life.
She was also grateful that she didn’t have to explain anything to him, because at first there was still a lot she did not really understand herself. He knew exactly how to be there for her without crowding her, which sometimes really amazed her considering how tiny her apartment was. He somehow understood when she needed to be held. She quickly became addicted to sitting on the couch next to him, her legs folded underneath her, one of his arms around her shoulders as she rested her head against his chest calmed by the steady beat of his heart against her ear.
They watched movies together. They listened to the news each night and took turns reading the newspaper to each other. He told her in as much detail as she wanted about his rescues. And they worked on their DP stories; usually happiest when they were sent together on an assignment.
Almost two months later her tears woke him up at three one morning. His first thought was that she hadn’t cried once since that first night. His second thought was that he would never again worry about not being able to hear her while he slept. He had stopped questioning the power and had actually comforted himself with the thought that she would never again have to be afraid that he would not be able to find her if she got into trouble.
He walked slowly into her bedroom and knocking on the door quietly asked, “Are you okay, Chloe?”
She tried to be evasive, “I think I had a bad dream but I’m fine, why?”
“I can hear your tears; they actually woke me up,” he couldn’t disguise the worry nor the awe he felt about this power. “They’re breaking my heart. Tell me how to dry them for you!”
“You can hear my tears? What does that mean? Since when?” she fired at him in sleepy confusion as she sat up and turned on a lamp beside her bed.
He sat down on a corner of the bed as he reached out to wipe the tears from her cheeks, “I don’t really know how it’s possible. I’m not even sure I can explain it. My brain just knows you’re crying and it literally causes me pain; I guess you could compare it to what I would assume a headache feels like but a lot more severe, maybe more like a migraine. It started…it—the first time… the first time Jimmy made you cry…” he was almost afraid to admit it for fear all her unhappiness would come back.
She had made so much progress in the last two months. Every day he recognized more and more of ‘his’ Chloe surfacing from underneath all the pain she’d tried to hide from him. Her laughter pleased him the most although it was starting to be a close second to how her smiles were finally reaching her eyes again. The darkness and fear were gone and in the last few days she was actually initiating more of those wonderful hugs than he was.
He was also immensely proud that she was continuing her sessions with the counselor even when some of the appointments were quite upsetting. He somehow felt he wasn’t knowledgeable enough to know how to rebuild her self-confidence by himself.
Her eyes widened in both sympathy and awe, “You poor man! I remember when you told me about hearing my voice when you first developed super hearing… and about hearing my heartbeat… but, my God, Clark, how you must hate me, I’m constantly bugging you!”
And after a deep breath she added, “And that’s why you always got here so fast, isn’t it?”
more to come… very SOON