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Thread: Episode 5 - "Resolution" (PG)

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    NS Senior Member Senior Member sydsvaughn's Avatar
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    Episode 5 - "Resolution" (PG)

    Title: Resolution
    Written by: Tasia & Lou

    Notes, disclaimers, and other things in Episode 1.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    STREETS OF SMALLVILLE
    It was doing it again. The low growl of an achingly empty stomach echoed through the dark night, the sound almost as desperate as she felt. The hunger was incredible now, gnawing at her insides making her body physically shake in reaction. She couldn't stop it, couldn't ignore it, couldn't control it no matter how hard she tried, there seemed to be no way to ignore her body's pleas.

    Frustration and anger began to mix with the growling hunger. They were supposed to fix her! All the drugs, all the therapy, all the tests she had gone through were supposed to alleviate the cravings. Yet the hunger grew consuming her with its intensity, frightening her with its strength. She knew she wasn't normal, knew she had a serious problem and for the past few years, she'd allowed them every liberty to figure out what had caused her craving - but nothing had changed.

    Bright lights in the darkness suddenly blinded her vision. The Talon. When had she gotten there? Why had she come there? It didn't matter. There would be something there, something she could find to sate the hunger. She needed food. She couldn't wait-
    A sound suddenly alerted her to a body coming out the front doors of the brightly lit coffee shop. Her senses went on alert, her stomach growling louder with each step as she neared. A flash of blonde, pixie-like hair, a brightly colored top - memories struck like a whirlwind as her hunger roared. The laughter. The whispers. The headlines in the Smallville Ledger that touted her a "Freak," a "Monster," a "Killer."

    She took a step forward, her gaze unfocused, the recollections controlling her moves, her anger rising with each step. It was her fault that she had been taken away, exposed, soon after locked in that place. Step. She had been the one who'd written those awful stories about her. Step. She was the one who took Pete away. Step.
    The little voice in her mind was saying No, don't do it. But a louder, harsher voice drowned it out. It's her fault you're like this. No one will miss her. She's the reason you were locked up. Your stomach will stop and you can think. Maybe find Pete.The hunger howled to the surface.

    The blonde girl didn't even have time to scream before she pounced.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    INSIDE THE TALON

    Chloe thanked Mrs. Kent one last time before saying goodnight. "I can't believe I almost forgot my purse," she called back with a laugh.

    Mrs. Kent smiled. "It happens to the best of us some time or another, Chloe."

    Chloe shrugged and threw her bag over her shoulder. "I guess. Good night, Mrs. Kent."

    Mrs. Kent waved to her retreating form. "Good night, Chloe. Be safe."

    Chloe returned her wave before pushing through the Talon's double doors. She looked down, rummaging through her bag for her keys. Feeling the cool metal brush her fingers, she smiled as she reached her car. It was one of the few still sitting in front of the Talon, its vibrant color making it stick out in the darkness. Walking over to the driver's side door, her head lowered to pull out her keys.

    Remembering the car safety tips that were drilled into her after her kidnapping, Chloe checked the backseat of her car. Assuring herself no one was present; she moved to verify no one was crouching behind her vehicle waiting to surprise her as she got into the car. The sight before her flooded her with numbness as shock froze her in place. For a long moment she stared at the grotesque figure lying near the back wheel of the car. The body, gaunt and thin, possessed a face almost hollow in appearance, cheekbones nearly cutting through the skin making it look like sticks attached to a deflated rubber dummy.

    Her stomach turned and she whirled around, vomiting up the light snack she'd eaten earlier in the warmth of the Talon. When she'd finally stopped heaving, the numbness receded and rational thought once more asserted it's self. Reaching slowly for her cell phone, she stumbled back towards the Talon, her fingers shaking as she managed to press 9-1-1.

    Nearly falling through the doors, she immediately saw Mrs. Kent's concerned expression as the older woman rushed towards her. She must really look bad. The thoughts swirled through her head as she heard the operator pick up.

    "9-1-1, what's your emergency?"

    Feeling the warmth of Mrs. Kent's arm on her shoulder as the woman reached her, she took a deep breath.

    "I need to report a murder."

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    Jason frowned as he listened to the police questioning Lana and Mrs. Kent. He and Lana had been upstairs in her apartment when they'd heard the commotion below. Heading out to see what had happened, he was shocked to find Mrs. Kent and a very pale Chloe sitting at the Talon counter.

    Running down, they were informed of Chloe's gruesome discovery. Since then, he'd been trying desperately to make sense of the happenings. His confusion mounted as he noted the ease with which Lana and Chloe, despite her pallor, managed to answer the Sheriff's inquiries. It was almost as if they were used to this sort of thing.

    When things had finally calmed enough for Chloe to be driven home by Mrs. Kent, he'd forced Lana to sit down for a moment, hoping her tense figure would relax.

    "Lana, are you okay?" He leaned over intending to rub some of the tension from her shoulder but stopped when she pulled back. Struggling to mask his pain at her withdrawal, he tried again.

    "Chloe seemed to handle things well. Most people who find a dead body usually end up passed out on the floor or in hysterics."

    Lana looked over at the man now staring intensely into her eyes. She owed him an explanation she knew for both how she and Chloe had handled the situation, and her withdrawal from his touch. Unfortunately she had no answer for the last one. Sighing, she tried for at least some of the truth.

    "As strange as it may sound, weird things happen a lot in Smallville, Jason. You just sort of get used to it."

    Jason thought about some of the stories she'd told him of the meteor rocks and their strange effects on people. Not once had she mentioned those kind of things happened often.

    His tone was slightly bitter when he replied. "Weird things happen a lot? You neglected to mention that little detail when you told me those meteor stories."

    Lana heard the bitterness in his tone and somewhere deep inside she understood his frustration. Unless you'd lived in Smallville, experienced it, you couldn't understand. Still, it didn't stop her own bitterness from coming forth as she shot back, "Well, you never told me your family were lawyers, in fact you haven't said anything about them other than they don't approve of me."

    She had a point Jason knew, but the anger he was feeling at once again feeling as though she was shutting him out, wouldn't let him be rational. "Why don't I leave then, and come back when you're in the mood to have a real conversation."

    He regretted the words as soon as he'd said them, but couldn't take them back as he felt her stiffen next to him.

    "You know the way out."

    Lana felt tears building behind her eyes, as she listened to Jason leave. The stress of the night, Chloe's horrified eyes as she tried to remain calm, even Jason's attempts to comfort her finally taking their toll. Rising, turning slowly around, she faced the completely empty Talon. The first tear escaped as she walked to the doors and locked them, flipping out the lights before trudging wearily up the stairs.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    THE TORCH OFFICE

    Chloe stared at the screen and took a deep breath. Finally getting a hold of her nerves, she started typing again. She'd had her share of difficult writing assignments over the years, not to mention first person accounts, but this… this was different. She'd never been the one to discover the body, to see it in its horrifying, shocking morbidity. Her classmates had died before, some because of their own recklessness, others because of some meteor-enhanced mutation, which seemed to run rampant through out Smallville. But no one deserved to just be left on the street like that, brutally malformed, carelessly discarded like a candy wrapper.

    "Hey, Chloe." Clark winced as Chloe almost jumped out of her seat. He watched her take a deep breath, before turning and offering him a strained smile. Clark recognized that smile. It was her "I don't want to let anyone know that I'm scared" smile.

    "Hey, Clark," Chloe hated that she was so unnerved that Clark's presence could startle her. "How's your mom doing? It was a rough night for everyone last night."

    "Yeah," Clark shifted from one foot to another, peering at her closely, trying to figure out what to say. His mother had told him how well Chloe had handled the situation, despite her state of shock. He wondered if she were really as okay as she was trying to sound.

    "I was there, you know," Chloe began, trying to keep her voice even, not sure why she was telling him, but feeling her voice speak before she could think. "I was leaving at the same time as the victim- as Ashley-," she struggled to say the name, to think of her as a person, not a body. "I forgot my purse. Lucky me, huh?" She knew full well that if she'd left at the same time as Ashley did, it could have been her lying beside her car. That thought scared her more than anything she had ever experienced before.

    "My mom told me you were there around the same time. It must have been horrifying." He watched as she nodded. Moving closer, he rested a hand gently on her arm. "I'm glad it wasn't you, Chloe," Clark said sincerely. He knew what it felt like to lose her. It wasn't a feeling he was eager to experience again.

    "The coroner's preliminary report said it looked like she was…eaten." Chloe's voice was calm and held no emotion, although her hand shook slightly.

    Clark was confused, something tickling at the back of his brain, but not coming clear yet. "What would try to eat a full-grown person?"

    Chloe looked shocked, something registering in her brain as she rose and headed for one of her filing cabinets. Flipping through folders, she pulled out a heavy manila one, stuffed with paper clippings. Her heart contracted as she held it out to Clark. "I think the question is whom?" She waited until he took the file, his eyes widening as he recognized the name on the front.

    "Jodi Wilson?" Clark couldn't believe it, but as he thought about the evidence, it made a strange sort of sense, recognizable only in a place like Smallville.

    "She sucked the fat out of things, or people. She nearly killed Pete." Chloe's voice slightly wavered but quickly strengthened. "What are the chances that someone else has the exact same mutation she does?"

    Clark shook his head, handing her the file as she sat back down. She looked up at him suddenly. "Clark, what happened to her after you saved Pete?"

    Clark frowned. "The last I heard, she was taken to Metropolis General." He looked over as Chloe started typing. "Chloe, don't jump to conclusions, it could have been anything--"

    "It's her. I don't know why I'm so sure, but it is." She looked up, noting his frown, realizing he was concerned for her. It was sweet in a way, but unnecessary. "If it makes you feel better, I'll wait until the autopsy is complete-but for the moment," she turned back to the computer, "Jodi is my prime suspect."

    Clark watched as she began her familiar Internet searching. He wanted to tell her to stop, but he knew her well enough to know that she wouldn't-not until she'd figured out what had happened. He'd just have to make certain he was there to ensure she didn't get herself into trouble.

    "Let me know what you find out, okay?"

    She nodded, barely hearing as he sighed and walked out the door. She was perusing the sites her search had turned up, but nothing helpful appeared. Sighing, she reached for the phone, planning to make a few calls before turning back to the story she needed to finish before she left.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    "This shouldn't take long Mrs. Kent." Lex said. "I know you want to get the Talon reopened as soon as possible."

    "Well, I'm sure you standing there, scrutinizing their every move, is helping things," Martha replied in a teasing tone. Lex gave her a tight smile and went back to inspecting the men.

    As soon as he had heard about the attack outside the Talon, he had contacted the best security company in Metropolis and made arrangements for the surveillance equipment to be installed as well as twenty-four hour guards to man the property. Mrs. Kent had talked him out of the guards, convincingly pointing out that the people of Smallville were very good at not seeing, hearing or remembering anything they didn't want to. Having a guard on property would force them to recall what happened which would in turn make them not wish to come to the Talon. Lex reluctantly agreed with the logic. He wondered, as he continued to supervise the installers, why he hadn't done this sooner.

    "Mom. What are those guys here doing?"

    Lex turned at the sound of Clark's voice in time to see him emerge from the back. His ambiguous friend paused briefly when he caught site of him. Lex felt a sliver of the tension he was carrying drain from his body when Clark closed the gap and gave him a half smile. "Hey Lex."

    "Hello, Clark."

    "Lex is having surveillance cameras installed." Mrs. Kent explained to her son.

    "Hopefully what happened last night won't happen again, but if it should then at least we will have a lead on catching the criminal," Lex explained. He noticed Martha trying not to be obvious as she moved away from them.

    "How come you never did this before?" There was no accusation in Clark's voice, Lex was grateful to note, only genuine curiosity.

    "I was wondering the same thing. To be honest, I'm not sure. You would think I would have given the number of times I or someone I know has been attacked." Lex finished with an ironic smile. Silence reined as the two watched the security crew finish. Enjoying the ease of the moment, and not wanting to push his luck, Lex made a show of checking his watch. "I have to go. I'll see both of you later."

    "Bye Lex," Martha called, echoed by her son.

    Lex nodded to both of them before leaving.

    Clark turned to his mother after Lex disappeared behind the swinging door. She was smiling that smile that always made Clark blush a little.

    "I'm proud of you, Clark," she said.

    Clark just shrugged. "It's no big deal."

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    LANA'S APARTMENT

    Lana offered Jason a halfhearted smile as she opened the door and let him into her apartment. It had been a long day, with school and work, not helped by her lingering confusion over her argument with Jason. When he'd shown up, bearing flowers and a tentative smile, she'd known they had to talk.

    She'd spent last night seriously thinking things through, trying to make sense of what her life had become since her decision to leave for Paris. Memories of her harsh words to Chloe, her confusion over Clark's not coming to say goodbye, her first meeting with Jason, their whirlwind romance amid the lights of Paris, his surprise appearance in Smallville, his reluctance to open up to her about his family, her actions towards him, and her encounters with Clark, swirled though her mind like a cyclone.

    A sleepless night had left her with only one clear thought in her muddled brain. Jason, like Clark, like most of the men in her life, had secrets. Secrets he was unwilling to share. She tried to respect that, but dealing for so long with Clark's inability to be truthful had given her an intense dislike of skeletons in closets. The idea that she'd fallen for another man, wonderful though he was, who kept secrets from her, galled and saddened her.

    "Would you at least listen as I'm trying to apologize?" Jason tried to keep the irritation from his voice, recognizing Lana's vague expression as a sign she was thinking of something other than the topic at hand.

    Starting at his voice, she turned back with a sheepish smile. "I'm sorry. It's been a long night." Reaching for the flowers he still held, she walked over and placed them in a vase on her small writing desk. Turning back, she motioned for him to take a seat. Walking over to sit next to him, she took a moment to look into his beautiful eyes.

    Memories of their wonderful, often romantic times together again twirled through her mind. They were moments far away from the reality of everything she'd ever known. The memories were bittersweet as she realized that's all they were, all they could ever be. Memories.

    "Jason, this isn't working." More abrupt than she intended but she couldn't take it back and seeing the expression in his eyes, didn't want to.

    Jason felt his heart break a little more at both her words and the expression in her eyes. Somewhere inside, he'd expected this, but hoped against hope things could work out. After all, he'd left everything behind for her, on the chance that what they had in Paris could sustain itself outside the quixotic setting.

    Lana could see the hurt and anger growing and tried desperately to express her feelings without seeming cruel.

    "It's not that I don't feel something for you, I do. I just don't think it's what you feel for me. Jason, you are a great guy, but…"

    "But it was fun while it lasted? A summer "fling?" he filled in for her, his tone a mix of bitterness and regret. He knew he shouldn't be feeling so betrayed, after all, it was he who had followed her, but still, it hurt a lot more than he'd expected.

    "Jason, it's not like that. Please understand, things are different now that we're not in Paris." Lana's voice broke as she tried to force back her tears. Taking a deep breath, she struggled to focus. She'd known this wasn't going to be easy, but she'd hoped that he would have realized what she'd only just discovered. In Paris they worked because she was someone else. But in Smallville, there was too much history and too many things she still needed to figure out to be that person.

    "What changed? I thought you felt," he paused, struggling to keep his voice low, "I thought you loved me?"

    Lana swallowed around the lump in her throat. "Jason, I appreciate what you did for me, making me feel safe, feel loved in a strange place at a hard period in my life. I know how much you loved Paris. And I know, leaving you there without a real explanation was horrible of me. But… I can't say that I regret it."

    Jason took the blow steadily clenching his fists and opening his mouth to reply, but was cut off by Lana's raised hand.

    "Let me finish, please." She tried to keep her voice from shaking. "I've spent so much of my life pretending to be someone I'm not. And I blamed it on Smallville. Stupid, I know. I felt like I was playing a role here." She stopped, realizing that she'd just managed to articulate what had been so confusing her for the past few months. "When I got to Paris, I thought 'finally, I can be myself.' But I was playing a part there, too. The girl that you fell for, she's just a part of me. I'm not sure how big or how small, but she's not who I really am. And I need to find that out before I can even think about being in a relationship with anyone." She stopped, watching his expression, trying not to cry at the hurt evident in his beautiful orbs.

    "Does that include Clark Kent?" Jason knew it was wrong, but he couldn't help himself. He'd always known that there was more between Clark and Lana than she'd told him, seen the tension between them when he'd arrived.

    Lana looked down and when her eyes returned to his, he could see determination and resignation in them. "Yes, it does."

    Jason nodded realizing no matter what he said, no matter what he did, he'd lost her. She was telling the truth, it was in her eyes, and in her voice. There could be no hope for them in a romantic relationship.

    "I'm sorry it had to end this way. I'll see you around, Lana." He had to get out of there before he lost it, unable to see or hear anything else from her without breaking down. Rising quickly, he strode towards the door.

    Lana watched him go, wanting to call him back, knowing she couldn't, knowing she'd made the right decision. Still, her breath caught as he stopped, the door half open, and turned back to her, his heart in his eyes.

    Jason fought back his tears, clearing his throat as he took in her quiet beauty and realized what he'd lost, if he'd ever had it in the first place. "I hope you figure out who you are. I only wish you could have found her with me."

    Lana nodded, a tear finally escaping her control as he shut the door quietly behind him. "I wish I could have too," she whispered softly, before letting her own tears flow.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    Clark sighed as he tried reading the chapter on Greek history their teacher had assigned. It just wasn't holding his attention. Of course, if he weren't sitting at a table in the Talon, constantly looking up in hopes of seeing Lana, he might comprehend it better.

    Sighing, he turned back to the book, distracted again as footsteps on the stairs registered. He looked up, surprised to see Jason moving quickly through the tables, heading for the door, a tense expression on his face and his shoulders slumped with dejection.

    Wondering what had happened, he closed the book, looking up towards Lana's apartment. Debating for only a moment, he rose and headed for the stairs.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    Trying his best not to look pathetic, Jason pushed through the Talon doors and headed for his rental car, parked a few spaces away from the front of the building. Fishing into his pockets for his car keys he almost collided with someone.

    "Whoa, Jason?"

    Jason blinked looking up to find Chloe standing in front of him with a quizzical look on her face. "Chloe." He knew his voice was harder than normal but he really didn't want to talk to anyone right now. The emotions were too raw.

    "Jason, are you okay?" Chloe noted he looked pale and his voice was not its usual deep timbre. Something was bothering him and she found herself wanting to help.

    "Yeah," Jason replied, not sure what to say, wanting to get away. Still, he couldn't help but note that Chloe also looked a little pale, and he suddenly remembered that she hadn't been having a great few days either.

    "I think I should be asking you that. How are you holding up?"

    Chloe felt something stir at the concern in his voice. It was obvious he was upset; hurting if she wasn't mistaken, but he'd still asked about her "I'm okay, thanks for asking."

    Jason could see the pain in her eyes and despite the fact it was from something totally different, he felt she, out of anyone he'd met so far, would understand his current hurt. Not wanting to think about that or anything else, still smarting over his own depressing afternoon, he offered a sad smile.

    "I'll see you later, Chloe."

    Chloe watched him go, the misery she guessed he was trying to hide evident in his posture. Wondering what had happened, suspecting it had everything to do with Lana, she sighed as she turned and entered the Talon.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    Clark took a deep breath before knocking on Lana's door. His enhanced hearing picked up the sounds of sniffles a few seconds before it opened. Clark had long ago become familiar with all of Lana's smiles, so he had no trouble in recognizing an obvious counterfeit one when she offered it up to him. The red-rimmed eyes coupled with the sniffling he'd heard a moment ago, clearly indicated she had been crying.

    "Clark, hi," Lana said far too brightly. She could see from the look in his eyes, her attempts at hiding her tears were unsuccessful. "What are you doing here?"

    "I was…I just saw Jason leave and he seemed depressed. Is everything okay?"

    Lana nodded. She really didn't want to have this conversation with him right now. She had so much to think about and Clark's presence would just be a distraction. "Everything's fine, Clark."

    "Lana…" Clark didn't really know what to say. He opted for the truth. "I know you've been crying. What's going on?"

    Lana sighed, realizing she wasn't going to get rid of Clark easily. She opened the door wide enough for Clark to enter, closing it lightly behind him. She kept her back to him while she collected her thoughts. She wasn't sure she if she wanted Clark here or not. He had been part of the reason for her homecoming, and awkward though some of them were, she looked forward to their meetings. Right now though, just minutes after her break up with Jason, she really wanted to be alone. Or at the very least, she wanted to be in the presence of another female who would understand what she was feeling. As she turned towards the young man who held a significant and conflicted part of her heart, she gave a silent prayer to who ever was listening that Jason wouldn't come back looking for a missing item, or even just to talk anytime soon. Seeing her with Clark after her truthful words about him would not go over well.

    "Lana?" Clark was growing more worried with the increasing silence.

    "Jason and I broke up," She could see the apology in Clark's eyes and raised her hand to cut off any placating words he might offer. "Please don't apologize, Clark. It had nothing to do with you. It was just… Jason and I weren't right for each other. Not here, not now."

    "I know you cared about him," Clark said. He felt guilty for feeling the excitement that coursed through him with her words. "Breaking up couldn't have been easy."

    "It wasn't," Lana admitted. "But it needed to be done. I have a lot of things I need to figure out before I even think about having a boyfriend, especially someone I don't even know that well. When I'm with someone, I want it to be because I want to be there. It's not fair to either of us if I'm staying with someone out of some misplaced sense of loyalty."

    "I don't think that makes you heartless, Lana," Clark said. "I think it makes you someone who's finally realizing what she wants."

    "Maybe," Lana mumbled. There was silence, but for once it wasn't uncomfortable. Lana felt like she was with a friend, and things hadn't been like that with Clark for a long time. It was a really nice feeling.

    "What?" Clark asked. Lana was standing there with a bit of a strange look on her face.

    "Hmm?" Lana said, looking him in the eye. His eyebrow was raised and she suddenly felt shy. "Oh, I was just thinking of how nice this is." Clark's eyebrow somehow moved higher. "You and me. Being able to talk without…"

    "Other stuff getting in the way?" Clark asked. He shifted a little. "I know. It's nice to feel like we're actually friends, and not two people trying to be friends."

    "Exactly," Lana said with a nod. She smiled at Clark, her first real smile since she had opened the door. They were friends and things were going to get better between them. She could feel it. And maybe, just maybe, when she figured out who she was, they could be more.

    "Knock, knock."

    Clark almost jumped out of his skin when Chloe poked her head in. So caught up in the moment of actual friendship with Lana, he had failed to register the sound of her footsteps.


    "Chloe," Lana said, her smile faltering just a bit. Things still weren't okay between the two of them, but Lana hoped she could fix that.

    "Am I interrupting anything?" Chloe asked as she entered the room. Clark and Lana alone in her apartment. Mrs. Kent sending glances up towards the apartment when Chloe had encountered her downstairs. Jason looking so upset. Chloe was beginning to put the pieces together.

    "Of course not," Lana said, moving further into the room to accommodate Chloe's presence. "Clark was just checking up on me."

    "Because of the attack?" Chloe asked. "Or because of Jason?"

    Lana cocked her head to the side. "Jason?"

    Chloe nodded. "I ran into him on my way in."

    "Oh," Lana said. She turned to Clark, who was staring intently at Chloe.

    Feeling the weight of her stare, Clark turned to her. Sensing the tension between the two, coupled with the unspoken request in Lana's eyes had Clark saying, "I should go see if my mom needs anything." He smiled what he hoped was a reassuring smile. "I'll see both of you later."

    "Bye, Clark," they said together. After the door was closed, Lana turned to Chloe. "Have a seat."

    Chloe followed her to the couch and sat down. She put her bag on the floor beside her feet and waited. Lana was staring at her hands, trying to figure out what to say Chloe assumed.

    "You talked to Jason?" Lana asked finally. Her eyes were still on her hands.

    "Yeah, not long though. He seemed to be in kind of a rush. I didn't really get to ask him why," Chloe said, hoping that despite their differences, Lana would open up to her.

    Lana, for her part, was relieved that Jason hadn't said anything. She wanted to be the one to tell Chloe, needed to tell her in fact. "We broke up."

    Chloe's brow furrowed, although the words confirmed what she'd suspected. "You don't sound too upset about it."

    Lana looked up and Chloe immediately felt bad seeing the unshed tears in the other girl's eyes. "I am, Chloe. I just… it was for the best."

    "It didn't look like Jason agreed," Chloe said without thinking. She didn't really regret the words, but she wished she'd found a more tactful way to express it.

    "He fought it," Lana said, trying not to be offended at Chloe's words. She wiped away a tear, quickly continuing. "But we weren't right for each other. At least not here. Maybe if I had stayed in Paris, we would have lasted longer--"

    "I thought you cared about him?" Chloe tried to keep her voice gentle in the hopes Lana wouldn't become defensive. Chloe really wanted to understand her reasoning and she could only do that if the other girl talked to her. Jason was a great guy, not a meteor freak, and to top it all off, he was genuinely interested in Lana--not the town princess forever captured on the cover of Time.

    "I did, I do," Lana said, wiping away another tear. "I just don't think I'm ready for a relationship right now."

    Chloe was a bit surprised, considering that for as long as she'd known Lana, the girl had always been in a relationship. It was very telling not to mention interesting. However, she wondered if Lana's words would hold true involving another man they both knew.

    "Not even with Clark?" Chloe asked carefully.

    Lana remained silent for a moment, before offering a slightly bitter laugh. "Jason asked the same thing. Stopping, she took the Kleenex Chloe offered, wiping her eyes and nose before continuing. "I'll tell you what I told him and that's that I think it's really important that I find out who I am before trying to define and exist in a relationship. Even with Clark."
    Chloe nodded, respecting the words and Lana's obviously more mature outlook on things. "Looks like Paris did you some good, after all."

    Lana smiled, for the first time feeling that despite how confused she was about parts of her life, things were getting back on track between them. "Thanks, Chloe."

    "You're welcome," Chloe replied with a smile, realizing that this had been the most enlightening conversation they'd had in a long time, if ever.

    Lana wiped at her eyes again and sighed realizing how she must look. "I must be a mess."
    Chloe snorted. "Please. Like you could ever look bad."

    Lana laughed, although the sound was tinged with sadness. "You'd be surprised. I'll be right back."

    Chloe watched her walk into the bathroom, still not quite sure they'd managed a civil, actually friendly and comfortable conversation. It felt good. Despite the lingering un-addressed issues, Alicia and Lana's confessed lack of trust in her last year chief among them, she felt as if she and Lana actually stood a chance at finding and building a true friendship. She wasn't surprised to find she welcomed the thought, seeing as her girl friends were few and far between.

    Before she could dwell on it too much, her cell phone rang. Searching through her bag, she cursed when the ringing stopped before she could find the phone. Finally locating it, she saw the caller had left a message. Dialing her voicemail, her mind completely switched tracks as she heard the voice on the other end.

    Lana noted how intently Chloe was listening to her phone as she walked back into the room, sitting quietly on the sofa. She watched as Chloe bit the inside of her cheek, punching a button and putting the phone back in her bag.

    "Is everything okay?" Having lived with Chloe, even for such a short time, she could recognize the signs of trouble when they called.

    "Um, no," Chloe said. She was torn. Chad's message was urgent and she needed to call him back, but she really wanted to stay and see where their conversation could lead. The reporter in her won out however and she stood, offering a small smile. "I have to go."

    Lana was on her feet in a second. "What's wrong?"

    Chloe debated whether or not to tell the other girl about her investigation, wondering if she could deal with it on top of the emotional turmoil of her breakup. The old Lana probably wouldn't have handled it well -- but the new one, well, that remained to be seen.

    "I think I've got a lead on what happened to Ashley."

    Lana looked concerned. "Chloe, are you sure you should be investigating-"

    "I have to know what happened." Chloe heard the intensity in her voice, saw the question in Lana's eyes but was unwilling to answer. "I'm sorry Lana, I have to go."

    Turning she headed for the door.

    "Chloe, you can trust me."

    She stopped in her tracks, the words conjuring up a less pleasant conversation. Turning, she tried to keep her voice even. "But you don't trust me." She saw the acknowledgement of their past conversation flare in Lana's eyes and before she could answer, turned and walked out the door.


    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    "You were right. It seems like Ashley's body fat was sucked completely out of her body."
    Chloe closed her eyes, leaning slightly against Clark. Her fears had just been confirmed, not that she'd expected differently.

    "So, its possible Jodi was behind this." She looked carefully at her friend, knowing he was fully aware of the past events involving the girl.

    "That's a fair assumption, although I don't know if the police are pursing it as their first lead."

    Clark grimaced. "The Smallville police department can find the 'normal' in a case no matter how abnormal it seems to be."

    "Has anyone even thought of tracking down Jodi?" Chloe couldn't help the slight grin as Chad gave her an 'are-you-kidding' look before handing her a sheet of paper.

    "All I could find out was that Jodi was transferred to Belle Reve a few years ago. The records are sealed and my source is having a problem getting in."

    Chloe sighed, taking the sheet and thanking Chad before saying goodbye. When the other man had left, Chloe looked at Clark with a resigned expression.

    "It's Jodi."

    Clark wanted to disagree, but couldn't dispute the evidence. "But why? Why here, why now?"

    Chloe bit her lip. "I don't know. We're missing something." She bit her lip, suddenly an idea occurring to her.

    "What?" Clark knew that look too well.

    "Pete. I'm going to call him and see if he can remember anything that might help us figure out what Jodi is up to."

    "Chloe, it's been almost four years, do you really think Pete would know--"

    "I don't know, Clark. But it's our best shot. She was infatuated with him. He was the closest to her, there is a chance he might know something." She looked over, there was a slight change in her expression that made Clark wary.

    "What are you thinking, Chloe?"

    She looked him directly in the eye. "I need you to get information on what happened to Jodi at Belle Reve. Find out if she escaped, that will be our proof."

    Clark began to protest. "How am I supposed to do that? You know how tight those files are sealed, and how tight security is--"

    "Not for someone with the contacts and connections to get that information." She waited as understanding dawned in his eyes."

    "No." Clark didn't feel right asking Lex for a favor. There friendship was just getting back on track, and it felt too soon to ask something so huge.

    "Clark," Chloe's voice was hard but even. "Lex can get the information faster than both of us. You need to go ask him - before," she shuddered. "Before Jodi, if it is her, can do this again."

    Clark knew she was right, but it didn't make the task any easier. If it stopped another murder though, he'd do it.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    "Clark, as flattered as I am by your high opinion of my ability, even I can't just go asking for confidential files on patients. Without proper paperwork, which takes time to obtain, there is no way to acquire the information you are asking for as quickly as you need it." Not legally.The words were left unspoken.

    Clark winced, knowing Lex had a point, but time was of the essence. A killer was out there and he needed to stop another murder before it happened. [I]Let he who is without sin cast the first stone,[/I}unexpectedly sprung to mind. If he were honest he himself had used dubious means of getting what he needed to help someone. Could he really fault Lex for not using proper channels if it meant saving a life?

    No. He immediately had the answer to that question. "Lex, we need this information and fast. All the evidence points to Jodi. All we really need is to know if she escaped, if the person doing this could possibly be her."

    Lex sighed, rubbing a hand over his head, hearing the desperation in Clark's voice and sympathizing with it. He already had several of his private investigators looking into the situation, determined to prevent another murder. It shouldn't surprise him that Chloe and Clark were investigating as well. But this new information provided them with a better avenue of exploration. Which meant his team was capable of getting the information now that he knew where to look.

    "I'll do what I can."

    Clark looked relieved and he nodded.

    "I'm going back to Chloe's to see what other information she's discovered. Plus, I want to keep an eye on her, just in case."

    "Clark," Lex's voice was mild, but Clark heard the concern in the words. "Be careful. We've seen how dangerous Jodi can be, and I don't want anything happening, to any of you."

    Clark looked at him for a moment, remaining silent. He knew the words the older man uttered were spoken truthfully. While it didn't completely eliminate any lingering doubts about the man, it did a lot to alleviate them.

    "Thanks, Lex. I'll keep you updated."

    Lex remained silent until Clark disappeared, then reached for the phone.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    SULLIVAN KITCHEN

    "WHAT?"

    Chloe flinched, yanking the phone away from her ear, thankful her father wasn't home to see her.

    "Jodi Wilson, who tried to suck the fat out of a handful of our classmates? Jodi Wilson who actually would have eaten me if it weren't for … a miracle? That Jodi?"

    Wondering why he hesitated before saying 'miracle', but pushing it to the back of her mind, Chloe tried to infuse a little humor into the situation. "So, you remember her then?" Pete's lack of response was enough to let her know she'd failed miserably.

    Pete scoffed. "Yes, I remember her. You never forget a concussion." Chloe heard him take and release a deep breath. "And you think … why would you think Jodi is back?"

    She hesitated, not wanting to remember what happened. Taking a steadying breath she told him about discovering Ashley's body, the condition it was in, and the information they'd gotten about Jodi's current whereabouts - or lack thereof.

    Pete was silent for a moment, and Chloe waited, knowing he was mulling over the information. "Okay, assuming you're right, and Jodi is back - you have to assume she came back for a reason."

    Chloe sighed, glad that Pete was at least willing to consider her suspect. "That's the twenty thousand dollar question, Pete. What reason would she come back to Smallville for?"

    "Pete."

    Clark's voice startled her and she nearly dropped the phone, whirling around to see him standing in her kitchen.

    "Is that Clark?"

    Pete's voice came loud and clear through the phone and Chloe held the receiver out a bit so Clark could hear. "Yep, that's Clark. And if we're quiet, maybe he'll tell us why he thinks Jodi has come back for you."

    Clark grimaced, leaning closer to the phone. "Hey, Pete. Sorry to bring you into this, but it's good you're on the line."

    "Clark, what's going on?"

    "Jodi escaped from Belle Reve two days ago. She attacked a guard and stole his keycard. Apparently she knew her way around and how to avoid cameras."

    Chloe felt a frisson of fear run through her as Pete spoke.

    "Clark, do I even want to know how you found this out?"

    Clark winced. "No, you don't. The point is - the information I got said when questioned, Jodi had been talking about you, Pete, constantly. Apparently, she's still in love with you and had been making plans to get you back when she was 'cured.'"

    Clark paused, looking at Chloe, knowing the next part would be tricky.

    "What happened Clark?" Chloe knew it wasn't good from his expression.

    "Apparently Jodi wasn't looked on that fondly at Belle Reve. The other patients teased her and shunned her - because of newspaper articles about her condition and what happened in Smallville."

    Chloe went pale. "Oh God. She thinks I'm responsible for making everyone hate her."

    Clark bit his lip. "It's a good bet, but it's not for sure. She could just be looking for Pete, perhaps we're making a lot out of nothing."

    "Ashley was a blonde, right?" Pete's voice interrupted them. Chloe looked confused before answering in the affirmative.

    "About your height, Chloe? And if I remember correctly you to had a similar sense of style."

    Chloe felt her stomach sink, beginning to get where this was going. "You think she thought Ashley was me. She blames me for the articles … perhaps even for turning you against her."

    Clark looked concerned as he heard the pain in her voice, noting Chloe was trembling, but refused the hand he held out, pulling the phone a little closer.

    "I didn't say that Chloe."

    "But you're thinking it. So is Clark. So am I."

    Both Pete and Clark were silent and Chloe sank into a chair, taking care to keep the phone out so that they both could hear Pete.

    "Listen, I don't know if any of this is possible, but knowing Smallville, and the number of strange things, I'd say it's possible. Clark, you've gotta make sure Chloe stays safe."

    "I'm perfectly capable-"

    "I got it covered, Pete. We'll keep you posted."

    "Okay, call me if you need anything. And be careful."

    With that, Pete hung up, leaving Chloe and Clark staring at each other.

    "You need to come to the farm. Stay with me. If Jodi comes after you, at least you'll be safe."

    Chloe sighed biting her lip. "Clark, don't take this the wrong way, but your farm isn't exactly the best place to hide from a psychopathic meteor mutant with a fatal attraction for Pete and a possible death wish for me."

    Clark frowned, realizing she was right, but feeling slightly hurt. "Chloe, I don't want you staying alone. With your dad out of town on business-"

    "I'll stay with Lex." Chloe wasn't sure why the words came so quickly and easily. But the memory of the summer lingered and she realized that there was no other place she'd feel safer.

    "Chloe, the mansion's huge. Not to mention Lex isn't there a lot with running LuthorCorp." Clark didn't like the idea of Chloe staying with Lex, but he could see she was determined. Part of him felt hurt that she immediately chose Lex as her protector over him, but he tried to squelch that sensation, knowing that despite his unrest over it, the two shared a summer and experiences he couldn't even begin to imagine.

    Chloe placed a hand on Clark's. "Listen to me, Clark. I know you're worried about me. I know that things with you and Lex aren't as good as they used to be. But I also know that Lex can and will protect me."

    Clark looked into her eyes and he could tell she really believed it. Still, he wasn't happy.
    Seeing his expression, Chloe tried to lighten the mood. "Besides, since I badgered him a little over the summer, he's beefed up security at the mansion."

    Clark sighed, knowing he couldn't win. "Fine Chloe, but if you don't feel completely safe over there, if anything feels wrong, come to the farm. OK?"

    "Okay." She smiled. "Now I'm gonna call Lex." She paused, a frown marring her features. "Of course, if he's not there, or has problems, I'll be coming to the farm anyhow."

    She was pretty sure Lex wouldn't mind a houseguest, but then again, things were in a strange state between them. She liked to think they were friends, perhaps better friends than most, but still.

    "If Lex says no. I don't think he will Chloe." Clark knew he spoke the truth. He might not want to acknowledge it, but he knew Lex trusted Chloe. It had been evident in their conversation after the whole Parker/Modell deal. Still, he didn't have to like it.

    "Try not to sound so depressed, Clark. I still need you."

    She grinned and Clark sighed. "Okay, you call Lex, I'm going to run home and tell my parents I'm driving you to Lex's and getting you settled in."

    Nodding, Chloe watched him go. When he'd disappeared, she took a deep breath and pulled out her cell.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    Jodi watched him leave. It was about time. She had been crouching in this position for more than two hours, waiting for the perfect moment. Her stomach growled loudly and she saw Clark stop. He looked around, and she thought she might have been caught. There was no way… Before she could finish her thought, he was gone.

    Jodi crept across the street, looking both ways as she crossed and climbed the front steps to Chloe's porch. She tried the doorknob; it was open. Stupid farm boy didn't think to lock it before he left. She entered the house and closed the door as quietly as possible. The last thing she needed was Chloe to be afraid before it was time. She crept silently through the house, stopping as she heard noises from upstairs. Making her way quietly up the stairs, she stopped outside the bedroom, peering through the crack to see Chloe packing a suitcase.

    Her stomach growled. Loudly.

    Chloe froze in motion, the strange sound clearly audible in the quiet of her room. Feeling her breath catch she looked around desperately for something to defend herself with. Ironically, her pocketknife was downstairs in her jacket pocket.

    "Hello, Chloe."

    Her body froze at the familiar voice. Turning slowly, she found herself staring at Jodi's strangely pale face. She was thin as ever, her skeleton nearly standing out against her fair skin. Her eyes however, chilled her to the bone. They were wild, crazy, as if reason had long since completely gone.

    "Wha... what are you doing here?" She figured she needed to keep the girl talking, hoping against hope that Clark would be back as soon as he'd promised. She watched warily as the girl advanced.

    "Have you talked to Pete lately?" Jodi's tone was curt. She was now inches away from Chloe and Chloe thought she heard her stomach growl again.

    "Pete moved away a year ago." She once more looked around frantically for anything to defend herself with.

    Jodi glared at her. "I heard you talking to him earlier, when you came home. I also heard you talking to Clark about Pete."

    Chloe froze, wondering how in the hell Jodi had heard that conversation. "Well, Pete is one of my best friends and I call him now and then, Clark and I often talk about him."

    Jodi didn't hear the words lost in her own memories. "Pete was the first guy to see me for who I was, even when I was fat. I loved him, and he could have loved me." She turned a glare on Chloe, who was trying hard not to look frightened.

    "He could have, if you hadn't printed those horrible stories about me. Everyone looked at me like a freak, like I was different. Even Pete must have seen them. He would have visited me, come to see me, if he hadn't been swayed by your stories. You ruined my life!"

    Chloe was truly scared now, sensing Jodi was totally out of control. With no sign of Clark around, she knew the only way she was going to get out of this was a miracle.

    "Jodi, you don't want to do this. Pete would hate you if you hurt me."

    She knew it was the wrong thing to say as the girl grabbed her arm and pushed her back towards the bed. Struggling, she tripped over a shoe lying on the floor and fell backwards as Jodi advanced.

    "NO! Pete will love me; I can make him love me. But only if you disappear. If you're not there, he'll see me. You have to die, Chloe. It's the only way I can survive. And I'm so hungry."

    Chloe was utterly terrified, praying only that Clark would suddenly arrive. It wasn't Clark, however, but her cell phone that interrupted the silence.

    "Don't answer." Jodi's voice was harsh.

    "I have to. People know I'm here. They'll be after you if I don't answer, assure them I'm all right."

    Jodi looked conflicted as the phone continued ringing. "Answer it. But I'm listening"

    Chloe's hands shook as she reached for the phone. Flipping it open, she closed her eyes at Lex's voice. It had been surprisingly easy to get him to agree to a houseguest when she'd called earlier. Although she suspected he looked at it more as a chance to keep her from doing something stupid involving Jodi on her own.

    "Chloe, I forgot to tell you that the heat's been going haywire here, so you probably want to pack an extra sweater."

    Chloe would have laughed hysterically if she hadn't been so scared for her life.

    "O-okay, Lex. Wouldn't want me to freeze would we?" Wracking her brain, she tried to figure out how to convey her situation without arousing Jodi's suspicion.

    On the other end of the line, Lex tensed. Something was wrong. He knew Chloe's voice well enough now to tell when something was amiss. "Chloe, are you okay?"

    "I'm fine Lex, just really hungry. In fact, I'm craving something chocolate. It might be fattening, but hey, I've been through a trauma, a few extra pounds gained are better than a lot lost."

    Lex's blood ran cold. "She's there."

    Chloe breathed a sigh of relief, only to feel fear as Jodi advanced. "Yes. I'll see you soon, Lex."

    She jumped as the phone was ripped from her hand.

    "That wasn't smart Chloe. You think I'm that stupid I couldn't figure it out?" Jodi felt the hysteria mix with the hunger. She needed to feed and she needed to get to Pete. Chloe held the key to both - and once she got them, she could be rid of her. Rid of the woman who'd destroyed her life.

    She was so hungry, so hungry. Maybe if she took just a little.

    "Jodi, if you do this, I'll never tell you where Pete is." Chloe was desperate, feeing the desperation in her voice, seeing it in her eyes."

    Jodi paused, realizing Chloe was right. Still, she'd alerted someone and time was short.

    "You're right."

    Chloe screamed as she felt something smash against the side of her head before it all went black.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    "Where is it? It has to be here somewhere!"

    Chloe didn't want to open her eyes. She didn't know where she was, could barely think through the pounding headache. That made twice in the past two weeks she'd been hit on the head and awoken to intense pain. Something wasn't right here. She could hear Jodi getting frustrated, hear things thrown around. She knew her time was short, and if she could only open her eyes-she might be able to figure a way out of this situation.

    Chloe suddenly felt strong hands on her, and her first thought was that Clark had come for her. Then the logical part of her mind kicked in and she realized Clark's hands were bigger and he wouldn't be shaking her this hard. Chloe reluctantly opened her eyes.

    "Where is he?" Jodi asked loudly.

    "Wh- What?" Chloe asked in a light voice. Hoping that acting more disoriented than she felt would buy her some time, she closed her eyes and let her head drop to the side. Jodi shook her again.

    "Where's Pete?" Her stomach growled and Chloe tried not to flinch.

    "Pete's not here anymore," Chloe said in the same voice from before. Pain bloomed across her cheek as Jodi slapped her across the face. She instinctively tried to hit her back. That was when she realized she couldn't move her hands. She shifted them around recognizing the feel of ropes around her wrist. Slowly opening her eyes again, she took stock of her situation.

    Somehow, Jodi had gathered all the files and stories she'd run in the Torch or investigated. Not hard since she kept many of them in file boxes in the basement. The basement. Her basement. She suddenly knew where she was being held.

    "Where is it? Where is it?" Jodi was murmuring. "I know you have his address somewhere around here. Where is it?"

    "Jodi just let me go!" Chloe knew begging was pointless, but she needed something to fill the time. It was obvious the girl had gone over the edge and perhaps her only chance of survival now was hanging on until Clark or Lex could get there. She knew they had to be on their way.

    "Shut up!" Jodi yelled, her eyes glazed over with anger and hunger that scared Chloe more than anything she'd seen so far. "If you won't tell me, someone will. Clark will." Chloe's heart froze as she saw Jodi's eyes clear.

    "Clark will tell me. I can kill you. You'll be gone. The hunger will be gone. Clark will have to tell me."

    Chloe screamed in one last-ditch effort as she watched Jodi's mouth distort into a horrific "O" shape as she descended.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    Clark burst through the door of Chloe's house, his super hearing picking up her scream, sending a chill down his spine. Immediately using his X-ray vision, he peered through walls, finding nothing. Looking down, he remembered the basement.

    He could make out two skeletons, one tied up against the banister, the other's mouth was wide and it seemed to have a green core. Clark ran for the basement, throwing open the door with extra strength before almost flying down the stairs to tackle Jodi.

    Her scream was the last thing he heard as her head cracked on the basement floor and she went lip under him. Rising, making sure she was out, he turned to find a wide-eyed Chloe watching him with tears on her cheeks. He knelt down in front of her and gently wiped away her tears. "Chloe?"

    Chloe gasped, knowing things were finally going to be okay. "Clark?"

    He smiled, untying her ropes before pulling her towards him in a hard hug. When he pulled back to let her breathe, he smiled at her, relief evident in the gaze. "I told you I wouldn't let you down again."

    Chloe threw her arms around Clark and held on for dear life. "I knew I could count on you. I never doubted that for a moment."

    Clark smiled and pulled away from her, stealing a glance behind him hearing sounds from above.

    "Chloe!"

    Chloe looked up as Lex's concerned voice was quickly followed by his face appearing at the stairs. Seeing the situation, she could have sworn she saw something resembling relief in his eyes.

    "She's down there." Motioning to the men with him, he waited as Clark helped Chloe to her feet and gently led her up the stairs. He tried hard not to imagine what would have happened if Clark hadn't gotten there, as usual, just in time.

    "Lex, tell them to be careful, she's still ... hungry." Chloe shuddered, the horror of the situation finally catching up to her. Leaning heavily on Clark, she gave Lex a weak smile.

    Lex sighed, refusing to analyze why he found it so uncomfortable to see Chloe leaning on Clark. Pushing the thoughts away, he managed a gentle smile. "Come on. We should get going."

    Chloe looked back once more to see the men tying up Jodi. With a shudder, she turned away and allowed Lex and Clark to lead her from the room.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    LUTHOR MANSION

    An hour later, Chloe was wishing for nothing more than a good night's sleep. She'd spent the past hour answering police questions, reassuring her father by phone that she was fine, and just generally trying to stay warm, wrapped in the blankets Lex had found for her. She'd never gotten around to getting those sweaters.

    The police had taken Jodi back to the hospital, with the assurance that she would be given the help, and the increased security she needed. No one had been able to figure out how she'd escaped so easily, and Chloe had a feeling some heads were going to roll.

    When the mansion finally cleared out, including a very concerned Clark, Chloe found herself ironically too wired and unable to sleep. The events of the day kept playing out in her head, along with the body of Ashley, lying so still and drained. Lex, sensing her unease, had simply offered her a mug of hot chocolate and told her to settle in by the fire, to keep warm.

    So now, she and Lex sat in his study, in a somewhat uncomfortable silence.

    Lex took a sip of his water and stared at her for a minute. She'd been abnormally quiet, and that worried him. He knew she probably needed to talk, but wasn't sure if she'd even want to talk, much less to him. He was notoriously bad at this 'comfort' stuff, he reminded himself, best to just keep quiet.

    "If you don't want to talk about it, we don't have to."

    Well, so much for keeping quiet.

    Chloe nodded glancing down at her mug. She knew Lex wasn't sure what to say, wasn't sure herself what to say, but knowing something had to be said. "I don't want to talk about what happened tonight." That was true, she just wanted to forget, at least for the moment. "But, I think I need to talk to talk about what it felt like to discover that body."

    Lex lowered his bottle. "Ashley." The word was quiet, but Chloe knew he understood.

    "Jodi attacked her outside the Talon. I found her body." She looked down into her mug again. "I felt paralyzed, hopeless, numb in a way. I wanted to scream, but it was locked inside. It wouldn't come out, no matter how hard I tried." She felt the horror clutch at her throat and tightened her hands around the mug. "I don't even remember making it into the Talon. Afterwards, while we waited for the police, all I could think about was that it could have been me."

    Lex wanted to say something but nothing came. Once more he reminded himself that Chloe needed to talk and he needed to remain silent. No matter how much something inside him longed to comfort her.

    "Ashley didn't deserve to die." Chloe looked up, her eyes awash with tears. "She shouldn't have died. It should have been me."

    The dam broke as she made the revelation, and her body shook with sobs. She closed her eyes, rocking back and forth. She was barely aware of the shifting on the couch next to her, but the light pressure of Lex's arm around her shoulders, resting lightly, filling her with welcome warmth.

    Lex swallowed hard, unsure of what do or say, knowing she'd probably feel better when she'd cried herself out. He'd never gotten that chance with Julian, or his mother, thanks to his father. He'd be damned if Chloe wouldn't get it.

    Fighting the moisture in his own eyes, he held her lightly until the sobs ran dry.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    TORCH OFFICE

    Chloe held up the latest issue of the Torch, proud of the way her story had turned out. She'd decided to concentrate her story on both Ashley and Jodi as the victims. Neither girl had asked for what happened to her. Chloe had tried her best not to make it seem as if Jodi was completely innocent, but she didn't think she should be condemned for something she couldn't control.

    "It's a good story, Chloe. One of your best." Lana smiled from the doorway as Chloe looked up at her words. After Clark had filled her in on what had happened between Chloe and Jodi, she knew she couldn't let things go on as they had been any longer. It hurt to think Chloe hadn't been able to trust her with her information, not that she could have done anything. And after her parting words, she knew they needed to deal with this last remaining issue once and for all. Especially since she'd finally begun to feel there was a chance for a better friendship than they'd had before.

    "Thanks." Chloe put the paper down on her desk and turned her chair to face Lana. "What's up?"

    Taking a deep breath, Lana took a seat on the couch next to the wall. "I wanted to talk to you about what's going on with us - about our 'trust' issues."

    Chloe sighed, almost glad Lana was ready to bring this into the open. She'd been pushing it to the back of her mind since her ordeal with Jodi, but she knew as well as the brunette that to move forward, they had to put the past behind them.

    "I can't say it doesn't still hurt," Chloe offered, hearing the echo of Lana's words, truth drug induced though they might have been.

    Lana sighed, knowing this was going to be hard. "I meant what I said. Drug or no drug, I didn't think I could trust you. I didn't think you'd be willing to listen, considering, your feelings about Clark and I."

    "Lana, I haven't cared about Clark like that for a long time," Chloe said defensively.

    "That's not the way it seemed, at least not then." Her knees were starting to cramp and she stood, dragging a chair over to Chloe's seat and sitting down next to her. Taking a deep breath, she tried to explain. "Chloe, despite the Clark situation, I wanted to tell you about Paris. I really did."

    "But you didn't," Chloe said. "And you still haven't really told me why. Why couldn't you trust me, Lana?"

    "Because I didn't feel like you were really my friend," Lana said sadly. "I thought everything you were doing was because of Clark. I didn't think you actually cared about me."

    Chloe nodded, trying to ignore her hurt and focus on the facts. "I admit that Clark was the reason I convinced my dad to let you stay with us. To be honest, I really didn't care that much about you then. I was jealous that Clark cared about you so much when I was right there. But that was well over a year before your confession. Since then you and I got to know each other, we hung out, we talked, and we were friends. At least that's what I thought."

    "We were…are..."

    "Do you really think I would spend a year of my life living with you, calling you friend, for Clark? Can you honestly say, knowing how much family means to me, that I would call you my sister and not actually care about you?"

    Lana sighed. Listening to Chloe's words, made Lana realize just how off her beliefs about her friend were. It also made her realize that maybe there was some deeper seeded issue here. "I think…" she struggled to get the newly discovered idea into words. "I think maybe it was easier to believe you didn't care about me. Everyone leaves me," she said at Chloe's questioning look. "At least that's how it's always felt. I care about someone and then they leave. I think, as you and I grew closer, some part of me started to panic, started thinking you were going to leave."

    "Not everyone leaves Lana, Clark and I are both still here."

    "I know, but," again Lana paused struggling to get the idea out. She wished she had Chloe's gift with words right now. "You were the first female friend I had in a really long time that I felt I could be me with. Even if I wasn't 100% sure who me was, you didn't have any expectations from me. When we became friends, real friends, that voice in the back of my head that constantly tells me some is going to leave me, started getting louder around you. I guess I just went into self preservation mode and convinced myself that you didn't care about me, you were going to leave like everyone else, and because of that, I couldn't trust you."

    Chloe listened as Lana explained the inner workings of her mind. Or at least her mind in regards to their friendship. From Lana's point of view it made a weird kind of sense. Chloe knew all about self-preservation instincts and how they could cloud your judgment sometimes. Chloe nodded to the other girl letting her know she understood.

    "Since we are being honest, I would have told you about Alicia sooner or later. I just needed to figure out where we stood first."

    Lana winced at the mention of the name, but quickly focused on the matter at hand. She knew she'd been hard on Chloe, but she still couldn't bring herself to trust the teleporting girl. Still, she knew that Chloe had a knack for trying to see the best in things and people and she would have to believe that extended to Alicia.

    "I'm sorry I was so hard on you. But you have to understand, it's not easy for me to see you talking to her, trusting her obviously with things you couldn't tell me, not after what she did."

    Chloe frowned. "You weren't there, Lana." She held up a hand as Lana tried to speak. "Alicia was. She got me through a lot. I'm sorry for the way you found out, but I'm not sorry that Alicia and I are friends. If it makes you feel any better, I didn't trust her like I do now right away. We had to learn to be friends."

    Lana swallowed, realizing she spoke the truth. "It still hurts, Chloe." Taking a deep breath, she looked up, seeing the other girl watching her carefully. "I don't want us to go there again. Can we get past this?"

    Chloe bit her lip, hearing the sincerity in Lana's words, knowing that despite their past, despite everything they'd said and done, she really wanted to get to know this new, post-Paris Lana better. For the first time in her years of knowing the girl, she actually felt as if they might be able to be real friends.

    "I'm willing to work on it, if you are."

    Lana laughed. "Deal."

    "Friends?" She held out a hand.

    "Friends." Lana smiled as they shook.

    An awkward silence reigned between them as neither girl was sure what to say. Lana finally broke the silence, looking at the clock on the wall.

    "Okay, I hate to break this emotional moment, but I have to be at work in a few minutes."

    Chloe grinned, motioning to her computer. "And I've got stories to plan for next week's edition."

    Lana stood, gathering her things and walking towards the door. As she reached it, she turned and offered another smile.

    "I really missed you, Chloe. I'm glad you're home."

    Chloe smiled, noting it was the first time Lana had referred to Smallville as home, since she'd returned from Paris. It was a good feeling.

    "Me too."

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
    End of Episode 5

  2. #2
    Happy-ending addict Senior Member lexie's Avatar
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    Re: Episode 5 - "Resolution" (PG)

    Jodi´s the one freak that´s always given me the creeps. I´m relieved both Clark and Lex got there in time to save Chloe.

    The dynamics between Chloe and Lex and the way she´s chosen to trust him with her security again is exactly what I´d have loved to see on the show. After all they lived through that summer together, it would have been the most natural thing.

    The "comforting" scene at the mansion was one of my favourite parts, by the way.

    As regards the Jasana, I´m really sorry for Jason and the way Lana´s treated him. Why can´t she find herself already without making every male specimen around her suffer in the process?

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  3. #3
    An Accused Heretic Senior Member Kit Merlot's Avatar
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    Re: Episode 5 - "Resolution" (PG)

    A wonderful episode!

    I like how Lex knows Chloe so well that he can tell when she's upset. And I also like this version of Lana--sure she's still a simp, but at least now she's maturing. And I appreciate that she's trying to be a good friend to Chloe.
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  4. #4
    Members Lynzie914's Avatar
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    Re: Episode 5 - "Resolution" (PG)

    This chapter was great! I always loved the idea of freak of the weeks returning to the show. It was something that I thought the show didn't monoplize enough of. I really like the Chloe/Lana relationship in this. Its so much more realistic than its portrayed on the show and I like how indepth it goes. In my opinion Chloe and Lana never really should have been friends on the show, they just weren't enough alike and there was too much between them for them to be true friends. So I like that those things were brought up and dealt with. I also loved the mansion scene when Lex comforted Chloe to the best of his ability. It was very in character and sweet.

  5. #5
    Raelis
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    Re: Episode 5 - "Resolution" (PG)

    I must say I find it hard to believe that Chloe would write articles about Jodi that touted her a freak and a monster. At least, this is not how I envision S1!Chloe. I think she was more compassionate than that.

  6. #6
    NS Full Member kcsgirl82's Avatar
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    Re: Episode 5 - "Resolution" (PG)

    Loved it!!! I'm glad that Lex and Clark were able to save Chloe and that Chloe was able to lean on Lex and open up to him about her feelings.
    Loved Chloe's way of letting Lex know that Jodi was around, it was brilliant.

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