Title: Croissant (Nourishment: Second Helpings 1)
Author: Janet F. Caires-Lesgold
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Category: Angst, Lana POV
Spoilers: Wrapping up season 3 as it should have been
Rating: PG for hints of same-sex relationships
Pairing: Clark/Lex established relationship
Summary: Le plot twist
DISCLAIMER: These characters do not belong to me. Smallville is the property of Alfred Gough, Miles Millar, Tollin-Robbins Productions, and Warner Bros. Television, and based upon characters originally created by Jerome Siegel and Joe Shuster. This story is just for the entertainment of my online friends and myself, not for any profit.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: "The Nourishment Series", which precedes this series, can be found elsewhere on this archive - Enjoy!
AUTHOR'S WARNING: I no longer accept the "canon" of Smallville Season 4 as the true history of our heroes. From here on in, my use of canon points from episodes after the end of "Covenant" will be entirely arbitrary and mostly non-existent. Thank you for continuing to read my stories anyway. Feel free to e-mail me if you have any questions.
DEDICATION: For Tiff, who likes characters who I refuse to believe exist.
COPYRIGHT: (C) Janet F. Caires-Lesgold, December 18, 2004, firstname.lastname@example.org
Please don't redistribute or alter this story in any way without the express permission of the author. Thank you very much.
Clark met me at the airport for a change.
"I didn't think I could count on the Super Shuttle," I teased, giving him a hard time about failing to drive me there when I'd left for Paris. At the time, I'd had no way of knowing just how short my European adventure would turn out to be. Yet, there I was, not even eight breakfast croissants under my belt, limping back home to Smallville.
"Can I help it if I was a little late?" he joked wanly, then enveloped me in a loosely polite hug.
Dropping my carry-on bag, I clung to him desperately, making him hold on tighter. I buried my face against his broad chest and slammed my eyes shut to keep the tears from pouring out again. "Don't let go," I muttered, taking what strength I could from the first person I'd encountered who was as bereaved as I was.
"I'm glad you're here," he whispered over my head, petting my hair as if I were a kitten.
"I couldn't stay away," I confessed, "not after you sent me the link to that picture from the Planet." Hoping he wouldn't mind, I wiped my eyes a little against his shirt. "I can't believe she's gone..."
"I know. Me neither. Poor Chloe..." I felt his breath hitch a little, so squeezed him tighter. If he had broken down there in the concourse, he would have gotten me started, and we might still be there, crying our eyes out while the world stepped around us.
Swallowing carefully, I moved to let him go and grab my bag. "Um... I've still got to pick up my luggage."
"Oh, yeah," he shrugged, releasing me and swiping manfully at his cheek with his shirt cuff. "Need me to help with that?" he nodded toward my tote.
"Everything I own is in the duffel I checked. You can get that." We still stood there for a second, Clark obviously not quite sure what he was expected or allowed to do. I took his hand guardedly and started toward the baggage return. "Come on, Clark. Take me home."
Our drive back to the farm was lightened by the recounting of my few French adventures, including every last foreign word and phrase I'd learned. The other two and a half hours were spent in reminiscing about our dead friend, making us chuckle reluctantly in our grief.
Clark's mom made sure I was comfortable on their sofa, where I slept off my jet lag as best I could, not really having anywhere else to go. The next day, Mr. Kent drove me to get my car out of storage, and as I followed his truck back down the two-lane, I regretted just for a minute not having gotten the chance to have the Kents as in-laws. That thought quickly fled when I realized that the comfort of making them my surrogate parents would have been obliterated by being married to their unreliable and frustratingly wishy-washy son.
Chloe's funeral was on a ridiculously sunny day. It was closed-casket, as there wasn't enough left to show after the explosion at her "safe house", which mocked us in its irony. Besides that, it was the unfortunate place for the debut of the one fashionably black dress I'd bought myself in Paris, one that I doubt I could wear again for a happier occasion.
Tagging along with the Kent family, I stood in line in a church to greet some of Chloe's more distant relatives, whom I'd never met. Her dad's most recent LuthorCorp portrait, blown up to poster size, stood on an easel at the front of the room along with a similarly-enlarged version of her junior yearbook photo.
I shook hands with a young woman not much taller or older than me, but didn't catch her name, distracted as I was by the grinning blonde in the picture. Suddenly I remembered that picture day, since we'd been living in the same house at the time, and recalled Chloe's rejection of every single item in her closet while she tried to settle on an outfit. The image of an orange scarf hanging from the ceiling fan where it had landed when she'd flung it over her shoulder in dismay almost made me snicker inappropriately.
She'd been so distraught that day, practically fighting with her hair, that I'd finally sat her down and talked to her quietly, affixing a barrette just so over her eyebrow and brushing out the ends of her bangs while she worried out loud.
"I look like a toilet brush!" she'd squeaked.
"No, you don't. That's a great color on you. This will set off your eyes perfectly. You look fine."
The poster confirmed what I'd really wanted to say that morning. She had looked more than fine. She looked beautiful.
My heart fluttered for just a second while I looked at that face, seeing her again on that crazy day and wishing I could go back in time and tell her that. She may have always said that I was prettier than she--why had I never argued with her and told her how I really felt about her? She was my best friend, whom I loved dearly, and now she was gone and I'd never see her again.
I took a deep breath, then another, but couldn't ignore my quivering lower lip any longer. Standing alone in front of her framed picture, I broke down sobbing, which I'm sure ruined my makeup completely. While I cried so hard that I couldn't see, an arm came around me carefully and held me together until I could be walked to a pew.
A man's handkerchief was pressed into my hands, and a familiar voice said, "I wish I could cry in public."
As soon as I wiped my eyes, I was able to identify my rescuer. "Pete?"
Sure enough, Pete Ross had come back to town to pay his respects to our friend, so sat with me and held my hand throughout the service. He remained stoic in appearance, though some glimpses of the wounded man underneath showed through the veneer. Though he didn't say it in so many words, I could see how close he was to collapsing, too, and at once I understood how much he had loved her, and how afraid he'd been to tell her so. It was like I was seeing myself, and suddenly I realized that Pete could be more to me than just Clark's friend.
Resolving to consider that option later, I returned to the Kent home for a light lunch. The topic of discussion at the table, besides more anecdotes about Chloe, was the service itself and the nice turnout.
"It was good to see Pete, wasn't it, honey?" Mrs. Kent asked Clark as she passed him the breadbasket.
"Yeah," he agreed absently. "Guess he likes it okay in Wichita."
"How's his mom doing?"
"I dunno," he shrugged. "I didn't really get the chance to talk to him..."
I felt a little guilty for monopolizing the guy, but an absence spoke to me more at that moment than anyone's presence. "I wonder why Lex wasn't there..."
At that, Clark dropped his knife, and aside from the clatter of cutlery on dishware, all other sounds stopped immediately.
Not quite sure where to look, I fumbled, "What did I say?"
Little more than an hour later, Clark escorted me into a private room at the Smallville Medical Center. There, amidst a tangle of tubes and cables, lay my former business partner and our missing friend.
My vision blurred to find him like that, but my tears didn't fall, through a massive exertion of will. Besides, Clark looked distressed enough on his own to see Lex unconscious and barely alive that I didn't want to upset him further.
Clark went on to describe the poisoning and finding Lex on the floor of the mansion, breaking my heart yet again at the description of rushing him to the emergency room, not knowing if he would live or die. As Clark ran out of words, he settled in a chair at the side of Lex's bed and silently took his hand, almost as if I weren't still standing there.
Trying to be unobtrusive, I started nosing around the floral arrangements that sat on a table a discreet distance away. There was a huge yet tasteful bouquet from LuthorCorp, a potted ivy from the Kents, and a variety of smaller vases that included cards bearing good wishes from friends whose names I didn't recognize. I nuzzled some freesias that must have been delivered that day, because they were still moist from the florist's, until I spotted the card and froze in place.
"Lana?" Clark called, apparently having noticed my reaction. "What's the matter?"
I couldn't move. He stood and crossed the room in two giant steps to come to my side and took the card from my hand.
"What is it?" Reading aloud, he continued, "'We made it! Thanks for all your help! You'd better get well so I can see you at that "thing"! Love, Dana Scully.'" He stared at the card in confusion. "'Dana Scully'? Like that character on the X-Files? Is that some kind of code name?"
My teeth chattered, I was shaking so hard. "It's Chloe."
"What? What do you mean?"
"Whenever Chloe used to write me little notes around the house, she always signed them 'Dana Scully', because of the 'Wall of Weird' stuff she liked to investigate. It was just her idea of a little homage."
His brow furrowed as he tried to make sense of it. "She must have ordered these before she was killed. There has to be some kind of reasonable explanation..."
"How long ago was that? About a week now? I don't think so: these flowers are fresh today. Freesias wilt in twenty-four hours."
"Are you sure? What are you trying to say?"
I grabbed his hand, the one that held the mysterious notecard. "I think this was ordered yesterday. Chloe is still alive!"
When Clark met me at the airport two days ago, I was coming back to say goodbye to my best friend. Now I hope I can find her and say hello again.
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