It was late afternoon in Metropolis, honeyed sunlight
streaming down onto dusty streets that hadn't seen
rain now for six weeks and counting. Lana's
short--sleeved blue dress was thin but sober, the soft
hem demurely brushing her ankles and the flat neckline
just skimming her collarbone and exposing the warm,
narrow curves of her shoulders. She was grateful for
the old--fashioned ceiling fan overhead that stirred
the heavy air into something like a breeze. The bar
wasn't heaving with customers, but it wasn't exactly
deserted either, and in the fifteen minutes she'd been
there so far three men had tried to hit on her
already. After each courteous rebuff, Lana sank back
into "Middlemarch" and tried to concentrate on the
troubles of Dorothea and Will Ladislaw. She felt like
she was being laid siege to, and it was making her
irritable; but this was something she would have to
get used to again. She supposed that it ought to be
She was still a little numb with surprise at the phone
call. Nearly two years since she'd seen Chloe in
person, and so many things had happened in between
that it might as well have been two decades. Lana had
no idea what to expect. She could think of too many
reasons why Chloe wouldn't want to see her, and very
few reasons why she would. And yet, and yet. And yet
it was Chloe who had called Lana out of the blue, not
the other way around. She'd recognised the voice at
once, and been startled to realise that its owner was
back in Metropolis.
"Lana? Chloe. I heard. I thought you could use a
And yes, Lana had realised, staring at the wallpaper,
she really could use a drink. So here she was,
tremulous and sticky in the afternoon heat, sitting
all alone in a bar and feeling the familiar lick of
strangers' eyes against her skin. People had been
staring at her for as long as she could remember, for
one reason or another. Mostly for one reason, though,
and although she was used to it Lana had never grown
wholly comfortable with the way that people felt like
their attraction to her gave them rights to her. Like
she was asking for their attentions just by wearing
that face, that body. Idiots.
Another flash of movement in her peripheral vision and
Lana braced herself for a
confident/hopeful/arrogant/imploring smile and the
offer of an unwanted drink, or the insistence that
they must have met before, or the assertion that she
was the most beautiful woman in the bar/city/world.
Lana had already heard every line in the book in her
short life, and although she sometimes found it
charming she was in no mood to play the game right
"So do you come here often?" Lana's eyes widened and
her startled laughter was a touch too loud. She hadn't
realised how nervous she was.
"No. God, Chloe," she said, rising to her feet and
grinning like an idiot as Chloe Sullivan wrapped her
in a warm and angular embrace. "It's so good to see
you!" And she really meant it, even though their
correspondence had been patchy. Even though they had
always been friends at one remove; had been occasional
rivals and sometimes almost enemies. But it was
surprisingly good to see Chloe here and now: different
but still the same.
Chloe's hug was firm and comforting, and Lana was
surprised by how tightly she clung to it. The fair
hair brushing against the tip of her nose was still
damp from the shower, and Chloe's neck smelled of soap
and clean sweat and a bitter hint of cigarette smoke.
For a moment she thought she might cry, which would be
embarrassing; but she had the feeling Chloe wouldn't
mind. "I've missed you," she said simply, surprised to
realise it was true.
"Me too." After a moment Chloe disentangled herself
from Lana and stepped back, her fingers wrapped
lightly around Lana's wrists as she held her at arm's
length and made a show of looking her up and down and
grinning that inimitable Chloe grin. "You look great,
kiddo." Lana rolled her eyes incredulously, acutely
conscious of the pounds that she had gained and the
softening of her curves. Not that Lana was fat, by any
means, but she was different. Pete said she looked
sexier now, but she wasn't sure. Pete. Ah. The
dampening of her good mood must have shown on her
face, because Chloe let go of her hands and gave a
friendly little grimace. "So what are you drinking?"
she asked, hailing a waiter like he was a cab.
"White wine. Are you sure? I mean, I don't mind
"I'm sure. You get the next round." Lana nodded, and
took the opportunity to look at Chloe properly. She
looked good. Really, very good; a little leaner than
Lana remembered, and her bare arms were well muscled,
like she was working out a lot. Chloe looked like
she'd just thrown on the first thing she found: a
tight white wifebeater worn over faded jeans and a
dark green muslin shirt tied haphazardly around her
waist. It was hard to believe she was the same girl
who arrived in eighth grade dressed in the height of
Metropolis teenaged chic; the only bohemian touch
today was the jewellery, elaborate tangles of
interlaced silver and raw turquoise wrapped around
wrists and throat. Very expensive, if Lana was any
judge, but Chloe wore it quite casually and got away
with the clash of styles. Chloe was wearing her hair
boyishly short again, the way she had at college, and
it looked very much like she'd just rolled out of bed
and left her hair exactly as it was; whether this was
the result of careful use of styling products or of
having just rolled out of bed was anybody's guess, but
Lana found herself suspecting the former. She could
see where Chloe would have crow's feet in a few years'
time: there were pale lines fanning out from the
corner of her eyes. Chloe's upturned nose and cheeks
were slightly sunburnt and as far as Lana could
determine she wore no makeup, not even the signature
slash of crimson at her mouth that was so familiar
from news reports. Chloe in person looked nothing like
the small, suited figure framed by the TV screen,
reporting from places Lana had never been or wished to
"When did you get back?" she asked, when the waiter
had finished taking Chloe's order. An easy,
inconsequential question, because she wanted to make
conversation but she didn't want to talk about real
things yet. Chloe smiled.
"Two days ago."
"Oh." There was an awkward little pause as they waited
for their drinks and Lana kicked herself for having
steered them into small talk, when Chloe had evidently
been expecting more -- honest. Or something. Chloe
still wore an odd little half-smile, like she was
laughing at herself, but Lana threw herself gamely
into making conversation. She really should be good at
it after the number of dinner parties she'd hosted,
but the look on Chloe's face pulled her up short. She
felt like she'd failed a test that she hadn't even
realised she was taking. The waiter arrived with their
"Do you usually drink in the afternoons?" Lana asked
without thinking, demonstrating that small talk was
not, in fact, one of her strengths. She sounded like
Chloe shrugged and passed her the wine with a wry
grin. "Depends," she said obliquely. "Besides, it
isn't afternoon in Riga. I'm still on Latvian time."
A lifetime ago Lana Lang had spent many an afternoon
and evening in cheap boulevard cafes in the Latin
Quarter of Paris, drinking wine and water and
espressos black as pitch and thick with sugar, and
arguing animatedly with other students about Flaubert
and Hugo and Moliere as the violet sky darkened into
night. She still clearly remembered the blue smoke
curling from the smouldering tip of the inevitable
Galoise cigarette that traced patterns through the
thickening sidewalk air as Jenny's hands swooped back
and forth in expansive gestures meant to illustrate
some literary point; it had all seemed desperately
important at the time, but for the life of her Lana
couldn't remember the details of their earnest
conversations. Lana felt her stomach clench with
unexpected envy. Chloe was still living this life.
Chloe Sullivan was an independent career woman, just
as everyone had always known she would be, busy
carving out a name for herself in her chosen field.
Chloe Sullivan: investigative reporter. Somehow it had
all gone according to plan. Her world was exciting and
unpredictable, and nothing whatsoever like Lana's. Her
passport was undoubtedly thick with stamps and visas;
probably a little dog-eared and coffee-stained;
perhaps scented with spices and tobacco and maybe even
a whiff of gunsmoke. At some point Lana had stopped
being that girl in the sidewalk cafe with a world of
risks and possibilities spread before her. At some
point she had settled for settling down. Or thought
she had. Lana stared across the few feet of air that
separated her from Chloe and felt thoroughly adrift.
"I've seen Pete," said Chloe, her voice carefully
"Oh." Lana's fingers closed around the slender stem of
the wine glass automatically and she lifted it to her
lips. Semillon Chardonnay, clean and crisp and cold,
tasting like summer in another land. "How is he?"
Lana knew that she should feel guilty, but in fact she
felt curiously numb. Pete would be okay, she was sure
of that. He was resilient, and fundamentally
optimistic; always bristling with energy and ambition
and ideas. She couldn't imagine anything making him
slow down for long, and she couldn't imagine that she
had broken his heart. Because if she had, there was no
way Chloe Sullivan would be talking to her right now.
"I'm sorry," said Lana, and then felt stupid. "I mean
-- I know Pete's your friend."
"Pete's my friend," agreed Chloe. She fingered the
edge of her glass absently, and Lana's eyes were drawn
to the clean, pink fingertips moving in lazy circles.
Chloe's nails were short and unpolished, but very
"Is he...?" Lana's voice trailed away and she realised
that she had no idea what to ask. She slightly
resented being cast as the villain of the piece when
she knew that she'd done the right thing; but she
doubted that Chloe would see it that way.
Understandably. But on the other hand, Chloe had
phoned her. Lana lifted the glass to her mouth again
and swallowed. "I'm sorry. I wasn't in love with him."
She hesitated, and then added awkwardly: "I do love
him, but I can't be the person he wants me to be. I'm
tired of trying."
"I can see that it must be a drag, going to premieres
and openings and shmoozing with the glitterati," Chloe
said, her tone decidedly ascerbic. Lana felt her
expression freeze, and they glowered at each other.
After a long moment Chloe's face softened and she
raised her hands apologetically. "I'm sorry. It's just
that I thought you guys had it all -- living the
American Dream and all that. And lately I've been
living in places where there was no hot water for
weeks at a time. But I'm sorry. That was out of line."
"I missed my life," said Lana, after a frosty pause.
"He swept me off my feet when he came back to
Smallville, and it was like some kind of fairy tale --
but we just don't fit. Deep down, I'm just not
interested in politics, and you know that's what Pete
eats, sleeps and breathes. I always knew he was
ambitious, but lately...I don't want to be Pete Ross's
pretty little trophy girlfriend. I don't like hosting
dinner parties for people I don't know, or having to
bite my tongue when one of them tells a joke that's
just downright offensive. I don't like the idea that
Pete wants to be with me because I look right. I
don't like my parents' death being a cute footnote in
an article about Pete Ross and Lex Luthor, like Pete's
some kind of saint for dating the poor orphan from the
cover of Time magazine -- always that same damn
picture. And I know that isn't fair, and I know things
are more complicated than that, but right now that's
how it feels." Lana wasn't shouting; not quite. "If
this is why you asked me here, then I think I'd better
be going home." She couldn't believe how disappointed
"No, please," Chloe said, looking chastened. "I'm
sorry. Really. I know he's hurting right now, and I
thought -- but you only ever see the tip of the iceberg
with other people's relationships. I'm sorry. It's
hard to think of Pete as a politician, you know? He's
just -- Pete. But I didn't come here to act like a jerk
-- I wanted to see how you were doing, that's all. Can
we start over?"
Lana looked at her narrowly, and thought about the
long drive back to Smallville. "Okay," she said at
last, and was heartened to see how huge and relieved
Chloe's answering smile was. "I really wanted to love
him," Lana added slowly. "To fit, you know, the way
that couples do. In books. On TV. It all happened so
fast. He said he loved me, and it was unexpected and
flattering and glamorous; I mean, it was great at
first, but six months is long enough to know when
something just isn't working."
Two more glasses had appeared magically in front of
them at some point. Lana swallowed the dregs in her
first glass and pushed it away a little too quickly,
then stared at the fresh one with a quizzical
expression. In hindsight it would probably have been a
good idea to eat something for lunch. And breakfast.
"He loved you, though. Or he thought he did."
"But it isn't love if -- I mean, it can't be love if
you don't ever know the other person, can it? Really
know them. And I guess he never did, because I hate
getting dolled up and shmoozing with bureaucrats and
princes of industry, and he never even noticed how
miserable it made me. It all seems so -- false.
Pointless. I don't understand his dreams and he didn't
even notice mine." She glanced up at Chloe. "That's
pretty sad, isn't it? All these years we've known one
another and we never understood each other at all.
What a waste."
And it was sad too that there was nobody she could
talk to about this except a girl she hadn't seen for
nearly two years, and had never known very well in the
first place. But at least the last time she'd seen
Chloe it had been before she became one half of
Lana-and-Pete; somehow all Lana's friends were couples
now, and most of them were Pete's friends more than
hers. There was Clark, of course, who was still
somehow single -- but that would have been awkward. In
spite of which she'd still tried phoning him several
times, but he was always out and she was too proud to
leave him a message. Besides, she was half afraid that
he might not get around to calling her back. He was
always busy these days; at one point Clark Kent would
have dropped anything and everything to be at her
side, and Lana wasn't quite ready for the sting of
knowing that this too had changed.
Chloe swallowed the last of the scotch and licked her
bare mouth thoughtfully. Minute beads of sweat pearled
the indent of her lip and gathered on her clear brow;
four months divided between St Petersburg and the
Baltic states had evidently been poor preparation for
the baking heat of a Metropolis summer. The ice--cubes
rattled against the glass as Chloe lifted the tumbler
to her forehead and pressed it against her flushed
skin without acknowledging Lana's words. She seemed
engrossed in the polished wood grain on the tabletop.
Lana bit her lip.
"Do you hate me?" she asked, thinking about Chloe and
Clark, Chloe and Pete. Chloe looked up at her with an
odd expression, both angry and amused, and Lana
flinched at the strength of it. "I'm sorry," she
exclaimed, too fast and far too late. Chloe smiled
"If I hated you, Lana, I wouldn't be here. But I'm
pretty damn glad I don't have any cute older brothers,
or you'd have probably broken their hearts by now. You
should come with some kind of health warning from the
Surgeon General." Chloe's tone belied her words. "But
then, so should Pete. I'm sorry it didn't work out.
You know, for a quiet girl you're pretty damned
loquacious after a few drinks, aren't you?" Lana took
one look at Chloe's grin and the tension unexpectedly
"Loquacious? That's a very big word for someone who's
on her second glass of Scotch in fifteen minutes."
"Baby, you ain't seen nothing yet," Chloe assured her,
waggling her eyebrows and delivering a rakish grin.
"Once I've had a few drinks I break out the
polysyllables with a vengeance. Don't get to use big
words in my reports, you see -- clarity and simplicity,
that's the name of the game."
"Antidisestablishmentarianism," said Lana, helpfully.
She was relieved that they were taking a step back
into small talk territory.
"That's a big word," Chloe conceded.
"It's not the size that counts. It's what you do with
"Lana Lang! I can't believe you just said that." She
reached out and poked Lana gently in the stomach.
"Lana LANG just said something smutty. My God. Hell
must have frozen over." Chloe's fingertip stayed
pressed into her belly for just a fraction too long,
and when she pulled away Lana missed her touch.
"You know, I always thought it would be Clark," Lana
said hurriedly. "That I ended up with, I mean."
Chloe stared at her for a long moment, incredulity
written all over her face. "Jeez, Lana. You just don't
have any clue of what a bitch you can be at times, do
you? Or do you? I'm never completely sure."
Lana peered over the brim of her glass and considered
the question. It was not, she realised, entirely
unfair. "Sorry. I don't mean to be," she said at last.
"That's the thing -- I really don't think that you do.
That's why you're so good at it -- it just comes
naturally," said Chloe. "Not that this would be much
comfort to Pete, I imagine. Or Clark. Or Paul. Or
Whitney. Or any of the other nice all--American boys
you've left in your wake." Their eyes met, and to
Lana's astonishment Chloe began to laugh. It was
infectious, and a moment later Lana started to giggle
too. "God help the men of Metropolis if you ever
actively embrace your Inner Bitch, Lana. The poor
bastards won't know what's hit them."
It probably shouldn't have been so funny, and Lana
knew it wasn't kind or fair to Pete, but now that
she'd started laughing she simply couldn't stop. She
laughed until her face hurt and her lungs ached and
salt tears streamed from her scrunched--up eyes. Heads
turned, and she didn't care. Each time Lana thought
she had herself under control, she caught Chloe's eye
or heard Chloe's ragged little gusts of
trying-not-to-laugh-out-loud breath, and it set her
"Why did you call me?" asked Lana, when she could
speak again. Chloe picked up her empty glass and
swirled the ice cubes around absentmindedly as she met
Lana's puzzled smile. "I mean, I didn't think you
liked me, Chloe. Because of Clark. I always thought
you and Clark -- well, you really liked him, didn't
"Does the pope shit in the woods?"
"Clark Kent was the unattainable man of my dreams,"
Chloe announced with a grimace of exaggerated despair.
"The master--mistress of my passion, the apotheosis of
my teenaged desire." She sounded both rueful and
amused. Lana was grateful for the change of subject;
the break up with Pete was still too fresh in her
"Check out the vocabulary! You should never have taken
that literature course."
"Nonsense. I'm a mistress of tongues. And you're
interrupting. Clark Kent was my grand passion, my
schoolgirl crush to end all schoolgirl crushes. He was
the alpha and omega, the god of my idolatry, the one
that got away." Chloe paused, and gave Lana a
lascivious grin. "I was Captain Ahab and he was my
Lana, elegantly sipping her wine, took one look at
Chloe's expression and promptly spat Chardonnay all
over the table.
"You have a filthy mind," Lana said when she was
capable of speech. Chloe grinned.
"I know. It's part of my charm."
"But you didn't answer my question. Why are you being
so nice to me, Chloe? I mean, don't stop -- it's great,
I'm not complaining. But I really wasn't expecting
your phone call."
"I can be nice," said Chloe, fiddling with her glass.
She looked almost embarrassed. Lana had a sobering
thought and suddenly felt nauseous.
"It isn't -- you aren't writing an article about Pete?"
she asked, watching Chloe very closely. "Or Lex?"
"God, no!" Chloe was either a very good actress or
else that hadn't even crossed her mind. She looked
startled, but more amused than angry. Lana let herself
relax a little.
"Okay. Sorry. I've had some bad experiences with
journalists these past few months, and I just wondered
-- but I'm sorry. But the thing with Clark --?"
"I had the world's worst crush on him, and he was
never ever going to be mine. Not really. And it hurt
like hell -- but I got a sense of perspective the first
time I had mind-blowingly great sex. Which,
incidentally, was not in Smallville." Chloe shrugged.
"I wasn't the first teenaged girl to fall in love with
a hot gay boy, and I'm sure I won't be the last. And
he was so damned pretty. Still is."
Chloe stared at her. "You're kidding me? C'mon, Lana.
Of course he's gay."
"Hello? Earth to Lana? Think about it for a minute."
"Clark's gay? He's told you he's gay?"
"Well, no. Not technically. But Pete never actually
told me he was black, either." Chloe grinned. "I mean,
I didn't realise about Clark for years -- God, I was
such a sap. But then, I wasn't nearly as worldly as
I thought I was, back in the day. You're serious,
aren't you? Yes, Clark's gay. And I'm over him." She
studied Lana. "Is this a problem for you?"
"No! I mean -- are you sure? Really? Yes, you are. Wow.
How dumb am I?"
"Pretty dumb," said Chloe, who looked highly amused.
"And to think I'm the blonde. Lana, Lana, Lana.
You've led a sheltered life, haven't you?"
"My God. Clark's gay. What else did I totally not
Chloe looked at her with that same unreadable smile
and Lana's stomach gave an unexpected lurch. She had
the impression that she was missing out on a punchline
"Truth or dare?"
"Chloe, we're not seventeen any more," Lana protested,
but she was having a hard time resisting Chloe's
mischievous grin. Besides, it was intoxicating having
Chloe actually focus on her for once; not as an
extension of Pete, or of Clark, or of Paul, but just
as Lana. "This is silly," she added, glancing around
and then peering up at Chloe through lowered lashes.
She smiled. For no good reason Lana could feel herself
starting to blush.
"Silly is as silly does. Truth or dare."
"Just a little bit. And you're pretty. But in the
morning I'll be sober and -- you'll still be pretty."
"What?" She was definitely blushing now.
"'Swhat Churchill said. I think. Or something. It
sounded funnier in my head. Truth or dare."
"Jeez, Chloe. Fine." Her voice sounded breathless in
her ears. "Truth," Lana said more firmly, and her
heart started to hammer in her chest.
Chloe leaned across the table and rested her hand
lightly on Lana's forearm for emphasis as she spoke,
and the heat through her thin cotton sleeve was
scalding. "Did you ever love Clark?"
Lana should probably have been expecting that, but she
wasn't. She couldn't put her finger on why she felt
disappointed, but Chloe's tone was surprisingly calm
and curious, so she tried to answer as truthfully as
she could. "Yes," she said. "But I think I was more in
love with the idea of being in love than I ever was
with Clark. It was -- this will sound dumb, but he made
me feel like it wasn't just because I was pretty. I
mean, I know he thought I was beautiful, and that he
loved that, but he made me feel like it wasn't really
the point -- and boy, I really should have guessed
about the gay thing, shouldn't I?"
"Clark's a great guy. But -- he wasn't always there
when you wanted him."
Chloe laughed out loud. "You can damn well say that
"I mean, he really cares about things, and he listens,
and if you were in real trouble he'd be there before
you even knew you needed help -- and that's great. But
for every day stuff? Not so good. If he wasn't with
you and Pete he was with Lex. Isn't it weird to think
that Lex was only twenty one? I mean, we're older now
than he was when he arrived in Smallville; he always
seemed so grown up, but really he was just a kid
himself. Clark was always hanging out with Lex."
Lana blinked. "Oh. OH! You don't think...?"
"That our sweet Clark was playing hide the sausage
with the follically challenged young bazillionaire
down the road who kept plying him with gifts and
staring at him like he was made of chocolate? That the
reason he was always such a perfect gentleman in high
school -- even when you kind of wished he wouldn't be
-- was that he was already getting gallons of red hot
monkey sex every night from Lex Luthor?"
"That's what you were thinking, though, isn't it?
Clark and Lex, sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G."
Chloe adopted a melodramatic 'reporter' voice and
brandished an imaginary microphone. "Was Clark Kent in
love with his bald prince charming? Did Lex Luthor
seduce the underaged farm kid who saved his life? We
shall probably never know." Her smile was a little
strained. "I'm guessing yes, though," she added in her
"Oh." Lana took a moment to digest this. She felt kind
of dumb, and a little pissed. "So it was all a lie,
then? The whole time he was with me -- the whole time
he was with you -- he was really with Lex? That's --
that's not nice. I can't believe Clark would do that."
"So maybe he didn't." Chloe shrugged. "My turn. Dare."
"Oh. Hey, wait a minute -- what are we playing for?"
"No, wait -- there have to be rules. There's no point
otherwise. Winner gets..." Lana furrowed her brow.
"Loser has to get the tab?"
Lana's eyes narrowed. "Okay. I dare you to kiss the
"Easy. And we need new drinks." Chloe waved, and a
couple of moments later Lana was startled to see a
waitress arrived at the table. Lana started to laugh,
and then stopped laughing when Chloe rose smoothly to
her feet and stepped towards the unsuspecting girl
with her best disarming grin.
"Do you mind? We're playing Truth or Dare, and if I
don't kiss you my smug little friend here will win,"
Chloe explained. The waitress looked quite as
astonished as Lana felt, but she didn't seem to be
"Chloe! I thought it would be the guy again!" she
said, torn between laughter and embarrassment. "And I
didn't think that you really would kiss him."
"Too late. Sandra?" continued Chloe, glancing at the
name tag on the girl's breast. The waitress grinned,
and then before Lana's eyes Chloe had one hand in the
small of the girl's back and the other at the nape of
her neck and she'd swept the waitress backwards. Lana
stared at the tumbled red curtain of the girl's hair
swinging through the air as Chloe dipped the giggling
waitress half--way to the floor and then bent over and
kissed her full on the lips, like something out of
"Gone With The Wind". Like something out of a modern
day lesbian version of "Gone with The Wind." Lana
was absolutely speechless. She was peripherally
conscious of a smattering of cheers and wolf whistles,
but she couldn't take her eyes off Chloe.
"Thanks," said Chloe with an incorrigible grin as she
set the girl back on her feet. "Sandra, you're an
angel. Could we get another -- actually, just bring us
a bottle of the Semillon Chardonnay and a couple of
glasses, will you? And get something for yourself."
She bounced back to the seat and smirked at Lana.
"I cannot believe you just did that," said Lana, who
was still staring. "My God, Chloe!"
"I don't like to lose," replied Chloe with a shrug.
"Besides, she was cute," she added casually. But not
casually at all. There was the smallest of pauses
while Lana took that in and Chloe let her. "And it's
"Fine." Lana drew a deep breath and smiled
"Have you ever slept with another woman?"
"C'mon, it's an easy question -- just say no. But if
you'd rather take a dare..."
"A dare? Not on your life," said Lana, with feeling.
She was definitely blushing.
" -- yes."
Chloe went very still, and Lana squared her shoulders
and met Chloe's startled gaze full on. The word hung
between them for a long moment and Lana thought about
things she'd been pointedly not thinking about for far
too long; to her surprise, the world did not
immediately end. It was Chloe who looked away first
and broke the silence, and when she spoke her voice
was a little too harsh.
"So you experimented when you were at college? Had one
too many white wine spritzers one night and thought
you'd take a little walk on the wild side?"
"No," said Lana, firmly, and she felt her mouth
curling into a smile. Chloe was really looking at her
now, harder than before, and Lana was surprised by how
powerful it made her feel. She let herself remember
the taste of Jenny's orange lipgloss for a moment, and
the heavy scent of blossom--heavy trees in the Jardin
des Tuillerie that bright remembered spring; before
Nell's accident had sent Lana hurrying back to
Smallville and her horizons had shrunk before her
"So when...?" began Chloe, and Lana reached across and
laid a finger gently across her parted lips, sealing
them with the lightest of touches. She watched Chloe's
wet eyes widen and Lana wondered what Lex's late
father would have given to see Chloe Sullivan,
Investigative Journalist extraordinaire, silenced so
"Your turn," said Lana, her fingertip still lingering
on Chloe's soft mouth. She watched several emotions
chase each other across Chloe's features and smiled.
"Truth," Chloe said, with her eyes fixed on Lana's. As
she spoke her mouth flexed against Lana's skin in a
movement like a kiss, and Lana's pulse quickened.
Sandra's arrival with their drinks was a welcome
distraction, and Lana withdrew her outstretched hand
and smiled as the redhead set the slender glasses and
the wine on the table. The green bottle was cold from
the fridge, its surface dappled with condensation, and
Sandra's fingers smudged the water droplets as she
popped the cork with brisk professionalism and grinned
wickedly at Chloe. A thimbleful of wine splashed into
one glass and they both reached for it at once, and
both paused and laughed. Lana took it, her eyes still
fixed on Chloe's, and inhaled before rolling the wine
across her tongue.
"Still delicious. Thank you," she said, casting one
luminous smile at the redhead. Sandra filled their
glasses and left the bottle in the middle of the table
when she went. Lana swallowed another mouthful of wine
and licked her lips.
"Why did you phone me, Chloe?"
"I just wanted to see how you were doing," said Chloe,
but there was less conviction in her voice this time
and Lana studied her thoughtfully.
"So on your first day back in the States you call me
up out of the blue, after years of nothing but
Christmas cards and the occasional email, and ask to
meet up the next day. Just to see how I'm getting on.
Two weeks after I break up with Pete. That's very kind
"I'm a regular Mother Theresa. It's your turn, Lana."
Chloe swallowed another mouthful of wine and leaned
forwards. She had the oddest expression on her face.
"Do you remember kissing me?" she asked, and her voice
was low and rough and a little desperate.
Lana stared. "No!"
"You really don't?"
"Chloe, what are you talking about? I'd hardly
forget something like that," said Lana, snappishly.
"We've never kissed." She didn't mention the dreams
that had plagued her sleep in high school, or the
times she went to the drugstore and sprayed Chloe's
perfume onto her own wrist. Or the countless
conversations she had held in the privacy of her own
head. Or the fantasies she'd entertained only that
morning as she thought about seeing Chloe again and
her hand stole down into her pyjama pants.
"We were fifteen," said Chloe. Her eyes looked more
vulnerable than Lana could remember seeing them. "You
were under the influence of a meteorite--infected
flower at the time, and you'd just dumped Whitney in
front of half the school. You really don't remember? I
was never sure whether that was just what you all said
to cover your asses after embarrassing yourselves so
badly in public -- you, and Pete, and Clark's dad. Like
pretending to have forgotten what you did while you
were drunk." There was an awkward little pause before
she added: "Some girls do that." From the timbre of
Chloe's voice Lana had a sudden impulse to find any
woman who had ever done such a thing to Chloe and
scratch the bitch's eyes out.
"I kissed you?" she said, stupidly.
"Boy howdy." Chloe watched the embarrassment spreading
over Lana's face and slowly grinned. "You really don't
remember. Lana, you pinned me to the wall in the
girls' bathroom and shoved your tongue down my throat.
I have never been so surprised in all my life, before
"You really, really did. You kissed me like it was
some kind of competitive sport, and you were in
training for the Olympics. But I freaked out when you
put your hand up my shirt."
"Oh yes, you did. You were quite the butch little top.
The things you said to me, Lana!" Chloe smiled
reminiscently. "I still remember them. Vividly. And
when I freaked, you got all pissy and said you'd show
me, and then you marched straight off and found Clark.
You were really embracing your Inner Bitch that day,
"Oh my God." Lana hid her face in her hands, all her
cockiness gone. Chloe was clearly taking great delight
in her discomfort.
"Hmm. I could never quite figure it out; you always
acted so damned straight at school, before and after.
I decided that the flower must just have made you act
like the opposite of your real self -- I mean, God
knows there were enough weird things happening in
Smallville when we were kids."
"You waited more than ten years to tell me this?
Good God. What else is going to come back and haunt
me?" She stared at Chloe with almost comical
incredulity. "I'd totally forgotten about that flower
thing. I mean, Clark told me what I did to him. And
Whitney told me about the whole dumping thing. And Lex
-- oh, now that was embarrassing. But you never said
a word about -- Chloe, are you making this up?"
Chloe shook her head and grinned. "As God is my
witness, Lana Lang. You were quite the slutbomb."
"I am so sorry."
"Don't be," said Chloe, looking at her very pointedly.
"Really. I'm sorry I freaked out."
"Don't mention it." Lana's voice was shaky. She didn't
know whether to laugh or -- or something else
altogether. "Perfectly understandable, under the
circumstances." Her cheeks were still scalding around
her smile. "We were so young, weren't we?"
"You can say that again."
"I can't believe I kissed you. And I don't even
remember it. That's pretty ironic."
Lana looked back steadily, and her glance lingered on
Chloe's bare mouth. "Really. And it's your turn
"Are you attracted to me?" The question was out before
Lana knew she was going to ask it.
"Yes," said Chloe, without hesitation. "And yes, I do
realise that this makes me pretty damned sleazy, since
you've just broken up with Pete, but you have no idea
how jealous I was. Of Pete." Chloe knocked back
another glass of wine ruthlessly. "I've been thinking
about things a lot, lately -- things that I never got
around to, and wished I had." She bit her lip and
smiled at the table. "I nearly died last year.
Stupidly, over nothing."
"Chloe! My God, I had no idea!" said Lana
"No, well, no reason why you should. I didn't
publicise it -- I wasn't exactly the hero of the piece.
I took some very dumb risks and got nothing to show
for it in the end, and I came within a whisker of
getting my head blown off. Seriously." She laughed. "I
mean, the mortality rate at high school was pretty
scary, but when you're a kid you don't believe
you're ever going to die, do you? I know I didn't.
But we're not kids now. It's just -- it was so
pointless, and it made me think about stuff. About --
you know, loose ends. Things I wished I'd done
differently." She glanced up and grinned, but Lana
didn't mistake the smile for anything like relaxation.
"Guess I'm getting old or something, but I just
realised that it's not a rehearsal, you know? So -- I'm
here. Now. Not to write a story about Pete Ross, or
Lex Luthor; just to flirt with Lana Lang, and see what
happens next." Chloe's sandaled toe found the bare
curve of Lana's ankle and brushed against it
questioningly, and Lana gave a full body shudder at
"Oh." She was, she realised, absolutely drenched. And
had been for some time. Chloe's mouth would taste of
wine, and scotch whiskey, and perhaps cigarettes.
"Yes. Your turn."
"Dare," said Lana breathlessly. Chloe's face wore that
expression of guarded hopefulness and uncertainty that
Lana had seen so many times when they were kids;
always cast at Clark Kent then, or so Lana had
thought. And that had been a large part of Clark's
"Are you sure about that?"
"Yes, damn it," she said, startled by how entirely
right this was. "Dare."
Chloe's eyes lit up, and Lana thought she could never
grow tired of Chloe's incandescent smile. "You. Me.
The ladies' room. Right now?"
"Yes," replied Lana, half--way to her feet already and
cramming a world of longing into one sibilant