"Mortals. Thespis likes to play the full sixty minutes." --Jeremy Goodwin, "Thespis."
The silence should've been her first clue.
Chloe knew she talked more than the rest of her friends combined, but Clark and Pete both had problems with silence, and something about the 'Torch' office made people want to jabber -- maybe in her honor.
Still, she missed it at first. Coming into the office, she noticed Clark and Pete staring at Lana, mouths hanging open slightly, but that was hardly new. As she dropped her backpack on the floor next to the computer, she asked, "What's going on, guys?"
Lana tossed her head, and somehow she made it seem like a rude gesture. "I'm auditioning for the spring play."
Chloe's eyes widened. "You're kidding me."
"And the crowd went wild," Lana said dryly.
"No, I think it's great," Chloe said hastily. "I was just surprised."
"Clark and Pete don't approve," Lana informed her, glaring reproachfully at the other two.
"We never said we don't approve!" Pete protested.
"It's just so...unlike you."
Lana crossed her arms and scowled at them. "You have no idea what's like me. And honestly, neither do I anymore, which is why I'm doing this. Ever since I quit the cheerleading squad, I've been looking for a new road to take."
"And you decided on the spring play?" Clark demanded.
"Yes," she said, defying him to argue further.
"Can you act?" Pete was a smart guy. Except when he was really stupid.
Lana gritted her teeth. "Yes, Pete, I can. Thanks so much for the confidence boost."
Chloe wasn't sure what the guys' problem was, but she couldn't remember the last time she'd seen Lana so excited about something -- and she clearly was, underneath her ire -- and Chloe thought it suited her. "When's your audition?"
The look of grateful relief on Lana's face made Chloe's head feel kind of swimmy. "Monday at 3:30."
"I'll be there," Chloe said. "And if you need help getting ready, you know where I live."
Lana flashed a smile she had once reserved for Whitney, and Chloe's head went from swimmy to drowny. "Thank you, Chloe."
"This is nuts," Pete muttered, and Clark nodded.
Chloe and Lana weren't listening anymore.
She knew Lana didn't mean anything by it, but Chloe could never help the fluttery feeling in her stomach whenever Lana showed up in her bedroom. Tonight was worse than usual, because Lana was standing at the foot of Chloe's bed wearing only a thin cotton tank top and faded boxer shorts. Chloe made a show of looking for something in the pile of books and papers on her bed until her hands stopped shaking. Once she was sure she could trust herself, she looked up at Lana and smiled. "Hey. Sorry the guys were such asses today."
"It's okay," Lana said, shrugging, but Chloe could see the pain in the dark green eyes. "I just thought they'd be happy for me."
"They'll come around."
Shrugging, Lana cleared off a small space on the end of the bed and sat down, putting a thick book beside her, just out of Chloe's line of vision. "Maybe. Were you serious about helping me get ready for my audition?"
Chloe put down her pen. "I wouldn't have said it if I didn't mean it."
Lana smiled and maybe blushed a little (or maybe that was wishful thinking on Chloe's part). "Great. But you're busy now; we'll do it some other time."
With a guilty giggle, Chloe flipped a page in her geometry book and pulled out a magazine. "I'm only pretending to study."
Lana made a grab. "Is Chloe Sullivan hiding porn in her math book?" Chloe tried to keep the magazine out of reach, but Lana was too fast. When she saw what she now held in her hands, she started laughing. "Only you, Chloe, would hide the new issue of 'The Nation' in your math book."
Chagrined, Chloe snatched her magazine back. "This is Smallville. The new issue of 'The Nation' could get me in a lot of trouble." Slipping the magazine back into the book, she shoved all of her school materials to the side. "What've you got?"
"I need a Shakespearian soliloquy of no more than two minutes. It doesn't have to be memorized, but I need to know it pretty well."
"Shakespeare?" Chloe leaned forward. "What play are you doing?"
"Lana!" Chloe slapped her hand over Lana's mouth. "Shh! Never say the name of that play out loud!"
Lana made no move to respond, or to remove Chloe's hand. The moment grew more than a little awkward. Chloe noticed how soft and full Lana's lips felt against her palm. Then she noticed herself noticing, and she yanked her hand away and sat on it to keep herself from doing anything else stupid with it.
Lana calmly pushed her dark hair behind her ear. "I never would've imagined you as the superstitious type. Besides, that's only true inside a theater."
"All right. Fine." Chloe waved her free hand at Lana. "Go ahead, curse yourself. What soliloquy are you doing?"
Lana handed Chloe the book she'd come in with. Chloe turned it sideways and read the spine. "Is this a first edition?"
Lana laughed. "No way. It is beautiful, though, isn't it? It was my mom's."
"It's great." It was a heavy, leather-bound volume of the complete works of Shakespeare, and it was old. Chloe was almost afraid to open it, so she handed it back to Lana.
Lana gave her a funny look and opened the book to a page she had marked with her ticket to the Radiohead concert she and Clark hadn't gone to. "Merchant of Venice. Act four, Scene one. Portia's speech to the court."
Chloe propped her elbows on her knees and her chin on her palm. "Good choice. Show me what you've got."
Lana cleared her throat nervously, repositioned the book in her lap, and began to read:
"The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesses him that gives and him that takes:
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And Earthly power doth then show likest God's
When mercy seasons justice."
When she finished, there was a moment of near-reverential silence. Chloe opened her eyes. She wasn't sure when she'd closed them. Lana stared at her, an anxious frown creasing her forehead. "Well?"
Chloe exhaled slowly. "Wow."
The brilliant smile broke across Lana's face. "Really?"
"Absolutely." Chloe nodded fervently. "I had no idea you could do that."
Lana dropped her gaze self-consciously. "I'm cutting the rest. It goes kind of anti-Semitic at the end. And it's not perfect yet."
"It will be, by Monday." Emboldened by the recitation, Chloe took the book from Lana's lap, not entirely succeeding in her attempt not to let her fingers brush Lana's thigh. "Let's get to work."
For the next two days, the girls were so busy getting Lana ready for her audition that they hardly saw Pete or Clark. But on Friday, as they worked frantically to put the week's 'Torch' to bed, the dorks in question arrived at the office, and the battle was rejoined.
"Ah," Pete said when he spotted Lana, "our budding thespian." Throwing his arms wide, he declared, in the worst British accent Chloe had ever heard, "By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes."
Lana flinched. Chloe reached a hand towards her, but she'd already shouldered her bag. "I'm gonna go. See you at home, Chloe?"
"Yeah," Chloe said, not leaving off glaring at Pete.
"Hey, Lana, you okay?" Clark asked. Chloe rolled her eyes.
"I'm fine. I have some paperwork I need to take care of at the Talon. Bye." Lana hurried out of the office.
Chloe was in Pete's face instantly. "What the hell is your problem?"
"What?" he asked, looking put out. "I'm just having a little fun."
"You're ridiculing her."
"Come on, Chloe," Clark said, stepping up to defend Pete. "You don't really think she's going to go through with this."
"You're damned right she is, and she is going to be astonishing. But she's nervous as hell about it, and you're only making things worse."
Pete was petulant now. "If she can't take a little good-natured ribbing--"
"Good-natured?" Chloe's eyes narrowed. "You've done nothing but mock her since she told us she was doing this. You guys have your sports; I have the 'Torch;' since Whitney shipped out and Lana quit cheerleading, she doesn't have anything of her own. I don't know what your problem is with her being in the school play, but if she means anything to you--" She stared pointedly at Clark, "you'll sit on it; you'll come to her audition on Monday; and you'll apologize before that."
Only rarely did Clark or Pete look like they were cowed by one of Chloe's outbursts, but this was definitely one of those times. "Okay, jeez, Chloe," Clark said. "We'll talk to her."
"And you'll come on Monday."
"Fine." Pete was glaring, but Chloe didn't care.
She picked up her backpack and walked to the door. "And the apology had better be sincere."
Clark and Pete were squirming. Chloe had already hit them each twice, and she didn't feel like wasting energy by doing it again.
"How much longer do we have to sit here?" Clark whispered.
"'Til Lana's done. Shut up."
"I thought she said she was going at 3:30," Pete whined.
"They're running behind. Shut up."
Parts of Chloe -- most notably her ass, which was rapidly falling asleep -- sympathized with her friends. The auditions were running fifteen minutes behind, and the three they'd been forced to sit through had been unforgivably awful. One girl asking "Wherefore art thou Romeo?" while pretending to look for Romeo under a bush. A pasty-white stoner doing Othello. And one guy who might've done something amazing with Ariel's soliloquy from The Tempest, but who instead tried, inexplicably, to turn it into a cut scene from a Dashiell Hammett novel. Whatever part Lana wanted was hers. Chloe's other parts considered sitting through the worst that high school dramatics had to offer to be fitting punishment for the way Pete and Clark had treated Lana last week.
As a strangely jocular John the Bastard left the stage, Chloe glanced at the front of the house where the auditioners were sequestered. Lana sat up straighter and leaned towards the stage. "I think Lana's on next," Chloe whispered.
The director's assistant, Eli Brogan, consulted his clipboard. "Lana Lang."
Chloe wanted to cheer wildly, but the other girl looked nervous enough already. Still, she was watching closely, and when Lana turned her way for a split second, Chloe was ready with the jaw-aching grin -- which Lana returned with jittery gratitude.
As Lana climbed the steps to the stage, Eli consulted the audition sheet. "Merchant of Venice?"
"That's right." Her voice was clear and strong, and it carried to every recess of the auditorium.
"Go ahead whenever you're ready." The director, Miss Hart, studied Lana with a practiced eye.
Lana took a single deep breath and began her recitation. In the house, Pete and Clark sat forward.
"Holy shit," Pete breathed.
"What did I tell you?" Chloe said.
"She's amazing." Clark whispered.
"What did I tell you?" Chloe couldn't stop smiling, despite the triple-time racing of her heart.
Lana got the hugest ovation by far. Pete, Clark, and Chloe were on her heels as she left the auditorium. "Oh, my God!" Clark exclaimed.
"You totally nailed it," Chloe said, hugging her.
"Did I?" Lana laughed. "I don't remember any of it."
"We were wrong," Clark said.
"We were so wrong," Pete amended.
"And you!" Clark looked at Chloe. "You told us all along, and we wouldn't listen. We were wrong."
Chloe shrugged. "You were men."
"The direct cause of our wrongness." Pete nodded. "Definitely."
"I think we should take you both out to dinner to atone for our masculine oafishness."
Chloe and Lana giggled. "Masculine oafishness, huh?" Lana asked. "He pulled out the big dictionary for that one. As wonderful as your offer sounds, I have a shift at the Talon in half an hour. Rain check?"
"Sure thing. How about you, Chloe?"
Chloe shook her head. "I haven't seen my dad in, like, a week. I want to eat dinner at home tonight."
"Then how about tomorrow night?" Pete remained undaunted.
Lana and Chloe considered. "Works for me. Chloe?"
"Great!" Pete grinned. "We will pick you lovely ladies up at 6:30."
"Should we...dress?" Lana asked.
"Well, you shouldn't be naked." Clark smirked.
"Should we dress up?" Chloe smacked his arm.
Clark shrugged. "If you really want to."
Chloe's bright eyes narrowed. "Should we...be scared?"
Pete laughed. "Just be ready at 6:30."
There weren't too many places for four teenagers to go in Smallville on a school night. Still, Lana and Chloe were startled when they discovered that their 'dinner out' was actually dinner in - at Luther Manor. The mystery of how the hell Clark had convinced Pete to go along with this scheme was solved by Clark's too-casual mention that there would be no actual Luthors at home for the evening. Chloe wondered what that had cost him.
As they sat around dishes of lobster bisque and more flatware than they'd ever know how to use, Clark raised his crystal goblet of sparkling white grape juice ('I know you'd hoped for champagne,' read Lex's hand-scribbled note to Clark, 'but this is still Smallville; you are still minors; and your parents are still mad at me about the other thing') and said, "A toast to Lana, Smallville's up-and-coming star of the stage. Someday we'll all be able to say we knew her when."
Lana blushed and murmured, "Oh, really, Clark," but she drank the toast anyway. Then she turned and smiled at Chloe. "More importantly, a toast to Chloe, who's been my absolute rock through this whole thing. Without her, I would've been that guy who did the St. Crispin's Day speech."
Chloe shuddered. "Utterly impossible. He was awful beyond imagining. I mean, the St. Crispin's Day speech! Who does that? I was embarrassed for him."
"I agree," Lana said, her glass still held aloft, "but don't think you'll make me forget the toast that easily. To Chloe!"
"To Chloe!" the guys echoed. Amidst the clinking of glasses, Lana glanced at Chloe across the table and mouthed a heart-felt 'Thank-you.' Chloe smiled, and blushed, and dropped her gaze to the table, wishing she didn't suddenly feel like such a big goon. She tried to cover by taking too large a swallow of juice and then half-faking a coughing fit. Clark and Lana immediately whacked her on the back a couple of times, but they only made things worse, the way their hands kept colliding with each other.
And out of nowhere, Lana suddenly mock-glowered at Clark and growled, "Hands off, Kent. You had your chance."
Well, that was an interesting conversational tactic, hereafter to be known as 'The time Lana said that thing that nobody had a response to.' Clark dropped his hand. Lana let hers remain a moment longer.
Pete and Clark stared; Lana looked back at them and shrugged. "What?"
After what worked out to a quiet evening -- for Luthor Manor -- Clark and Pete showed Lana and Chloe home. Chloe noticed Clark looking repeatedly at his watch as he herded them towards Pete's car.
On her way to the bathroom for her pre-bed rituals, Chloe paused outside Lana's door. "G'night, Lana."
"Night." Lana smiled as she crawled into bed. "I had fun tonight. We should do it again sometime."
Chloe shuddered. "I dunno. Luthor Manor with no Luthors was kind of creepy for me."
"I meant going out," Lana said, laughing. "We'll do that again sometime. Just you and me next time -- without the boys."
Chloe blinked. "Um, okay. I mean -- yeah, I'd like that. 'Night." Stupid, she thought as she walked away. Could I have sounded any more stupid? Still, as she bent over the sink to spit out a mouthful of toothpaste - 'To Chloe, my absolute rock' -- Chloe felt a rush in her head and a flutter in her stomach that, for a minute, she couldn't place -- 'Hands off, Kent. You had your chance.' And when the answer hit her -- 'Just you and me next time' -- she was so stunned she straightened up fast and stared at her reflection just to see if it showed in her face. Happy, she thought. This is what happy feels like.
"If I could have everyone's attention, please," Chloe announced in her best 'and the Oscar goes to' voice, causing Clark to look up and Pete to look around in search of the mysterious 'everyone.' "May I present...Lady Macbeth!"
Blushing furiously, Lana slid into the office and mock-curtsied. "She wanted to make an announcement," she apologized.
"It's announcement-worthy news," Chloe shot back.
"Yeah, Lana," Clark said, coming around the desk and hugging her. "Congratulations."
"That's great, Lana," Pete said. "But I thought you weren't supposed to say the name."
"What are we supposed to do -- call her 'Lady that Scottish play' for the next six weeks?" Clark countered.
They all laughed. Only then Lana gave Chloe that secret look she'd been giving her for the past week, a slow, burning, smoky look, and Chloe didn't feel much like laughing anymore.
Three weeks into rehearsals found Lana on her hands and knees in the scene shop, paintbrush in hand, brown hair falling around her face in soft wisps, and to Chloe, coming around a corner in search of her friend, she'd never looked so beautiful. So content, purposeful. She's finally found out who Lana Lang is, Chloe thought, and then found herself scared that there would be no place in Lana Lang for her.
"Chloe!" Lana waved excitedly at her. Unfortunately, she waved with her paintbrush hand, sending droplets of dark green paint flying all over the scene shop walls, the sets sitting around to dry, and a handful of extremely unamused techies.
"Hey, Lana," Chloe said, hands stuffed in her pockets and trying to remember how she had ever managed to act casual around Lana. "What are you doing?"
Lana wiped at her face with the back of her hand, leaving a paint smudge on the tip of her nose that shouldn't have been that adorable. Christ -- did the woman have special powers of...of cute that no one had warned Chloe about? "I'm bringing Birnam Wood to Dunsinane."
Chloe looked around. "I never expected Dunsinane to look so much like the scene shop." Lana scrunched her face and flicked the paintbrush at Chloe. Chloe laughed and dodged the shower. "How much longer you here for?"
"I'm not sure." Lana laughed. "I got so into painting I don't even know what time it is."
Lana tilted her wrist to check her watch, and Chloe gasped. "Lana! What happened to your hand?"
"What?" Lana turned her wrist further. "Oh, that."
"Yes, that!" 'That' was a large, gruesome, red and green slash across the side of Lana's hand.
Unconcerned, Lana waved at the flats dotting the shop. "The shrubbery attacked me."
"So that's just paint?"
"The green is paint. The red is definitely blood."
Chloe stood. "Lana, I'm taking you home."
"But I'm not done with this tree!" Lana protested.
"I don't care," Chloe said decisively. "It's quarter to seven; you've been here almost four hours; dinner is cold; and you're going crazy. We're leaving."
"I have to wash out my brush and put away my paint and--"
"I'll take care of that." Chloe took the paintbrush from Lana's hand and pointed her towards the house. "You go say good-bye to whoever you need to."
As Chloe moved to the sink to wash out the brush, Lana staggered on-stage and called, "Eli? I'm being forced to leave now. I wanted you to know that I don't go voluntarily."
Chloe grinned tightly when she heard him yell back, "Lang? You still here? Your shift ended an hour ago. Get outta here!"
"Eli says I should stay until my tree's done," Lana said as she and Chloe left the theater.
Chloe rolled her eyes and held the door for Lana. "Actors."
"You'll never believe what I just heard!" Chloe burst into the library group study room, gossip at the ready, heedless of any studying that might have been going on inside -- not that any ever was.
"Lex Luthor saying 'please,'" Pete guessed, earning him Clark's eraser bouncing off the side of his head.
Chloe laughed and slid into the empty chair next to Lana. "Do you know who Morgan Anderson is?"
The others stared at her. "Of course we know who she is," Pete said indignantly.
"Yeah, Chloe, she's only your hero from Smallville's past; our most renowned graduate of the last decade." Clark looked smug, but whether it was because he got to show off how well he could occasionally listen to Chloe or because he'd found a way to work 'renowned' into a sentence, she couldn't tell.
"Right. Well, it turns out she might be coming back to Smallville for the reunion!"
Sometimes, Chloe wanted to shake Clark to find out if anything rattled. "Her reunion, Clark. Smallville High School class of '93? Go, Crows? This is her ten-year reunion." Clark shot her the sulking glare.
"You said 'might,'" Pete prompted.
"The East coast's getting totally dumped on, snow-wise. You can never tell until you get up in the morning what airports are going to be open. So I guess if the local weather's good enough, she's coming in. The best part is that if she makes it, she'll be here for invited dress. She's going to see the play."
"That'd be kind of cool," Lana said absently.
Her friends' eyes widened. "Kind of cool?" Clark asked. "Lana, this is Morgan Anderson, beloved and respected drama critic for the 'New York Times.'"
"Yeah," Pete added. "If she sees you and likes you, she could get you in. Broadway, West End, Chicago -- anywhere you want!"
"Guys, guys, hold up!" Lana laughed and held up her hands. "I'm doing one high school play. I don't want 'in' anywhere."
"But you're...you're so good," Chloe protested.
"For one high school production of Macbeth. Don't start envisioning my name on a Tony."
"Okay," Chloe conceded. She felt disappointed, and she wasn't exactly sure why. Of course she hadn't expected Lana to decide to pursue an acting career just from this one play. But she felt as though the news about Morgan Anderson had been her gift to Lana, and Lana had rejected it.
"If she shows," Lana added, "I'll try to meet her. For you guys."
Chloe brightened, then thought that caring so much was a little silly. She tried to return to ambivalence with a casual, "Okay, whatever," but she doubted anyone fell for it.
"Hey, Dana?" Eli nudged the director.
Dana Hart's fingernails had been chewed to nubs, and she wasn't sleeping well. Two weeks left to opening night, and Duncan still didn't have his lines completely memorized. And he didn't have that many in the first place. Whether or not the upper level of the set could actually support the weight of the actors who had to use it was highly questionable, and today 1,200 programs had returned from the printers proclaiming a production by 'William Shackspeare.' There could be no more crises today. "What?" she snapped.
"Lang. Is she giving her understudy the evil eye?"
"Don't be ridiculous." Miss Hart didn't believe in the evil eye.
Still, the longer she watched Lana Lang watch Rebecca Idler, the more she feared that Lana believed in it, and that she was definitely giving it to Rebecca.
"Who moved my cup?" Lana demanded.
"Calm down, Lana," Shane said. "Nobody moved it."
"It was right here." Lana waved madly at the prop table. "I need it for this scene. Who moved it?"
"Lana, only you and the prop crew are allowed to touch your props. You probably put it down someplace different last time."
"The crew!" Lana snapped her fingers.
"Come off it. They didn't touch your cup."
"No, you're right. They're always moving my things. I think I'll go have a little talk with them."
"Lana!" She was already halfway to the scene shop. As Shane turned back to the set, shaking his head, he spotted the cup on the edge of the prop table. The thought that finding it probably wouldn't have made much of a difference to Lana made him extremely nervous.
"They're what?" Lana's furious shriek brought all surrounding conversation to a screeching halt.
"Just last week," Misty continued, covering her confusion by plowing ahead with her story. "Isn't it great?"
"Great?" Lana echoed, shocked. "No, it's not great! Fleance should not get it on with one of the witches who helped lead to his father's death!"
Misty shrank back against the green-room wall. "That's just in the play, Lana. Theo's father isn't dead -- he works at Plant 3. And Theo and Sally have all sorts of stuff in common, and they're just so cute together--"
"Fools." Lana cut her off with an impatient flick of her hand. "You have no sense of a greater scheme at work. No vision." She walked away, leaving Misty staring after her, sweating against the wall.
Lana came into Chloe's room a week before opening night. She draped herself across the end of the bed, bringing one knee up and propping her hands behind her head. Chloe swallowed hard and tried not to look at the places where Lana's pose pulled the light blue cotton of her pajamas tight across her skin. "Hey there, Lana," she said, cursing the way her voice squeaked and stuttered over the three easy syllables. Lana didn't seem to have heard her. Then she blinked and smiled slowly. Chloe scrambled to get her feet under the covers so Lana couldn't see the blush that was taking over her entire body. "What - ahem - what's up?"
Lana gave a distressingly feline shrug. Chloe's palms itched to find out if she could make Lana purr. "I was thinking about Morgan Anderson."
Chloe's smile turned easier. "Isn't it so cool that she's coming? I mean, I know she grew up here, but this is a small town in way more than just population. I always think it's weird when celebrities as big as she is come back to these dinky towns that probably didn't appreciate them when they were there."
Lana nodded absently. "It's like...like the force of destiny, you know?" She propped herself up on one elbow to look at Chloe. "I haven't been in a play since I was twelve, and now I'm in one, and the most famous drama critic Smallville High's ever turned out -- the only drama critic Smallville High's ever turned out -- might see it."
"I thought you didn't care about her connections."
"I didn't, at first." Lana shrugged. "But I've been thinking about it and it's...it's like Fate, or some higher power, is smiling at us."
Chloe frowned. "Us?"
"Sure. Morgan Anderson works for the 'New York Times.' She has to be as useful to a budding young journalist as to an actress." Lana's eyes glinted in a way Chloe wasn't sure she liked. "I bet you could do her job."
Chloe laughed. "I could not."
"I bet you could do it better than she does."
"Lana, I'm an investigator. I've never written a theater review in my life."
"You just need a chance to prove yourself." Lana shrugged. "She might not even be able to make it. But if she does, you'll help me, won't you?"
Frowning, Chloe asked, "Help you with what?"
"Making sure Morgan Anderson really notices us while she's here."
"Clark!" Chloe ran to catch up with her friend, who slowed to wait for her.
"Chloe, what's wrong? You look totally freaked."
"I am. Something is seriously wrong with Lana."
Clark frowned. "What do you mean?"
"Last night--" A flush swept Chloe as she remembered Lana spread across her bed, but she forced herself to concentrate. "Last night she told me that Morgan Anderson coming back here was like 'Fate or some higher power smiling on us.'"
Clark shifted his backpack higher on his shoulders. "What's wrong with that?"
"Nothing -- except that it sounds an awful lot like 'fate and metaphysical aid doth seem to have thee crown'd withal.'"
"Macbeth. Act one, scene five."
Clark smiled. "Are you worried about some sort of intellectual property issue? I think the copyright on Shakespeare's stuff ran out a couple centuries ago."
Rolling her eyes, Chloe said, "Will you take me seriously for a minute? Lana's starting to talk like Lady Macbeth!"
"Jeez, Chloe. She's been living that play for five weeks. She's bound to start talking that way."
Chloe shook her head. "I'm hearing some weird things around, too, from the rehearsals. Clark, I think she's becoming Lady Macbeth."
Clark was wearing blue flannel over a red t-shirt today, a bold departure from his usual red flannel over a blue t-shirt. "That's the dumbest thing I've ever--"
"Is it? This is Smallville, Clark. Is it any weirder than a guy who can suck all the heat out of you, or one who can make himself invisible, or split himself in two?"
"I thought you thought all of that was related to the meteors."
"I'm not sure this isn't. One day I found Lana painting sets, and she'd scraped her hand on a flat that was drying. There was paint in the wound. Green paint."
Chloe rolled her eyes. "Hello, Clark. Green, found in Smallville, makes people act crazy?"
"You think the high school drama department has paint made from meteor rocks?" Clark started shaking his head before Chloe had time to answer. "No way. They wouldn't be that reckless."
"Fine. Just don't say I didn't warn you when Morgan Anderson shows up dead." Chloe started up the hall away from Clark.
"It won't come to that!" he called.
Without turning, she replied, "Read your Shakespeare, Clark. That's exactly what it comes to."
Lana was at the foot of the bed again. Chloe had to put a stop to this. And she would. Any day now.
"Invited dress is tomorrow," Lana said, grinning lazily at Chloe.
"Are you nervous?" Chloe sure as hell was.
"Nope." Lana stretched, and her pajama top rode up, revealing a stretch of smooth skin and perhaps the cutest belly button Chloe had ever seen. "I know all my lines cold, and I think I have a real handle on the character."
"Boy, do you ever," Chloe said, scowling at her coverlet.
"What?" In one sudden and unexpected move, Lana pulled herself to the head of the bed. She perched on all fours, one knee on either side of Chloe's outstretched legs, one hand beside each of Chloe's hips, her face about six inches from Chloe's. Chloe couldn't figure out how she was sweating and chilled at the same time. "You're not chickening out on me, are you?" Lana demanded.
"Chickening out on what?" Chloe asked, fighting very hard to keep her mind on the conversation.
"Our plans for Morgan Anderson. Her plane left LaGuardia right on schedule this morning."
"Lana, we don't have plans for Morgan Anderson."
Chuckling, Lana raised her hand to Chloe's cheek. "Screw you courage to the sticking-place," she murmured, as much to herself as to Chloe, "and we'll not fail."
"Lana," Chloe whispered helplessly.
In the second before Lana's mouth found hers, Chloe realized that Lana's words had come straight from the script. Lana wasn't herself. Something terrible was happening to her, and Chloe ought to feel awful about kissing her in this state. Chloe ought to be pushing her away.
But Lana's lips were so soft, and warm, and tasted faintly of cherry lip gloss. And her hand was drifting down to slip beneath the collar of Chloe's shirt, and Chloe lay her hand at the back of Lana's neck and thought that there were worse fates than making out with Lady Macbeth.
Chloe would be watching invited dress from backstage. Lana had insisted. Chloe had begged Pete and Clark to find some way to keep Morgan Anderson the hell away from the auditorium, but they were still refusing to believe her, so she wasn't surprised to peek through the curtain and recognize the petite brunette in the second row.
Warm hands wrapped around Chloe's waist, and she leaned into the touch -- at the same time her nerve endings were screaming to lean out of it. It's not Lana, she told her body, which proceeded to pay her no heed. She thinks she's Lady Macbeth. But her hands - her hands were plenty real. So were her lips, as she spun Chloe around and covered the blond's mouth with her own. When they ripped apart for air, Lana grabbed Chloe's hand and hauled her further backstage.
"Where are we going?" Chloe demanded.
"Shh." Lana kept her silence until they reached the prop closet. "In here." Chloe's heart hammered against her ribs as Lana yanked the door shut behind them.
Something cold and hard pressed against Chloe's palm, and she jumped. "What is this?"
"A dagger?" Chloe shrieked. Then she understood and relaxed. "Oh, one of the prop daggers. I get it."
"Prop?" Lana blinked at her in confusion. "It's no prop, Chloe."
Trembling, Chloe pushed the point against her palm, waiting for the trick blade to retract into the hollow handle. Nothing happened. "Lana! Why the hell are you giving me a dagger?"
Lana's eyes narrowed. "How else would you do the deed?"
"A deed without a name." Lana put her hands on Chloe's shoulders and stared at her with an unbreaking, hypnotic gaze. "Was hope drunk wherein you dress'd yourself? Has it slept since? And wakes it now, to look so green and pale at what it did so freely?"
"Lana...Lana, what's happened to you? This isn't you."
Lana sighed and squeezed Chloe's shoulders. "Leave all the rest to me." She opened the closet door and stepped out, Chloe dogging her steps.
The stage manager zoomed past. "Lana! You're supposed to be in places for curtain!"
"Shane, thank God!" Chloe called. "Go get Eli. Tell him to get back here right now."
The techie waved at the opposite side of the stage. "We're five minutes to curtain, and he's in the middle of--"
"Okay." Shane raced away from the two women, calling for Eli in his headset.
"What did you do that for?" Lana demanded.
"Just hold on, Lana," Chloe said. She wanted to stroke Lana's face, to reassure her, but she knew that under no circumstances could she loosen her hold on the other girl. "It's okay. Eli's coming."
"Sullivan!" Eli arrived at a run with Miss Hart behind him. "What's going on here? Lang, why aren't you in places?"
"Lana thinks she's Lady Macbeth," Chloe gritted out.
"She is Lady Macbeth," Miss Hart said.
"No, she thinks she's really Lady Macbeth. She thinks we're going to kill Morgan Anderson."
"What?" Miss Hart scoffed. "That's absurd."
"I have given suck," Lana hissed, her eyes knifing into Chloe's, "and know how tender 'tis to love the babe that milks me: I would, while it was smiling in my face, have pluck'd my nipple from his boneless gums and dash'd his brains out, had I so sworn as you have done to this."
Eli and Miss Hart both took a terrified step backwards. "My God," Miss Hart whispered.
"Dana, get your gun," Eli said, very quietly.
"My gun?" she demanded. "I don't own a gun."
"This is Smallville," Eli protested. "Everybody's armed."
"Sure, the farmers who have to protect their livestock all are. I'm a high school drama teacher; what do I need with a gun?"
"Hey!" Chloe took a step towards the production's supposed heads while still holding onto Lana. "Nobody's shooting my girlfriend!"
That got their attention. "Your girlfriend?"
"Your lead actress thinks she's Lady Macbeth," Chloe snapped. "Could you fixate on the lesbianism later?"
Sensing the distraction around her, Lana brought her hands up fast to karate-chop Chloe's wrists. Gasping, Chloe let go, staggering back as Lana grabbed the dagger and raced towards the house.
Chloe had no idea who was around who could stop Lana, but she screamed, "Stop her!" -- just in case.
"Stop that actress!" Miss Hart added, which was almost funny. Chloe straightened up and raced after Lana, thought her madness seemed to have lent her speed.
What happened next is still hard for Chloe to explain. Lana was racing across the stage towards Morgan Anderson, the dagger brandished in front of her. Chloe, Eli, and Miss Hart were on her heels but they weren't going to be able to catch her in time. And then the door to the theater smashed open, and a red-and-blue blur went speeding across Chloe's field of vision.
And suddenly Clark was there, tackling Lana and throwing her to the ground. Clark who was always right where he was needed, Clark with his damned secrets and heroics, was saving Lana again.
On any other day of the year, Chloe would've cursed Clark and his too-perfect timing. Today she was too relieved to do anything but burst into tears.
The crowd in Lana's hospital room was damned impressive. Pete and Clark, Eli and Miss Hart, even Mrs. Fordman. Lana asked them all to leave the instant Chloe showed up.
"Hi." Lana picked at the edge of the turquoise hospital blanket.
"Hey," Chloe said softly. "My dad says he'll come see you as soon as Lex springs him from some board meeting. And Nell and Dean are on their way from Metropolis."
They stared at the bed awkwardly. Then:
"I'm so sorry I--" on top of "How are you--"
They laughed uneasily, all too aware that Lana's other visitors were hovering just outside in the waiting room.
"You're you again, right?" Chloe ventured finally.
"Yeah." Lana nodded. "No more Lady Macbeth, just plain old Lana Lang."
"Hey, I like Lana Lang." Chloe blushed. What if Lana had forgotten everything she'd done under the influence of the paint, like she had with the Nicodemus flower? Just in case, Chloe switched tracks fast. "Did they say what was wrong with you?" Well, that was smooth.
Lana frowned. "They don't know for sure, but whatever it was, they fixed it with the same medicine they used on me after the Nicodemus flower."
"Good thing they had some left, then."
"Sure." Lana brought her eyes up to meet Chloe's. "Thanks for trying to stop me."
"You didn't think I was going to let you charge out and kill Morgan Anderson, did you?"
"How is she, anyway?" Lana asked nervously.
Chloe smiled to reassure her. "Shaken, but okay."
"Good. I didn't think I got close enough for her to realize what I was trying to do." She laughed shakily.
And then the pieces clicked together. "You...you remember what happened?"
Lana blushed and dropped her gaze again. "I remember everything."
And from the look on her face...maybe it would've been been better if she'd forgotten. Chloe sank into the chair beside the bed. "Oh, God. Lana, I--"
"Hey." Lana grabbed her hand. "I took advantage of you."
"I let you!"
Lana started giggling. Chloe stared at her. "Who'd've guessed it would take me going crazy and nearly killing someone to get us to admit we're attracted to each other?"
When she put it like that, Chloe admitted, it was pretty funny. Chloe snickered. Then she laughed outright. Soon she and Lana were holding their sides, gasping for air.
A scarily efficient-looking nurse bustled into the room and gave Chloe a very mean look. "Miss Sullivan, I'm going to have to ask you to leave now. Miss Lang needs rest."
Sighing, Chloe rose and squeezed Lana's hand. She really wanted to kiss Lana, but she didn't think she dared, with the nurse fiddling with the IV, and half of Smallville milling around the waiting room, and their relationship in a very strange place now that Lana was no longer delusional. She paused at the door and looked back, an uncertain smile on her lips. "I'll be back as soon as visiting hours start tomorrow. We need to talk about things. Discuss ordnance tactics."
"I've always been a fan of Napoleon's battle plan."
"First you show up, and then you see what happens?" Chloe shook her head. "You have to stop taking strategy lessons from Lex."
Lana gave Chloe her most unguarded smile. "I'm glad I remember everything, Chloe."
Chloe smiled back and tried not to melt all over the hospital floor. "So am I."
Well, the show must go on. Rebecca filled in on opening night, but Lana was released from the hospital on Saturday, and all attempts to convince her to sit out the performance were wasted breath. She costumed up, took the collapsing prop dagger, and blew the minds of every last person in the house -- all of which Chloe watched from the wings. Lana hadn't been quite secure enough in her newly restored sanity to go on without the blond in sight.
Pete and Clark rushed onstage the instant the house lights were up, hugging Lana and congratulating her time and again. "You were fantastic," Clark gushed. Her nose still buried in the bouquet of daffodils Chloe had given her, Lana murmured her thanks.
"And now the acting bug's out of your system." Pete added.
Lana and Chloe laughed as they headed towards the meeting and greeting in the lobby. "Are you kidding?" Lana asked. "That barely got me warmed up."
"You mean you're going to do this again?" Clark and Pete stopped dead in the hallway and had to rush to catch up again.
"Next time I think I'd like to try it without the psychotic episode, but, yeah. I'm definitely going to act again."
"There will have to be ground rules," Pete insisted. Ahead of their friends, Lana and Chloe rolled their eyes and linked their fingers together. "Like, no more Shakespeare."
"Yeah," Clark agreed. "Also, no more characters who kill people."
"And, seriously, Lana, for the love of God," Pete began, and the other three jumped in right on cue:
"No more green paint."