The farm emptied out slowly, like it was bleeding to death. Jonathan and Martha Kent had been major arteries and with them gone, the house just wasn't alive anymore. Clark spent more time in Metropolis, the apartment Lionel had furnished him with, or in the Fortress of Solitude. So Clark took furniture and knick-knacks and clothes with him, leaving just enough to keep the farm a museum to what had gone before. Kara still spent time there, and Chloe, apparently. Clark found them together in the breakfast nook, one morning when he was feeling particularly guilty about abandoning the farm.
Kara was wearing pajamas, Chloe was wearing a canary-yellow morning robe. She pulled it tighter around her when Clark zoomed in, stirring up a mini-blizzard of flour from the countertop.
"Cous," Kara said, not quite happy to see him. "What are you doing here?"
"I was in the mood for some pancakes and I left some batter here. It just doesn't taste the same if I fix it in Metropolis. Kara, remember that talk we had about wearing clothes when we have guests?"
"Oh, right." She smacked her forehead ("Idiot.") and shot off.
Clark fixated on Chloe's robes. "Or is she a guest?"
"She let me crash here. It's a long drive back to Metropolis and the roads were slick."
Clark nodded. "Well, I'm glad you aren't letting the thing with Jimmy come between you."
"He's just a boy," Chloe said, eyes sparkling.
Clark showed up at the Daily Planet so often that he was practically a cub reporter. On deadline, everyone took advantage of his good nature to grab coffee and snacks. Clark didn't mind, even when his help metamorphosed into proofreading (Lois just hated to impose on him). It was getting to the point where Grant was considering giving him a job and an assignment, just to get him out of the bullpen.
And Clark did have a newshound's instincts, because he saw a story in the fact that Kara brought lunch for both Chloe and Jimmy. He X-rayed the paper bags. One had a ham and rye sandwich next to a Zip-Loc bag of trail mix. Chloe's favorites.
"Thanks, babe," Jimmy said, rising to give Kara a peck on the cheek.
She blushed. Clark's brow furrowed.
"Yeah, thanks babe." Chloe typed with one hand as she took hold of Kara's hand and gave it a tender squeeze.
Kara ruffled Chloe's hair, which became a hand caressing down her straw-blonde tresses. Jimmy broke it up, embracing Kara and laughingly leading her away, her hand in his back pocket. As soon as they were gone, Clark interrupted Chloe's lunch.
"What was that all about?"
"What was what all about?" Chloe replied, mouth half-full of ham on rye.
"I know the two of you broke up on good terms, but the girl he left you for just brought you lunch."
"You think she poisoned it?" Chloe joked. She threateningly brandished the sandwich at him.
Chloe's face wasn't her. It was like some Hollywood make-up artist had gone over it, transforming her into a creature feature victim. Clark couldn't even look at the bruises to categorize her injuries without looking away almost immediately. It was a mercy when the doctors wrapped her concussed head in bandages.
"They found out she was a meteor fre… infected. She told a few of us at the Daily Planet. Someone must've… they knocked her down and just started kicking her… it wasn't even after midnight. Right outside the DP."
Jimmy was in shock. His voice rose and lowered like a guttering flame. One eye was swollen shut and painted over with a dark purple bruise. His shirtfront was speckled with blood. Obviously, he'd tried to defend her. Equally obviously, he'd failed.
"She got one of the bastards with a taser…that's my girl…"
Clark gave Jimmy a quick look-over. Aside from the black eye, he was fine. Gently, as if Olsen was made of porcelain, Clark took him by the arm and sat him down at the edge of the room. Clark couldn't shut down his hearing. He heard Jimmy's heart, still racing; Chloe's, so faint; the ominous chanting of the medical equipment monitoring her.
At times like these , the response was almost automatic. The hospital was even a jumping-off point.
"You said she got one with a taser. Do you think he'd need medical attention?"
"Yeah. You know my girl, she packs a lot of voltage. She shocked him under the chin, he seemed to have trouble breathing… yeah, yeah, he was coughing a lot."
From behind them, a familiar whoosh. Clark turned around just in time to see a blue blur, tan arms and legs pumping. He was only a half-step behind Kara, but at superspeed, that made all the difference. He followed the air disturbed by her passage to the hospital admissions room, found a mess. Back in Chloe's room, Jimmy was stilly forming a word. Luckily, he'd been looking away when Clark had to pull his disappearing act.
Just barely able to hear Kara's accelerated heartbeat, Clark breezed by a room with its door ripped off its hinges. Bulleted up the stairwell, burst through the roof access to find Kara holding a man in a hospital gown over the edge. He had a black scorch mark on his throat… partially covered by Kara's fingers.
The man was unconscious, but still breathing shallowly. Kara squeezed, changing his breathing into a hitched gurgle.
"Stay out of this, Kal-El. He's as big a monster as any of the zoners. Chloe never did a thing to him and he hurt her. He deserves to get hurt in return. That makes sense by both our words.
Clark grinded his teeth. Kara was so tense that if they went to superspeed, she'd probably snap the guy's neck.
"Kara, think about what Jimmy would say if you hurt him."
Kara's grip loosened a little.
"Think about what Chloe would say."
She threw the man back. He skidded across the roof until he came to a stop at Clark's feet. Clark swallowed his revulsion. Kara watched him as he picked the man up and carried him back inside. Clark heard a sonic boom as Kara flew away.
The hospital administrators bought his story that the guy, Alex Fibula, had tried to flee. They called the cops. Clark went on his way.
A few weeks later, Chloe came back from the hospital. She still had stitches and wore a cast, but she was eager to get back to work. Clark nearly didn't fit into her apartment. He and Jimmy ran interference, fluffing the cushions and such. Even Kara showed up, ending her program of Clark avoidance. She said she'd been up at the Fortress. Clark tried to imagine spending more than a few hours with the Fortress AI and shuddered.
Jimmy was talking animatedly with Chloe, charming her as he tried to work her notoriously fussy espresso machine. While they were distracted, Clark nodded to the fire escape. Kara followed him out the window, sitting down on the steps while he leaned against the railing. A few stories down, the omnipresent clockwork of Metropolis traffic ticked forward. Kara was already wrinkling her nose at the Earthly aroma.
"I know what's going on between you and Chloe."
Kara crossed her arms, somewhat hugging them around herself. "Cousin, is now really the best time to get perceptive?"
"This isn't like that. I'm not the wet blanket you think I am. At least, I try not to be. I think about 90% of the time, I succeed."
Clark lowered his head to try to hide his grin. "Okay, maybe I am the wet blanket you think I am. But Chloe's a great girl and if you make each other happy… I don't think you need to hide that. At least not from me."
Kara stood slowly. "Then you know about Jimmy?"
"Yeah. He's your beard."
"It's an Earth phrase. I must admit, I'm a little surprised that Chloe kept her… orientation from me as long as she did, but I'm not exactly the guy to call other people out on their secrets."
Kara chortled on her way back into the apartment. "Maybe you should have a talk with Jimmy. Tell him you know about us, but not the specifics."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Clark, your little acceptance speech gave me more than enough awkward to last a lifetime. I'm going to spend some time with my girlfriend. But thanks for the kind words."
Clark watched her go inside to grab some espresso from Jimmy, who had finally succeeded in getting the machine to work… with a little help from Chloe.
"I don't know what Chloe was thinking," Jimmy said as he moved around the egg, snapping pictures. "No offense, CK, but I don't think I really need a bodyguard."
Clark gave the egg another look. It was as big as three men, and have orange webbing criss-crossed its dull-gray shell.
"What if that thing hatches?"
Jimmy gave him a look. "Well, let's hope I can run faster than you."
Clark sat down on a log. The woods outside Smallville were as misty as usual, pine needles glistening with dew. He considered if X-raying the egg would set it off somehow. Best not to take the chance. Instead, he tried zeroing in on it with his superhearing. There was a pulse of some sort, but it was slow and ponderous. Jimmy snapped another picture, which boomed in Clark's ears like a thunderbolt.
"So, you and Chloe?"
"Uhh… old news, Clark. We're splits."
"That's not what Kara said."
"She… said wha now?"
"Well, it was more what she didn't say." Clark drew himself up to his full, unintentionally intimidating height. "I was kinda hoping you could fill in the blanks."
Jimmy dropped his camera, the strap bouncing it against his skinny chest. "Hey, CK, I know Chloe's your friend and Kara's your cousin, but I swear to you…"
Clark held up his hands plaintively. "I'm not accusing you of anything. I just wanna know the truth."
"The truth…" Jimmy picked up his camera and took a snapshot of the egg. "Yeah, that's a little complicated."
"Well, it's…" Jimmy made a series of gestures like he was trying to work out a mathematical theorem with his hands. "The three of us… like, man and woman and woman, you know?"
"Oh," Clark said, trying very hard not to think about it.
"Like Wild Things. Did you ever see Wild Things?"
"I really don't need any more help in the department of what's going on with… the three of you."
"We wanted to tell you, but someone was always wondering whether it was really your business and maybe you'd be happier not knowing and, well… God, it's not like this is the kind of thing you bring up with other people. Not in Smallville, and even in Metropolis… Chloe really cares about her career; this isn't exactly family values."
"Jimmy, I completely understand why you would keep this under your hat." Clark squeezed his eyes shut and took a deep, deep breath. When he opened his eyes, Jimmy was still there. "And I'm sorry to say that I also understand why you wouldn't want to tell me this. I haven't always been the best friend, or the best cousin. I'm trying to do better on that account. But if there's anything I can do, anything at all."
"We've pretty much got it figured out," Jimmy said, trying hard to keep his face at least solemn. "But maybe if you talked to Chloe. She may not be crazy about you anymore… don't take this the wrong way, but yippee on that account… but you're like a brother to her. It would mean a lot if you could let her know you're okay with this."
The egg cracked.
"Jimmy, now might be a good time to start running."
Jimmy took a picture instead.
"A shared byline," Chloe said, running the tip of her fingernail over Clark's eyewitness account of the hatching. "You know, Clark, you could've just played witness."
"Our boy Kent?" Jimmy asked, throwing himself down in a chair that Chloe pulled out for him. "Nah, he's big-time gonzo journalism."
"Always did like Sesame Street," Clark said absently, sitting down on Chloe's desk. "Jimmy, you mind…" he made a brushing gesture.
Jimmy swiveled on his chair and kicked off from the desk. "Privacy mode engage."
Chloe looked up at him, as his big hands kneading together on his knee like they always did when he was anxious. "Something up, Clark?"
Clark laughed nervously. "Feel like I'm making the rounds or something. It's about you… and Jimmy and Kara."
"Oh." Kara looked away from him, eyes finding the monitor of her computer like she had something to type. "So, you know about that."
"I get the gist of it, yeah."
"You really are going to make a great reporter some day."
"I know it's none of my business…"
"No, it is your business." Chloe slumped back in her chair, hands folding over her belly. "Three of your friends have something special, you have a right to know."
"So did you. Once."
Chloe nodded. "I guess I know how you felt. The thought of rejection, that you would think I was some kind of freak."
"Chloe, you may not be normal, but I could never think of you as a freak."
Chloe gestured to a chair, which Clark pulled out and sat down in.
"Never did think you were into girls though."
"Well, Kara's not just any girl. And Jimmy's a great guy. I'm just happy all three of us have found this thing and we're not going to mess it up."
"I'm happy too."
"So, do you have two anniversaries or just the one? Because it's hard enough to remember just one."
"Clark!" Chloe giggled, throwing the newspaper at him.
Clark caught it and leaned back in his chair to read his first headline. He'd always liked the thought of Chloe having someone in her life to make her happy. Now she had two someones.
Weirder things happened in Smallville.