???

by Ultragirl

Author's notes: This is just a short vignette I wrote at ten-thirty. If it's not my best work, you now know why. ;) Anyway, the point is, it was inspired by one particular scene in the episode of Smallville which aired on 1/16/02.

Legal stuff: Clark Kent, Lana Lang, Chloe Sullivan, Smallville, the Smallville high school's newspaper, the Torch, all are not mine. No copyright infringement intended. (Pleeeease don't sue me; I'm an unemployed teen. Look at it this way: there's nothing you'll get out of it anyway. I'm just having fun. NO MONEY INVOLVED.)

//These indicate thoughts.// *These indicate emphasis.*

*****

I come into the room; it's full of all the things I know and love. Computers, printers, papers- strewn everywhere, I might add -ink, the Wall.

And him. Clark's here.

//Damn, why's he always *everywhere* I go?!//

I glance over his shoulder surreptitiously. //Daily Planet archives, huh? What's up?// I walk around to my desk as I exchange a few words with him. He seems preoccupied- worried. I wonder what's bothering him. And for once, I don't think it's L- *her.*

If he were anyone else in the world- *anywone* -I would have asked him just what it was. I would have hunted down the truth, dug down into the depths of his soul, stipped away the veil of secrecy, in order to find out what

was up with him. But he's not "anyone else;" he's Clark. My one weakness.

So, I don't ask him just what's up; I- for once -choose to be oblique...and God knows that is *so* not how my internal reporter *wants* to ask him. But then there's that little red thing that beats in my chest- a heart. It won't let me be straightfoward. I do love him. I know it. I've never admitted it out loud, but I've also never denied it. And yet I hate him. I mean, *her!* It's always *her* with him. So that's why I'm being less than direct.

For all the good it does me. I don't get a straight answer out of him; I rarely do, anymore. Not since he noticed *her.*

I plop my bag down on my desk; it's then that I finally realize where, exactly, I am. In the Torch office.

I'm not supposed to be here now. This place...it's nothing now.

I look around from under my eyelashes. This room...everything in it...everything it symbolizes... It's my life. I don't know what I'm going to do without the Torch now that Kwan took it away from me.

I squeeze my eyes tightly shut. No tears. No, nuh-uh. Clark's here. I open then again after the smallest fraction of a second. Everything's cool; I'm in control again.

I don't even have the chance to sit down before *she* walks in; she's dressed in *pink,* for heaven's sake! *PINK!!* I mean, come on; what does he see

in her?

Plenty, obviously. Boy, does he suddenly become ten times more alert when someone in *pink* walks into the room.

"So, how'd it go?" Clark asks.

"Well, it was...interesting," *she* answers.

I inwardly roll my eyes. *She* never *was* much with words. "Just bottom line it," I tell her, annoyed with the delay of the news. "When can we get out the next edition?"

"Day after tomorrow," she replies with one of those half-suppressed, supposedly "cute" grins.

"Cool," I say softly. I don't even realize I actually said it out loud until *she* grins at me just a little wider. But then, suddenly, she sobers.

"Except...um, ah..." She quickly douses the tiny spark of hope that had alit in my heart.

"Kwan made me the new editor," she blurts out.

//..... Uh, *excuse me?!* What did you say? I'm sorry, for a second there, I almost thought you said, "He made me the editor." But that couldn't possibly be right, could it?//

"Okay, uhm...rewind, uh, I need you to say that last part again." I say. It's actually funny; even *I* can't tell whether it's a statement, request, or question. Or all of the above.

"After I made my case, Kwan said that if I had that much passion, I should be in charge."

I feel like somebody just slapped me in the face. Ha...it would almost be funny if it weren't such a *disaster.* I'm...suspended. And Lana's editor. //What the *hell?* When did those dang meteor rocks transport me to some alternate universe?! // This is just. Not. Fair. Nor right. Definitely not right, did I mention that IT'S NOT *RIGHT!?!* I'M SUSPENDED AND LANA GETS TO BE *EDITOR?!* What the HELL is up with THAT?!?

Well, at least I didn't say that stuff out loud...

My vision is suddenly suspiciously misty. //Control, man, that's the name of this game...oh, forget control! How am supposed to cope with this? Not writing for the Torch, not coming in here *every day,* not practically *living* here...// It's my worst nightmare. Only I *know* I'll never wake up.

It'll be like...*not breathing.*

I don't know what I'm gonna do. It's like, everything's out of control. No, it's not "like," it *is.* This is totally out of control. Life, as I know it, is officially *over.* I don't know what's gonna go on once I'm gone; this paper...well, let's just say that I know that it wouldn't be much without a good editor. And I can say that I *am* the best dang editor-in-chief this school- no, this *town* -has *ever* seen. I know that sounds *so* conceited, but I also know that it's true.

So what happens now...?

"Uhh...I don't believe this," I finally manage to get out.

"Chloe, it's the only way he'd re-open the paper," she tries to reassure...or maybe just rub in my face.

"So, what? Cheerleading's not enough?! *Maybe* 'the editor of the school newspaper' looks better on a college application," I fire at her.

"That isn't it!" she protests. "I just figured you could ghost write until we got you re-instated."

"Okay...so then *I* would work for *you,*" I point out. I know I'm getting irrational...she probably did just want to help me... //Like *hell* she wanted to help me! All she's doing is trying to steal Clark away from me!!//

Her next words suddenly register in my anger-crowded mind. "The paper would still be yours!"

//Yeah right. But you'd be the editor. Explain to me how the paper would still be mine.// Clark finally seems to decide to do something. He moves between us, and then positions himself a little more to *her* side than to mine. Of course.

"Wai, wait, Chloe, think about it, it's not a bad idea," he says, running his sentences together. //Well. So much for speech class.// Hmph. It figures. Why do I even bother holding out hope...carrying a torch...for him? Why? All I do is get myself hurt.

"Figures you would side with *her,*" I mutter vehemently. I love contradictions.

Clark looks at me with those damned puppy-doy eyes... //Good thing they're not brown. I would have melted long ago.// "I'm not taking *any*one's side," he insists, just a little too harshly.

"Yeah right, Clark." I have to shout at him. For the first time since we were kids playing freeze tag in the front yard of his farmhouse, I actually *want* to yell at Clark Kent. "You're completely objective in all things Lana." It's a low blow, but it's totally true. I hate that girl. Oh, how I hate her.

Clark looks from me to Lana briefly... //Oh, thanks, Clark. I might as well be dead, and all you can think about is that I just blew your cover. Well, YOU'RE WELCOME!!!//

"Gotta go," he says and turns to make his way out the door.

//Coward.// "No, please, Clark, stay! Take *my* desk!" I yell at him. Why does he do this to me?! Why can't he see how great I am?! Why? He must be blind. I thought we were friends...

"Chloe, this isn't what you think," Lana butts in.

I stare at her. "You know what the weirdest part is? For a *milli*second, I almost thought you were my friend," I say accusingly. I'm looking at her; I don't mean it for her ears.

Tears flowing freely from my eyes now, I run out of the office.

End. Watch the episode if you wanna find out what happens!

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