His footsteps echoed down the empty hallway. The silence of Smallville High was deafening. Sorrow placed a heavy burden on Pete Ross's heart. From as long as he could remember, Pete looked forward to the years he'd spend in these hallowed halls. His brothers and sister told tall tales about their high school exploits. He wanted to add his own stories to the family collection. But that wasn't to be. By the end of the week, he'd begin a new life miles from Smallville in Wichita with his mom.
He told Clark that the big secret was the cause of the move. Pete lied. Keeping Clark's origins a secret wasn't the easiest thing in the world, nor was it the hardest. What was the alternative of the world knowing the truth? That Clark came from a planet many galaxies away?
The answer came to mind faster than Pete turned the combination on his locker. The world would vilify Clark and make him a lab rat. Pete sighed as he ran a hand over his close cropped hair.
No, the potential of betraying his best friend wasn't a threat. But the revelation of his feelings for another close bud was. Knowing that Chloe Sullivan would never look at him as anything more than a pal even after his declaration of love was enough to send Pete running. All the way to Wichita.
Heels clicked on the tile floor. Only one person hung out at Smallville High on a Friday night. Pete's gut clenched. Why couldn't he do this without running into her? Why couldn't he get out of Smallville fast enough?
"Pete." Chloe stopped at his locker. Wisps of flaxen locks framed her expressive face. Her eyes had a wariness to them. As if she wasn't sure of his reaction to her. Then, she forced a smile to her face. "What are you doing here?"
"Isn't it obvious?" He pointed to the open duffel bag at his feet and to his locker.
Her brows drew together in a frown. "Are you cleaning out your locker?"
"Bingo on the first try," he said, hating the sarcasm in his tone. "Alex, give the lady a prize."
Damn. He hadn't wanted to do this face to face. Maybe he would have emailed her after he and his mom were settled. Why couldn't anything go the way he wanted?
"Pete." She placed her hand on his forearm. The softness of her skin singed him on contact. He inhaled a sharp breath. Their eyes locked. Her eyes widened. He looked away just as she removed her hand. "I'm sor-"
"Don't, Chloe." His words came out in a choked whisper. "Don't say it."
"I didn't mean it the way it sounded."
"It doesn't matter." He ripped posters from the back of the locker and tossed them into the bag. The faster he got this over with, the sooner he could put this time behind him. For years, he held his love for her deep inside him. Now, that she knew, he couldn't bear the shame of her sympathy.
"It matters to me. I don't understand what's going on. Why are you cleaning out your locker? If it's because of what you said...yes, we should have talked about it. We can talk about it now."
"Chloe, really," he said, holding on tightly to his last shred of dignity, "it doesn't matter. I'm moving with my mom to Wichita. I'm cleaning out my locker for the new kid who's moving in."
"Moving? You never said anything. Does Clark know?"
He gave her a look.
Heat filled her cheeks. "Of course, Clark knows. I know that we haven't spoken much since...but leaving like this... You weren't gonna tell me, were you?"
He shrugged and finished putting the last of his mementos into the bag. As he zipped it up, he said, "It's not like telling you would have a made a difference. Goodbye, Chloe."
Slinging the bag over his shoulder, he strolled away before she saw the tears in his eyes.
Clark plopped onto the top step leading to the porch. A blanket of stars filled the sky. On nights like this, he usually sought answers from his telescope. The astral plane seemed endless with an infinite number of possibilities. He always dreamed that somewhere out there, others like him existed. He wasn't alone and the sensation of isolation faded into nothingness.
The screen door slammed shut behind him. His mother's scent of fresh baked apple pie and tulips in full bloom assailed his senses. Instinctively, he shifted his thigh and gave her room. Without a word, she sat beside him.
"We can sit like this or we can talk about it."
"What's there to say?" Not trusting himself to remain stoic, he kept his gaze glued to the sky. "Talking won't change the inevitable."
"Moving on is a part of life, but it doesn't have to be goodbye."
"You didn't see what they did to Pete. That man beat him. Because of me. I don't blame him for leaving especially when it's my fault."
"It's not your fault--"
"Hear me out."
He expelled a low breath. "I'm listening."
"I don't even know what to say anymore. You're not a child where the answers are simple. You're a young man now and you know that sometimes, there is no easy answer. Life isn't simplistic. It's complicated."
"I wonder if I made a mistake in coming back. Look at the chaos I caused. Lionel committed Lex in an asylum. Pete's leaving, so is Lana. The only right thing in my life right now is my friendship with Chloe and I keep waiting for that to get screwed up again."
"That's such a pessimistic way of looking at things. No one wanted you to stay away."
"I hurt so many people." His voice cracked. He swallowed hard to ease the lump in his throat. "I just want to know when it ends. Maybe it would be better if I just do what Jor-El wants me to do."
She rested her hand on the back of his neck. The gentle caress reminded him of a lifetime of her love and comfort. He squeezed his eyes shut and tried to zero in that solitary sensation.
"You should know by now that running away never solves anything."
"It seems to be working for Pete and for Lana."
"Their destiny is not your destiny." Standing, she bent over him and kissed his forehead. "I know you're lonely and scared. Trust me. It doesn't last forever. It won't break you, but it will make you stronger. If you let it."
He opened his eyes and met her smiling blue eyes. "Thanks, Mom."
"That's what I'm here for."
A few seconds later, the screen door squeaked open and eased shut. Martha had gone back inside and Clark was left alone with his thoughts.
After he unintentionally caused Martha's miscarriage, running away had seemed the best answer. But it hadn't been easy. Slipping on the red kryptonite encrusted class ring gave him the edge needed to cut the strings and roar out of Smallville. In hindsight, he recognized the cowardice of his actions. He didn't want to bear the pain of disappointment that screamed from Jonathan Kent's eyes.
Not that he considered Pete or Lana cowards. They had their own crosses to bear. Unfortunately, he seemed to be their heaviest burden. His mom talked about destinies. Maybe it was his destiny to be alone. Without friendship or love.
Finally, the endless promise of the stars appeared less welcoming. Clark stood and was about to go inside when the distant roar of an engine tickled his highly sensitized eardrums. A single headlight beamed in the distance, heading straight for the Kent farm.
Readying himself for possible confrontation, his hands balled into fists at his sides. He stood still and waited for the biker's arrival.
Gravel sputtered in several directions as the Harley suddenly braked on the other side of the fence. Clark held his super speed capabilities in check as he met the uninvited guest outside the gate.
Blue jeans hugged a shapely female form. A black leather jacket and matching helmet hid everything else from view. Just as he was about to use his x-ray vision to see her face, the rider removed her helmet and waved.
"Hey, Clark! Long time no see."
His eyes narrowed. It couldn't be. The last time he saw her she was round and clumsy. Five years later, she was all curves and grace? What a difference time made.
"Don't just stand there gawking!" Bella Ross set her helmet on the seat of her bike. Her hips swayed a seductive rhythm as she crossed the ground to reach him. Dazzling brown eyes twinkled as she met his stare. "You were always big, but this is ridiculous."
"What are you doing here?" he asked. His hands, now itching to grab and hold, unclenched at his sides. He took in the familiar caramel hue of her skin, the dark brown ringlets that caressed her cheeks and the dare in her stance. "What are you doing here?"
She laughed. "You already asked me that. Didn't Pete tell you?"
"No," he said quietly. The mention of his best friend sobered his thoughts. "He didn't tell me you were visiting."
She shook her head. "I'm not visiting." She looked away for a moment. "With Aunt Abigail moving to Wichita, my uncle's in a bad place right now. My dad figured it would be a good time to reconnect with his roots. Look, I didn't come over to bug you. I was actually looking for Pete. Is he here?"
Clark sadly shook his head. "Not tonight."
She released a humorless laugh. "I guess he wasn't as excited about us moving here as I was. It's late and I don't want to bother you--"
He reached out and caught her hand in his. "Wait."
She glanced down at their locked hands. A slow smile came to her full lips. Clark watched it grow and wondered...
"I'll help you look for him."
She arched an eyebrow. "On my bike?"
"Sure. I can handle a hog."
"Hmm," she murmured under her breath, "but I wonder if you can handle me."
Clark knew she hadn't intended for him to hear her. Swallowing down the grin that begged to be released, he slid onto the Harley. She moved behind him. After her arms encircled his waist, he started the engine and guided them into the night.