verymilkytea: (Default)
[personal profile] verymilkytea
Title: So Much For The Easy Part
Fandom: Smallville
Ships: None in particular, mentions of Clark/Lana, Clark/Chloe unrequired, Chloe/OFC if you want to see it that way.
Rating: M for profane language
Warnings: Ableist slur used.
Summary: Snapshots from a world in which Chloe Sullivan goes to Harvard.

Author's Notes: This is a gift for bessyboo, intended to be podficced by her for the Awesome Ladies anthology. I wrote it for her voice so you should look out for her podfic!

It may interest you to know that this work is a little fugue. A fugue is a piece of contrapuntal music in two or more voices, built on a subject that is introduced at the beginning and recurs over three parts. Here I have three parts, in two or more voices, on a theme that is broadly “Chloe”. A more specific theme, I leave to you to decipher. Of course this is not music, but in the spirit of Hofstadter I think we can permit it the title of “fugue”. Anyhow, it is intended to be read aloud - so it creeps a little closer to music, by virtue of that.

Also, I can't take credit for the idea of hating someone so much it “gives you energy” - this line is from Dylan Moran’s standup.





She has to get out. She has to go to college far away; maybe somewhere on the East Coast. She wants a scholarship - a merit scholarship, not a slimy kind of A-Luthor-Wants-a-Favor scholarship. (But if that‘s all she can get, she thinks she might take it.) She plans for somewhere like NYU, crosses her fingers for Yale, applies to U Maryland just in case - but she gets into Harvard.

She’s a conversation piece around Smallville for two weeks after that. She tries to act like she doesn’t enjoy it. But she really doesn’t mind that everyone’s talking about her, for a change.

She didn’t get a full scholarship, but it’s enough that she won’t have to take out a completely soul-crushing amount of debt. So, not a total failure. No Luthors come offering to pick up the slack, so at least Chloe never has to find out if she would make that deal. Again.

Clark, Pete, and Lana are full of sincere congratulations. In fact, they are so genuinely happy for her that it kind of annoys her. There is no way she would be that happy for her, in their position, headed for Metropolis University. The only person whose congratulations she can understand is Lex, and he sounds the least sincere of everyone. She doesn’t mind insincerity, though. It means there’s something to dig for underneath.

During her last week in Smallville, Lana asks her if she’d like to have coffee. Chloe’s surprised - they never hung out much, just the two of them. But she goes. Lana chatters happily about the future, asks a lot of flattering questions about Chloe’s plans, and declares that Chloe is definitely going to “make it big”.

“I hope so,” Chloe says, honestly. “I mean, I’m going to try, you know?”

“I know you can do it,” Lana says, with bland confidence.

“Thanks. And I know you’ll be - you’ll be great! You’ve always been so full of… conviction!” Chloe says, because she wants to be the kind of person who says that to people. She doesn’t want to be an elitist jerkoff. She really hopes Lana doesn’t see how uncomfortable she is.

“Thanks! I’ve got to come visit you sometime,” Lana says, easily, blithely.

“Yeah, totally!” Chloe says, wondering if Lana really believes they are that close.

“Whatever happens, don’t forget us, okay?” Lana gives her a somewhat conspiratorial smile, like that’ll never happen. Chloe thinks talking to Lana is a bit like talking to a stuffed animal; it’s very hard to imagine what is going on in that brain. If there is some kind of hidden, rich interiority to Lana, Chloe has never seen it. She feels bad. Kind of.

When Chloe does leave for Harvard, she can only admit how terrified she is to one person. He tells her she can change her mind, come back anytime. She wonders if she should tell him that fear is not the same as doubt. He probably knows.

***

Pete comes to visit in the summer after sophomore year. She’s doing research work with one of the professors in the Poli Sci department - it’s only the biggest deal ever - so she can’t travel. At first, she thought Clark would come too. But she hasn’t been the best at staying in contact with him, and he hasn’t really tried either. He doesn’t drop in and out of her life freely, the way Pete does.

They sit on the floor of her dorm room and drink Pabst Blue Ribbon, because Chloe’s very hip friend Eric drinks it and Chloe still doesn’t know much about beer. Or about anything. Because, Kansas. Even now, it’s like a fucking handicap. If she wants to race any of these New England prep-school assholes she always feels like she needs a head start.

“So what’s news with Clark?” She says, after she and Pete have discussed their own lives.

“Same old, same old,” Pete says, “He and Lana are back together. Maybe they can work it out. Seems like they'll never stop trying. But you know Clark - he believes in destiny.”

Chloe snorts. “Ugh, spare me.”

“He’s entitled to his opinion,” Pete says, shrugging easily.

“Not all opinions are created equal,” Chloe says. She gets them both another can of beer.

“You’re never gonna convince Clark of that! You guys....no wonder you don’t talk anymore. I never met any two more different people.”

Chloe wants to say no, that they talk. Sometimes. That they’re alike in some ways, that she can also be loyal, that she also wants to do the right thing and protect the people she loves. Who is she kidding? Clark cares about those things like he cares about breathing. Chloe cares about other things more. She cares about following her curiosity, and being independent, and organising her life to be about her, not about a man or a mission.

Maybe those years of unrequited love have a little something to do with that. She’s not in love with Clark anymore, and wouldn’t want to be with him. But years of wanting someone who doesn’t want you - well, it can really make you reconsider the whole stupid idea of depending on other people for happiness.

“Sometimes I wonder what I even saw in him, you know?” She says, her tone a little over-bright. She shakes her head, trying to clear out the cobwebs, the fog of old yearning, the faint ache in her chest. The muscle-memory of being in love with Clark Kent.

Pete takes a swig of beer and says, “You saw something good.”

“Yeah,” she sighs, knocking her knee against his. “Yeah, I did.”

***

They make her an Associate Managing Editor of the Crimson in her junior year. She would have liked to be Managing Editor, but it’s still something. She breaks the story of the election of the new Harvard President before any major news outlets find out about it. After that, the Lampoon starts snidely referring to her as Blonde Ambition.

She feels like Kansas didn’t prepare her for those needle-fine incisions -- the experience of being mocked by someone with a talent for it. In Smallville, when they mocked you, at least you knew you were better than them.

But her life is exciting now, and busy, and full. She takes a few Computer Science classes, and some International Relations. She even occasionally ventures south of Central Square, for sushi or ice cream. Neeta, an Editorial Chair of the Crimson and Chloe’s partner in crime, introduces her to the actually good espresso at Crema. Eventually, they spend every saturday afternoon there, catching up on The Economist and The New York Times and reading political blogs on their iPads.

“Epic shark-jump from Maureen Dowd this week,” Neeta says. She’s getting cookie crumbs all over the table.

Chloe grins. “Isn’t she running out of sharks?” she says.

“She’s gonna have to start raiding Thomas Friedman’s shark tank,” Neeta agrees.

“Hey, low blow - Dowd’s bad, but not that bad,” Chloe says. She hates Tom Friedman with the fire of a thousand suns. She hates him so much it gives her energy. Neeta holds up her hands in a joking gesture of surrender. Chloe steals the last bit of her cookie.

It’s dark by the time they walk home. “Did you decide about doing a masters yet?” Chloe asks Neeta.

“Nope. You?” Neeta says easily. Not much fazes her; Chloe admires it.

“Not yet. I don’t know. I mean, at this point, is what I want to do closer to journalism, or to political science?” Chloe wonders. She’s less certain about everything, these days. As a result, she’s a little obsessed with how knowledge and truth are created and destroyed - by governments, by media, by ordinary people.

“Only you can answer that, Sullivan,” Neeta says, bumping her shoulder against Chloe’s.

Chloe says, “Yeah, I know. I’ll figure it out.”


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