Title: Just Chloe
Fandoms: Smallville/Ten Inch Hero
Disclaimer: Don't own
Summary: When she realizes that Lex can't keep her safe, Chloe fakes her own death and goes on the run from Lionel's assassins. This lands her penniless and dying for a good night's sleep three months later at Beach City Grill. She's scarred, always looking over her shoulder, and is pretending to be someone she's not, but somehow Priestly makes her feel like it'll be okay.A/N: This story will have 9 or 10 chapters and will be a standalone, unlike many of my other stories. It is set after the movie.A/N2: I can't remember what Lucille's dog is named, and my copy of the movie has yet to arrive, so I'm just going to name him "Benton".
Not even Lex could keep her safe.
That was a sobering thought, one that kept coming back to taunt her during the last couple of nights. She'd barely survived the latest attack, Lionel's assassins always finding her and this time Lex's men hadn't made it. Thankfully, neither had the assassins.
Confronted with the fifth attack on her life since she'd gone into witness protection, standing amidst the bodies of both her protectors and assailants, Chloe had been faced with a dilemma and she'd made an executive decision. Lex couldn't keep her safe. The only way that Lionel would stop sending more and more assassins after her was if she was dead. So she died.
In a manner of speaking.
Setting fire to the place consumed all remains. The blonde made sure to leave everything of hers behind, and didn't even take her wallet just in case the fire left something behind. She'd just taken off with what she wore on her back and had taken the first of a series of greyhounds that crisscrossed America. To pay for her food and passage she pickpocketed, not at all proud of how low she'd fallen, but the blonde wanted to live more than have her pride. She'd spent approximately three months of going nonstop from one state to the other, never staying more than two days in one place, when the blonde found herself in California without any money. She hadn't had any luck pickpocketing, people seemed much more wary here.
It'd been three days since she'd found herself stranded in Santa Cruz, the blonde having stolen a long black wig from a store and wearing it constantly, paranoia and fear hard to keep at bay. She kept worrying that if she let down her guard she'd turn around to find some sort of meteor freak ready to kill her. It made not sleeping an issue, which was great, because she didn't want to sleep on the streets or in the shelters. She'd heard some horror stories about the things that happened there, and didn't want any part of it.
At least on the bus she could fall asleep.
To help stave some of her constant worry, Chloe had taken to going to the local booths that sold clothes and such, and she'd managed to nick some things that weren't her taste at all. It's why she took them. With her long black hair, darkly kohled eyes, black fingernails and punky (completely eccentric) clothes, the girl couldn't look less like her true self. The first time she'd seen her reflection after putting on the makeup she hadn't recognized herself, and that had given her her first jolt of relief in too long.
By this time she'd been on the road for a couple of months, and her new persona gave her enough confidence to stay in Santa Cruz a little longer than she would have. But she'd have to be on the move soon. These sleepless nights and the days of constant walking and barely any food...they were taking a toll on her body and mind. She'd lost weight, her cheeks were slightly sunken in, and the bags under her eyes just made her look paler, which to be fair, complimented her goth/emo/scene/lolita/whatever look. She also found herself falling asleep on her feet sometimes, during the middle of the day, and it terrified her because she couldn't let down her guard.
The sun was unforgiving to her dark clothes, the long black wig only made her hotter, and while Chloe could usually bare the heat in silence she found herself ducking into a shop just to enjoy some AC, not even looking at what they were selling until she was inside.
Green eyes blinked as she stared at the crystals and tarot and other new age stuff surrounding her,
Pulling a long black strand behind her ear, Chloe gave a little shudder of happiness to have air conditioning bathing her. She then slowly walked along the aisles and stared at the idols and dried herbs and crystals and gems and... was that a crystal ball?
Fascinated, not having really ever been to a store like this before, Chloe went closer to the crystal ball and bent to stare at it. The girl staring back at her in her reflection looked very tired and hungry.
Suddenly, another reflection joined hers.
Crying out, Chloe straightened and turned around, heart racing.
If this was a meteor freak assassin, it was the kindest looking one she'd met up with yet.
The woman stared at her, almost seeming to weigh her soul, before she smiled softly. "Welcome my store. I am Zo."
"Chloe." The girl flinched, horrified that she'd actually given her real name and not one of the many ones she'd been using while on the run.
"Chloe." Zo whispered the name before she smiled wider. "Would you like something to eat? You look tired."
Pride flared up as Chloe hugged her stolen bag to her chest. "I'm not hungry, thank you."
Of course her stomach took that time to growl, fiercely.
She flushed in embarrassment.
Zo gave a little sigh, yet her smile was still in place. "I really don't like eating alone. Would you please keep me company?"
Chloe stared up at this woman. Everything she'd been living through made her distrust this kindness, yet a part of her wanted to believe that good people really did exist. The Kents couldn't be the only good people still left on the planet, right? "Okay."
Zo smiled brightly. "My husband owns the sandwich shop across the street." She motioned to the door. "Join me?"
Still wary, yet very hungry, Chloe nodded. She followed Zo out of the shop and waited for the woman in the flowy clothes to lock up before the went across the street to the sandwich shop.
A sign was in the window that read: HELP WANTED. NORMAL PEOPLE NEED NOT APPLY.
The girl stopped and eyed it, intrigued by the sort of person who'd put up a sign like that.
Zo waited for her by the open door.
Clearing her throat, embarrassed by having forgotten for a moment what she was doing, Chloe hurried after Zo and into the shop as she hugged her bag tightly to her chest. She was too used to having to fend for herself on the street, and had quickly learnt that one had to keep the little amount they had to their name held tightly or someone else would take it from you.
She felt as if everyone in the store was looking at her, recognizing that whatever she'd become wasn't usually welcomed in this sort of establishment.
It surprised her at how much she'd changed. The gazes on her terrified her after spending so much time trying to disappear.
Chloe turned to leave.
Zo was there, eyeing her with tenderness. "Come on my dear."
"I really don't-." Chloe didn't even know what she was saying, a panic attack about to hit.
Zo rested her hand on Chloe's shoulder. "Don't worry."
Almost like magic, Chloe's panic died down, and her greens stared up at Zo in utter shock.
Was this woman actually a meteor freak with control over emotions?
"My usual please, Jen, darling." Zo smiled at the girl at the cash register. "And whatever my friend wants as well."
Chloe gulped, licking her lips before turning her gaze on the cashier.
The cashier was blonde and had a kind smile. "What will it be?"
Tightening her grip on her bag, Chloe's gaze went to the menu and then went to the prices, flinching. There was no way that she'd be able to pay for these sandwiches, and she didn't want to pickpocket this woman, not when she'd been the first nice person since this whole nightmare had begun. The girl lowered her gaze. "I'm really not hungry."
"It's on the house, honey." Zo told her softly.
Her pride flared at being a charity case, but the pain in her stomach won. She hung her head in shame.
Zo's grip on her shoulder tightened.
Chloe fought the wave of shame at how low she'd been brought, at having to accept the charity of strangers.
"Why don't we give her a little time to decide?" Jen asked softly, giving the girl an encouraging smile. "We have so many good ones to decide from she obviously needs a little time."
"Good idea." Zo declared, maneuvering Chloe to a booth passed an elderly lady with a chihuahua. "Good afternoon Lucille."
"Hey Zo!" Lucille grinned brightly. "What a pretty girl you have with you! Who's your new friend?"
"Chloe." Zo smiled.
"What a pretty name!" Lucille beamed. "I'm Lucille and this is Benton." She gazed down at her dog, who sat in her handbag. "Say hello Benton."
Chloe's lips twitched slightly. "Hello."
Benton reached out his paw.
The girl's eyes widened. She looked between the two older women before she cleared her throat and loosened her grip on her bag to shake the expectant dog's paw.
"Zo!" A male voice boomed happily.
The loud and unexpected sound scared Chloe. She quickly released her grip on the dog's paw in order to grip her bag to her heart as she twirled around to face the direction the sound had come from, eyes wide in terror.
The man standing before her was, well, uh...
He had a kilt on.
And he didn't have a Scottish accent.
Not only that, but his face was pierced, as were his ears, there was a tattoo of some sort of tribal design going down the side of his neck, and his hair was a bright pink mohawk.
Chloe blinked and hugged her bag tighter to her chest.
His light hazels narrowed on her slightly before they landed on Zo. "Who's your friend?"
"Chloe." Zo slipped an arm around Chloe's shoulders and gave her a little reassuring squeeze. "I'd like you to meet Priestly. He's the head chef."
"Can't really call it "chef" considering we do sandwiches..." he blushed, obviously pleased.
"This is Chloe." Zo went on, telling more people her real name, making the girl wish desperately that she'd given her a false one. "Chloe, why don't you let Priestly recommend a sandwich for you?"
"Sure." She nodded, lowering her gaze, uncomfortable at being the center of attention, desperately wishing to fade into the background. "Surprise me."
"That sounds like a challenge!" Priestly declared. "I accept!"
"It really wasn't-." Chloe began, yet stopped when she realized he wasn't listening, already hurrying off to, uh, fulfill the challenge.
Zo smiled fondly at the guy before she led Chloe to a booth. "You are safe here."
Chloe looked up at that as she sat, eyes wide. "What?"
"You appear about to race out of the door should anyone so much as look in your direction." Zo declared softly. "I do not know whatever troubles you, and I wouldn't be so nosy as to ask, but let me assure you that here, in this place and with these people, you are safe."
Chloe gulped, a large lump in her throat as she stared into that kind face.
Zo reached over and patted her hand before motioning to the wall behind Chloe. "That was my wedding to Trucker."
Chloe turned, not expecting what she found. "Whoa."
The whole wall had a mural of a beach scene, in which two naked people sat on horses in the middle of a congregation.
The girl cleared her throat. "You're..."
"Very lucky." Zo nodded. "I know."
She was going to say 'naked', but decided to leave it at that. "How long have you been married?"
"Nearly two years now." Zo seemed to glow as she smiled. "It has been blissful, joining with the other half of my soul. And the kids here are like children to us. Even when they move on they've kept in touch and make sure to visit as much as possible."
It seemed a lot like a family. "That's nice."
"Piper, one of our girls, is going to have her baby shower here in a couple of weeks, you'll love her, she's a sweet soul." Zo declared with the pride of a mother. "And Tish, she is a vibrant existence! Full of color and spark! Her acting career has finally picked up and she has a series that's been renewed for its second season. We all watch it religiously."
Chloe wondered which series this might be, but didn't ask.
"Here you go!" Priestly appeared out of nowhere at their side, near slamming the two subs down in victory.
Chloe, of course, jumped at his sudden appearance, eyes wide and heart racing as she stared up at him, her breath escaping her in ragged cry.
Priestly's smile slipped from his face as he eyed her, frowning slightly. "You okay there, shortfry?"
"I'm fine, thank you." Her gaze went to the sub. "What did you pick?"
His grin returned. "It's my speciality."
"Oooh!" Jen declared from the cash register. "He won't let anyone know the recipe or watch him prepare it."
"It is delicious." Zo nodded. "Or, at least the vegan version he makes for me is."
Priestly folded his arms over his chest as he watched her. "So? What are you waiting for? Try it!"
Blinking, Chloe pulled a black strand behind her ear and cleared her throat as she unwrapped the sub, giving it a wary little look before taking a small bite. She honestly didn't care how it tasted, she was so hungry she'd eat anything, but the moment she bit into that sub her taste buds exploded in ecstasy and the blonde couldn't keep the groan of appreciation silent as she chewed quickly and took a bigger bite. She only gave a thumbs up while chewing before swallowing and taking another large bite.
Jen and Priestly exchanged small smiles.
Zo unwrapped her sub as well.
Priestly turned and went back behind the counter, visibly pleased with himself.
"Zo darling!" Another male voice declared as an older man appeared from the back room, brushing his hands together as he arrived. "I was wondering when you were coming to lunch, you're about two hours late!" He stopped in front of them and grinned brightly. "I was about to send in Priestly to bring you over before you fainted of hunger!"
"You worry too much." Zo smiled lovingly at him. "Trucker honey, meet Chloe. Chloe, this is my husband, Trucker."
Ah, yes, the other naked person in the painting.
Chloe gave him a tremulous smile, trying not to think about the fact that she'd seen his junk.
Then again, everyone in this place had seen it and they didn't seem to care.
"It's nice to meet you young lady." Trucker had that something about him that Zo did, that innate kindness that seemed to emanate from his pores, his smile lighting up his eyes.
"Nice to meet you too." Chloe nodded.
"So what brings you to Santa Cruz?" Trucker wanted to know, slipping into the booth next to his wife.
She suddenly lost her appetite, lowering the sub with a clearing of her throat. "I, uh," she fought a wave of panic and forced a smile on her features. "I'm looking for myself."
"Ahhhh." Trucker grinned. "I know all about traveling around trying to find myself. How's it going?"
"I'm still searching." She liked this lie the best because it was always the least complicated of her stories.
"Take all the time you need." Trucker declared sagely. "These things take time." He rested an arm around Zo's shoulders as his wife ate what looked like a vegetarian sub. "So where are you staying while you're here? Or are you only passing through?"
"I'm passing through." Chloe replied easily.
"That's too bad." He mumbled to himself. "Ever since Piper and Tish both left we've been left with a vacated position that no one who's applied has been able to really fill." He tilted his head to the side. "We're... special... and not everyone can fit in to our little niche." He eyed her with a kind smile. "I can tell you're our type of person though."
Chloe's eyes widened in shock, not having seen this coming.
Zo though, smiled serenely, and dabbed her napkin to her lips daintily. "There's a small room in the back of the store which would come with the job. It would be nice to have someone around who could look after the place after we close in the evenings."
Chloe blinked and turned her gaze on the woman, wondering why she had the feeling that this was why the woman had brought her here to eat.
"We can't afford to pay you too much, but the room would be free, and you'd have as many free sandwiches as you'd want." Trucker declared.
Chloe stared between the two of them, unable to believe this. "You don't even know me." She dropped her sub. "I could be a murderer for all you know! I could be psychotic! I could-I could-." The blonde gulped, staring between the husband and wife. "I don't know what to say."
"We could really use the help." Trucker announced, as if they weren't the ones who would be helping her out tremendously with this.
Leaning hard against the seat, two parts of her fought. One wanted to be on the move, was terrified of being in the same place for long, but the other was cold and hungry and desperate for the type of security this would give her.
Zo seemed able to read her mind, and gave Chloe the tenderest, most mothering look she'd ever received.
The blonde felt like crying, but blinked back the tears and cleared her throat. "Shouldn't there be some sort of interview involved?"
Trucker chuckled. "There sure is!" He gave his wife a little squeeze. "Elvis, dead or alive?"
Chloe blinked, not having expected that. "Last I read, he'd been abducted by aliens..."
Trucker grinned brightly. "Vampires don't..."
"Glitter?" Chloe tilted her head to the side in confusion. "I'm thinking you're referencing Twilight with that one, and I'd like to say that I'm not bashing the franchise, I just think the author got her creatures wrong. The Cullens and the others are definitely fairies."
"Fairies..." Trucker made a face. "They didn't remind me of Tinkerbell."
"Well, there's a whole kaleidoscope of species of fairies, and two different 'courts': The Seelie and the Unseelie Court-also known as the Light and Dark fairies." Chloe wanted to stop her verbal diarrhea but couldn't. "So the fact that they live in the wild, drink blood-some fairies do drink blood-glitter in the light and have special abilities... They're definitely fairies and not vampires."
Zo nodded her agreement to that.
"When Zo told me they were really fairies, I thought she was making a joke..." Trucker sent his wife a look.
Chloe's wide-eyed gaze slid to Zo, never having heard anyone who agreed with her on that point.
"Onto the next step of our interview process." Trucker declared all importantly. "Word association."
She doubted she'd ever have an interview like this ever again in her whole entire life. "Okay..."
"Tell me what the first word that comes to mind when I say these words." Trucker instructed, clearing his throat before beginning. "Chocolate."
"Yum." Chloe replied quickly.
"Drunk." The girl snorted.
Trucker burst out laughing at that one, slapping his knee.
Chloe cleared her throat, a little embarrassed and a lot amused.
Trucker tried to stop laughing, managing to merely chuckle. "Priestly! Come over here for a second!"
Wiping his hands, Priestly slipped around the counter and headed towards him. "Yep?"
"Meet your new junior assistant." He motioned towards her. "Chloe-."
"Just Chloe." She replied with a nervous little smile.
"Jen!" Priestly turned to the blonde by the cash register. "Just Chloe is joining us!"
"Great!" Jen smiled brightly at her. "Welcome on board."
"Thank you." Chloe cleared her throat, glanced between them all, and hoped she wasn't making a mistake by staying in one place.
She calmed that fear by assuring herself that she wouldn't stay here long enough for it to be a problem. And with that settled, she gave them all a little smile.