Clark wasn't sure he liked the news he was getting from his father's AI. He stood in the frigid confines of the Fortress of Solitude and listened to his father talk about biology and changes. The temperatures didn't matter, not at all. He was as comfortable in the arctic as he would have been standing in the heat of Death Valley. The cold wasn't what made him shiver. It was the words he heard coming from the handsome, bearded man who was the image, and the essence, of his biological father.
"My body is going to go through changes? What sort of changes?"
Jor-El passed Clark a flat black disc. It wasn't remarkable in any fashion and it wouldn't have drawn much attention from anyone. It could even, possibly, be mistaken for a coaster.
"What is this?"
"Everything I have compiled on the changes I have been speaking of," his father said. "Study, research, learn as much as you can. If all else fails, ask your mate."
The AI vanished before Clark could ask it to elaborate on anything or ask how he was supposed to read the disc. One thing was for certain, he doubted Lois could either read the disc or understand the complex data about his biology. Yet Jor-El had said to show it to her should he fail to understand the contents. It would seem he knew more about his "mate" than Clark realized.
Clark activated the disc and studied what had been loaded onto it but he understood very little about the information that seemed to float in the air all before him. He'd done fairly well up to a point but now it just seemed he was reading complete nonsense. Defeated, Clark shut the disc down and slipped it into his pocket. He had to get back to Metropolis, to Lois, to his job at the Daily Planet.
Clark felt irritable. Everything frustrated him and things were starting to smell funny. He used to love fried fish sandwiches from the little diner on the corner of fifteenth and Thurman but now, as he opened the wrapper, he couldn't stomach the scent.
"What's wrong? Has it gone bad?"
"It must have. Otherwise smelling it wouldn't want to make me puke, would it?" he snapped.
Lois's eyebrows raised. "Bite my head off."
"I'm sorry," he said, apologizing with a heavy sigh.
"You've been irritated all day. Why don't you take the rest of the day off? Go home, get some research done, put your feet up."
He felt a swell of affection for her and passed her the sandwich she was reaching for. She sniffed it, found it smelled perfectly normal, and took a bite.
"There's a possible reason I'm feeling this way. Something I learned from my father today."
He had her attention now. She slathered tartar sauce onto the sandwich and leaned back in her chair to start eating but Clark wasn't forthcoming with the information he said he had. He was only staring at her, watching her eat the sandwich and feeling mildly disgusted with the sound of her chewing.
"Well?" The crunching sound from the fish sounded unusually loud to Clark. The unpleasant smell made him belch, something he'd only ever had to do in the rare occasions he'd lost his powers.
He reached into his bag and grabbed the disc Jor-El had given him. He'd stored it in a lead lined case. "Let's go. We'll take a look at it in the supply room."
She side eyed him at once. "Clark, we've talked about this. We can't fool around in the supply room anymore. Mr. Pinkerton said he'll write us up if--"
"Lois, I'm serious."
She set her food aside and Clark followed her to the privacy of the supply closet. He held up the box and she took the disc out, looking it over. It covered about half the size of her palm but nothing happened when she held it.
"Hello," she said, speaking directly to it. "Abracadabra. Open Sesame."
Nothing happened. She shook it a few times but still nothing happened.
"Work, damn you," she tried. Clark was annoyed. She clearly wasn't taking the issue seriously. "You make it work."
He frowned at the disc in Lois's hand without trying to take it. "It should work. He said my mate will understand it."
Lois slipped the disc back into its box and Clark felt his shoulders slump. She wrapped her arms around his waist and he hugged her close.
"I don't know what to say, Clark. I can't activate it."
"I'll have to take it to Watchtower, tell Chloe what it says and she can interpret."
"Sounds like a plan. Now get outta here. I have work to do." She gave him a quick kiss and then went back to her desk.
Clark was at Watchtower literally seconds later.
"Just a minute. I'm getting dressed."
"Well hurry, this is important."
He paced the room, feeling anxious. Not to mention hungry. He hadn't eaten all day. He couldn't stomach the weird smell coming off of every bit of food he picked up.
"What's so damn important, Clark? It's supposed to be my day off, remember?"
"We don't get days off in the hero business," he groused as he turned to her. "You know that better than - Jesus!"
Chloe smirked. "I know a lot, Clark, but I wouldn't bet I'm smarter than the Almighty, or his son."
She stood in the middle of the room, stark naked, except for a pair of white socks, and holding a pair of Nike tennis shoes.
"When I said hurry I didn't mean for you to walk out naked."
She blinked up at him, decided he wasn't making sense, and then sat down to put on her shoes. "I'm fully clothed, Clark."
"Not to me. I can't see your clothes."
His emotions were roiling inside him, rolling and tumultuous like a vessel filled with boiling water. He felt nervous, worried, confused, and aroused. She was now standing there wearing nothing but a pair of socks tennis shoes. With her hair wet from the shower and no makeup and just shoes and socks she was both cute and sexy in the most absurd way.
"You're saying I appear naked to you?" she asked.
"Except the shoes and socks. I can see those just fine."
He was looking her over, his eyes drinking in every detail, from the swell of her breasts to the flare of her hips and every angle and curve in between.
"If I look naked to you then why are you standing there staring?"
She was right. It hit him that he shouldn't be ogling his best friend, that he was invading her privacy, and he hastily looked away. "Sorry."
"Yeah, I can tell. You sound wracked with guilt," she replied dryly. "So why are you peeping?"
"I'm not doing it on purpose."
"So everyone is naked? Sounds like a glitch in your x-ray vision."
She went to the bank of computers and sat down. Clark couldn't stop himself from watching her walk over, from watching her round, firm bottom from-
"Eyes up, Clark."
She wasn't even watching him and she knew he was going to look. He felt a surge of guilt. He had a girlfriend he was crazy about and here he was eyeballing her cousin, who was also his best friend.
"So far it's just you who looks naked."
"Look into one of the other buildings. Tell me if everyone is in the buff, just the women, or...men."
She giggled at his sigh of frustration as he searched a nearby building.
"Everybody's clothed," he reported.
"Anything else going on with you?" she asked after leaving the computers and going over to the couch.
"What are you doing?"
"Playing Candy Crush."
He looked directly at her now, a little concerned with the rage that welled up inside him and how high his emotions were riding.
"It's not like I have a Kryptonian WebMD I can scour for a diagnosis, Clark. I'm not a doctor."
"And you obviously don't care that I'm seeing you, and only you, naked! Don't you think that's kind of weird?"
"After all we've been through, does it matter? I have it some thought and I don't have anything you haven't seen before. Just don't tell Ollie."
She had a point. She couldn't diagnose him and her days of freaking out over every little change he went through were apparently over. He missed that. Intensely. Too intensely, which told Clark that he was overreacting and that was tired with whatever he was going through.
"So what's going on besides me being the only one you see naked?"
He sat beside her and rubbed his sweaty palms on his pant legs. "I'm irritable. Everything smells funny. I'm…kinda hot…"
"Cause I'm naked? Aw, Clark. I'm flattered."
He rolled his eyes while she laughed and continued her game. He finally grabbed her phone and tossed it on the chair beside the window, the one she liked to read in. He wanted her undivided attention.
"Hey! I was about to beat that level!"
"Wow, you are irritable," she noted, sitting back with her arms over her chest. Not that it helped. Her breasts were over her arms and her nipples were so pink...Clark cleared his throat.
"I spoke to Jor-El. He says…he says I'm going to be going through some physical changes."
"Are they life-threatening?"
"Probably not. From what I read they're not. He gave me this disc and said my mate will be able to use it but Lois couldn't get it to activate. Maybe he meant mate the way the British mean it? Best friend."
"I thought he only used colloquial terms that you would use," Chloe said. "You don't use mate as meaning a friend you use it to mean partner, lover. Lois must not have handled it right or-"
"Jor-El has the wrong idea about us," she said with a nervous laugh.
He handed the disc to Chloe. As soon as it touched her palm Jor-El appeared across the table from them.
"Who's that?" she asked, her eyes wide. This was her first time actually seeing him.
"I am Jor-El," he said in answer to her question.
Chloe's mouth fell open. "Wow, Clark. Your dad's really hot! Like…smokin' hot."
"Thank you, Miss Sullivan. I'm flattered," the AI said with a smile.
"So, what's going on with Clark?"
"I've compiled extensive information on his transformative stage and what can be expected. Only you and Clark can access the database."
"Why do you think Chloe's my mate?" Clark asked.
The AI looked directly at him. "You chose her, years ago."
He disappeared without another word, leaving Clark and Chloe in an awkward silence, until he finally looked at her. "Um…I don't know what he's talking about."
She laughed nervously. "Yeah, me either…I guess not even your people's tech can get it right all the time."
"Exactly. Must be a program error."
She looked at the disc in her hand. "How do I call up the-oh. There it is."
The information, including a schematic of Clark's body and every organ inside it, came up. They sat and stared while Chloe continued reading. Clark kept looking at her, his eyes always traveling south to the neatly trimmed patch of blond curls between her legs, wondering how soft it would feel to the touch. Oliver Queen was a lucky man to have Chloe. Had they made different choices in life, had he made different choices, he'd know every inch of her body rather than just wondering about it.
She was either so lost in the information before her she didn't notice his staring or she just didn't care. She kept reading, pouring through the data that changed when she needed it to, going beyond what he'd been able to understand. After twenty minutes she rubbed her eyes and shut the data down, placing the disc on the coffee table.
"Well…" she finally said.
"What's going on?"
She looked over at him with an amused smile. "In a nutshell? You've got PMS."
Clark shot up out of his seat. "PMS? That's for women, Chloe."
"And, apparently, Kryptonian men. You're entering puberty."
"Puberty? I'm twenty-three years old."
"Clark, you need to remember you're not human. Your body is so much different from ours internally."
She stood up and Clark felt the beginnings of an erection as he watched her, which couldn't come at a worse time. He didn't want to have one in front of Chloe and he certainly didn't want to have one because of her. He tried to tell himself how it meant nothing, that he was just reacting to a naked woman, but Jor-El's words about how he'd chosen her, apparently years ago, kept ringing in his ears.
"You must be misinterpreting the data."
"Jor-El didn't think I would," she said, grabbing her purse and digging through it.
"What's that? What are you looking for?" he asked nervously.
"Well, it's not a gun loaded with kryptonite bullets," she said, shaking her head in amusement. She pulled out some cash and handed it to him. "I'm hungry and don't feel like cooking. Will you run and get me a number three from Bobby's?"
"How can you think about food at a time like this?" he asked, his voice filled with desperation, which annoyingly amused Chloe.
"Don't be a drama queen, Clark. It's your period, it's not the end of the world."
"Period? Oh, my God!" he said, sounding and looking stricken, which only made her laugh harder. He was going to have periods. He couldn't think of anything more humiliating than that.
"You won't bleed. You'll just…" She looked down and tilted her head. "Get a lot of those."
He had a full-on boner now and it was aching in his pants, trapped against his thigh. He pulled off his jacket to hold it over him.
"Your body is gearing up for mating, to reproduce, which is causing hormonal changes. That's all that's happening to you. Now, I suggest you get yourself something to eat because I'm not sharing."
"I can't eat. Nothing smells right and I find food kind of...disgusting..."
"It might smell right around me. Clark…" her voice trailed off and she bit her lower lip. A lip he'd give anything to nibble on right then.
"What?" he pressed, annoyed that she'd hold out on him now.
"You sort of imprinted on me or something, when we were around eighteen," she told him.
"I imprinted on you? What does that mean?"
"It doesn't have to mean anything between us personally but physically it means you've literally got my DNA mixed into every cell of your body."
"And you think that doesn't have to mean anything between us personally?" he said incredulously.
He stood there, his dick aching in his pants and his eyes starting to itch and warm up, finding out that he absorbed Chloe's DNA and that he really had chosen her. He remembered that time he'd been upset over Lana and he'd been sitting with Chloe in the loft. He'd been vulnerable and kissed her. Really kissed her.
"That time I kissed you in the loft," he said, sitting back down beside her. "Lana…I was hurting and I kissed you."
"I remember. That was the most…"
"Intense kiss ever," he said.
"Yeah," Chloe agreed, her voice soft. "I remembered hoping it meant you'd finally given up on her and wanted something more with me."
"I did," he admitted. "I was just afraid that if we went there it would mess up our friendship. The thought of losing you has always been my deepest fear. That's why I backed off. Big mistake."
"Okay, Clark. Let's not get overly dramatic."
"Don't do that," he said, annoyed and also a little sad.
"Do what?" she questioned.
"Try to brush me off."
"Clark, I'm not. It's just that there's nothing to be done about it now, is there? We've grown up and moved on. You're with Lois, and you're happy, I'm with Oliver, and I'm happy. We've made our choices. This isn't a matter of the heart but a matter of DNA now. Biology. It feels like it's more but it really isn't. After four days of this you'll get over it."
She nodded and patted his leg. "Four days a month you'll go a little nuts. You'll feel all sappy and soft and you'll pine after me and what could have been and then it'll pass."
She squeezed his leg, making him hiss, and she realized where she'd put her hand and what that cord of what felt like muscle was under her palm and jerked her hand back.
"Jesus, Clark. Are all Kryptonian men so…well endowed?"
He ignored the rush of pride her words inspired and held up her money. He also forced himself not to think about how good her hand on his dick, however brief the contact, had felt. "Number three. I'll be back in a minute."
It took him fifteen minutes, almost all of that time waiting on the food, rather than the travel there and back. He was glad not to have to hold his jacket over his front and pretend that he wasn't dying to get back to Chloe and jump her. As he stood in line, almost gagging from the smell of cooking beef and chicken and fries, he returned, hoping Chloe would appear clothed, but she was still naked. He reached out and touched her arm. He could feel her blouse he just couldn't see it, which was a strange experience. It was completely invisible to him.
When they took out their food, two bacon cheeseburgers, it smelled completely normal and Clark's appetite returned with a vengeance. He ate his food and looked at her naked body and felt his erection return. He needed to go off alone and take care of that before he got blue balls. He just wished she could take care of it for him.
"Chloe, this imprint thing, does it go both ways?"
"I don't know," she said, leaving half her food uneaten, which Clark happily grabbed to finish for her. "It might. I certainly feel very close to you right now."
"Closer than usual?"
She nodded. "I imagine that when your time of the month ends those feelings will fade."
They reclined on the couch, Chloe keeping distance from Clark, afraid they'll cross a line they shouldn't just as much as he was.
"You make it seem easy, pretending not to feel anything for someone when you want them literally on a cellular level."
Her smile was sad, one he'd seen too many times over the years, one he'd been the cause of too many times, and he regretted it.
"Yeah, well," she said, and entwined her fingers with his, the only contact she could give him, and that he would have to make due with. "I've had a lot of practice."