She'd seriously contemplated just not going to school on Monday. She was tired, and she thought she had a bruise on her hip from the car, and she was a bit sore from Lex taking her over the hood of his car, and facing Clark was going to be worse than her last bio exam. It was incredibly tempting to roll over and pull the covers over her head and hide.
Unfortunately, she didn't do things like that.
She should have, she thought later, slamming her locker shut. So far she'd dropped her books twice, totally spazzed out in English class--and it wasn't even lunchtime yet. God help her for the rest of the day.
It took some serious concentration to make it to the end of the day without falling and breaking something. Clark kept not looking at her in the way that was more annoying than him coming out and saying 'So, Chloe, how's sex with Lex?' Hey--that rhymed. But finally, the day was over and she could escape to the Torch office, put on some music, and zone out in front of the computer, where no one cared if she was a total spaz.
"Hey," a soft voice said from the door. Chloe jumped and turned--to see Lana, of course. Who else? Just what she needed. But Lana wouldn't understand if she was rude, and she didn't want to be. So she plastered a fake smile on her face and made herself relax.
"Hi," she said. "What brings you to these humble walls today?"
Lana shrugged gracefully and stepped inside. "You seemed a bit...out of it, in English. I didn't get a chance to talk to you at lunch, so I thought I might find you here. Everything okay?"
"Oh yeah, fine. Just having a bad day."
"You sure?" Lana's eyes were dark and warm with concern. Chloe wondered briefly if Lana was a bitter cynic inside, underneath all the layers of caring and being earnest and nice and stuff. She liked to think so, but that was probably her over-cynical brain kicking in.
"Yeah--well, kind of," Chloe said without meaning to. "Clark and I had a bit of a--discussion, last night."
Lana nodded and sat down on the only space available, which happened to be the top of the table. "He mentioned that, but he didn't say what you talked about."
"Not much. My supposed love life and all that." Chloe shrugged. "Why he felt the need to ask me about it at three in the morning, I don't know." She grinned and hoped Lana would leave it at that.
"Yeah--Clark can be kind of strange like that, sometimes," Lana admitted. She smiled back. "Chloe--I don't mean to pry, but honestly, if there's something you want to talk to me about--"
"I'm fine. Really. Everything is okay." Stop babbling, she ordered herself. "Sorry, I'm way more tired than I should be--maybe I'll just go home and get some sleep."
"Well, I was on my way to the Talon in search of a cup of cappucino--do you want to join me?" Lana smiled. "It's not sleep, but it might keep you awake for a bit."
"Um--yeah, sure, why not? Caffeine's a good thing." Chloe stood and grabbed her fuzzy green sweater. "Let's go."
The Talon was about half-full, which was typical for the time of day. Chloe went for a latte, while Lana got the cappucino she'd wanted. They settled into squashy chairs and relaxed, not saying much for the first few moments as they savored the caffeinated steam wafting off the drinks. The Talon did have good coffee, she had to admit.
"I can't believe it's only Monday," Chloe grumbled at last.
"Me either. I swear, there's some sort of screwy loop in the space-time continuum around here."
"Be careful--this is Smallville. There just might be one."
That got her a grin and a nod. "Sad but true."
"So, um--where's Clark this afternoon?" Chloe asked carefully.
"Oh, he had to go make deliveries. He might stop by later." Lana hesitated, then leaned forward a bit. "Are you sure everything's okay between you two?"
"Okay might be pushing it a bit, but I think we'll manage. How are things between you two?"
"Oh, fine." Lana smiled. "You know Clark--he's a bit strange sometimes."
"Sometimes?" Chloe arched an eyebrow. Ten, nine, eight--then Lana cracked and they both started giggling.
"All right, so he's a bit strange in general."
"Now that I'll agree with."
"Oh look, there's Lex," Lana commented, looking outside at the sports car that had just pulled up. "I've never figured out why he comes here for coffee."
"Must be the service." Oh boy. Just what she needed. She downed half of her coffee in one swallow, hoping the hot caffeine would jolt her brain awake enough to handle this.
"Right." Lana regarded her a bit strangely, but didn't say anything.
Lex entered and strode over to the counter to order. He added cream to whatever he'd gotten, turned, and saw them. "Ladies," he said politely, stopping by their chairs.
"Hello," Lana said, smiling at him. "Care to join us?"
Oh no. Oh shit. "Unless, that is, you've got work to do," Chloe said, offering him an out.
"Amazingly enough, not today." Lex rested a casual hand on the back of Chloe's chair. "But if you don't want my company--"
"Oh, sit down," she said, rolling her eyes.
He gave her a half-smirk and sat. "Are you all right, Chloe? You look--tired." His voice was laced with just the right amount of casual concern. She caught his eyes, though, and saw the hint of mischief in them.
Well, two could play that game, although she wasn't as good at it as he was. "Couldn't sleep last night," she said lightly. "Clark decided to show up at my window at three thirty."
Lex raised an eyebrow. "If it wasn't for the fair Miss Lang, I'd suggest he was interested in you."
Chloe snorted. "Right. I so don't think so."
"I suppose this is a good thing," Lex said, catching her eyes. She bit her lip at the look in them and dropped her gaze to her coffee. Lex--possessive? That was a bit unusual. "For you, at least," he added lightly and she realized he was talking to Lana.
"I should hope so." Lana smiled.
"So what did Clark want to talk to you about?" Lex asked, turning back to Chloe.
"My supposed love life," she said sweetly.
"Yes. He supposed he saw something."
"And did he?" No matter what his tone said, there was more to that question than Lana knew. She hadn't told him what Clark had wanted and she knew he wasn't going to let it drop until he found out.
Chloe glanced at Lana briefly before answering. "I believe that's my business," she said, deciding to take the easy way out.
"Come on, Chloe," Lana pressed. "We're friends here."
She sighed. Damn. No way out of this one. "He might have, yes," she admitted.
"And this is a bad thing?" Lex asked.
"What is this, the Inquisition? Sheesh, guys--cut me some slack, would you? I'm tired, I'm a bit on the cranky side, and I have this monster bruise on my right hip." Chloe shifted in her seat.
"Where'd that come from?" Lana asked in concern. "Are you all right?"
"Yeah--I banged myself against a parked car yesterday. Hurts, but no serious injury done, save to my pride."
"I've got some stuff up at the house that's wonderful on bruises, if you'd like it," Lex offered.
"I might, at that."
"Feel free to drop by anytime."
Oh shit. Had he just given her an open invitation? From the hint in his eyes, she'd say so. "Thanks." She sipped her coffee to cover her discomfiture.
Chloe looked outside and nearly dropped her mug. Not Clark, please, not Clark--she closed her eyes as he walked into the Talon. She was so dead.
"Hi guys," Clark said, joining them.
"Clark." Lex nodded in acknowledgement. "Are you joining us?"
"Uh--sure." He sat next to Lana, looking at the three of them with confusion. "I didn't expect to see you," he said to Lex.
Lex shrugged. "I thought I'd drop by and take a break from work. There's only so long I can look at numbers before they start blurring."
"So, um, how are you today?" Clark said to Chloe.
"Well, I'd be better if someone had let me get some sleep," she said a bit waspishly. "Remind me to return the favor some day."
"Great--so the next time you knock on my window asking me about having an affair with Lex--" Clark stopped in mid-sentence as all three of them turned to Look at him.
Oh, shit. Chloe wanted to sink into the floor. Lana's eyes widened in shock. Clark turned red. And Lex didn't even look ruffled.
"Well," Lana said finally. "That...explains a few things."
"I'll just be sinking into the floor now," Chloe commented to no one in particular.
"So, Clark, would you like some salt for that boot of yours?" Lex offered sardonically.
"I didn't realize you hadn't told her," Clark said, looking like he'd rather be anywhere else than where he was.
"What, about your sordid affair with Lex?" Chloe shot at him.
Lex hid a smirk rather unsuccessfully. "Darling, don't be catty. It suits you too well."
"We didn't have one!" Clark protested.
"Well, that's a relief," Lana said, looking at Clark. "Otherwise I'd feel left out."
"Don't be," Lex commented. "My past of sordid affairs isn't pretty."
"Gee, thanks." Chloe glared at him.
"I said my past, not my present." Lex smirked.
"I'll be going now, I think," Chloe said, standing up. She slung her bag over one shoulder and turned to go, only to find Lex's hand on her wrist.
"Don't go yet," he said quietly, and she sat down before she'd realized she'd done it. One of these days, she was going to have to talk to him about that.
"Is all the snarking done now?" Lana asked.
"God, I hope so." Chloe slumped down in her chair. Could this day get any worse?
"So--you and Lex, huh?" Lana asked.
Chloe nodded. "Yup."
Lana sipped her cappucino thoughtfully. Chloe hadn't thought it was possible to drink coffee in an earnest manner; then again, this was Lana. "Why didn't you tell me?" she said finally.
"Um--paranoia? Fear for both our reputations?"
"More yours than mine," Lex commented wryly. "Mine's already beyond repair in this town."
"And people finding out about me wouldn't help."
Lex shrugged a little. "Probably not."
"So how long has this been going on?" Lana cut in.
"Two weeks." Chloe set her mug down and hid a yawn. Even with the caffeine, she just wanted a nap. "Can we save the interrogation for a later date? Not that I don't appreciate the thought, but I'm too tired to be a good subject at the moment."
"I wasn't going to interrogate you," Lana protested. "I'm just surprised."
"Sorry." She covered another yawn, blinking.
"Chloe, did you get any sleep last night?" Lana asked.
"Um." It took her a minute to think about that. "No."
"Sorry," Clark said sheepishly.
"I'll live." No one had ever died of sleep deprivation, right?
"Come on," Lex said. "I'll take you back to the manor and you can get a nap." He rose, holding out a hand. Chloe was too tired to protest; she took it and heaved herself to her feet.
"Chloe--" Lana stood as well. "I won't say I'm not surprised, but--if you're happy, then it's fine with me." She smiled.
"Thanks," Chloe said softly. "I--appreciate that." She smiled back before following Lex out of the Talon.
"So he asked you about us, and you didn't tell me?" Lex asked, starting the car.
"Could you yell at me later?" she asked tiredly.
"I'm not yelling, Chloe--I just want to know why."
She sighed. "I was going to tell you, it just wasn't the right time. I'm sorry."
He nodded, stopping at a light. "Don't do it again."
"I won't. I promise." Chloe slumped back in her seat. "Ow," she said, shifting. Damn bruise.
"How badly did you bruise your hip?" he asked.
"I've got a lovely map of Texas now," she said ruefully. "I'll show you back at the manor."
She stumbled getting out of the car--God, she was fading fast--and Lex had to steady her as they headed for his room. "Let me see," he said, gently taking off her shoes and pants.
Chloe hissed in a breath when he touched the bruise. "Ow," she said into the comforter.
"I'll be right back." Lex got up and left the room; Chloe was half-asleep by the time he returned. She vaguely heard the sounds of him opening a bottle before she felt something cool on her hip.
"What is that?" she mumbled.
"A little of this and that. It works well on bruises." Lex closed the bottle again and drew a blanket over her. "Get some sleep, Chloe."
She barely felt him kiss her before sleep dragged her down.
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