Title: Should the Teacher Stand So Near?
Author's email: Camerada2006@yahoo.com
Summary: Lex tutors Chloe
Disclaimer: Don't own `em
A/N: The title comes from an old jazz standard, "Teach Me Tonight." The line goes, "But one thing isn't very clear, my love / Should the teacher stand so near, my love?"
Lex never imagined that happening. Lana, yes. In fact, he had seen her break down from stress once, just before the Talon opened. Mrs. Kent, perhaps, but only if something happened to one of her boys. Chloe, never.
When he walked to the Torch office, it was late - even for a layout night. He was hoping to catch Clark and offer him a ride home. His day had been monstrous, and listening to Clark's chatter was a good way to relax.
As he approached the door, he thought he heard high pitched, gasping laughter. The door was ajar, and the only one present was Chloe. Sitting before her green iMac, Chloe's shoulders were shaking and her hands covered her face.
She wasn't laughing.
She jumped up, dashing the tears quickly from her face before looking him in the eye.
"Lex!" she said, over-bright. "How are you?"
"Fine . . . are you - were you . . ." At this point Lex wasn't quite sure what the hell he was doing.
"Oh," she laughed unconvincingly, "just cleaning some toxins from my system."
"Stress or sadness-induced toxins?" Lex asked, feeling like whatever comfort he was attempting to offer was woefully inadequate.
"Um," she started putting some things in her army-green messenger bag. "Can I help you?"
"I was looking for Clark, actually," he paused, watching her fingertips brush over and linger on a yearbook shot of the man in question. "His mother said he was here."
"Just missed him," she said, shoving the photo away from her, before grabbing some more folders to put in the bag.
Chloe picked up a coat which was lying on a chair. Lex thought it looked a little thin for the cold Kansas winter.
"Uh, Lex, I'm leaving now." She looked at him expectantly.
He was standing in the doorway. "Right, let me walk you to your car."
"Battery's dead," Chloe said simply, after attempting to start the car a few times. "The cold killed it."
"Oh," Lex said. "You have jumper cables?"
"Damn," Chloe said softly. Lex watched the white steam rise from her mouth in a tiny cloud.
"Come on," he gestured to his car.
They didn't say much on the ride to her home. As he made the turn onto her street, Lex decided to ask.
"Why were you crying, Chloe?"
He expected to be told to mind his own business, but she answered almost immediately.
"Clark helped Lana with her math homework," she said, shaking her head a little. Lex couldn't decide if she was shaking it at him or herself. "I've been begging him to explain asymptotes for a week now, but he conveniently forgot when the fairy princess showed up."
"Why is it so imperative that Clark help you, Chloe?"
"Clark's a math genius."
Lex pulled the car over beside her house, then turned to look at her. "And?"
Chloe bit her lip and looked down. "And it's frustrating to see him do everything for Lana, except change her pad."
Lex laughed suddenly. Clark did go out of his way to be Lana's knight in shining armor.
"I can help you with your math."
"Lex-" Chloe started.
"Well, it's more than just a one-time thing. I'm seriously deficient."
"Then, we'll have one hour tutoring sessions on the days of your choice."
"You're SO busy."
"I can make time. Besides, high school math would be a welcome break."
"Lex, are you sure?"
"Yeah, I am." And he was.
"Thank you so much!" She thought for a moment. "Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays at five? Or is that too much-"
"That's perfect. Tomorrow's Tuesday; we can meet at the Talon." Although the denizens of the town were beginning to trust him, Lex wasn't sure that having a 16-year-old come to his house three nights a week was such a good idea.
The porch light came on.
"My dad," Chloe got out of the car quickly.
Gabe Sullivan stepped onto the front porch dressed in pajamas, a robe, and what looked like some variety of stuffed animal attached to his feet.
"Hi, Gabe," Lex called from his car. "I was giving Chloe a ride home . . . her battery died."
"Gee, thank you Lex," Gabe shouted back. "Chloe, stop taking up Lex's time and get to bed."
"G'night, Lex," Chloe said.
Her hair was whipping around her face, and her nose and cheeks were pink. Lex was struck with the sudden thought that she was absolutely breathtaking.
Chloe and Lex were on their third tutoring session when Pete began to notice something; Flirting.
It wasn't obvious - unless one watched closely - and Pete watched closely.
Lex leaned toward Chloe to murmur something, smiling. Chloe laughed softly, brushing a lock of hair out of her eyes. He pulled back, and began to flip through a bright blue folder. However intent he seemed to be on his work, the slightest crease between her eyebrows would cause him to ask (at least according to Pete's almost non existent lip-reading skills): "Need help?"
Chloe would shake her head in denial. Classic Chloe, Pete thought, never asking for help, always turning it down on the first offer. It had taken him a couple of years to learn that when it came to helping her, one had to be aggressive.
Except Lex wasn't aggressive. He gently tugged the pencil from her fingers, and it would fly over the paper, putting into words and symbols whatever it was Chloe wanted to know. When Chloe's mouth went round with surprise, Lex's shoulders shook with silent laughter.
Finally, it was 6 o'clock. The pain behind Pete's eyes compounded when Lex's hand settled on her back, and didn't ease until Lex walked out of the Talon. Of course, watching Chloe watch Lex with a little half-smile on her lips didn't help.
"Chloe," he said loudly.
She looked back at him, her smile spreading wider. Suddenly, the pain in Pete's head was gone.
"Hey, Pete," she said, walking toward him. "I got an A on my last test! Lex has been helping me so much."
"Yeah, I'll bet," Pete said angrily. "Chloe, what's the deal, here? What's Luthor getting out of this?"
"Peter Ross, if you are implying that I'm- "
"Chlo," Pete sighed. "I'm not implying anything. I'm just asking you to think."
"I AM thinking," Chloe said impatiently. "About math. Lex says he likes to help me."
"Lex Luthor is a businessman above all else. He's looking for something from you. He may not know what it is yet, but I promise, you're gonna pay one way or another."
But Pete could tell she was beginning to doubt.
"If you say so." Pete stood. "I gotta eat then hit the sack. Practice early tomorrow."
"Ok, Pete," Chloe said.
He turned, walking backward toward the exit. "It's only `cause I care, Chlo."
She smiled then. "Yeah, I know."
After exchanging pleasantries with Enrique, Chloe headed to Lex's study. This was the first time she'd been to the manor since that disastrous interview.
She was nervous. Even though she defended Lex to Pete, he had planted some doubts in her head.
Chloe wasn't nave. She had done her research on Lex Luthor, and probably knew as much about her as the Daily Planet society editor. He'd had his less-than-shining moments.
Nonetheless, she liked Lex. She liked his outlook, his steadiness, and calm temperament. Not to mention the fact that he was very handsome.
But that didn't mean Pete wasn't right.
Chloe walked into the study apprehensively. Then stopped breathing. Handsome? No, Lex wasn't handsome. Lex was Gorgeous.
He stood before a bookshelf, giving Chloe a great view of his profile. Sleek, soft black pants rode low on his hips, breaking at his bare feet. (Very nice feet, Chloe's head added). An equally soft looking heather blue long sleeve tee completed the outfit. The sleeves were haphazardly shoved up mid-forearm. He was holding a book.
He was speaking softly, Chloe suddenly realized. Reading aloud.
"`We have lingered in the chambers of the sea,'" Lex murmured. "`By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown.'"
Chloe knew the end.
"`'Til human voices wake us," she said softly, approaching him. "And we drown." The end was whispered, almost a prayer.
"Chloe," his smile touched the corners of his eyes.
"You read Eliot?" He held the book up.
"Definitely. `Prufrock' is one of my favorites, `Sweeney Erect' being a close second."
"You like the bawdy innuendo, eh?"
"Of course," Chloe smiled. "The nurse and Mercutio had the best lines in `Romeo and Juliet.'"
Lex smiled, sliding the book back into the shelf.
"Ah," he tugged at his shirt lightly, "pardon my appearance - dad's in Manila, so I can afford to be casual." Lex paused at Chloe's odd look. "I know, he's blind. But even so, I get the feeling he can see right through me, sometimes," he smiled ruefully.
"It's ok - you look, um, normal," Chloe said, stepping closer to the bookshelf. She could almost feel the energy humming under his skin, despite his deceptively languid movements.
"I guess that's a compliment," he said, slipping his hands into his pockets. "So, what can I do for you? Lunch? Coffee? Put on some shoes?" He wiggled his toes when she glanced down.
Chloe laughed. "Actually, I like your feet. They're pretty nice."
"Thanks," he gestured at a sofa, and waited for her to sit before following suit.
Chloe felt like he was waiting. Which made sense, since it was her turn to speak.
"Lex," she began, "I just wanted to thank you for all the help you've given me. I wish I could thank you, but I'm not sure what I could give you."
"Chloe, your happiness and success are thanks enough," Lex said smoothly, pulling a leg up onto the sofa. "If you're wondering what I'm getting out of this agreement, the answer is simply this: an opportunity to know you better."
She had never seen anyone look so relaxed, uncoiled, even. He was comfortable. He was comfortable with HER. And after all the awkward conversations she'd been having recently with Clark, the easy silence was a welcome change.
"What's this?" She noticed a book half-hidden beneath a cushion. She pulled it out. "`Tao Te Ching.' This is an amazing book."
"I'm not surprised you think so. It was a gift from your father. He said I've been reading too much Machiavelli lately."
Chloe laughed. "Well, Lao-Tsu was the opposite of Machiavelli. He believed it was better to be loved than feared." She looked at him. "Which do you believe?"
"Good question. I've never been loved by my employees. So I guess I'd have to take feared."
"Hmm," Chloe murmured. Somehow, she wasn't particularly shocked. "Look at this . . ." She wanted to show him a passage her father used to recite on occasion.
She leaned over closer to Lex, and although they weren't very far apart, he moved his head next to hers.
"`He who has power over others cannot empower himself. He who clings to his work will create nothing that endures,'" Chloe read. "Dad repeats that over and over again when he's stressed out over work."
"Smart man," Lex said, looking at her. "Doesn't leave much hope for me though, does it?"
"Oh, Lex," she looked at him. They were a breath apart. Chloe forgot what she was going to say, and although she was certain it was terribly profound, she was equally certain it could not possibly matter more than Lex's lips so close . . .
"`And indeed there will be time to wonder, "Do I dare?" and "Do I dare?"' . . ." Chloe wasn't sure which one of them said it.
And even though it seemed like neither of them moved, Lex's lips were touching hers. Soft as it was, the pressure was shocking, yet reassuring. Warm steadiness gently moved over her.
When she finally pulled away, Chloe's couldn't stop smiling. Lex had kissed her. She looked at him, but now, he was no longer looking at her.
Lex was angry with himself. It had been wrong, oh so wrong, and he wanted to throw something, wanted to shout, But mostly, he wanted to kiss her again. Unconsciously, a mask slid over his face, hiding inner conflict.
He could feel her eyes on him.
Lex sighed, and rose from the couch. He looked down at Chloe, who had a beautiful smile on her face. It made what he had to say that much harder.
"Chloe," he said, attempting to sound detached. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have taken advantage like that."
Chloe looked at him, disbelief settling over her features.
"I don't want you to get the wrong idea," he continued. "It was a mistake."
"Lex, how could you possibly say-" Chloe started.
"Let me finish," Lex said. "Fuck, Chlo, this is hard enough. Listen, we can't be more than friends. There are too many obstacles which will arise."
"Name one," Chloe said unconvinced.
"Clark." Although Lex thought that was enough, he went on. "Gabe. Pete. Everyone in this godforsaken town."
"Don't blame your personal hang-ups on Smallville," Chloe said angrily, brushing hair from her face. "That's such a copout."
"Fine, you want me to be honest with you, Chloe?" Lex spoke quietly but heatedly. "It was a moment of weakness. You're a pretty girl who happened to show up when I was bemoaning the lack of pretty girls in my life. If you were anyone else, I'd sleep with you and be done with it. But you're not. You are connected to people who are important to me - " Lex broke off, realizing he'd gone too far.
"And I'm not," she said softly.
"That's not what I meant," he began, as she stood and grabbed her purse.
"Of course it is, or else you wouldn't have said it."
"Chloe!" He grabbed her arm as she began to walk away. "You are important to me. That's why we can't do this. It would end badly."
Chloe stopped, then faced him. "Says who?"
A little lop-sided grin. "Any woman I've ever dated." He pulled her back to the couch. "We just can't. There are times when you can say, `consequences be damned.' This isn't one of them."
"So does this mean we don't see each other again?"
"Not unless you want that. I still want to know you better - as a friend." Lex realized he was pleading with her to be his friend. It was something he never would have anticipated before coming to Smallville. He cursed Clark silently while waiting for her answer.
"So, we'll still meet at the Talon," Chloe said briskly. "And we'll still be friends. Without the kissing."
"Exactly." Lex said, looking away, wondering what he'd gotten himself into. How could he Not Kiss those angelic lips? Those angelic lips which had nearly sent him to hell when his brushed against them.
"Um, Lex," she said, her manner no longer business-like, more a little girl than anything else, "I guess I'd better get going . . . I'll talk to you later, yeah?"
"Yeah," he said. "Bye, Chloe."
When she left, Lex poured himself a glass of Remy.
Chloe was absolutely perfect for him. Lex knew this. He could see it in her eyes. In the way she smiled at him, and the way she refused to accept his bullshit. She would fight him . . . and Lex longed for a good fight.
And she would love him. Lex also longed for love. True love, real love . . . the kind the Kents had. The kind his mother had shown his father. But he'd be so much better than his father. He would show love back.
The phone rang - Lex's personal line - which gave him pause. Only two people had that number, and one of them only waited for the third ring before hanging up. It rang again.
Lex hurried to the phone.
Lex was glad he'd picked it up quickly. Bruce Wayne was notoriously impatient.
"Bruce. What's going on?"
"Not much . . . thought I'd give you a call."
"Yeah." A chuckle. "Alfred's out of town, so I can't even get a decent game of chess."
"How long is he in England?"
"Italy, actually. His yearly `constitutional.' A month or so."
"How are you possibly going to occupy yourself?"
"I actually stayed up all night wondering the same thing."
Lex waited, even though he knew what was coming.
"And I came to the conclusion that I should visit an old prep school buddy."
"Really?" Lex deadpanned. "Who?"
"Well, Rowan Patterson is on his honeymoon, and other than him, you're the only guy I could stand, so . . ."
"I'll have Enrique prepare a room."
"When are you coming in?"
"Um, I'm thinking Friday - in time for your birthday party."
"I'm not having one, Bruce."
"Of course you are - got to keep me busy. Plus, there's a fresh crop of debutantes just waiting to be ravaged."
Lex laughed at this. "Ok, fine. But that's it. And I refuse to be sucked in to having a Christmas and New Years' party."
"So you say," Bruce said, dismissively. "Well, guess I'd better email Alfred and ask him what to pack . . . damn, but I can't seem to do anything without the man."
"Staff-dependency is the least of your problems, Wayne.
"You're telling me," Bruce laughed again and disconnected.
One thing Lex was grateful for - an excuse NOT to think about Chloe while preparing for the party.
Bruce Wayne was 5 minutes away from the Luthor Manor.
Which lay in the middle of a field.
In Smallville, Kansas.
To be honest, he STILL couldn't get over that. Shaking his head, Bruce tapped at the dash as one of his favorite songs came on.
"Steppin' out, with my baby - can't go wrong `cause I'm in right. It's for sure, not for maybe, that I'm all dressed up tonight . . ." he nearly missed the drive.
There it was, fountain and all, and Bruce was struck with the sudden thought that the castle truly belonged. It looked as if it had grown up out of the ground, alongside the corn and the cows.
It made him wonder how much Lex had changed.
A man stood in the doorway. Bruce initially thought it was that Enrique fellow, but when he came closer, he saw it was Lex come out to greet him.
"A," Bruce said, smiling.
"Good to see you," Lex said in that booming, sincere-as-all-getout way he had.
"You too, mate."
He soon found himself situated in an overstuffed chair, facing a roaring fire.
"Brandy?" Lex asked, holding up a bottle.
"Jesus, A, what are we, forty?" Bruce said. "Television tells me we should be spending our twenties drinking malternatives like Skyy Blue and Smirnoff Ice."
"I guess you're right," Lex looked at the liquor, setting it back down. He took a seat on the couch adjacent to Bruce's chair.
Lex seemed a little preoccupied, Bruce thought. The circles under his eyes were a dead giveaway
"You haven't been sleeping." It was more of a statement than a question.
Lex looked startled, then shook his head.
"Is it LexCorp? No," he answered the question himself. "Stocks are going through the roof. Your dad giving you hell?"
"He's out of town," Lex negated.
"Well, that leaves . . ." Bruce murmured, " . . . a girl?"
Lex was silent.
"Who is she?" Bruce was pleased that there was a new girl in Lex's life. He was positive that whatever the situation, it couldn't as bad as Lex thought it was - the bald man could be something of a, well, a drama queen.
Lex sighed. "She isn't. We aren't."
"She's a high school student, best friend to one of my closest friends, and the daughter of my plant manager, Gabe."
"Chloe? That girl's gorgeous," Bruce said appreciatively.
Lex looked at Bruce sharply. "How do you know Chloe?"
"Met her at the last convention you sent her dad to. Last spring, and Gabe didn't want her to stay home alone, so he brought her along."
"She probably won't remember me, though," Bruce mused. "It was a brief meeting."
"And how do you remember her?" Lex said, raising fine eyebrows.
"She was wearing this pink, um shirt thing" Bruce gestured across his chest, "but it had no back, and I remember she had these really tight jeans on . . ." he sighed appreciatively. "Very hot. Well, that and the fact that she was giving old Larson hell about his latest statement to Greenpeace."
"That was hot?"
"Have you seen her mad? Her face was red and her hair was flying around. It's hot that she was so excited over something, even if it was elephant seals." Bruce had known a lot of women, at least as many as Lex, and one thing they all had in common: boredom. It was rare, if not downright impossible to meet a girl who had any feeling left in her.
"Yeah," Lex said, staring into the fire.
"So what brought on this attraction?" Bruce asked. "Besides the aforementioned hotness, of course."
"Well . . ." Lex paused, "I don't really know. One second, we were quoting poetry, and the next I was kissing her."
"How did she take it?"
"Badly," Lex said. "Although that was post-` just friends' speech."
"Are you?" Bruce asked.
"Friends?" Lex looked up. "Yeah. I help her with her math homework, we talk. It's almost like things were before. Nope, no romance."
"How would you feel if she started dating someone?" Bruce said, wondering if there was a way to start dating a friend's crush without getting challenged to a duel.
"It's her right . . . why?" Lex asked.
"Just wondering how you feel about her," Bruce said, evasively. "That's hypothetical, of course."
"Of course," Lex said, standing. "The party coordinator will be arriving shortly, to go over the final decisions. I have quite a bit of work to do, however, and since this was your idea . . ."
"I'll meet with her," Bruce said.
"Make sure the champagne is Cristal, the water is Ty Nant, and only Almas caviar is used." Lex said, walking away.
"And platinum flatware for 200?" Bruce called laughingly. "What about the diamond party favors?"
One finger went up in the air as Lex continued his stroll from the room.
By study session eight, Chloe could almost pretend nothing had happened. Almost. Sometimes, she'd imagine that Lex was looking at her a certain way. Or in the midst of a lesson about systems of equations, she'd fall into a rather explicit day-dream involving his lips.
But mostly, things were the same, if not better than before. Often, after the hour was up, she and Lex would sit in the Talon, discussing various currents events, ranging from global news to the latest rumors at Smallville High.
And things were better with Clark, too. Sometimes, he would join her and Lex while they debated. Mostly, he would add a comment or two, and sometimes Chloe could swear he was staring when she laughed at something Lex said.
If she didn't know better, she'd think Clark was jealous. But that was ridiculous.
At any rate, here Chloe was, at Lex's birthday party. With Clark. Lana couldn't make it - Chloe's dad had insisted she stay in bed with a head cold, and Pete decided that keeping Lana company was a great excuse not to attend the Luthor soiree.
For a soiree it was. Silk and satin, pearls and diamonds, sashayed past Chloe and Clark on the dance floor. And that was just the men.
Chloe, who, a few days before had been worried about looking drab, was equal to any of the attendees. Lex had sent an indigo blue dress that draped gracefully over her curves, ending in a full skirt on the floor.
The dress provided Chloe with a boost of confidence, and when Daily Planet society editor Abigail Madden asked her if she was one of the San Francisco Sullivans, Chloe simply laughed.
"Hey," Clark murmured. "I see Lex." Chloe felt a little sorry for Clark, who was so obviously uncomfortable, and smiled encouragingly as he led her over to where his friend was standing.
When Lex saw them, Chloe could feel him appraising her appearance. Her confidence faltered for a moment, but she squared her shoulders.
"Lex," a very pouty brunette was saying, "it's so quaint to have your party here in Smallville. Charming little town."
"Quite," added a handsome man. Chloe recognized him - but couldn't place a name.
Lex ignored the comments, and turned to Clark and Chloe. "Having fun?"
"Lots," Chloe said cheerfully. "Right, Clark?"
Clark offered a grimace. "It's really fancy, Lex."
The familiar-looking hottie glided toward Chloe. She wasn't quite sure how he managed it, but he seemed to move without picking up his feet.
"Bruce Wayne," he said, extending a cool hand.
"Chloe Sullivan," she replied, quickly hiding her surprise.
"Chloe," he rolled her name on his tongue as if savoring something sweet. "Care to dance?"
"Certainly, Mr. Wayne."
"Bruce," he murmured as he swept her out onto the dance floor.
He was elegant - so like Lex. Chloe wondered if it was in the water.
"Do you drink Ty Nant?" she asked suddenly.
"No," he chuckled after a momentary pause. "Only A drinks that stuff by the gallon."
"Short for Alexander, Lex's first name," he explained. "Tap water's good enough for me."
"Is that so?"
"Well, my butler does use a Brita filter," he amended.
Chloe laughed. As they danced, she noticed Lex's eyes following them. When she made eye-contact, he looked away.
She secured her arms around Bruce's neck, and sighed as he pulled her closer.
"You're a lovely young woman, Chloe," Bruce said. "No wonder A's enamored."
Chloe was taken aback to say the least. "What?"
"He's intrigued by you," Bruce added, pulling back enough to look her in the eyes. "As am I."
Chloe looked a question at him.
"However, as A is one of my oldest and closest friends, I couldn't possibly pursue a woman whom he obviously cares for . . ."
"Lex has made it abundantly clear that there is nothing but friendship between us," Chloe said, struggling to keep the bitterness out of her voice.
"In that case," Bruce lowered his head to murmur against her ear, and she felt a shiver go through her. "I'd love to have the pleasure of being your dinner partner, Chloe."
"Clark . . ." Chloe began, but was quickly silenced by Bruce's lips on hers.
So different to Lex, whose kiss had been tentative and soft, Bruce's mouth was brutal and breathtaking. Her mouth opened in a moan, and his tongue entered - a touch gentler than the initial kiss, still demanding, but more engaging. She felt a little bad about kissing Lex's friend, but if Lex wasn't going to kiss her, somebody should.
When he finally pulled away, Chloe had trouble breathing. Heart pounding, head swimming, she swallowed hard.
Bruce smiled down at her brilliant and bright, and she couldn't help but return it.
"Do you jitterbug?" He asked suddenly.
"It's a dance."
"Follow my lead."
Before she could nod in assent, Bruce had pulled away. The music had changed to an unfamiliar, but catchy song.
I found my love in Avalon
Beside the Bay
I left my love in Avalon
And sailed away
I dream of her and Avalon
From Dusk `til Dawn
And so I think I'll travel on
Chloe was laughing breathlessly as she tried to keep up with Bruce. He danced quickly, smoothly, pulling her to him, swinging her back, and she had never imagined anyone could be so fast, yet graceful.
When the song ended, he led her to a chair and brought champagne. "So?"
"That was fun," she said, hesitating half a moment before taking the proffered flute. "You're fun."
"I hate being bored," he replied, taking a seat beside her. "I have to be doing something all the time. Lex thinks I have a problem."
"He's so serious most of the time," Chloe began, sipping the champagne. "You two seem so different, it's hard to believe you're friends."
"Yeah, well, we weren't at first. Lex was quite unpopular in preparatory school. He was rather moody, which didn't go over well with the other guys. Plus, he didn't like sports, whereas I was a member of every team."
"You were a jock, and he was a nerd?" Chloe could imagine it, since, besides their physical differences, Bruce was far more extroverted.
"To put it succinctly," Bruce smiled. "But then I needed a math tutor, and well, you know how good he is at that."
"Absolutely," Chloe grinned. "So after he helped you, you guys became fast friends."
"Well," Bruce paused, "eventually. We didn't like each other very much initially, but we realized there were more commonalities than differences."
Chloe looked at Lex, who seemed to be pointedly ignoring her, and sighed. "I know what you mean."
It was 4:30 am when Lex was finally able to corner Bruce.
He had suffered through the pair's flirting at dinner, on the dance floor, and in the corner. Poor Clark, forgotten, had stuck next to Lex the entire evening.
During dinner, Bruce seemed to be perpetually whispering into Chloe's ear. She would laugh, before turning to murmur something back. But far worse than that was the Kissing. Granted, Bruce managed to be somewhat surreptitious about it, but Lex grew angrier each time he saw his "friend" kiss Chloe.
When Chloe began to yawn, Lex insisted Clark take her home, despite Bruce's oh-so-innocent protestations that she should stay at the manor for convenience. But now the party was over, and the guests who were leaving had left, and the guests who were staying had made their way to their own (and each other's) bedrooms.
Bruce was stretched out on the sofa, eyes closed.
Lex didn't know quite where to begin, so he started with the words that had been running through his head all evening.
"What ARE you thinking?"
"Beg pardon?" Bruce's eyes opened, sliding over Lex, amused, before sinking shut.
"Why did you kiss her?"
"Damn it, Bruce! Chloe Sullivan."
"Oh," he smiled lazily, and Lex felt like breaking things.
"Oh? Chloe's still in high school."
"This I know," Bruce sighed, sitting up. "Not that those words mean anything to me coming from you."
"What are you getting at, Wayne?" Lex asked, indignantly.
"Do the words `Angel Marbury' ring a bell?"
"That was different." He said firmly.
"How so? She was a freshman in high school, you were a junior - no, SENIOR in college."
"Fine, but that doesn't make it right. Besides, Bruce, I've changed." And Lex believed he had. He and his peers had made fun of the straight-laced values Smallville citizens held, but after living in the town for more than a year, he realized there was something to them.
Bruce laughed. "As have I. And since you obviously won't, one of us has to keep up the tradition of seduction."
"You ass," Lex said through clenched teeth. "You want her for sex." A part of him could understand that. Chloe was beautiful and sexy. But she was also witty, adventurous, and intelligent: the makings of a great girlfriend.
Bruce swung his feet from off the leather, and stood, staring at Lex. "My, but how the mighty have become self-righteous."
Lex was silent. Bruce was right. He'd changed, and maybe he was a bit self-righteous, but wasn't that his entitlement? After all, people changed constantly. He opened his mouth to defend himself.
Suddenly Bruce broke into a smile. "A, it isn't that serious. She's amazing, and I don't blame you for loving her. I could do so myself if . . ." he trailed off.
"If what?" Lex asked, relieved.
". . . if it weren't for my undying loyalty to you, mate. Therefore, I shall give up the Chloe Sullivan chase - on one condition."
Lex looked at his friend expectantly.
"You pick it up. No excuses, no `just friends' crap. She's great for you. I want you to date her. Frankly, I want you to marry her. But I'll settle for a relationship."
"It's not that easy-"
"Nothing is," Bruce said shortly. "At least nothing that good for you is. What's her cell number?" Without waiting for an answer, he reached for Lex's cell which lay on a table. After locating the number, he pulled his own out, dialed and pressed send.
"Hey, Chloe," Bruce smiled widely. "It's Bruce Wayne. Sorry to wake you, sweetie. Would you mind very much meeting me at Lex's tomorrow? In the study. Yeah. G'night."
Lex felt that Bruce had just made one of the most important deals of his life.
"It's all up to you now," Bruce walked out of the room. "G'night, A."
Driving to Lex's, Chloe decided to break off whatever it was she had with Bruce.
He was great, she couldn't deny that. But she also couldn't help thinking he would get bored with her and move onto something new after a while. Lex might be arrogant, temperamental (particularly when dealing with stupid people), and snide at times, but she was sure he'd always appreciate her.
Well, that is, if they were actually together. And of course, she had been assured by Lex that this would never happen.
Even so, Chloe harbored a particular fantasy, set about five years hence, when she would be working for the Daily Planet. Lex would be in town, and she'd set up an interview. He'd insist they go out to dinner, and then dancing, and at the end of the night, they'd be in her industrial-style loft drinking Italian wine, listening to soft jazz, and he would kiss her, and then -
Bruce was outside, leaning against an impossibly expensive, foreign and tiny gold roadster.
Chloe put her thoughts in order, shoving images of a naked and oh-so-near Lex to the back of her mind. This was not to terribly hard to do, as Bruce was quite easy on the eyes. His black hair was a little messy, kind of like a little boy who had just rolled out of bed. The look contrasted nicely with the hard thigh muscles she could see shifting beneath his pants.
His face was easy, but his body was tapping out the morse code for "I've been waiting here forEVER."
"Nice car," she said, approaching.
"Gift to Lex," Bruce smiled, standing to kiss her on the cheek. "He hates Italian cars almost as much as he hates golden ones. So of course, I had to get him this." He ran his hand over the fender.
Chloe had trouble imagining getting a friend a gift she knew they would hate; particularly one so expensive.
"I guess it's the answer to `what do you get the billionaire who has everything?'" She shrugged.
"Exactly," Bruce laughed, staccato and upbeat. "He'll donate it to charity, and get a nice little tax write-off. Come on in." Without waiting, he headed inside toward the study.
Chloe found herself skipping a little to keep up.
Tall and broad, Bruce was more like Clark, but as she watched his quick, measured steps, she realized the two billionaires shared an urban sophistication that Clark would never master. She wasn't sure if that was such a bad thing.
"You know," Chloe said, as they entered the study, "I forgot to give Lex his present." She reached into a hip bag and pulled out a rectangular package.
"Wait a moment and I'll go get him," Bruce said.
"Oh, it's ok, I can just-"
"Be right back!" Bruce walked swiftly from the study.
Chloe sighed. She wasn't so sure she was ready to see Lex. Bruce was hot, and as much as she'd enjoyed kissing him the night before, he didn't have the same implicit sexiness Lex did. Hell, watching Lex enter a room was practically an event.
"Chloe," Lex said with a breathtaking smile, making her feel as though he'd been waiting for her for hours, but if necessary, he'd wait longer.
He wore a black shirt and pants made of some soft, pearly gray stuff. Beneath the muted colors was vitality, an energy that took her breath away. She wanted him to cross the room, pull her into his arms and -
Or at the very least, she wanted him to want to.
"Hi, Lex," she held the package out to him.
"Thank you," he said, taking it from her.
"Open it!" Chloe commanded, rocking back on her heels. "Please?"
He chuckled, neatly removing her carefully chosen purple wrapping paper.
It was a book.
Chloe couldn't read his reaction. In fact, she wasn't all too sure he had one.
He opened the leather-bound book, and read the dedication aloud. "`For Lex: a book of some of my favorite poems, and a place for yours.'"
Lex looked up at her before continuing. "`Mica, mica, parva stella . . .'" He grinned at the Latin words. "`Twinkle, twinkle, little star,' my mother used to sing that to me."
"Really?" Chloe hadn't even known what the words meant. But now that she thought about it, it made sense that Lex did. She had just liked the way they sounded.
"Chloe." He was flipping through the book. "You copied them out by hand. Even `Prufrock.'"
"It took a couple weeks, but yeah," she blushed, just a little.
"Thank you," he paused. "I'll have to find some poetry worthy of this lovely book."
"Well, I'm sure Whitman would find a happy home in there."
Lex sat the book down and walked toward her. Chloe expected a quick hug - she was mistaken. Lex's mouth sealed itself to hers, his hands gripping her hips, pulling her to him until there was no air between them.
His lips moved over hers insistently. In the back of her mind, Chloe wondered how someone with such icy blue eyes could have lips so warm . . .
Then Lex pulled back. "Chloe, I care about you. I want you to know that."
"Why?" She didn't know why, but Pete's warning was repeating in her head.
"I care because we're friends, first and foremost."
"You're friends with Clark, and I don't see you guys going at it like this," Chloe knew she was being a bit immature, but she had to be sure.
"Well, Clark's not nearly as beautiful as you are," Lex smirked, and Chloe nearly melted then and there. "Besides, Clark challenges my morals, but you, Chloe Sullivan, challenge my intellect. Clark is invaluable in my life . . . but I need mental stimulation."
"Just mental?" Chloe grinned.
"Well . . ." he smiled, dipping his head to kiss her again. "I'm not averse to other kinds."
"Lex," she whispered against his mouth. "Why - what made you change your mind?"
"I got some good advice," he laughed, a sound that rumbled deep in his throat.
"Oh, yeah, from who?" Chloe asked, pulling back to look into his eyes.
"A mutual friend," he said. "Do you ever run out of questions?"
"Nope," she smiled. "But they can be postponed-"
He kissed her again, drawing a moan from her mouth. "Like so?"
She pulled back again. "But Bruce, he - oh, Lex . . ."
Outside the study, Bruce smiled to himself, slipping his hands in his pockets.
"Lex had better keep this one," he said to no one in particular, walking down the hall.
"Steppin' Out With My Baby," Fred Astaire
"Avalon," Nat King Cole
"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," T.S. Eliot "Tao Te Ching," Lao-tsu
"Mica, mica, parva stella," Latin folksong
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