Spoilers: None really, just basic SV and Superman mythology knowledge. AN: Superman mythology tells it like this--Clark Kent is Superman, and he gets together with Lois Lane; Lana marries Pete; and Lex Luthor is a deranged psychotic villain. I'm changing things a bit for the character of Chloe.
Her laughter tinkled in the air as they left the Kent farm, even piercing through the steady white noise of the rain. Chloe's delight spread over Lex like warm honey, and he found himself grinning like a fool. Helping her into her jacket, Lex waved goodbye at Clark. The interrogation was over. Although Jonathan Kent remained disapproving of how innocent and impressionable Chloe Sullivan ended up with the devil incarnate, or rather the son of the devil incarnate, Martha seemed to find something in Lex that assured her that their son's best friend was going to be fine and cared for.
"Maybe you should wait the rain out in the house," Martha suggested, yelling through the noise.
"Oh no," Chloe immediately protested. She ran a hand down Lex's arm. "We have to get going, Mrs. Kent. "We still have a bunch of things to attend to."
"Are you sure?" Lex asked her. "We can call the house and ask them to confirm with the caterers, the flowershop, the church."
Brilliant eyes smiled up excitedly at him. Chloe leaned in close to him, pressing her body against his. "I know that, Lex. But I want to go home with you now. I want to be alone."
He immediately forced his gaze away from his fianc and regarded the Kent family. "Thank you for a lovely dinner. We hope to see you at the wedding." He pulled Chloe to the car and strapped her in. "Bye."
Martha chuckled lightly as the car left their driveway. "They do make a nice-looking couple," she said.
Clark nodded. "I guess he does love her."
Jonathan sighed. Gabe had been concerned about his daughter marrying Lex, and Jonathan had to agree. Lex had capacities beyond anyone's imagination. But seeing them interact together in his dinner table, he had to admit that the relationship appeared harmless enough.
Lightning streaked across the sky, and thunder rumbled through the clouds. Martha looked up worriedly. "I hope Lex doesn't speed out there."
In the car, the couple leaned close together as Lex maneuvered his way through the almost deserted roads leading to the castle. "Aren't you sleepy?"
Chloe shook her head. "I'm too hyped to be sleepy." And then she turned on her seat to face him. The planes of his face were stark against the headlights of the rare car that would drive by. "Maybe if I tell you, then it would subside a bit."
A smile teased the corners of his lips. "You have news. Report, Miss Sullivan."
"Okay." She clasped her hands on her lap. "I wanted you to know before we told anyone. And seeing as I was going to tell my dad tomorrow morning..."
"Suspense is not for the news," he commented. "The inverted pyramid format, remember? Spill the facts, Chloe, before I die."
She stuck her tongue out and leaned back on her seat again. "Fine, Lex. Be like that."
He picked up her hand, managing the steering wheel with one, and brought it to his lips. "Sorry. But are you going to tell me?"
Chloe grinned again. It was so easy to deal with him. This was going to be an awesome marriage. "Are we still going to donate to the public library?"
Lex let out muffled laughter. Chloe was playing him, and he loved it. "You made me promise that yesterday, Chloe. Of course."
"Okay then we're pregnant!" she burst out.
The humor in his face vanished quickly as he glanced at her. And then he looked back at the road. Lex moistened his lips with his tongue. He looked back at Chloe and then cleared his throat. Veering to the side of the road, he parked the car for a moment and then took off his seatbelt. His fingers fumbled as he hurriedly unbuckled hers as well.
Lex cupped her smiling face in his hands, and leaned close to press his lips on hers. "Oh my God," he murmured. "We're going to have a kid."
She answered his lips with a kiss of her own, enjoying the adoration she was basking in now. Lex bent low to kiss her tummy over her blouse, and she ran her hands on the smooth skin of his head. "I think I want a girl," she said thoughtfully. "But a boy would be pretty cool too."
He shook his head and drew her into his arms again. It was with reverence that he dropped butterfly kisses all over her face. "I don't know what I want. I just know I love you."
"I love you too. Now hurry. Drive us home so I can show you how much."
Lex turned on his headlights and started out into the rainy night. A family. This was his long-sought after truth. And he finally found it.
Lois Lane craned her neck and spotted her partner chatting amicably with the Rosses. Clark had introduced her to Pete and Lana when they were out in Smallville a few months ago. It seemed that the Rosses were celebrating their wedding anniversary here in Metropolis. When Clark saw them, a passing look of hurt crossed his eyes. And then he excused himself to say hello.
Her cellphone rang shrilly, and the people in the restaurant glanced at her before dismissing her presence totally. "Hello." The words from the other end of the line gave her that definite twinkle in her eye. "Are you sure he's going to be there?" she demanded. Lois nodded and wrote down the information. "He agreed?" she repeated in disbelief. Lex Luthor never agreed to be interviewed. "Oh okay." Her eyes flickered over at Clark. "I won't take him with me. Yes. Great! Thanks a lot!"
She picked up her purse and dropped a few bills on the table. This was a chance that she wasn't going to let pass. Lois walked over to Clark. "Hi." She extended her hand to Pete and Lana. "It's great to see you both again."
"Hey Lois. I was just going back to the table."
She shook her head. "I gotta run, Clark," she told him. "I'm going to see you back at the Planet." And then she sped away.
"Tough to handle?" Lana piped up, still looking gorgeous if not a little bit older. Clark was captivated.
"Reminds me of Chloe," Pete commented to his wife. "She has the scoop insanity down to boot."
Clark followed Lois with his gaze until she vanished. "Oh she's a little easier to manage than Chloe. Chloe Sullivan had to be the worst when it came to letting something big pass." How long had it been anyway? Two years. And he still felt that paralyzing way his heart clenched.
He was jarred out of his thoughts by the soft hand that wrapped around his. "Clark." He focused in on Lana's concerned face. "Clark, it's okay."
He patted Lana's hand, assuring her that he was with them still.
Meanwhile, Lois sat in Lex Luthor's intimidating office, feeling small against the amazing furnishings. She had taken down all the answers that Lex offered. Now it was time for the kill. "Why does it seem like you know Superman so well?"
Instead of the effect that she expected, that of Lex being shocked at Lois' knowledge, he merely sat back in his chair and tossed a pen on the desk. "I'm surprised your journalistic skills hasn't gotten you that far yet," he said. "Superman saved my life," he told her. "And took it away the very same night."
Lois was at a loss for words. "Curious," was the only one that came to mind, so she used it.
His eyes flashed. "It's not curious, Ms Lane. It's tragic."
"But you're here, alive and kicking," she said lightly.
"I can kick, yes. Alive? That's still on deliberation."
"I'm only after the truth."
There was a subtle beep from the wall, and Lex pushed the remote. "I have a call."
"I'll give you a few minutes," she said, standing up.
"No, Ms Lane. Please. You want a story on me. Stay and absorb." Lois reluctantly sat back down and saw the suit that appeared on the screen. "What seems to be the problem now?"
"We couldn't extract, sir. The owners of the property wouldn't sell."
"Up the offer," he told them. "If they still won't, then destroy them." Lex pushed the off button and the screen went dark. "We're all after the truth, Ms Lane," Lex picked up on their previous conversation as though they had never been interrupted. "This is the truth you found out about me now." He made a motion to the screen. "We all have a capacity for evil. And I've reached mine long ago."
"How long?" she said softly, knowing it didn't matter, but also aware that she had to say something.
His mouth curved into a humorless smile. "Say... two years?"
His footsteps echoed through the silent corridors. Lex Luthor stepped before a heavily secured room and entered a series of keys into the small digitized screen installed on the wall. B L I S S 5 1 8.
Three beeps and the doors yawned open, admitting him into the black embrace. "Bliss Sequence Number 518 engaging," came the subtle voice of the machine. The room was suddenly flooded by blinding lights, which steadily grew dimmer until it captured the essence of natural sunlight.
The window at the end of the room overlooked the view of Smallville the way it was in the castle. Lex nodded at the sight in front of him. It was exactly the small activity room he and Chloe fixed up back home. Suddenly, the room was flooded by small boys and girls playing around. Lex grimaced at the noise of little children not even remotely related to him. He scanned the crowd of mothers and brothers and sisters until his gaze rested on the blonde woman at the end of a long table, holding a chubby baby in her arms.
She looked up at him and waved him over. "Papa," she called him. Lex's heart warmed at the sight. He approached the two, whose faces were rosy from the warmth of the candlelight. "Help us blow Alec's birthday candle!"
He strode over to them, his legs carrying him quickly to their side. Lex took the rather heavy one-year-old from Chloe's arms and kissed the top of his head. "My big man can't blow his birthday candle yet?"
The children around them, whom his wife had insisted they invite to the party, sang a chorus of the birthday song. He was delighted to hear Chloe's laughter as she urged their son to blow the cake. In the end, Lex was the one who had to put out the flame.
"Happy birthday, Alec!" she greeted, kissing both their son and her husband.
He drew her into a hug, so that he can hold his entire family at the same time. Lex whispered quietly into her ear. "When are these people going to leave?"
Chloe grinned at him, knowing how much he hated having their home invaded by all these people. She patted his arm and assured him that soon they would be alone. "It's Alec's party, Lex. Let them play."
"Not like Alec is going to remember any of them. Or even need to. They'll remember him."
"Oh you are not raising my son to be a snob, Lex," she warned.
He pulled her to where their son's nanny was waiting. He handed Alec over to the nanny. "We'll be back soon, okay?"
"Of course, sir," the nanny said courteously, already playing with the youngest Luthor.
Chloe looked on with jealousy. She hated having people other than herself and Lex interacting so closely with their son. "Lex..."
"Shhhh." He propelled her towards the door. "I need to ask you something first. We'll get Alec later."
When they were outside the activity room, Chloe looked up at her husband. "What is this about, Lex?"
"Well," he told her, "it's November. I was just wondering where I should book us for Christmas. New Zealand? Paris? You want to drop by Edinburgh again?"
There was a distinct twinkle in her eye as she laid her arms on his shoulders. "I want to be in paradise."
He nodded. "The tropics then. I can do that."
"No Lex!" Chloe chuckled. "I mean let's stay here. You and me and Alec just here for Christmas. That's my paradise."
"I can do that too." He leaned down to kiss her, pressing her firmly against the door. When he was about to brush his lips with hers, her image flickered in his arms, and the lights flickered dimly before vanishing completely. He was standing alone in the cold, dark and empty room.
Lex whirled angrily towards the door as it opened. His executive assistant stepped inside, almost curled into himself with fear. Lex could still smell Chloe, feel their baby in his arms, remember the way her form was sandwiched between him and the door. He was a hairsbreadth away from tasting her lips again.
"Wasn't I clear about the fact that nobody is supposed to interrupt Bliss?" he bit out.
The assistant jerked his head twice in agreement. He held up an obviously trembling hand. "Yes, sir. I apologize, Mr. Luthor. We couldn't hold it up any longer. We had a power drain."
"Fire the staff taking care of it."
"Tell the com lab to prepare. I'm coming up." With that, Lex Luthor left the pitch black room and headed for the elevator, hearing his assistant's frantic radio message to the floor below them.
Lex was quiet on the brief ride. Purposefully, he entered the computer lab. The employees immediately rose to attention at his presence. "I was testing Bliss #518 a while ago."
The head programmer nodded anxiously. "How was it, sir? No problems I hope."
"You hope," he said without inflection. "It was fine. I didn't get to finish it because of the idiots working at the energy department of this building. I'll try it again tonight. But I want you to do a bit of tinkering." The programmer nodded, already opening the program on the screen. Lex Luthor sat on one of the chairs. "Make her hair longer, about two more inches." The programmer quickly worked on the numbers and symbols running up his screen. "And my wife doesn't wear lilac. I want to smell ylang-ylang, Mr. Lee. That's the bottle of perfume I gave her last. That's it," he said abruptly.
The programmer nodded and set about changing the program.
"Create a new sequence for me," Lex commanded. Hurriedly, the man opened a blank file. "Christmas in the castle. Back home in Smallville. Just my family."
"Your father, sir?"
"My family, Mr. Lee," Lex emphasized. "Myself. Chloe. Alec. Put a tree in the living room. I want you to create me a large holoware, Mr. Lee. I want to be able to move about the entire castle. Fill it with decorations. Don't forget the fireplace, and the stockings. The works, Mr. Lee. I will be consulting with more details as I think of them."
Lex promptly stood up and didn't meet the man's eyes. He was an employee, paid to work for him. Lex hated the way the man seemed to look at him with pity whenever he stated the details of the holowares he needed created. He went to his own office to find his assistant waiting inside. "Leave." The simple word set the man scurrying away.
He opened a private door that only he knew of. Even the one specialist he had visiting regularly knew nothing about the existence of that way from his office.
Lex stepped into the cold room he had installed to be linked directly to his office. He drew his jacket tightly around his body and walked over to the long box sitting at the center. He ran his hand over the frosted surface of the mirror and peered down at the face inside. What would it be like to sleep so deeply and so still?
Lex stepped backwards and released the button beside him. With a loud hissing sound, the cover lifted and he walked over closer to Chloe's form. The small sensors attached to her temples were almost completely covered by her hair. He touched her cheek briefly and brushed his lips to hers. It felt so pleasant to him the way he still mildly felt her breath against his lips.
"I apologize for leaving so early and so abruptly, Chloe. I have fools working for me. At least here in Metropolis. Don't worry about a thing. I've sent some of the best people to Smallville. We'll be with each other again soon. If they can extract enough to use for the shot. You'll be back, Chloe. I promised you I wouldn't give up. You'll be back."
He pushed the button on the control panel once more and allowed the top to cover her. He had been warned that he couldn't expose her out for too long. Once again, Lex held his hand over the glass. "I'm having the Christmas you want prepared, Chloe."
Exhausted and cold, Lex Luthor retreated to his office and took a CD from his drawer, labeled Bliss #001. He inserted it in his pc and sat back, watching.
"Lex, wake up!" Chloe shook him heavily from the nightmare. "Lex!"
He reared up from the bed and saw his wife, looking anxious and very pregnant. He laid his hand on her stomach and felt the child kick. He gripped her close to him, so tight that she started to complain. "It was just a dream," he murmured. "It was just a dream."
"Oh Lex. You had a nightmare? What was it about?"
He could chuckle now. It didn't really happen. Chloe was his wife now, and they were warm and safe in the castle, with their son sleeping inside her, tucked under her heart where he thrived. He leaned at the headboard of the bed and drew her with him. She sprawled over his body.
"It was raining. It was the worst rain. We were driving home." She nodded, urging him to continue. "It was after you told me about the baby, Chloe."
"After we had dinner at the Kent Farm."
"Yeah. We were passing by that pile of meteor rocks down at the bend," he told her. "And then this flash of lightning hit it. And this green light exploded right there. It was on your side of the car. We were thrown. Clark... Clark was sent by Martha and Jonathan to check on us. He saved me. But he couldn't save you, Chloe. We saw you lying there, surrounded by all those glowing rocks. And he wouldn't even go to you! I tried, but my leg was broken from the impact. And Clark... he just sat there being afraid. I watched you knowing you were bleeding to death out there, exposed to who knows what kind of radiation, and he just sat there!"
She was silent for the longest time. And then she took a deep breath. Chloe crawled up over him and placed a kiss on the side of his mouth. "That's really terrifying," she said. "But it didn't happen, Lex. We went home and we made love. Then we got married and here we are, just a couple of months away from being parents!"
"Yeah," he whispered. "I love my life," he said, wrapping his arms around his wife.
Lex turned off the monitor and placed the cd back into the case. He slipped the holoware back to his drawer and leaned his head back, his eyes tightly closed. After a while, he brushed at the moisture that seeped out of his eyelids.
Two years tomorrow. Gabe Sullivan would visit an empty grave in Smallville with his daughter's friends. He wondered how long it would take Clark to find enough courage to use his x-ray vision and find that there was no one in there. It was, after all, the source of all the animosity that existed now between him and his friend.
"I couldn't let go of life support. Why couldn't they accept that?"
Clark had argued, speaking for himself, for Mr. Sullivan, even for Pete and for Lana. They would not understand Lex's insistence on keeping her with them. With all the callow naivet, Clark had said, "You're not prolonging her life, Lex. This is prolonging her death!"
So he had been forced to pull a very Luthor trick. And he fooled them all into believing that Lex Luthor accepted the loss and let his fiance go. A closed casket due to the effects of the meteor rocks. Even Clark did not dare to come close.
And two years to the day, only Lex Luthor knew that Chloe Sullivan was alive.
Only Lex Luthor would push life to the limits, and laugh at death in the face. Because in a week's time, and millions of dollars' worth of research and meteor rock studies, Lex Luthor had found the way to jar his fianc awake.
Clark Kent can lift tons of steel with one finger. He was capable of running faster than a speeding bullet. And he can fly like a jet, or a bird, or a plane. But to his frustration, Clark Kent could not fix the boggling puzzle that was his computer's connection to the printer. He opened and closed the troubleshooting window for the nth time and sighed.
The shrill ring of the phone jarred the man of steel from his glareathon with the computer screen. He picked up the phone beside his desk. "Kent."
"Hey Clark!" the voice on the other line greeted him.
"Hi there, Pete. What can I do for you?" he asked warmly of his high school friend.
"Well Gabe asked me to give you a call."
"Really?" Clark had not really kept in contact with Chloe's father since the burial. It was probably guilt. He still couldn't look the man in the eye when all he could remember was the night he sat on the muddy ground, weakened by the meteor rocks, seeing Chloe and knowing he would never be able to gather enough strength to wade through the glowing green rocks to get her to the hospital. It did not help either that at the time, curled in the ground with pain, Lex had hissed at him, "I won't ask how you got here so quickly, or how you managed to lift the car frame from my leg. Just save my family."
"That's right. He's putting together a small dinner tomorrow. Lana is packing our bags right now."
"And he wants me to come?"
Pete was quiet for a moment. "Of course, Clark. You were one of her best friends. You were one of the last people she saw," he told him.
"I didn't save her, Pete. Even with all my gifts," he said quietly into the phone, making sure that no one in the office heard, "I wasn't able to save her."
"Clark, what happened was an accident. You saved Lex. And I know Chloe Sullivan enough that I think she's very grateful you did-even if he won't admit it."
"You're wrong, Pete. Lex hates me. You weren't there. I caused all the bad things in Smallville. I killed Lana's parents; I brought with me these horrible meteor rocks that mutated so many people; and I killed Chloe too."
When Clark had gone to speak with Lex about Gabe's desire to let Chloe go, the adamant billionaire had looked into his eyes and asked him, "If you weren't going to save her, why the hell did you bother to save me?" And Clark couldn't even defend himself. Explaining his weakness would require him to divulge his secret to Lex.
"Clark, no one is blaming you. If Lex got on your case about it two years ago, just let it go. He was in shock. The man lost his fianc. I'm sure he didn't mean to cut himself off from you."
Clark nodded against the phone, as though his friend could hear him. He inserted a disk into the slot of the CPU and saved his document. "I'll come, Pete. I was going to visit Chloe tomorrow anyway. I'm sure Lex won't even bother to put flowers on the grave. He never dropped by after the burial, did he?"
"What is it, Pete?"
"Gabe. He told me... asked me... He wants you to invite Lex over."
"What? I can't do that, Pete."
"Gabe said he wanted everyone there. Did you think he wouldn't ask his daughter's fianc to come too?"
"We don't speak, Pete."
"Do it for the old man, okay?"
Clark sighed. "Fine. I'll see you and Lana there." He hung up the phone and took his disk to Lois' desk.
He frowned when he saw the computer turned off. Lois usually left her pc running. He turned it on and inserted the disk into the slot. The word processor opened and brought up a recovered document. When he scanned the file to see if it was important, his mouth dropped open at the contents. It was details of an interview with Lex Luthor. '...he saved my life and took it away the same night...'
"I hope you have a good reason why you're snooping on my computer, Clark!" a voice behind him snapped.
Clark swung the chair around. "I wasn't snooping, Lois. I have printer problems." She nodded and sat on another chair, waiting for him to finish printing. "Why didn't you tell me you interviewed Luthor?"
A dark eyebrow shot up. "I didn't know I had to clear a piece with you first."
"Lois, I told you he's a dangerous man."
He expected a biting retort. Instead, Lois bit her lower lip and agreed. Slapping his hands softly away, she hit the down button on the keyboard, pointing out to Clark certain things that Lex had told her during the interview that unsettled her. "Clark, I think he knows who Superman is. I'm worried. He claims he has this capacity for evil that I think I saw a hint of." She looked her partner in the eye and said seriously, "Lex Luthor will do everything to destroy Superman."
The small dinner party in Gabe Sullivan's small home in Smallville was an informal and relaxed affair. Clark, his parents, and Lana and Pete Ross were in attendance.
"It seems like only yesterday when you were all just teenagers attending high school," Martha commented wistfully. "Time does fly, doesn't it?"
"I agree. Sometimes when I pass by Chloe's graduation picture I can hardly believe that it's been what-seven years since they all went off to college." He turned to his three younger visitors. "How's Metropolis life treating all of you?"
"It's been great, Mr. Sullivan," Clark told the older man. "Working in a newspaper is pretty much what Chloe thought it would be-hectic and unholy. But it's still fun."
"Do you see Lex often?"
Clark shook his head. "Not as often as I used to. But then-"
"I'm sure that Lex must have a very busy schedule," Martha interjected, knowing how hard Clark took the loss of Lex's friendship over something that she believed Clark was helpless about.
"Oh I've read enough in the papers to know that Lex Luthor's days are crammed with activities, Mr. Sullivan. I bet he doesn't even go out that often anymore," Lana added.
"He's probably forgotten about everything to do with this little town," Pete said. "He's not even here, is he?" There was a trace of unmistakable bitterness in his voice. "I didn't think Chloe was that easy to forget."
Clark frowned at his friend. "Pete, you can't say that."
"Why? Isn't it true? He's not even here, Clark. I would have thought that if everything he was claiming a couple of years ago was true, he'd at least have paid his respects. It was his fault she died."
Clark felt his heart grow heavy at Pete's words. It had been his fault, not Lex's. Lana placed her hand on her husband's arm. "Pete, you know that's not true."
Pete nodded and speared another beef tip with his fork, hating that everything they said was true. But still angry that a man that he learned to trust only after a few years would disappoint an old man the way he did. It was then that he remembered Gabe's presence in the dinner table. He looked up guiltily at Chloe's father and saw him sadly nodding while eating. His wife smiled at Gabe and said softly, "I know that Lex is mourning in his own way."
They clinked their glasses together and drank the champagne in celebration. Between them lay dozens and dozens of brochures and pamphlets containing tourist spots all over the world. It was Chloe who suggested that they go on vacation.
"You've been working so hard. I hardly see you anymore." Lex had closed his eyes to fully relish the warmth of her skin as she cupped his cheek. "The baby misses you a lot, Lex. And so does mommy." She had grinned in that typical fashion that she used, the smile that eventually paved the way for him to look at her again and see that Chloe Sullivan, who had once been an acquaintance because of his friendship with Clark Kent, had suddenly grown up and learned how to flaunt the combination of beauty and wit that took his breath away.
He pushed the stray thought that this was all part of a computer program he had had designed so he could visit Chloe's mind, still active even with the state the accident had pushed her body to, and that although this was he interacting with her, all the sensations that he was experiencing was nothing more than his own mind's creations, aided by the software that linked him to Chloe.
He watched her bite her lip as she sifted through the various leaflets and travel brochures before her, occasionally stopping to browse one or two longer than the rest. It would have been such a perfect life with her. He could have given her everything, fed all her curiosity and peaked her interest for more. And she in turn would have been the only exception out of all the women he had ever been involved with. Chloe would have known exactly what he was talking about, rather than simply smile and nod a vacuous head. She would have been the wife it would take to fill him so that he wouldn't ask or want for more.
His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a child's cries. Chloe turned towards the baby monitor beside their bed. "Alec is as loud as you are," she said lovingly. She put down the brochures on the sheet.
As she was about to rise, he closed his hand on her arm. "I'll check on him. When I get back, you should have decided where you want to go, okay?"
"I think I can manage that." She sent him off with a soft kiss at the corner of his mouth.
When Lex returned to the room carrying the little boy in his arms, he stopped stock still at the doorway. His wife had changed into a sheer powder blue nightgown and was lying at the center of the bed with smile on her face that hinted at secrets she couldn't wait to reveal. At the foot of the bed lay the discarded brochures. She held up the one leaflet that she had chosen.
He cleared his throat audibly at the sight. "You've picked one, I see."
"Oh I did," was her response. "And I just want to thank you in advance for agreeing to take a couple of weeks off in your busy schedule."
Lex moistened his lips. "I should get Alec back to his room."
That smile again. Lex took a deep breath. "I suggest you do that, Mr. Luthor. You wouldn't want your son permanently damaged by what's going to go on in this room tonight."
He hurried to tuck Alec in before returning to Chloe. He sat on the side of the bed, and his weight caused her to roll over and press against him. She reached up and pulled him down for a kiss, opening her lips to draw him in. Lex was lost in the web of passion that she wove around them. She pulled away for a breath, and he rested his forehead against hers as he struggled to calm his own racing heart.
Lex met her eyes and smiled down at her. She whispered a kiss on his cheekbone and said so softly he almost missed the words, "You've given me such a beautiful life, Lex. Sometimes I hardly think it's real." Looking back, he probably would have preferred that he missed her words because the next ones jarred him out to a point where he would not have been able to carry on. "The one thing that could make it even more perfect, Lex, is if we can make another baby tonight."
He pulled away from her and embedded her look of confusion into his brain. His eyes were stinging and his entire face burned with the effort to control his reaction. Without another word, he strode out of the bedroom and opened a door towards the yawning blackness that led to the doorway out of Bliss.
Lex paid attention to none of the employees who acknowledged him on the way to his office. Once there, he locked the door and proceeded to the hidden room where he sat on a freezing chair and looked at her face through the misty glass partition. It was only then that he shook his head in disbelief. "Even now, you still know just the right words to render me speechless, Chloe."
The phone in his pocket beeped continuously until he pressed the button to shut off the alarm. 9:48 pm. The exact moment that the car was pitched off the lane. He stood over her and touched the cold glass with his free hand. With the other hand, he pressed two on his speed dial and raised the phone to his ear.
"I knew you'd at least call," the voice was gravelly in his ear.
"I apologize," Lex replied. "Actually, no I don't. I don't consider spending a night of inane chatter as the best way I could have marked the day."
"I understand, Lex. I do wish that you would visit sometime. You don't even have to bring her flowers. Martha Kent does it regularly enough."
"I'll see what I can do, Gabe," Lex said quietly. "Bye." He ended the call before the older man had even responded.
Clark took off for a brisk walk outside his hometown. He had been around the area thrice when sounds of whimpers and moans reached his ears. He immediately searched his surroundings and found it empty. He used his enhanced vision and found a family of five struggling over the bridge, the smallest child at the brink of falling off.
Taking off his flannel shirt and revealing the suit he had been using to hide his identity in Metropolis, he raced towards them and caught the child before he hit the water. And then he flew up to the screaming relatives and handed the child to his mother.
"Superman. You're Superman," the teenage girl said as she tearfully approached him. "Thank you for saving my brother. We thought you were just a Metropolis legend."
He smiled reassuringly at them and asked, "What are you all doing out at this hour? It's unsafe, especially with kids along."
"We were evicted. Lex Luthor took our farm and we have nowhere to go to."
"Lex Luthor is in Metropolis. That's not possible."
"Superman, Lex Luthor has employees," another of the children retorted, cold, tired and short of patience.
Clark frowned. "Where is your farm?" He was pointed towards the opposite direction. "I'll take your somewhere safe and warm in the meantime." One by one, he flew them to the Sullivan house, asking Martha and Jonathan to make room for them in their farm later. It amazed him how easy it was. Gabe was busy speaking with someone on the phone so he didn't see him. And neither Lana nor Pete recognized him.
He then went over to the farm surrounded by LexCorp employees. He hovered above them when he felt the strange weakening of all his muscles. Before falling down, he flew away and changed into his normal clothes. He walked towards the area, making sure to stay out in a range where he still felt strong enough.
"Hey!" he called out, seeking to catch the attention of the guy who seemed like the head of the operations. "Over here."
The man with the brightest orange of all the hard hats frowned at the intrusion. "What is it? We're under deadline." Still he walked over to Clark. "Can we help you?"
"What's going on here? You can't just take control of someone's home abruptly, and in the night no less."
The man removed a piece of folded paper from his breast pocket and presented it to Clark. "This is a public document. A copy was given to the family three months ago. They should have vacated the property last month at the latest. Mr. Luthor was kind enough to extend their stay, but we need the property now."
"Mr. Luthor has lands of his own. What's so important about this one?"
"Look, if you have a problem with this, you call LexCorp. My team is under a strict schedule. We're just doing out jobs."
Frustrated, Clark headed back to the dinner party. It was the throbbing pain in his head that alerted him to certain movements outside the house. Vaguely, he heard some of the children scamper to the window and point to a large dark truck passing the street. It was the same truck in the farm earlier. Coupled by the fact that he was nauseous enough that he wanted to hurl, Clark correctly deducted what Lex needed from the farm.
"Are you alright, son?"
He gritted his teeth at the pain that his father's compassionate pat on his back sent. Clark's spine felt so brittle that it would crack at contact. Soon, the truck had wheeled a distance enough for Clark to recover his senses.
"Are you okay, Clark?"
He looked up at the lovely doe eyes of Lana, and gazed at all the eyes trained on him with concern. "Yes, yes," he stammered. "Gas."
Pete smirked, although he had been concerned earlier. Only meteor rocks had that effect on Clark. But if he were to press the matter, people who were not supposed to know would be suspicious.
Behind the glass partition, Lex Luthor watched as the team of scientist lifted the final formula-one vial from the tons of meteor rocks excavated. It had cost him four million in two weeks, but this was the day. They had tested the effects of the meteor radiation on living organisms, and worked their way until they could revive animals they have exposed and caused to fall into comas.
It had been a harrowing two weeks. Lex had been incensed in the first days, when each of the small laboratory animals would get killed after exposure. Worse yet, those who did not die from extended enclosure with the rocks would die after being given the earliest formula.
Until they were able to develop the solution that was the answer for it all. Apparently, all they needed was to add the liquefied and thinned meteor rock to the formula. It made sense. The history of vaccination told them to introduce a corrupted version of the very thing you wanted the body to fight. In this case, to jar someone awake from the effects of radiation, instead of continuing to try and take away all the foreign materials that caused it in the first place, the same cause should be pushed into the system.
The arduous process of perfecting the ratio, heat and viscosity of the final fluid took several days where it should have been done months. Lex Luthor wanted the job done and he wanted it done fast. But before he even dared to try it on Chloe, he had to try the same formula and see its effects first on mice, then on cats and finally on chimpanzees. But it hadn't been enough. The animals survived. But Lex Luthor never thought anything was too safe with regards to this particular project.
The formula had to be tested on a human first.
And unlike the Green Goblin, he wasn't stupid enough to test it on himself. He was rich enough to command the forceful testing on others.
When it was done, and he was assured that the formula would work and was safe, he sent all the employees of the building home. His team of scientists would receive their large pay in their bank accounts. Lex took the vial and slipped it into his coat pocket. And then he proceeded to the floor below his office and entered the latest sequence he had his programmers developed for this very occasion.
"Bliss Sequence Number 999 engaging. Thank you for using, Mr. Luthor. Welcome to the end of Bliss."
The dark room burst into brilliant light, imitating the outdoors on a sunny afternoon. He squinted and waited for the wavering figure. Several yards away from him, she solidified, standing among the tall sunflowers that reached up to her waist. She was laughing and waving him over.
Lex almost ran towards her. He caught her up by the waist and whirled her around and around. Chloe threw her head back in abandon as she grabbed at his shoulders. "You came!"
"Would I have missed it when you plastered notes all over my office reminding me to meet you here?"
"They were a little in your face, weren't they?" she agreed, grinning.
Lex dropped a kiss on her nose. "The moment I stepped off the car my phone alerted me that I was supposed to come here."
Chloe chuckled. "Mad?"
"Never." He pulled her with him to a spot where they could sit without getting strangled by the sunflowers. When he reached the place, there was already a blanket spread there, with a basket of snacks. "Lunch?"
Chloe leaned against him, his body warm on her back, both his legs pressing close to hers. Absently, she reached back and fed him breadsticks, and he savored them so much that his tongue lapped at the crumbs on her fingers. "Life can't get anymore beautiful than this, can it, Lex?"
His lips nuzzling her ear, he responded, "Life can always get better, Chloe. Especially with me."
She smiled at the thought. "You will never be content with what you already have, would you?"
"I will be. Not yet though. But I'm working on it. And I will take you with me." He ran his fingers through the soft blonde hair. He brought a few strands up to his nose and smelled the scent. The geeks got the scent perfectly this time. "Come tomorrow," he promised, "I have a surprise for you. I know you'll love it."
Chloe turned in his arms and met his gaze eagerly. "I know!"
"I don't think you do," he murmured.
She swatted him on the arm. "You're finally going to answer me, aren't you? You're going to agree. We're going to have another baby!"
He pulled her close and pressed his lips on her temple. "We'll have as many children as you want. You can have houses, cities, newspaper companies. You can have the entire world! Whatever you want, Chloe. And it all starts tomorrow."
He stood outside the French windows of his penthouse and memorized the cityscape before him. Metropolis was a beauty, with its tall lighted buildings that kissed the black sky, and streets that never seemed to lose life. And he, Lex Luthor, was king of it all. Here in Metropolis, he was in his element. Here in Metropolis, money was everything, so Lex Luthor could take what he wanted, and hand over a few bills in exchange.
This was what he was meant to be. He had almost everything he could ever want or need. And tomorrow, everything was going to be as it should be again. She would be back where she really belonged. Who said money can't buy happiness? Lex would prove them all wrong. Investments do work. And because of his success, he would do the impossible. Chloe would be back. They would have a family-a family they should have started long ago had Superman not killed her. Lex might not have been able to save the baby, but there were other chances, other times. As long as he could bring her back.
Something in the sky changed and Lex squinted to focus on the figure approaching. He put down the glass of scotch and stepped aside to allow the man of steel to land on his property.
"Would you care for something to drink, Clark?" came the smooth greeting.
Clark Kent shook his head, half in refusal and half in confusion. "What's happening to you, Lex?" he demanded.
"And are you going to elaborate on this?"
"Lex, you are evicting people from their homes in the middle of the night!"
"Ahh, yes of course. You flew all the way here from Smallville? No wonder your face is so dusty, Clark." Lex picked up his beverage and walked into the room, with Clark following him. "The washroom is that way, but you know that already."
Clark didn't budge. He surveyed his surroundings and was surprised to find that nothing had changed since he had last been there, waiting for Chloe to finish dressing up for the party they were supposed to go to. On the wall still hung a poster duplicate of a famous Luna painting that Chloe bought from the university bookstore. Lex had insisted that they take it down since if Chloe really wanted the picture, he could buy the original nineteenth century painting for her. She had been appalled, saying that they shouldn't take away the artistic treasure from the land of Luna's birth. They would make do with the cheap reprint.
"Haven't had time to hire an interior decorator?" Clark asked quietly. His former friend didn't answer. He merely sat down on a dark green leather couch on the far corner of the room. Clark's eyes narrowed. If he remembered correctly, Lex had wanted the couch moved closer to the bed, on the opposite end. Now the couch remained where Chloe had had him move it so she could dump her bags and papers on it after work. It all made sense now.
Clark strode to the doors of the large closet and threw them open. Lined crisply were Lex's various suits. Folded on the cabinets were his sweaters and shirts. At the bottom, the expensive Italian leather shoes gleamed. Clark hit the white button at the side and the clothes rack rotated slowly, revealing the stark contrast in contents. Chloe's jeans and blouses and jackets and sandals, all in disarray, probably the exact way it looked like when Chloe hastily packed up her things to go to Smallville to visit the Kents and Gabe Sullivan and inform them of their engagement.
Well-arranged scenes played in Clark's mind, of Lex Luthor stumbling into the penthouse he had shared with Chloe after the accident. The closet was still open the way Chloe had left it in her haste. He pressed the button to hide her things, not bothering to touch anything because she might be pissed that he rearranged the mess. Of Lex Luthor being informed over the phone that his fianc had slipped into a coma that there was little to no chance of waking from, and staring at the cheap poster of a work of art taped up in their bedroom wall. Of Lex Luthor being confronted by Clark Kent and Gabe Sullivan, and told that they would rather take her out of life support than prolong her agony, then Lex's eventual agreement and his collapse onto the couch, crushing folders and papers that she had left lying there.
"What the hell are you doing to yourself?" Clark whispered.
"What the hell are you doing here in our place?" Lex threw back sharply.
"You're ruining your life, Lex."
"Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. I thought you were the one who did that to me two years ago, Clark."
Clark winced at the reminder of his one great failure. "I would have saved her if I could. You know that. I loved her just as much as you did, Lex, maybe more."
In a flash, the millionaire had grabbed Clark's shirt and was hissing right on his face. "You don't know, Clark. You don't say that. You don't have a right to say that!"
Clark could have thrown Lex off him easily, but instead he met his eyes. "Really. Well tell me this, Lex. If you did love her that much then you probably know her so well. What do you think she would say about you evicting children from the only home they know? What would Chloe think about you're doing?"
The fury in his eyes went cold. Lex's grip on him slackened and he pushed Clark away. Lex refilled his glass and fixed his gaze steadily on a blank point in the wall. The shift in the wind told him that Clark had left him alone to his thoughts. He went to the windows to shut them, and Superman, out.
Methodical. That was what he was aiming for. He raised the receiver to his ear and listened to the report. And then he sent his scientists home. The plan had been set into motion, and it had come to the point that he personally chose to execute on his own.
All business in LexCorp was done for the day. He had given his employees the half day off to finish the job he had started. Chloe had been transferred to the sterile room where he would inject the formula into her and wait for her to regain consciousness. Lex Luthor proceeded to the room and stood over his fianc.
He raised his hand and steadied it before finally touching her skin. His throat closed up at the shock of feeling for the first time in the two years and a hundred that her skin was warm, almost as though she really were only asleep for the day. "Chloe," he whispered, "time to get up, sweetheart. You have a deadline." Lex's fingers stopped on the puncture wound where the IV connected to sustain her. Outside the hypothermic room, Chloe was just like another patient, who needed tubes and sensors and other paraphernalia that made him wince to look at.
His hand went to his pocket and he drew out the tiny vial and a syringe. He forced the trembling to stop but found it too hard. Briefly Lex thought about calling the head scientist back to the building and having him administer the drug, but he tamped down the urge. This was something that he needed to do by himself. If Chloe were to see anyone first, it should be him. Only him.
The syringe filled quickly with the green tinted liquid. He pressed a little to let out the air bubbles and then brushed the hair away from her pale neck. Lex leaned down and pressed a kiss on the warm skin that he was about to pierce, apologizing silently to her. The drug had to shoot straight to her brain, and injecting it on her arm or another part of her body would greatly diminish the effect. He was supposed to inject her right on the soft spot where where jaw and neck met, for the drug to be administered straight and forcefully where it was needed.
After pressing his lips on her skin for an endless minute, Lex straightened and raised the needle. He plunged it in and slowly pushed the contents out of the syringe and into her body. Lex placed the empty syringe on the table and sat beside her. He held her hand and waited for her to take a sharp breath.
The lights flickered around him, and then everything went dead. Lex cursed the department. He had replaced the entire staff there already and still they could not find out what the problem was? He stood up. Since he had sent everyone home, there was no one to check on it except him. Lex took a small flashlight and went out the door.
Colors swirled in her head and even with her eyes closed she felt the nausea overtaking her. One moment she had been sitting in her son's room, reading him a bedtime story while waiting for Lex to arrive. Alec had been growing heavy on her and she knew that he was already falling asleep. She was about to carry him to bed when suddenly she was plunged into this black, black hole. The next moment, thousands of colors were swirling masses in her sight, and the entire world was spinning. She found her arms empty and was filled with dread.
She turned to her left and to her right, but there were no real images to hold onto. Her son. What had happened to her son?
Chloe shot up from the bed and looked around her. It was so dark. What happened? It was then that she noticed how utterly weak she felt. Her limbs felt so slack, as though she hadn't used them in ages. But that couldn't be right. She had just been out with Lex in the fields yesterday, and there was definitely a lot of activity there.
Chloe fell back on the bed and felt the tubes running out of her arms, and the stinging feeling on her neck. "Oh God," she mumbled. Had she been in an accident? Alec. What happened to her son? "Alec," she murmured, trying to scream but finding no strength to do be louder.
She ripped off the lines on her body and forced herself out of the bed. She clutched the side of the bed and let her legs dangle off the side. Chloe was surprised to find that her muscles were like jelly, and she immediately slid down to the cold floor. "Where's my son?"
The sudden flood of light blinded her. Her arms automatically rose to cover her eyes. The door swung open and she heard a frantic "Chloe!" before she put her arms down and looked up.
Lex had just managed to get the generator to work before he raced back to Chloe's room. After everything that happened, he didn't want her to wake up alone and without any knowledge of what was happening. As far as she knew, she hadn't been in any accident at all. Two years ago was a nightmare that only he had. They have been living the life he had been feeding her with through the Bliss sequences.
Seeing the empty bed stopped his heart. He ran to where she had fallen on the floor and knelt in front of her. His emotions warred in his chest so violently he was afraid he would have to vomit. And then she lowered her arms and met him with tearful eyes. He reached out to her slowly, careful about scaring her off, and held her hands in his. "Chloe, it's all right. It's me. It's Lex, Chloe. You're going to be fine."
The gathered moisture in her eyes spilled over and she threw herself forward into his embrace. "What happened, Lex? Why am I here? What's going on? Where's Alec? I need my baby, Lex. Where is he?"
He closed his eyes, hardly believing that this was real and not a simulation. He had finally done it. He had done it to make them both happy. "Shhhh. Don't cry, Chloe. Everything will be okay."
"Where's my son?" she demanded.
"Chloe," he said slowly, "there's no Alec. At least not yet." He tipped her chin so that she would meet his eyes. "There's only you and me."
She pushed at his chest weakly, her gaze sparking with anger. "What the hell are you talking about, Lex? Give me back my son!" She tried to stand, but her limbs wouldn't carry her. "What's all this? What's going on!? What happened to Christmas? Aren't we supposed to be in the castle now? Lex, what are you doing to me?"
"Chloe, listen carefully," he told her in a firm voice. "The last two years you remember are not real. Only you and I were real there, the rest was computer fabrication. I needed to keep you with me, Chloe, and it was the only was I could do it..."
"Oh my God," she shrieked, "you've gone crazy!" He was reaching for her, but she swatted his hands away. "Where is my son, Lex? Alec could be out there crying for his mommy and all you're doing is feeding me this bullshit! Give me back my son!"
"Chloe," he pleaded, not liking the tinge that her skin was taking, "calm down, sweetheart, please." When she started hyperventilating, he wanted to take her in his arms and comfort her, but she kept moving away from him. He was trying to crawl over to her, but she was frantic, demanding that he give her back Alec, who was probably tired and scared and hungry-things he knew that she was probably feeling right now. He needed to calm her down. He took a deep breath and drew out the drug that the doctor had given him for this very likely event. He slipped her the sedative and carried her back to the bed.
He let her hand fall slowly back down on the sheets covering her. Lex met the nurse's eyes and silently asked her to look after Chloe, who had been in a catatonic state since she woke from the sedative a few hours ago. Today, Lex was not going to the office for the first time in two years. After the clandestine transfer to the penthouse, he remained with Chloe and did not leave her bedside until she woke, unresponsive. Only after the nurse advised him that she would come back after she had calmed down assured him enough to move into the other room and answer his calls.
Lex had never thought of the office he had installed in the penthouse as a relaxation place. He had been working since he was in his teens, and he had always separated the idea of work and calm. But after the panic that seized him upon seeing Chloe's eyes open but unseeing, Lex looked forward to the numbers and figures and various problems of the corporation's factories and labs to drown him. This pressure at least, he knew. This pressure, at least, he could deal with.
The sun climbed high into the sky and Lex never noticed the passing of the hours. He forced himself to work, to think of the millions of dollars rolling and the thousands of people depending on him for their jobs. But even while carefully reading through contracts from different parts of the globe, the woman lying in the room beside his was foremost in his mind. He never noticed when the sun started creeping down. Chloe must be resting comfortably now, or the nurse would have informed him. He had expressly gave her instructions to call him should any change occur-be it good or bad.
Still, he could not push the niggling concern in his mind. He shook his head and retrieved some of the files on the Smallville factory. Gabe had been doing well, even after Chloe's loss. His attention, which had before been split between his daughter and the factory, had been poured into improving the management of the plant. In the past two years, Smallville had increased its productivity by one hundred and forty percent, and was still steadily increasing every quarter. From being on the verge of closure a few years ago, Smallville was now the most exemplary of the LuthorCorp branches.
He settled back on his chair and glanced at the door connecting the office to where the nurse was sitting with her. And then Lex picked up the phone and dialed the familiar number.
"Mr. Sullivan," Lex greeted on the phone. It was always formal between them when they called within office hours. "I received last quarter's reports. I must commend you."
The older man's voice was humble when he answered, "Just doing my job, Mr. Luthor."
Lex nodded. Although Gabe could not hear him, Lex was aware that the man knew him enough by now to know even his silent reactions. All these years of correspondence through phones, emails and faxes brought the two closer than any man and his father-in-law could ever be. Shared grief gave Lex and Gabe the relationship, however grudging, of father and son.
"Gabe," he began, "I really do apologize for not coming."
"It would have been special if you'd been here," Gabe Sullivan admitted. "But I can't expect you to have the same opinion in this as I do. I know how you feel, at least. That has to be enough for now."
"I-I'll go," Lex promised. "But I won't visit just to mark a day, Gabe." The name slipped off his tongue smoothly, and the older man knew that his superior hadn't caught it, hadn't realized. Lex was too far inside his own brain to monitor his words now. "And I won't do it while Smallville is watching."
"You don't have to tell me all this, Lex."
There was a pause. Not long. But for both men, it seemed centuries before one spoke. "Of course I do. You won't understand me if I don't speak up."
Lex knew the other man was smiling now. "Why do I picture my daughter harping that lesson at you?"
"What I wouldn't give to hear her nag again." It was an admission that hung in the air between them. Lex desperately wanted to snatch the syllables back, lock them deep inside where it would stay hidden, safe from exploitation by others. No one, not even Gabe Sullivan, had a right to hear that.
It was soon apparent that Gabe had predicted exactly what Lex would say and do. He said, "I'll disconnect the call now before you say things you will ultimately regret." Lex wondered how the man could be so perceptive. But then again, he had seen it so many times before in Chloe. He now knew where she got the trait from. Lex placed his finger on the off button. Before he pressed on it though, Gabe continued. "You haven't checked your email, have you, Lex?"
"No. I've been... busy for a while." He couldn't tell the man that emotionally he was in turmoil because he was able to bring Chloe back, but now she was staring off into space, her system in shock because of truths he hastily uttered in his exhilaration of watching her move again. Did he really think that she needed the truth now? He never lied to Chloe. Knee jerk reaction to her frantic questions perhaps. He was still the one in the wrong.
"Then download your mail, Lex," Gabe said warmly, using the first name of the man who could have been his son, had fate not intervened. "You'll see. You didn't need to call me to explain yourself."
In response to this, Lex merely turned off the phone and placed it down. He clicked on the mouse to do as Gabe Sullivan requested. As he waited, he closed his eyes and swallowed, still recovering from the tremor that coursed through him at the way that Gabe said his name to make it sound so much like 'son.' He smirked to assure himself that he was not affected, that he merely found it funny. He must be desperately to think like this. There were no two words farther from each other than Lex and son. Even his own father thought so.
He browsed through the long list of unread mail until he found the one from his plant manager. It was dated the night of the dinner. He must have sent it right after they got off the phone.
He clicked on the email and read the carefully chosen words, recognizing them immediately. "Scheler," Lex murmured. Gabe had typed in one sentence, rather than wax poetic about history and psychology the way he usually did in his letters. But in that one quote Gabe Sullivan was able to extend his understanding of Lex's absence, and tell him that he accepted his decision.
The single line read, 'Pain is a private experience.'
It was so cold. Chloe looked around her and all she could see was darkness. And then she closed her eyes, finding the stillness no different from an awareness of nothing. She took a deep breath and forced herself into the surface.
When she finally blinked and focused on her surroundings, Chloe noted that there was a woman sleeping on the couch. She recognized the room, of course. This was the penthouse. She moved here when they decided to live together. But hadn't they decided to live in a bigger place? They've been living in a real house since they got married. They needed the extra room for the baby.
Lex's words earlier returned to her. He had been disturbed. That was all she could think of. But why was she so weak? And where had Alec gone? She prayed fervently that Lex had just dropped him off at her father's. There was nothing but terror in her heart at the thought that Lex had left the baby somewhere in his distress.
She saw a folded newspaper on the floor beside the couch. The nurse had probably been reading it before she fell asleep. Biting back a groan, Chloe forced her body to cooperate. She held on to the edge of the bed, and then the bedside table, until finally, she was able to bed enough to pick it up. The Daily Planet. It was amazing to her how much she had changed. Before she married Lex, working for this paper had been her primary goal. After finding out about the baby, her career hadn't seemed so important anymore.
Bring on the hatchet, suffragettes. Chloe Sullivan had turned into Mrs. Luthor so easily it scared her. Had she just been using the empowered woman bit to fill the space in her life that Lex and Alec so easily occupied?
Her eyes fell on the byline at the front page and she caught her breath. It was ages since she last talked to him. Eagerly, she reached for the phone and dialed the number listed in the editorial box.
In the newsroom, Clark quietly encoded the article he had earlier written by hand. He kept running into spelling errors simply because his fingers were too large for the keyboard. This publication simply had to invest on computers with keys so small that he kept hitting two letters at once. His partner was carefully plotting a line of questions that she expected to fire at Lex Luthor soon. He couldn't bear to tell Lois that Lex would probably not agree to meet her anymore. As private a person that Lex was, he would probably decline and send her a press release next time she called.
The phone beside him shrilled, and he jumped back in his chair. The brunette close to him smirked. "Too much coffee?"
Man, he knew a girl who could drink all the coffee in the world and have room for more...
Clark picked up the receiver and said automatically. "Daily Planet. Kent here."
The voice was so soft that without his heightened senses, he would not have been able to catch it. "Clark."
His brows furrowed in confusion. As he strained to listen, his expression morphed to anger and disgust. "Who the hell is this?" he demanded. His partner, who only knew a mild-mannered farmboy from Smallville, whipped her head in his direction. Clark was incensed though. It was a prank call. It couldn't be. But how would a prank caller be able to have her voice? And how could she say his name exactly like she did? If it was a prank call, why did his heart jump into his throat and a rush of emotions fill him? He calmed down as rationale and feelings warred inside him. Clark took a deep breath and met Lois Lane's concerned eyes. "Chloe?" he whispered into the phone.
"What's going on, Clark?" Lois asked. Her partner shook his head to shush her. She narrowed her eyes and typed into her computer. 'Clark Kent.' And then she cross searched it with 'Chloe.' Everything can be found when you know where to look. Links to Smallville High filled the page.
She glanced at Clark again. His face was white. Even his lips turned into the palest shade of pink there was. She saw his hands tremble as he clutched the phone to his ear. She clicked on one of the links. They were in the same batch in high school. Why would Clark have such a reaction to an old classmate?
And then suddenly, Clark's bewildered murmuring of the single name turned into furious whispered conversation. It was clear to her that whoever it was he was tenderly whispering to earlier, was no longer in the line. She strained to hear Clark's side of the call, but all she could really catch were a phrase here or there that never fit with what she earlier heard. But that name cropped up so often she vowed to remember it. "Chloe." He said it again. And again. Again. And then Clark looked at her and saw how interested she was in the call. Reluctantly, he spat words of warning to the person on the opposite end of the line and put down the phone.
Lois pretended to be reviewing her screen again. And then her eyes caught on a personal site link. She clicked and various prom pictures littered the screen. Near the bottom, as she scrolled, the picture formed itself. Her partner as a gorgeous young man smiling down at a lovely girl in pink he held carefully in his arms. "Eureka," she gasped. The caption: 'Clark Kent and Chloe Sullivan on the dance floor.' She now had a last name. And from experience, it will be domino effect from there. Clark may not be forthcoming with the truth. He never is. Lois Lane will seek for the answers by herself. This was her job after all.
Lex dropped the phone on the carpeted floor. The nurse, who woke up during his damage control with Clark, convincing him that it was one of his paramours who had nothing better to do, blinked fearfully up at Lex. He sent her out, and she scurried away without being told twice. He was thankful that Clark was so gullible. It wasn't that farfetched that Clark could call him a liar. Several months after the accident, Lex had paraded at functions with a blonde green-eyed woman on his arm, with smiles and voices nearing Chloe's every time.
He hoped to hell that Clark was still idiotically innocent he would fall for the blatant lie.
For now, he sat on the side of the bed where Chloe was glaring at him, feeling betrayed and afraid. "Chloe."
"What did you do that for?" she spat out. Her voice was still not as loud as it should be, but he was glad that she still had her temper. It showed that she was recovering nicely. "All those expensive schools and you're still rude."
"Chloe, why did you call Clark?" he asked softly, still touching her face. He wondered when he would get over having to have physical contact. Never, he supposed. When you came as close as he did to losing the one you love, you latch on tight as a bloodsucker.
She fell back on the bed, exhausted, but there was still spark in her eyes when she answered, "I needed help."
"You have a nurse. She was sleeping on the job and she will be fired. I'll get you another one. Or you could have called for me. I would have come." He tried to embrace her but Chloe pushed him away.
"I needed help for you... from you... I don't know," she cried in frustration.
"From me?" he repeated, hurting. "Chloe, I would never hurt you."
"Where. Is. My. Son?" she gritted out.
Lex picked up her hands and held on tightly, tightening his grip when she tried to pull them away. "Look at me, Chloe. Listen carefully. There's no Alec. Remember what I was telling you earlier? No Alec, Chloe. Not yet at least."
"No. Why do you keep saying that?"
"Because it's what's real, Chloe. It's what's true!"
"No!" she said, louder this time. "I have a baby, Lex. We have a son. How can you just forget about him?"
"He wasn't real. Chloe, I already told you, the last two years were numbers on a computer screen," he insistent. "It wasn't real." She was shaking her head firmly, blocking him out. There was only one way for her to believe, one way for her to put the last two years behind. Carefully, he bundled her up in his large coat and took her to the office. He sat her in front of the computer and opened a sealed drawer.
The videos of Bliss gleamed under the light. He reached for one and fed it into the machine. And scenes that she remembered played on the screen. It was the night of Lex's nightmare that she and the baby died. She comforted him. The exact words she remembered saying, the blinking hologram of her did too. Everything went as she remembered, only this time, when Lex stood up in the morning to go to the office, the screen went black, and it was no longer their bedroom when the lights went back on. Only a vacant room.
Lex inserted another CD, of Thanksgiving. And then another. It was Alec's baptism. Another. Chloe's birthday. Another. They watched a movie. Another then another and then another and another until Chloe stumbled away and heaved dryly on the carpet.
And then he was there kneeling right behind her, wrapping her in his warm embrace. She closed her eyes against the pain and dizziness but no matter how tightly her eyes were shut, she still felt the trickle of tears down her cheek. He wiped them away, one by one, and kissed her ear, her nape, murmuring words of assurance.
He had to repeat it. Damn him to everlasting hell. "There is no Alec, Chloe."
"You bought him," she said thickly. "You fucking bought me a baby while I was in a coma. You fucking bought me a life." How can words like that have come out so emotionlessly? She didn't think it was possible until she heard herself say them.
"I had to keep you with me."
"You can't buy everything, Lex."
He stiffened behind her, but his arms around her didn't slacken. "What would have had me do, Chloe? Do what your dad and Clark wanted and let you die?! I lied to everyone you loved, cheated families out of their lands, conducted illegal research and funded the worst experimental research depravities in the history of mankind, Chloe-all to keep you alive and bring you back to me," he recounted.
She turned in his arms and touched his cheek. "You did all that, Lex." It wasn't a question.
Still, he nodded. "Blood, Chloe. A lot of it on my hands. I threw ethics out the window. I did anything and everything to find a way to bring you back to me."
The tears silently streaked down her face. She moistened her lips. "Then yes, Lex. I would have rather you let me die." And then she laid her head on his chest and cried for herself, for the child she lost, but most of all-for Lex, and everything he did.
Clark trudged on the cool moist grass on the way to the marker he visited often. In his fist he clutched the bunch of flowers he brought with him from his mother's garden. Behind him, walking silently, was his partner Lois. When he informed her that he was leaving for Smallville, she had thrown her accessories and wallets into her large shoulder bag.
"What are you doing?" Clark had asked her.
"I'm going with you, Kent," she stated matter-of-factly, as though there was no question about it.
"Lois, I'm just visiting home."
She held his eyes for a full minute before scoffing, "You're a bad liar, Kent. Now I'm coming with you to Smallville, whatever your purpose is. I know it involves a big story."
His brows furrowed. "What big story?"
"Whatever's going on involves Lex Luthor. I heard you on the phone, Kent. Luthor stories are a huge deal. I'm not letting this slip."
Clark took off his eyeglasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose with his fingers. "Lois, Lex Luthor is here in Metropolis. I'm not going to Smallville to interview the guy."
"Give me a break, Kent!"
He heaved a sigh. "Fine, Lois. What makes you think there's anything I'm going to do in Smallville that involves the man? He's staying right here in the city."
His partner had smirked at him, brilliant eyes shining. "Let's see. What possible connection could there be?" she drawled. Clark waited patiently until she said firmly, "What about Chloe Sullivan?"
Clark's entire body tensed. Lois could almost taste the and animosity that suddenly took over her partner. "What about her?" he asked softly.
"I heard you, Kent. You were arguing about her with Luthor."
"That doesn't mean anything. What makes you think that has to do with going home?"
She cocked her finger at him and directed his gaze towards her computer screen. Clark found himself looking at the full page picture of himself and Chloe, in her pink princess gown, dancing closely and full of smiles. "Because you and Chloe Sullivan were somehow connected in Smallville High, Kent," she deduced. "And I will eventually find out what you've got against Luthor. She probably knows. I swear, if you don't get me an interview with her, I will-I will- Just don't mess this up for me."
Lois had never seen Clark Kent's eyes as shuttered as they were when he told her, "Fine. Get your stuff and meet me at the lobby in five."
So now here they were, not really talking, and Lois could feel this hostility coming off Clark Kent in waves. Clark Kent never got mad or pissed with anyone. She was flustered when he parked the car by the cemetery, and even more nervous when he stepped out. From the backseat, he took the bouquet of flowers that she cursed herself at not having noticed before.
She had to jog a few times just to catch up with her partner. When it seemed that her thighs would start screaming in pain, she bumped into Clark. He'd stopped now and was staring at a fixed point ahead of him. "So who're we visiting?" she prodded, eager to go off and search for her story.
It was a trait that she both loved and loathed-this preoccupation with a possible scoop that blinded her to everything else going on around her. Clark didn't answer her. Instead, he stepped forward and placed the bouquet on the ground. "Hey you." Clark hadn't been speaking all the way from Metropolis that Lois almost jumped at the sound of his voice. "Someone here wants to interview you," he said quietly. And then he looked at Lois. "I don't think she's up for it."
Lois Lane's lips parted in disbelief. She sidestepped Clark and glanced down at the marker that held the name that she had been repeating over and over since she heard it from his private call. Oh shit, her brain repeated. "Clark," she began, "I'm... Clark, I'm sorry."
"Yeah," he said after a while. "Sorry too. Didn't mean to act like such a jerk."
She reached out a hand and rested in on his upper arm. "I was stupid and rude. I didn't know." He nodded. "So were you two close?"
"Lois, I-" he began, not wanting to talk about his private life. But when he looked down at her she looked so sincere that he answered simply, "She was my best friend."
Lois smiled. "She must have been special to put up with you."
"She adored me," Clark said lightly. "She was my first kiss."
Lois moistened her lips, knowing that she was assuming too much to even ask. "How... What happened to her?" When she saw the date on the marble stone again, she winced. "That's just way too young."
"I happened," he muttered. Lois looked at him, confused. He knew there was no way he would share that his descent to earth brought the meteor slabs that ultimately caused Chloe her life. He clarified, "She was in a car accident with her fianc, on the way back to their place after telling my family that they were engaged."
He felt the shiver that ran through her body. "That's... I'm sorry, Clark. I don't even have words for that."
"The ironic thing about it is that she always said in high school that my crush had perfected this act of being so betrayed by the world. But Chloe said that she wasn't born to be a tragedy."
Lois bit her lip as she looked down on the marker again. And then she squeezed her partner's hand. "I'll leave you alone here for a while. I'll wait in the car," she offered. She regretted having pressured him to let her tag along. She knew from experience that some things must be kept private to be sacred.
As she waited in the passenger seat, her thoughts were suddenly running like crazy. True, Clark's story made sense. He was uncomfortable when he was asked about Chloe Sullivan because he still hadn't fully gotten over his best friend's early demise. But that still didn't explain why he was arguing with Lex Luthor, the elusive billionaire himself, about her. Even though she respected Clark's private life so much, there were still things that didn't quite add up. Why would a phone conversation with Luthor induce Clark to just up and leave for Smallville? The more she thought about the questions, the more curious she became about Chloe Sullivan.
For his part, Clark took deep steadying breaths. This was it. This was what he came for, but he didn't think he would actually gather up the courage and strength to do this. But the phone call had made him think. If it had only been one of his paramours, why would she specifically have asked for him? And why did the sound of her voice send an amazing thrill through his body.
Silently apologizing to his friend if he were wrong about this, Clark focused his eyes down on the grass, boring a deep deep hole in his vision and looking underneath the layers and layers of soil.
Lois abruptly slammed out of the car when she saw Clark stumble away from the grave and onto his knees. She ran towards him and dropped beside him. She could feel the tremors racking his entire body. She gathered him in an embrace. "Are you okay?" she asked. "Clark, are you okay?"
"She's gone," he muttered. "She's not here. She's gone."
Lois gently ran her hand up and down his back and gently consoled him, "I know. I'm sorry, Clark. It's been two years. It's going to be fine."
Clark still seemed to be in shock. She led him to the car and got into the driver's seat himself. "Listen, Kent. I need directions to your folks' place. I think you need to talk to them. I'll make myself scarce and pick you up later so we can head back to Metropolis."
She was going to find out the truth no matter what.
After dropping Clark off and telling his parents what had happened earlier, she asked to be excused. It was hard to say no to Martha Kent's invitation, but she assured the older woman that she would be by later for dinner and Clark. Lois told them that they needed some private time to speak with their son, and asked for directions to the local library.
She asked for the newspaper films from around the date written on the marble marker. She was prepared to browse through each and every page on the film to look for even a mention of Chloe Sullivan's accident. She was awestruck by what she found. Instead of a brief mention of the accident, she saw tons of features on the young woman's life. Lois wondered why the newspapers would spend so much time and focus on a local girl who gets killed in a car accident. True, it was a tragic story worthy of note. But not this much, she thought to herself.
She fast forwarded to a story of the burial. Again, she was shocked to find the story printed on the front page. The photograph on the cover caught her interest. There was a small gathering of people, and with an ache in her heart, she saw her partner standing in front of the crowd beside a tired looking old man, in such pain. Another face on the blurred picture caught her eyes. "No," she whispered. "It can't be," Lois rationalized. It was too much of a coincidence. But that head was unmistakable. Lois read the caption and everything clicked into place.
Back. Back. Back. Back. She ran through days and weeks, looking for a story about the accident itself. Surely something like that would merit news coverage. She was amazed at what she found in the weeks before the burial. Chloe Sullivan had apparently been on life support for a few months before finally dying. Finally, she stopped on a front page picture of a car wreck.
Lois Lane swallowed as she read the red headline. LUTHOR HEIR IN MIDNIGHT CRASH. And the subtitle, in bold black letters. Fianc in Critical Condition.
It was surreal, she thought, to see the pictures that followed. There was a series of snapshots that captured what was perhaps the most hellish minutes of the man's life. There was a reason why the man hated the press, she thought, as she surveyed the scenes. Lex Luthor appeared on the brink of insanity, and she shuddered at the thought of a photographer just snapping pictures of the billionaire at a time like that.
With all her heart and soul, she knew that she adored the man she promised her forever to. Sudden flashes of memory told her that, although she couldn't remember their entire life together, this man she held in her arms loved her beyond the heights and depths that they originally thought one could love another person.
And so when he touched her cheek, she immediately knew that he needed this connection with her-to assure himself that she was alive, and that everything was going to be all right.
Chloe knew that their world was far from fine. He had committed sins against others, and perhaps started on the road to a destiny that a few years ago they both feared for and fought against. And while she had effectively been gone, unable to just hold him the way she did before, he perpetrated all the crimes that he had always feared he was capable of.
But what does it say about him or herself when his capacity for evil was only explored because of his desperate need to be with her? It wasn't heaven, nor was it even healthy or safe to consider, but she accepted it all the same. They had thought that the destiny of evil would be ended before it began because of her role in his life. And now she discovered that she was actually the beginning of the dreaded Lex Luthor that everyone believed he would be.
She was, for all intents and purposes, the downfall of the man she loved.
And she cringed at the thought of her Lex having done all of that. But she also felt the burden of being the reason why.
So because of that guilt and the overwhelming love she knew she still felt for this man who had turned out so differently from the one she was familiar with, she leaned closer to his skin and allowed him to press his lips on hers. First lightly, like the brush of a butterfly's wings. And then deeply, firmly, with all the pent-up hunger that he had never been able to fully appease with anyone else.
His passion stunned her, and she had to remind herself over and over that Lex had not really been with her physically for so long, when she still remembered how they explored each other's bodies in the field not a few days ago. None of that was real, even if they were the fondest memories she had ever had in her life. Lex's body moved over and into hers with a driving force that left her breathless and clutching at the silk sheets under her fingers, and certain that even without Alec in her arms right now, the baby was on his way back.
She settled back on the pillows and cradled in her arms, against her heaving breast, his head. Even after, in the glow that came over them, he continued to drop swift hungry kisses on her damp skin. Chloe's hand absently smoothed over the back of his head and the hollow of his spine. Her leg, thrown over his thigh, absently rubbed against him as she relived scenes in her mind that have never really happened.
Softly, she said, "I don't know what's real anymore, Lex."
A strong hand closed over hers. He raised her palm and pressed a kiss inside. Unconsciously, she closed her fist over the kiss and brought it to her own lips. "You and me, Chloe," was his answer. "That's what you can count on."
"But everything was made up, Lex. All that I can remember-the love, the birthdays, the afternoons we spent just reading together, and all the nights like this-were fake."
He raised his head finally. "What we did and what we felt couldn't have ever been made up, not even by my best trained men. All they did was create an environment where it would be possible for us to interact."
She drew him up carefully so their bodies were plush together. Chloe pulled him down for a lingering kiss. Even after the moment was over, he did not raise his head. Nor did she pull away. They remained that way, with their lips barely touching and staring into each other's eyes. "I've always loved you," she whispered, sending thrills into his body at the way her mouth moved under his.
"I'll always love you," he promised needlessly. All he had done the past years proved that statement to extremes every hour. And then he settled his head back on her chest and just remained still, listening to her heart beat and relishing the feel of her warm skin. "Always, Chloe."
Chloe closed her eyes and tried to memorize how every line of his body felt against hers. She inhaled deeply and tried to embed the scent of him in her brain. Every word assailed her senses, because she knew how true his words were. She wanted to curse herself for how much he loved her, because he would not have buried himself so deeply if he loved her less. For the first time in her life she wished she wasn't foremost in a man's life.
There were things to do, people to meet, places to be. She had an identity to reclaim, a life to live. Silently, she prayed that he would not hate her for what she was about to do. And then again that evil voice in her brain reminded her of Lex's words. She amended her appeal to whatever power existed up there, and asked that the man love her less.
Tomorrow morning was another battle to be fought. She wasn't so sure that they would win. Her mind was in turmoil about what was happening around her. It was true what they said, after all. When everything looks bright and promising, count on it never to last. How many times since her engagement had she thought that her life as Mrs. Luthor was too good to be true? Well what do you know... It actually was.
She fell asleep still cradling him, with the upper half of his body on top of her. She did not mind the weight of him pressing her down on the bed. The burden of guilt he must be bearing far outweighed what she was feeling now. As she drifted off to sleep, thoughts of how far she had driven the promising man would not leave her head, and would haunt him in her nightmares still.
It was such a sharp contrast to the soft and cool brush on her cheek that woke her up. When her eyes fluttered open, she saw the amazing eyes shining brightly on her. If happiness could be bottled and sold, Lex Luthor would be a billionaire many times over again for what radiated from him. Chloe almost felt guilty for wishing that she had died long ago. She was not in any way a vain woman, but she was certain that no other person on earth could make Lex as happy as he was right now with her, simply lying together in bed.
"Morning, Chloe." He raised her hand to his lips and brushed a kiss across her knuckles. Her skin tingled at the feeling, and she smiled. "How should we spend the day?"
Her gaze was attracted to the simply gray and blue calendar on the bedside table. The briefest grin touched her mouth. "I know I've not been in touch with current events or dates," she said half-teasingly. "But I think you're supposed to be working on weekdays."
He thought at first that it was a joke, and he released a short snort of laughter. And then he realized that she was serious. "I just got you back," was his matter-of-fact statement. "I was thinking of whisking you away to Europe or to the Caribbean, like we were talking about."
The memory of Bliss hurt. He saw the pain that flickered in her eyes and cursed himself for reminding her. But then he saw her face light up dimly and she closed her hand over his tightly. "Let's keep it real, okay? No trips around the world or huge expensive gifts. I need to establish a foothold on reality first."
He nodded, perhaps not eagerly, but in understanding. "All right. You want me to go to the office," he pronounced slowly.
"I'm not driving you away. I missed you too, you know," she told him. Lex found this unlikely. She hadn't really been without him. And so that morning, he went to the office with a lighter, more hopeful heart.
It wasn't a few hours later, while he was meeting with LuthorCorp's top associates, that the ease and lightness that accompanied his every movement came crashing down.
He had been feeling ill at ease for a few minutes before he decided to just end the session right then. A couple of the men protested, having flown in all the way from LA and Gotham. But when Lex Luthor wanted something, no one was allowed to say otherwise. He left the conference hall and returned to his private room.
"Any messages for me, Ms King?" he inquired of his secretary.
The woman smiled up at him and handed him several sheets of paper. "Just reminders for the rest of the day, Mr. Luthor. Other than that, nothing I couldn't handle on my own."
He frowned quizzically at the woman before closing the door behind him. He settled back on his chair and scanned through the notes. He pushed the button on his desk phone and read through the numbers of the incoming calls. And then he saw his home number among the recent calls.
He switched on the intercom. "Ms King, were there personal calls for me?"
"None sir. There were a couple of prank calls. A woman kept calling for you who won't even give her name."
Lex grabbed the receiver and dialed the number to the penthouse. He fidgeted with small items on his desk, waiting for the call to be picked up. Finally, on the twelfth ring, she answered. "Chloe," he said in a rush. "Is anything wrong?"
He could hear the sobs on the other end of the line. She'd never really cried subtly, in that manner that Lana did that always made you ache for her. But Chloe's crying was so much like her, and for Lex, that more readily broke his heart to know that something could be so painful as to induce a person as happy as she was to cry.
"Chloe," he repeated, more firmly than before.
"I was using your computer," she admitted.
He stilled. That didn't mean anything. "It's fine, Chloe." He made a mental note to clean up the hard drive as soon as he got home. "Everything in the house is yours too."
There was a pregnant pause that exploded into a rush of words. "I saw everything. You wrote down everything you did, Lex," she sobbed into the phone. His body tensed at the records he so painstakingly typed in, like a maniac bent on destroying the world, which he probably was at that time. "Were you really going to kill Clark, Lex?"
So she had seen even more than the records. He could think of no way to explain to her what he felt at the time.
"He let you get hurt."
That pause again. Maybe he could tell his scientists to figure out a formula that would eradicate all uncomfortable, perhaps destructible, pauses. "Did you think he wanted that?"
"Chloe..." How could he tell her that it was just passive planning that he really would never have followed up on, when he had every intention of crushing Superman under his heel? He never lied well to her. "It doesn't matter now, Chloe. You're back with me."
"Doesn't it? What if I die right now, Lex? Would you still go after Clark just because he wasn't here to bring me back to life?" He suppressed the urge to yell in panic at the easy way the thought of death passed through her lips.
"You're not going to die, Chloe."
To the woman on the line, the words that he didn't say spoke volumes. Instead, she asked, "Who am I supposed to be now, Lex? I don't have an identity anymore." Even with an intellectual quotient that far exceeded that of more than ninety nine percent of the population, there were just things that were beyond his ability to answer. "I couldn't even give your secretary a name, Lex. I'm no one. I need to be somebody again."
And that he could understand. Even as a young woman in Smallville High, Chloe Sullivan had needed the byline, those black letters that confirmed an achievement or a work. Like him, Chloe needed to be. She lived and breathed in infamy despite the relative anonymity that she enjoyed in that small school. "You will always be someone, Chloe," he stressed. "Always with me."
Her temper flared at that. He'd never been gladder bearing the brunt of it. "What is wrong with you?" she demanded. "Can't you even understand what I need?" He could almost see her biting her lip as she simmered down, the moment she realized that she had been unfair. "I can't even depend on you, Lex. You changed. You're not the man I left."
Did she really expect him to be the same when he had had to live two entire years with her virtually dead? "People change," he said quietly.
Her answer was soft. "I didn't want you to be like this."
Neither did he. Now was not the time to be easily offended or act like a mule. Lex clutched the phone to his ear. He knew that Chloe was so confused that everything he said or did could have consequences that he might not be able to deal with in the future. "Listen, Chloe. I need you to stay there. I'm coming home right now."
When he arrived and saw her sitting on the bed, calmly sifting through the worn pages of her favorite book, Lex breathed a sigh of relief. He drew closer to her and sat down beside her. Before he could even utter a word in greeting, lucid green eyes met his and she stated clearly, "I love you so much, and I'm terrified." He picked up her hand and inspected her fingers, waiting for her to continue. There was so much that she needed to say. He could almost see the words tumbling in her head. "Even after seeing all that... knowing you did those things," she told him tonelessly, "I still love you, Lex."
"There's nothing wrong with that," he murmured, still not meeting her eyes.
"I'm so scared, Lex. If I'm capable of causing all that, then sooner or later I'll be the reason that you do something so evil." Her voice started to crack now, and he saw the tenuous hold she had on her emotions. "And I won't even be able to hate you for that."
He closed his eyes, hearing those words. He tugged on the hand in his and she fell against him. Lex pulled her on top of him as he laid back on the bed. His mouth ravaged hers, and she didn't complain. In fact, Chloe's opened her mouth to receive his tongue and parried with her own. "Lex," she breathed into his mouth. Her hands were pulling at his shirt. It hadn't really occurred to her until that morning how much she needed him. It took seeing the hard evidence that he was prepared to bleed the entire population in order to be with her that she found this erotic thrill. If it made her evil, then she welcomed it. What use would the blessing of heaven be if Lex wasn't there anyway?
His body pumped into hers in a way that couldn't compare to her fondest memories. His forceful thrusts drove her to the edge of oblivion, to a blackness that exploded with colors and then nothingness.
"I'll do anything for you, Chloe," he whispered against her sweat-soaked hair. But she was too exhausted to say that that was exactly what she was afraid of.
Later that night, while Lex slept beside her on the bed, Chloe carefully and silently rose and pushed at the button on the closet. A painful lump in her throat rose to choke her when she saw the state that her side of the cabinet was in. She pushed all sentiment aside and picked up the bag at the bottom. She worked to stuff in as many clothes and shoes as she could.
And then she snagged a pair of jeans and a simple white shirt from the hangers and hurriedly dressed. She padded out of the bedroom, careful not to wake Lex. She closed the door behind her and never stopped until she was inside the elevator. Finally, when the metal doors closed behind her, she let herself fall back and closed her eyes tightly.
She picked up her things and hailed a cab. Only then did she rummage in the handbag that she picked up and found everything in her wallet the same as they were that fateful night. Chloe flipped through the photo jacket, an accessory that Lex never allowed her to add in his own wallet. Even with that stubbornness of his, he still had a picture of her hidden in one of the card slits, she knew. Chloe shook her head free of thoughts of him. She was midway through the smiling photos of the two of them together when she suddenly shivered. The dark red stain was the only evidence that something had happened. The cleaners probably never saw since the spot of blood was so far in the middle. But she stared at it hard and long. Their faces were blurred by the spot, and the blood covered their faces so that you couldn't even see them grinning like idiots, and that they were actually happy.
All the way home from work, Clark remembered the relative honesty of the conversation that he and Lois Lane shared during the trip to Metropolis from Smallville. As she had promised his mother, Lois returned to the Kent Farm just in time for dinner. By that point, his parents had been able to get him to talk about whatever it was that had affected him like that.
They arrived at the same conclusion, one that caused both fury and elation to war inside him. Lex Luthor, despite all the show and pomp of holding the funeral, had really not listened to Gabe and Clark. Chloe was alive somewhere. Was Lex holding her on life support still? He was enraged at the idea, but somehow strangely relieved. But no matter what he felt, it still did not change the fact that a man who claimed to be his best friend had lied to him.
He would deal with Lex later.
Clark asked Lois on the road to the city where she had been. At first, she fidgeted with her pantsuit and averted her eyes. And then she confessed. "I was in the library researching." Clark nodded for her to continue. "I looked into the details of her death, Clark." The word had a different reaction now than it did before. Now he knew that the actual death was staged, so rather than get that pang of pain, Clark experienced a flash of anger that he quickly tamped down. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"It really doesn't change a thing." Lois nodded. She wasn't going to question that because as far as a friend was concerned, it didn't matter who Chloe Sullivan was engaged to in the face of the accident. "So," Clark continued, "you spent the entire day in the library?"
"Ummm, no." Lois licked her lips, and Clark glanced at her. He had a very bad feeling about this now. "I spent most of the day with Mr. Sullivan."
"What!?" Clark demanded. Lois gripped the dashboard when the car swerved. "You went to the Sullivan house? Why?"
"I wanted to know more about her, all right?" she snapped.
"What," Clark said calmly, "she's suddenly an interesting figure because you find out that Lex Luthor was involved with her?"
"No," she answered stiffly. It wasn't completely true of course. Lois' interest in her was piqued because of her engagement to the billionaire. That was the reason why she hunted all the articles done about her at the time. Apparently, the newspapers in Smallville were paying tribute because the girl was a journalist, had been since high school. But the more Lois read about the young woman the more she felt that Chloe Sullivan was a kindred spirit. "I felt a connection to her, okay?" she said. And that was the reason why she had gone to Gabe Sullivan's house.
Clark nodded, accepting the answer. "How is Gabe?"
"Well he had a cold," Lois offered. "He should probably retire."
"Lex," he said with more bite than he intended, "told him that too. But he still refuses."
"He works for his daughter's fianc?"
"Uhuh. He won't leave the plant because it's a connection to Lex, therefore a connection to his daughter. He enjoys having that line of communication with Lex Luthor. I think he's playing at being his father."
"I can see that," Lois said thoughtfully. "He was very welcoming, especially when he found out I was there to ask about his daughter."
"So you were a captive audience?" Clark forced a smile. Gabe Sullivan will regale you with hours of stories. When they were in high school, he and Pete were forced to sit through Mr. Sullivan's tales about working in a fertilizer plant while waiting for their friend.
"I enjoyed listening to him. He talked for hours."
"Just like Chloe."
Lois grinned. She became silent for a while before she turned to Clark and said, "I would have liked her, you know."
Chloe would have liked her too, Clark decided. "Well it wouldn't be one-sided." Lois grinned her thanks. And then Clark thought hard about the next step in dealing with Lex Luthor.
Clark opened the door to his apartment. He was pretty relieved that Lois was covering a news item outside of the office that day. He was not prepared to go into another conversation about what she found out in Smallville.
Suddenly, he stiffened. It wasn't as though the sound was loud enough to disturb, but his senses picked up on that breathing that was not his. He could feel the slow throb of a heart not his. Clark narrowed his eyes and scanned around him.
At first, it did not seem likely that anyone could just walk inside his apartment, close the door behind himself and remain. But that was how it seemed. The presence was still strong, but nothing seemed missing. Clark used his enhanced vision to see into the rooms.
That was when he saw the skeletal figure inside his bedroom, lying on his bed. He sprang forward and kicked open the door, snarling at the intruder.
The small blonde on the bed sat up, with a look of fear and shock. And then her eyes welled up with moisture as she regarded him, frozen on his feet as he was. "Clark," she whispered. He watched in stunned silence as Chloe Sullivan, who appeared surprisingly alert after what she must have been through, rose from his bed and walked over towards him. "Clark, I need your help!"
He commanded his legs to move, to go over to her. He told his arms that the moment he was close enough, he would enfold her in the tightest embrace she had ever been in. His breath caught sharply when she took one tentative step towards him.
Chloe's eyes widened at the sight of Clark Kent falling onto his knees and gritting his teeth. She watched the veins in his arms and his temples throb an unflattering green. She rushed over to him and reached out to touch his skin, which brought another hiss and a loud groan. "What's wrong?" she sobbed. "Clark, what's happening?"
Moisture seeped out from under his tightly closed lids. He shied away from her in pain. "Chloe-" he choked out. She was in need, and she was there. But right at that moment nothing else mattered but, "Get away from me."
"What?" she repeated softly.
"Clark..." She looked on helplessly as Clark's pale face grew bluer at her proximity. She lifted her hand away from his arm and saw the throbbing veins subside a little. When she reached for him again, the sickly shade returned. "Oh God," she murmured. She was causing this. Whatever happened to her caused this, whether it was from the accident or from Lex's cure, she was affecting Clark like this. She took a step back. "I'm sorry," she stammered. And then she pushed away from him and ran out the door.
Chloe ran and ran, almost like she was trying to reach the end of the world where she could just fall off into oblivion. But the earth was round and she cursed that. There was nowhere she could disappear too, no entrance to the gates of hell around the corner. Out of breath, she leaned on the wall of a building. It wasn't as though she could go far. It had only been a while that she's been using her muscles, and even now they were already screaming in pain.
She looked down at herself. The bags she'd packed were left in Clark's apartment. Much use her visit was. She had been turned into a freak by the meteors! She finally had proof and she didn't even find fulfillment at being right in her theories. Chloe slipped her hand inside the pocket of her pants and found the small amount of cash she managed to get from her purse still in there. This was everything she had now.
This was a part of Metropolis she wasn't too familiar with. But when she spotted a coffee shop nearby, she pulled herself over to take a hot drink. Chloe selected an isolated area where she could mull over what she was going to do now.
There was no way she could go back to Clark's. She had gone there using her old key to ask for help. But now that she could actually kill him unintentionally, she wouldn't dare come close.
Lex was out of the question. She was going to bring him down. Everything he'd done, she was the reason. She could not let him do to himself what they've always been afraid he was destined for.
She wondered how Lana and Pete were. Last time she was in contact with them before the accident, they've been going steady and planning on settling in Smallville. But they had such a promising and bright future. They probably didn't know about her. In fact, Chloe was pretty sure they had no idea.
Her father. Tears gathered in her eyes as she considered how this would affect her father. Damn you, Lex Luthor. She couldn't give her father the hope of having his daughter back when it could turn out that this mutation inside her could kill him too. She didn't even know if she was safe to walk around a city full of people like she's doing.
"May I sit here?"
Chloe sniffed into her napkin, prepared to snap at the woman for intruding on her privacy. But like all establishments in Metropolis, the coffee shop was busy and full even this late. She nodded and continued to sob into her napkin.
The woman took a seat in front of her. Chloe could feel the discomfort the woman was feeling. She supposed she should be a little more discreet and subtle about this. She looked up to apologize to the other customer.
Chloe frowned when she saw the woman staring at her, blinking slowly and her mouth working close and open like a fish. "You," the woman whispered. "I-I'm sorry. I'm sorry you just look like someone-"
Chloe gratefully took her cup from the waitress and gulped down the coffee. "It was probably an easy mistake to make," she murmured. And then Chloe looked out the glass window and into the street, effectively ending the conversation.
"My name is Lois Lane," the woman said.
Chloe nodded. Before thinking of an assumed name, she slipped, "Chloe."
"Oh my God!" Chloe's green eyes focused back on the brunette in front of her. The woman was hyper. Was she just having coffee? "Chloe."
"Do I know you?" That was impossible, of course. But there wasn't anything you can courteously reply to that.
The woman shook her head. "I can't believe this," she whispered. She drew out a bag which still contained some of the items she brought with her to Smallville. She took out a paper and unfolded it. On the table lay a rather worn printed photo of her dance with Clark in high school prom. Chloe raised fearful eyes at the woman. "Chloe Sullivan, you're not dead."
Chloe bit her lip. Somehow, although it was preposterous since she had just met this woman, she felt that she was safe. Maybe because in her eyes Chloe saw not an opportunistic snoop, but rather the same excitement and fervor she used to have in high school give her father the She couldn' eyes as she considered how this would affect her father. e managed to get from her purse still when she chased all over the town for the truth, rather than a story. "That's still on deliberation," Chloe said.
"That's the exact same response I got from Lex Luthor!"
Chloe's eyes snapped again. "You've been speaking with Lex," she breathed.
"I just can't figure out why I'm looking at you right now," Lois continued. "How are you talking back to me? I-Kent and I just got back from Smallville visiting your grave."
Chloe swallowed the hurt that the words brought. Lois wasn't affected by her 'mutation.' Neither was Lex. So maybe she was safe enough to be allowed to mingle with people. "It's a long story."
"I bet," Lois said eagerly. And then the hunger for the story dissipated when she saw how lost and small the woman in front of her appeared. "Have you had dinner?" she asked. The truth would be sought later. When Chloe shook her head, Lois left a few bills on the table. "Come on with me back to my place. We'll pick up some Chinese along the way." Chloe regarded her with uncertainty. "Come on, Chloe. It's not safe to stay out alone so late. I'll tell you about my visit with your dad."
Walking home with Chloe Sullivan, Lois Lane grappled with everything she was now privy to. Maybe it was shock, or maybe it was the same brand of reporter's instincts she had been told Chloe Sullivan possessed, but all she could think of was, 'I'm walking with a dead woman.'
Three months without a call or a letter. Twelve weeks in which anything and everything could have happened that he knew nothing about. Lex Luthor cursed himself for each one of the almost hundred days that followed that single night where he let go of control.
He was well aware that she was confused. He should have stayed awake. But Lex knew Chloe enough that even if she had been thrown the way she had been by everything he showed her, she would not have done something without thinking. She had probably decided to leave the moment he left the penthouse, waiting only for his return, hoping that he would say or do something that would make her change her mind.
He made love to her and whispered sweet promises.
Obviously the wrong thing to do.
And so for three entire months he had mulled over his next actions. Even Clark Kent's visit the day after she disappeared from his life didn't matter to Lex. Where Clark had once been so important to him that he would have done anything, Clark Kent's presence these days were loathsome at worst and irritating at best.
"Where is she?" the caped wonder demanded when he once more landed on the balcony.
Lex had woken up to the empty bed just an hour before. He had been furious, but eventually calm enough to attend to his morning rituals and shrug on the expensive clothes that he could remember her loving the feel of against her cheek, her lips, her palms, the softness of her belly. He vowed to go into the office and contact all the private investigators who had ever been in the Luthor payroll to search for her.
"She isn't here, Superman."
Clark walked into the room, not waiting to be invited. He had always been the calm one, the reasonable guy who his friends would turn to to settle an issue. Clark had always been the strong one too. He could easily snap someone's neck in two should he wish it. That was why there was still the slight hesitation present in his manner when he stepped inside. For the past two years since the accident, he always found himself losing control of his temper whenever he was confronted by Lex-a former best friend and even more, Chloe's fianc. Losing control for Clark Kent could be deadly to those around him.
"I know everything," he told the bald man who stood still in front of the mirror, fixing his tie. "I went to Smallville, Lex."
"Finally got the guts to use your powers and make certain, didn't you?"
"It wasn't a matter of being a coward that made me reluctant all this time," Clark said. "It was because I respected her."
"You hesitated," Lex corrected, "because you didn't have the guts. You've always suspected that I did something nefarious, Clark. If I had your powers I would have checked on it the first time I could have."
"That's where we differ, Lex. I still have some morals." Rather than explode on him, Clark found Lex's cold gaze moving to him disturbing. Lex continued to fix his tie. And then, he grabbed his jacket and shrugged it on. "Where is she? Where did you put her, Lex?" Clark knew that he should have run after Chloe the moment she left the penthouse. At the time he had been weakened and still slightly disbelieving that she was there, standing, speaking, breathing, despite the evidence. By the time he had recovered his wits enough, Chloe had gone, leaving him with absolutely no idea where she ran to.
Instead of answering, Lex took his briefcase and proceeded to the door, throwing a reminder behind him to, "Close the windows on your way out, Superman."
Lex picked up the letter from one of his investigators. In these last three months, he was still waiting to hear of any progress in their search for Chloe. He tore the edge of the envelope and silently browsed through the letter.
With a low growl, Lex Luthor crumpled the paper and threw it to the trash can. He dialed the number on the speaker phone, and then settled back on his chair. "Mr Evans."
"I don't see why it's taking you all this time to search for one civilian."
"Mr Luthor, there is no paper trail to be found. All information on Chloe Sullivan dropped off a couple years back."
"If it were that easy, I wouldn't be paying you this inordinate amount of money," Lex snapped. "Now get me some new information or you're off the case."
Lex turned off the phone and closed his eyes. There were still piles of papers to go over--contracts and deals to sign. He had always been a busy person, and Lex had always been able to handle the pressure of running millions of dollars through several companies. These weeks have been hell however, when every waking moment was dominated by her.
Chloe needed one thing from him. He was intelligent enough to have caught on it. But he couldn't understand why she left like that without a way to know whether or not he was even trying. She had to have some sort of connection to Metropolis or to Smallville. Chloe would not give up on him. He just knew it. They would destroy each other before she ever gave up.
The office was composed of grays and blacks. The young woman shivered as she entered, although she should be getting to used to it. Her footsteps echoed through the hallway as she made her way to the large desk.
"Good morning," she greeted cheerfully.
The man behind the desk blinked up at her. He closed the laptop and nodded back in greeting. "Morning. I take it there's no problem in the publicity front."
The woman waved a hand airily and sat on the chair in front of her superior. "There were a couple near misses with chemical spillage but I have them already settled. There was a minor outcry with the forested area west of the Banks. I'm driving there this afternoon to see what I can do."
"Very efficient. I have to thank my lucky stars that I have you to work for me, Ms Alexander."
Her lips curved slightly at the reference. "I have never really thought of Lois Lane as Bruce Wayne's lucky star."
The young billionaire let out a grunt of laughter, and she teased him about him prude version of hilarity. "Let's just say that your arrival were two pluses to my account."
"I'm surprised that Lois actually told you that she'll leave off the interview you promised her if you'll take me. I never thought of my worth in the negative."
"Lily," Bruce assured her, "if I had known you were this good of a worker, I would have given Ms Lane... two interviews."
"Two!" Lily Alexander tucked her blonde hair behind her ear and rose to her feet. "Flattery, Mr. Wayne, will get you everywhere," she announced with a faint hint of sarcasm that he enjoyed hearing. "But enough of that. I did drop by this early to settle a matter with you. The turn of the conversation makes it harder, of course, but it has to be done."
The man's face turned serious and inquiring at once. "Is something wrong?"
She shook her head. "I wanted to give you this." She handed him a piece of paper. "It's awful for me to do this, I know. You gave me an opportunity that I cannot thank you enough for. But I've trained Jeff Arnolds and he will be a capable-"
"Lily," Bruce interrupted after reading the letter, "you're not resigning on me now."
"I have to, Mr. Wayne. I'm head of public relations. It won't be seemly to-I just need to do this, sir. It's for the company's own good."
"How is the resignation of the best PR head I've ever had be good for the company? Explain that to me, Ms Alexander, if you please."
The blonde took a deep breath and released it at once. "I-I-Mr. Wayne, you see I-"
"Maybe I should fire you. I've never known you to have this poor a vocabulary."
She glared at him. "It doesn't appear seemly for the PR head of Wayne Enterprises to be an unwed mother, Mr Wayne."
"You're saying that you're pregnant," Bruce reiterated, causing her to roll her eyes at the obvious import of what she had already said earlier. "But I think that's excellent," he continued, still in that grave voice.
"How would that be?" she asked, surprised. From what she knew of Bruce Wayne, he was rather a stiff collar from the most functional family ever before he lost his parents. His family values would therefore be very small town even if he lived and breathed Gotham.
Bruce Wayne regarded the blonde woman that Lois Lane had foisted on him more than two months ago. Lily Alexander, as she and Lois said her name was, had no record even slightly matching the ones they narrated. But the intelligence and desperation that shown through both women's eyes caused him to rethink booting them out of the manor house and actually allowing her to try her hand at the job. To his amazement, she excelled in her work and that was what was important to him. Pasts didn't matter, no matter how fabricated hers was. He had to give her a reason that wouldn't sound subjective.
"I've always been rather prudish," he began, and saw Lily bite her inner cheek. "So it would be a nice image to see Wayne Enterprises being so liberal and free." When she still appeared doubtful, Bruce pressed forward where he knew her logic and work ethic would not allow her to balk. "Tell me that that isn't the best publicity you can't think of for the company, Ms Alexander, and I'll help you pack up your office."
The twinkle in her eye assured him that he was on the right track. "Let it not be said that I made Bruce Wayne do something so menial," she replied lightly. Before she left the office, she said, "But I am not going in front of the camera to show the world what a modern boss you are."
"Whatever you want." He tipped his head and waited for her to leave the office before returning to his online conversation with his old college friend, whom he was wooing to sign a deal with him for an agricultural chemical that his scientists were working on.
He didn't really have a lot going for him right now.
This realization hit Clark really hard while sitting in his office desk chair staring at the computer screen. He'd been working on a story exposing the malpractice of a Smallville doctor when he asked himself what he was doing typing this helpful information when he could do better by actually fighting injustice head-on. His calling had always been to help people. But did he really have a dream?
His parents always dreamed of having a child, and like a gift from heaven, Martha had told him once, he dropped from the sky.
There's Pete and Lana, who are following their bliss together. Pete's calling for public service hadn't been set aside as he fulfilled his and Lana's dream of having a beautiful family. Clark knew how happy it made Lana to have children as lovely as hers, with a complete set of parents. Lana's children would never have to starve for parental affection the way that Lana had when she was younger.
Whitney Fordman, who once thought about playing for life, was now creating his own dream serving in the military. He met his wife there and from what Clark saw when Whitney last visited Smallville, was very content. Whitney was not made for Smallville. That was certain.
When he heard Lois arguing with their editor about a story she wanted to cover, Clark realized that his partner was in a job that she had always dreamed of since she was a kid. Reporting was Lois Lane's dream. Journalism was her passion-this burning need to uncover the truth and reveal it to the world. Clark knew that if this woman ever found something that would rock the world, she would not hesitate to expose it.
She wasn't so different from Chloe that way. But Chloe had been able to control that need when she found out inconsistencies about him. Clark didn't think that Lois would be capable of sitting on a story. In fact, Clark was right here in the newspaper office because of Chloe. He was living her life. That thought emphasized to him the fact that he still hadn't figured out what really happened.
Even Lex Luthor had a dream, a picture of a perfect family with a woman he loved beyond reason. And he did everything in his power to keep that dream within reach, even if it involved deception and destruction.
Clark Kent didn't have a dream.
The digital sound from Lois' desk caught his attention. He peeked over and then waved for his partner. "You've got an email from a Lily Alexander," he told her. Her eyes widened and she pushed him away from the screen as she quickly scanned through the contents.
He could feel Lois' cursory glances his way. She was up to something. Lex's words briefly teased his brain. He was capable of reading that letter even with Lois sitting before it. The question was if Clark was willing to sidestep ethics in order to find out what he wanted.
Lois picked up her bag and yelled at the editor. "Hey Perry! I changed my mind. I need a couple of days off to go to leave town."
"What?" the older man exclaimed. "You just verbally bludgeoned me into covering the city reception for Luthor's donation." Clark latched on to that phrase. Lex donating would translate to something being done underground. He just knew it. "I just called Marie to tell her that the assignment is canceled."
"Listen, Perry, I really need this. I'll call you once I'm there!" Lois hopped over to the elevator.
Clark couldn't believe his luck. Lois Lane would never back out of an assignment as huge as that for minor reasons. Lex Luthor was on the race for the senatorial slot, a step closer to his plans of becoming president. When he turned around, he itched at the sight of Lois' blank screen.
He took a deep breath. Clark pushed the power button and opened the inbox of Lois' desktop email program.
The security was even tighter than the one in LexCorp. Lois Lane found it odd to have the robotic movements following her every move. She couldn't think of a reason why Bruce Wayne's building would be guarded more heavily than Luthor's, when it was apparent that more people generally hated Lex and Bruce was more accepted in the social circles.
Reporter's instincts aside, Lois was glad that everyone would be scanned this much before even getting close to any of the Wayne Enterprises employees. Here in Gotham City, which primarily was an introvert if ever a place was one, nobody would notice that a billionaire's dead fianc was building a career of her own.
She met Lily Alexander in an exclusive caf on the twenty seventh floor of the building, where Lois had to show her ID and be checked in for confirmation with the guard on the entrance and the security group manning the cameras.
It was the first time she saw Chloe Sullivan since she dropped her off with Bruce Wayne a couple of months ago. Lois couldn't help but exclaim the second she saw the woman, "You are positively glowing!"
Chloe's serious demeanor cracked and she gave her a bright smile. "Thank you!" And at once Lois could see that her friend was in way blaming this sudden change on the baby. "I finally tamp down my cynicism on the beauty of mothers-to-be."
The brunette took the seat in front of Chloe. "I was so surprised when I got your letter," she began. "I mean... I didn't know you were dating."
"I'm not. It was a one-time thing." Chloe paused for a while, considering. "Ummm two. Two separate instances but it wasn't singular on each-"
"I think I know what you're getting at," Lois interrupted. She closed her hand over Chloe's and measured her words carefully. "Was it... ummm... Mr. Wayne's?"
Chloe pulled back her hand as though scalded. "What?! No! It's..." She swallowed to clear her throat. "Just... it's a wanted baby."
Lois' eyes went wide as she regarded the woman sitting in front of her, sipping her mocha frappe, not meeting her eyes. "Oh my God," she whispered. "You didn't tell me! I can't believe you kept something this big from me."
"Lois, it's no big deal."
"No big deal? You did it with Lex Luthor before you left him."
"I've been doing it with Lex Luthor for years!" she snapped. And then Chloe realized what she had said, and remembered that those words were not true at all. "I-"
"You're right," Lois said. She didn't mean to remind Chloe of the most important reason why she was feeling that way about her former fianc. "You've been dating him since college right?"
Chloe smiled her thanks. "So tell me, Lois. What's new?"
The brunette regarded her suspiciously before going on and on about the Daily Planet, her friends, her dating life. Finally, when she saw that the blonde was about to blow up, Lois grinned. "What's going on with Lex Luthor you mean." Chloe rolled her eyes. "He's actually been pretty quiet. No huge deal since I took you here. It's even scarier now without any news surrounding the guy. He could be working on some sort of time bomb and we're not even sufficiently trembling."
"He won't do anything," Chloe said, more to herself than to her friend.
"Chloe, would you ever consider going back to him?"
There was a moment of silence before pink lips curved. "I pack my stuff up every night and call the airport, asking about the flight schedule to Metropolis," she answered. "But then after I've thought about it again I would unpack and get to bed."
"You can't be afraid of him," Lois reasoned. "You said it yourself. He won't do anything bad."
"But if I'm there, it would be easy for his enemies to use me against him. He will eventually commit things he would regret, because he thinks it would be best for me. Especially with the baby." Chloe frowned. Why was it that when she gave words to her reasons they seemed pointless and vague, but in her heart, she was justified? "Lex did all these heinous acts the past two years. I can't forget that."
When Lois didn't respond, Chloe prodded her with a tap. "You're not afraid he'll be pushed to evil," Lois told her. At Chloe's look of outrage, she amended, "Fine. You are. But that's not entirely your reason. You still haven't forgiven him."
"You don't know what you're saying," Chloe said softly.
"It's true. Lex Luthor violated not only all those people in Smallville and in Metropolis when he was fighting to keep you with him. He violated you, because more than lying to Clark and Mr. Sullivan, he lied to you for two years." Chloe looked awake, but Lois closed her hand over hers. "It's okay, Chloe," she insisted. "It's okay to feel that way. He created this huge lie and made you live in it."
"He made up a baby for me," Chloe whispered. "And then he made up every day like it were real. And he told me all the time he loved me in a make believe world."
Lois settled back in her chair and considered everything that Lex Luthor did. It was so much for one man to deal with. "What a burden of conscience," she murmured, and Lois didn't notice how her words made Chloe's attention snap back to her. "Just so he wouldn't let you go."
In the Daily Planet offices, Clark Kent was furiously working on the article that Lois had left him hanging with. He was copyreading another of his partner's works that had been due for over six hours already. He didn't pay attention to the way the busy bullpen suddenly hushed at the dinging of the elevator bell.
The hushed murmurs that had died down earlier suddenly picked up. But Clark was working and didn't even bother to look up at the newcomer.
"Will you be greeting me anytime soon?"
His head snapped up to take in the form of his best friend, in a black coat with a gray scarf around his neck. Clark swallowed before still croaking out, "Lex, what are you doing here?"
"I came by to talk to you. I didn't know you were being treated as a slave here. I could have given you an easier and higher-paying job had you asked."
Clark, still uncomfortable with the sudden appearance of the man who used to claim to be his best friend, fidgeted before motioning to Lois' vacant seat. "I doubt that you would have. I've been trying to get in touch."
Lex's mouth quirked at the subtle reminder of the way Clark kept landing on his balcony the last few months. "I apologize," he said, and Clark was stunned into silence. Lex never said sorry to anyone. Chloe used to say that when they had a fight, they just never spoke about it and continue on as before. She said it had something to do with Eric Segal's "Love means never having to say you're sorry." That was utter irony, he used to think, because of how parallel Jennifer and Chloe ended up as. "I was a little out of it."
"For two years." The words slipped out of Clark's mouth before he even caught them.
Lex merely nodded in acknowledgement. "I suppose my sudden appearance has you dumbfounded." He took a large manila envelope from inside his coat and handed it to his former friend. "This is what I came for. I'm leaving for business in a couple of hours. I need you to go back to Smallville and settle these. I will owe you forever, not that I already don't."
Clark took a look at the papers contained in the envelope. He skimmed through various land titles and checks.
"Hand them back to their owners and give the money to the families in reparation. Those are the people who've been affected by my mad quest for the past couple of years. I don't want her to be involved in this."
Lex released a relieved breath when Clark stood up and extended his hand. He shook it and then gripped the younger man's shoulder. "I won't ask," Clark told him.
"I have business to take care of. I don't know how soon or even if I'll be returning. But I want this settled, Clark. I wouldn't want people to blame her when word gets out about why I took their lands from them."
"Where are you going, Lex?" Clark asked, just before his friend vanished into the elevator.
Clark picked up his bag and shoved the papers into the out tray. Lois just went there right after she received mail from... Lily Alexander. Lillian. Lex. He jogged to the editor's office and yelled, "I'm sorry, Perry. I gotta go." Without waiting for an answer, he ran down several flights of stairs within seconds, knowing he needed to be there in Gotham for whatever kind of showdown there would be.
Chloe whirled around in surprise. She had sent Lois on ahead to wait for her at her apartment while she finished the preparations that Bruce Wayne had asked her to see to. The dinner party that he was holding was great publicity for Wayne Enterprises, since Mr. Wayne had taken care to invite the most esteemed people around.
"Mr. Wayne," she exclaimed breathlessly. "What are you doing here so late?"
"Seeing as it's my building I find no reason to explain myself," Bruce answered with a smirk. "You however are another matter. Why are you just leaving at," he glanced at the watch on his wrist, "nine in the evening?"
"Well I've always been a workaholic," she said easily, "and you've always found that to be a very good trait on this employee."
"True," the dark-haired man agreed. "But that was before you informed me of certain... changes."
She should have been affronted by his reference to her condition changing her work habit, but he spoke the words without a trace of malice or irritation that there was no mistaking it for anything but concern. "I won't slack off just because of this, Mr. Wayne. I'm a modern woman," she informed him with a grin.
"Of course you are, Lily," he replied smoothly.
"I had to finish the party preparations, call every last caterer and florist and recheck the accommodations for your guests flying in from out of state."
"And you couldn't ask anyone else to do this for you why?"
"Someone once told me you can't trust underlings to do the job right," Chloe told him teasingly.
"Well I would have appreciated getting the heads up that you'll be all alone here tonight and I could have brought you dinner and helped."
"You're paying me to do my job right, Mr. Wayne, not to be taken care of."
Bruce merely shook his head at the short blonde in front of him, who was acting like she were six feet tall. "Well I hope your sensibilities as a modern woman won't be insulted by my offering you a ride home. It's too late to call a cab and I won't let you walk on those heels in your-"
"If you say condition I'm going to thwack your head with these heavy folios boss or not!" she warned.
Chloe rolled her eyes when her words reminded Bruce Wayne that she was carrying office materials, and he easily took them from her hands. "I have to get you an assistant round-the-clock," he muttered. "So have you picked out a dress for the dinner?" he asked as he helped her into the backseat of the car.
Once he sat beside her, the black limousine rolled off into the night. "I was actually planning to stay at home, Mr. Wayne. I have a visitor."
Chloe didn't bother to look surprised. With the security of the Wayne Building, there was no way he could not know that Lois Lane had come to see her. "Actually yes. I should keep her company."
"Invite her along. I haven't seen Ms. Lane since she made me take you."
A smile graced the corner of her lips. "Was it really that bad?"
"Amazingly enough, that blackmail was also a blessing. I've not had such a great PR person before."
"She must have something really bad on you!"
"You have no idea," he said. "But everyone has secrets. I was unfortunate enough to have been careless with the reporter around." The car slowed and Bruce glanced out. "Here we are. I'll walk you to your door."
"It's not necessary, Mr. Wayne."
"Lily, this part of our evenings is pointless and you know it. I'll still walk you in and no matter how much you insist that I don't."
"Fine," she sighed. When she moved to pick up the folders and envelopes, she found them already in his grasp.
Bruce help her elbow as they walked up the stairs leading to the door. And then without speaking, he took the keys from her and opened the door. He led her into the elevator and through the corridor until they reached the door bearing the name 'ALEXANDER.' He slipped the key into the knob and swung the door open.
"Oh no," Chloe murmured at the sound of the music blasting out of the room.
"Seems like Ms. Lane has made herself at home," he told her.
"You should leave," Chloe whispered back. "She'd be totally humiliated." Chloe had a pretty good idea how they would find Lois Lane.
"Well it's something to balance the fact that she has on me."
"And you can foist me on her again!"
"Never," he denied, looking at her with what she suspected was all the warmth his gothic personality could muster.
They found Lois exactly how Chloe had dreaded it. She was headbanging to an alternative album, wearing nothing but a thin cotton tank top and bikini briefs. She was holding a brush to her mouth and singing, or rather, shouting along with the lead vocals.
To his credit, Bruce Wayne did not laugh. He even cleared his throat futilely to alert her to their presence. But Lois Lane rocked on. Finally, the song stopped, and when Lois opened her eyes to play it again, she stopped stock still.
Chloe was standing in the doorway shocked into uncharacteristic silence. The worst thing was that Bruce Wayne, the mysterious and utterly delicious Batman himself, as she discovered covering a series of frauds and robberies in Gotham last year, was standing behind her with a ridiculous smirk on his face.
"I would love to see you perform at my party tomorrow," Bruce started, and Lois wanted to jump on him and murder him. She would even relish writing the headline herself. "But Lily had confirmed with all the musicians and I doubt she can fit you in. I would like you to be there though." Lois opened her mouth to croak out thank you, but Bruce continued, "Because Lily doesn't want to come without you."
"That's very gallant," Lois retorted. She took the folders from him so she could push him out the door. "Bye, Brucey," she waved. It was not like he could do anything about it. She still held the aces in the secret department. A hidden fantasy to be in a rock band did not translate equally to a secret identity as Gotham's dark vigilante.
When Lois finally shut the door, Chloe burst out laughing. "You were very good, Lois!"
"Shut up, Chloe. Now we have to spend for dresses!" she whined, although the spark of excitement in her eyes told Chloe that Lois would not let this opportunity to rub elbows with country's finest pass.
"Speak for yourself," Chloe said. "As head of PR, my expenditure for these events are on him!"
Lois nodded in agreement. "We'll have to get the most expensive one then. It's not like it'll put a dent on his account." She didn't bother to say that if Chloe just stayed with Lex Luthor, she would not even have to glance at price tags for the rest of her life. Lois shrugged. It was Chloe's choice. She still couldn't believe how satisfied she was feeling sitting on the biggest story to hit human interest and national issues for a long time.
The next day, the two of them went to the elite mall this side of Gotham. It held only the best boutiques with the best selection of gowns and shoes. Lois pulled Chloe to the display windows bearing a shimmering deep ruby mermaid cut gown with a very low dcolletage. The V neckline dipped so low that it touched her stomach.
"The beautiful thing about how far along you are," Lois said, "is that you don't have the tummy yet but you definitely have the boobs."
Chloe grinned. She had not spoken like this with anyone since Lana. At first she found it odd that Lex never thought to include moments of girl talk in those two years he made up for her. And then he realized that it probably had not occurred to him as a man. In fact, his team of scientists and programmers was probably all male too. There was no way it would have occurred to them that it would have been more real to put genuine female conversations there.
They walked into the boutique to fit the dress, giggling like children. Chloe had not felt this whimsical for a long time. She pointed Lois to a pale yellow silk slip that would contrast dramatically with her hair. This was the best part of shopping.
He should have expected this, Lex thought as he walked into the mall. He flies here to finalize a deal with Wayne and he throws this at him. He would have appreciated some advance information. When he walked into Bruce's office this morning, his old classmate just sprung on him that he was throwing a dinner and party and that Lex was expected to attend.
At first, Lex balked. He was in no mood to party. Besides, since it was Friday night, he was supposed to be on videophone conference with his investigators who were assigned to look for Chloe. For old times' sake, and so as to not blow it out of proportion, he agreed reluctantly.
Bruce was okay. Even if he had never met Chloe, he sent her an engagement gift when he read that Lex had proposed. Chloe enjoyed that pen very much. Leave it to Bruce Wayne to send the perfect gift even without having met the receiver. He had probably read in one of the articles that Lex had been steadily dating a journalism student.
On the day of Chloe's 'burial,' Bruce Wayne had been absent due to a business that took him out of the country. Lex Luthor knew better. Bruce had always been able to leave business trips with just a moment's notice. Bruce had instead just sent a beautiful arrangement of white flowers because he knew Lex enough to know when to give him his privacy. For Lex, it was a bigger gift that anything anyone else could have given. The silence that Bruce had given him was more appreciated that consoling words.
So Lex agreed and did not put up a fight. Now he had to go to these ready-to-wear boutiques and pick out some clothes. He had not been expecting to attend anything formal, and had not brought any acceptable clothes with him.
A flash of gold caught his eye. His breath caught. From the periphery of his vision he could have sworn that it was...
When he turned around, the woman was gone.
He was going insane.
Lex saw a head of dark hair that was almost familiar walk into a dressing room. He shook himself. He could have sworn that he saw a blonde. He turned around and walked into the men's boutique store at the other end of the mall.
"Of all the jackasses in school, you're the last one I ever expected to reform," Bruce told his companion as he lifted his champagne glass in a mock toast. "I never figured you to go into this much trouble, Luthor."
Lex waved away the compliment-laced mock insult. "You're gaining a lot in this deal, Wayne, so don't piss me off," he advised his old friend.
He watched the people mill by, spotting several of the Gotham women eyeing the two of them with interest. He was used to these affairs, and to this attention. Where once he would have approached the one boasting the most luscious figure, Lex nodded curtly in dismissal.
After her, no one would ever come close to a comparison.
"Why don't you mingle with a few of my guests? It's been a long time, Lex. Gotham misses you, I'm sure."
Lex tipped the glass to his lips, his ennui apparent in the lazy way he leaned against the wall. "Any city I've ever been to would miss me if I so much as blink, Wayne." He informed his old friend arrogantly, making sure to say the exact words that would hide the fact that the years have changed him. His change was a vulnerability, one that he would not reveal to even Bruce Wayne. "Is there not even one woman who doesn't appear like a vapid statue in this affair of yours?"
Bruce's eyes wandered through the faces gathered in the room. A few years ago, most of the faces and bodies in this party would have made Lex hot and ready for wild nights. From the corner of his eye, he studied the Metropolis native again. He had matured years since they have been together last. It was not only in the features of his face or even the choice of clothing. It was not even the fact that he was remaining sober, nursing the same glass of alcohol that he had been holding for most of the half hour he had been there. The old Lex would have run through about four to six glasses by this time. No. The difference in Lex showed lucidly in his eyes, in that sharper and more intense regard he had for what was going o in front of him, even through that veneer of carefully cultivated interest.
"Well there are a couple of women here tonight who would pass the litmus test of actually having something inside their heads. Unfortunately, they're both missing at the moment."
"What did you expect? Of course fate would mock me by hiding the females who can actually talk without stumbling over their words. Life's cruel like that."
Bruce's gaze shifted back to Lex, who despite the sneer on his mouth appeared convinced that the hands of fate really were against him. He could not blame the man. He had had a lot happen, and if he bore any doubt about how he had according to the papers fallen in love in Metropolis, it was gone now. How unfortunate that he never even got to meet the woman who managed such an incredible feat.
And then he realized something all of a sudden. Lex had lived and breathed Metropolis, Kansas before and after his exile in the sleepy town of meteor rocks. "One of my guests may actually be familiar to you," Bruce told Lex. "I'm sure you've read an article or two by Lois Lane."
That caught Lex's full attention. He turned to Bruce. "What could she possibly be doing here?"
The dark-haired businessman shrugged. "I extended a special invitation. She's an acquaintance."
Over Bruce's shoulder, another flash of gold caught his eye. Lex stiffened and felt his throat constrict so tightly he choked. Bruce had seen his disconcertment and turned around, effectively blocking Lex's view. Bruce excused himself from his companion. "Well, I should leave you to mingle for a while. If I can get them to meet you, I'll be right along."
When Bruce Wayne moved away to go to the windows, the figure had vanished. His grip of the champagne flute tightened. "God," he whispered, "I am going insane." He closed his eyes and took deep breaths to calm his racing heart. He kept seeing her everywhere he turned. Had this been a ghost, he would have welcomed the haunting. Anything to be closer to her, even if it were her restless spirit. How a man could be so selfish as to wish that a woman he adored above anything would suffer eternal unrest was beyond him. But maybe this was just who he was. He would gladly live and breathe Chloe Sullivan's scent, ghost and memory if it meant that he would never be alone again.
But Chloe was not dead. She was out there, unsafe and probably despising him for every sin he had committed borne of his obsession. The way his heart kept leaping at every blonde head and small shadow since his arrival in Gotham was as unhealthy as his insistence that she be kept alive in a freezer.
It was unhealthy, but it was the only way he could keep himself from slipping into a living death.
Chloe stood alone in the balcony, needing the time alone after her conversation with Bruce Wayne. He had urged her to come into the party, and she was well aware that the reason she was here was to interact with the guests. This was her job in Wayne Enterprises, and it was a job that she enjoyed and excelled at before tonight.
She and Lois have been gregarious until Bruce Wayne had come out of nowhere and taken her aside.
"The turnout is magnificent, Lily," he had told her warmly. "You have done a wonderful job."
"Was there ever any doubt?" she replied glibly.
"There was a minute or two."
"Hey!" She playfully slapped him on the arm. "I'm glad it's working out well. Now we better get back and charm them into putting all their money in your company."
Bruce nodded at her. "But I have someone for you to meet first."
Chloe arched her eyebrow. "Someone you think needs female persuasion to sign a deal?"
"Nothing like that. Well, maybe someone a little like that. But I'm already pretty sure he's going through with the deal. It's an old friend, and he's just looking for a beautiful woman with brains."
Chloe grimaced at her employer and friend. "How highly you think of me, Bruce, to extend a compliment like that!"
"You know what I mean, Lily."
"Fine." She had seen the guest list. Bruce would have had a difficult time looking for women who could actually conduct an in depth discussion from the group out there.
"All right then. I'll be a few seconds and then I'll bring Lex Luthor out."
And so here she was, in that clichd position standing outside in the balcony, with a soft shawl hanging from her arms, looking up at the stars. Chloe Sullivan hated clichs with a passion, but there was nowhere to run anymore, nowhere else to hide.
There didn't appear to be any other choice for Chloe Sullivan than to come face to face with her soulmate again silhouetted in starlight and the night sky.
Nothing had ever been more trite.
She felt them even before she heard them.
It was as if everything around her had dropped away and all she could focus on was the overwhelming scent of Lex Luthor. She had not even turned around yet but she knew that he was in pain. She could feel the loneliness rolling off of him in waves.
And if there was anything in the world that she hated, it was knowing that Lex was hurting. Her decision to leave him had been clouded by her own emotions, and she fought hard to tamp down the need to stay beside him in bed and kiss his guilt away.
Chloe Sullivan steeled herself not to break and slowly turned to face them. Bruce Wayne's words barely registered in her mind. Bruce Wayne barely took any of her attention. Briefly, she heard him say the name she went by in this life. All she could see was Lex.
He handled himself well. She had to give him that much credit. For someone who was seeing an apparition halfway across the country, Lex held himself like the astounding man that he was. She could see the intensity in his eyes, and knew from the way his nostrils flared that he was breathing deeply. His gaze ran down her body before resting back on her eyes, and their silent conversation was nothing but words of longing and love.
Lex had never said "I love you," except for that night when she told him about the baby, right before the car crashed. In the years they were together in the simulations, he never uttered the words. In the night that they spent together after he had brought her back to life, the words "I love you" never passed through his lips. His actions told her what she needed to know everyday, so much so that the extreme magnitude scared her into flight.
But now his eyes were screaming the words to her so much that she felt she would suffocate from tears.
No teardrop though, with Bruce Wayne so close. She learned so much from Lex.
She forced lightness in her voice when she asked Bruce to leave them alone to get acquainted. After all, with her entertaining calendar full of Mr. Luthor, he needed to step up and host the party himself.
And then he left, and silently, they stepped close enough to reach out to each other. But they did not.
"You chose a beautiful name," he said, his voice gruff to her ears. She stopped the urge to pepper his throat with kisses to soothe his obviously worked vocals.
She smiled. "You won't even ask how..." she allowed her voice to trail off.
Lex shook his head. "All I need to know is that you're in front of me now, real and not a figment of my imagination. And you'll come home with me. We'll live the life we never got a chance to."
"We've always been poetic in our diction, haven't we, Lex? Or at least you have, and I just caught up with you. But we never could get a fairy tale ending."
His brows furrowed. "Why not?"
"Because you have a soul to save."
"Save me," was his simple response.
"And a world to help," she continued sadly. "And all I seem to bring out in you is that capacity for evil. Lois Lane showed me the article she wrote on your interview, Lex."
"A capacity for evil that was reached precisely because you weren't there!" he argued. "And I made up for it, Chloe," he pleaded. "I started at least. I'm making reparations for the people in Smallville."
"You hurt them because of me," she whispered.
Lex stepped closer and cupped her face in his hands. He repeated the same plea. "Save me."
Chloe looked up into his eyes, and with her head thrown back just so, his was the face framed in starlight. This was the man she had fallen in love with, before the accident, before the computer simulated sequences, before his obsession. "I-" Two years of lies and a beautiful baby gone like a puff of smoke. It was the real issue. Lois had been right. "I can't," she choked out.
Lex closed his eyes and rested his forehead against hers. There were things he had never done before her, and things he swore never to do even for her. But he had been stripped bare and presented to be judged. So he breathed out, "I'm sorry, Chloe, for what I did to you."
With a stifled cry, she threw her arms around his neck and pressed her lips on his when the fragilely contained passion broke free.
Inside, at the party, Lois Lane cornered Bruce. "Where is Lily, Bruce?"
Bruce Wayne's mouth curved into a satisfied smile. "Ms Alexander is taking care of business." He shook his head. "I can't thank you enough for forcing me to take her, Lois. She's the perfect partner. And for a first timer in this kind of job, she's doing a marvelous job keeping Luthor interested."
Lois' jaw dropped open. "Luthor? Lex Luthor?" she demanded. Bruce nodded and waved towards the doors leading to the balcony. "You made her entertain Lex Luthor?" she repeated and Bruce Wayne started to suspect something wrong with her hearing. "Ouch. Well... I think you're going to have to say goodbye to her, Bruce."
Bruce Wayne frowned as he regarded the reporter. He offered her his arm and led the way to the balcony doors.
To find the blonde woman resting back against Lex Luthor, whose arms were wrapped around her waist securely, their fingers entangled on her belly, and gazing up at the stars in a position that Lois scoffed at as being too hackneyed for her taste.
From the far corner of the large room, mad eyes watched the every movement of the dark-haired millionaire as Bruce Wayne motioned to the short man standing off to the side. He watched the way that Bruce took the card out of the spray of flowers the servant was holding, and drop it into the hidden trash canister.
When the two left their spot, the blond man weaved his way through the crowd, and stopped in front of the trash. Gingerly, he picked up the card and read the script that Bruce Wayne had perfected in the academy.
Every cent that his family had lost to Wayne Enterprises, he would see in every drop of blood he could get out of Bruce. Pity the man didn't have family anymore. He had to make do with whoever was closest to the man.
He dropped the card on the table with a self-satisfied smile. It paid to be resourceful. He hadn't known that Bruce and his PR head were involved.
His arms tightened around her as she started to pull away. Chloe looked up to the man holding her body against his as if he would never let her go. "Lex."
"I'm here to do my job, Lex. I can't just stay out here with you."
He pressed his lips against her hair, breathing in a scent that millions of dollars worth of research never quite captured flawlessly. To think that all this time she had been here, with Bruce Wayne, in a city of depravity that even he had sworn off coming back to for years. "I'll speak to Wayne. You won't ever have to work anymore, Chloe." At the sight of her eyes immediately narrowing at the suggestion, he swallowed uncomfortably. "Maybe you can work at home."
"Am I going home with you?" she teased lightly. Somehow being with him at that precise moment erased all the doubts in her mind.
He could easily tell her that she was, and leave no room for argument. But Lex knew that his most unforgivable mistake was to take her life and mold it in his hands, whether or not he did so to give her a chance for a future. He said instead, "I hope you will."
The smile that flitted across her face was enough warmth to counter two years of sitting in a chilled room, with his hand pressed against icy glass. She pulled away and looked at her with question in his eyes. "I have to get my purse," she told him.
"Are we leaving?" He could not hide the excitement in his voice.
"If we're going to settle everything, Lex, we need an environment with just the two of us. And although I arranged for a sumptuous dinner, I doubt that we'll get any real conversation done in the company of all these people." She reached for his hand and rubbed her thumb over his knuckles. "I don't want your attention shifting from me to a possible chemical factory takeover."
"Even before we got engaged, my attention has always been focused on you."
She smiled. "I know," Chloe whispered. "I was kidding."
"If you're already kidding, I must be in a good position here."
"No worse than you were in the night you proposed to me," she admitted. "Absence does make the heart grow fonder. And we just sank into another murky clich."
"I don't care about clichs as long as we end up happily ever after."
She pushed away at him playfully. "Don't. Stop! I have my limits!" she protested. "Going Dawson on me is too much. And you're no Prince Charming, Lex. I'm not Cinderella."
He pulled her close briefly and dropped a kiss on her lips. "You're my Sleeping Beauty."
Her eyes clouded for a moment at the memory. But they were looking forward to a future together, and there was no use dwelling on the past now. "At least we have no Maleficent. And I would hate to think that we're as ordinary as a fairy tale. So Lex, do you have enough cash on you to take me on an impromptu dinner somewhere fancy?" she said lightly.
"I don't know," he murmured. "I might. After all, I'm Prince Charming. I have to have some gold coins somewhere."
Chloe moved to the doors to pick up her bag. Before she left, she told him over his shoulder. "I don't know about coins, Lex. But I do know you have about a dozen gold and platinum cards with you."
"I'll go with you," he suggested.
"No. You talk to my boss. Make sure you don't get me fired so I can still get a separation pay when I resign. Or is that the other way around?"
He waved her off with a grin, already scanning the crowd for Bruce Wayne, who he now owed more than a generous contract.
Meanwhile, Clark Kent breathlessly searched the crowd for the familiar face of Lex Luthor. The moment he spotted the older man, he rushed over to his side. Before he could open his mouth to speak, there was an impatient tap on his shoulder. Clark turned around and faced his partner.
"What are you doing here?" he demanded.
Lois Lane placed her hands akimbo and threw the question back at him. "Last time I checked, you were at the Daily Planet. How could Perry let you go all the way here with so much work to be done?"
The soft-spoken reporter was the most mild-mannered man that Lois had ever known, kudos to Martha and Jonathan. Today however, he was acting very much out character as he retorted to her, "Work that you left me with. But not now, Lois. Can you leave us alone for a minute?" The dark eyebrow arched. "Is this about Chloe?"
Clark glanced at Lex, and found no surprise in his face. "You know?"
"Just found out," he said quietly.
"Where is she?"
"She's getting her coat," Lex informed him. "We're leaving to speak privately. Not that I don't appreciate the gesture and all, but could you people not follow us for once? This is something we fix or ruin on our own." He looked down at his watch. "She should be back any minute now."
Suddenly, it was as if someone was screaming right into his ears. Clark winced at the noise. "Chloe," he whispered. It was hell to keep yourself from full speed after hearing her.
"What is it, Clark?" Lex called out after him.
"She's in trouble."
Right before he left the room, a man shouted from the second level of the ballroom. "Clear the room, Wayne!"
The people congregated in the party looked up in time to see the blonde man drag a squirming woman right in front of him and press her against the railing.
"Randall, what the hell do you think you're doing?" Bruce called out, afraid that the imbalance that the man was suffering would cause him to be fidgety enough to let go.
"I'm taking from you what you took from me. You killed my Helen, Wayne. I'm going to do the same to you!"
"What are you talking about? I did not hurt your wife. And Ms Alexander is head of my PR department. You're doing this all wrong," he said calmly. Keep him talking. That was the only way he would be calm enough to not accidentally throw Lily-Chloe-off the second floor. Bruce was loath to glance at Lex. He could only imagine what this sight was doing to him.
"PR? What the hell is this?" A crumpled piece of paper dropped down in front of them, bouncing on the ground. Bruce didn't want to think of the impact of a human body thrown like that. "Clear the room!" he commands again, pushing Chloe deeper against the railing. Bruce marveled at the calm look in her eyes. She never complained beyond a wince. He could tell she was afraid, but she kept herself controlled.
Lois hurriedly shooed away the people, locking the door behind her.
"What are they still doing here?" the man yelled, jerking his gun in the direction where Clark and Lex stood, both paralyzed with fear.
Bruce held up his hands to show the man that he had no intention of hurting him. "Send Ms Alexander down, Randall, and we'll fix whatever the problem is. Her friend and fianc are both worried."
Randall looked at the three men in confusion. This was the woman that bastard Wayne wrote the letter for. It was apparent though that there were mixed signals there, because the woman in his arms leaned towards the bald suit. He could not have committed such a stupid mistake! Frustrated, Randall backed up the railing and towards the stairs.
"Be careful, will you?" Clark called out, seeing the steps just a few feet behind the man's feet. The gun could go off if he accidentally slipped, with Chloe in the line of fire.
"Shut up!" Bruce saw his employee looking for an exit in panic. "Don't move!" The man stumbled on the steps, and he threw his arm to grab hold of the steps. Chloe took the opportunity to shove the gun away, but the man started to fall down with his other arm still tight around her waist. "Lily!"
"Chloe!" Lex started running towards the stairs. Clark, not even thinking twince about Bruce, exploded into a run towards his friend, stopping short a few feet away when he fell onto his knees hissing in pain. Lex passed him by just as the doors to the ballroom burst open with paramedics rushing through, Lois not far behind.
Randall hit his head on the hardwood floor hard when he fell, leaving him unconscious, his grip on Chloe slack. Lex knelt beside them and gathered Chloe in his arms. "You okay?" he whispered, wanting to strangle himself for asking a question with such an obvious answer. He barely noticed Bruce come over with the paramedics.
Chloe smiled at him brightly, assuring him that she was fine, before losing consciousness. He held her tightly until he felt arms pulling her away. "Lex, they have to look her over." Lex released her reluctantly.
"We'll need to take her to Medical, Mr Wayne."
Bruce closed his hand over Lex's shoulder as they loaded Chloe on a stretcher. "No x-rays."
"Is there a particular reason, Mr Wayne. We would like to perform one because the fall might have broken something," one of the paramedics asked as the others checked her vitals.
"No," he said firmly. "No x-rays. She's pregnant."
Lex's eyes slammed to Bruce's. "What?" he choked out. And then the night and day right after he brought her back. Silk sheets over soft cushion and moments of passion and need that left him breathless. It was the Bliss once again, only this time it was real.
"Come on. Move it. She's bleeding," the paramedic who had been attending to her said sharply. Lex moved forward, but he was pushed away by the paramedic. "Room please. Let's wheel her."
Bruce spoke with one of the paramedics left on the scene after they took Chloe. He turned to Lex. "They need to rush her to Medical, Lex. Chloe's bleeding vaginally."
"We'll find out when we get there." At his friend's distracted nod, Bruce pried the car keys that Lex fished out of his pocket. "You can't drive right now. We're taking my car."
Lois watched silently from the sidelines with Clark as Lex and Bruce talked silently at the other side of the private waiting room. She had never seen a man so terrified and not even bothering to hide it. It took Wayne a long time to get the other man to acknowledge his presence, let alone speak to him.
"Clark, what's going to happen?"
Clark Kent rested his elbows on his thighs as he stared at his former best friend. He could not read anything other than fear in the man's eyes. There was no real way he could hazard a guess about what he was going through at that moment. All he knew was that his heart stopped when he overheard the paramedics say that his best friend for so many years was in danger. He shook his head. "I don't know," he whispered. "I didn't even know she was pregnant. I mean, why would she hide if she were? Was she scared of Lex?"
The brunette beside him took his hand and squeezed. "I-I knew. I helped her hide. I'm sorry."
Clark glanced back at his partner in confusion. "What?"
"It was my need to find out the truth, Clark. You know that. You were uncomfortable with me running around digging where I shouldn't have been," she explained. "That's how it all started. I was reading her life over and meeting people she knew. I researched on her life and I was just... so sad it ended like that." She turned in her chair to face Clark, her eyes shining in earnest. "And the more I found out, the more I thought... she's just like me. And I wished I met her. I looked at pictures and articles, all telling me I could have been that girl. And then, something amazing happened. I walked into a coffeehouse and she was... She was there, Clark. I had to help her."
"I guess you are like her," was all he said. "You look for the truth and get more than you bargain for."
"We're all looking for the truth, Clark. That's why we're journalists." She gave him a small smile that turned to a frown when the doctor walked into the room. "You've known him for a while, haven't you?"
Clark nodded. "Even before he met Chloe."
"Who do you think he'll choose if he had to?"
"The baby," Clark answered, not even needing to think about it. "Lex had always thought he would never have one. He's had a dream of having a brother all his life. Now a son... That would something."
At the other end of the room, Bruce Wayne stood next to his old friend as the doctor approached him. Even before the doctor spoke, Lex said, "Save my wife. I don't care how much it costs, doctor. I choose her."
Bruce moistened his lips. It was a decision that Lex had not even shared with him.
"Mr Luthor, I know you're confused and frustrated right now. The other doctors are looking at her right now. I was just sent here to see if there's anything you needed, if anyone demands medical attention. But I have to remind you that she's between the first and second trimester. This is not a matter of choosing to save the mother. Without her, there would be no baby."
Lex's back visibly relaxed. "So I don't have to choose?"
The doctor shook his head. "In the worst case scenario, you would only be advised to allow us to remove the baby for the mother's safety."
His mind flashed back to the terror and anger Chloe had experienced when she woke up to find out that he had effectively killed their baby. "No," he whispered. "I can't do that."
They both turned to see another doctor walk into the room. X's heart raced. It hadn't been an hour since they arrived. He dreaded hearing the words. Bruce Wayne's supporting hand on his shoulder calmed him just a bit. His eyes sought Clark's, and the quiet comfort he found in them gave him the strength not to fold his knees. "Mr Luthor. She's going to be fine."
Lex blinked a few times, processing the doctor's words. "Wha-What?"
"One of her vessels burst from the pressure of the fall, but the man took the brunt of it. She bled because of the vessel but we cauterized it. She should be fine."
Lex looked down at his trembling hands, unable to find the words to respond. The doctors instead nodded at the to her occupants of the room. "If you want to visit her, Ms Sullivan will be taken to room 515 in a few minutes. She just needs some rest and..." The doctor looked at Lex, who still was staring down at the floor unresponsive. "No sexual activity for about one month."
When the doctors left, Bruce clapped Lex on the back. Both Clark and Lois had also risen to grasp Lex's arms. "You see, Lex... everything turned out right."
Lex's throat worked furiously as he swallowed the large knot. He ran his hand over his face and backed into a chair. He slumped heavily on it. "Could you all leave me for a little while?" he whispered.
"Sure. Sure." His three companies hurriedly left the room.
At the sound of the door closing, Lex leaned his head back on the wall, his eyes tightly shut. He swallowed to free his throat. It was only then that he felt the burn all the way to his cheeks and his eyelids. His temples throbbed with the effort to keep himself in check. Finally, a lone silver steak from the corner of his eye, and shone down his cheek to vanish below his chin.
Lex Luthor stepped into the hospital room silently, not willing to wake her up if he caught her sleeping. To his surprise, there she was, golden hair illuminated by the incandescent above a small table, sitting propped up by large white pillows. "Hey," he managed to choke out.
It was almost like that bright smile of hers, unchanged over the years, was out of place not only in the starkness of the hospital but also in all the events that happened, that he instigated really, that took them to this moment. But like all her smiles and words or even just her breath, this particular one drew him to her. Lex walked over to the foot of her bed and looked down at her, not knowing how to begin.
She took the decision out of his hands when she held up hers and said, "What are you doing all the way there, Lex? Come here."
He carefully took her hand and sat at the edge of the bed, just by her belly. Chloe placed his palm on her stomach and closed her eyes. It was just a tiny flutter, but it was enough. Lex felt everything rise to his chest until he could barely breathe. "Chloe," he managed. Lex removed his palm from where it rested and instead pressed his trembling lips on the heartbeat. "I almost lost you both. Again."
"Shhhh." She ran her hand comfortingly on his scalp. "I know, Lex. But you didn't. And I am so proud of you."
He lifted his face from where it was pressed against the blanket as he stared at her. "Why?"
The corner of her mouth lifted in a grin. "I'm not exactly frozen at the moment."
"Oh God!" he groaned, burying his face once more in her belly. "I can't believe you actually made a joke about that. Chloe-"
She took a deep breath and caught his face with her hands. Chloe pulled him to her and he carefully placed his arms on either side of her so he wouldn't crush her. "Lex, I love you so much I think I've gone insane with it. And after I found out what... what you did, I was terrified. Not because of you, but because of what I made you do."
"It wasn't your fault," he denied.
"I guess I've always harbored this belief that I was saving you, when in fact, I pushed you to the edge."
He caught her hand and placed a kiss her palm. Chloe closed her fingers over it. "I disagree." When she opened her mouth to speak, he placed one finger over it. "You saved me everyday, Chloe. I would have long gone to my father's hell if I didn't have you. But we have the rest of our lives to hear your arguments, okay?"
"You still owe me dinner," she reminded him.
"Oh and I still have a contract with Bruce."
"I'm sure I can persuade him not to file charges if you can't complete it," he said teasingly.
"Oh you think? Because you know, my boss Bruce Wayne is one tough businessman."
"Who are you talking to here?" Lex leaned down to press a kiss on her forehead and closed her eyes, breathing in her scent and feeling the heartbeat of his tomorrow against his palm.
Lex didn't even notice when he started to fall asleep sitting on the chair, with her hand in his. When he awoke, the sun streamed through the windows of the hospital. Funny how just a few months ago, he was freezing in a closed off room in his building in Metropolis, harboring a secret that destroyed so many lives. Now, he was here, warmed by daylight, with his family by his side. All that was left was to see Gabe. That would come soon. When she was ready to travel. By then, he would have thought about the best way to apologize. Funny, really. Funny but so beautiful.
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