Waltzers

by slodwick
http://slodwick0.tripod.com/freak/id4.html


This is another installment of what I've dubbed the Impulsive Series. Story and title inspired by "Waltzers", a painting by Jack Vettriano, for HYPERfocused's Gallery Challenge. Poem quoted is "She Walks in Beauty" by Lord Byron.

Thanks to Stef for being my idea-girl, holding my hand and putting up with me. Also, to wook & the Uber-Todd for letting me throw (a lot of) story bits at them without bludgeoning me.


Once in a while,
Right in the middle of an ordinary life, Love gives us a fairy tale.
- Anonymous


Turning down another dim hallway, which looked exactly like the last three, Chloe was quickly losing what little patience she had left. Her gown, purchased for her by the Journal specifically for this gala, was elegant and beautiful and almost impossible to breathe in. The designer's name was something Swedish, with a near-obscene amount of letters, and hard as she tried, Chloe simply couldn't remember how to pronounce it. So, in her mind, she'd taken to just calling him "Olaf", generally followed by several expletives. She couldn't be certain that he'd designed the shoes that were currently torturing her feet, but Chloe was beginning to think the entire fashion industry was peopled with Satan's minions, so she felt comfortable channeling her hatred in his direction, anyway.

Chloe kicked herself for the hundredth time that day (or would have, if she thought she could maintain her balance on one slender heel) for allowing Carter to talk her into this. While Lex Luthor's New Year's Eve celebration was certainly a major event in Metropolis society, it was hardly Chloe's style. She would take margaritas and veggie burgers over champagne and caviar any day of the week, twice on Sundays. But she was the only one to receive an invitation, and her editor knew her buttons. He shamelessly dangled the carrot of seeing all Metropolis' most powerful and elite in the same room, checking their coats and their modesty at the door, and it had simply proved too much for her reporter instincts to resist.

Now, as she watched her reflection growing larger in the oversized, gilded mirror at the end of hall, Chloe wished her instincts could have at least led her someplace where flats would be appropriate. Below the mirror was a long table, draped in expensive cloth, flanked two tall-backed chairs. They were certainly priceless antiques, as Lex wouldn't settle for less, but Chloe had no qualms whatsoever about dropping herself heavily onto a red, velvet seat and giving her aching dogs a break.

The cab ride here had been longer than she'd been prepared for, what with all the holiday traffic streaming in and out of the city. Her uncharacteristic lack of common sense continued as she downed two bottles of water during the ride, nerves getting the better of her as she sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic, her suffering set to a soundtrack of too-loud country music. By the time her conspicuous yellow taxi dropped her off at the Luthor estate amid a sea of black and white limousines, well past fashionably late, her usually sharp reporter's sensibilities had been blocked by thoughts of a more urgent, physical nature.

A rather handsome older gentleman in tails met Chloe at the door and discretely guided her to the nearest powder room, which was oddly far from the front door. Along the way, he informed her that the party was in the conservatory, and if she would just follow the same route back to the entryway, someone would gladly take her there. She'd apparently been a little distracted, however, because when she emerged into the hallway, already ripe with frustration at the contortionist's training she'd received from her dress, she found herself completely alone, with absolutely no idea where to go.

So, the past twenty minutes had found Chloe wandering the halls of the newly renovated manor, alternately cursing Olaf, Swedish fashion designer-slash-sadist, and fighting back tears of frustration. Fate, it seemed, loved to torment her.

Just hours before, she'd been cheerfully chatting with Lana about this night, and how thrilled she was to finally have plans for New Year's Eve, even if it was part of an assignment. The past two New Year's had been spent sitting at home, getting drunk on wine coolers and watching the ball drop with Dick Clark and her cat, Giles. Now, it seemed she was doomed to remain lost in the recesses of Lex Luthor's vast mansion all night, and she had neither kitten nor booze to cheer her up.

Chloe leaned back in the chair, wincing only a little at its indignant creak, and closed her eyes. She shifted her head slightly, trying to find a way to rest it against the wall without ruining the hairstyle that had taken all afternoon to accomplish. She slipped her feet out of her shoes, pressing them against the cool marble floor. While that helped some, relief still eluded her.

The long silk gloves she wore were hot, the skin beneath them prickly and slightly damp. Her dark pantyhose were itchy, her choker-style necklace was living up to its name, and the tight bodice of her gown was pinching beneath her arms. Chloe was lost and uncomfortable as hell, and really, she doubted the night could get worse.

She began to make mental notes for her expose on the insidious nature of the fashion industry, and the sinister and inequitable aspects of women's undergarments. If she really was going to miss the social event of the season, and perhaps her best chance to impress Carter, she should start working on her back up plan. If nothing else, word on the street was Reader's Digest paid good money for amusing anecdotes; surely she could come up with something, especially if living in a box on 14th Avenue was the alternative.

As she relaxed, she gradually became aware of a noise, coming from the hall to her left. Sitting up straight, she held her breath for a moment. Music, something jazzy and upbeat, was drifting down the hall like an answer to her unsaid prayers. Slipping her protesting feet back inside the leather pumps, she stood and quickly began in the direction of the music, one hand smoothing her dress and tucking an errant curl back behind her ear.

The music grew louder, fading into something slower, and Chloe realized she could hear the mosaic hum of many voices. She rounded a corner, and smiled, easing the jaw she hadn't realized she'd been clenching. There was a door straight ahead, and on the other side, she assumed, the guests who'd managed not to get lost.

With a deep breath, she pushed the long, silver handle downwards, sliding the door open just a tiny bit, enough for a glimpse. Too many bungled, stumbling entrances had taught her the value of looking before she leapt. That didn't mean she always did, but then, she wasn't always wearing heels and a four thousand dollar dress.

A few feet beyond the door, Chloe could see several white-haired gentlemen with their backs to her, gesturing broadly, with hands that held undoubtedly expensive glasses of champagne and even more expensive cigars. She waited until she heard the words "Luthor" and "campaign finance", and she smiled. This was the place all right.

Quickly double-checking the small tape recorder in her handbag, Chloe, still smiling to herself, eased the door open further and stepped in, getting her first real glimpse of the party.


Nearly two hours later, and frustration had found Chloe again, but in an entirely different way.

She had been under the mistaken impression that once she actually found the party, there would be a story somewhere, and she could simply sniff it out. Whether it was a state politician snuggling with a woman who wasn't his wife, or one of the captains of Metropolis' industry letting a little too much slip about his latest corporate dealings, Chloe was sure she could find it. After all, those were the sorts of things that made Luthor parties legendary.

However, it seemed Lex had learned from previous, less than proper New Year's Eve parties. This year, in addition to a strict ban on all photography, he'd taken precautions to ensure that no one drank too much, or got too out of hand in the presence of the Metropolis press core.

Plan B, her safety net, had been to corner Lex, and force him to pony up something print-worthy, something about his upcoming gubernatorial bid or the Flagship Scandal, even if it meant cashing in on their mutual past. Unfortunately, it seemed she'd missed her chance.

Chloe had strolled through the crowds, drifting close to every table and every small cluster of people, eavesdropping in the most unobtrusive way she knew how. She managed to overhear that Lex had been here at the beginning of the festivities, just long enough to welcome his guests and engage in a few polite conversations, and he had then slipped away for a more "private" celebration.

The only other interesting tidbit she managed to garner was that one of Luthor's bodyguards (Mercy, maybe?) had been forced to escort a rather inebriated Inquisitor reporter from the estate, basically tossing him on his ass by the front gate. Beyond that, she hadn't learned much of anything useful, much less anything worthy a story for the Journal. This party was the perfect political event: safe, predictable and utterly boring.

Despite the time of year, it was an unbelievably pleasant evening. The floor-to-ceiling windows that lined the conservatory had been thrown open, allowing guests to wander inside and out, listening to the string quartet set up in the courtyard, some even dancing. Chloe, a glass of champagne nearly untouched in her hand, strolled to one of the windows, and leaned against the wood frame.

She gazed up at the night sky, where thousands of stars glittering there like the party lights strung in the trees to her left, and sighed. While the party itself was beautiful, the music lovely, and the weather just this side of perfect, Chloe couldn't help but wish she was somewhere else. Without a story to distract her, all she had to focus on was the fact that, despite all the other guests around her, she was still alone. Again. She closed her eyes against the sight of perfectly matched couples, and reached a gloved hand up, pinching the bridge of her nose.

"Chloe?"

Despite all the conversation and music filling the air, the voice was close to her ear, and it startled her. She jumped a little, but looking up, she couldn't stop her genuine smile. "Why, Jimmy Olsen, what a surprise!"

It was a surprise, actually. She'd seen Lois Lane across the room earlier in the evening, no doubt here on the Planet's behalf. Lois had looked gorgeous, as always, and Chloe had just assumed that Clark was escorting her. She hadn't really given it much thought, as she was still not speaking to Clark after their falling out at Christmas, and she'd simply turned her attention to the nearest tray of food floating past her.

So, Lois had brought Jimmy, instead. She was a little confused, but Chloe wasn't going to complain. He looked fantastic, leaning in the doorway next to her, hands stuffed unceremoniously into his pockets. Somehow, he managed to look as comfortable in a tailored tuxedo as he had in the jeans she'd last seen him wearing. He was looking straight ahead, seeming to watch the couples dancing in front of them, his mouth curled in a small grin.

"I didn't expect to see you here," she said, turning to watch dancers, too, glancing back at him from the corner of her eye.

"Yeah, well, I didn't expect to be here. But, you know Clark Kent, right?"

She hesitated a moment before answering. "I do know him, yes."

"Then I'm sure you're familiar with his infamous disappearing act?"

She couldn't help but laugh at that. "Ah, yes. I'm afraid I've had more than my share of experience with that particular trick of his.

"It seems he was at a Planet staff meeting earlier this afternoon, but no one has seen him since. Perry wound up calling me this evening, insisting that I accompany Lois since Clark was AWOL. They're just lucky I still had this tux from my sister's wedding; otherwise, I might have been forced to break out my old tuxedo t-shirt from college."

"In that case, I think we're all lucky."

He turned to look to look at her, tilting his head a little as his eyes did a quick scan of her body. It might have been subtle, if not for his mischievous smile. She thought she did a good job at concealing her blush. "Speaking of lucky, I have to say, Chloe, you are looking quite fetching this evening."

Her painted lips twisted into a smirk. "Fetching?"

"What? The Word-a-Day calendar I got for Christmas assures me this is a compliment. No dice?"

"Well, Jimmy, if we're going to trade antiquated compliments, I'd have to say you're looking quite gay yourself tonight."

His eyes lit up, and his laugh earned them a couple reproving glances. "Ok. So, turns out the author of the Word-a-Day Calendar is a big, fat liar." He said, shaking his head. "I'm planning a rather scathing letter as we speak."

Her smile softened a bit as she looked again at the dancers in front of them, trying to soothe the butterflies in her stomach. The two of them stood there for a moment in silence before Chloe turned to him, her face still a little warm. "Before I forget, Jimmy, I saw that amazing photo spread you did last week in the Planet."

"Oh... hey, thanks, Chloe! I was pretty pleased with the way it came out."

"Well, while your photos were just breathtaking, I was actually more relieved that your 'assignment in Kenya' was, in fact, real, and therefore a legitimate excuse for skipping out on our first date." She continued to face ahead, but she peeked over at him from the corner of her eye, watching as he digested what she had said. She could pinpoint the moment his expression crossed over from panic into amusement, and gave him a sly smile.

"Oh, Chloe, you have no idea. My real excuses? Nowhere near that creative. Usually more of the 'I have to wash my hair' variety. Besides, believe me, when it comes down to choosing between dinner with a beautiful and fascinating woman, or several uncomfortable hours on a plane, followed by several even more uncomfortable hours in customs, I tend to lean toward the option that doesn't require vaccinations."

"Nevertheless, it did my ego a world of good to see it."

"Well, now, this will never do, Chloe. I simply can't stand here next to the best looking woman in the room and have her feel anything less than amazing. You feel like letting me make it up to you?"

"That depends. What did you have in mind?"

"Hmm. I'm not sure if you've noticed, but this party is a little on the boring side. Lex Luthor seems to have become a bit of a stick in the mud in his old age."

"He's actually only 32, but I think I get you. My theory is that he breaks out the real fun when the reporters have all gone home, or when they've all passed out from boredom."

"That must be it, because this is just... sad. I mean, it was hardly worth sneaking my camera in here."

"You have a camera?" She asked, scanning him quickly. "Where?"

He looked around quickly, left then right then left again, and then reached up, gripping his lapel and holding it out towards her. There was a small, red AIDS ribbon button there. "It's actually a tiny, hidden camera. The sort they use on Dateline. I'm cutting edge."

" Very nice, 007. Subtle. I am impressed."

"Really?"

"Sure. See this? This is my impressed face."

"Huh. You know, it's funny, your impressed face? It looks remarkably like a 'You're lucky I'm hiding my scathing mockery behind this charming facade' sort of face."

"Yeah. I get that a lot."

He just smiled, shaking his head again. "Anyway, Lois is pretty well schnookered, and while I drove tonight, Luthor's people assure me that they will see everyone gets home safely. So, that leaves me free to roam about the countryside at will." He looked to a nearby waiter, who was carrying a tray of delicate hors d'oeuvres. "Would you care to cash in your dinner raincheck? I'm not a big fan of sushi, myself, and I'm pretty much starving at this point."

"Actually, I would love to... raw seafood and I are not the best of friends, either, and this party is certainly going nowhere. But, what's open this late on New Year's Eve?"

"Only my very favorite place! It's open all day, every day, all year. And they make just about the best cheesefries this side of Heaven."

The thought of some real, good food made her stomach growl. Chloe reached out, wrapping an arm around Jimmy's. "First, I must say that I hope I'm lucky enough to go to that Heaven when I die. And second, lead the way, my good man!"


If someone had told Chloe that morning that the end of the night would see her sitting in a rundown diner, five blocks north of Ryder's Mile, in an evening gown, eating thick, syrupy Belgian waffles and gooey cheesefries with the man of her dreams, she never would have believed it. And yet that's exactly where she was, and she couldn't imagine a better place to start the new year.

Once she adjusted to the smell, some strange combination of sausage and disinfectant, Chloe thought she might actually like Julio's Diner. The faded yellow linoleum was curling in the corner, one of the lights over the lunch counter was flickering, none of the dishes seemed to match, and apparently no one named Julio had ever worked there.

However, the food was excellent (so good, in fact, she feared the seams of this stylish frock would burst), and the music pouring out of the vintage jukebox was perfect. She had a feeling, though, that her favorite part of this diner experience wasn't really a part of the diner.

Resting her cheek to her hand, she watched as Jimmy, who was sporting a rather large syrup stain on his dress shirt, savored the final bite of his waffles, and followed it with long draught of chocolate milk. She stifled a chuckle when he raised his arm, swiping the milk mustache away with the back of his hand, bittersweet echoes of Clark. The thick cheddar on what was left of her fries had cooled, growing darker and slightly hard, and sugar-laden coffee she was stirring slowly was certainly cold by now, but she really didn't mind.

It had been far too long since Chloe had found someone who could keep up the sort of random, near stream-of-consciousness style rants she was so fond of. In fact, she'd treated him to a real hum-dinger in the car, and not only had Jimmy kept up, but he'd chimed in with his support, and a few obscure references to support her case. In fact, after a few hours of marathon conversation, Chloe suspected he might be just as bizarre as she was on the inside, and it was only fair that she allow him a moment or two to rest between topics.

"So, where were we?" He asked, piling their plates and shifting them to the edge of the table.

"I believe we left off at high school."

"Right. Hmmm." Jimmy leaned forward on his elbows, pursing his lips. The neon "EAT HERE" sign that hung in the window above their booth flashed a faint pink light across his face. Suddenly, he looked at her and grinned, eyes glittering. "I know! Dungeons and Dragons."

"Oh, c'mon! Hasn't everyone played D&D at some point in their lives? No self-respecting dork gets out of puberty without it. There's no way that earns you the coveted Biggest Dork title, my friend."

"But you don't understand. I was fanatical. I even used tiny little brushes to customize my own tiny little figurines."

"Wow. I think that's a little more creepy than dorky."

Jimmy leaned back, the worn blue vinyl squeaking under his weight, and crossed his arms across his chest. "Fine. Your turn."

Grinning, she closed her eyes, and thought for a moment. "When I was in high school, I used to wear pants and skirts."

"The dorky part being...?"

"I wore pants and skirts at the same time. I even thought I was 'stylish'." Chloe dropped her head into her hands in mock shame, although the memory still made her cringe.

"Heh... odd fashion choices aside, gorgeous, there's no way that qualifies. No one dressed well at 15, and besides, I bet you still looked amazing."

Her head jerked up, and there was a brief awkward pause as they both blushed, until Chloe finally broke the silence with a soft smile. "All right. Your turn, J. Shock me."

"Ok. I own two Milli Vanilli CDs. One's a bootleg import. They might actually be in the changer in my living room right now."

Chloe let her mouth hang open for a moment, then brought a hand up to cover her mouth to stifle her giggles. "Oh, God, Jimmy. That's... that's damn good. And so frightening."

"Thank you," he said with a satisfied smile. "I'm glad my preferences for lame music are useful in some capacity. Is there a prize for the Biggest Dork?"

"Hey, now, let's not go nuts. After all, we haven't even gotten to college years yet."

"College, eh? Well, my university years involve a plethora of nerdish behavior. Top this: I pledged six fraternities. Didn't make it in one."

"Ouch."

"Yeah. Tell me about it. I actually wound up studying most nights. How wrong is that?"

"Seriously, Jimmy. That's harsh. I feel for you. Nevertheless, I still think I have you beat."

"Lay it on me."

"I did a research paper on Monty Python, and their effect on the social climate of England. As well as the increase in public awareness of silly walks, and its corresponding ministry."

"You did not."

"I did. Got an A, too," she said, nodding.

"Well, damn, Chloe. I've got to say, I think you do, indeed, have me beat. You are the Biggest Dork. In this diner, at any rate."

"Jimmy, have you looked around? The competition isn't all that stiff. It's just you, me, a couple cops, Manny the cook, and our oh-so-cheerful waitress, Faye. And speaking of Faye, I should mention that she looks a little peeved that we're still here."

"Well, it is nearly midnight. Maybe Faye had big plans?" He said, holding his wrist up so Chloe could read his watch.

"My heart goes out to her, but I'm afraid she's just going to have to wait."

"Wait for what?"

"For me to collect my Biggest Dork prize, silly." Chloe did her best to cover the tremble in her voice.

Jimmy quirked his head to the side, grinning. "Really? What did you have in mind?"

"I think that after wearing this dress for an entire evening," she said, rising from the booth, extending her hand to him. "I deserve to dance in it at least once before we go. Wouldn't you agree, Mr. Olsen?"

Jimmy looked up at her for a long moment, before reaching up to take her hand. "I certainly do. Though, I'm not sure what it says about the prize committee for the Biggest Dork Contest that the grand prize is dancing in public with the loser of said contest." He pulled himself up out of the booth, and abruptly turned away from her, walking quickly towards the now-silent jukebox. "Just one second, Chloe," he said over his shoulder. "There's something missing."

She watched as he dug into his pocket, pulling out a quarter and dropping it into the machine. He seemed to ponder the buttons for quite some time, and Chloe started getting a little nervous. She looked down at her dress, and gasped, horrified at how wrinkled it was. Apparently, it hadn't been a good idea to sit in a booth with her legs curled up underneath her while sporting designer couture.

"I had to find the perfect song."

She looked up to see Jimmy standing in front of her. "It's not Milli Vanilli, is it?"

He narrowed his eyes at her a bit, obviously trying not to smile, but the twitching corners of his mouth gave him away. "Of course not. I have to save something for our second date, don't I?"

Chloe's clever retort was forgotten as the opening strings of At Last, one of her favorite songs, poured from the speakers on the wall. Jimmy stepped forward, slipping his hands inside hers, guiding them to his shoulders. He then slid his hands down to her waist, and began to slowly sway.

It had been a long time since someone had been this close to her, and out of habit, she stood a little straighter, and tried to suck in her stomach. There wasn't much of a point, she realized, since the bodice of her gown was so tight; if she sucked in any further, she was afraid she might collapse on herself, and there'd be a mysterious black hole in the middle of this Kansas diner. Although, that might be just the sort of harrowing adventure necessary to score a feature story in Reader's Digest.

Jimmy's fingers were warm on her back, guiding her in time with his movements. Chloe closed her eyes, and leaned her head forward, wrapping her arms around him a little more as they moved. As they turned, her eyes fixed on the clock mounted over the lunch counter. According to that clock, they had only a few more moments until midnight. Through the long narrow window into the kitchen, she could see Manny watching a small black and white television, the volume apparently turned down.

Chloe pulled back a little to look in Jimmy's eyes, her hands still resting on his shoulders. "I hope you realize that I'm not going to let you kiss me at midnight." In the kitchen, Chloe could hear the volume on the television turned up, and Dick Clark's voice floated out over the fading voice of Etta James. On the other side of the counter, Faye leaned against the edge of the long window, watching the television over Manny's shoulder.

Ten...

Chloe could hear the muffled voices of Faye as well as those of the two cops, who had moved to the counter so they, too, could see the ball dropping on the miniature screen, counting down the moments.

Nine...

"Oh, no?" They stopped moving, as the music had died away, but they didn't move apart.

Eight...

"No. Because, you know, this is our first date, after all, and I'm just not that sort of girl."

Seven...

"Understood, Ms. Sullivan," Jimmy said, with a slow nod, his eyes flickering down over her lips. Before she could stop herself, her tongue darted out to moisten them, and she felt his breath hitch.

Six...

"Good. I just wanted to make sure that was clear. About the no kissing," she said, leaning closer, feeling the warmth of his body pressed to hers.

Five...

"Absolutely. I wouldn't think of it." Jimmy's fingers spread a little wider, then his hands slid together, weaving together just at the curve of her lower back.

Four...

She waited a beat, tilting her head to the side, quirking an eyebrow at him. "Really? Not even a little?"

Three...

"Well, to be honest, Chloe..." He looked off the left, taking a deep breath before his eyes met hers again.

Two...

"I can't stop thinking about it."

One...

Chloe smiled big, the sort of smile that squeezed her eyes shut at the edges, and she knew she probably looked silly, but she didn't care, especially when Jimmy matched it with a stunning grin of his own. Her hands moved to cup his face, and she pulled him forward to meet her approaching mouth. Warm and soft, his mouth seemed to fit perfectly against hers, and she felt just the slightest tease of his tongue against her lower lip when they pulled apart, both somewhat breathless.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

He leaned his forehead against hers, eyes still closed, and he spoke softly, so that only she could hear him. "Let me guess. You never said you couldn't kiss me?

"Damn right, big guy," she said, slipping from the circle of his arms, and dropping him a quick wink before turning to snatch her purse from the booth. "Gotta keep you on your toes. Wouldn't want you getting bored. Because I am definitely not that sort of girl."

As she turned back to him, she saw that he was holding his jacket out for her. Slipping it on over her gown, she smiled at the warmth not only on her shoulders but also on her cheeks and in the pit of her stomach. Walking towards the door, she barely heard it, but it was enough.

"Somehow, Chloe, I doubt that's a problem I would run into with you."


Chloe stumbled into her tiny kitchenette, catching herself on the edge of the counter, and cursing silently, as her mouth wouldn't open yet. She wondered, through her coffee-deprived morning fog, how she had managed to trip over the pattern on the vinyl floor, but surely there wasn't any other explanation. Well, not unless her theory that the apartment complex was sinking, making her floor sloped, panned out; she had no proof to date, but that had never stopped her before.

Her fuzzy purple slippers made a soft, hissing noise as she crossed to the coffee pot, patiently waiting for her, its contents filling the small, studio apartment with a scent reminiscent of Heaven. She managed to get the cupboard open with out decapitating herself, and grabbed a very tall mug. She filled it nearly to the top, then reached over to a nearby canister (shaped like a turtle; thanks, Dad) and added a few heaping spoonfuls of sugar. When she raised the magical elixir to her lips, her moan was nearly sexual; in fact, based on their pointed glares, she was sure her neighbors had some pretty serious suspicions about her early morning perversions.

With blinking eyes, she surveyed the remains of last night that lay strewn about the apartment. After their late night dinner, Jimmy had taken her to the Metropolis Observatory. The actual planetarium had been closed, of course, but their courtyard was open all the time. Jimmy had pulled a blanket from the trunk of his car, something fuzzy that smelled faintly of dryer sheets, and spread it over one of the low cement benches. They'd sat and talked for hours, Jimmy patiently pointing out all the constellations, and Chloe pretending that she didn't know them.

By the time they'd made it back to Jimmy's car, Chloe was exhausted. She gave him slightly groggy directions back to her apartment, and despite carrying on a rather detailed conversation about domestic vehicles versus imports, she'd been nearly asleep when he pulled up to her building. Jimmy had opened her door, and practically carried her up the three flights to her apartment. He waited until she'd got the door unlocked, and then leaned forward, pressing a sweet parting kiss to the corner of her mouth. Before he left, he mentioned something about calling her later, and Chloe sincerely believed she'd given him the go ahead on that.

Either that, or she'd confirmed to him that she did indeed hate her bra with a fiery passion that rivaled the sun, and further asserted that women, like men, should be allowed to go topless at their discretion. She couldn't quite remember now, though, if that had been Jimmy or Giles. Judging by the way Giles usually liked to curl up on her chest, she wouldn't be surprised if both he and Jimmy agreed with her wholeheartedly.

Chloe trudged through the living room, stepping over scattered laundry and various notebooks full of story ideas and information on her sources. With her coffee mug held in a death grip in one hand, the other hand patted absently at her stiff hair. In her mad, disrobing rush to her bed, she'd apparently forgotten to remove the pins in her hair, and her scalp was reminding her now. Plus, the massive amounts of hairspray that had been necessary for her hairstyle, applied much in the vein of a thick lacquer, appeared to have been permanently absorbed. She felt a rush of fear when she thought about trying to wash it later.

And the less said about the current state of that four-thousand dollar gown, lying in a wrinkled heap at the foot of her bed, the better.

She opened her front door, and in addition to her usual trifecta of media saturation, The Journal, The Inquisitor and The Daily Planet, there was a thin manila envelope. The name "Chloe" was written in a hasty scrawl across the front, and if she hadn't recognized it right away, she might have been a little unnerved. However, she knew that particular chicken scratch, as it matched the note Jimmy had left in her mailbox at The Journal when he'd had to cancel their first "official" date. The one she had brought home, and re-read about a dozen times. The one that was currently sitting on her nightstand.

Picking up the envelope, she was a little surprised at how light it was. She reached inside, and pulled out a single glossy, black and white photograph. It was of her, from last night, and she guessed it must have come from the tiny camera Jimmy had been wearing. It was slightly grainy and unfocused, but overall, not a bad picture of her. Written on the margin surrounding the picture, in that same hasty manner, was a line of poetry:

And all that's best of dark and bright / Meet in her aspect and her eyes

She turned the picture over, and on the back was a brief note from Jimmy. Chloe had a strict policy about crying before noon, and she'd be damned if she'd start a new year off by ignoring her own standards, but the tears were very close, hovering behind the tightness in her throat. It was easier to stave them off when she starting giggling. One slippered foot shot out and kicked her newspapers inside, and she shut the door quickly.

She had a phone call to make.


Dear Chloe,

Had an absolutely delightful time skipping out on Luthor's snoozefest with you. Was developing the film on my camera for Perry (sleep? what sleep?), and found this one. Took a few that didn't turn out, but this one... this one makes me smile. Pretty inspirational, I think.

Dawned on me that we didn't make any New Year's resolutions last night. Generally not a fan of setting myself up for failure, but I can count on you to help me keep mine, right?

  1. Brush up on my Monty Python. Got to be able to keep up. (wink, wink, nudge, nudge)
  2. Dance more. Seems to net pleasant results.
  3. Spend more time with a certain amazing, beautiful journalist, starting with dinner tonight, if she's interested. And something better than cheesefries this time, because my Mama did raise me right.

That's it. Pretty simple list, I'd say, but one I can't complete alone. Wanna help me out?

Yours,
Jimmy

555-1123


The End


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