by beautiful N Bruised

The caller id displayed as 'Chloe Sullivan.' Lex picked it up after the first ring.


"Lex," she replied. "I miss you."

"I miss you more."

"Tell you what, Lex, why don't you come down to Metropolis, and we can argue about who misses who more, face to face?"

"Smooth move, baiting my argumentative tendencies. But you know if it was up to me, I'd be there already."

"Lex, I need to tell you something." The teasing lilt had suddenly vanished from her voice. Instead she sounded almost breathless, as though scared and excited all at once.

He sat up straight in his seat. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing bad, you worrywart," she laughed.

Lex exhaled in a rush, but only relaxed slightly, his body remaining taut with unease. "Well? Tell me, then?"

"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said anything at all. I'm planning to tell you when I see you Saturday. Listen, I have to get off the phone. I'll talk to you later, okay? I love you."

"I love you too, Chloe."

Lex slid the phone back into its stand. But he barely had time to begin to wonder at Chloe's strange behaviour, before the study doors burst open.

It was Lionel Luthor; long black jacket and overgrown ginger hair, training behind him. Lionel had long been a fan of over-dramatic entrances, but it had been a couple of years since Lex had crossed paths with him.

Squaring his jaw, and fixing a cold impassive look in his eye, Lex stood up to face his father. Lionel didn't pause until he was stood in front of Lex's desk, where-upon he threw a newspaper onto the desk.

Lex barely glanced down at it; he should have known. "Come to congratulate me, father dearest?"

And then there was silence. Utterly shocking silence. Lex was mystified. Lionel Luthor, who loved nothing more than to slice and jar with his tongue, stood saying not a word. More than that, Lionel's mask seemed shattered, and some real emotions appeared to be seeping through the cracks.

But Lex knew it had to be some kind of new trick, set to disconcert him.

"What's the matter?" he asked, carefully lining his words with ice. "Cat ripped that lying tongue to shreds?"

Casting one last look at the newspaper, Lionel sank onto a chair next to the desk, as though he could no longer stand.

'What the hell?'

"Lex," he said finally, sounding strangely old. "We have to talk."

She kept to the edges of the party, feeling completely out of place. Her husband was off talking business, and she had been instructed to 'mingle.'

"We're going places! We're really going places!" he had told her, infectious in his enthusiasm. And she had agreed to come to the party, to adorn his arm, and be shown off like a trophy wife. It was bizarre; *the things he could make her do with a simple smile.

"Drink, Madame?"

She nodded gratefully at the waiter, grabbing a glass, and not even bothering to note what it was, before knocking it back. She was getting riled, and she knew it. But it was the only way she would be able to survive the rest of the evening.

Unbeknownst to her, the host of the party was watching her from a discrete distance. After spending the last three hours in jaw-aching smiles, and false chatter, all in the name of PR, he needed a little tension relief. And the blonde woman in the corner, looked like a perfect candidate. She obviously wasn't having very much fun, hiding out in the corner, with what looked like far too much drink then was good for her. She was absolutely gorgeous, petite yet curvy, with silky blonde hair, and large bright eyes. The dress she wore clung to her in all the right places.

He smiled to himself. And went in for the kill.

"Get out!"

"Alexander, think for a minute - "

"Get out, you lying bastard!" Lex circled the desk, and began to do everything but physically herd his father out. "I want you nowhere near me, or any of mine. And if I hear that you have so much as spoken her name, I'll kill you."

Father and son were almost at the door of the study now. Lex was breathing hard and he could barely see for white-hot rage. Lionel looked small to him. Like an annoying mosquito, that Lex could easily flick away and destroy.

"Lex, you are not being rational, son."

"I will not let you ruin my life again, do you hear? Now leave, before I have security throw you out like the dog that you are!"

Lionel stared at his son, lacking any of his usual malicious expressions. "I'm leaving, Lex. But you know it's true. And if you go ahead and try to marry this girl, I'll do whatever I have to do. And I'll start by exposing everything."

It was at that moment that Lex believed. Something clicked in place and everything made sense at once. He would still search for evidence, of course, but it was good as proven.

And it was at that moment that he made the decision.

There it was, cold and solid and comforting, in his pocket, where he'd slipped it in the moment his father had come in.

Calmly pulling the revolver out, he shot once.

Lionel was taken by surprise, and the shot was perfectly executed. At such a close range, it hit centre mark, and flew all the way through, taking pieces of Lionel with it, and distributing them every direction about the room.

Lex watched impassively, as his father staggered towards him twice, then fell, dropping heavily to the ground in a pool of his own blood.

After closing and locking the doors of the study, Lex turned his back on the body, and walked to his desk. Picking up the telephone, he dialled a number he knew off by heart.

"Hello, Pedro? It's A.L. I have a bit of a mess for you to clean up." He glanced distastefully towards the corpse in his study. "And I have a mess I need creating. I'll make it very worth your while..."

They danced, and suddenly she felt the belle of the ball. She was no longer the pauper, trying to blend in, dressed in faux designer, and doing everything the wrong way. He smelt so good, danced so well, and his body felt so perfect holding her. Every now and then, he would whisper sweet nothings in her ear.

She was in a dreamland, and the alcohol in her bloodstream made it real.

"I'm a princess," she said. And he laughed affectionately, stroking a hand down her cheek.

"Hey, where'd all the people go? And the lights and the food?"

"Shush, I'm here, aren't I?"

"You're here," she agreed as his lips meet hers. "Mmm, you kiss good," she told him after they'd pulled apart. He was slowly guiding her backwards, and she frowned as something soft hit the back of her legs. "How did that bed get there?"

"Magic," he whispered back.

And it had been.

Lex didn't need to do the full-blown tests that people usually did in these kinds of situations. All it took was a few phone calls, and a few pieces of information, and he could put the rest together himself.

It was totally and utterly true. There was no denying it.

But other than he, only two people knew. And one of them was dead, and fresh for the burial.

And the other... the other one would have to follow.

Ever since that night, over five years ago, she had been utterly lost.

"Mommy, Mommy! Daddy's home!"

She watched as her little girl flew to the front door, and flung her arms around the man who stood there.

Chuckling, he held her back, bending down slightly, and loping an arm gently round her shoulders. "Hey, Sweetpea, did you have a good day?" he asked.

The girl pulled away, and frowned, wrinkling her nose up in distaste. "Daddy, please don't call me that! I'm a big girl now!" She made an adorable sight, with her hands on her hips, and her face screwed up into a reprimanding expression.

"Sorry, darling, but you'll always be my sweetpea, even when you're forty."

"Forty?" she echoed him, giggling at the thought that she could ever be that old.

Putting his bag down on the floor, and shaking his head affectionately, he walked towards his wife. He brushed his lips across hers. "God, I love my family," he whispered.

It was midmorning Saturday when Lex unlocked the door of his Metropolis penthouse, and walked inside.

"Completed, Pedro?" he asked, speaking into his cellphone. He narrowed his eyes, slightly. "Excellent. Excellent on both accounts."

Suddenly, Lex's mind's eye threw him an image; terrified female, arms flayed up, in a futile effort to protect herself. "Was it quick for her?" he asked brusquely. "Good," he said, when he got a reply in the positive. "You know where to find your payment. Let's hope we don't need to get in touch again."

Switching the phone off, he tossed it on the leather couch of his living room. Shedding his jacket, he dropped it onto the couch as well.

"Surprise," a voice called out softly.

Chloe stood by the doorway, looking demure, though she had a smile on her face. "Your housemaid let me in," she explained.

"She likes you too much," he replied, shaking his head.

Chloe's smile widened for the briefest second, as though she'd thought of a witty retort to make, but then her expression become completely serious. Making her way into the room, she wrapped her arms around Lex's shoulders, drew him near, laying her forehead against his.

"Lex, I'm so sorry about your father," she whispered.

"No you're not," he told her firmly, and she pulled a way, looking at him wide-eyed. "And neither am I," he continued. "In fact, I think you'd be hard-pushed to find anyone who is. We both know what kind of a father he was, Chloe, and what kind of a man. The world is better off without him."

She nodded once, her face still sombre and unreadable. "If I didn't know you better, Lex," she said, gesturing towards the cellphone on the sofa. "After overhearing that conversation, I'd say you had taken it upon yourself, to rid the world of one Lionel Luthor."

"Chloe," with his fingers, he gently lifted her face towards him. "You know how happy I am with you. Do you think I'd ever chance losing that?"

"No," she agreed, shaking her head. "You would never. I'm sorry I even said anything. I just - I like to be sure," she took his hand, and squeezed it. "And no matter what, I love you, always." Brightening up again, she flashed a mischievous smile. "Now, remember that there was something I was going to tell you?"

It always came back to the guilt. The guilt that colored everything. The guilt that had destroyed her life.

From outside the door she watched her husband, reading a bedtime story to the little girl he called 'Sweetpea.' He brought the tale to life with silly faces and sound effects.

It was disconcerting, the similarity between the two. Disconcerting, the way their expressions, their smiles, and their habits, mirrored one another. Her family would make a great subject for studying the science of nature verses nurture argument.

It was almost like, she could squint and not see *it.

But no. Nature still presided strongly in her daughter. She could see it in her the girl's almost uncanny intelligence, and her exceptional cunning and shrewdness.

She had never really loved the child that was her only daughter. They had never properly bonded, because of the guilt and the fear that had been present even before day one. And slowly the indifference was turning to hate and resentment. Her daughter's presence was like an everyday chastisement that got worse and worse as the days went by.

And though it was the erosion of her relationship with her husband that she mourned - the man who had been her first and only love, who had once upon a time meant everything to her and she everything to him - she began to hate him too. She hated his obliviousness, and his too trusting eyes. She hated that he lived in a happy-family bubble that she was miles outside of.

It was slowly burying her alive, and enough was enough.

"Okay," Chloe told him breathlessly. "Okay. Well, at first I wasn't very sure about this. A little upset actually, seeing as I still have one year of college to go. But then the more I thought about it, the more I realised I was getting everything I wanted," she paused dramatically, "Lex, we're pregnant!"

"Done?" she asked her husband, as he walked into the bedroom.

"Yep, she's finally asleep." His grin was so big, and she resented him for it. But it wouldn't matter after tonight.

"Good," she replied. Moving off the bed, she walked over to the closet and opened it.

Inside was a pile of suitcases. "Because now you can help me shift this lot into the car."

"What?" he asked her, stunned.

It was less painful for everyone this way. This way he would never know that the child he loved so much, wasn't his, that was assuming of course, that Lionel Luthor stayed disinterested in his illegitimate daughter. But that wasn't her problem.

Turning to face him directly, she squared her jaw, and took a deep breath.

"Gabe, I'm leaving you. I'm leaving you and Chloe."

The woman he loved had just told him she was carrying his child, and he could barely stand to look at her.

This was his father's fault. Even beyond the grave he was torturing Lex, not allowing him one true moment of happiness. But why should a one-night stand, that Lionel had with an employee's drunken wife, ruin Lex's life?

"What's the matter?" Chloe asked him, suddenly looking uncomfortable and unsure.

"Nothing, nothing's the matter. That's brilliant news. I love you."

"Well," she smiled at him coyly. "Then where's my celebratory kiss?"

Lex, swallowed, feeling a little sick. But he'd done so much to keep them together.

He'd killed his - oh god, their - father.

He'd had her mother killed.

And no-one else knew. It was almost as though it existed only in his mind.

The greatest obstacles had been passed, and he couldn't afford to let a little weakness ruin that. Parents and DNA were just a formality. He would let nothing get between them. Nothing.

And he kissed her.

*[In] fini [te]*

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