by Fen

"So, what did you say to Superman to get me this job?" Chloe asks, handing Clark a glass of scotch and pushing her still-damp hair off her face. "I mean, I'm sure it was your idea, so I just want to know how hard a sell it was, so I know what I'll be up against."

"So you'll do it?" He asks, pausing with the glass halfway to his mouth.

"Was there any doubt? I'd be a fool not to take it, especially now that I am officially alive again and needing to eat," Chloe says, smirking before taking a sip of her scotch. "But, I'd like to know."

Clark pauses for a moment and then takes a quick sip of his scotch before he responds. "I told him you'd be good and, unlike most, you could handle anything he or Lex threw at you."

"Anything?" Chloe asks, refilling their glasses.

"We have an interesting staff dynamic," Clark says with a dismissive wave of his hand. "But that is nothing compared to the freak show going on at Lex's campaign headquarters."

"Why would that be a concern?" Chloe asks, her forehead furrowed.

"Whatever they're saying over here is nothing compared to what's going on in Metropolis. Superman needs all the help he can get, and I knew you'd be in our corner and Luthor and his friends will never have pockets deep enough to buy you again."

"It can't be that bad," Chloe says sipping her drink and trying to keep her face impassive at the mention of her youthful betrayal of the man who sat across from her.

"Pete has gone over. Lana is pissed because Lois and I can't support them in their bid to get out of Smallville permanently, she's too blinded by the bright lights and the promise of forever to see the darkness it hides. Lex has brought on some muscle, a friend, from Edge City a woman named Mercy and his brother Lucas."

"Who else?"

"Rosen at the Star is sniffing around," Clark says, looking up under hooded eyes as she walks toward the window. "He's theirs for the small things right now, but there's talk of his coming on exclusive if he gets the money he's asking for, but then he'd want a guarantee after what happened to Perry when he refused their offer."

"Rosen's good, but he sucks all the air out of a room, takes over, Lex will never want him around long haul. And he isn't real good about dealing with women who don't simper and curtsy," Chloe says distastefully. "They'll focus on getting the Planet in their pocket as he starts to chafe with Lex." Clark nods his agreement.

"Which is why we're looking for someone impervious to their threats and immune to the offers they'll get from Lex to run the show," Clark watches her think about it, silently contemplating his old friend as she stares out the window into the night.

"What would the chain be?"

Clark rubs his hand over his head and closes his eyes, obviously trying to formulate an answer. Chloe smiles at his discomfort and then chews on her lip as the moment lengthens. Clark opens his eyes. "Chloe, you have to understand," he began and she interrupted him.

"You want me around to even up the score and you just happened to need someone to run the business side of the Planet for your anonymous investor. I get the picture now cut to the chase."

"Perry is still Editor and Chief, Lois and I are running the investigative section and Kat Larson has agreed to take on the entertainment section full time. We've been working our way through the rest of the staff, trying to figure out who we can trust; we've got a kid who's a pretty good photographer and a couple in general staff and layout who we know are on our side."

"I'd be head of the corporation that just bought the Planet? So you and Lois would answer to me?" Chloe asks her voice hesitant walking back toward him.

"On paper we answer to Perry and he answers to you, but we all answer to Superman," Clark says, looking up at her. "He talked some friends into investing and is staking everything he has to keep the Planet from being crushed under Luthor's thumb."

Chloe skews her lips to the side and contemplates her scotch. After a moment, she drains her glass and leans forward and grabs the bottle off the table her decision made. "Do you promise never to pull rank just to win an argument?" Chloe says, refilling his glass.

"What makes you think I'd have that kind of power," he says with a small smile.

"I'm serious. I'll keep your secret, lord knows you've kept mine long enough," she says gesturing to the apartment and the darkly lit street of London outside her windows knowing he'll understand that she means her forced seclusion, the years of pretending to be someone else. "If we ever stalemate under pressure, well, then, you can pull rank; but no pulling rank just to disregard my opinion."

Clark looks at her and then nods surprised but at ease with her revelation. "Yeah," he says seriously and softly.

"Ok, let's have some dinner before we are too drunk to eat," Chloe says, reaching for the phone.

"What, no home-cooked meal?" Clark asks with mock seriousness as he empties his glass yet again.

"Farm boy, this is me. No, no home cooked meal. Thai or Ethiopian?" Chloe asks, and laughs softly as Clark grimaces.

"Or we could just keep drinking?" Chloe says, tossing the phone onto the table.

"How's..." Clark trails off, waving his hand for lack of the name.

"Sir Andrew Osorio? Gone," Chloe sighs. "What can I say, I sure can pick 'em and then I run them off, except of course for the ones who won't leave, and they're worse."

"Yeah," Clark nods, staring at his drink.

Chloe watches him and when he continues to stare into his glass, she reaches over and touches his hand. "Clark?"

He looks up and shakes his head, swirling his glass.

"I thought it was getting better." Chloe trails off as he shakes his head slightly and slumps forward. "I figured when I didn't hear from either of you that you were working it out, that she had your attention and I was a distraction you didn't need," she says softly. "I thought you weren't fighting anymore?"

"We don't," Clark says, looking at his hands. "Don't talk much either, or touch, for that matter, except for when we work. Nothing touches that not even my marriage falling apart can destroy the way we write together." he says, whisper soft.

Chloe closes her eyes and takes a deep breath. She guides her glass to her mouth without opening her eyes and swallows the contents, leaning her head back to swallow deep. Without opening her eyes, she holds the glass out, and Clark's fingers replace hers as he refills it, yet again.

"I'm sorr--"

"Don't apologize, Chloe. You know your cousin better than anyone, and you obviously know me better than I thought, I don't want," Clark sighs, taking a breath and then continuing. "Just, don't."

After a long tense moment, they shift their conversation back to the fight before them, and later to the past. The level in the bottle dips lower with each pull, until only a few inches sit at the bottom of the label, and Chloe and Clark lean against each other, reminiscing about friends and lovers past.

"Can't believe you told Pete about that," Chloe groans, closing her eyes and tipping her head forward. "You told him everything, like details." Chloe says with a wave of her hand, just missing Clark's face in her drunken lack of coordination.

"Chloe," Clark says, her name sounding rough and hoarse due to the alcohol. "We were guys," Clark says, his voice lighter as he looks at her incredulous face. "And you were impressive."

Chloe blushes and looks at her hands. "Still am," she says, smirking and shaking her hair out of her face.

"I'm sure you are," Clark says indulgently smiling as he pats her thigh. His hand lingers, and when she doesn't flinch or pull away, his fingers stroke the inside of her leg, trailing along the edge of her skirt.

She touches his wrist, smiling at the feel of his skin and the hairs peeking out from under his cuff, and his hand stills on her leg. When she looks up, he is staring at her and his eyes are clear and dark.

Without intention or resolve, and without taking the usual time to separately talk themselves out of touching, their faces approach and hover, their breaths mingling a moment before their lips touch. The first touch is gentle and almost chaste, but the kiss quickly turns deep and demanding, Clark's tongue sliding against her lips until she opens her mouth and accepts his tongue. The bite of scotch mingles between them, covering the slight sweetness of her lips and the taste of his tongue. Their noses and foreheads smack as they try to devour each other, thrusting tongues and biting lips and desperate sucking breaths between needful sounds.

He pushes her back onto the couch and she pulls him with her, the weight of him falling along her side. She bites his lip, when his hand touches her breast, taking his tongue into her mouth again in order to avoid the reality that his hands are roving over her body. He shifts against her and his erection presses against her thigh, and they both still, mid-kiss, her tongue still in his mouth. She pulls her tongue back, and marvels for a moment at the fact that his lips are still touching hers slightly. She holds still, her eyes closed as he pulls his face and upper body away.

"Chloe," he sighs, and she opens her eyes to look up at him staring down at her. "I didn't...I can't..." he says, reaching to touch her again and she flinches, and then sighs as she sees his face. "Chloe, I...I didn't...God," he says, rubbing his hand over his head and looking down, shoving his hand in his pocket and then sighing and giving up the gesture. "I shouldn't have...regardless of...I'm still married, Chloe. And I can't do this. I want to but, I..."

"Clark, shut up," Clark says harshly. "For just a minute, please." She looks at him and sees the tension in his shoulders as he turns and looks for his coat. "God, sit down," she sighs wearily, reaching for his sleeve. "Sit down." She rolls her eyes when he looks back at her with his eyes downcast. "Clark, just sit the hell down. We might as well drink the rest of that. Please pour," she says, leaving the room.

She comes back into the room a few minutes later with a bag of chips and another bottle of scotch, now dressed in mismatched sweats and an oversized shirt. Clark smirks at the ratty old Smallville High football jersey, at least two sizes too big, and the salty snack. He reaches over and gently pinches the sleeve of her shirt, shaking his head.

She shakes her head and laughs softly remembering like he is the night she'd tried to seduce him wearing the same shirt. "Yeah, well, it was all I had down here," she says, lifting the glass sitting before her and swallowing the shot before putting it back onto the table and opening the new bottle. "I figure I don't want to remember this tomorrow. So, I am going to get plastered, well more plastered than I already am. Care to join me?" Chloe asks with a raised eyebrow as she holds out her hand for his glass. Clark stares at her for a moment and then hands her his glass. She smiles as she pours a double shot for both of them and then hands him back his glass. She holds hers out as if in toast and laughs softly as he clinks his glass against her glass with a long held outlet of breath.

"Chloe, I didn't come here to..." he says, waving one hand in her direction without looking at her, shaking his head before he takes a sip of his scotch.

"I know," she says softly. "And I didn't mean to...I really...Jesus, Clark," she says, smacking his arm. "I stayed away from the damn wedding knowing Lois didn't want me there, and when your mom died because your father asked me too. I have stayed away, and now you come out here and in a matter of hours, we prove their damn fears right." She smacks his arm again and shakes her head. "I hate being a cliche."

"Sorry," he says.

"And stop apologizing, dammit," she says, swallowing her scotch and reaching for the bottle. "We need to drink faster."

"Yeah, definitely," Clark says, puffing out his cheeks and then letting out the breath.

When the second bottle is empty to the top of the label, Clark slumps to the side, still cradling his glass, but just staring at the amber liquid inside. "She told me not to come get you," he says softly, his words carefully spoken.


He looks at Chloe and tires to smirk but the expression turns out farcical. "Lois, before I left, she told me not to bring you onto our little war with Lex."

"But, Clark...then why?" She asks, waving her hand between them and letting it fall to her leg.

"Because," he says, reaching over and pushing her hair off her face, "staying away isn't helping. Keeping you hidden out here like some dark secret just akes me remember how things used to be. Makes me miss my friend."

"Clark," she whispers closing her eyes and leaning toward his fingers.

"I want to make it work, but it can't be this way, on her terms."

"You love her," Chloe says, looking at him.

"I don't know," he sighs. "I thought so. Thought she loved me but the longer we're together the less I feel like she's my wife and the more I feel like she's married to Superman. I have to try but it is so hard when your wife loves another man, even if he technically is you behind the costume."

"Should I turn the offer down? Won't it make it worse?" She asks quietly. "Knowing that I know, knowing that any feelings I've ever had for you were for you and not some untouchable hero worship. Tell me she won't come up lacking when you compare. Tell me we won't find ourselves in this situation again with more at stake and our lives on the line."

"Maybe, I don't know," he sighs drinking the last of the scotch, "but we need you. And you're coming."

She smiles and takes his hand, squeezing it lightly. "If I can help," she says a few minutes later, the silence between them stretching and calm.

"I know," he says, his words slightly slurred and eyes drooping. "Sorry about before," he says after a moment, his head rolling back onto the couch.

"It's ok," she whispers. "It was both of us," he seems to relax at her words, as if he was afraid she would blame him for the transgression.

"She wouldn't care, it isn't me she loves," he trails off into whispers, his voice rising on words like 'loss' and 'need.' He tells her things he would never say in his right mind, secrets long kept about his own jealousy of a man who he pretended to be and cold nights when his wife turned him away for failures that he had no control over. Chloe begins to understand in listening just how long it has been since he made love as opposed to coldly acted, how long it has been now that his mother is gone since a woman has seen him and touched him with warmth that wasn't reserved for another man.

She curses Lois for not seeing him the way she sees him, and her own damn bad timing. He whispers to Chloe about all the things he's wondered about: the taste of her skin and the feel of her mouth and the way he thinks they would move together, and she closes her eyes and tries to will the words away.

"Go to sleep," Chloe says, her voice rasping and sleepy; rubbing his arm, and easing him onto his side. Her hand lingers on his face as she pulls away the glasses that he uses to hide from the world and she brushes a soft, chaste kiss on his forehead before staggering to her feet and going to her own bed. In the morning she'll tell him no, will make him understand why she can't return to Metropolis with him and watch him try to hang on to the unraveling threads of his marriage. She'll make him see how bad an idea it is to bring her back from the dead, will show him the scars his marriage to Lois cut into her flesh and the nightmares Lionel Luthor left in his wake.

In the morning she promises herself she'll send him away for the last time, back to the battles she left behind years ago with the boy she loved. Tomorrow she'll finally say goodbye to her past and have a chance to move on, the words ring in her head as she drifts off to sleep. Tomorrow she'll be free, tomorrow; and even as she says it she knows that when the time comes she'll be too weak to say the words.

If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to Fen

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