Spoilers: Through the end of Smallville season 3 Summary: What happened after the safe house exploded?
A/N: Written for jule_tia for the ChloeFicAthon on Live Journal!!!! Jule asked for Chlark, Chlex, or Chlionel...and I gave her a pairing...of a sort. It's very dark, but that's what the muse demanded!
A/N2: Yes, yes, my N-S friends...I'm back! My Chlex muse has returned (thank God) and I should hopefully be working on "Chameleon" and "Masquerade Ball" soon!
Disclaimer: I don't own anything about Smallville, DC or any of the characters herein. Please don't sue this poor struggling graduate student.
Many thanks to Jinni for the beta!
...a wily risk-taking entrepreneur...a miracle blatantly defying modern medicine...a philanthropist...a killer...a brunette addict...an emotionally neglected son...a ruthless opportunist...a prime candidate for an oedipal complex...a former best friend...a grade A genius...a vessel of blatant/restrained sexuality...an acting chairman...a husband...a divorcee...a purple addict...a concussion junkie...
...an idiot wasn't one of them.
But wasn't an idiot someone who left a prime resource untapped, even though it could get him exactly what he wanted? When just one decision could bring everything he'd ever desired directly into his hands?
Well, the prime resource in question was determined to find out whether Lex Luthor was really the idiot he seemed.
Chloe Sullivan looked over the list she had made once again, chewing on the end of her pen in between sips of the relatively excellent cappuccino she'd let get cold. Her computer was her baby...that was something that hadn't changed, but sometimes the scratch of a pen across paper got her thoughts flowing more productively. Especially when it was a Cross pen against a finely milled tablet.
Besides, who knew if her computer was really her own as they'd said it was. Free of spyware programs or any other annoying forms of surveillance. Sure, she could try to get through the various firewalls set up in the compound's computer system, hack into the mainframe and disable any naughty devices, but who knew if those were the only precautions in place.
No, for this exercise, good old paper was that much safer.
And besides, it felt damn good to chew on and ruin a three hundred dollar pen.
Chloe allowed herself a little grin at that thought, wincing slightly at the pull of increasingly tightening skin. Sighing, she reached into her bedside table and pulled out a jar of serum, smearing it liberally over the few remaining scorched patches that dotted her face.
Add "purveyor of non-FDA approved treatments" to the list o'Lex, she thought with a wry expression.
And that was another thing that just didn't add neatly into the mix. Rather than just surviving the explosion at the supposed "safe house," she'd flourished. Well, if you could call being under house arrest, being practically chained to her bed to ensure her recovery, and being forced to down healthy food and multivitamins all day long flourishing... Still, she'd come a long way from the charred mass of blood and bones she'd been after the explosion. Her doctors hadn't been too forthcoming about how close she'd been to the big beyond when they'd brought her in, but it was obvious that it had been bad. But now, almost six months later, she was practically healed, her burns turning to scars which faded almost as quickly as they'd formed.
Well, not all of her scars were gone...
He'd looked so hesitant when they'd first walked into the house, daddy trying to protect his baby, making sure it was all ok. She'd felt nervous about it...the guy driving the van just hadn't seemed quite right, the car a little too nice for government issue. But when he'd looked at her with that big smile, the first real smile she'd seen him wear since he'd learned of the trial and her part in the whole debacle, all she'd wanted to do was make him keep on smiling. Anything, daddy. I'll do whatever you want. I'd walk into a burning building to see you happy again.
And that was what she did.
...but those were things to deal with another day. The roiling of her stomach...the nights she'd wake up in a sweat soaked haze calling his name...the black fog that seemed to settle over her heart whenever she looked into the mirror and saw the echo of his face in her own...that all could wait. It had to wait.
She needed to find a way to get back at the bastard who had taken so much from her...she needed to make him pay. And she'd thought she'd had help in the matter, if the nature of her post-kablooey treatment was taken as a sign. But nothing. Six months of tropical breezes...kindly nurses...and not even a note from her savior himself. And she'd only known it was him behind the "miraculous resurrection of Chloe" because of a few hours spent on the computer she'd been allowed, a jury-rigged connection to the compound's system, and some carefully cracked files.
It made sense for Lex Luthor to save her. She knew the secrets Lionel had tried to hide. She was the one who could put him away for good, taking LuthorCorp away from his maniacal hands and into Lex's. But it didn't make sense for Lex not to contact her...to leave her in her convalescence for so long that her death had been assumed a certainty and Lionel, in all likelihood, set free. It didn't make sense why she hadn't been used. And then there was the question that was really bothering her.
If Lex Luthor wasn't going to use what she knew to bring his father down, why was he going to all this trouble to not only keep her alive, but to get her as back to normal as possible?
Chloe hated being a tool in someone else's hands...but at least a tool knew its function. Now she didn't even know what she was.
Weeks passed and she still wasn't any closer to the answers she sought. Even if the death of a key witness had halted the proceedings of Lionel's trial, it certainly would have begun again by this point. The prosecutors smelled too much blood in the water to let Lionel even have a chance at walking free. So what did it mean that her survival hadn't been revealed? That Lex hadn't ridden into the courtroom in his preferred high octane chariot with proof that the star witness was alive?
As she walked along the expanse of albino sand, Chloe went through everything she knew about Lionel, Lex, and the trial for what seemed like the umpteenth time in her mind. But it didn't help. Even this change of scenery, a hospital gown and soft lamps replaced by bikini, sarong, and a blinding sun didn't help her to focus and get to the bottom of exactly why she was alive. What was the purpose?
Chloe wasn't so nave as to think that Lex had affected her recovery just from the goodness of his heart. He had an angle. Now she just needed to figure out what it was.
Sand slipped absently through her toes as she strolled the soft beach framed in by an eerily crystal view. This must be what the Caribbean looks like, she mused. She'd always wondered what it would be like to stroll along the vast stretch of uninterrupted white, drinking mai tais and flirting with cabana boys. Ok, well, the closest thing she had to a fruity drink was the energy supplement her nurse had force fed her this morning and Marta wasn't exactly a replacement for a scantily clad, well muscled servant boy...but...well...at least she was alive.
Others hadn't been so lucky.
The clenching of her stomach, the darkness that crept into her vision and threatened to steal her sight that happened whenever she thought about it, thought about him, was almost too much to bear. She slipped soundlessly down to the silken sand, the white heat and softly abrasive ground barely making an indent into her muddled consciousness. With a strength that came from one of her last reserves, Chloe pushed against the fear and grief that taunted her, stowing them away yet again. She couldn't hold on to this much longer...even she wasn't so sure of her strength that she thought she could push the darkness away indefinitely. But she needed more time...she needed to figure out what had happened to her...what was still happening to her. Why? Why? Why? A mantra that had defined her 17 years had taken on a sickening resonance, a lifeline to the light.
"Why? Why? Why?" she repeated out loud over and over again, rocking herself back and forth, cocooned by the warmth of the islands, over and over again till she felt the heat. Till her breathing had slowed and she could push off from the ground and stand up again, her knees refusing to cooperate, then locking as she steadied. Her breath grew less shaky, her eyelids ceased their flutter, and her sight cleared till all she could see was the horrible, boundless blue in front of her.
With a fatigued sigh, she asked the question again hopelessly to the empty, salt laden air. "Why? Why? Why?"
"I believe it's time for you to get the answer to that question, Miss Sullivan."
Chloe's spine stiffened at the familiar voice that seemed to come out of nowhere. Turning slowly, she faced a suddenly welcome ghost from her past.
"Mr. Luthor. What a surprise."
He'd avoided the island for too long. He knew that. He could tell himself he was planning, plotting, deciding on just the best way to bring Chloe her "gift." He could try to convince himself that he was giving her time to recover before he laid his apology at her feet. He could even tell himself that his business was too important, that the transfer of LuthorCorp into his hands was too difficult to leave to one of his lawyers and that every aspect had to be handled personally.
But one thing Lex Luthor wasn't was a liar.
To others, of course. Prevarication was often a necessity in the business world. But to himself...no. He'd stopped lying to himself the moment that he realized that he would never gain his father's love, that he'd never be the mirror image Lionel wished him to be. The moment he realized that the simple sacrificing of one son over the loss of another could not be rectified by the realization of a mother's guilt.
He'd avoided the island because he was nervous, plain and simple. Chloe's recovery had meant a great deal for the obvious reasons. Her father had died as a product of his overconfidence, his blind belief that Lionel's hands couldn't reach from behind steel bars. Her own health had been grievously affected, her pale skin and wispy blond locks in an instant transformed to leather and burnt rope. But there was more to it. He was afraid to come to island to find that she'd not really healed as he'd hoped and that he'd be left to deal with the aftermath. He wasn't sure if he was strong enough to be anyone's savior, least of which a 17-year-old girl who'd lost her whole world.
Woman, not girl, he corrected himself as he watched her stroll the beach from the cover of a rolling dune. Yes, Chloe Sullivan was all woman now, a realization he felt too keenly, recognized too intently for his comfort. But he couldn't deal with that now. If there were any possibilities...well, he wasn't sure she would even speak to him at this point, let along let him close enough to touch her. So those concerns would have to wait for a later date. But they were still there.
Sometimes an inability to lie to yourself was a royal pain in the ass.
Concern for Chloe pushed all other feelings aside as he watched her start to shake, sinking into the sand, her softly sun-tinged skin stabbing sharp white into the equally stark surroundings. Before he could stop himself, to remind himself that the correct approach meant everything, he was running toward her, the cuffs of his Armani slacks cutting a careless swath through the hot sand. He had to get to her...had to make it better...had to make it right.
The ferocity of his need to heal astounded him so much that he slowed, coming to a halt a few paces from her slowly steadying form.
In that moment he realized that timing didn't mean a damn, that giving her time or space or anything else didn't matter at all.
Revenge was the only answer to the tension in her shoulders and her whispered question of, "Why? Why? Why?"
"I believe it's time for you to get the answer to that question, Miss Sullivan," he heard himself say.
Then she turned, and the broken, brittle eyes that greeted his own when she addressed him drove a sharp spike of guilt and need and anger straight through his heart.
"Mr. Luthor. What a surprise."
Keep it light, Luthor, don't scare her, he reminded himself. So he forced out a light chuckle.
"Not too much of a surprise, I believe, Miss Sullivan. From my reports, it seems you've known who your host was on this island for about three months now."
He was rewarded with a quick scowl from the woman in front of him, a ghost of a girl he once knew in a coffee shop in a small backwards town. "Damnit, can't even hack into your own systems without you knowing about it. You sure know how to steal a girl's fun."
Lex smiled softly, not at all fooled by Chloe's lighthearted tone. But it gave him the opening he needed. "Well, let it not be said that I didn't give you something in return."
He watched with pleasure as her eyes narrowed that tantalizing suspicious nature that had not kept her safe, but definitely kept her interesting, showing itself. "What are you talking about?"
Later he'd wonder what had come over him, what had prompted him to reach out to someone who could so easily lash out at him for what he had done. For what he'd not done. But it felt so natural to walk closer toward her, to grab her hand. "Miss Sullivan...Chloe," he corrected, "I'm here to give you the chance to exact your revenge."
And when she looked into his eyes, it was so easy to believe that he was really the savior she imagined. But she had been burned-oh, the mental pun was bad but so appropriate-too often to accept anything at face value.
"What are you talking about?" she asked guardedly, trying to pull her hand out from underneath his own. But he held tight.
"Chloe," Lex said, "I could stand here all day and apologize to you for not protecting you like I said I would, for not keeping your father safe, for letting the monster out from under your bed, so to speak."
Oh, god, don't do this, I'll break.
"But I won't do that. I know it's not what you need right now."
This time she successfully snatched her hand away. "What the hell do you know about what I need, Luthor?" Hell, he didn't even know what he needed- that was obvious by the fact that he had kept her on the island all these months.
Lex's eyes seemed unwilling to let go of her own. "I know that you're about to break. That you're about to let it take over you because you haven't let yourself mourn, haven't let yourself grieve."
The darkness started to creep back in again. She turned away from him, "Stop it, please stop it, I can't..."
Warm hands landed on the suddenly chilled skin of her shoulders. "I know," he said softly. "Which is why I'm hear to give you what you need now. Revenge."
She stayed with her back to his, manually controlling her breathing so that it went to deep and full from shallow and unsteady. "Does that mean that you're finally going to take me back to Metropolis, to bring me to the trial so that the bastard you call a father can pay for what he's done?"
She whirled on him, his hands flying into the air from the force. "What do you mean, `no'? What the hell do you mean?"
"I mean," he said slowly, "that bringing you to the trial is an impossibility. Because it no longer exists."
She felt as though what was left of her heart had fallen through to her stomach. Chloe's worst fears that all her recovery, the days of painful therapy, sickening pills, simply willing herself to live had been for nothing were coming true. Blood rushed into her ears, pounding out the angry grieving beat.
Lex's arms on her shoulders, shaking her soundly, brought her back to her senses.
"Damnit Chloe, stay with me. I need you to stay with me so that you can do what you need to do."
She dimly heard the panic in his voice. Shaking her head clear, she replied wearily, "Lex, you've said it yourself, the trial is over. And since the star witness is still presumed dead..." she trailed off for his nod of assent. "...there's not enough testimony to keep him in jail. Unless he left behind some clue as to what he did to me and..."
"No," Lex responded, "the explosion was untraceable. But the trial isn't over because my fath...because Lionel went free. It's because a dead man isn't exactly the best candidate to be a defendant in a criminal case."
Chloe's heart became lighter in a sickly satisfying manner. "You mean, your father is dead?"
"No, he's not."
At her sputter of confusion, Lex laughed softly. "Chloe, I hadn't thought that over six months of suntan lotion and sunbathing would have dimmed your reporter's instincts that much."
Sure, her instincts weren't in top form, but that didn't give him the right to bait her like that. Even if it was just to get a semi-normal-Chloe reaction from her.
"Luthor, spit it out. What the hell do you mean?"
Her mean glare seemed to cut through any other intentions he'd had to prolong his clandestine comments. "Chloe, the state of Kansas thinks my father is dead. And he will be soon."
"How?" Chloe asked, still confused.
"Well," Lex responded with a humorless grin, "that is entirely up to you."
The pieces fell together too quickly, her stomach jumping with anticipation and dread and a sickening sort of joy.
"So...Lionel is alive...but he doesn't have to stay that way for long if I say so?"
Lex nodded slowly. "In fact, he's on this island right now." He must have recognized her terrified expression because he was suddenly very close, tilting her chin with the tip of his finger so her eyes met his own. "Don't worry, you're safe. We're both safe from him. But he's not safe from us. He's not safe...from you."
Was he really saying what she thought he was saying?
She began to walk slowly by Lex's side as he led her by the elbow back up the beach toward the main compound. "Have any of the staff mentioned to you some of the more...advanced amenities of this island, Chloe? No? Well, it's replete with a rather dank dungeon for fallen business scions, a shooting and archery range, a boxing ring, and all manner of insects, animals, etc...specifically chosen for not only their ability to kill, but to prolong pain. So, hypothetically, someone could be held captive here for quite a long time, subjected to various forms of torture before the decision was made to end his suffering."
And in that moment, Chloe could feel the heat of the fire, hear her father's last screams, the scent of charred flesh, the scream of glass blasted from wooden frames.
In that moment, the thought of actually killing Lionel Luthor became a possibility.
"Why?" she asked again.
Lex turned to her fully, stopping their progress up the sandy incline, his long, elegant fingers sliding up her cheeks, caressing the new skin that had grown in the past few months. "Because," he said softly, "I can't give you back your father. But I can give you my own to do with what you will."
As true as an arrow, Chloe knew in that moment that Lex was giving her the one thing he wanted for himself, the ability to make Lionel feel pain and suffer death, just to heal her own rents and tears.
Who knew that the most selfless act Lex Luthor would ever commit would be to hand over the fate of his flesh and blood.
She was silent as they finished walking back up the beach, deep in thought, barely aware that her hand had slipped into his own. A gesture of comfort...apology...of odd and creeping affection. But a hand nonetheless. And whether she allowed her own to be covered in blood was a question for another day. But knowing that she had that ability, that power, that she had been saved for a greater purpose than simply testifying against a monster...
...well, it let her realize that Lex Luthor was far from an idiot.
He was the only person in the world who understood her pain.
The entrepreneur...the miracle kid...the mad scientist...the obsessed best friend...all those Lexs melted away until all that was left was a reassuring hand in her own and path to salvation, no matter what fork she decided to take.
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