Mimosa Plant; In the sensitive plant, the leaves respond to being touched, shaken, heated or rapidly cooled. The speed of the response depends on the magnitude of the stimulus. Hitting the leaf hard with the flick of a finger will cause the leaf to close in the blink of an eye whereas a gentle touch or modest heat source applied to leaflets at the tip of a leaf will result in a slower response and the propagation of the stimulus along the leaf can be observed.
Chloe has a routine. She gets up at 8 o'clock each morning and goes for a run. She began running when the dreams started. Running seems to shake up her insides enough so the dreams are forgotten for the rest of the day. She then goes through her mail before sitting at her computer to write. Breaking off for a quick lunch she continues writing until early evening when she sometimes meets friends. This routine only alters on Fridays when she works at the newsroom of a literary magazine, writing her acknowledged weekly column.
She writes another hidden column. A fortnightly venture highlighting some of the dubious practices of big business in the city. It is not particularly well-read but it has the desired effect on the people she targets. Makes them sit up just that little bit straighter and hide things just that little bit better. The hunt for the truth is what she covets rather than a burning desire to bring the truth out. She's doesn't do sweeping morality. She leaves that to others.
She writes it out of habit, like riding a bike. She tries not to dwell on the feelings of displaced belonging that it arouses in her. The kind of feeling that comes from the familiarity of doing something from your past in a present where that past has no place. She finds the experience painful and comforting in equal measure.
This is the only allowance to her old life along with her expresso machine and her snark with Justin. There was snark with Maya but they lost touch after college.
This has been a particularly difficult week.
She dreams she is alone. Truly alone and not of her choosing. She dreams that she is standing on the side of a football field shouting at Clark, Lana, Lois, sometimes her father, Maya and they are ignoring her. Sometimes they look over and give an indulgent half-hearted wave but they return quickly to whatever it is they are doing. They know she will never leave. She will stay there hoping until the end. She wakes up feeling such emptiness she doesn't know how she can make it through the day. Then she runs.
She loves this part of her week. After handing in her column she comes down here to forget. She sits, drinks alone and thinks. She finds it rejuvenating, and improbably the fuzz that comes with the alcohol gives her a clarity that she needs.
Taking a sip of her drink, Chloe sighs deeply. She flexes her shoulders as the warmth spreads through her body. Looking ahead she takes in the city lights. The bar of this prestigious, wealthy hotel is situated on the top floor and overlooks a complicated grid of lights. The city is short on skyscrapers, unusual for a city of its size, but Chloe prefers the flatness. It suggests uniformity, no-one wanting to stand out and be bigger than the crowd. The lights from this height give off a hazy glow, blurred and beautiful, like fireflies hovering in the night. She feels a sense of anticipation that she cannot place.
There is no-one else in the bar and the barman keeps looking over to her and smiling sympathetically. She can hear herself being slid into the box marked "Lonely woman slowly sliding towards alcoholism" in his head. She is alone but she would not describe herself as lonely. She finds that the only company she can bear nowadays is her own.
She continues staring out of the window. It is a glass wall, high and wide. She sees her reflection in it and can see the elevator behind her. A way for her to look backwards whilst facing forwards. She doesn't need to analyse the reason why she loves this particular position. It is too similar to the way she leads her life.
Someone is walking towards her in long easy strides.
"Chloe." A statement not a question.
"Lex." She takes another sip and releases a small smile. "Fancy meeting you here." She says staring at his reflection ahead of her in the window.
He continues studying her in the glass before coming to sit down in the chair next to her.
"No Faith, Hope and Charity tonight?"
"Mercy and Hope. No. Sometimes I like to wander around alone. It makes me feel dangerous." He smirks, eyes glinting.
"And I bet sometimes you even wear denim." Chloe replies, easily slipping into her role. She hasn't seen him for 2 years. It feels like 20.
"I was wondering if I was ever going to bump into you." He says. "I've been here for about a month working on a deal."
"The Davis Cooper acquisition?" She plucks out of the recesses of her mind. Off his surprised look she smiles. She's still got it. "Well Lex, we don't really move in the same circles." Doesn't bother asking how he knows she lives here.
"That information was supposed to be confidential. You must have good sources." He motions to the barman. "And, our circles seem to have converged for at least one night."
One thing Chloe keeps from her high school days is a deep abiding interest in Lex. She has found an affinity in his slow descent past ambiguity into plain illegal. She has also kept one or two sources from Lexcorp who are only too willing to spill the beans when she asks. And she doesn't ask very often.
Lex orders a drink and motions for another of the same for Chloe.
"So, what are you up to nowadays?"
"I write... fiction." She clarifies. Lex eyes her with a look of mild interest. Continuing, wanting to provoke him, "I've stopped fighting for truth, justice and the American way." Weary with just a touch of venom.
"Have you heard from Clark recently?" Chloe looks quickly at Lex. Of course he knows. If she figured it out as soon as she saw the primary coloured wonder, Lex would have been right behind. Although Chloe had always thought Lex had numerous blind spots when it came to Clark.
"No. I think he's too busy saving the world or something. And I guess, I'm too busy observing it." She pauses, "And you....what are you Lex?"
"Thirsty." He says smiling as their drinks arrive.
Chloe finishes off her last drink in one gulp. She feels momentarily disorientated as the alcohol has its effect. She takes this opportunity to examine Lex.
"You look good. Being Master of the Universe must agree with you."
Catching her eye and keeping it, "I'm not there yet." Then, "you look better."
She arches her eyebrows at that. She looks ahead out of the window at her reflection. Blonde hair to her shoulders, crisp white shirt - top three buttons undone to reveal a gentle tan and a shock of bright red lipstick on her mouth. She is startled by her reflection, a pretty young woman, maybe even a hot blonde.
Clark she associates with a series of short, sharp cuts. Like paper cuts. The pain always taking her by surprise. Lex, she sees as a series of encounters each startling her with their kindness, their gentleness.
She has the opposite reaction to the two men that the rest of the world has. For her Superman is a hurtful presence in the corner of her life, reminding her constantly of betrayal, continuing constant betrayal, and what a silly girl she had been. Lex Luthor is her sporadic balm. Easing her pain when she feels at her weakest. Appearing in her life and taking her away from it for a moment. They have met twice since Smallville. The first in a club during her final year of college and the second when her father died. Each healing her just that little bit more. But not for long.
"I've read a lot of interesting articles by a Linda Lord recently." Chloe looks up sharply and then away, out of the window to the hazy lights below
"My colleagues at my meeting this morning were telling me that she's quite the thorn in the side of the Edge City coroprate world. Very big on ethical business. She writes for the Edge Daily. You know her?"
She hadn't been able to help herself when it came to choosing a pseudonym. The initials were beckoning her, calling her. She wonders who else has figured it out.
"I never write anything about you, you know. Although I have material enough to fill a book."
"Any particular reason why not?"
Chloe looks at him and he seems to sense something and looks ashamed. "I just....wouldn't."
She's had enough of this. They both know how this will end.
She rises, drops her room key in his lap and walks slowly away.
The way she is, people expect something big to have precipitated the change. Yet it was the little things. Clark was an important part of that but not everything. She came to respect the fact that he needed to keep his secret. It was other things, the more mundane things that eventually wore her down. Being on the outside looking in has its strengths. You become perceptive, strong and self-reliant. Yet any confidence you feel is not real but illusory as there is no-one to nuture it but yourself. Eventually it will be broken as it does not have a strong foundation.
The fall-out from Smallville, the increased awareness of how she was gently battered there had changed her. She is a different person, yet Smallville continues to define her. She can't escape it. She doesn't want to escape it.
Yet...this is the best she has been. She feels calm and at peace. It is ridiculous to be feeling this way at 24, as if she has lived a lifetime of trials and tribulations.
She is a fighter though. Always was and always will be.
Lex is looking at her as she sleeps. She can feel him. She hasn't felt this safe in years. She knows he will leave soon and re-appear again, at another crisis point in her life, lifting her back up.
She opens her eyes and sees him leaning on an elbow staring. She smiles and feels like herself in the first time in years.
"I have a few more meetings today. Do you want to meet up afterwards?" He's stroking her hair.
Chloe has to think. This is unusual. They never spend the day together after the night before.
"I like this city." Lex says softly. "It's somewhere I'd like to have a reason to visit more often."
Chloe has to fight her every instinct commanding her to close off. But Lex is so gentle slowly stroking her, that she feels the threads of her being that have been so tightly bound until now start to loosen.
"I liked who you were in Smallville you know." Lex says looking at her. Then, more seriously, "but I like how you are now as well. Maybe more"
Lex. Who always knows exactly what to say. She mourns too much for her former self feeling that the present is an inadequate, poorer version when she sometimes, secretly, prefers it. There are times when she likes the person she has become.
She smiles, "Me too." She turns towards him and leans on her elbow, mimicking him, another thread slowly loosening "I'll clear my schedule for this afternoon. We can have lunch and you can tell me more about this acquisition you're working on."
Seeing his expression she laughs.
Sitting at her desk, she looks out of the window. It's late afternoon and she feels lazy. She hasn't even started writing yet. She thinks of this morning. She never considered that Lex got something out of their encounters as well as herself. Increasing their frequency frightens her. She hasn't depended on someone for a long time.
And then there's Lex. She trusts him with herself but with nothing else. She knows enough of his business dealings to know that he's ruthless to the point of immorality. She shudders involuntarily at the thought and feels a chill close in on her. The phone rings and jolts her.
"It's me. I'm outside your building but no-one seems to want to let me up."
"Probably the cat burglar look you've got going." She says with a smile. "Hang on, I'll buzz you in."
They have been sitting looking at each other for about five minutes. This is all new. Daylight where they normally meet in the darkness. It starts to rain outside and the room is momentarily darkened by the clouds as if sensing her awkwardness and dulling the light. Chloe searches her mind for a sentence and finds none. Her courage from last night is failing her.
"I'm not sure I can do this" she starts. Responding to his wordless prompt she continues, "Share. I'm not sure I can share myself, even a little part of it, with someone right now."
A loosened thread weaves itself back against her being.
"Chloe." Lex looks slightly unsure, for once uncertain as to what will come out of his mouth. He leans forward, elbows on his knees.
"I didn't come here expecting to meet up with you, and then when I did, I didn't expect to want to see you again," Chloe looks up in surprise, a sliver of hurt creeping into her gaze. Lex goes on, false reassurance is not his style. "I like who I am when I'm with you. It's as simple or as complicated as that."
Lex is blurred through her tears. This is good for her. Lex is good for her. She smiles suddenly. That is one thing she has never been able to change - her smile. It always comes out wide and bright. "Blinding" Maya used to say.
"I don't know if you noticed Lex, but I'm a little messed up."
"Well Chloe, as the poster boy for all things sane, pure and uncomplicated..." She stands up and walks around to where he is sitting. They kiss and she's sinking into him, long deep sighs into his mouth. She looks at him and he strokes her hair, whispers her name like a promise, an incantation.
For now, this will be her life. Writing and healing bursts of Lex.
Simple and complicated.
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