Snapshots of a Life Once Dreamed

by Dolimir Rhyo



Truth had been an obsession for Chloe ever since she was eight years old and had come downstairs one Saturday morning to find her father in the kitchen attempting to make pancakes - and failing miserably.

As she grew older Chloe came to appreciate his decision to tell her the truth. Reality may be butt ugly, but pretending to put a good face on it served no purpose.

The plain and simple fact was that her mother had left them; not just her father, but her as well and neither of them understood why.


When her father accepted the position as general manager for LuthorCorp's number three plant, they moved from Metropolis to a quaint little berg called Smallville.

Walking down Main Street for the first time, she felt like an alien, newly arrived on a strange but gentle planet. The denizens all stared at her with an open curiosity and she knew no matter how long she lived in Smallville she would forever wear the moniker of `city girl.'

She was also dismayed by the hundreds of acres of corn that surrounded the city and instantly regretted all the late night horror movies she had broke curfew to watch when her father had to work the late shift.

Determined to fit in, she hid her anxiety behind a wall of brashness. She knew herself well enough to accept that she wasn't cut out to be a cheerleader or even a valedictorian, but she was determined to find her niche.

When the principal assigned her a guide, one Clark Jerome Kent by name, to show her around the school, she thought she had died and gone to heaven. Clark towered over her physically, but seemed incapable of lifting his head long enough for her to determine the color of his eyes. His shy, gentle dorkiness intrigued her.

At the end of the day, in a move that surprised even her, she kissed him; telling him that since the sexual tension was out of the way, they could become friends, which they did.


In ninth grade, Chloe discovered journalism, a profession devoted to the discovery of truth.

At last, she had found her destiny.


As one school year merged into another Chloe discovered that truth, while often exhilarating was painful as well.

When puberty hit, she discovered if one was determined enough one could ignore the truth, if only for a little while. But as self-delusion wasn't really her thing, she learned to accept the fact that she would never have Clark's heart. Oh, he loved her, of that she had no doubt, but his feeling for her would never rival what he felt for Lana. While painful, she eventually accepted it. After all, hadn't her mother taught her that some people didn't get everything they wanted in life?

The downside to pursuing truth was that answers were rarely simple. Oftentimes the truth was so layered or complex that she simply didn't have the facilities to understand it without help, and she soon discovered that very few people were as interested in pursuing it as she was.

Take the Wall of Weird. Its mere existence had gotten her labeled as a freak. She didn't care though, because she knew the truth - the meteors that had blanketed Lowell County in 1989 had affected the lives of everyone exposed to the rock.

Over the years, she became convinced that Clark was a meteor mutant. He had an uncanny ability to be in the middle of the action, no matter how dangerous it might be. Somehow he always seemed to know things that no one else did, although she managed to restrain her envy due to the fact he always showed up just in the nick of time to pull her bacon out of the fire.

While his gifts intrigued her, he was a friend and she was determined never to exploit him or his abilities, although his refusal to tell her the truth constantly ate away at her. Why couldn't he trust her? Time and time again, she looked the other way for the sake of their friendship - until one evening in the depths of despair she made the worst mistake of her life.

She made a pact with the devil.

She regretted it almost as soon as the deal had been struck, but couldn't figure out a way to back out of the pact without her father suffering the consequences. She spent months feeding Lionel minimal information and laying as many false trails away from Clark as she possibly could without arousing suspicion. Even when Clark ran away to Metropolis, she kept his secret, not only to keep him safe, but in an effort to lure him back home as well.

Clark knew about her obsession with the truth and while it caused several major arguments between them, their friendship had always managed somehow to survive.

When she finally decided to take a stand against Lionel, not only for Clark's sake, but her own as well, Lionel's retribution had been swift and severe.

Her father had surprised her. Instead of being upset about losing his job, he was proud of her strength and happy she had finally decided to share her burden with him.

It was during this time she discovered that truth could also cause physical pain. After being exposed to a substance that made everyone around her tell the truth, she learned that Lana didn't trust her. After everything they had faced together, Lana turned her back on Chloe and her father; even refusing to sell them the Talon, despite her knowing that Lionel was blackballing Chloe's father and that they were on the verge of losing their home.

Shortly after Lana's revelation, Chloe found herself sitting in the ruined ashes of a supposed safe house. Cradling her father's lifeless body to her chest, she came to understand that truth was not only a powerful force, but a destructive one as well.

When, finally, she rose to her feet, she vowed that everyone she knew would come to understand the full power of the truth as well.


Lex let his eyes fall shut in exhaustion as he dropped his briefcase onto the granite table in the middle of the penthouse's dark foyer. He thought briefly of fixing something to eat, but knew he didn't have the energy for such a task. Even the promise of a hot meal at his favorite restaurant wasn't enough to make him face the paparazzi who roamed the courtyards of LuthorCorp Tower like hyenas prowling the night. Terminating his father's servants had given him peace of mind, but there were days, such as this one, when he could admit that he missed his father's chef.

"Hard day?"

He huffed once in amusement, but didn't raise his head. "Hard life."

As testament to his fatigue, it took him several seconds to realize there was someone else in the entryway; but when he did, he stepped backward until his shoulders were pressed against the wall.

"You do know who I am, don't you?"

"Yes," came the simple reply.

"Is there a particular reason you broke into my home this evening?"

"Yes."

Realizing he was getting nowhere fast with his line of questioning, he decided to try another tack. "Who are you?" he demanded.

A feminine chuckle echoed from the other side of the room. "You're asking the wrong question."

Lex's hand skimmed up the wall and flipped the light switch, but nothing happened. He couldn't suppress the sigh that escaped him. The chandelier had shorted out earlier in the week, but his schedule had been so hectic that he hadn't yet called an electrician. "What question should I have asked?"

"Who I was."

His tired brain conjured up several images.

Desiree.

Helen.

Rachel Dunleavy.

Amy.

A hand tenderly caressed his cheek and he while he reared back in surprise, both of his hands shot forward and latched onto the wrists of his intruder. Holding the woman's arms out as far as possible, he forced her to take a step closer to him in order to maintain her balance. He was surprised to realize that his trespasser wasn't resisting him.

"I always suspected you liked it rough." The woman's chuckle teased his lips with warmth.

"Chloe?" he whispered in disbelief.

The figure in front of him tried to take a step back, but he refused to release her arms.

"Chloe?"

"It's Lois now."

"I thought you were dead."

"Not yet. Although not for the lack of your father trying to send me to the great witness protection program in the sky."

Lex released her arms, but immediately wrapped her too thin body tight within his embrace. She stood stiffly for several moments, but when she finally relaxed, her entire body seemed to melt against his.

He petted her hair, wanting desperately to see her face. "I didn't believe the reports at first," he told her. "I had people scouring the entire country for you."

She nodded against his shoulder. "I know," she whispered.

"Gabe--"

"Dead."

Her flat voice chilled him worse than any of Lionel's taunts ever had and he found himself rebelling against the notion that his father might actually have succeeded in reducing the once vibrant girl to nothing more than a shell. As they stood together in the darkness, he could feel the waves of weariness roll off her. Without another word, he lifted her into his arms and carried her through the penthouse.

"This is my fault," he said apologetically. "I should have protected you. I should have--"

"No." Her voice was raw. "We knew he was a bastard, we just didn't know how much he reveled in the title."

He huffed once in amusement, appreciating her attempt at humor. When his knees bumped the mattress in his room, he laid her onto the bed and sat beside her, but couldn't seem to find the right words to ease her pain.

"It wasn't your fault," she told him.

"What? Are you mind reader now as well?"

"Lex--"

"I failed you."

Using his shoulders for balance, she pulled herself into a seated position, then ran her fingers over his jaw line. "It wasn't your fault."

Lex turned his head and pressed a kiss to her calloused fingertips. For a moment, neither of them breathed, then Chloe leaned forward and Lex met her halfway, brushing his lips against her chin, then nibbling his way to her mouth.

She moaned softly as he ran both of his hands through her hair.

"Tell me what you need, Chloe."

Her breath stuttered for a moment. "I need to help you take him down once and for all."

"No. It's too dang--"

"It's my right, Lex. He killed my father. I have to know that he's going to pay for his crimes."

"He will. I promise you, he will."

"So you'll let me help?"

He took a deep breath and released it slowly. "All right," he finally whispered. He could tell by her stillness that she had something more to say. "What else?"

"I need you to keep my secret for now."

"What?"

"Chloe Sullivan is dead."

"But--"

"The only person I'd want to know is gone."

"But Clark, Lana..."

"Are no longer a part of my life."

"Chlo--"

Her voice took on a hard edge. "Promise me, Lex."

He gathered both of her hands into his. "I promise."

She slumped slightly against him as her tense muscles started to ease.

"Anything else?"

She hesitated a bit, seemingly unable to find the right words. "I've been running for so long. I was just wondering if...that is...would you..."

Before she could say another word, he eased her back onto the mattress. Toeing off his loafers, he crawled over her small frame and gathered her into his arms.

"For as long as you want, Chloe. For as long as you want."


Chloe blew absently on her coffee as she watched Lex ease around the penthouse kitchen with a familiarity that surprised her. She and Lana used to joke about Lex being the epitome of sex on a stick, but studying the way his sweatpants barely clung to his hips she realized nothing about that assessment had changed. She was fascinated by his six-pack and the way each muscle seemed to lead her eyes further south.

She took a moment to wonder why he always hid his physique under layers of bulky business clothes. If she didn't know better, she'd think he was trying to blend in with the crowd, which went against practically everything she knew about him. During their three-year acquaintance, she had never seen him shirtless, although she had a vague recollection of seeing him in short sleeves once and being impressed with how muscular his arms were. While he would never achieve Clark's physical stature, there was no doubt he would have impress daVinci with his form.

"You're staring." Lex's amused tone startled her out of her reverie, and she was surprised to discover that his back was turned to her.

"So?"

His eyes danced with mischief as he shot her a sly smile over his shoulder before he went back to his task of cracking eggs into a bowl. "So I take it that Ms. Lane knows what she wants and isn't hesitant about people knowing?"

"A nice change of pace, don't you think?"

She watched the muscles play in his back as he pulled several spice bottles from the cabinet.

"I don't know. I always thought Chloe Sullivan was something of a go-getter."

"When it came to a story, yes. But when it came to..."

Lex stopped his preparations and turned to face her. "Something she wanted?"

Chloe set her mug on the table and stood in one fluid motion. "She always hesitated."

"Why do you think that was?" Lex challenged.

Closing the distance between them with a confidence she never realized she possessed, she held his gaze with a liberating self-assurance. "Perhaps she felt as if she didn't deserve good things."

His eyes dipped briefly before returning to her face. "Good things?"

She reached out and caught his chin between her thumb and forefinger. "Yes, good things."

The kiss was gentler than she ever dreamed possible, and satisfied a hunger within her she didn't even realize she had. A part of her had always believed the rumors that Luthors simply took what they wanted, but instead of taking Lex seemed to be giving her exactly what she needed.

While Chloe Sullivan might have been a nave fool, Lois Lane wasn't. Lois knew the man who was tenderly devouring her mouth could topple kings and destroy small empires if he so desired. Together, they would be a force to be reckoned with.

She could hardly wait.


Chloe expected the argument to begin the moment the elevator deposited them into the foyer, but Lex remained stubbornly silent. The only indication she had of his mood was the bang of the door against the wall as he entered the penthouse proper. She bit back a retort, not wanting to give him anything to spark the coming battle.

The squabble was inevitable, there was no question on that front, but maybe she could get a hot soak in first. After all, she had had a pretty rough day. Her favorite blouse had been ripped along the seams and she was fairly certain the bloodstain wasn't going to come out anytime soon.

Lex stalked to the bar, and she stopped herself from asking whether he really thought alcohol would help them deal with the problem at hand.

Slipping out of her shoes, she decided it was a good time to make her retreat. She had actually reached the entryway to the hall before his voice stopped her.

"I thought we had a deal."

So calm. So cool. She wondered what it said about her emotional makeup that the one thing she desperately wanted to do at the moment was make him lose control. But she knew it wouldn't happen. He'd never allow it, of course. There were days she truly believed he was physically incapable of raising his voice.

"We do, but you were `unavailable'." She marked the word with air quotes, ignoring the shoes dangling from her hands.

The ice in his tumbler clatter against the crystal sides as he tried to rein in his anger.

She mused that there were several dozen people who would give their entire fortunes to see him so flustered. She knew it was probably improper, but she couldn't help but revel in the fact that she was the only person on the planet to see this side of him, that he allowed her to see him vulnerable. Lionel had always made him believe that showing any sort of emotion was tantamount to leaving your flank exposed.

While she hated to make him worry, she also knew that in order to get the information they needed to take Lionel down once and for all that they'd both have to take some risks.

"I don't know why you're upset. I got the information."

Lex placed his glass on the bar and stalked toward her.

"We were right." Her quickly squeaked explanation only served to make him shake his head sadly. When he was close enough, he grasped both of her upper arms, not hard enough to hurt her, just enough to get her attention.

"Our being right wouldn't have meant anything if you'd been hurt, Chloe."

"But I wasn't. And it's Lois now, remember?"

He ignored her chastisement. "Being reckless is going to get you killed one of these days."

"So?"

The sadness in his eyes shocked her and she instantly regretted her flip comeback.

"Chloe," he whispered.

"Damn it, Lex. Why can't you get it through your head that Chloe's dead? There's only Lois now." Shaking off his hands, she tried to shove her way back into the great room, but he caught her elbow.

Lex's gazes were always intense, but she found she couldn't tear herself away from the nakedness in his eyes. "I don't like Lois much," he said simply. "But I think I might love Chloe."

The anger that had been building within her, drained suddenly and she found herself barely able to speak. "Lex."

"Lois can be commended for her steel nerves and dedication to the truth, but I need to know that Chloe still exists. To know that she's never going to remember to put the cap back on the toothpaste and that she still thinks coffee was created just for her by the gods.

A part of her wanted to grin at his wry tone, but instead she found herself looking away from him. "Chloe is weak."

"Chloe is real," he countered. "With real feelings and real aspirations."

"Chloe had everything taken away from her."

Lex cupped his hand along the side of her cheek. "Not everything."

She turned her head back and searched his face, looking for some evidence of mendacity but finding none.

"Don't be unavailable again," she finally told him.

"I won't be."

"Okay then."

The kiss was tender, a whispered promise of better days and heated nights. And for the first time in a long time, Chloe allowed herself to dream of the future.


Chloe restrained herself from running as she made her way past the honeycomb of cubicles and through the inner sanctum of Lex's secretarial pool. A few faces looked up from their work as she passed, but for the most part they ignored her. She was one of them, and therefore they didn't need to challenge her presence. When she finally reached Lex's office, she didn't bother announcing her presence. Knocking implied she was seeking permission to enter, which she wasn't.

She found him quietly surveying the city below him. His shoulders were slightly bowed, no doubt from the weight that had just settled on them. But despite everything, he still looked like a man in control.

Shutting the door quietly behind her, she joined him as he watched the sun set. There were no words that would make this moment easier for him to bear, no platitude that would serve as a Band-Aid to his pain. All she could do was let him know that she was there for him and that wasn't going anywhere.

She had been so focused on bringing Lionel down that she had never given any real thought to what would happen if they succeeded. Staring at the horizon, she realized the bastard's death was a hollow victory. He hadn't sought repentance. He hadn't told them his secrets. He had simply slipped into a coma and died in his sleep - a `guest' of the state.

To the outside world, Lex was the son of the devil, and it watched anxiously to see if he would be eclipsed by his father's shadow or if he would make his way into the light. It would never know the man who simply wanted to be loved by his father, who wanted an acknowledgment that he hadn't deserved the years of pain for a sin he hadn't committed.

While Chloe hated the weakness within her that allowed the senior Luthor to exploit her, she found she wouldn't trade the last six months with Lex for any amount of wealth in the world. He had proven himself to be a gentle lover, a wicked wit and a fearless investigator. They completed each other in ways neither of them understood nor examined too closely.

When, at last, she felt a shift in his stance, she turned to face him and was captured by the pain in his eyes. Yes, the man had defeated the monster, but the boy inside understood the price that had been paid.

She cupped his cheek in her hand and watched his eyes drift closed as he leaned into her touch.

"It's not over yet," he told her.

"I know, but it will be. Eventually."

He looked lost when he opened his eyes again. Chloe brought one of his hands up to her lips and pressed a kiss to his knuckles before she pulled him toward the private elevator that would take them to the penthouse.

They had so much work ahead of them, so many months of research that a part of her wanted to weep in despair, but it could wait.

Everything could wait.

Lex needed her and for now that was all that mattered.


"Lex? You're home awfully early. Did the meeting--" Chloe, dressed only in an oversized shirt and panties, came to a dead halt as she stepped out of the hallway and into the great room, but instead of Lex she found herself face-to-face with the last person she ever expected to see again.

"Chloe?" The look of shock on Clark Kent's face might have been hysterical if the situation had been a little different. "Chloe, is that you?"

Chloe closed her eyes and released a long, slow sigh. Her first thought, although irrational, was to try obfuscation, but as Clark was the master of misdirection she realized there wasn't much point in trying to outplay the master. Resignedly, she decided to take the bull by the horns. "Hello, Clark."

"It is you!" One second he was across the room and the next he was spinning her around in his arms. "I thought...we all thought. How in the world?" He finally pulled her into a tight embrace. "I can't believe you're alive."

When he finally released her, he held her at arm's length as if trying to commit her image to memory. She saw the exact second all of his unanswered questions started to penetrate his happiness.

"Why didn't you let anyone know you were alive?

She took a step outside of his reach, forcing him to drop his hands to his side. "I did let someone know."

"Lex." The word was whispered so venomously it could have been a curse. "And he kept it to himself."

Chloe laid her hand on his chest for a brief moment before she withdrew it. "Don't blame him, Clark. I asked him to stay silent."

Confusion flooded his green eyes. "Why?"

"Because I didn't know who I could trust."

The implication in her unspoken words made him pale. "But Lionel died in prison. You're safe now."

Chloe shook her head in disbelief. Despite everything he had seen and been through, Clark was still remarkably nave. "Not yet, but hopefully soon."

"I don't..." Clark stumbled to a stop. "Your prints were found at LuthorBioLab. The police dismissed them because you were dead. But you were there, weren't you?"

"Clark--"

"Weren't you?"

"You don't understand."

"People died in that fire, Chloe."

"No, they didn't."

"What in the hell are you talking about?"

"Investigators may have found genetic material, but no human died in that fire. Or, at least, the fire didn't kill them."

"So you're admitting--"

"Yes, I'm admitting that I had a hand in destroying Lionel's clone lab."

"Do you know what you're saying?"

"Get off your high horse, Clark. Do you know what Lionel's number one pet project at BioLab was?"

"I--"

"It was you. Do you have any idea how many your prototypes we found? Lex thought it best--"

"I should have known Lex had something to do with this."

"Damn it, Clark. Would you listen without--"

"What else has he dragged you into?"

"Where do you get off accusing him of any wrongdoing? He was trying to protect you. Don't you understand--"

"I understand you've committed arson for him, maybe even murder. The Chloe I knew was smarter than to be manipulated like that."

"God, you're a self-righteous prick."

"Chloe--"

"You wrong. Dead wrong. The Chloe you knew was a little girl pretending to be a woman. The Chloe you knew got in way over her head, but she couldn't go to her best friend for help without fear of being judged. The Chloe Sullivan you know is dead."

"What are you talking about?"

"Chloe was pathetically weak and it got her killed. In a moment of weakness, she gave into temptation and when she tried to save herself, the devil destroyed everyone and everything she ever cared about. But Lois Lane is strong."

"You're Lois Lane?"

"That's right. Don't you see? Lois Lane makes a difference with her stories. She fights for the truth."

"You realize you sound schizophrenic."

"Oh, says the paragon of normalcy. I don't even know who you are anymore, Clark. Are you just a shy farm boy or are you something more? What was it about you that Lionel found so fascinating?"

"Now you sound like Lex."

"Thank you."

Both Chloe and Clark turned to find Lex leaning in the entryway of the foyer, his arms crossed over his chest and a smirk on his face.

"I'd like to think I played some small part in giving her the confidence to ask the hard questions."

"Confidence? Or are you simply dragging her down to your level?"

"My level? Now isn't that an interesting turn of phrase." Lex pushed himself forward. "But to answer your question, I'm not dragging her down? On the contrary, I'd say she's lifting me up."

"And how do you repay her? By involving her in crimes?"

Chloe stepped between them and glared at Clark. "Where do you get off judging me? In case you missed the bulletin, I'm a big girl now. I don't recall having to ask you for advice on how to live my life."

"Maybe you should."

Chloe's mouth dropped open in shock and she found she barely had enough breath to push her question past her lips. "What?"

"Tell me, Chloe, were the clones you talked about earlier alive when you arrived at the lab?"

"I don't see how that's--"

"What? Relevant? Who were you to judge their worthiness to live or die? I expect such moral ambiguity from Lex, but not from you."

Placing her hands on her hips, she resisted the urge to kick him. "Oh, and I suppose you would've been okay with a dozen exact replicas of you running around Metropolis trying to make a name for themselves?"

"That's not the point."

"It is the point, Clark. Life isn't black and white. Sometimes you have to get your hands dirty."

"The girl I knew--"

"The girl you knew is dead."

Clark staggered back a step, then turned to face Lex. He opened his mouth to speak, but ended up just shaking his head. "I suppose she is," he finally whispered. Turning back to Chloe, he took a deep breath and released it slowly. "Do you really want to become Lois Lane?"

"You haven't been listening to me, Clark. I already told you. I am Lois Lane."

"Be sure, Chloe. Be very sure."

"What in the hell are you talking about?"

Clark stepped forward and cupped both of his hands around Chloe's face. "Think about Lois."

"What--"

Leaning in, Clark brushed his mouth over Chloe's. When she parted her lips to protest, he deepened the kiss. Chloe's fists clenched at his shoulders, then went slack.

"Clark!" Lex jumped forward and shoved Clark away, catching Chloe's body before she fell to the floor. He guided her limp form to the carpet and cradled her body against his chest.

"Chloe. Chloe, answer me." Lex's hands trembled as his fingers caressed her face. He brushed his lips over her forehead, closing his eyes and praying to a God he wasn't sure even existed. "What did you do, Clark? What did you do?"

"You want Lois Lane. You got Lois Lane."

"You never understood anything, did you?" Lex shook his head in growing horror. "I never wanted Lois, I only wanted Chloe. Just Chloe."

The woman in his arms groaned painfully, as if rousing from a weekend bender.

"Can you open your eyes for me, sweetheart?" Lex whispered.

Whimpering, her eyes flittered open and she tried to focus on Lex. "God, what happened?"

"You're okay, Chloe. We just need to get you off the floor."

Lex stood and lifted her from the floor, holding her steady while she found her balance.

"Chloe? Who's Chloe?"

Lex paled, but didn't remove his hands from her arms.

"Don't tell me I have amnesia." Rolling her head back onto her shoulders, she frowned at the ceiling. "No. I know who I am, but--" She paused dramatically as her hand ran over her bare leg. She dropped her gaze and frowned. "I don't seem to have the faintest memory of what I did with my pants."

"Chloe," Lex said softly, his voice choked with pain.

"That's it. I'm swearing off vodka." Lois stepped back and stared curiously at both Lex and Clark. "Would one of you kindly tell me where my pants are?"

"Master bedroom," Lex whispered. "Behind you. At the end of the hallway."

"Thanks." Lois turned to face the hallway. "Hey, nice digs."

Lex waited until she was out of sight, then turned to face Clark. "Get out."

"Lex, I think this is for the bes--"

"Get out."

"As soon as Lois--"

Lex sank into a stuffed chair and covered his face with both of his hands. "Get out of my home, Clark. Get out of my building. Get out of my life."

"Lex--"

Raising his head, Lex slowly stood, his face devoid of emotion. "For years I've protected you, Clark, but no more. I suggest you stay away from me from now on."

"Don't you think--"

"I'd shoot you now, but we both know the bullets wouldn't harm you, don't we?"

"I--"

"Unless they were Kryptonite bullets."

"How--"

"Come now, Kent. You don't really think I hadn't figured everything out long ago, did you? That's terribly nave of you." Lex stood taller. "For the sake of who we once were to each other, I give you this last warning. Run. As far and as fast as you can. Because even if it takes every last resources I have, I will destroy you."

Clark's eyes darkened with their own anger. "Where do you get off? I wasn't the one had her commit arson or kill your father's clones. Who made you their judge and executioner, Luthor?"

Lex walked to one of his paintings and swung it out from the wall to reveal a safe behind the canvas.

"You've had her here for six months, knowing that the people who loved her were destroyed by her loss, and yet you said nothing."

Punching in the last number, Lex opened the vault and removed a ring.

Don't make me out to be--"

Lex slowly slipped it over his finger, then turned and closed the distance between them.

Clark staggered backward, barely able to maintain his feet. "She's not suffering anymore," Clark gasped.

"The next time I see you, I will kill you, Clark. Never doubt that for a second. Now get out before I do something rash."

Clark turned and staggered toward the elevator in the foyer.

"Um, I don't suppose you know where my purse is?" Lois looked hesitantly around the room.

"It's on the table in the foyer," Lex said quietly.

"You know, I...that is...I don't usually..."

Lex gently took her hand between his and patted it. "I know."

"Did we...I mean...the way I woke up..."

"I had just returned from a business meeting, Ms. Lane. Your virtue is still intact."

"Okay, that's good. I mean, no offense. It's just that--"

"I know."

"You're awfully understanding, Mr.--"

"Luthor. Lex Luthor."

The friendliness in her green eyes faded. "Lionel Luthor's son?"

"Yes."

Lois released a shaky breath. "I see."

"There'll be a cab waiting for you by the time you reach the lobby, Ms. Lane," Lex told her.

Seeming to understand there was nothing more for her to say, she nodded nervously then headed for the foyer. "Thank you.

Lex remained silent as he watched her gather her purse and get onto the elevator with Clark. When the doors shut, he called security and asked them to arrange for a cab. He then walked to the wall safe and pulled a small box out of his pocket. Against his better judgment, he opened it and looked at the diamond ring inside before he put it in the safe and locked it tight.

"Good bye, Chloe."


POSTSCRIPT
By Rhyo

His office was black granite, titanium and glass; in his father's day there had been objects of conspicuous wealth casually strewn around the room -- expensive artwork, rare books, ancient textiles, plush leather chairs -- but he preferred the room stripped of personal clutter. The broad glass surface of his desk held only his laptop and a single newspaper.

Like most men of power, much of his day was spent gathering information and then gleaning fact from raw data; for this purpose major-market newspapers were useless and he relied instead on a network of human and electronic informants. But there was one newspaper habit he'd never been able to break.

As the first light of the rising sun came in through the windows, he unfolded the newspaper and smoothed it down with careful hands, flush with the table surface. Her byline was on the front page; a banner headline, he knew she'd be pleased.

Daring last minute rescue the headline screamed in large letters.

He skimmed the article, a small smile creeping onto his face as he read through it. Her style was bold and informative as always, conveying the factual and human interest elements in a lively way that said as much about her as it did the event. Of course, she actually had been part of it, held hostage with the other gala attendees until they'd all been rescued. She had her facts wrong in a place or two, but then there was no way she could have known that it was one of his security teams that had taken out the primary villains so that the hostages had been alive to be rescued, after all. Nor would she ever know.

His smile faded when he saw the photo below the fold line. He knew the expression on her face; he'd seen it before, directed at him. Admiration, affection, and more than a little hero worship radiated from her expressive face, turned up toward her rescuer, who was dressed in the costume he believed obscured his identity. He, in turn, stared down at her, the rest of the hostages apparently forgotten.

Slowly he refolded the paper so that the photo was hidden. The sunlight had crept across the floor toward the desk and he shifted his chair back, away from it, further into the shadows.



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