That's When The Dancing Begins

by ingrid



Title: That's When The Dancing Begins
by ingrid

Rating: PG-13, Post Episode, Chloe-Fic Disclaimer: SV is the property of Gough/Millar Ink and the WB TV Network. Spoilers: Safety first -- all of Season One. Especially "Tempest" and "Kinetic" Feedback: I'd like your opinions, thank you.

Summary: Sequel to "When The Party's Over" which can be found here: http://www.smallvillefanfic.com/archive/2/whenthe.html

~&~

It was a rainy Tuesday afternoon, directly after school when Chloe turned her car onto the road that led to the Luthor mansion.

She'd called first and Lex's personal assistant answered in a crisp. professional tone of voice. The phone was almost snapped shut right then and there but she managed to stammer out something not too idiotic.

"Mr. Luthor invited me to call. It's, um, Chloe Sullivan."

"Please hold on. I'll put you right through."

It was strange from the get go. There she was, waiting for Mr. Luthor, only four years older and four hundred light years away from her in social status. Everything around him was guarded, shielded, harder to bypass than the thousands of bricks which made up his obscenely palatial home.

She wondered how he managed to live there alone without going insane or if the walls of anything smaller would suffocate him and his larger than life persona to death. Clark once told her that Lex needed the space, needed the many walls for his whiplash thoughts to bounce off without hurting anyone.

Clark seemed to know Lex well, which was strange considering he was as thick as a plank when it came to anyone else.

Especially her.

"Chloe." Lex's voice on the tinny receiver, sounding pleased. "Thanks for calling."

Her throat turned dry. "Hi. Sorry to bother you."

"No bother at all. Are you available to come by? I pulled down a special volume for you."

"Sure, that would be great." She avoided making any cracks about losing her Luthor Library card, knowing her brand of humor was an acquired taste. "But only if you're free. I really don't want to bother you."

Repeating yourself some more, Chloe, she winced. Seemed like the snark only worked in familiar settings, ones that bred contempt. Like around Clark.

"No bother." Still in that half-polite, half-bemused tone. "I'm looking forward to continuing our conversation from the other night."

Yeah. The conversation in the diner after what could have been the most humiliating night of her life. It hadn't been, thanks to Lex and Chloe smiled in remembrance.

"Me too," Chloe replied, perhaps a bit too softly said and immediately felt the heat fill her cheeks. Blushing. Jesus. How much of a twelve year old could she be?

Thank God Lex couldn't see her to notice. "You know where my house is, right?"

"Can't exactly miss it." Ah, there was Ye Olde Faithful Snark. Just in time. "I'll look for the Swiss Guards en route. They'll show me the way, I'm sure."

Lex laughed. "If they don't, tell them they're fired."

"Will do. And thanks again, Mr. Luthor."

"It's Lex and you're welcome. See you then."

A click in the receiver and Chloe took a deep breath. The twister had changed many things but this was a development she hadn't been expecting. Invading the sacred Luthor sanctuary on the grounds of acquiring knowledge. Of history, no less.

The road passed beneath the wheels of her car and the castle rose over the summer corn fields like a storm cloud. Huge and foreboding but she kept driving resolutely toward it, one hand on the wheel, the other on her digital camera, the one she'd take inside on some pretense or other.

She felt naked, vulnerable without it and there was no way she was going into Lex Luthor's house without some sort of protection.

Even if it was just around her soul.

~&~

The Luthor manse was as intriguingly maze-like as it was the last time she'd been there. Ancient wood, expensive drapes, carpets that sunk beneath her every step and hopefully this time there wouldn't be any mutated burglars hiding in the walls.

A security guard escorting her into the library was comforting and she lagged behind a few steps before he dropped her off at the huge oak doors leading into Lex's book-filled office.

A quick peek around them revealed Lex sitting at his desk, completely engrossed in something on his computer and for the first time Chloe saw the hard lines around his mouth, just starting to form at the corners.

He had aged after the storm -- Lionel Luthor's paralyzed condition was still precarious according to the news reports -- and the weight of the world seemed to hang in the very air that surrounded him.

*It's hard to tell what brings happiness, poverty and wealth have both failed* -- so the saying went and there was its truth right there, sitting at Lex Luthor's desk.

Chloe knocked gently on the door and magically, the air changed. "Lex?"

Instantly he was on his feet, smiling, motioning for her to come in, looking as confident and young as ever. "Chloe. Glad you could make it."

She shrugged shyly. "Glad to be here. There aren't any ..."

"Mutant thieves with green tattoos with a fondness for tossing young ladies out windows? " he finished for her. "No, none of those today or ever again. I did apologize for that, I hope."

"Quite a few times." Putting down her camera, she sat uncomfortably on the edge of a long18th century divan and watched as Lex took over a nearby leather sofa with a careless sprawl, resplendent in black linen pants and bright lavender dress shirt, opened at the neck.

He was sleek, confident with himself, and Chloe realized with a start that Lex Luthor was incredibly good looking man, baldness notwithstanding. Soft features belying a steely inner determination only hinted at during times of stress, but it was there ... not a little powerful, not a little frightening but still beautiful.

Beautiful and strange.

The silence was lasting too long, so she decided to break it. "How's your father?"

"In Metropolis. Recovering. By himself." Lex's eyes became shaded, unreadable. "It's the way he wants it."

Okay, score one foot in mouth for the Sullivan, Chloe thought dismally. "I'm sorry." It was all she could say.

"I'm not. I have better things to do that play caretaker to someone who doesn't want me there." A bowl of fruit sat at his side and Lex offered Chloe what appeared to be a fresh peach. Shrugged when she turned it down and began to talk between slow, careful bites. "I can't control what others do, only my reaction to them. And my father's gotten enough reactions out of me to last a lifetime."

"He does have a certain ... aggressive ... way about him."

"That's an understatement." A nibble on the peach. "My father is a man who spent his life on the attack, not caring who was in his line of fire except when he gets to mock those who get upset at their wounds." Lex smiled around the fruit. "His role model is Alexander the Great. Do you know anything about him?"

"Um ... yeah, I do. Did a research project on him last year actually."

"Really? What do you think of him?"

"Well, Alexander was certainly quite ... quite ..." She paused.

Grinning, Lex finished the sentence for her. "Fabulous?"

She bristled at his slightly facetious tone. "Not exactly. I dare say his enemies didn't think he was that fabulous."

"That's why they were his enemies." Another bite of the peach, this one sloppy, leaving bits of skin and flesh at the corners of Lex's lips. His tongue darted out to lick the sweet shiny bits away and Chloe quickly looked down at her hands, studying them as if they were the most interesting thing in the world.

Heard Lex's voice, low again and oddly near. "Tell me. Do you think I'm like Alexander, Chloe? Come here to Smallville to spoil and pillage like a modern-day Thebes, just so I can start my empire?"

Close, too close to what she'd confided in her father the night after the plant closed and she could feel the blood drain away from her face, drop by drop.

Breathe ... breathe ...

"If you were," she said, lifting her chin to meet his eyes directly trying to show more confidence than she felt. "You'd be aiming kind of low. Smallville isn't exactly the center of poetic civilization and besides, it's been teetering on ruin for a decade. Your work would be half done -- if that was really your goal."

"Ruin, yes. Ever since the meteors came," Lex murmured thoughtfully. The playful smile returned. "Do you think I could save the town then? Expand it, make it grow -- turn it into a place worth sacking?"

"Jesus ..." She shook her head. "You're asking the wrong person."

"I don't think I am. Your father is always raving about your intelligence and I see what he means." The peach was discarded and Lex picked up a dusty leather volume, running his hands over the cracking leather that bound it. "This is a first edition history of Alexander the Great by Mueller." He held it out to her. "While you're reading it just remember, to the victor goes the spoils, not least of which are the bragging rights."

She accepted the tome and it felt heavier than any book she'd ever held. "Is that all history is? Bragging rights?"

"Mostly," he replied. "Of course, there are always those few hardy souls who decide to buck accepted trends and tell their version of the truth. You know ..." Mischievous glance. "Reporters and such."

"Huh. Maybe that's why we're so popular."

"I'm detecting a note of sarcasm there, Miss Sullivan." As if by magic, a butler entered with a pitcher of iced tea and two glasses filled with ice before disappearing back into the dim hall. "Now, how goes it on the Clark front? Has he apologized for his extreme breech of good manners and lack of gentlemanly conduct during the dance?"

"I haven't seen him since the twister." In truth, she'd been avoiding Clark like the plague since that evening but the end result was the same. Out of sight, out of mind. She hadn't returned his calls either and in time-honored Clark fashion he'd simply stopped calling, much to Pete's extreme agitation.

It was the Clark Way, and along with truth and justice, he wasn't about to change or so she'd force herself to admit. Eventually.

Lex handed her a full glass and she accepted it gratefully. Drank a sip and the tea was something smooth and expensive tasting, flavored with jasmine and lemon. The divan dipped slightly as he sat down beside her and he looked so pensive, it almost hurt her to see it.

She gave him a questioning glance. "What is it?"

"I think we should talk about Clark."

She was unable to stop a snort. Iced tea almost out the nose but she didn't care. "I don't know. Lex. I have to be home in time for dinner. Maybe if another twister traps us in here for a month or two? That should give us about one-tenth the time we'd need to fully dissect the mystery that is Clark Kent."

"That doesn't sound so bad. The being trapped part, that is." Sly glance and she coughed to cover a choke. "Seriously, Chloe ... " His voice lowered and ice tinkled in his glass, making a light, melodic sound. "There are a lot of things I like about Clark." He paused. "And there are a few things I don't like about him. Such as his penchant for being dishonest with his friends. I can overlook these instances because I'm indebted to him for my life ..." Lex looked at Chloe intently. "As I assume you probably are too."

She nodded. All those times Clark had saved her, melding into scenes of gratitude and wonder and tears stung at the back of her eyes for reasons she couldn't start to fathom. "More than once."

"Be that as it may, it's still hard to base any relationship on deception. My friendship with Clark takes a lot of work, some of it completely one-sided. It's easy for me though, because I don't have so many friends that I can give up my only one."

"Clark's your only friend?"

Wry grin at the disbelief in her tone. "Well, maybe two now." He leaned toward her, hands clasped on his lap, gray eyes capturing hers. "What I'm trying to say is, don't sell yourself short. If Clark can't give you what you need, you can easily find someone who can."

Here's where the rolling of the eyes came into play but she didn't care. "Uh, huh. You know I can get this speech from my father any day of the week, Lex."

A husky laugh. "Sure, but can he give you this?"

A kiss, so light against the corner of her mouth and Chloe's eyes went wide with shock and surprise. Surprise not only at the kiss but the way her heart reacted -- pounding so hard she thought it was going to end up outside of her chest, beating its last on priceless rugs, her breathless epitaph the final entry on her Wall of Weird.

Oh. My. God.

Lex didn't seem quite as shocked, but pleased, as if the first wall had been breached successfully in a battle just begun. "Now do you understand what I mean?"

"Yes. No. Maybe ... look, um, I have to go." Breathe, damnit, Chloe ... breathe. She rose with trembling knees. "Thanks for the book, I'll be sure to return it when I'm done."

"Read fast then, Miss Sullivan." He rose as well, hands in his pockets, black pants outlining everything lovely about him in ways that made Chloe blush madly. "I like my books returned promptly."

"Got it. Right. Thanks." Babbling, and she walked out backwards, tripping then catching herself before getting those huge doors behind her and racing down the hallway, the book clutched to her still racing heart.

Flew down the stone staircase, grateful her car was already waiting for her at the bottom. Got in it and drove like the armies of Alexander were at her back, a thousand Lexes strong.

~&~

She ended up as she usually did, not at home but at the Torch, the dim light of her monitor shining and it took some time, but she composed herself enough to examine what had just happened.

She'd visited Lex at his house. They'd talked -- a little personal stuff, a little history, way too much Clark, and the afternoon ended up in a not-quite-passionate, not-quite-chaste kiss.

Sort of a warning kiss, shot over the bow and she yanked at her hair with both hands.

"Gah!"

Not exactly the most eloquent monologue but who the hell was she anyway? Hamlet?

No. She was just seventeen year old Chloe Sullivan, the girl who got footballs thrown at her almost daily, who once poked herself in the eye so badly with a mascara wand she ended up in the ER and who had hair she probably couldn't sell on the black market of wig makers.

And Lex Luthor, a gorgeous man whom just about every girl in Metropolis would give their right arms up to have him notice them, had just kissed her.

Sort of. Maybe. Kind of?

All sorts of doubts howled through Chloe's brain and she suddenly felt her lack of female friends as a definite disadvantage. All she had was Pete, who would probably shoot Lex for sure this time and ... Clark.

Clark. She stared at her monitor and noticed something she hadn't seen upon first sitting down.

A note. Taped to her monitor, with Clark's handwriting on it. The clear loops that were neater than any other boy's were scribbled across bubblegum pink paper in words she had to read twice to digest correctly.

*Dear Chloe:

Before you rip up this note, please just read for one more sentence.

I'm sorry.

Okay, you got that far, how about just one more?

I love you.

Please. Please, please, please meet me at the Talon at eight. I promise, Lana isn't there tonight and even if she were, it wouldn't matter. Please. One more chance and I promise you won't regret it. I swear it. On everything that I am.

Love, Clark*

Somewhere, the phone was ringing and she picked it up, slack-jawed and stunned. "Torch. Chloe Sullivan here ..."

"Why am I not surprised?" Lex's smooth voice and she nearly fell out of her seat. "Sorry to bother you, but you left your camera at my house."

She gasped. Her precious camera. The one with the all the next issue's pictures still stuck in its hard drive. If she didn't get them by morning, screwed wasn't even the word for it. "Oh ... crap." Crap, crap, crap.

"I can drop it off at the Talon tonight if you'd like. Around eight. And if you're hungry for some dinner, I know a place that's even better than the diner, believe it or not. What do you say?"

Hands in the hair again and this time they weren't coming out until she was as bald as Lex. No, balder. "Yeah, that would, um, be great. Yeah."

"Wonderful. See you there."

Chloe Sullivan never thought her life could come to an end with a click, but there it was. She hung up her receiver to the end of the world, the sinking of the Titanic and somewhere she could hear the band playing on to their watery grave as she gathered her bag and headed out the door to the Talon, to be there at eight o'clock sharp.

For there, for Chloe, that's when the dancing would begin.

~fin~



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