Title: When The Party's Over
Rating: PG, Chloe-fic, post-episode fiction
Spoilers: For "Tempest - No Warning"
Disclaimer: Smallville is the property of Gough/Millar Ink and the WB Network.
Feedback: I'd like your thoughts, please.
Summary: The calm after the storm.
It was well past one in the morning when the gym doors opened and Chloe Sullivan reached her car, the air around her cool and smelling of tampered earth. She didn't shiver, not even when Pete touched her shoulder and looked at her with eyes that should have known better than to show such pity.
"I can drive you home," he offered and it was sincere, even though his date was rocking on her heels and smiling too hard.
"I can drive home," she said. She waved good-bye as she slipped inside and prayed the engine would start. It would be just her luck to have car trouble but something cooperated at last and Chloe pulled out onto Route 6, taking her time as she drove past the devastation caused by what the radio claimed was the worst twister in Smallville's history.
There were obstacles in the dark, one pile of debris after another to be avoided. They littered the side of the road like ruined cities, interesting in their surreal construction. A truck atop an overturned swimming pool, a trailer upended against a sign that offered 'Apple Turnovers, 3 for $1' and a stop sign sheared like a javelin through a telephone pole.
Perhaps like an arrow through the heart.
She didn't look for Clark. He'd disappeared hours before and what a pity too, since her hair had yet to fall. A good Chloe hair day and he'd missed most of it and lord knew when that would happen again. Then again there were a lot of things Clark Kent would never get to see. Ever.
Taste of copper where she bit her lip and it wasn't about spite, she told herself. Life is about choices, he made his and it was probably a good choice too. A Spring Formal versus the wrath of nature and since he led an obviously charmed life, who was she to argue?
It's not about spite or anger or broken hearts. It's not about magic turned mundane or the intrusion of cold reality.
It's just another night after an ordinary day and Chloe almost believed it, right up until the moment she walked into the hospital's emergency room before taking her place among the frantic, the relieved and the only slightly injured.
She didn't ask for Clark Kent at the admissions desk.
Asked for Lana Lang instead and as she expected, there he was behind the glass partition sitting on the edge of Lana's bed, brushing stray hairs away from her forehead. He looked intent, even satisfied and Chloe remembered that look from when she'd been on the receiving end of such ministrations.
The sameness of it was the most disturbing thing of all.
"It's an interesting complex, isn't it?"
She jumped at the low voice, so close to her ear she could feel a warm touch of breath. "Hi, Lex."
Lex Luthor didn't acknowledge her greeting but stood with his hands in his pockets, observing Clark's movements through bruised-looking eyes. There was a butterfly-stitched gash on his forehead and his lips were stretched into a long, tired line. "I tried to tell him this messiah thing was going to gain him nothing but grief but he never listens does he?"
Chloe wondered if this was where the punch line was supposed to go. "Clark does what he thinks he has to do," she replied quietly. Being pretty and witty at the same time was too much work at that moment and she started to add something equally dull when she noticed the dried blood still clinging to his collar. "Are you all right?"
The pale lips twisted into a wry smile. "I'm pretty good. My father not so much."
"Your father was hurt in the storm?"
"They think his back's broken."
"Oh." She tried to think of something sympathetic to say. Nothing came to mind. "Is he still here?"
Lex didn't seem particularly concerned either and Chloe wasn't sure whether to admire him or be frightened. "Yes, for stabilization purposes. He'll be transferred to Metropolis when they think he can make the trip safely."
"Oh," she said again and suddenly had the overwhelming urge to be anywhere else but there, stuck between broken trust and tragedy. "Well, I have to go now, so please give ..."
He cut her off with an intense look. "Are you hungry?"
Food was possibly the furthest thing from her mind but she nodded anyway. "Yeah. Kind of."
"Then let me take you to breakfast." Another thin smile. "Unfortunately, I"ll have to ask you for a ride to the diner. I came here via ambulance."
"No problem," she said. She had to smile herself. "I'm getting used to doing the driving."
"That's a nice dress, by the way."
In the window booth of Smallville's lone twenty-four hour diner Chloe accepted her coffee with a nod. Gave Lex a "this old rag?" shrug and brought the cup to her lips. It was dark, lousy and scalding hot. Perfect.
"Not as frou-frou as I'd imagine for a rural dance." Lex said, as he poured a disturbing amount of sugar into his tea. "You're not originally from around here, are you?"
"No." She pushed aside her order of pancakes. Began to silently covet Lexis BLT and was surprised when he slid the plate toward her, a knowing look in his eye.
"Salt is the savior of the night. Where in Metropolis did you live?"
"Soho Plaza. Next to Egyptian Paints and Art Supplies."
Lex smiled over the steaming cup. "Brought up among the bohemians, I see."
"It was rent controlled. At least back then it was." She took a bite of the sandwich and it was greasy-salty good. Lex Luthor certainly was a man of the world.
"You make it sound like it was decades ago."
She chuckled and checked her chin for stray crumbs. "It feels like it. Smallville has a way of aging you."
"It does indeed." A slim, masculine finger ghosted over the edge of the teacup and Chloe watched it, feeling goosebumps circle along her arms. She shook the feeling away and drank more coffee, now cold and nowhere near as good as it'd been when she'd needed it more than air.
"So," she said, clearing her throat. "Is your father that bad off? I mean ..."
"You're wondering if he's going to die?" Lex's expression didn't change; it stayed as serene as a clear spring night after a storm. "I have no idea. I've done all I can. I"m sure whatever doctor wants the rewards badly enough will force the life back into him."
"Right. But ..."
"What about the plant?" Lex laughed at Chloe's incredulous expression. Obviously, mind reading was a hobby of his. "If he dies, it won't be any worse off than it was this morning. That's all I can say for certain."
Chloe swallowed hard. "And if ... I mean, I hope ... he lives?"
Gray eyes met hers and the diner disappeared, leaving a backdrop of cold night and careless destruction. "Then so shall slip the dogs of war," he breathed.
A gasp caught in Chloe's throat. There was something here, a battle she'd only read about, in epics and poems and Lex no longer seemed the spoiled child spreading wealth among the corn. He seemed larger somehow, expanded in stature and strength.
And if Lionel Luthor should die ....
"So tell me, Chloe," asked Lex, signaling for the check. "Did Clark really leave you at the dance?"
"Yes," she replied, seeing a limousine pull up outside the diner's front door. Strange ... she didn't remember Lex calling for one. "But he had to save Lana. From the storm."
Lex threw down a twenty dollar bill and slid gracefully out of the booth. "I think Clark should learn how to save himself." Another laugh, this one sincere and his smile was absolutely dazzling. "By the way, do you like history?"
"In the past or in the making?" She asked, suddenly feeling pretty and witty at the same time ... a first.
His eyes brightened with appreciation. "Both, of course."
"Yep. As long as the martyrs are kept out of it."
"Can't stand them myself." He reached down, caught her hand within his and kissed the tips of her fingers, more jokingly than otherwise. Or so it seemed. "Give me a call tomorrow. Your father has my number. I have some books that might interest you. Ones you won't find anywhere else."
"Right. Yeah, sure. I'll do that." Chloe watched as he strolled away, a conqueror's walk. Careless enough to mean business and he looked right at her before disappearing within the limo's plush depths.
The sleek car snuck away and Chloe took a moment to catch her breath before gathering her dress in both fists, readying herself to rise. Readying herself for a change. A radio was playing behind the counter and the song was old, far older than she, but she knew all the words by heart.
Indeed, it was Judy's turn to cry.
She snuck into the house, past her sleeping father. There was really no need to -- she had no curfew that night -- but her dad deserved the attempt.
He stirred slightly, fell back to his snores and she slipped into her bedroom with a sigh. Struggled out the dress, kicked it for good measure, then set to work at untangling her hair. It hurt to rip at the meticulously sprayed curls but she let the hairbrush bite at her scalp until she felt what was left of her hair finally soften beneath her fingers.
Never again, she swore. Velvet and curls were for little Lord Fauntleroy and he could have them.
She had better things to do.
Plopping onto the bed, she noticed the a blinking light on her answering machine. Double blinks, meaning more than one message and she only had to listen to a second of Clark's voice before hitting "erase."
"Chloe, I'm really, really, really sorry but ..."
I'm really, really, really sorry too, Clark, she thought sleepily as she crawled beneath the blankets. But the party's over, the night is done and something else is rising over the horizon.
History in the making, maybe.
A brand new sort of storm.
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