Her date was talking. About himself, as he had for the last half hour. Chloe had hardly managed to get a word in edgewise. So she stopped trying. At regular intervals, she interjected an "Oh, really?" or a "How fascinating," while wondering when the food would arrive.
She also wondered how she got here in the first place. Back in high school, Chloe never would have imagined dating someone for the chance of employment. But the Planet seemed to be the top choice of employment for Metropolitan journalists, and Chloe was willing to do nearly anything to secure her spot. Well, almost anything. She wouldn't sleep with him, son of the publisher or not.
The restaurant was expensive. Beautiful blood red orchids sat upon the tables. Chloe was glad she chose the gold silk blouse and darker gold skirt. The flowers complemented her well.
She never thought her taste in clothes would be so subdued. Lately, she'd tended toward more simple tones and clean lines. The previous night, she'd even tossed the pair of army boots she'd worn throughout college.
Chloe figured this was what growing up was about. But even so, she'd prefer to be out of this restaurant, away from this self-satisfied Princeton grad, and curled up on her sofa in her cherry pajamas, watching a Justice League marathon on Cartoon Network. She had a thing for the Flash.
The pompous maitre'd had returned. Ugh. Following closely behind, was . . .
Chloe was hit with a momentary shiver. She hadn't seen Lex since leaving Smallville for Georgetown, and it seemed like the time had served to polish him even more. He was smooth, moved smooth, smiled smoothly at his date. She looked at the girl critically, unable to find any flaws. Nice body, very fit, Chloe noted. Then she turned so that Chloe could see her face. Stunning. Chloe had never seen anyone so lovely. She was the female equivalent of Clark, tall, with jet black hair.
"Zoey, what are you looking at?" Stone (or Rock, she wasn't really sure) asked, following her line of vision.
"It's Chloe," she said automatically. She'd been correcting him all night.
"Right," he said absently. "Lex!"
Chloe was surprisingly unsurprised at this turn of events. It made a weird sort of sense when she thought about it. Rock would know Lex from college or some club or something.
Lex approached their table, his lovely date following somewhat reluctantly. "Boulder, how are you?"
Boulder. That was it. Chloe looked up at Lex, suddenly wondering if he'd recognize her. Although her hair was still short, she kept it straight; all flips were of the past. Her makeup was a bit more dramatic, too. Burnished eye shadow and brown liner, red, red lipstick graced her face.
"Great," Boulder replied. "This is my date . . ." he looked at her for help.
"Hi, Lex," Chloe said demurely.
His smile grew considerably easier. "Chloe," he said, and she imagined he was truly pleased. "You look beautiful."
Chloe grinned. "It's the makeup."
"No doubt," Lex's dark-haired companion said. "I'm Sidney Seville, and now that introductions are out of the way, I think we'd better be headed to our table, Lex."
He frowned slightly. Beautiful or not, his date was evil.
"Why don't you join us?" Boulder offered. Chloe smiled in agreement. It was his first statement of the night that made any sort of sense.
"We couldn't intrude," Sidney began, but Lex cut her off, calling the maitre'd to bring some more chairs. Soon, the couple was seated, Lex beside Chloe, Sidney next to Boulder.
"Chloe," he said softly, while Sidney ordered, "I never would have expected to see you here, with . . ." he glanced at Boulder (whom Chloe still liked to call "Rock" in her head).
"It's a business thing," she replied. "His father's the publisher of the Planet."
"Ah, I see."
"So, Chloe," Sidney said loudly, "what do you do?"
Chloe contemplated saying she had a hobby of slapping pretentious bitches.
She decided it wouldn't go over too well. "I'm a journalist."
"I see," she said. "I'm a model."
"Well," Chloe said slowly, "good for you."
"Thanks, I know," Sidney replied cheerfully.
The table was silent, and Chloe wondered if it was any better than listening to Boulder chatter on about his boring life. Slyly, she studied Lex. He had changed a bit. A few more lines on his brow, and his mouth had lost some of its humor. He seemed more focused now than ever, even when unfolding a napkin.
The food arrived, and Chloe suspected the speed had to do with the bald patron seated at her table. She had some sort of chicken dish, which reminded her of Mrs. Kent's chicken ala king, except there was mint on top. Mint and chicken? She didn't get it.
She heard Lex chuckle. "What?"
"The way you looked at that chicken, I'm surprised it didn't run away in shame," he smiled devilishly, and it nearly took her breath away. It had been so long since she'd seen Lex, and even longer since she'd seen him at ease.
"There's mint on it," she said, in explanation.
"Ugh. Mint and chicken? I'd send it back."
It took her a moment to realize he was joking. Apparently, it took Sidney a moment too, because a beat after Chloe smiled, she began laughing loudly.
Chloe was confused, and even more so when Boulder joined in.
"Lex, you're just so funny!" Sidney hiccupped hysterically.
The rest of the meal went without incident. Except when Lex dropped his napkin and they both bent to get it. Chloe knew it was terribly clich, but she swore she felt a spark when their hands touched. Of course, when Lex murmured, "Damn carpet," she remembered that little thing called static electricity, but still.
The four of them walked to the exit of the restaurant. Chloe was chewing on the sprig of mint (not half bad), while Sidney was prattering endlessly to Boulder about some photo shoot in the Himalayas.
It was raining.
The streets were paved golden under the sodium lights, and Chloe took in the beauty of the city. She loved it in all weather, but particularly when it was raining. There was a freshness in the air which was lacking at any other time. Besides, nothing was quite so citified, in her mind at least, as walking in the rain. Preferably arm-in-arm with a loved one, but she'd take what she could get.
Boulder followed Sidney as she went to ask the valet to call a cab.
Chloe sighed, looking down at her gold heels. There was a scuff.
"So, Chloe," Lex said, resting a hand on her waist. "Enjoy yourself?"
"The company was memorable," she said.
"You're too nice," Lex said, leaning in. "He's a terrible bore."
"I wasn't talking about him."
"Sidney can be a bit abrasive at times."
"I won't fight you on that, but I wasn't talking about her, either."
"It's been a while since we've talked, hasn't it, Chloe?"
"Yes," she said shortly, wondering where this was going.
"Perhaps we should have dinner together, just the two of us."
"How about dessert?" Chloe held her breath.
"I'm supposed to be attending a charity event with Sidney."
"They already have your money, right?" Chloe looked up at him.
"That's true," Lex seemed to be considering.
"Come on, Lex," she tugged at his arm. "The cab's here. Let them get it. There's a little caf a few blocks down with killer cheesecake." Chloe couldn't remember the last time she pleaded with anyone. Must have been ages ago. "Let's act like kids, and run in the rain."
"Chloe," he looked at her. "We're not kids."
"There's nothing wrong with a little regression," she said, feeling like she was losing the battle, "Just for tonight? Please?"
"Lex?" Sidney called. "Ready?" She had a sour look on her face, and Chloe decided she wasn't really that beautiful.
He looked at Sidney and Boulder, who were staring at them. He glanced back down at Chloe. Lex dropped his head to whisper.
Chloe giggled, and grabbed his hand. They took off down the street.
"Don't look back," he laughed breathlessly.
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