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Thread: Episode 8 - "Erin" (PG)

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    Episode 8 - "Erin" (PG)

    Title: Erin
    Written by: Val & Amanda

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    METROPOLIS
    VPH: Venkon Psychiatric Hospital


    The drive from Smallville to Metropolis had never been longer. Chloe felt like it had taken her years to arrive. Seemed fitting she supposed since it had taken her that long to find the place she hadn’t until recently realized she so badly needed to find.

    Moments ago, she had entered the building and now she found herself being led down a long, narrow, corridor. Soon she would be face to face with Jane Smith; a woman she hardly knew, whom she hadn’t seen in years and until a short time ago, was sure she didn’t want anything to do with.

    Erin Sullivan had walked out on Chloe and her father years ago. Countless searches, curiosity and a need to at least know what happened to the woman who’d given her life had led her to investigate a few years ago. She’d found seemingly valid information that Erin was living a much happier life in Australia’s Gold Coast and seemed to have no interest at all in the child or husband she’d left behind.

    She knew this because in a moment of weakness, she’d attempted to contact Erin. She’d received no reply, no acknowledgement and after weeks of anxiously waiting, she’d finally given up hope. She’d been forced to realize, to believe that Erin didn’t want a daughter, or any contact with a life she’d chosen so arbitrarily to leave behind.

    Information from a contact she had met during her internship at the Daily Planet last summer told her differently. Erin Sullivan, who supposedly lived in Australia, didn’t exist but had become someone else years ago, right after walking out on her family, someone named Jane Smith.

    It had taken Chloe months to find the only possible Jane Smith among all the thousands that existed, and when all her efforts had paid off in an email she’d received a few days ago, the results had almost made her regret looking into it. A psychiatric hospital was not the place you wanted to find someone at, even a woman you had decided not to care about.

    After thinking carefully, Chloe decided she would not tell her dad about any of it until she was sure it was indeed Erin. She knew Gabe had never let another woman close to him after Erin had left them and though he never said so, she knew he still loved her.

    Coming back to herself with a slight shiver, she followed the male nurse down the hallway, the light seeming to grow dimmer and the air colder as they kept going. He finally stopped in front of a door and opened it for her as he announced, “Jane Smith, you have a visitor” in a harsh, cold voice.

    Chloe took a deep breath and tried to make her face impartial as she took a step forward so she could finally see into the room.

    All the walls were padded and there was only a small table and three chairs in the room. A small, blonde woman sat on one of the chairs, her body restrained by the white straight jacket she wore, her face staring down at the table. Her hair fell around it, blocking Chloe’s view of her features.

    She suddenly wanted to bolt but forced herself to stay.
    Erin slowly lifted her head as the blonde girl moved towards her. Something almost broke inside her as her mind and heart instinctively recognized the young woman approaching her cautiously. Trying to lock down her emotions, she kept her eyes vacant as she desperately took in everything.

    The girl’s hands were shaking slightly as she picked at her cuticles, her eyes darting around the room frantically. She fidgeted for a few moments longer before sinking down onto the chair, tucking her chin length blonde hair behind her ears

    “Hi.” The voice was small, uncertain.

    Erin didn’t respond, but tilted her head to the side, studying her a bit closer. She was extremely nervous. The cuticle picking and the eye darting were a dead give away. Erin knew this because she used to do the exact same thing when nervous or unsure.

    Like mother, like daughter, Erin silently supposed.

    Noticing the woman’s gaze on her hands, Chloe clasped them together. She was fidgeting and needed to get herself under control. Taking a deep breath to steady her voice, Chloe spoke, more firmly this time.

    “Ms. Smith-”

    As soon as the words left her mouth, the rest of her sentence disappeared. Erin had met her eyes and if she wasn’t sure before, Chloe was sure now that this was indeed Erin Sullivan. She had pictured this meeting a thousand times in her head since she was five, but she had never imagined it would be like this. Not a spark of recognition.

    Swallowing hard, Chloe pushed herself to finish. “I’m Chloe Sullivan.” She watched Erin’s face closely for any reaction.

    Erin hadn’t needed the verbal conformation. Even if the nervous picking of her cuticles hadn’t been a clue, the hair, eyes, and mouth were all too familiar. But she remained quiet, her face blank, giving no indication that the name ‘Chloe Sullivan’ meant anything to her. People were watching. They were always watching. And the last thing Erin wanted was to slip up and put her daughter in danger. Because if Chloe had any inkling that Erin knew who she was, word would get back to him and he’d come after Chloe.

    Leaving Chloe and Gabe had been the hardest thing she’d ever done but she’d had no choice. If he found out Chloe had found her, she didn’t want to think of the consequences. But it was killing her to not be able to hold her daughter to ask her how school was, how she was, how Gabe was.

    She shot Chloe a half smile hoping it looked vacant. “Hello.”

    When Chloe finally let her eyes drop from the woman’s face, she had to hold back the crushing grief. No recognition, no sign her name meant something to her, nothing at all. Movies always told you parents would recognize their children anywhere, no matter how long they had been apart. A parent always knew. Clearly her life wasn’t a movie.

    Chloe had come prepared for that, even if reality was often crueler. Because of the state of mind Erin was in, she knew it was a possibility the other woman didn’t even remember having a daughter. But, as any good reporter would, Chloe had a backup plan.

    “Ms. Smith, I work for a newspaper and I’m writing an article on the Venkon Hospital, would you mind if I asked you some questions?” She tried to keep her face as stoic as possible and her voice even as she constantly reminded herself this wasn’t one of the tales she let herself imagine.

    Erin saw Chloe trying to keep her face as impassive as possible and felt something clench in her stomach. Even after thirteen years she still ached to see her child in pain, and she was certain that if she were not restrained she’d have already pulled Chloe into her arms.

    “Newspaper... you’re a reporter?” Erin’s tone was one of idle curiosity.

    “Yes.” Chloe said more dryly than she intended.

    When she was about 12, Chloe had found a few articles on Erin on a science magazine mentioning that her mother had won an award for her work but had given no further details.

    Since she’d developed an interest in journalism, Chloe had imagined what it would be like to tell Erin about her articles and ask her things from a more scientific point of view (especially when it came to the meteor rocks) even though she had no idea what kind of scientist her mother had been.

    “Do you know why you are here, Ms. Smith? And how long you’ve been in this facility?” Chloe pushed record on the tape recorder inside her jacket pocket (they wouldn’t let her take her purse inside the hospital and recording devices were forbidden) forcing herself into reporter mode.

    Erin was taken aback by the bluntness of the question but found she expected nothing less of Chloe. After all, Gabe was the exact same way. If he wanted to know something he didn’t waste time and went straight for the jugular.

    But now wasn’t the time to reflect on her ex-husband and the traits their daughter had inherited from him. Erin cleared her mind and concentrated on being as aloof and incoherent as possible.

    “Don’t know. I think I did, once, but I forget.” She let out a little laugh and looked down, scraping her sock covered foot against the concrete floor. "I think there's something wrong with my head."

    Unconsciously clenching her jaw, Chloe gave Erin a small nod and looked down at her hands, not really seeing them but needing to look somewhere else. This was harder than she could have ever imagined.

    “Do they-” her voice broke but it was only a nanosecond before Chloe looked up again, her jaw still tight, “do they treat you well here?”

    Erin bobbed her head in confusion making it impossible for Chloe to decipher if she meant “yes” or “no.” So Chloe asked again, this time her tone a little firmer.

    “Do they treat you well here, Ms. Smith?”

    Erin smirked inwardly at the change in Chloe’s voice. She could tell that her daughter was still a bit wary by the way she was looking nervously around the room, but it seemed her babbling was starting to aggravate Chloe. Both she and Gabe were notorious for their short tempers and limited tolerance for B.S., so Erin could just imagine how short a fuse Chloe had.

    She looked up from the invisible drawings she had been making on the floor and gave Chloe an eerie smile. “What’s your favorite color? Mine’s pink.”

    This time, Chloe allowed herself to take a deep breath. It was frightening to see what the mind of someone who had been referred to once as a genius could become.

    She remembered Erin talking to her, even though it had been over 13 years. Erin telling her stories, things she had done when she was younger. Chloe clearly recalled Erin comparing her ‘adventures’ with her older sister Ellen to the ones Chloe and Lois had when they were little. She remembered the proud smile on Erin’s face when she’d whispered secretively ‘You are the smart one, like I was.’ Right now, she couldn’t help but wonder if this was also her fate.

    “Ms. Smith, do you remember anything before you came here?” Her voice wasn’t as hard now and she hoped the other woman wouldn’t notice the pity she felt.

    How much did she remember before she’d been thrown into this cell and more or less forgotten about? Everything. Erin remembered everything. She remembered when Chloe had first sat up by herself, when she first crawled, when she first pulled herself up on the coffee table, when she took her first step at Gabe’s parents house.

    Chloe’s first word was ‘goat.’ There had been a picture of a goat on Chloe’s door and one day, she just pointed to it and yelled, ‘Goat!’

    She remembered the time when Chloe was two and she came toddling out of the kitchen at the apartment in Metropolis, chewing on gum she’d fished out of the garbage can.

    Erin remembered Chloe’s first day of kindergarten and how nervous the usually bold and brave five year-old had been. When the bus had come to pick her up, Chloe missed the first step and slipped and knocked one of her front teeth out. It had been the first tooth she’d lost and it’d taken forever for the new, adult tooth to grow in.

    And then the memories stopped for Erin.

    Of course, Erin wasn’t about to share all this with Chloe. Instead she pursed her lips together and shook her head.

    “No.”

    Chloe nodded once more and swallowed hard. Erin really didn’t seem to remember anything; hell she probably didn’t even remember her own name. When Chloe had first decided to visit Erin, she wasn’t sure exactly why but now she realized she’d wanted, no needed to know if Erin would recognize her.

    The answer was clear.

    As Chloe was about to thank ‘Ms. Smith’ for her time, there was a knock on the door and a male nurse walked in announcing it was time for her medication.

    Promptly, Erin stood and the nurse said something Chloe couldn’t hear, she saw the woman nod and the man moved to untie the straight jacket.

    Erin smiled at Chloe and said in the same secretive voice she’d used all those years ago, “I promised him I would behave.” An aloof smile played on her lips.

    After giving her the medicine, letting Erin hold her own glass of water, the man started to pull the jacket back on but was interrupted by her, “Wait.” When given attention, the older woman smiled once more and nodded towards Chloe “Can I give the nice miss a hug before she leaves? I like talking to her.”

    The man turned toward Chloe asking her silently for her permission. After getting her ok, he reluctantly took a step back and turned to Chloe, whispering, “I’ll be right back here if you need, but this one is usually not a problem.” He stepped back after Chloe whispered a nervous ‘Okay’

    Erin wasn’t sure how much longer she could keep up this charade. She’d only managed so far because she knew it meant keeping her family safe. But seeing her daughter now, realizing just how much she had missed out on, she knew she had to act. Chloe's visit had provided her with an opportunity and she was going to take it.

    She motioned for Chloe to approach. The girl obeyed, unsure of how to deal with the situation. Looking at the older woman closely, Chloe noticed her eyes were no longer glazed but sharp, almost, intelligent? Mouthing ‘it’s okay,’ Erin enveloped Chloe in a hug.

    All Chloe could do was gasp, she’d known it was coming but this felt a lot more overwhelming than she expected. Her eyes widened as Erin started whispering into her hair.

    “Chloe, I have so much to apologize for, but this is not the time. I don’t know how you found me but you have to be careful. He always finds out. Look for a project called Proficio Letum. If you want answers, that will help you.”

    After tightening the embrace for a second, Erin let her go. Her eyes were vacant again, her expression placid.

    Chloe felt a lump in her throat and a mix of emotions she couldn’t explain, shock being the first and most prevalent. She just stared at the woman, her mother, tightening her jaw, pushing back the tears.

    “Thank you, Ms. Smith.” Chloe managed to whisper.

    Finally unlocking her eyes from Erin’s, with a strength she had no clue she possessed, Chloe turned and left the room.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    KENT BARN

    He was nervous, no he was past nervous. He was sure if he were human, his shirt would be damp with sweat.

    Clark stopped pacing when he heard footsteps, followed by Lana’s voice calling his name. This was it. Finally, their first real date since they’d broken up. He needed to make things more than perfect.

    No pressure. Right.

    “Hey, Lana.” Clark said as he looked down the stairs, Lana always seemed to glow when she entered the barn, especially now in the soft afternoon light. “I was just uh-” the usual lump in his throat, “just finishing some stuff.” He smiled bashfully.

    "Hi." Lana stopped at the base of the stairs smiling almost shyly up at him.

    "I um thought we could have dinner up here," Clark said nervously. "But if you don't want to we could go out."

    "No." Lana’s reply was quick. "I mean I'd like that. To stay here, that is. To have dinner here." She made her way up the stairs, heart pounding in her ears. She almost couldn’t believe this was happening. After everything she’d been through with Clark, the secrets they kept from each other, the heartache they caused each other, so many countless obstacles that always seemed to keep them from getting to this point, they were finally there again. First date jitters and all.

    The question now was if they could actually remain at and hopefully surpass this point in their relationship this time around.

    Lana surveyed the loft in quiet awe. Clark had really gone all out. White twinkle lights hung from the rafters and apart from the setting sun, were the only source of light in the barn. A low table was set up in front of the big window and brightly colored pillows served as chairs. The table was already set with food that made her mouth water just from the smell of it. Mrs. Kent must’ve baked. Either that or Clark’s cooking skills had improved. Lana guessed it was the former.

    “This is amazing Clark. Really,” she spoke softly.

    Clark scrubbed the back of his neck with his hand and shot her a sheepish look. “Mom cooked.”

    Lana laughed. “As I suspected,” she replied. “But I wasn’t just talking about the food.”

    Clark felt his cheeks flush. “I just wanted everything to be perfect. It’s taken us so long to get here and-”

    “I know.” Lana nodded, not wanting to spoil the evening with memories of their sometimes painful past.

    “So do you want to sit? I thought we could eat and then watch the sunset.” Clark motioned towards the table and pillows.

    She smiled at him and Clark almost forgot how to breathe. He waited until Lana had situated herself on the pillows before settling down, tripping in the process and flopping ungracefully onto his stomach. Lana might no longer be wearing her kryptonite necklace, but she still made him feel clumsy and awkward.

    Clark mumbled a curse under his breath and quickly pushed himself up into a sitting position, glancing at his table mate to see her hand covering her mouth in an attempt to keep her laughter at bay.

    “I’m sorry, I know I shouldn’t laugh,” she giggled.

    “And yet, you still are.” Clark replied dryly.

    “I know. I was just thinking about how you used to trip all over yourself whenever I was around. It’s just like old times.” She broke into another fit of giggles, a tear escaping her eye and daintily rolling down her cheek. She felt bad for laughing, really she did. But she couldn’t help it. It was a nervous habit. And she most definitely was nervous.

    Clark shot a playful glare at her, suddenly finding the ammunition he needed to put a stop to Lana’s laughter. “Well, almost. In order for it to be like old times, you’d have to be in all light pink, now wouldn’t you?”

    When Lana started laughing even harder, Clark decided that he must have done something to piss off the fates to warrant this kind of humiliation. Was it because he had squished that spider earlier today?

    “I’m glad you find my humiliation so amusing,” he mumbled in defeat.

    Lana shook her head and wiped the tears off her face. “Look.” And with that, Lana pulled her dark blue sweater over her head to reveal a light pink t-shirt.

    Clark’s eyes widened and he broke into low chuckles as Lana proudly grinned at him from across the table.

    “Old habits die hard,” she shrugged.

    And just like that, the tension and awkwardness shattered.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    Chloe’s mind wandered as she drove back to Smallville. When she’d left the hospital, her eyes were blurred with unshed tears but she hadn’t let them fall. She still felt overwhelmed and shaken up, but mostly she felt a mix of confusion and strangely, some sort of hope.

    Her movements while driving where automated, especially on the road back to Smallville. There were hardly any cars and the surroundings were 99% never ending cornfields. So she allowed herself to dwell on everything that had happened in the past… hour? Hours? She didn’t know. She had lost track of time.

    The one thing she kept going back to was the fact that Erin had, indeed, recognized her. Even after all those years, Erin had recognized her daughter. The fact that her mother had not let her know until the last minute made it even more confusing, but not as hard to deal with as it would have been if the recognition hadn’t come at all.

    Another fact she returned to was that Erin had sounded lucid. Chloe had felt the trust and desperation in her voice as she’d whispered into her ear. It made no sense whatsoever but Chloe hoped she would be able to find out enough about the project and who the ‘he’ was that seemed to have Erin so frightened.

    Adding all this together only made Chloe even more curious about what had happened. And more determined to find out why her mother had ended up in an insane asylum. Knowing she wasn’t insane made Chloe desperate to get her out of the place.

    However, that determination was tempered by one small, yet not insignificant thought. It had occurred to her that maybe, just maybe, Erin’s ramblings about the project had been completely delusional, some sort of conspiracy theory the woman had created during her idle time inside the asylum. But Chloe decided to rule that out until her research was done.

    Chloe turned off her car and only then realized she had unconsciously driven to the Kent barn.

    She didn’t plan on telling Clark about everything right away but the drive had lead her up to his doorstep nonetheless. Their friendship was stronger now than it had been for sometime and while she’d never mentioned researching Erin to him in the last few months, he was the one person who knew the most about her mother and to some extent, how everything made her feel.

    That and the fact that she was not ready to tell her dad.

    Chloe made her way upstairs, trying to organize her thoughts when she heard music playing softly in the background and figured he was enjoying some of his infamous ‘alone time.’ However, since he’d always heard her car before, she didn’t bother announcing herself anymore. It wasn’t until she was at the top of the stairs and called out Clark’s name that Chloe realized she should have.

    Clark and Lana were talking quietly and intimately by the barn window as the sun set. Both turned abruptly to look at her. Chloe stopped in the middle of the word and quickly added an apology as she realized what was happening.
    Their first official date.

    “Clark, Lana, I’m so sorry. I completely forgot your date was today.”

    It was true, she had forgotten but she shouldn’t have. She had picked this day to go to Metropolis specifically because both of them would be busy and wouldn’t be asking questions about where she was going.

    She wouldn’t feel like sharing if things had gone worse.

    “Chloe, it’s okay we were--” Clark stammered. “Lana and I were just--”

    “I should have knocked, called, something, I’ll just talk to you guys later. Sorry to interrupt.” Flashing them a quick smile, Chloe turned and headed back down the stairs, ignoring them as each called her name.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    As the blonde disappeared from the barn, Clark couldn’t help but frown. She sounded more rushed than usual, there was something odd about the way she smiled and she seemed almost uncomfortable. It didn’t take a genius to realize something was wrong.

    Clark glanced at Lana who had also been looking after the blonde until she noticed his eyes on her and smiled briefly before walking back to the window.

    He looked down the stairs one more time before returning to his seat. His mind unconsciously went to his blonde friend, wondering if Chloe had purposely come to the barn to check on them. She had the last time and although she seemed to have changed a lot this summer, there was definitely something odd about her behavior.

    Could Chloe still have feelings for him?

    Clark liked to believe she didn’t, he loved Chloe like a sister and wouldn’t want to see her get hurt again, especially not by him. Especially after everything they’d gone through to try and get their friendship back on track.

    “The sun’s almost gone.” Lana commented after a few minutes of silence.

    Clark looked at her and smiled, moving closer, leaning against the window and looking outside. “We can’t miss that.”

    Pushing thoughts of Chloe aside for the moment, he concentrated on regaining the easy atmosphere that they’d maintained all afternoon. He’d talk to Chloe tomorrow.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    SULLIVAN RESIDENCE

    As Chloe opened the front door and let herself in, she heard the TV and slowly, quietly, made her way to the living room. As she suspected -and hoped- Gabe had fallen asleep in front of the TV. Lately, he’d been too tired to stay awake for longer than thirty minutes, ever since he’d gotten his promotion at the plant. But he’d also been happier than she’d seen him in quite some time.

    Making her way upstairs, she sighed in relief when he did not wake. At least she wouldn’t have to lie to him again. She didn’t like doing that but she didn’t want him to know where she’d been.

    Erin leaving had been hard on Gabe. Chloe remembered when she was little, listening to him crying through his bedroom wall. She also remembered him quickly wiping away the tears and smiling when she entered the room.

    He avoided the subject like a plague and for years Chloe believed Gabe had forgotten about Erin. That was until the day she’d found the box hidden in the back of his closet while looking for a flashlight. It was filled with pictures, old notes and letters they had written to one another. Chloe had not read them but had skimmed through the pictures, some she had seen before, others she hadn’t.

    But what really got her attention was a cut out from a science magazine, apparently Erin had won some kind of award but Chloe didn’t know more than that since the article wasn’t in the box and the magazine was no longer published. All she knew was what said at the bottom of the picture ‘Erin Sullivan, 1989’s ScienceMag award winner’ and that two years later, Erin had left.

    After thinking things through at least a thousand times, realizing how much Gabe still missed his wife, she decided she could not tell Gabe. Not yet. Not until she knew more.

    But now that her suspicions that Erin was alive and well had been confirmed, she had new information and a lot of new questions to answer. Just as Chloe started typing up the information Erin had given her, she was interrupted by a knock on her bedroom door and her father’s voice asking if he could come in.

    “Sure dad.” With a few quick clicks she saved and closed the document.

    “I didn’t hear you come home. Didn’t expect you until much later. How was your afternoon with Lois?” Gabe smiled and came into the room, giving Chloe a light kiss on the forehead.

    She was going to have to lie to him again after all. “It was fine, nothing too exciting.” Chloe forced a smile. “Lois had some college work to do so I figured I’d just come home and leave her alone.”

    “Are we talking about the same Lois?” Gabe wasn’t sure Lois and ‘work’ belonged in the same sentence.

    Chloe realized she should have thought of a better lie, Gabe knew Lois well and knew the girl would never trade a night out in order to study. “Okay so she had a date and I didn’t feel like playing third wheel.”

    “That I can believe.” He shook his head but smiled. “I’m going to bed sweetie, the couch doesn’t do my back any good. I’m glad you’re back.”

    “Thanks dad, good night.” Chloe smiled as he kissed her forehead before leaving the room.

    She really hated lies.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    THE TORCH

    As soon as Clark looked inside the Torch he knew something was indeed wrong with Chloe. She was staring at the computer screen without blinking, holding the cup of coffee near her mouth without drinking from it. She looked paler than usual and the bags under her eyes seemed darker. Clark would have been surprised if she’d slept a full hour, if at all the previous night.

    Quietly, he entered the room. “Chloe?” he called softly so as not to startle her.

    Chloe turned her head and smiled tiredly when she saw Clark. “Hey.”

    “You feeling okay? You look terrible.” He leaned against her desk, trying to read her gaze.

    Chloe looked at him with raised eyebrows and took a sip of coffee. “You were never a good liar but you don’t have to be that direct, Kent.”

    Clark quickly apologized, exactly like Chloe knew he would. Sure she looked like shit and obviously he was going to ask her what was going on, but while she had the chance to stall, she would.

    “I didn’t mean it like that, you just seem… upset?” He leaned down as he spoke, trying to get a closer look at her face. “And last night when you stopped by the barn, you looked a little worried.”

    “I’m sorry, Clark. I hope I didn’t mess anything up or ruin a moment?” She couldn’t stop frowning at the thought she might have done just that. Not that Clark and Lana did not have plenty of moments, but the previous night they could have actually taken advantage of one.

    “You didn’t.” He smiled a little uncomfortably. “We were just watching the sunset and talking.”

    Clark twisted to look at the computer screen, trying to change the subject back to Chloe.

    Chloe felt herself wanting to draw his attention away from it but knew he’d find out sooner or later and given what she had just discovered, she figured it would be good to have some help with her next move.

    Besides, she really needed to tell someone what she’d discovered.

    With a disapproving look and a frown on his face, Clark turned back to her. “What’s Proficio Letum and what does Lionel Luthor have to do with it?”

    Chloe felt like a child being lectured as Clark spoke, his tone resembling Jonathan Kent. “Chloe, you’re not investigating him again are you?”

    “Actually Clark, I am.” Before he could start a real lecture, she placed her half-empty coffee cup on the desk and continued speaking. “I didn’t mean to, I didn’t even know he was connected to this until I started looking into it.”

    Chloe paused, took a deep breath. “It all started when I went to see Erin yesterday.”

    His eyebrows rose. “Erin?”

    “My mother.”

    Clark’s eyes widened, unsure what to make of this. Suddenly, something registered.
    “But I thought she lived in Australia?”

    “I found out that was all a lie. She’s in a mental institution in Metropolis.”

    Ignoring his confused expression, Chloe proceeded to tell Clark about the research she’d done to find Erin, her visit to Metropolis the previous day, and finally about the project her mother had mentioned.

    “I don’t know much more other than Lionel Luthor hired Erin to be the head of this project years ago and things got ugly somewhere during the process. She mentioned ‘him’ when she spoke to me and said ‘he’ always knew. We know Lionel’s eyes see farther than Sauron’s so she has to mean him.”

    Clark raised an eyebrow at her Lord of the Rings reference, but realized it was true.

    “I just couldn’t find a single report saying what the project was about. I mean Proficio Letum means ‘help to die’ or ‘advance death.’ That makes no sense.”

    Chloe stopped the pacing she’d begun, coming to stand in front of Clark with a half-resigned, half frightened expression. “I need to go to LuthorCorp.”

    “No.” Clark’s refusal was firm and unyielding. He held up a hand before she could speak. “Chloe, if Lionel finds out you’re looking into his past again he will--”

    “He won’t.” She stopped Clark before he could finish his sentence. “We won’t tell anyone about it, not even Lex. I’ve broken into LuthorCorp before. I need to find those files, Clark.”

    All he could do was sigh. Clark could see Chloe was determined, bordering on obsessed with finding any information she could about this project and her mother’s link to it. Remembering what he’d gone through in order to find out more about who he was and where he came from, knowing he wasn’t in any position to criticize, he made a decision.

    “I’ll come with you.”

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    LUTHORCORP – METROPOLIS

    It was 11 PM when the red Volkswagen bug pulled up along a side road near the entrance to the LuthorCorp complex. Making sure the car could not be seen from the road, Chloe and Clark made their way towards the main gate, both dressed in black.

    Chloe took a deep breath as she used the key card to open the gate. She’d done this before but the card hadn’t been her dad’s. Hopefully they would be able to get out without being found. Thankfully, the gate guard was on break – his schedule having been memorized by Chloe a day earlier.

    A few moments later they’d managed to get inside the building without being seen.

    “Okay,” she whispered to Clark as they made their way down the stairs to the floor where the files were kept. “I don’t know exactly which room has the files we’ll need, so we split up and meet back here. Just make sure you don’t leave this corridor and we should be fine.” She handed him a small flashlight and noticing he was about to protest added, “It’ll be faster this way, remember: Proficio Letum.” Before he could open his mouth Chloe turned and started moving away from him.

    Clark shook his head as Chloe disappeared into the shadows of the dimly lit corridor. Splitting up was always the worst choice in these situations he knew, but since they were in no immediate danger and he hadn’t spotted anyone else around with his X-ray vision, he figured it would be better to check his side of the corridor quickly and then find Chloe instead of arguing.

    About 5 minutes and 7 doors later, he found a room that held an incredible amount of files. Without stopping to think, he pulled out a drawer and started looking for the one they wanted, always careful not to use his superspeed in front of possible security cameras.

    The thought made him pause. How many times had he and Chloe been in similar situations—especially in the past few years? He shuddered, choosing not to think how they’d ended up, and got back to searching.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    Chloe slowly opened the third door down the corridor, hoping for a lucky break. The other rooms had been filled with what seemed to be unused lab material along with old and broken machines. But this one looked more promising, row after row of file cabinet’s appearing before her. After making sure no one was inside, she shut the door behind her and aimed her flashlight at the gun-metal gray cabinets.

    The cabinets seemed to be divided by year and after a quick browse, Chloe decided to start with 1989, the year she knew Erin had gotten an award. It would have been a good reason for Lionel to look her up.

    After going through all the ‘P’ pages, she moved onto the drawer below to find 1990’s files. She stifled a cry of triumph as she finally found one with the words Project Proficio Letum– January ’90 to October ’91 – Inconclusive emblazoned on the cover.

    Chloe quickly opened the file and began browsing the documents inside when she heard footsteps in the corridor.

    Turning off the flashlight and closing the document, she quickly stepped backwards, trying to hide behind the cabinet, only to bump into the still open drawer, causing a loud clanking noise. She shut her mouth tight to keep from cursing at the pain the impact caused and crouched behind the furniture seconds before the door flew open.

    From where she hid, Chloe couldn’t see much, the person was approaching slowly and although she couldn’t see who it was, she could make out that the person was carrying a fire extinguisher. Clearly, it was not a security guard and definitely not Clark.

    The extinguisher was moving closer and Chloe tightened her hold on the files. She needed to at least be able to hide them under her jacket before she was caught.

    It wasn’t until the person moved to the side a little in order to close the door that Chloe noticed the familiar bald, shiny head reflecting the dim light from the corridor. She would have sighed in relief at seeing the familiar figure if she thought this meant she was no longer in trouble.

    “L-Lex? Its Chloe.” The words were loud enough for him to hear but knowing his temper she decided to stay behind the cabinet until she was sure it was safe to come out.

    She heard a clunk as he placed the fire extinguisher on the floor and seconds later was nearly blinded when Lex turned on the lights.

    Chloe slowly rose, clutching the folder to her chest. It would be useless to try and hide it under her blouse now that the light was on. Creeping out from behind the cabinets she noticed Lex observing her intently, his gaze momentarily resting on the folder she held before meeting her eyes.

    “Returning to your career in breaking and entering, Miss Sullivan?”
    Miss Sullivan? Chloe felt like she had been caught with her hand in the cookie jar.

    With a sigh she looked down at the folder. She needed to convince Lex to let her keep it, that much she knew, the only question was: how?

    “Lex. I don’t know where to start.”

    Placing both his hands inside his pockets, Lex shifted from one foot to another and Chloe noticed a smirk forming on his face. Only instead of the friendly smirk she had gotten used to, she saw a smirk that reminded her of Lionel. She shivered slightly.

    “Maybe you should start by telling me why you thought it would be better to break into LuthorCorp instead of asking me to let you inside.” His voice was filled with sarcasm and something Chloe couldn’t quite put her finger on.

    “I didn’t want to bother you with something that might not even be true.” She was not looking forward to giving Lex any details about her mom.

    Lex looked at her for a moment before removing his hands from his pockets and taking a few steps forward. With one hand outstretched, he motioned for the file.

    Unconsciously, Chloe took a step back and noticed as Lex frowned for a nanosecond at her action before returning to his impassive expression.

    “I’m sorry Lex, but I really need to take a better look at this file before returning it to you.” On her quick check of the file earlier, Chloe had noticed her mother’s name credited as the lead scientist on the project. Erin had been telling the truth.

    “Chloe, what is going on?” She knew him well enough by now to be able to tell he was surprised by her resistance, almost worried, though neither his voice nor expression betrayed those emotions.

    Seeing a little more of the Lex she’d grown to know in the past months, she took a deep breath and decided to tell him the truth. He’d get it out of her one way or another.

    “Do you remember when your father committed you to Belle Reve last year, making you and everyone believe you were insane?” She paused, watching as various emotions flitted across his face, quickly masked by his blank expression.

    “It’s not something you forget, Chloe.” He hoped she couldn’t sense his unrest at her bringing up one of the worst periods of his life. Especially after discovering who and what had been behind that hellish period of his life.

    “You might not have been the first person he used that method on.”

    Lex’s instincts were on full alert. Could she know? Had she seen the formula somewhere in the files he knew she still possessed from Doctor Carlton? What did she mean he might not have been the first person? What had she gotten them into now?

    “What are you talking about?” His voice was calm, although the emotions churning inside him were anything but.

    “I found my mom, Lex.”

    The words were broken off as the door suddenly flew open, knocking Lex to the ground as Clark stormed in.

    “Chloe!”

    Clark had come back to find Chloe a few minutes later and noticed the light on underneath the closed door. Using his X-ray vision he’d observed two people inside, and hadn’t stopped to think before kicking down the door.

    His gaze turned sheepish as he found a shocked looking Chloe and Lex, the older man now sprawled on the floor.

    “As always, you do know how to make an entrance, Clark.” Lex dusted off his pants as he rose to his feet, observing Clark’s guilty expression.

    “Clark, it’s okay. He knows.” Chloe placed a hand on her friend’s arm, shocked but not surprised at his entrance—and his strength. Just another Clark Kent anomaly she’d grown used to.

    “So, who is going to explain this to me?”

    With a sigh, Chloe motioned for Clark to remain silent and began to tell Lex everything they knew so far.

    Lex was intrigued, not to mention surprised at Chloe’s research, but not her determination. And what she’d uncovered – well, not only did it impact her life but it could have a big repercussion on LuthorCorp. He needed to keep this thing under wraps and under control, but he wanted to help Chloe as well.

    He knew first hand the pain of losing a mother.

    So, he decided he would let her leave with the file--as long as she let him help her out with the investigation.

    Chloe agreed, glad to be working with him instead of against him. Not to mention he could open doors she had no chance of even finding.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    An hour later found all three seated in Lex’s office at the mansion. He’d insisted they return to Smallville since he’d been planning on heading home and had only stopped on his way out when a flashing security light had alerted him to their presence.

    Clark was watching Lex and Chloe discuss ideas and thoughts, the file open on the table before them. He knew Lex was doing this in hopes of making up for something else Lionel had done wrong. And of course if he got something out of it, even better. But for the moment, he would give Lex the benefit of the doubt.

    When Lex had all the details, he and Chloe began going through the files to get a basic idea of what the project was about. When things became all too clear, Chloe and Clark were shocked, but Lex only looked resigned.

    Proficio Letum it turned out was a research project Lionel Luthor had started with the help of Erin Sullivan. The plan was to develop a bacteria that would shut down all of a person’s internal organs, one by one, resulting in eventual death. Chloe looked like she was going to be sick. Lex had his stoic face back on. Clark looked troubled.

    Realizing everyone was too tired to continue, Lex decided to send everyone home. He’d make some calls in the morning to try and find out more, including why the project had been started. Seeing how emotional Chloe was, he’d allowed her to take the file home to read.

    Saying goodbye to their host, Clark remained silent as he and Chloe walked towards her car. He couldn’t stop thinking about how many lives this research could end if it fell into the wrong hands.

    He also wondered what could happen if it fell into Lex’s hands.

    He wanted to ask Chloe if letting Lex help was the best idea, to ask her so many things and maybe help change her mind. But Chloe had been uncharacteristically quiet and by the tight grip she held on the steering wheel he’d thought better of it.

    Clark could tell she was nervous and he couldn’t blame her.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    TALON

    It was a little past 4pm when Chloe finally entered the Talon the next day. Being a Saturday, this was late for her usual post-lunch dose of caffeine. But being as she’d stayed up until 5am looking into the material she found at LuthorCorp, it couldn’t be helped.

    All of her research did not help though; most of the files were logs on the development of the bacteria and test results. No explanation of any sort at to why LuthorCorp wanted to develop it or why Erin had ended up in a mental institution.

    After going through every single sheet, Chloe had found herself even more shocked over the words written on the last document.

    It was a log for a testing of the bacteria on humans. According to the information, the test subject, a terminal lung cancer patient, had suffered a 13-hour painful death as all of his internal organs completely shut down.

    Chloe had been ready to throw the logs away and leave Erin to die in that place when she’d discovered a small, handwritten note at the bottom of the page.

    Experiment conducted without the consent of the developer in charge of the project, Erin Sullivan.

    Erin’s signature had been below it.

    Horrifying thoughts had begun swirling through her mind as she’d emailed the information to Lex on their secured email. Fingers shaking, she’d typed up the only conclusion she had come to: Lionel or someone working for him had been too eager to conduct the experiments and done it without Erin’s knowledge, perhaps even without her permission.

    That still didn’t excuse Erin from developing the bacteria, but Chloe had decided not to judge before having all the facts. Mostly because she needed to believe her mother wasn’t such a monster as Lionel Luthor.

    Chloe had woken up around 2pm. Slightly more rested, she checked the files again to make sure her assumptions from the previous night made some sense. Since Lex still hadn’t replied to her, Chloe decided to head for the Talon and wait for him to contact her. That and she didn’t want to be home when her dad returned from his weekly bowling outing with friends from work.

    As she walked into the coffee shop, Chloe noticed Lana and Martha talking animatedly over the counter while Clark watched them. Instead of his usual goofy-Lana-grin, however, Clark had a thoughtful look on his face. A look replaced with a tight smile in her direction when he noticed her approaching the group.

    “Hey, Chloe.”

    Martha and Lana looked up when Clark spoke Chloe’s name, both smiled and Martha suggested Chloe order her usual because according to the older woman, she looked tired. Chloe simply smiled and nodded in thanks as Mrs. Kent went to make the latté and Lana followed.

    “Hey, Clark.” Chloe smiled tiredly as she sat down on the stool next to his and noticed the worry returning to his face.

    “How are you? Did the files help?” Clark kept his voice low.

    “Not much help on how she ended up there but at least now I know enough about the project. I emailed Lex the information and now all I can do is hope he can find something else because the logs won’t help much more.”

    “Figure what out?” Chloe heard someone asking and turned her attention back to the counter to see Lana holding the blonde’s foaming latté with a puzzled expression.

    Before Chloe could say anything to the brunette, however, Clark interjected.

    “These anonymous emails Chloe has been getting. I think she just doesn’t want to accept she has a secret admirer.” He finished with a tight smile that screamed ‘lie’ but Lana seemed to be intrigued.

    “Hey, why didn’t you tell me about this?” Lana’s smile made Chloe feel bad for ‘forcing’ Clark to lie and having to lie as well. All their friendships were still a little fragile and Clark lying to Lana now that they wanted to start building something again was definitely not the best idea.

    “It’s not really a secret admirer, I mean I--” She paused when she felt her cell phone vibrating inside her pocket and reached for it in relief.

    “Oooh, maybe it’s him!” Lana said with a grin.

    Chloe smiled wryly. “No, its just Lex.” Her eyes went to Clark. “I’ll just take this outside, my cell phone reception isn’t the best in here.” She noticed Lana’s raised eyebrow as she walked out. Clark just shrugged.

    “Lex, hi. Did you find something out?” Chloe listened to his deep voice, her eyes widening. A few seconds later she replied with a quick, “I’m on my way.”

    Completely forgetting about her coffee, she headed to her car, steering it towards the Luthor Mansion.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
    episode continues in next post

  2. #2
    NS Senior Member Senior Member sydsvaughn's Avatar
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    04 Mar 2003
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    1,313

    Re: Episode 8 - "Erin" (PG)

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    LUTHOR MANSION

    Lex was clearly taking his time.

    Chloe had been sitting on the small couch by the fireplace for a full five minutes, tapping her right foot and resisting the urge to bite her nails, when Lex finally walked in holding a manila envelope.

    “Excuse me for the delay, Chloe.” He gave her a brief smile as he took the seat across from her. “You got here faster than I expected.” The raised eyebrow and the hint of a smirk on his face was enough for her.

    “I suppose I could have blamed you and my curiosity if I’d gotten a speeding ticket.” Without time for her mouth to check with her brain, Chloe blurted, “What did you find out?”

    The smirk disappeared from his face and he was suddenly all business. Chloe suppressed a sigh. She hadn’t expected it to be good.

    Lex took a few sheets from inside the envelope and looked over them before speaking.

    “From the information you sent me, I was able to find some documents on that project.” He handed the papers over to Chloe and began to explain.

    Proficio Letum was indeed a research project and experiment to create a bacteria to shut down the internal organs in a slow, methodical process.”

    Chloe’s eyes went from the papers to his face and for a second she wasn’t completely sure she wanted to know or was ready for the truth. But before she could dwell on it she had already nodded, prodding him to continue.

    She could tell he was studying her reaction as he continued. “Initially, the objective of the bacteria was to help those with cancer suffer a less painful death.”

    Her jaw was tight when she spoke. “Wouldn’t a bullet through the head be quicker?” Her tone was harsh but she didn’t care. “It’s murder just the same.” Chloe wasn’t aware she was so angry until she heard the strain in her voice.

    Lex shook his head and calmly continued. “Many cancer patients ask to have their lives terminated but if their disease isn’t advanced enough, there is nothing the doctors can do because it’s not a case of unhooking the machines. The objective given to the staff involved was to develop something to help those patients in pain.”

    He stood up and walked over to the window of the study, Chloe followed him with her eyes. “That, of course, was not my father’s real objective. As soon as the bacteria was created and ready to be tested in animals, he shortened the process and went straight to human testing.”

    Chloe could not see his face but she could see his shoulders stiffen before he turned back to her. “This bacteria was a weapon in the eyes of my father, one to be sold to the highest bidder.” His tone was bitter now and Chloe heard the pain he was trying to conceal. “After the test subject was killed, part of the staff abandoned the project. Including your mother.”

    Slowly, things started to fit into place. What Lex was saying made sense to her and looking at him, Chloe did her best not to let sympathy show in her face.

    Lionel Luthor was a monster, everyone knew that, but Lex was still his son and Chloe couldn’t help feeling for him. Having to admit your father had done so much damage could not be easy on any child, especially not the son whom everyone compared to the parent. The young man standing before her, battling ingrained instincts NOT to become like the man who’d fathered him.

    The few hours she’d thought of Erin as a murderer had not been fun. She could not even imagine what it would be like to feel that way your entire life.

    The questions she’d been asking herself, however, had been answered. She could now imagine why Erin would get involved with such project.

    With a short nod, Chloe looked up at Lex, who still stood by the window. “It makes sense. Especially the dates everything happened.”

    Lex turned, his eyebrow perched high on his forehead, his eyes curious. Chloe took a breath before explaining.

    “About a year before my mother left, her sister passed away. I always thought those facts were connected, even back then when my cousin Lois kept telling me my mother had left just like hers had. My aunt Ellen was Erin’s closest friend and the only family she had other than us. She died from lung cancer.”

    Chloe browsed the files unconsciously, feeling Lex’s intense gaze on her. “I didn’t understand a lot at the time, but I remember not liking to visit my Aunt as time went by because she kept getting thinner and thinner. And she was in so much pain.”

    With a shake of her head to clear her mind, she looked back at Lex. “It still doesn’t explain why Lionel did what he did.”

    When Lex spoke, his voice was low and harsh. “Chloe, you should know by now that no one ends a deal with my father.”

    She shivered. “But why go through all the trouble of putting Erin into an asylum instead of just killing her?” She wasn’t even aware of what she’d said until the words came out.

    “Because the information she had could be useful to him at sometime or another. After Erin left, most of the research vanished. I don’t think anyone has the formulas used and I wasn’t able to find the full logs on any files. I don’t think it’s stored anywhere except for, perhaps, your mother’s brain.”

    Lex walked over to the couch and sat beside Chloe, “I’ve contacted a few people and if you want your mother out of the institute, all you have to do is say so. With my father in prison, she should be safe to resume her life.”

    Chloe stared blankly at Lex. She could see he wanted to take Erin out of there, to undo the wrongs Lionel had done, to feel like a better man than he thought he could be because of his father. She’d be a fool to admit the possibility that Lex had more than just an interest in helping her and redeeming his father’s deeds had not crossed her mind. But she liked to think she knew him better and that no matter what, he would not use the information if it existed, like his father had planned.

    He was still staring at her, waiting for a response and she had only one answer to give to him.

    Even though Chloe had spent most of her life forcing herself to be mad at Erin, recent events changed everything. Erin had been caught in Lionel’s web and had paid the price. Just like Chloe. Like mother like daughter.

    Maybe history did repeat itself. Lex had been the one to help Chloe deal with Lionel, and he certainly could help Erin do the same.

    “I’d like that, Lex.”

    He looked at her carefully. “You’re sure you want her back in your life?”

    She smiled grimly. “Yes. I know it won’t be easy, but I want my mother back.” She looked directly at him, surprised to see a hint of pain in the dark depths. Suddenly she realized he might be wishing the same for his mother.

    They finally broke eye contact and he stood up with a small smile on his lips. “We’ll leave for Metropolis at 8 tomorrow morning.”

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    METROPOLIS
    VPH: Venkon Psychiatric Hospital


    By the time the chopper landed on the roof of the LuthorCorp tower, Chloe had no nails left. She was nervous, anxious and to some level, happy about what was about to happen. But most of all she felt relieved that Lex had offered his help.

    Chloe was also curious, question after question bombarding her brain. While she and Lex had managed to figure out a good part of what happened, she still couldn’t understand how Erin had survived all these years, imprisoned, drugged and yet still retaining some form of her sanity.

    As they entered the limo that would take them to the hospital, Chloe realized for the first time how serious and aloof Lex looked. She decided their silence had lasted long enough. Turning to look at him, she said, “I don’t think I thanked you for doing this.”

    Lex glanced at Chloe as she spoke but just as quickly turned away. “It’s the least I could do.” His voice was even but she could tell he was tense.

    “Lex,” Chloe paused uncertain of his reaction, but continuing bravely. “I hope you don’t feel like you have to do this because of Lionel. You’re two different people and you shouldn’t—“

    “I don’t, Chloe.” He said dryly, still not looking at her.

    It was obvious he wasn’t in a chatty mood so Chloe decided to leave him alone. The nervous tension was building as they drew closer to the Asylum. After a few more minutes of silence, the driver announced they had arrived.

    Entering the hospital had not been an issue; apparently Lex had already contacted the staff. When they arrived one of the male nurses took them to a room that had four chairs and a simple table. It was very much like the room in which Chloe had met Erin for the first time, only this one had proper lighting and did not seem as cold.

    Leaving them in the room, the male nurse announced he would go get ‘Ms. Smith.’ Chloe and Lex remained silent. A few moments later, the door opened and the male nurse entered, followed by Erin and a second nurse.

    Lex nodded at the men and they both left after walking Erin to the seat opposite Chloe and Lex.

    The first thing Chloe noticed was that Erin seemed much more alive. The second was that she wasn’t wearing a straight jacket, but a plain white shirt with matching pants. The third was that now that she was here, Chloe had no idea what to say.

    Erin tried to hide her surprise at seeing Chloe and a young bald man, several years her daughter’s senior, across from her. Something inside her, something she might call hope, leapt up like a flame. But she’d been playing this game too long to let it show. Keeping her expression placid, but managing a wistful smile, she offered, “I’m glad you came back.”

    Chloe returned Erin’s smile with a small, nervous one and hesitated before speaking, she wasn’t even sure what name she should call Erin by.

    “Jane—“

    “This room is secure Chloe, you don’t have to worry.” Lex’s tone was smooth but Chloe heard the dryness in it as he stood. “I have a few things to take care of while you two talk.”

    “Lex, you don’t have to, you already know--” Chloe tried to argue, suddenly feeling even more nervous at the thought of being left alone with Erin but Lex cut her off.

    “If you need anything, just ask the nurses to find me.” His words were reassuring but his face showed little emotion as he left the room.

    Chloe knew she would spend hours later analyzing his reaction, but for the moment, she was on her own. She took a deep breath and turned back to Erin who had been watching the proceedings with increasing hope. Hearing the man Chloe called Lex announce the room was secure, seeing Chloe’s small, nervous smile, she suddenly realized Chloe might have found something to help her. But there was still some uncertainty in her gaze… and Chloe picked up on it.

    “It’s okay. You don’t have to worry. He can’t get to you ever again.”

    Erin wasn’t sure if she could believe her daughter, not after everything she’d been through and the efforts she’d made herself over the years. But one look at the hope trying to shine through Chloe’s nervous eyes told her she had to take the chance and trust her daughter.

    “I guess this means you can call me Erin, Chloe.”

    Chloe felt tears building as Erin acknowledged her true identity at last. She was glad the woman had not suggested she call her ‘mom’. It was going to take some getting used to.

    “There is no need to be so nervous.” Erin continued in a calm voice.

    Chloe couldn’t help the way her heart was pounding at the thought that this was the first time they could really talk after all those years. The nervousness of the first meeting was coming back along with the fears and expectations. “I just have so much to ask.” She was almost whispering.

    Erin nodded; apparently she had questions of her own. “I’m sure you do. By the way, who’s your friend?”

    The question caught Chloe by surprise, everyone knew Lex Luthor the moment they laid eyes on him. But then she remembered Erin probably did not have a lot of contact with the media from inside.

    “Lex.” She paused and watched Erin’s face closely for a reaction. “Lex Luthor.”

    Erin’s expression turned hard for a moment. She had a vague recollection of Lionel mentioning his son during their brief period of working together. Still, like father—like son. How could she trust a Luthor? Again?

    Chloe would have missed Erin’s disapproval had she not been looking at the woman closely. Not that she blamed her. “I know you don’t like the Luthors, but Lex isn’t like his father. He’s helped me before and once he heard you were here because of Lionel, he offered to help again. I couldn’t have done it without his help.”

    Deciding not to ask about the fact that Lionel Luthor’s son seemed willing to help her daughter, numerous times, Erin simply nodded. She did wonder however why Chloe would need a Luthor’s help much less give him her trust. Something told her whatever had happened in the years she’d missed, it wasn’t something she’d be happy about. She wondered, for a moment, if they were involved. She didn’t like the shiver the thought sent through her body, but for the moment, she’d give them the benefit of the doubt. For the moment.

    Her thoughts were interrupted by Chloe’s voice. She hadn’t realized the girl had been studying her the whole time. “I thought they kept patients drugged in hospitals like this, to avoid trouble.”

    Erin nodded. “They do.”

    Chloe raised an eyebrow at Erin’s lucid countenance as the woman smiled, then sighed.

    “Two years ago the doctor that was in charge of my wing, Dr. Harlene Quinzelle was transferred to Arkham Asylum in Gotham. She’d been paid by Lionel Luthor to make sure I was unable to communicate properly with anyone. Apparently the new doctor didn’t get the memo to keep me inarticulate and decreased my drug dosage.”

    Chloe made a mental note to investigate the doctor.

    “Almost a year ago, the drugs they gave me stopped working because I had been taking them for too long. Slowly I became lucid again, only I continued to act as if the drugs were still working. I didn’t want to call attention to myself—or alert Lionel that I was not as ‘secure’ as he thought.”

    Chloe gave her first real smile. “You don’t have to worry about Lionel Luthor anymore. He’s in jail and not going anywhere.”

    This time Erin didn’t hide her reaction, her eyes widened as she digested the new piece of information. Before she could reply, the door opened and Lex walked in.

    “I hope I’m not interrupting,” His voice was relaxed but firm. “All the papers have been taken care of. Mrs. Sullivan you may leave as soon as you are ready.”

    Erin’s eyes widened at hearing her own name, her gaze ping-ponging between Chloe and Lex.

    “What?”

    Hearing the almost desperate hope in Erin’s voice, Chloe began to explain what she and Lex had discovered.

    Lex jumped in when she trailed off, informing Erin that he’d arranged for the treatment she would need to completely free her body from the drugs they’d been forcing on her and help her reacclimatize herself to a life outside the prison she’d been in for years. He also told her about the clinic he’d found for her in Granville and that she would soon have back her real name and all the official documentation that went with it.

    “I can’t believe it.” Erin wasn’t sure what to say, the information almost an overload. After all this time, was it possible that she was finally free? Seeing the tears in Chloe’s eyes, she finally allowed herself to begin to believe.

    “Believe it.” Chloe forced back her tears as Erin’s eyes filled. She watched as her mother slowly rose, hesitantly coming around the table, a question in her eyes.

    “Chloe, how’s Gabe?” Erin held her breath, waiting for a response uncertain of how she would take whatever might be said.

    Chloe smiled, seeing the hope in Erin’s eyes. “He’s fine, doing well.”

    “Does he know you--”

    Before Erin could finish her question Chloe shook her head. “No, not yet. I wanted to make sure of things before I told him. I’ll talk to him when I get home.”

    Erin nodded, wondering if after all these years, her husband might still find a place for her in his heart. Because she knew he’d never left hers. But she didn’t know if she was ready for that yet. Not until she’d had some time to come to grips with the situation and get the drugs completely out of her system. But the time would come. Soon.

    Feeling happier than she had in years, Erin tentatively reached out her arms to her daughter. With only a slight pause, Chloe stepped into Erin’s embrace, hugging her mother tightly. The two women held each other tightly, silently, enjoying a moment that needed no words. Finally pulling back, Chloe reached for a piece of paper and a pen. “This is our address, phone number, my cell phone and email so you can contact us when you want to. When you’re ready.” She swallowed hard as Erin nodded. She knew it would take time, but she was happy she’d taken the first step toward reuniting their family.

    Erin held the paper tightly in her hand and kissed Chloe’s forehead. “I’ll be in touch, soon.” Looking at Lex, she smiled and extended her hand. “Thank you for doing this.”

    Lex took her hand and shook it, a small smile on his face although his eyes were haunted. “Enrique will help you with your belongings and then accompany you to the clinic to make sure everything is alright. If you need anything, you can contact Chloe or myself.” He leaned over and wrote his number underneath Chloe’s before motioning to the door.

    Enrique was waiting and when Lex signaled, he entered. “Help Mrs. Sullivan gather her things, please.” The butler smiled at Chloe, then at Erin before nodding.

    “Shall we go, Mrs. Sullivan?”

    Erin nodded. “Thank you.” She turned for a moment to look back at Chloe, love shining in her eyes. “We’ll see each other soon.” With a tremulous smile, Erin turned and left the room.

    Chloe quickly blinked away the unshed tears, silently congratulating herself for not breaking down in front of Erin and then turned to Lex, who was watching her intently.

    “Shall we go? It seems that you’re due a long talk with Gabe when you get home.”

    Chloe nodded, following him into the hallway. As they neared the exit, she turned to him and smiled. “Thanks again Lex, for everything.” Before he could speak, she stopped him with a raised hand. “And don’t say it’s the least you could do, you don’t have an obligation to fix all the mistakes of your father. You did this because you’re different than he is. You’re a good man.” Every word she’d spoken was true. She’d wanted to tell him that for a while now. She knew it was something he needed to hear and she intended to tell him as often as possible.

    Lex looked at her for a second, his expression neutral, then nodded and ushered her out the door.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    LANA’S APARTMENT

    Clark walked into The Talon carrying a basket full of his mother’s pies she’d made earlier that morning but had forgotten in her haste to get to the coffee shop. He caught her eye from where she stood behind the counter and smiled.

    “Oh Clark, you’re a lifesaver. Thank you.” Martha smiled, taking the basket from him. “We’ve been so busy today and we’re completely out of everything but raspberry pie.”

    “No problem.” Clark glanced around the Talon trying to see if he could spot Lana, but she was nowhere to be found.

    “She’s upstairs.”

    Clark looked at her and raised an eyebrow. “How do you know I was looking for Lana?”

    Martha gave her son a long look and laughed. “I’m not clueless Clark. Besides, who cooked for your first date?” She grinned at his sheepish expression. “Now go and say hello to her like I know you want to”

    Clark shrugged his shoulders and made his way up the stairs. The door was slightly open and Clark stuck his head into the room. He spotted Lana standing in front of an easel, a half painted picture resting on it. He watched as she slowly stroked the paintbrush across the rough surface, humming along to the song that was filtering out of the stereo.

    He cleared his throat a few times and when that didn’t get her attention, he walked over to where she was, reached around and hit ‘pause’ on the CD player.

    Lana jumped, let out a little squeak as she whipped around, and then promptly poked her paintbrush right into his chest.

    “Clark!” She dropped the paintbrush onto the floor and turned bright red. Light blue paint was splattered all over her clothing and there were even a few speckles on her face.

    Clark looked down at his t-shirt which now had a big blue splotch right in the center of it and then back up at Lana.

    “Sorry,” she replied sheepishly. “Knee jerk reaction. Not that poking someone with a paint brush would cause them any harm but...” she trailed off and turned to drop the brush onto the table with the rest of her art supplies.

    “You were pretty involved in your painting.”

    Lana shrugged. “When I paint it’s like... I get in this zone. Someone could drop a bomb outside and I probably wouldn’t notice.” She turned to him and smiled. “So what brings you into my domain?”

    “I dropped some pies off that Mom forgot. She said you were up here and I figured I’d stop in and say hi.” Clark tried not to look too eager.

    “Oh... well, hi.” Lana smiled shyly, tucking a strand of hair that had fallen out of her pony tail behind her ears.

    “Hi.”

    The two stared at each other for a moment before Lana shook her head and moved towards the kitchen. “So... how’s Chloe? The last time I saw her she looked pretty shaken up about something.”

    Clark followed Lana and leaned against the counter top, watching as she opened the fridge and pulled out two bottles of water, offering one to him. “Oh... um, she found her Mom, actually.”

    Lana choked on the water she had been drinking and stared at Clark with wide eyes. “What?”

    “She found her mom.”

    “But... I thought... I thought Chloe knew where her mom was and that she wanted nothing to do with Chloe.” Lana was confused and slightly concerned. She knew that although Chloe didn’t talk much about her mother, the issue was a sore one.

    Clark sighed. “A few weeks ago Chloe found out from a source she met when she interned at the Daily Planet that the information she had was wrong. Thirteen years ago Erin Sullivan became Jane Smith. Chloe looked for months and finally found her mom... in a mental institution.”

    “A mental institution...” Lana quietly gasped. “God.”

    “A mental institution right in Metropolis, no less.” Clark sighed and began to explain what he and Chloe had found out about Erin Sullivan, her work with Lionel and subsequent punishment. When he’d finished, Lana looked shocked.

    “I think I’m going to be sick.” Lana now looked ill. “Poor Chloe. To find out that Lionel not only had it out for her but for her mom as well. It’s got to be devastating. Is there anything we can do? I mean, how is she?”

    Clark shook his head. “I’m not sure. She and Lex went to get Erin out of the asylum this morning.” At her curious look, he explained how Lex had helped Chloe figure things out.

    Lana nodded. “I’m sure she’s still pretty shaken up. Maybe we could take her to dinner in Granville or something. Help her get her mind off of everything. I can’t even begin to imagine what she’s feeling right now.”

    “Sounds like a good plan.” Clark smiled gently at the brunette’s concern. “Let’s wait a few days, though. Once everything dies down, we’ll do something really special for her.”

    The two were interrupted by Martha’s soft voice at the door. “I hate to interrupt but we just got slammed downstairs. Lana, would you mind giving me a hand?”

    Lana shook her head. “Not at all. Let me change into something a little less disgusting and I’ll be right down.”

    Martha smiled, feeling an added burst of affection for her son as she watched Clark watching Lana, having overheard the end of their conversation. Clark had filled her in on Chloe’s situation and Martha couldn’t even imagine what Chloe, Erin and Gabe were going to go through in the next few months. But she knew she would do everything she could to help.

    ”Coming, Clark?”

    Clark nodded and made his way out of the apartment, closing the door behind him.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    SULLIVAN RESIDENCE

    As she drove back, Chloe planned out how she was going to tell Gabe everything. By the time she was opening her front door, she still had no idea how to start.

    As soon as the door closed, Chloe heard her father’s footsteps on the stairs.

    “Chloe!” Gabe’s concern was clear on his face as he descended the stairs. “Where were you? I was worried.”

    Chloe was starting to get used to her Dad worrying more about her. She really couldn’t blame him considering the events of the past summer.

    “Dad, I’m sorry I didn’t leave you a note.” She moved towards the kitchen, suddenly craving coffee, and a brief distraction from her father’s questioning.

    “You left before 9 in the morning. On a Sunday! And coffee is not going to distract me, Chloe. What’s going on?”

    She sighed. He knew her too well. Taking a deep breath, she turned to look at him across the table. “You might want to sit down.”

    He did, clearly curious, worried and somewhat nervous. Chloe could see the emotions and feelings on his face and her own emotions trembled near the surface.

    “I was in Metropolis, with Lex.” At his wide-eyed gaze, she realized this was not the best way to begin things. “We went to Venkon.”

    “The Mental Asylum?” Gabe was definitely worried now, “Chloe tell me you didn’t go looking for another meteor freak, you know you always get hurt when you--”

    “Not a meteor freak.” She cut him off, settling down on the chair next to his and taking a deep breath before meeting his eyes. “Dad, I went to see Erin.”

    Chloe could see shock then confusion appear on his features. “Your mother?” The words were nearly whispered a look in his eyes that Chloe could not define. It made her eyes water and her heart ache –with both pain and hope.

    Nodding slowly, Chloe took his hand and began to explain.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
    End of Episode 8

  3. #3
    Happy-ending addict Senior Member lexie's Avatar
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    Re: Episode 8 - "Erin" (PG)

    This was a very emotional episode and I loved the fact that Lex was there for Chloe. I really liked Chloe´s ability to see beyond Lex´s armour and the way she showed her gratitude without letting him belittle his beautiful gesture.

    Bring on the next epsiodes!

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  4. #4
    An Accused Heretic Senior Member Kit Merlot's Avatar
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    Re: Episode 8 - "Erin" (PG)

    I love that Chloe trusted Lex to help her with her mom--their devotion to each other is beautiful to see.

    And I like that Chloe told her dad all about meeting her mom--maybe the Sullivans can be together again!
    Last edited by Kit Merlot; 24th September 2009 at 00:02.
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