+ Reply to Thread
Results 1 to 6 of 6

Thread: Episode 20 - "Reckoning" (PG)

  1. #1
    NS Senior Member Senior Member sydsvaughn's Avatar
    Join Date
    04 Mar 2003
    Posts
    1,313

    Episode 20 - "Reckoning" (PG)

    Title: Reckoning
    Written by: Sara C

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

    Lex Luthor stared at his fingers. They were pressed together and resting elegantly against the cool surface of his glass desk. He should be catching up on the ever increasing paperwork, or making one of at least five calls that needed returned in the next hour. But too many things were running through his mind for him to focus on any one thing, so he allowed himself this quiet moment of self-indulgence.

    His mind kept wandering to Chloe, wondering how she was doing, knowing she was most likely dealing with numerous issues of her own after leaving her recent frozen state. Not to mention he hadn’t really spoken to her since then and he knew it was bound to be awkward when they finally talked. He had learned so much about her. Her thoughts and fears of not being worthy of anyone’s friendship, her unhappiness with her friends and the direction those friendships had taken, even her well deserved fear-mingled respect of him, and he knew that she would never have been comfortable sharing herself in such a way if she had a choice. He could only imagine the mortification, the nakedness of being so exposed to someone.

    Still, he couldn’t forget how it had felt to have her trust, to know she had turned to him for help. Luthors didn’t have friends. They only had family if you used a loose definition of the term. Lex knew that his life had changed on both counts: he had friends in Smallville, he had a brother he’d never known. And it had all started that fateful day on the bridge, with his sorely-missed 911. His life changed that day. Two young men of completely different backgrounds and values came together and found a kinship, he needed saving in so many ways, and he ran into a savior.

    Literally.

    He remembered the anger in Clark’s words during their last confrontation. But he could also remember the laughter, the warmth of their friendship, the feeling, if only for a moment, that Clark was a true brother. Lucas was his flesh and blood of course, but for a time he’d considered Clark just as close. Despite the secrets Lex kept, despite the trust that did not exist between them anymore, despite the knowledge that he was destined for things far different from Clark, he could not help but wonder what might have happened if things had worked out differently.

    He wondered what might have happened had Clark trusted him enough to reveal whatever secret he kept so dearly.

    His musings were suddenly interrupted by the sound of the double doors swishing open.

    Turning his attention towards them, he found himself facing the elegant visage of Genevieve Teague. Surprise was quickly masked as he rose from the chair. He had met the Teagues on several occasions before he’d met Jason, and none had been all that pleasant.
    He had an idea of why Jason had been so eager to distance himself from them. At his funeral, he had tried to offer his condolences but had been met with a cold shoulder. So the fact that Jason’s mother was striding into his office unannounced could only mean trouble.

    “Mrs. Teague, to what do I owe this unexpected visit?” He swallowed, suddenly feeling ill at ease as an almost predatory smile appeared on the woman’s face as she came to a stop in front of his desk. He noted in the corner of his mind that she was clutching a manila folder in her left hand.

    “You think you’ve won, don’t you, Lex?”

    His eyebrows rose at her voice, his body tensing. “I’m afraid you have me at a disadvantage-”

    “You’re a Luthor. You’re never at a disadvantage.” She cut him off, her smile growing sharper. “But finally you’re about to be.”

    Lex kept his face expressionless although something in his stomach twisted. “You’ll have to explain yourself, Mrs. Teague.”

    “Genevieve, Lex. It’s only civilized we address each other by first names. After all, you’re about to find out exactly what it means to cross my family.”

    Lex trained his face with stoic composure to mask the confusion he felt. He cocked his eyebrow to convey his disinterest as he drew a breath to speak, but found himself interrupted.

    “As we speak, several prominent lawyers and business associates are about to be handed copies of this file, detailing the true nature of LuthorCorp and it’s rather unsavory dealings.”
    The knot in his stomach tightened but he remained silent as she went on, a victorious smile sharpening her face as she placed the folder on his desk.

    “Feel free to examine it,” she gestured to the folder, “I think you’ll find that everything you and your father deemed worthy of hiding is there. The questionable experiments on
    unwilling victims. The payoffs. The disappearances. The formulas supposedly donated to science but never leaving your possession.”

    Lex broke her stare to take the folder, flipping it open, concentrating on keeping his breathing even as he scanned the contents. It took everything in him to not slam his fist onto the desk. This was no bluff. Detailed before him was every fact he had fought to keep out of the public domain, facts that could destroy everything that LuthorCorp had built up over the years, everything he’d worked to save.

    “You’re wondering how I got access to these files, who I bribed, what lengths I went to.” The voice was not so smug now, raw emotion beginning to fill her cultured tones. “I stopped at nothing to get what I needed to destroy you, the way you destroyed my son.”
    Lex looked up, barely keeping his anger under control, trying to weigh just how much damage this woman was capable of causing. Something told him it was equal to anything a Luthor could inflict. Not to mention a lingering guilt that had been with him since Jason’s body had been discovered in the mansion was now winding through his chest. He knew his father was responsible for the killing, but deep inside, he knew it was the association with him that had killed the Teague heir.

    “What do you want?” He was already mentally trying to figure out how much a woman as rich and powerful as Genevieve could want. He had a bad feeling it was a price that didn’t involve a dollar sign.

    “I want vengence. I want to see you lose everything you love, everything you respect. I want to see everyone who respects you, few though they may be, turn their back on you for shame of ever knowing you.” Her voice was passionate now, her manicured nails digging into her palms like talons. “My son turned away from his family, turned to you and this backwater town and its people. His misguided actions resulted in his death.” She paused, her voice breaking slightly before she recovered. “Your father might have pulled the trigger, but I hold you just as responsible. You and this damned town. And now you’re going to pay.”

    Lex swallowed, realizing that for the first time, money might not be enough to get him out of a sticky situation. He had other means of dealing with troublemakers that didn’t involve a checkbook, of course, many of which were detailed in the manila folder set out before him. None of which could be used on a woman as influential as Genevieve Teague. He knew from her emotional words that money was the last thing on her mind. It did not bode well for him, or LuthorCorp. And her words about the town had him on edge as well. But he focused on remaining calm, knowing he could deal with his fears later, when she’d left.

    “I suppose there’s nothing I can do to change your mind,” He was pleased with how nonchalant that sounded.

    Her eyes shot fire at him as she leaned across the desk. “Is that all you know how to do? Offer to bribe me? Offer me money, do you think I need that? Do you think I want that?” Her voice rose to an angry shriek. “What I want is my SON back!”

    Lex remained silent, knowing there was no appropriate reply. The guilt was full force again and combined with everything else he was feeling, he could only hope to hold it together until she left. Which he hoped would be sooner rather than later.

    “Nothing to say to that, as I suspected.” Genevieve turned, wiping a tear from her eye. As she reached the door, she turned and Lex nearly flinched at the calculating expression she now wore. All signs of a grieving mother had disappeared.

    “Goodbye, Lex. Enjoy your last few hours of freedom and say farewell to life as you know it.”

    Lex didn’t let his fist hit the desk until a good five seconds after she’d left the room.

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

    Chloe was settled into a chair at the Talon, a half-empty cup of mocha-latte beside her laptop. She stared at the screen, wondering why she wasn’t feeling more excited. Staring back was an acceptance letter from the University of Gotham. They’d be ‘honored to have her’ and would provide a full scholarship to boot. With a frown, she minimized the document and clicked on another open file. An acceptance letter to Metropolis University stared back, saying much the same thing.

    She had options. She had two free rides to a school of her choice. More importantly, both schools were nowhere near Smallville. Not near her conflicted friendships and feelings towards Clark, Lana and Lex. A chance for her to start over, forget the past and forge a future. Knowing that she would never be accepted into Clark’s ‘secret circle’ left her feeling no loyalty to this town or the people in it.

    Even her relationship with Lex might be better off at a distance, at least for a while. Now that her feelings and emotions were back and in working order, she found she did not regret her decision to ask Lex for help. Yes, she felt a little embarrassed and awkward at some of the things she’d said to him, revealed to him--which was why she’d been keeping her distance for the past few days. She needed perspective and she needed to find it on her own.

    Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of two familiar voices and with a sinking heart, she turned to see Clark and Lana entering the Talon. A painful stab of something, she wasn’t sure if it was jealousy or sorrow, hit her in the heart as she looked at Clark’s hand resting protectively on Lana’s back. It wasn’t really a loving gesture, for it was simply aimed at excluding anyone from their little sphere. The two were involved in a serious conversation, one that she suspected would be stopped the moment they caught sight of her.

    She plastered a smile on her face as she watched Clark suddenly glance her way, his body tensing for a moment before relaxing, moving Lana towards Chloe’s table. She suddenly wished she’d hidden in a back booth. She desperately didn’t want to talk to them feeling as she did. And right now, she didn’t have the ‘frozen’ excuse to head them off.

    “Chloe, how are you?”

    Clark sighed as he recognized the fake smile she wore. They might have grown apart, but he’d known her long enough to know when she really smiled and when she was putting up an effort. It hurt to think she had to make an effort to smile around him.

    “I’m fine, Clark. What brings you two out today?” She nodded to Lana, who was biting her lip. No doubt wanting to ask an awkward question.

    “We just stopped in to see if Mom needed anything, she’s making dinner for us tonight.”

    Clark winced as he saw Chloe flinch slightly. He hadn’t meant to sound rude and he immediately tried to rectify the situation. “You know, if you’re not busy-”

    Chloe knew he was about to ask her to join them, and she steeled her resolve to say no. Not only could she foresee endless uncomfortable questions around the dinner table, but being a last minute add on didn’t sit well with her.

    “Thanks, Clark, but I think my Dad and I were going to grab something after work.”

    Lana sighed as she heard the insincerity in Chloe’s voice. Their recent conversation lingered in her mind and she wondered if Chloe was still upset and hence trying to avoid them. Part of her could still not let go of the resentment that the blonde had gone to Lex for help instead of turning to her or Clark. But she did her best to put that behind her as she offered a smile.

    “Well, then come join us for another coffee or something. It’s been a while since we’ve all actually talked.”

    Chloe had to bite back her ironic laughter. Lana wanted them to talk. What an interesting conversation that would be, considering how they’d shut her out of the ‘secret’ circle, not to mention that their frowns were almost a reflex reaction to her relationship, whatever it was, with Lex.

    But something inside her wanted to say yes. Some small part that remembered the good times, the years of friendship and adventure and support, she wanted it back. Wanted to be back in the circle, to have their trust, their counsel again. She wished she could trust them like she used to, before everything had inexplicably shattered.

    Didn’t she at least owe it to herself to try? Before making any decisions on her future, she needed to figure out where she stood in the present. And who knows, maybe miracles could happen.

    “Sure, why not. I could use another cup of coffee.”

    Clark smiled, feeling relieved. It might be awkward, but there seemed to be hope. If Chloe wasn’t shutting them out, there was a chance they could get through to her. Make her see that she could come to them if she had problems. See that he still cared about her, even if he wasn’t sure he could trust her with his secret. Telling Lana had been difficult enough--and in his heart, he knew the brunette was a safer choice than Chloe. As loath as he was to admit it, good intentioned though Chloe might be, there was always that lingering doubt in his mind that one day, for some reason, she might slip and betray him. Deliberately or unintentionally.

    He wondered what it said about him that he obviously hadn’t let that stop him from telling Lana. Then again--things were still strained between them. They were trying to work out where they stood with each other as friends. It wasn’t easy but he was hopeful that, like Pete, Lana would come to accept the situation with grace. And he had to admit, having someone else to share a little of the burden with went a long way towards easing his mind.

    “Come on, I see a booth with our name on it.” Chloe’s smile was more genuine as she grabbed her laptop and nearly empty mug and followed the duo towards a corner table.

    For just a moment, watching Clark blush at something Lana said, seeing Lana roll her eyes over her shoulder at Chloe, she felt like things would be okay.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    “I don’t care how you do it, I need to know who had access to those files and I need to know yesterday!”

    Lex knew his voice was higher than normal, really, almost a shout as he slammed down the receiver. And Luthors never shouted. But it couldn’t be helped. LuthorCorp had never been in a worse situation. Even the attempted blackmail from Parker Enterprises and the failed bombing at the fundraiser several weeks ago paled in comparison to the damage Genevieve Teague was about to unleash.

    Since her abrupt visit two hours ago, he’d been working through his rolodex, calling everyone he could think of, using all the Luthor power and privilege to figure out where the mole in his system was located. Because the only way Genevieve could have got her hands on half of the information was if someone had handed it to her. And whoever that ‘someone’ was, they would pay dearly when Lex found them.

    “Sir.”

    The even toned voice startled him from his growing panic induced rage and he tried for a composed façade as he turned to his butler.

    “Yes, Enrique?”

    “Mr. Kane has arrived for you.”

    “Thank you, Enrique. Send him in.” Lex waited until the man had left the room before sinking into his chair. He needed composure at the moment if he was going to deal with the plans he’d put in motion. He looked up when the doors opened and the man in question walked in.

    “Luthor. Why am I not surprised we meet again.”

    Lex forced his irritation down. “Mr. Kane, while we could stay here and pretend to be civil for hours, time is pressing. Do you have the information I’m paying you so highly for?”

    Lindsey Kane looked at the man sitting before him, picturing him from his father’s trial. It seemed years ago that they’d stared each other down during questioning. He remembered his panic at being handed a surprise witness list: the sickening twist in his stomach at the thought of standing on his feet, not knowing what questions to ask, a vision of the whole court room looking at him with a raised eyebrow. Lex couldn’t possibly appreciate how being a lawyer was all about pride, rising to the challenge, projecting the image of a fearless, victorious creature whose opinion is the only one worth listening to, who has the skill to win any case. Lindsay remembered the moment when he realized they’d lost the case. He’d lost the case, the biggest of his life, with the world media looking on. He remembered Lex’s smirk from across the courtroom. He remembered the hell he’d had to pay, enduring the wrath of a caged Lionel Luthor.

    And now Lex was asking him for help. When he’d taken the call, he’d been tempted to laugh out loud. How ironic, how poetically just, that the son, who insisted he was not his father, was now resorting to Lionelesque tactics by hiring the same lawyer.

    Lindsay hadn’t wanted to accept Lex’s request. But the partners at his firm, for reasons known only to them, had demanded he provide the required information, no tricks, no strings attached. He had a feeling there was more to this than he was being told, but then again, that was true of most people, especially one as rich and merciless as Lex Luthor.

    Still, despite his hatred of the man, he’d done what was requested and gathered the information. It was an added benefit that he’d walk out with a nice lump sum and with the satisfaction of knowing that Lex Luthor was royally screwed.

    Genevieve Teague was one unscrupulous, vindictive lady. If he were so inclined, he’d almost feel sorry for Lex. But he wasn’t. The man deserved what he got--and perhaps, if his bosses knew something he didn’t--then payback would truly be a bitch.

    “I don’t have all day, Mr. Kane.”

    Lindsey returned to the present, setting a folder down on the desk. “It’s all there, including a few things that might surprise you. She’s one thorough lady. It’s going to take a miracle for you to pull yourself out of this one, Luthor.”

    Lex clenched his teeth. He’d hated calling the man who’d represented his father, but there had been no other option. Wolfram and Hart was known for getting the impossible done in a very short amount of time--four hours in this case and Lindsey’s presence here was testament to the fact. But it galled him that he was resorting, once more, to methods more suited to his father.

    Then again, he could not let LuthorCorp, nor the Luthor reputation he was trying to build, be tainted by a vindictive mother who’d lost a son. Although he felt for her, his sympathy had dried up the moment the scope of her actions had been revealed.

    “Thank you. You can show yourself out.” He kept his voice tight, looking down at the files, unwilling to engage in another battle of wills with the man. He breathed a sigh of relief as his guest turned on his heel and moved towards the hall.

    Lindsey stopped at the door, opening his mouth to say something as he turned back to look at Lex. The words didn’t make it past his lips, however, as his eyes took in the sight: the slump weighing down those once proud shoulders, of the bald head resting tiredly against one palm. Suddenly it was enough vindication for him. He’d just seen Lex Luthor at a very weak point-and lived to tell about it. He swallowed his words with a smile, and walked through the doors, not looking back again.

    Lex couldn’t tell how long he stared at the file, with nothing but the crackling logs of his fire to keep him company. When he had finished reading the file for the third time, he closed his eyes and allowed his options to hover before him. From the information it was obvious where Genevieve’s information had come from. Lindsay’s information was a jigsaw, but putting the pieces together there was now no doubt in his mind that she had been the one behind the attack at the fundraiser. The bombing was foiled, of course, but somehow Genevieve had obtained the files regardless.

    He clenched his fist, making a mental note to have his security tech suffer a very painful punishment for his traitorous actions: Lindsay’s information had proved very useful on determining how the bombers had entered the LuthorCorp building. He would never let anyone get away with trying to take down him or his company, but unless he could perform a miracle in a very short time, it looked like Genevieve Teague might be the first person to succeed.

    He stood, walking over to the window and pouring himself a glass of orange juice. He desperately wanted brandy, but knew he needed a clear head to make the choice that faced him. It was inevitable he supposed, all the paths he’d taken leading eventually to this road. Realistically, he had always known one day he would reach this crossing, his day of Reckoning, he just hadn’t expected it to come so soon. Hadn’t expected to be facing doing something that could jeopardize all he’d worked for. All he’d been trying to make everyone believe, even himself.

    Images raced through his mind, of playing pool with Clark, pouring over files with Chloe, even the birthday party for Lana. He pictured Mrs. Kent’s warm smile, Mr. Kent’s reluctant but heartfelt handshake after proving himself with barn and chore duty. Lucas being his usual sarcastic self, making him smile; Jason coming through once more to save the day, to save LuthorCorp’s reputation.

    The snapshots of his life, of happier, simpler times, faded to a blur. All that was left was the cold reality of the decision he had to make. He knew that the consequences could define who and what he became. But he had no choice. It was clichéd but never more true--dangerous times call for dangerous measures, and a person backed into a corner had no option but to claw their way out using whatever means.

    It came down to a choice. He only wondered if he could live with the results.

    For a moment, he could have sworn he heard Lionel’s laughter echoing around the empty room.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    Chloe breathed a sigh of relief as she excused herself from the table and walked to the ladies room. Despite her intentions to try and relax and enjoy time with her friends, she found things were much different. Strained pauses and half stopped sentences. Awkward silences broken up with inane small talk.

    She had to face facts. She was not going to be admitted to their circle again. It hurt. It really hurt to know that despite her gentle hints and her talk of being tired of keeping secrets, it was obvious they weren’t going to tell her. Not that she’d expected anything less. Not that she believed knowing the ‘secret’ would fix anything, nor even bring her the desired satisfaction. But she’d hoped.

    “Chloe.”

    She jumped, wondering why Lana had followed her to the restroom. Reaching the door, she held it open and allowed Lana to precede her inside. Thankfully, the room was empty.

    “What is it Lana?”

    Lana bit her lip, not sure how to start the conversation she wanted to have. She too had realized things were inevitably different between them all now and she was sad to see it come to this. But part of her insisted on believing it was Chloe’s fault. Her fault for turning to Lex, someone who could absolutely not be trusted with a secret even half as big as Clark’s. That, and a lingering bitterness over Chloe’s jabs from their recent conversations indicating that Lana had never been a true friend.

    “Lana?” Chloe wondered what was going through the brunette’s head. She hoped it would be resolved soon. She didn’t have the stomach for much more of Lana or Clark’s company.

    “I guess, I just want to know why you chose Lex over us?”

    Chloe drew in a deep breath. It wasn’t altogether an unexpected question. Lana had been tentatively hinting at it for the past hour. But hearing it directly, well, she saw red before she forced herself to calm.

    “What do you care if I talk to Lex? He’s a friend, he’s helped me out of many rough situations and vice versa. I can talk to him, he actually listens.”

    Lana felt something twist in her heart at the words. “I listened, Chloe. You seem to have this misconception that I’m always wrapped up in my own life. I would have made the time if you’d asked.”

    Chloe knew the girl spoke the truth, knew that she honestly believed she would have been able to focus on something other than herself if truly motivated. She’d seen a much different version of Lana this past year and she had to respect the girl for finally growing up. But the past was past and there was no looking back.

    “Does it really matter? You and Clark obviously have your own secrets and things to discuss that I’m not a part of.”

    Lana felt her heart nearly stop. Could Chloe know that Clark had told her his secret? She knew she hadn’t told Chloe, but had she done something? Said something in a way that could betray Clark’s secret? Tell people that she was his confidante? Lana’s breath settled as she noticed the determined look in Chloe’s eyes: Chloe had pieced it together. She always was a smart girl.

    “Chloe, it’s not like that. It’s just that Clark and I…”

    “I know, you and Clark. Destiny. Soul mates. Whatever. You two need each other, you don’t need me, it’s as simple as that.” And for Chloe, it suddenly was. Things were still murky, but she could see the bottom of the pool. It was just a flash, just for a moment, but she caught it.

    She wondered why it didn’t make her feel any better.

    “No, Chloe. If you’d just talk to us, tell us what’s bothering or worrying you instead of telling Lex-”

    “What do you have against him, Lana?” Chloe was getting tired of all this ‘Lex is the bad guy’ talk that both Clark and Lana were trying to feed her. Not to mention she hadn’t managed to get a decent answer out of either of them.

    “He’s dangerous, Chloe. If you start relying on him, he’ll own you, he’ll demand something in return--and he could use those secrets against you.” She shuddered as she remembered Clark telling her a little about the ‘Clark Room’ Lex had kept several years ago. The thought of what might happen if Lex Luthor ever figured out Clark Kent’s secret…

    Chloe felt a bitter rage course through her at Lana’s words. How dare she judge Lex, judge anyone like that? It was the old Lana, not the new one she’d come to know over the last year. She didn’t like it one bit.

    “At least he tells me his secrets. Unlike you or Clark. And really, if you can’t trust me with your secrets, why should I trust you?”

    With that, Chloe walked out of the bathroom, leaving a stunned Lana staring after her.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    “Thanks for cooking, Mom. I know Lana appreciated the meal.”

    “You’re welcome. You know I like nothing better than cooking for people.” Martha Kent smiled as she came to sit beside her husband on the porch swing glider. Clark was sitting on the steps, leaning against the railing. Lana had left a half hour ago and now it was just the Kents and the large, brilliant night sky.

    “Well, with things the way they are between Lana and me, nights like tonight are hopefully going to help her adjust to knowing who I really am.”

    Jonathan exchanged a glance with his wife. Seeing the encouraging look in her eyes, he tentatively broached the subject he knew had been on his son’s, and their, minds.

    “How do you feel, Son? It was a big risk, one I’m not sure I agree with, but I accept that you love her enough to trust she’ll be able to handle the burden of your secret.”

    Clark turned to his parents, his mind replaying the dinner conversation. For the first time, he and his parents had been able to talk openly about his background, his powers, and Lana, despite some initial awkwardness, had responded well. She was curious, still a bit hurt he hadn’t told her sooner, but very willing to show him that it made no difference in her feelings towards him. He was her friend and always would be first and foremost. Even if they could not be together romantically, which despite his acceptance still sent a pang of loss through his body.

    “It was good, tonight, I mean. Talking to her instead of talking around her. I think she handled it well and I think she’ll be okay, in time.” He stopped, hearing the uncertainty in his words, noting his parents picked up on it by their concerned looks.

    “What’s worrying you then?” Martha’s voice was gentle, non-threatening. He looked at them before turning his gaze back to the night sky.

    “Chloe.”

    Martha and Jonathan looked at each other, a bit confused. Before they could reply however, Clark continued.

    “Telling Lana was one thing. It scared me to death and I debated over and over about it, but it just kind of happened. It felt right. It felt like relieving a great weight.” He paused, pondering his next words. “I guess while I’m happy that Lana and Pete know about me, I just wish I could tell Chloe.”

    “You don’t trust her.” Martha’s words were non-judgmental but they still disturbed Clark. Probably because they were true.

    “It’s just…she’s spent so much time with Lex. She went to him for help, not me. When I confronted him, he defended her, insinuated that their relationship was, well, I don’t know what, but it was a relationship of some type. The fact that they are that close, or even close in some twisted way, not to mention my past experiences with Chloe, I can’t help but think that despite good intentions, she couldn’t handle the truth. Or that,” and here he paused, hating to say the words, but needing to get them out, “or that someday, she might use it against me. By her own will or not.”

    Jonathan sighed, knowing how much his son cared for his friend, knowing how hard this must be for him. But he understood. He knew that Clark was right. And as much as he loved Chloe, he knew that unlike Lana, when push came to shove, there was always the chance that Chloe could be the weak link.

    “Clark, I understand what you’re saying, but you can’t beat yourself up over this. Chloe is a wonderful girl, a good friend,” Martha began, picking her words carefully, knowing she was on shaky ground. “But you’re right. Looking at the facts, and even if it’s not of her own volition, I just think it’s a risk you can’t take. While I seriously doubt she would ever use your secret against you, the path she’s pursuing, her take no prisoners attitude could put her in the sights of someone who could force it out of her.”

    “Lex Luthor for one,” Jonathan added, ignoring the frown his wife sent him.

    “I know, what you’re saying is true.” Clark’s voice was sad but resigned as he turned his gaze up to the stars, wondering again how much more complicated his life could get. How many more friends he’d have to lose as he found himself. “I can’t ever tell Chloe my secret. I just don’t trust her.”

    The three Kents lapsed into silence as they all contemplated their own thoughts.

    No one heard the rustle of fast disappearing footsteps on the other side of the porch.

    ~*~*~*~*~

    Chloe had no clue where she was going. The tears streaming silently down her cheeks blurred her vision, probably not helping. She’d been walking for what seemed hours, no destination in mind, just allowing the hurt and anger to wash over her.

    She hadn’t meant to eavesdrop on the Kents. She’d been out walking and her steps had for some reason taken her to the Kent Farm. She’d come across the fields and around from the back, and stopped upon hearing voices.

    She wished she’d kept moving. Because then she wouldn’t have had to hear her one-time best friend tell his parents he could never tell her his secret because he didn’t trust her. His lack of faith wasn’t caused by her own actions, but because of her friendship with Lex.

    She never stood a chance.

    She hadn’t waited to hear more, just turned and retraced her steps, the warm glow from the porch light far behind her. The tears stayed away for all of five minutes, and she soon found herself sobbing uncontrollably in the middle of a cornfield.

    Emotions she couldn’t describe swamped her. Pain and anger at Clark’s lack of faith, of his blaming it on Lex and her friendship with him. Fury at Lex for doing whatever it was he did to lose Clark’s friendship: anyone associated with him was now someone Clark and the Kents couldn’t trust. She felt abandoned by the family that had cared for her for so many years, treated her as a daughter in those low times when her own life craved the stereotypical familial bond.

    She suddenly became aware of her surroundings. An ironic, broken laugh emerged from her throat as she found herself at the foot of the drive that led to the Luthor mansion. Of course she’d come to Lex. After all, hadn’t she developed a habit of coming to him when she had issues?

    Wiping her cheeks, knowing she probably looked a mess but honestly not caring, she made the trek up the drive and to the front door. She had to give Enrique credit, he merely greeted her with his usual “Hello, Ms. Sullivan,” before showing her into the study.

    Waiting for Lex, she wondered why she’d come, wondered what, if anything, she expected Lex to do. Her thoughts were interrupted when the man in question strode into the room, a tight expression on his face.

    “Chloe, are you okay? Enrique said you needed to see me.” Lex took in Chloe’s appearance, realized she’d been crying. He hated the thought.

    Chloe knew immediately that while he was concerned for her, something else was bothering him. It was in the set of his shoulders, and the look in his eyes. She knew him well enough now to understand that look.

    “Actually, I was just in the neighborhood.” She paused, seeing the disbelief on his expression. Before he could comment, she decided to take a risk. “But you don’t look so hot. Is everything okay?”

    Lex was startled by the question, seemingly out of thin air. Instinctively the generic answer popped into his head. “It’s nothing, really. Just some business matters.”

    Chloe knew he was lying. Knew it with a frightening intensity. The realization that he didn’t trust her either was like a match to a tinder. A bitter laugh escaped her throat.

    “You know, Lex, I thought after all we’ve been through that we were friends. That after I came to you with my problems, you might realize that I could return the favor and be a good listener as well.” She felt another bout of tears and forced them back as she rose and made for the door. “Obviously no one in this town considers me trustworthy.”

    Something in her words troubled him and he instinctively reached out to grab her arm, halting her before she reached the doorway. “What did you mean by that, Chloe?”

    She turned, shaking off his hand, fire in her eyes. “Simply that my association with you has apparently made me untrustworthy to Clark and Lana. But obviously our ‘association’ or whatever it is we have isn’t mutual, and it doesn’t warrant your trust in me.”

    Lex wasn’t sure where this was coming from but her mention of Clark sparked something in his mind. Not to mention he didn’t like the feeling of loss and hurt that spread through him at realizing Chloe truly thought he didn’t trust her. Not that he could fully trust anyone but it was the principle of the matter.

    “I don’t appreciate your jumping to conclusions based on something that happened with Clark.” He saw her tense and knew he’d hit on the crux of the matter. “Just because I don’t want to burden you with the trials of LuthorCorp doesn’t mean I don’t trust you, Chloe.”

    Chloe wanted to believe him, wanted to think that he trusted her. But he was Lex Luthor and as she’d learned the hard way, Luthors trusted no one but themselves. “Then tell me what’s wrong. What’s happened because I know something has…”

    Lex hesitated, not sure what, if anything, to reveal. The last thing he wanted was for Chloe to know just how underhanded some LuthorCorp deals and experiments had been. But he had to admit, confiding in her might take off some of the burden he carried.

    Then again, would he want to put such a burden on her shoulders?

    The answer was an unequivocal no.

    But he had to give her something, had to say something, even if it was only partly the truth. For reasons he was not willing to examine yet, he knew he couldn’t let her walk out that door. Knew it with a certainty that if he let her go tonight, he’d never get her friendship or support back. And it was something he suddenly realized he desperately needed.

    Lex Luthor needed a friend. A sounding-board, a yardstick to measure himself against who wasn’t afraid to stand beside him as he made his terrible choices. He didn’t want to face the consequences alone when he finally took the steps to deal with Genevieve Teague.

    Deep down, he also acknowledged that Chloe knew something about Clark and Lana. Something that he suspected might be worthwhile knowing in the long run. And it had made her upset. He found he didn’t like that thought.

    “Come sit down.” He motioned to the sofa, hoping she’d take his olive branch. He breathed a sigh of relief when after a moment of hesitation, she walked past him and over to the sofa.

    Chloe wasn’t sure why she stayed, but had a suspicion it had something to do with the look she’d glimpsed in Lex’s eyes for a moment. He might be excluding her, but something in him didn’t like doing it. It was a strange feeling, one she wasn’t sure she liked, but she wanted to explore it more.

    That and she had to admit, she wanted to talk to someone about everything going on with Clark and Lana and this whole messed up situation. She quickly overcame the momentary worry that Lex Luthor was not the person to be sharing such things with.

    “Lex, I’ll make you a deal.” She stopped as he turned to look at her. “I’ll tell you what’s bothering me if you tell me what’s bothering you.”

    Lex hesitated, wondering how much he could tell her without putting her in danger, nor making her hate him as much as he was starting to hate himself.

    “Deal.” The word was out before he could stop it and with a resigned set of his shoulders, he walked over to take a seat in the chair by the fire.

    Chloe figured as a gesture of good faith, she would go first. “I overheard Clark and the Kents talking tonight. What it boiled down to is that they can’t trust me with whatever secret it is that Clark is keeping.”

    Lex felt his interest spark. He’d always known Clark held a myriad of mysteries and his desire to solve them had not abated in all the years he’d known him. “And they can’t trust you because of your friendship with me.”

    Chloe suddenly felt bad for her earlier words, although she had meant them. “That’s part of it, but it’s not all you. Apparently my past behavior has led them to that conclusion as well. Of course I don’t deny that I spied on Clark for your father. I’m not proud of it, but I thought that Clark and I had moved beyond it. Now Clark and Lana are in their own little clique and Chloe’s not invited…”

    Lex sighed, wondering if his father’s influence in their lives would ever end. He doubted it. He paused for a moment, contemplating, then realized what Chloe had just said…

    “Clark has told Lana his secret?” That was information he could use. Lana was easier to crack than Clark.

    Chloe nodded. “At the prom. All hell was breaking loose but he told her.” Her voice turned sad. “Now I’m the only one that doesn’t know.”

    Lex sighed. “I don’t know it, and I know full well they’ll never willingly tell me.”

    Chloe shivered for a moment at the words. There was something in them that made her wonder what Lex meant by saying ‘willingly’. Of course, she was one to talk, having tried on at least one occasion to learn Clark’s secret by underhand means. She decided for the moment, it would be best not to think about it.

    “That makes us our own little outsider’s club I guess,” she offered, earning a small smile in return. It was strange and bizarre to be considering her and Lex Luthor in the same kind of club for anything, but it was strangely fitting.

    “Do you regret it?”

    Chloe looked up at Lex’s words, confusion on her features. “Regret what?”

    Lex took a breath as he leaned forward. Her answer suddenly meant more than anything to him. “Do you regret our friendship, or whatever it is we have here?”

    Chloe didn’t answer immediately, various scenarios flying through her head. Part of her she supposed did regret that getting closer to him meant moving farther from her friends. Then again, they hadn’t been much like friends lately. She had more in common with a man she’d known for four years than one she’d known for more than eight.

    Suddenly, an image of him from the caves appeared in her mind. The fear and awe he’d inspired in her. It was quickly juxtaposed with an image of his concern over Lucas’ behavior at the prom, followed by the true worry in his eyes as he’d entered the room this evening. She remembered how it felt to have him help her without question, just accepting and helping. Not chastising or being judgmental.

    “I don’t know what I’d call what we have here, Lex,” she turned to look at him, her words ringing with conviction. “But I do know that despite everything, you’re the one person in this town that I can talk to, who doesn’t judge me immediately for who I am or what I’ve done. To me, that’s friendship and it’s something I refuse to regret.”

    Lex felt as if a huge weight had been lifted from his chest. The sincerity in her words reassured him as nothing else ever had. She might be as confused as he was but at least she could admit that they were friends. That they had a connection, a friendship. It was like a balm to his troubled soul.

    Chloe watched him, noting the relief that was quickly masked in his eyes. Something inside her warmed a little, realizing that her friendship did mean something to him. Which was more than she could say about Clark or Lana or anyone else in her life. It was that knowledge that made her ask the next question.

    “So, we’ve established we’re friends, does that mean you trust me enough to tell me what’s got you so worked up?”

    Lex knew they’d get around to this and despite his recent revelations about their friendship, he found himself reluctant to drag her into the mess he and his father had created. But he needed to tell her something, needed to share a little of the heavy burden weighing him down. He thought perhaps in some way, Chloe might be the only one who would understand.

    Her words regarding his decision to not give his father his blood echoed in his mind. She’d sided with him, shown him that despite the innocence she held, there was something in her that understood the need to do whatever it took to survive.

    “Genevieve Teague is on a mission to destroy LuthorCorp and at the moment, it looks like she’s succeeding.”

    Chloe hoped her mouth wasn’t hanging open in surprise. This really wasn’t what she’d expected to hear. “Why?” It was a lame response but all she was capable of at the moment.

    Lex sighed. “She blames me for Jason’s death,” he paused, watching as a flash of sorrow appeared in her eyes. He hadn’t realized that it might be difficult to hear him talk about Jason.

    “It’s okay, Lex, go on.” Chloe gave him a small smile even though thoughts of Jason threatened to bring on more tears.

    “She’s got enough information on LuthorCorp, things my father did that even I didn’t know about, deals and experiments, that could bring it all down. And she’s setting in motion a plan to inform every LuthorCorp shareholder and business partner as we speak.”

    Chloe bit her lip. It shouldn’t have surprised her. She’d always known Lionel was up to no good, and from the way Lex wasn’t looking into her eyes, she realized that he might not be as innocent as he claimed. At one time, that might have seriously thrown her for a loop. Now, it only seemed natural. She knew full well that there were things Lex hadn’t told her, his part in her memory loss illustrating that fully. And at the moment, she found she really didn’t want to know if there was more. It wouldn’t have made a difference, she would still want to help him, and knowing as little as possible would mean that she could assist with her judgment unclouded by peripheral details.

    “What are you going to do?”

    Lex stood, pacing to stand in front of the fire. “I don’t know. She’s got so many people in so many places, no matter what I do, I can’t stop the information from getting out. With the click of a computer button, the dirty deeds of LuthorCorp go out to thousands and she has backup files if something goes wrong ready to be faxed. She’s covered all her bases and for once,” he turned, unsure of why he was admitting this to her, “I have no idea what to do to stop this.”

    Chloe bit her lip. While part of her thought the world should know what evil Lionel Luthor had been up to, the repercussions on Lex, the company, every employee, including her father, could be devastating. Emotions warred within her as she stared into the fire which Lex had taken to poking at with a metal rod. Horror at the idea of what Lionel and LuthorCorp could have been responsible for, amazement that Lex had let her see this vulnerability. She didn’t know what to say or do.

    Lex knew it was a lot to absorb, wondered if she’d simply leave, unwilling to learn more about what secrets he and his company might hold. Not that he would ever tell her the worst of things, but even the least dangerous were bad enough.

    Something else had suddenly occurred to Chloe as she thought. “You say Genevieve Teague is behind this? She’s that upset over Jason’s death?” Her voice was puzzled and Lex turned to her, quirking an eyebrow. She shook her head slightly. “He wasn’t close with his parents, you knew that,” she waited until he nodded.

    “He told me he didn’t want to be like his father, that he wanted to get as far away from him as possible.” Lex pondered the similarity of the thought to those he’d had about Lionel.

    “He told me the same thing. He loved his family though, he just didn’t approve of some of the things they did. He didn’t want to be forced into that path, and he knew that if he stayed with them, he wouldn’t be able to fight it.”

    Lex nodded. He and Jason hadn’t talked much about it, but he knew how Jason felt. It was something that had bonded them, strange as it was and despite how infrequently it was mentioned.

    Chloe bit her lip, wondering at the true nature of Jason’s family. “I knew they resented Lana, for keeping him in Paris. I even knew they resented me for keeping him in Smallville.”

    She trailed off, remembering the stilted conversation she’d had with Jason’s mother, responding to her questions about her son’s last few months. Resentment had been evident in the older woman’s eyes and it had hurt. It still hurt, thinking about it now.

    “She resented me for keeping him here as well, Chloe, it wasn’t just you.” Lex walked over to sit on the sofa next to her.

    “I know, but to do this, to destroy you and all you’ve worked for, can she really be that bent on revenge? On one person in a sea of people that could be held responsible for keeping Jason away from the future his family wanted?”

    Chloe and Lex froze at the icy cold voice that replied.

    “Yes, I can.”

    They turned to see Genevieve Teague standing in the doorway, an anguished, bitter look on her features. “And Chloe, it‘s not just about Lex. You‘re just as responsible and should suffer just as much, if not more.”

    Lex immediately rose, something primal inside him making him step slightly in front of Chloe’s position on the sofa.

    “What the hell are you doing here?” Lex knew it was a rather uncontrolled response,

    Chloe’s wide eyes and still shocked expression registering in the corner of his eye.

    Genevieve laughed bitterly again, before heading straight for the mini-bar, helping herself to a generous tumbler of brandy. Taking a sip, it was obvious she was steadying herself as she turned back to them.

    Chloe was still trying to wrap her mind around the fact that Jason’s mother was hell bent, it seemed, on destroying not only LuthorCorp and Lex, but now her too. She knew that Jason had loved his family, but not approved of the way they chose to do things. He’d told her numerous times how much he regretted the choices they’d made, and tried to make for him--and the fact that they blamed everyone BUT him for his choices.

    “Stunned into silence, Chloe?” Her words were bitter as she began to pace. “Not your usual state from what I managed to glean from Jason’s sparse correspondence. You always seemed to be spreading some type of poison to keep him away from us.”

    Chloe felt anger beginning to grow, eclipsing any momentary pity she might have felt for a mother so obviously grieving for her son. Especially after the way she knew he’d been treated by them for his choices.

    “I’m not sure what you think kept Jason away from you and your family, but you are sorely mistaken if you think I, or Lex,” she gestured to the man watching them quietly, “had any influence over him. Jason made his own decisions regardless of what anyone said. And if you choose to believe otherwise, that’s your issue, not ours.”

    Lex wondered at Chloe’s audacity and if it wouldn’t exacerbate the situation. Then again, he saw a spark in her eyes that hadn’t been there for weeks and he couldn’t quite bring himself to stop her yet. Especially if she could, knowingly or not, unearth something he could use against the Teague matriarch.

    Genevieve’s hands grew white as she clenched the tumbler into her palm. Rage was growing inside her like a mushroom cloud, eclipsing the calm front she’d sworn to maintain for this confrontation. Actually, she’d intended simply to do some more gloating over Lex, knowing he must have figured out how irreversible her plans had become. But seeing him with Chloe, hearing the blonde who had, she believed, kept Jason from his rightful place, infuriated her.

    “If you hadn’t got your clutches into Jason, he would have come home after breaking up with that insipid brunette.” She waved a hand in the air, the other still clenching her brandy snifter tightly. “We could have brought him back to us after Paris. It was supposed to give him time to realize he belonged with his family, following in his father’s footsteps, the next great Teague lawyer. But then he met her, and she brought him here.”

    Striding towards the fireplace, her voice hardened as she continued. “He came to visit us, surprising us a few months ago. We’d been telling him we needed him, that he needed to come home. He wouldn’t come because apparently Lana and you needed him.” Her eyes almost glowed with fury as she turned to face Lex.

    “And you… he actually wanted to work for you. To help you. You, who walk through life professing to avoid your father’s footsteps, yet all the time treading in his wake and leaving even deeper imprints behind. You’re a Luthor to the core--not so different in his ways and practices than Jason’s father.”

    Lex braced himself, wondering only if he could find a way to get Chloe out of the room before the woman said something that might turn Chloe against him as well. One look at the blonde’s fierce expression however told him getting Chloe to leave now might be even worse.

    “You seem to be friends with him, Chloe. Do you really know what he is? What he and his father have done? Not only to Jason but to everyone?”

    Chloe felt a chill go down her spine at the words. She’d never deluded herself that Lex was not a dangerous man. She’d seen personally, perhaps, what he might become if he were not steered towards a different path. He’d done things that still unsettled her, sometimes frightened her if she were honest.

    But despite it all, despite her worries and fears, what it boiled down to was that she trusted Lex, believed that he wasn’t deliberately out to harm anyone or anything. And she truly believed that he did not want to become his father. However, she learned more each day that that might not be possible. That despite everything, Lex Luthor might just not be able to escape the legacy left for him. A suspicion she was suddenly very, very certain that Genevieve Teague was about to confirm.

    Conflict warred inside her. Here was a chance to really answer every question she’d ever had about Lex. To learn those dark secrets she knew he had, knew he would never tell her no matter how much he said he trusted her. She could finally learn everything she’d feared, wondered, even fantasized about the Luthor family--Lex, Lionel and Lucas included.

    But what then?

    The reality of that question stopped her cold. She suddenly remembered some things Jason had told her, not specifically, but enough to make her understand that he hated some things his family had done, although not necessarily the outcome. Remembered Lex’s reluctance to allow her to remember things from the cave, the suspicion she’d always had of how much he’d been involved in the testing and experiments he claimed to have stopped.
    No, there was no question in her mind that Lex Luthor wasn’t always a good man. But then, wasn’t that true of everyone? Wasn’t everyone shaped in some way by their parents? Their family? Their choices influenced by forces they couldn’t control? Didn’t everyone, herself included, have something dark inside them, capable of doing the most horrible thing--in an effort to do the right thing?

    What it boiled down to was indeed, how much she trusted Lex. Trusted that despite what he might have done, what LuthorCorp might have done, what Lionel might have done, he hadn’t meant to hurt anyone. Hadn’t meant to destroy lives like Lionel.

    Something inside her felt a sliver of doubt. Something ingrained perhaps by years of listening to Clark spout off words like trust and truth and betrayal. Something ingrained perhaps by the remembered look in his eyes as Lex stood above her in the caves.

    Those images were suddenly replaced with the pain in his eyes at seeing the affectionate way Jonathan Kent hugged his son. The wistful look she’d once caught him giving Lionel after the elder Luthor had dropped a mite of praise over a business deal. The affection in those orbs as he’d laughed with Lucas despite a terrifying situation that could have resulted in their death. The protective look in his eyes and stance as he’d placed himself between her and Genevieve.

    No, she might not understand nor be sure of who or what Lex Luthor was. But she was sure that she needed him as a friend and confidant if nothing else. She trusted him enough to believe that no matter how awful things were, that he couldn’t truly harm anyone, although she knew he’d come close.

    “Chloe.”

    She turned at Lex’s voice, seeing his face was blank but his lips were tight. She was more certain than ever that he knew that what she might be about to hear would damn him in her eyes. But more importantly, he hadn’t made any effort to get her to leave, to stop her from hearing things that might destroy them both.

    She made up her mind. With a small smile, she turned to Genevieve. “I don’t really care what information you say you have against Lex or LuthorCorp.” She saw the other woman frown in confusion. “I’m sure you have things that could make a lot of people change the way they think of LuthorCorp and Lex. And despite my curiosity,” she turned now to face Lex, “despite the inkling I have of what you could reveal, not in the least from Lex’s reaction,” she turned back to the other woman, “I don’t care.”

    “Chloe,” Lex began, something growing inside him that he couldn’t tell was amazement or relief or horror.

    “Jason told me a lot about his life before Paris, Genevieve.” She rose now, walking towards the polished woman who was staring at her with surprise on her elegant features. “What you and his father did to try and convince him to become what you wanted, a carbon copy of his father, complete to the unethical and at times unscrupulous methods you used.”

    Lex’s eyebrows rose as he saw Genevieve pale. Chloe was onto something, that much was obvious.

    “He was happy with Lana. She allowed him to start opening up, to realize there was a life beyond what you and his father had chosen for him.” She swallowed, remembering the wonder in Jason’s voice as he’d told her about the freedom he’d felt with Lana. Taking a deep breath, she went on.

    “He loved her, but when she returned to Smallville, he realized he couldn’t hold onto her. She already belonged to someone else.” The slight bitter tone was not lost on Lex as Chloe’s words continued.

    “When I met him, I didn’t know what I wanted. Neither did he. But we found each other, and he made me understand that it’s the choices you make that determine your life, not what others choose for you.” She moved closer, wanting desperately to make the woman, Jason’s mother, understand.

    “He loved you, how couldn’t he? You were his family, and that’s a bond that can’t be broken, no matter how hard you try.”

    Lex felt something growing in his throat at the sincerity in her words. She could be talking to him, instead of about Jason, he knew, and suspected she did too.

    “He didn’t like or respect what you’d done, much less to him to try and make him, but he loved you. Just like he loved me, and the life he was beginning to make here in Smallville. A life that included a friendship with someone else who was trying to break from his father’s mold.”

    Both Lex and Genevieve gasped at her words and with a confidence she didn’t feel, she continued.

    “We all know who was responsible for Jason’s death. Every one of us, not just Lionel Luthor.” She ignored the tears building as she remembered Jason’s smile, the feel of his kiss. “I bear as much guilt in that as do you, your husband, Lex and Lionel.” Pushing down her guilt, her voice wavered slightly before becoming strong.

    “We can’t bring him back, and no matter what you think, destroying me, destroying Lex, LuthorCorp, even Lionel, won’t bring you anything but more pain and grief. Because,” here she turned to look at Lex with a slightly sad expression, “no matter if you succeed, the repercussions on you and your family, will be more costly than you could imagine.”

    Lex felt as if the breath was knocked from his body. A warring sense of exposure and amazement pounded through him. Chloe had just stood by him, stood for him, but also acknowledged in a round-about but perfectly understandable way, that she knew he was going to get revenge, much less make the Teague family pay no matter what.

    Part of him felt ashamed at knowing she knew him so well, could see the side of him even he hated to acknowledge. Perhaps even realized the choices before him in the current situation. It was staggering and confusing and not a little frightening.

    Genevieve for her part, felt Chloe’s words stir up the guilt she’d been pushing down. The knowledge that she might have played a large part in her son’s death. The feelings were quickly submerged by an anger that rose like a tidal wave at the insinuations this slip of a girl was making to her. No one had the power of the Teague name and assets, certainly not a backwater blonde with a tendency to get herself into trouble.

    “You know nothing about me, my son, or even the Luthors. You’re nothing more than a little girl with no concept of the world into which you’re entering.”

    Chloe laughed bitterly. “I know that. I know I have nowhere near the power here that you, or Lex have. I don’t want it, frankly.” She felt her limbs trembling with the strain of the conversation and forced herself to continue, needing to see this through to the bitter end.

    “What I do know is that Jason’s only wish was to find a life of his choosing, a life that had nothing to do with the Teague legacy or the methods to which you’ll go to ensure it. He was only beginning to find that with Lana, with me, even through working with Lex. And yes, his life was ended too soon and too violently for anyone. But at least he went out doing something he could be proud of--saving people.” She choked at the words but had to go on, feeling as if she were standing for Jason, for Lex, for everyone who fought tooth and nail against a destiny not of their own choosing.

    “He died saving people, and no matter what you do, no matter what Lex does in retaliation, you can’t change that. You can’t change what I think or what I believe and you can’t bring me or those I care about down with petty acts of violence. You’re a pathetic woman that you can’t let your son rest in peace and I feel sorry for you that you’ll never have a chance to know the real Jason. A person who could have truly made the Teague legacy something to be proud of.”

    The sound of shattering glass alerted Chloe she may have gone too far--but she couldn’t regret it. She knew she stood no chance of changing Genevieve’s mind, nor Lex’s response, but if she was going down, she was doing it with a bang.

    “You’re going to pay for those words. You and everyone you care about.” Genevieve’s voice was pure ice and Chloe had no doubts she’d deliver on her promise. For a moment, she thought of her father, her mother, and had to fight back the fear of something happening to them. But she bravely stood her ground, not breaking eye contact with the other woman.

    “I’m going to enjoy watching you and Lex fall apart over my actions--and what Lex, whom you trust so much--is going to do to try and stop them.” She turned, a sadly triumphant smile on her face and walked towards the door.

    Lex wanted to say something but wasn’t sure what. He was still stunned by how Chloe had totally dominated the conversation and what she’d revealed about herself and her beliefs.

    Before he could even form words, Genevieve delivered a final parting shot.

    “Jason might not have wanted to become like his father, and now he won’t.” For just a moment, something akin to grief shone in her eyes before they were masked with hatred and glee. “But Lex, you’re going to become even worse than your father--and I can’t wait for the day everyone you know and care about realizes that Lionel Luthor was nothing compared to his son.”

    With that, she strode from the room, leaving a silent Lex and Chloe staring after her.

    ~*~*~*~*~

    Lex grimaced as he heard Enrique announce he had a visitor. He’d spent the last two hours trying to rationalize everything that had gone on in that time.

    After Genevieve’s dramatic exit, he and Chloe had remained silent for moments, before he’d attempted to speak. She’d stopped him with a raised hand.

    “I meant what I said, Lex. I don’t want to know how or what you’re going to do. Just, please, try and keep me out of it and my family safe.”

    He hadn’t had a reply to that, could only nod as she’d turned and grabbed her purse. He wondered if that’s all that would be said in the matter, needing somehow to make her understand everything he was thinking and feeling, even if he didn’t quite know himself.

    His thoughts had come to a stop as she’d approached, placing a hand gently on his cheek, her eyes expressing a knowledge far too adult for her years. A look that told him she most likely knew him better than anyone ever would. And a large part of him was ashamed of that. However, something inside him felt relieved that she understood, if not totally accepted, things he was only beginning to accept about himself.

    “Be careful, Lex.”

    With those words and a sad smile, she’d disappeared. He’d stood in the same spot for ten minutes before feeling capable of movement. When he was, he strode to his desk with determined resolution. He’d been involved in making plans until Enrique’s interruption.
    “Show Ms. Lang in,” he instructed as the butler nodded and held the door open for the brunette to enter. Lex braced himself, uncertain of what she was here for or how she would react to him, considering their harsh words days earlier.

    Lana took a deep breath before striding into the study. She had almost refused Mrs. Kent’s request to deliver the month’s books to Lex. But she realized that the cowardly action was more fitting of the girl she’d been last year, it undermined the woman she was trying to become. So here she was, entering the lion’s den with a resigned expression on her face.

    “Lana, what brings you here?” Lex was pleased his voice was even as he watched her stride towards his desk. He wanted to laugh at the determined expression on her face.

    Obviously, she was nervous and he found he liked that. However, her presence had sparked another agenda in his mind and he figured keeping the peace was a good start.

    “Mrs. Kent wanted me to drop off the books for the month.” Lana walked over and placed the books on the desk, standing awkwardly before it, trying to muster the courage and the words to say something, although what she wasn’t sure.

    Lex knew they wouldn’t get anywhere unless he started things off on the ‘right’ foot so to speak. And if it meant pretending to be sorry, he’d do it with a smile.

    “Lana, I hope you’re not still upset over our last conversation-”

    “I am.” Lana’s voice was clipped, abrupt. She really hadn’t expected him to address the issue straight out, but then again, that was his style.

    “I’m sorry you feel that I’m a danger and a bad influence on Chloe.” He chose his words carefully, wondering what would get her to open up--at least about the topic he wanted to learn more about.

    “Lex, look at your family, at what LuthorCorp, your father, even you have put her, put all of us through. How can you say you’re not a bad influence?”

    Lex bit back a sharp retort. “What is it you’re implying, Lana? Did I do something, put you or Clark through something you’re not telling me about?”

    It was a calculated risk and one he wasn’t sure if he should take. Then again, what did he have to lose?

    Lana tensed, unsure of how to respond but knowing she had to give him some kind of answer. The memory of Clark’s confession, of his disappointment in losing Lex as a friend and confidant, of the ‘Clark Room’ that still haunted him, most likely colored her reply.
    “I know you don’t think you’re becoming your father, I really believe you believe that. But Lex, can’t you see that you’re in danger of becoming worse than him?”

    Lex tensed, trying not to lash out at her words. He tried not to think his emotional reaction was because she’d hit too close to home.

    “That’s confidence inspiring.” The words were bland and Lana winced. Despite her anger and frustration at the man, she did remember his kindness to her over the past few years.

    “Lex, you have to realize you’re becoming someone that none of us recognize. You have to give up your vendettas and your desire to please your father.” She held up a hand at his look of anger. “I know you like to think you hate him, as most of us do, but he’s your father Lex. You love him somewhere inside and you can’t let go of the idea of making him proud.” Her voice turned sad. “Sometimes it takes more courage to disobey your father, reject his ideals and beliefs than simply agreeing with them or trying to change him or yourself.”

    Lex felt a gaping wound close to the surface begin to ooze again. Not to mention his inner radar alerted him that Lana’s words weren’t aimed directly at him. Deciding to take a stab, he kept his voice even.

    “Is there something you want to tell me, Lana?” He watched as her head flew up, her eyes panicked. His suspicions were confirmed.

    “What?” Lana didn’t like the look in his eyes and was beginning to regret her attempt to make him see reason.

    “You seem to be coming from a very informed position. Your last statement seems to have implied meaning to someone else, perhaps Clark?”

    Lana knew she didn’t like where this was going and somewhere in her mind, realized that Lex was prying for information. Information about Clark. It scared her, made her wonder if he was still looking into Clark and his past. Somehow, she wouldn’t put it past him.
    The thought scared her but she kept her face even. “What makes you say that? And why are you so interested in Clark all of a sudden?”

    Lex felt something twist in his chest. “Because he was, at one time, my friend. And if he’d tell me what’s bothering him, maybe I could help him find the solution. You know I’d never hurt him, Lana.” His voice was intense, as were his eyes. Despite everything, he meant the words. If Clark would only trust him--maybe things would be better for them both.

    Lana looked at his expression, sensing he meant the words. But she knew that he could never know Clark’s secret. Despite his good intentions, there was too much of his father in him. He’d proven it by trying to manipulate her today.

    “I know you think you’d never hurt him, Lex. But you’re who you are--and he’s who he is and in the end, you’ll both only end up hurting each other, no matter how well intentioned you are.”

    With that, she turned and walked out the door, leaving a silent Lex staring after her.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    “He was trying to get information out of you, about me?” Clark knew he sounded surprised when he realized, truly, he shouldn’t be.

    Lana nodded. “It was subtle, but he was trying to find out what I knew about you.” She paused, frowning. “I wonder if he talked to Chloe, she made a few comments about you not trusting her with your secret-”

    “When?” Clark hoped he didn’t sound as panicked as he felt, but Chloe talking to anyone about his secret didn’t bode well.

    Lana sighed. “I meant to tell you, the other day in the Talon. Chloe implied that she knew you told me your secret and that it hurt her. I think she wanted to ask me about it, but stopped before she could. But I wonder if she told Lex.”

    Clark sighed, walking towards the window and wondering how things had grown so complicated. He knew no matter what, things with him and Chloe had changed irrevocably as they had with Lex. He couldn’t trust either of them, and it made him angry to think they’d both try to go through Lana to get to him.

    He didn’t want to believe Chloe was capable of anything as dire as the things he suspected Lex of doing, but remembering her tenacious pursuit of his secret, her collaboration with Lionel, her increasing reliance on Lex, he was beginning to have his doubts.

    He closed his eyes, remembering simpler times when he and Chloe had enjoyed simply being together, figuring out stories, playing in the woods, even investigating meteor freaks. A time before Lex Luthor, before Lionel’s power games, before the last few years.
    Chloe had been his best friend and he wondered sadly when things had changed, what had changed between them.

    He knew it wasn’t all because of Lex.

    The thought made him remember happier times with Lex. His gift of the truck, his support throughout the Ryan custody situation, the simple enjoyment of a friendship.

    Unfortunately, he only now realized that Lex Luthor didn’t have friends, at least not applying the normal definition of the word. Not that he might not want them, but his business, his history, his future path did not lead to having friendships. Even whatever he and Chloe had couldn’t last, he knew. Sooner or later, knowing or not, Chloe too would become a victim of the Luthor curse.

    Selfishly, he found himself worried that in the process, Lex might discover what he was hiding and destroy him. He wanted to believe what Lana had told him, that Lex truly thought he could help bear Clark’s burden.

    Unfortunately, experience had taught him otherwise and the sad knowledge remained that no matter his intentions, Lex would somehow find a way to exploit and use anything he might learn about Clark or his family.

    And he couldn’t let that happen.

    “Clark?” Lana had been watching him at the window, sensing he was deep in thought. She wished she could do something for the obvious pain she read in his eyes as he turned back to her. She had no doubt he was thinking of the past, and of happier times for them all.

    Turning towards her, Clark tried to smile. “I’m okay, Lana. Just thinking.”

    Lana bit back her instinctive reply to ask him to share and ‘think’ with her. She knew him well enough by now to realize he needed time on his own. Feeling her own emotions wavering, she rose and walked over to him, leaning up to kiss his cheek gently.

    “I’ll be here when you need me.”

    Clark leaned down and brushed his lips lightly over hers, a bittersweet happiness running through him at what could never be.

    “Thanks, Lana.”

    She nodded, turning and disappearing down the steps. He watched until her car drove off, then returned to the window, staring out into the darkening sky, wondering what to do now.

    ~*~*~*~*~

    Chloe wasn’t sure why she found herself climbing the steps to Clark’s loft. The last thing she wanted was to have to deal with the awkward tension that had been between them as of late. But after her conversation with Lex, her confrontation with Genevieve, she’d spent too much time guessing and pondering her life and her actions and the people involved in both.

    So here she was, climbing quietly up the stairs, not surprised to see Clark standing at the window, his back to her, deep in thought.

    “Chloe.”

    She didn’t question how he knew she was there, she’d long ago come to accept that fact about Clark. He just always knew.

    “Clark.”

    She walked over to stand by him, both remaining silent as they stared at the setting sun.

    Chloe wasn’t sure what to say to start things off, not sure she could find the words, when

    Clark took them from her.

    “What happened to us, Chloe?”

    She felt her throat close and she struggled to fight back tears as she looked out the window instead of into his eyes.

    “I don’t know, Clark. I wish I knew when we stopped trusting each other.” She bit her lip as she waited for his reply.

    Clark felt a bitterness rise in him and the words were out before he could stop them. “Maybe when you started turning to Lex, trying to get him to bully Lana into telling him what I’ve told her.”

    Chloe felt as if she’d been hit. She struggled to regain control of her wavering emotions, hurt beyond what she thought she could be by his accusations. Struggling to remain calm, she was pleased her voice didn’t shake as she replied.

    “I don’t know what you’re talking about, but if you’d care to explain-”

    “Lana said Lex grilled her about me, about the things I’ve told her, things we’ve talked about-”

    “Your secret.” Chloe knew her voice was hard, but she was tired of being made to feel guilty. Part of her wondered what Lex had been thinking to question Lana but a larger part couldn’t blame him after their earlier conversation. After all, she’d spoken to Lana herself.

    Clark was uncomfortable, not knowing what to say. Talking about this with Chloe was always dangerous territory, never knowing how she’d interpret things. Before he could reply, Chloe’s harsh laughter cut him off.

    “It’s funny really. I hoped you’d trust me enough to let me help you bear whatever secret you’re keeping.” She turned and sighed at his worried expression. “It’s no use denying it Clark, I know there are things about you that don’t fit. I’ve tried to figure them out, but realized that no matter how hard I try, it’s not worth it if you don’t trust me. I just figured that out too late, I suppose.” She sounded wistful now, almost unhappy and Clark felt a twinge of something that resembled guilt.

    “Chloe, I don’t know-”

    “Don’t.” She held up her hand, unable to bear more of his hemming and hawing around something she knew he wouldn’t tell her, trust her enough to reveal. “It sounds strange to even say this, but I don’t want to know now.”

    Clark looked at her in confusion as she continued.

    “I thought I did, I thought I wanted to know you as well as Lana, as Pete, to be a part of that circle. But seeing how much it’s cost me, cost you, even Lex, I don’t think I want to know, especially since I know you don’t trust me.”

    Clark was getting worried now, and not a little embarrassed at realizing she knew he didn’t trust her. “Chloe-” he began again but she wouldn’t let him finish.

    “I don’t know where things went wrong, when we started growing apart, and I know it’s not all your fault. I’m as much to blame. Too curious, too impulsive, too precarious at times.” Her voice was sad as she turned to look at him with a sad, small smile.

    Clark felt a lump rising in his throat. He knew Chloe was slipping away from him, their friendship disappearing like so many other things in his young life. Still, he felt he owed her some form of honesty as well.

    “I’m just as much to blame, Chloe. And I truly regret that, regret what’s happened to us, to our friendship.” He took a deep breath, the resentment evident in his voice. “I regret the fact that you turn to Lex now instead of me.”

    Chloe laughed almost hysterically. “God you’re such a hypocrite. You have a savior complex, Clark, you’re always the one who saves the day, who helps, who thinks he can save the world. You don’t like it that I turned to someone else when I needed help, you hate that it wasn’t you who got the glory of being the knight in shining armor. It is your fault, Clark, you are to blame: I turned to a friend for help, and you couldn’t handle the fact that it was someone else. Do you only want me as your friend, only trust me, if I rely on you? You don’t trust me because I’m not hanging on your arm anymore like some love-sick fourth-grader. And you hate that I turned to Lex: now you can’t trust either of us, and surprisingly, that’s what steers me towards Lex. He gives me what your friendship can’t. Trust.”

    Clark started to protest but she wouldn’t let him finish.

    “I’m not saying I’m not aware of the dangers of having Lex as a friend. Or whatever we are, I’m fully aware of them. I accept them however because he’s honest about them. Yes I know there are things he’ll never tell me, things I’ll never know, but I can accept that because he trusts me with certain things. Things you will never be able to.”

    Clark heard the truth in her words and recognized it. He didn’t feel much better however to hear that Chloe was entering her friendship with Lex with her eyes wide open, knowing the dangers and accepting them. He wasn’t sure if he was proud or terrified of what the future held for her. For Lex. For all of them.

    “Chloe,” Clark placed his hands on her shoulders, turning her to face him, a plea in his eyes. “Can’t we go back to how things were? Before all this?” He wasn’t sure why he wanted this so badly, nor why her answer, though inevitable, mattered so much to him.

    Chloe bit her lip, wanting desperately to agree, to go back to a more innocent time when their friendship was all that mattered. But a friendship without trust…

    “Can you let me in? Trust me with your secret?”

    She knew the answer before he spoke and a tear slipped down her cheek as she looked into his sad yes.

    “I’m sorry, Chloe.”

    Feeling pain slice through her, she turned away from him, from the tear that slid down his cheek. She’d known his answer but hoped for something, anything, in this last effort.

    Because she knew that’s what this was, a last chance to salvage a friendship.

    “I’m sorry too, Clark.”

    Heart aching, she turned and walked away, without looking back.

    Clark watched until her car disappeared down the lane, feeling emptier than he had in years.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    The maid flipped the lights on in the office, absently wondering if she could get off a few hours early if she convinced Carla to do the last two floors of the Teague Law Offices.

    Her mind completely stopped working as she took in the state of things around her.

    Drawers lay broken on the floor, files and folders on every surface. The desk lamp had been
    overturned, the chair in front of the desk broken.

    Taking a cautious step forward, compelled by something she couldn’t explain, the maid walked slowly through the debris in almost horrified fascination. Reaching the side of the large desk, she cautiously peered around it.

    Her screams echoed throughout the empty office.

    ~*~*~*~*~

    Lex sat in his office, fingers steepled, staring into the semi-darkness that marked the lateness of the hour. Turning his gaze toward the clock, he noted it was two minutes before midnight. His eyes turned back to his hands, almost as if fascinated by them.

    He didn’t even jump when the phone rang a few moments later. Looking at the clock, he noted it was midnight. Picking up the receiver he didn’t even bother offering a greeting. He listened for a few moments before speaking.

    “Keep me updated.”

    With that, he hung up the phone and resumed staring at his hands. Separating them, he lifted his left hand into the light, squinting, almost as if he was looking for something on it.

    Finding nothing after a close scrutiny, he lifted his other hand, repeating the process. Finding nothing, he steepled them again, resuming his gaze into the darkness.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    Chloe stood staring at the headline that graced the “Daily Planet.”

    Wife of famed defense attorney murdered!

    Somehow, it didn’t seem real until she reached for the paper, ran her fingers over the black and white headline. Opening the paper, she almost clinically read the words, noting the fact the police had labeled it a break-in and that nothing except some business files had been taken. Police had no suspects and apparently no leads. They were asking the public for any help possible. The Teague family was putting up millions for any information leading to an arrest.

    Closing the paper when she’d finished, she put it back carefully on the newsstand. She wondered if she should be feeling shock, horror, grief… relief… anything but the cold numbness that had overcome her at reading the words on the paper.

    She hadn’t wanted to know. She didn’t want to speculate.

    In fact, right now, all she wanted was a cup of Martha’s espresso and a quiet booth in the Talon where no one would bother her. Striding up to the counter she placed her order, almost relieved when Mrs. Kent was nowhere to be found. Despite liking her coffee, she had no desire to try an awkward conversation with her after her recent one with Clark.
    As she carried her cup towards the back of the building, she couldn’t help but stop at the familiar voices she heard from several booths ahead of her.

    “I don’t know what to think, but I’m willing to bet Lex had something to do with it.” Clark’s voice was strong and sure and Chloe felt her heart stop along with her body.

    “But why? What in the world would Lex have to do with Genevieve Teague?” Lana’s voice just as audible and sounding confused.

    “I don’t know, but I do know Genevieve Teague paid a visit to Lex at the mansion a few days ago.”

    “That doesn’t prove anything-” Lana countered but was cut off.

    “A friend of mine in Metropolis, well, he called me this morning, saying he’d heard rumors that something big was supposed to happen involving LuthorCorp and the Teague family. No one was sure what but my friend said it could be huge.”

    “And you know this friend from where?”

    “The summer I spent in Metropolis--when, um, I wasn’t myself.” Clark’s voice was awkward yet there was a familiarity in Lana’s ‘oh’ that made her hackles rise.

    Chloe couldn’t help but flash back to the ‘Kal’ experience in Metropolis. Again she felt a wave of hurt that he obviously kept friends from the time he’d told her he wanted to forget.

    “Still, you don’t have any proof-”

    “Come on Lana. What do you think the chances are of a connection between LuthorCorp and Teague not being nefarious? You know that Jason’s family wasn’t all that honorable, and the Luthors-”

    “The Luthors what, Clark?” Chloe couldn’t help herself as she strode up to the two of them, not sure of what made her suddenly announce her presence to them.

    “Chloe,” Clark sounded abashed as he watched her approach. He had a feeling she’d overheard them and wasn’t sure how to respond. Suddenly, he realized he had no desire to put more lies between them. “I was saying that the Luthors can’t be trusted and that I’m sure Lex has some connection to Genevieve Teague’s murder.”

    Chloe was pleased her expression remained neutral. The last thing she wanted was Clark or Lana to suspect she might be harboring the same thoughts. But something inside her refused to let the two demean Lex for something they had no proof of.

    “I seriously think you’re stretching facts and accusations here. Last I read the police had no leads in the murder.” She was pleased her voice was calm despite her rising anger and hysteria.

    “Come on, Chloe. You can’t be that blind to Lex-”

    “You know, I’m tired of all this doubt and accusation.” She realized suddenly she was, she didn’t want to deal with this, to defend Lex to people when she wasn’t quite sure she had something to defend. Not sure if she even cared. “I knew a long time ago that things would never work as long as I stayed here,” her voice turned wistful as she announced a decision she’d only made recently. “I guess that’s why its good I’m going to Met U in the fall.”

    Clark and Lana looked at each other in surprise.

    “When did you decide that? I didn’t even know you’d been accepted?” Lana hated the fact that she hadn’t known, that Chloe hadn’t told her. It felt like a betrayal.

    Chloe laughed, slightly hysterically. “Gee, with the way things are between us, I can’t imagine why I didn’t tell you both what my future plans were. Not that you had time to care what with your own secrets.”

    Clark sighed, not sure what to say. Part of him was hurt, part of him resigned. Still, he wasn’t sure what to say.

    “Don’t worry, I won’t say anything about any of this,” she gestured around her, “I just want to forget it all, to start over, someplace where there’s no unpleasant history, at least for me.”

    Clark felt his heart twist at the sad resolution in her voice. But he couldn’t help his next words. “Does that include Lex?”

    Chloe wondered only at how numb she’d become that the barb barely hurt. Still, she didn’t think it deserved an answer. So, remaining silent, she turned and walked back out the door, leaving a silent Lana and Clark behind.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    Clark stood staring at the Luthor mansion. He wasn’t sure why he was here, what he was considering doing, just that something had led him here. For a moment, he thought wistfully of the times he would arrive here with a smile, ready to share a game of pool or a conversation with Lex. The camaraderie they’d shared that first year of their friendship, something that he found he sorely missed.

    He didn’t like what he saw Lex becoming. Didn’t like what that was doing to his friends, to Chloe particularly but more importantly, to himself. Somewhere along the way he’d lost hope of saving Lex from becoming his father. He bitterly regretted the loss and not just because he feared what having Lex as an enemy would mean.

    It was no secret they’d grown apart in the past few years, trust would never be able to be given freely by either of them. He’d come to accept it, come to accept that his main responsibility now was to figure out and complete his destiny. And if that meant bringing down Lex before he could hurt anyone else, so be it.

    Part of him however desperately wished he could let this go. Could leave well enough alone and let the friendship slip away. Let the antagonism that had grown diminish by simply cutting ties with Lex and the Luthors in general.

    But the look in Chloe’s eyes as she’d defended Lex earlier, the slight hint of doubt he’d caught before she’d masked it, had led him here.

    With a sigh, he trudged up the drive and to the front door. He nodded as Enrique let him in and ushered him into the study. As he walked through the double doors, his gaze fell on Lex, sitting behind the desk, talking on a cell phone. A sense of nostalgia hit as he remembered how many times he’d walked in on this sight and been greeted with an off-hand wave. Now, he received only a look as Lex ended his conversation.

    Lex sighed mentally as he finished talking to one of his accountants. He was still swamped with trying to finish the damage control in the fallout from Genevieve Teague’s death. While some of the information on LuthorCorp had been leaked in the wake of her death, he’d managed to discredit it--by destroying what evidence remained along with whatever actions were deemed appropriate. He knew it wasn’t going to be easy to restore some of the shaken confidence in LuthorCorp, but it was far less than he’d have to do if her plan had succeeded.

    Looking up at the sound of the doors opening, he tried not to grimace as Clark strode into the room. He was relatively sure what the boy was here to talk about and he really didn’t want to deal with it. But he knew he couldn’t put it off.

    He watched as Clark looked from him to the office around them. For a moment, he felt a surge of regret that Clark did not smile, or casually make himself at home in a chair as he would have in past years. He wondered, almost wistfully if Luthors had such a quality, if the boy missed those days when things had been easier. Never less complicated, but simpler in many ways. Before secrets and lies and scheming fathers and destiny’s had come between them.

    But what ifs were not his style. He needed to focus and deal with whatever Clark needed to get off his chest. He had a feeling this was a conversation a long time coming.

    Hanging up, he turned to greet his friend.

    “Clark.”

    Clark nodded as he turned his gaze to Lex. “Lex.”

    The two stared at each other for a moment before Lex sighed and rose from his chair. “Is this a social visit or are you here to read me the riot act about something?” He knew it was antagonistic of him, but he wanted this over with as quickly as possible, no beating around the bush.

    Clark tried not to bristle, somewhat glad that Lex was pulling no punches. A bit of anger at his audacity however shone through his words.

    “I just wanted to tell you to stop trying to put pressure on my friends to tell them what you want to know about me, or what you think you want to know.”

    Lex raised an eyebrow. “So you admit there’s something about you that I should know?”

    Clark sighed, remembering almost too late that Lex was very skilled in wordplay. Chloe had taught him well, but he was far from Lex’s league.

    “There are things that are private between people, between Lana and me and I would hope you’d respect that.”

    “Unlike the way you two have ‘respected’ Chloe?” Lex wasn’t sure why he felt so offended, but there was no hiding the bitterness in his words.

    Clark felt his own anger rising. “I don’t know what you’ve done to her Lex, but you’ve managed to turn her against us. She was a good person-”

    “You’re saying now that she’s not?” Lex really felt his anger rising. Clark was supposed to be Chloe’s friend. It sure didn’t sound like it at the moment.

    “No,” Clark was struggling not to let Lex confuse him. “It’s just that in the past, before you, Chloe would come to me for help. She’d talk to me, I could trust her-”

    “Unlike me, whom you can’t trust with your secrets.” Lex made no effort to hide his bitterness as he strode towards the bar and pulled out a bottle of TyNant.

    Clark shook his head. “I wanted to trust you Lex, but you’ve always given me reason not to.” He paused for only a moment, sensing Lex wanted him to finish. “If you could have only let go of your curiosity--about me, about the meteor research, about your father and your desire to impress him-”

    “Don’t bring him into this.” Lex’s voice was steel now as he strode over to face Clark. “This isn’t about him, as I told you before it isn’t about Chloe, or Lana, or my attempts to, as you call it, ‘turn them’ from you. It’s about you and me and the simple lack of trust. And friendships can’t work without trust.”

    Clark wasn’t sure what to say, realizing Lex was right. But before he could formulate a reply, Lex continued.

    “I wanted you to trust me, Clark. I thought you knew that no matter what secrets you might be hiding, that I could help you bear them. That I could find a way to make you suffer from them less.”

    Clark swallowed, hearing the genuine plea in the other man’s voice. However, he hardened himself against it, knowing that while part of him might have meant it, a larger, undeniable part would have exploited his secret, willingly or not. A man like Lex wouldn’t have been able to resist.

    “Then why couldn’t you stop investigating me? Or interrogating my friends? Or curb your curiosity about the meteor rocks and freaks that we’ve come across in the past four years?”

    Lex ran a hand over his head, turning to face the fire. They were good questions, he had to admit. Questions he’d asked himself over and over, wondering if he’d answered differently how different things might be.

    “Clark, I know I haven’t always gone about things the right way, that I’ve done a lot of things I’m not proud of. But you have to believe that I wouldn’t hurt you, or anyone around you.” He hated the fact that his voice was almost pleading, but he couldn’t help it. If nothing else, he needed to know that Clark believed his words. Because try as he might to believe them himself, a sliver of doubt festered inside his mind.

    Clark bit his lip. “I want to believe you Lex, but your actions prove otherwise. No matter how much you try, you’re still too much like your father.”

    The words wounded Lex in a way nothing else could have, coming from the young man before him. Despite everything, something inside of him wanted Clark’s respect, wanted to know that he understood that Lex was trying hard to be a better man. Maybe it was because of that day on the bridge, the day that Clark had saved his life. He’d stood beside him since, a companion through the dark times, the battles with his father. Lex felt as though he had been born again that day, given another chance. It was like learning to ride a bike again, Clark was behind him, holding onto the seat. But now he’d let go. Lex was on his own. He was traveling down his own path now, under his own steam. Maybe he had to leave Clark behind, but still, that was easier said than done.

    But obviously, Clark couldn’t overcome the past, nor his parentage. Lex was disappointed, somehow expecting more from the boy. With all the people he gave the benefit of the doubt to, would it be too much to expect to be on that list?

    Obviously it was. But he knew it wasn’t solely his fault. His voice was bitter as he replied.
    “If I’m too much like my father, you helped make me that way.”

    Clark felt the words hit home, the ring of truth to them something he’d never wanted to face but now, realized he had to. While Lex made his own choices and his own repercussions, he knew full well that he hadn’t always done his best to make Lex feel a friend. And some of the choices he had made because of that were obviously ones that led to situations he got into with Lionel, LuthorCorp, Smallville in general.

    But he knew deep down that the fault truly lay with Lex. The man could have made a choice to completely sever ties with everything Lionel Luthor’s legacy entailed. He could have reorganized and reinvented LuthorCorp without much of the experiments and strange projects he knew full well continued in some hidden lab somewhere. Lex could have chosen not to lie about that, as well as other things. So while he felt some guilt, it was not enough to make him take back his next words.

    “I might have done that, but the choices are ultimately yours, Lex.”

    Lex knew he was right, as much as he was loath to admit it. And in realizing that, he realized too that their paths had to split. There was no middle ground, no road they could travel together. They were too far apart for that now. The knowledge both saddened and emboldened him as he turned to stare into the fire.

    “I’ve always believed we make our own destiny, Clark. Our choices and ours alone lead us down the path we’re to follow. Once I thought we might follow the path together,” he stopped, turning to look Clark directly in the eye. “Now, I know that our paths are separate and I suspect, will clash more than once.”

    Clark heard the truth in his words, believed them, but also found himself regretting the knowledge that things must be this way. He supposed it was the part of him that wanted to save everyone that was clamoring for him to not give up on Lex, to help him find his way into a better, brighter destiny.

    But a larger part knew that no one could help Lex. Just like no one, no matter how well intentioned, could help him along his path. He was destined to walk it alone, as was Lex. It would only make their future ‘clashes’ more intense, more lonely in some way.

    “I wish things could have been different.” Clark wasn’t sure what prompted him to say the words as he looked into the crackling flames of the fire, but as he spoke them, he knew it was true. In this moment, he realized that if he could go back and do something to avoid coming to this point in time, he would.

    Lex nodded, staring into the fire now as well. “So do I, Clark.”

    As they stood staring into the flames, their gazes were suddenly caught by a shadow cast against the wall by several logs and the flames. The looked at the image, neither of them speaking but both reminded of the same thing: two serpent like creatures, entwined together, teeth bared as they stared at each other in an eternal battle of wills.

    Lex remembered the cave, knew that Clark was thinking the same thing. Naman and Sageeth, friends who became enemies, who fought for the ultimate prize: greatness. He knew now that he was Sageeth, and as he stared at the shadow, allowing dark thoughts to consume him, he wondered if he was standing beside his Naman.

    “I don’t want to fight you Lex, but I will if I have to.”

    Lex drew in a deep breath, turning to look directly into Clark’s eyes. “Then that will be a match well worth seeing, though I too hope it never comes to pass.”

    The two stood staring at each other for a moment: there was an eerie stillness surrounding them. It was the quiet before the storm, the handshake before the battle. At length, Clark nodded. Turning, he walked towards the door, feeling as if he’d accomplished what he’d needed to. The lines were drawn, both knew where they stood. The question was, how long it would take for one or the other to cross those lines.

    “Clark.”

    He stopped, turning back to Lex.

    “Don’t ever take what you have for granted. Be true to yourself--for us both.”

    Clark couldn’t say why he felt the tears welling up in his throat at the words, so he simply nodded before turning back and walking out the doors.

    Lex watched him until the doors swung shut before turning his gaze back to the fire. For a moment, he let the sorrow sweep over him. But a moment later, it was gone, pushed to the back of his mind where most of his emotions were forced to go.

    He was Lex Luthor. He still had a company to run and a reputation to polish and expand. The loss of one friend should not affect that so much. Taking a deep breath, he turned and strode back to his desk. There was work to be done.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    “It was sad, mom. I mean, despite everything, Lex was my friend.”

    Martha Kent sighed as she walked over and placed an arm around her son. She shot a look at Jonathan who wisely remained silent.

    “It’s never easy being responsible, but you did what you had to do. And who knows, maybe it’s for the best.”

    “Of course it is.” Jonathan went quiet as his wife shot him another look.

    “I know it, but I really hoped things would be different, that it wouldn’t have to end feeling like an ultimatum.” Clark stared into his cup, swirling the liquid around as he tried to explain what he was feeling after his confrontation with Lex.

    “Well, what’s done is done. Now you move on.” Jonathan’s voice was sure and strong as he looked over at his son. “And tell me truthfully, do you really think Lex will be a problem?”

    Clark bit his lip. The question was one he’d been asking himself for weeks, if not years. When it came, the surety of his answer should have frightened him, but instead it left him feeling rather numb.

    “Yes.”

    Martha and Jonathan exchanged a worried look but before they could speak, Clark spoke again.

    “I think that Lex could be an extreme danger to me, whether knowingly or not.” His voice now sounded bitter to even himself. “Although I wonder if I could have prevented it by telling him about me, about my destiny.”

    “Absolutely not.” The conviction in his father’s voice brought his head up. “I know you were friends, son, but Lex Luthor has an entirely different set of values and perspectives in his life. I’m not saying there’s not the potential to be a better person inside of him, but I just don’t think you could ever trust Lex with your secret. We’ve seen the things he’s done with others.”

    Clark nodded. “I know, but maybe if I told him about my destiny, maybe we could have worked together to do whatever it is Jor-El wanted-”

    “Clark, you know that your destiny is a path only you can choose and one you have to travel alone.” It hurt Martha to admit her fears like this, but she knew she had to speak the truth. Tightening her grip on her son’s shoulder, she continued.

    “Your father and I will always be here for you, Lana, Pete, everyone who knows you and you potential will help any way they can, but in the end, only you can make the choices and fulfill the great destiny I know you’ll have.”

    Clark felt his eyes tearing up as he looked at his mother. “How can you be so sure it will be great? That I won’t turn into someone even worse than Lex is capable of becoming?”

    “Because you’ve got family and friends who love you and who won’t let you go down that path. No matter what.” Jonathan’s voice was strong and clear as he too rose and walked over to place a hand on Clark’s shoulder.

    “No matter what happens, Clark, you’ll make the right choices. No matter what Lex Luthor, or anyone else who tries to stop you might do.”

    Clark looked at his parents a sad knowledge in his eyes. “I know you’re right, but it doesn’t make it any easier. And now that Chloe’s going away…”

    The elder Kents sighed before turning their attention back to their son.

    “Maybe its for the best.” Jonathan’s voice was soft as Clark looked at him. “She needs a change, she needs something more than Smallville, more than we can give her. It would do her good to get away and hopefully, it will stop her curiosity about you once and for all.”
    Clark laughed bitterly. “I don’t know if that’s possible. Chloe’s curiosity has always been something I love best about her.”

    Martha sighed, running a hand through Clark’s hair. “We can’t know what the future holds, and we’ll only stress ourselves out worrying about it.” She smiled at her husband, a wealth of knowledge in her eyes. “So, for the moment, I think you need to focus on the immediate future, your future and what you’re going to do next.”

    Clark nodded, realizing they were right. He needed to forget about Lex, about Chloe, about his failed romance with Lana. He had a destiny, a future to figure out. Everything else could come later.

    “It will be all right, Son. Trust me.”

    He took a familiar comfort in his father’s words as the three of them stared out into the setting sun.

    ~*~*~*~*~

    Lex looked up, slightly frustrated to be interrupted again in the middle of a business call. When he saw whom the double doors admitted, he quickly ended the call and rose to greet Chloe.

    “Chloe, what brings you here.” He had an idea but he hoped he was wrong.

    “I just wanted to tell you that I’m heading to Metropolis for the summer before I start at Met U in the fall.” Chloe wasn’t sure why she’d felt the need to tell Lex this, just that she had. It also stopped her from asking the other questions on the tip of her tongue involving Genevieve Teague. Questions she wasn’t sure she wanted to get answers to.

    “When do you leave?” Lex wasn’t surprised to find he was going to miss her.

    “Tomorrow.” Chloe paced over to the fire, unable to sit down as she normally would. She was filled with a strange energy and sitting wouldn’t curb it.

    “So you came to say good-bye. Is that all?” Lex wondered if he were a glutton for punishment. He’d just given her the perfect opening to ask about Genevieve Teague. He wondered if subconsciously, he wanted her to ask.

    Chloe turned to look at him, weighing her words carefully. “I thought a lot about everything since I heard of Genevieve’s death. I’m sure you don’t need to imagine where my mind went.” She stopped, looking him directly in the eyes. “I decided that I don’t want to know… and that’s not because I can’t handle it, Lex, I don’t think it scares me, and for that reason, I don’t need to know.”

    Lex knew his face showed surprise and made no effort to mask it.

    Chloe smiled almost sadly. “I’ve decided to start over. This summer and then next fall at college, I’m leaving this town behind. The trials, the meteor freaks, the insane friends, all of it. I’m starting over and hopefully, I’ll be happy with the girl I discover away from this town.”

    Lex felt something inside him twist. While he had to admit, he was relieved she was not going to ask him point blank if he’d had anything to do with Jason’s mother’s death, the idea that she wanted to leave, to forget, it shook him.

    “Does that include me, us, our…friendship?” He struggled a moment over the word, realizing that despite it all, he wasn’t sure what to call what they had. Friendship, although they had loosely agreed on the term, seemed so mild, so unfitting after all they’d been through when it was spoken aloud.

    Chloe knew he would ask that question. Wondered for days what her answer would be. She’d weighed all the possibilities in her mind, the pros and cons, the effects and repercussions. Now, standing here, seeing the unfamiliar vulnerability in his expression, she knew her answer.

    “I don’t know what the future holds. I know I have to find it, and find it away from here. But I do know that I want you to be a part of it.” She paused, trying not to see the relief in his eyes. “I don’t know if I’d call what we have a friendship in the conventional sense. It seems almost too tame for what we’ve been through. But I do know that despite
    everything, I want to keep you in my life.”

    Lex chose not to acknowledge the feelings that were unfurling inside his body. The knowledge that she didn’t want to cut him out of her life for some reason made all the difference to him in the world.

    Noting his silence, Chloe tried to lighten the mood. “That is of course, if you still want to associate with a soon-to-be college freshman?”

    The insecurity in her words had Lex looking at her quickly. The fact that she could still be so vulnerable stirred those protective instincts inside him. He knew full well she was a strong, independent woman. A woman at times that frightened him. But nonetheless, a woman he wanted to be close to.

    Not just because of what they’d been through, because of what she’d seen about him, about his future, but because in some strange way, she made him feel human. Made him feel a little less of the monster he knew Clark, his former friend, now considered him to be.
    The monster he couldn’t quite convince himself that he hadn’t become even as he realized
    deep inside, the victory he felt at claiming Chloe as a friend, winning at least one battle over Clark.

    “I’ve never had many friends, Chloe.” He walked over to stand next to her, seeing her eyes staring steadily back at him. “I don’t really think I even know how to be a friend, but if there’s one thing these past few months, years, have taught me, it’s that I need a friend more than ever.”

    Chloe’s throat closed as she read the sincerity in his eyes. This was not the hard, cold Lex Luthor she knew him capable of being. This was a Lex she could call a friend, because he let her see his weaknesses, his vulnerabilities. Something Clark hadn’t trusted her with. But Lex did.

    “So do I,” replied Chloe, quietly, her feet still rooted to the spot. It was going to be hard to walk out of the study and start that new life she was talking about; she couldn’t imagine taking the steps towards the door.

    Lex gave her a smile, a rare, genuine smile that warmed her more thoroughly than the fire crackling beside them. He took a step closer to her and pulled her into an embrace, his cheek resting on her head as she nestled against his shoulder.

    They stood there, silently by the fire, sharing a rare moment of intimacy, their declaration of mutual need hanging in the air between them, swirling around them like a shield and they both knew exactly what it meant.

    They needed each other.

    Trusted each other. Theirs was a complex relationship of give and take, whatever that entailed. It was reliance, faith, a commitment to be there when others refused, an offer of loyalty at times when others couldn’t handle it. An oath to walk side-by-side in dark times, and if needed, to light a candle.

    That was their definition of friendship.

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

    The small house was rather barren in decoration but it suited its occupants’ needs perfectly. Newspaper articles lined the walls of the bedroom, files of papers overflowing off an overcrowded desk in the corner of the room. A large bed stood in the center, its occupant sipping a cup of a strangely green brew while a nurse hovered at his bedside, finishing a few adjustments to the monitors beeping next to him.

    “Thank you, Nanette. That will be all for the moment.”

    The nurse nodded as she quickly disappeared from the room. She barely noticed the well-dressed man that passed her in the hall, disappearing into the room she had just vacated.
    The bed’s occupant looked up with a small frown that dissolved into a small smile as his gaze fell upon the room’s newest occupant.

    “I assume from your presence that things are moving along accordingly?”

    The man smiled as he walked over and took a seat next to the bedside. “Everything is going exactly as planned.”

    “Good. I trust you have the information I requested?”

    Lindsey Kane pulled out a sheaf of papers and laid them on the bed. “Everything is here, including Carlton and Teague’s research, the cave research and your daily report from Smallville.”

    “Excellent, and my son?”

    Lindsey smiled. “Exactly where you want him.” The lawyer’s grin turned to a shiver as he saw the smile that crossed Lionel Luthor’s face.

    “Like father, like son. Destiny is inevitable, Lindsey. Remember that.”

    With those words, Lionel settled back against the pillows, a small smile on his haggard features. All that was left now was to see how the events he’d set in motion played out.
    He had a feeling it was going to be one hell of a show.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
    THE END

    This ends the Virtual Season 4. Hope you enjoyed reading, and thanks again to all the wonderful writers who took us on this journey!

  2. #2
    An Accused Heretic Senior Member Kit Merlot's Avatar
    Join Date
    12 May 2003
    Location
    Penn's Woods
    Posts
    4,698

    Re: Episode 20 - Reckoning (PG)

    What a gorgeously tragic ending!

    There's so much to absorb but I think I'm the most stunned at the Kents actually thinking that Chloe was untrustworthy and the weakest link. How stupid can three people be?

    And I loved the final conversation between Lex and Clark--that was how the rift should have actually happened.

    Well done on this virtual S4
    Last edited by Kit Merlot; 3rd January 2010 at 05:50.
    KATHY

    "Don't quote me to me!" Detective Danny "Danno" WIlliams, Hawaii Five-0, episode 1.8 Mana'o

    "This could barely fill up Thumbelina!" SALIGIA by westwingwolf

    My Fanfic Master List

    My livejournal: An Accused Heretic

  3. #3
    NS Platinum Member Tanschana's Avatar
    Join Date
    07 May 2008
    Location
    Luxembourg, Europe
    Age
    36
    Posts
    217

    Re: Episode 20 - Reckoning (PG)

    Love your virtual Season 4!! Read all the episodes in the last 24 hours!! Great job!! ;D
    Come join the dark side. We have cookies.
    Yumm!
    Annnnnd Lex Luther!!!
    Double Yummmmmmmm!!


    Never knock on Death's door: ring the bell and run away! Death really hates that!
    - Matt Frewer

  4. #4
    NS Full Member Rachet's Avatar
    Join Date
    29 Nov 2009
    Location
    Escaping the Mojave Desert
    Posts
    463

    Re: Episode 20 - Reckoning (PG)

    Just wow.

  5. #5
    NS Full Member TrinityR's Avatar
    Join Date
    23 Oct 2011
    Posts
    912

    Re: Episode 20 - Reckoning (PG)

    OK, I'm trying to let all my feelings aside right now while writing this but... I can't help but... dissapointment.
    Don't get me wrong, it's really a wonderfull story, I see how much effort you've made but... it lacked the real feelings between Chloe and Lex we all hoped for. Do you really think that we want to go through all that 20 chapters (briliantly written but this is not the point) only to keep reading: there was nothing bettwen them but friendship? You could spice it up a little bit, it's PG 13, I know, but it doesn't meant that there shouldn't be any sexual tension.
    When Lex was dropping the kryptonite bomb out off the LuthorCorp window while saving Clark I would really like to see Chloe there, standing, seeing the explosion and screaming his name, something like that. I would really like to see them together at the end.
    Don't hate me for this post but although this IS A REALLY GOOD STORY I'm disappointed because it lacked the ending I hoped for.

    I don't see that you're writing the next season so... You should add some epilogue or at least warn us in the begigning that it's about frendship

  6. #6
    Members
    Join Date
    05 Dec 2013
    Location
    Milwaukee, WI
    Posts
    52

    Re: Episode 20 - Reckoning (PG)

    In case anyone can't find the previous episode on this board, there's a back-up copy available from Sara C's old website:

    19) "Frozen" by Zannie: http://web.archive.org/web/200701020...s/19Frozen.htm

+ Reply to Thread

Thread Information

Users Browsing this Thread

There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts