2nd February 2007 02:55

Title: What You Don’t Know…

Rating: R (I haven’t decided how many NC-17 chapters I plan to include in this. If it’s more than one or two I’ll have it moved. Don’t worry, I will warn everyone before the smutty parts.)

Category: Angst, romance

Content: Chlex

Summary: She’s lost her memory. He’s lost his patience. Lex takes advantage of the opportunity that fate hands him, but how will he react to someone who doesn’t know enough to hate him?

Spoilers: The whole series is fair game here.

Disclaimer: Smallville and all its characters are owned by people who are not me. No profit is made and no infringement is intended.

A/N #1 – This goes pretty much AU towards the end of Season 5, so no Lana pr…pregn…I can’t type it, but you get the point. So I won’t be following S6 canon, but if I want to add something from it I will. I’m like that.

A/N #2 – This is for somethingeasy who gently encouraged me via breaking international law and seizing Australia. That’s someone who really wants something to read. Because she sent some koalas my way I have endeavored to provide the beginning of this story. But beware – this is the prologue; it’s all about teasing, not pleasing.

A/N #3 – Last one, I promise. I'm not a doctor. I don't even play one on TV. The only research I did for the medical part of this story was to look up a proper term for amnesia. Everything else I just made up. I've tried to make it all seem reasonable, but who knows. But I just wanted to fess up avoid the 8,000 posts telling me what a weenie I am for getting it all wrong. Remember – I'm not stupid, just incredibly lazy.


Metropolis 2008

She could see the door ahead of her. Unfortunately that welcome sight was accompanied by the sound of footsteps behind her. What she wouldn’t give to have super-speed…or longer legs.

But she wouldn’t give up. Chloe Sullivan didn’t know the meaning of the word quit. Although if she made it out of there she was pretty sure she’d be looking it up, because she had a feeling that a new Sullivan motto of “Quit breaking into Luthor research facilities” could only enhance the quality of her life. Probably more so if she’d adopted it two hours ago.

Glinting in the harsh florescent lights of the long hallway, the door, her steel portal to freedom, was nearly within reach. It was so close she could almost touch it when a large bulky form, at least twice her weight, barreled into her back propelling her forward.

And so, when she did finally make contact with the door, she had only the briefest of moments to appreciate the irony that it was face first, before darkness consumed her.


“Where is she?”

The doors to the infirmary flew open and the crowd of medical specialists in the room parted like the Red Sea before the imposing figure in the tuxedo. Lex Luthor was not a man in whose way you wanted to be, even if he wasn’t your boss.

Striding into a smaller room containing the only occupied bed, Lex looked down at a bruised face he knew all to well. When he had received the call from his security team informing him that a young blonde woman had been apprehended breaking into one of LuthorCorp’s more private facilities he’d known exactly who the culprit was. Needing to find out as much as he could about what she might have seen, he told them to hold her there pending his arrival.

It had taken him about two and a half hours to extricate himself from the charity ball he had been attending, divest himself of his date, and reach the lab only to then be informed that she had been injured in her flight from the guards and, unconscious, was transported to the state of the art medical wing. For that discrepancy heads were going to roll; a vow he reaffirmed at his sight of her, still unconscious after so much time.

He and Chloe had a complicated relationship that, to the outside observer would most likely be seen singularly adversarial but was, indeed, far more complex than that one facet. In fact, of all the people he’d met in his time in Smallville, none better suited his personality than Chloe Sullivan. Although circumstances had thrown them together and pulled them apart in a near endless cycle, Lex was certain that they would have come out of their trials and tribulations much closer if it hadn’t been for one thing – Clark Kent and whatever damned secret he was hiding that kept him at the center of everything both bizarre and dangerous.

Not that he and Chloe hadn’t had their differences on other matters. Stubborn and opinionated, they were the type of people who could manage to disagree on even the things that they agreed upon. But underneath it all was a kinship that outlasted their struggles towards contrary objectives.

For instance, he knew for a fact that Chloe’s earlier flight was not an attempt to avoid the legal consequences of her actions. There wouldn’t be any. There hadn’t been for a long time between them. No, Chloe was running because she found information that she didn’t want to let him know was now in her possession.

By the same token, he was certain that he had little to fear from whatever it was she had learned. While certainly the activities of this particular lab would only, after much falsifying of records and many, many bribes, be considered barely legal by the populace at large, there was nothing here to do with the meteors and, by extension it seemed, Clark. There was also nothing heinous such as human experimentation occurring. And Lex had learned over time that if Clark wasn’t in trouble and people weren’t in immediate danger, Chloe preferred not to create a tremendous amount of disruption in his life.

Clark might never believe that of his best friend and go to girl, but the boy would also never guess just exactly how much damaging information that Lex knew for a fact that Chloe had acquired over the years and about which she had never breathed a single word.

Sometimes he wondered what kind of friends they would have made had he won Chloe’s loyalties before she gave them to another. But that was destined to remain unknown and any true potential unexplored as he was so desperate to uncover the secret she was equally as determined to protect. Somehow, everything always seemed to come back to Clark. And that, more than animosities, jealousies, and betrayals was why Lex knew that he would never quit looking until all of his questions finally had answers.

Hearing Dr. Heideman’s voice, as the physician who oversaw the program came in leafing through Chloe’s chart, Lex pulled himself away from the injured form before him and confronted the most pressing issue.

“Why isn’t she awake?”

Lex had certainly had enough head injuries to know that sleeping after one severe enough to render you unconscious was rarely recommended. ‘Get a good night’s sleep’ was advice reserved for broken limbs and emotional upsets. If Chloe wasn’t awake then it was most likely the result of her injury and not the staff’s attempts to see to her comfort.

“Mr. Luthor, I have reason to believe that Miss Sullivan’s wakefulness or lack thereof is not the issue we need to address.” Crossing over to the opposite side of his patient’s bed, he glanced at the illuminated displays on the various beeping machinery and then reached out gently to turn Chloe’s head slightly to the right to allow him to check the swollen and discolored area at her temple. Finishing his cursory exam he turned back to his employer.

“Actually, she’s regained consciousness twice since the accident. No, I’m more concerned with the confusion she displayed during those occasions.”

Lex took in all of the physician’s actions as he processed this new information. “I thought that confusion was common in injuries of this type.”

“Yes, well, there's nearly always a level of thought disorder inherent in even slight damage to the brain but, typically brought on by shock, it dissipates rapidly. This was more than that.”

His explanations were interrupted by a slight sound of stirring from the bed that immediately drew the attention of both men. Knowing that patients were often able to absorb information in varying states of consciousness, and wanting to avoid that specific occurrence in this particular case, he waved a nurse over to check on his charge and gestured Lex toward the exit.

“I think that our conversation would be better had in an alternative location.”

Although Lex wanted to remain in the room and see for himself that Chloe was, indeed, waking up; he understood the doctor’s reasoning. And, as he wasn’t one to hire imbeciles for so important a position, he felt it best to follow the older man’s advice.

As they entered Dr. Heideman’s office Lex seated himself in one of the large, leather chairs placed in front of a bulky mahogany desk cluttered with files. He didn’t say anything; he didn’t have to. He was a Luthor,; it was most people’s natural inclinations to attempt to anticipate and then meet his needs. He wanted information and had no doubt that it would be immediately forthcoming. He wasn’t wrong.

“Usually in cases of trauma to the head, especially in those involving periods of unconsciousness, we see a certain amount of cognitive disorientation upon waking – difficulty processing or using language, inability to manage simple mental calculations, and a general sense of confusion in regards to one’s environment. What concerns me is that last one.

Both times that the patient regained consciousness she displayed an absence of memory recall that appeared quite substantial.”

“Didn’t you just say that such symptoms were not particularly extraordinary?” Lex questioned.

“Yes,” the doctor hurried to clarify. “But usually that type of difficulty in recollection is of extremely short duration and is less a consequence of the injury and more of a result of the temporary diminishment in cerebral capabilities.”

Grabbing the folder he’d brought in with him, Dr. Heideman began flipping through the pages of notes.

“The problem here is that Miss Sullivan was exceedingly coherent, given the circumstances. She was able to understand and execute both simple and complex commands and, in truth, the only sustained difficulty was her complete lack of memory.”

Dr. Heideman had delivered a great deal of unsettling news in his time in the medical profession and rarely, if ever, had he been greeted with smirking disbelief.

“Amnesia?” It was all Lex could do to keep from laughing at both Chloe’s audacity and the utter naiveté of the man behind the desk.

“That is the tentative diagnosis at this-”

“She’s faking.” Lex saw little point in allowing the man to finish and even less in wasting his time with Chloe’s quite brilliant, but ultimately doomed scheme to avoid interrogation.

Without another word to the doctor, Lex strode out of the office and back to the room currently housing the blonde troublemaker. Through the large, rectangular window looking into the space, he saw Chloe slowly sipping a glass of water that a nurse had just handed her.

“Chloe.” He called as he entered, and was not disappointed as she turned to face him at hearing her name. However his triumph was short lived as he jerked to a halt at seeing green eyes completely devoid of even the slightest hint of recognition.

Oh, it was still Chloe looking back at him; all agile intelligence and avid curiosity only slightly dimmed by pain. But it was as if the intricate layers of history had been stripped away, leaving the woman in her purest form.


When he didn’t speak, Chloe gave him a visual once over before meeting his eyes. She’d been fairly certain that he had been addressing her. After all, he’d said Chloe and they’d been assuring her, repeatedly, that that was her name. But before she could call out to him again he turned on his heels and walked out.

“Well,” she said to no one in particular, “if that’s the kind of people I know, I’m not so sure I want to remember.”


Lex practically ran the good doctor down as he turned the corner.

“Your office,” he barked at the man without breaking his stride.

Upon entering, Lex didn’t bother with a chair, and simply turned towards the doctor in his demand for information.


Dr. Heideman could see that whatever exchange he’d had with the young woman had been enough to convince his employer of the validity of his diagnosis. However, being no fool, he chose not to mention the man’s earlier doubt.

“Of course. What we believe that we’re dealing with is a case of traumatic, global amnesia.” Resuming his seat, he shuffled through his papers until he was once again holding the sheaf of notes he had been when they’d first had this discussion.

“Very little is actually known about amnesia, its causes, or its cure. The blow to the head that Miss Sullivan suffered caused a slight swelling in her brain. It was well within an acceptable range for this type of injury and, according to her second CT scan, seems to be subsiding. So, while it would seem that the pressure was the initial cause of the memory loss, I'm concerned that there is no rebound in that area as it diminishes.”

Skimming the first three pages, he finally settled on a section of the fourth and began reading aloud.

“The patient’s second bought of consciousness lasted approximately ten to fifteen minutes and was characterized by cogent interactions and lucid thought patterns. Patient displayed high levels of agitation at being unable to supply basic information such as name, age, and current location. Follow up questions ascertained that patient has retained social and intellectual knowledge relevant to her age such as an understanding of customs like marriage and laws, and a clear grasp of vocabulary and, at least, a rudimentary mathematical ability.”

Turning to the next page, he continued.

“Patient, although distraught, made pertinent inquiries and understood the importance of her lack of self knowledge. Patient even demonstrated a grasp of humor as she pointed out the irony of remembering amnesia when on was suffering from it.”

Placing the notes back on his desk, he struggled to keep his amusement from finding purchase on his face until he noted the quirked lips of the man across from him. However, the pervasive somberness quickly returned at the next question.

“So what does this mean?”

“Well, Mr. Luthor; unfortunately I can’t tell you that with any certainty. I’ve contacted a colleague of mine who specializes in disorders of the brain and he confirmed that cases such as these are extremely rare. While loss of memory is common in certain physical and mental traumas, it is generally specific to events surrounding the incident. A car accident or a rape could certainly cause a loss of those specific memories and, even then, it is often transient and a full recovery is made.

However, the type of amnesia from which Miss Sullivan is suffering is much more complex and far more difficult to treat. As Dr. Preston’s notes indicate, she has retained a great deal of general, generic knowledge. Upon further interviews we will most likely find a comprehension of things anywhere from the expectation that the sun will rise to an awareness that this country is lead by a president. And yet, those same interviews will probably show a complete lack of any information specific to Chloe Sullivan as a person.

We believe that it has to do with how our minds store memories. The brain is a very organized and partitioned organ. It tends to divide and subdivide data which makes for easier retrieval. With memory there seems to be four major groupings.

Instinctual memories; these include the basis for such things as the fight or flight response. Consensus memories; these would be common information that society deems all members should know, things like we all pay taxes or what a TV is. Skill memories; things anywhere from walking or reading to typing or sculpting. Anything a person has to learn to do. And the last are what are called self memories. These are the memories that take the raw material of a person – intelligence, humor, compassion, etc – and, over time, refine and focus them into the individual that they become.

We don’t really know why they’re divided along those lines or where they’re all stored, but preliminary tests are showing appropriate access to both her instinct and consensus memory. The functional shortfall seems primarily limited to her self memory and only further assessment will tell us if there is any impact on her skills memories.”

Lex listened carefully to the explanation of Chloe’s condition. However, each answer seemed to leave him with a hundred new questions. Organizing his thoughts, he decided to address them in order of importance.

“What are the treatment procedures?”

Lex had seen the chagrined expression that slid across Dr. Heideman’s face far too many times in his life; when his mother was ill, after the first meteor shower in Smallville. It was the look that acknowledged the fallibility of the medical profession; that denied them their self-proclaimed godhood.

“There are none, correct?”

“Sadly, at this time we simply know too little to do much other than wait for the brain to normalize its functions.” He confirmed, clearly wishing that he had a better prognosis to offer.

“So the memories will just suddenly come back on their own?”

“Not generally speaking, no. In cases such as this, it is far more likely that if the missing information is recovered, it will come back quite slowly, in hazy bits and pieces that turn the patients past into a puzzle.

You must understand that there are numerous mitigating factors in the recovery process. While familiar places and people may trigger memories, often the expectations of family and friends create a level of frustration that inhibits recovery. There is also the stressor of having flashes of information with little or no context with which to interpret them and the fact that, often, things of importance to the patient, will try to make themselves known, creating a sense of urgency in them that they lack the basic recollective framework to adequately manage.”

Dr. Heideman had heard people speak about the genius of Lex Luthor. Not even thirty and running a billion dollar multi-national conglomerate – well – it was impossible not to concede that the man was possessed of a staggering intellect. But sitting before him now, watching his mind in motion was an almost humbling experience. The driven intensity was palpable in the air as and he could see a world of possibilities rise and fall in the the steely eyes burning with force of his indomitable will.

“So the sum of experience tells us that Miss Sullivan has lost access to those memories which have given her a sense of identity but, other than that, there is no sign that her ability to reason has been harmed.”

Heideman knew that he was only being asked for confirmation when warranted and not exposition, and so nodded his head in affirmation of the man’s statement.

“This condition is likely to persist for some time as her memories return in a random and disjointed manner that will probably defy early attempts on her part to contextualize without the aid of someone who is also familiar with her past experiences.”

Again the doctor nodded.

“And it is probably those memories to which she assigned significant importance that will be those that will be first to surface.”

As the doctor once again corroborated his theory, Lex’s mind began calculating the pros and cons, the risks and complication intrinsic to the stratagem gaining form. He knew that what he was contemplating was not evil in the harshest sense of the word, but it was a level of immorality to which he certainly had never aspired. And yet, there was no real guilt within him.

What had started out as the reoccurring clashes between he and Clark over the boy’s constant deceit and Lex’s responding dishonesty had, over time, become an all out war as each tried to expose the other’s secrets. They were both arriving at the realization that there was an actual threat posed by their foe and, as such, their struggles took on both the instinctual need for security and a tone of righteousness from both sides equally.

Chloe Sullivan had chosen to throw herself in the midst of that volatile conflict and, like any good soldier, must have expected the occasional battle wound.

Besides, in spite of everything that had passed between them, or maybe because of it, he liked Chloe. He had no desire to harm her, he merely wanted access to information that she was one of the few people privileged to hold. And, if Dr. Heideman was correct, her knowledge of Clark’s secret would be beating frantically at her mental constraints and would be painfully easy to elicit in the absence of the realization that, while they were not strictly enemies, they were in no way allies. So, if luck were with them, this need not be a prolonged exercise.

But even if that were to be the case, he would wait it out. It was far past time for this distraction with Clark to end. If the mystery he so virulently guarded was truly benign, then Lex could finally expel his former friend from his life permanently. But if, as he suspected, this deception was something that could potentially endanger them all then, forewarned, he could finally begin to prepare for threat the younger man could pose.

For an end to the escalating madness between the two men, it was worth a little discomfort on Chloe’s part. And, in what was sure to be her righteous fury at his action, he would be certain to remind her that it was her activities alone that were responsible for her present circumstances.

“Mr. Luthor,” the doctor began, “we can-”

Lex didn’t even let him finish.

“No; this is what will be done…”


Chloe kept her eyes closed as she heard someone enter the room and approach the bed. She was tired of being poked and prodded; she was tired of being asked questions to which they knew she didn’t have any answers; but mostly, after an hour of straining to remember even the smallest of personal details, she was just tired.

“I know you’re awake.”

The deep voice in combination with the sound of a chair being pulled over stirred her curiosity and she opened her eyes. She remembered him. Well, not remembered remembered, but she recalled him from earlier. How could she possibly forget the tall, good looking man with such a forceful and commanding presence that came into her room, bellowed her name, and then just turned and left? Besides, she still wasn’t sure how she knew that she knew these things, but she was pretty sure that completely bald men, especially those in tuxedos, were hardly the norm.

“How did you know?”

“You snore.”

Outrage stiffened her spine as she answered such a mean spirited fabrication.

“I do not!”

“How would you know?”

Chloe itched to smack the smirk off of his smug face, but he actually had a point; she didn’t know if she snored. Giving up her plans of assault with a long suffering sigh, she looked closer at the man at her bedside.

Despite the fact that disheveled look incredibly sexy on him, he looked as if he’d had a difficult time while she was in and out of it. The jacket he had been wearing earlier had been discarded and his sleeved were uncuffed and rolled up around his forearms. Even his bow tie was undone, the black fabric hanging limply around his collar. It was incredibly reassuring and oddly touching to know that, while she was so cut off from so many things that she needed to know, there was someone with her who cared enough to be so concerned. With a slightly sad and apologetic smile she decided she should probably remake his acquaintance.

“So, I’m guessing that we know each other.”

Suddenly she felt long fingers wrap around the hand lying closest to him as his eyes warmed and his features softened.

“I would hope so; otherwise our wedding would have been a very awkward affair.”

“So, I’m guessing that we know each other.”

Suddenly long fingers reached out and wrapped around the hand lying closest to him as his eyes warmed and his features softened.

“I would hope so; otherwise our wedding would have been a very awkward affair.”

Chapter One

Chloe’s gasp at the unexpected response turned into a brief coughing fit. When her lungs finally gave up there spasms a glass of cool water was pressed into her hand as the man who claimed to be her husband spoke.

“I’m sorry; but there really wouldn’t have been a good way to tell you would there.”

“That I’m married to an insensitive bastard? Guess not.”

Her words were harsh but her faint smile washed away any sting they might have held and Lex was both amazed and gratified to see that so much of the Chloe Sullivan he knew remained.

Taking a sip of the water, she set the glass aside and peered at him curiously. “Can I ask you a personal question?”

“Of course,” he replied, relieved by her seeming acceptance.

“What is your name?”

Lex’s deep, rich laughter filled the room and Chloe was glad to hear it. She loathed people who lacked a sense of humor. Not that she had recalled that about herself; more that after hours of the tight lipped, solemn medical staff she could honestly say that she’d kill for even a meager ‘knock, knock’ joke.

“Lex. Lex Luthor.”

She hadn’t been expecting that, and for a few moments Chloe silently pondered what it meant.

“Well, Mr. Luthor,” she inquired with an arch of her eyebrow, “is there any particular reason that I’ve been told, repeatedly, that my name is Chloe Sullivan?”

The smile he gave her was designed to inspire trust. Lex knew it worked well; he practiced it a lot before lying to people.

“Well, even if I could convince you to give up your maiden name, it hasn't become an issue just yet. We’re newly married.”

Chloe’s face twisted in horror and Lex quickly reclaimed her hand.

“Chloe! What is it? What’s wrong?”

Looking as if she was about to cry, she asked in a small voice, “Did I ruin our wedding?”

Realizing that he was apparently going to be as perplexed by the new Chloe as he had been by the old, he nevertheless hurried to soothe her.

“Of course you didn’t. Why would you even think such a thing?”

Thankful to hear that she hadn’t destroyed such a momentous occasion, even if she couldn’t remember it, she gestured weakly to his attire. “Well, everyone’s been calling me Sullivan, and we don’t seem to have exchanged rings, and you’re here in a tuxedo…I just kind of thought that maybe I’d done something stupid like tripped during the ceremony and knocked myself unconscious on the altar.”

Laughing again, Lex decided that he liked this side of Chloe. Previously, their humor had always found an outlet in the slightly acerbic banter that was often as guarded as it was entertaining. Unfortunately, they’d had the type of relationship that didn’t lend itself to prolonged periods of levity, as their time together was generally motivated by whatever dire emergency was taking place at the moment. It was nice to see the open, playful side that she reserved for those that she didn’t consider potential enemies.

He also had to admit that he was exceedingly impressed by her powers of observation. Evidently journalism wasn’t her just career choice, but an inherent part of who she was. Even after a head trauma and the resulting amnesia, she still managed to find the oddities in her situations and the inconsistencies in his story. No wonder Clark had managed to keep his secret for so long with Chloe covering for him, he thought in frustrated admiration.

“You didn’t ruin our wedding, Chloe. It was a very simple affair with no injurious altar in sight. We’ve only been married for seven weeks which is why everyone here was referring to you as Sullivan before my arrival, since that was the name on your identification. As for the rings…well, that’s a little more complex and I don’t want to upset you right now.”

Her brow furrowed in concentration and Lex could see that she was trying to recall anything that would help her decipher his last statement. He sat silently, waiting for her questions. He was counting on Chloe’s inability to deny her curiosity. Lex began to understand then that his plans might not be as difficult as he had believed. Apparently the baseline Chloe was very similar to the Chloe he had known; and while he was satisfied with the development, it caused an odd feeling inside of him to realize that he actually knew someone so genuine.

“Okay…Lex. Explain the ring thing.”

“Chloe,” her name a weary exclamation, “the doctors were very specific that I not fill your head with information that might interfere with the return of your memory.”

“Please, Lex,” she was surprised at how easy the name fell from her lips, “I know that you can’t tell me everything. Believe me; I’ve heard the lecture from three different doctors. But there has to be something that you can tell me. Doesn’t anyone get that maybe its more distressing for me to know that there are these “upsetting” things out there that I’m completely unprepared to deal with?”

With a sigh of resignation that he hoped was convincing, Lex arranged his features in a persuasive imitation of concern.

“Chloe, your best friend was a young man named Clark.” He knew that he had to be careful not to give her too much information. “You were very close, but when we started dating he took it badly. Although he and I had also been friends previously, he didn’t approve of me as your suitor.”

Rubbing gentle circles on her skin with his thumb, he allowed a small silence to build, conveying a sense of impending doom.

“But by then it was too late. Every second I spent with you found me more and more in love. Even your loyalty to Clark in the face of his rants and accusations towards you made me fall harder.”

His eyes locked with hers and he could see that she was absorbing his words; the frightening void in her mind lending them greater effect.

“I hated seeing you hurt, but you were determined to try to salvage your friendship, and so I agreed not to tell Clark how serious things had become between us. But I drew the line at us putting our lives entirely on hold because of the tantrums of one jealous boy. So we decided to elope, hoping that when we did tell Clark he would finally realize that our marriage was a fait accompli and that he had no choice but to accept it.”

Lex watched a number of emotions flit across her face until, finally, only confusion was left.

“Okay; that explains the lack of rings, but it doesn’t seem all that upsetting. I mean, it’s not like I remember this Clark guy, so I can’t say that I’m too bothered that he’s off having a conniption fit about something that doesn’t really seem like his business. So why did you seem so reluctant to tell me…apart from the whole misplaced memory deal?”

“Earlier today you called me. You sounded…” his pained voice briefly halted. “You sounded so upset. You were crying and all I could make out was something about Clark. I wanted to go to you right then. God, I should have just followed my instincts despite what you said.”

Even though she had no memories of the man before her or the things he was speaking of, he looked so consumed with guilt that she couldn’t resist the urge to offer him the same comfort he’d extended to her. Turning her hand in his, she gently squeezed it in a soothing gesture of reassurance.

His gaze snapped down in surprise as he felt Chloe’s warm hand clasp his. Knowing that, realistically, she had less than an hour of memories of him and yet was still trying to calm his distress revealed a great deal about her character that would be useful to him in this new endeavor. He heaved a heavy sigh and continued with his tale.

“You begged me not to leave work to find you. You said Clark was already gone and you were on your way to meet me here anyway.” He answered her question before she had time to ask. “We were going to a benefit tonight. You said that you were tired of hiding; that our real friends would be those that celebrated our happiness with us.”

“Wow, I’m pretty smart, huh?”

“Indeed,” he declared, bringing her hand to his lips for a soft kiss.

“Not that I want to discourage compliments and romantic gestures, but if we could get back to you telling me whatever it is that you’re trying to not tell me, that would be good, too.”

Years of practice allowed his features to remain impassive as Chloe did exactly as he’d predicted. It wasn’t that she was easy to manipulate; on the contrary. All of the observations she’d made and the conclusions she’d drawn were quite logical and signs of both her intelligence and perceptive nature. She just didn’t know him well enough to take everything he said with an entire salt mine.

And he planned to use all of those traits to his benefit. He would allow her clever mind to point out the purposefully hidden aspects of his accounting of her life, knowing that if she believed that she was learning about things he was reluctant to tell, she would give the information greater credence. Lex also understood that in her newly formed innocence she would see his hesitation to be forthcoming as an act of protection as opposed to manipulation.

“You wouldn’t tell me exactly what happened with Clark. You told me we’d talk about it tonight. But Chloe,” he leaned forward, to help convey the import of his words, “whatever he said, whatever he did, I haven't ever heard you that upset. For a few moments you seemed almost hysterical. I’ve never been so frightened in my life…until I saw you lying in this bed tonight.”

“Sounds like your day has been almost as bad as mine, huh? I’m sorry you were worried.”

And as he looked into her clear green eyes, he could see that she was. It had been a while since anyone had shown genuine concern for his well-being, emotional or otherwise. It was nice but, as it was destined to be short lived, he decided to pay little attention to the feeling.

“Worried doesn’t begin to encompass the dread I’ve experienced today. And frankly it’s a dread that I probably shouldn’t be sharing with you right now. But since I’ve already forsaken doctor’s orders, I need you to do something for me, Chloe.”

“Of course,” she agreed, thankful that he’d been willing to go against prevailing opinion and give her even a tiny glimpse of her life.

“Clark and I were friends for a long time, but Chloe – you’re everything to me and I won’t let anything jeopardize that. Not even Clark. I don’t know what happened today and you can’t tell me; but I know that it must have been bad to upset you as much as it did.”

Lex practically vibrated with intensity and determination as he delivered the coup de grâce .

“Dr. Heideman has suggested that you don’t struggle to remember anything, and despite the fact that I’ve just broken half of the medical directives I received before coming in here, I don’t disagree. However, if you remember anything about Clark – tall, dark hair, green eyes – anything dangerous, threatening, or that even just strikes you as out of the ordinary, I need you to promise that you’ll let me know. If anything ever happened to you…”

Oddly enough, the anxiety radiating from the man who she’d just learned was her husband was strangely comforting. Without any firsthand knowledge of her past everything she learned seemed a little surreal and mildly suspect. But this near tangible fear – for her, of losing her – made clear why they were together.

Untangling her hand from his, she brought her fingers up to brush the lines of worry from his face.

“I promise.”

Chapter Two

Lex no longer hired true believers. Fanatics were unruly and unpredictable; lead not by his instructions but by the courage of their convictions. No; now the people who surrounded him did so for money. Because he had more of that particular commodity than most it made his employees infinitely easier to manage.

And for this reason his instructions regarding Chloe had been followed to the letter. In fact, whatever shock, if any, that Dr. Heideman had felt at Lex’s dictates never showed on his face as the man seemed to take in stride the deception and veritable kidnapping of a vulnerable young woman.

Lex liked getting his money’s worth.

And so he’d sat in silent satisfaction as Heideman and his staff imparted to Chloe the information that he had approved. A mixture of medical fact and subtle fabrication, Lex was relatively confident that Chloe would be convinced of the necessity of the actions he would be taking to reach his objective in a timely manner.

First, they had explained to her the importance of avoiding direct interaction with people and places from her past, claiming that the popular myth of “jogging” one’s memory often left the patient feeling pressured and confused as their mind tried to create memories based on what they were told about their past.

Then they had emphasized how important it was that she alerted her “husband” of every memory so that they could begin to discern a pattern to her recollections so that they would be able to generate a more focused treatment plan.

Lastly, they absolutely forbid any kind of stress. No work, no school, and limited exposure to any kind of media. Of course, he smiled at the memory, Chloe had questioned that last order. Lex had expected nothing less, and Heideman had provided the answer that he had been given – every news item to which she was exposed would engender subconscious expectations that she should be able to place it contextually. The byproduct of such belief, no matter how unintentional, would be a growing sense of anxiety that would hinder her recovery.

Once again the old Chloe seemed to peek through as she balked at the restrictions being placed on her. It was only his refusal to take her home that assured her compliance.

But she had agreed, and now, three days after her foolhardy stunt, they were speeding their way out of the city, past the suburbs, to a small estate that he’d purchased little more than a year ago.

Glancing over at her seated across from him he couldn’t help but notice how much better she looked than she had even earlier that morning. It appeared that hospitals still didn’t agree with her. Lex suspected that was due to their inherent constraints on her naturally boundless energy. But now, away from there, her skin had regained a healthy glow from which even the fading bruising at her temple could not detract.

In keeping with the story they were husband and wife, Lex had purchased an entire wardrobe for her and, when he’d come to retrieve her, he’d brought with him a sleeveless silk blouse in a light spring green and a simple, knee length skirt in a darker, richer shade. The color enhanced that of her eyes, and he found himself drawn to them repeatedly as they gazed at him with an open curiosity, all hints of their former animosity missing.

They were nearing there destination when Chloe finally broke what had been the surprisingly companionable silence.

“I know that I’m supposed to be patient and rediscover myself at the pace my mind sets, but there really are some things that I have to know so I don’t drive myself crazy.”

“Well,” Lex said thoughtfully, “why don’t you tell me the questions you have and we’ll decide which ones are safe to answer.”

After days with what was fast becoming clear was her overprotective husband, Chloe realized that was the best offer she was going to get.

“My family. Aren’t they going to worry?”

“Of course they’re worried. But I explained Dr. Heideman’s orders, and since all they want is you to recover as quickly as possible, they’ve agreed to give you time.”

Which of course wasn’t even remotely true. Gabe had passed away late in the previous year; a good man, Lex had truly regretted his passing. But that just left Chloe’s uncle and cousins and, although they all loved her, only Lois was around enough to actually notice Chloe’s absence. So Lex had handled her in the same way that he had dealt with Clark.

He had his security team retrieve some personal items from Chloe’s apartment, along with her laptop and her car from near the facility to make it appear credible that she had left town. And then, with a computer expert to break through the rather remarkable security and a specialist in linguistics to compose two messages that would reflect her speaking pattern, he had emails sent to Lois and Clark detailing an amazing lead on a story in California and her desire to be the one who broke it. It would be abrupt, but not out of the realm of possibility, and Lex was hopeful that his plan would reach fruition far before any serious suspicions could be raised.

“Okay,” he prodded, seeing her still inquisitive look, “out with it. Let’s have the rest of the questions.”

“Dr. Heideman said no school or work. How big of a problem is this going to end up being for me when I finally remember everything?”

Not that Lex regretted his deception of Chloe, but he was still glad that he could genuinely set her mind at ease on these particular matters.

“Actually, you decided against taking classes during the summer semester so that you could focus on your internship, which I think is a subject that your doctor’s would rather you remember for yourself. I did, however, explain the situation to your superiors and they’ve agreed to hold your position indefinitely.”

Most of which was true. Oh, he had ensured that her internship would be waiting for her; he had no desire to truly damage Chloe’s life. But he made certain that his name was in no way connected with the matter. Instead, he had sent a few of the higher profile Metropolis lawyers who had done work for him before, but were not currently on the Luthor payroll, to meet with the owner of the Daily Planet. They had intimated that they were there on behalf of Chloe’s family, most notably her uncle, General Sam Lane.

Explaining to the man that Chloe had been injured investigating a story that was far to dangerous for an unsupervised intern, they had hinted about massive repercussions in the form of prolonged litigation. However, they had assured him that Miss Sullivan only wanted to be able to return to her position once she had recovered and that their employer was predisposed to allowing her her way and dropping the matter if her place was guaranteed to be waiting for her.

Not surprisingly, her position as a Daily Planet intern had been secured, in writing, within the hour.

Seeing that she still seemed slightly troubled, he reached over a clasped one of her hands in his. The doctors who had treated Chloe had all concurred that the best way to both achieve his goal of convincing her that he was her husband and lessen the chance that he himself would trigger memories, other than those of Clark, was to act in a manner that was appropriate to their current situation and with a marked difference than their previous interactions. As such, he took every reasonable opportunity to offer demonstrative touches or affectionate words.

“What else?”

The indulgent tone soothed her nerves as did the hand wrapped around hers. She had to admit that she appreciated the comfort that Lex had offered consistently since she’d awoken. But even more than that, she was grateful that Lex took her curiosity and consequent reflective inquiries as normal, if not expected behavior, whereas the doctors she’d been dealing with treated every display of intelligence on her part as if she were a dog who’d just learned how to roll over.

“We’re not poor, are we?” Chloe asked with a pointed look around the lush interior of their limousine.

A smirk tilted Lex’s lips at yet another question he’d been awaiting from his ever observant “wife” since he’d bundled her into the sleek, black vehicle. “Not particularly, no.”

He watched as her small white teeth began to worry her lower lip in an increasingly familiar gesture as he waited for her to come to some kind of decision regarding what he’d just revealed.

“Huh. I probably liked being rich, didn’t I?”

She smiled as Lex’s laughter filled the small space. She loved the husky sound and, sometimes by the look on his face when it subsided, she wondered if he’d had enough opportunities to indulge his sense of humor in his life. Not that it mattered. As his wife she would see to it that his very appealing smile made every possible appearance in the future.

“I can honestly say that you were one of the few people who couldn’t have cared less about my money.”

Chloe was relieved to hear the confirmation but couldn’t help reply, “Sure. I bet I was a scheming gold digger who’d just lulled you into a false sense of security so I could steal your fortune and now all my hard work is for nothing.”

No matter how long they may or may not have been married, Chloe couldn’t help the blush she could feel burning across her cheeks as Lex brought her hand up to his lips and, in a gesture far more intimate then the last time, turned it over and laid a gentle kiss on her palm.

“Chloe, everything I have is yours for the asking.”

Lex watched as her pink cheeks flushed an even deeper and quite pleasing color. The car slowed to a halt and he was surprised at how enjoyable the trip had been, especially when one considered the circumstances. As the driver opened his door, Lex kept hold of Chloe’s hand, using it to draw her out through his side.

He observed her somewhat stunned expression as she looked up at the house that was modest by Luthor standards, but not by that of any other reasonable person. Wrapping an arm around her back he pulled her into his side and bent to whisper in her ear.

“Welcome home.”

Part Two

Chapter Three

Lex had been the epitome of consideration for the last week and it was driving Chloe to the brink of insanity. She understood that he was simply trying to adhere to the medical advice they’d been given, but the kid glove routine was wearing thin. The doctors had told her that she’d have to be patient with regards to her absentee memories, but even without them she wanted to return to some semblance of a normal life. And she was remarkably certain that what she was experiencing wasn’t it.

For one thing, despite Lex’s “welcome home”, the house they were occupying hadn’t actually been their residence previous to the accident. Chloe couldn’t decide what had disturbed her more – that she was being denied the familiar surroundings that she’d secretly hoped would trigger the release of her hidden past, or that her husband was so wealthy that this mansion, this estate wasn’t their primary residence, wasn’t even a vacation home, was, instead, merely something he had picked up at the time because it was a sound investment that he was certain he’d have use for sometime in the future. She might not have remembered any more of her life than the last ten days, but she was fairly confident that she hadn’t been the type of person who could purchase manor homes as an impulse buy.

It wasn’t that she minded being rich, it was just a little disconcerting. She’d already gotten lost three times in the convoluted twist of hallways. The servants were nothing but helpful and polite, but she had trouble having others cater to her every need. Her husband was whisked of to work and the returned each evening by helicopter. It seemed like she was living every young girl’s dream, but like a dream it was slightly surrealistic; even more so given the blank spaces in her head. Still, they’d only been married two months, so even if she could remember everything about her life, she probably wouldn’t have accustomed herself to Lex’s standard of living yet.

Then, as if all of that wasn’t enough of a deviation from what she thought was probably her life pre-head injury, even her marriage was different. Not that she recalled her marriage, but she could almost guarantee that she and her husband hadn’t slept in separate rooms.

With a heavy sigh Chloe ran a hand through her hair; she was frustrated and unsure of what to do. She knew that Lex was just being considerate of her feelings, and she had to admit that sharing a bed with someone she, at this point, barely knew wasn’t the most comfortable of thoughts, but knowing nothing about anything around her, even her own husband, was making her nutty.

And it wasn’t just her history with her surroundings that she wanted, it was any information that would allow her to form reasonable judgments. Although Lex had been absolutely wonderful in every way, she felt odd with no real knowledge of him to back up her blind faith. She wondered briefly if she had been a cynic before, but knew that no one would tell her.
And so it was those things, her longing for context in which to place her life, her craving for understanding of the only representative of her past, her desperate need for some small awareness of who she was, who she should be, that brought her to her husband’s study early on a Saturday afternoon.

Knocking softly on the door, Chloe waited until Lex called to her before entering. She could see by the files spread out across his desk that he’d been immersed in his work, but she didn’t let that deter her from her purpose.

“Chloe,” he smiled as he rose from his desk, “to what do I owe this lovely distraction.”

“Well, if he can manage to tear himself away from the reams of what I’m sure is endlessly fascinating paperwork, I’d like to have lunch with my husband.”

Even though Lex has seen that beautiful, open smile dozens of times over the past week it still caught him slightly off guard on a face that had, for so long, housed only suspicion towards him. And though he wasn’t given to such frequent displays himself, he found her smile oddly infectious, and could rarely restrain a pleased grin in return. Of course, since Chloe believed him to be her loving husband, he found no need to censure the uncustomary action, although he drew the line at actually enjoying it. There was little to be gained and much to lose in letting himself grow used to the small pleasures of Chloe’s engaging presence, and, as Lex had learned long ago to weigh all decision in terms of cost and benefit, thinking about Chloe in anything other than the extremely short term would definitely come under the heading of cost.

“Of course; let me call the kitchen –”

“No need,” she said as she grabbed his hand and began leading him from the room. “I’m not an invalid, you know. I can manage to pull together lunch. By which I mean that I asked Mrs. Whitehead to whip something up. I’d have done it myself, by I couldn’t remember if I can cook or not and I’d hate to spoil our meal by poisoning us.”

Lex wasn’t actually sure himself whether Chloe had any culinary skills and so decided, for the sake of both of their health, to err on the side of caution.

“Though I’m not permitted to comment directly on your skills in that particular area, I will admit that I have never inquired as to the state of dinner with the hope that you had actually prepared it.”

Laughing, Chloe used her free hand to swat his arm. “While I have nothing on which to base my opinion, I’m sure that’s the nicest way anyone’s ever told me I was incompetent in my life.”

“Well,” Lex responded with mock thoughtfulness, “I think that’s a fairly glass half empty perspective. Though you may never ascend the ranks of legendary chefs you could always pursue a career as a culinary assassin. I’m certain that governments around the world would be vying for your services.”

“Remind me again why I didn’t leave you drowning in your flood of files?”

“Because clearly I am a ray of sunlight in your otherwise dreary day.”

Chloe nearly choked on her fit of giggles at the exaggerated sincerity that coated his words.

“Well, Sunshine,” she shot back as they entered the kitchen, “it’s good to know for sure that one of us loves you.”

Before she could approach the servants, Lex gave her hand a tug and spun her around to face him.

“Are you doubting your love for me?”

Looking into the fathomless depths of his gray eyes, Chloe could see that the question was only half asked in jest. Reaching out her, she cradled his cheek.

“Strangely enough, I’m not.”

Chapter Four

Spending great lengths of time with Chloe Sullivan was akin to drinking alcohol, Lex reflected. It was an acquired taste, but once attained it warm and relaxing and, without great effort, could easily become addictive.

It wasn’t one thing she did. Instead it was a hundred little things; things that seemed innocuous when considered individually, but taken as a whole, were entirely too engaging. Of course, they were things that he appreciated on an intellectual level as opposed to emotionally, as he knew that, for reasons to numerous to count, Chloe Sullivan would be the last woman on the face of the earth that he would ever consider in that manner.

Still, just because there were far too many complications between he and Chloe even being friends, much less anything more, it didn’t stop him from appreciating, now more than ever, what a fool Clark Kent was. There was absolutely nothing for his former friend to lose by going after the blonde and, quite frankly, everything to gain. And yet he still hadn’t pursued her; was, in fact, even now trying to make things work with Lana Lang, the fickle young woman whom Lex had lured away from Clark and then left when he realized that hurting him certainly wasn’t worth burdening himself with the self-centered, judgmental prima donna.

Not that Lex would ever be fool enough to mention that bit of wisdom to the oblivious farmboy. In all of the skirmishes between himself and Clark, he had always considered it one of his greatest victories to saddle the other man with Ms. Lang indefinitely. And that sense of triumph had only increased as he’d finally been allowed to see behind the animosity, past the banter and sarcasm to the surprisingly tender heart and sweet nature beneath Chloe Sullivan's brash exterior. How on earth Clark could be exposed to that kind of caring everyday and still consider Lana a worthwhile catch was beyond even his mental capabilities to understand.

“You know, if I wanted to spend the afternoon talking to myself I wouldn’t have dragged you out here with me.”

Lex snapped back to the present and realized that Chloe had finished setting their lunch out on the blanket before them. Certainly he had been on picnics before, but not often and definitely not for years. Still, the hour or so he was taking from work would be worth it in terms of advancing his plans with Chloe. Every minute that he spent with her was increasing her trust in and dependency on him. Not to mention the fact that she was imminently enjoyable company. Which made this excursion beneficial in a number of ways, despite knowing that his “wife” also had an ulterior motive.

“It won’t work.”

Chloe looked up as she reached over to hand him a plate piled high with a gourmet selection that would hardly be considered typical picnic fare.

“And may I ask what devious plan you think I’ve concocted that’s doomed to failure?”

“Are you telling me that you didn’t bring me here to pump me for information?” Lex smirked at remaining a step ahead of her. Even if she was unaware of their previous rivalry, he wasn’t, and he enjoyed winning their increasingly light hearted skirmishes.

“I’m not telling you anything of the sort.”

His smug grin slipped slightly at her admission. Over the last week he’d learned that some things about Chloe were apparently encoded in her DNA. The refusal to go down without a fight was certainly one of them.

“Chloe, you know that I’d love nothing more than to tell you everything about you, your life, our life. But I can’t. You know how specific the doctors were.”

With a good-natured sigh, Chloe set down her plate. She hadn’t done more than rearrange the food with her fork while they talked, because Lex was partially right; her main objective hadn’t been seeing them fed. She did want information. Just not the kind that he suspected.

“You know, Lex; if you’re going to play at omniscience you really should make sure you're right more often.”

“So, if you’re not trying to ferret out your past, just what secrets are you trying to uncover?”

Chloe wondered if she’d ever told Lex just how unbelievably sexy it was when his eyebrow cocked just so; demanding answers as if he owned the truths he was seeking.

“Yours,” she answered.

“Well, since we left the majority of my secrets back in the office from which you just liberated me, I’m afraid that you’re going to be disappointed.”

Leaning over slightly, Chloe bumped Lex with her shoulder at his mocking tone. “I’ll have you know that my husband has offered me all that he has, so I hardly think that I need to engage in corporate espionage, Mr. Luthor.”

With a small start, Lex’s eyes snapped to hers. It had been years since he’d heard that particular form of address fall playfully from her lips, and it caught him slightly off guard. Even though he wasn’t so foolish as to lose sight of his ultimate goal, he did have to admit that, in the last week, he’d established a division between what he considered Clark’s Chloe and the one that, for lack of a better term, was his.

It wasn’t that she was entirely different. In fact, he had a feeling that she was more Chloe now then she’d ever been before. The years of heartache, rejection, and genuine fear for her life had in no way dimmed her, but they had erected an elaborate labyrinth of walls around her innermost self. It was one of what he was coming to understand were the many ways in which they were so very similar.

The feel of Chloe’s hand on his arm as well as her hesitant, “Lex?” brought him out of his thoughts and back to reality. Well, if one could consider picnicking with his fake wife while he attempted to deter her questions about their make believe life together by citing false medical orders reality.

“Chloe, I can only imagine how hard this has been for you. Knowledge being power, I know that you must feel terribly out of control in the absence of so much that you feel you should know. But you have to understand, the doctor’s were very clear; I can’t tell you those things. It won’t return your memory; and more than anything, I want to help make you whole.”

The hand on his arm slipped into his to tangle their fingers together.

“I know that you’re doing everything you can to help me get better, Lex. And though the curiosity’s killing me, I wouldn’t ask you do something that you thought would be harmful to me.” She squeezed his hand reassuringly. “And, for the record, I may not have as much information as I’d like, but I hardly feel powerless. That sounds weak, and I don’t see myself as fragile or frail.

Obviously I don’t remember what our relationship was like before, but when I think about marriage I think about a team, so I find it hard to believe that I wouldn’t have expected as much from ours. Right now you’re kind of bearing the burden for both of us and you’ve been absolutely wonderful about it. Do I like being in the dark? No. But I don’t feel helpless. Here, now, with you, I feel…safe.”

Chloe watched as shock briefly flitted across his face. No matter what memories were missing or what her husband wouldn’t tell her, she wasn’t blind nor was she stupid. In the last week she’d come to learn a great deal about the man that she married. Lex was a veritable fortress. With one row of walls to keep things out and one to hold things in, Chloe wasn’t sure which he felt he needed the most, but knew, instinctively, that each brick was laid in the wake of terrible heartache.

She couldn’t tell if her feelings were the whispers of their forgotten love or the understandable connection one would feel for the only tie to the world around them, but she wanted to lessen the sorrow that she could read in the depths of his eyes, to ease the weight of losing the one person, no matter how temporarily, who should be able to banish those shadows. With every passing hour she spent in his company, she found herself simply wanting to know more about this man to whom she'd committed her life.

“This really isn’t about tricking you into reveal the deep dark secrets of either of our lives. But I’ve been thinking; we’ve only been married for two months. There must be plenty of things about you that I didn’t know before. It wouldn’t be breaking the rules to share some of that past with me.” Bright eyes lowered before rising to meet his shyly. “I just want to know more about you.”

Once again, Lex was surprised by the woman beside him; an odd reaction given that he generally found people’s motives simple to read and their behaviors easy to predict. But Chloe was different. She had been even before her injury, but since then it had been infinitely worse. A month ago he would have been able to reasonably anticipate approximately half of Chloe’s actions based on what he knew of her life experiences. He knew that she’d be protective of those she considered family because she’d lost her parents. That she’d be wary in matters of the heart because of the years of maltreatment by her oblivious best friend. And that she’d maintain a state of hyper-vigilance because of the hard lessons she’d learned at the hands of his family.

But now, all of those events held no sway. There was nothing calculating in her actions or manipulative in her requests. If she wanted to learn about him it wasn’t about gaining the upper hand in their relationship; it was simply an extension of her natural curiosity.

And that was the very thing that made her actions so difficult to anticipate. As a Luthor, Lex had never had dealings with anyone that was free of expectations or devoid of hidden agendas. Even his mother, who had been one of the only two people he’d ever believed truly cared for him, had been guided by the fear that he would grow into the man Lionel commanded, and the imperative to prevent such an atrocity. Clark had been no better, assuming him to be extraordinarily good or irredeemably evil by turns.

But no one had ever looked at him as Chloe was at that moment; with an openness that precluded subterfuge. And, although he would never admit the weakness, Lex felt the need to share with her some small part of himself as a kind of penance for seeing her so unguarded, so defenseless; for allowing her to trust in him, knowing that he was stealing that much more of whatever lingering innocence could be left to a Smallville survivor.

And so Lex found himself sharing with her. A holiday as a child, a memory of boarding school, a few of his clubbing experiences; it was nothing too personal, and certainly nothing to revealing for the woman who would soon know, once again, that he secretly longed for his father’s love.

And, surprisingly, it didn’t feel as wrenching as this type of disclosure, as mild as it may be, usually did. During his dalliance with Lana, she had both begged and demanded that he share himself with her. Lex had always resisted and now, talking with Chloe, he could see why.

Lana had wanted to know about him because she understood that he did not easily share. She had no true desire in seeing him as anything other than the image she’s created in her imagination but, instead, wanted proof of his devotion to her. But Chloe was willing to see him without prejudices, good or bad; to look at him as a blank slate that she wanted him to fill with the reality of who he was, not who she wanted him to be. And while it was clear that her amnesia was the reason that she carried no preconceived notions, the willingness to accept what he chose to share, to allow him to be the person that he was, was a part of her basic make up; an intrinsic piece of her character.

So lost in thought was Lex that he missed the shift in Chloe’s position that brought her side against his. The warmth of her hand burned through his shirt where she laid her hand, and his eyes captured his is their dazzling depths of greens and golds.

“It must have been lonely being you.”

Normally such a stark and accurate observation would send Lex deep within himself. But Chloe wasn't looking at him with pity, wasn't seeing him as pathetic. Instead, there was a sadness in her gaze that bled into a determination to rectify what she found to be an unacceptable situation. And suddenly Lex was struck with an understanding of why Clark cared so much for Chloe; why, even though he professed to love Lana he could let her go but kept Chloe so close.

As Chloe watched Lex’s silent contemplation, she nestled closer into his side, slipping her arm around his back in a partial embrace.

Lex knew that Chloe’s offer of comfort was genuine, but his response was a perfunctory reassuring squeeze of her knee. All tender sentiments had been banished by the unwelcomed thoughts of Clark. And, for once, his animosity towards his former friend was not motivated by secrets and lies, but by the vagaries of fate that had given the younger man a life with an overabundance of solace, with people of such compassion, and left him with the Lionels and Helens of the world.

But Lex knew that that kind of caring was never meant for men such as him. His lot in life had never been soft words and tender touches. No, those things were only briefly in his care; stolen from another. And at that moment, more than any other, Lex Luthor hated Clark Kent.


Oddly enough, for a man as enamored of control as Lex, the thing he loved most about the corporate world was its unpredictability. He had no question of his ability to convert unforeseen complications into unexpected dividends and, in recent years, he’d learned to apply that talent to his personal machinations as well. So, enjoying a cup of coffee in The Talon, Lex observed the unanticipated, yet quite welcome benefits of his design for Chloe.

It was in aid of that very plan that he’d ventured into Smallville at all, having spent the majority of the past year in Metropolis. While he knew that he’d covered well for Chloe’s abrupt “departure”, he had also learned to never underestimate Clark’s ability to stumble across answers when the boy hadn’t even been aware there was a question; although Lex had always had a sneaking suspicion that, while Clark might discover the 2 and the 2, it was Chloe who managed to make 4 out of them. Not that Clark wasn’t smart; he was, but Chloe was sharp. It was a difference primarily built on her journalistic intuition and cynicism.

So, knowing that it was best to leave no avenues of interest open, even those of mere coincidence, Lex decided that it would be best if he and Chloe weren’t both entirely out of sight at the same time. And there really was no better place to be seen than Smallville, where even a cursory glance by a single citizen would alert the entire town to one’s visit within days. Therefore, Lex could be assured that thirty minutes at a central table at The Talon would definitely make its way up the cornstalk and back to Clark.

However, upon entering the quaint establishment he realized that word of mouth would not be necessary for this particular project as there, tucked into a quiet booth in the corner, were Clark and Lana. He acknowledged their glares with a small nod and barely managed to restrain a smile as they quickly turned their heads away and shunned him with a dedicated intensity that would make them the envy of any Amish community.

What the self-absorbed duo failed to understand was that, far from offending him, they were merely offering him the chance to openly observe them. After all, because of their long and complicated history, the townsfolk were most likely prepared for any type of spectacle they chose to provide, so some minor staring would barely register. And he did have to admit that he was enjoying the view.

In the half hour that he sat there, reading through files and keeping an eye on the two brunettes so studiously ignoring him, he noted two very satisfying facts. The first was that Clark looked harried and distracted. The harried was new, and while Clark had often been distracted by Lana, it usually took an act of God to see him preoccupied by anything else in the presence of Lana. The second was that Clark had checked his cell phone no less than four times for messages. And Lex knew, without the need for any independent conformation, the cause of both of those observations.


Despite his declarations of love for Lana, it was the wise-cracking best friend who was truly the woman in Clark’s life. And though he might not be prepared to admit it, even to himself, it was perfectly clear to anyone who bothered to look that the young man was unraveling in her absence.

Lex had a team monitoring both Chloe’s email and cell phone. Barring any emergency contacts, he received a report each evening of the day’s activity so that he could provide his linguist with the content for appropriate responses via email. In the previous week he had addressed two calls from Chloe’s cousin Lois asking how her story was coming along, one call from Lana suggesting meeting for lunch on her return from California, and thirty seven messages from Clark, who called as few as three times a day, and as often as seven. An obsessive amount which didn’t even take into account his daily email.

The communications ranged from general inquiries about her day to near obsessive worries about her safety. Interspersed amongst the messages were repeated offers to go to California and assist her with her investigation. Lex found these offers to be of particular interest.

Although Martha Kent was a state senator, the cost of maintaining the farm and tuition for her son’s return to college didn’t leave the family with extensive amounts of disposable income. Yet Clark spoke with ease as if both the cost and the time constraints involved in a trek to the west coast were but minor inconveniences. And while the suggestion might simply have been the result of a ridiculously overdeveloped sense of responsibility, Lex couldn’t shake the feeling that it was more than that.

Smiling slightly, he considered the irony that, after the massive undertaking he’d set in motion to steal the information he wanted from Chloe, in the end it may very well be Clark himself who unintentionally gave some essential key to his secret away.

Draining the last of his coffee, Lex looked up to see that Clark had decided to abandon the cold shoulder in favor of outright disapproval and open hostility; and the complete and utter wrongness of the self-righteous loathing being sent his way angered him anew. But no matter how enraged he became at Clark’s judgmental nature, Lex was honest enough to admit, at least to himself, that it wasn’t just the hypocrisy that Clark saw himself as exempt from the standards to which he held others that incensed him, but the fact that Clark could deceive everyone he claimed to care about, yet was perceived as the personification of virtue, while Lex knew that he could heal a colony of lepers and people would still wonder what his angle was. And while the desire to learn Clark’s secret had recently gained importance for other reasons, there would always be that minuscule part of him that hated the people who had convinced the world that being a Luthor was an undeniable precursor to evil; people who had convinced his mother that their truth was so absolute that she took the life of her own son to save him from that fate.

Heated stares clashed as unspoken promises and threats were exchanged across the small distance that belied the gaping chasm separating the two men. With one last, hard look at the man who had, for years, been his greatest friend, Lex ended their stalemate with a slight, yet infinitely satisfied, smile. He was ready to once more shake the dirt of Smallville from his feet. He’d accomplished his mission and felt no need to waste his time hurling silent recriminations, mired in a flood of bitterness and betrayal.

After all, he thought as his smile grew, one of them was going to go home to an evening with the oddly soothing presence of Chloe Sullivan. And for once, it wasn’t Clark.

Chapter Five

“Your father is waiting in your office, Mr. Luthor.”

It was only by sheer force of will that Lex internalized his cringe at the unwelcome news. Forcing himself not to deviate from the path to his office, he consoled himself with the fact that a few years ago he wouldn’t have even received the warning. That he now did was a sign of just how well he’d managed to marginalize his father at LuthorCorp.

There had been a time, when Lex had first gained control of the company after his father’s brief stay in Belle Reve, that Lionel had nearly recouped his losses and recaptured his former glory. But he’d taught his son too well, and Lex’s time in exile had only expounded on those lessons; and, in the end, Lionel had been relegated to a symbolic position with little to no chance of advancing his true objectives.

Which, of course, didn’t preclude him from arriving unannounced in his increasingly desperate attempts to detect some kind of exploitable weakness in his heir.

“Hello, son.”

Lex momentarily ignored the greeting as he made his way to the large desk across the room. Settling behind the sleek, glass surface, he at last allowed his gaze to rest on his father. It was the one thing that he enjoyed about these visits – finally having the position of power; his father seated like a supplicant before him .


Each was silent, waiting for the other to break and speak first. It was a fairly common gambit in the Luthor family playbook, but Lex had grown increasingly tired of it in recent years. And, frankly, now that the majority of control rested in his hands, he didn’t see the point in wasting his time with such childish games. He had realized what his father had never learned – needing to exude strength at all times was as detrimental as always seeming weak. There was power in humanity, even if it was merely assumed, and true control was rarely measured accurately by outward appearances. A man who never resembled the disadvantaged automatically strengthened the guard of those around him. It made managing people needlessly troublesome which ultimately lessened one’s command as opposed to enhancing it.

“Some of us have a schedule to keep,” while the subtle dig was certainly present, it emerged with surprisingly little acrimony, “so could we perhaps dispense what, for the sake of expediency, I’ll term “the pleasantries” and cut to the chase?”

“A question asked and answered, Lex.”

Lex’s eyebrow arched in a silent prompt for explanation.

“We’ve been in this office for over five minutes now, and I have yet to hear one accusation, one venom ladened aspersion, a single paranoia induced diatribe. I’d heard murmurings, of course, but I felt compelled to judge the truth of them for myself.”

Lex resisted the urge to roll his eyes at his father’s melodramatic speech, wishing that, for once, they could have a conversation that was light on innuendo and heavy on clarity. He generally had a higher tolerance for games of this nature, but at that moment it was fast wearing down his nerves and he had a feeling that he knew why.

It had been slightly more than two weeks since he’d brought Chloe to their new “home” and he was growing accustomed to her guileless nature and lack of artifice. He was actually rather surprised how easy it had been to shake of years of deep-seated suspicion and doubt in the face of such open acceptance. And while he never lost sight of his ultimate purpose, the warmth that had been lacking in his life for well over a decade was just too tempting to resist a moderate amount of indulgence.

The downside, of course, was that standing even briefly in the sun made the shadows that much colder.

“And what is your verdict?” Although Lex’s tone made clear his disinterest in any insight to which the older man laid claim.

“You. You seem almost…” Lionel hesitated, his voice taking on a tone of wonder as if he’d discovered the resting place of the ark, “happy.”

Lex forced himself to maintain his impassive expression despite the shock running through him. He knew that he had been more relaxed recently. Both the prospect of finally learning Clark’s secret and the time with Chloe had helped to ease years of building frustrations; but the thought that it had enough of a visible effect for his father to have heard of it disturbed him. Although he truly believed that it was necessary, at times, to show some emotion, he didn’t like the idea that it was unintentional. Not only did it leave him vulnerable to openly display his feelings, but it was also a waste of an opportunity to affect the sentiment necessary to maximize the rewards for him in a given situation.

“You came all this way,” Lex questioned, alluding to the fact that his father’s primary residence of late had been the mansion in Smallville, “and disrupted LuthorCorp business to play mood ring?”

“It’s amazing how far one will trek to witness a miracle. In fact,” Lionel smirked, “if you smile I might request a laying on of hands.”

“It’s a tempting thought as I tend to leave hand laying to security.”

“Ah, there’s the Lex we all know and tolerate.”

“Dad, did it ever occur to you that the majority of happiness in my life is generated by your absence and that is why you’re so unfamiliar with it?”

Lionel paused as if considering the answer before scoffingly disregarding it.

“That might actually be believable if your behavior hadn’t been uncharacteristic enough to make it back to my ears.”

“Let’s not delude ourselves,” Lex replied, “that whatever information you think you’ve discovered had to make its way down a vast and circuitous grapevine; I’m sure you have more people watching me than the stock exchange.”

“Well, Lex, you do tend to have more crashes.”

Quickly growing tired of his father’s feeble attempts to goad him, and genuinely having business that needed tending, Lex resisted the futility of a rejoinder and began leafing through the phone messages his secretary had left on his desk so that he could make clear, both in actions and words, that their interlude was at an end.

“Well, as fascinating as this has been, this company isn’t going to run itself; so if you’ll excuse me. I’m sure that you can see yourself out.”

Lionel looked at his son, taking in the practiced calm of his form, the dismissively bent head before making his way to the door. Hand on the knob he momentarily stilled, not bothering to turn back.

“Enjoy the source of your newfound happiness, whatever it may be. Just remember Lex, something loved is merely something waiting to be lost.”

And with that he was gone.

Chapter Six

Lex nearly groaned with relief as he felt the Scotch burn its way down his throat. It had been a horrible day and he would be more than happy to see the end of it. What had started with the extremely unwelcome arrival of his father had culminated with a labor crisis at a plant in South Carolina that had taken him well into the early hours of the morning to resolve.

He’d called Chloe when it was clear that he wouldn’t be able to make it home in time for dinner. She’d been supportive and concerned, making him promise that he would find time to grab a quick bite to eat if his meeting went past 10:00. Still, Lex had found himself growing more and more frustrated as the negotiations progressed and he realized that by the time he returned Chloe would have been asleep for hours.

He was becoming habituated to spending his evenings with her. She was a surprisingly engaging dinner companion, given that she had less than a month of memories. Even more pleasing were the hours after when they’d retire to the study – he to finish work brought home from the office and she to read, curled up on the leather couch. Her quiet presence was soothing and sometimes he would find his attention drifting from the files before him to silently observe her.

In nearly all of Lex’s previous interactions with Chloe she had been a deeply driven force of nature. He'd never really given any thought to what she might be like in the moments where there was no epic catastrophe to ward off, no vital story to chase. It hadn’t really entered his mind that there might be another side to the young woman he’d always classified as “the brash, blonde reporter”. In the end he wondered who he’d done the greater disservice – Chloe for treating her as a one dimensional stereotype, or himself by missing his chance to win the loyalty and friendship that Clark enjoyed when it could have been his for the asking.

Setting his empty glass onto the nightstand, Lex shed his clothes with a tired yet graceful economy of movement and pulled on a burgundy pair of silk pajama pants. It was more than he was used to wearing, but with Chloe residing in the next room he thought that a measure of modesty was the most prudent policy.

And Lex was honest enough to admit that his actions weren’t solely to protect what could questionably be referred to as Chloe’s delicate sensibilities - Lord knew that he’d never seen any evidence of their fragile nature. No, it was more than that. He had always been aware that Chloe was a beautiful woman. That awareness hadn’t been a sign of interest, merely a basic and unavoidable observation. But these weeks with her, watching years of distrustful glances replaced by gracious smiles, hearing affectionate exchanges where accusations had formerly lingered, basking in his temporary place as the center of her world, had only served to infinitely increase her appeal. An appeal that could very easily produce extremely noticeable physical effects were he to bump into her, naked, in the middle of the night.

Of course, as they seemed to have little reason to be encountering the other in the wee hours of the morning, it was all simply theoretical. But, as procuring positive results in this endeavor was far more important than some random burst of hormones, he’d wear the damn pajamas as it was most certainly a theory he had no desire to test.

Fate was apparently never fond of Lex Luthor, for no sooner had he dismissed the likelihood of interacting with Chloe after normal waking hours than he heard a piercing scream emanating from the next room. Turning so quickly that he knocked the nightstand, sending his empty glass to the floor to rest in shattered pieces, he sprinted to the connecting door between their suites and threw it open, eyes scanning the darkness for danger.

There was none. Was instead Chloe, curled into a tight ball, rocking back and forth as trails of moonlit tears made their way down her cheeks. Without a thought to devious machinations or buried truths, Lex reached the bed in record time, settling next to the huddled figure before pulling her gently into his arms.

Feeling Chloe’s body stiffen, Lex thought, for one terrible moment, that despite what the doctors had told him she had remembered everything in one great burst and that her fear and horror were simply a befitting response to finding oneself abducted and deceived. But before that worry had time to take hold, he felt her body relax into his embrace as her arms snuck around his waist and she burrowed into the safety that he could see she still believed he represented.

“Sshhh,” he murmured as he smoothed her hair with one hand while making comforting circles on her back with the other. While Lex lacked many of the typical male limitations on dealing with crying women, possibly due to the early influence of his mother but more likely owing to his well honed ability to quickly and accurately discern what those around him wanted to hear and then use that information to his best advantage, this situation was far more complex than the typical feminine tearfest.

First was the fact that, because Lex had been so careful to screen out disturbing stimuli from their environment, it was almost guaranteed that her current upset had to do with her previous life. That meant the need for deft maneuvering as he tried to avoid the innumerable land mines concealed in each remembrance.

Then, of course, were the intricacies involved in taking the information that she had dredged from her subconscious, and given her reaction it seemed most likely to Lex that it involved one of her many brushes with Smallville’s myriad of meteor freaks, and redirecting it towards his ultimate goal of eliciting information about Clark.

And lastly, and by far the most disquieting for Lex, was the fact that something about the fear in Chloe’s muffled whimpers, the warmth of her tears burning into his chest, and the press of her body against his as she innocently sought comfort from the only person she truly trusted, all combined to form an uneasy sensation in the pit of his stomach.

But as Chloe’s sobs began to subside he pushed the niggling sense of apprehension into the background. After all, he considered, caring about her distress was only natural under the circumstances. He had never actively disliked Chloe; indeed, he admired many things about her – her ill advised love of farmboys excepted. So it was to be expected that, considering the complete and utter cessation of hostilities between them, he would come to be concerned about her well being. Especially when he took absolute responsibility for his part in compromising that very well being in the first place. So, in that light, Lex found his actions to be acceptable, even reasonable…as long as he didn’t allow them to compromise his objectives. And he honestly didn’t, for one moment, believe that would be a problem. He was a Luthor; he’d spent a lifetime learning to disregard his emotions in the same way that most people sought to embrace them. Any loss he might feel for Chloe’s friendship when all was said and done was sure to be offset by the overwhelming satisfaction of finally solving the mysteries that had been plaguing him for so long.

“Chloe,” Lex spoke softly as she finally fell silent, “do you want to talk about it?”

He felt her head tilt until a pair of watery green eyes peered up at him.

“Oh, Lex…”

He hears the catch in her words, knew that the tears weren’t forgotten, and was about to stop her and allow her time to truly regain her composure, but all good intentions were halted by her next words.

“It was him.”


Lex knew that had to be who she meant. The only thing that Chloe was even remotely aware of from her past besides himself was the description he’d given her of his former and her current best friend.

His skin prickled in anticipation. This is what he’d been waiting for. The doctor’s had told him that memories often began surfacing in the REM sleep, so the night’s events hadn’t been a complete surprise; although her obvious suffering threw him. True, he had expected that some of her slumberous visions might be slightly bizarre to someone who had no accessible knowledge of Smallville, but he never would have predicted that any of her recollections of Clark would send her into hysterics.

“Its okay, Chloe. You’re safe now.” He pulled her tighter to him knowing that she’d interpret his actions as an attempt at comfort and not an extension of his voracious need for knowledge that she had, until now, so jealously guarded.

“He looked just like you said – tall, dark hair, but his eyes…Oh God, Lex; he looked crazy.”

Her brow furrowed and he could see that she was replaying the images in her mind as if something deeper than the obvious trauma was bothering her.

“What is it?”

Lex’s question startled Chloe out of her contemplations, and she struggled to pin down exactly what was troubling her.

“It could just be a dream; it doesn’t have to have been a memory, right?”

Chloe grew quiet once more. This was really the first chance that she’d had to learn anything about her life other than what Lex had shared, and she had a feeling that even if her past had looked like a Rockwell painting she still would have been disconcerted. Unfortunately for her, her dream had seemed more like a Salvador Dali canvas. But, something had seemed off and a part of her simply wouldn’t let the inconsistency lie until she’d uncovered the exact nature of the discrepancy.

“He was young.”

As he took in the meaning of Chloe’s statement, Lex realized that she had already begun applying her agile mind to solving whatever problem her dream had presented her. It was yet another attribute he was coming to learn was a built in, factory issued component of the Chloe Sullivan model. She could experience pain and, unlike him, she could openly express it; but she didn’t wallow in it, didn’t build a shrine to it and worship at the altar of tragedy for the rest of her life. If it was a choice for her of living, cosseted and protected by those around her, in her problems or throwing herself in the path of untold danger to find a solution, Chloe would always take the latter. Although she was an endless source of comfort to those around her, she clearly fell into the “walk it off” camp when it came to her own life as was evidenced by the way that, even now, she was pushing through her anguish of just moments before to bring some order to her mental chaos. Knowing that process would benefit them both, Lex patiently waited for her to continue.

“He couldn’t have been more than sixteen or seventeen. That’s what I don’t understand.”

Lex examined the window of time implied given her estimation of Clark’s age. It did seem more likely that if something unpleasant had happened between the two of them that it would be in the more distant past, relatively speaking. For even though they were now practically inseparable, there was a time in their friendship – a time that corresponded with that very period – that they seemed destined to be adversaries rather than confidantes.

“Without getting into specifics, there was a time, when you were both in high school, that you’d had a falling out of sorts. Your dream may correspond to those events.”

Her eyes refocused and met Lex’s as she forced herself back into the present.

“Oh, don’t get me wrong; I don’t doubt that…Clark,” she stumbled slightly over the name, “and I had problems. After all, from what you said he seemed like a jerk way before tonight’s revelation that he’s apparently borderline psychotic.”

Suddenly a wry smile brushed away the lingering unease.

“And I’ll admit that, despite the absence of concrete proof, I have a sneaking suspicion that I might, possibly, by some vast stretch of the imagination be considered moderately stubborn.”

Chloe’s smile widened as she felt Lex’s chest rumble beneath her cheek with the vibrations of his laughter. She’d adored the sound ever since she first remembered hearing it and often devoted random moments to orchestrating its return.

And, frankly, she was happy to see him amused by something that, amnesia or no, she knew to be entirely too true. Even if it hadn’t shown itself in a million little ways over the past few weeks, her obstinate nature would have been made perfectly obvious to her by the notebook she kept carefully tucked under the cushion of the large reading chair in the seating area of her room. Contained in its pages was everything that she had learned about Chloe Sullivan-Luthor in the past two weeks. From the miniscule catalog of facts to the enormous list of conjectures, no scrap of information was too minor to escape her attention.

She knew that neither the doctors nor her husband would be pleased with her trying to hurry nature along in that manner, but hey, that’s why God created hiding places. It was also why ‘impatient’ was in the fact column and not the speculation.

“Well,” Lex offered in a diplomatic tone, “you have been known to follow your own heart…mostly like a lemming off a cliff, but who am I to judge. After all, if it weren’t for you abundance of willfulness, we wouldn’t be here now.”

Which, Lex thought, was technically true. But as glad as he was that Chloe’s resilience hadn’t been damaged by either her accident of her dream, he had a feeling that at least part of this exchange was an attempt to distract them from their original topic. So, running his hands comfortingly over her back, he gently brought them back on track.

“What exactly did you see, Chloe?”

Pressing just a tiny bit closer, Chloe took a deep breath as she went back over the images that kept replaying in her mind.

“There was an apartment. It was nice. I was waiting there; I guess for Clark. He wasn’t happy to see me.” Chloe almost snorted at the understatement. “The words weren’t really clear. In fact, all I really remember is my heart pounding. God, it was so loud. I was so scared Lex.”

His arms tightened around her automatically and Lex frowned. By now he’d worked out that the altercation she was speaking of had most likely taken place during the summer of his not so welcomed island vacation. While he had never learned precisely what Clark had done during that summer, he knew that it hadn’t been anything good. The thought of Chloe having to deal with the darkness that he’d seen haunt Clark’s eyes for months after his return from the dead caused a small tremor of alarm to shiver through him and confirmed, yet again, his belief that the younger man had never been deserving of someone like Chloe in his life.

“I just knew that I had to get him to come home. Although where he was living seemed pretty upscale. In fact, now that I think about it, it seems a little too nice for some teenage runaway.” Once again concentration and curiosity shaped her face into the most fundamental of Chloe expressions; but before he had a chance to enjoy the endearing countenance her face scrunched up in a grimace of distaste. “You don’t think he was like…someone’s boy toy, do you?”

The disgust at the picture of teen-hooker Clark warred with absolute hilarity at the thought of the son of someone as pious as Jonathon Kent running off to the big city to be kept by a bevy of society matrons. Lex clamped down on both runaway trains of thought before he lost sight of the reason for this increasingly disconcerting conversation.

“Given his continuing propensity to blush in mixed company, I have faith that whatever Clark was up to, it didn’t involve frequent booty calls.”

So her friend was a big stuttering wuss who could apparently threaten women but not woo his way into their panties. Damn, she wanted her notebook.

“You know, this whole thing – the accident, the amnesia, the nightmare – all of it has been worth it just to hear you use the word “booty”.”

Lex watched Chloe’s bright smile dim a little as if the mere mention of her dream brought the images rushing back.

“He pushed me.”


“He grabbed me and pushed me to the door. He was so mad he was wild with it.”

Chloe was trembling beneath his hands and he could feel the fury in him swell. Clark, the terrorizer of women; just another facet of the man he’d once been fool enough to think he knew; another mystery to add to countless others.

But, if he were honest, Lex knew that wasn’t the only source of his anger. Clark had laid his hands on Chloe and hurt her, if not physically than mentally. Certainly he’d traumatized her enough to make this the first memory to free itself from the prison of her mind. It infuriated him that the boy would hurt a woman for whom, despite being a near rival, Lex was developing quite an appreciation, and it enraged him that Clark would treat with such contempt the very things that he himself had struggled for so long. And worse, that he could do so and yet still retain the friendships, loyalties, and love of those around him.

“What I can’t understand, is why on earth we’re still friends.” Chloe said in an eerie echo of Lex’s thoughts. “I mean, I don’t want to be a wimp, and I know it doesn’t sound so bad; but it was really scary.

He was so big and so angry, and he just kept yelling at me to leave, but I couldn’t seem to. I wanted to. God, I wanted to so badly, but my stupid feet kept taking me in the wrong direction. And then I was the one acting angry; and I guess I was mad. But inside, Lex; inside I was really afraid that he might hurt me.”

She was quiet for a moment and Lex wished he knew what she was thinking…until she told him.

“Was there something about me; something wrong with me? Did I have so much trouble making friends that I couldn’t do better than a guy that scared the crap out of me when we were kids and then, years later, was still apparently driving me into hysterics?”

Chloe’s self-esteem issues had never been a secret; loving your best friend who only had eyes for your roommate would be a massive blow to even the most robust of egos. Generally Lex found that type of weakness in others beneficial as it tended to make his interactions with them infinitely more fruitful; but at that moment, Chloe’s self-doubt struck him as faintly tragic.

Still, he had seen no signs of a deficit of self-worth over the last few weeks, so he had to believe that her question was simply an appropriate and insightful conclusion based on the evidence available to her as opposed to some intrinsic sense of insignificance.

With long, graceful fingers he caught her chin, lifting her face until their eyes met.

“There is absolutely nothing wrong with you. You are, and have been in all the years that I’ve been fortunate enough to know you, smart, witty, and compassionate. But beyond all of those things,” his eyes seared her with their aching sincerity making it impossible to ignore his words, “I have found you to be loyal beyond all reasonable expectations. And believe me; I’m in a position to know.”

He could see by the near blinding smile that lit her face that Chloe not only took his words to heart, but believed that his assertions of her unfailing loyalty stemmed from experiences where she had kept his secrets, not kept another’s from him.

He was glad to see that, for now, the ordeal seemed to be over. Although gleaning information about Clark was going to require a certain amount of psychological discomfort on her part, he was hoping that he could keep the detriment to her sanity at a minimum. And although some of that was due to a genuine lack of desire to see Chloe suffer, the majority was motivated by the simple fact that if her memories of Clark were too painful or alarming, her mind might begin to repress anything to do with him. And although his preparations allowed him, at the very least, another month to see this plan through, he clearly didn’t have the kind of time that would be needed to maneuver around hastily constructed mental walls.

Returning her smile with one of his own, he tenderly swept the hair from her face, tucking it behind her ear.

“Was that everything?”

Chloe’s gaze dropped for a moment before slowly rising to meet his almost shyly.

“About the dream? Yes,” she nodded.

“But?” Lex asked, curious about her fleeting hesitation.

“I know that you’ve been concerned about me. Well,” she rolled her eyes at her nervous stating of the obvious, “of course you’ve been worried; I’ve sprained my brain. I just meant that I really appreciate how wonderful you’ve been.”

“But?” He asked again trying not to smile at how adorable she looked, flustered and exasperated with herself in equal measures.

“I don’t want to be alone tonight.”

Lex couldn’t be sure which troubled him more – Chloe’s request or the fact that it had caught him completely off guard. He would have loved to have time to weigh the pros and cons, ponder the ramification of this decision, but one look at her anxious face settled the issue.

“You won’t be.”


Fifteen minutes later Lex was damning every impulsive, non-Luthor like decision he’d ever made, the current one in particular.

Although when he’d first slid under the covers of her bed Chloe had nervously scooted back, allowing him room and maintaining a modest amount of space between them, after the first five minutes any apprehension she had was apparently relieved and she returned to her more natural, bolder Chloe state.

And so he found himself, arms full of a warm, soft blonde, spending half of his time desperately wishing himself to sleep or, barring that, wishing Chloe to sleep so that he could use the carafe on the bedside table to render himself unconscious, and the other half consigning himself to the depths of hell for allowing her closet to be filled with cascades of silk masquerading as proper nightclothes instead of the large, flannel, grandmother-inspired gowns that would have been far more conducive to a good night’s rest.

Not that Chloe seemed to be having any difficulty settling in for the night, he thought with childish envy. With every passing minute he could feel her body relax, sinking further into his embrace. And just as he thought she had finally succumbed for the night and he could commence with his hastily concocted but, he was certain, ingenious plan of rolling her over and depositing her on the far side of what was actually a very large bed, he felt soft words whisper across his skin.

“How did I get so lucky?”

The words were sleepy, but the affection was behind them was undeniably genuine; and it was a moment before he could reply, caught up in a sentiment that had, in his lifetime, been so rarely directed at him.

“You didn’t. Believe me; you’ve known better men than me.”

The seriousness of Lex’s tone pierced Chloe’s drowsy haze and she raised her head to look at him.

“Hey,” she nudged him gently with her elbow, “stop picking on my husband. Besides, who says there are men better than you?”

Turning her face into him, Lex felt her brush a kiss against his chest and settle herself against him once more. Only this time, instead of plans and strategies to push her away, he pulled her even closer.

He had been both surprised and warmed by her faith in him. Even though he knew that it was predicated on the worst of lies, he couldn’t help but revel, even briefly, in the unfamiliar sensation.

Slowly Lex found himself relaxing; calming to the sounds of Chloe’s deep, even breaths, the silky feel of her skin as he absently ran his fingers down the length of her arm. And in the end it was that wholly unfamiliar feeling of contentment that jarred him back to wakefulness.

As each successive day with Chloe had past, Lex had allowed himself to slip deeper in the fantasy world he had created for Chloe, choosing to indulge temporarily in a life that he knew would never really be his. It had been an uncharacteristic decision, based on emotion as opposed to logic, and only now was he seeing the hidden danger as he was all too quickly growing accustomed to the illusions he had designed and Chloe had given life.

But his awareness, belated as it was, had still arrived in a timely enough manner to allow Lex to put things to rights. As soon as they awoke, he resolved, he would arrange for Dr. Heideman to see Chloe. Now that her memories appeared ready to resurface, and given the encouraging sign that the first had centered on Clark, it was time to move to the next stage and begin identifying ways to coax more of the targeted information to the forefront. And beyond the necessity to his stratagem, the clinical setting would go far in reminding him that this was, although elaborate in the extreme, nothing more than an experiment in his continuing quest for the truth.

Forcing down a moment of regret, Lex instead chose to focus on the comforting familiarity of having his feet once more planted securely on the path of illumination. And in the anticipation of victory so close at hand he barely hesitated in following through with his original intention and easing Chloe out of his arms, settling her onto her own side of the bed.

He shivered slightly as cold air rushed into to fill the void left by Chloe’s warmth, and produced a sudden and sharp awareness of his body. And, in a night filled with discoveries, Lex was graced with one, final burst of insight – He was thankful that he had chosen the judicious course of donning nightwear; because a half an hour pressed against the lush form of his pseudo-wife had conclusively proven his earlier theory.

Chapter Seven

Lex listened with half an ear as Dr. Heideman droned on about the results of Chloe’s tests. Most of his attention was directed towards the medical charts in his hands that provided the same information in a far more concise and less tedious manner.

They’d already covered the majority of Lex’s concerns; Chloe’s nightmare, the reliability of dream-state memories, and the most effective method of further extraction. The interrogation had been intricate and exacting, and a little over an hour later, Lex felt that he had gathered as much information as the medical staff could, at that time, provide. Once duty had been attended, curiosity was left; and Lex had never been one to leave a mystery unsolved.

“There’s one more issue I’d like to discuss, Doctor.”

“Of course, Mr. Luthor.”

“When Miss Sullivan’s diagnosis was first explained to me, I was told that, while she retained a seemingly undamaged understanding of general knowledge such as basic laws and social customs, she lacked any personal knowledge.”

“Yes,” the older man confirmed, “that is the general consensus of the doctor’s treating her.”

“Matrimony, as an institution, is fairly straightforward; a man and a woman, united in a monogamous relationship by the laws of the land. Beliefs expounding on that basic concept, expectations of unending wedded bliss or anticipations of inevitable betrayal, would seem, being generally derived through experience, to be an extension of self-identifying memories.”

Lex’s intensity leapt across the small space separating the two men as he laid out the pieces of the puzzle to be assembled.

“Which makes me wonder why our patient has expressed what would appear to be highly subjective views on marriage.”

Dr. Heideman fought to suppress a sigh of relief. Everyone working on this case had been struggling with skyrocketing tension. Preston's blood pressure was on the rise, Jackson was having marital problems, and he was fairly certain he was developing an ulcer. The pervasive anxiety was quickly spreading to the rest of the staff and Rolaids had become a form of currency in the facility.

It wasn’t the fact that they had skipped ethical uncertainties and went straight for unquestionable immorality with this particular case that was bothering them. No; it was the very real, very personal involvement of Lex Luthor that was engendering the near constant trepidation.

And so, while it didn’t pay to ever entirely relax one’s guard around either of the Luthors, it was, with a sense of reprieve that he realized that not only was his employer not displeased, but that his inquiries would be easy enough to answer.

“Well, yes; I can see where that would seem quite contradictory, but I assure you, Mr. Luthor, that Miss Sullivan’s views all well within the parameters of the original diagnosis.”

He took a moment to gather his thoughts and plan out how best to explain the subtle intricacies involved in a disorder such as this. Not that he doubted the man’s obvious brilliance; it was simply that experience had taught him that when Lex Luthor asked a question the answers were expected to be thorough and to the point. Disappointing the man before him was not an option that Lawrence Heideman wanted to contemplate – ever.

“You see, consensus or societal memories, in simplistic terms, are like a page from a coloring book. Everyone has the same basic image, but it is colored by our experiences and so each is unique. These memories serve to both unite and individuate us. They're an understanding of widely held social norms, but those concepts will always be shaped by the model from which they were learned. They are the product of what we like to term ‘society major’ and ‘society minor’.”

He paused for a moment; not to let his words sink in, but simply to regroup from the strain being the center of such unrelenting focus.

“Take your example of marriage. The most general consensus memory will be of the prevailing custom – two people, legally bound, in an exclusive relationship. But you have to understand that that belief is an indication of this particular society. Were you to examine a member of a culture that supports polygamy, their base consensus memory would reflect the acceptance of multiple partners. This is the influence of society major.

But a person’s expectations of matrimony are also guided by society minor. Meaning that they have been shaped by the predominant paradigm, good or bad, of marriage in their immediate sphere of existence. Generally, that tends to be the relationship between a person's parents. A happy, healthy marriage will engender a similar outlook, while divorce can often leave one with the forgone conclusion that romantic endeavors always end in abandonment and sorrow.

So, Miss Sullivan’s impressions of marriage are not actual memories of her life, but merely the result of a form of social conditioning. Predicting what she will expect from you as a “husband” or, alternately what she will provide to you as a “wife”, should be a simple matter of ascertaining the identity of the principal couple in this regard. If she is acting in a hostile or even passive aggressive manner as if waiting to be discarded, look for the most prominent divorce in her past. However, if she’s approaching you as an equal, interested in a partnership of openness and sharing, then she’s playing out ideals gleaned from her most positive experience with marriage.”

Dr. Heideman had been pleased with his performance. He’d kept his remarks clear and succinct, and hadn’t been sidetracked once by the sheer fascination he’d developed for this particular disorder during his crash course over the past weeks. And yet the man across form him didn’t appear at all pleased. In fact, he seemed pale and slightly sick.

“Jesus Christ,” Lex all but spat out, “she thinks we’re the Kents.”

Part Four

Chapter Eight

Pulling a file out of his briefcase, Lex allowed himself to relax against the supple leather seat in the spacious interior of the LuthorCorp helicopter. But it wasn’t business that held his attention. No; for once he'd left business at the office. This was personal.

Shuffling through the various pages, both of gathered facts and speculative conclusions, he reviewed the comprehensive report he’d received that afternoon on the progress with Chloe. After nearly a month he felt confident that he had been correct in his original assessment of the benefits of his stratagem. Although he hadn't uncovered Clark’s secret, the information he had gathered had assured him that there was a cover-up in play and that the memories that were fighting through to Chloe’s consciousness were well on their way to revealing all to him.

Most of those memories had taken the form of dreams that left her confused and shaken. While Lex didn’t enjoy the sight of her distress, it did make it much easier to subtly imbue her with a growing fear of her best friend. Faint winces, quiet gasps, and tender embraces that tightened ever so slightly in regards to Chloe’s recollections were all creating an unspoken picture that she was too bright not to piece together – Clark Kent was dangerous.

And the doctors had been dead on in their prediction that engendering a fear of the young man in Chloe, crafting an image of him as abnormal, would lead to her recalling memories that supported that belief first. And while, thus far, the memories had only served to confirm facts he had already suspected, that confirmation had given him a direction in which to focus his efforts.

Probably the greatest revelation was the dream she’d had almost a week before in which she and Clark were surrounded by fields of ice. She had talked about feeling the cold tear through her and fearing that she might die. He had affected the appropriate tone of concern, but inside he’d been elated at the corroboration that Clark had, indeed, been with Chloe in the Yukon on the day of the second meteor shower. And although that told him nothing specific, it was significant in that not only was Clark once again at the epicenter of the impossible, but that the very event itself was crucial to his secret, otherwise Chloe wouldn’t have gone to such lengths to deny Clark’s presence there.

Yes, Lex was quite satisfied with the progress he’d made. In fact, he felt so convinced that he was close to a breakthrough that he had arranged for Chloe’s “absence” to be extended for approximately another month. It wasn’t difficult. With Lois’ journalistic delusions and frequent tendency to wander, she was relatively easy to convince of the importance of Chloe’s story and, subsequently, her abrupt disappearing act. Lex was aware of any number of illicit deals in the business world, and small hints and allusions as to some of his competitors misdeeds had Lois not only accepting everything she was told as gospel, but begging to be let in on the investigation. Deciding to kill an entire flock of birds with one stone, he had his men send her leads on various transgressions in the corporate world of Metropolis under the guise of assisting her cousin. This served the purpose of buying more time with Chloe, occupying Lois, creating a champion of Chloe’s cause to Clark, and disrupting his rivals’ business dealings. All in all, a very satisfying return on so minimal an investment.

Although he had no illusions that Clark would really be completely content with the situation. Despite the constant written reassurances that he received from “Chloe”, he seemed in a perpetual state of worry. Lex wasn’t sure if that was indicative of Clark’s penchant for ongoing angst or a sign of rousing suspicions. Either way Lex found it irritating and excessive. He resented having to constantly soothe Clark’s feathers, both on his own behalf and on Chloe’s, and it grated to know that, after all this time, the boy still couldn’t find satisfaction in just one woman. Not that Lex had discovered much to be satisfied with in his dealings with Lana, but after weeks with Chloe he found the fact that Clark required more than Chloe mind-boggling. And Luthor minds did not easily boggle.

Still, as annoying as he considered it to be, he couldn’t just ignore Clark’s concerns. He had too long standing a habit of appearing when his friends needed help for Lex not to perceive him as a serious threat to his plans. And so he’d gone on the defensive, providing apologies in the fabricated emails for not calling before Clark even had a chance to complain. By citing late nights, the time difference, and utter exhaustion from Chloe’s investigation, it made further demands on her time seem petty and unbecoming of her best friend. Of course, Lex truly believed that it was the seemingly casual statement that she had been hesitant to call knowing that once they began talking she wouldn’t want to let him go for hours that had done the trick. He knew never to underestimate the power of the ego, and Clark had, indeed, been somewhat placated by the clear admission that he was still needed by Chloe. And for reasons less clear to Lex, the fact that the younger man was necessary to her was also becoming aggravating.

With a quiet sigh Lex realized that it was for the best that the plan was gaining momentum. Even though he preferred to disavow any weakness within him, he was far too realistic to do so. And Lex knew that his longing for a true home was the greatest of his vulnerabilities. Even the craving of his father’s approval had simply been an extension of his desire to create a family that was based on more than merely shared genetics. That home would be far too easy to find in Chloe. And just as pointless.

Chloe’s caring and affection was genuine, but only within the context of the reality he had constructed. With her memories intact, any true relationship between them would be impossible for reasons too vast and varied to bother reciting. And, although given his recently acquired knowledge of her he found that fact deeply regretful, the circumstances of his life had engendered too much pragmatism in him to devote an overabundance of time to things that would never come to pass.

And so, as the helicopter touched down, Lex once again donned the mantle of loving husband, not for emotional gain or physical fulfillment, but simply for intellectual satisfaction.

Chapter Nine

Striding into the office, Lex set down his briefcase and removed his jacket and tie. He had discovered it was best to shed his business persona as soon as possible on arriving home. No matter how much information Chloe had lost she was still essentially Chloe, and the few times that her attention had been drawn specifically to his work had resulted in a myriad of questions he’d had to go to great lengths to avoid answering directly. After all, there was only so far that he could push the “doctor’s orders” excuse before Chloe would simply begin to search for answers on her own. That, too, had remained with her. Like him, she derived little joy in preserving the mysteries in life.

A movement in the open doorway caught his eye and, turning, he encountered a member of the imminently discreet staff he had hand picked for the duration of his time there.

“Yes?” Lex prompted the man.

“Pardon, Mr. Luthor, but your wife requests your presence in the library.”

He acknowledged the man’s words with a dismissive nod, any surprise at the request characteristically concealed. And Lex was surprised. Not that Chloe wanted to see him; she always wanted to see him. Indeed, he often arrived home to find her happily waiting to drag him off for a walk, escort him to dinner, or convince him to settle in and watch an old movie together. No, what had surprised him was that Chloe had communicated her request via the staff.

Although Chloe had nothing but the warmest regard for the various servants, she had the mentality of one unused to domestic help, and it rarely occurred to her to use their services for things that she could easily do herself. And though he’d planned on spending the evening engaging in carefully designed activities that he hoped would pull more of Chloe’s memories to the surface, he had to admit that he was undeniably curious about what the vivacious and unpredictable blonde was up to now.

Entering the library, he found her in front of the fireplace, seated on a large woolen blanket. Beside her sat a tray crowded with various fruits, cheeses, crackers, two glasses, and a bottle of wine. Although the evening was mild, the warmth of the fire allowed Chloe the luxury of a thin summer dress in a flattering soft mossy green.

Lex liked seeing her in green. The various shades were a perfect compliment to the swirling hazel hues in her eyes. Not that Chloe needed any external trappings; the myriad of emotions, determined set, and mischievous glint all guaranteed to draw one’s attention to her expressive face. Of course that hadn’t stopped him from ensuring that a large part of the wardrobe he’d provided her was in those natural, verdant shades.

Smiling at both the picture she made and the obvious effort she had put into pleasing him, he crossed the room to join her.

“This is a pleasant surprise. May I ask what the occasion is?”

A pretty pout curled Chloe’s lips as she gazed at him accusingly.

“Lex, how can you not recognize this? Don’t you remember our first date?”

Whatever Lex had been expecting it had definitely not been that. Hesitantly, almost unsure if he had heard correctly, he questioned, “Do you remember our first date?”

He silently cursed and resolved to fire each and every useless medical professional that he had on this project. He couldn’t fathom how they could have remotely believed that the possibility of Chloe spontaneously generating false memories wouldn’t be worth mentioning. Lex knew that this would change everything and he seethed at the sense of powerlessness that he always experienced when faced a situation for which he felt completely unprepared. If he could just –

Just as his internal ranting was picking up steam, Lex was distracted by the bright flash of white that caught the corner of his eye. Turning towards Chloe he saw that a wide smile had taken the place of her previous sulk.

“Of course I don’t remember our first date,” she teasingly chided. “Haven’t you heard, I have amnesia.”

Although the confirmation of her continuing unawareness of her past was reassuring, it did little to alleviate his still growing confusion.

“I don’t suppose tonight’s repast comes with an explanation?”

“Certainly. Would I be so cruel as to deny my beloved the answers he seeks?”

Though the statement was made completely without malice, it was a clear reference to her growing dissatisfaction at not being allowed more exposure to things relating to her past. Knowing that he couldn’t compromise on that decision, he pointedly ignored the reference and raised an eyebrow in expectation.

“When you called earlier you sounded as if your day was going as fantastically frustratingly as mine. Of course, I know why mine was so perfectly crappy.”

Visibly softening, Chloe shifted so that she was sitting closer to Lex. Her hand on his arm a silent declaration of sympathy and understanding.

Lex had, in the previous weeks, grown accustomed to the casual touches and spontaneous gestures of affection that seemed to be a part of Chloe’s nature. It was one of the few luxuries that had long been lacking in the Luthor household, and, because of its absence, he hadn’t really known how much he had desired it. So, when Chloe sighed a little and pulled her hand back to run it through her hair in exasperation, Lex immediately missed the soothing pressure; although he refused to acknowledge even to himself, that he had to fight, if only for an instant, the urge to recapture hand and return it to its previous position.

“I know that I haven’t made a secret of my frustration with how slowly my memories are returning.” Chloe’s soft words pulled Lex out of his thoughts. “But it wasn’t until I heard how tired you sounded today that I began to understand how difficult this must be for you, too.”

His immediate words of protest were waved away as she continued.

“Lex, we’re newlyweds. This is supposed to be the beginning of our life together, and instead of a blissful honeymoon period with your loving wife you’re stuck caring for a mental invalid.”

Finding himself at a rare loss for words, Lex was unsure of what to do; and for the first time since everything had been set in motion, he felt genuinely bad for what was happening. True, he'd had his moments of regret at Chloe’s distress throughout this process; he wasn’t a monster. But he’d never doubted his ultimate purpose or that his means would ultimately be justified. Until now.

Seeing her before him, the flickering flames causing light and shadow to dance across her face, both illuminating and deepening her heartfelt concern, he wondered just how much damage he might be causing to a woman who'd been nothing but brave and generous and so concerned for him. Lex had long grown used to finding the ulterior motivations in even the most genuine of women. It had only taken two or three attempts on his life for him to realize that it was simply safer to doubt the nature of those around him. And so many people in his life had confirmed that decision; his father, Helen, Clark. They had showed him, quite clearly, that no matter how one may initially appear, when you stripped a person down to the core, they were all basically self-serving.

Only they weren’t. Chloe wasn’t. She had been deprived of, not just the ability, but the desire to deceive; to hide behind carefully crafted façades. Chloe Sullivan was, at that moment, as devoid of subterfuge as was possible. That fact gave him not just access to the secrets she harbored, but a window into the undeniable truth of who she was. And that person was decent and kind; able to suffer the pain of her own recent loss and still find it in herself to worry about his.

In fact, in the past week Lex had come to acknowledge that Chloe was exactly the kind of woman that he had long ago despaired of finding. The realization had blindsided him during one of their more innocuous interactions, and Lex had found himself hurriedly making an excuse to leave Chloe’s engaging presence to examine the implications of his new insight. In the end he had decided that feeling close to Chloe was normal given the necessity of their current intimacy, and that he was fortunate to have discovered the potential for a dangerous level of attraction before it had a chance to develop. Had those feelings gone unchecked, had that attraction snuck up on him, Lex knew that he would have been in considerable trouble.

“Hey,” the warm touch once again capturing his attention. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”

“You didn’t; you’re not.” He placed his hand over hers. “I just don’t want you to ever feel that you’re a burden to me. You’re my wife, Chloe; and every moment with you is precious no matter the circumstances.”

The words carried a bit more passion than Lex would have liked, but he let that thought pass as the blinding smile Chloe sent his way convinced him that he’d played the situation correctly.

“With lines like that I must’ve been a pathetically easy conquest.”

Turning her hand and entwining their fingers, Lex shot Chloe a smile of his own.

“I’ve never found anything pathetic about you. But as to my ease of wooing, why don’t you tell me, oh keeper of the first date.”

And so she did. In humorous and romantic monologues, in turn, Chloe related a night where two friends, sequestered in the library of a mansion, trapped by a terrible storm, found something in each other for which they hadn’t even known they’d been searching – love.

As the time passed and the food and wine consumed, Lex’s appreciation for Chloe’s ability to weave a spell with her words grew and he wondered if she’d perhaps ever considered fiction as an alternative to journalism. He was lulled by both her peaceful voice and the startlingly clear picture his mind was constructing of the two of them in the manor in Smallville. In fact, he’d grown so calm that it took him a minute to process her latest vignette.

“Excuse me,” indignation colored his tone. “I’ll have you know that I have never stuttered, bumped foreheads while making a romantic overture, or spilled wine on a potential paramour at a pivotal moment in my life.”

Falling against him in a fit of giggles, Chloe struggled to retain the collapsing integrity of her story.

“Don’t worry, as your wife it’s my duty to protect our family name, so your secret won’t pass my lips. Besides, I’m sure that you’ve gotten better over time or why would I have married you?”

Lex’s smile dimmed as the word secret lodged in his head and he realized that, once again, he was loosing his focus.

Noticing his sudden stillness, Chloe’s laughter subsided.

“Lex,” she murmured gently, “what happened today that has you so glum?”

Not that it was just today. Chloe might have lost her memory, but neither her powers of observation nor her intuition had vanished. While Lex had done everything possible to provide a safe and happy atmosphere, to be a warm and loving husband, Chloe knew that there was a darkness in his life that haunted him.

Although he hid it well, Chloe could see, in their quieter times, moments when he was unaware of her eyes upon him, that there was a pain deep inside of him that drove him, that shaped him in ways she knew she hadn’t begun to understand.

She had a strong suspicion that he was actively working to conceal this part of his nature from her. Whether his actions were motivated by shame or a desire to protect her she couldn’t tell, and honestly it didn’t matter. Whatever his reasons, Chloe would unearth this intently guarded side of her husband. Not because of idle curiosity or a need to relearn her past, but because, far from being repelled, she found his complexity mesmerizing. The fact that he could house such tightly leashed emotions, radiate so much power and, occasionally, danger in the same soul that gave her such tenderness and security made her feel special; loved.

Lex didn’t know why he bothered being surprised any longer by Chloe’s amazing perceptiveness. It was a widely held perception that he was a man possessed of an unnatural level of control, and yet, over and over in the past weeks she’d shown a sensitivity to his moods that belied that hard won reputation. And it was because of that very discernment that Lex stayed as closed to the truth as possible when answering her.

“I’ve been working on a rather delicate project and getting results has been more difficult than initially expected.”

Chloe knew that whatever it was that Lex did it was a large part of his identity; understood that he knew that too. But sometimes she wondered if he understood just how profound the impact of both his success and failure in those endeavors seemed to have on him. He was obsessive by nature, and that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, as long as he made it work for him. Being driven wasn’t the worst thing in the world, as long as you were driving yourself somewhere other than crazy.

“But the results will make you happy, right?”

Happy? Lex gave a small start at the question. Happiness wasn’t a part of the Luthor vernacular, and he couldn’t remember the last time that he’d thought in those terms, that he’d envisioned an undertaking with that end as a primary concern.

“I’m not sure that happy is the term I’d choose. I’d say that this particular enterprise is more about satisfaction.”

Chloe pushed down a sigh that was equal parts fondness and frustration. Talking with Lex was an advanced course in the intricacies of semantics, and because the exhilarating sense of challenge generally compensated for the excess effort, she found it was usually just simpler to reword her meaning as opposed to getting bogged down defending her phrasing.

“But being satisfied…that’ll make you happy, right?”

Not only did Lex not have an answer for the question, he also couldn’t define the increasingly heavy feeling in his chest at the direction their conversation had taken. For a fleeting moment he almost wished that she had retained some of her memories about her interactions with the Luthors. If she had she certainly would have known better than to expect any of their ventures, be they business or personal, to be brimming with joy.

“Lex,” Chloe had taken his silence as her answer, “if, when all’s said and done, this doesn’t bring some kind of personal happiness, then why do you bother?”

If anyone else had asked him such a thing, Lex would have dismissed the thought outright. Of course people had broached the subject with him before. Not because they wanted him to be happy with himself, with his life, but because they wanted him to be different. They tried endlessly to craft him into what they saw as a better person, a more effective businessman, a more faithful lover. They wanted him to change so they could be happy.

But Chloe simply wanted him to have some kind of contentment in his life – wanted to help him find that. Although he’d been shocked when he’d initially recognized that Chloe was subconsciously patterning their marriage after that of the Kents, as time passed he’d come to appreciate that, to her, that couple personified a deep sharing and intimate partnership as opposed to the self-righteous posturing that the name Kent often conjured in his mind. If Chloe was asking him to examine his decisions, it wasn’t because she was angling for any personal gain, she was just trying to be the best wife that she could be

“Earth to Lex,” she laughed. “Sorry; I didn’t mean to spoil the mood.”

Though careful not to show it, Lex was cringing inside at his uncharacteristic lack of focus. Unused to losing himself so often to his thoughts, he was disturbed by the number of times the evening had seen his iron control slip. It was absolutely unacceptable, and although he planned to pursue the cause of this behavior at the soonest possible opportunity, he settled for diverting Chloe's attention from his lapse.

“You mean there were no perspicacious philosophical discussions concerning the elusive nature of self-fulfillment on our first date?”

“No,” she said with seeming deep thoughtfulness, “but there was a small yet sagacious debate during dessert about whether the normal puddings shunned tapioca in their superiority.”

“And what was the verdict?”

“Sadly we never did answer that age old question. But because I loved you even then I overlooked your elitist championing of flan. As if custard was even invited to the party!”

And Lex was struck by a dizzying truth. He’d long ago stopped pursuing happiness, because he believed himself incapable of experiencing it. Doubted that any Luthor ever truly could. But in that instant, staring down into Chloe’s face alight with humor, he realized that it wasn’t just possible for him to feel it, he actually was.

So for once in his life Lex decided to set aside his distrust of all things new, his need to dissect and analyze anything for which he’d been unprepared, and simply enjoy the moment, however fleeting. And even though he was giving himself over to Chloe’s night of make believe, he wasn’t any less of a Luthor than he had been the night before. He was still a realist, still understood that this was an anomaly in his life and not the beginning of some Hollywood happy ending. Even if that had been his destiny, it would never include Chloe. For every new memory that brought him closer to the truths he so desperately sought pushed him an equal distance from this extraordinary woman who was so quickly carving a place for herself in his life.

That, more than anything, was why he chose to grasp this one night; to hold these small hours for himself – outside of calculating plans and safe from old animosities – because he knew that he’d never know their like again. And although he’d already resigned himself to the necessity of that fact, it still made something deep inside him, something buried for so many years, ache in a manner he was certain would be slow to fade.

But that wasn’t for immediate dwelling. Lex had allowed himself this small pleasure and he’d be damned if he ruined it by worrying about things that he would have years to brood over. So with a warm and sincere smile, he let Chloe’s husky tones wash over him as he fell back under the spell that she was so artlessly weaving.

Chapter Ten

Despite a creeping exhaustion that was causing her to sway slightly on her feet, Chloe was loathe to see the door to her room come into view.

The evening had gone better than she had dared to hoped. Lex had graciously obliged her exercise in whimsy and the hours were filled with laughter, companionship, and a distinct sense of lightness, as if a heavy emotional weight had been slowly eased from her heart. While she hadn’t belabored the point with Lex when she’d seen how uncomfortable he was, she had been serious when she had told him that she worried about how her condition was affecting him.

Over the past week or so she’d noticed a growing tension in him at the onset of each new memory’s return. She had thought at first that the stress was due to the pointed reminder that she, and by extension their life, wasn’t normal. But, honestly, her illness affected so many aspects of their lives that she dismissed that idea almost immediately.

Next she considered that maybe Lex was upset that her memories were coming back to her so slowly. And that seemed like a reasonable answer except that she was remembering things more and more frequently as time went by. Which kind of blew that theory for her, too.

Then, earlier that day as she’d been tormenting herself over her lack of progress and its effect on both of their lives, it hit her. That maybe Lex’s discontentment had little to do with the inconvenience of her condition and was instead about the fact that the majority of her recollections revolved around her supposed best friend and not her wonderfully supportive husband.

And that thought broke her heart. Since her accident so many things seemed confusing; overwhelming. Her family, career, education – everything. Except Lex. Lex was the only thing about her life the she understood.

At first, despite his warmth towards her, Chloe had been taken slightly aback by the almost ruthless intensity she had sensed deep within him. But as each day passed she was learning that there was so much more to him then she ever could have imagined. And the more time she spent with him, be it at the heights of his adoration and concern or in the depths of his driven darkness, Chloe found that the one absolute truth to which she could cling was that she had loved Lex Luthor. Undeniable, not for crystalline memories, not because of romantic photographs or passionate letters. No; it was indisputable because Chloe had no knowledge of this man past a small handful of weeks and already her heart was so precariously balanced, so eager to fall, that she couldn’t conceive of years with him without drowning in devotion.

“So, here we are.”

Reaching the door, she turned to face Lex and her eyes widened in surprise to feel the hand that had been holding hers reach up to caress her cheek. Although they often shared soft, affectionate touches between them, there was an unspoken agreement that they not traverse any bridges that couldn't be uncrossed until things had become more stable with her memory. But she had to admit that that particular plan was getting harder for both of them to carry out. She couldn’t say if it was their natural attraction, the result of their time apart, or a byproduct of the nights that Chloe needed the warmth of Lex’s embrace to wash away the fear of her nightmares, but whatever the cause, their casual and easy physical contact was slowly being overrun with an ever growing sensual urgency and tension.

“I don’t suppose I got lucky?”

And as quickly as that monster awoke, it was slain by Lex’s words.

“You wish.” She chuckled as she nudged him playfully with her elbow.

“You can’t imagine.”

Chloe felt Lex’s hand fall away and realized that he hadn’t meant for his last statement to emerge with quite so much yearning. Since they seemed to be sharing the same boat she decided to help bail him out.

“Believe me,” her wry gaze caught his, “I can. Apparently, as tonight has shown, amnesia only inhibits my memories, not my imagination.”

Lex was grateful for to see that he wasn’t the only one who’d been affected by the illusory intimacy of the night. He was almost sad to see it come to an end, but knew that it was for the best. He’d had his respite from reality - and he’d enjoyed it - but it was time for him to return to pursuits that mattered, that were sustainable, not romantic clichés that rarely survived the harsh light of the morning after.

“So, how did it end?”

“You were a perfect gentleman. You kissed me and left me at my door.”

The next morning he’d blame her smile. Too sleepy to be anything other than adorable, it pulled at him in a way that the endless sultry, come hither looks he received from a multitude of women never had.

“Well, I’d hate to ruin your faithful recreation.”

And then his lips were on hers. Warm and yielding, they parted beneath his on a soft whimper that burned through last frayed thread of his control. His tongue swept in to the warmth beyond and, with an answering groan, the hand cupping her cheek slid through the silk of her hair to pull her closer into him. The feel of her, taste of her filled him and Lex shuddered as the need to fall into her and the need to breathe fought within him.

Breathing won and they slowly parted. Looking down into turbulent storm of emotions in Chloe’s eyes, Lex sincerely hoped that his were nowhere near as revealing. But even if his inner upheaval went somehow unnoticed by the woman before him, he knew that he had to get away, escape the onslaught of feelings before Chloe could see that something was definitely wrong. Or worse, before he swept her up and didn’t stop with just a kiss.

With a reluctance he refused to indulge, Lex reached behind Chloe and opened the door. He knew that, despite her confusion and exhaustion, she was smart enough to see that this wasn’t an act of rejection, but merely a way for them both to have time to regroup. Untangling his hand from her hair, he brought it back to her face, unable to resist the temptation to lightly brush the lips he had just tasted.

“Goodnight, Chloe.”

Her whispered reply was lost as she turned and stepped into her room, but he took comfort in the small, hesitant smile he caught before the door closed. Hearing her move deeper into the room, he let his head rest against the door and released a quiet sigh.

Lex now found himself in a position ludicrous for any Luthor to admit – hating the fact that he’d been right. He’d kissed Chloe. It had been spectacular. And he was in an astronomical amount of trouble.

Chapter Eleven

Chloe always wondered about her past. Amnesia did that to a person. But every once and a while something would happen that would push her thoughts beyond the normal “what was my favorite movie” and more into the realm of “what the hell was up with my life?!” Sneaking through the hallways of the massive mansion she called home, Chloe was fairly certain that this was one of those moments.

It wasn’t her furtive actions that gave her pause – she had good reason for her skulking. No; it was the almost unbearable thrill that her little covert missions gave her.

The sharp sounds of footfalls on the pristine wood floors alerted her to the approach of one of the various staff members and Chloe quickly stepped into a random room to conceal her presence. And there it was again; the burst of adrenaline that flooded her system as she pressed her ear tightly to the door, waiting for the steps to pass her by.

And she had to admit that she liked it. The slinking, the dodging; the rush she got being Covert Chloe was somewhat electrifying…and a little embarrassing given the nature of her “mission”.

Moving once again through the corridors, she could see her objective through the open doorway before her. Carefully she took in her surroundings. She saw no one in her line of sight, but still paused a few moments more. When the silence confirmed her observations, she dashed across the last of the open space separating her from her goal.

She made it. Chloe gave a small sigh of relief as she slipped through the narrow door, closing it behind her, before turning to survey her bounty. No matter how wealthy her husband might be, she knew that his true riches were there, laid out on the heavy shelves that lined the walls. Her eyes raced across the bright, multicolored packages before landing on the feature for the day.

Nutter Butters.

Yesterday had been mangoes, the day prior was Oreos, and the one before that, peanut brittle. And so it had been for the past three weeks as Chloe snuck down to the kitchen at least once a day to liberate a new delight. At times a sinfully expensive foreign delicacy and at others something as pedestrian as chunky peanut butter, each item consumed represented more than a tempting treat; it was one of the many small ways in which Chloe was relearning who she was regardless of her memory’s timetable.

She knew to most people it would seem like such a minor thing, but in the complete and utter void that was her past it was sometimes the missing minutiae that was the hardest to take. Losing the knowledge of her husband, her family, it was definitely difficult. But losing things like her favorite color, song, food - things so intrinsic to who she was, was for some reason a hundred times worse. While Lex’s presence confirmed the reality of her marriage, the inability to establish so few concrete facts about herself left her feeling almost non-existent, as if these tiny details had, in some ways, given her substance. And so, as with the rest of her memories, she sought to do something about the situation. Thus the covert treks to the kitchen.

Not that she had to creep like a thief through her own house. However, she had a feeling that Lex was getting suspicious of her various fact finding missions. There was no denying that the man was brilliant and Chloe knew that her days of slipping her active attempts at wellness under his radar were fast coming to an end.

Although, honestly, his awareness wouldn’t stop her. It was her mind, and her life she was dealing with. And though she had carefully considered all of the expert advice she was given, Chloe knew that, in the end, she would do what she considered best and not even what was sure to be an unpleasant confrontation with her husband would deter her.

And so the experiments began. It wasn’t that she had no knowledge of the foods she sampled. She knew what chocolate chip cookies were; understood, intellectually, the existence of an artichoke heart. It’s just that she had no recollection of any personal experience that told her how much she had enjoyed partaking of these things. But she had to acknowledge, at least to herself, that her plan wasn’t the rousing success that she’d hoped for.

Unfortunately, all she’d actually learned was that she really liked food. So far, instead of discerning a definite preference that she could call her own, Chloe found that every few days she’d find some new fare elbowing its way to the top of her list. In fact, at that point in time, she had already discovered twenty-three different foods that she was sure were her favorite until a new one came along and dumped her back at square one…delicious square one.

With her coveted cookies safely in her possession, Chloe was about to exit the pantry when she was stopped in her tracks by the growing sound of voices outside the door. With a silent curse she realized that it was Friday; the day that various deliveries of fresh produce, meats, and cheeses were delivered by what she was sure were the most exclusive of local merchants.

Having no choice but to wait them out Chloe couldn’t help but listen in. She needed no trials or testing to confirm that she was nosy.

“…and then they showed his helicopter landing.”

The rustle of boxes being opened briefly interrupted.

“You know, I’ve heard a lot of things about the Luthors – some of them not so nice, if you know what I mean. But seeing him just walk into that lab and take the place of those hostages…well, I certainly won’t be tarring him with his father’s brush again any time soon.”

In the silence of the small room the sound of Chloe’s pounding heart was deafening as the import of the man’s words washed over her. Minor pursuits forgotten, she threw open the door, ignoring the panicked expression on Mrs. Whitehead’s face, and rushed towards the bewildered delivery man who hastily stepped back from the wild-eyed blonde.

“Tell me what happened.”

Hands lifted in supplication, he looked over to the elderly lady for some clue as to what the agitated young woman wanted. His attention was brought abruptly back as he felt the fisting of hands in his shirt combined with a surprisingly strong shake for such a petite person.

“My husband! What happened to Lex?”

Understanding and no small amount of sympathy dawned in the man’s eyes as he realized that the woman in front of him was Mrs. Luthor. He hadn’t realized that the young tycoon had a wife, but then he hardly kept up with Metropolis’ high society. Wondering how the police could be so cruel as to not contact her in this type of situation, he prepared to offer all that he knew.

“Well, ma’am, a few hours ago –”

“That will be enough. You can go now, John.”

As head of the Luthor household staff, Conrad Haines radiated an undeniable sense of authority. And John Hutchins, as a simple delivery man who depended on his job to support his family, responded to it immediately. Besides, he thought, news of this type would be better left broken by someone who actually new the shaken woman before him.

By the tone of his voice Chloe knew that Haines had the news she sought and so she paid no attention as the other man departed.

“First you’re going to tell me what’s happened to my husband, and later we’ll discuss with the fact that no one saw fit to inform me that there was even a situation to begin with.”

“Mrs. Luthor,” he began placatingly “I really think it would be best if we waited for Mr. Luthor’s return.”

“Can you promise me that will happen?” she snarled.

The silence that met her harsh question was all the answer she needed. Pushing her way past the unaccommodating man, Chloe headed for the one place that she knew would provide the information for which she was becoming desperate.

The doors of Lex’s office opened easily, but the large mahogany armoire containing the house’s only television was locked. Intellectually Chloe could appreciate the precaution. Although, outside of trying to glean random facts about herself, she’d been very good about the doctors’ dictates, and regardless of the fact that she was routinely checked on by the staff, she knew that Lex’s near paranoia concerning her recovery would lead him to take such preventative measures. Not that those measures would stop her.

“Mrs. Luthor, please–”

“Give me the key.”

Bright eyes flashing with a fierce determination he wouldn’t have imagined from the normally sweet natured woman, her cold, hard tone cut his plea short and it was only his knowledge of the ruthlessness of the Luthor’s reputation that prompted his answer.

“I’m sorry; I don’t have it.”

Chloe didn’t know if Haines was lying or whether Lex truly hadn’t entrusted the man with the key. Both possibilities seemed equally probable, but neither mattered. She didn’t have time for his reticence.

A quick glance around the large room yielded what she needed and, walking over to the fireplace, Chloe grabbed the heavy iron poker. Ignoring the shocked and vaguely horrified look on the older man’s face, Chloe calmly moved back to the large cabinet and proceeded to beat it repeatedly until the wood cracked beneath her resolute blows.

The television, as always, was tuned to a twenty-four hour news station. And, while Chloe was gratified to be getting the full story, her chest was painfully tight as the large caption at the bottom of the screen proclaimed “LuthorCorp Hostage Crisis”. Turning up the volume, she listened as the broadcaster’s voice echoed in the stillness of the room.

“We’re now entering hour three of this terrible hostage situation. It was shortly after noon that the police were notified of gunfire at Addison Laboratories, a subsidiary of LuthorCorp.

Reports from those who had safely evacuated the facility were that ex-employee, Alan Milford, had entered the building heavily armed and made his way to his former work station where he barricaded himself and eleven staff members in one of the labs.

Shortly after, LuthorCorp CEO Lex Luthor arrived on scene.”

A short clip of Lex exiting his corporate helicopter was shown and Chloe’s heart clenched harder at the sight of his strong, resolved form. Pushing down her fast overwhelming sense of anxiety she tried to focus on the continuing story.

“At approximately 1:00 pm, the gunman communicated his single demand to the police – He would release all hostages in exchange for Lex Luthor.”

Chloe knew what was coming next; she knew and, collapsing into the nearest chair, she tried to hold back a terrified sob as her worst fears were confirmed.

“Sources within the police department have informed us that the idea was immediately rejected by officials on the scene despite Luthor’s apparent willingness to meet the demand. But calls from both the Mayor and Governor, whose campaigns were heavily financed with LuthorCorp donations, overruled the decision and Mr. Luthor was given authorization to enter the building. The eleven original hostages were released within minutes, sustaining only minor injuries from the initial conflict.

The picture of Lex walking without hesitation into the hands of a clearly deranged and violent criminal was in no way offset for Chloe by the sight of the people his actions had saved. Feeling sick as she watched the station cut back to a live view of the building, Chloe was on the verge of demanding access to a car when a barrage of loud burst that, despite her amnesia, she clearly recognized as gunfire, broke through the droning of the station’s correspondent.

Momentarily unable to breathe, Chloe could do nothing but sit frozen, waiting to learn if her life as she knew it had just been taken from her.

Chapter Twelve

Back in his helicopter, this time on his way home, Lex listened to the hypnotic hum of the blades above him and tried to fight the pull of exhaustion. The adrenaline rush that had sustained him throughout the extreme trials of the day had finally dissipated leaving a crashing sensation that he knew all too well from his imperiled days in Smallville.

Then there had been the call from Haines, explaining that Chloe had violently commandeered the television in his office and saw most of the coverage only pulling herself away upon seeing him actually entering the helicopter and it subsequently leaving the ground.

Lex wasn’t sure what to make of that particular development. The first thing he’d done was obtain a copy of the coverage for the channel she had been watching. As he had suspected there was nothing in the broadcast that would be of any danger to his plans with Chloe. There had been enough sensationalism in the day’s actual events for them to have little need to resort to endless speculation about his personal life or a recitation of ancient scandals. Not that those things wouldn’t raise their heads in the sleazier publications in the weeks to follow, but they certainly hadn’t been pressing enough to warrant inclusion in the earlier airings.

What had caught him off guard was the odd sense of relief upon hearing that Chloe had been exposed to most of the story.

Despite the Luthor stoicism, Lex was man enough to admit that, while he didn’t overly worry about dying, actual circumstances in which that was a distinct possibility bothered him. Though the press might never think to suggest it, he was only human. When his personal security team had burst into the lab in which he was being held and bullets had begun hurling through the air, he hadn’t cowered. He’d kept his cool and let his men do the job that they were trained to do without either unnecessary heroics or frantic attempts to escape. He had, unfortunately, been at the center enough life threatening circumstances to handle himself with enviable aplomb.

But they were still traumatic.

Yet, in the midst of the turbulent aftermath, there was an unfamiliar warmth in Lex at the thought of having someone to go home to who would help soothe away the day’s distress. And although his relationship with Chloe wasn’t physically intimate, they shared an emotional connection that he was no longer able to deny.

The large front doors were opened by an anxious Haines, but Lex merely handed over his coat and addressed his own concern. “Where is my wife?”

“In the office sir, but–”

Whatever he was going to say was lost to Lex as a small blur hurled towards him and he found himself with a sobbing blonde buried in his arms. Whatever he had been expecting upon his homecoming, this hadn’t been it. Despite her emotional reaction to her first nightmare, his image of Chloe had always been that of the hardened, intrepid reporter who scoffed at danger. Even her amnesia had been accepted with what he considered her characteristic optimism and determination to triumph over adversity. Of course, those situations had always involved peril to herself. He’d never really stopped to consider how she handled the possibility of harm to those she cared for. He’d never really had a reason to until that moment.

“Chloe; hush honey, its okay.”

And as quickly as she’d appeared in his arms she pulled back, and the warm embrace was replaced with a flurry of desperate blows. A release of emotion as opposed to an agent of any real pain, Lex stood quietly as Chloe poured out her fear.

“Okay? Okay!” Her eyes shot green fire as she spit the words at him. “What were you thinking? He could have killed you!”

Lex watched as his steward edged his way out of the foyer and Chloe’s cries died down as she buried her face in her hands. At a loss of how to best handle such an excess of emotion, Lex stepped forward, placing comforting hands on her shaking shoulders.

Chloe’s wet gaze met his as she moved to grasp his shirt, pulling closer to his touch.

“You could have died.”

His breath caught at her words. She was afraid, was crying, for him. She was so distraught at the very thought of him being hurt that she was trembling with it. And that, more than the danger, more than the adrenaline, shook Lex to his very core.

In only his time as a young child so briefly under his mother’s wing had he known the pleasure of having someone care for him so much that his state well being was imperative to their happiness. And, in the years since his her death, it was a feeling he’d steadily been convinced that he’d never know again.

But there it was – Chloe’s anguish, so naked and raw that it couldn’t be anything other than real. His head reeled and his heart clenched at the flood of sensations for which he’d secretly craved so long. Lost as he was in the new awareness, he was unprepared for the shift of Chloe’s body as her hands rose to caress his face and draw his lips down to hers.

Her mouth, warm and soft beneath his own, stripped away his shock and stress and bathed his strained nerves in the tenderness of her kiss. As her tongue slipped over his lower lip, tentatively searching out his own, Lex lost all sense of past or future and gave himself over to this one exquisite moment that had so effortlessly captured him.

Chloe moaned as her advance was met and answered as Lex’s tongue moved to tangle with her own and then push forward to the warm recess beyond. More than anything, the taste of him, that intimate connection to him, began to convince her that he was actually there, in her arms, alive and safe.

But it wasn’t enough. Chloe needed to be closer; much, much closer. She needed to touch him, to hold him, to take him in and make him a part of her. She understood the reason that Lex had kept a modicum of physical distance between them; knew that he was being considerate of all she’d suffered. But this suffering was worse. Every day that passed saw the space between them grow from a blessing to a burden, and almost losing him had brought that fact into startling clarity.

As she had waited through each agonizing minute to see if Lex would live or die, Chloe finally realized that her life didn’t have to end because her memories had. Fate had given her a second chance to fall in love with her husband once again and she was tired of wasting that miracle.

The smooth silk of his shirt was cool against her hands as they slid down to free the material from his pants only to journey upwards over his heated flesh. Her whisper soft touch grazed along the firm muscle of his stomach before drawing the fabric with her to explore the counters of his chest.

The deep, guttural groan that rumbled through Lex brought them both momentarily back to reality. Stunned at far he’d let things go, Lex caught Chloe’s hands in his and gently interrupted their caress. He swallowed heavily at both the loss of her warm touch and in regret for what he had to say.

“Chloe, we can’t –”

Surprise halted his words as Chloe tugged a hand free and pressed a finger to his lips.

“If you don’t want me, Lex…if I’m too broken or not enough of the woman you married, you can tell me. You don’t have to make it anything other than what it is.”

Chloe was sure that wasn’t the problem. The way he’d kissed her left little doubt that he wanted her, but she had to ask, needed to be certain that she wasn’t the only one feeling this way. The thought of wanting him when he didn’t want her in return tugged at something just beyond her reach; but she knew, with absolute certainty, that if that were the case she wouldn’t be able to bear it.

Fortunately, the emotions so uncharacteristically emblazoned on Lex’s face – shock and appalled disbelief – did much to calm her fears.

“Don’t say that. Don’t even think it.” Agitated hands wrapped tightly round her arms and she could feel the sincerity in the tremor that ran through him as he spoke. “You’re not broken. The memories you lost are just moments of thought, they’re not you; not the things that make you who you are. They’re not important.”

“I know,” she said as she smiled tremulously up at him. “I finally realized that today. If I never recall my past, if I never get back my time with you; it doesn’t matter. Remembering this - us, isn’t necessary because I fallen in love with you all over again.”

Looking down into her tearstained eyes, Lex found himself tumbling headlong into the gold tinged depths and the truth they contained, the same conviction that rang in her voice.

“I love you, Lex Luthor,” she passionately declared. “I love every minute I’m with you. When we talk, when we laugh, when we fight, or when we just sit quietly, because I feel you with me.”

She moved close to him again, and Lex was unable to summon the will to deny her need to be near or his to have her so.

“I love how you tease me when I’m disheartened and comfort me when I’m scared.”

A shaky laugh emerged as her hand gently cupped his cheek.

“I even love when you’re moody and secretive. When you come home all dark and brooding and hiding behind the walls you’ve built. God,” she cried, “I even love those stupid walls because it makes me feel so precious every time you let me in. Let me in now.”

His lips crashed into hers as Lex gathered her fiercely to him. For so many years he’d used hard logic and cold reasoning as weapons against the world. It suited his intellectual nature and insulated him against some small part of the emotional destruction that was inherent in being Lionel Luthor’s son. But a part of him, the part that he hid, that he tried to force away into oblivion, understood that so many of his stratagems and machinations were a tremendous overcompensation brought on by his compulsive need for someone to honestly want him; to love him. The way that Chloe was offering her love to him.

And the overpowering feeling of finding something that had seemed so irreversibly lost crashed like a wave upon him, drowning him in depths of a passion that he couldn’t have begun to battle even if he’d wanted to; even if his greatest of hidden desires wasn’t being fulfilled.

The kiss broke as suddenly as it started and Lex was left wanting and confused as Chloe drew back only to bury her head in his chest. The thought that she didn’t want him, had merely been caught in the moment and had finally come to her senses, speared pain through his very being and left his heart weak and bleeding. Yet what in one instant seemed shattered was in the next healed as the words she sobbed into his chest washed through him and soothed the ragged edges of his soul.

“I could have lost you. Oh God, I love you so much and I could have lost you. And I never would have had the chance to tell you. I wouldn’t have even had the memory of it…of anything.”

Her face lifted and he read a kind of frantic need that he was certain must echo his own.

“Give me new memories, Lex. Don’t leave me with this nothingness where our love should be. I want to know your touch, how it feels when you move inside me. I’m tired of searching for the past. I want to start creating our future.”

For every choice Lex had made in his life there had been a reason, a rationale. Even his reckless and misspent youth had been about more than just wild parties and easy women. For all that it had been a distraction from endless emptiness of his life, it was more than that. It was a way to force his father to notice him, to take an interest. And although it had gotten him exiled to Smallville, it had still been successful. So it had been with all of his ventures – desire combined with purpose.

But standing there with Chloe in his arms begging him to love her, to let her love him, Lex was, for once, at a loss for the fortitude to focus on grand schemes or ulterior motives. The world could go to hell and take all that he’d worked for with it and it wouldn’t turn him from this unrelenting need that could only be sated together.

Logic fled, knowing that it could not prevail, and desire rushed to fill the void , and Lex let one dream briefly go to grasp, for just a moment, another far more precious. And before good sense could hope to rally, Lex swept Chloe up into his arms a made for the stairs.

Chapter Thirteen

As the last of their clothing fluttered to the floor, Lex was met with an immutable truth - Chloe Sullivan was breathtaking.

Not in the trite or banal manner with which the phrase was all too often used. No; as Lex gazed at the lush curves and tempting hollows laid out before him, the air momentarily caught in his chest. Her tousled hair spread out across the pillow, and the contrast of the golden waves and ivory flesh against the dark silk of the sheets was mesmerizing.

Under his heated stare Chloe could feel her skin pinken and couldn‘t prevent a brief moment of hesitation from whispering through her mind. It wasn’t Lex she doubted. She wanted him so badly, knew that this was right. It was herself. Deep inside Chloe worried that, with no memory of their previous times together, she wouldn’t know what Lex expected, what he liked, what gave him pleasure. She worried that she would disappoint him.


A small sigh escaped her as her arms moved without thought to cover herself. She hated feeling neurotic and took that as a good sign that she most likely wasn’t, in general, overly dramatic. In fact, the more she thought about it the more she realized just how foolish she was being.

Whatever else Lex was - friend, husband, entrepreneur - he was, first and foremost, a man. A man who was currently pressing a very flattering hardness against her thigh. There was no questioning that he wanted her, and as for learning what he liked, well, she could cite that as her extremely valid reason for ample practice.

“I’m sorry,” her lips curved wryly. “I’m blowing it, aren’t I?”

Seeing that the storm had passed, Lex’s own smile tilted in response. “You could be,” he replied suggestively.

Shaking with laughter she reached up and pulled Lex down, winding her arms around him and whispering into his ear, “God, I love you.”

As her voice penetrated the sensual fog created by the crush of her breasts against his chest, Lex couldn’t prevent the small roll of his hips as humor fled and intensity returned in response to her words; to her utter belief in them.

Crushing her mouth under his, Lex swallowed Chloe’s low moan as his hand slipped between them to palm her breast. Long fingers skillfully found the tightening nipple and gently tugged it into a peak. His lips left hers to trail soft, reverent kisses across her jaw and down her neck until finally they met and replaced his fingers, drawing the taught nub into the warmth of his mouth.

Chloe’s hands flew to Lex’s head, wanting to prolong the sensations he was creating. She was almost glad that she had no personal memory of this as every touch, no matter how brief, how slight, was overwhelming in its newness and fervor. Her small sound of discontent as he pulled away ended in breathy gasp of pleasure as Lex merely moved to lavish her other breast in equal measure.

Lex increased the suction of his mouth at the erotic sounds that spilled from Chloe’s lips. Every murmur urged him onward and he savored the sweet sounds of her ardor. Her responses, so honest and genuine, were unlike anything he’d ever experienced in his years of ill fated romances with woman who wanted so many things, but never just him.

Tasting a path over the smooth planes of her stomach, he reached the silky curls at the juncture of her thighs and paused to look up at her. Seeing the stark anticipation swallow any trepidation she was still harboring was all the encouragement he needed as he gently opened her legs and settled between them.

The scent of her arousal hung heavy in the air and he breathed deep the proof of her need for him. Drawn like a magnet to the moist heat before him, Lex placed a tender kiss upon her before sweeping his tongue across her. His harsh groan rivaled hers as her taste, hot and tangy, burst through him.

Chloe’s hips rose up to meet the steady thrusts he was making, and Lex was forced to grasp them and anchor them to the bed to prevent their movement from disrupting such a thoroughly enjoyable past time. Her frenetic motions gave him momentary pause to wonder if it was simply the absence of any specific memory of sex that made her so hyper sensitive to his ministrations, or whether it had been so long since Chloe had enjoyed such attentions.

The idea of her with another man made his stomach clench and so he tuned out that choice in favor of another, far more satisfying explanation - maybe it was being with him specifically that made her so ravenous for his touch.

And that thought made him ache with hardness and he couldn’t wait a second more to be inside of her. Sliding up over her body, scorching flesh against flesh, he settled above her, his firm length pulsing against her. Looking down into her flushed and radiant face, Lex found himself hesitating. The trauma of his earlier ordeal, the soul soothing confession of her love, and the heady intoxication of her body so ripe and ready for his own combined to making stopping a near impossibility. But he wondered if maybe-

“Lex, please.”

And with that achingly heartfelt plea he was done in and he plunged deep inside her. She was like liquid fire as she tightened around him and he longed to sink further into her. He stilled himself instead, unsure of her readiness to proceed and loathe to cause her any pain.

Chloe, however, had no such concerns and arched her hips forward until Lex slid into her fully. Her eyes slammed shut as she felt herself stretch to accommodate his not unimpressive size. But it was more than worth the small discomfort as, for the first time since her accident, she truly felt whole.

At Chloe’s clear sign of readiness, Lex could no longer hold back and began to move within her. Setting a slow and steady rhythm, he allowed all of his misgivings to slide away as he sought to ensure the return of the limitless pleasure she was giving. Slightly shifting the angle of his thrusts, Lex was rewarded with a sharp cry from Chloe and he felt her hands grab his hips and urge him faster.

She buried her face in his shoulder as, suddenly, the sensations assailing her, lifting her higher and higher, crested, leaving her hanging for a dazzling eternity in a bliss so intense that everything faded save for the feel of him filling her and the raw strains of her voice.

“Love you. I love you.”

That was all it took to send Lex, too, falling over the edge as spasms of ecstasy rocked through him. His arms could no longer hold him above her and he collapsed, careful to land to the side of her before gathering her in his arms and pulling her flush against him.

The exhaustion of the day had clearly taken its toll on her as she managed only a brief yet blinding smile as she snuggled into him and her heavy lids slid closed. As Lex was about to join her he heard her words of love whispered once more across his chest before her breathing deepened and evened out and sleep, which had been poised to envelope him, slipped from his grasp.

He’d just made love to Chloe Sullivan. Chloe Sullivan, not Luthor. Not his wife, not even his friend. But now most definitely his lover.

He’d never meant for things to go so far, to become so serious. Of course he’d known that what his original plans had been, affording them the greatest of leeways, ethically dubious. But it hadn’t been irreparable. Sure, it would have garnered Chloe’s enmity for all time, but it wouldn’t have broken her. She was too strong for that. But this…

She’d said she loved him. And she’d meant it. From every fiber of her being Chloe had radiated love for him. And though it might damn him to hell to admit it, he couldn’t bring himself to regret that fact.

Taking advantage of her injuries, the lies, the deceptions, all of it he could find it somewhere in him to repent. But knowing that a woman as amazing, as wonderful and giving as Chloe could honestly care for him, love him; he just couldn’t bring himself to lament such an extraordinary gift. It had been too long since someone, anyone, had loved him and he hadn’t honestly been certain that he was still able to inspire that emotion.

The heat from the soft body curled into him was drugging and sleep was once again tugging at his mind as the twists and turns of his thoughts wore him down. As his eyes closed he resolved that morning would see some kind of change. For all that Lex knew that he was a bastard, he’d never considered himself a sadist. Although Clark’s secret still eluded him, he had a number of new leads to follow, and while he could use the analogy of a soldier’s battle wounds to justify Chloe’s kidnapping, there was little that would possibly excuse him using her in such a personal manner.

But those were issues for the new day. And, knowing that nothing could be accomplished that night, Lex allowed himself to enjoy the twining of their bodies; the closeness of a women who truly cared for him. Remorse was for the morning; this night was meant for peace.

Chapter Fourteen

A week. Seven days since that fateful night that had changed his relationship with Chloe irrevocably and Lex Luthor sat in his office just as confused as he had been the morning after. And he hated it.

That night he’d let himself have something that he had refused for so long to admit that he needed, and now he found himself unable to give it up.

He had sworn to himself as he’d held her that the next morning would see a change in the state of affairs; and it had, just not in any of the ways he’d considered. Instead of stepping up his plans and bringing the situation to a swift end or, at the very least, putting some emotional distance between the two of them, he found himself drifting further and further away from his original goal and closer and closer to the blissful contentment he found with Chloe.

She was fast become a necessity in his life and that made her a weakness. And with his time split between running a multinational conglomerate, fending off his father, and the unending battle raging with Clark, any vulnerability was unacceptable.

The one thing he could be grateful for, in what was fast becoming a train wreck in the making, was that there wouldn’t be complications in the form of a child from the alteration in their relationship.
He’d been fortunate in that he knew for certain they were both healthy and that birth control was seen to; not that that excused the risk. As first the son of a powerful man and then a powerful man in his own right, he could never be safe enough when it came to sex. His use of condoms was a near paranoid self-dictate that had been overlooked in the tumult of their first night, but not in the nights since. With his genes and Chloe’s amnesia, pregnancy was a disaster that didn’t bear contemplating.

When he’d first decided to keep Chloe for the time it took to unearth Clark’s secret, he’d had her medical records tracked down and discreetly copied. Although he knew that the fallout from his actions would be massive, he’d definitely wanted to mitigate whatever damages he could while still achieving his goal and that had made Chloe’s physical well being a prime concern. And so he’d sought out information on possible health concerns she might have had, so that any treatment could be continued.

Recent records had shown that Chloe had an on going prescription for birth control pills and was receiving monthly B-12 shots. He’d been surprised by the contraceptive measures, knowing that Chloe was neither in a relationship nor promiscuous, but his doctors had determined that they primarily appeared to be a regimen to regulate her cycle and that pregnancy prevention seemed to be of secondary concern.

Chloe also had an as needed prescription for a migraine medication. He couldn’t help but note with satisfaction that, although he’d kept some on hand, she hadn’t had even the stirrings of a headache since her accident. It confirmed his belief that her life was too stressful. Just one more thing that wouldn’t have even remotely concerned him 2 months ago, but now bothered him immensely.

It was unacceptable.



And yet he was at a loss as how to change it. Ever since he’d woken with Chloe in his arms he’d felt a sense of completion he’d never imagined could exist and so he’d never known what he’d been missing or how badly he’d ache to keep it.

He’d watched her. For an hour he’d simply held her in his arms and drank her in. She was soft and warm and comforting and while he could clearly see the harm in indulging in any fantasies of happily ever after, he couldn’t keep himself from savoring the moment.

But he’d forced himself to regain some perspective. What had happened was the result of a kind of post traumatic stress on both their parts. Chloe had turned to him because he was all she had in her world and she’d almost lost that. And he’d more than reciprocated because in a moment where near death still clung to him, Chloe’s love made him feel alive in ways he’d never known.

When her eyes had slowly fluttered open, clinging to the last vestiges of sleep, and her still slightly swollen lips had curved in a gentle smile, he’d felt the first tremor in the resolve he’d felt sure was iron.

But when those lips brushed his and whispered her love against them, his determination or lack thereof became irrelevant as Lex realized, with dawning horror, that the words that had come so easily to her wouldn’t even take shape within the confines of his mind.

Which was funny when he’d considered it. A week before the lie wasn’t necessary but, had he needed it, the words would have spilled from him with a seeming sincerity unparalleled. And yet now that his feelings, as jumbled and confused as they were, had become involved, he found he couldn’t utter that particular phrase had his life depended upon it.

The words in the absence of feelings gave him control. The declaration in light of them left him defenseless.

“It’s okay, Lex,” she said as she tenderly placed a finger against his lips. “You don’t have to say anything. It’s so hard for you. I don’t know if I remember or I just know, but it doesn’t matter. You’ve accepted me as I am; I can accept you, too.”

And in an instant it happened; his elaborate construction of stratagems and designs crashed to the ground.

The fact that she knew his limitations, acknowledged his daunting emotional reserve and embrace them as an intrinsic part of who he was, without question, shattered something inside him, something he’d managed to hold safe from her vows of love. Because without this unvarnished evidence of her depth of understanding he could allow himself to believe that she loved the illusion; the caring husband who stood by his injured wife. But now he knew. It wasn’t the lies she loved, it was the reality. It was the broken man whose damaged soul couldn’t even choke out three simple words.

With a frustrated sigh Lex forced his sightless gaze to focus again on the engineering report lying open on his desk. He’d wasted over an hour so far on his ever growing personal dilemma. It was time he couldn’t afford to spare and yet he was fairly certain that if he didn’t soon determine a resolution no work of any usable quality would be forthcoming.

And to make matters worse, and Lex had been taught by time and tragedy that matters could always be worse, Chloe had begun having more neutral dreams; memories of unremarkable events that demonstrated a growing inclination of her mind to access a more basic class of information.

“Do I know someone named Lois?”

The question froze his fork in mid air.

“I’ll take that as a yes, then.”

“You’ve remembered something?” He’d strove for casual, but even Lex could here the stiffness in his stilted words.

“Not exactly,” she answered looking for all the world like a child who’d just demonstrated some new and hard won talent to the adults around her. “I had a dream. But it wasn’t just a dream, was it? I do know a Lois, don’t I?”

As she related the rather benign dream of her and her cousin having coffee at what, from her somewhat bewildered description of the décor, could only be the Talon, Lex felt a pressure building in his chest. Dr. Heideman had told him that the appearance of mundane remembrances was a sign of the brains reconstruction of neural pathways to non-emergency areas of memory and was generally thought to be a precursor to a major recovery of memories. Although he could offer no timeline, the man was certain that Chloe would eventually see a complete absence of any mental deficit due to her injury.

It was what he’d wanted all along. Lex had never intended for Chloe to be impaired for life. But the fact that she was progressing so quickly disturbed him. And though he wanted to believe that it was because he hadn’t learned all that she knew about Clark, a small voice in the back of his mind taunted him with the incompleteness of that truth.

And so, as Chloe continued her ebullient description of every moment of her dream, Lex attempted to feign an appropriate enthusiasm and returned to eating a meal made tasteless by something he refused to name as anxiety.

And he’d maintained that self-deception until the previous evening.

Chloe hadn’t talked about his hostage experience since the night it had happened; the night his deceptions had begun to take on the beginnings of truth. The ordeal had been harrowing for them both in different ways and neither seemed eager to relive the draining experience.

But yesterday, as she’d reclined on the couch in his office, her silent company soothing as he poured over the excess of facts and figures that never quite seemed to fit into normal business hours, she seemed to have finally come to terms with the near tragedy enough to address something that had clearly been weighing on her mind.

“Lex,” Chloe’s soft voice drew his attention from the papers before him. “That day…”

He didn’t need to ask which day she meant. Lex knew that there was only one in her limited memory that she would speak of with such hesitation.

“That day,” she started again, “something odd happened.”

“You mean besides my brief captivity and the unwarranted beating death of an innocent armoire.”

Lex could see that, although Chloe was willing to discuss that day, she was in no way ready to make light of it. Adopting a more somber expression he waited for her to continue.

“I was watching you walk into that building, so scared you’d never walk back out, and the one thought that burned through me was that I wished Clark was there.” Her eyes raised to meat his and he could see the confusion swirling in their depths. “Why would I want that, Lex, when what you’ve told me, what my own memories have shown me about him is so very alarming?”

Lex knew the answer to that, of course. Clark had an uncanny knack for showing up at the height of a crisis and bringing things to a swift resolution. No matter how much their relationship had deteriorated, Lex was man enough to acknowledge that Clark had saved them all more times than he could count…probably more times than he knew. It wasn’t any wonder that Chloe’s subconscious clung to that hope when danger had loomed.

Of course there was a difference between silent recognition and open approval. He’d be damned if he’d spend his evening deifying Clark. Whatever abilities the younger man had that allowed him to constantly play the hero also made him dangerous. Chloe’s own memories supported that.

But it was more than that, more than just a virulent dislike of Clark Kent. It wasn’t the customary dull throbbing that came with knowing that he was continually being lied to, constantly being judged and found wanting. No; this was sharp and stabbing. It was the heated lick of flames, burning across his mind, reducing all rational thought to cinders in its wake.

It was jealousy. And it caught Lex completely off guard.

Not because he’d never experienced the feeling before. He was human and his life was filled with more tragedy than a Russian novel; he’d been envious of many people over the years. Their family, their friends, their simple existence devoid of negative expectations; he’d longed for them all. And before he’d truly embraced his purpose, his place in life, he’d often pondered what life would have been like being a Queen or a Kent as opposed to a Luthor.

However this wasn’t that familiar sense of want, or some yearning for an abstract ideal he’d held in his heart. This was about Chloe; about his need for her. Not some nebulous concept of love, but the beautiful, passionate woman before him.

Lex didn’t want her thinking about Clark with anything other then the disdain he himself felt for his former friend. In fact he didn’t want her thinking of any other man at all. He’d been spoiled by being the sole focus of her attention for nearly two months and he was loathe to give that up, even if it were just to a vague memory.

Pushing those new and disturbing feelings aside, Lex set out to answer Chloe’s questions in a manner that would ease her mind without giving away his plans or the turbulent state of his emotions.

But those feelings didn’t go quietly and they refused to stay buried for long. And another night of passion and a morning of waking up wound tightly around Chloe hadn’t helped as, instead of any sense of reassurance, there was simply the inexorable ticking of the clock counting down the seconds until she was lost to him for good.

If there was one thing Lex despised more than confusion it was fear. But he could no longer deny the trepidation consuming him. In fact, the dread was so pervasive that the first thing he’d done when he’d reached the office that morning was to call Dr. Heideman.

Circumstances were changing; he was changing, and since Lex was at a temporary loss as to how to stop it, all he could do was increase his options so that whatever came about he was prepared.

“Dr. Heideman, Lex Luthor here.”

“Yes, Mr. Luthor?” The slightly nervous voice of Chloe’s primary physician came over the line.

“I have some questions about Ms. Sullivan’s memory.”

The word Sullivan felt strange on Lex’s tongue and it strengthened his resolve to follow through with his current line of inquiry.

“Of course. Although I really have no new information since I last examined her. As I said it’s impossible to predict when her memories–”

“Heideman,” Lex barked. He had very little time for blathering employees and absolutely none for those who were prattling on about things in which he had no interest. “I want to know if there’s a way to prevent her memories from returning all together.”


“Yes, doctor. Permanently.” Lex was already doubting his sanity in this matter, he didn’t need any questioning from his subordinates.

“Well, I’m really not qualified to even speculate on that topic, Mr. Luthor, much less give a definitive answer.”

Lex knew the man must have sensed his escalating impatience for he rushed onward.

“But, if it were possible, then Dr. Karlsson, the colleague I’ve been consulting in this matter, would be the best source of information as to how to go about such a procedure. I can contact him immediately.”

With a terse, “Do so.” Lex ended the conversation, unsatisfied and uneasy.

Lex ran a hand over his head in a gesture of weariness he rarely indulged as he contemplated the sheer impossibility of the endeavor he’d posed to Heideman.

Even if there were some procedure, even if the process had been medically achievable, the idea was completely infeasible. He couldn’t keep up the excuses forever; Chloe’s absence was already being far too keenly felt by those closest to her. And those very people would most certainly go to any lengths to secure her return. So the only way to keep her with him would be to hide her from the world indefinitely which, even were he inclined to try, Chloe would never accept. She was barely tolerating the restrictions the doctors had given her as it was, and he had the ruined furniture to prove it. She’d never go along with any plan that kept her a virtual prisoner in her own home.

Even without her memories, Chloe had a drive and a focus that had to be funneled into something productive. Right now that energy was directed towards cataloguing whatever information she could divine about her previous life. Lex knew she believed him unaware her activities, and though he was sure that some had escaped his attentions, his plans had demanded a substantial monitoring of Chloe at all times. He was informed of most of the moves she made.

Still, he’d been assured by Dr. Heideman that most of her activities were self-soothing in that they gave her the feeling of being proactive in her recovery while actually doing very little to actually jog any memories.

No, Chloe would never be the kind of woman who was satisfied to live a life of quiet luxury, ensconced in a gilded cage.

Which left Lex with two choices.

One, he could see his original plan through, using every moment left with Chloe to squeeze out what information could be had before her memories were restored.

Or two, he could go to her now, while her heart was full of her new love and her mind was empty of her old animosity, and he could tell her the truth. Well, he could tell her a version of the truth, carefully spun so that when she did finally recover, it would be difficult, but the situation with her would possibly be salvageable.

The latter seemed rife with so many hazards and pitfalls as to make it nearly impossible. And yet it was, by far, the more attractive of the two options for the former meant losing her for good. And that; that was a risk he was no longer willing to take.

Because finally, after all the weeks of togetherness; the days of cherished companionship, the nights of heated passion, Lex was ready to face the terrifying truth –

He was desperately in love with his wife.

Chapter Fifteen

Shrugging of his coat and handing it off to the ever efficient Haines, Lex wondered at the irony that he was finally home from the office and yet the day’s true work had only just begun.

It had been three days since he’d realized that he was going to have to tell Chloe some form of the truth while damage control was still a viable possibility. He would’ve liked to have been able to claim that he was waiting for the perfect time, the kindest moment to shatter her world; but he knew that wasn’t the case.

The truth was he simply wasn’t ready to let Chloe go.

This plan, his last ditch effort to salvage something of the amazing connection they had, was so fraught with disaster, so ripe with the possibility of failure, that he’d found himself wanting just a little more time to enjoy the wonder of having Chloe Sullivan as his wife.

But Lex knew even that, although accurate, was not the entire story. No, the truth was much darker. Although he’d known that it would be impossible for him to simply keep Chloe, regardless of his suggestion to Dr. Heideman, he had waited until he’d heard back from the man; until the eminent Dr. Karlsson had confirmed the futility of the idea before he’d faced, absolutely, that he would need to tell Chloe as soon as possible.

That phone call from Heideman had come the previous evening and Lex had lain awake, Chloe in his arms, the entire night crafting facts and fabrications into a construct of plausibility.

It had to be perfect. It had to be something that he might be unable to prove but neither would her true memory or those around her be able to definitively contradict. Most importantly, his story had to rouse enough sympathy in her to impel her to give him the time between then and the moment her memory returned to prove his love to her, to show her that her love for him was not some manipulation of her mind, but an inevitability inhibited only by the existence in their lives of Clark Kent.

He’d decided that the best course of action would be to use the one thing between them in which Clark was merely peripheral – their time fighting Lionel.

And even when Chloe regained her memories she would be unable to deny that that period in their lives, their struggles to right old wrongs, to survive a madman’s wrath, had created the kinship that had kept them in an unspoken state of détente even after all this time. It had engendered the kind of closeness that only life and death situations can, even for those who are subjected to them so frequently.

He planned to tell her that he had loved her then; that her bravery, her loyalty, her beauty of face and of spirit had set her so deep in his heart that he’d never been able to extract her. Oh, he was sure she’d have questions – demand to know why he’d never acted on those feelings – but he’d gone carefully over his options; choosing those that would both fit in with her memories as they reemerged and well suit those things she had learned about him over their weeks together.

He’d have to tell her why, if he’d honestly loved her, they had never been together. His answer would be simple and, had he genuinely developed feelings for her at the time, most likely true. Fear for her safety.

After explaining the things his father had done, the way he’d hurt and manipulated them, the attempts on their lives, he knew he’d be able to convince her that the risk of being with him was just too great. For both their sakes.

And her new insights into his character would only help to confirm his emotional reticence. Chloe was not only aware, but had completely accepted his vast limitations in matters of the heart. If anyone were willing to entertain the idea that he would love silently until, after years of suffering, fate gave him both the secure circumstances and the extraordinary chance to make right what he’d allowed to go wrong, it would be her.

Perhaps the hardest task, Lex acknowledged, would be her friendship with Clark. He knew that Chloe’s affection for his former friend was nearly indestructible; despite actions on both sides, including the odd revelations in Chloe’s dreams, that would have demolished a lesser bond. If he wanted to keep Chloe once her memories returned he would have to be honest about the matter now.

But, in his defense, he had fairly conclusive proof that his position was correct. Absent the overshadowing specter of his father in all his former glory, and without the cloying presence of her insanely over protective best friend, they had managed to find their way to each other, to fall in love. And Lex knew that that, their love, would be his strongest defense.

Even before he’d loved her, Lex had been more than aware of Chloe’s tireless propensity to love others. He’d watched over the years as that very fact brought her untold anguish, and he’d often wondered why she just didn’t give up on those so clearly undeserving of her endless emotional outpouring. But he’d finally come to realize, after he’d basked in that same love and concern, that it was simply who she was. It was intrinsic to her nature and she could no more shut off that part of herself than she could stop breathing.

And if it kept her with him, kept her in his life, he’d exploit that trait ruthlessly.

Steadying himself for what was, even if all went flawlessly, sure to be a draining ordeal, Lex entered his study where Chloe generally waited for him to arrive home.

Seeing her customary space in the corner of the large leather sofa on which she liked to read empty, his eyes searched the room for her. There, in front of one of the floor length panels of glass that overlooked the gardens, was her small figure, seeming lost in the view before her.


She turned slowly, the movements displaying a concentrated effort that caused Lex a brief flutter of anxiety. Anxiety, however, quickly transformed itself to full scale worry as her gaze finally met his own.

Tears spilled from wide, pain filled eyes following the path of what appeared to have been many predecessors. As if her stillness had been restraining her anguish, it was suddenly brought forth and her body trembled with its force.


The anxiety that had grown to worry was fast becoming overwhelming dread as he rushed towards her. And as she flinched at his nearness, the dread became a choking sense horror that settled over his heart.

He was so close to her now; close enough to see the strains of gold in her mossy eyes, close enough to see the truth seep through the cracks in the windows to her soul.

She knew.

“I just wanted some coffee,” her voice was as hollow, as broken as the rest of her. “It was so good, and I thought ‘Why couldn’t Lana ever make it like this?’. And then it was all there. All that nothing and suddenly – everything.”

Lex’s head was spinning and he couldn’t seem to pull enough air into his lungs. He hadn’t been ready for this; hadn’t prepared. He needed more time with her, to fix this, to make it right, to be with her. Lex Luthor wasn’t a man geared for desperation, but at that moment it was all he had; all he was.

“You have to believe me, Chloe,” he ignored the cringe as his hand reached out to her. “I was on my way home to tell you everything.”

His movements seemed to pull Chloe from her dazed state of shock.

“Believe you? Believe you?!” She could feel the hysteria bubbling up inside of her, but was helpless to contain it. “I wouldn’t believe you if you said the sky was blue, if you said water was wet, if you said never trust a Luthor – Oh, wait,” her voice was brimming with scorn, “I guess you’ve proven that last one fairly conclusively.”

Lex moved again but Chloe was ready and lurched unsteadily out of his reach. She couldn’t bear to have him touch her. If he did she knew that she’d crumble into a million tiny pieces and she couldn’t let that happen. She didn’t know how anything could ever be okay again, but she was certain that any chance there was involved getting out of there, getting back to–

“Oh my God.” The blood slowly drained from her face, leaving her a sickly pale. “Everybody must be frantic.”

Lex was worried about Chloe’s sudden pallor and the slight sway of her body but resisted reaching for her again. He needed to explain things to her, to make her understand. And that couldn’t happen if he was chasing her all over the room.

“No, they’re alright. Everyone’s okay. They’re under the impression that you’re investigating a story.”

The small amount of relief that his explanation brought her was drown in a wrenching sob as her mind played out the full ramifications of his words.

“A story?” Soft and shattered, the question was harder than she’d ever though possible, yet not as difficult as the next. “My internship?”

This time Lex didn’t even try to stop himself as he stepped forward and caught her arms.

“It’s waiting. Whenever you’re ready it’s there,” he assured her. “I’d never do that to you, Chloe. They’re holding it for you; don’t worry.”

The harsh sound of her incredulous laughter broke on a disconsolate cry.

“Don’t worry?” She couldn’t believe this was happening to her. Not again. Not when she’d worked so hard to earn everything this time around. “You’ve made sure that, once again, I have a job at the Daily Planet because someone pulled some strings.”

She couldn’t even find the strength to struggle against his hold. “You’ve ruined everything.”

His hands tightened convulsively and Lex swallowed hard at the thought that she might be right. The idea that the plans he’d made hadn’t been thorough enough, that he’d missed something because he hadn’t understood when this had started how much she deserved all of his focus, all of his care; the thought that she’d lose her dreams because of his miscalculation was unendurable.

Feeling Chloe tremble under his hands, Lex put an end to that line of thought. Things would be fine, and if they weren’t he’d make them. He had power and influence and more money than most of the world’s governments. Chloe would have her place at the Daily Planet if he had to buy the damn thing for her.

“Chloe, I never meant to–”

“Never meant to what, Lex?” Fire replaced the lethargy in her veins and she struck out blindly against him. “Never meant to hurt me? To lie to me? To ruin my life? What was it that you never meant to do?”

Seeing the streams of silver trailing down her pale cheeks as sobs wracked her small form leveled something inside Lex and, ignoring her ineffectual blows, he pulled her into his arms. He merely tightened his hold in response to her struggles and, finally, he felt her strength leave her in a rush.

Although she was silent and appeared calm in his arms, Lex still held her close against him. The notion that this might be the last chance he had to do so flashed through his mind but he pushed it out with all the other thought he couldn’t afford to entertain.


The question was muffled but to Lex it boomed in his ears with the echo of impending doom. He tried to focus, reminding himself that her memory return was always in his plans; that the half-truths he’d devised would still work. But as he was ready to give them voice her sad eyes, tired and reddened from so many tears, crept up to meet his gaze.

“Oh God,” Chloe shuddered and for one, terrible moment was afraid she might be ill. “It’s Clark.”

She watched as Lex tried to cover up his moment of shock – the fleeting widening of his eyes, the slight tightening of his mouth. It was rare to see, but apparently even Luthor’s had their tells. Never in her life had Chloe so hated her beloved truth than at that moment, when she understood that not only was everything she’d believed a lie, but that it hadn’t even been lies about her.

If she’d been Lana, Chloe knew that all of it – Lex, the kidnapping, the marriage – would have been some twisted attempt to win her love. But she was Chloe, so it was all about Clark.

She was so tired she couldn’t think for it. The only thought she could hold was that she couldn’t be there; she needed to leave.

“Let me go.”

The words carried a wealth of meanings for Lex. Let her go. Out of his arms, out of his life. It didn’t matter; he wasn’t sure he could grant her either of those requests.

His eyes pierced hers with a frantic distress he didn’t even attempt to hide.

“I love you.”

She reeled back as if she’d been struck and only too late did Lex realize the cruelty of his words. When she’d longed for them he couldn’t bring himself to utter them. Now that he could they were like daggers he’d thrust into her heart.

Unwilling to twist them any further, Lex forced his arms to release her; made himself step away.


Chloe watched as her words were met by a blank and impenetrable look far more common to Lex than his previous alarm. She could almost see him gathering his thoughts, building his resolve and she knew she had to act. She had to leave before his clever, agile mind took everything in and devised some new torture, some plan of attack she couldn’t possibly hope to fend off in her current condition.

“I want to go home.” She could feel the last of her reason, her restraint, slip away. “Give me some goddamn keys!”

Lex knew she was distraught, but she’d have to be mad if she thought he would let her drive in her present state.

“You aren’t in any shape to drive.” He walked over to his desk and picked up the phone. “I’ll have Mitchell take you.”

“No,” she all but shouted. “I don’t want anything more from you.”

He felt his jaw clench and his hands hovered over the phone’s buttons as he forced out a tight reply.

“I’m not going to let you kill yourself just to prove something to me. You want to leave here,” his tone was uncompromising at best, “it will be with Mitchell. Take it or leave it.”

Chloe could feel herself shaking, but knew that this time it was with rage.

“Fine,” she spat. “Anything that gets me away from you.”

Disregarding everything except the fact that he’d succeeded, Lex put the call through, ordering his driver to bring the car around immediately. In the brief moment that task had required, Chloe had already made her way over to the door.


The sound of her name from his lips froze her hand on the cool polished metal of the knob.

“This isn’t over.”

He was wrong. She knew it with every fiber of her being. Because he was Lex Luthor and she was Chloe Sullivan and everything was, would always be about someone else.

“No, Lex” she choked on his name as she pulled the door open, “there was never anything to end.”

Chapter Sixteen

Clark was lying on the worn sofa in his loft…again. Staring at the ceiling…again. He wondered what had happened to his life. Then he remembered – it was in California; with Chloe.

He’d always been aware that Chloe was above and beyond when it came to best friends, but he’d never realized how much her presence filled up his life. And the hardest part of all – despite the loneliness, the restlessness, the sheer boredom – was that Lana was making it worse.

Not that she meant to. No, Lana had been there for him whenever he’d called her over the last two months. Both cautiously trying to reconnect, to perhaps rekindle some small part of the spark that had been extinguished during Lana’s disastrous relationship with Lex, they had been meeting regularly for coffee, lunch, the occasional movie. But instead of being overjoyed at this second chance with the girl of his dreams, he was finding himself more and more convinced that their painful breakup had been a blessing in disguise.

Of course he still cared about her. He would always consider Lana a friend. But it seemed that, recently, their conversations were shallow and unfulfilling, lacking any real depth or substance. And, looking back, Clark began to wonder if that had always been the case.

As long as Clark could remember, his conversations with Lana had centered primarily around their relationship. The years they’d spent dancing around their feelings had been marked by discussions filled with veiled allusions to their interest in each other, and when they’d actually gotten together their talks had been laden with fantasies about the future and bitter recriminations about the present in a never ending cycle that, by the time Lex had made his move, had clearly exhausted them both.

And so the more time that Clark spent with Lana, the more he was beginning to suspect that they couldn’t recapture their great love because it had been nothing but an illusion to begin with. And though a part of him was pained by the loss of his childhood dreams of a normal existence and the realization of so much wasted time, a larger part was glad that that period of his life, the folly of his youth, was finally being laid to rest.

Sadly, the downside of this new insight into his relationship with Lana was that it had come at the cost of hours and hours of monotonous and tedious heart to hearts. And it was those often stilted and awkward conversations that made him miss Chloe with an agonizing intensity.

He could barely remember the last time a day had gone by without at least hearing Chloe’s voice. Now he’d had been two months without that luxury. Well, if one didn’t count the message on her voicemail. A number which Clark pitifully acknowledged he had been pathetic enough to call, sometimes more than once a day, just hear her voice.

Not that they’d been out of touch. Chloe emailed him at least once a day; but her messages seemed distant and perfunctory, without the customary warmth that she brought to everything she did. It worried Clark, and he’d offered his assistance time and again just for the chance to see her and make sure that she was okay only to be graciously but firmly rebuffed.

And if her remoteness had worried him, her refusal to allow him to help her absolutely terrified him. He hadn’t realized until she been out of reach just how much he had come to rely on Chloe over the years. It wasn’t just that she knew his secrets and still remained steadfast beside him; it was that Chloe helped him make sense of things. When life seemed hopeless and overwhelming, Chloe’s tough love always pulled everything back into perspective for him. She was the grounding force in his peculiar reality and Clark was coming to understand that he’d taken that for granted for quite a while.

Worst of all was the fact that he was very afraid that he wasn’t any of those things to Chloe. Although he tried to be supportive of her, Clark was beginning to comprehend the painful fact that he had often been quite oblivious to the times when that very support was most urgently required. So often he’d been caught up in his own drama with Lana that he hadn’t recognized her need until her crisis was over and she’d found her comfort in someone else.

When she’d first left and these epiphanies had begun to bombard him, Clark had consoled himself with the fact that, even if he had been emotionally deficient in their friendship, he’d always been there for her when the chips were down and she needed someone to have her back, to save her. He’d routinely been her first stop when she required a partner in crime. Only now he wasn’t. And that thought scared him in ways nothing else ever had.

What if she didn’t need him anymore? What if she was off investigating stories and tracking down leads all on her own because she preferred it that way? What if her minimal communication for eight awful weeks was her way of easing him out of her life? The thought of losing his best friend was unbearable and as each passing day increased his desire to have her home, his fear grew that Chloe was learning to live without him.

Clark’s morose musings were interrupted by the sound of a car making its way towards the house. Jogging down the stairs, he stepped outside to see a dark limousine approaching. The license plate read LC1 and Clark wondered what would bring either of the Luthor men to his door. With his mother in Topeka he doubted that, given his minimal tolerance of the man, Lionel would be eager to talk to him. And even less likely was a visit from Lex with whom he was engaged in outright hostilities.

On the verge of using his abilities to see exactly what kind of ordeal he was about to be subject, the vehicle came to a stop in front of him and the door flew open before the chauffer even had a chance to shut off the engine.

Utter shock held Clark still as, instead of either man he’d been dreading, Chloe exited the car. So grateful to finally see her again, it took a moment for him to recognize her distress. She looked exhausted. She’d clearly been crying and her body swayed slightly as she stood there, staring back at him.

Her unconcealed suffering broke through his astonishment and he moved quickly to her side. Before he quite made it, Chloe threw herself forward and into his arms. They closed automatically around her, and her obvious need for the warm embrace was the only thing that stopped him from dragging the driver out of the car and shaking him until he explained the traumatic state of his best friend.

Clark had seen Chloe cry before. They’d been too close for too long not to have shared some tears; but the only other time he’d watched her breakdown like this, witnessed such grief-stricken weeping was after the death of her father. He needed to know what had led her to this state once again, but could see that right then she didn’t need an interrogation, only reassurance.


Chloe wanted to say more, wanted to rant, to scream, to pour out everything; but in the familiar shelter of Clark’s arms her reserve finally shattered and all that escaped was his name and her broken sobs. Suddenly she felt herself picked up and held tight as Clark turned towards the loft. The sound of the car pulling away rang in her ears and she wept all the harder at the realization that it was over; her life with Lex was truly at an end.

He lowered them both to the couch and as he began to rub her back in a gentle, soothing motion, Chloe was thankful that, for once, Clark seemed to understand intuitively what she needed from him. Slowly, as the minutes passed, her breathing calmed and her tears began to dry.

“Chloe?” Clark asked hesitantly, desperate to know what had hurt her but afraid to upset her all over again. She nodded silently against his chest and he took it as a sign to continue. “What happened?”

A choked sob was his only answer until Chloe finally managed a single, whispered word that chilled him to the depths of his soul.


Chloe heard her voice break on the name and wasn’t sure that she could say any more. Weighed down by the fatigue of gaining and losing a life in an instant, all she wanted was to sleep for hours, maybe days. She just wanted to wake up and find this had all been a dream; but the fact that she wasn’t sure which life she wanted to awaken to find brought new tears to her eyes.

She heard Clark curse above her and the foreign sound was as shocking as his next question.

“Lex was with you in California?” He didn’t understand why on earth she wouldn’t have mentioned something like that in her emails.


Clark’s stomach fell as her genuine confusion penetrated his mind and the ramifications roared through him.

If Chloe hadn’t been in California then all of those messages from her talking about stories and leads on the west coast had been fake. If someone had been lying about her being there it was because they had a vested interest in keeping her real whereabouts a secret; and the dark possibilities of what that interest was and where Lex came in made him almost fearful of the explanations to come.

As she began to shake anew under his hands Clark wondered if maybe he wasn’t the best comfort for her at that point. After all, no matter how deeply he cared for her and how close they’d been for years, he still was a guy and he was cursed with all of those guy limitations that would eventually show through and make him say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing.

“Chloe, do you want me to call Lois? Or Lana? I know they’d come over as soon as they heard you were home.”

Chloe’s head snapped up and Clark was taken aback by the wild shaking of her head.

“No!” Chloe knew she sounded desperate, but she needed him to understand before he did something stupid on her behalf that couldn’t be taken back. “Clark, you can’t call them. They can’t know anything.”

She could see that he was going to argue with her and she was simply too weary to consider the prospect. As much as she would have loved to have had Lois’ ever supportive shoulder to cry on, if her cousin knew that Lex had kidnapped her and kept her for two months she’d never let it go until she understood why. And that was the one thing that Chloe could never tell her.

And, although she wasn’t yearning for Lana’s presence, the same held true for her the other girl. Clark was her best friend, and he was more than worth the effort, but his unique circumstances often had a way of narrowing her options.

“Clark,” she reasoned with the last of her energy, “it’s too dangerous to tell them. Your secret…”

As she trailed off and her head fell against him once again, Clark thought he might be sick.

His secret.

Lex had taken her to learn his secret. All the times he had worried about putting Lana in danger by sharing his true identity came back to mock him as he realized that it had been Chloe at risk all along and he’d never really taken any steps to prevent it. He went to her with all of his troubles no matter how hazardous and let her help with all of the solutions no matter how risky.

The fact was that he’d been so happy to finally have someone to share that part of his life with, a confidant who was so exceptionally enthusiastic and supportive, that Clark wondered if maybe he hadn’t pushed those thoughts away on purpose to be able to keep her. It wasn’t a possibility of which he was particularly proud and, in light of his recent revelations about Chloe and this new development with Lex, Clark thought he might choke on the guilt swelling within him.

And suddenly the reality of it all began to set in. Two months. Clark’s jaw tightened as anger warred with his remorse at the thought of the damage that a Luthor could do it that amount of time. Despite every principle his father had instilled in him, he wanted nothing more than find Lex, beat every detail out of him and then break him into a thousand pieces for the way he’d obviously hurt the woman in his arms desperately trying to hold back her tears.

Chloe could feel the muscles beneath her bunch as Clark’s entire body clenched. It didn’t require any great leap of logic to see where her friend’s mind was headed.

“I’m so tired, Clark,” she whispered as she looked up to find a pain that mirrored her own. “Please, stay here. Don’t leave,” she begged, “please.”

Before her mind could even comprehend the change, Chloe found herself in the Kent’s home, tucked snuggly into Clark’s bed. Unable to struggle against the lure of sleep any longer, she drifted off with Clark’s promise hanging in the air.

“I won’t leave you, Chloe.”

Chapter Seventeen

Chloe awoke to the tantalizing aroma of coffee wafting up the stairs. For a moment she savored the familiar scent until the memory of her last cup flooded her mind and her stomach turned at the smell.

Not ready to face Clark and secure in his promise not to leave, Chloe headed to the shower instead of the kitchen. She’d cried herself and ocean of tears and slept in her clothes. She felt gross on a multitude of levels and knew that the upcoming conversation would be hard enough without any added discomfort.

Stepping out of the shower she wrapped herself up in Clark’s ridiculously large robe and wondered why she hadn’t thought to have a shorter best friend. The thought brought a small smile to her lips until her eyes fell on the pile of green material lying haphazardly on the floor.

An outfit it would have taken her a year of saving to afford, bought because Lex told her it matched her eyes. And for a moment she wanted to tear the fragile fabric to shreds. Instead, she picked it up, smoothing out the wrinkles as best she could and folded it carefully, setting it on Clark’s dresser. It was the only thing she had left of her time with Lex. Except for her shattered heart.

Her eyes stung but she couldn’t afford new tears just yet. Not when there was still so much to be done.

She had to explain everything to Clark and find out exactly what kind of story Lex had told everyone to cover for her absence. Then, when that trial was over, she was going to have to figure out how to keep him from killing Lex. She’d never seen Clark as angry as he’d been last night; not even when Lana and Lex had started dating. And while his fury on her behalf was both sweet and flattering, she didn’t want him doing anything stupid.

Clark was usually fairly good at remembering not to use his powers. His parent’s reasonable paranoia and his dislike at being different generally deterred recreational use of his abilities. But Clark didn’t always make the best decisions when in the grip of strong emotions and she knew that if he ran off to confront Lex, what he didn’t end up exposing on his own, his former friend would manipulate him into showing.

And because all of those reasons were true, she chose to focus on them and not the fact that just the idea of Lex being seriously hurt by Clark made it difficult for her to breathe.

Clark had heard Chloe wake up and, despite his urgent need for answers, he’d waited while Chloe showered and, he assumed, gathered herself together.

He’d kept his promise to her and hadn’t left the house, but he’d been up all night alternately pacing the floors and returning to his room just to stare at her and convince himself that she was truly back.

He’d been plagued by countless scenarios during the night, each worse than the last, and by the time the sun lit the sky his head had been bursting with visions of dungeons and images of interrogations. Clark had wanted to wake her up, to demand to know what had happened to her, but he’d restrained himself. Partly because he could see that Chloe desperately needed the sleep, and in part because he was so afraid of what she might say.

It was killing him. Knowing that she’d spent two months at the mercy of a monster; that he hadn’t helped her, hadn’t even suspected something was wrong. When Clark remembered that he’d seen Lex at the Talon when Chloe had first disappeared he felt nauseous.

That Lex had sat there, drinking coffee with that superior smirk on his face while doing God knew what to his best friend had almost been the straw that had driven him out of the house. But it hadn’t. Looking back, Clark cursed himself for not sensing that something was wrong, for failing Chloe. He wouldn’t do so again. So he’d kept his promise and stayed.

Of course, his vow ended with the night and once he found out exactly what had been done to her, he had every intention of taking the matter up with Lex.

“Whatever you’re planning, stop.”

Clark whirled at the sound of Chloe’s voice. He’d been so caught up in his thoughts he hadn’t even heard her come down the stairs. She was wearing his robe and the large garment swallowed her smaller figure. She’d borrowed it a number of times before when she’d stayed over for various reasons and the sight of it had always brought a smile to his face; but, at that moment, it tugged at his heart to see her looking so tiny, so fragile.

“What makes you think I’m planning something?” It was eerie how well she knew him, Clark thought.
“Because you wouldn’t be Clark Kent if you hadn’t already come up with a hundred ways this was all your fault and decided only you could fix it” she told him bluntly.

Handing her a cup of coffee, Clark watched in surprise as, for the first time since he’d met her, Chloe waved off what she had once referred to as “the elixir of life”. Instead, she made her way to the sofa in the living room. Tucking her feet up beneath her she appeared even smaller than she had before and he found himself almost reluctant to join her now that the time for had arrived for his questions to have answers and his fears given voice. With a deep breath he followed, sitting on the other end; far enough away to give her space but close enough should she need his comfort.

“I broke into a LuthorCorp lab,” Chloe told him, deciding to get the confessional part of her story out of the way.

“What?!” He barked. “Why didn’t you call me? I could’ve-”

“Clark!” She interrupted him before he could wind himself up into a full blown lecture. “It wasn’t a meteor rock thing, or a Kryptonian thing, or even a standard Smallville bizarre type thing. It was just a lead I had for a story, so there didn’t seem to be a reason to bring in the big guns.”

Although she could tell he didn’t like it, she watched as he relaxed a little at being told her decisions was made only because he was overqualified for the job. Men, Chloe thought, just barely restraining an eye roll, were so very easy.

“I found the information I needed and almost made it out. Darn short legs.”

Clark would have smiled at the familiar complaint if it didn’t seem so much like a harbinger of doom.

“Some overzealous security guard caught up with me and showed me the exit face first,” Chloe winced slightly at the memory of hitting the steel door.

All those weeks struggling against the void that was her memory and there she sat, willing to give almost anything not to remember what came next; not to have to say the words.

“The blow to the head knocked me out for a while,” she ignored Clark’s small gasp, knowing that she wouldn’t get through the recitation if she had to stop to assuage his sure to be escalating shock. “When I woke up in the medical section of the lab I didn’t remember anything.”

“About the accident?” He asked.

“About everything,” her voice caught at the memory of the fear and confusion she’d felt when she’d awoken to find all that she knew erased. “I didn’t have any idea where I was, who I was. Blank; all of it.”

Chloe skipped the lengthy explanations she’d been given about her condition. Clark understood the basic concept of amnesia and, frankly, she wasn’t sure how much of what Lex’s doctors had told her was even true.

“Lex was there,” she swallowed heavily, pushing back the tide of emotions that threatened to smother her as she thought of what had happened next.

“Did he hurt you?” Clark’s kept his voice was soft and soothing even though he wanted to scream and break things; a temptation he feared would only increase as Chloe’s story continued.

“He said we were married.”

“What?” His hearing was exceptional. Super-hearing, Chloe always called it. But Clark was certain that it must not have been working properly, that he must have misheard her.

Chloe understood her friend’s shock, had experienced it first hand when she’d realized the extent of what Lex had done; but she almost hated Clark for making her say it again.

“He told me that he was my husband,” she clarified, “that we’d been married almost two months.”

Of all the possibilities that Clark’s mind had spent hours conjuring, what Chloe had revealed hadn’t even been a consideration. It was incomprehensible, it was unbelievable and for the life of him he just couldn’t understand –


Chloe understood the question. She had a lot of those, too. Why did Lex have to take his ruse so very far? Why did he have to make her love him? Why had he been so cruel as to tell her he loved her? But instead of letting those mysteries consume her she focused on the answer Clark was seeking.

“He told me about you; said you were my best friend but that we’d been fighting because you didn’t approve of my relationship with Lex.” The day before that had been her reality and it was so hard for her think of it now as a lie. “He said you were out of control and because of your erratic behavior we’d decided to keep our marriage a secret.”

Even without looking at him, Chloe could feel Clark’s tension as his anger mounted. She hoped he could keep it in check because it was all she could do to deal with her own tangled mass of emotions; she just didn’t have the energy right then to be Clark’s therapist.

Realizing that he’d managed to rein his temper in, Chloe continued. “He said,” she took a deep breath, “he said that we’d had some kind of fight that day; that I was scared of you, hysterical. He told me he was worried and that I had to tell him if I remembered anything that could help him deal with you – anything strange or out of the ordinary.”

And suddenly Lex’s plan came into focus with a crystal clarity.

Lex had filled Chloe’s mind with fears and then waited for her inevitable memories of his bizarre behavior to surface so he could pluck out the secrets Chloe had always so jealously guarded on his behalf.

It was odd; all those years of hiding who he was and what he could do from Lex and at that moment he could care less what the other man had learned. Whatever it was he would deal with it later. But Chloe; Chloe needed him now.

When he’d first learned that she’d been with Lex, he’d imagined the third degree in a small holding cell or captivity in some laboratory. When she said that Lex had, instead, fabricated some tale of a marriage between them he’d been shocked and horrified, but it was only just beginning to sink in exactly what that meant; how horribly Lex could have taken advantage of her.

“So you lived with him as his wife?”

“Yes,” her voice was hardly more than a whisper. The memories of her time with Lex were so sharp that she missed the barely leashed violence in Clark’s question.

“Did he touch you?”

Her stricken gaze flew to his. She knew that she should have anticipated the question; but she hadn’t let her own mind drift back to those beautiful nights in the arms of the man she thought had loved her, much less steeled herself to share those memories with Clark.

“That son of a bitch!” Clark didn’t need her words to confirm what he could so clearly read in his eyes. “He raped you.”

“No!” It erupted from Chloe before she could consider what her answer would reveal. But she couldn’t lie to Clark. Lex’s cold and callous plan had been unforgivable, but she didn’t think he’d meant for it to go that far.

“He didn’t– We didn’t–” with a deep shuddering breath, Chloe tried again. “Nothing happened until a little over a week ago. There were extenuating circumstance; things that–”

“You’re defending him?” The minute the words left his mouth, Clark cringed at his stupidity. Chloe was hurt and confused and had literally begun shivering with the strain of reliving the whole experience and he knew that his thoughtless accusations would only cause her more pain.

“I’m sorry, Chlo,” shifting closer to her Clark pulled her into his arms, unable to bear the sight of the new tears sliding silently down her face. “I’m being a complete jerk. It doesn’t matter what happened.”

Chloe burrowed into the warmth and acceptance Clark offered. No matter how much she slept she didn’t ever think she’d feel rested again and the temptation to simply float away in the arms of someone on whose caring she could absolutely reply was almost too much for her too resist.

And yet she had to.

“Clark,” she mumbled into his chest knowing that he could hear her perfectly, “it does matter. There were things I remembered about you. Things I told…” a small sob choked her for a moment, “Lex.”

Holding Chloe tighter against him, Clark was torn. It had been ingrained into his very subconscious that his powers, his origins must remain hidden at nearly all cost. But, for the first time in his life, without the corrupting influence of red kryptonite, he found himself almost hoping that his secret was out. He wanted Lex to know what he was capable of so that he could personally demonstrate every lethal ability he possessed to the bastard.

“He doesn’t know about where you come from or the things you can do.”

Chloe’s assurance left relief and disappointment in its wake and Clark ran his hand softly through the silky, golden strands of her hair. “Then whatever it was wasn’t important.”

“It was.” She lifted her face to his. She needed him to grasp the gravity of what Lex knew. Even if she hadn’t given Lex what he’d wanted, she’d certainly confirmed some of his suspicions and most likely raised some new ones.

“I didn’t remember things like my best friend’s an alien. Things didn’t come back to me like that. In fact,” she was thoughtful for a moment, “most of my memories were just strings of images in disjointed dreams.”

It was hard for Chloe to force herself to focus on her dreams when everything seemed so unreal. But she knew that Clark needed to understand what he was up against and she had to find a way to keep him as far from Lex as possible.

“I remembered the summer I ran into you in Metropolis.”

Clark grimaced at her statement. She didn’t need to elaborate. He knew exactly the incident she was referring to. The way he’d treated her when she was nothing but concerned for him, the way he’d manhandled her still made him cringe. That Chloe had seen that side of him, knew that there was always a risk that it could reemerge, and still chose to let him into her life was something that he treasured. And the fact that Lex made her live that trauma all over again filled him with a hate the likes of which he’d never dreamed himself capable.

“And…” Chloe paused. There were other, minor bits of information Lex had gleaned from her that they’d have to go over, but those could wait. This was the most important thing he had plundered from her broken mind. “I had a dream of us, surrounded by snow and ice.”

“The fortress,” Clark breathed.

“No, I didn’t remember that part,” she rushed to ease his mind. “I didn’t have a lot of details. But,” she continued, “Lex isn’t stupid; he knows now that I lied, that you were with me that day.”

Clark was already shaking his head. “It’s not important, Chloe. I don’t care what Lex does or doesn’t figure out right now.” Large hands gently wiped new tears away. “All I care about is that you’re home. You’re safe now and I won’t let anything happen to you again.”

His drying her tears had been wasted as they only fell harder with the realization that Clark wasn’t angry, wasn’t worried, and regardless of the rage she could feel inside of him for Lex, she could see that he wasn’t going to do anything right now that would add to her agony.

As she rested against him, listened to the strong beat of his heart under her ear, she released all of her worries, all of her concerns, if only for a little while. And, finally, Chloe stopped taking care of Clark Kent and let him care for her; trusted that he could carry the heaviest of her burdens for a brief time.

“I loved him”

It was the single greatest act of cruelty Clark had ever beheld. Of all the lies Lex could have told her, all the ways he could have used her, he simply couldn’t have chosen one more damaging to her very soul.

Chloe never loved halfway. When she gave her heart it was with the same exuberance with which she approached all of life. And Clark knew that, even if she’d had no idea of her identity, no memories of herself or her past, she would still have been, basically, Chloe. And Chloe, basic or otherwise, could never just shut her feelings off, regardless of how bad things got or how much she wanted to.

It was a trait he would have cursed if it hadn’t kept him in her life after so many of his selfish blunders.

“It’ll be okay, Chloe. It’ll take time but I swear it will get better.”

She closed her eyes and let herself pretend that she believed him. But already she was wishing that the arms that held her, the voice that soothed her belonged to someone else. And, deep down, Chloe knew that Clark was wrong – time wouldn’t make this better; nothing would.

Lex studied the amber liquid in his glass as he contemplated the myriad of errors he’d made over the previous months. Somehow the only regret he could arouse was for the mistake of letting her go.

All else he’d done, each lie told, every sin committed had given him Chloe to love; had brought her love in return. He couldn’t lament that; wasn’t even sure why he’d invest any effort in the attempt.

Right now she was furious. She had every reason to be. If someone had done to him even half of what he had to her, he would have ensured that it was the last miscalculation they ever made.

But Chloe was nothing like him.

It was what had drawn him in, captivated him; the truth that he’d overlooked so long. Chloe was an infinite wellspring of love and hope. It was her very nature to care and, because her love for him had been genuine, despite how it had come about, it remained. Lex knew it with every fiber of his being. And what’s more, he was certain that Chloe knew it, too.

So he’d give her time. He’d let her pass through her shock and disillusionment until she realized the true depths of her feelings underneath.

And he suffered no delusions as to where Chloe would go during this process; to whom she would turn. But it by no means meant that he approved of her choice. Honestly, the very thought sent such waves of savage hatred pulsing through him that he might have actually killed Clark had he been sure of exactly what it would take to do so.

With far more force than necessary, Lex slammed his glass on the table before him. It was that or have it shatter in his hand. Flipping open his phone he punched out a number he knew well.


“She’s at the Kent farm.” There was no need for excessive details. Spencer had the dossier Lex had sent, and there was no one better in this particular line of work. “Keep a wide distance from the house; she’ll be safe enough there. But when she leaves, stay close. I want to know every move that she makes.”

Ending the call, Lex tilted his head back and closed his eyes. It had been a long and exhausting night. He hadn’t been able to stomach the thought of going to the bed he’d shared with Chloe alone and, although he knew that he should probably relocate to either his penthouse in Metropolis or the mansion in Smallville, he couldn’t quite force himself to leave the one place he’d experienced a true sense of home in years.

Thoughts of Chloe filled his head as he remembered her words as she’d left the room he was loathe to vacate.

She’d said there was nothing between them to end. He knew that she believed it. He also knew that she was wrong.

It wasn’t over. He wouldn’t let it be.

Chapter Eighteen

Martha Kent stared at her son, her mouth slightly open in her shock.

Poor Chloe.

Clark could relate to the stunned look on his mother’s face; he was fairly certain he’d been wearing a similar expression since Chloe’s return five days before.

“Lex has had her all this time.” Martha still couldn’t believe it. Not that she doubted the truth of it, she’d just always had a soft spot for the young man who’d once been so close to Clark; it was hard for her to conceive of him doing something so damaging to someone as lovely as Chloe.

“And she still has feelings for him,” Clark burst out. “How can she still care about him after what he did to her?”

It felt good - giving voice to the frustrations that he couldn’t in front of Chloe, the words he could never say; because the last thing Clark ever wanted to see again was Chloe broken the way she’d been when she stepped out of that limousine.

“Clark,” she reached out and laid her hand comfortingly over his, “you know better than anyone how large Chloe’s heart is. She’s not the kind of person who can ignore her emotions; even if she has good reason.”

Martha watched as Clark squirmed at the unspoken reminder that Chloe had never been able to turn off her feelings for him. But she knew that, despite her son’s discomfort, it was time to address the elephant far too long in their midst. Chloe had done so much for their family and she wouldn’t let her suffer anymore if she could help it; and if that required gently knocking some sense into her oblivious son, well it was long overdue.

“So,” she said, subtly changing the focus of their conversation though not the topic, “how are things going with you and Lana?”

She knew that something had happened between her son and the beautiful brunette as he hadn’t so much as mentioned her name since she’d arrived home a few hours earlier; surely a record.

“I don’t think things are going to work out between Lana and me.” Clark ran a weary hand through his hair, “I just wanted a simple, ordinary life; like you and dad. But everything seems to have gone wrong.”

Shock burst through her and a small laugh bubbled up and spilled over. She didn’t want to hurt his feelings, but neither was she prepared to enable such a ludicrous delusion.

“Clark, honey, as deeply as your father and I loved each other, our life was hardly uncomplicated. The city girl and the farm boy is a cliché because it’s always rife with enough drama to fill a novel. And though it was well worth the effort, we were no different.”

She knew that Clark was aware of many of the difficulties that she and Jonathan had faced, but she was only just beginning to realize that in his mind they were an abstract footnote to what he saw as a perfect life, and she knew that if he didn’t contextualize the lessons to be found in their marriage then he would continue to make decisions based on completely unrealistic standards.

“Then we were blessed with the greatest son two people could ever hope for. “But,” she continued, smiling gently to remove any possible sting from her words, “he did happen to come to us by way of another planet.”

Seeing Clark’s small smile, she knew that he was taking in what she said instead of letting himself be distracted by his unease with his origins.

“The strength that your father and I had was never in being simple or ordinary. It was in our love; in knowing that we would be there for each other no matter what happened and regardless of whatever came our way.” Martha’s voice deepened as it filled with affection and grief in equal measure. “There was a faith, strong and unshakable, that no matter what mistakes were made we’d see each other through – no punishments, no lingering, silent reproofs; just loving support.”

Feeling Clark’s hand grasp her own, she experienced the sense of peace that always came with quiet moments with her son. She loved him so much, had since the first moment she’d laid eyes on him all those years ago, and she wished as all parents did, that she could give him the world wrapped in a bow. But she couldn’t. All she could do was try her best to help him discover what it was he wanted out of life and then trust that he had the strength and fortitude to achieve it.

“That’s what your dad and I had, Clark; and if that’s what you want then you need to do some hard thinking and ask yourself if that’s what you’re building with Lana.”

A small snort escaped Clark. He’d been doing little else but thinking about the relationships in his life over the last few months and had come to the sad conclusion that whatever he’d had with Lana would never lead to the kind of connection his parents had shared.

“Actually, that sounds more like me and…” His eyes widened as he trailed off.

“Chloe?” Martha asked, although she already knew the answer.

“Clark, you’re a good man and your father and I were always proud of you,” she assured him. “And, for the most part, we believed in letting you make your own choices, learn from your own mistakes.”

She turned her hand in his, wrapping her fingers securely around his.

“But Chloe’s been an extraordinary friend to you and she deserves the same. She’s going to need you right now; 100% of you.”

“Of course I’ll be there for her,” he exclaimed; shocked that there would even be a question.

“I know that you want to be, sweetheart; but you can’t do that until you figure out exactly what it is that you want from Chloe.”


“I’ve always cared for Lana, Clark. That’s not what this is about. But sometimes it seemed as though things like infatuation and a certain amount of physical attraction,” she smiled at his small blush, “took the place of a deeper, more enduring intimacy that’s the basis for truly sharing your life with someone…everything in your life.” Martha added significantly.

Hearing those thoughts whirling in his head for weeks had been bad, but hearing his mother spell things out so clearly was even more difficult and his shoulders slumped under the weight of finally having no choice but to reexamine all that he’d ever believe he’d wanted for his life.

“I know. I know,” he sighed the last. “These past months without Chloe, I’ve started to see things that I hadn’t really noticed before. I always thought it was just my secret that I couldn’t tell Lana. But it’s not; it’s everything.”

And truly, that had been the hardest revelation that Clark had had to face – that he wasn’t waiting to find the right words or the perfect time to tell Lana; he was just waiting. And he saw now that he never would have stopped because, on some level, he’d always known that what really drew him to her was the Lana he had created in his mind, and he couldn’t help but think that the reverse might be true. He’d never feared her betrayal, but he dreaded her revulsion.

“It’s just that,” he struggled for the right words, “Lana always made me feel like a regular guy – no mysterious origins, no dangerous powers, no crushing destiny. Just Clark Kent, small town farmer.”

“And Chloe?” She encouraged gently.

“With Chloe I’m always aware of who I really am. There’s no pretending, no hiding. But the funny thing is that I don’t mind. When Chloe’s around my differences don’t seem like such a burden; they feel like a gift.” His gaze drifted off and his voice took on a tinge of awe at the memory he often relieved. “She said I’m amazing.”

“And that’s why you keep leading her on.” Not a question or an accusation, just a simple certainty.

“What?” Clark cried. “No!”

“Son, I love you, but I’ve watched you with Chloe for years.” Although she knew that blame was generally a useless endeavor, Martha couldn’t stop a tinge of disappointment from coloring her words. “You know very well how she’s felt about you and yet you’ve persisted in sending her mixed messages.”

She pulled her hand from his; not to hurt him but because she knew that it was time for Clark to face his problems like the man she’d raised him to be. A process rarely aided by a coddling mother.

“You were able to play at being normal with Lana because you had the confidence in yourself and who you are that came with Chloe’s unwavering love. But is Lana honestly the woman that you want to be with or is she simply the mask you’ve worn over the relationship that you’ve been denying for years that you have with Chloe?”

Mind reeling at the implications of his mother’s words, Clark stared as both a sense enormity and rightness within him grew. In a moment it seemed as if his whole world had shifted and yet he knew that it was far more likely that he was just finally seeing it as it truly was.

“What do I do now?”

Martha rose and placed a comforting hand on her son’s shoulder. She knew what he was asking; what he’d finally come to understand. Sharing her final piece of motherly advice, she left him the space she knew he’d need to figure out what it all meant.

“You give her time. You be there for her as her friend. You do for her what she’s done for you for years.”

Clark rested once more on the sofa in his loft and for the first time in what seemed like forever things felt good; the future seemed…bright. So instead of his customary moping and brooding he found himself in the unusual position of anticipating what tomorrow might hold for him.

For so long he’d been trying to be what he thought Lana needed so that he could secure her love. In retrospect he wondered in maybe he hadn’t been terribly unfair to her to deny her the chance to accept him. But after the day that he’d taken back time and lost his father he hadn’t been able to completely silence that tiny whisper in his mind that said that no matter why Lana believed she needed to go see Lex that evening, subconsciously she might have done so because she knew that Lex would pick up on what she’d either been unable or reluctant to hide and demand the truth from her.

Of course he never thought for a moment that Lana would consciously betray him, which is also why he believed that she’d called to warn him when she’d realized how serious Lex was about punishing him for the years of secrets. But Lana was always a damsel in need of rescuing – largely by choice; and a part of him had come to accept that her actions may have been her way of compelling Lex to “save” her instead of having to face his alien heritage and the complexities it would bring to their relationship.

But Chloe; before she knew, after she knew, her love never changed. She loved him for who he was. She always had.

She always had.

And suddenly Clark was choked by an oppressive wave of guilt. All that time that Chloe had loved him, been there for him regardless of the bizarre circumstances that made up his life, and he’d used that love and acceptance to shore up his relationship with Lana. He didn’t understand how she could stand to look at him, much less be such a giving friend.

Hands clenching with resolve, Clark swore to himself that he would make it up to her; all of it. With Lana out of the picture and Lex no longer an issue, he could dedicate all of his energy to showing Chloe how much she meant to him. Whatever it took, however long she needed, he was committed; because finally Clark had realized what he should have seen years ago – Chloe was more than worth the wait.

Chapter Nineteen

Chloe stepped off the elevator onto the highest floor of the LuthorCorp building. The ludicrously expensive décor, clearly meant to intimidate all but its owners, was lost on her as she turned towards the office she knew that Lex now occupied.

Before she reached the large mahogany desk, at which she was certain she’d find a sleek and stunning brunette, she paused, leaning against a cool granite wall and desperately trying to prepare herself for the coming confrontation.

She wasn’t sure that she was ready for this; didn’t think she’d ever be. But, honestly, Chloe was getting tired of hiding.

No matter how reassuring Clark had tried to be, she knew that there would be no significant recovery to her heart in the near future. Her plan was far more limited in scope than her friend’s; she just wanted to piece together enough of the shattered fragments of her soul to be capable of pretending to be the person she’d been two months before.

She had the feeling that, so far, she’d been failing fairly miserably.

She’d called the Planet to let them know that she’d be back the following week, figuring that the cover Lex had provided would be good for another few days. Whatever he told them had been enough to ensure a warm welcome from her supervisor as well as sincere congratulations on her recovery. She didn’t worry about that mystery. Newspapers were a hot bed of gossip and the reason given for her absence would have certainly made the rounds; extracting the story from an unsuspecting colleague would be painfully easy.

She’d also forced herself to go out and have lunch with both Lois and Lana. The time with Lois was to soothe any worries her cousin might have concerning her time away and to try to determine exactly what story Lex had crafted for her so that she could keep up the charade.

The meeting with Lana was less urgent, as she knew that her friend had long ago resigned herself to Chloe’s journalistic bent and would be more than willing to believe that she had been caught up for weeks on end in chasing a story. Still, she cared about Lana, and didn’t want her to feel slighted if it became known that Chloe had returned home and hadn’t immediately called her.

Of course, there had been a small ulterior motive to her second foray into Smallville. During her lunch with Lois she’d had the eerie sensation that she was being watched. She could have chalked it up to any number of things – the stares that attractive women commonly drew, the simple curiosity that came with her sudden reappearance, the looks that, even after all her years in the small town, she still received as an outsider…a nosy outsider. Any one of those reasons would have explained the feeling that refused to go away. But the weirdness of her adolescence had left its mark and she was reluctant to dismiss all other possibilities out of hand; so she’d arranged a date with Lana.

Once she’d begun to indulge her paranoia she’d quickly come to realize that her anxiety hadn’t been unreasonable after all and, knowing what she was looking for, she’d identified the man trailing her before she and Lana had made it all the way across the park to the ice cream parlor for dessert.

It took no great leap of deduction to determine who was responsible for this newest intrusion in her life. Which is why she’d called Clark and told him that she and Lana had decided to spend the rest of the afternoon catching up and then grab some dinner and maybe see a movie. She hadn’t even gotten her phone back in her bag before she was on the road for Metropolis.

And there she stood, closer to Lex Luthor then she’d ever thought she’d be again; and the only thing she knew with any certainty was that she wasn’t ready for this. After a week of Clark’s endless comfort and support, Chloe had thought she could handle this. Now, with just a few walls between them, she knew she’d been wrong.

Pulling in a deep breath, she squared her shoulders. It had to be done. She wouldn’t let Lex have anymore of her life than he’d already taken.

Lex tossed the file he’d been reading on his desk as he heard loud, angry voices approach the large doors of his office. Most businessmen would worry about professional rivals or disgruntled employees, but his security had improved over the years and those generally weren’t pressing concerns for the young tycoon.

But Lex wasn’t most businessmen, and he rose from behind his desk, reaching towards the drawer containing a small firearm. He’d learned after far too many run in with meteor freaks that, when in doubt, shoot first and create plausible deniability later. However his hand froze on the handle as his secretary rushed in chasing a blonde he hadn’t dreamed he’d see so soon.

“You can’t go in there,” the brunette practically shouted.

As his gazed clashed with Chloe’s, he watched as she came to a sudden stop. The woman behind her took advantage of her adversary’s distraction and moved to grab her arm.

“Don’t touch her.”

The words whipped across the room and filled his startled employee with a cold terror as she instinctively stepped back in response to the menace they contained.

“Miss Sullivan’s visits are always to be given the highest of priorities.”

Lex spoke to his secretary, but Chloe felt sure the message was for her. It was as confusing as her jumbled feelings at seeing him again and she strove with everything in her to push all her emotions down as deep as they could go so that she could do what needed to be done and then go home and cry herself to sleep as she had for days.

“Of course, Mr. Luthor.”

The exquisite woman beside her seemed nearly as mystified as Chloe was herself and, even in such wrenching circumstances, she found herself almost smiling at the forlorn figure she made as she exited the office. But all humor fled as the sound of Lex’s voice once again filled the space.

“Chloe,” Lex said warmly, a softness filling his gaze. “This is a lovely surprise.”

Her eyes closed and she forced back a small gasp of pain as she remembered the last time he’d said that to her – the night that they’d recreated their imaginary first date. Her utter gullibility galled her anew and despite Clark’s insistence that none of it was her fault, she shook slightly with the shame that she, the future Daily Planet star reporter, hadn’t been able to figure out that every facet of her life was a lie.


Her eyes snapped open just in time to see that Lex had moved from behind his desk and was reaching out to steady her.

“No!” Chloe threw her hands out, desperate to ward him off as she stepped back. Her body recognized his as safety and comfort no matter how her mind screamed to the contrary. Right now her brain was winning the war raging inside her, but if he touched her she had no idea what would happen; except that she might not be able to survive again.

Lex pulled back as pain surged through him. He knew she was hurting. His dreams were split by moments of the bliss that was his short time with Chloe interspersed with an agonizingly vivid recount of their final confrontation. The last thing he ever wanted was to wound her again. She was there and it was more of a miracle then he’d ever expected, and jeopardizing it was the last thing he planned to do.

“You have people following me.” It was a statement, not a question. Chloe knew that the only way to cut this final tie was with strength, even if it felt so illusory.

“Yes,” Lex confirmed. “Although, I was supposed to have inconspicuous people following you.”

“Yeah well,” she rebounded quickly from the shock of his easy admittance, “you live with Lana for a few years and you develop a sixth stalking sense.”

Lex’s lips tilted in a small smirk at what had to be the most unlikely reason anyone had ever spotted surveillance. Not that he doubted for one moment the truth of her statement; but he did briefly wonder how on earth Lana could have escaped establishing her own internal warning system.

“Still,” he sobered, “your aptitude is hardly an excuse for unsatisfactory results.”

“Whatever.” Chloe’s eyes rolled at his unqualified arrogance. “There’s no point in this debate. Your spies have been spotted and are, therefore, ineffective. So call them off.”

“Chloe,” he soothed, “they aren’t spies; they’re security.”

“You say potato, I say massive invasion of privacy. It doesn’t matter how you spin it, Lex. Call – Them – Off.”

“I can’t do that,” he asserted as steel bled into his earlier tone of appeasement.

“Can’t or won’t?”

“Chloe, it’s no secret that, over the years, my family has made enemies both personally and professionally.” He paused, giving her a pointed look. “You know that better than most. Do you have any idea what some of those people would do to my wife?”

As his words penetrated, her spine stiffened and a dangerous fire lit in her eyes.

“Newsflash for the reality impaired – I’m not your wife.”

Lex took a step forward and had to focus on keeping himself from crossing the small space between them and shaking some sense into her.

“And I’m sure any potential kidnappers who learn that we lived as man and wife for two months will just take your word on that.”

Despite the biting sarcasm, Lex’s words seemed laced with a concern so deep and genuine that it terrified her. She knew that it had to be another ploy, and if she let herself believe him - let herself be weak - even for a moment, she wouldn’t be able to withstand the pain that would inevitably follow.

“This is still about Clark.”

At her accusation, Lex didn’t even try to stop himself, and closed the distance between them, grasping her arms before she had a chance to step away.

“I know that I’ve destroyed any trust that you had in me. And believe me,” his lips twisted in a bitter smile, “I pay for it every day that I’m without you. But this isn’t about Clark Kent.”

Being so close to her, touching her after what felt like an eternity apart was driving Lex mad, and he couldn’t stop his fingers from moving over the warm skin beneath them in a gentle caress.

“Whether you accept it or not, I love you,” his voice was fierce and his gazed burned with a torrent of emotions. “I won’t let anything happen to you again. And just because you doubt that right now doesn’t mean that I’m willing to let you risk your wellbeing.”

“My wellbeing?!” Chloe was too enraged that he’d continue with such a painful lie to even attempt to escape Lex’s hold. “You’re the one who kidnapped me, who kept me away from my family and friends. If anyone’s a threat to my wellbeing it’s you.”

She was glorious; her cheeks flushed in anger, her heavy breaths pushing her breasts against the thin white cotton of her blouse. His hands tightened as he fought the urge to pull her to him and prove how real his feelings for her were.

Instead, he uncurled his fingers from her arms; forced himself to turn away.

“The security stays.”

Chloe had known Lex for years; intimately for eight weeks. She knew his moods, the lines of his body, the tones of his voice; and she recognized in all of those things his absolute determination. There would be no swaying him, no making him see reason.

Just the idea that he believed he had a right to any part of her life incensed her and robbed her of her ability to speak. With an inarticulate and highly embarrassing cry of fury she turned and stomped out of the office, her dramatic exit only slightly diminished by her inability to slam the impossibly heavy door.

In her general loathing of the world at large and sexy, devious billionaires with unwieldy doors in particular, Chloe missed the figure concealed by a nearby alcove observing her departure with avid curiosity.

Stepping into the light as the elevator doors closed on the angry young woman, Lionel decided to forgo his impromptu visit with his son. Something was going on – had been for months – and he was certain that Chloe Sullivan was, once again, the key to a major Luthor intrigue.


“Tell all your men they’re fired. I want a new team in place by morning.”

Lex’s voice was cold, icy like the rest of him. It was how he had functioned throughout the constant crises that had plagued him in recent years. And this was a far greater disaster than most.

He’d planned to give Chloe space; to let time dull the sharpest edges of his betrayal of her faith. And now, because of one fool’s incompetence, he’d been forced into a confrontation far too early and had driven her even further away with actions that infuriated her and demands with which he’d had no choice but to refuse to comply.

“Of course. May I ask the reason for the change?”

“One of your men was identified.” He didn’t need to justify his decision and knew that Spencer would acquiesce regardless of his rationale. However, the man was the best in his particular profession and Lex could hardly blame him for underestimating Chloe when he himself had spent years doing the same thing. Of course that didn’t mean that he would abide any future missteps.

“Do we know who?”

“No,” the response was curt. “And it doesn’t matter. I want people, with no preconceived notions of their target. They need to be made aware, as do you apparently, that Chloe is in no way an ordinary college student. She has a sense of self preservation honed by years of danger and journalistic observational skills second to none. You need to take every precaution.”

“Consider it done.”

And he did. Lex expected no less than absolute obedience. Still, he’d found that it never hurt to make himself perfectly clear.

“And Spencer,” the silk of his voice only amplified the underlying danger, “the rewards for success in this endeavor are great, but the consequences for failure are staggering.”

Lex paused a moment to let every unpleasant possibility play through the man’s mind before ending the call.

“Don’t disappoint me.”

Chapter Twenty

Chloe opened the Kent’s front door quietly with respect for the lateness of the hour. Not that she thought Clark would be asleep. With all of his hovering the past week she figured he’d been waiting up for her to get back from her “evening with Lana”. But she knew that Mrs. Kent was due back earlier that day and she certainly deserved all the rest she could manage to squeeze into her busy, unpredictable life.

And she was right. She’d no more then stepped across the threshold when Clark was there in front of her, checking her over so thoroughly that she wondered, for a moment, if she’d been x-rayed.

She knew that she’d need to tell Clark about her trip to Metropolis; had never meant to lie about it longer than it took to get there without him beating her to LuthorCorp and killing Lex. But the whole ordeal had exhausted her, mentally and physically, and more than anything she just wanted the day to end. Still, Clark was her best friend, a role at which he’d definitely excelled since her return, and he deserved the truth.

Stepping around him, Chloe caught his hand and led him towards the couch. Pushing him gently onto the cushions, she sat down next to him and rested her head on his warm, sturdy shoulder.

Clark was worried. A Chloe who didn’t talk…a lot, was a Chloe who was clearly hurting. Not that she’d been particularly chatty lately, but she’d seemed to be getting better. He couldn’t help but wonder what had happened during her afternoon with Lana. Whatever his reasons for letting things with Lana die out, she wasn’t an inherently cruel person. She might not notice Chloe’s suffering, especially if Chloe was trying to conceal it, but she wouldn’t do anything to purposefully hurt her. Which left him, once again at a loss for–

“I saw Lex.”

And there was his answer. The thought that, after what he did, Lex would have the nerve to show his face in Smallville, much less confront Chloe, left him seething with rage.

“Where?” He asked, not really caring, but needing a moment to regain control of his volatile emotions before hearing what had occurred.

“In his office,” she offered, hesitantly. “I went to Metropolis.”

She cringed in anticipation of the explosion she was certain would follow such a confession. What came instead both shocked and warmed her.


Not a reprimand, not a prelude to a lecture, but a single word that seemed almost too small to carry the sympathy, concern, and bewilderment with which he imbued it.

“It wasn’t like that Clark,” here eyes rose to meet his, to sooth his worries. “He has people following me.”

The relief Clark felt that Chloe hadn’t gone to Lex because of any misplaced, lingering feelings was quickly replaced by confusion at her revelation.


Chloe was still wondering the same thing, although she gave Clark the official party line. “Lex says that they’re security. He says I could be in danger from any of those people, besides me, whose lives the Luthors have ruined if it became known that I lived with him as his,” her voice choked slightly, “wife.”

Clark knew that, with his powers, it was dangerous for him to carry so much hate, and yet it swelled anew as Chloe’s scarcely healing wounds were ripped back open. And it wasn’t just that. Something about the situation, about Lex’s behavior, was starting to bother him on a deeper level. He couldn’t quite put his finger on it; it was simply a vague, but growing presence in the back of his mind. But before he could pin it down, Chloe continued.

“Whatever he claims, Clark, I think this is about your secret.” But she didn’t; not really.

Despite what she had said to Lex, Chloe knew that if he wanted to have her, Clark, or anyone else on the face of the Earth followed then he would, and he wouldn’t bother to justify himself. It left her at a loss for a way to explain his actions; his reasoning not even a consideration in her mind.

“Maybe I should leave.”

“No,” the denial shot from Clark before the sentence had fully left her mouth. “Chloe, no.”

Wrapping his arms around her, he pulled her close as if he could keep her there where she was safe; where he could protect her. “It’s not fair, Chloe. I know that the farm has always made you feel safe. Lex has done enough to you; he doesn’t get to take this from you to.”

His willingness to protect her, even if it might reveal things he’d done so much to keep hidden brought tears to her eyes and she burrowed into his chest until they passed. When the emotions receded, if only a little, she felt obliged to at least attempt to embody the voice of reason.

“Clark, you know I’ll be going home Monday when I start back to work.”

He did, but he tried not to dwell on it. It was silly because he knew that it would be good for Chloe to get back to work and, more than that, that he could be there, any time he chose or she needed, within seconds. And yet it wasn’t the same as having her there within arms reach.

Then, of course, was the troubling thought that not only would she be further away from him, but she’d be closer to Lex. Lex, who was clearly still playing some kind of game.

“I know,” he conceded, despite his misgivings. “But that still leaves you a few days of relaxation before it’s back to the Daily Planet grind. How ‘bout we don’t worry about anything ‘til then?”

Chloe nodded her silent assent against his chest and Clark’s arms tightened ever so slightly. He’d held her hundreds of times, but it had never felt like this. Suddenly his mind was flooded with moments where he could have said something, done something different; made other choices and changed everything.

But he wasn’t going to make the mistake of getting mired in useless wishing again. Chloe was there with him now. He’d been miraculously granted a second chance; and, this time, he wasn’t going to waste it.

Chapter Twenty One

His eyes – they always mesmerized her. No matter what Lex couldn’t bring himself to say there was a wealth of words in those beautiful eyes.

She watched his head move down until his lips whispered over hers, tongue skating across her lower lip before slipping past to dance along her own.

As his hands moved to the thin, lacy straps of her nightdress she felt them fall as his fingers followed, sending shivers to racing across her skin. His gentle kisses moved to her newly bared shoulder and Chloe whimpered out her need for more.

The smile he gave her sent flutters through her stomach as he stepped back and let the gown pool at her feet. His unwavering stare would have embarrassed her but there was a reverence in his gaze that stole her breath.

He pulled her to him once more and kissed her with an urgency that she couldn’t understand, as if he thought at any moment she would disappear. She wondered, briefly, where else he could possibly imagine she would want to be, but his mouth, so demanding on hers, made coherent thought impossible; and when she was next able to process her surroundings, she was lying on the bed while Lex stripped off the last of his clothes.

She watched in anticipation as he knelt next to her and gently parted her legs, leaning down to place tender kisses along the inside of her thighs. Shuddered with longing as he worked his way upward, she cried out at the shockwaves that rippled through her body as his tongue rasped over her sensitive flesh.

She couldn’t still her hips as he increased the pace of his caress, but every time Chloe reached the edge of fulfillment he pulled back until she was almost incoherent with need. Finally Lex moved over her and her legs spread further, desperate to have him inside of her.

She felt him capture a straining nipple with his lips and draw it into the warmth of his mouth. The desire began to pool within her, and as he positioned himself against her, her hips rose up to meet him.

Releasing her breast, he looked up at her. The need was written clearly on his face and Chloe knew what to do.

“I love you.”

With a gasp, Chloe’s eyes flew open. It always ended there in her dreams as it did in her life; because the awful truth was that she did still love Lex.

She’d never been good at not caring for the people, even when they’d hurt her; and figuring out how to stop loving someone was almost entirely beyond her capability. After all, it had taken years of flogging herself with Clark’s love for Lana before she’d managed to put her feelings for him behind her.

With Lex it was even harder because they’d actually been together and she couldn’t exorcise the memories of him holding her, touching her from her head. And worse than that, Lex didn’t seem to be willing to let go.

She couldn’t understand what he hoped to gain by continuing his charade. He couldn’t actually think that he could get anymore information from her about Clark. And that left her at a complete and utter loss as to his real motivations.

A small, dark part of her whispered that it might be possible; he could be sincere. And Chloe hated that voice; hated Lex for encouraging it.

But, most of all, she hated herself. Because even though he’d kidnapped her, lied to her, and shattered her heart, she so badly wanted it to be true.

“I love you.”

It always started there for him; with the words he cherished with everything in him and desperately longed to hear again.

In those hazy moments between wakefulness and sleep they came to him; bewitching memories in dreams he ached to live and from which he dreaded waking. And so he let the images swallow him as he fell headlong into the only thing keeping him sane.

Being inside of Chloe was the bliss he’d searched for for years in drugs and alcohol. It wasn’t just the feel of her – hot and slick, pulling him ever deeper – it was the wonder that went with being a part of someone who loved him with no ulterior motive, no subterfuge.

Looking down into her face he felt the burning desire within him crest higher as he watched passion play across her face. Her eyes were glazed with pleasure, her skin flushed with their exertions, and her teeth worried her lush, lower lip as sensations seemed to roll across her in soft shudders.

Leaning close, he replaced her teeth with his and drew her tender lip in, soothing the delicate flesh with his tongue. As he deepened the kiss, Chloe moaned lowly into his mouth and the soft sound – proof of her need for him – stripped him of his customary discipline and his thrusts took on a near frantic quality as he drove himself further into her; her own surging hips echoing his fervor.

Suddenly he felt the building tension in his body snap as cries of satisfaction and barely intelligible words of love fell from her lips. The unconscious declarations pushed him past the point of ecstasy into completion and with a few, last, uncontrolled movements he felt his release spill from him.

It was his own voice that woke him and Lex laid there silently, trying to will away the demand in aching shaft. There was no pleasure to be found in other women and although he could give himself an immediate relief the lack of emotion, the lack of Chloe left him unsatisfied in ways that were merely heightened by physical release.

As he finally began to calm, to regain control of his body, he realized that the time to actively pursue Chloe had arrived. It had to be now, because he honestly didn’t know how much longer he could function without her.

Chapter Twenty Two

Even as she finished off her third cup of coffee in the last half hour, Chloe knew it was a mistake. Not that she’d regret the caffeine rush that was sure to hit her soon, but Lois might. Then again, her cousin had planned to meet her there 20 minutes before, so she had had no one to blame but herself.

But she couldn’t deny that the relative privacy had been nice. The Kents were being wonderful, but with Mrs. Kent’s propensity to comfort her with baked goods and Clark’s need to hover, she had a legitimate fear of ending up a three hundred pound basket case in no time. As much as Chloe would miss them she was glad that she’d be heading back to Metropolis in the morning; back to her apartment, her job, her life.

Of course it helped that Clark was a highly portable best friend. She had no doubt that, for the foreseeable future, she’d be receiving “friendly” visits once, twice…twenty times a day. His over protectiveness had scaled new heights since her return, but somehow everything that had happened had brought them even closer. It was one of the very few positive things to come from the whole ordeal.

The other had been completely out of leftfield. Apparently, in an attempt to excuse her ever lengthening absence, Lex had given Lois a number of solid leads regarding many of Metropolis’ prominent corporations. And Lois had done her best to follow them up; but even she, with all of her dogged determination, had to admit that she was in a bit over her head.

Which was why Chloe was meeting with her. They had decided that the most effective approach to the matter would be for them to investigate the leads together and then, once they’d mapped out the basics of the myriad of conspiracies, learned how the players were interwoven, they would spilt the story, each of them covering a different angle for their respective papers.

The development pleased Chloe in a variety of ways. Not only did it provide a distraction from her personal life, something journalism had always done for her with the sheer amount of focus it required, but it would also be a bonus to land such a high profile story for the Planet.

Regardless of the tales Lex or his lackeys had spun or how understanding her immediate superior was about her sabbatical, Chloe was left in the frustrating position of feeling as if she had to prove herself all over again. It was maddening because she’d put her heart and soul into pursuing her dream, and it was only her absolute faith in her talent and drive that kept her from weeping at the unfairness of it all.

The door chimed, and Chloe looked up to see yet another person who was not her cousin. She would have been irritated, but the pressure of more than twenty ounces of coffee on her bladder left her with a modest sense of relief that she had time to use the restroom before Lois arrived and began to take off in twenty different directions, only three of which would lead anywhere.

As she exited the bathroom she glanced down the narrow corridor to see if there was either a Lois or more coffee waiting for her. The distraction was one she regretted as she felt strong arms close around her and pull her into a large supply room off the hallway.

Released immediately, she whirled around at the sound of the lock clicking into place and was only mildly surprised to see Lex’s tall frame leaning against her only means of escape. Unless she wanted to shimmy out of the half window set so high on the wall that she would barely be able to reach the sill if she stood on her toes; which, given the single-minded look on Lex’s face, she might be willing to try.

“I guess I don’t have to ask how you knew where I was,” she said, the derision clear in her voice at the pointed reminder that he still had men following her.

Lex simply looked at her; drank her in. It had only been days since he’d seen her last without the lens of a camera between them, but the wait had been interminable. Seeing her now, dressed casually in jeans and a light sweater in a soft burgundy hue she seemed lovelier than ever; her righteous indignation lending a fiery glow to her skin that he found irresistible, even as the target of her wrath.

“Look Lex; as I’m sure you’ve been informed, I start my internship tomorrow.” She’d observed his interest and knew that it was best for her shaky peace of mind to end their encounter as quickly as possible. “I have a lot of things to do, so just tell me what you want so we can get this over with.”

This time there was no mistaking the heat that flared to life in his eyes.

“You know what I want, Chloe.”

His words were a caress and she covered her spark of need with anger. “Do you have any decency at all? Aren’t you even remotely sorry?”

“Of course I’m sorry,” the pain in his tone matched the sorrow on his face lending an honest intensity to his words. “I have a million things to apologize for; but loving you isn’t one of them.”

Chloe closed her eyes as if she could keep the words from slipping into her mind and crafting fantasies of things that could never be. She had to stem his promises of happily ever after before she was pulled once more into his intrigues and deceit.

“What’s wrong with you?” She demanded. “We weren’t in a real relationship. I wasn’t your wife. God, Lex,” her hands flew up in exasperation, “leave it to you to develop some weird, reverse Stockholm syndrome.”

With a deep sigh, Chloe leaned against the wall. She looked at Lex – really looked at him, and what she saw in his eyes, his face, in the resolve carved into every line of his body, shook her. She needed to hold on to her belief that this wasn’t personal for him; that he’d never stopped using her, never had the change of heart he claimed. But convincing herself of that was getting harder with every new confrontation.

And, suddenly, it was all too much. He cared, he didn’t care; did it really matter? She knew that the answer was, sadly, no. Some things, once broken, could never be repaired.

“I can’t keep doing this with you,” she needed him to see reason, to understand. “You want me to believe that you have feelings for me, fine. Maybe in your twisted, Luthor way you do. But what do you expect me to do about it?”

He made to answer her, but now that she had started, Chloe wasn’t done by any means. “I have nothing left to give you, Lex. You’ve taken it all.”

Lex had been elated to hear Chloe finally open herself to at least the possibility that his feelings were real, but there was a resignation is her voice that tore at him for the depth of the doubts and insecurities that he’d known lived within her and had undoubtedly encouraged. He wanted to reach out, to hold her and assure her of her limitless worth, but her eyes were shimmering with tears and he loathed thinking of how many had already spilled because of him.

“I was happy,” she continued, unaware the impact of her trembling words on the tenuous control of the man before her. “For once in all of my miserable experience with love I was actually happy. And you,” she hated the fact that she couldn’t disguise the vulnerability in her voice, “with your lies and your stupid plans, you took that from me.”

Her growing sobs beat at his soul and Lex couldn’t help but step towards her. He wanted so desperately to pull her into him, to soothe her, but the insight that had come with loving her allowed him to acknowledge that the move would be as much for him as it was for her…maybe more so.

“I know, Chloe,” his regret was sincere; he just needed her to hear it, believe it. “I know I did. But it can be yours – ours again. Let me give that back to you.”

“You can’t,” she cried. “It’s too late.”

And he gave into his impulse, no matter how selfish; because to see her there, to watch her weeping and do nothing, was beyond him. “I love you,” he declared, pulling her shaking form against his chest, “we love each other. It will never be too late.”

“I can’t.” Though she meant the words she couldn’t help but lean into the warmth he offered. “I just can’t. I’m never right; not about these things.”

In that moment, Lex realized something that had never before even entered his mind. After all the pain and disappointment that Chloe had suffered in connection with her few attempts at relationships, she’d grown far more distrustful, far more afraid of herself then she ever could be of him.


Before he could finish, a jarring crash echoed through the room and Lex spun, pushing Chloe behind him, in time to feel a large fist to slam into his jaw and send him hurtling into a high row of boxes along the wall.

Chapter Twenty Three

Clark had somehow managed to rein in the majority of his strength when he’d hit Lex but, as angry as he was, he had no idea how, or even if he was particularly grateful for the restraint.

When Chloe’s cell phone had rung earlier that afternoon, he’d been surprised to see that she had left it on the kitchen counter. A reporter to her very bones, she never went anywhere without her phone. But her focus had been understandably scattered over the past week and so he’d answered it, figuring he could simply run it to her if the call were important.

And it had been. Lois had been hung up with some kind of lead, which she was sure Chloe would understand, and had informed him that she wouldn’t be able to meet with her until later that evening. Clark had assured her that he would go to the Talon and deliver the message in person; partially because he wanted to get Lois off the phone, and partly because he wanted to take advantage of the legitimate excuse to check on Chloe in person.

He’d been hesitant to let her go into town on her own, although certainly smart enough not to say so to her face. Everything in her life seemed so precarious, and even if she wasn’t his best friend, and even if he hadn’t discovered how much deeper his feelings for her went, the fact was that her life had, once again, been turned upside down by his secret. It made him feel almost irrationally protective of her, but he didn’t no how else to deal with the fear that came with having her out of his sight.

Clark knew it was ridiculous; knew that she’d be moving back to her own place the very next day. And yet he couldn’t help but view everything up to the minute she was gone as his time with her; and he was reluctant to relinquish a moment of it, even to Lois.

Entering the Talon he’d been surprised not to see Chloe at the table which, despite her being in Metropolis the majority of the time, was still accepted as hers. Linda, a waitress who’d been in their graduating class, waved him towards the booth and told him that Chloe would be back momentarily. But just as he’d been about to sit, a noise had caught his attention.

It was Chloe’s voice; Chloe’s sobs. He’d know them anywhere as he’d spent the last week listening to her cry herself to sleep.

Looking past wall after wall he finally saw her – her tears falling and shoulders shaking as Lex held her trapped against him. He didn’t remember moving or destroying the door, didn’t know if he’d displayed his speed or strength for all to see, was aware of nothing except the satisfying feeling of his fist connecting with Lex’s face.

But as Clark watched him fly into a row of boxes and slide to the floor, awareness rushed over him and he turned to Chloe only to watch in horror as she ran to kneel over the fallen man.

“Lex!” Chloe was frantic. She knew how dangerous Clark had the potential to be, especially when he was protecting someone he cared about. The thought that that massive power might have been focused on Lex made her stomach clench and her heart skip in terror.

Running her hands gently over his face, careful to avoid the area that was already showing signs of bruising, she asked, “Are you alright?”

Lex had no idea how Clark had found them or how he had managed to completely annihilate the door, and at that moment he couldn’t have cared less. To have Chloe touching him again, not through tears and anguish, but with tenderness because she cared, wiped away all other concerns, leaving nothing in his world but her gentle fingers and love filled eyes.

“It was worth it,” his smile became a slightly pained wince somewhere in the attempt. “To see you look at me like this again; it was worth anything.”

“Lex, don’t–”

She made to move her hand but he grasped it, held it against his skin. “Tell me you don’t love me Chloe.” He pressed a brief kiss against her palm. “Look in my eyes and say the words.”

And she looked deep, drown in the stormy ocean of his gaze, and found that there was little point in trying to force the lie. After her painfully obvious display of fear and apprehension, Lex wasn’t asking her a question, he was demanding confirmation and Chloe knew that all she could do was hope to minimize the damage.

“Loving you doesn’t change anything.”

The quiet words shot a physical pain through Clark’s chest that made him feel nearly human in its intensity. And he knew then that he truly loved Chloe Sullivan, because the sharpest part of the ache was for her – for all the times she had loved him and he’d gone to her to talk of loving Lana; their problems, their plans even, he was horrified to admit if only to himself, their sex life.

As Chloe stood and stepped towards him, Clark pulled her into his side and guided her out of the room. Wherever her heart lay, whatever his feelings for her, Chloe was, and always would be, his best friend and the only thing that mattered at that moment was that she was hurting. But for all of his abilities, all of the advancements of his true race, the power to heal a broken heart wasn’t one of them.

However any plans he’d been considering to help Chloe through this latest trial in her tumultuous life were brought to a screeching halt by a sound that frightened him to the marrow. As they were stepping into the main room of the Talon Clark’s sensitive hearing picked up Lex’s voice, not full of the disdain or menace that he’d grown so used to in recent years, but filled with unshakable promise laced with the all too familiar tone of Luthor obsession.

“You’re wrong, Chloe; this changes everything.”

Chapter Twenty Four

Pushing open the door to her dark apartment, Chloe almost sagged with relief. Her first day back at work had been satisfying but long and she was glad to finally be away from the intense scrutiny that was natural consequence of keeping a secret from an entire building of the world’s greatest reporters.

As she dropped her keys on the small console table and flipped on the lights, she was struck by how foreign everything seemed. When she’d first rented her apartment it felt like she’d claimed her own little piece of Metropolis; that she’d finally started on the road to her dreams.

But now, as she gazed around at her cozy living room, the sense of peace and optimism that it had always represented seemed lost. When she looked at her small but comfortable sofa, all she could think about was a larger, leather couch where she’d sit and read, curled up against Lex as he went over facts and figures form the business day. When she glance over at her colorful and airy little kitchen her mind replaced the image with gleaming marble counters and walls of cherry wood cabinets as visions of picnic lunches and late night snacks came to life in her mind.

Everything around her was the same. There wasn’t one thing different. It was neat and tidy; exactly as she’d left it. No, she acknowledged. It hadn’t changed; she had.

With a heavy sigh she pulled off her coat and made her way into the bedroom. Some things, she decided, didn’t need to be dwelled upon on her first night home. Lex, and anything to do with him, was strictly off of her obsessing list until she found some kind of footing in what was once her hectic and yet oddly organized life.

Opening the closet, her hand froze as she reached for a hanger. There, where her simple yet serviceable wardrobe generally hung, was hanger after hanger of designer wear until it seemed that the small space might actually burst under the pressure of trying to contain them all. Some of them she didn’t recognize; evening gowns and business wear hadn’t been her attire during her time with Lex. Others were so familiar that she ached with the memories that they held. He’d loved her in green–

She winced at the thought, forcing herself to remember that that remark, like so many before and after had been a lie. Whatever feelings Lex claimed to now have for her, Chloe wasn’t foolish enough to believe that he’d harbored them all along. It was one of the many things that haunted her. Trying to determine how many of his words had been heartfelt and how many were designed to deceive her, make her betray her friend, leave her crushed.

Sitting on her bed, she looked at the clothes that, if she dedicated the entirety of every paycheck for the next five years, she could never afford, and tried to push away her emotions just for a few moments so that she could decide the best course of action. Chloe hated having to strategize her every move, but since their last encounter she’d begun to believe that Lex actually cared for her, wanted her back. Not that she’d take his word for it; on this or anything else for that matter; but it did seem to be the only thing that explained his actions since her memory had returned. And since she couldn’t trust him she knew that she could never give in.

But the trouble was that Lex was a Luthor; and she knew from experience how formidable they could be when pursuing a goal. Sure, she’d faced Lionel down and won, but she wasn’t foolish enough to believe that she would have done so without his son’s help and protection. And here she was, locked once more in a battle of wills with a Luthor, but with Lex as an opponent as opposed to an ally; and she was so very, very afraid that she wouldn’t emerge victorious.

Worse then all of that was that tiny wisp of hope in her heart, which she couldn’t seem to stomp out no matter how dedicated her effort, that wanted Lex to win. Wanted him to prove to her his love; to calm her fears and silence her doubts.

Of course she knew that he couldn’t. She’d had a lifetime of rejection to deal with and Lex had crafted a plan that played on every wound she’d hidden deep inside. She could love him – did love him – but she simply, sadly, couldn’t trust him. And that admission broke her heart just a little more now that she knew that at least some of what they’d had was real.

Shaking her head as if the motion could dispel her feelings, Chloe made her way back to the living room, pulled a phone book from one of the book shelves, located the number she needed, and grabbed the phone and dialed.

“Yes, is this Goodwill Charities? Great. I have some clothes to be picked up for donation.”

After her second day back, Chloe resigned herself to the fact that she was going to be the focus of speculation until some new mystery came along. At least, she consoled herself, in Metropolis it wouldn’t take more than a day or two.

Especially with the story that she and Lois were working. And as much as she was overjoyed to be able to throw herself into investigating, her first love, to avoid thoughts of her last, she had to admit that she was absolutely exhausted.

In fact, she planned to slip out of her clothes and into a bath until her fingers and toes wri–

The coat that she’d been about to hang up slipped from nerveless fingers as Chloe was confronted with the same sea of exquisite clothing that she had sent off that morning. Head spinning, she stumbled backwards, collapsing on the bed.

She didn’t know how much more she could take. She’d known that Lex wouldn’t give up, he’d told her as much, but she’d hoped she’d have a little time to settle, to build her defenses and remind herself of all the reasons she should hate him.

Of course she’d been a fool to think that he would let her. Lex had always excelled at identifying weakness and exploiting it. It was ridiculous to expect him to approach their relationship in anyway other than the one that he believed would bring ultimate success.

And it wasn’t that she couldn’t see the wisdom in his plan. He was trying to compel her to meet him on his territory. Lex was as new to loving as she was to being loved. With his mother and her father being gone, they’d both lost the only steadfast examples they’d had. In the midst of that kind of doubt and uncertainty it wasn’t at all surprising that Lex would try to grab every advantage he could.

The image of his face, the sound of his voice as he swore that he loved her was never far from her mind and Chloe knew that if his words were as true as he claimed then he’d leave nothing to chance. He’d engineer situations that would force her to confront him; use her anger and tenaciousness against her. Because he knew, as well as she did, that eventually she’d snap. Whether it was from fury or frustration, Chloe knew that she could only hold herself back for so long.

More than that, Lex seemed to understand that if she came to him there would be far less chance of interference from Clark than if he confronted her. With the lengths Chloe had gone to protect her friend over the last few years, she would never willingly drag him directly into the line of fire. And although Lex had said that the blow he’d taken to the face had been worth it, she sincerely doubted that he wanted to repeat the experience.

With a great deal of internalized castigation Chloe acknowledged that Lex wasn’t wrong. Eventually he’d wear her down to the point that, once again she’d storm his office to have it out with him. But as she rose and began to remove the blankets from the large hope chest Grandma Sullivan had given her so that she could fill it with the obscenely expensive clothing, she was glad to not that this was not that day.

Chapter Twenty Five

She couldn’t believe it. She’d been waiting, expecting something from Lex. It had been almost a week since she’d packed away the clothes he’d sent and it was with a melancholy sense of relief that she hadn’t heard or seen anything more from him.

But, apparently, all that was about to change.

Chloe had gone to her supervisor when the assignment first crossed her desk. She’d told him that she was actually working on a lead for a story and asked if she could pass the assignment off to Robertson who was doing the obits that Chloe used to be responsible for and would actually be thankful for the chance at something new - even if that opportunity came in the form of picking up a public relations packet from LuthorCorp and asking a bunch of questions that were more routine then probing.

However, her boss was adamant in his refusal and that, along with his warm welcome upon her return, made her wonder if maybe he wasn’t on Lex’s unofficial payroll. She’d almost considered pleading, but if the man was working for Lex it would do no good and if he wasn’t it would make her look weak and temperamental. And there was no way that she’d risk anymore damage to her career then it had already taken.

As she drove over to the massive LuthorCorp headquarters, procured a press badge from the front desk, and paced in the elevator as it slowly made its way up to the 32 floor which housed the PR department, she tried to convince herself that it could all be a coincidence. Even as the receptionist showed her down the hall into a small office she reminded herself that there actually was a legitimate scientific breakthrough for LuthorCorp that was receiving coverage in a number of papers and not just the Planet.

In fact, she was almost persuaded by the strength of her desperate delusions when they were all proven futile as she walked through the door to see Lex’s all too familiar figure seated behind the desk.

She was beautiful, and Lex was filled with a fierce sense of satisfaction as she walked through the door he’d been watching for the last thirty minutes.

Her expression of resigned acceptance spoke clearly of both her suspicions that he would be there and her hope that he wouldn’t. Lex knew that she’d be smart enough to see the probable deception and determined enough to come anyway. He’d counted on it.

“Chloe,” he warmly greeted as he rose. With a short nod he dismissed the receptionist who left immediately, seemingly grateful to be out from under the watchful eye of the ultimate authority at LuthorCorp. And if she thought it was odd that her boss had co-opted a small PR office to meet with a low level reporter for a simple briefing, she was smart enough not to let it show.


He hid his smile at her icy tone. He’d anticipated her antagonism towards him, but it couldn’t be helped. Once he realized that she wasn’t going to respond to the blatant provocation of having someone break into her home and return the wardrobe he’d bought for her and the even greater insult of doing it a second time, he knew that he needed a more foolproof way in which to draw her out. By linking their meeting to her job, he removed her prerogative to refuse.

He didn’t really want Chloe’s hostility. He wanted the love and tenderness he’d shared with her in the two months that they’d been together. But he knew that he’d have to work for that. And rightfully so. He’d hurt terribly; wounded her soul, and he deserved to expend the Herculean effort it was going to take to win her back.

However, if it came down to a choice between her fury and the tired defeat of their last meeting then he’d take her wrath any day. Anger was its own brand of passion and, if nothing else, it could be used to keep her off balance while he buffeted her defenses from all sides.

And with that strategy in mind, he couldn’t help pushing her just a bit.

“I’ve always loved you in green.” The compliment was genuine but he still enjoyed watching her spine stiffen.

Chloe thought she might hit him. In fact she wasn’t sure why she hadn’t done it before. If this was all some twisted Luthor plot then he had it coming, and if he really did love her and was aggravating her on purpose then he deserved it even more.

But criminally violent impulses aside, Chloe was glad for her anger. She was grateful to have something to focus on besides the torrent of emotions battering against her already crumbling resistance. Concentrating on her resentment was also distracting enough to allow her to refuse to entertain the notion that she just might have subconsciously chosen the emerald silk blouse she was wearing, knowing that there was every reason to believe her assignment had been a set up.

“What are you doing here? Isn’t public relations mouthpiece a bit beneath you?”

“I happen to own the company,” he countered smoothly. “I can do whatever job I choose.”

She took a deep breath, understanding that he was goading her and refusing to dance to his tune, especially if it kept her there any longer than necessary.

“Seriously Lex,” a weariness crept into her voice, “what is this about?”

“I’m attempting to court you.”

Hearing his admission, Chloe wasn’t sure which surprised her more – that he was owning up to his deception in getting her there or that this was the best plan he could devise.

“This is your idea of courting?” She knew her incredulity coated her words as she saw a slight, self-deprecating smirk tilt his lips. And suddenly she realized that she was better off not hearing an answer to her question. In fact, letting the visit get too personal could only end in disaster for her heart, so she decided to cut things off before they went far enough to undo all the work she’d done putting herself back together.

“You know what, don’t answer that,” Chloe said. “We don’t need to go over this again; so if you’ll just give me the press packet I’ll be on my way.”

He admired her sense of self-preservation. She was professional enough come because she had to and smart enough to know to get out as quickly as she could. She was resolute and clever and a hundred other things that made her worthy of pursuit and every time that he was confronted with yet another captivating facet of her personality he wondered all over again how he could have been such a fool to overlook her for so long.

“I don’t suppose you’d let me tell you all about it over dinner?” he asked as he took his seat again and gestured for her to do the same.

Clearly reading her struggle between killing him and completing her assignment, Lex was counting on her lifelong drive to be a reporter to keep him in good health for another day. His intuition was confirmed as she dropped into the chair; the anger surrounding her almost a tangible force.

“You have to stop this, Lex. It won’t work. What you did…”

As her voice trailed off he felt sorrow overtake her previous ire and he wanted it back, preferring her near hatred to the naked grief that was testimony to how badly he’d injured her.

“What you did went beyond hurting me. And the worst thing about it is that you knew what this would do to me, how devastating it would be, and you just didn’t care.”

Although he showed no outward sign, Lex cringed inside knowing that she was right. She’d spent years feeling rejected by Clark. And even though it had turned out that her mother wasn’t with her because of illness as opposed to choice, Chloe had still grown up believing that she’d been abandoned because she just wasn’t good enough. It made what he’d done more than despicable; and it was only his absolute conviction that, given the chance, he could mend what he and others had broken, could make her truly happy, that kept him set on his course.

“I don’t understand. Even if we weren’t friends, how could you do that to me?” she demanded. “How could you make me feel special, wanted, only to teach me that, once again, I’m not really what anyone wants?”

He could see how painful it was for her to say the words; certainly knew it was painful to hear them. But though he would have loved to just move past the anguish he’d caused her, Lex knew that this needed to happen. Chloe would never come back to him without the cathartic release of her rage and fear and he would never be able to keep her if she did if he couldn’t convince her how deeply he regretted hurting her, that she could trust him with her heart once more.

“You’re wrong, Chloe. I want you. More than you could ever imagine.”

“But you didn’t plan it that way,” she cried. “You planned to use me and then leave me shattered and humiliated!”

Taking a deep breath, Chloe tried to rein in her whirling emotions. She knew what Lex was doing. He wanted her to get her pain out in the open. He believed that they could work through it. But she didn’t want any part of his plan. She wanted to keep her pain, hold it tight and nurture it. She was afraid that if she ever let go of the dull ache in her heart then she’d end up making the same stupid choices, loving the same stupid kind of men, over and over again.

“Lex, you have to stop this. It won’t work.”

“Why?” He finally asked the question that had consumed him since their last meeting. “Because you don’t trust me or you don’t trust yourself?”

He knew he’d hit a nerve as Chloe glossed over the reference to herself and focused solely on him.

“You can’t possibly be suggesting that you’re trustworthy?”

Lex knew that eventually they would have to discuss his obsession with learning Clark’s secret. And while he’d hoped that their conversation would revolve around the two of them, he wasn’t foolish enough to pretend that Clark Kent wasn’t a part of what was standing between them.

“No matter how things ended, you’re correct that in the beginning it was about Clark,” he acknowledged. “And if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll admit that my questions and concerns are warranted.”

Chloe opened her mouth to deny it, but he didn’t even let her begin. “Do you really think that I haven’t noticed that somehow all the weirdness that occurs in Smallville – and we are not speaking of an insignificant amount – leads back to Clark Kent?”

He watched her carefully, but unlike circumstances involving only herself, no emotion crossed her face. And as frustrating as it was, Lex could only love her more for the amazing loyalty of which she was capable.

“You know Clark, Lex. Whatever troubles the two of you might have, you know that he’s a good person.”

“For the most part I’d agree with you,” Lex conceded. “But all of the extreme secrecy and Clark’s uncanny knack of being in the middle of every crisis, even if it’s to resolve it, leads me to believe that there’s something special about him. Something beyond being a run of the mill meteor freak.”

Ignoring the absurdity of his last statement, Lex pressed on. “He’s an enigma; impossible to understand or explain; but I know that whatever it is that allows him to always play the hero can just as easily make him a formidable enemy.”

“He wouldn’t–”

“He wouldn’t what, Chloe? He wouldn’t practically assault you in Metropolis? He wouldn’t spend that very summer engaged in some rather dubious behavior?” Seeing the barely perceptible look of shock cross her face, Lex drove home his point. “I know more about Clark than the two of you think, and though he may be the salt of the earth most of the time, he has a history of erratic behavior. And a man who can be hit head on with a Porsche and walk away without a scratch, who seems to be able to practically materialize in an instant when there’s a need, who has defeated more of the mutated members of Smallville’s community than I’m sure I’ll ever have knowledge of, can’t afford to go unmonitored.”

“And you think you’re any better?” She shot back. “Am I supposed to ignore the power that comes with your multi-national conglomerate and billions of dollars? You lie and steal and kidnap women with head injuries and you think other people need monitoring?!”

A harsh laughter filled the air.

“You, as a reporter, should know better than most the scrutiny under which I live. And while it’s true that it might not moderate all of my behavior, it must serve some purpose because I’ve never heard you championing my complete and utter right to privacy the way that you do Clark’s.”

And she realized that he had a point. A valid point. A point that she would ponder later when she wasn’t so swamped the conflicting emotions that grew with every encounter with him.

“Chloe, I understand that you trust Clark. And I’m not trying to convince you that you’re wrong.”

And she could see that he wasn’t. But she knew that wasn’t all there was. “But?”

“But you can’t expect that everyone is going to let you make that decision for them. I might be willing to let this go, but that’s not because I think I’m wrong, Chloe. It’s because I love you.”

She closed her eyes, trying to deny the sincerity of his declaration; but she knew better than to expect him not to push an advantage.

“And you love me, too.”

Her eyes flew open and collided with his, and his unwavering confidence was as freeing as it was frightening. It was almost a relief to not have to pretend that her heart was steel and unmoved by him. But neither her love nor his awareness of it could deny the immutable truth –

“When have I ever loved wisely?”

He thought he’d reached the depth of pain possible for the woman before him; but something in the hollow resignation of her words stripped another piece of his heart away and he grieved the loss even as he embraced his penance.

“Clark.” It wasn’t a question. Lex had watched for years as Chloe loved Clark and Clark loved Lana.

“You can’t possibly know how many times I threw myself at him. I guess subtlety never has been my strong suit.”

“He’s a fool.”

And this time it was her empty laugh that sounded. “Aren’t we all?”

Lex leaned forward, wishing the desk wasn’t between them but knowing that it was necessary. She wasn’t ready to be touched and he couldn’t seem to help himself when she was within arm’s length.

“I know that I did was horrible; beyond unconscionable. I also know that I’ve never regretted anything more in my life.”

She was listening. Whether she believed him or not he couldn’t tell, but he couldn’t afford to let the opportunity pass.

“I was so angry. At Clark who’d been my friend but lied to me constantly. At the narrow-minded people of Smallville who took my help when they needed it and then judged me as the spawn of Satan. At the fate in general for making me a Luthor and letting people believe that it was some kind of privilege.

“I let the pain of so much rejection and the rage at so much betrayal control me. And by the time my mind had cleared enough to see what was right in front of me, I was in so deep that I didn’t know how to get back out without losing everything.”

Chloe reeled as Lex’s words took her back five years to a moment when a younger, bitter, far more naive version of herself let those very same feelings push her into a deal with the devil. She’d been lucky to get a second chance and she’d worked hard to be worthy of it, but Chloe knew that she never would have survived to see it without Lex’s help.

Stunned by a perspective shift that threatened to change everything, Chloe stood, almost overturning her chair. Seeing Lex rise, too, concern obvious in his expression, she shook her head wildly as she backed slowly towards the door.

“No. Don’t. I just need,” she wasn’t entirely sure what she needed, so she went with the only thing that would help, “time. I need time to think.”

Lex was no fool. Something that he’d said to her had shaken her; badly. It went against every instinct he possessed not to force the matter, to press his advantage before she could rally her defenses once more. But taking away her control was what had landed them there in the first place and he knew that she had to have some power in their relationship if there was any hope of rebuilding it.

“Of course,” he agreed. “Whatever you need.”

“I mean it, Lex,” she warned him. “No stalking, no breaking into my apartment, no manipulating my assignments.”

His jaw clenched. He didn’t like the stipulations; didn’t like the inherent weakness in allowing someone else to make the first move.

“All right.”

As he watched her turn and go, Lex pondered the wisdom of his decision. If Chloe was sincere then he’d just made major inroads towards a reconciliation between them. And if this was nothing more than a diversionary tactic on her part…well his original plans were all still in place.

Chapter Twenty Six

The last time Lex had rushed into a medical facility looking for Chloe Sullivan it was because she had been useful. But now, as he frantically threw open doors and shoved past strangers and staff alike, it was because she was everything.

The doors opened on a large and open area dominated by a busy nurses’ station. Located at the center of the ward, it was bordered on three sides by small rooms with front facing glass walls. Brightly patterned curtains protected the privacy of some patients while others, clearly in less stable condition, were exposed to the watchful eyes of the medical staff.

A cursory glance told him that none of the visible rooms housed Chloe and Lex didn’t know whether to be grateful that she wasn’t among the most grievously ill or enraged that she wasn’t being extended every care and precaution available.

The space remaining was taken up with offices and a small cluster of chairs that comprised the waiting room.

As he made his way to the small group of white garbed professionals gathered by the expansive, semi-circular desk, consulting with each other as they examined various charts, his eye was briefly caught by the sight of Clark rising from his place in the waiting area followed, surprisingly, by his father. And for once, neither man held any importance to him and he spared them no more notice as he confronted the first doctor he reached.

“Chloe Sullivan.”

It wasn’t a question but a demand for answers. As the man darted a nervous glance towards the waiting room and back to him, Lex realized that he recognized both him and his father and knew that the fear often associated with the Luthor name could most likely be used to expedite his inquiries.

“I’m sorry Mr. Luthor, but-”

“I don’t need your apologies, Doctor,” Lex glanced at the name tag, “Dowman. What I need is for you to direct me to Chloe Sullivan or, barring that, inform me of the current state of her health.”

Dr. Dowman took a deep breath, preparing to give the younger man the same speech he’d given his father earlier concerning patient confidentiality. He had a feeling that the Luthor before him was going to take the refusal much worse than the elder had. Which honestly surprised him given what he had heard about both father and son over the years.

Lex could see that the man was going to be difficult and he simply didn’t have the time for the subtle threats and sinister persuasions that he generally wielded like weapons with those who stood in his way. He knew that the doctor was only doing his job, but Lex’s fear and desperation were beating at him, pushing out all reason. All he knew was that Chloe was injured, possibly severely, and this man was keeping him from her.

“I think that you’re failing to understand, Doctor,” the volume of Lex’s voice was uncharacteristically rose as his mounting fear took hold. “I’m not asking. I’m-”

The threats that were sure to have been on their way were cut off as a nurse joined them.

“Excuse me,” she began, less timid than the doctor either from lack of knowledge of whom she was dealing with or from having dealt with much worse over the course of her career, “but Miss Sullivan has requested to see the loud, obnoxious man yelling at her perfectly nice physician.”

She hadn’t used air quotes but it was perfectly obvious which words came directly from Chloe and Lex felt almost dizzy with relief. If she was well enough to mock him then things couldn’t be as bad as his tormented mind had imagined.


He was curt with the woman who brought him what he thought just might have been the greatest news he had ever received, but couldn’t bring himself to care about anything other than getting to Chloe. Despite his tone, the nurse must have approved of something about him because she gave him a warm smile before turning.

“This way.”

As he watched them walk away, the doctor was extremely relieved that Chloe Sullivan was going to make a full recovery. All three men there for her gave off frightening and, in the case of the younger two, insanely protective vibes and it boggled his mind how a woman with so many would be protectors could possibly get injured in such a manner.

As Lex approached the door to Chloe’s room, he was once again appalled to see the curtain pulled shut, and even more so that she was located in the farthest corner as opposed to those in the direct line of site from the main view of the nurse’s station.

He silently cursed both the hospital for their irresponsibility and his father for failing to make use of the power and influence he’d sacrificed everything for, including his family. But all irritation melted away as he pushed the garish curtain aside and finally saw Chloe’s sweet face. Her expression was a mixture of amusement and concern and it comforted him as he quickly covered the distance separating them.

Chloe was tired from the drugs she’d been given and the dull, throbbing ache she could feel even through the haze, but seeing the anxiety that lined Lex’s face she smiled reassuringly and cut right to the words that she knew he needed to hear.

“I’m okay, Lex.”

She watched as a small shudder passed through him and he blew out the breath that she wasn’t sure he even realized he had been holding. His hand reached out to brush across her forehead, trailing down her cheek and lingering slightly above the bruise she could feel there. As she watched, the relief that had played across his face was chased away by the beginnings of a simmering rage and for a moment she regretted calling him in. She knew Dr. Dowman hadn’t told him anything and she was reluctant to be the one to reveal the specifics of her injury.

“I’m okay.”

The concern in his eyes hardened into something dark and dangerous.

“Which is, of course, why I’m standing in your hospital room.”

“Yeah,” she said hesitantly, “about that. Funny thing–”

An almost guttural sound of choking rage halted Chloe’s ill chosen words.

“Okay; maybe not so funny,” she conceded.

Holding himself so rigidly she thought he might break from it, Chloe knew that there’d be no real communication unless he relaxed enough to at least listen to her. Moving to make room for him to sit with her, she gasped sharply and the small shift pulled at her stitches.

Immediately Lex was leaning over her, trying to discern what had happened before grabbing the call button and pushing it repeatedly until a nurse appeared in the doorway.

“You needed something, Miss Sullivan,” the nurse inquired; pointedly ignoring the device clutched firmly in her visitor’s hand.

“No,” Chloe smiled, although it was more of a grimace. “I moved a little and jarred my shoulder. I’m sorry for the panic.”

She shot a sharp look at Lex to let him know that she wasn’t happy, but it softened at the worry that seemed carved into his face. Looking over at the woman in the doorway she assured, “I’m fine.”

Turning back to Lex she smiled, said in a softer tone, “I’m fine.”

“Well, why don’t I just take a quick look,” the nurse said, moving to Chloe’s side. “If you’ll just step outside for a moment, sir.”

Chloe could practically hear the harsh refusal forming on Lex’s lip and hastened to cut it off.

“It’s alright. He can stay.”

Of course, as soon as the words were out of her mouth she regretted them as she realized that they meant giving Lex a bird’s eye view of her wound.

Lex, too, understood the opportunity he was being afforded and leaned in for a better look as the layers of gauze were peeled back.


For all of her earlier aplomb the nurse started as the violence laced epithet broke the silence.

Lex recognized the wound at once. How could he not? He’d certainly seen enough of them in his time. She’d been shot.

The realization screamed through his mind, drowning out all else. His Chloe had been shot!

He saw her glance dart towards him. She was worried about his reaction and it was the first thing that had brought him any satisfaction the entire day.

She should be worried.

Once again she’d eluded her security detail and, from what he’d learned subsequently, went gallivanting off with Clark where she’d clearly been reckless enough to get herself shot.

He was livid.

He was angry with Chloe for whatever insanely foolhardy act put her in the path of a bullet.

He was furious at Clark for failing to protect her.

And, needless to say, the person who had done this would bear the worst of his wrath which, if he was extremely lucky, would mean a quick and relatively painless end to his life.

Lex’s thoughts of bloody vengeance were interrupted by the soothing voice of the nurse who was efficiently replacing Chloe’s bandages.

“Everything looks good and it’s almost time for your pain medication. Let me go get your pills and I’ll be right back.”

The silence left in the room upon her exit was nearly painful, and Chloe knew that Lex was holding onto both his patience and his temper by a thread. A very fine and fraying thread.

The nurse bustled back in, ignoring the tension that was common when loved ones were injured, and handed Chloe a small paper cup containing two pills. Filling a glass with water from a nearby pitcher, she watched as her patient dutifully swallowed her medicine before leaving.

Watching the other woman retreat with a resigned sigh, Chloe turned back to Lex only to find that he’d pulled the room’s lone chair up to the bed. Apparently the interrogation was about to begin.

Chapter Twenty Seven

Lex almost felt guilty seeing the exhaustion on Chloe’s face.


Because, although he hated to push her, she’d be sleeping soon enough and her safety was too important to be put off. And he couldn’t ensure her safety unless he knew what had happened. Now. Before she had the time to fabricate a string of half truths designed to placate him and protect Clark.

“What happened?”

The brief slide of Chloe’s gaze to the side said more than he knew that anything she uttered would.


He knew, had known since he’d first found out that she’d been hurt.

Lex wasn’t foolish enough to believe that Chloe couldn’t find trouble on her own. As an investigative reporter, it was her job to court danger to a certain degree. But when she was with Clark, the danger was different. All things odd seemed to begin and end with him and so, unlike the more pedestrian hazards of her chosen profession, the outcomes could never be even remotely predicted.

And clearly, given the number of times that Chloe had been hurt, Clark couldn’t protect her from the consequences of their little adventures. The fact that she was alive didn’t mean that she was safe, and all it would take was one misstep on the boy’s part and Chloe would pay the ultimate price.

It was simply one more reason to add to the growing list of why Clark should be exiled from her life.

But seeing stubbornness battle weariness in her eyes, Lex resigned himself to getting the information he needed from a different source.

“So, there’s no chance that I’m going to get the entire story here, is there,” he asked with a surprising lack of bitterness.

Chloe was loyal to a fault. And not in the common, complimentary use of the phrase. Lex was actually beginning to see it as a flaw in her character as it brought her consistently closer to death.

However, it was a beautiful, selfless, perfect flaw and he loved that aspect of her character nearly beyond reason as he knew that it was part of what would bring her back to him. Because, even though it was gained through his subterfuge, Chloe’s love for him was genuine and he knew that it wouldn’t let her give up on him forever.

“Lex,” her voice was both wary and regretful, but he cut her off before she could begin.

“It’s okay, Chloe.”

The fatigue was briefly swept off her face by incredulity and, for the first time since he’d entered the room, he felt a small smile tug at his lips.

“Well,” he qualified. “It’s not okay. But I meant what I said when I told you that I wouldn’t push you about Clark.”

But at her relieved look he warned, “Which doesn’t mean that we aren’t going to discuss your safety, at length, once you’re released.”

Chloe smiled at Lex as brightly as a shoulder wound and a recent dosing of morphine would allow. She knew what it had cost him to not press for answers; to not grasp for absolute control in a situation that had clearly left him feeling vulnerable.

After the meeting at LuthorCorp two weeks prior, Chloe had been surprised at how true Lex had kept to his word. He didn’t send her gifts, tamper with her job, or attempt to contact her in any way. She had asked for time and, even though she knew that it was against his very nature, he was respecting her needs.

In fact, he’d complied with everything except calling off the security detail. And with her deepening belief that Lex did honestly have feelings for her, came the understanding that he actually was trying to keep her safe. For a man who’d lost everyone he’d ever loved, his refusal to compromise on the issue neither shocked nor, surprisingly, angered her to any great degree.

Besides, his men weren’t impossible to shake. Although getting shot after doing so was probably the least effective way to convince Lex that they were unnecessary.

The fact was that the situation had been intolerable when she’d believed that she was being spied on for Clark’s secret. But, although she still wouldn’t let the situation continue indefinitely, it did make it somewhat more bearable knowing that it was inspired buy love as opposed to some misguided need for vengeance.

And it was no longer possible for Chloe to deny Lex’s love for her. It was written on his face; shown in every move, each gesture. As accomplished an actor as Lex had proven himself to be at the beginning of his charade, the truth was that he’d only gotten away with what he had because she couldn’t remember him. But now, with full knowledge of who he was, knowledge denied to almost everyone he’d encountered in his life, she knew that the wildness in his eyes when he’d entered was genuine, that he couldn’t have faked the slight tremble of fear in his hands as he reached for hers.

It gave Chloe something she hadn’t had in what felt like forever – hope.

She’d done a lot of thinking since their last confrontation. What Lex had done to her seemed unforgivable. But there was a time when she’d thought that she, too, was beyond forgiveness. And yet Clark had moved past her mistakes; her dad had remained steadfast despite the terrible upheaval she’d caused in their lives. And though it was true that she couldn’t have possibly known the severity of the secret that Lionel was searching for or predicted the chain of events to follow – a naiveté Lex could not claim – the fact remained that she’d made disastrous choices that, because of their love for her, the people closest to her chose to forgive. They looked beyond the circumstances to who she was deep inside, and who she’d grow to be with their faith and love in her life.

The one thing that Chloe had never questioned since she regained her memories was her love for Lex. And now, she no longer doubted his love for her. It didn’t make what he did better or hurt less, and yet it made all the difference in the world, because it made him worth the effort of forgiveness.

Of course, she wasn’t stupid enough to reveal her decision at that particular moment. Strict ground rules would need to be set. Very strict. They’d need to take they time to become friends first before they could become something more. Lex was a master of negotiations, and if she didn’t meet him at her very best, he’d run roughshod right over her good sense and they’d end up married for real within a week.

“Lex, we really need to have a talk. But–”

“Not right now,” he finished for her.

There was no rebuke in his words. Lex could clearly see how exhausted she was; how her eyelids were slowly starting to droop and her words were slightly slurred as the medication took effect.

True, he wanted answers – needed them. But for the first time, Chloe was giving him hope that she might finally be willing to listen to him, to let him in, and he wouldn’t chance her changing her mind for the world.

“It’s alright. You get some rest and we’ll talk later,” he assured her.

As he saw her nod, tiredly, Lex gently clasped her hand, watching over her as she drifted off to sleep.

Chapter Twenty Eight

Clark was nearly shaking with the force of his rage as he observed the private conversation taking place, without remorse.

Watching as Lex questioned Chloe made him furious. But seeing him touch her – as if he had the right – enflamed him beyond what his rational mind was screaming was a safe level.

As a dangerous heat began building in his eyes, he was abruptly pulled back from the edge by a hand on his arm.

His head snapped to the side to see Lionel there, his concern clear.

When Lionel had first arrived, Clark, in his anger, had lashed out at the only target available to him. He’d thrown the accusation at the man of his terrible history as a father; blaming him for the villain his son had become and, slowly, the entire story of what Lex had done spilled out.

“He’s in there pretending that he cares. Touching her as if what he didn’t wasn’t unforgivable.” Anguish twisted his features as he ground out, “He’s still trying to use her. Even while she’s hurt, in pain. God, why can’t he just leave her alone?”

“Clark,” Lionel began, regret lining his words. “My son is not a good man.”

A harsh accusation formed on Clark’s lips, but the older man cut him off.

“I know the fault for that lies with me. I was never the father he needed.” He shook his head wearily. “I was so consumed with an unquenchable thirst for power that I twisted my own child into a monster to suit my selfish ends.”

He watched as Lionel sighed and sat heavily in one of the waiting room chairs.

“I want to believe that, one day, Lex will have the epiphany that I have; will want to change, to atone for the evil he has wrought. But that time, sadly, has not yet arrived.”

Lionel looked up, met his eyes, and Clark was startled by both the pain and the conviction he could read.

“He’ll never stop. He’ll do whatever he has to, no matter how reprehensible, to get what he wants, and he won’t care what happens to Chloe in the process. And the worst part,” he paused a moment as sadness crossed his face. “The worst part is that, given enough time, he’ll convince her of his sincerity.”

Wearily, Clark sank into the chair across from his. He wasn’t being told anything that he hadn’t concluded himself, but it still filled his heart with fear having it confirmed.

“You, better than anyone, understand the boundless capacity of Miss Sullivan’s heart. And that, coupled with years of unintentional rejection, will ultimately be her downfall.”

Clark cringed at the pointed comment. While he knew that there was no blame to be had in his feelings for Lana, however illusory they’d turned out to be, he’d had to, over the course of the past few weeks, face the fact that he had used Chloe’s feelings for him to keep her close, despite his pursuing the other girl. True, it hadn’t been done consciously, but that didn’t excuse him and it certainly didn’t negate the effect that it had had on Chloe.

“I don’t know what to do,” he confessed. He was honestly at his wits end about how to help Chloe. And, for once, he was glad for Lionel Luthor’s presence.

He and Chloe had been trying to track down some trouble of the Kryptonian influenced variety. They had arranged to meet Lionel later that afternoon to see if he could help them find some information. Since he was already aware of Clark’s powers it seemed silly to stand on pride and not at least ask for assistance when people’s lives were at stake.

But Chloe had been shot before they’d ever made it to the meeting, and when Lionel had called to find out what was keeping them, Clark’s abject terror as he waited for news from the doctor, poured out and the older man had been there within minutes.

At first Clark had felt uncomfortable having him close in such circumstances, but Lionel’s unwavering belief in Chloe’s strength was, surprisingly, comforting.

“Clark, we both know that you’ll never be able to convince Miss Sullivan to give up on someone who professes a desire to change; to be better. If, after all the wrongs that I’ve committed against her, she’s still even remotely willing to entertain the possibility that I might change, then how much easier would it be for her to believe Lex, for whom she obviously has feelings?

“No,” he stressed. “The only way to deal with this is to make a stand with Lex.”

Lionel leaned forward, his voice lowering as he outlined his plan.

“My son has always had an obsessive side,” he noted. “You know, better than anyone, how truly delightful and refreshing Miss Sullivan can be. It’s no stretch at all to believe that, in addition to using her to get to you, he may have developed an unhealthy fascination with her. But no matter what his feelings for her or her for him, you have held her heart since the day you met.

“Lex has a history of rejection that far exceeds that of Miss Sullivan. He was already mortified by losing young Miss Lang to you. He won’t risk that kind of emotional pain and humiliation again.”

He glanced towards Chloe’s room and then back to Clark.

“If Lex sincerely believes that he’s lost her, especially to you, then he’ll close off that part of himself and stop this dangerous pursuit; stop damaging that lovely young woman. And while I loathe seeing my son hurt, yet again, I can’t, in all good conscience, allow him to ruin her life.”

There was a finality in Lionel’s eyes, and it chilled Clark to see it, even though he knew that, at least in this fight, the man was on his side.

“But whatever you chose to do, Clark, you must act. Because, without doubt, Lex will.”

Chapter Twenty Nine

After half an hour by Chloe’s bedside, taking her in, watching her breathe, reassuring himself that she was truly alive and well, Lex quietly rose, brushing a tender kiss across her forehead, before heading out to get some answers.

Purposeful strides carrying him towards the waiting area, he was unsurprised when he was met halfway.

“What the hell were you doing, dragging Chloe along on one of your mysterious and all too dangerous crusades?” Lex raged. “You may seem indestructible, but she isn’t! You have to know she’ll get hurt. She always gets hurt with you.”

Clark’s bark of laughter was a bitter sound.

“That’s rich coming from the man who practically broke her.”

Lex was too angry, still to full of his earlier terror to allow the accuracy of Clark’s accusations to deter him from the confrontation that had been far too long in coming.

“Living as my wife never hurt Chloe,” Lex shot back. “She was happy and well. It was learning that it wasn’t true that has broken her. And, quite frankly, that situation can definitely be rectified.”

Lex relished the anger that was flowing off of his former friend in palpable waves. He pushed on, years of frustration and betrayal coloring his words.

“Can you even begin to see beyond your belief that you and your issues are at the center of the universe and acknowledge how much better off Chloe was with me?”

He didn’t give Clark time to answer; didn’t care about his irrelevant denials.

“Did you know that she has headaches?” Lex could see from the startled look on his face that he hadn’t known. It didn’t surprise him that Chloe had kept the information a secret to avoid worrying her friend. “She apparently suffers from chronic migraines so intense that she needs prescription medication to deal with them.”

He paused for a moment, savoring Clark’s kneejerk guilt, before delivering the coup de grace.

“She never had one when she was with me.”

Clark paled at the thought of Chloe suffering and hiding it from him. She would only have done that if she thought that he would blame himself. And if she thought that, then there was every chance that it did have to do with him; with the chaos and stress he brought to her life.

“And of course, there were the nightmares,” Lex said, striking while the iron was hot. “What, exactly, did you do to her that summer that you ran away that would make her wake up screaming?”

Lex knew that his words were hitting their mark. The most dependable thing about Clark was his savior complex. While it meant that he’d help anyone in need, it also meant that he took everyone’s pain and suffering as a personal failure.

“Face it, Clark; Chloe was safer with me, she was healthier with me and, not having to play back up girl in your fucked up love life, she was definitely happier with me.”

Clark felt the weight of Lex’s words bearing down on him, threatening to crush him. But, recalling Lionel’s words, remembering that it was Chloe’s happiness that was at stake, he pulled himself together and did the only thing that he could – he took action.

“Whatever you had, and whatever you think you know about Chloe doesn’t matter, Lex.” He paused for a moment, but one look at the determination on Lex’s face sparked his own.

“She wanted to be the one to tell you; to break it to you gently,” Clark told him, having heard Chloe tell Lex that they needed to talk. “But she’s been through enough and clearly you aren’t grasping the reality of the situation.”

He took a deep breath and did the wrong thing for what he was sure were the right reasons.

“Chloe’s agreed to marry me.”

“You’re lying!” Lex accused, pain and disbelief warring within him. “Chloe loves me.”

An agony to deep to be anything other than true filled Clark’s eyes as he answered, “Yes, she does.”

“But,” he continued before Lex could celebrate the victory of that admission, “we both know that Chloe can’t turn her feelings on and off. Not for you…and not for me.

“Whatever I may have done to hurt her and,” he quietly conceded, “that’s far more than I’d like to admit, I’ve never set out to do so intentionally. Never purposefully used her so cruelly.”

He could see the pain on Lex’s face, but Clark wouldn’t, couldn’t back down.

“Chloe’s loved me for years. And I may be the slowest person on the Earth, but I finally see how much I love her, too. I can’t lose her, and so I asked her to be my wife and she’s agreed.”

Lex was shaking his head before Clark had even finished.

“No. Even if she did still love you, she wouldn’t rush into marriage like that.”

Despite keeping his secret for years, Clark knew that he wasn’t an accomplished liar. It was why everyone always ended up suspecting that something was going on, even if they lacked the specifics. But this was about protecting Chloe. About preventing Lex from using her vast capacity to love against her again. And so he forced himself to look straight into Lex’s eyes, his gaze steady and his voice strong.

“We aren’t rushing into anything. Chloe wants at least another year of college under her belt. But she knows you; knows how,” he paused as if searching for the right word, “persistent you can be.

“Chloe’s been led on before,” he admitted, shamefaced. “It makes me heartsick to be the one who taught her how painful that is. But the fact is that she knows how it hurts, and she doesn’t want that for you – to hope where there is none. And so she’s made a commitment to me, knowing that you’d understand how seriously she takes a promise like this.”

Lex had always been unreadable. It had made it difficult to be his friend and terrifying to be his enemy. And so the pain that Clark could see lurking in Lex’s stormy gaze threw him; told him how he, in his broken and twisted way, actually loved Chloe.”

“She’s not going to go back to you, Lex.” Clark said with what small amount of sympathy he could muster for the other man. “The way that you hurt her was too deep, too purposeful for her to ever feel safe with you again.

“Chloe she needs a place to feel safe. I can give her that. And if you love her, really love her, then you’ll let her go.”

Lex almost stumbled back in the face of Clark’s conviction. Everything around him began to splinter and he knew that he had to get away from there. He couldn’t be that vulnerable in front of Clark; in front of his father. Especially not in front of his father.

So, filled with pain and fury and utter hatred, Lex threw Clark a killing look, turned, and left.

Watching as the elevator doors closed, taking Lex to places unknown, Clark made his way into Chloe’s room. Sitting down in the chair next to the bed, he took her hand in his and looked at her lovely face.

He was certain that she’d be angry with him for the things that he’d said to Lex; the lies that he’d told. But he knew that the time had finally come to share his feelings and he prayed that would make some sort of difference to her.

He understood that both he and Lex were betting everything on Chloe’s ability to love, to forgive. But he was hoping, with all of his heart, that their years of friendship and genuine caring would help Chloe see past the mistakes that he had made.

A soft sigh brought him out of his thoughts and he saw a slight smile play on Chloe’s lips. And as he sat there, watching over her, Clark couldn’t help but wonder if her dreamy expression was for him or his rival.

Chapter Twenty Nine

Chloe swam towards awareness slowly, unsure how badly she wanted to reach her goal. Anything that ended in unconsciousness was rarely good, and if she was somehow magically out of danger upon awakening, there was usually someone waiting to give her a lecture about her apparently inherent need to court trouble.

Pushing aside the fuzziness that filled her head, she cracked open her eyes just enough to confirm her suspicion – she was in a hospital room. Letting her lids fall, she began to put what little energy she had into sifting through her recent memories, trying to pinpoint what might have landed her in such an oh so familiar position.

For once, she could rule out Clark. Of course, she was honest enough to admit, not because either of them had learned to be more careful since her last hospital stay. No, she knew that her current state had nothing to do with her best friend simply because she’d been avoiding him like he had some type of virulent Kryptonian plague.

Not that it was easy when dealing with someone of the superpowered persuasion who was willing and eager to show up, literally, at a moments notice. But she’d persevered and had managed to limit her contact with Clark to research discussions at the Daily Planet and times when either Lois was around or, more rarely, Mrs. Kent was in town.

It wasn’t that she didn’t want to spend time with Clark. He was her best friend; a relationship that had only strengthened over the previous months and, generally speaking, she loved hanging out with him.

However, Chloe wasn’t stupid and she wasn’t blind. She’d noticed that his feelings for her after her return had been deeper, more intense than they’d ever been before. But she’d simply attributed the change to the terrible guilt Clark carried for what had happened to her and the incredible relief he felt to have her back. Besides, they had always been closer during his off again periods with Lana, and so it hadn’t occurred to her that anything was radically different as she enjoyed their time together while she waited for him to reconcile with the girl he’d loved since childhood.

Only he hadn’t.

Of course, Clark had told her of his epiphany concerning Lana; assured her that the two were finally through. But Chloe had heard that song so often that she sometimes hummed it in the shower. And yet, for once, it seemed to be holding true. Although Clark was concerned for the brunette and genuinely sorry that he’d hurt her, there was no pining, no waffling back and forth about whether he’d made the right choice.

It had been a nice change of pace for Chloe to not have to play the perpetual cheerleader, and she had relished the lack of angst, until her last stay in the hospital when she finally noticed what she had resigned herself years ago to never seeing and so hadn’t even recognized – the longing looks, the warm touches, the reluctance to leave her side.

Clark had feelings for her.

For her.

Chloe Sullivan.

And she wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry at the vagaries of fate that gave her Clark’s heart when hers was so completely in Lex’s admittedly dubious care. So she did the only thing that she could – she avoided him.

What had really surprised her was that Clark had let her. The two days she’d spent in the hospital, he’d been jumpy and determined to talk to her. In a fit of what she often called self-preservation and sometimes admitted was cowardice, she’d feigned a weakness from her injury and the drugs that was far greater than she felt. It wasn’t until she’d received an urgent and apologetic call from Lex the day after he’d visited explaining that a dire LuthorCorp emergency had arisen and required his presence in Stockholm that Clark seemed to relax.

Not that she could blame him really. Although she didn’t approve of Clark using his abilities to invade people’s privacy, she knew that he was nearly sick with worry when it came to her and Lex. Except for the obsessive hovering, he’d managed to contain it most of the time, but she could only imagine the anxiety he’d felt when she’d asked Lex in to see her. If he’d listened to the conversation, as she was fairly sure that he had, it would only make sense that he’d want to talk her out of what he would see as a rash decision on her part, but then decide to give her space when the immediate threat had been removed by Lex’s sudden departure.


It was funny, in a sad kind of way, that so much of her time with Lex had been about Clark and now the reverse was true.

Not that she doubted that Clark had genuine feelings for her. Chloe knew her friend well enough to read the sincere emotions in his eyes. But she’d also been overlooked enough by him to wonder if he truly loved her or if he had convinced himself that he did because it would be the easiest way to “save” her. She suspected it was probably a little of both.

It was such a bittersweet ending to all those years of loving Clark Kent.

Finally being seen by him after being passed over again and again soothed some of the insecurities that lingered in the farthest recesses of her mind where logic and positive thinking failed to reach. But, ultimately, his change of heart struck her as slightly tragic. Their time, the days when Chloe and Clark could have been Chloe and Clark, had come and gone. Because no matter how much she loved Clark, she’d finally come to accept the fact that she was in love with Lex.

And she knew that she needed to tell him that…tell them both. But so much had happened in her life in the previous months that she felt she had the right to take a little time to get her head together.

It would be Clark that she talked to first. Not simply because she thought that it was only fair to let him down before trying to work things out with Lex, but also because he was around while Lex was still bogged down with the LuthorCorp emergency in Europe.

Not that that would last long. She was certain that once Lex learned of yet another of her hospital stays, he’d move heaven and earth to get back to her. She thought about calling him and telling him not to come, provided she could convince herself to open her eyes, but knew that it would be beyond pointless. Besides, although she’d given Lex’s men the slip earlier that morning, she knew from past ditching experience that it didn’t take long for them to catch back up to her. In fact, if she’d gotten into some kind of trouble, she wouldn’t be surprised if they had been the ones to find her and transport her to the hospital. If so she was, of course, grateful but it made her mildly suspicious that Lex might have had her lojacked at some point.

Hearing the creaking plastic of what could only be a hospital chair, Chloe knew it was time to face the music. Taking a quick inventory of her body she realized that, with the exception of the grogginess, she felt remarkably hale and hearty. A surprise given her current location. And, with the confirmation of a general lack of injury, she opened her eyes, squinting slightly at the harsh lighting before turning her head toward her visitor.

“Lex,” she rasped out through her dry lips; a soft smile lighting her face.

Smiling in return, Lex reached over and retrieved the glass of water that had been placed on the table next to her bed. Pressing the button to raise her head, he waited until she was in an upright position before bringing the liquid to her lips. As she took a long sip, he gently brushed the hair from her forehead, searching her eyes.

“How are you feeling?”

There was an intensity in Lex’s gaze and an stark undercurrent in his voice that confused Chloe. Of course, the last time that she’d been in the hospital he’d been frantic, so she wasn’t surprised by the agitation he was showing, but it felt…different. There was an odd energy about him that confounded her attempts to pin it down. She could practically see him a frenetic vibe shimmer about him. And yet, at the same time, there was a solid determination that was calm and unshakable.

Writing it off as the linger effects of her period of unconsciousness, she asked the most pressing question on her mind, “What happened?”

The smile fell from his lips as he sobered.

“You were drugged.”

‘Drugged?” Chloe’s eyes widened as the haze began to recede.

“There are things I have to tell you, Chloe. So many things. And I need to say them now, while there’s time.”

She had, unfortunately, had enough near death experiences to know that they lent themselves to barings of the soul. When she’d been shot, Lex had also wanted to talk, and though she knew that some of that would have been a demand for answers, there were things of a personal nature that he had wanted to address that day. Things that he had put aside for her, because she needed more time. So when he asked her, begged her with his eyes, she knew that she wouldn’t deny him some peace when her own questions could wait, as his once had, and she smiled and nodded supportively.

Chloe understood that what he was about to tell her would probably be difficult for him; displays of emotion never came easily to Lex. But the silence persisted; grew, and she looked at him expectantly, waiting for him to begin. And the hesitation was so uncharacteristic of the dynamic man that she loved that she reached out, touched his hand, and encouraged him.

“Lex? It’s okay,” she soothed. “I’m here and I’m listening. Tell me what you need to say.”

With a deep breath, he turned his hand in hers; held on tightly.

“I did something,’ he confessed. ‘It was terrible, but I was about to lose you and I was so desperate. I was lost and it seemed, for an instant, as if it could have been a way out.”

The words were ominous by themselves, but the Luthor scale of morality was so vastly different than most people’s, so skewed, that Chloe knew his words could mean anything and so tried to prepare for the very worst.

“A week before your memory returned, I called Dr. Heideman.”

She watched as his eyes skated briefly away before returning and in their depths she saw pain and regret and yet, still, beyond it all was that almost eerie sense of focused will.

“I asked if he could keep your memories from returning…permanently.” Ignoring her gasp of shock or outrage or both, he continued. “You were remembering more and more every day and I knew – I knew that once you remembered, once you realized what I had done, you’d leave. And by then I was so in love with you and you loved me, too. But it was all falling apart; we were going to lose everything.”

His jaw clenched for a moment and in a pain wearied voice he confessed, “When he told me it couldn’t be done, a part of me was relieved. What I did to you was bad enough, but I always meant for it to end. But the other part of me…was terrified at the thought of losing you; at the idea that it was completely beyond my control.

“Chloe, I’ve known real love so rarely in my life; is it truly beyond forgiveness that I considered doing everything I could do keep it?”

And, if she was brutally honest with herself, it wasn’t. Even when she had no memory of Lex or the circumstances of his life, she had known that he was broken. His stoicism was his wall against the outside world, but its mere existence allowed anyone who cared to see just how wounded he was.

But so few had cared.

And because that was the most basic truth of his life, Chloe could understand how his mind would grasp at any idea, no matter how unrealistic or how unethical, to protect the heart he’d learned, so painfully, never to open.

So it wasn’t okay. It was, in fact, more than a little frightening. But it wasn’t unforgivable. After all, she knew that if he’d truly wanted, he could have pursued that avenue of inquiry much further. He’d always struggled with his obsessive nature, and all too often lost.

“Look, I can’t say that I’m happy to hear this, and believe me, we need to talk; but it’s not unforgivable. You’re not unforgivable. You stopped-”

“I drugged you.”

The admission was so abrupt, so stark, that it stunned Chloe into silence.

“Well,” he said with a grim twist of his lips, “Not me personally, but you understand what I mean.”

She wasn’t sure what he meant, but she could feel it – a dark truth waiting in the shadows of her awareness to tear her apart; to devour her. Chloe’s mind shied away from that thought; allowed his words to roll over her and fall away without giving them meaning. Until they were forthright and clear, she refused to be consumed by the panic bubbling inside of her.

“Lex,” she questioned, hating the slight quiver in her voice.

His gaze, so sharp mere moments before, shifted slightly above her and his eyes took on a hazy, far off quality, as if lost somewhere in his thoughts.

“You know, I wasn’t the first one to inquire into the possibility of memory inhibition,” he told her. “When I questioned Dr. Heideman on the possibility, he spoke with Dr. Karlsson; he’s the leading expert on the memory and was consulting on your case. It was he who definitively dismissed the idea as impossible.”

Lex focused on her once again. “But when have Luthors been bound by the impossible?”

The air between them became oppressive and Chloe tried to tug her hand for Lex’s grasp, but he tightened his fingers, as if believing that the contact would keep her with him, no matter what was to be revealed.

“I didn’t push, Chloe. I didn’t pursue it or plot or strategize. I left it alone; I swear to you I let it be.”

His gaze was frantic with the need for her to believe him. And she did. But she knew that such a declaration of innocence could only be the prelude to terrible acts.

“Apparently the prospect of constraining memories that were present as opposed to retrieving those that were lost, intrigued Karlsson. He wondered if working in the other direction by removing a person’s past recollections could be path to learning the intricacies of this area of the mind and ultimately understand how to return them.

“He began searching for studies and case histories outside of the mainstream journals with which he was familiar, calling on both those currently in his field and those who had long since retired. It was actually the latter that had proved a wealth of information…from them that he learned of a biologic serum called FS-proBNP”

Chloe watched as Lex paused, and it seemed as if he wanted to stop speaking, maybe wanted to take back the words that had already been said. And she knew that she wanted that to. A terrible dread had taken hold of her, crushing her in its icy grip and she wanted to scream at him to stop; wanted to run, to hide, to be anywhere without these words that were twisting her insides with a growing terror.

But she did none of those things. Instead she stayed still; stayed quiet. The very air vibrated with the significance of Lex’s words to their future and so she had no choice but to hear them. No one knew better the power of knowledge and truth. And if her instincts were correct, if they were perched on the cusp of an abyss, then she needed all of the information available to her, and that meant swallowing her fear and allowing Lex to continue.

“During the escalation of the Cold War, the Soviets began studying the possibility of engineered amnesia. The main application being the reeducation of dissidents and their reintroduction to society in a manner that would extinguish insurgency movements among the people. And they had a great deal of success over the years of the program; had actually tested it on many of those who had been exiled for what they considered low level rabble rousing.

“Eventually, our government learned of the research and managed to obtain a copy of the formula. They began their own trials with similar, but larger purposes for it – sending agents out on covert missions and then removing all traces of delicate information or allowing people with limited security clearances to aid in classified situations without breeching security long term. And, of course, the ability to render a foreign operative useless.”

The matter of fact manner in which listed off the military uses for such a drug reminded Chloe, once again, that Lex was a formidable strategist. He saw the opportunity in every situation and everything that was happening between them hinged on that fact. And so she swallowed her reaction to his words and maintained her silence, hoping that things were not as they seemed and, if that was too much to beg from fate, hoping that she could change them.

“It’s odd, you know,” he continued with an almost clinical detachment. “All of the focus on memories and the FS-proBNP serum doesn’t touch them. Every memory remains, safe and secure, exactly as the brain catalogued it. But without a pathway…” He trailed off; gathered his thoughts.

“That pathway is built with a protein and takes anywhere from nine to twelve months to complete the construction and then disperse. It is entirely unique to the process of memory storage and retrieval and is found nowhere else in the body. If that protein is broken down then the bridge to memories stored within that time frame are permanently lost. FS-proBNP disintegrates the protein while leaving all around it untouched.”

“Then I’d only lose a year,” she stated in confusion as to what he could possibly gain from this. “So I’d keep almost all of my memories except the ones of us?”

With a slightly haunted look he shook his head. “No. After your accident, all of the damaged pathways were repaired in the same manner that new ones are built. Those new pathways are all marked in a consistent manner. This will leave you exactly as you were upon waking up following your injury.”

“No. No. No,” the denial was almost a chant on her lips as she tore her hand from his; forced herself to asked the questions and steeled herself to hear the terrible truth. “You’re just going to mess with my brain? Fill me full of some experimental goop and hope you achieve whatever twisted goals you’ve set for yourself?”

“Of course not,” he exclaimed; appalled at the very thought of taking such a risk with her. “I would never take a chance with you. God, Chloe, you’re my world!”

And the fact that she could see that he meant it made it all harder instead of better and she couldn’t stop the tears – of frustration, of anger, of fear – from sliding down her cheeks.

“This procedure, it was studied for decades. And even when the testing stopped, regular follow up of the subjects occur even now in the interest of national security.” His eyes were burning blue fire; almost wild in his need to convince her. “All this does is act on that one, unique element in your brain. It doesn’t have any effect on anything else in your system.”

His certainty was terrifying and she lashed out, “And what if it doesn’t work? What then? Do you lock me up? Keep me prisoner for the rest of my life?”

“No,” he assured her. “It does work. It always works. In eighty seven percent of the subjects it worked on first administration. Out of the remaining subjects, two thirds reacted positively to the second, and by the third, one hundred percent of the patients exhibited the trademark characteristics of amnesia.”

“Third?” Her exclamation choked as it caught in her throat. “You’re just going to pump me full of whatever the hell concoction you have over and over? How do you know for sure what will happen with all of that stuff swimming in my head?”

Lex knew that she had every reason to believe that; to assume that he was a madman. She couldn’t know that he’d spent the last few weeks in Stockholm going over test after test, hundreds of case studies spanning decades. And he also knew that nothing he said would reassure her. Why should it? He wasn’t so far gone that he didn’t understand that her fury was righteous and just.

Still, he offered, “The serum leaves your body almost immediately, so there’s no build up in the tissues. There’s no way to determine it was even there. In every person who’s undergone the process there was no detectable change in the brain. If it wasn’t for the clinically observable absence of memories in the target time span no one would even know that anything had been done at all.”

He wouldn’t be swayed with talk of science. Chloe knew that he had a far better grasp of the field than she did and, moreover, she’d seen the obsession emblazoned across his face and it was that very fixation that wouldn’t allow him to take the chance of causing any outcome other than the one he anticipated.

And since reason wouldn’t triumph, all that was left was an appeal to the man who had sworn his love for her.

“Why? Why would you do this to me?”

Lex closed his eyes and tried to block out the agony in her voice. He’d wrapped himself up in the explanations and technicalities of it all so he wouldn’t have to see this – the anguish in her eyes, hear the betrayal in her voice. He knew that what he was doing was horrific; that the darkness he’d always feared had consumed him. And so he gave her the only thing that he could, and the one thing she valued so deeply – the truth.

“Because I’ve found that I can live without the illusion of being a good person; without even trying to be one. I can live without any hope, any chance of redemption. But I can’t live without you in my life. I can’t seem to remember how.”

Bleak laughter escaped him. “Do you think that I don’t know that I’m obsessed? That there must be something truly wrong with me that I can even contemplate this? I know I’m a monster.”

He reached out and recaptured her hand; clinging to it when she would have drawn it back. “But I also know that you love me. That you were happy with me. Healthy, safe, secure. Not because I was perfect, or rich, or strong, but because you saw something real in me; something valuable. Because I was your husband and I loved you. And I’m not willing to give that up because Clark Kent has finally figured out just how amazing you are and convinced you to hide from your true feelings in some kind of farce of a marriage with him.”

Chloe’s struggles to remove her hand from his stopped as confusion and a terrible, sinking feeling consumed her. “What are you talking about? I’m not marrying Clark.”

“I know. At the hospital, Clark told me.” His harsh tone and slight grimace showed that he was loathe to speak the words aloud. “He told me about your engagement.”

Still fighting against the drugs in her system, Chloe was trying to absorb the seemingly never ending blows. But this newest revelation, she was afraid that she understood it too well.

She knew that Clark’s feelings for her had been changing, growing. Knew too that he was desperate to protect her from what he saw as a genuine threat to both her safety and her happiness. It was not a great leap of logic to understand what had happened that day – that Clark had warned Lex off in a way the he thought would force the other man away by playing on his history of almost universal rejection and abandonment.

“Lex, no. Whatever Clark told you, he was just trying to protect me.” Her hand turned and now grasped his. “We’re not getting married; we’re not even dating. There’s absolutely nothing between us but friendship.”

He wanted to believe her, ached to be the only one in her heart. But just as hope swelled, it was crushed under the weight of reality.

“It doesn’t matter.” And it didn’t. “If you hadn’t run into the security of his arms and his love before, there’s no denying that you would do so now. He’s safe and familiar and now that he sees you…he’s quite deeply in love with you.”

The finality in his words and the inevitability in his voice were feeding her fear and Chloe lashed out with the only weapon she could think of. “If what you say is true and Clark loves me that much then you have to know that he’ll come for me. It doesn’t matter if I remember him or not; he’ll find me.”

“No,” Lex contradicted. “Not if he thinks that you’re dead.”

“He won’t belie–”

“Actually, he will,” he told her. “You’ve been working on some very high profile investigations with your cousin. I know because I was the one sending her all of her tips to keep her occupied while we were together.

“It wasn’t even difficult,” he said, sounding almost as if a part of him had hoped that it would be; that it hadn’t been so easy to come to this.

“Today at 9:37 am, Chloe Sullivan left The Daily Planet and drove to the south side industrial district to meet with an informant for her story on Harkman Industries. After that meeting concluded she entered the parking garage, got into her car, and turned the ignition resulting in a massive explosion – the result of a car bomb. Her remains were identified through witness accounts of her entering the car and dental records; when the DNA results come in they will lay to rest any doubts.”

She wanted to deny it; to refuse to believe that everyone she loved would think that she was dead. But the utter calm with which the words were spoken – as if the bare facts would be less personal and therefore less painful – stripped her denial away.

“And now what,” she asked harshly, realizing that Lex had meticulously planned everything out. “Now what happens to me?”

“We’ll go to Europe for a while,” he revealed. “Even Clark acknowledged that I love you; it won’t be difficult for him to believe that I simply couldn’t stay here without you. And LuthorCorp has expanded it international base of operations, so running things from overseas is actually an astute business more.”

“That’s it?” she cried. “What about everything I’ve worked for, the things that I’ve struggled to achieve? I’ve dreamed of working at the Planet my whole life!”

With a shake of his head he denied her assumptions, “I know. I know how hard you’ve worked and I won’t keep you from your dream. We’ll come back. I never planned to stay away forever.

“In a few years, you and I will have built a life together. You’ll be secure in my love and you’ll love me in return. So when we come home we’ll simply tell people that you hadn’t entered the car before the explosion and were blown clear. That you were injured and had damaged your memory and so I faked your death to keep you safe. There was no actual body at the scene; the paramedics, coroner, and key law enforcement officials were all well compensated for declaring that there was and will readily admit, on our return, that it was in an attempt to keep you safe.

“Of course Clark will try to convince you that all of it is a lie but, at that point, why would you believe him – a man who clearly has an axe to grind with your husband? And what will his proof be? A previous kidnapping that he didn’t even bother to report to the police? That neither of you reported?” There was a bitter satisfaction in his words. “No, Clark’s only advantage in convincing you of something like that is your trust for him…but you won’t have that trust by the time he realizes that you’re still alive.”

She ignored his confident assertions and assured him, “It doesn’t matter what plans you make or how long it takes, Clark will rescue me and you won’t be able to stop him.”

Chloe watched as his face seemed to lose all expression and his hand pulled from hers. For a moment she thought that she may have finally reached him and made him see the folly of his plan. But he simply reached in and retrieved something from his pocket which he dropped on the bed, beside her.

Only years of practice held back the gasp in her throat, and only the crushing gravity of the situation kept the shock from twisting her features.


There, glittering up at her from where they’d been spilled, were a handful of the small remnants of Clark’s long gone home.

Even as he felt the familiar tug of frustration, Lex couldn’t help but admire the loyalty that allowed Chloe to be, however briefly, diverted from her own concerns to once again protect Clark’s. But this time that feeling was a mere shadow of days gone by as he was merely being denied a truth he now knew.

“You don’t need to deny it. My father told me. He told me everything.”

It had been her greatest fear since learning that Lionel knew about Clark. Clark, by nature and circumstance was inclined to give others the benefit of the doubt, to want to believe in a person’s ability to change. But Chloe knew, with every instinct that she possessed, that the only epiphanies that Lionel Luthor ever had were revelations on how to be an even greater bastard than he’d been before.

Only one question formed and she had to ask it, despite knowing that the only possible answer was that Lionel was truly evil. “Why?”

“My father witnessed my exchange with Clark at the hospital.” A pained look crossed his face at the mere memory. “He came to my office the next day; told me that he’d seen Clark’s declaration. He said that he could help me get you back.”

Lex ignored her sharp intake of breath, the desperate clenching of her fists and continued; determine to tell her the whole of it. “Of course, nothing is free when it comes to my father. And so, in exchange for regaining some of his lost power within LuthorCorp, he told me everything about Clark – his origins, his strengths,” he paused, looking pointedly down at the rocks, “and his weaknesses.”

Chloe sat for a moment, completely dumbfounded by his stupidity; his utter disregard of the danger he was courting. “And you trust him? Are you insane?! You’re letting your father back into your life when you know what he’ll do to you.”

Lex knew she was in shock; knew that she was still fighting the haze of the drugs in her system, and yet he couldn’t help but be touched be her concern for him. A concern so genuine and so deep that it found expression no matter the circumstances.

“A year ago I would have agreed with you. But now…” He paused, trying to find the words to explain to her the changes in him that had come from loving her; to at least attempt to show her why he couldn’t let her go. “Chloe, while my father is definitely dangerous – will always be so – my weakness, what put me so frequently at his mercy, was that I needed him to love me.

“All of my life I’ve been searching for a family, for the love and acceptance that offered. And, sadly, my father always seemed like the best chance I had of getting that. The ultimate approval of who I am as a person.”

His gaze sharpened; intensified as he willed her to understand. “But now, now he’s not. Because of you. Because you love me. Because you’re the family I’ve been searching for, for so long. Because despite everything I’ve done, all the darkness and damage, you loved me, accepted me…cherished me.

“And what my father can’t comprehend, can’t even begin to imagine, is that that truth renders him the one thing he could never conceive of being – expendable.”

Shaking with a volatile mixture of rage and fear she spat out, “And Clark? Is he expendable to?”

Lex knew where she was going; what she imagined to be Clark’s fate now, and he couldn’t blame her. Yes, he’s felt betrayed by his former friend in many ways. Yes, he was jealous of the younger man for whom everything seemed to come so easily. But what she couldn’t understand, what Clark would never understand was that he didn’t want to harm, he simply wanted to comprehend.

“I don’t want to hurt Clark. I have no plans to either expose or exploit him. In fact,” his gaze caught hers to reveal his earnest intentions, “unless he tries to take you from me, I will leave him to his life.”

He continued with a heavy sigh, “Nothing that I did was ever about hurting Clark. It was always simply about knowing. Chloe, I hit him with my car head on. And he walked away without a scratch. He’s impossibly strong, able to appear in an instant, and is at the center of all that is bizarre and unexplainable in Smallville. And I knew all of this before my father’s revelation.”

Chloe was still, waiting, needing to know if her best friend was facing a fate darker than her own. And, on some level, Lex’s words were reassuring. Since she’d awoken he had confessed a whole manner of transgressions. As appalling as his words were, he had given her no reason to doubt their veracity.

“Clark is powerful,” he continued. “Too powerful to be left unchecked. To leave the world to hope that he’s never effected by the various forms of the meteors, that he’s never manipulated by the technology of his civilization, or that he never simply breaks under the weight of so much power. The world can’t be expected to rely on your faith in him. There needs to be a safeguard. You can think the world of him, Chloe, but invincibility unchecked is an infinite danger.”

And it was too much; all of it. Too much emotion, too much anger, too much pain and it flooded her soul and broke from her. “Why are you telling me this,” she cried. “You claim that you love me, but if it’s all been planned out and I’m powerless to stop it why taunt me like this?”

Sorrow flitted across his features and left a vulnerability in its wake that made him look young and so very breakable.

“I know that it hurts and I know that you feel helpless. I know that I’m handling this wrong because it’s atrocious and there’s no right way to handle it. But I just…” he trailed off while he tried to find the words to defend the indefensible, “I just wanted to give you this truth. Before so much becomes a lie, before all but our love will be built on fabrications, I wanted you to have this.”

His head bowed, his voice a hollow whisper he confessed, “And, maybe, I wanted you to hate me. Maybe I wanted you to look at me with such betrayal that it’s burned into my mind; so that it’s always a part of me. Maybe I just needed to suffer for what I’m about to do.”

Chloe had always know that Lex’s greatest vulnerability to the potential for darkness within him was his ability to rationalize his choices; to find the smallest of validations in his beliefs and inflate them to encompass the whole of his actions. She could hear it now in every word he said, every argument he made; hear it in the way that he thought that he could have his happiness if he embraced his suffering. And she wanted to be able to refute his reasoning to break him with logic and truth. But, ultimately, that was beyond her as fear clutched her and agony tore at her soul and all she could focus on was all she was losing; everything he was taking from her.

“And is that what this is about? Your life; your needs?” She pressed her hands against her chest as if that would easy the terrible ache. “You talk about your bastard of a father, but what about mine? What about the good and decent, wonderful and loving man who raised me?”

Tears carved silver trails down her cheeks as the far reaching repercussions of his actions finally hit her. Her voice rose to match her growing dread. “Who will remember him? Who will know that he put little notes in the lunches he packed for me until I was thirteen? Who’ll remember that he took me to the zoo every year on the day I learned my mom was gone so that I wouldn’t be left with only pain when I thought about it? Who’s going to hold on to the memory of him sitting by my bed, all night for an entire week after I’d been buried alive just in case I woke up and needed him?

“You’re stealing him from me; killing him all over again,” she shouted, caught up in her anger and her need for him to hear here.

“No! I’m not; Chloe, I’m not,” he seemed frantic to reassure her. “Listen to me; when we were together we were happy. That wasn’t because I knew how to have a happy marriage – God knows all of mine have been unmitigated disasters. No; we were happy because you knew how to have one.

“It wasn’t something you thought about or that you remembered, it was simply a part of you. All those years watching the Kents and absorbing their beliefs about love and partnerships shaped the your most basic perceptions of marriage.”

Chloe shook her head in denial, closed her eyes against the manic light in his. But nothing stopped his words from buffeting her from all sides.

“You’ll keep your father alive in the same way; in the father you expect me to be to our children.”

She didn’t understand, couldn’t comprehend the magnitude of such warped and obsessive thinking that would allow someone, not to just consider such an undertaking, but to actually follow through with it.

Dazed at his utter certainty and overcome by a crashing wave of hopelessness she whispered, “I’ll hate you.’

Desolation washed over his face as his whisper answered hers, “You won’t tomorrow.”

“No, no!” Panic swallowed her whole and reduced her to desperate pleading. “Lex, you don’t have to do this. It doesn’t have to be this way. We can work this out. I can forgive you; I swear! Please, we can still make it work.”

The grief carved on his face and the depths of his need warring with his self-loathing answered her question as eloquently as the words that seemed torn from him, naked and raw.

“I have to. I have to. Chloe…God,” his face twisted in agony, “I just want my wife back.”

Pulling back sharply, she lunged off the other side of the bed. At the door in scant steps, she threw it open only to be greeted by the impossibly large and burly form of one of Lex’s security team. Before she could even attempt to evade him, large, heavy arms encircled her, moving her back into the room.

Thrashing wildly, she didn’t notice Lex behind her or see the doctor at her side until her arm was firmly grasped and the prick of a needle, followed quickly by a sudden lethargy, pierced her hysteria. The arms holding her slid away as another, more familiar pair embraced her; lifting her carefully before placing her back on the bed.

As she lost the battle against the pull of unconsciousness, the last the she heard was Lex’s voice, soft and steady.

“It’s okay, Chloe. Everything will be okay.”

Entering the small room, Lex moved swiftly to the bed where Chloe was resting. The doctors had assured him that the procedure had worked within minutes and that all that was left was to wait for the sedative to wear off. Once it had begun to do so, he vacated the room, leaving the doctors to run their tests and to give her a brief and highly edited overview of her situation. It seemed best to let them deal with her initial confusion as they were better adept at handling such matters and Chloe’s inherent understanding of society would lead her to believe what she accepted as an authority on the subject.

He also acknowledged that, despite how well he knew her, their familiarity with memory disorders might give them the edge in accessing the success of the procedure. And, thankfully, their professional opinion was that all had gone according to plan.

With a shuddering breath, Lex felt his tension ease. Although he knew that he would have to see, to judge for himself, he couldn’t help the relief at the thought of not having to put Chloe through such an ordeal again.

He realized that she must have heard his sigh as her eyelids fluttered for a moment before opening to the most beautiful sight he’d ever seen – her green eyes, glowing with her inherent intelligence and curiosity, but stripped of any animosity, any betrayal, any sign of her past. And, suddenly, he was filled with an unfamiliar sense of gratitude at life, the universe, fate, whatever force it was that had given him this one perfect thing in an otherwise cold existence.

Sitting in the chair that the nurse placed at her bedside for him, Lex reached out, hesitating slightly before closing his hand over hers. Watching her slight blush at his actions, he waited for her to speak.

“So, I’m guessing that we know each other.”

It was an eerie replay of the same moment played out months before. And with a lightened heart and a sense of contentment so overwhelming in its unfamiliarity, all he could do was follow her lead.

“I would hope so; otherwise our wedding would have been a very awkward affair.”