Anyway You Slice It by Maveness
'Chloe knows, but half the fun is in the telling.' (pg-13)

Someone to Watch Over Me by SullivanLane
'Clark would always remember her that way, despite all that they had gone through.'  (pg)

Witness by Amy
'Before she could formulate any words, her
best friend was gone in a blur of light.' (pg)

A Faustian Bargain by Medie
'Chloe Sullivan puts it together...and finds herself with a choice to make.'  (g, stargate crossover)

A Definition of Power by Hope
'Since Chloe was being irrational anyway, why not go for the Unreasonable Hall of Fame?' (pg-13, s3 spoilers)

Americana Tails by Regina
'Chloe. Seriously. Youve known about me for almost a year now, and Ive spent the majority of that year doing your bidding.' (pg)

Fixate by JollyCynic
'When Chloe finds out, it's not Clark who makes her blood boil.' (pg-13, s3 spoilers)

Moment by Huffy the Campfire Slayer
'Chloe and Clark exchange their secrets and Clark ponders how the two of them can be walking such parallel paths, yet be on such different journeys.' (nc-17)

Windfall by Wiccid Sister
'An encounter in Burnham Woods leads to a discovery.'  (nc-17)

Countdown to the Inevitable by Tara O'Shea
'She'd known for seven years, four months, seventeen days, five hours, and twelve minutes by the time he finally figured out that she knew.'  (pg)

Twist by Chiriru
'Her own curiosity had made her hang on to the ring; it was her fault that he had it. She had to stop Clark before he hurt himself because of it.' (pg-13)

My Immortal by Paperbkryter
'She was tired of watching him bleed to death.' (nc-17)



Contributor Links:
* An Unexpected Snow
* Chandler's Field
* Chiriru.Net
* Comma Issues
* Crimson Idealist
* Lightstar Designs
* LondonRain.Net
* Maveness Delights
* Sarcastic Ramblings w/Regina
* Secrets-and-Lies.Com
* Tig-TV
* Words

Link to Us ( ):



Chloe Sullivan liked working at the Daily Planet. Unlike the Torch, there wasn't any freak of the week tearing through her files and without her typical editorial duties to interrupt her, she was rarely annoyed or bothered. In fact, she was rarely stressed out due to her actual work at all, totally unlike her previous summer as a mail and coffee deliver. Chloe figured that the Luthor rider attached to this job (one she wasn't sure if she was happy to have) probably paid to keep her time open for whatever job Lionel wanted from her.

However, every time she sat down at her cubical, her mind drifted back to the day where she made a deal with the proverbial devil. It had felt funny and awkward sitting there, nothing in which to record the meeting; no pens, no tapes, nothing that proved she was the journalist she so desperately wanted to become. She had allowed herself to be bought, and now she sat in her corner of the main floor with her dream realized. But it felt wrong. She had her job, she had the paper... but she wasn't happy. And she knew exactly why.

Chloe peered over at the desk caddy-corner from her where Grant McKinnon and Max Taylor were talking over the work of a investigative reporter. She could see the desk, the excited voices, and her heart started to beat a little faster. She wasn't interested in fluff pieces she wrote currently. No, digging and collecting where Chloe's skills, and delivering the message was the pay off.

And, although Lionel hadn't realized it yet, the older Luthor had given her the key to that future. She had to be careful, but after her investigations with Arther Walsh had reaffirmed what she had believed during the stand-off at the LuthorCorp plant:

Level Three was the story of her career; whether Lionel Luthor liked it or not.

Chloe knew he expected her to use his resources to find the insight into Clark that he couldn't and for her to use those answers for her Wall. At first, perhaps she did too.

But after her conscious had kicked into high gear, she had turned her access into an excuse to search out the truth about Level Three. About what they did, who was in charge, who was a target. Anything she could get her hands on, all with the claim that understanding the people whom Clark had stopped could provide some key insight into Clark himself.

She tapped her fingers on her desk impatiently. The newest intern hadn't shown up with her mail yet; Craig had hinted that there were more spottings, including a mention on last nights police records, of Metropolis' latest urban legend. Supposedly, he was going to bring her up the file with her mail but he was late, and she was hungry.

Putting her purse on her shoulder, she flicked off her monitor and started out to lunch. While her mind wandered back to the tangles of her small town, her body walked out into the open, sprawling excess of the city. Right now she was uptown and everything was shining, expensive. She took one look at the golden glove atop the building and cracked a smile. That symbol never failed to raise her spirits a bit; it was a beacon that shown the ideals of truth and justice in a city that wasn't always so moral.

Her tiny heels clicked along the pavement as she walked, and while in Smallville they would have made distinct noises with each footfall, here her steps were lost with in the myriad of different people surrounding her. Part of Chloe always marveled at how quickly she fell back into the city-girl role she had once lived. In three days or less, she was guarded and determined once more, each action a 'sure thing.' Lately though, she always had lingering doubts about how much small-town life had finally seeped into her pores and made her look out of place.

Stopping at a Balducci's, she pulled open the handle of the door, and quickly slid into a booth at the back. Ruby, the lunch time waitress, brought her the black coffee wordlessly, flopping a menu down and walked off. She'd be back in about seven minutes, even though they both knew what Chloe was going to order.

The blonde stayed lost in thought. The same day she had 'agreed' to help Lionel, she had come back to see her office trashed once again. It frustrated her to no end but Pete came in the next morning to help her clean it up; he seemed to feel almost guilty.

They had done this before; it was becoming like some sort of tradition. Chloe had pulled out the clip board and Pete had tallied through everything in the office that day marking it off on the official check list she had printed up after the time when Eric -- no, she paused and corrected herself, Lionel -- had trashed the properties. It was three o'clock when they went through the final tallies and she had asked if everything was still there. Pete had ran his finger down the clip board, talking in a tired tone.

"Yep, everything's here..." His voice had wavered slightly and clutched the clipboard a bit to tightly. She had snatched it from him in annoyance. Pete never had been able to lie to her very well, and her trailed her finger up and down the check listed until she noticed the one item that was checked-off but she hadn't seen.

The red-meteorite class ring.

Rubbing her temples as Ruby sat her turkey melt in front of her, she tried to piece the puzzle together -- again. Chloe knew, based on the incident at the beginning of the year that this variety of meteorite could effect people too. The person in question, of course, was Clark. She never told him what she suspected or posted him on her wall exactly... but she couldn't deny what she had seen with her own two eyes. It was a theory that Lana reluctantly contributed to after Chloe had grilled the Talon owner about her own thrill ride. Chloe still had no idea how many other students where inadvertently harmed by the red crystal or what it did to them. But someone had gone to pretty good lengths to find that ring, someone who had to know she had one.

'Well,' she thought with a small snort. 'That narrows the field to everyone in Smallville High.' She paused, biting into her greasy sandwich. 'But since only my desk was torn open it would be someone who knows me well enough to know where I'd put it.' That had shortened the list considerably, and the name left at the top wasn't one she was exactly thrilled to see.

Clark, who had some kind of known reaction to the red stone, had purposefully stolen it from her and had left town. Chloe bit her lip. Surely he had gathered by now that prolonged exposure caused whatever effects it had on him to worsen.  A dull panic started to grow in her chest, the one she had been trying to stamp out for months, and the realization set in fully.

Clark became, well, anti-Clark according to her and Lana's observations. Not that it made sense, or that it was much of a mutation compared to what she had seen before, but the dull panic was growing. Clark normally was a good, helpful guy. A guy who saved lives, a guy who was practically a model kid, a guy who was pretty moral and law-abiding. The idea of a Clark who hurt people and decided his word was law... the thought struck her cold.

'Clark's going to get himself killed.'

Chloe leaned back in her seat with a sigh, the booth creaking with her movement. Clark could be anywhere, doing any number of things. And while she wouldn't call herself a friend of Clark's any longer, she didn't want him die. Chloe had claimed only months earlier to get to the bottom of Smallville's mysteries and to try to expose the truth about the meteorites. Her own curiosity had made her hang on to the ring; it was her fault that he had it. She had to stop Clark before he hurt himself because of it.

With an abrupt nod, she flipped her money on the table. Grabbing her purse, she made her way back to the Planet. She pulled out her cell phone. The screen flashed that she had three new messages, but Chloe ignored them, it was most likely Lionel anyway.  It could be Lucy ....but Chloe didn't really want to talk to either of them. Her fingers flew over the familiar number and she found herself muttering waiting for the pick up.

"Mark!" she exclaimed when he did finally answer. "Mark, I need you to look up something for me as soon as possible. I'm looking for a 1970's vintage black motorcycle, the title should be for Jonathan Kent." She paused outside the Planet entrance. "No, I don't have any more information because I think the plates may have been changed... the original was CHN something; it should of been in Metropolis at least in the last month... can you just check police reports or tracings or something with what information you do have?" Licking her lips she heard him grudgingly agree and she beamed. "Oh, thank you so much! I owe you," she added before returning to her cubical.

When she walked in side, people were running everywhere, the noise of the keyboards and the talking seemed to roar. Control over the normal chaos was gone. Chloe weaved in and out of the crowd for minutes before she could get to her desk. Looking over her cubical wall, she saw a familiar dark head and two hands moving furiously as the girl navigated through the Planet's information database. She called the occupant's common nickname a few times before changing her tone.

"Catherine!" she asked in a harsh whisper. The familiar face of the oldest intern whipped up to look at her, startled and then slightly annoyed that the blonde had broken her routine.

"What is it?" the fellow intern asked, her voice tinged only slightly with harshness.

"What's going on? It's like a zoo in here." Chloe looked over her cube again as Grant broke into a loud rant at newly-wedded Ron and winced.

"Hello? Chloe? Are you even listening?" She whipped around to look back at Catherine, the former Hawaiian intern looking at her with a heavy glare from her dark brown eyes. Chloe shook her head and gestured towards the editor.

"McKinnon was....I was distrac..." she paused. "Sorry?"

"I'll take that as a, 'No, Cat, I did not check my voice mail after lunch.'" Chloe grinned sheepishly at the smirking girl. "What happened," Catherine said, dropping her voice, "Is that there was a bunch of robberies about an half-an-hour ago -- at the DeBeer's shops and at the Metropolis Museum. While the bigger jewelry shops are reporting losses in the thousands already, the city officials aren't even saying what is missing from the museum. I'm guessing it has to be a lot if they don't want to admit how badly their new security system messed up. My money is that it's on the Wayne exhibit on loan from Gotham and they just don't want to have to deal with Bruce's lawyers." Cat's smile was creeping up her face, her eyes glinting in odd happiness in the fluorescent lighting of the office. Chloe inhaled deeply, the idea of a super speedy thief sounded more like something out of Smallville than Metropolis.

"How could one crime ring do all that in broad daylight? That's impossible." Catherine smiled wildly at her now, knowing she had Chloe hook, line, and sinker.

"Want to know the really impossible thing about it, Chloe? The rumor is the robberies took place within seconds of one another. The timed tapes at the stores lined it up -- supposedly all you see is a streak. Gems are there, seconds later -- poof! gone! -- And then, the next one gets hit." Catherine grinned up at her, please with the work.

"GRANT! SULLIVAN! Back to work!" The stern face glared at her with steely gray eyes that made her angered and abashed at the same time. In that instant she was so happy not to be working with the regular internship just so she didn't have to listen to McKinnon everyday.

Chloe heard the taps of Catherine's key strokes as she slunk into her chair. A thick manila file sat on her desk with her mail, a small blue post-it note from Craig attached to the top in a scrawling print. Peering around, she flipped through it for a moment finding police reports, sighting notifications, photos and other miscellaneous objects. Pulling out a few pieces of paper, she began to read even as her mind wandered elsewhere.

She had seen telekinetic abilities from Justin and while he could move things quickly, he couldn't move them as fast as these robberies supposedly happened. And, compared to Smallville, it wasn't out of the question. She needed to get a hold of those tapes to see exactly what happened.

Shaking her head, Chloe stuffed the folder into the messenger bag she kept tucked inside her desk. 'Urban myths and robberies can wait for a change,' she though and she flicked on her computer, 'I've got a more important mission for the moment.' The Planet's database came up faithfully and a few seconds later, she was for information about the red vein of meteorite near Hobb's Pond. Finding Clark and the mysteries of the red meteorite came first, then she could focus on the jewel heist.

It was a little after six when she got to her flat, tossing her bags right inside the door. Her apartment was also uptown and a bit too sterile for her liking. Lionel had put her up in the small condo which felt more than a little lonely. It also, based on a passing comment Clark had made earlier in the year, more than a little nervous as to how exactly the elder Luthor was keeping tabs on her. Especially with the false leads she had been feeding him.

Walking over to her iMac, she flipped it on and threw the manila folder from Craig on her desk. As she waited for her system to boot-up she pulled her heels off and sat down Indian-style in her broken computer chair.

Sitting there her mind started another run-through of what she had accomplished. After researching the class ring company for a third time, she had tried calling her roommate. Chloe had tried at home, at the Talon, and finally at Nell's only to never reach the brunette. Eventually Chloe had slammed the phone down in frustration, realizing that any direct questions about Clark to Lana would probably result in evasion or tears; she didn't have time to deal with either. For a moment she had contemplated calling Pete, but he would also play the diversionary tactic.

Chloe twirled a lock of hair at the back of her neck around her index finger, trying to plan her next step. What she needed were facts. Cold, hard facts about Clark's where abouts and what he was doing. She needed them if she was going to call anyone from home.

Her fingers flew over the keys as she logged on, bringing up a web browser and a few other auto-launched programs. Chloe entered her files, bringing up her saved Ledger and Torch articles. Skimming for the information she needed, she maximized the browser and entered her email program. Several new messages appeared highlighted, many with a red dot marked as 'urgent' and titles about the supposed 'super criminal.'

Clicking on them randomly and skimming, she picked up her phone and dialed the familiar number of her local Chinese take-out. Craig had emailed her with more stray factoids and Teresa had reminded her of her article deadline. She was working on her story for her boss when the delivery boy dropped off her food. She was eating and proofreading when her doorbell rang again ten minutes latter.

Confused, she went to the door and looked out. A large white and purple package rested on her doorstep. Pursing her lips, she picked it up and shut door with her foot. Setting the LuthorCorp package on her coffee table, she pushed her article and pan fried noodles to the end.

The white and purple cardboard folded back easily, as did the bubble wrap, to reveal a cream, watermarked envelope and another LuthorCorp box. Her kiwi colored nails scrapped against the thick paper as she tore open the seal and pulled out two sheets of paper and a card. The eggshell card invited her to a LuthorCorp opening exhibit that was to come to the recently robbed Metropolis museum in a few weeks. The second sheet was a small laminated press pass. And the third was a letter in Lionel's slanted script, notification that he would be "in touch" and his belief that should would find his parcel "extremely interesting."

Chloe gave a hard look at the invitation. Who in their right mind would put up an exhibit in a museum so quickly after it had been robbed? It was understandable that the museum wanted to move on, to put up something that would give them good press. But for Lionel Luthor to put a collection of anything in it seemed ludicrous. Chloe smelled a conspiracy.

The other white and purple box caught her eye; what in the world was he sending her? She stacked her letters on her table before tearing into it. Seven small, glossy discs tumbled out of it and onto the raspberry carpet of her apartment. Lightly touching them, as if afraid they would crumble under her fingertips, she picked them up noting tiny silver letters and digits marked around the inner ring of each disc, labeling them. Picking the first disc, she put it inside her DVD player and sitting Indian style on the carpet, she reached back for her pan fried noodles as it played, showing nothing. Chloe grasped her chopsticks and glanced down and pick out a piece of chicken (it was cold) and when she looked up the screen showed a jewelry store covered in scattered bits of broken glass cases, a woman screaming, and a distinct lack of jewelry.

Dropping her food, she realized exactly what he had sent her. Chloe scrambled for her remote and backed the disc up. Watching intently, her eyes could barely keep up with the motion; glass would fly as if impacted with a sledge hammer, forming a glittering explosion that fell over the velvet jewel cases. A dark spot zigged across the screen as she put the player into slow motion. Then suddenly the spot just streaked away and the glass was broken. Her green eyes flicked down to the lower right corner of the screen; it had been 12:05 PM in Capriani's. Her hands twitched, she needed to write down the thoughts flying through her head.

Jumping over her forgotten supper, Chloe raced to her back room picking up a map of downtown Metropolis and a felt-tip marker. She swept her arm across the coffee table, knocking the books and other paper mail on the floor. Scanning the map, she found the intersection which the Italian jewelry shop had stood and put circle with the time down with her navy marker.

Half an hour later, she had six more dates circled creating several sharp zig-zags across the city while only five minutes had passed. The disc from the museum was spinning around in her DVD player showed that Catherine's instances were annoyingly spot on. Bruce Wayne's exhibits of gems, ancient artifacts, and other family relics were smashed and raided, although it wasn't as cleared out as it could of been. As if the blur was only looking for certain objects.

Chloe looked down at her map. What was the pattern, besides the fact that they were all jewelry stores? Gems were easily traded and disguised, and even more easily smuggled away as a back up monetary supply incase said criminal was caught; Chloe had a feeling that wasn't it or all of it at least. Green eyes flitted over the map again as her finger trailed along the dark blue line. Her finger stopped over an un-robbed Tiffany's store, a perfect midpoint of the line. The store was right in-between the first, southern most robbery and the last, northern most robbery of the museum. It was also between the robberies to the farthest east and west. It was right smack dab in the middle and, it was fine!

'This only makes less and less sense,' she thought. 'It would be an obvious target but, it's fine. And while there was an obvious breach of the Intertech security system and the known rivalry between Wayne Industries and LuthorCorp, it just doesn't make sense!'

She moved her finger up and down on the map before her eye caught on what would be the median line between the museum and the first store. The phone rang and she absently answered it as she uncapped her marker and started drawing the line down from the museum.

"Chloe? I've got the information about that motorcycle you wanted," Mark said, slightly hassled. She perked up a bit as she continued to slow draw her line southwards along Main Street.

"Really? Where is it?" The navy streak ran straight through the untouched Tiffany shop, sitting like a guide post for her theory.

"It's been spotted all over the city. Quite often around the Syracuse Projects earlier this summer, which is - supposedly - right at the heart of Edge's territory." His voice was picking up with excitement as Chloe finished her marking. Her blue line ended on an old steel factory at 1403 Elm, a few scant blocks from the Syracuse. Mark continued on, oblivious to Chloe's silence. "Right in the middle of..."

"Suicide Slum," she finished for him drawing a big blue circle around the area, her voice soft with awe and shock. What was Clark doing there, of all places? And why did Lionel send her the discs, in the first place? Chloe clicked her phone off, dazed, and picked up Craig's file. She suddenly felt as if she had a lot of reading to do.

Chloe was walking down Brubaker Avenue, her eyes shifting around for possible dangers. It had been a week since Mark had called her; Chloe knew it wasn't much to go on but she didn't have many other options. She had spent the past two nights walking amongst decrypt brick buildings. Neither her apartment nor these slums were the side of Metropolis that Chloe had grown up in and neither of them truly showed the side of the city that she loved. Nevertheless, the downtown district had provided some odd comfort to her; at the very least she knew this town better than Clark.

She pushed her way into another bar; he had taken Lana to the Wild Coyote last time, perhaps Clark liked bars. No one looked up, no one carded, no one cared, and after multiple hours of walking in high-heeled boots neither did Chloe. Perching herself on a stool, she ordered a drink, dropping her voice to seem older than she was. The clear liquid was slapped down in front of her, a slight swirl between the two different viscosities. She could see the name 'Ace O'Clubs' in blurred red letters on the napkin below the glass. Picking it up, she glanced at the liquid.

The random lights of the run down shack were already starting to agitate her eyes by the time she finished it. The random effects made her dizzy; she wondered if looking in the technos and clubs would be more useful. She would certainly be able to check those without looking like a barfly all the time.

She peered up through her spiked bangs, to see the barkeep staring at her. His hair line was receding and his eyes were beady - two things she was beginning to stereotype bartenders having already. His smile was a bit encouraging despite the gold capped front tooth.

"Anything can I do for ya, honey?" he asked, with a leer. Chloe looked through her clutch purse. Shoving the mace to one side, she pulled out her wallet and nodded, withdrawing a picture of Clark as she did so.

"Dij..Have ya seen him?" she asked her words slurring. The old man gave her a hard look as he rubbed down the countertop and refilled her glass.

"What's it to you, missy." It was not a question. Chloe mind wracked itself for answers, coming up short. Shuttering, she paused for a moment.

"He's my ...cou-cousin. Yeah. My cousin." She lowered her voice conspiratorially. "I think he might be gettin' himsleph into trouble." The bartender's look dissolved into a hearty chuckle at her last statement.

"He comes in on occasion on weekends to see some the locals -- Saturdays. Does that help, sweetie?" he asked glancing down her top before his dark eyes met hers. She nodded and slipped off the stool with a wobble. She tried to put down money but he shook his head. "Keep it." His voice was short and clipped, and Chloe thought she detected a hint of fear. "I'll just put it on your....cousin'"

She nodded, her head spinning. She pressed up against the door; the humid air seemed to cling on her skin and the climbing temperature made her dizziness increase. Chloe made her way into the subway and onto her train back towards the west side. Ignoring the looks of the man that shared her car, she clutched her stomach and bent over wanting her head to clear. 'I've got a lead,' she thought as she curled up on a chair, her body going limp far to quickly. 'It's not much, but it's a lead.'

The sun was shining in her face when Chloe woke up, and Dominic Senatori was sitting in a chair across the room from her, reading. Groaning, she sat up and pushed covers that she didn't remember crawling under, off. Looking down, she was wearing large, teal, button-up pajama top that was definitely not hers.

The man sitting in her room, the one she knew by a few brief meetings and the few times he had shown up to hassle Lex or the Kents, immediately got up and started talking to her, his voice soft but his tone that of mock servitude.

"Good morning, Ms. Sullivan. Is there something I can get you? Some water, perhaps? How was your rest?"

Chloe rubbed her temples. She still felt sick and dizzy, two things she definitely wasn't going to tell him. And there was no way she would drink anything he touched. The room was slightly blurry past the foot of the bed and she thought asking him a simple question wouldn't hurt.

"Wh...where am I?" Her voice crackled with disuse. The worm-like man perched himself on the corner of her bed, his hand resting atop her calf with only a sheet in-between. She flinched a bit, but he didn't seem to care.

"You seemed to have managed to get yourself in a bit of trouble. I've made sure you got home safely. We wouldn't want anything happening to our newest associate. As for an actual, physical location, Mr. Luthor and I thought it best if you spent some time in your normal surroundings."

Panic and fear leapt up in her throat as she recognized her room and saw most of her belongings from her condo unpacked in it. A spot of trouble...the drink. Images of the bar and the strong, leering man and tip to Clark. Clark! She had gotten tabs on Clark but then...

They were tracking her; they had to be. But what else did they know?

" were following me?!" she blurted out quickly as the forty year-old grinned unsettlingly.

"You really shouldn't be nervous, Ms. Sullivan." His voice barely concealed venom at her name. "I'm sure we have nothing to hide from each other, now do we?" Chloe blinked a few times, the blue walls of her room in Smallville coming into sharp focus and let her mouth twitch into a small wistful grin.

"...of course not, Mr. Senatori." Letting the look drop off her features she looked around again. Lionel had to know that she was straying if he had drug her down to Smallville again. "So..." she started, letting the word drop on her lips for a moment as Dominic raised an eyebrow, "what time is it?"

"Time for me to be leaving, young lady. With your permission? I'm afraid I'm rather late delivering a report to Mr. Luthor." He stood, brushing his perfect Aramani down as if her home was to good for him. She gave him a sardonic look, knowing that her father's job with Lex made ten times as much even if it lacked the prestige.

"Of course," she said, ignoring his subtle look over her legs. "Let me let you out." She wobbled down the steps after throwing him a wan smile as if she didn't care what he was going to tell his boss. Her stomach curled for the first time; no, it was their boss. Dominic paused at the landing looking around for a moment and she stopped as well, hand creeping the door open.

"Your father has a lovely home here, Ms. Sullivan. You know, I believe LuthorCorp still owns the mortgage on it. Small world, isn't it?" He pulled a coat from the hall closet, looking unnatural in July for doing so. Chloe felt her blood run cold, understanding the implications.

"Yes." She swallowed thickly, feeling her stomach flip-flop wildly. "Extremely," she monotoned as she gestured for him to leave. She watched him out the small window on the front door, locking it and not turning her back until his 944 was out of sight. Sliding her back against her side of the door, she came to the floor as hot tears fell from her eyes and down her cheeks.

She was playing Lionel's game now; coming back and seeing her house had put that back into perspective. She had to find out about Level Three but the cost was quickly becoming much too high. Was a story worth being drugged and abducted for? Worth losing her family for? Worth any of it? Was Clark even worthy of all this?

Chloe didn't think so. Her eyes felt gritty and she rubbed at them haphazardly before glancing at the clock. Half an hour had slipped by and she looked up the stairs towards her room. Truthfully she wanted to lock herself away, but she knew it wouldn't change her situation.

'I should get help,' she thought with slight conviction. Chloe shook her head; previously she had always gone to Clark for help. As friends and with his hero complex, it had been an easy choice. Clark was always trying to be on top of what ever trouble was going down in the small town and when she needed his help, he was there. 'Well, not anymore.'

Her next thought automatically jumped to Lex -- last summer he had come in to help get the Intercorp CEO kicked out of his company on a prior personal vendetta. The rift between Luthor father and son was widely known and usable, sad as it was to say. But Lex was still lost at sea -- she couldn't think of Lex as dead. Either way, he couldn't do anything.

Pulling herself up, she thought of her father. He'd do anything to help her and she knew it. Her father loved her, but she couldn't get him tangled up in this. He was basically running LexCorp right now and he had too much to think about. The last thing he needed was to hear how much she had screwed up.

As she walked across the room, her body veered from side to side. The drug, whatever it was, was still lingering in her system. Reaching the coffee pot, she thought of her last helping hand: Pete. Pete had helped last summer as well, but then again she wasn't the one caught up in the drama. That was back when Clark and Pete still shared things with her. Add on Pete's 'I told you so's' due to her dealing with Luthors not to mention his possible snubbing... no. No, she was in this alone.

The door to the kitchen squeaked open loudly as she raised the mug of hot brown liquid to her lips. The sound of a heavy bag dropped to the ground with a sickening crunch made Chloe turn her head to see a dazed but happy Lana staring at her as if she'd grown a second head.

"What?" she asked with probably more attitude than necessary as Lana grinned wildly and walked over to hug her.

"I'm just so glad you are okay!" the other girl exclaimed drawing back to examin her more thoroughly. "You were asleep for three days at least, and you had a fever -- that Dominic guy wouldn't leave your side -- what's the matter?" Lana looked at Chloe's pale and drawn face. "Are you okay? Do you feel bad again? Maybe you should go lay down," she inquired as she raised the back of her hand to Chloe's warm forehead.

"At least three days?" Chloe cursed under breath, angry at herself and at Dominic. The timing was too convenient and Dominic was obviously keeping her under unknown to Lana. She had missed her potential run-in with Clark and Dominic knew it. He had made sure that she was out of Metropolis. A grim frown set on her face as she processed her options. Swigging down her coffee, she stormed up the stairs Lana chasing after her.

"What a minute! What's going on? Where are you going?" Lana ran right into her bedroom and watched her throw many of her freshly unpacked clothes back into her suitcase. The dizziness had left her, replaced with anger and fear. No, she wasn't going to be kept from her goals now; not when she was so close to finding Clark again. Even Level Three could wait, where ever Clark was Dominic Senatori knew. The thought frightened her.

"Metropolis," she answered in a short clipped tone, throwing her make-up bag in the suitcase as well. Dominic wouldn't run into Clark at a bar; it would be a club or something far more upscale than Suicide Slum. Lionel Luthor obviously didn't like having his employees frequent those parts. The excitement was starting to rush though her again; this was big. The ties between Clark and the robberies and now Dominic were too close to be anything but linked. Lana's small, cold hands on her wrist stopped her in her tracks.

"You need to slow down Chloe, you're going to get hurt." She paused at Lana's words; the other girl was simply talking about her 'illness' but the truth of her words was still there. Biting her tongue, she fixed her roommate a cool glance.

"I have to go Lana, I've got a job to do." Throwing off her night shirt, she pulled on a pair of jeans and a loose T-Shirt for the upcoming three hour journey. It was the truth and a lie; Chloe still felt guilty about it. She did have a job to do even if it wasn't the one that she wanted Lana to automatically assume it was. Sighing in defeat, Lana sat down on the edge of her bed.

"Is there anything I can do to even help, Chloe?"

"No," Chloe said pointedly then sighed, relaxing. Now was not the time or place, she chided herself. She wasn't going to take her anger with Dominic out on Lana. Thinking, she said again, "no...just look after my Dad for me, okay?" Lana nodded slowly and picked up one of Chloe's bags. She reached down and grabbed the other taking it down to her car which had been in storage all summer.

"Keep in touch Chloe. Pete and I..." Lana trailed off looking off in the distance. "We, we worry about you out there." 'And Clark' was the unspoken tag line, but Chloe didn't mind. If they knew half as much as she did right now, their fear for Clark would dwarf any concern for her entirely.

"I will," she said with a small smile. "You keep safe too; call me if anything happens." her green eyes gave Lana a pointed look. "Anything at all." Flipping on her sunglasses she hopped into the familiar feel of her car and cranked her engine. Lana nodded and stood on the porch until she was out of sight in Chloe's rear view mirror. In five minutes, she had past the city limits and pressed down on the accelerator closer to the floor. Metropolis was normally a three hour drive. She glanced down at her clock and grinned slightly. Chloe was going to make it in two.

It was nearly 11 o'clock and Chloe Sullivan, complete with a cramp in her back, had decided that hiding out in a Bug was nothing like hiding out in her old Falcon. Her new car was cute, but not so useful for staking out the LuthorCorp parking lots undetected.

It had been three in the afternoon when she finally made it back to her condo. She thrown open the doors expecting to see a mess, but instead found herself staring at her apartment, exactly as she left it. Despite her best efforts, she couldn't tell if her things had been sorted through or not, despite her gut feeling that they had. It was disconcerting.

Chloe had hopped on her iMac, but it also seemed untouched. Apparently, the mysterious urban punk had been making pranks every night in the ritzier areas of town. Craig had sent her several huge files, including his own copy of the map with big circles around the triangle of Suicide Slum, the Metro Museum, and LuthorCorp. His brief email mentioned property damage for fun seemed to be the mystery man's latest kick -- a string of papers including the Inquisitor and the Planet had been vandalized. He mentioned with an oddly perceptive tone that most of LuthorCorp's handling were just fine. She smiled at Craig's work; he sure was thorough.

'Very, very interesting,' she thought printing it out as she logged on to the LuthorCorp mainframe. She browsed around looking for any mention of Dominic or herself, but found none. 'That's to be expected,' she thought digging a little deeper and finding the location of the files on several Smallville residents (including Clark and herself) and Dominic Senatori.

All of that excitement had lead her to where she was sitting now, crouched in the back of her car waiting for the security guard to move just a little bit so she could run inside. Dressed in a light blue jumpsuit complete with a badge, she just needed to sneak in as a janitor and get inside one of the upper level secretary's offices. Heather, a fellow LuthorCorp employee, had helped her acquire the outfit a month ago and Chloe was grateful. A 'D. Egan' in room 1508 was her goal right now, if the security man would move out of the way. She pressed the indiglow button on her watch, 11:30. Glancing up again she saw the watchman leave his post and she hesitated for a few moments until she scrambled out of the car.

Her sneakers were silent after being broken in during last year's PE class and she managed to make it over to the stairs with out a sound. Sliding her identification card, she waited as the light turned green and tried to shield the LED's glow with her body. Opening the door, she snuck inside the dimly lighted stairwell. Closing the door proved to be a hassle, especially as the night man made his way closer. Easing it closed with a hiss, she turned to take the stairs three at a time.

The few exit and level signs were back-lit with a red neon color that had made her quite dizzy by the fifth floor, but she was on some sort of runner's high. Chloe pressed on after pausing to put her navy do rag on to seem more homely-little-matenence-crew-member than flippy-haired-girl up-to-no-good.

By the time she reached the top offices, her legs were hurting as she snuck in the exit door. It clicked open and creaked slightly as she slipped in. Chloe looked around, the new hallways were almost pure black with a few random soft blue neon lights on which backlit the mirrored windows. Creeping down the hallways, she counted off the room numbers on her way to the office.

Chloe stopped at 1508, amazed at the lack of protection on the wooden door. A simple card swipe that she re-designated once inside let her into the informational nexus she had been craving. Ducking into the room, she slid up next to one of the filing cabinets and pulled out a tiny maglight from her pocket. After clicking on the flashlight, she snuck onto the computer and entered the database putting in "D.'s" information name before hacking further into the system. An inkling in her head said she was probably costing the poor woman her job, but, the rest of her overrode her conscience saying that her family and her friends were more important.

Information about Clark first flitted up on the screen; many of it supplied by her Torch articles, Lex's automotive team, and other lies she had fed Lionel Luthor. Skimming past what she obviously knew was a lie, she looked for recent news and theories since he had left Smallville. Finding nothing of major significance, she typed in the next name on her list.

Dominic Senatori's profile came up fewer hits than she would of liked. Originally from London, he had a sister named Gemma and was hired by Lionel when Lex was nine, shortly after the meteor shower. He was also the son of a successful business man over there; James Senatori had owned on of Britian's largest gemstone companies before Lillian Luthor had bought him out. He was also now the majority stock holder for LexCorp. Chloe pursed her lips; while her father had not sold out, the other managers had in addition to all the stock market shares.

That was how Lex lost his company; Lionel had used his puppet. And now his puppet had huge amounts of capital at his resources and the position in LuthorCorp to use his monetary muscle. Scrolling down further, the name of Morgan Edge came up and that finalized it. Dominic had his fingers in to many things to not have some sort of hidden agenda. She inserted her blue zip disc into the lady's machine and started copying the files over, perusing the database as it saved.

Backing up, she searched for the crime lord who supposedly ran the major crime district of Suicide Slum. An image of an oddly striking man with dark hair appeared next to his profile and Chloe couldn't believe how young the man looked. Shaking her head, she scrolled down the page; the theories and connections between Edge and the criminal activity of Metropolis were compiled neatly and tripled the length of his report. Hitting Ctrl+S again, she scurried over to the actual filing cabinets with her flash light and started to search for Edge and Senatori to no avail. The computer stopped whirring and she shut the drawer softly before hurrying over to pocket the disc. Chloe checked her watch - it was almost 12 AM and it had taken her a good twenty minutes to get into the room. She needed to leave now if she could even hope to get to her car without running into the security guard.

She left the room as quietly as she had entered, her zip disc now feeling oddly heavy in her pocket. Jogging down the hallway, and turned and ran into someone. Stumbling back, she glared at the body half angry and half afraid before her features softened.

"Daddy?" she whispered, confused at the familiar eyes peering at her with shock. Her father looked tired and haggard; it worried her. Gabe grabbed her by the arm and hauled her up; he didn't let go.

"What are you doing here?" he hissed leading her back to the stairwells. Chloe had to hurry to keep up with his pace, her mind searching for an answer. Mumbling out an answer, she could tell in a glance that he really didn't believe that she was researching a story for the Planet. Pursing her lips she threw the question right back at him. Her father had hated Lionel ever since the impromptu closing of the plant, it was a major part of his full support of Lex. And with the further evidence of the buy-out, surely he couldn't be here for any good reason. "Don't worry about it," he told her his voice oddly hard.

It was silent the rest between them of the way out of the corporate building and in her car as her father took her not to her condo, but to her's cousin's. Stepping out of the passenger's side, she felt bad for not waiting for him back home.

"I love you, Dad," she murmured looking at him through worried eyes. His face relaxed and he smiled at her; it made a familiar warm feeling spread though her. Leaning over, he reached up towards her face as he were seeing that she was a teenager and not a five year old any longer.

"Love you too, kiddo," he replied before sitting upright. "You should go upstairs and get some sleep; Lucy should be expecting you." She nodded and watched him drive off in her car. He was out of sight before she started her way into her cousin's apartment building.

The next night, she entered one of the up-town techno's; Lucy was pulling her inside by her wrist and babbling. Chloe had never been there when it had been Club Zero, but she didn't think it could look that different even if the name had changed. The room was blue lit and light, surprisingly so in fact. Chloe thought the combination of the lights and the square metallic furniture must of been half of Atlantis' gimmick. Reaching up with her plum tipped nails, she pulled a piece of streaked hair behind her ears only to have Lucy swat at her hand.

"Don't do that!" the darker haired girl scolded, her curly hair bouncing. Chloe shrugged as her college-aged cousin lead her back to the bar. Lucy ordered and Chloe watched before turning around to look at the dancing masses. She felt out of place in the paradise of the rich and powerful. People-watching was almost disgusting as even on a weeknight the crowd was alive and gorgeous; Chloe scoffed. If she had felt plain next to Lana, she felt down right ugly here.

Lucy handed her a tall drink, a few cubes of blue ice sitting at the bottom of her glass re-iterating the cool, indifferent mood of the club. Sipping it slowly, she tried to forget about her life. 'Too many questions and not enough answers,' Chloe thought as she let Lucy drag her out onto the dance floor.

"Loosen up, Chlo'!" her cousin said beginning to sway with the music. "You are so tense, seriously. Just relax a little bit, please?" The worried hazel eyes pleaded with her and Chloe relented. Nodding she closed her eyes before starting to move.

Lifting her arms up over her head, she tried to forget about her troubles -- about the fight brewing between her and her father, about the huge mess of Dominic Senatori and Lionel Luthor, about that Clark was stilling missing (and probably a thief). The drum beat was pounding as she swiveled her hips and felt the crowd swallow her. There were no mobs, no drugging, no deals with the devil; just music. Looking upwards she saw abstract patterns of blue neon bulbs on the ceiling and ran her hands through her hair, completely disregarding what Lucy had said.

She didn't know what time it was when she felt a large, warm hand grasp her hip during some nameless song. At first, she didn't care; she was tired but exhilarated. Lucy had been right, she had needed a break from life. Her feet hurt from her stiletto boots and her see-through-top was sticking her her back but she felt free. In the crowd she was nameless, faceless, and no one cared about the twisted directions her life was turning in.

The crowd was full of hands and arms and grasping during the night. It was something she had at first put up with and then enjoyed; it never lasted too long. However, as the song changed the hand stayed put rubbing small circles on an exposed part of her back with it's thumb. Chloe sighed before turning around to tell the person off; it wasn't high on her list to tell people off tonight. Looking around, her voice died on her lips.

"Hello Chloe," he said drawling the last syllable out slowly, smugly. His hair was longer, curlier, she noted and he looked...scruffy. There were a multitude of other changes, but what she noticed was his eyes; normal grape green had become visible blood-shot. It was just creepy, and she gulped.

"Clark," she breathed, her eyes flitting down for a second as the cold metal ring touched her skin. Questions hovered on her tongue but she paused as he smirked and told her to call him "Kal".  The ring was digging into her back, a cold reminder of what she had to do. She groaned inwardly; seduction was not her forte.

"So, Kal," she said dropping her voice a bit and peering up at him from under her eyelashes, "This is where you've been hiding." Chloe stared swaying her hips a bit to the music as he smirked down at her. Clark's presence seemed physically stronger as he drew her closer; she was oddly disappointed that he didn't smell familiar. She knew logically that he wouldn't smell of hay or line-dried clothes any longer, but it still seemed wrong. He smelled spicy and something else she couldn't put a finger on; but it was addictive. And while she liked it, Chloe really missed the comfort of Clark smelling -- no being -- Clark.

"You were looking for me?"  She tossed her head back to see what his reaction would be. His hand held her up as he dipped her further backward, making her arch. Her hips dipped and moved against him, she closed her eyes as his other hand slid up her hip along her side to rest right below her bra. Inwardly, she was shaking but she just grinned widely at him and placed one hand on his bicep and rocked to the beat.

"Maybe was, and maybe I wasn't." He moved his foot, his left leg slipping in-between hers as she answered. "What's it to you?" she tacked on, her head thrown back deliberately. Chloe opened her eyes to a  tight black shirt and his hungry leer. He grinned ferally at her as he rocked his hips slowly; she swallowed a ragged breath.  Chloe breathed out slowly and looked at him through her lashes again. Clark's lips dipped to her neck, nipping and kissing up to her ear before whispering his reply.

"Depends what you have in mind." His mouth latched on to the spot where her jaw and neck met, sucking slightly. She placed her fingers on his collar, rubbing the black silk in-between her finger tips. Standing on tip-toe, she pressed fully against him, looking him in the eye with a small smirk as they stood still within the crowd.

"So..." she started, shivering slightly as his arms held her in place, "do you wanna get out of here?" Chloe tilted her head to one side, she could feel his hot breath against her cheek again before he smiled at her, all attitude.

Chloe was amazed at how the crowd parted as he lead her toward the front door. Several girls glared at her, jealousy in their eyes. When they finally got to the door, the fresh air felt cool as he lead her  over to the bike. She raised an eyebrow as he patted lightly on the seat behind him. Climbing on, she squeezed up against him as he asked her where to go.

"1303 Conners Avenue," she answered after a pause -- hoping that Lucy wouldn't mind her hijacking her apartment for a few more hours. Going to her condo on Clarie Street was out of the question; her belief about Lionel bugging it was more fact than fiction. And since Clark was seemingly working for Edge or Dominic, he was under surveillance as well. Plus, she highly doubted that Lucy was going to come home tonight. The bike roared to life and Chloe gripped him tightly as Clark started racing through downtown traffic. She had squinted her eyes shut and clung as the older motorcycle ripped through the city.

Ten minutes later, they stumbled into Lucy's dark apartment, landing on the couch. She had nervously led him through the lobby and up the elevator to Lucy's room. Her head was chanting her goal like a mantra -- get the ring, get the ring, get the ring. Chloe slipped her extra key into the lock; Clark grabbed her ass causing her to jump. Pushing open the door she let him in, and slammed it shut with her foot as Clark started his previous ministrations on her neck.

Gasping, she pulled him over towards the sofa -  tripping slightly over the coffee table along the way. Clark landed on it first, the couch giving a slight groan under his unexpected weight. She willed herself to separate the physical sensations from her purpose as Clark pulled her back to him. Her eyes adjusted to the dark, the small light from the hallway making Clark slightly illuminated. Chloe straddled his lap and kissed him again, letting his tongue enter her mouth. One of his large hands ground her hips into the sensitive bulge in his jeans; She whimpered.

'No, no, no! This isn't right!' her mind yelled at her as Clark massaged her nipple through her bra. His lips left burning trails up her neck and she rocked against him instinctually; he kissed her on the lips again. It was slow, wet, and drugging, as if it was continually erasing her mission from her mind. Clark pulled her taught shirt off of her body with a smirk and tossed it across the room.  Leaning forward she started nibbling on his lower neck, rewarded with a pleasured sigh. Using her fingers to undo the first two buttons of his shirt, she felt his hand slide up to unhook her bra; the metal of the ring was still surprisingly cool and it jolted her back to reality.

Grabbing two fist-full of black silk, she pulled. The remaining buttons scattered around the room; Clark just laughed at her. She bit back a gasp as the red markings along his chest. Confused about the markings, Chloe slowly pulled the fabric off of him; she dropped errant, open-mouthed kisses as she worked. Clark lifted her up, dipping his head towards her breasts as she worked the shirt slowly off of him. As she pulled the sleeve off, she felt the bulky, warm stone under her hand.   Chloe pulled the ring off with the silk.

His knuckle had given off an audible pop and his right hand had pinned her hip painfully as they both stilled. Clark's eyes were rapidly becoming less blood shot as he slowly looked at her. Chloe just breathed, nervous and at a lost at what she was going to do now that the ring was in her possession again.

"Chloe." His voice was soft, and tender; this time when he let the 'e' drag it gave her hope. Chloe saw his shoulder's sag as he inhaled slowly. "Please." he added, just as softy, his eyes pleading with her and she knew what he was asking for.

"I..I can't give it to you again, Clark." She shook her head, and she shivered as the air conditioning kicked on in the apartment. His eyes turned hard as he asked again. Chloe shook her head again. "No." It was clipped and short; Clark just grumbled in frustration and leaned into the couch.

"You don't understand Chloe," he started, looking anywhere but at her. His was voice tinged with annoyance. "I don't want to hurt you to get it. But I will if I have to." Chloe grabbed his chin with one hand an turned it, forcing him to look at her.

"No, Clark," she told, looking at him eye to eye. "you wouldn't." Gulping, she continued, "You aren't that type of person. You don't hurt people, not like that. Not over a stupid trinket." Clark titled his head up, blinking rapidly.  Chloe fell forward and slid unto his chest, resting her head against it. When he spoke again, his voice crackled slightly, and it sounded echoed in his rib cage.

"You don't know what type of person I am, Chloe. Just give me back the ring, okay? I don't want to be me anymore." His demands were loosing their urgency, and she wrapped her arms around him in a loose hug.

"I know more than you think, Clark, okay?" She bit her lip, his body shifted under her. Chloe looked up to see his eyes no longer red but glimmering with unshed tears. "But, you don't need it, okay?" She sniffled and hugged him tighter. "You don't need it." 

Chloe opened her eyes to see Clark watching her form a chair near the bed. His hair was damp; he had changed into a gray T-shirt and fresh jeans from somewhere. He smelled more like himself again; it was comforting. Clark's features looked softer now, not quiet as hard or sharp as they had appeared in the club earlier that night. Instead, he appeared more calm and at ease than she had seen him in almost a year; he almost looked younger.

"Hi," she said softly, a smile tugging at the corner of her lips as she tucked an errant curl behind his ear. The light from her guest room window announced that dawn was coming soon; the soft light filtered in and reflected off damp paths on his cheeks. Her smile dropped.

"Hey," Clark answered catching her hand and holding it for a few moments and trying to grin at her. "I take it you like the new style?" he teased lightly, cautiously. She nodded briefly before yawning.

"It looks good." Her eyelids felt heavy and she laid back in the bed. Wriggling her toes, she realized Clark must had carried her in earlier and taken her boots off.

"Chloe?" he asked, softly. Leaning up on her elbow, she questioned his name back at him. "It's just.. I've been thinking..." Clark ran a hand through his hair before starting over again. "This isn't your apartment, Chloe," calmly, with a slight tinge of authority.

"No," she answered. "It's not. It's my cousin's. I ...uh. I thought we'd be safer here." She looked at his questioning gaze and flopped back onto the pillows with a heavy sigh. "It's complicated, Clark." Clark furrowed his eyebrows.

"Explain it to me, then. Why did you find me? You said you didn't care." He got up and started walking the room. Watching him fidget, she collected her thoughts. If she was ever going to lay it all out, it had to be now.

"Clark, I just..I...f.. after I put some of the pieces together. I just... I couldn't sit back and let you get in over your head. I.. uh," she gulped looking away from him before rephrasing herself. "Back in May, Lionel Luthor offered me a job at the Planet." She paused as he stopped pacing and leaned over the bed.

"You accepted it?" he questioned, his voice slightly wary. She nodded turning back to him.

"At first it wasn't anything; I thought I sneak out information on Level Three behind his back. It was...later, after he fixed up the Torch, that he asked me to research certain members of the community; including you.  I made up whatever lie seemed to satisfy his curiosity, although I'm sure he's figured that out."  She paused, her voice softening. "Anyway, I wasn't really that worried about you until I realized what that thing did. I was... afraid that you were going to get hurt or also involved with him and I couldn't just let that happen." 

She started pulling a loose thread on the quilt, and he sat down on the bed and drew her into a tight hug, lightly pressing his lips to her forehead. Chloe leaned into his embrace and shut her eyes for a few peaceful, comforting seconds.

"I'm so sorry, Chloe," he whispered against her forehead. "I should of...of been there." His eyes were determined, "I should of kept him away from you; I knew he was looking into me long before May." His frustration and disgust was evident in his sigh. Chloe tried to slip back out of his grasp, shaking her head.

"No, Clark! There was no way for you to assume that; plus, you can't stop me from making decisions in my life.  You can't stop everything." He stared at her, frustration obvious in his eyes. "You can't stop Lionel Luthor. You'll drive yourself crazy if you try to - believe me, I know." Chloe swallowed thickly. "I chose this, okay? I'll willing let you take the blame for a lot of other things, but not this. It's my mistake, I'm the one who has to live with it. I'm the one who has to protect the people I care about from him, now."

"And what about the people I care about Chloe?" His anger was growing as did the pitch of his voice. Chloe flinched as Clark seemed to become yet another person with his conviction. "Am I supposed to just let him mess with the people I love? He did it to my parents, he's done it to you; am I supposed to sit back and let him? Am I supposed to let him and his lackies mess up whatever they choose in my life?  Is that what you want me to do?!" His hand clenched into a fist. "I'm sorry Chloe, but no." His anger dropped off abruptly as he exhaled. "No, if I would of been there for you like I should of been, it wouldn't of been a choice at all. I thought when my mom quit that would be the end of his investigation, but no." Clark shook his head, and muttered under his breath. "Of course not."

"The only way you can stop him is if you go back home, Clark. At least for now." Licking her lips she continued, "He knows you're here, he probably even knows what you've been doing all summer. And he probably knows that I've found you." Chloe shrugged and pulled herself out of bed. Walking over to her dresser, she pulled out a pair jeans and a tight-fitting navy shirt to change into. He couldn't stay here, and she was going to move him by force if need be. It was only a matter of time before Lionel set whatever trap he had laid for them in motion. Her mind, still sleep-adleled, started running through the information she had.

"What do you mean?" he asked, obverting his eyes as she pulled her skirt off and pulled her clean clothes on. Groaning in frustration, she looked at him as she hopped into the pair of blue jeans that were almost too small.

"I mean, I'm pretty sure he had my condo bugged and has sorted through my stuff, Clark. I've been spending the last two nights over here and Lionel Luthor is smart enough to know that I've figured out something either regarding him or you." Pausing her tirade, she went over to the mirror and grimaced. Sleeping with colored streaks and heavy mascara wasn't a good thing. Grabbing a brush she tried to work out the remaining color and knots from her hair, picking up her conversation once more. "Either way, Clark, he's going to be looking for the both of us and he'll find someway to give retribution." In the mirror she saw Clark rise off the bed to stand behind her, placing his hands on her shoulders.

"He'll kill you, or do something to make you wish he had." His voice was soft but it was enough to chill her. Pausing in mid-brush stroke, she looked at him through the reflection and nodded slowly.

"I know." Her voice was small, quiet as she thought back to Dominic's threat. Only yesterday, she had to save Clark; she had to try to fix it. But now that her plans had been carried out, she was lost. Clark nodded his head as if he was reaffirming some private vow.

"Do you even have a plan, Chloe? Other than 'Get the hell out of Dodge'?" Clark queried, trying to make light of the situation. Clark didn't wait for her answer.  He left her side for a moment before handing Chloe her black boots and a leather jacket from Lucy's closet. "Get what other stuff you need - you're right. We should at least leave here, if not Metropolis completely." Trying to slide on the boots on she hobbled out of the bedroom to the front room after him, glaring.

"No, Clark, you need to get out of here. I have to go back to my condo, it could buy you more time." Clark fixed her with a hard look as he straightened up Lucy's living room. "I mean it Clark, whatever he's planning... Damnit!" she swore when he ignored her, throwing her other boot down on the carpet. "Go HOME, Clark," she seethed. "I've done just fine without you all summer; I don't need you to play hero for me. I am a big girl, I can take care of myself. And it's not Lionel whom I have to watch out for, it's Dominic Senatori - your boss." Clark looked at her, exasperated.

"So, being dragged back to Smallville by LuthorCorp employees is what you want to call doing 'just fine?'" Clark raised an amused eyebrow at her disbelief. "C'mon, Chloe. We're both smarter than that. You found me for a reason, you helped me. Let me at least try to help you." Pouting, she crossed her arms. He had a point.

"Dominic is planning something, I think." she offered him, rubbing her temples in defeat. "I want to know what it is and stop it if need be." Bending down, Chloe retrieved her other boot and slipped it on as she rested on the edge of Lucy's couch. It was hard to think that it had only been a few hours since she had 'saved' Clark. "How long have you known?" she asked him in a whisper, trying grasp control over the situation. Clark paused mid-way through slipping a tan jacket on.

"What do you mean?" he asked, his eyebrows scrunching together. Peering at him through her raspberry bangs, she sighed.

"How long have you known about me? Working for Lionel?" Her tone gained volume and worry for a moment. If he had known prior to this night, why did he come with her? What if this was all a trap? Chloe shook her head harshly against her paranoia as Clark smirked at her breifly.

"Oh, that. Dominic left about a week ago to deal with a new 'problem' and went back to Smallville. I find out today that you are under Lionel's payroll... And, you can't expect me to work with you for two years and not pick up on your technique for putting things together, can you?" He offered her a small grin, her small purse, and a big hand to help her up to her feet. Glancing around, she noticed Lucy's spotless apartment except for one tiny detail. Chloe dropped her hand to the coffee table, palming the red meteorite ring and glanced at Clark.

"I should probably keep an eye on this for you," she explained, stuffing it in the front pocket of her jeans. Clark nodded and opened the door, hustling her out into the hall. They quickly walked down to the other end of the hallway and into the elevator. Pressing "L" for lobby, she looked over at Clark. "You didn't run into Lu--my cousin... did you?"

"No, but..." he said earnest and concerned. "The less contact you have with her right now, the better for us and her." Chloe absently ran her hand through her hair, trying to shake some of her nervousness. Her hair felt gritty and she wanted a shower, both of those she verbalized to Clark who shrugged good-naturedly. "You smell fine, Chloe," he added as they walked across the titled lobby and out onto the street.

The air was fresh and clean, the pavement was damp. Chloe didn't remember hearing any rain the previous night but she supposed it could have happened. Clark's bike, on the other hand, was notably dry by the time they had paced over to it. He got on first, then helped her.

"God, I hate this thing," she murmured and Chloe could almost feel Clark's smile. "You know," she added, her voice becoming slightly apologetic, "maybe we should get an alternative vehicle for the moment. I kinda had this bike tracked with my friend at the DMV." Clark glanced over his shoulder at her. "What?" she exclaimed as he started the motorcycle. "I told you, once I found out what was going on, that I was determined to try to keep you out of Lionel's way."

Traffic was unusually clear as Clark pulled out onto the street and ended the conversation. Scooting up as close as she dared, Chloe clung to him as he took the corners way to fast even without the red meteorite on his finger.

Clark pulled up to a stop in the garage of her condominium and Chloe jumped off the bike as soon as she was able to do so. Clark had teased her slightly about handling telekinetics better than motorcycles and she had given him a look.

"I handle big, dumb farm boys with hero complexes and allergic reactions to meteorites far better as well, but I don't hear you complaining about that." she muttered under her breathe as she started the up-stairs hike to her condo.

"Very funny," he had replied, and she smiled. The air between them was still tense and worried; nothing was okay and she didn't expect it to be for a very long time. But the banter, no matter how inane was somehow calming.

Walking up to #16,  she reached into her purse and pulled out the key; fitting it into her lock with a click. Chloe pressed the door open with a harsh squeak. Reaching in she flicked on the lights to show everything to be as normal as she left it.

Turning to Clark, she shrugged silently, walking further into the room and over to her stereo system; in a few moments she had cranked it up full blast. Clark leaned in the door way smirking at her as Pat Benetar started screaming across the room.

"Well?" she ventured, looking at him. What else did he think she could do? He shrugged and glanced around the room. His dark eyebrows knit together for a few seconds before he pointed her to the clock and two lamps. He mouthed 'bugged' to her and it was time for Chloe to knit her eyebrows together in confusion.

Pacing over she took the simple plate clock off the wall and turned it over; a thin wire ran up through the battery pack. With a frustrated snarl, she pulled it free and dropped it on the floor. Soon another wire and a tiny camera joined it on the floor and under Chloe's boot. She stomped on them liberally, as if she was really grinding Lionel Luthor into her floorboards. The music in her apartment shut off abruptly and she turned to see Clark by her stereo.

"Gonna pick up the phone?" She smiled at him somewhat sheepishly before picking up her hard-line.


"Chloe? Is that you?" The voice on the other end was frantic.

"What's the matter, Lana? Of course it's me." She sat down at the end of the couch, absently pulling her jacket tighter around herself. Clark looked at her curiously, waiting for her to explain what was going on. "Although I can't real-"

"Oh, God Chloe I've been looking all over for you! You know how you said to look after your dad for you?" Chloe accented into the phone feeling her stomach drop and Lana's hysteria become her own. "He didn't come home Wednesday night, Chloe. I've called the police and I've tried your cell and your work number; and then you weren't there or at your Aunt Elle's..." Lana mumbled on but Chloe let her hand fall to her side and clicked it off.

"What's going on?"

"My dad's missing." she said, disbelieving.

"Are you enjoying yourself, Miss Sullivan?" Chloe quickly turned around to look at the billionaire and forced a tiny smile upon her lips. "I see you did receive my parcel yesterday; good." Self-consciously, she smoothed down the dress that had undoubtly cost thousands. If she hadn't of stopped by her condo (for the fiftieth time in three days) on the search for her father, she would of never found it. The simple black dress, accented with the over layer of black lace, was beautiful; everything thing from the length, to the strapless bodice, to the flared skirt fitted perfectly despite never going to a fitting. The truth was with the fruitless searching she had done with Clark for the past few days, she didn't have time to worry about it.

"Yes," she added, bowing her head a little bit. "Thank you, you didn't have to--" Lionel smirked at her, shaking his hand at her rambling. Nodding to one of the caterers, he passed her a drink. Chloe eyed it warily before taking a sip.

"I'm glad it's satisfactory," he continued. "I trust that your little escape last Wednesday turned up satisfactory results as well?" Chloe paused in alarm, then finished swallowing her drink, nodding briefly. Lionel placed one hand on her back, leading her towards a group of men talking in a circle.

His stride was much longer than her own and she had to hurry to keep up his pace. Weaving in and out of the socialite couples, he lead her over to the group; many of them she had seen before. Lionel introduced her to Morgan Edge, whose face recognized from the file, Harvey Stitch, and Dabney Donovan, a scientist she hadn't heard of.

"And I believe you already know Mr. Senatori, don't you Miss Sullivan?" he asked her as she shook each man's hand in turn. As she looked over Edge's shoulder and saw Clark, his hair slicked back to an almost unrecognizable amount. He winked at her conspiratorially as he scanned the crowd and she tried not to grin least she give them both away.

"I'm glad to see you are up on your feet again, Miss Sullivan." Dominic's attitude was still superior but she saw Clark scoot in a little closer to eavesdrop. She tried to force a tiny smirk off her face as Lionel reiterated how "concerned" Dominic had been about her health.

"Thank you," she said, not really believing it. "It was just a matter of getting my priorities back in order, I'm afraid." She watched as Morgan Edge, turned around and pulled Clark into the circle. The crime lord introduced Clark as 'Kal' and Chloe was happy to see the smug expression on Clark's face; if she didn't know the ring caused his behavior problems, she would of thought he was naturally that full of himself.

Lionel shook his hand and sent a subtle glance her way which she smirked back at. When Clark's hand went towards her's, she with drew looking him the eyes for a second before lifting her drink to her mouth. "We've already met," she told Edge coolly, ignoring the farm boy. After twenty minutes, she excused herself to use the restroom.

Walking out the main hallway, she slipped past the restrooms and further into the museum. She had been walking for five minutes before she found a personnel elevator. Slipping inside, Chloe pressed the button to go down to the basement. After a few shaky moments, the doors opened with a loud hiss and she stepped out onto the cement floor. Reaching in her purse, she pulled out her mini maglite and twisted it on; she scanned several rows of boxes with a black 'Wayne' stamped on the sides of them. She had walked back to the main corridor when she heard the hiss and groan of the elevator. Chloe pressed up against a heavy wooden crate and clicked her light off, her foot banging against it slightly. Peering around it, she jumped when the box knocked back.

"Chloee?" Clark called out and she breathed a sight of relief before tapping on the wooden create again and scanning for a logo on it. Her knuckles wrapped on the box five times in quick succession as she thought 'Shave and a hair-cut...' The box bumped back twice; 'two bits,' her mind filled in.

"Clark! I'm over here; I need some help!" Turning her flashlight on to see Clark jogging towards her, confused. "I think someone is stuck in here!" she exclaimed as he ran up beside her and knocked on the box similarly after glaring at it oddly, in return getting two thuds back. Chloe looked up at him, "How do we get it open, without hurting whomever's inside? Hitting it isn't going to work, I don't think." Instead of answering Clark just looked at the package which started to sizzle under his gaze, a stead black line opening up one edge of the package. Chloe shook her head waiting for him to finish. "Any other things you're neglecting to tell me?"

"In good time, Chloe, in good time," he replied with a big grin. "I was supposed to trail you, make sure you didn't cause any 'trouble.'" Clark pulled the sides away quickly, throwing them on the floor and Chloe's snappy comeback died on her lips as she rushed over and ripped the gag out of the man's mouth.

"Daddy! What happened? Are you okay?" Gabe slowly stood up, obviously stiff before nodding to her and wrapping her in a bear hug. Chloe returned it, closing her eyes gratefully; he was still wearing the shirt and jeans from Wednesday. "How in the world did you get in there?"

"Dominic trailed your car; he had confronted me on Wednesday about selling my shares of LexCorp to him, mentioning what a lovely daughter I had." Chloe glanced over Clark, sharing a worried look. "So," Gabe continued leaning on Chloe, "I went to the main offices to see what Lionel Luthor was doing to my daughter and of all things, I happen to run into her."  Chloe looked down guiltily. "After I dropped you off at Lucy's; I got hijacked on the side of the road; I think they were looking for you." Gabe's look at Chloe was measured with fear and love and she snuggled in closer as they walked towards the elevator. "Dominic reconized me and tried to force me to sell again; and of course, I'm not going to. So that when it started, that's they decided to try and break me. Supposedly, according to one of the men who was guarding me for a while I only had until Friday because that's when everything was "going down" and the "shooting" was going to happen." Chloe blinked, swallowing thickly.

"Shooting who?" Clark asked, pressing the up button on the elevator. Gabe looked at the boy as if he just had realized he was there.

"Lionel Luthor," the elder Sullivan answered stepping onto the elevator's platform and resting against the back wall, his tone as if it were the name was most obvious in the world. "Even before the buyouts, Dominic was of questionable loyalty. While he seemingly did anything Lionel said, he often cause problems at our plant trying to get Lex thrown out and for him to take over. Lionel was about to do it, but...he covets the company and now that Lex is missing, Lionel's the only thing in the way." Gabe shrugged. The elevator came to a stop and Clark turned to them both.

"Chloe, I want you and your dad to get out of here; go to Lucy's, go to Smallville, just get out before anyone realizes your missing." Chloe shook her head emphatically, her French twist becoming looser with every swish. "I mean it Chloe," he said placing one warm hand on her shoulder, his face filled with worry and concern. "I don't want you getting hurt...either of you," he amended looking over her shoulder at Gabe. Her father had come up beside her then and she relented, both of them turning to run hand in hand towards the exit at the end of the hallway. Her mind remembered a similar day when she had run out of the plant like this with her father knowing that Clark was still inside.

The outside air was cold and windy, as she stepped out the side entrance. Lifting her arm in the air as she stepped out unto Main street, she hailed a taxi down. Opening the door she let her father, who looked pale and exhausted under the street lights, step inside first. The driver asked him where he was going and her father mumbled out her Uncle's house number in the suburb across town. Chloe slammed the door shut. The cab took off with her dad inside, and she ran back into the building. She had come too far and suffered through too much this summer to simply sit out the end.

Inside, the party looked just as she'd left it -- filled with annoying socialites. Scanning the crowd for Clark, Lionel caught her eye and gave her a look. Chloe nodded slightly and started walking towards his little group - Dominic already was gone. Her green eyes searched for Clark, but she couldn't pick him out in the crowd.

However, as she took her place in Lionel's gaggle of cronies, she spotted Dominic fifty feet way. As she opened her mouth to point him out to anyone near buy she saw the muzzle of the gun aim towards her and time froze.

Chloe didn't know whether she was simply in his shot or if he considered her a possible threat, but it was obvious that he had no qualms with picking her off in his little coup d'etat of Luthor Corporation. After all the freaks she'd faced and all the times she had gotten away, Chloe thought that if anyone should have knocked her off it should have been one of her hormonally challenged boyfriends - not some crusty old English guy. She stumbled backwards slightly, but it didn't matter; Chloe saw him pull the trigger multiple times.

Prior to the night, she had never saw Clark run, really run. Sure, in PE he was fast enough but sort of klutzy. Her eyes had barely registered that Clark was behind Dominic before he was gone Clark seemingly disappeared taking the would-be hit man with him. She bumped into Lionel; her mind starting to work.

"Get down!" she cried, pulling them both to the ground. Lionel glared at her for an instant before a man behind them started screaming, blood oozing out of his thigh where the bullet meant for her had lodged itself. Suddenly a forced her flat on the wood floor, a large hand covering her head. Chloe heard three more terrified screams and winced. She couldn't help but give him a look when he finally helped pull her to her feet.

"Clark." She paused for a moment, studying her hands. "You didn't have to do that. You didn't have to.." Clark pulled her over to the side, his voice dropping as she spoke to her.

"Chloe... what else did you think I could of done?" She started to speak but he cut her off. "And don't say I should have helped someone else. I couldn't just let you... not when I could stop it." 

His green eyes shone with sincerity and she sniffled slightly before he drew into his arms. Chloe reached her arm up the warm, solid frame of Clark's chest, and pulled him close to her. For good or ill, Clark had made his choices. So, too, had she.


send chiriru some feedback
 peruse more of chiriru's fiction
talk about twist on the story thread