In Stark Color
Clark Kent quietly padded his way through the thick carpet floor of the apartment. Immediately after opening the door, he heard her tortured vomiting coming from the closed bathroom door. He placed the paper bag he was carrying on the kitchen counter and walked towards the noise. He knocked on the solid wood, concern etched in his features. "Chloe, are you alright?"
There was no answer other than a groan and more heaving. He decided that there was only so much privacy that should be given to a sick person. Clark opened the door and stepped inside to find Chloe kneeling in front of the bowl, her short blonde hair over her face as she tried to throw up. He knelt behind her and carefully drew her hair back from her moist face. Clark picked up the small towel he kept within reach and moistened it below the tub faucet.
"Clark, get out of here," she whispered in between the dry heaving.
"Shhh." Clark smoothed the cool towel over her brow and massaged her back soothingly. "We'll have to go back to the doctor and pick up some prescription for your nausea. I've seen one of my officemates in her first trimester. Yours is definitely worse. It's not normal. And you're supposed to be way past the sickness stage."
Chloe placed her hands on the rim of the bowl and pushed herself back. She laid her head on the tile behind her and shook her head. "Well the father isn't exactly normal so I wouldn't expect a normal pregnancy."
He moved so that he could sit beside her and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. Clark took her cheek in one hand and turned her face so he could look into her eyes and grin. "That's right. That's the last thing we can say."
Chloe closed her eyes and took a deep breath. When she felt that the earth would not tip over and throw her off, she pulled herself up and looked down at the sitting man. "What are you doing here anyway? I thought you had a cover story coming up."
"I did," he admitted. "But I was all the way in Metropolis with Lois when I heard you retching." Chloe made a face of disgust. "I promised you I'd be here through this, Chloe. I owe you."
Chloe watched Clark get up on his feet and raised her hands in exasperation. "First, eewww. How could you focus your superhearing on my vomiting? And next, Clark, is that you don't owe me anything. I did what I did because I wanted to. You didn't force me."
"All this is still because of me."
Chloe frowned. "The world does not revolve around you, Clark. And if this," she pointed to the heavy bulge of her stomach, "is your fault, I was not aware of it."
The dark-haired man shook his head and pulled her with him out of the bathroom. "You're going to love what I brought with me for dinner."
"Really?" Chloe craned her neck in excitement. "What is it?" The moment her eyes landed on the take out sitting on the counter, Chloe's hand flew to her mouth and she left gunning for the bathroom.
Lionel Luthor sat back on his chair and dropped the brown envelope in front of his son. "Save your energy and your money, Lex," he told his son. "I've got what you've been looking for for months now. And it's rather pleasing to know my private investigators are better than yours."
Lex looked at his father coldly before picking up the offering. He would not normally have stooped so low as to actually give his father this much pleasure, but he needed to know. He could not just believe that everything changed so suddenly. Lex drew out the pictures and felt hot ice form around his heart.
"I think we can both safely assume that she didn't leave you just because she decided to go on trip," Lionel informed his son condescendingly. "Now I'll leave you to piece this fairy take together."
Lex's hold on the pictures was steady. He waited until his father left his office before he thumbed through each and every one.
Chloe. Sitting in the park. Feeding squirrels. Chloe having dinner in a deli. Chloe radiant and pregnant. Chloe coming out of the hospital, pale and tired but looking very satisfied. One man figured prominently in all the pictures. In each one, Clark Kent's hand was warming her stomach.
Lex put the pictures back in the envelope and placed it inside his drawer.
He had thought that everything was perfect until the day she left. Two beautiful years that he never really thought hid something so ugly. His fiancé had been having an affair with Clark Kent.
And what was pathetic and ultimately his downfall was that he couldn't understand just why she did not just pass off the baby as his, because he was in love enough not to have minded even if he knew.
She had to threaten all that was dear to Clark Kent just to get him out of her house. Chloe shook her head remembering all the stupid and insane threats she had to think up so that Clark would be convinced that she would not throw up the baby in her distress. When she finally got Clark to leave her apartment, she started picking up the clothes that Clark had worn the day before. For a man whose boyhood was spent in a disciplined farm, Clark had grown into a slob.
Chloe was reaching for a discarded shirt when the bell rang. Knowing that Clark would not ring the bell, she peered through the peephole first to see who it was. When she saw the figure behind the door, Chloe's heart raced. She clutched Clark's clothes to her chest and dropped down on the floor, musing that the guy would not have seen her through the peephole but still not willing to take the chance.
"I know you're there, Ms Sullivan," the voice called out. "Kindly remember who you're hiding from. I'm having you followed, didn't you know? So I know you're in there."
Chloe didn't wish for anything more at this moment than to ram her head on the wall. Instead, she rose to open the door and fixed the man a glare. "What else do you want from me?"
"I'm offended, Ms Sullivan," Lionel Luthor said. "And here I was thoughtfully bringing you the check that allows you to live in such a nice place." He inspected the apartment critically. "It lacks a lot of things though."
"What's wrong, Lionel? It's not a castle?" she asked snidely. "And I don't need your money. How many times do I have to tell you?"
"Despite the peasant half of the baby's parentage, Ms Sullivan, I will not allow my grandchild to starve." Chloe closed her eyes and took some more deep breaths. It's a technique that Clark shared with her when she asked once why he never seemed to get pissed off. "I'm sure even Mr Kent's support is not going to be enough."
"Clark, despite my protests, takes care of the bills and brings me food, Lionel. And I get my salary from my freelance articles."
Lionel waved off her words. "You shouldn't really take such an arrogant tone of voice when you're talking about your pennies." He placed the check on the table, where he would always leave it, and Chloe would stare at it until she would just give up and place it in a bank account. One never knew when the baby would need it, and the baby deserved everything, even if it was from Lionel. "Besides, you will need the money. My sources tell me that you're having some difficulty with it?" he mentioned in a manner that almost had a tinge of concern. Almost and tinge being the operative words.
She hated this. She hated not having a semblance of a private life when even her medical check-ups would land on Lionel Luthor's desk. She had thought that her choice of city would allow her to escape Lionel finally, until he turned up on her doorstep just two days later. "I'm not having any problems with the pregnancy at all," she told him coldly.
"Some aberrations because of Lex's blood, is it? It's weighing you down. It shows."
Even if she should not have cared, Chloe smoothed her hair. She did not need to be informed of how awful she looked, especially by a man who used her affection for another man to force her to sacrifice her love for one. "Lionel, you've done your charity work for us. Let's call it even for the month and leave."
Lionel frowned at her before walking to the door. "In an hour, my driver will pick you up and take you to a doctor I have handpicked to look you over. Get yourself together," he said and strode to the elevator.
Chloe took the phone off the cradle and dialed a number she had been dialing over and over during the last few months. But once again, after a couple of rings, she turned the phone off. There was no way she would knowingly betray Clark the way she did Lex.
Lex stared at the ringing phone. At this precise time, the phone would ring. But when he answered it, no one was on the line. It had bothered him so much that he had had the call traced to New York, to a name he had no recollection of.
His eyes fell down the locked drawer. Inside Chloe was happy with Clark and it was what he told himself he wanted for her. Right now, he hated himself for hating them both, and still loving them at the same time.
The phone rang again, and this time he picked up. "What do you want, doctor?"
"I'll have to cancel our appointment this week, Mr Luthor. Your father requests my presence for the coming week or two."
Lex absently played with the silver pen on his desk. "And you can't attend to us both when we're on different sides of Metropolis?" he asked in disbelief.
"I'll be in New York, Mr Luthor."
Lex frowned. "My father is in New York? I was not informed. All right, doctor. I'll see you next week."
"I'll give you a call on Friday if I've arranged another doctor for you because your father is not discounting the possibility that he will need me for a few months."
"He's paying that well, is he?" Lex said softly. "I won't be seeing another doctor. Don't bother to schedule me with anyone else. You're the only one who has my bloodwork records and I prefer my abnormality be kept between a chosen few." Lex replaced the receiver and leaned back in his chair.
He sat up and picked up the key to the drawer. Lex took the pictures and shuffled through them until one picture was on top. Clark laughing with Chloe while she fed the squirrels. There was a black old-fashioned coach behind her being pulled by two horses. So many trees it was almost a forest. Lex dropped the envelope in the drawer and closed it shut.
He walked to the door and shrugged on his coat. Central Park. She was in Central Park.
Chloe did not speak to Lionel as he pushed his way past her and into the small rented clinic where they met Lex's doctor. At first, the older man was surprised to see her. She had accompanied Lex several times to visit him in the years that they were together, so they have maintained a semi-casual friendship that the doctor did not betray to Lionel.
She would have left the room entirely if not for Lionel sharply telling her to sit and wait. The doctor glanced sympathetically at her, still puzzled about the circumstances that brought them all together in a city so far from their own. Chloe shook her head, finding it inadvisable to make it known to Lionel Luthor that she had a possible ally in the doctor.
"So what do you think is wrong, Harry?"
The doctor turned to Lionel and told him, "Well it looks like the child's blood iron is just like the father's." He smiled at Chloe, who gave him a small one in return.
"A problem you mean."
"It's nothing that a smaller dose of the pills we've had made for Lex won't fix. As a matter of fact, I have Lex's new bottle right here." He handed the dark container to Chloe. "Just take half of a pill every night, my dear. Lex takes two pills every day."
"I remember," she said.
"Good. Well I'm glad that it's not too big of a problem," the doctor exclaimed.
"Could you possibly prescribe some more pills for my nausea? It's hellish!"
"For crying out loud, Ms Sullivan, don't turn the kid into a druggie before it's even born! He's already got that weakness in his genes."
"Lex probably had to take all those drugs to forget you're his father," she spat at Lionel.
The doctor scratched his head. "I hate to tell you, Chloe, but Lionel is right. We don't want to numb your system too much. Take the pills and if the nausea is still terrible, then we'll see what we can do."
As they neared her apartment, Lionel turned in the limousine seat and asked Chloe, "Humor me, Ms Sullivan—"
"I'd rather not," she bit back sarcastically.
Lionel merely smirked. "When you decided to snoop around my office, I bet you didn't realize that you'd be in for this much trouble, did you?"
"What trouble?" she said in mock innocence. "You mean being exiled to the city that never sleeps, away from the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with and being forced to spend this much time with you, Lionel? I wouldn't call this trouble."
"You continue to try my patience, Ms Sullivan. Remember that I have all the aces here."
Chloe focused her eyes at the moving cityscape. "I found enough evidence that it's LuthorCorp's chemicals that are causing the meteor rocks to have such a negative reaction on the people of Smallville. I could have brought you down, Lionel."
"See… I knew from the moment that Lex brought you to dinner and introduced you as his girlfriend that it was a stupid idea to bring a reporter into the family. But did he listen?"
"Lex didn't know anything about it. You sent him to Smallville to act as a cover in case everything blows up in your face, didn't you?" she demanded.
"Of course Lex knew nothing about it," Lionel scoffed. "Do you have any idea how low he's sunk since he became involved in that pathetic little town? He feels that all those peasants there are his family. I've told him over and over, Ms Sullivan, that those people would spit on his grave if they had the chance."
"There are so many things you don't know about your own son," she whispered.
Instead of being irritated, a look of amusement came over Lionel's face. "We all have our secrets, Chloe. He's allowed his. And for our arrangement, you keep my secret; I keep your friend's."
"You had no right involving Clark in this!"
"Who was I to involve?" His eyebrow arched in much the same manner as Lex's, only Lionel's disgusted her. "Lex would not have let me touch your father. And you… Well, I would not have been able to touch you while you were in Kansas. Imagine my lucky break that you agreed to leave him at my suggestion."
Chloe blinked away the hot fury that made her eyes water. She took another deep breath and was thankful when the vehicle slowed down. Without saying goodbye, she slammed out of the limousine and made her way to her apartment.
"Why didn't you tell me what happened yesterday?" Clark asked over the phone in concern. He had been unable to fly to New York because of an important coverage he had with Lois in the Metropolis Museum. If he had known what kind of trauma Lionel Luthor was subjecting Chloe to, he would have left and came to the apartment at once. Clark moved forward in the line. Chloe had been pleading for two orders from the Soup Kitchen since morning, but she had been sick the entire day and wasn't able to get her own. "So how are you feeling?"
"I called the doctor and he said I'm just adjusting to the medication. I'll be fine tomorrow. Hopefully. Being sick sucks."
Clark laughed. He was only a few more people away from the counter. "You've always hated that. Remember when you had your arm broken you couldn't wait to get out and do some researching?"
"Thanks for bringing that up," she replied sarcastically. "The fact that my dubious researching on my would have been father in law brought me to these dire straits is only eclipsed by the reminder of where I fell from to get that broken arm."
"Sorry." Clark chuckled. "So did you want the chicken?"
"Oh most definitely!"
Clark heard the thud and waited for Chloe to come back on the line. When he heard the breathing again, he asked, "Was that the fifth since you picked up the phone?"
"Hey I've only retched four times since you called!" she protested.
"Oh definitely getting better," he said bitingly. "I'm up next in the service line. Talk to you when I get there." He turned off the phone and placed his order.
While Clark waited for his take out, a familiar voice made him turn around. "So where is she, Clark?"
The technique he taught Chloe about breathing deeply couldn't seem to work at the moment, so he pretended that he was calm. "Hey Lex! Fancy meeting you here. I thought you were in Metropolis."
Lex Luthor rubbed the bridge of his nose tiredly. He had come from a long flight after hours of meetings and appointments, trying to settle everything in the company before he flew to New York. "Cut the crap, Clark. Just take me to her."
Clark looked at the man who used to be one of his closest friends in the world and nodded. He picked up the bag with their dinner. Together, they left the restaurant.
Clark hailed a taxi, something he normally didn't do because he traveled quicker in the darkness of the New York alleys when he used his powers. Chloe timed him whenever she knew he was already around. She called his phone and asked, "Where are you? You should have been here ten minutes ago."
"Chloe, I'll be there soon. I—" Lex shook his head, indicating that Clark should not tell Chloe about his presence. "I'll see you in just a bit."
When Clark dropped the phone back into his pocket, Lex watched him through hooded eyes. "She's very attached to you, isn't she?" he asked softly.
"I'm the only person she knows here really."
"And you don't even stay here. I just saw you in Metropolis, Clark. You don't have to hide from me. Is that why she went to you? Was she amazed with your abilities, Clark?"
Clark shook his head, not knowing how to respond to the hurt and betrayal he saw on Lex's face. They turned the curb and Clark told the driver to stop. He handed the driver a couple of bills and get out of the cab. He motioned to Lex to follow him up.
Clark opened the door to the dark apartment and flipped on the lights, Lex following closely behind him. "Chloe, where are you?"
"In here!" she called out. From the corner of his eye, Clark noticed Lex shudder and close his eyes at the sound of her voice.
"Come on," Clark told Lex. "She hasn't been feeling well, so we should just take this to the bedroom. I'll go get some bowls."
Clark vanished into the kitchen but Lex could not wait to see her again. He approached the bedroom and just stepped in.
Chloe sat up in bed at the sight. Her blanket fell down to her waist, revealing in perfect clarity the heavy roundness of her belly. She breathed through her mouth as Lex moved slowly to sit on her bed. "Lex," she finally choked out, "this is such a surprise! I didn't know you were in New York."
"I didn't know you were in New York," he pointed out.
Chloe grinned at him. "It's so good to see you!" She searched his face for underlying emotions but found his more difficult to decipher than he was when they were together. "Congratulations, Lex! I heard that you and the contessa were engaged. You've always deserved so much, Lex. You'll fit in very well with the high society she moves in."
"And you've always loved journalism that it's best that you ended up with another reporter."
Chloe kept her blinding smile on her face, even though she couldn't see through the tears in her eyes.
"The contessa and I are not engaged. You know how the media can warp every story."
"Oh." Chloe nodded, still beaming at him. "You and the contessa are a gorgeous couple." She reached for the magazine on her nightstand. "See? I have a copy of the picture taken of you two in the ball in Italy last month."
"I've always thought you and Clark were an attractive couple. You'll have a beautiful baby, Chloe."
She bit her lip. "I've never doubted that."
"Well." He cleared his throat. "I've seen what I came to see." Lex stood up, to Chloe's dismay. "I hope you two will have a happy life." Lex walked to the door. He stopped. Turned around and rested his blazing eyes on her and her beautiful radiant glow of pregnancy. "Screw that!" he burst out. "He didn't even marry you. I was going to marry you, Chloe. So let's cut the bullshit and I'll tell you what I really think. I hope your life is hell every single minute and no night turns to day when you don't wish you stayed with me." When the first tear fell from her eye, Lex Luthor stormed out of her bedroom.
Clark heard Lex's outburst and stalked out of the kitchen. "You had no right to say that to her!" He found Lex kneeling on the living room floor, picking up the contents of Chloe's fallen purse.
Lex stopped still and picked up the familiar bottle from the carpeted floor. He gingerly lifted it up and read the label. He turned to Clark, completely confused. Lex got up on his feet and went to the bedroom again, aching when he saw her pale and trembling, looking at her blanket, crying silently.
"What is this?" he whispered. She looked up and saw him holding the iron supplements that bore his name, and his specific formula written by the only doctor who was familiar with his history. "I have never lied to any of you! Someone just tell me the truth."
"Lex," Clark began.
"What does my father have to do with any of this?"
Chloe held out her hand and pleaded to him with her eyes. He heeded that and took her hand, sitting beside her. Chloe gently placed his hand on her tight stomach and whispered, "We missed you, daddy."
Clark left the room.
"I've decided to finally take you up on your offer of partnership, dad." Lex sat back in his chair and rested his feet on his desk.
"And what's made you changed your mind? I thought you didn't care for my plan for Superman."
"You've said it yourself. He's the only one standing between us and greatness." Lex took the envelope of pictures and placed it at the center of the table. "And this was all that I needed to decide."
"I'm glad to see you've finally seen the light after a half year absence, Lex." He looked at his son curiously. "Where have you been?"
"All in good time, dad. I trust you brought the evidence with you."
Lionel placed the briefcase on the desk in front of Lex. "How could I not? Your message was very interesting. So how are you going to destroy Superman with it?"
Lex opened the briefcase and saw three zip disks and the octagon key to Clark's ship. "Is this all? You don't have the data in a hard rive somewhere, do you?"
"I'm a careful man, Lex," he told his son. "I don't do hard drives."
"Fascinating." Lex shut the briefcase and placed it on his feet.
"So would you care to tell me where you've been during the time you left the company to the care of your inferiors? Wherever it was, the air must have been nice to give you this change of heart."
"Ah yes." Lex dropped his feet and leaned forward. "I was in my honeymoon, dad."
Lionel's eyes shone brightly. "You finally snagged the contessa?"
"I did better," Lex informed his father smoothly. "I'd like you to meet my wife and our son, dad." He walked to the adjoining door and called to the next room. "Honey, will you come here with the baby?"
Lionel watched in disbelief as Lex escorted Chloe, who was carrying a swaddled bundle, into the office. "What the hell is this?" he demanded. "We had an agreement, Ms Sullivan."
She grinned at Lionel. "We didn't have a contract. Shame on you, Lionel. A businessman must never forget signed contracts."
"We'll see what you get for breaking our agreement." Lionel moved around the desk and tried to grab the briefcase. Lex picked it up and opened the office window. Lionel's eyes bulged out when he saw Clark Kent floating just outside. Lex tossed the briefcase at the man it was prepared to destroy.
Lex moved to stand beside his family. He wrapped his arm around Chloe's shoulders and looked pointedly at his father. "Now, dad, you don't have anything against Clark but Chloe is holding the evidence against you. We have all the aces now. I expect you to fix whatever spill it is you caused in Smallville and compensate the citizens. This way you become a humanitarian rather than a criminal."
Lionel huffed at the absurdity of Lex's suggestion. He started to leave.
"Oh and dad," Lex called out. When Lionel turned, Lex warned him, "You are not to come within thirty feet of my son or my wife. Whatever happens to them, I will blame you. Even if it's just my son developing a cough or my wife catching a chill, I will hold it against you. So I hope you'll do everything to make their stay comfortable."
When there were only the three of them in the room, Chloe handed the baby to her husband, grinning all the while. "That was a little harsh. I can't help but wonder if we should let him hold the baby or not."
"No," Lex said firmly.
"I know you're still feeling bad about the pictures." She picked up the pictures of her and Clark while Lex nuzzled the soft tuft of hair on his son's head.
"I wasn't part of so many things, Chloe. Clark enjoyed all that."
"Well…" Chloe went to the window and whistled. Within seconds, Clark was climbing into the window with a camera hanging from his neck. "I thought we should have star reporter Kent shooting out first day back in Metropolis." She pulled Lex over to sit on his chair. Chloe took the baby from him and sat down on his lap, leaning her head on his. "Take the picture, Clark. It's just me and my boys!"
The picture developed showing Chloe with her trademark wide smile, the newest Luthor yawning and Lex with an odd mixture of surprise and happiness at being call her boy.