vi. End of All

It was magnificent. The bat signal cut through the smog and remained fast in place on the sky. Chloe could almost hear the sound of Batman's wings taking him to the rooftop.

What a fateful night to end the story. Chloe Luthor was about to show the dark avenger her brand of justice. And then this will end. Brianna will live the way all beautiful little girls deserved to. Her daughter would have a parent who would give her full attention and all the love the world had to give. Chloe would find peace. Everything would be forgotten.

On a cold, dark Gotham night that started this chapter. On a cold dark Gotham night would the storybook close.

Her eyes drifted shut and she remained standing, listening for every change and shift in the wind. The way you prepared yourself for a bat is to blind yourself and focus on the sounds. There was a muffled thud from several yards away. Chloe heard the footsteps coming towards her. They stopped, and now she felt the warmth of another body in her vicinity.

She opened her eyes to face the masked man. Her eyes clouded and instead of the words she had prepared for, Chloe could only curl her hands into fists and pound on his unyielding body. The Batman barely made a sound as she spent her energy hitting him with all that she could give.

"Why don't you fight?" she gasped when she was spent. "You are so good at fighting, Batman. Why won't you fight?"

Slowly, he closed his hands over her wrists and held her arms together. "Is that what you want?" he asked calmly.

"I want you dead," she spat out viciously.

"You have a gun," he pointed out. "Use it."

She narrowed her eyes and fumbled for the gun in her bag. Chloe leveled the gun, pointing the barrel to his forehead, right between the eyes.

He waited still as the night. "Kill me."

Her finger latched on to the trigger and started to press. It was easy. Lex had stood behind her, kissed her temple and counted in her ear. 'One. Two. Three.' She knew how to use the weapon because her husband gave her the lessons. The gun shook in her hands. She trembled until she thought the heavy gun would drop and by chance let off a shot.

His large gloved hand closed over the gun. He told her, "You searched for me not because you want to kill me. You want me to kill you, don't you?" Chloe did not answer. "What about your daughter?"

"She's with a beautiful man who would love her much more than I can," she answered.

"How can you say that? She's your baby."

Chloe closed her eyes. Her arms were starting to weaken. Were his hand not holding the gun, she would have surely released it. "You took away my heart," she informed him very faintly. "I can't love anymore. I don't know how because you've killed every bit of feeling I had when you killed my husband."

The dark knight stepped close, not pushing her arms down. He stepped closer until the barrel was pressed tightly against his skin. "You are more than Lex Luthor's wife," he said firmly. "Go back to who you were before."

The eyes, the voice, the words. Everything she recognized and denied until that moment. Chloe lowered the gun and with her free arm, pushed away the mask. "I didn't want to believe until now."

Bruce Wayne, stripped of anonymity, did not bother to deny. "When you were with me?" he asked.

"I was half the woman I was. I cannot live like this."

"I'm in love with you." To his own ears, he sounded defeated.

Chloe held up the gun on her palm again, with the barrel facing outwards. She did not look at him, only at the silver weapon. "Then you know what I want you to do."

Bruce took the gun.

The bat signal flickered on the sky, mystical in the way that it shone against no opaque wall yet managed to stay so solid. Gotham in the nighttime the same as Gotham at any other hour. On the rooftop, two people stood stiffly as they gazed at each other.

The gun was lifted.

A shot rang out.

~~

Chloe had never been more exhausted in her entire life. She walked through the Gothic manor, discarding her gloves where they fell. She unbuttoned her jacket and shrugged it off. Chloe pulled the pins out of her hair and allowed the blonde locks to curl in abandon.

There was only one destination at that particular moment. She opened the door to her daughter's room and looked in on her princess. Chloe sat down on the bed and touched her daughter's cheek.

Brianna came awake at the unfamiliar contact. Her eyes opened and she smiled brightly at her mother, reminding Chloe that she had once been just like Brianna. How long it had been. "You're back, mommy!"

"Yes, sweetheart," Chloe replied. "Mommy's back."

Chloe lay beside her daughter that night. While Brianna dozed, she spent her last hours in the city staring out into the darkness. The sun rose outside and the television in the room turned on automatically for the morning news. Chloe did not bother to look. The voice of the anchorwoman barely made a difference to her.

"A shocking morning to Gotham City and the rest of America. Before morning, the dark vigilante, the Batman, was found dead at the rooftop of the governor's office. More astounding news as the Batman was revealed to be the city's foremost businessman Bruce Wayne. Police are not investigating the apparent suicide of the crimefighter."

Carefully extricating her arm out from under her daughter, Chloe sat up on the bed and picked up a bright yellow band from the table. She tucked the hair away from her face with it. Slowly, she rose, careful not to wake Brianna. There were tickets to book and people to call. She was going home.

Within hours, Chloe had her daughter seated beside her aboard a commercial flight to Kansas. No one was waiting in the Smallville manor but a host of servants who would substitute for family. Brianna would grow used to the Kansas sun again. She would play in a field that had once been infested with meteor rocks and someday, maybe in a year or two, she would encounter a meteor mutant. It was all part of Smallville. Perhaps an incident like it would bring Brianna closer to Chloe's husband. For Chloe, she would come home to a cold bed and a hundred rooms of memories. She had a million moments with Lex that she would never get back. She was coming home to the cold forbidding sanctuary situated in the middle of Kansas in the summer.

She turned up the volume of the earphones to hear the movie playing. Chloe hoped the dialogue would drown out the last vestiges of the tape she had found in her bag.

[I]Chloe, I leave my home tonight with the sole purpose of bringing you back. I have never stopped loving you. Everyday I see you grow lonelier I blame myself for what I had done.

Now my only goal is to make you happy. I will do anything if it means ending your pain. I will be completely satisfied with whatever I have to do as long as I put closure on this chapter of your life.

I see the end of this as either of two things. One, you forgive me and find in your heart that you love me as much as you did Luthor. Two, we find ourselves at an impasse that I will end in the only way I know how. The truth is, even now, I cannot see how the light would penetrate the clouds. Gotham is a dark city and we are in a dark world. I understand how deeply you loved Lex, and I cannot blame you for your consuming need to face your husband's killer. Love makes us do the most insane things. I know. I leave to face you prepared for anything.

Give Brianna my undying love.[/I]

She turned the volume at full blast, drowning out the voice that could not be drowned. Chloe released the tears she had not cried since her husband's funeral. Finally, it was safe to cry.

end