Author's Note: Here it is. I hope it's satisfactory ;-) By the way, can I get a show of hands? Should I put this under 'Crossovers'?
Disclaimer: After 35 chapters of disclaimers, y'all should know by now.
So what happens now?
Chloe entered the manor to a flurry of activity. She watched with puzzled curiosity as men and women dressed as wait staff rushed up and down the hall appearing into the foyer only to disappear into another part of the house. Some carried trays, others elaborate floral arrangements.
She turned to where Bruce stood just slightly behind her, pulling off his motorcycle gloves. "Getting ready for a party?" she suggested in surprise.
"As a matter of fact…" he trailed off, not offering any more information. "Alfred!" he called as he took long strides to meet the butler that just appeared from the hallway leading out of the east wing. "If you wouldn't mind to show Miss Sullivan to some breakfast," he directed towards the spot where Chloe stood. "I'll join you momentarily," he said and quickly disappeared.
Chloe watched him as he bounded up the staircase with a sense of foreboding. As to why, she wasn't even certain. Truth be told, she suddenly felt like an outsider; quite the opposite from just the other morning.
With the atmosphere of the mansion and the rushing about of the staff, it was if she had stepped into a gothic drama. Only this time it wasn't Joan Fontaine playing the role of the suddenly timid outcast.
"If you would follow me, Miss Chloe," Alfred directed, interrupting her thoughts.
One look that older man's gentle smile and arm outstretched down the hall in invitation, Chloe didn't have the heart to try and excuse herself straight out the front door. Instead, she started down the hallway, Alfred only a step behind.
"So what's the occasion?" she asked, nodding towards a passing gentleman with a huge crystal vase full of roses and white lilies.
"Master Wayne has decided to throw a gala. A black and white ball, to be precise," Alfred replied.
"Oh," Chloe mumbled, wondering absently what the difference was between a regular ball versus the black and white version. The idea was rather impromptu considering the events of the last twenty-four hours. "Any particular reason why?"
"Other than to cause me a mind-splitting headache?" Alfred quipped, effectively dodging the question.
As Alfred directed her into the kitchen, Chloe looked at the breakfast laid out and felt overwhelmed that had absolutely nothing to do with the immense buffet of food laid out before them.
Nothing had been mentioned of the last twenty-four hours. Time itself almost demanded acknowledgement of the importance of past events and the notion was frightening. She knew his secret. He knew that she knew his secret. He acted as though he knew hers. So where did that leave them?
So what happens now?
She felt like a whole new breed of interloper; an unwitting gatekeeper of secrets, as it were.
She felt like a fool to believe she'd be anything else. Slapping a hand against her forehead, Chloe allowed her fingers to slide down her face. "Gah, what am I even doing here?" she muttered low.
But not low enough. Alfred turned towards her. "Because Master Wayne was worried about you," he replied rather curtly, but soon gentled his tone at her pained look. "As a matter of fact, if he hadn't made the decision to find you and bring you here, I just might have come to fetch you myself. You gave me quite a scare, young lady," he waggled a chastising finger at her.
Chloe inadvertently straightened. She hadn't been referred to as 'young lady' since elementary school.
"But," he continued, his voice softening. "You have given me something quite precious and for that, I'll be forever grateful."
Chloe looked up at the hitch in his voice to see unshed tears beginning to well up in the older man's eyes. The sight alone pierced her heart. Of anyone else's tears, Alfred's was one of few that she simply didn't think she could bear. She threw her arms around his neck somewhat taking him by surprise. "Oh god, Alfred, please don't cry," she sniffed. "Because then I'll cry and we'll both be a mess."
Chuckling, he pulled away from her. "Well, we can't have that now, can we? So if I could direct your attention over here," he motioned towards the granite island.
Just as Bruce described, there were stacks of Belgian waffles with a side of several syrups and fruit toppings; unchecked emotions and unanswered questions to go along with it all. "I hope this will be satisfactory. Granted, it isn't much—
"It's perfect, Alfred," she said quickly as she eyed all the food. "I'll eat every bite," she promised, – 'til I puke.'
Right now, she was willing to do anything to make that man happy. Even if it meant that she stuffed her face with ten pounds of fruit and waffles along with a gallon of maple syrup.
Chloe dutifully sat at the counter and stared at her plate that had been prepared for her. Anticipation came with a wave of uncertainty that had nothing to do with waffles and began to overcome her senses.
So what happens now?
"Will the television bother you, Miss Sullivan?" Alfred asked, interrupting her thoughts.
Chloe simply shook her head and shoved a syrupy bite into her mouth.
"…just touched down at Gotham International. Rumors have been circulating for weeks that Luthorcorp will be setting up shop in Gotham and it would seem that Mr. Luthor will be seeing to the venture personally. Undoubtedly, such a merger would increases shares for both companies…"
Chloe froze instantly, all previous thoughts abandoned instantly. Disbelieving, she slowly turned to where the small flat screen was inlaid in the stainless steel Frigidaire. Unable to tear her eyes away from the screen, Chloe's heart began beating wildly as she watched Lex stride across the tarmac waving down the cameras. Full blown panic crashed through her, along with the glass in her hand that slipped from her grasp and promptly shattered on the tile floor.
The possibility that it was only a matter of time now before he found her was always lingered in the back of her mind. It was a moment that she knew could come at any time, but had secretly hoped that it wouldn't. Her greatest fear was that he had someone she cared about as bait her to goad her into coming out of hiding by using them. Because he knew it would work.
She didn't hear Alfred call out after her as she suddenly bolted out of the kitchen, down the hallway and straight for the foyer. Chloe fumbled through her purse for her phone as she ran. Had Clark tried to reach her? Oliver? Did they even know?
Just as she was about to make a clean break for the front door, Chloe was grabbed from behind and jerked to a sudden halt by a steely embrace.
"No!" she cried out in desperation. Bruce effectively spun her around to face him, yet she struggled against him anyway. "Let me go-please," she begged, her breath coming in broken gasps. "You have to let me—what are you doing!" she shrieked as Bruce merely bent, picked her up and slung her over his shoulder.
"Put me down!" she screamed as she pushed at his shoulders. "You don't understand! I have to go!"
Chloe continued to literally kick and scream as Bruce blithely strode down the hallway, ignoring some rather odd looks as he passed the kitchen and Alfred, who looked on in confusion when Bruce merely tossed him Chloe's bag.
"Alfred! Please help me!" Chloe screamed in vain.
"I'm so sorry, Miss Chloe," was his apology as it echoed down to her. "He has his own way in these things!"
Apartment hunting? Horses' ass.
Clark knew where Chloe was and to say that he didn't approve was a masterpiece of understatement. However, he did realize that it wasn't up to him. If Chloe liked the guy, then there must be something…salvageable about the man or so he supposed.
A casual sweeping glance over the screen and Clark was suddenly frozen to his spot in the line. That bald head walking across the screen was unmistakable.
'Luthor in Gotham' was the caption at the bottom of the screen.
Just when Clark quickly turned to super speed his way to Chloe only to receive what nearly felt like the shock of his life. He flinched with a jolt when he encountered a very familiar, yet aggravated pair of golden-green eyes.
"Smallville? What the hell are you doing here?"
Clark quickly pulled Lois off to the side. "Me?" his voice cracked. "What are you doing here?"
"Looking for answers," she replied, gesturing towards the television. "Which tells me that you've got a lot of explaining to do."
Clark's head lolled. He did not need this right now. He anxiously surveyed the area for a quick escape. Hn, fat chance. "You were supposed to stay in Metropolis until I called you, remember?" he whispered roughly.
Lois scoffed. "Oh c'mon, Clark. My aunt is missing while my cousin is M.I.A. Did you honestly think I was going to 'keep the home fires burning' until I got a phone call? You should know me better than that by now."
He turned with a bright smile of cynicism. "Clearly, I gave you too much credit."
Lois tilted her head with a tired look. "Look, Smallville," she began. "If you must know, I followed him here. So now you're here and he's here," she gestured once more towards the television. "So that tells me my baby cousin is here somewhere. So consider me a permanent fixture 'til we find Chloe. Got that?"
Before she realized what was happening, Chloe was unceremoniously dumped onto the hard surface of a leather couch. Once she gained her equilibrium, Chloe leapt up just in time to hear a key grate in a lock; a lock that belonged to the great double doors inside the immense library where she and Bruce had first encountered one another.
She launched herself from the couch towards the doors only to be stopped by Bruce bracing his hands on her shoulders. Chloe was confused, yet determined. "What is wrong with you? I have to go," she said when he gripped her shoulders and tried pushing her back towards the couch.
His dark eyes bored down into hers. "We need to talk," he stated.
"You know, that would've been great to hear about thirty minutes ago, but now I don't have time to talk," she stated plainly and brought her arms up in a defensive maneuver that knocked away his hold on her shoulders. She wasted no time in trying to get around him.
But he was much faster and continued to block her attempts.
Finally she stopped and threw up her hands and closed her eyes as if she were trying to control the immense force of her aggravation. "Are you out of your mind?" Chloe wasn't sure what he was playing at. As far as she was concerned, he was gunning for another sparring match.
As if he knew precisely what she was thinking, Bruce simply shrugged. "Look, if you want to rack up your tab"-he gestured to all the priceless items around them –"just to try to kick my ass again-then, by all means, be my guest."
Chloe swept the room in a glance, noting at least two more Tiffany lamps and what looked to be several priceless figurines and sculptures. She took a deep, calming breath. She didn't want to drag him into the debacle that was soon going to involve Lex. "I won't have to if you let me out."
Bruce held up the key in a taunting fashion. With a smirk he flung it away. Where it landed? In such an immense gallery that was the library, it was anyone's guess. Ignoring her look of outrage, he sauntered away from the doors.
Chloe didn't have time for his smug attitude and began to pound on the doors. "Help, please! Somebody get me out of here!"
At that, Bruce turned to watch her with an unusual feeling of bemusement and actually chuckled. "What are you doing?" he asked with wryly. The doors were thick and Alfred would have had a better chance at hearing a pin drop in Venezuela than hear her even if he were standing on the other side.
Chloe simply shot a withering glance over her shoulder. "I have eyes and ears too," she said rather pointedly with great implication.
He hummed a rather patronizing affirmation at that particular claim. This would be so much easier if he could just knock her out again. But he could no longer afford to beat around the bush. No sooner had he instructed Lucius to contact Lex than said Luthor had landed at Gotham International. It was too close for comfort and hardly a coincidence. Bruce was hardly a man that believed in coincidence. In addition to the fact that Chloe had just tried to run out of his home as if she were on fire confirmed any suspicion he may have had about her connection to Luthor was more than just being in his wedding party.
Watching her continue to pound the door relentlessly, Bruce was beginning to grow impatient at waiting for her to give up her struggle. He quickly stepped towards her, spinning her around and pinned her up against the doors.
He placed his hands on either side of her head and leaned in nearly nose-to-nose with her. "Like it or not, this is for your protection—
"My protection?" she scoffed, her eyes wide with incredulity.
"Luthor. That's why you're running isn't it?"
At first, she was momentarily stunned by his mention of Lex, though she didn't know that she should be surprised. Realization soon hit her and Chloe laughed in an ugly fashion. "I should've known," she muttered, shaking her head. How easily she'd forgotten just with whom she was faced. "That's what this is really about?" she referred to his bringing her to the mansion. She suddenly felt sick with foolishness. To believe that he might have wanted anything else other than her company…
She scoffed up at him. "Don't insult what little intelligence you think I have. This isn't about my protection. This wasn't about your concern for me at all, was it?This—this ruse is about you bilking me for information!" The hurt in her tone was unmistakable, even to her ears and she silently cursed herself for it.
His gaze hardened at her words. "It isn't like that."
"No!" he shot out. His mind was suddenly awash with images of Rachel. For two women so different in appearance and personality, Chloe and Rachel held a similarity in their pursuit of the truth. Rachel was always ready to take on the most difficult of situations and by herself, if need be. Hell, she had confronted the Joker in his penthouse at Dent's fundraiser in an attempt to divert the psychopath's attention away from everyone. It had just been lucky that he'd been there then. But it was much later that he wasn't able to help Rachel; wasn't able to save her. Suddenly, his memory of those placid brown eyes quickly became flashing green with fury as Chloe continued to look up him with anger and skepticism.
He took a deep breath and leaned in closer. "Look, no more secrets. No more games. You need to tell me your connection to Luthor?"
He wasn't quite prepared for her sudden burst of anger. She exploded out of his hold, her palms connecting with his chest as she shoved him away. "Who are you to give me a lecture on secret keeping? Do you even hear yourself?" she half-shouted. "Some detective you are!" she sneered at him; trying to hurl any insult at him in a last ditch effort to try to hurt him, if for no other reason, but to soothe her own. She crossed her arms and glared at him. "I've used a lot of unorthodox and stupid methods in the past to learn information, but I wouldn't put on this—this act of false sincerity- to seduce my way to the information I want," her voice near to cracking as she referred to the entire premise that he cared anything about her.
His eyes darkened at her implications and Chloe thought she was going to have quite a satisfying fight on her hands. She gasped as Bruce grabbed her wrists and shoved her back against the doors, effectively pinning her there. Before she could launch a struggling protest, his lips came crashing down onto hers. His hands quickly left her wrists to cup the sides of her face; turning her head to deepen the kiss as if he meant to devour her.
With her hands braced against his chest; the anger that surged through her soon dissolved into hunger. Suddenly, all thoughts of Lex, any misgivings she may have had seemed to melt away. There was even a fleeting voice that scolded her about her lack of self control, but she soon banished it to back of her mind.
Abruptly, he broke the kiss, leaving them both virtually breathless. He craned his head back, gazing down at her through hooded lids. "Rest assured Chloe Sullivan, I could seduce you right here, right now-without ever mentioning Luthor's name again, or anyone else-make no mistake," he breathed and bent to kiss her again.
Chloe put two halting fingers against his lips and turned her head away. "Don't do this," she whispered through gathering tears. "I'll tell you anything. Just don't—don't do this."
At that, his hands dropped away from her and backed away enough to watch her scurry around him like a frightened animal. He wasn't certain if he should be flattered or insulted that she found his kissing her to be some form of torture. The pain in her eyes suggested that she still thought he was using her, but he didn't have the time for that argument right now.
"I can protect you," he finally said, his voice rough with emotion.
Chloe's heart squeezed with an ache at such a fervent declaration. But she didn't want him to protect her. He nearly died from his last attempt.
"Keeping me locked inside this mansion isn't going to protect me, Bruce," she said. With a deep breath, she turned to him with a bittersweet smile. "You can't fight my battles for me."
Her seemingly placid demeanor didn't hide the naked terror he saw in her eyes. She was thinking of that night in the theater. He began to grow tense for he felt her fear was grossly misplaced, but there was no sense in arguing that point either. He was beginning to reach the end of his rope. Quid pro quo, he supposed.
"He wants something from both of us," he declared. "So whatever you think that you're protecting me from is best left ignored."
Chloe straightened. "What do you mean?"
He put his hands on his hips. "That, at this point, we should pool our resources –
Chloe shook her head. A furrowed look of confusion fast replaced any semblance of fear. "No. I mean what does Lex want from you?"
Bruce exhaled. "Luthor wants a joint venture with Wayne Enterprises," he informed reluctantly. "As to what, I'm not certain, but that's what I plan to find out tonight. "
Chloe's thoughts flew to the gala that was so spur-of-the-moment. "And you think that it has something to do with me?"
Bruce pinned her with a stare. "Possibly," he replied. "It could have something to do with you. Or it could have absolutely nothing to do with you. But you ran from Lex to come here to Gotham. Now he's here. That's too many coincidences to be random."
She sighed heavily with worry and looked away. Her strained expression was more than he could stand. He moved closer to her. "What does Lex want from you?" he asked once more.
She lifted her lids to look at him.
"My heart," she whispered.
Bruce inwardly flinched in confusion at that response. Before he could ask exactly what she meant by that, the library doors exploded open with all the finesse of a bomb. On the other side stood the man Bruce had seen on the surveillance footage that had whisked Chloe away only two nights ago.
"Clark!" her voice burst through the library. "No! Wait, please. If you would just—
Her voice was cut off by a great gust of air as Bruce watched Chloe disappear before his eyes. He whirled towards the open doorway only to find Alfred staring at him in apology.
"I'm sorry, sir. I tried to stop him," he said nervously.
Bruce lowered his head with a wry grin. "It's all right, Alfred," he replied. "For now, she's probably safer with him," he added, remembering the conversation between Chloe and this man on her apartment rooftop. Whoever he was, at least he seemed to care enough about what happened to her.
However, whisking her away was only delaying the inevitable.
But not if he had anything to say about it.
Author's Note: Sorry for the cliffhanger. Hopefully, Lex's appearance in the next chapter will make up for that.
Aw crap, I gave it away didn't I?