Title: The Upper Hand

Author: Superag

Rating: R

Summary: Challenge 33 from N-S board. Lex loses everything in this wonderful economy that we have right now. This fic is finished and will post in chunks.

Spoilers: All seasons to 8 up for grabs, but not sure what yet. Lois and Kara don't exist. The Lexana marriage WAS an occurrence and she MIGHT make an appearance. Clark's play in this is involved down the line.

Disclaimer: I do not own the characters or the instances of Smallville. I get no money from any of this, even though now would be really nice. Don't sue – you wouldn't make any.

Chapter 1 – Gone

'Luthorcorp Receives No Bailout.' Lex read over and over as he stared at the front page of the Daily Planet. He had spent close to three million dollars from his own pocket lobbying the assholes in Congress to save what could be a major market crash when word of Luthorcorp failing got out.

Now it was plastered on every newspaper, website, and news channel throughout the modern world. And he sat alone in the one thing he thought he couldn't lose, the mansion.

He huffed to himself and pinched his nose in frustration. He had spent hours in talks at the state level, bargaining with Senator Kent for what he thought was a good resolution just to find out that his board members had flown themselves in private jets to Washington. By the time he showed up to hopefully gloss things over, the Congress had voted. The car companies were a yes; he was a no.

Pulling up the latest investment charts to the company, he swallowed at the drop of his entire stock portfolio. Anything that a Luthor had touched in the last ten years was near pennies, literally. He switched to another screen and analyzed the amount of money that would be left after restitution and compensation packages were dealt with. Leaning back in the seat, he folded his arms behind his head and closed his eyes.

"You finally succeeded dad." he casually scoffed, whispering to no one there. Lionel had died the year before, his liver eventually giving out after being cured for whatever reason years before. The alcohol must have done him in after all. He shook his head and couldn't believe he was asking the one person he cared least about something he couldn't respond to anyway.

Leaning forward again in the seat, he opened the small box on the table up and stared at the only thing that now occupied it, his ring. "And there's where I stopped paying attention." He laughed at himself almost accusingly thinking about how absurd he had been thinking that marrying Lana Lang would have made a damn difference. He would at least have another ten million to hold onto if he hadn't fucked that up from the beginning.

The marriage had been a pure sham. She wanted comfort, he wanted to know a secret. In the end, neither got what they were looking for. She never quite understood him the way he had hoped, and he constantly fought the invisible man in the corner named Clark Kent. Now, she was gone with his money.

Putting the ring back in the box, he slid it across the table and watched it nick the floor as it hit with a resounding thud. He heard the doors open to the study and looked up at the one person he really didn't want to see. "Mr. Luthor, we need to talk."

"There's only one thing you need to tell me before I let you go, permanently." His accountant sat down and placed an open folder on top the laptop. He watched as Lex glanced over the figures, already knowing what was coming. He could do the numbers in his head.

"We have to liquidate the mansion to cover the employee packages for the Smallville plant," the man spoke quietly yet firmly. "The circled number is…"

"I know what it is." Lex closed the folder and got up from his seat. He silently held up the bottle of scotch on the bar toward the man and he safely declined. Lex nodded his head and put the bottle to his lips without worrying about the glass. It wasn't worth it anymore.

"Sir."

"Leave." The man opened his mouth again to answer Lex and thought of notifying one of the servants in the building of Lex's condition. Walking down the hall, he noticed there was no one to see him out and the music that usually came from the kitchen was silent. No one was there. They had all been let go.

Lex finished off the small amount in the Scotch bottle and threw it across the room, breaking the glass coffee table in between the leather couches that he vowed to destroy later. He laughed as the table shattered, thinking that it was the second glass table to pay its dues in the study.

He picked up another bottle and popped the top, sniffing of the brandy that was older than he was. His father had to be laughing for some reason. He walked along the edge of the pool table, feeling of the felt that he had just replaced as he tipped the bottle back and took another swig. The old aroma didn't suit him. Sitting the bottle in the middle of the pool table, he pulled the cue ball out of the rack and a cue. He stood at one end and carefully lined up the shot. Releasing the cue, the ball cracked against the bottle, causing the bottle to shatter and brandy to pour out over the pool table that was now useless.

He felt strange. He had torn the study apart several other times while he lived there, looking for trinkets or bugs. But somehow the anger that welled deep in him now made his moves more methodical. He took the sword off the wall that he remembered Clark was afraid that he would hit him with. He had told the young man who used to be a friend that the sword was a prop.

A small smirk came across his lips as he ran his finger lightly across the blade and felt that the prop still indeed had a little of an edge. Grabbing another bottle of scotch from the bottom of the bar, he popped it open, tipped it back, and ran the tip of the sword across the seat and back of the couches and chairs. "Oops," he joked as he continued to drink.

Dropping the blade of the sword in the fire that was going, he pulled on the fine leather and ripped it beyond repair. "Liquidate my things. Only need to sell one goddamn item in here to make it."

He walked over and pressed a few buttons on the hidden panel of the safe room. Opening the doors, he looked at the small cot and laughed. "I was delusional. Thanks mom," he snidely added remembering how sweet Lana had been when he was shot for a damn ship he never should have told her about. "Could never keep your mind on the fucking prize at hand Lex. Had to always be in other people's business Lex."

He grabbed the box that had contained an original piece of Kryptonite before it was found it seemed everywhere you looked. The damn town probably glows green from space he thought. Walking back out with the small box, he put the scotch bottle down on the ground carefully, since now there was no table.

Pulling back over his shoulder, he wondered if his aim from Excelsior had deteriorated since school. Pulling his leg up, he launched the box of green meteor rock at the fireplace but missed high and the large titanium urn crashed to the ground. Walking over, Lex picked up the bottle and took another swig from it. "Sorry dad." Looking at the rug, he half-hearted laughed. "I'll get the vacuum later."

Lex moved around and sat back in the chair behind the computer, sliding the folder of his wealth off into the trash. Account numbers be damned; it was all gone anyway. Punching up the computer again, he watched as the numbers changed on LUC, the abbreviation of the company. "Red, red, red." Slamming the top of the laptop down, he cleared the desk with one arm while saving the bottle of scotch in the other hand.

He finished off the bottle and set it carefully on the floor as if it was more important than any of the other objects in the room. He eyed the different books in the small library upstairs and wondered how big of a fire he could get going. Pulling the folder out of the garbage, he went over the final amounts again.

"Personal monetary assets after liquidation $100000. Other assets zero." He never thought things could come to this. His father had created the company out of nothing, actually his grandparents' blood money and made it successful. They had fought tooth and nail for shares of the company over the years and somehow made it work. But as soon as his father's body descended into the ground the last year, Luthorcorp seemed to follow.

Maybe, Lex thought, he hadn't paid enough attention to details. Luthorcorp seemed to run itself for years, with him sitting in the office on the top floor reaping the benefits. Moving money around from legal accounts to those not so legal. Whether possessed or something else, his father warned him about chasing little green men.

The experiments, 33.1 were already a thing of the past. From the information Lex gathered, Lana had taken care of that along with pocketing the money for it, again thanks to his own father and Clark. The Isis Foundation had not been much of a hidden secret, seeing as Lana passed out leaflets at what amounted to 33.1 escapee support meetings. He had never given her enough credit, least of all for disappearing.

Then, he learned from an inside source that his dad had done most of the work on the crooked business contracts before he died. Finding out that more than half of Luthorcorp was being sold off to the lowest bidder was cold, even for his father. Those contracts went out behind his back and only days after his father's three month prognosis came back from the doctors. Lionel had always warned about getting in bed with the enemy, and all the while he had been the enemy. Lex wondered how many times his father had talked out of one side of his mouth while doing the other. Never said he loved Lex, just carefully chipped away everything he had.

Then the market happened. Gas prices spiked, the housing market took a dive from a tall cliff, and everyone stopped buying. Buying stock, parts, anything. And the bottom of Luthorcorp went with the automakers, credit and investment banks, and every other stock known to man. He had tried unsuccessfully to stave off the fall for almost 6 months taking most things and parceling out the amounts to persons that worked for Luthorcorp as compensation packages for unemployment that started piling up. He had given his accountant stamp approval to just sign his name to it. He sold the Daily Planet among other miscellaneous acquisitions that brought him only more debt now. He was now the cause of a 1% global hike in unemployment. Most people thought that Luthorcorp was the bane of Smallville's existence; now it really was.

Smallville had not been immune. The Ledger reported a run on the banks after workers showed up and were turned away by security guards at the gates. Only after some pleading had they at least had time to retrieve their things and go home with simple severance checks and promises of some more money to come. People egged his car as he drove through town, blaming one person for the entire globe's problems. Smallville was the last place he needed to be. He wondered without security at the gate when the storming of the Bastille would begin.

The latest was now a scandal to decimate what was left of the Luthorcorp holdings. The accountant from two years earlier had taken his leave evidently with most of the IRS owed taxes. Too many minions made things muddy for CEO's he now understood.

Leaning on top of his desk, he groaned. He stared at the green rock sitting on the floor and shook his head. Pulling himself up from the start of a drunken stupor, he walked down to the basement and pulled out one of the candle lighters. Opening the door with a secret code, he looked as the room illuminated and rolled his eyes. Years he spent on their friendship, then his parents, then finding out his secret, and for what. Now, they didn't speak, his mother tried to be the civil one but threw him to the wolves in Washington, and his now ex-girlfriend, his own ex-wife, ruined his research.

Lex popped on the small candle starter and looked at the different research that he had acquired. He was surprised it was still there knowing that Lionel knew full well about the room. He lit several items and sat on top of the mangled car, watching as the items burned to ash and the flame carried to the next item. Walking up the steps, he shut the door and dropped the small flame thrower.

Walking into the main area of the basement, he looked at all the priceless pieces of artwork and shook his head. They only needed the original manuscripts from King George and a couple of other irreplaceable Egyptian artifacts that were in the fireproof safe room to pay off the debts. Watching as the fire peaked out from under the door to the room he was just in, Lex's wrinkled up the end of his mouth and walked back upstairs.

He sat down at his desk after dismantling the alarm, for he could care less if his dad's eyesore of a family heirloom house burnt to the ground. He sat behind his desk and stared into space. He wasn't drunk, yet. There was more alcohol in the basement. "Dammit," he said to himself as he realized the fire would easily send the wine collection up in flames before destroying the rest of the family heirlooms.

He walked over to the safe room again and pulled one more box down off the top shelf and put it on the desk in front of him. Opening it up, it contained the last birthday card his mother had given him and his mother's wedding ring among other items. Shoving the card and the ring in his pocket, he dumped the rest of the trinkets from his childhood in the trash. Looking back in the garbage, he grabbed a picture that he had forgotten all about. Shoving it in his pocket, he leaned forward, sighed, and buried his face in his hands on top of the desk.

"I said leave. You're released from the payroll," he muffled at the sound of hearing the door open.

"You did that when you fired me."

Chapter 2 – Fires

Lex looked up from hands at the blonde standing with her weight on one leg and her hand on her hip. The long coat she wore covered whatever curves that he used to find reasonably attractive. She held up a newspaper and cocked her head to one side.

"Lex Luthor, the CEO of the now defunct Luthorcorp declined comment yesterday amid the announcement that the international corporation would have to sell off its holdings to pay for numerous debts and IRS back taxes that were discovered during the corporation's latest meeting with SEC." She paused and acted as if she skimmed the paragraphs for the next juicy line as Lex lowered his head again. "Oliver Queen, of Queen Industries and Bruce Wayne, of Wayne Enterprises, have stepped in quickly to gather loose ends around the globe, gobbling up portions of Luthorcorp and trying to assure employees of their jobs." He heard Chloe kind of giggle at the last part. "Gobble. That's funny considering Thanksgiving was this past week."

Chloe put the paper back down at her side and stared at the man that now sat at the desk without his precious computer in front of him. She then looked around the room and realized that she had stepped into what only looked like a minefield. The computer was in several parts on the floor as was Lionel, or his ashes to be more specific.

"Go away."

"Why? Where you can wallow in your own self loathing? It might make for good entertainment." Chloe sat down on the couch that now looked like scraps of leather. "What happened here?" she asked as pulled slightly on one of the pieces of the leather that hung loosely.

"The maid stopped coming by?" Lex sarcastically answered without meeting her glare.

"Seriously Lex." Chloe stood up and started toward him and stopped as he moved around the desk and grabbed her by the shoulders.

"GET OUT!" Chloe pulled from his grip and straightened out her collar he had pulled on. Dropping his hands to his sides, he almost lowered his head before telling her, "Just fucking leave me alone!" Walking back over to the table, he picked up another bottle.

Chloe dodged the random object he threw across the room in her direction and then watched as he picked up another bottle and popped the top. "Yeah, that's real mature Lex. Drink yourself to hell. Go out the same way your father did. You're a fucking coward when it comes right down to it. You suddenly have nothing and decide this is the best course of action. If I were you…"

She stopped as he lunged at her and grabbed her again with one hand and started pulling her toward the door. "Get out. Get out. Get out."

Slapping him across the face with her free hand, Lex stopped and threw her arm down from his grip. "You touch me again like that, remember you don't have the money to save your ass from going to jail for assault."

"Yeah, like you do."

Chloe eyed him carefully. Chloe knew she had an advantage now over Lex, if nothing else she was sober. But more was involved. She wasn't the same person on the surface. Lex seemed to have changed that in everyone he touched. Lana was gone, off the grid so to speak, with a good divorce settlement. Clark was more Kal El than Clark since Lana left. And Chloe had grown up and had Lex to thank for that.

After achieving what seemed the almost impossible until the Luthor stronghold started the crumble beneath Lex, Chloe had all but destroyed the Isis Foundation after Oliver Queen stepped in and silently took up the remainder of the cause. Quietly, she, Clark, and Oliver moved patients from the facilities to other places to assume new identities.

Silently, she stared at his eyes and saw the defeat that finally took over him. Lex turned around and walked back over to his desk, throwing back some more of the bottle in his hand. "If you won't leave, tell why the hell are you here? Doesn't Mr. Olsen need help putting his socks on or something?"

Chloe bit her lip as she continued to stare at him. The cheap jab at her fiancée was expected but not as cold and uncalculated as Lex's response was. Still, he had a point. "We're not talking about Jimmy."

Lex stopped at the obvious rebuttal, noticing the almost neglect to defend him. He looked up from his desk as Chloe turned and pulled the large chair up near the desk. "You can't honestly say you really wanted to see the downfall. Or is this exclusive of me going slowly insane going to get you a job back at the Daily Planet?"

"Oh, I don't need that," she commented as she put the paper down in front of him. The one he had memorized over and over. "I have been waiting for this moment." Pointing to italics underneath the secondary story of the paper being taken over by Global Communications, he saw her name.

"Finally recognized as the real journalist you always were." Chloe's eyes met Lex's and she cocked her head to the side.

"Was that a compliment?"

"I never said you were a bad journalist. You were frighteningly good." Lex figured he had nothing left to hide behind. He watched as Chloe sat back in the chair as if she was trying to escape whatever strange statement he would make next. "I spent a lot of money making your sources go away."

Chloe sat silent as Lex admitted to his obvious wrongdoings over the years. He watched as her anger melted from her face replaced with the look of pain. Her eyes became glassier and he knew that look. Lana had it too many times right before he shoved her aside where he wouldn't see her cry.

"You really hurt me, my family, and friends. You deserve everything that is coming to you down to possible jail time for tax evasion. I will be there to cover every second of that trial and every day of your term if it occurs. Your father was an evil bastard but he redeemed himself before you put him in the ground."

"I had not…"

Chloe held up a hand to Lex's words. "No, my turn. You led him to make a choice and the choice he made was to leave you even if it was drinking himself to death. You make people hate you like it's a goal for you. You lose me when you were supposed to protect me and my father, you walk into the Daily Planet and threaten me with my life and then you turn my mother into your own little puppet. You took my best friend and turned her against me with all your fucking double talk and lost your only other friend in the process."

She stood up and stared at Lex who watched her every move as she stood up in front of him. Chloe had matured into something he couldn't quite lay a finger on. He had sorely picked the wrong one of the Smallville beauties to woo. Lana had never been enough of a challenge. Perhaps, he wondered, he had chosen Ms. Lang for the mere fact that it once again easy; he didn't know nor cared anymore.

"It's no wonder you lost everything Lex. It seems to be your calling. Lost your mother, your brother, your father, your friends, your money, an election, your company. Now I guess we can add your dignity, whatever there was left anyway."

Lex couldn't let his eyes slip from the gaze on her. The last statement had been a challenge to him and he couldn't lose. He stood up behind the desk as Chloe lifted her head to show her slight strength in the situation. The two glared at each other intensely as Chloe felt her locked knee cramp and tried to stretch it out as she kept her eyes fixed on him.

She had tried not to feel anything for Lex since she walked in on he and Lana back in college. It was like something had hit her in the stomach seeing his baffled but cool look getting caught, even if it was innocent, at the time.

She never understood why it hurt more to lose Lex in her life than the others around her. Possibly she had learned more about him in the few months they worked together that others had ever seen, counting Lana in the mix. Those truths she knew about him made her fall for him. But he had changed, as if a demon possessed him and she watched what started out as a friendship slowly fade to nothing and then enemies.

She remembered Clark had been the first one she had held a crush for so many years until she had seen her best friend was the only thing that truly mattered to him. Hurt, she slowly saw the relationship between her and Clark diminish to her covering for him in the event of emergency or needing research done.

Lana had been different. She never noticed that she and Chloe were having any problems, undoubtedly covering for the lies that Lex told her on an almost daily basis. She of course had learned better but never returned the in kind friendship like before. She was gone; where she didn't know now, but it was for the best.

Chloe noticed that her gaze never left Lex's and he still stared at her. "Again, why are you here? Write your damn story – I'm sure you'll win all kinds of awards for it."

Chloe watched as Lex finally unlocked his eyes from her and took a swig from yet another bottle of what had to be very expensive booze. "That's it. Join your dad in AA hell. You always wanted to sit on his right side just like he made you while he was here." She watched Lex drop the bottle on the ground and watch the murky liquid run out of it.

"Fuck you."

"Well, that probably goes over real well in the board room. Is that what you quoted the board members before they took their cut of the sinking company and ran for the hills and called you out on the illegal dealings? That's too bad; I was hoping for some verbal judo." She waited and he had no answer. "Mature."

"Why are you here? Doesn't Clark have you chasing some detail of that damn foundation that Lana founded?" Lex turned around and stared at her as he picked up the bottle that had half run out on the floor.

"I am not Clark's lackey. Besides, your information is a little out of date; the foundation is closed."

"Could have fooled me," Lex swiftly answered before he stopped short and stared at her realizing what she said. He picked up the bottle that had about a fourth of the bottle left and lifted it to his lips. He was tired and drunk and not interested in bantering with her anymore. "Tell me why you're here or get out."

Chloe stood and stared at the shell of the man that four years earlier she would have happily given up any ties to Clark to be with. "You need someone. And I have the upper hand now."

Glancing up at her, he scowled and shook his head. "How do you figure?"

Chloe heard the question and was about to answer when she smelled something funny. "Lex, is something on fire?"

Lex looked at her and then around and pointed at the fireplace. "Gas logs." He paused and then shook the bottle around in his hand. "And the basement."

Chloe's eyes grew as she ran out on the balcony of the mansion and looked down. She watched Lex walk up behind her and almost fall over the side before she pushed him back against the wall. Eyeing the strange glow from the small half windows near the grass, she grabbed Lex's hand. "You set the mansion on fire?"

"Just the basement. Whole bunch of crap anyway. Except the wine – should have drank it all beforehand. Could be on the right hand side of my father as you say. Could have ruled hell together if I didn't kill him first." Lex felt her tugging on his arm and shook her away. "Fuck you. You won't let me touch you, so hands off."

Chloe watched as Lex slunk back against the outside of the mansion and threw back some more of the liquid. His eyes were quickly becoming glassy and distant. She wondered how many full bottles he had been through. He remembered Lana talking about the amount he drank increasing as their problems got worse, but she had never seen him like this, even in his days against his dad.

"Lex, the basement is not going to be the only thing that burns in here. There are flames coming out of the back windows." She pulled on him again. "Get your ass up. You are not going down like this. I was kidding about the dignity remark – you have it. It's just misplaced."

Lex looked up at her and placed another hand on hers as she pulled on him. His standing jolted her backward but she felt his arm reach for her before she fell over the balcony. Seeing the look in his eyes, determination seemed to make a reappearance, but it wasn't a sane. "Nope not like this. Come on."

He grabbed her hand as he pulled her down one of the staircases and could smell the stench of highly flammable objects burning to a crisp. Looking down the second staircase, he pulled her along with him. "Lex, where are we going?"

"Downstairs." Chloe froze on the stairs and felt his grip tighten when she stopped. "Come on." He glanced back at her and smirked looking at his grip on her hand. "We're going to miss it." Chloe wondered what his drunk ass was talking about. She continued to follow him with his tightened grip.

Lex got to the bottom floor level and stared at Chloe as she watched the rugs and tapestries burn and the bottom of the staircase finally caught with flames. "So?"

"Lex, you're fucking crazy. Come on. Let's get out of here." Chloe pulled from his hand just before he pulled her back and wrapped his arms around her, forcing her face toward the flames. She turned away from the heat toward him and closed her eyes.

"It's so satisfying seeing everything my father worked for burning like he is in hell. Chloe you've wanted to see this; I know you have," he sinisterly purred in her ear. "God, Mr. Olsen is fucking lucky bastard with this body pressed against him every night." He pulled her closer as she fought against his grip.

"Let me go you crazy ass bastard!" Chloe struggled as Lex's arms simply tightened around her.

"Tell me why you are here and have the upper hand." He could see the tears welling up in her eyes again and cocked his head to the side, starting to feel the heat from the staircase from the basement being on fire and creeping up toward the two of them.

Her anger seemed to feed him in his deranged state. Turning to look back at him, "Lex, please. Come with me," she pleaded.

He glanced over to her and noticed the distress on her face. She really seemed concerned. "You're not turning me into the authorities," he stated as if she was to agree with his demands. He loosened his grip on her body, seeing his handprint now on her arm.

Chloe slunk further into herself once free from his grip. This was his plan, to go down with the ship. "God no if we leave now. They'll take everything else you may have instead of insurance knowing it was intentional. Just come with me."

"Why?"

Chloe nodded as she backed toward the door as the fire crept up the stairs toward the two of them, catching each part of the rug that covered stairs in a hot flame. She was done playing games with his drunken ass. "Fine, fucking kill yourself. You haven't died from being shot or stabbed or electrocuted yet. Maybe you'll make it." She turned for the door and felt an arm around her waist again. "Let me GO!"

"Why?" he called loud enough she could hear him over the fire crackling only a few feet from them now.

"Because this is not some goddamn Greek tragedy." He felt her fight against him as he wrapped another arm around her and pulled her closer to him. Whipping her around from the door, she screamed seeing the flames coming up within inches and feeling the heat now on her face. Turning her head slightly, she saw Lex's face now dripping with sweat.

"Why?" he whispered in her ear as he held her in the direction of the fire.

"BECAUSE I FUCKING LOVE YOU YOU ASSHOLE," she screamed as the flames caught the table by the front door on fire. Without reacting, Lex yanked on the now hot doorknob, flinching slightly and pulled the two down the hill out of the way of the flames as they emerged from the front door, rolling now over the timbers that intricately covered the ceiling in the soon to be destroyed mansion.

Decisions - Chapter 3

Lex pushed Chloe down into the side of the hill that retreated to the front gates and covered her with his body. He could feel her shake from head to toe, not sure if it was because of the fire or because of her admission. Holding her head down, he ducked as something popped and another explosion came from the front of the house. The gas main to the fireplace was all he could think.

Pulling her head up, Chloe watched the flames now shoot out of the first floor windows and couldn't believe that the mansion was burning from the inside out. She felt his arm still around her waist and shot him a dirty look as he wiped the dirt from her face. "Don't touch me."

Lex threw up his hands and removed them, releasing his grip from her and wincing at the feeling in his palm. She looked over at Lex, who now lied on the grass beside her looking at the dark sky. He hadn't said anything in response to her unsettling confession.

"Come on. I assume you have your keys to your car," he commented. "I don't really care for the authorities to find me next to my burning home." He pulled himself up and started toward her car without mentioning the confession. Chloe trudged behind him to the car at the bottom of the hill and stared at him as he leaned against the car window once they were in it.

"Where do you suggest we go?" she whispered. She couldn't believe she had let it slip, but it had been true since they put his father away. She had stood on the altar one step below Lana and watched him marry her, all the while wondering if he ever knew or even suspected.

Lex didn't answer. He had nowhere to go. He hoped she would just stop talking altogether. He had to digest the information that kept swimming in his mind. He had known they had feelings years ago but was pretty sure that she had long forgotten how either one of them felt. He wanted to bang his head against the glass hard enough to knock himself out, maybe he would have visions of how he fucked up with Chloe.

Silently, Chloe pulled into the back alley of the Talon. Lex groaned at the sight of the building. He sold his portion as soon as Lana dropped the divorce papers in his lap and disappeared. He had found her once in China but then lost the cash to maintain the surveillance and she was gone again. Selling the Talon for virtually no money, he wanted to be done with it.

"The owner lets you stay here still? I wasn't aware the apartment was still available."

"It wasn't. It's part of the portion I bought, being all of it." Chloe pulled a folder out of her bag and handed it Lex. "Apparently no one wants a second rate coffeehouse that involved the Luthor name." The black pen marks through the important figures showed Chloe's understanding of what Lex would want to see. The small corporation that he had sold his shares to turned around and sold them to Sullivan Inc.

"Sullivan Inc? Did you go through some cheesy Internet site to get that license?"

Chloe ignored his snide remark because for all intense purposes it was true, but he didn't need to know. She simply rolled her eyes and tried to take the folder out of his hands but he pulled it away with a snear.

He looked over the sheets and his facial expression changed. Chloe watched his eyes try to focus somewhere between the drunken stupor and his business sense. His jaw stiffened as he looked each sheet, ending with the Talon. "How did you get them to sell and get Lana's share?" He stopped and analyzed the dates.

"Lana gave her portion to me; dad bought the rest from the subsidiary of Queen Industries that you sold it to. You should do better research from now on," she jabbed at his obvious missing selling to the enemy. Chloe got out of the car and grabbed the folder out of his hands before heading into the back entrance of the Talon.

Holding the door open, she motioned with a nod of her head for him to follow. Seeing his reluctance, she shook her head. "Stay in the car. It's supposed to be about zero tonight. Maybe the cops will pick you up before you freeze to death." She heard the door open and let the door slam behind her right before he made it up the stairs.

"Chloe, how much?"

"None of your business, literally." Chloe opened up the apartment and let Lex pass her into the place before she locked the door behind them. She followed him upstairs and watched him try his key unsuccessfully. Seeing his glare back in her direction, she smiled, "I'm not stupid."

Lex knew that and should have expected as much from her. "So, when is Mr. Olsen going to grace us with his impeccable timing?" Lex sat down on the couch and flipped through a magazine on her coffee table. She glared over in Lex's direction at his unflappable way of completely pretending nothing had occurred back at the mansion, not that she really wanted to discuss it. He, though, acted as if nothing happened, and it disturbed her.

Chloe opened her desk with a key as Lex watched her lock away the folder about the Talon. Shoving the key into her pocket, she glared in his direction noting his careful watch of her every move. Chloe poured two glasses of orange juice and sat one determined in front of Lex. "He's out of town, not that it's any of your business either. Drink it; you need to be sober."

"Why?"

"For when the police show up to arrest you." Chloe lowered her head and sighed. "You couldn't just have given up and walked out." The room fell silent as the two stared across at each other. Lex saw the flash of pain on her face. He couldn't trace it to any one event that marred what they used to have. Chloe could see his face and knew he was analyzing her.

Chloe disappeared into the bathroom and wondered if she was now losing her control. Leaning against he sink, she wiped her face with a wet washcloth and tried to clean the soot from her face. Her hair smelled like smoke and the sleeves of her jacket now had small burn marks from the sparks. They had been that close. He seriously needed help.

Lex heard the shower start and pinched his nose in frustration. He could have easily taken what was left and made something of it. But he had long been obsessed with things being all or nothing, and he wanted the all. He sat and stared at the things in her apartment and shook his head, finally sobering up slightly and realizing how stupid he really was.

Hearing the shower stop, he watched as Chloe's form disappeared behind heavy curtain to make her one room apartment look like two. Leaning back in the couch, he wondered if she even had the heart to let him use the shower. He heard her high heels still on the floor, a sign he was sure that told him not to get too comfortable.

"Give me your hand," she demanded. Lex glared at her as she pulled his hand from laying gently at his side. He flinched as she touched the palm where the doorknob had burned him. Rubbing it gently with some kind of cream, he watched her work without making eye contact.

"Not necessary. It's not bad." Lex pulled his hand from her grip and finished rubbing the cream in over the burn. Chloe rolled her eyes knowing he felt he was still too big to ask for help or kind enough to say anything afterwards.

"So when are you going to tell Mr. Olsen how you feel?" Chloe's breathing increased as she worried what he would say next, but he said nothing, just stared at her.

"Again, not your business what I tell Jimmy." She sighed. "It was a great line and it got you out of the mansion before it blew to high hell." She sneered almost devilishly making Lex wonder if he had been had. Cocking her head to one side, she smirked, "Now, let's just drop it." Chloe turned to reach for her bag and begin working on something for the newspaper, carefully eyeing Lex out of the corner of her eye.

It almost seemed like a strange sadness or reality hit him. Lex Luthor former billionaire sat on her simple couch and stared at the Christmas lights that blinked on the hardware store across the street. She watched him fidget with something in his pocket and wondered what he would try to pull next. Lex pulled something out of his pocket and flicked it across into her lap.

Picking up the scrap from Lex's pocket up, she turned it over and her breath hitched. "Remember when we could talk about anything?" he questioned. The picture his bodyguard took back when she was being safeguarded had Lex not quite smiling, but she was. Now, she strained to keep her composure holding the old picture in her hand.

Feeling her defenses being tested, it was a small groove that Lex was trying to etch in her exterior and she wasn't falling for whatever games he still thought he could afford to play. She huffed. "That was a long time ago. I have some work downstairs. The dishwasher could use unloading up here."

Throwing the picture down on the coffee table, she disappeared downstairs as Lex picked up the picture and carefully put it in his empty wallet. "Too long ago," he whispered to himself.

Opening up the dishwasher, he stared at the different cabinets and realized this was now where he was. Pulling his jacket off, he threw it in the chair knowing it didn't matter anymore. He unloaded the dishwasher carefully looking at where each item went as to not upset Chloe anymore. She saved him and killed him all at once.

Chloe looked back up in the direction of the apartment door and dialed the phone. After answering several short questions and giving a few small instructions, she hung up and stared at the lights across the street. It wasn't in her plan, but he had done this to himself. Resigning herself to get some work done, she unlocked the back door and went back to sit at the table.

Chloe stared at the figures from the week before the Talon closed for what she called the holidays. The place, like many other small operations, were hurting with the newest economic news. The straw to the camel's back had been the closing of the plant. She wasn't going to sink her own cash into something she knew was bad business, but she was surprised Lex took the loss as long as he did. Cash had never been the bottom line here, Lana had. Soon, it would simply be a trendy looking sandwich shop until that folded too. Turning and looking at the clock, she wondered if Lex had gotten anything done.

She glanced up at the back door that she had opened. Torn between her previous decision and now, she decided it was too late to change her mind. He obviously didn't care to make anything but snide remarks in regards to where they were now in their twisted complex relationship.

Trying once again to think about the work in front of her, she couldn't concentrate and she knew she could blame only herself. If she had not gone after Lex when the headlines hit, she wouldn't have professed her secret and wouldn't have him in her apartment. She wished she could have the last few hours back; she would have at least left him there. Sitting back in the chair, she shook her head. She couldn't have left him regardless of her feelings; she wasn't the type.

Dropping her head to the table, she closed her eyes and wondered how she would explain her double life to Clark, Jimmy, Lana. Hearing her phone ring, she picked up and partially smiled. She felt bad for Jimmy; he wasn't meant to be a casualty. "Hi honey," she pasted on a fake smile as she spoke to him.

"Are you coming into town for the weekend?" he asked as chipper as he always sounded.

Chloe leaned back in the chair and had to stifle a laugh at her man. He was so perfectly innocent and boyish. She wondered exactly what was written on her forehead sometimes that attracted the types to her. Obviously she didn't have whatever she needed to have Lex turned on back when it mattered.

Missing the click of the door above, she continued to talk as Lex watched from above.

"No, I have some research that I need to get done here. I'll see you at work on Monday."

"I could come visit." Chloe took a deep breath trying to ignore the question and not sound desperate for him to stay in Metropolis.

"No, I really need the time to work this weekend and you here would cause unneeded, yet incredibly blissful distractions," she quipped. She hoped he would bite; he wasn't the best lover she had ever had. He was awkward and she hoped she could teach him a few things once they were married.

Lex leaned silently on the balcony and could only hear the one-sided conversation but a smile slowly showed on his face as he heard Chloe quickly douse the quick trip of the absent minded Olsen. Feeling satisfied, he quietly went back in the apartment and let her close her conversation.

She returned about an hour later to see Lex sitting at the small kitchen table reading the newspaper, again. She glanced over at the kitchen and saw it completely clean. Dishes were put away and the oven sparkled. He looked up and met her glance before silently going back to the paper. He had cleaned up himself too. She walked over and sat down on the couch, trying to not think of the kind of game he was playing with her.

*******

Chloe opened the door to the apartment a few hours later and saw the officer that stared pointedly at her. "Ma'am, we are looking for Lex Luthor. There was reason to believe that from your previous involvements with him, you may know where he is."

"Why?" Chloe asked as she played along. Lex watched her around the corner. He had his sleeves rolled up after sitting for several hours reading a book she had on her shelf while she worked on what she described as a filler piece for the newspaper. Looking over her shoulder briefly, he noticed it was something simple about saving money while Christmas shopping. Rolling his eyes, he suddenly realized that was him now.

"We have a warrant for his arrest to the charge of arson. Seems that his personal residence burned to the ground this morning." Chloe took a deep breath and didn't think opening up the door to the officer would be as difficult as it seemed. This is what she wanted for him, pain and suffering. But as much of a bastard as he was, this was not the way he should go down, over arson. It should be for much more. Holding the door firmly, she felt another set of fingers touch her arm and push the door open.

"She has nothing to do with this." Lex pushed past her into the hallway and looked the officer up and down.

"Lex Luthor, you have the right to remain…" the officer started as Chloe watched in her open doorway as the rest of words seemed to blend together into a mumbling of legal terminology and Chloe's beating heart.

Lex saw her look at the officer as he clicked the last handcuff on him and took him by the elbow. Glancing back in Lex's direction, Chloe's face was distraught but stiff, and Lex turned back to her. "Thank you," he mouthed in her direction causing her to squint at the odd choice of words.

With the officer pushing gently against him, Lex turned but never took his eyes off her face as he descended the stairs with the officer and disappeared out the side door. Running down the stairs behind them, Chloe watched as they lowered him into the car before slamming the door and locking it.