AN: Sorry it's been so long! Hope you enjoy.
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Chloe lay in bed after her father had taken her to the emergency room.
She sighed, "Hating hospitals has never been so easy."
It was even easier since she felt better. The fire that had burned her from the inside out had long since vanished. Her doctors wanted to keep her over night, which she disagreed with, but her father was all for. The awareness that existed between them had muted a little bit. That connection made her suspicious. Her father hadn't been himself since she had awakened for her coma. Chloe could give him the benefit of the doubt; she could trust him to a point. That point had been reached and she had to become more active.
The parts she needed to build a new and better computer would arrive shortly, but that was never a real worry. The real worry was that Lex Luthor had something she wanted, no, something she needed and he wouldn't cooperate without a threat or a promise. She snorted to herself. That son of a bitch would need a boot to the neck before he voluntarily gave her what she needed. Chloe's eyes narrowed. It wouldn't be a problem.
Chloe glanced over to the nightstand. Her phone was there and she dialed familiar numbers.
Lex heard and felt his phone ringing. It was a shock, to say the least, when he saw the number that dialed him.
He would be smooth. "Chloe! To what do I owe this extreme and gratifying pleasure?"
"Don't overdo it. I want to meet with you. I hear Luthorcorp is having some problems, specifically, a you problem. Being ousted as CEO of your own company? Tsk. Tsk. Wait. Wait. Not your own company. A gift. A reluctant gift from your dead father."
Lex clutched his phone. Chloe had gotten personal far quicker than he had anticipated and she had drawn first blood.
"I won't come to your hospital bed, Chloe. Still having trouble? Maybe I could send some of my own researchers. To really dig in there and see the problem."
Chloe rolled her eyes. "Yes, Lex, I get it. You have the power of life and death. Your creeper researchers can come at any time and do tests and meteor rocks and obsession and blah blah. I want to meet with you. Name a public place at peak time and I will be there. That's it. No need to be difficult."
She didn't fear him anymore. She didn't desire him anymore. That last part was a small lie. She did desire him, whatever part of him that was Zod and the Lex she had known. But there was another who consumed her thoughts. The dreams were giving her something and she wanted to push it away, but she also wanted to embrace it. Some part of her wanted to embrace it.
The throbbing began in his head and it was relentless. It heralded a more painful migraine later, probably. He couldn't deny, however, that he was more than curious. He might as well know what she wanted. There was the possibility that he could leverage it into something to his benefit. Lex could give her this so he did and was rewarded with a quick "good-bye" and a dial tone.
Chloe put the phone to her forehead and took a deep breath. Things just got real. She dropped her phone back onto the nightstand and reclined on her bed. She felt like crying and screaming; and she wanted nothing more than to be with her father in this moment. But she couldn't trust him anymore.
"Dad, what are we going to do now?"
After dealing with Chloe, he had to leave. Leave his house and everything that had been familiar for the past few years. It didn't take him long before he collapsed. He was exhausted, mentally and physically exhausted. After all this time, all this effort, things seemed to be working out the way he had envisioned. Had there ever been a time when this wasn't his reality? When time and space conformed to expectation? When he had been…normal? The contradiction was this life that he lived a life that seemed to have been a short time in the making, but maybe it was a long time in the making. He didn't really know any more and didn't even think that it mattered. This was it. This was all there would ever be. And he had made that choice. That single choice that doomed a world it seemed.
A few of his neighbors ran to help him. It was only then that he noticed the blood trickling from his ears and eyes. His efforts were taking a toll. Hands helped him rise to his feet.
"Are you well?"
He looked into the concerned eyes of his friend and smiled gently. "Yes. I'm fine. I'm fine. I just need to take a break. Progress has been in turns slow, frustrating, and heartening. I just…I just need rest."
He limped to his home. He just needed rest. Success was so close. One more push. Two more. A hundred more. The only thing that mattered was success. He couldn't bear to fail again, but that wasn't exactly true was it? He had succeeded. But he couldn't fail this time. He couldn't fail her. Not her, the bearer of all he was and all the world could be.
"I only need a day of rest. Just a day."
Special Agent Amanda Waller loved puzzles. They were her life. Lately, the puzzle that was Clark Kent, Lex Luthor, and Chloe Sullivan, code-named Tripod, had been on her mind non-stop. Waller had been circling them and gently pulling loose every thread that led to them: Martha Kent, Lionel Luthor, and Gabriel Sullivan. Of course, there had been even more peripheral characters in Kara Kent, Oliver Queen, and Lois Lane. Those were threads that bound the central figures of this piece.
Kara Kent was an enigma and she had been revealed in various Luthor records. The others in that peripheral orbit had been revealed in time. There hadn't been much to Gabriel Sullivan, but she had learned much about and from Martha Kent and Lionel Luthor. From all of them she had learned how to take the measure of Clark Kent and Lex Luthor. They were now known entities and Waller understood that she'd have to maintain constant watch. They were a danger and from this day forward, she would not underestimate them again.
Chloe Sullivan had proven odd. She was a central figure, at various times, behind Kent, Luthor, and Queen. But now? Her imprint was nowhere to be seen. Waller had seen her Wall of Weird, her theories, and some of her actions in the past; but Chloe Sullivan was laying low. It seemed out of character. So, Waller had put her prodigious talents and the resources of her organization to use. She needed to reveal Chloe Sullivan and figure out her place in the tripod.
"Where are you now, Chloe Sullivan?
She looked over at her own whiteboard that showed their connections to each other. She refused to believe that the current troubles in Big Industry were due to economic events. No, something else was happening. The chaos hadn't become unmanageable yet, but something huge and destructive was simmering beneath the surface and only Chloe Sullivan was unaccounted for. Maybe she was barking up the wrong tree. Maybe Chloe Sullivan, this one time, had nothing to do with the drama surrounding Kent or Luthor.
Amanda Waller couldn't believe that. She couldn't believe that Chloe Sullivan's sudden car accident and subsequent recovery had nothing to do with Lex Luthor or Clark Kent. She couldn't believe that, after all this time, neither Oliver Queen nor Clark Kent were going to their resident computer and investigation expert. It was possible but exceedingly unlikely. All of them had been entwined for so long that to separate one of them from the others was a fool's goal, but the persistent doubt plagued her. She simply couldn't find anything to tie Chloe Sullivan to anything.
A knock on her door interrupted her.
"Come in," she called tersely.
"Ma'am, as per your request, we have put surveillance teams on Miss Sullivan. One team saw what appeared to be another surveillance team, however, that entity soon ended their efforts. Activities resumed and we discovered this."
The agent handed her a thick folder and a flash drive.
"The first ten pages summarize the report and the flash drive contains video footage."
"Thank you, Agent. You are dismissed."
Agent Waller barely took note of the agent's departure. She would not have been disturbed if her surveillance team hadn't found something interesting.
An hour later, Agent Waller found what she had been looking for. She picked up her phone.
"Secretary, step up surveillance of Miss Sullivan. Begin tracking her internet and phone activity."
She laughed harshly. "There. There you are Miss Sullivan."
Oliver Queen held his head in his hands. His conversation with Lucius Fox and then Bruce Wayne had not been promising. The current crisis was affecting industry but not enough to throw everyone into panic. Not yet. But everyone he had spoken to had projections that indicated things had the potential to degenerate into madness. Fleeting moment with Chloe gave him the impression that she knew more, but she had been avoiding them all.
He had noticed the significant dip into the monetary account he had set-up for Watchtower. She had disguised what exactly was being purchased, which made his red alert meter rocket off the scale. He was choosing to trust her, but that trust could only go so far before he had to question her. All of this started with Chloe's accident. He was angry and confused and hurt that now was the time that Chloe chose to withdraw from them.
Oliver banged his hand onto the desk. "Dammit!"
Picking up the phone, Oliver dialed Clark. They needed to talk.
As expected, Clark literally arrived at his apartment in Star City in minutes.
Clark looked flustered and stressed. Oliver didn't blame him. Martha's ethical woes were becoming increasingly more serious; and if she made it out of this without seeing jail time, then it would be a miracle. Even the Kent farm was in jeopardy. All Kent assets had been frozen and they had lost the respect and esteem from Smallville.
Their neighbors felt deep betrayal. Martha Kent was supposed to be different. She was supposed to be beyond reproach. A lifetime of experience had given them the confidence to finally believe that Smallville could thrive again while maintaining its character. Now, all of that was called into question. Whatever projected hope that had been foisted onto the Kent name now slid off into the mud at their feet.
Oliver held out his hand and Clark grasped it, almost desperately. Clark smiled wanly and let go.
"What's the trouble, Oliver?"
Clark appreciated the tone of friendship and empathy.
"Before we get into that, is there anything I can do for you…or Mrs. Kent?"
Oliver saw Clark's face drop just a little more. "Unless you can somehow prove that my mother's being framed or anything else, no. I believe her when she says she did it to protect me, but…how far can I expect her to go? Or anyone? I can't let my friends sacrifice their lives for me. It's a burden I can't carry. You can help by just being my friend. I have to do this alone. It's enough that you asked and that you're here for me."
Oliver clasped Clark's shoulder while the other man took a moment to gather himself.
Oliver turned away from him and picked up a file folder to hand to Clark. Clark quickly scanned the papers.
"Chloe did this?"
"And now you think that maybe she is involved with whatever's happening to Queen Industries," it wasn't really a question.
"Yeah. Too much has happened after her accident. Lex was quickly neutralized. You were also taken out of the equation with the situation with your mother—"
Clark interrupted him, "And your company is in enough distress to take away your focus but not enough to crash anything."
The "yet" hung in the space between them.
Oliver blew out his breath, "We have to trust her. I know this, but…we also can't ignore that she's withdrawn from us. And now this? We can't ignore it, right? You know her, Clark. You have this connection with her that I don't. What do you think?"
"We trust Chloe until she proves that we can't trust her. But…I can talk to her. Maybe follow her? I'm just not every comfortable with doing that to her. She wouldn't do anything to hurt us. Ever since high school, Chloe has been so careful. So—"
It was Oliver's turn to interrupt Clark, "We trust her."
Oliver turned towards the other folder on his desk and then met Clark's eyes.
"We trust her."