Disclaimers, etc. in part 1.
Part 4: Visiting Hours
"You should have seen it, Chlo. Lex carried you into the hospital and started ordering people around before he even cleared the doors. I've never seen doctors move that fast, ever."
Clark leaned forward in the chair next to Chloe's bed, his smile as wide as his face, gesturing broadly with both hands. "All the time you were in surgery, until we knew you were going to be okay, he was stalking around the waiting room talking about getting doctors from Metropolis, or Denver, or wherever. It was... really impressive." He stopped and considered. "Kind of scary, too -- although not as scary as his driving."
"I bet." Chloe gave him her 'impressed' face, shifting uncomfortably against her pillows. After three miserable days, she'd come to the conclusion that hospital beds sucked, and not being allowed to sit up much sucked even more. "I'm sorry I missed it."
"Next time, stay conscious." Clark leaned further forward, sobering as he took her hand. "Seriously. You were... I think my heart stopped when I saw you on the ground in that old plant. I know Lex's did."
She smiled and squeezed his hand, a rush of warmth running through her from the point of contact. Clark had really been worried about her.... "I'm sorry." She held her other hand up in a mock scout salute. "I promise, next time I'm abducted, I'll tell them not to hit me."
"I'm sure whoever it is will be listen." Clark rolled his eyes and sat back in his chair. "How about we just skip having a next time?'
"So, when are they cutting you loose?"
"Tomorrow, and it cannot possibly come soon enough," Chloe groaned. "Do you have any idea what the food is like in here?"
"I saw what they gave you for dinner. Oh, and my mom wants me to ask what you want for dinner when you get out -- she's cooking so your dad won't have to deal."
"Your mom rocks."
"Yeah, she does." Clark smiled the sweet smile that made any girl with half a brain want to kiss him. Unfortunately, Chloe seemed to be the only one around with half a brain -- even if that brain was currently a little battered and bruised. But at least she could focus enough to see him now.
"Where is Lex, anyway?" Clark asked suddenly. "I figured he'd be here trying to intimidate doctors or something."
"I actually haven't seen him," Chloe said lightly, trying to pretend she didn't care that Lex hadn't come to visit. Which she didn't. At all. "He called my dad once, probably to make sure he didn't need to come intimidate some more doctors, and he sent flowers." She looked wryly at the huge bouquet of exotic flowers on her nightstand. Everyone else had sent roses, carnations, lilies... pretty yet affordable flowers from Nell Potter's shop. Not Lex. Lex had to be different. Lex had to import flowers from god knows where in Metropolis and spend god knew how much on them.
She glanced back at Clark and shrugged. "I know there was a lot going on at the plant the last couple days -- almost the entire security department either got fired or promoted, according to my dad. And some big merger went through, so I guess he's been pretty busy."
"I guess," Clark said uncertainly. "But Lex said he'd seen you -- I thought he meant he'd, well, *seen* you."
"If he did, I wasn't awake for it." Which was pretty weird, thinking of Lex Luthor coming into her room while she was asleep. Not bad, exactly, but definitely weird. "And I don't know how he'd have managed it, since nobody else has seen him, and this place has been full during visiting hours."
"I noticed. You've taken over from the Beanery as Party Central." Clark shook his head. "He probably came after visiting hours -- Lex isn't big on following other people's rules. Which makes him not unlike someone else I know," he added meaningfully.
"I don't know what you're talking about." Chloe wrinkled her nose at him and he chuckled.
"I've always though you and Lex had a lot in common. In fact," he said thoughtfully, "if you hadn't been hurt, I don't think both of you would have survived 16 hours in that building. You'd have argued each other to death before anyone got there."
"You think so?" Chloe tilted her head, sorting through her admittedly really vague memories. "He did spend a lot of time yelling at me, and ordering me around...."
And holding her to keep her warm, and making her talk to keep her awake, and joking with her to make her smile, and generally taking better care of her than she would ever have given Lex Luthor credit for.
But, "Kind of a control freak, isn't he?" was all she said out loud.
"I think it's on his driver's license under distinguishing characteristics," Clark agreed ruefully. "You sort of have to go with the flow around him, which is--"
"--not something I'm known for," she finished for him, and shrugged. "Reasons to be grateful for massive head trauma, I guess."
"How much do you remember?" Clark asked, with his unnerving habit of reading her mind. Well, about everything that didn't have to do with him.
She shrugged again, playing with the edge of her biology textbook. You knew you'd been in the hospital too long when homework sounded better than watching another soap opera or game show. Even CNN was losing its interest. "Not much, really. And what I do remember keeps slipping in and out of focus. I still have no memory of actually being kidnapped, and that neurologist Lex imported from Metropolis says I probably never will. Short-term memory loss is not an uncommon side-effect of an acute subdural hematoma. And don't ask for details about subdural hematomas -- I know so much more about what the inside of my head looks like now than I *ever* wanted."
"I don't think anyone actually wants to know what the inside of your head looks like, Chlo. Pretty scary stuff." Clark laughed and ducked to avoid the pillow she swung at him.
"Hey, watch the violence," Lex said from the door, smirking casually at both of them. "This is a hospital, you know."
Chloe abruptly forgot all about Clark as she blinked at Lex in surprise. He was like a genie, say his name and he appeared. She had a brief vision of Lex as Mr. Clean in one of those commercials -- suit, silk shirt and all -- but attributed it to the head injury. Which was also what she attributed her sudden rush of happiness to.
She widened her eyes and gazed up at him, trying to hide the unexpected emotions from seeing him under the cover of attitude. "Let me think -- lousy food, gross smell, people poking needles in you... Wow, Lex, I think you're right. This *is* a hospital."
Take *that*, Lex 'Takes Three Days to Visit' Luthor.
Lex either missed the subtext or ignored it; his smirk just got wider. "You're definitely feeling better." He settled himself into the second visitor's chair without waiting for an invitation. "I'm sorry I couldn't come by to see you sooner, Chloe, but things have been a little insane. Nice PJs."
"Thank you." She could smell Lex's aftershave, and it kicked off a really vivid memory of leaning against his shoulder while he took her shirt off. Of course, she'd have to remember that. And, of course, he'd show up again when she was wearing her shooting star flannel pajamas. "Hospital gowns were designed by sadists and voyeurs. I'm thinking about doing an investigative report."
"I'll take your word for it." He relaxed back in his chair like he owned the place; actually, given how much money LuthorCorp had donated, he probably did. If he put his feet on her bed, she was going to kick him. "Has everyone been treating you all right? I've been getting status reports, but it's hard to tell through the medicalese."
"Everyone who's *shown up* has treated me great." So much for subtlety. She did fight back a pout, managing a pretty good glare instead.
Lex looked simultaneously surprised, wounded and innocent, none of the expressions even a little bit convincing. "I called your father. And sent flowers. And I'm here now."
She resisted the urge to throw her pillow at him, and shoved it back behind her instead, sighing, "I suppose that counts for something." Clark choked and Lex raised his eyebrows, but didn't otherwise react. Damn it. "So, are you here to tell me why I've got a hole in my head and a very unattractive bald spot?"
"Hey, bald is sexy," Lex informed her easily. "Trust me on this."
"Give, Lex," she demanded. Clark sat up straighter, looking just as interested.
Lex didn't move from his relaxed sprawl. "The official version is that two of my security guards -- I believe you met them, Clark -- decided they could make more money by ransoming me than working for me. They took you," he told Chloe, "because you were with me and they didn't want to leave any witnesses. Dominick, one of my father's flunkies, stumbled onto the plot, if you really want to call it that, and pretended to go along with them long enough to find me. Us. He forgot to tell anyone else, though, so he was lucky Clark showed up when he did."
Clark shifted uncomfortably under Lex's sideways glance, and Chloe leveled a narrow-eyed look of her own at her friend. "Well, you know Clark," she smiled pointedly, "always in the wrong place at the right time."
Clark turned a dull shade of red and hunched down into his shirt. "Yeah. Well, I'm just glad I happened to be in the right place this time, to help you guys. But I should, um, probably get home. I've got chores. And stuff."
He made it clumsily to his feet and leaned over to kiss Chloe's forehead; she closed her eyes and enjoyed it. "I'll see you tomorrow after school," he told her on his way out.
"It's a date." She waited until the door closed behind him before looking at Lex. "Have you ever noticed how really *bad* Clark is at lying?"
"I think everyone's noticed that," Lex said, looking amused. She decided to believe it was at Clark's expense and not at hers.
Of course, now that Clark was gone, she was once again trapped in a room, alone, with Lex Luthor. What did you say to someone who took care of you for 16 hours, then mostly ignored you for three days, then came into your hospital room without even giving you any warning? "Thanks for the flowers."
"You're welcome. It seemed like the least I could do."
She drummed her fingers on her textbook, wishing he looked uncomfortable, or worried, or annoyed, or *anything* other than relaxed and neutral. Very neutral, considering one of her other really vivid memories was snuggling up against his chest. Throwing the textbook at him was starting to look like a real option. "You could have visited. That would have been good."
His eyes suddenly flicked away from hers, and his jaw tightened. Wow, we have expression, she thought. "Yeah. I'm sorry, it was.... Things were really crazy. I dropped by a few times, but you were asleep." He smiled suddenly, a considerably more real smile than the smirks he'd been sporting. "I figured I'd kept you awake long enough."
"In more way than one." She bit her lip, and traced patterns on the textbook with a finger. "Well... I'm glad you came. And the flowers are really nice."
He lifted one shoulder casually. "I told the guy at the shop I needed something really unique. He came through."
"Yes. He did. They're nice."
The absurdity of the stilted little conversation, after everything they'd been through, struck her at the same time that it did Lex; their eyes met, and she started giggling as he started laughing.
"Can we just say that I'm a jerk for not coming sooner, and leave it at that?" he asked through his chuckles, moving his chair close enough that he could offer her his hand.
"Well...." Chloe considered long enough to make him give her a 'come on' look, then grinned and accepted the handshake. "Yes, we can. But," she pointed one finger at him as she let go, "don't think some flowers get you off the hook, mister."
"What else do you want, chocolates? Diamonds? New car?"
She looked at him through narrowed eyes. Lex would do it, too; Clark still occasionally mourned for that truck he'd had to give back. "I'll settle for the truth about what happened, not the 'official version' you just fed Clark. It wasn't about a ransom, was it? It was that deal you were talking about. I remember."
"Yeah. It was the deal." He didn't move, his crooked smile didn't change. But his face was suddenly unreadable again. Distant. "Dominick put the takeover in motion, set it all up, but my father gave it to me. He wanted a Luthor finishing the deal, wanted me to have the experience, wanted to jerk Dominick around.... God knows what he wanted."
He shook his head impatiently and went on, "Anyway, it's not the first time my father's done something like this, but this time, Dominick took it personally. He went to Adams and Rumsler, the CEOs we were about to put out of business. He told them what was coming and how.... He sold us out."
"He gets even, gets to beat your father, and gets what I'm guessing was a pretty hefty kickback from the CEOs," Chloe mused. "Not bad." Lex looked mildly surprised and she shrugged. "It makes sense -- but I'm still not seeing how I wound up unconscious."
Lex abruptly refused to meet her eyes. "I was going over the last of the paperwork in Metropolis, trying to figure out why Decad had been making some strange moves the last few weeks. I wanted to see if Dominick had any ideas, so I called him and told him I wanted to meet with him in Smallville in the morning. That it was serious."
"Oops." Chloe winced. "He thought you knew."
"Yeah. So much for being a genius."
"So, how'd he get your security guys in on it?"
"He paid them a lot of money." Lex was trying to keep his face neutral, but emotions kept slipping out, betrayal and fury leading the way. "But they weren't expecting you, the manager's daughter who hangs out at the plant."
"They thought I'd recognize them?"
"They knew if I didn't, you might. At any rate, they were surprised, which allowed me to give them a little more of a fight than they expected. They panicked and took us both, dumped us the first place they could think of, then came back to get rid of us once they'd time to think. Dominick, to give him what little credit he deserves, hadn't intended to kill me, just buy a little time, so he tried to stop them. They got into a fight, Clark showed up, and here we are."
Lex shoved his hands into his pockets and stared moodily at the tile between his shiny shoes. Chloe leaned back against the pillows and tried to take it all in. Her head was starting to hurt again; almost time for more lovely medication. "So, I almost died, you could have died, and it was over money and some guy's hurt feelings?"
Lex shrugged, his eyes hardening as they passed over the bandage on her head. "Most of the people involved will tell you that it was just business."
"And I'm going to be really, really angry about that when I'm feeling better," she said tightly. "Business sucks."
Lex nodded without meeting her eyes and she studied him curiously. He looked... guilty? Was that really guilt?
She tapped his arm less than gently. "Do we honestly need to have the 'it's not your fault' conversation? Because it really isn't." She stopped, and stared thoughtfully up at the ceiling. "Or you could just and keep feeling bad, and owe me until the end of time. Maybe not such a bad plan. Okay, go ahead. Feel guilty."
Lex's expression finally, reluctantly, lightened. "No, thanks," he said with a rueful half-smile. "I get the feeling being in debt to you for eternity could be more than a little scary."
"It is," she agreed with a bright grin. "It's even worse when I have photographic evidence. Just ask Clark and Pete."
"I'll do that," he smirked, and she was actually happy to see it. What was the world coming to, when seeing Lex Luthor smirk made her feel... safe?
A nurse came in just then, carrying her tray of little paper pill cups and the news that visiting hours were over. Lex got up, but Chloe stopped him before he could get very far.
"Please stay a little while longer?" she asked.
He looked reluctant, but the nurse clucked and fussed with Chloe's medication. "It's after visiting hours, honey," she said firmly. "Your friend will have to come back tomorrow."
Lex's head tilted and his eyes sharpened, and Chloe hid a smirk of her own. Oh, the poor nurse had no idea who she was dealing with. It took less than two minutes of 'I'd just like to stay with my sick young friend' charm and 'my family donated your salary to this hospital' influence for Lex to steamroller the nurse. She finally retreated in search of reinforcements or a place to collapse; Chloe managed not to start giggling until she was out of earshot.
"Is that how you run takeovers?" she asked, fumbling on the nightstand for her water pitcher.
"Pretty much." He reached out and rescued the pitcher as she almost knocked it over. "Careful there."
"Sorry. Thanks." She took the glass of water he poured and swallowed her pills with a grimace. "My coordination is still a little flaky -- I'm supposed to do physical therapy for a while."
"I know. I hired the guy who's coming in from Metropolis to do it."
"Of course you did." She rolled her eyes and shoved the glass into his chest. "You've got to do something about this 'responsible for the world' complex, or you're going to turn into Clark."
Lex gave a startled laugh. "Not likely -- the world can look out for itself. But I am responsible for you, at least until you're recovered."
"No, you're not, but whatever." The pills were kicking in fast, and she already felt too tired to argue. She was also too tired to care that she'd be embarrassed later for asking, "Will you stay until my dad comes?"
He looked surprised. "I don't... Ah..."
"Please? He'll be here soon, and I... I really hate being in here alone." She wouldn't have admitted that to anyone but her dad, but what the heck. It wasn't like Lex hadn't seen her at her wimpy, wounded worst already.
"All right," he said finally. He sat back down, this time in Clark's chair, closer to her bed, and she turned her head to smile drowsily at him.
"Thanks, Lex. For everything. You're a good guy."
"No, I'm not," he assured her.
"You keep telling yourself that. The rest of us know better." She yawned and let her eyes drift shut.
The last things she remembered were the smell of Lex's aftershave as he leaned over to tuck the sheet around her, and a last vague thought:
He's a good guy. That's five.
She smiled smugly to herself as she fell asleep.