"Start Fresh"

By Tenshinrtaiga

Disclaimer: I don't own The Nine Lives of Chloe King

Summary: Post-Heartbreaker. What exactly is a 'fresh start'? Alek navigates his way through Chloe's words. Some spoilers for the next episode. Based on my speculation from the previews.

PS- I haven't read the books so this is purely based off the tv show and my thoughts.

Alek nodded thoughtfully as he sorted through the groceries he'd just bought. After leaving Chloe, he'd spent a good half hour on the internet trying to find something to cook with her on their date. In the end, he decided to just cook pot roast- something he already knew how to make and required minimum fuss. He'd run to the grocery store to pick up vegetables and the right cut of beef before returning home. Neither Valentina nor Jasmine were one for cooking; their refrigerator was a shrine of take out cartons. Much like Chloe's, he thoughtfully pondered, wondering if there was something more to their shared lack of cooking skills.

The blonde rinsed the vegetables and laid them out for later. He cleaned off the meat and stuck it in the fridge before checking his watch. It was six-thirty. Time for him to head over to Chloe's house.

Normally, he'd run to the house that lay on the outer skirts of the city, but given the fact that this was a date, he wanted everything to go perfectly. Alek grabbed Valentina's car keys and headed toward the garage. Valentina was out of town discussing the Brazilian pride with the other leaders of the North American prides in a huge conference. Apparently the other South American prides, while unhappy with the Sao Paulo pride, were unwilling to punish one of their own.

Alek made it to Chloe's house just before seven. Using his hearing, he could tell that Chloe wasn't home yet, but her mother was. Hesitating, Alek debated whether or not be wanted to wait for Chloe outside or to go in and meet her mum. Alek sighed. If he was really going to be dating Chloe, then it would be better if he was on good terms with her mother. He knew the two were close. And considering his first impression with the woman, he knew he has a lot of sucking up to do.

Chloe rushed down the street at top speed. She was already so late! Alek had said he'd pick her up at 7. It was already almost that time and she still hadn't showered or changed from her training session with Jasmine. She skid to a stop in front of her house and began taking the stairs two at a time. She burst through the front door, "Mom! I'm late! I need you to…" The strawberry blonde trailed off as her brain caught up with what her eyes were seeing. There, at the dining room table, sat her mother. All together not that unusual. What was unusual was the fact that sitting next to her was Alek. What was even more unusual was the fact that the two were laughing like old friends. Chloe pinched herself slightly just to make sure she wasn't asleep. Maybe she had taken one too many hits to the head with Jasmine tonight. She pinched herself again. Nope, this was definitely real.

"Hey," Alek greeted with a smirk, "You're late," He scolded lightly.

"Uhm, yeah," Chloe spoke hesitantly, walking closer, "Blame your cousin."

Meredith smiled, "Well, don't just stand there! Go get ready!" She smiled, shooing her daughter up the stairs.

Chloe moved up the stairs slowly, wondering what exactly she had missed. Since when did her mom like Alek? Then again, Chloe could easily picture Alek charming the pants of her mother. Alek was a very charming guy, she smiled to herself. Of course, this made her wonder… exactly how long had be been waiting for her?

The strawberry blonde rushed to her bathroom and took the quickest shower she possibly could, washing off all of the sweat and dirt she'd accumulated with Jasmine. Wrapping a towel around her body, she made her way to her closet. Alek had said not to worry about what she would be wearing. Did that mean it was casual? Deciding that it did, Chloe grabbed a pair of skinny jeans and a purple V-cut Henley top. She grabbed a pair of knee high black boots with a small wedged heel and stuffed her feet and jeans into them quickly. She paused to mentally debate on whether or not to grab a matching purple scarf, but decided against it, still warm from her workout. Grabbing her favorite night time black leather jacket and zipping it halfway closed, she slipped her cell phone and some cash into her back pocket and made her way downstairs.

She took the steps quickly, not wanting to keep Alek waiting any longer. She reached the bottom and was about to call out that she was ready when her eyes once more widened in surprise. This time, it was followed by horror.

"And this was Chloe's first night in America. She was so little!" Meredith smiled, pointing to a picture in a large photo book.

"Oh my God," Chloe spoke in horror, causing the two to turn around. Alek was smirking whereas her mother had a sad pout on her face that practically read 'where have all the years gone?'

"You look great," Alek spoke, standing up and walking towards her. Chloe just stared at him. She was only upstairs for a little over ten minutes. How had he gotten to the baby pictures stage with her mother so quickly! "You ready?" He asked.

Chloe nodded wordlessly, turning on her heel toward the door, Alek close behind.

"Be careful!" Meredith cried out, "Curfew's still 12.30. I love you!"

"Implied!" Chloe yelled back reflexively.

Alek rested his hand on Chloe's lower back and led her down the stairs to his car.

"Wait," Chloe paused, "This is yours?" She asked in surprise, looking down at the Audi R8 in front of her.

"Technically, it's the family car, but Valentina is the only one who uses it regularly," Alel explained, gently leading her to the passenger seat and opening the door for her.

Chloe slid in smoothly, impressed by the beautiful car. In no time at all, they were at Alek's apartment. Chloe felt a bit nervous. Alone with Alek at his apartment? That sounded like a recipe for fresh-start disaster.

As if knowing what she was thinking, Alek smiled and tugged on her wrist, "Come on."

They made their way up to the 18th floor and he unlocked the door to let Chloe in. Immediately, Chloe's eyes darted around the room. Okay, no mood music: check. No candles: check. No softly thrown flower petals: check. Maybe this wasn't going to be a fresh-start disaster.

Alek began to chuckle. Once more Chloe wondered how Alek seemed to know exactly what she was thinking. "Come on," He nodded his head toward the kitchen where the vegetables were still laid out.

"Cooking?" Chloe asked in teasing surprise, "I didn't know you could cook."

"There's a lot you don't know about me, Chloe King," He winked, tossing his jacket onto one of the kitchen stools, prompting Chloe to do the same, "Is pot roast alright?"

"Sounds delicious," She smiled genuinely, regaining her initial date excitement. Walking in to find him talking to her mother had really thrown her off, but she felt like she was getting back on her game, "Can I help?" She asked, joining him at the kitchen counter.

Alek smiled, "That's the plan. We'll cook together," He passed her several celery stalks as well as a knife and cutting board. Then he preheated the oven before beginning to dice up potatoes and slice mushrooms in half.

They made quick work of the vegetables, prompting the strawberry blonde to ask, "Now what?"

"Well, we're going to cheat a bit," Alek winked, bringing out a plastic bag from a container and dumping their mixed vegetables in. He ripped open the bag of baby carrots and dumped several handfuls of that in as well. He placed the bag on a baking pan to grab the meat from the fridge before placing that inside the bag as well, "My parents- my adoptive parents-" He clarified, "hired a nanny for me when I was young. She was in her twenties and was trying to immigrate to England from the Philippines. She taught me how to cook," Alek explained, "That's why nearly everything I cook has soy sauce or teriyaki sauce in it," He chuckled.

Chloe looked at him a little incredulously. Soy sauce in pot roast? She smiled softly. Still, it was nice that he felt he could tell her these things.

Alek grinned at her weird face and felt a small warmth inside when he saw her soft smile directed at him. He swiftly moved to the cupboard and grabbed teriyaki sauce, sesame oil, salt and pepper. Alek poured a generous amount of teriyaki sauce, a few tablespoons worth of sesame oil, a pinch of salt and a few shakes of ground pepper. Then he tied off the bag using the special twist and mixed the contents so that the marinade was well distributed. Then he lay the bag flat on the pan and cut three holes in the top before putting it in the oven.

"Now we just have to wait a while," He stated, wiping his hands on a towel as Chloe took the liberty of putting away all of their ingredients, "Movie?" He asked.

Chloe smiled and made her way over to the couch, Alek right behind her, pausing only to grab a couple of sodas. He pressed play on the remote having already put the DVD in before leaving to pick Chloe up earlier.

"Chinatown!" She exclaimed before turning to look at the blond suspiciously, "I love this movie…"

"Oh?" The Brit tried to look innocent, but knew he was failing miserably, "I had no idea."

Her eyes squinted as she tried to determine whether or not to believe him, "Mmhmm," She said in disbelief, deciding against it. Letting it go, she curled her legs up underneath herself and snuggled into the corner of the sofa. Alek brought his arm up to rest along the back of the couch. He was far enough that it didn't seem like he was trying to put his arm around her but close enough that she still rested along his forearm.

"I gotta be honest, I did not think you'd be into watching Chinatown," Chloe stated part way through the movie.

"It's not really my thing, but its not bad. Aunt Val loves these kind of movies though," Alek easily admitted, sipping at his drink before realizing it was empty. Checking his phone for the time, he quietly stood up and went to check on the pot roast. Seeing that it was almost done, he turned the heat down low so that they would have time to finish the movie before eating. He grabbed another couple of drinks and sat back down, handing one to Chloe who absent mindedly opened the soda without taking a sip.

Chloe shook her head as the movie ended, "That last scene always gets to me," She stated, standing up and stretching. They made their way back to the kitchen where Alek took out the pot roast and Chloe began digging around for plates.

"Counter or table?" Alek asked.

Chloe silently debated before opting for the counter. Sitting across from each other at a dinner table seemed so stiff compared to the nice, companionable night they'd been having so far.

The two enjoyed their meal talking about small, meaningless topics like their shared calculus homework, his basketball team and her work. She wasn't sure whether it was conscious or not, but they both seemed to mutually avoid talking about anything Mai related while they ate. She was pleasantly surprised by the meal. Not only was the conversation nice and light, but the food was amazing. Despite its Asian marinade, it tasted like normal pot roast. It was soft and easily cut and the vegetables were incredibly flavorful. Alek was a damn good cook! Who knew?

After the finished, they put their dishes away and Alek transferred their leftovers into a container for Jasmine and Valentina to try later. They segued back to the couch, but by now they had run out of comfortable topics and the silence was beginning to get uncomfortable. Chloe eyed the room, trying to think of something to talk about when she noticed a piece of broken pottery displayed on a shelf. Standing up, she made her way to it, looking at the ancient painted picture on the side, "What is this of?" She asked Alek, not taking her eyes off the art.

"A Mai marriage ceremony," He answered from behind her, startling her. She hadn't even heard him get up.

"Marriage ceremony?" Chloe asked curiously, turning to face him.

Alek smirked down at her, "Oh, yes. When a Mai couple sleep together, they mark each other and are forever connected as soulmates." Chloe's eyes widened in complete in utter shock before noticing Alek snickering quietly. She let out a breath of relief before slugging him on the shoulder, "I can't believe you bought that," Alek chuckled, "No, a Mai marriage is no different than a Jewish or Catholic marriage. It's just a traditional way of doing things. No soulmates," He teased, "We can get divorced just as easily as humans, though it's pretty rare since Mai are protective of their young. If a couple has a child together, they're more likely to stay married for that child."

Chloe nodded in understanding. That didn't seem too bad. When Alek had teased her about soulmates, she thought she was going to have a heart attack. This was her first date with Alek. She couldn't even contemplate sleeping with him and being marked as his soulmate. She was still debating on whether or not to kiss him at the end of their date!

"Of course, I wasn't lying about Mai sleeping together and marking each other," Alek spoke tentatively, knowing he was on shaky ground, but since he'd brought it up before, he didn't want her to remain clueless. Seeing that he had her full attention, he continued, "It's not very serious or anything. It just means the two are in a serious adult relationship. The marks can be easily hidden by clothes. It used to be a big deal a long time ago, but now it's just something that happens. Instinct," He explained, "They fade if not renewed so it's not like a tattoo where you're stuck with it even if a relationship ends."

"And how does…" Chloe trailed off as her cheeks flushed in embarrassment and Alek began to smirk, "You know what? Nevermind."

Alek chuckled, "It's not a big deal. Human women can leave nail marks, right?" He paused waiting for Chloe to nod, embarrassed, "And men can leave bruises in the shape of finger marks, right?" Once again he waited for her to nod, smirking at her red cheeks, "It's basically the same. Instead of nail marks and bruises, there are claw marks. Traditionally, they're left on female hips and male shoulders, but sometimes they're left elsewhere if the couple is feeling particularly rambunctious," He winked teasingly.

Chloe knew he was getting great enjoyment in teasing her, but she couldn't will her red cheeks away. Luckily, the were both distracted by the sound of the front door unlocking. Jasmine walked in surprised to see them. She held up her hands in surrender, "You said 11," She stated while backing up to leave again.

Alek checked his watching. It was a little after 11, "No you're fine," He said, stopping Jasmine's departure, "I guess it's time to take you home," He smiled down genuinely at Chloe.

Embarrassment forgotten, Chloe smiled gently back in response before hading to grab her jacket from the counter, "Bye, Jasmine," She tossed back as she and Alek left the apartment.

"There's leftovers in the fridge!" Alek yelled back at his cousin as well.

A short, quiet drive later, had Alek walking Chloe up her stairs to her front door. "Tonight was surprisingly nice," Chloe smiled, "Not at all what I expected."

The blond grinned, "I like to keep you on your toes," He admitted easily, "Goodnight."

Chloe laid a hand on his shoulder and leaned up for a quick kiss. Alek stood frozen as she laid her lips on top of his before pulling away. The moment was strangely reminiscent of when he first kissed her several nights ago, "Goodnight," She whispered before entering her house and leaving him on her front porch.

He dazedly ran back to his car. He was halfway home before he remembered he wanted to tell her something. At a red light, he grabbed his phone and sent a text to the strawberry blond.

Are you doing anything after work tomorrow? He asked.

No. Why? She responded.

Wear a bathing suit under your clothes. He texted back before ignoring all of her questions asking what they were doing and what was he planning.

It was a good night.