Disclaimer: Smallville and all related elements, characters and indicia © Tollin-Robbins Productions and Warner Bros. Television, 2002. All Rights Reserved. All characters and situations—save those created by the authors for use solely on this website—are copyright Tollin-Robbins Productions and Warner Bros. Television. Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster.

One Stone
by Minnie-May

Chapter 1: Not Another Interview?

The cold, still air rushed around the stalled car with amazing ferocity. Chloe Sullivan hunkered down further in the leather seat and tried to disappear in her fleece jacket. Meanwhile, the man next to her was throwing expletives at the car in some kind of macho hope that he could insult the thing enough to start up again.

"Son of a bitch!" Lex Luthor cursed, bringing his hand down hard on the steering column.

Chloe jumped a bit in her seat at the venom in Lex's voice, something she had never heard before. Lex was always so calm and controlled, every word perfectly weighed for it's exact meaning. She had never seen him angry enough to be beating the crap out of a dead car in the middle of the woods in what was probably the second worst storm in Smallville's history. Chloe couldn't help but let out a small chuckle about the whole situation.

Lex's icy blue stare alerted her that laughing at an angry man was probably not the best thing to do. 'I must be cracking up already' Chloe thought, shaking her head wearily.

"I'm sorry, did I interrupt your conversation with the car? Because that was really helpful," Chloe snapped, disliking the way Lex's gaze pinned her to the seat.

"Oh, and you're doing much better Ms. Sullivan?" Lex inquired hotly.

"I'm not talking to a car," Chloe pointed out reasonably.

A small smirk pulled at the corners of Lex's mouth, seemingly almost in spite of himself and the bald billionaire shook his head in defeat. He stared straight forward where the windshield of the car was being pounded with pouring rain. Chloe began rubbing her hands together to regain feeling in her fingers. 'Not the fingers' she thought numbly, 'I need those for typing.'

Lex turned slowly and faced the tiny blonde occupying the passenger seat. His tone was more conversational now when he spoke and he seemed to be making himself comfortable in his seat.

"So Ms. Sullivan the question on my mind is this; why do interviews with you tend to end in murder and mayhem?"

'If only I knew,' Chloe thought.

A Few Days Earlier

"Come on Clark, one interview can't hurt!" Chloe complained, stirring the whipped cream around in her coffee. She hadn't ordered whipped cream and she usually didn't let the sugary stuff get within five feet of her coffee. She felt it diluted the caffeine somehow, although when Clark called her on it she couldn't come up with a reasonable explanation as to how. It just seemed when it came to important matters, like coffee, you should keep things simple.

Of course when Lana Lang had walked over; hair out of sorts, apron messy from God knows what, and announced that this coffee was possibly the first she had gotten right all day Chloe just didn't have the heart to tell Lana she had screwed up yet again. Ever since spring break the Talon had been ridiculously understaffed, leading to it's patron taking on most of the waitressing duties herself. And Chloe, having witnessed the coffee cup massacre of '02, remembered full well how good Lana was at waitressing.

"Yes one interview CAN hurt. Don't you remember what happened the last time you tired to interview Lex Luthor?" Clark demanded, his eyes worried. Sometimes Clark reminded Chloe of a big, overprotective puppy dog.

"No, not really. But I'm sure that's mostly on account of the concussion," Chloe said, smirking as she dumped some of the whipped cream into Clark's cup. He didn't even notice, his mouth going agape as he stared at her.

"Chloe that's not funny! You could have died!"

"But I didn't and these are two totally different circumstances. You have no idea how important this interview is. Students from every school in the state are allowed to enter one article and out of all of those articles the Daily Planet board will award *one* shiny plaque for student journalistic achievement. Do you know what that would look like on a college resume, not to mention a real life one?" Chloe asked, leaning forward across the table and trying to drive her point home.

"Come on Chlo, can't you write about something else? It doesn't have to be Lex Luthor, how about some wall of weird stuff? That's always good for some investigative journalism," Clark suggested, sounding much too eager.

"As much as I hate to say this Clark, Principal Kwan was right when he said that the Wall of Weird was a far cry from credible journalism. No one will believe anything on that wall," Chloe said swiping a piece of Clark's muffin.

In the background Chloe heard the faint crash of glasses that had become no more noticeable than any of the other background noises. Out of the corner of her eye Chloe saw Lana pop up from behind a table and announce to the crowd in the Talon that she was fine and that their drinks were coming out soon. Much grumbling abounded in the coffee house and Chloe turned her attention back to Clark, who was still in the process of brainstorming for her.

"You could always cover local events around here, you know get to the heart of the less Wall of weird strange things that happen. Like Mr. Erich's haunted house or... OH! How about doing a piece on the guy with the pigeons?" Clark asked excitedly.

"That's Mr. Erich too, he owns the monopoly on small town weirdness."


"Everyone is going to be turning in puff pieces like that Clark. What I need is something to set me apart, something to break me away from the crowd. An interview with THE Lex Luthor? I'll be in a league all my own. So come on Clark, just ask him and see if he says yes," Chloe pleaded with Clark, forcing her eyes to do that round doe-eyed thing she had seen so many times in movies. Instead of looking pouty Chloe looked so surprised that Clark turned around briefly to see if someone was behind him. Chloe decided the look needed refinement.

"Fine, I'll ASK. If Lex says no the case is closed right?" Clark finally conceded, sinking back into his chair as if the small blonde had sucked all the life out of him. His blue eyes that bored into Chloe's were full of worry but she didn't take any heed of that at all. She was up out of her seat in a second and was squashing Clark in a giant hug.

"Thanks so much! You're the best friend a girl could want!" Chloe said happily.

"Or I'm the most gullible," Clark muttered miserably into Chloe's hair.

"But that's what makes you so great."

Behind the two hugging figures a loud crash followed by the hollow thunking of pots and pans resounded from behind the counter. Clark and Chloe broke out of their embrace and turned to see a disheveled Lana exit the back room covered in flour.

"That's it, the Talon is officially closed until further notice!" Lana said and with as much pride as was left in her, she took off her apron, threw it on the counter and exited the coffee house.

"So," Chloe said, turning back to Clark after Lana had stormed out. Clark's eyes were glued to the door that Lana had disappeared from. Of course.

"Free coffee?"

"I don't pay you to second guess and if you keep evading the question Mr. Jones I won't be paying you at all anymore," Lex said, aggravation creeping into his otherwise calm tone. He sat at the wide oak desk in his spacious office; the stained glass panels above his head painting him in reds and blues. His left hand pressed the telephone a bit too tightly to his ear. In his right hand he was squeezing a bright red stress ball for all it was worth, watching the smiley face on the ball's surface twist and distort. It was oddly satisfying, Lex thought and was glad he hadn't thrown away Clark's present.

The voice on the other end was tinged with apprehension but trying to maintain a professional calm. He wasn't doing a particularly good job at it and as he replied to Lex his voice rose and fell unsteadily.

"I'm sorry Mr. Luthor, I just wanted to make sure that I was right. I've checked and rechecked the numbers and there's nomistake. We're down at least ten points and Spencen is making what I would imagine to be the first steps in a" here the voice faltered entirely. A second later it continued on but with far less assurance, like a little boy about to be scolded. "It looks like a take over sir."

Lex swore under his breath. A take over, of course it was. Harold Spencen had been much too inquiring lately; much too sickly sweet. The articles that were written about LexCorp lately couldn't be discounted either, Spencen apparently had a few Kansas newspapers in his payroll. Considering the recent rash of articles about foul play at the Smallville plant, bribery and embezzlement it was no surprise that consumer confidence was down. It was the perfect opportunity to make a move.

"Sir?" the lackey on the other end inquired in fear. The door to Lex's office edged open and Clark stood just within the doorway with a weary smile. Lex waved his friend in and then turned back to the phone.

"Just send out those papers I faxed you and keep an eye on the market for me," Lex replied and then hung up the phone without a farewell. He didn't have time for incompetent lemmings who had to have their hands held through everything.

"Something wrong?" Clark asked, leaning his hip against the desk and raising his brow at Lex.

"Just the wonderful world of business Clark," Lex commented wryly, then took in Clark's demeanor and added. "Or should I be the one wondering what's wrong? Something on your mind?"

"No," Clark said, picking up the stress ball and stretching the face out until it almost popped. "At least not my mind anyway. Chloe's mind, there's something on Chloe's mind."

"Not another dance?"

"No, nothing like that," Clark said and looked up at Lex through his dark bangs. Lex curbed the impulse to shake Clark until he spit it out and instead leaned back in his chair and stapled his fingers.

"She wants to interview you," Clark said, as if announcing that Chloe wanted to change her name to Barbie and try out for cheerleading.

"Doesn't she remember what happened the last time?" Lex asked.


"And she still wants an interview?"

"Without a doubt."

"Interesting," Lex allowed the smirk he had been reigning in to grace his face. "Of course I'll have to deny her that interview but tell her that I appreciate her commitment."

Clark looked a bit taken aback by this comment, as if it was the exact opposite of what he expected. Then he smiled and his entire posture relaxed.

"So no? Good. I mean not good, bad....very....bad," Clark try to backtrack lamely.

"Didn't want me corrupting your girl Friday there Clark?" Lex asked, amusement hiding the sting of that realization. So much for having at least one person to stick up for him in Smallville.

"It's not that! I just," Clark paused for a moment. "The last time Chloe almost died and I remember wondering 'My God, what would I do without Chloe'." Clark's voice was absolutely earnest, as was his explanation, and Lex felt the smile on his face go from fake to natural.

"Don't worry about the interview Clark, more bad press is the last thing I need right now," Lex answered, pushing himself out of his seat and crossing to a window. There was an idea there, floating just under the surface and trying to fight its way out. Bad press....bad press....

"Well, I'll be sure to tell Chloe what you said. Good luck with the business thing," Clark said, practically skipping his way over to the door. Lex turned abruptly from the window and faced Clark with sparkling eyes.

"Clark! Wait! Tell Ms. Sullivan she has her interview."

Chapter 2: Shifty Looks and Fuzzy Coats

Chloe had been in the mansion before so it's hugeness didn't intimidate her as much as it had the first time. One of the house personnel was leading her to Lex's office and she hasten to catchup with his long strides. When she had gotten to the house earlier that evening she had been excited. Finally she was getting the story of a lifetime, the chance to interview a million dollar man and ask the tough questions. She had been sorting through how she would set up the interview in her head, her brain whirling with nervous activity. Of course that was nearly a half hour ago and at the current moment the only emotion she was feeling was annoyance.

Lex Luthor had hired a crack staff of security personnel for the mansion that had spent the better part of the last half hour clearing her to go into the house. Apparently Lex had neglected to tell them that she would be coming.

Chloe glanced over and saw herself reflected back in a window right outside the door to Lex's study. Despite herself she felt her stomach flip when she realized what window it was and turned around quickly to focus her attention elsewhere. Wordlessly the security guard ushered her into the study and slammed the doors behind her.

"You have friendly guards Mr. Luthor. I think they were about five minutes from giving me a strip search," Chloe snapped as Lex entered through a side door. He gave her a sideways look as he sat down behind his desk and motioned for her to take a seat across from him.

"My guards are very thorough, although surprisingly most intruders end up getting into the house anyway. You must have looked shifty Ms. Sullivan," Lex replied airily, his gaze locked on her.

"I think it's probably the fuzzy coat; just screams 'homicidal manic'. Although in my defense I don't actually own the coat"Chloe said, swinging her bag over her shoulder and setting it down on her lap.

"Really?" Lex replied, sounding intrigued. "So a homicidal manic and a thief? I'm impressed."

"I just stole it from Lana's closet but thanks, it's tricky getting in there when she's not home and the whole house is deserted"Chloe muttered sarcastically, searching in her bag for her tape recorder.

"It's very," Lex paused for a moment here and allowed his gaze to sweep Chloe entirely, making her squirm in her seat, "fuzzy."

"Well, I'll be sure to pass the compliment on to Lana," Chloe remarked, pulling her tape recorder out of her bag with some difficulty and setting it down on the desk.

"So should we start the interview now or do you want to hear about the time I borrowed Lana's lipstick and didn't even ask?"

Lex laughed as he leaned across the table and placed his hand over Chloe's. Chloe felt her heart leap into her chest at the contact with Lex's smooth skin. To cover up her blush she raised a questioning eyebrow at him. Lex pulled Chloe's hand away from the tape recorder and picked it up himself, then leaned back into his chair.

"I think you misunderstand me Ms. Sullivan. There will be no interview."

Chloe stared at Lex blankly for nearly a full minute before she could produce a sound. What did he mean, no interview? He had already agreed to it, Clark had told her so with the most plaintive look on his face. 'You don't just back out of an interview when you've already agreed to one', Chloe fumed. 'I need that award',Chloe thought furiously, 'and I'm getting an interview if I have to torture it out of him.'

"Pardon me but I think I'm hearing things, probably a by product of hearing some kind of police code for the last half hour. Did you just say that you won't do the interview?" Chloe asked in disbelief.

"That's exactly what I said," Lex replied calmly.

That was the only thing Chloe needed to hear before she went off on a long rant about responsibilities and interviews and awards. Lex's eyes went very wide as Chloe felt herself continue to ramble on in loud, angry tones. She knew she was making a fool of herself in front of Lex and she desperately wanted to shut up but she apparently no longer had any control over her mouth. She was going on Chloe-rant auto pilot and there was no stopping her now.

"It's my one chance to show the Daily Planet what I'm made of and to set myself apart from the crowd! Do you know what my chances are going to be like, trying to get into one of the better journalism schools when I go to Smallville High? I need to distinguish myself as a serious journalist and I'm never going to be able to do that if I write my application article on Mr. Erich and his pigeons!" Chloe took a moment to pull in a deep breath and Lex held up his hand to stop her from continuing.

"Please, Ms. Sullivan, take a breath. I was afraid for a moment that your head was going to explode. Now," Lex said calmly, "what about this man and his pigeons?"

Chloe let out a loud, strangled yelp and stared at Lex in defiance. She was seeing red now. Not only was Luthor not agreeing to the interview, now he was teasing her. And at the moment her pride was all she had left.

"Lex," she yelled. Lex let out a laugh and then pressed his lips together tightly trying to contain the rest of his laughter. Chloe fought the urge to leap across the desk and strangle him, but the urge was getting stronger.

"I'm sorry, Ms. Sullivan, I don't think I made myself clear," Lex said, standing her tape recorder upright on the edge of his desk. "Just because you're not interviewing me doesn't mean you won't get your story."

"What? Did we just enter some bizarre world where up is down and left is right? How am I going to get my story if I don't get the interview?" Chloe asked, her anger waning the more curious she got.

"That's simple," Lex replied smiling smoothly at Chloe. The light from the windows painted him in a dark red color, making her think more devil in training, than generous humanitarian.

"You want a story with bite, something with edge where you'll get to show off your skills as a writer and investigator. If you just wanted to write another puff piece you'd write it about the man with the pigeons. Am I right?" Lex asked, nodding his head towards Chloe. Chloe crossed her arms over her chest and narrowed her eyes at him, not liking where this was going.

"Yea, and I'm assuming there's a point far out in the distance?"

"An interview with a powerful business man is impressive but it's not exactly juicy news. Were you to interview me somehow I doubt I'd come across in a good light. You'd go for blood in the interview and another article about Luthor corruption is the last thing I need on my hands right now," Lex explained patiently, his eyes finding Chloe's and holding them.

Damn if he wasn't right too. She had a long list of questions and most of them were what she would consider hard-hitting. Questions about business practices and internal affairs, not about what his favorite color was and whether he was single.

"I'm not denying it. Where's the part where I still get my shiny award?" Chloe asked matter-of-factly. Something like surprise registered on Lex's face before he continued in that same calm voice.

"I'm sure you've heard of Spencen Industries," at Chloe's nod he continued. "In the last few months they've risen to fame among the business world after several hostile takeovers of other companies. Now they have their eye on LexCorp. I almost know for a fact that they've been using every illegal business practice in the book to get at my company and the companies they've previously taken over. It would make a good story, don't you think?" Lex asked leaning forward with a gleam in his eye. Chloe blinked in honest surprise and took a few moments to take in the information.

"So instead of writing a piece about LexCorp's questionable business practices I write one about one of your competitors instead. I uncover the truth about them and LexCorp is saved. Am I right?" Chloe felt amusement enter her own voice now.

"Well, saved might be taking it a bit far but it would certainly help."

"You want to kill two birds with one stone."

"Actually with one blonde reporter."

Lex smiled and stood up from his desk, watching the thoughts rush through Chloe's brain. She tried to make herself a closed book like Lex was, not show any emotions, but it wasn't working. Excitement and worry showed on her face and she bit her lip, her decision final. Lex picked up the tape recorder and handed it to Chloe before raising his brows questioningly.

"So what do you think Ms. Sullivan? Do we have a deal?" he asked extending his hand.

The situation was more or less still in Chloe's favor. Lex would help her with the story, and if there was no story then she still had the torturing idea.

"We have a deal," Chloe said, her smile wide as she pressed her hand into Lex's and gave it a firm shake.

Present Day

"I think I'm obligated to remind you that going after Spencen was your idea, not mine," Chloe muttered irritably.

The car was getting colder by the minute. When her hands brushed against the soft leather of the seats they felt as if they were touching marble. Outside the winds were still howling in protest. It played with the branches of the trees outside the Lexus, sometimes pushing them against the car so that they lovingly brushed the windows and sometimes whipping them back so that they smashed loudly against the glass. Chloe tried to focus on her conversation with Lex and push out the other thoughts clouding her mind.

"Setting you on Spencen might have been my idea but how was I to know you'd take it to such extremes?" Lex shot back. Chloe could barely hear him over the roaring wind that battered the car.

How would anyone find them in this weather?

Chapter 3: Mission Not-So-Possible

Metropolis at night sparkled. It was as beautiful as it was frightening. On the street she stood in the upper section of the city there was almost nothing to fear. The building she wished to enter was a steel and chrome giant in the heart of the downtown business section. Although there was a fair amount of traffic it was basically dead. Everyone who frequented these streets were at home by now, getting ready for the weekend. Chloe ran a hand through her short blonde hair and wondered if she should have accepted the wig that Chad had offered.

After the meeting with Lex, Chloe had went about researching Spencen Incorporated and had found that everything that Lex said was true. There was a suspicious list a mile long related to the company that had everything from bribery to disappearances. Chloe knew that if she could get into the building then she would have a chance at poking around in the file cabinets, maybe find some of the more dirty business deals.

After confiding her plan to Chad, Smallville's only Goth, he had offered to find her something that would allow her to blend in the building. Chloe smoothed her hand over the rough fabric of the cleaning lady outfit she wore and wondered again where Chad got all his supplies.

After a final deep breath to gather her courage, Chloe placed her hands on the dirty concrete door of the side entrance and pushed. The door opened slightly and Chloe let out a sigh of relief. She had feared that it would have been locked like the rear entrance had and she would have to give up the trip as useless. Before she could push the door all the way open, however, a pale hand grabbed the door handle and yanked it closed. Chloe felt a cold chill go down her spine as she realized she had been caught. Slowly she turned around, wheels already in motion about how she would get herself out of this one. What she saw made her start once more.

"Lex Luthor!" Chloe cried in surprise, feeling a sense of relief so powerful flood through her that she nearly fainted.

"Say it a little sounder Sullivan, I think there were a few people in the city that didn't hear that," Lex said venomously, craning hishead around the dark alley beside the building. There was no one around to hear their conversation so Lex relaxed slightly. As Lex checked out the perimeter the power to verbalize had returned to Chloe.

"What are you doing here?" she hissed at him in a whisper, now very much aware of the fact that his hand was still on the door handle behind her and she was sandwiched between the door and his body. Chloe was suddenly glad that the dark atmosphere of the alleyway hid her blush.

"I'm here to save you before you do anything stupid," Lex replied matter-of-factly.

His hand went from the door handle to the small of her back and he stepped away from her as he attempted to maneuver her away from the door. Chloe yanked herself out of his grasp and gave him an indignant look. She was no damsel in distress, she could take care of herself fine thanks. Internally she was fuming at the audacity of Lex assuming that she would get herself into trouble. The plan had flaws, sure, but she knew what she was doing.

"I'm not going anywhere Lex. So you can just go off and "save" someone else. I'm fine," Chloe said icily. Lex looked weary as he stared at her but she was holding ground. The thought entered his mind to just pick the small blonde up, throw her over his shoulder and leave but he somehow felt that would be demeaning. Besides, no matter how much he wanted to admit that he was fully changed he realized that he was still up for an adventure.

"You are not fine. You have no idea what you'll find in there and I can't let you go in there alone," Lex said, breezing past herand pulling the door wide open soundlessly. Chloe felt her jaw drop and tried to pull herself together before answering.


"Well, I obviously can't stop you. Or did you change your mind?" the last question came out as more of a challenge and Chloe stepped up to the door and shot Lex a cocky smile. "No, I guess not," he mumbled as she shot past him into the building.

As Lex eased the door closed behind the two of them he let his gaze sweep up and down Chloe in her maid uniform.

"Interesting outfit choice," he said wryly.

Lex walked down one of the long, dark hallways of Spencen with Chloe tailing him close behind. They had been all over the abandoned building for the last 15 or so minutes trying to find where the company kept all of its dirt. Chloe had assumed that much of it would be in the record's room, so they had decided to check there first. After getting lost in the wide, empty hallways a few times they had finally come to find that the records room was locked. Lex had attempted to jimmy the lock with one of Chloe's hair pins to no avail.

"Wow, you really were quite the juvenile delinquent in your day weren't you?" Chloe had asked in amusement.

With that plan gone the two intruders had decided to go straight to the top. They would look through the offices of the most powerful members of the corporation and hopefully Spencen himself. As of yet Lex and Chloe had been lucky enough to avoid any security that might be on patrol but as they got up to the top levels of the corporation Lex reminded Chloe to precede with more caution.

"I don't think I need to remind you what would happen if we were caught snooping around in here," Lex hissed as a file cabinet Chloe opened let out a protesting squeal. Chloe rolled her eyes in annoyance at Lex's overprotective streak.

"General badness, I get it Luthor," Chloe stated, closing the cabinet quickly and breezing past him down the darkened hall. She had tried to play it off as best she could but when the drawer had issued forth that loud squeak her heart had jumped into her throat. She tried to remind herself that breaking and entering was all in a day's work for an investigative reporter. 'I should look at this as an adventure', she thought. 'And hey, my worst adventure with Lex Luthor? Pretty much still my best adventure.'

Lex's thoughts, however, were in a much different vein.

'She doesn't even care that at any moment a highly trained security guard could turn the corner and catch us. We're in real dangerhere and she's just excited to be playing Nancy Drew. It's almost admirable really, in an insane way.' Lex felt a smirk pull at the corner of his lips and shook his head.

Lex caught stride with Chloe as the two turned another corner and stopped dead. A dull light was emitting from under one of the huge office doors and even from where they were standing they could hear the faint ebb and flow of conversation. Lex and Chloe exchanged a worried look. Lex grabbed Chloe by the arm and pulled her around the corner, out of sight of the occupied office.

"Guess we're not so alone after all Sullivan. Too bad we couldn't find any of the information we were looking for.Although apparently a lot of Spencen employees have an extensive porn collection," Lex whispered to Chloe, his eyes sparkling with humor.

"Please, I'm trying to repress," Chloe said, scrunching up her nose.

"Anyway I think if we go further down this hallway there's a back exit that would take us to the car," Lex said, placing a hand under Chloe's elbow and beginning to propel her forward. Chloe planted her feet on the ground and glared at Lex incredulously.

"I'm not going anywhere Luthor until I get this story." Lex's mouth hung open slightly in surprise as he struggled for words. "As far as I'm concerned this is the best break we've had yet. A meeting in the middle of the night in an empty office building? That just screams 'sleazy business' and I fully intend to find out what they're doing in there," Chloe said, pulling her elbow from Lex's grasp.Lex stared at her once more like she had grown an extra head.

"You can't be serious?"

"Dead serious. Go out and wait for me in the car, I shouldn't be long," Chloe dismissed as she poked her head around the corner and scooped out the hallway for any other signs of life.

"And how do you propose you're going to get in on this clandestine meeting may I ask? Walk in and say you need to clean up?" Lex's tone was unbelieving but Chloe chose to ignore him. He was right of course. She had to find a way to get into that office without stopping the conversation or alerting anyone that something was wrong.

That's when she noticed the air vents. High up in the ceiling were long metal tubes of ventilation with a mess grill every so often. The vents ran directly over the lit office in question. If she could crawl up into one of those vents she could be directly overhead and hear every word without anyone being the wiser.

"The vents!" Chloe whispered excitedly. "I'll use the vents."

Lex's gaze followed Chloe's to the long metal air vents above their heads. There would be no way to talk her out of this and no way to get her out of the building without making a scene and broadcasting their presence. He would have to go along with this insane plan. Luthor scowled but suggested that they enter the air vents from the office next to the lighted one so they could use desks and chairs as leverage to get them into the ducts.

Thankfully the desk was right over the entrance, but even so Lex had to give her a hand up into the air vent.

"Hands," she hissed as she felt Lex grope her bottom.

"Believe me Sullivan, that's the last thing I'm thinking of right now," Lex hissed back and maintained the hold on her butt until she was safely in the air vent. Then he propelled himself forward and up into the small square entrance.

Tape recorder in hand Chloe led the way shimmying along through the vents. It was only a few seconds before they were over the illuminated office and Chloe hit the record button on her tape recorder as soon as the voices started to come into focus. Through the mess wire grill in front of her she could get a bird's eye view of the office below her. It was huge and posh with a leather and wood motif that was a cross between country and rock star. Near the long cherry wood desk stood two men in business suits sorting through files scattered across the desk.

"The Linwood account? Is that taken care of too?" the man in his early 40s asked. Chloe had a feeling that he was the leader of this whole operation the way that he was barking orders at the other man. The other man, younger and fidgety, verified her suspicions.

"Yes, Mr. Spencen. We just told Linwood that we knew what his son was doing on the side as a, ahem, hobby. We made it very clear that if he didn't sell over all his commanding shares than we might be a little too generous with the information we had acquired."

"Ah good job," Spencen said, sounding pleased. He closed the file and picked up another one from his desk, flipping it open.

"Now, about LexCorp," Spencen began. Chloe shot a worried look over her shoulder at Lex, whose gaze had suddenly narrowed. He seemed to be paying complete attention to what was going on now.

"We don't have all that much to go on yet sir" the lackey supplied, sounding more nervous now. "There's Lex's criminal record, but that's common knowledge. There have been a few cover ups from when he was a teenager but you find that when Lionel Luthor buries something it stays hidden."

"So nothing personal to go on," Spencen said, sounding dismayed. The lackey perked up now, his words rushing together in an excited stream.

"Well, not quite but Lex is really fond of Smallville. He's been doing all these clean up projects with the town and building all these new facilities. Not to mention that he seems to have made some friends there, practically with a family called the Kents. I'm sure that if you found a way to threaten the town Lex would be more than happy to be more reasonable." Spencen let out a long chuckle that chilled Chloe's blood and patted his lemming on the shoulder.

"Lex Luthor enamored with a town called Smallville? Well stranger things I suppose...," he trailed off here and shook his head. "Look into ways of breaking into that town. Try bribing some of the local politicians, if we have a few of them in our pockets than it'll be easier to get a foothold. I won't have LexCorp standing in my way," Spencen said, closing the file in his hands.

A loud buckling noise sounded all around Chloe and Lex. Chloe felt panic shoot through her system as she realized that the metal of the vents wasn't as strong as she had hoped. The thin sheet directly underneath her was beginning to bend forward and separate from the rest of the vent. Lex reached out a hand to grab her but it was too late as Chloe found herself rushing to meet the thick carpet in the office below. She hit with a resounding smack and a piece of the vent fell on top of her. Chloe winced and looked up as both men stared down at her in shock. She still had the tape recorder chuckled with white knuckles in her hand. She tried to hide it before they noticed but Spencen caught sight of it as she tried to slip it in the pocket of her maid uniform.

"Looks like we have a curious little visitor," Spencen said, walking over to where Chloe had just scrabbled to her feet and had pressed herself up against the wall. Her eyes darted around for anything that she would be able to use in self-defense against the man.

"You're air vents aren't very sturdy," Chloe remarked as her hand came down on a vase sitting on a shelf behind her. She held the vase behind her back as she continued to backtrack across the room.

"Well, the vents are conventionally made for air, not people," Spencen remarked, sounding amiable as he took another menacing step toward Chloe. She wildly hoped that Lex was on his way to the car right now.

"Smith call for security," Spencen shot over his shoulder. As Smith began to dial Spencen added, "Tell them not to call the police."

Chloe's stomach lurched at his last statement. There was only one reason why they wouldn't bring the police in. Her body was drenched in cold sweat and the hand that held the vase was slippery. She stopped moving backwards and allowed Spencen to close the distance between them. On the count of three she would smash him with the vase and get the hell out of there. One....Two...Thr-

A loud scream of metal rubbing against metal and Lex was on the floor a few feet from Chloe. Her eyes went wide as he calmly picked himself up from the floor and glanced around the office. Spencen was visibly shocked.

"Lex Luthor!?""

"Hello Howard," Lex said, all charming charisma, as if he hadn't just dropped from the man's air ducts. Lex nodded towards Chloe and then inclined his head toward the heavy oak doors of the office.

That was all Chloe needed. She pulled back her arm holding the vase and swung as hard as possible at Spencen's head. It connected with a crash and Spencen went down. Chloe jumped over his prone form and both she and Lex raced to the door and threw it open. Behind them Smith was yelling something and as they entered the hall at a dead run they could hear the sound of the security men's boots slapping the ground not far in the distance.

Chloe had never run that fast in her entire life. Adrenaline shot through her body as she followed Lex through the winding hallways to the back exit. Down several flights of stairs and the security was still chasing them and Chloe's legs were on fire but she didn't care. The door slammed open and the Bonnie and Clyde team were finally outside in the fresh Metropolis air. Chloe was sure she had never seen anything as beautiful as the sky as she raced behind Lex towards the car.

As she jumped in the passengers seat Lex was already downshifting and giving it gas. Behind them she heard the door smash open again and saw the security men pull out their guns and train them on the car. She ducked in her seat as a rain of bullets followed them away from the building. Then they were gone.

There was a deadly silence in the car for a few long moments until she heard something strange echoing in the space around them. It took her a few minutes to realize that it was the sound of her own laughter.

"You're unbelievable Chloe," Lex said, then laughed himself.

Chapter 4: Questions and Answers

The night life in Metropolis rushed by them in a blur as Lex sped out of the city and onto one of the main arteries that would take them back to Smallville. They had been reliving their adventure for most of the drive, Lex constantly reminding Chloe of how badly that had gone.

"At least it looks like we've lost them," Lex stated as he craned his head around to look out the back window of the car for anyone following them.

"Yea well I have no idea how they would be able to find us since we've been driving at 100 since we pealed out of there," Chloe commented, tugging on her seatbelt for emphasis. Lex cocked a brow but followed her request and slowed the car down.

"We were almost killed back there but my driving scares you?" Lex asked skeptically.

"What can I say, I like to go for the non-obvious," Chloe commented, shrugging her shoulders and propping her feet up on the dashboard.

"You don't have anything to say about what happened back there?" Lex asked in bemusement, trying to mask his surprise. For a moment, waiting in the close, dark confines of the air vent Lex had begun to think that something horrible might happen to Chloe. He found that it worried him much more than he would have expected. He genuinely enjoyed her presence and her wit and he couldn't help but admire her ambition. It was much like his own.

"Well, I do have a few things to say about you feeling me up," Chloe said casually, running a hand through her hair to push it out of her face.

"I wasn't feeling you up, I was helping you into that vent. Believe me Ms. Sullivan, if I was feeling you up you would know about it." Was there a challenge in his voice? He reminded himself that Chloe was Clark's friend; Clark's 16 year old friend in fact. It would be good to keep that in mind.

"Right, well next time I'll be sure to get that memo," Chloe responded, rolling her eyes. Then a huge, 100 watt grin lit up her face as she fished around in her pocket and pulled out the tape recorder.

"I got the story of a century right here on tape. No meteor infected mutants, no wall of weird, just honest to goodness corruption," Chloe said, a gleam in her eye as she began to rewind the tape. "I hope it didn't stop when I fell," she mumbled in concern as the sound of the whirling tape filled the car.

"Well, that was quite a drop. Nice to know that we've got not only breaking and entering, but also killing an innocent air vent on our rap sheet for tonight," Lex said, taking his eyes off the road to glance over at Chloe. She was staring intently at the rewinding tape as the streetlights cast her alternatively into light and shadow.

"That air vent had it coming," Chloe muttered, half her attention on the rewinding tape. The sound of the tape clicking into place at the beginning snapped her back into focus. She grinned and glanced over at Lex before pressing the play button. Immediately the sounds of clinking machinery filled the car and then a familiar voice.

"I wonder if this thing is on. How does Chloe use this?" Clark's voice as he apparently fumbled with the tape recorder. Chloe's eyes grew to twice their normal size as Clark's voice continued.

"Oh it's on. Ok, practice makes perfect right? So I'm walking into the Talon and Lana's standing at the counter and I walk over and I say 'Hey Lana, how's it going? How's the....coffee...and stuff? I like your pink shirt.' Oh God I sound gay! Next I'll be complimenting her on her shoes and asking her if she wants to go for makeovers. Focus Kent. Just go in there and ask. Ahem So I walk into the Talon and Lana's at the counter and I walk over. 'Hey Lana, how would you like to go on a date Friday night? Really? Great I'll pick you up at 8.' Perfect...kinda. Ok how do you erase this?" More fumbling and the sound of the tape recorder switching off.

"What the hell was that?" Chloe asked in disbelief as she fast forwarded through more of the tape.

"Sounded like Clark's daily affirmations," Lex commented with a chuckle. Chloe shook her head and tried not to laugh.

"That's really not funny, I tell him not to play with my tape recorder," Chloe said, letting out a laugh herself. She flipped the tape back into play and Spencen's voice filled the car, loud and clear. Chloe let out a sigh, flipped the tape off, and fell back into her seat in exhaustion.

Lex glanced over at Chloe as the petite blonde closed her eyes and leaned back into her seat. Now that they were on a fairly deserted country road he could barely make out her profile. 'She must be exhausted' Lex thought. He himself was strangely energized by the whole evening and felt as if he would never sleep that night. Lex wondered idly what Clark would think when he heard about what happened.

"You deserve someone better than Clark." It had slipped out of his mouth without him even realizing it. Chloe's eyes popped open and she turned to stare at Lex in surprise.

"What makes you say that?" Chloe asked defensively.

"It's obvious you have feelings for him," Lex remarked quietly watching as the country side began to look more familiar.

"Oh really? I didn't realize I was wearing my 'I heart Clark' sandwich board," Chloe snapped bitterly. "How is it so obvious?"

"The way you look at him mostly. Like somehow everything is better when he's around. And the way you look when he's pining overLana, like someone ripped out your heart," Lex said, glancing over to look at the surprised expression on Chloe's face.

"-And started dancing the macarena on it? You're pretty noticing aren't you?" Chloe asked, the bitter edge receding a bit from her voice.

"The way you look at Clark...I've always wanted to find someone I felt that way about. I'm envious," Lex said honestly. Amazing that he was being completely open with someone that, for all intents and purposes, he barely knew. Maybe it was because Chloe didn't judge like everyone else did. She just accepted you the way you were.

"Oh yea, you've got a lot to be envious of," Chloe said sarcastically. "It's going so well for me."

"At least you're putting yourself out there," Lex commented. Chloe bit her lip and looked thoughtful for a long moment, her eyes trained on the road in front of them.

"You said I deserve someone better than Clark? Why?" she finally asked, her voice sounding surprisingly small. Lex thought for a moment about how best to express in words what he had noticed about the teenage population of Smallville.

"Clark is too hung up on Lana to see how much you care about him. No matter what you do it'll always be Lana that he sees, that he wants to be with. Even if the two of you ever got together you'd always wonder if you were just a replacement for Lana. Besides the fact that he's overprotective. He wasn't crazy about the idea of you doing the interview," Lex said, watching as the forest around them thickened. It wouldn't be long now until they were back in Smallville. He felt a stab that their adventure would be over so soon.

"You're making him sound like he was jealous or something," Chloe stated, pulling her feet from the dashboard and sitting up straighter in the seat. "He wouldn't have anything to be jealous of, would he?" she asked a bit mischievously.

Lex smirked and was about to answer with something cheeky when a dark car came up on the passenger side and hit them hard. Lex cursed and shifted frantically, trying to get away from the other car. The huge truck slammed into Lex's sports car again and drove them closerto the woods on the side of the road. Mother Nature picked this moment to let lose and rain began to splatter the windshield. The wipers worked frantically to clear the rain as Lex slammed his foot on the gas to try and out run their attackers. It looked almost as if it had worked and the truck disappeared behind them. Lex let out a steady breath and relaxed his hands on the wheel.

He hadn't expected the truck to slam into the back of the tiny car and send them into a tailspin into the woods. The car flipped over once and landed in the woods with a crunch.

Chloe looked over at Lex, panting slightly, hair frazzled.

"Yea," Chloe said dryly, "looks like we lost them."


The winds buffeted the car and howled around them like angry spirits. Inside the car, however, the atmosphere was more relaxed than it had been earlier. To take their minds off their impending death by freezing Chloe and Lex had decided to play word games. Chloe let out a snorting giggle as they finished their current game.

"That was an unappealing laugh," Lex said, watching as Chloe tried to pull herself into a tighter ball. He wished he could offer her some warmth but he only had on a thin sports jacket that was barely keeping him from freezing himself. At least Chloe had a fleece jacket, which she had been working on wrapping around her entire body for the last ten minutes. So far she only had her arms and one leg inside the jacket and was trying to wiggle the second one in.

"What are you talking about Luthor? I have a nice laugh. I like to think it has personality," Chloe said indignantly as the effort of pulling her other leg inside the jacket caused her to momentarily lose balance on the cold leather seat. Lex's hand shot out to steady her back into place.

"So it's your turn to pick the game," Lex stated, settling her back into her seat. She gave him a grateful look for the save. "What will it be this time?"

"I'm thinking...," Chloe trailed off thoughtfully and bit her lip in concentration. "How about word association?"

Lex raised his eyebrow and gave her a quizzical look. "Refresh my memory, how do we play this game?"

"You say two words and I have to pick one of them really fast without thinking," Chloe said.

"Ah," Lex said, nodding as a smile caressed his features. "I'll start then." Lex made himself more comfortable on the ice-cold seat and stared straight at Chloe as he fired off his words.

"Pepsi or Coke?"


"Chunky or Creamy?"


"Pink or black?"


"North or south?"


"Clark or Lex?"


Chloe blinked rapidly in surprise as a huge smile split Lex's features. Then it looked as though she was seriously considering doing him bodily harm. Deciding against it since it would involve getting out of the complicated cocoon in which she was ensnared she settled for glaring at Lex meaningfully.

"What was that all about?" Chloe asked.

"I thought I was the one asking the questions, Ms. Sullivan?" Lex said, giving her a smart ass look.

"Smart ass. Fine, you pick the game now," Chloe snapped at him; Lex smirked in reply.

"Fine but I had some great questions lined up next."

"Do me a favor and don't share," Chloe said, rolling her eyes. She glanced out the window and noted with relief that it seemed as if the rain was letting up slightly.

"How about a game of truth or dare?" Lex said tapping his feet lightly on the ground to stir some circulation into them.

"So essentially just truth then?" Chloe said, a smile pursing her lips.

Lex shot Chloe a seductive smile and she felt color flood her cheeks. "I could think of a few interesting dares we could do," Lex said in his best seductive voice. Chloe felt a nervous lump grow in her throat as she tried to swallow around it. Just a game, she reminded herself. He's just teasing me. She forced herself to give him a pitying smile.

"So just truth then," she repeated, this time not as a question. Lex leaned closer to her between the two seats and his expensive cologne tickled her senses. "I'll start then," Chloe said, leaning back a little further in her seat to clear her head.

"Did you really know there was a Level Three?" Chloe asked, eyes sparkling and reporter instinct now very much in tact.

"Hey, I told you there would be no interview," Lex said defensively. "But to answer the question, I had no idea about Level Three. Moving on," he squinted at Chloe for a moment before proceeding with his question.

"What's it like living with Lana Lang," Lex cut her off before she could answer the question with an immediate response. "I mean, really, none of that 'she's my bestest friend' crap?" Chloe glared at Lex a moment suspiciously. "I won't repeat anything."

"It's...pink," Chloe said, shrugging her shoulders slightly. "She busts into my room at all hours without being invited to do makeovers, or watch gooey love movies. She has the worst taste in music that I've ever encountered. She sings musical numbers in the shower. But she makes good coffee and she always covers for me with Dad when I'm going out on a story. You know there was this one time that I was so pissed at Clark that I broke a vase," here Lex raised a questioning brow and overemphasized his action of sliding away from her. Chloe reached out and hit him on the arm playfully. "It was an accident! I'm not naturally violent...most of the time. Anyway, Lana took the fall for that one and boy was my father mad. So she's not all bad," Chloe finished off. Lex nodded his head.

"Why would you ask a question like that?" Chloe wondered in puzzlement.

"Just curious; you and Lana seem to be such different people I found it difficult to believe that it was all sunshine and smiles at the Sullivan residence," Lex stated, drumming his fingers on the wheel.

"Ok," Chloe began eagerly, "it's my turn again."

"Hey, you just asked a question!" Lex protested.

"That was just follow up," Chloe dismissed easily. She had a question that had been nagging her mind since the last game.

"In the last game, why did you throw the Lex or Clark thing at me?" Chloe asked.

"Just curious to see how you'd respond," Lex dismissed with a wave of his hand.

"That's a cheap answer!" Chloe argued.

"I find you very attractive," Lex said shortly, as if he was angry to be admitting it himself.

"Oh," Chloe seemed for once to be at a loss for words. She wasn't complimented often enough for her to know the adequate response. Should she say thank you? Tell him she thought he was attractive himself? Jump him? She shook her head quickly and turned her attention back to Lex, who seemed curious at her response.

"Well, that's... a better answer," she finally managed lamely.

"Don't people ever tell you how beautiful you are?" Lex was openly puzzled now.

"Well, my Dad and Pete, but they don't count really. Clark said he thought I was cute once but it was more like how a person would say a puppy was cute than like...beautiful." Chloe seemed stuck on the word for a few minutes before raising her eyes to meet Lex's.

"You think I'm beautiful?" she asked. Her voice was so open and vulnerable, as if she was scared to hear the answer. She hated the way she sounded, even to her own ears. I can't believe I'm fishing for a compliment from Lex Luthor.

"Of course," he said, as if it was the most obvious answer in the entire world. Chloe felt her face break into a smile in spite of herself.

A piercing howl broke through the night and this time it felt like the wind had rushed right through the car door and into Chloe. She tried her best to wrap herself in her coat but to no avail. She rubbed her arms numbly and wondered if her friends would ever figure out where she was. Would Lana figure out she was running late and tell her father? It was an unpleasant thought but far better than freezing to death in a car.

"You're freezing," Lex observed with concern.

"Oh, you're good," Chloe snapped back sarcastically. Lex laughed and reached out a hand to grab her elbow.

"Come over here," Lex said quietly, starting to guide her closer with her elbow.

"Pardon?" Chloe asked, snapping her elbow away in surprise. Lex gave her an agitated look and then began to speak slowly, as if communicating with an infant.

"We are both freezing but if we move closer together we'll at least have some body heat to warm us up." Now a smile. "I promise I have nothing but noble intentions."

"Oh, sure," Chloe said, openly disbelieving. She slid over into his seat anyway and realized that he was right. Even though it was freezing it was a lot warmer close to Lex. Lex draped an arm across her shoulders and pulled her closer to him. She tried not to think about the fact that she was snuggling with Lex. 'It's for survival' she told herself.

They spent the next few minutes in companionable silence. As the awkwardness of the situation began to fade Chloe made herself more comfortable. She snuggled closer to Lex and rested her head against his chest. He was so warm and she was so tired that she hadn't even realized that she was beginning to drift off until his question roused her.

"Why did you pick Lex?" he asked, staring down at the small blonde head nestled against his chest. Chloe picked her head up and stared straight into Lex's eyes.

"I—" she began but was interrupted by a harsh tapping that sounded behind Lex's head. It didn't sound like it was a branchtapping the window this time and they both turned around sharply. The twin beams of light blinded them and caused both to shade their eyes against the glare. Behind the blinding beam of the flashlights stood Clark and Jonathan Kent, neither looking very happy. Chloe felt the blush burn her cheeks and was surprised to notice in the sudden light that Lex was blushing as well.

"Clark has some impeccable timing, doesn't he?" Lex asked dryly.

Chapter 5: Endings and Beginnings

"So there are Clark and his dad standing at the window," Chloe finished with a flourish of her hands. She scooped her coffee cup from the table and walked behind the counter to make herself another one.

Lana and Pete sat at stools in front of the counter, listening to her story with rapt attention. Chloe had been telling what had transpired the night before as if it was a story about someone else. She hadn't embellished but she had left a few things out, like the highly charged atmosphere that the Kents had ruined. Pete flashed her a grin as he slid his coffee cup to her for a refill.

"That's quite a story Chloe. I can't believe that you had to spend an entire night trapped in a car with Lex Luthor though, now that had to be killer" Pete said.

"It wasn't so bad Pete, Lex is a really nice guy," Chloe said knowing that no matter what she said Pete's opinion of Lex was already set in stone. She found herself wishing that Pete didn't dislike Lex so much but that was silly. It didn't matter if her friends liked Lex or not.

"A really nice guy who's really nice dad stole my family's-" Pete began.

"Corn factory thing" Lana finished for him, flipping her shiny, shiny hair behind her shoulder. She turned to Chloe and leaned further across the counter. "That was a great story Chloe but it was missing something that all great stories should have" Lana stated this last part with a coy little smile. 'How is it that I just know I'm not going to like the next thing that's about to come out of her mouth?' Chloe wondered.

"What's that? Death? Because did I mention the fact that those thugs shot at us? Real bullets? And ran us off the road?" Chloe asked sliding Pete's coffee cup down the counter where he caught it and gave her an appreciative thumbs up.

"No, romance. Every good story has romance," Lana said, her eyes lighting up mischievously. "Are you sure there's nothing you're leaving out?" Lana asked.

Chloe stared at Lana for a long moment in surprise. Was it possible that Lana was psychic? Pete answered the question for her.

"Of course nothing else happened. Come on this is Chloe we're talking about. Lex Luthor tries turning the charm on my girl and she'd knee him in the balls" Pete said proudly. Lana thought a second and then nodded her assent.

"Guess you're right about that."

Chloe exited from behind the Talon counter just as another customer was coming around to get his drink. Chloe slipped around him as he put some money in a box and continued to make himself a latte. Chloe slipped in her vacated seat next to Lana and stared around the Talon. There was less of a crowd than usual but still a fairly steady stream of people were entering and exiting the coffee house.

"I can't believe you made it 'Make your own coffee' week," Chloe said in amused admiration. "What's more, I can't believe people bought it."

"Yea well I cut about 50% off the prices so all the people need to know is how to use a coffee machine. I'm really losing out on the deal but if it means that I don't have to serve coffee than I'm on board" Lana said, shrugging her shoulders and calling out for someone to have a nice day.

"What if the person doesn't know how to use one of the machines?" Chloe asked curiously.

"Didn't someone get burned in here the other day?" Pete asked, suddenly remembering.

"Ok, it's a slightly flawed plan" Lana said, flashing them a smile.

The three friends laughed as they drank their coffee and munched on a few of Mrs. Kent's homemade brownies. Finally Chloe realized thatshe had yet to let her friends listen to the tape of Spencen and pulled the tape recorder out of her bag. She flashed them a triumphant grin as she displayed the player.

"The whole ordeal was worth it for this, my little story of the century. Shiny Journalism plaque here I come," Chloe said, smiling widely as she hit the play button. And nothing happened.

Chloe stared down at the tape recorder for a moment. She pushed the button back to stop and then tried play again. Nothing. Then she noticed what the problem was. Through the small window where a tape should be visible she saw nothing. She popped the recorder open to confirm her suspicions and then cursed generously.

"Chloe what's wrong?" Lana asked, her brow furrowing in concern.

"Lex! Damnit! I should have known he was getting too friendly with the snuggling!" Chloe yelled angrily. Pete gave her a disbelieving look.

"There was snuggling?!"

"I knew it!" Lana proclaimed.

Sunlight streamed through the stained glass windows of the Luthor mansion as Lex Luthor typed an email to his father rapidly. He had planned to write his father to tell him that he need not be worried about the future of LexCorp the night before but had been strangely exhausted. Lex had woken around noon with a start and the guilty feeling of wasting precious hours. He hadn't slept past noonsince his years of partying in Metropolis but the extra sleep had acted to invigorate him. He had finished nearly all of the business needed to secure the safe future of his company.

The doors to the study flew open without warning and a figure stomped into Lex's office. Lex raised his eyes from the screen to see an angry and flustered Howard Spencen glaring at him with obvious venom.

"I need to hire new security," Lex said, more to himself than to Spencen. He pulled himself out of his chair and crossed over in front of his desk, giving Spencen a viper-like smile as he waved him in.

"Lex! What the hell were you doing in my offices last night?" Spencen asked, rage making his voice a pitch higher than usual. He didn't sound like a calm, mature businessman but more like a spoiled toddler.

"Just checking up on an associate," Lex said affably, then indicated the bar with a tilt of his head. "Drink?"

"No," Spencen said icily. "No thank you."

Lex smiled and walked over to the bar, pouring himself something over the rocks. He turned back to Spencen leisurely and leaned against the bar taking a sip of his drink. His cool demeanor was infuriating to Spencen, who had anticipated something other than this dangerous kindness.

"Of course I couldn't help it if I happened to overhear some distressing conversation on this visit. I'd hate for someone else to have to overhear it too," Lex said casually, producing a tape from his pocket. Spencen's eyes narrowed on the tape in Lex's hand.

"I take it you've made copies of that," Spencen said, having difficulty reigning in his rage.

"Just for safe keeping of course," Lex replied, slipping the tape back into his pocket. "I'd hate for anyone else to get their hands on this, it could be very scandalous for your company. Howard." Spencen growled at the disrespect in Lex's voice but Lex didn't even seem as if he noticed.

"You can't use that tape you know. You procured that evidence while breaking and entering and I have proof of that," Spencen said proudly, hoping to catch Lex in his own web.

"Oh you mean your security tapes? I have a feeling you may not find all that much on those," Lex replied smugly, throwing back more alcohol.

"How did you-?" Spencen began in shock.

"The how is not important. I think we should focus on where we should go from here. For instance I don't want you to come anywhere near this town, or any of its inhabitants, ever again," Lex said, his tone icy and dangerous. Spencen was at a total loss for words.

"As for LexCorp, I do believe that your propaganda caused the corporation to lose quite an amount of money. I hope you don't mind that I borrowed some from one of your overseas bank accounts?" Lex asked casually. Spencen snapped back now, angry again.

"What?! How dare you? That's robbery! I'll—" Spencen started in rage.

"Do what, Mr. Spencen? Admit that you've been piffling money out of the corporation's funds. What would the board think of that?" Lex asked, allowing his trademark smirk to grace his face. Spencen deflated like a popped balloon.

"I have important business to attend to now, if you don't mind. I assume you can see yourself out," Lex said, not even turning around as he crossed over to his desk. He heard the door close quietly behind Spencen on his way out.

A wide smile pulled at the corners of Lex's mouth as he relived his victory in his head. It might have been an unconventional way to go about it but LexCorp was safe again.

As he sat down to finish typing he felt something hard dig into his side. He reached down into his pocket and pulled out the tape. He gave a brilliant smile as he turned the tape over in his hand.

"Thanks Chloe."

The screen of the laptop threw flickering lights over Chloe's face. She was sprawled out on her bed, with half a sheath of paper lying around her in various states of crumpled. No more than a few paragraphs were scrawled on each before they had been deemed unworthy and shot towards the garbage can. After the first hour Chloe had stopped bothering to aim and now the papers covered not only her garbage and floor, but also her bed.

'I'm thinking about this too much' Chloe thought to herself. 'Just write.'

She cracked her knuckles and took a long gulp of the coffee she had fixed for herself. She placed the coffee on the night stand and stared at the tape recorder as if in inspiration. It seemed as if not long ago Lex was taking that recorder and telling her that she wouldn't have her interview. What she had gotten was even better. Lana was right; it was all about the story.

Her fingers flexed on the keypad and her face was flushed with the eerie eternal light of the computer screen. A moment passed, and then Chloe began to write her story.

So I'm trapped in a sports car with Lex Luthor...

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