Disclaimer: Smallville and all related elements, characters and indicia © Tollin-Robbins Productions and Warner Bros. Television, 2002. All Rights Reserved. All characters and situationssave those created by the authors for use solely on this websiteare copyright Tollin-Robbins Productions and Warner Bros. Television. Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster.
The Martinelli Affair
Chloe Sullivan knew it was a mistake when she bought it. And, now, it was resting there taunting her. Rich and beautiful and fulfilling and just out of reach. She recognized there was something metaphoric about the bottle of Martinelli's apple juice but she pushed that thought away. No, this is just about a product that encourages you to "drink your apple a day" and then seals the manna from heaven under a lid that will not come off.
Sitting alone in the Talon on a Saturday night, Chloe examined her hands that are a bright pink from the strain of trying to twist the top. She had, more or less discretely, tapped the bottle against the table trying to break the vacuum but that hadn't worked either. What she needed was help. Pete was on a date and Clark was somewhere puppy-dogging after Lana. Chloe had heard the words "Shakespeare" and "Metropolis" and had promptly started concentrating on naming all the Seven Dwarfs, all the reindeer and the entire periodic table.
She surveyed the male inhabitants of the Talon: Jock, jock, jock, Science Nerd, Boy Billionaire, Jock, AV Nerd. She knew that Roger the AV Nerd was her best shot but she had also seen him with his hands slid under the waistband of the back of his pants. Chloe had a rule about never letting anyone who fondles his own ass touch anything that she owned. She took her bag, the juice, a breath and walked in an unswerving line toward Lex Luthor.
Chloe stopped at his table and forced him to look up from a pile of invoices. She extended the bottle toward him and shrugged, "Grip strength issue."
Unsure of exactly what to do, Lex motioned for Chloe to sit, "Please join me."
Chloe dropped into the booth opposite him with the bottle still extended.
They exchanged a look. Chloe raised an eyebrow, "I'm asking you to open this bottle for me because my girly hands aren't strong enough?"
"Oh," Lex seemed out of his depth as he took the apple juice from her.
"Bottles arrive open in the Luthor world?" Chloe smiled.
"Or with the cap resting, only slightly screwed, on top."
"Now, I have absolutely no hope that I'll be drinking apple juice this evening."
Lex smirks, "Ever heard the Chinese proverb, 'Stop up your mouth like a bottle.' "
" 'And guard your thoughts like a fort.' " Chloe finished.
Chloe caught a trace of surprise on his face before he looked down at the bottle of juice with a kind of rapt attention. He tried to open it without any real effort. The lid stayed tight. He tried again with some actual effort but again the lid did not budge. The third time he put pretty much everything he had into it and the sound of his hands slipping on the metal and glass made an unpleasant squeak.
"Sorry," Chloe offered.
A little red in the face, Lex glanced up at her, "For what, exactly?"
"Hurting your hands and possibly your pride."
" 'Pride is not a bad thing when it only urges us to hide our own hurts - not to hurt others'."
"George Eliot. Rather reassuring. It doesn't sound like you plan on braining me with the bottle."
Lex smiled, "I've been hit over the head about a dozen times since I moved to Smallville. I have no intention of braining anyone else."
"Maybe you should try tapping," Chloe suggested. On his confused look she continues, "Tapping the bottle lid against the table to try to get the seal to break."
Fairly frustrated, Lex obeyed. The knocking sound builds to a crescendo that would rival a construction site. Chloe glanced around the Talon but all eyes are averted. The pounding stops.
Chloe watched Lex once again grapple with the bottle. He straightened, "Who designed this bottle?"
"The same Nazi engineers who made the VW Bug?"
"Similar in overall shape and design. I think you might have something."
"But no apple juice," they both said in tandem. Chloe laughed and Lex offered a few stutters that could be construed as a laugh by someone with a generous spirit.
"I like you better like this," Chloe smiled.
"Beaten and irritated?"
"Not trying so hard to be friendly."
He seemed uncomfortable with her observation and once again tried the bottle lid. Chloe sat watching his thin hands struggle with the metal and glass. A vein had begun to twitch near his temple. He half-stuttered, "I bet you wish Clark was here right now."
"Pete is actually more useful with bottle opening. Clark almost always breaks the top completely off."
"Of course he does," Lex practically grunted under the strain of trying the bottle again.
"Lex, please, just forget it." He looked her in the eye. Chloe shook her head, "Okay, so you're not going to forget it. Can we try something else?"
"I am open to suggestions," Lex muttered as he places the bottle between them.
"A knife would work. A metal butter knife."
"How?" Lex asked as he rubs his hands.
"You slide the blade between the lid and the glass and you apply pressure until the vacuum pops. We just have to get a knife."
Lex produced a heavy metal letter-opener from his pile of papers. "How about this?"
Chloe reached for the letter-opener but Lex pulled back.
"I'm going to finish this," Lex flipped the bottle over. "What do I do?"
"You see where the lid protrudes. You pick a spot between the protrusions and slide the blade in. Then rock the knife back and forth. Or wiggle it. Or whatever works for you."
"If I weren't so exhausted, I'd tease you about those innuendo laden sentences."
"If you're exhausted from just trying to open a bottle of juice I don't think I want you to tease me."
"Thanks," she flashed her best smile as she took the bottle from him, removed the lid and took a sip. She offered him the bottle but he shook his head.
"Too sweet. It's what they give people in rehab to ease them onto a sugar high."
Much too abruptly, Chloe glanced out the window at the nearly deserted street.
Lex shifted a little, realizing that he had given something away. When he speaks, his voice lacks any inflection, "It looks like you have the makings of a real exclusive."
"I can see the headline 'Luthor Beaten by Martinelli Apple Juice Bottle. Must Rely on Girl Technique to Open Lid'."
"Hey, I'm the editor and half the staff. I can do anything I want." Chloe turned her attention from the window. "And the other isn't my business."
"What happened to the take-no-prisoner's reporter?"
"You hit it lucky. It's Saturday, 'Subtlety Saturday'. I'm trying to learn to be subtler. I only recently found out there was a "b" in the word."
"A lot of people would try to use what I said to their advantage."
"If it confirms your distrust of all humanity I could show up at the castle keep every time I can't open a bottle or can't get the wrapper off a CD and demand that you open it. Or else. It takes you awhile but you sure are determined." Chloe tried a reassuring smile. "And your past problems aren't exactly part of my preferred oeuvre."
"Not a meteor mutation just a generic human weakness?"
"Exactly," Chloe focused on the street. "My Dad has my car and should be picking me up soon."
"Your father is a good man. I envy you."
Chloe turned to face Lex, "When I was seven at a LuthorCorp picnic your father purposely stepped on my toes. Dad maintains that it was an accident but I don't think so."
"You probably seemed too happy and my father wanted to squash you."
"It must have been hard growing up with that possibility looming over you at all times."
There was the sound of a horn honking and Chloe waved at her father as he parked the car on the street just outside the window. "There's my ride. And thanks for the assist."
She is on her feet and moving toward the door and then swivels back around to face him, "I do like you better now. When you're just being and not trying to be."
Lex shifted a little and when he speaks his voice is sharp, " 'The hearts of small children are delicate organs. A cruel beginning in this world can twist them into curious shapes. The heart of a hurt child can shrink so that forever afterward it is hard and pitted as the seed of a peach."
Chloe recognized the trace of a threat in his voice as she backed toward the door. She realized she is being warned away. A little angry, she turned and shoved the door open and steps outside.
Lex watched her at the door as she motioned for her father to wait and she wrote frantically on a small notebook that she yanked out of her bag. She tore the page free, scurried over to the window and held up the paper, which read "Carson McCullers."
He half-smirked at her and then she flipped the page where she had scrawled the rest of the quotation, "Or, again, the heart of such a child may fester and swell until it is misery to carry within the body, easily chafed and hurt by the most ordinary things."
She darted off, leaving the paper clinging to the glass.
ONE WEEK LATER
Still in her pyjamas, Chloe settled down in her bed with a copy of the Sunday Daily Planet. A smile suddenly lit up her face and she began to laugh.
A small headline on the front page of the business section read, "LuthorCorp Acquires S. Martinelli & Company."