Notes: For edie22, who requested: Clark/Chloe with this prompt: Clark wants to get a gift that really shows how he feels about either Lex or Chloe, but has difficulties. (this could really be used as a future thing, a current thing, a "in a relationship thing" or a new relationship.)



Priceless

Walking into the barn, the last thing Jonathan Kent expected to find was his son sitting on the couch in the loft, glaring at the wall. "Something wrong, son?"

Clark looked over at his father. "I hate Christmas."  Amused by the petulant tone, the elder Kent leaned on the railing. "Any particular reason you've decided to adopt this Scroogian outlook?"

Letting his head fall back onto the couch, Clark stared at the ceiling. "Chloe."

"Ahh..." Blond head moving in a nod, Jonathan tried very hard to suppress a chuckle. "She driving you crazy with the decorations?"

"No...the apartment looks fantastic, actually, Mom's gonna love it."

"Oh, okay...so...what? She's driving you crazy with the baking, the shopping, the incessant Christmas CDs in the stereo?" Throwing out suggestions at random, he didn't even try to hide the grin as Clark shook his head in a negative response to each one. "It's none of the above, okay, so...just what about Chloe that has you hating Christmas?"

"She's impossible to shop for!" Clark exclaimed, sitting up. "I have no idea what to buy her. I've been to shops all over the country, I've even gone to Canada, Scotland, England, France, Germany, China, Japan...nothing! Nothing looks *right* for her. I've looked at *everything*...none of it fits Chloe. Fits.."

"How you feel?" Jonathan supplied with a sympathetic look.

"Yes!" His son exclaimed with an exaggerated gesture. "That's it exactly. Nothing *fits*!"

Pushing away from the railing, he moved up to sit next to the younger man. Jonathan was silent for a long moment then, chuckled. "I remember the first Christmas I spent with your mother. We hadn't been dating long but I was bound and determined to find her the perfect Christmas gift. I must have looked *everywhere*. I was convinced it had to be some fancy, extravagant present. Something that'd prove just how much she meant to me."

"So what'd you buy?"

"Nothing." Martha answered from the stairs, smiling up at them.

"Nothing?" Clark frowned in confusion, looking from one parent to the other. "Dad? What did you get her? Nothing?"

Jonathan laughed. "No, son, I did give your mother a gift, I just didn't give her one I'd bought in any store."

"He didn't." His wife agreed, sitting down next to her husband and resting her head on his shoulder. "But what he gave me was actually better than anything he could have bought in *any* store." She shared a secretive smile with her husband.

"Well?" Curious, Clark leaned forward. "What was it?"

"The gift itself...that was a quilt that was made by your grandmother. I'd complained about the draft in my dorm room," Martha blushed deeply despite the innocuous wording, "but it wasn't just the gift, Clark, it was *how* he gave it."

"What'd you do, Dad?"

Jonathan cleared his throat, as uncomfortable as his wife. "Well, son, that, uh, that's not exactly relevant. What I did for your mother...that was for your mother...it might not fit Chloe."

"Your father's right, Clark. The gift you give Chloe, not to mention the *way* you give it...it has to be something specifically for her." Smiling at her son, Martha added, "Try not to think too much about it. The idea will come to you when the time is right...don't try and force it."

-*-*-*-*-*-

"Try not to force it, she says..." Muttering to himself, Superman strained against the weight of the 747, holding it in the air. "The idea will come to you when the time is right, Christmas is next week, if the time gets anymore right I'm going to be right in thick of it."

The wind pushed against his face but he was oblivious as he flew into Dulles, still grumbling about mothers, girlfriends and Christmas gifts.

Christmas was supposed to be a time of joy and peace, not extreme aggravation and stress. But, it seemed, it was nothing but this time around.

Setting the plane down on the runway, oblivious to the cheers of the grateful passengers, the superhero exhaled heavily. "I'm starting to think the Grinch had the right idea..."
 
-*-*-*-*-*-

Letting himself into the apartment, Clark pulled off his coat and boots. Ever Martha Kent's son, he left both on a mat to dry out then walked down the steps into the main room. The sounds of splashing water and an off key Christmas carol told him Chloe was home from work and enjoying a shower while the pile of gifts now at the base of the Christmas tree said she'd managed to finish her shopping.
Giving in to curiosity, he squinted, trying to look through the wrapping paper.

"Lead?!"

"Lex was kind enough have some made for me." Chloe's smug voice preceded her entrance into the room. "The paper has a extremely thin layer of lead running through it. Just enough to foil any over-actively curious supergeeks with X-Ray vision."

"I am not a gee...yowwwww...." Turning to face his girlfriend, Clark's protest morphed into a silent stare at the sight of her wrapped in an entirely too small towel, skin glistening with moisture in the soft tree lights. "Umm...Chlo'....you look..."
 
"Like I stepped out of a playboy video...in fact, it's probably one of your friend Wally's favorites." She grinned, enjoying the look on his face. Walking closer, she stretched up to kiss him, deliberately lingering. "Your mom warned me that you have a little impulse control when it comes to presents and peeking. Speaking of your mom, how was your visit home?"
 
"Enlightening...and totally frustrating." Clark tugged her into his arms. "Not that I don't appreciate the view but..."

"Why the porn star look?" Chloe lifted a brow, her eyes mischievous.

"Umm...yes, exactly."

She smiled wryly. "Well, somebody left all the bath towels covered in mud on the bathroom floor - can't imagine who that was."

His cheeks turned red. "Oops. Sorry about that. Mudslide in Mongolia...it got kind of messy."

"Y'think?" She countered, grin widening. "So, was everyone okay?"

"Mmhmm..." Clark brushed his lips against her forehead. "Perfectly fine."

A sigh escaped her lips and she tilted her head, encouraging him.

Never one to ignore encouragement, he kissed her, hand sliding around her body to find the edge of the towel.

Abruptly, Chloe pulled away, saving the towel and shaking a finger at him. "Oh no you don't, buster."

"Don't what?" Clark countered as innocently as he could.

"Try to distract me. You know full well that we're having dinner at Lex's tonight. No way we can postpone again." She mock-glared at him as she finished her statement.

He held up his hands. "Hey, it's not my fault Air Force One was attacked or that a cruise ship sank."
 
"Excuses, excuses," Chloe dismissed, sauntering back into the bedroom. "You just hate putting on a suit....which, considering that *other* suit you wear...is kind of ridiculous."

"I don't hate wearing a suit!" He protested, following her into the room, watching as she toweled dry and pulled on a robe.

"Yes you do." Sitting down, she unwrapped her hair and reached for her hairdryer. "It's either that or you're dreading meeting Lex's new girlfriend." She looked over her shoulder. "Am I right?"

Clark grinned. "I'm not dreading it, Chlo'...but you know Lex. He's been so enigmatic..."

"That you're expecting what? A third eye? Maybe an evil mutation? A world domination plot to be launched during dessert?" She snickered at the aggravated _expression. "Though, given Lex's history with women...you never know..."

He threw a pillow at her and she knocked it aside, sticking her tongue out at him to which Clark smirked. "Promises, promises."

"You wish flyboy," Chloe shot back smartly. "Now, be a good superhero and go get a shower while I lay out your suit, K?"

And that, as Clark well knew, was the end of that.

-*-*-*-*-*-

As it turned put, Lex's new girlfriend was a rather lovely young woman and definitely not insane. Likewise, she wasn't planning to take over the world or steal Lex's fortune as she had a rather healthy inheritance of her own. By the grin Chloe sent his way when she was being introduced, Clark fully expected to be tortured throughout the evening but, fortunately, fate intervened by having the two women immediately hit it off. Before long, they were sitting in the living room while Chloe regaled the other woman with stories of Lex's misspent youth in Smallville while Clark and Lex made a hasty retreat to safer territory...namely Lex's study.

Once there, Lex poured them both a drink and then turned to look at his old friend with a speculative expression. "So...your Mom mentioned you were having trouble finding Chloe a Christmas gift?"

Clark groaned and closed his eyes. "Please tell me she didn't call you..."

"She didn't." His friend assured, hiding a grin. "But she did mention it when I stopped by your parents' place on my way back to Metropolis."

"My parents' place *isn't* on the way to Metropolis..." Clark pointed out suspiciously.

"It is when you need to go over an order for the Christmas party you're planning. Your mother is in charge of the desserts and I wanted to double-check a few things. While I was there, she brought it up." Lex settled into his favorite chair and sipped his drink. "Think of anything yet?"

"I have an idea on the setting but no, not the gift." With a heavy sigh, Clark added. "Do you have any suggestions?"

With a slow smile, Lex nodded once. "I might."

-*-*-*-*-*-*-

"Chloe..."

At the soft whisper of her name, the journalist mumbled a sleepy "G'way..." before rolling over beneath the blankets, burrowing down.

Persistently, the voice spoke again. This time, it was louder, more insistent. "Chloe...wake up."

"No." She insisted just as stubbornly, pulling the blankets closer around her body.

Clark sighed and reached for the blankets, swiftly pulling them out of her reach. "Yes."

She rolled over and peered groggily through her disheveled hair. "So dead, Kent. You're so dead."

He grinned. "Uh huh...now, get up..."

"Exactly why would I want to do that at," she squinted at the clock, "6 AM!"

Grin widening, he picked her up into his arms and carried her to the bathroom, depositing her in the shower. "Because."

Folding her arms across her chest, Chloe glared at him, fully awake now thanks to the water beating down on her body, soaking the t-shirt she'd slept in. "Because what?"

Grin turning megawatt, Clark carefully edged backward. "I said so."

A zip of superspeed carried him beyond her physical reach but not the oath she called after his retreating form.

With a sigh of resignation, Chloe stripped off her now-sodden t-shirt and turned to face the cascading water. Clark was clearly up to something and, as reluctant as she was to admit it...she couldn't help but be curious as to what it was.

-*-*-*-*-*-

Emerging from the bathroom, she was surprised to find Clark standing in the main room with his uniform on, a wetsuit in his hands. "Put this on." He instructed, grinning at her confused look.

"Clark...it's December...the harbor's a little cold for swimming, don't you think?"

"Who said anything about swimming?" He countered enigmatically. "Just put it on, you'll need it where we're going."

"And where *are* we going?" She prompted, sliding into the article of clothing as instructed.

"You'll see that when we get there."

He helped her zip it up then he held her close against him, tucking her against the line of his body. "Hold on." He instructed, and then they were in the air.

Securely tucked against him, Chloe ventured a few peeks over his shoulder, watching the city of Metropolis receding as they raced away from it. She tried to follow the direction they were heading in, looking for familiar landmarks to testify to their location but they were simply moving too fast. She closed her eyes, fighting back the vertigo the dizzying sights had caused, pressing her face against his neck. It was surreal, logically she knew Clark's abilities were caused by the effect of Earth's sun on his alien biology but instinctively part of her rebelled against the idea. Clark looked and acted human. Humans weren't supposed to fly yet here they were and she had every confidence in the world he would never let her fall. Surreal.

She giggled a little, excitement getting the better of her. Unlike her cousin, who habitually seemed to need saving, she rarely seemed to be able to be with Clark like this. Flying for flying's sake. She'd forgotten how much sheer *fun* it was...

When Clark's hand suddenly grasped the back of her head and held her close to him, his other arm closing around her waist, she knew something was happening but yet she still wasn't prepared for the sudden shock of their descent into freezing cold water. Arctic cold.

Despite her confidence in him, she felt panic rise at the realization they were underwater without any apparent means of breathing for her. Clark, she knew, had the ability to hold his breath for far longer than any human being ever could, so great was his lung capacity, but she had no such ability and for one terrifying instant, she couldn't help thinking he might have forgotten that fact.

But just as quickly as the thought occurred to her, it was put to rest as their angle abruptly changed and they began to shoot back toward the surface.

Abruptly, they emerged from the water into a warm atmosphere and came to a stop, Clark slowly settling them down on a crystalline floor. He released her and reached out to pull the hood of the wetsuit free, releasing her hair. "Okay," he informed her with a grin, shaking the water from his cape. "We're here."

"And where exactly is the 'here' we've arrived at?" She asked, looking around with great curiosity.

He grinned wider, the grin of an excited boy sharing a cherished hideaway, and gave her a little push forward. "Look and see for yourself."

Tentatively, Chloe started forward one step at a time, her neck craning as she tried to see every angle at once. At first, it was just a giant hallway. Like a foyer, she assumed. Further along, further along she gasped in surprise. "Is this..." She turned so quickly she nearly fell over. "The Fortress?"

"Yeah." He nodded quickly. "You always wanted to see it so..." He grinned a little. "Merry Christmas."

Eyes wide with delight, she turned back to looking, rushing from one display to the next. "What is all this?" She questioned in excitement, a tentative finger tracing a control panel made of crystal. "How did it get here?"

"My father - Jor-El - he did this. Well, he programmed something to do this for me. I thought, when I destroyed the ship that I'd destroyed everything but I was wrong. There was a message of sorts on a piece of metal. I thought that's all it was but..." He gestured around. "It built this."

"How?"

Clark laughed. "It used things my family left here. My ancestors. My father wasn't the first from his family to come here and all of them...they left things they needed here. My father...he used all of them to make this." He took Chloe's hand and pulled her over to another console. "Look at this." Reaching out, he touched one crystal and the smooth surface before them wavered to form two faces. A couple. A slim, dark-haired young woman and a taller, equally dark-haired young man...

"He looks like you...your father?" Chloe looked from the picture to the man beside her.

He nodded once. "Jor-El." Despite himself, he reached out and brushed a hand along the surface, touching the woman's face. "And Lara...my mother."

Swallowing hard against surprising tears, she moved closer, looking intently at the lovely face. "She was beautiful...Do you..."

"Remember her? I didn't for a long time. I don't think I wanted to exactly...It would have felt like betraying my Mom but..." Clark paused, thinking. "Now...I don't remember *a lot* about her but, sometimes I think I can remember a woman singing and it's not Mom. It's not even English. Kryptonian I think. I think she sang to me sometimes, when I was a baby. I think."

"I think she did." Chloe agreed firmly, slipping her hand into Clark's, holding it tightly. "She looks like she did." They looked at the image for a long time, hand in hand, each lost in thought until she finally spoke again. "Clark?"

He looked down, almost surprised at her presence. "Hmm?"

"Thank you." It meant a lot, being allowed access to this part of his life. The part he kept tightly guarded from all comers. She couldn't think of anything else he could have done that would have meant as much. "Thank you for this..."

He turned, free hand brushing along her cheek, sliding into her hair. "Thank you." he murmured back, leaning down to kiss her.

"For what?" She murmured, looking into his eyes when he pulled back.

"For being you."

Finis

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