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Hell's Bells and African Violets

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Summary: Sequel to "Sidekick Time and a Half". Chloe, Clark, Xander, and Vi attend Lex and Lana's wedding.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Smallville > Xander-CenteredTobywolfFR715,317061,69114 Mar 0714 Mar 07Yes
Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel are property of 20th Century Fox, Joss Whedon, and Mutant Enemy. Smallville is property of Millar and Gough, Inc. and the WB/CW. I own nothing nor do I profit from this story.

Hell’s Bells and African Violets

The wedding reception was in full swing. The bride and groom were already at the center of the dance floor, lovingly wrapped around one another and dancing in time to some random Celine Dion song. Xander decided that if they ever needed to test Lana Lang for evil status, then her taste in music would be a sure warning sign. As far as he was concerned, evil in general had crap taste in music, or at least Spike and Angel had. He couldn’t stand The Sex Pistols or Barry Manilow and he was certainly ready to add “My Heart Will Go On” to the muzak selection in the ninth circle of Hell.

Glancing over to the left of the dance floor, he spied a gathering of two of the most important women on the planet to him. The redhead beamed with a sunny smile with a brightness that was only rivaled by the beautiful rainbow-patterned strapless dress she wore. But it was the blonde on her right that held his attention. Her smile was uncannily similar to the redhead’s, that same bright glow that just screamed happiness, but the way she looked in her dress was so much more alluring than the other girl. Beautiful and radiant were words he’d used to describe her on several occasions. The fact that she looked that way while wearing a tacky pink bow around her waist was a testament to the hotness of the Sullivan family gene pool.

Yup Vi and Chloe were both giggling happily with a taller girl and it was a sight for a sore eye, something one didn’t always get to see in the middle of demon-slaying and struggling through day-to-day life on the Savannah. How he adored his slayer and his new girlfriend. It was definitely a nice change of pace to be dating a non-demon. Of course, with her fiery temper and quick tongue, Chloe Sullivan wasn’t too different from Anya or Cordy.

Well, everyone had a type and it appeared bossy blondes were his.

Smiling to himself, Xander took a deep swig of beer and set three more bottles down on the table in front of him. “Trust me. These things make the wedding reception better.”

Clark Kent looked down at the assembled alcohol and back up at him. His glower was nothing short of impressive, would have been the best Xander had ever seen if not for his long-time forced association with Angel. “You know I can’t get drunk.”

“If you ever want to test that theory, I know a guy who brews a mean Black Forest mix that can have everyone questing for fire.”


“Never underestimate the power of enchanted hops. Besides, even if you can’t take the edge off, you can at least go through the motions. Something about having a cold bottle in your hand that just makes the world a little easier.”

“That’s a healthy attitude.”

“The Harris clan might be a little too good with the comfort through malted beverages, I’ve done more than my share once in a while, but you seriously need to enjoy yourself.”

Clark frowned deeper and Xander moved the bottles a little out of the Kryptonian’s line of sight. If he was just going to melt down the glass or something, than Xander would drink the beers for him. No need to waste it. “How am I supposed to enjoy myself? The girl I’m in love with is now officially Mrs. Luthor.”

“Granted,” Xander said, handing him the bottle of Guinness, “that sucks, but it’s not like it’s the end of the world. Trust me. I’ve seen over a dozen Apocalypses and, hey, who knew there was a plural for that?”

“Point taken,” Clark admitted, finally staking a swig of his beer and grimacing when he did it. Invulnerability a slayer would kill for and the kid couldn’t stand a little bitterness with his brew. Heh.

“Besides, this wedding stuff is not all it’s cracked up to be.”

“You would know.”

“Actually,” Xander added, taking another swig and reaching under the table. “I would. I almost got married once. It sort of came out as this huge mess what with the demon crashing it and the pseudo futuristic visions of wife-murdering and then I heard there was a riot that broke out.”

“You heard?”

“I sort of got cold feet and left her at the altar. Worst decision I ever made, by the way. Not the not-marrying her. We weren’t ready for that kind of commitment. It’s just I should have figured all of it out before the actual ceremony you know?”

“You don’t say, and this makes me feel better how?”

“Like this,” Xander said, plopping down a handful of wedding guides that Chloe had managed to sneak out of Lana’s bedroom (apparently Lex and Lana had always had separate bedrooms even though she’d been living with him for almost eight months. That was weird even by Hellmouth standards. He and Anya had been living together for over a year before their not-quite-wedding.).

Clark frowned at what, on first glance, might have been a copy of the New York City phonebook, but with more pictures of flowers in it. “What’s that?”

“This, my friend, is the reason why you’re glad you aren’t Lex Luthor.” He answered, thumbing through the pages of bouquet options. There were twenty that had at least been dog-eared, all with pictures of violets or irises or other combinations of purple flowers he’d never seen before. “Lana’s been a busy beaver.”

Clark frowned deeper (if he had more than that one facial expression, Xander would eat his eye patch) and held the book up closer. “Aren’t these all the same?”

“No, my friend, that’s where you’re wrong. Each one of these is slightly different: a different quality of lace, distinct shading of the flowers, a unique combination of posies and baby’s breath in the background. Not a one the same.”

Clark squinted and turned back and forth between two pages. “Nope, I’m pretty sure they’re the same.”

Xander, mindful enough of secrecy due to his years as head African Watcher, lowered his voice to barely a whisper. “So much for superior eyesight, and yay for me. Anya always complained when I couldn’t tell the difference between like egg shell and cream. If superdude over here can’t do it---“

Clark lowered the book and glared at him. “Please don’t call me that.”

“Too So Cal for you? I can see that. Don’t worry. I’ll figure out something to call you. It might not be as genius as ‘Dead Boy’ or ‘G-man,’ but it’ll be good.”

“Uh, thanks.”

“Anyway, keep flipping through those pictures. Now imagine months and months of those pictures being the only thing you look at. Imagine doilies and napkins and silverware that all look the same to you because hey, guy here, but to your fiancé are important life-and-death choices. You’ve never experienced boring until then.”

“I see.”

“Exactly, so Lex spent months on this minutia.”

“He has like eight secretaries.”

“But do you have eight secretaries?”

He bit his lip, considering his options. “I have a mom and a Chloe.”

“Yeah, I see Chloe helping out with wedding arrangements between you and Lana right after Buffy starts giving guided tours of the Hellmouth and I start dating vampires.”

“Alright, but I figured if that happened my mom and her aunt and Lana would have figured all this stuff out.”

“And Anya had four different bridesmaids.” He said, shaking his head and pushing his bangs off of his forehead. “Nope. When it comes down to all that really boring detaily stuff, they actually want your opinion on it. Of course, they only want your opinion if it agrees with theirs, so…” Xander shrugged and took another swig.

Clark shut the book and set it down. “Okay, well I guess that part of the wedding would have sucked.”

“Trust me. It does suck.”

“Okay, but it still doesn’t make me feel any better that I’m not the guy she’s married to now.”

“And is that because of deep down, soulmates, sell-a-Hallmark card love or because you can’t stand Lex?”

Clark blinked. (Xander grudgingly had to add “confusion” to the other man’s list of facial expressions.) “What do you mean?”

“Do you really want to be with Lana or is it that you can’t stand the idea that she’d married to the big bald evil?”

“Well, the first one, obviously?”

“Really? Like really-really?”

“Did anyone ever tell you that you were annoying?”

“Only the tweed brigade’s finest and Spike, but I think a lot of your problem comes from who she’s married to.”

“Yeah right.”

“Seriously. I had the biggest crush on the head slayer, Buffy.”

“You’ve mentioned her once or twice.”

“Yup, she does tend to become the center of attention. Either way, I ended up falling in love with other girls along the way but in high school, I really had a hard time getting past the whole unrequited bit with her.”

“Lana actually wants to date me.”

Xander shrugged. “Slight difference. But the thing that made me most possessive of her was her first boyfriend, which is pretty much a misnomer because the guy was a vamp for one thing and he was two-hundred and fifty years old when they, um, put on the Barry White and hopped between the sheets, you know?”

“Now I do.”

“So besides the superfun and the statutory part of it all, the guy was just a dick. This older, suave, worldly kind of guy that you so can’t compete with and then, just like I saw coming, he turns out to be a total psychopath.”

Clark raised his bottle to Xander and took another swig, almost managing to suppress his grimace. “That’s part of it. Stupid suave older guys with too much money…”

“…and creepy-ass mansions.”

“Exactly. This vamp---“

“Angel,” Xander supplied.

“He couldn’t have been any worse than Lex.”

“Scourge of Europe. Guy earned his own nickname for eating half the continent. We’re talking huge time evil and then he tried to end the world. Didn’t work but he got real close.”

“Okay, so maybe he’s a little worse than Lex, but Lex already has his own evil mutant army and he’s done all sorts of evil things.”

“Murdering Europe.”

“He’s only 26.”

Xander nodded. “Well there’s something to shoot for. Either way, if it were some other guy marrying Lana, like let’s say Fred down the street who runs the hardware store or whatever, you probably wouldn’t feel so bad. Part of this is you just know this is all going to end badly but she doesn’t want to listen to you or to reason and whatcha gonna do?”

“Maybe you do get some of it,” Clark admitted, draining his bottle and reaching for another one. “This still sucks.”

“Eloquence isn’t your strong suit is it?”

“Chloe’s more the writer than me and journalism isn’t exactly Shakespeare.”

“Point. Alright, so I’ve shown you how much fun planning a wedding isn’t and we’ve both come to realize that beautiful girls make really shitty romance decisions and seemed to be oddly attracted to sociopaths. That’s two parts off of my checklist.”

“You have a checklist?”

“Chloe made me a checklist. She wanted me to try cheering you up. It’s been her pet project for months since the whole engagement announcement and she wasn’t making any progress.” Honestly, Xander felt really sorry for his girlfriend. There were easier things she could try doing instead of getting Clark Kent to smile and forget about Lana Lang. Chief among them would be getting peace declared in the Middle East and discovering formulas for nuclear fission. Oh, and making an adaptation of a comic book movie that didn’t completely suck.

“Oh,” Clark said, picking at the imaginary lint on the table (Lex was far too important to have anything but the very best at his wedding). “I hadn’t realized how much I’d been getting to her.”

Oh, he’d been getting to Chloe a lot, and a lesser guy would have been threatened by the way Chloe worried about him. Xander was not a lesser guy. Maybe he wasn’t all cool and superpowered out like everyone he knew, but he wasn’t the insecure Zeppo anymore either. He and Chloe got each other; both knew what it was like to be the sounding board for a superhero, although maybe he could make a little profit if he set up a little booth like Lucy from the Peanuts comic strip and started charging five cents for psychiatric help. If he had a nickel for every time Buffy called him for advice, well he’d definitely be able to afford that new crossbow he’d been eying (depth perception be damned). Still the point was even the sidekick could get tired of trying to give the hero a kick in the ass.

“Yeah, this brooding thing? Not that sexy.” Xander said, grimacing when he realized how he’d phrased it. “Okay, let’s back track with the awkward. The brooding thing is about to drive Chloe nuts and I don’t think even you’d survive her when she gets cranky.”

Clark flinched and Xander grinned. Yup, he’d worked with Vi for almost five years now but this just confirmed his suspicions that the Sullivan gene pool was full of, well maybe not sharks, but very tough girls to be sure. “Alright, so what do you advise?”

“I do happen to know a pair of beautiful cousins with nothing better to do than hang out with us.”

Clark frowned again (an expression Xander was getting used to seeing). “Vi and I…we aren’t like that.”

“I hope not.”


“Sorry, but I have strict rules on who my girls can date.”

Clark’s grip tightened around the neck of the beer bottle and Xander took time to marvel at the fact that it hadn’t shattered yet. “Because I’m not human.”

Xander resisted the urge to roll his eyes. There was no way he was going to adopt that habit even if he did live with a pack of teen-age girls. “No because you mope too much. My girls are already too involved in life and death struggles without someone else’s mopes bringing them down. You realize that a sense of humor is one of your late developing abilities and we’ll talk.”

“Gee, thanks.”

He shrugged. “Don’t mention it. I’ve got one girl dating a wereleopard right now and there’s a girl in Cleveland who’s bonded with Clem over a love of bad eighties television and Cheetos.”


“Not as attractive as yours truly or even you. He has this skin flap thing going on, but he’s really nice and makes a great babysitter.”

“Okay then.”

“Exactly,” Xander added, pushing up from the table and waiting for Clark to do the same. “Do you wanna see the girls or not?”

They found Vi, Chloe, and a third girl still huddled in a corner gossiping to each other. Stealing up behind Chloe, Xander wrapped his arms around her waist and gave her a quick peck on the cheek. “How you doing there gorgeous?”

“Smooth,” Vi commented, giving her Watcher a wink. “Real smooth.”

“Yeah, it would take a miracle to look attractive in this purple monstrosity,” the taller girl added, yanking at her bow which refused to tear off. “Damn superior stitching.”

“Well, it is only for a few more hours and then we can burn the dress, or we can save it for next time Lex gets married. I’ve already started a pool on how long it will take Lana to go homicidal and try and off him for his money.”

“Chlo!” Clark said, shaking his head. “That’s not very nice.”

“It’s a pretty small pool and I’m mostly joking. Come on, though, you have to admit that Lex collects black widows, like I collect Wall of Weird clippings.”

Xander laughed and gave her another quick kiss before the taller girl’s glare made him back off. Gulping in a quick breath, he held out his hand, “Xander Harris. I work with Vi and, um, I’m Chloe’s date.”

The other girl looked him straight in the eye and Xander was impressed. She was a good bit taller than Vi or even Dawnie. Of course, hanging out with Buffy tended to skew his perception of height quite a bit. Shaking his hand in a grip that reminded him of his long ago impromptu military training, she said, “Lois Lane.”

He nodded. “You’re their cousin.”

“Yup, my mom was a Sullivan too. So what kind of work do you and Vi do. I mean, how many jobs pair a twenty-two years old and a seventeen year old together?”

Great, not awkward at all. “I teach at the school Vi was accepted to. I, um, do a lot of field work.”

“Because she’s in Africa now.”

“Yup and Africa has tons of fields.” Vi and Chloe both rolled their eyes. Okay, so maybe lying wasn’t the Scooby Council’s strong point. “Vi is also one of our best language students, except for Arabic.” He added, winking at her as she blushed.

Chloe linked an arm around his. “I don’t think her last effort at translating worked out that badly. So,” she added, turning to Clark. “You and Xander have a good time drinking?”

“Yeah, it was the best time ever. I’ve completely forgotten about Lana, what with her front and center and under a spotlight.” Sadly that last part was not hyperbole and Xander couldn’t decide whether it was what Chloe had insisted was Lex’s flare for the dramatic and need to taunt Clark or Lana’s own self-involvement that had made an actually spotlight a crucial part of the wedding plans.

“Touche, Smallville.” Lois added, smirking. “It’s not like you couldn’t have been the one to ask her first.”

“Not helping.” Chloe snapped. “Anyway, Vi and I were working on a surprise for you. If you boys would care to come to the coat room, we can show it to you.”

“This isn’t the type of surprise that involves you defiling my baby cousins, is it, Smallville and other guy, because if it is, I have to remind everyone here that I’m a black belt.”

“It’s Xander,” Vi chimed in.


Right then Xander decided that the Lane side of the family must be very unpleasant. He loved both the Sullivans in their own ways but Lois grated on his nerves. In fact, with all her bravado and self-importance, she reminded him of Kennedy. Judging by the constipated look on Clark’s face, he was willing to bet that the other guy felt the same way about her.

“No, Lois. No one’s going to do anything to anybody.” Clark said.

“Like you’d even have a shot with my cousins.” Lois said, shaking her head. “We have taste.”

“Hey!” Clark defended.

Xander couldn’t help smirking a little. At least Lois had figured out that tall, dark, and mopey was not a look that was going to work for Vi and he hoped considering he was the current boyfriend it didn’t actually work for Chloe either. “Nope, scout’s honor, just a little rendezvous in coat room and everything else will be fine.”

“Alright, well I’m going to go check on Mrs. Kent and make sure she hasn’t killed Aunt Nell yet.” Lois said, stepping across the dance floor.

“So off to the closet.” Chloe said, smirking up at them both.

Okay, so traditionally, Xander would be all for a game of seven minutes in the closet or something similar, especially if his accomplice in that particular game were Chloe Sullivan. However, he really wouldn’t want to do anything unWatcherly in front of Vi and having Clark there would be a whole world of no. But he’d known from the beginning that that wasn’t what they were going there to do.

“Wow,” Vi said, twisting around in the expanse of the coat closet. “Why do you need chandeliers in this place again?”

“To show off how rich you are,” Clark grumbled. “This place is bigger than the whole second floor of my house.”

“And the Daily Planet basement.” The two of them turned to Vi and Xander, waiting for their take on it.

Vi shrugged. “It’s smaller than the weapons closet, but we’re really well-stocked.”

“Okay then,” Clark said, rocking back and forth on the balls of his feet. “So what are we doing here?”

“This,” Chloe said, pulling out her mascara and grinning as Vi did the same.

“Yeah, cross dressing would not make me feel better, Chlo.”

“Take off your jacket and roll up your sleeves.” Chloe said.

“Well that’s not exactly where I expected this to go.”

“You’ll see,” Xander said, already de-coated and holding out a bare arm to Vi, trying not to laugh as the brush tickled his arm.

“I thought that was mascara.” Clark said. Clearly Kryptonians weren’t that quick on the uptake.

“It’s for a little spell.” Vi said, glancing over to where Chloe had started painting Clark’s arm and nodding her approval. “One of the few good things Angel ever did was give us this protection spell. If you have the right symbols on, no one notices you. It’s not invisibility as such but it makes people ignore you and security cameras can’t pick you up.”

“We’re looting Lex’s?”

Chloe rolled her eyes and when she spoke her speech was very slow. “No, Clark. But we are going to have a little fun.”

After a few seconds, Xander took the brush from Chloe and started painting the identical symbols across her forearm. Secretly, he wished he’d been able to convince her that it worked best when spread across a person’s chest but if he tried that and Vi ratted him out, he could be in a serious amount of pain. From Clark and Lois and maybe Chloe too. Of course, then again, maybe Chloe would encourage non-magical groping later in the evening. He’d have to put that on his list of things to do. Chloe giggled a bit when the brush ran over her elbow joint but managed to maintain a more-or-less straight face throughout the rest of the proceedings. Turning, Xander quickly finished tattooing Vi and the four were ready to head out.

“Are you sure this is even going to work?” Clark grumbled as they headed down the hallway.

“Positive. I’ve known girls to use it to sneak in after curfew and everything.” Vi added, quickly amending her statement when Xander stared at her, saying, “Not that I’ve ever used it that way, but trust me, no one is going to know you were ever here.” As she finished her statement, she hitched her bright yellow purse over her shoulder and Xander could hear the tinkling of bottles inside.

“So where are we going?” Clark asked.

“Master bedroom.” Chloe supplied. “Not Lana’s but Lex’s. You still remember where that is, don’t you?”

Xander tried very hard to stifle his laughter but something akin to a giggle made its way past his lips. “Is there something you want to share with the rest of us?”

Clark narrowed his eyebrows and Xander reminded himself that he didn’t want to be flambéed where he stood. “We used to be best friends and I got to hang around here a lot. Do you have a problem with that?” Realizing that he rather enjoyed having his bones not ground into powder, Xander just nodded. “Good then. It’s up the stairwell and to the direct left.”

A few minutes of silent sneaking and the four of them had made their way up to Lex’s master bathroom. Vi was still straining her neck looking up at all the gaudy artwork and murals spreading across the ceiling. It reminded Xander of some of the renaissance paintings Willow and Buffy had dragged him to see in Rome as part of cultural education, maybe something like “The School of Athens” maybe. Xander’s bathroom back in Nairobi was pretty simple with a shower, a sink, and a toilet, plus one rubber duck. In contrast, the bathroom was as equally monstrous in size as the rest of the house. There was a massive marble Jacuzzi with what looked like gold filigree around the edges and triple sinks and a steam closet/shower.

Xander so had to get Giles to expand the definition of what he considered a necessity for the Council.

On top of the sinks’ counter were more bottles of product and bath gels than Xander had seen at the Sunnydale Salon the few times he’d been dragged their by his mother during middle school in her vein attempts to do something with his unruly hair. Thankfully, she’d given up on that in high school and he’d gone to Floyd the barber ever since for his semi-monthly ten dollar hair cut.

Vi let out a low whistle. “That’s sure a lot of everything.”

Chloe shifted through the labels. “Bath gel, anti-wrinkle cream, moisturizer. Heh, good thing Lex never had any hair or he’d need a whole new bathroom for the collection of shampoo.”

“Yup,” Vi agreed, removing her own bottle from her purse and setting them on the lip of the bed. “Alright, Chloe, found it yet?”

Her cousin nodded, picking up a large purple-tinted glass bottle with a crystal stopper. “One almost empty bottle of moisturizer. Hmm, I know this brand. Ollie has it too and it costs more than I make in a month per ounce. Oh, Lex definitely has this as a must have.”

“What exactly are we doing again?” Clark asked, watching as Vi mixed the contents of her three bottles into one glass. The solution formed took on the consistency of cold cream.

“We are adding a little zest to honeymoon.” Chloe added.

“That’s not like magical stuff to turn him into a frog or something is it.”

“No, but Wills could supply that if you like. What we have here is a solution that’s completely organic. Dawnie and a thankfully dead perxoided menace came up with it once to ‘help’ me on job interviews.” Xander said, shaking his head at the memory of trying to impress hardened construction workers with his experience and maturity when his skin color matched a shade roughly described as “Barney the Dinosaur.”


God, Clark really was dense, maybe Chloe had fallen for Xander instead because of his brains. After all, he was a Watcher. “It’s a dye. I don’t know how Dawnie figured it out, but she did. Nothing gets it off---turpentine, paint thinner, desperate prayers to your favorite deity. It lasts for a whole week.”

“We’re going to dye Lex?”

“It’s not like he hasn’t earned it,” Chloe said. “Besides, it’s going to make the honeymoon pictures very memorable.”

“This is wrong,” Clark said, as he took the glass from Vi’s hands and carefully added it to the mixture already in the glass vial. “So very, very wrong.”

“And yet, you’re still adding it.” His slayer pointed out.

“I can be allowed to be petty. I’m only human,” Clark said, giving Chloe a wink.

Xander decided there were few better ways to spend a day than having one’s arms around a cute blond. There was, of course, hours of imaginative role-play sex with Anya or the satisfaction from saving the world or even the thrill of a challenging staking, but there might not be any feeling better than dancing with Chloe Sullivan in his arms.

His girl looked up at him, her grin spreading wider than it had even earlier in the evening. “So minus the mandatory chicken dance, YMCA, and Macarena, it’s been a pretty good night.”

“Yeah,” he added looking over to where Vi and Clark were also dancing. It was a polite gesture on his slayer’s part, and the two of them stood with a bit of distance between them, Clark’s hands wrapped awkwardly around her waist. Still, it was cute and the other guy managed to go for several seconds at a time without even looking at Lana. That was some marginal progress. “They’re kind of cute.”

“I think it was a good plan to have her be the plus-one.” Chloe said, giggling. “Only a slayer would be able to survive having Clark step on their feet repeatedly.”

“Some reasons to be glad you two aren’t dating.”

She nodded. “You’re pretty good.”

“Anya insisted on lessons before the wedding. Besides, I have been known to go Bronzing since I was fourteen.”


“The coolest nightclub in Sunnydale, also the only nightclub in Sunnydale.”

“Oh,” She said, leaning back against his shoulder.

“That and I can step a mean soft shoe.” She looked up long enough to arch an inquisitive eyebrow at him. He shrugged. “Sunnydale is a weird place.”

“You haven’t seen anything yet.”

Xander looked back to where his slayer’s quick reflexes were the only thing keeping her from being trampled by the only Kryptonian on the planet. Maybe he hadn’t seen everything yet. “Still, this is nice. A little prank here, a cute girl wearing pink bows there.”

“Don’t remind me about the bows. I am going to have to find the worst bridesmaid’s dresses ever to repay Lana for her kindness.”

“Try burlap and blood larva.”


“Well it is traditional among demons.”

“I was thinking something in the chartreuse family. Never purple. Anything purple would look too good on her.”

Xander bent down and gave her a quick kiss on the lips. “I think the purple looks pretty good on you too.”

“Keep sweet talking like that and I’ll have to find some place else to spend the night besides Lois’s couch.” She said, smirking up at him and Xander felt the blood rush to his place to other areas farther south. “There’s only one thing that’s going to ruin this perfect a day.”

“What’s that?”

“I’m actually going to have to read The Inquisitor.”

Two days later, Xander, Chloe, Vi, and Clark all sat down at a well-worn table at The Talon. Sipping her coffee and practically bouncing in her seat, Chloe pulled out a newspaper from behind her back. “Read it.”

“The Inquisitor, huh?” Clark said, frowning. (It wasn’t an angry or depressed frown though. Xander had begun spending enough time around the other man to be able to categorize his frowns. The slight twist in his lower left lip indicated confusion.) “I thought you never read this stuff.”

“I read Lois’s articles to be supportive.”

“And to make fun of her.” Vi added, “I have the e-mails to prove it.”

“There is that too.” Chloe conceded. “But feast your eyes on Cat Grant’s latest gossip column headline.”

Clark pulled the paper from her hands and flattened it out on the table, reading the headline for everyone to hear. “‘A Billionaire of a Different Color.’ Huh, you think they could do a little better than that.”

“That’s why it’s The Inquisitor,” Chloe said.

Xander shook his head and grinned down at the picture of Lex on his way into the Louvre. It was a nice attempt at covering himself up, but even with the dark glasses and the hat, the world’s most famous (retired) billionaire playboy was instantly recognizable. As was his bride. “Huh,” he added, frowning a little himself, “I guess purple really isn’t Lana’s color.”

Apparently, they’d both shared in the moisturizing cream surprise and both of the Parisian-bound newly weds’ skin was as purple as an African violet (or less poetically, Barney the Dinosaur).

Clark folded back up the paper but couldn’t suppress the first genuine grin Xander had ever seen him give. “I guess not.”

The End

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