Rubbing her face with her hands, Lana tried ineffectively to wake herself up. 3 cups of coffee had made little difference and neither had trying to keep herself so busy that she wouldn't have time to feel tired. As a last resort, she had snuck out back for a while to try and get some peace and quiet before going back to work. Stretching her arms above her head, she yawned loudly.
"Well, I'd like to say that things seem better...."
Lana span around in her seat in surprise, simultaneously embarrassed, at being caught in the middle of such an ungraceful yawn and irritated at being interrupted on her break. That was until she saw who it was that had found her. Of course she should have known that mocking tone.
"Lex. I didn't hear you come in-" She slid out of her chair and quickly stood up -"I was just taking a break, we weren't that busy...." Lex had been smiling at her with amused sympathy but it faded to a look of concern as she trailed off and went very pale. He took a small step towards her.
"Lana? Are you alright?" Lana reached out to grasp the back of her recently vacated chair, feeling light headed and not in a good way.
"I'm okay Lex, I think I just stood up too quickly."
Even as she spoke she could feel her legs begin to buckle beneath her, her vision blurred and she felt herself drop. Lex acted quickly, rushing forward, and she felt his strong arms encircling her, holding her against him, stopping her falling to the floor. Lana was surprisingly light and Lex easily manoeuvred her into the nearest chair, which happened to be one with very large, comfy cushions.
"It's alright Lana, I've got you."
Lex laid his palm against her cheek, smoothed her hair back out of the way and looked into her eyes. Usually, he would have grinned at how out of it she looked, how unlike Lana, but right now he was too concerned about her to notice that she didn`t look her best. Looking back at him, even in her present state, Lana could see how worried he was. Lifting her head slightly she managed a very weak smile.
Lex shook his head in disbelief. "You have a very loose definition of the word okay, Lana. Remind me that it's your way of saying "I think I'm going to pass out."" He added sarcastically, but with his usual smirk to take any sting out of it. Lana looked at him sternly and sat up straight, mistakenly believing she was recovered. "Lex, I did not pass out. I just felt a little bit...." Lex watched the colour drain once again from her little face and softly guided her back against the cushions. "Light headed?" He provided helpfully, smiling at Lana as she turned and gave him a small, grateful smile. "Yes." Closing her eyes, Lana leant her head back and took in slow, deep breaths and it felt completely right when Lex moved to sit next to her on the chair, she lent her head on his shoulder and he laid his hand reassuringly on her forehead, his thumb softly stroking her skin. They sat for a moment in silence, Lex watching as the colour began returning to her face whilst Lana enjoyed the cooling sensation of his hand on her forehead. "How are you feeling?" Lex asked quietly. Lana opened her eyes and very slowly turned her head to look up at him. He was looking at her with quiet concern, with no trace of his usual self confidence or amusement and it made his face look strangely soft. And slightly boyish, Lana noticed with a small smile. "Better. I'm sorry about this..."
He shook his head, returning her smile. "There is nothing for you to be sorry about, Lana. And there's no need to thank me either, if that's what you were about to do." He teased lightly but Lana' brow furrowed into a delicate frown.
"This is all we ever seem to do, Lex,-" she was looking up at him sadly and Lex had to fight the urge to wrap his arms round her and offer her comfort "-I succeed in messing up my life, once again, and you come along and pick up the pieces. You do so much for me, Lex, but what do I ever do for you?" Lana watched in fascination as Lex tilted his head and smiled at her, not one of his usual not-really-smiling-smiles but a genuine one, full of warmth. Illogically it made Lana feel like she'd achieved something very special.
"That's what's so special about you, Lana, you don't even know the effect you have on people. Sure, the impact I have on your life might be something tangible, something you can see and touch, but it's only superficial. With you, it's different. Your friendship has made me believe in myself. You saw promise in something that everyone else thought was past redemption. Never doubt how highly I value that, Lana."
He'd looked at her, and spoken, in such uncharacteristic earnest that Lana knew that Lex desperately wanted her to understand that he did the things he did for her because she cared for him, and he felt he had to be grateful for that. However, Lana felt a twinge of guilt. He didn't have to be grateful. Surely he knew by now that her friendship was unconditional, that he deserved to be her friend simply for being himself? And Superficial? Was that really how Lex saw the effect he had on her life? He had looked away from her whilst all these thoughts played through Lana' mind but turned back when she softly spoke his name and placed her hand on his arm.
"I couldn't have done half the things I have these past two years without you Lex. Your the only one who's managed to see the real me, and you've helped me get on with my life. Obviously, I'm not the only one who can look beneath the surface, Lex, but that doesn't mean we owe each other anything."
"Not that I don't love the superficial stuff, it's undoubtedly the upside of having a millionaire best friend." She added after a pause, with a playful smile.
Lex regarded her in wry amusement, but his smirk turned into a soft smile as he looked down at her beautiful face. They continued to sit there, looking into each others eyes, feeling no awkwardness, only quite comfort, and were both seemingly oblivious to the intimacy of the situation.
Clark, however, was not. He'd come into the Talon looking for Lana, only to be told that she had gone out back on a break. Since Tracy knew Clark and Lana were occasionally friends she figured it would be alright if he went straight through. Clark had had very little contact with Lana since she had returned from Paris, and he from his "Son of Krypton" episode, and he felt guilty for neglecting her, and their friendship. Deep down, he hoped that they could start where they had left off. Now that Kal-El was finally out of the way Clark could get on with his life and he and Lana could finally be together. Of course he knew it wouldn't be easy, things had been left badly between them, and he hadn't even gotten the chance to say goodbye......
Lana: Lex, um, I can't thank you enough for everything that you've done for me.
Lex: It's pretty clear your destiny lies far beyond the Smallville city limits. I'm just trying to help you get there.
Lana: I don't know what I did to deserve such a great friend, but I'm glad that you came into my life.
Lex: Maybe I'll bump into you on the Champs-Elysees.
Lana: You're gonna be in Paris?
Lex: I haven't been in a couple of years, but now I have a reason to go. Lana smiles and hugs Lex tightly.
Clark angrily shook his head to clear it of the painful memory. Even now he couldn't think of Lex without the same fury he'd felt when he'd discovered Lex' investigation and seeing Lex and Lana together that day had only added to the betrayal. But, no, this was about him and Lana. Strolling towards the backroom, Clark rehearsed what he'd planned to say to Lana. He'd envisioned something along the lines of "Hey Lana, how are you? Did you want to come out with me on Friday night?" or "Hey Lana, do you fancy coming over my loft sometime soon to, you know, catch up?" but in reality all that came out was-
"What the hell is he doing here!?"
Clark hadn't realised until it was too late how aggressive he'd sounded or that he'd actually cursed. It dawned on him pretty quickly though, as he watched Lex and Lana disentangle themselves and found himself the object of a very hurt look from Lana. Lex's face was as composed as usual but he was in fact watching his friend very closely. He, and Lana, knew that there was nothing wrong with his being there, nothing to merit such an unusual outburst from Clark, but Lex democratically tried to put himself in Clarks shoes. He'd just walked in on his former best friend and the love of his life sitting together, looking into each others eyes, with Lex' arm around her shoulders.....okay, Lex had to admit it did look bad from that point of view. But, then again, this was Lana. Did Clark serious believe that anything was going on, that Lana would be interested in Lex, of all people. Resolutely refusing to believe that that had been a stab of disappointment, Lex, keeping his voice carefully neutral, tried to placate his overreacting friend.
"Clark..." Lana cut him off. She was still looking at Clark, with those big, beautiful, hazel eyes and Lex had to hide a smirk at the visible effect it had on the younger man. All the anger drained out of him, his earlier indignation was forgotten and he looked at Lana beseechingly, ready to apologise, although Lex was pretty sure he didn't know what for.
Despite still feeling less than 100% Lana' voice was surprisingly strong and vehement. She looked furious.
"What, exactly, is that supposed to mean Clark!? Since when has it been your business who I spend my time with?"
Clark had the grace to look appropriately chastened but resolutely replied nonetheless. "It's none of my business Lana, but I want the best for you. If you knew what he was capable of-" he threw Lex a disgusted look "-,if you knew what he's done to me, you wouldn't want him here. He has no right to be here."
During this speech Lana's emotions had veered between anger, sympathy, curiosity and back to anger with a vengeance . She couldn't believe what she was hearing. Rising out of her chair she faced him in wide-eyed indignation.
"How dare you. No right?" She was growing angrier by the second and her voice had risen to a shout.
"No Right! Who the hell do you think you are?!"
Lex took a step towards her. "Lana, I think you should sit down....."
"No Lex!" She spun back round to face Clark who helpless stood there, making no attempt to defend himself. "I can't believe you Clark. You repeatedly mess me around, you don't talk to me for 3 whole months and yet you expect to be able to swan in here and tell me what I can and can't do! If anyone has no right to be here, Clark, its' you. Lex has been a better friend to me this past year than you, Clark, and despite what he's capable of I know he'll always be there when I need him, unlike you."
Clarks face blanched and he looked at her pleadingly. "Lana, please, I didn't mean....I know I haven't been here enough for you lately, and I've done something's I shouldn't have, but things will be different now. I've never meant to hurt you, but if I have it's only because I care about you."
"That's not going to work anymore Clark. You can't keep hurting me under the guise of love."
"Please. I only need one more chance. I want us to be together."
As Lana looked at the face she thought she would love forever she remembered all the chances they'd missed over the years. Expect, she realised, they weren't missed chance at all, they were chances he'd never taken. She'd laid herself out to him, had been willing to take a chance for him but Clark had repeatedly thrown it back in her face. Somehow she'd convinced herself that Clark was everything she'd ever wanted, someone who would truly love her, but looking at him now she could see he was simply another person in love with the image of Lana Lang.
"Do you Clark? Do you really want me, or do you want the girl you think I am? Poor, little, Lana Lang. The girl who lost her parents so tragically but still manages to have a smile for everyone. The beautiful cheerleader who is vulnerable and needs you to protect her. Tell me I'm not right Clark. Tell me you don't want her, instead of me."
"Your right, I do want that girl. But we can change that. I want to be with you. It doesn't matter whether your that girl or the one I know now..."
"You don't know me anymore, Clark. And it does matter because, this girl, the girl I am now, she doesn't want to be with you. Ever." She said pointedly.
Clark felt all his hopes and dreams come crashing down around his feet as he looked at Lana.
"So...that's it? We can never be together, never even be friends?"
"I don't know Clark."
Without her anger to fortify her, Lana felt her legs begin to give in and she was having to take deep breaths to stay lucid. Lex, who had been temporarily forgotten by both of them, noticed this and was quickly at Lana' side, holding her arm in a reassuringly firm grip. Smiling weakly at him, Lana allowed herself to be steered back into her chair. Sensing that something was wrong, Clark began forward but stopped at the way Lana was looking at him. In the past whenever she'd looked at him there was always something in her eyes. Anger, hurt, frustration, love, happiness, friendship. Never nothing. She was looking at him now and her eyes were completely void of emotion. Blank. It worried him more than her words.
Lana tore her eyes away from his handsome face and turned away from him, speaking in a tone that brooked no argument.
"Clark! Just go before I say something that will only hurt us both."
Clark hesitated endlessly. Lana squeezed Lex' arm in silent appeal and he understood what she was asking him to do. Straightening slightly Lex looked at the heart broken young man and was deciding on the least painful way of telling him to go away, when Clark turned on his heel and silently left. Lex felt Lana relax next to him. Looking at her, Lex was pleased to see that she was no longer pale and her eyes were brighter, but she looked exhausted nonetheless. She gave him a small, apologetic smile.
"I'm sorry you had to hear that, Lex. It must have been hard, I know your Clarks friend."
Lex raised his brows in amused contradiction but said nothing. Internally, he was still reeling from Lana' revelations. Of course, on the outside he was as composed as usual and his voice was only politely concerned as he moved to sit next to her.
"Was that true? What you said to Clark about you not loving him?"
Lana closed her eyes and with a sigh lent her head back against the chair. "Yes."
"And he not loving the real you?"
Lana nodded her head, but she brought her head up and opened her eyes to look at Lex. She smiled in wry amusement but there was a trace of bitterness in her voice.
" I guess the whole "If you love them set them free" thing really back fired on him, huh?"
Lex studied her intently for a moment before quietly replying
"It's not about love, Lana. It's about what you're willing to do for it. If Clark isn't willing to do whatever it takes for you, maybe you don't mean as much to him as he thinks." If she was honest, Lana had to admit that deep down she'd known that was the case, but hearing Lex actually say it out loud made it true, and only highlighted her incredible naivety. Looking into Lex' calm blue eyes with her own tear shadowed ones, Lana wondered how she could ever have believed Clark really, truly loved her, and that he`d have risked anything for her. Because Lex appeared so approachable at the moment, she decided to voice her thoughts.
"You'd risk anything for real love, wouldn't you."
It was more of a statement than a question and Lana didn`t really expect an answer, let alone the one she got.
"Anything. I've just never had the chance."
Lana smiled sadly at him. "Me neither." Then she added after a pause. "But how do you know?"
Lex looked at her in confusion. "Know what?"
"That you've never had the chance. What if the chance was always there but you didn`t realise it.?"
She looked down at her lap, and missed the look Lex gave her. "All this time I thought I was meant to be with Clark I could have been missing out."
Lex reached out to grip her chin between his thumb and fingers and tipped her face up to look at him. He wanted to tell her that she would find someone, eventually, that she had to because if she couldn't then what chance did Lex have? He wanted to tell her she was amazing and that Clark didn't know how lucky he was. He wanted to tell her how much he cared. He wanted to, but wasn't going to. 24 years of being Lionel Luthor' son had seen to that.
"Missing out on what, Lana?"
Lana' voice was barely a whisper. Her heart was beating painfully fast and the way Lex was looking at her and being in such close proximity wasn't helping. She knew she should have felt uncomfortable, but with the exception of her racing heart she felt completely normal. Better than normal. Better than she could remember feeling in a long time.
"On loving someone else, Lex. Missing out on loving someone who really loves me."
Lex' fingers had slid up her jaw and were softly caressing her cheek, tangling in her long, raven hair. Her eyes were boring into his and Lex had the uncomfortable feeling she could see straight through him and see right down to his blackened heart and soul, strangled by a lifetime of lies, deceit and the absence of love. She should have seen that he was unworthy of touching her. Unworthy of loving her. With a ragged sigh, Lex finally admitted what he'd been trying to deny for so long.
He loved her.
But even now, with her face mere inches from his and her eyes looking at him with complete trust, Lex felt himself recoil. This wasn't right. Lana deserved the best, and despite how much he loved her, he knew that no matter how hard he tried all he would bring her was a lifetime of hurt. He had meant it when he said he would do anything for love, but if that meant never listening to his heart, never admitting his feelings, then so be it.
Lana felt Lex' muscles tense as he was about to pull away and she quickly reached up and laid her hand on the back of his head and neck. His skin felt strangely smooth beneath her fingers. Exerting just enough pressure to stop him pulling away, Lana continued to look Lex straight in the eye.
"I don't want another Clark, Lex. You're the only one who's never treated me like something precious that needs protecting, don't stop now."
Lana watched as Lex' eyes seemed to come alive. Something sparked within their depths and they turned from their usual cool blue, to a deep, intense, almost fiery cobalt. Initially it unnerved her, but she realised it was merely in reaction to her words. Encouraged, Lana began lightly stroking the back of his head, tracing circles with her finger tips, but stopped when she saw the muscles in the side of his jaw tighten and felt him tense all over. With a feminine intuition she didn't know she had, Lana knew that he was trying to fight her. Her fingers resumed their occupation and she leant towards Lex, bringing their bodies closer together.
"What's wrong, Lex? Don't you want me?"
It was her words, and the way she looked at him, not her actions, that was Lex' undoing. She looked so vulnerable, her dark eyes wide and beseeching, with a look of hurt and confusion on her beautiful face and Lex reluctantly felt his resistance to her crumble. His heart wrenched at the thought that she thought he didn't want her, that she thought she was being rejected again, and that, combined with his own bodies reaction to her, was enough to make him give in to what they both wanted. He allowed his fingers to spread out across her face once more and he snaked his other arm around her waist, laying his hand on the small of her back. He gave her one last chance.
"It doesn't matter what I want Lana, it matters whether this is what you want. Whether you're sure."
Lana drew a shaky breath as she brought her face and lips closer to Lex'.
Satisfied that Lana knew what she was doing and wanted this as much as he did, Lex took her lips in a long, lingering kiss, savouring the taste of her mouth and the feel of her body as she pressed herself closer to him. Lana herself, who had had preconceived ideas about how it would feel to be kissed by Lex, was shocked by how gentle he was and gave herself up to the way it felt to be in his arms. She couldn't believe it had taken her this long to see that what she had been looking for all this time had always been there, waiting in the background. It made her sad to think how he must have felt, watching her and Clark, having to give them his advise, but she knew it was a testament to his character. Lex had kept quiet and concealed his feelings because he'd been unwilling to risk hurting Clark or Lana and damaging their friendship. Lana also knew that Lex had done it partially out of a desire to avoid getting hurt himself......
Pulling out of the kiss, Lex moved back slightly so he could clearly see Lana' face. She didn't look angry or accusing or confused or anything like that, as he'd feared she would, but instead was looking calmly back at him the tiniest traces of a smile about her lips. Taking in her bright eyes and slightly flushed cheeks, Lex realised she looked even more beautiful than usual. Lowering his head once more, Lex kissed her with tender passion.
"What are we going to do Lex?"
After kissing her for a few minutes more, Lex had managed to persuade Lana that she needed to take the rest of the day off, and she allowed him to take her upstairs. Standing with his back to the room with his hands in his pockets, looking out of the window onto the street below, Lex didn't even bother to turn to face her. Lana could see the muscles tightening in his jaw.
"About Clark?" He said in a distant and slightly cold voice.
Lana gestured around her but realising it was lost on Lex, let her hand drop. "About everything. Clark, Nell, Chloe, your dad, us........."
"I don't know, Lana."
Lana looked sadly at Lex, who looked back, but remained seemingly unemotional and they both realised that what had felt so right before, seemed all wrong now.
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