CLOSE QUARTERS III: THE ALL-NIGHTER
Genre: Smallville; Lana/Lex; Lana POV
Summary: Lana moves into the Luthor guest house when Nell decides to move to Metropolis.
Notes: Canon through most of "Ryan", AU for anything after. This story assumes Lana is not living with Chloe.
Disclaimer: Alfred Gough and Miles Millar created Smallville; TRP and other corporate entities own the rights. No profit made.
Chloe always manages to put things in perspective for me.
"What's the prob? You guys are friends, right?" she asks, after I tell her how weird it was for Lex to invite me over. Even though I answer in the affirmative, she says, "I mean, that's the vibe I always get from him." She drops her voice in attempt to sound like Lex, and ends up sounding nothing like Lex. "Any friend of Clark's is a friend of mine."
I nod. I get it. But it's Chloe, so she plows on. "He probably thought you were lonely. First night a new place. Your aunt up and left. You're...you know, someone people want to take care of."
I am? "I guess..."
"Or," Chloe continues, because her brain is multi-theoretical and there always has to be another option, "he's lonely and psyched to have company whose paychecks he doesn't sign."
"He signs my paycheck, Chloe."
"Right. Okay...company that doesn't call him Mr. Luthor."
Uh huh. I don't get that from him. But I change the subject. For some reason, it's harder to talk to Chloe about Lex than it is to talk about Clark.
The all-night paper writing session Chloe and I had planned on is cut short when Mr. Sullivan calls and gently reminds her that she's grounded from the last all-nighter she hadn't asked permission to attend. By 9 o'clock, I'm alone with a half-unpacked house, a whole pizza and the rise and fall of the Roman Empire to dissect within 12 hours.
I must have picked up the phone three times to dial Clark but something holds me back. Not like I don't know what it is, I just don't want to admit it out loud.
I feel guilty about Lex. Maybe Chloe's right, maybe he is lonely. Okay, deep down I kinda doubt it but...maybe. Plus, the Romans. Who digs the Romans like the Luthors? The Luthors personify the Romans.
I glance in the mirror before I step out the door with my backpack and the pizza. I refuse to fix anything about myself, but I glance.
It's a quick walk along a cute cobblestone path to the kitchen entrance of the mansion. This time of year it's pretty frosty, but I bet during the spring the pathway is lined with all kinds of blooming flowers. I'm not sure what the proper etiquette is for the kitchen door. I see a bell that says 'ring for service', but I'm not exactly dropping off produce. I knock, figuring if no one's in I'll just take a peek inside.
Julie opens the door and I'm glad, because Julie's the only one I know. I suppose that will change sooner or later. She greets me warmly, like I'm supposed to be there. I remember to thank her for the microwave (see? I can be a grown-up, Nell) and ask if Lex is home.
Even though I remember to call him Mr. Luthor, it's still embarrassing. Can Mr. Luthor come out and play?
Julie tells me Lex is in the screening room. There's a screening room? I'm also told to just "go ahead and find him" because he's instructed his staff that I have full run of the place. It wigs me a little, at the same time feeling flattered that he trusts me to snoop around the big old castle as much as I like. I try to liken it to Clark, so it doesn't seem so weird. If I were living with the Kents, I'd be allowed in all rooms of their home, wouldn't I? Somehow, I'm not comforted.
I learn the mansion has an indoor pool (where I don't find Lex naked with a girl -- thank goodness), a game room for games other than the pool table Lex is wearing out in his study, a fencing room and a vault with an armed guard.
An armed guard. His job is to stand by the door in what is basically the basement of the castle all day. He knows my name and that freaks me a little more. Did Lex pass my picture around? Was my bio on page one of the staff weekly newsletter?
I ask for the screening room and the guard tells me it's down the east wing, beyond the gym. The gym. I'm living in the Playboy mansion.
"Does he have a bowling alley, too?" I ask. I'm kidding.
The guard does not have a sense of humor. He shakes his head grimly. "Mr. Luthor does not bowl."
No, of course Mr. Luthor doesn't.
I turn in the direction I hope is east. Note to self: get a compass. Eventually I pass a gym, then another. One door is marked STAFF, the other, PRIVATE. I laugh. It might as well say LEX on it. Still, nice to have a place for the staff to work out. I briefly wonder which one I'd be permitted to use. But I'm not staff nor private so I guess my semi-daily jogs will have to do.
The next door is marked THEATRE. It's closed, and I'm loathe to knock but I've come all this way. The pizza's getting cold and I really need some Roman expertise.
I knock. No answer. I knock again. No answer. The door handle depresses when I put weight on it and I open it enough to peek inside. It's dark, but a movie is being projected from the back of the room to the front on a not-quite-theater-sized but definitely-decent-sized screen.
If it's The Godfather, I'll kill myself.
It's some war movie set in the jungle, circa 1970-something. My guess is Apocalypse Now. There are nine seats total, three rows of three leather recliners. A theater for nine people. Does Lex even socialize with nine people in Smallville?
I can see a bald head in the middle seat, second row. I'd have sat in the first row, but then again, I don't have a home theater. For all I know he sits in a different seat each time he comes in here.
A remote pauses the movie on screen. Suddenly, the screaming and machine gunning and men wanting their mommy with their last dying breath is gone from the room. It's completely silent.
Lex says my name before he turns and makes eye contact. I guess no one else would have just stood there for so long without saying what they wanted. I look down at my feet then back at him. He looks ethereal; the blue light of the projector illuminating his back, the greens and browns of the jungle frozen on screen illuminating his front.
"Hey Lex, sorry to bother you."
He stands. His smile is easy, unperturbed. I feel relaxed instantly and manage to smile back.
"I thought you had plans with Chloe this evening."
"I did," I say, suddenly wondering if Lex would let me invite people over to watch movies in his screening room, or theater, or whatever he chose to call it. I push the selfish thought from my mind. I'd never ask him, so it doesn't matter.
"She had to go and I had this pizza..." I trail off. Trade you a pizza for your knowledge on the Roman Empire?
"And your backpack?" Lex asks, his knack for observation once again making him seem just a little telepathic.
"Truth is, I have a ten page paper due in World History tomorrow. It's on the rise and fall of the Roman Empire and I need to pick your brain."
Lex still has the remote in his hand and he turns and points it at the screen. It goes dark and dim lights immediately illuminate on either side of the room.
"That is cool," I hear myself say before I can bite my tongue. To my defense, it is cool. The only time a person usually gets to experience automatic lights when a movie ends is when you've paid $8 at the local multiplex. Or if you have the clapper, but who has those?
Lex smiles at the room as if he is proud of it. "I wasn't such a movie buff until I moved to Smallville. I had this put in. All of the other excesses on this floor are my fathers doing."
I guess when you're locale suddenly lacks cool restaurants, parties and clubs, you get into coffee and movies.
"Well, this whole place is amazing," I say enthusiastically. I don't want him to feel embarrassed that he lives like Hugh Hefner, but let's face it, I would.
"You're welcome to use anything, anytime," he says.
"Thanks." Would I use the staff or private gym? I leave that part out and add, "since you're in such a generous mood, what do you know about those Romans?"
He laughs and takes the pizza and my backpack into his own hands. He leads the way out of the theater and back toward the main part of the house. "A ten page paper, huh?" he tosses behind him as we walk.
"With presentation," I add sheepishly.
"It's a good thing the Luthors are a modern day personification of the Romans," Lex says.
From behind him, I smile.
It's three o'clock in the morning. There are two cups on the table that have been filled and refilled with coffee at least six times. An empty pizza box is pushed off to one side. The rest of the table is covered with note cards, books and loose leaf paper. I have eight pages done. Two to go. One presentation with at least three visuals. Six hours until class.
Lex is at his computer, typing from the handwritten draft I've managed to scrawl out. Not once has he asked why I didn't start sooner or how long ago they assigned this. I guess being a temporary legal guardian means you just have to sign stuff, you don't actually have to act like a parent.
Lex looks up at me from behind the computer. "When you say, 'after the guard killed Commudus, dot dot dot, chaos, 26 in 50 years,' are you trying to say 'after Commudus was killed, guards sold power to the highest bidder and chaos ensued. The Roman Empire had 26 leaders in the next 50 years'?
I nod. "Yeah, I just don't know how to say it."
He smiles patiently, even though he could have had this paper done in two hours and it's three o'clock in the freaking morning.
"You should say it like that. After Commudus was killed, guards sold power to the highest bidder and chaos ensued. The Roman Empire had 26 leaders in the next 50 years."
He waits for my acquiescence. There is one thing he is doing like a parent. He's making me do my own paper. The entire thing. The only thing he's done is supply some cool books, correct grammar and fact check. Still, he's a life saver and I tell him so.
"No problem, Lana," he says, brushing off what has to be my tenth thank you that night. "I told you, I wouldn't do it if I didn't want to."
"Does that make you incredibly nice or incredibly weird?" I ask.
He laughs, already back to typing. I didn't mean for the question to be rhetorical.
At five-thirty the sun is peeking over the horizon and just lightening the stained glass behind his desk. He stands abruptly and the printer whirs to life.
"Ten pages," he announces.
I've finished coloring my third visual and I hold it up for his approval. He nods. "Nice. How about we take a break and have some breakfast on the terrace while the sun comes up? Then you can do your note cards and practice on me on the way to school."
I don't want to read into more than it is, but I'm giddy at the thought of a sunrise breakfast on the terrace with Lex. I'm pretty sure if I had to choose between that and going to sleep for the rest of the say, I'd choose breakfast.
Yeah, I'm pretty sure.
14 Nov 2002
Continued in Close Quarters IV: The Situation.