CLOSE QUARTERS V: THE GAME

Genre: Smallville; Lana/Lex; Lana POV
Rating: PG-13
Summary: Lana moves into the Luthor guest house when Nell decides to move to Metropolis.
Spoilers: Jitters
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.

*

We're driven to Metropolis in a limo. I was nervous about the long drive anyway, but I had no idea Lex and I would be sitting in the back together; long, leather-lined seats that you sink into, mini bar to the left and a partition completely closing the driver off from us.

We're facing each other. I don't know what to say. We pulled onto Route 90 about fifteen minutes ago. It's a long way to Metropolis.

"Are you looking forward to seeing your aunt?"

Not so much, but I'd never say that out loud. It occurs to me that Lex, of all people, would understand, but I'm not ready to get quite that personal yet. I nod and smile. Lex gives me that little crooked smile back.

"Not so much?"

Can he read my mind? I'm a little relieved, and a little scared. "Nell and I are just...different," I say, choosing my words carefully. "We weren't very close in the last year."

Lex only nods and moves toward the bar. He pours himself something I'm guessing is scotch. Or brandy. Something dark. He looks at me. "Want a soda?"

*

I never knew Lex had so many stories. I mean, I knew he had stories, just not...well gee I'll never be intimidated by you again stories.

The driver announces our arrival at Nell's new place sooner than I expect. It's an apartment building, the kind with a doorman. I try not to be insulted. If I'd moved here, this is where we'd live? I'd be one of those girls that breezed by the doorman with shopping bags and sunglasses, barely tossing Henry or George or whoever a hello as I make my way to the elevator.

Yeah, not me. The driver opens the door and Lex hands me my coat as I step out. 721 Park Place. Park Place is one of the most expensive squares on the Monopoly board. I try not to think about my used 1996 Dodge Neon parked in the service drive back at the Luthor mansion. Nell, is it possible to get a newer one? Oh honey, the mechanic checked this one out. It's fine, it's cute!

"Nice place." Lex's voice is really close to my ear and I jump about a foot into the air. He chuckles, and his hand is on my back. I'm starting to get squishy inside and I wonder, is this going to happen every time he touches me? Because he seems to be touching me a lot lately and it's kind of important for me to function.

Somehow, he's propelled me up the walk and to the doorman where I make sure to say hello nice and loudly. We're let quickly inside. Right, the Luthor's practically own Metropolis. They probably own the building. I'm sure Lionel got Nell a great deal.

Why am I doing this again? I'm about to watch a football game with Nell, Dean and Lex. Right now I can only stand one-third of the skybox.

The apartment is on the 23rd floor. There are 25 floors in the building and Lex tells me the rent gets pricier the higher they are. Did Nell win the lottery and not tell me? Is Dean's new job smuggling cocaine in from Colombia? I feel so out of it.

It's a beautiful place. Three bedrooms, two bath, huge gourmet kitchen. Which is funny because Nell doesn't cook. The bedroom they've got set up for me looks exactly like the one back in Smallville did. Different bed, but all pink. I'm embarrassed that Lex is seeing it. I remind myself it's my old bedroom, and my new bedroom -- which Lex hasn't seen -- is done tastefully in mauve and a color called hickory which Chloe declared as 'gray'.

"So, what do you think, honey?" Nell asks me, hands wringing in front of her because she really does care what I think. I feel bad, then glimpse the rock on her left ring finger. Ugh, Dean.

"It's different than I expected," I say. "Who's gonna use that huge kitchen?"

"Very passive-aggressive," Lex whispers to me as Nell and Dean get their coats.

I want to kick him in his intuitive butt. He thinks he's got me all figured out but I'm determined to show him he's wrong. I'm just not sure how yet.

*

A skybox is not exactly conducive to watching football. I mean, it is if you want to watch football. But if you don't, well, there are so many other distractions. It's not like sitting in a little plastic seat with your scarf over your face because it's so freaking cold and your purse is on your lap because if you put it on the ground between your feet Murphy's Law says the idiot behind you will spill his beer. No, a skybox is nothing like that. It's temp controlled (read: warm) and there's comfy seats. Recliners, sofas, whatever. There are pinball machines and catered food and a bar (not mini). There are binoculars on the table next to the window that looks out over the field and several televisions all tuned to the game on the local channel. But those things are easy to ignore when you're reclining in a leather La-Z-Boy with a tray full of little quiches in your lap.

Nell and I talked the whole time. Football games aren't short, and I don't think we stopped chattering on, even at halftime. It was fun. Really fun. I haven't bonded like that with Nell since before I turned sixteen. Now I'm almost seventeen and it seems we both wasted last year all wrapped up in ourselves.

I feel sad when we drop them off in front of 721 Park Place. We don't walk them up because it's late and a long drive back to Smallville. When I hug her and she gets out of the car, I feel like she's going to her other life, the one that doesn't include me. And I'm right. Because I'm staying in the limo with Lex, going to my other life that doesn't include her. I should feel grown up, but right now I don't.

As the limo pulls away from the curb, I see Dean lean over to say something to Nell. I see her profile as she laughs. I'm glad she's happy, no matter how I feel about her fiance. I'm not the one that has to love him, and I truly believe she does.

I swallow down tears and lean my head against Lex's shoulder. I'm too tired to even be surprised by my action. He doesn't say anything, not for a long time. His cell phone rings and he moves gently to answer it. He speaks softly, like he doesn't want to disturb me. I try to get my mind off of Nell by guessing who would call him on a Sunday night at 10:30 and why. From his end of the conversation, it sounds like business. I decide it's a plant manager. Not Chloe's dad, but another one, a night manager. They've had a machine malfunction causing a stoppage of production. They have a fertilizer shipment tomorrow and likely won't make their deadline. Routine shipments, even big ones, are supposed to happen smoothly without Lex's involvement. This is why he hires and trains plant managers. I decide he should bark that into the phone, but he doesn't.

When Lex hangs up, I begin telling him the story of his phone call, just to fill the silence. He seems to enjoy it, though he doesn't tell me if I'm right or wrong when I'm finished. I take a wild guess that I'm wrong, and it was something much more covert than that.

Lex is involved in lots of things that don't involve fertilizer. I just don't know anything about them. In a sleepy haze, I tell him how brave I thought he was when he came into the plant during our class field trip last year after that guy had taken us hostage. My head slips from his shoulder to his chest and I'm acutely aware of the soft material of his coat under my cheek and his fingers running through my hair.

Dimly, I remind myself how inappropriate this is. Dimly, I tell myself to shut up.

*

Lex doesn't wake me, the driver does. His voice is low and even over the intercom but it rouses me anyway as he announces the arrival into Smallville.

"We're about ten minutes from the estate, sir."

I sit up and think about how many times Lex has heard that and does he really need to be told how far he is from home once they enter city limits? Shouldn't the drivers assume Lex has retained that information after hearing it the first, oh, thirty times?

Lex hasn't slept, I can tell even through my bleary eyes. "What are you doing?" I ask him.

Dumb. Sitting in a car with a 16-year-old asleep on my lap. You?

"Just thinking," he says and smiles a little. He reaches out and brushes a stray hair from my face. The gesture is incredibly intimate and my breath catches in my throat. For a minute, I think he might lean over and kiss me. For a minute, I think I'm wishing he would.

Instead, he says, "did you get some rest?"

I feel the blush heat my cheeks though I know he wasn't teasing me with the question. Still, I avoid his gaze. It's so intense it's turning my insides to jelly and sitting around wishing Lex Luthor would kiss me means I seriously need to reevaluate my priorities.

"Yeah," I answer, almost completely numb.

We both seem to have run out of things to say and it's the longest ten minutes of my life. I want to be there NOW. I can't see anything out of the darkened window but the occasional light at the occasional farm house. Still, I keep my gaze firmly averted.

Finally, I see the illumination of the drive leading up to the castle. I'm so relieved I can barely sit still as we turn from pavement onto gravel and I hear the gates squeak open.

Almost home free.

Lex depresses the intercom button on the console nearest to him and addresses the driver. "Take us to the guest house first."

Less than a minute to go. I can feel my hot shower and warm bed now. As soon as I can get away from Lex, everything will make sense again. By morning, it will all seem like an outing between friends blown way out of proportion. I'm sure of it.

As the car pulls to a stop, Lex turns to me. "Thanks for coming, Lana."

Uh huh. Just let me out of here. Don't say or do anything to make this seem like a d-a-t-e.

"I had fun, Lex." False cheerfulness. Whatever. Where is the driver? Why isn't the door opening? Does Lex instruct him not to so he can say goodbye to his dates uninterrupted?

And why the hell did I just say d-a-t-e?

Lex leans forward, kisses me on the cheek. I freeze. He freezes. His breath is warm. His lips are soft and hovering dangerously near mine. I should scramble the heck out of the car. I should slam the limo door, then my front door for emphasis. But I don't.

I breathe and he breathes, and neither of us moves. It's been too long and I'm fuzzy. Finally, he kisses me again, on the side of my mouth, then again on my lips. My heart fills my chest and my whole brain feels like I have an ice cream headache. He tastes like Lex Luthor should taste: like liquor and peppermint, dangerous and sweet all at the same time.

Our mouths open and many small kisses turn into one long kiss, the kind where down is up and back is front and the entire world blurs away. Everything falls down; reason, logic, sanity, and nothing means anything except Lex.

Lex. Oh my god. I pull away and reality crashes back instantaneously. He looks surprised but recovers quickly, wiping his mouth and OH GOD! I kissed Lex. Not just kissed but kissed -- the way you kiss when it means something.

I must look as wild and scared as I feel because he holds a hand out to placate me.

"Lana, calm down."

Yeah. No, not gonna happen. Scrambling for some semblance of control of my suddenly whacked out life, I pull the door handle sharply and spill out of the limo. I'm keying the lock of the guest house before I hear Lex call my name again. My plan is to shut the door and lock it, avoid Lex until spring, but I figure I've got to say something because it's the only way he's likely to leave me alone tonight.

"Lex," I say, hardly recognizing my own voice as I turn in the dark to face him. He's half out of the limo, looking frighteningly like a guy who doesn't know what to do. And that's just not what I've come to expect from Lex.

"Just give me some time," I say. Very good, very diplomatic. It takes every shred of strength within me to remain upright, to turn, walk in my door and shut it behind me.

I don't turn on a light, I can't. I don't move. I can't. I slump to the floor in my coat and begin to cry.

-end-
15 Nov 2002
Continued in Close Quarters VI: The Plan.