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: None
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.


Bright shards of sunlight have managed to make their way through gaps in the curtains and they beat mercilessly on my face. They're taunting me with their brilliance and cheeriness. The clock says it's past ten and I've sworn that by noon, I'll have at least one box packed.

To pack a box would require getting out of bed and I'm not quite ready to do that. I've gone over every second of last night; every syllable uttered, every breath taken. I hear it all, clear as day, playing over and over in the forefront of my mind. I see myself in the corner by the orchid. I see Lex by the door. It's all as though it happened 12 seconds ago, rather than 12 hours.

The only thing I don't remember is the sleep marathon in between. It's as if I lay down, close my eyes and opened them a moment later. Only it's morning and I've got creases on my face from where I laid on top of my quilt. I don't feel rested. I feel weary.

I'm going to pack. Just as soon as I can make some sense of how it all spun so unbelievably out of control.

No matter what happened in the limo, no matter where Lex went or who he brought home, last night should not have happened. I should have played it cool, he shouldn't have pressed the matter. We shouldn't have yelled. Things shouldn't have been said.

God, if I could have those three genie wishes now. Number one, turn back time.

Nell always told me that things would never get so bad that they couldn't get fixed. When I was 10, I told her to "fix" my parents dying. But in retrospect, I know she's right. She says life is basically about damage control. The key to success is crisis management. You handle yourself well in a catastrophe, she says, you'll always come out on top.

Nell's motivational speeches always bore me to tears, but for lack of anything better to do, I always listen. Maybe I didn't handle myself well last night but I sure as hell can scrape together whatever's left of my dignity and move to Metropolis with my head held high.

Or at least without my tail between my legs.

"I apologize for my behavior last night, Lex."

I say it out loud, and it doesn't sound like me. Not that I know who 'me' is anymore. My heart thumps a little when I say his name aloud. Getting out of town gracefully is going to require finesse. Getting over Lex Luthor is going to require a miracle.


It takes me seven more hours to get out of bed, showered, dressed and reasonably groomed. I call in sick to work. The phone rang six times today -- it was Clark three times but not once was it Lex.

I tell myself over and over that Lex isn't the 'call after a fight' type of guy. He's got golf with clients and breakfast meetings and Princeton alumni to attend to. I'm trying not to think of Chrissy -- really -- but it's hard.

I'm trying to memorize the perfect speech, the one that will leave Lex thinking how mature and grown up I am and how he must have misjudged me last night. It's a really good speech -- one that I know I won't remember a word of when it comes to actually delivering it.

I decide to call first. What I should have done last night, to avoid the whole scenario I'm trying to repair now. He answers his cell on the second ring, and I can immediately tell he's in the car. The stereo is blaring when he picks up.

"Lex Luthor."

"It's Lana."

I think I'm talking too loud. I think I don't sound like me. I think my heart is going to pound right through my rib cage and out of my chest. The stereo in the background lowers and I hear his chuckle.

"Lana, you can only use the 'I'm sick' excuse to get out of work when your boss doesn't know you're lying. I'm leaving the Talon now."

Damn, damn, damn. Sandy cannot keep her mouth shut.

"I'm sorry, Lex." Can we just say that covers everything and call it a day? "I got the shift covered so I didn't think you'd mind." Or find out at all, but I digress.

"It's alright, Lana," he says. His voice sounds gentler. I'd be comforted except he's probably just afraid I'll throw a temper tantrum again. I bite my lip and force myself to say the words. "I was wondering if you'd have time to get together and talk." I squeeze my eyes shut, the silence loud and long as I wait for an answer.

I hear the clanging of a railroad signal and a soft curse under Lex's breath. I'm too nervous to appreciate the mental image of the Porsche (or whatever he's chosen today) stopped at a train crossing while precious minutes tick by.

"Sure," he says after an eternity. "I'll be back at the estate in about an hour. Stop by anytime."

I can still hear the train rushing by in the background as I thank him and hang up. I've managed to open my eyes but I'm sort of glad I have another hour as I'm finding it hard to get the motivation to stand up. I have no idea why I'm this terrified. All I know is I've got to snap out of it by the time Lex gets home.


The entryway of Lex's study is the same; always the big stained glass window, desk with two flat screens on top of it, pool table, fireplace, chairs, big leather sofa. All is exactly as it should be.

But it's different now. I can't put my finger on it, but everything feels out of place. Moved. Wrong. I've seen Lex in this study dozens of times, in dozens of places. But I can't stop seeing him by the fireplace with Chrissy. I want to imagine him by the pool table, or at his desk or standing and looking out the window the morning after he helped me with my Romans paper. But I can't.

I lean against the marble pillar that makes up one side of the entryway. I hear Lex approach behind me, feel him pass me as he strides into the room. He goes to the mini fridge and takes out two bottles of water. I can't bring myself to take one from him. I can't move further into the room.

Suddenly, I have no energy, no dialogue, no articulate thoughts. The speech I practiced over and over in the guest house...gone. Every mature remark, every pointed argument...disappeared. There are only swirls of unfinished notions in my head. Remnants of rationale. Phrases of frustration.

"Do you want to sit?" he asks, gesturing toward the couch.

I shake my head no. Sitting on that couch requires emerging from my current frozen state. I'm pretty positive I cannot do that.

Lex is perched at the end of the sofa closest to me. His water bottle is dangling from one hand between his knees. Mine has been left on the edge of his desk.

Will it leave a ring on the wood?

He looks entirely too relaxed. It doesn't seem fair, but I'm afraid to entertain the thought. Nothing about being Lex Luthor seems fair; but if I had some modicum of control over my own emotions I might not feel compelled to compare.

There have been no words spoken since the rejected water. I suppose I called this meeting, I suppose he's waiting for me to start. I have no idea what to say. An entire day of thinking and planning and rehearsing has totally gone to hell.

I suppose I could manage to mutter a 'never mind' and move ahead with the Metropolis plan. But somehow, I can't leave, not like this, and I know that even if I never find any words to say I can't move away from Lex Luthor. I'm pulled to him by a natural gravity.

"I had a plan," Lex says. His voice shatters the stillness of the room and suddenly I hear background noise I hadn't heard before. The muted sounds of the kitchen staff preparing dinner, the almost imperceptible tick of the grandfather clock in the corner of the room.

Everything is amplified. His words are loud in my head. They echo.


I ask it out loud at the same time I hear myself think it. Lex Luthor's plans can't be nearly as lame as Lana Lang's plans.

"It was to avoid you," he says, and I almost laugh.

Mobility has returned; I can tell because I'm able to shift my legs. But I don't move into the room...not yet. I don't want to respond because at the moment all I can think of to say is, 'hey, me too!' and that doesn't seem all that productive. I'm relieved when he continues.

"I probably shouldn't have taken off like that -- we probably should have talked about what went on in the limo -- but I figured you were freaked out -- "

He abruptly stops talking and stands. A billion questions explode in my mind. So you jetted off to New Jersey and brought back a girl named Chrissy? I notice he's obsessively screwing and unscrewing the cap of his water bottle. It unnerves me. He looks like he wants me to speak, but I still have no idea what to say. Somehow, opening my mouth to see what comes out doesn't seem like a very good plan.

"It was the Romans," he finally says, and even though I immediately tell myself I don't understand what he's talking about, on a subconscious level, I do. And on an even more subconscious level, I don't want to broach the subject, not right now, so I interrupt his confession with my own.

"I had this plan too," I tell him, and he looks relieved that I've taken the ball from his court. I can't help but think how different he is compared to last night. I have to be honest with myself in questioning which I like better. Lex seems off his game now; and even though I didn't always like it, I realize I've come to depend on him knowing what he's doing because more often than not, I have no clue.

"The week of thinking didn't really clarify anything," I continue, managing to push myself off the pillar and take several steps into the room. "I was still as confused yesterday as I was last Sunday and I really thought we should talk. I just didn't expect..."

I trail off, because pride won't allow me to get any closer to 'you hurt me, Lex' than that. I've tried to convince myself that it's the kissing, then the fighting that has led me to this unbearable feeling of doom and despair. But somewhere deep down I know it's the other girl. If she hadn't been here, right in this very room, things wouldn't look so bleak.

I'm not sure I want to talk about her but it's kind of my fault for trailing off like that and now Lex has this sympathetic look on his face that really infuriates me. I'm trying to concentrate on how else he looks -- concerned and sorry -- but it's different because expressions of pity only remind me just how much older and experienced he is and just how I'm...not.

"Chrissy was part of the plan," he says. It kind of shocks me out of my anger because I was expecting 'Chrissy is more my type' or 'Chrissy is just a friend' but not that she was part of the plan.

Amendment: Lex Luthor's plans are ten times lamer than Lana Lang's plans.

"I invited her out here trying to convince myself that falling for you was a bad idea."

He smiles a little ruefully and I realize that's as close to embarrassed as Lex Luthor gets. I'm ecstatic that he said 'falling for you' and try to ignore the 'bad idea' part. It's hard though, like trying to ignore the Chrissy part and I'm just not sure that I can.

"I couldn't stand seeing her here," I say, and sort of think it's come out of left field but they say honesty is the best policy. You kind of just have to have faith that 'they' aren't complete morons.

He moves to place the water bottle on the desk next to mine and steps closer. He's close enough to touch me now and I simultaneously find myself wishing he would and hoping he doesn't. It would make things easier and harder all at the same time, and right now, rationally I have to opt solely for easier.

"I don't even like Chrissy." He says it with a chuckle, and I wonder if that's supposed to make me feel better, because it doesn't. In the space of a second, just one simple utterance, and all of my desire for him to touch me is gone. I step away from him, because the room suddenly seems too small, and I honestly don't think a coat closet is small in this place.

Chrissy is not the way for this conversation to go...that is abundantly clear. I walk to the desk to get the water bottle that is yet unopened, concentrate on opening it and taking a long sip before even trying to process another thought. My head hurts and my eyes feel watery, but it's still my mission not to cry in front of Lex because I just don't feel like we're on a level playing field to begin with.

"Anyway," I finally manage to say, and am relieved I've segued even if it did come out sounding hoarse and tired. I look at him; his shoulders are slightly slumped and he looks as weary as I feel. "What's going on here, Lex?"

He's supposed to have all the experience, so he can provide the answers. He shakes his head, like he's about to say he doesn't know, which really isn't going to be acceptable at this point. Instead he says, "I didn't realize this would happen."

No kidding.

"Half of me has been fighting these feelings since we did the Romans paper..."

He pauses, and I see him reading my face, gauging for reaction. I just nod, put the water back down and fold my arms over my chest. I think everything's written in my face, but if it's not...oh well.

"...and the other half has been wondering if it's not such a crazy idea."

It's crazy, Lex. We're lunatics. I try to say this out loud but my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth, as if I've just eaten a huge spoonful of peanut butter. Instead, I nod again, fighting the familiar feeling of uselessness starting to come over me.

"The kissing in the limo probably shouldn't have happened," he says, turning away from me and moving back behind his desk to look out the window. It's already dark, and I see him reflected in the panes of glass that aren't stained. "And I should have talked to you afterward, immediately afterward -- " he turns back around and looks at me, "and I'm sorry that I didn't."

Finally I can move, I can speak again, and my arms unfold of their own accord. I want to use words to make this all better, to take it back to where it used to be, where Lex and I were friends and there was some aura of mystery surrounding him; when he was exciting and unknown to me. It was easier that way, I could write about him in my diary and no one had to know, not Clark, not Chloe, not even Mr. Big Paws, my old teddy bear.

I want to say something productive and mature, but all I can do is walk around the desk and right into his arms when he opens them. He smells clean and familiar, like dryer sheets and Irish Spring soap. My fingers clench together at the small of his back, cheek resting against the soft material of his shirt. I think, I better not cry now, this shirt probably cost a fortune.

We don't say anything, because now it seems unnecessary. He runs his fingers up and down my back. The gesture feels decadent and I want to close my eyes and bend my head forward, snuggling in for the long haul.

Again it's quiet in the room, again it seems that other noises fade away. The kitchen staff doesn't bang another pot, the clock ceases ticking all together. It seems that the world stops and that's just fine with me. Right here, standing by the windows in Lex's arms, there is no Nell, no Clark, and certainly no Chrissy. There isn't anyone to have a reaction, no one to tell us this is wrong and bad and forbidden. There's just Lex and his soft shirt, his fingers running up and down my back, the light pressure of his chin where he's resting it on my head.

The clock has, I'm convinced, come to a stand still but I have to assume time has gone by; at least five minutes before he clears his throat, breaking the perfect silence, and the world jump starts into action again. I step away when I feel his hands stop their movement and gently release me from his hold. His eyes are fixed on the entryway where I stood (an eternity ago?), and I follow them there.

Julie is in my place. "Pardon the interruption, Mr. Luthor, but dinner will be served per your request at fifteen past the hour."

As if to punctuate her statement, the clock begins to chime. It's seven o'clock.

"I wondered if you'd like it in the dining room or elsewhere," she finishes, and I realize I've never seen Julie look this chagrined or out of place or...meek. Maybe she feels like she knows too much; after all, Lex had a whole other female in this same room just last night. I step further away from him as that realization sinks in.

From the outside looking in, I probably come across as another one of Lex's "girls". I hate that, and I want to believe that I know more, that it's different with me, that I know Lex and they don't...but I can't help but wonder. The staff are, after all, the eyes and ears of this place. They know more than anyone. They probably know more than Lex.

I hate that Julie has taken away my perfect, quiet world, just by a simple expression. Oblivion really is bliss.

"I'll have it in here," Lex tells her, "but give me another half an hour. And please make up a plate for Miss Lang as well."

Julie has nodded and disappeared before I have a chance to process one more thought. It's probably better that way; if given enough time to dwell, any teenage girl's insecurities and paranoia could drive her to join a covenant. Men are just that way, I try to tell myself. Arrogant and self-centered and most of all, stupid. But I want to believe that I deserve more from Lex, more than just to be looked at by the staff as his latest conquest.

We're alone again, make believe shattered by reality as it always is and always will be, and I force myself to look up at him. I've moved back out of reach, and he, in turn, has become less soft, less approachable...more Luthor-like.

"We can convince ourselves of all the reasons we shouldn't do this," he says, standing straight and slipping his hands into his pockets. I recognize this posture; he uses it when he's discussing the best business plan for the Talon. He uses it to convince people of things...he's probably been using body language as a subtle tactic since his first business meeting. I doubt it's even conscious and I don't fault him for it, but I make sure that I'm standing up straighter just the same.

"There are tons," I point out.

He nods thoughtfully. "There are." He walks around the other side of his desk, foregoing the water for a tumbler of scotch. I listen to the gentle clink of crystal against crystal and watch how the muscles in his back move against the smooth of his shirt. It's hard to remind myself of the 'tons' of reasons when I'm able to just watch him this way...I want to go back to the holding by the window where nothing else mattered.

Surely dating Lex Luthor couldn't bring about the apocalypse. What are we afraid of, really? Reaction is other people's problem...not ours. That's something Lex himself would tell me.

But am I ready for him? Is he ready for me? I'm sixteen, in high school, and completely inexperienced. I'm not ready for this.

"There is also one reason that I'm having trouble ignoring," he says, turning back to face me with the tumbler in his hand. It's only filled a quarter of the way with deep brown liquid. He sips it slowly. The fire crackles behind him and lights half his body, making him seem even more unattainable than he usually does. I step closer, willing myself to remember it's only an illusion; willing myself to remember that I have as much control as he does, regardless of age or maturity.

I meant to move only until the firelight wasn't making him glow; I hadn't meant to step right into his reach again, stopping only when I was close enough to faintly smell the alcohol in his glass.

When I look up at him and ask, "what reason is that?" I distinctly know what is about to happen. I hadn't come all this way just to finish our conversation, I know that now even if I didn't at the time I was moving. His eyes have darkened considerably, and I feel myself trembling slightly as he turns to put the glass down on the bar behind him. It crosses my mind to stop this; change the course of events in the brief moment he's turned away, but I can't...partly because I can't move but mostly because I really, really don't want to.

All I want to do is kiss him now -- all I want to do is kiss him ever -- and it seems really unfair to deprive myself of something I'm convinced I need just because someone might react badly to it. As long as that someone isn't me or Lex, I really could care less what anyone in the entire world is doing or thinking or saying right now.

He isn't moving fast enough, just sort of frozen there, looking at me with those eyes that have changed from the blue of the sky to a deeper, richer curlean color and are on their way to being indistinguishable from black. My arm snakes up on his left, fingers curling of their own accord around the smooth back of his neck and I tilt my face up and bring his down until I can smell the scotch on his breath. Finally, he blinks and his eyes close, his own arms circling me and drawing me the rest of the way in.

Our bodies are flush when our lips meet and a warmth bursts inside of me, starting somewhere in the middle and curling out toward my fingers and toes by the time his mouth has opened and his tongue has brushed against mine.

I think kissing Lex Luthor like this is possibly the best feeling in the world; better than the Christmas morning when I found a pink bike with silver and white streamers hanging from the handle bars under the tree, better than the first time Whitney told me he loved me and I seriously thought I would die of happiness. This is nothing like that and everything like that all rolled into one impossibly amazing moment.

Everything falls away; and now it's not just the kitchen and the grandfather clock that are quiet, but the entire world including the fireplace and the darkness and even the floor beneath my feet. Roman papers, gyms marked private, girls at Princeton named Chrissy, the limo, the fight in the guest house, the orchid from the Home all seems rhetorical now. Things simply don't matter and I let my brain empty out, let it all become white noise.

This way I can concentrate. I can memorize how soft his lips are and how smooth his neck feels against my fingertips and how when I touch his ears, even the slightest brush of my fingernails, he tenses just a little. I can taste the scotch and the slightest hint of a mint he must have had, maybe one of those after-coffee mints he likes to take from the Talon and keep in his pocket. I can feel his heart beating, thumping in his chest because I'm pressed right up to him, and he can probably feel mine in the same place on the other side.

Everything is magnified. It's Lex Luthor times ten.

I love Lex Luthor times ten, and I never want to stop doing this. I would gladly forego eating and sleeping and school and the Talon and even breathing if I could just stay right here forever.

His hands have migrated from the small of my back to the hemline of my shirt and they pull at it slightly as his mouth moves away from my lips to my neck. I hear him groan slightly, and he kisses once, twice in the crook where my neck meets my shoulder, making me tingle all over before he pulls back and moves his hands to safer domain on either side of my arms.

"Lana..." he breathes, and I hear it as only a whisper, because my heart is still thumping so loudly in my chest I fear it might pound right out. I open my eyes slowly, kind of annoyed to see the bar behind him and the fireplace and the stone walls. The castle is back and my senses return; the ticking of the clock and the howl of the wind that has picked up outside.

He's looking at me, blinking like he's just crashed back to reality too, and I manage a smile, relieved when he smiles a little in return.

"Hi," he says.

I smile wider. "Hi." It's kind of a 'welcome back' and I feel like we have our own private joke. My insides settle and I'm still warm, still tingly but able to stand on my own when his hands release my arms. Everything seems more clear now, even if the edges of my brain are still fuzzy. The situation seems...easier somehow. If kissing Lex Luthor is always like that, I'm willing to take whatever consequences come with it.

He reaches out and brushes a strand of hair away from my face. "We still have to talk about what we're going to do," he says. Practical, logical Lex doesn't fool me anymore; now that I've seen passionate Lex.

I shrug. "I don't really care what people think anymore," I say, and I mean it. He looks surprised and his lips crook into a half-smile. That disbelieving grin that tells me he's going to remind me of what I really mean. I don't even care right now; I'm ready for anything. You feel what it's like to get a kiss like that, I want to tell him, and tell me if you're not ready to conquer the world.

"You don't care what people think," he says, reaching back to retrieve his glass. I shake my head no as he takes a long, slow sip. His Adam's apple bobs in his throat as he swallows. I want to kiss him there. I plan to remember that later on. "Even if Nell tells you you can't live here anymore and you have to move to Metropolis," he continues calmly.

That gets my attention. She wouldn't do that, would she? I ask it aloud, and Lex only shrugs.

"I'm trying to think of this from Nell's point of view. Would she have let you move in with me if I was your boyfriend? Would she have let you move in with me if there was any remote chance she thought you'd be spending your nights in my bed rather than in your own?"

Okay, stop. Process. I can't stop thinking that he said 'boyfriend'. It sounds strange and the teenager in me wants to giggle. I manage not to, because of the second presumption and I'm right back to the question nagging my Lex really ready to date a teenager?

"Who says I'll be spending nights in your bed?" I ask him. I'm trying to sound amused and not terrified, when really I'm the latter. I'm not sure it works, because he kind of backpedals.

"I meant...theoretically."

I shake my head quickly. I know deep down Lex would never force me to do anything I wasn't ready to do, but at the same time I don't want to navigate my way through a relationship feeling guilty all the time because I'm so different from every other girl Lex has ever dated.

I tell him this and he softens a little, taking one of my hands in his.

"Sounds like you've already made up your mind," he says gently, then adds, I can't help but think a little hopefully, "regardless of the consequences with Nell?"

I swallow down a lump that's suddenly formed in my throat. I want to think this will work. On all levels. I want to think that I can talk to Nell, make her understand and she won't make me move away. I want to think that I can handle dating someone like Lex, with all of his obligations and expectations and whatever else. I want to think that dating Lex will not get in the way of our working relationship, or our living arrangement, or that I won't lose a single friend over it. I want to think all of that, but I can't. The euphoria of being in his arms has worn off and I'm really, really scared that it could all come crashing down around my ears.

I blink and feel my eyes burning with tears. Tears that have been threatening since I walked into the study. Tears that are, I think, long overdue. I let them fall, feel the sob choke my throat and let Lex pull me back to him as everything comes rushing to the surface.

His shirt is going to be ruined no matter how expensive it is, and I don't even care anymore because I can't stop shaking and the tears don't stop coming. He holds me very close, arms tightening around me with each new sob. I feel exposed, like a turtle on its back in the middle of the highway. I fall in love with Lex a little more every time he brushes my back with the palm of his hand and bends his neck a little to whisper something soothing in my ear. And falling in love with him more only makes me more scared, and more desperate. I'm dizzy in the circle I've suddenly managed to trap myself in.

Somewhere behind the cacophony of my mind, I hear Julie enter the room. I feel Lex's hand leave my back for a brief moment, then return so quickly I wonder if I imagined it. I don't hear Julie leave. Trying to concentrate on not crying is only making me more frustrated, and frustration and hopelessness is only leading to more tears.

Lex is whispering that everything will be okay; Lex is assuring me that he'll make everything okay, and that I don't have to worry about anything. I want to believe him so badly my heart hurts. I want him to face Nell and convince her that everything is fine. I want him to tell Clark, to tell the world, and tell them all that if they even so much as think a bad thought, they'll regret it. I want him to say that I can hole up in the mansion and never face my life again, that he'll take care of me forever and ever and who cares what the world thinks?

He doesn't say any of those things, but he tells me it'll all work out, that there's nothing to worry about and that people will understand. I wonder if he believes that, or if he just hopes that I will.

I'm exhausted when I finally stop crying, so exhausted that I contemplate asking him if I can just curl into one of the chairs facing the fire and go to sleep for a while. When I step back to look at him, he puts his hands on my cheeks and uses his thumbs to wipe tears away. It's such a tender, intimate gesture that I fear I'll burst into tears again. Instead I just lean my face into one of his palms and close my eyes briefly, enjoying the touch. His other hand moves to brush my hair back, and I fall into him again.

I don't cry this time, just nestle my face against his chest and count the steady, solid beats of his heart. I can do this, I think. It's all simple, really.

The firelight is making the tumblers set on the bar glint orange and yellow. Everything in the room seems to move, even just slightly, in the ethereal glow. When I close my eyes, it all clears up, my breathing slows and the cacophony between my ears quiets down.

It's all simple, really. There are two choices: be with Lex, or not. And if I want the former, then I'm going to have to deal with the consequences. I'm almost seventeen years old, it's about time I start dealing.

Strength is returning in small degrees. My legs feel solid again, then my torso, then my arms, and finally I can lift my head.

"Are you okay?"

It seems like it's been forever since Lex has spoken. He sounds different...more solid too.

I nod, and step back even further. I think I mean it. The room is stagnant, the fire the only thing moving. I glance behind me and realize Julie has left two meal settings on the table I did my Romans paper on. There are silver covers over the plates, like the kind you get when you order room service to keep the food warm. My stomach rumbles and I look back at Lex.

"I'm starving."

He seems surprised, but holds a handkerchief out to me as he leads the way to the table. I haven't given any thought to what a mess I must be until now, and I wipe my face as best I can with the soft cloth, hoping it's too dim in the room to really tell how red and blotchy I'm sure I am.

He stands at his place and waits for me to sit. I put my hand on the back of the chair but can't seem to pull it out, can't seem to sit down and eat without resolving this at least part way.

"Lex," I say, looking at him square in the face for the first time since I completely lost it. "I want this -- " my hand leaves the back of the chair and I gesture to the air between us, " -- but I'm really scared."

Understatement, but "really, really scared" might have been overkill. "Absolutely terrified" would have just been unneeded drama.

He nods calmly and says, "I know." His expression turns thoughtful and his head cocks just perceptibly to the right. "The question is, is it worth it."

Before I can answer, he's moved from behind his chair and approaches me. He puts his hands on either side of my face again, just gently, left thumb lightly caressing my left cheek. His gaze is intense, the kind of gaze that has been turning my knees to jelly long before this night.

"It is to me," he says, and he leans down and kisses my lips. I immediately feel myself wanting to haul him in for more, and I lick my lips as he pulls away, just to experience every last inch of the taste of him. He's smiling when my eyes flutter back open.

I smile back. "It is to me too," I tell him, and with the words said out loud, and my hands pulling him close for another kiss, the very simple decision is very simply made.

29 Nov 2002

Author's Note: Thanks for all of the support and feedback along the way. I hope it was worth it. Special thanks to the girls at DTS for being my own personal cheering section.