Over Coffee

by Christie
http://number14.org/precious


Over Coffee
by Christie
http://number14.org

Genre: Smallville; Humor, Friendship
Pairing: Lex/Lana, Lana/Chloe
Rating: PG-13
Spoilers: Hug
Summary: Dares for pretty girls.
Disclaimer: Smallville (c) MGI and TRP. No infringement intended.


Chloe thinks coffee is the world's elixir. There's nothing really too difficult to talk about over coffee. She reminds herself of this as Lana struggles to swallow down her laughter.

Lana's never been very good at hiding her emotions. Chloe knows this and isn't really sure why she chose to confide in Lana about one of the most embarrassing moments of her life. But kissing Clark, or quasi-kissing Clark since she didn't even remember it, was more than just embarrassing. It was kind of a milestone.

Of what, she wasn't sure. But she feels it in the vicinity of her gut.

"You can stop laughing at me now," Chloe bites off, not really angry at her semi-friend, but definitely deciding the girlish giggling has gone on long enough. Plus, people are starting to stare. And Lex Luthor just walked in and Chloe does not want him finding out about the whammy.

Lana genuinely tries to stop now, nods almost solemnly to Lex as he passes them for the back of the Beanery. Chloe can tell Lana has slipped a little when she lowers her face to her cup and snorts. Very unladylike.

Now if Lex Luthor could have heard that, it would have been nice.

"That's just wrong!" Lana finally manages, actually taking a sip of her coffee without the liquid resurfacing through her nose. "I mean, he could have made you stand on your head or quack like a duck. He didn't have to make you reveal personal feelings."

Chloe shrugs, because she's thought all of this through. Kyle Tippet was trying to teach her a lesson. Walk softly. She'd gotten it loud and clear, and with the big whammy stick. But being one of the only 16-year-olds through the self-discovery phase and pretty much comfy in her own skin, the lesson would go largely unheeded. Even if now Clark does know her deepest desire.

"Maybe it's good," Lana says, now blinking with those big, pretty, hopeful eyes. "Maybe Clark will -- "

Chloe snorts, she can't help it. Begs Lana not to venture too far into Delusional Land.

"What? Suddenly get over you and realize he's been lusting after me all this time? Not likely."

Lana looks sad and sorry, but Chloe's okay. If there is one thing she knows, its that Clark's heart belongs to Lana Lang. It's been that way ever since his voice changed and Chloe really has had a ton of time to adjust. She's content with her role in his life. She's solid. Lana's...not.

Sure, it hurt a little when Clark said the kiss was 'fine'. Hurt isn't even the word. Twinged the ego; just a tad. But Chloe has on good authority that she isn't a bad kisser. Pete told her so in the 7th grade when they'd practiced with tongues. Pete is tactful and sweet and all, but he wouldn't lie about something that had been as important as that had seemed at the time.

Chloe knows her place in life. The Grand Scheme and all. Lana is the pretty people. So is Clark, now that he's grown into his racehorse legs and developed muscles that go on forever. She...isn't. Smart, funny, cute, loyal. Chloe checks off her pick-me-ups. She'll get a boyfriend someday, and right now? Not wanting the drama.

"Let's face it, Lana," she says, smiling before she sips her coffee. "Some girls can't have any guy they want."

Pointed look aside, Lana clearly doesn't quite realize her elevated league status. She tilts her head and throws confusion Chloe's way. Chloe wants to catch the look and put it in her pocket. Save it for later, cause it really is cute.

"Guys don't come on to me all the time, Chloe," Lana tells her.

Chloe raises her eyebrows and furtively glances around the coffee shop. She can't see one guy that would say no if Lana asked them out. "That's because you have a boyfriend and you have this vibe."

"Vibe?" Lana seems genuinely uncomfortable with being vibey, Chloe sees her fingers tighten around her mug, the knuckles turning a lighter shade of pink. Not quite to white. Lana tilts in the booth a little, back, forth, like she's rocking on her heels.

"Yeah. Guys fear rejection so they won't ask you out." Chloe says this as if she knows. She's pretty sure, but she really hasn't formulated much in the way of a hypothesis. "But if you asked a guy out, there's no way they'd say no."

She hears her voice, hears how confident she sounds, and realizes there's no way she's wrong. Money on the table, betting on the line, she won't lose.

Lana shakes her head. "You don't know that."

She's looking around the coffee shop now too, Chloe bets she's looking for proof.

"Oh, I'm really right on this one."

Lana turns back, her left eyebrow arches slightly, and something daring flashes in her eye. Chloe likes it, likes the expression because she figures its one Lana doesn't wear very often, although she'd probably feel less sheltered and claustrophobic if she did. Not that Chloe would know what Lana really writes in her diary, but it's a fair guess that there's something lurking beneath all that sweetness and light.

"I don't think you are," Lana says.

Chloe smiles. Gauntlet, say hello to your new friend the floor. "Wanna bet?"

Lana seems to digest this for a moment, then looks excited. "Bet what?"

Quick calculation of the envelope stuffed in her underwear drawer where her nosy little brother won't even go to snoop. "Fifty bucks. Fifty bucks says you ask a guy out and he says yes. I'll even let you pick the guy." Chloe pauses, watches the triumph already pass over Lana's face and figures a qualifier. "As long as he's single," she adds.

Lana smiles. "You sure? Fifty dollars is a lot of money."

"I'm sure."

"I pick the guy?"

Chloe nods, crosses her arms over her chest. "As long as he's single." Yes, she couldn't have Lana asking out Mr. Kent, now could she? The thought made her smile, then chuckle to herself because that was a picture like a train wreck. You couldn't not look, no matter how gross it was.

"Okay," Lana says, sliding out from the booth. "You ready?"

"Wait, what?" Chloe blinks. Rids her mind of the Lana asking out Mr. Kent and tries to refocus on the task at hand. "He's here?" Lana smiles. She seriously looks like she's already won, like the proverbial cat that ate the canary. Her head tilts slightly toward the back of the shop, where one very mysterious, very handsome, very bald billionaire's son sat, back to the rest of the Beanery, pouring over what was probably business reports.

Chloe shakes her head and uses her hand to push herself out of the booth. "No, not Lex."

"You said -- "

"Lex knows Clark likes you," Chloe argues, wishing she'd qualified the single thing with another thing: No Luthors. No friends of Clark's of any kind. Her asking Lex was like her asking Pete. A big, dark, scary dead end. "There's no way he'd do that to Clark."

Lana nods, because of course she's thought of this. "This is how I'm going to win the bet, Chloe."

Chloe wants to kick herself. Or Lana. Or both. "I should have specified. He has to be in high school." Chloe's mind spins, back tracks. "And not Pete!"

Lana only laughs. "You didn't specify that, and we made the bet. Lex is who I'm asking."

Chloe sits back down, crosses her arms over her chest and tries not to pout into her coffee cup. "Fine," she acquiesces. "You never know. He could say yes."

Silver lining, because it is true. At least between Lex and Pete, Lex is the one more likely to say yes. Chloe smiles and stands again, following Lana toward the back of the Beanery. "Oh, and Lana? No telling him it's a bet. You have to ask Lex Luthor out and he has to think you want to go out with him."

Lana barely turns back, just tosses her hair over her shoulder. "I know."

Chloe reaches out, stops Lana before they get halfway back. "That means if he asks about Whitney, you have to lie."

She puts special emphasis on the word lie, because its something she knows Lana loathes to do. But Lana only smiles, almost sympathetically, and puts a gentle hand on Chloe's shoulder.

"Chloe, don't worry. You can eavesdrop if you want."

Chloe lowers her voice as they approach the overstuffed chairs in the back. "Don't worry, I will."

Lex is occupying a purple one and Lana takes the adjacent red, while Chloe slides into a nearby booth and opens her math book.

*

Lana can feel every nerve in her body, from ears to toes, jittering and whipping and snapping and making her very dizzy. She isn't worried she'll lose the bet, she's plain and simply embarrassed. She wouldn't admit it to Chloe, but she hasn't asked a guy out before. Ever.

She tries to tell herself that Lex is the least embarrassing choice, because she doesn't have to see him at school every day. But he could tell Clark, and that would be bad. She doesn't think he would, but anything's possible, she supposes.

He looks up as she approaches and slides into the red chair adjacent to his. She's glad to be sitting down, because knees knocking would be pretty distracting right about now. He smiles at her, closes his folder and looks genuinely glad to be interrupted.

"Hey Lana."

She smiles. "Mind if I interrupt?"

"Not at all." Now he slips the folder onto the table in front of him and picks up his coffee mug. Takes a sip, regarding her over the rim with those eyes -- she swears he has x-ray vision or reads minds or somehow sees right deep down into her soul. It's unnerving, to put it insanely mildly. When he's finished scanning her or reading her or whatever he does with that look, he glances over and to his right, at Chloe who is pretending to be really interested in the Pythagorean theorem.

"Is Miss Sullivan boycotting me?"

Lana laughs, and is amazed at how calm it sounds. Inside, she's a wreck.

"No, she's just really into her book."

Who's really into their math book? Lame.

Lex looks like he's thinking it too, and only smiles strangely. "Hmmm." He sips again, and again with the intense stare.

She shifts, wants to drag her feet up under her but fears they'll fall asleep. Wants to fold her arms in front of her chest but fears he knows too much about human behavior and body language not to read something into it. Wants to get up, walk out the door and run home, but really doesn't have fifty bucks to spare.

"So how have you been?"

Lex tilts his head. "Good. Can't complain."

Lana nods. "Good. Good." Big, long awkward pause, Lana biting her lip, Lex looking calm, cool and amused. "Gosh, its been cold lately, huh?"

Lame. Lame. Intensely stupid and dorky and lame. Lana knows she's not having to worry about losing the bet now. Even if she was single and had a slutty reputation, Lex still wouldn't go out with her due to the fact that she's the World's Biggest Dork.

He laughs, and she's sure it's at her. She can't blame him.

"Lana, what is it?"

"Huh?"

"You're nervous and you're making small talk. What's on your mind?"

She wants to tell him just to do that telepathic possibly x-ray thingy he does, but figures if he does have those kinds of abilities, he's not exactly showing them off, now is he? And if he did have those kinds of abilities, he wouldn't have to ask her what was on her mind, now would he? And people don't have those kinds of abilities, even in Smallville, and Lana's just going crazy with nervousness and really, really needs to get a grip. "Would you, maybe, want to..."

She hears Chloe sneeze, wonders if there isn't some laughter hidden behind it, and reconsiders the running out the door and all the way home theory.

"...go out with me sometime?"

Ball in his court. Cards on the table. Gauntlet thrown. Can open. Worms everywhere.

Lana leans back. There's a sort of satisfaction in knowing that your move is over, and you get to cool your heels until he makes his.

Of course, he is Lex Luthor, who has no trouble making moves of any kind, so it doesn't take long for him to lean forward, get that amused, kind of surprised but not so much that he'd show it to just anyone look on his face.

"Are you asking me out on a date?"

Chloe, who obviously just got a burst of winter allergy, sneezed again and Lana definitely hears laughter behind it. Big, fat, gleeful, triumphant laughter, and Lana frowns. Forces herself to nod at Lex.

"Yeah."

He can't have been oblivious to Chloe's reaction, but pretends to have been and smiles, leans back a little and lifts one leg to cross his ankle over his knee.

"Sure."

Lana almost falls out of her chair. She does pick her legs up now, tucks them under her and sits forward a little further, the better to hear him say no, which is what he *had to *have said cause there is no way he said what she heard. Which was. Yes.

"What?"

More laughter from Chloe who isn't even bothering to hide it anymore, the open math book on the table, Pythagorean theorem forgotten.

"He said yes, Lana," she quips, turning her chair in a half circle until she faced them.

Lana takes the time out to throw a scowl at her friend, then turns back to Lex. She feels her cheeks burning, realizes he is looking at them both like they are crazy people, and really feels now like the World's Biggest Idiot.

"What about Clark?"

He cocks an eyebrow and wiggles the foot that hangs off his knee. "I'm supposed to ask Clark's permission?"

"No, I -- " Lana is kind of surprised that her entire foot is able to fit into her small little mouth. "Won't he get mad at you?"

Lex shrugs and says sincerely, "I hope not." He thinks for a moment, turns a little to look at Chloe then back to Lana, with those eyes, zeroed in, intensity in the red zone. "I'd think *you'd *be more worried about what Clark would think, not to mention your boyfriend."

He puts special emphasis on the word, and Lana is clear in his intention. To find out exactly what is going on because Lana asking him out and Chloe watching like it's some sort of after school special is really not making for a convincing picture of the young girl wants a taste of the town bad boy. She suddenly feels very, very guilty. Third honor: Worlds Biggest Bitch.

"Right," she says, not recognizing her own voice, probably having something to do with the foot in her mouth. "I didn't think you'd say yes. It was sort of -- "

She stops, Chloe clears her throat sharply and they're about as subtle as Satan in church. Lex looks from one to the other, tilts his head and smirks. Genuine amusement. Even a small sparkle in his eye. Lana hopes she's right in thinking he looks as far from 'hurt' or 'embarrassed' or 'rejected' as a person could get.

"A joke?"

He doesn't sound upset, but her heart plummets to her stomach anyway.

"No!" She realizes she sounds a little too vehement and closes her eyes, makes a concerted effort to tone it down a notch. Like a joke would be so horrible, but a bet, well that's just all in a day's fun for small town girls, isn't it?

"A dare?" He asks, this time a little more curious, a touch more amused, maybe a hint of laughter in his voice. Lana wonders how he can take all of this in stride; all she wants to do is dig a hole in the ground and crawl into it.

"A bet," she finally admits, eyes downcast, voice small.

He laughs. It causes her to look up because it's genuine, so far as she can tell. Deep, throaty chuckle that sounds very un-Lex like, but would have been pleasant, if she didn't feel like the gum on the bottom of someone's shoe.

"How much did you win, Chloe?"

She beams at him, and Lana wants to sneer at her, but can't. She'd tried to sneer once, and it looked like she had something stuck up her nose. Never really attempted to do it again, and kind of gets the feeling Lex is enjoying this so it might not be appropriate now.

"Fifty bucks," Chloe tells him triumphantly. "Thanks, by the way." She snaps her book shut, punctuates the punctuate with a brilliant smile thrown Lana's way. Lana starts to wonder how she's going to explain to her aunt that she needs to borrow $50 because she lost a bet to Chloe. Or if it would be better borrowed from Whitney, although the lie would have to be just as big -- no, bigger.

She stops her incredibly selfish train of thought when Lex shakes his head, turns a little toward her and says, "Don't thank me, I'm the one who just got duped."

It's the guilt again, crushing weight on her chest and Lana remembers why she hates to hurt anyone; it's really, really painful -- the guilt thing. "Lex, I'm so sorry." Her voice even cracks a little, and she knows its from the tight squeeze in her throat, the one that makes it feel like it's been stuffed with a balloon and breathing might be a luxury she took a little too much for granted back -- back before she was the World's Biggest Bitch.

He laughs again and shakes his head. There's that sparkle in his eye, the one she can't quite figure out; but Lex has always been a mystery -- what was that old saying? An ambiguity wrapped in an enigma tied up with vagueness surrounded by mystery. Or something.

"Don't worry, Lana," he tells her, trademark smirk settling over his lips. His hands slide easily into his pockets. Very Lex-like, now. Untouchable. "I'm resilient."

He pauses, eyes grazing over the now-closed math book. "The square of the length of the hypotenuse of a right triangle equals the sum of the squares of the lengths of the other two sides," he says.

He may as well have been speaking Latin. "Huh?"

Lex raises his eyebrows at her confusion. The smirk turns into a full blown smile. "The Pythagorean theorem," he tells her, winking. Then he turns away from them, saunters a few steps toward the exit before tossing over his shoulder, "Have a good one, girls."

-end-
19 March 2002


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