Landslide

by Christie
http://number14.org/precious


The news is on every channel. It's impossible to miss. Lionel Luthor, dead at the age of 56. Lana happens to be in Metropolis when it happens. Strange, Lana thinks, because she's been to Metropolis exactly two times since she last saw Lionel Luthor over ten years ago. And this counts as one of those times.

Lana tells her client that she has to leave. Suddenly, discussing the bulk rate of napkins and coffee sleeves seems incredibly inappropriate. Lana picks up her purse but doesn't quite make it to the front door of the restaurant. She stops at the bar and stares up at the television. Helicopter accident, they say. Inclement weather, no signs of foul play. Lana tries to figure how she would imagine Lionel Luthor dying and decides a helicopter accident wouldn't have been it.

When Lana steps onto the sidewalk in front of the restaurant, it's raining. She hails a cab quickly but is unsure of where to tell the driver to go. Finally, she says "LuthorCorp."

The downpour has done nothing to dissuade reporters and camera crews from camping out in front of the building downtown. Lana winds her way around them, briefly wondering if she'll see Clark now that he's a hotshot reporter for the Planet. She seriously doubts it, and seriously hopes not all at the same time.

When the throngs are behind her, Lana is face to face with a LuthorCorp security guard. He asks her for her credentials. She, of course, has none. Is she an employee? No, she is not. He tells her the building is currently closed to anyone other than employees and authorized persons. He is pleasant enough, but has probably said this a thousand times in the last hour. Plus, he's standing in the rain.

Lana begins to wonder what exactly she's doing there anyway. Is she really planning to see Lex? She tries to open her mouth to tell the guard she is a friend of Lex Luthor's, but the words won't come. And he looks like he really, really wants her to just leave. So she walks away.

Her hotel is three blocks south of the LuthorCorp tower. Lana doesn't bother with a cab. She clutches her purse and walks hurriedly, although the only reason would be to keep up with the streaming masses. She is already drenched from head to toe.

When she is reasonably toweled off and in a big, fluffy white bathrobe, she sits on the bed and turns on the television. Lex is giving a press conference. He looks no different than when she last saw him ten years ago. Except maybe harder. Meaner. Unforgiving. Lana honestly can't remember if perhaps he'd always looked that way.

Three days later, the funeral is held at St. Joseph's Parish. It is closed to the public, but boasts a guest list of over 500. At least, that's what the television news tells her. Lana is not on the guest list, but Nell is. She manages to enter with her aunt and no one says a word.

Lana isn't sure she's ever realized just how important Lionel Luthor was until she is standing in the same room with the President of the United States and the British Prime Minister. Lex is easy to spot, in a crisp black suit toward the front of the church shaking hands with important people. Nell walks to a pew near the middle of the spectacularly large hall and Lex glances their way as they sit. Lana thinks she smiles at him, but she can't be sure. Her face feels too numb to tell. He doesn't smile back, but she swears she sees a flash of something in his eyes. She decides it's probably recognition and surprise.

As she looks around, Lana wonders if Clark is on the guest list. She guesses not. Clark has been back to Smallville exactly one time that she knows of since they graduated high school. But he keeps in contact with her via email, albeit sporadically. He has alluded to the fact that he does not agree with many (if any) of Lex's business practices and therefore they no longer speak.

Lana doesn't ask for specifics. She tells herself she doesn't care. But as she lays eyes on Lex for the first time in ten years, she can't help but begin to care again. A lot. She hadn't told anyone, but since she and Lex started their partnership in the Talon, she'd been putting away a little money each month in hopes of eventually buying Lex's half out. Almost a year to the day after graduating high school, she had succeeded. Lex had been surprised, but clearly proud of her foresight. He happily turned the Talon over to her, and even helped convert the little loft above it into an apartment.

She slept with Lex in that little apartment.

She hadn't intended it to happen, of course, but it was difficult not to get closer to him after so many years of working together. And even more so after graduation, when everyone moved on with their lives and she and Lex were stuck in Smallville, same old same old. After they made love, Lana told Lex she was unsure of what she wanted. She never bothered to find out what he wanted. He moved back to Metropolis two weeks later, and she hadn't seen him again.

Until now.

After the service, Lana and Nell stand in the long receiving line to offer Lex their condolences. Lana feels stupid. There are about 300 people ahead of her, and it just seems so...pointless. But she stands there, because Nell says it would be rude to walk out without speaking to Lex at all. And isn't that why Lana is there in the first place? She doesn't know.

It takes almost an hour and a half to get up to the front of the line. Lex looks tired. More tired than Lana has ever seen him. She feels sorry for him because he's only halfway through the line. She bets he wouldn't think it was rude if all of these people just up and left. She bets he'd think it was fantastic.

Nell hugs Lex first, tells him how sorry she is. Over Nell's shoulder, Lex just looks at Lana. Stares. Tries to comprehend. At least, that's what Lana thinks he's doing. That's what she's doing anyway. When it's her turn to hug Lex, she does. Not a half-assed hug either, but big and tight and close. She wants to, although she isn't sure why. She wants to stay this close to him forever, and the thought surprises her.

"I'm exhausted," Lex says in her ear, apparently for no reason at all but to say it. Lana nods against the crook in his neck where her chin is nestled and rubs his back with her palm. As if she understands, even remotely, what this might be like for him.

They pull away when Lana says "I know." She looks for Nell, who has already made her way to the front of the church. She looks back at Lex. She remembers that there are still over 200 people that need to hug him or shake his hand. She smiles, that parting smile that obviously says 'I don't want to go but I have to'. Lex smiles that way back. Then he clutches her hand. It's totally unexpected; totally like Lex to do it.

"Are you in town?" he asks.

She nods. She has actually extended her stay. She was planning on leaving the day she found out Lionel was dead. It was only a one-night trip, which was why she had sprung for the cushy hotel. She supposes if she'd planned on staying this long, she'd have stayed with Nell. But instead, she kept paying the outrageous nightly rate for the hotel, and it all came to this. The hug in the church with over 200 people behind them. Waiting.

"Can I see you tonight?"

Lana wonders if the people behind them can hear. Or if anyone is even close to paying attention. She wonders why it suddenly matters. Surely old friends can arrange to get together while one is in town, can't they? Only it seems more...intimate than that. Lex looks tired, and he shouldn't want to see anyone tonight. But he wants to see her. Lex just lost his father, and he wants to see her. Lex probably feels like he's in a washing machine set on spin, and he wants to see her.

Lana nods mutely. Lex pulls her back into a hug. "I don't want to go home," he whispers to her, and she feels her heart break for him. She hugs him tighter. She tells him what hotel she's at, and what room she's in. He nods and pulls back again.

Now it's his turn to initiate the parting smile, and he does. She squeezes his hand one last time and turns to walk away.

Deep down, she wonders if it will be another ten years before she sees him again.

When eight o'clock slips by, then nine, Lana thinks she was right to wonder. She takes off the black knit dress she wore to the funeral. Takes off her pantyhose, and releases her hair from its clip. She slips on the white bathrobe and washes her face.

It's okay, she thinks. Seeing Lex now, after all these years and when Lionel's death is so fresh, it would be strange. Maybe even unbearable. Maybe even dangerous. She knows Lex is hurting, knows that she hurts for him in a way that seems inappropriate. She wants to make him better; make him whole, and that is just something that she is not equipped to do.

She takes one of the tiny bottles of rum from the mini bar and a bag of macadamia nuts. She's paying over $150 a night for the room, what's another $20 in snacks? Pulling her legs up and underneath her, Lana settles into an armchair and pours the rum into her glass of Coke. She flips on the television and decides to head back to Smallville as soon as she wakes up in the morning.

If she were dreaming, she might have thought the dull thump thump she hears is part of it. But as it turns out, she isn't dreaming at all, and she rouses herself enough to realize the noise is someone knocking on the door. Lana's legs are stiff and filled with pins and needles when she pulls them out from under her. The television is still on and the clock by the bed says it's nearly 11:00 p.m.

Lex looks as worn as Lana knows she must. His eyes are puffy and his tie is loose around his neck. His shirt is wrinkled. Lana isn't sure she's ever seen him with a wrinkled shirt.

"I know it's late," he says. His voice sounds gruff, like he's been using it all day and it's just about to quit on him.

She shrugs and steps aside to let him in. "I was asleep," she says, running a hand through her hair. She means for it to explain her appearance, but realizes it probably sounds bitchy from where he's standing. She sighs and walks toward him. "I didn't mean that. I'm glad you came by."

He takes her into a hug, and she's there, ready for it, as if somehow she knew that would happen. They stand there, in the middle of her room, holding each other for what seems like an eternity. His chin is dropped on the top of her head, she can feel it weighted there. He feels heavy, as if he might sag to the floor if she lets go. It's so unlike Lex she gets a chill. She knows Lex had a complicated relationship with his father, and knows he -- in the span of a single moment -- inherited billions upon billions of dollars. But she also knows that this has hit him hard -- probably harder than he ever imagined.

Lana bets Lex has imagined ways in which his father would die, and wonders if a helicopter accident was among his predictions.

When he releases her from his embrace, she reaches up and touches his face. She isn't sure if it's a gesture of caring, or solidarity, or if she just wants to make sure he's real. He tilts into the touch and she ends up caressing his cheek. His skin is warm and slightly flushed. She wonders if he's been drinking.

"I couldn't get away until now," he says, voice nearly monotone. Lana looks into his eyes and sees a vacancy there; one that she'd seen before but never so pronounced. "I can't go home," he continues. "The phone doesn't stop ringing. People don't stop coming. Reporters don't stop asking questions."

Lana moves her hand away from his face and it drops uselessly to her side. She isn't sure what to do with them now, so she shoves them deep into the pockets of the robe. Lex steps back and shrugs off his jacket. He simply lets it drop to the floor, and Lana hears the telltale clunk of the cell phone in his pocket as it hits the carpet. His tie joins his coat and then they're both standing there, hands in pockets with nothing to do.

"Do you want something from the mini bar?" Lana asks.

Lex gives her a half-grin that she is very used to. She is grateful for the small gesture of Lex-ness, because she is starting to get a little rattled.

"Just water."

She takes a bottle out and hands it to him, then reaches for her own drink. The Coke is flat and the taste of rum even more pronounced, but she supposes something to take the edge off is probably a good thing at this point. She flips the television off and moves to sit on the large sofa in the middle of the room. She motions Lex to join her.

"I'm sorry, Lex," she says earnestly once he's settled on the opposite end of the couch. "It must be really hard -- "

Lex cuts her off with a wave of his hand. He takes a long swallow of water. "Please, don't," he says, setting the bottle on the end table nearest to him. "I hear that all day long. I came here to get away from all of that bullshit."

Lana bites down on her lower lip but says nothing. She takes another sip of her drink and runs her fingertips over the condensation that is beading on the glass.

"I'm sorry," Lex says, and clears his throat. "It's just...I don't know how I feel about my father dying. I know I'm supposed to be grieving, but I'm not. And I have to spout the right platitudes all day long to his colleagues knowing that deep down, they're not grieving either."

Lana sets her drink down and scoots closer to him on the couch. She pulls the ties of her robe tighter about her waist before laying a hand on his knee. "Maybe you're in denial," she says evenly. She's sure he's not, but it seems the right thing to say.

Lex shakes his head. He is looking at her hand where it's touching his leg, and he doesn't look away. "Maybe I'm not that sorry the bastard's dead."

Instinctively, Lana knows this may be the case. Still, it's shocking to hear him say it out loud. These are the kinds of peeks into the real Lex Luthor that often scare people away. These are the kinds of realizations that people can't handle. These are human character flaws in the very best case scenario; pure unadulterated evil in the very worst. And it really depends on who you ask.

Lana doesn't know what to say, so she stays quiet. She scoots even closer to him and moves her hand from his leg to cradle the back of his neck. Her other hand steals up his chest, feeling muscles tense beneath his shirt as she touches him. Pathetic is the only word that comes to mind when Lana thinks about what she's doing. She has no idea what to say so she'll just try the thing that works on most men: sex. She isn't even sure that's what Lex came here for, but she's placed it as one of the top three reasons he could have had.

Lex lets her touch him; lets her lips slant over his and her tongue sneak its way into his mouth. He lets her draw the taste of him out; she realizes that yes, he has been drinking. He doesn't protest when she lifts herself up to straddle him where he sits.

A small rumble begins in the back of his throat and surfaces as a groan when her lips move beyond his mouth and begin a slow, wet trail of kisses across his cheek and to his ear. She nips at his earlobe, then at the skin behind and feels him shudder and his arms tighten around her.

"Lana," he growls, as she slides her tongue over the bump of his Adam's apple and up his chin until she's arrived back at his mouth.

"Lex," she says back, both hands moving to grasp his face as she kisses him again, raw and deep and inviting.

It lasts an eternity, and Lana feels like she's floating when Lex finally shifts away. She moves her hands to the buttons on his shirt, more desperate than ever to get them open and the shirt off. Lex's long, elegant fingers slip over hers and stop them.

"Lana," he says, sounding infinitely more coherent than he looks. Heavy-lidded and sex-starved and laden with need, Lana wants to tell him that he's not fooling anybody. Instead, she pulls back and blinks at him.

"Isn't this what you came for?" she asks.

He hesitates. His eyes shift beyond her, taking their time to come back to rest on her face. "Don't do this because you feel sorry for me," he says. His voice is hard and controlled, but Lana can feel every tense muscle beneath his clothes, she can feel the absolute want radiating off of him as if it were tangible.

"I'm doing this because I want to," she says softly, fingers slowly undoing the tie of her robe. It falls open and she shrugs it off her shoulders. Lex's eyes roam across the black lace bra and panties she has on underneath. Lana feels her entire body surge with power.

"I'm doing this because you need it," she continues, moving her fingers back over to their place at his shirt buttons, slowly undoing one by one. "I'm doing this because an encore is ten long years overdue."

Lex smiles at this despite himself. He watches as she opens his shirt, hands lying motionless at Lana's hips. He sits up when she tells him to, lets her pull the shirt from his arms and drop it on the floor. Then she leans forward and kisses him again.

Her breasts scrape over his chest, hardening nipples underneath the lace. Lana moans softly as Lex's warm hands travel up her back, then around to the flat of her stomach until finally cupping one in each hand. He doesn't remove the bra, but dips a thumb inside and teases until Lana squirms atop him.

"Lex." Her voice shudders into the room, sounding loud against the searing silence, save for moans and subtle shifts of the sofa and skin on skin.

He moves beneath her, leaving the robe completely behind and hauling her up against him with a strength she isn't sure she knew he had. He takes a breast into his mouth, black lace and all, and Lana is simply unaware of how else to react. She quivers against him, hands gripping his skull and moving to the back of the couch because she doesn't want to hurt him with her fingernails.

She holds on for dear life as he mouths both breasts until the bra is soaked through, his hands holding tightly at her waist and crushing her pelvis into his torso. When he lets her go she slides down him, close to boneless but it doesn't matter because this is exactly what she's been missing for ten years.

She's had sex with other guys, even dated someone seriously for a couple of years, but nothing -- nothing -- comes close to Lex. Lex is all hands and mouth and skin and does everything just right that it begins to feel like maybe it's not real. Fantasy times two.

Lana pushes herself off of the couch completely, stands over him and takes in the half-dressed, wet kissed look of him. She kneels, lets her knees hit the carpet before reaching for his belt buckle and sliding his pants and boxers from his hips. Lana knows that if she hesitates, faced with his hard, throbbing cock, Lex will pull her up and find something else to do because he doesn't want her to do this.

At least, in theory. He told her this all those years ago, when she almost went down on him but didn't, and now Lana decides she's not going to let him call the shots because she's a big girl now and she wants to.

He shudders when she breathes against him, makes a small noise of what Lana thinks is supposed to be protest but turns out to just be a little whimper from his throat that does nothing but spur her on. There is nothing, Lana thinks, more empowering and more sexy than making Lex Luthor squirm and beg. His hands tangle fistfuls of her hair and he arches up as she takes him into her mouth.

She's only done this a few times before, but Lana thinks she must be doing something right because Lex is bordering on unintelligible. She hears her name and several random curse words between gasps and she thinks, as he grips her hair and it nears painful, that he's probably going to come soon.

A long, low moan filters into the air on a sharp exhale and Lex suddenly releases his hands from her hair.

"Oh God," he says through gritted teeth. When he arches up again, Lana anchors her hands on either one of his thighs. He grinds out her name again as he comes.

This is the first time Lana has actually swallowed. It's about time, she figures; she is almost 30. She knows Lex is surprised, even as he is gasping and trying to keep his eyes from rolling back into his head. He keeps saying, "Jesus" in a voice Lana can only read as incredulous.

"Shit, Lana," he says, reaching down and running a hand across her arm. She smiles and stands, moving to straddle him once more.

"You alright?" she whispers against his ear. She feels him tremble beneath her. His lips are soft and pliant, his whole body feels enervated as she kisses him deeply. She idly wonders how many women have given him a blow job -- just how many times he's tasted himself in a girl's mouth.

It's distracting to think that way, Lana knows. But she can't help it. She gets a little antsy when she thinks about Lex with other women.

His hands are traveling up her back and this time he unhooks her bra and pushes her away from him, letting it slip from her shoulders. He expels a breath and impels them both forward, pinning Lana beneath him on the couch. His mouth seems to devour her, leaving no inch of flesh unkissed. White spots are flashing behind Lana's eyelids by the time he hooks his fingers in the waistband of her panties and drags them down her legs.

Electric shocks course through her entire body as Lex's breath scorches the insides of her thighs. She arches against him as he strokes her, first with his fingertips, then with his tongue. If it's possible for a human being to purr, Lana thinks she does. Stars explode in front of her as he slips a long, slender finger into her and presses against her clit with the flat of his tongue. Lex, she thinks, is too good at this and she isn't sure she's ever felt something this intense in her entire life.

Lana grips the sofa cushion, fingernails digging into the soft material for purchase. Lex tastes her over and over and over, like he just can't get enough of her. She thinks she might never feel something this good again. His finger slips in and out, smooth and steady while his tongue is nothing close to predictable, sliding over every single part of her and back again until she can't keep track of where he's been and where he's going. Orgasm explodes like a clap of thunder and she cries out, sure that she has fallen down some rabbit hole of bliss and equally sure that she'll never be able to claw her way back to sanity.

Lex moves after a while, disentangling himself from her legs and sliding effortlessly up her body to cradle her against him. She feels his erection, hard and warm against her thigh and she turns and parts her legs for him, even as they tremble with exhaustion. He rocks his hips and slides into her, and Lana feels heat rush through her weary, throbbing limbs.

They are joined almost completely, Lex keeping his body against hers as if he can't bear to be apart for the merest of seconds. Lana sighs into his neck, finds the strength to lift her arms and wrap them around his back, running fingertips over muscles as they tense with each thrust.

She feels liquid. Her insides are jelly and the only solid thing she feels is him, thick and hot and pulsing. Keeping her alive, keeping her whole.

"Lex." She murmurs his name simply to say it, simply to hear it amid the soft sex-sounds surrounding them. Her tongue reaches out and traces the shell of his ear and she says his name again, drawing it out with her teeth against the sensitive skin of his neck. He shudders and braces himself on his hands. Pulling up, she is able to look at him, and the exhaustion in his eyes is somewhat sated. He now looks wild and needy and -- God -- in love, and she lifts her hands to press palms against his cheeks, guiding him down for a kiss.

Thrusts are longer, harder, and he breaks away from her mouth simply to groan, eyes focused on her face as he gets closer to completion. With every instroke Lana can feel him -- everything inside of her connecting on some level, and she thinks if she was never philosophical before, she is now. She brings her legs up and around him, pulling him in just a little deeper until he moans something unintelligible but loud and comes.

Landslide.

Lana likes Lex's vulnerability after an orgasm. He slips down bonelessly and she cradles him, laying small kisses across his face and stroking soothing fingers down his back. It would be comfortable for Lana if she couldn't feel the warm, sticky wetness running out of her and pooling underneath, and she knows she has to get up and at least attempt to salvage the couch by mopping it with a towel.

Lex gets up also, makes his way to the bed and flops back down. Lana stops what she's doing long enough to pull the covers down for him and let him shower her with soft, sweet kisses -- kisses she would never expect from Lex Luthor. Finally, she smoothes a palm over his brow and tells him to get some sleep.

She's pretty sure he's out before she's dimmed the lights and slipped her robe back on.

As the night wears on, Lex sleeps soundly. Lana picks up his clothes and hangs them in the closet. She takes a shower, dressed in actual clothing and brushes her teeth. She ends up flipping the couch cushion over since the rumor she heard in high school is apparently true: semen stains really don't come out.

She can't sleep, and once there's nothing to occupy her mind with, she gives in and lays on the bed next to Lex. It's well past 3 a.m. when she finally closes her eyes and only half past 7 when she opens them again.

Lex has his back to the bed. He's dressed in his clothes from yesterday, sans tie, and standing in front of the television with a cup of coffee. It's the news; business news from the looks of it, and the anchor is talking about LuthorCorp stock and how far it's down. Lana pushes herself up on her elbows and leans around in order to see.

"What does that mean?" she asks sleepily. She cares because Lex cares.

He turns, not seeming surprised by the fact that she's awake. He smiles and hands her the cup he has in his hand.

As she sips it, he says, "if the CEO of a company unexpectedly falls ill or dies, stock always drops. It'll adjust."

He sounds like he knows what he's talking about, so Lana shrugs and accepts the explanation at face value. Lex turns off the television and joins her on the bed. For a moment, there's nothing to say. Lana worries that this is it; it'll be another ten years or another tragedy until she sees him again.

She tries to come to grips with that.

"How's the Talon?" Lex asks.

It surprises Lana. She shifts and faces him, handing back the cup of coffee. It's strong and bitter, like he made it in the never-quite-clean coffee maker that comes in the room, with the generic single pack regular blend that is placed beside it. Lex sips it and Lana thinks he looks better. Rested. Less...worn.

"It's good," she says, and she's telling the truth. She's so damn proud of herself and that place it borders on pathetic. She knows this. Still, the Talon turns a nice profit now, and is a mainstay in Smallville. The Beanery went out of business years ago. Lana knows Lex would consider this important and would, in his own way, be proud of her success.

"Still live upstairs?"

She nods. She thinks about Lex making her scream out in ecstasy one morning in her little loft and remembers the waitresses scheduled to open that day teasing her for weeks. She doesn't tell Lex that he's the reason she knows noise carries through the air ducts at the Talon, and that she makes sure never to bring home a date unless the entire building is deserted.

"Seeing anyone?" His eyebrows lift fractionally and he sips the coffee before handing it back.

Lana regrets not telling him before that the coffee is crap. She takes it and lifts her eyebrows in return.

"No. You?"

"No."

It's really not the kind of relationship she ever thought she'd have. Lana is honestly thrown by the exchange. If she were seeing someone, would last night have happened? She wants to answer an unequivocal no. But she's not sure she can.

Lex touches her gently. "What is it?"

Suddenly, tears are stinging her eyes and Lana wonders how it ever came to this. Lex is decadent, like chocolate in the middle of the night or a really good bottle of wine she knows she can't afford. There's not an every day Lex or a run-of-the-mill Lex, just this one. This Lex: everything she knows she can't have...but she wants.

"Come back to Smallville with me," she hears herself say. Lana wonders if lightening just struck or if she hallucinated because that couldn't have just happened.

Lex looks as surprised as Lex ever looks and she waits as he fumbles over words. Lana knows she's just going to hear the inevitable 'no' and wants to ask him to stop putting it off and just get to it.

"I have a board meeting at 10," he says, turning the face of his watch over to look at it.

Lana just nods. It could be anything, she figures. Board meeting. Tennis game. Date. It's still goodbye. Suddenly, she feels like a teenager again, and Lex is standing at his limo saying 'good luck with the Talon and please, call me if you need anything.' Lana pulls the sleeves of her shirt over her fists. She sits there, unsure of what else she is supposed to say.

"Someone like you shouldn't get involved with someone like me," Lex says to fill the silence. He moves off the bed and rounds it until he is at her side. Both of his hands land on her waist. He smells of old cologne and sex.

She tilts her head to look up at him. "People told me that when I was sixteen," she says simply.

Lex must find this amusing because he laughs.

"It worked out alright back then," Lana continues.

It had. Lex considers with his head tilted to the left. It's something Lana noticed long ago. Always to the left, never to the right.

"Stay in Metropolis a little longer," he says. It's as much as Lex Luthor ever asks for anything. In the silence that settles between them, he adds, "if you can work it out with the Talon."

It's sweet of him to consider her business, since he'd vetoed going to Smallville because of his. Still, Lana wonders if it's worth it. Huge risk, unsecured payoff. She doesn't answer, searching his face for...anything. His hands migrate from her waist northward until they rest on her shoulders. Then he's cradling her face.

"Last night was about more than my dad dying," he says. "I let you slip away ten years ago and I don't want to see that happen again."

Lana spins as he kisses her, like when she was a kid and she'd wind the swing chain really tight, hold her breath for a moment then let go. Dizziness is welcome. Euphoria only comes with a little nausea on the side, she reasons.

When Lex's lips are no longer on hers, she blinks. The swing has stilled and he's looking at her as if he needs something. An answer, she realizes after several beats.

Lex cannot let silence just sit. It means he relinquishes a little control and Lana knows that makes his stomach queasy.

"What time do you check out?" he asks.

Lana blinks at him again. Straightforward questions. This one's an easy one, she tells herself.

"Uh, 11:00."

Lex nods. He walks around the room gathering his stuff. Tie. Coat. Wallet. Keys. He already has his shoes on, she realizes. He's leaving. It hits her, like a tire iron. She wants to say stop. Let's not let this happen again. But her feet are glued to the carpet and her tongue is glued to the roof of her mouth.

"I'll send a limo," he says, pulling his cell phone out of his coat pocket. He flips it on and it immediately beeps at him. Messages received. Probably a hundred. Lana feels her heart flop. Watches as Lex dials a number, unaware of what the hell else to be doing.

"I'm on my way back," he says to whoever is on the other end. "Clear the gate of reporters." Diminutive pause, then, "please."

He hangs up. Lana's heart flops back over. She's not sure if it resumes beating. Breathing is really difficult. She only knows one thing. She needs to stay with him.

She knows her heart is beating when he puts his coat on. In fact, it's hammering so hard in her chest she thinks it might burst out from behind her rib cage. It's ten years ago. He's leaving.

She takes a step toward him as he takes one toward her. They are in such close proximity that she can immediately reach out and draw herself into him. A Lex-cocoon, a place she's always felt safe from the rest of the world.

His hand strokes down her hair. Slept on wet, she knows it's got weird kinks but he doesn't seem to notice. He combs it with his fingers.

"You can have the limo take you back to Smallville, or back to my apartment," he says over her shoulder. He says it like either one's fine. But she knows better. This is their second chance. There isn't going to be a third one.

He pulls away and leans down to kiss her. She can tell it's intended to be chaste and quick, but she wraps her arms around his neck and hangs on. He moans softly in the back of his throat when her tongue touches his. Unexpected kisses are the best kind, she thinks.

A minute, maybe five later, she lets him go. He walks to the door without saying anything. When he turns the handle, she whispers, "bye, Lex," and he smiles.

She packs when he's gone, watches a little television and calls her aunt. It seems an eternity until 11:00. After a while she pulls out her laptop and logs in to the Talon's network. She drops a couple of emails, checks the till balances and shuts the computer down. If she thinks too much about this, she might change her mind.

At a quarter to 11, she goes to check out. They tell her the room's been taken care of, every last charge down to the recently used minutes on her computer. She looks outside and sees Lex's limo waiting. She thanks the desk clerk politely, wondering when she dropped back down that rabbit hole and how long it's going to be before she wakes up.

The driver takes her bag and holds the door open. When Lana climbs inside, she is overwhelmed by Lex. The whole limo smells of him: expensive and clean and slightly worn. New money, Nell had once called it. On Lana's first ride ever in a limousine, one that happened to be a Luthor limousine, Nell said, "this is what new money smells like, Lana." Lana hadn't understood it then, but she does now. She runs her hand over the polished top of the mini bar and the plush leather of the seat. She thinks about what it would be like to make love back here, with enough floor between the seats to fit a bed. She wonders if Lex has ever done it in his limo, and decides only nave-Lana would think the answer is no.

"Miss Lang?"

The voice over the intercom startles her. She looks above the door and sees a small panel with a speaker, and a button marked 'INT'. She pushes it.

"Yeah?"

Unsophisticated doesn't even begin to cover it, Lana thinks.

The voice jumps back at her. "Where to?"

Right. Of course. Lana runs a hand over the seat again. She thinks Lex probably sat right here, not four hours ago. Lex probably had a drink, even at 8 in the morning. Lex is like that sometimes. Other times, he has coffee like the rest of America. But probably not today.

Lana bites her lip and decides in that instant that she loves him. Not in spite of what makes him uniquely Lex Luthor, but because of it. She depresses the intercom button once more.

"Lex Luthor's apartment," she says. Then she sits back and smiles.

-end-
18 Feb 2003


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