by Christie

There were storm clouds gathering on the horizon. Even in the dark, Lana could make out the coming tumult. She wasn't sure if she welcomed it -- a fierce storm would match her mood perfectly, but rain would make it a lot harder to get a cab. It was already going to be a struggle, considering the Wild Coyote was the only establishment for miles in either direction on Route 9.

Lana stood, unable to figure out who she was angrier at: Clark or herself. She should know better than to trust him by now, but sometimes it seemed like she would never learn her lesson. A few random splatters of rain struck the pavement at her feet and Lana ducked under the rusty overhang at the side of the bar, pulling her cell phone from her purse. Her fingers trembled as she dialed.

"I need your help," she said when the other line was answered. From the corner of her eye, she saw Clark and Jessie duck out of the building and hop into Lex's Ferrari. On the horizon, unmistakable red and blue flashing lights appeared, sirens wailing and rapidly getting closer. Lana moved further into the shadows as the Ferrari cut a huge arc in the dirt and sped out in the other direction.

"Hurry," she said into the phone.

A roadhouse bar in the middle of Nowhere, Kansas, surrounded by cop cars. Lex had witnessed his share of scenes exactly like this one. These dives served truckers all week and minors all weekend, usually paying local law enforcement under the table to keep their distance.

No good could come of Lana, or any of the kids in Smallville for that matter, being there. Lex slid car to a stop directly in front of a uniformed officer.

"I'm picking someone up," Lex said evenly as he opened the car door. "Whatever this is about, I'm sure it doesn't involve her."

What he meant was, even if it does involve her, as of this moment, it doesn't. The officer hesitated only a fraction of a second before nodding and stepping aside. "Sure, Mr. Luthor."

Lex found that there were two kinds of cops in rural Kansas. Those that were so obviously and easily bought it was impossible to take them seriously as protectors of the people, and those that were undeniably engrained in the community, hero's among men who even paid for their own parking tickets.

The latter was becoming such a rare breed (even in Smallville), that Lex was almost convinced that everyone had a price. Which, he found, was usually good news for him.

Lex had barely finished scanning the perimeter of the commotion before an officer stepped from the rear of the building, Lana in tow. Lex groaned inwardly at the panicked expression she wore and stepped forward.

"Lex, I wasn't even inside when it happened," she blurted as soon as he was close enough. He held a hand out to placate her.

"Its okay, let me handle this."

The officer looked like one of those salt of the earth types, but then they all did until they opened their mouths. Lex smiled genially. "What exactly happened here, officer?"

The man regarded Lex coolly, but Lex could practically see the wheels turning in his head. Making the connection, calculating how much it would be worth to piss off a Luthor.

"Sounds like your run-of-the-mill bar fight," he finally said, apparently not willing to take the gamble. Lex considered that he might be smarter than he looked. "Just with a lot more damage."

Lex nodded. He wanted to pull Lana aside right then and ask where the hell Clark was, where the hell his Ferrari was, and why she was stranded at a flop roadhouse in the middle of a bar fight. He wanted to ask a lot of things, but he kept the curiosity that was rapidly bubbling into anger, in check.

"Well, I just came to pick her up."

Lex reached out a hand again and this time Lana took it, looking relieved to move from behind the officer to behind Lex. "We'll be getting out of your way."

The officer chewed the inside of his lip. Lex wondered if he was aware of his tell. He thought he'd love to sit down with this one for a game of cards, just to find out.

"Your little girlfriend has yet to give me a statement," he said gruffly.

Lex figured he'd given the man a little too much credit a moment ago. He stepped forward, shifted his posture subtly, just enough to become intimidating, not enough for the officer to notice he'd deliberately done so.

"I heard her say she wasn't inside. There's your statement."

Before the officer could respond, Lex walked past him and back toward his car. He felt, rather than heard Lana catch up with him, her fist closing over the sleeve of his jacket until she matched his pace. They didn't speak until they were shut inside the sleek Porsche.

Lex kept the heater running, which Lana appreciated. It seemed no matter how hard she tried, she couldn't get warm. It crossed her mind that the incessant shivering might have nothing to do with the weather, but she wasn't willing to let her conscience go there just yet. She'd told Lex everything she could bear to repeat out loud. Clark's attitude, Jessie, her storming out of the bar. She honestly hadn't stayed to watch Clark inflict any more damage than the two guys he threw across the room, but from the number of police officers that showed up, Lana could only imagine what it had turned into.

Lex downplayed it, saying cops in outskirt towns were bored, and ten would show up to get a cat out of a tree. But Lana knew he was just trying to ease her discomfort of the entire situation, and that Clark was beyond different, he was downright strange, and she wouldn't put any possibility past him. Not any more. She'd made the mistake of trusting him one too many times.

Lex Luthor had done nothing but carry a family name and a reputation, and he'd had to earn Lana's trust, piece by agonizing piece. Clark had it, steadfast from the start. And yet, it was Lex who was always showing up when Clark didn't. The irony made Lana laugh out loud.

Lex looked over at her, his face shadowed in the dark interior of the car.

"Something funny?"

Lana told him, figuring if anyone appreciated a good turn of irony, it was Lex. Instead, he turned his eyes back to the road, mouth settling in a hard line. It was a while before he spoke.

"Clark may not always be there when you want him, but he tries hard to make it up to you."

Lana looked down at her fingers. She interlaced them in her lap and bit her tongue to keep from snapping at Lex to stop defending Clark Kent. "Sometimes that's not enough," she said simply, feeling Lex's gaze return to her but refusing to meet it. When she was sure he had settled his eyes back on the road, Lana leaned over and turned on the radio.

It played softly, uninterrupted, the rest of the way back to Smallville.

What Lex should have done and what he did were two entirely different things. Which, he figured, was pretty much the story of his life.

He should have driven Lana home; delivered her safe and sound to the little house a mile down from the Kent Farm. Instead, he asked where she wanted to go, and when she said 'your house', he took her there.

Never mind that his father had taken over the place and if they wanted to avoid him (at all costs), they'd have to remain in the east wing that housed Lex's bedroom. Never mind that Lana had just told him she trusted him -- Lex Luthor -- more than Clark Kent. Never mind that she was all decked out for her date with Clark, never mind that she was sixteen fucking years old.

No, Lex did what she asked because she asked him to, and she was hurting. Jesus Christ, what had life in Smallville done to him?

Lana hovered in the ante-room of the suite in which Lex slept. It had a television, a couch and several chairs, and while it opened via an archway to the bedroom, she seemed comfortable there, and not a step closer to the bed. Lex honestly wondered if Lana setting foot into his bedroom might distract him into thoughts he just wasn't willing to let himself have. So he let her hang out where she was, perched on the arm of the sofa, left leg hanging off and kicking restlessly where it dangled.

She thanked him, twice, for the ride, and he told her, twice, that it was absolutely no problem. He couldn't figure out whether or not Clark was just going through a seriously severe case of teenage rebellion, or if something deeper was wrong. Lex would have bet his fortune that a date with Lana Lang would be on Clark's top five list of all-time achievements, and ditching her for another girl was so far from what was supposed to happen it wasn't even a blip on the radar.

Lana told him not to feel sorry for her. And he sincerely tried not to. But she was so striking sitting there, dressed in a semi-sheer silk shirt, tight jeans and her hair done up in butterfly clips, it was impossible for his heart not to thump a little harder. Both in anger at Clark and in response to her unequivocal beauty. Lex did the only thing he knew to distract himself, and poured himself a drink.

When Lana sighed and slid down into the sofa cushions, a single strand of her hair curling across her clavicle and dipping into her cleavage, Lex made the drink larger. He took it to one of the chairs adjacent to the sofa and sat, poised at the edge, crystal tumbler clutched in both hands.

He should have taken her home.

They looked at each other for a long while, and Lex fought the urge to turn away and flip on the TV. This was in no way appropriate or productive. This was danger, capital d, capital a-n-g-e-r. Lex shifted, taking a large swallow of scotch and relishing in the burn as it slid down his throat.

"What are you going to do now?" he asked, completely unaware of his intention by the question, completely uncomfortable in the precarious grasp of control he had on the situation. "About Clark?"

Lana shrugged. She chewed her bottom lip slowly, and her eyes drifted downward in a way Lex had come to recognize that she was thinking, seriously, before she replied. It was a trait he liked about her. Most people just shot off at the mouth and made themselves look like an idiot. Lana genuinely cared about what she said, how she said it, and most of all, what she meant. It was only one of a growing list of things Lex admired about Lana Lang.

"I'm fed up," she said finally, voice taking on a harder edge than Lex was used to. He took another swallow of his drink and waited for her to continue. "I'm sick of his secrets, and his lies, and how I never seem to take priority." She shifted again and smiled slightly at Lex, eyelashes lowering sheepishly. "I know I'm not supposed to say I always have to come first, but once, just once I'd like to feel that I do. If he likes me as much as he says he does, anyway."

Lex should have said, "He does." Lex should have said, "he undoubtedly, one hundred percent, is in love with you." Lex should have said that Clark is...well, Clark and if there was one thing he knew for sure about Clark it was that Clark adored Lana.

Lex didn't say any of those things. Lex selfishly kept his mouth shut, and even more selfishly moved from his seat on the chair to the sofa, weight sinking into the cushions next to her. Lana leaned toward him, head coming to rest on his shoulder, then slipping down to his chest. He let his arm fall around her, fingers just touching the naked skin where her shirt fell away from the waistband of her jeans.

It was all very, very wrong. And Lex did nothing to stop it.

When Lex moved next to her, all Lana wanted to do was cuddle into him. She wasn't sure it was his intention, but it was hers and damn it, that was all that mattered. She wanted to and he let her and she wasn't about to start thinking about it any further or feeling one modicum of guilt.

Clark ditched her for another girl. A girl he just met a few days ago. So Lana wanted to slip into Lex Luthor's arms and never let go. So what? She listened to the steady thumping of his heart beneath the soft and obviously expensive silk blend of his shirt, and felt warm and safe and comforted.

Neither of them spoke, even after she'd settled into him and he'd cocooned her with his arms. It seemed like it should feel weird, but it didn't. Someone walking in would definitely raise an eyebrow, but Lana didn't care. She got the distinct feeling Lex didn't either. At least not right now. Lana let her eyes fall closed, and let her body become weightless. She let her concerns float away. She felt happy.

They sat like that for a long time. Her cell phone rang twice, and twice she ignored it. She felt Lex shift the first time, ready to release her if she moved to answer it. When she didn't, he settled back, and didn't even pause when it rang again.

It wasn't until a grandfather clock somewhere in the mansion chimed eleven times, that Lana stirred. She shifted and blinked, and Lex took his arms away. When he did, reality crashed back around her ears, and she was no longer safe, no longer happy. She pushed an errant strand of hair away from her face.

"I have to go."

Lex nodded and got up, downing the rest of his drink that had gone untouched since he'd moved next to her. He indicated the empty glass when he said, "I'll have Joseph drive us."

Lana shook her head. "You don't have to come."

She meant it. He didn't have to. It didn't matter that she wanted him to. Lex only shrugged and waited as she slipped her arms into her coat and leaned down to gather her purse. Lana felt his eyes never leaving her, and it sent tiny, not unpleasant shivers through her entire body. She wondered what she'd started tonight, and what it meant for later on. She tried to tell herself not to think about it too much, but it was hard; impossible with Lex so close, and the desire so strong to just hurl herself back into his arms and ask him to never let go.

Instead, she managed a smile she knew looked as false as it felt and let him lead her out of the room.

Lana's aunt was waiting on the porch when the car pulled up. Lex was once again slammed with the reminder that Lana was sixteen, and that he should have dropped her off at home two hours ago. Instead, he got out of the car when Lana did and walked with her to the house.

Nell's smile was genuine. "Lex. I'm relieved to see Lana's with you." She turned toward Lana, eyebrows furrowing. "I thought you said you'd be with Clark Kent tonight?"

Lex watched Lana flounder for words. Nell already didn't like Clark; Lex knew this as well as he knew his own social security number. He stepped forward and put a hand on Lana's shoulder. "Clark had to take a friend somewhere, so I offered to deliver Lana safely home."

He hoped she couldn't smell the liquor on his breath. It was something he hadn't worried about since high school, and he was annoyed that it even crossed his mind.

Nell's smile was back, her entire body shifting toward Lex. He noticed it every time she was around; it was like she gravitated toward the rich people, influential people, people who could make her life better than it was. Lex knew that was why she and his father were...she and his father. 'Friends' was a term he'd use loosely, and his mind refused to go any further than that.

"Well thank you, Lex. I really appreciate it."

Lex heard Lana's sigh, felt her agitation as she stood next to him, body getting more tense by the second. "I'll be inside in a minute, Nell," she said, impatience clear in her voice.

If Nell noticed it, she made no indication. She only smiled more broadly at Lex, and touched him briefly on the arm before nodding and going inside.

The whole thing was surreal, and Lex felt oddly out of place. He relaxed a little when Lana turned toward him, even further when her eyes grazed across his face and finally locked him in an intense stare.

"I don't know what to say, about tonight," she said, blinking a little against the breeze that shifted through the narrow porch. More hair fell out of their clips, and Lex had to shove his hand into his pocket not to reach out and brush them from her face.

He tried to smile at her, tried to convey assurance, calm and control. He was supposed to be the one that knew what he was doing. She looked to him for answers. And if he couldn't figure it out, he was going to do his damndest to pretend that he had.

"You don't have to say anything, Lana," he said, painfully aware of the Kent's barn looming closely in the distance, painfully aware of exactly where Clark had that telescope trained 99% of the time. It took all of his self-control not to look behind him, see if a light was on. He knew already he'd drive by to check for his car as soon as he left Lana's house.

No, nothing that had happened tonight should have. That was obvious. Now Lex had to figure out what the hell to do with everything he'd just started. If he knew anything about himself, it was that he went after what he wanted. And what he wanted was Lana Lang.

Perhaps admitting it to himself, even inside his own subconscious, broke away his hesitation. Lex never hesitated, he acted, until he'd moved to Smallville. And it worked for him, sometimes, the new small-town guy persona. But sometimes it didn't. And this was one of those times.

He slipped his hand from his pocket and did what he desperately wanted to do. He reached out and tucked a stray hair behind Lana's ear. She shifted when he touched her, and he kept his fingers there, lingering against the warm, softness of her cheek. When she turned into him, he leaned forward and slanted his lips over hers.

She tasted like innocence, or what Lex imagined innocence might taste like. Her lips moved cautiously against his, but gained momentum as he reached his other arm around her and pushed his palm into the small of her back. She sighed softly into him, letting his tongue venture past her lips and into her mouth.

She touched him gently with every part of her. She let him push, but never pushed back, as if solidifying their roles even in the most intimate of moments. It made his heart hurt, and his body hum, and his mind go places it probably shouldn't go.

There was so much he could take from Lana Lang. So much he could teach her, pull out of the darkest places that she kept hidden from everyone, even herself. No one could go through what she'd gone through in her life and not harbor something foreboding within. Lex knew, if he just pushed enough, he'd find it.

And he wanted it. More than anything. Now. He wanted Clark to be watching through his telescope as he made Lana sag against his body, and finally pull away gasping for breath. He wanted to take that wild, unstable look in Lana's eyes and file it away. He wanted to be the sole person who could bring it out, anytime he felt like it. So he smiled when she blinked, ran a thumb gently across her cheek and kissed her softly, easily once more.

"We'll talk tomorrow," he said quietly, releasing his hand from her back and stepping away.

For a moment, he wondered if he'd underestimated her. Something flashed across her face. But it was gone before he could process it, and she smiled almost shyly at him. A blush was creeping into her cheeks. She nodded and turned, slipping inside the house and shutting the door firmly behind her.

Lex stood a moment longer, hands back in his pockets, staring at the spot where she'd stood. He willed the fire she'd ignited in his body to calm, and pushed his legs to turn and walk away from the little pink farm house. He'd taken something tonight, something that wasn't meant to be his, something he hadn't intended to take at all.

And for the first time since he moved to Smallville, he felt triumphant.

12, 2003

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