by Christie

Lana used to tell herself there was no such thing as thinking too much. That was before she started sleeping with Lex Luthor. Lex keeps her on her toes, if the understated clich has to be used. So thinking, analyzing, is usually a good thing. But during sex; sex that should be good...no, great...thinking is sometimes an unwelcome bedfellow.

When Lex kisses her tenderly and touches her gently, reverently, Lana can shut her mind off and just feel. Be. Lex is a skilled lover, and Lana finds herself floating, trapped between oblivion and bliss, unable to find her way back to earth for hours after they finish.

Lana loves Lex when he makes her feel like this. Lana wants to stay in Lex's arms forever.

It's not always like this. Sometimes kisses aren't tender and touches aren't gentle or reverent. Sometimes kisses are harsh, bruising. Touches are possessive. Marks are left on her body to remind her for days. Lex does not whisper words of adoration. He takes; opens her legs and pushes into her and grunts a guttural 'mine' before he comes.

It's not hard to find a pattern. Lana knows the undercurrent lies with Clark. Lex will never admit jealousy; not with words and not with actions. Lex marks his territory in the bedroom. Lex leaves bruises Clark will never see; displays desperate insecurities he thinks Lana can't figure out.

Lana lets him and hates herself for it. She's read books, tons of stuff on the internet. She knows there should be pleasure to be taken in being dominated by a lover. She can't find it. She wants gentle Lex. She wants Lex when he tells her he cherishes her. She doesn't want to worry about replacing her favorite white sweater because he ripped it nearly in two before thrusting into her against his desk.

She cried that time, because it hurt and because he didn't seem sorry. She bled on his satin sheets later that night and didn't feel one iota of guilt.

Clark is almost impossible to avoid, although that's what Lana has started to do. She wants to assure Lex that he has nothing to fear; she wants Lex to trust her. She's afraid one day he'll leave her altogether, and that, she thinks, would be worse than the way things are now.

She thinks. But she's not sure.

When it started, one night late at the Talon when they were huddled in the cramped back office going over the books, Lana honestly thought it was the most romantic thing in the world. Lex had kissed her, really gently, and then waited to see what she would do. Which was funny, because Lana never figured Lex as the type of guy to really wait for consequences. They just happened, and he just steamrolled ahead, regardless. But he waited, so she leaned in and kissed him again, and she just remembers a huge blurry haze of kissing and touching that night.

There were no official dates, no courting, no real romance...nothing to preclude sex. Still, Lana has the distinct impression that was just how it had to be, and she doesn't feel used by Lex in the least. She feels treasured. She feels safe; safer than she ever has with Whitney or Clark. That in itself made the decision a lot easier. She wanted to give herself completely to Lex Luthor, and she did, and for a while, it was good.

Lex lets her into his home, into his bed, and holds her and touches her like he loves her. He never says it, she doesn't figure he ever will, but she knows and that is enough. At some point in the months of love making, she started to think that maybe one day he would take her out of Smallville, give her the life she had dreamed of when she was a little girl. For so long, Lana equated success with getting out of Smallville. Now she can equate happiness, too. As long as she's with Lex.

Jealousy doesn't come until much later. Not until Lana is comfortably engrained in her new secret relationship, not until Lana has outlined much of her future plans around Lex Luthor.

Clark has always been in the picture, and Lana doesn't connect him with the change at first. She thinks its passion; raw and unadulterated lust that sometimes overtakes people. These are the times, she thinks, that make for the greatest sex. The stories women tell their girlfriends, and those girlfriends tell other girlfriends, and the 'greatest night of sex ever' lives on in infamy. Except after a while, it isn't so great. It's painful and unexpected and confusing.

Once Lana finds the pattern, it's so plain she wondered why she hadn't seen it all along. After a late night studying session, or a school event, or really anything involving Clark, Lex gets angry and marks her as his. Lana tries not to put the word 'jealousy' on it. It seems so petty, so beneath someone like Lex. She rationalizes it; uses words like 'threatened' instead. Still, it doesn't seem right. The natural order is all off. She should revel in her newfound power over Lex Luthor, and instead she's scared to death.

Lana doesn't want Lex to leave her. Lana doesn't want Lex to think that he will fail, and this, she realizes, is the crux of the problem. If Lex thinks there is a chance that he will come up short against Clark Kent, he will leave first. It brings Lana into a state of panic, sometimes. She wants to show him, but she doesn't know how. She wants to tell him, but that option is completely out of the question. She's not supposed to know that Lex gives into petty jealousies like mere mortal men. She's not supposed to know that he's fallible, and sometimes insecure. She's not supposed to know. No one is.

The days Lana is successful at avoiding Clark altogether are the best days. Lex comes by the Talon after closing and they talk and drink coffee for hours. Sometimes they make love in the back office, sometimes they don't. Sometimes Lex drives her home, and most times she writes a quick note for Mr. Sullivan saying she had an early appointment and took off before he was awake. Then she climbs out her bedroom window and meets Lex around the corner. He takes her back to the mansion and she stays with him there.

And it's perfect.

It all hinges on whether or not she's able to steer clear of Clark, and this, she thinks, cannot be healthy. She shouldn't have to work this hard.

Deep down, Lana is afraid that Lex will take everything from her. Her friends, the Talon, her dreams. She likes to think Lex is secure, and successful, and busy enough that eventually she can be with him and have her own life at the same time. But she wonders. Lex might be the kind of man that needs a woman totally devoted to serving his needs. A woman to be available for every function, a woman to be there each night when he gets home, no matter how late, a woman who won't complain when business dictates their schedule, ruins their plans, changes their whole dynamic.

Lana isn't really sure there is a woman out there like that. She thinks there must be, but she doesn't know any. She wonders if Lex expects her to be that woman. And she wonders if it's worth it to try.

When Lex kisses her, it suddenly becomes worth it. She thinks it shouldn't be so easy for him. She's afraid of the power he already holds, and terrified that it will only grow the longer she lets this go on.

Bitter-sweet has never been more aptly defined than the day Clark tells Lana he is moving to Metropolis. It's about time, she thinks, that some of them stop hanging on to Smallville and start experiencing the world. Graduation was almost a year ago, and Chloe is the only one to have truly cut the ties; taking on a full course schedule at Met U and an unpaid internship with the Daily Planet only two weeks after 'Pomp and Circumstance' filtered through the high school gym.

Clark asks Lana out for dinner, a friendship farewell to the relationship that could have been but never actually was. Lana says yes without thinking, without realizing that the best thing to do would have been to offer a going away party at the Talon in order to keep the affair less than intimate. But it's too late now, and she finds herself with a date.

A date that isn't Lex.

The town is still oblivious to her relationship with him, and it's the way Lana prefers it. Lex has never made his feelings well known on the subject, and Lana likes to assume that he's more comfortable keeping it under wraps. Lana doesn't know for sure, but she's sort of afraid to ask. It's been over a year now, and her aunt always told her if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Using what she assumes is her better judgment, Lana tells Lex about her plans with Clark. She figures its better that he find out now, than see them together later. Lex acts like it's no big deal, but she's been with him long enough to know that it is; the shadow that passes over his face that he probably isn't even aware of, the slight droop of his eyelids, as if closing off, just a little, the windows to the soul. Lana wants to reassure him, she wants to go into his arms and tell him that she and Clark are just friends, and that she loves him and nothing will change that.

But that would be admitting she knows Lex is jealous, and that would be relationship suicide.

Instead, she lets him take her up to his bedroom in the middle of the afternoon on a Thursday. She's going to be late getting back to her shift at the Talon, but she doesn't dare tell him that. This time, he's not as gentle as he could be but certainly not as rough as he has been and he makes sure she comes before he does. When he spills into her, he tells her he loves her.

Lana feels a rush of warmth and a stab of cold all at the same time. She cradles his head at her breast when they're finished, strokes his scalp and wonders what just happened. She tries not to cry.

She's late back to work; the boss apologizing to the employee is never a comfortable situation. All she can think about is getting through her shift, getting through dinner with Clark and sending him off to the big city so things can finally get back to normal. She stops herself in the middle of arranging biscotti and wonders what 'normal' really is. She wonders if the departure of Clark will cause a subtle shift of reality. She wonders if Lex will permanently morph into the man she knows he can be; the gentle, constant, stoic man she's come to depend on when things get insane. Or will there be something else that makes him change -- just a little bit, just sometimes -- and things will come back full circle?

Lana can't help but wonder if maybe it's not Lex's problem at all, but her own. Has she put expectations on him to be more than he really is? Does she think, because of his wealth and power and notoriety, that he should be somehow different than the rest? She's not entirely stable all the time, and it seems, as she replaces the cover on the pastry display, that maybe she's expected too much from him since the start.

And suddenly she wants to cancel her plans with Clark and spend the rest of the evening making up to Lex for all the doubt she's cast since the beginning.

Lana thinks she will go crazy if she analyzes it anymore; she's turned herself in so many circles, placed the blame on so many different people, she wonders if she hasn't totally screwed up any chance at any normal kind of happiness with Lex, ever.

She meets up with Clark at Luigi's, the local Italian place that never seems quite big enough for the amount of people inside. She smiles at him easily, chats without hesitation and continues to count the minutes until it's over. And this makes her sad, because she wants to enjoy her last night with Clark. She loves him and always will, and tells him that when the last basket of bread is taken away.

He smiles while he says he's excited about going to Metropolis, but there's a sadness and uncertainty in his eyes that Lana hasn't noticed before. She takes his hand and it's silent for a long time between them.

Lana wonders if she's imagined the squeal of tires she hears on the street beyond the glass pane they are sitting next to. Still, she instinctually pulls her hand out of Clark's at the sound. She wonders if he noticed. She realizes she has when he blinks and his face becomes gravely serious.

"Be careful with Lex," he says.

Surprise would be an understatement. Lana wants to ask him to repeat himself, but is afraid he'll actually say what she thinks she heard. Instead she folds her napkin in her lap, again and again, then finally manages to sip her water.

"What do you mean?"

Lana's never been a good liar. She fidgets and she doesn't look the person in the eye. Clark knows this about her.

"I know about you and Lex," he says, and his voice is surprisingly even. Unexpectedly strong and calm. She wonders how long he's known. She wonders how he can just bring it up like this, on the last day before leaving town.

"At least, I know something's going on. I don't know exactly what," he continues. Now his voice has wavered slightly, and beyond the candlelight Lana can see he's blushing a little. He fidgets, like she is, then settles. "You should just be careful. Lex isn't -- there's a lot that we don't know about what he does, about who he is and how far he's willing to go."

Lana blinks at this. It settles into her brain and she's grateful to have something else to ponder, something to keep her from obsessively folding her napkin for the five thousandth time. She puts it on the table and clasps her hands in her lap. Leans forward, and tries to focus.

"I'm surprised to hear you say that," she says, managing to look Clark in the eye. She's been blindsided by his revelation, but somewhere deep down she feels the instinctual urge to defend Lex. "You've been one of Lex's staunchest supporters since he arrived in Smallville."

Clark bites his lip and his eyes flutter away from hers and down to the red and white checked tablecloth. Lana keeps her gaze fixed, knowing he'll meet her again, eventually, and relishing in the small amount of power she feels in the meantime.

"I think Lex is a good person, or wants to be a good person," he says slowly, deliberately, fingers coming up to trace the pattern on the cloth. "But I'm not sure he can be, not all the time."

At this, Lana chuffs. "No one can be a good person all the time, Clark." Even boy hero Clark Kent, she wants to add, but bites her tongue to keep from doing so.

Clark blinks at this, as if it is a new revelation. Lana thinks perhaps it is for him, that Clark, for all of his secrets and acts of bravery might be one of the most nave people remaining in Smallville. Lana credits Jonathan Kent for this, of course. She finds it ironic that Clark considered Lex his best friend for most of the years they spent in the town together, but in all that time never did Lex rub off on Clark, not the way Lex rubs off on everyone else. Lex teaches lessons, but only to those willing to learn. Clark takes what he wants from Lex, and puts the rest back, in a little box that he keeps locked away until it suits him to open it and unleash it on those who have grown close to Lex. Like he's doing right now, Lana realizes.

She tries not to get angry.

"People can't be good all the time, Lana," Clark says, nodding his head, "but they can try. It doesn't seem like Lex always tries very hard."

Lana mulls this. Yes, Lex doesn't always try hard to do the right thing. Sometimes Lex deliberately does the wrong thing. But it's always the right thing for him. It just might be the wrong thing for someone else. She supposes that in most people's eyes, this makes him a bad person. But she also supposes that everyone, at some point or another, does something to benefit themselves and no one else. And at some point or another, everyone hurts someone else to their benefit. Does this make everyone in the world a bad person? Does this mark doom for mankind? Personally, Lana thinks that if people would look in the mirror a little longer and look at other people a little less, they might start to understand the world of grey that men like Lex Luthor are immersed in. At least in part. At least enough to still fall in love with those men, and believe in the best of them.

It's hard not to laugh at how different she's become. Lex certainly has had influence on her, Lana thinks.

"Did you have a falling out with Lex that I don't know about?" Lana finally asks.

Clark fidgets some more and Lana gets her answer. She briefly wonders if it was about her. She thinks about this afternoon, making love to Lex and thinking it was the same, but different. It wasn't gentle, but it wasn't rough and he said 'I love you'. She realizes now how significant that was, and wishes she'd realized it before. She was both happy and afraid when he said it, too stunned to say it back and now she thinks she should have.

"I wasn't surprised about what happened between you and Lex," Clark says, a complete non-answer to her question. "I guess if I look back on it, I should have seen it coming. But I'm just -- I'm worried Lana. I don't want you to change who you are for him."

Lana wants to tell him not to be so nave. She hasn't changed for Lex. She's changed because of him. It's no more her fault than it is Lex's, really. We are the company we keep, she thinks. And Lex just happened to rub off on her more than Clark has. Clark believes in the good and decent in the world. And Lana believes in it too, to a point. But she finds solidarity with Lex in things that have happened to them that haven't been so good, or so decent. And she can't pull away from that. Not now, probably not ever.

She doesn't tell Clark any of this. She smiles at him, genially, and covers his hand with her own once more.

"I'm still me," she says. She's lying, in a way. She's still her, but not the Lana that Clark thinks she is. She's never really been that girl, though. Up on a pedestal, unable to do any wrong. No, she's never been that Lana, that was Clark's version of her that she could never live up to. It's mostly the reason things never worked out between them. They let each other down because in truth, they didn't know much about each other at all.

Lex peeled back the layers of Lana, exposed her in a way she never had been. That is why, Lana thinks, she'll be Lex's forever. And she'll never be Clark's. Lex played the game, and Lex won.

They sit in silence for a moment longer, until the waiter brings the check and Clark is forced to mobilize to pay. They walk out of the restaurant and into the rain in silence. Clark's hands are shoved into his pockets. Lana thinks he looks defeated, and she feels bad that it's come to this.

At the Talon doors, they say goodbye. Probably forever. Lana hugs him and Clark hugs her back, long and hard and possessive. She lets him, because it's the last time. He asks her to please take care, and she tells him she will. She says, "you too," although she knows the general sense of the term is not what he meant at all. He only nods and turns away.

Lana watches with a mixture of sadness and relief as Clark's form fades into the distance. She wonders how the evening would have been different if Clark didn't know about Lex, and if they'd said goodbye on their usual, fictitious terms. She's somewhat comforted that it's out in the open, but mourns for the friendship they once had. It was real once, she thinks. She just can't remember when.

The Talon has been closed for hours, but a single lamp burns in the back office. She doesn't see his car on the street, but Lana knows its Lex back there. She walks slowly through the coffee house, unsure of what to expect when she pushes the office door fully open.

He's on his cell phone, and he holds up a finger when she enters the room, indicating he'll be off in a minute. She almost laughs with relief; this is so much the usual it's as though her dinner with Clark hadn't happened at all. She perches on the edge of the desk, leans over him and pulls the file of the day's totals toward her.

Lex strokes her leg as he finishes up his phone call, and Lana tries to make heads or tails of the columns of numbers but can't concentrate enough to actually do it. When he flips the phone closed and sets it on the desk, his hand travels under her skirt.

"Hi," he says, looking up at her.

She smiles, jumping off the edge of the desk and settling herself in his lap. Her arms go around his neck and she kisses him, without really meaning to. He accepts it, opens his mouth and deepens the kiss quickly, and she wonders if it's going to be one of those times. She really, really doesn't want it to be one of those times. Clark is gone, leaving for Metropolis bright and early the next morning and god -- isn't there any way for Lex to get past this?

Lana is overwhelmed with the urge to just blurt it out; ask him why he doesn't trust her, why he lets her friendship with Clark threaten him, why he thinks she isn't completely devoted to him.

But he pulls away, and rubs his hands up and down her back, and she doesn't ask anything. She shivers, and smiles.

"How was dinner with Clark?" he asks. He keeps her gaze, but it's not threatening, and she feels her whole body relax almost bonelessly into his lap.

"I'm glad it's over," she says truthfully. "He knows about us."

Lex nods, as if he isn't surprised. Lana thinks she should be annoyed that Lex knew, but she isn't.

"We probably should have just told him long ago," Lex says thoughtfully.

Lana raises her eyebrows. She always wondered, but they never discussed it, and they kept it a secret based on what she assumed was a mutual agreement. It doesn't matter now, she supposes. It doesn't matter at all.

She leans in and kisses him again, mouth moving from his lips and across his cheek until she settles against his ear. She feels him tremble slightly as she blows lightly against his skin, takes his earlobe into her mouth and nibbles slightly.

"I don't really care," she says, and she means it. She feels his arms tighten around her, and thinks it's both because of what she said, and what she's doing. She smiles against the shell of his ear. "I love you, Lex."

She never stops kissing him, moving down to his neck and pulling the collar of his shirt away to reveal smooth, pale skin that she could just taste for hours. He doesn't move, doesn't respond except to shift her on his lap, briefly tighten his hold before loosening his hands and letting them roam under the hemline of her shirt, across her back, around her ribs and over her belly.

The world isn't going to stop in its constant spin; as it hadn't that afternoon when Lex said he loved her. But still, something changes in the air between them; Lana notices it almost immediately, despite its subtlety. The undercurrent shifts, and Clark is no longer between them.


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