I wrote this one night, for no apparent reason.  This is more of a friendship piece than an actual romance, but there are definitely hints of what could be.  I'm not sure when this would take place, AU last season maybe?  Anyway, I'd love to know everybody's opinion, but no flames please!  Thanks! ^_^

Disclaimer:  not mine.  Standard disclaimers apply.

.Guarded Moments.

     You'd think after having the same look turned on you day after day that something would sink in.  I mean, I knew he felt for me, but I never knew the extent of it.  At least...not until he turned the same look on Chloe.  Clark loved Chloe, and Chloe loved him.  It was a good day for them.

     Bad day for me.

     Very bad day.

     Stay in bed and bemoan your wretched life kind of day.

     But I got over it.  I had to.  When these things happen you either let them tear you apart, let them bleed into all aspects of your life, or you suck it up and move on.  I worked through Clark Kent.  It wasn't quick and it wasn't pretty, but here I am, 'Smiling Lana'.  And I mean it this time.

     Lex has just walked in the door.  Not exactly an uncommon sight, but some people still pause, watch him make his way to a table and sit down.  People always watch him here in Smallville, though they try to hide it now.  I guess I have no stones to throw, I'm watching him, too.

     It's because we're friends, I tell myself, but I know it's more than that.  When Clark was blissful in his newly realized feelings for Chloe, and Chloe was blissful just in the fact that he was finally paying real attention to her---Lex had paid attention to me.  A 'friend's duty', he had called it, and smirked.  It had made me nervous, the fact that no matter how brightly I showed my mask to the world, he knew exactly how broken I was inside.  Few people can ever see the real me, not anymore than flashes in unguarded moments.  That he could see me in the guarded ones...Well, that completely floored me.  I haven't been able to hide since.  I haven't even tried.

     A chance missed with Clark, not once, but many times.  Out of pride, or secrets, or just general disappointment.  I always waited for the snide remarks to begin, the clear divisions to be drawn, but instead it was as if some division had been lifted.  After all, it was Lex who pushed me hardest to Clark, and I always resisted.  If it bothered him, he never showed it.  He treated me the same for the most part.  But then he didn't.  I think he actually began to see me more for myself, rather than for Clark.  I don't know.  Who can tell with Lex Luthor?

     I can, sometimes.  Or I think I can.  Sometimes I tell myself I can.

     Clark-and-Chloe, for that is practically their name now, come to The Talon all the time.  We're friends, after all.  And Lex comes too.  Sometimes he sits with them, smiles, talks.  Gets that look in his eyes that's half-amused and half something else.  That 'something else' is very old, very untouched by the smile he readily presents to Clark.

     I see that look often.  I've come to the conclusion that it's just him.  That maybe he's silently laughing, or he's just putting on a great show.  The latter makes me sad, because he's always got that look.

     But today Chloe and Clark aren't here, and he doesn't seem to care.  He's had his own bad day, I can tell.  I cut the thought off there before I can start in with the doubt again, and busy my hands with making his usual coffee.  There are other orders waiting to be filled, ones that came first, but someone else can get them.  They always do.

     I set his drink on the table a little harder than I meant to, mainly because I'm watching the tenseness of his shoulders and wondering what has knotted them so.  It doesn't startle him.  He looks up and he's already smiling, he knows it's me.  I don't like this smile, because it looks real, but I know it's not.  We're friends, but he still won't open up to me.  And I let him get away with it---mainly because I don't think he knows any other way.  I still prefer his smirk, the one that suggests that I'm doing something bad just by talking to him.  It's more honest than this hollow curling of his lips.

     Again with the stones, Lana!  As if I am one to complain!

     "Hard day?"  I won't humour him with pretending I don't notice.

     His smile stays just as blank as before, but his eyes thaw a little, warm a little.  It's our little game, like a striptease.  How much of Lex's armor can I talk him into removing before his hectic life intercedes and takes him away again?  I think he likes it.

     "Sometimes it worries me---that you can read me so well."

     I can't read him at all, not really.  But I guess it's nice he thinks so.  I consider the seat across from him, I consider claiming it momentarily for my own, even though this apron I have donned says that I must scurry around without rest until all customers are satisfied, or I drop.  Whichever comes first.  A woman stranded in a sea of her 'friends' is boldly trying to get my attention.  We make eye-contact, and she looks impatient, ready to demand my presence at her table.  But to hell with it, I sit down.

     Lex looks wary now.  We're not going to talk about his bad day...

     "So how are things going?"

     We're going to talk about mine.  I don't mind.

    "Just horrible," I start out, knowing that for some reason he wants the truth, and he wants the details.  "We ran out of napkins this afternoon, and the new shipment won't be in until the weekend.  Jen called in sick, and I couldn't find anyone to work for her...So, I've been here since morning, and I'll be here until closing..."  And oh god, I hadn't realized how much I REALLY needed to sit down!  It isn't much, but I kick my feet up onto the empty space beside him and stretch out.  Bliss.

     He doesn't look down at my sandals, which are perilously close to invading his personal space, but he does grin.  He likes it when I make a point of relaxing around him.  It makes him relax.

     He leans against his seat more, slumping his shoulders forward, and his eyes widen.  He's mocking me now, but I don't care, it's just another way he shows affection.  He holds his hand to his heart and says, "But Miss Lang!  Didn't you have school today?"

     I smile, I can't seem to help myself.  "I was sick today, can't you tell?"

     He tilts his head to the side as if to consider my words, but he smiles too.  "Sick?  Yes, I can see that.  You are a very sick girl, Miss Lang."

     My smile widens to a grin as a girl across from us pulls her drink from her lips and eyes it suspiciously, then tries to look natural.  I wonder about offering to get her more on my way to the counter, but I open my mouth and say, "Anyway, it's not like I'm making a habit of it.  What they don't know won't hurt them."

     He nods his head.  He seems to really care, but I don't know why.  I'm absolutely certain his problems are ten times greater than mine.  I don't feel better realizing how truly small my immediate problems are; I feel worse knowing how potentially dwarfing his could be.

     Something clicks in his eyes, a decision made, I've seen the look before.  He glances away, into his coffee, as if he truly believes he is so obvious to me.  If that were only so, but no, I don't want that.  I have learned from Clark that secrets are and will be, and I have learned from myself that it is sometimes better to keep them.  Lex has secrets, probably bigger and darker than mine, knowing just that is enough.

     After a lengthy study, he takes a sip, then sets his cup down gently.  "Best damn coffee I've ever had."

     And I grin because it's becoming habit now, but not a bad kind.  "You say that every time."  Another of out little games.  Without Clark as our bridge, we seem to be acquiring more and more of them.

     "And I mean it every time."

     I nod at the compliment, even though I'm pretty certain it's not sincere.  And really, I don't care, it still makes me feel a little warm.  I start to say something, but stop as I see the familiar tightening of his mouth, the tiny movement that likely means he's thinking of one of those secrets I'll never know.

     I don't know why, but I reach over and lay my hand on his.  I don't leave it there long, but he still jerks away from the touch, curling his hands in his lap where I can't see.  I'm not hurt, really I'm not.  At least, not by that.  It hurts because I can tell he's uncomfortable now, and our relaxed atmosphere has just been completely obliterated.  I so messed up.  And I knew better, didn't I?

     It's time to go.  We're friends, but I know there are limits---I'm pressing them right now.  I'm up and trying to back off, even in action, but he stops me as I start to move past, his fingers grasping my arm in a definite hold.  It is an unusual sensation, but I don't shy from it.  I stare down at him as he stares up at me, and I pray the distress doesn't shine in my eyes.

     He sighs, but he smiles too.  And it's a good smile, a real one.  An unhappy one.  "Thanks, Lana."

     I blink, not quite sure of what is going on anymore.  "For what?"  This is new and uncharted territory for me.  That's the only thing that keeps me from berating myself for my total lack of eloquence.

     "For not demanding answers.  For just letting me be...and," he pauses, and I barely have time to register that he is searching for words before, "For not just letting me be."

     It takes me a moment to realize what he has said, and another moment to stand in shock as...I realize what he's said.  It isn't exactly disclosure of any of those big, dark secrets, but it is something.  A little thing, but my heart doesn't think so.  I take in a breath, hold it in my lungs, and smile.  I pat his hand where it rests against my arm.

     "Friend's duty." And we both know it's so much more than that.