Summary: Lana learns a lesson about chess from Lex.
Disclaimer: I own nothing Smallville. (except dvd's, magazines, trading cards, and other outlets for obsession)
Author's Note: Though I have written quite a few Alias fanfics, this is my first Smallville fic.
Please, by all means, tell me what you think!
Lana Lang parked her car on the gravel path and stepped out. A cool autumn breeze blew her dark red-brown hair back and away from her face. Walking up the steps to the door of the mansion, she felt excruciatingly small and awkward, a little girl in blue jeans and a soft blue sweater standing outside of the palace of one the wealthiest men on earth. She timidly rang the doorbell and heard the grand ringing of the chimes echoing from within the large house. After what seemed like hours, the enormous door was pulled open by a servant.
"Um, hi, I'm Lana Lang... I'm here to see Mr. Luthor," Lana told the man standing on the other side of the door. She meant to sound very adult, self-assured, and professional. Instead, it came out sounding like an unsure question. It was almost as if she were asking if it was alright to be there, which was exactly what she was wondering to herself.
She had finished recording all the expenses and profits from the Talon for October. It was only the third month of business for the little establishment, but it was doing quite well indeed. The past two months they had been in business, Lex had been quite busy with LuthorCorp and had only stopped by to visit once or twice and pick up the records for the month. He hadn't shown up that day to pick them up though. Lana had thought that she could just drop them by on her way home, that way Lex wouldn't have to bother making a trip. It seemed like an alright idea at the time, but now... standing in the doorway of the enormous house, Lana was no longer too sure.
"Right this way please," the servant led her down a long hall. Lana gazed around in awe at what was by far the largest house she had ever seen. It wasn't even a mansion- it was a castle. Suits of armor lined the sides of the long Persian rug covering the endless hall. Paintings that Lana recognized as 15th and 16th century art hung on the walls. The mansion was more amazing than Lana had imagined it to be.
At the end of the long hall was a large set of wooden double doors. "Mr. Luthor, there's someone here for you," the servant said into the intercom box right outside the door.
Suddenly, Lex's voice came out over the speaker a bit sharply. "Frederick, I'm a tad busy at the moment and not expecting any visitors. Who is it exactly? If it is no one of any great or dire importance, tell them to leave a name and number and I can schedule an appointment with them for sometime next week."
Lana was sure taking time to see her just so she could drop off the Talon papers and make a few minutes of awkward small talk was not on the top of Lex Luthor's 'Most Important Things to Do' list. Maybe she'd just come back some other time, or better yet, wait for him to drop by the Talon.
As she was about to leave, Frederick pressed the button on the intercom and said, "It's a Miss Lana Lang, sir."
Lana could have died. It was so silly and ridiculous for her to have come all the way over for something so small. Bothering Lex was the last thing she wanted to do, and up until a few minutes before, she could have left with him never knowing she was there, saving herself from being completely mortified. She felt like such a child, wandering over to Lex's house at the first chance possible hoping to catch a glimpse of him. Who was she trying to kid? He didn't have time or want to see her, or anyone for that matter, right now, as he made clear just a few minutes before.
Putting her foot behind her to turn and leave for the second time, Lana was stopped by a loud click. The double doors opened and standing there in all of his cunning and charm was Lex Luthor.
"Lana, it's good to see you," Lex said cooly. "Won't you come in?"
Lana swallowed hard and followed him into the massive study. Multi-colored panes covered the windows. Shelf after shelf of books lined the walls. Lana was almost sure Lex had read them all. It seemed as if he knew about everything. A pool table sat near the middle of the room. Lana didn't know that Lex played pool, though if he played any game, billiards seemed to be the one that fit him.
The fireplace crackled from the opposite wall and Lana breathed in the scent of the burning wood. She heard the large wooden doors close behind her. Suddenly, she realized that she was alone in the room-- with Lex Luthor. She then felt a hand on her back. Lex's hand.
"Have a seat," he said, guiding her towards a leather chair. She sat and he walked across the room to his small bar. Her back was extremely warm from where Lex had touched her. "Would you like a drink?"
"Um.. no, no thanks," Lana squeaked out. "I, uh.. thought you were too busy for any visitors?"
"Not exactly. That's just my way of avoiding wasting my time talking to another arrogant businessman trying to get me to invest in his company," Lex said as he made himself a scotch. "So, what brings you here, Miss Lang?" he asked her, leaning against his desk.
His eyes were bright, almost laughing. He knew she was uncomfortable being there and in a way, he was enjoying it. He tried very hard to keep from laughing as she nervously crossed and uncrossed her legs. Her timidness was almost cute in a way.
"I, uh, came to drop by the papers for the Talon for October. You hadn't been by in a while and I was on my way home so I figured I would just stop by for a minute to bring them to you..."
Lex stopped listening to her after a minute or two because he was so caught up in her mouth and how quickly it was moving. And how she pulled her long, dark hair behind her ear every few words. It was completely amusing to watch. When it seemed like she was done, he reached out to take the papers from her hand.
Lana eyed Lex while he stared down at the papers. She secretly hoped that he didn't think she was ridiculous for coming over for such a small thing. Something about Lex just drew her to him, though. It was something that neither Whitney nor Clark had, though she could never put her finger on what it was. Maybe it was the mystery of his personality. Or was it the way he walked and talked and presented himself? He was so sauve, so sure of himself. Lana was usually sure of herself, just not in front of Lex. He moved a bit and she averted her eyes from him as quickly as possible, staring at the wood floor.
Lex pretended to scan his eyes over the documents. Secretly, he was watching Lana sitting there staring at the floor. She was blinking rapidly and unconsiously kicking her right foot in time to a beat only she could hear. Lex looked back down for a moment. The Talon was doing well, as he expected. When he glanced back up at her, she was staring off in a different direction. He followed her eyes to his chess set.
Lana was staring at the hand carved onyx and opal chess set. The pieces on both sides were randomly strewn about the board, as if someone had been playing recently. Lana imagined it had been Lex, trying out the best possible moves against a master- himself. There was so much more to Lex than what was visible on the surface, she was sure of it.
"Do you play?" Lex's voice interjected into her thoughts.
"Oh, no. It always seemed too complicated to learn," Lana's face flushed a bit with her reply.
"It's really not as complicated as it would appear. I'll show you," Lex said good-naturedly.
He sat at one end of the chess table, motioning for Lana to sit on the other. She slowly made her way over and sat in the chair opposite Lex. He organized the pieces back into their starting spots, giving Lana the white pieces and keeping the black for himself.
"Chess is all about strategy. All you have to do to succeed is to expect the other player's next move- get into your opponent's mind," Lex instructed, staring dead into her eyes.
Lana wasn't sure if she wanted to get into Lex's mind. It seemed all too complicated. And she was definitely sure she didn't want Lex getting into her mind.
And that's exactly what he was trying to do at the moment by looking into her eyes- those big brown eyes. She had beautiful eyes, he noted. He'd never really looked at them so closely before, though now that he was, he was unsure of whether he'd be able to look away. He was trapped somewhere amongst the glittery reflection of light in the dark brown abyss and the light brown flakes scattered throughout. Lana blinked abruptly, and the spell was momentarily broken.
Lex cleared his throat and began to explain the game. "Chess is like a kingdom- the names and power of each piece runs in a sort of hierarchy. The lowliest and the first to move would be the pawn. They are sent out first in the battle and do as much of the dirty work as possible so the higher powers can do as little as possible."
"Seems a little like my life sometimes," Lana sighed to herself.
"What was that?" Lex asked as if he didn't hear her. He did, of course. For some reason, though, he wanted to hear it outloud from her. Lana was overworked and overtired. He could see it. What with school and the Talon and her personal life, Lex was amazed she could handle it all.
"It's just... I mean, do you ever feel like you are working too hard, worrying too much... pretty much carrying the whole world on your shoulders? Nevermind... it's silly..." She felt like such a loser letting this all slip out in front of Lex.
"No," Lex nodded. "I understand that completely." He sympathized with the girl. People harassed him all day with work- where he should invest, what functions he had to attend, which papers he needed to sign. It was enough to drive anyone insane, not to mention trying to keep up with his father and all of his schemes.
Lana half-smiled at Lex and a little of her nervousness slid off as he smiled back.
"So... pawns go out first. On the first move, they can either move one or two spaces foreward. After the first move, only one foreward space is allowed, however, pawns can attack diagonally." Lex punctuated this statement by moving one of his black pawns two spaces forward. Lana moved one of her pawns foreward one space.
"Now, the next piece is the knight," Lex instructed. "It's the one that looks like the horse. The knight can move in 'L' shapes, three spaces down and then one over. That one shouldn't be too hard to remember- 'L' for Lana."
"Or Lex," she replied.
"Or licorice," Lex interjected randomly.
"Yes, licorice is by far the best candy ever made. I'm extremely addicted. Let's just say that if there was a support group for those who have a twisted, addicted love affair with licorice, I'd probably be member number one on the list," Lex answered, making her laugh. She had an amazing laugh. It was light and joyful, nothing bitter about it. It was a child's laugh on Christmas morning. It was, in fact, a contagious laugh. There was no way you could hear it and not want to laugh and smile as well. It was the laugh of someone who was happy to be alive, and listening to Lana's laugh, Lex was also feeling extremeley happy to be alive.
"And what is so humerous about my love of licorice, I ask?" he questioned her with a chuckle.
"The mental image of Lex Luthor the Great conquering the corner candy store in an Armani suit, fighting off whiney, freckled-faced kids in an attempt to stuff his entire head into the licorice bucket, not realizing that he is the only, and I mean only, person who wants the black licorice," Lana laughed even harder when relayed her mental picture to Lex.
Lex snapped his fingers in false disappointment and aggrevation. "And I paid off that candy store owner to burn that security tape."
Lana never realised that Lex had a sense of humor. He always seemed so "all-work-and-no-play." Swallowing the last of her laughter, Lana noticed that that was the first time all night that she was completely at ease. Actually, she hadn't been this at ease in a long time. She inhaled deeply to catch her breath and slid comfortably down into the leather chair, finally letting her nerves take a break.
"Now, if I recall it's my go, correct?" Lex asked, still smiling a bit. Lana nodded in response.
Lex moved one of his knights. Lana did the same, and the two continued to play for a few moments with the pawns and knights.
"Alright, next piece would be the rook. It's the castle piece. The rook can move horizontally and vertically as many spaces as you wish, or until it hits another piece. If it does hit your opponent's piece, it can capture it," Lex explained. "Just recall that on a brick wall, the bricks run horizontally and vertically, not diagonally."
"Is it true that this mansion was brought brick by brick from Scotland?" Lana didn't mean to pry or be rude, but it was a rumor she had heard before, and she was dying to know.
Lex chuckled a bit. "Sadly, it's true. My father has been know to do ridiculous, costly things just because he has the power to do so."
"Oh, no, it's not ridiculous. It's beautiful. The inside is even more beautiful than the outside. I love it," Lana gushed as she looked around the room once more.
"It loves you, too, I believe. These walls never get to see anything so bright and full of life," Lex said, becoming quickly mesmerized by the deep glow of her skin and the rosiness of her cheeks. "I'd even venture to say that after you leave, the house will be completely disappointed by every other guest that comes in here amidst the constant shuffle of money-hungry businessmen and cynical employees."
Was Lex saying that he liked her there? That he wanted her to stay? To come back? Her heart started jumping in her chest. "I'm sure so many people visit the house that it will very easily find someone else to amuse itself with," she said as cooly as possible.
Lex gave her one of his signature Lex Luthor half-smiles. She thought she was going to melt out of her chair and into a puddle on the floor. Lex looked down and the board and moved one of his pieces and Lana followed after, taking her turn.
Lex continued to teach Lana about the remaining pieces. "So next is the bishop. They move diagonally as many spaces as you wish, until they reach another piece, similar to the rooks. It seems as if they usually come in out of the middle of nowhere by surprise... like one Lana Lang who unexpectedly appeared at my house not too long ago," Lex mused.
"Lex.. I didn't mean to surprise you, I just-"
"-no, I really don't mind," he interjected before she could apologize. "In all honesty, I don't normally like surprises, but then again, most surprises aren't usually this pleasant."
Lex was definitely surprised, not just by Lana dropping by, but by something more. He was seeing Lana in a whole different way suddenly. He started noticing things about her that he had never noticed before, things he wasn't sure how he ever missed.
Lana's face flushed at Lex's comment and she stared down at the board in hopes of hiding her bright shade of pink. After a few seconds of silence, Lex started talking again.
"Now we have the King, who is really the whole point of the game. He can move one space in any direction. The whole objective of the game is to capture your opponent's king. In order to do this, the King has to be trapped with no way of escape. If you put him in a vulnerable position, but can still get away, you say 'check.' If you put him in a position there is no way he can escape, the correct term would be 'checkmate.' And finally, we come to the last and most important piece of the game," Lex instructed.
"Wait," Lana interjected. "What piece would be more powerful or important than the King?"
"Why his Queen, of course," Lex stated matter-of-factly. Lana gave him a questioning glance and he continued, "The Queen can pretty much do whatever she wants. She can move horizontally, vertically, diagonally... travelling as many spaces as she so chooses. She does anything and everything to protect her King. Without the Queen, the King would be doomed."
As he spoke, Lex stared not at Lana, but through her. She was so bright and alive. His world was so dark and dying. And yet, in her presence, he found the light to see past his own dark shadows.
"Funny, you wouldn't think it would be the Queen who had the most influence on the outcome," Lana noted.
The two continued to shift their pieces about the board, with Lana catching on very quickly, as Lex began to explain, "It's a common misconception that the Queen is not by far the most important, whether it be on a chess board or in an expansive empire. There's Queen Elizabeth I, who was able to successfully rule over England for forty-five years without any man at her side. Queen Victoria was one of the most popular Queens of all time and was a master at forgein relations. Cleopatra VII would have sacrificed anything for love or to save the city of Alexandria. She sometimes was cunning and intelligent in everything she did, and it got her far."
"You are, in fact, a vast fountain of knowledge, Lex," Lana smiled at her brief history lessons, fully caught up in his every word. She leaned back in her antique oak chair.
Even the chair looked more beautiful with her sitting in it. She made even the ordinary seem so extraordinary. Lex wondered why it took him so long to see it.
"And yet I still learn something new everyday," he responded, caught up in her smile and the glitter in her eyes.
"I guess I do, too, now," Lana replied, as they continued moving their pieces in turn. "I learned about powerful female monarchs in history and how to play chess all in one day."
"And you are remarkable at it," Lex responded warmly as he reached out and gently covered her hand that was lying on the table with his and moved one of his pieces with the other. She inhaled a bit sharply as her heart sped up in her chest. His hand was warm over hers.
They sat there in silence for a minute before Lex said, "It's your move now, isn't it?" his hand never leaving hers.
Lana looked up at him and met his gaze. Suddenly, she wasn't intimidated anymore. Something about Lex made her feel free, and now suddenly brave. All her cares and fears melted off as she stared into the blue pools of his eyes.
Lex was enchanted by her gaze. Everything about her was enchanting. The feel of her skin on his was incredible. It was amazing, almost like a dream, and Lex was afraid that if he let go, he would wake up. She had him trapped with no way of escape.
Slowly, Lana looked down at the board and her pieces. She picked one up and moved it over a few spaces. Looking back up at Lex with sparkling eyes, she smiled and squeezed his hand as she whispered, "Checkmate."
The Queen had captured the King.