CHAPTER 4

When Lana enters, Lex is standing before the fireplace, with a glass of dark liqueur in his hand and his back turned to her. For few seconds, she is unable to move, threatened by a sense of deja-vu so powerful to leave her knees weak: it's almost like if they are replaying the scene they have left unfinished last time she has seen him.

"I'm surprised to see you here"

He says to her, slowly twisting his neck to look at her. His voice is smooth but without warmth, in spite of the faint smile curling his lips.

"I was worried for you" – she replies, hating how lost she sounds. She didn't come here just to make an hesitant fool out of herself.

" I wanted to see how you were "
She tries again, but the result isn't much more brilliant … at least she sounds firmer.

"I'm good- he comments, so offhandedly than she can almost guess he's in good mood- or at least as good it could be expected, for a man who has risked dying in the single most shameful moment of his lifetime. I owe you an apology, Lana. The way I've acted-"

"You weren't yourself"

Lana brushes him off, mostly because she's eager to put this accident behind them. To be sincere, she should admit how much the memory of the feverish glaze on the Lex' s pale eyes while he seized her and screamed at her still troubled her sleep… it was too similar to the gaze she has seen on the faces of too many of those meteor freaks.

Lana scoffs inwardly to herself: the mere idea of comparing Lex to those rabid creatures is laughable. The meteor shower can't have caused him any other damage than hair loss, can it? He is too cool and controlled under the most of circumstances to be anything less than normal… although she supposes that farfetched hypothesis would explain the intensity of his interest in mutants.

Lex raises an inquisitive eyebrow, his lopsided smirk vaguely bemused and more than a bit challenging, like if he knows something she ignores.

"I dislike considering alcohol as the master of my actions, even when they aren't honourable as I could wish."

He pauses, searching her expression for some kind of hidden signal she can't fathom. She wonders if he can read in her features how little eager she is to discuss that night and especially the subject which had flared the Lex' s temper so. Her engagement can be over, but there' s still a promise of secrecy between her and Clark, even if the prospective of lying to Lex again isn't inviting.

Lana is relieved when Lex resumes talking, absolving her from the necessity to make up the chance to make up an suitable excuse to skip his questions without insulting his intelligence.

"I won't ask you never again about whatever dark or light secret Clark has confessed to you that night. It's between you and him and I would have never intruded if my emotions hadn't clouded my judgement."

It's difficult for Lana finding an adequate answer to that. She wants believing Lex, but she can't. She knows how it feels to watch your trust in a friend disintegrating day by day, consumed by little white lies and a resentful suspicion to not be considered deserving of his trust.

She is been in the Lex' s shoes before, and even if his relationship with Clark is now nothing more than a pantomime of what it used to be, she knows this would just another reason for wanting more intensely the truth.
Specially if Clark so desperately wants to keep it hidden.
Specially because Clark so desperately wants to keep it hidden.

Lana is been so often familiar with those same feelings than she can't hold them against Lex, but understanding doesn't fix anything. Yet, the idea of Lex lulling her into a false sense of safety to squeeze more information from her is more exciting than alarming.

She nods like if she trusts his promise, smiling against her better judgment, and it's almost flirtatious.

"I appreciate it"

As they move to sit before the fireplace, Lana notices Lex is deliberately sidestepping to be in a position to take in her figure without being obvious about it. She feels strangely touched by his subtlety.

"About the infamous engagement… I and Clark have annulled it."

"So I've heard "

He isn't even bothering to pretend any displeasure or concern over the news and although Lana holds a defensive façade before his demeanour, she secretly finds it a refreshing change.

"He needs some time to deal with his father's loss."

"By himself."

Lex nods –probably musing over how easily predictable Clark is in all his flannel and denim glory - and she finds herself once and again meeting his gaze squarely.
The frigid heat in blue irises -almost like a reflection of fire on the surface of an iced lake- has always had the strange effect to force her skin to tighten in this barely perceptible and indefinable measure. Lana feels suddenly very lucky to experience the sensation again. To think he could have died scares her more deeply than she can say.

There's no more a reason to deny to herself or anyone else she has held Lex entrapped in her fantasies for just as long she has held Clark in her heart. Her mind associates the two of them by contrast, because there was something about Lex which both alarmed and ensnared her senses even while his friendship grounded her and challenged her. Just like there was something about Clark which both drew her in and awoke her diffidence, warning her that the distance between their worlds wouldn't ever been completely filled, it didn't matter whether he confided in her for his secrets or whether she could be unable of explaining this foreboding in words.

Yes, she has desired Lex for just as long she has loved Clark and there's a new rush in finally facing this feeling, by not turning away when his stare becomes too intense.

"How you are dealing with it?"

"It has hurt a lot, but it was also like if some part of me wasn't surprised about it. I guess I got used to the idea by now… I feel almost guilty for not being as much broken about it than most of people seems to expect from me."
Lex chuckles in front of the smirk she feels brave enough to dare. "Of course we can't say you hadn't enough practice with Clark's standard fashion to pull away to deal with his issues."

"Yeah- Lana shakes her head, unwilling to decide if his solidarity should being amusing her or aggravating her- I'm thinking it's been for the best. Maybe there's a reason if the love which has kept to pull us together so far isn't ever strong enough to stick. Doubts like those aren't a good basis for a marriage."

"Maybe. – Lex acknowledges her- I can't claim to be an expert of conjugal bliss. All my brides have tried murder me at some point or another."

Lana inclines her head pensively, taking a moment for appraising her companion by the light of fire. His complexion isn't any paler than it is ever been, his gaze is keen and attentive, his stance seems effortless relaxed: he looks healthy to her.

"Are you really okay? I mean, you look even too fine for someone who has so recently recovered from a coma but it's not like if you looked sick before passing out on me. Are your doctors concerned? "

The young billionaire leans back on his armchair, posing as the very picture of smug unconcerned-ness.

"Heart attacks don't send you in a coma, this is certain. They think it could be been the work of some toxin which could have acted on both my heart and my nervous system. Anything it was, it's gone now. "

Lex lies smoothly, without guilt. He might never tell her he doesn't as much as a sneeze since the Meteor Shower. It's a secret he has buried so deeply inside himself than sometimes even he be rely remembers he's just another meteor infected person. After all those years, to forget he might go mental as any guest of Level 33.1 is still the only way he can deal with his condition. Yet he favours thinking he's different, more in control of himself than other freaks; aren't his occasional bouts of fury always been transitory? hasn't he always managed to suppress his most murdering instincts? He has the control of his infection and genetic tests say his mutation is more stable than average.

By the time neurological effects of his condition will get more pronounced, the studies he finances in his Smallville labs will have paid off – Lex Luthor will accept nothing less- and he can deal in the meantime.

Thus, there's no need to let Lana suppose he's a danger to her.

"I'm very relived to hear it. –Lana says, taking courage to admit something she feels she must confess him- I missed you"

Something in the Lex' s face softens, but it has to be her imagination overworking because even his gaze seems to her like if it's brightening.

"Thanks for coming here. As you can see, there's not exactly a crowd of well wishers knocking down the door to be at my bedside. All this exclusive proximity to my father was beginning to grate on my nerves. "

"I can imagine"

Scrunching up her nose, Lana inwardly shuddered to the idea of having Lionel as sole contact to the outside world. Poor Lex.

"You can save me. Have dinner with me in Metropolis tonight"

"Isn't a bit soon for going out to partying? You should take it slow."

It's really embarrassing - to not mention weird, since he's older - playing mother hen with Lex Luthor of all the people, but she can't help herself. She feels definitely sillier than ever when he chuckles in her face.

"I told you I'm fine. I doubt conversation with a good friend over spicy tuna rolls can do anything but benefit my health. I have a craving for Japanese cuisine it would be a shame satisfying in solitude."

"If you put it like that, it sounds as a n invitation difficult to refuse."

The Lex' s grin is sharkier than usual, yet it has a certain compelling quality.

"So don't refuse it"