He didn't go to these things. Even when he was in high school, he hadn't gone to these things. He didn't see the point. Idle chatting was pointless, and dancing held no appeal. He preferred the solitude of his study, or stimulating conversation about something deeply scientific or philosophical. But he had gone to the championship football game the week before, and Clark had invited him to come hang out for part of this evening, so here he was--Lex Luthor, climbing out of the back of his limousine, wearing a white dress shirt and black pants, preparing to enter a gym to go to a high school dance.
He slammed the door and the limousine pulled away. Lex stuck his hands in his pockets, sighed and shook his head as he gazed up at the school building. The warm night wind brushed softly against him, and he glanced back out at the darkness, standing on the edge of it, reluctant to leave its shelter for the noise and light inside. Finally, he stepped forward, ascended the stone steps and pulled the door open.
All the lights were on in the hallways, but no one was there to greet him. He had purposefully come late, so that he might slip in the back, say hi to Clark, then duck out again. He didn't expect her to be there. Not after what had happened.
The heels of his dress shoes clicked on the tile as he strode forward confidently--all he had to do was follow the throbbing racket that was probably originating from the gym.
As he grew nearer, the sound of his footsteps was drowned out by some sort of loud, percussive "music," and the shouting of teenagers. He turned a corner and glimpsed the open double-doors of the gymnasium, through which he spied a large, moving crowd lit by dimmed reddish lighting. He briefly rolled his eyes. Good luck finding Clark in all of that.
Taking a breath in preparation, he stepped inside, wincing as the barrage of sound assaulted his hearing. Thankfully, no one paid him much attention as he slipped past a few people, looking over their heads and shoulders to try and catch a glimpse of his over-six-foot-tall friend.
Surprisingly, he found him quickly. Clark Kent was standing off by himself, leaning against the wall near the refreshment table, his thick arms crossed over his broad chest. His black hair looked rather unkempt, even for him, his strong jaw was set, and his piercing blue eyes were staring directly across the gym. Lex's eyes narrowed, and he turned his head, attempting to follow Clark's gaze.
Lex stopped. His throat closed.
Clark was staring at Lana Lang. She'd come after all.
She was wearing a knee-length black dress covered with sparkles--thin-strapped and form-fitting, it flared out at the skirt. Her hair was up, pinned with a small piece of jewelry that glittered even in the dimness. She stood alone, leaning back against a pillar, looking at nothing. Lex felt a pang deep in his chest somewhere. He turned away from her, pretending he had not noticed, and approached Clark.
Clark did not see him until Lex was standing right beside him. He started when Lex said his name, and shook himself.
"Hi, Lex," Clark replied automatically, hesitantly shaking his friend's hand when it was offered.
"You look like you're enjoying yourself," Lex commented, though trying to soften his sarcasm. It was hard when he had to raise his voice to be heard. Clark shrugged uncomfortably.
"Yeah, well..." he sighed. He hung his head. "I'm sorry I asked you here, Lex. Chloe's sick with the flu or something, and I'm just...not in the mood." He glanced down at his watch. "I'm actually thinking of going home."
Lex's brow furrowed.
"It's only about nine thirty--and you're the star quarterback." Lex cast his eyes around the room at all the people socializing and dancing. "You'd be able to strike up a conversation with whomever you want."
Clark sighed again, not really looking at him.
"I know. But I don't feel like talking."
Finally, the pounding song ended, people clapped and laughed, and then a new song started. Lex blinked. It started with a piano, and maybe a hint of an orchestra behind. Not what he had expected. People began to slow dance, and Lex's eyes wandered over to Lana once more. She was still standing alone, gazing distantly over the crowd. Then he realized Clark was also looking that way again, so he glanced back at his friend.
"What about dancing?" he asked, keeping his voice down.
Clark raised his eyebrows. Lex indicated Lana with his head.
"She's standing all by herself, just waiting for you."
Clark swallowed tightly.
"No. She won't talk to me."
"Why?" Lex folded his arms over his chest. Clark gave him a meaningful look.
"She thinks I got Jason fired."
Lex cocked his head.
"But you didn't."
Clark shook his head once.
"Doesn't matter. She won't let me explain--and I'm not going to tell her you did it."
Lex took a deep breath and turned his shoulders a bit, as if dodging a blow.
"Doesn't look like anybody else is going to ask her to dance," Lex observed. "Or even talk to her."
"Nope," Clark admitted darkly. "I...don't think they know how they should act."
I know, Lex muttered to himself. He looked sideways at Clark.
"So you're absolutely not going to go ask her to dance?"
Clark's brow tightened.
"All right, then," Lex unfolded his arms, turned and walked straight across the dance floor. Expertly, he wove through the couples, though he sensed quite a few people notice who he was. He ignored them, keeping his eyes fixed on Lana. When he was near enough, she finally caught sight of him, and a sudden smile lit her face. Lex felt the pang again. Her eyes shone with unshed tears--the smile had been reflexive, but grew to one of relief and gratitude when he smiled back.
"Hi, Lex," she said shakily, obviously trying to gather herself and act cheerful instead of miserable. "What are you doing here?"
He shrugged and glanced upward.
"I thought I'd check out the high-school social scene after a big win," he told her. His eyes found hers again. "And I also wanted to ask you if you would dance with me."
She blinked, startled.
"Um..." Her delicate eyebrows came together, and she looked away. Color filled her cheeks. "You...obviously haven't heard about me and...the assistant coach."
Lex lowered his head so he could see her face.
"Why does that matter?" He held out his right hand. Uncertainly, she reached up and slid her trembling fingers into his. His fingers closed warmly and softly around hers.
"Lex," she whispered, still keeping her head down. "No one will even talk to me because of it."
He pulled her closer, and slipped his hand around her waist. He looked down at her, her hesitant face tilted up toward him.
"They're fools," he said simply, and pulled her into the first dance step.
At first, they were a little rocky; Lex actually knew how to dance--unlike many in that room--and Lana was unused to him as a partner. Once or twice, she misstepped, but Lex did not deride her, and so she recovered quickly. Very soon, she was listening to his movements, and then all at once, it clicked, and they moved as one.
That was when the singer began. Lex swallowed minutely. If he had known the song had these words, he might not have asked her. He glanced down at her again. Her dark, shining eyes were free of tears, and looked at nothing but his face. He forgot his misgivings.
You're in my arms, and all the world is gone,
The music playing on for only two
So close together, and when I'm with you
So close to feeling alive.
He could feel quite a few people watching them, now. But they faded into the background until they almost didn't exist. He felt her press closer to him, almost as if she was leaning on him in a weary, sad sort of way.
As life goes by, romantic dreams must die
So I bid mine goodbye, and never knew
So close was waiting, waiting here with you
And now, forever, I know all that I wanted:
To hold you, so close.
The music crescendoed and swelled, along with Lex's heart. It caught him off guard, but he knew he couldn't leave her being so sad. And so he stepped back and threw her out into a gentle twirl. She followed him effortlessly, though her expression flashed and she laughed. When he drew her back to him, he moved them into an easy waltz step.
So close to reaching that famous happy end
Almost believing this one's not pretend
Now you're beside me, and look how far we've come
We are so close
The singer ceased as the orchestra took over, filling the room with exultant sound. The other dancers who didn't know what they were doing backed up and marveled at them as Lex twirled her several times, watching how her eyes sparkled every time. Then the song took on a wistful, almost despairing tone, and the words stopped both of them as they were fully extended, only attached by the hands.
Oh how could I face the faceless days
If I should lose you now?
Their eyes met. Lex suddenly could not keep his guard up, and for an instant he felt his heart shine out through his eyes. She saw it. But he saw her heart, too.
Lex pulled her swiftly back in, and held her tightly, sweeping her into a turn as the song continued.
We're so close to reaching that famous happy end
Almost believing this one's not pretend
Let's go on dreaming, for we know we are...
The note grew softer, and their steps slowed. Lana fell slowly against him again, laying her head against his shoulder. He lowered his head so it pressed against her soft hair.
So close, and still
The last few piano chords died away, and they stopped moving. She didn't let him go. People ignored them, going back to what they were doing. He felt her tremble slightly, as if she was trying not to cry.
"Thank you, Lex," she murmured into his shirt. "You're so sweet."
"I couldn't very well ignore it while you stood there by yourself," he admitted, backing up again to gaze at her. A smile flickered across her face again, but a tear fell. Impulsively, he leaned down and kissed her cheek. She sucked in her breath. He backed up farther, squeezed her hands and smiled.
"Goodnight, Lana," and he turned and whispered out of the gym, brushing her tear from his lips.