TITLE: Look the Other Way
AUTHOR: Giselle Mossant
E-MAIL ADDRESS: gisellemossant@hotmail.com
WEBSITE: http://www.purebluesun.com/thetalon/
RATING: PG-13
CATEGORY: S, slight A
SPOILERS: Not sure about specifics, but you're definitely
safe after "Reaper," as that's the last episode
that aired before I completed this.
KEYWORDS: Lex/Lana friendship, UST
DISTRIBUTION: Please do not archive -- the full text of this
story will be archived solely by the author at
her site (mostly for version control issues). If
you'd like to link to the story from your Web
site, I'd be honored -- but drop me a line first,
please.
DISCLAIMER: They're mine! I'm taking them and we're going to
live in sin on some mountain somewhere!
FEEDBACK: There are so few of us who are into this
particular ship at the moment that I think
feedback is even more important to keep a writer
motivated. Was that convincing?
AUTHOR'S NOTES: This is the first story in a series I'm calling
"Reach." Love and hugs to Crude, a fantabulous
beta reader and friend.

SUMMARY: Wherein Lex and Lana say goodbye.


Look the Other Way
by Giselle Mossant
*~*~*~*~*~*

With a blue ballpoint pen, Lana Lang carefully entered in the
column indicating dollar bills a short stroke -- up and down, no
nonsense -- followed by two whimsical ovals, one sitting on top
of the other like the body of a snowman. Eighteen $1 bills in
the register. The bills done, she gathered a handful of quarters
into one hand and began separating them into groups of four.

This is the last time I'll balance the register, she thought.
This had only occurred to her, oh, about once a minute since she
began the task, and she didn't know why she was so hung up on the
fact. It wasn't as though she'd ever particularly enjoyed it.

But the last time you do anything is special, she reasoned.

Earlier, the closing shift had mopped the floors, cleaned the
coffee machines, emptied the trash, and wiped the tables and
countertops. She was alone, but as always, between these
particular four walls she never felt lonely. It was, after all,
a place near and dear to her heart; a place she'd helped save.

Lana's parents would be proud of what she had accomplished; she
knew that. But she could see now that keeping Lex from turning
the old theater into a parking garage hadn't really been for
them; it had been for her. To remember them by. But now a new
chapter of her life was beginning; a chapter that had no clear
directions and no ghosts. Though she knew it was irrational, she
felt slightly guilty for looking forward to that new life.

Lex would be the first to wave her guilt aside and encourage her
excitement for the future. "Life's a journey -- you don't want
to go through it holding a roadmap," he had said, on more than
one occasion. By now, she could tell when it was coming, and
quote him even as he was saying it.

Lana wondered idly if he would be by tonight. Sometimes he would
drop in if he was in the area and he knew she was closing. He
knew that tonight she'd close The Talon for the last time in a
long time -- maybe ever. She knew he knew, and she knew that he
knew she knew. It didn't guarantee he'd show up.

Well, why would that matter in any case? They were good friends,
yes. They'd worked together for four years, and occasionally
spent time with one another outside of work because they enjoyed
one another's company and felt comfortable around each other.
She had once dated his best friend ... which could have made
things awkward between them, but instead, had turned out to be
another piece of shared history. She felt at ease with him and
felt certain the feeling was mutual. And yes, she thought they
probably knew each other well enough that he'd put in a special
appearance tonight to ... wish her well. Send her off to his
alma mater with his regards. Lex was her friend; surely it
wasn't out of line to wonder whether she would see him again
before she left.

The truth was, it didn't concern her that it should cross her
mind. But it did unsettle her that she felt the need to justify
to herself why that was okay.

If they really =were= good friends, would it be so unusual if
they had dinner or something together before she left? She'd
spent time with Angelica, and Phoebe, and Chloe and Pete, and
many other people besides who were also attending Metropolis
University in the fall. She'd made it a point to spend time with
her friends who had started school a few weeks earlier. She'd
even had dinner with Clark, though they weren't entirely
comfortable with one another yet even six months after they'd
broken up. But she still considered him a friend. And yet she
had to admit that while she considered Lex Luthor her friend, he
was an entirely different animal from those others.

He wasn't just her friend; he was her boss. He wasn't just her
boss; he was Lex Luthor, sole heir to a multibillion-dollar
corporation and a powerful man in his own right. He was feared,
loathed, admired and envied. He was also brilliant, good-
humored, self-assured, compassionate, and decent. Lex was
probably the most under-appreciated man Lana had ever known --
and the most enigmatic. Sometimes she felt she knew him better
than anyone else; other times, she had the distinct feeling she
didn't know him at all.

Slowly, with more care than usual, she placed the money and the
evening's receipts in the red leather pouch used expressly for
this purpose. The morning crew would take it to the bank, and
that wouldn't include her. She'd had her last morning shift the
week before. She glanced at the clock, which stared balefully
back at her. It was after midnight; he probably wasn't going to
show. She was annoyed with herself for taking as long as she
could in putting the pouch into the safe, to give him a few
minutes more.

No one thought she should have worked tonight. Even Lex, who
normally wouldn't stick his nose in matters not directly
concerning him, had suggested that she might want to spend her
last night hanging out with her friends. But Lana had been firm
in her decision to close The Talon one last time, and he hadn't
pressed the issue. Lex Luthor made a suggestion only once; if
you didn't have the sense to take his advice when he first
offered it, he wouldn't waste his breath.

"Why would you want to work on your last night? I don't get it,"
Phoebe had said, sipping a giant-sized Coke from McDonald's that
could have housed a garden gnome. Phoebe got that sly, knowing
look in her eyes that made Lana flush red with embarrassment,
knowing what Phoebe was thinking but unable, as always, to
convince her it wasn't true. "Is it because of ... yummy you
know who?"

"No!" Lana always rose to the bait. She knew the best way to
shut Phoebe down was to simply not react, but she couldn't help
it.

"Oh, leave her alone," Angelica admonished Phoebe around a
mouthful of Big Mac sans special sauce.

"Thank you," Lana said, grateful.

Angelica continued. "It's not Lana's fault her boss is hunky and
sexy and rich and that her wanting to work on her last night in
town looks suspicious."

Of course Lana had spluttered and denied some more until they
were convinced Lex had nothing to do with her decision to work
the night before she was leaving for college. Or at least, until
they pretended to be convinced. She had argued this with them
too many times to feel any true heat, but she had been frustrated
because she honestly did not have those feelings about Lex. The
idea that her friends should think she felt that way about him
was embarrassing for the simple reason that it seemed ...
=beneath= Lex Luthor for anyone to harbor a schoolgirl crush on
him. He wasn't some flash-in-the-pan heartthrob designed by a
studio; he was a real person, a man who ran part of a huge
corporate empire, a man who worked and lived and breathed
business. A man who didn't have to care what people thought, but
did anyway; a man who could warm your entire being with a small
gesture or smile and leave you raw and bleeding on the street
with a few carefully chosen words.

Lana admired Lex. She'd never made any secret of that. But
unrequited romantic feelings? No. The very idea of it would
probably amuse, disgust, or concern him, depending on how he felt
about her at any given moment.

She already missed Angelica and Phoebe, but she knew they'd be in
touch. Most of her goodbyes had been said; The Talon would be
the last one. There was, of course, Lex, but she had to admit
that she was probably making a bigger deal than the situation
warranted. Lex wasn't the type to indulge in mushy farewells;
he'd more likely cuff her lightly on the shoulder and tell her
not to get into too much trouble. Sometimes he treated her like
a friend; sometimes like a business partner; sometimes like an
employee. The latter was rare, but when it happened she didn't
mind too much -- she =was=, after all, his employee. But he also
sometimes behaved as if she were a younger sister, and =that=
irked her. She always felt her hackles rise when he got that
look in his eyes that told her she was innocent and naive and
needed protection.

Lana could almost tolerate that look now if only he were here to
give it.

There was nothing for her to do now but turn off all the lights
and head home. She couldn't resist standing in the middle of the
room for a moment to take a slow turn, taking in everything the
renovated theater represented. Four years of hard work.
Personal accomplishment. Determination. Independence, of a
kind. When she'd first made her business proposal to Lex, her
objective had been to preserve the memory of her parents -- the
unrealistic hope of a young girl. Lana now understood that the
memory of her parents could have no securer place than her own
heart.

She switched off the lights one by one, trying not to feel
disappointed. It wasn't as though she'd never see Lex or The
Talon again. She would be returning to Smallville, likely as
soon as Thanksgiving.

Lana backed out, feeling behind her for the door. She could
still make out the shapes of the chairs and tables in the semi-
darkness, and felt a swell of emotion catch in her throat. Once
outside, she pulled the door shut in front of her and searched
for her keys. She found them in her jacket pocket along with a
stick of gum, thinking she'd have to remember to put her keys to
The Talon in the mail.

She turned, her chest still feeling tight. She'd parked her
little Corolla right outside the cafe, and she was dumbfounded to
find Lex Luthor lounging against it in clothes that probably cost
more than the value of her car.

She stopped short, feeling a bit like Charlie after he'd gotten
the Golden Ticket. Was Lex was really there, or was her
sentimental imagination conjuring him?

"Hey," he said, smiling slightly, and now she fought to keep at
bay the ridiculous joy she felt blooming in her chest. She was
glad to be able to say goodbye after all, she told herself. And
when Phoebe was right, she was right -- Lex was extremely good-
looking, and Lana had always secretly thought so. Tonight he
wore dark trousers and an azure dress shirt that was unbuttoned
at the collar. Never jeans or t-shirts for Lex, but also, rarely
ties. He preferred to dress as if he were perpetually on his way
to a nightclub for the chic and privileged.

"Hey," Lana replied, hoping she sounded as casual as he did. It
came out a little too breathless, but otherwise she thought she
pulled it off. The breathlessness could be chalked up to
surprise at seeing him. "What are you doing here?"

He blinked lazily, the smile still hovering on his lips. "It's
your last night, Lana." He stated this as if the momentous
nature of the occasion were obvious and he was offended she
thought he wouldn't remember.

Just when she was about to say something extremely witty, like
"Oh," he gave her a full-wattage smile and threw her off again.
"What kind of boss would I be if I let my best employee leave
without some show of appreciation?"

"Oh." And there it was. "Well, why didn't you come in?"

Lex lifted his shoulders guiltily. "Actually, I just got here,"
he confessed. "I saw the lights going off, knew you'd be out
soon. I was afraid I'd missed you. Damn dinner party of my
father's. I--" He stopped. He must have realized what he was
doing, and Lex Luthor didn't explain his actions to anyone. It
made Lana smile anyway. "It's late; you probably want to get
home, finish packing, get an early night's rest." He said this
very matter-of-factly.

His unspoken invitation lay gently in the air between them.
Clearly, the choice was hers. There would be no hard feelings if
she refused.

"I'm getting a second wind," Lana replied. Suddenly it felt
awkward to be having a conversation with him from 20 feet away.
She moved closer and at the same time, he straightened from his
position against the car. She stopped when she was close enough
to be able to reach out and grab a handful of his shirt. Which,
of course, she didn't.

His voice was softer now. "So what do you want to do?"

What she thought: Park, blanket, stars. Car, wind, road. Music,
silence, dancing. What she said: "Anything."

Any other guy would have given her a friendly or not-so-friendly
leer and suggestively parroted, "ANYthing?" Lex, of course,
wouldn't even think of responding that way to a little girl like
her. She mentally made a face. He said, "How about bowling?
You want to go bowling?"

Lana was baffled by this. Somehow, she couldn't see Lex Luthor
in a bowling alley. Even the word sounded strange coming from
his mouth. She considered this. He'd probably take another girl
to a dance club. Or maybe use his influence to get them into a
museum for a private tour. Or maybe even suggest a cozy chat by
his fireplace. Why didn't he just come out and suggest that
maybe she'd like to play with her Easy Bake Oven?

But if bowling was what he was offering, then she was game. She
couldn't say exactly why she wanted to stretch out this time with
him, when she still had so much to pack. When butterflies had
taken up permanent residence in her stomach at the thought of
leaving home and she could use the time to do a little soul-
searching. When seeing him made her confused and flustered, made
the butterflies flap their wings more rapidly.

"I'd love to," she said, and smiled.

They took his car, of course, Lex promising to drop her back off
to pick hers up later.

The alley was bright, noisy, and cozy in its own way. It smelled
like stale popcorn and long red licorice -- not at all
unpleasant.

He let her arrange the lane and their shoes (though he did
contribute his shoe size) -- then paid for it all. Long ago she
had tried to explain to Lex that his personal wealth didn't
matter -- if they shared in experience then they shared in
expense. He would listen to her arguments with a serious
expression, nodding without saying anything. Then when it came
time to settle, he would hand the server (or whoever) a credit
card without looking at the bill, grinning innocently at Lana.
After this happened several times, she mentally threw her hands
up in the air and didn't try anymore.

They made their way to Lane 18, and Lana was surprised by how
busy the alley was. There wasn't much to do in Smallville
generally, and even less to do after a certain hour. She saw a
few people she recognized, but didn't know them well enough to
call attention to herself. A few people did a double-take when
they saw Lex, but for the most part, people in Smallville were
used to seeing him and didn't behave out of the ordinary. For
better or worse, he was one of its citizens. The double-takes
were probably due to the fact that Lex was dressed considerably
better than everyone else, blue jeans being the standard uniform.

They sat down to put their bowling shoes on, and Lana watched Lex
carefully, not fully believing that he would actually put on
shoes that other people had worn. But he did it without
hesitation, not noticing her scrutiny. The shoes, with their
scuffed garishness, were ridiculous. He was so put-together and
the shoes were ... all wrong. It was good that Fate had landed
Lex in a position where he would rarely have to wear shoes like
these, because it would never look right, she thought inanely.

Lex looked up, a smile hovering on his lips. "Okay, now what?"

She was confused. "What?"

The smile split his face at her expression. "Lana, this is about
as close to bowling as I've ever come." He indicated his shoes.

"You've ... never bowled?" Though this was actually rather
appropriate, she was still struck.

"Never really had the chance before," he explained.

But how can that be? she almost blurted, then remembered how
different his life was from her own. His childhood might as well
have occurred on another planet as far as she could relate to it.

"'It's okay, Lex, anyone can do it,'" he said dryly when she
still hadn't said anything.

"It's just ... I can't believe it," she said finally. What else
hadn't he been able to do?

"You think I'm lying?" That smile of his would be her undoing.

"Noooo," she denied. "It's just ... well, here." She led him
over to the bowling ball rack. "It's been ages since I've
bowled, so we'll just learn together. Pick out a ball. Nothing
too light or heavy; something you can heft." They both picked
one to their liking. "Now, I'm sure you pretty much know what
you're supposed to do with that."

"Chuck it down to the other end and knock down all those spindly
things?"

Lana smiled. "And you say you've never bowled before." She led
him over to the scoring table, bending over to punch in a few
keys. "Here's where we keep score. You just--" She lost her
concentration as he leaned down next to her to look at the screen
she was indicating. She could smell a faint trace of his
cologne, and in her peripheral vision she could see that he was
completely focused on the screen. "But we don't have to keep
score," she finished, licking her suddenly dry lips.

Lex straightened and Lana's heart started again. "Don't you know
me at all? We're keeping score," he asserted arrogantly. "And
no handicaps. I don't accept pity."

"Lex, you've never played before," she countered. "What would
that say about my skills if you beat me?"

"What's the matter, Lana? Can't take a little friendly
competition?" His eyes gleamed.

He was appallingly infuriating sometimes. "I just don't want to
see a Luthor cry."

Lex gave her a sideways glance. "I'm a fast learner, honey."

Oh, she absolutely hated it when he called her by endearments he
didn't mean. They started to play, and it didn't take them long
to realize that Lana was going to soundly kick Lex's ass. At one
point he looked at the scoreboard and groaned, claiming the
entire game rigged.

"And my fingers hurt," he grouched, flexing his hand.

"I broke two nails, but you don't see me whining," she answered,
entering her latest strike into the computer.

"That's because you're WINNING."

"You can always give up," she said sweetly.

He shot her a look that told her exactly what he thought of that
idea.

They continued their lopsided play, Lex getting in a couple
strikes of his own, making her laugh with his exaggerated
displays of smugness. She was normally only an average player
herself, but Lex trying to ruin her play with a series of antics
-- nothing too overt, of course, as that wasn't Lex's style --
only made her better. The only time he managed to get Lana to
gutterball was when he blew softly into her ear as she was
setting up, completely unnerving her and causing her to lose
focus on the roll. Luckily, he didn't do it again.

"That wasn't bad for your first time," she said magnanimously as
they walked out, pushing his buttons. The cool September night
was refreshing after the heat of the alley and their competitive
spirit.

Lex shot her a look. "Don't patronize me."

Lana giggled as Lex opened the car door and she slid into her
seat. She felt happy ... alive ... awake. It was nearly three
in the morning and she had to get up early the next day to make
the drive into Metropolis with Nell, but she would gladly forego
sleep entirely if it meant she could continue to feel like this.

It was only when they were on their way back to The Talon, music
playing softly on the stereo, that some of her high began to
fade. Lana sneaked looks at Lex, liking the easy way he
maneuvered his powerful car, the way the street lamps accented
his profile. She didn't want him to drop her off to pick up her
car; she didn't want to get in her car alone and drive home; she
didn't want to enter her quiet house and finish packing with
nothing to keep her company but the tick of the clock in her
room.

"So are you excited?" Lex asked, turning for a second to look at
her.

"About what? Oh, school. Yeah, I guess."

"Oh, it really sounds like it."

She smiled faintly. Don't think about how in a few minutes, you
won't be warm and content, she thought. "I don't know. I mean,
sometimes I'm really excited. Other times, like now, I just
think of all that I'm leaving behind." Lana stared at the
darkened shops that sped by her line of vision.

"You're going to Metropolis, not Zimbabwe." He sounded amused.

"I know," she sighed. "I've never lived anywhere but here." She
knew she must sound like the unworldly, greenhorn girl she always
tried to resist being around him, but what did it matter? She
=was= that girl, and he knew it.

He didn't respond, and she thought he must not have heard her.
The rest of the ride passed in comfortable silence, and before
she knew it they were parked behind her car, then standing next
to it.

Lana was already starting to feel the chill of loneliness
creeping in. She forced a smile on her face and tried to sound
cheerful. "Thanks for a fun night, Lex, I really enjoyed it."
She smiled up at him as a small gust of wind blew her hair up
into her face, but he didn't return the smile. It didn't even
seem as though he had heard her, the look on his face was so
intent and serious.

She caught her breath as he used one hand to slowly smooth the
unruly strands of hair away from her face. His touch was as
light as a butterfly's wings, but far more gentle than the ones
that had come back to life in her stomach.

Lex lowered his head, and for one crazy, heart-stopping moment
she thought he was going to kiss her. But he angled away, and
she realized he was just going to kiss her cheek. She felt a
curious sense of disappointment, though surely she didn't =want=
him to touch his lips to hers ...

Her heart began beating double-time as he pressed a soft,
lingering kiss to a spot near her ear. She supposed it was still
cheek territory, but she could feel his breath, making her
shiver. Had he simply misjudged his kissing area? Did he know
what this was doing to her?

If she turned her head she could kiss him in the same spot. Did
she dare? She closed her eyes and hoped her legs would keep her
upright without any conscious decision-making on her part.

"Take care, Lana," he said, not in a whisper but using a low,
gentle tone. His voice slid like the rich notes of clarinet into
her ear, caressing the delicate nerves there, making her tremble.
She hoped he couldn't feel it. "Don't change."

Lex finally lifted his head away to look into her eyes, relieving
and dismaying her. She didn't know what to say. She didn't know
what he expected. Then, throwing her off more, he treated her to
the same confident grin she was used to seeing on him and said in
a normal voice, "Good night. Have a good drive tomorrow." He
sounded so friendly she half-expected him to give her a punch on
the arm. Had she just imagined the kiss, his words, the intimate
way he'd imparted them to her? But no, it was real -- the spot
near her ear burned as if he'd branded it.

"Thanks," she croaked. Lex slid his hands into his pockets and
stepped back, his smile still in place. She realized he was
waiting for her to get into her car, so she did. In the
quietness of her Corolla she could hear her heart thumping in her
ears. She fired the engine to introduce some noise, and Lex
stepped forward again to knock gently on the window. She fumbled
with the controls, finally finding the right one.

As the window lowered Lex leaned down, and she was mesmerized by
his eyes, unable to look away. "I'll see you soon," he said, and
his quiet confidence filled her with an indefinable emotion. He
flashed one more smile, then made his way back to his own car.
She followed his movements in the rearview mirror as he started
his engine and pulled out to the road. He waved as he drove
past, a lift of his arm, the simple crook of a few fingers. She
replied in kind.

Far from being cold, Lana felt too warm the entire drive home.
It seemed to pool in her eyes, making it difficult to see as she
unlocked the door. She felt slightly feverish as she finished
packing, and kept feeling her neck and cheeks with hands that
burned. Heat radiated from her toes and fingers as she brushed
her teeth. Her flannel pajamas felt too hot and she replaced
them with shorts and a tank top before climbing into bed. The
coolness of her sheets brought some blessed relief, but only
temporarily. She wondered what was wrong with her, if she had
caught something out there in the night air with Lex.

As she lay in bed, tossing and turning, finally having some quiet
time to think without distractions, she touched her cheek and
realized what it was. The spot near her ear had spread its heat
all over her body, generating warmth where none was previously.
And when it seemed that it might falter, grow weak, more kindling
came in the form of four small words, linked together and made
strong in unfailing promise.

I'll see you soon.

=End=


4/27/02

AUTHOR'S NOTES: Lex Luthor ... BOWLING?? You saw the part where
I said this was the first in a series, right? Have faith, gentle
reader. I may be sick and twisted, but not THAT sick and
twisted. Stick with me, I won't lead you astray.

**Feedback is like finding Lex covered in chocolate at my front
door: gisellemossant@hotmail.com**

Thanks for reading!!