Lana closed the laptop and got up, heading out into the living room, walking around and straightening stuff up. Looking around, she nodded in satisfaction and went to the kitchen to make some popcorn.
Clark dressed in jeans and a flannel shirt, knowing it would probably make Lana laugh. He hoped so. He got to Lana's quickly and knocked on the door.
Dumping the popcorn in a bowl, Lana grabbed two Sprites from the fridge and set everything down on the coffee table. She looked up at the knock and called out, "It's open, Clark." Brushed her hair behind her ears, feeling a bit nervous at having Clark over. It's the first time they've actually been able to sit down and talk since last year.
"Hey," Clark said as he walked in. "It's been a while. Oh, and I know I didn't say this before, but I really like your hair." He's genuine, he looked at it seriously before he commented.
Lana grinned and walked over to him, "Thanks, Clark." She looked up at him and raised an eyebrow. "A hug for an old friend?"
"Sure," Clark wrapped his arms around her and he's surprised how un-awkward it felt. And how all he felt was the warmth of her, without wanting it to be more.
Lana hugged him back, still grinning. The hug was easy and comfortable and there's no awkwardness or hesitation in either of them. Dropping back down to her heels, she took a step back and shook her head, "I swear you've had another growth spurt. How tall are you now? Seven feet?" She said it teasingly, turning and walking to the couch, gesturing for him to follow. "Make yourself at home. We have popcorn, Sprite and I'm sure I have some chocolate stashed somewhere."
Clark laughed and shook his head. "I haven't grown any. But of course you were always so much shorter...." he teased back, feeling easy about it. "And thanks," he sat on the couch and picked up his drink, sipping slowly.
Lana laughed, reaching out and smacking his arm lightly. "I may be short but I can still kick your ass."
"I know, I remember when you asked Lex to help. I'm sure he would have taught you more than enough to kick my ass." Well, not really, but Clark wasn’t going to go into that.
Lana grinned, "Of course he did." Thinking about Lex, her smile faded a bit. She's only talked to him a couple of times since she got settled here and both times he had been so... distant. She's not sure he really saw her as a friend anymore.
"Are you okay?" Clark asked, looking at Lana, not sure what changed, just sensing it.
Lana leaned back against the couch and gave Clark a faint smile. "Just Lex. I've only talked to him a couple of times recently. He's really distant. I always feel as though I'm bothering him and I haven't felt that way about him in years." Lana looked at Clark seriously. "Has he said anything to you?"
"He's very distant with everyone," Clark admitted. "I think we made a little progress when we talked the other day...but it was very slow and I wouldn't say things were going well, just that they started..."
Lana nodded and turned so she faced Clark, one knee drawn up onto the couch. "Did something happen? I know I've been out of the loop for a long time." She looked down, fingers playing with a loose thread on her jeans. "I needed the time away, apart from everyone else and it's been hard trying to catch up. But I honestly didn't mean to separate myself so fully from everyone."
"He made himself distant from all of us - well, not that he was ever very close to Lois, but you know what I mean. I know part of it was my fault, but I didn't realize it was all slipping away until there were only a few threads left. I hope they'll be enough to repair, I really do."
Lana nodded again, "I'm sure you guys will be able to work it out. You and Lex always had such a strong friendship. At least, that's how it seemed to me." She looked up and gave Clark a sheepish look. "Although, I was a bit too into myself back then, so I'm sure there were things I didn't notice."
"Just a few," Clark nodded, not wanting to go into detail. Most of them were private between himself and Lex and the others, he admitted, he didn't really want to think about.
Lana smiled a bit tightly and nodded again, changing the subject, "The marathon should be starting about now." She turns around in her seat and reached forward for the remote, turning the TV on and switching it to The Cartoon Network. She refused to think that Clark doesn't trust her anymore. After all, he did tell her about Whitney. Her brow furrowed slightly. Although, that had been more of a dare than anything else. Besides, there's no way she could blame him for not trusting her. She had spent an entire year barely talking to any of them. And then, she had come back so different, they had hardly recognized her. She just had to face the fact that she's starting over and part of that entailed rebuilding the friendships that she had neglected for so long.
Clark looked over at Lana. He realized how much she's changed, and he wondered how he overlooked it. "I've missed you,” he said, quietly. He hoped it isn't strange for her to say that.
Lana felt tears sting her eyes at the quiet admission and looked over at him, her smile once again genuine. "I've missed you, too. I'm sorry I cut you off for so long."
"Maybe you needed it," Clark said. "I hope so. It would be bad if you hadn't."
Lana sighed softly, pulling her legs up and wrapping her arms around them. "Have you ever looked at yourself in the mirror and realized that you honestly didn't like what you saw? I don't mean physically, but who you *were*."
"You know those things about Lex?" Clark said, continuing at her nod. "Let's just say that I know that feeling very, very well."
Lana rested her chin on her knees. "I looked at myself and looked back at my entire life and I hated what I saw. I couldn't believe that I was that selfish, that self-centered. Everything was always about me." She looked over at Clark. "Seriously, how did you guys stand me?"
"Some of us were blinded by infatuation?" Clark chuckled, just a little.
Lana grinned, "Apparently." Her expression went serious again. "I think it was after Jason left and I couldn't figure out what I had done wrong that I finally realized that it didn't have anything to do with me. It got me thinking. About how many other things had nothing to do with me, that I just assumed did. That's when I started pulling away from everyone."
"That makes sense," Clark said, not getting into Jason, as he didn’t think Lana needed him furious right now. "I think sometimes in life we really need to figure these things out, and it can hurt a lot."
Lana rubbed her chin back and forth over her knees. "It did hurt. It was confusing and some of it made me sick to my stomach. One of the first things that went was my hair." She tilted her head to look at Clark, smiling faintly. "When any of you came into town, I was always 'gone'. Because I wasn't ready to explain why I had cut it and I knew, or *thought* I knew, that you would see it as a huge change." She shrugged slightly. "My long hair seemed to be one of the things that defined the person I no longer wanted to be and it was the easiest change to make, so it became the first."
"It was never about your hair for me," Clark said. "But I understand why you might feel that way. I was wondering - you know I think I tried to schedule every possible time to see you and you were *always* busy."
Lana smiled sheepishly, "I worked very hard at never being available when any of you arrived." Her smile grew slightly wicked and she lowered her voice, "I had my minions warn me ahead of time."
Clark laughed again, and he realized, suddenly, just how much he ha's laughed with Lana tonight. He liked it, a lot. "I thought so...."
Lana snickered, "You know how small towns are." She waved a hand around. "I knew you were coming before you hit the Welcome to Smallville sign. It also helps that I rarely left the Talon, considering I’d moved into the apartment above it, so it wasn't hard to pull a disappearing act." Lana's smile faded a bit. "I wish I hadn't felt the need to do that, but I honestly didn't know how to talk to any of you anymore. I guess I really just needed the time to myself."
Clark nodded. "I understand, you had to get to know Lana again before you could figure out what you wanted."
"Exactly," she grinned, suddenly relieved that Clark understood. "I honestly didn't know who I was anymore. I just knew that the person I used to be was not someone I wanted to continue being."
"I like you better now,' Clark nodded. "I really do."
Lana nudged his shoulder with hers, grinning. "Thanks, Clark. That really means a lot." Her grin widened. "You and Chloe. Two down, two to go. I would say three, with Lois, but I don't think she ever liked me."
"Maybe you can become friends now," Clark said. "She's kind of hard to get behind the walls of, but she's a good person, you know. And I'm not just saying that because...."
Lana patted his leg, pretending to be patronizing, "Yes, I know. It's not just because you got into her pants."
Clark went bright red. He'd accepted the change, but that was a little more than he had expected. "Yeah."
Lana chuckled softly, "Sorry, Clark. Some of my newer personality traits take a bit of getting used to. I surprised Chloe more than once when we got together for coffee that first time." She hoped that Clark would continue to like her, the more he got to know the new her. "Lois has already been a pretty good friend to me, listening to me and offering advice but I can't say for sure it's because she likes me."
Clark nodded. "Well, as long as you don't mind if I get surprised a little at first, I think I can handle it. I think Lois has a lot of barriers, to get serious for a moment. I know I haven't climbed all that many."
She shook her head, "Of course I don't mind." Shifting around, she leans her head against the back of the couch, looking at Clark seriously. "I think, between you and Chloe, you'll get past all the barriers and get to the real Lois. As for me, just having her as a casual friend is enough." She gave him a slightly embarrassed look. "I don't think I'm very good at getting people to open up."
"It's a skill, one I don't have much of myself, outside of reporting," Clark said, looking at Lana.
Lana nodded, grinning a bit. "Lois has it in spades. All she has to do is sit there, act uninterested, make a few non-committable noises and anyone would crack. I certainly did."
"Interesting," Clark grinned. "Maybe I'll ask her to teach me her technique sometime."
"You should," Lana chuckled. "Then you can use it on her."
"That's an idea," Clark said.
Lana ran her fingers through her hair, nodding, "You never know, it just might work."
"It could," Clark considered. "It might at least escape her."
Lana nodded, "Yeah." She rubbed fingers across one of her feet, debating whether to ask her next question. It wasn’t really her business but she was curious. Looking up, she found Clark looking at her curiously. "I was wondering..." She stopped, biting her lip.
"If I can answer it, I will," Clark said, taking her hand.
She looked away, feeling embarrassed for even thinking about this. Squeezing his hand, she forced the words out quietly. "Is Pete dating anybody?"
"Pete?" Clark was a little surprised. "No one seriously. He goes on dates sometimes, but nothing more."
Lana nodded, feeling a faint blush rise on her cheeks. "Oh. Okay."
"And now I'm going to ask why you asked," Clark said.
Lana's face reddened even more. "Um... curiosity?" She was honestly not sure why she chose now to ask. Or chose to ask Clark for that matter.
Clark nodded, figuring that it's as close to the whole truth as he needed. "He's pretty much a free agent," he said.
"That's uh, that's good." Lana nodded again, pulling away from Clark and covering up the action with a sudden need for her soda.
"It is good, and I'm kind of curious as to why it's good for you," Clark couldn’t help himself.
Lana cursed silently, berating herself for letting her interest slip. She didn’t know why she'd been thinking about Pete so much lately, she just had. "It's not good for me. Just... good in general." Lana rolled her eyes mentally. Yes, that was so articulate, Lana.
"Sure," Clark said. "You haven't asked that about Wally. Or Lex, for that matter. Coincidence that you asked about Pete? I think not."
Lana sat up further, frowning into her drink. Why in the hell did she bring this up again? Shaking her head, she gave Clark a bright smile. "You didn't give me a chance. Are they dating anyone?" Lana's smile faltered at the absolute lameness of her evasion.
"Nice try, but you shouldn't have asked in the first place," Clark said.
"Crap," she muttered quietly. "Should have known better than to think I could evade your questions." Falling back against the couch, she sighed. "I haven't seen him yet. But I can't seem to stop thinking about him. I was curious as to whether he was dating because..." she paused, fingers rubbing hard along her thigh, "I might like to?" It's spoken as a question, because she's honestly not sure if that's what she wanted. She*hadn’t* seen him in over a year after all.
"Why not, he's a nice guy, you could - and let us face it, have - do worse," Clark said.
Lana grimaced slightly at the reminder of Jason. Yeah, she's done worse. "So, you don't think it's weird or anything?"
"No, but then again, I'm kind of the last person w ho should define weird," Clark said.
Lana chuckled softly, "Can't argue with that." Pulling her legs back up, she rested her chin on her knees. Dating Pete sounded *good* to her. It sounded and felt right. Jason's been gone for so long that she could almost pretend it never happened. Almost.
"You need someone like Pete," Clark nodded. "Someone you can....grow with." He screwed his face up at how much he sounded like a bad talk show or romance novel.
Lana dropped her head back and looked at him. "I thought I had but..." she trailed off, not sure Clark really wanted to hear anymore about Jason. She forced a smile onto her face. "I guess we'll see."
"We will, and if there's anything I can do, let me know," Clark smiled.
Lana nodded and turned her attention back to the TV. "Sure. Thanks, Clark."
Clark turned his attention to the TV and got lost in the silly cartoons, which help, too.