by Chris J. Ueberall

For my netpal VampyrAlex. Happy Birthday! May you always have happy endings.

Pairing: Lex/Clark
Rating: PG-13
Spoilers for: The end of season three.
Disclaimer: Lex and Clark are not mine, but I treat them better than WB, so maybe they won't go back.

Summary: It's choice - not chance - that determines your destiny.

Notes: I didn't watch anything after 'Whispers', this story is based fully on my interpretation of spoilers I've read and not on the episodes themselves.

Thanks: To Tehomet for being a super beta.


"Are you sure that you want to do this?"

"Yes. I am tired of the same old endings."

"You are not allowed to show people their future."

"It is not their future I am showing them. I am not breaking any rules."

"The Powers-That-Be still will not like it. They will say you are increasing Chaos."

"I am a Power-That-Is and I say I am strengthening Variety. They will have to live with it. The world will not end just because I am meddling a little."

"Are you sure about that?"


Standing in the doorway to his study, Lex scrutinized the room as if he was seeing it for the first time. He felt strangely detached from his surroundings, and yet at the same time caged in. His thoughts were in turmoil, his heart aching.

Nothing -- or so it seemed -- in his life ever went as planned. More often than not, his good intentions led to disaster and pain.

Before his mind's eye, the picture of a young man appeared. Clark. His best friend, who had looked up to him once, but now seemed to feel only anger towards him. He had never meant to hurt Clark and yet he had. Deeply. There was only cold fury nowadays in Clark's beautiful green-blue eyes where once had been sympathy and adoration. Maybe even love.

Lex swallowed, holding at bay the tears that welled up. He wasn't that pathetic yet that he would give in to the urge to weep. And not so tired that he couldn't control his emotions. Straightening up, he stepped into the room and ...

... everything went black. Lex blinked. What had happened? Where was he? He should be in his study, but somehow he knew he wasn't anymore. Then the darkness lit up with pinpricks of light.

Self-mockingly, Lex wondered if this was how insanity showed itself. For there was no way he could be standing on a platform in the middle of what looked like outer space. The light appeared to be coming from stars all around him. He must have fallen asleep, that was the only explanation that made sense. This had to be a dream.

"It is not, but you can believe it, if it makes things easier on you." The voice seemed to come from everywhere and Lex was hard pressed to even call it a voice, for it sounded like trumpets in a way and also like waves crashing against a cliff. It was inhuman.

Then darkness took shape at one place, resolving into a hooded figure. A black shape outlined by light, the eyes the only features visible in the face. And those eyes... As Lex looked into them, he had the feeling of looking into creation itself, of watching galaxies being born and dying.

Whatever this was the special effects were fantastic.

"What... Who are you?" Lex asked, shoving the decision about whether this was a dream, madness or reality aside for the moment. "What do you want?"

"I do not exactly have a name like humans do, but you can call me Des. And I want to give you the choice of your future."

Lex blinked again. So his subconscious could still surprise him. "Choice of my future? How? And why?"

"How? Easily enough. I show you some possible futures, and then you can choose one. As to the why -- mostly because I have already seen all your life's choices and do not want to have to watch them play out all over again."

"Come again?" Lex frowned. What did this ... being mean with 'it had seen it all already'?

A splash somewhere in the universe. Lex decided it was probably an exaggerated sigh.

"See, human. The phrase 'history repeats itself' is pretty close to the truth. The world you know is just one of many, and I am not talking about life on other planets. What you are living through, another Alexander Luthor has lived through before, and after the next interval another Luthor will follow the path once again."

The very thought was scary, and Lex didn't hide the fact. "You're saying everything is already set and happens over and over again? What does it matter then which choice I make?"

"No." The being moved, or at least its cloak rippled for a moment as if a strong wind had grabbed its edges. "Not quite. Certain things are set. Like the Earth evolving. The moon ruling the tides. And certain people being born. There has always been an Alexander Luthor and he has always had the potential for doing great things. And for a while now, all the decisions your predecessors have made have narrowed the possible futures down to a few. At this moment, you are at one important crossroads, so to speak, and you are being given the chance to choose your future directly rather than fumbling your way towards it through the ordinary decision making processes of day-to-day life."

Lex swallowed. "I'm not sure I understand."

Again the sound of a splash somewhere.

"Maybe a demonstration will make the situation clearer." The silent flapping of the cloak, as if a hand was waved.

Some of the stars blinked out leaving a spot of absolute darkness behind. Then a red shimmer, like a sunrise, appeared painting the outlines of ... a gate? No, more like three caves, Lex decided.

"Only three?" he asked.

"I did say your predecessors lacked originality."

"So what do I do?"

"Look carefully and then choose a number."

The thought 'I never watched that show' ran through Lex's head unbidden. Sparkles flashed over the galaxy as if the being -- Des -- had read his mind and was amused.

"So what awaits me behind gate ... cave one?" Lex asked.

The cave, until now only a black cavern, lit up and Lex could see himself in some kind of living room. He had expected it to look like a movie, but it seemed three dimensional, a theatre play.

"Where am I?" he asked. Then looked at himself, he was older, maybe in his mid-thirties.

"Your home."

Before he could ask for more details a woman and three children appeared. The oldest, a girl of maybe fifteen years walked up to his future self and heartily embraced him. He hugged her back, then smiled at the slightly younger boy, who obviously tried to look dignified. The last one, a girl of maybe five years left her mother's side and ran to him, nearly falling into his arms.

"These are your children and your wife," Des informed him.

Taking a good look at the small woman of probably Spanish origin, Lex was sure that he had never met her before. "Do I love her?"

"You do. And she loves you. Though it might lack some passion, your marriage is a good one and bound to stay that way."

Lex watched his future self ruffling the boy's hair. "Am I a good father?" he asked, as memories of his own childhood arose, changing into the image of his father on their last meeting.

"You are a busy man, Lex Luthor, but you try to be there when it counts. Your children love and respect but do not fear you."

The scene in the cave changed, now Lex saw himself walking into an office. Neither the street nor the building were familiar. "That's not Metropolis," he said.

"No. You left LuthorCorp behind long ago. You sold your shares and relocated to Europe."

That news rocked Lex's world. Selling LuthorCorp, starting anew, without the burdens of being a Luthor... He had thought about it, but never believed to have the guts to actually do it.

"I'm happy." It sounded like a statement, but it was a question.

"As far as humans ever reach that point you have come close, though content might be more correct."

Lex nodded, accepting the reprimand as well as his future. His gaze flickered to the other two caves. What could possibly lie there that he would forsake this future for something else?

'I want to do great things.' He knew he had said this, more than once, but come the chance to live a truly content life instead, would he really prefer a place in history? He doubted it. But then, maybe great achievements and happiness weren't mutually exclusive.

"What about the others?" Lex asked, pointing at the dark caves.

"Watch." Another movement of the cloak and the middle cavern came to life.

Now, this was Metropolis. Lex recognized the LuthorCorp Tower his future self stood upon instantly. He wasn't sure he liked the look of himself though. He looked suave, rich and powerful, and -- if the expression on his face was any indication -- satisfied. Still, it was the expression on his future self's face that disturbed Lex greatly though he couldn't quite pinpoint why.

Then something approached his future self out of the sky. A blue-and-red clad figure.

"What's this? A movie promotion?" Lex shook his head. The scene -- especially the flying person -- looked so much like something out of a comic book that it was beyond funny. Finally the person stopped to hover in front of him and Lex recognized the guy. "Clark?"

Suddenly it wasn't funny anymore, because he knew that it wasn't a movie advertisement trick but truly his best friend flying and wearing a superhero costume.

"Please, tell me the suit wasn't my idea."

"It was not. Analysis suggested that following the culturally known and accepted comic hero theme would make for easier acceptance and lessen the fear of a more powerful being for the general public."

Getting the point, Lex realized with surprise that he had gotten used to the being's trumpet-like voice.

"So what's with me and Clark?" He could imagine himself as a superhero's assistant, friend, benefactor easily, but something in his future self's mannerism and the look on Clark's face warned him that this wasn't the case.

"You have become enemies. At this point it is mostly a verbal disagreement, but eventually, as you rise in power, it will become more overtly, physically aggressive."

"What?" That couldn't be. His best friend was a technicolor superhero and he fought him? "But why?"

"You accuse him of taking the right of free choice from humans with his actions, while he believes you to use and endanger people for your own benefit."

"Do I?" Lex knew that he was capable of doing that, he had just hoped he would never sink low enough to do it. But there was no question that they were talking big business here, because Clark might be angry with him for hurting individual people, but surely a superhero wouldn't become his enemy over it.

"You believe that the end justifies the means. The greater the importance of your goal, the less individuals matter."

"I've become evil." The words echoed around Lex. It was probably simplifying things, but that was what it would come down to in a comic book. Warrior Angel and Devilicus all over again. The good hero on one side and the evil, probably mad, enemy on the other side. And for all his childhood dreams of being Warrior Angel, it seemed he would turn out to be Devilicus.

"You do not divide the world in terms of good or evil, right or wrong as most humans do. You believe you are doing everything for a greater cause."

"Clark doesn't believe me, though," Lex pointed out. Clark's opinion had always been important to him.

"Superman -- as his alter ego is called -- sees the world mostly in black and white. If someone gets hurt, it is wrong. If anyone benefits from the pain of others then he is evil."

That sounded like Clark, or rather like Jonathan Kent, Lex thought somehow amused despite everything. Then he considered the words more closely. "Alter ego? So his real identity is a secret?"


That didn't make sense. "But you said that Clark and I are enemies. You said it will get worse with time. He thinks I'm evil and I think he's ... what? Dangerous?"


"So what am I doing? Make flaming speeches against super-powered aliens?"

"Among other things. Those speeches gain you a solid base of followers who will eventually get you into the White House."

"I'll be President of the United States?" Lex's heart leaped at the thought. Gaining the White House would be a dream come true.


The brisk answer was like a dose of cold water. Instantly Lex suppressed his excitement. This wasn't the crucial point; the crucial point was Clark and he being enemies. "So I'm making Clark's life miserable."


"But he hasn't outed himself?" Lex grinned at his choice of words. Wouldn't it be the day when Clark admitted to being gay?

However, Des didn't react to the innuendo. "Only a few select persons know that Clark Kent is Superman."

So they were back to the point that had Lex confused. He knew how far he was prepared to go to strike down an enemy and if he thought of Clark as one...

"Why haven't I told the world who he is? Sent reporters to the Kents to harass them day and night?"

"Because you do not know that Superman is Clark Kent," Des said.

"How can I not know?" Lex shook his head. "Apart from seeing it right now, it's obvious. The hairdo is horrible and the outfit hilarious, but the face is unmistakably Clark. Not to mention that I know he's special. He can run fast, he's strong, he's almost completely invulnerable. That he's going to be able to fly is not that big a surprise. So how can I not know?"

The silence following his question was so profound that Lex realized that before there had always been some kind of low humming in the background.

Finally Des broke the silence. "A lot of things happen to you before you reach this point. Forgetting everything you ever knew about Clark Kent is only one of those things."

"Forget Clark?" The thought was painful.

"Consciously, yes."

"Subconsciously?" He couldn't imagine not knowing his friend.

"Probably not. It would explain why your attempts to kill him always fail."

He would be trying to kill Clark. Lex felt as though multiple blows rained down on his soul. His thoughts suddenly jumped into the past, to him holding Cassandra's hand. This had to be the future she saw.

He looked at his future self's face again, and this time he knew why he didn't like his expression and of whom it reminded him. The eyes were cold and calculating, the smile was superior and cruel. Evil and mad -- just like his father.

Lex knew that he would not choose this future.

"Show me the last one," he ordered.

The third cave lit and showed his mother's grave. Expecting to see a future him standing beside it, Lex swallowed when another gravestone came into view. His. He looked at the date, but there was no day there, only the year. A chill ran down his back. "This year?" he whispered. "How?" Did he really want to know?

"Poison. A painful, but relatively quick death."

The passionless tone of the inhuman voice surprisingly calmed Lex down. Hadn't he just a short time ago felt tired of life? And how often had he considered suicide when still a teenager? Often enough. But then he had started to cheat death. The bridge. The plane crash. Belle Reve. He probably lived on borrowed time anyway. Maybe it was time to give it back.

"What about Clark in this future?"

The image widened and for a moment, Lex feared to see another gravestone, this one with Clark's name on it. Instead, he saw an older Clark standing at the grave, a girl of maybe sixteen years at his side.

"Who's she?" he wondered.

"Alexandra Kent, called Shandra. Clark Kent's eldest child. Every year, she and her father visit the cemetery to remember and honor their benefactor."

"Benefactor?" Lex echoed. He was proud to have this girl as his namesake, it seemed that dying early had mended what all his planned and impromptu apologies hadn't been able to do.

"Have you not set up a trust fund in your friend's name?"

Right, he had. After returning from the island and buying the farm back for the Kents, he had felt compelled to secure Clark's future, at least financially.

"He accepted the money?" Lex couldn't help but wonder what Jonathan had thought about that.


"So. No superhero in this future?" he asked.

"He still rescues people, but not as Superman. He prefers to not be seen. Instead the people of Metropolis suspect that a guardian angel walks their streets."

Lex smiled. That seemed more like the Clark he had fallen in love with. Staying in the background, instead of showing off.

"Clark is happy then?" He seemed to be, but it was better not to assume anything.

"He is content."

That answer led Lex's gaze back to the first cave, which was dark once again. "You didn't show me Clark's future there," he remembered.

"This is about your future, not his."

Lex ignored that. "Show me."

The first cavern brightened with a greenish glow. A room could be seen. Lex gasped. What had seemed to be a hospital room quickly turned out to be a laboratory. Clark in the middle of it, strapped to a table, with dozens of cables and tubes going onto and into his body. The body itself was pale beneath the greenish shimmer and, judging from the way Lex could count Clark's ribs even from his distant viewpoint, dangerously undernourished.

"Oh God!" Lex choked. "What are they doing to him?"

"They want to be able to duplicate his powers," Des said. "They try any experiment they can think of on him."

"Is this my fault?" Lex couldn't explain where the thought came from, but he had to ask.

"You did not order this, nor are you aware of his fate."

"You didn't answer my question." He had heard the evasion loud and clearly.

The sound of thunder somewhere. Lex didn't dare to jump to conclusions about its timing.

"You have set certain events in motion during your time in Smallville which initiated other events. And you were not there to protect your friend from the fallout."

Breathing deeply, Lex thought about it. "But he is happy in the third future and there I'm dead, which is not really a good position to protect someone from. How come he isn't a guinea pig there?"

"Your death will have a significant influence on your friend and the choices he makes. Those choices will make the difference."

"So Clark could be happy and I could be happy if just Clark made the right choices?" Lex asked.


"But he won't make the right decisions if I just leave."

"No. The lesson he learns from you leaving for Europe is not the same as the one he learns from your death."

Lex nodded. He could see that it would be a different impact. His gaze wandered from one cave to the next. He had already ruled out the middle one. A future where he and Clark were enemies was not acceptable in his book.

Neither was a future that had him content while Clark suffered. There really was only one choice, if choice it was.

"I choose the third future," he said quietly, his mouth suddenly dry.

"Your death."


"Are you sure?"

Lex couldn't make out any difference in the trumpets and waves, but still it seemed to him as if Des' tone had warmed.

"When you send me back, will I be able to remember this?" Lex asked, knowing he was grasping at straws, but trying anyway.

"Not consciously."

So he couldn't choose the good life for himself and then come to Clark's rescue. He wouldn't know that Clark needed help.

"The third one it is."

A warm wind settled around Lex for a second, probably Des' version of an embrace.

"I am always impressed by your willingness to make sacrifices for those you love. Farewell, Lex Luthor."

Deafening thunder, blinding lightning. The ground moved under Lex's feet. Trying to keep his balance Lex leaned forward a little and ...

... stumbled over the threshold into his study.

Lex blinked. He had the feeling as if something profound had happened. He felt curiously relieved, as if a decision had been made, a destiny been accepted. He shook his head in silent amusement at himself. Always so melodramatic.

Still, as he walked to the bar and poured himself a generous amount of expensive Scotch, he felt in total control of his life for the first time in too long.

Looking at the liquor and how the light made it sparkle, Lex inhaled deeply.

A silent toast to an absent friend. 'Be happy, Clark.' Then he emptied the glass in one go.

Clark left the house, despite his mother calling him back. He just couldn't listen to her right now. He was angry. Angry at Lex for betraying him, for lying to him. But also angry at the world in general. When did everything become so complicated? Why couldn't he just do what he wanted to do, without always looking over his shoulder, afraid that someone might watch him? Was this how celebrities felt?

Oh, what a surprise -- he was thinking of Lex again. A part of him wanted to run to the mansion and talk it out, to try again for their friendship's sake. But another part wanted Lex to come to him groveling and begging for forgiveness. Clark took a deep breath. Lex could wait.

That decided, he became aware of the other calling, the prompting from somewhere within him to go to... the caves. That could only mean that another of Jor-El's plans for his son had been set in motion.

Clark sighed in exasperation. For a dead man, Jor-El was pretty demanding, not to mention ambitious. Clark had no interest in ruling the world. All he wanted was a peaceful life with his family and friends. Was that so hard to understand?

Still, Jor-El was being insistent. The feeling of being called to the caves was becoming almost irresistible. 'Lex would probably have something to say about Sirens and their mystical powers,' Clark thought, shaking his head about his single-mindedness. He looked in the direction of Luthor Manor, then to where he knew the caves to be. He felt drawn in both directions. Torn, he took a single step forward ...

... and found himself surrounded by stars and darkness. Startled, he froze. Beneath him was nothing but a small platform and the endlessness of space. He was so not looking down. He was not. He looked for something else to fix his eyes upon and found it in the reddish glowing silhouettes of three dark cave entrances. Caves hovering in space! Where the hell was he?

"Jor-El? Father?" Clark didn't really think of the Kryptonian supercomputer thingy as his father, but he was impressed by the powers the artificial intelligence seemed to have and hoped that a little personal touch would make things easier.

"I am not the artificial intelligence your father installed on Earth to guide you. Neither is this place of Kryptonian or any other race's origin," said a voice unlike any other Clark had ever heard.

Then a figure took shape. Pupilless eyes looked at Clark from the shadows of a hood.

"What are you? And where am I?" He tried to x-ray the cloak, but nothing happened. Maybe his powers didn't work in this place.

"You can call me Des. We are in what I call my creation place. You might call it a workshop. What do you think of it?"

Clark swallowed. "It's ... impressive."

"That it is." Nothing more seemed forthcoming, so Clark decided to get to the point.

"Why'm I here?"

"So you can choose your future."

"How do I do that?" Surely it wasn't lying around somewhere just waiting to be picked up. Clark expected trials and tests at least.

Sparks lit the darkness for a second, making Clark jump.

"You are closer to the truth than you think, Clark Kent. Here are your futures. Pick one."

Two of the three caves brightened at that. The middle one came to life, showing a slightly older Clark leaving the Daily Planet, a dark haired woman close on his heels.

"Who's that?" he asked.

"Lois Lane, your partner at the Daily Planet."

"I'm a reporter?"


"Cool." He would become a reporter, Chloe would be so proud of him. He suppressed any negative feelings that accompanied that thought.

The image changed and he could see someone in a blue-and-red costume flying over Metropolis. Clark frowned. "Is that me?" he asked, afraid of the answer.

"It is the alter ego of Clark Kent."

"I'm going to a costume party, right?"


It had been too much to hope for. "I look ridiculous."

"You look like the heroes in comic books. Jor-El advised you to work with the stereotype to appear less threatening," Des explained.

Clark didn't like the sound of it. "So I'm conquering Earth looking like an idiot?"

"You are not conquering Earth."

That was a relief. "Does that mean I'm really a hero saving people?"


"Oh. Good." It was nice to know he was doing good things in the future. Clark smiled. He focused on the image in the cave again, where his future self had approached an easily recognizable man. Clark grinned. "Lex must have a field day with me in that costume. Does he know it's me?"

"He does not know that Clark Kent is Superman."

"Superman?" Clark groaned. That was surely another piece of Jor-El's great advice. "Still, he must be ecstatic having a live superhero in Metropolis."

"Lex Luthor thinks of Superman as his enemy."

A bath in kryptonite couldn't have shocked Clark more. "He thinks I'm his enemy?"

"It is a mutual feeling."

Oblivious to the non-existing ground all around him, Clark sat down, staring into nothingness. He had been angry with Lex, had said some things that he knew he'd regret eventually, and had not wanted to see him for a while. But never, never had he considered not being friends again with Lex.

"I don't want that future. Show me the alternative, please."

The image in the middle cave froze and the light dimmed at the same time as people started to move in the cavern on the right. A man and a teenage girl leaving a nice little white house.

"Okay," Clark nodded, "the guy is me, but who's the girl?"

"Your eldest child, Alexandra."

The thought of a teenage daughter felt weird, but not unpleasant. And the fact that he had named her after Lex surely had to mean that he and Lex were friends in this future. Clark smiled, until his future self and daughter reached the cemetery and put some flowers on a grave. Reading the inscription, Clark had never felt farther away from smiling than in that moment.

"Lex is dead? He dies this year?"

"Yes." Des' uncaring reply grated on Clark's nerves.

"Why? How? Is it my fault?" In his mind, more than a dozen memories of Lex appeared and left, too fast even for him to hold them all. Except for three -- the lost soul Lex had been in Belle Reve, the beautiful sight when Lex had returned from the dead, and the pained expression in his beautiful blue eyes the last time they had talked. Clark swallowed. He hadn't realized before that Lex was as hurt by their differences as he was. His own anger had stopped him from looking beyond his friend's calm façade.

Realizing that he hadn't gotten an answer, Clark rose again. "You didn't answer my question."

"He dies because he drinks poisoned alcohol. You do not kill him."

Somehow, that wasn't really helping. "But I didn't save him, either."

"You were not there."

Was Des accusing him of something? Clark wasn't sure, but he couldn't help feeling defensive. Looking away from Des to the caves, Clark felt tears choke him. He didn't want to fight Lex, but he didn't want to lose him permanently, either. He couldn't imagine a life without Lex in it.

"I don't want either of those futures!" he said angrily. Then looked at the third, or rather first cave, still dark. "What about that one?" he wanted to know.

"That future is no longer an option," Des declared.

"Why not?"

"A choice being made has closed this particular path."

Clark frowned. A choice being made? Made by whom? Obviously not by him. "Whose choice?" he asked, then suddenly knew the answer. "Lex, isn't it? Lex was here before me?"


"Show me that future." He had to know. He knew it was important, he just knew.

"It is of no relevance anymore."

"It is for me. Show me."

For a moment, nothing happened, then the cave began to glow with a most unwelcome green light. The sight that greeted Clark was even more unwelcome. It was in fact his greatest nightmare. He closed his eyes and tried to think past the fear that the picture flooded him with. "Show me Lex in that future."


Opening his eyes again, Clark looked at a family idyll. Lex with a woman and three children, looking happy.

"Does he ... does he know about me?" he asked brokenly.

"No. You have not been in contact for almost two decades by then. He is unaware of your plight."

"Good." So it was still a nightmare, but not the one envisioned by his parents. Lex wouldn't be the one cutting him open.

"Whatever Lex chose deleted this future, right?"


In his mind, Clark turned the options over again. He knew what Lex had chosen. "Lex chose death, didn't he?"

"I believe he saw it as ensuring your happiness."

Clark nodded. "That's what I figured." He knew that Lex loved him, deeply, unconditionally. Even if he sometimes had a strange way of showing it. It was because Clark knew that and because he loved Lex, too, that he would have eventually forgiven him. He had just needed a little time and space to get over the feeling of betrayal. And now it seemed that time would be a luxury he couldn't afford.

Staring at the caves and not really seeing them, Clark was honest enough to admit to himself that he was relieved that the future with Lex being happy while he was tortured wasn't a choice open to him. As much as he dreamed of being a hero, a martyr he wasn't.

Still the choice was not easy. The death of his best friend in exchange for a happy life, or the loss of a friendship barely balanced by the glory of being a superhero.

Swallowing, Clark closed his eyes again to concentrate on nothing else but his feelings. Lex dead. The pain spiked through his heart. He had once thought his friend dead, and even through the haze of red kryptonite it had hurt. He didn't want to go through it again.

He opened his eyes. Maybe there was no choice.

"I'm sorry, Lex," he whispered, understanding that for Lex death might seem the lesser evil. "I just can't lose you."

"You have come to a decision?"

"Yes. I don't want Lex to die. I need him. So it's the one with me in that blue suit."

"Are you sure?"


"Then your future is chosen."

"I won't remember this, will I?" Clark suddenly thought to ask.

"Not consciously."

That meant that he wouldn't want to kick himself in the future for making that decision should he ever regret it, which he probably would. Still, right now he couldn't see past the immediate future. A future that had to have Lex in it.

"What happens now?" Clark asked just when thunder and lightning erupted from everywhere around him. "Wha...?" The ground shook and Clark took a step forward ...

... only to come to an abrupt halt again. He couldn't decide where to go. Jor-El was ordering him to the caves, but his heart wanted to make peace with Lex.

Still torn, he strained his hearing. A pained gasp. The shattering of glass. More glass. He heard the dull thud of a body falling.

Without conscious decision, he was running towards Luthor Manor. He just knew that Lex needed him. Jor-El was forgotten.

It was all Clark could do to use doors and corridors instead of leaving man-shaped holes in the walls. His heart was screaming that every nanosecond counted. Finally, he reached the study and the man writhing on the study floor. Pieces of glasses lay around him, probably knocked from the tray by Lex as he had fallen. A whisky bottle stood still unbroken though, seeming to mock Clark, who couldn't explain how he knew that it was full of poison. He shoved the question aside to deal with it later and knelt beside his friend.

Lex was choking. His body jerked repeatedly in pain. If Clark hadn't known otherwise, he'd have thought Lex was having an epileptic fit. Carefully Clark slid a hand under Lex's head, before it could hit the floor again and looked deeply into the wildly rolling eyes.

"Lex! Lex, can you hear me?"

"Clark?" For a moment, Lex's blue eyes focused on him. "Be happy." It was barely a whisper. Then the body stilled, the features smoothed out. Lex's breathing stopped, as did his heart.

"NO! Don't die on me!"

And it was their fateful meeting on the bridge all over again. Gently laying Lex's head down, Clark leaned forward to give him CPR. He breathed for Lex, pressed his heart. Covered his lips again -- breathing. Back to the chest -- pressing.

He almost missed the faint beat, but the soft intake he didn't. At once, he lifted Lex into his arms and stormed out of the house. Cradling his precious burden close to his body, Clark ran as fast as he could to the hospital, not stopping until he had reached the emergency room and practically shoved Lex into the arms of a doctor. The whole time thinking frantically that he couldn't lose Lex. Not now, not ever.

'Walking on air.' Except that he wasn't walking, he was floating. Lex felt peaceful, unburdened. There was nobody around and nothing to see, but he didn't mind. It meant that no one expected or wanted something from him. Here in this nothingness, literally nothing was of importance. Lex wondered if this was what freedom felt like. Maybe it would get boring with time, but right now Lex could cherish the freedom of just existing. As far as death went, this wasn't too bad.

Then a voice reached him. It was only a faint whisper, but still it shattered his peace of mind as surely as it had disturbed the silence of this place.

"Lex, please, wake up. Do you hear me? You must wake up. I need you." The words didn't mean much to him, but the heartbroken tone in the voice couldn't be ignored. He had to listen.

"Lex, I know you believe I'm better off without you, but I'm not. I know I said some mean things, but I was just lashing out. I know you didn't want to hurt me, but I didn't think then, I was scared and angry and stupid and ... Please, Lex, please don't die." Lex heard the sound of quiet crying.

Clark. Clark was crying. It tore at Lex' soul.

"I can't be happy without you, Lex. Don't you get it? I love you. And not in a pen pal kind of way." The attempt at humor ended in a choked sob.

Lex knew then that death was not for him. If Clark needed him to live then he would. Anything to make Clark happy.

"Please, please, wake up." Clark's voice came from somewhere to his right. He focused on reaching out and felt his hand being held in a strong grip.

He tried to retrieve it.

"Lex?" So many feelings in one little syllable.

Lex opened his eyes. Light blinded him for a second, but then a head blocked it. A worried, but also hopeful-looking beautiful face stared down at him.


"I thought I hit you," he said, his voice sounding harsh. He swallowed, noticing that his throat hurt hellishly.

Clark's eyes widened, then closed for a moment, and when they opened again they beamed like the rest of his face. "You did. But aliens are tougher than cars."

The truth at last. Lex smiled back. "Good to know." He felt his eyes close of their own accord, but there was one more thing he had to ask. "Clark, be my pen pal?"

Loud and happy laughter accompanied him into sleep.

Still chuckling, Clark leaned forward and gently kissed Lex's forehead. He knew that his friend had gotten and understood the reference. After all it had been Lex who'd shown him 'In and Out' at one of their first movie evenings. Now that he thought about it, it had probably been Lex's way of testing Clark's stand on homosexuality. How subtle.

"I hope you like the answer," Clark said, while sitting down again and gently stroking one pale cheek. Now that Lex had woken up and spoken coherently, to Clark's immense relief, he had no doubt that Lex would recover, given time. Clark could tell from Lex's even breathing and improved color, not to mention the way he kept his grip on Clark's hand, that this was a healing sleep, not the coma he had been lying in for the last three days.

The doctors had told him that Lex' survival was in God's hands, which to him had meant that it depended on Lex. He knew his friend was strong, but he hadn't been sure about his will to live, so Clark had stayed at Lex' side day and night, and talked to him constantly, hoping to find the right words that would give Lex a reason to fight for life.

He relaxed in his chair. It seemed he had found the right words. Lex would not die. And he knew about Clark being an alien and didn't seem to mind. Maybe now they could stop hurting each other and concentrate on being in love.

Yes. Clark nodded to himself. Lex and he would be lovers, as they were meant to be, he was sure of that. He knew that some people wouldn't understand, probably his friends and folks among them, but that would be their choice. He had made his.

Surprised he noticed that the insistent calling that had been in the back of his mind the last days had ceased to exist. The urge to go to the caves was gone. It seemed Jor-El knew when he was beaten.

Clark smiled broadly. His future had started to look up.

"Your plan worked. A new option from an old theme."

"It was their choice."

"Manipulated by you."

"I did not show them anything that had not happened."

"But you selected the scenes of their predecessors' lives. You knew what they would choose."

"I had some expectations."

"You are a romantic."

"I like a happy ending now and then."

"And will you get it?"

"They will."


© 4 November 2004