For Chris Ueberall. Thank you for introducing me to a brand new fandom, and for being a good friend. Happy Birthday, sweetpea. <g>



Pairing: Clark/Lex
Category: Drama/Romance, Episode Related, First Time
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended, this story is strictly for fun, not profit.

Author's notes: A huge thank you to Sherri and Tehomet for beta'ing this for me. Any final mistakes are mine.

Summary: A different ending to 'Exodus' and season 2.


It's never too late - in fiction or in life - to revise.
~Nancy Thayer


Lex looked at his watch for what had to be the hundredth time, torn between worry and annoyance. The chapel was beginning to fill with guests and his best man was nowhere to be seen. Not a good omen for one's wedding day.

Walking over to Clark's parents, who were seated in the front row, he whispered, "Any word on Clark? Helen's already circled the church five times."

Martha gave him a weak smile, the misery in her eyes doing nothing to ease Lex's anxiety. "He was coming with Lana," she said, her voice wavering slightly.

He was about to make light of the tense situation by commenting on Clark and his tardiness -- a feeble attempt at assuaging the worry he could see in Clark's parents' eyes -- when he heard someone walking down the aisle. Looking up, he resisted the urge to curse. It was Lana -- alone.

He rushed over to her. "Lana, where's Clark?"

"I just came from the Kents' farm," she replied softly. "He said he had something to do and would meet me here. It seemed important."

Lex ran a hand over his scalp, trying to hide the fear suddenly gnawing at him. That didn't sound like Clark. The occasional hurdles they had been forced to overcome in their friendship didn't matter. Clark would never miss Lex's wedding unless something was terribly wrong.

Remembering the last few days, filled with Clark's awkward silences, recalling the sorrow shining within those wide green eyes and the strange migraine that had made Clark miss the rehearsal dinner, Lex knew he had to be right. Clark was in trouble.

He was moving to the exit almost before the decision was consciously made. Jonathan's hand on his arm hindered his departure.

"Lex, where are you going?"

"I know you don't understand or approve, Mr. Kent, but Clark's my best friend," Lex gritted out, knowing he should probably tone down the fire in his words, but for once not caring. "I have to go."

A frown creased Jonathan's face. "He's that important to you?"

"Yes."

"More important than Helen, than this wedding?"

Lex blinked. For a moment, he had forgotten all about Helen, and their wedding day. He had been ready to spend the rest of his life with her, to share as much of himself as he could, genuinely wanting to make her happy. Loneliness was something he was far too familiar with and he didn't want that for himself anymore. Not after watching the Kents and seeing what a true family was like, of touching and being touched by their warmth and affection.

Helen had stormed into his life, just at the right moment, with just the right qualities. Beautiful, intelligent, feisty, and more than capable of setting him straight if he screwed up.

And, of course, because the alternative was unthinkable.

The alternative -- a six feet tall Adonis, disguised as a Kansas farmboy, with perpetually disheveled hair and soul-deep green eyes. An enigma Lex just couldn't let go, didn't really want to let go, if he was honest with himself. But Clark was sixteen, nšive, and Lex had invested too much time and effort into their friendship to risk destroying it. Not to mention that Jonathan would probably beat him to a pulp with a shovel and then let Martha finish the job.

Thrusting all those unwanted thoughts to the back of his mind, Lex turned his attention back to the man standing in front of him. "Yes," he admitted in a hushed breath. "More important than Helen, than this wedding. That important."

He saw shock, then respect, and finally acceptance in Jonathan's blue eyes, even as he nodded curtly. "We'll follow you in the truck," was all Jonathan said.

They were rushing out of the church when Lex saw the limousine that was to take him and Helen to the airport after the wedding. It parked in front of the house of worship and the window on the right side of the back seat rolled down just enough for Lex to see Helen's profile. She obviously didn't want him to glimpse her gown.

"Lex! What are you doing out here?"

"I..." What could he say? What could he tell her that would make this moment easier for her?

Helen closed her eyes for an instant, a weary sigh rippling through the space between them. "It's Clark, isn't it?" she asked. "You're going after him."

"Helen, I'm sor --" he began, guilt eating at him.

She shook her head. "Don't. I guess I always knew, I just... I didn't understand how much you loved him."

"I love you too." His protest sounded weak even to his own ears.

"Yes, but you're not in love with me, are you?" She gave him a nod. "Go to him, Lex. I hope you find what you're looking for."

"And you?"

Helen gave him a rueful smile. "Oh, I'm sure I'll find someone to keep me happy. Goodbye, Lex."

"Goodbye, Helen."

He watched as the limo drove away, a little wistful about what might have been. But he and Helen weren't meant to be, and he realized now that settling for second best hadn't been the right thing to do. It was time he went after what -- and who -- he really needed. He was a Luthor, and Luthors always got what they wanted.

He ran to his Porsche, seeing Clark's parents climbing into their truck on the other side of the road. He got behind the wheel, gunned the engine, and burned towards the Kent farm at top speed. It wasn't long before the red truck belonging to the Kents had disappeared from his rearview mirror and he was all alone on the asphalt, his car eating away at the miles that would take him back to Clark.


Clark opened the door of the storm cellar. His hands gripped the box containing the Kryptonite key tightly as he climbed down the stairs. Approaching the ship, he took a few deep breaths to battle the growing panic ripping through him. Maybe he should have told his parents what he was about to do, but he knew they would never agree. And he wasn't about to allow a ghost from the past to rule his life. He had found a home here, a family and friends he cared for. He wasn't going to leave it all behind for the sake of a dead man's hopes and dreams.

He crushed the lead box in his hands, immediately falling to his knees with a pained gasp as the key began to glow. It took all of his strength and will to fit the key into the groove in the ship, the Kryptonite setting his whole body aflame from within, the pain almost more than he could bear.

He fell back onto the ground, crawling away weakly as the ship began to react to the Kryptonite, its surface beginning to fester and burn, while the sound of scraping metal became almost deafening. Clark swallowed thickly as he watched the ship rise jerkily into the air, vibrating violently, the burning surfaces sending out a green glare that filled the cellar.

His eyes widened fearfully as the noise grew to a crescendo, the ship's trembling worsening until it suddenly disappeared in a flash of blinding white light. The ground rumbled and shook fiercely and Clark moaned as a burst of pure energy coursed through him, flaying at him, pinning him to the floor with its intensity. Just when he thought he couldn't take anymore, the world exploded all around him and everything went black.


Lex was almost at the farm when he saw it, a huge ring of... something, shining and transparent, coming straight at him. He swerved the Porsche to avoid it, but it was too late to avert disaster. The impact tipped his car over as if it were a mere leaf in the wind, causing it to roll over again and again, until it finally landed upside down.

Lex lay still for a moment, winded, panting in harsh breaths. A trickle of blood dripped from his temple, a consequence from hitting his head forcefully against the side of the car. Thanking whatever deities watched over bald millionaire freaks for yet another narrow escape, he crawled out of the open window, dragging himself away from the Porsche. It wouldn't do for him to evade death by... whatever the hell that thing was, only to be blown to pieces as his car exploded.

Rising to his feet took some doing and he was fortunate no one was there to watch his drunken staggering towards the farm. When he finally did reach it, he was unable to prevent a horrified gasp from escaping him. The Kents' cellar had collapsed onto itself somehow, creating a wide crater that contrasted shockingly with the green fields surrounding it. There was rubble and pieces of wood everywhere and only the stairs that once led to the ground level had been left standing.

Frozen by the destruction facing him, Lex was abruptly hit with the thought that Clark was in there somewhere, that this devastation had been his doing in some way.

"Clark?" he whispered brokenly. Nothing. He tried again, louder this time. "Clark!"

His shout seemed to echo for miles around, but no reply was forthcoming. Ignoring the threat of injury, Lex stumbled down the side of the crater until he was at its very center. His heart nearly stopped beating as he spotted the unmoving form of his friend. Clark's clothes were shredded to rags, and his whole body was smeared with dirt.

Dropping to his knees, Lex carefully removed most of the rubble covering Clark, feeling almost dizzy with relief as he witnessed the muscled chest rise and fall in a steady cadence. His hands did a brief examination of the unconscious form, finding no visible wounds or broken bones. Perhaps the same deities that kept an eye out for bald millionaire freaks also protected wayward farmboys, he mused somewhat whimsically.

"Clark?" He shook his friend gently.

Lex watched eagerly as Clark moaned softly, beginning to move sluggishly as he slowly came to. He coughed a few times, shaking his head to clear it as he started to sit up. They were suddenly face-to-face, and from Clark's startled expression, Lex knew he hadn't been expecting to see him there.

"Lex?" Clark's voice was hoarse. He frowned. "What are you doing here?"

Lex sat heavily on the ground. Now that the adrenaline rush had faded, he felt strangely drained. "You didn't show up," he said, as if that explained everything.

Maybe it did, for Clark's eyes widened. "The wedding! Lex, why aren't you -- You didn't -- Why?"

"I couldn't. I knew you wouldn't miss my wedding, not unless there was trouble."

"B-but -- Helen -- You have to go back -- I can't be --"

"Clark," Lex interrupted. When he saw he had Clark's full attention, he said softly, "The stuff of legend, remember? I made the right choice."

"Clark! Son, where are you?"

"Clark! Lex!"

It seemed that Clark's parents had finally arrived. Lex wondered for a moment how they had made it past that weird wave of energy, then realized that whatever it had been, it would probably have dissipated as it moved away from the farm.

"Come on." Lex teetered dangerously as he rose, but remained standing by stubbornness alone. "We'll talk later." He offered Clark a hand up.

They climbed the battered stairs carefully, arms around each other, although Lex suspected Clark was the only one actually doing the supporting. He saw Jonathan and Martha running over to them and knew there was something wrong the moment he started seeing double. The headache he had so far been ignoring returned with a vengeance, bile burned at the back of his throat and his legs gave up on him. He had one last thought about the mortification of passing out in Clark's arms like a heroine in a bad romance novel, and then he embraced sweet oblivion.


Doctors and nurses scurried back and forth outside the hospital room, their voices sounding nearer before drawing away again. Clark paid them no heed as he sat staring at the insensible man on the bed. Lex would be fine; just another concussion in a long line of head injuries sustained since his arrival in Smallville. It still hurt Clark to see him so pale and listless, to know that it was his fault, that once again someone he cared about had been caught in the whirlwind that was his life.

He closed his eyes tightly against the ache inside. It was done; his ship was destroyed, Jor-El was gone, and so was the Kryptonian symbol Jor-El had burned onto Clark's chest. Somehow, when the ship had exploded the 'mark of his ancestors' had vanished as well. He only hoped that meant he was truly free.

So why did he feel so lonely? So empty? It wasn't a novel emotion for him by any means. Even before his parents had told him the truth about his origins, he had felt a constant yearning, a craving that never really went away, for some obscure thing he couldn't name. Most of the time it wasn't too bad. He had his parents, his friends, and between school and the farm he kept pretty busy.

But now, thanks to Jor-El's ghost, he knew what it was he had been searching for all of his life -- normalcy. He had wanted desperately to be normal, to be just like everyone else on the planet. To be able to play sports with his friends without fear of hurting someone, to grow up without the weight of a heritage he wanted no part of. He had wanted the 9 to 5 job, the house with the white picket fence, the wife and the 2.4 kids. Most of all, he had wanted to be able to feel like he wasn't so utterly alone in the universe.

Until Jor-El had blundered into his life, Clark had thought that maybe Lana was a part of the simple life he longed for. But she didn't really understand him, she never would. There was too much wrongness between them, a chasm they couldn't seem to bridge, no matter how hard they tried. And maybe his guilt at her parents' deaths had something to do with it as well, because he could see that she would never really let them -- along with the pain and the loss -- go.

Clark frowned in confusion, realizing that somewhere in the last few minutes he had taken hold of one of Lex's hands. He rubbed his thumb gently over the warm palm, allowing his thoughts to center on his best friend. Their often complicated friendship notwithstanding, Lex had become important to him, one of the very few good things in his life. Someone he trusted, in spite of everything. Someone he could go to when he needed a break from being Smallville's self-appointed White Knight. Someone he could easily relax with.

In a flash of insight, he suddenly got why they had bonded so easily in the beginning; because Lex understood. Understood what it was like to be alone, to be apart from those around you.

"A freak like me," Clark murmured, remembering the title of a song.

He looked up to find Lex awake and watching him with a rueful smile. Their eyes met and held, and for the first time Clark dared to acknowledge the feelings shining within Lex's eyes, humbled by the love and acceptance meant for him alone.

"We're two of a kind, Clark," Lex told him, his voice hoarse.

Clark smiled, silently agreeing with that statement, even as he checked his friend over. "You okay?"

"Thirsty."

Clark reached for the glass of water resting on the nightstand, supporting Lex's head gently while he managed a few sips. "So, no married life for you, huh?" he asked, when Lex had settled down again.

Lex shook his head, then grimaced at the pain in his skull. "It would have been a mistake. I did love Helen, but not enough to make it work. We would have made each other miserable within a year." His eyes narrowed and Clark knew he was about to be questioned. "You want to tell me what happened back at the farm, Clark? It looked like a bomb went off in the cellar."

Clark took a shuddering breath. "It did, in a way. I did that, I caused it."

There was no judgment or suspicion on Lex's face as he asked, "Why?"

"I wanted to cover up my past, to push it away," Clark murmured. "I didn't... I didn't want the future being laid out for me."

"You mean you didn't want to rule the world?" When Clark gave him a startled look, he laughed. "Dr. Walden told me about it, remember? How the 'last son would rule the planet'."

Clark sighed unhappily. "So you know? About me?"

"Hmmm," Lex hummed noncommittally. "Come here."

Clark allowed himself to be pulled closer, until he realized Lex meant for them to share the bed. "Lex, don't. The bed won't hold --"

"Shhh. Shut up and enjoy the moment, grasshopper," Lex admonished, his voice rich with amusement.

They wiggled this way and that until Clark was lying on the covers, head resting on Lex's shoulder. He closed his eyes, breathing deeply as Lex's fingers began to card tenderly through his hair.

"We okay?" he whispered against Lex's neck.

Lex cuffed him lightly on the head. "Stupid question, Clark." He exhaled slowly. "You know, I used to think that maybe you were the result of an elaborate -- and very top secret -- lab experiment. Considering some of the projects locked within the LuthorCorp vaults, it wouldn't have been too farfetched. Then I got to know you better and knew there was nothing artificial about you, so that theory was out. My next theory was that you were a mutant, especially after some of the things I'd seen you do. You being an alien is much better, though."

"You seem very blasť about this whole thing," Clark commented with some surprise.

"Well, the thought's been lurking in my mind for a while now, so it wasn't a total shock. Besides, I'm the Warrior Angel buff, remember? I love the idea of my own personal superhero."

"I'm not a superhero," Clark protested.

"You have the heart of one," Lex said, his voice oddly hushed.

Clark raised his head, gazing deeply into Lex's eyes. He wasn't sure who moved first but somehow his mouth ended up pressed against Lex's, while he found himself fully on top of him. Lex's warm arms wrapped around his waist, and the kiss deepened as the heat between them flared. Clark tasted Lex's mouth eagerly, nipping at his lips while his hands traveled over cloth-covered flesh.

He finally broke away, grinning at the slightly dazed expression on Lex's face. "I brought you fresh clothes," he said, enjoying the way Lex squirmed beneath him as he laughed at the non-sequitur.

"Thank you." Lex chuckled for a moment, then sobered. "We need to talk about this, Clark. We have to think about your parents and my father and you're only sixteen and --"

Clark touched a finger to Lex's kiss-swollen lips. "I know," he interrupted. "But not right now. Let me call the doctor, tell him you're awake. They'll probably let you go, as long as someone stays with you. I'll call my parents and let them know I'm spending the night at the mansion. We'll talk about the future, and what we're going to do, then. But I need you to understand something right now, Lex. We can wait until I'm 100 for us to do more than kiss, and I don't really care if we tell anyone or not, although I'd like my parents to know. But any future for me has to include you in it. I'm not giving that up. Get it?"

He waited while Lex gave it some thought. "Very well," Lex eventually said. "But I want to know about you, Clark. About that past you mentioned, about what you can do. No more secrets."

Clark rose from the bed reluctantly. He walked over to the door before turning to face Lex. "No more secrets, Lex, I promise. I'll be right back."

He left the room, realizing he no longer felt lonely or empty. Apparently, what he had been searching for had been right under his nose for the past two years. Now all he had to do was convince Lex that they could make it work. The worst part was already over; Lex knew who and what he was and didn't care. And while he wasn't nšive to the point of thinking everything else in the future would be as effortless, he had no doubt they would end up the winners.


Epilogue

Extract from "The Daily Planet" Metropolis, May 20th, 2003
Headline: Plane believed to be carrying Lionel Luthor missing, officials say

A jet plane carrying multimillionaire Lionel Luthor was reported missing Saturday morning by Florida airport officials.

The aircraft, property of LuthorCorp, left Metropolis Airport early Friday night en route to a private island on the Caribbean. Jack Macer, an operations specialist at Miami International Airport, said the plane lost radio contact and disappeared from controllers' radar screens at about 4 a.m. Saturday morning.

Dr. Helen Bryce, friend of the family and ex-fiancť of Alexander 'Lex' Luthor, the son of the magnate, was reportedly on board the aircraft as well.

The U.S. Coast Guard said it has picked up signals from the aircraft's locator beacon and an air and sea search is underway off Miami.

THE END

 

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