Second Date
By LastScorpion

Disclaimer: I don't own any of these characters. I'm just fooling around with them. Please don't sue.


A Friday in June, 2005
Metropolis University

Dawn Summers walked out of the Theoretical Astrophysics Building into a thick wall of sticky Kansas summer heat. The doggone Midwest was always having some sort of weather going on. Drove her crazy.

"Hey, Dawn, wait up!"

"Oh, great, make my day complete," Dawn thought. Big dumb stupid alien superhero farmboy. Clark Kent came galloping up beside her. She refused to look, and tossed her shiny brown hair away from him for emphasis.

"Come on, at least let me apologize," Clark wheedled.

"Aren't you supposed to be down on the farm?" Dawn growled.

"I'm making deliveries in Metropolis today. Also I really wanted to say how sorry I am about leaving you like that in the middle of our date...."

Dawn turned on him furiously. Clark was at least a foot taller and fifty pounds heavier, not to mention the invulnerable-super-strong-alien thing, but he backed up a step in fear.

"You think I have a problem with you leaving in the middle of a date to take care of an APOCALYPSE, Clark? Do you think I'm an IDIOT? Leaving in the middle of the date to change into Superman to fight the Gorevanor Demon is NOT a PROBLEM! Leaving at the end of the date to chase down Lex Luthor and NOT COMING BACK and making Buffy and me WALK HOME BY OURSELVES! That's the problem!"

"Jeeze! Could you keep it down? I'm really sorry...."

"Apology NOT accepted! Clark Kent, I never want to see you again!"

"But, Dawn!"

"Get out! Get Out! GET OUT!" Dawn yelled, then turned on her heel and flounced away.

**************************************************

Buffy Summers happily swung her plastic shopping bag as she walked up the street to her home in the early evening twilight. It had been a good day selling shoes. She had gotten a lovely pair of boots with a lovely employee discount that made them practically not extravagant at all. The Bronze was having its Grand Re-Opening tonight, which meant there would be dancing and monster-slaying, her favorite combination. It had been a nice profitable day; it would be a nice violent night; things were nice in Buffy-land.

A silver Porsche was parked on the street. "Ooh, shiny," Buffy thought.

There was somebody standing on her porch. Buffy quickly reviewed the location of all her weapons.

Then she recognized him. It was Lex Luthor.

************************************************

Back home in Smallville, Clark dejectedly swung his booted feet in the air. He and Pete were sitting on the edge of the loft, watching the stars.

"She's still so mad, Pete. It's been a whole month."

"You left her and her sister to walk home in the dark while you ran after Lex Luthor, man."

"I'd think she'd be over it by now."

"In Metropolis. In the dark. After YOU asked HER out on the date. To chase Lex. Luthor."

"Okay, I get it. I apologized and everything. She's just so mad. And so cute. I really like her."

"Apologize again."

"I've actually apologized like four times. It's harder than fighting crime, Pete. Every time I go do deliveries in Metropolis, I go to the school and hunt her down and let her yell at me."

"Sometimes persistence is all a man has going for him."

"I guess. Actually, I think it is getting better. This time she let me say about three sentences before she told me to Get Out!"

"There you go. Did you give her flowers or anything?"

"Flowers?"

"Girls like presents."

"That's a great idea, Pete!"

"Always happy to help." They just sat for a little while. Then Pete said, "You know, Clark, if I were you I'd be more worried about what Lex is gonna do now that he knows you're Superman."

"C'mon, Pete. Lex is my friend. Besides, what can he do? I'm Superman."

"I don't know. Make bullets outta meteor rocks and shoot you, maybe. You said he was pretty mad."

"Oh, Lex will get over it."

"Like Dawn has?"

"Hmm. Do you suppose Dawn likes pie?"

********************************************


The man who answered the door at 1630 Revello Drive was unshaven and a little heavy. He had a walking cast on his left leg. Except for the cast, Lex thought, there were probably a thousand men just like him working for LexCorp.

Lex put on his best polite demeanor. "Hello. I'm looking for Buffy Summers."

"She's not here right now."

The man made no move to invite him in. "When do you expect her back?"

"Soon."

"May I come in?"

The man let out a rather unpleasant laugh. He produced a big crossbow, seemingly out of nowhere. Lex began to think things were getting out of control.

Suddenly Buffy was on the porch with him. She breezed into the house. Lex was amazed she could do it without bumping into anyone, considering the testosterone-laden showdown that seemed to have been occupying that space just moments before. "Hey, Xander. Hey, Lex." Buffy put her bag away in the hall closet. "Alexander, meet Alexander. Alexander, this is Alexander. Hee." She bustled away into the kitchen. The surly crossbowman stumped over to the battered sofa in the living room and sat down heavily. There was an Angels game on TV.

Lex was left baffled on the front porch. The door was open, so he hesitantly walked in. The crossbow was nowhere to be seen. Lex ventured into the kitchen.

Buffy was staring into the open refrigerator. "Welcome to Sunnydale, Lex. Sorry to not invite you in, but in this town if you can't barge in you can't come in at all. Look! Pears. Want one?" She offered him a green-and-brown, lopsided piece of fruit.

"No, thank you. I actually came by to apologize."

Buffy looked at him disbelievingly. She turned to the sink and started to wash her pear. "You came to California all the way from Kansas to apologize? To a girl you met once?"

Lex leaned against the counter so he could see Buffy's face. "I had business in Los Angeles, so I decided I might as well make the side trip. It was inexcusable for me to race off like that and leave you and your sister with no way of getting back to her school. I'm sorry." If Buffy knew how rare Luthor apologies were, she'd be more impressed.

"No big," Buffy said.

"Excuse me?"

Buffy sat down at the kitchen counter. "No big. Don't worry about it. We made it home fine. There's one Metropolis mugger who'll never be quite the same, but...."

"You were mugged?"

"No, no, don't worry. The guy was all, 'Give me all your money' and I just laughed at him and went for my sword, but before I even got it drawn, Dawnie had knocked him over and was groin-stomping him. You shoulda heard him yell." Buffy chuckled reminiscently for a second, then noticed her guest was looking a little pale and added, "Or maybe it's better you didn't."

"Ah. Well. I thought maybe I could ask you out again as recompense for the evening I spoiled. Although, you're living with a man here, and perhaps I shouldn't...."

"Oh, Xander and I aren't living together living together." Buffy ducked her head and the sparkly good humor she'd had ever since he'd first seen her on the porch seemed to go away. Suddenly she looked tired and a little ashamed. "He got hurt while I was gone. In May. Saving people 'cause I wasn't here to do it. And since he wasn't hurt on the job, he didn't have any workman's comp, and so he didn't have any money coming in, and he lost his apartment. So now he's living here."

The big dark-haired man yelled from the living room, "And I told you it's not your fault! And I shoulda left that apartment years ago!"

Buffy plastered a quick smile on her face. "I know!" she yelled back. She got up from her barstool, leaving her half-eaten pear on a napkin on the counter, and walked over to where she could see her roommate. "Can I bring you a pear? Or there's some tomato soup I could make...."

Xander looked at her and smiled. "I'm fine. I can get the soup later. You don't need to...."

"I know. And I'm sorry. And thanks."

Lex ghosted up behind Buffy from the kitchen and broke up the little mutual admiration society meeting by asking, "How about it then? May I take you out tonight?"

Buffy looked up at him a little startled. Her eyes were big and pale. "Um. Thanks, but. Um. I've got a big monsterfest kind of scheduled."

"Monsterfest?"

Buffy wrenched her eyes free from his and looked down. "While I was in Kansas, the local vamps decided they should take the opp to scarf on the Bronze -- it's a club. Xan and some friends stopped most of the carnage, but the place was thrashed. It's been closed for weeks for re-fribbing...." Xander muttered something about missing out on something, and Buffy shot him another guilty glance. "Anyway, tonight's the big re-opening, and it'll be packed. Dancing, drinking, vampire smorgasbord. I gotta show the flag and thin the herd."

"Why is it your responsibility?"

The startled eyes were back. Lex thought he liked them.

"I thought you knew. I'm the Vampire Slayer."

Xander made a crash-and-burn sound. "Good job with the secret identity there, Buff."

Buffy rolled her eyes and went over and flopped onto the couch. "I suck at undercover. The Council's used to it by now. Why do you have to complain?"

"In case you haven't noticed, the Council don't give a darn about you. I do."

"You're not going to betray me to my demonic enemies for some unholy reward, are you Lex?"

Nobody had asked Lex to take a seat, but he gingerly settled himself onto the living room's one threadbare armchair anyway. "I've seen you fight. I wouldn't dare."

"See? It's fine."

"What's a vampire slayer, exactly?"

Buffy began to recite, "Into every generation a Slayer is born, one girl in all the world, a chosen one, one born with the strength and skill to hunt the vampires, to stop the spread of their evil, to...wait, I used to KNOW this. Xander, do you remember the rest of it?"

"Sorry, Buff, I always zoned out on the lectures."

"Dang. One girl in all the world, a chosen one, one born with the strength and the skill...Shoot! I guess I'll have to call England. I bet Willow remembers it. Anyhow," she went on to Lex, "The deal is this: there's one girl in the whole world magically chosen to kill vampires and demons and save the world and stuff. And when she dies, another one is chosen, and when she dies another one, and so on and so on. They say 'every generation' but that doesn't mean you get twenty years, just that there's one at a time. Except I'm sort of a spare, because when they wrote that description no one had ever heard of CPR yet. Anyhow, tonight I'm betting there'll be a ton o' vamps at the Bronze, so that's where I'll be with my little pointy stakes."

"So you're employed by this Council to kill vampires."

"Sort of, I guess, except that they don't really pay me or, you know, talk to me much anymore."

"The management of this club pays you protection?"

"No, Lex, nobody pays me to slay. I just do it 'cause I'm the Slayer, and when I mess up or blow town for a week, people get hurt and killed and stuff."

Buffy was getting mad. Lex decided to back off, although he still didn't understand. "I didn't mean to upset you."

"I'm not upset," Buffy insisted. She stood up suddenly and stuck her hand out for Lex to shake. "Thanks so much for stopping by. I appreciate the apology, and I totally forgive you for ditching me on our date last month. Have a safe trip home."

Okay, backing off never really worked for him. He made himself comfortable in the wretched chair and gave her the Luthor smile. "I'm not going anywhere just yet, Buffy. I still want to take you out tonight."

Buffy's eyes sparked with anger. Oh, that was so much better than the earlier guilt and sadness. She was just about to tear into him when Xander interrupted with a fake-sounding cough from the couch.

"Maybe you should let him tag along to the Bronze tonight, Buff."

Buffy turned her mad to the other man. "What?" she yelped indignantly.

"Well I can't come watch your back, and you said he scoobed with you and Dawn in Metropolis. It's just a vamp-hunt at the Bronze; he won't be in any more danger than anybody else who's dumb enough to visit Sunnydale. No offense, Lex."

Lex stretched his legs out and crossed his exquisitely shod feet at the ankles. This was working out better. "None taken," he smiled.

"Xander, are you nuts? Taking a date out slaying is the worst idea ever!"

"It's not like it'd be the first time. Plus A) Everybody needs backup. B) You deserve a fun evening out."

"Killing vampires is fun," Buffy interrupted.

"C)" Xander continued. "He could buy you dinner. Did you eat today?"

"I ate a pear!" Buffy insisted.

"Half a pear," Lex corrected her.

"D) Give the guy a break."

There was silence for a minute. "Fine." Buffy finally said. "I'll go upstairs and get changed."

*************************************************

Dawn lay on her tummy on top of her neatly made-up bed. The window was open, letting in a little cool evening air; living on the third floor was nice. She had a lollipop in her mouth and a physics text in front of her, and she should have been perfectly content. But as she kicked her feet and read about electromagnetism she was paying almost half her attention to how furious she was at Clark Kent.

Dawn had a tendency to never forget and never forgive. You could ask anyone in Sunnydale, "Who's the most implacable girl around?" and unless they remembered Cordelia Chase, they were sure to answer, "Dawn Summers." She thought that Clark had been an idiot and a bum for leaving her and Buffy to find their own way home alone after their big first date, but he did keep apologizing, and she probably would have forgiven him by now if he just weren't so doggone certain that she was going to. He shouldn't be so dang sure of himself, just because he was kind of gorgeous. Plus, of course, a COMPLETE lack of prezzies. It was annoying.

A voice out of the blue said, "Knock knock." Dawn practically jumped out of her skin. She grabbed a stake from under her pillow and bounded across the room to the window.

Of course. Clark Kent. Not even dressed as Superman. Was he a complete fool? "Are you insane?" Dawn hissed.

"Hi, Dawn." Clark smiled that blinding smile, and held out something round. "I brought you a pie."

Okay, that was just surreal. Dawn accepted the pie while she was still stunned by the oddness of it all.

"Baked fresh this morning. Can I come in?"

The automatic NO! that question invoked in Dawn's Sunnydale-bred brain snapped her out of her momentary stupor.

"You...you..." she sputtered. "What part of Get Out I Never Want to See You Again do you not understand, Clark? What part of I Don't Forgive You? And why in the name of all that's holy would you be Flying In Public In Your Doggone Street Clothes?! Are you nuts? And...pie? What the heck's up with that? Pie? Pie!"

Dawn threw the pie at Clark. She hit him right in the face.

For a second neither one of them could believe it. The metal pan fell thirty feet or so to the ground. If it hadn't been grass, there would have been a heck of a clang. Clark wiped sticky cherry goo out of his eyes. Dawn's eyes were round with shock.

Finally she spoke. "Oh My God. Clark, I am so sorry. I can't believe I did that."

"Now you know how I feel."

Clark continued to remove pie from his person. Finally Dawn heaved a sigh.

"I guess I have to forgive you now," she said.

"I don't have to, but I will, because I'm just gracious by nature," Clark laughed.

Dawn smiled and ducked her head. She stepped aside from the window and made a sweeping gesture. "I invite you in. But I'm warning you, if you're a vampire, I DO have a stake and I know how to use it."

Clark clambered in through a window more gracefully than anyone she had ever seen.

*********************************************************

Lex wanted to drive to the Bronze, but Buffy argued that it wasn't far, and she'd have a better chance of noticing and killing vampires if they walked. Buffy won.

As they walked, Buffy lectured. "Okay. You can kill a vampire by staking, beheading, burning, or putting them in the sun. That last one pretty much only works during the day. Vampires are a lot stronger and faster than people, and they heal up from injuries in no time at all." Buffy handed him a cross and a stake, and Lex put them in his pockets. "A cross will usually repel a vampire, and they get burned if you hit them with a cross or holy water. Oh, and actually I one time tricked a vampire into drinking a whole glass of holy water and he went to dust from the inside out. Would've been funny if he hadn't been holding my mom prisoner and torturing her at the time."

Lex kept the sympathetic horror he felt from showing on his face. Instead he drew his pistol from the shoulder holster under his coat and said, "I put something together after the last time we met...."

Buffy rolled her eyes at him. "Lex, guns are useless against vampires. Don't you remember...."

"Wooden bullets," he interrupted. "I'd heard that the German army used wooden bullets for firearm training when lead got scarce during World War Two. I did a little research, and I think these might work."

Buffy smiled at him like he was a genius. "Modern weapons technology boy strikes again. Well, World War Two would be more modernish than modern, I guess. The Initiative had, like, ray guns and stuff. Plus tasers work on vamps, but just to knock them out. Still, way modern compared to crossbows and pointed sticks, which is me. Give 'em a try, and if they work give us the recipe. Xander's a pretty good shot, and it'd be nice to be able to keep him out of the close-up hand-to-hand stuff. Which by the way? Try to keep out of the close-up hand-to-hand stuff." Buffy's eyes had been roaming throughout the entire walk, searching all the little places they passed for evidence of vampires and monsters. "Stay here," she commanded quietly, her hand momentarily on his elbow, and then she was just gone.

"Like Clark," Lex thought. His throat closed up for a moment. He didn't want to think about Clark being Superman, about all the lies -- years and years and never a word of truth -- he was supposed to be Lex's friend, his one actual...

Buffy was back. "Got 'em," she said. Then she looked at him with a puzzled expression on her face. "You okay, Lex?"

Lex pulled himself together. "How many were there?" he asked.

"Just two. Okay, it's only a couple of blocks to the Bronze. We'll circle around first, see if they've posted any sentries or anything and take them out. Then we go in and see if anybody tries to start anything. If they do, I'll take care of them. You just warn me if they're coming up behind me and look after yourself -- nothing fancy." She looked up at him and smiled reassuringly. "You'll do fine, Lex. I saw you backing up Dawn at the museum. Just be careful, and don't do anything dumb."

Their eyes held for a second, and for that second Lex wasn't thinking about business, or grieving over Clark, or worrying about his father. He was just going into battle behind a beautiful uncanny fierce little goddess, and it felt better than any corporate war had ever felt. Buffy danced ahead to look for monsters to kill, and Lex followed.

******************************************************

Clark seemed to take up an unreasonably large fraction of the space inside her dorm room, Dawn thought. Also, his face and shirt still had a lot of sticky on them. And he was gorgeous.

"Um, Dawn? I should rinse this shirt out before the cherry stains set up. Can I use your sink?"

Dawn nodded mutely.

Clark took off his glasses and washed his face, then took his shirt off and put it to soak in her dorm room sink. He turned to her and smiled. "Thanks," said the big beautiful golden alien farmboy superhero.

Darn Midwestern weather. Was it getting even hotter in here?

****************************************************

Clark had started to believe in luck again.

On the one hand, it had taken him all dang year to get the nerve up to ask Dawn out on a date. None of the other girls at Met. U. seemed to see him at all, probably because of those ugly glasses he'd taken to wearing once Superman became his secret superhero identity in Metropolis. Metropolis wasn't Smallville. Everybody down home knew there was something odd about him, but they didn't pry. That wouldn't fly in the big city, hence the two-way disguise.

On the other hand, Dawn had gone out with him. She'd even found out his secret, in a way that really wasn't his fault, and she was absolutely fine about it.

On the third hand, Lex had found out, too, and was really mad about all the lying that Clark had been doing for the last five or six years.

But on the fourth hand, at least Lex knew, and maybe they could start over, and be better friends than before because the lies were all out in the open. Of course, that last one would only work if Lex was willing to ever talk to him again.

On the fifth hand, Dawn had been furious at Clark for a month, and had ultimately thrown a pie in his face.

On the sixth hand (and this was where the luck came in) apparently that had been just what she'd needed in order to forgive him. So things were definitely looking up. Clark decided to press his luck.

"Would you go out with me again? Tonight?"

"Huh?" Dawn looked a little dazed or something, ever since he'd taken off his shirt. She snapped her eyes back up to his face. "Oh. Sure, Clark, that'd be great. Um...." her eyes drifted down to his chest again for a minute; then she was back. "Ah. You should probably get dressed if we're going anywhere. I have a big Met. U. t-shirt that I sometimes sleep in...."

"Oh, I can just zip back home and get something to wear. I should probably take that pie pan home anyway."

"I thought you said you wanted to go out tonight."

"It won't take long."

"Clark, isn't it like a three-hour drive to Smallville?"

"Five minutes there, five minutes back. Five minutes to find a shirt."

"Really?" Dawn thought a minute. "That means you could get to Sunnydale in like an hour."

"California, right? Maybe a little less."

"Could you take someone with you?" At Clark's nod, Dawn went on. "It's Friday night. If it only takes you an hour to get to California, we could go to the beach, tonight."

"Two hour time change," Clark put in. "It would be awfully late by the time we got there."

"Hmmm." Dawn thought a moment, then came up with, "We could fly there tonight, stay at our house in Sunnydale, then get up in the morning and go to the beach, then fly back tomorrow evening."

Clark felt duty-bound to object, even though he really wanted to see Dawn on the beach, preferably in a bikini. "My folks need me on the farm in the morning."

"Well, you were going to zip home anyway. Ask them if they can spare you for just the one day, and if they can, pack a bag. If not, just change your shirt... um... and come back and we'll go out for coffee or something."

"You're right, Dawn. It can't hurt to ask. And thanks for inviting me, even if they say no. I've never actually been in the ocean." Clark beamed at her, grabbed his specs and his damp shirt, and took off out the open window.

****************************************************

Lex and Buffy found two vampires standing watch just across the street from the Bronze main entrance, and Buffy dusted them easily. Her buoyant good mood from earlier in the afternoon seemed to be returning with every kill. They went down the alley next to the building, and Buffy slew two more guarding the fire exit. Lex noticed one jumping down from the roof of the building to join the fray and shot it through the heart. It dissolved before it hit the ground. As the vampire he had killed dissipated into nothingness, Lex felt a kind of glee bubbling up inside him. It was different from when he had killed Roger Nixon. Then the bitter feeling of tiredness and no more chances had completely overwhelmed the power he felt at snuffing out a man's life. This was far better, purer. "More dangerous," said a tiny voice inside of him. "Don't let yourself get carried away."

They finished circumnavigating the building without seeing any more of the evil dead. The man collecting the cover charge at the entrance was human and seemed unharmed. He greeted Buffy with a respectful smile and a nod, and let her and Lex in without paying.

The club was crowded and hot inside. A live band was playing, and lots of people were dancing. The scents of coffee and fried food could be detected over the fresh paint and sweat. Lex had to bend over and put his mouth right up to Buffy's ear to be heard over the crowd. "Let's get you something to eat!"

"Before the carnage starts!" she agreed.

Lex got Buffy settled at a table and asked her what she wanted to eat. "Barbecue chicken wings and a Coke!" she asked prettily.

"Are you sure that's enough?

"Oh, yeah. I'm not that hungry." She was bouncing to the music in her seat, and scanning the crowd for threats, not really paying attention to Lex. He smiled at the picture she made, then went to get their food.

**************************************************

True to his estimate, Clark was back in less than twenty minutes. Dawn had taken the time to put her toothbrush, hairbrush, change of clothes, nightie and swimsuit into her big canvas purse. She figured that she could just stick her keys and wallet in her pocket if it was coffee, and if it was the beach she'd be all packed.

Clark was all tricked out in his superhero costume when he got back. He had an ordinary blue nylon backpack that looked totally out of place with the Superman suit, and a huge grin on his face.

"That smile says we're going to California!" Dawn chirped. "Good thing I packed while you were gone!"

"I can't believe they said I could go! This is so cool, Dawn! Thanks again." Clark blushed a little. "Um...you should probably, you know, go to the bathroom before we leave."

"Good advice, from the frequent flyer," Dawn agreed. "Come on in and sit down or something. I'll be back in a minute." She was in such a good mood. This was going to be fun.

****************************************************

Buffy was having a nice evening. The chicken wings were good; there had been a little slayage earlier; Arnie was working the door and let her and Lex in for free; the band wasn't bad. Not to mention: Lex? total flirt. It had been years since any guy had looked at her like that. She wasn't taking it personally; she'd seen that Lex looked at a lot of people (and, in fact, objects) the same way. Watching him drink a bottle of water was as good as pay-per-view, and she could've sold tickets to the people who clustered around to watch him beat her at pool.

Still, she wasn't just here to enjoy herself. Better scope out the crowd, see how many vamps they were talking about here. If there was going to be some sort of a big concerted attack it would be good to know where all the players were. Giles would have suggested that she get some altitude, check out the crowd from the overhanging balcony, but Faith would have understood that it could be easier to pick up on the undead when you were dancing with them.

Lex had finished his water. Buffy laid her hand on his wrist. "Let's dance," she said. She pulled him deep into the crowd.

Buffy knew that an excited Slayer, riding high with blood pumping, is one of the most potent baits in the world. The trick was to get wild enough that no vampire could fail to feel the attraction of that hot Slayer power surging beneath her skin, and yet to be in control of herself enough that she would notice them hovering. She needed to get lost in the dance, but still be aware of everything around her, so she could notice and remember the fiends in the crowd, marking them for later destruction. It was her favorite way to spend an evening, and it was even more fun with a partner. Lex was the second best she'd ever had.

*****************************************************

Of all the "gifts" that fate had chosen to bestow on him, flying was the one Clark enjoyed playing with the most. He had only really figured it out this year, and it had been the final straw in the decision to become Superman. A Man Had to Do his Best to Help his Neighbors. Unfortunately, if his best included actually being able to FLY, then he had no other real choice except to become a costumed superhero and dedicate most of his spare time to protecting the citizens of his fair city or country or planet or whatever, because With Power Came Responsibility. On the plus side, at least he got to fly around a lot, which was fun. On the very very plus side, tonight he got to fly to California for the weekend, with a pretty girl in his arms.

First they just had to figure out how to arrange everything.

"So, how do we do this, exactly?" Dawn asked. "Do you need your hands free, or anything?

"No, not really," Clark replied. "And weight's not going to be a problem...."

"'Cause you can fly around carrying trucks and planes and stuff."

"Right. I just don't want to, you know, drop anything." Clark made a couple of ineffectual gestures with his hands.

"Let's try this." Dawn slung her canvas purse across her shoulders, then put Clark's backpack on over it. She walked up to Clark and stood close. "How do you want to...pick me up?" Her voice was a little breathless.

Oh, how Clark wished he didn't blush so easily. He swallowed hard, and then put his right arm around Dawn's slender waist. "Hold on to my shoulders," he breathed, looking deeply into her warm brown eyes. Dawn smiled at him, and held on, and she fit so well...Clark blinked and put his left arm out to be his leading edge, concentrated and made that little hop that made gravity not a factor. He flew them out the window.

Dawn squeaked when they crossed over the sill. "Wait!" she said urgently.

Clark was suddenly afraid she was going to back out of this whole trip to California thing. He told himself sternly that being able to take Dawn out for coffee tonight was not bad at all, and a lot more than he had expected to be able to do when he woke up this morning.

Dawn squiggled around in his arms until she could close the window. "There," she said. "Up, up and away!"

Clark laughed and headed west.

*****************************************************

Considering that the Bronze was a mediocre little club in a nondescript suburb in the middle of nowhere, Lex was having a terrific time. "It must be the company," he thought. Dancing with Buffy was astonishing -- he'd had no idea people moved like that when they weren't high.

All too soon the band took a break, and people started to leave the dance floor. Buffy twined her arms around Lex's neck and brought her mouth to his ear. Lex shivered with the feel of Buffy's hot breath on his neck as she whispered, "I counted eight. Come on."

Adrenaline rushed through Lex as he followed the Slayer into the little hallway at the back of the club where the phones and restrooms and an emergency exit were located. He had his hand on his stake, since it seemed firearms would be unwise in such a crowd, but Buffy dusted both the vampires they were tailing before they could even notice. Her smile as she killed them was as bright as Clark's, and as sharp as Lionel's.

There was some sort of commotion in the main room of the Bronze. "That would be the main event," Buffy commented. She started pulling Lex through the panicky milling crowd. "Let's get you to Arnie, the doorman, and you can help get people out. I'll have a little confrontation with whoever this is."

Arnie was ushering people out the main entrance of the club. He had a big cross in one hand. As soon as Buffy and Lex saw him, Buffy gave Lex a little shove towards the door, and then she herself slipped away. She disappeared into the crowd, not fighting the tide of the mob but rather sliding easily around each panicky individual, so that they hardly hindered her at all.

The patrons of the Bronze were fleeing freely into the night because Buffy and Lex had done away with the vampires outside who had been guarding the Bronze's exits. Apparently the head vampire noticed that people were escaping who should be trapped, because a couple of vamp minions came looming up to the door. Lex still didn't want to shoot in such crowded conditions. He stepped back against the wall and watched the first attacker try to knock Arnie's cross away. The second vamp was watching that, too, so Lex backstabbed him. His aim was good enough, and the vampire was dust. The other one quickly joined it on the floor as Arnie whacked him in the face with the cross, and Lex staked him while he was distracted by his eyeballs smoking. With the two underling vampires gone, the humans continued to escape, and soon only Lex and Arnie were left at the door.

"Thanks, man. My friend's apartment is across the street. We'll be safe there until she's finished."

Lex could hear intense sounds of combat coming from the main part of the club. "I have to make sure she's all right."

"Whatever. Good luck." Arnie left at a run.

Lex pulled his gun out of the holster. His heart was hammering with exhilaration as he crept back to get a look at the fighting. Buffy and four -- no, suddenly three -- vampires were on the dance floor. The vampires were fast and strong. They seemed to know what they were doing as far as fighting was concerned, but Buffy had them completely outclassed. Unfortunately, she was outnumbered. Lex's heart was in his mouth as he saw Buffy barely escape from one untenable position after another. He wished he could get a clear shot at one of the monsters. He ached with the need to help her. Maybe if he could get a better vantage point -- Lex climbed the stairs to the balcony, all his attention on the fight between Buffy and the vampires on the first floor.

Lex steadied his left hand against the railing and waited for an opportunity to shoot. It came when the ugliest of the remaining vampires grabbed Buffy around the neck and hauled her into the air. When one of the others rushed up to punch the helpless-seeming Slayer, she kicked it clear across the room. Lex quickly shot the sprawling vampire twice. His second shot must have gotten the heart, because the creature dissolved into dust.

Suddenly an iron-hard hand grabbed his wrist and made him drop his gun. Lex desperately snatched for the cross in his pocket, but the vampire was too fast and too strong. She crushed his arm to his body, and he couldn't get it loose. Lex refused to stop fighting on general principles, but nothing he did could prevent the vampire from wrenching his head to one side and biting him in the neck.

*****************************

Flying was the coolest thing in the world, Dawn decided. It was weird, too, but not too weird for a Sunnydale girl to enjoy, and not too weird for a Physics Major to try to figure out.

Dawn decided she'd have to yell a little bit because they were going so fast, although the wind was actually a lot less than she expected it to be. "How do you do this?"

"I don't really know." Clark turned his head to smile back at her, snugged up under his right arm, then turned his head back to look forward again. "It started with floating in my sleep, when I was about fifteen. Then when I was sixteen there was a tornado, and I kind of got caught up in it, and I found that I can steer in the air pretty well. Then last summer I got to where I could pretty much float whenever I wanted, and the actual going somewhere seems to be sort of a variation on the steering, is all...long story short, I don't really know."

"Doesn't it seem like there should be more wind? Are you making some sort of a counter shock-wave?"

"Maybe? I don't know how much wind there should be. It's about as windy when I fly as when I run, for the same sort of speed. Is that not right?"

"Haven't you ever taken any physics? Aren't you curious about how all this stuff works?"

"I took Biology in High School. There was only one year of science required to graduate. And I'm a Journalism Major. No physics required."

"You should take it anyway," Dawn declared. "It's really interesting, and way more useful for someone who can fly than Biology would ever be."

Clark laughed again. "I'll keep that in mind."

Dawn had been grateful for the cool night air at first, but now it was getting chilly, what with the wind and the altitude. She held tight to Superman's warm, broad, muscular chest. The shivering was not entirely from the cold, but she thanked Clark when he noticed it and tucked the corner of his cape around her.

***********************************************

A Luthor doesn't give up without a fight. No! A Luthor doesn't give up at all! Lex tried to convince himself that his struggles weren't futile, but the fact remained that he was fighting as hard as he could, and he wasn't getting away. The vampire's bite hurt like blazes. She was drinking his blood and he couldn't stop her. His useless thrashing became weaker and weaker. He wasn't even able to hold up his own weight, now. He was leaning back against her as she killed him.

Suddenly there was nothing holding him up. He fell to the ground in a helpless tangle of limbs, dizzy and hurt.

Hard warm little hands turned him onto his back and clamped painfully over his wounded neck. "Talk to me, Lex," Buffy commanded.

"That's quite a rush," Lex whispered.

Buffy frowned and looked disapproving. She wouldn't meet his eyes. "Some guys get off on the neck-biting. I'd advise against getting addicted to it, though. People get killed."

People get off on the neck-biting? Not his kink. "No. Not at all. I meant being rescued. It's a rush."

Buffy looked pleased at that. "Stay still and let me try to stop this bleeding."

"Do you suppose that's why I liked Clark? He was always rescuing me...."

"This isn't so bad. Do you feel like you're going to pass out? We could get you to the hospital...."

"No! I heal fast, and I hate hospitals."

"Me, too. Well, just keep talking so I know you're awake, and I won't make you go."

"Was he ever my friend really, do you suppose?" Lex's mind was wandering a little.

"Who now?"

"Was I just a damsel in distress for him? Is there as much of a buzz in the rescuing as the being rescued?"

"Again with the what are you talking about?"

"Clark. If he's the Hero, and he doesn't trust me enough to tell me anything...I don't want to always be the Victim. I don't want to be the Idiot Friend... and I can't forgive him for the way he's lied to me. I'd have to be the Villain."

"Baloney, Lex. You can do whatever you want.

"A Luthor Will Not be Trifled With."

Buffy laughed, and did something painful to his neck. "This is clotting just fine. Unless a Luthor is some kind of demon I never heard of before, a Luthor can forgive his friend for lying if he wants to. Human beings have souls; they can choose what they want to do."

"Well, it's been said that my father is actually Satan."

"Human/demon half-breeds have souls, too. And this is definitely blood, not demon ichor. I've seen enough of both to know."

"I'm not sure I want to forgive him. I'm not sure I ever want to talk to him again." The thought of never talking to Clark again closed around his heart, and made it hurt worse than the neck wound. In a smaller voice he went on, "It's not a good thing to let him get away with lying to me like this."

"Well, friends of mine know stuff about dimensions - here, let's sit you up a little and see how that works." Buffy helped him sit up. "Dizzy? Okay?"

Lex breathed in great gasps for a moment but didn't pass out, and Buffy smiled at him. "Anyhow, they say dimensions split off from each other all the time. If a decision's a little dodgey, you can take comfort in the idea that you probably decided it the other way in an alternate dimension. So really you only have to decide which world you'd rather live in. The one where you hold that grudge against Clark Kent forever or the one where you let him kind of sort of make a fool of you. Just this once. Ready to stand up now? Ooh! Wait. Your gun."

Buffy retrieved Lex's pistol from the floor and gingerly put it back in his shoulder holster. She slung his arm around her shoulder and hoisted him to his feet. Lex swayed for a second and briefly considered throwing up, but then he steadied.

"See? You're fine. Let's just take it easy...." Buffy helped Lex down the stairs and across the dance floor of the club. "You don't have to be a victim or a villain, you know. You could be Q!"

"Q is a villain. And I'd rather be Picard."

"Not Star Trek Q! James Bond's Q. With the cool inventions and stuff. You seem to be really smart and good at building things. That gun of yours really worked, you know. Wooden Bullets! You should be proud of yourself." They left the building and started the long walk home.

**********************************

Clark and Dawn had decided that he'd do all the navigating until they found Los Angeles, and then she'd be responsible for finding their way to Sunnydale from there. Clark was almost disappointed when the vast bright sprawl of L.A. turned up beneath them. It meant this prolonged chatty snuggle of a flight was almost over.

"Is that L.A.?" Dawn asked.

"Yup. I'm almost sure."

Dawn laughed. "It looks so pretty from up here. A lot cleaner than it is up close. Okay, go to the ocean and turn right. Um, north would be right, wouldn't it?"

Clark smiled. Dawn was so cute! Lana would never have reacted this well to being taken flying. "It would. We'll turn right at the ocean, then, and follow the coast north. Do you think you'll recognize the town from the air?"

"I think so. We can, like, land and look at street signs if we need to, can't we?"

"I don't see why not."

They came to the coast and headed north. The fog was rolling in, and Dawn had to pay close attention to figure out the landmarks. Eventually she asked, "Shouldn't my arms be all tired by now? I've been...mmm...holding onto you for almost an hour." She gave him a little squeeze that made him catch his breath. "You must have some sort of anti-gravity going on."

"Maybe. I don't really...."

"I know, I know. You don't really know. If it is anti-grav, though, there are a lot of very cool things you should be able to....Oooh! I think we're getting close!" Dawn started bouncing and wriggling in a very distracting way. "Go lower, closer to the highway there. Look! It's the Welcome to Sunnydale sign! We're there!"

"Neat," Clark said. He swooped down and made a perfect landing right next to the sign. "Is your house far from here?"

"Not far," Dawn replied. "Sunnydale is a pretty small town."

"Okay. Let me get changed, and we can walk the rest of the way." Clark took his backpack from Dawn and went behind the sign.

Dawn looked a little confused for a second, then nodded. "Right. Secret identity."

Clark changed quickly and came right back. Dawn looked relieved to see him again so fast. She took his arm.

"Let's go this way. I can show you all the so-called sights."

"That sounds like fun."

"Not so much, really. Watch out for vampires and demons. We'll skip the fourteen graveyards, but we can go past the vacant lot where I was nearly sacrificed by an insane hellgod, and the Bronze, where I was nearly abducted by a dancing demon and taken to a hell dimension to be his queen."

"You'd get along fine in Smallville. We mainly just have mutants, but a lot of them have superpowers and are insane."

"And yet you've maintained your secret identity."

"Not all that well. My friend Pete figured it out -- well, he found my spaceship once after it got out of the storm cellar during a tornado, and I had to tell him the truth. My folks were mad, though."

"So your parents have always known. About you being an alien and a superhero."

"Well, yes about the alien part." Clark whispered the last two words. "The superhero stuff kind of came on gradually. I was always extra strong and fast, but my folks didn't even TELL me I was, you know, until after Lex crashed into me doing sixty miles per hour and drowned and I ripped the top off his car and saved him and came home and freaked out and put my arm in the wood chipper."

Dawn squeezed his arm sympathetically. "Ouch," she said.

"No, it didn't hurt at all. Didn't even leave a mark. Completely shredded my shirt, though, which was dumb of me."

"I didn't really mean the chipper, although, you know, ouch. I meant more the finding out all of a sudden that you're not actually a human being. And that people you knew and loved and trusted knew about it all along, and kept it from you."

"Well, yeah. That did. Hurt."

Dawn was smiling at him in such a warm, knowing way. "I know just how that feels..." she started.

Suddenly Clark noticed a couple walking down the sidewalk a couple of blocks ahead of him and Dawn. The girl was tiny and blonde; the guy was bald and leaning heavily on the girl's shoulder. Was that Lex? Clark focussed his x-ray vision on them to be sure - he'd know Lex's skeleton anywhere, and how freaky was that? "Dawn, that's...."

"Buffy and Lex? Oh my God! Buffy!"

Buffy turned her head and looked back at them. "Dawn!" she called. "What are you doing here?"

Clark noticed Lex didn't look too good. He could see there was blood on Lex's shirt. Faster than the eye could follow, Clark sped to Lex's side. "Lex!" he shouted, and grabbed the smaller man's arm.

Lex pulled his arm away and looked up at Clark angrily. "I'm right here, you know. You don't have to yell."

Lex looked pale and tired. There was a big bite -- a vampire bite? -- on his neck, and blood stains spilled down on his shirt below it. It looked like Buffy was holding Lex up, like he wouldn't be able to walk without her. "Lex," Clark said again. He wanted to pick Lex up and take him home to Smallville, where vampires couldn't hurt him. Unfortunately, he was pretty sure that wasn't anything Lex would be willing for him to do. He had to settle for a lame, "Are you okay?"

"He's fine," Buffy said. "Little vampire bite, nothin' much. Plenty of fluids, get some rest, probably shouldn't drive for a while...Here," she squiggled out from under Lex's arm and gently pushed him over towards Clark. "Lean on him for a while." Buffy turned back to Dawn and hugged her sister.

Lex staggered a little and drew himself upright. Clark looked at him pleadingly. "Lex. I'm so sorry I had to lie to you all those times. But it wasn't just you. I couldn't let anybody know. Pete found out, because he found my spaceship, but it was an accident, and I never told anybody else. I've been lying to everybody, for years, but I hope you'll forgive me."

Lex's severe look softened. "You have a spaceship?"

Clark smiled at him. "Uh huh."

Lex leaned over toward him, and Clark immediately put an arm around him and helped support his weight. "Will you show it to me?"

"Sure, Lex. What are friends for?"

Buffy and Dawn had been having a conversation behind them. Now Buffy declared, "Okay, then. Everybody can stay at our house tonight. I think there's room. And then the beach tomorrow -- great idea, Dawn!" The whole party resumed walking.

"Do you think you'll be able to come along to the beach tomorrow, Lex?" Clark asked his friend.

"I'll have to see what the situation is with my business in Los Angeles."

"I hope you'll be able to make it." Clark was beaming at him.

"I'm still mad at you, you know," Lex groused.

Clark's smile was blinding. "I know."

"I reserve the right to throw your dishonesty up in your face for years to come."

"Okay." Clark was so happy. Lex was forgiving him! This really was his lucky night!

"I'll never let you live it down."

Clark gave him a very little squeeze, and the smile, impossibly, grew even brighter. "That's fine, Lex. After all, you're a Luthor."