Disclaimer: "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" is owned by UPN and/or Mutant Enemy and/or Fox and/or Joss Whedon. "Smallville" is owned by DC Comics and/or the WB and/or Millar & Gough and/or Tollin & Robbins. "Superman" was invented by Shuster & Siegel. I don't own any of the characters. I'm just fooling around. Please don't sue. Goes AU right around the middle of Buffy season 7 and Smallville season 2.

Dates of Wars

(Sequel to "Double Date" and "Second Date"))

By LastScorpion

"My mind lets go a thousand things,

Like dates of wars and deaths of kings."

--Thomas Bailey Aldrich (1836-1907)--

Ring

Ring

Ring

CLICK. You have reached the Summers residence. If it's the Apocalypse, you can page me at 555-2375. Otherwise, please leave a message after the tone. BEEP.

"Buffy, hello. It's Lex Luthor. Just wanted to see how you're doing. Dawn and I made it back to Metropolis without any difficulty. You probably already know that; I'm sure you must have spoken to your sister some time in the past two weeks. You have my number already; I've left it several times. Call me back. Um. Please."

***

"Ooooh."

Clark thought the whole unpleasant "Hey, You're Superman!" debacle might have been worth it just for the expression of awe on Lex's face when he finally saw the spaceship.

"That's my ship," he said proudly, laying a big possessive hand on its weirdly smooth surface.

"May I touch?" Lex looked hopefully up at Clark. It was darn cute, actually, and Lex looked like a kid in a candy store when Clark nodded.

Lex approached the ship differently from how Pete had, differently from how Clark himself had when he'd first seen it (that he remembered) four years before. He examined the underneath part first, looking for propulsion or something, then the leading edges of the wing-things, and then the rear.

He had run his hands over about two-thirds of the ship before he exclaimed, "Hey! My octagon disk would have fit right here! I wonder what it would have done."

"Not your octagon disk, Lex, not originally,"

"I suppose not, but possession is eleven points in the law."

"I thought that was nine-tenths."

"Colley Cibber, 1697. Look it up. I wish I knew what happened to that thing."

Clark laughed aloud. He couldn't help it. "Possession won't get you anywhere today, nine, ten, or eleven. My mom has it."

"What!" Lex astonished twice in a row. This was fun.

Clark lounged negligently against the wall of the cellar. "She swiped it from your dad's safe that time you got them held hostage in his office."

"That bastard."

"My mom?"

"Of course not!"

"It works in that slot on the cave wall, too. That's how I can read ancient Kryptonian."

"You brat! I knew you were up to something when I found you asleep in my cave!"

That sobered Clark right up. "Maybe it's a good thing Mom's got it put away safe. Humans probably shouldn't mess with it. Remember Dr. Walden?"

"You think he was meddling with the disk, and it struck him down because it could tell he wasn't you?" Lex speculated.

"Or the cave itself did," Clark agreed.

"You know," Lex said conversationally, "when he finally regained consciousness, he'd lost four years' worth of memories. He didn't remember writing his last book, much less any of his cave research. That's a pretty effective safeguard."

"I'm glad he got better at all. I still don't think I can forgive whoever put those parasites in there. Chloe and Pete could've died! And Travis actually did. Dang Kryptonians. Almost makes me glad they're extinct."

"Hmm." Lex looked at Clark and quirked his eyebrows. "You're ordinarily the last person I'd think of as an advocate for genocide."

Clark ducked his head. "Maybe I don't really mean it." Then he raised it again and looked at Lex steadily. "But maybe I do. There was a message with the ship, from my biological father. I'm supposed to rule you guys with strength, because Earth people are a flawed race."

Lex shivered. Clark could probably do it, too. "I can't defend my species against the accusation."

Clark smiled at him. "Don't worry. I wasn't raised that way."

"Thank God for Jonathan Kent."

Clark laughed. "Never thought I'd hear you say that."

"It's not even the first time I have," Lex protested.

They continued in companionable silence for a while, Clark leaning on the cellar wall watching Lex run his hands all over the ship. Lex looked a lot like he did at a new car lot, but even more so. Clark was glad he'd shown him this.

Presently, still looking at the space pod, Lex said, "How are things in Sunnydale?" It seemed like he was trying to sound casual.

Clark was a little confused. "Fine, I guess. Dawn didn't mention any new apocalypses when I saw her last weekend. Why?"

Lex didn't answer for a couple of minutes. When he finally did, his voice sounded hurt. "Buffy doesn't return my calls. I wondered if she's all right."

Ouch. Well, this was finally an area in which Clark had more experience than his older friend. "She's probably just really busy. You know, fighting monsters and saving the world and stuff."

Lex didn't look reassured. He was still facing the spacecraft, but his eyes didn't look focused on it anymore.

"And you're busy a lot, too," Clark ventured. "Maybe she called back when you're at work or something. I think I've heard Dawn say that Buffy hates leaving messages; if she called when you were out, you probably just missed her."

Lex said, in a very small voice, "I even tried the apocalyptic pager number."

Clark's heart went out to his friend. He put as much reassurance as possible into saying, "I'm sure she's just busy. She'll definitely call."

Lex looked up at him and smiled ruefully. "I can't believe, with all your practice, that you're still such a bad liar."

***

Buffy hummed as she worked. Ever since Chad (the last male employee in the shoe department) had quit, Buffy got to be the moving-heavy-boxes-in-the-stockroom person. Lifting and stacking didn't really require her full attention, so she was entertaining herself by remembering a PBS fund-drive program about Judy Garland she'd once watched with her mom. In the memory Dawn was there, too, but Buffy was almost sure it had been just Buffy and Mom in real life.

"Sing alleluia, come on get happy, get ready for the Judgment Day...."

"You know, Buffy, she had a tragic life. She killed herself. Drug overdose."

"It's all so peaceful on the other side...."

Buffy suddenly realized someone had called her name twice already. She turned her head, put on a smile, and blinked at her supervisor. "I'm sorry, Lisa. What did you say?"

"I said there's somebody here to see you."

Buffy followed the older woman out of the stockroom. Lisa was still talking, and she seemed uncomfortable. "We're not busy right now. Take the rest of the afternoon off."

Hmm. Broad daylight, plenty of hidden weapons -- Buffy decided not to worry, much.

The man at the Service Counter reminded her of someone. His clothes and shoes were expensive and well made. He carried a handsome walking stick with a silver knob. For a man who had to be at least around sixty, his hair was totally ridiculous.

"Miss Summers. I'm Lionel Luthor."

Buffy silently shook her head a little. That wasn't it. He didn't remind her of Lex.

"Please come with me. I have something I wish to discuss with you."

Buffy let Lionel usher her out to the limousine illegally parked in the fire lane. He opened the door for her, and she got in and let him close it. "Never get in a car with a strange man" didn't apply to her anymore; she'd been in so many more dangerous places with stranger things.

Lionel sat next to her. He didn't seem nervous. "Miss Summers. May I call you Buffy?"

Buffy blinked at him. He didn't wait for permission before going on.

"Buffy, I'll be very blunt. I want you to stop seeing my son."

"Lex?"

"Yes, Lex, since he's the only one you know," Lionel answered impatiently. "I'm willing to make it worth your while."

Buffy frowned. She deliberately hadn't talked to Lex since the day at the beach. "What do you mean?" she asked.

"You will agree to leave my son, Lex, alone, and I will make an electronic transfer of funds to your bank account."

"Why?"

"My reasons are, of course, my own.

"I don't understand," she said.

Lionel's opinion of her intellect hadn't been very high to start with, and it had been visibly declining throughout the conversation. "I'm sure you're aware that I am a very powerful man, Buffy. I reward those who oblige me, and I punish those who attempt to defy me. Is that simple enough for you to understand?"

Buffy started to resent this guy. "I think you don't understand," she told him.

Buffy turned her full attention on Lionel Luthor and let her voice get hard. "There's basically two kinds of stuff. Some things are beautiful or wonderful or profitable and not the end of the world. That would be the 'You're a powerful man' variety. The rest is the small category of stuff where it actually is the end of the world. That's mine; it's what I care about, and it's not anything you can give me or take away from me."

"Your life could be made very unpleasant," Lionel threatened.

It had been a long time since Buffy had felt so much like laughing. "You're going to make my life unpleasant? What -- I'll never sell shoes or sling burgers in this town again?" She gave him the big, sunny, Buffybot smile. "Lionel -- I can call you Lionel? -- you don't even need a *pulse* to get my kind of job in Sunnydale."

"You're not the only person whose life could be made unpleasant," Lionel observed coolly. "You have a younger sister, I believe, studying physics at Metropolis University. Her scholarship could be rescinded. She could even be expelled."

"If Dawn can't stay at school on her own merits, maybe that's not where she should be. If you can have so much influence on the powers-that-be at that place, maybe it's not the place for her," Buffy argued.

"And worse things can happen to a young lady away from home for the first time in the big city than simple expulsion." Lionel sneered arrogantly at Buffy as he spoke, and there it was! He reminded her a little of the Master!

"You know, Lionel, I have a short and shrinking list of people and things that I'm going to have to messily disassemble should any physical harm ever come to my sister Dawn. Putting yourself on that list might not be the smartest thing you did today." Buffy tried the door, found it was locked, and opened it anyway. She gave Mr. Luthor the little smile, the "this arm's not broken" smile. "Bye."

Buffy left the car door open behind her.

***

Ring

"I've got it," Dawn shrieked. There were only two other girls in the third floor lounge. Neither one looked inclined to fight her for the dubious privilege of answering the phone and trundling down the hall to find the person it was for, or (more likely) to leave a note on her door.

"Lloyd House. Home of the Future of Interdimensional Transport."

"Dawn?"

"Buffy!" Dawn squealed. "I can't believe it; it's for me! No one ever calls me here."

"That's because your boyfriend always just drops in," sniped Cathy from the lounge's ratty green sofa.

Dawn ignored her. "So, Buff, what's up?"

"You're in a good mood."

"Uh huh! Stellar success in the lab," Dawn confided.

"Sorry to have to spoil it."

"That sounds bad."

Dawn could hear Buffy sigh over the line. "Lex's dad might get your scholarship pulled."

"What? Why?"

"It's a pressure thing to make me drop Lex."

"So Mr. Luthor doesn't know you're already not returning his calls."

"Huh?"

"Lex told Clark; Clark told me."

"Dawn! It's not that simple. You know... " Buffy audibly huffed out another exasperated breath. "Lionel Luthor also said he might get you expelled."

"Go on."

"And he's possibly hiring goons to attack you as we speak. Come home to the nice, cozy Hellmouth? Please?"

"Buffy! I'm not coming home. So this guy is evil?"

"Looks that way. Kinda reminded me of the Master, but with way better teeth."

"You gonna slay him?"

"Human. He's on The List, but it'll never happen if you're still around to worry about it."

Dawn squirmed around sideways in her armchair and thought hard. "Well, he's a big name here financially. He can probably get the scholarship revoked, but I've already paid all the coming year's tuition and fees out of it. I'll go over and pay the whole room-and-board right now, before the Housing Office closes for the day, and I'll see if any of the books I'm gonna need are already at the Bookstore. By the time he takes it, hopefully there won't be much left."

"What if he gets you expelled?"

"I'll just have to be careful about frame-ups -- like that's something new. Even if I get booted, most of the classes I really care about, the profs'll let me audit. If I'm lucky, next year I'll be ready for England anyhow."

"That still leaves physical mayhem."

"A comforting constant in an uncertain world."

"Dawn! I'm serious!"

"I know. Buffy, don't worry."

"Watch your back."

"Always. You too. And if you ever wanna talk about Lex...."

Buffy hung up.

***