WAITING ON A FRIEND by Lacadiva@aol.com

Rating: PG13 Category: Clark/Lex Friendship Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended. All props to Millar Gough Ink, and the WB powers that be. Spoilers: A few. Archive: I'd be honored. Just write me and let me know. Feedback: Love it. Send it. Pleeze. Summary: Evil Lex Luthor takes a trip to the past to remove his only obstacle to world domination - Clark Kent.

"They shoot from ambush at the innocent man; they shoot at
him suddenly, without fear." Psalm 64:4

Clark stood in the middle of the cornfield, waiting, his patience just beginning to wear thin, his curiosity quickly approaching tilt. The only light was from the nearly full moon, giving the field a milky bluish tint. Too dark for most people, but not for Clark.

He looked back at his house, not too far off in the distance. The windows were still dark. Good thing. A light on in his parents' room would mean they'd discovered their son's disappearance. Jonathan would certainly come looking for him. And then he'd have to explain why he was standing out in the middle of the cornfield at nearly two a.m., waiting on a friend.

"Come on, Lex," he whispered under his breath, watching the vapors billowing from his mouth as he spoke. The air was cold, but that wasn't what made Clark shiver just now. It was the call he had received from his friend shortly after midnight, requesting this rendezvous.

"I need to see you, Clark." Lex had been very insistent.

"Can't this wait until morning? My parents will-"

"It's a matter of life and death. Will you meet me or not?"

"Why can't you tell me over the phone?"

"I need to see your face when I tell you."

Clark had no idea why Lex was so insistent. Why couldn't he wait until morning? Why was he being so cryptic? Lex was famous for acting in secret, but with Clark, he was usually a little more open. Wasn't he?

Not only had Lex's secretiveness bothered Clark, but there was also something strange about his voice. It was different, but Clark couldn't put his finger on what the difference was. There was an underlying malice to his tone, a smugness and a certain anger that Clark could neither define nor decipher. What had he done to earn Lex's anger this time? Clark was sure that whatever it was, they could work it out. After all, they were friends.

Clark looked back at the house. No lights. He was safe. For now.

And then he heard a noise in the distance. He was no longer alone. Someone was in the cornfield, not very far away. Anyone else would never have heard this. Clark smiled and started heading in the direction of the sound.

"Lex?"

"Over here."

Clark followed the sound of his friend's voice. From the shadows of high- standing cornstalks, Lex appeared. He was dressed in all black, wearing black leather gloves. He smiled.

"Glad you could make it, Clark."

Clark gave his friend a close look. He allowed his eyes to penetrate Lex's skin and flesh to see inside - was this indeed Lex? His eyes found no internal inconsistencies. But it was Lex's face that was the give-way.

His smile created lines in his face that were not there before. Lex also appeared to have put on a few pounds - not a lot, but enough muscle to make Clark wonder how he'd beefed up so quickly since he saw his friend only a few days ago.

"What's going on, who are you?" Clark asked, hoping for an explanation, but knowing he was never going to get a straight one.

"Who am I? Clark, you wound me. Don't you recognize your best friend?"

"You look different. What happened?"

"Time."

"What do you want?"

"To see you. And to deliver a message."

"From who?"

"Not just who. From when."

"I don't understand."

"Of course you don't."

Lex laughed in a way Clark had seen him laugh before, but now there was something more menacing in it than he had remembered. It made Clark wary. He was hesitant to show Lex what he could do, but if push came to shove, he knew he could be out of harm's way in a blink of an eye. He'd just have to find a way to explain it all away later.

"You know," Lex continued, "to be imbued with such superior power, Clark, you seem to be cursed with a rather narrow, inferior mind. Your naiveté toward human kind is laughable. I offer you godhood, and you throw it back in my face. I offer you opportunity, and you opt for self-sacrifice and bleeding heart altruism. I offer you a partnership, and you settle for the suffering of the lone hero. What do you get for all that you do? You can't save the world, Clark. Although I know you won't stop trying. Which brings me to why we're here."

"Cut to the chase, Lex. What do you want?" Clark asked nervously.

"There was a time you were like a brother to me. The brother I always wanted. I used to imagine what it would have been like to grow up on the Kent farm. Be a part of your family. Martha in the kitchen making flapjacks, daddy Jonathan in the barn pitching hay. And you and me against the world. Inseparable. Closer than blood. It was a wonderful fantasy, one I tried to live out more times than I like to remember. But it's all over now. I'm through with sentimentality. That's a very dangerous condition, sentimentality. It makes you weak. It makes you foolish. I had to learn the hard way. But I know better now."

Lex pulled a gun from his inside coat pocket.

"Lex, what are you doing! Are you crazy? Put that away!" Clark cried, feigning fear.

Clark couldn't tell what kind of gun it was, but it didn't scare him. He'd been in the path of bullets before. He knew that they had no effect on him. Early on they left bruises that were, at worst, irritating. Now, he had become impervious to any pain or harm a bullet could cause. They ricocheted off of him like balled-up paper.

However, he didn't want Lex to know this.

Clark held up a hand, searching for words, hoping to buy some time and find a solution.

"Lex, you're talking about our friendship as if it's in the past. I'm your friend now, and no matter what I'll still be your friend tomorrow."

Lex smirked.

"As for being a part of my family, you are. How many times have my parents included you in family events -"

"AGAINST your father's better judgment," Lex added sardonically. "He always hated me, never trusted me. You know that."

"Lex, if I've done something, you need to tell me so I can fix it."

"I'm doing the fixing this time, Clark. But thanks for the offer."

Lex then pulled out a black tube that he screwed onto the barrel of the gun. A silencer.

"What are you doing?" Clark asked again.

"It hasn't dawned on you yet? I'm going to shoot you," he said, matter-of- factly.

"Why?"

"Because, old friend, you've become the proverbial thorn in my side. Everything I attempt to achieve, you snatch from me. To put it bluntly, you're in my way. And I can't stand to have anything in my way."

"Lex, this is crazy."

"Perhaps. But you've pissed me off for the last time, space boy."

How did he know?

"That's right, Clark. I know all about you. Your little space ship you kept in the barn. Your extraterrestrial origins. How you managed to cover your arrival with that glorious, splashy, meteor shower! Masterful stroke! And your super powers. What must it have been like to go all this time and not tell anybody? Not even your best friend. Wait until you find out you can fly."

"If you know what I can do, if you know what I'm capable of, then you also should know that bullets can't hurt me."

"Yes, I'm aware of that, Clark. But these are no ordinary bullets. Say goodbye."

Lex aimed and fired.

Clark watched as the bullet moved toward him. His eyes widened as he noticed that the bullet had a strange green tint to it.

Kryptonite.

Clark ducked. The bullet went flying, smashing into a standing ear of corn and exploding.

Clark felt himself beginning to weaken, just with that small contact with the green stuff. He turned back to Lex, ready to rush him and get the gun from him, but Lex had already fired again, and another bullet was heading his way. Reflexes dulled by the Kryptonite, Clark tried to duck the second projectile, but failed. It made contact.

It felt as if his left side was suddenly on fire. He never knew a bullet could hurt so badly. Is this what humans felt? Burning, searing agony. He could only watched as the bullet hit his side, ripping through his shirt, igniting and burning a hole in the garment. Then, his skin bursting, his blood exploding from the wound. Clark hit the ground hard. This pain was new to him - he had no reference for it. He panicked. This wasn't right.

This is how it felt to edge toward death.

He cried out in agony.

"Lex.!"

Lex looked up just as the light jumped on in the Kent's bedroom window. They'd be looking for the source of the sound that had shaken them from their sleep, and soon, they would wander out to the cornfield and find Clark.

Lex unscrewed the silencer and slipped it and the gun back into his leather coat pocket. He smiled, squatting down to get a closer look at Clark.

"I was aiming for the heart, but I'm not even sure where it is, or if you even have one, in the physical sense, of course. No need to worry about my misfire - the Kryptonite along with a little dose of nano-technology will do the rest of the job. It'll just take a little longer, be a little more painful. No hard feelings, huh, Clark? I'm actually doing you a favor. Your life won't be your own. Whipping from one part of the planet to the next, people constantly begging, pleading with you to save this person, that person. Never any time for yourself. By the way, if you want to know what becomes of Lana Lang, I can tell you. It's not a pretty story."

"CLARK!"

Lex stood and looked toward the house. There was Jonathan on the porch. He had to get going. He squatted down again, just to get one last look at Clark's suffering.

"This isn't as easy for me as it seems, Clark. I do feel something. I'm just not sure what it is. I also know that for a long time, you were the most important person in my life. I hope that means something to you. Your death now is just a method of clearing away an inconvenience to me. In the future, Clark, you and I will no longer be friends. We'll be quite the opposite. And you will pose a threat to me I cannot afford. Your death is necessary. I wish there was another way. I will mourn you Clark, believe me. But I cannot let you live."

Lex reached out and brushed dark hair away from Clark's forehead. Clark cried out in agony.

"I'm sorry, Clark. I really am. I'm sorry it had to happen this way."

Lex headed off into the sea of corn, and disappeared.

"Son!"

Jonathan stood out on the porch, searching through the dark for signs, movement, anything that might tell him where Clark had wandered.

"Anything?" Martha asked, stepping out on the porch to join him. She clutched her robe tightly around her throat to ward off the evening chill.

"Nope, not yet. I'm gonna take a look out in the barn. Maybe he fell asleep. If he's not there, I'll take a stroll out to the cornfield."

"I'll go with you."

"No. You wait here in case he shows up."

Jonathan headed down the steps, determined to find his son.

* * *

There was no sign of him in the barn, or in his favorite spot - the loft. His telescope sat in its normal spot, lens aimed somewhere in the proximity of Lana Lang's house. Jonathan smiled. His son was hopelessly smitten.

He checked the area around the barn, then made his way to the cornfield.

After a few minutes of pushing his way through stubborn stalks, feeling the tickling, crawling sensation of freshly spun spider webs collecting on his face, Jonathan was close to giving up. They'd just have to wait up and then nail Clark for running off in the middle of the night whenever he returned. On a school night, no less. And maybe he'd have an explanation for why his mother woke up claiming to have heard gunfire and -

"Clark!"

Jonathan raced to his son's side and knelt down.

"Clark, what happened?"

Jonathan had only seen Clark this weak from meteor rock exposure. But this was worse. Clark wasn't just weak, he was in pain. He'd never seen his son this way before.

He tried to lift his son into his arms. Clark grunted loudly and pulled away.

"Clark, let me look at you. Let me - "

Jonathan saw that Clark was clutching his side. He moved Clark's hand away saw the blood. Just as red as human blood. Flowing just as freely.

"Oh, God, son."

"Lex," Clark managed, shivering in his father's arms.

"Lex? Did he do this to you, son? Did Lex shoot you?"

"Lex."

Jonathan didn't know what to do first: tend to his son, or hunt down Lex Luthor and blow his brains out for doing this to Clark.

Then it occurred to him - how had Lex managed to hurt Clark? Bullets, speeding buses, lightning, funnel clouds - nothing fazed him. He'd even turned a shotgun on Clark himself and fired - not that he knew what he was doing. Jonathan wasn't himself at the time, but under the horrid influence of mutated spores. And when the shotgun went off, blasting Clark in the chest, the only effect his son had suffered was surprise.

Jonathan lifted his son into his arms and carried him back to the house.

The first task would be explaining to Martha what he believed had happened. Second, the two of them would do whatever it took to keep their Clark alive and tell no one what had happened (though he shuddered to think what would happen if they had to bring a doctor or the authorities into this). Third, he owed a visit to the Luthor estate. Armed. Jonathan made a vow that if the junior Luthor had indeed pulled the trigger, he would not live to see the sunrise.

* * *

Lex could not sleep. He had the oddest sensation; a feeling running through him that left him off kilter, cold and shuddering. As if someone had died. Or walked over his own grave.

He'd felt it first around midnight, while shooting a game of pool to shake off the day. He'd been in meetings since the early morning, one after the other, and spent the rest of his time avoiding persistent phone calls from the senior Luthor.

He took a sip from a glass half filled with a very expensive scotch, then bent over the table to take a shot - eight ball, corner pocket. And then it hit him, that odd feeling that something somewhere was wrong. Out of place. Out of balance. He'd nearly fallen to the floor, but held on to the pool table to keep on his feet. He attributed it to the scotch and vowed to cut back at some point in the near future.

Lex tossed the cue stick on the table and headed for his bedroom.

Once he'd crawled under the cool sheets, he started feeling better. He lay in the dark for what seemed an eternity, hoping sleep would come. But it would elude him for a few more hours.

Around two he rose, hoping a glass of water would help him regain his equilibrium. The moment he stepped into the bathroom, the odd, out of place feeling hit him again. He held onto the sink, breathing deeply, hoping it would pass, fearing it wouldn't. He imagined every horrific scenario he could dig out of his psyche - reaction to chemicals from any given Luthorcorp plant; a stroke, despite his youth and excellent health; food poisoning, and not the kind you get when you eat food left too long out of refrigeration, but the kind that kills (strychnine or arsenic added to his dinner by a former employee with a grudge?). After a few moments, the feeling passed, just as it had before, but this time, it left him with a strange sensation in his gut that something was not as it should have been.

And there was an inexplicable, overwhelming need to see Clark.

* * *

He'd dressed quickly, grabbed one of a dozen black leather long coats and snatched up the keys to the blue Porsche. Lex opened the door and was startled to find someone standing on the other side of it.

"Doctor Turner! "What are you doing here?"

"I need to speak with you, Mr. Luthor. It's quite urgent."

"It will have to wait until morning. I'm on my way -"

A trembling hand reached out to stop Lex. Moonlight revealed the face of a man who was either quite terrified or quite mad.

"Please," Dr. Turner begged, "I only need a few moments of your time. It is of the greatest urgency, and in your best interest to hear me out."

Lex stepped back and allowed the anxiety-ridden doctor to enter his home.

* * *

Lex handed Turner a glass of scotch, which he accepted without a word and drank down in one audible gulp. He gave the glass back to Lex and looked his young employer in the eyes.

"I have not been completely honest with you, Mr. Luthor."

"Go on."

Dr. Turner began pacing, rubbing his well-manicured hands together vigorously.

"It's not what you think. The nano-tech project is on time, as promised. Research is going well. We expect a breakthrough within the next two to three years, just as promised in my original proposal to you."

"Then what's the problem, doctor?"

He stopped pacing.

"I have a side project, a pet project, that I have been developing alongside the - "

"And who has been funding this pet project?"

"Ah. you have, Mr. Luthor. I believe they call it creative accounting."

"I believe I call it stealing. Give me one good reason why I shouldn't shut your laboratory down and fire you right now."

"It will be in your greatest interest to allow me to continue my work, Mr. Luthor. Because even though the TD theory doesn't work now, it will."

He reached inside his jacket pocket and pulled out a crumpled computer print out.

"The confirmation is here."

Lex looked at the page filled with ones and zeroes.

"What am I supposed to make of this? And what is this TD theory you referred to?"

"TD.Time displacement. Or, if you're a fan of H.G. Welles, time travel."

Lex smiled. His first instinct was not to believe. Nonsense. Cart this man off to the loony bin. But he saw something in the doctor's eyes that told him the doctor believed it, with all his heart. Besides, stranger things have happened, right here in Smallville. He'd humor the doctor a little longer.

"Show me."

* * *

"How is he?"

Martha looked up at her husband with eyes red and swollen with tears.

"Not good. Jonathan, what if he.what if he dies?"

"He won't. He's strong."

"The bleeding has slowed," she said, dropping the bloody towels into plastic trash bags, "but it hasn't fully stopped. What if he bleeds to death? How could this have happened? I don't understand."

She put a hand on Clark's sweaty forehead.

"He's got a fever. He's never had a fever before. He's never been sick, never been injured, never been in pain. Not like this. I don't think I can stand seeing him this way."

Jonathan bent down and wrapped his arms around his wife, allowing her to cry against him.

"He won't die," said Jonathan, but even he didn't fully believe it.

"Who would do this to him?"

Clark stirred and shuddered in his delirium.

"When I found him," Jonathan said, "he kept muttering Lex."

"You don't think.?"

"I do. And I'm on my way to see him and settle this now."

Martha stood and held her husband's arms, hoping she could stop him.

"Just because he mentioned Lex's name, doesn't mean Lex is responsible."

"I intend to find out."

"No, Jonathan! You can't go marching over there, not while you're this angry! You'll wind up behind bars! Besides, if you're arrested, what will you tell the sheriff? You can't tell him that our son's been shot! We can't take him to a hospital, we can't do anything accept be here for him. He needs us both. Please, don't go see the Luthors. Not yet. If Clark pulls through, and he says Lex is responsible, I'll not only go with you, I'll hit him first. Please."

Jonathan gently shrugged his wife's hands away, still determined to go exact justice on the Luthors. But everything Martha said was undeniably true. He took a deep breath, then pulled his wife to him.

"You win," he said. "I'll wait."

Clark moaned again. Both bent down to check him, to help him.

"Lex." Clark managed. "Lex isn't Lex.. He isn't."

"What does he mean? Lex isn't Lex?" Martha asked.

"Your guess is as good as mine."

* * *

Lex stepped into the lab and was surprised. He knew he had practically given Turner unlimited funding and resources, but the equipment working in this room redefined state-of-the-art.

"So," Lex said, a skeptical smile playing at his lips, "let's see this time machine."

"You're looking at it."

Lex looked around. Nothing but computers and video equipment.

"Help me out, Doc."

Turner became very animated, bouncing all over the lab as he explained. Lex was not so much interested in the science of it, but in only in the outcome.

"The common mistake," Turner said excitedly, "is believing that in order achieve time travel, some form of vehicle must be used. In the movies, yes. But in reality, not so."

"Obviously," Lex said, looking around the room again.

"What law governs everything in nature?"

"Mathematics?"

"Yes!" Turner was happy to have someone understand, even on this small level.

"Which means that time travel is merely a proof waiting for a solution."

"You've solved the proof?"

"Not yet. But I will."

"And, we're excited because.?"

Turner pulled out the crumpled printout again.

"According to this data, at two intervals tonight, the computer indicated a tiny fluctuation in the space/time continuum. Unfortunately, this equipment needs to be update in order to precisely pinpoint times and exact location, and to interpret and abstract the data."

"What were the times?"

Lex braced himself for the answer.

"According to the data, keeping in mind that the accuracy is questionable, the first fluctuation occurred somewhere between eleven p.m. and midnight. The second, shortly before or after two a.m. I'm afraid I cannot be more precise. As soon as it happened I came to see you."

Lex went pale, felt hit by the same off-kilter sensation that drove him from his bed earlier. The one that made him anxious to see Clark. Could this be related?

"Why did you come to see me?"

"Oh, yes.well.I wanted to confess my pet project and ask you for additional funding - over the table of course. I thought that if you were made aware of the results that you'd see the value of -"

"Before I sign on the dotted line, let me make sure I understand this. Your project, as of right now, in this time, is not yet functional. Yet you've received confirmation that in the future, it will be."

"Accurately, though inelegantly put. The proof will be solved - with the right hard and soft-ware - and time travel will be a possibility."

"When?"

"That, I'm afraid, I can't answer yet. But could Luthorcorp, at some point in the near future, benefit from the ability to master the space/time continuum? Imagine being able to have your answers before you've even begun to contemplate the question."

"Luthorcorp would find that valuable. But as of right now, you no longer work for Luthorcorp. You work for me. Have you told anyone else about your breakthrough?"

"No one but you, sir."

"Good. Keep it that way. You'll have all the funding you require, so long as you develop this for my use and mine alone. I'm not breaking some moral code of yours, am I doctor?"

"How can you break something I don't have?"

Lex smiled. "Good. I want this entire lab moved to secreted place. I'll have my people take care of it immediately."

"Thank you, sir! You don't know what this means."

"I think I do, doc. I think I do."

* * *

By sunrise, Clark was still semi-conscious, still delirious. Martha sat by his side, keeping a cool cloth on Clark's forehead, hoping to bring the fever down.

She heard the truck engine start. She stood up and leaned toward to the window to peer through the curtain.

Jonathan was pulling away, kicking up dust behind him. She knew where he was going. She could only pray that he'd come back home, and that the next vehicle on their property would not be a sheriff's unit come to take her husband away.

"Mom."

Martha sat back down and covered her son's hands with her own.

"Clark?"

"Mom.what happened?"

"You're hurt."

"I mean, how did it hurt me?"

"We don't know. We think it may have something to do with meteor rocks. Honey, was it Lex who shot you?"

Clark swallowed hard, shuddered from pain, sucked breath in through clenched teeth.

"It was Lex, but not our Lex."

"I don't understand. You said that in your fever dream last night. You said Lex, but not Lex."

"It looked like him. But I don't think it was."

"Why would someone pretend to be Lex Luthor?"

"I don't think that's what happened. Mom, where's dad?"

She swallowed, looked back up to the window.

"He left."

"Where did he go?"

"I think he may have gone to see Lex."

Clark threw back the covers weakly and tried to get out of bed.

"I've got to stop him."

"Clark!"

Martha reached to hold him back, but she didn't have to. He was far too weak to rise, and the pain from the wound caused him to double over.

"Mom.am I gonna die?"

"No Clark, you're not going to die. Just rest. You'll be fine."

Martha hoped she was telling her son the truth.

* * *

Jonathan stood at the door the to Luthor estate. He wanted so much to bring his shotgun with him, but he knew that in his current state, it wouldn't be wise. He also knew that he would not have made it very far on the property if there were security guards snooping around.

He was surprised that Lex answered the door himself.

"Just the one I wanted to see."

"Mr. Kent? Is everything all right? Is something wrong with Clark?"

Jonathan pushed Lex hard.

Lex landed hard on his rear. Despite the humiliation, he stayed on the floor as Jonathan entered and closed the door behind him.

"What am I supposed to have done this time?"

"I am so sick of you Luthors. You ruin everything you touch and everyone you come into contact with. You're a disease, insinuating yourselves into peoples' lives just so you can destroy them. You get some sick pleasure out of that? You think you're immune to the law, that you can do whatever you like because you can pay for it? You're not going to pay your way out of this one, Lex. If my son dies because of you."

Lex stood now.

"What's wrong with Clark?"

"Don't play innocent."

Jonathan hauled back -

"No, Mr. Kent!"

- and punched Lex across the jaw. Lex hit the floor again, this time sliding on the high-polished marble.

Jonathan shook out his sore hand.

"Get up. I'm not done with you yet."

"Look, Kent," Lex said, rubbing his jaw, "I don't have any idea what you're talking about. If something's wrong with Clark, I want to know."

"Why? Trying to keep track of all the damage you've done?"

"No! Clark is my friend."

"So why did you shoot him?"

"Shoot him?"

Lex sat stunned for a moment. He only had one true friend his entire life. He couldn't lose him.

He remembered the odd sensation from the night before, and the urge to see Clark.

"I didn't shoot your son, Mr. Kent. I know you don't believe me. But if someone's done something to hurt him, I will use every resource at my disposal to find the person who did it."

"How many times have I heard that?"

Lex rose on shaky legs, hoping to avoid another punch.

"Mr. Kent, I can't prove anything. All I can do is beg you to believe me."

"Beg."

"What?"

"Go on, beg. Beg me to believe you."

Lex closed his eyes. Yet another humiliation. He hoped that none of the staff was nearby to see or hear this.

"Please."

Jonathan saw something in Lex's eyes he'd never seen before. It made him feel uncomfortable and instantly began chipping away at his anger.

He saw sincerity.

"When did it happen?"

"Sometime last night," Jonathan answered.

"What time?"

"Sometime after two a.m. Why?"

Lex felt dizzy.

"May I see Clark?"

Jonathan wanted to say no. But inexplicably, he could not.

* * *

Lex stood looking down at his best and only friend, and the sight of him made Lex trembling. Clark was pale, weak, in terrible shape. His breathing was ragged, labored.

"Mrs. Kent," he said, barely able to find his voice, "why won't you take Clark to a hospital? He's dying."

Before Martha could answer, Jonathan stepped in.

"We have our reasons."

"Let me at least call Helen, she's a doctor, she knows Clark."

"No," Jonathan said adamantly. "We can take care of our son. If you can't deal with that, leave."

Lex immediately gave up, and sat down by the bed.

Martha urged Jonathan out of the room, to give the two friends some time together.

Clark opened his eyes. There was fear.

"Lex."

"Clark? What happened?"

"Why'd you do it?"

"Do what Clark?"

"Shoot me."

Lex shifted uncomfortably in his seat.

"I didn't shoot you, Clark."

"You did."

"Clark."

"Not you. The future you. The you you will become."

"Clark, you're delirious."

"No, I'm not. You said in the future, we would no longer be friends, that we'd be the opposite. And that I was an obstacle. I had to be removed. And then you shot me."

Martha returned with a fresh cool cloth and placed in gently on her son's head.

"He's been delirious all night," she said. "Talking about you not being who you are."

"Clark," Lex said, leaning closer to the bed. "What else did I say?"

"Not you."

"The other me. What else did the other Lex say?"

"I'm. . .tired."

"One more question, Clark. How did you know it wasn't me?"

"You were older."

"Older?"

"Mom."

"I'm here."

"Where's dad?"

"He's just outside. I'll get him."

Martha began to tremble.

"Jonathan!"

Lex felt tears beginning to burn his eyes.

"What's happened? Mrs. Kent?"

Tears were streaming down her face.

"He's dying, Lex, and he knows."

Jonathan raced back into the room, in time to see his son's eyes flutter and close.

Clark fell into unconsciousness. His breath began to slow. Martha touched his cheek.

"He's so cold."

Lex rose. It all made sense now. The odd sensations. The Doctor's late night visit.

Time travel.

What had he done? (Don't die, Clark.) Or, more to the point, what was he going to do? (You can't die.) What did the future Lex know that this Lex did not, that would cause him to do this? (I won't let this happen.)

He was going to find out. He turned and ran out of Clark's room.

* * *

"Doctor Turner!"

Turner peeked out from behind a mountain of paperwork and found Lex heading in his direction. Lex's face was strained, pale, and something akin to madness flashed in his eyes.

"The new lab is shaping up, as you can see," said the Doctor. "The new computers arrive tomorrow, thanks to your generosity. I should be fully operational in the next seventy-two hours or so," he said congenially.

"I need you to be fully operational now."

"That's impossible."

"That's not what I like to hear."

"Mr. Luther, this is extremely delicate work."

"And if the cash flow ceases, what will happen to all that delicate work?"

Turner took a moment to consider, then smiled.

"How can I help you, Mr. Luthor?"

* * *

"I want you to take me to that exact moment, exactly as I've explained it."

"I'm not sure I can!" the doctor protested.

"Listen to me, Lex shouted, "You will find a way to make this happen. The fluctuations your computer picked up last night were from me. Me, traveling from the future to this time, to shoot my best friend. I want to know why I did it, and I want you to help me get there."

"But the equipment I have."

"Was sophisticated enough to detect the fluctuations. You make it work, Doctor. Or I'll be speaking with authorities about another little side project of yours, during your R&D stint with the government."

Turner went pale. He tried to speak, but nothing came out.

"You didn't think I knew about your diddling around with a few biological weapons? That would be treason, Doc. Nobody would be able to understand or sympathize, considering the current climate of fear. They'd lock you away forever. Now, about those equations.shall we get to work? I want you to take me back to last night, just before two, just before the moment I arrived. I want to understand what possible reason I would have for killing Clark Kent."

Dr. Turner rubbed his sweating face, searching for a way to circumvent his employer's radical demand.

"Mr. Luthor, I implore you. Don't force me to do this now. I can solve the equation, and perhaps make it possible to send you back, but I have no way of tracking you or interpreting the data! Not yet! I can't guarantee you'll arrive precisely when you want to. I can't guarantee you'll be able to accomplish your task, and even more, I can't guarantee I can get you back to now if you're even successful with the first two. There are too many variables and too many unanswered questions."

"The Lex Luthor of the future was able to come here. It stands to reason that I should be able to do the same."

"Therein lies the next problem. You cannot occupy the same time as your future self."

"Why not?"

"It would be a disruption of the space/time continuum of the worst kind. If you run into your future self, I cannot begin to imagine what catastrophes you could trigger. It could be anything from the extinction of a common insect to the end of life as we know it."

"If I can save my friend and extinguish the cockroach all at the same time, I'd be doing mankind some good. Look, doctor, my only friend is going to die unless you can take me back."

"What if you get there and discover you cannot change anything?"

Lex moved quickly to the computer, determined to find the answer on his own if he had to.

"How close can you get me to my future self without risking the present?"

Turner tapped out a few keys on the computer with trembling fingers.

"Not very. The act of you discovering yourself could also have negative psychological effects."

"I'm will to take that chance."

* * *

Clark stood in the middle of the cornfield, waiting, his patience just beginning to wear thin, his curiosity quickly approaching tilt. The only light was from the nearly full moon, giving the field a milky bluish tint. Too dark for most people, but not for Clark.

He looked back at his house, not too far off in the distance. The windows were still dark. Good thing. A light on in his parents' room would mean they'd discovered their son's disappearance. Jonathan would certainly to come looking for him. And then he'd have to explain why he was standing out in the middle of the cornfield at nearly two a.m., waiting on a friend.

"Come on, Lex," he whispered under his breath, watching the vapors billowing from his mouth as he spoke.

.And then he heard a noise in the distance. He was no longer alone. Someone was in the cornfield, not very far away.

* * *

Lex lay in the dark for what seemed an eternity, hoping sleep would come. But it would elude him for a few more hours.

Around two he rose, hoping a glass of water would help him regain his equilibrium. The moment he stepped into the bathroom, the odd, out of place feeling hit him again. He held onto the sink, breathing deeply, hoping it would pass, fearing it wouldn't.. After a few moments, the feeling passed, just as it had before, but this time, it left him with a strange sensation in his gut that something was not as it should have been.

And there was an inexplicable, overwhelming need to see Clark.

He'd dressed quickly, grabbed one of a dozen black leather long coats and snatched up the keys to the blue Porsche. Lex opened the door and was startled to find someone standing on the other side of it.

"Doctor Turner! "What are you doing here?"

"I need to speak with you, Mr. Luthor. It's quite urgent."

"It will have to wait until morning. I'm on my way to see a friend."

Lex pushed past the doctor, leaving him flustered and angry. He would deal with him later. Much later.

"Fine," the doctor whispered under his breath, anger surging up like a wave. "I'll just take my break-through discovery to your father. He'll listen."

* * *

The Lex of the future climbed out of his black BMW, checked the gun in his pocket, determined to carry out his plan. When he heard a familiar sound, he froze. An engine. From a Porsche. His Porsche. From over a decade ago. He was about to create a cataclysmic event, a paradox, a schism in the space/time continuum. As interesting as it would be to see what would happened to world, Lex Luthor could not afford to have something like this disrupt his plans. There'd be plenty of time. He practically owned time now.

He climbed back into his BMW and rode off. Back to the Metropolis of the future.

* * *

"Clark, what are you doing hanging out in a cornfield in the middle of the night?"

"Waiting on you."

"Why?"

"You called me, don't you remember?"

"I did?"

Lex shoved his hands into his pockets and approached his friend.

"This has been a very strange night, Clark."

"Tell me about it."

"I've been having this odd sensation all night. Like."

"Someone was walking over your grave?"

"Yeah. That's exactly how I would've described it. Whatever it was, it's gone now. I thought I'd check on you, see how you were doing."

"I'm fine. See? Perfectly fit."

"Good."

* * *

They sat in the barn, talking for a short while, working through whatever fear or sensation had brought them together.

Clark stood, tossing a piece of hay to the floor.

"I should get inside, before my dad comes looking for me."

"Yeah, I gotta get home. You sure you're okay?"

"Yeah. You?"

"Yeah," Lex said, not quite sure. "I feel like there's something I'm forgetting. Like there was something I was supposed to do, something I should say. Something in the back of my mind. Like a dream I can't recall."

"I had a strange dream," he confessed.

"Please don't tell me I was in it."

"You were."

"Clark, get a girlfriend."

"We were fighting."

"Fighting? Us? Hm. Who was winning?"

"Neither one of us."

"That sucks. Look, Clark, it was probably some weird anxiety getting worked out, or proof you shouldn't eat after midnight. I wouldn't put too much stock in dreams."

"Yeah, you're right."

"Besides, look at all the fights and misunderstandings we've had, and we're still friends."

Clark smiled, remembering something Lex had said to him perhaps a year ago.

"Yeah. Our friendship will the stuff legends are made of."

"Yeah. Brothers," Lex added with a smile.

They touched fists, then Clark walked Lex back to his car.

"'Course, if you ever cross me on the business front, it's every man for himself."

Clark raised his hands in surrender.

"I don't think you'll have to worry about that. I'm just a simple farm boy."

"That's what I like about you Clark. No delusions. No pretense. Just pure honesty. Don't ever change, huh? You're my conscience."

Lex drove off, into the night.

"Son?"

"Dad!"

"What are you doing out here so late?"

"Just waiting on a friend?"

"That friend being Lex?"

"He's gone now."

"Good."

Jonathan put his arm around his son's shoulder and together they walked up the steps into the house, out of the night.

THE END

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