One moment, Lex and Dawn were standing in total darkness, among the remains of Dawn's Inter-Dimensional Transport Device and a whole heck of a lot of hot hardware, staring at the spot in the blackness where Clark, Buffy, and Cara had disappeared. The next moment, the lights were back on, Dawn's gear was neatly stowed away against the walls, and the air was not full of the scents of ozone and burnt insulation.

"They must have succeeded," Lex guessed.

Dawn looked worried. "I hope so."

Almost an hour went by. Neither of them could bear to leave the room, or to stop watching for Buffy, Cara, and Clark to return. They didn't talk much. Once Dawn said, "I wish they'd hurry." Lex agreed with her, but he didn't say anything.

Finally there was a brilliant flash of green light.

"Oh, thank God!" Dawn exclaimed. She grabbed Clark and kissed him. He barely had time to set Buffy and Cara down first.

Lex just stared at Buffy, drinking his fill of the sight of her. She'd lost her shirt somewhere and the sports bra she was wearing as a top revealed all the heartbreaking elegant sharpness of her bones. He wished he could keep her safe, but he knew that wasn't an option, would never be an option. Tenderness for her welled up painfully in his heart. He loved the Slayer. He almost wished he didn't.

Then Lex noticed Cara. The child was raggedly dressed in Buffy's shirt, and she was bald!

"Are all of you okay?" Lex asked, but his eyes were fixed on Cara.

Clark's mouth was busy; Buffy just smiled at him. Cara said, "The monster guys burnt my clothes and my hair off! Buffy says it'll grow back."

"I'm sure she's right."

Cara came closer, and Lex found himself patting her on the head. The skin was unbelievably warm and soft, and he remembered what she'd been like as a baby, the only one he'd ever touched or held since Julian.

Cara looked determined. "I'd be okay even if it doesn't," she said.

"So," Stonetree asked, quaffing coffee from a cup that looked almost like a thimble in his massive hand, "what're you gonna do next? Now that the world's been saved."

Mulder didn't think he looked quite as out-of-place in the five-star hotel's dining room as Stonetree did. The good meal and the solid day's sleep he'd gotten at LuthorCorp expense had done him good, not to mention the incomprehensible relief of having, against all odds, actually thwarted the plot that would have ended the world.

"I need to go to Montana. My partner's there, and our son." It felt incredibly strange to say that out loud. "My partner and our son," he repeated softly.

Stonetree smiled at him. "You wanna ride? I haven't been to Montana for a long time."

Mulder smiled back. It felt like years since he had last smiled. "That'd be great, Chief. I think you and Dana would like each other. Let's start in the morning, huh?"

The fireworks would be starting soon, and just because they'd saved the world twice (once that nobody but the five of them would ever remember) was no reason to miss them. Clark took Cara back home first, to get cleaned up and changed. His parents were there, and he couldn't believe how glad he was to see them. It wasn't only because then they could be the ones to deal with his little sister, either.

"Cara Jennifer Kent!" Mom greeted them. "What did you to your hair? And your clothes?"

Cara started to explain, at great length, and Mom took her away, still talking, to give her a bath. "Don't be mad at her!" Clark called after them as they left. "Everything she's saying is true."

He quickly washed his hands and face in the kitchen. The light in the living room was on, so he went in. Dad was there.

"What, was Cara playing at being a Luthor?" Dad asked, looking up from the Daily Planet. Its headline was "Superman Stops Alien Invasion, Saves President." (Due to the alien takeover of all electronic media -- which had taken hours to clear up after the aliens themselves were defeated -- and to Perry White's lobby display of antique mechanical printing presses, the Planet had scooped every news organization on Earth with that story.)

"No, there were a few aliens we missed, and we had to go after them. She sort of stowed away. One of 'em blasted her with one of those heat-ray things. Guess it's a good thing she's like me," Clark said. He wasn't exactly lying. He, Lex, Buffy and Dawn had talked it over before he'd run Cara back home. They all had two sets of memories, and this story was fairly consistent with one of them.

Judging from Dad's reaction, it sounded perfectly plausible to him. "Clark, you shouldn't let your baby sister get into that kind of trouble."

"I know. I'll try harder to keep her out of it next time."

"Next time," Jonathan sighed. Clark didn't say anything. "So. You kids heading back over to the Fair to see the fireworks?"

"That's the plan. I thought maybe I'd, you know, fly, and you and Mom could take Cara? Lex is giving Dawn and Buffy a ride, and I said I'd catch up with them."

"I'm not sure whether we'll be going or not, but you young people have a nice time." Jonathan put the paper down and looked at Clark squarely. "You did a good job, son. I'm proud of you."

Clark beamed. "Thanks, Dad."

It was a beautiful night. It almost took his breath away to think that it might have been the last one ever, for the human race. Clark did not want to think about what the world would have been like for him, if Dawn's crazy plan had failed. He so owed her for this.

Clark landed outside the Fairgrounds and walked in. All his old schoolmates who still lived in Smallville, and quite a few of the ones who had gotten jobs or colleges or spouses out of town, were there. It was nice to see them again. Even the ones who'd mostly ignored him in high school said Hi. Nobody knew about the second disaster they'd averted, but everybody knew about the alien ship in Metropolis, and he guessed life was just a little sweeter for all of them because of it tonight.

It didn't take long to find Lex and the girls. Buffy was wearing one of Lex's shirts, a silky gray one with buttons; she had the sleeves rolled up, and it really suited her.

Dawn immediately glommed onto Clark's arm and didn't seem to want to let go. That was fine with him. He didn't much want to let go of her either. "Where's the best place to view the fireworks?" Dawn asked.

"There's a big field over there, that people spread out blankets and stuff. Do you want to go now? Try and get a good spot?"

The girls did, and Lex didn't seem to mind one way or the other, so they made their way over to the field, along with the rest of the crowd. Lex had actually brought a blanket, one that didn't even look like it would be some sort of a crime to spread it out on the midsummer grass and lie on it, so they did.

Dawn snuggled up against him. It felt wonderful. All the other couples around them on the grass, even Lex and Buffy, were just far enough away to ignore them if you really wanted to, and Clark really wanted to.

The fireworks were nice, nothing they hadn't all seen before, but everybody oohed and aahed in the right places. Clark had been to these displays every year since he was little. He remembered watching them warily from Mom's lap, and with half his attention while tearing around in the warm summer darkness with Pete, and glumly sitting alone envying poor Whitney Fordman with all his heart. He'd changed so much, but the fireworks were always the same. When he thought how close they'd come to there never being any more fireworks, or anything, ever again, he got a lump in his throat.

Dawn turned in his arms and looked up at him. "Clark? You okay?"

He nodded. "Thanks to you."

After a moment, Dawn said, "You know that thing I said I'd explain after the world didn't end? About the magic?"

Clark shushed her and kissed her hair. "You don't have to tell me anything. It's okay. I trust you."

Rural amusements, Lex thought tolerantly. It had been a long couple of days, and he was tired.

Tomorrow he'd have to get back to the business. He'd been neglecting it. Of course, there wouldn't have even been a tomorrow if he hadn't, so he supposed it had been a necessary evil.

Tired as Lex was, he suspected he'd have trouble falling asleep. He needed some scotch, and a woman in his bed. It had literally been months. There just hadn't been anyone interesting enough to try to pick up, not since the first time he'd seen Buffy.

He really liked the way she looked in his shirt. And the way she felt, lying next to him, watching the fireworks, brushing against him just at the shoulder and the hip.

Lex rolled up onto one arm so he could look her in the face. She smiled at him. "What?" she asked.

"You're beautiful."

"Thanks. You, too." He just kept looking at her, and she laughed at him a little. "Anything else?"

I love you, he thought. He didn't say it yet. "Come back to the mansion with me? Stay the night?"

Buffy smiled at him more broadly. "Thought you'd never ask."

Lex kissed her.