Glimpse of the Future








Lex Luthor stood staring out the window on the west side of the nursing home, tension radiating off him, easy to see from the strained set of his shoulders and the stiff line of his back. He was shrouded in shadows despite the late afternoon sun streaming through the window. The common sounds of the residents going about their day, and the staff entering and leaving Cassandra Carver's room behind them, seemed to fade as Clark Kent approached his friend.

"Lex," Clark queried quietly so as not to startle the other man. He failed. Lex whipped around, a tight expression on his face and a bright sheen to his eyes.

"Clark." Lex dropped his chin and pinched the bridge of his nose. "God, Clark, I don't... your friend, Cassandra, she's..."

"I know," Clark said. What he didn't know was, why Lex was upset? Clark didn't think Lex knew anyone at the nursing home. He curved a hand over Lex's shoulder. "Are you okay?"

Before Clark's eyes, Lex discarded his emotions like a snake sheds its skin, leaving a calm, cool, and collected man standing in the hall. He shook off Clark's touch. "I'm fine," he said tonelessly. His eyes, though, were haunted as they briefly met the teen's. "Goodbye, Clark."

The finality behind the words didn't sink in until Lex had left. A knot formed in Clark's stomach, and he was debating on going after the other man when one of the staff nurses approached. She was the same nurse who'd been in Cassandra's room when Clark had arrived.

"Sir," she said. She held out her hand, and a silver cufflink winked in the sunlight coming in the window. "Is this your cufflink?"

"No." Clark looked at the cufflink, glanced back at Cassandra's room, then looked in the direction Lex had gone. The sick feeling in his stomach intensified. "But I know who it belongs to."

***

It hadn't taken long for Clark to speed through the area and locate Lex. He was flying down County Road 150 West, one of the back roads that led to the Luthor estate. Clark kept pace with the Porsche convertible, running through the rows of soon-to-be harvested corn and hopping fences between properties at ninety miles per hour. He caused panic among the Kowalski's cow herd as he vaulted several heads when crossing the farmer's property. Clark wasn't positive the other man was going home, so he didn't run ahead and simply wait at the manor for Lex to arrive.

Clark had pieced together a few clues and had come to the conclusion that Lex had gone to visit Cassandra to have her glimpse his future despite his insistence that he made his own destiny. Cassandra had explained to Clark that the future she predicted was only a guidepost, a possibility to be changed or allow to occur. After Clark's talk with Lex about the car -- about leaving the past behind and questioning, instead, the direction of the future -- Clark wasn't too surprised by the fact that Lex had visited Cassandra.

But what had she told Lex? What could have caused that haunted look in his eyes? Or had Cassandra passed away before she could do a reading and he was upset about that? Or what if she had died soon after the reading, while he was still in the room?

Clark's stomach dropped. The last possibility was most feasible, and he was glad he'd gone after Lex. Clark knew the horrible feeling of witnessing someone's death and, although he hadn't wanted to talk afterwards, he'd greatly appreciated just having his parents around. He'd do the same for Lex, offering silent comfort and a ready ear if he did wish to talk.

A train rumbled across the tracks up ahead, and Clark put on a burst of speed in order to find a hidden place to wait near the crossing. He settled on his haunches behind a fencepost, partially covered by the tall weeds growing around it. From his spot, he could see Lex's car fast approaching as the train lumbered across the County Road.

And he suddenly knew that Lex wasn't going to stop.

Clark didn't stop to think about the consequences of visibly using his powers. He didn't think at all. He was up and moving before his heart completed a beat, sprinting to meet Lex's car.

Clark saw the expression of sheer terror on Lex's face through the windshield as he suddenly appeared in front of the vehicle. Not pausing, Clark jammed his hands down on the hood of the Porsche and locked his legs. The electric-guy from months ago had been able to push Clark with his truck at forty miles per hour. At ninety, the soles of Clark's shoes burned partially away.

Clark didn't care. All his focus was on stopping Lex's car. Clark knew he wouldn't be hurt if he hit the train, but Lex would, at best, have every bone of his body broken. Most likely, though, he'd be killed on impact, and Clark wasn't going to allow that to happen.

The squeal of the tires on the pavement as Lex slammed on the brakes was a welcome harmony to the rumbling of the train. The Porsche came to a shuddering halt ten feet from the railroad crossing. The engine died. Neither Clark nor Lex moved. They stared at each other through the windshield until the train had fully passed and an uncomfortable stillness settled around them.

Clark slowly straightened and rounded the side of the vehicle. Lex's face was ashen and his eyes were heavily dilated. He continued to stare unblinkingly at Clark. Clark opened the car door and used his X-ray abilities on the smooth-headed man, scanning for injuries. Upon finding none, he asked worriedly, "Are you all right?"

"I'm going to be sick," Lex responded in a shaken whisper.

Clark nodded, gently pried Lex's hands off the steering wheel, and helped him from the car. One arm secured around his waist, Clark assisted a trembling Lex past the open car door and around the front of the vehicle at Lex's insistence. Two hand-shaped indentations in the hood of the Porsche were clearly visible. Lex took a single look, dropped to his knees, and vomited on the road.

Clark knelt beside him and lightly ran a hand up and down his back. "Better?"

Lex knelt up, looked at Clark, and promptly bent over and heaved again.

"Guess not," Clark murmured, continuing to rub Lex's back soothingly.

Lex laughed a little wildly, rocking over the puddle of yuck on the ground. Clark's concern, which was already at an all-time high, grew even more. He was barely repressing his own shaking from the close call. His heart still tripped from the fear he'd felt at the possibility of losing Lex. The question of why hung in the air, too, pressing down heavily on Clark. Why hadn't Lex stopped? Why was he going to purposely hit the train? Why did Clark feel so helpless, even though he'd saved Lex?

Lex straightened again, pulled a handkerchief from his pocket, and wiped his mouth. His complexion was still a sickly grey as he focused on Clark. "You lied to me."

"What?" Clark blinked in surprise at the left field statement.

"About the other accident," Lex clarified. "You looked me in the eye, and lied."

Clark dropped his gaze. "Oh. That."

"Yeah. 'Oh. That.'"

Clark's eyes shot up and he fixed Lex with a stunned look. "Please don't tell me this was a test," he said, motioning to the Porsche.

Lex turned slowly and looked at the car. "No," he said in a flat voice, "this was correcting a mistake."

"Mistake?" Clark repeated. "Lex, I don't understand."

A pickup truck drove over the short incline of the railroad crossing, preventing Lex from answering. The truck stopped, and Clark recognized Mr. Potter behind the wheel as the weathered farmer rolled down his window. "Hi, Mr. Potter," Clark said.

"Clark," Mr. Potter greeted, a wary expression on his deeply lined face. "Is everything all right?"

"Everything's fine, Mr. Potter," Clark replied. "Just a little car sickness."

"Do you need any help?" Mr. Potter glanced distrustfully at Lex before returning his gaze to Clark.

"No, Mr. Potter." Clark shook his head.

"Very well," Mr. Potter said, making to leave.

"If you see my parents, tell them I'll call," Clark said, knowing that Mr. Potter would purposely seek out the Kents to inform them that their son was in the company of Lex Luthor.

Mr. Potter nodded, cast a final wary eye over the scene, and drove off.

Clark sighed and glanced at Lex. Lines of strain bracketed the older man's mouth and eyes as he stared off into the distance. Some color had returned to his face, but he was still very pale.

"C'mon, I'll take you home," Clark said, laying a hand on Lex's shoulder. They weren't finished with the explanations, but it would be better to continue their conversation behind closed doors and not on the side of County Road 150 West. Besides, he had to call his parents before Mr. Potter found them.

Clark helped Lex to his feet and guided him to the passenger side of the vehicle. At Lex's questioning look, the ebony-haired teen snorted. "Do you think I'm ever going to let you drive again?"

Lex's lips twitched, but he said nothing. Clark settled him into the car and snapped the seatbelt in place with a pointed glare. Then, Clark rounded the front of the Porsche, dragging the flat of his palm across the hood, warping the dark-colored metal and effectively obliterating his handprints. He ignored Lex's contemplative stare as he got behind the wheel, started the car, and drove to the Luthor estate.

Clark should've been on top of the world, being behind the wheel of a Porsche, but he wasn't. Lex had almost killed himself in this very vehicle. Clark had pleaded with his friend to drive slower just the other day. He was peeved that Lex hadn't bothered to listen, unless he really had been trying to kill himself.

Clark swallowed past the knot that formed in his throat, and his hands tightened on the steering wheel. He dreaded finding out if that was truly the case. He liked Lex a lot, more than he should as a friend and differently than as a brother. He didn't want to tumble into bed with Lex, but there was a connection between them that he didn't have with his other close friends.

Clark parked the car in front of the mansion, pocketed the keys, and followed Lex into his home. He stuck to the other man as they made their way upstairs and into Lex's bedroom. The teen received a somewhat amused look from Lex in the doorway of the master bath. "I'm just going to brush my teeth, Kent," Lex said. His lips twisted into a not-smile. "It feels like something died in my mouth."

Clark nodded and stepped back. The bathroom door closed in his face, but it didn't prevent him from seeing inside. He felt no guilt as he used his X-ray vision to look through the walls. If Lex was using the toilet, Clark would turn a temporary blind eye, but he didn't quite trust Lex completely at the moment.

He watched Lex gargle mouthwash and brush his teeth. Then, Lex stared in the mirror for a very long time. Clark could see the haunted expression in the other man's eyes, the same one that he'd seen earlier at the nursing home.

Lex opened the medicine cabinet, removed a prescription bottle, and stared at it almost as long as he had the mirror. Clark grew extremely anxious. He finally counted to thirty, then entered the bathroom after a single knock, starling Lex. Marching over to him, Clark snatched the bottle, read the label, opened it, shook out two pills, and gave them to a shocked Lex.

"What, you can see through walls, too?" Lex said.

"Yes." Clark put the prescription bottle away and headed out of the bathroom. "You have two minutes, then I'm coming back in."

Clark knew he had overreacted a bit, but it was always better to be safe than sorry. Glancing at his watch, he walked over to the telephone sitting on the night-stand and dialed home. The machine -- thankfully -- picked up. He didn't want to have to explain why he was at Lex's to his folks at the moment. Besides which, Mr. Potter would fill them in.

"Hi, it's me," Clark said into the receiver. "I'm at Lex's. I'll be home late, so don't wait up. Bye."

Lex exited the bathroom as Clark hung up the phone. They stared warily at each other.

"So," Lex said.

"So," Clark echoed.

A full minute of tense silence passed before Lex moved. He walked right up to Clark and punched him in the face.

Clark jerked in surprise. It didn't hurt, but it wasn't expected at all. A second punch connected with his gut -- again, not effecting him physically -- and he grabbed Lex's wrists before he could strike a third time. "Lex, what--"

"You bastard," Lex snarled through clenched teeth, interrupting Clark. "You scared the shit out of me, appearing in front of the car like that. You- you... I thought..."

"Do you want me to apologize?" Clark said incredulously. "If I hadn't stopped you, you'd be splattered against the side of that train."

"That was the idea!" Lex snapped, blue-grey eyes blazing.

"What?" Clark gasped, paling.

Lex yanked his wrists from Clark's lax grip, turned, and stalked across the opulent bedroom to the wet bar. "You shouldn't have saved me, Clark," he said, removing a blue bottle of water from the mini-fridge. "Not this time. Not the first time, either."

"Why?" Clark shook his head in confusion. "I don't understand."

"I was supposed to die, Clark," Lex explained, leaning against the bar. He laughed humorlessly. "I thought that you saving me was a miracle, but now I know it was a mistake."

"Don't say that," Clark said immediately.

"Why not? It's the truth," Lex responded with a shrug. "Your deceased friend, Cassandra, looked into my future and whatever she saw killed her." His grin was ugly. "I must turn out to be a real swell guy."

"She was old, Lex," Clark protested. "I don't know what happened, but a vision couldn't have caused her to pass away."

"I think you're wrong," Lex stated, "and I think I was supposed to die the first time to prevent whatever future she saw. Only..."

"Only what?" Clark prompted when Lex trailed off.

Lex's blue-grey gaze pierced Clark's. "Only you happened to be invincible."

Clark winced and looked away. "I thought you didn't believe in fate," he murmured.

"I lied." Lex tipped the water bottle towards Clark. "Looks like we have something in common."

"I had no choice--"

"Another lie."

Clark shot a glare at Lex. "My freakish powers are a secret, Lex. Use a dictionary if you don't know what the word means." He stood. "Do you know what would happen to me, or my parents, if the wrong people found out?"

Lex smirked. "The 'wrong people?'"

Clark scowled. "You know what I mean."

"Tell me," Lex said casually, setting his water aside. "Am I one of these 'wrong people?'"

"I don't know. Are you?" Clark replied flatly.

Something flicked across Lex's features, but it was gone too fast for Clark to identify. The bald man turned his back to Clark and poured himself a glass of scotch. "If I kill myself, you won't have to worry, will you?" he said offhandedly.

Clark was beside him in a blink, snatching the glass from his hand. "That's not going to happen."

"Are you planning to keep an eye on me twenty-four seven?" Lex baited.

"If I have to tie you up and lock you in my closet, I will," Clark stated.

"Kinky," Lex said with a smirk. "I didn't know you were into the S&M scene."

Clark fought down the blush. It was not the time for X-rated thoughts. "I'm not kidding, Lex. I won't let you hurt yourself."

"You actually care about me that much?" Lex said skeptically.

"How can you even ask that?" Clark said with honest dismay.

Lex studied him a moment, then his features softened and he shook his head as if disbelieving himself. "Yeah, how could I ask that."

Clark leaned on his forearms on the bar top, cupping the glass between his hands, and met Lex's gaze. "Maybe you're wrong anyway, Lex, about Cassandra. Maybe the future she saw was a glimpse of paradise, and she just couldn't resist going there."

Lex's eyes laughed first, and the rest of him followed, filling the bedroom with mirth. "Clark, Clark, Clark. You are a wonder."

"Aw, shucks." Clark grinned.

Lex took his drink back, sipped it, and set it down. "I'll make you a deal, Kent: I won't off myself if you promise to be in my future," he said. "I have a feeling that with you there, whatever happens, it won't be so bad."

Clark blushed, smiled, and said, "That's some BS you're shoveling."

"Why do you think I run the fertilizer plant?"





End







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