Mom and Dad were proud of him. Clark Kent could tell by the way they smiled, the way they hugged him, the way they didn't ask what happened or scold him for his actions. They might even be proud enough to reduce his grounding sentence from the party. But even if they didn't, it was okay. They were proud of him, and Lex and Earl were safe.

Clark lifted his eyes to find his friend amidst the chaos of SWAT police, medical personnel, and reporters, and fell headlong into Lex Luthor's steel-grey gaze. Longing, hurt, irritation, and tension were telegraphed in Lex's eyes and by the stiff way he held himself as his father gave him a pseudo-hug. He looked like he wished to be anywhere else, even dangling eighty feet above the cement in the "non-existent" Level Three.

That thought reignited the fear Clark had felt when Lex had gone over the catwalk rail, and Clark extracted himself from Martha Kent's arms. "I'll be right back."

"Clark...," Jonathan Kent started to protest, but Clark ignored him.

Lex took a step towards Clark, breaking out of Lionel Luthor's faux embrace. Clark saw a flash of displeasure and anger on the elder Luthor's face before it was masked. Clark filed that reaction away for later examination as he stopped in front of Lex. Earlier, they had been so occupied with Earl that Clark hadn't the chance to reassure himself that Lex was truly okay.

"Clark," Lex said slowly, question now alighting his cool eyes. "Is everything all right?"

"No," Clark responded bluntly. Not noticing the sudden flashes of camera bulbs and the bright light from a television crew, he pulled Lex to him in a tight, relieved embrace. "You scared the heck out of me, Lex. Why did you do something so stupid?"

"Gee, you're welcome, Clark, for getting Earl to release your classmates before everyone blew up," Lex sniped, pulling back. "Have you been taking parenting lessons from my father?"

Clark didn't allow him to pull completely away. Hands gripping his shoulders, Clark growled, "You were almost killed!"

"So were you!" Lex exclaimed. He poked Clark hard in the chest. "You were supposed to leave with the others. Do you know how freaked I was when I heard you over the intercom? You, out of all the students, I wanted safe!"

"I wasn't going to let you commit suicide, Lex," Clark said, agitated.

"God, Clark, you- you-- " Lex floundered, his face screwed up in exasperation. "--Argh."

A corner of Clark's mouth curled up. "How eloquent, Mr. Luthor."

"Shut up." Lex's own lips twitched as he fought a responding smile.

Clark chuckled and pulled Lex into a hug again. "I'm glad you're okay."

"I'm glad you're okay, too," Lex sighed, arms briefly tightening around Clark. "You do realize the entire state is watching on television and that our picture will be splashed on the front page of the newspaper tomorrow."

Clark released Lex, turned, and blushed several shades of red when he saw all the cameras and reporters watching. He dragged his hand through his dark hair and dropped his chin in embarrassment. "Oh, geez."

Lex threw back his head and laughed without restraint. Flashbulbs went off, and Clark wanted the ground to open and swallow him. "I'm going home now," the teen said. He caught sight of the elder Luthor and was wary of the speculative look focused in their direction. "Will you come by tomorrow?"

"If my father hasn't skinned me alive, I will," Lex replied.


Lex smiled softly at him. "Get out of here, Clark. I'll see you tomorrow."

Clark nodded, cast another wary glance at Lionel, at the cameras, and then walked back to his parents. He begged quietly, "Can we go home?"

"Good idea, son," Jonathan said as Martha wrapped her arm around Clark's waist. They started for the parking lot.

Clark glanced over his shoulder and saw Lex fielding reporters' questions with easy confidence and none of the previous tension in evidence. His father had been relegated to the background.

Lex happened to look Clark's way, caught his eye, and winked, not pausing in conversation. A large smile spread across Clark's face, and it remained there for the rest of the night.

Even when his parents told him he was still grounded for three weeks.


Mirror Fic: Relief

Send feedback