Second Chances

The accident happened in a blink of an eye, but to Lex Luthor it played out in super slow-motion. It seemed like he might have prevented it, if he could've moved. His feet were rooted to the spot, however, and he could do nothing but stare in horror as the accident occurred right in front of him.

It was just after midnight; the Beanery had locked its doors behind Lex, who was the coffee shop's last customer of the night. Lex had left his own party at the estate for a cup of not-so-great coffee, needing to get away from the fakeness of the guests populating the manor. He'd been in Smallville too long; he wanted the people he talked with to be real, even if they were sucking up to him.

The trip to the Beanery was also an escape from Victoria Hardwick, an old flame who wanted to be rekindled. Lex liked Victoria immensely -- her attitude, her deviousness, her hatred of her own father -- and, if he remembered correctly, she was good in bed. But the entire time they'd tried to re-light that spark, Lex had felt like he was cheating. The lips that had met his and the tongue that had expertly mapped out his mouth didn't belong to the person he saw behind closed eyes, no matter how hard he tried to pretend. The take-out coffee he'd bought at the Beanery was in hopes of washing away the taste of Victoria.

The coffee was on the sidewalk, now, dropped from nerveless fingers as the awful events unfolded in the street in front of Lex. There was an old man, flyaway white hair hanging over his face, bending over to pick up something off the ground. There was a cross-county bus, a blue and white Sunbird, apparently driverless, speeding down the sloping street. And there was Clark Kent, dressed in a suit, emerging from Nell's flower shop across the road.

Clark saw the man. Clark saw the bus. Clark shoved the man. Clark was hit by the bus.

Glass exploded. Metal screeched and crunched. The bus continued down the street, slowing as the laws of physics went into effect. The blue and white behemoth rolled to a stop in the deserted intersection two blocks away, at the beginning of the road's incline.

The old man shuffled away without a second glance.

The spilled coffee burned where it splashed Lex.

Strangely, no one emerged from any of the shops along the street.

Something hot and painful clawed at Lex's chest, throat, and the backs of his eyes. A shattered scream pierced his ears, and he was running, coffee-soaked wingtips tattooing an uneven slap.slap.slap on the pavement. The raw cries for help raked sharply along his spine, terrifying him. He didn't realize it was him that was making the noise.

Lex forgot everything he'd learned about proper Good Samaritan procedure -- there was never anything 'good' about him, anyway. He ran towards the bus as fast as he could. He couldn't lose Clark; he refused to allow the boy he had fallen hard for, to die. He was Lex Luthor, damn it, and no one was going to the grave unless he said so.

The unnerving cries for help were breaking up. Lex's stomach rolled from fear of what he'd see. He rounded the front of the bus, ghastly pale and panting, and stumbled to a halt.

The bus's grill was crumpled; the glass windows were destroyed; but there was no blood, no body.

No Clark.

Lex inhaled sharply, painfully. He dropped to his knees and looked under the bus. He scrambled to his feet again and circled the damaged Sunbird. He looked frantically around the street and sidewalk along the path the bus had travelled.

Still, no Clark.

Lex collapsed to the ground, banging his knees with echoing thuds. He ran a shaking hand over his sweaty bare scalp. Had he imagined the whole thing? There was no sign of the old man, and no one else seemed to have heard the accident. If Lex looked behind him, would the bus not be there? Had he finally cracked, like his father had predicted would happen if he didn't straighten up his act?

"Lex, what's wrong? What happened? Why are you in the street?"

Lex raised his head at the sound of a familiar voice. Clark was crouched in front of him, looking very uninjured. The questioning worry on his face would have fooled Lex into believing he really had lost it, if it wasn't for the tiny sparkling shards of glass dotting the shoulders of Clark's suit.

Lex started to laugh. It grew hard and wild quickly, tinged with the bitter taste of hysteria. He grabbed at Clark, grasping those damning shoulders, feeling the proof of the accident cutting into his palms. Clark was a liar. Clark was alive. Lex couldn't stop laughing.

Time must have passed, because Lex eventually became aware that he was no longer on the street but in the Kent family living room. He was seated on the blue threadworn couch with a handmade quilt around his shoulders. The soft scent of lilacs drifted to his nose as someone settled beside him on the couch.

Martha Kent's concerned eyes met Lex's as he turned his head. He felt a gentle touch on the nape of his neck. "How are you feeling?" she asked.

"Where's Clark?" Lex croaked, his throat sore and burning. His gaze darted around the living room. Jonathan Kent was perched on the edge of a brown-weave chair. A basket of knitting supplies sat on the floor next to him. Magazines were stacked neatly on the wood coffee table. The VCR clock on top of the television read 1:42. The shaded antique lamp beside it seemed out of place.

The bus crash replayed vividly in Lex's mind.

"Clark!" His voice cracked on the vowel. He shot to his feet, shrugging the quilt from his shoulders, searching madly for the boy.

Clark came thundering down the stairs, pulling a blue t-shirt over his head. Lex hit his shin on the coffee table in his rush to meet the teen. "Clark!"

"Lex, it's okay." Clark lightly grasped Lex's upper arms. "I'm okay."

Lex touched Clark's face with trembling hands. His mind flashed once again to the accident: the sound of the crunch of metal, the shattering of glass; the sight of the bus hitting Clark head on. He suddenly couldn't breathe. It felt like he was having an asthma attack, something he hadn't had in over ten years.

"It's okay, Lex," Clark repeated, features creased with alarm. "Calm down."

"He's hyperventilating." Martha's voice was overshadowed by the pounding in Lex's ears. Clark guided him back to the couch, and a twisted paper lunchbag was held against his mouth.

"Breathe, Lex." Clark gently rubbed Lex's back with his free hand. "Just breathe."

It took almost two full minutes for Lex to stop hyperventilating. When it no longer felt like someone was crushing his chest, Lex shoved the paper bag away, fisted a hand in Clark's midnight hair, and kissed him full on the lips.

Tears burned hot paths down the slopes of Lex's cheeks. He didn't care; nor did he care that Clark's parents were in the room. The horrific sight of Clark being hit by the bus kept replaying in his mind. He had almost lost the other man; but for a quirk of Smallville fate, he hadn't, and he was humbled by the second chance given to him. A second chance he wasn't going to waste.

Lex broke the kiss and rested his forehead against Clark's. "I love you," he whispered roughly. Despite his eyes being closed, he knew Clark had turned a pretty shade of pink.

Lex inhaled slowly, fingers tightening in Clark's hair. Very shortly, he'd have to deal with the results of his confession, Clark's parents, and the fact that Clark might not even be slightly homosexual. Then, there were lies to expose and the truth to learn, and whomever to thank for Clark still being alive. Eventually, Victoria would have to be put off, future dates with others cancelled, and Lionel Luthor told that Lex was in love with an underage farmboy from Smallville, Kansas.

But Lex would deal with all that in a moment. Right now, he just wanted to repeat the words that were in his heart, because you never know if you'll get a second chance.

"I love you."


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