Six Bits
by M. Scott Eiland

Clark constantly ran into people who assumed that Superman was completely without limits to his stamina, and that the world itself might crumble before he ever needed a decent rest after even the most arduous labors. He knew better--since he had last rested in his own bed, he had fought one long battle, been whisked to the future by a device that its creator did not even understand, fought for weeks in a hostile environment without the use of his powers, then returned to his time to deal with an old enemy--who had been the one who allowed him to return to repair things in the first place.

In short, Clark had just completed The Day From Hell--and he was ready to collapse. He took a precious few seconds to change into his pajamas, then stumbled forward and collapsed onto his bed. He was asleep before the vibrations in the bedsprings from his landing faded.

Dreaming was one of the most pleasant things about sleep for Clark-- he was having a dream about the first time he flew over Smallville when the sound of a bell going off intruded into the experience of sailing above the cornfields and slipping through the clouds. He tried to ignore the sound, but it persisted, and he eventually gave up and opened his eyes. A glance at his clock-radio told him that it was mid-morning, and that he had been asleep for six hours. A bit extravagant--two usually does it for me. I must have really been wiped

The doorbell rang again, and Clark looked at the door in annoyance and pulled on a robe. With the automatic gesture of someone who had performed the same act thousands of times, he slipped on his glasses and smoothed away the S-curl that was one of the more significant trademarks of Superman. Satisfied, he walked to the door and pulled it open. He stared for a moment, then managed a smirk as he commented, "You two aren't exactly who I was expecting to be standing outside my door."

Lois raised an eyebrow and replied, "We've all had a lot of nasty surprises to deal with in the last few days, Clark." She barged in past him without being invited, and Clark blinked as she called out to the other visitor: "So are you just going to stand there or come in, Lex?"

Luthor looked at Clark and said simply, "I was hoping for an invitation, actually--as a courtesy to an old friend, of course."

Clark stared at the older man. Lex had never publicly acknowledged his friendship with Clark in Smallville since the two of them had left for Metropolis almost a decade before, though the information was there for anyone who chose to seek it out. Since that time, Lex had treated him with mechanical courtesy, but little affection. He inclined his head and replied, "Come in, Lex."

Lex walked past Clark and over next to Lois, where he joined her in looking at Clark rather intently. Clark had been the subject of nasty glares from one or the other of them many times over the years, but having both of them do it at the same time was making him edgy. He coughed self-consciously and asked simply, "I don't suppose you'd like to tell me what you're doing here?"

Lex folded his arms, and Lois snorted, "Clark--you're not going to try to tell us that you aren't aware of what's been going on here for the past week, are you?"

Clark smiled inwardly--this game he knew how to play, from long and well-earned experience. "Of course I do, Lois--I had to leave town suddenly to follow a lead on an industrial dumping case I've been working on, and my rental car blew a tire on a bad road and left me stranded out in the middle of nowhere in an area with no cell service. By the time I was able to walk back to the nearest town, everything had happened, and I didn't see any point in making a spectacle of myself when more important things were going on. I've been resting for the past few days, and I was going to call Perry later today with an update on what I had found out about the dumping situation." Which was true enough--he had found a major lead on the story just before receiving the call about the rampaging villains in Metropolis.

Lois smirked. "Uh huh--and your folks and your old girlfriend from high school just happened to show up at the memorial service without you being there with them?"

Clark shrugged. "Superman knows all three of them--he probably left instructions to invite them to the services in the event of his death. Wasn't Supergirl sitting with them--perhaps he asked her to bring them?" Lois nodded, and Clark added, "There you go--very simple." Lois looked unmoved, and Clark decided to change tactics. He turned to Lex and asked, "So why are you here, anyway? One little apparent death for your arch-nemesis, and you show up on my doorstep to listen to Lois' half-baked theories that I'm Superman? I'd think that a man with a new lease on life would have better things to do with his time."

Lex smiled, and Clark shivered inwardly--it was the old Lex smile from better times between the two of them, when he had no doubt that the older man was his friend and would move Heaven and Earth to get him out of a jam. He kept his composure with considerable effort as the former industrialist studied him and replied, "You gave me quite a run over the years, Clark. I always knew you were special, but you did a masterful job of throwing me off the scent of the real story-- and for what it's worth, I understand why you did what you did. I never trusted you with all of my secrets either. Be that as it may, the game's up, Clark--you're caught, and you might as well come clean. You owe both of us that much."

Clark blinked. You're bluffing with a busted flush, Lex He smirked at his old friend and commented, "Lex, if I really were Superman, would you really expect me to fold up that easily?" He noticed Lois walking over to the bathroom, but ignored her as he continued, "I've given perfectly reasonable explanations for my absence and the events of the funeral that don't involve me being Kryptonian, and I'm really beginning to get annoyed at--"


Clark heard Lois, but he was too caught up in the intensity of speaking to Lex to decipher the tone in her voice as he continued, "You used to hold me in higher regard, Lex--I'm a bit insulted that you'd think that I'd roll over and play dead based on a couple of simple coincidences--"

Clark flinched as Lois whistled loudly, and he turned to snap at her for being rude. . .

. . .only to find himself staring into a large hand mirror, which revealed that he was still wearing the full beard and long hair that he had grown in the future--since he had neglected to dispose of the evidence before collapsing into slumber the night before.

Clark blinked, then grimaced as he forced himself to look at the smug expressions of the woman he loved and the man who had been both his best friend and his worst enemy. He took a deep breath, then said simply:

"It's the little things that always get you. . .anyone for pizza? This story is going to take a while."


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