by Celli Lane
"What?" Clark mumbled. "Go away. No more cows."
"You live on a farm. You own cows."
"My father owns cows."
"And probably names them all personally. My point is, you don't need to be mocking cows."
Clark kept his eyes squeezed shut. "I could mock the corn instead. You know, in Kansas, we eat corn. We don't put it on buildings."
Lex sighed. "Okay, Mitchell was a mistake."
"The Corn Palace? Pfah. Waste of good corn. And why did we keep driving for four hours after that? You saw the ethanol factory. You're buying the ethanol factory. Go you."
"If you'd open your eyes, you might figure it out." There was a hint of impatience in Lex's tone. Clark opened his eyes.
And sat up straight. "Whoa."
"That's what I thought."
The brown plains and fenced pastures of central South Dakota had disappeared while he slept. Instead, forested hills rose up around him, dappled in every imaginable shade of green. They were in a valley that held a gravel road, a small farmhouse, and a couple of barns. Behind it all, he could just see a glimmer of sun on water that might be either a river or a lake. The air smelled like pine trees and spring and--
He looked at Lex. "Cows?"
"Well, it is a working ranch," Lex said. Not defensively. At all.
Clark grinned. "We're still in South Dakota, right? Or was there an I-90 exit for the Twilight Zone?"
"Welcome to the Black Hills."
"Lex..." He looked around again. "I've never seen anything like it."
"I thought about buying the ranch in Montana back," Lex said. They were sitting on the dock behind the barn, watching the ripples on the lake. Dinner had been earlier: steaks, garden-grown salad, and apple pie almost as good as Martha Kent's. Then they'd been shooed away from the dishes with homemade hot chocolate and orders not to come back until it had all been enjoyed. "But I didn't want to displace the family Dad sold it to. So I found this instead."
"Have you been up here a lot?"
"No, just to take a look around when I bought it. I'm hoping that with the new plant, I'll be up here more." Lex sipped his hot chocolate. "Mmm. I hear it's spectacular in the fall."
Clark bounced his feet a bit, kicking up a small spray of ice-cold water. "I'm glad you brought me."
"Not the usual spring break, I suppose."
"That's okay. I didn't have anything planned anyway."
"I thought you were going to stay in Metropolis and help little old ladies cross the street."
"It's going to look great on your resume. 'Extracurricular activities: College newspaper, intramural volleyball, fighting crime.' Sure to wow potential employers."
Lex raised an eyebrow.
Clark lifted his chin. "I don't play volleyball."
"Right. Sorry. What was I thinking?" Lex's grin turned sardonic. "Where would you find the time between school and saving people?"
"I'm just saying, you need to relax. I pay an obscene amount of money in taxes that do things like fund the salary of the Metropolis police force. They're going to start feeling left out if you don't let them have some fun."
"Number one, you're not 'just saying.' You're never 'just saying.' Number two, you and my dad really need to get off this 'can't save the world' kick."
"It figures," Lex said into his hot chocolate. "The one time Jonathan and I agree on something, and you're too stubborn to pay attention."
"Number three, you never take a break. This is a working vacation for you. Pot? Kettle? Hello."
Lex made a muffled, irritated noise and glared at the water. Beside him, Clark made a similar sound.
"So that's why you brought me with you on this trip?" he said finally, his voice tight. "Because you thought it would be good for me?"
"It's a road trip, not Brussels sprouts. I wanted you to see this place. And yes, I thought you needed to get away. When's the last time you had a full night's sleep?" Clark shrugged. "Or ate a meal with anyone, without making a lame excuse and rushing off? Chloe asked me if you were bulimic the other day."
"She says you haven't finished a meal with her since you started college."
"Oh, for pete's sake. What did you tell her?"
"I said no, you weren't bulimic, just deranged."
"Oh, thank you."
There was a long, resentful silence, and then Clark flopped back onto the dock. "So what you're saying is, I've been a bad friend."
"No." Lex turned to face him. "Clark, no. I'm saying that you're spreading yourself too thin. I wouldn't be much of a friend if I didn't tell you to--to--"
"Get a grip?"
"Something like that." Clark smiled, and Lex smiled back. "If you want to be 'Metropolis's Guardian Angel' that's fine--"
Clark rolled his eyes. "I hate the Inquisitor."
"But even a guardian angel needs someone to look out for him on occasion."
"Does that make you the angel's guardian?"
"All right. What do you have in mind?"
"A real vacation. Let's kick around here for a few days. Sleep too much, eat too much, pretend to fish, play tourist."
"Oh, God. More corn?"
"No, the people on this end of the state say it with stone." At Clark's blank look, Lex said, "Mt. Rushmore."
"Ohhhh." Clark narrowed his eyes. "And a vacation for you, too, right? No business?"
"I'll make you a deal. You don't save anyone unless it's life or death, and I won't take a business call unless it's life or bankruptcy."
Clark stuck out his hand. "Deal. And Lex?"
"Thank you," Clark said, just before he pushed him into the lake, hot chocolate and all.
"...going to KILL you!" Lex was screeching when his head broke the surface. Clark laughed like a loon and jumped in after him.
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