Counting the Days

by Vivian Darkbloom



Clark finishes speaking and looks around the Watchtower conference table. Hawkgirl, always blunt, is the first to respond:

"Superman, I'm not seeing the problem here. Luthor deserves to be in jail - and he's going to jail."

"For a crime he didn't commit," says Clark. "He's been framed. Lex is guilty of many things - but not a break and enter job. He'd consider that beneath him."

"If he's going to jail for anything, it should be for stopping time last month," says Flash. "That was some mess, huh? And then the cops wouldn't hold him because they didn't remember what he'd done!"

"Stopping time isn't a crime," says Diana. "Unfortunately." She turns to Clark. "Even if Lex has been framed, why should the League get involved? Why not let his lawyers take care of it? "

"Because he's been framed by Deacon Edge," says Clark. "It's one of his warehouses that Lex supposedly robbed."

"Morgan Edge's son?" says Green Lantern. "Lex killed his father, right?"

"In self defense," says Clark. "Deacon isn't seeking revenge for his father's death; he's taken over the family business and wants to eliminate the competition. The moment Lex steps into that prison, there's a bull's-eye on his back. It's a set-up so that Edge can put a hit on him."

"Edge seems like "small potatoes" next to Lex," observes Flash.

"In a way he is," says Clark, carefully. This is the moment to win them over. "But if you compare his crime rate to Lex's over the past year..."

Green Lantern says grimly:

"Lex has opened two portals, causing a great deal of disruption to the time/space continuum; he has stolen three artifacts from museums around the world, bought a decommissioned submarine from the Eastern bloc and used it to loot weapons from Atlantis-"

"And don't forget the flying robots he sent to attack the Watchtower," chimes in Flash.

"Over the same time period, Deacon Edge has virtually cornered the drug trade in Metropolis," says Clark. "There are at least twenty deaths that can be linked back to Edge and those are just the murders. If you factor in the overdoses and suicides caused by his products, the total doubles, easily."

"So for a small potato, he's doing a lot of damage," says Diana, thoughtfully.

"Lex primarily devotes his energy to attacking us," says Clark. "And we aren't a soft target. Edge doesn't care about the League and he's been able to operate under our radar because there are always bigger threats on the horizon: the super-villains, intergalactic threats, natural disasters...."

"So, Lex and the other super-villains facilitate lower level criminals like Edge slipping through the cracks," says Green Lantern. "That's ....discouraging."

"What do you propose we do, Superman?" asks Diana.

"A bilateral investigation to take down Edge," says Clark. "Batman and The Question working on the outside....and me on the inside."

Flash leans forward, wide-eyed:

"The inside? Supes, you don't mean-"

"I've set it up through Perry," says Clark. "I'll be writing an article on prison conditions. The warden of Kansas State Prison was keen to cooperate; he's looking to root out any corrupt guards. I'll go in as a new inmate and will be assigned to Lex's cell."

"And what if there's an emergency and we need you?" asks Hawkgirl. "You can't just break out of a prison, not without revealing your identity."

"Dr. Fate can open a portal, if I'm needed," says Clark.

Diana raises an eyebrow:

"Sounds like you've got it all worked out."

"I wouldn't want to be in your shoes, Supes," says Flash. "I bet prison food is terrible. And locked up with Luthor for company? No, thank you!"

"My uncle was a prison guard," says Green Lantern. "We should talk; I can tell you what to expect."

"Thanks, John," says Clark.

As the others file out, he turns to Batman and J'onn, the only two who have remained silent:

"Bruce, I know you don't think this is a good idea..."

"Edge needs to be taken down," says Batman unexpectedly. "It's true that the League sometimes overlooks the street level criminals, to our detriment."

"But....?"

J'onn clears his throat:

"Superman, we are concerned about the personal toll this will take on you. You will not be able to use most of your powers in prison and being in close quarters with Luthor, it may present challenges."

"We could send someone else," begins Batman.

Clark shakes his head:

"And reveal another secret identity to Lex? No, it has to be me."

"As you wish," says J'onn. The words are freighted with disapproval. He turns and glides silently from the room. Clark turns to Batman:

"Bruce, you understand why it has to be me?"

Batman says:

"You've spent a lot of time in deep space lately, away from the sun. Perhaps, some time at the Fortress-"

"No!" says Clark, sharply. "I have to do this."

Batman looks at him thoughtfully. Clark softens his voice.

"It's just thirty days, Bruce; Nothing I can't handle."


Four days later, Clark has swapped his sweater and jeans for an orange jumpsuit and is being escorted by a guard to the old wing of the prison. It's a different setting than his last time in prison, trapped in Lionel's body, but the atmosphere is the same. An inmate gives a long whistle as Clark passes; Clark is careful not to meet his eyes.

"You'll have to set aside all your usual response mechanisms," Green Lantern had told him. "My uncle always said the worst mistake new inmates make is drawing attention to themselves. Keep to the sidelines. Keep your eyes down and your mouth shut."

The guard pauses in front of a cell:

"You're in for some highfalutin company, Mr. Dent. Meet your new room-mate."

The guard leaves and Clark cautiously enters the cell. All he can see of Lex is one long, orange jump-suited leg hanging down from the upper bunk.

"Dent?" says Lex. "Every pseudonym in the world to choose from and you pick "Dent"?"

"Seemed easiest," says Clark. He sets down his pile of prison issue belongings on the lower bunk. Lex sits up, eyes glittering:

"Why are you here, Clark?"

Clark has been readying himself for this question for the last few days:

"You must know that Deacon Edge has a hit out on you-"

Lex flicks his shoulder, contemptuous. Clark says:

"I'm here to keep you safe - but also to keep the prison safe from you."

Haughty silence from the upper bunk.

"I know you probably came in here prepared," Clark says. "With a few pre-emptive tricks up your sleeve."

A tiny smile quirks around Lex's mouth:

"But you're not going to do anything," says Clark, firmly. "I'll protect you, see to it that you serve your sentence safely, and keep out of trouble."

Lex slides off the bunk in one swift motion and lands directly in front of Clark:

"And if I choose not to co-operate?"

Gratifyingly, he's following the exact script Clark had laid out in his head. Clark says cheerfully:

"You will."

"I could expose you," says Lex. "Your identity."

"You won't," says Clark. He leans in, his mouth close to Lex's ear. "You enjoy hoarding that particular secret far too much."

Lex folds his arms and doesn't answer. Clark sits down on his bunk:

"So, when's dinner?"


Clark pushes the mashed potatoes around on his plate; Lex sits across from him. They aren't talking but as Lex made no attempt to lose Clark on the way to the dining hall, Clark has taken this as a form of concession.

Prison reminds Clark of high school. Different groups sit in their cliques, ducking their heads down to talk privately to each other. The question is: which clique is working for Deacon Edge? Clark focuses his hearing on the group at the next table. They're talking about basketball. There's a huge tattooed guy with red hair a few tables away, who hasn't taken his eyes from Lex since they entered the hall. He turns to speak to his neighbour and Clark tunes him in:

"I'm gonna fuck that Luthor. Gonna spread him open and ream that tight, lily white-"

Clark immediately tunes him out again.

"You're blushing," remarks Lex. Clark shovels the last of his potatoes into his mouth and doesn't answer. Assassins he'd expected but that Lex would have...admirers in prison as well, had failed to occur to him.

They are lined up and led back to the cell block. Clark asks:

"What time is lockdown?"

"Nine," says Lex and retreats to their cell. Clark leans against the wall, standing sentry, and lets his eyes wander over the men playing cards, the group watching television. He notices that the big red-haired guy has the cell opposite theirs, but on the second floor, with the common area in between.

"I wouldn't be staring too hard at Archie," says a soft voice. Clark looks down. It's a young guy, handsome; he reminds Clark of Pete's middle brother.

"Archie?"

"Archie likes them pretty," says the guy. "He's got ambitions, concerning your...." He jerks his shoulder towards Lex.

Clark makes a non-committal noise.

"He's not the only one," continues the guy. "Although not everyone's ambitions regarding Mr. Luthor are romantic."

He flashes Clark a quick look and then walks away.

"Lockdown!" bellows a guard.

Lex is standing by the sink, brushing his teeth. He's wearing a white t-shirt and ordinary cotton pajama bottoms. For the last few years, Lex has deliberately favoured clothes that bulk him up, make him look intimidating. But out of his sculpted suits, he's as slender as he was when Clark first met him.

Lex flings himself onto the top bunk with a grunt and rolls onto his side, without saying "goodnight." Clark slowly brushes his teeth, runs a washcloth across his face; he pees, a little self-consciously, knowing Lex is still awake. The guards turn off the lights in the cells but the aisles between remain illuminated. Clark glances through the bars and up to the opposite balcony; he sees Archie standing in his cell, staring back at him. So that's two things to worry about.

Clark sighs and gets into bed.

He's not used to going to sleep this early and his body won't relax. There's a murmur down the cellblock, gradually growing louder. Clark focuses his hearing; someone is reciting verses from the Bible, his voice rising and falling "Shut the fuck up, Henry!" shouts an inmate. "Quiet!" shouts a guard.

Clark looks up, though the bunk above, and watches Lex fall asleep. Lex takes up a lot of space at first, his limbs splayed across the narrow bunk; as his breathing grows slow and steady, Lex curls up, reminding Clark of how the barn cats used to nap in the hay. Clark lets his thoughts drift back to the farm and falls asleep to the memory of the sound of corn, rustling in the wind.

Lex is no more talkative at breakfast than he was at dinner; Clark eats his oatmeal and listens in on the conversations of the prisoners around them. He hears talk of drug dealings, complaints about guards, further musings on the subject of Lex's ass from Archie...but comes up empty when it comes to a plot to kill Lex. Perhaps Edge has only one man in here. Bruce ran a check on the inmates and didn't find anyone with an established allegiance to Edge. It doesn't help that the assassin might also be a guard.

"Dent!" shouts a guard. "Luthor! Hit the showers with Jones and McGarvey."

As they return to their cell to collect their towels, Clark can feel a blush rising to his face. Somehow he'd managed to overlook that sharing a cell with Lex would also entail sharing a shower with him. Lex saunters into the shower room with a bored look on his face and starts stripping off his clothes. The other two guys do the same, complaining about the quality of the coffee at breakfast. Clark quickly sheds his clothes and takes the shower next to Lex. He lets his eyes drift over to Lex - just once, to make sure he's okay - and feels the colour rising in his cheeks again at the sight of Lex soaping his chest. It takes a moment for Clark to realize the vast amounts of steam rising from his own shower could make the others suspicious; no human could endure water that hot. He quickly adjusts the tap.

He only looks away for a second but when he looks back, McGarvey is leaping towards Lex with something glittery in his hand.

Clark gets there first and pushes Lex behind him. The knife falls to the floor with a clatter and all four men stare at it.

"What the hell is going on in there?"

It's the guard from outside. He instantly spots the knife on the floor:

"Get back to your cells! Now! Lockdown!"

Clark is suddenly acutely aware that he is clutching Lex tightly against his side. Wet, naked Lex.

"Lockdown!" echoes a guard outside. Clark reaches for his clothes. The guard says:

"Whadd'ya need, Dent? An engraved invitation? Grab your fucking gear and get your ass moving."

"But, we're-"

Naked, Clark finishes in his head.

"Well, spare my blushes," says the guard. "Are you deaf? Move!"

They have to walk from the shower room back to their cells, dripping wet and stark naked. Clark decides that between looking up at the faces of the catcalling inmates and fixing his eyes on Lex's ass in front of him....he'll take Lex's ass.

"Look at that. Luthor, man, he's packing!"

"Hey, Luthor! Blow me!"

"What the fuck's the new guy's name? Dent? Yo, Dent! I got something for that pretty mouth of yours. Something big."

"Check out the unit on Dent!"

Clark has never wished more fervently to be able to use his speed. They finally reach their cell; the guard throws their clothes in after them.

"You need to be more discreet," says Lex. He picks up his orange jumpsuit and shakes it critically. "They're going to assume you're an undercover cop."

"You're welcome," says Clark, sarcastically. Lex shoots him a quick glance and says:

"McGarvey isn't working for Edge directly. Too small a fish. Someone else subcontracted him."

"Yeah, I figured," says Clark, trying to avert his eyes as Lex gets dressed. They spend a silent afternoon in their cell, while the guards come around and check for weapons.

It turns out the prisoners have made a different assumption. When Clark and Lex join the line for dinner, a voice calls out:

"Yo, Dent. You tapping that ass?"

"I'd tap that ass! Luthor probably keeps his spare Rolex up in there!"

Lex ignores this and accepts a helping of limp pasta. Clark notices that Archie, further down the line, is eyeing him with undisguised hatred. Great. Add a jealous suitor to the current list of problems.

"Don't worry about it," says Lex, as they sit down at the end of a table. "It was an inevitable assumption and it's better than the truth."

Clark moodily takes a forkful of pasta. Lex twirls his fork but doesn't eat any. Since he's looking less sullen, Clark decides to try some conversation:

"Aren't you hungry, Lex?"

"Principally, I'm curious," says Lex. "Have you ever known pasta to glitter like this?"

Clark stares at Lex's plate and very nearly swears. And Clark never swears.

"They put ground glass in your food!"

"And yours," says Lex. "Except it doesn't appear to be disagreeing with you."

Against Lex's protests, Clark reports it to the guards, in case other inmates were also served the lethal pasta.

"Lockdown!"

Amid much grumbling and glaring at Clark, the inmates are separated from their half-eaten dinners and marched back to their cells.

"You're not exactly winning popularity contests around here," remarks Lex. He's sitting on his bunk, swinging his legs. "I think my stock is actually rising by comparison."

Clark glares at him:

"Two attempts to kill you - in one day."

"For me, that's sometimes a slow day," says Lex and yawns.

The guards come round with cheese sandwiches and juice boxes, then there's an early lights out. An inmate who works in the kitchen is led off to solitary confinement. He stares coldly into Clark and Lex's cell as he passes. Clark tunes his ears to eavesdrop on the guards' station. A guard says:

"That fucking Luthor. Gonna be nothing but trouble. I told them. He should have been put in solitary."

"It's not him - it's his boyfriend that's the pain in the ass."

Clark flushes.

He falls asleep but wakes perhaps an hour later. His bunk is shaking. He sits up, eyes casting around for the latest threat to Lex. But there's nothing....it's Lex himself that's shaking the bunk, wrapped tight in his blanket, shivering.

"Lex?"

No answer. Clark slips out of bed:

"Lex, you can have my blanket."

Silence, then a subdued: "Thank you."

Clark lies on his bunk and waits. The shivering doesn't stop. Clark notices his breath is fogging. So it's not just Lex; it really is cold in here.

Clark considers for a moment; then climbs into the upper bunk. There's an irritated noise from the cocoon of blankets:

"What do you want?"

"I'm going to warm you," says Clark firmly. There's a snort in response but that's not a "no" so he pulls Lex over, until Lex's back is resting against Clark's chest.

For the first few minutes, Lex is stiff as a statue but as he grows sleepier, he relaxes and eases back against Clark. After a moment, Clark awkwardly drapes an arm over Lex. He waits for a reaction but Lex doesn't seem to mind. And if Clark's going to keep Lex warm, he figures he's entitled to use him as an arm rest, anyway. As he falls asleep, an unbidden picture pops up: Lex pressed against him in the shower room. Long limbs; warm, wet skin.

Clark pushes the image away and falls asleep.


He wakes just before dawn, with the realization that something is very wrong.

He's in prison; Lex is cuddled up next to him. These are both unusual circumstances but not wrong, exactly.

What's wrong is that Clark has a massive erection and it is currently digging into Lex's left hip.

He's got to move, roll over before Lex wakes up and notices. Except...Lex is already awake. His breathing has quickened and Clark can hear the flick of his eyelashes as he blinks.

Clark has good coping strategies. He has successfully multi-tasked a high speed train about to derail while a hurricane simultaneously threatens a busload of school children. He's experienced at making split second decisions.

But right now, he has no idea what to do. And what makes it worse is the more self-conscious he gets about his cock's proximity to Lex, the more his cock seems to like it, straining towards Lex's hip. He has to do something, now.

Clark fakes an unconvincing yawn and rolls away from Lex. His cock throbs in protest but hopefully, he'll have just enough time before wake-up call to calm things down. If Lex wasn't awake he could take care of himself but-

"Get back in your bunk," whispers Lex. "If the guards catch you up here, they'll put you in another cell."

Clark gratefully retreats to his bunk, using just a touch of super-speed. At least Lex didn't say anything. Perhaps, he hadn't noticed.

After breakfast, they are sent on separate work details: Lex to the mail room, Clark to mop the cafeteria floor. Clark x-rays the inmates setting off with Lex and finds no weapons. He stares after Lex a fraction too long because an inmate behind him sings out: "Bye bye, sweetie!" in an exaggerated lisp. Clark flushes; Lex is too smart to turn around.

While he mops, Clark takes the opportunity to x-ray the prison from top to bottom. Despite yesterday's sweep, he finds plenty of weapons the guards have missed: toothbrush handles sharpened to spikes, coils of wire, shards of glass. There are too many weapons to narrow down the pool of potential Lex assassins. Clark sighs and slops his mop across the grimy floor. It occurs to him that he hasn't yet checked his own cell.

They get one hour of outdoor recreation time a day. Clark takes Lex's arm and guides him firmly to a corner of the yard:

"Plastic explosives."

Lex gives him a bland look and leans back against the chain link fence.

"You've hidden plastic explosives in the bottom right post of our bunk."

"I wasn't going to come in without defenses, Clark."

"Now that I'm here, you're not defenseless," says Clark. "You're going to turn those explosives over to me."

Lex laughs:

"And you're going to....hide them from me? Your options are fairly limited in that regard. Well, I suppose you could swallow them-"

Clark glares at him. Lex says, smoothly:

"The explosives were intended as a last resort, Clark. With you around, I won't need them."

Clark gives him a suspicious look but says nothing.

The rest of the day is nearly incident free; Archie stares at Lex all afternoon; he makes a grab for him as Lex is walking to the showers. Lex neatly avoids getting caught.

"Hands to yourself, Archie!" bellows a guard. Clark notes that Archie follows this advice to the letter, grabbing his own crotch instead.

They prepare for bed to an accompaniment of Henry reciting from the Book of Revelations. Clark watches Lex brush his teeth, thinks about last night and tries not to have any expectations about what might happen tonight.

Lex swings himself into the upper bunk with a crisp "good night" and seems to fall asleep instantly.

Fine, Clark thinks. This is how it should be. Finding the explosives just underlines the fact that he is here to do a job, not to try and improve relations with Lex Luthor. Lex doesn't want that and moreover, he doesn't deserve it-

There's a leg dangling from the upper bunk, then Lex is deftly climbing into Clark's bunk. Climbing right over Clark, in fact.

"Lex, wha....?"

Hot hand over his mouth. Lex bending down to his ear: "Shhh...."

Clark gazes up at him. He knows he's probably got a dumb, wide-eyed expression on his face.

Lex bends down, frowning a little. He's half beside Clark and half on top of him, one leg perfectly lined up against Clark's leg. Warm thigh, Lex's bony knee...

Lex kisses him. Clark automatically closes his eyes, if only to process what's happening. But he can't think, not with Lex licking round his bottom lip, biting a little. Clark thrusts up, he can't help it. Lex rises up with him, then settles himself comfortably on top of Clark.

Lex is a good kisser. A great kisser. Clark tries to hold back a moan and doesn't know what to do with his hands. He compromises by clenching one hand in the sheets and lightly setting the other on Lex's back, warm through his t-shirt.

Lex pulls back from the kiss and stares at Clark for a moment; eyes dark, lips parted. Then he rolls off Clark, yawns, pulls the blanket up over himself and settles his cheek against Clark's shoulder. In a few minutes, he's sound asleep.

Clark lies there, thoroughly panicked. He cannot let this happen; they absolutely can't go down this road. It occurs to him that this precise scenario might be what Batman and J'onn had in mind, when they warned him against the dangers of being locked up with Lex. Oh, god: Clark nearly sits bolt upright with the humiliation of it. If they figured it out before he did...

It's not as if Clark is unaware of Lex's effect on him. He's come to accept that just because someone is your mortal enemy that doesn't prevent his face from floating into your thoughts when you're in bed at night, cock in hand. Since their first meeting, Lex has played a regular role in Clark's fantasy life. In the early days, the images were vague and innocent: kissing, tussling in the hay, pushing Lex back against the pool table. Later, as their antagonism grew and Lana became a bone of contention, the fantasies grew rougher, with Lex getting bent over his desk or shoved against the wall - but they have never stopped.

Lex mumbles something in his sleep, shivers, automatically shifts back against Clark, seeking warmth. Clark drifts into an uneasy sleep

He wakes to find Lex climbing over him. Lex vaults into his bunk, lithe as a cat, just before the guards come round on their morning check. When the wake-up bell rings, Lex slides down from his bunk, yawns and conducts his morning routine without saying a word.

"Count!"

They join the row of pajama-clad prisoners outside their cells; Archie leaves his cell in tiny white briefs and stares across at Lex, who ignores him.

"That guy...." says Clark.

"It's like boarding school all over again," says Lex, wearily. Clark isn't sure he wants to know what that means.

There's a weird, pent-up energy at breakfast, the feeling of something about to happen. Clark looks around the tables. He's starting to recognize names and faces now; Marco, the young guy who looks like Pete's brother, is methodically peeling an orange; Henry the religious enthusiast, is saying a prolonged grace over his cooling oatmeal; several cliques are whispering to each other.

The attack comes as they are lining up with their dirty trays. Clark is right behind Lex. There's a crash, loud as a gunshot. Clark turns - someone has slammed a tray against a table - but in the split second his back is turned, a prisoner has gotten a wire around Lex's throat and is twisting it.

"Hey!" shouts a guard.

Clark throws the attacker aside, probably with too much force. He frees a purpling Lex from the wire by burning through it with his heat vision. Lex yelps.

"Sorry," whispers Clark.

Guards descend on all of them. Clark lets himself go limp in the hold of two guards and focuses his hearing.

"Not again, for fuck's sake. That's it. We gotta get rid of that fucking Dent," he hears a voice whisper. "Edge'll have our balls if Luthor isn't taken out soon."

Clark cranes his head to peer through the legs of the guards; he locates the source of the whisper - it's one of three biker-looking guys sitting at the far end of the dining hall. Their leader is called Mandan, Clark thinks. Then he, Lex and the wire-wielding prisoner are all hauled off in separate directions. Lex to the infirmary; the prisoner to solitary confinement and Clark for an interview with the cell block director, Guarez.

"Three days," says Guarez.

Clark shifts in his chair.

"You've been here a grand total of three days and this is your third incident."

"I didn't start any fights," says Clark, mildly.

"Why exactly have you decided to take on the role of Luthor's bodyguard?" asks Guarez. "Is he paying you?"

Clark gives what he hopes is a non-committal shrug.

"Are you having sexual relations with him?"

Clark feels the flush rising to his face. He says nothing.

"Any more trouble, and I'm splitting you two up," says Guarez. "And I'm assigning you to group therapy, starting tomorrow."

Clark is escorted back to the cell block and scans around the common area for Lex. He searches through the crowd of prisoners and recognizes the familiar curve of an orange jump-suited hip, leaning against the back wall. Lex is talking to someone: a tall guy, with a little mustache. Lex sees Clark, and comes over to join him at the bank of chairs in front of the TV.

"You okay?" asks Clark. There's still a thin red line marking Lex's throat.

"They gave me ice chips in the infirmary," says Lex, his eyes glued to the morning news. "I'm fine."

He's better than fine, Clark thinks. He seems almost....perky. Which is never a good sign. It means that Lex is plotting. Clark glances back to their cell to check that the explosives are still present and accounted for. He leans in to whisper in Lex's ear:

"Guarez says if anything else happens, he'll put us in separate cells."

"Nothing will happen," says Lex, serenely.

It happens after dinner, when everyone is gathered in the common area, watching TV or playing cards. The guards are stationed in pairs around the perimeter. Lex is reading, sprawled in his bunk. Clark hovers by the cell door. There's a crack of thunder from outside but that doesn't account for the pressure rising in the cell block. Clark looks around uneasily; he can tell trouble is coming but from which direction?

Mandan and his two biker friends are playing poker for mints. Clark tunes in their conversation but it's only about their game.

"Hey!" calls a prisoner at the table next to Mandan's. He's hailing a group of guys, waving them over. The group includes the man with the mustache Lex was talking to earlier. As the men pass by, in one abrupt movement the guy with the mustache kicks Mandan's table over, shouting something in Spanish.

The transition from perfect calm to mass brawl is instantaneous. Clark takes a step forward:

"Keep out of it," warns Lex.

Accusations are being shouted in English and Spanish; a prisoner lies unconscious among the cards and mints on the floor. The guards crowd in and call for back up. Lex hops down from his bunk to watch. When the combatants are finally separated, two inmates are carried off to the infirmary and three are led to solitary confinement. Mandan stands up unscathed. Lex frowns slightly. A guard shouts:

"Lockdown!"

Clark turns to Lex:

"You did this!"

Lex raises an eyebrow:

"Much as you like to blame me for everything, Clark...."

Clark advances, backing Lex against the wall of the cell. Lex leans there, staring back at him. Clark says:

"You orchestrated a riot."

"To protect you. How long before someone punches you and breaks their hand - or stabs you and crumples their knife? It's astonishing it hasn't happened already. It's far better if a third party neutralizes Mandan first."

Clark takes a breath; somehow everything's been turned around:

"The last thing I need is your protection-"

The lights go out. All around them, inmates are grumbling, preparing for bed. And here Clark stands, holding Lex against the wall, the latest in their very long line of stalemates. Lex's heart rate has sped up a little and his eyes are bright. He's enjoying himself.

Clark sighs and lets him go:

"This isn't over. We'll talk about it in the morning and -"

Lex lunges. All Clark can do is catch him. Lex's mouth on his, Lex's body pressed against him, for one, brief-

The cell is lit by the arc of a flashlight.

"Dent! Luthor! Knock it off and get into your bunks!"

There are hoots and catcalls from the cellblock. Clark flushes and stumbles to bed; As soon as the guards have moved on, Lex slips down to Clark's bunk. It takes all of Clark's willpower to hold him at arm's length:

"Lex, we can't-"

Lex tilts his head, quizzical. He bends to kiss Clark. Clark surrenders a kiss - one kiss can't hurt - then he pushes Lex back. He tries to muster his sternest voice and focus on what's important:

"You caused a riot.... "

Lex says:

"I made a casual remark to a gang member, which possibly - possibly - prompted an attack on another gang member. Mandan has been cutting in on their drug turf. They were primed to fight; At most, I just gave them a nudge."

How did Lex's hand get on Clark's thigh? Clark moves it away:

"Someone could have been killed."

Lex sighs:

"Criminal Darwinism, Clark. The only innocent person in here is you. And you were the one I was trying to protect."

His hand trails lightly along Clark's arm, the lightest brush of fingers. Clark tries but does not fully succeed in repressing a shiver. Lex returns to his own bunk, leaving Clark with a tangle of irreconcilable thoughts.

The next few days pass slowly and uneventfully. Clark stays close to Lex but they don't talk much. Clark spends most of his time eavesdropping on Mandan and the bikers, learning far more about their taste in drugs and "mamas" then he wants to know. But neither Lex nor Deacon Edge gets mentioned, even obliquely.

The group therapy session takes place in a dreary office. There are eight inmates in attendance, none by choice. The chairs are arranged in a circle, reminding Clark of Smallville High's drama classes. The therapist is an older lady, with fluffy grey hair. A bored guard keeps watch from the door.

"Our topic today," the therapist says "is regret. The things we've done, the hurtful things we'd like to take back....what regrets do you have, gentlemen?"

"I regret leaving any witnesses," says a tall guy with a scar. The therapist smiles nervously.

"Very funny, George. I know you don't mean that. Anyone else?"

A minute's uncomfortable silence, then:

"There's something I regret," says Lex. The therapist beams:

"Yes, go ahead, Lex."

"Although I am not guilty of the crime for which I am imprisoned-"

Snorts of derision from the other inmates.

"-I do regret that my actions - a long series of my actions - have cost me a close friend. My one, true friend."

Clark stares down at his lap. Lex is being manipulative, as always. This isn't real repentance. It means nothing.

"And although it's probably far too late, I'd do anything to change that," says Lex, softly. "To regain that trust."

There's a pause. A voice comments:

"Pussy!"

"George!" says the therapist. "That's enough. Thank you, Lex. Anyone else?"

At dinner, while Lex unenthusiastically prods his fish cake, Clark tries to think of something to say. A shadow looms over the table:

"This seat taken?"

Clark and Lex exchange a glance. It's Archie, Lex's hulking admirer. He's been quiet for a few days and Clark had removed him from his mental list of active threats. Perhaps this has been a mistake.

"Suit yourself," says Lex, coolly. The dining hall has fallen silent, watching them. Archie sits down next to Lex, banging his tray and spilling his tub of coleslaw.

"You have a nice day today?" says Archie.

Clark murmurs something non-committal, never taking his eye from Archie's huge freckled hands. Archie says:

"I did. I had a nice day."

Lex takes a cautious bite of fish cake.

"But tonight'll be even better."

Only someone that knows Lex as well as Clark does would see that he's coiled, ready to spring.

"Because tonight's the night I'm gonna bust Luthor's cherry ass!"

Archie slams his tray down on the table, a clarion call for every inmate to leap to his feet. There is hooting and roaring and more banging of trays which Clark barely notices as he vaults across the table.

Archie has wrapped an arm around Lex's chest:

"Got your boy!"

The dining room guards make frantic hand gestures at each other and radio for back-up.

"No," says Lex, mildly. "You don't."

He drives his fork into Archie's forearm. Archie bellows and slackens his hold, allowing Lex to wriggle free. Several more fights have broken out around the dining hall - it seems suspiciously well choreographed.

"Archie...." says a guard, nervously."Just chill, man. You don't want to go to solitary for this."

Archie ignores him and lunges at Lex. Clark jumps between them, holding Archie off with one hand. He dimly hears Lex whisper "diversion" but doesn't take in the significance, until Lex darts behind him. Which means that the knife Mandan was aiming at Clark's back plunges into Lex's chest instead.

"Yeah, that works too," says Mandan and Clark turns to see the smirk on his face, just as Lex collapses to the floor.

Things get a bit blurry then. Clark can't hold back the growl from his throat and both Mandan and Archie are tossed aside with slightly too much force. Archie jumps right back up and is promptly thrown over a table and cuffed by three guards. Dozens more guards in riot gear charge into the hall. There are shouts and thumps as various factions are subdued.

Clark kneels down beside Lex. Mandan's knife is still in the wound. Panicked, Clark x-rays him and finds only grazed ribs, no organs hit.

"Calculated... the arc of the blade," says Lex, managing to sound smug even while bleeding. "Knew he wouldn't hurt me. Told you-"

"Lex...."

"Dent, get off him!"

"Told you.... I'd protect you," whispers Lex.

Clark can only stare at him.

"Dent! You got three seconds to step back. One, two-"

Clark gets to his feet and watches helplessly as Lex is placed on a stretcher and carried off to the infirmary. Archie and Mandan are dragged off too: Archie struggles; Mandan, goes peaceably, with one backward glance at his biker deputies.

"ALL RIGHT," bellows a guard. "SHOW'S OVER. ALL INMATES LINE UP TO RETURN TO CELL BLOCK."

"Never get to finish a meal around here," remarks Marco, joining the line. A voice behind Clark says:

"Not you, Dent."

It's Guarez, with a face like a thundercloud.

"You're coming to my office."

Clark waits in the outer room with a guard while Guarez makes phone calls. He focuses his hearing on the infirmary, where Lex is being ordered to stop self-diagnosing and keep still. "Can we please give him enough drugs to shut him up?" pleads a nurse. Clark grins, relieved.

Guarez returns. In as few words as possible, Clark explains how Archie began the fight and Mandan finished it. He asks:

"Can I see Lex?"

"No," says Guarez. He adds in a milder voice. "I've just spoken to Dr Trenton. Luthor is going to be fine. He's very lucky. But since riots seem to follow wherever you go, I think we'll keep you out of the infirmary."

Clark is escorted back to cellblock just as "Lockdown" is called. He flops on his bed and stares up at Lex's empty bunk. In a way, he's achieved what he came here to do. Mandan will be charged with the attempted murder and will hopefully implicate Deacon Edge to reduce his time; Edge will stand trial and his syndicate will be shut down, at least for the duration of his prison sentence.

But this isn't what Clark is thinking about as he lies in his bunk.

He's thinking about Lex, human and vulnerable, stepping into the path of a knife to protect Clark's secret. How Lex has been a persistent thorn in Superman's side for the last few years but still won't allow anyone else to harm Clark. Lex, who sees no contradiction in attacking the Justice League, then turning around and joining forces with them when earth is faced with a greater threat. Lex, who came to prison loaded with explosives, only to sleep trustingly in the arms of his greatest enemy.

For Lex, protecting Clark's secret is the same as protecting Clark. Just as, Clark suddenly realizes, all those years of pursuing Clark's secret were actually Lex's pursuit of Clark himself.

And finally, Clark is thinking that when Lex comes out of the infirmary, Clark will be unable to push him away any longer. That this one generous act of Lex's will prove to be the toppling point of Clark's years of resistance.

The cellblock is asleep. Clark shifts restlessly, wishes he could get outside and fly. The night sky is his refuge against stress, the cool air, the smell of the stars.

"Clark...."

It's Lex's voice, the lightest, faintest whisper. Alarmed, Clark tunes him in but Lex's heart rate is steady; he's not calling for help.

"Clark, I'm sorry."

Clark waits; Lex takes a breath as though about to say more, but then apparently decides against it. Clark is left to wonder: is he apologizing for getting hurt, for causing the riot? Or for past crimes? For Lana? For the course of their relationship up to this point? It's completely typical of Lex to control the circumstance of his apology so that he can speak and Clark can do nothing but listen. But that he's apologized at all - twice, now - is momentous, something that Clark never would have expected.

Clark listens as Lex's breathing becomes slow and even; Lex is asleep and Clark is still wide awake.

He knows what he needs. By three o'clock, he gives in and collects the pillow from the upper bunk. It still smells faintly of Lex. Clark lies on his side, breathing in the scent. He hikes down his pajama bottoms and wraps a hand around his cock. He tunes in the sound of sleeping Lex and jacks himself off, hard and rough, his jagged breathing weaving a counterpoint around Lex's steadier rhythm. Just as Clark is on the brink, Lex, with perfect timing, moans softly in his sleep. Clark bites his lip and comes. Afterwards, he is finally able to sleep.

Clark dreams all night of Lex and wakes the next morning suffused with him: thoughts of Lex's mouth under his, Lex's skin under his hands. He tries to push the fantasies away but they bounce back like elastic. Clark wonders if this fixation is exactly what his parents had feared, all those years ago in Smallville: that he would get too close to Lex and never get free again. He'd loved Lana then; despite their bickering, he loves Lois now. But he has never wanted anyone the way that he wants Lex.

It is unfortunate, then, that J'onn should choose this day of all days to visit. He comes in disguise of course, playing the role of Clark's lawyer. But behind the shape-shifting, a little of J'onn always shows through. It's the gravity in the voice, the melancholy in his eyes.

"How are you holding up?" he asks Clark.

Clark tries desperately to banish thoughts of Lex.

"I'm fine. Doing fine. Have you....have you been able to round up new evidence for my case?"

"The evidence is stacking up," says J'onn. "But we are still missing a central piece."

Clark frowns. This probably means that while Bruce and The Question have managed to implicate members of Deacon Edge's gang, they still lack evidence against Edge himself. He says:

"That may change, soon."

J'onn says:

"If you should need me, I will be...listening for you."

Clark flushes, thinking about some of the things J'onn might have already over-heard. But, no. J'onn wouldn't eavesdrop on his thoughts, uninvited. He's almost painfully ethical.

"Thank you," he says.

J'onn nods, and stands up. Clark is guiltily relieved to see him go. At this point, J'onn barely needs his ability to read Clark's mind; it feels like he's broadcasting his ache for Lex in neon letters.

He walks back from the visiting room with Marco.

"How many days you got left?" Marco asks. Clark thinks it over:

"Twelve."

"Lucky. I've got forty three. You must be counting the days, man."

The phrase sticks in Clark's head. Counting the days. Twelve days to wrap up loose ends with Deacon Edge. Twelve more days with Lex.

In the afternoon, Archie returns from his stint in solitary and aims a sneer in Clark's direction. Clark stares back at him, unblinking. He listens in on Mandan's interrogation, which is being conducted in Guarez's office; unfortunately Mandan gives up nothing. He offers no reason for his attack on Lex and does not mention Deacon Edge. The detectives try every tack but Mandan shuts them down and is returned to his cell in solitary.

After dinner, Lex is escorted back to the cell block. Clark knows he's coming before he arrives, tracking his heart beat, his footsteps, through the corridors and past the guard station. He turns his head to see Lex coming through the doorway. A nearby inmate observes Clark's glance and promptly starts making kissing noises.

Lex follows Clark into their cell.

"Hope you didn't redecorate while I was gone."

"Wouldn't dream of it."

Small smile from Lex. After a pause, Clark says:

"You saw the knife coming - why did you let Mandan stab you?"

Lex gives him a patient look, as though this should be glaringly obvious:

"I told you. I calculated where the blade would hit and positioned myself accordingly. And it worked. He's out of our way now."

"You shouldn't put yourself in jeopardy," says Clark. "Not to protect me."

"You didn't give me much of a choice," points out Lex. "You wouldn't let me kill him."

Outraged by the unfairness of this, Clark opens his mouth to protest but no words come out. Of course, Lex seizes the moment:

"Oh, so martyr complexes are exclusive to you, Clark? I hadn't heard-"

"LOCKDOWN."

The cell gates clank shut and the lights dim. Lex stands by the sink, brushing his teeth. Clark lies on the bottom bunk, watching him. When Lex finishes, he turns and despite his effort to look casual, there's a slight uncertainty in his posture that squeezes Clark's heart. He reaches out his hand:

"Lex...."

And then Lex is in his arms. Warm and alive, stubborn but frail, Clark's most dangerous enemy and his deepest desire. Clark runs his hands over every bit of Lex he can reach: strokes the strong legs through the cotton pajamas, the muscles of Lex's back, the delicate skin of his throat.

Lex controls the kiss, pushing Clark down on the bunk and climbing on top of him. Clark arches his neck and lets Lex do what he wants. Lex settles between Clark's legs, one hand in Clark's hair. He pulls back from the kiss and stares at Clark.

Clark tugs at Lex's t-shirt, gently because of his wound. Lex obediently lifts up his arms. There's no moonlight in their cell but Lex seems to glow with a pearly light of his own. Clark slides his hand across soft skin to stroke the bandage; Lex says:

"It barely hurts any more."

"Let me see."

Lex gingerly pulls the bandage back. There's a faint red seam, south of his collarbone. Clark traces it with a finger.

"The great irony of my life," says Lex, softly. "So few visible scars. Except the ones I've left on others. On you, though it doesn't show."

He's sitting on Clark's thighs, solid and warm. Clark pulls him down and rolls him over so that they're lying side by side in the narrow bunk. He dips his head to kiss Lex's neck, listens briefly to the quickening pulse of blood.

Lex gets a hand under Clark's t-shirt. He brushes lightly over Clark's nipples, which swell at his touch. Then he skims down to the waistband of Clark's pajamas and slips his hand below. Clark gasps as Lex's fingers brush his cock.

"Pull them down," whispers Lex. "I want to see."

Clark hikes his pajama bottoms down and they both look at Clark's cock, which is very hard and shiny at the tip. Then Clark reaches for Lex; the pajamas slip easily off Lex's narrow hips.

"Come here," says Lex. "Both...in my hand."

Clark shifts closer, until their cocks are lined up in Lex's palm. Lex takes a long, low breath, and then wraps his hand around them both and starts jacking slowly.

"OH!" says Clark, loudly, and Lex's other hand comes up and claps over his mouth.

"Shhhh."

They lie still and listen for any response from the cellblock. Clark hears Henry mutter something about "unrepentant sinners" but nothing more. Lex slowly begins to move his hand and the pressure of his palm and the friction of his cock against Clark's forces Clark to bite his lip to keep from moaning again.

They thrust towards each other. Clark is torn between looking down at Lex's cock and up at his face; Lex is doing the same and it makes Clark laugh.

"What's funny?" hisses Lex. He jerks his hips towards Clark. His cheeks are pink and he too has bitten his lip.

Clark tries to speak and has to bite back another groan.

"We're like-"

Lex is jacking them harder now. Clark's eyes are nearly rolling back in his head and he'd swear his heart is beating loud enough to wake the cellblock.

"-those nodding dogs in the back windows of cars-"

Lex stares at him blankly, then says "Unghhhh", and comes, hot and wet, all over his own hand and Clark's stomach. Then he swiftly claps his free hand over Clark's mouth to stifle Clark's groan as he comes too.

They lie, nose to nose, sticky and panting. Clark has thought Lex beautiful thousands of times (including plenty of times when he should have been more concerned with what mayhem Lex might be planning) but Lex has never looked more beautiful than he does right now. Eyelashes fluttering, cheeks flushed, still regaining his breath.

Lex draws a damp finger along Clark's cheek, tracing the line of his jaw and his brow. They stare at each other for a minute, then Clark retrieves his t-shirt from the floor to clean them up. Lex yawns and moves in to rest his head on Clark's shoulder.

"You shouldn't get hurt for me," says Clark. He gets only a sleepy murmur in response but just when he's about to fall asleep, Lex raises his mouth to Clark's ear and says, whisper-soft:

"Tomorrow, I want you to fuck me."

Clark shivers but the warm weight of Lex anchors him. They fall asleep, entangled.


And so, unfortunately, do they wake up the next morning, with two guards staring at them.

"We're so sorry to disturb your "morning after", Mr. Luthor," says the first guard.

"I believe I ordered a later wake-up call," says Lex, stretching indolently. Clark can't help snickering.

"GET THE FUCK UP! BOTH OF YOU! NOW!"

That afternoon, during work detail, Clark can't shake a feeling of unease. He checks in on Lex several times - but Lex is fine, working silently in the mail room. Clark listens in on various snippets of conversation around the prison, all of them mundane but still his sense of foreboding lingers.

As Clark is walking back to the cellblock, he hears Lex's heartbeat suddenly speed up. Clark immediately doubles his pace:

"Cool it, Dent," says the guard, grabbing his arm.

Clark nearly shoves him aside but fortunately they've reached the cell block. As Clark enters, prisoners turn to look at him with faces that reflect degrees of smugness, anticipation, amusement and most of all, knowledge. They know something is going down and are waiting for Clark's reaction. Again, it's just like high school.

Clark scans the cells and finds Lex, pinned to the wall of a cell on the second floor. He's struggling fiercely, held in place by two men. It's Archie's cell.

With all eyes on him, Clark runs up the stairs. A quick flick of a glance at the nearest smoke detector is all it takes to have the alarms sounding. Below, the inmates mill about but the tableau of figures in Archie's cell remains motionless. Clark pauses in the doorway.

"Piss off, Dent," says Archie without turning around. Lex meets Clark's eye. Clark is well acquainted with the look on his face. Lex looks very calm and composed which means he's absolutely furious.

"Let him go," says Clark. "You hear those sirens going off? The guards are going to do a head count any second."

"Or not," says the other prisoner, who Clark recognizes as one of Mandan's biker friends. "The day shift guards ain't the sharpest tools in the drawer."

Lex aims a kick at Archie's groin; Archie dodges it. There is further commotion from the common area below

"See, this is how it's going to go down, Dent," says Archie, slowly. "I'm going to fuck your boy. Then I'm going to turn him over to Jeffers here. He's got business with him."

The biker winks at Clark.

"Whatever's left when we're done, we'll drop in your cell," says Archie. He unzips the front of Lex's orange jumpsuit, exposing the bare skin underneath. "You ready to give it up, Lex? Look at you, all pretty an' smooth. I like girls on the outside, you know. You're the closest thing to, in here."

At this Clark loses it, his rage suffusing him to the point that his vision turns red. He dimly hears Lex gasp "Clark" in a warning tone, as his hands are reaching for Archie's throat. Jeffers gets in the way and is knocked aside.

"COUNT!"

Everyone freezes. Jeffers has risen to a crouch. Archie's nostrils flare. He says:

"Fuck it. I'm having him."

He spins Lex round to face the wall but Lex kicks back, like a horse, and this time his foot hits home. As Archie doubles over, Clark grabs Lex and pulls him out of the cell.

"I SAID "COUNT." ANY INMATE NOT IN FRONT OF HIS CELL IN THE NEXT TEN SECONDS LOSES PHONE PRIVILEDGES FOR THE NEXT FUCKING WEEK!"

Lex is quiet for the rest of the day. Clark watches him uneasily. He knows Lex in this mode; he's plotting.

"Don't do anything," he says softly, at dinner. "It's not worth it."

Lex flicks a glance at him but doesn't answer.

Because I can't justify sleeping with you, if you revert to who you really are, finishes Clark, in his head. It means our little jailhouse idyll is over and reality has returned with a vengeance - with your vengeance, Lex.

Lex paces their cell until Lockdown. The moment the lights go off, he hurls himself at Clark. His hands are everywhere at once, digging into Clark's shoulder, clutching his hair. He jumps up and wraps his legs around Clark's waist. Clark steadies him, carries him to the bottom bunk. He tries to lay Lex down gently - but Lex doesn't want gentle. He snarls and lunges at Clark again, with such force that Clark is afraid he'll hurt himself.

"Hey..." says Clark, but then Lex's mouth is back on his. It's impossible to kiss Clark too hard but Lex is in danger of bruising his own mouth. Lex shifts himself into Clark's lap; he grabs one of Clark's hands and guides it around to his back. Clark tries to slow him down by petting him, stroking Lex's shoulders and back, rubbing the soft skin above his hip. Lex grunts impatiently and thrusts Clark's hand down the back of his pajama pants, right into the cleft of his ass. He nips at Clark's ear, then whispers:

"Fuck me."

Clark shivers and feels the shiver ripple through Lex on his lap. His cock, already rock-hard from the press of Lex's ass, strains a little harder. Lex's hand is fumbling for the fly of his pajamas. They're moving far too fast. After waiting for so many years, it can't happen in a rush like this. Clark says.

"We need-"

"No, we don't," says Lex, trying to kiss Clark and wriggle out of his t-shirt simultaneously. He's rocking in Clark's lap, frantic; Clark realizes that Lex is still very angry.

"Lex, slow down."

"No."

They glare at each other; Lex kicks off his pajama bottoms, steadying himself with a hand in Clark's hair. He's naked in Clark's lap and the heat of him, the smell of his skin, is making Clark dizzy. Lex yanks down Clark's pajamas to free his erection, which practically leaps into Lex's hand.

"Want you," Lex mumbles into Clark's neck. "For so long. Want you so bad."

He shifts and Clark sees that Lex intends to push himself down onto Clark's cock, with no lube, no preparation. He'll hurt himself - but that's what Lex wants. He has always responded to being hurt by seeking out the risk of even greater pain: Each rejection from Lionel propelling him into more dangerous behaviour; each half truth from Clark nudging him into more perilous research. His way of coping with Archie's assault today is to assault himself all over again with Clark as an unwilling prop.

"No," says Clark, softly. "We're not doing it like this."

Lex struggles but Clark holds him still; when Lex opens his mouth to complain, Clark claps a hand over his mouth.

"Shhhh."

They sit like that for a few minutes, Lex silent and furious in Clark's lap. Outside, rain pelts against the prison walls and someone down the cellblock is snoring softly.

Lex tries a new tactic and licks Clark's palm. Clark flips him around and eases him down onto his back, pinning his wrists to the pillow. He says sternly:

"You calm now?"

Lex stares back at him, eyes unreadable, and Clark thinks how this weirdly similar this is to their usual interactions: Lex goes too far; Clark reins him in. Lex commits elaborate crimes and puts himself at risk to get Superman's attention; Clark turns up in the nick of time to stop him and save him. Perhaps, all their years of conflict have been nothing more than a drawn-out foreplay, all leading up to this moment in this bunk.

He bends to kiss Lex. At first, Lex stubbornly keeps his lips shut but a gentle application of tongue solves that and soon Lex is moaning into Clark's mouth. Clark licks along the crooked line of Lex's scar, then moves north to kiss his nose and eyelids. Lex's hands are free now; one hand is toying with Clark's left nipple, which seems to be wired directly to his cock. Each flick of Lex's finger tightens his balls, and brings him closer to the edge.

Clark kisses Lex's neck, runs his hands along the smooth chest, tweaks a nipple and enjoys hearing Lex gasp:

"You going to.....tease me all night...?"

"Maybe," says Clark. He licks a circle around the nearest nipple, gently squeezes Lex's thigh. He dips his tongue into Lex's navel, salty with sweat and is rewarded with another soft moan. "You taste good."

Lex growls and hauls Clark back up for a kiss. They rock into each other, cocks brushing. Lex dips a hand to cup Clark's balls. Clark bucks, nearly throwing them both off the bed.

"Always so in control," whispers Lex. He thrusts against Clark. "Always wanted to see you lose control, even if it killed me."

Clark pushes him back down and gets a thigh in each hand. Lex stares up at him, his eyes heavy-lidded. Clark gently spreads the thighs apart and bends between them to whisper.

"We need-"

"Under the mattress."

"We are not using plastic explosives for lube," says Clark firmly, and is rewarded with a snort of laughter from Lex.

"No. No, look-"

Clark plants one hand firmly on Lex's chest and fumbles under the mattress with the other. His fingers brush something and he pulls out a tube of Vaseline.

"Do I even want to know how you got this?"

Sleepy smile from Lex.

"Does it matter?"

Clark rests his cheek on Lex's stomach and spreads the lube on two fingers. He tilts his head to watch Lex's reaction, as the first finger slips inside. Lex arches his back - St. Sebastian pinned by arrows - then he reaches down to guide Clark's hand. Clark kisses Lex's thighs, his cock, while gently twisting and pushing deeper into the heat of him. When he feels Lex's balls tighten under his tongue, he lifts his head:

"Are you ready?"

Lex nods, then whimpers when the fingers are withdrawn. He rolls onto his side, facing the wall and looks back at Clark over his shoulder.

Clark slips out of his pajamas. He moves in behind Lex and enjoys the press of chest to back, thigh to thigh. He lifts Lex's leg and gently the guides the tip of his cock inside him. Lex gasps; there's a flash of pain across his face. Clark waits for him to adjust and then starts easing himself forward. When he's halfway in, Lex looks over his shoulder again and Clark dips his head to kiss him. Lex grasps Clark's hip and with a shuddering breath, takes him in all the way.

Clark is afraid to move at first. Afraid of hurting Lex, of coming too soon. But Lex, always less patient, reaches back and prods his hip and Clark finds that slipping out of Lex feels nearly as amazing as thrusting into him.

They get a good rhythm going. The bunk creaks and Clark has to bury his mouth in Lex's neck to smother his moans. Lex is moving too, bucking his hips back to meet Clark's thrusts. He's got a hand wrapped around his own cock and is jerking himself off in rough, slapping strokes.

The beam of a flashlight illuminates a cell down the block. Clark freezes.

"Fuck!" hisses Lex. He keeps throwing himself back against Clark anyway, too far gone to be able to stop, but Clark stills him, pulls him closer so that he's completely covering Lex. Hopefully, the guards won't notice that there are two bodies in the lower bunk.

The footsteps come closer; the flashlight paints an unsteady arc along the corridor. Clark squeezes his eyes shut. His cock throbs inside Lex and it's so hard to resist moving, just to ease the pressure. Lex's heart is thumping wildly. Clark kisses his ear and strokes his chest, trying to calm him down.

The light approaches, then passes, the footsteps receding into the next cellblock.

"Fuck..." breathes Lex.

"Yeah," says Clark.

"No, that wasn't commentary," snaps Lex. "That was an order. Keep going."

Clark grins. If Lex is bossy, he's back to normal and his darker mood has passed.

He pulls Lex's leg up higher and fucks him deeper. Lex throws an arm behind his back to pull Clark close and then with one final thrust, Clark is coming, so hard he blacks out for a moment, coming to with his mouth pressed to Lex's neck and Lex's hard cock in his hand.

"Finish me," says Lex, a little urgently, thrusting into Clark's fingers. For once, it sounds less like an order and more like a plea. So Clark does, tightening his fingers. It's only seconds before Lex is coming, collapsing back against Clark's chest, his ass clenching around Clark's spent cock.

They lie in silence for a few minutes, locked together, then Clark reaches for Lex's sticky hand and, almost absent-mindedly, licks it clean.

Lex sighs, a long exhausted sigh, and rolls over to face Clark. Clark pulls him closer, until their arms and legs are tangled and Lex's cheek is resting against his chest. They're both asleep within seconds.


Clark wakes, just as the guards are beginning their morning patrol. He tries to nudge Lex awake but Lex just huffs and hunkers deeper into the blankets. Clark scoops him up and deposits him in the upper bunk moments before the inspection reaches their cell.

As usual, they eat their breakfast in silence. But it's a companionable silence. Clark chews burnt toast and occasionally lets his eyes drift over to Lex. When Lex taps his foot under the table, Clark thinks: I've kissed the arch of that foot, licked the inside of that thigh. When Lex stretches, tilting his head back, Clark has an involuntary sense memory of burying his face in that long, graceful neck.

Everything has changed. Except, not. Because Superman can't change, which means that Lex has to, if they're to take this beyond prison walls. And for Lex, change equals surrender. There was a time he would have done it without hesitation. If Clark had told Lex everything after Belle Reve, he would have given himself to Clark completely; Clark knows that now.

But that was nearly ten years ago and they've been through a lot since then.

Clark shoves his worries aside. They have larger problems: Mandan hasn't given up Edge and there's probably still a hit out on Lex.

After lunch, when Clark and Lex return from the showers, there's a guard waiting in their cell. Clark doesn't recognize him, which means he's from another cellblock. The guard says:

"Dent. Pack your things!"

Clark darts a glance at Lex:

"Where am I going?"

The guard smirks:

"You're moving in with Marco."

Clark makes a quick calculation. Marco currently shares with Jeffers. Jeffers is one of Mandan's biker friends. This, then, is Mandan's latest assassination attempt.

"You can't put Jeffers with Lex. Mandan tried to kill Lex and this is his latest way of-"

"There have been no official complaints made against Jeffers," says the guard, stiffly.

"We haven't done anything," says Clark. "Why are you separating us?"

"Because Luthor's here to be punished," says the guard. "And fucking your ass through the mattress every night? It's not my idea of fun - but for him? It ain't punishment."

"But-"

"Let it go," says Lex, in a level voice. The guard smirks again.

"See, Dent? Your sugar daddy knows what's what. Now pack your shit and be ready to move by dinner."

When the guard's gone, Clark says:

"Look, I'll talk to Guarez. He seems reasonable. The last thing he wants is more violence."

Lex waves this off:

"You'll get nowhere. All the other guards will back up this one."

"But he's obviously on Mandan's payroll! That's the only reason he'd request a transfer to this block."

"That's true, but it won't matter. The guards are tight-knit. Loyalty will trump any suspicions they might have about his motives."

"Lex, you know that Jeffers will try to kill you."

Lex folds his arms and raises his chin:

"Let him try."

And this brings them round full circle, thinks Clark despairingly. Lex in danger - and far too prepared to kill to defend himself; Clark needing to prevent it so he can justify having Lex in his bed.

"No," says Clark, suddenly. "There's another way."


Neither J'onn nor Lex is particularly happy about the plan.

"The guards will notice," says Lex.

Clark shakes his head:

"I don't think so. They always do their last check about a half hour before Lockdown. We'll sneak you into my cell in between inspection and lights-out. As long as they see a "Lex" in your cell, we should be all right."

Clark tries to summon J'onn by thinking as hard, and as loudly, as he can in J'onn's direction. In case that isn't sufficient, he also leaves a message on one of Bruce's untraceable cell phones. A few hours later, as Lex guards the door to the laundry room, Clark waits to see if either message got through.

At the scheduled time, J'onn glides up through the floor; he's opted for blond hair today and is clad in a prison jump-suit.

"Thank goodness!" says Clark.

"Your message sounded urgent," says J'onn.

Clark explains. J'onn listens, tilting his head to one side.

"You wish me to impersonate Luthor?"

"Only for one night," says Clark apologetically. "His cell-mate is going to try to kill him tonight."

"And where will Luthor actually be?"

"I'm going to hide him in my cell after the last inspection. As long as the guards see you in his cell, they won't suspect anything."

There's a pause. J'onn says:

"The League has expended a lot of effort on Lex Luthor's behalf lately-"

Clark can feel his defenses rising. He fights the urge to snap back. Anyhow, what J'onn says is quite true. They have spent a disproportionate amount of time on Lex and Deacon Edge. He says:

"I know. But it's nearly over."

"I hope," J'onn looks thoughtfully at Clark, "that Luthor appreciates all that you have done for him."

Clark lowers his eyes. He hopes so too.

He moves his belongings into Marco's cell after dinner. Marco eyes him, cautiously:

"You know, Dent, what you had going on with Luthor...."

Clark glances up from the lower bunk; Marco looks worried.

"That's between me and him,' says Clark. He adds, awkwardly. "I'm not... in the market for anyone else."

"A'right," says Marco, relieved. "We're cool, then. Better you than Jeffers, the racist fuck."

Clark watches as Jeffers crosses the common area and places his belongings on the top bunk in Lex's cell. Lex doesn't protest; he just glances across at Clark, then casts a more significant glance at the bunk post.

"Oh no you don't!" says Clark, under his breath. "No explosions now that I've got everything arranged."

Fifteen minutes before Lockdown, Marco is still watching television. Clark motions to Lex. A moment later, there are two Lexes in the Clark's cell, as J'onn gracefully glides up through the floor. Lex, startled, takes a step back and knocks his head on the bunk:

"You could give us some warning-"

Clark hushes him:

"Lex, get into bed and make yourself as flat as you can against the wall. I'm going to heap the blankets on you. Are you ready, J'onn?"

"I am."

J'onn turns and walks back to Lex's cell.

"He makes everything sound pompous," grumbles Lex.

"You're one to talk," says Clark. "Okay, get in position...."

Clark holds his breath when Marco returns, tries to look as casual as he can propped against his heap of blankets. Marco starts brushing his teeth:

"You worried for Luthor, Dent? You should be. Jeffers is a thug."

"Did he ever hurt you?" Clark asks. Marco snorts:

"I'd kick his ass."

"Impressive bravado," murmurs Lex, from within the pile of blankets. Clark elbows him.

"LOCKDOWN."

"Sleep well!" says Marco and climbs into his bunk.

"'Night," says Clark. He puts his head under the covers and finds himself nose to nose with Lex.

"Convenient," whispers Lex, and steals a kiss. Clark pushes him away and puts on his sternest face.

"We can't."

"Mmmm," Lex isn't listening. He searches for Clark's hand under the covers.

"Lex, stop! We'll get caught."

"Used to have fantasies of sneaking into your room like this," whispers Lex. "Or seducing you in the barn."

"Really?" Clark says, momentarily diverted. "Me too, but-"

Marco's head suddenly appears over the edge of the top bunk:

"Dent, you got an imaginary friend down there?"

Clark protrudes his head from the cocoon of blankets.

"No...sorry. I sometimes mumble to myself when I'm falling asleep."

"Could you try not to? Worse than Jeffers' snoring, man."

Clark says:

"Sorry. I'll stop."

"I didn't want to talk anyway," whispers Lex, when Clark is back under the covers. Clark shivers as fingers brush his cock. He puts his mouth right next to Lex's ear.

"Stop it."

"Or you'll make me?"

"You think I won't?" says Clark, trying to inject as much authority into his whisper as he can. Judging by the bulge in Lex's pajama bottoms, he doesn't object to being bossed but it doesn't stop him from reaching for Clark's cock again. Clark hisses:

"Lex!"

Before Lex can answer, a wail of pure terror echoes across the cell block.

"Shit!" says Marco, from the upper bunk. "I guess that's Luthor getting killed. Sorry, man."

A second scream and the pounding of guards' feet. Clark sits up in bed to watch; Lex peeks around his hip.

"LET ME OUT OF HERE!"

"Hell, that's not Luthor, that's Jeffers!" says Marco. "What the fuck did your boy do to him?"

Clark is wondering the same thing. The guards are clearly puzzled at finding both Jeffers and "Lex" unharmed but when they try to leave, Jeffers resumes his hysterics:

"You can't leave me in here with him! I'll tell you everything. I'll make a deal, anything, just put me in another cell!"

There's a rising murmur through the cell block. Every inmate is awake now. A guard says:

"All right, Jeffers, calm the hell down. We'll stick you in B block for the night."

With one trembling look over his shoulder, Jeffers is led off. J'onn steps up to the bars and gazes across at Clark. Whispers echo around the cell block:

"That Luthor, man. He's cold."

"Bad ass. Never thought Jeffers'd turn bitch like that."

"Luthor fucked him over good."

"You know," whispers Lex from the pile of blankets. "I wasn't in favour of this plan but I'm pleased with the results."

Clark whispers:

"Like your reputation needs to get worse!"

"You're talking to yourself again, Dent!" says Marco.

"Sorry,' says Clark and determined to shut Lex up thoroughly this time, he climbs on top of him:

"Go to sleep."

And after a few yawns, Lex curls against Clark's chest, and does just that.

Clark waves his hand to attract J'onn's attention. When J'onn waves back, Clark broadcasts a thought-message:

"What on earth did you do? He was terrified!"

He tunes his ear to J'onn's whispered reply. Even whispering, J'onn is sonorous:

"I impersonated his mother," says J'onn gloomily. "I did not anticipate it would have such an extreme result."

Clark shakes with silent laughter; the vibrations cause Lex to grunt in his sleep. Clark tugs Lex closer and falls asleep, still chuckling.


Next morning, a whisper from J'onn wakes him:

"Superman....the guards."

Clark rolls groggy Lex up in the blankets and hopes the guards won't scrutinize his bed too closely. He joins Marco outside the cell for the head count. J'onn is already in line, standing ramrod straight outside his cell. His posture is all wrong for Lex, who usually juts out a hip or folds his arms. But it's not like anyone except Clark would notice.

When the count is done, Marco heads to the showers and Clark waves J'onn over:

"Now's your chance to get away."

J'onn nods, walks into the cell and promptly sinks through the floor, scarcely giving Clark time to say "thank you." Lex emerges bleary-eyed from the covers and Clark hurries him back to his own cell to get dressed.

At breakfast, several inmates stop by their table to ask Lex what he did to Jeffers. Lex offers only an icy stare in response. He's enjoying this far too much, Clark thinks. While Lex basks in the speculative gaze of the inmates, Clark eavesdrops on Jeffers' interrogation.

"He's giving up everything. He just told Guarez that Edge framed you for the warehouse job," says Clark, leaning across the table. "They'll have to release you."

"For the good of society," says Lex, and there's something in his tone that makes Clark a little uneasy. Still, they have a few more days together. That gives Clark more time to work on Lex, to extract promises about future behaviour. A little longer for Clark to indulge in wishful thinking that this time around, everything will be different.

But time, as it turns out, is precisely what they do not have. When they return from breakfast, Guarez is waiting in the cell block:

"Dent. Pack your things."

"Am I moving back to my old cell?" Clark asks. He tries to keep the hopeful tone out of his voice.

"Better than that," says Guarez, wryly. "You're being released. I have the signed papers from the Warden right here."

Clark opens his mouth to ask "why" but then stops. He knows why. Perry has gotten cold feet over reports of violence in the prison and has asked the Warden to pull Clark out.

"Go on,' says Guarez. "Get packing."

With a glance at Lex, Clark walks to his cell, accompanied by Marco who says, wistfully:

"Man, you're lucky. Wish they'd let me go home early."

It only takes Clark a minute to gather his belongings. When he's done, he looks across the cellblock at Lex. Guarez follows his gaze and says:

"You looking to start one more riot before you go, Dent? Not a chance."

"But-"

Guarez says:

"If you mean anything to Lex Luthor, he'll find you on the outside. But I wouldn't raise your expectations too high. What happens in here, Dent? Finding romance or finding God? It doesn't count. It's how you act beyond these walls that matters."

This is so alarmingly close to the debate that's been raging in Clark's head - has Lex really changed? Can Lex really change? - that he argues no further. As he walks towards the door, he can feel every eye in the cell block on him but it's only Lex's gaze that he meets. And Lex's eyes give away nothing.


Clark throws himself back into both his jobs. He writes up the prison story for Perry; works double shifts at the Watchtower. It's a great relief to be able to use all his powers again but Clark knows that isn't the only reason he's over-working. The loneliness of his apartment grates on him. He hasn't been home for over a week, not since he watched the television coverage of Lex's release. Lex had been greeted at the prison gate by a crowd of reporters, Lois among them:

"Lex, how does it feel to have been exonerated?"

"Mr. Luthor, do you have a comment on the recent arrest of Deacon Edge?"

"Lex, are you still dating Princess Theodora?"

Lois's voice had drowned out all the others:

"Has prison changed you?"

Lex had paused, looked straight at the camera. Clark, on the couch, had involuntarily leaned forward. Lex answered:

"That's the question, isn't it?"

Then, despite the howls of protests from the reporters, he had stepped into the limo and been driven off by Mercy. Clark has heard nothing of him since. It's been ten days.

He flies back from Gotham, weary from a night of battling the Joker and his latest edition of the Royal Flush gang. The Gotham villains always depress Clark; he doesn't know where Bruce finds the emotional stamina to deal with them on a regular basis.

He considers flying back to the Watchtower but, no. J'onn will just send him home. He's had a few stern words to say to Clark lately. "Even Kryptonians need sleep and occasional meals, Superman."

The apartment is dark and smells of spoiled milk. Clark makes his way to the bedroom, shedding his costume and stumbling over things as he goes. He walks into the bedroom and instantly collides with something that is both taller and wobblier than his usual bed. Clark says "ow", out of habit rather than pain, and flicks on the lights to inspect this unfamiliar obstacle.

It's a bunk bed. And Lex is sprawled in the bottom bunk, wearing an orange jump-suit. He's feigning sleepiness but Clark doubts very much that he's been asleep.

"You might have asked me if I wanted to get rid of my old bed."

Lex sits up, mimes an unconvincing stretch.

"I mean," says Clark. "What am I supposed to do with bunk beds?"

Lex doesn't answer but he lies back suggestively, letting his eyes wander down Clark's bare chest. Clark sits down on the edge of the lower bunk:

"And a prison jump-suit.... are you putting yourself in my custody, Lex?"

"It's a life sentence, apparently" says Lex, and Clark feels a shiver of happiness up his spine. But he needs to be sure:

"We can't have it both ways, you know. Not be enemies by day and in bed together at night."

Lex says slowly:

"The struggle between us will never be over, Clark. You know that."

It's like a kick to the heart. Clark moves to stand up but Lex puts a hand on his arm and says:

"Wait. The battle never changes, but the battlefield can."

Clark sits down again, puzzled:

"What?"

"I propose that we bring the battle back to where it belonged in the first place," says Lex. He pats the mattress.

Clark gapes at him.

"I'd rather fight you in bed anyway," says Lex. "Better chance of winning."

"But what about -"

Lex suddenly sits up; the sheets pool around his waist like a collapsed toga:

"I'm not going to stop monitoring the League, Clark. I trust you, but I don't trust all of the others. Between the super-powers, the weaponry and the resources of Wayne and Queen, there's far too much potential for tyranny there."

Clark is silent for a moment. He doesn't like it - but Lex does have a point. He says:

"All right. But you'd stop the unprovoked attacks?"

Lex nods.

"You'd stop working with other criminals?"

"Had my fill of them in prison," says Lex. "People with low IQs become tedious very quickly."

"You'd stop your illegal research?"

This time, Lex doesn't reply at all, just looks blandly back at Clark. Ah well, thinks Clark. That was a bit too much to hope for. Two out of three isn't bad. He says:

"You really think we can make this work?"

Lex says:

"I do. Your sanctimonious lecturing is much more tolerable when you're naked. Ooooof!"

The "Ooooof!" is because Clark has just flipped him roughly onto his back. Lex blinks up at him. Clark bends down until the tips of their noses are touching.

"Just you remember that in the end," Clark tells him, "Good will always triumph over Evil."

Lex leans up and whispers in his ear:

"Except that Good inevitably gets complacent - and forgets that Evil knows all his vulnerable spots."

And suddenly there are fingers tickling Clark's balls; he groans and throws his head back:

"Villain!"

"Boy Scout!"

There's an interlude of kissing, rolling and tumbling, Lex's ass getting squeezed, Clark's tongue getting bitten. And afterwards, when they're lying in a sleepy, sweaty tangle, Clark finally works up the nerve to ask his final question, the one he's been carrying with him for years.

"Lex?"

"Mmmm."

"After everything that's happened.....do you think we've earned a "happily ever after"?

A pause, long enough for Clark to wonder if Lex has fallen asleep. Finally Lex says, through a yawn:

"We're obviously stuck with the "ever after" part. So why not try to be happy?"

Which might, Clark reflects as his eyelids grow heavy, be the most sensible thing either of them has ever said.

And with that, he settles his head on Lex's shoulder and falls into a blissfully dreamless sleep.



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