|CLEX FIC: Counting the Days (NC-17)
||[Aug. 6th, 2007|07:23 pm]
I've always wanted to read a fic where Clark and Lex end up in prison together....so I wrote one! (Future fic, with cameos from the Justice League, NC-17)|
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."
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?"
"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:
"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 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."
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.
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."
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.
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:
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."
"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.
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.
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:
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…. "
"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."
"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:
"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-"
"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.
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.
END OF PART ONE. Click here for the conclusion!: