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Running Interference

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Running Interference

by Annie


Running Interference

By Annie

Rated: PG-13
Summary: Lex is in Arkham Asylum and Lionel is not pleased; sequel to Run and Running. Disclaimer: Still not mine. :(
Spoilers: Assume all, up to and including Shattered Feedback: crehnert@ptd.net

I'm out in the barn doing chores when Dad finds me. It's not even daylight yet, and he knows I couldn't sleep.

"No sleep last night, Son?" he asks, leaning under the hood of the truck to watch me needlessly cleaning battery cables.

"I did sleep," I tell him. "I had bad dreams. About Lex in the asylum and how they beat him up."

"Did they?" he wants to know worriedly, reaching for the dipstick to check the oil, joining in with my self-imposed odd jobs.

"There were lots of bruises. New ones, that he didn't have when he was here."

A raised eyebrow, questioning.

I glance at him sideways. "That was my shirt Lex was wearing. His was all torn and bloody, so I gave him one of mine. He didn't have those particular bruises then. They took the shirt off when they put him in the strait jacket."

"You got the strait jacket off?" he asks quietly.

Rueful smile. "I shredded it. He didn't have a shirt on under it, and that's how I saw the bruises."

He freezes. "You shredded it. Lex saw you do that?"

I stand then, slamming down the hood of the truck, facing him in the morning quiet of the barn.

"It doesn't matter. Lex knows. Lex had it all figured out, even before I shoved him out of the way of Edge's car and stopped it from hitting him."

Disbelief and dismay on his face now, at this news. "Clark, how could you be so...."

"Honest?" I interrupt him. "I'm tired of lying all the time, Dad. I'm tired of lying to Lex. Wanna know what his reaction was? He said he knew it all along. He knew that I'm not human. He looked like it was the best present anyone had ever given him."

He wants to argue with me, but I don't let him speak.

"And you know what I did, Dad? The freak alien sent to rule the planet? I ran away! I ran and hid and I watched them come and drag him away like some rabid dog, yelling my name till they shoved him into the back of a van, took him to an insane asylum, knocked him around and left him in a padded cell wearing a strait jacket. I'm a hero."

I kick a wrench I have left on the dirt floor and it whooshes through the back wall of the barn and out of sight. He's reaching out to touch me, calm me down, and the last thing I want to do is calm down. I'm ready to fly out of my skin with worry, and I don't know how I'll be able to wait till tomorrow to go to Gotham City. I want to pick up the phone and call the private number Chloe found for me yesterday, hear Bruce Wayne assure me that Lex is all right. That Lionel hasn't found him yet.

Lionel isn't in Gotham City, because before my Dad can get a word out, the man himself is striding into the barn, blocking some of the dawn light seeping in.

"Mr. Kent!" he's bellowing, walking like he owns the place and deserves an immediate reply. Dad motions for me to stay still and walks out into the center of the barn to meet him.

"Mr. Luthor! What brings you here at this time of morning?"

Lionel stops right in front of Dad, not backing down from the challenging stance my Father has taken.

"I am looking for your interfering son!" Lionel tells him belligerently.

I step away from the truck, force myself to look him in the eye bravely. I know he can't hurt me, and I am so angry with him, I welcome the possibility of an argument.

"What have you done with Lex?" I demand. "Where is he?"

He starts to smile, then looks down at the dirt beneath his expensive shoes for a moment to wipe it away. Looks up at me again.

"Such a smooth liar for one so young. Tell me, Jonathan, how you managed to raise such a deceitful child."

I move to get closer, and Dad's hand on my arm stops me. "I'm not a child." I declare quietly. "I'll show you."

He glares. "Spare me the theatrics at this ungodly hour of the morning, please. My son was abducted from the hospital last night, and I want to know where he is!"

I smile widely and I can see that it infuriates him. "Lex broke out? Good for him!" I tell Lionel smugly.

Dad's hand, still on my arm, tightens warningly. "Clark," he cautions me quietly, feeling the tense anger strumming through my body, the effort I'm putting out to stay calm.

He turns to Lionel then. "If someone really has 'abducted' Lex, it wasn't my son. Clark was home all last night, with us."

Lionel's serene demeanor belies the wrath I can see in his eyes. "I see," he says, quietly, "If this is how you want it, then so be it. I will locate my son, and when I do, I'm sure he'll have an interesting tale to spin when he tells me how he was taken. This will remain unfinished business between us, Mr. Kent. Young Mr. Kent."

He almost turns to go, but his gaze brushes past us to the recently-acquired hole in the back wall of the barn. "I see you've sustained a slight amount of damage there. You should see to it before it gets more - expensive. I'll be expecting to hear from one of you - soon!"

He turns on his heel and stalks rigidly out of the barn. I force myself not to follow him out, toss him down the driveway a bit.

"Where's Lex? " Dad asks seriously. "Clark, if you have him stashed somewhere and there's no one to help him, things may get a lot worse."

"Lex is being well taken care of," I reply, and I tell him about last night, beginning to end.

He sighs. "I just hope we haven't gotten in over our heads."

The day passes torturously slowly, and as soon as it gets dark, I call Bruce Wayne's private number. There's no way I can wait through another night without seeing Lex for myself, making sure he's all right. Bruce wants me to wait, of course.

"But is he all right?" I demand.

Quiet on the other end for a second or two, and I can almost see him, picturing him at a desk in a dim room, contemplating mergers and acquisitions like Lex does.

"He was actually fairly coherent today. He has been asking for you. We told him you'd come tomorrow night, but it's just possible seeing you would be good for him, ground him a bit more."

"Then I'm coming tonight," I decide, relieved that Lex sounded better.

"I'll send the helicopter for you," Bruce offers, as if it's the most natural means of transportation in Kansas.

"Umm, that's okay, thanks. I already have a ride." I'm almost smiling as I hang up the phone and dash out the front door. I only have one short stop to make on my way through town.

When I finally get to Gotham City and see Arkham for the first time, I am amazed at the sheer, imposing look of it. Huge thing, made of dark stone, with towers and turrets, weird shapes all over and I wonder exactly what kinds of criminals are locked in here, and then realize I really don't want to know. All I want to know is that Lex is far away from them and safe. The guard at the huge gates makes a phone call when I present myself, and after several long, uneasy minutes, he opens the gate and motions for me to go inside. I am met at the door by an orderly.

"Mr. Kent. I'm Thomas. You got here very quickly. Mr. Wayne called and told us you were coming. Mr. Luthor is resting at the moment, but you can wait in his visitor room. He has the special suite, and the visitor room is very nice. Soothing for both the patients and their families." He is leading me away down a long, sky-blue hall as he speaks, and I try not to glance sideways at the little windows in all the doors we are passing.

"Did anyone tell him I was coming?" I ask, growing more worried with every step closer to Lex, afraid of what I might find and grasping tenaciously at Bruce Wayne's encouraging words on the phone.

Thomas looks back at me without missing a step. "Mr. Wayne said not to tell him. He said it might make him more anxious if he was waiting for you. Mr. Wayne also said to tell you he's on his way here, as well. He's very worried about Mr. Luthor."

I notice that we're passing a long stretch of hallway without doors, and have apparently gone beyond the regular resident rooms. We come to a plain wooden door at the end of the hall. Thomas pulls out a huge ring of keys and unlocks it, stands with his hand on the knob before he opens it.

"Mr. Luthor has been very good today. He's had the quickest turnaround we've ever seen in 24 hours. If he was being drugged, then the supply has been cut off since yesterday morning, according to what Mr. Wayne has told us. That's almost forty-eight hours. Enough time for a lot of the drug to leave his system. The tests haven't all come back yet, so we don't know what he was given. Also, he doesn't seem to be having any withdrawal symptoms. Not yet, anyway. The biggest problem he's had today was looking for you."

He finally opens the door and takes me into what looks like a nice living room, minus windows, and with a more institutional-looking door on the far wall. No window in that door either.

"This is a common room?" I ask. "Or Lex's?"

"Just Mr. Luthor's, for now." Thomas heads for the other door, selecting yet another key from his collection. "I'm going to go in and make sure he's awake, and I'll tell him you're here. Best not to have surprises. The security cameras in this room are turned off, by the way. Instructions from Mr. Wayne. Also, there is a phone over on the table. Just dial 'O' if Mr. Luthor needs anything, or if you want to leave. Or if anything happens."

Thomas disappears into the next room, closing the door behind him, and I begin to pace nervously, not wanting to contemplate what the orderly might have meant by 'if anything happens.'

After what feels like hours, the door opens slowly and Lex is there, unsmiling. My heart drops.

"Lex, are you all right? They aren't hurting you, are they?"

Lex walks slowly across to the small sofa, doesn't take his eyes off me as he does, and settles into the soft cushions carefully, mindful, I think, of the bruises he still bears.

"I'm better, Clark. I have you to thank for that." Small sardonic smile then. "Always trying to save me, aren't you?"

"I couldn't leave you there, Lex. You know I couldn't." I make my way over to join him, sitting as far away as the small sofa will allow. "I brought you something," I try cheerily, reaching into my shirt and pulling out the comic book. "Warrior Angel, just out today. I got it in town on my way here. I know you get two issues delivered to the mansion, but I thought you might not want to wait till you get home."

I offer the comic book like some kind of ritual, redemptive sacrifice, atoning for all my sins. Those sins of omission I have committed by not telling Lex. By letting him find out in the worst possible way that I have been lying to him.

        "Thank you, Clark," Lex says, voice cool and smooth, like he's talking to a stranger, and my pulse quickens nervously.
        "So," he continues, glancing over the garish cover and then laying it gently on the table beside the sofa. "You arranged a breakout? Ignored the legalities and just - came and took me away."

        I try a small smile, try to get one in response. I don't. 

        "You told me once, Lex, that darker times call for darker methods. I couldn't leave you there. Your father would have won. Darius admitted they drugged the scotch. You were right all along."

        "I was, wasn't I?" he replies. "I was right about him. I was right about you."

        I look down at my hands in my lap, see they are trembling and try to make them stop. Unsuccessfully.

        "Yes. You were, Lex, but...."

        Anger flares in his eyes, and I almost welcome it, see it as a sign that he still has emotions where I'm concerned. "No, buts, Clark," he insists, agitated. "What did you think I would do if you told me the truth? Make you my personal lab rat?"

        "Your father..." I start, but he's venting now, wants and needs to let himself go for a few minutes, and I decide to let him.

        "My father wouldn't get anywhere near you! I would protect you. From him. From the world. I have the means to do that, and I would do it, more willingly than you could ever know, and still, not one word. Not one tiny word from you! I've been a patient man, Clark, but there's a limit even for me!"

        He's standing up now, all but pacing in front of me, and I stand to face him, blood rushing through me with the fear of losing him forever. Losing Lex.

        "Your father had refined meteors in his safe in Metropolis. He had the key to the ship that brought me here, and he had a secret file that I destroyed. Those meteors, the green ones - Lex, they can kill me! They're the only things that can hurt me physically, and your dad had about a ton of them, all saved up! Don't you think I might be afraid to let my secrets out around him? Around you, too? He bugged the mansion, Lex! He could have heard anything. Could have seen anything when he was pretending to be blind!"

        Lex smirks. "He is a bastard, isn't he? Regardless, I am not my father. I'm angry; more than that I'm disappointed that you didn't think you could trust me enough with all this. Better if Dad doesn't know, you're right about that, because if he has anything to do with it, they're going to lock me up and throw away the key. God knows what he'd do with you."

        I shake my head. "No, I won't let them lock you up. I know the truth. I can break you out of anywhere."

        Lex smiles at my show of bravado. "Out of anywhere except a meteor-lined room. Don't ever let that little secret out, Clark. Even with my resources, I'm not sure we could dispose of every single piece of green meteor on the planet." 

I latch onto the 'we' like the drowning man I am.

"Lex, please, I'll tell you everything. I don't want to fight."

Lex sighs. "I don't want to fight, either, Clark. I just don't see how I can ever really trust you. I've never had a best friend. I'm not sure keeping secrets is the way it's done."

"I'm not going to try to make up excuses, here, Lex, but you have to understand. I was raised every day to hide my gifts, had it drummed into me over and over how dangerous it would be for people to find out. Lana doesn't even know."

His eyes steel over briefly. "I'm not Lana. She can't protect you. She can't do anything for you. Not like I can."

I get the sudden, uneasy feeling that he's not talking about simple protection, and I feel a warm flush racing through me, wonder if he remembers last night in the factory when I held him and tried to kiss his tears away. Somehow, he knows.

"So, none of it was an hallucination," he says quietly. "I thought I might have been dreaming; Edge's car; the factory last night. But then I woke up this morning and I was still wearing your shirt." He picks his arms up needlessly to show me my own shirt, the almost-twin of the one they took from him in Belle Reve.

He's looking at his hands, peeking halfway out of the blue shirt that's way too big on him. "I fought them for the other one, you know." He's telling me, as if it was the most natural thing in the world to care about a shirt. "I tried to keep it, and they wouldn't allow it. I managed to hang onto it a lot longer than they thought I could, but in the end they got it away from me. I was outnumbered, you see." He looks up at my face then, and I can see the lingering desperation there, his need to believe in something. In himself. In me.

"The shirt's too big, Lex. You need to roll those sleeves up a bit more," I advise him lightly, wanting him to focus on what he has, not on what they've taken away.

He looks down briefly, then brings his eyes up again to meet mine, holds his arms out toward me. A gift of trust.

"Do it for me, Clark. It is your shirt, after all."

I reach out and pull his right arm closer to me, heat from his skin brushing along mine as I roll up the sleeve slowly, watching what I'm doing, afraid that if I look up now he'll see everything there is to see. How much I feel for him, and fear for him. I feel his eyes on me, and he's standing perfectly still, barely even breathing. I touch the underside of his wrist momentarily when I'm done, mad beat of his pulse on my fingers, and then reach for his other arm, repeat the motions.

We're standing in a locked visitor's room in an asylum. All I'm doing is rolling up the sleeves on a too-big shirt. It feels like the most intimate moment of my life.

When I'm done I raise my head slowly to look at him, fading bruises unable to hide the Lex who is my best friend. The desperation is gone from his eyes, and I see only heat there, almost take a step closer but stop myself in time.

"Lex, I should go home. It's getting late."

"You should. Your parents will be worried. Will you come back?"

"Of course I will. Maybe you'll go home soon. They said you're much better already."

"Oh, I will be going home soon, Clark." Lex replies. "When I do, you'll tell me everything. And then we'll start over."

"We will," I assure him eagerly. "I want to. But I do have get going now."

I punch the O button on the phone and ask to be let out of the room. Thomas will be there momentarily, they tell me. I go and wait by the door, not trusting myself to stand too close to Lex anymore tonight. He picks up the Warrior Angel comic from the table.

"Thanks for this, Clark. I can read it in bed tonight. Might help me sleep, knowing the world is safe from villains for another month." He laughs and I realize how much I want my Lex back.

"No problem. Maybe I'll call you tomorrow and you can let me know what happened in the story."

The door opens and Thomas is holding it for me to leave. " 'Night, Lex." I tell him.

He stops me as I am walking out.

"Clark. I know what my Father is doing. To you and to me. I will stop him, I promise you."

"I know you will, Lex," I tell him, wondering, as the door closes and locks again behind me, just what the cost of that will be to Lex himself.

Thomas makes some kind of idle chatter as we head down the long hallway again, but as we near the entrance to the asylum, we hear voices raised in argument. I recognize one of them, and groan inwardly.

Lionel is as good as his word; somehow he has already found Lex.

It's quite obvious as we approach that Lionel is demanding entrance and is being adamantly refused.

"Mr. Luthor is an adult; he has the right to refuse to see anyone," a doctor is in the middle of saying when Lionel spots us coming down the hall. He brushes past the man rudely and heads in my direction.

"I'll have you brought up on charges of kidnapping, young man. You'll never see that pathetic farm or even the light of day again if I have anything to say about it!"

Lionel is irate, and I almost laugh. All his plans, foiled by a simple farmboy. I stop walking deliberately and make him come to me if he wants to get any closer. He won't be brushing by me quite as easily as he did the doctor. From the way the argument has already escalated, he must have been here for some time.

"I never kidnapped Lex," I tell him simply.

"My son is not in his right mind! He needs my help!"

"He's getting lots of help right here. He has a very good doctor who says he's already getting better. You should be glad. You are, aren't you?" I ask innocently, meeting his angry gaze evenly. I won't budge.

"Doctors!" He snorts in derision. "Willing to sway their medical opinions in favor of the highest bidder!"

"Not the doctors here, Luthor!" a deep voice interrupts us, and we both turn to see a fantastic sight coming our way from a cross corridor.

Batman. The actual Batman. All dark menace and as tall as me, drifting toward us like his feet aren't even touching the floor, long cape fluttering behind him as he walks.

"What the hell?" I hear Lionel mutter under his breath. All his bluster seems to desert him, and I can see why. At that moment, I am very glad I'm not the one causing all the uproar.

"Mr. Kent," Batman nods his leather-cowled head in my direction. I'm speechless. I can't wait to tell Mom and Dad. "Is there a problem?"

"Just a tiny one," I shrug, looking pointedly at Lionel.

He turns to Lionel then, making himself more threatening somehow, it rolls off him in waves, a don't-fuck-with-me-I-don't-care-who-you-are attitude. I have to admit, I'm impressed. I want to drag him back down the hall to show Lex.

"Mr. Luthor," he says, not nearly as cordially as he spoke to me. "The doctors here are the finest Gotham City has to offer. If they say your son has improved, then he has indeed improved. They tell me he may be released as soon as the end of the week."

Lionel is bristling with rage. "I won't allow it! The boy can't take care of himself or his affairs."

"Lex is under my protection now. You're in my city. Our specialists say he's perfectly competent. Or will be shortly. Their biggest recommendation to him was that he eat and drink everything from sealed containers. To prevent a relapse."

I almost laugh out loud at the poisonous glare Lionel shoots Batman for that remark. "I'll be watching out for him, too, when he gets home." I assure Lionel. "I may even sleep over for a week or so. Make sure he's taken care of."

"Go home to Mommy and Daddy, Clark." He says, in attempted dismissal, but he knows I won't leave as long as he's still here. He turns back to Batman.

"I demand to see my son." He says, dangerously calm.

Batman raises his strong chin minutely, looking at Lionel as if he's examining a bug display or something. "You can't see him. His decision." He informs Lionel with finality.

"My son is not competent to make any decisions!" Lionel argues.

"Unproven," Batman snaps. "Turn around, go out the door, get back in your limousine and go back to Metropolis." His leather-covered hands flex at his sides, and the movement doesn't go unnoticed by Lionel or myself.

"Take off that mask," Lionel demands. "I won't be kept from my own son by a leathered-up coward." He reaches up quickly, intending to try ripping it off Batman's head, I think, but a black-clad hand streaks out and stops him, gripping his wrist tightly. I smile, despite valiant efforts not to.

        "The mask stays." Batman says. "You don't. Do you need me to escort you out?"
        Lionel wrests his arm from the strong grip and stands tall, enmity coming off him and surrounding both of us. "I'm leaving now. You can't keep me from my son forever." He turns to me, and smiles chillingly.

        "I'll be seeing you, Clark." He says, as if we are friends. He turns and walks away stiffly, without another word, and I breathe a sigh of relief. I suddenly remember who is standing next to me. I turn and hold out my hand.

        "Clark Kent," I introduce myself, although he knows this already.

        He shakes my hand firmly. "Good to meet you. I hear Lex speaks very highly of you. That's good enough for me."

        "Thanks for sticking up for him. Lionel has been, well, vicious lately."

        "Lionel Luthor has been vicious all his life. I've seen the struggles Lex has gone through with him. Now that Lex is older and has resources of his own, I think Lionel is in for a nasty surprise."

        "I think you're right. This was really great, to meet you like this, but I really have to get home. I thought Bruce Wayne was coming, but I guess he changed his mind."

        "Detained by business, no doubt. You know how it is with these millionaires," he says, almost irreverently. "Do you have a way back to Smallville?"

        "I'm good," I reply, knowing I can get there even before Bruce Wayne's helicopter. "Will I see you here again?"

        "You very well may. Now that Lionel knows Lex is here, I'll be keeping an even closer watch over the place. No need to worry about Lex in your absence," he assures me.

        "I see that I don't have to. Say hi to Mr. Wayne for me if you see him."

        We shake hands again briefly and he is off, disappearing down the dark hallway, cape swirling around behind him like loyal black fog.

        I've met The Batman. Things might be okay between Lex and me after all. 

        I head outside, back out through the big iron gates. Lionel's limo is nowhere to be seen, even with x-ray vision.

        I can't wait to get home, and I take off running.