Work Header

an absence of good

Work Text:

Lex isn’t a fan of the woman sent to perform his psych evaluation. Her credentials are good and she’s perfectly professional when she speaks to him but her eyes are this funny shade of green that makes him think of Kryptonite, and of his own failures. Since it can only really help his insanity plea Lex tells her as much at the start of their first meeting. She asks him if he’d like someone else to question him.

“Not at all,” Lex says, plucking a tissue from the box between them. “I love wallowing in my own shortcomings. Please, do carry on with your questions.”

“I wanted to start by asking about your feelings for Superman.”

“Straight to the point I see. Good, Good.” Lex takes his time trying to fold the napkin into a crane but the shape doesn’t stay very well. He persists. “Well I think it’s fair to say I’m not much of a fan.”

“And why is that?”

“A flying alien who can shoot lasers- “ Lex lines his lopsided crane up against his nose “ –out of his eyes—“ he tosses it at the psychologist, “and I’m the crazy one for thinking maybe we shouldn’t all be tripping over ourselves to kiss his muscular feet.”

“Do you—“

“And even that name that our esteemed Lois Lane gave him has sinister connotations,” Lex continues. It’s surprisingly easy to keep going once he’s started. “Superman. Do you think she named him with Nietzsche's Ubermensch in mind? It’s hard to tell with her, given her bias, but I’m sure my father would have had feelings about a monster from another world being named after a figure who was coincidentally the ideal figure for the Nazis. The overman, the superhuman, the Superman. But what do any of us really know about our fathers anyway?” Lex taps the table. “Sorry, was there a question in there?”

The psychologist stares at him for a moment before scribbling something down in her notebook. “Yes, but I have a few more important follow up questions to ask before we return to that. Perhaps we can go back a little and start with your father...”

There we go, Lex thinks.


In its entirety the psych eval takes two and half hours, during which Lex has to do surprisingly little lying. He straddles the line between avoiding details enough to not incriminate himself in anything that he hasn’t been accused of yet, and maybe going off on morbid tangents more than he usually would for the sake of embellishment. But he doesn’t lie much.

For the first and only time in his life Lex feels something that might be gratitude for his dead father’s rotting corpse. He was so unbelievably sloppy in his cruelty that Lex has medical records to back up every broken bone and bruised muscle he knew in childhood. His lawyers have a stack of paperwork a foot high to contend with and Lex isn’t surprised at all when they tell him he won’t be standing trial. He hasn’t spoken in the nearly two weeks since his outburst of confessions at the court psychologist and has been making a show of appearing as unresponsive as possible. That along with the testimonies of the dozen of people who watched him "breakdown" in front of the audience at his house party all make for a very compelling case. They’d be crazy not to think he was crazy.


Lex has a relatively short list of approved visitors; two lawyers, one LexCorp assistant to feed him information about how his stocks are plummeting and almost an eighth of his staff has handed in their pink slips since his arrest, and almost no one else. He adds Clark Kent’s name to the list on a whim, imagining his discomfort and confusion should he ever realize what he's done. What he doesn’t expect is for the alien to show up the following Monday in his journalist getup, brandishing a notepad he clearly has no plans of actually using.

“Mr. Luthor,” Clark says when Lex stares at him from behind the glass. The fact that of the two of them, it’s him, the human, who’s locked up in a cage, is an absurdity that Lex decides to think about later.

“Mr. Kent,” Lex mimics. He slouches in his chair and lets his phone sit between his neck and shoulder. Clark shifts a little in his chair too, looking vaguely uncomfortable. Even more absurd; a god pretending he doesn’t have the upper hand. And Lex playing along with it as though he has no idea no idea what Clark really is.

Eventually Clark breaks the silence. “Why did you put me on your visitors list, Mr. Luthor?”

“Hm, that would have to be because I’m desperately in love with you.”

“Sure,” Clark says. The way he has his arms crossed and shoulders hunched makes him look so much smaller. He's very well practiced. “Anything else? Horrific war crimes that the press might want to know about?”

“Sorry but allegedly bombing a congressional meeting was very time consuming. But hey! If you’re horribly bored with life on the outside now that no one is trying to orchestrate your death I’m sure I could whip something up in a jiffy. Maybe call in a few favors?”

"No thank you," Clark says, voice dry.

"Your loss."

"I guess so," Clark says, pocketing his legal pad. When he turns to look at Lex again he has his Superman glare in place. “Did I do something to you, that I'm not aware of? Break one of your toys by accident? Step on your shoes in a movie theater?”

Lex snorts. “I already explained the problem I have with you, my caped friend. Don't make me get too redundant now.”

“It's just typically when people try to murder me it's because I've done something to offend them or get in their way."

Lex yawns aloud.

"Right," Clark says, getting to his feet. "Well if there's nothing else I guess we're done here Mr. Luthor. It's been a pleasure wasting time with you.”

"Any time Mr. Kent," Lex says, but Clark is already hanging up his phone. A shame, Lex barely had a real chance to be rude.


In light of Lex's miraculously emerging from his faux-fugue state he’s assigned to another psychologist. While it’ll probably be a while until he can be considered fit enough to stand trial it is awful annoying. But it was also a risk Lex was willing to take so he has something resembling a plan by his new appointment.

“I heard you had an unexpected visitor yesterday Lex,” his new psychologist says. She's an older woman who talks in the soft calming monotone of a person used to talking people away from ledges.

“Yes, Clark Kent,” he says.

"Why was it that you allowed him to visit you? I'd heard only a few LexCorp employees were being allowed to talk to you."

“Oh it was mostly just a whim but the entire black hair, blue eyes, chiseled jaw combo really does get me wet.”

She scratches out a quick note. "Why do you think that is Lex?"

"Well Superman isn't quite friendly enough to stop in and check on me but having someone around who bears a resemblance certain helps," he mimes jerking-off, "fuel the imagination."

“Do you know Mr. Kent personally?” she asks unphased.

“I tried to kill his girlfriend once if that counts. Allegedly.”

“No other interactions?”

Lex sees blue eyes glowing red with rage, shoulders slumped over in impotent despair. “None that I'd consider meaningful.”

"And how long have you had these sexual feelings for Superman?"

"Oh boy," Lex says, scratching his head. "We're almost at the two year mark now."

"So your obsession began as soon as he was revealed to the world?"

"He blew up an awful lot of my toys." He sighs dramatically.

"And how did you get from "he knocked down my buildings" to "I want to have sex with him"?"

“How do any of us get anywhere? One foot of logic in front of the other until we're running and running top speed on a collision course with humanity's favorite new savior in a skin tight suit.”

“You're logic was what exactly?”

Lex holds up a finger. “He's sexually attractive.” He holds up a second. “He's dangerous. Which is also a bit sexy in its own way. Done deal.”

"Yet despite this you still tried to kill him."

"Water under the bridge."

She gives him a patient nod. "Given that you failed to kill him where does that leave you now?”

"Admittedly our relationship has hit a bit of a rough patch. But the course of true love never did run smooth," Lex recites. In the silence between his words and moment the psychologist’s pen makes it to her paper Lex's face falls. He shouldn't have said that.

"And how long have you been in love with him?"

Lex stares down at his hands, no longer fidgeting for the first time since he entered the office. When he was a child he was a chronic nail biter, often chewing his fingertips bloody in moments of stress. His father had very helpfully taken to smacking his hands with rules, spoons, whatever was convenient for him when he noticed Lex had been up to it again. It certain didn't help his anxiety levels but he'd eventually stopped biting his nails entirely out of fear. You can't show your belly so easily, his father had said to him more than once. You may as well lay down on the chopping board and ask the world to gut you.

"Are you still with me Lex?"

"Hm?" Lex looks away from his nails. "Have you wondered at all if the alien can actually have sex with us humans? I mean the suit, while form fitting, does leave a little room for imagination. For all we know he's got a pair of pincers down there and ejaculates cyanide. That's not even taking into account the difficulties that super strength probably brings to the bedroom. How would he keep from snapping people in half mid-orgasm?"

"You seem to be getting off subject."

"After all," Lex continues, "what are the odds of him being from an entirely different galaxy than us but coincidentally looking like an incredibly attractive member of our species? To be genetically compatible with us as well seems like something of a long shot. Though it could be something like the mule situation where the offspring exist but are entirely infertile."

Lex pauses, waits for the psychologist to attempt to speak again before continuing with, "Ideally I could've studied some of this myself at some point. Preferably by fucking him. As a man of science I would be willing to take one up the ass in the pursuit of knowledge."

"I see."

They don't get a chance to circle back to whether or Lex is in love with anyone during their session as Lex remains as unhelpful as he can for the rest of their time together. And when the court sends one more doctor after him he goes all out spending the entirety of their session making up various sexual fantasies about Superman that he can explain in uncomfortable detail. Sure he doesn't necessarily need to make these fantasies up but after catching himself off guard with the previous psychologist he needs to keep as far away from his authentic emotions as possible. The last thing he needs is to actually examine himself.

And besides any casual fantasies that he's had about Superman have been aggressively vanilla and nothing that would interest a psychologist. He'd be almost embarrassed to admit to a fantasy about Superman pulling him out of a frozen lake, wrapping him up in his cape and then pressing up against him to warm Lex's body up with his own. It's much safer to talk about jerking off in his cell to the thought of cutting off Superman's skin.


News of Clark Kent being let in for an interview with Lex Luthor must spread fast because over the next few weeks Lex is suddenly bombarded with a new wave of letters from various news agencies asking about interviews. Would he like to tell his side of the story? What is it about Superman that drove him to such extreme action? Was his father’s abuse a factor in his world view? And on and on and on until even the intense boredom in life in a box couldn’t make Lex read anymore letters.

But luckily for him, Lex still checks the addresses on his letters before he throws them away because otherwise he’d miss the carefully worded letter from the Daily Planet asking for a formal interview. In an impressive exercise in both condescension and professionalism Perry White offers to send a reporter over despite Lex’s attempt to “splatter his co-worker”. He bluntly offers up Kent since “farm-boy chic is apparently what gets him going”. It’s a long letter and White doesn’t bother holding back his many grievances with him but he seems to know that Lex has no intention of letting anyone else interview him, so Lex doesn’t bother to pretend otherwise. Instead he sends back a short, three word response.

On the third of the three to five business days the letter is supposed to take to reach the Daily Planet he’s told he has a visitor. Someone must have made a hell of a fuss because this time he’s given an actual interview room—one that Clark Kent is sitting in before he arrives and is handcuffed to the table. He isn’t slouching today and his eyes are so intense that Lex is shocked that neither of the guards yell out “it’s Superman!” at the sight of him. They leave the two of them alone and Lex watches as Clark pulls a piece of folded up paper from his jacket.

“‘Send Lois Lane,’” he reads, voice flat. His eyes flicked up to Lex’s face, like he’s using a great deal of effort to make himself stay otherwise still.

“You don’t quite look like Lois Lane,” Lex says with a tilt of his head. “I think her hair was a little longer.”

“You threw her off a building.” Lex can hear him slipping into his Superman voice. “You’re not getting anywhere near her ever again.”

Lex tsks. “Oh come on Mr. Kent, it’s 2017! If a woman wants to make poor life choices I think that’s entirely up to her.”

“She doesn’t want to see you either. And she agreed that you only asked for her in the first place because you knew it’d get on my nerves.”

“She is one sharp little pickle isn’t she?” Lex says. “Well? You’re here on business now aren’t you? Ready to peel back the delicate layer of my mortal soul and lay me bear for all the world to see. What’ve you got?”

Clark watches him in silence, his jaw tight, and for a sudden paranoid moment Lex wonders if Kryptonians can read minds. If he can smell something different in the air between them since his last visit. The thought passes quickly enough to be replaced with the more realistic fear that Clark heard his heart start pounding the moment they made eye contact.

But maybe it's luck or the power of coincidence swaying the random chaos of the universe in his favor that makes Clark not notice, instead he pulls out a notebook and clears his throat.

“Most of your competency hearing was centered around the trauma you claim to have suffered at the hands of your father. Given the resources you have at hand it wouldn’t be impossible for you to falsify years of medical records.”

“No, no, it’d be very easy in fact. I’ve had it done before,” Lex says. When he continues he keeps his voice steady. “But I didn’t falsify any of my own records. Everything the court dealt with was legitimate.”

Clark finally looks away from him and Lex is nauseated at the thought that he might actually offer him something like sympathy. But the soft emotion on his face seemed to be pushed aside quickly and when Clark looks at him again his face is closer to neutrality. (Is he mourning the pain of a child who hasn't been around to save for years? )

“Had to ask.”

“Oh yes, naturally.” Lex drops his head down onto his crossed arms as best he can with his handcuffs still secure. He wonders if Clark had thought he’d been lying when he confessed to him on the roof. He didn’t think so—there’d been pity in his eyes then too. Before he’d shown off the pictures of Martha Kent at least. “You don’t mind a little tit-for-tat do you, Mr. Kent? This wouldn’t feel like a proper date if I were to blather on about my incredibly interesting life while you just sat there and took it.”

Clark eyes the camera in the corner of the room and Lex mimes zipping his lips. “Nothing too incriminating now, I promise. Besides the cameras can only capture video not audio.”

“Fine,” Clark says. “What do you—“

“Did she say yes?”

Clark’s mouth falls open a little but he doesn’t ask who he’s talking about or even how he knows. “I haven’t asked her yet,” he says. “I’ve been waiting for the right moment.”

“Ah. If you’re worried she won’t say yes you really don’t need to be. I’ve seen the way she looks at you. Read the way she writes about you. The lady is clearly smitten.”

“Thank you but I’m not really here for your advice when it comes to my girlfriend. How are you handling the loss of investors and the plummeting of your stocks?”

“Very well actually. If blowing up my assistant doesn't keep me up at night then losing a company my father made isn't going to bother me much either.”

Clark doesn't quite manage to hide his look of disgust.

"Guess I'm up. How's Mrs. Kent doing?"

"Fine," Clark says in a tone that suggests he means something much ruder. Lex stares at him expectantly and he continues dryly with, "Her knees ache sometimes on rainy days."

"Aging can be tough on even the spryest old ladies."

"We're done talking about my mother."

Lex shrugs wide. "Then you're up Mr. Kent."

“What level of involvement do you currently have with LexCorp?”

“None. I figured if I survived there was a decent chance LexCorp would be finished along with my reputation. I won't beat that dead horse any more than necessary. I have some semblance of pride after all."

"I'm sure you do," Clark mumbles, eyes still on his notepad. He looks up suddenly. "If you survived? I didn't know dying was an option."

"Ah-ah! That's two questions in a row."

Clark frowns. "Ask your question then."

Lex thinks briefly about what he would've asked as a child if he'd been able to speak to a real life alien. It'd been a rather obsessive dream of his as a small boy; the thought of clinging to things from another world and being accepted by them because he hadn't felt accepted on his own planet. There are a million questions that naive, star-eyed boy would've asked all them about what it was like to be an alien. How did it feel to fly? Could he survive in space? How did he shave? He could even ask about some of things he learned from Zodd's ship.

But then again Lex isn't prone to giving himself the things that he wants. "How are you and the Bat getting along now that he's acting less like a homicidal maniac?"

"Fine. He still wants to personally thank you for introducing us to Wonder Woman. He's doing a little better now that you aren't trying to edge him towards murder.”


“Right. Allegedly.”

“You're turn then."

Clark looks down at his notepad one last time before flipping it closed. "How'd you figure out who I was? It's not like you work in my office and we never met in person until your charity event."

“The answer to how Clark Kent made it into my radar is simple: you made it onto my Radar," Lex says. "Flight patterns. If someone were to study yours pretty obsessively they'd notice that you coincidentally fly over Kansas a little too much. You're often too fast to catch on Radar but a couple lucky glances on your off days were enough to help narrow it down. After that a few months spent looking through census information for people who match Superman’s approximate age, height, weight, race and all that fun stuff lead me to a familiar face. With a ridiculous amount of money and an abundance of motivation anyone could've done it. I was just the first."

Clark looks very faintly surprise and Lex is pretty sure he wasn't expecting a remotely honest answer.

“But why did it matter so much to you Lex?” Clark asks. Lex is so distracted by the sudden switch to first names that it takes a second for the question to register. “I'm trying to understand where you're coming from. Help me out here.”

Why the hell wouldn't it matter? is what he wants to say. How could he not take his reveal to the world personally? “You know "how did you figure out" and "why does it matter" are two questions so technically you're in the negative.”

“It wouldn't kill you to just talk to me like a normal person.”

“If prison has done nothing else it's stressed the importance of rules and routine.”

“We could still—”

“You aren't exactly a “normal person” anyway, why should I put up the pretense?”

“You're already pretending not to know who I am,” Clark snaps. “Pretending to have some basic decency shouldn't be that tough. And why are you doing that anyway? Why not let every news station in on the scope of the century? What do you get out of hiding my secret?”

A tense silence falls suddenly over them and Lex realizes they'd both been steadily raising their voices. Not enough to alert the guards but enough that the quiet feels oppressive where it hangs over Clark's last words. The implications that Lex is an awful person are something he can easily stand but the way Clark's shoulders slack and his eyes widen is a unique kind of horror.

Lex clears his throat. "I'd say you're very far in the negative now."


“Why do you think Lois Lane named the alien Superman?” Lex asks loudly. “It’s oddly reminiscent of the old Nietzschian concept of the Ubermensch if you ask me. An idea, that, if I recall correctly, the Nazis were awfully fond of. Sounds an awful lot like Ms. Lane has some questionable ideological leanings, if you know what I mean. “

Clark’s sighs and runs a hand through his hair. “If you want to get rid of me you can just call the guards. You don't have to call my girlfriend a Nazi.”

“I'll keep that in mind,” Lex says, staring down at the floor tiles.

“Thank you for your time, Mr. Luthor. “


He gets an unexpected but very exciting visit from Bruce Wayne a few days after that. The threats and the scare tactics seem typical of him but the knowledge that he's going to be shipped off to Arkham Asylum is cause for some concern.

He's hardly suited for prison life as it is, shipping him off to an even more corrupt prison among even less stable people is no less than a death sentence.

Well, he's been prepared for the possibility of his death for a while. He figures there's no point in dwelling on it to deeply.


Lex doesn't have internet access these days but he's occasionally blessed with a newspaper or two that he can sneak off to his cell with. He isn't particularly happy to find the copy he snags wrinkled and half missing but he's endured worse indignities in prison and will no doubt suffer worse ones down the line so he does his best to ignore it. After all he's only really interested in one Daily Planet article and it's mostly intact.

He feels a bit like a kid sneaking off in the middle of the night with a copy of Playboy when he pulls the newspaper out late that night but this is as close as his prison gets to being quiet and he wants to give the article all of his attention. There's a rather sensationalist teaser on the front page: An Interview with an Eccentric Metropolis Icon turned Mass Murderer! that Lex actually thinks is kind of funny, but when he turns over to the right page he finds it doesn't suit the tone of Clark Kent’s article at all.

Lex reads it once over so quickly that he barely understands half of it and he has to try again, this time forcing himself to slow down and take his time with it. It's not that Clark’s writing is particularly good, in fact Lex has generally thought that he keeps his job entirely due to occasional insight brought on by his alien powers and by batting his eyes at Perry White, and the simple bland article in his hands is a testament to that. But the problem is that typically Clark can't help but sneak his own bias’ into his writing, letting his own moral hangups guide the tone of his work and the conclusions he comes to and Lex expects much the same from him this time.

Only he doesn't get it.

Clark doesn't divulge half the things they talked about. He doesn't talk about the fact that Lex currently looks terrible (a fact Lex is well aware of, he hardly slept before prison so this isn't helping him and he kept his hair long for a reason) or the fact that he accidently admitted to falsifying medical records in the past. He doesn't paint a sob story for Lex or really paint him as a monster. It's about as detached as Clark has ever written and so depersonalized that Lex can imagine him being thoroughly chewed out for being the only person allowed to talk to Lex and producing nothing but bland garbage.

Terrible as the article is, Lex can clearly see intent behind the things that Clark isn't saying and the things he writes around and it makes a sharp chill run down his spine when he figures out what it means.

Clark is protecting him.

Or at least he thinks he is by refusing to join in on the public rejection of all things Lexian. It's stupid and nonsensical given everything that Lex has done to him but if Lex were to be honest with himself, which he endeavors not to as often as he can, it's incredibly touching. For whatever stupid reason Clark used to rationalize this to himself he jeopardized his career throwing away one of the best stories that he was likely going to get.

Suddenly not able to look at the newspaper, Lex throws it over the side of his bed, reaching for his pillow instead and shoving it into his face. Worse than how hard he is in his orange jumpsuit is the immense feeling of warmth in the pit of his stomach reminding him that he is in fact, the most abhorrent and sentimental creature on earth.

If he could smoother the feeling down somewhere deep enough to be ignored he would but prison doesn't offer him many distractions or even options for getting himself off that wouldn't be at best demeaning so Lex shoves a hand down his pants and tries to remember the very graphic and disturbing things he told his psychologist but they don't stick. The stories he'd weaved about having Clark strapped down in a lab and torturing him in increasingly graphic ways get him nowhere but frustrated. He can't get himself off by thinking about hurting Superman and he absolutely refuses to indulge in the fantasies were everything is soft and gentle and Superman has feelings for him. No. He's better than that.

Lex rolls onto his side, throwing his pillow across the room too in a moment of misplaced anger and shuts his eyes. He attempted to teach himself how to meditate once as a child but hadn't had the patient for it in a world of abundant and tantalizing distractions but here there are few things to distract. But unfortunatly Lex still doesn't have a brain inclined to quiet itself and he ends up back where he started in less than five seconds: with a hand in his boxers, thinking about warm muscles circling his waist, gentle hands around the expanse of his back and the feeling of weightlessness that might be floating in an alien’s arms but could just as easily be the dreaded feeling in his chest that Superman so frequently conjures up.


If Clark is capable of reading minds he clearly only uses the power to show up in front of Lex on the uncomfortable days following his minor epiphanies.

“What exactly do you hope to gain from talking to me Mr. Kent?” Lex asks, going for a teasing voice but sounding entirely to put upon to succeed. “You already wrote your delightful little exposé on the billionaire turned would-be hero.” Lex ignores the twitch in Clark's mouth at the word “hero”. “So what more did you want? Is life so boring without someone leading you towards climactic final battles?”

“No, I couldn't say it was any of those,” Clark says. There's a quiet intensity to his voice that Lex kind of likes.

“So. Why are you here then?”

“That's a fair question.” Lex taps his foot impatiently while Clark shifts slowly in chair, clearly in absolutely no rush to answer. “Call it journalistic curiosity.”

“Yikes,” says Lex. “ I've never been much of a fan of journalists. So nosey and full of ugly questions. You know a journalist once tried to test me. I ate his liver with a side of fava beans. Is that a reference you get, Clark? I know your parent's home never got anything but C-SPAN and the Weather Channel, and you rather religiously avoid watching anything but the news and trashy action movies when it suits Ms. Lane - “


“And I can't imagine The Silence of the Lambs playing in the Smallville Theater. I'm sure all the concerned parents would've threatened quite a letter writing campaign for having a movie depicting “queer tendencies” and sexual themes playing in your town. Oh no.”

“Lex, are you okay?”

“Fantastic. I jerked off to the article you wrote about me and snuck in a little exercise too. I might not be as good at weightlifting as you but it passes the time.”

“Do you always ramble when you're nervous?”

Lex blinks. “Excuse me?”

“Do you always,” Clark repeats, “ramble when you're nervous?”

He does. His father always called it a bad habit. Stand up straight and stop mumbling. The way you prattle on all meek and stupid—you're worse than your mother. At least she knows when to shut up. “Not really. But I prefer the sound of my voice to yours.”

“I'm not sure I believe that” Clark says. “If you don't want to see me you can still take me off your approved visitors list.”

Nothing else would get me through a life sentence, is what Lex doesn't say. Instead he says: “Unlike half the population of Metropolis I'm not afraid of you and unlike the other half I don't worship the ground you walk on. Talking to you passes the time. Nothing more.”

Clark nods slowly to himself and Lex can't even begin to guess what he's thinking before he asks, “How are things in prison Lex?”

There he goes, using his first name again. It feels like a reassurance technique that Superman might use.

“Hmmm can't say I have a strong opinion about it one way or another. Especially since I'm going to be moved to Arkham in a few weeks.”

Clark frowned. “Why would you be sent to Arkham?”

Lex gestured at himself with a dramatic wave. “Because I'm insane, clearly.”

“No you're not.”

“Cute,” Lex says, rubbing his eyes. “Well either way our little Bat friend is clearly of the opinion that taking a lap around his favorite loony bin next month will straighten me out.”

“He visited you.”

“Yes. Put on quite the light show too.”

Clark makes a light fist on the table it eyes trained on it as he thinks. Lex is tempted to make a sudden movement and yell “boo!” to break his concentration. He gets to his feet.

“I’ve got some phone calls to make. I’ll see you around.”

Lex doesn't say anything. He stays perfectly still and calm as Clark leaves and the guards return to undo his handcuffs. And as walks back to his cell he tries not to think about the implications of Superman getting upset on his behalf, or aiming his rage and his strength outside of Lex to protect him. As though Lex were someone he cared about.

Which is impossible because outside of his mother who felt the omnipresent pull of biological imperatives to force her to, no one has ever cared about Lex. He has always been either kissed up to by those who want something from him or openly hated by those who don't.

The thought of someone else caring enough to step in simply doesn't fit into the world as he understands it.


It’s vaguely humiliating to have the man—or rather the alien—who defeated him stop in to see how he’s doing every week but Lex doesn’t tell him to stop coming or even make him wait before going out to see him. It’d be pathetic and embarrassing if Lex didn’t have the self-awareness to know that his obsession with Superman has never been anything close to reasonable or healthy. All the same he comes to crave the moments he has with Clark, planning every day around the possibility of him visiting.

Most of the times he lets Lex ramble in the normal way that pleases him and Lex doesn’t run out of things to tell him. He can’t be sure but it might be something about Clark’s inhuman nature that makes it so incredibly easy to talk to him about things he might not ordinarily say. When trying to classifying the feeling one day he tells him it’s like mindlessly talking to a particularly well-liked dog. You don’t expect to be understood but its cute naive little face makes the conversation easier. Clark actually laughs at that.

“Lois said something like that to me the other day actually.”

“That you’re a brainless drooling mutt?”

“She has called me a giant puppy before, but that I’m easy to talk to,” Clark says. “That was what you were getting at beneath all that sarcasm right?”

“Not particularly, no.” Lex is relatively certain that the line isn't meant to be flirtatious but the gentle teasing is weird.

“Fine then.”

“Fine then,” Lex repeats, he leans back in his chair and winces slightly.

Clark eyes his chest instantly, frowning to himself. “Why are two of your ribs cracked?”

“Why do you think?”

“You're kept in solitary aren't you? Who'd even have a chance?”

“Oh Mr. Kent, the faith you have in law enforcement is adorable.” He really needs to stop implying that he finds Clark attractive.

“They think you're insane.”

“Doesn't stop the Bat from wailing on his favorite clown, I don't think it'd stop a widowed security guard from getting comfy with a baton.”

The conversation comes to an end not long after that with Lex no longer contributing to the conversation. Eventually their time runs out and Lex is very glad to be taken back to his cell.


To his immense annoyance (and relief) Clark comes back the following week.


“There was this massive wildfire outside of Metropolis this morning,” Clark tells him. “Nothing sinister, just a camp fire that got out of hand. With the lack of rain in the area things got bad pretty quickly...”

Lex has his legs propped up on the table, posed more to take up space than for actually comfort. His hands are still handcuffed to the table so his posture is very uncomfortable but he doesn’t bother moving for the sake of appearances.

“Lois came in by helicopter and while I was busy trying to put out the fire, she had the pilot pull a lost hiker off a tree he’d been hiding up in. I’d have probably missed the guy if I’d been on my own, and she was only there to cover the sto—“

“So your “journalistic curiosity” has run dry I’m guessing?” Lex asks.

“You haven’t said anything in the past ten minutes. I’m a small town man, Lex. Small talk is my forte.”

“This might come as a surprise to you but I’m not interested in hearing about Superman’s heroic antics.”

Clark sighs. “What are you interested in then?”

Lex tries to throw his hands up but the handcuffs cut the gesture off. He isn’t sure where he could begin to answer a question like that.

“The entire universe interests me. I'm like the National Geographic but a person.”

Clark chuckles at that which Lex is annoyed to find makes him a little happy. He tries to let only the annoyance show.

"Soak in the pleasantries while you can Mr. Kent, I don't think they let us maximum security kids have visitors in Arkham."

“You’re not getting sent to Arkham.”

“That’s news to me,” Lex says, but Clark doesn’t sound like he’s just spouting off nonsense. “Oh boy, you know something I don’t know.”

Clark gives him a small smile. “New transfers into Arkham have been suspended until after the trail.”

“Trail? What trail?”

“An investigation into the misuse of funds in Arkham revealed that almost no money goes into rehabilitation and that more than a few employees own Lamborghinis. Plural.”

“Why Mr. Kent, are you trying to sue Arkham Asylum?”

“Well to be exact I’m supplying evidence and talking to key witnesses while someone else sues Arkham, but yes." Clark shrugs. "It’s long overdue and when I spoke to Bruce about it he even agreed with me. Eventually.”

“The day job really does come in handy, huh?”

“It does have its perks,” Clark says. Lex worries he might go blind if Clark doesn’t stop smiling. “Anyway until the end of the trail is over you're stuck here.”

Lex sucks his teeth. He manages to keep his face straight enough that he hopes the swirling storm of thoughts running through his head isn't obvious but he isn't sure how long he can maintain it. Even if it was bound to happen eventually it's obvious that this isn't just some coincidental court case. Clark isn't pretending otherwise either and Lex is relatively sure that he'd get a straight answer if he asked why he was doing it. Which is why he won't.

“So what," Lex asks, "I stay in my comparatively cushy cage while you slave away trying to tear down one of Gotham’s oldest and most entertaining institutions?”

“Essentially, yeah.”

“Suit yourself," Lex says, swallowing down anything else he might want to say.


Right on schedule, Clark comes to see him the following week. With a considerable amount of self-control, Lex stays in his cell and refuses to see him. His lawyer calls to tell him that he isn’t being transferred but Lex can’t be bothered to care.


Lex ignores his next visit as well, insisting that he isn't feeling when the guards come by his cell. They don't care enough to argue so Lex is left alone. There's no way that Clark can't tell it's a lie just by staring into his cell really hard but Lex does it anyway. He doesn't want to have to look Clark in the face knowing that he owes his life to him again. He can't stand the thought of Clark being modest or humble about the work he put into trying to help Lex.  He doesn't want Superman to be so completely and utterly good. He can't bear to be around that. He can't thank him and he can't apologize either.

So he just lays in his cell.

And hopes that Clark will still come again.


He's seven and hiding from his drunken father in the hallway closet. He learned the last time he'd tried to hide in a closet to leave the door just a little bit open and tug a coat in front of himself. An open closet was less likely to catch his father's attention. All he has to do now is stay quiet and wait until the alcohol catches up with him and he passes out.

He hears the loud uneven stomping of feet and then it's not his father but Doomsday outside in the hallway, crackling lightening as he walks and leaving the air he breathes in full of static.

The stomping grows quieter as he seems to leave but Lex can't make himself move. He's comfortable where he is, curled up behind the laundry basket and out of sight.

There's a thump outside the closet and the door flies open. Lex throws his arms over his head, whispering apologies under his breath.

“There you are Lex. I was looking for you.”

Lex startles when he feels a gentle hand on his arm and tries to pull away. But Superman is there, kneeling in front of him on one knee, holding out a hand.

“It's okay Lex, he can't hurt you anymore,” he says and Lex lets himself be picked up and pulled away to safety, lets himself clutch onto the thick fabric of his cape and in his dream it's soft and Clark is so unbelievably warm he feels as though his skin is meeting the sun for the first time and it's so overwhelming that Lex feels tears roll down his cheeks.

“You're safe now Lex,” Clark says, still hugging him against his chest. “I've got you.”


Needlessly to say Lex is more than a little disgusted with himself, if not for the dream itself than at least for his subconscious for lacking in any kind of subtlety.


When he was 8 Lex accidentally set a roll of paper towels on fire when making grilled cheese with his mother. He hadn’t paid attention to where the stove was and ended up in the hospital—not because of the minor burns on his hands but the fracture in his jaw that his father had left him with. It took him several years to stop associating fire with fists, and in his teens he learned that it was particularly useful when a man wanted to make it appear as though his father’s cigar habit had burned his house down in his sleep. He’s liked fire a little more since then.

Either way it’s significantly easier to make years later, now that he’s a little more experienced at it. Even in prison people occasionally try to keep sanitary, and after a couple of careful swipes he has the cleaning supplies he needs to start a decent sized chemical fire in the bathrooms.

After that it isn’t much to sit in his cell and wait. A guard comes by when the cellblock is being evacuated and Lex hides under his bed with the sheets artfully pulled to hide his body. When the cellblock is empty he sits back down on his bed and stares at the ceiling of his cell.

There’s a hurricane off the coast of Florida that’s guaranteed to take up all of Superman's time. Evacuations were always messy business and there was no way he wouldn't be there to lend a helping hand until everyone in the storm's path was safe.

Which of course means that Lex is going to die, he thinks, as smoke fills his cell. But it also means he's proving himself right.


Dying apparently feels an awful lot like flying.

He's weightless and warm and apparently there's Superman in the afterlife, bathed in warm sunlight like he usually is in Lex's dreams, the stark blue of his eyes mixed with a little green up close. He doesn't bother to do anything but stare. If he's already dead there's no reason to worry about embarrassing himself.

But no, it makes no sense for him to be dead because there is no afterlife and even if there were he clearly wasn't good enough to deserve whatever this pure and ethereal moment is.

As sensation returns to his body he finds that his lungs burn from smoke inhalation, and that his skin stings. It starts to slowly becomes clear to him that, rather unfortunately, he isn't dead quite yet.

Superman saved him.

“You alright?” Clark asks. His voice is firm but lacks any of the righteous indignation that he likes so much. Lex can feel the way his words vibrate against his chest as he speaks. Clark is clearly more concerned than he is angry but he isn’t using the victim's voice he uses to coddle lost children and stray cats.

Lex coughs a few times before he manages to answer. “I thought you were off fighting a hurricane.”

“It was downgraded to a tropical storm,” Clark says. He looks Lex over and he imagines he can feel himself being scanned. “Your burns are mostly superficial but you inhaled a lot of smoke.”

“Really?” He bursts into another fit of coughing. Clark squeezes his shoulder.

He must be a hell of a sight, curled up against Superman’s chest like a child. He has absolutely no idea where he is outside of being in Superman’s arms and somewhere in the air. He thinks they might be descending but he isn’t entirely sure until he sees branches in his peripheral vision.

“Can you stand?”

“I’d prefer not to if you don’t mind.” Clark sits him down on the grass. When his vision clears up Lex realizes that he isn’t very far from the prison at all but on the top of the sheer cliff behind it, surrounded by trees. Clark isn’t taking him back to the prison yet or to the EMTs that are probably treating other prisoners. Maybe he wants to give Lex a speech on fire safety.

With a soft sound Clark floats down to sit next to him on the ground.

Lex laughs. “You know it sounds like you’re mocking us when you do things like that.”

“Things like what?” Lex demonstrates with an exaggerated sigh. “Oh that. Force of habit I suppose.”

“Rude of you to take all our air when you don't really need it.”

“I'll go plant some trees, that ought to make up for that.”

“Dying would fix that problem too.”

Lex is a little disappointed when Clark does nothing more than shrug. “Maybe.”

The skin on Lex’s arms stings but he's sure Clark is right about his wounds being superficial. He likely won't need any other treatment but studying the singed skin on his knuckles gives him an excellent excuse not to look Clark in the eyes. The breeze picks up a little and the thick fabric of his cape brushes over Lex’s shoulder.

"Are you a religious alien?" Lex asks.

"My parents attended church every Sunday for most of their lives but having a kid from another world probably made a literal interpretation of the bible a little tough," Clark says. "I think they preferred to think of faith more as trusting your fellow men and doing what's right then what congregation you attend. I feel the same."

"How quaint."

"Thanks. Was there a reason you asked that?"

"No," Lex says. "Just absorbing the irony of gods having religion."

Clark turns around but Lex still isn't looking at him. "I'm not perfect Lex and I'm definitely not a god."

"That wasn't a compliment, no need to get all modest on me. I don't believe in gods or you." Lex says. The fact that his nose doesn't start growing or his orange pants catch fire almost surprises him.

"I'm sure a lack of faith isn't one your problems."

"True. I certainly wouldn't believe in a god even if my father hadn't done such a thorough job of beating the theism out of me."

"I'm sorry."

"Oh did you tell my father to make a habit of abuse? That's news to me."

"You can be snide all you want Lex but I'm still sorry that happened to you. You didn't deserve—"

"Don't. Just stop talking please. I tried to kill you, stop trying to be nice to me. You were a much better verbal sparring partner when you didn't act like you don't hate me."

Damn him, Clark really is considerate enough to stop talking. Lex wishes he would say something again, just so he’d have an excuse to throw his anger in his face.

On a logical level he knows that nothing is his fault. Superman hadn’t been a hero when Lex was a child. It’s irrational to feel as though it's his fault that he had to dig himself out of his own hole, bruised and orphaned and at the mercy of a world that hated him. But when he thought of Clark out there in a world that didn’t entirely accept him, behaving kindly to those who hated him, literally stepping between him and the fist of a monster that Lex himself created, he can’t help but blame him, hate him even because why does a world that he’s hated since he was a child deserve to have Superman when he was deprived of him when he really needed him? What has the human race done to deserve Superman other than perpetually disappoint him?

Because Lex failed, completely and utterly. Superman was good, he was too good. He was unwilling to kill a man who wanted him dead, unable to let a monster kill Lex, and yet still strong enough to face a monster from his own world and live to tell the tale. He was everything Lex could’ve ever wanted as a child and he hated every force in the universe that stopped him from just accepting Superman as he was and letting himself love him.

At some point after Lex remains unresponsive, Clark makes as if he’s going to get up and Lex’s fingers find themselves curling up on the edge of his cape. He sits back down, carefully in a way that makes it look as though he was doing nothing but adjusting his seat, and that he doesn’t notice Lex’s death grip on his uniform.

“I'll have to get you back to your cell eventually Lex.”

"I've got Superman as my hall pass I'm sure no one will complain."


"Yes, I know," Lex says blandly, watching Clark's profile. The setting sun looks so natural on Clark's skin that Lex doesn't see an alien for a moment and sees nothing but a man meant to bathe himself in daylight. Very briefly Lex thinks about kissing him, of ruining whatever their relationship has become by telling him everything he told the doctors. Or even just laying his feelings out and putting himself at Clark's mercy. But even though he well and truly wants to he doesn't think he could stand to have Superman endure him out of kindness and misplaced pity when he doesn’t return Lex’s feelings.

It's getting steadily darker but Lex doesn't let go. The cape is heavy and smooth in a way that he's never felt in a fabric on earth and it might be Lex' s imagination but it feels slightly warm to the touch. Clark doesn't try to rush him or get him back to prison. Instead he sits beside him, all good and all powerful and he politely pretends that he doesn't see Lex wiping his eyes.

“I don’t know how to help you Lex,” Clark says. His voice is kind and free of irony. Lex hates him for it.

“Fraid I can't help you there,” Lex says. It’s a sustained effort to keep his voice steady. “Wouldn't want to make your job too easy for you.”

“I know,” Clark says. “I may not be alleged mastermind smart but I'm still going to figure it out.”

“Are you now?”

Clark nods, staring off at the prison as he speaks. Lex wonders if he knows that the lack of eye contact is making him feel a bit more comfortable. He probably does. “I thought I was just going to let you rot in jail for the rest of your life, I really did. But...I don’t know it just didn’t sit well with me after a while. My mother thinks you trying to kill us was a cry for help, and I'm not sure if I agree with that but I know I don't feel as angry with you as I used to. And I don't hate you Lex.”

"Mid-western values are probably a mistake in this situation," Lex says. "So what are you going to do then? Stage an invention?”

“I don't know what I'm going to do.” Clark says softly. "But I hope you believe me when I say I want to help you."

"I don't," Lex lies, not knowing what else he could possibly say. Clark doesn't offer him any kind of rebuttal to this, he just lays a hand on Lex's shoulder.

Somehow in the long stretch of silence between them he can feel with a sudden certainty that Clark knows the truth; that he waited his entire life to see Superman’s red cape over the skies of Metropolis.