Partway to the Wayne mansion, the pilot alerted them that there was something following the plane. Too large to be a bird, and far too small to be another aircraft. Clark x-rayed behind them and immediately looked guilty, which made Lex sigh and punch the intercom.

"Is it following at a respectable distance?" he queried.

"Er, yes sir."

"Then just ignore it."

"But sir--"

"It's not dangerous. Ignore it," Lex repeated.

Lex's employees were paid well to not ask too many questions, so he did as he was told. Meanwhile, Lex rounded what he felt was a well-deserved glare at Clark.

"I thought," Lex bit out, "you cured him of this little hobby."

"I did!" Clark protested feebly. "He must have recognized the plane."

"What's he doing out here, anyway? I thought he was supposed to be staying at the Fortress."

"He gets lonely," Clark said, giving Lex a look that somehow managed to be reproachful and piteous at the same time. It said, you were the one who wanted me to move the dog to the Fortress and made him all lonely and want to start chasing planes again this is all really your fault. Clark was astonishingly good at delivering entire lectures with a single glance. Lex attributed it to his parents. "He just wants to play, Lex."

"He'll get sucked into the engine!"

Clark didn't roll his eyes anymore, but he could certainly give that impression.

They touched down without mishap, although it was raining pretty badly. It seemed like it was always raining or about to rain in Gotham. Lex didn't think he'd ever seen a clear sky there, and it gave the city a gloomy, oppressed air. No wonder Bruce was so neurotic. He needed a vacation in Florida or something. Maybe Tijuana.

There was a car waiting for them on the tarmac. Krypto sat on his haunches next to the front tire with a big doggy grin on his face, wagging his tail.

"Is that Krypto?" Clark asked, as if the red cape (Lex had nearly had a seizure the day Martha brought that cape) and S-shield tag on his collar weren't enough. "Hey, Krypto! What're you doing here? Doesn't Superman need you?"

Krypto just barked and bounded forward.

"Don't--" Lex began, but it was too late. Krypto leapt up to give Clark a big sloppy kiss, and now there were wet pawprints on Clark's suit. Lex sighed. "No," he said forcefully when it looked like Krypto was about to do the same thing for him. Fortunately for both of them, he seemed to get the message.

It was a small airfield of the sort used for private planes, so there were no witnesses to Krypto's existence save for the driver, who was again the recipient of Luthor money and didn't ask too many questions. Krypto was bundled into the back with the human passengers, and they were off to Wayne Manor for dinner.

Alfred greeted them at the door, of course. "Greetings, Master Kent and Master Luthor," he said in that impeccable way that always made Lex wish he could have a Pennyworth of his own. "And. . . Master Krypto? I wasn't informed of a third guest."

"We're just as surprised as you are," Lex told him as he wiped his shoes on the mat. Krypto trotted delicately inside and wiped his paws as well.

"I'll set a third place at the table," said Alfred.

Lex sincerely hoped Alfred wasn't serious--it was difficult to tell--and followed Alfred to the dining room, which was far too large for a small dinner of three (four, if you counted the dog). It was possibly far too large for a dinner of thirty. The Wayne manor didn't do anything small; it was probably even more ostentatious than the Luthor castle. Wayne had never seemed out of place, though, not even after his many years abroad, climbing mountains and training with monks or whatever it was he did. The wealth and power had slipped on as easily as an old, familiar coat.

"I'm afraid dinner will be slightly delayed," said Alfred. "There has been a slight incident."

"Nothing serious, is it?" Clark asked, frowning. Lex recognized the Superman persona slipping into place and resigned himself to yet another evening of gin rummy with the butler.

"Not at all," Alfred was quick to assure him.

Lex realized there was a plate on the floor, next to one of the chairs. "Did you--" he began.

"Mere coincidence," said Alfred.

Bruce and Dick's voices bounced down the hall, faintly.

"--take him with us," Dick argued. "He could be useful!"

"I'm not an animal shelter," Bruce responded. "Nor am I responsible for finding every single missing person registered with GPD." His voice was level and calm and so was his face, but Lex could sense the tension. "We'll keep him for tonight and then drop him off at the Gotham Animal Shelter tomorrow."

"They'll put him to sleep if they can't find his owner!" Dick protested.

Bruce halted as soon as he saw his guests, and a smile was on his face, quick as that. Lex smiled back reflexively; Clark was a little slower to respond. It was kind of eerie when Bruce smiled like that.

A German shepherd loped, damp-furred, into the room at Dick's heels.

The dog was probably show-quality, Lex thought, if not for the peculiar mark on his forehead that was almost shaped like a star; he'd been kept in a very fit, fine condition by his owner, with the sort of lines that belonged to a Best of Breed, if not Best of Class or even Best of Show. He had dark, intelligent eyes and a confident manner, and he seemed not at all disturbed by the presence of strangers in the room.

Krypto, however, had suddenly gone tense.

The other dog just looked calmly back.

Something shrilled into the silence. It was Bruce's pager. He flicked it off one-handed without even looking to see who it was and glanced out the window, where the Batsignal glowed dimly against the clouds, cut into rippling waves by the rain. "I have to go."

"Sir," Alfred began reproachfully.

"I'll come with you," Clark said, unbuttoning the first few buttons of his shirt.

Lex saw a few inches of blue and tried not to let his head explode with rage. The suit had that effect on him, especially when used in the middle of things like this. "I thought you agreed to leave Superman at home," he hissed.

Clark looked contrite but defensive. "Superman has to be ready at all times!"

"Gotham is my territory," Bruce said firmly. "You two stay here. Enjoy dinner."

"What about," Dick began.

"You stay here, too," Bruce told him. "We can't both abandon our guests. That would be rude." He spun and began back the way he and Dick had come.

Krypto chose that moment to bark and lunge forward at the other dog, which had the sense to back up and then turn tail and flee. Lex barely managed to catch Krypto by the collar. It didn't help; he had to let go or risk being dragged along at superspeed by his fingertips. Krypto bulleted after the unfamiliar dog, his howls echoing down the cavernous halls of Wayne Manor.

"Krypto!" Clark exclaimed, blurring after him.

Alfred, Lex, and Dick caught up to the dogs near the front door, where the strange dog had Krypto pinned to the marble floor, scruff seized in his jaws. Krypto whimpered and looked imploringly up at Clark with his big mud-puddle eyes. Clark just shook his head, hands on his hips, but he was smiling.

"We have a superpowered dog," Lex muttered. "How in the world was he bested by a, by a Bathound?" He wasn't sure what had inspired him to call the mutt--well, okay, it clearly wasn't a mutt, that was being unfair--a Bathound. It'd seemed appropriate at the time.

"It was amazing," Clark said. "He, he climbed on top of that table somehow and came down at Krypto from above--"

"I hope this isn't premonitory of what would happen if you and Bruce ever had to fight," Lex said dryly. Clark looked appalled at the very thought.

"Good dog!" Dick said, bending down over the German shepherd. "Good dog, Ace!"

"Ace?" said Lex.

"That's what his chip said," Dick explained.

Of course Wayne would have the equipment required to scan an animal's registration microchip. And if he didn't, he could probably make one out of spare parts.

The dog let go of Krypto and stood up, wagging his tail and beaming at Dick, who scratched him behind the ears and fondled him roughly about the head. Krypto stayed on the floor, an abject puddle of doggish misery.

Clark sighed. "C'mon, boy." Krypto looked up with his eyes, but didn't move. "You can't mope forever down there."

Krypto seemed to agree, because he got up and tottered over to Clark with his tail between his legs.

"You were a very bad dog, trying to start a fight with another dog that’s not as strong as you are," Clark told him even as he rubbed Krypto comfortingly between the ears. "I think you got everything you deserve."

"Roog," said Krypto.

"Now go and make up," Clark said. "Go on." He pointed at the other dog, who was now sitting next to Dick with attentive ears.

Krypto's claws ticked against the floor as he slunk to the other dog. They sniffed noses, and the shepherd gave Krypto a friendly nip to one ear, which seemed to make the superdog much happier. He gave the certainly-not-a-Bathound a lick to the nose, which Lex found completely appalling--real dogs weren't supposed to act like a Disney movie, were they?--and then both dogs dashed off with tails held high, occasionally skidding on the slick floor.

Dick--giggled, there was really no other word for it. "Now they're best friends forever, I guess."

"Ugh," said Lex.

"Dinner awaits," Alfred said stiffly, clearly offended by the entire affair.

"Yeah," said Lex. "Let's--"

Clark shook his head and pulled his shirt open the rest of the way, which normally would have been incredibly distracting but instead was just really disappointing. "I can't let Bruce go out there alone."

"He's alone out there almost every night," Lex pointed out.

"But he doesn't have to be." Clark glanced at Dick, and then back at Lex. "I'll be back as soon as I can." He pressed a brief kiss to the corner of Lex's mouth, and then he was gone with a rustle of leaves from the potted plant in the corner.


The Luthor and Wayne cooks seemed to have some sort of unspoken war with one another, because their meals aways outdid themselves. In this case, they began with a leafy green salad, followed by a creamy tomato bisque. The entree was baked lobster tail served atop tender, ale-braised oxtail, with freshly-steamed asparagus, sauteed oyster mushrooms, and new red potatoes with garlic and chives. Dessert was creme brulée with just a touch of orange and ginger to cleanse the palate.

It was tacky to dine with the help, so it was just Lex, Dick, and the dogs (who were apparently standing in for Wayne and Clark). Dick was distracted by his new canine companion through most of the meal, pausing in his dining to stroke his back and ears every so often, so he seemed cheerful enough despite Wayne's absence. Lex supposed he was used to Wayne's disappearances.

Lex was sipping his wine and working up a righteous sulk when something in Dick's vicinity beeped.

"The Batmobile came back," Dick said, looking at something on his wrist and frowning. "But Bruce didn't."

Alfred came from apparently out of nowhere--or maybe out of the wood paneling--the way good help are supposed to do. "Master Bruce seems to have gotten himself into a spot of trouble," he said with a disapproving curve of the lips.

"Wait," said Lex, sitting up straighter, "who or what in the world could take out both Batman and Superman?" Bricks arranged and rearranged themselves in his mind, slotting into place and flipping over and sometimes disappearing entirely. He could call his people. They could be here as fast as travel could allow. And he could call in some favors, someone powerful in Gotham still owed him for--

"I'm going," Dick said, and set off running down the hallway before his napkin even hit the floor. The shepherd followed.

"Master Dick, I really can't condone--"

But Dick was already gone. Lex nearly tripped over Krypto in his haste to get up from the table.

"Arrelp!" Krypto exclaimed.

"Sorry," Lex muttered.

He caught up with Dick halfway to. . . to somewhere. The Batcave? Clark said Bruce had a Batcave. Lex thought there was something seriously wrong with Bruce.

"You can't honestly expect to rescue both Batman and Superman by yourself," Lex said.

"I'm not," Dick said. "I've got Ace."

Ace wagged his tail obligingly.

"Um," said Lex, trying to find a way to diplomatically inform Wayne's thirteen-year old ward that a dog was not a suitable crimefighting partner. Then he realized that his boyfriend had a dog for a crimefighting partner and was assaulted by a fresh wave of depression.

"Woof," said Krypto, arriving at the scene approximately eight inches off the ground, followed by Alfred, who somehow managed to give the impression that he'd been walking sedately the entire time.

"And Krypto! See, there's three of us."

"Four," Lex corrected him. "I'm coming, too." As soon as the words were out of his mouth, he realized that he'd committed himself to mounting a rescue mission with a barely teenaged crimefighting sidekick fresh out of training, a superpowered dog, and a not-so-superpowered dog.

Maybe they could leave Ace at home. Maybe they could bring Alfred.

"And just what do the 'four' of you plan on doing?" Alfred asked, crossing his arms.

Dick set his mouth in a critical line and looked Lex up and down.

"What?" Lex demanded.

"I wonder if you could fit in one of Bruce's spare suits," Dick said.

Oh no. Oh no.


The Batmobile, at least, was vaguely familiar. There was a steering wheel and a gearshift and pedals. Lex knew how to use those, even if he didn't know how to read any of the luminous screens or what any of the many, many buttons and little levers did. But he knew how to drive. He was very good at driving.

He really liked the Batmobile.

The cowl restricted his vision, and the gloves were a little too large. Bruce was slightly taller and, well, much broader than Lex, but Dick assured him it was hardly noticeable, and as long as Lex swirled his cape dramatically a lot nobody would see that his armor didn't fit quite right or that his spandex sagged. Besides, the costume gave them the element of surprise, and that was the important thing.

The culprit: Poison Ivy. Lex had heard of her only through Clark, though Superman had never encountered her. Clark was confident that he was immune to her powers; after all, he was an alien, with alien biology, so there was no reason for her floral poisons to affect him.

Clearly, Clark was wrong.

"Don't let her touch your bare skin," Robin said. "Don't let her kiss you. Don't let her get near any plants she can use as a weapon--"

"Bathound" barked in the backseat. Robin had fashioned a black hood for the dog so that he wouldn't be recognized--since that star-shaped mark on the forehead was pretty distinctive--or linked to Bruce Wayne in any way.

Lex would find a way to kill the world, one of these days.

The southern strip of Diamond Park was due to be razed for a housing project. Lex couldn't see anything inherently wrong with this--Gotham seriously needed more affordable housing for its low-income residents--but try telling Poison Ivy that. That it was close to the edge, though, was good for them; it made her easier to approach, and if they could force her into the city, away from the greenery, so much the better. Not that fighting Ivy directly was part of the plan; the plan involved freeing Clark and Bruce from whatever had happened to them so that they could do the fighting.

Lex was starting to be seriously worried about Clark. He'd been mostly annoyed before, but now that it had a chance to sink in. . . it was really, really hard to beat Superman. Lots of people had tried it, and they'd all failed. What had happened to Clark? He could be poisoned, dying, lying in a ditch somewhere staring sightlessly at the sky. . .

. . . or standing impassively while Poison Ivy wrapped herself around him like a vine.

Robin tapped Lex's leg, forcing Lex to tear himself away from the morbidly fascinating sight of Poison Ivy tonguing Clark's ear, and Lex saw Batman strapped to a nearby oak tree with vines, giggling softly to himself.

"Superman and Ivy, sitting in a tree," Batman sang softly.

Lex took a moment to appreciate Batman's singing voice--which was really quite nice, with some training he might even be able to do opera--before realizing that Batman was singing, and there was no way those two words should be in a sentence together unless there was a "not" negating one of them. Robin looked similarly baffled and horrified. It had to be an Ivy thing. It had to.

Ivy looked fairly preoccupied (after all, it wasn't as if she was expecting any backup, not with Batman and Superman down for the count), so maybe this was a good opportunity to get Batman loose. Once they freed him, they could concentrate on breaking Clark's. . . Clark's whatever it was. Robin nodded and produced a knife-like object from somewhere inside his cape.

The vine screamed.

That got Ivy's attention immediately.

Okay, thought Lex. Think fast, here. What would Batman do?

As it turned out, Batman would get the hell away from the trees, because the next thing he knew, sharpened tree roots erupted from the ground practically right under their feet. One punched right through the heavy cape, and the next almost put a hole through his foot. He really didn't have Batman's moves, so instead of stylishly ducking, rolling, and leaping over the stakes, he evaded them with graceless hopping and stumbling until he tripped into Ivy's line of sight.

"Well," said Ivy, arching one red eyebrow. Lex wasn't sure why people found her beautiful; the green-tinged skin was kind of off-putting. Her namesake curled around and behind her like loving snakes. "And who're you supposed to be?"

"I'm the goddamn Batman," Lex said, trying to pitch his voice low and menacing and sounding instead like he needed a cough drop. The cape, fortunately, fell around his body in such a way that the ill-fitting armor didn't really show. "Give it up, Ivy."

"Hmm," said Ivy. "I don't think so. Kill him, lover, and anyone he's got with him."

Oh shit, was pretty much Lex's only thought before Superman barreled forward and slammed him into a tree with Kevlar-splintering force. All the wind rushed out of his lungs. Shit, how did Batman do this every night?

"Honey, be careful of the trees!" Ivy called from what seemed like a very long distance away.

Superman obligingly hauled Lex away from the trunk.

Lex had to think. He had to think. But his head was ringing, his ribs might be cracked or broken, and where the hell was Robin, anyway? Or the dogs? He didn't really mind being a distraction as long as they were doing something useful.

Robin had said some really useful things about Poison Ivy on the way to the park. Things about how she was poisonous and how she controlled people. Lex latched onto that one even as Superman's eyes went red and luminous, the way they did just before he burned something out with his heat vision. Ivy's powers were perhaps similar to Desiree's, which meant it might wear off with time, but they didn't have that luxury.

"Oof," said Superman. Lex found himself dangling several inches off the ground as Superman aimed a retaliatory swing with his other fist at Robin, who dodged with neat, economical movements. Robin backflipped into a tree, which whipped a razored branch at him in response, but he spun out of the way just in time. The branch clubbed Superman full in the face, causing him to drop Lex.

This situation was all strange and off-kilter. Superman could easily take them out in two seconds. Maybe four, if they put up a particularly good fight. Neither of them had superpowers, and even with the handicap of Ivy's precious plants, Superman could crush their heads with his bare hands. He was holding back. It brought back dim, chemical-haze memories of when Lex had been married to Desiree. He'd known what he was doing, realized that it was all wrong, but he hadn't been able to do anything about it.

Lex pulled himself up to a kneeling position, drew in a weak breath, and whistled. It was a feeble parody of Clark's call, but Krypto appeared in a white whirlwind, ears perked and ready for action.

"Get her," Lex rasped. "The green woman." He pointed vaguely in Poison Ivy's last known direction.

Superman and Robin were still engaged in their vicious dance. Lex hauled himself to his feet. His knees felt like paper, but they held. He eyed the nearest tree and awkwardly fumbled open the utility belt one-handed. This wasn't Batman's main suit, so it didn't have all the usual gadgets, but there was still one mainstay: batarangs. Lex fished one out, and then pulled back the cowl. The night air had never felt so good against his bare scalp.

Lex drew in a deep breath. It made his ribs twinge. "Hey, Superman!"

Superman looked. Lex thought he saw a flicker of recognition and hoped it wasn't just wishful thinking.

"Check this out," Lex said with a manic grin. He hurled the batarang straight at the tree.

The batarang never even made it. A branch speared down and deflected it, and five more knifed out at Lex. Lex didn't even have time to draw breath before Superman was there, reducing the branches into so much charcoal with his heat vision. He gave Lex a look that said, Oh my God what were you thinking you moron you could've been killed but you're my moron and I love you what were you thinking.

Lex exhaled in relief. "Welcome back."

A dog barked in the distance. Poison Ivy screamed in outrage somewhere behind them. Lex hastily tugged the cowl back on.

Krypto and Ivy were both tangled in greenery when they got there, but they could hear Krypto growling from somewhere in the twisting leaves. Superman made quick work of the ivy, and they found her pinned to the ground by a very proud Krypto, who had her throat seized gently--very gently!--in his jaws. Ivy's eyes were angry, but she didn't dare speak. There were forty-two very sharp, compelling reasons not to.

"Good boy," said Superman, and made the call to the police.

Robin completely ruined the moment by bursting in with, "Batman's gone!"

"What?" said Superman, which was a perfectly reasonable response, seeing as how Batman had, when last seen, been securely fastened to a tree and completely out of his mind. Singing.

"He's gone," Robin repeated. He looked a little panicked and disheveled. "I went back to cut him down from the tree and he just wasn't there. He must have gotten down on his own."

"There's no way," Lex said, disbelieving. Memories of being high were pleasantly fuzzy now, but fine motor control was definitely not one of the things associated with the experience.

"He was hit by one of Ivy's toxic pollens," Superman agreed. "She said it would incapacitate him for six hours." He gave Lex a sideways look. "She tried it on me, but it didn't work, so she had to use her hypnotic kiss instead."

Lex contemplated telling Krypto to bite down. But Clark would hate him forever if he did that, so it wasn't worth it.

"But," Robin began.

And then, just like this was some kind of hokey old television show about a boy and his dog, Ace--or rather, "Bathound" (that name was going to haunt Lex the rest of his perfectly sane days)--came bounding up to them. He barked, turned in a circle, and then barked again.

"He wants us to follow him," Robin declared. "He must know where Batman is!"

"What about Poison Ivy?" Lex asked, glancing at their captured foe. He noted with some satisfaction that Krypto was drooling all over that pretty green neck. Ivy made a disgusted sound and twitched; Krypto growled and dug in his claws, and she stilled.

"Krypto and I will take care of her until the police come," Superman affirmed.

Lex arched an eyebrow. "Like you were able to take care of her last time?"

Clark in his Superman persona didn't blush. It was a phenomenon Lex liked to test at every opportunity. "What do you suggest, then?"

"Robin can look after her," Lex said.

"Hey!" said Robin. "No way. I'm going to look for Batman."

"You're not going to stay behind," Clark told Lex.

Bathound barked impatiently. At least, Lex imagined that was what the barks meant. It wasn't like you could tell from the tone.

"Fine then," Lex said, "we'll both stay. Robin and, er, Bathound can find Batman on their own."

Superman didn't disagree with that, so the Boy Wonder and his faithful canine companion disappeared into the shrubbery to seek their pointy-eared mentor. That bit of mental narration left Lex feeling a little strung-out and unhinged. He needed a stiff drink. And to get out of this costume; it chafed something awful.

"So," said Superman. "Are you really Batman?"

"Robin thought it would add the element of surprise," Lex muttered.

". . . I suppose it did, at that," Superman said at last.

Clark was never, ever going to let Lex live this down. Lex resigned himself to several gloomy months of Clark making Bat-ears with his index fingers and imitating Lex's hoarse, "I'm the goddamn Batman." It would happen at least once in bed and completely ruin the mood.

The police showed up after a few minutes--dispatches from superheroes were almost always attended to first, especially if they involved a supervillain--armed with gas masks, tasers, and a hazmat team, which Lex thought were sensible precautions. Ivy went meekly enough, with a defeated slump to her shoulders, still covered with dog drool.

Superman patted Krypto enthusiastically on the head. "Remind me to give you a treat when we get back to the Fortress," he said happily.

Robin turned up soon after with Batman's arm slung over his shoulder. It was a very good thing indeed that GPD had responded so quickly; though apparently unharmed, Batman was still snickering drunkenly at nothing and was now singing snatches of bad '90s pop music to himself.

"Have I told you lately that I love you?" Batman crooned. "Heeeey, Supes! How's it hangin'?"

"Good," Superman replied, clearly disturbed. Even his cape looked disturbed.

"Dude," said Batman, "this is wild. And I, I have done some crazy-ass stuff. Like, in the Himalayas. They feed you some wild, some wild shit up there. Flowers that make you think butterflies are coming out of your ass."

"Bathound must have chewed through the vines," Robin said. "He's got bits of it stuck in his teeth. Then he led Batman away from the fighting."

"Roof," said Bathound, wagging his tail.

"Good doggie," said Batman. "Very good doggie. This is one cool dog. Have you felt his fur? Wild. Arf arf."

"Okay, now that we're all together, we should get back to the Batmobile," Lex said hastily.

"I'll fly back and inform A that his services might be needed." Superman bolted into the air before anyone could respond.

Alfred was, in the manner of good English butlers, completely unflappable. He took one look at Bruce and pronounced that it wasn't anything a glass of water and a long sleep wouldn't cure ("Though he'll probably have a wonderful headache in the morning, and well-deserved). Dick promised Ace that he'd be reunited with his owner and definitely not sent to the pound, though the dog seemed much more interested in the treats Krypto and he had just been given. Lex shed the Batsuit as quickly as humanly possible and emerged from behind the clock in Bruce's study with the relief that comes from setting down a heavy burden. There was something about the Batcave that chilled him. He didn't know how Bruce spent so much time there and didn't really care to find out.

Clark was in the kitchen, sitting at the breakfast island and helping himself to post-mission Oreos and milk. Lex sneaked one and sat down across from him. He never tired of watching Clark eat.

"Ugh," Lex said after a bite. "How do you eat these things?" He ate the rest of it anyway. Lex Luthor would not be defeated by saturated fat and artificial flavorings.

"Nobody asked you." Clark shoved the last cookie in his mouth and washed it down with a cold gulp of milk that probably did not live up to his farm-fresh standards. "So," he said, once the substantially-reduced glass of milk was back on the counter. "Are you okay? I--I hit you pretty hard, back there."

There was no point in lying to a man with x-ray vision. "I'm a little banged up," Lex said. "It'll be gone by tomorrow."

Clark looked at the counter. "I'm sorry."

"Don't be. It was Poison Ivy."

"I. You." Clark paused and sorted through his words. Lex could almost see them rearranging themselves in Clark's head. "You really. You could've died."

"I wouldn't have," Lex said. "You save people. That's what you do. Ivy couldn't take that away from you."

It wasn't really a lie. It was maybe 90% a lie. Maybe even as little as 80%. Lex had executed that painfully stupid, reckless move based solely on faith that Clark was, at heart, a good person, and that he'd never let anything happen to Lex. That he'd been right made him fall desperately in love with Clark all over again, because Lex of all the people in the world really wasn't worth all that much, but Clark kept saving him anyway.

Clark gave Lex a tender, exasperated look. "Don't do that again, okay?" he said softly. "It--I couldn't really be freaked out back there, but."

"I don't plan on it," Lex assured him. "I'll leave the superheroing to the superheroes."

That garnered him a laugh, and Lex smiled, warmed all the way down to the soles of his feet. "Boots too big for you?" Clark teased.

"I'll say," Lex said. "Bruce is at least a size thirteen."