"Lex, we need to talk."
Lex rubbed at his eyes tiredly as he walked into their bedroom. Any conversation that began with Clark uttering those fateful words would no doubt end with a door slamming and someone sleeping on the couch for a week. That someone was invariably Lex. He tried to imagine what he'd done this time.
He knew he'd cut things a little close by purchasing that particle accelerator last month, and maybe he'd been a mite too friendly with the Crown Princess of Japan at the Mayor's dinner party, but it was nothing more than harmless flirting. Nothing would ever happen. He and Clark were in a long-term committed relationship, and Lex took that seriously.
Lex searched his memory banks for what Clark might consider recent incursions into the line of moral rectitude. Clark's line was a lot narrower than Lex's, which was still downright wavy on occasion. And prone to movement.
"Lex." Clark sighed. "Stop trying to figure out what you've done and just come here."
Clark was leaning against the dresser and looking mildly annoyed. Lex thought he might have even sounded half-amused. Well, that was a switch. Maybe this particular talk wouldn't involve a moratorium on sex that could rival the no-flyzone sanctions over Iraq. At least Clark didn't look like he wanted to throw him through a window or turn him upside down and shake him, and that was promising.
"What's up, Clark?" No volunteering information unless he had to. He'd learned one thing from their past arguments.
Clark tugged gently at the drawer where Lex kept his underwear folded in compulsive rows as if they were going to be randomly inspected for neatness on any given day. Lex had no doubt that Inspector #57 took her job seriously, and if she planned to do any follow-ups on product usage or quality control, he was going to be ready. It just made sense to be prepared. It wasn't paranoid. It wasn't.
"I did laundry."
"Bravo. How many more loads before you get your merit badge?" Lex sat on the edge of the bed and waited for Clark to make his point.
"Very funny." Clark wasn't laughing. "I found something interesting in the back of your drawer."
Lex thought for a moment. Lube, vibrator, handcuffs, feather tickler. There shouldn't have been anything in that drawer that Clark wasn't intimately familiar with. Except ... Lex flushed and cursed himself silently. Why didn't he just throw the package out when it arrived? Fuck! How was he going to explain ...
"From the look on your face, I take it you know what I'm talking about."
"I can explain."
Clark waited with his arms crossed loosely across his chest. It was his "I am Superman" pose and Lex was beginning to hate it. "This should be good."
"It's really a very funny story," Lex began. He was pretty sure that Clark wasn't going to think it was funny at all. Sex was not only going to be off the menu, it was going to be declared an endangered species. There would probably be an act of congress to make it completely off-limits. Forever.
"I'm sure it is. Start talking."
Lex laughed hoarsely. "Well, it started back in highschool."
"Why am I not surprised?"
"You see, Bruce and I ..." Lex swallowed, and tried to gauge exactly how much of the story it was necessary to tell. He was never good at figuring out which details Clark needed to hear, and which ones were just going to ensure that his stay on the couch was long and uncomfortable. Well, at least this particular story didn't involve sex. Lex was pretty sure of that, so maybe Clark wouldn't be too mad.
"We used to spend a lot of time on the phone when we weren't at school. We got ... lonely." Lex paused. That didn't sound exactly how he meant it. Clark's eyes narrowed to green slits. "I mean, home pretty much sucked, and I had nobody there except Dad and the servants, and so we started this thing where Bruce would practice his hearing over the phone." Lex hoped that the "I was a sad, neglected child with an evil father" vibe would work for him here.
"Is there a short version of this story, Lex?"
Apparently not. Lex thought for a moment. He tended to rely heavily on the sympathy vote with Clark. He fast-forwarded through his thoughts, and then stopped. Rewind. He shook his head. "Not really. I'll try to be brief. It all started as a way to help Bruce with his hearing."
"Fine. What exactly does underwear have to do with Bruce and his super-hearing?"
"He doesn't have super-hearing like you do, Clark," Lex explained patiently. He still didn't know why Clark got pissy about the hearing thing. It wasn't like Bruce had any super-powers to speak of. He just had exceptionally fine-tuned aural nerves. "Anyway, he always complained that I never got any sleep because I never actually undressed and went to bed. I tended to just crash in my clothes, so he'd make me take off my clothes and then he'd try to guess what I was wearing by the sound of the fabric. Over the phone."
Lex smiled. It had always been pretty amusing to listen to Bruce trying to discern between a polyester-cotton blend and an Egyptian cotton shirt. Clark was looking at him like he'd just admitted to watching reruns of "Charlie's Angels".
"So, you would strip and then tell him what you were wearing." Lex blinked. When Clark put it like that it sounded ... bad.
"No, he was telling me what I was ... it's very tricky over the phone." Lex threw his hands up in the air. "You're making it sound worse than it was."
"Anyone else would call that phone sex, Lex," Clark said, not moving from his post hovering over Lex's underwear drawer. Lex didn't know why but he felt the need to walk over and close the drawer. He felt suddenly protective. His briefs and boxers didn't need to be subjected to Clark's sudden flares of heat vision. No sir.
"It wasn't sex, Clark. There was no sex!" And from the look on Clark's face there might never be sex again. Dammit. And Lex was not about to admit that while the phone exercise had always at its heart been a test of Bruce's abilities, it had ... occasionally ... or maybe frequently (they were teenagers, for God's sake!) degenerated into something else that left one or both of them sweating and moaning and in need of less sticky underwear.
But that was definitely in the "Clark doesn't need to know" category. He hadn't even known Clark then. Lex didn't think that it was fair to be blamed for sex whose afterglow had faded years ago.
"There's always sex with you and Bruce. The two of you have no concept of lines, Lex. None."
"That's not fair, Clark. I've never, ever compromised our relationship, and I'm not going to. With Bruce or anyone else."
"So explain what's in the drawer, Lex. Explain it without Bruce. Without sex."
Lex paled visibly. Well, he could probably explain it without sex, but ... there was no way he was going to leave Bruce out of it. If it was his destiny to go down in flames at the hands of Superman, then he was taking Bruce with him.
"Bruce started it."
Lex could almost feel the heat rippling across his skin. He thought he saw the varnish on the dresser bubble alarmingly. Truth be told, he'd never liked that dresser. Better the dresser than his favourite pair of lavender silk boxers.
It was true. Mostly. Bruce had started the latest round, anyway, and that was really the only one that mattered. Lex couldn't quite remember who had started the game in the first place, but he suspected it must have been him. Dammit. Sometimes it was hard having such a long history with someone. He couldn't remember anymore which of them had started so many of their fucked-up traditions that everyone else thought were bizarre. Lex only had Bruce to go by, and God knew that Bruce's normal-meter was seriously to the left of acceptable. He'd never realized how much until he'd met Clark. Clark at fifteen had been about as far from he and Bruce as it was possible to go and still be the same species. Lex sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose between his fingers. He needed to work on his analogies. He was so screwed.
"I was trying to explain ..."
"With the less than helpful tale of two lovers tragically separated by cell phones."
"Clark!" He hated when Clark called him and Bruce lovers. They'd been fifteen. The word ‘lover' was something they made fun of in Shakespeare and Woody Allen films. It didn't apply to them. They fucked, screwed around, had sex. They survived. It wasn't candlelight and roses and whatever else Clark thought, and it was on the other side of the world from the kind of relationship that he and Clark had made together. Lex was happy that it was so different. It somehow made it easier. "We were kids. We were fooling around. It was just another game."
Clark's scowl could have made the paint peel. Clark had never been a big fan of games unless they involved the movement of plastic pieces around a square of cardboard and the exchange of coloured bits of paper pretending to be money. Lex didn't see the attraction when you could buy and sell real property and get a much bigger adrenaline rush, but Clark was content to move his pewter top hat around the squares and fight with Lex about utility rates and the importance of a "get out of jail free" card in spite of having a good attorney and more money than God.
"Yes, a game." Lex could feel the beginnings of a headache settling in behind his eyes. "Bruce got really good at determining what I was wearing. Everything I was wearing." He looked up to see if Clark had taken the hint. The charred strip on the top of the dresser indicated he had. "Well, after awhile he knew all my clothes, so the challenge kind of went out of it, so I ... I started buying different kinds of underwear."
"How many different kinds of underwear can you buy, Lex?"
"You'd be surprised." And it was true. He'd tried everything from cotton briefs to silk boxers, leather thongs and lace ... things. Lex was not blushing, and Clark really, really didn't need to know exactly how interesting his teenage years had been. "Anyway, it was sort of a running joke. I'd try to stump him with outrageous underwear, and he'd send me stuff that was ... bizarre. It gave him a slight edge because he knew I'd have to try it on sometime just to see if he could guess right." Lex was aware that Clark was looking through him, and he thanked whatever gods protected bald gay men who were overly fond of purple that he was wearing simple black silk boxers today.
"And you're still doing this?" Clark tapped an impatient finger against the sizzling dresser. Lex blushed.
"No! No, it's been years!" Maybe not quite as many years as Clark thought, but still, the last time they'd done it, it had been completely innocent. It had been ... nice. Affectionate. The good feeling that comes from an inside joke, or knowing someone really well.
"And so I should conclude that you went out and bought yourself a pair of ..."
"No, Bruce sent them. But I was ... I made some kind of comment about the commercialization of the Justice League, and the next thing I knew--"
"What did you say to him, Lex? Exactly."
Lex averted his eyes. "I told him I wouldn't be caught dead in Batman underwear."
"What makes you think there's an ‘and'?"
"You have a pair of Batman briefs and ... well, we'll get to that, Lex. There'd better be an ‘and'. What did you do?"
"I sent him Superman underwear."
Clark snickered, and Lex could see he was desperately trying to stay angry, but the image was too much for him. Lex pressed his advantage. "I sent him Superman briefs, ‘guaranteed to protect your man of steel from any harm,'" Lex quoted in his best product placement guy voice. "I ... I dared him to wear them."
Clark started to laugh helplessly.
"To the next League function."
Clark slumped down beside the dresser and clutched at his stomach. Between breaths, he managed to sputter: "You do realize that Bruce has probably hospitalized people for less than that, don't you?"
Lex was laughing now too. He nodded. "Yeah. So he said, he would if I would, and the package arrived with the Batman briefs."
"And you can't back down from a challenge," Clark breathed, "because you're still ten years old. You and Bruce are like heroine addicts, helping each other get high. Jeez. It's a wonder Excelsior's still standing after eight years with you two."
"So you're not mad?" Lex slipped off the bed and sat beside Clark on the floor. A big arm went around his shoulders and pulled him closer.
"Oh, I'm mad, all right, Lex, but it's kind of like getting angry at two little kids. You and Bruce just can't seem to help yourselves, and that's totally not the image I have of Batman." Clark was smiling. "Bruce could stand to lighten up a little more."
"Would it help to know that I retaliated?" Clark raised an eyebrow. "I sent him a Superman thong."
"They make Superman thongs?" Clark said. "How do you know about this stuff, Lex? And why? That's ... disturbing."
"Your charities get a percentage from all product sales. I keep an eye on what's available because ... well, it's just good business."
"Uh-huh." Clark didn't sound convinced. "And in retaliation for the thong ...."
"Bruce sent the Wonder-roos."
Clark looked at him blankly. Lex fumbled for words. "It's what they call the Wonder Woman panties. Like Under-roos, but ... what?" Lex stared at Clark and blinked. Oh shit. He was way too knowledgeable about this stuff. And yes, he'd said panties. Fuck.
"Lex, are there some cross-dressing issues I need to know about?" Clark asked smugly.
"So, the next time Bruce gets hurt and I have to scan him for injuries, please tell me that I'm not going to have to be confronted with the fact that he's wearing underwear with my family crest on the–"
"No, they're very tasteful, and you should be scanning at the skeletal, not the epidermal level, peeping Tom. And besides, it has nothing to do with you. He'll only do it if I am too, so it'll be something we're at together. Like the Charity Auction this month."
Clark snickered. "God, and what would the women of Metropolis pay to know that their two favourite billionaire moguls wear Superhero undies?"
"I still have Kryptonite, Clark. So does Bruce. I'd be careful if I were you."
"Empty threats, Lex. And you do realize that Bruce didn't start this at all, you did."
Lex thought about it. "Depends on your definition of ‘start'."
Lex turned in Clark's arms and kissed him hard. There was no way he was sleeping on the couch for this one. No way. He licked Clark's lips and slid into his lap, making it clear what Clark would be giving up if he banished him to the Couch of Doom.
"You're impossible," Clark murmured, pulling him closer.
Lex grinned. "Heh, just wait til Bruce gets the Superman condoms I had messengered over. That'll teach him to send me ..."
"What?" Lex asked innocently. "What did I do?"