Lex Luthor gave in easily, all things considered. Once Static had taken his Kryptonite-armed robot army out of commission, and Superman had seen to his fellow superhero's kidnapped sidekick, the evil genius quickly capitulated. Taking his defeat with his usual calm, he offered the Justice Leaguers some of his finest wine, tossed Clark a Coke when it was refused--heroes don't drink on duty--and settled on his desk while he observed Static untie his friend.
Their voices carried across the office--"Way to go, Gear. Next time why don't you just tie yourself to some train tracks?"
"Oh yeah, like you could've resisted a dart with that much elephant tranquilizer."
"I wouldn't have gotten hit!" The attitude in his words was belied by the gentleness with which he undid the bonds, automatically snagging his friend's wrists to check for injury. There weren't any abrasions; Luthor always used the best silks.
Lex caught Superman's fond smile as he watched them, remarked in an undertone, "Remind you of anyone?"
Clark rolled his eyes. "We were never like that."
"I was thinking of Bruce and Dick, actually. Before." He sipped the wine as Static and Gear made their way over, still bickering like a married couple, appropriately enough. "Well, gentlemen, good show." The bald billionaire raised his glass to Gear. "Excellent work with that superconductor, by the way. I doubt Static could have shut my horde down without its reinforcement."
"Thank you," Gear said politely. "Nice robots, yourself. Great AI."
"You saw the fight?" Static demanded.
"Lex--uh, Luthor let me watch. To, um, break my spirit..?"
"I'll take it from here," Clark said, in his best Superman voice. He had already put down the cola can before it could blow his cover. "You can return to Dakota; I'll bring Luthor to the police."
Lex chuckled, put his hand on Clark's shoulder and let it rest there. As always warmed by the sudden tensing of powerful muscle, invisible under the cape. All these years and Clark still reacted at his touch. "Give it up," he advised. "They know. Well, Gear does."
"He knows?" Only superheroic resolve kept Clark's voice from cracking.
"Well, he is a supergenius. You have to expect him to be quick on the uptake."
"Knows what?" Static rubbernecked between his sidekick and the villain. Then between said villain and Superman and Lex's familiar contact with his archnemesis, and his eyes widened in comprehension. "Ohhh. Seriously?"
"Like this," Gear assured him, holding up two crossed fingers.
"So that's why he doesn't sleep in the Watchtower."
"Lex," Clark said warningly.
"I didn't tell him anything."
"Nope," Gear confirmed. "But when Superman broke through the roof to save me, and the robo-general made to skewer him with a Krypto-lance, Lex just about had a heart attack."
"It was supposed to be off," Lex grumbled. "How was I to know you'd gotten at the remote when my back was turned?"
"It would've been fine if the power switch was labeled! I just assumed it was on and..."
"Turned it on instead of off like you thought you were doing." Static nudged his partner. "What good's a four digit IQ if you don't use it?"
"Not my fault. I was merely missing a major variable in my calculations." Gear adjusted his visor and nodded significantly. "Though really, it should've occurred to me a lot sooner. I mean, how many times has Lex Luthor had Superman in his power, only to lose him at just the last minute?"
"But they...you're really..." Static blinked. "So Luthor doesn't have to go to jail to play drop the soap?"
Clark's ears went pink--at least it wasn't his whole face anymore. Blushing superheroes just didn't have the same presence. Lex snickered. "Bet the Flash loves having you on the League."
"Are you kidding?" Gear groaned. "They won't stop one-upping each other. Batman's gonna crack and throw both of them out the airlock, one of these days."
"Seriously, though," Static said. "How long have you guys been hooked up?"
"Hmm...since Superman was about the age you were when you two got together."
"Eh?" Clark blinked.
"Ehhh?" Static choked. Then his masked glare turned slowly to his partner.
Gear threw up his hands defensively. "I didn't say anything!"
"Well, I didn't blab about our sex life to a supervillain!"
"You realize," Lex inserted, "that I could have just been talking about when you partnered as superheroes."
Static froze. His fists clenched with a brief crackle and a faint whiff of ozone.
"I wasn't, though," Lex added smugly.
"Lex," Clark chastised, "You should have some regard for other's privacy. You certainly value your own."
"I am a supervillain," Lex reminded him. "Besides, I don't know their secret identities--I let Gear keep his helmet, didn't I? This was all simple deduction."
"That's why you let me watch Static fight," Gear realized. "You were watching me."
"Is that why you snatched him to begin with?" Static demanded. He looked relaxed, standing there facing the archcriminal, but Lex felt a frisson in the air of electric build-up.
Fortunately he didn't have any hair to stand on end. "I grabbed Gear because he's your working partner," Lex told the hero calmly. "I didn't guess there was anything more to it until he made it clear how much he...valued your life."
"Gear?" Static said slowly, dangerously.
Gear's blush was visible even through the emerald-shaded visor. "I was worried, he was talking like he was going to kill you..."
"He wouldn't," Clark said. "And now that he knows, he won't use this against you again. Right, Lex?" His tone brooked no contradictions.
"No, no." Lex waved his hand dismissively. "Wouldn't dream of it. We super-queers must stick together."
"Is that why you're--you make like you're on opposite sides?" Static sounded slightly stricken. "So people don't suspect..."
"It's not that," Lex hastened to reassure him. "We were fairly open about it when we first got together, Clark's senior year of high school--I'd fallen for him the day we met, but it took a while for him to figure out how he felt."
"And for it to be legal," Clark reminded him. "That was one damn long year, after I told you I was in love."
"I've never liked jail. And besides, I didn't want to taint your name. You told me about your powers then, too, you recall, and I knew how things were going to end up."
"So how'd you meet?" Gear inquired. Clearly both he and Static were fascinated.
"Oh, I nearly killed him, he saved my life. Same old, same old."
"We were best friends for a long time after that, before I became Superman. At least that's what I thought we were," Clark reminisced. "We were opposites in a lot of ways, but in our hearts there was something similar. A connection. We both had secrets, we both felt that we..."
"Had a destiny," Lex said briskly. "But after a few years it started becoming clear that fate had different things in mind for us." He shrugged. "We could've tried to fight it, but I'd read to much Greek tragedy to risk that. So instead we decided to go along with it. Fulfill destiny. But our way."
"Your way? Dude, you're a supervillain. You're the original supervillain."
Lex smiled, at least until Clark nudged him in the ribs. Hard enough to break one. He didn't approve of Lex enjoying his evil side too much. Glaring at his lover, Lex rubbed his abused chest and said, "Being a supervillain is the best way to be a bad guy without actually doing evil. My schemes threaten the planet, but Superman always can foil them in time. Especially when I tell him all the carefully-designed weaknesses. Meanwhile my reputation is such that I don't need to order hits on people, since no one dares cross me. I don't have to prove myself to the underworld; I've got all the respect and fear I require. They don't expect me to dirty my hands with drugs or running guns; I've got larger goals. If I choose to donate a spare billion to charity, it's not questioned, because everyone knows it's for some devious scheme."
"Meanwhile, Lex has all the money and power he wants. Or at least he's getting there. And with his underworld connections he can alert me when something bad and out of his control is going down," Clark explained.
"And I still have you," Lex said, slipping a possessive arm around Clark's waist. "Which was really the point. I'd have lost my mind being a hero, and died of boredom being a sidekick. This way I get everything I want." He decided making his point more graphically might be a bit much.
Then again, he was the villain here. Unfortunately Clark had much too much practice reading him, and turned his head in time so that Lex's kiss was planted chastely on the superhero's cheek.
"Does the rest of the League know?" Static wondered aloud. "They haven't said anything..."
"Only Batman knows," Clark replied. "After he told me about him and Robin..."
"Batman and Robin?"
"The original Robin. Nightwing. Before he became Nightwing...they had a bad split. Had to do with the job, Batman has certain control issues."
"That's from being a multi-billionaire," Lex offered. "Comes with the territory. I always thought it was the age difference...experienced rich man seducing innocent young boy. Bound to be trouble." He leered appropriately at Clark.
"I was never that innocent," Clark returned smartly, then addressed the younger superheroes. "You might want to talk to Batman. It could help if you're having trouble balancing a relationship of equals with working as hero and sidekick."
"Oh, we've got that worked out pretty well..."
"I'm usually on top," Gear cheerfully confided.
"Richie! I mean, Gear!"
"So why didn't they tell anyone?" Gear made an obvious gambit to change conversation topics. Preferably before Static's sparking embarrassment shorted out his backpack computer. "I mean, I see why you and Lex are keeping it under wraps, but Batman and Robin were on the same side..."
"Batman's a private person," Clark said. "He keeps everything he can to himself."
"And people wouldn't stop talking about that," Static said. "Heck, if they knew what you and Lex were doing off-hours, Supes, there'd be 'phobes who wouldn't want to be rescued by you--rather fall off a building or whatever than have you touch them."
"People aren't that bad these days," Gear muttered. "Most of them understand."
"Some get it. Some more don't. Some really don't," Static shot back. "It's hard enough being one of the only black superheroes around. I ain't going to also be the first superhero out of the closet."
"We wouldn't have to tell the whole planet..."
Lex and Clark looked at each other. "It can be hard," Clark said quietly, "keeping things private. It's bad enough having a secret identity..."
"Pretending all the time," Gear said. "Can't be honest anywhere, to anyone."
"Your dad would kill you if he found out." Static considered. "Though he might be proud enough of the superhero thing that he'd only maim you, if you told him both at once."
Lex coughed. "Either way...if you two want a hideout from the Watchtower, my doors are open." He looked at Static's flying disc and Gear's rocket pack. "Or windows. You can come and hang out anytime, no questions asked."
"Seriously?" asked Gear.
"Seriously. Like I said, we must stick together."
"I don't know..."
"Static, you gotta see more of this place. He's got a computer that rivals the CIA, and a ten-foot flatscreen--"
"Gear, the dude's a supervillain."
"In name only."
"He kidnapped you--"
"He explained that."
"He's gotta want something."
"No strings attached," Lex said. "You're welcome whenever you feel like it. I'll give you the key to my second penthouse, so you won't be barging in on any unheroic business. I've got the best security on the planet; even the Justice League can't see what goes on behind these doors. You can come when you just need a break, same as Superman does. That goes for your alter egos, too, if I know who they are."
Suspicion darkened Static's narrowed eyes. "So that's the catch?"
"No. Just if you want to tell me. Of course I'll know within a month as it is. Already have an investigation going." He smirked at their faces. "Oh, don't mind me. I know the identities of the rest of the Justice League. I need to--they could get in trouble, otherwise." Superman nodded confirmation.
Static looked less than happy, but Lex could see his partner's eager trust was winning him over. Cute boys. He wondered what they looked like out of costume. Finally the young superhero sighed. "I'm going to have to get used to you being a good guy, aren't I."
"That's about the size of it. But only when you're off-duty. Rest of the time, it's villain all the way." Lex glanced at his Rolex. "Speaking of which, you best be off. The police and my lawyers will be here any minute, and it doesn't do for superheroes to be involved in something as tawdry as a thwarted arrest."
"What are they going to arrest you for, anyway?" Static wondered. "Assault with an army of not-quite-lethal robots? How many laws were you breaking? And which ones?"
"They'll probably try to get me for disturbing the peace. Unless they've managed to push the new laws through Congress," Lex explained. "They're only just getting around to altering the books to account for supervillains. It's my way of knowing I'm making a mark on the world. But nothing ever sticks anyway."
"Just as long as I don't have to post bail on you again," Clark grumbled. "That was a bit awkward. Take care." This time he didn't duck his head, but just as it was getting interesting their kiss was regrettably cut short by the chiming of Lex's door alarm.
"Love you," Lex said, pushing Clark toward the window.
"I love you, too," Clark replied. "See you tonight."
"Er, nice meeting you," Gear said, offering his hand.
Lex shook it. "The same. Next time will hopefully be under better circumstances."
"Fewer robots would be good," Static muttered. "And less bondage." He thought this over. "On second thought, keep the cuffs. You have anymore?"
"Plenty," Lex assured him.
And the heroes were out the broken window. Would need to get that replaced again. He really should look into getting a frequent buyer's discount from the glazier. But first there were police on the stairs. Lex Luthor got out another bottle of wine--beat cops hardly needed something expensive.
In the skies above Metropolis, Static angled his disc to fly closer to Superman. "Hey, about what we just talked about it..."
"We didn't. Not outside of Lex's." Then his hero's square jaw relaxed. "But yes?"
"Any of the other Justice League guys hiding something we should know about?"
"Oh, the things I could tell you about J'onn J'onzz alone..."