DISCLAIMER - Not mine, I couldn't afford the motor and household insurance bills. I promise I'll scrub them down and give them back to DC comics, the WB and anyone else who does own a slice of them when I'm done with them. Story, such as it is, copyright Karen Colohan, January 2003.

Author's notes - This is my answer to Isilya's Literary Challenge. The details of the challenge I received are at the end of the story. Beware - fluff, schmoop and humour (allegedly). Once more with feeling - thank you, Barbara, for betaing.

SOFT

by Karen Colohan

Lex knelt by the side of the large tub in his bathroom and whistled softly to himself as he poured more shampoo into his cupped palm. His forearms were bare, the sleeves of his grey sweater pushed up above his elbows to keep them from getting wet as he worked. Carefully, he put the cap back on the bottle before setting it down on the floor beside him.

Then Lex reached into the bath and picked up Daisy, gently beginning to lather her soft brown fur. He hadn't had her for very long and he wasn't sure how well she'd take to being washed.

Thoroughly absorbed in his task, Lex was happy. It was good to be able to set aside all the stress and responsibility of running LexCorp and trying to keep one step ahead of his father, even if it was just for a short time. Though Lex couldn't help wondering what his employees would think if they could see him now. He already knew what Lionel would say, so he chose not to dwell on that.

Lex paused for a moment, glancing around at Daisy's companions. As large as the bathtub was, they practically filled it. Lex gave a pleased smile. There was no doubt that they looked much better now than when he'd started. It was amazing just how much dust and dirt could accumulate and a thorough cleaning had been way overdue.

What with one thing and another, it had been far too long since Lex had last had the time to spare to do this. But there was no one else he was prepared to entrust the job to. After all, this was a closely guarded secret as well as one of Lex's favourite pastimes.

Back in his childhood, Lex had been deprived of the forerunners to Daisy and company when his father had deemed them unsuitable for the Luthor heir. It was far more recently that Lex had set about replacing those long lost playmates, though he wasn't entirely sure what had prompted him to begin doing so. One thing was certain, Lex had discovered that there was an uncomplicated pleasure to be found in taking care of them. On those occasions when Lionel was being especially difficult and trying, Lex found that it helped keep him sane.

Doubtless, the size and scope of the collection of soft toys would have elicited much amusement at his expense amongst Lex's old acquaintances in Metropolis. Frankly, though, he didn't give a damn. Lex was also aware that his father would be angry that he was indulging in what Lionel would perceive as childish behaviour. If, that was, he were to find out - which Lex went to considerable trouble to ensure that he didn't.

However, regardless of what anyone else might think, Lex had become rather attached to the new generation of stuffed animals in his life. It was a matter of pride to him that they should be kept in perfect condition. He also found it the ideal antidote to the stresses of the rest of his life when he was able to collect them all together and wash them like this.

Lately, though, this enjoyably relaxing occupation had acquired another, more guilty, facet. And it was all because of Lex's not entirely platonic interest in Clark Kent.

There were probably plenty of reasons why Lex shouldn't have made a point of discovering which brand of shampoo Clark favoured. Nevertheless, Lex had made careful inquiries until he was able to find out. Which accounted for the bottle of Suave sitting on the bathroom floor beside him. Indeed, Lex had been using it to wash the toys for some time now, despite receiving some strange looks from his housekeeper when he'd asked her to purchase it for him.

Lex had decided that he wasn't going to worry if his staff thought it a little odd that he would request a bottle of shampoo. The results were worth it. All his soft toys now bore the same clean, fresh smell as Clark's hair. And every time Lex smelled the pleasant, outdoorsy scent he counted it as most definitely a good thing.

In fact, on those nights when, for whatever reason, Lex couldn't sleep, he found it a positive blessing. On such occasions, when he finally gave in to temptation and went to retrieve one of the toys so that he could bring it back to bed with him, it was worth any amount of strange or pitying looks. Because then Lex could bury his face in soft fur that smelled like Clark and he would inevitably fall asleep soon after.

If he also often woke to sticky pyjama pants the following morning, courtesy of some especially vivid dreams, Lex tried not to connect the two circumstances in his mind.

For now, Lex was so engrossed in what he was doing that it took him a moment to hear the phone ringing over the sound of the shower attachment he was using to wash the lather off of Daisy. When he did, he hurriedly turned off the water and grabbed for a towel to dry his hands. Climbing to his feet, Lex also picked up the bottle of shampoo as he turned to go into his bedroom.

The telephone was still ringing shrilly and Lex dropped the shampoo onto his pillow as he reached across to answer it. The light flashing on the phone showed that the call was internal.

"Yes," Lex said brusquely as he picked up. He didn't appreciate being interrupted in the middle of his task.

"Sir," the measured tones of Lex's butler replied, "young Mr. Kent is here to see you."

Lex's mood brightened again immediately. "Thank you, I'll be down in just a minute."

Without bothering to say anything more, Lex dropped the receiver back into its cradle. Then he went back into the bathroom for a moment to check that his toys were draining nicely in the tub. He'd come back and finish them off with a hairdryer once Clark had gone. Lex dried the last of the water from his hands and put the towel back on the rail before heading out into his bedroom again.

As he opened the door out into the hallway, Lex was somewhat startled to come face to face with Clark.

Clark was smiling and Lex took a step backwards into the room without thinking. Clark followed him inside, as if surprising Lex in his bedroom was the kind of thing he did every day. Lex firmly instructed the traitorous voice in his mind that whispered how nice it would be if Clark did do that - or better yet, surprise Lex in his bed every day - to shut up.

"Uh, Clark," Lex said with a distinct lack of originality. "I was just about to come down."

"Well, when you weren't in the office I asked your butler guy where you were." Clark smiled again. "He said you were in here so I thought I'd come up."

"Of course..." Lex hurriedly cast around the room to see if there was anything on view to show what he'd been doing before Clark arrived. His gaze fell on the large bottle of Suave lying on the pillow at almost the exact same time as Clark's did.

Lex could see the look of confusion on Clark's face as he walked across and stared down at the bottle for a moment, then looked back at Lex.

"Um, Lex, why do you have a bottle of my shampoo on your bed?" Clark asked.

It occurred to Lex to wonder at Clark's automatic assumption that it was his shampoo, as if Lex had stolen the bottle from his bathroom cabinet or something. After all, it was a common enough make, millions of people must use it.

"It's not yours," Lex said quickly. "It's... well, yes it is your brand," he conceded when Clark continued to stare at him questioningly.

"For a second there I thought you were going to tell me it was yours," observed Clark dryly. "But, well, that wouldn't be very likely, would it?" His gaze swept over Lex's bald scalp for a moment before settling back on Lex's face.

"There's a perfectly reasonable explanation, Clark," Lex assured him, wondering why he felt the need to explain at all. Except, judging by the look on Clark's face, he wasn't about to let Lex off the hook over this.

"Which is?" Clark asked.

That I like the way your hair smells and I can't get enough of the scent, Lex thought, but fortunately didn't say out loud. It took him a moment or two longer to come up with a less revealing answer.

"Uh, I thought I should keep a bottle of your brand here, just in case you ever needed to stay over," Lex ventured rather lamely.

And, on reflection, that really didn't sound a whole lot better than his original thought. Especially as he was keeping the shampoo in his own bedroom rather than one of the guest rooms. Added to which, Lex suspected that what he'd just said sounded a lot less convincing than the truth.

The fact that Clark was continuing to look at him with considerable scepticism tended to bear that out.

"Come on, Lex..." Clark wheedled. "What's the big secret? You can tell me."

Lex couldn't help feeling that Clark's assertion was both hypocritical and, from Lex's point of view, not true. Between the collection of stuffed animals and the not so small matter of Lex's unrequited desire for his best friend, there was plenty that he didn't want to tell Clark. Nor could Lex decide which revelation was the most potentially damaging to his image should Clark find out.

"It really isn't important," Lex said, hoping to avoid further discussion. He should have known better.

"So why not just tell me?" Clark asked, quite reasonably. "All the secrecy is just making me more curious about the real reason. C'mon, Lex, just spill it."

Clark fluttered his long, dark lashes coyly and Lex's resolve wavered. Oh fuck, throw in a blush or two and maybe a pout from those plush lips and he'd be putty in Clark's hands. One way or another, Lex Luthor's reputation was about to take a severe knock.

Lex sighed. "You really want to know, Clark?"

Clark nodded.

"All right then..." With that, Lex turned away from Clark and walked across to the bathroom door. Pushing it open, he gestured for Clark to go inside.

Looking puzzled, Clark did as Lex had indicated. He only took a few steps into the room, though, before he stopped dead.

"Um, Lex...?" Clark glanced over his shoulder, his face a study in confusion.

Lex was just a pace behind him and he could feel the heat rising in his cheeks as Clark turned back to survey the menagerie drip-drying in Lex's tub.

"Yes, Clark," Lex said quietly, "the shampoo was for them."

This time Clark swung round fully, so that he was facing Lex. There was still a distractingly small space between them.

"Lex, why do you have a bathtub full of stuffed animals?" he asked. Clark's tone suggested genuine curiosity rather than ridicule, for which Lex was immensely grateful. "Are they yours?"

"Well, to answer your second question first - yes, they're mine," Lex admitted.

"But why?" Clark asked again.

He hadn't moved away at all and Lex was very, very aware of the heat radiating from Clark's body as well as the muted scent of his hair... the one Lex had become so familiar with.

Lex considered for a moment before he spoke again and, when he did, it was to pose a question of his own. "Did you have a favourite toy when you were growing up, Clark, a teddy bear, something like that?"

"Of course." Clark flashed Lex a quick grin. "There was this one stuffed rabbit I used to really love. Mom still has him. She thinks I don't know. What about you, Lex?"

Lex looked past Clark at the toys in the bath. "I used to have a collection of them, much like this." His gaze moved back to Clark's face, watching the boy's expression. "My mom bought most of them for me and she knew how much I loved them. But dad didn't think they were suitable toys for the Luthor heir to be playing with. After all, what educational value did they have? They couldn't teach me anything about business strategy."

Aware of Clark's avid interest in his story, Lex glanced away again, collecting his thoughts. "So, one day I came home and found they'd all gone. Dad had every last one of them taken away from me. Mom told him it wasn't fair to take away my favourite toys, but he was adamant. And from then on everything I was given to play with came with a lesson of some kind."

"Like your model of the siege of Troy," Clark put in quickly.

"That's right," Lex agreed.

Clark's face darkened and he frowned. "I think that's sad, Lex. Toys are supposed to be about fun."

"Not if you're a Luthor," Lex said, shaking his head.

"So, why...?" Clark indicated the animals in the bath behind him.

"I guess I decided to reclaim a part of my childhood from my dad." Lex smiled. "I started buying them a while after I came to Smallville."

Encouraged by the fact that Clark wasn't laughing at him, Lex reached around him and snagged one of the toys. "See this one?" he said. "She's one of my favourites. Her name's Daisy."

Clark's grin had returned. "It's a stuffed cow, Lex... and she has a flower in her mouth."

Finding Clark's grin infectious, Lex could feel the corners of his mouth turning up in amusement. "Would you be terribly offended if I told you I bought her because she reminded me of you... well, the farm anyway."

A snigger escaped Clark and he plucked the bedraggled brown cow from Lex's fingers. "You'd better not let my dad see this, or he'll want one too."

The mental image of Jonathan Kent cuddling his very own Daisy the cow was enough to start Lex laughing as well. "I won't tell if you won't," he promised.

Clark immediately sobered, regarding Lex seriously. "You do know I wouldn't tell anyone about this, don't you?"

"Yes, I do, Clark," said Lex. He was feeling much better for having come clean about at least one of his guilty secrets.

Clark was still holding Daisy, sniffing the damp toy thoughtfully. "Okay then," he began. "So why do you wash your toys with Suave instead of a regular detergent?"

Lex felt his blush returning as Clark turned a far too knowing look on him. He was acutely conscious of the lack of space between himself and Clark and of his body's response to that proximity.

"Well?" Clark's voice was suddenly very soft. He reached to put Daisy back in the bath before facing Lex again.

He really didn't want to lie to Clark, but Lex wasn't sure he was ready to tell him the truth either. But Clark seemed to be a step ahead of him anyway.

"It's because it's the shampoo that I use, isn't it?" Clark said when Lex remained silent.

Eventually, Lex nodded. "Yes."

Clark appeared to consider this, but he made no move to increase the space between himself and Lex. Finally, he asked, "Do you like me, Lex?"

"Of course I like you, Clark. You're my best friend." It was easier to shrug it off that way, but Clark didn't seem to want to let him off the hook just yet.

"I know that, Lex," he said patiently. "What I meant was, well, do you like me... as more than a friend?" Clark flushed as he asked the question, but his gaze remained steady on Lex.

Lex's sparse lashes swept down, momentarily blocking his view of Clark. He took a deep breath. Honesty or evasion?

It took Lex by surprise when warm lips suddenly brushed tentatively against his mouth. His lids flicked open at once, revealing Clark's face just inches from his own.

"Does that help you to answer the question?" Clark looked a little uncertain, but definitely not afraid or angry or any of the other emotions Lex had anticipated.

"Clark..." he murmured.

"Yes or no, Lex?" Clark persisted.

Lex felt a smirk tugging at his lips. Maybe his second secret was going to prove just as easy for Clark to accept as the first.

"I'm not sure, Clark," he said thoughtfully. "Why don't you kiss me again, perhaps then I'll be able to figure it out."

Lex waited for a long, breathless moment, but then he saw the broad grin that bloomed on Clark's face and he relaxed. Tilting his head back, Lex waited, but not for long. Strong arms snaked around his waist, pulling him firmly against Clark's body.

"All right," Clark agreed softly, "but don't take too long to decide."

"I won't," Lex promised as he reached up to kiss Clark properly. He inhaled deeply as he did so. There was no question, Suave had definitely become his favourite fragrance.

The End

Question - Why is there shampoo on the pillow? Word - plush Taboo word - eyes Fandom - Clark/Lex


Return to Yavanna's Realm archive