The day after the New Year's Eve party, having been let in by Enrique, Clark found his best friend half-dressed in the rather large closet of his bedroom in the castle. The walk-in closet was sectioned and decorated in muted shades. Clothing hung neatly on the bars: suit coats, jackets, dress shirts, casual shirts, and trousers, all clean, pressed, and arranged by color. Ties of all styles were draped precisely over hooks on the tie-rack. Belts hung straight by their buckles on the belt-rack. Sweaters and shirts that did not need to be hanging up were folded perfectly and arranged by color on the shelves. Drawers built right into the closet wall stored the remainder of Lex's clothing, like undergarments, sweats, t-shirts, and jeans that rarely saw the light of day. A second, smaller set of drawers held tie-tacks, cufflinks, watches, and money clips. On one side of the closet, on slanted shelves built low to the ground, shined shoes were lined in an orderly fashion, and Lex was staring at them with an expression of consternation on his face.

"Lex, what's wrong?"

"I'm missing a pair of shoes," Lex told Clark, as Clark stopped next to him. Lex was wearing a pair of unfastened black trousers, an unbuttoned white shirt, and one black sock. The other sock dangled from his hand as he continued to frown at his shoes.

Clark glanced at the shoe shelves. He saw no empty spots. "How can you tell?"

"I have thirty-two pairs of shoes. There are only thirty-one here."

"You counted your shoes?"

"Yes." Lex said it as if Clark were the idiot for not counting his own shoes.

"Um, but none look like they're missing," Clark said.

Lex waved his hand at the shoe shelves. "They've been moved. Readjusted so that I wouldn't notice a pair was missing."

"How did this lead to you counting your shoes if they'd been readjusted?"

"I always count my shoes, Clark. Every morning."

Clark snorted. He couldn't help it, even though it earned him a glare. Lex counted his shoes every morning. "Sorry," Clark said, but he wasn't, and it showed.

"Don't start with me, Clark," Lex warned. "Someone was in here messing with my shoes."

"And you'd know, because you count them."


"Every morning, too."


"Just in case they get up and walk away."

The look Clark received would've killed a normal human. Clark tucked his grin behind a stoic mask, brows furrowing as he looked at the shoe shelves again. "Right. Missing shoes. Very serious stuff."

"If you're going to make fun of me, you know where the door is," Lex told him in a frosty tone.

Clark darted a glance at Lex from the corner of his eye. Lex looked... well, angry. Hurt, too, hidden beneath his surface expression, that Clark wasn't taking the shoe-napping seriously. Clark glanced again at the extraordinarily meticulous organization of the closet, and realized that it was Lex, not his staff, that had arranged it this way. Now that Clark thought about it, it was an astonishingly Lex thing to do: controlling and exacting. Having something amiss in his orderly sanctuary was unsurprisingly bothering to him.

"Which pair is missing?" Clark asked sincerely, mentally ticking off the rooms in the castle Lex had been in during the party last night, seeing if he remembered Lex removing his shoes at any time. Having perfect recall was good for something.

Lex surveyed his shoe shelves again. "My sneakers. They're faded grey, pretty beat up. One of the laces is broken, on the left shoe."

"Did you check in the bedroom, or bathroom?" Clark said.

"No. I always put my shoes in here before I go to bed. Always."

"Even if you're--" Clark cleared his throat and continued, "--otherwise occupied?"

"Always, Clark," Lex repeated. He looked down at the sock in his hand. "I... I can't sleep otherwise." Elegantly lifting his foot, he slid the sock onto it, without being off-balance.

Clark nodded, understanding. He couldn't sleep unless he checked his alarm clock twice after going to bed, to make sure it was set... even though he slept through it practically every morning. "The shoes were here yesterday morning, right?"

"Yes." Lex began buttoning his shirt, his movements a tiny bit jerkier than usual. "I wore them when I went running on the treadmill. Then, I came up here to shower."

"So, you still had the shoes for sure until then," Clark said. "Did you ask Enrique if he took them to be cleaned along with your sweats?"

"He never cleans my sneakers," Lex said.

"Maybe he did this time. Or wanted to change the laces. Didn't you say the left one was broken?"

Lex's expression lightened. "I'll ask." He left Clark in the closet a moment, returning with the cell phone pressed to his ear. "Enrique," he said into the receiver, "did you take my grey sneakers?"

Clark watched as all the tension drained out of Lex with Enrique's answer. He smiled as Lex said thanks and hung up. "Well? Did Enrique have them?"

"No, my head of security does," Lex replied. "One of the temporary staff for yesterday's party tried to steal them."

"Why would anyone want your shoes?" Clark said in surprise.

Lex smiled smarmily. "Why do you think, Clark?"

Clark rolled his eyes. "You're so full of yourself."

"I can't help it that people want me," Lex said. He frowned and looked at his shoe shelves. "I wish they wouldn't take my shoes, though. I don't mind the clothes so much, as my shoes."

"You have a shoe obsession." Clark grinned widely.

Lex's gaze jerked up. "Do not," he denied immediately.

Clark's grin only grew. "Uh-huh. So, if I told you I wanted... oh, this pair--" He grabbed the first pair of deep, deep purple wingtips off the shelf he could reach. "--for myself, I could have them?"

"Of course," Lex said blandly. "They're only shoes. If you want them, take them."

"All right. Cool." Clark took a step forward, almost invading Lex's personal space, and couldn't help but laugh when Lex's eyes lingered on the shoes in Clark's hand before forcibly moving away. "Admit it, Lex. You're a shoe whore."

Lex was the only person Clark knew who could look down their nose at someone who was taller than them. "I am not."

"Okay, then. What's the highest number of shoes you've ever owned at once?" Clark asked quickly.

"Sixty-seven." Lex answered instantly. His lips pursed and he tried vainly not to look sheepish at his telltale admission.

Cute and Lex never belonged in the same sentence, but... Clark's stomach flipped and he felt kind of tingly. His gaze focused on Lex's mouth, pursed perfectly for kissing, and he had the overwhelming urge to do just that. So he did.

Lex's lips were firm, slightly chapped from the weather, and parted with a soft gasp at Clark's actions. Clark pulled back almost immediately, using the shoes he held between them as a shield. He felt his cheeks heating, and looked away. Oh, no, what did he just do?

"Clark?" Lex's voice was rough and wondering.

"Sorry," Clark said in embarrassment.

"Do you mean that?"

Clark glanced at Lex from beneath his lashes. Lex looked... unreadable as usual. Clark bit the inside of his cheek.

"Clark, answer me," Lex prodded. "The truth, please?"

"Do you have a shoe obsession?" Clark blurted instead.

Lex nodded slowly. "Yes, I do."

Clark screwed up the courage to answer, with Lex's truth. "Then, I'm not sorry."

A corner of Lex's mouth curled upwards, and his eyes seemed to glow. "What would you do if I told you I have a purple obsession, too?"

Clark's smile bubbled up from within and spread across his face. Maybe his friendship faux pax wasn't so faux. "Everyone knows you have a purple obsession, Lex."

"Does that mean I can kiss you?"

Clark's eyes widened slightly, before he swallowed audibly and nodded. "O-Okay."

Clark closed his eyes. Lex moved closer, pushed the shoe-shield out of the way, rested a hand on Clark's shoulder, and pressed his lips to Clark's almost chastely. Clark blinked behind closed eyelids, mouth parting in a soft gasp that echoed Lex's earlier one. Lex took the opportunity to deepen the kiss, coaxing Clark to reciprocate, and the shoes in Clark's hand fell with twin thumps to the ground.

The noise startled Clark, and he pulled away. He blinked open his eyes and met Lex's heavy-lidded gaze. Licking his tingling lips, he glanced at the shoes that he'd been holding, met Lex's eyes again, and asked huskily, "What about a purple shoe obsession?"

"How about I demonstrate my Clark obsession instead?"


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