Worst Possible Timing
Author's Note/Disclaimer: They're not mine, and they're not gay. But sometimes they do talk on the phone. This will be three chapters long, and a little naughtier than most of my not-slash stories. Important note: in this story, Lois and Clark are married.
Chapter 1: Better than Money
Honesta fama melior pecunia est. --Publilius Syrus
Bruce Wayne was standing in the middle of his bathroom. He'd been stalking towards a cold shower, when a sudden onslaught of confusion had stopped him in his tracks.
There was only one thing to do.
The unflappable butler stuck his balding head and his disinterested expression around the corner. "Yes sir?"
Bruce blinked a few times. "…I almost don't want to ask. Why is there a sheet over the bathtub?"
"Well, since you never use the bathtub, sir, and I was getting tired of dusting it…"
Bruce gave him a blank look. "You actually dust my bathtub?"
"Routinely, Master Bruce," Alfred proclaimed with stoic pride, as if he might have to duel anyone who dared suggest otherwise.
Bruce sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. He squinted at the sinister white sheet, beneath which any number of anything could be hiding in the enormous tub, and then looked back at his butler.
Alfred raised his eyebrows just a fraction of a centimeter. "…Of course, if you were to use the bathtub once in a while, I wouldn't have to dust it so often. Or cover it with a sheet."
The confusion evaporated, replaced by piercing comprehension. "Hmm." Bruce actually smiled a little bit. "Alright, Alfred, I get the hint. I'll take a nice hot relaxing bath today instead of a cold shower."
Alfred's eyebrows sagged a little in relief; from him that was the equivalent of a beaming smile. "Very good, sir. It'll do wonders for you."
"No doubt." Bruce turned his back and began to shrug out of his bathrobe, and Alfred gave him a little nod and vanished.
Moments later, the tub was filling, and Bruce was easing himself into it. The water was painfully hot, and would stay that way thanks to the temperature control system. He needed it to be hot, needed it to infuse each of his knotted muscles with debilitating, overpowering heat in order to justify the somewhat frivolous departure from his normal routine.
It was part of his mission now, to soak his aches into oblivion. And even though he hadn't been planning on it, as the water rose he found himself genuinely looking forward to the experience.
It was a very, very nice tub. As if he were running through a preflight checklist for his Batplane, he checked the functions of the tub's control panel. The massage jets had a dozen settings. There were another dozen choices for automatically-dispensed soap, fragrances, and even colors. There was the option for a bubble bath. An Epsom salt bath. A lavender bath. An oatmeal bath. A eucalyptus bath.
Wryly he wondered where the button was to soak himself in espresso. Then he found it.
It was one of those moments when even Bruce Wayne was amazed at what money could buy. Shaking off the phantom of dissatisfaction he felt whenever confronted by an unnecessary reminder of his wealth, he decided to ignore the control panel. All he wanted was plain old water in the tub anyway.
At last the tub was full, and Bruce sank into it up to his neck, reveling in the stinging, cathartic release of histamine from his skin. For an instant he was back in Japan, fifteen years previously, submerging himself in water that was unbearably scalding, in legendary hot springs that relaxed you by nearly killing you.
It felt wonderful.
The heat was working its way into his back, and all the pain he'd ignored and denied was gradually, persistently being taken away from him. He closed his eyes and just felt it. It felt good. It felt so good he almost hated it.
Somewhere far away, he heard Alfred clear his throat.
"A-hum. Master Bruce?"
Master Bruce managed a vague grunt of acknowledgement. He only cracked open his eyes when it became evident that Alfred was standing in the middle of the bathroom.
"Telephone for you, sir," Alfred announced. He was carrying a tray with a cell phone, a glass, and a sweating silver pitcher of ice water. These three things he placed neatly at the edge of the tub. Ice cubes clinked musically against the glass as Alfred filled it from the pitcher. "I wouldn't have bothered you, but it sounds frightfully urgent."
"-t's fine," Bruce muttered, groping sluggishly for the phone. Alfred put it into his reddened hand and then straightened up.
"Anything else, sir?"
"Nh," Bruce indicated, and Alfred stepped out. Bruce pressed the phone to his ear. Managed to force his voice out of his throat. "Bruce Wayne," he said neutrally.
"Bruce, it's me. I need your help."
Clark's voice. Desperation masked by resolve.
Bruce closed his eyes. "With what?" he asked gruffly. He really was not in the mood to deal with Clark right now.
"I've been taken prisoner. I'm locked up in an Almeraci hunting ship and they're taking me back to Almerac—back to their queen."
Bruce wasn't amused, but as the heat of the water physically prevented his blood pressure from rising, he was incapable of much of the angry reaction that he ought to have felt at having one of Clark's super-absurd intergalactic adventures interrupt his bath. He took a sip of the ice water that Alfred had left for him.
"…look, Bruce, this is difficult to explain. It's Maxima. She's after me again."
Bruce knew who she was, of course. The Warrior Queen of Almerac, Maxima had kidnapped Superman once before, intending to marry him.
"You escaped from her just fine on your own last time," Bruce reminded him.
"This is different. This time she's got a team of the universe's deadliest bounty hunters assigned to me, led by Lobo."
"Lobo." Bruce deadpanned. The idea of the lawless last Czarnian operating with any sort of team, much less leading one, was beyond laughable.
"Yeah. You see, Maxima convinced him to marry her, and from what I understand the two of them got along all right for a while, but when she found out about his tendency to kill his offspring, she castrated him."
Bruce took another sip of water, wondering if Clark was ever going to get to the point.
"The strange thing is, instead of swearing revenge or just destroying her entire civilization, Lobo apparently fell in love with her at that point and decided to be her faithful slave, at least until his whatever grows back. In the meantime, Maxima gave Lobo the mission of capturing me."
"Let me guess," Bruce rumbled. "With Lobo out of the question for siring an heir to the Almeraci throne, Maxima wants you for the job instead."
"Yes," Clark said right away, with more relief than surprise that Bruce had figured it out so quickly.
Bruce switched the phone to his other ear. There was only so much of this nonsense that one ear could handle. "…And?" he demanded again, when Clark fell awkwardly silent.
Clark sighed. "Listen, I didn't want to call you, but the stakes are pretty high here. Based on my non-compliance in the past, this time she isn't messing around. If I fail to satisfy her, she'll turn Lobo loose on a rampage against Earth. So I'm calling for some advice."
"Well, maybe more like instructions. I need to know exactly how you sidestep a woman who wants to sleep with you without hurting her feelings or making her angry. I've got to be able to control what she thinks, sort of, I don't know—there has to be a way to use her, her lasciviousness to manipulate her. I figured you would know how to do it."
Bruce stared up at the ceiling for a minute, expressionless. And then what Clark had just asked him sunk in, and his mouth twisted into a scowl. "What?" he barked into the phone, raising his voice. "Are you asking me how to lie to her?"
"I'm sorry, Bruce, but I think that's what it's going to come down to. I can't run away this time and I can't just say no. I don't like either option, but I'm either going to have to lie to her or lie with her."
"Ugh, Clark, sleeping with her won't kill you and you know that Lois will forgive you."
"It's not that simple. With the risk of impregnating her--"
"Yes, it is that simple. And if you're so terrified of fathering children, then why don't you just x-ray your own balls and sterilize yourself?"
"…I…I never thought of that," Clark said with a little too much amazement in his voice. But then his tone turned serious, and Bruce could hear his worried expression through the phone. "But anyway, I'm not sure that would work. And it's beside the point. I'm completely out of my element here and I don't know what I'm going to do."
Bruce rolled over onto his stomach in the water and draped both his arms over the edge of the tub to cool off a bit. He was rapidly losing his patience. "I'm only going to tell you this once," he growled. "There is no magic answer for how to deal with lustful women. You just have to figure it out. I can't help you."
"But you deal with women like that all the time! Your 'date of the day' is the gossip of the nation. You know everything there is to know about handling women who want to sleep with you-- good grief, Bruce, the girls at the Planet keep a tally of your conquests!"
Bruce's expression darkened. "My reputation is useful to me. But you know how much gossip gets exaggerated. I haven't slept with that many people."
Outside the bathroom, Alfred had just gotten started on the weekly task of vacuuming the master bedroom. He hadn't overheard much of Bruce's conversation, but just as he began to vacuum under the bed, the vacuum got stuck on something and Alfred had to turn it off.
Consequently, he overheard that last bit of what Master Bruce was saying just as he was inspecting the disgruntled vacuum to see what the problem was.
It was a pair of hot-pink panties.
Alfred quirked an eyebrow, briefly recalling the brassiere of matching color that he'd discovered in the garden earlier that week, and disentangled the unfortunate undergarment from the vacuum.
"Sex isn't important to me," Bruce's voice declared from the bathroom. "I don't even like it."
Steeling his nerves, Alfred got down on his hands and knees and looked beneath the bed. With a barely audible sigh, he retrieved a skimpy pair of black panties, a sexy pair of red panties, and a pair of white Chantilly lace panties in short order. He would have to antagonize Master Bruce over this later.
Meanwhile, the phone conversation hadn't missed a beat. "I won't like it either," Clark said. "Not with Maxima, anyway. And don't get me wrong, she's…attractive and the fact that I wouldn't even have to be careful with her is appealing in its own kind of disturbing way, but…"
Bruce rubbed his hand over his eyes, giving in. "…She's not Lois."
"She's not Lois," Clark echoed. "So it just wouldn't be right. And I will not risk fathering her child."
Bruce sighed. Was he really going to humor Clark's old-fashioned and suddenly earth-threatening moral code?
Yes, he was.
"All right," he said, finally buckling down to give Clark the 'advice-maybe-more-like-instructions' that he needed. "So you're not going to sleep with her. But you are not going to tell her that, even if she asks you a direct question."
"Okay," Clark said enthusiastically. "Evade direct questions. Got it."
"She'll probably want to play around with you first. If she senses that you're reluctant or holding back, she'll get angry. So be aggressive. Convince her that you're going to outdo anything Lobo ever did to her."
"Be aggressive," Clark recited. "Okay." Bruce couldn't help but note that he already sounded unconvinced. He scowled.
"Aggression is paramount. If you get into a fight, dominate the fight. And don't let it end in a truce or by a narrow margin of victory. Be sure to win. Overtly. But remember to flirt with her the entire time. If she stops having fun, she'll get angry. So you have to keep her engaged and flattered and excited. Tease her. Let her know that your focus is on her. Let her think that you're anticipating having sex with her as much as she is."
"That's going to be difficult," Clark confessed, and then he was silent for half a second too long. "…what if it doesn't work?"
Bruce closed his eyes. "Then you'll do what you do best. You'll be honest with her. Just pretend you have your glasses on, and tell her how you feel and how nothing in this or any other world is going to change your mind."
"Huh," Clark replied. "You know, it's funny you should mention my glasses. They ambushed me at the office, and the para-teleporter they zapped me with vaporized everything I was wearing except my glasses. Isn't that crazy?"
Bruce was quite stationary in the water, but his sudden suspicion that the god of irony was having a laugh at their expense filled him with a sinking feeling. The image of Clark wearing nothing but his glasses was not one that Bruce had any inclination of processing at the moment. He felt his pulse tap at his temples. Maybe the water was a little too hot after all.
"--uh oh, Bruce, I think I'm out of time. The guard's coming back. Thanks for the help." The line clicked dead.
Scowling, Bruce set the phone down on the edge of the tub, and glared at the opposite wall of his bathroom in abject anger at the universe in general. Having to think about Clark's predicament had just ruined his afternoon. It was safe to say that he wasn't enjoying his bath anymore.
Originally, all he'd intended to do was take a cold shower. What on earth had possessed him to deviate from his routine?
That's right—Alfred. This was Alfred's fault. Alfred's fault for harassing him about never using his preposterously luxurious bathtub. Alfred's fault for bringing him the phone when Clark called.
Clark's fault for calling.
Clark's fault for being captured to be Maxima's substitute for Lobo's whatever.
Alfred had just put away the vacuum in the master bedroom when he heard the shower turn on. He shook his head in disapproval.
Master Bruce had only been in the tub for ten minutes. He never would learn how to relax.
…to be continued!