Catching the Butterfly

by Zahra

Dedication: To my other half, I hate you sometimes but I'm better for it. Notes: This plot bunny owes its life to Richard Ashcroft's ego and Nick McCabe's drug habit. Long live The Verve

As far as Lex can tell, the temperature has dropped several degrees in the minutes that he has been standing outside. He thinks his body is suspiciously close to shock. Something about so many changes occurring in such a short amount of time. From warm to frozen. From friends to something not-quite. From alive to dead.

Rigor mortis sets in rather quickly in dead bodies. He discovered that from his mother.

So, when he thinks about it, his body's reactions are making perfect sense. It was a crisp, yet still warm, sixty-three climate controlled degrees inside the Jaguar when he cut off the engine and stepped onto Kent farmland. Outside the car it had to be in the high-forties but nothing he couldn't handle in a wool coat and calf-leather gloves. The frosty conversation he's just had with Clark, however, just brought the temperature down another ten, fifteen degrees, and Lex is sure that the blood in his veins just got that much colder because of it.

Cold enough that the fine sheen of sweat that has broken out over his body is giving him the chills. Cold enough that the back of his watch is tacking onto his wrist in a bad way. In that parasitic leeching-onto-his-skin way. And that miniscule pain, that slight pinch, is his only hold on reality right now. But then again, she always knew how to bring him back. Make things better. His mother. The watch that she gave him, his constant reminder that she is always with him. That because of her, he once knew love, devotion and kindness. The same sort of devotion and kindness that Clark has continually heaped on him without second thought. Without reservation. Without ulterior motive.

In some part of his brain, his father's voice is shouting that that's 'a load of nonsense, Lex' because everyone wants something.

Not that he's actually listening. Not to his father's voice at any rate. It always sounds like the Emergency Broadcasting System, like elevator Musak. A monotonous, droning buzz. He's so accustomed to the voice now that he just pushes it to the back of his mind. Nothing like his response to his mother's voice at all. Her voice less sweet and more scratchy, throaty. One too many evenings with her Dunhill lights and rum and cokes. And he can feel it. Feel her. Hear her, but he's sure it's not cold enough for him to be suffering from hypothermia or anything resembling some sort of winter hallucination.

Finally able to get his thoughts together and move, and the door handle is gelid, even through the leather of his glove. Moments of fumbling before the realization, and what's the point of him having a security system if he never locks the damn car?

Inside the Jaguar now, and wondering why the hell leather gets cold so fast. Keyless ignition in the Mercedes not the X-Type and this is just a bit too much thought for right now. Several seconds to pull himself together because he can fix this. He can fix anything, and jamming the key in the ignition is really not going to do him any good, especially if he winds up stranding himself out here, and he can hear her voice. ///Gently, Lex. Always gently/// And, damnit, he almost made it. Almost beat the dam bursting, but no such luck, and her voice has released this floodgate of images, and he's six again and back at the house in Maine.

Spring in bloom, April showers and all that trite shit that his mother loved about the Sound of Music. It's probably why Lex can't stand Julie Andrews. His father back in Metropolis, and Lex never understood the concept of a retreat until much later in life. Weekends in Maine. A week down in New Orleans visiting his mother's sisters. A long weekend in Aspen. Retreating to the retreat. Anything to get away, to forget about the illness for a while, and Lex just far too young at the time to understand.

But he remembers the weekends in Maine and frolicking in green fields, because oddly enough, that's really what his mother had him doing. Frolicking. Gets a rather perverse image of a red-headed brat dressed up like one of the Von Trapp kids and has to smirk. Idiotic. Surreal. Nevertheless, quite vivid in his cerebral cortex and then he remembers the context of the words. The first time he caught a butterfly and brought it to his mother.

Beaming with pride because he had caught something that had worked so hard to evade him. Days spent running after butterfly upon butterfly and all to naught. And then he got smart. Less running and more stalking. Less noise and more stealth. Plan and conquer. And what a prize to show for it. Soft and white, silk-like hairs and an iridescent sheen that was almost violet. Cupped hands holding his trophy, and running toward his mother sitting on the porch, when he fell and crushed the butterfly.

Still brought it to his mother, though, because to the victor go the spoils and he remembers her grin when he announced that he had brought her a present. Remembers blue-veined eyelids and palm-up hands. The way that the butterfly just floated onto her translucent skin, and the smile she gave him when she opened her eyes and saw what he had brought her. A broken, pitiful thing that only his mother could love. Remembers his horror when the butterfly just stopped moving, and he thought his present was broken. Wracking sobs from him and soft words from his mother. The resulting assurances and hugs. Lessons in catching butterflies so that they lived. So that they could be enjoyed but retain their beauty, their illusion of freedom, for however long they lived.

The parallels so obvious that they're almost painful, and Lex really can't believe his carelessness. Thinks of his mother's words again and realizes that for all his careful planning he went about catching Clark all wrong. All that work just to scare away his prize by breathing too hard. By walking too loudly. By scaring off the butterfly when it had just landed on his outstretched finger. So rash. So Lex-like.

He only wants to study Clark. Learn to trust him. Be his friend. It's not as though he wants to classify him and stick him in the Metropolis Natural History Museum. Finally understands the flaw in his logic, and Lex can move ahead now. Starts the ignition and hears his mother's advice in his ears. Husky voice reminding him over and over again not to be rough, urging him to be gentle. Not to rush. To be careful catching butterflies.


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