Unsteady (Where's My Love?)

by Lyra Sena

Thanks and love to Nifra for the beta; Pru for the encouragement.

The room is hollow. Lex can hear his shallow wheezes. Can see canvas stretched tight across his chest with each narrow exhalation. A frayed thread of fabric flutters and he wants to pluck it off, is so tired of seeing the way it sways. It's like a promise - back and forth, but his arms are constricted. His muscles are tired, and hang on his bones.

The lifeless walls distort everything. It's like being underwater and the air has been sucked away through the tiny vent in the top of the room, where voices keep clicking on and off in static tones.

A blank, white ceiling hovers above him. He's lying on his back and the light, warped and so bright, stabs at his eyes. It sees through him, sees so deep and twists into him and then flashes - melts. Becomes a snarling gargoyle with black-pitted eyes, teeth bared and bladed. It spreads crooked wings, and snaps at him.

Lex recoils, scrambles on slippery feet into the corner, wants to open his mouth to scream, to say anything, to get away. The screech pierces his ears, (weakness will not be tolerated, Son) mocking him with sirens of truth (lies).

His rusted tongue is heavy with one word - one name - sitting there like a marble headstone. Lex tries to run the tip of his tongue over the roof of his mouth but it catches - sticking, swollen. He gags.

His eyelids move limply, and washed-out colors melt into the edges of his eyes. They die away quickly (to the outside world you're already dead...to the outside world you're already dead), and the light is breaking, kaleidoscoping into a burst of summer corn, of winter hay (you know in your heart this is where you belong).

Long, thin fingers -icy, pale and blue - stretch out in front of him. Dart to the side, and behind. They're trying to grab him, wrap chilled bones around him.

Lex can see through the translucent skin: bleached bone, gray veins and twisted tendons. The fingers extend jerkily - stuttering through the shuttered, frozen air. Never far enough, never there - not on his skin but he feels them. Feels them coming, twisting gnarled knuckles like whips around his face, his arms, his legs.

He wants to follow. Wants to reach out. Touch them. Wants to feel them on his face - cutting and caressing him like shards of glass.

His body shakes in the silence. The ceiling spins so fast, too fast, like a snow cloud whirling, and the walls speed up around him and the voices click into his ear again, high-pitched and frantic (...code red ...get in there...).

Fingers, he can still see them, fluttering and gesturing in all directions, waving like jellyfish, sluggish but swift. They leave fading trails of watery smoke and write names in the air like trick airplanes. Touch, he wants (stroking Louis' slippery skin, heavy blade slicing into bone and flesh, no resistance) to touch them. Wants them to sting.

Wants to know he's alive.

Rolls over on his side, arms crushed against him, digging into his bruised ribs. His shoulder collapses, grinding bone into bone (can't move, can't move his arms) and there are bells. Ringing ringing, so loudly. Like a choir. Like voices, yelling and tall bodies are blocking the light. The wispy fingers beckon him to follow with liquid blue tips, and vanish.

He wakes, sitting.

Doesn't try to move or fight the murky arms of air that hold him back against the wall. The tinny echo of his father's voice bounces against his body, each word diving and swarming into Lex's mind, like bats.

No escaping. No escape. Not from the pricking syllables and mangled vowels that latch onto him with steel claws.

He turns away, blinking against the light and protests, shakes his head when something round and smooth is shoved onto his tongue and he tries to close his throat, clenches dry lips against the scraping rim of a plastic cup, spilling liquid over his teeth, down his chin.

Footsteps walk away from him, echoless, and he jerks forward. Tumbles onto his face, and manages to spit one pill out. Splays his body across the floor ungracefully, nosing the padded crack between the wall and floor. Tries to hide the pill (evidence, it's evidence), tucks it under the wall, and feels a small wave of triumph.

Rests there, his head down (bare, exposed), pressed into the sticky floor. The blood rushes through his ears on a torrent of tiny feet, pittering, pattering. Scattering until he's floating, upside down.

A strange gaping mouth moves soundlessly and there's a dark figure in front of him. Flittering in and out of his eyes, the upside-down face twists in grotesque time, mute words biting into him.

Before - he's been here before, (you're right where you should have been...what do you want from me?... the truth...) he's seen all this before and (escaped) there must be a way to do it again, must be, and then the dark shadows drop him and he's falling. So far, down DOWN so fast. The space to the ground is infinite and pale. He crashes, body jerking on impact.

He's panting, chuffing cracks of air through his teeth. Head down, still pressed against the floor (so solid). A single shudder rolls through his body.

He wants the hands to come back. Not the rough, chafing hands that drug him daily - he wants the soft hands with river-tinged skin.

The hands that spell "safe - comfort - escape" (You're ruled by your emotions. You always have been). Lex closes his eyes and wills them to appear so that they're floating in front of him, so inviting, so wonderfully inviting and begging him to follow.

He stumbles to his feet.

Big, wide palms, not as transparent anymore, but he can still see through them, across the room, and finds his own reflection staring back (a - it's all in your head, Lex - trick). Walks toward himself, toward the outstretched hands. His reflection staggers, uneven shoulders jerking, mouth slack and drooling. Lex is focused on the upturned elusive hands, waving and gesturing in liquid arcs.

Transfixing. Transforming, and his legs stammer forward until he shutter-stops, distorted (too close, he's too close), careening backward. He falls to the ground. A mirror - it's a mirror, he thinks, clearly and hysterically, feeling warm blood trickle over his forehead.

Blackness seeps into his brain. It's too intense, too dazzling to be anything but release.

Earth spins quickly, too quickly. One day, when motion stops, the air is going to wrinkle in on itself, and take the stars with it, sucking down all the particles of space and time. Velocity will propel tiny atoms into the center, where they will explode and burst outward, like so many angry words.

Lex is going to be ready when the Earth stops rotating. He doesn't move; he's still - quiet. When it happens, he will be the only one prepared, calm when tectonic plates groan and shift against the jolting stop. Fault lines will crumble and Lex will fold into them.

Lying on his side, he regulates his breathing in controlled puffs - small and soundless. Alarms shriek all around him, a crazed red light swoops like a vulture around and around the room. Clenches his eyes shut, tightly, and relaxes his body.

He's ready. The ground beneath him is going to open soon, and he can feel the pulsing panic outside the walls - unrestrained frenzy. It can't touch him, not here, not inside this room.

The sound of grinding metal doesn't stir him, the hawk-like screech that takes the door off its hinges. A rush of air breaks over him, lapping at his swollen lips and curling around his back. Soft coolness tickles his face, his toes.

Strong hands loosen his restraints, gently unfold his arms. A warm (real? Is it real?) body gathers him close, and Lex struggles to focus. Hands lift his head, and he finds fingers, careful and smooth, caressing over his scalp, his forehead, his eyes.

Fingers bend cautiously around his head, cupping his jaw. They're warm, and pink, with tiny ridges charting paths across deep palms and broad knuckles. Fire-hot fingertips write promises over his cheek, his lips.

Lex reaches out his own hand, slowly, his arms protesting weakly, and traces the wrist (so soft, so real), follows the pulsing blue vein up up, circling around the thumb.

Wraps his fingers around the solid warmth, holds tight - clinging, grasping.

He's lifted away, out of the tightness that radiates from the room, and he looks up, past clear green - Clark's - eyes, past the spacious sky, and the air around them is parting, displaced in random blurs of bright color.

Rushing air pricks his bare arms and the light refracts in curves. Lex tucks his cheek into Clark's neck, twines his fingers through dark curls, and escapes.

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