Standing in front of the intimidating walnut door, you wonder for the tenth time what you're doing in this place; wonder if, perhaps, you've finally lost your mind. The cynical part of your brain pipes in that you're in the right place if that's the case, while your more politically correct self is mortified that you could even have such a thought.
You ring the doorbell, even though you know the staff is aware that you're loitering on the front steps, has known about your presence ever since you announced yourself at the gate. You wonder if this is some sort of high society nicety, but you can't even begin to fathom the whys of such a practice.
A very formal butler opens the door and instead of sneering at you, he smiles. You didn't expect such a welcome, but it warms you none-the-less.
"Is Lex available?" you ask, when what you really mean is Can Lex come out to play?
The butler, Charles, you finally remember, gestures you inside.
"If he's busy, I can come back. It's nothing urgent."
Charles smiles again. "He'll want to see you."
"I don't want to interrupt him if he's busy."
"But I do." He winks conspiratorially at you. "He needs a break."
So you follow him obediently and wonder for the eleventh time why you turned left instead of right at the corner of County Road 314.
But you know why. You were bored and you remembered Lex's eyes as he sauntered into the Talon earlier in the day. While others no doubt saw the self-assurance and confidence that he wore like an old comfortable suit, you saw the eyes of a little boy who desperately wanted to be asked to play. Of course, if you ever voiced this supposition out loud, your friends would think you were quite mad, or at least madder than usual.
Charles opens the door to Lex's study and announces you. The surprise in Lex's eyes makes you want to laugh. Yes, it's nine o'clock, but it's not a school night and you're not twelve anymore.
Concern nudges away his surprise as he rises and moves around his desk. "Is everything okay?"
Your gaze shoots over to Charles and Lex immediately understands. "Thank you, Charles. That will be all."
The butler nods graciously and pulls the door closed behind him as he leaves, but not before he gives you another wink.
"Are you busy?" you blurt out before Lex has a chance to speak.
"Nothing that can't wait."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes. I was just trying to get a jump on a project that will be going into full gear next week."
"What's this all about?"
But instead of answering, you take his hand in yours and are surprised to find that they're not as soft as you always imagined they were. You expect him to protest as you pull him toward the door, but he doesn't.
Oh, you can see the burning curiosity in his eyes, but you can also see him making the conscious decision to trust you.
When you reach your vehicle, he raises an eyebrow, but you just point imperiously toward the passenger side of the vehicle, rewarding him with a smile when he complies.
The fifteen-minute drive is made in total silence, but it's anything but awkward. You can practically feel him unwinding after he decides to go with the flow.
A relaxed Lex is so very different from the Lex you normally encounter. He seems...almost boyish as he glances curiously at you, although you know he's trying to figure out what it is you want from him.
His brow crinkles when you pull next to the old windmill in Potter's Field.
"C'mon." You modify your voice so that it's part encouraging and part challenging. You've double dog dared him and he knows it.
His eyes narrow, but you just laugh as you pull your backpack off the floor and get out of the vehicle.
With no other explanations, you start climbing the windmill. You realize you're being terribly unfair to him. After all, he came with you with no questions asked. You don't quite understand why you're pushing him and yet you sort of do.
When you reach the top, you don't bother looking down. He'll either follow you or he won't. The decision is his and you don't want to influence him - much.
You unhook the backpack from your shoulder and pull out a picnic blanket. It's older than dirt, but soft. It'll provide ample protection against the hard boards.
Once you spread the blanket out, you lie on it and look up at the night stars. A few moments later, you can hear his progress as he climbs up the ladder. He starts off tentatively, but grows surer the higher he ascends. When he reaches the top, he stops momentarily, then joins you on the blanket.
"Have you ever seen so many stars?" you ask once he's settled.
He tells you about his time on Niihau, which makes you ask him about surfing. He tells you a story that makes you laugh so hard that you're seriously afraid you're going to roll off the platform. He then tells you that if you ever tell anyone else that he'll deny it with his dying breath. While it's tempting, you know you'll never tell anyone because you know he's just given you something precious, something he's never given anyone else. Understanding his gift, you tell him your own embarrassing story while you pull out cookies and a thermos of hot chocolate from your backpack.
When he chokes on a cookie while laughing, you slap his back vigorously even as bizarre headlines of his death pop into your brain. For the next hour, you both try to top each other's silly stories. You declare him the winner after you spew hot chocolate out of your nose when he tells you about his father's chauffer, a chicken and a case of pop rocks.
When the wind turns colder, he suggests that maybe it would be a good time to call it a night. He then surprises you by going down first, but staying so close that if you should slip, he could catch you. You're touched by the gesture and blink back unexpected tears, which are thankfully gone by the time you reach the ground.
The ride back is as quiet as the trip to the field had been, but the difference is palatable. The air is practically singing with humor and companionship.
When you reach the mansion, you escort him to the door then tweak his nose. Before he can say anything, you bop yourself down the granite steps.
You turn around and raise an eyebrow when you see all the questions in his eyes. Why?* What do you want*? Why tonight?
But what he says is, "Thank you."
"Anytime," you tell him.
And you mean it.
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