by Kitty Fisher
Disclaimer: not mine
Summary: 1998. Lex. Giles.
For EleanorB with love and gratitude for feeding my obsessions. Oh, and with apologies for Giles - he just happened!
The boy had chipped nail varnish on his fingers. Chipped silver varnish, so that in the remains of the street light his nails looked half normal and half as if dipped in mercury. They'd used mercury as a cure for syphilis. Not that it had worked, merely sent half the poor bastards using it mad with pain. Kill or (not) cure at its finest. Mercury, named after the god with wings on his heels, who -
Giles blinked owlishly. Let out a long breath. Looked back down into the doorway.
Of all the doors in all the world...
He was pretty though. Not that Giles liked to think he noticed such things these days. Pretty. Young. Bald.
Giles frowned, swaying very slightly on his feet. Maybe that last pint had been one too many. But after months and months of American beer, a pint of Flowers had seemed so utterly delicious that he couldn't resist a second. And then a third. Etcetera, etcetera, as Yul Brynner once said.
Key. He grunted in appreciation of his own clarity of thought. House, door, must need key.
Giles rummaged in his pocket. Ah. There. He fished the fob out, pulling the inside of his pocket with it. He tutted. Key. Door. Doorway. Oh yes, there was something there. Someone. A boy.
Narrowing his eyes, Giles peered into the shadows, wishing for about the tenth time since he'd been back in London that the mate he'd borrowed the flat from had bothered to install a porch light. The - truthfully lovely - Hampstead house was down an alleyway that really was such a perfect trap.
He blinked. Vaguely wondered if the boy was a tethered goat. Didn't seem likely.
Not with silver nail varnish. Not chipped silver nail varnish anyway.
Ah. Circular thoughts. Maybe the tenth pint really had been an error. Or the after-hours visit to the drinking club. That would be it. Didn't like to think he couldn't hold his drink anymore. Not good old Ripper. Heaven forefend. Hell too, come to think of it.
Giles cleared his throat. "Excuse me, but you're sleeping in my doorway." There. Polite. To the point. He didn't even slur.
The boy stayed still, though one mercury tipped finger twitched as if goaded by an electric wire. Which didn't seem a positive thing at all. Giles tried again, louder. There was after all the outside chance the boy was a tourist. "Excuse me - " He stopped, hiccupped softly. Dropped his keys onto the pavement.
Slow bend to pick them up. On one knee - just for balance. Still kneeling, as it was easier than standing, he looked at the boy again, resignedly wondering if he'd have to step over him. Though he didn't look asleep. Giles fumbled in his pocket one-handed. Found his spectacles and slowly slid them over his ears.
Ah. There was blood on the boy's fingers. And his nails were ragged, blood dark around the quick on two of them. Dried blood. Shame he could identify it anywhere. And what life skills would you like your son to have when he grows up? ...Oh dear, maudlin already. Giles tutted at himself.
"Are you okay?" He asked the question more sharply than he'd anticipated. But blood was rarely a good thing. And the council would be peeved if children starting dying on his doorstep here as well as in Sunnydale.
A stirring. Something like a shrug. "I'll live."
"Oh. Good." Giles nodded encouragingly. "Just curious, but why is there blood all over your hands?"
The boy tucked his hands under his arms. He winced when he moved.
"Look, I know I'm not quite sober, certainly not judge sober, which might be just as well, all things considered, so why not tell me what happened. You can come in for a cup of tea if you'd like." He stood up, jangling his keys invitingly.
"I'm not very good company." Low pitch, flat delivery. Not English. The reply adolescent angst or more?
"Really? I'm sure your mother thinks you're charming."
"My mother's dead."
"Oh." Pause for consideration. "Your father then?"
"If I laugh I might throw up so be careful what you say, mister."
American. Educated. Lived in England for a while. "Nice to see families getting on well and all that. Now, tea?"
"Earl Gray. Though I might have some Lapsang if you prefer."
"Too smoky." The boy sat forward and began levering himself awkwardly to his feet. Very pretty, if you liked them slim and young and slightly weird. The baldness only seemed somehow to enhance his fragility. Which, as he was close to six foot, was a strange thought. Giles frowned at himself and eyed the boy more carefully. Fragile, yes. Though maybe only as a result of whatever tonight had brought him. Tawdry clothes. Very cheap, if the glitter and eyeliner and torn black T-shirt said anything at all.
He obligingly stood aside, boots scuffing on the doorstep, to let Giles past. Followed him into the house, as Giles sighed and berated himself for being a soft touch. For being terminally curious. For being a lodestone to trouble.
The council would not approve. But then again, fuck the council. What would they care if he indulged in helping the needy? And the boy was no tramp. Not the sort that walked the streets and begged for money anyway.
"Come through to the kitchen." Giles didn't wait. He wandered through, heading straight for the kettle. When it was filled and on, he turned. And swore violently under his breath. "Sit down before you fall down."
"I'm not that bad."
Seeing the boy in bright light for the first time was a shock. "Really. Well, I'd rather not risk it - the house is borrowed and I don't want to have to explain away the breakages caused by you falling flat on your face."
The boy sat. Gingerly. His face, already pale under the bruises and glitter, went stark white.
"Who did you over so comprehensively?"
"Someone. No one." Slow shake of his head. His hands were shaking very slightly as he plucked repetitively at the coloured threads twisted around one wrist.
Giles stood by him. Took one incessantly moving hand. Peered down. Broken nails, the varnish looking as if it had been clawed away. The tips of each finger raw, bloody from being scraped along some rough surface. "You know, the Gestapo used to tear the nails off the hands of prisoners they were interrogating, at a rough guess that says it was a painful process." He pressed the boy's middle fingernail gently. Felt the flinch. "Were you being interrogated?"
It was meant to be a joke. The boy smiled, without any humour at all. "No. I was being fucked."
Giles blanked for a moment. Beer and whisky swirled in his head, and the kettle boiled. He went and poured water into the pot. Warming it. "And was this a felicitous affair?"
Snort of laughter at that. Giles poured the warming water away and added four teaspoons of tea in its place. The kettle was boiling again, and he filled the pot, stirring as he did so. Lid, cosy tucked into place. He leant back against the counter. "Were you raped?"
"No." Sharp intake of breath. Swallow that Giles could hear from where he stood. "Yes...I guess so."
"Not always easy to tell the difference, maybe?"
A nod. Long body, still slightly coltish. He'd be quite something in a few years time. Was now really. Though so very, very young.
"How old are you?"
For the first time, the boy lifted his gaze and met Giles'. After a moment Giles reconsidered both 'young' and 'fragile'. "I don't doubt it. Seriously, how old, though I suppose you really don't have to tell me." The boy almost smiled, though the softening was little more than an easing in the pinch around his eyes. "Oh, and a name would be nice."
"Lex. I'm sixteen."
"Hello, Lex, good to meet you. My name is Rupert Giles. So, are you living here?"
"Ah. Do they know where you are?"
"I've an exeat. I'm staying at a hotel for the weekend."
Public school then, and a boarder. A weekend leave and staying alone in a hotel, not gone home to the father who made him angry even to think about. Giles sighed. He turned and lifting the pot gave the tea a little swirl. Then he poured two cups. "Sugar, lemon, milk?" Well, the child was American.
"No thanks." Lex pulled the cup and saucer towards him as Giles placed it on the table, fingers immediately tracing a pattern over and over again on the rim. After a moment he seemed to notice the blood smeared on the pale ivory china and stopped, hands resting either side of his tea, palms up. Every now and then his fingers twitched.
"What about a doctor?"
Long peer down at his raw fingers, then Lex shook his head. "No. I'll heal. I heal very quickly."
"Is Lex short for Alexander?"
"What happened, Lex?" Giles pulled out another chair and sat down. He could feel sobriety coming, along with a hangover.
"I made a mistake."
"And you don't make mistakes, normally?"
"Never." Lex lifted his head, straightening his shoulders with a fair stab at the imperious. The glitter didn't add to the process though. He looked like a rent-boy with delusions. After a second he stopped glaring, the dark hollows around his eyes tightening into something more akin to misery. When he spoke it was very softly. "I liked him. I just didn't want to get fucked."
"The next question should really be, do you want me to call the police?"
The boy laughed. Not quite the reaction Giles had been expecting. "No. Though my dad would get a kick out of it, I really don't want to oblige him that much."
Giles sipped his tea. Considered paracetemol. "No love lost then."
"No love at all. Ever. So I guess you couldn't call it lost."
"What about school - I could call them?" Even though it was the middle of the night, he could try.
"My housemaster is okay. But, no thanks. Scholarship boys aren't meant to enjoy themselves." Somehow the way he said the words conjured debauchery rather than schoolboyish fun.
An Eton scholar. Very bright then. Very fucked up too. Giles sighed. And perhaps the boy was right - telling them about this escapade, whatever it was, would not be a good idea. The gutter press loved nothing better than a 'sex and drugs at public school' scandal. Giles stared at the boy's fingers. He hoped the bastard who did it got mange.
"Look, I'm not exactly sober, and I'm not really certain I should be doing any of this, but would you like to shower? If you're not pressing charges, getting cleaned up won't be a problem."
"Thanks." A smile. Transforming the thin face. "I'd kinda like that."
"Upstairs, first on the left - clean towels are in the cupboard."
Giles could only smile in return. "I'll find you a T-shirt for afterwards - that one might need to go in the bin."
"I'd burn it."
Giles watched as Lex lifted the cup and drank his tea. Neat, both hands to disguise the shaking. Cup placed back in saucer, Lex stood up. Slowly. Keeping quite still, Giles watched him as he straightened. Maybe he wasn't the only one in need of analgesics. "Shout if you need anything."
"I'm not up to fucking you, if that's what you want."
Bald statement, not aggressive, merely factual. It left a deep, bitterly cold pit in Giles' stomach. "Fancy that."
Pause. Reassessment. Sudden embarrassment that at least brought a tinge of colour to his cheeks. "Sorry... I..."
"Stop. You're very fuckable I'm sure, but I don't really get turned on by boys who look like they need a hospital bed, thanks all the same."
"I said I'm sorry." Lex stood, looking at the floor. "My judgement is way off tonight."
"I'm sure normally you insult with much more skill." Giles took a deep breath, stared at his stray ruefully. "Look, go and shower. If you fall over call me, I'll try and pick you up without molesting you."
Tiny quirk of a smile. "If you're sure?"
"I am sitting here resonating with lust, but it is all under the strongest control." Wry, dry - at the last moment he wondered if the boy would understand irony. But he seemed to. The brittleness eased.
The boy turned, one hand holding the chair back. "Upstairs, first left?"
"You'll find it."
A nod. Walking very slowly, Lex went.
Giles sipped his tea. After about five minutes he heard the shower. He didn't hear the sound of a body falling. Sighing, he stood up, cleared the cups off the table. Poured himself a second cup. He drank it with two painkillers. After a slight hesitation he swallowed a third. He took the stairs almost as gingerly as the boy had. His room was at the end of the upstairs landing. One suitcase, half unpacked. He pulled out a T-shirt, something he used to workout in. He sat on the end of the bed and waited for the shower to finish. Mind wandering, he thought about Buffy. Wished strongly that he were back in California. A raped and traumatised boy on his doorstep would have been marginally less obscene there. Only because at least this boy was still alive. Not dismembered, or sucked dry of blood. Or rising from the dead with a hunger as appalling to witness as it clearly was to endure. No, this boy was simply a victim of something quite normal. However appalling a normality it was.
As long as he wasn't bleeding to death.
Rupert, you really should think more clearly.
He cursed. Realised this was exactly why he never got drunk anywhere near the Hellmouth. He simply couldn't afford to be this stupid. This slow.
He walked quickly, back to the bathroom. No sound from inside. He tapped on the door. "Are you okay?"
After a moment he heard the bolt being pulled back. The door opened slowly. Cautiously Giles looked around it to the young man, who seemed quite well enough, considering. Giles blinked. Bereft of the paint he appeared different. Younger in some ways. He was also quite naked.
Apart from the bruises.
"So, he did more than rape you then." Giles winced at the patterning. "Did he get his jollies from kicking the shit out of you too?"
"He seemed an equal opportunities kind of guy. Fucked me first, then practised his football skills."
"David Beckham, eat your heart out..." Giles stepped into the bathroom. He frowned at the over-thin torso. There were older bruises there too. With one finger he stayed the boy's move to get away. "Who else?"
A hand slid gently around his wrist, easing his touch away. Quite politely, really.
"I saw my father last weekend." Direct gaze. Challenging.
"The bastard." Giles swallowed the rage surging in his gut. Rage and pity. He backed away. "Tell someone."
"I have. But dad's rich. Really rich. How could he possibly do wrong?"
"Yeah. My sentiments exactly."
Startled, Giles heard his own intonation. Ironic, dry. Unguardedly he smiled. "Well, we agree on that."
The moment stretched.
Lex broke it. "So, is that the shirt?"
Giles took a sharp breath, nodded. "Here. It'll at least cover you up until you get back." He handed it over. Saw that the boy had cleaned the blood from his nails, though the mercury varnish remained. "How are your fingers?"
Lex tucked the shirt under his arm, and with a patient sigh held his hands out, palm up. The fingerpads and the heels of both hands were raw, oozing. Raising pale brows at the sight, he pursed his lips as if seeing them for the first time. "I scrubbed them to get the grit out."
"And a very pleasing experience that must have been."
A giggle. A real giggle. Giles looked up, grinned when he met the boy's amused eyes.
"You really never say exactly what you mean, do you, Mr Giles."
"Rupert, please. Or Giles. Well, I do. I just wrap it up a little." Giles shook his head slowly. "And not many people notice." Bright. The Eton staff would have their work cut out.
A nod. Giles had the uneasy feeling he was being assessed.
"I used some antiseptic from the cabinet. That okay?"
Giles shook himself. "Of course." And for God's sake, the boy was still naked. Which was not exactly a challenge, more a statement. A point proven.
Now that Giles hadn't jumped him, of course.
"Did he tear you, when he fucked you?"
Ah, wrong footed. Giles admonished himself for a cheap victory as Lex hesitated. A boy again, uncertainty taking away some semblance of maturity. "Yes. But I'm not bleeding."
"Ouch, all the same."
"Yeah. Ouch." A nod. A careful look.
"Get dressed. I can cook us breakfast, if you'd like?"
"Thanks, but I'd better get back."
Giles turned, hesitated with one hand on the doorframe. "You could sleep here - on the sofa."
"Thanks. Maybe some other time?"
A nod, and Giles left him to it. Five minutes later the boy was back in the kitchen. He was walking more easily. Giles stood up. "I've rung a cab, it'll be a few minutes."
"I'm not far."
"You're not walking anywhere. Are you."
"Apparently not." Smile. Charm shining through everything else. Shame they wouldn't meet again. The boy was interesting.
"I live in America, you know."
"Sunnydale." Monster capital of the universe. Wry smile. "It's quite pleasant."
"I like the T-shirt." Quick interruption. Lex gestured at his chest. "The Clash. Cutting edge."
"Yes, I rather like them." The Hackney Empire in 1979. One of the best nights of his life. Ethan's too. "Fond memories from when I was young enough to go to gigs." Way back in the dark ages. Giles sighed.
"I'll get it back to you."
"No, keep it. It's a bit of a collector's item now. Not that I've treated it kindly."
"All the better. Thanks."
The doorbell rang. "Ah, there you are... do you have enough cash to pay the driver?"
Lex nodded. Awkwardly, he pushed a battered hand into a pocket, brought out a fiver. "Thanks. My allowance covers all eventualities."
Shame he didn't cover being a good father as well. Giles nodded. He wasn't here as judge. Though the bruises... it made him wonder what else. Made him feel slightly ill. Another bloody lost soul. "That's one good thing at least." Giles walked to the door with him. Hesitated. "Look, try and stay out of trouble."
"I'll try. Though sometimes I think I'm really not much good at anything but trouble." He grinned suddenly, breathing in the dawn air with a lift of his face. "And it seriously pisses dad off, so it can't be all bad."
"Don't piss him off by killing yourself."
"Ah, yes. That would be a pyrrhic victory, wouldn't it?"
"Of the worst kind."
A nod. "Thanks."
The taxi was at the end of the alleyway. The boy walked slowly to it and pulled the passenger door open. He sat down carefully, waved once before he tucked his legs in.
The clunk of the door closing was immeasurably loud. Giles watched as the driver pulled away. Watched until the taillights disappeared.
He went back into the house slowly, hands in his pockets. He toed the door closed. Leant back against it and wondered at a world where boys got raped, and where a Luthor could get away with abusing his son, just because he was richer than Croesus. Strange world. Enough to make the Hellmouth seem less strange than it should.
Not that that made it right. He walked slowly back into the kitchen. Yawning. Lex Luthor on his doorstep. Reading Buffy's trashy magazines had its uses. He looked quite different in rags than he had at his father's side at some charity reception. Quite different from his father too. In every way.
Taking the stairs slowly, Giles thought about the chipped varnish, mercury pools on torn nails. In another world he'd be pampered, petted. Not halfway to being broken.
The bathroom was still steamed up. He went in, leant on the basin and peered at his face in the mirror and saw a faint number scrawled on the glass in soap. A mobile number. Giles smiled.
Then backed away. He was forty. Lex was sixteen. However, whatever the boy was, he was still a child. Calling him would be wrong.
Pulling his sleeve down over his hand, Giles wiped the number away.
That he'd remember it was another matter entirely. One he didn't want to think about. One he certainly wouldn't do anything about. Ever.
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