Girl

by Basingstoke



Girl.
by Basingstoke

*

Bruce stood just outside the door and stared at Lex's dress. Lex shook the fringe at him. Lisa brushed past them, giggling.

"Why are you wearing a dress?" Bruce asked.

"It's a girl group," Lex said.

"But you're dressed girlier than the girls."

"So?" Lex walked down the steps from the stage, swaying his hips to feel the beads brush against his thighs. The dress was a lovely 20s-style number: tube-shaped, beaded black-on-black with simple, broad straps over his shoulders. It went well with vamp makeup: smoky eyes and red lips.

And no wig. He liked his bald head.

"So..." Bruce ran his hands through his rumpled hair. "Do you want to get something to eat?"

Lex smiled. "Sure, sailor. Did you just bike all the way down from Gotham?"

"Yes." Bruce was looking rather retro himself: blue jeans, motorcycle boots, white t-shirt, biker jacket.

Though he should have been wearing proper leathers if he was going to ride all the way from Gotham to Princeton. Lex pictured road rash on those long, shapely legs and winced.

"Night, Sugar," Rebecca said, dropping a kiss on his cheek as she passed him. "Do you need a ride?"

"Got one." Lex winked.

Rebecca ogled Bruce and gave Lex the thumbs-up. "Then I'll see you tomorrow." She left through the back door.

"There's a Denny's down the street," Lex told Bruce. Bruce blinked, looking around backstage. "Denny's. Food?"

"Oh. Okay."

Lex rolled his eyes, took Bruce's hand and led him outside.

It was chilly out, typical fall weather with only a tickle of winter. A bit much on his sweat-damp and naked skin. He shivered.

Bruce shrugged out of his jacket and draped it over Lex's shoulders. Lex looked at him. "You know I'm not really a woman, right?" With Bruce, he could never quite be sure.

"Yes. I've seen your dick."

Lex covered his mouth and did not laugh. Did not.

"Can we go to a hotel?" Bruce said suddenly, looking discomfited.

"I have an apartment..."

"Can we go there?"

"Yes."

"Okay." Bruce pulled Lex close and Lex tilted his head for a kiss, but instead Bruce rummaged in one of the pockets and pulled out his keychain. Lex slipped his arms into the jacket sleeves and took Bruce's arm, which earned him a startled look. Lex batted his eyelashes.

Three-inch heels and Bruce still towered over him. It was deeply unfair.

"It's a nice dress. I like the dress," Bruce said.

"Thank you. Do you like the earrings? They're my mother's." Lex fingered the onyx drops. She didn't know he'd stolen them, of course. Although--he could probably tell her about the drag. She knew about Bruce...

Lex made a mental note to tell his mother about the band when next they spoke. She'd probably find it amusing.

Bruce was frowning. "Is it--like a costume? Or do you really feel like a girl?"

"I'm not transgendered, no."

Expressions chased each other over Bruce's face as he tried to make his words clear. "I mean--does the dress make you act differently? Does it make you act like a girl? Or is it all an act?" He was still scowling at the end of his speech, which meant he wasn't satisfied with what he'd managed to say.

"It's not an act, even if I am acting different. I can't take your arm in a suit." The sidewalk was ill-lit and rough. Lex leaned against Bruce. "But I always want to. You have a great arm."

"Oh..." Bruce looked at Lex's hand. "So it's not a costume. It's a different you." Bruce stopped in front of his bike, bowing his head for a moment. The lights of the club blinked across his face, leaving him half in shadow. "I can see that. I think I can see that."

He turned and touched Lex's chest; he flattened his palm against Lex's nipple, pushing the beads into his skin. "Different and the same," Bruce said.

"Yes." Lex ran one short nail down Bruce's jaw. "Home, Bruce, and we can do whatever it is you came here to do with me."

Bruce dropped his hand and his eyes. "Talk. You always put my head back on." He pulled away and swung his leg over the motorcycle. A new one. He must have a dozen or more by now.

Lex sat behind him. He embraced Bruce's waist and checked his fringe before Bruce started the engine. "To the right, fifteen blocks. I live right off this street."

"Got it." Bruce started the motorcycle and then they were flying down the dark streets. What did people do in the days before motorized vehicles? Lex couldn't imagine life without a sharp wind in his eyes and his ears.

But he was riding, which meant he could tuck his head into Bruce's shoulders, and that was another kind of pleasure entirely--not one he allowed himself often.

Pretty much only with Bruce, actually.

He thought about road rash. He trusted Bruce not to let them fall.

"Turn left on Grey Street and stop at the big house," Lex said in Bruce's ear. Bruce nodded. He arced across the empty road and parked neatly beside Lex's Jaguar.

Lex hopped off the bike and hiked up his skirt to retrieve the key basted inside his stocking. Bruce's eyes widened at the flash of thigh.

"No pockets," Lex said. He took Bruce's hand and led him up the stairs to his door.

Inside the door Lex pinned Bruce to the wall, licked his chin and planted a blood-red kiss on his cheek. Bruce held him, looking absent. His touch was muffled by the heavy leather of the jacket. "I've missed you," Lex said.

Bruce's brow crinkled. "I'm sorry..."

"No, this isn't when you're sorry. This is when we have sex." Bruce could talk for hours, one short, halting sentence after another. Lex didn't exactly mind, but an orgasm would make him a lot more patient.

"Oh." Bruce's hands on his elbows, his hands on Bruce's waist, and Bruce's face soft and lost; something was missing. Lex wasn't getting something.

"Are you there, Bruce?" Lex touched Bruce's forehead.

"Yes." Bruce fell to his knees and pushed Lex's skirt up around his waist. He rested his hands on Lex's hips, looking at his underwear.

Lex's black fishnet stockings were held up by lace and red rosebud garters, fastened tight around each thigh; he hated garter belts. And black silk panties over the bulge he didn't bother to hide. Bruce ran both thumbs up and down Lex's penis and Lex shivered erect.

"It's you," Bruce said. "Under everything."

"Yes."

Bruce slid the panties down carefully so that he didn't budge the garters. Lex stepped out of them and Bruce picked them up, rubbing the silk through his fingers. "These make you different?"

"These make me myself, but in a different way," Lex said.

Bruce crumpled them in his hand and leaned forward to slip Lex's cock into his mouth. He just--held it there, flickering tiny little licks over the shaft, barely enough to feel. Lex flattened his hands against the wall.

Pink lips, black hair, blue eyes. Pretty boy. Manly man. Too manly for games with dresses and heels, which made Lex wonder what was going on inside his head.

The hem of Lex's dress slipped down his abdomen, pulled by the shivery beads. Bruce snaked the other hand up around Lex's naked buttock and finally, finally started sucking. Lex rocked back and forth. Hot hand, hot mouth; his own hands braced against the wallpaper.

And Bruce pulled him forward, off-balance. Lex caught himself on Bruce's shoulders--ohh, tricky bastard, of course he wouldn't just ask. Lex rested his full weight on Bruce's strong shoulders and pumped into his mouth.

Bruce closed his eyes and swallowed when Lex came. Lex's knees buckled. He fell gracefully into Bruce's lap.

Bruce was smiling faintly. "You always put my head back on, Lex," he said.

"It's never far away," Lex said, running his hands through Bruce's hair.

Bruce smiled and slipped the panties into his pocket. Lex pulled him to his feet. "Dinner is peanut butter sandwiches, unless you still want to go out."

"No," Bruce said. His eyes were fixed on Lex's hips as Lex shook the dress back into place. He blinked and looked back up. "I didn't know you played an instrument."

"I didn't, until six months ago. I'm terrible--we all are. We're just letting off a little steam." Lex strolled into the kitchen, listening to his heels click against the hardwood floor.

"Everyone needs a hobby," Bruce said.

"Or six." Lex checked the bread for mold. He preferred the fancy preservative-free kind, but it went bad infuriatingly fast. Maybe there was a way to alter the wheat to keep it fresh longer... He looked in the fridge to see what kind of jam he had, thinking about gene splicing and lucrative traits. "Raspberry or marmalade? Or... fig. Or blackberry or peach. Or..." Lex examined the plum jelly and saw mold climbing up the side of the jar. "Well, not this." He tossed it into the trash.

"Do you have any tomatoes?" Bruce asked.

Peanut butter and tomato? "No. Although I think I have tomato paste."

Bruce wrinkled his nose. "The tomatoes have to be fresh. Raspberry jam."

Lex thought more about wheat as he spread the peanut butter and jam. His father encouraged him to learn as much about the family business as possible, since he was going to be a part of it after college. Fertilizer and wheat and soybeans. Hormones and chemicals that made wheat stronger and fertilizer more nourishing.

Not his first choice. But his only choice now. He remembered his father's fingers digging into his arm as they marched out of the court room and his father's voice in his ear: "You are going to be a good boy now, aren't you, Lex?"

Good Lex. Good boy. No more drugs. Going to Daddy's alma mater and doing well. Learning to be ambitious.

Lex handed Bruce his sandwich and they crossed back into the living room. He didn't realize until he sat down just exactly how tired he was. "Hegh jhe kigh a fhe," he said.

"What?"

Lex swallowed. "Heels just kill your feet."

"Oh." Bruce looked at Lex's shoes. "Can I try them on?"

"You're three sizes bigger, remember?"

"Oh. That's right." Bruce bit into his sandwich, looking thoughtful.

Lex polished off his own sandwich and slid sideways on the couch, kicking off his shoes and coming to rest in Bruce's lap. Bruce stroked his scalp. His fingers were slightly sticky with jam.

His mother's lead box sat on the coffee table, flanked by the remote controls to Lex's stereo, TV and VCR. Made from the armor of St George--ridiculous, and he knew his mother didn't think it was true, but it was an evocative image regardless. She'd given him the box after he was kicked out of Metropolis University. He'd had a few dragons to slay.

Bruce leaned forward to set his plate on the coffee table and his crotch brushed against the back of Lex's head. "I'm a terrible host!" Lex exclaimed. He crawled off the couch and onto his knees in front of Bruce. "All this time and you haven't come yet."

Bruce rubbed his hands up and down his thighs. "Lex, can we do it in bed?"

"Sure." Lex stood up and gave Bruce a hand.

"And can we be naked?"

"Of course." He realized he was still wearing Bruce's jacket. He peeled out of it, walking backwards to his bedroom, and dropped it on the floor. He let the straps of his dress slip down his arms, exposing the star-shaped pasties he'd stuck over his nipples on a whim.

Bruce followed, arm outstretched as if he were half a zombie. "And can you... Can you keep your makeup on?"

Lex grinned. "Yes." He stood on tiptoe and kissed Bruce long and hard until Bruce finally just grunted and steamrollered him back onto the bed. Lex squirmed out of Bruce's grasp long enough to shed his dress. Then he pounced.

Bruce's shirt ended up on top of the dresser, slightly torn. Lex sat back on the bed tugging at Bruce's boots as Bruce delicately rolled Lex's stockings down his legs. Bruce's light touch against Lex's bare skin--oh, delicious. Lex won the war against the boots and tossed them into the corner.

He crawled up the bed and kissed Bruce again. There was lipstick all over Bruce's mouth by now; it wasn't a good look for him. The rumpled hair and sparkling eyes and naked, heaving, well-muscled chest, though--those were all good looks. Together, they were devastating.

Lex tore open the button fly in one movement and hauled Bruce's jeans and boxers off him with another. Then he pinned Bruce to the bed and went down on him.

Bruce bit down on his hand. He hated making noise, no matter where they were. Lex loved trying to get him to make noise. He swallowed and Bruce writhed.

The phone rang. Lex ignored it, bobbing his head, feeling Bruce's dick slide over his tongue.

His machine clicked on. "You've reached Lex Luthor. Leave a message." Bruce twisted under his hands, pushing up into his mouth.

"Lex, this is your father..." Oh, Christ. Having sex while listening to his father's voice. So, so wrong. Lex grabbed Bruce's hip and rolled over onto his back, urging Bruce to roll with him.

"I'm on my cell phone. Call me back immediately." Bruce rested on his knees and elbows. Lex crossed his arms behind Bruce's back, pushing down a little, and Bruce immediately got the idea and started thrusting into Lex's mouth. Fucking his mouth. Oh, if daddy could see his boy now...

"It's very important," his father said, and there was a strange note in his voice, but Lex didn't give a shit because Bruce was hot and alive and a little crazy.

Lex hung onto Bruce's hips, keeping his mouth in the right place for Bruce's dick, and just let Bruce ride him until his thighs were shaking and sweat condensed over his skin.

He looked up and Bruce was biting the pillow. Thrusting and shaking and coming, shooting down Lex's throat. His hips slowed and stilled.

Bruce rolled off him and sighed. Lex licked his lips.

Raspberry jam and semen. Not bad. He crawled up beside Bruce and nestled into the crook of his arm. "Should you call your father?" Bruce asked.

"Oh, probably. Let me bask for a minute." Lex loved the feel of Bruce's body. He worked out what, four hours a day? Between the weight training and the martial arts...

He felt Bruce's fingertips trace over his eyebrows. "You don't look different at all," Bruce said. "You should, but you don't."

Lex smiled. "I'm always me. I'm all artifice, Bruce, you know that. Nothing honest allowed in the Luthor home." Even his mother was guarded--except with him. He definitely had to tell her about the band, maybe send her a video. She'd love it.

"That's not true. You're very honest. Sometimes you're honest that you're lying." Bruce touched Lex's chest. He flattened his palm over Lex's heart. "Sometimes I feel like someone else."

"Like who?" Lex asked.

Bruce rubbed circles into Lex's skin. "I don't know. But someone who isn't Bruce Wayne."

"Mm..." Lex could feel himself drifting off. He sat up, opening his eyes reluctantly. "I should call my father before I fall asleep."

"Okay." Bruce rolled over and started to get up.

Lex grabbed his wrist. "Sleep with me."

"Okay." Bruce settled back. Smiling. Just a little.

Lex's phone was on the nightstand. His father was speed-dial numbers one through three: cell phone, home, office. He insisted that Lex check in regularly.

He ran his hand over Bruce's leg, teasing the hair as he listened to the phone ring. He wondered what he'd do if he suddenly sprouted hair. He supposed it would be like puberty all over again; he wasn't really hairless, after all; his body hair was just light and sparse like a child. He'd stopped when the meteors struck.

His father picked up, finally. "Yes?"

"Dad. You called? At two in the morning?"

"Lex..." His father sighed.

Lex pinched Bruce's skin. Bruce wrinkled his nose at him. "Get to the point, Dad."

"Your mother's dead."

His stomach lurched. "What?"

"It was an aneurysm. Very sudden."

He was frozen; his skin prickled with cold. "...What?"

"She collapsed, and there was nothing I could do. There was nothing anyone could do."

He was silent. His heart beat like a drum in his empty chest.

"The funeral is on Tuesday. Here in Metropolis. Lex--"

"I'll be there." He would have to contact his professors, arrange to make up the chemistry test he had on Monday. He'd have to... plane tickets, that first. That in the morning.

"Lex, I--"

"Thank you, father, I'll fly out tomorrow." He hung up. He got out of bed and made the nighttime round of the apartment, turning out the lights and checking the security system.

He turned off the bedroom light and climbed into bed with Bruce, shoulder to shoulder, sharing a pillow.

His eyes wouldn't close.

Bruce's hand twitched next to his. "Lex?"

"Yes?"

"What did your father say?"

"He said..."

He could shape the words with his mouth, but he couldn't give them breath. "My mother died," he mouthed. "My mother is dead. My mother died."

And then he could say it, and it was real. "My mother died," he said, in a small, gutless voice.

"Oh," Bruce said. His fingers interlaced with Lex's. "I remember."

Lex rolled into him and Bruce wrapped him in his strong arms and Lex pressed his face to Bruce's shoulder, all tendon and bone, and they were both quite naked, tangled up in each other.

*

Black sweater. Black jeans. Black sunglasses hiding his bruise-tired eyes. Bruce was beside him in yesterday's clothes--well, almost; he'd bummed a black t-shirt from Lex.

He fingered suits dully. He'd put on twenty pounds of muscle and an inch of height since his last fitting, and the shoulder seams of his sober black suit had made threatening popping noises when he tried it on. His flashy black suit fit, but...

He was flying to Metropolis in two hours. The funeral was the day after tomorrow. There was plenty of time to have a suit tailored, but...

"You have a tailor in Metropolis, don't you?" Bruce asked, frowning at the racks.

"I'm not having clothes made for my mother's funeral," Lex growled under his breath.

It was wrong. He didn't know why, but somehow, deep in his bones, it was wrong.

"Okay," Bruce said.

The salesman approached them and he and Bruce each gave their measurements and got a suit in return. Lex tried his on, and it wasn't flattering--too boxy, swallowing his neck, and slightly too long at the wrists and ankles--but it was exactly what he needed. He wanted something unflattering.

Black suit. Black oxford with steel-grey buttons. Black tie with steel-grey figures. Bruce got a white shirt--"Wait, are you coming with me?" Lex asked.

Bruce looked at him like he was stupid. "Of course."

His stomach turned over. "You don't have to."

"Yes I do."

And he was holding back tears at the checkout desk. "Are you all right, son?" the grandfatherly man behind the counter asked him.

"I--yes--no. It's for a funeral," he said, and then he had to turn away. The old man made sympathetic noises and Bruce stood inside his personal space, close enough that Lex could feel the heat radiating from his skin.

If he let himself feel it all, he was going to lose it. Break down into a screaming baby in the middle of the floor--mama, mama, mama--so he stuffed it down, tamped it over. He signed the credit slip and took his bag of boxy mourning clothes. He was perfectly serene.

*

Garrett puffed on his cigar and beamed at Lex. "Why, son! I haven't seen you since you were knee-high to a grasshopper. How old are you now?"

"Eighteen," Lex said, wondering if his father would forgive him if he punched Garrett in the throat. He might; GenEnTech was their toughest competitor in the key Plains market. They alternated as number one and number two wheat suppliers and LuthorCorp high-nitrogen fertilizer was rapidly gaining market share on GenEnTech's outdated current leader.

"He's attending my alma mater," Lex's father said, clapping Lex on the shoulder. "Smart as a whip, my boy."

Lex imagined himself in a halter, draped with the LuthorCorp insignia, trotted around a show ring with all the other Family Scions. Minus two for the bald head. Plus three for the early college and excellent grades. Minus one for the amount of bribes and legal fees he'd cost his father over the years. Plus two for social graces and the ability to look good in a suit, unlike Marty Garrett Junior, who was hitting on Lionel's personal secretary. Judging from the line of Alice's back, she was one more near-fondle away from rearranging his teeth.

"Wonderful woman, your mother," Garrett said. "We'll all miss her."

"Yes," Lex said. "If you'll excuse me? I need to consult with Dad's assistant." Lex broke away from his father and walked over to Alice as quickly as he could manage without drawing attention.

"...later, we--"

"Alice?" Lex broke through Marty's speech. Marty glared at him. "May I speak with you? I need to clarify a few things..."

"Of course, Mr. Luthor." She gave Marty a polite smile and let Lex march her out of the room.

They both started running once the doors were firmly closed, up the stairs and around the corner into Lex's father's office. "God, that little toad. What do you need, Lex?" Alice said, collapsing into a chair.

"Nothing. Just out." Lex leaned against the wall and pressed his hands to his face.

"Oh...I can understand that." She sighed. "I miss her. It didn't really hit me until the bozos like Marty Garrett showed up and she wasn't dropping comments in my ear. She was mean as hell but so funny..."

"I know."

"Lex?" Lex looked over to see Bruce peeking in the door. He opened his arm and Bruce came to stand beside him, not quite touching.

"Do you want to go for a ride?" Lex asked.

"Yes," Bruce said.

"Alice?"

"I have to stay. I'll think up a good story for you," she said. She made a shooing gesture with her hands.

*

Lex tore down the highway. 90 mph. 100. 110. He didn't know what the top speed on this car was.

He had the top down. The sun warmed his scalp even as the wind tugged at his ears, threatening to carry them away. He and Bruce both had their jackets and ties locked in the trunk--it was too warm outside to wear them. Kansas summers hung around.

Bruce's eyes were closed against the buffeting of the wind and his hair was tousled into a thistle-tuft. The sun gilded the fine hair on his forearms.

Lex saw a sign--Baldwin City. That meant he was ten miles outside Metropolis and he'd covered probably fifty miles of highway.

At the next turnoff, he exited the highway. He ended up heading east on a two-lane rural road. The sun hovered on the horizon, glaring into his mirrors.

He saw a field and braked on impulse. He pulled the car over, feeling the passenger-side tires dip into the ditch at the side of the road. Bruce opened his eyes as Lex hopped out of the car and walked into the field.

The grass was knee-high. Golden prairie grass, blades and seedheads studded with thistles and dandelion puffs and waist-high weedy things that looked like dried roses. They tugged at his trouser legs, scattering him with seeds and dry leaves. Curious gnats hovered around his face.

He turned and was face to face with a stand of dead sunflowers. Their heavy, dry heads were bowed to the level of his shoulder, picked clean of kernels. Their desiccated leaves rattled in the wind.

Lex fell to his knees, then his side, sending a puff of dandelion seeds dancing into the air. He rolled over onto his back and stretched out his legs.

He watched the tiny white fluff float over him like the ghosts of gnats. Then Bruce was there, eclipsing the sun. He took off his shirt and dropped it into the grass; the mussed hair and the sun shining behind him made him into a glowing, wild thing.

Bruce sat beside him and unbuttoned his shirt, stroking his naked skin, calming him down. Lex breathed the dry dust of the grass and the smoke smell of autumn.

The clouds in the west were vivid pink. Dusk was creeping in.

The soft, dry grass tickled his ears. Something small walked up his trouser leg. "It's all real, isn't it?" Lex said.

"I think so." Bruce brushed Queen Anne's lace away from his cheek. Lex grabbed the plant at the roots and pulled it down to his level. The tiny white florets crumbled under his fingers.

Lex looked at the pink clouds. "But it's a beautiful day..."

Bruce curled up and rested his head on Lex's chest. Lex stroked his hair and watched dusk creep over them.

*

Bruce was gone. Urgent call from Alfred: something needed signing. He was flying back to Gotham in the LuthorCorp jet.

Muffled sounds still echoed through the enormous house. Clinks and voices: the servants cleaning up.

Normally Lex went to bed at three in the morning. Any more than six hours of sleep, and he woke up with a headache. But tonight he was exhausted; he'd barely had the strength to strip out of his clothes and climb into bed.

He lay still, naked and aching, wrapped up in soft blankets and wishing Bruce were there, if only so that he could do something other than think of his mother.

Kissing Bruce goodbye--Bruce had tried to tell him that he loved him, but Bruce sucked at words. And Lex was good at words, but he couldn't say it either, and he didn't know why. So it was awkward. Which didn't help. At all.

He wanted to curl up on his mother's favorite couch and tell her about Rebecca and Lisa and the adrenaline rush of playing and having an entire audience play with him. He wanted to tell her about the way pretty dresses made him feel. He wanted to tell her what a good boyfriend Bruce was, in general, and how his physics class was making him reconsider his career path--maybe she would have allied with him and made his father give him a little more freedom in his future path.

He wanted to stop thinking about her in the past tense, but couldn't.

He was too tired to cry any more. He was lying on his side; the blankets were pulled up around his chin, blocking out the sounds of the house.

His door opened. His father came in--he'd know that walk anywhere. Lex played possum.

His father sat on the edge of the bed. A cloud of wool and cologne and other people's cigars hung around him. He touched Lex's back through the blankets, resting his hand there quietly. He was silent for a few long minutes.

"I remember when you were born," he said. "Your mother was in labor for two days. She sent me out of the room, you know; she said it was my fault. She said if I didn't have such a damned big head, it all would have been over with in an hour." He chuckled. "When you were finally born--you had more hair then than you do now. Little red curls. You screamed the house down, furious at being born. You were always headstrong, even from the start."

Lex was quiet, feeling his father's hand through the blankets. Not pushing, not pinning, just there.

Lionel wasn't using his public voice. He sounded softer, gentler--it was a tone he'd only used with Lex's mother since Lex started going through his Difficult Adolescence. Lex remembered, though--one fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish, giggling inside his father's coat. Or his earliest memory, three years old, sitting in his father's lap reading out the letters of the stock pages.

He pictured his father sitting over him like a lion in a power suit and wanted to see his face. Wanted to see into him. Wanted to know--if he loved him, or if that was an act.

"How long have you and Bruce Wayne been more than friends?" his father asked, using his public voice again.

Lex opened his eyes and looked at the blackness of the room. "I seduced him the day after my fourteenth birthday."

His father made a small noise in the back of his throat. "You're very good at hiding, Lex."

"I told Mom."

"Well, if you insist on being gay, I can't fault your choice in partners. Perhaps I'll speed up the WayneTech alliance plans." He laughed, and there was the too-familiar edge of mockery in it.

Lex drew his knees in tighter to his chest, pressing them against the pain in his belly. He was naked--he felt naked, like a hermit crab out of his shell. "Dad. Stop."

His father was silent. Lex tried to breathe around the stone in his throat.

"I realize that I don't always say it," his father said; his voice was muffled slightly, and Lex realized he was facing away; "but I am proud of you, and I do love you."

Facing apart, but there was nothing between them. His father was telling the truth. He knew it like he knew his name.

Lex closed his eyes again and breathed. His father's hand moved up to his shoulder, squeezing softly.

He couldn't say it. He felt it--like a string on his heart that his father always held, sometimes painfully, sometimes like the most precious thing in the world. But he couldn't speak the words, not in their entirety. "You too, Dad."

His father touched his head then, leaning over as if he were going to attempt a kiss; instead, he pulled away and stood up. "Goodnight, Lex."

"Goodnight," Lex whispered.

end.



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