by Basingstoke

by Basingstoke (


Lex was curled up with his head in his mother's lap. Twelve years old. Lionel could see the beginnings of adolescence in his bones, melting away his round cheeks, making him gangly and unpredictable.

Lily was looking out the window, watching the sunset, stroking Lex like a cat. Her eyes were red and swollen with shed tears.

Both of them still wore their pajamas. There was a tray on the table by the bed, though, so he supposed they had eaten.

"Lily," he said. She startled and looked up.

"Lily, we have to talk--" The funeral. The gravestone. She knew the--etiquette, the way to do these things.

"No," she said. "He was cold, Lionel. We don't have anything else to talk about, not today."

Twenty-nine days old--not yet a month, not yet baptized. Julian would never be difficult, never talk back. Never talk. Julian had looked back at him--he'd shown that spark that let Lionel know he was human--but he'd never do anything else.

Lionel closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened them again, Lily was looking out the window and Lex was crying quietly.

He sat beside Lily, opposite Lex, and Lex buried his face in his mother's robe. Lex was a little small, but had jumped every hurdle Lionel had placed before him. He focused his eyes. He talked too much. He had a highly irritating personality, full of vinegar and defiance.

Lionel rested his head on Lily's shoulder. He touched Lex's head, smoother even than Julian's had been.

Lex looked up with his green-gray eyes. He'd been born with blue eyes, but like the rest of him, they'd changed.

Lionel stroked his head and patted his shoulder. Lex crawled over his mother's lap into Lionel's arms. He rubbed his cheek on Lionel's suit coat, leaving a saltwater mark.

He hadn't held Lex for a long time, a very long time. Since--since he was in the hospital after the meteor shower. He'd carried Lex to the ambulance. Lex had walked out on his own. He'd been light, then, a child; now he was heavy, a little man.


Lionel hugged him. Lily kissed the top of his head. Lex curled up between them.


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