He took a deep breath before entering the room.
With the breakfast tray balanced in his left hand, his right hand was still glued to the doorknob. All it needed was a simple turn but there was nothing simple at all about what he was about to do.
In fact, it was so complicated, it felt like he'd forgotten the simplest things.
Like how to breathe.
Taking his time, he managed to enter without upending the tray or himself. It was quite an accomplishment. A shame this would never go down in any of the history books Fate was waiting to writing for him, its pen poised and already dipped in poison.
"Lex?" His father's voice was as strong as ever. No surprise there. "Did you remember the newspaper?"
"Yes," he answered. "I have your breakfast too."
"Excellent." Lionel Luthor shifted beneath the comforter, straightening himself against the headboard. "Let's get started then."
The tray table was already in place. Lex put the food in front of his father, removing a superfluous rose vase. He pulled up a chair and sat, the latest version of The Daily Planet already folded to the business section.
"Shall I start with the headlines or the quotes?"
"The headlines. And why did you take away the flowers?" Lionel asked.
Lex stared at him. "How do you know I took away the flowers?"
"I could smell them when you put the tray down. I can't anymore." Lionel made a lazy gesture with his hand, then smiled. "Amazing how the other senses compensate for the loss of one, isn't it?"
"Yes, it is amazing. Do you want them back where they were?"
"No." Lionel chuckled. He sounded liked the craftiest blind man on the planet. Long fingers steepled across his chest as he waited expectantly, unseeing eyes half-lidded. "Headlines, please."
Lex read them off obligingly. Memories of formal recitals and oral exams returned with a vengeance. It was the same plodding voice he'd used to read passages from Oedipus and The Iliad, the bored voice his instructor detracted points from his grades for. He told Lex he made the classics sound tiresome, supposedly no mean feat, even if he was reciting them in ancient Greek.
He told the instructor to go screw himself -- in Latin.
It was the first of his many expulsions.
"Is there anything here that interests you?" Lex asked after he finished. "I thought the Tannerville-Sachs merger was worth noting."
Lionel snorted. "You would. Read me the article about the Farnsworth downsizing. Is it over four-thousand?"
"Just under. Thirty-five hundred."
"Huh. Never mind then," Lionel said crisply. "There's nothing of interest today. Except for breakfast." He felt around the tray for his fork. "What's on the menu here?"
Lex put the paper down. "Eggs, toast, peaches and juice."
"Peaches, eh? With cream or without?"
"With," Lex replied. He inched the plate into what he thought was a better position.
"With cream. I see." Lionel put down the fork. "Lex," he said quietly. "Give me your hand."
"Pardon me?" Surely, he must have heard wrong. "What did you say?"
"I said, give me your hand." Lionel held out his own expectantly. "Come on."
For the first time in his life, Lex was glad his father couldn't see his look of utter revulsion. He cursed silently. "All right," he said testily, placing his palm right above his father's, still not quite able to touch.
The hand that grasped his was warm, soft and utterly unyielding. "I want you to know something, Lex."
He resisted the urgent urge to pull away. "Yes?"
"I'm not going to die," he said, giving Lex's fingers a quick squeeze before releasing them. "So you don't have to worry."
"When did I say I thought you were going to die?" Lex shakily wiped his hand on his pants. "I never said I thought you were going to die."
It was strange how a man could still look knowing even while blind. "I don't eat peaches with cream. That was your mother. Remember?"
A protest twisted through Lex's gut. "Dad ..."
A wave of Lionel's hand cut him off. "It's all right, Lex. I just don't want you worrying. That's all."
"I'm not worried," Lex snapped. "I just thought you'd like them. I won't bring them again, if that's the case." He exhaled heavily. "I wasn't worried."
"Of course you weren't." A sharp crunch of toast. "Now you can read off the quotes. And remember, if our stock's gone down, it's all your fault."
Slowly, Lex picked up the paper and resumed his recital.
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