by carlanesses

Lionel can't be sure if Lex is even awake. His son's hand moves a little, his left hand (and hadn't Lex been right-handed before - ?), worrying at the one red tuft that hasn't fallen out on its own. He has been pale and insubstantial for far too long now, like he might fade at any moment, overwhelmed by a world too solid for his body.

It's been a hundred thousand years, and Lionel can still feel the rage and terror seething beneath his skin. This compulsion is strangling him, this biochemical imperative to utterly obliterate any threat to his young. He wonders that his hands aren't shaking with it.

He wonders if Lillian feels this every day.

Luthors don't panic. But his pampered, hesitant little boy is an irradiated husk of pain; and too much coffee is eating a hole in his gut; and he can't remember where Lillian went off to or how long he's been pacing beside this damn hospital bed. He drops into a chair and bows his head, but it isnt praying. Just sort of letting the hurtling tangle of himself freeze for a moment. And another moment after that.

Just before he falls despite himself into an uneasy sleep, he thinks he understands why Lex doesn't thrash against his burns.

He wakes at a sound from the bed. Lex is awake, peering at his hand.

"Lex!" Lionel is up and looming over him, voice tight and harsh. "Whatever possessed you to go into that goddamn field?" A piece of him curls in expectant shame, at himself and at the way he knows Lex is going to stammer now and shrink away.

But that isn't what happens. Lex doesn't move for a long moment, still staring at the hand curled near his face. Finally he lifts his eyes, looks straight into Lionel's own, and they're wide but devoid of fear. His face splits with an unrecognizable grin. Lionel's son has never smiled like that in his life.

"The field . . ." - his voice is a cracked whisper - "I went into the field to get away from you."

He passes out then, small hand loosening to reveal the last sad clump of hair, no longer clinging to his scalp. Lionel backs away.

Two weeks later, when Lex regains consciousness again, Lionel hears about it on a cellphone in Hong Kong. Even there he remembers the way just a few of the hairs had glittered where theyd been yanked out at the roots.

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