False Dawn

 

RATING: NC-17

CATEGORY: Angst, First Time, Romance

PAIRING: Lex/Bruce Wayne

DISCLAIMER: I couldn't handle owning these two.

AUTHOR'S NOTES: Love to my betas: dana, karen, janet and ilexa - you guys rock! Thanks for all the support and encouragement, guys. xoxox

SUMMARY: The backstory of Bruce Wayne and Lex Luthor.


**********

Part One       Part Two      Part Three      Part Four      Part Five

 


PART ONE

White frosted the gray stone building, muffling the echoing voices in the courtyard as Lex crunched through the new snow. It was dark, but the yellow glow filtering out through the windows of the dormitory provided enough light to see by, not that there was anything much to see this time of night. Hands tucked into his pockets, skin tight with the chill in the air, he missed the wool he routinely denied needing.

His breath puffed small misty clouds as he strode past the stone tables that would come alive with his peers and their lame preoccupations when the season changed. He'd never joined in, never been asked. Never bothered to care, either.

His bald pate gave them all something to stare at, and even the ones who made an effort still stole too-long glances at it, like the mysterious story of how it came to be was written in fine print on the pores of his scalp.

He didn't care, though, let them stare. They couldn't possibly look at it as much as he had. Besides, they accepted him on the surface, enthusiastically taking advantage of his more questionable connections in the outside world.

At any given time and for the right price, he could have two cartons of cigarettes and a bottle of whatever alcohol he willed at the north wall, just beyond the big oak. The first round was always on the house, a sales tact that had made him very wealthy and very popular in itself.

Even after last semester's close call with the dean of liberal arts, Lex maintained the business, although at a more discreet level than he had before.

Unfortunately, keeping things close to his chest meant no more daytime pickups. Hence, his excursion tonight, trudging through snow and risking another curfew violation on his record.

Fortunately the headmaster had found an equally odd man out for his roommate when Lex's father had suddenly insisted that he not be treated any different than the other boys. Lionel had apparently demanded that Lex share his quarters and meals with other students, among other lesser tortures. Once again, his father had been inspired by some random word or event and Lex was being taught another obscure lesson that he was sure someday he'd see the point of.

No clues as to what it might be yet, not from father or headmaster or roommate.

He didn't mind very much, as long as he could keep up the modicum of social interaction and meaningless conversation. There was nothing worse than wasting time on a person who was giving him nothing in return. He'd learned *that* lesson on his own, his first semester here.

Bruce didn't threaten to impose though, and it looked like he agreeably ignored Lex's little entrepreneurship, meaning Lex could keep it up a while longer, until he'd saved enough to buy a car and get the hell out of Dodge.

Hell, he might even escape this place friendless, if Bruce Wayne's propensity for brooding silence kept up.

As far as cohabitants were concerned, Bruce was actually almost enjoyable. He had interesting quirks, like the fact that he sharpened every one of his pencils every other night, and folded his dirty laundry so well Lex never had a clue as to which stack was clean and which stack was meant for the laundress.

The fastidious behaviors struck Lex as endearing rather than obsessive. The gentle childhood habits instilled in Bruce's daily routine by a well-born mother, perhaps.

Bruce was clean, organized, mannered. His occasional huffing in frustration over some assignment wasn't as annoying as it had been at first. He didn't intrude on Lex's space or touch Lex's things.

Once, he'd raised his eyebrows and offered Lex a bottle of water.

Lex matched his gesture with a flask of brandy and been shocked that Bruce had taken it, lips touching gently to the mouth, and tilted his head back, neck stretching and moving slowly with long swallows. The flask was a lot lighter when he'd handed it back to Lex, and Lex had sprawled back on his twin bed, whipped off his tie and watched Bruce sharpen his pencils.

The door of their building closed with a solid thunk behind him and he took the steps two at a time, anxious to be in the safe darkness behind the solid door of their room.

He soft-stepped across the wood flooring of the hallway, turning the doorknob slowly and leaning against it to muffle the sound of the latch opening. He slipped in and closed it just as carefully as he had opened it, ears wide open and listening for footsteps outside the door.

Turning, he jumped a foot in the air and hissed a curse. "Fuck, Bruce! You scared the shit out of me."

Bruce sat silhouetted against the blue-gray glow of the sky outside their window, the corner of his twin bed dipping low under his weight. His head fell forward and Lex walked wide of him, setting his latest stash on their desk.

Big hands were clasped together between spread legs, knuckles against forehead, like Bruce was praying.

Lex leaned against the desk, wishing the north wall was 50 yards further away than it was so he would have come in after whatever this was had ended.

As it was, the silence made his skin crawl. He shifted his weight, tucked his hands in his pockets, crossed his ankles. Bruce didn't move.

Another minute ticked off on the clock above their desk and Lex licked his lips, shrugged. "Still up, huh?"

Sixty clicks and Lex sighed and moved to crouch on the floor next to Bruce, who jerked away like he hadn't noticed Lex until then. "Listen, Bruce. I know you're not… hell, I don't really know anything I guess. But I'm not tired either."

Lex faltered, stood up and went to his backpack, pulling out the new bottle of tequila and a lime. He tossed the lime at Bruce and a quick hand closed over it with a smack.

"Ever done shots?"

The lime lobbed back to him and he caught it, shrugged and set the bottle down.

"Okay. Well, I only drink alone on birthdays and Christmas, so fuck that."

When Bruce's black eyes left him for a spot on the floor, Lex stepped on a chair and pushed a ceiling tile up out of its frame, sliding bottle and citrus above it. In two years no one had ever thought to look there during routine and a few not-so-routine room checks.

He yawned behind a fist and turned his back to Bruce's unseeing eyes, pulling his shirt and pants off, tossing his socks into the corner along with his shoes. His boxers left him chilled and he climbed into bed, huddling under his covers and folding his pillow under his head. Peeking out behind almost-closed lids, he saw Bruce's face. A study in deep shadows and the frozen glow of snow-light from outside.

Reaching back over his head, Lex gripped the headboard with his fingertips and stretched, working the tightness in his chest out in slow, deep breaths. He relaxed under the warmth of his blankets, and tried to ignore the pull of guilt when he rolled over, turning his back on his statuesque, silent roommate.


***


Panting, running hard through the snow, Lex reached up to wipe his brow. Sweat dripped down his temples and he gasped on every sharp breath, lungs constricting and expanding painfully as he gulped in air. His feet were moving, but he was stationary. All he could see was white and the gray sky above spitting snowflakes the size of quarters.

He jerked awake, propped on his elbows and ears prickling with the sound of Bruce's quiet desperation. Whispered half-words, hints of pleasure lacing through the pained moans and keening, needy noises.

Lex lowered himself slowly down again, turning his head as soundlessly as he could to look. Blinking, he saw Bruce's profile highlighted in pale gray, face shining with sweat, mouth open and lips pulled back, sucking in air in through teeth that glinted white in the dim light.

Under the covers, Bruce's hand moved rhythmically, hips pumping up, the blanket tenting and sinking again and again, fast, in time with every stroke. Lex licked his lips and held his breath, his hand sliding from his side and tucking under his own covers.

He was hard, aching and slick with instant, surprised arousal. Across the room, the soft sound of fabric on flesh quickened and Lex's hand closed on his own length, elastic of his boxers digging into his wrist. The bed creaked beneath the shallow thrusting of his hips and Bruce's breath caught.

Eyes narrowing, locked on his, Bruce stared over at him. For a split second, Lex thought he'd sink into the mattress, but Bruce took a deep breath and turned his head back to the ceiling, licking his lips. He glanced hesitantly at Lex, then looked away again.

Lex hooked his foot in his bedding and kicked hard, the rush of cool air on his flushed skin so good. He looked over at Bruce again and saw him watching, one hand fisting the edge of his blanket, lifting it slowly. Lex steeled himself and pushed the last of his inhibitions aside, peeling out of his boxers and tossing them to the floor.

Bruce's blankets slid from the foot of his bed.

"Fuck, yes…" whispered hard, slicing through the air and when Lex dared another glance, Bruce's eyes were squeezed closed, hand slowly jacking his thick length again.

Bruce changed completely, mouth moving more than Lex had ever seen it move. He was larger than life, breathtaking with a subtle nobility Lex had never noticed before, tan skin almost glowing at the crest of every muscle, the head of his cock peeking out of the top of his big fist on every downstroke.

Breath eluded him and Lex didn't care, didn't mind the rush a lack of oxygen could bring. Not one bit. Not naked, thrusting into his moist palm and watching Bruce fuck his own fist like he was alone, like Lex wasn't trying desperately to match his strokes, to imagine the taste of the line of hair trailing down to the center of Bruce's attention.

Lex pumped his cock in smooth motions, keeping his rhythm ragged and varying the pressure because he was nervous, fuck, jacking off in full view of another guy and *nervous* about coming.

His tongue licked out and tasted the salt on his upper lip and he wanted *more*, wanted to touch Bruce and know what he felt like, what he smelled like. God, wanted to feel those hands on his body instead of his own.

A low grown drew Lex's attention and he stared over at Bruce. Across the room, miles away, slim hips rocked hard, ass clenching at the top of every thrust, lifting completely off the bed now with a determination that made Lex tighten inside, muscles flexed and coiled in anticipation.

Body arching up in the air, hand sliding impossibly fast, Bruce grabbed for his pillow and pushed it over his face, his pained cry of release loud and violent even under four inches of thick down and cotton.

Lex's body reacted, cock flexing in his stunned, motionless fist, pleading with him and he didn't hesitate, mind racing at the thought of Bruce watching him like that, those dark eyes open, seeing him fucking himself, bringing himself off like he always did.

And fuck, *yes*, his left middle finger was in his mouth before he realized it, tongue knowing the routine and automatically swirling around it, slicking it and pushing it out, hand moving down and underneath to tease his hole. The nail scraped his fragile skin and he sucked in air, shut his eyes as Bruce shifted on his bed and made a quiet, surprised sound.

He could do this, could get off on Bruce knowing that he was this dirty. Knowing that he liked… this. Finger slipping inside, he groaned and tilted his head back, pushing it into his pillow, scalp brushing the headboard as he moved and moved, hips rolling and finger twisting, hand twisting, cock full and aching.

He rolled onto his side and opened his eyes, biting down on a shocked cry at the sight of Bruce's smooth chest right *there*. So close, every inch of Bruce within reach beside his bed, kneeling down, leaning in, and Lex didn't know whether to laugh or cry or cream when Bruce's hand covered his own, stroking his cock with him.

Light flashed behind his eyes and he closed them, opened them again fast and saw Bruce's face, calm and beautiful, moving closer to his own. The hand on his tightened and Bruce's slick fingers slipped between his, thick and strong. Lips brushed his collar bone and Lex shuddered, body too alive with every sensation. He needed the pain to ground himself, sank his finger in as far as he could reach and ground his ass down into the mattress, pressing deep inside himself, finger hooking sharply.

Bruce closed in, licking his lips, glancing down at Lex's cock and God, *fuck*, his eyes heavy and slow like he was memorizing Lex's body.

Eyes rolling up in his head, Lex stretched up and licked Bruce's mouth open, pulled his fingers from between Bruce's and wrapped them on the back of Bruce's neck, holding him there. Lex thrust into the fist that glided up and down his shaft, hips lifting off the bed as Bruce kicked the pace up a notch, sending him spiraling over the edge.

Red light pressed in behind his closed eyes, mind blank as the snow outside but hot, overheated with Bruce's hands on him, Bruce's tongue licking deep into his mouth. Hips stabbing up in uncontrollable thrusts, he came in the tight sheath of Bruce's hand, spurting hot streams that pulsed in waves clear to his chest, sending his heart into a desperate rhythm and ruining his already ragged breathing.

He jerked his head away from Bruce's kiss, gulping air and shifting to tuck in closer against golden skin, trembling as Bruce stroked lightly, emptying him completely.

One side of his face mashed hard into the pillow and he winced as Bruce moved away, standing and going to his dresser. He brought back a handkerchief, wiping Lex carefully as he lay panting and stunned, incapable of any thought beyond *more*.

Strong fingers pushed his thighs apart and Lex raised his head, anxious and a little terrified, heart pounding so loud he was sure Bruce could hear it.

The soft cotton wiped between his legs, brushing over his hole and on either side of his sack, then disappeared. The intimacy sent chills up his spine, made him suppress the instinctive urge to grab onto Bruce and pull him down into another slow, soft kiss.

Lex watched with amusement as Bruce opened the square of cloth, carefully fold it, and tucked it under a couple of school-issue shirts in what must have been the laundry stack.

Bruce looked back at him for a long moment, body shrinking as if under the weight of thoughts Lex wasn't willing to think yet.

Bruce bent and picked up his own covers and climbed into bed.

Lex couldn't explain the regret that ruined his endorphin rush. He shouldn't have expected anything else - the two of them couldn't sleep in one bed. Obviously.

Still, Bruce rolled away from him, silent and shut-off again. Like the two of them were completely alone.

Lex felt like cussing, jumping up and demanding something, some connection beyond this but knew if he did, he'd never have even this again. And he had no idea what Bruce might demand of him, either.

He turned on his side and watched the snow fall until false dawn pushed him helplessly into another heated, bleak dream.

 

**


When Lex scraped a sleep-heavy arm across gritty eyes and stretched himself awake, he found the room empty, Bruce's neat stack of dirty clothes gone, along with his shoes and wool coat.

Swinging his legs off the bed, Lex pried himself out from under the covers, the white, thick blanket of snow outside the window reflecting bright, harsh light into their room. He drew the curtains and checked the clock - an hour late for services and he knew his bare scalp would be conspicuously absent among the other boys' neatly-styled church hair.

Fuck. Bruce could at least have woken him. He ran a hand over his head and reluctantly opened the wardrobe door, pulling a pair of not-too-wrinkled pants from their hanger. He'd slip in the back of the chapel and play dumb if anyone asked questions.

He drew on his dress shirt, letting it hang open. His fingers trailed along his stomach and he shivered. Last night… he'd. He and Bruce. *God*.

He wanted to find Bruce - wanted to adjust his thinking to meet however Bruce might have changed. And a huge part, the part that made him sit hard on the foot of his bed, pants pulled up to his knees and forehead resting on his palms, that part wanted to take it all back.

Hell, how could he expect Bruce to behave any differently than he was? Honestly, he wasn't sure he wanted it to happen again, or at least… the same way. Speculation was pointless. Bruce would either bring it up or not, and Lex wasn't about to waste precious time sulking over the possibilities.

He sighed and stood back up, pulling on his pants, buttoning and tucking in his shirt before sliding the belt closed. A rap on the door made him tense with silent half-fear. Someone knew he was there, knew he was late for chapel.

"Mr. Luthor, it's Ms. Andrews - the nurse? Mr. Wayne stopped by and mentioned that you were feeling a bit under the weather and wouldn't be at services this morning. Mr. Luthor? May I come in?"

The soft ring in Ms. Andrews' voice was instant relief, but as he stepped to the door to open it, he realized he was dressed. Stripping off his shirt and the belt, he threw them over a chair and squatted in front of the air grate in their room, leaning his forehead in for a twenty-count.

"Mr. Luthor?"

"Yeah, yes! I'm here. Hang on a minute - I'm um… not dressed." Lex glanced down at his bare stomach, the hints of defined muscles pointing a V under his waistband. Without the belt, the pants sat low on his hips, and even young compared to Ms. Andrews, he grinned at the notion that she might have to glance once or twice at his abs.

Bless Bruce for sending the lovely young nurse to his room - her visit would doubtless win him the chair at their informal evening study and a generous audience to boot. He licked his lips and planted a pitiful, drawn expression on his face in front of their small mirror before opening the door.

Blonde hair falling over one shoulder, Ms. Andrews was a vision in white. The stockings caught Lex's eye and he wondered if her legs were cream or tan beneath them. The buttons of her uniform were opened low, the roundness of one breast catching the light and his attention for a split second.

A hand closed over his forehead and Ms. Andrews clicked her tongue, taking him by the arm and leading him down the hallway. "Now, Lex, you know better than to lie in bed when you should be in the infirmary."

"Yes, Ms. Andrews." He sounded young and admiring even to his own ears. A little too heavy on the young. She was pretty and inarguably *female*, but her perfume had a sharp tang to it that stuck in his throat when he breathed too deeply.

She led him to the small, starkly blank infirmary and sat him gently down on the edge of a cot with a thin mattress. He lay back and instantly, the cold glass of a thermometer slipped between his lips. "Under your tongue, Mr. Luthor."

Lex pushed the thermometer into place like a good little boy and grinned at Bruce's idea of generosity.

He was stuck here on a flat, thin mattress with a pleasant but somewhat fussy woman sticking thermometers in him and earning her keep on a Sunday.

And somewhere, Bruce was sitting quietly in perfect attire, listening to droning music and singing hymns that all sounded like funeral dirges among the youthful tenors of a hundred schoolboys.

Of the two, Lex would have chosen the hard oak of the pew and the warmth of Bruce's thigh mashed against his own over the soft, citrus attention of Ms. Andrews.


**

PART TWO

The day passed slowly, the din of voices pulling him out of half-dreams when the boys switched classes. At one point, he'd tried to sit up and get a look out the small window of the door, but the vigilant nurse had shooed him back into bed, despite his consistent lack of fever.

Finally at dinnertime, he'd convinced her that he was well enough to return to the fray. He walked slowly until he was out of her line of sight, then raced across the grounds to the dining hall, slowing to a casual stroll as he approached the cacophony of voices chattering over their roast beef and mashed potatoes.

"Luthor! Hey!"

Lex drifted to the space that opened for him along one of the long benches, stepping over it to sit in between two boys who would be playing a classic game of catch-the-worm later tonight. He grinned and nodded at their cryptic inquiries about the tequila, then began filling his plate as he glanced around for his roommate. Bruce was good at blending in though, and Lex gave up his search when the guy next to him nudged his elbow.

"I heard you spent the whole day with Ms. Andrews, Luthor. Is it true?"

The mousey boy across from him ogled at him through his explanation of the morning's pseudo illness. His day seemed a lot better as he casually tossed out small details that he knew would earn him envy.

Most of the time, he didn't talk this much to anyone, but tonight everyone seemed interested. Not every young man at Excelsior had the privilege to spend quality time with the fairer sex. Of course, there were a lot fairer than the school nurse, but the way to become memorable is to give people something to remember.

So between bites he answered their questions about stockings and fevers until he felt eyes on the back of his head and began pushing his food around his plate, anxious for the headmaster to dismiss them.

When the old crow finally did, he slipped out the side door and avoided the cattle push through the main doors. It was a longer walk, more time in the frigid evening air, but he barely noticed the frost that formed in his lungs as he made his way to their dormitory.

It was dark in the hallways, the boys' room lights all serving to light his way. He heard the rush of healed shoes on hardwood floor behind him and half-ran the rest of the way to his room. Study wasn't for an hour, now, and it wasn't mandatory, though he planned on going for the sake of his reputation and profits.

The light from his room shone through the opened door and he burst in, kicking the door shut behind him. Bruce sat on his bed, still wrapped in long, thick wool, staring at a book on his lap.

"Bruce! Hey! Thanks for letting me sleep in." Lex crossed the room and unbound his neck, tossing the tie on their desk. "I spent the whole day with Ms. Andrews or I would have found you sooner."

"I didn't know she'd take you hostage." Bruce's voice was low but good, *such* a relief after the whole day's unavoidable silence between them.

"Yeah, she wouldn't stop taking my temperature. I finally convinced her I was fine and she let me go. I didn't see you at dinner."

"I was there." Bruce stood, giving him a long, thoughtful look, then moved to the door just as Lex toed off his shoes.

"I didn't see you." Lex took a step towards him, not sure what to do with his hands. Not sure he should even be thinking about what to do with his hands. "Bruce…"

His eyes were caught and held, Bruce's gaze unrelenting and Lex almost scared to blink.

He wanted to ask something, wanted to *have* something from Bruce. Some undeniable confession or rejection so he could just get on with this whole thing, one way or another.

The right question was on the tip of his tongue, but when he opened his mouth it morphed into, "Are you going to the evening study?"

"No." A gloved hand reached up to a hook beside the door and Bruce wrapped a thick scarf around his neck, tucking it into his coat.

"Where are you- are you going out?"

"A walk. A long one." Bruce turned from the door and went to their desk, rifling through a stack of papers and laying down the book in his hand, picking up another one. Perusing their bookshelf for God only knows what title.

Finally, Lex moved, sprung into action. He wasn't used to Bruce's brand of unspoken invitation, if that's what his apparently unpurposeful fidgeting was. It wasn't calligraphy, but it sure felt a hell of a lot like Bruce was stalling, waiting for him to ask to go along.

Maybe Bruce was waiting for *him* to decide what last night meant. It made sense, even if he felt a little rattled at the idea of *him* leading *Bruce* into… God, *anything*.

They could probably just let the complicated stuff slide, just hang out and talk for once instead of ostensibly laying conversation aside for studies or thoughts. Lex stepped back into his shoes, heels scraping as he wedged them on, not bothering with the laces.

"I could use some fresh air after all day in the infirmary. Formaldehyde and perfume should never be worn at the same time." Lex waited for confirmation.

A quick glance at Lex's feet and Bruce stood up, bookless. "Do you have boots?"

Lex nodded and pulled off his shoes again, digging in his wardrobe for his stout hiking boots he'd never bothered breaking in.

"I'm going to tell Mr. Evans we'll be in the library archives. Wear your coat." The door shut hard behind Bruce and Lex stared at it for a second, half giddy, half terrified, before blinking himself back into action and tugging on the boots.

He met Bruce in the hallway, noticing quickly that they were dressed almost identically. They usually were, thanks to the school's dress code, but they seemed more alike tonight somehow. Gray coats long and touching the backs of their calves, leather gloves shining subtly in the dim hallway.

"Ready?" Bruce didn't wait for him to answer. Just turned on a solid black heel and started walking. Lex trailed along behind, trying to look casual in his long strides.

The night air whipped tears into Lex's eyes and made him huddle against himself, arms tucked in close to his ribs and hands buried in his coat pockets. Bruce cut a clean path through the snow that was beginning to deepen on the school's cement walkways. They trudged in a steady rhythm to the library, Lex carefully stepping in Bruce's footprints on the icy stone steps.

Inside, the sting of heat on chilled skin made Lex edgy. "The archives, Bruce? Tell me you're kidding."

Bruce didn't turn around, but he held a hand up to stop Lex in his tracks. "Wait here."

Lex stood under the yellow glow of an ancient, dusty sconce. The walk had been quick and the center of his chest tickled with the first hint of perspiration. He breathed deeply and turned a little so the fabric of his shirt would brush against it.

Across the foyer filled with trophy cases and pictures of long-dead award winners, Bruce was speaking in hushed tones to the librarian, who smiled and gestured and nodded with more animation than Lex would have suspected her capable of. She was withered and small, streaky gray hair tied back in a severe bun, glasses caught on the rounded tip of her nose. She seemed almost smitten with Bruce. From a woman who routinely expressed her distaste for young boys in general, it was surprising to say the least.

Lex wondered if next time, Bruce would let him try to charm the old meerkat into letting them into her den.
Bruce pointed back at Lex and the librarian's tight lips closed, but she nodded. Bruce was almost smiling as he waved Lex to him and turned into the stacks.

The archives were down two flights of stairs, in the cool, stale air of the sub-basement below the library proper. Volumes and sheafs of papers crowded the sturdy metal shelves, and there was less space here, the rows narrower and the ceiling maybe four feet lower.

The silent close-quarters were wearing on Lex, the scrape of their shoes on the cement floor too loud among all that history written by dead hands. It was creepy. Lex shivered and looked at Bruce, who seemed right at home.

"So, come here often?" Lex reached out and slid his fingers along the spines of books as he followed Bruce to the back of the room.

"Often enough. Give me a hand." Bruce reached to the top of a shelf and retrieved a key.

Lex cocked his head to the side and shrugged. "Sure." A hand, a mouth, anything.

Bruce gripped the shelving unit on one side and nodded at Lex to take the other. They scooted it out from the wall, spilling a couple of books as they easily moved it over in line with another unit.

Bruce squatted and slid the books back into their rightful spaces on the shelf. "When the maintenance crew notices, they block it, but she doesn't care if I use it. She thinks I stay down here all night going through all of this and sneak out before classes in the morning."

Lex followed Bruce's eyes and saw a door where the shelf had been, a thick door with a dull brass handle.

A smile spread on Lex's face and Bruce slipped the key in the hole and pulled the door open. "So… not the archives?"

"No."

"Good. I was beginning to think you had a thing for books."

"Come on." Bruce stepped through the door and Lex followed him into darkness. "Close the door behind you.

Lex paused for a second before shutting off the light of the archives, then began blindly following Bruce.

As they got further from the light that filtered from under the door behind them, Lex's eyes widened, searching for any scrap of illumination around him. They turned a corner into pitch black.

Fingers in the air to his sides, he touched the narrow passageway, stone walls that felt almost wet they were so smooth and cold.

He heard Bruce breathing softly ahead of him, heard the distance between them growing. Bruce knew the way, not that there was any chance of him getting lost in a straight hallway, but Lex wanted to stay close. The blindness of total darkness made his pulse quicken. He moved faster, toes colliding with something that made him fall forward and he caught himself on stinging palms against the edge of a step.

"Stairs. The railing's a foot to the right."

He huffed out, the breath knocked out of him, then quickly pushed himself up and reached to the right, gloved hand closing hard over a thin rail. "Jesus, Bruce! Warn me next time!"

"There's a landing. You're almost there. Turn right - just keep your hand on the railing all the way up."

They climbed the rest of the stairs, Lex stepping carefully and wondering how the fuck Bruce knew where he was in the absence of light.

At the top, he let go of the railing and before he knew he was going to hit that last step the wrong way, Bruce's hands closed on his arms and yanked him firmly onto the landing. "Careful!"

Lex didn't speak until Bruce's hands slid from his arms. It was a long minute and by the time Bruce let go, Lex had his eyes closed and was leaning close enough to feel Bruce's breath on his face.

The darkness and solitude wasn't so eerie this close to Bruce. It did make him want to whisper, though. "Next time, can we bring a flashlight? Where the fuck are we anyway?"

A door scratched open and Lex threw an arm to his eyes instantly. The light of an empty, snow-filled courtyard was dim but seemed stunning after the complete black of the passageway. He followed Bruce outside, glancing over his shoulder through the closing door. The stairwell was real and empty behind them.

Bruce was already striding across the courtyard and Lex ran a little to catch up. The snow crunched and packed under their steps, deep enough to wet the ankles of his pants after a few minutes. The east wall emerged from the thin curtain of snow that fell and Lex smiled. Leaving the grounds was always on his list of things to do.

Bruce poked his hands into the deep crevices of the stone wall and hoisted himself up, kicking a leg over the top. Lex heard his shoes scuffing on the other side and then the soft whomp as he landed.

Lex stretched up, tucking his hands into the same holes Bruce had used and felt for a toe-hold with the awkward, thick end of his boot. He slipped once, cursed under his breath and tried again, hoping Bruce wouldn't notice how long it was taking.

When he landed with a puff of snow on the other side of the wall, Bruce nodded once and began walking again. They stomped their way from the gray stones of the school, the white-blue glow of a moon Lex couldn't see somehow outlining everything.

The night was hollow and every third breath hitched in his lungs, frosting the insides until they ached with the cold. Bruce was silent, every once in awhile holding back a branch for him or pointing out a tree root after they ducked into the woods.

Winter-dead trees thickened around them but Bruce didn't pause. In fact, he barely looked up. Lex kept his eyes on the tiny bit of skin showing at the top of Bruce's scarf for a long time until he twisted an ankle on a rock and came back to awareness.

Bruce stopped and turned to him, eyebrows slightly raised. "Had enough snow?"

Lex nodded and grimaced as he panted, the icy air squeezing the breath from his frozen lungs. "Enough to last until summer, at least."

"We're going up. Right there."

Lex followed Bruce's point and saw a black area against the hill in front of them. The trees spread a little in front of the opening to the cave. "Okay, yeah. I'm right behind you."

Bruce left him there to catch his breath, climbing smoothly up the side of the hill and melting into the darkness of the cave.

He got his breath quickly under control and scrambled up the way Bruce had gone, pausing at the cave entrance and looking back through the woods. The night sparkled with frosted edging on leaves and limbs, rocks and bark. The snow was slowing, the flakes smaller and more sparse. He took a deep breath and turned back to the cave just as Bruce struck a match.

Shadows sprung up, starting with Bruce's, against the cave walls. It was big, bigger than Lex wouldn't have guessed from outside, and Bruce quickly made a round of the cave, lighting small pots that must've held candles.

"Wow." Lex stepped inside, eyes catching on sharp rock formations and the veins of quartz that glittered wetly in the smooth rock. "It's… wow."

Bruce leaned against a wall and looked up, stalactites throwing shadows across his face and chest. "Yeah."

Lex crossed the expansive cavern, taking in the curves and points, the sticky red-brown floor. It smelled like earth, dirty and mossy. "How'd you find this place?"

"Remember field day last year?" Bruce pushed off the wall and moved to the center of the room where Lex saw a fire pit. He unzipped his backpack and pulled out a blanket and a rain poncho, spreading them there on opposite sides of the pit and sitting down.

"Mm hmm. My father won't let me forget it. He thought I was… well, it was bad. Trust me." Lex joined him on the floor, the intimacy of the flickering candles warming him.

"I went exploring and found it."

Lex couldn't remember seeing Bruce or his parents that day. They must've not come. He knew what that felt like - he'd had always found some other distraction on field day when Lionel hadn't bothered to show up, but it still sucked to look out the window and see all those families smiling.

Even if half of them were faking it.

"My dad travels a lot, too. He's only ever made it to that one. I bet he never misses another one now, though."

Bruce leaned back a little and pulled the matchbox from his pocket, then handed it to Lex and stood, brushing his gloved hands on his coat. "Get that kindling going, would you?"

"Sure." Lex watched Bruce walk across the cave and disappear down a dark passageway. Lex lit a match and held it to the tip of a piece of bark, waiting while it smoldered and finally caught. He looked over his shoulder at the empty cavern. "Bruce?"

After a tense minute, Bruce emerged with an armful of dead branches and small logs. "Just getting the wood. I keep it back there so it stays fairly dry."

"Right. Well, let's have it." Lex reached up for a stick and Bruce handed it to him, rolling the rest of the wood from his arms next to the fire pit. In a few minutes, they had a small blaze crackling. The heat was intense at such a close range, and Lex caught himself shifting back away from it, almost off the edge of his blanket.

He peeled off his gloves and watched as Bruce shrugged off his coat, folding it in half and laying it beside him. He wasn't that brave - it was still chilly and he was sweaty from the brisk pace of the walk. He did unwrap the scarf from his neck and pull the tie's knot loose from his collar though.

Bruce pulled off his gloves, too and held his palms to the fire. "It's better in the spring."

Lex shook his head, completely unwilling to believe that it could be any better than it was right here, right now. He took a breath and scooted forward again, sliding out of his coat and letting it fall behind him, leaning back on bent elbows. The soles of his boots were warm and his feet thawed slowly through the thick rubber. "It's amazing, Bruce."

"I can think here. I like…" Bruce looked at him carefully.

Lex put him out of his misery, knowing what he was going to say. "To be alone? Yeah, me too." He nodded his head out the cave entrance. "They're not really worth the time, you know?"

Bruce nodded and stared at his shoes, arms hooked on the outsides of his spread, bent knees, feet together. It was probably the most relaxed Lex had ever seen him, and still there was this huge *thing* looming in between them. A question of purpose and intent that Lex still wasn't sure he could answer.

The cave was almost bright with the firelight, and Bruce got up and went around the walls, snuffing each candle with wet fingertips. Lex watched his every move, waiting for some hint of where to go, or where not to. The lack of conversation wasn't helping, and he considered trying to fill in the gaps with idle chat, but he'd never really been convincingly good at that.

"Thanks for Ms. Andrews." He didn't mean it like *that*, but Bruce's head jerked up and when Bruce sat down, he sat further away.

"I didn't know she was going to come to the room." Bruce picked up a stick from the woodpile and scraped abstract shapes into the red clay floor of the cave.

"Do you think she's pretty?" And shit, he didn't want to hear the answer to that.

Bruce shrugged. "Lots of the guys think so. She seems… plain to me."

"Like her entire personality is right out in the open for everyone, and it's not very interesting, either."

Bruce looked up then, staring at him with wide, dark eyes. "Have you had… many girls?"

Lex shivered and scooted closer the fire, a nervous smile forming on his lips before he could bite down on it. "Not *many.*"

Bruce grinned at him and he laughed. "Okay, one. Last summer at the country club. She and I were in a riding competition and she won. A congratulatory kiss kind of… grew into more." Lex felt his face flush and he couldn't wipe the smile from his mouth, though he really wanted to.

"What was she like?"

God, how do answer that? Did Bruce mean… in comparison to *him* or just in general?

"Soft. Like silk. Blonde, cupid's bow lips, brown eyes that hid everything." He'd caught her in the stables, crying, cleaning stones from her horse's sore-covered hoof months after she'd ridden him to victory against Lex.

Lex had heard he was going to have be put down and gone straight to the club, knowing she'd be there. "Her horse got sick and she started kissing me and couldn't seem to stop."

"And you stepped up and made her feel better?"

Lex looked away from accusing eyes, staring into the fire for a moment before looking back at Bruce. He knew Bruce could use it against him someday, tease him or out him to the other boys at the school. But then, he knew about Bruce's cave, didn't he?

"No. Actually, I refused. I left her in a half-naked heap on soggy hay, crying her eyes red. "It came out like a dare but Bruce only nodded slowly, the hint of respect and understanding playing in his eyes.

"I've never had a girlfriend." Bruce whispered it, like it was something to be ashamed of, and Lex smiled over at him.

"You're kidding? An outgoing, talkative socialite like you, Bruce? No!"

Bruce leaned over and shoved his arm, toppling Lex back on the floor of the cave. Bruce was on him a split second, thighs straddling his hips and big hands pinning his arms down.

Lex laughed and went slack, not even trying to fight. Bruce leaned back a little, letting up the pressure on Lex's arms, expression changing from unthinking happiness to something entirely different.

Lex talked fast, struggling a little and bucking his hips up. "Oh, sure, you can take me on strength. Give me a foil and we'll settle this like gentlemen."

"You fence?"

"Yeah. You fight?" Lex pushed up with his arms and gained a short centimeter before they slammed back onto the blanket. "Jesus, you're strong. What do they feed you?"

Bruce shook his head slowly, like he hadn't even heard Lex's tease. "I don't know what…"

Lex took up the lag-time, swallowed and locked eyes with Bruce. "I don't either. It's okay though. I… I want it, too."

The hands on his arms slid up, fingers lacing through his as Bruce's weight pressed against his chest and cock. "Just don't…"

Leave. Break his heart. Tell anyone. Expect much.

"I won't, Bruce. You, either."

Faces inches apart, he watched as Bruce licked his lips. He felt his own tongue mimicking. The warm, eager mouth closed on his, finally, and he pushed against Bruce's hands, disentangling their fingers and lacing his through Bruce's hair, tongue licking into the slickness and lips crushed.

The kiss heated all the way down to his hips and he rocked them gently, the heavy rubbing of Bruce's body a maddening trap on his own. His zipper dug into his cock on every press together, and he moaned and arched up hard, thrusting obviously into Bruce's body.

Bruce propped up on one hand and looked at him and Lex waited patiently, hands lying on either side of his head in a mock-surrender. They lay there like that for what seemed like hours, Bruce staring and breathing hard and Lex panting under him.

"You-"

Lex shook his head fast. "I won't do it again." He sighed softly and Bruce shifted off of him, kneeling between his spread legs.

"No. It's not- You need…" Bruce's big fingers reached out to his chest, slipping plastic buttons through their slits. "Can I?"

But he was already halfway done before Lex could speak. Cool air hit his skin, nipples tightening and chest rising as he sucked in a breath. "Jesus, yes."

Bruce spread the halves of his shirt open, warm hands spreading wide on his chest and running from neck to navel and back up over his ribs. Lex closed his eyes and held his breath as Bruce leaned down.

"You're so… smooth." The youthful awe in Bruce's voice was sweet, naïve almost. Lex smiled down at him then moaned softly as Bruce's cheek brushed over a nipple. He felt Bruce move away again, felt knees pushing his thighs further apart then the tip of Bruce's nose cold against his belly, then the cool rush of air as Bruce inhaled deeply.

"Christ." Lex pushed his hips into the cave floor to keep from bucking up as the heel of Bruce's palm pressed against his length. "Fuck, Bruce."

"Can I-" Bruce's whisper wasn't exactly a question.

Lex groaned at a second stroke along his cock, the fabric of pants and boxers sliding and catching, pulling in ways he would never have considered erotic, but now they were. "Yes, anything. *Anything*."

Bruce's hand stopped pressing and caught Lex's hand, pulling him up a little. The backpack slid under his back and Lex leaned awkwardly on it as Bruce wrapped his hands on Lex's sides, fingers pushing in a little between his ribs.

Wet and slick, Bruce's tongue licked across his belly, making Lex jerk up and bite his lip to keep from crying out. He squirmed a little until the hands on his sides gripped him harder.

Bruce looked up out from under his too-long fringe of bangs, face serious and earnest. "Has anyone ever…" Bruce looked pointedly down at the bulge in Lex's pants. "Done *that* to you?"

"Sucked me?" Lex licked his lips and swallowed. "No."

Bruce's eyes fell closed and he ducked his head, one hand sliding from Lex's side to open his pants. Bruce's fist edged under his boxers and pulled out his cock, big hand strong and sure.

"Oh, God. Oh-" Lex let his head fall back and scraped his scalp on a backpack buckle, felt some hard corner from inside the bag pressing into his neck and didn't care. "Bruce, *God*."

A quick suck on his stomach and a soft, "Shhh," and Bruce's mouth was closing around the throbbing head of his cock.

Slippery and soft, so fucking good in there, in *Bruce's* mouth with strong lips wrapped in a tight, moving circle. Lex forced himself to lift his head and look, neck stretching and hand reaching for the hollow of Bruce's cheek, hips carefully still and God, he didn't know how long he could keep from moving.

If the warm contrast between cave air and Bruce's mouth was good, his quick tongue and the back of his throat were unbelievable. He sucked in a regular rhythm at first, pausing to glance up at Lex, who couldn't take his eyes off the flushed lips and cheeks. "Don't stop-" Lex rocked his hips up, groaning when Bruce's mouth slipped off of him and sucked up the side of his cock, teeth brushing along the sensitive skin.

Bruce held his eyes, one hand slipping up between Lex's legs, touching briefly to Bruce's mouth, then pressing firmly up between his thighs. The finger twisted on his hole and Lex tried to relax, felt himself tighten and gritted his teeth as the finger forced its way in, wriggling inside. Lex lost control, hips bucking wildly, Bruce sucking mercilessly up his length, then pulling him back inside as Lex's hands closed on his shoulders.

He couldn't fight Bruce or the mouth on his cock or the impending shock of pleasure that would render him helpless.

"Ah! I'm gonna… Bruce, stop I-" He jerked his hips away but Bruce's hand squeezed his ribs hard, holding him down, the mouth on his cock doubling its efforts as he shoved at Bruce's shoulders, pressing his ass into the cave floor to pull out.

A deep push in his ass and the slurp of Bruce's lips as the slipped on his cock and Lex threw his head back and let go, body spasming under Bruce's weight, hips bucking wildly and back arching as he came in long, hard waves, his deep groans echoing against the walls of the cave.

He lay there panting, head thrashing back and forth on the backpack, hands rubbing and rubbing on Bruce's neck and shoulders. When the dizzy-drunkeness of orgasm finally passed, he looked down at Bruce. Chin digging into Lex's hip, eyes closed, face sweaty and lips smeared, he was stunning. He looked spent, like every weight he normally carried around without complaint had come crashing down on him and he'd just thrown up his hands and sacrificed himself.

Lex stretched up and glanced over Bruce's shoulder. The fire was dying down, the cave darkening and cooling fast.

"I'll get more wood. You… you'd better get dressed." Bruce pushed up and walked back to his hole in the wall, leaving Lex disheveled and chilled.

He lay there shivering, missing the solid warmth of another body against his, the loss too abrupt. He stared at the ceiling, mind clearing in the thin air. A hard ball formed in his throat and he closed his eyes, forcing himself to relax.

When Bruce returned, he looked surprised to see him still lying there. Lex hadn't even zipped his pants and was trying hard not to be embarrassed by his half-hard cock lying wet and shiny against his belly.

Lex let small smile creep across his lips. "Come back down here."

He felt Bruce tense, felt him pull back from the relaxation to total burden again. "We should be getting back, Lex."

It was a flimsy attempt to escape the inevitable, so Lex figured he could push just a little harder and see what happened. "Then why did you get more wood? It's not dawn for hours. Come back down here."

Bruce knelt down beside him and Lex sat up, the wool of Bruce's pants brushing his thigh. "I don't know if I- if we…"

"It doesn't matter." The words failed him and Lex reached out, slipping his hand around Bruce's neck, urging him close. Their lips met and parted, Bruce's hand closing on his thigh as they sank into the kiss.

Head foggy with the smoky earth scent and Bruce so close, Lex shifted his hips, found Bruce's leg by touch and ran his hand up it.

He pulled his other hand down and unfastened Bruce's belt, grasped the neat edge of his tucked in shirt and pulled it up, fingers working as fast as his tongue. Bruce moaned into his mouth, the uninhibited low sound buzzing over his teeth as he slipped his hands inside Bruce's shirt.

His fingers warmed against Bruce's hot skin as he touched, feeling the rigid lines of muscles he'd seen the night before. He knew them already, knew exactly where to rub and press to make Bruce flex, to make him breath hard and hot on Lex's upper lip.

A hand pushed on his shoulder and he leaned away slowly, letting the kiss linger as long as Bruce's lips still met his.

"Lex."

Hand firm and insistent, Lex opened his fingers in a V on either side of Bruce's length, sliding them up and down slowly. "Yes?"

"We should go…" Bruce closed his eyes and swallowed hard, body still and tense under Lex's hands.

Lex leaned down, chest pressing gently on Bruce's until Bruce was on his back on the blanket. "You already said that."

He scooted off, crouching beside Bruce, rocks under the blanket digging into his knees, one hand working Bruce's zipper open, the other reaching inside to free him. He was big, thicker than Lex and he filled Lex's fist, hips moving slowly in opposite cadence with Lex's gentle stroking.

He licked Bruce's belly, not sure where to start, nerves on edge and stomach flipping but he was determined, *anxious* to try it. Bruce's skin glowed orange in the flickering firelight and Lex drank in the sun-warm gold, the faint salt taste lingering on his lips when he licked them and lowered his head.

He breathed warm air onto Bruce's cock and it flexed, responding to him. This was power. Control over Bruce, who was never out of control. He licked out, tongue circling Bruce's head carefully and Bruce arched up, brushing his slick length across Lex's lips.

Lex closed his eyes and took a deep breath, gathering his nerve. His whisper was almost silent, "Tell me if you want me to stop."

Bruce growled as Lex leaned down, taking him in as far as he could. He held still at first, jaw stretched wide, tongue licking around the sides and front, lips closing around the shaft and sucking gently. Wet and slippery, smooth stretched skin and the taste, God, the taste of *Bruce* sliding on his tongue. He bobbed his head once, then sank further down, wanting it all, every inch in his mouth.

Hips thrusting hard, Bruce hit the back of his throat, once, again before Lex had to pull back, his throat working hard in a desperate attempt to stay silent. He choked a little and Bruce's hand closed on the back of his neck, holding him still but *on*, making sure he didn't chicken out.

He hummed when his throat stopped spasming, and started moving again at Bruce's hiss.

"Fuck, yes."

It drove him on, made him want to get it *right*, perfect because even if he hadn't lasted long, being sucked was the most incredible thing he'd ever experienced.

He pulled off and licked around the shaft again, teeth biting into the soft skin beside Bruce's hipbone, quick and sharp, eliciting a little whimper and Bruce's voice, changed to something too obvious, begging him, "Yes, like that, Lex. Do that again."

And Lex wasn't sure if he meant this, but it couldn't hurt to try… *anything*. He licked his lips and carefully closed his teeth on Bruce's cock, skimming them from base to tip. Bruce shuddered and the hand on his neck squeezed too tight, painfully tight, yanking him off and away. One short second of doubt and regret and then Bruce's hand closed on his cock, jerking fast and hard.

Lex watched from inches away as Bruce shook and rocked with his orgasm, come spurting in long, thin trails up the center of his chest. Bruce's hand went slack, elbow falling to the blanket. Lex bent and licked, mouth closing and sucking hard, smearing a thick, messy line up Bruce's side, all the way up his neck, over his stubbly chin to his mouth. Bruce shuddered beneath him and groaned into the kiss.

Bruce's hand slid from his neck, reconnecting on his hip and pulling, guiding Lex on top of him. Careful not to break the kiss, he gingerly straddled Bruce's legs, their half hard cocks brushing together, making them both shake hard against each other, hands squeezing skin and holding on tight. They breathed the same air, their flavors mingling in the kiss until Lex couldn't tell where he ended and Bruce began.

When Lex's eyes fluttered open as an afterthought, he saw Bruce staring back at him.

 


PART THREE

The snow seemed crisper on their way back to the school. Dawn's eerie blue light had crept up on them, shining too brightly into the wide mouth of the cave, pulling Lex's eyes open. Bruce had already packed everything but the blanket Lex lay on. He stretched his frozen muscles, smiling up at Bruce when he was offered a gloved hand.

He'd taken it and bundled up quickly, folding the blanket sloppily and shoving it into Bruce's pack before following him out of the cave.

The wall was ten feet taller in the morning, apparently, and slicker too, every stone's edge coated with ice. Bruce cupped his hands together and nodded at Lex, who took the offered hoist up, scrambling over the wall that scraped his chest through wool and cotton both. Bruce followed him over easily, graceful and sure-footed. Lex smiled his admiration at him as he landed, but Bruce didn't see.

It wasn't late. In fact, Lex was sure they had plenty of time to get back before breakfast, but as they got closer to the buildings, Bruce's strides lengthened and once a minute Lex had to half-run to catch back up. Bruce was taller than he, and bigger too - broader and more developed, more… adult.

Lex didn't mind following him for some reason, though there were few at the fine institution who could ever say they'd led Lex anywhere. Bruce commanded without ordering. He walked without looking to see if Lex was behind him. They stepped hard through the top crust of frozen snow, feet crunching along in a regular, brisk rhythm. Lex found himself puffing into his gloves, wondering if the meteors had actually cured his asthma after all.

When the first building came into sight, Lex realized they were fucked. The school grounds were dotted with wool-draped figures, drab brown and gray against the brilliance of the snow. They were moving fast along the pathways, grouping into little clumps and separating again in different directions.

Bruce's pace slowed, and when he stopped, Lex nearly ran into him.

"They know."

Lex looked from the serious frown on Bruce's face to the rushing student-ants and back again. "They know what, exactly?"

Bruce's eyes caught his and Lex's heart stopped.

He shook his head and started walking towards the school. "No. No, they don't know. They just know…" He stopped again, looking over his shoulder and seeing Bruce where he'd left him.

"That we snuck off the grounds, Lex. That we were gone all night."

Lex glanced at the school again and smiled back at Bruce and shrugged. "They'll suspend us. Call our parents. Dad will have a field day."

"We could say one of us got lost."

Lex thought about it, hating himself for being so willing to protect… whatever this was between them. "But then they'll want to know what we were doing in the woods. They can't find the cave. I'll just… I'll say we snuck off campus to meet some girls." He paused, waiting for Bruce's reaction but didn't get one. "Okay?"

Bruce nodded once and strode past him, and Lex followed him in silence.

**

"Son, you have to ---- responsibility. I'm not spending ---- so you can chase ass."

The line was bad and maybe his dad wouldn't hear. "Like you didn't do it when you were here."

"Careful, son." The phone crackled in his ear again and Lex held it an inch away. "Destroy yourself on your own dime, Lex. Don't let your damnfool headmaster call me again."

The unstable connection was broken and Lex listened to the silence for another minute, nodding and yes-sirring, ducking his head and dropping his shoulders. When his headmaster smirked victoriously, Lex hung up the phone and slumped in his chair.

"Well?"

"He says he'll deal with me in person - over the holidays."

"Very well. Return to your room. You are confined there for the duration of the evening. No meal. Your class work has been gathered and delivered to your room. I expect to hear that you've completed it when I check with your instructors tomorrow."

"Sir?" Lex glanced up hopefully, shifting a little in his seat in a mock-hesitation. "Are you punishing Bruce? He didn't… I mean, I really dragged him along… kind of. He kept saying we shouldn't go and I kept daring him."

"Covering for your friend, huh, Luthor? Don't concern yourself with Mr. Wayne. He's been…" The ancient crone patted the slab of wood that was worn smooth from all the punishments he'd dolled out over countless years to countless boys. "… dealt with."

Lex focused on his shoes and refused to see the satisfied smile that spread across the headmaster's face. "May I be excused, sir?"

The man knew better than to try to hit a Luthor. Lionel may strike his son, but Lex was sure he would never give that kind of power to a man of so little character. Maybe to no other man at all.

"Go."

Lex walked slowly to the door of the office and slipped out, breathing in relief at the empty corridor, racing as fast as he could all the way to the exit. He slowed his pace and followed the path to their dorm under the hazy sun, sweating and aching with every step. Bruce would be there, waiting for him, deliberately *not* sulking or clueing Lex in on his punishment.

They were both too proud for commiseration, no matter whose hand was delivering the blows.

Lex pushed the door of their room open slowly, stepping in quietly and throwing his jacket over the desk chair. Bruce was huddled under the covers, the soft edge of comforter touching high on his ear, his face hidden beneath striped cotton. Lex closed the blinds and turned off the room light. He kicked his shoes off at the foot of his bed and stood there, hands in his pockets, not wanting to face the silence of the room. Of Bruce.

The oddly rebellious feeling of unbuttoning his shirt and slipping it off was too good to ignore. Lex took a deep breath and reached for his belt, slid it out of the loops and laid it across the foot of his mattress.

Months of sleeping feet away had taught Lex the intimate sounds Bruce made, from sleeping to thinking, the quiet brooding and the too-quick, awkward laughs of nervousness. He'd learned them all, paid attention to every sound without even realizing it. Probably because any sound was rare. He listened for anything telltale at all from his roommate, and now, he heard the deceptive cadence of perfect sleep breath.

Bruce's breathing was regular and deep, and for anyone else, it would have been a plausible sleep-pattern, but for Bruce it was unusual, too perfect.

Lex wondered how far he could take the farce, how long Bruce would hold out before he broke. He moved to Bruce's side and sat gently on the edge of the bed, one arm making a bridge over Bruce's back, his other hand slowly peeling the covers down to reveal golden skin. He skimmed his knuckles gently down miles of skin, inching the covers below Bruce's waist, earning the slightest twitch from Bruce's hips.

The breathing stayed constant though, and Lex smiled at the challenge. He slowly leaned away and lifted the covers up, dropping them softly on the thin carpet. Bruce wore boxers, one leg straight and one bent to the side, his arms wrapped around his pillow, body stretched and taut in the false sprawl, muscles working almost imperceptibly to hold the position as Lex slid his fingers up under the edge of a boxer leg.

The fine, curled hair of Bruce's leg was soft and Lex closed his eyes, slid his hand higher up the back of Bruce's thigh to his ass, fingers carefully light on the hot, abused skin.

A sucked-in breath and Lex's smile faded as Bruce rolled over too look at him, the movement forcing his hand to slide out again.

Lex held his gaze as long as he could, then nodded at Bruce's hips, licking his lips and softening his voice with practiced gentility. "Are you okay?"

"Fine." Bruce closed his eyes and dropped his head back to the pillow. "What about you?"

Laughing softly, Lex reached out and ran his hand down Bruce's arm. "Dad likes to keep corporal punishment in the family."

Bruce rolled away from him, pulling away from the touch. "We shouldn't have gone."

It stung, worse than the headmaster's paddle or anything Lionel would be able to devise, he was sure.

Lex retrieved his handiest defense mechanism from above the ceiling tiles and took long pulls on the bottle until his head felt lighter and his eyelids felt heavier. He stripped his pants and socks off and sat there on the desk in his underwear, feet dangling, just staring at Bruce's broad back, at the sharp hints of miniature wings for shoulder blades under all that smooth dark skin.

**

The silence that kept Lex guessing over the next few days was different from their usual silence. It was full, pregnant with the seed of Bruce's guilt and Lex's hunger, and one of them was going to have to give up the fight. Soon.

Even with both of them in there burning midnight oil over midterms and research papers, the air had been too thick for Lex to tolerate. He'd managed to slip out casually every time it got to be too overwhelming, but Bruce never watched him leave.

Lex pulled on his wool and trudged down the thousand stairs in a push of other boys, letting himself be jostled along in a way that made him sick to his stomach. As he reached the bottom of the last flight, he edged out of the crowd and propped himself against a trophy case as he waited for the stragglers to trickle by. Just as he pushed away from the glass, Bruce rounded the corner.

His roommate saw him, eye contact undeniable for the first time in too many hours.

Bruce's mouth opened and closed and he took two steps away, then stopped and turned back to Lex.

He couldn't help but smile. "Hey."

"I'm just-"

"Going for a walk? A long one?" Lex laughed and began walking, breathing easier as Bruce fell into step beside him. "I could use some air, too."

And that was how it was. Easy come, easy go, easy come again. Bruce by his side in study hall that night, reaching across to correct a problem on Lex's trigonometry paper.

Lex allowed it. Hell, he soaked it up and bathed in it and scrubbed away bitterness that was caked on from years alone with Lionel. For the next week, Bruce cut through layers, scraped them off and left Lex raw with the stupidest, simplest gestures. An orange on his pillow after a late night fencing practice. His dirty laundry collected and gone before he'd had a chance to let it pile up in the bottom of his wardrobe.

Bruce was ahead of every game, had the inside track on everything naturally. Lex had to work for that, had to summon determination and Luthor stubbornness and focus on the goal to even begin to tap into his sixth-sense abilities. He prized himself as a good judge of character, but really it wasn't *him*. It was his connections, his investigators, his contacts who supplied enough information that he didn't have to have any gut feelings.

But Bruce knew without working at it, and Lex found himself shying away, retreating further back into himself as Bruce became more and more attuned to him. It was unnerving to say the least.

And two weeks after the cave, two weeks after Bruce had effectively cut off their physical relationship and started this eerie friendship in which Lex felt so damn exposed, Bruce blew him away with an invitation to spend the holidays at Wayne manor.

It was short and to the point, scribbled on a yellow sticky note, stuck to Lex's wardrobe door. Bruce was gone when Lex woke up that morning, and it was probably a good thing. Lex peeled the note from the door and flopped back on his bed, arm thrown across his face. He groaned and laughed and kicked the bed until he bounced. It was too much.

Bruce was a rollercoaster with no hills, no loops, no wheels. Electric and thrillingly simple. All potential and possibility and no guarantees. No rain checks.

Best friend, stranger. Brother, distant cousin. Fallen angel, alien.

The last line on the note was irresistible, though. "Please."

Like he'd known Lex would hesitate, and shit, he probably had known. Jesus Christ. Holidays at Wayne manor, with all the brooding, tall, dark and handsome relatives hovering over him, clinking crystal and toasting vague pipedreams that no one actually wanted to come true.

It would be almost as bad as what Lionel would subject him to, but then again, Bruce would be there. A solid home base to run back to when people closed in on him or the lights shone too brightly on his bare head. And a new set of people, a new set of pricks to humiliate gently and twinks to tease with too-intense stares. Girls to scent and lead on, parents to charm, businessmen who hadn't heard his youthful resume yet.

And he'd get to see Bruce in action. The social version, out of the safety of thick wool and into something flashy and modern maybe. Uncomfortable in a new way, a little fake maybe, which is something Bruce just never was, not with anyone, not that Lex had ever seen. But he wouldn't have the option to be rude to party guests, wouldn't have the option to just disappear and do his own thing away from the celebratory masses.

Lex peeled another sticky note from the pad on their desk and wrote, "Reindeer couldn't drag me away. Thanks for the invite. - Lex"

**

The cool metal of the phone tingled against his flushed cheek as he waited for his father to pick up the extension. Lex tapped his heel back against the wall and shifted, then straightened as Lionel's voice came onto the line.

"What is it, son?"

Direct was best. It'd taken him an entire bottle of scotch to come to that conclusion and with two days left until winter break, he was pushing the odds of an affirmative answer. He swallowed slowly.

"Wayne asked me to spend the holiday in Gotham." Lex's palm slid on the receiver and he switched hands, wiped his sweaty fingers on his pants.

"I see." Lionel's silence was typical, and Lex had been expecting it.

It dragged on though, to the point that Lex was grateful he could still hear his father's breath breezing over the line. He knew better than to utter any form of impatience.

"Tired of your dear old dad, Lex?" Lionel's low laugh made him smile, but he bit into his lip to keep from letting it show in his voice.

"I was thinking I could make some contacts in Gotham. Potential LuthorCorp assets."

"That's my boy." Lionel laughed harder and Lex let himself chuckle into the phone along with him. "All right, spend the holidays with Mr. Wayne."

"Thank you, father." Lex knew ass-kissing was only ever accepted when done facetiously with Lionel, and anything more than genuine gratefulness would be rewarded with a quick reversal of the decision.

Lionel hung up without a good-bye as usual and seeing that the halls were nearly empty, Lex sprinted back up to the room to tell Bruce everything was set.

Bruce was a little more animated that afternoon, bumping their shoulders together and joking with him as they walked to dinner together, slowly, quietly keeping to the path as the other boys ran past them.

They'd started sitting together at meals, and Bruce's habits were almost his own. He salted everything on his plate some nights, just so he could hand Bruce the salt before Bruce asked for it. He'd even taken a liking to beets, which Bruce despised and pushed onto Lex's plate without prompting now.

They always sat at the end of one of the long tables, the buffer of an aisle on one side of Bruce, Lex on the other. He felt obligated to leave the aisle seat for Bruce, though Lex found himself turning too far some nights, giving whatever annoying bench-mate on his other side the full attention of the back of his head.

Tonight when they arrived at the dining hall, the seating had been changed. There were fewer tables and they were arranged differently. Bruce looked unnerved - his face blank but eyes hesitant as he paused in the entryway. Lex nudged his shoulder and led the way to his group of casual friends. When the boys on the bench parted to make room for him, he waved them further apart and smiled up at Bruce, who shrugged off his jacket and climbed over the bench.

Lex didn't pass the salt. Bruce carefully ate around the mashed potatoes on his plate that were stained pink with beet juice. The other boys, however, were more than curious and less than subtle about their curiosity about Excelsior's most silent student.

"So what's Gotham like, Bruce?"

Lex grinned tightly over at his roommate, sending encouragement and confidence where Bruce probably didn't really need any. It was a simple, polite question.

"Dirty." Bruce lifted his head when the boy remained silent, then grinned just enough. "And big, too."

"Big and dirty… sounds like my kinda town. Lots of girls there?"

Bruce reached for the salt and shook too much on his pink potatoes, shaking his head. "No, just women. They're born women there, Paul."

The kid started at his name, probably thought Bruce didn't know it. Paul lifted his fork and shoved a stack of beets into his mouth. Bruce shot a split-second grin at Lex and focused on his food, looking up every once in awhile with a kind of challenge for the other boys.

Lex fielded questions and orders for post-holiday booze, joked around a little with everyone about midterms and parents and didn't even cringe when the subject naturally turned to his and Bruce's night off campus. He'd been ready for it and had avoided it as long as he could.

"So where'd you guys go anyway? And who were the girls? St. Anges chicks?"

Lex knew this kid, knew his parents were less than reputable, knew he didn't have to respect him but would, for LuthorCorp's sake. Wouldn't Lionel be proud?

"No, they drove down from Pike's Prep."

Conner turned to him, acidic grin heralding the insult, "Heard about your big bald head, huh, Lex?"

The old automatic smile spread across Lex's lips and he cocked his head to the side just a little, then looked at Bruce. "Now how would you suppose *he* knows about my big bald head?"

Bruce picked up the cue while some of the kids chuckled. He gave Lex an impossible half wink, then shook his head dramatically, face as animated as Lex had ever seen it with eyebrows raised and a sexy little suppressed grin pulling the corners of his mouth up.

He shrugged those big shoulders. "The locker room, maybe?"

The entire table erupted and Bruce got a few high fives and a couple of back pats before it was over. It was the most Lex had ever heard Bruce say to anyone but himself or their professors. The whole thing made Bruce tense, his body tight and humming next to Lex for the rest of dinner, but Lex still felt like they'd overcome some weird barrier between them and the rest of the school.

They didn't belong here, but they could at least blend in. Even Bruce.

**

Their luggage slung into the back of the gleaming silver sedan and Bruce held the door for him with a small smile. Lex was made for that kind of beginning.

Holidays weren't something to look forward to in the Luthor household, not since his mother had passed just before his twelfth winter, taking all the true garlands of the season with her. On the stitched leather seat, belted in next to Bruce, their bodies too warm from layers of clothing in the car's heat, he felt himself drifting, thinking of nothing, feeling the comfort and promise of Bruce's thigh against his.

The countryside flew by and the driver, silent and dutiful, kept his hat on until Bruce reached up and knocked it off, smiling. "Mack, this is Lex Luthor. Lex, Mack."

Lex nodded his hello and the driver smiled into the rearview mirror.

"Everyone friends now?" Lex and the driver looked at each other, then at Bruce. "Good."

It was tight, not exactly contrived, but... forced. Bruce wasn't one to be overtly rude, but when he tried too hard, things came out curt and short.

Snow dulled the scenery and Lex snuck glances at Bruce, slightly amused to find Bruce looking at him unabashedly every single time their eyes met.

It was nearly three weeks since the cave, three weeks since any kind of physical contact beyond casual brushes and accidental touches. Lex's eyes were still heavy with the late hours he'd spent lying awake, waiting for *anything* to happen. The afternoon spent in the headmaster's office had deadened all obvious attraction on Bruce's part, had drastically severed their physical connection.

If Bruce was playing hard to get, Lex was willing to put up a chase, but not by these means. It couldn't be that though - Bruce wasn't that... shallow. He didn't seem like a game-player.

Besides, the invitation to spend three solid weeks living together was an obvious cue that Bruce wasn't looking for space. No, the three weeks would have been the perfect opportunity to avoid anything with which Bruce might not be comfortable.

When they were in city traffic and Mack was relatively distracted, Lex made his move. He peeled off his glove, reached over and firmly laced his fingers through Bruce's. A fraction of a second's worth of shock flashed across Bruce's face, then faded just as quickly. Maybe this wasn't what Bruce intended for them, but until he said otherwise, Lex was upping the ante.

As they crawled through evening gridlock, Lex leaned more of his weight against Bruce and squeezed his fingers tighter, bringing Bruce's hand over to his own thigh. When Bruce didn't resist, Lex laid their clasped hands there, smiling and letting the rush of physical contact replace the stresses of Excelsior.

**

Looming wasn't a fitting description. That would have implied that the facade of Wayne Manor had some animate quality, some humanoid characteristics. The place was dead cold. Sprawling, straight lines and sharp gothic spears jutting against Gotham's sunken evening sky, piercing into the black night that sucked in it's belly, held itself up, just out of reach.

Lex peered up until they got so close to the manor that he could no longer see the spires from his car window, then casually leaned back on the seat and waited for the driver to get out. He caught Bruce's eyes, gave him what he hoped was an unmistakably sexy smile, and leaned in to take a quick kiss before the door opened beside him.

Bruce's free hand wrapped around the back of his neck as Lex leaned in, pulling him solidly into tilted head, closed eyes. Firm lips eager and warm on his own. The cool air rushed into the car and Lex pulled back slowly, dizzy and relieved.

Maybe it was just the school that inhibited Bruce, then.

As much as he wanted to deny the possibility, it made sense. Bruce wasn't out, wasn't known for dating anyone, let alone boys. Plus, it might not be wise to let the school find out about them if they wanted to remain roommates. Of course.

Lex stood back for a second in his light bulb moment, then stepped up quickly as Bruce moved in beside Mack over the open trunk to help with the bags. Lex had never stood upon ceremony with the servants, allowing them liberties his father chuckled over when he noticed.

As he pulled his own bags out and stepped back, Mack smiled at him and shut the trunk.

The massive front door opened for them before any of them could set luggage down to turn the knob. An impeccably dressed butler greeted them formally, informing "Master Bruce" that he'd had the guest room in the west wing prepared for "Master Luthor."

Lex cringed at the titles and tried not to smirk when Bruce bumped his shoulder into the starched man, winking and smiling. "Nothing gets past you, eh, old man?"

Lex followed Bruce's lead, taking the broad staircase two steps at a time, bags bumping against his legs and biceps burning a little by the time they reached the top. Even to Lex, the manor was opulent. He tried not to ogle the carved mahogany that stretched across the domed ceilings as they made their way down a long hallway. He was used to elaborate displays of wealth but as the hallway stretched on, he realized that Bruce *had* to be counting doors.

But it was simpler than that, of course. The last room on the right was Bruce's, or so Lex assumed when Bruce set his bags down by that door. He took one of Lex's suitcases and turned back the way they'd come. Lex glanced over his shoulder at Bruce's door as they started walking, hoping to remember the way back later. Across the hall, down one door, Bruce stopped and turned the knob, waving him in. Lex stepped into a bathroom, the largest he'd ever seen.

The tub was a pool, rectangular and sunken into the tiled floor, at least five feet deep, maybe more. Steam rose from the water, fogging an antique, dappled mirror that ran the length of one wall.

Lex took a deep breath of the moist heat and smirked. "Well, that's one way to get clean."

"Yeah. Here." Bruce tapped his arm and turned back to the hallway, pulling the bath door shut behind them. He went back across the paisleyed carpet of the hall to the room next to his own, though it seemed miles away from the Bruce's door.

Lex stepped inside, taking in the deep scarlet of cherry furnishing, polished to a gleaming shine. Everything had an oriental feel, from slim, intricately carved vanity to huge, finely detailed headboard. Marble covered table surfaces and shone brilliantly on an antique wash basin that stood stately in one corner.

The carpet was plush and his shoes sunk into it as he walked further into the room. He set his suitcase by the open closet door and turned to see Bruce still standing in the doorway.

"This is great, Bruce. Really great." Lex took a step towards the bed, considering hopping up onto the inviting mattress, and stopped himself. "So you're next door, huh?"

Bruce looked around the room and frowned. "Are you cold?"

Lex looked over his shoulder at something Bruce was focusing on, then shook his head. "No, I'm actually…" He stripped off his jacket and tossed it on the bed for proof. "…pretty warm. Are you?"

Raised eyebrows and a vague look of confusion answered him. "Cold? No."

The room shrunk as they stood there, Lex waiting and Bruce just watching him wait. The dark ceiling and walls closed in on them, urging Lex to break the tension. Finally, Bruce turned and started out the door. "Let's get cleaned up. Alfred will announce dinner in about an hour."

The door closed solidly behind Bruce and Lex stood there in stunned silence. "Let's get cleaned up?" In *that* bath?

Hell. Yeah.

Clothes landed half-folded, miraculously all in one pile on the bed, shoes tumbled off and socks peeled and shoved into them, underwear… on for the trip across the hall. But beside his bed, folded neatly and de-tagged was a thick robe, just what he needed. He wasn't even sure it had been there five seconds ago, but Christ, maybe it hadn't been. Who cared? He slipped it on, belted it, reached underneath and stepped out of his boxers, then padded across the hall.

The surface of the pool-bath was still, the room empty except for ghostly tendrils of steam that spun slow weaves in front of the lighted sconces around the room. Two pillars swirled with mosaic tile pictures, around and around from slate floor to dark stone ceiling. Lex circled them, following the storyline of a man up and around from birth to death, watching the boy grow and learn, face adversity. Win. Lose. Find happiness and finally die with a dignity that touched some bundle of nerves at the back of Lex's throat.

Bruce stepped in and Lex coughed behind his fist, backing away from the miniature tile mural and casually sitting down next to the water, pushing the edges of his robe back a little, his feet tentatively sinking into the clear hazy warmth of the pool. Bruce brought over two massive towels and laid them next to the water, then pulled off his own robe. Naked, toned and dark, muscles flexing with careful, easy control. Eyes holding Lex's as he slid down through the perfect surface of the water, disturbing the glassy reflection and their gaze breaking as Bruce dropped his eyelids, dipping under.

He came up with a quick sputter, swiped the water from his face and smiled up at Lex, his hands reaching as he kicked toward the wall where Lex sat. Reaching for Lex's legs, his thighs, so casually that they might have done this a hundred times in a hundred other lives, and Lex inched forward, leaning down and bracing his hands on the edge of the pool as Bruce's chest brushed against his knees.

Bruce's hands left wet prints on his bare thighs when they moved to unfasten the loose knot of his robe belt. The soft fabric slid open along his skin, letting in the steam, the heat of the air. Bruce's arms stretched up, fingers slick as they inched the robe off Lex's shoulders, let it fall to the tile. "The water's fine."

Lex nodded slowly, smiling softly, carefully. Bruce's hands slid up his thighs and curved behind him, urging him forward. Lex scooted off the wall and fell slowly into the pool. Bruce stepped back in the water, giving him room, eyes downcast and fingers trailing through the water as Lex settled.

"Do you-" Bruce shook his head, pushed him firmly, silencing him. Lex's back scraped against the wall behind him as Bruce pinned him, a wet thumb wiping across his lips.

Mouth on his like he'd come home after a long trip, like 'long time no see' didn't even come close and Lex closed his eyes and drifted in the water and arms holding him. Sweat ran down his temple, tickling along the bottom of his ear and sliding down his neck. He sank down until the sweet hot water lapped at their lips, and he tasted the purity of earth on Bruce's tongue.

He floated on the fog, then sucked in a breath when Bruce backed off a little, hands tightening on Bruce's ribs. "Shit. Your parents. What if they-"

He regretted it the instant he'd said it, regretted it more as Bruce looked into the water and scoffed, shaking his head. "They're not here, Lex."

But of course, the mood was ruined by the thought of parents. Bruce pushed away from him and reached for a soap dish on the opposite side of the pool, climbing out and heading around a corner. The spray of a shower hissed down on the other side of the wall Bruce had disappeared behind.

Lex scrubbed a hand over his face. Fuck.

Bruce wasn't long in the shower, and Lex stepped around him for his turn, soaping and rinsing quickly, coming out for his towel. The room was empty.
**

Two lonely hours later, Bruce opened the door to his room and bid him come to dinner. So he walked a half step behind, trying not to be obvious about staring at the manor. His tongue itched with unasked questions about the tapestries and artifacts hanging on the walls. He stopped short of craning his neck to see the family crest on a plate of armor. Bruce was striding, taking steps that made Lex feel like he was jogging. He caught Bruce's elbow at the top of the stairs and jerked him to a halt.

"Hey. I'm sorry about earlier." Not that he really knew what he was apologizing for, but he meant it anyway.

Bruce stared at him blankly for a moment, shook his head, dismissing his apology out of hand. "I'm not sorry, Lex. I'm hungry."

And that was how dinner went, too. Brisk, short answers to any attempts at conversation. Bruce dove into his dinner, eating heartily, almost ravenously and didn't seem to notice that Lex only picked at his plate. He drank enough to fill his stomach though. More than enough, even though Alfred's eyebrows raised at every refill. After the second course, he's stopped trying to talk and started dreading his untimely arrival at Luthor Estate. His father would be amused.

He pushed his plate back and scooted his chair from the table, standing before Bruce could finish his last swallow.

"I'm exhausted."

Bruce looked at him like he was speaking Swahili, then nodded and smiled. Smiled.

"Well… goodnight."

Bruce nodded again and went back to his food.

Trying to salvage some dignity, Lex smirked and shrugged at Alfred, who quickly looked away.

**

The storm blew in hard and fast, pounding the manor with fat drops and smooth, frozen balls that pinging and panged on the steeples somewhere above him. He laid awake, his already-shallow sleep completely lost to the sound of the growing fury outside his windows. The wind whipped against the ancient panes of stained glass and hail beat the stone walls.

His eyes closed, he wished that the temperature would drop suddenly and the storm would turn silent and more effective, penning him up in the manor with Bruce with feet of snow and ice. He wouldn't have to decide then, to consider that this was a mistake and he belonged in his usual isolated ward of Luthor Estate. Ward was right, too. Between his father's convoluted "lessons" and the whispers of his long-dead mother that permeated the night air around all her favorite things, he felt insane there, so out of control and out of touch with reality that half the time he gave up trying to resist the pull of his father's twisted ideals.

It became a game in his mind. Pros and cons of each oversized sanitarium. Wayne manor, creepy. Luthor estate, cold. Wayne manor, fascinating. Luthor estate, familiar. Wayne manor, decadent bath. Luthor estate,--

Lex started up out of bed at the sound - a roaring of wind against the house, the clatter and splitting of wood, the tinkling of glass on stone. It was close, so close that he immediately looked at his own windows. They were sound though, and he was on his feet and down the hall, hastily-donned robe trailing open behind him, nudity a half-second thought behind Bruce.

Bruce's door was shut, but not locked. He burst in and staggered back, the ice of wind and rain spraying across his bare stomach and thighs, stinging his ankles as he clutched the robe around his body and knotted the belt at his waist.

He charged in, feet dancing deftly around broken glass. Bruce was standing bare and bold two feet from the wall, room lights blaring out into the night through the gaping fractured window.

Lex covered the last few feet slowly, one hand out, half reaching for and half cautious about Bruce's clenched fist. A sliver of glass had found the indentation between his knuckles and Lex carefully took the hand in his own, thumb rubbing over the cut, freeing the glass and smearing the blood there. Bruce hadn't moved, hadn't blinked.

"I'll call Alfred." No response. "Bruce, you can stay in my room - in another room. It's okay."

Nothing.

He couldn't think, couldn't decide what Bruce would want him to do. Ran his palms up and down Bruce's arms, the skin so cool that his clammy hands felt hot against it.

But it did almost nothing to warm the oddly pale skin. He glanced over his shoulder at the ruined window, shivering and wondering that Bruce's body wasn't shaking in violent protest of the exposure. Lex covered strong shoulders with his hands, stepping in between Bruce and the rush of frozen air and rain, his scalp tightening with the blast of cold.

"Bruce? Bruce, can you hear me?"

Bruce's eyes looked at his forehead, then dropped to the floor. Lex looked down and saw blood splashing - God, splatting in fat drops from Bruce's other fist.

Unresponsive but not protesting his soft commands, Bruce opened the hand at Lex's urging, unclenching his fingers, letting Lex turn it over and inspect. It wasn't as bad as it looked, the cuts superficial but long and oozing blood.

He didn't know what else to do, just lifted the corner of his robe and pressed it easy against the wounds, gently wiping away glass and blood both. The hand yanked out of his and Bruce jerked and sucked in a breath.

Eyes wide and wet, Bruce shook violently. He stumbled back from the window, dragging Lex with him as if Lex was the one who needed saving. He stopped abruptly as Lex clutched his arms.

He seemed horrified, seeing Lex for the first time with fear-stricken eyes, moving Lex aside to see the window, eyes unreadable as he took it all in - blood, glass and Lex. "I was dreaming. I- God."

Lex shivered at the desperation and panic coming from him. "There's a storm. It was just a nightmare."

Bruce shook his head and gestured at the window, voice almost inaudible over the wind and rain. "I didn't - I was dreaming."

Lex rubbed his hand up Bruce's arm again. "Shh, it's okay. I've got you."

Bruce seemed to lose inches as he shrank down from the shock. Mindless of the piercing bits stinging the bottoms of his feet, Lex wrapped an arm around his waist and guided him to the hallway, swallowing the urge to turn and run.

But behind them, the storm raged on, whipping curtains and chiming more glass to the floor of Bruce's room, making too much noise to go unnoticed for long. Feeling completely surreal, he urged Bruce to lean against the wall, one hand quickly touching his frigid face, then raced back into Bruce's room, pulling the thick bedding from the mattress and rolling it in his arms, stuffing it into the broken window. It bought them time and gave Bruce the chance to avoid awkward explanations. Bedding and windows were more easily replaced than dignity or secrets.

At the door, he quickly lifted his feet one by one to brush the stuck glass from the bottoms, then hurried back to the hallway.

Back to the blank stare on Bruce's face. The placid, childlike unawareness that made Lex's heart beat too fast and his lungs squeeze tight on every exhale. Bruce wasn't supposed to be like this - and he had no idea what to do.

The fact was, he was a mess.

They both were.

Lex opened his bedroom door and led Bruce slowly inside, his hand held up close to his chest like a broken wing. Uninjured arm around Lex's shoulders, Bruce was heavy with silent carelessness.

The bed seemed inviting, a warm cloud of dried blood velvet to warm the life back into Bruce. The extra lights he turned on were harsh but seemed to draw the cold from his body. He worked fast, swiping at the stray spots of blood, carefully pulling glass from Bruce's hand, wincing for Bruce since he didn't. The wounds dried and clean and dressed, Lex laid the wrapped hand gently on the mattress and climbed in beside Bruce, starting at the marble-cold chill of Bruce's skin against his own.

Lex was warm, had maybe worked himself warm, but Bruce hadn't gained a degree. Lex reached for Alfred's bell, knowing the old man would know exactly what to do, then hesitated. The cuts were fine, not deep or threatening. And maybe Bruce would resent Lex for exposing his… whatever this was to Alfred. As quiet and distant as Bruce remained even with Lex, he knew Bruce wasn't the kind to do things for attention, not overtly or otherwise.

So he lowered his hand from the string and untied his belt. He opened his robe wide over both of them as he crawled on top of Bruce, reaching back to pull the coverlet up over them. Thighs straddling thighs, belly tightening, Lex laid down, pressing himself - his body heat - along Bruce's skin.

He tucked his chin down beside Bruce's neck, eyes closed and face buried in thick pillow, body still as he could hold it while somehow managing to breathe. The taut flex of every muscle in his body began to take its toll. He ached with the effort to remain perfectly still, to not feel the cool flesh against his own, goose bumps rising all over his body as Bruce's skin drew warmth and reflected it between them.

After an eternity he saw the deep red of the lights he'd left on behind his closed lids and opened them slowly, hands digging into the sheets for balance as he pushed up just a little, reaching over to flick off the overheads and turn off the bedside lamp.

He smiled down at the body beneath him, between his open arms and open thighs. Bruce was a comfortable and solid presence, chest rising and falling, lifting him up and letting him down in the regular, deep rhythm of sleep. Skin flushed with warmth and plaint against his own, Lex smiled softly and pushed further up, hoping to slip to the side and find a less presumptuous place to sleep.

As he slid up and over, Bruce stirred, his big hands closing quickly on Lex's hips, stilling him. Dark eyes caught his and he couldn't move again, but for different reasons than before. Hot under the soft covers, they breathed carefully through the minutes, cocooned and sealed against any intrusion but thought.

Plenty of that to be had though, as Lex's mind jumped from concern to thrill to fear and back again. Hips lined up against Bruce's, his body reacted, blood pumping hard in his ears and veins, rushing down to meet Bruce's already thick suggestion. He didn't need a rock of hips lifting him in a gentle roll to assure him.

It was there though, just in case he did need it, like he asked for it and God, maybe he had when he wasn't listening, when all he could hear was the frantic voice in his head whispering no and yes and run, get out, leave. Stay. Go.

Bruce was too much for him, in every way.

The hips undulated again, rolling slowly up and down, up and down, and he let them, let Bruce, sliding skin against skin so slowly. Flesh aching and pulling, dry and rough as he rode the strokes of Bruce's length against his own. They hissed whispers, Bruce's broken voice moaning so softly it sounded like a child's desperate plea.

He's always lost with Bruce, every preconceived idea, every life lesson tossed out the window. Senseless and chaotic, and he never cared. If Bruce hadn't given this so freely, he probably would have begged to be erased, wiped clean and imprinted with this, this instead of Luthor pride and Luthor tactics and Luthor bitterness.

He looked down as Bruce's hands shifted him to a better spot, his hips hurting where fingers dug sharply into the recesses beside the bones. Lex pressed harder, laying his full weight into the rubbing, pushing down on every stroke. Bruce released him, gauze scratching along his bare skin as palms pressed lines to his shoulders and fingers on his chin redirected his gaze.

Those untelling eyes, secretive and revealing, if he could just grasp what they were trying to say. It was right there, under the cover of a language he couldn't understand. Like listening to French opera in a German playhouse. He could discern the meanings, the requests and allowances, the acquiescence and offerings, but the reasoning, the subtleties were lost to him. He refused to look away, refused to give up the effort to decipher every nuance of emotion and need.

Until underneath him, Bruce tensed and stopped. Fingers dug in between Lex's ribs and he drew in a deep breath, stilling his movements, anxiously looking down between them, then remembering his quest and catching Bruce's eyes again.

Shifting his hips just enough, just that much, he pleaded with everything inside him, mind racing to remember where he'd seen a jar of something they could use, heart pumping out the frail thick beats of held breath and hope. So close, it would be so easy. They were already almost there. He slid a fraction of an inch up Bruce's length, the tip fitting against him. He let go of Bruce's eyes for just a second, just long enough to close his own and swallow the fear that crept into the desire.

When he opened his eyes, he saw it there, heard Bruce's eyes say, "yes," felt the fingers dig further in between his ribs, but it was Bruce's voice that registered crushing pain.

"No. I - no."

Heart in his throat and head shaking in a backwards agreement, issuing his own belated refusal, Lex slipped sideways and lay on his shrunken chest beside Bruce. A hand pushed him onto his side and he opened his eyes and frowned his embarrassed apology, silently kicked himself for being so childish.

Whatever Bruce had gone through in front of that window, it couldn't be remedied with a fuck, no matter how genuinely it had been… wanted.

Stupid. Young, so damn naïve of him. Lex tucked his arm under the pillow and closed his eyes so he didn't have to look into eyes that were older than his own would ever be.

Bruce's big hand rubbed gently up and down his side, cupping the curve of muscle, trailing onto his stomach with delicate, chilling softness. The backs of fingers feathered on his cock and the bed dipped beside him, tilting him a little, bringing heated flesh against his again. He opened his eyes and watched Bruce lick his lips and look down between them. Jerked as Bruce's hand engulfed his cock alongside his own, wrapping in a tight glove of warmth around them both. Tugging and squeezing them together in the best way, hard and tight, fast strokes revving him up and forcing his head back and his breath out in long, desperate moans.

Quick strokes turned impossibly fast, their now-slick skin sliding instead of rasping, gliding and slipping along. Their hips rocked in sharp, sure thrusts, falling into a matched cadence of back and forth, in and out, pumping hard. Harder and Lex fisted the pillow under his head, squeezed his eyes shut as Bruce's mouth caught his, shoulder sticking and peeling in a regular rhythm against his own on every upstroke, the predictable repetition blinding and delicious.

Lips took his, Bruce licking inside, slowly opening his mouth and sending warm coursing down his spine. Tongue tasting his moans, fist and cock straining on his own, he broke open. Cleaved and held together, he split apart, slicking Bruce's fist and pressing his uncontrollable cry into the sweat-damp pillow beneath their heads.

Bruce's voice filled the room, echoing in the fragile silence, teeth finally sinking into Lex's shoulder. He pumped his hips, taking over the rhythm as Bruce's fist tightened around them and he shuddered and came. They shook and shivered under the velvet until Bruce's grip slacked and a slippery hand painted a line to his back, wrapping around him, pulling him neatly into the curve of Bruce's body. His face sweaty, breath hot against Bruce's stubbled neck, Lex forced his body to unclench, to sink into the unexpected embrace that seemed more intimate than anything else they'd done.

One foot brushed heavily along his calf muscle and Lex grinned inside, swallowing the girlish bubble of relief.

He concentrated on Bruce's deep breathing, wondering what technique he was using to calm his energized, spent body, his exhausted mind. He felt for the blackness of sleep and inched into a more comfortable position against Bruce.

Bruce wasn't difficult or strange. He was begging to be figured out and resisting any attempts at infiltration out of instinct or fear or both.

And that was fine. Lex could work with resistance.

He formed a black circle in his mind and kept all thoughts from entering the circle, falling off to the sound and feel of Bruce's deep, soothing breaths beneath him.

**

PART FOUR

He'd woken up a couple of times during the night, Bruce's arm a dead weight, wrapped around his shoulders, holding him tightly, but it was gone when he moved to stretch in the soft morning light.

He moved his legs under the thick covers, cautiously sliding his foot over to rub Bruce's shin. He met smooth cotton but no Bruce. He rolled over and sank into the mattress, groaning frustration into his pillow. An hour later, the dull fractal haze of morning peeled his eyes back open, despite his repeated attempts to will it away.

The bath was empty and cool, but droplets of water clung to the walls of the shower, and a damp towel was crumpled on the vanity. Lex brushed his teeth fast, eyeing the towel like a glass of wine he was too young to drink. He turned to get in the shower, but the towel was in his hands, pressed to his face before he could get there. He closed his eyes and inhaled the moist Bruce-scent.

He managed to leave the towel on the counter, though his shower was long and hot, full of wished-for sensation and memories and slightly paranoid glances at the vaulted ceiling to check for watching lenses. He'd grown up in his father's house, after all. The rush of water and the taste of Bruce on his tongue, he leaned against the cool tile of the shower and brought himself off hard and fast, desperate for Bruce's hand.

Drying himself, he swallowed that desperation along with the bile that rose in his throat. He couldn't need Bruce this much, couldn't let his judgment slip at the thought of warm skin and warm breath. He shook his head at the mirror on his way out the door, tossing his towel in the corner on top of Bruce's.

**

Alfred met him at the bottom of the sweeping staircase, white-gloved hands offering him a small silver tray with a steaming mug of coffee.

"Alfred, you're a God." He took the coffee and smirked when he saw it was already prepared to his liking, with just enough cream to take the edge off the black. He took a sip and began walking towards the dining room, butler trailing at his side.

"Master Bruce had a prior engagement this morning. He requested that I see to your needs personally." When Lex glanced at him, Alfred looked confident but uncertain.

"That was thoughtful of him. If you point me in the direction of the kitchen, I'm sure I can find something myself."

"Actually, sir, I've taken the liberty of ordering breakfast for you." Alfred quickened his last few steps and swung the door open for Lex.

The butler followed him through the door, then stepped around the table, exiting through a door on the opposite side of the room.

"Of course you did," he murmured as he sat down.

Alfred returned with three servants in quick succession behind him, all bearing silver platters. Fruit, eggs, a variety of breads.

But no Bruce. And he hated eating alone.

"If that will be all, sir-"

"Alfred, my name is Lex. Call me Lex, please. And I hate eating alone." He kicked the chair next to him out from the table. "Have a seat."

The butler hesitated, waved a dismissal to the other servants, and took the seat Lex had offered.

Picking up a teapot that crowded alongside the breakfast platters, Lex reached for the mug on the saucer at Alfred's place setting, righting it and tipping the small steaming kettle into it. "You like tea, don't you?"

It was awkward, sure, but Alfred's face softened from its normal rigidity as he took the first sip from his cup. "I believe it's required by my gene pool, Master Lex."

"So it's 'Master Lex,' huh? That's the best I'm going to get from you?" Lex popped a grape into his mouth and spread his napkin on his lap.

Alfred cocked his head at his tea, apparently searching for the right words. "There is a certain level of order here, Master Lex, and I oversee that order. I take great pride in my duties."

"It's a very smoothly-run household, Alfred. Much more orderly than Luthor estate." Lex smiled and winked over a forkful of eggs, reveling in loosening the tight constraints that held the man together.

They ate and drank in indifferent silence until Lex couldn't resist the question any longer.

"So where is Bruce this morning? A hot breakfast date in the city?" It was stupid, really, to insinuate anything of the sort. As if implying Bruce had a relationship with someone else would detract attention from the broken window and blood-dappled floor of Bruce's room or the joint baths and shared beds Lex was sure Alfred knew all about.

Lex shrank just a little under Alfred's disapproving glance, biting into a slice of peeled grapefruit.

"Not quite. He's meeting with an acquaintance of his father's."

Lex took another bite and tried to pry as casually as he could. "Are Mr. and Mrs. Wayne breakfasting with them? I didn't realize they were back in town."

Alfred swallowed hard and choked behind a white glove, eyes wide and watering. Lex reached over to pat him on the back and Alfred raised a hand in protest, wiping his eyes on his napkin and sitting straighter in his chair, collecting himself quickly.

"My apologies, Master Lex. I've just recalled a task I need to attend." Alfred stood and gathered his mug and saucer, then paused and stared at Lex. It was unsettling, that stare. Like Alfred was reading him atom by atom, weighing him.

"Thank you for the tea." Alfred cleared his throat. "Master Bruce will return by lunch."

**

The morning crept by, the manor so quiet that every footfall echoed against the carved wood and endless expanse of walls and hallways. Lex didn't venture down any of them, though. The lack of Bruce's presence made the place foreign and intimidating. Larger too, somehow. It whispered secrets Lex wasn't sure he wanted to discover. That particular Luthor trait - unquenchable curiosity - hadn't taken root in him, apparently.

Instead of exploring, he sat in a drawing room of sorts, surrounded by the glassy eyes of proudly-gotten kills and the slick comfort of old leather. He fingered a divot, bronze and smooth under his touch and sank back into the armchair, closing his eyes. The paisley of the carpet chased behind his eyelids and he watched the swirls of color, feeling himself drifting off.

He started awake at the sound of the footsteps and voices coming from the hallway.

"That man makes my skin crawl, Alfred. How my father ever- If it wasn't necessary, I would end our "amiable" acquaintance and beat the shit out of him."

"Of course, Master Bruce. Master Lex is asleep in the lounge."

The butler's tone inferred volumes, and apparently Bruce noticed, too.

"I might join him. It was a long night."

"I'm well aware of that, sir."

Lex frowned at the blatant implications of Alfred's words, holding his breath when the footsteps stilled.

"Something you'd care to say, Alfred?"

"As a matter of fact, Master Bruce, I believe Master Lex should be informed of your… history."

That particular small laugh of Bruce's always sounded more like a low warning growl than amusement. "And what history would that be?"

"Your parents, sir. He doesn't know."

"No, he doesn't." The click of one pair of shoes on the wooden floor stepped closer to the room Lex sat in, then stopped abruptly.

"His ignorance could become… awkward - very rapidly."

"I'll take care of it."

"If I may, sir, I have arranged something for this afternoon." The butler's voice lowered so Lex had to strain to hear it. "Lunch with your parents? I really do believe that it is imperative that you-"

"Fine. We'll leave immediately. Tell Robert I'll be driving, so he can take the rest of the afternoon off." The door to the room creaked open.

Lex swallowed hard in anticipation of seeing Bruce and forced himself to relax back in the chair, resisting the urge to tug at his shirt and straighten it from its sleep-twisted position. He closed his eyes and purposefully drew in long, slow breaths.

The light on his closed eyes dimmed and he felt Bruce looming over him.

"Good. You're awake."

Lex opened his eyes and smiled up at him, hands clenched tight on the arms of the chair so they wouldn't reach out. "Just."

"Come on, we're going into the city."

Lex stood up, following him from the room, trailing after him to the coatroom. He glanced down at himself, creased and rumpled from his nap, and grabbed Bruce's arm as he reached for their coats. "Shouldn't I change first?"

Bruce slowly looked him over, eyes lingering on his chest before rising to meet his own. "No, you're fine."

The ride was shorter than Lex had expected and ended abruptly at an iron gate. A rush of ache spread from forehead to neck as the blood drained from Lex's face. He sat rigid on the seat as Bruce spoke into an intercom and the bars swung slowly inward, old metal screaming on rusty hinges.

Lex scanned the rows of headstones as they drove on the single lane through the cemetery, embarrassment and regret weighing in his chest. They pulled to a stop and got out.

Bruce opened the back door to get their lunch, and Lex leaned his arms on the roof and shook his head. "Bruce..."

"It's weird - I know. Alfred has some romantic notions when it comes to my parents." He held out a blanket to Lex, and he took it, falling into step beside Bruce as they wove their way through the labyrinth of headstones. "He usually packs a good meal, though."

Lex stuck close as they walked, careful of his steps, the hard, frozen earth crunching under the soles of his shoes.

"They're over there." Bruce gestured at a pair of marble obelisks that jutted up from long-recovered soil.

Lex nodded and tucked his hands in the pockets of his jacket, the blanket under his arm. Bruce squatted and brushed the engraved names of Martha and Thomas Wayne clean with a gloved finger. Lex shivered under his wool - he knew the grainy texture of headstone marble all too well.

"My mom-" It just came out, like too many things did around Bruce, and he froze there, mouth puffing heat into the dry cold air between them. Bruce smiled gently at him - worse than a slap in the face, really - and Lex took a deep breath. "- you probably already know."

"I was old enough to read." Bruce cocked his head and smiled. "And you *are* a Luthor."

It was obvious, but it needed to be said. Lex unfolded the blanket and spread it quickly, the flannel snapping in the wind that seemed to pick up as he spoke. "I'm an ass, Bruce. I… didn't know."

"They've been gone a long time." Bruce sat on the blanket and started unpacking containers and cloth-wrapped bundles. He looked up at Lex, who stood frozen in the icy wind that whistled through trees and headstones around him. "Have a seat - they won't bite."

Jesus, sometimes Bruce had no tact at all. Lex cringed. His own mother's grave was too fresh to be made light of, but then again, maybe time dulled all pain, healed all wounds. Maybe someday he'd be cracking jokes there, too.

Lex sat down and reached for the wine, silently blessing Alfred for his European attitude toward the propriety of fine wine at all significant meals. He found a corkscrew beside Bruce's knee and pressed it into the cork, the sharp point sinking deeper as he turned it.

"I'm surprised Alfred lets you drink and drive."

Bruce tore a corner off the round of bread in his hand and shook his head. "Might as well be water to me. And you too, if you sample half of what you buy for the guys at school."

Lex grinned and poured their glasses, handing one to Bruce, then raised his own for a toast. He thought about his usual, "health, wealth and happiness," but given the circumstances, he settled on, "To absent parents."

"To absent parents…" Bruce clinked glasses with him and drank deeply before red, wine-wet lips parted in a wide smile. "…who would probably fall over dead if they saw me picnicking on their graves with a Luthor."

**

The days passed lazily in the manor; time mattered so little that Lex began leaving his watch on the nightstand each morning. His wrist felt naked every once in awhile without it, but he'd almost broken the habit of checking it periodically.

The window in Bruce's room had been boarded for a day, then the glass replaced and all traces of the break erased. They didn't talk about it, but on the second night after they'd lunched - well, *over* Mr. and Mrs. Wayne, Lex crept out of his room and into Bruce's, having spent too many frustrated hours tossing around in his own bed. He opened the door to Bruce's room, listened at the door for the deep breath of sleep. Bruce was silent - lungs frozen mid-breath, and Lex hesitated there, just inside.

But leaving wasn't an option now, not when Bruce knew he was there, so he padded softly across the room and slipped into the bed. Instantly, Bruce pulled him in close, drew the covers up over them both and Lex tucked himself in, grateful up against warm, bare skin.

The heat under thick down radiated through Lex's body. His head swam and his hand squeezed Bruce's arm. He tried for about a minute to keep from moving against the hard body that touched everywhere along his own, then gave up completely. Eyes closed and body snaking slowly between smooth bedding and strong limbs, Lex sank a hand into the mattress and pushed himself over, on top of Bruce.

Thigh between his legs, still at first but then moving and moving, rubbing hard up against him and he pushed down, rocked into it, slid up and down under the firm direction of hands that held on, guided him. The hard strength of Bruce's hand shoved down between them and covered his cock, pressed it tight against Bruce's body. The smooth rock of Bruce's arm pressed into Lex's stomach and he arched and fell, angular edges digging in everywhere, his arms tucking under Bruce's body and holding on, just holding on until the pulses stopped and faded.

Off, drifting somewhere between sleep and awake, so far off that he couldn't fathom ever being that on again, but Bruce's length jabbed hard between their stomachs and Lex moved his hips to feel it slide and swell against his skin. The movement made them both tremble and cling, Lex's fingers deep in solid spans of muscle and Bruce groaned, growled as Lex let his weight go, let his body dig down into Bruce's, hips rocking and pushing, arms pulling him tighter in, rolling them over. Bruce's heaviness spread out along his body, Bruce hesitating, just lying there between Lex's legs, driving him crazy.

Face buried and dewy against Bruce's neck, he opened his mouth and sucked, bit, tore at a resisting, tight tendon, determination turned into something feral, something wild and desperate for victory, for a liquid admission from Bruce. He pushed up, moving that solid body, kicking it into action and tensing thighs, ass, back, arms as Bruce responded, rubbing and sliding along his belly, crying out against his scalp, jerking above him, against him, arms so tight Lex couldn't breathe and didn't care, didn't want to. Bruce shook the bed, shook every foundation under them until Lex ran a hand into his hair, whispering quietly into the ear that mashed against his lips. Bruce sagged on top of him, the surrender slick and fast, ripped instead of coaxed this time, but fuck if Lex cared.

**


And so it went.

He'd never thought of himself as a cuddler, but he slipped into Bruce's room - and his bed - every night after the manor was quiet. After the first night, he arrived naked, alternately pleading for and scared to death of the possibility that Bruce would move them further into permanence.

It hadn't come, though. Not yet.

They slept curled against each other, bodies touching, Lex's hips always rocking more and more insistently back against the curve of Bruce's body until Bruce's hand closed on his thigh, quieting him or squeezing an encouragement. Either way, their breath eventually fell into a single cadence until genuine exhaustion overwhelmed Lex and he drifted off. Though he'd tried to outlast Bruce, fought harder against sleep every night, Bruce never fell asleep before he did.

And every night, Lex was more willing to believe something about himself that he'd never had occasion to even consider before. Bit by bit, his will was being ground down to a fine dust that Bruce could obliterate with the slightest breath of request. He'd begun this unsure and with every night, came closer and closer to insisting that Bruce take him. What seemed like a dangerous pleasure before was not even close to enough now.

When Lex awoke achingly hard, tucked impossibly close into the round hollow of Bruce's hips on Christmas Eve morning, he decided he wouldn't accept less than… well, he wouldn't accept the nightly ritual that reduced him to dreaming of completion.

Bruce was up and gone before Lex managed to get himself out of bed - as usual - out for his insane morning jog in the frigid fog of Gotham's suburbs. Lex expected to be greeted by Alfred at the bottom of the sweeping staircase after his shower, but the butler was nowhere to be seen. Wondering at the inconsistency of his absence, Lex sought him out, pushing open the swinging door between dining room and kitchen, only to find several startled, flour-dappled faces staring wide-eyed back at him.

Lex smiled and reached for a banana on the counter, shaking it at the cooks absently. "Seen Alfred?"

One of them pointed a doughy finger at the door Lex had just come through and mumbled something about the study, so Lex turned on his heel and went back the way he'd come.

The manor was different in daylight - the blacks and browns somehow lifted to a gleaming warmth by stray ribbons of sunlight that happened to penetrate thick curtains and filter in through the rough stained glass of the decorative windows. The wood grains glowed, shiny golden stripes glinting as they were highlighted.

He stepped through the dusty beams of light, laying the banana on a likely-looking bowl of wax fruit, trusting that Alfred - or some other servant - was sharp enough to deduce real from fake and take care of it later.

A muffled voice stopped Lex in front of the study door. "Begging your pardon, sir, but you must remain still for just a moment longer."

"Yes, of course, Franklin. My apologies."

Lex pushed the door open and saw Bruce on a pedestal, a man kneeling at his feet, smiling around pins that stuck like tiny barbs from his lips.

Bruce looked up and Lex grinned. "Wasn't the statue of David standing on that yesterday?"

"He lent it to me for the fitting." Bruce smoothed a hand down the arm of his suit. "Don't go anywhere - you're next."

"Sir, if you please?" The tailor stretched up and guided Bruce's hand firmly back to his side with a slightly impatient look.

Lex flopped into a leather chair and winked. "Oh, I have no intention of leaving. This should be good."

"Good is an understatement - Franklin here is the only one who's never made me bleed. Isn't that right, Franklin?"

The tailor mumbled something in French and Lex laughed. "I think you're pushing your luck."

Bruce made a face and held still, watching the tailor work on his pant cuffs. Lex caught sight of a second suit hanging on a portable stand behind them.

"So what's the occasion, anyway?"

"The mayor's holiday party at the Cosmopolitan tonight."

The tailor turned back to his kit and Lex leveled his gaze at Bruce. "I already had plans for tonight."

"What? Another chess tournament with Alfred?" Bruce stepped off the riser and the tailor stood to help him carefully out the painstakingly fitted jacket. With three steps Bruce towered over Lex. "What are you up to now? Best of 35?"

Lex stood and glanced around Bruce, smiling as the tailor stepped out of the room. His hands found Bruce's hips and pulled them in to meet his own gentle nudge. "I may have hit a snag before, but I know his moves now. I've got him all figured out."

"Have you?" Bruce's thumb brushed along his chin seductively, dragging slowly over his lower lip as he whispered in Lex's ear. "Then I'm sure you won't mind waiting until after the party to… take him."

Lex swallowed his last lingering bit of pride in the hopes that it would be gently caught and used against him in the best way. "To be honest, I think I'd rather he take me."

The tailor cleared his throat as he came back through the door and Bruce took a half-step back. As Lex turned to walk away, Bruce caught his elbow and hissed into his ear, "I sincerely hope we're not still talking about Alfred. Or chess."

Lex shook his head as he stepped behind the oriental wood screen and the tailor handed him his suit.


**

The merriment could be felt in waves - and smelled in a head-swimming cacophony of designer perfume - outside the Cosmopolitan that night. Bruce had talked little in the backseat of the Rolls on the way, and Lex had been content with the gaping silence only because he was preoccupied with the beauty of Bruce, cleaned up, dressed to the nines, suit sleek and draping perfectly on those broad shoulders, the slacks hugging along his thigh as it brushed against Lex's at the apex of every turn.

Lex's own suit fit like a dream, for once not too broad in the shoulder and not too long. For the first time, he didn't feel shortened standing beside Bruce, who was only a few inches taller than him after all. Something in Bruce's posture, some flaw Lex couldn't quite pinpoint, made him seem like the teenager he was as they entered the hotel ballroom. The glitter of candlelight on crystal and diamonds on ears on turning heads made Lex whistle low and bump his elbow casually into Bruce's ribs. "The mayor sure knows how to throw a party, huh?"

Bruce smiled tightly down at him, hands balled in loose fists at his sides. Lex looked him up and down, spotting a small piece of fuzz on his shoulder. As he reached to brush it off, Bruce's fingers closed in a vice-grip on his wrist.

"What are you *doing*?" Growled through clenched teeth within a forced smile.

Lex lowered his hand slowly, then reached out to a passing waiter's tray and plucking a flute of champagne off of it. "You have some lint on your shoulder."

Bruce scoffed and picked the lint off, tucking his hands into his pockets. Lex waited and watched, but he made no move to even make eye contact.

Instead, he nodded and smiled at an older woman across the room that Lex vaguely recognized. "You might want to take care of that stick up your ass while you're at it." He handed his glass to a stunned Bruce and made a beeline for the woman as she started towards him.

They shook hands, then kissed on the cheek as Lex tried desperately to recall her name. He didn't realize until she looked expectantly over his shoulder that Bruce had followed him.

"Nice to see you again Mrs. Holden. How is Joe?"

"He's wonderful, Bruce - thanks for asking. Still sacking quarterbacks and all that at Notre Dame. We're *dying* for him to pick a major, but he's torn between business and engineering. How do you and Mr. Luthor know one another?"

"Lex and I are at Excelsior together. We're roommates, in fact."

It might have been some sort of twisted apology - him hinting at their relationship to this woman - but Lex didn't spare him a glance.

"Well, you boys don't get into any trouble up there, all right?"

"Of course, Mrs. Holden. Tell Joe 'hi' for us."

The plump socialite already had her hand extended to a man in Armani as Lex turned to face Bruce.

"Look, it's not you. You know that, right?"

Lex studied Bruce's face, really *looked* at him for the first time since they'd left the manor. Bruce looked timid. Head a couple inches lower than it usually was, shoulders curved inward, hands moving nervously inside his pockets. And the fingers that had left an impression on Lex's wrist had been clammy. "Stage fright? *You?*"

Bruce nodded quickly and looked around at their immediate neighbors.

"Didn't Alfred teach you *anything*, Bruce?"

At the look of confusion that answered him, Lex grabbed an elbow and guided Bruce through the crowd to an alcove beside the coatroom. Once they were settled in the shadowed archway, Lex put firm hands on Bruce's shoulders and caught his eyes, forcing him to return the focus. "Do you want to leave?"

"I can't. That friend of my father's-"

"The one you had breakfast with the other day?"

"Right. He's here and he wants to see me. It's kind of a thing - me being here in my father's place. They… expect me to be here."

"They expect you to be more than just here, Bruce." When Bruce looked away, eyes wide and a little wild as he stared back into the party, Lex turned his chin back around to face him. "Don't look out there. Look at me."

Bruce took a deep breath and stared at Lex, who for once didn't flinch under the intensity of Bruce's complete attention.

"Good. Now listen. Crash course in social gatherings. One: Don't drink too much - get a glass of water or club soda from the bar, with ice, and carry that around. Sip it and no one will offer to get you another drink the entire night. Stay sober and you'll stay clear. Two: Don't tell them too much or too little. People are here to gather information. If you give them too little, they'll make up the rest and if you give them too much, they'll crucify you with it. Are you with me?"

A nod confirmed that Bruce was listening, but the fingers clutching Lex's sleeve didn't let go.

"Okay. Three: No politics, religion or sex. All three will get you into trouble. If someone in a small group initiates the conversation, excuse yourself and get the fuck out of it before it begins. Four: You are the most important person here. You own these people. You can make them laugh or cry or cluck like chickens with the right words. Believe that - convince yourself and you convince them."

"Cluck like chickens?" Skepticism looked so damn good on those dark features.

Lex licked his lips and grinned. "Trust me. And five: If all else fails, fake a headache or need for air and find me."

Bruce stopped smiling and grabbed Lex's arm. "Find you? Wait. Aren't you going to be with me?"

Lex shook his head. "Give them too much information…"

Bruce looked confused and glanced over his shoulder at the crowd again. "But…"

"We can't exactly walk hand-in-hand, Bruce. Do you want to advertise the fact that we're… whatever?"

"Together? But we came together. And I told Mrs. Holden-"

"She's harmless. We're two little boys playing dress up in her eyes. But you can bet there are more shrewd eyes here than hers."

Lex waited for a reaction, knowing that if any of his words had sunk in, Bruce would straighten up and summon that cool, sharp demeanor he naturally displayed when he wasn't trying to.

Two long, deep breaths later, his Bruce stood before him, composed, almost confident-looking, head high enough to make Lex feel short again. He glanced around to make sure no one was watching them and slid his hands inside Bruce's jacket, his fingers playing across the nervous-tight muscles beneath the pale blue of Bruce's shirt.

Bruce sucked in a breath, then smiled and wriggled back, catching Lex's hand. He held it for a moment, rubbing his thumb over Lex's knuckles before letting it fall. Then he turned back to the party.

Lex followed him out of the alcove and into the buzzing merriment, then with one last encouraging smile, turned and lost himself in the crowd.


**


The evening dragged by, one fake smile bleeding into the next until Lex's cheeks ached with the effort. Another story about a beautiful daughter looking for a prom date and Lex was going to run screaming from the ballroom. Then again, the sight of Bruce debating something with the mayor himself left Lex puffed up with an odd pride.

He floated on that for an hour before he'd caught sight of Bruce again - this time flirting harmlessly with a little girl who took his hand and dragged him, despite his adamant protests, to the dance floor, only to stand on his feet while the two of them twirled around and around, her golden hair fanning out as they glided between the other couples. The parents - and several onlookers - were enchanted with him, as was Lex.

It wasn't a time or place for Lex to be anything but understated and respectful, and both were exhausting when one's reputation was usually enough to fill the dance card for the evening. Instead of potential dates, he'd had to make do with slow-talking elderly men who reeked of cigars and brandy.

He'd just escaped another cluster of oldsters and ducked back into his handy-dandy alcove to sip his club soda and catch his breath when he heard a voice he would have sworn belonged across the state. He turned and saw the distinctly lanky figure of his father sweeping into the group that he'd just extracted himself from. The group, coincidentally, included the district attorney, who promptly excused himself and made his way to the bar.

Lex smiled and shook his head. Only Lionel Luthor would crash another city's holiday party. The mayor sidled up to Lionel, shaking his hand and clapping him on the back. Unfortunately his gaze fell on Lex in his hiding spot and the mayor waved him over, arm reaching out to reel him in when he got close enough.

"Look who's here! The Luthors, in Gotham City. Well, has Metropolis finally evicted you?" The mayor's round, ruddy cheeks shone in the gleaming lights.

"On the contrary, Mr. Mayor. We've simply outgrown Metropolis. Right, son?" Lionel led the others in a hearty laugh and Lex drained his glass, jingling the ice cubes absently as Lionel moved to wrap an arm around his shoulders.

"Looks like your well's run dry, Lex. We can't have that." The mayor snapped his fingers at a passing waiter. "Get him anything he wants."

Lionel leaned close to the mayor, effectively sandwiching Lex between the two of them, then spoke loud enough for all in the circle to hear, "I think you'll find that my son's poison is club soda, Mr. Mayor."

The group erupted again, this time with Lex at the butt of the joke. He felt his face heating and while the laughs were still infectious, he ducked out of the clique and headed for the lobby.

Once in the cool air, Lex forced himself to slow his breathing and collect his thoughts. Lionel, here in Gotham. He should have known.

He found a chair that faced away from the ballroom doors and sank into it, depositing his glass on the marble end table. The floor shone in the soft lighting and Lex tensed as he heard the soft click of shoes behind him.

"Mommy, do we *have* to go? I'm not a bit tired!"

Lex twisted in his chair and winked at the yawning little girl that Bruce had danced with. She waved at him covertly, hand at her side so her mother wouldn't notice and he saluted her and gave her a big smile. She giggled behind her hand and trailed after her mother, who was reaching back absently for her.

His dance partner overdue for Saint Nicholas, Bruce was probably ready to go. Besides, Lex was sure his father wouldn't miss him if he disappeared early. Lex pushed up out of the chair and went to the coatroom, retrieving his jacket and learning that Bruce had already gotten his own. Lex looked around the lobby and just outside the hotel, but didn't see him anywhere. A porter passed close enough for Lex to snag his sleeve and press a bill into a gloved palm.

"Have you seen Bruce Wayne?"

The porter looked around nervously, then nodded and whispered, "I believe he inquired about the view from the observation deck, sir."

"Which would be…"

"On the roof, sir. Access through the staff elevators only."

Lex tucked another bill into the white glove. "Did you say you're heading that way?"

The porter smiled and gestured for Lex to follow him.

**

The wind whipped tears into his eyes as he stepped through the thick metal door onto the pebbled surface of the roof. His dress shoes crunched on the gravel, giving away his presence before he had a chance to surprise Bruce.

But Bruce didn't turn, didn't even acknowledge Lex's arrival, not until he inched up beside Bruce at the edge of the roof, the cement wall digging into his stomach and palms.

"I needed some air."

"Yeah, me too." Lex nodded at the city below them, the lights of Gotham twinkling and blurring in the chill tears that he blinked away as quickly as they came.

Bruce's eyes were watering, too, trailing from the corners of his eyes back into his hairline, where the wind pushed them.

After a few silent, calming moments, Lex sighed. "My father won't leave me alone."

Bruce's head jerked up and he looked at Lex with a horrified expression. "I was just going to say the same thing."

"That my father's here? You saw him? Did he say something to you?"

Bruce shook his head slowly, red lips parted and puffing breath-clouds into the cold air. "No. I meant *my* father."

Lex stared into Bruce's eyes, raised his hand to brush away the wind tears. "How…?"

"That man… the one I met for breakfast. He wants something from me." Bruce tilted his head into Lex's palm and Lex moved to face him, the city melting away beneath them.

Lex waited until Bruce prompted him with a pleading look.

"What does he want?"

"He wants my father's research. I have it - all of it - in a safe place. He knows I have it and he wants it." Bruce turned back to the city, pulling away from Lex's hand and gaze.

Lex could guess the answer, but Bruce needed him to play this part right now. It was a more complicated, more delicate role than the one he'd played all night. "He was your father's partner in a medical practice, right? Why don't you just give it to him?"

"Because I know things about him that my father didn't know." Bruce's face was a mask of anger. "I can't prove anything without turning everything over, or I'd go to the police or FBI - somebody."

Lex raised his eyebrows at that, a smile escaping before he saw that Bruce wasn't pulling his leg. He shrank under his own disbelief, embarrassed to have doubted Bruce even for a second. "It can't be that bad. Go to the cops - I mean, really, how much clout could a doctor-"

"A geneticist before my father knew him. He worked for the government." Bruce shook his head. "As far as I know, my father never knew that, either."

Lex crossed his arms over his chest and turned his back on the view, leaning against the cold cement wall. "Oh. Well couldn't you fake the documents? Feed him practically nothing until he gets bored and moves on?"

"You're not listening. He knows what I have."

"I am listening, Bruce, but how could he be sure that you have what he's looking for?"

Bruce grabbed his arms and shook him. *Shook him*. Lex, shocked into silence, didn't resist, even when Bruce was an inch from his face, yelling. "Christ, Lex, don't you get it? I *told* him. I fucking *told* him everything. Until yesterday, he even knew where I kept them."

Lex opened his hands on Bruce's chest, pushing gently and holding Bruce's eyes as he extricated himself slowly from Bruce's grasp. The breath knocked out of him, he sucked in air that froze in his lungs and made him cough.

"Lex, God. I didn't mean to... Are you okay?"

Lex held up a hand to keep Bruce at bay, nodding and breathing slowly, regaining composure and breath at the same time. "I'm fine. Just... let's get somewhere where we can think. Home, maybe."

An arm wrapped cautiously around his shoulder and led him to the door of the roof, then guided him into the employee elevator. They rode down in silence, Lex sweating in the leather and wool that shielded him from the roof's chill.

Lex stopped by the front desk and scribbled a note of polite regret to his father, then tucked it into an envelope with instructions that it be delivered to Lionel as soon as Lex was out the door.

The hotel doorman had Bruce's car brought around and Lex climbed in first, pulling off his jacket and gloves before Bruce was even seated next to him.

They rode home in near silence. Lex told himself it was the driver's presence that warranted all that quiet, but something deep down told him Bruce hadn't meant to share a word of this with him.


**


Going home didn't seem to encourage conversation. They sat in pen-scratching and paper-rustling silence in the false summer-orange glow of the library's fireplace, not talking.

After getting more details from Bruce - specifically the requests - or threats as they may have been - that the man had made, when and how he expected Bruce to deliver. He'd given Bruce one week to gather all the materials and even instructed Bruce not to break the seals on anything before he turned the documents over to him.

McMurray had planned this well, first coaxing the information out of Bruce under the pretenses of friendship and curiosity, then turning the tables on Bruce and insisting that the property was half his and should be restored to him immediately. Bruce had even checked with his lawyer, who agreed that most courts would side with McMurray and order just what McMurray was requesting.

But Bruce resisted gently out of selfish sentimentality, wanting to keep all of his father's life work under lock and key until he'd had time to peruse it himself, when he could understand the terminology and make sense of his father's discoveries.

Bruce had opened only one sealed file and known he couldn't just hand it over to McMurray, a known power-freak who repeatedly intimidated Bruce's father when they were partners. The document had contained theories that Bruce could only half-follow, hypotheses that, if correct, could be a speeding train on the track of applied genetic mutation.

The world as they knew it would cease to exist if men could be altered easily, inexpensively, so drastically that morals would likely never enter the mind of the mutated subject again. How many men could resist the urge to exploit that much power? And McMurray certainly couldn't be trusted on moral grounds; that much was clear from his *published* work in the field of genetics, let alone the rumors that buzzed through the medical circles that Bruce had grown up in because of his father's popularity and fortune.

So with crumpled balls of paper on the floor and Bruce writing in blocky capitals across a fresh sheet, Lex closed his eyes and pushed all logical thought from his mind, grounding himself in the here and now for the first time in hours, not worrying about the fate of Mr. Wayne's research or the safety of mankind.

One thought kept coming back to his tired mind, a soothing promise of dissipating tension and release. Socked feet tucked under Bruce's thigh on the leather sofa, Lex glanced over the top of his own notepad and sighed. He shifted on the couch, hoping to pull a little of that ever-steady concentration in his direction, but Bruce's eyes didn't leave the paper at which he was staring blankly.

It had been hours, lifetimes since that morning, when he'd hinted to Bruce about alternate plans for tonight. Plans that now seemed too insignificant and well… unlikely to even hope for. But as he dug his feet in further under Bruce's thigh, Bruce glanced up at him, smiling and reaching automatically to rub Lex's leg, the intense-thought spell seemingly broken.

The clock tolled midnight and Lex couldn't help but grin, a long-lost Christmas morning bubble of excitement and anxious energy roiling in his stomach, egging him on and taunting him.

He yawned a little louder than he normally would have and dropped his notes to the floor with an insistent thud. "I'm going to bed."

So, okay, subtlety was overrated sometimes. Bruce's eyes followed him up and across the room, so that was good at least.

At the door, Lex stopped and stretched, letting his t-shirt hitch up to show off his stomach, counting on the low ride of his pajama bottoms to help his case. Bruce set his paper and pen down on the end table and stared unabashedly.

Lex let out the breath with a little laugh and a playful smile, hoping to pull Bruce the rest of the way out of seriousness. "Coming?"

"Not yet." Bruce's mouth quirked into a half-smile. "I'll be up in a little while."

***

Completely frustrated and more than a little angry, Lex sloughed off the day in a quick shower and headed for Bruce's bed. He could wait, just lie there with every sugarfuckingplum thought in his head melting the edges off his anger and try not to feel guilty that all he could think of was how he was not getting laid while Bruce was down there worrying about actual problems.

At three in the morning, the left side of Bruce's bed - their bed - was still empty, and Lex got up and paced, pulled a book off a shelf. He read the same sentence six times before giving up and closing his eyes, cooling his temper with promises of Bruce's body on his.

He woke himself up, moaning and spreading in a full-body stretch, jerking a little at the soft pull of wet heat on his cock. The cool air of the room made his skin tighten, made the warmth sucking so gently on him seem like the only heat in the world.

Bruce, eyes closed and cheeks hollowed a little, lips stretched and tugging slowly, like he was just tasting, like he hadn't really wanted Lex to wake up or something and Lex held perfectly still, marble to the silk of Bruce's mouth. He stared at Bruce's mouth working his cock, licked his lips and opened his mouth in a half-mimick of Bruce's.

Lips red and swollen and fuck, how long had he been sucking? The ache reached into Lex's spine, into his thighs and they shook, pulling a low moan from him. His hand moved without him, fingers pulling gently at Bruce's hair.

One quick look of concentrated attention, of assurance and *want* from Bruce and Lex's head fell back to his pillow, teeth digging into his lip and hips rolling under the tight hold of Bruce's hands, thighs locked open by the press of Bruce's shoulders. He was pinned, could barely stand it because God, he *had* to move. Shoved his hand under a pillow and pulled it against his face, suffocating and full, his own breath so hot on his face under the mash of cotton and Bruce just kept going, kept sucking and squeezing and licking until Lex yelled and threw the pillow away, gasping and begging, hands flying to Bruce's shoulders and holding on, fingers clawing to get Bruce to tighten his hold and he came, emptying into the warmth of tongue and lips that closed harder around him and squeezed him, didn't let go until he'd settled back on the bed, spent and panting.

Then for timeless minutes it was nothing but calming down and breathing, letting go of tight muscles and sinking down and utter relaxation. Just when he was ready to contemplate moving, Bruce moved instead. Between his spread thighs, *right* between them, the smooth glide of Bruce's length slipped down instead of up, brushing *there* then stilling. Bruce looked at him, waited for him and he looked back, nodded. No words, because he was scared and nervous. Because after all those nights, he didn't know - wasn't sure it would ever come to this. He still wasn't sure, wouldn't be sure until it was happening.

And he was right, because Bruce smiled just a little and wished him a merry Christmas.

It threw him and he shook his head, looked to the nightstand where two wine glasses reflected the flickering flames of a fire that hadn't been burning when he fell asleep. He sighed deeply as the hips on his wriggled down the bed and Bruce's head fell to his chest, warm breath ghosting across his stomach.

Instantly, he felt young, so small and shrunken with some kind of forgotten need for that pure, innocent comfort of being surrounded by joy and love on Christmas morning. He opened his mouth to tell Bruce everything, but whispered instead, "I didn't get you anything."

Bruce's protested, scoffing and saying he'd never believed that was what Christmas was about.

And Lex hadn't either, but still. It had to be said, didn't it? Maybe it all had to be said, maybe that's what Bruce was waiting for.

He swallowed and pressed his lips into Bruce's hair. "You can have me." It was honest and boyish and young and so sexy it made his stomach flutter to hear himself say it.

Bruce pushed up on all fours over him, eyes shining in the firelight and Lex didn't look away, couldn't stand even to blink. He stared up, hoping it wasn't too soon, praying it wasn't too much for Bruce, that Bruce wasn't as scared of *all the way* as he was. That he wanted it as much as Lex did.

"I don't need this, Lex." A warning, gently given, and Lex almost took it the wrong way until Bruce leaned down and kissed him.

Bodies not touching anywhere, Bruce's arms and legs surrounding him like a cage, Lex smiled his way out of the kiss and reached up for Bruce's neck. "Aren't the best gifts ones you love but would never get for yourself?"

The smile died on his lips at Bruce's sad, slow nod. He couldn't stand for Bruce to look like that, for him to be so raw and open after months of carefully guarding every emotion.

Lex loosened his grip on Bruce's neck and smiled wide. "Hey, look, we don't have to do this. I just thought-"

Bruce's teeth tapped his before he could finish, his body crushed beneath the weight of the chest that heaved against his. Lex answered the heat that emanated from Bruce, hands rubbing hard everywhere they could reach. Bruce kissed him different, deeper and longer, slower, without the urgency but with twice the passion and Lex ached inside, knowing that he finally *had* Bruce.

He turned onto his belly, neck craning so he could kiss and suck, hips rocking up into the curve of Bruce's, cock pressing hard into a mound of bedding until Bruce's hand slid across his skin, arm wrapping around Lex's chest and pulling him back and up.

Lex followed his lead, kneeling up on the bed and leaning back against Bruce's chest, his fingers aching as he kneaded the strong thighs under his own. He sat back and felt Bruce slide between under him, slick with arousal. Breath burned against his ear and Lex turned into it, closing his eyes as he slowly moved back and forth on Bruce's lap.

"Are you sure?"

He knew the answer but took a deep breath and opened his eyes, turned enough to see that Bruce was watching him. "Yes."

Hand on his back, not even pushing and Lex just moved, fell forward without thinking, staring at the white sheets beneath him as he knelt there on all fours like an animal, open and alone, as vulnerable as ever. Bruce moved behind him for an agonizing minute, then returned with a cool hand running back and forth across his shoulders, down his spine and down, down.

A finger smeared wet on him, twisting slowly inside and stilling there until he rocked back on it. He slid his knees a little further apart, head tucked down to see Bruce's thighs between his own and the firelight licking his own dangling cock. The spread inside him grew and he drew in a deep breath and let it out in a moan, reeling. He relaxed around the touch inside, fighting the urge to tighten and hug the fullness, pull it deeper inside.

His back was brushed by Bruce's chest and his shoulder blades sucked and bitten, the dip between them licked wet all the way to his neck. He writhed under Bruce's mouth, raising his head and getting what he wanted, that tongue teasing his neck and those lips sucking the base of his skull.

The fullness slid out of him, leaving him hollow for an instant, until Bruce's hand closed on his hip and he was opened again with a gentle, blunt force, stretched beyond limits he would never have guessed existed. The pain was exquisite, full and sharp like a symphony, dizzying as too many notes crammed into too few measures. He shook his head, groaned and grunted as Bruce inched inside him, breathed and breathed until he thought he would pass out.

This was virginity being lost, and not easily - not by pushing inside some sloppy-wet girl with too much softness to really hold onto. This was being broken, torn, this had to be *forced* to happen, slow, sure and determined. Hard for him to take it, and by Bruce's labored breath and exacting patience, to give it, too. It *hurt*, it stung so far inside Lex couldn't fathom it ever stopping. Couldn't remember what it was like before it had started, but it was good, somehow. Comforting to know he could take it, to know he wouldn't ever forget it.

He didn't move, couldn't, didn't dare. His legs shook and his arms ached from holding himself up under Bruce's weight. But he held still, let Bruce do it all, let him have him and take him, let him *do this to him*. He needed it done, needed it hard like this instead of so easy. Real like this, with Bruce, who did everything with purpose.

In the fire's glow, he could see his own cock swaying half hard underneath him, could see the clench and release of Bruce's thighs as they slowly pumped up and back. He glanced over his shoulder, breathing hard at the sight of Bruce staring down, watching himself disappear inside and emerge from Lex's body over and over. That gaze so incredibly focused and intense and Lex stared, detached from the pain as he watched Bruce's pleasure, desperate for those eyes to devour his own like that. As if he heard him, Bruce looked up and saw him, saw him watching and whispered, "So good, Lex… God," and rubbed a hand down his side, making him shiver.

He wanted more, didn't want to wait for Bruce's careful rhythm anymore, pushed his hands into the mattress, pushed back into the next thrust and Bruce's hand tightened on his side, squeezing and holding on. He reached back and caught Bruce's wrist, pulled it out from under him so he fell onto Lex's back. Lex gasped at the new depth, groaned his approval, and Bruce cursed under his breath, rocking harder when he caught his balance, his cock gliding in and out, faster and faster.

Lex's back hot with Bruce's breath and skin sticking to Bruce's sweaty chest, arms tired and shaking and the sheet's friction burning against his knees - he couldn't hold himself anymore. He gave up and leaned down, tucking his hands under a pillow and pressing his face into it, hiding his hazy half-felt embarrassment at the position. Bruce hissed out, "yes" and closed both arms tight around Lex's chest, pulling him back to meet every thrust in. Bruce's voice whispered somewhere behind him, telling him that it was okay, it was almost over because fuck, Bruce was close, so close and Lex was perfect, tight, so close. Then everything was still and Bruce was gone and Lex's back was showered in hot drops.

He hadn't been close, hadn't thought about anything but Bruce inside him but just the liquid heat on his back and the hand that slid under his belly and stroked fast on his cock were enough to bring him off. His body jolted by the raw shock of a second coming, he fell onto the bed, Bruce's weight pressing like a lead blanket along his legs and ass and back and he shook under it, crying out into the pillow under his face and fisting the sheet, spread thighs sliding on and squeezing Bruce's with every shocking pulse of orgasm.

It was over and he didn't want it to be, didn't want to move, didn't want Bruce to take away the heaviness that crushed him, that kept him from taking a full breath.

When Bruce moved a little, he forced out "Don't-" and the weight pressed him down again, somehow not so heavy this time with Bruce's lips brushing the back of his scalp.

He reached down and took Bruce's hand, brought it up by his face and stared at it in the dim orange light, watched as the long fingers twined into his own, traced the thin lines of Bruce's palm with his thumbnail.

When Lex couldn't fight off the cold of sweat and nudity any longer, he turned a little and Bruce rolled off of him, pulling him close. Lex let himself be moved into the curve of Bruce's body, be kissed slowly and wrapped in strong arms. He closed his eyes when Bruce sat up to reach for the covers, and let himself be tucked in.


PART FIVE


The molasses morning hadn't passed slowly enough for Lex, and if the groaning behind him as he peeled himself out of the mound of bedding was any indication, Bruce wasn't altogether thrilled with Alfred's summons to breakfast, either.

But it was Christmas and the staff was gathering, their excitement already clattering and buzzing up the sweeping staircase, so he and Bruce silently hurried through their morning routines, bumping elbows over the sink and rubbing hips in the shower. The soap lathered richly on Bruce's thighs and cold tile pressing into his back made Lex's lungs squeeze shut, but, smiling and shaking their heads, they behaved and didn't indulge in a quick fuck under the shower spray. They toweled off a foot apart and Lex was careful not to tempt himself with the sight of Bruce in slacks and nothing else.

Downstairs the servants were all seated and jolly - laughing over sausages and a round of bread so thick Lex was sure the middle would be raw dough. He bit into his slice and grinned. Old world goodness over new world music - an eclectic mix of drums and flutes rioted softly under the din of conversation. After everyone was stuffed to button-popping fullness, they moved into the great room for coffee and presents. Lex found himself lingering in a shady corner, away from the lights and pine, the revelers and their host.

Bruce was in odd form, handing out presents on his knees by the tree, passing his mug to a typically starched Alfred, who looked as dapper as usual, save for a smudge of cinnamon on his chin. Lex grinned and leaned against the wall, feeling himself blend away from the rest, a harmless observer the subjects didn't even acknowledge.

Things would be very different at Luthor Estate this morning, the house all gray quiet and locked doors. The scent of pine would drift up to him and eventually he'd remember, have to take a moment so he would feel the biting betrayal of an unspirited house and another meaningless holiday. His mother would visit him during an afternoon nap, solemn and not at all herself, deadly silent and eerily sad.

His father would absent himself from all meals and leave a gift for him on the bottom stair.

Here the gifts were wrapped with obvious care, tied with all manner of ribbons, ornaments and charms dangling from the loose ends. Bruce announced every gift from Santa, clasped the hands of the men and kissed so many blushing cheeks that Lex began to wish he was a chamber maid.

Finally, Bruce made his final holiday wishes and the staff began to gather their things. The room was clearing, the servants smiling and showing off their gifts as they pulled on their coats and lingered in the hallway. Alfred silently closed the doors behind himself, leaving the two of them alone.

"You didn't think you could hide in plain sight, did you?"

Lex scoffed and gave up his mug as Bruce urged it from his hands, trading the warm ceramic for the slide of brushed wool. "I'm not very good at- you know."

Bruce shook his head and casually took a sip of Lex's coffee before setting it on the mantle. With a smirk, Bruce tucked his hands under the hem of Lex's sweater, his arms circling around in a warm embrace. Resting their foreheads together, Bruce mocked, "Didn't Lionel teach you anything? There are five things to remember about any family gathering..."

Sighing, Lex twisted to escape Bruce's arms, but Bruce pulled him in close, stopped short of kissing him, their lips almost touching.

"The rules are different for some of us." Lex turned his head to the side, the closeness thrown in too sharp relief against his resistance.

He needed to move, felt himself tensing under Bruce's scrutiny. Bruce knew more about him than anyone - knew too much. Knew almost everything.

He drew in a breath and held it, his hands still tucked into his pockets, his cheek heated against Bruce's lips. "Lex…" He closed his eyes and leaned into the whisper on his ear. "Lex… I know."

It was true, too, which made it worse. Lex nodded slowly and laid his head down on Bruce's shoulder, leaning against Bruce's chest.

**

Striding down the hall, Lex burst into Bruce's room, heedless of the closed door and early hour. He'd gotten up early, taken a bath, and found a folder under his door when he went to get dressed.

"What the fuck are these?" Lex threw the sheaf of documents across Bruce's bed, spilling the papers in a spray from one side of the room to the other.

Bruce took a sip of coffee and raised his eyebrows at the flying papers. "What do they look like?"

"They *look* like internal Luthorcorp documents, but seeing as you're not a Luthorcorp employee, I'd have to guess that they're fakes."

Sitting up on the bed, Bruce reached for the nearest paper, holding it up to the light, displaying the LC watermark. "They're not fakes."

"Then what the fuck are you doing with them? My father-"

"I think your father is the one that sent them to me, but I'm not sure why. He's funding some of McMurray's research, and someone wants me to know about it."

Lex picked up a handful of the papers and sat on the edge of the bed unable to focus on anything but the bright red stamp that splashed across the tops of all of them. "Why would my father send you confidential documents" He squinted and saw numbers, bank account numbers. "Why the hell would *my father* be sending you *bank statements?*"

Bruce shook his head and kicked the papers off the foot of the bed. "Swiss accounts, Lex. Untraceable. He's either warning me about McMurray or making an offer for my father's research papers. My guess is he's doing both - seeing how I'll react before he makes the threat - or offer - official."

It made sense - it was the way Lionel Luthor did business. All nuance until he was assured he would win whatever contest he was playing at. He never entered the game unless he was sure he would win. But why would he think Bruce would sell the research, and why hadn't he bothered to ask Lex about it?

"Lex, do I need to ask if you had anything to do with this?" Lex looked up sharply, his thoughts echoed in Bruce's words. Bruce was staring at him, face relaxed but as hesitant and cautious as Lex had seen it.

"I'm not his lapdog." Lex pushed off the bed and threw the papers in Bruce's face. "Or his whore."

"Lex, stop - you would've asked me the same thing. Come on, you have to admit it looks-"

"It looks like the holiday is over." As he stalked from the room he how the hell he came all this way with Bruce just to find out that Bruce had never really been with him for the trip in the first place.

"I can't let him do this, Lex. He can't have the research, at any price." Deafened to logic by pain and anger, Lex slammed the door on Bruce's words. Safe in the hall, he still couldn't breathe, couldn't move. He fell back against the door, trying to steel himself against the pain that wracked his chest.

Bruce wasn't yelling anymore, but Lex could still hear him talking. "My father isn't for sale."

**

Packing went fast, the ride to the airport faster. The Luthorcorp chopper was there, waiting on him, blades slicing chunks of silence in the freezing wind. He hated helicopters, always has, but he'll take an hour of hell over facing Bruce for the next week and a half.

The ground shrank below him and Lex leaned his head back, closed his eyes. He left without saying goodbye, without telling Bruce he was leaving, but it didn't matter. Alfred had walked him to the car, put a hand on his shoulder despite Lex's undisguised annoyance, and told him he was welcome back at Wayne Manor anytime. The final, generous incline of the butler's head was enough to sting Lex's eyes. He'd smiled through a quick goodbye and climbed into the car. Alfred shut the door behind him and tapped twice on the window. Lex didn't look back as the car rolled down the long drive.

It seemed rash now, leaving in a huff when he should have stayed and fought. But for what? What the fuck could he have fought for? Nothing but his fantasy was lost, because Bruce had never bothered to invest anything in him.

It wasn't worth it - laying it all on the line for someone else who was just going to inherently doubt him. Lex wasn't in it so he could prove himself to yet another man who would ultimately disappoint him. He'd thought loyalty of all things was understood between him and Bruce.

His only comfort lay in the fact that Bruce probably had no fucking clue that a son could choose a lover over a parent. Granted, parents were a phenomenon Bruce had barely experienced, and Lex's only education had been in pain. First the loss of unconditional love, then the burden of Lionel's condition-driven approval. Shit, really, he and Bruce were a ridiculous notion - the blind leading the blind into complete darkness.

Luthor Estate sat below him on the winter gray countryside, spread like a fat aging toad, squatting there, waiting for its prey. Que Lex, flying in in the helicopter, ready to be chewed up and spit out in hallowed Luthor tradition.

But Lionel mercifully wasn't waiting for him in his study, and the halls are silent save for the maid who bustled out of Lex's room just as he turned the corner to enter it. She carried a stack of towels and peeked over them with a smile.

"Welcome home, Mister Luthor. I hope you'll find everything in order."

Remembering the rules of the house, Lex smiled weakly back at her - here, anyone could be Lionel's eyes, even a pretty little maid with a stack of towels. "I'm sure it is, Marie. Thank you."

His room was starched and stark, only a tattered copy of Holy Blood, Holy Grail on his nightstand betraying the fact that he actually did belong to this room, once upon a time. His bathroom door was open and it was a no-brainer to head there first. He stripped and used the toilet, pulled a towel off the rack and started the shower. The water was hot before he stepped in, steaming up to the ceiling and hiding him instantly in its thin veil. He was warm, finally, the chill of the trip home melting from his skin and running down the drain at his feet. His skin steamed, too, reddening and stinging under the hot spray. He took his time, turned under the water, thawed slowly, dropping his shoulders and rubbing the back of his neck as it warmed.

Bruce's shower was nice, but it never felt like this. Home showers were something you could never reproduce, no matter how good the replacement was. He opened his mouth and caught some water, letting his tongue feel the heat that pounded his face. Swiping a hand across his eyes, he reached for the soap. The clean, sharp scent opened his lungs and cleared his mind as he lathered his body. Bruce's soap didn't smell like this, didn't have this instant effect on him, didn't relax him and let him truly unwind.

He closed his eyes and ducked his head under the water, letting it run over his face and scalp. Soft and warm, like Bruce's tongue running over his skin. Long, smooth strokes of heat, tickling along his neck and chest, down over his stomach, teasing lower. His hand drifted down on a slide of soap, finding himself half-hard and sheathing his cock in slick heat, the lack of friction making him want to move. Giving in, he leaned back against the shower wall and let his head fall back against the cool tiles, his eyes squeezed shut against reality.

Bruce was in his head instantly, unavoidably tangible as the fingers of water followed his chest down and brushed between his thighs, curving back and running down the backs of his legs. He felt Bruce everywhere, heard his moans, his soft growls in between the drops of water hitting the wall by Lex's head. He held himself with his right hand and squeezed his eyes closed until it was Bruce's arm resting in the curve of his side, Bruce's hand reaching from the ethereal mist behind Lex, sliding along his shaft. The water flowed over Lex's face, catching his breath and low rasping begging, washing it away before it could echo back to his ears.

"Lex." Bruce's voice, rough and urgent, in his ear as he stroked himself higher.

"Fuck, yeah. That's it. Christ, yeah." Come on, just a little more. He felt his life reaching out, stretching past the gnawing pain in the back of his throat, searching for the breaking point that would steal all control from him for a precious instant of freedom.

He tensed his thighs, pushed his head back into the hard tile, gritted his teeth and stretched further towards the abyss, hand flying on his cock, water torturing his skin with unrelenting caresses. Just, fuck, just a little more, just-

"Lex."

He cried out, water filling his mouth and stinging his eyes as mouth and eyelids flew open in protest. His body hovered high and far from his mind, shuddering and spurting despite the rolling in his stomach, the screaming sickness that welled up in his throat. He spit the water from his mouth and closed his eyes, panting and struggling back to the surface. "Jesus Christ."

"Didn't mean to interrupt, son. Shall I come back when you've… recovered?" His father's smirk filled the whole fucking bathroom and Lex fell back against the wall, jaw clenched tight on his smartass remark.

"I'm fine." Lex swallowed and pushed off the wall, swiping his stomach and reaching for the soap to lather his cock. "What is it?"

"Mr. Wayne contacted my office this afternoon. He left a rather cryptic message. Something about… my using you to get to him."

Lex rinsed himself and turned the knobs until the water stopped. Pulling his towel from the wall, he wrapped it around his waist and stepped from the shower. "He's paranoid."

"Apparently. He informed me that the only way he would work with me was on condition that you be kept ignorant of our negotiations." Lionel leaned back casually against the counter as Lex stepped up to it, wiping the mirror with a hand towel. "Does he doubt your loyalty?"

"Do you?" Lex glanced at his father and reached for his t-shirt, tugging it on over his head. He turned and walked out into his room and put on a pair of shorts. He aimed the towel at the hamper but overshot it by a foot.

Lionel stood in his doorway, mouth working for a moment before he spoke. "Is this whole - situation - the reason that you're home?"

"I just wanted to be home." Flopping down on the bed, he laid back on his folded hands. "Can't I just want to be home?"

Lionel reached down and picked up the discarded towel, tossing it onto the bed. "Don't over-do it, Lex."

Lex sat up and balled the towel, threw it again, sank it.

Lionel shut the door behind him as he left.

**

The grounds of Excelsior were dark and soggy the second week of January, hardly a shining welcome back. Lex let Lionel arrange for a private room for him, away from temptation and regret, both. He was on a different floor altogether, in a room exactly like the one he shared with Bruce. It even faced the same courtyard, though from a different angle.

The first few hours that night, he'd slept with his bed pushed up next to the window - the place he'd always had it in his other rooms, but after staring for hours at the yellow rectangle of light glowing from Bruce's window, he pulled the drapes and scooted his bed noisily across the room.

Nothing could keep him from classes though, and he knew he'd see Bruce eventually. It wasn't like he couldn't be in the same room with him. He was just… a piece of Lex's past. Fucking prick.

He pulled his overcoat on and buttoned it, shoving his hands into his pockets and stepping carefully out into the snowy light. Calculus was his first class with Bruce, one of only two, the other being phys ed. He could handle that one easily - his seat was across the room and behind Bruce's. He stared at the blackboard until he couldn't block out the dark waves of Bruce's hair any longer, then busied his eyes and thoughts with his work, staring at the paper until the light blue lines melted into the white background and he caught himself tapping his pencil.

Gym was infinitely more tedious. He donned his fencing gear and lost two points because Bruce ran by, flitting past in white shorts and shirt, legs flexing with his slow jog. Lex struggled to concentrate, his focus too forced to do any real good, but steady enough to keep from looking like an ass through the first round. He took his seat on the mats and tried not to watch as Bruce ran his trancelike laps around the perimeter of the gymnasium. If there was a chance that Bruce could see him, Lex made sure his head was turned.

When he got up for his second match with what he considered a wholly unworthy opponent, Bruce rounded the corner coming towards him, eyes locked on his. Caught, Lex spat and pulled his mask down, then snapped his attention to his opponent, opening with ferocity the lanky young man hadn't been ready for. He drove in, striking fast and hard, the slap of his foil on the boy's canvas uniform echoing against the gym walls. It was a valid score, even if it was a cheap shot. When Bruce's gaze stuck on him, his head turning as he ran, Lex drove in hard again, scraping his foil along Fred's until they were chest to chest. He pushed off with too much power and Fred sprawled back on his ass.

"What the hell, Luthor?" Fred was on his feet, tossing his foil aside and charging in, and Lex answered the reaction with his own, fisting his hands in Fred's uniform, slamming him into the mat and pinning him down. Fred gasped under him, the wind knocked out of him.

"It was a clean point." Lex pushed up off the kid's chest, shoving his shoulders into the mat.

Knowing Bruce was watching, half counting on the fact that Bruce would follow, Lex pulled off his gloves and tucked them under his arm as he stalked into the locker room, ignoring the calls of his instructor and the other boys.

The ancient locker room shower scorched so hot that the slide of wool on his legs as he dressed prickled his raw skin. He slipped out the door and headed back to his room before the bell could toll signaling the end of the period.

**

It was too dark to see and he didn't want to use his flashlight this close to the entrance, so Lex felt his way back through the stacks, back to the place Bruce had led him that first night. He found the furthest corner of the archives and switched on his flashlight, setting it light end-down so it casts a yellow-red glow through its plastic. He pulled off his gloves and huffed warm breath into his cupped hands. It was too damn cold to finish what he's started - to head out to the cave and spend the night in solitude and silence. The snow was almost gone, but the wind had picked up, and his face ached as it thawed from the short walk between his dorm and the library.

He crouched down on the floor right there, wishing he'd brought something to read while he warmed up. The archives might offer something interesting enough. Pushing the heels of his hands into his eyes until he saw stars, he sighed and started to stand but froze in place when the soft squeak of a boot on tile sliced through the stale dusty air. He held perfectly still, not even daring to reach for the flashlight, his mind racing with excuses for him to be down there at that hour. The librarian would swear she saw him leave over an hour ago. He had no reason to be locked in the building, no reason to be sitting on the floor of the archives in complete darkness.

The spot of a light crawled across the floor toward him and he followed the filtered stream up to the hand holding it. He didn't need an excuse. He needed to run, and he tried. He stood, straightening carefully, pulled on his gloves and shoved open palms hard against Bruce's chest.

"Stay away from me." Lex reached for his flashlight and started to push past Bruce, who spread his arms and blocked the way.

"Why'd you come here?" Bruce's eyes were dark but soft, unaccusing. "You knew I'd find you… didn't you?"

Lex took a step back, balling his hand into a tight fist, coiling for the punch. Bruce looked surprised for a second when Lex moved, dodged a centimeter away and then right back into Lex's striking range, and Lex's fist connected with a sickening crack, sinking too far into the flesh of Bruce's cheek, just below his eye.

Bruce's flashlight fell to the floor and rolled, making shadows dance around them. The rush of blood pumping in Lex's ears was almost enough to drown out Bruce's grunt and the shuffling of his shoes on floor as he stepped back, doubled over, cursed. "Fuck, Lex." Bruce held his face, pulled his hand away to look for blood that wasn't there, winced as he touched the reddening bruise again. "Fuck!"

Served the bastard right. Lex sneered at the widened eyes. "Move. Now."

Bruce worked his jaw then reached for Lex, put a hand on his shoulder before he could decide whether or not pulling away would be a sign of weakness.

"Lex, just listen-"

Lex glared at the hand holding him in place, then up at Bruce, who just shook his head. Lex reared back and swung a punch at Bruce's chin, nearly falling backward when his fist was stopped by the brick wall of Bruce's palm mid-swing.

The blocking hand didn't stop, pushing Lex until he had to stumble to keep his balance. He reached back and felt the wall just before the back of his head connected with cinder block.

"*Listen* to me. It was for your own good."

Lex fumed inside, gritting his teeth to keep from screaming his frustration. "Get the fuck off me."

Bruce's hand closed on his jaw, holding his chin in vice grip, forcing Lex to look into dark eyes. "I know what you think, but you're wrong. I trust you." The hold on his face loosened and Lex turned his head, eyes closing.

He couldn't speak, not even to argue.

Bruce's lips ghosted over his own, soft and warm against his tightly pursed mouth. "I trust you, Lex."

The bumpy texture of the wall behind his head dug into his scalp and he let his head fall forward, opened his eyes when he felt his coat fall open to the cool air of the room and Bruce's hand slide under the thick wool. The long fingers stroked across his belly and around his side, up and over his chest. He felt the unmistakable loosening of his shirt as Bruce unbuttoned it, stood still and let its hem be tugged out of his slacks.

The air rushed in under his open coat and shirt, tickling his belly and raising his skin, pulling every nerve to full-alert as Bruce brushed fingertips down the center of his chest and hooked them into his waistband. Lex shook his head and laced his fingers tightly into Bruce's hair as the young man knelt in front of him, looking up with unabashed surrender, eyes more revealing than Lex had ever seen them. If he was going to strike, now would be the perfect time. He doubted Bruce had ever been more vulnerable in his presence.

But as his waistband slackened and fell open, the backs of his thighs wrapped in big, steady hands that pulled him forward just long enough to slide pants and boxers both to his ankles, he didn't lash out.

Bruce's nose pushed into his belly, the cold seeping into his skin and making him jerk a little before warm breath and a deep inhale tickled across his groin. He burned from navel to knees, scorched with the imprints of Bruce's fingers as they spread and squeezed, drew him closer to the red, wet lips that sucked small kisses inside the curves of his hipbones. He closed his eyes as Bruce's tongue licked out, slowly drawing a hot line along his length that cooled before it reached the tip of his cock. Bruce pushed against him, pressing firm kisses on his thighs between sucking teases.

Lex opened his eyes, ran his thumb across the swelling oval on Bruce's cheekbone, sucked in air along with Bruce as he pressed the pad of his thumb in gently, testing the depth of Bruce's pain. Those dark eyes begged up at him again, younger and more naked than they ever should have been, and Lex let his head fall back against the wall, pulling Bruce's face against his crotch so he wouldn't have to see that weakness written where it didn't belong.

**

 

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