Had a devil of a time coming up with a title for this. I do hope you enjoy it, and shall be forever in your debt if you could take just a moment to extra to comment. ^_^
Powder and Wax 1/1
by Meredith Bronwen Mallory
One of Lex Luthor's earliest memories is of watching his mother, perched like a pale wraith in front of her vanity, carefully applying deep carmine to her lips. A silver tube, held between two fingers and a thumb; his mother's gaze, staring off past the reflections in the mirror, as her hand repeated a long familiar motion. He could see himself in the mirror, too-- just past her shoulder, sitting on the gauzy white bed, red hair still riotous around his face. In many ways, this isn't a memory-- or rather, not a specific one. Lex can't count how many times he must have watched her, white skin looking only marginally less pale against the snowy silk of her dressing gown and robe.
'We'll leave soon, darling,' he can hear her say. 'Just let me put on my face.'
There's a little stab of pain in him, then-- the voice his mind conjures is so clear. It hurts, always, to think about her; a bitter, somehow satisfying sort of pain. As if he can hear her bones stirring when the thought of her emerges; as if he is somehow projecting himself into the past, manifesting as a shiver and a little line of goosebumps along her spine.
'Someone just walked over my grave.'
Actually, it was Pam who used to say that.
Pam is gone too, now, and who is there to remember Mom? Lionel hacks away at the past like a vicious white man with a machete. All time, in the elder Luthor's mind, is subject to his will. The past can be erased or bought, it can be burned and gutted if inconvenient. With enough metal and electricity, the past can be warped, damaged until the flesh that scars over is just lucky to repair at all.
There's only Lex, now, laying in another bed, eyes closed and head tilted towards the ceiling. A still, careful imitation of peaceful slumber. Some feet away, Lana is sitting at her own dark vanity, putting on her face. 'Lime Envy ' green eyeshadow and 'Pretense' pink blush-- Lex doesn't know where the hell she *finds* this stuff, though he can easily imagine some small, trendy little neon shop in downtown Metropolis. To Lana, making herself up is never familiar-- each time, she acts as though the motions are new, and the task absorbs her full attention. Skillful, but somehow precarious.
Lex huffs, amused, and keeps his eyes closed. He knows, even before she begins to hum a perky little radio chorus, that she won't hear him.
He lays there, while his lover gets ready for the day, and hates Lana with a power that stuns his own conscious mind. Nothing new, of course; he's hated her since the first time he heard her name pass Clark's lips, as if it were the title of some exotic bird. Despised her beyond words the first time he saw her make Clark weak at the knees.
'A cheap trick,' he murmurs to himself, now, and he can envision his well-crafted, virulent green ring. His own little form of witchcraft, more potent than Lana's morbid trinket, safe in its lead box in the locked drawer of his nightstand. Lex hates Lana; he has bred this hate, cultured it with all the careful attention of vineyard wine. Strong, but leashed. Power is, after all, only useful if you can control it. It is only now, when her back is turned, that he can feel its true heat, like another presence in the bed with him. A gollum he has made with his own hands.
Now comes the sound of the bedroom door clicking closed, and he knows Lana is trotting off towards what he privately thinks of as 'the wardrobe room'-- the guest bedroom, and its walk-in closet full of her things. Lex's day starts very early as well, but he has a few minutes to take for himself.
Sometimes, Lex dreams of Clark's now all-too-routine angry entrance, of green eyes filled with fire. This dream is like the incident with the evidence chamber, only worse. This time, Clark knows that the myriad pictures and objects Lex had collected there pale in comparison to the vaults in his mind. Endless, meticulous; images and ghostly touches, faint echoes of Clark's kinder voice, and his faith. Clark is enraged, far more than Lex had ever seen him in waking life. The chamber was rent and torn apart, and now Lex will be, too-- destroyed utterly. Clark's big, warm hands cup Lex's skull, almost gentle, and then his former friend begins to squeeze. Lex can watch his own death, can see Clark ripping at gray matter, looking for Lex's evil plans and finding only himself, only Clark, reflected forever in Lex's heart and mind.
The dream always ends with Clark screaming (in horror? ultimate understanding? regret?), blood on his hands-- but Lex likes to continue it now, in these few quiet minutes before he must rise and face the day. Extrapolate, expand. He holds the image of Clark's beautiful, tearstained face in his mind, imagines his own blood coating that beloved form. Seeping into Clark's skin. From the ruins of Lex's body rise vines, line and powerful and faintly green, wrapping around Clark as if avenging the fallen corpse. Except the vines *are* Lex; they hold Clark with unshakable tenderness, they bind him until he can not move at all. Brushing against him, sinuous, they say everything Lex has never been able to. Clark throws his head back, screams now in ecstasy and surrender. He is devoured.
'A good dream,' Lex thinks, licking his lips. 'Sweet.'
Once upon a time, Lex had used the image of Clark's undimmed smile to help rouse himself from bed on cold, tired, Smallville-Castle mornings. He'd used the promise of Clark's firm shoulder-clasp to pull himself through interminable meetings with his leering satyr of a father. He hoarded these, treasured them still; but he could no longer bare to look at them. Too many angry words, too many lies littering the corridors of his mind. Accusations; the name 'Luthor' spat like a black and ancient curse.
'You never stop spying!' Clark had raged, pushing Lex against the wall. Lex thought now that he should have arched up, taken Clark's mouth with all his yearning and frustration, seen if-- like that brief fluke on his security tapes-- he could, for once, make Clark bleed.
'Penny for your thoughts, a nickel for regrets,' as his mother used to say.
'I'd be rich all over again,' Lex thinks to himself. Now out of bed and into the shower; warm jets relaxing his muscles, wiping away the sweat of last night. Lex heals astonishingly, and Lana's touch can barely burn the surface skin. He makes quick work of his absolutions. His schedule starts an hour before Lana's, endless board meetings and maneuvers, but Lex is as economical with his time as he is sharp with his dress sense. As he steps out of the shower, he hears the faint click-and-pressure of Lana's trademark strappy heels-- she'll be back in the master bedroom, now, dabbing on the perfume that smelled faintly of pink and eternal sleep. Lex towels off leisurely, choosing a pair of black slacks and a gray silk shirt, knowing she'll be waiting carefully a few paces from the door.
And she is-- all done up as befits Lex Luthor's girlfriend, encased in the flattering lines of designer labels he's sure Nell helps her pick out.
"You look lovely," he tells her reflexively, watching her smile in her practiced-doll way. Every moment she spends with him is a moment she isn't with Clark, and Lex knows she won't last forever. Already, Clark's wounded, earnest gaze is turning away, wandering from Lana's faux-faey looks to Lois' brazen lioness air. Lois, at least, is upfront, not disguising her calculations. So many times, as Lana moves against him-- small, high breasts bouncing-- Lex has wanted to question her. 'What was it like with Clark?' He's wanted to pin her down, ask for the gory details, make her show him just how Clark got things done. Too rough, though-- Lana has to be handled gingerly, allotted a certain amount of denial, and so the questions remain unasked. With Lois, Lex is almost certain, there will be no need. From the sharp, sideways glances she flings at him, he suspects she might tell him of her own accord. Bragging, in a way; knowing full well that the details he craves will also pain him.
Thousands, millions of things in Lex's collection: how Clark runs, that self-conscious lope; how he used to laugh; how he worked, golden lines of his shoulders moving as he did his summer chores.
And-- if only by proxy-- how he makes love.
"Are you sure?" Lana asks presently, turning so the hem of her skirt flares slightly.
"Of course," Lex says, knowing she would never have left the wardrobe room if she were really the slightest bit uncertain. "Maroon is a good color on you." Aesthetically, it is-- she looks every inch the stylish city girl. Glimpses of that coy, small-town belle are getting fewer and further between. These little moments of vulnerability, when they do occur, do not inspire sympathy in Lex. Instead, they serve as a comfort-- the kind a soldier feels, having fixed his enemy's position. He does not know if Lana fancies herself in love with him, or not-- it's hard to tell, with both the tragic fairy child and the ambitious young woman rattling around inside her frame. In the end, it matters little; Lex is well aquainted with the chill beneath her sweet demeanor. Youthful, promising farmboy, or sophisticated millionaire? Lex may have made his own machinations, but Lana made the final choice-- with little remorse.
'The wrong choice,' Lex thinks, and wants to punish her for it. It was a trick question, rather like the games his own father sprung on him as a child. Situation based on temperament, outcome already assumed. Intertwined with his hate is all the disdain he can hold for a person incapable of seeing a treasure set right in front of them.
"I'll see you this evening," he tells her, brushing an airy, acidic kiss near her cheek. She smiles at him, lips glistening and red. 'Bitter Crimson Lake', Lex thinks-- rather like the color of his own blood in his dreams. For a moment, he feels a fierce stab of envy towards Lana, towards his mother and, indeed, all women. To have that barrier, that familiar mask of powder and wax-- such a luxury! A physical reflection of a psychological state.
Absently, he wishes Lana a good day, biting against the scar on his upper lip. Today, he has an interview with Clark Kent and Lois Lane, fresh stars of the Daily Planet. He imagines Clark sitting across from him, as if they had not once played pool and happily raced Lex's porsche down country highways. He sees those ridiculous glasses, the stance of unremarkable determination Clark now adopts, face guarded against intimacy. Very well-- Lex has seen that blank look across a chess board, and he himself has had years more practice.
'I'll be there in a moment, darling,' he thinks, inner voice wry and raw and truthful. 'Just let me put on my face.'
*tries on a Scarlett-esque pout* Feedback makes this little lady squeal in a most undignified manner. ^_~