Lionel still fences.
Strictly speaking, it's supposed to be footwork drills in the salle of the mansion, designed to help strengthen his legs after weeks of enforced inactivity. Just because he walked out on the indignities of physical therapy doesn't mean he intends to be a miserable invalid for the rest of his life. But sometimes he lets himself fall into old patterns: lunge, thrust, parry against an opponent who exists only in his mind. His legs really aren't strong enough for it, but it keeps his blood moving.
Sometimes, he feels the air disturbed behind him and he knows that Lex is leaning in the doorway. Watching him.
Lionel thinks of all the times that he observed Lex's lessons, looking for strength, looking for weakness, looking for the echoes of himself, and he wonders what Lex sees now. And what he wants to.
Lionel knows the sounds of a house with Lex in it. Slamming doors, cacophonous music turned up to jarring levels, shouts that fill rooms and sulks that, improbably, do the same. Lex was, he thinks, always trying to make himself heard.
Now Lionel lies in bed and marvels at how quiet the mansion is. The creaks and groans of a settling old home, to be sure--now that his hearing has grown so sharp, he imagines he catch them all. But Lex has responded to his new acuity by learning to walk, work, even eat in silence across from his father in the grand old dining hall. The quiet isn't a new weapon, he thinks; it's an escape route.
Lionel does, however, catch the low clear gurgle of liquor being poured, evening after evening. About that, he says nothing.
There are fresh-cut flowers in his room every day. Lex makes sure of that. They're not the splendid exotic blooms that the LuthorCorp fields fill the Metropolis mansion with--instead, they're daisies, snapdragons, the occasional straightforward rose--but Lionel appreciates the gesture. Scents are as good a way of decorating his world as any.
The same young man delivers them every day. Lionel hears them talking together, quietly, outside. The boy has a strikingly earnest tone, but strong and clear. Like the scent of the flowers he brings.
Lex's tone with the boy is...too unguarded, and when he comes back inside with his armful of tribute, he smells like the wide open Kansas sky.
The boy brings produce, too, and they eat a great deal of it. It's of excellent quality, light and fresh and bursting with vitality on Lionel's tongue. Almost more than he can bear.
"Since when did you become so fond of produce?" he asks one day over the table. "I remember how hard your mother had to work to make you eat your vegetables."
Lex pauses. "Since I learned how good they could be."
Lionel wonders if he is tasting love.
Lex's skin is smooth and a little cold. Like a rock polished from years of rubbing, except Lionel never used to do this. Not even in that clingy year after the meteor shower, when Lex would take any excuse to be near him.
He needs to learn. He runs his fingers over Lex's cheekbones, trying to understand how to translate what he feels into the familiar topography of his son's features. He thinks of phrenologists, wonders if perhaps this will give him some insight into his mind, as well.
Besides what it tells him that Lex sits still for this.
"What are you thinking?" Lionel asks him one day, as rain rattles the windows. The delivery boy had been short with Lex the day before.
Lex gives no answer, but Lionel thinks he can feel the brush of Lex's eyelashes against his fingers. That says enough.