Thanks to Lyra, like always, and Bex for audiencing. *hugs*
Fire licks out the windows, and up the sides of the building – flames wrap around the thin, square apartment complex like sinuous snakes. It’s brighter than the sick orange glare of the streetlights, and it catches on the shards and curves of glass that litter the gutters. It shows the whole damned mess of the narrow street, people standing around in packs and glaring at the shadows, watching the fire with their hands over their mouths like they just can’t fucking believe it. All the other buildings slump toward the dirty asphalt, like they’ve been defeated, too. Like they’re just waiting to burn.
There are sirens sounding in the distance. Could be the fire, could be for something else – there are always sirens somewhere in the Slum. Always police fingering their batons like they’re just waiting to break it across someone’s face, idling down the street in their big white and black cars. Morgan pulls his jacket tighter, and breathes deep, leaning back against the lamppost as he digs his matches out of his pocket. Strikes one against his shoe, and when he lights it, the end of the cigarette glows in his cupped palm.
The air smells different – drier, filled with ash. He listens to the snapping crackle across the street, thinks about all those books that Lionel kept in his room. Pictures them burning, the thin pages curling up, turning black around the edges. And Morgan thinks about Lionel, reading. Sitting out by the water, leaning against the gray stone. Thin face still, eyes fierce, like he’s ripping the knowledge out of the book – like it’something he had to fight. Morgan’s never read a book that did that to him, but he sits there, too, smoking and watching the gray, listless water, and thinks, “Even the harbor knows it’s beat.”
Not much changes in the Slum – things go on, from day to day, not because people want them to, or have any kind of hope for the future, but because no one knows what else to do. How else to act. So they just keep moving, keep getting up, going to work, and coming home to drink too much in front of the TV. But this, Morgan thinks, watching the building crumble, *this* is something big.
He’s not the first Edge in the Slum. In fact, there’s been an Edge or two around longer than anyone can remember, and they’ve all been big men with bowed heads and crooked shoulders, and no imagination. Men who accepted the fact that this, these ten blocks of grimed over windows and junk metal, is all there is.
And that’s what makes Morgan different; he’s the first once with flair. The first one who reached out, decided to take whatever the hell he wanted, and just get. The fuck. Out. No matter what. So this fire looks more like a door than anything else, one that opens a little more with each pop, each scorch mark across the cement.
He turns at the touch on his shoulder. Lionel stands just behind him, long, pointed face blank, eyes hard and opaque. He jerks his chin at the cars coming down the street, and says quietly, “Police.”
Morgan nods, slips out of the light and follows Lionel down the sidewalk, across the street, block after block, over a rusted chain link fence until they reach the harbor. They slip into a warehouse by the water, and Morgan closes his eyes, sits with his back against the aluminum walls. Lionel’s beside him, breathing slow, and easy, saying nothing. When Morgan opens his eyes, he sees that Lionel’s staring down, tracing patterns into the dirt with his pale fingers.
And Morgan frowns, knows that Lionel isn’t sorry, but wonders if maybe this is…too much. Mary and Lachlan were dead, no doubt about it, and maybe Lionel was thinking too hard about being the last Luthor. He reaches out, flicks Lionel’s kneecap, and says, “Hey.”
“Hey,” Lionel responds, turning to Morgan, and there’s still nothing on his face, but Morgan’s been there since the start, since before Lionel could walk even, and he knows Lionel better than anyone else. Lionel’s thinking, and thinking hard, and Morgan relaxes, because if Lionel’s still weighing options, still trying to figure things out, then he’ll be fine. They both will.
“Worked out pretty well, didn’t it?” he asks.
“I reserve judgment until we’ve got the money.” Lionel shrugs, goes back to writing in the red clay of the floor. Traces his name there, and Morgan laughs. He reaches over Lionel, and writes his own name underneath it, underlines both, and quirks a grin up at Lionel.
“It’s the two of us,” Morgan says, straightening. “Always has been.”
Lionel snorts, brushes his hands off, and closes his eyes. “You’re right there.”
“Of course I am,” Morgan agrees comfortably, reaching into the bag they’d brought with them. He pulls out a blanket and tosses it to Lionel, before getting his own. “Get some sleep. Got an early morning coming.”
There’s no response, but when Morgan looks over, Lionel’s lying down, the blanket pulled up over his shoulders. He’s not asleep yet – his breathing is too fast for that. He doesn’t want to talk.
Morgan shrugs, and leans back against the wall, relaxing inch by inch. He wonders idly how many people died tonight, and if his mother’ll make him go to the Luthors’ funeral, and if Lionel will go at all. And, because he feels like maybe he should, he thinks about Lachlan, and Mary, and even though he’s known them all his life he can’t muster a speck of regret for either of them. He falls asleep with the shadows of flames behind his eyelids and a half smile on his face.
The landlord’s a soft, fat man named De Palma who likes to run his pink hands over the worn wooden arms of his chair. He’s slow, and he’s stupid, and he’s trying to cheat them. Morgan just leans back against the wall, crossing his arms, and lets the gleam of a grin surface when Lionel shoots him a quick slice of a smile over his shoulder.
“The building’s gone,” Lionel says quietly, reasonably. “Just as you asked; burned to the ground.”
“There were people in it!” De Palma protests. “The police’ll be lookin’ extra hard now. You get half of what we agreed on, and you’re lucky. You screwed this up, big time. Hell of an accident to make.”
“Accident?” Lionel asks, voice sharp. “Who said anything about an accident?”
And De Palma’s hands still, his thick jaw hangs open, and Morgan swallows a laugh. “You mean…you…you two…?” His eyes dart from Lionel to Morgan, and back. “Why?”
“Personal reasons,” Morgan tells him, voice hard, and edged.
And those chubby hands start moving double time over the grooves in the armrests. “No, no way, no *deal*,” De Palma repeats, shaking his head and breathing fast. “You guys are…you’re psycho. Take the half and get out.”
“Half is not what we agreed upon,” Lionel points out, still reasonable, still quiet, but as Morgan comes to stand next to the desk he can see how pointed, how severe Lionel’s expression has become.
Morgan leans in, and whispers in De Palma’s ear. “We’re not leaving without exactly what we’re owed.”
“You think I haven’t been threatened before?” the fat man asks. Morgan sees sweat on his upper lip. “You won’t do a damned thing to me. You better leave now.”
“Have you checked the names of the people who died last night?” Lionel asks, smile resurfacing, but this time…this time the gleam of Lionel’s teeth is like light on the edge of a knife. “I suggest you do. You’ll see there’s very little we won’t do, sir.”
De Palma darts nervous glances at both of them. Morgan leans in closer, reaches over him, picks up the police report and points to two names, and De Palma makes a choked noise. He stinks like old sweat and sour milk, but Morgan just stays right there, just keeps looming over him until De Palma’s reaching into his desk and pulling out an envelope, stuffing it with cash. Over De Palma’s sloping shoulder, he meets Lionel’s eyes, sees the pleased smirk there, and his lips curl up, lazily.
The smoke hangs thick in the air, curling up and up to coil around the lights. Morgan lounges against the bar, watches Lionel out of the corner of his eye as he sips slowly at the whisky in his glass, the liquor sliding slow and warm down his throat. Lionel tosses his head back, wrist snapping with another shot. He wipes the back of his hand across his mouth, and taps Morgan’s shoulder.
“Game?” he asks, nodding toward the pool table.
Morgan smiles, eyes sliding over the crowd. “Ben and Jimmy are over in the corner. See if they’re up for two on two?”
“Sounds good,” Lionel agrees, pushing off the stool. He stalks over to the felt covered table, cuts through the mulling crowd like a blade.
The game’s fast, and brutal, with Morgan and Lionel sweeping the table quick and easy. Morgan sinks the eight ball languidly, and Lionel reaches out for the twenty on the table.
Jimmy catches his wrist, starts to say, “Not so fast,” but without even breaking expression, Lionel’s punching him. A left hook to the jaw, and Jimmy staggers back a pace or two, pulling Lionel with him. Ben moves to interfere, but Morgan decks him, lays him out cold. When he looks over, Lionel’s ducking a punch, and hitting Jimmy twice; two vicious little rabbit punches right to the kidney. Jimmy doubles over, and the crowd presses in, making angry noises.
Morgan grabs Lionel’s shoulder, and drags him out the door, down the street, into an alley. Leans against the wall, catching his breath, and when Lionel starts to laugh, he can’t help but join in. The sound bounces and rebounds off the cold stone walls.
Lionel holds up the crisp twenty, and Morgan laughs harder. “Can’t believe you managed that,” he says, gasping for air.
And then Lionel’s in front of him, teeth glinting, with a smile that could cut, hands pressing Morgan back into the chill of the wall. He leans in, his nose pressing against Morgan’s, his body emanating heat. “You don’t get it,” he says. “You don’t get it at all.”
“What we did last night,” Lionel says, words tumbling over one another, eyes burning over Morgan’s face, “what we did this morning with De Palma. It worked. We did it, Morgan.”
“Yeah, we did,” Morgan agrees, laughing, thinking about how carefully they’d doused the lower levels of the building, and how Loinel’s eyes had flickered when he’d told Morgan to light it up. They’d been dark, flaring in time with the fire.
“But do you know what that *means*?” Lionel asks him, voice rising, hands squeezing his shoulders.
Morgan sees the fire blaze red, sees his way out, and nods. “We’re getting out,” he says, reverently. “We’re getting out of this goddamned place.”
“Yes, yes, we’re getting out,” Lionel says, impatient, “but that’s not it. Morgan…we pulled this off. We can…hell, we can do *anything*.”
And…he’s right, Morgan realizes, and it feels like the world’s unfolding all around him. Like suddenly it’s all his. Like he’s already left the Slum behind, and as it dawns on him, Lionel grins, squeezes his shoulders again.
“Anything,” Morgan whispers, and Lionel just nods, his hair brushing Morgan’s forehead. He’s laughing again, both of them are, laughing so hard that Lionel collapses against him, and Morgan wraps his arms around Lionel to hold himself up and when the hysteria finally subsides his face is pressed against Lionel’s neck, and Lionel’s hands are clutching at his back, mouth pressed against Morgan’s ear.
And against his leg, Lionel’s hard. They both are. Lionel blows out a long breath, and Morgan shivers.
“Anything,” Lionel says again, voice dropping, fingers tightening on Morgan’s back through the fabric of his shirt, hips pressing tight against Morgan’s. “Anything at all.”
Morgan gasps, presses back, and finds himself holding Lionel’s slim hips in his hands, holding on as Lionel just…rides him, rubbing against him, so hard underneath the denim of his jeans. He mouths Lionel’s neck, bites violently where it meets his shoulder and Lionel hisses against his ear, sucks on his ear lobe. Morgan rears up against him, thrusting hard against Lionel and everywhere their bodies strike against one another, Morgan thinks there should be sparks.
And something’s happening here, he knows, something more than the orgasm that begins at the base of his spine and shakes him so hard that he lets a strangled scream out into the thick dark of the Slum. Lionel gets more frenzied, his teeth get sharper on Morgan’s ear, and when he comes his fingers pull so hard at Morgan’s shirt that the fabric tears, and cold air rakes over the small of his back. Lionel rests against him for a minute, and Morgan rubs his hand once over Lionel’s hair before pushing him away, gently, so that he can breathe.
Lionel reaches out, lays a hand on Morgan’s collarbone, eyes hectic. “It’s the two of us,” he pants, echoing Morgan from the night before.
“Yeah,” Morgan agrees, letting his eyes slip shut and his head fall back. Lionel’s hand slides up, over his throat, around to cup the nape of his neck, nails scratching over his scalp.
“Nothing can stop us when we’re together,” Lionel elaborates, still breathless. “Not last night, not this morning, not tonight. Not ever.”
Lionel’s hand is like a vise clamped on the back of Morgan’s neck, and his own fingers are still locked tight on Lionel’s hip, and Lionel’s exactly right; they’re stronger together. Stronger, faster, maybe even smarter, and he thinks of De Palma’s soft, sweating face, and the way Jimmy groaned as they ran out of the bar, and knows that they’re more dangerous. Because they can. Do. Anything. Anything at all. Anything they fucking want.
Morgan opens his eyes, and touches the wet spot on the front of his pants. The fabric’s already starting to get clammy against his skin, and he shifts, frowning. “Let’s get out of here,” he says, and pushes off from the wall, stretching his shoulders and walking to the end of the alley. “Go somewhere.”
“Where?” Lionel asks, and Morgan just raises his eyebrows, amused. He looks over his shoulders at the shadowed face behind him.
“Wherever the hell we want.”