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Chapter 8: Endings
Storm
palladian23 wrote in superwebnovel
Author's Notes: Warnings for this chapter - Bad language, angst, betrayal, mild domestic violence, threats of death/bodily harm, rage

As always, a big thanks to my fabulous editor gwoman for her work on this chapter!


Back to Chapter 7

Lex swayed on the handrail in the metro, grinning crazily at her own reflection in the glass doors of the train. Her longing to see Kurt had left her completely restless, so she tried to calm herself by thinking about what they might do over the weekend. She’d shower and change once she got home, maybe call him at work to let him know she’d arrived, and then when he got home...

Lex realized the train ride had ended as she heard her stop being called, and she quickly tripped out of the train. Heading to the escalator out of the metro, she bounded up, sometimes two stairs at a time, laughing.

Several minutes later, after having hurried down the sidewalks and run up all five flights of stairs, Lex arrived, winded, at the front door of the condo she and Kurt shared. She fumbled for her keys in her purse, trying to find where she’d left them after two weeks of disuse, and eventually eased the door open. To her confusion, she heard voices inside.

She froze and listened. Actually, it was one voice: Kurt's. Her heart leapt, and again she grinned to herself. Lex quietly eased inside and shut the door silently. She began creeping down the long front hall, determined to surprise her fiancé. His voice began to resolve into words.

“No, no, it's a fair trade. Probably more than fair; it's my dream job.”

Lex heard the slight buzz of the person on the other end of the phone responding to Kurt’s earlier statement as she moved about halfway down the hall.

“No, it's really not that bad to have to break things off with Lex in exchange. I can always find someone else, but I will miss the sex.”

Feeling as if she’d been lanced through by an iron bar dropped from the ceiling, Lex froze a few feet before the end of the hallway. Her suddenly dry mouth tasted harshly of dust and defeat.

“I know she doesn’t look it, but she really is a good fuck! I’ve been thinking for a while, though, that I’d have to break things off with her eventually. She's just so weird sometimes, and those scars!”

Kurt laughed then, the sound causing Lex's guts to wrench. Her forehead had broken out in a sweat, and she still felt frozen to the spot, unable to talk or move.

“You should have seen how much trouble it was to find a dress for her that didn't show those nasty things off! If it's all right, though, I think I'll wait a couple of months until the official break up...you know, I can't take you being away all the time, that sort of thing. At least until then I know I can still get laid every other weekend.”

Lex could hear the murmuring response of the person on the other end of the phone, and it sounded amazingly loud in her ears now. Her body had started to move again, and she shook with adrenaline. The anger that had settled in her head felt like the fast-forward replay of a fiery bud blooming into a monstrous, poisonous red flower. Everything else seemed to move in slow motion around her as she covered the final feet of the dimly lit hallway and entered the sunny kitchen to face her former lover, who’d been sitting at the kitchen table having a cup of tea along with his conversation. She came in so quickly that he only had time to register her presence before she spoke.

Lex wrenched the engagement ring off her finger and launched it in his general direction. “You rot in hell, you fucking asshole.”

She watched as his expression finally changed as he realized what her presence there might mean, but much too late. Lex saw her carelessly tossed ring spin in the air, and watched the diamond or the prong open an inch long cut under one of Kurt’s cheekbones as it sailed past him to land on the floor. Before the blood started flowing Lex had turned, still shaking with fury, one hand in a fist so tight her fingernails pierced her palm.

Got to get out of here, Lex thought to herself, almost choking on the feel of the tight space of the condo, and her anger, which continued to grow frighteningly large. She crossed the living room to reach the bedroom and for some reason she couldn't later recall, took all of her underwear out of the top drawer and packed it into her travel bag. Her gaze spun unevenly around the room as she tried to think about other things she might need, but all that came to mind were her spare pair of sneakers and her coat. She grabbed them out of the closet, fitting the sneakers into her backpack on top of her books and throwing her coat over the top of her travel bag. Slinging the bags over her shoulders again, Lex moved quickly back out into the living room.

Her guts twisted once more as she saw Kurt there, a wet paper towel pressed to the cut on his cheek. “Lex, let's talk about this.”

Fire seemed to flame behind Lex's eyes, and somewhere in her mind she could see herself beginning by beating on him, then progressing to twisting all of his lifeless limbs into shapes they never could have formed unbroken. She responded with an effort. “I don't want to talk to you.”

She rapidly moved to the shelf under the TV to pick up the albums that she kept her CDs and DVDs in and packed them into her travel bag. It didn't leave much room, but her gaze fell on the bookshelves next to the big picture window and she went to them, determined to pull a few of her very favorites to take with her today.

“Lex, honey,” Kurt began.

Something snapped in Lex's mind, and she turned to face him. “What? What is it you want from me? There's no reason for you to break up with me now for your new job; consider me pawned off. Or are you going to try to tell me that conversation I overheard was some sort of joke?” Lex cursed her hopeful heart as it leapt at the thought, even as she looked Kurt in the eye and could tell from his guilty expression that everything she’d heard had been true. “Just leave me alone,” she finally managed, trying to ignore the heavy pain in her chest.

Lex turned to the bookshelf and began to grab a few volumes as quickly as she could. She moved instinctively when she felt the hand on her, and turned to see her former fiancé bent over in pain as she kept the hand she had pulled off of her shoulder in a joint lock. Oddly, she realized she’d felt nothing when she touched him, that electric tingle she’d become used to when their skin met now gone.

For some reason, the automatic motion of her body and seeing Kurt nearly kneeling before her, his face twisted in pain, turned Lex's anger very cold.

“Don't touch me, you spoiled brat. You have no right to anymore.”

“But, Lex-”

She felt a flash of hot anger as she saw the look on his face, like he still thought he could talk his way out of this. Lex shook her head, trying to clear it. “You don't even get it, do you?” Kurt's expression held confusion now. Lex sighed, suddenly feeling tired and realizing her tight throat ached.

“I’ll try to explain,” Lex continued, even though she suddenly felt the gap of understanding between them must be the size of the Grand Canyon. “Being as privileged as you are, I doubt it's ever been a problem for you to get more things, find another school to go to, get another job, or find someone else to fuck. For me, everything I have I've had to struggle for, so it’s all very precious to me.” She paused, sucking in a big breath to try to calm herself. “Do you have any idea what you just did to me? You might as well have stabbed me in the back for real.”

Lex watched as Kurt's eyes slid to the side, trying to evade hers. She made a sound somewhere between a snort of derisive laughter and a growl as her anger bumped up another notch and she continued.

“You don’t even understand that you should probably be afraid now. I can tell you're thinking you can somehow win me back over and that we can be friends. Well, forget it, it isn't going to happen.”

Kurt looked at her a little sullenly then. “Afraid! Of you?”

Lex felt a chill run down her spine as cold anger flowed back in again and she glowered down at him. “Don't you know that with what I can do, I could easily kill you?”

He looked up at her, surprised, and then winced as Lex pushed on his wrist. “Oh, yes, and from what I've seen, there's absolutely nothing you could do about it. You'd be dead long before you could reach the phone to call mommy or daddy.” Lex didn’t recognize her voice; it sounded calm yet somehow triumphant and altogether deadly.

Kurt tried to look defiantly up at her, but it seemed difficult because of his near-to-kneeling position, and the fact that a good deal of fear had mixed into his expression.

It had been the fear that shook her. Lex felt some of her sanity return with a jolt as she got a sudden flash of herself as a child, looking up at her father, feeling the fear in her own eyes as he “taught” her this move. Her wrist had hurt for a week. She pushed on the remainder of Kurt's arm as she released the joint lock, causing him to fall to the floor on his ass.

“I don't want to kill you, though. I want to get a few more things and leave, so stop trying to provoke me.”

He sat there as Lex quickly grabbed a few final books, hoping her adrenaline-shaking hands actually picked the ones she wanted. She wedged them into her travel bag and stood, settling her luggage around her. When she turned to face the room, she saw Kurt still sprawled on the carpet, nursing his wrist. Lex looked away and turned to go, but glanced back after a few steps towards the door.

“I'll be here at noon tomorrow to pick up the rest of my things,” Lex said over her shoulder. “Don't be here between noon and five. I don't ever want to see you again. You have my word that I'll only take what belongs to me, and that the rest of your apartment will be fine. Also,” Lex continued, making sure to turn a little more to look Kurt in the eye, even though he tried not to look at her, “if you already started fucking someone else while we were still together and gave me something incurable, there’s nowhere you can go where you’ll be safe. Not even your parents will be able to help you.”

“I didn't,” he replied sullenly, still not meeting her gaze.

Lex said nothing in return and continued walking for the door.

For some reason, Lex couldn’t remember leaving or going downstairs, but suddenly she came to herself as she stood out on the street near the exit door of the condo building, pressing her back into the sun-warmed stone, panting and sweating. The air she breathed felt hot and thick, tasting of sour broken dreams.

She felt…crazy. Lex’s rage pounded through her veins, alternately hot and cold, and she couldn’t stop shaking no matter what she did. She wanted to scream, to beat on something. Well, to be precise, to beat someone. All the people passing by on the street irritated her, even though they seemed to have enough sense to give her plenty of space. It felt as if their presence, just going about their daily activities, grated on her.

Lex struggled and tried to get herself to think more clearly. Can’t be like him, she thought, remembering the fear she’d seen in Kurt’s eyes and feeling bile rise in her throat in rejection of the image of herself equated with her father. She repeated the thought like a mantra as she tried to figure out where to go. Staying in public felt unsafe to her; Lex knew she either needed to be somewhere alone, where she could work out her anger, or somewhere everyone around her would be safe as well.

I can go back to headquarters, her mind suddenly supplied, but the idea of getting on the metro again seemed like a big red flag to Lex in her current mood. Realizing she’d need more cash to get a taxi, Lex crossed the street as she saw an ATM with no line and then walked to a hotel on the corner where she’d often seen taxis waiting.

She leaned her head against the greasily smeared side window once she sat in the seat behind the driver, trying to ignore the scent of mildew and the black rage in her mind. After tonelessly giving the driver the address, Lex began to mutely study what flashed by in the window without really seeing it, trying to calm herself with deep breaths. When the driver tried to engage her in small talk, Lex looked darkly at him in the rear view mirror.

“Just drive,” she ground out.

Lost in thought, Lex suddenly saw her expression reflected in the window glass as the taxi went under a bridge and considered how different it looked from the grin seen reflected in the train window not long before. The expression in her eyes still haunted her as the taxi burst out into the sunlight again; she looked as if she'd been in a war and lost. She had become accustomed to looking into those eyes every day during her childhood, and to see them again felt nearly unbearable. She stared at the floor then, just willing the taxi to get to headquarters as soon as possible, the tight fist in her lap beginning to shake with the effort required to hold herself together.

Finally the cab stopped, and Lex looked up to see the now familiar squat grey building. She let out a sigh of relief as she checked the meter and took out some money, including an extra $20.

“Thanks for the ride,” she managed, handing the wad of cash to him and getting out of the cab. Lex felt the sun beating down on her as she walked to the front door lugging her bags. She found it strange to have felt glad upon seeing headquarters, but she felt the relief in the pit of her stomach when she swiped her cardkey and the sliding front door unlocked and slowly opened.

Upon coming in, Lex looked swiftly about and then practically ran for the stairs when she saw no one else. She hurried down to the martial arts studio where she knew the heavy bag would be waiting for her.

The room was empty when she arrived, but the heavy bag swung there, and Lex could almost feel it looking at her. And then she saw a vision of Kurt standing there, looking at her with contempt. Lex dropped her bags and charged forward with a growl, kicking the bag right where Kurt's head would be.

His words started to repeat in Lex's mind and she could hear “oh, those scars!,” “good fuck,” and “it's a fair trade” over and over, making her feel as if a million stinging bees had landed on her skin. She could see Kurt instead of the heavy bag now, and punched him hard in the face. Lex saw him rock back in her mind with a bloody nose. She snorted, watching him take his hand away from his face, look at the blood on it, and then glare indignantly back at her.

“That's nothing. Just wait,” she said, aiming a kick for his midsection.

He doubled over when her foot landed on his stomach so she kneed him in the forehead, which brought him up to a standing position backed against the wall. She began hitting him in the midsection then, a hail of punches to different areas—his stomach, sides, and groin. Lex stopped her exertions for a moment, panting hard. She snapped her mouth shut seconds later as she realized she’d been cursing the vision of him to the rhythm of her blows.

Once she caught her breath she kneed him again in the side, in his kidneys, and then kicked him in the face when he fell to one knee. After that, she kicked his supporting leg out from under him, and got him a couple more times as he fell to the ground. She could see him breathing afterwards, but also saw a lot of blood around his head. Well, head wounds always bleed like crazy, she thought.

After a while, Lex blinked a few times and found herself standing alone in the half-lit martial arts studio with the heavy bag swinging like a pendulum. She’d scratched up her hands, and her chest continued to heave as if she'd run a mile sprint. The fury she'd felt seemed to melt away and Lex slumped forward as a crushing sense of loss washed over her, leaving her feeling like the biggest fool in the world.

When she finally looked at herself in the mirror, Lex just stared momentarily. She tried to push her hair into some sort of order but it seemed both wild and stringy at once, and she didn't have much success. Lex found she couldn't look into her eyes for long because she again saw the dark, hopeless gaze she remembered seeing throughout her childhood, and it made her stomach clench to see that it had returned. She flinched away from the mirror and gathered her bags in order to trudge back upstairs.

Upon emerging on the main level, Lex looked across the front hall through the kitchen door to see Casey and Serena. They appeared to be discussing something or maybe arguing. Lex stopped for a moment, wanting nothing more than to go to her room, pull the covers over her head, and forget this day had ever happened, but she somehow forced herself to head for the kitchen, knowing that she’d wanted to ask Casey to help her with tomorrow's move.

The two of them stopped talking, Serena pausing in mid-gesture as she leaned on the kitchen island, and looked at Lex as she appeared in the doorway. Casey smiled as she saw her friend. “Hey Lex, I thought your note said that you'd gone home to see your boyfriend.”

Lex's felt herself wince involuntarily. She quickly wiped the expression off her face but saw from Serena's interested look and Casey's concern that it hadn't gone unnoticed. Realizing that she needed to explain, Lex tried to assemble her scattered thoughts. “Uh, it didn't...didn't work out,” Lex began after clearing her throat. Her voice sounded as if it hadn’t been used in a long time.

She thought about how to tell the story as the other women watched her intently and finally just decided to rip the bandage off quickly. “I came home to hear him talking on the phone about how he’d agreed to break up with me in exchange for a job that someone had promised him.” The words tasted so amazingly bitter on her tongue that Lex’s fists tightened automatically.

Lex had bowed her head as she’d finished, but looked back up again as suddenly she felt herself caught up in a big hug. To her surprise she saw Serena’s arms wrapped around her. The bags fell off Lex's shoulders, and her arms came up, seemingly by themselves, to hug Serena back. Lex closed her eyes and breathed in Serena’s perfumed scent, the gesture making her feel somewhat better yet infinitely worse.

“You poor girl,” Serena said, her voice low, sounding as if she’d been hurt by seeing Lex’s pain.

Lex felt a painful bubble pushing up inside her chest, and she had to clear her throat a couple of times and swallow carefully before she could respond, “Thanks.”

Her eyes closed involuntarily as she stood there for a few moments more, but they opened back up as she felt a large hand on her shoulders. Lex looked up to see Casey, and tried to smile.

“I'd be able to understand better if he was poor, but his family's loaded. They practically bought him that condo we were living in...” Lex trailed off, the thought suddenly hitting her that it didn’t matter anymore. She swallowed again, and it felt a little less painful, as the three of them moved to stand a bit further apart. Lex looked up at Casey before she spoke again.

“I told him I’d be back tomorrow at noon to pick up the rest of my stuff, and I was hoping, Casey, that maybe you could help me. In the morning I can go out and rent a van. I don't have any furniture right now, so it's mostly just small things-”

Casey interrupted, shaking her head. “You don't need to rent a van. We can sign one out of the garage.”

Lex looked at her in confusion. “What garage?”

The blonde grinned in reply. “Let's go down there now. We can check to see what vans they have in and make sure they have enough boxes.”

“Oh, OK,” Lex said, following Casey out of the kitchen.

To her surprise, Serena came along, as well. “I'm going to help, too, if you need it.”

“Thanks, Serena,” she answered, smiling feebly, “I'd really appreciate it.”

They all went down one level, and Lex found herself shaking her head. It hadn't occurred to her to ask what was on this level; she'd sort of forgotten it as she ran up and down the stairs. The stairwell door opened onto a large garage with a number of cars, vans, and other mechanical devices stored in it that Lex didn't automatically recognize.

The three of them found the mechanic onsite and signed out one of the smaller vans, then packed some empty boxes that they’d grabbed from a nearby storeroom into the back of the van. With that completed, the three women headed back upstairs. Lex felt tired and washed out again and sighed sadly, trying to keep it quiet. She stumbled a little in ascending, but Casey's strong hand on her back quickly steadied her. Lex looked over at her friend and tried to smile in thanks.

“So,” Serena said, turning to look at the two of them, “what are you planning to do this evening?”

Lex felt a pressing emptiness as she thought about that and her mouth tasted like dust again. She had no idea and hadn't thought about it since being in the metro this afternoon. The three of them passed through to the main level, and Lex cleared her throat again before answering.

“I don’t know. I have my DVD collection now, though, so maybe I'll just watch some movies...” she trailed off finally, trying not to look the other two in the eyes because she didn't think she could manage right then. They must think I’m pathetic, Lex told herself.

“Oh, no,” Serena replied, and Lex glanced at her as she shook her head from side to side. “We're going out. The worst thing you could do would be to sit around and mope. Trust me, I've been rejected more than a few times. We’ll go out and have a great time. There are plenty of men out there who aren't morons like your ex, so let's get out there and find some to make you feel more like you should.”

“But I'm not ready-”

Serena laughed, interrupting Lex. “I'm not saying you've got to have sex with them, I'm just saying that it’ll make you feel better to see that there are plenty more fish in the sea, and plenty who’ll be glad to pay you the attention you deserve. Understand?”

Lex stood still for a moment, not entirely convinced but willing to consider the idea. As she thought about it, it did seem more appealing than sitting around watching films, which probably wouldn't be diverting enough to keep her thoughts at bay, so she’d likely spend the evening feeling depressed. Being out with other people would be distracting and probably keep her from going over the scenes from the condo again and again in her mind. She went to pick up the bags she'd left in the front hall and heard Casey's voice.

“If you guys are going out tonight, I'm coming along,” she said, a trace of something like anger in her voice as she gave Serena a hard look.

Lex looked over to see Serena shooting Casey an interested glance in return. “The more the merrier,” she replied with a smirk.

As Lex turned to go upstairs, puzzled by the exchange, she felt a slim arm link into hers. “Come into my room, and we'll get you cleaned up and ready for tonight,” Serena told Lex, then looked back with a grin. Lex followed Serena’s glance to see Casey standing in the front hall looking fierce, her arms crossed across her chest.

Lex looked back at Serena as the woman tugged on her arm and got distracted as she had a bad thought, her heart sinking. “I just remembered that none of my dress clothes are here yet. The only things I have with me are workout gear and some business things.”

Serena seemed unworried, looking her up and down for a moment and considering. “Hmm...not a problem. We're more or less the same height, but I can tell you're broader than me because you’re obviously more fit. I have some slinky, stretchy dresses that will fit you fine, though.”

“Are you sure-” Lex began, feeling embarrassed by the redhead’s kindness.

“Yes, I'm sure,” Serena interrupted, elbowing Lex. “Now come on in so we can get you ready!”

Lex dutifully followed Serena to the room diagonally across the hall from hers. As the two of them entered, Lex just stood at the door for a moment, nearly gaping. The room layout was similar to her own, but slightly larger with no window. This had been compensated for by a projected picture of a beachscape with palm trees covering the far wall. The sun looked to be within a few hours of setting, and Lex could hear the gentle sound of waves hitting the beach and seagulls crying overhead.

She would have stood for a while dumbfounded by that, but then she caught sight of the oversized bed in the middle of the room. It had a circular shape and looked as if it could fit several occupants comfortably. Lex vaguely saw some additional furniture that looked tasteful yet somehow suggestive at the same time, but the rest of the room's details blurred as Serena grabbed her arm and hauled her into the bathroom.

“We've got some work to do before we go out tonight, so take time to relax first,” Serena said excitedly.

Lex noted first that the bathroom took up more space than the one in her room. As Serena switched the light on, she realized why. The shower stall looked more or less the same, but a huge sink with a vanity mirror had been added, along with shelves beside it and a huge bathtub so big that you could fit a couple of people in it. The room had been elegantly tiled, and different types of lighting had been added, as well. Lex looked around in confusion, not sure what to do next.

“You can put your bags on these top shelves so nothing gets wet,” Serena told her, moving some towels to a lower shelf. Lex followed instructions as Serena started the bath water running. She hummed as the water ran and added some bath salts from a crystal jar, which released the sweet smells of lavender and jasmine into the air. As she tested the water, Serena nodded to herself and stepped back.

“Go ahead and get in. I'm going to start putting your outfit together. I have a few ideas, but I may need to see how you look in a couple of things, so you'll have to be patient, OK?”

Lex agreed automatically. She didn't mind trying on a bunch of clothes, and the bath seemed really appealing, the feel of the steam on her skin enticing and relaxing at the same time.

“Try to chill out for a while and forget about everything that happened today. Read some of those if you start feeling bad.”

Serena had gestured to a stack of magazines on the lower shelf as she left the bathroom, and Lex glanced at them, seeing Cosmo, People, and Vogue, among others. She began undressing but didn't pick a magazine out, opting instead for slipping into the deliciously warm water once she’d shed all her clothes. Lex felt almost as if she could do little laps due to the size of the tub once it had been filled. She smiled at the thought, closed her eyes, and let the warm water work its heat into her tired muscles and bones.

Lex faced the glassy, deep waterfall again. She put her arm into the water this time to gauge the depth, but had to pull it back when the water reached halfway between her wrist and elbow, due to the strength of the current. As she focused her attention, Lex spotted the frozen person on the other side of the waterfall again. She squinted to see more clearly as the person, who seemed agitated, continued trying to tell her something. Lex still couldn't make out the person's face, but this time something about the figure, maybe the way the hair had been cut or their general build, made her think that the person was a woman. Focusing on the woman's pale mouth, Lex finally made out “Watch out for-”

Lex jerked to wakefulness in the bathtub, splashing a little water around. She found that the water level had risen to her armpits and so turned the taps off. Feeling disoriented, just as she had the first time after that dream, Lex sat in the hot water quietly for a few moments, watching the steam rise off her skin. As she began to wake up a little more, Lex started to wonder what the woman wanted her to watch out for. Since she’d only had the dream once prior to today, she hadn't thought much about it, but now... What could it be? A person? A situation? Lex closed her eyes, trying to focus on the dream and see what meaning she could pull out, but eventually sighed in frustration because it seemed too vague. Maybe if she could see the woman better next time...

She sank a little lower into the bathtub, enjoying the hot water and the floral scents in the air. The waterfall had been cold—not icy or bone chilling but definitely uncomfortable—and the contrast with the water in the bath felt pleasant. Lex spread out in the tub then, allowing her limbs to float back and forth like a mermaid. She mentally admitted she couldn’t do laps but confirmed that a few more people could definitely fit in the bath. For a long, clear moment, Lex just felt happy. It confused her when she thought about it, but then she realized that despite the disturbing events of the past few hours (which she quickly pushed her thoughts away from), she’d felt more at home and cared for over the past two weeks than she probably ever had. She didn’t feel absolutely comfortable in her surroundings since Clara and Sauer seemed kind of weird, and she didn't appreciate having to go through so much medical testing. However, having time to hang out with Casey and get to know her, learning under Mr. Chen, and now being taken care of by Serena had made her feel as if she truly belonged. As a little spring of happiness bubbled up in her, Lex brought her knees up and leaned forward over them as if to protect that small feeling, and closed her eyes.

Lex whipped her head around as the bathroom door opened following a quick knock, but she relaxed again when she saw Serena poking in.

“I heard some splashing and wanted to make sure you were OK-” Serena began, but broke off with a gasp before she asked, “Lex! Who did that to your back?”

Automatically, Lex looked over her shoulder but sighed at the same time as she did it. She knew that Serena meant the scars, like everyone else always did. Swallowing hard, Lex responded.

“My, um, my dad. Unfortunately, there are more, too.”

Serena shook her head. “I see you've had more than your share of bastards in your life.”

Lex sighed. “Yeah, well, the latest one didn't like what the first one did. It was one of the things he was complaining about to his friend on the phone when I got home.”

“That asshole,” Serena said in a low, dangerous voice, “Lex, if I ever meet him, I'm going to slap him so hard that his head is going to swing around like he’s on the set of the Exorcist.”

Lex couldn’t help a small laugh, and Serena smiled in response.

“I know what I want to have you wear tonight now and where we're going to go. So, the jerk thinks there's something wrong with you because you don't look like everyone else? We're going to go someplace where people will appreciate you just the way you are.”

“What do you mean?” Lex asked, knowing her expression showed her confusion.

“Just wait,” Serena answered with a smile. “For now, though, relax a little while longer and then finish getting cleaned up. I'm going to make you even more beautiful than you already are before we go out.”

Lex gulped nervously, not used to anyone talking about her like that. “OK,” she finally replied, settling back into the water as Serena closed the door again.

Sometime later, Lex made her way out of the bathroom with a towel and some underclothes on, after pawing through her bags and remembering she hadn't packed any other clothes. Serena gestured her over to a low vanity table near the projected beachscape that had a large mirror on the wall behind it, various bottles and cases scattered over its surface, and two small lamps in the back corners.

“OK, let's get you ready,” Serena said after Lex sat down on a little bench in front of the table. Serena looked over Lex’s shoulder into the mirror for a little while, as if considering something, and then sprang into action.

Lex patiently did whatever Serena asked, even though she felt skeptical about the eventual outcome. Since her mother had spent so much of her childhood haranguing her about being an ugly duckling, Lex didn't think that anything Serena could do would have much effect. Trying not to worry about it, she closed her eyes and lost herself for a little while in the feel of the fluttering brushstrokes on her skin. When Serena finally told Lex to open her eyes to see the end result and asked what she thought, Lex felt astonished and disbelieving.

She could see her reflection, but she felt it really didn't look like her anymore. The dark color that Serena had used around her eyes seemed to bring their green color out, and the short horizontal lines she’d painted from the outer corners of Lex’s eyes made them look exotic and foreign. Her complexion seemed paler than normal, her hair now curled more than usual and tied up and back in a long piece of black lace.

“Now put this on,” Serena said excitedly, handing Lex a stretchy black dress. “Don't worry; it's one of these things that has a bra built into it, so you don't have to wear an extra one.”

Lex looked carefully at herself afterwards, not sure what to think. From the tank-style top to the hips, the dress pressed tightly against her skin. The skirt split along the sides just past the hip and came down to the knee on Lex, definitely the type of skirt designed to display your legs, she thought. When she turned, however, she nearly gasped as she spotted that the rear part of the dress scooped down nearly to her waist so that practically her whole back could be seen. She looked back at Serena uncertainly. Serena grinned widely.

“Yes, this is the perfect dress for you for tonight.”

“Are you sure about this?” Lex murmured, still staring at her reflection, feeling shaky and worried. “I don’t know. I’m not used to looking like this.” Or showing so much skin, she thought.

Serena shrugged, raising an eyebrow. “I was just trying to make you look like the rest of the folks where we'll be going. I think you look great, but it’s not hard to do when you've got good material to work with.”

Lex ducked her head as she felt her cheeks heat up, but finally managed to look up fractionally as she answered her friend. “Well, thanks, but I'm sure I’m not going to look as beautiful as you.”

She’s probably just saying that to be nice, Lex thought, trying to look at her back in the mirror again, her nervous breaths drawing in the scent of powder.

Serena let loose a brief burst of laughter. “Lex, you're not beautiful like me, you're beautiful like you. There's a world of beautiful people out there and not one of them looks like any other.”

Lex looked up at her uncertainly, her heart still pounding nervously, not sure what Serena meant.

Serena sighed then, looking at Lex’s uneasy expression. “All right, I've got to start getting ready so we can get out of here sometime tonight. Do you want to take your bags to your room and check up on Casey? Come back afterwards so we can talk some more while I finish getting ready.”

“Sounds good. I'll be back in a bit.” Lex breathed out heavily, relieved to be doing something other than looking in the mirror, and hurried out.

Lex saw Serena move to sit in front of the mirror as she closed the woman’s door behind her. After dumping her bags on the bottom of her closet, Lex went next door to Casey's room and knocked. She waited for a response as she realized she hadn't been in there before and wondered what it looked like until she heard a muffled invitation to come in.

Going inside, she saw Casey sitting in a large easy chair in front of a flat-screen television on the left side of the room. Through the open blinds Lex could see that the sunset had mostly disappeared and the lights in the buildings across the water shone out brightly. The bathroom and closet placement made Casey’s room a mirror image of Lex’s, and the blonde also had an extra-long bed in the right corner, headboard against the wall shared with the bathroom, a mostly full bookshelf in the far corner near the windows, and a few other chairs alongside the easy chair that she sat in. Casey gestured to one next to her as she remotely turned the TV off. She laughed and whistled as Lex sat down.

“Look at you!”

Lex twisted a little to try to see her back, uncomfortable with the attention. “Do I look stupid?”

“No, you look good. One thing I can say for Serena, she's got taste. If she makes up her mind to make someone look hot, she'll do it. Why? What do you think?”

“I was kind of surprised. It's just not what I'm used to looking like,” Lex replied nervously. “What are you planning to wear? Serena asked me to look in on you and see if you'll be ready to go soon.”

Casey shrugged. “I'm ready to go whenever you guys are.”

Looking over, Lex noticed that her friend hadn't changed out of the blue jeans and t-shirt she'd worn earlier. She smiled to think of what the redhead might say. “I think Serena might be expecting you to dress up, Casey.”

Casey looked up at Lex in surprise. “This wouldn't be good enough?”

Lex tried not to laugh at Casey’s slightly annoyed expression. “Probably not. I think I know the type of place she has in mind, though, so if you want me to look through your closet I could probably pick something out, if you like.”

“Be my guest,” Casey replied with a shrug, watching Lex with interest.

Lex got back up and went to Casey's closet, turning on the overhead light. The crisp scent of lavender wafted towards Lex as she searched through a rainbow of plain t-shirts and a number of pairs of blue jeans until she finally came out with three things: a pair of black jeans, a black t-shirt with a picture of a skull with crossed cutlasses underneath it, and the pair of black boots Casey had worn on the day they’d first met. She laid the shirt and pants on Casey's bed and put the boots on the floor nearby.

“What do you think?” Lex asked.

“I think I'd look like I'm going to a funeral,” Casey replied with a frown.

“Oh, come on! Pretend you're going to a costume party or something. Be someone else for a night. I know I really wouldn't mind...” Lex trailed off, looking at her feet as she realized how pathetic she probably sounded.

She caught the movement from the corner of her eye as Casey shook her head apologetically. “Sorry, I don't mean to be a pain. I'm sure it'll be fun. I'll wear it, OK?”

“Thanks, Casey. While you get changed I'll go over to see how Serena's doing. She asked me to come back and talk while she got ready. We'll check back with you when we're ready to go, all right?”

“Sounds good. I'll wait here until then,” Casey said, nodding as she watched Lex leave the room.

Forward to Chapter 9
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Comments about anything you liked or that you thought could be improved are extremely welcome! By the way, for anyone who has a mobile device they'd like to read this story on, I've begun posting this on Wattpad using the same schedule as I do here. To read my story this way just download the free Wattpad app and search on my story number: 9430224. You can subscribe to the story, read it, vote for it, and leave comments, all on your mobile device.

Enjoy the holidays if you're celebrating anything, and I'll see you all next year!





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Finally, here it comes. I thought the breakup was rather well written, especially with Lex's different emotions coming out, her anger, her guilt and her despair. I like how both Casey and Serena are supportive of her in their own way and I'm looking forward to getting to know more about Serena (she's definitely an interesting character) and what sort of night out they'll be having.

Happy Holidays!

Indeed, even though Lex didn't see it coming, it seems like everyone else did. Thanks for that; I remember when I wrote it that she seemed very overwhelmed by what she felt, and I'm glad it sounds like I could convey some of that. It is kind of funny, but the Casey and Serena do convey their support in very different ways. Definitely more about Serena in the next chapter! I hope your holidays are wonderful, as well, and thank you for reading and commenting!

Very intense.

(Anonymous)
I'm surprised the break-up happened so quickly. It caught me by surprise as much as it did Lex, and it hit hard. I really envisioned her kicking the crap out of that slimy shitheel. I kind of wish she had hurt him much more, but not wanting to become her dad is a valid and chilling concern.

I think I understand why Casey isn't too happy with the way Serena's handling the situation, but I'm not entirely sure. It seems like there's more going on than Serena getting in the middle of their budding friendship and taking control with ideas that aren't up Casey's alley. I kept waiting for Serena to turn comforting into seduction, and I'm still not sure she won't, given the picture we have of her character. I'm for that, but it would definitely be a mistake for Lex at this moment.

Still, I'm going to continue shipping Lex/Casey and hoping for the best.

It's funny, but I have noticed something about people who've had to sustain a lot of abuse, like Lex...they'll put up with a lot of crap almost indefinitely, because they can, but when it's just a hair too much over the line, watch out, because they'll suddenly stop putting up with anything and hit back in their own defense harder than anyone would have expected. I think that's what happened here.

I know what you mean, and I think Lex really did want to strike out at Kurt, but that thought always stops her. That desire ended up being even stronger than her instinct to beat the hell out of Kurt, in this case. I remember reading a Taoist statement (I think) once that I'm going to horribly paraphrase here - true power isn't being able to master others, it's being able to master oneself. Happily, Lex passed that test today. : )

There is definitely going to be more in the next chapter that should answer the questions you're wondering about. I know everyone's kind of thinking that about Serena, but she really isn't completely heartless, and I think all of that will become clear in the next chapter. Thanks for reading and commenting!

Well, he wasn't cheating on her, but the trope still didn't lie to me: she did end up catching him in a compromising situation because she was early. My plot detector is still in working condition. :P


Cookie Dude

True enough! I think that observation deserves another cookie alone... *hands one over*

Yay! nom nom

And merry Christmas! :)

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