Playing With Fire

by Pablo

TITLE: Playing With Fire.



DISTRIBUTION: List archives OK, anyone else just ask. Archived on Elegant Slumming

SPOILERS: Set during Leech. Spoilers up until that episode

CLASSIFICATION: Victoria, Victoria/Lex (Implied), Clark/Lex (Implied)

SUMMARY: How much of the battle is won simply through believing it already has been?


FEEDBACK: Think of it like karma.

DISCLAIMER: So many people do the owning and unfortunately none of them are me

DEDICATION: Thanks to Yvette for the beta.

NOTES: Victoria Hardwick is in two scenes in Leech; one where her and her father "shock" Lex with the news of their takeover of Cadmus Labs, the second in which Lex confronts her about his prior knowledge of how she used him. This fic is set in between those two scenes. IMPROV # 19: Suggest - Tragic - Stamp - Cloud.

The first time the phone rings she simply ignores it. A nasty habit she's picked up during her travels around the States. Over here they call it "screening"; back home they'd simply say you were going out of your way to avoid somebody. On the machine his voice scratches like broken glass across her skin; only he sounds even sharper.

The second time he calls she's about to step into the shower, steam clouding the mirror in the bathroom. When she steps out twenty minutes later, the display on her answer-phone flashes sporadically at her. While she's drying her hair with another towel she simply deletes the message.

The third time, she waits until the machine is about to pick up the call and only then does she reach for the receiver. Her tone is light, no suggestion that anything is out of the ordinary and she pointedly ignores his inquiry about where the hell she's been.

She doesn't even need to respond for him to know it's no coincidence that he hasn't been able to get hold of her.

She agrees to meet him at seven o clock and without missing a beat she asks him whether or not they'll be going out for drinks afterwards. She's greeted by silence on the other end of the phone.

She can't help but smile.

At 8.15 she steps out of her car and asks her driver to wait for her. She won't be long.

It's quiet as Victoria walks down the hallway to Lex's office. Everything smells just a little too clean, slightly inhospitable in the same way the ward of a hospital smells.

Untouched, like people simply pass through here. On their way to something better.

There's very little activity and she simply ignores the itch she feels slightly, demanding her attention. She prides herself on not giving in to temptation and even when she sometimes does, like now she manages to put a little spin on it.

Daddy's little girl.

Victoria was able to learn from the best and she's put those lessons to good use. That's why she was glad to find herself in Smallville. An adversary like Lex is worth travelling to the furthest reaches of hell to find. Or even further, to Smallville.

She's suffered through worse tragedies than relative isolation for a whole lot less. It's all a part of being her father's daughter, of being a Hardwick. This is something that Victoria wouldn't miss, the chance to best somebody like Lex Luthor. It's one of the things that attracted her to him in the first place.

The sense of inevitability she can feel creeping through her bones, a soft flutter of excitement ghosting over her skin.

She knows what's happening but knowledge is power. Victoria knows that.

The door to Lex's office is pushed open slightly. She's expected and she moves through the doorway almost unheard. She's not fooled though, his back is to her but she knows without a doubt that he's fully aware Victoria is there.

The thick rug on the floor muffles the sound of walking as she crosses to his desk. There's a half empty glass sitting atop a pile of papers and instead of greeting him directly she reaches out for it. The paper that she picks the glass off is stamped with circles of condensation. Imprint of moisture on the document.

It's not his first drink for the evening and if Victoria has her way it most certainly won't be his last.

"Started early I see? Early, even for you, that is."

She holds the glass up towards him and cocks one eyebrow. Lex not surprisingly doesn't even respond. Instead he snatches the glass from her hand. Victoria tries hard not to flinch when she sees the look on his face.

To anyone else Lex would seem the picture of composure but Victoria has known him a long time. She can see it in his eyes. Hidden behind the stoic mask that has become the only thing he allows the outside world to see.

Lex should have realised that letting somebody see behind that mask ensures they're capable of knowing it's there. He shouldn't have been so careless where she was concerned.

She's about to push even further when Lex's voice shocks her. It sounds nothing like before, nothing like he usually does. If she didn't know him any better she'd think it sounded like defeat.

"I won't even ask why you weren't here on time."

She isn't even allowed a chance to respond.

"I've organised for your things to be packed up. You can collect them from the house."

Lex has gone back to his work, his eyes scanning a spreadsheet he holds in his hands. Instead of responding, Victoria simply waits.

She doesn't answer him until he finally looks at her, "You may as well forward them through, I'll leave an address for you."

She rifles through her purse for a card but before she's able to locate it Lex has closed the distance between them. His voice is more like it was earlier. Harsh and brittle and before she's able to think she takes a step back. Desperate to put space between the two of them. Lex isn't even touching her, but it makes no difference to how she vulnerable she feels.

She recovers after a moment and attempts a smile.

"If it makes you feel any better, Lex, why don't you just throw everything out?"

"Victoria, if it was only that easy to dispose of garbage we wouldn't be having this conversation."

Victoria mimics the smile that Lex flashes at her, white of his teeth distracting her.

"Does this mean we're breaking up, Lex?" He doesn't answer and Victoria wonders if Lex can tell the difference between breaking up and breaking apart.

She considers asking him but instead she turns and starts to walk away, throws one last barb at him before she walks out the door. "You can save the melodrama for Clark. It may even help the two of you get closer but it won't work on me, Lex."

It's like her father has always taught her; even in the face of adversity don't ever let your opponent know that you're affected.

He doesn't respond; Victoria didn't really expect him to. On the way out of Lex's office it feels even more inhospitable than it had on the way in.

the end.

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