by Jayne Leitch
Rating: Call it PG.
Spoilers: the Victoria arc, so 'Rogue', 'Shimmer', 'Hug', 'Leech'.
Disclaimers: oh my God, you can HAVE HER. Gaah.
Notes: Champagne and chocolates to MaryKate, for throwing time constraints to the wind and putting up with my pretentions of authorship.
Summary: An ode to female empowerment. Of a kind.
VICTOR VICTORIA by Jayne Leitch
Grandmother Hardwick was a slender, chin-tilted dowager who ate watercress sandwiches at tea, bred an obscure variety of orange roses, and rolled her own cigarettes. When Victoria was little, she spent three weeks in Wales every summer; whole days passed while she sat in the greenhouse in the east garden, watching her grandmother do complicated things with as many as five shrubby rosebushes at a time, a pinched fag-end tucked demurely behind her ear.
After dinner every evening, Gran took Victoria to one of the studies to learn "Acculturation". Because Gran insisted on full-length skirts during her lessons--and because Victoria always secretly unpacked and left at home the long, fancy skirts her mother put into her suitcase, replacing them with high-cut shorts and torn jeans--Victoria was allowed to wear the funny old dresses left over from when Aunt Helica was young. Draped in taffeta and crinolines, she followed a line in the parquet with a book on her head, learned the proper way to hold teacups and cross her ankles, and shaped her vowels in concentrated mimicry of Gran's exaggerated mouthings.
If she was good, she was allowed to sit up late on Gran's weekly cards night. After being presented to the guests as "Harry's girl, takes after her gran, she does," she could settle in a chair off to the side and watch hands of poker, each more expensive than the last, through the brown haze of herbal cigarettes.
Gran was the most elegant woman Victoria knew, even more than Mummy. Whenever Victoria told her so, Gran gave her a thin smile and a nonfattening sweet.
Victoria's mother left two days after a shopping trip that resulted in a drawerful of delicate, lacy bras and three pairs of "sensible" underwear. Victoria was twelve.
Her father, busy with work and the divorce papers Mummy's attorney had hand-delivered, made Victoria an appointment with a lauded child therapist, then went on a business trip to Amsterdam.
Doctor Stanley was older than her Daddy; he wore a hearing aid, and tried to hide a paunch under the slim lines of an expensive smoking jacket. He was friendly and open, and his office smelled like pickled eggs.
Victoria liked pickled eggs. After a few minutes she liked Doctor Stanley as well, and eagerly answered all of his questions:
"How are you feeling today, Victoria?"
"I'm well, thanks."
"Are you sure? Your father seemed to think you might be a little sad."
"That's just Daddy. He worries because he loves me."
"Do you know why he thought you might be sad?"
"Because Mummy doesn't love us, and left. But that's okay, really. Daddy and I only liked her some of the time, anyway."
Daddy had only scheduled one appointment, so Victoria was confused when Doctor Stanley's office called the house the next day asking when she could have another. She deleted the message, and didn't bother Daddy about it when he came home a week later.
When Victoria was fifteen, the Drama Society of Saint Beryl's School for Girls produced Cabaret, entirely thanks to the persistence of vision that came with the newly-tenured Miss Lacey. Miss Lacey considered herself a radical, and had a lifelong mission to prove to the world that she was edgy; her first year on staff was destined to be as memorable as she could make it.
Auditions came--sending a thrill of fierce competition through the girls--and went, not without casualties. And when the dust settled, Victoria found herself in the role of the Emcee.
She was elated. Unphased by the requirements of the role, she threw herself into rehearsals--so enthusiastically, in fact, that she often found herself directed by a pale and wide-eyed Miss Lacey to "button up a bit more, love--and maybe don't roll your hips quite that much?"
When their costumes arrived a scant week before opening night and proved a thorough disappointment to everyone in the cast, Victoria and Francesca Smythe-Bightley--the young lady playing Sally Bowles--conspired to sneak into the theatre after-hours to make alterations. With a little luck, they succeeded; with needlework skills honed in Mrs Danby's household arts class, they attacked the length of the Kit Kat Girls' skirts. Victoria and Frannie then turned their attentions to the Emcee outfit, intending to remake it so it would, as Victoria put it, "let the audience know I'm a proper girl, not some fucking ginger transplant from Saint Antony's." Frannie grinned at that, and helped rip lengths of decorative frills off Victoria's bodice.
The next day, Miss Lacey had to leave the dress rehearsal and sit quietly in the nurse's office for fifteen minutes while the other girls in the company gave Victoria and Frannie a round of applause. Luckily, the show went on regardless of the unauthorized wardrobe changes.
Victoria's father, who attended the opening night, came backstage afterward with a massive bouquet of flowers and a crooked grin to tell her how wonderful she'd been: "That's my little girl, all grown up!"
Two weeks later, he started taking her to business parties.
Lex Luthor came to Victoria's attention when he dropped to his knees in front of her during a Saint Beryl/Saint Antony Christmas Dance and made her orgasmically happy she hadn't worn a long skirt.
She eventually got over the fact that he'd done so mostly because she'd threatened to tell the chaperones she'd found him trading lipsticks with Molly Kirk in the girls' toilet.
She never quite got over the fact that he'd maintained he didn't care if the chaperones knew until she pointed out that Molly would also be punished.
Lex wasn't at Saint Antony's very long--when he left there were at least five different, equally plausible rumours about why--but while his dormitory was only a sports pitch and a crumbling stone wall away from Victoria's dormitory, he took full advantage.
Victoria encouraged him, and was happy to do so. She'd heard her father cursing Lionel Luthor's name too many times; the chance to help him by inviting his rival's son into as much scandal as possible was too convenient--and, given their methods, too much fun--to turn down.
Naturally, this meant that she'd told the chaperones about Molly Kirk and the lipsticks as soon as she'd rearranged her skirt.
Victoria knew her father didn't take her to business parties hoping she would sleep with the people he wanted to impress.
That didn't stop her. She liked sex; more than that, she liked the way she could get sex from almost anyone her father introduced her to. (With the notable exception of Rufus Gordon. That night had been an unfortunate misunderstanding, but his nephew had been very kind the next weekend.) Victoria wasn't acting in Daddy's business's name; if the men she spent time with happened to think more kindly upon Hardwick Enterprises when she was done with them, that was simply a happy bonus.
So she was surprised and vaguely hurt when the vice-president of some dot-com empire her father had been buying stock in for months told her, "Your father's taking advantage of you."
"Really." Rolling onto her side under his satin sheets, she propped her head on her hand and arched an eyebrow. "Why do you say that?"
He chuckled--then, noticing the quizzical look on her face, he stopped, and squinted through the dark as if analysing his explanation. "I don't mean any offence. I think very--well--of your dad."
Victoria gave him a too-bright smile.
"But, look." Moving one hand under the covers, he slid his palm over her thigh and began stroking its length, down to her knee and back up again. "Look at how much he's done with your help. Hardwick Enterprises has grown almost fifty percent from where it was just four years ago. That's...very impressive."
"Daddy's a very good businessman," Victoria commented, stretching her leg and rolling her hips a little closer to his hand.
"Oh, yes, absolutely." His gaze fixed on her lower lip, which she was idly sucking between her teeth. "But--well, a lot of businesses have someone in charge of...personal relations between them and their competitors. A goodwill ambassador." He blinked, then looked seriously into her eyes. "It's an indispensable position. Usually...paid."
"Mmm." Victoria's forehead wrinkled as she considered. Her tongue darted out over her lips. "So, you think...I should ask Daddy to give me an official position in the business?"
"I think you should demand it," he said huskily, and kissed her.
Her father seemed surprised when she strode into his office the next day, but when his secretary interrupted with news about a management coup at TechnoDigit.com, he seemed willing to listen.
She wasn't expecting him to designate her Executive Vice President right away, but she accepted the position with a smile.
When Lionel Luthor took the barstool next to hers at Limosna--her favourite Metropolitan cafe--and slipped the bartender enough cash to cover that evening's tab, Victoria knew he had an ulterior motive. Feeling sly, she accepted every drink and topic of conversation he offered, laughed at every joke he made, and smiled deprecatingly at every reference to her absence from the Smallville house, despite the fact that her stated reason for being in the country at all was to visit Lex.
"After that business with those disturbed Palmer children," she replied, putting a delicate wrinkle in her brow, "I've felt uneasy in Smallville. So a few days ago, Lex opened up the penthouse here in Metropolis for me; he comes to see me, when he can."
Lionel nodded and seemed interested. A little later, he asked after her father.
"He's flying in from Britain on Tuesday, actually. We have business to take care of." Victoria took a sip of her drink to hide the smile that might have been too triumphant, and let her lashes flutter winsomely against her cheek. She answered graciously when Lionel congratulated her on her new title: "It's a great deal of responsibility, but I work well with Dad. We have some big plans in the works; together, I think we can make Hardwick Enterprises enough of a success to rival LuthorCorp."
She enjoyed the way he smiled at her when she said that.
Later, in Lex's bed in the penthouse with the shades pulled open to the dazzling Metropolis skyline, Lionel told Victoria he liked it when she called him "Daddy".
She liked it too, so she did it again.
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