Title:  The Sweet Scent of Orchids
Author:  Lacey McBain
Rating:  R.  Slash.  Lionel/Lex, Clark/Lex (implied), Lionel/Lillian
Summary:  Missing scene from Transference.  “He can’t bring himself to feel ashamed.  This is the closest he has ever been to his son.  He knows he has never been a good father.  He doesn’t believe he has been a bad one either.”
Notes:  To the SV Gang for audiencing, as always.

Lionel wonders if he’ll ever get used to this:  the heavy echo of his shoes against the mansion’s marble hall, the way his feet seem to beg him to move faster, faster than a breeze.  It takes concentration to walk normally, to keep his feet on the ground instead of letting the world blur around him.  He wants to test the limits of this body.

He pushes through the double-doors of Lex’s study.  It feels good to walk across the room with this kind of power—not that he hasn’t always had power, especially where Lex is concerned, but this is different.  There is strength murmuring under his skin.  Of course, it isn’t exactly his skin per se.  Clark’s skin, to be more accurate, but Lex doesn’t know that.  All Lex sees is his best friend striding confidently across a room.  Granted, Lionel has taken the liberty of refining Clark’s look a bit, gotten him out of that detestable plaid.  One look at himself in the mirror and he’d considered the benefits of blindness.  He’s well-acquainted with such things, after all.  In the end, it had been easier to simply change his shirt.  He’d had to dig into the back of the closet to find this ensemble--black tailored pants and a deep aubergine button-down.  Ralph Lauren.  It has Lex’s fingerprints all over it.

“Clark,” Lex says, getting up when he enters the room.  Lionel stiffens as hands touch his shoulders.  Lex is close enough that Lionel can smell his cologne, light and spicy, sea salt and orchids.  The air around him is sweet, exotic with a hint of something darker.  It suits him.  Lionel wonders why he never noticed before.

Lex’s fingers linger against the fine weave of cotton.  Lionel can feel heat pushing against his skin.  There is something familiar about this.  Something faintly … wrong.

“Is that the shirt I bought you?”

“Yes,” Lionel says, nodding.  He takes an awkward step back.  “I thought I should wear it.”

“It looks good on you.”  Lex tilts his head the way he does when something doesn’t make sense, when the numbers don’t add up.  Lionel has seen it many times, but never quite like this.  Lex is nowhere near frustrated.  He’s curious.  Thoughtful.  “What’s the occasion?”

Taking back what rightfully belongs to me, Lionel thinks, but gives a smile instead.  He tries to remember he’s a simple farm boy.  Lex’s friend.  Clark Kent.  He has to tread carefully.  It’s too easy to forget how perceptive Lex can be.  It’s one of the things he’s inherited from his mother.  Lionel’s heart tightens for a beat, then releases like a blood-pressure sleeve around his chest.  Lex is more Lillian’s son than Lionel likes to admit.

He watches his son assessing him—the slow drag of eyes across Clark’s body, cataloguing the things that, for whatever incomprehensible reason, are not quite right.  Things Lex might not even be able to name, but somehow knows are … off.  As if somehow Clark is not as Clark-like as usual.  Lionel feels a surge of pride.  Even Clark’s parents weren’t so quick to see a difference.  Lex sensed something immediately.  In the car on the way home.  And now.  Something is bothering him almost unconsciously, like a piece of a puzzle that doesn’t quite fit, the jagged edge of a seam that rubs the skin raw before you notice.  Lionel wonders—not for the first time—how close Clark and Lex really are.  Lex seems to know this boy—this body--far better than is reasonable for a friend, even a best friend.  But then again, Lex’s interests have always bordered on obsession.

“Clark, whatever it is, you know you can talk to me.”

Lex is far from being either stupid or gullible, but Smallville has colored his thinking.  People are “not quite themselves” so much of the time here that a slight feeling of unease isn’t necessarily cause for alarm.  Even where Clark is concerned.  Maybe especially where Clark is concerned, considering what Lionel has discovered about Clark.  He wonders if Lex knows.  If he does--and he’s done nothing to exploit it—he is certainly Lillian’s son.  Lionel lifts his eyes to Lex’s and tries to look innocent.  It is easier than he would’ve ever imagined.  Clark’s face seems predisposed to such a look.

“So, why the silent treatment?” Lex settles back in his chair, hands steepled together in front of his face in a familiar gesture.  Lionel shrugs as if to say he doesn’t know what Lex means.  He hopes it’s convincing.  “Look, I know you’re upset with me, but I really don’t know why.  Come on, Clark,” Lex says, and he’s moving again.  Moving towards him as if he can’t sit still, can’t stay away from this body.  “Talk to me.”

Lionel stiffens as Lex puts his arms around his waist in what is clearly not just a friendly gesture.

“So that’s how it is,” Lionel murmurs, not moving to separate himself from his son.  He’d always figured Jonathan Kent’s son to be too morally righteous to be intimately involved with Lex.  Lionel smiles.  There’s a certain satisfaction in knowing that even the upstanding Kent boy apparently has a weakness.  That it’s a Luthor is immensely satisfying.

“That’s how what is?” Lex asks, clearly puzzled.  “Clark, are you feeling all right?”

“I’m just not myself today,” Lionel explains, relishing the warmth of his son’s arms around him.  It’s been years since Lex embraced him willingly.  “Sorry.”  On some level he even means it.

Lionel feels a hand brush his forehead.  Lex’s eyes are full of genuine concern, not the guarded skepticism that usually lives there when his father speaks with him.  Lionel feels a surge of bitterness in his throat.  He’d told Lex he was dying, and there hadn’t been anything in those eyes.  Not a flicker of emotion.  Not even the tell-tale swallow that usually meant he’d caught Lex off-guard.  Nothing but suspicion.  Yet Clark Kent walks into a room and Lex is suddenly Florence Nightingale.

Lionel takes a breath and tries to smile.  It doesn’t quite reach his eyes, but Lex doesn’t see this.  He is already pulling him closer, tighter.  Hands travel up Lionel’s back soothingly.  His skin—Clark’s skin—seems to remember.  He finds himself leaning closer.  He can smell Lex’s cologne again.  Stronger now.  It nestles beneath his skin as if it belongs there.  It makes him think of twilight and white orchids and lips the colour of wine.  He remembers when Lex’s hair was red.  Soft.  Exactly like his mother’s.  Orchids were her favourite.  He wonders if that’s why Lex chose this scent—to keep his mother close.

There are lips at Lionel’s throat, soft nips against his skin.  He swallows awkwardly as Lex murmurs against his neck, fingers reaching up to trace the curve of his face.

“What’s wrong?” Lex asks.  Lionel tries to move his lips in answer, so strange to shape his words with someone else’s voice.

“It’s nothing.”  He has never wanted to be someone other than who he is.  Until this very moment.  He believes he could hate Clark Kent for this.  Believes that somewhere the ancient gods are laughing at his expense.

Lionel closes his eyes and tries to forget that these are his son’s hands stroking his back, his son’s lips pressing kisses into his skin, murmuring about friendship and trust.  Clark’s body is alive with feeling, it knows exactly what to do even if Lionel has forgotten what love feels like, has forgotten everything except it smells like orchids.

He can feel Lex’s scar—the scar that he gave him—as he runs a hand lightly over his lips like a man reading Braille.  His son.  Marked for life.  Punishment for having a mouth that was sharper than a serpent’s tooth.  Lionel’s always had a soft spot for King Lear.  He understands grief like that.  The madness of losing a child.  The wrong child.  How the need to punish the guilty can be enough to wear away a man’s soul.  Enough to make him hate what he should love.  Lionel tries to pull his trembling hand away.  Lex kisses the tips of his fingers in passing.

Lex’s hands are still moving lightly along his spine, bodies pressed together like flowers in a book.  Rosemary is for remembrance.  Orchids are for love, or maybe things best forgotten.  Buried.  Lionel can feel heat surging through him, and he wonders how much of Clark is left in this body.  The speed, the strength, the thing with his eyes.  It’s as if Clark’s soul is so strong it wouldn’t leave entirely.  Sometimes, Lionel can feel something alien, something that is quintessentially Clark, pushing at the edge of his consciousness.  Lionel wonders how much of this wanting is Clark.  How much is him.  He isn’t sure he wants to know.

He can’t bring himself to feel ashamed.  This is the closest he has ever been to his son.  He knows he has never been a good father.  He doesn’t believe he has been a bad one either.

“Lex.”  Lionel’s eyes are still closed.  The word hangs in the air like a question, and Lionel has no idea what he’s asking.  He shivers at the touch of skin, Lex’s hands deftly untucking his shirt, feathering long strokes down the length of his back.

“Why did you do it, Lex?”  The words are little more than a whisper, yet Lionel feels them rending the air like nails on a blackboard.  Lex tenses against him, and Lionel hurries to let Clark’s large hands tumble across Lex’s body, trying to reassure him, however clumsily.  He isn’t very good at this.  He never has been.  “He’s still your father.  I’m sure he loves you.”

He knows Lex is staring at him now.  The hands have stopped stroking his skin.  Even with his eyes closed, he can almost see the confused quirk of Lex’s mouth, the shadows around the eyes.  He feels a tremor as if Lex is shaking his head.

“No, he doesn’t, Clark.  My father doesn’t even know what love means.”

Lionel slides his hands up to cup Lex’s face.  His skin is orchid-pale.  He has forgotten how soft and smooth Lex’s skin is, how the absence of stubble makes him seem younger, more fragile.  Lionel remembers how Lillian tended her orchids, fussed over them and cared for them as well as she did her children.  He remembers her placing a just-opened orchid in his hand, how its white petals spiraled inside his palm like a fetus, how his wife guided his hand to stroke the perfectly-formed petals, each one thin as the moon outside their bedroom window.  She wrapped her long white fingers around his, pressing inward, the tender petals only releasing a burst of fragrance when crushed.  He rubbed those fingers against her cheek, the soft slope of her nose, the rounded moon of her shoulder as her robe unfolded and slipped to the floor.  He scattered petals like raindrops against her skin, and licked the sweet spots as she arched against him, laughing as he made her smile, made her scream with delight, made her come.  His fingers smelled sweet for hours.

His eyes are open now, and Lex’s are pale blue and searching.  So much like his mother.  There is pain there, and contained anger.  The scent of fear is subtle beneath the cologne and the scotch.  Lionel wonders what vintage Lex has pilfered from his private stock, wonders how it would taste swirling over his tongue and down his throat.  Prison has left him parched.  He wets his lips and watches Lex watching him.


Lionel understands now the fragile balance in this relationship, the tenuous thread that binds them together.  Lex is afraid—not just of losing, but of losing this.  Clark’s eager mouth on his, Clark’s hands warm and open.  Lex speaks his name like it’s the only word that matters.

Lex’s lips curve into a cautious smile.  He doesn’t pull away, although Lionel can feel everything in Lex fighting his desire to run, a desire he can’t possibly understand given the fact that it’s Clark’s body here in front of him, Clark’s mouth saying his name.  Lex’s voice is as measured as a ticking clock when he speaks again.

“Why the concern about my father?  I thought we agreed this was the right thing.  He’s hurt a lot of people.  He almost killed Chloe.”

“Yes, he did, didn’t he?”  Lionel almost smiles in triumph.  Lex is more open than Lionel’s ever seen him, and it doesn’t bring out the best in him.  He struggles with the urge to make Lex pay for being this vulnerable to someone.  He knows he taught him better than that.  But Lex has always been his mother’s son.  Emotional.  Soft.  His heart will be his downfall.  It’s his greatest weakness.

Lex is guarded now.  The mask begins falling back into place.  Lionel suspects this doesn’t happen very often with Clark.  Lex starts to move away, but Lionel holds his face tighter.  He realizes he could crush Lex’s bones with one hand.  Crush them like an orchid.

“This doesn’t sound like you,” Lex says quietly.  He tries to shift his face under Lionel’s grip.  He seems surprised that he can’t move.  He can feel the strength, but doesn’t understand it.  Lionel nods absently.  So, Clark is well acquainted with secrets and lies after all.  It is somehow reassuring.  And a little disappointing.

“Clark, let me go.”

Lionel relaxes his fingers and leans in closer, drawn by eyes so much like Lillian’s.  The scent of orchids.  The soft sweep of pale skin.  He quiets Lex with a finger against his lips.  The scar winks out of existence.  Lex is so much like his mother.

“I wanted to tell you …”  Lionel runs a hand lightly over his son’s head.  He honestly doesn’t know if it’s something he’s ever done.  Not even that day in the cornfield when he had to turn to another man to save his child.  He feels Lex shiver at the touch.  Lionel remembers Clark touched his son’s head then too.  Touched him like something familiar.  Marked him without ever leaving a scar.  Lionel wonders how that happens.

“Tell me,” Lex whispers with an earnestness Lionel has never heard.  Who would have thought these two boys would find their way to each other twelve years after the day the sky rained fire?  He shakes his head in disbelief.  Lex must think he’s afraid to speak because the arms around him draw him closer.  He can feel every muscle in his son’s body, lean and tight and warm.  “You can tell me, Clark.”

Lionel forces his eyes shut, still shaking his head in mute protest.

Lex’s lips ghost lightly across his cheek.  “Please.”

It is the “please” that undoes him.  The heady sweetness of orchids.  And suddenly there is a mouth beneath his, lips crushed like petals, a burst of scotch on his tongue, and the world has shrunk to include only lips and hands and the rise and fall of breath.  There is a moan like the wind along the moors, and the shocking heat of a tongue stroking his mouth, familiar and foreign at the same time.  Clark’s body remembers, responds, clings to Lex like moss against stone, and for a moment Lionel forgets whose mouth is melting into his.  He remembers only Lillian.  Her skin as pale as orchids, fragile and wild and his.  Every inch of her—his.  He arches against her, the now familiar swell of heat behind his eyes, hands pressed flat against her back, tongue sweeping broad strokes along the tender inside of her cheeks, the sweet spots that make her moan and whisper his name.


Not him.  Not Lillian.

Awareness is an ocean crashing against him, bringing him back to himself.  He struggles to push away, eyes clenched tight against a world bathed in fire.  He opens his eyes, sees Lex staring at him as if he has gone both blind and mad.  Lex’s scar quivers like lightning against a blood red sky.  This is his child.  There can be no forgiveness for this.

“What the hell’s going on with you?”

Lex has a hand against his mouth.  He knows there is something wrong—so wrong that the gods have gathered in the shadows of the room to watch and place bets—and Lex is lost in the dark without a compass or a star.  He wants desperately to believe in something, in anything.  Lionel can see it.  The one thing Lex truly believes in—Clark Kent—is disappearing before his very eyes.  As if he never existed.

Lionel takes a halting step forward, hand extended.  He notices the hand is shaking as he lays it on Lex’s shoulder.  Gently.  Squeezes.  The way a father should.  Forgiveness is a world away from this room, these hands.

“I have to go, Lex,” Lionel says hoarsely and backs away, wills himself not to run like the teenager whose body he’s appropriated.  He suspects Clark would never run from Lex.  Not like this.  Not ever.  He suspects Clark wouldn’t need to.

“Don’t go, Clark.  Whatever it is … just tell me.  Tell me!”

If Lex were anyone else, he’d be shouting, but he is still a Luthor.  Lionel sees it in the proud tilt of the head, the way he holds himself still as cracked glass the moment before breaking.  Every muscle in Lex’s body is fighting the impulse to surge across the room and shake the truth out of him.  Make Clark stay.  Make him tell his secrets.  Or at least this one.  The one that can never be spoken.  The only one that matters.

Lionel stops in the doorway, wonders if Lear felt this way before he rushed headlong into darkness, wonders if orchids will ever smell as sweet.  He wonders if forgiveness is a word Lex knows.  Lionel can’t remember teaching it to him.  Ever.

“Whatever happens, I--I love you.  I do.  Even if I didn’t say it.  And for that I’m truly sorry, so—”

Lionel swallows the last word, the one that will give it all away, and runs.  He is leaning against the hard oak of the mansion’s front door before he realizes he can hear Lex’s voice echoing in his head as close as if they were still in the same room.

“You say it all the time, Clark.  You say it all the time.”

Lionel pushes into the night, wondering when it started to rain, the taste of water and salt mingling on his tongue.  He feels the droplets cling to his shirt, wet fingerprints darkening the fabric before seeping into his skin, and Lionel wonders why he doesn’t feel the cold.  Why he doesn’t feel anything.

Lionel turns his face into the rain and laughs, a sharp bark that sounds nothing like triumph.  There is something absurdly wrong with this world—aside from being housed in someone else’s body--and this night has been a Greek tragedy dressed up in Shakespeare’s rags.  He feels the slow burn of passion under his skin like an itch, and he wants to strip off these clothes, pluck out his eyes and forget.

The rain beats down harder, and his body takes a leap and seems to move without him, leaving him breathless while his legs push through a curtain of water strung like pearls against a long black dress.  A single drop splashes against Clark’s shirt leaving a mark.  It could be a round wet penny, an open mouth, a bruise.  The world holds its breath.

Against the sky, a single flash of lightning has stopped time, carving through the darkness, leaving a jagged scar.  Then, he is running again.  Running with Lex’s voice still whispering about love.  It’s as loud as a scream inside his head.

The path home is silver with rain, drops strewn like petals.  He crushes them beneath the pounding rhythm of his feet.

Forget.  Forget.  Forget.


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