The Business Offer

The meeting with the Kents could be going better, but it also could be much worse, Lex Luthor thought, smoothing the crease in his black trouser-leg. They could have walked out on him and his offer within seconds after arriving, especially upon finding that he had fudged the truth about there being other Smallville farmers present.

They hadn't left, though, and had heard Lex out. Seated across from Jonathan and Martha Kent, a low level glass coffee table between them, Lex studied the couple as they looked over his proposal and projections. Lex had the study furniture rearranged before the Kents had arrived, to level the playing field. The coffee table had been brought in from another room and set in front of the fireplace. The matching burgundy leather love seats were positioned on either side of the table.

A warm fire crackled in the fireplace, chasing the winter chill from the drafty room. The antique lamps lit the study in a cozy, welcoming manner. Brandy sifters with dark liquid resting in the curved bottom sat on the coffee table amidst a sea of papers and an untouched tray of appetizers. The entire set up was to project friendship rather than business, and Lex felt it had worked. The Kents had stayed and listened to his entire proposal and were actually considering it, instead of dismissing it out of hand.

"I don't know, Lex," Jonathan eventually said. He set the report on the table. "I think the bank loan is still the best way to go."

"You'll be killed by the interest," Lex said bluntly.

"At least I know where I stand with the bank."

"But what does the bank care about Clark?" Lex countered. "I'm making this offer to ensure his future."

"What about my future?"

Lex looked up and Jonathan and Martha half-turned as Clark Kent entered the study. Dressed in khakis and a blue shirt and carrying a navy blazer in his hand, the ebony-haired teen dropped down onto the leather love seat beside Lex. His curious glance took in the papers on the table before raising to his parents. "What's going on?"

"Better questions is, what are you doing here?" Jonathan asked. He slanted a dark look at Lex. "I thought you were going to a concert with Lana."

"Something came up," Clark replied dismissively. "I rode back here with the limo driver and thought I'd say hi to Lex before heading home. What're you guys doing?"

"I'm making a business offer to your parents," Lex said before Jonathan could respond, mentally smiling because Clark had actually come to see him. Sure, it was probably to whine about Lana and what obviously was a failed date, but Lex would covet any time spent with Clark, the current star of his romantic and erotic fantasies.

Somewhere in between Clark breathing life back into Lex and the events surrounding the recent bank robbery by Tina Greer, Lex Luthor had fallen ass-over-tit in love with Clark Kent. It was both exhilarating and humbling at once, and was the basis of Lex's offer to the Kents. While most laws Lex could get around because of his name, it was the Luthor name itself that would crucify him if he became emotionally involved with an underage farmboy who exuded innocence from every pore. Being Clark's friend and financially supporting his family was as close as Lex was going to get to Clark for years, if ever.

"A business offer?" Clark questioned, glancing at the papers on the table again.

"I offered to become a partner of the Kent farm in exchange for a percentage of the profits," Lex summarized, again before Jonathan could speak.

"Would that mean we wouldn't have to get another bank loan?" Clark asked his parents, sounding very interested.

"No, we wouldn't have to obtain a loan," Jonathan admitted slowly.

"Then you've accepted the offer?" Lex leaned forward, bracing his forearms on his knees. He made sure no trace of smugness was reflected in his tone or on his face.

Jonathan shook his head. "No."

Lex clenched his jaw as anger and disappointment coursed through him. "May I ask why?"

"Yeah, Dad, why?" Clark said, and Lex was hard-pressed not to smirk at Jonathan because of the teen's unwitting support.

"Because the way the proposal is set up, Lex is guaranteed a profit, while I possibly fall further into debt," Jonathan answered frankly.

Lex was reluctantly impressed by Jonathan Kent's deduction of what could happen. While Lex was not trying to cheat the Kents out of their land, he was a business man and profit was always the main goal. "I have full faith that you'll be in the black in a few years," he said smoothly.

"What's the proposal?" Clark asked curiously. He scooted to the edge of the love seat and picked up some of the papers from the table.

"Clark, it's nothing you need to concern yourself with," Martha said.

"I'm part of the Kent family, Mom, or so you keep claiming when you want me to do chores," Clark said with a brief smile. "I think I should help in the bigger decisions, too."

Lex picked up his glass of brandy and sipped it to hide his grin. Clark was such a wonder -- the perfect son of a perfect family. Why wouldn't Lex want to buy into that if he could?

"Okay, Clark," Jonathan leaned forward and tapped the edge of the papers in Clark's hands. "In Lex's proposal, he would receive a percentage of the gross profit, before debts and taxes are paid. The remaining money would then go towards the debts and taxes I mentioned and if there's anything left over, that would be the Kent family's profit."

Clark's brow furrowed. "But what if it's a bad year? What if we don't make enough to cover all the debts?"

Jonathan's smile wasn't nice. "Then Lex would generously cover those debts and we would have to pay him back from future profits -- after he still takes his base percentage cut of the gross."

"You would have to do the same with a bank if you took a loan," Lex pointed out, setting his drink aside. "With my offer, there would be no interest or time constraints on payback."

"The answer is no, Lex," Jonathan repeated.

Lex geared up to try another tactic to get Jonathan to agree. He would not let Clark suffer in any way and this was the best option. He just had to make Jonathan understand that.

"What if Lex took a percentage of the net profits, instead of the gross?" Clark suggested before Lex could speak. He glanced at his father, then looked at Lex. "You won't make as much money, Lex, but if you're doing this just because you want to help..."

Unfair, Lex thought. It was the truth about Lex wanting to help; the profit would've been a side-benefit. Worse, Clark wasn't being sly in bargaining, he was innocently suggesting a valid alternative using schoolboy logic. Lex had no chance of refusing Clark, and he sighed. How could he put profit over puppy-dog eyes?

"I am agreeable to that," Lex said, finding a clean sheet of Luthor stationary and a pen. He jotted a new, simple contract, passed it across the table, and wondered how badly his father would thrash him.

Jonathan and Martha read the new contract and exchanged a look in which an entire conversation was held without a single word being spoken. Jonathan then turned and addressed Lex. "I want to add that the title and deed remain solely in the Kent name."

Lex tensed. Adding that clause would remove any guarantee that he would come out ahead of the game no matter what, and he'd have no control over the Kents. Luthors didn't make deals like this, ever. Damn, he was going to be flayed alive by his father. "Add it."

Both parental Kents looked shocked, but Jonathan was quick to accept the pen and add the clause. He then re-read the page, signed it, and handed the pen to Martha. She signed and passed both to Lex. Lex damned himself further with each stroke of the pen on the paper as he signed, as well.

"Perseus," Lex beckoned to the houseman, who had eerily good timing, as he entered the study with a tray of cookies and cocoa presumably for Clark. "Will you witness this, please?"

The long-coated, long-haired man nodded in acquiescence and placed his signature on the contract. He silently left the study immediately after.

"That guy freaks me out," Clark whispered to Lex after he was certain Perseus was gone.

"Me, too," Lex responded with a conspiratorial wink. Clark's grin made him chuckle, and he handed the pen to the teen. "Would you like to be the second witness to the Clark Kent Purchase Agreement?"

Clark blushed faintly as he accepted the pen and signed his name. "You're naming it after me?"

"It was your idea," Lex said, though he would make certain his father never found out that fact. He handed the signed paper back to Martha. "Besides, the whole agreement is about you."

"It is?" Clark said, surprise in his blue gaze.

Lex's lips curved in a self-sacrificing half-smile as he looked at Clark. "I wouldn't be making it otherwise."

The blush staining Clark's cheeks darkened and the bashful, pleased smile that Lex lived for appeared on his face. Lex felt himself respond in same, smiling like the fool he was for Clark. His heart swelled with emotion he didn't normally feel, usurping his usual self-control and, before he realized what he was doing, he leaned over and kissed Clark on the lips.

The twin shocked gasps from the elder Kents echoed in the suddenly silent room. Clark's eyes were enormous as he stared slack-jawed at Lex.

Lex could feel the heat rising under his skin. "I-I'm sorry. I didn't--"

"Do you expect Clark in return for your money?" Jonathan Kent hissed venomously.

Lex flinched. "No! God no!" His chest grew tight and he began to have trouble breathing. "I wouldn't do that."

"Wouldn't you, Luthor?" Jonathan rose, his fists clenched, his face twisted in an ugly, feral sneer.

"I don't--" Lex pressed a hand to his chest as he stood, realizing that he was having his first asthma attack in years. His words came out choppily as he fought for breath. "--I don't want-- Clark li--ike that."

"Oh, I suppose you kiss everyone you make business deals with?"

"Not--like--that." Lex skirted the table and hurried as fast as he could towards the study door. "Ex--ex--ex--cuse me."

Lex made it to the staircase before he had to stop. His breaths were coming in short, painful gasps. He had an old inhaler in a box in the master bathroom, all he had to do was get it before he passed out from lack of oxygen.

Lex leaned against the paneled wall, head tilted back, open mouth gulping in air. Why wasn't Perseus appearing out of the woodwork? Lex didn't know if he would make it even halfway up the stairs. He'd forgotten how horribly it hurt to have an asthma attack, how out of control he felt. It was just like being in love and having it blow up in your face.


Not now, Lex pleaded silently as Clark appeared in front of him. He couldn't defend himself if the teen decided to take a swing for Lex's indiscretion. He couldn't even form words any longer, and black spots were starting to dance in his vision.

But instead of punches, Clark's large hands lightly grasped Lex's shoulders and his sweetly concerned voice asked, "How can I help?"

Lex almost keeled over in relief. He motioned at the stairs and, before he knew it, he was cradled like a girl in Clark's strong arms and they were upstairs. Lex pointed at the open door to his bedroom and Clark carried him through it and into the bath at his charades.

With a bit of creativity, Lex retrieved the box from the shelf in the linen closet while Clark still held him. The raven-headed teen sat on the edge of the Jacuzzi tub with Lex on his lap, supporting Lex's slightly spasming body. He helped hold the box as Lex tossed things out without regard for damage.

The inhaler was at the bottom, of course, but it felt partially full, even after the amount of time that had passed. Lex closed his eyes against the stinging tears as he dosed himself. He'd forgotten how much he hated the inhaler. He was a bald freak that couldn't even do something as simple as breathing. Bitter, party of one.

It took five puffs on the inhaler for him to finally calm. The prescription was extremely outdated, so Lex was lucky it worked at all. He wiped his damp cheeks, angry and embarrassed with himself.

"You okay?" Clark asked, his voice seeming to boom in the now-quiet bathroom.

"Other than being humiliated beyond belief, I'm fine," Lex rasped, his throat sore from his attack. He struggled out of Clark's hold, got to his feet, and walked over the debris to the sink. He splashed his heated face with cold water, avoiding his reflection in the mirror.

"You like me, don't you," Clark said as Lex reached for a towel. "More than as friends, I mean."

"Boy, what gave it away?" Lex muttered sarcastically.

"And that's why you made that deal with my folks," Clark continued as if Lex hadn't spoken. "Not because you want me, but because you think you can't have me."

Lex looked at Clark in surprise. "That's... very astute, Clark."

"I'm not as dumb as I look," Clark said with a fleeting grin. "I told my parents as much before they got the shotgun from the car."

"Oh." Lex focused on neatly re-hanging the towel. "What did they say?"

"Well, my dad said if you touch me before I'm 17, he'll use you as fertilizer," Clark replied. "My mom said pretty much the same thing, and that you're required to come to Sunday dinner every week between now and then so she can decide if you're worthy of her son."

"They said all that?" Lex turned and stared at Clark in disbelief.

Clark shrugged. "We already had the 'Why Harry likes both Dick and Jane' talk, they just weren't expecting the Dick to be you." He blinked and blushed at his wording. "Uh, you get the idea."

Lex was flabbergasted, and was starting to find it difficult to breath again. He gripped the edge of the sink and forced himself to inhale slowly. "So they're okay with me-- you're okay with me..."

"I'm fine with it." Clark flashed him a brilliant smile. "My parents would have preferred if you had just asked me on a date rather than this elaborate business deal."

"They're not angry with me?"

"I think your panic attack or whatever it was assured them of your sincerity."

"Asthma," Lex told him. "When I get too emotional I have an asthma attack. The last time I had one was years ago, before I started Princeton."

"I'm sorry you had to suffer through one tonight," Clark said sincerely.

"It was for a good cause," Lex responded with a shrug and a half-grin.

Clark smiled that bashful, pleased smile of his that turned Lex's knees to jelly. "So what now?" Clark asked.

"Now, I find and apologize to your parents, come--" mostly "--clean with them, and let them know the business offer still holds," Lex replied.

"Good," Clark said chipperly as he headed out of the bathroom. "Because they know they have you by the balls and don't plan to let go."

"Swell." Lex started to follow, paused, and returned for his inhaler. He had a feeling that, when it came to Clark Kent, he would always be too emotional.


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