Chloe and the Luthors

Part 1 Proposition

"You were supposed to be here hours ago," Lionel said into the phone. "What are you still doing in Metropolis, son?"

On the other end of the line, Lex Luthor took a deep calming breath. He wanted to curse all the ineffective employees that moved the meeting with their clients without his permission. He had not even been informed that the meeting would take place tomorrow instead of the original schedule, which was this morning. He had thought he would have enough time to drive back to Smallville before Lucas arrived. "Apparently, the inept assistants you have here in the city did not believe it was necessary to inform me of certain schedule changes."

"Well, that's not right!" Lionel replied. Lex detected a hint of patronizing in his voice.

"Dad, listen to me. I was hoping I would be there in time but since I will be here until tomorrow, I need you to see to Lucas when he arrives."

"My youngest son is coming? This is a surprise."

"I wouldn't know about youngest but I am sure he's younger than I am," Lex quipped. "You're not hiding anymore spawns in the far reaches of the globe, are you?"

"Why is dear Lucas visiting so suddenly?"

Lex did not want to have to inform his father anything, but seeing as he would not be at home to control the situation, he explained, "Lucas blew his month's allowance on a poker game. I thought that instead of wiring him more money, I would just make him stay with us for the next two weeks."

"A lesson on thriftiness from you, Lex?" Again, Lex gritted his teeth in an effort to quell his retort. "Well, never you mind. I will see to Lucas. We will get some of that father and son bonding time you and I have been doing since I moved here."

"Great," Lex replied half-heartedly. "Make sure that you don't kill each other. At least wait until I get there so I can watch."

Lionel raised his brows at the quip. He was sitting at the back of Lex's office desk, rifling through his son's paraphernalia. "I should inform you that your young friend dropped by, son. He seemed rather worried."

"Clark?" Lex had told Clark that he was leaving for a meeting in Metropolis. If he did not even remember, then he must be very distraught. "Did he say what was wrong?"

"No, no," Lionel told him absently. "He left in a hurry. I was able to learn from some of the employees' chatter that the Torch office was ransacked. And Clark Kent was seen in the scene of the crime."

Clark would never have knowingly trashed Chloe's lair. At the thought of a ruined newspaper office, Lex's mind rapidly began producing images of a furious Chloe Sullivan, with red cheeks and wild hair waving her fists and yelling. He shifted uncomfortably on his chair and tried to conjure up images of his fiancĂ© instead. The picture of the doctor eased the situation inside his pants. Thinking about Helen always served to straighten out his rattled brain. That was always a good way of lassoing his thoughts and put him back on track when he was reading business reports and assessing economic growth charts.

"I should try and call the Kents and see what's wrong."

"Yes, you do that, Lex. Well if that's everything, I have to leave now."

Lex really didn't care whether or not his father had better things to do with his time than chat with him. But something about the way Lionel wanted to stop the conversation rather than rebuke him for not checking the schedule first before going out of town stank. "Where are you off to, dad?"

"Father," Lex said with a warning tone.

"I'm off to the school, Lex. I wanted to see the damage for myself. Maybe I can help."

Lex rubbed the bridge of his nose with his fingers. "Why would you want to do that?"

"Is it so wrong that I want to contribute to the community?"

"Father," Lex repeated.

"I would like to personally ask Miss Sullivan what I can do to help rebuild her little office."

"Why would you want to do that?"

"Gabe says that his daughter is heartbroken. And we cannot run the plant without Gabe Sullivan."

"I hardly think that Gabe Sullivan would quit just because the Torch was sacked," Lex drawled.

"Come on, son. Where is that heart you claim to have gained here in this small town? Think of this as a thank you for everything Smallville has given you. Plus, I get to make a lovely young girl happy."

Lex cringed at his father's words. He hardly thought that Chloe was a young girl, and hearing his father speak of her, Lex was certain that that was the farthest thing from his mind too. Lionel Luthor has some objective behind this. "Just keep your hands off her, dad. We can't afford a lawsuit."

"I'd hate to point this out to you, Lex, but we can."

"Dammit, dad!" Lex exclaimed. "Well then if you touch the girl, Gabe is going to quit. Don't think he won't. He's got headhunters after him and the competition has been making offers I've been struggling so hard to top."

"Fine, Lex," Lionel gave in. "I wasn't even planning to do anything more than to offer financial support, maybe hire some workers to fix the place up."

"Good."

"Offer her a place to work in while the construction is going on, a place where she can work until the wee hours."

"I'm just pulling your leg, Lex. Relax." Lionel turned the off button on the phone, cutting off his son's rant about his irresponsibility and his potential to ruin the company. Lionel glanced down at his watch. "Well time to leave."

He made it to the high school in no time. Lionel ignored all the shocked looks thrown his way. He nodded to some of the faculty members who looked out their classroom doors to watch his progress. He stopped in front of one speechless kid and asked, "Young man, can you please tell me where the Torch office is?"

The gangly boy stared open-mouthed and Lionel tapped his foot. He saw the boy's arm raise and point to the stairs.

"Second floor." The boy nodded. "Thank you."

Lionel felt eyes follow his ascent until he vanished at the turn. His eyes found the small sign on the door declaring it to be the Torch office. Even if the marker hadn't been there, he would have known what room he was looking at. The sight was horrendous.

The columns were ripped and the tables were overturned. On the floor lay the remnants of a cheap computer. Papers were strewn everywhere. Pictures littered the floor. Amidst the chaos, a blonde head was buried in pale white hands. The girl's shoulder trembled. From the sound of muffled sobbing, Lionel concluded that the girl was crying.

He cleared his throat. "Miss Sullivan."

The presence of another person jerked her out of her self-despair. Chloe looked up at the Luthor patriarch. "Mr Luthor?" she asked in disbelief. "What are you doing here?"

Lionel walked into the office and looked around him. "Well rumor of this brought me. What has you sniffling away there like a loser?"

Chloe cringed. She deserved that. What kind of hard-hitting editor broke down in tears after a turn down? If she was going to be so weak, she had better quit the profession now. She stood up and walked over to Lionel, needing to show him that she hadn't been brought so low. "I was overwhelmed," she explained. "Principal Reynolds informed me that the school doesn't have the budget to fix this place up. I offered to work on one of the other rooms. I told him I only needed a computer. He says they can't provide that either because the basketball team needs a new uniform," Chloe narrated bitterly. She sighed. "But I'm better now. So you now that you've seen the horror here, you can go."

She returned to her chair, stumbling over a fallen stapler on the way. Chloe managed to keep her head up high as she settled down on her seat. The moment she rested her weight, the furniture toppled over, sending her sprawling on her butt. Her cheeks burning, she glanced up and saw Lionel Luthor smiling down at her with his hand extended. "I've come to tell you I decided to rebuild your little newspaper office," he informed her.

Chloe looked at the hand and the man suspiciously. She narrowed her eyes. "What do you want from me?" she asked.

"Miss Sullivan, I should be offended!"

She scoffed. "But you're not because you actually do need something from me."

"Well, Miss Sullivan, not a lot of people know this but my family needs some therapy."

Chloe grinned and, having ascertained that Lionel was going to be upfront, took his hand. She pulled herself up with his help. "That does not surprise me, Mr Luthor. The only shocker is that you can admit it."

Lionel nodded. "We may be close to perfect, but we are not flawless yet."

Arching her brow at that statement, she asked, "What does that have to do with me?"

"To you?" Chloe's eyes were wide. Her father would never have spoken to Lionel Luthor about her.

"To his fellow coworkers."

Chloe folded her arms across her chest. "And you know this how?"

"I have surveillance and check up on some of my employees' concerns."

Chloe gasped and raised her finger. "You listen in to employee conversation!"

"Not against the law." She clapped her hand over her mouth to keep in her squeal of outrage. "Miss Sullivan, I am a busy man. Now are you willing to listen to the job I need done so we can have a fair trade?"

She tamped down her urge to cry foul at the intrusion of privacy on the plant employees' behalf when she remembered that her main concern was the Torch. If she could get the newspaper running again, she would expose the old snoop! Calming down, she nodded, "Please, Mr. Luthor. Go on."