Neighborly

by Sarah T.


Thanks to LaT, Livia, and the Spike for betaing.


"Clark!"

Jonathan swung the new tray of caramel apples onto the table and looked up and down their aisle of the farmer's market, past tables of pumpkins and late corn and the very last, sad, withered zucchini, through the sparser crowds that came this time of year. There was no sign of his son anywhere among the tag ends of the harvest. Turn your back for five minutes and he's off with Pete or Chloe, Jonathan thought. Well, he couldn't really begrudge the kid a little free time. It wasn't as if Clark didn't do five times the chores of a normal farm kid, and he never complained. Now that school was back in, his Saturdays had to be a lot more precious to him.

Still, Clark's absence gave Jonathan a strange little hitch in his chest. He'd heard what Clark had said about staying on the farm, when he'd thought his dad wasn't around. And, damnit, Jonathan knew Clark was special, was meant for something bigger than farming the Kent land for the rest of his life. He wanted Clark to go as fast and far as his gifts could safely take him. If Clark decided that his future was somewhere else than on the farm, there'd be none of the dark mutters and looks Hiram had given him.

Even if Clark decided he wanted to run off and join the World Wrestling Federation.

That didn't change the fact that, as it stood now, there would be no one to inherit their land. Their legacy. For all that he knew, someday it would end up belonging to LuthorCorp--

Speak of the devil. Jonathan's eyes fell on Smallville's newest resident, Lionel Luthor, walking with his son. The crowds divided to let them through, but more than one person gave them a hostile stare as they went by. In their long dark coats that flapped in the breeze, they looked like a pair of ravens, out of place among the cheerful parkas and casual sweaters of Jonathan's neighbors.

Lex held Lionel's arm, guiding him carefully along the track. They were making their way down the muddy aisle between the stands, and their conversation carried in the crisp October air.

"...on our left is the Fairfax stand. They're one of the few families that grow soybeans around here. Their daughter played organ in the church this morning, do you remember?"

"Unfortunately," Lionel growled. "Lex, this is very tiresome."

"I thought you might like to get out," Lex said evenly. "You said it was boring at the castle."

"I said it was quiet. I wasn't aware that that meant I'd be taken for a stroll through rotting produce for a change of pace. I don't find the roar of monster trucks and the lowing of cattle particularly musical."

"Dad..." Lex exhaled. "If you're going to be staying here, don't you think you should get to know some of the people?"

"If I want anything from these people, Lex, I'll buy it from them."

"Contrary to popular belief, Dad, you can't buy everything you might want in life."

Like Clark's friendship, Jonathan thought grimly. Lex had stumbled right into that, lucky kid. No doubt he was coming their way in hope of running into Clark, and Jonathan couldn't reasonably object, given everything that had happened. That didn't mean it didn't still worry him, though--Lionel Luthor poking around their business was all they needed--and...

Damn. Lex looked right at him, and Jonathan must have been scowling, because he immediately winced and looked down. Damn. Martha would have his head. Lex clutched his father's arm tighter and started to speed them past the Kent stand. Of course, Lionel stepped in a slick of mud right in front of it and skidded down, taking Lex with him into the muck.

"Typical," Lionel snapped as Jonathan stepped around the stand, trying to suppress a grin. "So very typical, Lex."

Lex hadn't even gotten up before he started brushing his father off all over, with open-palmed touches that jerked away almost as soon as they made contact. There was a broad smear of mud across his pale cheek. "I'm sorry, d--Father. Did you hurt anything?"

"Only my dignity." Jonathan's smile faded at the iciness of Lionel's tone. "But that organ, I believe you were born without."

"Can you stand?"

"If you think you can manage to help me up."

"I'll do my best. Come on."

"This sort of thing would never happen if your mother were here," Lionel grumbled, and Jonathan saw Lex let Lionel's arm go and sink his teeth into his lip hard, though he said nothing.

That was enough. Jonathan hurried forward. "Lex?"

One of Lex's hands lifted to screen his face, and Jonathan had a pretty good idea of what he was trying to hide. He'd seen Clark do that often enough. "I'm sorry, Mr. Kent. We'll be out of your way as quickly as we can--"

"Lex, I've got a chair back here. Why don't you have your father wait here while you go bring your car around?"

Lex lowered the hand and blinked at him. "Wait...with you?"

"Sure." Jonathan stretched out a hand to help him up. "We've even got some coffee in a thermos. It's not dark French Arabica roast latte, but it'll help keep him warm."

"Hear that, Dad?" Lex, once on his feet, easily pulled his father up. "You can wait with Mr. Kent here while I get the car."

"Jonathan Kent?" Lionel swung a gaze on Jonathan that would have seemed shrewd, if he didn't know the man was blind. There was something else there, too. "We couldn't possibly impose--"

"You wouldn't be. Your son saved my life, Mr. Luthor. The least I can do is offer you a seat."

"Ah...very well, then."

The look Lex shot him as he led Lionel away was pure gratitude, though he toned it down quickly. No doubt it occurred to him that it was a little disloyal to look that glad that someone else was helping with his father. Jonathan couldn't help but give him a conspiratorial wink. Clark turned up a few minutes later, drawn by his teenager homing-system, and the delighted grin he offered his dad when he saw Lex's convertible parked behind the stand was nothing to sneeze at, either.

And if, even more than either of those two, Jonathan enjoyed the memory of the look of discomfiture on Lionel Luthor's face when he realized that he'd have to accept help from Jonathan Kent--well, he knew enough to keep that to himself.

After all, he was always trying to teach Clark that good deeds were their own reward.



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