The Economics of Gift-Giving

When Roy saw the dark figure approaching him in the alley, his first instinct was to punch him in the jaw and force him to explain himself at the pointed end of an arrow. In hindsight, this would have save him no end of trouble, but in a rare moment of calm and rationale Roy simply nocked an arrow and growled, “What do you want?”

“Relax,” a man’s voice answered, and the figure raised its hands, though the package was still clutched under one arm. “You’re a difficult man to get a hold of, Red Arrow.”

Roy’s eyes narrowed and he raised his bow, pulling the string taut. “Luthor,” he snapped.

“Call me Lex, please.” The figure stepped forward, and the weak light from the street fell on the familiar face. “May I call you Red? Or perhaps Speedy, I think it suits you much better.”

Roy wanted to whizz an arrow past Lex Luthor’s ear in an attempt to get him to shut up, but he knew all it took was a drunken bum wandering somewhere off in the shadows down the alley for that to go very wrong. Instead he cocked his bow slightly to the side, as though he now truly meant business. “Drop the package,” he said.

Lex Luthor actually laughed at that. “What do you think it is, a bomb? Surely you know me better than that.”

“I know that your assistant had a gun hidden in her arm,” Roy shot back. “Now drop it, Luthor.”

Lex shrugged and placed the package gingerly on the ground. “Suit yourself,” he said, kicking the package about halfway between the two of them. “I brought it for you, anyway.”

Roy frowned. “What’s in it?”

“A bow,” Lex replied nonchalantly. “A very nice one, or at least, that’s what I’ve been told. It was certainly a very expensive one.”

“I already told you,” Roy said, finally lowering his bow, though not taking his withering gaze off Lex, “I don’t want your blood money.”

Lex chuckled again. “Just think of it as a gift for services rendered.”

“I don’t want LexCorp’s gifts, either,” Roy said.

“It’s not from LexCorp,” Lex said, looking Roy up and down. “Call it a… personal interest.”

Roy was bristling now. “It’s the same thing!” he said. “You can’t buy me off, Lex. Sliding some new toy my way isn’t going to put me under your thumb.”

Lex smiled. “Under my thumb is not the position I want you in, Red Arrow,” he said, his voice smooth and deeper than Roy had heard it before.

Though perhaps not as well-versed in this area as a young man of Roy’s age might hope to be, something in Roy’s head finally clicked, and quick as the Flash he pulled his bow tight again, his eyes gone wide under his mask. “No,” he said firmly.

“You’re not going to shoot me,” Lex said.

“Are you positive about that?” Roy asked, “Because I’m not one hundred percent on it myself.”

Lex lowered his hands and strolled up to Roy, stopping to pick up the package where it lay between them. He handed it to Roy who, in his shock, took it without thinking. “You know how to get in touch with me,” Lex said. “And, before long, I’m sure I’ll figure out how better to get in touch with you.” He whistled, and a sleek black car shot around the corner and stopped on the street behind Roy. “Until then, Mr Arrow.”

Roy didn’t watch Lex step into the car, didn’t even move until he heard the roar of the engine fade in the distance. Then, and only then, did he level a stare at the box in his hands. After a moment’s contemplation, he ripped off the heavy brown paper, and opened the box.

Roy whistled low. “Damn,” he said, “That is a nice bow.”

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