This story starts at Season 2 episode 5.
AU in that Johnathan Clark died in the twister at the end of season 2, along with the journalist who discovered Clark's secret.
The familiar lilt of the piano tune echoed around the room as Lex stepped through the door. "Chopin," he remarked laconically. "I always thought you found him too sentimental."
His father barely reacted, his fingers not so much as faltering as he replied, "No Lex, I find he sometimes lacks subtlety." He lifted his shoulders along with the music, a ghost of a smile across his lips, murmuring, "Sometimes." His eyes remained closed as he continued, "I take it from your tone that you're angry with me. What transgression have I committed now?"
Lex leaned across the edge of the instrument, hands folding together. "I wasted yesterday interviewing more prospects," he replied lowly. "Only to find that you've hired Mrs Kent." His eyes narrowed at Lionel's quiet chuckle. "What's your angle?"
"Angle? Martha Kent is a very...capable woman. Unshakeable honesty like hers, it's hard to come by."
Inhaling sharply, Lex made his way around the piano, commenting, "And she just so happens to be one of the few pillars of this community who could ingretiate the despised tycoon with the citizens of Smallville."
Lionel's amusement was clear on his features, a laugh in his voice as he answered, "I hadn't thought about it in those terms. I suppose that's an unexpected benefit."
"I don't know what your interest is in the Kents, but I want you to stay away from them. They mean a lot to me and they've been through enough"
Finally, Lionel stopped playing, his lips thinning in grim amusement. "And I wonder what they would think of you trying to meddle in their affairs. Do you think if you're a very good boy, they'll welcome you into what's left of their family?"
"Well it would certainly be a step up." Lex snapped back, his teeth gritted in ill concealed frustration.
His reaction prompted Lionel's trademark throaty chuckle. "You know Zeus had a son, an adopted son, who thought he could find a home among mortals. Do you know what happened to the well intentioned Prometheus?
Rolling his eyes at the question, Lex replied, "His Dad had him chained to a rock and his liver was eaten by vultures. Why?"
"Prometheus was immortal Lex, no matter how much he wanted to escape the world he was born into, the world of the Gods, it wasn't possible!" Lionel scowled in the direction of his son. He was tired of trying to explain, of trying to make his son see that his life wouldnt, couldn't be like that of the Kent's. He was destined for greatness, to take up the mantle of the Luthor legacy.
Tired of the converation, and sensing that there was nothing to win from pursing this conversation, Lex made to leave, grounding out, "If I find out that you have any agenda that could hurt the Kents, this amiable father son time will come to an abrupt end."
The strains of Chopin was his answer.
Lionel listened to his son leave, his fingers flying smoothly over the keys, the ability to play committed to muscle memory. The music brought him some peace, but it couldn't completely soothe him. He had tried to understand Lex, but he just couldn't understand his need to be just like everyone else. Lionel had spent years clawing his way up from nothing, building a future that would span generations of Luthors, that would ensure that they were remembered in history. All that effort, and his son and heir would rather be the progeny of a farmer. He shook his head in a mixture of disbelief and disgust.
As the piece reached it's crescendo, Lionel thought of his conversation with Martha Kent. She had surprised him, something he didn't consider an easy feat. He sifted through his memory for an image of her. He vaguely remembered her, clutching at a dark haired toddler, murmuring soft words of encouragement, a flash of red hair, nothing else. She had seemed so inconsequential at the time, potraying herself as nothing more than a wife and mother, her husband had appeared of more use to him. A smile curled his lips, he had been of use to him, a way into a town that had appeared closed off to him. In comparison he had believed that Martha Kent held no benefit to him, her immediate attachment to the boy had been useful in that it had spurred Johnathan Kent to do whatever he had to to keep the child, but that had appeared to be the limit to her uses. Appearance in this case truly had been deceiving.
His fingers remained splayed lightly across the piano keys, his thoughts now on something other than music and the problem that was Lex. Lex had accused him of wanting to exploit the Kents and for once he didn't have that angle in mind. A point that may change, he admitted to himself, after all there was something...odd going on there, but at present other than stirring some mild curiousity it held no interest for him. He had meant what he told his son, he found Matha Kent capable, interesting and when he discovered her credentials decided that she would make a competent assistant. Lionel didn't exactly suffer fools gladly and he was tired of dealing with the ineptness from Lex's offerings. No, Martha Kent would do nicely, and if she did prove to be of some other use to him then he wouldn't be turning the other cheek, he was a business man after all. Lex would just have to...what was the phrase...ah yes, get over it.
"What do you mean you said yes?" Clark stared at his mother in disbelief, unable to believe what she's just said.
"It's a good offer, we could use the extra money" Martha replied, glancing momentarily at her son before turning her attention back to the dishes. "And it will be nice to use all that education and training I had."
"But what about the farm?"
"Lionel has offered to pay for two farmhands to help out during the day."
A scowl graced Clark's features. "That's...generous." He shrugged, muttering under his breath, "some might say too generous."
Martha shot a wry look at her son. "Lionel Luther's assistants don't exactly get an easy time of it, so the salary reflects that. He's deducting part of the cost of the workers from my pay. So there's nothing untoward."
Clark's expression didn't change. "And the rest of the cost? Where's that coming from?"
"It's in lieu of a bonus," she replied calmly. Drying her hands, Martha turned to look at her son, her eyes scanning over his hunched frame, the way his fists clenched as he struggled with how he felt. "Clark, this is the best step forward for us. We can't keep going the way we are. There's too much work for just the two of us."
Shaking his head in frustration, Clark snapped, "I can do the work! In the morning and evenings, I can do it!"
Moving over to him, Martha ran her hand over his tense shoulders, squeezing lightly. "Clark, you're a teenager, you can barely get up in time for school. And as for the evenings, you have homework, not to mention that you should have the chance to go out, enjoy yourself."
The ghost of a smirk played across Clark's features. "It's not as though I'm a normal teenager, Mom. I can manage all of it."
"No, Clark." She rubbed at her eyes tiredly. "It wouldn't work."
"Why not? We're managing!"
Martha shook her head. "No, Clark we're not."
His head shot up, confusion sparking in his eyes. "What do you mean?"
"It's not just the amount of work...your father let his life insurance lapse, what with the cost of the funeral, the repairs to the farm after the twister..." She sighed loudly, fighting back tears of frustration. "If things continue like this, without an extra income we'll lose the farm."
"He...no...no. Dad wouldn't let something like that happen," Clark ground out, his jaw set.
"I'm sure it was an oversight, it's not something he would have meant, but we need to be realistic. If I take this job then I can continue to manage the farm, the way I always have, the two extra pair of hands will mean that you don't work yourself into the ground trying to fit maintaining a farm in around your education and my salary will keep us afloat." She managed a weak smile. "It might even give us a little extra, we could maybe have the odd treat."
"Dad wouldn't want you to work for Lionel Luthor," Clark replied stubbornly.
"You're right," she acknowledged. "He wouldn't. But he isn't here anymore, and as much as it hurts to admits that we can't keep burying our heads in the sand. We need to do something."
"Something that isn't working for Lionel Luthor."
"There isn't another option just now," Martha told him softly. "It's this or lose this place, and I don't want that. This was your father's legacy, I won't be the one who lets it die, not without a fight."
Clark got to his feet, staring down at her as he repeated his point once more, "Lionel Luthor is trouble."
"Perhaps, but unless you want to move to a run down appartment in downtown Metropolis then he's the only option we have."
A scathing noise of disgust escaped Clark as he turned and stomped from the room. Martha watched him go, listened to the heavy clump of his boots on the stairs and the slamming of his bedroom door before sinking back against the counter-top, her hands running through her hair. Never had she imagined that this would be how her life would turn out, a widow on the verge of bankruptcy.
She blinked back tears, she missed Johnathan, missed him more than words could describe, but equally she was angry with him. Angry with him for leaving her in this position, angry with him for leaving her alone. He ran straight into death's waiting arms, he had been safe, they had been safe and he had ran out there like a damn fool. Why hadn't he just let it go? For once, why had he not listened? She swiped at her eyes as the first tear hit her cheek. She knew why he hadn't listened, to protect Clark and had he not been there she would have done the same. But it didn't stop her anger. How could she ever tell Clark why his Dad had died? He would never understand, he would blame himself and she couldn't lose him too.
Lionel Luthor was a necessary part of their survival, a fact she found unfortunate but then there was a lot about her life that could be described with that word. Some would describe her decision to give up her career and move to the backwater towan that was Smallville as that, her father would certainly describe her marriage with that word. A bitter, choked laugh escaped her lips, the doctor had once described her infertilty as unfortunate and even now Johnathen's death was called the same. Such an inconsequential word for two of the biggest tragedies in her life.
Her son clearly thought that she couldn't handle Lionel Luthor, but she could. She knew men like him, grew up in that vipers nest. Ambition was everything, ruthlessness was the name of the game and you didn't show weakness. She could handle that, and what's more she would do it without compromising her principles. Her shoulders straightened, she could manage Lionel Luthor, and she would drag the remenents of her family out of the gutter.