Honestly can't believe how long it's been since I updated anything.
Bit of a different style of layout for me. Flashbacks are in italics,
As always feedback is welcome.
Martha shook out her black dress, pulling at the rigid fixed material and inhaling an irritated hiss of air as she threw it onto bed. There was absolutely no give in it, nothing to hide her burgeoning figure. Running her fingers through her hair, she peered hopelessly into her wardrobe and wondered once again if she'd maybe packed away something that might have been suitable. She shook her head, who was she kidding? She knew exactly what lurked in the meagre content of the entirety of her wardrobe and there was nothing in there that would be appropriate for tomorrow.
She dropped onto her bed, and gave a nearby cardboard box a particularly vicious kick before lying back, sprawling inelegantly against her pillows. Her hand rubbed absentmindedly against her bump, as her baby somersaulted within her. "What am I going to do?" she muttered. "I can hardly go in a binbag."
She smiled at the resulting kick against her hand, as difficult as these last three months had been, she still had this; her miracle. Nothing else had fallen into place, in fact it had rather fallen apart, in some parts spectacularly so. Her son was no longer exactly missing but appeared to have taken up bank robbery as his career, so not what could be called a step up, although at least he had the sense to wear a mask; she decided wryly. She had told herself that he would come back, that the tearful phone calls, where he whimpered down the receiver like an animal in pain, were signs that he was close to discarding the red kryptonite ring and coming back to her. Her lips tightened together, it would appear that she had been wrong on that score.
Added to which, the bank had defaulted on the mortgage when the insurance had ruled against her claim, leaving her on the verge of homelessness, about to watch her marital home be auctioned off to the highest bidder. The only positive was that she wouldn't be homeless, Lana had pressed the keys to the apartment above the Talon into her hands, telling her, "Clark will need somewhere to come back to." It was faintly ridiculous that she had been rescued by a teenager. Although more irritating was the fact that she had been right, if Clark was to come back to her, it was to be if she remained in Smallville. And whilst she remained in Smallville then she had to hide her biggest secret.
There were moments when she was genuinely bewildered at how she had hidden her pregnancy for so long. The majority of the other moments were split between being terrified it was finally going to tumble out and concerned at how the hell she was going to pull this whole mess together in the three months she had until her due date. Heavy, loose clothing had been her friend. She looked fat and dumpy, but apparently no-one had been surprised that with all the stress she was under that Martha Kent had given up on her figure. It was getting ridiculous though, her work apron was beginning to strain, and the heat of the summer was making her clothing difficult to bear. It was never meant to have gone on for so long, she reminded herself.
On a sigh, she hauled herself to her feet again, using the headboard for leverage. There was nothing for it, she'd need to buy something to wear, she couldn't go to Lex's funeral in what she had and she couldn't turn up and flaunt her stomach. She thought of her bank balance and cringed momentarily. Still, it had to be done.
Martha's cheeks pulled tight at the effort not to cry again, she'd surely done enough of that; as she thought about the day that awaited tomorrow. After all this time, Lionel had finally given up, admitted what she thought he'd never be able to; that Lex was gone. Her heart had broken for him, she had thought about contacting them, but given how they had parted, she had decided against. Cowardly perhaps, but then she had enough to deal with.
She couldn't help herself though, as she reached for the heavy jumper of the day her mind couldn't help but return to that night.
He had reached for her again as night began to fall, his mouth finding the curve of her shoulder, pressing her back into the sheets. She arched into his kiss, the lilt of a laugh on her voice as she told him, "I should go."
"So you keep saying and yet, here we are." He kissed her neck, murmuring into her skin, "Stay." He ran a hand down her thigh, repeating, "stay."
"Lionel, we're making this worse," she reminded him.
"How can this make anything worse?" He asked, leaning over her as his hand trailed gently up her inner thigh.
Although he didn't know it, he did have a slight point, after all she already carried the biggest consequence of their affair. Still, throwing herself into bed with him, again, wasn't going to stop the fact that he was investigating her son. She wasn't some lust struck teenager, she knew this was the height of stupidity, and then he would touch her and she would be back to square one. "It can always get worse," she settled for muttering, a darkness to her tone.
Lionel caught the play of shadows that crossed Martha's features and grabbed her hand, bringing it between them, kissing the curve of her fingers. "I meant what I said earlier, this was never what I thought would happen. I never meant to care for you in such a way, even when our affair started I thought I could control it-"
"The way you control everything else?" She queried softly.
"Quite." His other hand came up to play with her hair, the red strands twisting between his fingers as her hand danced over his skin, one moment on his beard, the next at his back. "But it spiralled into more than I have ever felt before."
"You say this, Lionel but you lied to me. You told me that you would leave Clark be, but you haven't, have you?"
Her body stiffened with indignity as she spoke, her eyes flashing at him in challenge. "No. I knew that there was something…unusual about Clark, about the way he turns up whenever there is trouble."
"And what exactly do you think we are hiding?" Martha asked, an eyebrow arching. "You must have some theory that you're chasing."
"The meteors," Lionel admitted after a long moment. He realised he was either honest now or he would lose her. "They have caused some strange effects in certain individuals."
"And you think that they've had that effect in Clark?"
Lionel gave a nod, unaccustomed to sharing his thoughts with others. "He was found in the middle of one of the strikes after all."
Martha rolled her eyes. "Well they haven't," she told him shortly. "Clark just happened to be there."
"Hmmm, yes, abandoned at the wrong place, at the wrong time," Lionel remarked dryly.
Martha arched an eyebrow. "You don't believe me?"
"I find it almost too much of a co-incidence." He admitted. "Found in the middle of the meteors, has the ability to turn up whenever needed and save those in needs and yet has no special abilities."
Her gaze was forthright when it met his again. "Clark wasn't imbued with any powers from the meteors. If you can't believe that, then fine, don't."
He gently pulled her back into his embrace, his eyes meeting hers as he brushed the hair from her face. His voice was slightly gruff as he told her, "I don't think you're lying, but I don't think you're telling me the whole truth either." Her eyes flashed blue fire, he felt her start to rise up, to meet the perceived challenge. "But I don't care," he added, his tone final.
His words caught her off guard and for a moment she looked utterly bewildered. "I don't understand."
"My investigation into Clark, it's finished; for good this time."
"How do I believe that? You said it before, in the hospital."
"I said that if you didn't make it then I would stop."
Her face darkened. "Really Lionel? That's your reasoning."
"I never said it was morally sound, but I didn't lie to you. I won't lie to you."
"Those are just words, Lionel. It's your actions that really matter." Martha looked at him, she wanted to believe him, despite everything, she wanted this to be the truth.
He looked almost bleak as he replied, "I need a chance to show you that my actions match my words on this." He shook his head, giving a grim chuckle. "I'll never be a pillar of the community, that's not me, but I can be better, you make me better." As he spoke, he rolled them so that she was on top, his thumb caressed the angle of her cheekbone. "Stay," he repeated, putting the power back into her hands.
Martha thought of their baby, she was lucky so far that her small bump could be mistaken for the results of stress eating and that Lionel either hadn't noticed the slight thickening to her middle or had been too polite to mention it. She wouldn't stay lucky for much longer. Like it or not, Lionel was going to be playing a large role in her future and it would be better to have him on side. There was also the not so insignificant fact that she did care for him and care might be putting it mildly. The risk he presented to Clark might never go away, but that could be the case regardless, she could monitor it more successfully if she kept him close to her. She felt his hand on her hip, his fingers stroking her skin and she couldn't help herself, she pressed her body further into his, her mouth finding his.
Lionel smiled against her lips, his hand tightening the grip on Martha's hip, pulling her tighter against him. For this moment they had each other and for this moment they could shut out everything else out, all the impending tragedy and simply focus on the solace they could offer each other.
Martha gave a groan of annoyance as she pulled herself back to the present day. There was no use to this, no point to reliving any of it. She had an outfit to find, a shift to work and boxes to pack. Daydreaming was of no use to her.
Lionel pulled on his suit jacket, checking his reflection carefully in the tint of the limo's window, looking for any singular flaw. Today had to be perfect, he hadn't been able to save Lex, but he could lay his memory to rest in style.
The funeral of another son, the final destruction of his dynasty, the pitying looks, he had steeled himself for them all. For months he had told himself that Lex would be found, that time, patience and money would lead him to his son. It had all been for nothing in the end.
The limo rolled to a slow, graceful halt and he heard the clunk of the driver's door. His shoulder's stiffened in readiness for the time ahead. His features fixing into a calm detached mask, as his door was opened.
He stepped out with an ease he didn't feel, pausing to watch the guests who mingled awkwardly around the pillars, shooting him baleful looks. Lionel ignored them, for the most part, it had been years since he had worried about the feelings he provoked in others. That was when he saw her, making her way easily through the crowd, for the first time in three months he took in the sight of Martha Kent.
He watched her move towards the main body of the gathering, the ghost of a frown crossing his features as he took in her awkward gait. Her face was the same as he remembered it, her blue eyes downcast, as befitted the mood of the afternoon. His eyes travelled down her figure and he raised an eyebrow at her rather dismal and ill-fitting outfit. Black trousers and a loose fitting shirt, with a oversized jacket pulled on top. She had clearly gained weight and was working to hide it. Odd, he thought briefly, that her face remained unchanged. The elegant line of her neck the same, highlighted by the string of pearls she had clipped in place.
Lionel took in a sharp hiss of air. What did it matter what she looked like? Why did he care after all these months? And yet the memory of that last night tormented him.
He had slept fitfully, waking often, his mind racing. The moonlight that sneaked through a gap in the curtains seemed overly bright. Lionel glanced at Martha, who was sleeping peacefully, something he could be glad for, she had looked exhausted when she'd arrived at the mansion. Being careful not to wake her, he swung himself nimbly from the bed, his feet sinking into the thick carpet.
He moved silently around the room, pulling on a robe, rubbing at his temples. He wondered where Lex was, wondered if he was awake, waiting, hoping to be found. There were photos across the mantle, photos he had never really paid attention to before. Lillian had placed them there and they had remained there, untouched, other than when the room was dusted. Most of them were of Lex, some were of Lilian and there was one family shot. He stared at them, his eyes squinting slightly to do so. He reached for the family one, searching his memory for the day it had been taken, the fact that Lex still had hair narrowed it down slightly. Now he thought about it, he vaguely remembered Lilian picking the photos, showing him the snaps and asking him his thoughts. He remembered he was reading through some form of file and so he had waved her away, muttering a platitude.
There was a rustle of bedsheets and for a moment he assumed that Martha had simply rolled over, and then he felt her hand brush his waist, her cheek pressing against his arm. "When was that taken?" she asked softly.
Lionel shrugged. "I'm not sure, I don't fully remember." He placed the frame back onto the mantle. "I was busy when Lex was growing up, building Luthorcorp. It was easy to tell myself I was doing it for them, for Lex's future."
"And were you?"
She was always straight to the point. "I'm not sure. It was what I wanted."
Martha's eyes scanned the photos, most were stiff and formal, nothing like her own family snaps. Lex stood poker straight, in small suits, his face pensive; the image of the archetypical rich, lonely, only child. Lillian was pretty, her face thinner in later photo's, a tiredness to her eyes, but very pretty. She supressed a shiver, it was almost eerie to look at them, they practically screamed gothic tragedy. She felt Lionel's body tense, saw his lips draw into a tight, grim line. "This isn't doing you any good, believe me I know, I've been doing it."
"But with nicer memories, I'm sure."
"I wasn't building up a multinational corporation." She gave a soft sigh, her eyes wistful. "I waited years to be a mother, it was all I wanted. So, when it happened, I was careful not to take it for granted, to enjoy as much of it as I could."
"That was what I thought we could have with Julian," Lionel admitted quietly. "A second chance."
Martha pressed a kiss into Lionel's shoulder, she would know about the tragedy, he knew that as a certainty. Smallville was a small town and small towns had big mouths. "It must have been awful, I can't imagine…I don't even want to try."
"I'd never expected to have another child. I had Lucas of course, but for Lillian's sake that had to be kept quiet. I always thought a sibling would benefit Lex-" He cut off abruptly, he had blocked out his thoughts about Lex and Julian for years, it did no good to relive them now. Turning away from the fireplace, Lionel wrapped his arms around Martha. "It doesn't matter just now. It wasn't to be and what I need to focus on is bringing Lex home."
She didn't comment on his sudden change, on his abrupt dismissal of the topic of Julian, as though she knew it was something that Lionel hadn't spoken about for years, that he had pressed deep down, trying to bury it where it could never be found. His lips were at the curve of her jaw and she knew he was simply trying to distract himself. Her fingers curled into his hair and his hands gripped at her waist. She let out a small jolt as his hand slid across her stomach. He looked at her curiously, but just for the briefest of moments before she sunk back into him, distracting him with a kiss as she pulled him back to the bed.
"Mr Luthor, we're ready to begin."
Lionel was pulled from his memories and gave the minister a curt nod. "Of course." He cast one last glance in Martha's direction before he turned away. Today was about saying goodbye to his son, to the boy he had stored all his hope for the future into. Nothing else mattered.
The slow clap Lionel issued from the balcony drew Helen's attention, and she pivoted gracefully round to watch him, that irritating half smirk across her attractive features. "The highlight of the sombre affair was the performance of the grieving widow, played by perfection by Dr Helen Bryce, in her first public appearance since her dramatic rescue."
Her smirk had faded to a look of generalised annoyance, as she dropped her shopping bags at her feet. "I don't understand why you insist on staying here, we both know that this was Lex's home and that there's nothing here for you."
"Not legally," he reminded her. "And you can drop the act Helen, you're among family."
"I'm sure you didn't come all this way for a condolence call."
"I won't give my condolences to a murderer."
"I didn't murder, Lex."
He moved towards the staircase. "Oh, oh, that's right. Now let me see if I can remember your account of the harrowing event. You woke up having been robbed, found the pilot jumping out of the aeroplane, with only one parachute left, Lex valiantly offered to give it to you and went down to his death in the crippled aircraft. That's a wonderful piece of fiction." He turned to face her.
To her credit she didn't back down, her eyes meeting his as she replied easily, "I think the police would find it interesting that you hired me to spy on Lex."
"You murdered my son," he growled at her. "I won't rest until I've brought your duplicity to light."
She gave a light laugh. "If you feel that's how best to waste your time, on a wild goose chase, trying to prove that an accident was something it wasn't then feel free to do so. I would have thought though, that perhaps, just perhaps, your time would be better spent focusing on Martha Kent." Her eyes gleamed triumphantly at the momentary look of surprise on Lionel's features, as she caught him off guard for a change. Her trump card would remain firmly up her sleeve, but there was no harm in tormenting him with it. Martha Kent could prove useful to her in keeping Lionel Luthor distracted.
Lionel's face returned quickly to its implacable mask. "And why would you think that my time would be better spent on a previous employee, rather than bringing you to account for your actions?"
"Oh, I wasn't referring to the fact she was your personal assistant, although I suspect she performed most admirably in her role." Her mouth twisted with delight. "I meant more about the night she spent here three months ago." She gave a small shrug, accompanied by a faux sad sigh. "I hadn't wanted to say, but when I was discharged from hospital, I craved the familiarity of the home Lex and I had intended to be ours, so I arrived back here early one morning. Imagine my surprise to see a rather dishevelled Martha Kent fleeing down the main stairs as though the hounds of hell snapped at her feet. She was so upset that I don't even think she noticed me." Helen's head tilted thoughtfully. "I found it odd at first, but then I remembered Lex telling me that he suspected that you had developed a fondness for her." Her eyebrow arched. "I suppose that the disappearance of her son made her more susceptible to your advances. So, after all that hard work you put in, persuading her to fall into your bed, I'm surprised that you let her go so easily. Unless of course she was a disappointment, a let down after all those months she kept you wrapped around her little finger."
Lionel forced himself to let out a chuckle, refusing to let Helen see his anger at her words about Martha. "An admirable attempt at distraction," he told her as he strolled away. "However, Helen, the thing about black widows, is that whilst they're a predator, all predators are simply someone else's prey." On that he left the room, leaving her to ruminate on his words.
The early morning sun snuck through the edges of the small gaps of the heavy curtains, casting long shadows across the room. Martha stretched out, her muscles aching. She tilted her head to look at Lionel, unsurprised when she discovered that he wasn't sleeping, that he was watching her. "I really do need to go," she told him.
"You know why Lionel, my truck has sat outside all night. We can't risk anyone noticing it."
"It won't be. It's been moved."
"Still, we both have things to do."
"Of course, finding our sons." He gave a nod as he drew himself into a seated position.
Martha got to her feet, wrapping her arms around herself self-consciously as she made her way around the bedroom, locating and pulling on her discarded clothing. She ignored the use of the word ours, deciding that nothing had been meant from it. "Exactly."
Lionel slid elegantly from the bed, pulling on a robe and knotting it with ease, while she yanked on one sock. "We could look together," he suggested after a moment. "Your search would benefit from my resources."
She looked up sharply, caught off guard. "What do you mean?"
He waved a hand. "The police are overstretched; a teenage runaway won't hold priority with them. I can put it in the hands of people who will make it their first order of business."
Martha wanted to say yes, to thank him and grab the opportunity with both hands, but she couldn't take the risk. Clark wasn't an average runaway and she didn't want anyone prodding too far into him. "That's not necessary, I don't want to split your resources."
"They wouldn't be the same, so it wouldn't divert from my search for Lex."
"Nonetheless, I don't feel it would be appropriate to accept." Her son was alive, he could and would eventually be found, when he wanted to be. It was unfair for her to take from him, when he had no such guarantee.
"It wouldn't be charity."
"Oh, I know." She gave a small smile in his direction. "I'm aware of your feelings on that score."
"Martha, you misunderstand me." He swallowed heavily, a brief frown flickering across his face. "I want us to look together, for both Lex and Clark, to bring them home, together."
Her shirt in her hand, she stopped and looked up at him. "Lionel, just what are suggesting?"
Lionel searched carefully for his next words, he wanted her, not just for the moment. He had kept her at arm's length, convincing himself that he was protecting her, but if he were to be completely honest with himself, he had done it because she made him vulnerable. Now though, now he wanted her with him, Lex was missing, his world, everything he had worked to build was rocked by uncertainty, whilst she was constant; always. He wanted to ensure that she stayed that way, even if it meant going against his previously held beliefs. "I'm suggesting that we make our relationship one of more permanence. Martha, I'm offering you marriage."
Martha felt her world blur for a moment, her thoughts racing as she struggled to take on what he had just said. Their children were missing. Lex was unlikely to return, a fact that could easily breed resentment if Clark chose to come home. Not to mention that if she were to become engaged to Lionel her chance of bringing Clark home would drop dramatically. Then there was the baby to consider. She couldn't tell him, not like this. Not with everything in such a mess. It would feel as though she were offering a replacement. With that secret burdening her she simply couldn't say yes to him. Did she want to say yes? She pulled herself back from that thought, she couldn't afford to go down that road. Her voice cracked, her words ragged and breathless as she told him, "I can't accept."
He looked genuinely surprised, the position of Mrs Luthor was a highly coveted one, if only just in monetary gain, he hadn't expected it to be rebuffed. Still though his voice remained calm. "Martha, think about what you're turning down."
"Now just isn't the right time to make this decision," she told him firmly.
"Now is the perfect time. It brings certainty, something we both need."
"We need to know where Lex and Clark are."
"And we can search together."
She gave him a tortured look. "Lionel, what happens if only one of them comes home? How would we move past that?"
He bristled. "You mean Lex, you mean what if Lex doesn't come home."
"I'm not trying to be cruel; I just think that it needs to be considered."
"I've already told you; I would know if my son were dead. I would feel it, unequivocally." His eyes narrowed. "Martha I'm offering you the world at your feet. Think carefully before you turn it down. I won't offer it again."
She paused briefly, biting down on her bottom lip, closing off any thoughts, any feelings she might have had in this moment. After a long second she brought herself to the point where she could deliver the final blow. Her eyes burned with the effort of not crying as she shook her head. "My answer is no, Lionel."
He drew back from her. It had taken all he had to make his offer. His last stand, his last chance to claw back something, anything that might keep him tethered, that might bring him a slither of hope, or God forbid even some feeling of happiness. "Very well. I don't believe there is anything else to say."
He held up his hand, silencing her. "I believe the time has come to go our separate ways. For good this time, don't you agree?"
They would never be able to go their separate ways, not really, she thought miserably, but she couldn't tell him that. "If that's how you feel."
"It is. I believe that Lex's disappearance may have imbued me with some sense of sentimentality, particularly towards us. But now I have your answer, the scales have somewhat lifted. You're right, we're too different to work well together. You would be a passing diversion, a flight into something different." He shrugged nonchalantly. "But eventually I would tire of you, and I'd discard you and you'd grow resentful."
Her tone hardened. "You might be hurt, but there's no need to be cruel."
"Hurt," he chuckled at her, the sound grating at her already raw nerves. "You give yourself too much credit."
"Fine." She pulled and shoes on and straightened. "Have it your way then."
And with those last words, Lionel watched as Martha walked steadily and gracefully out his room and his life.
She held it together until she reached the staircase, bolting down them, shame suddenly pulling at her. So desperate to escape that she was unaware of Helen watching her from the corner of the hallway.